Thursday, November 26, 2009

Luminary Festival, St. Joseph, Michigan

Friday, November 20th, was the evening of St. Joseph's annual Luminary Festival. It was a bit of a challenge for D to get off work a couple hours early so we could get across the state by 6pm but it was worth it. We had a wonderful time!

The town looked very festive with all the decorated lamp posts and store windows but the luminaries are what really set the holiday mood. They lined State Street and its intersecting streets and set the town aglow.

We were lucky enough to get a parking spot on Broad Street right near State which I was very grateful for. We grabbed our cameras and set off for a fun evening of shopping. Our first stop was Moxie's Boutique where we did a little shopping for some bling and sampled the homemade Christmas cookies.

It was apparent that this was a very popular event as the streets were already crowded by 6pm. That just increased the excitement!

Our next stop was the Crowley Fine Arts gallery where we bought a little more bling and sampled even more Christmas cookies. :-)

It's always fun to people-watch at these sorts of events, and you can't help but overhear bits and pieces of conversations. The crowd was mixed with families, young couples, and seniors. We heard lots of people greeting friends they hadn't seen in a long time and catching up with each others lives. It seemed like a real social event. People were standing around and chatting as much as they were shopping.

We stopped in at the Alternate Route, a good name for a store that's hard to define. It's got a little bit of everything, clothing, collectibles, home decor, etc. I bought a wooden plaque that says, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" and we had yet more goodies. This time it was Dunkin Doughnuts.

At this point we caught on that pretty much all the stores had some sort of goodies to eat which made me happy but not so much D. He was hungry for dinner! We made our way to the Pump House Grill but the line was out the door. :-( With all the crowds of people in town during the dinner hour it was really no surprise. We didn't want to spend all our time waiting in line for a table somewhere when we could be shopping but where could we grab a quick bite to eat? Qdoba Grill had a concession stand on the corner of State Street and Pleasant where they were selling nachos so we headed over there. Unfortunately, they had a long line too and there was no place to sit down. The few benches in town were occupied. Hmmm... I suggested we grab a quick sandwich at the Chocolate Cafe, hoping we could get a seat there. D wasn't crazy about the idea of just a sandwich for dinner but he couldn't come up with a better idea so that's what we did.

All the tables inside were taken, many by people who were there to enjoy the entertainment (musicians) and people-watch. In my opinion, having musical entertainment on an evening like this was a bad idea. The tables didn't turn over and I'm sure the cafe lost out on a lot of food sales due to a lack of seating. We did get food but took it outside to a patio table in front of the Caffee Tosi next door. D and I shared a bowl of lobster bisque and a Ruben sandwich. It was actually a very pleasant evening for an outdoor dinner, a surprise for late November. We enjoyed our food and in short order we were back to shopping.

Our next stop was Perennial Accents, another hard to define store. It's part garden store, part home decor store, and part gourmet cooking store. I bought a signed copy of a book about Christmas during the 1940s-1960s. (can't remember the name... I'll get back to you on that ;-) .

Before we left the store we sampled a fabulous dessert cake, chocolate with cranberries and white chocolate mousse, from Bit of Swiss. Yum!

We made our way to the St Joe Today office and had a bite of birthday cake. Good thing we got there when we did. The cake was almost all gone (not that we needed another sweet treat just then ;-) . I must say, it was terrific cake. It melted in my mouth as only butter creme frosting can do.
After visiting St Joseph Today, we crossed the street and headed back south on State Street. We stopped to peek in the Hallmark store window...

... and then we caught a glimpse of the horse drawn trolley coming down the street. The rides are free and lots of fun!

Heading further south, we came upon Santa's house! Santa was there yet. I understand he'll be escorted into town at the Reindog Parade the first weekend in December.

We were getting pretty thirsty by this point. We heard several people mention they were drinking chocolate martinis but I have no idea where they got them. We got lucky and found hot apple cider at Edgewater Gifts, where I bought a new fishing net for my holiday decorating.

About 8:15 we popped into Forever Books.

The HP had an article about an author who was signing her books there. Her book sounded interesting... "The Christmas Cookie Club", so we went to investigate. (If you're interested in the book and you can't get to Forever Books to pick it up, you can get it at

Sure enough, the lovely Ann Pearlman was sitting at a table waiting to sign her book. We chatted briefly with Ann who of course had plates of Christmas cookies by her side.

They were cookies made by the lady on the right (below) using recipes from the book. And they were delicious!

Do you see that copy of the book on the counter? Well, that was the very last copy and I bought it :-) Ann signed it for me and I'm looking forward to reading it!

I'll leave you with a couple more photos of the lovely luminaries...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

White Tailed Deer in St. Joseph

Last Sunday, November 15, was the opening day for firearm deer season in Michigan. To mark the occasion in a humane way, D took some pictures of deer he saw in a field near our condo. Here's a family of four. Aren't they cute?

After a few minutes, two of them scampered off, leaving two for D to catch in HD video :-) The minimum width of this video may display larger than the area allowed on this blog. If it doesn't view well, here's the link to view it at YouTube.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bit of Swiss Bakery

On the way back from Weko Beach, we stopped in at the Bit of Swiss bakery in Stevensville, Michigan. My friend Ch had driven me by here before but I'd never been inside. D is always happy to explore anywhere that has food, so he was more than willing to stop in.

The inside was warm and welcoming. There were shelves with lots of interesting loaves of breads. And the smell... ummmm, good! There's nothing quite like the smell of fresh baked bread, is there?

This bakery is not limited to just bread though. They have several cases of scrumptious looking pastries. It was hard to decide what to buy. We couldn't go home empty handed!

They had some pastries available for sampling too. :-) These brownies were delicious!

They had a special going on the chocolate croissants, buy one get one free. So we got a couple of those and a variety box of Christmas cookies. I know it seems a bit early for Christmas cookies but we were planning to put up our Christmas tree this weekend and that sort of project always goes better with cookies. ;-)

I'd love to tell you that the croissants and cookies were fabulous but to be honest, D and I were disappointed with them. The croissants were tender, flaky, rich, and buttery... perfect really, except that those two little brown dots you see were all the chocolate there was in these "chocolate croissants". Now that's just a shame. And the Christmas cookies, well, they looked really pretty. The few that were frosted tasted good but most of them were just your ordinary sugar cookie, not the holiday butter cookies we expected (and were told they were). Don't get me wrong, they weren't stale or completely tasteless, but for $14/lb. I expected better. We wouldn't buy them again or give them as gifts.

I'm sure we'll return to Bit of Swiss one of these days. Lots of things we sampled there were very good. It's unfortunate that the things we bought to take home were not.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christmas Comes to St. Joseph

In the span of one week's time, St. Joseph went from autumn to Christmas. In preparation for the Luminary Festival which will be held tomorrow, November 20th, the town is getting all dressed up for the holidays. The light displays along the bluff are all in place, and the lampposts in town are looking festive!

I captured these photos last Saturday evening after a fine dinner at Schu's where we watched the sunset.

D and I ended the evening with a short stroll around town looking in the holiday-dressed windows and thinking about Christmas shopping.

I'm really looking forward to the Luminary Festival this weekend!

November at the Beach

Last Saturday was such a nice day in St. Joseph! The weather was very mild, reaching the mid-60s once again. D and I took the opportunity to visit Weko Beach in Bridgman, Michigan (a 20 minute drive from St. Joseph). I know, I know, November is an odd time to visit a beach. We meant to get there during the summer but we just never made it.

We didn't go to Weko Beach with the intention of swimming of course. We just wanted to check the place out and take a few pictures. It was a lovely day for that! The beach was empty as was expected. It did look like a very nice beach though. The grasses on the dunes and down near the shore had faded from green to brown. The sand was brown as were the snow fences on the beach. But we did find one bright spot of color. I'm not sure what the structure is, a water intake valve perhaps?

We discovered a nice observation platform high on a dune with many, many stairs to climb to get there. D & K took on the challenge while I volunteered to stay below to photograph them. Here are D and K on the climb back down. They are in the middle of the stairway.

After the big climb, we took a stroll along the boardwalk. It turns out it's a pet path.

At the end of the pet path we were treated to a lovely view of the Lake Michigan shoreline.

I took a few more pictures of D & K and then we headed back to the car. You can see the concession stand (closed for the season) in the background.

It was a lovely day at the beach for mid November. I'm sure we'll be back next summer if not before.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Barefoot in the Park (in November!)

What a warm and wonderful weekend we spent in St. Joe! I brought my new camera along and took advantage of Saturday's sunshine and blue skies to take some early morning shots at Lookout Park.

Then I moved on to the ramp area behind the water treatment plant. Nice panoramic views from there!

I took a drive over to Tiscornia Beach to catch the lighthouse in the late morning sun.

While I was there, I watched these guys kite boarding. It seems like it would be too cold to be out in Lake Michigan but I'm told these wet suits keep you pretty comfortable.

Then I made a stop at Silver Beach. It looks so barren and cold. But honestly, it was very mild.

The high temperature officially got up to 66F but the thermometer on my deck shows it closer to 70F. :-)

Took a break and watched the Michigan vs Purdue football game at the condo. That was a real heart breaker. Michigan played really well the first half but fell apart the second half and lost to Purdue. :-(

After the game D and I went to the Orchards Mall to do a little shopping. I don't quite know what to make of that mall. It looks like it was a nice place to shop at one time but most of the stores must have moved on. It was only the third time I was at the mall since we bought our condo in St. Joe. I was to Sears once when they were having their liquidation sale before the store closed in September of this year. I was to Payless Shoes for the "Oprah Sale" on October 30th. And I was to Elder Beerman just for the heck of it because I'd never been in an Elder Beerman store before. I liked EB although it's a small store. It strikes me as a Macy's lite.

After shopping, we went to Clementine's for dinner. Looking out the windows at the vacant marina seemed almost eerie. The golden evening sun made everything look almost surreal.

After dinner, we went over to Lake Bluff Park. It was absolutely magical! The golden sun and long shadows made for a beautiful early evening stroll. The warm weather was evident by the folks going barefoot in the park...

...and jogging in shorts while surrounded by the Christmas light displays.

We ended the day watching the sunset from Lion's Park beach.

It won't be long now until the Luminary Festival (November 20). I'm looking forward to seeing the city of St. Joseph all lit up for the holidays! I sure wouldn't mind a couple more weeks of this beautiful Indian summer weather though. One can always hope ;-)

Friday, November 6, 2009

St. Joseph vs Lakeshore Again!

I'm listening to the St. Joe vs Lakeshore HS football playoff game on the radio, Go Bears!

At half time we took a quick run into town to the Chocolate Cafe for a rich, smooth, hot chocolate. YUM!

I had a small regular hot chocolate and D had a medium dark chocolate. Both were delicious! While we were there we listened to a couple of musicians sing some golden oldies :-)

Right now the Bears are ahead... I hope they win! Go Bears!!!

Update: The Bears won 19-16 over Lakeshore and will go on to play in the regional playoff! YEAH!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And Then it Was November

After the wild weather on Friday and Saturday, Sunday's sunshine, blue skies, and calm winds were a welcomed sight!

As you can see, there was still a nice bit of color in the trees. The lake was calm and deep blue. Along Lake Bluff Park you could still see color in the trees too.

D and I strolled along the bluff and caught the Amtrak train pulling into the station. It saddens me to think that the Amtrak route through St. Joseph may be discontinued due to state budget cuts. We haven't ridden the train out of St. Joseph yet. We need to do that one day soon!

A look along Lake Bluff Park in the other direction shows us a peek of what's to come. On the right is one of the Christmas light displays starting to be assembled.

And farther down the bluff we saw that the top of the Maids of the Mist fountain has gotten some lights too.

Just a few weeks ago the Compass fountain was still entertaining children of all ages. Now it sits quietly waiting for spring and the sounds of children's laughter once again.

Welcome November!