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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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!