franklin park conservatory & botanical garden

The Friday of Labor Day weekend I had the good luck of being able to get the day off of work to spend with Josh’s parents and sister. It was a great start to the day just being able to lounge on the couch with a cup of hot tea and not have to rush out the door to get to work, even though Josh still had to go in to campus for class. My in-laws like to explore and see new things, so I wasn’t surprised when they suggested we head to Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens for the morning while we waited on Josh to get finished with class. Josh and I had been once before with my parents and it was totally worth another visit! Every room offers something beautiful or bizarre, plants that are very common among some you never knew existed. And the exhibits were spectacular- Blooms & Butterflies, Bonsai, and Chihuly: Celebrating Nature. 

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My personal favorite was the Blooms & Butterflies. As soon as you walk into the exhibit, butterflies flutter all around you and the lush greenery. Gorgeous glass Chihuly sculptures are nestled between the plants, hanging from the ceiling, and cascading like a waterfall into a clear pool of water full of plump koi fish. It’s a magical paradise.

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A few days later, Josh and I headed back to explore the outdoor walking loop and the community garden campus. 

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I am so excited to visit again to see the new exhibits with the change of seasons!

service bar

I think I might be a little behind on keeping up with blog stuff…whoops! With Josh starting back at school and adjusting our schedules, I have been kind of out of it lately. Just when we get in a routine and I feel like we have it all together, something seems to change again. That’s just life, right?! 

For Josh’s birthday (yes, that was over a month ago), we finally had the chance to have dinner at Service Bar. It’s been on my expansive list of places to eat for quite awhile now and for whatever reason, we kept not going. And after eating there, I am very sad we waited so long to try it out! It is most definitely our new favorite restaurant. 

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Service Bar is the restaurant at Middle West Spirits distillery. As soon as we walked in, I knew I loved it- the decor, the large mirrored bar on the back wall, the cozy booths and tables set up close to one another for enjoying each other’s company. The chef, we learned while looking over the menus, is inspired by his midwestern upbringing and his Bangladeshi roots resulting (in my opinion) Ah.Maz.Ing food. I really enjoyed that Service Bar has a standard menu that usually stays the same, while also offering a “Secret Kitchen Menu” which changes as the chef decides. Even though everything on the standard menu sounded amazing, we ended up ordering from the secret menu because that’s just way more fun! 

For an appetizer, we ordered the pull apart garlic bread with radish spread. I was very surprised how much I actually loved something that sounded so simple. It was a flavor bomb. The bread had a nice crunch on the outside, but was so soft on the inside. The radish spread was light and creamy and paired so well with the garlic flavor. 

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We had eaten our appetizer and were enjoying our drinks while our main courses were being prepared. We kind of noticed it seemed to be taking a while, but we were there on a Friday night at 6 pm, so I didn’t really think anything much about it. We were certainly in no rush. Our waiter was so kind and apparently felt bad because he offered to bring us a cheesy brisket crunch while we waited. We were definitely not turning that offer down! Let me just tell you, it was everything I have ever wanted a Taco Bell cheesy gordita crunch to be and beyond. What made it so good was that it had a crispy corn tortilla wrapped in Indian fry bread. And that was then filled with house made queso, crispy lettuce, tender smoked brisket, and smoked cheddar cheese. I have been ruined to Taco Bell and will only be able to eat Service Bar’s cheesy brisket crunch from now on. We ate it so fast, I didn’t even think to take a picture. 

Josh ordered the shrimp and grits for his main course. Don’t be fooled into thinking it was anything ordinary, though. The shrimp and grits was actually a tiger prawn Malai Curry, saffron coconut rice grits, crispy taro beresta, and panch phoron pickled eggplant. It was so much better than I’ll ever be able to describe. The best part of the whole dish was the eggplant. It melted in my mouth and had the most delectable flavor. 

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I ordered the hand cut noodles- Old Beijing Zha Jiang noodles with pork cheek, cucumber, and long bean. The vegetables were the perfect crunchy complement to the tender pork cheek and chewy, delicious noodles. I’m a sucker for noodles every time. And I’ve yet to be disappointed. 

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For dessert, we had the chocolate cake. It was an adorable miniature cake the perfect size for two people. And we got to decorate it ourselves! We were given individual cups with icing, raspberry sauce, and fried cocoa nibs, so we could put the cake together however we wanted. The cake was moist and had a wonderful chocolate flavor which paired well with the sweet of the icing and the tartness of the fruit. And the cocoa nibs added a great texture and crunch. It was such a fun way to end our experience at Service Bar! 

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We are both already looking forward to the next special occasion we have to celebrate at Service Bar!

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PS- this is, as always, all just my opinion!

topgolf

About a month ago, I went to Topgolf for a team building event with my coworkers. I had expected it to be fun, but it was waaayyyy more fun than I could have ever imagined. And this is coming from someone who has only played golf once in her whole life and didn’t enjoy it at all. I came home and immediately told Josh we needed to go together sometime. This past Friday I took off work to spend the day celebrating Josh’s birthday and I was so pleased when he chose Topgolf for one of our fun activities! For those of you that haven’t been, there are over 100 climate-controlled hitting bays spread between three different levels. Each bay has their own little putting green, set of clubs for men and women, and a screen that tracks each player’s score/number of balls hit. There are several targets spread across the field that you try to hit your ball into. Depending on what game you play, you might have to hit it into a specified target or into specific portions of a target. We chose to play the signature “Topgolf” game where you just hit your ball into any target you can, but the farther the target you can hit or the closer to the center of the target the more points you get. We loved it so much, we played for two straight hours. Sometimes, I would get in a groove and be able to hit multiple balls in a row into “far” targets and sometimes I would miss a few swings then barely get it a few feet away. For someone who is not a golfer, I was super happy with how I played. I have to say, I kicked Josh’s butt on the first couple of games, but he came back strong at the end and beat me in the last couple. We can’t wait to go back!!   

 

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Surprisingly, the food at Topgolf is scrumptious (I say surprisingly because most “sporting” venues seem to mostly serve microwaved hot dogs and plastic cheese). We had the jumbo pretzel board. It was a huge amount of food and I fully expected us to take half of it home, but we demolished almost the whole thing! The jumbo pretzel board (to me) is like the ultimate appetizer. The warm pretzel was larger than my head. No kidding. The pretzel holes were filled with jalapeño sausage, genoa salami, prosciutto, pepper jack and cheddar cheese, blackberries, apples, red grapes, and candied pecans with sides of PBR cheese sauce and horseradish Dijon mustard. The pretzel had a great crunch on the outside, but was soft on the inside. The fruit was that perfect bite of fresh to cut through all the amazing fat of the meats and cheese. It was just delicious and I would happily order it again and again.    

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We went before lunch on a weekday and were able to get a hitting bay right away, but would definitely make a reservation for any evening, especially on the weekends. If you’re ever in need of a fun date idea or just a great time with friends and family, I highly recommend Topgolf!

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catching up

It has been a LONG time since I’ve posted, yowza! We have been deep into purchasing our new house, cleaning,  moving out of our apartment, cleaning some more, and fixing up our house. I thought it might be kind of fun (or at least interesting/informational) to do a little break down of what we personally went through in purchasing our house. I think I talked about it in my previous post, but here’s a little recap- we originally found a house that we thought was going to work out great. It had 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a full basement, and a detached 3 car garage. There was so much room to make ours, with what we thought would be some minor improvements and updates. We made an offer on the house. Once the offer was made, we began working with our bank. I had to provide proof of insurance, our last two months bank statements, proof of employment, proof of earnest money, etc. It seemed like so many things! It is no joke buying a house! On top of all that, we had to schedule an inspection and appraisal for the house. I am so so thankful we did an inspection because the house was in way worse shape than we even realized- the chimney was crumbling and needed to be torn down and replaced, the foundation of the garage had shifted and one of the walls had cracked so much you could almost put your hand in it, the grading in the yard needed leveled so water wasn’t pouring towards the house when it rained, the roof was in bad shape, and the ceiling in the garage was so full of mold that it was falling down and the garage door wouldn’t open all the way. It was just such a disaster. I don’t know how we didn’t notice some of these issues when we first walked through, but it was a lesson learned for sure. We were able to walk away from that house because of the inspection being so bad and weren’t penalized, thankfully! Back to the house hunt we went. And we found our new home so quickly! We went to an open house to see it- honestly, I had pretty low expectations from the pictures and didn’t want to get my hopes up after what we had just been through with the other house. Walking through it, though, I just fell in love. It’s nothing grand or spectacular, but it was exactly right for Josh and I (and of course, Rocko). The house was built in 2002 (unlike the other house built in the 1960s, I think), so that made me feel better already. It was built on a slab, so we wouldn’t have to worry about water in a crawl space or basement. It has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a 2 car garage…exactly what we were hoping to get, but hadn’t been able to find in our price range. The house is on a corner in the neighborhood and the neighborhood is basically a giant cul-de-sac, so there is no through traffic, which is wonderful!! There is an open, empty field behind the house, so we don’t have to worry about more people or houses behind. I knew as soon as we left that we were putting an offer on it. Of course, it can never just be easy- we put an offer in on that Saturday knowing that offers were being accepted until that Sunday evening. The seller was elderly and had gone out of town to visit family, didn’t own a cell phone or a computer, and the weather ended up being very snowy/icy and unsafe to drive back in. But, we didn’t know any of this had happened! We didn’t hear anything all Sunday night or Monday morning. I worked myself up so much, I had a stomach and headache! Why do I do that?? I knew in my heart that everything would work out, that God was going to provide for us no matter what, that if this house fell through there had to be a better one out there for us. I finally reached out to our realtor when I still hadn’t heard anything around lunch on Monday. He explained that the seller had been out of town and unable to look over the offers, but was meeting with their realtor right then to make a decision. I was so anxious. Just a bit later, I received a text message that our offer was accepted and we got the house!!! I was SO relieved and excited! And so we began the process all over again of moving forward with getting a house- I had to compile previous bank statements, proof of home insurance, proof of earnest money being received, and proof of employment. There were also several phone calls back and forth with the bank about our different loan options and monthly payments dependent upon what our down payment would be. I finally got everything together and sent off to the bank for the mortgage department to begin their part of the process. And let me tell you, it seemed like that would never end. Just weeks and weeks of waiting after rushing around getting all that paperwork together. The weeks slowly went by though and we finally closed on the house in April. Closing on a house is a whole other kind of stress. There are pages upon pages upon pages for you to sign. Not to mention the large amount of money being taken out for the mortgage on the house. So. Much. Money. In the end, for us, it is worth every penny. We still had possession of our apartment until the end of June, but as soon as we had the keys to our house, we began cleaning and moving stuff over. We just couldn’t wait to be in our own space again. I spent an entire day at the house sweeping, vacuuming and shampooing the carpets, cleaning the toilets, sinks, and showers, wiping down the insides and outsides of the cabinets, and wiping down the appliances. For the next few days, I packed my car with as much as I could and stopped by after work to drop it off. Taking a smaller amount over at a time was great because I could unpack everything right away and put it in its place, I didn’t have to just throw a bunch of boxes wherever they would fit to worry about later. That illusion quickly came to an end that following weekend though. Josh’s parents came in to town to help us pack up a uHaul and move everything out. I really don’t know how we would have done it without them…although I can guarantee it would have taken at least twice as long and would have been much more stressful. We were both really grateful to have them both there helping. I was just throwing stuff in whatever box or container was available with no organization at all. Moving so quickly meant that we did exactly what I was trying to avoid haha- boxes stacked up randomly and furniture stored wherever it would fit. I am the type of person that really doesn’t like things not being in their place, so I had to rein myself in not to stress out too much. We had about two weeks before some of our friends were coming to stay with us, but that gave us an extra little push to actually unpack everything, organize, and settle in. When we did our original walk through during the open house, we knew we wanted to replace the flooring eventually, but we didn’t think there would be much other work for us to do right away. Once we got in, we realized we actually wanted to do quite a lot. Even though the house is “young” (17 years old), everything was original- it needed new appliances, new paint, new light fixtures and blinds (they were all covered in a dirty, dusty goo), and new curtains. Whew, isn’t buying a house so much fun?? Really, isn’t it?? Despite all the stress of house hunting, a bad inspection, closing, cleaning, moving, unpacking, painting, replacing things, cleaning the apartment, decorating, more painting and unpacking, rearranging, this house has been such a blessing for our little family. We’ve been able to share our house with many visiting friends and family (honestly, more people have been to/stayed at our new house than the house we lived in before for 3 years!) and now this adorable little house has become our home.

y e l l o w s p r i n g s

Spring is F I N A L L Y in the air! I think it was the nicest weather we’ve had of any weekend this year! So, we took major advantage of it and went to a new (to us) hiking spot. I was recommended Yellow Springs by a few people. I didn’t realize there were a few parks over in that area, but I narrowed it down finally to Glen Helen Nature Preserve since that’s where the actual the Yellow Spring is. Josh and I were both awake around 5 am. For no reason. Because of this, though, we did some laundry, roasted our veggies for the week, and made eggs Benedict for breakfast all before 8! Which meant plenty of time for hiking around the nature preserve. It was about an hour drive, so we ended up getting there around 9:30. We started off by the Trailside Museum and took a loop around. The whole reason we went was to see the Yellow Spring. We never found it! Honestly, the trails were not marked at all and they kept breaking off in separate directions and we had no idea where we were from looking at the map posted up by the museum. We probably should have prepared better. On our loop around, we saw some pretty little falls, lots of green shoots starting to grow, and lots of pretty little purple flowers blooming on the trailside.

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We tried taking another lap around to find the Yellow Spring, but we ended up going way more south down the Upper Birch Trail (I just looked it up online to know what trail we took) and coming back up the Talius Trail. I loved hiking along Yellow Springs Creek. It was so relaxing hearing the bubbling and gurgling of the water over rocks mixed with the chirps of the birds in the trees.

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When we reached the end of the Upper Birch Trail, we literally had to climb over the railings of the bridge, walk across the road, climb back over the railings, and continue on the Talius Trail. This trail was definitely less maintained and traveled. There were lots of deer tracks (sadly no deer) and brush growing up on the trail. It wasn’t a bad hike, but I was feeling pretty over the whole thing by this point. I’m not sure I want to go hiking there again. There are definitely plenty of other options in Yellow Springs that I want to check out next time though.  

Thankfully, we found our starting point shortly after I was feeling grumpy and made our way up to Yellow Springs Brewery. I really enjoyed this cute little microbrewery located right off the Little Miami Scenic Trail. They have a huge patio full of seating – open to adults, kids, and pups too! Inside, there is plenty of seating at tables or the bar, they have local art showcased on the walls, as well as lots of their merchandise. Josh tried the Boat Show IPA. He really liked the light, citrusy taste especially after hiking for hours. We shared a yummy cheese plate (a “lunchable” style package of cheddar, cajun cheese curds, and colby with crackers) from Youngs. After the Boat Show, Josh ventured on to the Captain Stardust saison which he also enjoyed.

Since we had only had cheese (and beer for Josh) for lunch, we thought it might be a good idea to stop at Young’s Jersey Dairy on our way home. Of course, we only got ice cream! What could be a better lunch than cheese and ice cream?? We split a double buckeye sundae- a scoop of chocolate peanut butter, a scoop of peanut butter cup, whipped cream, fudge sauce, peanut butter sauce, Reese pieces, and a homemade buckeye. You can never go wrong with any combination of chocolate and peanut butter. Delish!

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We will definitely be heading back to visit Yellow Springs and Young’s to check out all the fun activities they have available!

house hunters cont…

It has been a crazy whirlwind these past few weeks with house hunting. The week we put an offer on the original house we found, I tagged along for the home inspection. And it was a disaster. I have no idea how, but there were several big issues that came up- issues that we definitely should have seen when we first looked at the house. The detached garage had a huge shift in the foundation and the back corner blocks had separated from each other so bad that it would likely need torn down and rebuilt, the chimney was crumbling and needed completely rebuilt, the shingles on the whole back side of the roof were awful and needed replaced, and the yard needed regraded so that water wasn’t pouring towards the house when it rained. After not much discussion, we decided that the house just wasn’t worth paying market price for and then having to put tens of thousands of dollars into it just to make it livable. It was a major lesson to learn. I’m thankful we found out about all the issues before we owned the house, but it kind of sucked to be back at square one in finding a house. That Friday, our realtor let us know there was a house in a nice area that was a steal of a price that we should definitely check out. It was such a hot property, we actually put in an offer on the house before even seeing it. We knew that it was a long shot for us to actually have it accepted, but we thought it was worth trying anyways. When we got to the house, there were already 3 other sets of people in the house looking at it! We liked the house, especially the huge yard and the 2 car garage. We didn’t get our hopes up though because there were already 5 offers on the house Friday night with 12 more showings scheduled for Saturday. Since we knew it was such a long shot with that house, we decided to go look at another house on Saturday. The pictures online had made the house seem just ok (you know you can never trust those, you have to see the house in person), but once we got inside, we actually really loved it. The house was built in the early 2000s, so there were already less concerns about certain issues than the houses we looked at previously that had been built in the 1970s. It was by no means a perfect house, but with a few updates and decorating, we could definitely turn it into our home. So, we were crazy and put an offer on that house too. Two offers on two houses in two days…I mean, why not?! Offers were open on the “Friday” house until Saturday evening and for the “Saturday” house until Sunday evening, so then we just had to wait. I hate the waiting game. It’s the worst. We found out our offer was not accepted on the house from Friday, but Josh and I were both ok with that. But, I honestly worked myself sick with worrying so much about getting the house we saw Saturday. I just wanted it so badly and I knew it wasn’t for certain we would get it because there were 4 other offers on the table. We had hoped to hear back Sunday night, but the weather was really bad and the realtor and seller weren’t able to meet up. I didn’t sleep a wink. I was such a mess at work on Monday, I could barely concentrate. I finally had to just sit down, say a little prayer, and know that God had a plan for us and everything would work out how it was supposed to. And about an hour later, I got a text from our realtor that our offer had been accepted on the house we wanted! There had already been an inspection done from a previous offer that fell through, so we didn’t have to worry about that. I ran around like crazy the next few days (it seemed like it lol even though I was really just looking stuff up online) getting information for the bank together- confirmation of earnest money being received, work history, bank statements, proof of home insurance, etc. Everything seems to be in order now and we’re in another waiting game until our closing in April. We can’t wait to be out of this apartment and into an actual house that we can make our own!

house hunters

I don’t know about you all, but I totally forgot how stressful the house hunting process can be. Josh and I contacted a realtor around the start of January. The lease on our apartment doesn’t end until June (in case you didn’t know, it’s basically impossible to get out of a lease unless you join the armed forces or die), but we just wanted to get ahead of the curve. We knew it was too early to put an offer on a house if we found one we liked, but at least we would be able to look at what kind of styles of houses were available and get a feel for the neighborhoods around us. We saw probably 8-10 houses over a couple of weeks- some we really liked and some not so much. And I started panicking. Because there were only a couple houses a week popping up on the market in our price range and in areas we felt comfortable living. And every house we liked had an offer on it within a day or two. There was no way a decent house was magically going to sit on the market until March-ish when it would be ok for us to put an offer out. What if there weren’t any houses coming on the market in March? What if we had to settle for a not-so-great neighborhood or house? Tons of scary thoughts went flying through my mind. In reality, I know I was worrying over nothing. We could reasonably keep looking into April and still close in enough time to not renew our lease. And if we still couldn’t find anything, worse case scenario would be renewing our apartment lease month by month. It definitely wouldn’t be ideal, but we wouldn’t be homeless.

Fast forward to the middle of February. We ask our realtor to go look at a house over the weekend and we end up really liking it. After talking with our realtor (who is really so helpful and knowledgeable), he assured us he could get us to close on the house and get possession in April, but not have to make our first mortgage payment until June when our lease is up. An answer to our prayers (and all my unnecessary worrying lol). We put in an offer and after a couple days of negotiating back and forth, our offer was accepted! We’re currently waiting on our inspection to occur and our loan paperwork to go through. There are still a lot of things that need to happen in the coming weeks before closing, but we’re staying positive everything goes through and getting so excited at the idea of having our own little home to fix up and make ours! 

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