Ballyea Jewelry Designs

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Oh the luck of the Irish is upon us! As I have been progressing to support our local merchant on social media I stumbled upon a business with the same message and spirit.

Bernadette Gibson originates to us from an Irish family and supplements her jewelry with a Celtic twist: not only in design but rich in passion and meaning.  As a successful jeweler from Chicago’s Jewelers row at 9 N Wabash, for 30 years, we are privileged to have her talents here in Michigan City for the last 3 years! I didn’t even know! 

She has recently relocated to our community and should be considered the jewel of the town with her shop adorned with beautiful rings, bracelets, and pendants, all custom made and unique. She can customize any kind of design you wish and does so with a joyous disposition.

Scottish Thistle Medallion

This Celtic pendant is a two tone 14 kt two-tone white gold triskele triple spiral Scottish Thistle Medallion. This piece, she said modestly, has a special place in her heart. The design means, “All of the Energy you give out to the world comes back to you…swirling are 3 spirals of constant forward motion,” she says. The three arms of the triskele have various forms of meanings but for her it was the relationship of mind-body-spirit, specifically: courage, strength, and love: All in constant harmony and movement. How could you possibly carve something this and the end accomplishment of perfection not have significant value to your soul?

This ring also has a special meaning as one of her favorite pieces. It is a 14kt White Gold Chatham Emerald Diamond Ring. This ring has hand carved Celtic Trinity Knot on each side with no beginning and no end, it represents unity and the eternal love which binds us together. The unity knots surrounded by bead set diamonds on either side with a Chatham emerald as the center. “I enjoyed carving it, the Celtic knots are endless and flow with eternal love,” she says, and as she spoke, I could see a piece of her soul is infused into each piece she carved. 

She is also very capable of any type of jewelry repair. However, they do not repair watches, or replace batteries.

Her husband, Gary, who also works in the store, and he has filled the rest of the space with Irish clothing for all ages from adult sweaters to baby onsies.

Trinkets and treasures are woven into the room with gift ideas galore.

The walls are crafted with signage that warms your heart and home, as well as handmade Celtic crosses for a religious display and conversational piece of art.

The vibe of pure creativity surrounds you when you walk in and I would be amazed if you don’t find something you can give as a gift or appreciate yourself for years to come.

Ballyea Jewelry Designs

Celtic Jewery Design & Irish Gifts

519 Franklin Street

Michigan City, IN 46360’

Phone: 312-332-9307

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11-5

Additional hours by appointments

The Flow of Coffee, Art, Music and Education at Fluid Coffee

Fluid Coffee Storefront

As a coffee mandated hippie, I am pretty basic. So when I entered Fluid Coffee, I was a little overwhelmed by the sophistication of the connoisseurs menu. I came into 518 Franklin Street with a neighbor friend of mine. She is as illiterate in the coffee terminology as am I, but the barista and coordinator of the Michigan City location, Leanna, showed extreme professionalism, confidence, and patience when describing the differences in almost everything on the menu.

I love the artistic vibe and framed articled biography located by one of the displayed accomplishments. It has a warm relaxing hip atmosphere with welcoming faces from the staff. 

music is endorsed by offering stickers for sale

The Plain Jane that I am, ordered a “drip coffee”,  and my neighbor decided on the Vanilla Latte. The skull shaped spoon to stir the latte with was the perfect touch to integrate the reverent music which  set a mood of accomplished independent defiance: the humanity of it all!! 

 I admired the options for privacy and group meeting areas. With a private cupping room available for reservations and will have coffee educational tastings, “like a wine tasting but for coffee,” according to Leanna. The next one scheduled for Michigan City is March 14, and only cost $10. Samples  I look forward to this as I am coffee terminologically challenged!!!!  

Our barista for the day Nick, was delicate in his artistry of crafting the perfect latte for my neighbor complete with a feather design on the top: 13 years experience has served him well in establishing his craft, and it shows in his passion for appreciation of his customers’ approval. Originally from here, he improved his skill in Bloomington, IN for 10 years and recently moved back two years ago. We are privileged in having his talents here in support of our community.

Leanna comes from the Ukraine and adopted into the US in 2007, successfully went to Chesterton High School, lived in Valparaiso, and recently chose Michigan City as her location to learn about the third wave coffee shop way. She is excited about the upcoming cupping room tasting March 14th, where they share information about the direct relations of this coffee shop and how it’s beneficial for the farmers related to which they serve.

Overall, I think this is going to be a great place for community growth,education, and an artistic establishment. Join them in thier waiting gallery.

See how they roast the beans in their clean production back room.

IG: @FluidCoffeeLove

FB: @FluidCoffeeLoveMC


Nostalgia Feeds the Soul and stomach

Smashburger Headquarters

From the awning advertising to the vintage painted word DINER on the historic building storefront in downtown LaPorte, this place takes you back to the days of a high quality diner. I was looking for somewhere to kill a few hours of time while my daughter was at volleyball practice, and decided to investigate a local burger place. Now, I had never heard of this place and was surprised to find they have been here since 2014! They claim to be the home of the smashburger, but I soon found a new favorite hometown greasy spoon. Thanks to David and Dan Thornberry for following their dreams!!

The Brothers definitely have a passion for the ole diner feel and a time where fat free wasn’t even a thought,

No family recipe for fat free only heart and soul💖

and making the noodles for soup is a process of taking their heart and soul as added ingredients to flavor their homemade chicken noodle soup with a splash of love. It warms the belly as well as the spirit.

The crisp cleanliness of this little diner gives it a home-like atmosphere with fun whimsical attributes from the menu to the groupings of wall art.

Classic Rock and Roll Theme
Elvis is in the building!
Families Belong Here

 From appetizers and a family recipe homemade chicken noodle soup,  to an all you can eat fish fry Fridays and Saturdays, and great daily specials, this place has something for everyone!!  Today’s special was buy one burger and get a single burger for $1. 

We ordered the Big T double burger and combo appetizers: zucchini sticks,fried mushrooms,onion rings fried raviolis, and mozzarella cheese sticks. All I can say is well done!!  The batter was portioned correctly to the vegetables, and the tastes were individualized – meaning not all thrown into one fryer and cooked together where the flavors blend: A move many small diners do, but cooking them separately, tingles the taste buds with textures and individual flavors of delight.  The Fried Ravioli had a nice soft but crispy crumble crust and a smooth rich cheesy center. 

I just fell in love with the simple but elegant capture of the 50s Diner.

American Spirit

The decor was enough to keep you looking around and finding new things to see, and yet not too overwhelming. These two brothers smashed more than just burgers, they hit the grand slam with this little Diner!!!!!! If you have been there or are planning to go, please let me know what ya think!!!


+1 219-362-6261

501 Lincolnway, La Porte, IN 46350

Hotel Chicago

Neighborhood Hotel and Art Gallery WEST LOOP

Chicago Archetecture and Hotel bring tourist a taste of Community Art and Culture and Healing

I was recently visiting a friend in Chicago for a birthday party and needed a place to rest up and refresh for the evening activities, so I quickly scanned for the cheapest and closest location. I found the Chicago Hotel only a mile away and for only $97 with taxes. WHAT A FIND!! As an art lover and advocate for artists, I was amazed that the universe directed me to a place that inhabited everything I was needing with the unexpected bonus of a community art gallery, at no extra charge!!!

The annex is clean and elegant with an array of displayed art and an explanation of the supported foundation: The Shirley Ryan Artlab, an art therapy program facilitating art as a rehabilitation program for those who suffer strokes, spinal injuries, brain injuries and debilitating diseases such as MS. The hallways act as a 4 story gallery, displaying photos, and paintings along with placards that identify the artist, their story, and usually a quote from the artist regarding the purposeful passion behind their captivating works.

Helmut Horn: Polaroid Impressionism

But it doesn’t end there! They have full size wall murals in the rooms painted by various local street artists.

This place was more than a hidden gem, it was an exuberance of community spirit filled with passion, hope, and concern for others.

As for the rooms, the renovations we’re well-noted:from a full size refrigerator, microwave, a Keurig, big screen TV, iron, ironing board, hairdryer, and a nice size personal room safe. They even have rooms with bunk bed style double beds: twin on top and full size on bottom.

I was a little disappointed by no continental breakfast but once I found out that 10% of their minimal room fees are donated to this fantastic art therapy program, I was grateful for the flavored creamer in the lobby with fresh coffee and water as well as vending machines in the stairwells.

I am so excited to go back and take more time to view all the art and read about all the artists, some of the paintings are even for sale, but the passion from the artists and for the artists that this Hotel displays is priceless!!!

Have you been here recently? Do you know of any other great finds like this in the City? Please share your stories of finding hidden art.

Check out their site and enjoy the passion of the neighborhood!!

Silver Surf Resort, Brandenton FL

view from 3rd level Sea
Horse Building

This little hidden gem brings back the nostalgia of the 80’s getaway. When it was purchased in 1986 it was renovated and added two more buildings to accommodate guests with breathtaking views and the privacy to enjoy all the amenities it has to offer. Walking up to the third floor was worth the sunset views. Keys given with identifying seahorse building medallions were an enjoyable touch. The little things that are overlooked by corporate owners were definitely not missed by this family-owned and run home away from home. Being greeted by the most helpful staff at the front counter, Megan provided transportation options like the free trolley service until 10 pm and the Monkey Bus that operates solely on tips and will pick you up anywhere and take you anywhere on the island.  She also gave suggestions of local establishments that enhanced our experience of Anna Marie Island. They also provide a very reasonable and great personal massaging service that will come to your room or provide their services in a tiki hut on their private beach. This is truly a one of a kind great find!!

Bite Cafe is a Mouthful of Goodness

This little unkranian village cafe has the meraki vibe as you enter off the street: laid back with the aroma of passion and epic food. The staff genuinely is there because they enjoy what they do, the company of their co-workers, and it shows in their flow from service to stocking: synchronicity is present. 

As for the food, all I can say is, wow! I ordered a staple of any breakfast joint: Eggs Benedict. The layers of flavor burst on your taste buds like the yolk does to your fork. Arugula, grilled slices of ham, and pimento cheese smothered with a Hollandaise Sauce that brings this classic to a new level of life. My taste buds were dancing to the rhythm of my chew. The goodness dissipated in a swallow, just to be followed by another explosion of what they call mashbrown.

Every meal should be followed by dessert and their meals are no exception. The AM Bread is served warm with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, like a coffee cake french toast, followed with a sip of their signature Dark Matters Coffee, and the soul is satisfied and ready to take on the challenges of the day. It is a higher price than I would normally spend for breakfast, but worth every penny. This place was a real treat !!


1039 N Western Ave

Chicago, IL 60622


You Can’t Help Go Down The Rabbit Hole

Street art graffiti invites you to travel into the rabbit hole and the service, food, laughter and giant Jenga on every table keeps you there.

Front Row Seating to Sports

Six TV screens internally circle the encompassing bar to keep the sports enthusiast satisfied from every angle, while music spirals from one genre to the next with a flow that just keeps the good times rolling. As you walk in, you are greeted by the invitation to play rabbit pong; calling you to drop the days issues at the door and embrace your “you-time”.

Rabbit Pong Champion… Oh yeah!!!
Camron and his Camron Action Figure

Now, the man with the plan to set you on your travels for your your time here is Camron. He has been at this location for 10 years, and basically is contracted with the building because of his dedication to a good time, good food and good service. He is a bartender, manager and community icon. One has to be to work and/or manage this location thru 4 owners. The Current Owner is Chris Ryan, a Chicago Icon of his own. Several long-standing successful bars including The Original Mother’s can be contributed to his involvement. His new investment: The Rabbit Hole, has the ambiance of a local watering pub where friends and neighbors gather to enjoy a moment in life together. I just fell in love with this family style community environment. The bouncer doubles as a game show host to the masses fora game of Hangman as well as greeting everyone and inviting each guest to enjoy a great time.  Upon witnessing his talents, local Katie Umph guessed this puzzle in an impressive time with only 2 letters…how much fun can you have at a neighborhood hangout?

MIlkman Matt

The music that plays in the background is produced by a DJ named Milkman Matt, who milks the artful tastes from the visiting clientele and feeds the souls of the room with a celebration of style that satisfies everyone. If you are in Chicago and want to embrace the excitement of recaptured youth Chicago style, this is a great place to visit! 

The Rabbit Hole

1208 N Wells

Chicago, IL 60608

Sculptures From Spills

I had the privilege to meet and amazing local man who has found a way to turn wasteful spillage from a blast furnace into significant art sculptures. His name Is Justin Sule and he is a 3rd generation steel mill worker who has a family history of about 100 years in the industry. He has been working on the blast furnace for 8 years and has a unique eye for opportunity. The above original can be seen anchored to the wall at Zorn Brewery here in Michigan City, IN. Hopefully, he will be also participating in the First Friday Art Walk displaying his artwork for sale. I will keep you all posted !

In short, sometimes the blast furnace acts like a woman with a mind of her own, and when she has an emotional outburst, she splashes molten iron out of the trough and makes a mess of things. When this happens impurities can become imbedded into the cooling splatter and renders it useless. But, with special approval, Justin has been able to take these solid iron quagmires and capture his creative talent turning it into amazing sculptures. It is a long process for each piece to remove the slag, coal, and other impurities with hand grinding and polishing the finished piece by buffing the anomaly into imaginary perfection.

He is married and has full support of his wife but pointed out that his pieces are fairly large and she doesn’t feel it contributes to the modern farm decor she has worked to establish in their home, and this is more an industrial abstract art. That’s ok, she thinks they are an ideal asset to any gallery, business, or man cave setting.

Tragically, his garage caught fire and he lost most of his collection recently, and all his dedicated hard work. No worries he is currently working an a new piece despite the setback, and will be rebuilding his collection to share with the world. I will be excited to see the end product from this rough spoilage. I will update this post with the after picture when it is complete: Here is the rough stuff he is starting out with, or you can find him on instagram: @theironcain.

During my interview with him I found out this is not the only talent he possesses. He is also deemed a Wild Mushroom Identification Expert and goes by the name: @Im_a_fungi_mushrooms on instagram and has a great business offering multiple types of mushrooms including shiitake and oyster – to name a few- for local restaurants and personal purchase: He also offers logs that are infused with spores that you can obtain to start growing your own supply. This is a guy worth taking the time to know and I felt privileged to find this diamond in the rough in our community. I am looking forward to following his progress to success and sharing it with my readers!!

Sophia’s Pancake House is Supreme

About 6 years ago, a life-altering opportunity was presented to a young server, Stelios Mitris, who was born here in the states, raised in Greece, where he worked as a server when his patron offered financial support of his dreams. Now, having been a server before, this happens more frequently than people realize without avail: Goals and Direction – revert back to Just a Dream. This person saw something in Stelios and had no doubt his investment would be successful. There are no words to describe the intoxication that showers you when you meet him: Warm fuzzies, smiling hearts, dancing feet, and and a singing soul, is the best I have. Selios Mitris has a passion for serving people that was acknowledged, rewarded, and exudes from his aura today. With a patrons’ support, he purchased Sophia’s a little over 3 years ago, and has a flare for ownership with a suave management style. The restaurant was named Sophia’s in honor of the original owners daughter, and translates from Greek to mean Wisdom. Stelios made the wise choice of keeping the name we all know and love.

The addition of an outside patio is a great touch, and I cannot wait to come back in the summer and enjoy sitting in a little area or serenity in the midst of this hustling business area.

His employees speak very highly of him, they have the utmost respect for him: He has created a family essence among the staff. His beautiful soon-to-be wife, Teresa – greeting, hosting, and helping wherever she can, displays a Vogue-like appearance: Enhancing the ambiance of an experience there to the top-notch level it deserves. The decor is one of sophistication and tidiness upheld and reflected by the staffs immaculate efforts as well.

I was greeted immediately upon entering the establishment with a friendly smile and offered a table while I waited for a friend to join me. My designated server, Alyssa, was quick to greet me with coffee in hand, and a pleasant patience for the short delay in ordering. The menu offers every kind of breakfast you can think of and a variety of lunches. My Favorite: Stuffed French toast.

This is a masterpiece of 3 texas toast blocks that are satiated with a mascarpone cheese – an italian cream cheese with lemon juice originating from southwest of Milan around the 17th century. Though mascarpia translates to ricotta, it is made from cream and ricotta is made from milk, giving it that custard like dreamy goodness!!! Add bananas foster for a nominal charge and you have a dish that is orgasmic to the taste buds, but dangerous for diabetics. Top that off with a glass of their daily fresh-squeezed orange juice and the spirit is flying high with vitamin C.

They have also included gluten free choices as well, creating limitless accommodations for all tastes, and health options. They have daily specials that are presented on a seperate menu and fluctuates seasonally for quick reference and 2 varieties of freshly made soups daily that are displayed as you walk in. The portion sizes are certainly above expectation for the price and deceptively lower in cost than the stature the establishment presents.

My server was just great!!! Knowing when to walk by the table, when to offer more coffee, when to interact with customers: her follow-up skills were impeccable. After my guest arrived, and her timing was again, perfect. Our meals came expediently and hot. She served us without interrupting and came back to see how everything was at the appropriate time. Stelios nails the customer service aspect and summed it up when he said,” I hire for attitude and train for skill.” Well done!!!

I have been a server before and this was one of the places I worked. As a server, many patrons will offer to support you and your directions in life, but his story captivates the epitome of hard work to success. His success has earned him the Winning 2019 Readers Choice Award. I left feeling very blessed to have met the new owner and re-visiting one of my favorite old stomping grounds.