Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chicago Skyline From St Joseph, Michigan

Over the last few years I've been told repeatedly that "when the atmospheric conditions are just right you can see Chicago from St Joseph". I've looked and I've looked but until a few months ago I've not had much luck. I thought I saw industrial smoke rising from smokestacks a few time but no discernible downtown buildings. Since last fall I've seen bits of the Chicago skyline from St Joseph a number of times.

Here is one example of the photos I have of the Chicago skyline from St Joe. You'll have to click on the image to see it larger.

I suspect there are a few factors that have to come into play for a good viewing.

  • Crisp, clear air
  • Clear skies over Chicago
  • A calm lake
  • Low lake levels
  • Knowing where to look
The image above was taken at sunset on December 4, 2012 from Lookout Park in St Joseph.

Whenever I take in a Lake Michigan sunset I look to the southwest to see if I can see Chicago. And every once in a while I get lucky. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


There are two great public locations in St Joseph devoted to the arts, the Krasl Art Center (which I've mentioned numerous times on this blog) and the Box Factory for the Arts. We've been to the Box Factory several times now and I'm at a loss to explain why I haven't written about it before. But, evidently I haven't.

The Box Factory is currently hosting an exhibit that has me all excited. It's called, SHOOT!, and it's an all-photography exhibit... a first for the Box Factory. The Box Factory is dedicated to featuring local artists from Berrien County and Michiana and this exhibit features photographers from Berrien County and Michiana. And the best part of it, in my opinion, is that it's an "open" show. In this case "open" means it's not a juried show, your art work doesn't have to be judged as "good enough" to be a part of the show. It's open to all levels of photographers from those using cell-phone cameras to high end DSLRs.

The exhibit takes up all three galleries, 2 on the main floor and one in the basement. Each photo on display must belong to one of 4 categories: nature, animals, people, or still life. There were prizes awarded in each of the 4 categories as well as one for best of show. As one might guess, the most popular subject for the nature photographers in our area was the St Joseph lighthouses!

Friday, January 18th was the show opening. There was a good crowd for the artist's reception from 5:30-7:30pm. I'm sure most people came to see the photos but there was a nice array of food too.

I enjoyed the exhibit and if I'd known about it earlier I would definitely have entered a couple of my own photos in it. There's talk that the Box Factory will feature an all-photography exhibit again in the future. I hope that's true! I've also heard that future photography exhibits will be juried. I hope that's NOT true! Perhaps the Box Factory will compromise and have 2 photo exhibits a year and make one juried and one open. One can always hope!

I will leave you now with the photo that won "best in show". What do you think? Do you like it? You should come see all the photos in the exhibit and decide for yourself! The exhibit runs from January 18 through February 24, 2013.

See you at the Box!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Our New Favorite Restaurant

Who likes to eat? raise your hand. Good. I see many raised hands out there! Well, here's a special treat for you, a 4.5 star restaurant review. :-) I'm not a food critic, we all know that. But I like to eat and I like to appreciate the dining experience, whether it's a picnic on a beach or fine dining at an upscale eatery. Today's review is for the later, an upscale eatery.

This is the club house for Harbor Shores, the golf course, and the home of The Grille at Harbor Shores, the restaurant. D, L, Jo and I dined there last Sunday and it was a very pleasurable experience. Let me share that experience with you in words and photos.

The decor in The Grille is a perfect balance of elegant and casual so that you'd feel comfortable in there dressed in khakis and a polo shirt after a round of golf or in a suit and tie/dress for a special occasion. The colors are fresh and a tad nautical, a nod no doubt to nearby Lake Michigan. The look is a little clubsy with the dark wood book shelves and bar. It conveys a feeling of coziness and tradition.

Our waiter, Michael, could be described in two words, charm and grace. He was attentive without being intrusive, confident enough to make suggestions, and he picked up right away on the fact that L and Jo were vegan/vegetarian diners. I know some people cringe at that idea but let's face it, many of us have special dietary needs these days, myself included. It's really appreciated when the wait staff and chef can accommodate that. It's even better when the staff can do it with a smile, as Michael did.

Our meals started out with bread, soups, and salad. The bread was warm, fresh, and tasty. Everybody approved and enjoyed it. D, L, and Jo chose the vegetable soup and were delighted with it. I am ever conscious of my sodium intake so I chose the house salad. And I too was delighted with my choice. The greens were fresh. The dried cherries and almond slivers added a nice balance to the red onion and cheese. I had ranch dressing with mine but there were several other choices. It was a nice change of pace from the usual house salad of lettuce with cucumbers and tomatoes. Thanks to Michael for suggesting it!

My choice of entree was the pan grilled salmon. As you can see it was served with green beans and rice. This was a wonderfully prepared dish. I specified that I wanted my salmon well done and it was done perfectly... cooked all the way through but not dried or tough. I choose salmon often when I dine out and I must say that this was the best I've ever had. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside and seared to slightly crispy outside. Perfect. And tasty! The green beans were tender crisp and the rice was flavorful without tasting too salty. Can't ask for or expect better.

L had the pasta primavera and she loved it. This photo doesn't do justice to how large a portion it was but trust me, it was very generous. L is not exactly a vegetarian but not of fan of meat either. She likes meals that are light and flavorful and this fit the bill very nicely for her. She said she would love to come back to The Grille and she would order the same thing again.

Jo chooses to live the vegan lifestyle so he chose the vegetable ratatouille.He too love his meal. And isn't the presentation colorful and inviting? It can be difficult to dine out when someone in your party is vegan. But it's no hardship at The Grille! Jo said his meal was prepared well, nothing over or under done, with lots of good flavors and textures. He said he would rate The Grille as 5 stars!

D's selection was the pan seared sea scallops with lobster ravioli. He could not have been more pleased with his choice. The scallops were tender crisp, the lobster ravioli (which I tasted) was heavenly, and the sauce was luscious. I think he grinned all throughout dinner. He said he will definitely be back for more!

I should add that D and Jo enjoyed a glass of the local Livery's pale ale which was on tap at The Grille. They have been fans of that brew for some time and were delighted to see it as a beverage choice. L and I drank water, as usual.

If I could end my review here it would be a 5-star review. But I have to be honest and say that the dessert offerings were disappointing to me. Our family will happily skip over an appetizer before the entree in favor of dessert after it any day of the week. It would have been a fabulous ending to a fabulous meal if only we had enjoyed a dessert on par with the bread, soup, salad, and entrees. That was not the case. We had three options for dessert (2 were chocolate so that's a thumbs up ;-) and they were out of one of them. The one shown above was the molten chocolate cake. It was good but not great. The ice cream was ordinary rather than premium. The cake was moist but ordinary. It wasn't a bad choice, I just wanted to be wowed like I was with the entrees and I wasn't when it came to dessert.

Because dessert is something I so look forward to I would have given my overall experience at The Grille a 4-star rating but since L, Jo, and D all pleaded with me not to criticized them too heavily because of the lackluster dessert I'm going to concede and go with a 4.5 star rating. They are right, it really was a wonderful meal. The folks at The Grille have much to be proud of and diners in the area have much to be pleased with. If you haven't yet eaten at The Grille I would encourage you to. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Oh, and they have a lovely patio for al fresco dining if you're so inclined. We would have enjoyed that I'm sure but it was very hot and windy the day we were there and eating inside seemed like a better choice.

For more information you can visit the The Grille at Harbor Shores web site.

[Disclaimer: No one in our party was compensated for this review.]

Monday, June 11, 2012

White Water Fun

It's not like you need to search for water fun outside of St Joseph. After all, St Joseph has 3 beaches on Lake Michigan within the city limits. And it has the Whirlpool Fountain for those who are so inclined. And of course you can learn to surf and kite board at the Third Coast Surf Shop. And let's not forget that you can rent a kayak at Outpost Sports and play in Lake Michigan's waves. So there are lots of options for water play right in St Joseph. But let's just say you wanted to try something different...

... like white water rafting! Where would you go... Colorado? Kentucky? Virginia? What about South Bend, Indiana? Now I'm not saying that the rafting in South Bend is equal to what you'd find in Colorado, or Kentucky, or Virginia, but I'm suggesting that you can have a lot of run rafting much closer to Michigan.

South Bend, Indiana has a rafting/kayaking course called the East Race Waterway. It's right in the heart of downtown South Bend which puts it roughly 45 minutes (by car) from St Joseph. The water source is the St Joseph River, the very same one that empties into Lake Michigan at the city of St Joseph, Michigan. It's only open weekends during the summer months but that's prime rafting time anyway.

We made the trip down to the East Race last weekend which was the opening weekend for this season. The air temp was in the 90s and the cool river water was very refreshing. D, L, & Jo are adrenalin junkies so they were more than happy to give it a try. I stood along the river to take pictures... hey, someone had to do it! (I am so NOT an adrenalin junkie. ;-) There is a fee of $5 per person to go down the course in a raft which is provided to you along with the paddles, helmet, and life vests. Kayaks are allowed on the East Race ($15/day pass) but you have to bring your own. There are none to rent.

The water moves along quite well and you will no doubt get wet. You are advised to bring a change of clothes if you don't want to ride home in wet clothes. However, there is no clothes changing area. :-( They have a porta-potty but that's it. We brought clothes to change into but opted to air dry for a few minutes and ride home in damp clothes. It wasn't all that bad.

My adrenaline-loving family members really enjoyed themselves and made three trips down the course. No doubt about it, we'll be back again before the summer is over. If you're looking for something different to do not far from St Joseph, give the East Race a try. I think you'll enjoy it!

And don't forget your sunscreen!

More information about East Race can be gotten here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Beach, Golf, Parade... Memorial Day Weekend 2012

It's as if the lake is poised and waiting for the sunbathers, sailboaters, and swimmers. Memorial Day weekend is the traditional beginning of the summer season and the time when everyone's thoughts turn to the beach. We have one of the best, here in St Joseph. It was bare of beach goers this morning but then it is just Friday and many are still at work waiting for the weekend to begin. The weather forecast is for a very hot weekend (temps near or above 90 all three days) but the lake water is still quite cold (upper 50s). Whether you are a beach lover or not, there is plenty happening in St Joseph this weekend.

The Senior PGA Championship is being held at Harbor Shores this weekend. The community has been abuzz about this event for months now. Yesterday was the first of the four days of the tournament. The picture above was taken this morning showing the leader board after yesterday's rounds.

The golfers were at it again today with much more pleasant weather (very windy yesterday). The course is said to be quite challenging in the best of conditions. It was just beautiful out there this morning when I was taking pictures.

The towns of Benton Harbor and St Joseph have been preparing for months for this event. There is ample parking, lots of restaurants and shops waiting for patrons, and a welcoming smile around every corner. There are signs welcoming the PGA participants and spectators all throughout town. And because it is also Memorial Day weekend, the town has donned its red, white, and blue, for the holiday.

The was a parade at noon today honoring our nation's heroes, the veterans. There were several military vehicles in the parade which were quite popular with those watching.

You might think, from this picture, that seniors were the only ones enjoying the parade. But you'd be quite wrong. People of all ages were standing along the parade route.

Oh, and there's nothing quite like the patriotic sounds of a marching band! It really helped create the ambiance of the parade.

And to top it all off, there were a few floats with very pretty girls on them!

It's been a picture-perfect day so far and a great beginning to the holiday weekend. What are you doing this weekend? You should head on over to St Joseph and enjoy the beaches, the PGA golf tournament, the shops and restaurants, the Children's Museum and carousel, the fountain, the Krasl Art Center, the Arts District in Benton Harbor, unbeatable Lake Michigan sunsets, and so much more! Come visit us and enjoy our charming brick-lined streets, horse drawn carriage rides, and picturesque parks. St Joseph is ready and waiting for you!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Small Business Saturday, The Christmas Tree

Pretty much everyone has heard of Black Friday. And many people have heard of Cyber Monday. But "Small Business Saturday" is a new retail campaign that's just getting started. I'm a big fan of Small Business Saturday because I believe in buying local and supporting the Michigan economy. So yesterday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I went shopping. Locally.

I'd been meaning to get out to see The Christmas Tree shop in Benton Harbor for some time now but I just never made time to do it. Until yesterday. Yesterday I made a point of driving out to The Christmas Tree shop to see what the store had to offer. I already have my Christmas tree up and decorated. The theme is "St Joseph". I have lots of nautical and carousel ornaments, a few Chicago, St Joseph, and Saugatuck ornaments, a handful of beachy ornaments, and a nice collection of glass balls to add to the mix. I'm always on the lookout for more ornaments in keeping with my theme and that's what I had in mind to look for at The Christmas Tree.

The Christmas Tree is located 4 miles north of St Joseph on M-63 (at the blinking light intersection, Paw Paw Ave/Mizpah Park Rd. make a left heading west and it's on your right).

When you enter the building and turn to your right you'll enter the Christmasy side of the shop.

You can browse for a good long time here because there are lots of interesting displays.

Some are arranged by style, some by color.

They have a large selection of ornaments, lights, and home decor, all moderately priced. One thing I really appreciated was that they didn't carry the same ole, same ole displays you see in the retail chain stores... Hallmark, Thomas Kincaid, Christopher Radko, etc. They had a nice eclectic selection of items, many I hadn't seen before.

And check this out, they even had a couple upside down Christmas trees! Very cool!

If you're interested in shopping for gifts, or non Christmas decor,  make a left as you enter the shop...

There's something for everyone! But wait, there's more... keep going and you'll come into the room of tasty treats!

They have a table of samples all set up for your tasting pleasure. I highly recommend their chocolate pretzels and mint dip. NOT TO BE MISSED!

The ladies at the checkout were very friendly and helpful. If you can't find what you're looking for, just ask them. That's what I did when I couldn't find a new ornament for my St Joseph collection.

They had the perfect ornament and it is now hanging on my tree. It's pure Michigan!

The Christmas Tree is open 7 days a week from now until Christmas. Their address is: 2675 Mizpah Park Road, Benton Harbor MI 49022. Phone: 269-849-3360. Website:

Head out to The Christmas Tree and find that special ornament for your tree and support the local economy while you're at it. Spread a little Christmas cheer locally this holiday season!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

RyeBelles of St Joseph

Last evening D and I had the pleasure of dining at St Joseph's newest restaurant, RyeBelles. It opened last week and this is the first opportunity we had to check it out. RyeBelles is located at 518 Broad Street, on the 2nd level just above Bloomies and Cabanas.

You enter here and can take the stairs or the elevator to the second floor. RyeBelles is on the right and the Cassava Restaurant is on the left.

As soon we entered the restaurant we were greeted by the hostess and seated immediately. The first thing we noticed about RyeBelles was that it's a "bring your date" restaurant not a "bring your kids" spot.

The place is tastefully decorated in a subtle, dark, intimate way. With its black ceiling, dark wood walls, and dim lighting (we arrived just at 5pm as they were dimming the lights), it sets the mood for a relaxed dining experience. And in the middle of the room, making a statement by taking up most of the room, is the bar.

We were seated near the prominent fireplace which was both warm and welcoming. I'm sure this spot will be a big hit during the cold winter months. It threw a cozy heat that was much appreciated on a cold November day.

The tables wore black linen cloths topped with tan paper, white cloth napkins, and amber candle holders. It says casual, elegant dining. This restaurant would be right at home on the streets of Chicago and is a nice addition to the streets of St Joseph.

There are lots of windows in RyeBelles. Looking north you see Broad Street, looking south you see the Boulevard Inn, and looking west you get a stunning view of Lake Michigan and Lake Bluff Park. I believe there is a deck on the third floor for open air dining in the summer. Here are a couple pics of the view looking west.
The view of Lake Bluff Park will be absolutely charming once the holiday lights are lit for the season!

So then, let's get on to the food and beverage offerings. The menu offers appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pizza, entrees, and a wine list. Each entree comes with fresh bread, a choice of soup or a salad, and a side dish. We opted not to have an appetizer because we're more dessert people. D had a beer as I glanced over the wine list. Here was my big disappointment in Ryebelles... only one local wine on the list! When a restaurant is located right in the middle of Michigan's "wine country" this is a real shame. I would have liked to have seen one third to one half of the wine selection be local Michigan wines. There are so many great ones to choose from!

Now, let's eat! The bread was perfectly done. I'm something of a critic when it comes to bread because my grandparents owned a bakery in Detroit and I grew up with smells of fresh bread baking in my mom's kitchen. So I was delighted with the warm, fresh, just-the-right-amount-of-crispy bread topped with Parmesan cheese and a generous serving of whipped butter.
I ordered soup with my entree. My choices were chicken noodle or roasted red pepper. I chose the chicken noodle because I adore a good chicken soup. My photo of the soup didn't do it justice so I won't include it here. The soup was fabulous. I really appreciate a soup that isn't over-the-top with sodium. This one wasn't. It was flavorful without tasting salty. Bravo!

D ordered a salad with his entree. The house dressing is an Italian style vinaigrette. He really enjoyed it.

For our entrees I ordered the white fish and D ordered scallops. We tend to order seafood when we dine out just because I don't like to smell up my kitchen cooking it at home. But there were many other choices on the menu including chicken and steaks.
The portion sizes were generous, the food was hot, the asparagus was tender crisp, the fish and scallops were cooked perfectly, and the baked potatoes were well cooked. I hate when restaurants under cook the potatoes, don't you? Happily that wasn't an issue here. We both really enjoyed our entrees.

Our dessert choices were limited to pumpkin bundt cake or lemon raspberry mascarpone cake. I would have liked to have seen more offerings but we were delighted with our choice of the lemon raspberry mascarpone cake. Yum!
We really enjoyed our first visit to RyeBelles and we will be back. We look forward to trying the other entrees, and the pizza, and coming back for the fantastic view of Lake Michigan and Lake Bluff Park as the seasons change.

I couldn't find a web site for RyeBelles but they are on Facebook.
Phone: 269-281-0318.
Attire: Not a tacky tshirt and flip flops kinda place. You'll feel more comfortable in nice jeans or khakis with a sweater or polo shirt as the season dictates. A sport coat or dress would not be out of place for evening dining.

Stop by and and enjoy a good meal... smacznego!


Mon - Thu:4:30 pm-10:00 pm
Fri - Sat:4:30 pm-11:00 pm
Sun:3:00 pm-9:00 pm