Many months ago now, Steve surprised me for my birthday by planning a getaway weekend to Cincinnati.
This was the first time that Steve and I spent time together without AJ for more than a couple hours, and after doing it, I'm wondering why it took us two years (and two months) to do something like this. I'm pretty certain that every parent would agree that sometimes you just need a break, but I'm not sure how many parents would actually make the arrangements to plan a weekend getaway. Steve did, and I'm so glad. I love my kid (like, A LOT a lot), but I know that I am a better parent when I'm not exhausted, stressed, stuck in a rut, etc. It's hard to leave a munchkin with someone else, but man oh man, after having done it for two days, I'm a firm believer in taking a little break from the kiddo to recharge the batteries and remember what life is like when an adorable toddler isn't trying to help you do the laundry by destroying your folded piles, or compliment your cooking by seeing how well the food coordinates with the linoleum and her pigtails, or give you a giant bear hug while simultaneously wiping her nose all over your shoulder as you are trying to walk out the door and go out in public. Sometimes a break is nice, and if it's long enough, it makes you miss all those things I just mentioned so that when they happen the moment you get back, you laugh and giggle instead of sigh.
So yeah, Steve nailed the birthday surprise. We had a blast.
It was a weekend full of food, fun, and good friends.
We love gumbo and lobster bisque, so we had to try both when we went to Pappadeaux's - a recommendation from a friend, which did NOT disappoint.
Pappadeaux's Seafood Kitchen
We hit up our favorite store in Cincinnati, Jungle Jim's, in order to stock up on all the goodies we grew accustomed to in the UK, which are not readily available in the U.S. except at stores like Jungle Jim's. This place is awesome, as the following pictures will attest.
Steve made me include this picture. Like I said, this store is entertaining from the parking lot through to the check-out registers.
Inside Jungle Jim's.
Outside Jungle Jim's.
One of the highlights of the trip was getting to spend an evening with our dear friends, the McKeans. These people are the epitome of good people. They are some of the first friends we made in Columbus, and even though we were bummed that Jon's medical residency snatched them away from us, we're so glad they ended up nearby in Cinci.
Another highlight of the trip was the canoeing expedition that Steve planned on the Little Miami river. When we were eating at Pappadeaux's, our waiter asked us if we were going "cabrewing" on the Miami when he found out what was on our agenda.
[This initiated an onslaught of gerund creations loosely connected to canoeing. =)]
Steve even planned time to stop at the Museum of Art. Does this guy know me well or what?
Look how far we've come from our trip to the Louvre (back in 2010) when I took a picture of Steve passed out on a couch. What a sport.
I didn't realize that Goya's Los Caprichos were in the Cinci art museum. I won't go into details, but this was pretty cool to see in person so I wanted to remember it.
More good eats. Lots of people told us that we had to try the mac & cheese at Keystone.
Steve had a BBQ bacon concoction, and I opted for the pesto version. Both were delish, and we add our names to the list of those who recommend this place.
I had no idea mac & cheese could taste so good.
Ummm.....yeah. Every city has its charm or its downright crazy character. I think we found the latter on one of our exploratory walks. =)
[In case you can't see what the sign says under the brownies, it reads "loaded with herbal medicine!" Yikes.]
A view of the city from a pretty overlook.
I had to document the damage from our trip to Jungle Jim's. This stash basically represents our year abroad in '09-'10. Crunchie bars, fruit squash, chocolate-covered digestives, and FOX mints come from the UK, the kinder bueno bars represent Austria & Germany, the waffle cookies come from Amsterdam, and the Marabou chocolate comes from Sweden.
We're addicts when it comes to any of the above (especially the Marabou bars - rich European chocolate with delicious mint flakes spread throughout. I don't even like mint things, but I gobble this stuff up with the best of them) so it's probably good that Cinci is two hours away.
We stopped at a dairy farm on our drive back to Columbus and participated in standard Irvine photographic "contrivation."
Cow pie ice-cream!
It pays to buy local...this stuff was scrumptious.
We didn't have time for a round of mini-golf, but the name of the course deserved mention: Udders and Putters.
More fun from the jaunt down the Little Miami with the Mister.
Best birthday surprise ever.