Category Archives: Random Thoughts

10 Reasons Why I Love Naperville Magazine and You Should Too!

Naperville Magazine_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

I grew up surrounded by the publishing business.  After my father’s early career years in radio, television and working for the local daily newspaper, he began publishing his own monthly shopper newspaper in Elizabethtown, KY which circulated continuously for over 30 years.

My favorite memories were riding around with him to visit his advertisers as they were all one big extended family to us.  As I got older and after spending enough time hanging out in his design/layout office, he taught me ad design layout… the old-fashioned way as he was somewhat of a “purist”.  No computers or desktop publishing… it was all border tape, polaroids, blue lines, matte books of artwork, hot wax, plenty of typeset and manual Royal typewriters.

Given my childhood in the family publishing business, I’ve alwaysNaperville Magazine_June 2013 Cover admired the work of Naperville magazine publisher Leah Rippe in her vision and determination over the years to build and grow a true Naperville-focused monthly magazine.  The magazine’s mantra and slogan is “Your City. Your Magazine” and they are true to their word.

Here’s my top 10 reasons why I love Naperville magazine:

10)  DESIGN worthy of a higher-end lifestyle magazine publication.

9)  Lots of LOCAL CONTRIBUTORS sharing both their talents and Naperville perspectives.

8)  Seemingly endless coverage of the LOCAL CHARITABLE EVENTS AND SOCIAL SCENE IN THE NAPERSCENE SECTION.  Our favorite challenge is to search for that rare event where our friend Ray Kinney isn’t pictured.

7)  Lots and lots of GREAT PHOTOGRAPHY.

6) I learn more about all the INTERESTING PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE IN NAPERVILLE.

5) Publishing depends on advertising support and I admire the ways in which the magazine blends in BUSINESS STORYTELLING as part of the content.

4) Great FEATURE STORIES and commitment to COMMUNITY NEWS.

3) The magazine is truly presented from a true NAPERVILLE PERSPECTIVE.

2) From restaurant reviews, chef profiles to the Dining Out section, there’s always a strong FOOD FOCUS.

1) Come on… it’s ALL ABOUT NAPERVILLE!  Thanks Leah!

To subscribe to Naperville magazine and event eNewsletter, CLICK HERE

SM

Quick Getaways – New Glarus a Small Town Taste of Europe Less than 3 Hours Away from Naperville

 New Glarus_Train Stationby Stuart Meyer

Those who know me know how I feel about small towns.  Why spend allot of  money and vacation leave time to travel to far-off places in search of something interesting to see and experience when we are surrounded by a multitude of interesting places to experience within just a couple of hours off the well-beaten path by car.

A couple of weeks ago, our own family’s travels brought us to one such place… New Glarus_Main StreetNew Glarus, Wisconsin (Population 2,172).  Our journey into New Glarus left us feeling a bit like we were driving through Europe.   It’s no coincidence as New Glarus was settled by Swiss immigrants over 160 years ago and the town has proudly held onto their Old World Swiss heritage and traditions.  As a matter of fact, many refer to New Glarus as “Little Switzerland”.

The shops, bakery, meat market, cheese shop, hotel and restaurants situated within the historic architectural walls of New Glarus’s downtown buildings provide a wonderful combination of experiences.

New Glarus_Coffee ShopOur morning began with a craving for a nice cup of coffee and we didn’t have to look far to discover Fat Cat Coffee Works, a small coffee house situated in what appeared to be an old train depot.  The atmosphere was homey, the coffee terrific and overall it’s the kind of place that would leave any Chicago neighborhood coffee shop frothing with envy.  The interior is colorful and full of detailed touches that can only come from a small business where the owner is also the one welcoming you in from behind the counter.  Personally, I liked the 0ld arch top guitar that was hanging on the wall, which I discovered as we were leaving was perfectly tuned and ready to be played… to bad we had to move on.

Moving forward from coffee, dropped by the 100+ year-old bakery tradition of the New Glarus Bakery where the kids picked out their choice of fresh doughnuts and pastries.  I picked up a fresh loaf of sourdough bread to enjoy later on.  There is a very special place in both my heart and stomach for classic “old school” bakeries.  Where I grew up, these were the only types of bakeries long before the rise of low cost/quality, cheap ingredient-enriched industrial supermarket bakeries.

Since we were in New Glarus just for the day, we didn’t get a chance toNew Glarus_Hotel and Pizzeria experience the unique accommodations, including the New Glarus Hotel which appears to have been cut directly from the Swiss Alps and placed into downtown New Glarus.

After walking around downtown New Glarus and letting the kids burn off some energy in the park, we were ready for lunch.  While there are an array of options, we chose the Swiss-American culinary offerings at Glarner Stube (4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp with over 50 reviews is impressive).  Once inside the modest rustic space you already feel as though you’ve been transported into a ski lodge within the  Swiss Alps.  The long bar is full of beer taps featuring nearly the full line of another local product we’ll get to in a bit.

Bring your appetite to Glarner Stube  as these authentic Swiss recipes are like a soothing wave of culinary comfort.  I ordered the Geschnetzelets “Stube Style” veal slices in a rich and creamy mushroom wine gravy with a side of Roesti, a Swiss-style fried potato dish a bit like shredded hash browns.  My wife and her sister split the traditional Weiner Schnitzel pan-fried veal cutlets with a buttery sauce.  Keeping to their Wisconsin roots, we also enjoyed some beer-battered fried cheese curds prior to the meal.  While the kids weren’t feeling adventurous, my oldest son ordered a BLT which was made with some of the most incredible bacon I’ve ever tasted.  I asked the waitress where the bacon was made, she told me just a couple of doors down at Ruef’s Meat Market where we determined would be our next stop.

New Glarus_RuefsYour first step through the door at Ruef’s Meat Market and the rich aroma of their on-premise smokehouse hits you right away.  The place reminds you of those vintage photos you see of the old-fashioned butcher shop where meat was cured and smoked mainly as a means of preserving food.  Today, meat is smoked and cured because it’s simply delicious.  Wish I had more photos to share, but unfortunately I was so enamored with the place that I forgot to take photos.  As I stared into the cases, it didn’t take long to feast my eyes on a dark-colored whole double-smoked pork belly that was just begging to be sliced.  I walked out with 2 pounds of fresh thick-cut slices of this gloriously indulgent pork.

New Glarus_BreweryThere are other historic sites and museums to experience in New Glarus, but unfortunately our time was somewhat limited.  I encourage you to check out this link to learn more about other New Glarus attractions.  Of course, there was one more stop we were interested in making during our time in town which is the home of the Spotted Cow, Cabin Fever, Two Women, Moon Man and an assortment of other characters… the New Glarus Brewery.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve become familiar with New Glarus beers during other visits to Wisconsin.  As a matter of fact, one of the things I love about New Glarus beer is you can only get it in Wisconsin… at least for now.  The brewery is certainly going through a growth spurt as construction abounds and much of the brewery you can visit as part of a self-guided tour has that new facility look-and-feel.  Nonetheless, the place has a great vibe and plenty of opportunity to sample from the source.  In their store downstairs, you can stock up on your favorite New Glarus beer styles.  On this particular day, they were selling a special 20th anniversary beer Belgian Dubbel Ale available for purchase but limited to two bottles per customer.  I recently cracked open both bottles to share with a home-brewing friend and they were outstanding.  Anyway, there is certainly a spirit of independent craft brewing pride at New Glarus and perhaps the resistance to out-of-state distribution is a testament.

So there you go, just a short drive from Naperville and you’ll feel like you’ve been around the world and back after a visit to New Glarus.  SM

4 Ways to Source Locally Grown Foods in Naperville

Naperville CSA_edited-1by Stuart Meyer

As a child growing up in a small Kentucky town, it was easy to understand and appreciate that food did not grow on grocery store shelves.  We always had “community supported agriculture” because we would simply drive out to the family farms where we could buy most everything in season directly from the source, from vegetables to eggs.  All you had to do was pick up what you wanted and either knock on the front door to pay or leave a little money there in the honor-system box.

Nowadays, not only do our kids know less about where our food comes and how it’s produced, often times they miss out on the beauty of how fresh produce and fruit really tastes directly from the source at the point of harvest.  Once you taste fresh foods direct from the source, everything else pales in comparison.  Sure, we can buy watermelons and blueberries in February but the taste is almost always diminished because they were picked at a ripening stage designed for shipment over long distances, which still adds time between harvest and consumption.

Eating fresh locally sourced foods in support of community agriculture and family farms is very much possible in Naperville.  Below are 4 ways to “eat local” here in and around Naperville:

1)  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):  We’ll start with CSA’s as number one because these local farms are not only a food source, they are anPicking Green Beans incredible source of hands-on education in farming and environmental sustainability.  Here in Naperville, the Green Earth Institute runs a 60 acre CSA farm out on Knoch Knolls Road just around the corner in South Naperville.  They grow 40 different crops and make their fresh harvest available via their CSA farm which the general public can purchase a “share” each Summer.  A share entitles you to either a weekly or bi-weekly portion of the week’s organic harvest which you pick up directly from the CSA farm.  Our family purchased a share last Summer and often times during the season you are allowed to hand-pick a portion.  The kids love the experience and just picking up our share was an education.  However, the  Green Earth Institute doesn’t stop there as they also offer children’s programs and volunteer opportunities.  Click hereto learn more.

2)  Naperville Community Garden Plots and Home Gardening:  From your backyard to Naperville’s backyard, there are terrific opportunities to grow Garden Plant Shoppingyour own fresh harvest.  The City of Naperville, through the Naperville Parks District, sets aside land over on West Street during the Summer months where you can reserve your own community garden plot and grow your own garden.  Of course, with a myriad of garden centers in town, including Keller’s Farmstand, you can always set up a small garden at home either in the ground or using planters on your back deck.

3)  Farmers Markets… with a Caveat: Naperville and many of our surrounding communities offer Farmers Markets weekly during the warmStrawberries weather months.  The Naperville Farmers Markets takes place in season every Saturday at the Fifth Avenue Station and, a newer addition, at Freedom Commons out by I-88.  Wanna find the freshest local products at these markets?  Simply ask the seller whether or not they are the actual grower.  Buying from the actual grower, as opposed to a reseller, means you’re getting it direct for the source and supporting family farmers.

4)  U-Pick Farms:  From the western suburbs to Michigan, there are abundant Blueberry Bucketoptions to take your family out for a fun day of harvesting your own local foods.  Each year, our family heads to South Haven, Michigan to DeGrandchamp Farms to pick 10-20 pounds of fresh blueberries at a time.  Don’t tell anyone, but we may eat one or two during the picking process.  While we eat a ton of fresh blueberries during the Summer, which are as sweet as candy, you can also freeze fresh blueberries for the winter by placing them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freezing them and then putting into a freezer storage bag.Raspberry Picking

In the Fall, we head just out West to Jonamac Orchard to pick fresh apples right off the trees and enjoy some fresh apple cider doughnuts.  We also stop to pick fresh raspberries along the way from a number u-pick farms.

So there you have it, whether you love to cook, simply love to eat or would like to looking to teach your children that food doesn’t grow on grocery store shelves, there are plenty of ways to experience and support the miracle of locally grown foods in and around Naperville.  SM

World of Naperville is Back – 143,542 Visits Strong!!!

Riverwalk_Shelby and Ben at SunsetOn May 26th, 2006 I first wrote my inaugural post in welcoming everyone to the “World of Naperville”.  This blog was born out of my frustration of feeling disconnected from the the incredible “can do” community I chose to live in and raise my family craving a sense of my former small town roots.

My daily commute was very long and there were many days during the winter months I never even saw Naperville by daylight during weekdays.   For the next 4 years, I would continue my plight to stay “virtually” involved and invested in Naperville by being a voice that documented all of the heart and soul of our community from the perspective of someone who actually lives here.

In this time, I’ve done everything I could to contribute my passion and talents to our community.  I shot and directed a documentary film about Ribfest, I’m working on a longer term documentary film about an internationally-renowned local arts icon in the world of opera and ballet, I participated in the Naperville Citizens Academy, I’ve coached little league football, exhibited my Naperville photography including 4 commissioned photos that hang in the lobby of a corporate building on Diehl Road, I’ve volunteered at my children’s elementary school, I’ve delivered a school assembly presentation about being a composer, I’ve worked with local restauranteurs producing food-based media and have observed many things that have changed and some that have not changed at all.  I’ve seen the prosperous times and the heartbreaking lows impact our community.

Over the past year or so, my posts have declined for a very good reason.  I started my own company and now work here in Naperville on a daily basis.  But now, I feel I’ve grown distant from my community by spending a little too much time in the office disconnected.  So two things are happening, first I’m renewing my mission to publish this blog and second, in the next couple of months I’m moving my office into Downtown Naperville inside the walls of one of the oldest buildings!!!  I’m very excited about the road ahead and hope you will stay tuned for more insights and observations from the World of Naperville.

With Gratitude.  SM

On the Subject of Life and Happiness

By Stuart Meyer

I picked up the newspaper this morning only to find the front page covered with corruption.  As I drove my children to school, I listened to news radio only to be inundated with atrocity.  Upon my return, I sat down at my desk only to find news alerts of tragedy.  Tonight, before I went to sleep I turned on the ten o’clock news only to find reports of murder.

Tomorrow, instead of reading the newspaper in the morning I’m going to spend some extra time talking to my wife and children at breakfast.  Instead of listening to news radio on the way to school, I’m going to sing with my kids at the top of our lungs.  Instead of diving into my computer upon my return, I’m going to pick up the phone and call a loved one who I haven’t talked to in a while.  Instead of watching the nightly news before bed, I’m going have an uninterrupted conversation with my wife.

It’s not that I don’t want a relationship with the world, it’s knowing the best way I can positively impact the world is through my relationship with my children, my wife, my friends, my family, my neighbors, my vocation and my community.

Why not turn off the news and join the overwhelming majority of people around the world who will commit a random act of love today.

SAVE MAIN STREET – Why the Whole World Needs a Little Small Town Flavor

By Stuart Meyer

The long days of the Summer of 1979 were waning and the August haze had softened the sun’s piercing rays in the Southern skies above.  I anxiously hurried out the front door racing through the invisible cloud of humidity toward the family car.  In the South, this was the time of year for which iced sweet tea was invented.

That's me... back in the 1970s with precision bowl helmet haircut.

Earlier that morning, the local newspaper sat in a state of disarray on our round family breakfast table.  As I glanced down at the pile of news, there sat a full-page advertisement partially blanketed by the Sports section.  The black-and-white text of the ad heralded the three most dreaded words feared by any small town kid who roamed freely upon Mother Nature’s playground through those long Summer days… “BACK TO SCHOOL”.

The Family Car - Our 1972 Buick Electra

As the youngest, I wrestled my way into the car and laid down on the coveted floor boards of the backseat rather than brave the smoldering aromatic blaze of the vinyl bench-like seat.  Walking barefoot over fiery coals was no match for the backseat of a 1972 Buick Electra baking atop the driveway in the heat of a Kentucky Summer.

A little ways down the road, I re-surfaced from the depths of the floorboard and turned my attention to peering out the window at all the familiar landmarks as we made our way toward the courthouse square.  As a kid, every trip into downtown was like a small town reunion as all main roads flowed into “the square”, much like the precious lifeblood which flows into the heart.

The State Theater - Elizabethtown, KY. Photo courtesy of http://www.historicstatetheater.org

The Dixie Highway flowed in from one direction and Mulberry St. the other.  The unique character of each original downtown building stood proud like a strong, yet silent actor quietly emitting its own unique story and history.  A lone cannonball fired during the Civil War still sat lodged in the second story of a corner building just down from the town’s first movie house, the 1940s era State Theater.  Just down from the square was a regular Farmer’s Market, where local farmers sold a little bit of their harvest to the community from the back of their pick-up trucks.

We arrived in downtown and I spilled out of the backseat onto the street along with my older brother and sister.  I sometimes felt as though we were related to everyone in town as everyone seemed to know everyone.  I stood there on the street for a moment and looked all around with wonder almost as if time had frozen for just a few moments.  Our destination was the People’s Store and the Factory Outlet shoe shop of which we always came through the back alley entrance.  A trip downtown to buy some new school clothes and a new pair of shoes was one of the cherished consolations of the collision course with Summer’s end and the eminent start of a new school year.

Stuart Meyer is the show creator and producer of "Small Town Flavor" a web TV show hosted by Panini Pete

Over the many years of my life which have opened and closed like chapters of an epic American folk literature work, this particular “page” of my own auto-biographical volume of small town life has remained permanently imprinted upon my heart and mind.  The collection of experiences and time spent in small towns throughout my first 27 years of my life followed by the past 12 years in the Chicago area have served as the inspiration for the web TV show I created, “Small Town Flavor”.

Small towns and their downtowns are like the “grassroots” of American life, firmly rooted as one-of-a-kind blades of grass in the rich and abundant soil of our American identity.  Life has taught me that the essence of small town life may very well contain the secrets to happiness as measured above all else by the collective and individual relationships we share with each other.  Interestingly, the scientific world is catching up as research has shown that fundamental happiness is rooted in the strength of our social connections.

In many ways, food has also defined our connection to each other throughout history.  From the time when hunting and gathering food was the main business of the day to modern times in which we use our shared connection to food to strengthen social bonds.  In small towns, local food culture is not just about subsistence, it’s ingrained in the identity, tradition, rituals and pride of the community.

I believe the next great chapter in American history is threatened by the decline of our relationships, our connection and our accountability as “neighbors”.  While we all need money to make a living, the one thing we need most to make a happy life is each other.

For these reasons, we should celebrate our small towns, share their stories, their unique food culture and enrich our lives through the lessons we can all learn from the small town way of life.   I like to think we either come from small towns or there is a little bit of small town living within us… on our streets, in our neighborhoods, throughout our cities, around our states and across our country.

These thoughts reside at the heart and soul of what Small Town Flavor is all about and we hope you’ll become part of our Small Town Flavor Family.

SAVE MAIN STREET… watch Small Town Flavor.

http://socialfrequency.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/save-main-street-why-the-whole-world-needs-a-little-small-town-flavor/

It’s Official, American Airlines has Flushed Away my AAdvantage Miles – What Airline Wants to Win my Loyalty?

To close the loop on my previous post, all of my AAdvantage miles have now officially been taken away by American Airlines based upon their imposed expiration.  The image below tells the story of my zero (0) mile balance as well as my  10 year history as a card-carrying AAdvantage Member.  So, to United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, U.S. Airways and other carriers out there… who’s ready to win my loyalty?