How Does Your Garden Grow?

Since I had spent the past year kicking cancer’s butt, I didn’t grow as much fresh produce or herbs as I once did last summer. However, I did grow a few of my beloved San Marzano tomatoes (plants from the Carbondale Farmer’s Market,) basil, a bit of oregano and rosemary– and a lot of mint. This gave me some flavorful options: salsa, pestos, gazpacho, and more.

Above: San Marzano Tomatoes and Thai Basil

Below: Herb Pesto and a bit of Pico de Gallo sauteed with mushrooms.

So far this season, I have a little lettuce, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil cilantro, and an expanding mint patch. I still need to finsish areas for tomatoes, peppers, onions, lots of basil, and hopefully even watermelons…. and more flowers. I am a fan of edible landscape.

Mixing herbs and flowers and veggies can be a good thing. Consulting a companion planting chart might be wise if they will share soil. Essentially, some have researched the Native American practice of planting certain plants together that support each other’s growth. Tisquantum, also known by many as Squanto, acted as a lifesaving liaison to the pilgrims. Without his assistance and sharing his knowledge of companion planting and organic fertilization, food would have been much more sparse. What is referred to as the Three Sister’s Method involved planting corn, beans, and squash together for successful growth. Squanto also taught the new immigrants to plant fish with corn as natural fertilizer. People now also may use other organic material when planting such as egg shells and shrimp shells.

Above: Cayenne peppers

Below: Japanese Eggplant

Listed below are some common companion planting groupings:

Tomatoes/basil

Corn/squash/beans

Mint/peas

Onions/garlic

Garlic/roses

Some No-No’s/Plants that Don’t Play Well Together:

Dill doesn’t go by tomatoes, rosemary, sage, onions, peas

Tomatoes don’t go by corns, peas, beans, cucumbers, squash

Fennel doesn’t go with onions, parsley, asparagus, cucumbers, carrots, nasturtiums, marigolds

There are also some functional benefits to landscape gardens beyond beauty and food. Marigolds have been used for many years as a detourrant to wildlife eating gardens as well as mosquitoes when used as a border.

Below are a few plants and what they are known for repelling:

Marigolds- plant lice, mosquitoes, rabbits.

Above: Marigolds

Chrysanthemums- Ants, Japanese beetles, roaches, bed bugs, spider mites, silverfish, ticks, lice

Mint- spiders, ants, mosquitoes. (Will spread and take over an area quickly. Planters or separate patches are best.)

Below: Fresh Mint

Below: Basil-mosquitoes, houseflies

Citronella grass- mosquitoes and flying insects

Lavender-Gnats, mosquitoes

Chives-Japanese beetles

Petunias-beetles, leafhoppers, aphids, tomato worms

Above: Petunias

Bay leaves- flies, roaches

Garlic-beetles, root maggots, carrot root flies, moths,aphids

Rosemary-bugs

Above: Rosemary

I’m also a fan of repurposing or using unexpexted items as planters. A few things, usually at least tomatoes, tend to go directly into the ground when possible, but that also increases the prospects of weeds. I have previously turned old door frames and box springs into raised garden beds for more shallow-growing plants like my oregano, lettuce, and green onions.

In Southern Illinois, we are blessed to have a climate that allows us to grow many things. I am thankful for that opportunity.

Adventures in Mall Ratting & More in the Dale

The super-talented A Slice of Southern Illinois interns and I spent a nice evening in The Dale (for the non-locals, that’s Carbondale.) Before we could do much else, we had to tend to a turn signal light that just had to quit working… Athough they claim to have never changed one before, the put their heads together and fixed it like pros.

Once we could safely turn left again, we headed to University Mall. My early childhood memories of visiting this mall include trips from Salem in the family Pacer and riding the escalator in Sears to shop for View Master disks. (Our younger readers may have to search some of things–unless maybe they saw the Pacer in “Wayne’s World.”)So, during our mall rat (some folks may have to search that term…) adventures, we walked a bit and perhaps shopped a bit too. Since interning is not a paid gig, some checked on job applications… The bonus: we visited a bit with friends while we were there.

After the mall, we headed to The Strip to get some evening photos. Mijo and I debated dinner options while Mija and Josh walked along the strip for photos. No surprise, they didn’t just take a photo of the same nostalgic Dairy Queen that my parents visited as SIU students before I was ever born. They returned to the vehicle with frozen treats.

Then we headed to New Kahala to eat. If you’ve not eaten there before, just know that they have very generous portions. Oh, and the food is good too, not just plate-filling. We started off with yummy crab rangoon. Two interns had vegetarian lo mein, one had shrimp lo mein, and I was the oddball with the beef with scallions and ginger and rice…

As we left, I asked Mijo to get a quick photo of The Towers. He managed to catch this awesome shot of a car he liked passing the dorms in the background on Grand Avenue.

My Mom’s Christmas Tray

I have a confession to make. As a child I never understood why so many people hated fruitcake, or even why it was called “cake.” You see, my Mom’s fruitcake was more like candy. She got the recipe from a fancy restaurant somewhere, and it was pretty much pecans and candied fruit.

Every year, growing up in Tonti, our family Christmas tradition was that my parents would make the fruitcake and chocolate fudge. We had to make sure to save grocery bags (they were paper…) as the recipe specified that the fruitcake be baked on brown paper bags. My mom had a golden tray for serving the fruitcake as well as homemade fudge, and eventually, my dad’s snickerdoodles. She kept a supply of these treats in the freezer to pull out for company through the Christmas season. My mom also made wonderful Swedish tea rings.

I recently found my Mom’s golden tray again, and I can’t explain how happy I was to be reunited with it. This tray triggered lots of warm, family memories.

After Thanksgiving, my family would decorate for Christmas. My mom had decorations for the entire two-story house. I tried to hang onto ones with sentimental meaning. Unfortunately, the historical May 8th Derecho of Southern Illinois destroyed some. She used to make a oragami-style poinsettia and a geometric figure ornaments that were amazing. Some house decorations were framed greeting cards–others things people had made. We had a Holiday Closet. The guest bedroom had a big, old-fashioned closet (our home had been a boarding house in the 1800’s) where seasonal decorations and home-canned goods were stored.

Christmas Cards that our family received went into a painted wooden card holder that was the same kind my parents had bought for people as Christmas gifts the first year they were married. Believe it or not, their Anniversary was Christmas Eve. At the time, both were teaching, and that was when they could be off work. My brother and I had Christmas stockings that my Mom’s cousin made for us. Since we did not have a fireplace, and the wood burning stove would not have been a safe spot for them, they always hung on the handles of the pie safe in the dining room.

My dad took care of the outdoor decorations, and I loved to help. We would wrap red plastic ribbon around the white porch posts to resemble peppermint sticks–something I still prefer to do… The old school mutli-color large bulb stands of lights went on the porch and around the living room picture window. A plastic textured Rudolph, purchased from 4-H club fundraiser, was hung on the porch.

Eventually, we added the lighted nativity scene. My mom and I somehow managed to get this home from a trip to Olney. We hadn’t thought about it not fitting in the Granada. So, we had to take everything out of the box to squeeze the plastic figures into the car… I was able to hang onto it and use it several years. Things went downhill when Baby Jesus and Mary wouldn’t light up anymore. I was afraid people would think I was being disrespectful or protesting if only Joseph was illuminated…

Not only did we have a few lights, our family loved to visit light displays. Pretty much every year, we went to Ingraham’s display near Olney and Candy Cane Lane in West Frankfort. We often visited the light display in the Olney Park as well. When I was 7, I had Chicken Pox on Christmas. That was the year I remember visiting Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

Candy Cane Lane, West Frankfort

Shopping malls used to be a destination as much to see the Christmas decor as to shop. Every year, there used to be sparkly Christmas trees on the roof of the Centralia strip mall. Carbondale, Effingham, and Fairview Heights all had malls that were nicely decorated. My brother and I sometimes saw Santa Claus at a store, but we also used to go to Xenia when he came to town.

We visited lots of family at Christmastime. I think probably every Christmas Eve I can remember was at my aunt and uncle’s home in Goreville and eventually Marion. We usually visited with my Salem family on Christmas sometime after we had done the Christmas morning thing at home. I have many fond memories of these times. We ate wonderful food and often played board games or just joked around with cousins, aunts, and uncles. It may not have been on Christmas Day, but we also made the rounds to see family in Centralia, Cisne, and Kinmundy.

My kids have been fortunate to spend some Christmases playing with cousins when they were younger. Unfortunately, as people grow older and busier, we tend to lose some of that connection. I pray that you and your family are able to create and hold onto fond Christmas memories too.

Sparkling Lights, Comforting Food, and Lots of Joy: It’s Christmastime in Southern Illinois

Have you ever wanted to step into one of those made for tv Christmas movies? You know, the ones with perfect snow, charming little towns, and cheerful Christmas decor? Perhaps the hero or heroine has a scene or two driving through a small blizzard with the perfect, handpicked Christmas tree, tied to the top of a vintage truck.

While there is no guarantee that any of the caf├ęs will have a snowglobe with a track record of granting Christmas wishes, many of the things in those tv movies can be found right here in Southern Illinois. Hometown Christmas celebrations, parades, lighted Christmas displays and more are celebrated by many from I-70 by Effingham down to the Kentucky state line. Whether it snows or not (our weather can range from below zero to near 70 degrees in December–sometimes all in one week,) it’s a beautiful season.

One of the earliest kick offs to the season happened this year when “The Great Christmas Light Fight” visited Candy Cane Lane in West Frankfort to tape for airing in 2019. People have visited Candy Cane Lane for decades to see the brightly decorated neighborhood in West Frankfort. I can remember driving through with my family as a child when we were en route home to Salem from Christmas Eve dinner with family in Marion.

Many communities still have Christmas Tree Lighting ceremonies. Murphysboro will have theirs on November 30. Others also have community Christmas celebrations, such as Christmas in Carterville on December 7.

Besides Christmas Light displays, Southern Illinois also hosts beautiful Christmas parades. I was actually fortunate to be in the first Lights Fantastic Parade in Carbondale as part of the SIU Marching Salukis Color Guard. It was very cold, but a lot of fun. There turned out to be a learning curve to lighted parades. Some of the floats caught on fire that year. Meanwhile, we had adorned our flag poles with battery-operated light sets. They looked awesome. However, when we did slams, the lights did not fair so well… I love that the parade is now a community tradition. This year, the parade will be on December 1. There is also a Cookie Walk and Java Fest earlier the same day.

Some of the Christmas celebrations are listed by town with links to additional information under Events on the website and ASOSI app. You can also check out locally-owned food, lodging, and shopping opportunities to make it a Christmas vacation.

https://asliceofsouthernillinois.com/events/

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.

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

7/3/18 https://m.riverbender.com/articles/details.cfm?id=29284

Anna Fourth of July Fireworks

7/4/18 https://m.facebook.com/AnnaFireRescue/photos/rpp.129931467063069/1962201633836034/?type=3&theater

Carbondale Fireworks Display

7/4/18 http://www.carbondalechamber.com/events/details/carbondale-fireworks-display-11266

Carlyle Lake’s Fireworks Spectacular

6/30/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/402437606891296/?ti=as

Carterville Independence Day Fireworks

7/4/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/748820481908623/?ti=as

Cobden, Reds, Whites & Brews at StarView Vineyards

6/30/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/174951883216665/?ti=as

DuQuoin Fireworks Display

7/3/18 http://www.duquointourism.org/index.php?mact=CGCalendar,cntnt01,default,0&cntnt01event_id=60&cntnt01display=event&cntnt01returnid=38

Farina 4th of July

7/4/18 https://www.facebook.com/farina4thofjuly/

Golconda 4th of July Festival and Fireworks

7/6/18 http://www.mainstreetgolconda.org/events/867/

Goreville Freedom Fest 2018

7/4/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/257693818066987/?ti=as

Grand Tower Fireworks & More

6/30/18 https://m.facebook.com/119685634710279/photos/pcb.2062347187110771/2062347043777452/?type=3&theater

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

7/4/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/2008279442722723/?ti=as

Johnston City Fireworks Spectacular

6/28/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/2084007911610976/?ti=as

Metropolis 2018 Hometown Celebration

7/7/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/194975364558523/?ti=as

Mt. Carmel’s Fantastic 4th Celebration

6/30/18-7/6/18 https://www.facebook.com/MTCFantastic4th/

Rend Lake Fireworks

6/30/18 https://www.facebook.com/events/553779568300298/?ti=as

Salem Celebrating Independence Day

7/4/18 https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10157457794918154&id=183980713153

Flooding, Concerts, and Costa Rican Coffee?

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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…