Make Some Comfort Food 
If you’re searching for a delicious winter soup to warm you up, just ask chef instructor Tim Michitsch at Lorain County JVS for help. Michitsch and his students prepared this pumpkin soup with herbed spaetzles in the fall for a luncheon. 
The recipe can easily be adapted for winter by substituting the pumpkin for winter squash. Winter squash, also called butternut squash, is the perfect ingredient to combine with your favorite seasonal dishes. Grown in the summer and harvested in the fall, it can be stored over several months, making it especially suitable for the colder months. “You can even swap [the butternut squash] out with sweet potatoes,” Michitsch says. 
Students at Lorain County JVS learn all of the basics of cooking through the junior and senior culinary arts program as well as how to operate a restaurant by prepping, cooking and serving guests at the Buckeye Room Restaurant inside campus.
15181 state Route 58, Oberlin, 440-774-1051,

(Makes 4 servings)
1 ¼ pounds winter squash, peeled and 
cut into cubes
2 ½ cups chicken stock
½ cup onion, medium diced
¼ cup leeks, white part, sliced
1 pound winter squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons chives
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons pepitas, toasted

1. In a saucepot combine the winter squash, chicken stock, onion and leeks. Bring to a boil and simmer until winter squash is tender. Puree the mixture in a food processor.
2. Rub the winter squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a ½ sheet pan with ¼ inch of water and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender. Scoop out the pulp. Place in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of butter. Season with salt and pepper, mix and set aside.
3. Add the heavy cream to the puree mixture and season to taste with the salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg.
4. To make the spaetzles, combine the egg and milk in a small bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Stir in the flour, season with salt and pepper and fold in the chives and parsley.
5. Place the batter into a spaetzle machine, drop into boiling salted water and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the dumplings to a sauté pan with 2 tablespoons of butter. Over medium heat, lightly brown the spaetzles and season with salt and pepper.
6. Place 3 scoops of winter squash in the middle of a bowl, arrange spaetzles around the edge of the bowl and ladle the winter squash soup into the bowl. Sprinkle with toasted pepitas.

Sticky and Sweet 

f the weather is right, maple syrup season can begin as early as mid-February. And that doesn’t just mean syrup, it also includes pancakes, hikes through the sugar bush and fun at area farms. Here are a few of the best.

■ At Knoble Brothers Farms Maple Products you can try syrup samples and also check out the antique taps, buckets and pans on display. “We love having people here,” says Joseph Knoble, who owns the farm with his two sons. “We take them all through the sap shanty and explain everything from start to finish.”
The farm will be open to visitors March 3-4 and 10-11. 9950 Gifford Road, Amherst, 440-320-6804,
■ Stop by the Lorain County Metro Park’s Carlisle Visitor Center to take a hike with a naturalist to the sugar bush to see how maple syrup is collected and made, then enjoy a pancake breakfast. 12882 Diagonal Road, LaGrange, 
■ Fair View Meadow Farm in Wellington is a 65-acre family farm that produces small batches of high quality maple syrup. 22735 Pitts Road, Wellington, 440-647-2485,

Soak up the Snow 
Bundle up, leave the winter blues inside and take advantage of a season filled with outdoor activities throughout the Lorain County Metro Parks. Experience the trails like never before during a cross country or snowshoeing trip over a blanket of beautiful, sparkling snow. For those new to the sport, the Metro Parks offers snowshoeing programs to help you get started. 
Of course, winter isn’t complete without a visit to one of the Metro Parks’ two sledding hills. Let the youngsters release some much bundled-up energy at Carlisle Reservation, the smaller of the hills. Or, speed down the slope at Vermilion River Reservation, which also offers a semi-enclosed shelter where riders can take a break and warm up with a cup of hot cocoa.

Date Night vs Family Night 
t’s the weekend, and you’re ready to be out and about. If you have a sitter lined up, go for option one. If not, you can still swing some fun with option two.

Head to the French Creek Theatre to take in I’m Not Rappaport, the Tony-Award winner that runs Feb. 2-18 and tells the story of two feisty octogenarians who refuse to disappear into the diminishing twilight of their lives. Then go for an after-show glass of chardonnay or claret at John Christ Winery. French Creek Theatre, 4530 Colorado Ave., Sheffield Village, 440-949-5200,; John Christ, 32421 Walker Road, Avon Lake, 440-933-9672,

Start out with burgers and shakes (your options include chocolate, cherry, caramel, mint and pineapple) at Midway Oh Boy because you’ll need the energy for what comes next. North Park Ice Arena in Elyria offers open skating on Fridays from 7 to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 6 to 8 p.m. Midway Oh Boy, 6620 Lake Ave., Elyria, 440-324-3711,; North Park Ice Arena, 901 Duffey St., Elyria, 440-365-4251, 

Get Outside 
Take a winter hike on the Buckeye Trail

You’ve probably heard of the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. And the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs 2,659 miles from Mexico to Canada, has experienced a boost in popularity thanks to Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild. 
But right here, in our own backyard, we have the 1,444-mile Buckeye Trail 
(, which loops around Ohio, hitting the southern portion of Lorain County in Huntington and Rochester townships.
“The Buckeye Trail is interesting because it’s a combination of country roads, bike trails, traditional hiking trails and the towpath,” says LaGrange native Tom Helbig, who hiked the entire trail in 2017. 
Helbig suggests leaving the back roads of Lorain County for summer and focusing on Findley Lake State Park, which contains a 1.6-mile stretch of the trail that winds through the park and along part of Findley Lake. 
“Winter is an amazing time to hike,” Helbig says. “A lot of times you can have the park to yourself and, after a fresh snowfall, you get the joy of being the first one out on the trail. The air is fresher and the ground is crunching under your feet.”
Findley Lake State Park, 25381 state Route 58, Wellington, 440-647-4490,

Find Some Zen
Staying warm this season doesn’t have to mean spending months stuck in the house. At Unwind Yoga, a Sunday morning hot vinyasa flow class offers a way to start off the week feeling nice and toasty. The goal is to have seamless transitions between poses, creating constant movement and increased body temperatures. Add to that the 86- to 94-degree setting, and that becomes a real escape from the cold. During the week, Unwind also offers warm yoga, where classes run between 78 and 82 degrees. 
While these classes provide many benefits, including increasing heart rate, speeding up metabolism, aiding in deep stretches and burning some serious calories, co-owner Erica Cambarare says these options are not for beginner yogis.
“Our hot and warm classes are recommended to take after a beginner class,” she says. “Movements are quick and the temperature of the room adds another level of difficulty.”
If you’re just looking for total relaxation, Unwind features spa services, including massages and a variety of stress-relieving facials. For those looking for a deep cleanse, opt for the hydra-glow facial and add cupping to the treatment. 
In January, Unwind began hosting a Wellness Series on Saturday mornings. “It combines yoga, relaxation, stress relief exercises — and we’re going to add a diet component as well,” Cambarare says.
176 Park Ave., Amherst, 440-984-7611,

Think Green 
Sitting on more than 80 acres in Avon, Miller Nature Preserve offers plenty of ground to explore. Even in the peak of winter, visitors can still enjoy greenery within the preserve’s heated conservatory.  
“In the middle of winter, it certainly gives you a breath of fresh air,” says Linda Paull, park manager and senior naturalist.
The 5,000-square-foot, ever-changing conservatory at Miller Nature Preserve opened in May 2011 and boasts a colorful array of plants. The arid collection showcases cacti and succulents. There is also a tropical area with a bonsai collection and a carnivorous plant collection. Visitors will encounter various types of orchids, banana trees and other houseplants you might recognize.
Aside from the foliage, you’ll meet Echo, the conservatory’s parrot. “He likes to sing and dance with the [visitors]. He has become a big hit. People come just to see Echo,” Paull says.
Admission to the conservatory is $2 for people over 42 inches or $10 for a yearly membership.
2739 Center Road, Avon, 440-937-0764,

Say Cheers 
Take advantage of the opportunity to get dressed up in your favorite team’s gear and enjoy good food, drinks and company at Tailgators Sports Bar. Pregame with an order of wings smothered in one of more than 15 flavorful sauces. Whether it’s lunch or dinnertime, indulge in a variety of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and entrees. Or, opt for something on the lighter side with a selection of fresh salads and wraps. 
Keep the friendly competition going after the buzzer sounds by challenging friends to a game of pool or darts. In addition to everyday fun, Tailgators keeps guests entertained with several special events, including ladies’ night, Sunday evening karaoke, trivia night and taco Tuesdays.
33499 Lake Road, Avon Lake, 440-933-4007

Game Night 
Toss the controller aside and spend an evening making memories the old-fashioned way. From short, party games like Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity and Codenames to longer, strategic options like Catan, The Shop, Game Shop offers something for everyone. Owner Paul Radocy says board games are soaring in popularity because of their entertainment value. 
“There’s a lot of bonding over it and a lot of interaction,” he says, noting customer favorites such as Munchkin, a quirky card came where players compete to kill monsters and acquire items to build stronger fighters, and Zombicide, where one to six players work together to survive a town infested with the undead. 
Catan, another popular choice, tests players’ negotiation skills and strategic planning as they fight for land and resources to conquer the board.
Those looking for another cooperative game will enjoy Pandemic, which requires players to take on the role of disease fighting specialists saving the world from four plagues. 
What’s special about these games is that most of them offer expansions to provide new levels of entertainment for old favorites. “People are always wanting something new,” Radocy says. “When you get bored with the core game, you don’t have to give it up. You can always get something that adds variety to it.”
Don’t know where to start? Stop by The Shop, Game Shop on Mondays between 2 and 8 p.m. for board game day.
1605 State Road 60, Suite 4, Vermilion, 440-963-7257,

Carve it Yourself 
Don’t spend the entire winter nestling up by the fire. There’s no time like winter to partake in the do-it-yourself trend, and NorthCoast Community Woodshop is the place to start. Located in Sheffield Lake’s old post office building, this organization provides those interested in woodworking with the space and tools to hone their skills and create quality masterpieces. Those with a yearly membership to NorthCoast enjoy 24-hour access to the shop, as well as help and expertise from members with varying degrees of experience in the craft. 
“Woodworking is a pretty solitary hobby. This provides camaraderie between woodworkers,” says Henry Kowal, president of the board of directors for NorthCoast. “It’s really a good learning environment. You can learn quite a bit from the people there. When you put everyone together, there’s usually someone who knows how to help and provide you with a safe path to do it.”
In addition to a membership, NorthCoast offers opportunities for the public to get involved through classes that show participants how to build basic objects and demonstrations on how to utilize certain tools.
“I’ve always liked building things and doing things myself,” Kowal says. “It’s the satisfaction of coming up with an idea, following it through and working with your hands — it’s really rewarding.”
4214 Ivanhoe Ave., Sheffield Lake, 440-721-1293, 

Learn to Sew 
Cindy Kraft laughs when asked how long she’s been sewing. “Actually, about 60 years,” she says. The owner of Cindy’s Sew Easy Shoppe in Sheffield Village, Kraft is passionate about what she does — and wants others to get in on the fun. She offers classes on everything from learning to sew (you start with a pair of pajama bottoms) to making your own everyday briefcase. And, if you get really good, you can do what Cindy did decades ago — make your own wedding gown. 
5278 Detroit Road, Sheffield Village, 440-934-2105,

Find Your Cough, Cold and Flu Remedy
You feel it coming on. You’re sneezing, but you also have the chills and are run-down. What’s going on? WebMD has a handy symptom checker that can give you a head start on feeling better. We gave it a trial run by entering in three scenarios — an 11-year-old girl with the chills and a fever, a 36-year-old pregnant woman with a cough and ear pressure and an 88-year-old man battling sinus pain. Here’s what WebMD advised: 

■ The 11-year-old girl should get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, put a lukewarm damp cloth on her forehead and try a fever-reducer such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen. WebMD didn’t say so, but we also think she should stay home from school, sip Sprite and watch Despicable Me 3 with the parent who stayed home with her.
■ The 36-year-old woman should sit in a steam-filled room, use a vaporizer at night, drink plenty of fluids and try swallowing, yawning or chewing gum to relieve ear pressure. Our add-on advice? Her husband should also give her a foot massage and make dinner for the family.
■ The 88-year-old man should put a warm compress on his head, have hot tea or soup and try a decongestant with phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine. We think that soup will be even better if it’s made by one of his children or grandchildren and delivered with a smile. 
* To use this WebMD pool, visit and type in “relief advisor for cold and flu” in the search engine. Remember that you should seek immediate medical attention if you’re having trouble breathing or experiencing chest pain. It’s also time to see a doctor if you can’t keep any food down or if your fever doesn’t get better. 

Jump the Blues Away 
opened Nov. 22 in Elyria, gives parents the opportunity to drop off older kids while Mom and Dad catch a movie or go shopping. Or, they can stay while everyone bounces off the walls — literally.
“We keep the temperature in the building cold because the body heat is generated so quickly,” says owner Bradley Mabry. 
The building offers 25,000 square feet of trampoline activity space including a kids’ court, gymnastics tumble track, rock wall, foam pits, two dodgeball courts, a battle beam and more.
Mabry’s favorite amenity is the two dunk lanes — one regulation 10-foot basketball hoop and one 7-foot goal. 
“Believe it or not, I cannot dunk on the 10-foot goal,” he says. “At a younger age, I would have been able to. It’s kind of a humbling experience to build [something] that you can’t even dunk on.”
For the inevitable time when the kiddos work up an appetite, you can swing by the concessions for slices of pizza from local pizza place Loco Pie Pizza Co., as well as other snacks like ICEEs, MiniMelts ice cream, Coke products and chips.
110 Market Drive, Elyria, 440-281-9999,

Just Dance 
You won’t even know you’re working out when you hit Oberlin’s Splash Zone for a Zumba or ballroom dancing class. Although well-known as an aquatic center, Splash Zone also offers a basketball and volleyball courts, a fitness room and a wide variety of exercise classes. Splash Zone is part of the Lorain County Metro Parks. An individual membership to Splash Zone is $22 a month or $264 a year. 95 W. Hamilton Road, Oberlin, 440-774-5059,

Start Sweating 
Living healthy in Lorain County just got a little easier thanks to United We Sweat, which offers more than 70 free opportunities to get out of the house and get fit this season. Activities range from indoor and outdoor FitWalks and group hikes at various Metro Park locations, as well as yoga and spinning classes. Each activity accommodates 10 to 60 people and typically lasts an hour. 
Erin Murphy, program director for health promotion and chronic disease prevention at the Lorain County General Health District, says United We Sweat is spearheaded through partnerships between seven organizations.
“[We] ensure everyone has access to quality physical activity at all times, no matter their location, age or skill level,” she explains, adding that the FitWalks are a popular choice for many. “Entire families will come and enjoy the walks — multiple generations of families.”
United We Sweat activities are structured toward beginners and start with an instructor demonstrating basic movements and proper techniques. All events are held at various partner locations, including Carlisle Reservation, Mercy Health and Recreation Center and splash aquatic center.