Why? Scottsdale!

This past weekend, my Mom and I took a relaxing girls’ weekend trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, to enjoy spa time, shopping, eating, and warmer temperatures! We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch.


The scenery was a beautiful combination of palm trees and mountains. And there was sun! And warm temperatures! I’m outside without a coat!


We also enjoyed time at Spa Avania, the Hyatt’s on-property spa.

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With a prenatal massage for me, a Swedish massage for Mom, and pedicures for both of us, we left feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

The good, healthy feelings didn’t stop at the spa, either! I became completely addicted to the Hyatt’s detox juice for breakfast: a refreshing combination of navel oranges, watermelon, mint, and grapes. Combined with a yogurt parfait, it made for the perfect healthy breakfast!

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As long as we’re on the beverage topic, mad props to both the Hyatt and the Tommy Bahama Restaurant for featuring “zero proof” drinks on their menus, which are delicious cocktail-like creations without the alcohol. You make this pregnant girl’s heart happy!

Of course, there was plenty of less healthy, more indulgent eating to be done! Dinner at Mastro’s Ocean Club brought some of the tastiest seafood I’ve had in awhile, along with a ridiculously tasty vegetable sushi roll that very nearly curtailed my mad sushi craving.


We also had a wonderful traditional Italian meal at Ristorante Arrivederci and a perfectly-cooked steak at Mastro’s City Hall Steakhouse. At either Mastro’s location, I highly recommend the butter cake for dessert. It’s like pound cake, but a bit lighter, served with vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit, and whipped cream.


We also did our fair share of shopping at Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Fashion Square. I can’t resist the lure of Tory Burch and it’s lovely that shoes always fit (as does a Tory cuff bracelet).

But the best part of the trip was spending quality time with Mom! She is one of my favorite travel companions and we never fail to have a fabulous time, wherever we go.


If you’re looking for a winter getaway, Scottsdale offers great relaxation options, plus Cleveland Indians spring training is not far away!


Why? Upcoming Events!

Can you believe it’s almost March? As we hopefully move toward Spring, here are some great upcoming events to help shake off the cabin fever:

Theater Ninjas [sic]

Thursday, February 27 – Saturday, March 15

78th Street Studios

Image Source - theaterninjas.com

Image Source – theaterninjas.com

Theater Ninjas latest production focuses on friendship. The action centers on three friends who are attempting their life-changing masterstrokes: Babbette’s book about the history of the outburst, Theo’s subversive roller-coaster theme song, and Frank’s budding auctioneering career. Tickets range from $10-$20. Click here to purchase tickets.

Second Annual Cleveland Kurentovanje Festival

Saturday, March 1

St. Clair Avenue between East 62nd and Addison Road


Image Source – sterlescountryhouse.com

This cultural event, which connects ethnology, culture, arts, and people from all over Europe, has been celebrated in Slovenia for the past 50 years. The central figure of the carnival, the Kurent, is believed to chase away winter and usher in spring with its supernatural powers. The festival starts at 11am and activities throughout the day include a parade; lots of food, beer, and wine to taste; crafts for kids; and an after-party at Sterle’s Country House. Click here for more information.

Partners New Member Happy Hour

Thursday, March 6 at 6pm

Battery Park Wine Bar

Image Source - playhousesquare.org

Image Source – playhousesquare.org

Thinking about joining Playhouse Square Partners? This is a great chance to mix and mingle with Partners members and find out more about the organization. There will be complimentary appetizers, happy hour drink specials, and the first round is on Playhouse Square! Click here for more information.

Exhibition Opening Night: DIRGE: Reflections on [Life and] Death + Sara VanDerBeek

Friday, March 7 at 7pm

MOCA Cleveland

Image Source - mocacleveland.org

Image Source – mocacleveland.org

Join MOCA Cleveland as they celebrate the opening of their Winter 2014 Exhibition Season. The evening includes a talk from the artist, hands-on art making in the Family Art Studio, and a live performance from the Revolution Brass Band. Admission is free. Click here for more details.

Shake the Square

Monday, March 10 – Monday, March 17

Shaker Square

Image Source - shakethesquare.com

Image Source – shakethesquare.com

This week-long event encourages you to check out all that Shaker Square has to offer. Enjoy $33 prix fixe dinners at Balaton, Edwins, Fire, Sasa, and Zanzibar. You can also save 33% off at retailers Deweys Fair Trade Coffee, Fashions by Fowler, and Christopher Amira Salon and Spa. With a receipt from a participating restaurant, you’ll score free popcorn at Shaker Square Cinema. Click here for more information.

Cleveland International Film Festival

Wednesday, March 19 – Sunday, March 30

Tower City Cinemas

Image Source - clevelandfilm.org

Image Source – clevelandfilm.org

Check out the 38th annual Cleveland International Film Festival! There are a host of wonderful films to see and events to enjoy. Tickets are $12 for members and $14 for non-members. Click here for a complete line-up of films and click here to purchase tickets.

What upcoming events are you most looking forward to?

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend Theater Ninjas’ [sic] with two complimentary tickets. I was invited to the media preview of MOCA Cleveland’s Winter 2014 Exhibition Season, but declined due to scheduling conflicts. I am a member of Playhouse Square Partners. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***


Why? Weekends!

This past weekend, my friend Jen came into town from DC mostly for Jump Back Ball, but there was other fun to be had too! And by fun, I mean mostly long conversations (face-to-face is so much better than email, no?) and lots of eating! I’m so lucky that Jen and I have been able to find lots of opportunities to visit each other in person since we no longer live in the same town!

On Friday night, we had dinner with my Mom at Fahrenheit. We started with a trio of tasty appetizers.


We enjoyed the Cleveland nachos, which are thinly-sliced potatoes with parmesan, romano fondue, scallions and bacon. We also had the Maine lobster rolls and the lobster fritters (a special for the evening).

From there, it was onto the entrees. I chose the duck fried rice, with duck confit in the rice and duck breast on top.


For “fried rice,” I was pleasantly surprised at how light and fresh this dish tasted. The duck was tender and flavorful too.

Mom had the pork shank, with honey and marscapone polenta and Jen chose the garlic and parsley gnocchi.


Both dishes drew rave reviews and some leftovers, since we had to save room for dessert! Jen and I both ordered the chocolate pot de creme, with salted caramel whipped cream and hazelnuts.

I love me a pot de creme and The Greenhouse Tavern‘s buttered popcorn pot de creme has long been at the top of my list. But this one is a tie for me. The sweet, salty, crunchy combination is hard to resist!

The next day, after getting our hair done all fancy for Jump Back Ball, we took our fancy hair and comfy pants to Jack Flaps. This new breakfast spot has quickly become the go-to spot in town for creative carby breakfast fare.

I ordered the lemon curd jackflaps, which are topped with lemon curd, berry jam, and graham cracker.


This dish is sweet, without being overly sweet, and the pancakes are light and fluffy. Jen chose the Happy Jack waffle, which had a hot dog chopped up in the waffle batter and was topped with “everything bagel” cream cheese and garlic greens.


If you’re craving a savory breakfast option, this one is unique and delicious!

From the meals we had, plus the delicious food at Jump Back Ball, I would say Jen got a great taste of some of Cleveland’s best restaurants! Where are some of your favorite restaurants to take out-of-towners?


Why? Jump Back Ball!

On Saturday night, over one thousand Clevelanders (and at least one DC-resident, my dear friend Jen) were shaken and stirred at Jump Back Ball 0023, presented by Playhouse Square Partners. This black-tie fundraiser, in its 23rd year, was themed on James Bond, which led to glitzy decor and swanky outfits.


We kicked off our evening in with the VIP party, catered by Chef Dante Boccuzzi and the Dante Dining Group. Each restaurant in the Dante Dining Group provided small bites, which were both delicious and creatively presented.

From Dante, there was creamy polenta topped with pork ragut; from DC Pasta Co., there was butternut squash soup and arancini; from the soon-to-open Dante Next Door, there was seafood salad playfully served in sardine cans; from Ginko, there were vegetarian sushi pops; and from DBA, there were banana split parfaits and chocolate mousse cups.


From VIP, we moved on to the main event, with a full dinner provided by Driftwood Restaurant Group. From mac ‘n cheese to pierogi to Shepherd’s pie, the dinner was a tasty spread of high-end comfort food. The main stage band, Your Villain My Hero, played a great mix of current pop songs that had the crowd dancing up a storm on the State Theater stage.


When you needed a break from dancing, there were casino games, fortune tellers, and fun photo ops, as well as champagne bars, ice luges, and Bond-themed cocktails. The late-night band, Pop Rocks, brought the party out to the State Theater lobby with rock-style versions of classic dance favorites.

Co-chairs Kimberly and Megan, along with the Jump Back Ball committees, put on quite the fantastic party! But more than just the food and the bands, I really loved the chance to get dolled up and spend the evening with my own handsome James Bond


and my favorite Bond girls.


Mark your calendar now for Jump Back Ball 24! While the theme is different every year, the delicious food, great music, and chance for a perfect evening out supporting Cleveland’s amazing theater community at Playhouse Square remains the same every year.

***Disclosure: I was asked by Playhouse Square to help promote Jump Back Ball. In exchange, I received one complimentary ticket when I bought a ticket of the same value. I am a member of Playhouse Square Partners and was the co-chair of the Jump Back Ball Raffle Committee. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***


Why? Pregnancy Update!

So, when last I did a true pregnancy update post, I had just come out of the first trimester. The first trimester is an interesting combination of not feeling well, not telling people you’re pregnant, and being generally nervous that something might go wrong. As I near the end of my second trimester, it’s a pretty different view. I feel generally great, I tell everyone and their brother that I’m expecting, and while the nerves never completely subside, I’ve found that I’ve stopped white-knuckling everything.

Image Source - pinterest.com

Image Source – pinterest.com

So, as I near the end of T-2, some general things I’ve noticed about pregnancy:

1. Pregnancy is a weird mix of joy and anxiety. Particularly in the first trimester, there is so much that can just not work out. You’re excited about being pregnant, but you’re not telling everyone because, well, something could go wrong. Even now, there was a moment when we hit the viability marker and were excited because if something went wrong, it wouldn’t be as bad. The worry never goes away totally, but for me, the second trimester has been learning how to manage it better and to allow the joy to overtake the anxiety more often than not.

2. You want to look pregnant, but you don’t want to look pregnant. I didn’t want to look like I simply ate one too many tacos at Taco Tuesday, but when people started telling me that I looked pregnant, I swore I would never wear that particular outfit again. It’s a double-edged sword, particularly for anyone who struggles with body issues. I take a lot of comfort in the fact that I’m healthy and my doctor is happy with our collective progress. In the end, that’s what really matters.

Image Source - pinterest.com

Image Source – pinterest.com

3. Having a doctor you like, nay love, has never been more important. I switched doctors early in my first trimester and it was the best thing I could have done. My old doctor was fine, but the bedside manner was not for me. My current doctor makes me feel so comfortable, like I can ask anything, and is (for me) the perfect mix of serious advice and humor. If you’re in the market, message me directly and I’d be happy to tell you who my doc is.

4. Pregnancy urban legends really do happen. Someone in the grocery store randomly congratulated me on my pregnancy (thank goodness I am pregnant, right?). I have had unauthorized belly touching. People just generally comment on everything from your size to your lunch to your bathroom habits to how to raise the tiny human. Accepting that my body is sort of communal property for comment and contact is a process. Because everyone means so well, it’s easier to take with a smile.

Image Source - pinterest.com

Image Source – pinterest.com

5. Registering goes from overwhelming to amazing very quickly. I mean, sure, I need changing pad covers and bottles. But I can also register for booties and mittens and a baby fedora, for goodness sake. I can live without getting the bottles. The fedora I must have.

6. Alcohol is the easiest and hardest thing to give up. Why the easiest? Because no one questions you about it. Other food/drink items can bring up debates about pasteurization, cooking temperatures, or the relative safety of nitrates. Everyone is on-board with the fact that I don’t have a martini in my hand, though. Also, it’s nice when any fun you have, any awkward social situation you glide through, or any rough day you survive is done solely because of you and the people around you, with no extra social crutch. But it’s also probably the hardest. I know exactly what I want once I can drink again: a big, bold, club-you-over-the-head red. Alcohol is one of the most “common” (in frequency) things to give up. It may be the thing-I-gave-up that I miss the most, but I’ll acknowledge it’s tied with power vinyasa yoga because, well, balance in life is important.

Image Source - pinterest.com

Image Source – pinterest.com

7. Feeling the baby kick is so cool. Having Matthew feel the baby kick is even better. Kiddo and I have been having our own private conversations through kicks for weeks now. I sing “Call Me Maybe” and he throws up his arms in wild abandon. I’m on a conference call and my bladder becomes his own personal hacky sack. It never stops being fun and I never stop being awe-struck by it, but the first time Matthew felt him kick was hands-down one of the best moments of the pregnancy. He said hi to his dad! And Matthew finally got to connect with him like I get to all the time. I’m seriously mushy just thinking about it.

8. The grandparents’ excitement is contagious and amazing. I am truly overwhelmed at how our parents have responded to the pregnancy and how excited they are for this baby. He will have such an awesome support system and such great role models.

Image Source - pinterest.com

Image Source – pinterest.com

9. Everyone’s excitement is contagious and amazing. From friends to coworkers to social media acquaintances and readers, the amount of love and positive energy that comes from a baby on the way is so cool. Honestly, that’s been so much of what has made this second trimester so enjoyable. That and the ability to be in the presence of chicken without wanting to yak.

Bottom line is, this is a ride like no other, and I’m trying to take in and appreciate every moment, from the ridiculous to the sublime.


Why? Weekends, Part 2!

So, how did we spend the rest of our staycation babymoon? With a nice mix of relaxing and going out and about! On Saturday afternoon, we headed to the Cleveland Botanical Garden for Orchid Mania.

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The greenhouse is filled with gorgeous orchid varietals from all over the world. Plus, it’s nice and toasty in the Garden, so you can escape the chill and take in some beautiful flowers. Matthew loves taking pictures with his DSLR, so most of our time was spent getting very up close and personal with the blooms.

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There are also orchids for purchase, as well as orchid-themed jewelry and other craft items. Orchid Mania continues through Sunday, March 9. Admission is $11 for non-members and free for members.

Our next stop was Prosperity Social Club, one of those how-have-I-not-been-here-yet spots.

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This unassuming bar and restaurant has a jukebox, a miniature bowling alley game, and a stack of board games in the back for patrons to help themselves to. Those items alone could have kept me happy all night. But the food did a good job, too!

We started with an appetizer of the loaded potato pierogi, topped with cheese, bacon, and onion straws and served with bacon aioli.

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The pierogi are pan-fried then baked, giving them a perfect crispy exterior.

For my entree, I chose the fried chicken, served with mac ‘n cheese.

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The generous three-piece portion (plus the aforementioned pierogi) had me taking half of this home. The chicken was juicy and the breading was perfectly crisp. I could taste a hint of spice in the breading, too!

Matthew went straight for the mac ‘n cheese, loaded with your choice of mix-ins (he got Andouille sausage, chicken, red peppers, sundried tomatoes, and onions).

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We both give Prosperity’s mac ‘n cheese rave reviews! I can’t believe it took us so long to check out this spot, with great food and a fun atmosphere. Prosperity has nightly specials, with $2 off drafts on Mondays, $5 cheeseburgers on Tuesdays, Old World Wednesdays (ethnic specials and live polka music), $10 steaks on Thursdays, and $14 liters of sangria and $10 fried chicken on Sundays. Check it out!

Stuffed from Prosperity, we headed next to the Velvet Tango Room. The craft cocktails and swanky atmosphere make for a wonderful place to enjoy a nightcap. Matthew tried both the mai tai and the India lime fizz, looking for something to make him feel like he was in the tropics. I had a root beer float, with housemade root beer and Tahitian vanilla bean gelato.

On Sunday morning, we each enjoyed a massage at Spa West. What a perfect way to end a weekend of relaxation! I’m so glad we set the time aside to have a babymoon and I’m so glad we did it in Cleveland. We tried out some new spots, returned to some old favorites, and just generally had a wonderful time!

Where are your favorite places to go on a Cleveland staycation?


Why? Weekends, Part 1!

This weekend, Matthew and I decided to have a “staycation babymoon,” if only to see how many made-up words we could use to describe one weekend. We did so much great stuff, I have to break it up into two posts! Not only was it a fun and relaxing weekend, but it was a great reminder that you don’t have to leave home to find plenty of new and different things to do.

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Friday evening, we went on the Grape Escape wine train on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. This was the first time on the Scenic Railroad for both of us and the sold-out Valentine’s event seemed like a great way to check it out.

All aboard!

All aboard!

The menu consisted of five Italian wines, paired with small bites supplied by Moe’s Restaurant. This proved a particularly good deal for Matthew, since he got to have all my wine! Our first course was prosecco paired with garlic and herb cheese and crackers.

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All the appetizers were cold to make serving/transporting easier. Our second course was pinot grigio paired with a mixed greens salad with cranberries, nuts, and goat cheese.

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All of the servers and trainmen on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad are volunteers. You can tell they just really enjoy and have a passion for the railroad. Unfortunately, since it was winter, our ride took place in the dark and we didn’t get to appreciate much of the scenery. We did get a glimpse of the Boston Mills/Brandywine ski areas and downtown Peninsula, though.

Our third course was “broken-heart” pasta salad, served with a light red wine (the varietal escapes me now).

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Our fourth course was a chicken salad croissant, served with the first of two chianti wines. And the sweet finish to the evening was chocolate mousse with strawberries and shortbread cookies, served with a fuller-bodied chianti.

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It was a fun and unique way to spend Valentine’s Day and I always enjoy crossing something off my Cleveland to-do list. There are monthly Grape Escape and Ales on Rails rides on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (click here for more information), along with many other special events for everyone from adults to families. Hop on board and explore the beauty of our area’s national park, as well as the neat throw-back feeling of riding the rails.

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?


Why? Ohio Blogging at The Oak Barrel!

Last Wednesday, a handful of hearty and hungry bloggers braved the snow for the Ohio Blogging Association meetup at The Oak Barrel. It was “Wine Down Wednesday,” where each bottle of wine (even the Captain’s List) is half-priced!


I really enjoy this Valley View spot, which has a gorgeous wood and stone interior, a fantastic craft beer list, and a delicious menu. Matthew chose the open-faced pulled pork BBQ with jalapeno cornbread, apple slaw, and onion straws.


This generous sandwich has just the right combination of spicy from the cornbread and sweet from the BBQ sauce.

I chose the Amish chicken and waffles. I had this dish when Chef Demetrios Athenos was at Deagan’s Kitchen. Crispy breaded chicken breasts are served on top a fluffy Belgian waffle, with cayenne butter and blackberry syrup.


Talk about another great combination of salty, slightly spicy, and sweet! Delicious!

We couldn’t pass up dessert. Matthew had the brownie sundae with Dragon’s Milk ice cream and I chose the Mitchell’s Ice Cream special, raspberry chocolate chunk.


It was a great meal, with great conversation to go with it! In attendance were fellow bloggers:

Alicia from Poise in Parma, with husband Hans

Amanda from Clue Into Cleveland, with husband Scott

Stuart from SOS Associates, with wife Julie

Valerie from Motherhood in Progress

Stay tuned to the Ohio Blogging Association page for information on future blogger meet-ups, hopefully with better weather!


Why? Animal Attractions!

On Thursday night, we got to beat the frigid temperatures at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo‘s The RainForest for the Animal Attractions fundraiser. This annual fundraiser put on by the Cleveland Zoological Society combines food, wine, and zoo critters for a fun and philanthropic evening. All proceeds from Animal Attractions benefit the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and zoo programs.

Some of our favorite foods of the evening included the perfectly-spiced Korean beef tacos from Creekside Restaurant, the smooth roasted red pepper soup from AMP 150, and the ambitious trio of nibbles from Rosander Event Kitchen (crab gumbo, chikpea and tomato couscous, and hanger steak cafe de Paris).


And of course, the mini cupcakes from The Cleveland Cupcake Company were delicious as always!


The bar was sponsored by Samuel Adams and Jacob’s Creek, with a wine tasting event and also a specialty bar from Dewar’s. See, the Zoo isn’t fun just for kids!


There were zoo critters out to play, like armadillos, snakes, lizards, and hedgehogs, that you could pet and learn more about hands-on from the knowledgeable zoo docents.


There were also presentations that not only taught you more about the animals, but did so in a fun, tongue-in-cheek way. We went to “Bear Foot and Pregnant” (seemed appropriate), which taught about bears and mating habits with Jeopardy categories.


Even with all the great food and fun presentations, the best part of the evening was the company! We always love hanging out with Alicia, Hans, Amanda, and Scott!


Events like Animal Attractions prove that the Zoo isn’t just for kids! For more grown-up fun at the Zoo, stay tuned for information on Zippity Zoo Doo, Twilight at the Zoo, and Date Night at the Zoovies.

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Cleveland Zoological Society to help promote Animal Attractions. In exchange, I received 2 complimentary tickets to the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***


Why? Weekends!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Congratulations to Tim, winner of 2 tickets to CIM@Severance. Please check you email and respond by the end of the day to claim your tickets. If you didn’t win, you can still purchase tickets by clicking here.***

It was another fun weekend in Cleveland! On Saturday evening, Matthew and I met up with friends Chrissy and Mike for dinner at one of our favorite downtown Willoughby spots: Olivor Twist. This locale combines an expansive and imaginative martini list with tasty food for an overall great experience.

For my entree, I had the pork osso bucco, with polenta and glazed carrots.


The pork was tender, the gravy was flavorful, and the carrots were delicious. My one small complaint is that the polenta could have been creamier. But other than that, the meal was spot on.

Matthew chose the seafood linguine special, with mussels, crab meat, lobster, and white fish.


The linguine was packed with a lot of seafood, but it was the red sauce with capers that really drew rave reviews.

I definitely recommend Olivor Twist for a great meal with tasty cocktails in an upscale setting.

On Sunday, I met up with Amanda, Scott, Alicia, and Hans for the Great Big Home and Garden Show at the I-X Center. There’s something for everyone at the show, from celebrity appearances


to model homes


to unique decor items


to really big tractors.


The Garden Showcase did not disappoint, with gardens themed on both near and far locations.


The first-prize winner and universal favorite was the “American Beer Garden” from The Ohio Valley Group, Inc. and Great Lakes Brewing Company. Everywhere you looked, Great Lakes beer bottles were incorporated in creative ways, from light fixtures to a huge beer bottle clock. My favorite element was the fountain made out of beer taps, which I think would be a perfect addition to our backyard!


The Great Big Home and Garden Show continues through Sunday, February 16. Tickets are only $11 if you purchase online and you can save an additional $1 off with promo code WHYCLE. Click here to purchase tickets.

How was your weekend? Did you check out the Great Big Home and Garden Show?

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Great Big Home and Garden Show. In exchange, I received 2 complimentary tickets to the show. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***