When I first launched the Cooler on the Lake Shore blog in July 2011, I described it as the "Chicago-style ramblings of a recovering Washingtonian." My wife Barb and I had just moved to Chicago from Washington, D.C., where I had spent 30 years as a professional journalist, covering politics and elections for Congressional Quarterly (for whom I served as politics editor from 1998 to 2009). Though that makes me sound like a newcomer to Chicago, I am anything but.

I had the good sense to marry an Illinois girl who grew up just south of Chicago. I started falling in love with Chicago on my first visit here in 1981, and we have photos of ourselves taking in a beautiful day at Belmont Harbor -- which we now look down into from our apartment on the Lake Shore, from which the name of the blog is derived. We have an amazing view that you will see a lot of in the photos I'll be posting to this site.

Although my previous career has been focused almost exclusively on politics, you'll see little of that on Cooler on the Lake Shore. This blog is about exploring Chicago and the many facets of life in one of the world's most dynamic, beautiful, complex and challenged cities.

You'll read a lot about food and drink, areas in which I am also trying to build a second career as a freelance writer. I'm a bit obsessed with food, I do most of the cooking at home as my hobby, and I am becoming more engaged with the Good Food movement in which I've long participated as a consumer. I don't want to say that drinking whiskey is my hobby, because that can be taken the wrong way, but I do know a fair amount about brown liquor, and I also have a passion for the rising craft brewing and distilling trade.

I am also huge on sports. I intended to be a sportscaster when I attended Michigan State University -- and yes, you'll hear a bit about the Spartans on this blog -- and I am a lifelong baseball fan who made the dubious decision in mid-life to adopt the Chicago Cubs.

I also plan to find interesting stories about people working in volunteer capacities, for non-profit groups and in the private sector who are working to make life better for Chicago residents and the city as a whole.

I have rediscovered an old passion for photography, which I will share with you on a very regular basis.

And Barb and I have a beautiful cat named Gracie, who we believe has serious potential to be an Internet sensation. You'll get to meet Gracie, the queen of Chicago, too.

Enjoy. It really is cooler on the Lake Shore!

Bob Benenson