Dinner at Josef Barbados

Thank you so much for the kind messages you sent us as we celebrated our one-year blog anniversary this month.  We love sharing what we love in the 815, and we hope that we continue to introduce you to great people, fun things to do and delicious eats. To celebrate a fun year one, we decided to go out for a nice girls dinner to one of our favorite East Side restaurants, Josef Barbados.

Josef’s has an elegant, formal dining room, that I often feel the need to save  for special occasions, but they recently converted part of the dining room to be a more relaxed restaurant eating area near their wine cellar, and it was perfect for our celebratory dinner.  Especially because our dinners often include whipping out our notebooks and planners to jot down upcoming blog features. Another option is to eat and drink in the super hip bar, but even on a Thursday the seats were pretty full of diners and drinkers.

Ok, onto the photos and descriptions of the good eats. Owner Josef Schwaiger is an extremely talented chef, and therefore we tried every course. No regrets. We started by splitting the recommended crab cake appetizer, and we could not give up our appetizer plate to our waitress because we needed every last bite of this huge crab cake.

Next we had salads, and I have to brag about my salad because it came with goat cheese stuffed croutons. GOAT. CHEESE. STUFFED. CROUTONS.

For dinner I ordered their Char Grilled New York Strip which was cooked to perfection and topped with a delicious Madagascar sauce . It was accompanied by veggies and a delicious twice baked potato. I will be back for this steak.

Em had the Seafood Ragout with mussels, scallops, shrimp, white fish and salmon served over pasta. So many delicious tastes and smells.

Since starting the blog, we occasionally get recognized for our 815 articles in the Rockford Register Star, or from people who have come across our blog. While wrapping up dinner, a waiter told us we looked familiar and asked if we were on the news. We mentioned our articles and blog, and it came together for him. He insisted, despite our food comas, that we try their dessert sampler. Twist our arms. While all of the desserts were super yummy, we were blown away by the Tres Leches cake. In fact, I’m going back to Josef’s this week to celebrate my birthday with my family, and I’m already planning on having that for dessert.

What are your favorite dishes that you’ve tried at Josef’s? What did we miss?

 

Eight in the Eight-February 2017

Before we get to the awesome activities happening in the 815 this month, we want to take the time to say a BIG thank you.  One year ago this month, we started State & Eight.  You all have welcomed our blog with open arms and we feel a great sense of pride for what it has become.  There are times when it can be hard to keep up with things, but knowing that you all enjoy our blog makes it all worthwhile.  Cheers to another exciting year of all good things Rockford! Happy One Year Anniversary to State & Eight!

Rockton Yeti Fest @ Downtown Rockton                                                                                               When: Wednesday, February 1-Saturday, February 4, 2017

Make the most of the cold weather, put on your layers, and enjoy Rockton in the winter and take part in the following activities: Walk Like a Yeti (snowshoeing), Sculpt Like a Yeti (snow sculptures), Skate Like a Yeti (ice skating at Village Green Park), and Shop and Eat Like a Yeti in downtown Rockton.  For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Super Bowl Festivities @ All over the 815                                                                                 When: Sunday, February 5, 2017

With brunch at Abreo (PK diner pop up!), a killer carry-out menu from Prairie Street Brewing Company, a Super Bowl shindig at Rural On Tap, and countless Super Bowl specials across the 815, we are sure of two things.  1. You will not go hungry and 2. You will not go thirsty.  Enjoy this American holiday and treat yourself to some amazing local food and drinks.

I Love the 90s Tour @ BMO Harris Bank Center                                                                                     When: Friday, February 10, 2017

What do Salt N Pepa, Vanilla Ice, Coolio, Tone Loc, Young MC, and Rob Base equal?  Only our childhood!  Take a trip back to the 90s for a concert that will be so. much. fun.  Whip out the scrunchies and neon colors and go all out for a night down memory lane. Get tickets here.

Love The Blocks @ Downtown Rockford                                                                                               When: Saturday, February 11, 2017

Shop, dine, entertain, gallery hop! Downtown Rockford will be feeling the love for a special Shop the Blocks. With over 25 shops and restaurants participating, you’ll find so much to chose from Be sure to take a look at the Facebook event page to see all the amazing Love The Blocks specials.

In Full Bloom Orchid Exhibit @ Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens                                                 When: February 1, 2017-March 5, 2017

The In Full Bloom Orchid Exhibit at the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is the perfect way to brighten up these dreary days.  The annual orchid exhibit features hundreds of tropical orchids as well as several special events including Orchids For Beginners, “What’s Wrong With My Orchid?,” and the Anything Orchids Plant Sale.  Regular admission rates apply.

Movies on Main @ The Nordlof Center                                                                                                               When: February 5 & February 12 , 2017

Who doesn’t love free movies? Movies on Main are open to the public and the venue at The Nordlof Center is general seating.  Doors open 30 minutes before each showing and you can find out specific details about each movie on the website. Movies for this month are The BFG, The Jungle Book, The Secret Life of Pets, and Suicide Squad.

2017 United States Synchronized Figure Skating Championships-BMO Harris Bank Center   When: February 23-25, 2017

Ninety-six teams will be completing in the 2017 United State Synchronized Skating Championships at the BMO Harris Bank Center and this seems to be another one of our childhood fantasies coming true.  We must admit, we had no idea that over 600 teams are registered for the sectional finals.  For a tentative schedule of events and for more information, go here.

Cabin Fever – Stella & Notte                                                                                                                         When: February 24-25, 2017

Having never made it to Stella & Notte (yes, we are ashamed!), we are definitely planning on visiting them for the Fourth Annual Cabin Fever Show.  They have filled their store with Spring decor in traditional, mid century, rustic, French chic and other styles.  For more information, visit here.

 

Meet Your Bartender-Monica Hedeen

We are back with another Meet Your Bartender post!  Hope you all are having a great week and if you need a little “pick-me-up,” head on over to see Monica at Prairie Street Brewing Company–she is sure to take good care of you!  Let’s get to know Monica Hedeen a little bit, shall we?

Name: Monica Hedeen, Bartender @ Prairie Street Brewing Company/Dockside Taproom

Age you feel: 22

Neighborhood: Downtown

Years behind the bar: Two and a half years.

What’s the best part of your job? Two main reasons I love my job: 1. Interacting with and meeting new people.  2. It’s not a desk job!

What’s the toughest part of your job? Certain nights can get REALLY busy at PSB (which is great!) and juggling ten things at once can be challenging.

When you order a drink, what is your go-to? For beer it would be PSB’s Vanilla Kolsch and for a cocktail it would be a vodka & soda.

The ideal night at the bar would look like this: Busy, but not too crazy.

Other than PSB, what bar(s) would you take a visitor to? Abreo or Lucha Cantina.

What is your favorite PSB event? Definitely the St. Patrick’s Day party–it’s a really chill event where the customers and staff are all having a good time together.

What is your favorite bar gadget? The zester/peeler–love fresh garnish on a cocktail.

Have you witnessed any crazy dates? I seem to witness many tinder dates and first meet-ups–not all are crazy, but all are pretty awkward.

What’s one beer we should be drinking that we aren’t?  PSB’s Petritz Pale Ale.

Do you have a specialty drink? I love making margaritas (and enjoying them) or anything on the sweeter side.

What do you love about Rockford? I love living downtown and seeing and enjoying all of the new businesses opening up.  It’s an exciting place to be!

I got to witness the brewmasters “testing” out their product.  Hearing them talk about the beers and brainstorming was pretty cool! Be sure to follow Prairie Street Brewing Company on Facebook or check out their website for updates and special events.  Thanks to Monica for being such a great sport!  Please do this pregnant lady (me) a favor, and enjoy a beer for me…Cheers!

2017 Bucket List

Happy 2017 Everyone!  We first want to thank you for providing so many positive vibes and words of encouragement for State & Eight!  It’s hard to believe (for us at least), that we started this blog almost a full year ago, and with the new year, we feel re-energized and excited to continue State & Eight.  With that, we thought it would be fun to share our individual Bucket Lists for exploring and experiencing the 815 (we will spare you our exercising, work, home improvement goals, etc.) this year.  Here goes…

Emily’s 2017 Bucket List

Take a class through Rocktown Adventures                                                                                                   Both Liz and I had fully intended on taking a snowshoeing class through Rocktown adventures during our time off over the holidays.  But, the funny thing is, is that snowshoeing requires snow.  With the lack of snow, we were unable to get it done!  So, my goal for this year is to take either a snowshoeing class (might become more difficult as I get further along in my pregnancy), a paddleboarding class, or a kayaking class.

Subscribe to a CSA box                                                                                                                                             Last summer, I really enjoyed visiting the North End City market and every time I would get a bit envious of those that had signed up for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box.  You may remember Liz posted about her experience with her CSA and it had me jealous.  Here is to a summer of truly, fresh produce!                                                                                                                                           

Finally visit Taylor + Max                                                                                                                                         You may have noticed in our most recent gift guide, that we mentioned a great Children’s Boutique in Rockton, Taylor + Max.  Truth be told, I have only looked at their merchandise online and would like to change that!  This year is the year!

Treat myself to coffee more often                                                                                                                         Often I hear friends and co-workers saying the exact opposite statement.  However, with places like Wired Cafe, Meg’s Daily Grind, Rockford Roasting Company, Katie’s Cup, etc., there are SO MANY wonderful, local, coffee shops to choose from, so I am attempting to visit them MORE this year.                                                                                                        

Explore new walking routes                                                                                                                                 You will see that Liz is planning to do more biking and running, but this mama is going to be happy with getting out on a daily walk once #2 joins us.  With that being said, we have written about our love for The Loop and the Midway Village Museum bike path in the past, but I want to venture to explore some more walking routes.  Does anyone have suggestions?                                                                                                                           

Family photos                                                                                                                                                               What I have noticed recently between looking at wedding photos, baby photos, family photos, etc. is that Rockford is FULL of talented, well-priced photographers.  With Baby #2 coming this Spring, I would love to have professional photos taken of my family.  This. Must. Happen.  The only hard part will be deciding which photographer to choose!

Tour The Standard                                                                                                                                                        While I have visited the businesses in The Standard downtown (Arch Apothecary, London Avenue Designs, and Tique Furnishings), I am LONGING for an in depth tour of the entire building, event space, and the future Taco Betty’s.  I most likely won’t be planning a large event anytime soon, but I have always loved the space and I want that “Wow, I love what you’ve done with the place,” conversation.  Hook us up!

Try at least five new restaurants                                                                                                                         Do you know what Izakaya 88, Cucina Di Rosa, Tavern On Clark, Kate’s Pie Shop, and Clara Bo all have in common?  They are all restaurants I have yet to visit!  While I love our “go to” places, my goal is to branch out and try more restaurants I have never been.  Any takers?                                                                                     

Attend a Yoga Tot class at Namaste Studios                                                                                                    I am lucky enough that when I do my seldom “workout” at home, my daughter likes to join in the fun.  “Mom, we are doing yoga!” Because she seems so excited about yoga, I thought I would look into a class of sorts that she and I could do together.  Low and behold, Namaste Studios downtown has a class named Yoga Tots geared towards 1-5 year olds and their parents.  You better believe I will make this class a priority in 2017!

 

Liz’s 2017 Bucket List

Snowshoeing
If you caught our article in 815 Magazine, you will remember that one of our ideas for being a tourist in our own town included an outdoor adventure. Snowshoeing has been on my bucket list for years, so a class through Rocktown Adventures is on my 2017 list.

Stand up Paddle Boarding
Along the same lines, a long time bucket list item of mine has been to do a standup paddle boarding class out at Rock Cut State Park. When I do this, I certainly hope there is no video or photo evidence.

Woodworking Class
We moved into our house last May, and I have been longing for the perfect dining room table for our kitchen. A friend of mine told me about Rock Valley College’s Woodworking Community Education course at South Beloit High School, and I would love to attempt to make my own table.

Escape Quest Beloit
Escape rooms are becoming all the rage lately, and there is one not too far away in Downtown Beloit. At Escape Quest, you and your friends are locked in an escape room and must find clues and solve puzzles to be the first team to escape. Bring. It. On.

More Bike Riding
The extent of my bike riding last year was the Tour de North End bike ride, which is super sad because I love cycling. This summer I vow to explore new bike paths and to pedal around to my favorite summer events, such as City Market and Dinner on the Dock.

Class at the Angelic Organics Learning Center
Angelic Organics in Caledonia offers some cool classes in the warmer months. From cheesemaking to campouts on the farm, there is a little something for everyone. My inner Joanna Gaines is longing to spend some time on the farm this summer.

Visit Two Local Breweries
There are two local breweries that are on my 2017 bucket list. Generations Brewing in Freeport and & Wishful Acres Farm & Brewery are both on my list. Both have tasting rooms and picturesque properties which make me long for lazy summer Saturdays.

Pec Thing
Confession: I have never been to Pec Thing, the mega antique and flea market at the Winnebago County Fairgrounds. The 2017 dates have been released, and I plan to explore on either May 20 & 21 or September 16 & 17.

Literacy Council Half Marathon
Finally, this is a repeat, but worthy of documenting it on my official bucket list. The Literacy Council Half Marathon at Blackhawk Springs County Forest Preserve is a gorgeous run, and you can receive great pre-race training through the Runner’s Image running club prior to the race.

What is on your bucket list for 2017, both local and elsewhere?

Cheers to a great year!

 

 

Giving Back

Happy Holidays All!  We hope you all have been enjoying the festivities leading up to the Holidays in the 815.  When Liz and I decided to start this blog back almost one year ago (eek!) our whole focus was to bring a positive light to the place we call home.  We attempt to take advantage of local events, restaurants, activities, shops (check out our local gift guide), etc., and we know you do too.  In that spirit, we feel it’s also important to give back to our community and to the organizations who make a positive impact in our region day after day.  So, if you are looking for ways to contribute this holiday season, consider these local organizations before the year’s end.  This is not a comprehensive list, and we certainly don’t intend to leave anyone out, but we are hopeful this gets your giving juices flowing.  Every dollar and hour of time helps and is greatly appreciated!  Here are some ideas:

Fine & Performing Arts                                                                                                                                         

Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Rockford Dance Company, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford Area Arts Council

Social Service Organizations

United Way of Rock River Valley (full disclosure, my husband works for UWRRV), Carpenter’s Place, Milestone Inc., Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Rockford Rescue Mission, Shelter Care Ministries, Stepping Stones

Women & Children

Crusader Community Health (full disclosure, Liz is on the Special Events Committee), Kids Around the World, Girl Scouts of America, Boy Scouts of America, Pregnancy Care Center

Additional ideas could be your alma mater, media you value, you children’s school or other programs, your religious place of worship, or just your neighbor down the street.  Whatever it may be, there are so many wonderful doing good things in our community and they could use our help!  If you have any other organizations we should know about, let us know!  In the meantime, Happy Holidays and enjoy the season!

 

Meet Your Barista – Leslie Erickson

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Emily and I have a long-standing love for Meg’s Daily Grind. Our love began in high school, and continued as a must-visit when we were home for breaks from college. We still love Meg’s, especially on these frigid winter days!

Leslie Erickson is an owner and manager of Meg’s Daily Grind. She’s the smiling face behind the coffee bar who everyone seems to know. When I stopped in to meet with Leslie, the next customer in line said good morning to her by name. to which she responded that his mocha would be right up. This friendly, welcoming relationship with customers is what made us want to interview Leslie as our first Meet Your Barista.

Name: Leslie Erickson, Owner, Manager and Barista @ Meg’s Daily Grind

Age You Feel: It depends on the day. Some days I feel like I can keep up with the high schoolers that work here, and other days I want to go to bed at 7pm.

What time do you wake up? My alarm goes off at 4:15am, and I usually get out of bed at 4:30am.

Drink that gets you going: During the cold months it is a White Chocolate Peppermint Latte. An Iced Vanilla Americano is another go-to.

Favorite Drink to Make: A cappuccino. They are labor intensive, but are a quality drink.

What is the best tool or piece of equipment we should have at home to make good coffee drinks? A good quality coffee maker is good for entertaining and serving coffee made from Meg’s beans.

What do you love about your job? The interaction is different every day with customers and employees. Different people come in with different drink orders, which is sometimes the hardest, but also the most rewarding. The connections we make with our customers are great. Rockford has been great to us since our start in 2001, even with the addition of other local and chain coffee shops.

What do you love about Rockford? My family is all here (Meg’s is a family-owned business), and that is one reason I love Rockford. I also like the support for local businesses. It’s a big town with a small town feel. I like knowing my neighbors and I love that I can go to Target and even know people. There are a lot of good events happening and people are really trying to invest in our city.

Thank you, Leslie, for making Rockford awesome!

LizSignature-Pink

815-Rockford’s Magazine-Winter Edition

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Hey friends! We hope you all had a great weekend and enjoyed the beautiful snow.  We are fortunate enough to be a part of this weekend’s edition of the local 815 Magazine in the Rockford Register Star.  If you have yet to pick up an issue, be sure to pick up this Sunday’s Rockford Register Star.  State & Eight was previously featured in the Summer and Fall issues and we are thrilled to be back at it for Winter! Here is a sneak peek at our piece:

This winter, we at State & Eight are challenging ourselves to be tourists in our own city. While life in the Midwest typically gives us cold, dark and snowy days for staying indoors, there are also plenty of bright and sunny winter days great for bundling up and exploring mother nature’s beauty.  Join us on our blog, www.stateandeight.com, as we tour the area in search of the best ways to enjoy winter. Here are some of the ways we plan to experience Rockford this winter season:

Ice Skating Outdoors

Last winter the Belvidere Park District opened the Riverside Ice Arena in Doty Park. Located in Downtown Belvidere, the rink offers skate rental, skating lessons and hockey leagues. Another time-honored outdoor ice skating tradition in the 815 is the Eclipse Lagoon at Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. Use of the rink is free and available on a first come, first served basis. We love driving by here and seeing kids enjoying the outdoors playing pick-up hockey games.

Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing

We remember thinking that cross-country skiing was for old people and that snowshoeing was old-fashioned based on the fact that our Kirsten American Girl Dolls came with a set. Now at the ripe old age of 30, we find ourselves eager to learn how to ski and snowshoe while exploring our snow-covered hometown. Rocktown Adventures leads group activities and lessons out at Rock Cut State Park and other parks around town, and allow you to rent or buy your own equipment.

Holiday Lights

Like many of you, we enjoy viewing the holiday lights and are lucky we have so many places to see them in the area.  Our first stop is through the Festival of Lights at Sinnissippi Park.  A leisurely drive through the park has become a tradition for many and is available for viewing through the Christmas holiday.  A new favorite of ours is All Aglow at the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens running now through the first week of January.  The vibrant lights are fun for viewing for all ages.  Lastly, you may have noticed we love all things Downtown Rockford, including the lights.  Enjoy a festive evening downtown and walk along the river to view the beautiful lights; they make being out in the cold worth it.  

Snow Sculptures

Many of us Rockford natives have grown up cruising through Sinnissippi Park to see the snow sculptures at the annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition each January.  We never tire of this yearly event because of the incredible talent we get to witness from area students and community members.  This is the one time of year we hope for extra chilly temps, so we may enjoy the creativity of fellow Rockfordians before the sculptures melt.

Sledding

One can never be too old to get the sleds and saucers out, right?  As children, it seemed the place you would find everyone sledding was at Twin Sister HIlls Park located between East State Street and Charles Street.  While that is no doubt a great place to sled down the slopes, a location we are looking forward to visiting this year is Aldeen Park as neither of us have ever been.  We thank the Rockford Park District for monitoring the hills and making sure they are safe for all.  

We hope to see you all out and about enjoying all the winter experiences our city has to offer. Be sure to pick up the Sunday paper or visit local hotels, the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau or other local stops to see the latest issue this Sunday and throughout the Winter. Stay warm!

EmilyLizSignature-Pink

 

2016 State & Eight Local Gift Guide

A co-worker recently told me that she had not ordered anything from Amazon in three years. Three years?! With the convenience of Amazon Prime, and the the fact that I can order everything from paleo-friendly beef jerky to my wedding shoes, three weeks without an order is more common for me. My co-worker had good reason to not shop on Amazon though. Her goal was to support local businesses and keep her tax money here. While I’m not sure I’m ready to give up my Prime account completely, I have made a goal to buy all of my Christmas gifts locally this year. We decided to put together a local gift guide to share with you some great local finds.

Kids & Teens

Taylor + Max
This children’s boutique in Downtown Rockton, Taylor + Max has the most adorable outfits. These high quality, darling outfits will make for a very special gift. Bonus – they do monogramming! How cute are these pajamas?!

pajamas

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Source: Taylor + Max

Bath & Body Fusion
Teenage girls LOVE exploring new scents – bubble bath, lotion, body spray – they hoard it. Skip the national chains this year, and get the teenage girls (and their moms!) fresh, handmade bath and body scents from Bath & Body Fusion. Their incredible smells and cute packaging and wrapping make your shopping very easy.

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Source: Bath & Body Fusion

Gruno’s Diamonds
While Gruno’s Diamonds is more commonly known as the place to go for beautiful diamonds, gemstones, and watches (Dear Santa, I love Shinola watches), they are also the only local source for Alex & Ani bracelets. If you’re not familiar with Alex & Ani, they are the modern day charm bracelet, with each bangle holding a charm. These are perfect for all women, but super popular for teens and college age ladies, and they start at just $28 each.

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Source: Gruno’s Diamonds

Women

Porch
We featured this gift from Porch in our Mother’s Day Gift Guide, but we will repeat it because it’s a goodie. And I happen to know that this will be for sure gifted in our family this year. The Nora Fleming platters and bowls with their changeable minis are such a great gift. They are high quality and easy to decorate for every occasion.

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Source: Porch

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Source: Nora Fleming

Trove
You know the ladies at Trove are some of our favorites. Perhaps it’s because we LOVE their style. In addition to their fabulous vintage and mid-century pieces for the home, they have selected some awesome items created by regional artisans. These hats and softest leather hand bags are so amazing!

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Source: Trove

Arch Apothecary
You met Betsy, owner of Arch Apothecary, in an earlier post of ours, and we are still so in love with her business and her new store front. Give the lady of your life a gift card for a facial, make-up application or blowout. Arch also offers high quality candles, which make for a great hostess gift!

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Source: Arch Apothecary

Men

Rockford Woodcrafts
We mentioned Rockford Woodcrafts in our 815 magazine article, and we still think it is a great option for holiday gifts. From bottle openers to beer caddies, these locally handmade pieces are a work of art.

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Source: Rockford Woodcrafts

Rockford Art Deli
Give the guy in your life one of those great Rockford t-shrits you’ve seen around town from Rockford Art Deli. Whether it is a Rock River Yacht Club or a Rockford Cubbies t-shirt, the shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and other 815 swag from Rockford Art Deli are the best.

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Source: Rockford Art Deli

Rocktown Adventures 
For the adventurous guy, had over to Rocktown Adventures for all of your outdoor gear. From Kayaks and snow shoes to thermal shirts and boots, the knowledgeable staff at Rocktown Adventures will help you find the best gift for your guy.

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Source: Rocktown Adventures

Miscellaneous

Artale Wine Co.
One of our favorite gifts we have received was a copper tin filled with a variety of craft beers from Artale Wine Co. The brilliant staff at Artale is so helpful when it comes to picking out beer and wine for gift giving, and for a small fee, they will put it in a basket and wrap it up for you.

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Source: Artale Wine Co.

J.R. Kortman Center for Design
Every year, I get my (now) husband an ornament for the tree. This was a tradition both of my grandmothers and my mother started for me, and now I have a beautiful tree full of ornaments. J.R. Kortman has the coolest Rockford themed ornaments this year. This might just be a gift I get myself this year. 

15319160_10154756331981499_416273648763641873_nSource: J.R. Kortman

What are some local gifts on your list this year? Share on our Facebook page!

Happy Shopping!

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All Aglow Express

Happy Winter!  I have to say that normally, I am not a huge fan of the cold weather and darkness (who is?), but the snow on Sunday seemed to brighten my mood and make me look forward to all of the great things winter brings…the Holidays, various celebrations, snow angels, the festive lights, winter sports, greater excuses to eat sweets, and spend more time with loved ones.  This past weekend, my family was able to take advantage of, what I hope will be, a new holiday tradition, the All Aglow Express at the Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens.

When our golden tickets and map arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago I thought, “Well isn’t that a cute idea?” and then put the tickets in my desk until the big day.  Then, the cuteness just kept on coming.  When we arrived at the All Aglow Express, we were greeted by the conductor who stamped our tickets and guided us towards the trolley all decked out with lights, wreaths, and blankets.  Having never been on the downtown trolley before (I know, shameful…), my 2 1/2 year old was quite excited about the prospect.

We got all “cozy” on the trolley and enjoyed the AWESOME lights at the conservatory while on our way to the “The North Pole.”  When the trolley arrived at the North Pole, the walkway was lined with gumdrops, candy canes, and greeters waiting to give us our marshmallows to make our own s’mores.  Once the s’mores were made, we entered the North Pole (inside) and were given hot chocolate while the kiddos got comfortable for the reading of The Polar Express.

(Sorry in advance about the photo quality.  Dark + toddler + gloves + phone…you get the idea).

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And what happened at the end of The Polar Express?? That’s right, SANTA came out delivering small gifts and some holiday cheer.  The kids were all surprised and was just. the. cutest.

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Then, back on the trolley we went to the NCG for more time with Santa, an optional craft project, and time to explore the BEAUTIFUL All Aglow exhibit in the conservatory.

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I have to give a big “You guys rock!” shout out to the Rockford Park District and NCG, for putting together a truly unique, special, and wholesome, holiday experience.  There are still LIMITED tickets available for this weekend, December 9, 10 and 11.  Be sure to get tickets by calling 815-987-8863.  This is the perfect holiday event for the little kiddos and families.

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Eight in the Eight-December 2016

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Happy Holidays everyone! We hope your Thanksgiving weekend was everything you wanted it to be.  Liz and I are thankful for so much this year.  Between the two of us and our families we have a new marriage, a new home, a new job, and a new baby on the way (for Emily!). These big changes and all of the simple daily things make us grateful for where we live and what we do.  Our Eight in the Eight was especially challenging for us this month because there are so many great things happening in the area. If there is an event happening you think we should check out, let us know!

Songs & Suds (& Santa) @ Katie’s Cup
When: Tuesday, December 6 from 6:00-8:00PM

Enjoy Saint Nicholas Day, some Holiday songs, and some suds at Katie’s Cup.  This is a free event and just a time to socialize and get in the Holiday spirit.  While there, be sure to pick up a copy of the Katie’s Cup Christmas CD featuring many favorite, local artists.

LOCAL Holiday Market @ Rockford University
When: Saturday, December 10 from 10:00AM-4:00PM

As you may have noticed, we LOVE to shop local in the 815.  Check out the LOCAL Holiday Market sponsored by Winnebago Buy Local at Rockford University.  This one time Holiday Market is filled with completely LOCAL vendors.  Support and shop local businesses all in one spot.

Movie Night at the Farm @ Williams Tree Farm
When: Friday, December 16 @ 6:30PM

Bring your little ones, PJs and blankets, and get comfy at Williams Tree Farm while watching Arthur Christmas inside in the Keeping Room.  Snacks and treats will be available and admission is free, but donations are welcomed to support Kids Around the World.  

12 Bars of Christmas @ Downtown Rockford
When: Saturday, December 17, from 3:00-9:00PM

Check out the 2nd Annual 12 Bars of Christmas Pub Crawl and enjoy DJs, food & drink, prizes and fun.  Tickets are $28 and include a 12 Bars t-shirt, drink ticket and a goodie bag of surprises.  Every bar will offer a $5 Holiday Drink and complimentary hot chocolate &/or coffee.  Downtown and North End bars will be included!  Must be 21 years old to participate and there IS a shuttle!  Buy tickets here.

Rockford Symphony Orchestra Holiday Pops @ Coronado Performing Arts Center
When: Saturday, December 17 @ 7:30 PM, Sunday, December 18 @ 3:00PM

Nothing gets us in the Holiday spirit like some incredible music performed by the fantastic Rockford Symphony Orchestra.  Celebrate all the season has to offer with the largest holiday musical celebration in the area and enjoy your choice of an evening or matinee performance.  Buy tickets here.

All Aglow @ Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens
When: Now through January 8, 2017

Between the beautiful lights inside the Conservatory, the All Aglow Express, and Breakfast with Santa, there are no shortage of great, family friendly activities at the Nicholas Conservatory this month.  Enjoy a random evening walking around the NCG campus, or be sure to call ahead for tickets to the All Aglow Express (tickets are limited!).  Breakfast with Santa will take place December 3, 4, 10, 11 and 17.   

Festival of Lights @ Sinnissippi Park & Rockford River Lights along the Rock River
When: December 2-25 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 5:00-10:00PM (Festival of Lights) and December 2-31 on Fridays and Saturdays (Rockford River Lights)

Rockford has truly stepped up their Holiday lighting game in the past couple of years.  Be sure to take a drive through the Festival of Lights (a Holiday tradition) and take a walk along the banks of the Rock River between State Street and the Jefferson Street Bridge.  Both events are incredible and we are so glad the Rockford River Lights are back this year!

Holiday Hoopla @ Discovery Center Museum
When: December 26-30, recurring daily from 11:30AM-3:30PM

If you are looking for a fun activity to do with the kiddos while they are on break, we would check out the Discovery Center as they merge hands-on arts and crafts with amazing math and science.  All activities included with museum admission.  

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