Watch “Christmas Eve Eve 2020: The One with the Last Minute Christmas Decor, Frugal and Dollar Tree DIY,…” on YouTube

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.)

Makanda
Marion

Candy Cane Lane, West Frankfort
Yost Family Lights, Marion
Reis Lane, Herrin

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, SIGHTS, & SOUNDS

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.

Route 13/West Maine Street, Carbobdale, 2020

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.

Division Street, Downtown Carterville, 2015

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.

Candy Cane Lane, West Frankfort, within past decade…

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.

ALTON

Christmas Wonderland https://www.riversandroutes.com/listing/christmas-wonderland/5845/

https://www.facebook.com/ChristmasWonderlandAlton/

BELLEVILLE

The Way of Lights at The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows https://www.facebook.com/323693377655128/posts/3792037167487381/

BENTON

12/19/20 3rd Annual Spirit of Christmas Light Parade https://fb.me/e/1ISyDYV2I

CARBONDALE

12/5/20-12/6/20 Lights Fantastic Float Display https://www.facebook.com/763733763750003/posts/3294996293957058/

CARLYLE

11/27/20-1/10/21 Carlyle City Park Drive-Through Christmas Light Show https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2789433601295460&id=1548256528746513

CARRIER MILLS

12/19/20 Living Hope Church presents a Drive Thru Nativity https://fb.me/e/1NZS99aQV

CENTRALIA

Fantasy of Lights 2020 at Centralia Foundation Park https://fb.me/e/1lO728cXn

11/28/20 Holi-YAY Festival of Lights- Centralia IL Downtown District https://fb.me/e/1YUELREcE

COLLINSVILLE

Woodcock Family Light Display https://www.christmaslightfinder.com/displays/display-details/?id=2656

Woodford Way Wonderland https://www.facebook.com/WWWHolidayLights/

COULTERVILLE

Coulterville Holiday Light Display https://www.facebook.com/Coulterville-Holiday-Light-Display-184976148000/

DUQUOIN

11/28/20-12/30/20 DuQuoin Holiday Lights Fair https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3493683257367848&id=163396890396518

EFFINGHAM

Wonderland in Lights 2020 https://fb.me/e/CPx99gAD

FAIRFIELD

Huber Family Light Display https://www.facebook.com/Huber-Family-Christmas-Light-Display-107116551220134/

Phelps Family Christmas Display https://www.facebook.com/phelpsfamilychristmasdisplay/

Timbercreek Drive –off Route 148/Park Avenue

HERRIN

Reis Lane https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10223808728023209&id=1144860062

JOHNSTON CITY

Coulson’s Fantasy of Lights https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10218701530511583&id=1298474960

Southern Illinois Christmas Santa and Anya Claus House https://www.facebook.com/groups/263268040373679/?ref=share

14806 Christmas Tree Road, Johnston City

MARION

Cherry Valley 7066 Cherry Valley

Yost Family Lights https://www.facebook.com/yostfamilylights/

11/27/20 Farm Fresh Christmas Trees Opening Day Black Friday at The Patch https://fb.me/e/AJ5dEcg3

12/5/20 Frosty the Snowman and Home Alone at Oasis Drive-In Theater, fundraiser to benefit Marion Unit 2 Foundation, $30 per vehicle https://fb.me/e/3ELz5GiLG

MARYVILLE

Christmas on the Compound https://www.facebook.com/Christmas-on-the-Compound-101753961312442/

Barbarotto Lane

MT. VERNON

Christmas in the Park at Veteran’s Memorial Park https://facebook.com/events/385127925734572/?ti=as

MURPHYSBORO

12/5/20 Murphysboro Hometown Christmas 4th Annual VIRTUAL Tree Lighting Ceremony https://fb.me/e/3YJxzWmsK

12/5/20 Drive In Movie-The Polar Express https://fb.me/e/YAWZMxPk

OLNEY

11/27/20-12/30/20 Olney Christmas Light Display at Olney City Park https://www.facebook.com/1514176182157098/posts/2777584685816235/

SALEM

11/28/20-1/3/21 Lewis Family Christmas Display https://fb.me/e/1JRLC6ife

12/4/20 The Perfect Man (snowman) Sale at The Rusty Nail https://www.facebook.com/209071005779777/posts/3776583969028445/

12/4/20 Twilight Christmas at Country Creek Treasures https://fb.me/e/y9oi4OZa

TROY

Troy ToyLand Christmas Display https://fb.me/e/CPx99gAD

VIENNA

Elliotts Christmas 2020 https://www.christmaslightfinder.com/displays/display-details/?id=3706

WEST FRANKFORT

11/28/20-1/1/21 Candy Cane Lane https://fb.me/e/7Fx2qufEI

12/17/20 Santa’s Virtual Storyline LIVE https://fb.me/e/1qxNp0MEthttps://www.facebook.com/ChristmasTownWestFrankfort/

12/19/20 Drive-In Movie Night-Christmas Classics https://fb.me/e/38uWHfHyE

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: asliceofsouthernillinois@gmail.com

Shrub Tasting

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.

Links: 

Home

https://www.facebook.com/glaciersend/

You may wish to check the Glacier’s End Facebook page for updates and info on where to find the products. 

https://www.facebook.com/Marion-Farmers-Market-129111570446441/

http://www.carbondalemarket.com/

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.

Mystery Solved: Those Pretty Pink Succulents

During my trip to the Marion Farmer’s Market this morning, I looked at all of the pretty succulents at The Potager Garden’s booth. I noticed that some had some pink on them.

Recently, there have been photos circulating on social media of gorgeous pink succulents. Friends and I have been trying to locate some. Searches have not really netted any results.

I decided to ask if there were succulents that just came pink, or if they could turn pink. Since I’ve bought several plants from The Potager Garden, I knew that the Christiansons were very knowledgeable of their plants and would have an answer. They did not let me down. Justin explained that sometimes succulents can get a bit of a sunburn that makes them pink. It doesn’t hurt the plant, but its color changes. The extra sun is necessary to “stress” the plant. I was assured that this type of “stress” is not hurting it though. Succulents with color beyond the basic green require more light to maintain vibrant. Otherwise, their color can revert back to green.

I decided to get a Pencil Cactus. Actually, I’ve wanted to get another since I lost my large one several years ago. I had one that grew to be a couple feet tall from a start my sweet cousin had given me on a trip to see family in Louisiana years ago. I was sad when I lost it.

In addition to the Pencil Cactus, I found some lemongrass and lavender–both for culinary purposes as well as the garden.

Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive in time to make it to every booth. Since we are still under many COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, what should have been a five minute ATM visit at the bank took about half an hour because the cars in line for the other lanes had blocked the ATM lane…

I was able to pick up some Burning Bushes Shrub, one of the specialty flavored drinking vinegars, from Glacier’s End. Although they had just sold their last container of coffee steak rub, I was happy to find Volcan, Costa Rican coffee beans, at Cold Blooded Coffee Co. Their lemonade was delicious too! It was much appreciated after walking around in a hot face mask/bandana. Even on a cooler day, those masks can really warm a person up quite a bit…

Easter Celebrations in Southern Illinois

Easter is quickly approaching. There are many celebrations planned in Southern Illinois. These range from special worship services on Resurrection Day to specialty Easter Egg Hunts.

One of the sure signs that Easter was coming as a little kid was that the candy isle in Tresslar’s at Salem filled with beautiful Easter candies and baskets. We may have had palm leaves at church for Palm Sunday to represent Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. We had Easter parties in elementary school, and our class Room Mothers always treated us well. (Perhaps I’m biased, but Selmaville School District had some of the best.)

As I got older, I became more aware of Lent, and the practice of giving up something to symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice. If you drive through Southern Illinois, or much of the United States during the 40 days before Easter, you might notice restaurants advertising fish on Fridays for those not eating other meat. Eggs may be on sale (and possibly sold out) during the week before Easter along with various types of food safe dye and likely vinegar. The smell of vinegar to this day reminds me of dying Easter eggs as a kid. We often had the egg dye kits with the little color tablets that dissolved in vinegar…

Some places will be closed on Good Friday, the day representing the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. Even more places will be closed Easter Sunday. I had always assumed it was this way everywhere until I visited my grad school roommate and her family in Costa Rica. Many people there have vacation during Semana Santa (Holy week.) On Good Friday, towns reenact Jesus carrying the cross with a parade and people portraying various characters. It is a beautiful and sobering experience. Not only are many things closed on Good Friday, some do not even drive that day. While we tend to close things on Easter Sunday in the United States to allow people time off to celebrate with family, many things reopen on Sunday there. This is because Ressurection Sunday is the day to rejoice again. Closing on Good Friday and reopening on Easter for some symbolizes a period of mourning followed by rejoicing in celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.

I can remember hearing about people gathering for Sunrise Services at Bald Knob Cross in Alto Pass for as long as I’ve been on this earth. My parents used to talk about how our postal carrier was one of the many people who helped in the initial building of the cross. We made trips to visit it many times. Although the little road leading to the cross was a bit scary, the view from the hill was gorgeous.

I’ve heard that the Easter morning services are beautiful–and sometimes a bit chilly up there. This year, there is even a concert planned at the cross the night before Easter.

It seems Good Friday 2019 will be a little cooler than some. In Southern Illinois, Easter weather can be pretty much anything. I can remember an Easter as a child visiting my aunt in the hospital at Flora. It was so hot that day that some of our candy in the car started melting. In a more recent year, my kids hunted Easter eggs with light snow in the air.

Although this is by far not an exhaustive list of Easter events in Southern Illinois, a few highlights are listed below. Links to events in Southern Illinois are listed in the Events section of this website as well as the ASOSI app.

ALTO PASS

4/20/19 Worship at the Crosshttps://www.facebook.com/events/1311521015664614/?ti=as

4/21/19 83rd Annual Easter Sunrise Service https://www.facebook.com/events/1311521015664614/?ti=as

CARBONDALE

4/21/19 #EasteratCornerstoneSI https://www.facebook.com/304723258405/posts/10156511171898406/

COBDEN

4/20/19 Adult Easter Egg Hunt at Starview Vineyardshttps://www.facebook.com/events/243137456640250/?ti=as

CRAINVILLE

4/20/19 Easter Egg Hunt at Love & Truth Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/382060802585678/?ti=as

DUQUOIN

4/21/19 Easter: Egg Hunt, BBQ,iPad & Xbox Giveaway, Three Bounce Houses at Sunfield Baptist Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/288297261865558/?ti=as

EFFINGHAM

4/20/19 Easter Eggstravganza

JOHNSTON CITY

4/20/19 Johnston City Easter Egg Hunthttps://www.facebook.com/events/2085667121524160/?ti=as

MARION

4/19/19 Breakfast with the Easter Bunny at The Vault Café on the Squarehttps://www.facebook.com/events/407081753462594/?ti=as

4/19/19-4/21/19 #EasteratCornerstoneSIhttps://www.facebook.com/304723258405/posts/10156511171898406/

4/20/19 Easter Fun with Franklin County 4-H at Black Diamond Harley Davidsonhttps://www.facebook.com/events/699596973789077/?ti=as

4/20/19 Easter Glow Egg Skate at Emery Brothers Skating Rinkhttps://www.facebook.com/events/2592037817479789/?ti=as

4/20/19 Easter Egg Hunt at Whiteash Free Willl Baptist Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/263642884579527/?ti=as

WEST FRANKFORT

4/20/19 West Frankfort Easter Egg Hunt https://www.facebook.com/events/200723847536342/?ti=as

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.

The Annual “Cemetery Run”

One day plus two restaurants plus three counties and six cemeteries equal my family’s annual “cemetery run.” That’s the day on Memorial Day Weekend that we meet somewhere and travel as many of the cemeteries where are loved ones are buried as we can fit in to place flowers on gravestones. Actually, there are more than six cemeteries, but some were done on a different day as the geography makes it extremely difficult to accomplish in one day.

This has been a tradition within my family for as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure my parents did this before I was born, and I’ve included my children in the tradition. Personally, I believe it is one way to reach respect for those who have come before us.

It is sad to see the disrepair of some cemeteries, especially older ones, as not all receive any funding, and some rely on donations. Repair and upkeep might be a good project for groups looking for service projects as it preserves a part of our country’s history.

Below are some photos from Marion and Wayne county cemeteries. They are not necessarily any of relatives, but I liked the pictures.