In the two years I’ve spent at IU I haven’t gotten the chance to explore Brown County and Bloomington quite like I have this summer. I was the luckiest of ducks last weekend when I got to celebrate the midway point of summer with two of my absolute favorite humans. Abigail and Cara made the ever-exciting trek down from Chicago to experience summer in Bloomington. Every single person who has spent a summer at IU will tell you *emphatically* how wonderful and glorious Indiana summers are. Truthfully, I was skeptical of all the hype around an empty college town.
We started our weekend with a trip to Lake Lemon in Unionville. I’m not the biggest water bug, so I had never made an effort to go swimming in Bloomington before. I hadn’t even been to the IU pool on campus (despite practically living next door to it for a year). Going to the beach is my favorite summer activity though, so going to Lake Lemon was the perfect cure for my recent homesickness.
The lake was only 20 min away, but I would highly suggest taking my lead and accidentally mapping yourself to the marina so you can drive around the entire lake. It was GORGEOUS. 10/10, would reccommend.
Even if my poor navigation skills put us a little behind, we basked in the late afternoon sun for $7 all together. WHAT?! Call us cynical Chicago (*Chicago suburbs*— don’t want to offend any real Chicagoans) gals, but we were truly shocked by the price since it’s $11/person at home. So kudos to whoever is doing the pricing up there. We love and appreciate you, Unionville Parks Department. Sincerely, broke college girls everywhere.
Seriously, there are few sweeter luxuries in life than rinsing the sunscreen off in the shower and going out to dinner with freshly washed hair after a day in the sun.
I was nervous for the weekend’s meal plans because Cara is both a vegan and is gluten sensitive, so sometimes it can be hard to find somewhere that will be accommodating for her. She’s not high maintenance about it, but it just makes Abigail and me sad to see her get a meal solely comprised of side veggies. Especially at breakfast.
Maybe more for our sake than Cara’s, we will sift through restaurant options until we find the perfect one. The first night we ate at Little Tibet. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in Bloomington, but the extensive vegan menu was what steered us there. We shared vegan dumplings which I was thrilled about because my favorite food is every respective carb wrapped potato and cheese item is for a given country…think perogi, French fries, croquettes, samosas, dumplings, you get the idea.
The most exciting part of our weekend was taking a little excursion to the charming town of Nashville, Indiana in Brown County. Nashville seems to have a novelty shop for literally every hobby or craft you could possibly think of.
Since Cara and Abigail missed the Bloomington Farmer’s Market on Saturday (one of my weekend staples) our first stop on Sunday was the Nashville Farmer’s Market. The people of Indiana are just truly another breed and I can never get over how warm they are. I bought a gorgeous ring from a woman at the market and we ended up chatting about her jewelry making and my business Splatters & Strokes. Nothing beats finding new business connections and friends in a pocket of the world where you would never expect it.
Before we admired all the yarn at The Clay Purl, I made Cara and Abigail agree to incessantly remind me that I do NOT need yarn right now and am not allowed to buy any. It was a mission, but I made it out alive without buying anything, no worse for the wear. Every year on Harry Potter’s birthday, July 31st, The Clay Purl releases new Harry Potter themed yarn with colors inspired by different characters or books in the series. I am a total sucker for anything Harry Potter themed and so naturally I had to buy the yarn named for Lavender Brown. Lucky for my wallet and the safety of my self-control-enforcing company, we were a month early for this year’s release.
Our favorite shop from the entire day was Plum Natural Products. It’s like a less expensive, small town version of Lush. All their products are natural, handmade, and free from a ton of common allergens found in beauty products.
Story time: I have allergies coming out the wazoo and have very sensitive skin. In high school, I used Apple Cider Vinegar as toner for a couple months and it was working fine. Then one day I put on moisturizer over it and my face puffed up like a cherry tomato colored blowfish minutes before I had to leave for choir practice looking like I had fallen into a gigantic compact of blush. It scared me away from any sort of toner, even the natural solutions, for a few years, but I am loving the Rosewater Toner from Plum so far.
Even though Plum was like a candy store for bath products, Abigail and I needed an actual afternoon dessert break. The woman working at the shop told us we absolutely HAD to get waffle cones at Miller’s.
There is no chance I’d be as patient if I were in Cara’s vegan shoes with the frequency of Abigail’s and my ice cream cravings. Miller’s was so quaint though, and all three of us were excited to learn about their on-premises making process and the quirky weekly flavors. The winning flavor of our visit was Brown County Campfire (‘smores) and I’d dang near make the 30 minute drive to Nashville just for a scoop right now.
It’s just so easy to lose track of time in Nashville. We ended our day on a high by visiting Joyfoli. I love a good pun almost as much as I love plants, so this shop was my personal nirvana. I don’t know about you, but foliage does in fact bring me quite a lot, oodles, I might even dare to say, of joy. I have very little self restraint when it comes to buying plants, though, but I mean come on, look at this sweet little string of pearls plant. How could I not bring this into my home, make it part of my plant family?? I would be remiss to leave it there when it clearly belongs in my kitchen window. Cara made out like a bandit and got a super cool macramé hanger for her new jade plant.
After our day trip to Brown County, we were again faced with the age old challenge of deciding what to eat for dinner. Cara advocated for a second round at Little Tibet, but Abigail and I were in the mood to try something new. Every week Farm Bloomington hosts Sous Chef Sunday with a menu full of one night specials. Abigail and I shared a putanesca pizza and brussel sprouts. Cara ordered fried day lilies, yes, like the actual plant, as an appetizer and we traded her for some sprouts. I am an adventurous eater, but eating flowers seems sort of off putting to me. The lilies were fantastic though and now I think I’m game to try more edible flowers.
There was a miscommunication with Cara’s salad order (which is rare for Farm, so I think she might have been scheming all along). We ended up ordering her carry out from Little Tibet, so she got to have her dumplings and eat them too.
Hidden Gems of Bloomington
Having to roll out of bed on Monday for school seemed like a cruel joke, but the knowledge of post-class brunch plans helped me make it through. We discovered two hidden gems of Bloomington in the final hours of our visit: Bedrak Café and The Cherry Canary.
It never ceases to amaze me how oblivious a person can be to incredible places in their own city until it’s time to be a tour guide. Cara kept asking me how I liked a restaurant or shop as we drove through town and I’d have to shamefully admit I’d never set foot inside.
We specifically sought out a breakfast spot that would have plenty of smoothie and juice options, then none of us even ended up ordering one! I am the most indecisive person on the face of the planet, but got lucky and blurted out French Toast Bites at the last minute. Mini versions of food are scientifically both more delicious and fun to eat (sliders vs. one regular boring burger? Fries vs. a potato? I rest my case.) It came with the hashbrown casserole (classic shredded hashbrowns mixed with cheese and onions) which quite possibly changed my life and I now plan to serve them at my wedding. Sorry and/or you’re welcome, future husband.
Cara hit the gluten free-vegan-jackpot and ordered the breakfast tacos. Abigail went with a classic, ordering a Belgian waffle with strawberries.
After breakfast, we popped into a hidden little vintage shop for a few minutes. I vowed to return before summer school is over, because I desperately need a new pair of jeans. That is a full two-hour commitment for me, though, and the gals had to get on the road. I’m excited to go back to scour through the dresses and records!
Our very last stop before saying farewell was Bloomington’s resident vegan bakery. It was so fun watching Cara get to choose all sorts of gluten free goodies and I miraculously restrained myself.
Saying goodbye to my two best gal pals was a bummer, but I’ll be back on the northshore ready to terrorize them for an entire month in no time. 🙂
What are your favorite spots in Bloomington that I should explore before the summer’s over?!