Friday, August 30, 2013

10 Years with Paul

Ten years ago today, Paul and I were married.

It was your typical northwest Ohio wedding, with storybook-perfect weather. What was atypical was how Paul and I met.

June 2001. I had just started a summer job as a page at the Ohio Statehouse. Earlier in the month I had moved out of the Ohio State dorms and into an off-campus apartment with a houseful of strangers. I had just finished my sophomore year, and it was my first summer away from Defiance. My friends had split Columbus, and I was on my own.

I met Paul one of my first days on the job. He began working at the Statehouse a couple of years earlier, and I remember how frustrated he was that he wasn't getting full-time hours that summer. In fact, my 32-hours per week position was probably one of the reasons his was cut back!

So he decided to quit. But before then, we spent several hours together manning the clerk's office of the House of Representatives. Summers at the Statehouse are slow, and barely anyone was around. We could even read at the desk.

He was impressed that I was reading one of his favorite books, "Catch 22." I loved hearing about the previous summer he spent in Ireland and traveling around Europe. We talked about this and that, and the conversation eventually made its way to -- of all things -- Waffle House. He couldn't believe I'd never been there. On his last day at the Statehouse, he said he'd take me there and asked for my number.

He called, but instead of a trip to Waffle House, he asked if I liked sushi. I'd never had it. We went to Haiku in the Short North anyway.

And if all goes as planned, we'll be eating at Haiku again tonight, more than 10 years later.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Strollers in Ohio vs. New York

Edith's first stroller ride, four days old.

Edith was four days old when she had her first stroller ride. It was by far the fastest and easiest way to get to her pediatrician's office.

My nephew Wyatt, on the other hand, was three months old when he first rode in a stroller.

The difference? In New York, a good stroller is one of your most used pieces of baby equipment. But for Ohio babies -- like Wyatt, and now Edith -- a stroller is convenient but not quite so important.

In New York, there were a few times when I would take Edith out in my Ergo baby carrier without a stroller, such as if we went to the Laundromat. But more often, I would lug the stroller up and down the apartment steps.

In Ohio, it's more common to take baby from house to car to destination, all without the use of a stroller. In part, that's because Edith is a little older. For example, we can place her in a grocery cart and leave the stroller behind. But even when we visited Paul's mom over the weekend, we didn't bring the stroller. No need.

Our stroller will, however, get more use here in Columbus than in other, more rural parts of the state. We can still walk places in our neighborhood. We took Edith in the stroller to a nearby farmer's market on Saturday, and we walked to a restaurant for lunch the next day. We took a stroller ride to the library last week, and I expect to get some stroller action on the nearby trail and park sometime soon.

I still could never do without a stroller. But I'm not going to be putting the same mileage on it here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Food Cart Scene of Columbus, Ohio

In New York, food you could get from trucks wasn't limited to just ice cream cones.

Oh, no. You could get waffles and schnitzel and burritos. Tempeh and grilled cheese and kimchi. The possibilities were endless.

And yet, despite my best intentions, I rarely ever ate from a food truck. From the occasional hot dog stand, yes, but not from an honest-to-goodness food truck.

It took moving to Columbus to do that.

Earlier this month, Paul, Edith and I went to the Columbus Food Truck Festival held at Columbus Commons (the site of the city's former mall, but that's a whole other post someday). New York held food truck fests, too, but they were generally known for their long lines and we never went.

Columbus' festival had long lines too, but at least there was a live band to shorten the wait -- and drown out Edith's cries when the waiting got to be too long.

And wait, wait, wait we did. But the result -- for me, at least -- was worth it. I got in line at Sweet Carrot Casual Cuisine and chose the house-smoked pulled pork topped with coleslaw, all laid on a thin corncake. It was sweet and smokey and so, so delicious. Paul and I also split an order of fried artichokes. He liked them better than I did, but they were still OK.

Pulled pork

Fried artichokes

Paul got in another, longer line and ended up with some type of tender goat meat over rice. Good, but not worth the wait, he said.

Edith got a banana. Sorry, Edith.

Besides about 50 food trucks and live bands, the two-day festival also featured a few merchants, which I would have liked to have browsed. However, the lines for the food were so long that they were closing down shop by the time we finished eating.

When we left Columbus in 2007, food trucks were few and far between. I'm impressed with the variety and quality of options now available in the city. I only wish I could have tried more!

Friday, August 23, 2013

NYC Desserts: Brooklyn Blackout Cake at Little Cupcake

If Brooklyn blackout cake isn't my very favorite dessert of all time, it's at least in the top five.

And luckily when we lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, I could get an excellent version of the dessert only a 20 minute walk away, at Little Cupcake Bakeshop. Unluckily, I live in Ohio now.

Blackout cake is a traditional Brooklyn dessert make popular by Ebinger's, a bakery that closed in the 1970s. That cake was "a three-tiered devil’s food cake layered with chocolate pudding, slicked with dark chocolate frosting, and topped with additional devil’s food crumbs," according to an article on the website Capital.

While I can't be certain what exactly makes up the Little Cupcake version -- the website doesn't list a description -- an in-depth investigation (conducted by eating dozens of slices over several years, of course) leads me to this conclusion: three tiers of devil's food or chocolate cake separated by layers of chocolate ganache, smeared with ganache on the top and sides and covered in chocolate buttercream frosting.

I'm pretty sure I just got a cavity writing out that description.

And Little Cupcake has chandeliers, too!

I love the cake so much that it made my list of the 12 things I'll miss about living in New York, but even I have limits. Almost every time I've attempted to eat a slice of Brooklyn blackout cake by myself, I've come to regret it. It's a dessert best split by two, or gotten to go in order to eat the other half of the cake the next day.

But don't get the whole slice to go. Eating at Little Cupcake is half the fun. Browsing the delectable cakes, cupcakes, cookies and bars, pretending I don't know what I want to order, trying to find a table at a window: That's all part of the experience.

The takeaway: I love, love, love, love this cake. When Paul returns to Brooklyn in November for the New York City Marathon, I've already made him promise that he'll return to Ohio with a piece of Brooklyn blackout cake in his carry-on. Our marriage depends on it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One Month in Ohio

A month ago today we made the final drive from New York to Ohio. We were moving from our Brooklyn apartment to the spare room of Paul's mom, wondering what the remainder of the summer would bring.

What a difference a month makes.

Today is our first full day as owners of a house in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus. It was the first house we looked at on our first full day back in Ohio (after touring many, many, many other homes on previous visits to the state), and we closed on it in less than a month.

Although we couldn't ask for a more gracious host than Paul's mom (as well as my own parents, who hosted Edith and me for a week earlier this month), I've been anxious to again be in my own place. And unlike in our Brooklyn apartment, in Clintonville we'll have room to grow.

But that's a topic for another blog post, and I'm sure there will be several. Today, however, I'm thinking about how much has changed in 31 days. And in almost six years.

Paul and I have spent a fair amount of time re-exploring our fair city, and we like what we see. Many of our old Columbus haunts are still here, and I'm excited to visit the new stores and restaurants. There's an energy to the Short North and downtown that I don't remember. I like it.

And while Clintonville isn't Bay Ridge, it does have many of the same characteristics: an active community, an urban atmosphere, walkable streets with places to actually walk to! I've enjoyed Clintonville since I first visited the neighborhood as a college student. I can't believe I'm actually going to live there.

Many people have asked whether I'm happy to be back in Ohio. I don't have a straight answer, and I suspect that all but my closest family and friends aren't too interested in the long version. But here it goes anyway.

I'm obviously pleased to be nearer those same family and friends. I love Columbus, I love Ohio. I have always been proud to call myself an Ohio girl.

But I loved New York, I loved Brooklyn, I loved Bay Ridge. I've written countless posts about what made living in the city so great. It'll be impossible to recreate.

That doesn't mean that I won't find living in Columbus again exciting. It will be so, only in a different way. I have to admit, I'm more excited about being back in Ohio now than I thought I would be for a long, long time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Final Days in New York in Photos

I took lots of pictures during our last few weeks in New York, and only a fraction fit into a specific blog post. Below are the odds and ends with captions that describe what makes them special to me.

My home subway stop.
Across the tracks is where we waited to go into Manhattan.

I can't even guess how many times I've walked up these stairs.

Each Brooklyn stop on the R line is one of several colors.
I barely had to look for 77th Street. I just looked for orange.

Edith at the American Museum of Natural History.

A Butter Lane cupcake in Park Slope. Yum!

Park Slope in the evening.

Purbird was one of our favorite restaurants in Park Slope.
The windows above the restaurant look into a yoga studio.

Chinatown street signs, on my birthday.

Exploring Brooklyn Heights.

Edith's first swing ride was in Brooklyn Heights,
across the river from Lower Manhattan skyscrapers.

Edith's first swing ride.

Empire State Building under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Edith in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Looking out from the inside of our favorite Bay Ridge grocer.

Will I ever again need a key to get my mail?

The scene outside our bedroom window in the middle of the night.

Friday, August 16, 2013

NYC Desserts: Coconut Dream Bar at Amy's Bread

I like the coconut dream bars at Amy's Bread so much, I've chosen them for a birthday treat not once, but twice.

Just reading the description will make your mouth water: "A gooey layer of coconut & chocolate chips on a graham cracker crust." The thought of a coconut dream bar propelled me outside in the middle of a New York City heat wave just so I could devour one on my 32nd birthday last month.

Luckily Amy's Bread has several locations in the city. I went to the one in Chelsea Market, but I also sampled the dream bar at the Village location on my birthday a few years earlier. If you're further uptown, stop by the Hell's Kitchen store.

In Chelsea Market

The coconut dream bar lives up to its description. It's a gooey treat that's one of the few very rich desserts I've tried that isn't predominantly chocolate. But chocolate-lovers needn't despair -- there's plenty of that in there, too. Delicious.

The serving size looks small for $3.75, but it's so delectably dense that only the strongest stomach would want seconds. But I can't say it isn't tempting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dessert and A/C!!! at Chelsea Market

I was still in New York on my birthday in July, and it was about 200 degrees.

That's an exaggeration, but not by much. It was miserable. And even if it wasn't quite 200 outside, the temperature in the stifling subway elevators couldn't have been too far from that number.

But I couldn't sit home all day on my birthday, even if it was tempting to park myself directly in front of our apartment's lone air conditioner. So as the afternoon wore on, I packed up Edith and we went to Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market is an indoor restaurant and shopping boutique located in a building that used to house the National Biscuit Company. The building that once churned out Saltines, Mallomars and Oreos is now filled with shops that sell wine, lobster and specialty cupcakes.

On beautiful spring days, Chelsea Market can feel dreary. The shops are all on the ground floor (I believe offices fill the remainder of the building), and there aren't many windows. But in the middle of a heatwave, the air conditioning is a godsend. In six months it will also be a great destination: It's the perfect place when it's freezing cold outside and you need a place that isn't a museum to while away an hour or two.

I like Chelsea Market's desserts, but I also like just looking around the building.

On my birthday, I visited Chelsea Market not only for the air conditioning, but for a specific dessert at Amy's Bread (more about that on Friday). I'm also a fan of the brownies at Fat Witch Bakery and the cupcakes at Eleni's. The range of desserts also make the market a good stop on the way to the High Line.

The takeaway: If you're in Chelsea, stop by the market. The nearby High Line is rightfully a very popular attraction, and Chelsea Market is worthwhile as a slight detour. Get a bite to eat. I've never tried the restaurants there, but they are crowded and look fantastic.

But if you have only a limited amount of time in New York and don't plan on visiting the neighborhood, I think it's not worth a special trip. Unless it's 200 degrees outside.

I visit Chelsea Market for the desserts,
but aren't the spices purty?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pancake Balls at Katalina's Cafe Corner

All things considered, it's safe to say that breakfast is my favorite meal. That's true even if it's served for supper.

With a baby, we don't often go out for supper anymore, but I'm getting to try a lot of new Sunday brunch spots. After we returned to Columbus, the first one we visited was Katalina's Cafe Corner.

And that was for one reason only: Nutella pancake balls.

A friend had posted about these on Twitter months ago, and I knew I had to try them. I love Nutella. I love pancakes. So there's absolutely nothing not to love about Nutella pancake balls, right?

Right. And there's even more to love about Katalina's itself.

But first, the pancake balls. Each is about the size of a golf ball with a buttery and slightly salty and crunchy exterior. The inside is filled with a dollop of Nutella, or if you prefer you can order one of the other flavors (including fig or dulce de leche when Paul and I were there). And Katalina's took it up a notch by including whip cream, Ohio maple syrup and two slices of sweet and spicy bacon. If I were the type of person to say OMG, this is where I would insert it.

The inside of Katalina's is tiny, with just a few tables and not many more seats. But it has an extensive patio, and we visited on a lovely day. Visitors seat themselves and receive a number to place on the table after ordering; the food is delivered. Although the tables were full, I never saw anyone waiting for a seat.

Katalina's Cafe Corner is the type of place that makes me excited to have returned to Columbus: Fun food at a scenic location in Harrison West, surrounded by beautiful homes and a stone's throw from the historic houses on Neil Avenue. I see more pancake balls in my future.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Carless in Columbus

Having one car in New York was often one car too many. Especially in the early days there, when Paul often didn't need an auto for work, we sometimes wondered if keeping one was worth the hassle. Alternate-side street sweeping meant the car had to be moved at least once a week, and there was no saying how long it would take to find a parking spot.

Having one car in Ohio is often one car too few. Paul absolutely needs a car both to get to work and to visit businesses around Columbus, so I'm stuck. When we move into our new house, I'll have more options; we'll have a library, trail, park and several stores and coffee shops within walking distance, as well as a grocery store and bus stops. While we're staying with Paul's mom outside of Columbus until we close on the house, I have even fewer options: The only things within walking distance of her house are other houses.

It's possible to go without a car in Columbus, but it's hard. I didn't have a vehicle my first two years at Ohio State, but instead relied on the meager bus system and the few stores within walking distance. It was a relief when I brought a car to campus my junior year.

In New York, few areas aren't accessible by public transportation. In Columbus, few areas are.

We'll be living a few blocks from one of Columbus' main streets, and yet I still wouldn't go without a vehicle. Doctors, dentists, hairdressers: there may be some within walking distance, but I certainly wouldn't have much of a choice, if any. Taxis seem to be available downtown; I'm not sure about the other neighborhoods. It would be all but impossible to visit my in-laws.

We are definitely buying a second car, and I'm looking forward to having options again while Paul's at work. But I sincerely miss the freedom of the subway.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

NYC Desserts: Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

As the thermometer rose ever closer to 100 degrees during New York City's recent heat wave, my thoughts turned toward ice cream.

Specifically, my mouth started watering for the many flavors of soft serve offered in Japan. OK, I didn't much miss the black sesame, but I easily could've downed a vat of either green tea or purple yam soft serve. But a trip to Japan isn't in the works anytime soon, so what's a girl to do?

That's when I remembered the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. During my last week in New York, the gods had come together and deemed me worthy of a green tea ice cream cone.

By the time Edith and I arrived in Chinatown on my birthday, the sun had started to set. That was excellent timing: While the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is air conditioned, it has no seating and the aisle was only a bit wider than the stroller in which Edith sat.

Of course, I knew which flavor I wanted, but I also knew there were many others I wanted to try. Red bean! Lychee! But I limited myself to one sample: taro, a kind of root vegetable. Delicious, and if I hadn't already made up my mind, I might have gone for the full serving.

But green tea it was. I ordered one scoop for $3.99. Bonus: The one-scoop servings are actually two scoops. No complaints here.

I gingerly made my way outside, doing my best not to drip the quickly melting ice cream on the stroller. I'm normally the slowest eater in the world -- hey, I like to enjoy my food! -- but this went down the hatch fast so it wouldn't end up on the sidewalk. Better it enters my stomach at record speed than not at all.

Although the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory may be a tourist haven, it's one I highly recommend. Not everywhere in New York can you get such unusual (or what they call "regular"!) flavors of ice cream. Perfect for a hot day. Or really any day.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Squibb Park Bridge: A Bounce in Your Step at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park and the nearby Brooklyn Heights Promenade both offer some of the best views of Lower Manhattan and, of course, the Brooklyn Bridge.

But although they sit practically next to each other, it's not as easy as a hop, skip and a jump to get from one to another. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway bisects them -- the promenade is above and to the east, while the park is below and to the west, right along the East River.

My favorite way to get from the promenade to the park is over Squibb Park Bridge. It isn't as dramatic as the nearby Brooklyn Bridge, but Squibb has something its sibling doesn't: a bigger bounce.

"The bridge was designed with trail bridge technology and is meant to be lightweight and flexible like the trail bridges in our state and national parks," according to the Brooklyn Bridge Park's website.

If you're prone to motion sickness, beware. A few steps is nearly enough to make you seasick.

I like the feeling, however. And although Squibb Park Bridge probably doesn't warrant a special trip, it's worth a stroll if you're in the area and want a good view of that other bridge.

Friday, August 2, 2013

We Bought a House!

We dove back into Ohio living head first: We bought a house.

We officially moved back to Columbus on July 21. On July 22, we made an offer on the home. The next day, after a couple of counteroffers, it was accepted.

The 1923 house is in the Columbus neighborhood of Clintonville, a few miles north of both the Ohio State University campus and downtown. An inspection of the house Wednesday went fine. We'll be moving in by the end of the month.

Walkability was a major must-have in our hunt for a home, and our new neighborhood has it in spades.

Our house is a short walk to the neighborhood farmers market, an excellent library, the Park of Roses, a giant playground, the Olentangy River and the nearly 14-mile bike and walking trail that winds along it. Several pleasant restaurants and coffee shops are also within walking distance.

Another bonus: It's about a 15 minute drive to Paul's office. He's not going to know what to do with all of his spare time!

We've spent a lot of time in Clintonville, both before we moved to New York and in visits back home after we moved away. But I know it's nothing like living there. We're excited and anxious to explore the neighborhood as new residents!


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