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It’s a pho day

I've been on a soup kick, as you may have noticed. Yesterday I had lunch at Xinh Xinh; I ordered the pho bo vien ($8), pho with meatballs. It's a massive bowl of delicious broth and noodles and scallions and onions. I added in some basil and fresh jalapeños (sprouts available, too). It was great. And huge — I will be eating the leftovers for lunch today. My dining partner ordered the pho tai bo vien ($8), which comes with thinly sliced round steak and meatballs, and she, too, had leftovers.

The spring rolls were also delicious ($2).

Xinh Xinh Cafe
114 N Vine
Urbana
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Photos by Jessica Hammie

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Champaign Outdoors has your hi-tech hook up

Champaign Outdoors has upped their technology game as they've settled into their new space at 2017A South Neil, and they will be showcasing it this Wednesday at their Custom Tech Showcase from 4 to 7 p.m. I got a chance to check out how they are using technology to enhance your experience as a customer.

First up, a custom kiosk that allows you to completely customize every detail of your down jacket or vest. This was seriously impressive. You can choose every last detail from the color of the zipper to the amount of down fill to what type of fit you would like it to have, and it's all done through the touch screen from start to finish.

They are also showcasing their Tecnica shoe technology. This device will help design a hiking boot that forms perfectly to your foot, no breaking in needed.

If you're bringing the kids along, this last piece is really fun. Champaign Outdoors is working with Google to develop content specifically for use in their store. Their touch screen allows you to explore Google Earth, take quizzes about natural wonders, learn about sustainability, and even explore Champaign Outdoors/Rugged Outdoors websites. 

This technology is available in the store all the time, but be sure to swing by Wednesday because they are offering discounts, and if you design a jacket you'll be entered into a drawing to win it for free. And these are high quality items that you could compare to a North Face or Patagonia and the like, so that seems worth a trip.

You can find all of the event details on the Facebook event page.

Photos by Julie McClure

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How to eat your veggies at Watson’s

As a human in this world, I find the inundation of food-shaming at this time of year unbearable. I'm not immune to it, and the other night I found myself dining out at Watson's, fretting over the calories I'd consume by ordering what I really wanted, a Nashville hot chicken sandwich with potato wedges. 

I found a compromise that made me feel better, even if in reality the net calories were equivalent: Share an order of fried okra ($7), and get the Nashville hot chicken on top of a salad ($14). 

Okra might be a vegetable I am basically only interested in eating when fried, but it's a vegetable all the same. The bounty salad is made of lacinato kale, roasted zucchini, onion, slow roasted tomatoes, and sunflower seeds — all excellent sources of vitamins and fiber. The Nashville hot fried chicken is my favorite, and it rounds out the salad to make it it a meal. 

I've also had the Nashville hot chicken on the house salad ($13, picture at top), and it's equally delicious. 

Watson's
211 N Neil St
Champaign
T-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Su 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (kitchen closed 2-4 p.m.)

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Hey look, you can find Plant Mode at Espresso Royale on Oregon

While at the Espresso Royale on Oregon yesterday, and noticed this lovely display of succulents and cacti from Plant Mode displayed for purchase. After investigating a bit I found out that it's been there since the end of August, so guess it's been a bit since I've been in that particular Espresso. Anyhow, now I'm sharing this knowledge with you. 

I'm a fan of making my holiday shopping as "one-stop-shop" as possible, so here's a great opportunity. Grab an Espresso Royale gift card or perhaps some beans, and throw in a unique plant from Plant Mode. 

Photo by Julie McClure

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Do you need a Cuban sandwich today?

If so, you're in luck: Black Dog's Wednesday special is the Cuban, and it's really quite tasty, and it looks nice, too.

It's been suggested to me that you sub in Milo's Mustard; I guess I'll have to go get a sandwich today to test this out. 
 
Black Dog Champaign
320 N Chestnut St
Champaign
 
Black Dog Urbana
201 N Broadway
Urbana
 
11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
 
Photo from Facebook
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Champaign City Council approves preliminary plan for Plaza Park

As Seth made mention yesterday, the City of Champaign City Council met last night, and one of their agenda items was to discuss the future of the Plaza Park project, which has been in play for quite some time now. Last night, the City Council approved the preliminary plan proposed, which you can read about over at the Gazoo.

However, it doesn't exactly look like what we posted about yesterday, which was this:

New renderings showcase a row of parking spaces that sits between the Plaza Park and the businesses that face it. See that rendering below.

There are definitely some concessions the planners made with the business owners that were upset about parking being completely eliminated in front of their place of business. 

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City Target rumors (sort of) confirmed for 6th and Green

We'd heard rumors, and known that it was a possibility for months, and while the developers still can't confirm it officially, it seems pretty clear that the new tower developed by Core Spaces at 6th and Green will include a City Target

The News-Gazette got the scoop by being good sleuths on the internet, and Core Spaces admitted that these renderings shouldn't have been on there, but hey! it's the internet and this is nature of how social media is going to end everything, once and for all. 

Personally, I can't wait for that. The end will be good. 

Until then, I'll take a City Target in Campustown for sure. I mean, that's better than a City Walmart by a longshot, and in the end, it's the sort of anchor to a building that helps attract the right kind of attention to a competitive campustown. The building will replace a number of prime campustown buildings, including what was Clybourne and Firehaus

Also, there's going to be a Jimmy John's, which you might be surprised to learn actually makes a decent sandwich, and whose corporate headquarters are located close by in Champaign. 

Also, it's worth noting that Core Spaces is who developed "The Whopper" on 4th and Green, which remains the only decent and attractive "skyscraper" in Campustown. So, it's good to have them back in the game here, as opposed to the other developers, who basically built Soviet-era housing projects with hipster names. No ill will, but you know, that HERE building makes me want to cry. 

Images from Core Spaces Website

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Explore the photography of place with Jason Reblando at Giertz Gallery tonight

Award-winning photographer Jason Reblando will speak at Parkland College's Giertz Gallery tonight as a part of Locale, the gallery's annual "State of the Art" national art invitational.

Locale, curated by Chicago photographer and educator Christopher Schneberger, explores the layers of power and meaning that  location brings to an artist's work. 

Reblando will be taking the audience through, Lathrop Homes — "an examination of race, space, and nature amidst the unending and uneven development of cities," taken at the Julia C. Lathrop Homes, built by the Public Works Administration, on the North Side of Chicago.

Locale

Giertrz Gallery at Parkland College
2400 West Bradley Avenue
Champaign
Lecture with Jason Reblando, Tuesday, November 27, 6:15 p.m.

Locale will run through Saturday, February 2, 2019

Top photo of Girl on Rollerskates, courtesy of artist Jason Reblando and Giertz Gallery

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The future of the Plaza Park will be decided tonight

If you are a dreamer about a better city to live in, and a believer in the idea that collectively, we can build that together, tonight, the Champaign City Council will hear your comments regarding the future of the Plaza Park project

If you are a futurist, and believe that civil engineers and city planners have jobs for a reason, you should come and say so, tonight at City Hall in Downtown Champaign. 

If you understand that the future won't have single owner automobiles at anywhere near the same rate as we do now, come speak your mind. 

If you know in your heart that the role of city government is not only about today, but also very much about tomorrow, join the like-minded and forward-thinking majority to let a neighbor know. 

This project has been on the table, in one form or another, for well over a decade, but only recently has the city council been wise enough, and thoughtful enough, to pursue it as an actuality. We are thankful for that! 

To be clear, it's not the Plaza I wanted at all. When I heard about the project, and provided feedback to them when I was asked to be on the community committee, all four of the key components that I suggested are missing from this rendering. Here they are: 

  • An urban dog park
  • A stage that can handle both free and ticketed shows
  • A unique and thoughtfully designed kid's play area
  • Landscaped hills and topography 

So, yes, I am bummed that none of that made it into the final design. But does that mean I am going to pout and give up on the project? Hell no! I mean, look at the rendering above. That's probably not the way it's going to look in the end — there are other plans to include parking literally within the plaza, which is arguably the dumbest and most ridiculous idea since the movie Ishtar — but by comparison to the soon-to-be worthless parking lot that sits there now, this a helluva lot better.

It hasn't been without discussion, and some very nasty behavior, however. And if you come out tonight, you can probably hear a couple of those people speak. You can laugh quietly at them while they talk about how they are more important than everyone else in the community because they own property, no matter how they attained it. They will attempt to exploit people with special needs and developmental disabilities in our community in order to profit off of them. They will even lie to the city council and the Mayor about their business models. 

It will be quite a show! 

But this city council is a strong one, and smarter than them, and can generally see through bullshit, so it will be fine.

Honestly, this will be fine. Remember that. It will be just fine. 

Nevertheless, if these types of future civic projects matter to you, I encourage you to join the process. The city council is receptive to the voices of their constituents. And that still means something. 

City Council meets at City Hall, located at 102 N Neil St # 1, Champaign, IL 61820 at 7 p.m.

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18th Annual Christie Clinic Parade of Lights

This weekend the Champaign community kicked off the Christmas season with the 18th Annual Christie Clinic Parade of Lights lit with hundreds of floats, marching bands, multiple Grinches, and Santa Claus himself. 

Parents lined the streets with chairs and blankets to bundle up and watch the almost hour-long parade riding through the heart of downtown Champaign. 

Here are some pictures from the night. 

 

Happy holidays! 

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This Black Friday, Shop Local Art Instead

If you're starting your holiday shopping today, consider the gift of locally-made art and photography. 

Art Coop is currently showing their 9th Annual $50 Art Show Benefiting the Champaign County Humane Society (photo above)Local artists working in a variety of styles and genres donated pieces to be sold for a purse-friendly $50. The show will be up till mid-December and several pieces are still available for sale. 100% of your purchase benefits the CCHS. 

Della Perrone at International Galleries

Next, check out local photographer Della Perrone's impressive new show at Interrnational Galleries. Aloft and Rooted, represents some of Perrone's most personal and expressive work.  Here she explores the power of nature to keep us rooted and centered.  Asked about her vision for the show, Perrone noted she had a "tendency to look either low to the ground, or up to the sky," and that this perspective mirrored her recent midset, where she found herself "either trying to keep my feet on the ground in a very uncertain world, or reaching up past it in attempt to hold onto a higher self."

So this season, give the kind of gift that continues to bring to joy and inspiration.  Give art!

Art Coop and International Galleries are both located in Urbana's Lincoln Square Mall.

Photos by Debra Domal