Brienna Lee

Brienna Lee

Thursday, 19 March 2020 12:55

A view from above | Rustic River Cabins

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Outdoor enthusiasts paradise

Located high on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River and Memorial Bridge sits ten cozy and rustic cabins in historic Savanna, Illinois. Only a few miles from Mississippi Palisades State Park, the cabins are the perfect location for outdoor enthusiasts or those who just want to unwind and enjoy a weekend getaway. Mississippi Palisades State Park is so close that some of the nature trails at the state park connect to the cabin property.

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Each cabin comfortably sleeps six – with two queen beds in a loft area and futon in the main space. They all include a kitchenette with refrigerator and microwave, central heat and airconditioning, 50-inch flat-screen TV, fireplace, modern bathrooms, and beautiful private decks that overlook the Mississippi River. There are also common areas with fire pits, charcoal grills, picnic areas, and a pond that’s great for catching some fish. The newly installed electric fireplaces add a cozy touch to the cabins and make it easy to cozy up with a movie or book. Several of the cabins are handicapped accessible. 

BONUS: They are dog friendly! 

On-site owners

Upon arrival, the owners, Nancy and Matt Nowakowski, were eager to greet me and tell me about the cabins. They made Savanna and northwest Illinois their home and saw the cabins as a fun opportunity during retirement. Purchased in 2019, they have been busy remodeling the cabins and bringing them back to life with modern upgrades. Nancy and Matt live in one of the cabins at the bottom of the property, which means they are always on-site to help or answer questions.

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Life Looks Different When You’re Not In A Hurry

The owners gave me the full tour of each cabin and although each has the same layout, the wrap-around porches give either breathtaking views of the river or a view of Savanna’s newly constructed Dale Gardner Memorial Bridge. The bridge is named after NASA astronaut and Savanna native, Dale Gardner. 

Upon entering the cabin, a complimentary bottle of wine was waiting along with a list of local recommendations of where to eat and what to see in town. You can often see deer roaming the property and bald eagles flying overhead. Located high above the highway, the cabins are quiet. Sitting on the wrap-around deck is serene and peaceful. During my visit, I walked the property and introduced myself to a small family cooking dinner outside their cabin. They were visiting from Chicago to get away from the hustle and bustle and as the sunset turned the skies pink over the Mississippi, she couldn’t believe this kind of quiet and peace existed outside of her urban life. 

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The cabins are also located only a short walking distance from Marquette Park. The riverfront walking path along the Mississippi River offers amazing views and is a few blocks from Savanna's historic downtown filled with shopping, dining, and pubs offering live music on the weekends.  

Life is better when you take a moment to savor it, listen, and take a look around. As I sat in on the cabin deck and watched the sky go from blue to pink and orange, I thought of the quote;

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” - Lao Tzu

If the outdoors can accomplish everything without rushing, so can we. Take a moment to enjoy the outdoors and then book your stay to experience the cabins for yourself. You won’t regret it.

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Rustic River Cabins
1000 Calhoun St. (0.35 mi)
Savanna, Illinois 61074
Phone Number: (708) 906-4516


Airbnb Listing:


Monday, 17 February 2020 11:55

Baking a Difference in Oregon, IL

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It's a bakery unlike any other.

The small town of Oregon, IL has a bakery unlike any other. Located on the northeast corner of 3rd Street and IL Route 64 sits The Village Bakery. The building's front entrance is perfect because it is located on the corner instead of facing the street ensuring you can’t miss the welcoming sign and windows full people enjoying a meal of fresh baked goods. Not only is it a great place to hang out, but it benefits a great cause

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"Baking a difference" isn't just a catchy slogan

The Village Bakery creates products that people love while “baking a difference” in the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities. They create meaningful, community-based work for men and women with developmental disabilities while instilling them with the confidence to work in front of the public and the competence to do it well. Only about a quarter of the employees at the Bakery have a disability, but they work shoulder-to-shoulder with others without disabilities. They efficiently train them while working in the real world and serving customers -- with big smiles I might add. Special education students also intern with the bakery during the school year. 

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The idea began after a conversation with a special education job coach. They all shared stories regarding the difficulties in finding job opportunities for people with disabilities, especially in rural communities such as Oregon. Which raised the question, “Why not create our own business to hire those with disabilities?” And the idea of a local bakery was born. 

The goal is that the Village Bakery will break down barriers and stereotypes. They hope to teach others to have patience and respect for people with disabilities and to treat them as equals in the workplace.

“Customers who come to the bakery begin to see people with disabilities as unique individuals. They are given the opportunity to realize that each person, regardless of outward appearance, has their own personalities, their own dreams. And that just has to be good for the whole community – not just our staff.” – Village of Progress

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Baked Goods Galore

Upon walking into the bakery, my eyes immediately went to the glass case FILLED with baked goods. The case displays cupcakes in multiple flavors, slices of cake, fresh baked cookies and much more. In addition, they had a refrigerator with full-sized cakes to take home.

I approached the counter and was welcomed by two smiling faces eager to take my order. The menu is filled with many flavors of coffee, homemade soups, and plenty of sandwiches to choose from. 

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The sandwiches will knock your socks off

I settled on a peppermint mocha and their pick of one of their favorite sandwiches which is the “VOP (Village of Progress) Original.” It consists of oven-roasted chicken breast, provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, and topped with spinach and teriyaki Asian slaw on a fresh ciabatta bun. It was amazing! Despite my willpower, I couldn’t walk away from that bakery case so I ended up with a very large slice of carrot cake to take home as well.

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Satisfy your cupcake fix

They also offer custom cakes, cupcakes, pies, doughnuts, custom-ordered ice cream, and other sweet treats. There is a drive-through window if you’re in a hurry or just want to take a sweet treat or sandwich home with you.


The Village behind the bakery

The Village of Progress in Ogle County is the organization behind the Village Bakery. Founded in 1969, their mission is to challenge individuals with disabilities to reach their full potential at work and become productive members of the community. They value compassion and mutual respect and are always looking for new opportunities to “bring the Village into the community and the community into the Village.” 

In addition to the bakery, the Village of Progress offers other avenues of work such as packaging and assembly work and teaching social skills and activities of daily living. They recently purchased a half dozen side-by-side tandem bicycles to start the Village Bike Club. Starting in the spring and continuing through the fall, volunteers and those who are part of the Village take 45-minute bike rides through the local parks. It’s become very popular and a great way for those in the community and those in the village to get to know each other. 

When I asked Brian, the executive director of the bakery, what the most rewarding part of the job was he responded, “To work with and among men and women who face life with a sense of joy and enthusiasm. To hear a parent tell you, “I never knew my child could do that!" To have a 14-year-old special education child point their finger in your face and say, “You keep this place open so I can work here!” To hear a caseworker say, "That for many of the folks we serve, attending the Village is the best part of their day.” 

Location & Hours

101 North 3rd Street
Oregon, IL 61061

Monday - Friday 6 am to 6 pm | Saturday & Sunday 7 am to 4 pm


The prairie story continues.

“Prairies are rare. The tallgrass prairies of the Midwest are rarer still. Prairies support an irreplaceable variety of grasses and wildflowers along with a few species of trees and shrubs. Prairies are also havens for butterflies and bees. Prairies are a vital rest stop and nesting site for migratory birds and other wildlife. Prairies also protect our water supply and give us fresh air. Now – prairies need human intervention to survive. The prairie story continues with you.”

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The Byron Forest Preserve District is located on the rolling hills along the Rock River in Byron, Illinois. The many acres of prairie and woodlands provide a variety of things to do. Your entire family can enjoy the natural areas by walking the trails, playing on the playground, going horseback riding, playing a round of golf, viewing the stars at the Observatory, and overlooking the prairie from the 2,600 square foot deck at the Jarrett Prairie Center.

We pulled into the preserve district and didn’t realize how expansive the property was. The grounds were neatly cared for and the signs made it easy to drive the winding road that took us all the way to the top of the hill to the Jarrett Center. Once inside I was immediately impressed with the tall ceilings, natural light, and clean space. Mark Herman, the education superintendent, walked us through the exhibits and offered an informative history on the prairie and the museum.

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Introducing the Jarrett Prairie Center

The Jarrett Prairie Center originally opened in 1991. It was constructed overlooking the 400 acre Jarrett Prairie Nature Preserve. The original 16,000 square foot building contained a small museum, meeting rooms and administrative offices. The newly renovated Jarett Prairie Center Museum was opened to the public in October of 2016 and now boasts amazing views of the Jarrett Prairie Nature Preserve and more than 4,000 square feet of new exhibits and hands-on learning opportunities for visitors of all ages.

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Museum includes immersive theater and dioramas

It features many exhibits including an immersive theater that tells visitors about local prairie ecology, several large natural history and historical dioramas, fossil exhibits, prairie restoration information and a prairie agriculture exhibit that lets visitors design their own farm. Also included in the renovation is a 2,600 square foot wrap-around outdoor observation deck that enhances the already unique space. 

The hands-on museum and exhibits serve as a resource to learn more about the rare prairie area and eco-tourism that helps promote an understanding of the importance of our natural lands in the Rock River region. The exhibits feature everything from historical dioramas that recreate what the prairie may have looked like far before our time to a wall mural featuring the Ogle County Prairie History that goes back all the way to 8,000 BC when the Rock River Valley become an important area for food, trade, and culture for prehistoric people.  

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Dating back 12,000 years, the “Moment in Time – Ice Age Byron” diorama features woolly mammoths walking the grounds and glacial rocks. They believe boulders were pushed here from Canada by glaciers and are unlike any naturally occurring rock on the surface of Illinois. 

The museum's immersive theater features the beloved “wolf den” bur oak tree and explains the prairie in each season and the importance of prescribed burns and how it benefits the plants and wildlife. They also offer a variety of District Programs such as archery, fishing, camps, hunter safety, beekeeping workshops, hiking, homeschool classes, sky viewing, fossil hunt, canoeing, cross country skiing and many more.

Jarret Prairie Center hours

Admission to the Jarrett Prairie Center is completely free and is open to the public seven days a week. For more information about museum education programs or to set up a tour contact Mark Herman at 815-234-8535 ext. 217. If you are interested in renting the museum for private events please contact Raul Leon at 815-234-8535 ext. 200.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 8 am - 4:30 pm
Tuesday, Thursday: 8 am - 8 pm
Saturday: 9am - 4pm
Sunday: 9am - 4pm


Byron Forest Preserve
7993 North River Road
Byron, Illinois
Phone 815-234-8535


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Look up and be amazed

The J. Weiskopf Observatory, located just a short distance from the Center, is available free of charge for special programs and public viewing of the night sky. It contains an 11" Celestron computer-guided, state-of-the-art telescope to see the planets, moon, and fainter objects in the sky. 

J. Weiskopf Observatory Hours

Every Saturday from dark until 3 hours after dark
June through August
Every Tuesday from dark until 3 hours after dark

Tee off at the PrarieView Golf Club and Driving Range

Also located on the grounds is the PrairieView Golf Club, a public 18-hole, bent-grass, championship golf course. According to their website, this challenging course is rated 4 and features bent grass tees, greens, and fairways. PrairieView also offers a full-service practice facility, equipment rental, fully stocked pro shop, lessons, electric carts with GPS, and handicap services. The Prairie Grass Pub is open for relaxing with your friends after a round of golf. Facilities are also available for rental for weddings, corporate outings, and reunions.

New -- Indoor driving range
New this year is the PrairieFire Indoor Driving Range which means you’ll never have to put your clubs away for the winter again. Located on the driving range at the PrairieView Golf Club, PrairieFire offers a unique year-round golf entertainment experience. Powered by Toptracer technology, there are a variety of game modes that are fun for both golfers and non-golfers. With incredible Toptracer technology, comfortably heated hitting bays and a cozy clubhouse with a friendly bar and grill, PrairieFire Golf & Grill offers amazing entertainment for all. 

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PrairieFire Golf & Grill -

Illinois Route 72 & German Church Road
Byron, Illinois
Phone (815) 234-GOLF 

See the 2018 Big Tree Champion for the State of Illinois

As we were speaking with Mark about the Prairie Center, he mentioned that located close by in the Bald Hill Prairie Preserve was the tallest tree in Illinois! This certainly wasn't something we wanted to pass up so we drove to the preserve which is a 160-acre natural area southwest of Byron. The preserve contains an open habitat consisting of original prairie, pasture grasses, large bur oaks and, of course, the largest tree in Illinois. This cottonwood tree was officially designated as the Big Tree Champion for the State of Illinois in 2018 and is 28.5 feet in circumference and 122 feet tall! Look closely at the bottom of the tree to see little ole' me at the base for size comparison.

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Bald Hill Prairie Preserve
5502 N Silver Creek Rd
Mt Morris, IL 61054


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Enjoy a new way to discover Rock Falls or the Hennepin Canal

Rock Falls is a participant in the Koloni Bike Share program.

There are two locations for riders to access the rental bikes. The first location is at the RB&W Riverfront Park in Rock Falls, 201 E 2nd St., right next to the Holiday Inn Express & Suites. The other is on a pad behind the Days Inn by Wyndham, located right off of 1st Ave, right as you exit off I-88 to go north.

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There's an app for this

The bikes are controlled by Bluetooth and an application for your smartphone. The application works with iPhone and Android phones. The rental instructions are posted on the racks and steps to follow are right on the bikes themselves.

Once you download the Koloni Share app, you create an account and input your method of payment. After that, you can simply scan the QR code on the back of the bike and you’re all set to enjoy a ride around town or down the Hennepin Canal!

Rental fee

The current rate is $1.50 per hour. The bikes are equipped with GPS tracking technology. Once you’re done enjoying your ride, all you have to do is line the lock back up with a slot in the rack for the lock to close around and hit, “end ride” on the app. Users are urged to ensure this is done properly to avoid unnecessary charges and to be sure the bike can be available for the next user. Currently, the bikes are set to fit teenagers and adults.

By beautifying our riverfront and giving locals and tourists new ways to enjoy the city, Rock Falls is a great weekend or day trip in northwest Illinois.

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About Koloni Share

Koloni Share was born on the idea that sharing helps knit a community together. Community design solutions are focused around shareable products. They believe that giving people easy access through innovative technologies helps the sharing culture thrive.

Bike locations in Rock Falls

RB&W Riverfront Park
201 E 2nd St.
Rock Falls, IL

Days Inn by Wyndham
2105 1st Ave.
Rock Falls, IL

Contact Information

Rock Falls Tourism (Visit Rock Falls): WEBSITE | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce: WEBSITE | Facebook | Instagram


Tuesday, 17 December 2019 13:47

Celebrate Art on the Rock Falls Sculpture Walk

Come explore art in Rock Falls, IL and see what you’ll discover.

See the world through an artist's eye on the banks of the Rock River. The Rock Falls Sculpture Walk is a permanent fixture in the park. It showcases ten sculptures from artists both locally, regionally, and around the country.

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It all started with an idea

The idea started when artist Charles Yost of Chicago presented to the Rock Falls tourism committee the idea of bringing something unique on the Rock Falls riverfront. The “Sculpture Walk” was born. This public art exhibition is located at the RB&W Park and features Illinois artists' work that complements an outdoor public space along the banks of the Rock River. The Art in the Park event in 2018 was created to draw attention to the Sculpture Walk and was met with great success. It brought a new look using art, culture, and color to the developing riverfront park. 

The outdoor sculptures are on display for one year on pedestals along with a plaque containing the artist's name and title of the sculpture. Some of the names of the current sculptures are “Flight Path Up," “Atomic Slender," “Mercury," “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” and “Nemesis.” By beautifying the riverfront and giving locals and tourists new ways to enjoy the city, Rock Falls is a great weekend or day trip in northwest Illinois.

Every year the submission process begins again

Each year there is a new submission process and another set of sculptures is voted on through a closed jury selection.

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A new annual art event is born

The yearly kick-off event for the changing of the sculptures is known as Art in the Park. It features an outdoor art gallery full of drawings, paintings, sketches, photography, and other fine art from local and regional artists. There is also live music, interactive displays, food, beer and wine for sale. The artists (sculptors) are on-site to discuss their art and the inspiration behind it.


There's an app for that

In 2019, they included an audio app designed specifically for art enthusiasts. The Otocast application for smartphones includes recorded audio from the sculptors themselves. Art enthusiasts visiting the park can download the app and learn more about the artists, their work, and the sculptures themselves.

Contact Information

Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce: WEBSITE | Facebook | Instagram
Rock Falls Tourism (Visit Rock Falls): WEBSITE | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter



Monday, 25 November 2019 14:34

Kennay Farms Distilling | Quench your thirst

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Illinois’ Largest Craft Distillery

Rochelle is a thriving community offering an experience for all tastes – from relaxation to exhilaration – all with that hometown feel. It’s a community full of small-town business owners, eclectic shops and a historic feel. As I drove through, I admired their small town main street as well as the preservation of the majority of storefronts. Following a two-year renovation of the Historical Hub Theater in the heart of the community is Illinois’s largest craft distillery – Kennay Farms Distilling.

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It was the historic Hub Theater

The Distillery is located inside the historic Hub Theater. Opening its doors in 1931, the art-deco style Hub Theater boasted nearly 950 seats and ran as a first-run movie house until early 2011. When the Kennay family found out that the property was for sale, they immediately envisioned the space for their facility. The tall ceilings, art-deco style balconies, moldings, and original historic character made it the perfect space to start renovations.

Doris greeted me at the front doors and welcomed me to the distillery. As I browsed their selection of vodka, gin, and relics from the old theater and other merchandise, we talked briefly about the theater and her family. At the top of the steps I found an unexpected view--a tasting room featuring large windows that overlook the production floor. The old theater balconies and art-deco style moldings are still in place at the top corners. The exposed brick is all original and absolutely beautiful. The tasting room features a mix of vintage, modern and industrial accents. A room separated by windows and double doors is set up for events and meetings and features hand-crafted woodwork and upscale modern lighting. The Kennays have preserved touches of the theater that enable you to enjoy their renovations and experience it in a whole new way.

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About the Kennays

Rick and Doris Kennay are the founders of Kennay Farms Distilling. They spent a lifetime building their family farm and instilling a love for agriculture in their children Kaleb, Aubrey, and Grace. The Kennay Family Farm is in its fifth generation of operation. It is located just outside of Rochelle in Ashton. Their family history is displayed on the production floor and dates all the way back to the 1880s. The very first plaques show that their family immigrated from Germany and traveled from New York to Illinois by covered wagon where they settled near Franklin Grove to farm and work the railroad.

Turning grain into spirits is a delicate balance of science and art. Kennay Farms Distilling brings you family-crafted spirits created from local grain that is produced, milled and distilled by members of the Kennay family. They know that superior product takes care, heart, and hard work. The house-made vodka uses corn from their farm. Their gin, with hints of coriander, lemongrass, juniper, and orange peel, is available in the tasting room and may be purchased by the bottle. The production floor also features a brewery where recipes are created for ales, lagers, stouts, and IPA's as well as premium and seasonal beers.

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After my tour, I was able to sample some of the beer on tap and view the vodka/gin menu for mixed drinks. I sampled some of the best and creative beers I’ve ever had. I sampled a lavender beer that was incredible. I also sampled a few stouts, IPAs, and are you ready for this one--a waffle beer. Yup, a delicious beer that tasted just like waffles. I may or may not have taken a growler of it home--full confession, I did! The mixed drink menu features premium cocktails with names such as Cranberry Harvest, Hayride, County Line, Uncle Collin, Lone Tree, and many more. All premium drinks feature their vodka and gin. Located just behind the distillery is the Rickhouse where they hold bourbon and whiskey in barrels while they age over the next three to five years.

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The logo represents the strong women of the Kennay family

Speaking of hard work, their logo features a female carrying a barrel over her head. When I asked Doris about the logo she explained the generations of strong female figures in their family. The females in their family have always worked side-by-side with the men on the farm and are important assets to the success of Kennay Farms.

Tours and Event Space

They offer VIP tours as well as event space.

VIP Tour: They offer a VIP experience the first Saturday of each month with a 60-minute tour guided by their Head Distiller, Adam Kennay.  The tour begins on the production floor of the distillery with a timeline of the business and an overview of the distillation and brewing processes. The tour proceeds to the Rickhouse where they bottle the clear spirits for retail and barrel the dark spirits for 2.5-5 years. It concludes with an overview of the brewhouse and a taste of their house vodka.  

Cost: $20. The tour price includes a complimentary standard beverage to enjoy on the tour AND a tasting of our house vodka.

Available: First Saturday of each month - 4:30 pm

To ensure that everyone has a safe and wonderful experience they ask that visitors pre-register for the tour following the links listed below. Walk-in guests can pay at the door as long as space is available. *Request a private group tour with a minimum of 6 guests any day by using the Event Inquiry form on the EVENTS page or calling 815-901-1512.

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Kennay Farms Distilling
416 Lincoln Hwy
Rochelle, IL 61068
(815) 762 – 0307


General Inquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Event Inquiries: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thursday, 17 October 2019 12:45

Hickory Hideaway Cabins | The perfect getaway


Daydreams become reality

I’m going to start by admitting that if you told me five years ago I would be traveling northwest Illinois, staying in a rustic cabin, and eating chocolate in a whirlpool tub by the fireplace -- we would all laugh. Only in your daydreams, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that’s exactly what I did during my stay at Hickory Hideaway.

Where is this wonderful place?

Located in Carroll County, which is host to scenic bluffs and breathtaking views, sits Hickory Hideaway Cabins in rural Shannon, Illinois. Hickory Hideaway is the perfect rustic escape. The cozy cabins are nestled among the trees on ten wooded acres just minutes from Lake Carroll. It truly lives up to its name of being a “hideaway” as you are surrounded by nature and trees. It also has countless things to do, both relaxing and recreational. Also, it's located just two hours from Chicago and one hour from Dubuque, the Quad Cities, and Rockford.

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A bonfire is just the start

Each cabin or cottage offers the same amenities that a hotel offers. A bonfire that is situated in the center of the property flickered as I pulled into the tree-lined driveaway. 

Owner, Sherry Vindinich, was eager to greet me at the property and made sure I felt at home right away. She showed me around while walking me to my cabin. Along with the secluded location that’s nestled among the towering hickory trees, there are private decks that overlook the expansive countryside, a bonfire pit, hot tub room, and wifi.  Saving the best for last is the oversized whirlpool tub located in each cabin and cottage. Each cabin has a dual player for DVDs and VHS tapes. While there are some DVDs and VHS tapes in each cabin, a plethora of DVDs and VHS tapes are also available in the office.

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Who doesn't love a nice hot bath?

I'm not ashamed to admit that I love baths and when I mentioned to a friend that I was staying at Hickory Hideaway, they asked right away, “Those are the cabins that have the giant whirlpool tubs in them, right?”  When I entered my cabin, Sherry showed me the hot tub and explained what each switch did. I read on the wood-planked wall, “UNLIMITED HOT WATER SYSTEM.” I stopped Sherry (wide-eyed, mind you) mid-sentence because that couldn’t possibly mean what I just read. She confirmed that, yes, there is UNLIMITED hot water to the whirlpool tubs. No more filling the tub almost to the top and running out of hot water! An added bonus for true bath lovers everywhere is that the tubs also have heaters to keep the water as warm as possible. 

About the owners

After settling in and touring the grounds, Sherry and I sat down around the bonfire with a glass of wine so that I could ask her about Hickory Hideaway. George and Sherry Vindinich are originally from Chicago. The beauty of Lake Carroll drew their family to the opportunity of owning and operating the cabins. “The slower pace and beauty of NW Illinois never gets old,” she explains. They have owned a home in Lake Carroll since 1993. When they decided to downsize and simplify their lives, they decided to uproot and move to northwest Illinois full-time. Having a history of property management in the past, they felt buying the cabins were a good fit for them.

Throughout the years the Vindinich's have updated and added to all 12 cabins. They love hosting gatherings on the property such as business retreats, family reunions, holiday parties, and getaways. They also offer in-cabin massages and extra special services to spoil you or your special someone.

Cabin and Cottage details 

Hickory Hideaway has multiple cabins and cottages to choose from:

Luxury Cabins
The luxury cabins have a heavenly king-size bed nestled beside a two-person bubbling whirlpool tub and fireplace. Imagine waking up to the sounds of nature and enjoying the scenery while waiting for your coffee to brew in the breakfast nook overlooking your own porch. The knotty pine cabins are also equipped with a wet bar, TV, DVD player, and a covered porch with chairs.

Rustic Whirlpool Cottages
Picture this... a fire glowing in the fireplace, easy listening music setting the mood for relaxing in the two-person whirlpool tub, and cuddling up with a good book in the queen-size bed. Whether it is for two or more, the knotty pine cabins with sliding glass doors opening to a deck overlooking the countryside are the perfect escape you have been looking for.

Country Cottages
Imagine your family together at the kitchen table, talking, laughing, and playing cards while cookies bake in the oven. A separate bedroom with a queen-size bed gives you privacy from the TV-room. The sofa-sleeper in the living area provides an additional sleeping area. Renting the adjoining mirror-image unit gives larger groups the opportunity to rent space for eight.

“When you hit the heavenly king-size bed for the night, no need to set an alarm clock for the morning. You will rise out of bed at your leisure, to sounds of light wind blowing through the trees and birds quietly chirping. Rise slowly and enjoy the bright blue sky and beautiful greenery as you make your morning coffee in your breakfast nook.”

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So, whether you are looking for a family reunion location, business retreat, need a break from the workweek, a break from the kids, or you just want some alone time with your loved one, Hickory Hideaway is here for you. Take the weight off of your shoulders and kick up your feet at Hickory Hideaway Cabins.

Contact information 

Hickory Hideaway Cabins
24366 Payne Rd.
Shannon, IL  61078
(815) 864-2099




Wednesday, 11 September 2019 12:48

Small Town, Big Heart | The H.A. Boyd Guest Room

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"Small town, BIG heart."

I read this aloud as I stood in the heart of historic downtown Morrison. The light pole banners display powerful and descriptive words that describe this engaging small town. 

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The Space

The H.A. Boyd Guest Room is located on the upper level of a completely restored 1892 brick building that sits in the heart of Morrison's National Main Street Historic District. The restoration of the building was a labor of love and is filled with history and character. It's a true example of recent and historic craftsmanship. Much of the original cabinetry still exists in the building, but some major updates were installed in the space. The plumbing, electrical, new bathroom floor tile, and re-plastering the walls are all new.

The Inspiration

Kelly West and her husband, Josh West, met in Portland, Oregon. Kelly is originally from Alaska while Josh grew up in Morrison. They decided to move back to Morrison to start a family in a smaller town. Shortly after moving, they visited the property and after peeling back a few layers fell in love with the history and potential of what it could become.

“Coming from Portland, it seemed unfathomable that we could afford to buy a Victorian commercial building that was in decent shape. I think we brought fresh eyes to a property that had been on the market for years.”

Kelly’s father-in-law, George West, handcrafted the bathroom mirror, coat rack, basketweave chairs, kitchen island, laptop bar, and countertops. He harvested and milled all the cherry wood for the shelving from his property just north of town. Her husband, along with his father, removed many layers of carpet, linoleum, glue, and paint – much of it with only a hand scrapper. Most of the cabinetry is original along with the beautiful bay window and clawfoot tub.

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The Amenities - a mix of vintage and modern

The Airbnb space includes a full kitchen, washer/dryer, luxurious queen bed, Roku Smart TV, and high-speed wi-fi. The 800 sq foot apartment includes original Douglas Fir flooring, 10 foot high ceilings, pocket doors, claw-foot tub, custom cabinets, and an island made from cherry wood. Perched above an art gallery, this is the perfect clean and quiet retreat for work or leisure.

They began their renovation with the maple floors of the downstairs, then turned their focus to the upstairs apartment. They were originally going to make small improvements and rent the space out monthly, but during the renovations, they started a long list of other improvements. They worried a full-time renter would not respect the history of the space and wanted to open up an option for travelers to experience the space instead. Turning it into a Guest Room/Airbnb made the most sense to Kelly who has a background in the hospitality industry. They are now able to provide a unique guest experience while adding to the viability of historic downtown Morrison.

The attention to detail and care for aesthetics is incredible. Kelly made the brass light fixtures that glow above the island and kitchen sink and was in charge of the design of the space. She wanted to keep the original character of the building while still providing modern conveniences. She made every effort to achieve a “modern Victorian” look. At the turn of the century, the space was a gentlemen’s clothing store and was Kelly’s main inspiration when designing the space. Clean and tailored sensibility with soft touches gives the space a vintage and luxurious feel. The green dresser is an original piece from the building. You can still see the partition in the drawers that separated the men’s shirts and pants. The guest closet hangers were also once used in the men's clothing store.

It is the perfect collection of vintage and modern furnishings. The majority of the furniture is a mix of old finds and pieces handed down from their family.

COST: The H.A. Boyd Guest Room is rented through Airbnb (see link below) for $75 a night plus taxes and fees.


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A love for Art

Morrison has a large group of artists and a surrounding community that pride themselves on their art programs. In the spring of 2017, the Morrison Area Development Corporation organized a meeting with local artists, art educators, and art lovers to explore establishing a gallery and art education center in downtown Morrison. Kelly and Josh bought the building and created the home of Loft 112.

Loft 112 (link below) features work by 57 local artists. It has a formal partnership with Woodland Arts Academy of Sterling to provide art classes and private music lessons in Morrison. The storefront, located in the downstairs space, has large glass windows and wood shelving that display the artisan's work.

Contact information

The H.A. Boyd Guest Room
112 E Main St.
Morrison, IL 61270
(815) 499-4885

Website (Airbnb)

Loft 112 (Art Gallery)
112 E Main St, Morrison, IL 61270
(815) 772-4005


A modern general store and so much more

The Savanna Marketplace opened its doors in October 2013. It's located in a historic building in the heart of historic downtown Savanna. It previously boasted an original 1930's soda fountain and pharmacy. The space still holds the original soda fountain counter where visitors can enjoy hot and cold drinks, loose-leaf teas, and 50 varieties of vintage and craft sodas.

The remaining space is now filled with art, locally made jewelry, apparel designed by the owner, USA based products, and all-natural products such as handmade soaps and branded seasonings.

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Note: Chris is proud of his iced caramel macchiato barista skills. Order one – you won’t regret it!

How the Savanna Marketplace started

Chris Lain and his partner, Jube Manderico, were looking for a vacation away from their fast-paced Chicago life when they decided to check out Savanna. They fell in love with the natural beauty of this small city on the Mississippi River and its simpler lifestyle. Chris and Jube put an offer on a weekend house, which was accepted only hours later. Not long after, they quit their big-city jobs and moved to Savanna fulltime. Their goal was to bring new business to Savanna's quaint downtown that would boost the local economy and offer products that promote a relaxed way of life on the Mississippi River.

Savanna Marketplace and the Ecology Inn (more information below) were born.

Fun fact: One of the owners, Chris, is the Mayor of Savanna!

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A place for both locals and travelers

The Marketplace's "Shop & Gather" theme makes it a favorite spot for locals and travelers. A comfy leather couch and chairs sit near the back of the store surrounding a fireplace and TV. Free Wifi encourages guests to grab a coffee or tea and stay awhile. They also serve chicken and egg salad sandwiches, soup of the day, and homemade energy drinks. Paintings by local artists are displayed on the wall as well as home décor and t-shirts designed by Jube.

These items showcase their collective love of the beauty of small-town Savanna and all it has to offer. A piano sits in the middle of the store is available for anyone who is musically talented--or not! It’s not uncommon to have a mid-day sing along.

An outdoor seating area out front of the shop sits right next to the sidewalk in the middle of this historic downtown. There is also a private, covered courtyard out back where you can read a book or write while enjoying coffee and a peaceful view of the Mississippi River. They also offer mountain bike rentals to ride around Savanna or on the Great River Bike Trail. This 62-mile paved bike path is a premiere trail that starts in Savanna and travels south to the Quad Cities through small river towns. Details: Bike rentals are $12 for two hours or $16 for four hours.

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Ecology Inn is a place to wake up to

In addition to owning the Savanna Marketplace, Chris and Jube also own Ecology Inn, a vacation rental located above the store. It is set up as a modern flat with shared living spaces.

About those gorgeous rooms

This place is perfect for a weekend getaway with friends and/or family. Ecology Inn offers four bedrooms with shared living room, dining room, full working kitchen, and two decks overlooking the Mississippi River. There are three front rooms facing the street. The Radke, Pierce, and Dupuis rooms share a bathroom. The Bowen Room, located at the back, has a private bath and a river view. Each room has its own TV and seating area. The decor throughout is a mix of vintage, antiques, and modern classic. It has all the amenities to make your stay memorable.

Check out the map

Ecology Inn boasts a map that guests mark where they are from. The map shows that they have had visitors from all over the world. The most common reason for all of them visiting Savanna is to see the Mighty Mississippi River. 

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Contact Information

Savanna Marketplace
321 Main St, Savanna, IL 61074 | (815) 273-0336
Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Ecology Inn
321-1/2 Main St, Savanna, IL 61074 | (815) 273-0336
Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:30

A place to connect | Pine Creek Escape

For those in need of a moment to breathe.

If you’re looking for an escape from the daily hum around you – Pine Creek Escape in Mount Morris is it. Located directly across from White Pines, the Cabins at Pine Creek are tucked away in a forest and sits in a clearing among towering pine trees.

“At Pine Creek, we aim to create spaces where you can connect, discover new things, and achieve balance for your daily life. With our charming wedding venues, relaxing cabins, and mindful events, there’s an experience for everyone in need of a breather.”

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Family cabins 

Three different family cabins sleep from 6-12 people.  I had the opportunity to stay in Whispering Pines, an original cabin that was built on the grounds in the 1940s. Whispering Pines sleeps six, includes a full kitchen, gas fireplace, and private backyard that sits high on the bluff overlooking Pine Creek. Even better--it's pet-friendly!

pinecreek stove

Upon checking in, Rebecca Jones, the owner, left me a bottle of wine and voucher for yoga in the canyon the next morning. I settled in, put my wine in the fridge (for later, of course), and set off to tour the canyon and re-visit White Pines State Park. I walked around the properties, admired the canyon from the bluff, and explored the other two cabins, Knotty Pine and Porcupine Cabin. They both have similar layouts with large entertaining spaces, fully stocked kitchens, and charcoal grills. 

Passing the baton to new ownership

The cabins sit directly across the street from White Pines Forest State Park which offers smaller lodging cabins. Elizabeth George is the original owner of the White Pines Cabins and Cabins of Pines Creek. She is also the creator of the Wedding Canyon - now known as Pine Creek Canyon – a venue with hundreds of weddings on its roster over the past 18 years.

Rebecca Jones, the owner of Pine Creek Escape, has a close relationship with George who saw an opportunity for a younger person to take the torch and carry on the legacy that she built. Rebecca grew up in Oregon. She spent eight years in Phoenix in the hospitality and event industry. Rebecca moved back to Illinois in August 2017 to do a consulting project with White Pines Resort. During this project, she found a peace that she missed while living in Phoenix. This cemented her decision to stay in the area. The original White Pines Resort has been a staple of the local area and is part of the National Register of Historic Places, making the Cabins of Pine Creek and Pine Creek Canyon essential parts of the legacy.


After exploring the cabins, I made my way over to the State Park for some hiking. After some well-needed fresh air, I stopped at White Pines Lodge for dinner. It was my second time eating dinner at the Lodge and it never disappoints. After dinner, I headed back to my cabin, started the gas fireplace, and set my early-bird alarm for 6 a.m. yoga in the canyon. 

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Yoga in the Canyon

The morning was peaceful as I took in the views from the bluff before making my way to the Canyon for yoga. It was a rainy morning so I was thankful that we were set up under the tent in the middle of the canyon. We all set out our mats, stretched, and listened to the rain come down on the tent. Reconnect with your inner self while doing your havansna in The Canyon. The tranquility of yoga among the forest is unmatched. You’ll find yourself relaxing before you know it. 

When: Tuesday and Thursday (June 4th-August 1st)
Where: Pine Creek Canyon
Time: 6-7 a.m.

When: Every Saturday (June 4th-August 1st)
Where: Pine Creek Canyon
Time: 8-9 a.m.

Cost: $10 per class

All levels welcome, sign up on our facebook page or just show up!

Weddings have reigned supreme here for decades

Pine Creek Canyon hosts an average of 50 weddings a year and has multiple ceremony/scenery options for intimate, charming, and romantic nuptials.


  • Cobblestone Canyon: Rustic and romantic. This location is surrounded by ivy-draped limestone walls. You’ll walk down a cobblestone aisle to an altar of wrought iron arches and lighted lanterns.
  • The Enchanted Forest: Sweet seclusion. The Enchanted Forest includes moss-covered stone staircases and ferns & fauna that cover the nearby hillside. With multiple ceremony setups, this spot includes a walk down an aisle lined with maple trees.
  • Emerald Aisle: Classic elegance. This location features a shade cloth supported by white columns and offers a carpeted aisle. White flowing curtains and a wrought iron trellis at the altar complete the splendor at this site.
  • Juniper Falls: Natural beauty. Set in front of a limestone bluff, this location features an ivy-covered waterfall for a soothing soundscape and open seating space.
  • Grand Pavilion: A moment of grandeur. This stunning pavilion tent has easy guest access, chandeliers, and views overlooking the pond and manicured lawns for the perfect blend of a covered outdoor ceremony.
  • The Gazebo: An idyllic setting. Wedding guests are treated to a pristine view against a backdrop of the Gazebo and a pond complete with bronze fountains.


Unique Ceremony Extras
One of a kind touches includes fairy tale arrival by horse and carriage, departure in a Rolls Royce, an extra touch of elegance with white wood chairs, a whimsical bubble maker for that perfect photograph, a bubbly bar where guests will raise a glass and offer cheers to your first day as Mr and Mrs.

In addition to weddings, the Canyon is hosting other events in 2019 with many on the books including a couple's retreat this fall. From yoga to music festivals and the chance to host private parties, the events at Pine Creek offer calming and centering activities. Whether you’re staying on the grounds or just find yourself in the neighborhood, there’s something at Pine Creek for everyone. Here is the upcoming event schedule:

Sip and Stretch

Do you love yoga? Do you love cocktails? Do you love both? Grab your friend, your husband, your wife, boyfriend, girlfriend or come by yourself and have a relaxing and fun evening in the Canyon. Folks will do a little havasana and then afterward cool down with a cocktail, good music, and some socializing.

When: Thursday, August 8th
Where: Pine Creek Canyon
Time: 7-9 p.m.

Cost: $15 per person OR $25 per couple. Includes one free drink at the cash bar. If you attend the yoga session the morning of the event at 6 a.m., you will receive $5 off your ticket for Sip + Stretch

Live Music in the Canyon

A warm summer breeze, cold drinks, and live music. They are hosting a variety of different bands this summer at The Canyon at Pine Creek. They have their lineup on FB and Instagram. Links at the bottom of the article.

When: Friday, August 23rd, Friday, September 20th
Where: Pine Creek Canyon
Time: 5:30pm – 9:00pm

Cost: Open event, no tickets necessary! $5 cover

LEARN MORE about the events at Pine Creek Escape. Questions?  Contact information is at the bottom of this article.


Pine Creek Escape

6797 W Pines Rd. Oregon, IL 61061
(815) 881-1180 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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    March 19, 2020
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