empire — Mimi Wheeler of Grocer's Daughter Chocolate, along with experienced trip leader Jody Treter, will lead a group of chocolate lovers to Ecuador for an 11-day tour, Feb. 29 to March 11, 2013.
The tour will focus on chocolate growing, fermenting, processing and exporting as well as indigenous entrepreneurship.
Highlights of the trip include:
n Visit to the Otavalos market, one of the largest and most important artisan markets in South America.
n Taste the rare and prized Nacional cacao species.
n Meet with cacao farmers living in the Amazon who own Kallari chocolate, one of the only chocolate companies in the world wholly owned and governed by its indigenous producer families.
For more information, visit www.grocersdaughter.com
Dust Bowl exhibit
HICKORY CORNERS — A West Michigan car museum is offering an exhibition that looks at autos in the Dust Bowl era.
The display at the Gilmore Car Museum coincides with the recent airing of PBS' two-part television series, "The Dust Bowl." The film by Ken Burns features interviews with residents who lived through the Great Depression, drought and wind storms in the 1930s.
The Gilmore museum's display includes Dust Bowl-themed photographs, but its focus is on the cars of the time. A Duesenberg custom-built for Hollywood's elite sits next to a Ford Model T covered with a family's only belongings.
New FireKeepers hotel
BATTLE CREEK — FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek, owned and operated by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, has opened Michigan's newest resort-style hotel.
The hotel is located along Interstate 94 at exit 104. With 242 rooms, it features an indoor pool, exercise facility, full-service restaurant and business center. A multi-purpose event center has been added, capable of seating up to 2,000 in a concert venue or to be used for banquets, corporate meetings, trade shows and other events.
Also included in the expansion is additional gaming space, increasing the FireKeepers' gaming floor to 111,700 square feet, and 2,900 slot machines. The new gaming area is located near the hotel lobby and will be a dedicated smoke free zone.
Additional information is available online at www.FireKeepersCasinoHotel.com.
Seaport museum opens
NEW YORK — The South Street Seaport Museum has reopened to visitors with two new exhibits.
The museum, located at 12 Fulton St. in Lower Manhattan on the East River, is one of the last tourist attractions in the city to reopen post Hurricane Sandy. Also still closed to visitors are the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which will not reopen before 2013. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on the Hudson River is also still closed.
Flooding from Sandy, which hit at the end of October, destroyed electrical and heating systems in many building basements in the South Street area. The Seaport's Pier 17 has reopened and New York Water Taxi service has resumed there, but many businesses and shops remain closed.
The Seaport neighborhood's cobblestone streets, preserved 19th century buildings and tall-masted historic vessels anchored at Pier 17 create an evocative glimpse of New York's old waterfront and is a popular tourist destination.
The historic vessels and the Seaport museum's collections and exhibits were not damaged, but the museum's mechanical, heating and electrical systems were shut down. For now, visitors must use stairs to the museum as its escalators and elevators are still not operating. Heat is being blown into the building from heaters located on the street.
The museum was opening two new exhibits, "Street Shots/NYC" and "A Fisherman's Dream: Folk Art."
traverse city — The Traverse Area District Library will offer e-book workshops on Thursday, Jan. 3, and Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the main branch, 610 Woodmere Avenue.
January workshops will be held at 1 p.m. for Kindle owners; 2 p.m. for iPad, smart phone and tablet users; and 3 p.m. for Nook, computers and other e-readers.
February times are 5 p.m. for Kindle users, 6 p.m. for iPads, smart phones and tablets and 7 p.m. for Nooks, computers and other e-readers.
The focus of the workshops is to learn how to use the TADL e-book collection and resources on patron e-reader devices.
Workshops are free, though registration is required due to limited workstations.
To register online, visit www.tadl.org/ebook_workshop or call 932-8502.
Author wins award
leland — Maggie Figgis van Galen, a graduate of Leland High School, was recently awarded the Mom's Choice Award for her first children's book, "The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest -The Banana Tree."
The award is part of an international program that recognizes authors, inventors, companies, parents and others for their efforts in creating quality family-friendly media, products and services.
The author currently lives with her family in Massachusetts.
bellaire — Belfire Press has released "Wolf Hunter" by Aaron Bennett, formerly of Bellaire, under his pen name, J. L. Benet.
The Friends of the Bellaire Library will host a book signing by Bennett from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at the library, 111 S. Bridge St. Print editions of the horror novel featuring an Ojibwa shapeshifter, Nazis and werewolves are now available through Createspace and Amazon.
Bennett currently lives in Denver, where he teaches writing at Metropolitan State University. For details, call the library at 533-8814.