Thursday, December 30, 2010

#94: La Casa de Amistad

Community centers are often just that, the very center of their diverse and widespread communities. La Casa de Amistad here in South Bend is no exception, serving, in their words, as a community center for "the Latino/Hispanic community within Michiana." In this role, they provide a wide variety of services to, also in their own words, "edify Hispanic youth and adults in development of leadership skills, increase knowledge and appreciation of their own culture, and develop stronger self-esteem, encouraging fuller participation as community members."

La Casa groups their services into three broad categories: Education/Literacy, Healthy Living, and Social Services. Within these categories they offer ESL classes, GED preparation, citizenship classes, nutrition classes and a food pantry, immigration services, and many, many others. Just glancing at their online calendar for today, they had 11 different classes and programs that were offered. La Casa is another prominent member of South Bend's non-profit community and like many of the others, relies on volunteers and donations.

To donate to La Casa de Amistad go here.  To read about their volunteer opportunities visit their website here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

#93: South Bend Heritage Foundation

Do you remember that first time that you felt like doing an hour or two of weekly volunteering was like picking away at a concrete wall with a fork?  No matter how much food you helped prepare at the homeless shelter, how much time you spent cleaning up garbage in a park, or how much money you collected for the local food bank, it didn't contribute to the prevention or destruction of those social ills.  Sure, it's good work, and it is absolutely necessary, but the root of the problem persists despite your hours and hours of work.

I've definitely felt that frustration, and it's because of that experience that I truly respect and admire organizations like the South Bend Heritage Foundation.  For 36 years, they have been  working to end the social problems that are harming and even destroying our South Bend neighborhoods.  SBHF first focused on historic preservation on the West Side, but eventually shifted their focus to the rehabilitation of homes in low income areas.  For example, they have created and maintained 275 affordable rental-housing units since 1992.  In addition to making these homes afforable, SBHF offers technical assistance to home buyers through their Lending Enterprise through Neighborhood Development program (LEND).  SBHF also operates a loan fund that has helped over 35 home owners restore their residence.  These are just a couple examples of their work.  Between all of their residential and commercial projects, cultural and youth programing, and the development of couple neighborhood centers throughout South Bend, SBHF has invested over $35 million in our city.

Here you can view their 2009 annual report.  Make sure to read the section entitled "Neighborhoods of Choice" beginning on page 4.  It explains the philosophy and real life practice of the SBHF beautifully. 

This  multi-faceted operation aids residents in improving and stabilizing their neighborhoods.  SBHF and other organizations like it target the elements that perpetuate poverty in South Bend.  Their work is not just about serving the needs of today; it's about preventing the needs of tomorrow.  

For information about how you can best aid SBHF in their mission, contact them at (574) 289-1066.  Donations can be mailed to:  South Bend Heritage Foundation, Attention: Judy Kukla, 803 Lincoln Way West, South Bend IN 46616. 
Additional contact info here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

#92: Hope Ministries

We've loved featuring some of the great non-profits and charity organizations in the area so much (and there are so many!) that we've decided to keep it going until the New Year. Again, if you have any suggestions for organizations that you would like to see featured, please email us at or leave a comment here. We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday in (or out of) South Bend!

Hope Ministries states that they are dedicated to helping individuals "examine their current realities, envision their future possibilities, and enable action to achieve their desired futures" in a faith-based way. To accomplish this mission they offer a wide litany of services to the greater South Bend community.

At the center of these services is a free meal program which offers a lunch and a dinner meal every day of the year for anyone who needs it. This culminates in Hope serving around 8,000 meals per month, a truly astonishing number. Other services include transitional housing for families, couples, and single men and women as well as early-childhood development programs, adult education, substance-abuse recovery programs, and employment preparation. Hope's services are based on their holistic philosophy and belief in structure and stability for their residents and guests.

Hope Ministries has been providing this enormous array of services in the community since 1954 and relies on donations, volunteers, and community and church partnerships to continue to do so. If you would like to donate to Hope, they have provided information here. If you would like to volunteer at Hope on a current project or ongoing program, you can find the volunteer application form here. A list of items that the organization currently needs is listed below.  The services provided by Hope are essential, and supporting their work, supports our larger community.

Items Needed
Toilet paper
Paper towels
Trash bags
Shaving razors
Pain relievers
Gift-cards to Wal-Mart
Home cleaning products

You can bring these items to Hope's Family Life Center at 432 South Lafayette.

Friday, December 24, 2010

#91: Boys and Girls Club

I believe that all children need--and deserve--a space in which they can freely play, imagine, run around, investigate, and grow up on their own schedule.  Some children's circumstances don't allow such luxuries, but the Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph County has the admirable goal "to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens."
This organization, which offers daily, professional, affordable child care at nine area locations, serves more than 2,000 kids each year, 75 percent of whom live in families with incomes of less than $30,000.  Programming focuses on character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sports and recreation.  In other words, they offer more than TV and video games.

While this club has come a long way from its humble beginnings in a garage in 1974, its growth means it has greater needs.  The club at Liberty Elementary School has an almost $70,000 budget shortfall and is in danger of closing.  This deficit can seem insurmountable but stories like Justin Sergio's that was recently highlighted in the South Bend Tribune remind us that yes, we can make a difference.

Think about what you have but don't need, and then pay it forward.

Got old children's/sports stuff lying around? Click here to view the "Wish List" of the different area clubs. [I now know where I'm taking those extra five sets of cards I accumulated over time...]
Got an extra hour?  Click here to learn more about giving your time in mentoring or tutoring a child.
Got an unexpected holiday bonus? Click here to share the wealth.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

#90: The Literacy Council of St. Joseph County

“More than 1 in 5 adults in St. Joseph County read below a fourth grade level.” Staggering statistics like this illustrate the need for an organization like The Literacy Council of St. Joseph County. While admittedly a small non-profit, the Council does the work of an organization three times its size. And amid the large (and wonderful) non-profit community in the county, an organization like the Council can get overshadowed.

For many of us the ability to read is an undervalued common skill while for many others, the ability to read is the one missing essential skill. The Council focuses on two major areas, adult literacy and early-childhood literacy. Research has demonstrated, and it stands to common sense, that an early introduction to reading and the development of literacy skills will provide many benefits later in life while older instruction gives the adult the possibility to now complete basic tasks for a job and more fully enter into society. To accomplish these two goals, the Council offers one-on-one adult tutoring and small-group GED instruction, gives away free books to newborns and their parents, and holds Success Under 6 workshops for both parents and their children.

The Council is completely funded by donations and staffed by volunteers. They are always looking for tutors and welcome any type of contribution. For me personally, I can’t imagine any better way to give back to the South Bend/greater St. Joe County community than helping an organization that helps others learn how to read.

Donate here.

Learn more about the organization and literacy in the community here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

#89: The Food Bank of Northern Indiana

This 17 year old South Bend organization re-opened its beautifully remodeled food pantry on the West Side today.  The ribbon cutting ceremony at the Food Bank of Northern Indiana honored the Notre Dame professor whose estate funded the renovation - which was finished just in time to serve the hungry for the holidays.  Philip L. Quinn PhD taught philosophy at Notre Dame and other universities for more than 20 years. He passed away in 2004, and the donation of his estate has allowed the Food Bank to give a newer and friendly look to their central location.  

The Food Bank of Northern Indiana is a very impressive operation.  The renovated location holds one of the affiliated pantries, the Community Food Pantry of St. Joseph County, but the Food Bank distributes food to 185 member agencies in Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Marshall, Starke, and St. Joseph Counties.  They aid more than 2,800 households each month, which adds up to more than 4 million pounds of food each year - all of which is provided to patrons at no cost.  Another interesting aspect of the food pantry on the West Side of South Bend is that they are 100% client choice, meaning patrons can select the goods that they prefer or have the greatest needs for, instead of restricting the number of soup cans, cereal boxes, or toiletries per person.

Today was its first day back in operation, and there were more than 100 people in line outside of the food pantry well before it re-opened its doors.  This reminded me how absolutely necessary it is to give what you can during the holidays.  Lines like this outside of charitable organizations, food pantries, and homeless shelters are unfortunately not uncommon - no matter what season it is.  I encourage you to use this Christmas season to renew your charitable commitment to our South Bend community by giving your time or money.  In order to help you find an organization that fits your interest or availability, we will feature a local organization or establishment that is known for its good work in the area each day until Christmas. Our list will obviously not be comprehensive so please email us at if you would like to suggest an organization or charity for us to write about.

Here are the details for donating time or money to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana:

Donate $ here

When: The Volunteer Center is open Monday-Friday from 9 am - 4 pm
Location: 702 S. Chapin Street, South Bend
Getting there: On TRANSPO bus route 14 (Sample/Mayflower) with a stop at the Food Bank

For more info, contact the Volunteer Department at 574-232-9986 Ext. 28 or

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#88: The Bergamot & The Mark's "Believe in Magic"

Jimi Hendrix asked us, "Are you experienced?" and in that question, our perception of what musical performance should be like is challenged.

From the ashes of his burning guitar, some musicians do continue to question the standard of "band on stage, audience in front; play a set, take a break, come back for the encore".  They continue the blend the line between a concert, a show, an event, an experience.

One of these groups is The Bergamot, a local duo who just returned from a cross-country tour to launch their new album, Haven, in January.  This young couple had the brilliant idea of pairing their "fresh. retro. fun." sound with a restaurant that has a similar feel.  The Mark, the lone locally-owned restaurant in Eddy Street Commons, is an "upscale diner" with some of the best food you'll find in town.  I could wax poetic about their all-day breakfast offerings, their vegan reuben, or their sweet potato fries, but I shall refrain, because tonight's event, entitled "Believe in Magic", is all about the experience.   

You can choose either a three-course meal ($35) or admission to the show ($10, 2 drink/dessert minimum).  Both obviously incorporate music and food, but in different amounts.  You shape what experience you would like to have.  The Bergamot will play holiday favorites and original songs, although be forewarned: this is not a dinner show -- the music will complement the dinner, not control it, and vice versa.  

So if you're looking for something different to do -- a shake up from going out to a nice dinner or to a fun concert, try this out.  It's hard to imagine a fine dinner with the Jimi Hendrix Experience shaking the brick walls of this new complex, but the folksy grooves of The Bergamot will add the perfect atmosphere to a fine meal.

When: Tonight, 7:00-9:00 PM
Where: The Mark Dine and Tap. 1234 Eddy Street
Check out the Facebook page for more information! 

Monday, December 20, 2010

#87: Copshaholm

Copshaholm, a word I'm still not quite sure how to pronounce, is the name of the mansion once owned by J.D. Oliver that is listed on the National Register for Historic Places. It also sits in the heart of South Bend on Washington Street. In a previous post on the West Washington Historic District we mentioned the mansion, but it really deserves a post of its own.

Copshaholm features 38 rooms and is one of the first houses in Indiana to have electricity. It's owner J.D. Oliver was the President of Oliver Chilled Plow Works and a leading industrialist in South Bend and far beyond. Today Copshaholm is part of the Center for History and is open year-round as a museum. We're featuring the mansion today because now is one of the best times of the year to go on a tour. Christmas at Copshaholm is an annual, extravagant undertaking and the house features Victorian-style decorations and eight different Christmas trees. If you're looking for a relaxing activity during this last week before the holiday and you want to experience a little bit of South Bend history while you're at it, then Copshaholm is the perfect place.

For more information on the mansion and touring hours, visit the Center for History's website here.

#86: Audition for a Show

We've previously featured several theater performances around the community. But now it's your turn to star. The South Bend Civic Theater is holding auditions today and tomorrow for the musical "Ragtime".  The auditions for both days will be held at 7:00pm and no preparation is required. Being that "Ragtime" is a musical, you will have to sing a little, but there are parts available for everyone; from lead roles to members of the ensemble chorus.

Musicals and plays (having been in several myself) are always wonderful ways to meet people and become a part of a pretty tight-knit community. The show is in March so you'll have plenty of time to get to know your fellow cast-members. "Ragtime" itself is a highly-regarded musical (it won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1998) and it depicts the story of three different families in the early 20th century.

Being that this is an audition, not every person can get cast, but I've often found that sometimes the auditions themselves are fun and really worthwhile. So take the chance, let us know how it goes, and we look forward to seeing you on stage in March!

For information visit their website here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#85: The Purple Porch Co-op

We've talked about sustainability before in a variety of forms. Just Goods. Junk Evolution. The Farmer's Market. Unity Gardens. But we've so far neglected to mention one of the mainstays of the South Bend sustainable community; the Purple Porch Co-op.

The Co-op describes itself as connecting "people in Michiana who want local, organic or fair trade food with the growers who produce it." By becoming a member of the Co-op, you gain access to local goods grown within 60 miles of the Michiana region. Everything is online, so once you're a member you can browse the food offerings from these local producers on the Purple Porch website. You then make your selections for the week and pick up your produce (or other items) at the centralized pick-up location on the designated day. The Co-op offers many food items in season as well as baked goods and locally-ground coffee. They also hold pot-luck dinners, host film screenings, and offer a multitude of volunteer opportunities, and it honestly offers one of the best ways to commit to the local community.

There is a ton of interesting information about the history of Purple Porch, what local and sustainable means, detailed membership information, and periodic event details on the Co-op's website here.

Tip: Sign up for the newsletter!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

#84: The Miracle on 34th Street

"I believe....I's silly, but I believe." Those words and the movie they came from were an annual part of my childhood. The Miracle on 34th Street (black and white version, thank you very much) is the very definition of a holiday classic, and I know that I'm not alone in refusing to celebrate the holidays without it.

This year in South Bend, however, you have the option to not only watch your well-worn DVD copy, but also to see the story in person. The South Bend Civic Theater is presenting the play of A Miracle on 34th Street through December 19. I would advise you, as always, to jump on getting your tickets sooner rather than later, as the South Bend Civic always packs their house.  South Bend has done a remarkable job of fostering the holiday spirit, and the show is just another great opportunity to celebrate the season.

To order tickets and for more information on the show visit their website here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

#83: Bamber's Superette Food Market

On the way back from our Saturday morning Farmer's Market run (wandering, produce-laden, Santa included) my friend and I decided to stop into the small neighborhood grocery store across the street from the Market. Let me tell you, the words "small neighborhood grocery store" do not do it justice. After our unplanned pit-stop, I've vowed to do all of my shopping here if only because the quality of my meals would so dramatically increase.

The store is stocked, STOCKED, with an incredible variety of gourmet, organic, hard-to-find, and just plain cool food items. They have an impressive wine selection alongside Italian imported pasta, a cheese rack you won't find anywhere else, and an array of coffee, tea, and baking items that I believe to be unparalled. Granted, I'm sure there are some basic items that you won't be able to find here (the produce section seems a little small), but it's definitely my favorite find of the past few weeks. If you're a chef, a foodie, or just like to eat well, you'll love this place too.

Location: 1145 Mishawaka Avenue

For more information call: 574-287-1871

Friday, December 10, 2010

#82: Analecta and Caught at LangLab

LangLab, a relatively new and generally multi-purpose venue full of artistic expression from all corners of the South Bend community and beyond, is hosting a couple of local musical acts tonight.  Analecta and Caught, both South Bend bands, will be playing at LangLab beginning at 8 pm (doors open at 7:30).  Other shows I've attended here have integrated various art forms with the music; and I hear some choreography will be a part of tonight's show in addition to lights and video projections.  Should be interesting, to say the least.

This intriguing space deserves a detailed and gushing post of its own, so here are simply the details for the show tonight.  Check back soon for a full review of LangLab and all of the artsy fartsy fun and incubating innovation it has to offer.

Where: 1302 High Street
it's an old factory-esque type o' building -- some plywood signs with "LangLab" spray painted on it point you in the right direction.  Sounds bizarre, but be not afraid.
When: TONIGHT, December 10th - Doors at 7:30, Show @ 8:00
How much: "donation @ door: $6
Everyone is invited to stick around after the show "to meet, talk, exchange contact info and plot future projects" (...according to the all-knowing Facebook)

Take a listen before tonight...heeeere.

See ya there, friends.

#81: Cambodian Thai

After realizing we hadn’t yet written about this restaurant, I was shocked. And then hungry. There are fancier restaurants. There are better-known restaurants. There are definitely larger restaurants. But the small, tucked-away gem of Cambodian Thai is not to be missed. It ranks in my top three restaurants in the area. To be honest, I’m not even sure what the other two are, I just know Cambodian Thai is among them.

It serves a wide variety of traditional Thai cuisine. For me, I keep coming back to the basics, their pad thai, but all of my friends who have a more experimental palette, give just as rave of reviews. The wait, depending on the time you go, can be a little longer (it’s worth it, I promise) than other restaurants (have I mentioned that it’s about the size of the entryway to most of those other restaurants?) so either come in with that in mind or just order out (my recommendation). To be honest, you really can’t go wrong.

Where: 229 South Michigan Street
When: Mon-Thu,11:30am-9pm; Fri,10:30am-10pm
To order or call for more information: 574-289-2877
Tip: For many of the dishes, you can order a varying level of spice from 1-10.  Do not, I repeat, do not go past a 3. Unless, inexplicably, you are some sort of hot sauce eating champion.

#80: Raftin' Santa on the East Race Waterway

I can imagine that lightbulb that went off at the brainstorming session five years ago.

"Okay, so, what's a unique Christmas fundraiser can we have?  DTSB already had someone ride around on a sleigh, there's a tree sale on the College Football Hall of Fame, and the Grinch and Cindy-Loo already visited SB Chocolate Company.  What else identifies South Bend other than snow, football and chocolate candies inspired by those two?"

"Hmm, hmm. Okay, well, South Bend is named after the bend in the St. Joe River, which is also what the county is named after.  So it really is defining characteristic of the city."

"Oh, good thinking, good thinking. Okay, okay, so what can we do with that?"

And so, "Santa on the Race" was born.

When: Friday, Dec. 11, 4:30-7:00 PM
Where: 401 E. Colfax Ave.
Featuring Santa Claus rafting down the East Race bearing candy in his bag, a Christmas petting zoo, hot chocolate and cookies (for kids of all ages).  For the grown-ups, there is a dinner later, as well as a raffle for a football signed by ND football greats.  This event is a benefit for several community organizations and is meant to bring some holiday cheer to children who may not find it elsewhere.  And that's a fantastic idea.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

#79: Idle Hours Bookshop

Hidden in plain sight.  Miniature.  Expansive.  Winding.  Towering.  The confusion of a maze on top of the hazy familiarity of childhood memories.  Cozily mysterious.  Hushed, dusty over-stimulation.  So quiet that you can barely hear your footsteps over Steinback, Hansberry, Vonnegut, Conrad, and Stein shouting in your head.  There's something beautiful about small spaces that overflow with ideas - whether they're captured on pages or not.

My sentimental side swells up and explodes when I walk into one of those perfectly cluttered used bookstores - stacks upon stacks next to stacks - of - books books books.  The first time I visited Idle Hours Bookshop during a quick lunch hour about 7 or 8 months ago, I got that familiar used bookshop feeling - geeze you know, that progression of curious&timid&hesitant when combined with your bookishly adventurous side - that feeling you get when you find a bookshop where you don't have the slightest clue where anything is and most likely, no one does - except perhaps the graying shopkeeper quietly perched behind the counter.  You pick a shelf completely at random and just begin reading titles until you get comfortable enough to sincerely search for those books you might actually buy (which in my case could be on any shelf with Beat lit, American political history, any WEB DuBois, Parisian travel guides, Chicago urban planning stuffs, blah blah blah).  Interestingly, finding your way around the shop isn't the goal at all.  I sort of hope the books change their location every time I leave.

The tall shelves in Idle Hours have little paper signs/clues as to which sort of book you can expect to find upon them, yet they don't even begin to prepare you for the bizarre mix of books that can only be amassed after years and years of book-loving&selling&collecting.

It's poetically nestled right in the middle of downtown on Michigan Street and (here's the kicker) conveniently located next to Club Fever.  Some great literary master of irony and juxtaposition must have placed this bookish gem right there.

Location: 212 South Michigan Street
Hours: 10 am to 3 pm, Monday through Saturday

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

#78: TRANSPO & Public Hearings

Do you not own a car in South Bend?  Are you petrified of driving in these wintry conditions?  Are you just looking for something--anything!--to do to combat cabin fever or the Christams craze?

The solution is...TRANSPO.

[TRANSPO (n.) = not an abbreviation, but the official name of South Bend/Mishawaka's bus system; see information on fares here and routes here]

I used TRANSPO for five weeks while my car was in the shop, and I found it incredibly convenient for getting around town during the day, although the schedule slows down at night.  From University Park mall to the airport, TRANSPO can get you there.  (Just have some patience to wait for it.)

However, as with most public transportation in the United States, it isn't as used enough to make it financially profitable.  This reason, I presume, is why TRANSPO has hired an outside firm to analyze its operations and is hosting three public meetings to hear thoughts on its "fixed route service".   Fixed-route service--regular routes at scheduled times--is the norm for transit systems, so I'm interested to hear what alternatives there are.

These are the details on these meetings:
Tuesday, Dec. 7 (today!)- 3:00-4:00 PM and 6:00-7:00 PM at TRANSPO's South Street Station, 100 W. South St.
Wednesday, Dec. 8 - 6:00-7:00 PM at Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library, Spencer Gallery, 209 Lincoln Way East

Saturday, December 4, 2010

#77: In memoriam: Spark

They say every cloud has a silver lining.  Given the typical state of the sky in South Bend, we residents develop quite the skill at finding the good in everything.

Today, Joya Helmuth, the owner of Spark Fine Stationary, announced that her store will be closing December 31.  Happily, Joya found a good job at Apple that better suits her interests, but she could not manage both the new full-time job and the store.  Spark's closure is not for a lack of customers, but rather, a lack of entrepreneurs willing to buy her fine business.  

The silver lining?  Most everything in the store is 40 percent off -- pens, posters, paper, everything.  (Just in time for the holiday season.)  Vulture-ishly, I went at noon today as I heard the news, and already some merchandise had sold out, so go sooner rather than later.

Regardless of the silver lining, clouds are still clouds.  Spark, we're sad to see you go.  And if anyone is considering a career change, how about running your own stationary store?

#76: Holiday Art Walk

There has been quite the flurry of activity downtown this weekend.  It's nice to see people out and about.  Here's yet another event on happening: today is the annual Holiday Art Walk, during which art galleries open their doors to sell works by local artists.  It's a great opportunity to pick up a unique and quality gift for whoever's on your shopping list.

The following galleries are part of this walk: 

In addition to the works on sale in the galleries, there is also a wreath raffle being held today.  Each place has a wreath made by Paul Kuharic (from the farmer's market!) that the store's featured artist decorated.  For a donation of any amount, you are entered into the raffle to win the wreath.  The best part?  Proceeds go to La Casa De Amistad.

If you didn't get out and around for First Fridays, come out today for the last bit of the Art Walk.  It's a nice chance for people whose workweek schedules don't always match the limited gallery hours.

When: 11 am - 5 pm
Where: Downtown South Bend.
Click here for a map of the galleries and more information.

Friday, December 3, 2010

#75: Marvel at the Weirdness of South Bend

Hear ye, hear ye -- it has just been announced that a town crier will be heralding the arrival of the holiday season in South Bend.

At 4:45pm today, someone will be riding around downtown in a sleigh to proclaim that all the pop-up stores are open.  

Two questions I have for this town crier:
  1. Where the heck do we think we are--Colonial Williamsburg!?!
  2. Didn't some stores already open last week?!?
Regardless of the absurdity, don't miss this.  Get to First Fridays early today--there is about 365 things to do in DTSB just tonight.  

And I repeat, this is not a joke.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

#74: Downtown Christmas Festivities - season openers

There is going to be so much gosh darn Christmas cheer in downtown South Bend tomorrow that we need to get an early jump on letting you know about all of the events.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, movie showing
When: 4 pm to 9 pm
Where: College Football Hall of Fame Stadium Theatre

Santa House 
When: 7 pm to 9 pm
Where: the 100 block of South Michigan St (just north of South Bend Chocolate Cafe)
Bring every small child you can find!!!  Bring your camera - there will be some cutesy photo-ops with the little ones and this little cute Christmas red house.

Santa Workshop (yes, it's different from the House)
When: 5 pm to 9 pm
Where: inside the College Football Hall of Fame's Gift Store
Kids will be able to make arts and crafts that I assume will include lots of glitter and popsicle sticks. Awesome.
This event will benefit Operation Santa Paws, a holiday organization helping homeless pets during these cold months.  There will also be a few cats and dogs available for adoption.  (Hint: I would love a puppy for Christmas)

After Friday, these are the regular hours for the Santa House and his workshop:
Saturdays, December 4, 11 & 18, 12 pm to 6 pm
Sundays, December 5, 12 & 19, 12 pm to 4 pm
Monday, December 20, Tuesday, December 21 and Wednesday, December 22, 2 pm to 6 pm
Both of these are FREE and open to all ages.
For more info visit

Tree Lighting Ceremony
When: 5:30 pm
Where: outside the College Football Hall of Fame on the Gridiron
Santa's going to be there.  The tree lights up. Free hot cocoa and cookies. You know Lil'Kim's song "The Jump Off"?  This is what she was talking about.

Holiday Tree & Wreath Sale
When: December 3rd - 5 pm to 9 pm, December 4th - 12 pm to 6 pm & December 5th - 12 pm to 4 pm
Where: also on the Gridiron
All proceeds benefit the United Way of St. Joseph County - a great way to begin your holiday charitable giving.

There is a lot of holly, misletoe, and giant inflatable reindeers to absorb, so I'll include an event that won't feature any miniature plastic Santas, I think.

He Said, She Said
Exhibition of IU South Bend artists, Joshua Miller and Candie Waterloo
When: December 1st until the 19th
Tuesday through Friday, 12 pm - 5 pm, Saturday, 11 am - 5 pm
Where: Northside Hall's East Lounge, here's a map.
This sculpture exhibition features the work of IUSB student, Joshua Miller, and IUSB faculty member, Candie Waterloo.  Take a break from the Christmas bonanza to check out this exhibition and appreciate these local artists.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

#73: Christmas events and more at the Center for History

First things first, HAPPY WINTER!  I think we can officially say that the snow, winds, and low temperatures of South Bend's notorious winter are upon us.  I'm one of those rare people that loves bundling up and heading out in the snow.  Sure... once it's mid-January, I'm usually singing a different song (filled with expletives cursing the arctic winds and general tundra-like environment), but for now, I love winter and everything else that comes with it... including Christmasy events around town.  (how do you like that segue?)

Head into the Center for History to escape the cold and check out what they have going on this week (which even include **GASP** an event unrelated to Christmas!)

Liberty Film Series - Time of Fear: Japanese Internment Camps
Friday, December 3rd, 2:30 pm

@ the Center for History, 808 West Washington Street
I was lucky enough to see part of this documentary a few years ago as part of a class on race relations.  It walks that delicate line of engagingly informative and emotionally moving.  The film follows the lives of thousands of Japanese-Americans who were forced into relocation camps during WWII.  I definitely recommend seeing this movie at the Center for History or anywhere you can!  The film is free with purchase of a museum admission.  Adults $8, seniors $6.50, youth 6-17 $5, and members free
Check out their website here to see which other films are part of the Liberty Film Series.

Christmas at Copshaholm
Friday, December 3rd, 5:30 pm 
@ Copshaholm, the Oliver Mansion - which is part of the Center for History campus
This tour of the historical Oliver family home is complete with performers dressed in period costume as the Oliver family and the household staff.  They recommend that you buy tickets ahead of time.  Adults $10, seniors $8, youth 6-17 $6, members $5
Call 574-235-9664, ext. 232 with questions or check out their website here.

Internationally and locally decorated Christmas trees
the Center for History, 808 West Washington Street
On-going exhibits from November 26th to January 9th
I've yet to check these out myself, but it looks like the Center for History has two Christmas tree exhibits that could be said to display the local/global dichotomy.  The trees in the Carroll Gallery have been decorated to celebrate our community's international and rich ethnic heritage, while the other collection features eight trees decorated by community designers and retailers.

Bon hiver and happy snow shoveling!

Monday, November 29, 2010

#72: Howard Park Ice Rink

Taking a wintry spin around the Rockefeller Center Ice-Skating Rink is arguably the quintessential New York City holiday experience. I'm here to argue that you don't need to make the trip. South Bend boasts its very own ice-skating rink perfect for snowy afternoons in the already-upon-us holiday season. The rink just opened up this past Friday, and I'm personally already coordinating a trip with some of my friends to be followed by hot chocolate at one of our favorite downtown coffee shops.

The rink is located just over the river at the intersection of Jefferson and St. Louis and is open every day of the week (hours are posted below).  For those of you more than a little nervous to strap on skates (you know who you are), give it a try, everyone falls down at least once. You might as well make this holiday season memorable.

Mon-Thurs- 3:00-5:30pm
Fri- 3:00-5:30pm, 7:00-10:00pm
Sat- 10:00-noon, 1:00-3:30pm, 4:00-6:00pm, 7:00-10:00pm
Sun- 1:00-3:30pm, 4:00-6:00pm, 7:00-9:00pm

Adults- $6     Children- $5     Children 5 and under- FREE

Skate Rental: $3 per pair per session

TIP: The South Bend Parks and Rec website offers a free admission coupon with the purchase of one full-price admission. Get it here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

#71: Sunrise Cafe

Tomorrow marks one of the most revered days in the shopping calendar: Black Friday.  While there are the young upstarts of "Cyber Monday", "Small Business Saturday", and most terrible of all, those soul-less stores that are open on Thanksgiving, Black Friday reigns supreme.  To get your morning started, I recommend stopping by the South Bend Chocolate Company for free coffee, or if you'd like more than liquid fuel, the Sunrise Cafe on Lincolnway.

Small building, big portions...
The Sunrise Cafe is found in a teeny-tiny house on the main thoroughfare between downtown and the airport, a perfect place to stop on your way to/from Chicago or the Michigan City outlets.  The menu features standard breakfast and lunch fare, all at reasonable prices, and the two-person wait staff is as friendly as can be.  When I went, I had an asparagus and swiss cheese omelet (under $5), which was good, but I really enjoyed the accompanying raisin bread that was dripping with butter.  My friend's egg scramble was a tasty mess and came in a huge portion.  Make sure to check out the whiteboard by the door for the morning specials.

Their mug collection is conversation-worthy
The down-to-earth service and intimate space of this place is a world away from what you'll find in stores on Black Friday, but it's a perfect spot to start your morning right.

Where: 1805 Lincoln Way West
When: Open early - 2pm
Tip: As with most local diners in the area, the Sunrise Cafe offers some fantastic workweek breakfast specials (my choice: 2 pancakes + 2 eggs for $3.95).  Order a bottomless cup of coffee, and you will be ready to go for Black Friday, all for the price of one venti Caramel Brulee latte at Starbucks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

#70: Elkhart's Turkey Stampede

It is with disappointment that I acknowledge South Bend's (apparent, let me know in the comments if this isn't true!) lack of that most prized of Thanksgiving morning traditions. No, I'm not talking about watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I'm talking about a Turkey Trot. For those of you not familiar with the term: an early morning race (typically benefiting charity) to burn off calories before the Thanksgiving Day feast commences.  But you know what, that's what neighbors are for.

Nearby Elkhart, just a couple of exits up the Toll Road, is hosting its 2nd annual Turkey Stampede. The fees to race benefit Elkhart's Faith Mission, a charity organization providing food and clothing to those who most need it. The Mission is also one of several organizations in the Michiana area providing Thanksgiving Day meals to those who would have otherwise gone without.

The Turkey Stampede itself is actually not just one race, but allows you to choose between a 10K run, a 5K run, a 5K walk, and a 1 mile run or walk.  The races begin at 8:30am with registration going on from 7:00am-8:00am. I know it's early, but just think how great the actual turkey will taste later on in the day.

For more information including directions, fees, and registration visit the website here and view an informational PDF here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

#69: Lula's Last Days

Recently, a reader of our blog, named Nicole, commented on our post about Lula's.  She said what I've always felt about that coffee house, and I hope she won't mind that I'm re-posting part of her comment here:

"I started going occasionally when I was in high school in the late 90s. After I got out of school, and after stints at the south side Studebagels and the Barnes and Noble cafe I started working here, worked 5 nights a week for a few years - loved my co-workers, loved the regulars, met my boyfriend here when I was working. Even now a little over 5 years after leaving I can walk in and always see someone I know. The few years I worked there I had so much fun, working or hanging out with co-workers, it very much felt like a family and Lula's has always had a feeling of community. Many have moved away but this is still the only job I've ever had where I kept in touch with so many of them, even if it is just Facebook. :) I loved making the hummus during prep work, it was always my favorite thing to do for some reason! Even the odd jobs we ended up doing as employees - fixing the front door, painting, planting flowers, re-covering cushions on chairs - it all made it feel like the place was our own. At least that's how I felt about it, and even though I don't work there anymore, I still do.

So many people have "their" place - this is mine. I've always been a bit of a cafe rat who frequents many places in town (most often the downtown ones out of convenience since I work down here now) but this is still it for me. My home away from home, I love everything about it."

For Nicole, myself, and many others like us, Lula's has been that comfortably bizarre and deliciously friendly local coffee house.  Every artist, feminist, poet, independent voter, professor, hippy, hipster, burn-out, [life-long] student, aspiring actress, writer, nerd, faux-foreigner, and pseudo-intellectual needs one; and I don't know anyone who would contest me in saying that Lula's has been just that for all of South Bend's outsiders, insiders, readers, music-makers, and appreciators of good coffee and even better atmosphere.  For almost 16 years, Lula's has been full of characters you expect to find in novels, not necessarily in Indiana, while serving damn good coffee and my favorite chicken, artichoke, and spinach wraps.

It's with a heavy heart and an empty coffee cup, that I tell you Lula's at 1631 Edison Road is nearing its end.  Because its lease will not be renewed, Lula's will be closing at this location on Wednesday, November 24th...just two days from now.  You have just over 48 hours left to bask in the glory of that eerie eye in the blue corner,  sit under the roman columns among palm trees, check your reflection in one of the mirrors on yellow wall, or respect the moon and star "Thank You for not Smoking" sign.

I strongly urge you, or rather insist that you do at least 2 out of 3 of the following:
- stop in during these last couple days and take a mental photo of this important place
- buy some of their extra goods (details below)
- frequent the new location, once it is found and opened (this last one is not optional)

In a recent email to Lula's supporters, the owner said that one way you can help is to do some food shopping at Lula's to clear out the inventory.  Here are some of the items you can buy between now and Wednesday:
  • $6/lb - Coffee
  • $8/lb - Espresso
  • $3.50 - Big bag of Zapp's chips (a classic Lula's side-dish)
  • $2.50/lb - Smoked Ham
  • $10 for 100 bags of Republic of Tea
  • $3 for 10 oz. - Honey Mustard
  • $5 per bottle of Monin Syrups
Don't you fear.  Lula's will find a new and equally wonderful location, but during these last few days here on Edison, stop by to appreciate the Lula's community that has flourished and grown over the last 16 years, not to mention the toasted brie sandwich.

#68: Opening Day for the Holiday Stores

The holiday shopping season has descended upon us quite suddenly, much like the permacloud that covers the skies at this time of year.  Perhaps the two are dueling forces, as if twinkling icicle lights and beady-eyed reindeer could somehow combat the oppressive darkness that descends at 5pm here.  Every time I look at the window as I'm leaving work, I'm shocked by how dark it is already.  Not fair, mother nature.

Lucky for me, tonight, a new store is bringing light to South Bend (literally and figuratively).

A Homestead Shoppe (Lighting and Lampshades) opens up in downtown South Bend, and is providing wine and cheese in proper holiday cheer.  This store is one of fives temporary shops that will be open in downtown South Bend for the holiday season.  Also joining are Imagine That! toy store; Party, Work & Play, clothing/shoe store; Heritage Arts & Crafts, featuring local arts; and the Michiana African American Chamber of Commerce and Friends Holiday Market.  It's great to have more tenants downtown, and the city's "Pop Up Shop" program--these stores have free rent until New Year's!--really shows an innovative way to bring more of the seasonal spirit of consumerism to the downtown area, because really, their presence is a gift. Heh heh.

So leave the house and come downtown for A Homestead Shoppe's open house.  It's retail therapy that also combats Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Now that's what I call happy hour.

Where: 123 S. Michigan (near Spark)
When: Open house starting 5:00pm-9:00pm

#67: 72 cent Junior Burgers at Bonnie Doon THIS WEEK ONLY

While driving to a friend's house Saturday night, I heard a radio ad for an anniversary special at Bonnie Doon.  Head over to that long time Mishawaka institution this week and celebrate 72 years of Bonnie Doon by getting a junior burger for only 72 cents.

Location: 2704 Lincolnway W, Mishawaka, IN 46544
What: 72 cent junior burgers
Why: Because Bonnie Doon has been around for 72 years, which is a long time.
Fun Fact: Last week, they offered 72 cent root beer floats.  So I'm crossing my fingers that there will be another deal next week.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

#66: New Music Ensemble

Think that classical music only consists of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven? That it's, well, boring? Well, think again. Indiana University South Bend's 'New Music Ensemble' is committed to in their own words: promoting new music, performing the most current music, and allowing IUSB students to "experiment" and create new music.  That all sounds pretty much the opposite of boring to me.

The ensemble, led by Jorge Muniz is performing today at 4:00pm at the Campus Auditorium at IUSB. One of the items in the line-up for today's show includes a ballet piano piece for four hands. For those of us who are musically illiterate, that apparently means that two people play the piano at one time. I'd personally go to see that alone. If you're interested in what this type of 20th and 21st century music and performance is all about, go half an hour early for the pre-performance lecture with the performers at 3:30.

When: 4:00pm (or 3:30pm)
Where: Campus Auditorium, IUSB. Link to map and more info here.
Tickets: Adults, $7 order ahead, $9 at the door. Students and children are FREE.

Friday, November 19, 2010

#65: First Annual Holiday Walk

Just can't wait until Black Friday to begin your Christmas shopping?  Generally detest the violent showing of greed and consumerism that day involves?  Need to buy some late birthday gifts to give to your family at Thanksgiving?  Or have a Saturday free to spend depleting your checking account?

Regardless of your motivation, this weekend is a great time to welcome the holiday spirit back into your life.  Tomorrow, four shops on the 700 block of East Jefferson will display their holiday goods for the first time this season, proving that block parties are not just for summertime.

Here's the run down
First Annual Holiday Walk
Location: 700 block of East Jefferson
Date: November 20th
Time: 10 am to 4 pm
Participating shops: Marigolds, Just Goods, Buttons & Bows, and Beehive Salon
Apparently, there will also be refreshments and in-store specials.  I'm crossing my fingers for peppermint hot cocoa.

We, three bloggers, are especially excited for tomorrow, because the event features two of our favorite local shops: Marigold's and Just Goods, and it'll be great to check out Buttons & Bows and the Beehive Salon as well.

Yeaaa, I know what you might be thinking... I, too, hate the fanatical rush to begin the Christmas season.  Holiday shopping before Thanksgiving can make me feel a little overly capitalistic.  It makes me worry that I'll get into the consuming of the holidays rather than the giving.  Yet, there is something special about buying that first gift for your mom or someone else special.  (For some reason, it makes me think of the scene from "The Polar Express" - the book, not the movie - when Santa gives the sleigh bell to the kid and declares "THE FIRST GIFT OF CHRISTMAS!"  which, mind you, is a very sacred scene  in my litany of childhood Christmas memories.)  

There's another heart-warming idea at work here.  It's not simply about the browsing, buying, and gift wrapping.  It's about that small business community that has developed on the 700 block of East Jefferson, bringing friends and patrons together to kick off the season of peace on Earth and goodwill towards (wo)men.  Mmmm, let the warm and fuzzy holiday season begin.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

#64: Fever Alternatives for November 18th

Since we (kind of) promoted an event at Club Fever last night, I feel the need to balance things out with an installment of Fever Alternatives!  

Just when it feels like there's nothing else to do tonight but flock to Michiana's hottest night club along with the area's collegiate population, we're coming to your rescue with a handful of Thursday evening suggestions.  For all of you So. Benders (South Bendites, Bend Aides, etc) who cannot stomach the idea of - as the kids say -"grinding" up on a stranger tonight, here are a few events that might be even MORE fun than a night at Club Fever!

6:00 PM  Begin your anti-Fever evening with a nice dinner... at the public library?  Normally, I wouldn't eat things found at the St. Joe Public Library, but tonight is different.  Check out their cooking workshop entitled "Thrifty Thursday: Ready, Set, Cook!"  I hope the food is better than the name.  LaSalle Branch Library, info for hungry readers here  
7:00 PM  Adams High School students will sing about the hilarious history of homicide,  "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940," John Adams High School, 808 S. Twychkenham Drive, seriously, I'm not kidding - more info here
7:30 PM  Motown classics?  Absolutely.  Darryl Buchanan at Trio's, 124 N. Michigan Street, more info here
7:30 PM  Mozart, Bach, and like stuff like that... with the IUSB Philharmonic at Northside Hall (campus auditorium), 1855 Northside Boulevard, Ticket prices at the door: $9 for adults, $7 for senior citizens, students and children are free, more event info here  and fancy pants classical music stuff here
9:00 PM  A little bit of country... and hopefully a lot more folk with Tommy O Miller at Fiddler's Hearth, 127 N. Main Street, more info here

No, I can't guarantee there will be cage dancing at these events, nor will I promise that it'll be overflowing with sweaty 20 year olds.  Heck, you might even have to pay more than $1 for a shot. But I hope you'll somehow find a way to enjoy one (or more) of these events tonight.

Let us know how you'll be avoiding Club Fever tonight!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

#63: Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry After Party at O'Sullivan's

Right now, I'm sitting in Lula's after the last poetry reading at its current location, but I'm considering heading over to O'Sullivan's later.  Why?  Well, this bar often offers all drinks for $2, so the answer should be evident, but tonight is extra-special.  It's the after party for the "Red Carpet Movie Screening" of Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry, a new documentary about the famed tattoo artist.

In a blink of an eye, you can go from chilling with Notre Dame MFA students to well, this...

The documentary showed at 6:30 tonight at Club Fever -- anybody catch the film? it looked fascinating -- but the after party at O'Sullivan's is sure to be a prime place to people watch and get inspired for your next tattoo.  It's a gallery showing with skin as the medium, so perhaps it's no wonder that common ground can be found in South Bend among the  Masters of Fine Art and masters of body art.

Where: O'Sullivan's Crossing, 235 S. Michigan St.
When: 9:00 pm -- last call (and who knows after that...)
Extra incentives to go: door prizes, body art certificate giveaways, Sailor Jerry girls & drink specials.