Fun Fall getaways: Ohio Amish Country

Ohio Amish Country Berlin Ohio

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve resisted taking a trip to Ohio Amish Country because I thought it would be a tourist trap and the only thing to see would be stores full of “country cute” things like those faceless Amish dolls and other knicknacky things.

While there are plenty of those things to be found, I also was pleasantly surprised when I finally caved and made the trek. Even though they live a plain life, the business owners are shrewd and have offerings that appeal to a wide variety of interests.

Where is Ohio Amish Country?

Well, the borders seem a bit squishy–because the community is spread out and you might come across small home-based businesses while you’re traveling the area–but most of the action is concentrated in Holmes, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. Some would argue some other nearby counties should be included, but it appears to me the options are limited. If you’re making a short trip I recommend starting with Holmes county, where towns like Berlin, Walnut Creek and Charm are packed with things to see and do.

What is there to do?

There really is something for everyone. Shoppers, crafters, nature lovers, history buffs, antiquers and foodies can find something to entertain and delight them! Here are a few highlights:

Shopping/crafting/antiquing

 Ohio Amish Country Lehman's in Kidron OhioLehman’s General Store in Kidron – If they don’t have it, you don’t need it!

I would say shopping is the primary reason people go to Amish Country (nudging eating out by a nose). I saw too many shops to name them all, but here were a few standouts:

  • Lehman’s General Store – They have everything, including the kitchen sink! From hardware, to cooking gear, books, cleaning supplies, old-timey candy and sundries they have pretty much everything you need to live a simple life (or look like you do). You can spend hours browsing this shopping compound.
  • Swiss Valley Furniture – I got a little taste of their wares in their Berlin mini showroom, but from what I can see they offer a sturdy, handcrafted furniture at an affordable price. I was so impressed, when I upgrade to a new bed I’ll consider them for a new headboard.
  • Sol’s – Need a craft fix? Sol’s in Berlin can fulfill that. It’s a craft mall that features the offerings of individual crafters.
  • Berlin Village Antique Mall – I love wandering antique malls. I’m never looking for anything in particular, but I love looking at “everyday” items that people used in bygone eras and try to imagine what it would be like to use them.
  • Miller’s Dry Goods – If you’re a quilter or sewer, Miller’s Dry Goods is the place to be. Yards and yards of options.
  • The Ashery Country Store – I’ll be honest, I had low expectations when I entered this store. It just looked like a small local grocery store. Then I found the bulk spices section. So many things I’ve been wanting to try in my cooking, but I’ve resisted because they’re a bit pricey. At the Ashery I could get at least four times the amount for the same price. They also grind their own peanuts in-house for the freshest peanut butter experience you’ve ever had.
  • Walnut Creek Cheese – Don’t let the name fool you. This is a full-on food market with a deli, bakery and bulk food/spices. It’s dangerous to shop there on an empty stomach, so you may want to stop over at their cafe and have a snack before you shop.

If you’ve got some nature lovers in your group, fall is a great time to go for a leisurely drive through Ohio Amish Country. The sprawling farms are surrounded by wooded areas that are in full fall color explosion right now. If you want to get out of the car and take a nature walk try these options:

  • Secrest Arboretum and Gardens – You can do a self-guided walk or they offer various guided theme walks throughout the year–and it’s free!
  • The Wilderness Center – A non-profit nature preserve and nature education center, you can stroll nearly 10 miles of trails. When you’re tired of walking, there is also a planetarium in the education center.
  • Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area – You can explore nearly 6,000 acres of protected marsh and look for wildlife such as deer and otters. It’s also a notable birding area with many species of waterfowl and songbirds using the marsh as a migratory area.

So, you’ve emptied your wallet and stretched your legs (or you want to avoid those things). How about expanding your knowledge of the region’s history?

  • Zoar Village – This village was settled in 1817 by a group of German immigrants fleeing religious persecution. The village is known as one of the most successful communal settlements in American history, stop by and learn how it earned that reputation.
  • Victorian House Museum/Holmes County Historical Society – A 28-room Victorian era mansion houses a collection of Victoriana and items illustrating the history of Holmes county.

Amish Country Ohio Kidron Berlin

As you can see, there are lots of things to see and do in Ohio Amish Country–and I barely scratched the surface! Why not plan a trip and discover something new?

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Cold comfort food

What's on your shopping list when you have a cold

Image credit: chicken noodle soup by stu_spivack on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

You know the feeling. You’re minding your own business, when all of a sudden you realize your throat is a little scratchy. Not longer after this realization, you remember you have been a little sneezier than usual in the cubicle farm. Then you know. You are the next victim of the plague that’s been going around the office: You have a cold.

You know what’s going to happen next. Within the next 24 hours you’re going to feel awful. In 24 hours your two best friends are going to be a box of facial tissues and a container to throw the used ones away in. So, you start the list of things you’re going to get at the store on the way home: facial tissues, decongestant, pain reliever, saline nasal spray.

You also know that you’re probably not going to be able to leave the house for several days and you’re not going to want to do much cooking. What do you add to your list?

Well a few days ago when I got that old familiar feeling, here was the list I made:

  • Chicken noodle soup. In a can. Anyone who claims they take chicken carcasses they keep in their freezer for just such an occasion and make a fresh batch of chicken broth for soup is a damn liar because everyone knows you don’t have the energy to comb your hair when you’re sick, let alone do culinary wrangling. (Or that person is Martha Stewart, and what she really means when she says she makes from scratch chicken soup when she’s sick is, “I have my staff make me a fresh batch of chicken soup when I’m sick.”)
  • Jell-O. Ready to eat in those cute little cups. Preferably something in the red flavor category. (Feverish side note: I remember my mom making us drink warm Jell-O water when we were sick on the advice of our pediatrician. Anyone else do that? No, just us? Moving on…)
  • Mashed potatoes. Instant. Warm, salty and sore-throat soothing. Bonus: This meal takes less than five minutes from dinner to nap.
  • Mac ‘n’ cheese. In a microwavable cup with a dried cheese packet inside. For when you’ve reached the next step in the recovery process and you need to chew your food or you’ll go crazy (but nothing too hard because your throat is still too ouchy).

What about you? What are your go-to sick time foods? I’m on the mend but I’m open to expanding my simple carb repertoire for the next time around!

Bath tea: The cure for what ails you

Bath Tea Collage

Unfortunately for me–and those around me that have to hear me sniffling all day–I’m still fighting off a nasty cold.

One of the coping mechanisms I find important when I’m suffering is summoning the strength to take a nice, hot bath. I’ve always known it’s soothing and helps relieve my congestion, but I wasn’t sure why. According to Web MD, it’s because the steam adds moisture to your nasal passages which is important in helping show the unwelcome virus the door (the cold virus thrives in a dry climate, so adding humidity helps the recovery process). So now I know and Science has proven my instincts have been right all along! (Don’t worry I’m not patting myself on the back too much, I know this is a pretty common practice.)

Emmet Street Creations carries an aromatherapy bath tea that is soothing and relaxing anytime, but it particularly helpful during cold and flu season. In aromatherapy circles, lavender essential oil is said to cool the body, chamomile and spearmint are excellent headache relievers and juniper has antiseptic and calming properties. Packed full of all this good stuff, you can’t help feel better after you steep your tired and achy body in it… as long as you don’t try to drink a cup! Our bath tea is for soaking, not sipping!

Know someone who’s feeling under the weather or stressed? Why not let them know about Emmet Street Creations’ Aromatherapy Lavender Bath Tea? It’s easy! Simply use one of the sharing buttons below (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).

It’s cold and flu season! Tips to keep you healthy this winter

It's cold and flu season! Tips to keep you healthy this winter

Image credit: Blowing my nose by superhua, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

Well, I’ve been an early victim of the 2014-2015 cold and flu season. Despite my frequent hand washing and liberal use of hand sanitizer, I have a cold. My research indicates that flu season peaks in December so in an effort to spare you, dear reader, from a miserable experience, I’m sharing some tips to help you avoid the invisible nasties.

Tips for avoiding and spreading cold and flu viruses

  • Get your flu shot. If your insurance doesn’t cover it, it’s pretty affordable to get one. Many chain pharmacies carry it and some local organizations may offer free or low-cost flu shot clinics. If you Google flu shot clinics and your city name, you are likely to find something. I found several in my area. If you can’t find anything online, check with your local health department.
  • Wash your hands frequently.  Use warm water and soap and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (saying the alphabet or singing “Happy Birthday”–in your head, of course–is a good measure that you’ve washed long enough). If you can’t get to the sink to wash, use hand sanitizer. (I keep a bottle at my desk and in my purse.)
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes. Ideally with a facial tissue and washing your hands after. No tissue handy? Remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand.
  • Avoid touching your face. Especially your eyes, nose and mouth. Since we touch a lot of things throughout the day, we are potentially exposed to germs when we touch the common points of entry for viruses. It’s pretty amazing how much we touch our face without realizing it. I’ve caught myself doing it several times while writing this post!
  • Stay home if you’re sick. Working in a cubicle farm with hundreds of other people, it’s not surprising I lost the battle. But if you can, stay home. Your co-workers will thank you. If you’re not sure if you should stay home when you have a virus, check out Web MD’s tips for deciding if you’re too sick to go to work.

After all your efforts, you still got sick. What can you do now?

That’s all I have in me to share. Now back to my couch and comfiest pillow, box of lotion-loaded facial tissues and Colin Firth marathon on standby for my waking hours.

What are your tips for surviving a cold or the flu? Since I’m still in the throes of this virus, I’m VERY interested in anything you have to share. 

Fall dried fruit, nut and farro salad

Fall cranberry, pistachio and farro salad

I don’t know if it’s an evolutionary response to the change or seasons or just plain old cultural influence, but at this time of year my desire to eat a green, leafy salad for lunch is usurped by a ravenous desire for carbohydrates. But, I’m still a busy (and lazy) cook, so I need simple recipes to quell the beast that lies within.

This recipe fits the bill. You get your carb fix from the grain, but farro is also chock-full of fiber and protein to keep your motor running (unlike the sugar crash pasta gives you) until dinner. The sweet-tart of the cranberries and the crunch of the pistachios provide a nice contrast to the chewiness of the farro. It keeps well in the fridge (I actually think it gets better the more time it has to absorb the dressing’s flavors), making it a great thing to have on hand for lunchbox packing.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you have any other good uses for farro, I’d love to hear them!

Fall Dried Fruit, Nut and Farro Salad

Makes about 4, 1/2 c. servings

1 c. farro, prepared according to label directions and allowed to cool

1/2 c. chopped pistachios (I used roasted and unsalted nuts)

1/4 c. chopped dried cranberries

1/2 c. lime juice

2 T. honey

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 t. salt

In a large bowl, mix farro, pistachios and cranberries. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, olive oil and salt. Pour liquid into the large bowl and gently mix to coat the farro with the dressing.

Know someone who loves a light and tasty grain salad? It’s easy to share this recipe with them! Simply use one of the sharing buttons below (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).

DIY: How to use annatto seeds to naturally color soap

One of the first batches of soap I made was an orange scented soap called Soap á l’orange. It was my first stab at making soap using a natural colorant and it has become one of my best sellers.

Orange 1

The orange color of this soap comes from using olive oil infused with annatto seeds.

Annatto seeds

Annatto seeds come from the fruit of the achiote tree, which is native to Central and South America. The fruit is inedible but the seeds have been used for thousands of years for making dyes and spices. Annatto is used today as a coloring for many foods.

It couldn’t be easier to infuse a liquid oil with the beautiful orange hue from the seeds. The hardest part is doing the math to figure out how much annatto to use.  For a lighter orange, use 1 tsp of seeds to 16 oz of a liquid oil. For darker color, use 2 tsp of seeds in 16 oz. Scale the amounts up depending on how much oil you want to make. In the instructions that follow, I used 32 ounces of oil and 4 tsp of annatto seed to get a dark rich orange.

Usage rates of the infused oil in your soap recipe can vary depending on the look you are going for. Keep in mind that if you use too much colorant, the final product can stain tubs and wash cloths. Because of this, I use the infused olive oil as only a portion of the total olive oil in my recipe. For example, if my recipe calls of 8 ounces of olive oil, I use 3 ounces of colored oil and 5 ounces of plain olive oil.

Annatto infused olive oil

Here’s what you’ll need to make 32 ounces of dark orange oil:

  • Two large glass canning jars
  • 32 oz olive oil
  • 4 tsp annatto seeds
  • Cheesecloth

Fill a glass jar with the olive oil and add annatto seeds.

Cover the jar with the lid and ring and let the seeds steep for a week or more. Tip the jar occasionally to disperse the color from the seeds throughout the oil.

annatto seeds soaking

When you are pleased with the color, take the ring and lid off the jar and cover the opening with a square of cheesecloth. Replace the ring to hold the cheesecloth in place. The cheesecloth will act as a strainer.

annatto cheesecloth strainer

Pour the oil into the second glass jar. Once all the oil has drained, you can toss the cheesecloth and seeds in the garbage.

annatto oil

Cover the oil and store in a cool dry place until you are ready to use.

Looking to buy naturally colored soap? Check out Soap á l’orange and Citrus Clouds in the Emmet Street Creations Etsy Store.

Have you used natural colorants in your soapy creations? Share your favorite in the comments.

Inspiring places: The Country Living Fair in Columbus Ohio

Country Living Fair Ohio Village Columbus 2014I don’t know about you, but I get a lot of creative inspiration by going out and and seeing what other people are doing. After all, as Kirby Ferguson says, all creative work is a remix of things that have been done before–so embrace the remix!

If you follow Emmet Street Creations on Instagram, you already know that in September I had the chance to go to the Country Living Fair in Columbus, Ohio. Don’t let the name fool you; there is little about “country living” presented here. But, if you like handcrafted home goods, clothing and jewelry, original art, upcycled creations, old junk to repurpose yourself, handcrafted soap and body care products, this is the place for you. (And, if you like the primitive/cute country inspired look, there’s stuff for you, too!) Don’t believe me? Do a search on Pinterest for Country Living Fair and you’ll find a plethora of photos of the wares on display.

Held near the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Ohio Village (a really neat replica of a settlement-era Ohio town run by the Ohio Historical Society worth checking out), this event put together by Country Living magazine has become a fall tradition in Columbus (and has grown to a total of three locations east of the Mississippi: Columbus, Atlanta and Rhinebeck, New York).

My Mom and I spent several hours outdoors in the beautiful fall weather saying “Ooh, look at this!” and “Oh, that’s so cool!” we took home a few treasures and a lot of inspiration (pics below). I’ve got a few projects in mind for the long, dark days of winter…

Country Living Fair Columbus 2014 - Swag and Inspiration

Photos, clockwise (starting top left): Dried natural loofah (vendor unknown); Flying pig pillow, Eric & Christopher; Upcycled Scrabble pendant, The Scrabble Chick; Goat tote, Eric & Christopher

Here are some tips if you plan to attend next year’s Fair:

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes. You will be walking around a grass and dirt field for many hours. ‘Nough said.
  • Bring lots of patience. Because the Fair has become an established event that a lot of people look forward to, well, there are a lot of people there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Bring your own shopping bags. The vendors will appreciate you and you’ll appreciate having a comfy tote or granny shopping cart to haul your treasures instead of a plastic shopping bag that will dig into your hand or a paper bag that could have a blow out. (Note: If you buy large items, like furniture, they do have a large item pick up near the exit. The vendors arrange for your purchase to be taken there and then you can drive up to it when you leave.)
  • Bring cash. Because most of the vendors are small outfits, you may be able to negotiate a discount for saving them credit card transaction fees.
  • Bring a packed lunch. You will likely be at this event for several hours. You will get hungry and there are few food vendors at this event and even fewer healthy options. The lines for food are long and the healthiest food option had a two-and-a-half hour wait. I was going to skip eating, until I realized I was getting hangry and treating my companion poorly because of it (sorry, Mom!). Luckily, I found a shortish (meaning around a twenty-minute wait) line for a vendor selling overpriced sandwiches and fruit cups.

Now to you: What gets your creative juices flowing? I’m always looking for new sources of inspiration…