and his name is sam hill.

i am a difficult woman to please. i have lived in this fair city for almost 20 months, and while this blog makes it look like i’ve spent most of that time eating out, i have actually spent most of that time scouring the city for a new hairdresser, taking friends’ recommendations and trekking as far out to kenwood to find that special someone. c’mon, girls — i know you know what i’m talkin’ about: not just someone who gives a good cut but someone you connect with. someone you want to sit down and talk to, someone who makes you feel your best when you’re in the chair and look your best when you stand up and get out of it. 

sam is that person.

i learned about sam in cincinnati magazine’s 2008 “best of” issue, where he is voted best of … for being “super nice.” you’d think i’d be drawn to kristen kuelber (at christopher george salon), who won kudos cutting short hair — but she’s out in milford, and i was looking for someone closer to home.

to say that sam wins for being “super nice” is some kind of polite understatement. he is nice, that’s true. but he’s so much more. he has a truly winning personality. he is warm and funny, genuine and edgy, hip and yet caring. the kind of guy you invite to dinner parties to help ensure that conversation is interesting and invigorating. the kind of you guy would be thrilled to take home to introduce to mom (although sam’s wife and child would not be too happy with you).

i called sam to make an appointment back in december when i decided that i just had to get myself a decent cut before the holidays. his win in the mag had brought on a rush of popularity that meant he was booked until now, but he gave me a very good recommendation to tide me over in the interim. and that cut — from rae at tanya’s wellness salon in hyde park — was quite good. but back in december i had made last thursday’s appt with sam and even though i was no longer desperate for a new ‘do, i intended to keep it.

i’m so glad i did. when i sat down, we talked about what i did (and didn’t) like about my past and current cuts, what i’m willing to do (and not do) with my hair, what my hair (by virtue of its length, texture, and general orneriness) seems inclined to do, and what i want on the top of my head. all i really wanted, i told him, was a hip cut that is easy to style and maintain but that is also, well, a little girly. i need some femininity goin’ on up there. he listened, tousling my hair as we talked about pros and cons of various choices. he moved things around, showed me options, and then gave me the hands down best haircut i’ve had since moving to cincinnati. 

no lie. hands down. and this from a girl who is hard to please.

so aside from the perfection that is an hour spent with sam hill (i could wax rhapsodic about the mirrors in his salon and the perfection with which they are strategically placed; about the great music that was playing; about everything, perhaps, except for what i think might have been a dead goldfish in a bowl in a room i only saw from a distance), my favorite thing might be that he’s in my ‘hood. right now he’s in temporary digs in hyde park above arthur’s (have a burger, get your hair cut, your day is complete), but he’s moving soon to a new location in oakley, right on madison road. look for him there this spring in the space that used to house de la art. even if oakley is not in your neck of the words, it’ll be worth the trip. i promise. just leave an appointment open for me.

photo phriday


kona leaves oakley

good-bye to all that: kona leaves oakley

jb kids

ah, the pleasaures of joseph beth booksellers: quiet music piped in to soothe as you browse a wide selection of books, magazines, gift items, music and movies, soft light perfectly reflecting off the blond wood shelves, fresh coffee, a pastry, or even a full meal available at the adjoining brontë bistro. Such a calm, adult refuge from the cold and noise outside.

but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. if you walk in the front door, take a right and keep on walking, you’ll hit joseph beth kids, one part playroom, one part library reading hour, and two parts diabolical retail masterpiece.

they’ve got a whole set of thomas the tank engine tracks and trains for kids to play with; each item also availbable for sale. they’ve got a melissa & doug kitchen console (the particular favorite of a certain member of this family) for pretend baking, or egg-frying, or pizza-making; yours for $199, not counting accessories. and they’ve got thrice-weekly story hours for kids, featuring (natch) readily available books from their shelves.

don’t get me wrong: i love the place: it’s a five-minute walk from home, and actually closer than our public library; it’s a chance to get your kid around other kids on those stir-crazy at-home days, and it somehow manages to be both kid-friendly and still have the same calming atmosphere that’s so inviting throughout the rest of the store. but it took a few visits before i recognized that i was regularly getting played by a two-year-old who would go in, amuse herself for thirty (precious peaceful blissful calm lovely and did i say peaceful?) minutes, then walk up and say, “daddy i want,” holding out train/ball/book/stuffed animal/you name it. and i’d be so grateful for those thirty (precious peaceful blissful calm lovely and did i say peaceful?) minutes that, before i knew what was happening, my wallet would open itself. nowadays, more often than not i say “maybe next time,” or just “no” and — in the face of protestations and crumpling faces and tears and collapses on the floor — tell myself it’s practice for later on when she and her brother are asking for more substantial purchases.

so go, and play, and enjoy … but be forewarned. you will be tested.

…nor is it a post about the pike, although a week ago we had high hopes of posting about both, when we had an evening planned that began in the vineyard cafe at ended with drinks & dancing at the pike. but factor in the loss of an infant-prepared babysitter and our desire not to take our now-tagging-along infant to a loud dance bar (yeah, well, maybe next month), we ended up staying closer to home.

we started the evening at a small cocktail party in the vineyard cafe’s wine room. the wine was good — something red, i think perhaps a syrah — and the eats were finger-lickin’ good finger food (quesadillas, artichoke dip, cheese & crackers), everything made nicer by being sponsored by our hosts. the space is a decent size for a wine bar — small enough to be intimate without feeling claustrophobic — and is accented on the west wall with three large, bright paintings. you know the sort: the kind you look at and think “hell, i could paint that,” while the truth (which you’ll eventually admit to yourself) is that if you tried to spatter and smear oils on a canvas it would come out looking closer to a kid’s art project than an expensive piece of art. the back of the room is decorated with low-lying stuffed chairs, a primitive-looking wine rack, and a microphone and stool clearly set up for musicians. i didn’t even know a wine bar was within walking distance rookwood: chalk one up for hyde park’s hidden treasures.

another of which is arthur’s. locals are right to extol the virtues of an arthur’s burger, which comes dripping with lots of flavor and a manageable amount of grease. the fries are hot and fresh, and while the draft beer choices are minimal they are at least diverse: saturday night we could choose from, among others, bass ale, guieness, stone ipa, and some weird blueberry beer.   most important to us tonight was not being shunned or mocked for dragging an infant around. and ours was not the only baby in the joint — a testament to the early hour, no doubt, but also perhaps to the general friendliness arthur’s brings out in folks.

so while missing a nice sushi dinner might have tonight’s lowlight, the highlight was parking once and walking to a nice wine party and then a down-home beer & burger joint. not bad for a short night out.

tazza mia

next time you find yourself downtown hoping for a quick and simple bite to eat and something warm to drink, consider heading to tazza mia at 441 vine street. while it is still true that, for me, nothing compares to some quality time at the coffee emporium, i’ll wager that tazza mia might give them a run for their money, if only for its central location (adjacent to the carew tower, right near fountain square) and for its more regular weekend hours (they’re open saturdays til 10 pm, and sundays 9-2).

this particular saturday afternoon past, as i walked the streets of downtown chatting and decompressing with a friend who suggested we stop somewhere for a cup of tea, i was delighted to find a local competitor to starbucks that was closer to my central downtown location than central parkway. and while tazza mia does not look particularly inviting from the street — the interior seems bright and spare rather than cozy and welcoming — it would be a mistake to pass it by. the upstairs seating area, while small, is quite comfortable, suffused with a golden light and a gentle hum of busy-ness from the first floor.

the tea was hot (something that should be a given, but isn’t) without removing my tongue’s taste buds. the “serene green” tea had a wonderful hint of fruitiness that added a little something extra to the fresh wholesomeness most green teas evoke, and the ginger tea smelled so good i wanted to sit and steep in it myself. and while i didn’t sample their food or taste their home-roasted coffee, i’ll be back for both. it would make for a picture-perfect ending to an afternoon of shopping in carew tower, or skating in fountain park. or, as was my case, just wandering around, downtown, just because.

phriday photo


over the year-plus that we’ve been writing around & about, we’ve tried to make it a general-interest blog for exploring the local landscape: shopping, eating, finding good coffee, entertaining kids, etc. and in general, i think we’ve succeeded, except perhaps in one area: i loves me some bikes, and haven’t been able to help including some rather narrowly-focused posts on bikes and bike-racing. to me, these are general-interest, even as i know that they appeal to a relatively small cross-section of our readership. at the same time, i’ve wished that there was a place for me to write more about the cycling scene in the greater cincinnati area: advocacy, infrastructure, commuting, training & racing, and even the occasional solo ramble into bucolic scenery.

and now there is:  cincycling, the first-ever spinoff blog from around and about. it’s just getting started, but don’t worry, i think i have a fair amount to say on the topic — or really, topics, since i hope to cover a wide range of issues related to cycling. i’ll be moving the around & about posts that cover cycling over there (without deleting them here), and it’s accessible from our blogroll. but right now, you’ll find a post there with a link to an important questionnaire from hamilton county commissioner david pepper about how to make hamilton county a cycling-friendly place. come on over.