Comfort food, expensive wine, feel-good services like spa treatments, small luxuries like designer handbags, and splurges on remodeling extras like heated bathroom floors are on the increase. In times of insecurity, a quick escape for instant gratification replaces long-range planning and saving for a rainy day.

How many times lately have we gone for comfort food? Family recipes—often simple, but high in fat and carbohydrates—seem to create a feeling of satisfaction. Even though I’ve not understood the region’s fascination with Krispy Kreme’s, my office has downed more donuts and chocolate this year as we waited for CNN breaking news on our computer monitors.

Notice the increase in spa salons and services in central Illinois? You don’t have to go to a metropolitan city or high-priced resort to be pampered in style. Specialty and designer retail stores are doing well. Why not spend today on these little indulgences while we can, if spending more time at home, remodeling, or redecorating brighten one’s spirits?

There’s been a renewed interest in living in the Heartland, too, as the attraction of skyscrapers in large coastal cities has lost some of their glitter. It’s long been true that living in the Midwest is less expensive. The latest statistics reported in Peoria Progress Plays confirm if you make $100,000 in Peoria, you’d need to make $278,330 in Manhattan to have the same buying power.

Gas, food, housing—even Broadway theater and movie tickets—are less expensive than the East Coast. And surprising to outsiders, the Heartland is not dull!

With people staying closer to home, local events are also more appealing. Central Illinois continues to be home to almost every venue available in larger metropolitan areas. Just as the perception of the Midwest as being low-tech has transformed into recognition of its high-technology organizations, the perception of no culture in the middle of boring cornfields is being replaced.

A busy, expanding Civic Center, Lakeview Museum, Glen Oak Zoo, the new Shoppes at Grand Prairie, O’Brien Field, parks, and exciting new restaurants can keep one entertained every day and night.

Each month Arts Alive! showcases the arts and cultural and entertainment events scheduled. Check out our new section called “48 Hours,” specially designed for those who get stuck in a rut, but also a great event planner for a newcomer or visitor.

We often forget how comfortable it is to live in our community. To be sure, college students, reservists, and native central Illinoisans living abroad long for the Heartland at times. Take comfort! AA!