Easton’s Lego store will please enthusiasts, new fans of building-block toy

As a child I was often frustrated by build-it-yourself toys like Erector Sets and Lincoln Logs. It was hard for me to create something out of nothing. The toy pieces usually ended up in a pile mixed with Lite-Brite pegs and model-car parts. (Maybe that’s why I’m a writer and not an engineer.)

Today’s generation of children seem to be much brighter – bright like the bold, primary colors of Legos, another toy that requires lots of tiny pieces to build something larger.

I recently joined dozens of other parents and their children at the new Lego store at Easton Town Center in Columbus. The 2,000 square-foot store at 4004 Gramercy St., only the second in Ohio, opened in July. A sales representative said they’re already doing a brisk business.

Kids gawk at Lego box sets of pirate ships, houses, trains and a variety of other objects stacked nearly to the ceiling on two walls. Some are themed in popular television shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants, or movies including Star Wars. One showstopper is the 5,197-piece Millennium Falcon of Star Wars fame. At $500, it’s the most expensive set in the store. Each toy has a recommended age range marked on the box.

Some Lego creations are displayed in the store like museum pieces. The more routine pieces stand behind round Plexiglass covers in the wall, at child level. For instance, you can look through a porthole and see little Lego people seated in a movie theater.

You can even customize your own mini Lego people. They’re called MiniFigures.

True enthusiasts can buy Legos by the brick in the bulk section behind the checkout counter at the back of the store. There are lots of colors and shapes in various sizes to choose from. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to reach the pieces at the top level. That was over my head.

Now that I have children of my own, I feel like I want to steer them toward intelligent toys that build motor and problem-solving skills. On a recent Saturday afternoon at the Lego store, many parents apparently shared that feeling, although I didn’t see anyone pony up $500 for the Millennium Falcon.

Maybe they’re saving up for Christmas.

For more information, visit www.eastontowncenter.com.

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Metro park pleases families and birds

Whittier Peninsula was never a place to take your kids. For decades, the 160-acre tract of land located south of downtown Columbus was a mangled mess of junked cars, buried trash and sewer water.

But things are different now – thanks in part to the birds that annually migrate through the Scioto River headland.

Nesting herons and dozens of other species of native Ohio birds inspired Columbus, Franklin County Metro Parks and the Ohio chapter of the National Audubon Society to reclaim the land that was once a city dump. They transformed it into the Scioto Audubon Metro Park, a 72-acre urban playground with walking trails, a picnic area and bird-watching decks, and a 35-foot outdoor climbing wall.

The park’s centerpiece is the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, which opened this summer at 505 W. Whittier St. The state-of-the-art building, made possible by a $4 million gift from Grange Insurance, features a 200-seat auditorium, classrooms for nature-based learning and an observation room with birding books and binoculars for viewing birds. The 18,000 square-foot center also meets LEED certification, so it’s ecologically sustainable, too.

The center offers hands-on educational programs, said to be a valuable resource for the nearby urban schools. Students will learn bird banding, data collection and mathematical analysis while observing the weather, plants and wildlife.

The center also offers a variety of public programs based on community suggestions such as urban stargazing, bat watching, nature photography, canoe trips and family movie nights.

For more information, visit www.grange.audubon.org.

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Pick your own apples among 500 acres of orchards

You forget just how good an apple is supposed to taste until you take a bite out of one picked fresh off the tree.

I recently sank my teeth into a crisp Gala apple while picking a bag for my family at Lynd Fruit Farm in Pataskala, east of Columbus. The apple was crisp and sweet and reminded me why everyone is so gung-ho about pick-your-own farms.

My daughter, Rosie, and I pulled into the crowded parking lot at Lynd’s, 9090 Morse Rd., one recent Sunday afternoon. The market offers a variety of fruits, vegetables and fresh-baked goods. They had lots of pumpkins and Halloween crafts, too.

I asked for crisp apples to munch on, and one of Lynd’s employees told me to drive a quarter mile down the street and turn in a driveway. We came to a brown barn, then followed the arrows into the orchard. Our available bounty was Gala and Golden Supreme apples, both sweet, firm and juicy.

Lynd’s goes back seven generations, offering 500 acres of orchards with a dozen varieties of apples for the public to pick from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Lynd’s also sells apples to Kroger and Wal-Mart. The public picking runs from early September to early November and typically includes a dozen varieties.

We paid $16 for a 20 lb. bag. Lynd’s takes credit cards as well as cash. We took our time, filled the bag and paid as we left. An employee said you can sample apples as you pick them.

We drove down a dirt road past rows and rows of apple trees. Ones available for picking were designated by colored tape strung from tree limbs at each row’s entry. We chose a row where the trees were plump with apples. The trees were a little taller than me, so I could reach the apples at the top, while Rosie picked apples toward the bottom. We both selected the prettiest apple we could find, and took a bite. They were warm, crisp and delicious.

We filled our bag in no time, then took some extra time wandering through the orchard. Rosie relished in running down the long paths between rows of trees. It was less worrisome than her taking off in a department store.

I enjoyed the freedom of being in the open air amid nature’s bounty.

Lynd Fruit Farm is located at 9090 Morse Rd., Pataskala. For more information, visit www.lyndfruitfarm.com.

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Satisfy your cupcake cravings at cute café

America is in the middle of a cupcake craze. From the East to West coasts, it’s never been easier to satisfy one’s craving for a personal-sized portion of icing-topped cake.

Pink Moon Cupcake Bakery in the Columbus suburb of Powell has been serving these tasty treats since May 2007. That’s when the husband-and-wife team of Mike and Cinnamon Nuhfer opened their cupcake shop in an 1860-built house at 84 W. Olentangy St. nestled in the quaint downtown.

Cinnamon bakes cupcakes in small batches in the shop’s tiny kitchen Tuesday through Saturday. The business is closed Sunday and Monday. Mike helps out on Saturdays when he’s not working his regular job as an engineer.

Pink Moon includes a cupcake shop, café and multiple rooms featuring locally made crafts, such as children’s T-shirts and hats with cupcakes on them.

How’s the cupcake business?

“It’s fantastic,” said Cinnamon, sporting a colorful handmade apron and stylish hairdo. “We’ve been busy since the day we opened.”

Pink Moon offers cupcakes for individual sale for $2.50, by the dozen or in large orders for special occasions such as weddings. But, no matter the number needed, Cinnamon whips up her cupcake batter in small batches from scratch.

“It’s a very, very tiny kitchen,” Cinnamon said. “I can bake only four dozen cupcakes at a time, which is a challenge when you’re trying to make so many cupcakes.”

Pink Moon offers vanilla and chocolate cupcakes each day as well as specialty flavors that vary, such as Pumpkin Butter Cream on Tuesdays, Pineapple Crumb Cake on Thursdays and Margarita Key Lime on Fridays.

Customers can visit the shop and select a cupcake out of an array of domed glass pedestal plates. Pink Moon offers decorate-your-own cupcake parties for kids. A table is set up in the café where children can select from a variety of sprinkles and other decorations. A local artist is available to do face painting.

Cinnamon grew up baking and has no formal culinary training. She has a master’s degree in business and human resources and a cosmetology license. She previously worked in human resources at Ashland Chemical Co. and as a stylist at Kenneth’s Hair Salons & Day Spas. She also made handmade blankets, which she sold at art fairs. “I’ve done just about everything,” she said.

What makes Cinnamon’s cupcakes so special?

“I start with fresh ingredients such as sweet-cream butter and pure vanilla,” Cinnamon said. “It makes all the difference in the world. I also don’t use any shortenings or artificial flavorings. It’s all natural. Nothing touches a refrigerator or a freezer. Everything is extremely fresh.”

For more information, visit www.pinkmooncupcakes.com.

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