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Day 220: Stroll over to Grazie’s for some pizza

26 Sep

I’m a quarter Italian but I like to think of myself as a full-blooded “giovane donna.” I could live off a pasta-only diet, I make a lot of wild hand gestures, and to my WASP-y husband I often find myself exasperatingly saying “I’m not yelling. I’m Italian!” So I was thrilled when a Italian pizza and pasta shop called Grazie’s opened up a half-mile from my house. I made the ten-minute walk the second day it was open to sample the carmelized onion and goat cheese pizza. I really dug the way the shop embraced the Italy concept. Everything was in red, green and white, from the menu to the Grazie’s sign. They had a pizza oven, but also quite a few pastas, salads and sandwiches available. Grazie’s also has a small bar area with Italian wines and beer to sip. Seating options were a bit limited – a few tables inside and outside. I ordered my pizza to-go and it came quickly and was delicious. (Though not quite as good as my top three – Decent, Rummy’s and Riccardo’s.) There are a few cons, too. It can get smoky inside on a busy night, and the busier it gets the longer the wait. I went back a few nights later and ordered a different pizza. It wasn’t quite as good, which I chalked up to busy, distracted pizza boys on a Friday night. Try stopping by Grazie’s on a weeknight and definitely eat outside. It’s pretty kid-friendly, with a “bambinos” menu.

Address: 3196 Merchant’s Row Boulevard

Day 219: Geek out on science at the Mag Lab’s Open House

27 Feb

Science geek or not, you shouldn’t miss the once-a-year opportunity to peek inside one of Tallahassee’s most prized assets: the Magnet “Mag” Lab. The formal name is the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University. The 370,000-square-foot magnet research complex is at Innovation Park, home to other research-oriented businesses. The lab brings in researchers and visitors from all over the world because of the size and complexity of its magnets. For instance,the lab’s most powerful magnet produces fields more than a million times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field. The open house, held once a year, attracts thousands of visitors and is free. I went with my Lil’ Sis who has said many times she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. There are dozens of demonstrations on different scientific principles, from biology to chemistry to geology. Think of it like as a long buffet of cool science tricks. Though it is aimed at kids, I was also kept entertained by some of the demonstrations, too. We saw a “comet” being made, a colorful display on ocean currents, pet animals brought in by the Tallahassee Museum, colorful chemical reactions, and what had to be my Lil’ Sis’s favorite, a demonstration of how silly putty is made, which she got to take home with her. My only advice is to get there early because the more popular booths get crowded.

Address: 1800 E. Paul Dirac Drive

Day 217: Paint pottery at Firefly

17 Feb

I don’t have much artistic talent, but I can get into the whole paint-your-own-pottery experience. I was excited to find Firefly Pottery in Market Square recently and took my Lil’ Sis because I thought she would enjoy doing something artsy. Your first task is to select a piece of unpainted pottery. They have practical items, such as plates and bowls, and more decorative items, such as horses and frogs. I went with a bowl and Lil’ Sis got a horse. You pick colors next and if you ask, the Firefly girls will show you little tricks with the paint brushes and other tools they have lying around. I must stress that there is zero expectation that you know anything about art or painting. But it’s still fun, even if what you painted was probably what Picasso could do at age two. The Firefly girls will give you as much or as little help as you want. It’s a pretty kid-friendly place, with a kids’ playroom off to the side, and a summer camp, but they also have adult and couple nights and can accommodate large groups. The prices were pretty reasonable –  I paid about $35 for the both of us. You can bring your own snacks and drinks as well. After you’re done painting you pay and leave your contact information to pick up the pottery about a week later, after it has been fired in a kiln.

Address: 1415 Timberlane Road

Day 216: Tour Tallahassee’s Christmas lights

25 Dec

To continue this recent theme of Christmas-related posts, I give you: Christmas lights tour! Each year the Tallahassee Democrat compiles a list of homes that have particularly good light displays. I will warn you that this list is self-submitted so some of the homes are better than others. In addition, my neighborhood of SouthWood is known for its holiday light displays, such as this one bedazzled and patriotic house that has blinking lights timed to music and generates a long line of cars the closer it gets to Christmas. The house is so popular the owners had to bring in an off-duty police officer to direct traffic. This year my husband and I decided to tackle the Democrat’s list of light displays. We started with a few on the list and found them pretty impressive – yards overtaken with jolly red-suited Santas and reindeer and Frostys, roofs and doorways coated in twinkling lights. But there were way too many homes on the list to hit every one. Eventually we headed toward Killearn Estates, Killearn Acres, Summerbrooke and Ox Bottom and simply drove around without a list to guide us. We saw a fair number of decent light displays in these suburban ‘hoods. Fair warning that it is easy to get lost in the northeast side of town if you don’t live there. Thankfully my husband is pretty Tallahassee savvy. We packed a few holiday snacks to take along with us, making the light tour all the more festive. I will categorize this one as “free,” though you will definitely burn through gas if you do it right. (The house in the photo is on 7th Ave. in Midtown.)

Address: All over Tallahassee – look in the Democrat for more specifics.

Day 214: Cut down your own Christmas tree

27 Nov

After writing a story in 850 Business Magazine about tree farms in Northwest Florida, I vowed to try my hand at cutting down my own Christmas tree. Luckily, there is one tree farm in Havana, a 20-minute drive from Tallahassee. My husband and I arrived on a Saturday evening about an hour before the farm closed for the day. Turning onto the farm from Highway 27, we glimpsed row upon row of Christmas trees in all shapes and sizes, a veritable factory of Christmas trees. After parking near a red Christmas store, we were encouraged to grab a golf cart, handsaw, and a long pole for measuring. We then weaved our way through the trees in search of our perfect match. We bounced around the farm eyeing Leyland Cypress trees that ranged from two feet to eight feet before settling on a Scotch Pine Tree that had been newly trimmed. I left the sawing to my husband and was surprised that it only took a minute or two to completely cut. It costs $6.50 a foot and coupled with some “tree food” we paid $55. There is also a charming Christmas store that sells ornaments and other Christmas knick-knacks. Having gotten trees from shopping center drab parking lots before, I definitely think cutting your own tree adds a little something extra to the tree-buying experience.

Address: 2867 Highway 27, Havana, Florida. Open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Christmas season.

Day 212: Crack open a stone crab at St. Mark’s

6 Nov

Every year in October, the small town of St. Marks hosts the Stone Crab Festival. We have noted St. Mark’s popularity before as a place to eat fresh seafood and gaze at the St. Mark’s River. The Stone Crab Festival puts on display the rustic atmosphere and country charm that you can pretty much almost always find at this tiny hamlet. Most definitely, it features all the typical North Florida festival wares – tents filled with candles, soaps, knick-knacks and FSU memorabilia. But it’s really great for some very entertaining people watching. We saw long-haired Harley riders, young moms toting babies on their hips, and some folks wearing fashions that I thought had disappeared 20 years ago. Guess we were wrong. No matter what, if you love seafood, this is the festival for you. Besides stone crab, you can get blue crab, boiled shrimp, oysters and more. It seemed that most people chose to purchase buckets or plates of stone crab, and to my surprise, they spent a good bit of time whacking at the crabs with blocks of wood to crack open the tough shell. The activities produced quite a cacophony: hammer-like bangs that sounded like a house under construction. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much more to see or do beyond the stone crab. Our travel time there and back from Tallahassee was longer than our stay. I think if you had kids to entertain, you might stay longer given that there were stands with cotton candy, sno cones and other kid-friendly entertainment, such as moon bounces.

Address: Downtown St. Mark’s

Day 210: Go pumpkin shopping at the Pumpkin Patch

16 Oct

A longtime Tallahassee tradition, each fall the yard of the Tallahassee Heights United Methodist Church is transformed into a pumpkin patch on steroids. Situated at the busy corner of Mahan and Capital Circle, the church takes advantage of this prime location to transform its lot every October into a pumpkin haven. There are pumpkins of all colors, shapes and sizes splayed out on the church’s grassy yard. Naturally, it is popular with families that have young children. Kids really delight in picking out a pumpkin to take home and carve or paint. The church has wisely set up several photo-worthy spots, the most popular being sitting on some bales of hay underneath the church’s sign surrounded by pumpkins. One of the neat things about this pumpkin patch is its anti-capitalist bent. The church does not provide any sales staff and relies upon the honor system for payment. You pay by size, so the bigger the pumpkin the more money you owe. I paid $10 for my tiny mini-pumpkin and medium-sized one that I brought home to carve. Don’t let October go by without a visit to the patch.

Address: Corner of Mahan and Capital Circle