March 2006 Issue
Springtime Frame of Mind
It's a good thing hope springs eternal: March's restless weather - snowflakes one day, sunshine the next - seems to leave Ohioans eternally hoping for spring. While we can't do anything about the forecast, we can offer a few entertaining distrac
Bringing in the Birds
Ron Bowerman, a naturalist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, normally tells people to dress in layers for his popular bird walks. "But who knows," he says, noting our state's fickle March weather. "They may need bikinis." He leads the Van Buren Audubon Bird Walkers' Spring Migration Kick Off on March 18 at Van Buren State Park for an identification of the arriving warblers, kinglets and other birds. 12259 Township Rd. 218, Van Buren. Call 419/832-7662 for details.
This is not Mother Nature's finest hour.
It's March in Ohio, which means that when you woke up this morning, the weather was glorious: The sun was beaming, the sky was bright, birds were singing and all seemed right with the world.
Or, the wind was howling and two inches of snow covered the ground.
If you were greeted by the former, go ahead and celebrate - but don't dust off those sandals just yet. Because, if you've been an Ohioan for your share of seasons, you know that March in the Buckeye state is the only time of year when trying to plan your wardrobe in advance is liable to cause a nervous breakdown. (Storing away those winter boots since the calendar says spring starts on the 20th? You must not be from around these parts.)
What we all need are a few fun places and activities to get us geared up for the consistently warm weather that's ahead. Fortunately, Ohio has plenty to offer in spite of March's unpredictable weather.
Just think of all these enjoyable diversions as good reasons to let Mother Nature off the hook for March. After all, 11 amazing months out of 12 isn't bad.
Sip Your Way to Spring
The proper way to consume a margarita should be poolside, wearing a tank top and flip-flops. Since it's March, a sweater and sneakers will have to suffice. Try making this margarita recipe - modified by the master mixers at Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants - to imagine those warmer days to come. Visit www.cheeseburgerinparadise.com for locations in Columbus, Hilliard, Cincinnati and Canton.
1. Fill a shaker with ice.
2. Add: 1.5 ounces Margaritaville Gold Tequila, .25 ounce Cointreau, .25 ounce Grand Marnier, 3 ounces of your favorite margarita mix
3. Salt the rim of a margarita glass. Add ice.
4. Shake your margarita, then pour it into the glass.
5. Garnish with a lime and an orange wedge. (Lime enhances the traditional tequila flavor; orange enhances the Cointreau and Grand Marnier.)
A Day at the Beach - in March?
Hoping for a spring-like forecast is one thing. But if you need weather that's accommodating enough to make reserving a beach house in March seem like a good idea, then a little bit of prayer may be in order.
That is, unless you find a spot that combines both the natural beauty and the entertaining atmosphere of a stay on the lake, with or without the warmth. The Lakehouse Inn & Winery in Geneva-on-the-Lake boasts just such a place: a year-round beach house with such outdoor amenities as a barbecue grill, picnic table and private deck for the month's pleasant days, and a cozy fireplace, indoor Jacuzzi, and panoramic views of Lake Erie during less hospitable weather. The secluded beach house - part of a two-acre spread that includes an eight-room B&B, eight cottages, a winery and the Crosswinds Grille restaurant - has always attracted those longing for the bonfires and lazy days associated with a summer getaway on the shore. But the spacious house has also proven popular during inclement months like March. "You can feel the heat from the fireplace in the living room all the way in the bedroom, so it gets nice and toasty in there," says innkeeper Andrea Fagnilli. With the house's wealth of windows and glass doors that make Geneva Marina seem within arm's reach â€” not to mention the bathroom windows that provide a stunning view of sunsets so that guests feel as if they're lounging in Lake Erie instead of the tub â€” it's easy to see why Ohioans head for this beach house even in brisk weather.
On March 26, The Lakehouse Inn & Winery invites visitors to gather around the fireplace of the glass-enclosed wine-tasting room for spirits as well as soups, stews and chili. The name of the gathering: "The Winter Warm-Up." (This, even though we'll be six days into spring. Welcome to Ohio.) 5653 Lake Road East, Geneva-on-the-Lake, 440/466-8668. www.thelakehouseinn.com. Call for beach house and "Winter Warm-Up" reservations.
Just Another (March) Day in Paradise
It's a safe bet that no one's going to mistake the characteristically stubborn weather and thawing snow of this month with the sun, sand and surf of a tropical island. But with a little imagination and a lot of inspired decor, a couple of Ohio innkeepers have given guests a way to relax in the atmosphere of an island retreat without having to travel far from home.
"Obviously, the weather here isn't the greatest year-round, and we don't have the opportunity to get away too often, so we started out making it for our own pleasure," says Joe Jessen of his and wife Becky's South Seas Room at McKenna's Inn Bed & Breakfast in Catawba Island Township. Prompted by never-fulfilled dreams of vacationing in Tahiti, the couple decided to turn one of the B&B's four guest rooms into an exotic escape for visitors and, occasionally, themselves. From the Gaugin-inspired artwork, decorative orchids and rattan furniture in the sitting area, to the palm tree lamps and a mosquito net that hangs above a bedcovering adorned with thatched huts, the room's island motif not only makes it popular with guests - it's second only to the honeymoon suite - but has turned it into a sanctuary for the owners, too. "Even when we're just cleaning," says Jessen, "we sort of enjoy visiting the third floor." 5714 E. Pittsburgh St., Port Clinton, 419/797-6148 or 877/410-5733. www.mckennasinn.com.
As long as you're channeling leisurely afternoons and amenable weather, you might as well really get in the mood with some appropriate tunes. Put-in-Bay musician Pat Dailey has been called "the Jimmy Buffet of the North" for his carefree songs on fishing, "sittin' in the sunshine," and otherwise whiling away the hours near the water with his guitar. The lighthearted music has made Dailey, 64, a beloved performer in the town on South Bass Island for nearly 30 years, where he routinely packs venues such as the Beer Barrel Saloon in the spring and summer, and in Key West, Florida, where he entertains the many Ohioans who visit there in winter.
"There's a lot of them that go down to thaw out their feet and get a little respite from this weather, and that's fine. But staying down there just because it's warm isn't enough for me," says Dailey, who finds it easy to come back to Ohio, even during murky March. "After living here for awhile, you begin to understand the beauty of all these months. I really like seeing people in sweaters sitting near a fireplace, [or] how beautiful a tree is without its leaves." Visit www.patdailey.com for CDs and performance dates.
Signs of Spring
There's no more beautiful sign that spring has sprung than the appearance of a butterfly, its delicate wings open wide, gliding on a warm breeze. Beginning March 4, Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus has enough of the colorful creatures to make up for the lack of any outdoors. The Blooms & Butterflies exhibit presents more than 100 different species of butterflies from across the globe, flying amidst the tropical foliage and decorative topiaries of a Pacific Island Water Garden biome. This year, the conservatory's most popular exhibit also includes interactive elements that allow visitors an even closer look at the butterflies, such as binoculars, magnifying glasses and an observation deck, its railings adorned with window boxes filled with nectaring plants. March 4-Sept. 4. 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus, 614/645-8733. www.fpconservatory.org. Call for details.
Cold Night, Hot Show
Fans of musicals aren't much concerned with gray March skies ruining their entertainment - all they need is a comfortable seat, a heated theater and a great performance to keep them in a good mood. Still, the Broadway hit "Bombay Dreams," arriving in Columbus March 14-19 and Cleveland March 21-April 2, has a steamy setting and enough exotic features to shake off any trace of the month's chill. The tale of a young man who dreams of becoming a movie star in India, the lavish production includes dancers in colorful saris performing flawless choreography and musical lyrics that evoke a sweltering locale ("Sunrise, burning heat, nothing is as traveled as a Bombay street"). Palace Theatre, 34 W. Broad St., Columbus; call 614/224-7654 for show times and ticket information. Playhouse Square Center, Palace Theatre, 1615 Euclid Ave., Cleveland; call 216/241-6000 for show times and ticket information.
A Nice Icebreaker
Ah, the joys of ice fishing: Crawling out of bed at the crack of dawn, pulling on so many layers of clothing that you can barely move your limbs, then heading off to a shanty so you can stare into a hole for hours on end. Now that all that frozen water is melting, it's time you remembered how much fun fishing is when there's no shivering involved. Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Cincinnati preps anglers for spring with a series of in-store fishing workshops in March, ranging from tips from a Bass Pro catfish expert to the best new baits to catch early-spring smallmouth. 300 Forest Fair Dr., Cincinnati; for a complete list of workshops and times, call 513/826-5200, or click on "store locations events" at www.basspro.com.
A Hawaiian Vacation (Sort Of)
"Hang in there: I know how gray it can be in Ohio this time of year," says Ohio State University alum Mike Rethman. That'd be more encouraging if he wasn't speaking from the vastly warmer climate of his home in Hawaii. But Rethman, president of the OSU Alumni Club of Hawaii, gives OSU devotees here a way to pretend they're surrounded by sunshine, too. The club has sold more than 2,500 Aloha shirts and shorts from its web site to customers drawn to the clothing's blend of scarlet-and-gray Buckeye colors mixed with such exotic designs as palm trees, ukuleles and flowers. The club's partnership with manufacturer College Traditions gives a portion of the proceeds to an OSU scholarship fund. "Probably 75 percent of our buyers have been from Ohio," says Rethman, rightly noting that Buckeye fanatics aren't limited to this state. In fact, if slipping on thermals beneath your festive Aloha clothing doesn't quite get you in the spring spirit, consider this: At least you don't have to wake up at dawn to catch 6 a.m. broadcasts of the Buckeyes games like the folks in Hawaii. Visit www.alumni-osu.org/hawaii/gear.html for pricing and order forms.
Walk out of the house in a bathing suit and towel at this time of year, and your loved ones will likely have you committed. That's understandable, unless you're headed for ScubaFest 2006 in Dublin March 10-12, where enthusiasts can get ready for their warmer-weather excursions by scuba diving in 6 feet of water in the hotel's heated, indoor pool (while supervised by trained instructors), and trying out the industry's latest equipment. Activities abound for diving amateurs and experts alike, including workshops on underwater archaeology, seminars on scuba-diving hot spots such as the Cayman Islands, and a presentation by famed underwater photographer Cathy Church. Clarion Hotel Dublin, 600 Metro Place, Dublin; for more information, call 877/364-8344 or visit www.scubafest.org.
Fun, Minus the Sun
Whether you're singing along with celebrity impersonators at the Dean Martin Festival in Steubenville or admiring the parade floats at the Duct Tape Festival in Avon, nothing beats a quirky Ohio festival for family-friendly fun. Alas, most of them take place in either late spring or summer, when the state's weather isn't so wishy-washy. Thankfully, The Chocolate Festival in Lorain picks up the slack for March. The March 24 event, hosted by the Lorain County Red Cross to assist its disaster relief fund, attracted more than 700 visitors last year, eager to feast on the ample chocolate samples provided by Lorain County chocolatiers and other area vendors. When you need a break from all the tempting confections, try your hand at the Oreo-stacking contest. DeLuca's Place in the Park, 6075 Middle Ridge Rd., Lorain, 5-8:30 p.m. $7 in advance, $8 at the door. Call 440/324-2929 for more information.
Thaw Out Your Green Thumb
"I think a lot of people assume that there isn't much you can do for a garden in March," says horticulture expert Tracy DiSabato-Aust. But with 6,000 square feet of mixed gardens to tend to around her home in Sunbury - not to mention those of her clients as the owner of Horticultural Classics and Consultations - DiSabato-Aust knows well that enterprising green thumbs always find worthwhile ways to pay attention to their plants.
She warns first that attempting to do major activities related to digging in cold, wet soil can damage its structure. However, "This month is a great time to be planning: thinking of what colors you might want to change or add this year, looking through catalogs, getting ideas on what you want to do, thinking about what worked last year that you'd like to repeat." DiSabato-Aust includes such suggestions in her book, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, as well as monthly to-do lists for gardeners. "Really," she says, "March can be a very optimistic time." For information on Tracy DiSabato-Aust's books or speaking schedule, call Timber Press at 800/327-5680 or visit www.timberpress.com.
Studious gardeners antsy to get in step with spring can start with classes at The Twelfth Annual Southwest Ohio Perennial Flower School on March 8 in Owensville. The day-long event includes such programs as "New and Exciting Perennials for 2006." 4-H Hall, Clermont County Agricultural Center, Clermont County Fairgrounds, 1000 Locust St., Owensville; registration required. Call 513/732-7070 for more information.
Taste the Season
On the days when heat waves rise off the pavement, cold ice cream is a staple of everyone's diets. What better way is there to prepare for those coming temperatures than by indulging in the sweet treat now? Tom's Ice Cream Bowl in Zanesville lures such notables as John Glenn and Governor Bob Taft with tasty homemade ice cream served in dishes that look like soup bowls. The old-fashioned serving style matches the nostalgic mood: The parlor boasts original furnishings from 1950 when it was established. "It's like stepping into a time warp," says owner Bill Sullivan. As if that weren't enough, Tom's will soon be stocking springtime favorites, including lime sherbet and lemon chip. 532 McIntire Ave., Zanesville, 740/452-5267. www.tomsicecreambowl.com.