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Shaka Smart’s mom throws shade at Illinois

We get it: Shaka Smart didn't want to come to Illinois to be the head basketball coach once upon a time for one reason or the next. That's fine. He kept coaching at VCU, and had a successful run before taking the head coaching job at Texas this past offseason.

Though the Champaign Room has pointed out some interesting words Shaka Smart's mother, Monica King, had to say about Illinois (via ESPN):

Champaign-Urbana, home to the University of Illinois: A place in "southern Illinois with no diversity"? Sure, everything south of I-80 might seem like southern Illinois to someone who doesn't really know what they're talking about, but "no diversity"? C'mon now, Monica.

Sure, there's plenty of room for improvement on that front, but calling C-U a place that has "no diversity" is just plain misinformed.

Top photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images.


Art at Aroma combines old with new

Jason Kohlmann has some digital photographs displayed at Aroma Cafe that are quite interesting. he has taken old photographs of the airefoce base in Rantoul and combined them with current day photographs. The result is a split screen view of the old, shiny, new base melded with the now falling down, gritty looking base. I would recommend stopping in for an iced coffee and having a look. They are impressive. Otherwise check them out on the web


Berlin to headline Saturday night at Urbana Sweetcorn Festival

More announcements are coming through for this year's Urbana Sweetcorn Festival: Berlin will join The Psychedelic Furs as headliners for the festival, as announced by the festival this morning.

Check out the lineup below, and the press release that accompanies the announcement. With two nights of headlining acts, things are bulking up for the festival's 40th anniversary celebration.

From the press release:


URBANA, Il.—On August 28 and 29, 2015, a variety of local, regional and national musicians and performers spanning a wide range of genres will gather in downtown Urbana for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. The Urbana Business Association presents the festival to the community each year and is excited to announce more musicians set to take the festival’s stages.

On Saturday, August 29, the Los Angeles-based synth-pop group Berlin will headline the festival’s Main Stage. Perhaps best known for their 1986 single “Take My Breath Away,” the love theme from the Tom Cruise movie “Top Gun,” the band also boasts seven albums and numerous other singles.

The Psychedelic Furs will also headline the festival’s Main Stage on Friday, August 28. The English rock band is best known for hits such as “Love My Way,” “Heartbreak Beat” and “Pretty in Pink,” of the eponymous John Hughes movie fame.

The Furs will be supported by Australian-based new wave band The Church, known for their singles “Under the Milky Way” and “The Unguarded Moment.”

Local acts performing on the Main Stage and the One Community Together Stage include Sun Stereo, Tigerbeat, Cody & the Gateway Drugs, Mike Ingram & the New Souls, Tara Terra, The Diva & the Dude, Oshwa, Bruiser & the Virtues, Prairie Dogs, Traditional Jazz Orchestra, Bowdacious String Band & BBL Fine Arts Jazz Ensemble, Champaign Park District Dance Arts School, Bali Lantari and the marching bands from Urbana, Central and Centennial High Schools.

Recently confirmed is the return of the CU Folk & Roots Festival Stage, back for a second year. The entertainment for this stage will be released at a later date this summer.

In addition to live music, the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival is also widely known for its local vendors, a range of kid’s activities, the Motor Muster Car Show—and of course—delicious and buttery Illinois sweet corn. For more information, visit www.urbanasweetcornfestival.com.


Apricot Lane’s social media presence is stellar

Ordering clothes online is sort of a crapshoot — it’s super convenient and if you’ve ordered from a website before you typically have a pretty decent idea of what your size in certain items are. However, not everything in your size fits just right.

Sometimes the exact same pair of joggers that you ordered from a website that you’ve visited and ordered from before fit drastically different and then you have to sit on a live web chat with a stranger who doesn’t understand why you’re returning a pair of joggers that you really like for the exact same size in hopes that the pair you just received were a manufacturing error and you haven’t somehow gotten shorter by three inches.

Sometimes that stuff happens.

But part of the convenience and allure of doing the online shopping thing is that you get to look at clothes and there’s a sense of immediacy and speed with which you can scroll through items that you might enjoy, and stuff that you don’t think would look great on you. It’s essentially window shopping from your couch.

Typically, I’m drawn towards well taken photos and a little bit of hype surrounding the clothes I’m buying. For instance, the aforementioned joggers were highlighted in a promo email I received and they had a great photo to boot. I ordered them. It was simple — except that I had to wait two weeks for them to arrive.

Locally, your mega-chain stores at the mall and the big box shops never really seem to have the same stuff that they list on their sites or include in their promo emails. It’s infuriating. There are truly very few places that do a great job of promoting their products that they carry in-store and give you a pretty detailed description of how they fit.

As little as I know about women’s fashion, Apricot Lane’s social media presence is outstanding at informing customers and fans about new arrivals, prices, and fits. It’s pretty impressive and I’m a bit jealous that there aren’t men’s stores that are capable of doing the same thing. Multiple times a day, Apricot Lane posts some of their latest pieces and gives a number of details on each one. Check out this example: 

#141CUJUN This navy and white striped dress is an Employee Favorite! Simple and classic!Dress: $42Emily is 5'7...

Posted by Apricot Lane Champaign-Urbana on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The beauty of this, though, is that customers can actually go to their shop on Green St. and then try on the items and walk out with them the same day. It’s just a better way to shop and for the women of Champaign, Apricot Lane is doing a great job of making the experience as easy as possible.


Free ESL Classes for Unit 4 Parents

Unit 4 is hosting an ESL Academy for parents. It's a great way for parents who are non-native English speakers to learn the language so that they are better equipped to help their children with schoolwork.

From the release:

Free adult ESL classes for parents of Champaign Unit 4 Schools students will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from June 18 until July 30 from 6:00 until 7:30 p.m. at the Mellon Administrative Center (703 South New Street, Champaign).

The classes allow parents to practice their English and learn how to help their children in school. Childcare is provided.

Hosted by the Champaign Unit 4 ESL/Bilingual Education Department, the classes are taught by volunteers from the Master of Arts in the Teaching of English as a Second Language program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

A program graduation will be held on July 30 that includes a picnic and awards ceremony for participants in the class.

Space is limited. Call Kat Kolumban at (717) 977-1597 to register for the Adult ESL Academy.


Urbana Mayor Prussing wins Climate Leadership Award

Congrats to Mayor Prussing and the City of Urbana as they were given an honorable mention in the United States Conference of Mayors ENERGY STAR Challenge. Mayor Prussing helped push local buildings and businesses to reduce energy consumption and to go a bit more "green."

From the Release:

The United States Conference of Mayors has presented Mayor Prussing and the City of Urbana an Honorable Mention award in the Small City category for the accomplishments of the Urbana-Champaign ENERGY STAR Challenge.  The United States Conference of Mayors is an organization of 1,407 cities which supports mayors in developing tools, policies, and relationships to meet urban needs.  The award was presented at the organization’s annual meeting in San Francisco, CA on June 19, 2015.

The Urbana-Champaign ENERGY STAR Challenge engaged building owners and managers to benchmark, track, and improve their building energy performance in 2014, as compared to a 2013 benchmark with the U.S.EPA’s free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. High performing buildings were recognized with awards in March 2015 in the categories of Best ENERGY STAR Score, Best Energy Use Intensity, Best ENERGY STAR Score Improvement, and Best Energy Use Intensity Improvement.

The goals were to successfully engage 50 buildings to register for the Challenge, 25 buildings to submit an energy benchmark, 10 buildings to reduce energy consumption, and 5 new buildings to achieve ENERGY STAR Certification. The Urbana-Champaign ENERGY STAR Challenge has achieved 68 Participants and 43 Building Benchmarks, with 15 buildings reducing energy consumption and four qualified for ENERGY STAR Certification. (Similar programs in cities with larger populations and many
more commercial buildings have produced comparable results).

Based on participants’ ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager accounts, 15 buildings improved energy performance reducing greenhouse emissions by 2,801 metric tons CO2 equivalent.  This equals the carbon sequestered by 71,744 tree seedlings grown for 10 years, or the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 593 passenger cars.

For more information, visit http://ucenergychallenge.com or contact Scott Tess at 217-384-2381 or srtess@urbanaillinois.us.


Prairie Fruits Farm Open House tonight, 4-6 p.m.

If you haven't already been to the Prairie Fruits Farm Wednesday open house, you're missing out. Check out this afternoon's line-up (hello, sangria sorbetto!):

We've got some new gelato and sorbetto flavors for you to try including:

Fresh Mint Stracciatella
Red Currant Sorbetto
House-made Sangria Sorbetto (for adults only)

We'll also have a few of the popular standards such as Salted-Caramel Swirl. 

We have plenty of cheese for you to try and buy too:

Fresh chevre
Bloomy rind cheeses
Huckleberry Blue

Seven Sisters Farm will be bringing us lots more pasture-raised hen eggs AND fresh (yes, you heard right) pastured broilers ($4/lb.--very reasonable price considering these birds are fresh not frozen) and a few poussin (this is the french version of cornish hens; these are frozen). 

Looking for some artisan sausages to accompany those chickens on your grill? Try some Piedmonte Sausages--these pork and chicken sausages are made right here in Champaign-Urbana using old world recipes. 

Tomahnous Farm will have ORGANIC BLUEBERRIES along with a great selection of early summer veggies. Heirloominous Farm has the most fantastic breakfast radishes along with succulent kale. 

Stewart's Artisan Breads will have an assortment of rustic breads, bagels, cookies and granola. 

Laurence, the Knife Dude, returns to the farm, fresh from vacation, to sharpen your knives while you shop and visit with the goats.  

Prairie Fruits Farm is located at 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign.