Calling Local Small Businesses…

It happens. You plan and prepare. You anticipate. Then life intervenes. That happened to me a weekend ago. I had been looking forward to attending the Southern Illinois Made Expo since I first saw it advertised. Unfortunately, my body needed rest after maintenance chemo on Tuesday and trying to push through my regular schedule. Consequently, I spent Friday night in the ER and missed church, the farmer’s markets, and the expo… So I did not fill up my business card pages with info as I had planned to do.

I had high hopes of putting names and faces with products made in Southern Illinois that might fit well into some of the gift sets that I am creating. Specifically, I will be looking for small quantities of wholesale pre-packaged Southern Illinois items like teas, snacks, serving dishes, spices, non-alcoholic beverages, and possibly some locally authored books. I am open to other suggestions. Please email me at if you would be interested in this type of exposure for your product.

Another mission I had for the expo was to meet with people interested in being part of the inaugural Slice of Savings Passport Program. The Slice of Savings Passport is designed to be a win-win situation for both customer and the business. It is inexpensive advertising in the form of coupons and will be accessible via the ASOSI app and this blog/website.

There seems to be a lot of evidence out there that people are more inclined to try something new if they have an incentive, even small, such as a percentage or flat amount off of a purchase. Others just like the sport of couponing.

Still, there is no need for that to leave the business with a loss. It is possible to offer a deal that is a win for both the business and the customer.

If you have a locally owned (roughly, South of I-70) small business that would like to participate or know someone who does, please email

(If you use a marketing agency, it can appoint someone to be your authorized representative to place your coupon ad. A Slice of Southern Illinois is not an advertising agency but is offering a simple, inexpensive tool meant to be accessible to small, local businesses. We would love to work with them as an additional tool they might utilize to better serve you and our community.)

See the mock Savings Slice ad for an example:


Sunshine and Market Fresh

It was still pretty warm this morning, but the weather was perfect for the Carbondale Farmer’s Market. Despite a late start, I still arrived in time to snap some photos, shop a bit, and get my iced holy basil tea.

Many dogs enjoy walking around the market each week with their humans.

Beautiful fresh flowers from a Carbondale vendor paired with some iced holy basil tea from Mustard Seed Sowers.

Lots of yummy choices from Leepy’s Gourmet Foods.

Southern Que was on site with delicious barbecue.

Mario’s Mama continues to be a favorite among canine shoppers.

One of the talented musicians that entertain shoppers at the market.

Use It or Lose It

Have you ever had a fridge full of things nearing the end of their safe consumption? I was recently in that situation and did not want to waste what we did have–even if some had been purchased on clearance. Food is food. Right? So, I had to figure out recipes, or really, more like little game plans to use things as best as I could. This is how it went down:

Bolillo Mini Pizzas

FOOD TO USE: clearanced bolillo rolls, pepperoni

GAME PLAN: I split bolillo rolls into halves, added pizza sauce, mozzarella, and topped each with pepperoni. They baked at 350 F approximately 10 minutes–just enough to be lightly toasted with melted cheese. (Sprinkle oregano, Italian seasoning, or crushed red pepper flakes over the mini pizzas as desired.) These were a hit with my son’s hungry friends.

Oregano & Pecan Crusted Thin Chops

FOOD TO USE: thin chops, fresh oregano, pecans

GAME PLAN: I gave roughly cubed potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and olive oil about a thirty minute head start to bake covered in a foil lined and covered pan at 350 F while I prepped the chops. For the thin chops, I threw a handful each of fresh oregano and pecans into the food processor with salt, pepper, garlic clove, the zest and juice of a lemon, and olive oil. I pulsed and added olive oil until I had the consistency of a paste to spread onto the chops. Once both sides of each chop was covered with the pesto, they were carefully placed over the hot potatoes, covered again with foil, and baked approximately thirty minutes. They had to reach an internal temperature of 145 F.


FOOD TO USE: tomatoes, jalapeƱo, onions, sweet peppers, cucumber

GAME PLAN: I threw the veggies into a blender with some tomato juice, the juice of a lime, salt, and pepper.

Grilled Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

FOOD TO USE: asparagus

GAME PLAN: This was pretty easy. I sprinkled pepper and brown sugar onto bacon strips then wrapped the strips around asparagus pieces. I baked them on a cookie sheet at about 400 F for about 20 minutes. Adjust according to your oven and preferences.

Ginger & Basil Grilled Shrimp

FOOD TO USE: freshly picked basil, shrimp that I had already thawed

GAME PLAN: Shrimp was marinated in a combination of fresh chopped basil, ginger root (about a teaspoon,) salt, pepper, red chili pepper flakes, and Olive oil. Then I grilled the shrimp on the George Foreman grill until opaque–about three minutes.

Asparagus, Caramelized Onion, & Parmesan Frittata

FOOD TO USE: asparagus, onions

GAME PLAN: I beat 6 eggs in a bowl, added salt, pepper, and chopped pieces of asparagus. Then I threw in the caramelized onions and parmesan. I started the frittata in a pan on the stove. Once the edges had started solidifying, I baked it in the oven at 350 F until done–maybe 20 minutes.

Honey Dill Compound Butter

FOOD TO USE: fresh dill

GAME PLAN: soften a stick or two of butter (not margarine) to room temperature. Add freshly chopped dill and a couple tablespoons of honey. (I used local honey from Honey and Shrooms.) Mix well. Taste the butter mixture and add salt or other seasoning as desired. Place the butter mixture in approximately a two inch thick line down the middle of a piece of parchment paper. Roll as shown and twist ends to deal. Then place it into a freezer bag and allow it to harden in the freezer. This can be enjoyed as an addition to recipes, on corn, butter, or however you choose.

Honey Baked Brie

FOOD TO USE: brie cheese

GAME PLAN: I literally just baked the brie round in my convection toaster oven at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes until it was melting inside. Then I opened it a bit with a knife and drizzled honey all over it. To be exact, I used Southern Illinois honey from Honey and Shrooms. Easy, creamy sweet and savory decadence.

Ceasar Dill Pickle Pasta Salad

I had the freedom to experiment a bit on the 4th of July with some of the recipe trends I’ve seen floating around social media lately. A couple of these ideas that have sounded good to my family are the pasta salad with dill pickles and the one with ceasar salad. Since I didn’t have everything to make either complete recipe, I combined elements and used what I already had. I think the result was pretty tasty.


1 pound of cooked pasta, such as elbow macaroni or shells

1 bottle of ceasar salad dressing

1 cup of dill pickle juice

1 cup of chopped dill pickles

1 small chopped red onion

1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper


Add the warm, drained cooked pasta to the pickle juice and allow to soak approximately 10 minutes before stirring in the ceasar dressing. Add salt, pepper, onion, and dill pickle pieces. Blend together carefully and refrigerate before serving.

Optional: add freshly grated parmesan cheese and/or olives.

Fourth of July Celebrations in Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois is home to many Fourth of July celebrations. This year, some start as early as June 28, and others are not until July 7. Hopefully, there is an event that fits everyone’s schedule.

This is by no means a list of all fireworks and celebrations in Southern Illinois, but there are links to some listed below in alphabetical order. Don’t forget that you can also use the ASOSI app (free for download in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store) to find locally-owned restaurants, things to see, and more listed by town.

Alton’s Fireworks Spectacular


Anna Fourth of July Fireworks


Carbondale Fireworks Display


Carlyle Lake’s Fireworks Spectacular


Carterville Independence Day Fireworks


Cobden, Reds, Whites & Brews at StarView Vineyards


DuQuoin Fireworks Display


Farina 4th of July


Golconda 4th of July Festival and Fireworks


Goreville Freedom Fest 2018


Grand Tower Fireworks & More


Herrin Park July 4th with Cat Daddy O Live, Special Night Swim, and Fireworks


Johnston City Fireworks Spectacular


Metropolis 2018 Hometown Celebration


Mt. Carmel’s Fantastic 4th Celebration


Rend Lake Fireworks


Salem Celebrating Independence Day


Impromptu Picnics

Some of my earliest family memories of road trips and adventures involve picnics. My parents were great at them.

When my brother and I were really little, our parents had a Pacer.(For those who dont know the car, it’s what Garth and Wayne drove in “Wayne’s World.”) This was before the days of expensive booster seats. The back car seat would fold down, and we could look up at the stars as we traveled through the state or country. It was handy for picnics if it rained or other conditions were unfavorable.

I still remember one hot, muggy summer, that we went to Horseshoe Lake in the Shawnee National Forest. Unfortunately, millions of mosquitos also were vacationing there that day. We had our picnic in the Pacer. Although it may not have been ideal outside the vehicle, but it made for a great memory.

Recently, my brother and I were discussing mushroom hunting, something else we did with our parents at a very young age. We seem to remember a picnic on a field in the woods on one of our earliest family morel hunting adventures. Priceless family time together that means even more to us as we get older.

I can also remember picnics in Giant City State Park as a kid when my dad was doing some post-graduate work at SIU-Carbondale one summer. We would all get up early for the drive down to campus. Then my mom would drop my dad off for his class. She would take my brother and I on some type of adventure in Carbondale before we picked my dad up for lunch. That might be shopping at the mall or searching for frogurt on the north end of town. Sometimes she would bring a picnic. Dad was usually able to join us on lunch break to eat.

When my children were pretty young, I started having picnics with them. This was a way to have a family meal together once I picked them up from daycare and headed on to their soccer practice or VBS (Vacation Bible School.) Sometimes I was able to plan these ahead, and sometimes life intervened. That’s when we went with the impromptu picnic option.

An impromptu picnic can be pulled together from treats at a roadside stand, carry-out from your favorite restaurant, or fresh food from a farmer’s market or roadside stand. We are blessed to have these options in Southern Illinois. For the VBS version of the impromptu picnic, it often meant grabbing something on my lunch hour that I could refrigerate and then assemble after work, if needed, in time to grab the kids before practice or church. Sometimes it was a trip through a drive thru. We also also have some wonderful local delis and markets that can either make sandwiches or help you pick out some easy picnic treats. Oh, and don’t forget the wineries and breweries (if you are of age, of course.) Some of those may also have picnic goodies.

If you opt to pick up an adult beverage for your impromptu picnic, please be conscious of where alcohol is allowed and be safe. Not all picnic areas allow alcohol, and some only permit specific containers. You may need to hop online and do a bit of quick research to make sure you stay legal.

Another option is to fix something at the picnic site. In the picnic pictured, we had decided to grab some groceries to fix and head to the Natural Bridge at Pomona. There is a little picnic spot by the parking area. After hiking to see the bridge, Mijo fixed some tuna salad for our sandwiches. It made a nice family outing without a lot of planning and prepping involved.

Be creative this summer and enjoy time with your family and friends. Head to a favorite spot, or explore a part of Southern Illinois (or anywhere) you haven’t seen before. You might even grab some muffins, donuts, or fruit with juice or coffee and have an impromptu breakfast picnic. Watch the sunrise someplace beautiful. Now go, make some delicious memories!

Flooding, Concerts, and Costa Rican Coffee?


All of the recent flooding has brought a couple of concerts to mind. The second time (out of five?) that I saw Bon Jovi was during The Great Flood of ’93.

They were playing at the Riverport Amphitheater (forgive me, but I’ve quit keeping track of the frequent name changes of that place. ) There was so much flooding in the southwest part of Illinois. For some reason, I thought the only way to get to St. Louis from Carbondale at that point in life was to head through Murphysboro and over to Route 3. One of the roads was closed due to flooding, and I was completely distraught. Seeing Bon Jovi was pretty much the one thing I had been looking forward to for several weeks.

So, the three of us, a girl from Costa Rica, a guy from Pakistan, and a somewhat directionally-challenged Southern Illinois girl, finally made our way via the interstate. The concert was of course, great. (How could Jon Bon Jovi not be great, right?) We made it home to Carbondale very early the next morning via Festus, Missouri. (I don’t know why we went through Festus –I was trying to sleep.)

Fast forward to sometime in the summer of 1998 when my cousins, my BFF, and I headed to the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds to see Leann Rhines and Bryan White. Bryan put on a great show, but the storm had started moving in quickly. LeAnn had to postpone for safety reasons.

We made a mad dash for my cousin’s car in the pouring rain. As we struggled to see our way out of the congested fairgrounds parking lot in the downpour, we kept smelling coffee. That was odd considering that none of us had any, nor was there any stowed in the car. We finally figured out that the combination of summer heat and rain had actually started steaming my necklace of Costa Rican coffee beans from a recent trip… That was a first for me. Scented fashion accessories. Not all age-inappropriate…

However, the evening’s adventure did not end in DuQuoin. We headed east then south down Route 148 and took some side roads in Herrin where we thought there might be better visibility without so many headlights glaring and that type of thing. Uh, bad choice. Apparently, Herrin had a flash flooding issue.

We seemed to be cruising down the street just fine, and then, suddenly, we were floating like a boat. Water started coming into the car by our feet. I remember calling a cellular rescue service that I’d apparently just thrown money at for several months because it was no help. The lady who answered kept putting me on hold. I remember saying “Ma’am, we can’t hold. We are in a car with water rising up to our knees…”

Fortunately, the other girls managed to get the window to where we could climb out of the car, still filling with water. It just happened that we were near a crisis shelter. The folks at the shelter were kind enough to let us get out of the storm and find a tow truck. Eventually, four very tired girls climbed into the tow truck with one poor tow truck driver to end the night. I had been to all those “dangerous” rock and concerts with no mishaps, but I went to one country music concert and nearly drowned. Nothing like this ever happened when I drove myself over to see Ozzy’ s “Retirement Sucks” concert…

Although we made it out of the flash flood ok, the car did not fare as well and was determined to be a total loss. When we went back to the area the next day, and the water had disappeared, we could see that it wasn’t even a very big dip in the road. At night, it wasn’t noticeable, and in a downpour, it became dangerous.

So, if you get nothing else out of my little trip down memory lane, please take flash flooding warnings seriously. What may not look like much water can total a car in a matter of minutes. Stay safe-and dry. Remember that actual coffee beans will steam if the conditions are right…