The heat is on in LaFox Metra station shelter

The recent spurt of warm weather aside, Ken Weinberg of Geneva prefers a little heat when waiting for a Metra train on the middle platform at the La Fox station.

For the longest time, there were no heaters in the shelter on that track. Those familiar with waiting for a train in this particular spot realize that looks can be deceiving. Sure, it's an enclosed structure, but the stairs and ramp leading into it create nothing short of a wind tunnel and it is quite cold in this place.

Remember, the morning trains run on the middle track in La Fox, so commuters wait in this shelter all of the time. Also, a Metra commuter can never be quite certain that the trains are running on time. So cold can become colder at any given time.

But at least folks will be a little warmer now. Four new heaters are up and running, thanks to Weinberg seeking the help of Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen for what seemed like a practical, yet elusive, request.

Weinberg said he had been pressing the matter with Metra for the past six years via survey comments and emails, but with no action.

Lauzen made a few calls to the county's Metra board member on the freezing commuters' behalf and it wasn't long before heaters were inside that shelter.

"At a time when nobody seems to be happy with elected officials in Springfield or the national level, it's nice to know there are honest people like Chris Lauzen that not only listen to constituents, but act on their requests," Weinberg said.

There are those who disagree with Lauzen and his politics on occasion, and those who debate how effective he really was during his stint in Springfield. But his calling card for a long time has been an ability to interact and respond to constituents one-on-one. It's a good card to have.

Because Lauzen acted swiftly on the request without an election looming the next week, it convinced Weinberg that this is a public servant who understands the "servant" part of the equation.

"I thanked him personally, but wanted others to know if you're a little warmer waiting for your train at La Fox this winter, thank Chris Lauzen," Weinberg said.

Soft spot for sweets:

The Sweet Natalie's gluten free bakery in downtown Geneva sure knows how to reel me in. Send me an invitation to a "media tasting" event on Fat Tuesday to meet the various bakers who sell their goods at Sweet Natalie's and you might find me camping outside the place the night before.

Either way, I was happy to try the various samples at owner Ilene Keivel's bakery last week, and to confirm what I have suspected for some time: This place has a growing following.

"Those who are vegan or dairy free are starting to discover us, so we have more people coming in all of the time," said Keivel, who has been at the 228 S. Third St. location for four years, and expanded the bakery last summer so the kitchen is in the basement and top floor is the retail setting for gluten-free and allergy friendly treats.

Any number of items at Sweet Natalie's would get thumbs-up from me, but the "Millionaire Bars" were outstanding. I left with very high regard for the salted caramel cheesecake from pastry chef Lorena Allende, a Geneva resident.

Amy Reed Hogrefe of Oak Park, who bakes at Sweet Natalie's three or four days a week, had me sold on her delicious "chicken potpie bites" to be used as a crust.

"People who have to watch their carbs can have an entire pizza here without a problem," Keivel said. "Our pizza crust has one carb."

And did I say all of this was delicious? That's the key for this, or any other, bakery. I have no dietary restrictions of any kind, but do know this: Sweet Natalie's has this bakery thing down to a science.

Just my imagination:

Last week I mentioned that it seemed as if the lot in downtown Geneva at the southwest corner of State and Fourth streets has been empty for 40 years - or close to the amount of time I have been in these parts.

The mind can play tricks on older gents, but for the life of me, I don't remember a Marathon gas station at that corner in the past. And I spent a lot of time back then in what is now Bien Trucha restaurant, next to this empty parcel. It was a newspaper office in the late 1970s, but I still don't recall a gas station right next to it.

But reader Daniel Horvath is certain it is true, even noting that his environmental consultancy company has overhead photos. He's estimating it was there up until about 2002. That's only 15 years ago.

So, other than never purchasing gas at that corner, how is it that my mind still can't see that station there? Others who have been around longer tell me the same thing. The vision of a gas station there is simply long gone.

But the more you think about it, a lot being empty that long doesn't seem practical in a downtown.

For Horvath, it opens an entirely different question. Why isn't there a downtown gas station? He says his neighbors often ask that question, and Geneva is one town that lacks that service. The gas station on East State Street, off Crissey Avenue, is also long gone.

Either way, I appreciate the revelation about the open lot. But the message remains the same. We still hope the property owner finds a willing buyer with a decent project in mind for that parcel.

Let's get digital:

I enjoy glancing through scrapbooks and thumbing through my old photos on occasion, but years from now - or even now - it might not be the best way to enjoy them and preserve these cherished items.

Think of the 35 mm film, audiocassettes, videotapes or those boxes of print photos you may have stored away in a closet or chest.

There is a way to protect these personal and family memories by making digital copies.

The Geneva Public Library wants to show you how during a hands-on class from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, and 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 9, at the library, 127 James St. Information is available at (630) 232-0780.

  The shelter on the middle platform at the La Fox train depot has had heaters installed. A Geneva reader credits Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen with urging Metra to install the heaters. Brian Hill/
Heaters were recently added at the La Fox Metra station. COURTESY OF DAVE HEUN
Sweet Natalie's gluten free bakery in downtown Geneva held a "media tasting" event on Fat Tuesday. COURTESY OF DAVE HEUN
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