Things to do in the Winter

Things to do in the winter in the Starved Rock Area.

Sharon has Challenged me to come up with at least 10 things to do in our area during the Winter time. Well, I hear the call and I will answer it! Challenge accepted! So I will scour the area looking for inside and outside activities for our area, hoping to find something for everyone.

  1. Ice Falls at Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks – With the freezing temperatures, the waterfalls at the parks turn even more magical when they freeze over. Different hues of Blue abound inside these falls, that you will see when you get right up to them. Bring your camera, they’re very photogenic! Also you may see trained ice climbers inching their way to the top, but be careful not to get to close if you see them as chunks of ice may fall while they’re doing it. 
  2. Eagle watching at Starved Rock – As the smaller creeks, ponds and other tributaries freeze over, the eagles will flock around the Illinois river in search of food. By the lock and dam across from Starved Rock is one of their favorite hunting grounds. In the trees surrounding the area, you will see the white heads of these majestic birds throughout. Bring your binoculars to get a really good look at them!
  3. Stay at the Brightwood Inn – Yes! Stay at the Brightwood Inn! We have fireplaces, hot tubs, fluffy robes, Hot Coa Coa, books, board games, DVD players. All that is perfect after a nice invigorating hike looking at Frozen Waterfalls and counting Eagles! After all we are “a better way to stay”!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ 
  4. Illinois Waterway Visitor’s center – Get up close and personal with the Impressively large tow boats and see how the locks work that are along the Illinois river. They also have a viewing platform with a telescope for viewing the Bald Eagles.  
  5. LaSalle County Historical Museum – The museum complex is located on the banks of the Illinois & Michigan Canal a few miles south of I-80 on Route 178 in historical Utica, Illinois. The two-story stone museum was built during the presidency of Zachary Taylor in 1848. Originally it was a general store serving the needs of early pioneers and the traffic along the canal. Steeped in tradition, all its natural charm has been preserved by the Society.  
  6. Cross Country Skiing – There are 6 miles of cross-country ski trails with ski rental available weekends from December through March. Alcohol is prohibited on all trails. Call 815-667-4726 to check conditions and status before coming to use these facilities. 
  7. Wine Tasting – Utica has two wineries, each with it’s own tasting room, August Hill winery and Illinois River Winery. Stop buy and sample their hand crafted wines, they are both very good! Also, Utica has a tasting room called Clark’s Run Creek Gifts and Wine Tasting, where you can sample a variety of different vintners, and they also have craft beer. 
  8. Beer Tasting – Ottawa has a micro brew pub called Tangled Roots where they have a plethora of different beers for you to sample at their tasting room. Brewed on site and sometimes in conjunction with neighboring Radium city Brewery (they do not have a tasting room unfortunately) in beautiful copper kettles that you can see through glass walls. You can also go next door to their sister restaurant Lone Buffalo and try the beers with delicious, seasonal and locally sourced food. 
  9. Shopping – Downtown LaSalle, Downtown Utica and Downtown Ottawa all have lovely shops with various interesting wares for you to meander through. There are also antique stores in Utica and Ottawa. Peru has an Antique Mall with LARGE assortment of various antiques. Last time we were there, we spent hours looking at things, it felt like being in a museum! 
  10. Dining – Once again, Downtown LaSalle, Downtown Utica and Downtown Ottawa have great local restaurants for you to choose from. Look them up yourself on-line or ask us for suggestions when you get here. There are too many to list in this little article! 
  11. Mansion tours – LaSalle has the Hegler Carus Mansion where Visitors today experience the grandeur of a bygone era and the heritage of a fascinating family whose history is woven tightly with that of the Illinois Valley. Then Ottawa has the Reddick Mansion. Historically important and architecturally unique, the Reddick Mansion anchors  Washington Square, the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate.  Built in 1855, this lovely 22-room Italianate mansion was possibly the most expensive and ornate private home built in Illinois before the Civil War. 
  12. Horseback Riding – Yes! Horseback riding in the winter! Cedar Creek Ranch is open year round and has many miles of scenic trails for you to ride through. They even have a restaurant called the Gun Smoke Grill for you to warm up afterwards with some good hot food! 
  13. Day Spa – Indulge yourself at one our local day spas. There are many in the area and a wide variety of services. One in particular is called Salt Tree Yoga spa. They have a Himalayan salt cave where you can sit and relax and breath in the salty air, which is suppose to be great for your lungs! 

Well looky there! I came up with 13 different things to do in the area! So there is no reason to sit at home bored when there’s all this stuff to do. So come out! Hike, shop, eat, taste, it’s all here waiting for you! And of course, stay at the Brightwood Inn, where there’s a comfy bed and a fireplace waiting for you! ๐Ÿ˜€

Week days in the Starved Rock area

Well, it was a busy Memorial Day weekend here at the Brightwood Inn and the Starved Rock area in general. Once again they had to halt traffic to the parks because they were too full. The trails were choked with people, trash was over flowing the garbage cans and our guests reported they saw people were carving into the trees off the trails. People were wandering off the trails and one guy fell 40 feet in one of the canyons. It’s reported that he’s in good condition now. Conservation officers handed out 76 tickets. Things were pretty chaotic in the Village of North Utica. It was estimated that there were 96,000 people here over the weekend!! I gotta say, all the good press Starved Rock has been getting has it’s down side. I’ll be honest with you, I try not to leave the property on the weekends so that I don’t have to deal with the chaos.

But, when the week days come, things slow down quite nicely. There is a little more solitude to hiking the trails and it’s so much quieter. You can actually hear the birds, not other peoples conversations. Restaurants are less crowded, traffic is a breeze. The only thing is, once in a great while, you might get stuck behind one of the local farmers tractors, but don’t worry, it’s not for long. Everything is so much more relaxing here on the weekdays.  

So if that isn’t enough encouragement to get to come to the Starved Rock area (and preferably the Brightwood Inn) on the weekdays, we have our “Save Big Bucks” deal. Do you have the ability to stay two nights?  If you answered yes then we have a deal for you.   Stay 2 nights in Door County or Turkey Run and weโ€™ll give you $15 off per night.  Stay 2 nights in Mackinac or Sequoia and get $25 off per night.  Stay 2 nights in Vieux Carre, Tortola or Mallory Square and get $35 off per night.  Stay in the Aspen Suite and get $40 off per night. Now this is only valid for check in Sunday thru Wednesday.

So if you really want to relax AND save money, take a couple of days off and come to the Brightwood Inn during the week.

There is a reason that our motto is “Relax and enjoy”. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

5 Ways To Spark Romance At Brightwood Inn

romantic getaway at brightwood innSoon, the leaves will begin to change and brightly colored trees of brown, amber and red will surround Brightwood Inn. Crisp air will fill our lungs as the most scenic and beautiful part of the year arrives. Itโ€™s the perfect time to rekindle a beloved romance.

Life always seems to get in the way, but itโ€™s important to keep romance alive. We can help make your experience memorable with these five tips for your stay.

Keep the kids with a babysitter

Children are amazing and we often give our all for them, but theyโ€™re the antithesis of romantic. How many special dinners or date nights have been delayed or cancelled because of baseball practice, fevers and volleyball games. If you want to make this a weekend you and your significant other will remember for the rest of your lives, then get grandma and grandpa to take them for a few days. Youโ€™ll enjoy every moment without worrying about arguing, fighting or the endless parental duties.

Take advantage of amenities

Odds are your home is made more for function than comfort. Instead of a luxurious hot tub, youโ€™ve got a standing shower or shallow bathtub that you canโ€™t just sit and soak in. Brightwood Inn makes comfort a priority. The cool fall air mixed with the heat of our fireplace can turn even the coldest relationship red hot. Close your eyes and let your body relax in one of roomโ€™s hot tubs before getting out and putting on one of our signature robes.

Breakfast of romantic champions

Food is a pleasure, at least it should be. When youโ€™re at home, youโ€™re counting carbs and calories, but when you come to Brightwood Inn, you can live a little. For many, romance isnโ€™t just flowers and candy, but being pampered, and eating an amazing breakfast can be a perfect start to the day. We prepare homemade muffins, breads and more to get your romantic day started off right.

Explore the fall colors

If you want to rekindle your love, then just look out your window and see the endless fall colors the area has to offer. A quick drive to Starved Rock State Park and a few hours hiking the canyons hand in hand will make you feel like newlyweds again. Take your time and enjoy every minute of the fall air and the beautiful trees and scenery that the area provides. Pack a picnic and let the sounds of nature take all your stresses away.

A quiet night in

A romantic getaway is all about the two of you. So, when the sun starts to set donโ€™t head out into the town. A nice quiet romantic night in at Brightwood Inn is the perfect medicine for your relationship. Cuddle up in our luxurious bed and watch a movie or go out onto the balcony and just talk like you used to. Brightwood Inn is all about life, love and happiness and that shines through in everything we do.

 

 

Third Party Reservation Sites

Third party reservation systems like Expedia, Kayak, Tingo, booking.com, etc. etc. seem to be a necessary Evil these days. ย If we don’t use them we don’t get the necessary exposure that we so desperately need, plus for some people, that’s the only way they know how to make reservations.

Hereย are a number of reasons you shouldn’t use a third party reservation system when dealing with bed and breakfast and small inns and make them directly through the property in which you intend to stay.

  1. Sometimes they lie – the people on the other end of the reservation know nothing about us, they are usually on some other continent and will do anything to get the commission of the sale. They will sell you our standard room like Turkey Run or Door County and tell you it has a hot tub and private balcony. ย We’ve had some very upset people arrive here and to find out their room doesn’t have a hot tub and rightly so! ย If there is a hot tub room available we try to accommodate but sometimes we are fully booked.
  2. Sometimes they just don’t know – We have one pet friendly room and two wheelchair accessible rooms and these third party companies just don’t get it. ย They’ll put someone with a handicap on the second or third floor and we don’t have an elevator. Or someone traveling with their dog is given a room that we don’t allow pets in and we have to turn them away because we assure people with pet allergies that pets have never been in the rooms that we don’t allow pets in.
  3. They don’t give us the information we need form you –ย Sometimes, all we get is a name from them. No phone number, no e-mail, no credit card info, etc.. We like to send everyone our personnel conformation letter because it has some very valid information on it that their generic confirmation letters do not. Also, we like to get a cell phone number in case we need to get a hold of you for one reason or another. ย A couple of examples we would need to get a hold of you are, we need to run into town for something and we want to see what time you think you’ll be arriving, or someone left their cell phone charger and their earrings in their room and we want to get a hold of you before you get too far away.
  4. They charge the same price as us AND they charge a commission – It’s true, they tell you they are giving you these insane prices that no one can touch, but in reality, you’re paying the same price as what you would pay if you went directly through us. Plus, those companies charge us up to 30% commission! There are some that only charge 15% or so and those I don’t have a problem with, but 30%!?!? That’s just greedy. ย There are even a couple of sites that we know of that you pay MORE than you would if you booked through us.
  5. ย They don’t have our information right – One site once said that we had horses on property! And to try and get them to change anything is nothing short of impossible.
  6. They don’t have all of our rooms to sell – We only give them up to half of our rooms to sell. So you’re only getting a limited number to see and choose from. ย We can’t afford to have all of our rooms to be sold on commission.

Do you see that little green lock in the browser bar by our web site domain name? ย We paid extra to have that to show we are just as secure as those other big guys. ย In fact, if you don’t see that lock on your reservation site, Don’t Use Them!!ย Also, these third party sites are really good at sneaking in their site when you look for ours and you click on them instead of us, so you think you are dealing with us. ย So also look for the “Official Page” of the Brightwood Inn, those others, you just never know what you are getting yourself into!

So in short, when it comes to dealing with “Mom and Pop” businesses, leave the middle man out. It’s really meant for the large corporations that can afford high price commissions and have cookie cutter accommodations. ย  Here’s a tip that we use, use the third party vendors as a search engine, then call or book directly with the actually property. ย We do that all the time when looking for other bed and breakfasts and small inns when we travel! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Why Should I Choose a Bed and Breakfast?

bed and breakfast, beautiful viewWhen youโ€™re looking for a home away from home while on vacation, the Internet has no shortage of places. Thereโ€™s a multitude of hotels and motels with cheap rates and even cheaper amenities, but nestled in those endless listings are bed and breakfasts that are as much a destination as the vacation spots. Thereโ€™s a major difference between staying at a bed and breakfast and some off the Interstate hotel.

It feels like homeโ€ฆonly better

When you open the room to a motel or hotel room, it looks like a hotel room. It feels like a hotel room. Hotels are designed to value cost savings over comfort, so you get stiff beds, thin sheets and tiny rooms. The furniture is something from a 1990โ€™s dentist waiting room and sleep is often impossible thanks to the 30-year-old heating and cooling system.

Bed and breakfasts are the exact opposite. We want you to have maximum comfort and feel like youโ€™re in the perfect version of your home. The furniture is handpicked for its beauty and luxury. The rooms are fitted with the most beautiful accents and the beds and sheets provide the best possible comfort. Itโ€™s everything you wish your home could be and more.

A view to remember

What do you get for a view at a motel or hotel? Open the windows and youโ€™ll gaze upon the beautiful and colorful asphalt parking lot. If youโ€™re lucky, then youโ€™ll end up facing the Interstate or the side of another building.

With a bed and breakfast, your view is of nature and beautiful vistas. Our own rooms have amazing views including our organic vegetable garden and landscaped lawn. We have taken a major effort in creating not only luxurious rooms, but also beautiful views. When youโ€™re sipping coffee on a balcony, we want you to be mesmerized by the beauty you see.

Out of this world breakfast

Stale doughnuts are often what most hotels and motels consider a โ€œContinentalโ€ breakfast. If youโ€™re lucky, then some microwaved sausage and cold bacon. The goal of a vacation is to enjoy yourself and not choke down breakfast before heading out for the day. Breakfast is an important meal and you want something that will energize you for the day ahead.

Here at Brightwood Inn, breakfast is an experience. Youโ€™ll come down to our breakfast area and enjoy fresh fruit and homemade muffins and breads. You can sit down to a delicious home cooked breakfast that satiates your morning hunger and fuels you for a day of hiking, shopping and sightseeing.

Weโ€™re a bed AND breakfast. Itโ€™s part of who we are, so it deserves to be something out of this world.

 

Spring Time at the Brightwood Inn

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Well, Spring has finally sprung on us and I don’t know about you, but we could not be happier! Most of the migratory birds are back now, all we are waiting for are the Barn Swallows and the Hummingbirds. ย I even saw some purple Martins the other day, which I thought was a bit early, but they do tend to come earlier and leave a little latter than the Swallows. The House finches tend to leave us in the most harsh winter months, but they came back about a month ago, however the Golden Finches just came back the other day, as bright yellow as you have seen! ย We have a very large population of Blue Birds this year and most of them have taken up residency in our houses already. Our Brown Thrasher has returned again this year but we have yet to see our Mocking Bird or our Cat Bird. So, like I said, we are just waiting on our Hummers and Barn Swallows.

 

 

 

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First Time at a Bed and Breakfast? Here are some things you should know about us!

We get a lot of people in this neck of the woods that tell us this is their first Bed and Breakfast experience. That’s great! You are going to love it here! Unfortunately some people have some misconceptions about what a Bed and Breakfast offers. ย Let me start out by saying we are not a Hostile, nor are we a large house that rents out our spare rooms. All of our rooms have their own private bathrooms, all of our rooms come with their own sheets and linens and we do not live in the Inn itself,ย ย we live in the house that’s 200 yards to the southeast. (Which by the way is a grueling 30 second commute ๐Ÿ˜‰ )ย There is a combination lock on the front door, and you get a key to your own room, so you may come and go as you please through out the day and night. So in many ways we are kind of like a hotel.

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But to tell you the truth, we ARE different than a Hotel, in a good way! ย We go out of our way to make our rooms more comfortable and more unique than a hotel, to leave a lasting impression, unlike a cookie cutter hotel where you know exactly what to expect each time, and every room looks the same as the next. ย We have big fluffy towels, unlike those scratchy things you get at hotels, we have mattresses with pillow tops and feather beds and all of our sheets are made of the best materials and high thread count that we can find. ย All of our nine rooms have a beautiful view and gas fireplaces for those chilly nights. Six rooms have two person hot tubs with fluffy robes and three have their own private balcony.

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And can you get Eggs Benedict at a Days Inn? ย How about Irish Cream French Toast, made to order Omelets or Apple Cinnamon Whole Grain Pancakes? One of the best parts of staying at our Starved Rock Bed and Breakfast is our homemade breakfasts! ย So here is something you should know about breakfast at a B&B. We go out of our way to make wonderful breakfasts, however we can only offer a couple of entrees each morning. ย Here is an example of what might be offered for breakfast at the Brightwood Inn.

bread

First off, we set up the side board with homemade breads, muffins, coffee cake, Homemade Granola, wheat flakes, some fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, coffee and tea. ย Grab a plate and a mug and help yourself to the side board, then sit down in our beautiful breakfast room and Our Innkeepers will present you with today’s entree options, and get your order for juice.

Saturday Morning – Dutch Apple Whole Grain Pancakes with maple whipped cream – or – Garden Fresh Frittata with Pancetta and Parmesan (Frittata is just a fancy way of saying oven baked omelet) ย – or – Scrambled eggs, Applewood bacon and Whole Wheat Toast.

Sunday Morning – Cinnamon Swirl French Toast Casserole with butter and brown sugar glaze – or – Eggs Mornay (Lightly poached eggs on top of slices of ham and toasted English muffins, topped with a Swiss cheese and white wine sauce) – or –ย Scrambled eggs, Applewood bacon and Whole Wheat Toast.

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We always offer the scrambled eggs as an option every morning if you are not feeling adventurous or you just want something simple like eggs. ย Hey! We get it, we’ve been there!ย  We also inquire about food allergies and restrictions so that everyone has something they can eat.ย  It can get pretty tricky some days, but we manage to make everyone happy!

And to set another misconception straight, everyone has their own table at the Brightwood Inn. ย We know not everyone likes to sit at a table and talk to strangers while your eating your breakfast. ย So, sit back and relax and have a peaceful breakfast. ย But we do have larger tables if people do decide to sit together, and it happens all the time. ย At a small Inn like this you run into people with whom you have things in common. It also can be fun to communicate with people outside your own little world.

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And finally, the best thing about your bed and breakfast experience are your Innkeepers. For starters, we know the area best! Got a question? ย We got an answer! We know the best restaurants, sights to see and when to see them. We want you to have a very memorable experience at our Quiet Country Inn, we’ve put our heart and soul into this place. there is always room for improvement so Please let us know what can we do to make your next visit even better.ย  With in reason of course! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Make sure you check out our packages as well, add something to make your experience even more memorable!

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We sincerely hope our little blog helps! ย And as always, if you have any other questions, always feel free to ask!!

Breakfast at Brennan’s, Brightwood Style!

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Just finished up our “Breakfast at Brennan’s, Brightwood style” menu, for this Mardis Gras weekend. Stay hungry my friends!

Breakfast at Brennan’s, Brightwood Style

Saturday Morning

Cherries Jubilee Crepes

Delicate Crepes stuffed with a cream cheese mixture then topped with Cherries Jubilee.ย  Comes with a side of bacon.

or

Creole Skillet Bake

Andoullie Sausage with red onion, green bell pepper, tomatoes and redskin potatoes sautรฉed in a skillet then, baked together with eggs mild Cajun spices and topped with cheddar cheese. Comes with a side of Wheat Toast.

or

Scrambled eggs, bacon and Wheat Toast.

 

Breakfast at Brennan’s, Brightwood Style

 

Sunday Morning

Bananas Foster French Toast

Custard like French Toast Casserole topped with sautรฉed bananas and caramelized brown sugar. ย Comes with a side of bacon.

or

Eggs Hussarde

Toasted English Muffins with a slice of ham topped with a Marchand de vin (red wine mushroom sauce), then a poached egg and then finally Hollandaise sauce.

or

Scrambled eggs, bacon and Wheat Toast.

 

 

 

Fall 2015

So far the fall of 2016 has been above average temperatures and way below average precipitation.ย  Thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Patricia we are experiencing a little relief in the precipitation department.ย  Temperatures still look to be above average in the 10 day forecast.ย  We’ve only had one bout with freezing temperatures so far.ย  Two weekends ago we got a freeze advisory, so we went out and covered up the garden really good. The temperature got down to 29 degrees and unfortunately most of hard work was in vain. Our garden really took it on the chin killing ninety percent of the plants.ย  The good news is that our efforts did help keep all the fruit and vegetables form freezing, so that we can still harvest them. One thing I found interesting was that the morning glory on the back patio, which is normally a very temperature sensitive plant, remains virtually unscathed from the event.ย  All I can think of is that it was on a more protected side of the Inn.

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The ten day forecast still looks very good, I don’t know about you, but I could take this kind of weather all winter long.ย  So there are still flowers blooming all over the Inn and the fall colors are still going strong. Personally, Fall is my favorite season.ย  The crisp air, the smell of the leaves and maybe a distant campfire. It’s just a little chilly outside but nothing a nice little hike won’t warm you up fast.ย  A time when you can enjoy a campfire outside with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Regular or adult version ๐Ÿ˜‰

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These are some pictures I took just yesterday out around the Inn and with weather like what we’ve been having, I don’t see it changing till farther in the future! Relax and Enjoy at the Brightwood Inn!

Aronia’s The new SUPER FOOD!

In the Fall of 2011, we planted over 1800 Aronia berry bushes. What is an Aronia berry and why are you growing them you ask? The aronia berry has the highest concentration of antioxidants present in any fruit. We all know the importance of antioxidants in keeping us healthy and fighting diseases. Just this property of the aronia berry ought to make it a top contender for the healthiest fruit/berry ever. Because it is rich in antioxidants, it has a very high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value, almost 80 units which is probably the highest amongst fruits. However, thereโ€™s more. Aronia berries also have a lot of flavonoids which help the body in its fight against viruses, cancer causing elements, also known as carcinogens and different types of allergies.

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We will be selling them on the market, but we will also be making jams, jellies, wines, syrups, muffins, trail mix, smoothies and many other things with these incredibly healthy little berries.

The Aronia bush itself is very attractive bush that will reach over 10 feet high and turns a lovely red in the fall.

Recently we have joined the Midwest Aronia Association and we have met a lot of interesting people.ย  One of whom was Mike Mathiasen of Harvest Moon Farms, out of St. Charles Iowa.ย  Mike is trying to do something marketable for the Aronia berries.ย  First off he’s come out with a Aronia juice blend called Aro (pronounced Arrow). The aronia berry drink, ARO, has no added sugars, corn syrup or artificial sweetener and no preservatives. It has been designed to be a tasty and efficient means of adding powerful antioxidants to your diet using the aronia berry. Your daily โ€œstrive for fiveโ€ serving of fruits and vegetables can be largely accomplished with just this little bottle. Drink this 3-5 times each week and reap the many benefits that a diet rich in antioxidants can offer, including less joint stiffness and protection against a variety of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia.

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