Centenarian Publishes Her First Book

Carol Landow

Carol Landow is a prime example that you’re never too old to do something new. Like write a book. The 102-year-old resident of Peace Village in Palos Park recently published her first work, The Adventures of Missy, a 40-page book for children. “At 102, most people are publishing their last book, not their first,” she jokes.

After hearing that her grandchildren’s cat went missing in the woods for a week, Landow couldn’t help but create stories about what had happened during those lost days. She wrote a rough draft and set it aside. Fast-forward a few decades to when she recently ran across the story and decided to make her book a reality, signing up for a writing and illustration class at Peace Village. “I got help with using the computer, and then it all just fell into place—all of a sudden I couldn’t stop myself,” Landow explains. She self-published the book in December through 48 Hour Books. “I wasn’t really expecting this kind of opportunity,” she says. “It was so much fun to do, and now that it’s over, I wish I had started when I was younger.”

The Adventures of Missy can be purchased through Peace Village’s Gift Shop (708-361-3683). Proceeds benefit Lora’s Fund, which helps Peace Village residents stay in their homes even if they have outlived their financial resources.


Photo courtesy of Rebecca Palumbo/Rollins Palumbo Creative


It’s all about comfort with these outdoor-living trends

Upstairs hallway

When a Naperville couple retired, they followed the familiar script: time to downsize. But after living the condo life for a few years, the wife missed the space, privacy, and light of a single-family home. The husband wasn’t keen to move but wanted something else—a dog.

So they struck a compromise: They would find a single-family home with a yard for a pup. The eventual winner was a five-bedroom, seven-bath, 4,500-square-foot central Naperville home that had been built just a few years earlier. The couple moved in 2021 and then hired Lauren Collander Interiors to help them personalize and customize the space to fit their easy-going and casual personalities. “They had a vision of how they wanted to live their lives,” says Collander, founder and principal designer of the firm, with locations in Naperville and Lake Forest. “They wanted to make every part of their home work for them.”

The couple’s shared vision for a happy retirement included leisurely breakfasts together in a sunny kitchen, cozy evenings spent watching television, frequent visits with their children and eight grandchildren, and, of course, plenty of canine snuggles. Though their previous style had been more traditional, with the Collander team’s help they decided to start almost entirely from scratch with furnishings and embrace a more modern aesthetic. The designers drew inspiration from the couple’s artwork collection, as well as the husband’s framed photographs, creating a retirement refuge that now feels just right. “Every square inch of it is perfect for them,” Collander says.


1. (Above) The newer-build home by Kozlowski Homes already had interesting architectural features like shiplap in the upstairs hallway and a modern staircase. Lauren Collander Interiors helped the couple build upon this foundation, adding furniture, lighting, and accessories to create the modern look they wanted. A multitiered pendant lighting fixture by Arteriors echoes the lines found in the railing and shiplap.


Dining room

2. Gaining space for family gatherings was a key reason for this couple’s move back to a single-family home. The star of the roomy dining room is an oval-shaped table combining an iron base with a burnt oak top banded in polished brass steel. A hammered brass console is etched with a sunburst pattern, adding polish to family dinners and memorable evenings. (Table and console available through Lauren Collander Interiors.)



3. “We want people’s bedrooms to be a refuge,” Collander says. A shimmery wall covering by Phillip Jeffries applied to the master bedroom ceiling includes small pieces of mica. A chandelier directs light toward the wall covering, diffusing sparkly light throughout the space.



4. Painted a deep smoky blue (Sherwin-Williams’s Slate Tile), the moody, intimate master bedroom “has a different feel from the rest of the house,” Collander says, but still manages to look cohesive. The centerpiece is a sumptuous bed and ottoman with straps of black top-grain leather. (Ottoman available through Lauren Collander Interiors.)


The family dog

5. The space gained from moving, as well as their new yard, allowed the couple to welcome a dog into their lives.


Kitchen table

6. The kitchen table was one of the few pieces the couple brought from their previous residence. The design team paired the table with durable, family-friendly chairs with leather backs and seats made of recycled army tents. (Chairs available through Lauren Collander Interiors.)


Family room

7. With window seats, a pair of sofas, and pull-out stools, the family room has plenty of seats for larger gatherings. The couple chose a soft, rounded cranberry cocktail ottoman by Vanguard because they have young grandchildren who need soft corners.


Custom power recliners

8. The couple prefers to recline while they watch TV, so finding the perfect chairs for the family room was key. A pair of his and hers custom powered recliners by Hooke were chosen for comfort as well as good looks.


Photos courtesy of Marina Storm/Picture Perfect House

Chicken Tenders

By Kelli Ra Anderson

Is backyard poultry-keeping right for you?

Jennifer Murtoff

People are often surprised to learn that chickens purr when you cuddle them, come running when you call their name, and respond to human emotion. They can even serve as therapy animals. “If you raise them to bond with you, they’re a phenomenal animal,” says Rob Vaughan, president of Aurora’s Charity Blooms, a nonprofit community farm that houses hens. “Kids love them. But they do require maintenance, upkeep to clean the coop, and health care.”

A chicken

If you are unprepared, caring for backyard chickens is not all it’s cracked up to be. “These are not something to get for Easter or when egg prices are high,” says Tom Stopka, store manager of St. Charles family-owned Trellis Farm and Garden, a supplier of chicks. “You may be caring for these animals for six years or so–long after egg prices come back down.” Jennifer Gilstrap of Naperville, a backyard chicken keeper since 2017, agrees: “These are animals that must be properly sheltered and watered and fed, which means going outside daily to care for them even in minus-39 temperatures.”

Specialized medical care is also essential, and making the issue more complicated, many traditional vets are not trained in avian issues. “Are you prepared for veterinary care? You will need a budget that can afford the cost of caring for birds,” cautions Jennifer Murtoff, chicken consultant of Home to Roost LLC.

But those who keep chickens will tell you hens are comical, fluffy, and friendly delights, well worth the time and effort. So how do you know if raising backyard chickens is right for you?


A group of chicks

Take time to research

• Know your area’s ordinances, regulations, and permit protocols. For example, while DuPage County allows hens, some towns in the county (like Wheaton) do not allow its incorporated residents to keep chickens more than 90 days per year. On the other hand, Naperville, Woodridge, and Downers Grove all allow small flocks of hens (but no roosters).

• Visit backyard keepers to learn more from the experts (check out the Windy City Coop Tour).


• Choose hardy, gentle breeds best for beginners, such as docile Orpingtons, prolific Cinnamon Queens (up to 300 eggs a year), friendly Plymouth Rocks, and rainbow-laying Easter Eggers (with eggshells in shades of pink, green, or blue).

• Provide quality feed and practice the highest level of biosecurity (for the health of your family and your flock).

• Plan for specialized vet care, just in case.

• Build a strong coop and run.

• Predator-proof: Provide protection from hawks, raccoons, possums, coyotes, and foxes.

A group of chickens

• Weather-proof: The chickens will need a cozy, dry shelter safe from the elements, insulated for winter temps and properly ventilated for summer heat.

• Provide safe nesting boxes (dark, separate spaces for privacy) and stable roosts (two to five inches in diameter, easy-to-clean, and nonslippery).

• Ensure easy access to bedding areas for regular cleaning. If you don’t have one already, consider a backyard compost pile where you can add chicken waste.

A chicken

Get Resourced

• Take a class (check out Trellis Farm and Garden training events or Home to Roost videos and classes).

• Get a chicken care manual and a poultry first-aid kit.

• Connect with an online community (for example, Beginner Chicken Keepers or Chicago-Land Backyard Chickens on Facebook).


Photos courtesy of Liz McCrory (Murtoff), Kelli Ra Media (eggs and top right hens), and Jen Banowetz (Cinnamon, Summer, and chicks)

Teen Spirit

By Judy Sutton Taylor

Alive Center gives youths tools for the long term

Kids drumming on buckets

Kandice Henning believes in intentionality and positivity as keys to success. An executive for more than two decades with Accenture and IBM as well as a certified life coach and yoga teacher, Henning wanted to teach teens about these and other empowerment tools. “Life can bat you around if you don’t have the skills to grab it by the horns,” Henning says. “I learned these things in my 40s and thought that if teens could learn them earlier, they could have more control over their lives to reach their goals.”

In 2012, Henning started the nonprofit Alive Center to provide teens support and guidance. Using a peer mentoring model, it offers free “teen-led, teen-driven” after-school and summer drop-in sessions, classes, tutoring, and events for kids in grades 5 to 12. Alive merged with fellow teen-focused nonprofit NaperBridge in 2015, and today there are three Alive community centers in Naperville, Aurora, and Hanover Park.

Kids working on a project

Teens create and lead the curriculum for Alive Center’s classes and programs after completing a leadership course that touches on subjects including strategic goal setting and public speaking. Adults are on hand to monitor and engage with kids, but it’s the teens who take the reins, says Henning, who left the corporate world to serve as Alive’s CEO. “We provide a balance of guidance with the freedom to create. Alive gives teens a safe space to lead and try things. It’s a model where teens are empowering other teens.”

Word of mouth among kids, school guidance counselors, and parent Facebook groups attract a diverse group of teens. After-school drop-ins are especially popular, with 40 to 50 kids often in attendance daily at the Naperville center. “After a long day at school, just having a place to hang out is really appealing,” Henning points out. Clubs and events span a wide range of interests, from fashion upcycling and robotics to neon dodgeball and a social club for differently abled teens.

Kids working on crafts

“Kids are under more stress and pressure than ever before,” Henning says. “They have to perform academically, volunteer, play sports, and be really good at all of it. They’re stretched thin and burnt out; they don’t get to be kids. Add in COVID and [computer and phone] screens, and it’s a lot.

“We do our best to wrap around kids and their families and give them someone to talk to and a place where they feel supported,” she continues. “We help them learn and discover new talents. There are no grades. There is no fear of failure here. You can just try again.”

Visit alivecenter.org for more information. The nonprofit’s annual Mardi Gras FUNdraising Gala is May 12 at Hotel Arista, 2139 City Gate Lane, Naperville. For tickets or to make a donation, go to one.bidpal.net/alivemardigras2023/welcome.


Photos courtesy of Alive Center

On the Rise

By Mike Thomas

The just-opened Moonlight Theatre brings more live entertainment to downtown St. Charles

Inside Moonlight Theatre
Moonlight Theatre, 7 S. Second Ave., St. Charles

As a destination for human amusement, the old Idle Hour Theatre is idle no more. Nearly a century after it stopped operating as a live performance venue, in 1926, and decades after languishing as office space, the two-story brick building at 7 South Second Avenue in downtown St. Charles recently reopened as a multiuse entertainment facility christened the Moonlight Theatre.

Extensively renovated to accommodate a variety of acts and audiences up to 200, the Moonlight made its debut in late February with a sold-out evening of standup comedy. The coming weeks and months are chock-a-block with more laughs, live music, theatrical productions, and even the occasional magic show. Clear away the tables and chairs, and you’ve got a large dance floor where folks can cut a rug.

“It was quite a journey,” says St. Charles resident Joseph Mennella. A local actor, writer, and producer, he serves as the Moonlight’s chairman and artistic director while his mother and business partner, Batavia resident Nancy Fioramonti-Mennella, fills the director of entertainment role. “When we [first] saw the venue, we had a vision of it being exactly what we were looking for: a cabaret-style theater that can host comedy, theatrical, and music.” The Moonlight also is available for corporate events and other private gatherings. In fact, Mennella says, they already have a wedding booked. In the not-too-distant future, theater classes for kids and adults will be added to the mix. Movie nights are in the offing too.

Since it’s so early in the process, Mennella says, they haven’t encountered any real challenges yet. “Everything’s been working pretty smoothly. We have a great team in place.” He says there’s been no trouble booking acts, either. The ever-growing roster has so far included yuks galore, big-band swing, and an all-female Beatles tribute, to name just a handful.

Outside Moonlight Theatre

Both Mennella and Fioramonti-Mennella, a veteran special-events coordinator, were already plugged into the local show biz scene before launching the Moonlight. From talent and production to bartending and serving, they’re hooked up in all the right places. “People that want to work with the team reached out when we started this venture,” Mennella says. “I brought a lot of people on for the production side, and Nancy has brought a lot of people on for the front-of-house and other things. We’ve got a lot of people that believe in the vision and want to grow with us.”

The community, too, has been supportive. “The Chamber of Commerce, the Business Alliance, and other business owners have wished us a lot of luck,” Mennella says. “People are coming to check out the venue. And people want comedy back in St. Charles, especially with Zanies closing in Pheasant Run and that being torn down.”

Mennella says he’ll even hop onstage now and then to perform, but it’s nothing he wants to crow about. His focus is on the venue itself and on creating a local mecca for eclectic entertainment. “The ultimate vision is just to keep the high-quality productions coming in, be the best we can be artistically, and make people happy.”


Photos courtesy of Moonlight Theatre

Deep Roots

Spruce up your yard with finds from three family-owned garden centers

The Growing Place

The Growing Place


The origin of these two sprawling garden centers can be traced back to Emma’s Perennials, a Naperville plant farm founded in 1936 by Emma and Fritz Glatzhofer. In 1976, their nephew Rich Massat and his wife, Carol, reimagined the business as the Growing Place, and their children Becca and Michael Massat operate it today. “In Aurora, we grow all of our vegetables and herbs and our fall mums, and 50 to 60 percent of the perennials and annuals that we sell,” Becca says. “We drive them back and forth to the Naperville location; they go on little road trips.” Fans of native plants will find a deep selection. “Our motto is planting the right plants in the right places—that’s for the gardener’s success and for the plants’ success,” Becca says. 25W471 Plank Rd., Naperville; 2000 Montgomery Rd., Aurora, thegrowingplace.com

Good to know: If you’re in the market for ceramic planters, you’ll have double the options, due to last year’s supply-chain issues. “My 2022 order didn’t show up until the end of the year, so now I have everything from my 2022 order and my 2023 order—it’s a very great selection of pottery,” Becca says.


Wannemaker’s Home and Garden

Wannemaker’s Home and Garden


Siblings Jennifer, Joe, and Kelly Wannemaker are third-generation operators of this family business, which their grandfather opened in the 1970s as a hardware store. “As time went on, and the big boxes became more prevalent, it slowly transitioned into more of a gardening focus,” Jennifer says. They carry a full range of annuals for container gardens or beds, along with perennials, trees, shrubs, vegetables, and herbs. “We really cater to people who want to do it themselves,” she says. “And almost all our annual growers are the same growers my grandfather used from here in the Midwest.” They also have an impressive selection of roses and aisles of fountains and bird baths to browse. 1940 Ogden Ave., wannemakers.com

Good to know: The store also sells patio furniture, grills, seasonal holiday decor, and an array of gifts—plus bathroom vanities, a holdover from Wannemaker’s hardware era.


Barn Owl Garden Center

Barn Owl Garden Center


From certified organic seedlings, plants, and soils in the spring to handmade holiday wreaths in the winter, this garden center has something to offer all year-round. “Starting in mid- to early July, we have a farmers’ market, and all of our produce is sourced from Plainfield, Oswego, or Michigan, and it’s delivered daily,” says manager Clark Hudmon, whose parents, James and Jacki Hudmon, opened the business 20 years ago. “People say we have some of the best sweet corn, and I think that’s because it’s picked daily.” If you need a bird feeder, seed, or just a friendly face to chat with about backyard birding, look no further. “I’m a huge bird nerd,” Hudmon says. “Throughout the year, we have locally mixed bird seed coming out of Wisconsin, delivered weekly.” 1N583 S. Gary Ave., barnowlgarden.com

Good to know: Get up close and personal with barn owls, red-tailed hawks, and other raptors during the center’s annual open house in September when staff members from Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation in Barrington visit for an educational seminar.


Photos courtesy of The Growing Place, MACLYN (Wannemaker’s Home and Garden), and Mélanie Segura (Barn Owl Garden Center)

Language of Love

A New Year’s Eve kiss led to forever love for this Lombard couple

Newlyweds Ashley Johnson and Rade Sekulic sharing their first kiss

In this digital age when algorithms seem to be making most love connections, Lombard newlyweds Ashley Johnson, 28, and Rade Sekulic, 30, are proof that you can still find your future spouse the so-called old-fashioned way.

On December 31, 2018, Johnson and her friends went to Adobe Gila’s margarita bar in Rosemont to ring in the New Year and toast her January 1 birthday a day early. Coatless and shivering in the line out front, they struck up a conversation with two men ahead of them. Though he seemed disinterested at first—”I was shy,” Sekulic now concedes—Johnson was captivated by this tall, quiet man with a Serbian accent, and as midnight approached, they found themselves standing near one another inside the bar. “I thought to myself: What’s the worst that’s going to happen if I kiss him?” says Johnson, who grew up in Odell, Illinois, and later attended Aurora University. “So I kissed him, and he kissed me back, and the rest is history.”

Ashley Johnson and Rade Sekulic

In the weeks leading up to their October 29, 2022, wedding at Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, Johnson secretly studied with a foreign-language tutor so that she could recite her vows in her husband-to-be’s native tongue. “Serbian, it’s a hard language,” Sekulic says. “When she started speaking, I was like, ‘Wow!’ I got lost for a moment, and it was a nice surprise.” The couple also was able to share a taste of Sekulic’s homeland with Serbian cookies from Balkan Bakery in La Grange, sent home with every guest as a favor. As a reference to their wintry meet-cute, they danced their first dance to “With You” by Tyler Shaw. “One of the first lines is, ‘Two hearts on a cold street,’ which is why I liked it,” Johnson says.

Wedding Vendors

Venue & Catering
Eaglewood Resort & Spa, Itasca

Bride’s attire
Morilee by Madeline Gardner gown from Wolsfelt’s Bridal, Aurora; Paradox London pumps from DSW.com; jewelry from Allure Wedding Jewelry on Etsy.com

Bride’s hair and makeup
Stephanie Ruffino and Marissa Esposito

Ashley Johnson and her bridesmaids

Bridesmaids’ attire

Village Flower Shop, Plainfield

Groom’s and groomsmen’s attire
Men’s Wearhouse, Wheaton

Helzberg Diamonds, Rosemont

Cake from Delish Cakes, Bloomingdale; Serbian cookie favors from Balkan Bakery, La Grange

A place setting at the wedding

DJ by Luxe Productions, Arlington Heights

Rachael Watson Photography Inc., Batavia


Photos courtesy of Rachael Watson Photography Inc.

The 411 on 211

New hotline connects DuPage residents to key services

A red rotary telephone

Just when you thought the old-school telephone hotline was a relic amid today’s everything-everywhere-all-at-once information overload culture, DuPage County has rolled out a new three-digit service that it believes many citizens will come to rely upon for access to a host of county resources.

211 DuPage was launched in November to connect callers with information on a wide array of needs, including crisis and emergency counseling; disaster, food, health care, insurance, stable housing, and utilities payment assistance; as well as employment, veteran, childcare, and family services. As a local version of a network used in towns and counties across the country, 211 DuPage is available around-the-clock and was funded by $1.6 million in federal pandemic relief aid to replace a previous 10-digit county number that was answered only during business hours.

Greg Schwarze, chair of the county’s Human Services Committee, describes the 211 hotline as “the place to call when you don’t know who to call”–a free and confidential information and referral resource that serves as a central access point to local health and human services agencies in DuPage County. It is not, however, meant to be an emergency line or a suicide hotline.(Residents should still use 911 and 988, respectively, for those needs.) Nor is it intended to be a reporting outlet for municipal-related services like potholes or broken streetlights.

The county’s 18 hotline operators listen to the issues callers are dealing with and direct them to agencies that can provide the appropriate resources. A partnership with the Addison Consolidated Dispatch Center provides operators for time periods outside of regular business hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays.

“We knew, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, that residents need access to health or human services information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Schwarze explains. “211 DuPage provides our residents with an easy-to-remember phone number that gives them immediate access to help anytime they need it.”

Schwarze says 211 DuPage is seeing an average of about 250 calls per month in the early going, with many callers looking for help finding rental or utility payment assistance, locating the nearest food pantry or homeless shelter, and accessing mental health services. Given the hotline’s popularity, the county anticipates expanding it in the next few years, possibly by adding a text and chat function for greater flexibility. The goal, Schwarze notes, is simply to help as many residents as possible to find the information and services they need.

“Our specialists have been trained to assess the caller’s situation and work to find the best solution for the situation,” he says, adding that 211 DuPage is meant to provide caring help, not just serve as a switchboard. “We work diligently to solve as many problems as we can and get every caller connected with the services that will improve their situation.”

For more information, visit 211dupage.gov.

When to Call 211

• Crisis and emergency counseling

• Disaster assistance

• Food assistance

• Health care and insurance assistance

• Stable housing and utilities payment assistance

• Employment services

• Veteran services

• Childcare and family services


Photo courtesy of Istock images