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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pirate Ninja Print Shop and Rawkspace

So, word on the street is that ROBOTS are invading our favorite print shop and the co-work space that occupies the floor above! Who wants to witness a robot invasion? I do, I do! Don't worry you can scope the robots too. Jarrod and Britney have been working around the clock to make sure everything is ready and that everyone will be welcome. This weekend Jarrod is opening up his place of business to host an art show coordinated by Rockford Area Arts Council http://www.artsforeveryone.com/ . Jarrod is just one stop of the 40+ businesses that are opening their doors to allow the public to enjoy a community wide art show. ArtScene Fall 2010 This is the perfect weekend to check out Pirate Ninja Print Shop and their new business endeavor, RawkSpace, http://www.workrawkspace.com/ a co-work space that offers a creative low cost alternative to traditional office space.

Apparently Jarrod Hennis doesn't think he is busy enough. Regular 8 hour work day as an IT guy, then off to his own business that he runs with his girlfriend Britney. Well not really one business, but two. Jarrod owns Pirate Ninja Print Shop http://www.pirateninjaprintshop.com/ located at 400 E. State St. in Rockford. By night, Jarrod and Britney crank out screen printing projects. Jarrod tells me that Britney is the designer, marketer and all around go to girl and that he gets the dirty work done. He talked to me about the process, mentions words like heat, ink, emulsion and some other stuff that flew over my head. All I know is that screen printing is a tedious process of designing, preparing screens, printing and so on. The end process... totally cool T-shirts! They don't limit themselves to t-shirts though, they screen paper, canvas, clothing, etc.. A dream for any personalization junkie like me. I think Jarrod needs another job. He still has a few hours left out of the 24 after his day job, and after his PNPS art is done.

Welcome RawkSpace! Jarrod's newest adventure. So, Jarrod let me have a sneak preview of his brand new brain concept, a co-work space that will bring developers, designers, entrepreneurs, business owners, writers, bloggers - (thanks Jarrod!) or whoever would like to have a community space to work and create in. Jarrod explains on his website http://www.workrawkspace.com/ why a co-work space is beneficial:

Why we are: No one likes to be tied down to anything, and your office is no exception. We give you the freedom to work in a place that provides happiness, time to grow your ideas and business, and to most importantly have fun! Openness is important and we all benefit from sharing ideas. If we share resources then we help the local community and the planet. When we share, we all save $.

Let me tell you, when you see this space you will definitely want to work there! Jarrod, Britney and their businesses occupy an AWESOME 8,000 square feet of space. Beautifully renovated, 2,000 square feet of open loft space is the home of RawkSpace. They aren't quite finished though, Jarrod is already working on expanding the space to include a conference room and a lounge. I swear this guys brain just does not stop!

Jarrod wants you to be comfortable working at RawkSpace so he has brought the amenities of the coffee shop and your home office right here to RawkSpace. Mucho importante: Complete kitchen supplied with coffee from local roaster Java Mania http://www.javamaniacoffeeroastery.com/, Water, tea, snacks, etc... plenty of sustenance to keep the creative juices flowing. Other amenities include: high speed wired and wireless internet, printer, copier, scanner, fax, white boards, and 20 "dedicated" desks, just to name a few. Everything and anything, plus more can be found in this creative work environment. The atmosphere is very conducive to creating. Huge windows allow extraordinary, natural light in, the open floor plan allows movement around the space without being disrupting, stand alone desks or desks grouped together enable you to choose a space that works best for you, and a sweet sitting area when you need a break is essential and Jarrod even has that covered.

For all you people out there that work at home or work out of the coffee shop, this is the place for you! Beautiful, engaging, creative, casual, professional space that you can call your own. Rawkspace has it all!

Come enjoy some amazing art, get a look at what could be your new office, and say "hi" or "ahoy" if your a Pinja, to the extremely talented Jarrod Hennis this weekend Friday 5-9pm and on Saturday 3-9pm.

Please come downtown this weekend and support our local artists and businesses!

Monday, September 27, 2010

El Molcajete

My 2nd favorite restaurant of all times, right after Gilberts Chop Suey in West Dundee, is MY local taqueria. I love Victor, Maria, and their kids and all the guys that cook my food. Come springtime, when Jalapenos are getting really hot again, after being somewhat mild in the winter months, you can find me dining in or out, a few times a week. My cravings subside after a few weeks of this, but I continue to return, just a little less frequently.

It took me a couple years before I actually tried El Molcajete. I basically was a big chicken. Back then "The Taq", as Tim and I call it, was in a tiny storefront on State St. down by Logan Ave. I would always drive by and see people coming and going, looking really happy. I'm not sure why I was nervous to go in, it was a long time ago, but I actually think, that I thought, that I should speak Spanish to them. Ummm...yeah another one of my not so bright moments. Or maybe I thought I had to be Mexican, and I'm not, if you were wondering. Although... according to the quiz on Facebook, "How Mexican Are You?" get ready for this people, this blue eyed, blond haired girl is 100% Mexican! Yeah baby take that. Now I can go into any Mexican restaurant, grocery store, salon, whatever and I will be right at home!

The Taq moves. Thank God, right down the street. I remember seeing them bringing in chairs and tables into their much larger venue. Not long after that I had overheard some girls talking, maybe at the salon or something, about the HUGE Burritos that The Taq had. Then and there I decided that I would go in there blond and blue, speaking English and get me some of that food that made everyone walking out of there look so happy!

No. 17, number 17, #17, anyway you say it, that's what I order every single time, three beautiful tacos, ground beef, wrapped in two delicious corn tortillas topped with lettuce and tomato. Rice and beans are a must too. Wait, that's not all, an order of chips and guacamole and a side of pico de gallo. The pico and guac are my heroin if I could inject it I would. Yes it is really that good! I don't know the # that Tim orders but he gets the "quatro enchiladas " two beef, two cheese. I can recite our order in my sleep!

My dream. Someday, God willing, I will walk into The Taq and Victor, Maria, or whoever is working the counter, will say "Natalie would you like the usual?" WHEN that day comes, you all will know cause I will be shouting it from the rooftops!

If you love authentic Mexican food,
El Molcajete Taqueria at 409 South State St. in Belvidere 815-544-8974
will deliver just that along with great flavor and great prices!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Katie's Cup - Midtown

What a wonderful Surprise! I went to Katie's Cup http://www.katiescup.com/ in the midtown neighborhood of Rockford at the corner of 7th St. and 4th Ave expecting another trendy coffee shop. What I discovered was so much more than that! This coffee shop is a socially, economically, environmentally and ethically responsible business. Owned by a Christian non-profit organization, Katie's Cup keeps "Christian" principals close to heart.

As I first walked into Katie's Cup, immediately I noticed the size. Not only does it have maybe 8-10 small tables it also has a fireplace with a seating area and a large conference size table that can seat probably 12 people. Beautiful exposed brick walls, wonderful natural light streaming in through a whole wall of windows, and bookcases filled with books to buy or trade, Katie's Cup is a place for coffee, conversation and community. They serve wonderful coffee using fair trade and organic whenever possible. Richard and Ashley, employees of Katie's Cup told me that they buy nearly everything locally, trying to have a positive impact economically, in their community. While I was there I met a woman Andy, who told me that Katie's Cup opens their doors for a drop off / pick up place for First Hand Harvest, www.firsthandharvest.com a community supported agriculture program. Andy is one of the three local farmers who provide local chemical free produce to area restaurants and families. You never know who you will run into at Katie's cup. The mayor is in there daily I hear, along with business people, students, and local artist to name a few.

Katie's cup is the brainchild of actually two non-profit organizations, Zion Development and Rockford Area Lutheran Ministries. While I was visiting Katie's Cup I had the opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with the Executive Director of Zion Development, Brad Roos, who enlightened me on the history of Katie's Cup.

Several years ago people involved with these two groups decided to start a book club of some sorts. Initially the group met at Stockholm Inn and discussed books written by local authors. They met for several years and as they expanded from book discussions to lecture series to discussing subjects of importance to the community, they also had the opportunity to expand into a place of their own. In 2009 Katie's Cup, named after Martin Luther's wife, as we know it, was born.

Zion Development http://www.ziondevelopment.org/ along with RALM www.rockfordlutheranministries.com created Katie's Cup to facilitate people in the community gathering together to have a cup of coffee and discussing issues of importance. With the help of Mariel Heinke, of RALM they schedule all types of community events, including book discussions, speakers, gallery art showings, and musicians just to name a few. Katie's Cup does a spectacular job of bringing the community together in a beautiful welcoming space!

Talk about GREEN! This space, along with the beautiful http://www.lantowlofts.com/ upscale urban condos above the coffee shop, was created having as little impact on the environment as possible. One of the greenest buildings in Rockford, they used recycled materials wherever possible, they use geothermal heat, and have solar panels on the roof. Richard, of Katie's Cup, offered me a tour of the condos and I jumped at the chance! All I can say is WOW! If I didn't have a house full of sons this is exactly the type of space I would want to live in, especially when Richard told me that heating bills are pretty much non-existent. In fact, he told me they had to shut down two of the solar panels because they were creating too much energy.

It's not always about what a business can provide for me. I am finding myself, more often, appreciative of businesses that do something for others. Zion Development and RALM have a serious investment in not only the geographical community but the community of people in their neighborhood. Katie's Cup is only one example of the great things that these two organizations are doing in Rockford. Although I do not live in that community and actually, it is quite out of the way from Belvidere, I will be happy to make the trip to Katie's Cup in order to support their effort of making a difference and such a positive impact in the Midtown community of Rockford.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Seasons in the Gardens

I have recently been visiting Anderson Japanese Gardens and it didn't take long before the restaurant was beckoning my name. Before visiting I really didn't know anything about Seasons in the Gardens. I guessed that they served Asian style food and was hoping sushi. I always hope every restaurant has sushi, I can't help it, I love sushi! No sushi on this menu but I was very pleasantly surprised.

As I was preparing to write this post, I had the website http://www.andersongardens.org/ up in another window so I could refer back to the menu. My mouth is now watering as I recall how much I LOVED one particular part of a dish that I ordered! Literally watering, I am not kidding you!

I know you are all waiting with bated breath to find out what it was that I loved so much, but first things first. It was quite difficult for me to go directly into the dining area without stepping into the gift shop. I am, much to my husband's dismay, one of those women that LOVE to shop. Mix that with my love for Asian culture, and walking into the Anderson Gardens gift shop could have caused irreparable harm to my husband's wallet. I did manage to steer clear of the shop... until after lunch.

It almost takes your breath away, the view. Nearly floor to ceiling windows, the whole entire length of the restaurant welcome you to enjoy the beauty. Looking out into the lush, peaceful, quietness of the garden instantly calms your mind and relaxes your soul. It's a beautiful restaurant that is appropriate for almost any occasion. I dined in somewhat casual clothes, alone, and felt completely at ease. There were customers that were more casual than I and others far more formal. Some were there for a business lunch and there were even a group of ladies there for a bridal shower.

The staff were extremely pleasant and helpful. I was served by a young woman and she was all smiles. I started with a pot of tea after finding out about the teas that they offered. I am getting better at trying new things but here, I stuck with a wonderful black tea. It was perfectly brewed and only added to my sense of calm. I took a leisurely amount of time perusing the menu, mostly because I couldn't decide. But, right off the bat, the instant I saw it, I knew of one dish that I must have!

Seared Ahi Tuna. I hear choir angels singing in my ears right now. OMG here goes the mouth watering again. The tuna was seared to perfection with black pepper and sesame seeds and the middle of the tuna was perfectly raw... absolutely delish! But pair that with the most heavenly wasabi ginger cream sauce and you have one of the most appetizing dishes I have ever tried! Seasons in the Gardens was off to a flying start in my book! The Seared Tuna is actually an appetizer, and a very generous one. After much debate, I decided on the Yakisoba Noodles with vegetables. This dish is normally not served spicy but I had asked that it be prepared with some spice. My server was kind enough to ask how spicy, regular spicy or mouth on fire spicy. I thought, go big or go home so I told her "just shy of mouth on fire spicy". I was not disappointed. It was spicy indeed! The noodles and generous amounts of vegetables were cooked to perfection. The noodles just had the slightest bit of bite to them and the veggies were well cooked but still firm. The flavor was outstanding. Seasons in the Gardens does have a dessert menu, but considering I had to bring home almost half of my Yakisoba Noodles, I did not enjoy dessert... this time. But I will be back!

If you like Asian - fusion food, beautiful surroundings, a friendly wait staff, then I suggest that you visit this somewhat hidden gem. Go for lunch with a friend, dinner with your significant other, or take the family for a traditional brunch on a Sunday morning. Seasons in the Garden is a truly enjoyable restaurant that is unique in it's food as it is in it's surroundings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rock The Market - Rockford City Market

The more I explore the BelRock community, the more I love where we live! I had mentioned in a previous post, the Rockford City Market http://www.rockfordcitymarket.com/. I enjoyed it so much that I have made it my Friday must - go - destination. The Rockford City Market is another family friendly activity that has something for everyone. If you like food, beer, wine, art, music or people this is the place for you!

Each Friday, June through October, rain or shine, 3:00 - 7:00 pm, the Rockford City Market takes place in downtown Rockford at Market and Water streets. As you enter the market you are handed a brochure that has a map and list of all the vendors, the events that are going on that night, the kids activity that will be going on and the band that will be playing. It will also give you information about what you can expect the following week. This piece of paper packs a lot of information, and for something so simple, it is a very useful tool. The map is easy to read and includes exactly where to find each of the vendors along with the location of where you can find the other activities!

The vendors. There are about 50 vendors that sell their goods at the Rockford City Market this year. They are talented people and all have something unique. I have my favorites like Crust n' Crumbles - owned by Jojo Gendenbaatar of Rockford. Jojo makes artisan breads, specialty butters, cupcakes, cookies, do-knots and other yummy goodies! Two weeks ago I got hooked on her strawberry-banana jelly, and her breads are to die for! You can find Jojo on twitter @CrustnCrumbles, www.facebook.com/CrustCrumbles or drop her an email @ crust.n.crumbles@gmail.com. I am also quite fond of expensive strong cheeses. The Cheese People of Rockton take care of that fix for me! Plan on coming hungry. With all the fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, bread, baked goods, and brick oven pizzas made to order along with crepes made to order, there is no need to eat before you come! Just beware, if you happen to buy your kids a giant cookie form Jojo, make sure they eat it right away. My son had one bite of her oatmeal, chocolate chip, walnut cookie before I heisted it! I couldn't help myself, it was tempting me, begging me to eat it, so I did! Sorry Patrick.
My Crust 'n' Crumbles dessert!
Strawberry Banana, Peach and Mango jelly on Jojo's 2 lb. boule

For those of you that like to indulge in fermented beverages you will be quite happy here. Carlyle Brewing Co. has a variety of micro brews to quench your thirst. Pair that up with the wonderful food and the great music and you have a recipe for an enjoyable evening. Kids? Don't worry about them ,Rockford City Market has got that covered! They always have something planned, like storytelling by the Rockford Public Library!

Gather your family, your friends and head on down to the Rockford City Market. Enjoy the wonderful food, the talented artists, the joyful sounds and make an evening of it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rockford Speedway

We live in the mid-west and nothing says mid-west fun like a night at the local race track. We are not talking Daytona 500 here but fun all the same. Rockford Speedway -http://www.rockfordspeedway.com/ races are sanctioned by NASCAR and lots of NASCAR stars got their start right here in Rockford! Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth all raced at our speedway and they are BIGTIME in NASCAR.

My kids don't care about any of that though. They want to know if there are trailer races, bus races, demolition derby or outhouse races, yes outhouse races. That was exactly what happened Saturday night. We were so lucky to pick the night that they had outhouse races! I pictured in my mind cars pulling outhouses behind them crashing into each other on the quarter mile track, spilling the contents all over the track. I was wondering how they could actually race with outhouses. That is not quite how it was done. It was a timed event, one car at a time would pull up to the line and the time would start. The driver would remove the steering wheel, climb out of the window, run, jump a hurdle, run to the outhouse, go in, close the door, get toilet paper, come back out, run, jump the hurdle, climb back in through their window and take off for one lap around the track. We were crying it was so funny! My five boys were not disappointed that outhouses weren't flying all over the track. They were laughing so hard watching guys... and one girl falling over the hurdle and fumbling while trying to put their steering wheels back on. Guess who was the slowest. You know it. The girl...she took forever in the port-a-potty! They always have something fun going on, it's not just watching cars go in circles around the track.

They have several races each night and they are fast paced. Not a lot of down time between races, and for my family with five boys who can be impatient, that is a blessing. You get to see all different car types racing. They have cars that are basically junkers, all smashed up painted with spray paint racing against each other, then in the next race they have stock cars that are really fancy looking sponsored by local companies. Even a church sponsors a car! We were totally cheering for the #85 car because it was sponsored by our church Rockford First http://www.rockfordfirst.com/ and boasts "The Venue @ Rockford First" on the sides. I think it rocks that our church has a race car at our local speedway. As a matter of fact, last week the driver Tanner Whitten, and the #85 car made an appearance at The Venue - a ministry program that gathers highscool students together to have fun and praise God on Wednesday nights. http://rockfordfirst.com/ministries/students.cfm Students had the opportunity to sit
in the car, take pictures and sign the car! How cool is that? They also got $5 admission to the races. What an innovative way for a local church to reach out to their community!
#85 Venue @ Rockford First Car driven by Tanner Whitten - Photo by Matt Sandberg

Rockford Speedway has much more than just races. They have party packages, a picnic area, and concession stands, They have 50/50 raffles, prize drawings and lots of other stuff going on. It really is a family friendly place. It won't break the bank either. The season is winding up so hurry and go visit the Rockford Speedway!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wired Cafe

Yesterday morning I got my buzz on, after only two cups of coffee I was flyin' high. Who needs ADD meds when you can get coffee at Wired Cafe?

This was my first time at Wired. http://www.wiredcaferockford.com/ I had actually heard about it through twitter (@wiredcaferkfd) once again. Twitter is introducing me to brand new places and people everyday. Someone I follow had tweeted that they were having coffee at Wired Cafe, and then, on Friday night as I was heading to the Rockford City Market http://www.rockfordcitymarket.com/, I drove past it and decided that I should check it out.

I had already had coffee plans for Tuesday morning with my longtime girlfriend Jackie, we had planned on going to Mary's Market. So how funny it was that she texted me on Monday and said she wanted to check out Wired Cafe! I told her I was all in and that I would love to gather 411 so I could do a write-up about it. I dropped a curtesey e-mail to Crystal Douglas the owner, and gave her the heads up that I was coming and that I would love to try a few things.

Tuesday morning came and I was only running a couple of minutes late! It's a miracle. And then I got downtown or almost. I hit those stinkin' orange cones, that are meant to block traffic lanes, on State St between Alpine and Swedes. Crud. Oh no, that's not all. Bus. It wasn't just that I was behind a bus, it was that the bus stops were jacked up because of the construction. Everyone waiting for the bus had to flag it down and run across a lane to get on. It was OK though I was still only about 5 minutes behind. I get downtown and I'm keeping an eye out for Wired. I know where it is, right by Kuma's, which I enjoy, so past Kuma's I go. Oh hell, where is it? Across the river I go, around the block, back up State, turn the wrong way on a one way street, U-turn back onto State and ALLELUIA! Parked right in front of Wired Cafe. I swear it had beautiful white light shining down on it from the Heavens. Thank God I'm here, and only ten minutes late!

After Jackie and I hugged and squealed and "you look so pretty" blah blah blah... Coffee, sweet nectar of the Gods, God, did I need coffee. With a halo on her head, Crystal showed up at our table and she told us about the house coffee. Now, I believe a coffee place is only as good as their house coffee so that's what I ordered. I think she said it was organic, fair trade, and I don't remember from where. She brought it out and I did notice that it had a unique taste that I liked. One cup down. Crystal was very attentive, but let us yak on and on without disrupting our convo. She came over and asked what I would like to taste. I said I wanted to start with something sweet and asked her to pick a customer favorite. Crystal brought out a, fresh baked that morning, Chewy Chocolate Coconut Bar. OMG...Heaven, perfectly paired with coffee. The bar was huge and Jackie and I shared it. We still didn't finish it, but Jackie let me take it home, thanks Jackie.

My morning was turning out quite nice.Tweetin' live on my computer via Wi-fi about this cool place I found, enjoying the company, the conversation, watching people come and go - it does get quite busy mid morning, and observing Crystal work her coffee magic. She's just not pouring coffee out of a pot she is executing her Midwest Barista School skills. You go girl! IMHO Wired Cafe is totally wired for success. Great location, great coffee, delish baked goods, great customers, and an extremely friendly and capable owner.

I did not have the chance to have any of their tempting breakfast or lunch items on the menu, I'll just have to go back next week. So grab your computer and a great cup of coffee and enjoy some time at Wired Cafe!

Wired Cafe
414 East State Street
Rockford IL 61104

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rockford City Market By Way of Twitter

On Friday I was so excited to go check out a local event that I had not been to before.The Rockford City Market - http://www.rockfordcitymarket.com/ I was not sure what to expect but, it sounded cool. Ask me how I found out about the Rockford City Market. Twitter . Yep Twitter. I followed @rockthemarket and I followed other people that followed @rockthemarket and I found this cool event in downtown rockford and buch of wonderfully creative people that totally dig the market!

I admit it I love Twitter! I signed up for Twitter maybe last year some time and I only used it to follow my fighters. UFC, WEC all things MMA, I am a huge MMA fan. Anyway, I recently got a new phone, a lovely Droid 2 and a pretty bubblegum pink case too. Surprised? I didn't think so. I decided it was time to revisit Twitter now that I have this phone that allows me to be wired 24/7. So for those of you that do not tweet because you don't get it, I'm telling you try it again. I know so many of you are fb fans, me too, but all those posts that you see on fb from me, come directly from my twitter @BelRockCityGirl. What else do I love about Twitter...real time. No refreshing needed, totally live and short and sweet. 140 characters only, no long entries. Basically instead of rehashing your life at the end of every day, you do it throughout the day it with abbreviated entries. I am so hooked! Wish more of my Belvidere Peeps would hook up with Twitter! It's great when you see that someone is on their way to get lunch and they tweet it, just tweet back and you got a lunch date! LOVE LOVE LOVE! Do you like to meet new interesting people? Would you like to meet people to network with? Would you like to stay in touch with friends and family and know what they do throughout the course of a day? It's a little voyeuristic, but it's OK thats what you sign up for. You can follow anyone, no permission needed, and anyone can follow you. Do you love soccer? Follow Cristiano Ronaldo @cristiano. Love the show Hell's Kitchen? Follow Gordon Ramsay @GordanRamsay01. Follow your favorite footbal team, fashion designer, rock star, news person, movie star, basically anyone. If they are not on twitter now they will be. I was a skeptic too, at first, now I feel totally wired in with what's happening in my community. I am finding out about so many cool things by following local people on Twitter.

The Rockford City Market is just one of those. Totally cool Friday night market in downtown Rockford. Delish artisan quality foods, farmstand veggies, interesting artists, live music and more! Check back next weekend for a full post about the Rockford City Market. I loved it so much I want to get a couple interviews with some of the vendors and some great photos to post! So please check back!

Don't forget to jump on Twitter and pick some cool people to follow! I will get you started with some local BelRock (Belvidere/Rockford) follows!

follow me @BelRockCityGirl
follw Rockford City Market @rockthemarket
follow Rockford Restaurants @rockforddining
Edgebrook Shops @edgebrookshops
JB Love @RadioJB
Don Manzullo @DonManzulloHQ
Rockford Night Out.com @RkfdNightOut
RockfordWoman.com @RockfordWoman
Registar Star @rrstar_go
Laura Gibbs @lgibbs

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Anderson Japanese Gardens

I re-discovered a little hidden gem that we have in our own backyard today. Anderson Japanese Gardens, http://www.andersongardens.org/ the number one rated Japanese garden in North America. I had been there before, almost six years ago. I was doing one of the yearly garden walks that Rockford has and Anderson Gardens was one that we could tour. A lot has changed at the garden since then. As a matter of fact the Anderson Garden is constantly changing yet staying the same. The effort and intention of this garden is a true amazement.

I was lucky enough to be able to tour the gardens with a group of docents led by a gentleman, Neil. He was extremely knowledgeable and pointed out things that a visitor may not notice. At the beginning of the tour he asked us to watch our step because large rocks were on the side of the pathway and stuck out a little. You had to really pay attention so you would not trip over them. This was done intentionally to make you slow down and notice the beauty around you. Okay this was my mistake. I show up in open - toe, high heel, wedge, sandals (they are really cute by the way) and Droid in my hand, tweeting. Not one of my brighter ideas, but I had made arrangements with Kathy Boyd of Anderson Gardens to do a live tweet during the tour. I will have you know I did not fall or trip one single time. I did get a little fun loving harassment about my shoe choice from the friendly docents I was touring with. It made me feel all the more welcome!

As we continued on the tour we came to a significant area in the gardens. The Main Bridge- O Hashi, leads you to the pond strolling gardens. Ideally, crossing of the bridge signifies that you have mentally prepared to cross through the Main Gate into the North Gardens. You are meant to cast away your worries and concerns so that you may cross through the Main Gate with a clear and open mind. These gardens are meant to be healing. When you travel beyond that gate to the north, the serenity and tranquility should envelop you, mind and soul.

I really felt as if I had entered the long - ago Japan that I have envisioned in my mind. It's not just what I saw. It was the feeling of this magical place. These gardens are not wild, nor are they an accident. Every little thing from the placement of the tea house, to the precise spot where one of the many bridges crosses the stream, or the way a tree branch is trained to grow in such a way that it will look most beautiful, to the intentional placement of rocks to step upon, every detail of every little part of this whole garden is intentional. It's intention is to provide it's visitors with the feeling of tranquility and serenity to promote healing.

The gardens, the streams, the waterfalls, the statues, there is so much to see. I even was privileged to have a tour of the guest house by a docent named Terry. Terry showed me every little detail in that house and it was mesmerizing! I did not want to leave. I am thinking of selling all of our worldly possessions and building a house just like it. If I knew that my five boys would not punch holes through every rice paper covered door and window, I would truly consider it. I need a little bit of calm and serenity in my life! Even the guest house quietly screamed tranquility.

I am not sure how to explain in words how beautiful every little detail is. You can not imagine the planning, thought and care that have been put into every aspect of this garden. Every square inch of it is perfect in my eyes. The feeling of healing that this garden invokes is a true wonderment. Mr. Anderson's intention of creating a healing garden has been realised. You just have to see for yourself. All though I could go on forever about all that I saw and all that I learned today. This is really an experience you must have for yourself. So I urge you to take some time out of your busy and hectic life, and slow down to enjoy the serenity that Anderson Japanese Gardens provides.

Anderson Japanese Gardens
318 Spring Creek Road
Rockford IL 61107
815- 229-9390

Sacred Island
Tea House
Inside the Guest House

Main Gate to North Garden

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Brick Cafe & Gallery

Today I went to a place I visit frequently, The Brick Cafe & Gallery. (815-547-7586) The Brick is owned and operated by a pair of delightfully cool people, Gary Simon and Sherry Knott-Simon. Visit The Brick on http://www.facebook.com/. This joint is the perfect place to sit and enjoy breakfast, which is served all day, or lunch. The menu has delicious breakfast items, coffee, sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads. Even better - nothing is priced over $5.75! Sherry makes homemade soups too! Today I had her chunky tomato, it was absolutely delish! I was sitting there eating my soup actually having a convo in my head "should I ask for more? would that be rude? are they going to think I'm eating too much if I ask for more? " Then my soup was gone, and I totally wanted to ask for more but chickened out like a big sissy!

I have taken my kids there quite a few times, only after I realized that they weren't going to break everything in sight and that Gary and Sherry weren't going to get their panties in a twist cause my kids wanted to explore all the cool artwork. Actually, I have known Gary and Sherry since before half of my kids were born, so I knew that my kids would be welcome. So bring your kids, expose them to all the art in this wonderful place!

Dining alone...? then this is the perfect spot! There is so much to look at. It really is a Gallery! Wonderful works of art from lots of local artists including Gary himself. Gary is an awesome illustrator and painter. Gary is this year's designer for Belvidere's Hometown Christmas Button. He also does some three dimensional works too. Gary isn't the only artist in the family though. Sherry's brother, Norm Knott of Rockford has several of his pieces there also.

There is a wide range of different styles of art including pottery, jewelry, paintings, sculptures and even Socks-that-Rock (think sock monkeys gone rock n' roll) made by Joelene Chinn of Rockford. http://www.socks-that-rock.com/ (Tweet her @socksthatrock) You can check her out at http://www.facebook.com/ too.

Located at the corner of State St. and 1st Street in Belvidere it's an easy jaunt from Rockford and within walking distance from anywhere in my town of Belvidere.

Don't miss out on this unique cafe, I'm sure you will truly enjoy the experience.

The Brick Cafe & Gallery 615 S. State St belvidere
Socks-that-Rock by Joelene Chinn

Colorful works! Gary created the piece top - left corner.

You can also visit the Simon's other food endeavor, the Wienie Wagon, which has been operating for 15 years! The Wienie Wagon can be found in the parking lot of Belvidere Motors on State St. in Belvidere. Open April through October, weather permitting.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Edward's Apple Orchard

Well, we finally made it, some of us anyway. Mack Jack Pat, Rhino and myself took an afternoon trip to the orchard. We knew it would be busy, and it was. It didn't phase the boys one bit though. All the way there, I heard chitter chatter from the back seats about the maze, the donuts, the apples, the taste testing, the animals and something new this year, to us anyway, raspberry picking.

I am embarrassed to admit, in all of these years visiting the orchard, we have never picked anything ourselves. I know, I know, what kind of mother takes her kids to a picking orchard and doesn't pick anything? Well, for those of you that know me and my five boys we don't have the greatest safety track record for one thing. Who knows? One of them could find an axe and try and chop one of those trees down! I am not kidding! They would sooo do it!

Today was different though. They were very... dare I say it? calm. Yes the Mulhall boys were CALM. They each picked their own container of raspberries. They did not fight one single time the entire time we were there. Miracles never cease. I can't wait for our next trip. We WILL pick apples and we WILL NOT chop down any trees!

All in all it was a wonderful afternoon. We saw the baby goats that were just born yesterday, we did the maze, we ate donuts, and we brought home some yummy goodies. We did miss Tim and Kevin though. They will make it next time.

Thank you Edward's yet again, for a wonderful excursion!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oh, what the heck?

A quick update.

My 1st blog was already a bust! I, nor my family ever made it to the orchard yesterday. I had a family emergency. I am hoping we will make it to the orchard tomorrow though.

Coming up this week:

I will be visiting Anderson Gardens in Rockford. For those of you that have never been, it is an amazing magical place that should not be missed. I will be tweeting from there and sending pictures. I will let you know the exact date and time on Tuesday.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Here we go...

Ok I have no idea what I'm doing and my husband doesn't eithor. Literally, he has no idea what I am up to or that I am about to drag him into this little escapade of mine. I can hear him now, " Oh Jeez, here we go again!" He knows that I am prone to trying new things so this really won't be that much of a surprise. What will be a surprise is that I am going to consistantly ask him to accompany me on these outings. Like today for example, just a little trip to our local apple orchard, Edward's could quite possibly put him over the edge! He is all about planning and I am sooo not! I understand his point though. Going on an outing anywhere with five boys ages 5 to 14 is not an easy task. Honey, buckle up it is going to be a bumpy ride!

On the agenda for today:
Edward's Apple Orchard, an outing that we make a few times a year in the fall. The kids love it and are really excited to go today!

I will be tweeting live while we are there. You can follow me @BelRockCityGirl
All of my tweets are posted to facebook also.

Talk to you soon!