What the kids are getting for Christmas

I’ve asked for gift idea help on twitter and A’Dell posted her gift list for her kids and I thought it was interesting and helpful so I’m posting mine here.

We typically do the want/need/wear/read categories for gifts but cut that back this year to just wear and read because when you add in gifts from siblings and Santa and family it was just TOO MUCH. So, here’s what they are getting…

(Editor’s note: Amazon pricing is drunk as these prices are not what I paid. Photo sources: LandsEnd.com, HM.com, Amazon.com and lakeshorelearning.com. Links are not affiliate links).

Matilda, age 8:
Wear – flannel swim team pants, 2 long sleeved tees, another version of her favorite dress, and one Harry Potter tee I picked up on clearance somewhere a while ago.

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Read – 2 Minecraft books

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From Madman – Crayola Melt ‘N Mold Factory

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From Santa – Crayola Maker Maker and a Chatster Interactive Doll (OMG, I’m scared of this thing). She also got an early visit from the big guy who brought her tickets to the Nutcracker.

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In her stocking- hair chalk (as suggested by Marianne), and I’ll pick up some things from World Market.

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On her wish-list given to my family: swim team warm ups, DohVinci kitCharmazing kit, and Crayola Virtual Design Pro (apparently Crayola’s marketing team did a terrific job with the 8 year old audience this year)

Matthew, age 4.5:
Wear – 3 long sleeved tees and shark socks

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Read – I went nontraditional here and instead of books got him some letter and number cards from Lakeshore Learning since he needs to work on those

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From Matilda – LEGO Junior Fire Emergency

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From Santa – Gears! Gears! Gears! and LEGO Junior Police

Gear

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Stocking – 2 Switch and Go Dinos, and coloring books (thank you 60% off Cartwheel discount!)

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On his wish-list given to my family: any LEGO Junior sets (do you see a theme here?), MagForms, an Avenger hoodie, any Transformer.

Are you done shopping? Any exciting gifts this year?

The Shopping Games

I’m one of those people who typically try to have my Christmas shopping done by the first week of December. I try not to step foot in any store between Thanksgiving and Christmas and since I do lots of shopping online I want to leave ample time for shipping. This year I had all of my shopping completed as of Black Friday.

Of course, today is Cyber Monday so I checked out some of the sales to see how they compared to what I got.

First up: Land’s End. Last week I purchased clothes for the kids – 4 shirts, a dress and a 3-pack of socks (added to get my total to the free shipping level). A few items were on sale and I had a code for an additional 20% off. Today the whole site is 40% with free shipping on all orders. I loaded up my cart with the same things I got last week, added the 40% off code and… my total was $5 more than what I paid last week! Mmmm. Looks like the stuff that was on sale is no longer on sale, while the stuff that was full price is now on sale. So while 2 of the shirts are now $6 cheaper each, the whole order was more. I technically didn’t NEED the socks but now I almost see them as a bonus.  Final total: +$5 to me.

Next: Kohl’s. I got some Ohio State and Miami Dolphins gear for my nephew on sale and with an additional 15% off on Thursday. Plus I got $15 in Kohl’s Cash because I spent $50 to get to free shipping. Today they have 20% off site-wide and shipping is free for orders of $25+, so I re-loaded my cart. The items were on deeper discount plus the additional discount was bigger so the total was $18 less than a few days ago. I seriously thought about re-buying it all then returning the first purchase. Then I remembered the Kohl’s Cash, which I do plan on spending… and all of sudden doing a return and re-buy for $3 seems ridiculous. Final total: -$3

Next: Target. They had an amazing deal for 10% off gift cards so I picked up one for each teacher. I’ve never seen a discounted gift card for Target before so this was my favorite deal. Final total: +$6

Finally: Amazon – I bought some toys for the kids on Friday and did my pricing research using this site.  Things looked good on the price front so I ordered (side note: if you have Amazon Prime and select “no rush shipping” you get $1 towards a video rental… so I did a separate order for each toy and racked up the credits).  Then yesterday I was at Target and spotted this Marker Maker for Maggie and it was more than $10 cheaper in the store. I looked at Target.com and the price was the same. I called Amazon and they refused to price match. So that one I AM sending back. I got the cheaper one, plus a refill pack and even with the cost of return shipping we’ll break even. Final total: +/-$0 out of pocket. But I did get the bonus refill pack so I’m going to call this +$7.

Also, I recently signed up for Ebates (referral link) and have been religiously shopping through their site.  So far I have a whopping $0.40 cash-back. Maybe it takes some time for the cash back to show up? So far I’m not impressed.

All in all it looks like I actually SAVED about $15 by shopping before Cyber Monday.

What have been your best deals this year?

Cedar Point HalloWeekend Giveaway!

Disclosure: I am a #BloggingatCP blogger. I was given tickets to give away but was not compensated for this post.  As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

UPDATE:  Congratulations to commenter #2 “Managed Chaos”! You are on your way to HalloWeekends at Cedar Point!
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You know we are big fans of “CP” and if you’ve read previous posts you know that HalloWeekends at Cedar Point is my favorite time to go.

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There are only THREE weekends left to enjoy the thrill and chills at the park, and Cedar Point wants one of you to go. Yep – I’m giving away a 4-pack of four-pack of tickets to HalloWeekends (nearly $200 value!).

Just comment telling me your favorite ride (or what you want to ride if you’ve never been there). Bonus entry: tweet the following phrase and leave a comment letting me know you tweeted: I want to Celebrate Halloween with @cedarpoint and #HalloWeekends! @kakaty is giving away tickets here: http://kakakakaty.com/2014/10/13/cp-halloweekend-tix/

One comment and one tweet per person (two total possible entries). Winner will be randomly selected from comments on this post at noon eastern, Thursday, October 16. Winner will receive 4 Cedar Point tickets – tickets are only valid this year. Good luck!

Cedar Point is open on Friday nights (after 6 p.m.), Saturdays and Sundays now through Nov. 2, 2014. Enter now and get one last trip to “the Point” before the snow flies.

HalloWeekends 2014 at Cedar Point

Disclosure:  I was invited to attend the #BloggingatCP HalloWeekends event.  Tickets were provided but food, travel and all other purchases were on my own.  As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I was not asked to post about my trip, but I am because it was fun. 

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Last year I had a newly-minted 7 year old who was finally tall enough to ride some roller coasters, but totally freaked out about all things Halloween. This year I have an almost 8 year old who wanted to take her BFF to Cedar Point for the first time. Oh how a year changes things. Matilda wasn’t scared of anything this year, and even posed for photos! I was shocked!

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Matilda’s birthday is next week so when I got invited to check out 2014 HalloWeekends at Cedar Point I knew it would be a fun pre-birthday celebration. We planned to go as a family like we did in the spring, but things changed and I ended up taking Matilda and her best friend, Audrey. Since it was Audrey’s first time to “the Point” the whole drive there was chatter about what they wanted to ride (Iron Dragon! Pipe Scream!) and what they didn’t want to ride (Witches Wheel).

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Like last year, it was a perfect weekend to go. Cool temps, lots of sun and light crowds. Our longest wait for a ride was under 10 minutes. It was perfect.

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Once we were in the park the girls warmed up with some of the midway rides – Dodgem cars, Cedar Downs and the Antique Cars. Then it was time for the big one – the Iron Dragon. I rode it with them twice then I bowed out as they rode it 3 more times in a row. They’d run down the exit, run through the line gates and sprint up the stairs. They tried riding in the very front, the very back and the middle to see what they liked the best (Matilda = front, Audrey = back).

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I finally got them to move to a different ride so we headed back to the new Pipe Scream. We didn’t ride it in the spring due to long lines but this time there was hardly a wait. It was really fun and different, but I was so woozy by the time I got off. The girls, of course, rode it a couple more times in succession. How they do that and not lose their breakfast is beyond me.

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After swinging through the back of the park and hitting more rides (the Wave Swinger was a huge hit, with multiple consecutive rides) we worked our way back up to the new Chickie’s & Pete’s for lunch. I have to be honest here: the food and service were pretty poor. There was nothing horrible about it, but our waiter took forever then never came back to check on us, and for the price the food was “meh”. Next time I’ll skip the table-service and stick to midway fare.

After lunch we hung around in Kiddie Kingdom for a bit to take it easy. This was the magic of this trip… Matilda and Audrey are both about 50 inches tall. Tall enough for many of the bigger rides but still short enough for the kiddie rides. The did look kind of funny riding next to toddlers, but they giggled the whole time. We also stumbled onto Howl-O-Palooza and the girls trick-or-treated through the rides and played in the foam pit (like a rave for kids – hysterical!).

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The day was winding down so we did one last loop through the park and the girls decided they wanted to tackle the Corkscrew – the first coaster in history to invert riders three times. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t ride it until I was 10 or 11! I rode with them the first time – they were behind me in a car – and I fully expected them to be freaked out at the end. NOPE – they burst out of their seat and asked “can we do it again?!”. They rode it 3 more times on their own. I was pretty proud! (maybe next year Matilda will tackle the Magnum or Millennium Force?)

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Before heading back out to the car I stopped for my favorite Cedar Point food – cheese on a stick – and the girls played a few games and were each victorious.

Roller Coaster count:
Iron Dragon: at least 6 times
Corkscrew: 3 times
Mine Ride: 2 times
Pipe Scream: 3 times
Blue Streak: once (they weren’t fans).
Woodstock Express: 2 times – mainly for the in-ride photos

It was a pretty awesome day.

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You’ve got 6 weekends left to check out Cedar Point and HalloWeekends before they close for the year. It’s my favorite time of year to go.

Twitter Life Lessons – the diaper vs. the stroller

I love twitter. I have met some amazing people there, some of which have become real-life friends. I usually have great conversations, and learn a thing or two. But sometimes something happens on Twitter that makes me both shake my head and laugh. Today was one of those days. First the backstory…

Several months ago as I was checking out local CraigsList listings I came across a used stroller priced at $800 (or something close to that…it was near the $1000 mark). I was shocked… a USED stroller that costs a rent payment?! I looked up the brand (UppaBaby) and saw they had several models that started north of the $850 mark. I took to twitter saying I couldn’t believe anyone would pay that much for a stroller. Or would pay $800 for a used stroller. I think my words were “Who the hell spends $800 on a stroller?”

To say I got a smackdown in response would be an understatement. I got replies and DMs from dozens, all chiding me for judging their buying choices. “I own an UppaBaby and it was a great purchase and I would do it again!” “You don’t know my financial situation!” “I’ve got 2 and they are great, worth every penny” “I spend my money on what I want, who are you to judge?”.  Well ok then. In fact, I got so much negative response to that tweet that I ended up deleting it, which is why I can’t quote it exactly.

Maybe it’s my Midwestern-ness showing or the fact that I live in an area with a low cost of living or the fact that when I was buying a stroller that thousand dollar Bugaboo’s were the celebrity fashion and most non-celebrities gasped at the cost and said they were all about image. But I still maintain that a $800 stroller is a luxury and that if you are going to have one you at least need to own the fact that many think that price is a crazy amount to pay for a baby item.

Fast forward to today. A twitter friend posted about a used “rare” diaper selling on a cloth diaper site for $210. The hilarity of the price! Who would spend $200 on a diaper? And more than 20 people agreed – a $210 diaper is crazy. A $210 USED diaper? Ridiculous. “lost their minds”, “WTF”, “freaking insane” were some of the responses.

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I agreed and jokingly warned her not to comment about the price of baby items …learn from my experience!

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And you know what happened? I GOT SCOLDED AGAIN. I got scolded about by months-ago tweet about an expensive stroller! And people favorited the scolding tweet!

So that happened.

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Like I said sometimes you learn things on twitter.

Today’s lesson: it’s ok to make fun of a $210 diaper and those who would buy it, but it’s not ok to express the same things about a $800+ stroller.

It’s either that or: those who buy super-expensive strollers are really defensive about them on twitter, and those who by super-expensive diapers are not.

THANKS, TWITTER for these life lessons.

Trentina for Lunch – Giveaway

Disclaimer:  As a part of the Trentina friends and family preview, I was lucky to be invited to attend a lunch tasting menu opportunity with a guest, and to giveaway a gift card to a local reader. My thoughts always my own.

If you live in Cleveland and don’t live under a rock, you no doubt heard about the opening of Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s newest restaurant, Trentina, earlier this summer. This is new fine dining establishment blew our socks off back in June when we were able to experience The Menu Bianco -a 15 course dinner tasting menu at Trentina. So when I was asked to be part of their lunch-service preview I quite literally jumped at the chance.

I took a colleague for a delightful Friday lunch. It was her first Sawyer experience and I was excited to share it with her. Lunch at Trentina is decidedly more relaxed than dinner, yet still refined and elegant. Lunch offers an a la carte menu showcasing the Northern Italian fare and Midwestern ingredients featured on the the more extensive dinner menu. Trentina will host a soft opening on Friday, September 5 (more info here), followed by the official lunch launch on Tuesday, September 9.

On to the food… I didn’t capture each of our 4 courses  but I managed to grab pics of a few, before digging in. I was lucky that my companion was willing to share each plate with me so we both got to taste everything. As we sat with dazzling sunlight surrounding us we were able to sample 8 dishes put out by Chef Sawyer and Executive Chef Matt Danko, each one delicate and flavorful. As dishes were cleared we would declare a certain item our favorite only to be presented with the next round which made it hard to pick a “best” dish.

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 Wood-Fired Broccoli with eggplant sauce, anchovies, crab apples, and parsley.
I usually HATE broccoli but I enjoyed this dish a whole lot.

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 Oysters on the Half Shell with Prosecco mignonette and apple
I can usually take or leave oysters but there is something about the addition of the finally diced apples
that makes me swoon. I could eat an entire plate of these.

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Beef Carne with herbed and moustarda
This was a highlight among highlights. My dining partner never had beef tartare before so she was hesitant. But one bite and she was sold. This dish is simple but has such complex textures and flavors that it’s an absolute luxury. (My apologies for the photo – we were a few tastes in before I remembered to snap a pic)

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Baked Shellfish Spaghettini: tomato, saffron, sofritto with fennel and celery.
This dish stole my heart. Served in a cast iron pan it seems rustic and straightforward but there was such a delicate complexity to the flavors that I found myself sad when I passed the dish to my friend. The briny, sweet mussels paired with the spaghetti which was lightly flavored with saffron and pressed in the bottom of the pan almost like a crust. Oh and the tender haddock – cooked to perfection – perched on top, this dish is one I can’t stop thinking about.

One of the things I most appreciate about Trentina is the attentive yet not overbearing waitstaff. They take seriously any dietary restrictions you may have, including requests for vegetarian and vegan menus. They explain each dish as it is brought out and make sure there is nothing lacking during your dining experience. Also worth noting: they ask about time constrains so your meal will happen at a pace suitable to your schedule – something I was grateful for as we had to get back to the office. Add that to the charming design of the interior and you have a memorable lunch hour, no matter if your catching a lunch date with a special person, a business lunch, or enjoying a leisurely lunch with friends. I was actually so impressed (and Mark was so jealous) that I will be going back this Friday for the soft opening!

Trentina will serve lunch Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m, starting on September 9th. Reservations are encouraged but not required and can be made via OpenTable or by calling 216.421.2900.

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Jonathan and Amelia Sawyer want you to experience Trentina for yourself and have generously given me a $25 gift card to give away to one of my readers. ENTER TO WIN: Just leave a comment or tweet this post (leave a comment letting me know you did so). I will pick a winner from my comments around 9 PM on my birthday – Sunday, September 7 – and notify the winner via email.

 

Summer Weekends Are For Grilling – a Heinen’s Giveaway

Disclaimer: This post is part of Heinen’s #HeinensGrill campaign. I was given a gift card in exchange for a post about what we like to grill. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own.

When we moved into our house about 7 years ago my parents offered to buy us a grill. After several years of grilling with gas we opted for a charcoal Weber kettle grill and we haven’t looked back. We use it nearly every weekend in the summer. When you own a house without air conditioning, everything gets cooked on the grill so the house doesn’t heat up. It’s either that or eat cereal every night (which I’m sure the kids wouldn’t mind). Mark is the official griller in the the family, although I do sometimes take a turn by the coals. We cook all sorts of meats, pizzas, fish, veggies, fruit – you name it, we’ve likely grilled it.

On Sunday I had done my usual weekend Heinen’s run and picked up some nice steaks. It’s one thing that I can count on at least 3 of us enjoying (the only meat Madman will eat are hot dogs and ham). But Matilda loves steak so much that I now have to get her her own cut because she will eat the whole thing. So I got 2 rib-eyes and a top loin (mostly because I couldn’t decide between the two cuts and I wanted to do a side-by-side taste test). I used my favorite method to prep the meat – heavy salting with a few added flavors. I read about this years ago and it really does make a big difference in meats – especially lesser cuts. I had pretty good steaks but salt only improves the flavor and tenderness.

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 Steaks marinating in salt – rosemary and smashed garlic came to the party, too.

Basically the method is this:

  • Season steaks liberally with kosher salt – use more than you think you need. You want the steaks to be pretty well coated with salt. Use 2 tsp+ per side. Add aromatics if you want.
  • Let the steaks sit at room temperature for 1 hour per thickness of steak (so a 1.5 inch steak will sit out for 90 minutes).
  • Rinse, rinse, rinse. Rinse the steak really well under running water to get rid of all the salt.
  • Dry, dry, dry. Use clean paper towels to pat the steak very very dry so that zero moisture is left on the steak.
  • Grill!

We had an outing planned for the afternoon so I couldn’t do this to the letter, but I’ve found that you can still do it even if you won’t be around right before cooking. Just adjust your amount of salt – the more salt the quicker this works, less salt means you have more time. Since I figured we’d be gone about 4 hours before the steaks hit the grill, I cut back to about 1 tsp of salt per side, then put the steaks in the refrigerator. It worked fine. (edited to add: I googled around to see if I could find where I originally read about this method. I couldn’t but this post does a good job at explaining why this works).

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Mark, doing his thing on the Weber

Once we got home the first thing I did was pull the meat out of the refrigerator to start warming up to room temp. While Mark got the coals started I rinsed and dried the beef. Then it had about 30 minutes to get to room temp before the grill was ready. I used that time to prep a quick caprese salad and boil some read potatoes for sides.

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Local tomatoes, fresh basil from our plant = YUM!

The result? A perfect, easy Sunday dinner (with enough for leftovers for Monday lunches). I am a steak purist and will totally cringe when I see someone put steak sauce or even herbed butter on their steak… and please don’t ever cover my steak with mushrooms and onions. I will not be happy. I like my beef cooked medium rare and served plain. This method gives you a perfectly salted, tender steak that you can practically cut with a butter knife.

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 Taste test result – I was surprised liked the top sirloin better.
If I had purchased thicker-cut rib eyes I think it would have been a tie.

What is your favorite thing to grill?

Giveaway for readers: If you live near a Heinen’s they have offered a tote full of grilling supplies as a giveaway to one of my readers. You need to be local to a store as you will pick up your prize at your local Heinen’s. All you need to do is leave a comment with your favorite thing to grill OR tweet your favorite thing to grill, just make sure you use #HeinensGrill and tag me (@kakaty) in your tweet. Example: “Hey @kakaty I love salmon on the grill! #HeinensGrill”.

Use only one entry method, one entry per person.

Winner will be picked after 8 PM on Sunday 8/10.