Monthly Archives: April 2012

Why? Donate Life Ohio!

April is Donate Life Month, meant to encourage people to sign up to be organ and tissue donors. Donate Life Ohio is an organization committed to increasing awareness and participation in Ohio’s organ donation program.

Advances in medical technology have made transplant surgeries more and more successful. However, the problem is having enough organ donors, as approximately 500 people are added to transplant waiting lists daily. Anyone can be an organ donor. In fact, you may have already signed up when you received your driver’s license.

As part of Donate Life Month, Donate Life Ohio is holding a Digital Donor Designation Drive. This drive creates a friendly competition among Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo to see who has the most organ donors.

By clicking on this link, you can register to be an organ donor if you are not already one. If you are already a donor, you can simply “check in” as a donor in your city. As of this morning, Cleveland was not in the lead, friends! So, check in today and help Cleveland pull ahead…you all know how much we love on-line voting for Cleveland!

On April 30, the city with the most check-ins will win 50 Donate Life t-shirts to be awarded to random participants from that city.

Beyond the free t-shirts and city pride, you’ll get a lot of personal satisfaction knowing that by being an organ donor you can save up to 8 lives and heal 50 more.

You also have another chance to show your support and possibly win a Donate Life Ohio t-shirt. April 20 has been designated Blue and Green Day by Donate Life America. Wear blue or green on April 20, then snap a picture and post it to Donate Life Ohio’s Facebook wall. Random participants will be selected to be featured as Donate Life Ohio’s cover photo and receive a t-shirt.

So, check in today if you’re already an organ donor or sign up if you’re not already registered. Then wear your blue and green on April 20. Together, we can help save lives and show how much Cleveland cares!

***Disclosure: I was asked by Donate Life Ohio to help promote the Digital Donor Designation Drive. I received a free Donate Life Ohio t-shirt. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

Why? CLE Wedding Update!

So, I was amazed at how many of you wanted to read about the wedding plans. My first wedding update post back in January was a hit! I thought I’d drop in another update post to let you know what’s going on, since we’re now less than two months from the big day!

Registering

Matthew and I registered at Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, and Macy’s. I tell you this not so you can buy us presents, but so I can tell you what was great about registering at these spots. Macy’s is obviously really convenient for just about everyone and always has sales going. The cook in both of us (and our amazing new kitchen) made Williams-Sonoma a must. And Crate and Barrel is a classic.

We went to the Crate and Barrel bridal registry event, which was so worthwhile. Crate and Barrel hosts these on Sundays twice a year. The store is “open” from 9am-12pm just to couples who are registering. You get a lot of one-on-one attention, plus fun treats.

We had faux mimosas (tip: I would have registered for more expensive things if I was drinking real mimosas), mini paninis, waffles, and more, all made with Crate and Barrel products.

To keep the peace when registering at multiple locations, switch off who controls the scanner. And then log-on when you get home and add (or delete) to your heart’s content. Seriously, I keep checking out the registries to see what’s been bought and then I get ridiculously excited or start trying to figure out where to put it in the house. I have issues.

Dress Fittings and Test Hair

I’m pretty sure there are few things less nerve-wracking than dress fittings. I’ve had my two and the dress is ready to go. Seriously, all that’s left is for Demetrios to steam it and then I pick it up the week of the wedding. Eek!

I had my test hair done this week and I love it! I’m having my hair done at Illusion Unlimited in Parma. I’ve had my hair done there for years and there’s no better feeling than having someone who knows you and who you trust working with you for the big day.

Best of all, the style looks exactly like the picture I found. I also had a mini dance party and it didn’t all come falling down or anything, so we’re safe there!

DJ

Speaking of dance party…last post I told you we chose Selective Sound as our DJ company. We met our DJ, Rick, recently to finalize all the details. Beyond just coordinating the schedule for the reception and handling introductions, Rick made music suggestions, got to know us and our tastes, and made me convinced the reception is going to be a great party. I may have selected an abnormal amount of Beyonce songs, however. I figure my bustle is the closest thing to a Beyonce booty I’ll ever have, so I might as well enjoy it!

Invitations and RSVPs

I had my “Cleveland Bridesmaids” (I have 2 out-of-town bridesmaids as well) over one Sunday to stuff invitations.

What happens when a group of Type A women set about a task? It gets done ridiculously quickly, leaving us more time to drink wine!

Before the wine...

After the wine...

Receiving RSVPs makes going to the mailbox ridiculously fun. The “no” RSVPs tend to bum me out a bit, but only because I think everyone we invited is special and important in our lives. But for the most part, it’s a total rush of fun getting RSVPs. Check back when the RSVP deadline has passed and I’m short on responses, though…

Ceremony/Church

Our ceremony is at St. John Vianney Catholic church. As part of the preparation, we spent all day one Saturday at a Pre-Cana retreat. I have to say, we weren’t initially thrilled with the idea of giving up an entire Saturday. We had just moved, there was so much to do, and so on. But it was really worth it.

There were talks from married couples in the parish, there was small group discussion with other engaged couples, and (my favorite part) we received letters from our family and friends. I opened my grandfather’s letter first. At 87, his eyesight isn’t great and his penmanship has suffered along with it, but he handwrote a 5 page letter. If that doesn’t melt you and make you feel infinitely supported, nothing will.

The Emotional Stuff

OK, so less than two months out from the wedding…very different feeling than a year away or even six months away. First, I’ve become one of those people who talks about the wedding whenever possible. As in, I would like a chai latte and by the way, I’m getting married. I probably annoy people with this (or at least confuse them). I’m honestly so crazy excited and so insanely happy that I think I’m going to burst. So, I’ll try to keep it down, but I’m not sure it’ll work…

I think the main thing I realized recently is that I’m ready. Not as in, I’m ready for June 2 and every I is dotted and T is crossed. As in, I’m ready to be married. It’s a different feeling than when we first got engaged. I was sure of Matthew and of us and our future. But it was still out there in the future. That’s why you have an engagement period, I suppose: to transition from seeing it in the future to being ready for it in the present. And I am so ready to be his wife. Wow.

So, that’s where we’re at in this crazy journey. Still to come: seating arrangements, bridal shower, bachelorette party…

Why? Weekends!

Hope everyone had a nice Easter/Passover weekend! I’m going to back the recap up to Thursday, when just about all of Cleveland (or so it seemed) was out celebrating Indians’ Opening Day. Opening Day is one of my favorite days to be out and about downtown. Everyone is happy and optimistic and having fun! I can’t tell you how many “Go Tribe!” shouts I heard (and returned) just walking from my car to meet up with friends.

My friends and I started out at Winking Lizard, which was full to capacity. Despite the crazy crowds, we still were able to get our hands on tasty beer and burgers. While we were there, we saw the Budweiser Clydesdales on their way to Progressive Field.

From the Winking Lizard, we headed over to Wilbert’s to watch the game. Next time the Thirsty Parrot is a bit too crowded before a game, give Wilbert’s a try. Cheap beer, good music (the 90′s jams were pumpin’ that day), and a fun atmosphere. We didn’t stay out for the whole game, which ended up being the longest home opener in MLB history. Our Indians hung on for 16 innings, but weren’t able to pull off the win. That’s OK…baseball is a marathon, not a sprint! I’m just glad for the return of the crack of the bat, Tom Hamilton’s voice, stadium mustard, and all the rest!

Friday started out much more calm and relaxed than Thursday’s Opening Day craziness. I met up with Poise in Parma and Smitten…in Cleveland for an early yoga class at Nishkama Yoga. It was a yoga basics class, but that doesn’t mean it was easy! Our teacher Bethany focused on the fundamentals and correct positioning for each of the poses and really gave us a great workout and a great learning experience. Plus, it’s always more fun practicing with friends.

Saturday and Sunday were all about family time! First, CLEguy and I stopped over to see our friends’ R & R’s brand new baby, just born on Wednesday morning.

From there, it was over to CLEguy’s dad’s house for Easter dinner #1 of the weekend. I brought my go-to side dish for holiday meals: a sweet potato casserole with a brown sugar/pecan topping. It’s easy to make and always a hit! Our day of adorable babies wasn’t over yet either! Leila, my sweet niece-to-be, was there in full-out cute mode.

Leila putting Jell-O in her ear

It was a fun afternoon with family! On Sunday, we were off to Easter dinner #2 with my family. We had traditional Easter dishes, such as nut roll and poppyseed roll and sekinace (a Bohemian sort-of meatloaf). But we also started a new tradition as CLEmom rocked Bobby Flay’s spicy bloody mary recipe.

Here, I demonstrate the proper way to drink a spicy bloody mary:

The celery on your head is essential. Trust me.

I also found out that you’re never too old to get an Easter basket filled with candy from Malley’s. Caramallow eggs are the best, especially after 40 days with no sweets!

So, that was my weekend: a little baseball, a little yoga, a lot of family and food! How was your weekend, CLE? Did you celebrate the holidays with any great traditions? Or start a new tradition, perhaps?

Why? Versatile Blogger Award!

Earlier this week, Kathleen over at Reporter Turned Mommy awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks, Kathleen!

Once given the Versatile Blogger Award, there are four things you have to do:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Pass this award along.

4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

So, without further adieu, 7 things about me:

1. I love blogging memes. Obviously.

2. When I was in high school, I worked at Jacob’s Field in the Team Shop. Baseball will always be my favorite sport!

Opening Day 2010

3. I love to cook and bake, but I really need a recipe to follow. I get very nervous if I’m just making it up as I go.

4. It snowed on my First Communion day and my prom day (yes, those were in May). So, I’ve learned not to trust Cleveland weather and am keeping my fingers crossed for no snow on the wedding day.

5. I’ve been a bridesmaid 4 times.

6. I used to have very short hair (see above).

7. I don’t know how to ride a bike. Seriously.

So, now I have to pass along the Versatile Blogger Award…

Poise in Parma

Wearing Mascara

Smitten…in Cleveland

Happy weekend, all!

Why Cirque du Soleil!

On Wednesday night, CLEguy and I got to catch the opening night of Cirque du Soleil Dralion. But before we hit the show, we grabbed a delicious dinner at Noodlecat.

Noodlecat offers a fantastic happy hour from 3-7pm every weekday. For less than $25 for the two of us, we each had a half-order of ramen, a steam bun, and 2 beers. Seriously!

I had the BBQ Ohio Pork steam bun and the Takahachi ramen. I loved the BBQ sauce on the pork, tangy and just a bit spicy. The ramen was great as well, packed with pulled pork, garlic broth, scallions, and more.

CLEguy had the Tonkatsu steam bun (fried pork) and the spicy octopus stir fry udon. The udon had a nice heat from the sesame chili paste and lots of tender octopus throughout.

You can’t beat Noodlecat’s happy hour: delicious food, great prices, and friendly service! It’s slurpalicious!

Noodlecat will be opening a second location sometime this month at the West Side Market. Click here for more details.

From there, we headed to the Wolstein Center for Cirque du Soleil Dralion.

Dralion combines Eastern and Western cultures – represented by the dragon and the lion – into a modern circus that draws you in from the first act. Actually, before the first act even starts, you’re drawn in by three lovable French “clowns” who provide moments of light and heart throughout the show.

The four main characters in the show represent Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The show itself features incredible acrobatic, tumbling, and juggling acts. Rather than being set against cheesy, traditional circus music, the soundtrack for the evening is at times exciting, at times haunting, and at times tender. CLEguy and I were both surprised to see a live band beneath the stage. We didn’t realize Cirque du Soleil traveled with their own musicians.

Two of my favorite acts were the trampolines and the aerial pas de deux.

Image Source - cirquedusoleil.com

Image Source - cirquedusoleil.com

The trampoline act was full of high-energy acrobatics, as the artists tumbled on and off a huge wall. The aerial pas de deux was a love story told with amazing grace and strength while swinging above the stage.

This was my second Cirque du Soleil show. I saw O in Vegas and I have to say that I enjoyed Dralion much more. The setting at the Wolstein Center was more intimate. Also, while there is some story-line to Dralion, as there is with O, I didn’t struggle to find or follow it. I simply enjoyed each act for what it was and came away having a fun experience with it.

If you’re looking for a good date night or a something to do with the family this holiday weekend, check out Cirque du Soleil Dralion. The show runs through Sunday, April 8 and there are two shows per day on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Wolstein Center to help promote Cirque du Soleil Dralion. In exchange, I received 2 tickets to see the show. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

Why? Hodge’s Cleveland!

Last night, a group of fabulous friends and I checked out the new restaurant in CLE getting all sorts of buzz: Hodge’s Cleveland.

Hodge’s is in the space formerly occupied by Zinc Bistro. Both the interior and the menu are huge upgrades! The interior of the restaurant is all wood and red leather: not in a stuffy-old-steakhouse way, but in a modern-fun-relaxed way. Joining me around the table were the lovely bloggers from Smitten…in Cleveland, Eat*Drink*Cleveland,Wearing Mascara, Clue Into Cleveland, and Cooker Girl.

While some of the girls enjoyed cocktails from the creative menu, I dove right into the craft beer list, enjoying an Avery White Rascal and a Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro (in the bottle). Hodge’s beer list is extensive and inexpensive!

Next we were delighted by the two things every table at Hodge’s receives: tater tots and cornbread. Those two dishes just make you feel comfortable and welcome! The tater tots were quite tasty, served with a bit of cheese and bacon. And the corn bread…slightly sweet, perfectly moist, and served in a piping hot skillet…to die for!

We shared two appetizers: the “big dipper” and the Swedish meatballs. The meatballs were delicious, packed with flavor. I loved the blackberry and pepper sauce with the meatballs, giving them a great combination of spicy and sweet.

The “big dipper” is three corn dogs: duck, lamb, and lobster. While a very creative concept, the dish was hard to share and just lacking something for me. The duck and lamb corn dogs seemed to be lacking in spice, although that may be because we only tasted 1/6 of each. The lobster corn dog was by far my favorite, packed with lobster meat and served with a creamy tarragon aioli.

The menu listed asparagus soup, which I was dying to try. Our server told us that there was a change and the soup was now an English pea soup. Despite my deep love for asparagus, I ordered the soup. I am so glad I did!

How to describe the taste? Springtime in a bowl. The soup was frothy, not overly heavy, and so fresh. The peas did all the work here and the soup did not need a lot of fancy garnish and spices to make it completely delectable. I refrained from licking my bowl, but just barely.

Next up for me was the French onion ravioli. I was worried that this dish might be too heavy after all I had already eaten, but the ravioli was surprisingly light. The pasta itself was tender. The stuffing was a well-proportioned blend of gruyere and ricotta…kept in a nice balance, so that the dish wasn’t too heavy. The French onion reduction was so flavorful and the perfect compliment to the cheeses in the ravioli. I’m also glad for the bread to soak up all the extra saucy goodness.

The ravioli is a good example of what Hodge’s does so well. Chef Hodgson takes dishes that you know (corn dogs, ravioli, French onion soup) and turns them on their side. What you get is unexpected, interesting, and tasty.

What you also get at Hodge’s is a relaxed, fun dinner. You’d never guess it was the restaurant’s first week. We were there for nearly two and a half hours and never felt rushed. Our server, Jennifer, was fantastic!  She knew the menu, knew what to recommend, and was genuinely excited about the food, the chef, and the atmosphere.

Oh, and if you need more reasons to pop into Hodge’s, here are two:

1. On Opening Day, Thursday, April 5, Hodge’s patio will be open and the food trucks will be in the house. Food, beer, and Disco Inferno…who could ask for more?

2. On Tuesdays (although not available yesterday), Hodge’s will be offering a 2/$40 special. Two diners share 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, and 1 bottle of wine. That’s an incredible deal!

I can’t recommend Hodge’s highly enough. This isn’t Chef Hodgson’s food trucks brought indoors. This is new and amazing food, created and served by people who are clearly passionate about what they do. Check it out today!

Why? Weekends!

Happy April, CLE! Hope you all had wonderful weekends!

Friday night was one of my favorite monthly gatherings: Book Club. My book club always picks a book, which about half of us read, and we discuss the book for approximately 3 minutes of the time we spend together. More than anything, it provides a good excuse to get together, drink some wine, and catch up!

This month, we went to Wine Bar Rocky River. The menu is full of great appetizers and flatbreads that make sharing with a group easy and tasty.

We had the “WINO” fries, served with sea salt, lemon zest, and parsley. We also munched on the asparagus tempura fritters, with tomato-ginger jam and roasted garlic aioli. The fritters were incredibly tasty! The asparagus still retained a nice crunch, even after the deep-frying. The drunken goat cheese fondue was not to be missed, especially with the red wine reduction on top. Although this is more of a dip than a fondue, it is very yummy! Also on our table was the mushroom flatbread, with chevre and pickled thyme. Finally, we shared the calamari, with teriyaki glaze and wasabi mayo. The sauces elevate the calamari from your run-of-the-mill appetizer to something really worth a try.

Oh, and the wine…we shared a 2007 Tomas Achaval “Nomade” Malbec. You’ll always find red wine on our table! It was a fun and filling night with friends!

Saturday, after spending most of the day getting stuff done around the house, CLEguy and I headed out for the classic pairing of a burger and a beer. We ended up not far from home at Hooley House Sports Pub and Grille.

If you’re a Foursquare user, you get a free appetizer with your first check in at Hooley House, so CLEguy and I scored a free half-order of “Hooley Hunks.” Essentially, Hooley Hunks are boneless wings, which are quite tender and juicy. We chose the Cajun dry rub as our spicy seasoning and dug in.

From there, CLEguy stayed the beer-and-burger course with a BBQ burger. With BBQ sauce, onion straws, and pepperjack cheese, this was one massive burger. Also, definitely upgrade to the sweet potato fries!

I changed my mind once I saw Hooley House’s baked mac ‘n cheese. I chose the bacon and tomato mac ‘n cheese, with smoky pieces of bacon and diced tomato throughout. The bacon, as well as the onion straws on top, gave the mac ‘n cheese great texture and flavor. I ended up taking half of this huge dish home, too!

The bar was packed for the OSU game and there was a great energy in the place. I’m glad to know there’s such a fun sports pub close to home that also serves really tasty food!

Sunday morning, we got up bright and early to check out the grand opening of Nishkama Yoga in North Olmsted.

CLEguy and I were greeted at the door by one of my favorite yogis, Alicia from Poise in Parma.

The whole staff is so pumped about the new location and getting the studio up and running. There really is something special about Nishkama and the folks who work there. I always feel so welcomed and safe with them…they have created such an incredible atmosphere in which to practice and that carries from their Independence location to the new spot in North Olmsted.

After 75 minutes of very intense and sweaty Vinyasa flow, I can think of just one word to describe how I felt: awesome. Seriously, if you’re into yoga, you have to check out Nishkama for a truly amazing practice experience. And if you’re new, there is no better place to start! Just be prepared for sweaty hugs, too…

It was another fun weekend! What new answers to Why CLE? did you discover this weekend?