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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We Have a Candlestick Maker in St Joe

St Joseph has a butcher, a baker, and as of April 2011 they have a Candlestick Maker too. We have none other than owner and operator, Judi Benninghoff to thank for that.
The Candlestick Maker shop is located at 408 State Street in downtown St Joseph, across the street from St Joseph Today. There is street parking available in front of the store or you can park in a free parking lot just a few doors south of the store.

The first thing you'll notice when you enter the shop is a wonderful scent. That comes from the wide array of fragrances available for sale. There are many scented oils and scented candles... and holders and diffusers to display them.

In addition to the scented items, The Candlestick Maker features a great selection of nautical decor items at very reasonable prices. What better place to grab a souvenir while you're visiting a Lake Michigan harbor town?

It goes without saying that the shop also has "a little bit of this and a little bit of that" as well. Pottery, jewelry, seasonal decor, decorative signs, etc. There's pretty much something for everyone.

If you can't find what you're looking for, or would like gift suggestions, just ask Judi. She's a delightful lady to converse with and she truly enjoys being a shopkeeper.

One of the best things about The Candlestick Maker shop is its hours. They are open 7 days a week and into the evenings, even after most of the other stores in downtown St Joseph have closed. It's so nice to have places around town to walk to after dinner. I wonder why more store owners aren't doing this.

I found several items I couldn't resist taking home with me. I'll bet you'll find something to your liking too. Stop by today and say "hi" to Judi and help yourself to a free whiff of subtle and tranquil scents if nothing else!

The Candlestick Maker
408 State Street
St Joseph, Michigan  49085
(269) 208-2124
Hours: 10am - 8pm Monday thru Sunday