Why? Jim Alesci’s Place!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Congratulations to Kayla (Comment #5), randomly-selected winner of two tickets to the Cleveland Home & Remodeling Expo. Please check your email for details. If you didn’t win, you can still purchase tickets online and save an extra $1 with promo code CLE15HR.***

Sunday afternoon, I attended one of the tastiest, warmest, most fun Ohio Blogging Association meet-ups we’ve ever had. Jim Alesci’s Place showed off their new Solon location in style, with a ton of delicious food and fabulous hospitality. Alesci’s is a family business that has come down through the generations.

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In fact, this picture that hangs behind the cheese counter is of Jim Alesci’s dad manning the cheese counter at Alesci’s years ago. This family business embraces it’s heritage and all the traditions that go along with it.

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We were greeted with a selection of tasty cheeses, meats, and bruschetta. My favorites were the Drunken Cow and the Taleggio.

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Everything we tasted is available at the market, which has not only high-quality grocery items, but prepared foods, a sandwich bar, beer and wine, and an amazing bakery.

PicMonkey CollageI loved the build-your-own-pizza case, where you can pick up sauce, cheese, dough, and all the toppings to make a delicious pizza at home.

After our tour, it was time to sit down and taste some of the prepared foods available at the market and through Alesci’s catering. Now, we bloggers can eat, so when I tell you that all of us were overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of what we were served, you know it was something really special.

I’ll highlight just a few of my favorites:

The pancetta pasta salad, with caramelized onions, peas, figs, and gorgonzola had some of the lightest, most delicate pasta I’ve ever tasted.

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The grilled flatbread. I don’t think I can choose between the pancetta and asiago and the portobello mushroom.

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The eggplant parmesan. I thought I didn’t like eggplant. I’ve clearly not been eating the right eggplant.

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The mini chicken pot pie: so unexpected for an Italian market, but so spot-on.

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The desserts. Cannoli, Napolean, tiramisu, cassata cake…I imagine it’s like trying to pick a favorite child.

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Speaking of children, I brought Jeffrey with me for this foodie extravaganza. He tasted a lot of what we had and the Italian beef and Sicilian white pizza topped his savory favorites. The peas from the pasta salad were also the first peas I’ve successfully gotten him to eat.

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But his true favorite was the lemon cookie that Jim Alesci kindly gave him to eat during our tour. As you can see, Jeffrey got my sweet tooth!

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By the time Jeffrey was presented with his “Little Wise Guy” bib, we felt like part of the Alesci family! That’s the great thing about our experience on Sunday: not only did we totally enjoy the food, which was made with such care and quality, but we were welcomed into the Alesci family with open arms. Particularly when a business is so hospitable, not just to me, but to my son, it makes me want to go back. It was a fabulous afternoon, not just as a blogger or a customer, but as a mom. And that’s huge for me.

Check out Alesci’s for a delicious lunch and pick up some items to make your own tasty dinner when you get home. I promise you’ll love the food, but you’ll love how you’re treated even more!

Oh, and in Ohio Blogging Association news, we have two upcoming events:

April 15 at Deagan’s, we’ll be having our own small version of one of the Told storytelling events. More info here.

April 26 at XHIBITION, we’ll be brunching on Jack Flaps and hearing about the latest fashions. More info here.

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Ohio Blogging Association meet-up at Jim Alesci’s Place. We received complimentary food and drink, as well as gift cards to Alesci’s and a t-shirt (and Jeffrey got a bib). As always, all opinions are 100% my own (and my interpretation of Jeffrey’s).***

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Why? Weekends!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Have you entered to win two tickets to the Cleveland Home & Remodeling Expo? Today is your last chance, so check it out! Remember, you can tweet daily for additional entries.***

Phew! It was a busy weekend. So much so that part of Sunday’s adventure will have to wait until tomorrow…

On Friday, my Mom and I took Jeffrey for his first trip to The RainForest at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

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The RainForest is the perfect way to enjoy the Zoo, even before the weather is warm enough for the outdoor portions. Jeffrey’s favorites were the fish and turtles, orangutan, and all the waterfalls.

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The RainForest was definitely a popular spot for families on Friday morning. I can’t wait to head back once the weather is warmer to show Jeffrey everything else the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has to offer!

Friday evening, we met up with Matthew’s dad for some traditional Lenten fish fry goodness at St. John Vianney. From baked or fried fish to pierogi to mac ‘n cheese to clam chowder, this fish fry has lots of tasty options. And the line was out the door when we got there, so we’re not the only ones who think so! St. John Vianney’s fish fry continues every Friday through Lent and cost is $11 for an all-you-can-eat buffet.

On Saturday morning, my friend Chrissy and I got together for a rejuvenating yoga class at Evolution Yoga, taught by the lovely Alicia.

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I know I’ve raved about Alicia’s classes before, but they really are the perfect mix of relaxation and work-out and I always leave them feeling great! She teaches at Evolution on Mondays at 12:15pm, Tuesdays at 7pm, Fridays at 5:45pm, and Saturdays at 9am. You can check out the schedule and register for classes online.

Needing to refuel after our work-out, Chrissy and I headed to Pacific East for, well, the opposite of a fish fry.

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We both had the two-roll combo, with a choice of two rolls, plus salad and soup for $15.95. It’s a good deal for good sushi!

Sunday, I met up with some fellow Ohio Blogging Association members for one of the tastiest meet-ups we’ve ever had, but you’ll need to come back tomorrow to hear about that!

How was your weekend?

***Disclosure: Matthew and I are members of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo Giveaway!

As the snow starts to melt and spring makes it’s way to Cleveland, I’m sure there are lots of home improvement projects that are making their way to the top of the to-do list. Which is why the Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo is coming at just the right time!

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From March 27-29, the Cleveland Convention Center will be filled with exhibitors, celebrity guests such as Jeff Lewis from “Flipping Out” and Chip and Joanna Gaines from HGTV, and more.

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The Arcadia GlassHouse Butterfly Feature and Outdoor Living Oasis both sound beautiful and the perfect steps into spring!

If you have a home improvement project and need a spark of inspiration, check out the Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo. Tickets are $10 at the door, but you can save $2 per ticket by purchasing online. Use promo code CLE15HR to save an additional $1 on your ticket.

Or, you can enter to win two 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. Leave a comment telling me what home improvement project you’re hoping to undertake this spring.

2. Leave a comment if you like Home and Garden Events and Why CLE? on Facebook, letting me know you like both pages.

3. Follow @GreatBigShow and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you’re following both.

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

I want to attend the Cleveland Home & Remodeling Expo thanks to @GreatBigShow and @WhyCLE: http://wp.me/p1fb9r-2i3

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

The giveaway will close on Monday, March 15 at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced the following day. Please note: you are only eligible to win one blogger’s ticket giveaway for this event. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo. In exchange, I will receive two tickets for myself and two tickets to give away. All images courtesy of the Cleveland Home and Remodeling Expo. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Noodlecat!

It had been awhile since I had visited Chef Jonathon Sawyer’s funky ramen restaurant, Noodlecat. On a windy, damp, chilly night, I met up with Kimberly and Nadine to warm up with some steaming bowls of ramen.

We were hoping to take advantage of Noodlecat’s great happy hour deals, including discounted steam buns and drinks and half-portions of ramen. However, happy hour is now limited to the bar only (it used to be available throughout the restaurant) and, as all the seats were taken, we skipped the happy hour and went for the full-priced dinner instead.

It wasn’t a problem, since the prices are still good and we devoured our full portions of ramen! We had to start with some of the creative and tasty steam buns, of course. I had the brisket bun with “hellish” mayo.

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Priced at $3 a piece, the steam buns are a couple bites of delciousness to start off your meal.

For my entree, I chose the Dan Dan Ramen, with spicy garlic oil, roasted peanut, sweet soy, basil & thai szechuan chili. This ramen is typically served without broth, but our server warned me that it was quite spicy and suggested the dashi broth to help tame the spice.

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I also added the poached chicken and a 6-minute egg. The ramen was definitely spicy, but it was a flavorful heat and I enjoyed every last slurp!

Noodlecat has one of the most original concepts in Cleveland restaurants and the unique and tasty twists on ramen will definitely keep us coming back for more. And if you’re lucky enough to snag a bar seat for the happy hour from 3-7pm on weekdays and 11am-1pm on Sundays, even better!

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Why? Weekends!

Aside from our visit to the Cleveland Auto Show, there was a lot of other fun to be had this past weekend! Friday morning, Mom and I introduced Jeffrey to a favorite breakfast treat: blueberry pancakes.

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We went to Michael’s Place in North Royalton. Nothing fancy, but pancakes as big as Jeffrey and friendly staff to make Jeffrey’s tactile exploration of pancakes something that was just fine. I love watching Jeffrey explore new foods  and we haven’t found much that he doesn’t like (except kale…sorry about that one, buddy).

On Saturday, I attended a baby shower for my college friend Maria.

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Since Maria is a fashion blogger, I knew her outfit for the shower would be gorgeous, as well as all the decor for the happy day. Maria and Mac haven’t found out the sex of Baby Mac, so everything was decked out in pretty gender-neutral pastels.

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The cake was delicious cassata cake from White Flower Cake Shoppe and the favors were lip balm and lotion from Eos: perfect treats for a classy celebration. More importantly, it was lovely to catch up with Maria, who lives in Chicago now, and to share in a bit of her and Mac’s obvious joy and excitement!

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I can’t wait for our kiddos to meet!

When I got home on Saturday, I had another treat in store, as Matthew made the most delicious crab and corn risotto (this is his base recipe) for dinner! I’m a lucky girl!

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Sunday evening, I headed out to Market Garden Brewery for the inaugural Cleveland Girls Pint Out event.

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The goal of the group is to build a community of women who love craft beer and, as we know, there is so much great craft beer to be had in Cleveland! It was a fun evening getting to know some of the other ladies and catching up with a high school pal, Mary Clare.

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Cleveland Girls Pint Out has a lot of fun events coming up, including a presentation from The Brewer’s Daughter at Platform Brewing on March 28, a tour of Fat Heads Brewery on April 19, and a tasting at the new downtown Heinen’s on May 15. Stay tuned to the Facebook and Twitter pages for more details.

How was your weekend? Are you enjoying the more spring-like weather?

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Why? Cleveland Auto Show!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Congratulations to @tinktastic (Comment #12), randomly-selected winner of two tickets to see Dirty Dancing at Playhouse Square. Please check your email for details. If you didn’t win, you can still purchase tickets to see the show, which runs through March 22.***

Yesterday, Matthew, Jeffrey and I checked out the Cleveland Auto Show at the I-X Center. As this was my first ever auto show and they can be a bit overwhelming, I thought I’d share my Top 10 Things to See at the Cleveland Auto Show, to hopefully help in your visit:

1. The Ford GT. This is by far the coolest-looking car at the show and, I would say, the biggest draw.

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2. Ride and Drives. There are tons of options to test drive cars, with lots of incentives to go along with the test drives. The Ram and Jeep indoor tracks are pretty sweet, too.

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3. The Corvette Z06. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Corvettes, as those are what my Dad has always had. But regardless, this is a gorgeous car!

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4. The Bernie Moreno Companies’ Millionaire’s Row. From Astin Martin to Rolls Royce, there is quite the collection of high-end cars to make you feel like Bond, James Bond.

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5. The BMW i8: not only a great-looking car, but also a great piece of innovation.

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6. The new Cadillac ATS Sedan. I love seeing what new things car companies are coming out with that are in the realm of what you might actually see driving down the street.

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7. Racing technology that ultimately drives a lot of the other vehicles at the show.

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8. Other innovative and fun uses for automotive advancements, like this robot from Ford.

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9. Chances to get hands-on with what could be your new vehicle, from sitting in the cars to picking out colors.

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10. Getting to see my son and my husband already bonding over cars. Too sweet! The Cleveland Auto Show is totally family-friendly!

PicMonkey CollageThe Cleveland Auto Show continues at the I-X Center through Sunday, March 15. Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for children 7-12 and adults over 62, and free for children under 6.

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Cleveland Auto Show. In exchange, I received two complimentary tickets to the show. As always, all opinions (and lack of ability to adequately describe cars) are 100% my own.***

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Why? El Carnicero!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Congratulations to Amy Lambermont (Comment #47), randomly-selected winner of two tickets to the Cleveland Auto Show. Please check your email for more details. If you didn’t win, you can still purchase tickets online. The show starts tomorrow!

Also, there’s still time to enter to win two tickets to see Dirty Dancing at Playhouse Square. Check it out! Remember, you can tweet daily for additional entries.***

So, I had a craving, a hankering, a need for some margaritas and guacamole. Maybe I just needed to pretend it was warm or I was in Mexico or something. And I didn’t want just any margaritas and guacamole. I wanted a spicy mango margarita with chili-lime salt and corn and crab guacamole.

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Now, I’ve always loved me some Momocho. But I had yet to check out Momocho’s Lakewood brother, El Carnicero. So Mom and I had dinner there last night. And I found that El Carnicero has Momocho favorites, but also tasty tamales and a whole lot more tables.

After eating our body weight in the corn and grab and goat cheese and tomato guacamoles, we dove into our entrees. I had the chancho tamale, which features adobo braised wild boar.

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The wild boar is not at all gamey. It was tender and flavorful and, as you can see, more than enough food. Mom chose the pescado taquitos, with Thai chile mahi mahi and a side of esquites (Mexican creamed corn.)

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The fish was flaky and perfectly-done, but could have used a bit more heat from the Thai chile sauce. The corn, on the other hand, packed a ton of spice!

El Carnicero has the same decor that you’ve come to expect from Momocho, but in a more cavernous space. The vibe is less intimate than Momocho, but the food and service are just as spot on.

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I definitely had my margarita and guacamole craving satisfied and left further convinced that Momocho/El Carnicero are serving up the best and most creative Mod Mex in town!

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Why? Dirty Dancing Giveaway!

***A bit of blogkeeping: Have you entered to win tickets to the Cleveland Auto Show? Today is your last chance to enter, so check it out! Remember, you can tweet daily for additional entries.***

There are those movies you will watch every time they are on; that you know line by line; that never seem to get old.

DD_Logo_WhiteOnPink (1)Dirty Dancing is definitely one of those movies. From “I carried a watermelon” to “No one puts Baby in a corner,” the movie has become part of our collective pop cultural consciousness.

And now the iconic movie is on stage as a high energy musical, being performed at the Connor Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square through Sunday, March 22. It’s all the classic music, romance, and fun of the movie, brought to life on stage.

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Image courtesy of Playhouse Square

Tickets are available online and range from $30-100. You’re sure to have the time of your life (yes, I went there)!

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Image courtesy of Playhouse Square

And to help you have that good time, I have two tickets to give away for the performance on Tuesday, March 17! Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three or all four entries, just leave a separate comment for each):

1. Leave a comment telling me your favorite line or scene from Dirty Dancing.

2. Leave a comment if you like Playhouse Square and Why CLE? on Facebook, letting me know you like both pages.

3. Follow @playhousesquare and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you’re following both.

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

I want to have the time of my life at Dirty Dancing thanks to @playhousesquare and @WhyCLE: http://wp.me/p1fb9r-2hl

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

The giveaway will close on Sunday, March 8 at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked by Playhouse Square to help promote Dirty Dancing. In exchange, I will receive two tickets to give away. I declined two tickets to the media night performance of the show, because I already had purchased my own tickets. Also, I am a member of the board of Playhouse Square Partners. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Cleveland Auto Show Giveaway!

The Cleveland Auto Show zooms into the I-X Center from March 7-15.

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Aside from all the great cars you can check out, there will be indoor and outdoor ride ‘n drives that let you get a hands-on experience with some of the auto show vehicles; a giveaway for a 2015 Hyundai Sonata; Millionaire’s Row, featuring Rolls Royce, Maserati, Aston Martin and more; and a classic car competition and auction.

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There will be appearances by Cleveland sports legends throughout the show, including the one and only Bernie Kosar on March 11. And March 9 is Family Fun Day sponsored by Medical Mutual, where all attendees 15 and under get into the show for free!

Tickets are $13 for adults and $11 for ages 7-12 and 62 and older. Children under 6 are free. You can purchase tickets online. Parking is complimentary.

Or, you can enter to win two tickets to the Cleveland Auto Show, good for any day of the show, right here! Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, or all four entries, just be sure to leave a separate comment for each),

1. Leave a comment and tell me which of the show’s attractions you’re most excited to check out.

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

3. Follow @CleAutoShow and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you’re following both.

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

I want to win tickets to the @CleAutoShow from @WhyCLE: http://wp.me/p1fb9r-2hf

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

The giveaway will close at 11:59pm on Thursday, March 5 and the winner will be announced the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Cleveland Auto Show. In exchange, I will receive two complimentary tickets to the show for myself and two tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

jenclesig_pur

Why? Jump Back Ball!

FEB 28 2015 18:00 Enter the Jump Back to the Future VIP Party at the Connor Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square. Stop at the Lexus photo booth to document the fun you’re about to have and how handsome your date is.

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FEB 28 2015 18:15 Peruse the Connor Palace Theatre lobby enjoying the evening’s signature cocktail, the Flux Capacitor, a blend of Buckeye Vodka, tropical fruit mix, and club soda.

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FEB 28 2015 18:30 Nibble on tasty VIP small bites from Driftwood Restaurants and Catering, including calamari, cavatelli with lamb bolognese, mini bruschetta, and prosecco ice cream. Yes, prosecco ice cream.

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FEB 28 2015 19:00 Enter the State Theatre and join the throngs of other excited Clevelanders (and some out-of-town friends) who are ready for a fabulous evening.

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FEB 28 2015 19:15 Marvel at the handmade decorations created by Playhouse Square Partners that take you right into scenes from the “Back to the Future” movies. Maybe even find the sign you helped to make at a Shop Night.

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FEB 28 2015 19:30 Make your way to the stage of the State Theatre and grab a libation from the champagne bar or the Buckeye Vodka ice luge (or both). Fill up your dinner plate with haute comfort food like chicken a la king, cornbread, and mashed potatoes, also from Driftwood Restaurants and Catering.

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FEB 28 2015 20:00 Enjoy the Motown music provided by Eugene Ross and Company, which is a perfect fit for the Enchantment Under the Sea dance decor. Mingle with friends and take in how fabulous everyone looks.

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FEB 28 2015 21:00 Wander around the State Theatre and have your palm or tarot cards read, try your luck at the raffle, silent auction, and wine pull, and stop for a photo by the iconic clock tower.

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FEB 28 2015 22:00 Return to the State Theatre lobby for late night dancing with music from Thunder Gun Express and late night eats from Driftwood.

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FEB 28 2015 23:59 Head home with tired feet, a camera full of selfies, and the knowledge that you not only had a fantastic evening. but you also just supported one of Cleveland’s finest institutions. Immediately mark your calendar for Jump Back Ball 25.

***Disclosure: I was asked by Playhouse Square to help promote Jump Back Ball. In exchange, I received one complimentary ticket when I purchased a ticket of equal value. I am also a member of the board of Playhouse Square Partners. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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