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.

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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.