Funk’s Grove Nature Center

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This time, we headed out to the Funks Grove Nature Center. It had been a few years since we’d ventured out here, and they have made a lot of improvements since last time!

Part 1: Sugar Grove Nature Center

The nature center was a highlight for Punchy and Bossy. Punchy loved the animals (turtles, snakes, frogs, toads, caterpillars) and Bossy liked to play with the teepee that is set up. There was a big section of nature finds that kids can touch, like antlers, wasp nests, jaw bones with teeth in them, geodes, etc.

They have beautiful and functional hiking sticks – both adult and kid-sized – available for borrowing while on the trails. Punchy and Bossy and their two friends felt Very Official walking around with a walking stick. The assistance also came in handy for J’s friend, who was hiking on her due date with baby en utero. (God bless you, M)

Part 2: Imagination Grove

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This is the bee’s knees. Plenty of places for adults to sit and chat while the kids play on the plethora of kid stuff. There’s a zip line, a clubhouse, a climbing treehouse, two sandboxes, a platform treehouse with a pulley system, a stream where one can procure extremely muddy water, a balance beam, and just generally a bunch of dirty stuff to climb around in.

There are tons of bugs to discover, including centipedes, which Punchy calls “recipe bugs” because that’s how he heard “centipede.” We saw a very cool caterpillar that fell out of a tree onto someone’s shoulder. The man very generously donated the caterpillar to Punchy after having his personal space invaded by an EXTREMELY interested three year old.

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What did Bossy do while Punchy played with bugs? Carried muddy water in an old muffin tin from the stream to the clubhouse – over and over and over. Can’t complain.

It’s also worth mentioning that we saw two children in wheelchairs enjoying the grove. It’s an accessible, educational place to play.

Part 3: Trails

The trails here are gorgeous. Wide open spaces, trees, and easy walking. There are lots of different trails to choose from, and they are all clearly marked. Bossy and his friend had a great time helping us navigate. The trails are color coded, so they helpfully pointed out all the yellow arrows to us. The yellow trail was 0.6 miles, which was good for everyone except our three year old friend, C, who was very sleepy and needed to be carried by daddy.

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We didn’t even explore all that Funks Grove has to offer. We want to go back! Funks Grove gets a 5/5 for experience and a 5/5 for kid friendly.

 

 

Comlara Park – Glasener Beach

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Well the first thing we have to say about Glasener Beach is that it doesn’t open till noon on Saturday, which we didn’t realize until we were already on our way ~10am on Saturday.

Luckily, there is lots of stuff to do at Comlara Park while you wait for the beach to open. This was one of our favorite hiking destinations last year. There is a short trail that circles Lake Evergreen and is easy on little legs. We opted to hang out with friends on the playground this time, and grill some lunch.

Although we had a very nice playground, all four kids there (Punchy, Bossy, and their two friends) were more interested in the outhouses, the small charcoal grill, and asking their parents lots of questions than in playing on the playground. Bossy especially has a penchant for outdoor plumbing alternatives this summer. (At Tball practice, he said of the porta potty, in hushed and reverent tones: “I love it in here.”)

Once we were fed, we headed for the beach. There is another section of water that is devoted to kayaking, canoeing, fishing, etc. But we headed to the smaller section for swimming.

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Once we got through the extremely scary, Handmaid’s tale training facility that passes for the showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms (seriously, I’m pretty sure some of the lockers are stuffed with body parts), the beach was pretty nice. I mean – for Central IL. The sparkling waters of the Caribbean…this is not. But it was impressive enough for one of the boys’ friends to call it “the ocean.”

There are inner tubes available to rent, the water was shallow enough for Punchy and Bossy to splash around in, and the grown ups got a few precious moments to sit and complain about parenting. At any given moment we saw no less than three lifeguards on duty.

Overall, we give it a 4/5 for experience and a 5/5 for kid friendly.

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Firefly Grill – Effingham, IL

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Each summer we travel to Effingham and spend a weekend on Lake Sara (see our post on the lake). On this year’s trip A & J were fortunate to ditch Punchy and Bossy for a few hours (thanks, grandma!) and dine at the Firefly Grill.

The Setting

The Firefly is an impressive building, with floor to ceiling windows that flood the restaurant with natural light. The dining room and bar feels both trendy and contemporary with its neon lights and stainless steel, but also homey and Midwest chic with its re-purposed wood. According the Firefly’s website,

the frame of the building is recycled steel, all of the barn wood is reclaimed as is much of our furniture, the pond irrigates our gardens which greatly reduces our carbon footprint.

While we waited for our meals, we fed fish on a deck that stretches out over a small pond, while J sipped a tasty white Sangria. (The Firefly doesn’t serve any of these fish. A asked and got a funny look.)

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The Menu

The Firefly offers a wide menu with something for everyone. There are three gardens on the grounds where the Firefly team grows many of the vegetable and herbs that they use. Sustainable, organic food is part of the mission at the FFG:

We are so passionate about our ingredients that we grow many ourselves. The remainder are hand selected locally or sourced from artisan farmers, foragers and fisherman who care for them as deeply as we do.

A ordered a cheeseburger (SO adventurous!) and french fries. Both were delicious and the serving size was generous. J ordered a Thai chicken pizza that was covered in fresh carrots, cucumber, onion and peanuts. J enjoyed her choice and didn’t even miss the cheese (this fact was evidenced by an empty plate, complete with gnaw marks).

Check out their MENU.

The Service

Our waitstaff were helpful, prompt, and friendly. They laughed at A’s dad jokes, let us feed the corpulent koi, and were kind enough to call us when A left his credit card behind.

All in all, we greatly enjoyed the Firefly Grill and recommend it to anyone traveling down state on I-57.

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Lake Sara – Effingham, IL

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Every year, J’s family treks to Effingham, IL to stay in cabins on Lake Sara, at a place called Anthony Acres. This is “camping” – or as close to it as J usually gets – including a mattress with box springs and air conditioning.

Punchy and Bossy have been coming here since they were babies, and they enjoyed it more than ever this year. Bossy is five now and can actually engage in a bit of fishing with J’s dad. Punchy enjoyed the wildlife.

Anthony Acres has a small beach that is fun for kids and appropriately gross and slimy to adults. There’s a dock for jumping off and a shallow end for kids Punchy and Bossy’s ages.

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New this year is a playground set that we enjoyed helping to break in. The cute little office has a wide variety of candy for purchase, which Bossy in particular loves to peruse.

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The highlight of the weekend, of course, is going out on boat rides with J’s dad. The real estate along the lake is impressive – there is always a new mansion being built. The nature is breathtaking. We saw blue herons taking flight, gulping fish down in one swallow. We saw turtles sunning themselves on logs. We saw baby raccoons prowling around in their den. We saw a fawn taking a drink from the lake. The breeze on the lake is refreshing.

No real hiking took place this weekend, but A and J did take a nice walk along the golf course and saw some bullfrogs. Overall, Lake Sara gets 5/5 for family friendly summer fun. We didn’t bring our dogs on the trip, but dogs are welcome.

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