Sunday, December 18, 2011
A quick nod to the Ballet Met Nutcracker performance. We have seen the Nutcracker ballet in several cities: Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, to name a few. This one, the Columbus Ballet Met's, simply blew us away!
This traditional Christmas performance is already good as it is originally intended to be. But the version that Ballet Met puts on is splendid. Several comical characters are added (think the grandmother!), and some very creative props and dances add the extra wow to the show (think Arabian coffee, among others).
Bravo, team Ballet Met. If you have not seen it yet, and have the tickets, you are in for a treat!
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
In the spirit of the holiday season, here is shout out to another Bexley gem of a place: The Bexley Coffee Shop.
This unassuming café is everything a neighborhood coffee shop is meant to be. Proprietors, Paulette and Sean, make you feel welcome as soon as you enter the door. They will, by order, make you a cup of what might be the best coffee in all of Columbus. I kid you not.
The reason behind this? They roast their own coffee (named Red Bike Coffee Roaster). Few people might know about this because they currently make small quantities just for the café's needs and only replenish when necessary. They do have enough, however, for people like me to take a pound or two home to extend that strong, nutty flavor experience in the comfort of my own home.
Beyond the daily caffeine requirements (they do have teas and other beverages as well), Bexley Coffee shop is a small mecca of local arts and locally produced goods. Sean and Paulette carefully select interesting handmade items to intrigue and inspire their customers.
With a cup of coffee in your hands, you can browse the selections and grab that perfect holiday gift for your loved ones. What could be better? No crowds, no nonsense. And you are supporting the local economy!
I must not forget to tell you about the baked goods they have on the offer as well. Again, local bakers are present here: Pattycake Bakery, Sassafras Bakery, Sweet Thing Gourmet (jams and biscottis), among others. Whoever invented pastry and baked goods must have known that their two best friends are named Coffee and Tea.
I was also happy to see handmade art pieces by my dear neighbor, Abby Feinknopf whose talents I adore. She was one of the first people in Columbus who took me by the arms (literally) and showed me around some of her favorite 'gems' in the city. For that, I do owe her!
So, if you have a minute, or two, and are hungry for that 2pm coffee break (or whenever else that may be), stop by this sweet spot and say hi to Sean, or Paulette, or both. They are always there with big smiles along with that perfect cup of coffee with your name on it.
The Bexley Coffee Shop
492 Cassady Ave.
N. Bexley, OH 43209
Thursday, December 8, 2011
There is jam, and then, there is Sweet Thing Gourmet jam.
I have always had a fondness for jams in general. They dress up toasts in the morning, add sweetness to buttery cookies, and can be surprising good in salad dressings.
I heard about Mark and Kyla and their jams before I met them in person. Because we live in the same town, it was not too long before I was introduced to them, along with their deliciously creative jam creations.
During the farmers market season, the couple and their three children can be found at several markets around Columbus. They always have a variety of jams to sample (my daughter's favorite reason to go to a market), as well as their homemade biscottis beautifully packaged and oh so good with a hot cup of tea.
It was a beautiful cold morning when I popped in to say hello the Sweet Thing team. Mark and Kyla were elbow deep in their jam making session, in their home kitchen. The scent of warm apple cider and raspberry filled the whole house.
"We are making Raspberry Jalapeño and Apple Cider Jelly!" they announced as I entered.
Dozens of already packaged jam jars decorated their counters and tables, ready to be shipped to the expecting customers. Sweet Thing Gourmet operation was in full swing!
I got to witness first hand the artisanal quality that these jams receive. The are made in small batches, and everything is done by hand. Even the labels are designed and printed out of their home office, sealed and packaged individually as well.
Back home, I already have a few jars. Some are open, and some are going into gift bags for the holiday season. Everyone that I have shared the jams with have not only loved the products, but want to know the history behind them.
My husband, who does not throw out words of compliment easily, tasted their Peach Jam with Samos Saffron recently. He paused after the first bite, studied the jam jar once or twice, took another spoonful straight into his mouth and blurted out:
"That is the best jam I have ever had!"
Coming from my life-partner, who I know so well, those words are pretty powerful.
"I know," I said. "The people behind the jam are really great, too," I added. "They put their souls into the jam."
I have seen and tasted it myself.
Sweet Thing Gourmet can be found in several stores in Columbus (including Whole Foods, and Celebrate Local in Easton), or you can order them online and have them delivered to you. I am one of those people who enjoy making my own holiday gifts, but I have no qualms giving these jams out to my family and friends. It makes a difference that I know the hands behind the jars, and the souls that get put into them.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
We missed it last year: the night when German Village puts on a little show with thousands of luminaries along the sidewalks where stores and galleries stay open late into the night. It's a festive way of welcoming the holiday season, Columbus-style.
We missed it last year because it was cold. I know, it sounds a little sad that we wouldn't venture out just because the thermostat didn't peak beyond 20 something degrees. But remember, we were newbies to the midwest winter; our thin skin was adjusting to the drastic changes of the season. We took a rain check and promised to try it again next year.
And poof! Just like that, here we are a year later. That rain check became more literal than we would have liked. The precipitation started coming down in the late afternoon, testing our courage to experience our first Village Lights. The air was warm, however, despite the rain. We had no excuse. Besides, I needed to introduce my family to the best kept secret in Columbus this time of year (well, maybe not such a secret anymore!).
No matter the temperature, or precipitation, dear fellow Columbus residents, the Village Lights in German Village, and a visit to Bierberg Bakery should be on your early December agenda (the former, you will have to wait for next year, but the latter, you still have until the rest of the year to experience).
The bakery will warm your body, and the lights, your soul. Here's an early happy holidays to all!
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Do you like airplanes? History? War-time related artifacts, stories, movies? Here is just the place for you.
We had been talking about this place for a while, this place being the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It's got a great reputation. It's open everyday of the year except for a few (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's). And... it's free!
With the grandies visiting, one of them being a Korean War veteran, it was a no-brainer that we should just jump in the car, drive an hour or so West (of Columbus) on I-70 (so easy and straight that I almost fell asleep driving), and visit the impressively large and information-packed museum.
We could have spent a few days in there and only scratch the surface. Maybe we will bring a tent next time.
From the Wright brother's stories and replicas to the fighters in both World Wars, to the beginning of the US Air Force, Korean and Vietnam wars. Fascinating in every possible way.
From 7 years old, to 77 (and some in between), we all found something to enjoy, reminisce and take away from. It's worth the trip!
National Museum of the USAF
Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB OH 45433
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The Wexner Center deserves a real, long, detailed post. I had but a short visit there today, just long enough to try their new eatery, Heirloom.
The day was so beautiful (must we say goodbye to this for many months?), I had to take a quick shot at the front of the building (graced with the current exhibition on landscape).
I will return to the Wexner, and do it justice, I promise.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
A year ago, when we had just moved to Columbus, I looked for a small farm to find that sense of belonging one yearns for when they are feeling 'out of place'. Sure I had just transplanted myself from a different time zone, a different landscape and culture (yes, California has its own culture), but I knew that all farms share the same common denominator: earth with things growing out of it. And from my experience thus far, I have liked all the farmers I have met (regardless of where they are from), especially the small-organic-sustainable-farm-type farmers. It's easy for me to connect with them: it's easy for me to feel comfortable in their presence, and on their land. It makes me feel at home.
Sunny Meadows Flower Farm was the first farm I visited, and it gave me what I was looking for. The small farm reminded me of my friend's farm in Massachusetts, and Gretel and Steve felt like old friends with whom I could reconnect. I loved seeing their fields of flowers with so many different colors and shapes and sizes. Walking through the rows of towering sunflowers felt like living in an impressionist painting, only better.
Hard to believe that it has been a year since I was introduced to this hard working couple and their magical flower fields. Life got busy, and it was not until recently that I returned to the farm.
Steve and Gretel had expanded their growing space, renting a part of their neighbor's land for the season, to produce more flowers to meet their demand. They are still focusing on flowers, creating the most beautiful bouquets and wedding arrangements. On an impromptu tour, they showed me the different ways they tend their flowers; some need more TLC, some like to be under cover, and some just need more sunny days.
They also told me about their flower CSA which is quite a neat concept. Instead of getting produce weekly, you get bouquets of flowers. How cool is that? Imagine a house filled with beautiful flowers grown right around here. I'd say it's a swell idea.
A wise man named E.E. Cummings once said: Earth Smiles with Flowers. I could not agree more.
Sunny Meadows Flower Farm
3555 Watkins Road, Columbus, OH 43232
Saturday, September 24, 2011
It's the season of fall festivals. For the most part, our family avoid them... mostly because we are not the best at fighting crowds, wait in line, and spend a lot on really rather bad-for-you foods.
But I think that we just found the perfect festival for ourselves, and sadly, you all will have to wait until next year to experience it, too (unless, of course, you went there today!).
Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware holds an annual Harvest Festival. The place itself is worth a visit regardless of what is happening there (a working farm, animals, greenhouse, children's garden), but with the festivity, our family was impressed by the low-key, informative and fun afternoon we spent at the center.
The center's main mission is to educate young people about the food system, how food is grown, and how to respect the earth with organic practices. They have vegetables and well as livestock on site, plus a good flock of chickens and roosters in the orchard.
Today, families and children were treated to several activities, art booths, wool spinning, felting, sauerkraut making. Even the turtle lady was there (a very popular lady today, I've got to say).
Some got to ride horses, meet donkeys, and learn the differences between the two. Farm kitties appeared out of nowhere for children to follow.
There were goats, sheep, pigs, and cows munching on the just rained-on green grass being lit up by the much appreciated afternoon sun.
Secret gardens and hiking paths to the sugar shack were also good distractions into the wonder of nature.
Musicians entertained throughout the festivities. Folk singers, and bands took stage and sang nature songs. We had to remind ourselves that we were still in Ohio, and not back in Northern California!
After all, it does not really matter where we are, does it? The right spirit was there, shared by all the people attended. Together, we celebrated the earth, the harvest, and this day at the Ecological Center where its vision was, clearly, being realized.