Your Questions Answered

I'm back! I took a few extra days in there to allow for laryngitis and pinkeye in our house. You know, the usual.

Thanks for your questions. They are diverse and were fun to answer!

Q: What are some creative birthday party spots around Columbus?

A: My favorite topic in life. Of course, play cafes are my favorite because they offer a spot for food as well as for play. Here are some places you may not have considered: Moxie's, Franklin Park Conservatory, COSI, Goldfish Swim School, Wendy's Gym, Central Ohio Fire Museum, The Glass Slipper, and if you are lucky enough to have a birthday at the right time of the year, most local pumpkin farms have a party room and include all the farm activities. Check out this list for places that come to your house! I will never forget when my mom had a tea party brought to our house. My dream party for the kids is having Bring the Farm to You come visit. Keep in mind that often, the more awesome the place, the more it is going to cost you. If my kids had summer or fall birthdays, we would definitely rent a shelter at a local park for a very low cost, have a free playground, and either save the money or go all out on the food and decor.

Q: What kind of camera do you use?

A: Oh, another love language of mine. Actually, I have learned that camera choice is not nearly as important at lens choice, and I am the weirdo who spends free time reading lens reviews for months. Anyway, my camera is a refurbished (warrantied) Nikon d3300 I got from Adorama. It was economical and got fantastic reviews. And again, you'll want to save on the body and spend your money on lenses. In less than a year, I have traded in the 18-35mm kit lens, bought and traded a 35mm prime, bought and love my 50mm prime, and just got a 35mm Sigma Art, which I love. It is perfect for environmental portraiture, which is my thing. If you are more into landscapes (which I know you are, question-asker:), you won't want a 35 and may want a zoom. Stop in Midwest Photo Exchange and talk to them about the best lens set-up for you. The d3300 is fabulous for anyone, though.

Q: I have a monthly get-together with girlfriends of mine and am always looking for awesome new restaurants/cafes/treat shops to try. What are your top 5?

A: If it is just a mamas day/night out (YES!), I love:

  • The Wine Bistro (3 locations), my favorite is in Clintonville: There are so many great entree and app choices, and everything to drink from wine flights to mules (PS- look at the Valentines Day package!)
  • Figlio (2 locations): My go-to for a fancier, excellent dinner with the ladies. 
  • Fox in the Snow: Every bakery item is great and the iced NOLO coffee is amazing.
  • Dough Mama bakery cafe: There is a big table for gathering and much more than pie on the menu! The Thunderkiss coffee hits the spot and I love the cheddar scallion biscuits.
  • Cambridge Tea House: Always a hit every time. Love the black vanilla tea, sausage casserole, and chicken salad. 
  • Places I want to try: Meza Wine Shop, Veritas Tavern, Zen Cha Tea, Skillet, Basi Italia


Q: Any tips to make the transition from one child to 2? And fun things to get out and do with a toddler AND a newborn?

A: Congratulations! The first month was hard for us because we didn't have a few things in place. Larkyn was just shy of 3 years old and was still (happily) in the crib to sleep. As the hospital discharged us, they said "No lifting anything heavier than the baby, including big sis". Uhhh. That meant we had to transition her out of her crib with a newborn at the same time. BAD. So, get your other child set with any life transitions before the new baby. My friends set up a Meal Baby service for me, which was great. I cried at the thought of fixing dinner. And always, always have a second pair of hands around when you go out in the beginning. Nothing is scarier than the first few times you go out and don't know how to hold a toddler hand AND a baby carrier. Speaking of that, get a front carrier you love NOW. I used the Infantino sash ($35!) and that helped me with household chores. Grocery shopping was the hardest because there isn't physical ROOM to put everyone. Giant Eagle pre-ordered curbside is the best $5 you'll ever spend. Don't jump into the double stroller thing. They are enormous, don't work well, and your 3 year old will probably be done with the stroller soon. In the beginning, we did toddler in the stroller and baby in the front carrier. Eventually, she started walking alongside (with help from another person) and the baby got the stroller. Good luck:)

It's also important to note that I realized I am very unorganized as far as going out with the kids. It is good to have friends who are always prepared, because I am always borrowing wipes or toys to entertain.

And the second part, fun things to do. Well, not grocery shopping! I'd say any place you can go where it is stroller-friendly, go there. I email or call places to ask if their trails or areas are flat for a stroller or if they have steps. We did a tour of playgrounds that first summer, and it was great. The baby just slept in the stroller and Larkyn played her heart out at a new playground each time. Go somewhere with safe, easy parking (not High Street) and a quick escape (not the mall). Playgrounds and play cafes, I'm telling ya. Maybe try each of the Metro Parks this summer, and don't forget the Park of Roses! Your biggest concern will not be the baby, it will be your 3 year old running off while you're getting situated with the baby. Some parks have good buffers from traffic/bikeways and some are awful. Monterey in Dublin, Schiller in German Village, and Goodale (Victorian Village) are all safely away from traffic.

Thanks for the questions! I love answering them and I hope they help. 

Your questions...

I'd like to turn it over to you today. I thought it might be fun to field your questions about Columbus, parenting, our life, food, blogging, photography, etc. I am no expert in any of them, but it is always fun conversation and those are my favorite topics.

Leave a comment below or comment on Instagram and I'll answer. And if no one asks any questions, then I'll pretend this post never happened and be back to our regularly scheduled programming later...

because who can resist this pretty little thing?

Indoor Play in Cbus

Well, it's here. There's not enough snow for sledding and snow play outside, but you've GOT to get out of the house. Hope this helps.



Aha! Museum, Lancaster

Aquarium Adventures, Dublin


Metro Parks (all over the city, many with indoor nature centers and children programs)

Paper Moon Art Studio (Clintonville)

Play Cafes:
FireflyTreehiveLittle SkippersLittle Green House ZenKidsPiccadilly

Recreations Outlet, Powell

Sky Zone, Lewis Center

Scioto Audubon, Brewery District

The Works, Newark

Worthington Farmers Market, Shoppes at Worthington Place

TinkerColumbus, Hilliard

Yoga on High family yoga, Campus

What else would you add to the list? 

Life Lately

Welcome, January! We haven't been able to get out as much as usual because of either: Rain, subzero temps, or illness. But, we spent a lot of time together over the long holiday weekend, relaxing and then eventually exhibiting signs of cabin fever...

Thursday, I got "mugged" by someone at work. I just attempted to link to cute pictures of "mugging", but the internet clearly doesn't understand the multiple meanings of the word. Get a cute mug (I LOVE mine!), fill it with treats, and keep the chain going until everyone has been mugged. 

It turns out, that would be the highlight of Thursday, because at about midnight, I woke up with the stomach flu from which Matt was just recovering. The next 36 hours were couch-bed-iPads-please don't make me move hours.

By Sunday, I was feeling better and we needed some constructive activities, like cupcakes!  Larkyn is getting pretty good at cracking eggs. Licking the spoon and knives, that's another story.

This picture made me die. It just reminded me of this poster and I can't unthink that. 

Because it was a holiday weekend, we had an extra day (so I had four days at home). By Monday night, we were DONE BEING INSIDE. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that Matt started working the night shift in preparation for his on-campus nursing courses. They began this week! We need all your positive thoughts as we begin a huge transition in our family. I am so proud of him and excited for his new path.

Missing daddy, but stealing his hat makes up for it. Weeknights on my own with the kids are bringing a new way of life. Because dinner for one adult and two picky eaters is difficult, I am taking this opportunity to really work on some food issues we have. I am not going to worry about "enjoying" my dinner while they eat "kid stuff", but put more focus on them eating what I am eating. No more snacks for dinner, it is me across the table from them and we each take turns taking a bite of DINNER FOOD. This is really hard for us, so any tips you have on dinner with toddlers/preschoolers is welcome. Bath times last longer, bed times are a little later, and I am finding a new routine. I miss my main man like crazy, but we are making it. 

It is Restaurant Week in Columbus, and although I can't have a fancy dinner out with my husband this year, it has been fun to meet up with friends and try out the more affordable choices with the kids. All benefiting the MidOhio Foodbank. If you are local, get out there and try something new!




Cambridge Tea House with Kids

Oh, this little tea house has such a special place in my heart. My friend Julie and I have many memories here, starting when I was pretty expectant with Larkyn, and then for my first Mothers Day (when she was 3 weeks old!)


Whenever January rolls around, I feel Cambridge Tea House calling my name ("warm tea! Scones! Pretty and colorful decor!")  So for Julie's birthday this year, I thought I would try bringing Larkyn along. Just shy of age 5, she is doing pretty well in restaurants, and I felt like she was the perfect age to handle and enjoy it. Of course, I forgot my camera that day, but was lucky enough to use Julie's new phone (thanks). 

We always make online reservations with Cambridge, but they are not required. I have seen many people come in expecting to be seated and politely offered a later time because the restaurant fills quickly. It sits right on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Cambridge Avenue, and has a lot or on-street parking. 


It is a small part of the little shopping center, and very intimate. You can reserve parts of it for small showers or have a candlelight dinner once a month with your favorite person (Happy Valentines Day!)  It is a bright, cheerful space and I just love all the pops of red!


The staff is welcoming to children, and made Larkyn's LIFE by offering a tiara from the tray as soon as we were seated.


Let's talk about food. First, you will want to order your tea, and this can be done by the cup or by the small/large pot. I adore their black vanilla tea and share a large pot with 2 other adults. Of course, there are kid-friendly drinks that come in the fanciest of cups (or a plastic, lidded cup, but do you really think she went for that?)



When you enter, there is a chalkboard where they have written daily specials. There, you'll find out which scones, quiches, casseroles, and desserts are featured. This time, we opted for the afternoon tea, which has 3 sandwiches, 3 desserts, a scone to share, and a pot of tea. I love their chicken salad, so we doubled those and Julie added a tomato soup.

 

And because I looked forward to this meal like a bear just out of hibernation, I also ordered the sausage casserole and fruit cup. The casserole always fills me up for the day and balances all the delicious sweets. The cherry chocolate chip scone is one of my favorites, but really I'm just in it for the clotted cream. Oh yes, I forgot that it comes with two slices of sweet bread (lemon and pumpkin). Ladies, wear your leggings. 




You can see that Larkyn had an order of scrambled eggs (that came with pumpkin bread and a fruit cup). She did a great job eating it, so it must have been good. Their "Prince and Princess Tea" features peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, or egg salad sandwiches with sides. She isn't a sandwich fan yet, so I was pleased that they let me just order the eggs. And, can we talk about that fruit cup?! This is not your standard honeydew and cantaloupe afterthought, this gorgeous!

I go and check out every restroom we visit, and am the one who will document a really amazing bathroom. This is one of my favorites, and it is all set up for changing babies. If you have a child who is terrified of automatic toilets, you'll be happy to know that theirs is not. Bonus points. 


I like how we can take our time without feeling rushed at Cambridge. The food has remained absolutely consistent over the last 5 years that I have gone once or twice a year. If you have a little princess (or prince!) in your life, this would make a really special lunch date. Even better, bring Nana along to celebrate. I would recommend bringing them when they are tiny enough to sleep in a carrier or about age 4, but it seems that they welcome any age and you know your child best. 

The best part of spending this day with my mom, my daughter, and a best friend...welcoming baby Audrey to the Cambridge scene! 

Columbus Food Adventures Breakfast Tour

My friends, all my breakfast dreams came true this weekend. I've been wanting to go on a Columbus Food Adventures tour for a while now, but hadn't pulled the trigger. I was fortunate enough to receive a gift certificate as a Christmas present from my class, and I couldn't wait to try some new places in Columbus.

If you struggle (like I do) with picking out a restaurant because you want to try ALL of them, this is perfect for you. Someone else does the driving, cooking, and cleaning, and you are just along for the ride!  My friend Jill and I met the group at the Columbus Aquatics Center in Victorian Village, and our tour guide Nick Dekker was there to greet us. 


The brand new van was roomy and Nick pointed out various points of interest on our drive to Ethyl and Tank (That's the new van outside one of our stops).

Ethyl and Tank



Once inside, he gave us an idea of how the day would go and told us a little about Ethyl and Tank. The restaurant was inspired by old filling stations, the "Ethyl" side for filling us with coffee and caffeine, and the "Tank" side for alcohol. 



Right off the bat, I tried something new: My first Bloody Mary. They use a housemade mix and arrange a whole bar full of toppings, including spices, vegetables, and even bacon. 


Our breakfast was amazing...chicken and waffles (which is literally my two favorite foods put together), corned beef (pulled, not cubed), and some potatoes.


I was already satisfied with this generous portion of goodness, but I needed my morning coffee! The caramel latte was inexpensive and just what I needed (drinks are on your own). 


Buckeye Donuts


We loaded back into the van to make the quick drive up High Street to Buckeye Donuts. Buckeye has been in business since 1969 and has truly grown with Columbus. It is now in it's third generation, and proud owner Jimmy was happy to tell us the history. He also glazed a few donuts for our enjoyment.



The baker (who was hilarious) told us all about the process, the most popular flavors, and how he experiments with new flavors all the time. They are open 24/7 and never close. Ever!  So, he has lots of time to develop fun new recipes. Look at all the choices! We love the cream-filled chocolate iced.




I have taken Larkyn to Buckeye, and we loved the vibrant feel and the familiar comfort of the food. In addition to donuts, they have a full kitchen menu complete with gyros. This stop was the most fun and the one that really showed, without a doubt, how much they love their business. 

Kolache Republic

We made our way to German Village to try the Eastern European specialty of Kolache Republic. Matt's grandma makes the Slovak version, and these Czech kolaches are a little different. Basically, they are made of bread similar to Hawaiian sweet bread and filled with sweet or savory fillings. 



We learned a little bit about the history of the food and how their style has a Southern influence (from Texas, surprisingly). Jill tried the Chorizo, I tried egg and hash brown, and then we got to try their most popular flavor, blueberry cream cheese. 



These were filling and rich, and they would be portable for a meal on the go. The space is bright and inviting, and they have the perfect corner location on Front and Frankfort. 

The Market Italian Village

From German Village, we headed North again, to Italian Village. Right on the corner of Summit and 3rd Street, we stopped at The Market Italian Village. I was floored when I saw the inside. It is so much bigger and more beautiful than you would ever imagine as you drive past. 



The front and back are seating areas for meals. Around the perimeter, there are unique goods and wines. We found everything from pastas to prosecco jelly, wooden flight boards to ginger beer. There is a pizza oven and a meat section in the back, and a bakery case up front. 




Our meal at The Market was my favorite of the day. It was just so different and felt somewhat healthy, so maybe my body just appreciated it!  We had a breakfast hash of scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts, served with housemade sausage. Ooooh I can't wait to have it again. 



Fox in the Snow

Fox in the Snow is one of my favorite places in Columbus, so I was excited to be ending the tour at a place that I knew would bring it home!  I have seen the owners each time we have visited, but it was cool to hear Lauren and Jeff speak about their journey toward their dream and their amazing success story. This place was a former masonry building with a dirt floor, and now it is a bustling, bright space. 



Before the tour, I did not know that they only use natural ingredients and leave out most things that aren't butter, flour, sugar, eggs, salt and baking soda. That means it is healthy, right?  I was so thankful for the samples because I always order the same things when I go. I tried the apple pop tart (which was crunchy and perfect in every way) and then bought my favorite pecan roll to take home. I also love their egg sandwich, filled donut, and cinnamon rolls. 



If you are looking for a new favorite to try this winter, head to Fox in the Snow. You will love everything and never want to leave. 

This was the end of our tour, and as we drove back, I could tell that everyone in the van was already planning their next tour. I'd like to try the brunch or coffee tour next. OR the taco truck...or desserts. If you are looking for the perfect gift for anyone, this is it (Hello, Valentines Day!) You can buy tickets online and print them.

Thanks, Columbus Food Adventures and Nick!  We will be back for sure. 



Swim lessons: What can I expect at Goldfish?

As you and your children are deciding what kinds of activities to put on your weekly schedule, you might be going back and forth on swim lessons. To be honest, it was probably the last thing on Larkyn's list of princessy activities she would like to do. However, after she fell in a pool over the summer, it was at the top of my list.

If you are able to fit in a weekly lesson at Goldfish, I really encourage you to give it a try. Aside from making the pool experience more fun for reluctant swimmers like mine, it will give them the strategies to potentially safe their own life one day. When she fell in, she had zero skills.

Here is what you can expect from a 30 minute lesson. You can see photos of the facility here.


At the entrance, you will use a convenient card on your key ring to sign in. Then, head to the private changing rooms to get the kids changed and relax for a few minutes until class time is announced. Depending on the age and skills of your child, you will most likely walk them to their lane and then go back to the other side of the glass.

From here, you will can watch their lesson from the seating area, and if you have other children, they can play on the chalkboard, color, read, or look at the turtle tank. There is also a small selection of dollar snacks (big fans here!)

Children 3+


Your swimmer will work on skills based on his or her development and age, and Larkyn is a Junior 1 (swimmers with the least experience). The most basic goal is to have no tears for 3 consecutive lessons. This will be reassuring to you if your child cries, because it is very common!  Next, they will kick with the barbell and demonstrate breath control for short durations.



They will also work on the Superman glide on their bellies and the sea otter float on their backs. They will use a variety of learning tools that look like toys. They "condition" with little duck cups full of water to get used to feeling water on their face, use barbells, rings, and an "island" with a platform and bar for holding. They will work on climbing out themselves and the "jump-turn-swim to the wall" routine.


When there are five minutes left in the class, parents will be called into the pool area to briefly discuss the swimmer's progress/learning for the day. They will show you one of their new skills and might even receive a ribbon for their effort.

They can shower in the nearby warm showers and head out to change clothes and dry their hair with provided hairdryers.

Babies/Toddlers


If your child is very young, like Rhys, you will be getting in the water with him! There is an area for towels right by the first lane, where the baby classes take place. You will join the few other families in the water and the teacher will begin with a welcome song with lots of splashing.


Little ones will focus on kick-kick-kicking to songs on your lap and kicking around in a circle with a barbell. You will help them do an otter float on their back, reinforcing the idea to roll to their back should they ever fall in. Babies love to stand with support on the in-pool bench for "conditioning". This is when you will just practice getting them wet, starting with their shoulders and working toward their head. Or in Rhys' case, he just dumps the whole thing on his head right off the bat. That moves into a supported jump off the bench to parents, with an emphasis on holding "a bubble" (which is actually quite a challenge!). Swimmers will practice pulling with their arms by chasing after balls, they might practice balancing with their core on a floating mat, or even using the mat as a slide (that's a crowd favorite).




One of the most important skills they practice is climbing out of the pool by using their elbows and knees. We practice jumping in, immediately turning around, and climbing out so that it becomes intuitive.

The lessons move quickly to keep the babies entertained and with such a small group, it is easy to get clarification or actually have the teacher model the skill with your child. We need a lot of support with holding a bubble (see below--I'm showing him how to hold a bubble and he just opens his mouth!), so it is good to have extra help with that.


There will be many staff members outside the pool, monitoring safety, taking attendance, and intervening if needed. We did a Jump Start clinic a few years ago with Larkyn and she was so petrified that another staffer joined in to give her extra comfort.

Personally, I am so proud of my kids and impressed with the learning that takes place each week. Larkyn has gone from total water aversion to putting her face under for a few-second dip. Rhys is much more wild and will do anything to put his face in. BUT, just tonight, he began pulling himself through the water by kicking and pulling like a little froggy.

I hope this gives you a good picture of our experience and might encourage you to give your child the gift of learning to swim. Don't forget that the Westerville location will be opening very soon!
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