My New Favorite Mexican Restaurant In Bloomington-Normal

My wife and I have been searching for a new Mexican restaurant ever since Carlos O’Kelly’s closed its doors.  Yes, that was five years ago.

We’ve tried a few local establishments over time, but nothing really won us over.  In the interim, we’ve made due with Mexican dishes at Chile’s, Applebee’s–you know, those kinds of places.  That’s fine, but we missed an actual authentic Mexican restaurant.  Actually, I don’t know how authentic Carlos O’Kelly’s was, but you get my meaning.

A few week’s ago, on New Year’s Eve, my wife suggested a relatively new Mexican restaurant in town called Hacienda Leon.  We were going out as an entire family to see Mary Poppins Returns, and we wanted to eat together afterward in order to celebrate the holiday.

As we walked in, the size and open layout of the restaurant immediately struck me.  I loved the roominess of the place.  I also really liked the decor and general style.  I’m no expert at that kind of thing, so I’ll simply say everything pleased the eye.

We’ve been back since, and on both occasions the service proved friendly and capable.  The menu is very diverse with a wide range of rates.  You will be able to eat quite affordably if you wish, but there are also some more expensive and elaborate dishes available.  The drink menu also has a lot to offer with some very fair prices.  Both of my children were happy with the kids’ menu and were glad that they could substitute the rice and beans with fries.  By the way, my ten-year-old daughter just told me to tell you that their fries are “delicious.”

I don’t know how “authentic” Hacienda Leon is in terms of cuisine, but as far as I’m concerned, the two meals I ate there were wonderful.  It has instantly become my favorite Mexican restaurant in the area, and probably my second favorite restaurant around here in general.

If you live in the Bloomington-Normal region and crave Mexican fare, I urge you to give Hacienda Leon a chance.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Visit their website to see a photo gallery, their location, and the menu: Hacienda Leon

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Thanks To Dayna Schickedanz and Barnes and Noble

I wanted to take a moment and thank Dayna Schickedanz and Barnes and Noble for the wonderful event they organized.  I had a fantastic time, met several new people, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Dayna and the employees at Barnes and Noble were extremely accommodating and  truly went above and beyond, especially in regards to promoting the experience.  As you can see in the pictures below, they gave it their all!

Thanks also to the friends and family who came out to support me.  Seeing your kind, familiar faces set my nervous heart at ease.  I especially appreciate my in-laws who stayed home with my youngest child who was getting over the croup.  This allowed my wife and other daughter to attend, which meant the world to me.

If you couldn’t make it, no worries.  I received so many well-wishes via social media and regrets — I didn’t expect anyone to personally explain why they couldn’t attend, but I still appreciated the gesture!  There will always be another event, and you will always be invited to attend … whether you like it or not!

To those of you reading Andropia for the first time, I hope it resonates with you.  I hope it speaks to you the way it spoke to me as it demanded to be written.  I hope it inspires you to never stop asking questions, to cherish your independence, to celebrate your identity, and to demand answers from those who would prefer you remain uninformed.

By the way, if you think the poster they made for the event is awesome, that makes two us.  I said as much, so they let me take it home.  Pretty cool, right?

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Let’s Make This Book Reading About You

Our local Barnes and Noble invited me to conduct a book reading tomorrow, and I couldn’t be happier.  It’s truly an honor to be recognized by my community.

That being said, I want to make sure I satisfy everyone’s expectations tomorrow.  I’ve gotten so much positive feedback about the event that I honestly hope to leave everyone with a great feeling.

Typically, most book readings include a chapter reading (duh!) followed by a question and answer session.  Finally, the author sits at a table and (hopefully) signs a few books that people have decided to purchase.  That’s my plan as well because it seems to work.

However, I’d love to shake things up a bit.

I’ve given a few readings in my day, and I’ve also attended several by other authors.  It’s always a fine line.  Keep your reading and Q&A session too brief and you don’t capture people’s interest.  Go on for too long and you bore people to death, which prompts their immediate retreat.

As a teacher, I’m accustomed to reading facial expressions.  I can tell when I’ve got an engaged audience, and I know when I’m losing everyone.  Typically, I react accordingly.

That being said, I’d like to know what you would like to experience while attending tomorrow’s reading.  Is there anything in particular you would like to see or hear from an author?  Just like with my classroom lessons, I’m always looking for ways to spice things up.

So sound off!  Be heard!  I would very much appreciate your thoughts in the comment section below …

I can’t wait to see you tomorrow!  Remember, the event is Sunday, October 21st, at 2:00 p.m.  I’ll be there until 4:00 p.m.  Barnes and Noble will have plenty of copies available of my science fiction novel, Andropia.  See you soon!

 

 

 

Top 10 Reasons You Should Come See Me At Barnes and Noble On Sunday, October 21st at 2:00 p.m.

10.  There’s a very good chance I’ll accidentally wear the same outfit I’ve worn to other events — be sure to point it out to me

9.  Barnes and Noble has 50 copies of Andropia available, so there’s plenty for everyone

8.  You will be entertained one way or the other — I have been known to accidentally spit, knock over furniture, and have things fall out of my nose

7.  You’ll probably get a chance to meet my mom

6.  The seriously talented artist named Jude Landry created Andropia’s book cover — that’s reason enough to procure a copy

5.  Me … reading in public to a room full of people … yeah, what could go wrong?

4.  There’s a cafe on site with really good coffee

3.  There will be plenty of references to 1984, Anthem, The Giver, and Brave New World

2.  The good people at Barnes and Noble are super nice — two of them are even former students of mine!

1.  You’ll be a good friend supporting a lifelong passion

Honorable Mention

Andropia will entertain you, I promise

Andropia Cover Paint

 

Do You Like Vintage Arcade Games? Visit Arcadia In McLean, IL!

If you like vintage arcade and pinball machine games, you have to visit Arcadia in McLean, IL.  McLean is about 20 minutes south of Bloomington along Interstate 55.  It’s a very small town, but this arcade makes it well worth the trip!

Arcadia is nestled within an old building, but they’ve made it about as charming as they can.  The lighting is very pleasing, there’s a jukebox, I loved the hardwood floors, and–best of all–they’ve got great games!

If you’re looking for the original Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Galaga, and tons of awesome pinball machines, this is the place for you!  They’ve also got old racing games, fighter jet simulations, sport games, and old school versions of Terminator, Tron, Star Wars, and Aliens.  I even got my tail kicked by Mortal Kombat II.

Plus, each game is either 25 or 50 cents.  Don’t have a ton of change on you?  They’ve got two change machines that can take singles, fives, and twenties, so you’re in luck.  We had a few cases of our quarters being eaten, but overall everything operated as expected.

We’re not huge into video games, yet this place kept us entertained for about an hour and a half before we ran out of quarters.  For the experienced gamer, I suspect those quarters would go a lot farther.

If you live in the area, I totally recommend that you give Arcadia a visit.  There are a few places to eat in town such as a Dixie truck stop, a Blimpie, and a McDonald’s.  Remember, McLean is in McLean County, so be sure to search the actual town, not the county.

Apparently Arcadia even has rooms to rent if you’d like to spend the night–and they look pretty nice!  To learn more, visit their website …

Arcadia: America’s Playable Arcade Museum

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Regarding The Castle Theatre, Penny & Sparrow, and Delta Rae

A few years ago I discovered a cool video with a great song called Bottom Of the River.  I tracked down the artists to find they were a young band out of North Carolina called Delta Rae.  I followed them casually for a few years while listening to their music intermittently.

A few weeks ago I saw through a Facebook post that Delta Rae would soon perform at The Castle Theatre, a local venue located in Bloomington, IL.  Though I’d heard fantastic things about The Castle from friends, I’d never personally visited.  I decided I’d probably never have a chance to see Delta Rae again, so I immediately bought two tickets for reserved seats.

Last night (November 30th, 2016) marked what I believe to be their second stop on the Winter Acoustic Tour.  My wife and I could not be more glad we attended their show.

First, let me offer a few words about The Castle.  I have to be honest, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the staff.  The Castle had some very large men working, but they were all incredibly polite and friendly.  Granted, I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side because some of them were the size of small mountains, but they went out of their way to make us feel welcome and even showed us to our reserved seats (which turned out to be stools).  The Castle itself is a historic theatre, and while its age showed, it also oozed charm.  We had front row balcony seats, and though the stools weren’t terribly comfortable, we had a straight view of the stage that couldn’t be beaten.  We definitely plan to visit The Castle again.  If you live in the BloNo area, make a point to take in a show.

You can check out their upcoming shows HERE.

The opening act featured a duo called Penny & Sparrow.  Truthfully – I’d never heard of the guys.  They got up on the stage wearing ugly Christmas sweaters.  One of them had nothing more than a microphone.  The other wielded a guitar with his microphone.  That was it.  No lights.  No props.  Just two microphones and one guitar.  Furthermore, these guys, frankly, did not exactly exude performers, musicians, or entertainers at first glance.  They looked a lot like guys who might be sitting in a booth next to me at a coffee shop.  Well, the minute they started singing, they proved they were supremely talented.  Their voices were powerful, they harmonized seamlessly, and their songs were absolutely beautiful.  It became apparent very soon that their tempo and pace moved slowly, but the lyrics and the melody haunted my wife and me, and I mean that as a compliment.  As a final unexpected act, between songs, they had the audience rolling.  These two men were hilarious.  They said they were best friends, and they way they bantered with each other and the audience, I believe it.  They played off of each other as only real friends can.  It proved really fun to have your soul wrenched during the music and then find yourself laughing uncontrollably when they addressed us.  Get ready for some serious deadpan when you see them.  Make no mistake, you definitely need to see them.  My wife and I immediately downloaded their album on the way home.  We found that we much prefer their “live” sound compared to their recordings.  Again, that’s meant as a compliment.

Oh, and their Christmas music?  (Don’t forget the sweaters.)  Their Christmas songs were a true pleasure.  They even have a new album aptly titled Christmas Songs.

You can visit Penny & Sparrow HERE.

As for Delta Rae – they were amazing.  The folks can flat-out sing.  Though their performance was far more “produced” than Penny & Sparrow with lights, blowing fans, and multiple instruments, those things did not overshadow their magnificent voices.  In fact, my favorite song of the night, O Come O Come Emmanuel, did not utilize a single instrument and showcased the true beauty of their voices.  While they played some of their more popular songs such as Bottom Of the River, they also performed some unexpected works including a little snippet of I Want To Dance With Somebody.  Though they were a little more stiff than Penny & Sparrow and lacked some of their opening act’s spontaneity, Delta Rae absolutely entertained the audience, and, in my case, even awed.  To have such talent – such virtuosity with instruments along with flawless voices – they were inspiring.

I also want to add that this show occurred on a cold, Wednesday night.  The Castle wasn’t even half full.  My wife and I were but a handful of people in the balcony.  I can’t imagine what runs through a band’s mind, especially one that is nationally known, to look out and see an already cozy venue only half full.  But you know what?  To Delta Rae’s credit, they performed as though thousands watched.  Though low-key, even a little awkward, between songs, these talented men and women were explosive when singing and playing.  They practically crackled with energy.  I’m not saying they were slamming into walls and smashing guitars, I’m saying they were clearly giving it everything they had.  I appreciated that kind of passion, respect, and work ethic regarding their art, their performance, and their audience.

You can visit Delta Rae HERE.

If you have a chance to see Delta Rae, along with Penny & Sparrow, I completely recommend you do so.  My wife and I had a wonderful experience with these bands.  They made us completely forget we had work the next morning.  We were absolutely content to listen to them for as long as they wanted to play.

Here’s a little picture I took with my phone.  I wasn’t sure if it was proper etiquette or not, but I wanted a physical memory, you know?

My deep thanks to The Castle, Penny & Sparrow, and Delta Rae for a delightful night.

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On Working With Sandy Vick of Wintrust Mortgage

Years ago, in 2010, my wife and I needed a mortgage broker.  A trusted source recommended Sandy Vick to us.  We were pleased with the experience, but in the chaos of building a home, Sandy’s service got lost in the mix.  I did remember liking and trusting her, however, and so in the last few months, when we wanted to refinance, we tracked her down and gave her a call.

Now with the entire process complete, I can authentically tell you that the experience with Sandy proved exceptional.  We appreciated her professionalism, her expertise, her patience, and also her willingness to accommodate our schedules. Furthermore, she responded quickly to emails and phone calls and made herself available literally at any time of day or night. We felt completely at ease as we worked with her because of her obvious trustworthy character and good humor. Sandy exceeded our expectations at every level.

If you live in the Bloomington-Normal area and you’re looking to take out a mortgage or refinance, I wholeheartedly recommend Sandy Vick.

You can reach Sandy at the following …

Mobile: (309) 706-6539

Address:205 North Williamsburg Drive, Suite A, Bloomington, IL, 61704

Email:svick@wintrustmortgage.com

Website:loanswithsandyvick.com

Sandy Marshall Vick