Mother’s Day Gift Guide

{alexis}

You guys, Mother’s Day is coming up. You have just over a week until Sunday, May 11, when your mom will either be crushed or elated by your gifting decisions. No, not really, she’ll probably like you no matter what, because that’s what moms do, but why don’t you go pick her up something nice anyway. Take this opportunity to say, ma, thanks for dealing with my fifty calls a day, and for listening to the self-obsessed whining that I wouldn’t subject anyone to but you (but really, you raised me, what can you expect).

So now we show our thanks. Sometimes, moms can be difficult to buy for, so here I am, happy to help! I’ve put this list together based on things I plan to or have bought my mother, as well as advice from some very kind, very pregnant moms (hi, Megan!). Let’s get to the good stuff.

  • One of my favorite bloggers on the interwebs is Jaclyn Day. She focuses on affordable fashion, and has single-handedly jump-started my love affair with Target. Ever a supporter of comfortable slug-wear, she recently launched her own line of scarves, heavier for the winter, and a lighter collection for summer. Right now, she’s running a promo at her Etsy store: if you buy two, you get 30% off! Check it out!

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  • Jewelry is classic, but honestly, not many of us can afford to pop into Tiffany’s and present mom with a little blue box. So instead of expensive, go for something more personal. As I mentioned, I’m from Michigan, but my family and I have discovered this new, wonderful state thanks to my move. I thought my mom might like these delicate little bracelets with a reminder of where her favorite child lives (sorry, CR). We’ve mentioned her before, but pick up a piece from the Tutes Etsy shop.

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  • Summer is coming up, and if your mom is anything like mine, she likes a refreshing cocktail on the patio in the sun. For some recent special occasions, I picked up these margarita glasses from Crate & Barrel, and this elegant, rustic ice bucket from West Elm. She’ll be the hippest hostess on Lake Huron come summer.

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  • On that note, you can also buy mom the main act, rather than the accessory. Pick up a bottle of champagne, or a fine wine (skip the three-buck chuck this time, kids), or her favorite bottle of bourbon, if that’s how she rolls. Or, if you’re buying for my mom, just pick up the mega bottle of Lambrusco you can find at 7-11.
  • Don’t under-estimate the idea of spending time together to celebrate. It may seem cliche, but treating mom to a girls’ pedicure (men, you can get your feet done, too!) may be just the ticket.
  • Flowers are a classic, and wonderful choice. Please, though, don’t go through the mega-web sites. Cut out the middle man, and call up a local florist. Tell them what mom likes, ask for some recommendations, and tell them how much you want to spend. They’ll have a better idea of what they have in stock as well what their other orders look like, so you won’t have to deal with last minute substitutions and delivery disappointments.
  • Let’s move onto the edible suggestions! Go classic and pick up a box of her favorite chocolates. Visit local stores like Anthony Thomas or Winan’s, and she’ll surely be reminded how sweet you really are (I KNOW).
  • I know my mom is always thrilled when I ship her a collection of Cheryl’s cookies. Sign up for their emails and never purchase without a promotion or a coupon code.

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  • We mentioned them before, but if your mom likes salty and sweet, do pick up a pack of Mel’s ‘Zels. You won’t regret it, and if you’re really good, she might even let you have one!

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  • I would be remiss not suggest my constant favorite: Pistacia Vera. I’m aware that not a post goes by without a mention but they’re that good. DO IT.
  • Don’t worry, I’ve even got ideas for newer moms! My girlfriend raved about a lovely present she received last year. Her husband gave her a framed photograph of their baby girl, smiling away, happy as clam, holding (well, propped up against) a “Happy First Mother’s Day” sign. It hangs in her office now. Easy, and so sweet! Just takes a bit of planning.
  • She’s also been eyeing these minimalist, stackable rings, personalized with baby’s name. You can pick them up at Kathryn Riechert’s Etsy shop.

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  • Let’s be real though, what new moms really want is time away, for themselves. Treat her to a day at the spa, or even an hour alone at the mall to nurse a Starbucks the size of her baby’s torso and wander on her own schedule.
  • Are all these ideas too cutesy for you? I hear you. Go to Nordstrom’s. Just go there now. You’ll find these universally loved Diptyque candles, that add a little glam to her bathroom or living room. Look, this one is mimosa flavored! Er, scented.

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  • My mom flips for anything Jo Malone, so you can’t really go wrong. She’s into the orange blossom scent, but the others are just as popular.

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  • MOM STOP READING. I think this seasonal Estee Lauder perfume is what I’ll be sending this year. I caught her while shopping the other day, and she was sampling the scent at the fragrance counter. It should be no surprise: the woman goes nuts over anything with gardenia. And look: free gift with purchase!

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  • On a budget? Mom not so into accepting gifts? A card will do. Check out this simple one, specially made for those sending our love outside of Ohio.

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  • Or there’s this one (locally made!), that’s brutally honest, and gives mom credit for the biggest favor she ever did you.

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That felt like a lot! What are you getting your mom this year? Any favorites from years past? I’ll leave you with this: DEFINITELY don’t get her anything that plugs in: My father made that mistake enough times for all of us.

Happy Mom’s Day! Thanks, Mom!

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Black Creek Bistro with a Side of Aziz

{alicia}

Aziz Ansari was in town this past Saturday, and based on the back-to-back shows and swarms of people who attended, it’s safe to assume people think he’s funny. I mean, I think he’s hilarious, but it’s his perverse affinity for food that makes me want to be bffs. Seriously, half of his Twitter feed is asking the general population what and where he should eat for dinner. Plus, the man loves brunch. I approve of this.

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Much to my husband’s chagrin, I spent of a lot of Saturday wondering where Aziz was eating in Columbus. I was genuinely concerned whether he got a good recommendation or not. NO SHAME HERE.

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We had tickets to see my foodie friend, but it was for the 10 p.m. show, and we had a lot of time to kill. Luckily, we were invited to Black Creek Bistro by Thom’s co-worker who was also attending Aziz’s second act. A perfect way to wile away the hours! Brace yourself, this is going to be a food-heavy post–who am I kidding, you know the drill.

The evening began with libations, as most nights do. Black Creek Bistro has an extensive drink menu and a knowledgable staff. After Thom described the type of beer he likes to quaff, our server was quick to make a winning suggestion. Pictured is Thom’s Bitburger, mostly for archival purposes (he really enjoyed it) and unpictured is Halle’s martini, TJ’s rum and coke, and my hard cider. Whoops.

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Halle made the genius move of ordering the fried brie for an appetizer. Topped with a berry medley and garnished with (edible) African violets, this was practically a meal in itself and absurdly delicious.

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We sipped our drinks, chatted about Aziz (TJ and Halle have seen his standup before), and I took forever to figure out my dinner situation. This was silly on my part because everything was delicious. What comes next is a plethora of food porn.

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Bistro pasta: plum tomatoes, garlic, basil, crushed red pepper, spinach, tossed with linguine and chardonnay broth, topped with parmesan cheese.

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Seared scallops on a bed of portabella mushroom risotto surrounded by a charred tomato emulsion.

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Ribeye topped with crisp fried onions, served on a bed of crispy shoestring fries with a tryffle aioli & red wine demi-glace.

Halle ordered the night’s special of pork loin, on a bed of something (mashed potatoes?), and a sage biscuit. Not only was that a terrible description, but the photo I took of her meal was terribly blurry, so it’s been omitted (hence my confusion). She did give it her seal of approval, though! The African violets were a nice, springy touch to the plates and presentation, and was a running gag with our server all night. Thank you for humoring us!

By the way, service was impeccable, and I enjoyed the vibe. The ambiance is laid back yet upscale and decidedly unstuffy–I can see why this is a neighborhood favorite. Perhaps I will recommend it to Aziz the next time he swings through.

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The show itself was HILARIOUS. Moshe Kasher was the opening act, and he could probably carry his own tour. Since this was the Modern Romance tour, Aziz talked a lot about relationships and how technology has complicated such matters. At one point, he asked audience members to bring their cell phones to the stage where he read choice bits from their texts to the opposite sex–this was humiliating/hysterical. For those of you who missed out, you need to get on it next time.

Black Creek Bistro is located at 51 Parsons Ave. Opened Monday to Thursday from 10a-10p, Friday from 10a-11p, Saturday 4p-11p, and closed Sunday.

Saturday Morning at Easton Town Center

{alexis}

On Saturday morning, Alicia and I were invited to attend a blogger brunch at Marmi Shoes. Put together by your favorite Girl About Columbus, the event was a great way to meet all the other folks who love Columbus as much as we do. There were a lot of laughs, a lot of interesting stories, and hopefully the beginnings of some new relationships — if nothing else, I’ve got a lot more reading material!

When the brunch was over, so was the rain, and I found myself with a sunny morning at a nearly empty Easton. I had planned to go right home, but here was an opportunity! I shed my jacket and strolled down to Madewell. I don’t always have the best luck there, but I never give up! This day I was even luckier than usual — the store was hosting a pop-up shop by On Paper, a darling stationery store in the Short North bursting to the brim with some of the most beautiful products I’ve seen, and an endless selection of custom options. I even got to meet the proprietor herself, Joan Schnee, who showed me around the table and pointed out a few of her favorites.

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The stationery and the Madewell accessories complement one another pretty well, don’t you think? You’ll see note cards, writing accessories, and greeting cards of all shapes, sizes and styles. On the far end was a charming collection of Mother’s Day cards (REMINDER: GET YOUR MOTHER A GIFT) that I leafed through for quite a while.

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On this other side, you’ll notice some examples of their custom invitations. I know they do beautiful work on wedding invitations, and I’m sure they can guide you through what is often a complicated process (what do you mean there’s an envelope inside an envelope?). You’ll also see supple leather journals, and even a cheeky throw pillow or two! It really was a neat set up right in the store. And, as part of the event, Madewell had run out for snacks!

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I knew I was fated to be here as soon as I saw the Pistacia Vera. I limited myself to one (possible only because we had a box at home in the fridge), my new favorite flavor, strawberry lillet, and got to shopping. Today was really my lucky day, because I picked up two, seriously marked-down, seriously cute frocks, perfect for the summer.

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It looks very different on me, more Betty Draper-esque, as the skirt seems a bit fuller. It will be perfect for a work event husband has coming up. After ringing up my purchases and waving good-bye (thanks for the chat, Joan! thanks for the help, Suzanne!) to my new friends, I headed down the way to my favorite store, Anthropologie.

Anthropologie is bizarre, and beautiful, and whimsical, and a feast for the eyes. I am famous for my devotion and enthusiasm for the space and their clothes, and could spend hours here feeling the fabrics, examining the tchotchkes, and piling my arms with strange and wonderful garments. When I lived in Boston, I stopped in at least once a week. The huge store always had a towering new display to see. The Columbus store, though not quite a flagship, has a lot going on, too.

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That, ladies and gents, is sand. Sand! In the store! On the hardwood! Who even cares about those comfy-looking, printed pants, when I am dealing with sand indoors in Ohio. These displays are no joke. Not impressed with this? Perhaps you need something on a bigger scale.

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Oh you know, just a non-permanent, sparkling chandelier. They even coordinated that scarf to the sofa. This place is no joke.

Last weekend they were having a 20%-off-sale sale (which NEVER HAPPENS), so I grabbed even more than usual (don’t shop with me — I will embarrass you), and headed into the fitting rooms. Because I try on everything that has a remote chance of being flattering, I usually end up in outfits so comical and odd, I have to record them with photographic evidence. These pictures are usually sent to my mother, and my girlfriends for a laugh, but even afterward, I have a hard time deleting them from my phone. Here’s a favorite from over a year ago.

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I originally thought this was a maxi, but was delighted to find pant legs. Look how happy I am! I do this ALL THE TIME while shopping. The more nonsensical the better. But now that I’ve shown you a classic, I fear nothing on Saturday could compare. I picked up a classic pair of jeans, and a casual summer dress.

So next time you feel like a laugh, let’s meet up at Easton. I’ll try on anything you want, and have a great time doing it.

Las Vegas #tbt

{alicia}

When my husband grows up, he wants to be a professional poker player. Personally, I think he’s the best player I know (yes, I’m biased), and back in the days of US online poker, he did pretty well for himself.

Since he’s a gaming enthusiast, we find ourselves in Vegas quite a bit. I do not share his taste for gambling–even losing $10 in a slot rages me out, but I do love Las Vegas and all that it offers.

We’ve been there enough to where I feel comfortable offering my unsolicited (yet sage) advice to anyone who is heading to Sin City now or at a later date (please take me with you).

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My beloved fountain at the Bellagio.

Three Places to Stay:

The Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan.

The Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan.

>The Mirage: My husband and I had an awesome time here. Not only is it convenient to see my favorite Vegas show, but it draws a younger crowd at night which makes for a raucous/fun evening at the tables.

>The Cosmopolitan: This is a newer hotel (circa 2010), so the rooms aren’t that special kind of Vegas outdated yet. It’s modern, hip, and centrally located on the strip. The Chandelier Bar is my favorite place to have a batshit drink (try the Fire Breathing Dragon…smoke will actually come out of your mouth), and with restaurants like Holsteins and Scarpetta, you’re not going to go hungry.

>Paris: This is a lovely little place, also located centrally on the strip (see a pattern here?). I like the casino, the ambiance, and Mon Ami Gabi has one of the best brunches in town. Go early to snag a table on the patio, have a mimosa, and thank me later. If you want something a bit more casual, head inside to La Creperie.

>I’m cheating, but an honorable mention is the Bellagio: I know, it’s old and caters to a particular crowd, but when I first came to Vegas, I couldn’t wait to have my Ocean’s Eleven moment. I’m still obsessed with the fountain show. Tip: Go to Hyde before 10 pm for free admission, and enjoy the fountains over a cocktail.

Three Places to Eat:

You can also get your tourist on at Serendipity 3.

You can also get your tourist on at Serendipity 3.

>Burger Bar: Gah. I am enamored of this place. Custom burger restaurants are a dime a dozen, but BB never fails to disappoint. They do not take reservations, so we’ve always had to wait 30 minutes and up. WORTH IT for the amazing burgers and boozy milkshakes. Put your name in and wander around the shops to kill time.

>The Wynn Buffet: I know, a buffet? Listen, you’re in Vegas and have to do it at least once. The hotels have been upping their game (honorable mentions include Wicked Spoon at Cosmo and the Bacchanal at Caesar’s Palace), so you tend to get quality food. The Wynn plies diners with endless crab legs, sushi, and amazing desserts, so it’s a win in my book.

>Hash House A Go Go: This is a 24/7 breakfast spot located in the Quad. Yet another place with a ridiculous wait, but I would do it again for the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had, fresh juices, and Snickers pancakes the size of a hubcap. The chicken and waffles also look amazing. I say look because I had serious food envy with every item that waltzed by our table. You really can’t go wrong here.

Three Things to Do:

I love LOVE.

I love LOVE.

>LOVE: This is my absolute favorite show in Vegas. Beatles music + Cirque du Soleil? It’s a perfect marriage. The theatre is intimate enough to where every seat in the house is a good one. I’ve sat in the back of the balcony, and I’ve been front and center. Both experiences were different and exhilarating.

>People watch: The strip has some of the best people watching I’ve ever experienced. You have all walks of life, revelers, plus talented buskers in one place. Grab a drink, take a stroll, and soak it all in.

 >Gamble: Though I’m not a big gambler, even I feel the need to try and beat the house every now and again. You can pretty much gamble on anything, so pick your poison. Once, we were here during the Kentucky Derby, and placed our bets on some horses (we lost). And I always have my eye on CASINO WAR (yes, like the card game) though I’ve never actually sat down. Tip: If you’re not big on gambling, try it during the day when the tables are cheaper.

Three Things to Skip:
>Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat: Call me a hippie, but I do not approve of dolphin encounters. I don’t consider it conservation. This is a cruel practice for profit. As this entry is meant to be lighthearted, instead of me ranting, please visit the WSPA website for additional information.

>Eiffel Tower Experience: The observation deck is cramped, creepy, and while the views of the strip are lovely, you should instead take your admission fee and have a cocktail at the Mandarin Oriental bar which features an elevated view.

>The Stratosphere Observation Deck: Again, maybe I just hate heights or something, but I wasn’t impressed. On the flip side, there are a lot of thrill rides here, so maybe spend your dollars on those instead.

Whether you take any of my suggestions or not, Vegas is a great time for everyone. The weather is grand, it can be as fancy or low key as you want, and there is honestly no place quite like it.

Sauerkraut Balls and Burgers at the Hey Hey

{alexis}

Many eons ago, during our second-to-last snowstorm (because you’re done now, right, Mother Nature?), I dragged husband through the blowing snow to what some might call a dive bar one evening during March Madness. Honestly, I think I’ve blocked this whole weekend out, because the next day my Spartans played terribly and were eliminated from the tournament (thanks, Obama). I am the sorest of losers, and I rage-erased 24-hour periods on either end of that loss, and just now I’m remembering a relaxing and delicious dinner we had at the Hey Hey in German Village.

I really can’t say enough wonderful things about German Village in general, so I’m making an effort to try all the charming restaurants on these cobbled streets. I had never been to the Hey Hey — it was a little far to walk for a drink — but a recent Drink Up Columbus piece alerted me to the fact that delicious food was being served here as well. Obviously we had to go. It turns out that the food is prepared by Swoop! Food Group’s pop-up restaurant, Bebe at the Hey Hey.

Once in from the cold, we slid into booth along the wall. Perhaps it was the weather, but this place was cozy! High ceilings and worn wood made it seem like I’d been a repeat customer all my life. The crowd was of mixed age, and there were quiet conversations going on all around us. We quickly ordered their famed sauerkraut balls and a pair of beers.

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Apologies for the dark photos (bars tend to be dark, as you know). At first I generously told husband he could have three and I would be happy with two, but as we ate, I quickly rescinded my offer and demanded we split the last one. We both dug the crispy, fried outside and the tart, creamy goodness within. I also enjoyed my adorable sailboat beer!

Pretending to be demure, for once, instead of the human vacuum I really am, I pressured husband into ordering the famous Yak Burger, while I went for the ladylike-sized pork sliders on the recommendation of our waitress. Let’s start there:

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MY PHOTOGRAPHY. I know. I promise you when Alicia reads this the first time, she’s going to be angry. But! Let’s press on! These were excellent! The jalapeño and the slaw were just the right amount of tart crunchiness for the pork, which was also expertly prepared. Husband tried to get in on this, but I barred him, considering that his entrée was the mother of all entrées.

ImageThe Yak Attack! burger was the bomb. Look at that beautiful sheen and shape of the bun! The patties themselves were perfectly cooked, and the special sauce was indeed special. We began a heated debate on what was better — Thurman’s or the Yak Attack. I can’t really say who won for sure. I think this important issue requires more research. I vow to eat more burgers at both locations and then deliver my ruling. INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW.

The Hey Hey Bar and Grill is located at 361 E Whittier Street. Mon-Sun, 3pm to 2:30am.

Summer Checklist

{alicia}

“Careless in our summer clothes, splashing around in the muck and the mire.”

“Careless in our summer clothes, splashing around in the muck and the mire.”

Fun fact about me: I LOVE making lists. I maintain grocery lists, to-do lists, goals, future travels, it goes on and on. I even have a list about lists (perhaps I should be keeping that to myself), and if I lost any of them I would hurl myself into a well.

This time of year, I get excited at the prospect of sunshine and start my yearly summer checklist. I know spring has just begun, but June will be here before we know it. Here is a compilation of what I hope to get into in case you are also looking ahead:

List is subject to growth.

RAW Art Show at the Shadowbox

{alexis}

I am not what you would call “artsy.” I can appreciate beautiful work in its various forms, I even consider a full-blown, accomplished artist to be one of my very closest friends (do yourself a favor and click that link for real), but I’m a complete dope when it comes to more technical observations of a work. But when we were invited to the Raw Natural Born Artists show here in town, I was excited to get to know some local artists and the scene.

So Alicia and I labored over our early spring dress selections, prepped our legs for their first exposure to the sun since last summer, strapped on some heels and teetered on over to the Shadowbox in the Brewery District. The show began at 7 pm, and when we arrived at around 7:30, there were already a good number of attendees.

Inside, there were artists packed from wall to wall, and on the stage, at several points throughout the evening there were performers on stage, too. We spent a few hours wandering the aisles, making friends and learning about their work. It would be impossible to touch on all of them, but here are a few of our favorites.

The first booth that really caught our eye was Patrick Wayner’s Patch Wrk Design. I pulled the following self-description from the Raw web site.

“I like to deconstruct animals or items from nature and reconstruct them in my own way. I use wood as my main medium with additions of cut outs, acrylic, screen printing, pattern making and aerosol paint.”

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photo 1-3Isn’t this interesting? We stood silently together (WHICH NEVER HAPPENS) for many long minutes admiring his pieces, and pointing wordlessly (manners, amirite?) at things we missed the first time. I loved the way he used maps, which are a personal interest of mine. Each new piece is different from the last. We could have looked for hours.

But that wouldn’t have been fair! The next booth we lingered at belonged to Sophie Lim. Alicia went bananas for her whimsical illustrations, and made this typewriter print her very own.

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I spent time perusing her notecards, and we were digging the Alice in Wonderland prints, seen below.

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 With Alicia’s new print in tow, we wandered over to the neighboring booth. There, we met Mike Cairns with Infinite Impact. This unique group uses drone technology to photograph and record aerial landscapes. I was nuts over the beautiful image of the light house, and I know husband would have shed a tear over the aerial shot of OSU’s oval. I encouraged him to get up to the Great Lakes to see the beautiful lighthouses there.

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Photo from Infinite Impact’s Facebook page. Link above!

You’ll see the drone itself flying above Mike’s head. After we finished gawking at the photos, he pulled out an iPad which featured a photo you could pan yourself, by dragging. We were impressed!

After all this hard work making friends, Alicia and I thought we had earned ourselves a drink. We found our way back into the half-full bar, and pulled up a chair. Folks, I wish I could tell you about the delicious drink I ordered, but alas, we never had the chance! We sat at the bar, cards out for close to twenty minutes and never heard a peep from the bartenders, while drinks were served around us on all sides. Defeated and thirsty, we made another pass around the show before taking ourselves home for a beer from the fridge. Yes, I had to open it myself, but I’m sure it tasted just as good.