Sugar Cupcakery

I managed to snap a few more pictures of Sugar Cupcakery (though I apologize that they are still pretty low-quality):

I really enjoyed Sugar. Their cupcakes are all organic-- they are smaller than at Abby Girl, and a bit higher priced ($3.25 each), but I thought they tasted better. The frosting in particular is of a delicious consistency-- I am picky about my icing, and this was decadent.

The other thing that Sugar does well is social media! Abby Girl has no UrbanSpoon page (yet), Sugar has responded to me on Twitter, AND when I checked in on FourSquare I won a free cupcake! Gotta love that stuff.

If there was a downside, it was that I didn't get much of a variety-- because Sugar is only open until 7pm and it's out in Milford, we pulled up right as they were closing. We took home a chocolate chai, a vanilla, and a banana-- all were DELICIOUS, but I've heard talk of other flavors that I'm dying to try. I'm not sure when I'll be able to get out to Milford any sooner than closing!

Sugar Cupcakery website:
Sugar Cupcakery on Twitter:

Sugar Cupcakery on Urbanspoon

Abby Girl Sweets Cupcakery

I've been in a cupcakey mood lately, and I've hit up both Abby Girl Sweets and Sugar Cupcakery (reviewed tomorrow). First, a couple (bad) iPhone pictures:

I actually didn't EAT any of the cupcakes from Abby Girl-- I bought them for coworkers. I purchased a Neapolitan (strawberry cake, vanilla and chocolate frosting), a double chocolate and a peanut butter cup. They were all well-received, but I heard the best things about the strawberry cake in the Neapolitan!

I do like the family focus at Abby Girl. You can read their story on their homepage, but Abby Girl is the granddaughter in the family. It's a sweet story and a welcome addition to the downtown scene.

Abby Girl Sweets Cupcakery website:

Abby Girl Sweets on Urbanspoon

Guestblog: In Defense of the Suburbs

Jennifer Reed, friend of mine and author of the blog Guerrilla Wordfare, had an idea in need of a home, and I'm thrilled to post her guestblog here. If you have any comments, please leave them here or drop Jennifer a line [guerillawordfare at gmail]!

Like many in the tri-state area, I live in a suburb and commute to Downtown Cincinnati to work. Like others who choose this lifestyle, I often feel blame from people so rabid about renewal and revival they associate anyone who lives beyond the city limits with economic failure and business closures.

I live in the Eastgate area, and I have my reasons. Sure, my house looks like the stereotypical suburbanite abode, with its white fences and a wreath on the door. But I'm also near family, own a home I could never afford if it were only one county over and enjoy an admittedly quieter everyday life than I would if I lived in the city.

That being said, I love being Downtown and work on Main Street. I spend my money on independent dining establishments and in local shops. I frequent Findlay Market and our fine museums and am often present to cheer on our Bengals and Reds. I've paid my fair share of parking fees, given to the homeless and tweet about the latest and greatest events on Fountain Square.

Why, then, do I read so many blog posts, news stories and message board comments that angrily assume that my zip code determines my love for or loathing of Cincinnati? If I'm to believe everything I read online, I'm a scared suburbanite and a silly sheep. I cross the streets to avoid other races. I am blind to the small business owner's plight and the beauty of Porkopolis. Oh, please.

Why do so many people feel the need to bash where I live? Most responses to my answer when asked are to the effect of "Why the hell do you live all the way out there?" Or worse, people are surprised by my love of museums and festivals and by my knowledge of local history when they discover I'm not a city dweller.

My answer to these jeers is this: I live all the way out here because I like it. I frequent Downtown because I like it too. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Are Downtown residents somehow more justified in their shopping habits or more culturally advanced than someone who lives mere minutes away? I'd venture to say that many frequent Cincinnati establishments for the same reason I patronize family businesses in the suburbs: primarily because they're convenient. Secondarily, because it feels good to support a local business. Am I the only one to admit that love of convenience in the city is often given the veil of doing good?

That's not to say there aren't a great deal of folks out there who are fighting a good fight to revitalize Cincinnati neighborhoods. I know you're out there. For every person who shops at a chain store, there's another who passes five to get to a local joint. There are people opening businesses, renovating old buildings and putting folks to work.

And it's also not to say that the suburbs don't, in part, deserve the bad rap. After all, any exit ramp in the 'burbs will lead you straight to strip malls and big box stores. But I also enjoy a nearby Ohio State Park, several nature preserves, drives in the country and excursions to Amish bakeries and barn sales.

What's my point? Don't judge a local by their distance from the city center. And I love you, Cincinnati. It's just that sometimes, I'm not feeling the love back.

Greenup Café

I've been begging Dan to take me back to Greenup since we first started dating. I fell in love with the place about a year ago (maybe more!) when I first visited with some coworkers. But tucked over in Covington as it is, it's not the most convenient place for us to swing by.

However, we had a perfect opportunity a few weeks ago... on the day that Dan and I put a bid on our condo, I needed to take him back to Covington to finish his work day. We had time to grab lunch together, so I just started shouting "Greenup! Greenup! Greenup!" until he acquiesced.

I was let down, though. The building itself is still the kitschy, pretty café that I fell in love with, but the menu didn't match up for me. I suppose I was hoping to find something light and delicious like the avocado croissant that I'd ordered way back when, but nothing really fit the bill. I ended up with a grilled cheese and tomato soup... no classing-up, no really unique twist, and some greens on the side. The soup was different from your traditional tomato soup, but not enough to save my lackluster choice.

Dan ordered breakfast and can't remember much about it. That should say something, I suppose.

I am not the most adventurous eater, but when I go somewhere like Greenup I hope to slightly widen my horizons. Yes, maybe I should have ordered something with an obscure meat or unfamiliar cheese or foreign pronunciation... but I didn't, and I don't think my experience was interesting enough to chant "Greenup!" in Dan's ear again any time soon.

Greenup Cafe on Urbanspoon

My first TasteCast: Taste of Belgium

First off, full disclosure: I'm a member of the Cincinnati chapter of TasteCasting. From time to time, we visit a local food biz and write up a review in exchange for some free samples. And no one tells us what to say! Yea! (If you're interested in joining up, let me know.)

Okay, now take a minute to look at these pictures from Taste of Belgium and take a guess as to how my lunch hour went today.

Ahh. Want to look at them again?

I've been to Findlay Market's Taste of Belgium before, for calzones and their delicious Belgian waffles. What I didn't know before this visit was that they also make their own pizzas (with beer in the crust, mm), savory and sweet crêpes, and desserts like danishes.

I think the crêpes were the biggest surprise to me-- a great lunch option I hadn't considered before. We tried the classic ham-egg-Gruyere cheese combo as well as a new Reuben combination they've created. I'd recommend them both. I'd super-recommend the lemon-and-lavender-sugar blend for dessert-- but we all know how I feel about lavender sugar, don't we?

Did you know that Findlay Market is open during your workday? Every day but Monday (hours on Findlay's site). While we were there, business was pretty... dead. Tons of sitting room, tons of open parking, and tons of vendors with deliciousness to sell. (Not just waffles, but that's a great place to start!) If you're like me and you're used to be elbow-to-elbow on Saturday mornings, try this out and see if it's not 100% as awesome with infinitely more breathing room.

Taste of Belgium's website:
Taste of Belgium's Twitter:
More pictures from this TasteCast:

Taste of Belgium on Urbanspoon

Linchpin, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love OTR

A month ago, my boyfriend and I unintentionally took a real estate tour of what I'd previously considered to be the scariest part of Cincinnati: Over-the-Rhine. (It was a pit stop during an architecture tour.) Last week, we put a bid on our dream home. I'd like to talk about my major attitude shift, and how it coincides with a book I just devoured.

First off, the book. I've finished Seth Godin's Linchpin-- he offered advance copies to people who made a charitable contribution to the Acumen Fund. (Nice.) I ordered it because Godin has written a number of other books that relate to marketing (my field)... but this one leans much more toward self-help. It's as much about marketing as it is about teaching, piloting, plumbing, you name it.

In Linchpin, Godin talks about how people become indispensable... how they go above and beyond their jobs, their day-to-day, the expectations people put on them. I couldn't read it without thinking about OTR's Gateway Quarter and the people I've met in the past month. For instance, from Godin:

The only way to get what you're worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.


If you can be human at work (not a machine), you'll discover a passion for work you didn't know you had. When work becomes personal, your customers and coworkers are more connected and happier. And that creates more value.

After that eye-opening architecture tour, Dan and I started walking around the Gateway Quarter. What I could not help but notice was that every shop owner talked to me-- not (only) about the sale of the week, but about the neighborhood, their families, local events, you name it. It was easy to see that their shops were more than jobs to them-- there was passion and knowledge that I've never seen in the suburbs.

And as I engaged social media to connect with people, places and businesses in the area, I couldn't ignore the fact that every person I came in contact with knew almost everyone else I'd already met. Tenants connected me with developers, entrepreneurs recommended restaurants. They wave to one another in the streets and there are more tweet-ups happening than I can keep up with.

The community that is working to develop the Gateway Quarter in OTR is comprised of linchpins-- people who are overcoming the expectations of the rest of the city to create something positive and powerful. From Godin again:

Emotional labor is the hard work of making art, producing generosity, and exposing creativity. Working with a map involves both vision and the willingness to do something about what you see.

There is an astounding vision and an undeniable passion in Cincinnati's Gateway Quarter, and I can't wait to be a part of it. Furthermore, I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and seeing how I can help add to the humanity, the generosity and the creativity that sets OTR so far apart.

Gateway Quarter:
Seth Godin's Linchpin: Amazon link

Buying local for Christmas

For this past Christmas, I challenged myself to buy locally as often as I could. I had a great time doing it! I couldn't show you the pictures before the holidays because, um, they were GIFTS, but I wanted to take a moment to show you three of my purchases that supported local biz. (Sorry for the ill lighting.)

Here's a Clifton Comics gift certificate, lovingly drawn by the proprietor himself. (I also bought some Magic: The Gathering cards from him, as stocking stuffers-- I'd usually buy these at a Target or something so I hope buying from him made a better impact?)
Clifton Comics website:

We have here the much-adored VisuaLingual "seed bombs"-- another great stocking stuffer that my brother loved. No one in my family had heard of these "guerilla gardening" bombs, and when I explained the concept they were really excited. I might be buying more of these in the near future...
VisuaLingual's Etsy: Midwest Seed Bombs

And last but not least, my own favorite... the Steve Zissou finger puppet. I first came across these puppets at Crafty Supermarket, and snagged a business card with the Etsy address. Maybe not the most USEFUL thing in the world, but I think the unique artistry and the adorable detail made this 100% worth it!
AbbeyChristine's Etsy store: Steve Zissou finger puppet

A quick riddle...

What do the following images have to do with Cincinnati?

Okay, the answer is: not much, except they tell part of the story of where we've been for a month, and specifically after the holidays.

The first image is from the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and the second is the ocean room at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

The third is from the sculpture garden outside of the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art, and actually DOES have a tie to Cincinnati... as soon as I saw it, I figured it had to be by Mark di Suvero, who created the similar red steel sculpture that sits outside of the Cincinnati Art Museum. There's another of his pieces, "For Kepler," in front of Miami University, which is where I first learned about di Suvero.

We're back on track now-- no more traveling for a while, and some exciting Cincinnati news to share soon (yeah yeah, some of you have already heard). Hold on tight, and I hope you had a great holiday!