It’s time again for the Southern Illinoisan’s Reader’s Choice Awards. Please make sure to support your favorite local businesses, services, and entertainment.
A Slice of Southern Illinois would also appreciate your vote for “Best Local Website” in the Entertainment category. (We would put the app in the Service category, but it isn’t an option…) Please use the write in option if the website is not listed. We were honored to be named Runner Up in 2018 and Honorable Mention in 2019.
Whether you have lived here forever or hope to visit our corner of the world, we appreciate you all so much! We enjoy being able to share information, events, recipes, and even some DIY about this beautiful region. Hopefully, we are also helping Southern Illinois locally-owned businesses get the word out to the world about what they have to offer!
So, my Christmas Eve Eve episode waited until Christmas Eve to actually post, but we still wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.
This episode has a few frugal Christmas decor DIY’s mingling in with a tour of a few regional Christmas Light display faves and unique shopping experiences. There are a few mouthwatering peeks at food from Drizzle Mini Donuts and Razmo’s too…
Wherever you are in the world, we wish you joy and peace as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
(For those looking for the PDF hot cocoa bar download, it’s in the Cozy Cocoa & More post.)
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some of our beloved Christmas traditions to be postponed until next year, others will continue, go virtual, or have been modified. Fortunately, it is possible to see many Christmas lights throughout Southern Illinois from the safety and comfort of our own cars. Other events have been social distanced.
Carbondale’s annual Lights Fantastic Parade (I won’t say what year it started, but I did string battery operated lights onto my flag pole and freeze through the parade route with the Marching Salukis that year. People have fortunately found the secret to constructing floats that don’t catch fire as they go down the street now…) will be a drive by event this weekend.
Normally, there are many live Nativity Scenes. I guess the angel is normally socially distanced, and the Wiseman technically are distanced from the birth by a few years, but COVID-19 has also affected these events. So far, I have seen one scheduled for Carrier Mills.
Stores continue to be at reduced capacity as we have been on Tier Three of the COVID-19 mitigation, but some are able to modify and continue their Christmas Open Houses and sales. If you are near Salem, you may wish to follow the links below (or from the app or Events page) to see the happenings this evening at both Country Creek Treasures and The Rusty Nail. It is very important that we continue supporting our local shops, restaurants, lodging, and other small businesses when we have opportunity to do so. In the long run, supporting them supports our communities as a whole.
If you head to Salem this evening, you could also see the Lewis Family Light Display and possibly make the half hour drive on to Centralia’s Foundation Park to see Fantasy of Lights 2020. Have yourself a merry little family Christmas adventure or one of those Hallmark Movie script- worthy dates.
A mix of family, community,, and municipal displays light up this December Southern Illinois sky this year. We will add them to the list at the top of the Events section in the app and website as we become aware of them. You may want to pack up your hot cocoa for the road, grab a comfy car blanket, and set out to see some lights. Our recommendation is to see what is also close to your destination, such as lights or events in neighboring towns, places to get food, local shops, or possibly experience a stay in one of the cozy cabins or inns at Christmastime. Many are listed in the Lodging section of the app and this website.
Some events this year may have food or beverage trucks on site. Spread S’more Love will be on site some at the Reis Christmas light display in Herrin. We will try to share info on the Facebook page and update the ASOSI app and the Events section of this website as we hear of more opportunities to taste a bit of Southern Illinois.
This pandemic has been a mean one, but it cannot stop Christmas, and it cannot stop Southern Illinois from celebrating the birth of Jesus–safely, of course!
Please see currently listed Christmas and seasonal events from the app/website below. We recommend checking back regularly for additions or updates as well as checking links before making a special trip to see something for any admission fees or last minute changes.
Although it would be impossible to list everything happening south of I-70, an effort is made to try to list some highlights. If you have an event or know of one to submit, please email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a fan of Hallmark Christmas movies, you may have watched “The Twelve Dates of Christmas.” Although it was reportedly filmed in Canada this past summer, the movie highlighted real and some fictional locations and experiences in Chicago.
Guess what. Southern Illinois, a.k.a. Little Egypt, also has many wonderful experiences! Originally, I wanted to write about experiences similar to the ones in the movie that could be found here. However, in the midst of a pandemic when we seem to be moving toward tighter restrictions for the upcoming holidays, that might be difficult.
I do think we can still help each other support and highlight many wonderful Southern Illinois products, services, and experiences. Small Business Saturday is right around the corner. That would be a perfect time to grab some local items to gift or perhaps make a basket full of things to enjoy now and gift certificates for things to do when COVID-19 restrictions lift a bit. Purchasing gift certificates from small businesses is one way to also help them get through this difficult period.
Here are some suggestions to get you started…
A Partridge in Pear Tree:
Southern Illinois wine with aroma of pear
Two Turtle Doves:
Chocolate Turtles or baked items
Turtle candy flavored coffee or scented candles
Three French Hens:
Gift certificate to eat chicken at a local restaurant
Poultry from a local farm
Four Calling Birds:
Gift certificate to a pet store
Five Golden Rings:
Gold or goldtone stack rings from a local jeweler or boutique
Local seasonings and ingredients with a recipe for onion rings
Gift certificate to a restaurant with delicious onion rings
Six Geese a Laying:
Gift certificates for food and a gas card or lodging certificate for a trip to see the geese at areas near Rend Lake, Crab Orchard Lake, Carlyle Lake , etc.
Seven Swans Swimming:
Gas card or passes/ tickets to go to areas with migrating Trumpeter Swans, such as West Alton and Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge
A membership or pass to a local indoor swimming pool
Eight Maids Milking:
Products from or a gift certificate to a local dairy, creamery, ice cream, etc.
Nine Ladies Dancing:
Dance class lessons
Tickets to a ballet, ethnic dance event, or other dance performance at a location like Shryock Auditorium or a even a local school production.
Ten Lords Leaping:
Gymnastic or martial arts lessons
Fitness center or gym membership
Bowling Alley gift certificates
Eleven Piping Pipers:
A gift certificate to a local music shop
Tickets to a local performance
A digital download or CD of a local music group or from a local music shop
Twelve Drummers Drumming:
A gift certificate to a local music store or local performance
A digital download or CD of a local music group or from a local music shop
Consider cookies or cupcakes from a local baker to depict each of the twelve days or the ones that stump you. You could also get local artisan made Christmas ornaments or even jewelry to match the twelve days or part of them. Have fun and be creative. Do what fits your budget.
Another possibility is to gift a night or weekend at a Southern Illinois cabin, inn, or lodge with a scavenger hunt list of items to take photos of things corresponding to the twelve days.
The ASOSI app is still free as well as the links on the A Slice of Southern Illinois website to help you find restaurants, artisans, places to see and more from I-70 to the southern state line. The links tend to be categorized by town. It is a continually updating list. Please message or email any that you think if that could be added.
You may also comment with gift suggestions on the Facebook page post of this article. We would love to know about Southern Illinois small businesses that have product available through national sites like Amazon and Etsy. Locally owned services offering gift certificates are another welcome suggestion.
To make it easier to see what is shared, please use the hashtag #12SIGiftsofChristmas and maybe which Days of Christmas/Gifts of Christmas correspond to the suggestion, such as #11PipersPiping
Be safe, have fun, and support local small businesses. Merry Christmas!
Im not sure if it is technically called a mini episode, introductory vlog post, or channel trailer, but it is now up on the A Slice of Southern Illinois YouTube channel!
The first vlog post features the crunching sound of fall leaves and a bit of the beautiful autumn scenery in Southern Illinois. Crafting with pine cones and leaves is discussed. There is a glance at the Events, Lodging, Shopping, Sites, and Tastes sections of the ASOSI app. An easy Pizza bread recipe starts the episode.
There are people, including friends and family, who read the blog from all over the world. I really wanted to share with people in climates that do not experience our four seasons a glimpse at what we sometimes take for granted.
I hope you enjoy the video. Please feel free to subscribe to the YouTube channel and share the link.
When I was a kid, my parents would pop some popcorn in a big pan with a lid (think stockpot) on the stove and pour it into a heavy yellow bowl for nights that we would watch TV as a family. I remember many episodes of “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons” viewed from the comfy brown couch with my mom, dad, and brother. Those are fond memories.
Did you know that you don’t have to use the stovetop method, a fancy popcorn popper, or pre-packaged microwave kernels to.make popcorn? You can totally brown bag it. Think how much money you can potentially save by picking up a supply of your favorite locally grown popcorn and a pack of those brown lunch bags to fill them yourself…
A brown lunch bag will work fine. I have even used brown grocery bags… Just add about a third cup of popcorn kernels to a brown bag. Fold the top down three or four times. Then microwave the bag for approximately four minutes. You may need to adjust the time a bit for your microwave. Listen for when the popping sound slows down to avoid burning your popcorn. Let the bag sit for a a few minutes once the microwave stops.
You can add some seasoning to the bag and shake it, or dump it in the bowl. Be aware that you may need tonadd a bit of melted or olive oil.with your seasoning for it to stick to your popcorn
The possibilities are endless. Cinnamon and sugar. Rosemary, parmesan, and cracked black pepper. Sea salt and sugar. Simply a bit of sazòn….
I’ve been going through a lot of photos and trying to retrieve what I can from my social media accounts. Many were destroyed this past winter when our old residence was burglarized, ransacked and apparently trampled. This has caused me to really want to see some of my photos more often.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it might be nice to have some photos, or even art work by the kids, switched out seasonally. As a kid, my mom replaced some regular decor and photos with Christmas decorations as she carefully decorated our two story house each year. I would like to do a bit more of that again myself.
An easy craft project to make for practically free is a photo frame to easily change out and display multiple photos. They are perfect to keep a photo wall refreshed in a house, easily change out photos in a dorm room or rental, or even serve as a recipe card holder in the kitchen. Make one or a few for yourself or even to gift.
Most of us already have a photo frame that has broken glass that we can no longer use. You can also usually find frames of all sizes in thrift stores and second hand stores. I went with a frame that I purchased for about a dollar in a second hand store. Initially, it was going to be part of room decor. Then I managed to break the glass and had to revamp a bit…
I already had chicken coop wire on hand, so that was basically free, and I had mini clothespins that I had picked up earlier in the year on clearance at the big craft store. I also had some leftover 12 x 12 scrapbook paper from another project. I originally planned to use fabric, but since the paper was the exact size of my frame and very neutral, I went with that.
The basic process is:
Clean your frame. You will not need the glass. Save it for another project…
Cut your chicken coop wire (you can even get small amounts of this now at some craft stores) to be just slightly larger than your frame. If you look at the chicken coop wire, you will see that it is made up of single and twisted wire. It is easiest to cut the single wires. I used the craft wire snips. Previously, I used regular scissors, but it was a bit harder that way.
Place the back if the frame down on a flat surface and cover the front side of the frame back (just not the side with the picture hanger on it if it is not on the frame itself…) with the paper or fabric. I taped my paper to the frame. If you use fabric, you may want to staple it in inconspicuous spots.
Place the chicken coop wire down on a flat service.
Place the covered frame back face side down onto the chicken coop wire.
Very carefully (try not to stab yourself with any of the wire…) bend the ends of the overlapped wire behind the picture frame back using pliers or your wire snips.
Place the picture frame back into the frame with the chicken coop wire. You may need to do some additional wire bending to make it fit.
Clip a few mini or regular clothespins to the wire, and you are all set to add photos, cards, recipes, or whatever you choose.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It is recommended that you wear gloves (or at least have a current Tetanus shot…) as the wire can be sharp and scratchy. Please be careful!
No, I wasn’t out chomping on landscape. Instead, I tried The Burning Bushes Shrub, one of the drinking vinegars, from Glacier’s End. I purchased some earlier in the season from them at The Marion Farmer’s Market. I had tried earlier in the year to get some at the Winter Farmer’s Market (Carbondale Community Farmer’s Market) in Carbondale, but it was always sold out by the time I made it to the high school to shop. That told me it MUST be good!
First, I mixed up a quick marinade for boneless pork chops and added about a tablespoon of the Shrub to it before I dried them off and breaded them…
Then I added a aplash to a vinaigrette for watermelon and arugula salad.
I threw it all together, drizzled on some marinade made by shaking it in a jar with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I tossed it together with pieces of seeded watermelon, arugula, and queso blanco. (Goat cheese, cotija, or feta would also have been good…) I would like to have added a bit of mint chiffonade for another layer of flavor, but I didn’t want to go out and pick it at the time…
I also mixed a healthy splash with some chilled club soda.
It was pretty refreshing. I decided I might like to add a bit of simple syrup for a bit of sweetness, but it was still good without it. Adding a bit of white wine would probably work well too.
The Burning Bushes Shrub is a combination of elderberry, honeysuckle, strawberry, cayenne, and galangal. I want to try Pearapple Rain next. They actually make a variety of shrubs with unique combinations.
Please note that at this time, a new location for the winter market has not yet been announced. They cannot meet at the high school due to COVID-19 restrictions, but per their website, they still plan to return in December.