Dublin’s Twelve Elves Make This A “Nollaig Shona Dhuit!”

When I found Penny on the Irish Fairy Doors Trail in July, I was a mess. If one last option didn’t solve my medical mystery, I worried that my “Rocky Road to Dublin” would lead to the ospidéal

Petting the Belleek pig must have done the trick. Five months later, years of “The Troubles” are finally over!

Penny and the pig still reside at Ha’penny Bridge, but now they have been joined by an elf. See if you can find him on the 12 Elves of Dublin Scavenger Hunt, the Historic Dublin Business Association‘s clever twist on holiday shopping.

Here’s how the hunt works. Through December 16, pick up your 12 Elves card at one of the following Historic Dublin locations: Boho 72 Boutique; Chelsea Borough Home; Daso Custom Cabinetry; Dean Insurance Group; Donatos Pizza; the Dublin Ohio Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitor Center; Ha’penny Bridge Imports of Ireland; Johnson’s Real Ice Cream; La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro; Our CupCakery; Terra Gallery; and Winan’s.

Then, search these shops to find the elf that’s residing there. Each time you discover an elf, you will be rewarded with a special treat. Track down all 12, and turn in your card at one of these locations to enter a grand prize drawing.

In a matter of minutes, I had amassed a collection of candy canes, mini chocolate bars, Santa stickers, a peanut butter smidgen, a bite-sized chocolate cupcake, and a Linzer cookie morsel.

I had also discovered several Irish Christmas customs, including decorating the front door with holly and greeting others with Nollaig shona dhuit!,” the traditional Gaelic greeting for “Merry Christmas.” Irish families also place a large red candle near the front window and light it on Christmas Eve as a symbol of welcome. After the youngest family member lights the candle, prayers are said for the departed, and the candle is extinguished only by someone named Mary. Another Irish Christmas tradition is setting the table after Christmas Eve dinner with a pitcher of milk and a loaf of bread studded with caraway seeds and raisins. The door is left unlatched to extend hospitality to the Holy Family or any travelers who might pass by. 

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“Yikes! Are My Teeth Really That Big?”

Pass the northeast corner of North High Street and Goodale Avenue in downtown Columbus and you might see a larger-than-life version of me.

Wearing a pair of heart-shaped hair clips and a Joules scarf peeking out over the collar of my Avoca tweed coat, that’s how I looked around noon on Wednesday, November 8, 2017. That’s when my friend Kristin and I went to see “As We Are.”

“As We Are” is a 14-foot-tall, three-dimensional sculpture in the North Atrium of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The sculpture resembles a human head and is made from rows of bright LED screens. Photographic portraits taken onsite of convention center visitors are magnified about 17 times the actual size of the subject and are projected on the sculpture.

Matthew Mohr, a local artist who teaches advertising and graphic design at the Columbus College of Art and Design, submitted a proposal to create a large-scale, interactive sculpture for the renovated, expanded convention center in 2015. After the proposal was selected, the sculpture was fabricated by Design Communications Ltd. of Boston. It was installed this Fall.

Step inside the back of the sculpture’s neck and sit down in a photo booth outfitted with dozens of cameras that take three-dimensional pictures of you at many different angles.

Enter your e-mail address to receive a GIF of all of the photos taken of you. After you have your picture taken, leave the booth, wait a couple of minutes, and your portrait will be projected on the sculpture. Your likeness will be added to the collection of other portraits made there, and will be included in a random rotation. When the sun sets, the sculpture turns to face the street, so that passers-by can see the changing portraits.

As we watched our likenesses appear, others stopped by, so entertained by our reactions that they got in line to add their own portraits to the collection.

The sculpture is one of more than 130 local works of art that have been installed at the convention center, making it home to the largest collection of local artwork in Franklin County.

The center’s history dates to 1974, when Battelle Memorial Institute contributed $36.5 million to develop a convention facility in downtown Columbus. 1980 brought the opening of the Ohio Center and its Battelle Hall, site of concerts, theatrical productions, sporting events, trade shows, and other large public assemblies. In 1993, the neighboring Greater Columbus Convention Center opened. Architect Peter Eisenman, assisted by local architect Richard Trott, designed the abstract building to resemble a row of metallic-colored boxcars in a rail yard to recall Union Station, the train station that stood on the site until it was demolished in 1977. A major expansion and renovation project was completed in 2001, making the unique symbol of Columbus nearly 1.7 million square feet.

The center is owned by the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, which built and developed the structure during the tenure of Sally Bloomfield, its first and current chair and my former Bricker & Eckler colleague. It also built a $140 million convention hotel across North High Street that opened in 2012.

A 105-foot-long, steel-and-glass skywalk connects the Convention Center to the Hilton Columbus Downtown. A 48-inch-diameter, weight-bearing Turkish steel beam, known as the spine, runs the length of the 380,000-pound elevated pedestrian bridge. Suspended steel ribs and glass from Germany form its sides, while the floor is made of opaque glass from Spain. The pieces had to fit together perfectly, and they did, as they were assembled in front of the hotel.

Inside, the hotel displays more than 150 original works by central Ohio artists. One is “Looking North,” a view of North High Street and the convention center by Ryan Orewiler, son of our photography teacher at Columbus School for Girls.

Another is Amanda Cook’s “Planters Peanuts,” which documents the vintage neon sign that has attracted locals to The Peanut Shoppe since 1936. It is part of her “Looking Up” series of oil paintings that encourage people to stop and admire the artistic beauty of these signs that are often only seen from a distance.

And finally, there’s the eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who first visited Columbus in 1970 to compete in the Mr. World bodybuilding contest. In 1989, Schwarzenegger organized the Arnold Classic, a bodybuilding and fitness competition and expo, which takes place in Columbus each year. The statue was originally installed in 2012 outside the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, site of the 1970 bodybuilding competition. When the auditorium was torn down, the statue was moved to the Columbus Convention Center, where the Arnold Classic is held today.

Click here to take a virtual tour of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority’s art collection, consisting of 200 pieces representing 150 Central Ohio artists. Watch this segment about it and “As We Are,” which first aired on WOSU’s “Broad and High” on October 26, 2017. 

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Work Downtown? Buy A Bag Every Day!

It was once known as the nation’s great “nickel lunch” — a meal and a dessert all in one, packed in a distinctive bag that was carefully folded so that its precious contents wouldn’t escape. 

In fact, the luscious golden nuggets the bag contained were so crisp, fresh and flavorful that you were tempted to drop by the corner store and buy a bag every day. 

This midday meal no longer costs a nickel, but you can still drop by a downtown Columbus corner store for some peanuts, still warm from the roaster.

You can also fall for the persuasive taglines and clever peanut-themed party games described in the vintage Planters peanuts ads displayed on the walls of the shop, a Columbus landmark for over 80 years.

When The Peanut Shoppe opened in 1936, it was one of hundreds of retail Planters stores around the country.  Located at 5 South High Street, next to what was then known as the Neil House Hotel, for over 40 years, it then made room for its expanding neighbor, Huntington National Bank, and moved up a block to 46 North High Street.  Then, in 2014, it relocated to the southeast corner of High and State Streets, where it does business today. 

All those years, a neon-tinged Mr. Peanut perched two stories above the sidewalk has been attracting customers.  Behind the Planters Peanut Company mascot’s original milk-glass monocle, dating back to the mid-1930s, a blinking light makes the Planters mascot wink at customers. The rare antique is one of a few similar signs still around, but is the only working one — the others have been retired to private collections.  But it isn’t the store’s only original fixture. Its circa-1930s gas-fueled nut roaster, on which Mr. Peanut sits astride, is still used daily to roast peanuts and other nuts available for purchase by the pound in the store’s glass-fronted cases.  The bag I purchased was still warm when I visited in late morning. 

When Planters sold out to another company, many of its retail stores closed, but the Columbus location’s new owners preserved its name.  Mike and Pat Stone, the store’s managers, bought it in 1996 and continue to follow standard Planters practices, like putting customers’ selections in a colorful paper bag and folding it a certain way so the contents won’t escape. 

The Stones stock many of the same products the store has sold for years, like red-skinned Spanish peanuts and Boston baked beans.  Candies and chocolates were added to expand the store’s snack appeal.

From toys to ephemera to coloring pages and a game for a Planters Peanut Party, a collection of vintage Planters memorabilia is also on display. 

Propped in the window behind one of the counters is Mr. Stone’s original fiberglass Mr. Peanut costume, which he wore as a high-schooler in 1972, earning $1.50 an hour as he walked the Downtown pavement, handing out peanuts to people and encouraging them to stop in and spend a few dollars on some inexpensive snacks. 

Mr. Stone, an architectural designer for Nationwide Children’s Hospital, also lends his talents to the store’s seasonal window displays, which continue to attract foot traffic from Downtown workers and theater-goers. 

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I Drowned My No-More-Traveling Sorrows In Asterisk’s Exceptionally Good Afternoon Tea

My traveling wings have been clipped. Coming to terms with it isn’t easy, but I’m finding new outlets for my love of going places and seeing things while staying at home — at least for now.

One is the National Trust Podcast. Its hosts, head gardener Alan Power and park ranger Kate Martin, take me to some of the Trust’s great historic gardens and beautiful landscapes in the United Kingdom, telling me the stories and people that make each place so special.  

“We’ll tread sandy paths and the polished wooden floors of country homes, delight in birdsong, sublime views and exceptionally good cream teas,” say the familiar, soothing lines of each podcast’s introduction. “So come and join me on this journey, and immerse yourselves in the wonders of the National Trust.”  

Alan and Kate are right. The cream tea — a light afternoon meal where hot tea is taken with a scones, clotted cream and jam — is exceptionally good at National Trust properties. But now I have discovered that afternoon tea — where hot tea is accompanied by delicate savory sandwiches cut into small shapes, scones served cream tea-style, and a cakes — is exceptionally good at my new outlet for the no-more-traveling blues: the Asterisk Supper Club in Uptown Westerville.

Enter the front door of 14 North State Street and you’ll see a magnificent hand-carved circa-1890s bar, a tribute to the history of “The Dry Capital of the World.” The Westerville community was so opposed to the sale and consumption of alcohol, and supported Prohibition so vehemently, that the Anti-Saloon League was once headquartered there. Even after Prohibition ended in 1933, Westerville remained dry until 2006.

Lighted by antique crystal chandeliers, the dining room provides the perfect atmosphere for a leisurely visit. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, all filled with books, line the south and east walls. Menus are presented in books; bills are tucked into library book pockets with date-due cards.

Asterisk offers two afternoon teas. The full tea comes with a choice of eight tea sandwiches, two scones and two desserts. Or opt for the petite tea, which consists of a choice of four tea sandwiches, one scone and one dessert.

Teapots are filled with traditional teas like Earl Grey, green, chamomile and English black tea, best served with warm milk and sugar. Or for a more unique beverage to fill an antique china teacup, try cardamon, peach and passion fruit, chocolate cherry bomb, Moroccan mint, Masala chai, and rosehip, hibiscus and cherry.

Tea sandwich selections include cucumber, cream cheese and dill; ham, brie, green apple and Dijon mustard; egg salad with pepper and radish sprout; bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise; salmon, dill, cream cheese and capers; strawberry with honey, cream cheese and raisin bread; peanut butter and homemade strawberry jam; or cherry tomato vinaigrette and sour cream. Mine were served with sugared grapes on an antique china plate.

The scone lineup includes traditional cream; brown sugar and cinnamon; lemon blueberry topped with a candied lemon slice; and a special seasonal flavor, such as pumpkin. Desserts range from petite portions of lemon custard to a pumpkin pound cake with cream cheese frosting, topped with a sugar-coated piece of pumpkin-shaped jelly candy. Both were presented on an antique glass dish.

Asterisk serves afternoon tea seven days a week, from 12:00 to 4:00 pm. Harpist Trista Hill provides accompaniment the first Saturday of every month from 12:00 to 3:00 pm.

Asterisk also offers a variety of dishes for lunch and dinner, from standard meatloaf and macaroni to unique options like grilled cheese and tomato soup and fried chicken on a jalapeno and peanut butter waffle with honey butter syrup.  

How did tea become Britain’s hot beverage of choice? Tune in here to listen to Lizzie Collingham, author of Taste of Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World, in “Food and the British Empire,” today’s episode of WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher. It’s around the 16:00 mark.

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Engaging, Riveting And Intriguing: Appeal Terms For Lunch With “The Longest Chapter”

Gone are the days when a Columbus School for Girls lunch meant a family-style serving of sausage, corn, applesauce and Parker House rolls. Recently, I gobbled up a tasty midday meal featuring creamy tomato soup served in a cobalt-blue melamine handled bowl, a glass of fruit-infused spa water, and a plate piled with mixed greens topped with a salad trio of tuna, cranberry turkey and black beans and sweet corn, roasted beets and carrots, fresh fruit, and crackers spread with sunflower seed butter.

This second square I savored in the Chester Family Private Dining Room at CSG went down especially well because Kassie Rose, book reviewer for WOSU and a 1973 graduate of CSG, was on hand to recommend future selections to CSG’s Alumnae Book Club.

Using words like “engaging,” “complex,” “riveting,” “interesting,” and “intriguing” to describe some of her recent reads, Kassie reminded us how important it is for book reviewers to pick just the right word to convey what makes a book appealing. Does it have to do with the characters whom we find ourselves thinking about all day? Is it the lyrical writing style that fits perfectly with the subject matter? Or is it a story line that interests you so much that you have to keep going?

Appeal terms are also embroidered on a set of linen cocktail napkins I bought at Henri  Bendel circa 1997

Book reviewers aren’t the only ones who are keen on choosing the perfect descriptor. To help you find your next great read, the trusty librarians who practice readers’ advisory are focused on something we call “appeal terms.”

Appeal is what helps us figure out why readers like one book and what might also be an interesting and enjoyable read. These mood-based concepts include pace, the rate at which a story unfolds; storyline, the book’s focus and structure; tone, the feeling that a book evokes; character, or how the author handles characterization; writing style, or how a book is written; genre; the time period in which the book is set; themes and tropes; illustration, something increasingly important to the graphic novel reading experience, and audio, from the performance to the voice quality, tone and artistic delivery of a recording.

If you’re curious to know what books Kassie suggested, here they are:

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Smile by Roddy Doyle
Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander
The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott
Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin
Katalin Street by Magda Szabo
Little Sister by Barbara Gowdy
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Improvement by Joan Silber (expected to be released November 14)

Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson
The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered by Benjamin Taylor

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
The Man Who Was Late by Louis Begley

Next month, the CSG Alumnae Book Club will discuss The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan, followed by Manhattan Beach.

 When I joined Miami University’s Walter Havighurst Special Collections in 2006, I posed with my favorite first edition in the collection: Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. What appeal terms would you use to describe this classic book?

Tune in to WOSU’s All Sides Weekend Books to hear Kassie discuss her latest reviews with host Christopher Purdy on All Sides Weekend Books. Kassie also writes about books on her blog, thelongestchapter.com.

For more on appeal terms, download The Secret Language of Books: A Guide to Appeal, a useful guide to words that describe the mood of books, from NoveList, an organization that helps readers find their next favorite book through a searchable database of read-alike recommendations.

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Rake Up A Great Time At Dawes Arboretum’s Fall Festival

We still may be waiting for the leaves to reach their peak color this fall, but The Dawes Arboretum’s celebration of the harvest season was so glorious that it should have been my family’s annual tradition to attend long before now.

This family event was loaded with terrific activities. Arboretum staff offered expert advice on trees and shrubs to shoppers during the event’s plant sale. Licking County Historical Society representatives were on hand to show people how to make candles the pioneer way, by suspending a wick from a twig and dipping it in wax. Arboretum volunteers helped children decorate small pumpkins. Animal ambassadors from Ironwood Wolves gave presentations. Ochs Fruit Farms sold just-picked apples. The Energy Cooperative, the event’s presenter, distributed sought-after swag in the form of reflective jack-o’-lantern trick-or-treat bags and fluorescent orange thermal drink cups.

Look through this spiderweb hand-crafted from natural materials near the entrance to the Arboretum and you’ll see one of the excellent guided wagon tours of the grounds under way that were given by Jeff Bowman, curator of conifers.

After taking one of Jeff’s tours, we made our way to the Zand Education Center, a recently refurbished horse barn.  There, we picked up complimentary packets of cilantro, “California Wonder” peppers and “Beefsteak” tomato seeds to take home and plant.  We also admired the seasonal display of ornamental peppers and cabbages, pansies, chrysanthemums, gourds, bales of hay — and even a green roof — in its newly expanded Learning Garden. 

 We took a break on swings overlooking the pond behind Daweswood House…

and snacked on the tastiest-ever batch of kettle corn, a sweet-and-salty mushroom popcorn confection made right before our eyes.

Bees weren’t the only things swarming around samples of apple cider, created minutes before on a cider press operated by Bring the Farm To You, a local provider of on-site farm programs.

Glass Rooster Cannery, a Sunbury-based instructor of modern homesteading practices, also demonstrated how to make apple butter, then shared delicious, warm samples of the product. 

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Wake Up! We’re At Wallington!

What’s the first thing that you did when you became the owner of your home?

Sir Charles Trevelyan, his wife, Lady Mary (known as Molly), and their six children aged between 8 and 22 gathered in the central hall of their 43-room ancestral home and shouted, “Wake up, Wallington!”

A re-enactment of this stirring command took place when this anxious vacationer finally pulled into the car park of Wallington Hall for a much-anticipated return visit. It also occurs every afternoon at 3:00, as part of the National Trust’s seasonal interpretation of this magnificent 17th-century Northumberland estate.

“Moving In: Lady Molly Turns a House Into A Home” envisions how the Trevelyans transformed Wallington from a run-down, silent summer place into an inviting, year-round home with all the latest improvements after 61-year-old Sir Charles inherited the estate from his 90-year-old father, Sir George Otto Trevelyan, in 1928. The new owners were the biggest and youngest family to occupy Wallington for years.

“I always had a feeling that the old house was awaiting a time of reawakening after many years of somnolence,” Lady Mary wrote in her diary. “It was a great delight to us both to feel the life coming back to the old house with the ring of children’s voices, and the scamper of feet down the long passages.”

From her desk in the parlor, Lady Molly managed the house and its needed renovations. She learned to make scale drawings that would allow her to collaborate in an informed manner with the architects, builders and engineers who executed her plans. These included rebuilding the whole structure; installing electric lighting in both the house and the whole estate; planning for a pumping station and an engine in case of fire; and putting in bathrooms.

Lady Molly also installed a new Aga cooking range in the kitchen for Mary Smith, the cook from the Trevelyans’ home in nearby Cambo, to use. Today, interpreters rely on the working vintage Aga to explain what went on in the kitchen, to cook a few recipes, and to describe the history of the world’s first heat-storage cooker, invented in 1922 by a Swedish physicist who was confined to his home after being blinded in an experiment. The shiny cast-iron range with a boiling plate, a roasting oven and a simmering oven that emanates consistent heat continues to be made by hand today in Shropshire.

Each of the Trevelyan children also had their pick of 13 bedrooms — and could name the one they chose.

To recreate how it might have felt to be at Wallington in 1929, November Club, a Northumberland performing arts company that makes site-specific historical productions, created fantastic installations and soundscapes in the form of trunks interests. Open the lid of the trunk, see objects that display something about each child’s personality, and hear recorded music and spoken words from family papers.

Pauline, the eldest, chose the Tapestry Room, with its 10 beautiful needlepoint panels stitched by a 18th-century ancestor.

Marjorie and Patricia opted to share “Four and Six,” so named because the girls were fourth and sixth in order of their birth.

Kitty chose a beautiful, south-facing room apart from the others, with sash windows twice her height.

Geoffrey made himself at home in the “Pigeon Hole.”

In Wallington’s magnificent walled garden, Lady Molly also designed the “Mary Pool,” which feeds a stream that trickles down through the garden. When her husband decided to turn the property over to the National Trust in the 1930s, her parting gifts were in the form of curving stairs sweeping down either side of the pool, as well as a terrace at the west end of the garden.

Thought to be the work of Lancelot “Capability” Brown, the four-acre, L-shaped walled garden was created in 1760 to provide a place for fruit and vegetables to grow, sheltered from climate extremes. Enter the garden through the Neptune Gate and find a raised brick terrace, built around 1766.

Lady Molly’s father-in-law, Sir George Otto, created the walled garden’s Edwardian conservatory in 1908. Originally intended to be a winter garden, it includes a fuchsia planted in the same year, lemon verbena that was established before that, and a heliotrope dating from 1940. Amid wall-trained geraniums, bougainvillea and plumbago, you can buy seeds of plants from the Wallington gardens, such as Campanula latifolia “Brantwood,” a brilliant deep purple bellflower.

Sir George Otto designed the garden’s walks, borders, terraces and lawns, all still arranged in that form today. On the top terrace, he also placed 18th-century lead figures in the form of Medusa, Perseus and Scaramouche, all from the family home in Newcastle. The terrace by the conservatory also features the Owl House, a potting shed-turned-gazebo topped with a stone owl, the Trevelyan family emblem.

From the top terrace, the garden cascades down into the valley through the Plum Bower, with its clematis-covered brick wall. A small nuttery filled with spring bulbs is enclosed by yew hedges. Ornamental trees are planted to resemble an orchard. There are even small vegetable plots. At one time, greenhouses were filled with rare plant specimens collected by Sir Walter Trevelyan.

In the 1960s, esteemed 20th-century landscape designer Graham Stuart Thomas created a garden filled with colorful themed borders, shrubs and plants.

At the bottom of the garden, find a pond, a lawn, and the Garden Kiosk, which serves refreshments in the summer.

Outside the walled garden, there’s the “Woo Woo Loo,” an environmentally friendly waterless and composting toilet.

Posted in England, Gardens, History, Museums, Northumberland, Travel | Leave a comment