Okay, so this is a horrible photo, but sometimes you have to put the camera down and live little!

Kate at River_DMF

This was the second year for River_DMF, and my second year boarding the riverboat with my good friend Kate (pictured above, sorta). After last year's shindig, we wouldn't have missed this year's for the world.

River_DMF is an extension of Dance_MF, which Kate and I also attend whenever we can. Dance_MF is a dance party held on the first Saturday of every month, at Northside Tavern. The venue is awesome, there's always a dorky-cool theme, the music's great, the audience is eclectic, even the drinks are good.

River_DMF takes all the goodness of the dance party and sets it on a riverboat. From 11pm to 2am, you set sail up and down the Ohio, tunes bouncing off of the bridges and everyone having a ball. The weather was perfect again this year, and River_DMF was definitely the place to be.

We did set sail a little late, though. From what I heard later, the smaller boat we were due to cruise on broke down shortly before 11. The Projectmill team had to lug everything to a different, bigger boat pronto. Everything else seemed to go off without a hitch-- lucky ducks!

River_DMF: http://riverdmf.theprojectmill.com/
Dance_MF: http://dancemf.theprojectmill.com/

Freestore Foodbank

Dan and I were invited to the Freestore Foodbank for a tour of what goes on behind the scenes. They invited a handful of bloggers, including Wine Me, Dine Me's Julie Niesen and Bridgett Raffenberg from 365 Cincinnati.

Freestore Foodbank tour

I believe one of the reasons we were included in this tour was because of a post from last October, where we asked our readers to vote for which Cincinnati nonprofit or charity should receive a small donation we were making. You guys chose Freestore (and WVXU), and I'm fairly sure that's why we were contacted.

Freestore Foodbank tour

The tour of the Freestore Foodbank was amazing. Admittedly I didn't know a ton about Freestore beforehand; I knew the basics, but I had no idea about all of the programming that Freestore offers to help people get their lives back on track. I was particularly interested to learn about Cincinnati COOKS! and Cincinnati COOKS! Catering, which provided the (delicious) food that we were offered upon arrival. These programs help train people who have difficulty getting back into the job market-- when they have a record, for instance.

Freestore Foodbank tour

The people at Freestore really focused on the "dignity" aspect of what they do-- programs like Cincinnati COOKS! are "give a hand up, not a handout," as they like to say. There are a slew of other programs that Freestore maintains as well, such as giving less privileged kids warm meals at the end of a school day. I was surprised to hear about the varied programs and how much psychology goes into making sure people are helping themselves, gaining dignity and self esteem, and coming away with something more than a bag of canned food.

Freestore Foodbank tour

More than once, they mentioned that food is "the beginning of the conversation," and that their real strength is in helping people after the visit to Freestore-- they act as a resource to put these people in touch with agencies if they need help paying rent and other bills, or even preparing for everyday things like visiting the BMV. It goes much deeper than handing out parcels of food, but that's where the dialogue begins.

Freestore Foodbank tour

We concluded, of course, by talking about various ways that the community can be involved. The Rubber Duck Regatta is approaching, so we were able to visit the slews of plastic ducks that the Freestore team is preparing. One things that lodged itself into my mind (as I am always looking for ways to help out that aren't direct donations, as I am often cash-strapped) is couponing. They suggested that when you find really great coupons for things that you wouldn't normally buy, that you pick the items up anyway (for dirt cheap!) and donate them to the Freestore Foodbank. Smart smart smart.

Freestore Foodbank tour

I'm grateful that you guys chose Freestore Foodbank to support back in October. This brought an incredible nonprofit to my attention in a powerful way, and I look forward to more opportunities to support Freestore, be it with time, talent or treasure.

Lauren: Thank you so much for having us!

Freestore Foodbank website: http://www.fsfbmedia.org/


Whenever Dan, Bradley and I leave church on Sundays, we are desperate for some brunchy/lunchy options. Unless I'm missing something, Newtown has jack as far as a great post-church selection goes.

This week I suggested we visit Brylan's. We'd noticed signs for their live music and coffee before, but this Sunday they had a marquee about brunch. Perfecto.


As you can see, Brylan's is a giant mansion of a house turned coffee shop (and, I believe, art gallery). It's phenomenal inside-- huge, lush, sweetly decorated. A real feast for the eyes.

Brylan's Breakfast

The feast for the tongue? Not so much. Once we finally figured out where we were supposed to order (it was unclear as you walk immediately smack-dab into a menu and there is no hostess or anything, just a barista) and ordered our over-priced food, I think were all less than impressed with our meals. (Sorry, forgot to snap a pic.)


A lot of that may have been due to the service. The place wasn't swamped but it must have been doing brisker service than usual, because the barista seemed overwhelmed, short with the rest of the staff, and not overly friendly with us either. My "A.M. Quesadilla" emerged, for some reason, ten minutes before Dan's eggs and bacon, and neither of us were impressed. My iced chai latte was bland and watery.

Back of Brylan's

I don't think I would ever come back here for food. However, the atmosphere is so kickin' that if I might be talked into popping in for an acoustic act, a night of reading and coffee, and open mic night, etc. I think they have a great low-key venue on their hands, and for all I know their coffee (their real bread and butter, I believe) is off the charts. All I'm saying is: breakfast = no go.


Brylan's website: http://www.brylans.com/
Brylans Coffee on Urbanspoon

MPMF 2010

We're about a month away from Midpoint Music Fest 2010 and the lineup for this year is pretty incredible. If you haven't gotten your tickets yet, you can pick them up online or at the MidPoint Indie Summer events at Fountain Square. We picked up passes at the Square and are pretty excited to hit up as many shows as we can.

Upcoming free Fountain Square events building up to MPMF.10:
MPMF.10 runs September 23rd-25th, check out their website for the incredible lineup and build your schedule.

Little Mahatma

I learned long ago that I am not as... frugal... as I should be. I lack the willpower against things that are shiny or jingly or-- and this is the killer-- eccentric and unique. My only recourse is to avoid temptation to the best of my ability.

For that reason and for that reason alone, I've been avoiding Little Mahatma, even though it is a stone's throw from my new home. I just can't take it! The window of the shop is festooned with every item that seems destined to come live with me: fat, chunky necklaces, elephants in verdigris, brassy bracelets, Tarot cards...

Little Mahatma

However, some of Dan's extended family came into town, and he has an aunt who turned out to be my kindred spirit. During their visit we popped into Park + Vine, Mica 12/v... and how could we not visit Little Mahatma?

Little Mahatma

This store is incredible, and due to a small chat with the proprietor (Gloria McConnaghy) I discovered two kindred spirits in one day. I immediately felt bad for not lauding my time, attention and moolah on this gem of a store.

The thing that got me was when Dan's uncle was asking a question and Gloria commented, "Well everything in this store is handmade. There isn't a machine that does this." I fell in love with this concept-- not just the handmade nature of Little Mahatma's wares (for which I'm already a sucker), but the concept that machines don't, can't, or won't create the artistry that decorates every square inch of this shop.

Little Mahatma

Don't be like me! Don't let the gifts lying around the city go to waste. Little Mahatma deserves your patronage and at least your foot traffic. Stop in, buy yourself a bauble from a place you'll never travel, and talk to Gloria about the thousands of places she's visited.

Little Mahatma: http://www.littlemahatma.com/

Paint the Street

When it comes to art, you have to admit Cincinnati is a hotspot these days. Whether it's ArtWorks projects throughout the city, or Shepard Fairey murals popping up all over, it's become a very important part of life in the city.

The latest project is from our own Fine Arts Fund and it sounds like it's going to be incredible. The goal is to paint 12th street. Yes, all of it - between Main and Central Parkway. They're still planning things a bit, and there will be more information forthcoming, however we wanted to start getting the word out about this as they are going to need lots of volunteers.

They recently held a community design meeting to gather ideas for this project and now it's up to five artists to develop the final design. We can't wait to see what they come up with.

For more information about the project visit the Fine Arts Fund website. On the same page you can sign up as a volunteer.

Guestblog: 17th Biennial Thimble Collectors International Convention

When my friend Cole told me she was attending a thimble convention, I begged her to write me up a guest post. Cole Imperi is creative director at Doth Brands and curator of Simplicity Embellished. Simplicity Embellished is a blog about writing letters, home & garden and more.


Do you know what a thimble is?

A thimble is a small, usually metal, cap used to protect the tip of your finger while sewing. It helps you push the needle through the fabric. They are one of the most basic of sewing tools and have been in use for centuries. The earliest known thimble was found at Pompeii—that’s how old they are.

So, needless to say, there’s quite a bit of history behind them.

Thimble Collectors International

Last week I attended the 17th Biennial Thimble Collectors International Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. I attended as the the guest of Lucerne Wulf, a noted and well-established thimble maker. She is one of just a handful of these artisans left and is in her 80s.

Now, I’m not a thimble collector. Before last week, I owned one thimble. It’s a little sterling silver thimble with a cat on the outside. Lucerne made it for me when I was about 13.
This week? I not only have 18 thimbles, but I also have a display rack. And I'm pretty sure you can call me a collector.

Oh, and if you are at all concerned about my cool factor, I honestly have no idea what this does to it. If I was collecting albums played at high school proms held in the 1980s, you could pat me on my back and call me a hipster. But I’m pretty sure identifying yourself as a thimble collector negates you from any social category.

Thimble Collectors International

Anyhoo, the convention was fascinating. It took place at the Hilton in downtown Cincinnati (one of my favorite buildings in the city) and I left each day exhausted.

You know, with any uncommon interest, it’s sometimes hard to find others who enjoy it too. The main rooms at the convention were filled with people who were incredibly knowledgeable about thimbles and insanely passionate about them too. It sounds odd, but when you stepped into the room you could definitely feel the energy inside. These people live for these conventions—in many cases it’s the only time they can really throw themselves into their passion.

Most of the attendees were older women. However, I was surprised at the number of men there. Most of the men were husbands and I assumed they just came along with their wives. Not a single man I spoke to was there because of his spouse—they were there of their own accord and interest. One man I spoke to was actually responsible for his wife’s collecting as he introduced her to that. The youngest person there was 15 and the oldest people were in their 80s. There were people there from Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, England and 33 states. This was a BFD to say the least.

Thimble Collectors International

On Friday, I attended the ‘Sales Mall’ from 9am-11am. This is where all the vendors set up tables and sold their wares. When I showed up that morning, I first just walked around to all the tables. I was expecting to only see thimbles but there were all kinds of antiques and vintage items like needle cases, vintage promotional needle books, old corporate trading cards, antique sewing accessories and more. I spoke with a lot of the vendors and asked lots of questions. I found that there were collectors who specialized in collecting:
  • political thimbles (I spotted a small plastic one that read ‘Jesse Jackson for President '88’)
  • advertising thimbles (like from companies and brand names)
  • religious thimbles
  • animal thimbles
  • thimbles made of odd materials (I saw one made out of a carrot)
  • gold thimbles (like, expensive gold thimbles)
  • sterling silver thimbles
The list really goes on.

Prices started at about $1 and went up from there. I think I heard that at the auction they had a thimble that went for more than $1,000.

After browsing all the tables, I went back to purchase a few. I managed to find a few from Jerusalem with Jewish stuff on them, like a Star of David and a Hamsa Hand. I got some Pope thimbles (love you JP II--RIP) and some odds and ends that just interested me.

I asked about 15 vendors if they had any fountain pen related thimbles. NONE DID! I was shocked! (I collect and write with fountain pens, hence why I was interested.)

I also made some friends at the convention. A new friend in Australia gifted me a thimble with a kangaroo on top. In fact, I was exhausted from all the talking. Everyone there was so friendly and made a point to come meet me. And understandably so; they probably don’t get many 25 year old women at these events so I probably stuck out a bit.

So, after having digested this unique experience, it has inspired me to get more involved with the things I’m interested in and collect. And wouldn’t you know it, Cincinnati has a lot to offer here. There’s a fountain pen convention coming up soon and a stamp collecting club meets monthly here in town too. I’ll be attending those events and I’m looking forward to meeting people interested in the things I am too.

Thimble Collectors International

And it’s crazy, but I really adore the thimbles I’ve got. Each of them have a unique history behind them and story.

Oh, and if you are out at a yard sale and someone is selling an old thimble for 25 cents—buy it! I heard story after story of people who did just that and ended up with solid sterling silver thimbles, highly valuable thimbles or 18kt gold thimbles.

Happy Collecting!

Thimble Collectors International: http://www.thimblecollectors.com/

Le Boxx Cafe

Le Boxx Cafe is open for three hours every week day. It was only by a stroke of weird fortune that I was even able to visit this place for lunch.

I didn't love it. I seem to remember a lot of people commenting that Le Boxx is great, and the ratings on Urbanspoon seem fairly flattering as well. However, when I was finally able to visit, I had a lackluster experience.

I didn't find any of the menu options ground-breaking, and my lunch wasn't fantastic. My coworker didn't seem thrilled with his selection either. Our waiter was mostly... well, not there, and not interested in meeting my requests (no pickles? seriously?).

Le Boxx is a GIANT space, so I imagine they make some money from large-crowd events. They also deliver box lunches (duh), which may be their bread and butter. I can't imagine that they stay in business solely due to their meager lunch hours-- there didn't seem to be a ton of people in the cafe when we were there at peak lunch time.

So bottom line: not fantastic. If I were in area for lunch, I'd go immediately next door to Cafe Martin any day.

Le Boxx Cafe website: http://www.leboxxcafe.com/

Le Boxx Cafe on Urbanspoon

In Between Tavern

I've started a new job! Of all the changes that are being thrown at me, I think I might be happiest about the change of lunch options. I've needed a change of pace!

For my very first lunch at my new agency, a coworker asked if I wanted to go to "a dive." Of COURSE I do-- that's my favorite kind of place!

In Between Tavern is not, for better or for worse, what I would call a dive. It has a sports bar-type atmosphere, but for me, a "dive" is dirtier, greasier. And dives tend to thrive on burgers and nachos, not delicious options like "Mexican linguine"!

I really enjoyed In Between, and I'm thrilled that it's less than a block's walk. There are plenty more interesting choices I can't wait to get bored of eating! (Hey, it happens.)

In-Between Tavern on Urbanspoon

P.S. I've noticed some negative reviews for In Between on both Google and Urbanspoon. It sounds like most of them are tied to events (eg. Reds' games) and sometimes to high prices. I'll probably avoid In Between on game days-- just like I avoid just about anything else in the area on game days-- and I'll admit that it's a little more expensive than your standard bar lunch, but I don't find it offensively so.

Flying Pig #9: Dave & Buster's

Dan's birthday was on August 12th! To celebrate, we gathered his friends together for an evening at Dave & Buster's. Upon entering the building, we were greeted by a Big Pig Gig entrant!

I don't tend to review places like D&B's because it's a big chain and not particularly local, but I will mention we all had a great time and it was the perfect place to get a dozen people together for a low-key, high-fun evening. It's not an everyday experience ($$) but worthy of a special occasion.

Happy birthday, Dan!

More of our pigs: http://www.cincinnatireadventure.com/search/label/bigpiggig

Play Me, I'm Yours: Fountain Square

I met a friend for lunch on Fountain Square this week, and I found not one but two pianos in the Play Me, I'm Yours installment!

This first one is tucked back by Graeter's. Again, it was so so sweet to see a family engaging with this public piano!

This second one is nearer to the fountain, by the bandstand. No one was playing with the piano at the moment but it's still a beautiful sight.

These pianos are becoming the new Big Pig Gig sightings! (Speaking of which, I found another piggie-- look for it tomorrow!)

Play Me, I'm Yours: http://www.streetpianos.com/cincinnati2010/

Summer Drive

When Dan and I moved downtown, we got rid of one of our cars. We figured there was no point in living and working downtown and still trying to manage two vehicles.

Still, we like to take a drive from time to time. Dan in particular likes to be behind the wheel, and I like to see the world moving by faster than I can hoof it.

Submitted for your approval, some pictures of our recent drive along the Ohio River. I recommend you take a similar excursion yourself, whenever you get get a chance.

Play Me, I'm Yours

Check it out!

We had our first Play Me, I'm Yours sighting when we were visiting Findlay Market!

I've been in love with this concept since I first heard about it a few months ago. It's even more powerful when you walk by a random piano at the market and see a mom teaching her kid a chord or two!

Has anyone spotted any others?!
From the 9th-27th August, 35 street pianos will be distributed across Greater Cincinnati to celebrate the anniversaries of 90.9 WGUC (50 years), 91.7 WVXU (40 years), and 88.5 WMUB (60 years). Located in public parks, streets and squares, the pianos are for any member of the public to play and enjoy.

Play Me, I'm Yours on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Play-Me-Im-Yours-Greater-Cincinnati/216240597760
Play Me, I'm Yours on WVXU's site: http://www.wvxu.or/news/wvxunews_article.asp?ID=7227

Joe's Diner

Man oh man! Joe's Diner!

I'm the one who writes most of our posts, but Dan's the one who knows *everything* about what's going on. He said that Joe's Diner was reopening (uh I didn't know it existed, much less than it closed), and that they were having a "soft opening" before their formal launch on August 12th. This meant that their menu wasn't completely ready (sounds like they'll have a ton of milkshake flavors at launch, for instance), but I saw no reason to wait.

This is absolutely my kind of place! I've always been a *huge* proponent of the greasy spoon, and this manages to be... how to word it?... a clean-but-greasy spoon. It felt retro without feeling inauthentic, the waitstaff was awesome and friendly, the food was delish. I hope this becomes a regular place for us, especially as it will be open until something like 4am!

Here's my burger on a kaiser roll, with sweet potato fries. Yeah, I'm not always muy adventurous, but I know what I like. My brother Bradley always tries the burger first, no matter where he goes-- he thinks if they can't nail a burger, he doesn't have much faith in the rest of their menu. Based on that premise, Joe's passes for me. And the milkshake? Scrumptious. Can't wait for more flavors, though!

Joe's Diner website (as of posting, "Coming Soon"): http://www.joesdineronsycamore.com/

Joe's Diner on Sycamore on Urbanspoon


Despite the fact that I can literally see Senate from my window, I know I'm the last blogger to visit. Dan and I kept putting it off, waiting for an occasion that was worthy of a $10 hotdog-- those come few and far between!

Then my friend Jessica popped into town, all the way from Orlando, Florida. It was a sweltering day out, so we didn't want to walk too far, but we did want to take her somewhere unique. Senate was a perfect solution. Finally!

Unfortunately, the sweltering weather didn't stop at Senate's door. It was disgustingly hot inside, and they tried to sit us at a table directly in front of their full window. All three of us were immediately sweating, so they were able to cram us into a smaller but less sunny table.

Even there, however, it was uncomfortably hot. I'm sure the giant oven and mass of body heat were not helping the situation, but it was a little miserable. And on top of that, Senate serves gourmet street food... in other words, hot hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, etc. Caliente.

We all enjoyed our hotdogs immensely (though I wish we'd taken them home or something). I had the "One Night in Bangkok," which had peanut sauce and picked radish on it (above). Dan had the "Trailer Park," which he liked despite not being much of a cole slaw eater. Jessica had the "Chicago" with truffle fries, and seemed to really love it.

Jessica was surprised that a place like Senate exists in Over-the-Rhine-- that's a reaction we're used to getting (and we both had, once upon a time). She loved walking downstairs from our apartment into this cute, upscale little bar. She definitely lamented the heat, but seemed to think the trip was worth it.

One last complaint: we tried to partially pay with a Gateway Quarter giftcard, but Senate doesn't take the cards "yet." Uhh. There aren't *that* many places in the Gateway Quarter, so it's frustrating when one restaurant within the area doesn't take it. Plus, what is this "yet" business? Senate has been open all summer. Too much to ask that they comply, instead of making my card a little more useless?

Senate website: http://senatepub.com/
Senate on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cincinnati-OH/SENATE-Restaurant/134193393637

Senate on Urbanspoon


Tons of geekery on Cincinnati Re-adventure lately, yeah?

People have been telling Dan and I about YottaQuest for ages now, and just before our grand Comic Con adventure, we were feeling a little itchy to check the place out.

YottaQuest is in Mt. Healthy-- not an area I'm very familiar with. We made the trek over, excited about the ultimate gaming store, but to be honest I was a little disappointed. Definitely not with the inventory-- the walls are absolutely stacked with board games, RPG sets, etc. It was a real treasure trove.

However-- and I know this is not my first time mentioning this about various comic or gaming stores-- the experience was awkward as hell. After we walked in, a bunch of people occupied most of the modest store space playing some kind of RPG, and in order to see the games lining the store walls you had to walk very tightly around the gaming table. No one looked up or acknowledged our existence, even when we had to shimmy around them to get to another wall. People-- as far as I know, not employees, so not really their fault-- stood directly in front of us, didn't make eye contact, generally blocked us from moving around the small store.

Finally as we were leaving-- physically walking out of the store-- a clerk asked us if he could help us find anything.

I'm well aware that I have somewhat unfair expectations about these kind of stores, but I've seen that geeky but unawkward shops CAN exist. Dan and I still make the drive out to Clifton Comics every week or so, and we love the relationships we've formed there and the conversations we have. Our experience with Sci-Fi City in Northgate Mall was also top-notch.

I don't expect to be waited on hand and foot, no matter what kind of store I'm in. I don't even necessarily need to be greeted or spoken to while I'm here. Consider Boardwalk Hobby Shop, for instance-- I don't think anyone spoke to me a single time when I was there, but the store was awesome and had the same kind of games as YottaQuest. But a few of the stores that we've visited have felt like they've gone out of their way to be unwelcoming to people outside of the in-crowd. YottaQuest, for me, on this specific day at least, was one of those.

YottaQuest website: http://yottaquest.com/

Via Vite

Via Vite: one of the restaurants that I've walked by just about every day for five years, and I think I've maybe eaten there once, for lunch?

Dan and my dinner experience was delightful. Honestly it wasn't really the food that stood out to me-- it was very good, but I expected very good-- but our service was exceptional. We showed up pretty early, having come directly from work on our walk home, and our waiter (Steven?) had only just learned the menu. He was friendly and engaging, made recommendations and talked me into a pretty delicious zucchini pizza. I think that he amped up the experience quite a bit.

Dinner itself was fantastico. I went simple-- sweet potato gnocchi and the aforementioned zucchini pizza for dessert-- and it was all great. My only regret is that I didn't request outdoor seating... Via Vita has a great little balcony and it was a beautiful night out, but we just plopped down there the hostess told us to.

Via Vite website: http://viaviterestaurant.com/

Via Vite on Urbanspoon