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Tara and Jessica “Jessi” Hurless had just finished one of their renovation projects when we visited them in February for the spring edition of At Home in Central Illinois. They share a beautiful Victorian in Mahomet with their dogs, Chaco and Boss, and their cats, Harper, Charlie and Milo. 

“We finished up the kitchen,” Tara said. 

Tara’s dad gave them 12 boxes of stone tile, which was just enough to cover the kitchen floor. 

“We lucked out. We had just three pieces left,” Jessi said. 

A block west of historic “millionaires row” — State Street in Monticello — is the North Charter Street home of Maureen “Mo” and Ryan Tracy. This beautiful Victorian Italianate-style home is a classic beauty that was built in the mid- to late 1800s. It’s a very beautiful, one-of-a-kind home that is equally rich in its history. 

They met far from home

The Radden family gave up a collective “Wow!” as they crossed the threshold of their new home in west Champaign.

The two story home of Alison and Pat Cler sits right in the heart of what Alison calls, “Old Town Tuscola.”
“We have a great neighborhood,” she said from their home that is rich with that Bavarian feel.

Bruce Rainey and Michael Hogue like to celebrate the holidays in a big way. The Champaign couple pulls out all of the stops for the holidays.
If Rainey and Hogue sound familiar to At Home in Central Illinois readers that’s because they were the first to lead the way to the county clerk’s office that first day of civil union registration in Urbana, June 1, 2011. Plus, everyone seems to know them in and around the Champaign-Urbana area. They throw a huge holiday party every year, and it’s a show-stopper.


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When the team from At Home in Central Illinois visited Alexander’s Steakhouse we knew what to expect: great food, a fun atmosphere, great drinks and delicious desserts. Believe it when we say that we were still surprised. “Wow” was the first word uttered when we walked into the Champaign restaurant, located at 202 W. Anthony Drive. 

The much-anticipated Hamilton Walker’s Steaks, Seafood and Spirits is open in the heart of downtown Champaign at 201 N. Neil St. It is named for the Walker Opera House and the Hamilton Hotel, which operated in the very same location. The recent addition to downtown endeavors to be a gathering place for those who want fine dining.

MaryAnne Smith is focused on family. And being the spouse of a coaching professional can be quite daunting. The outside pressure from the public can be enormous. Moving to Champaign-Urbana makes this the Smiths’ twentieth home in Lovie Lee Smith’s –his given name- football coaching career. Moving is considered one of the biggest stressors in life; something that could even bring about great strife to a marriage. Try multiplying that by 20.

Obviously, MayAnne and Lovie are solid. Indeed.

Geetha Sivaguru bustled around her kitchen. Fresh vegetables, spices, herbs, and pans were everywhere. This decade approaching junior high science teacher will tell you that she loves to cook for anyone who asks. She likes to share her love- and art- of Indian cooking and cuisine. The day At Home in Central Illinois visited her, she was preparing Jeera Rice with Curried Lentils.

What is “slow food?” It conjures up all kinds of images, but the correct one is that it is the opposite of “fast food.” The roots of slow food come from Italy, where journalist Carlo Petrini became outraged over the opening of a McDonald’s franchise in Rome. Concerned about the impact on Rome’s culture, he organized protesters who held bowls of penne. They shouted, “We don’t want fast food — we want slow food!” The slow food movement was born. 


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It’s springtime, the birds are chirping, the days are getting longer, and the flowers, plants and trees are blooming. 

Ahhhh! There’s nothing like shedding those winter blahs and getting out in the spring air. Gardeners are out in full force tending to their beds, spreading mulch, getting rid of weeds, planting annuals, pruning perennials and putting in their vegetables. 

Phil Lovett said that it’s fairly easy to have a great lawn.
“I’m just a regular guy, and if I can have a fantastic lawn, anybody can,” he said.
Lovett of Mahomet, At Home in Central Illinois’ go-to “lawn guy” says it’s not that hard to keep everything in the yard healthy and looking good during that summer heat. Lovett gave tips to At Home readers last summer and even showed them how to build a budget-friendly sprinkling system themselves. He said keeping a healthy lawn just takes a little forethought, water and fertilizer.

Central Illinois has come to life this spring.

   John and Judy Chesnut’s farm hums with life this time of year. The vast yard, with berm after berm, flowers beds in every nook and cranny and the vast pasture and grazing land for the     quarter horses — and one pretty paint — seem like a world all their own.  


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In any artistic endeavor, whether it be music, painting or stained glass, there is the “art” of the medium, but also the “craft” of the creation. In its history, stained glass has been elevated to the realm of fine art. It makes sense, too, because the craft was — and still is — used in the decor of churches. There are windows that date back to 675 AD that are still in existence, so durability is obvious with stained glass, as well. 

It was Women in Mission Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, located at 701 E. Florida Ave., Urbana. The women’s mission group, Pieces of Love, had created colorful quilts and blankets. The items will be shipped to Kenya, but on that weekend they were blessed at their worship services Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 and 10:45 a.m.

Jenny Southlynn stands by a painting she created in graduate school. This semi-retired director of the after-school program at St. Matthew Catholic School in Champaign talks about her creation.

“It’s called ‘Family Tree,’” she said from her tastefully decorated condominium.

   John-Paul Buzard realized his lifelong dream when he opened Buzard Pipe Organ Builders in Champaign in 1985. And on paper, he’s been in the industry since high school and college, when he apprenticed as a technician. 

When children’s author Alice B. McGinty was younger, she never really thought of herself as a writer.

“I loved reading, though,” she said. “I loved books.”

She enjoyed classics like “Charlotte’s Web” and anything from Dr. Seuss.

“Now, here I am, a working writer,” McGinty said.

Working writer indeed. She has authored over 40 children’s books.

“Well, counting the leveled readers, I have written over 100 books,” she explained.



When we think of giving ourselves a new look or freshening up our appearance we often think it will involve a great expense. While having a fresh look for the new year is a goal of many people, taking care of one’s budget is also high on the list of resolutions.


Let’s take an evening trip to the Better Days Distillery in Tilton, Vermilion County’s first and only distillery, located at 8 Hodge St., Tilton. It is open Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m.


I grabbed my friend, Brenda Jamieson, and we trekked out to the distillery.

Our sister magazine, Central Illinois Business, runs a yearly Forty Under 40 event that features young, accomplished and philanthropic business professionals in our magazine. It’s a fun process and our staff enjoys it very much.

At Home in Central Illinois had the extreme pleasure to talk with Janice McAteer, the Director of Development at Developmental Services Center, which is located at 1304 W. Bradley Ave. in Champaign. She cherishes her career.

“Both my sister and daughter have disabilities,” she said.

This has further reinforced her commitment to those that DSC serves in the community.

Welcome to the fall season and our wonderful “Autumn Day Trip” to Indiana for a fun-filled day of fun at the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival, Indiana’s largest festival. Let’s get our coffees and head out early, going east on Interstate-74, towards Danville and on into Indiana.

Let’s get going!

• Once you’re on I-74 keep going east for around 40 minutes or so.


Life is to be lived!

Hello, At Home in Central Illinois readers. I hope this finds you healthy and happy. Our latest issue represents two things: newness and the celebration of it.

Let me know how this worked for you, fellow Carpet Goddesses!! If you have cleaning or household tips, send them to me at