Why? Five Years!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Have you entered to win 2 tickets to the Greater Cleveland Foodbank’s Market at the Foodbank? Check it out! Remember, you can tweet daily for additional entries.***

Today marks five years since I moved back to Cleveland for the second time. My first move back was after graduate school, when I always knew I was coming back home. This second move was more sudden, more unexpected, but no less the absolute right choice.

The date that I moved home had somewhat faded from my memory, but this year it really hit me: 5 years. So much has changed both for me and for this city that I love. When I first moved back to Cleveland, I had a private blog to have a way to chronicle the transition home and to keep in touch with friends near and far. It was called “Grace by Inches” and I wanted to share two short entries from it with you, as the best way I can think to show how much has changed in these 5 years.

This is the first entry I wrote in Grace by Inches and is titled, “The Starting Point.”

I’m a mess. Not so much of mess that I don’t know I’m a mess, but a mess nonetheless. And now I’m also rhyming.

I’m honestly not sure how I got here. A week ago, my (ex)-fiance ended our engagement. To say I felt blindsided by it would be an understatement. The why of it all, the sadness of it all, the despair that keeps me from sleeping…that is the starting point. I have never felt less clear on my direction and my purpose and myself than I do right now. It’s not just about losing him. Losing him is horrible and heart wrenching, but it’s also about losing the picture that I had of my life. I’m a planner…I always have been. I had such a clear vision of what my future would look like. I didn’t realize the picture was drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch and in one earth-shaking conversation one Friday night, the whole picture could just disappear. I don’t have anything to replace it with right now.

Despite all of that, I’m at the starting point. I can remember this priest who used to say Mass at my high school, who loved to give homilies about grace. Grace is that calm that you feel, that overwhelming sense that you are loved and protected. I don’t mean this in an overly-religious way. This isn’t some quest to find God. This is a quest to find grace. To get back to the sense of calm and peace that I know exists, even if I can’t fathom it right now.

And this is perhaps my favorite entry. It’s called “An Actual Leap Toward Grace.” I wrote it in March 2010, before I met Matthew (who is my daily grace now), before I met a lot of you, before this blog, before the job I have now.

So, I had a moment on the trip when I verbalized something, realized that it was actually deeply true, and entered some sort of zen-like state with many positive effects for all, including not summarily threatening to quit my job and toning done my road rage. Anyway, one night when we were getting ready for dinner, I told Mom that I feel comfortable in my skin. A really simple statement and one that’s been true for a bit (not as long as I would like), but there was something about saying it, about it coming so naturally, that really made me stop and think.

I don’t know that I’ve ever before felt this comfortable and secure and happy with who I am. I always felt like there were things missing in my life or that I needed to behave a certain way (at least initially) to have people like me. Then, with the ex-fiance, it felt less like something was missing, but more and more I felt that I needed to be a different person, that who I was wasn’t who he wanted and the right answer was to change myself into the person he wanted. Post-break-up, I needed time to settle, to rediscover who I really was, and to remember that my worth wasn’t tied to his rejection of me.

And now, I’m here. In a place of feeling genuinely happy with who I am. In a place of being myself at the beginning, middle, and end. In a place of accepting that the present is good and the future is incredible. There are things I want to find in my life yet, but I’m OK not having them now and trusting that those things will come and will be better for me being in a place where I’m truly ready for them. Maybe all this has been building for awhile. All I know is that I feel different for realizing all of this. And that this is the grace that I was searching for at the beginning of this journey.*

* This is NOT the end, dear reader. First, grace (and the maintenance of it) is an evolution, a process. I got myself to this place (with more help than I ever could have imagined), but that’s not the end. That’s just the beginning of the next chapter. So, stay with me…

So, what’s the point of sharing all this? Probably more for me than for you, it’s a way for me to reflect on where I’ve been and how much has changed. But it’s also a soapbox moment for me. I’ve never been a “bloom where you’re planted” believer. I’m a believer in, “If you don’t like where you are, change it. You are not a tree.”

Five years ago, when my life changed around me, I decided I wasn’t a tree. I could pick myself up, replant myself in better soil, and find a place where I could truly flourish. So it is with all of us. Goodness knows Cleveland is the right soil for me and, if you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing it is for you too. But if it’s not, know that you have the strength, courage, and ability to find the right soil and to bloom where YOU choose to plant yourself.

Thank you, Cleveland, for an amazing five years. Here’s to so many more!

jenclesig_pur

Why? Market at the Foodbank Giveaway!

Spring is here, bringing with it warmer weather and a host of great foodie fundraising events. On Sunday, May 4, the Greater Cleveland Foodbank is hosting Market at the Foodbank, a strolling food and wine extravaganza.

Image Source - greaterclevelandfoodbank.org

Image Source – greaterclevelandfoodbank.org

There will be food to sample from some of Cleveland’s finest restaurants, including Spice Kitchen and Bar, The Greenhouse Tavern, AMP 150, and the Zack Bruell Restaurant Group. There will also be plenty of wine and beer to enjoy!

Image Source - greaterclevelandfoodbank.org

Image Source – greaterclevelandfoodbank.org

Beyond just delicious food and tempting beverages, the event offers an opportunity to see the Greater Cleveland Foodbank’s impressive facility. If you’ve never been, the Foodbank is a great place to check out both to see how well run the operation is, as well as to get a sense of the level of need that the Foodbank serves.

Proceeds from Market at the Foodbank benefit the Harvest for Hunger campaign, which is one of the largest community food and funds drives in the country. This year’s Harvest for Hunger goal is to generate 17 million meals through the campaign. Attendance at Market at the Foodbank, as well as participation in the great auctions and raffles that evening, go a long way toward achieving this goal!

Image Source - greaterclevelandfoodbank.org

Image Source – greaterclevelandfoodbank.org

Tickets for Market at the Foodbank are on sale now. VIP tickets, which get you in to the event an hour earlier and also include passed hors d’oeuvres and an address from Foodbank President and CEO Anne Goodman, are $175. General admission tickets are $85. You can purchase tickets online.

Or, you can enter to win two general admission tickets right here! Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, or all four entries, just leave a separate comment for each):

1. Check out the list of participating restaurants and leave a comment telling me which restaurant’s fare you most want to sample.

2. Leave a comment if you like the Greater Cleveland Foodbank and Why CLE? on Facebook, letting me know you like both pages.

3. Follow @CleveFoodbank and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you follow both.

4. Tweet the following phrase and leave a comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to help end hunger and win tickets to @CleveFoodbank’s #MarketatFB with @WhyCLE: http://wp.me/p1fb9r-1Ww

You can tweet once per day for additional entries, just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

The giveaway will close on Sunday, April 20 at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Greater Cleveland Foodbank to help promote Market at the Foodbank. In exchange, I will receive 2 general admission tickets for myself and 2 general admission tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

jenclesig_pur

Why? Baby Shower!

Anyone who is pregnant intellectually knows they are having a baby. But there are days when you KNOW you are having a BABY. Sunday was one of those days for me, as I was surrounded by family and friends for my baby shower.

IMG_7890The shower was held at Landerhaven and, as usual, they did a fantastic job with gorgeous decor, delicious food and drinks, and spot-on service.

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My mom, along with Alicia, Amanda, and Kimberly, put so much work into making the day perfect. And it all paid off because it was absolutely wonderful!

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That lady is going to just be the best grandma in the world!

I was overwhelmed by how many people showed up to celebrate (with major props to Jen, Whitney, and Susan for coming all the way from DC) and by the sheer volume of gifts we received. I don’t want to say our baby is already spoiled, but I will say that he is very, very loved!

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Please note the dog rocker in the lower left corner. I affectionately call this the Ride-a-Tobey, because it’s pretty much a dead ringer for our dog. And honestly, this was my most coveted registry item. Car seat, eh, we’ll figure it out. The baby NEEDS a Ride-a-Tobey (find your own here). Don’t worry, we got the car seat too.

From old friends…

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to new friends…

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to fairy godmothers (just photoshop Alicia into this one), it couldn’t have been a more perfect and happy celebration.

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Oh, I should probably explain the fairy godmothers part. Alicia, Amanda, and Kimberly, along with their husbands, have agreed to be the godparents for our baby. Matthew and I are so lucky to have such a strong group of friends and six godparents just seemed so much more logical than two. Truly, this group is family to us and each member has qualities that we hope our child will acquire. Plus, they have been and will continue to be such a great support network for us. What better choice could there be?

Thanks to everyone who made the baby shower such a fantastic day! And stay tuned for the post on the crazy nesting that happens post-baby shower!

jenclesig_pur

Why? Dante Next Door!

On Saturday, Matthew and I met up with Kimberly and Chris, where we all had the chance to get a sneak peek at the newest restaurant from Chef Dante Boccuzzi: Dante Next Door. Located literally next door to Dante and Ginko, this bright, airy space serves up brunch and lunch fare with the excellence for which Chef Dante has become known.

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We were encouraged to get a little bit of everything to share and that we did! Our feast started with a box of homemade pastries. The chocolate croissant and the “dirt bomb” (a cake donut rolled in cinnamon) were collective favorites.

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We next sampled three different pizzas, made to order in the brick oven at the restaurant.

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We chose the “Broken Egg” pizza, the “Everything Bagel and Lox” pizza, and the Capricciosa pizza. The Broken Egg pizza reminded me of a quiche, with light and fluffy egg, asparagus, peas, morels, tomatoes, and goat cheese. This mildly flavored pie was my favorite of the bunch.

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The “Everything Bagel and Lox” pizza featured smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill, and hard-boiled egg and the Cappricciosa had ham, mushrooms, tomato, and mozzarella.

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Starting to get full, but determined to try more on the menu, we shared three entrees. First was the pasta carbonara frittata, which brilliantly combines pasta and breakfast for a sinfully rich dish. While the portion isn’t huge, the richness of the sauce and eggs makes this easily a shareable choice.

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Those who could (read: all but me) dug into the Crab Cakes Benedict, which won rave reviews. I’ll be back for you, poached eggs and lemon Hollandaise!

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My personal favorite was the charred tiger shrimp and polenta, which was also served with chorizo and grilled peppers and onions. The sweet and spicy combination was just right and, of course, the polenta was perfectly smooth and creamy.

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In the name of research, we ordered dessert. Two words: Nutella pie. It had a light, fluffy Nutella center, chocolate ganache with sea salt, a caramel layer at the bottom, and an Oreo cookie crust. Ridiculous.

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We also tried the lemon trio, featuring lemon cheesecake, a lemon bar, and lemon gelato. For a lighter dessert option, this is definitely a winner, particularly in warmer weather.

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Dante Next Door is now open to the public. The lunch menu (featuring all the pizzas mentioned and more, as well as many baked pasta entrees) is available Wednesday through Friday from 11am to 4pm. The brunch menu (which we ordered from) is available Saturday through Monday from 10:30am to 4pm.

To experience the more “casual” side of Dante, without sacrificing any of the taste, service, and originality, head to Dante Next Door! They may make a brunch girl out of me yet!

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Friends & Family Preview of Dante Next Door with a guest. All food was complimentary and drinks were paid for on our own. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

jenclesig_pur

Why? Cleveland’s Finest Hors D’Oeuvre Contest!

It was a beautiful spring evening at Progressive Field last night!

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We weren’t there to watch a game, however. We were there to sample some very tasty hors d’oeuvres prepared by some wonderful Cleveland restaurants, all to benefit Our Lady of the Wayside. Matthew also took full advantage of the wine bar, as he should!

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There were 12 different restaurants with hors d’oeuvres to try. Our personal favorites? The Woods presented a huge and perfectly-seared scallop on top of citrus risotto. The citrus added wonderful, bright notes to the risotto and went perfectly with the seafood.

We also enjoyed the New Zealand lamb lollipop with blueberry Frangelico cream from Lago and TownHall. While a bit more entree than appetizer for me, the meat was tender and flavorful!

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Other notable dishes were the carne asada wonton tacos from Battery Park Wine Bar. I haven’t been there since they switched chefs and if the spicy, tasty tacos are any indication, I’ll be heading back soon.

Sweet Melissa also did a great job with their pan-seared diver scallops with brussel sprout confit, proving they are more than just a place to get a fabulous dessert.

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Speaking of dessert, there were plenty of sweet treats last night, with no need to vote on those! Becker’s Donuts and Bakery provided lots of tasty pastries, from brownies to kolacky. And The Chocolate Bar had a chocolate fountain with lots to dip, from fresh fruit to krispie treats to Oreos.

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Add to all the food and drink some great live music from Nate Jones and silent and Chinese auctions with wonderful prizes and you have all the makings of a fabulous evening!

Oh, and the winners of Cleveland’s finest hors d’oeuvre? Third place went to Lago/TownHalll; second place went to Carrie Cerino’s, and first place was a tie between The Woods and Corleone’s.

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Coming up next for Our Lady of the Wayside is another fun event at Progressive Field: Grapes and Ale! Stay tuned here for more information on this summertime must-attend event and a chance to win tickets!

***Disclosure: I was asked by Our Lady of the Wayside to help promote Cleveland’s Finest Hors d’Oeuvre Contest. In exchange, I received 2 complimentary tickets and a parking pass to the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

jenclesig_pur

Why? Weekends!

After a Friday of inspiration at TEDxCLE, the rest of my weekend was spent celebrating my friend Michelle, who is getting married in June. Saturday night was her bachelorette party. The evening started with dinner at Lago.

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We had the back party room to ourselves, which was the perfect spot for our group and let us get a little rowdy too. And the food was just delicious. We started with meat and cheese platters and tapenade.

For dinner, we had a limited menu to choose from, but that didn’t make the choice of what to order any easier! I had the polenta Bolognese.

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Creamy polenta was topped with a hearty Bolognese, made with veal, pork, and sausage. This dish was so flavorful! I wish I had room to eat it all!

After some homemade “naughty” dessert, most of the party moved on to TownHall for more bachelorette fun.

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I headed home, though, to rest up for the shower the next day. On a beautiful Sunday, Michelle’s shower was held at Legacy at Sweetbriar Golf Club.

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It was a lovely afternoon celebrating a lovely lady and helping her get ready for her big day! All in all, what a fun weekend!

jenclesig_pur

Why? TEDxCLE!

On Friday, Matthew and I each took a half-day off work to go get inspired at TEDxCLE. This is one of our favorite Cleveland events, full of speeches from Clevelanders doing amazing things.

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The theme of this year’s TEDxCLE was “Import/Export” and all of the speakers were either Cleveland imports or Cleveland exports.

Image Source - tedxcle.com

Image Source – tedxcle.com

Here’s a quick recap of the speakers and my favorite nuggets of wisdom from each (their name links to their TEDxCLE bio):

Jonah Bayer

Life is about not having a roadmap and forging your own way.

Having friends is great, but having integrity is better.

Failure is part of the process!

Brian Michael Bendis

You realize what you want to do when you experience true storytelling.

The walls have come down like never before. If you want to be something, be it.

Uncontrollable nerd rage is a unifying language.

Jennifer Coleman

A clearly articulated “why” is a North Star during times of change.

What is Cleveland’s why? What is its ethos?

Revel in that magical moment before you change everything.

Art Falco

Playhouse Square is a fairy tale come true.

One person can make a difference.

Complacency is not an option.

Andrea Lane

Believes in hands-on education, not just lectures.

All students, at any age, have the capacity to do amazing things if given the opportunity.

Jeffrey McClellan

MC2STEM High School uses Cleveland as its campus, with students taking classes at the Great Lakes Science Center, GE, and Cleveland State University.

Student success triangle made up of motivation, social engagement, and self-management.

Angelo Merendino

Through life’s hardest times, we must be patient, communicate, and remember to be silly.

If you have something to say and you believe in it, then share it!

When asking his wife, “How did you touch so many people,” she responded, “Because they touched me.”

Alonzo Mitchell III

I’m immune to “no.”

Every plan starts with having a great idea and ends with letting the universe take over.

We’re ALL Cleveland.

All the miserable people who whine about what we’re not, let’s just put ‘em on a bus!

Megan Moynahan

We must utilize design thinking in medical technology.

Look at what the end-user’s priorities are and show empathy for the end-user.

Lisa Peng

Human rights must be the basis for political debate.

We show our love and gratitude for our country by holding it to the highest standards.

JD Samson

Being a token is part of activism.

Perhaps a pocketful of tokens will someday equal change!

Baiju Shah

The Harrington Project brings together non-profits and for-profits to create more medicines out of medical discoveries.

David Shimotakahara

We can never know where our choices will take us, but make a beginning.

Self-reliance has limits, so ask for help.

Stop thinking as different entities and start working as one idea.

Michael Williams

Focuses on clothes, but not fashion.

Emphasizes the importance of locally-made products and meeting the people who make what you wear.

Jack Andraka

The Internet is a neutral space for idea.

Kathryn Schulz

We generate stories about the world around us, then the world turns around and astonishes us.

The miracle of your mind is not that you can see the world as it is, but that you can see the world as it isn’t.

This event again took place at the Cleveland Museum of Art, with the monthly MIX happy hour serving as the TEDxCLE after-party.

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Did you attend TEDxCLE? Which speakers were your favorites?

jenclesig_pur

Why? Opening Day!

I love Cleveland Indians baseball! Love it! When I was in high school, I worked at the Team Shop at Jacob’s Field. There was nothing like the excitement and energy down there, especially since it was during the mid-to-late-90′s Indians run of greatness.

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Every year, Opening Day rolls around and brings fresh optimism: This could be our year! The weather will soon be better! We can eat hot dogs, drink beer, and sit in the sun again!

The whole Why CLE family loves going to games!

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So, happy Opening Day! Go Tribe! Here’s to a great season to come!

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jenclesig_pur

Why? Billy Joel!

Oh, I am tired today, friends! I may have overestimated my ability to ever stay up past midnight, much less be 32 weeks pregnant and up past midnight. That said, every ounce of exhaustion was totally worth it for a fabulous night out with some of my favorite people seeing one of my all-time favorite performers: Billy Joel!

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Combine an awesome concert draw with the lovely spring weather and you’ve got a recipe for a bustling evening in downtown Cleveland. We had a delicious pre-concert dinner at Chinato, which was bumping last night, as all of East 4th Street was. For my meal, I had the gnocchi with butter, garlic, tomato, and basil.

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This was a great dish that was not too heavy and full of fresh, spring-like flavors. Matthew and my Mom shared the bistecca alla Florentina for two.

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While they both really enjoyed the meal, the portion was a bit small for two people (Matthew could have easily eaten the whole thing himself). With no time for dessert, we scurried over to the Q for the concert.

Billy Joel played the opening concert at Gund Arena 20 years ago, which is hard to believe it’s been that long. But the Piano Man went even further back, telling stories of his days playing at the Richfield Coliseum. The show itself was filled with classic fan favorites, as well as some lesser known cuts from older albums.

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Plus, there were five encore songs! And every single one had the audience on their feet and signing along with every word. I grew up listening to Billy Joel with my Mom and being able to share the concert experience with her as an adult and be surrounded by people of all ages who just love his music was so cool. There’s something special about going to a concert like that, versus a new artist where people are still learning the music. This is a much more collective, shared-memory experience.

I also loved sharing the evening with my two best guys!

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Matthew wasn’t as big a fan as I was going into the show, but he seemed to truly enjoy all of it and I even caught him singing along at points. And the baby might have a decent sense of rhythm based on the timing of some of his kicks!

All in all, it was a perfect evening of good food, great friends, and wonderful music! Did you go to the Billy Joel concert? What was your favorite song of the evening?

jenclesig_pur

Why? Weekends!

Can you believe it’s almost April? And while the last weekend of March was determined to go out like a lion, I didn’t let that keep me from getting out and about. On Friday night, Matthew, Mom and I grabbed a tasty dinner at Lure Bistro in Willoughby.

We started by sharing the graham-cracker crusted calamari and the lobster nachos.

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I love the lightly sweet breading on the calamari! Next, it was time for sushi. Since raw is off limits for me, I had the crab nigiri and the Dragon roll (tempura shrimp, avocado, cucumber, and toasted eel with sticky soy sauce).

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Lure is one of my favorite local sushi spots and it made a perfect location for a Friday night Lenten dinner. Plus, any time I can satisfy my sushi craving, I’m a happy camper.

After dinner, I needed a little something for my sweet tooth (this is not a pregnancy thing, this is a me-all-the-time thing). So, we stopped in at Malley’s Chocolates for some ice cream. I had a classic chocolate malt, Mom had the perfect hot fudge sundae, and Matthew had the Bordeaux sundae, with toffee chips and almonds.

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Malley’s is a Cleveland classic and their hot fudge is truly second to none!

Saturday evening, Alicia, Amanda, and I braved the crappy weather to take our dear friend Kimberly out for a surprise birthday celebration.

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We started the evening with cocktails at Velvet Tango Room. Pro tip: this is a great spot for a pre-dinner drink. It’s less crowded than later in the evening and, if you’re having a superior cocktail, it might as well be your first drink so you can truly savor it! Along with cocktails, there was also present-giving and general catching-up squealing.

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From VTR, we headed to dinner at Dante. Despite the weather, Dante has rolled out their spring menu, filled with so many delicious options that I need at least three return trips to order everything I want to try. For my dinner on Saturday, I chose the ribeye, topped with garlic and ramps and served with a potato and spinach gratin.

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Since these days I have to order steaks more well done than I usually do, I’m always a bit trepidatious. Will the steak still be tender and have a lot of good flavor? With this one, the answer was a resounding yes. The ribeye was perfectly marbled and just melted in my mouth.

Also, mad props to Dante for having a “Mommytini” that was not only delicious, but could be ordered without trying to go into some long-winded explanation about a drink that is tasty but doesn’t contain any alcohol.

Dessert for me was an apple almond streusel, which was like a candy bar, with an almond crust layered with caramel, apples, almonds, and crumbled streusel topping. And, of course, the birthday girl got to make a wish in her coconut panna cotta.

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It was a perfect evening out with my favorite ladies, celebrating the birthday of such a special friend! Here’s to a year of ridiculous happiness for Kimberly!

On Sunday, I spent the afternoon hanging out with the world’s cutest nieces. We played, painted nails, read books, and watched “Cinderella.”

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Couldn’t ask for a better Sunday! How was your weekend?

jenclesig_pur