Things I’ve Sprayed Lately

I realized lately that I’ve been buying a lot of empty spray bottles when I’m at Target. It seems like all of a sudden I’m DIYing all kinds of solutions for household tasks. It struck me as weird that this is my new unintentional obsession, and what’s a blog for if not sharing your weird obsessions?

Weed Killer
I live in Cleveland, in the watershed of Lake Erie so I try not to spray anything on our lawn and garden. Roundup® is especial evil as it’s active ingredients glyphosate and POEA are extremely toxic to aquatic life (not to mention that glyphosate has been classified as a probable carcinogen). So what do you do when you have a long flagstone front walkway that gets filled with weeds quickly? You switch up the chemicals to acetic acid +lauramine oxide + sodium chloride (i.e. vinegar, dish soap and salt)! The vinegar burns the plant leaves so it can’t produce food, the soap is a surfactant that helps the vinegar stick to the leaves until it does it’s job, and the salt kills off the roots

I tried a combination of vinegar, a few drops of dish soap and plain kosher salt. I heated it up in the microwave (to help the salt dissolve) and poured it into one of my spray bottles and soaked each joint of the walkway. Within 3 days everything was dead and those neat joints lasted about a month before I had to spray again. Don’t use too much salt as it will kill the soil microbial activity (soil microbes are a good thing!) but in the cracks of a sidewalk or driveway this shouldn’t be much of an issue. The best part? I had all the ingredients but even if I didn’t I would cost about $2 to make up a batch (compared to $20+ for the commercial stuff).


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3 weeks after spraying with vinegar + soap + salt. No crack weeds!

Hard Surface Cleaner
A few months ago I set up some chores for Matilda to do on a regular basis. She has a little checklist for each task and can earn allowance by getting them done. One of the chores is cleaning the bathroom and seeing her spray those smelly cleaners had me searching for a better option. So I did a little googling and came up with this new chemical concoction which I feel better about her using.

– 2 cups hot water
– 1 tablespoon castile soap (we use Dr. Bronner unscented)
– 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
– 10 drops antibacterial essential oil (tea tree, lemon, rosemary or peppermint)

In theory it kills germs but I can’t say for sure it really does. We use this in the bathroom and the kitchen and so far no one has gotten sick so we’re sticking with it. It’s still a spray cleaner so you have to be careful about breathing in the spray, but I feel better about my kids using this than I would having them use 409 (this may be foolish, but I will keep my head in the sand on this).

Bathtub Cleaner
Yes, I finally tried that Dawn + Vinegar thing that ‘s been floating around Pinterest for years and hot ham! it actually worked. Smelled horrible but the ring-around-the-tub line from the kids was gone without scrubbing. Mix 50/50 Dawn and hot vinegar in a spray bottle, spray on and let it sit for awhile, wipe or spray off.

Hair Conditioner
This one I didn’t make but bought, however you could make it. It’s apple cider vinegar and distilled water. Spray on your damp hair and comb through. I CANNOT believe how shiny and smooth my hair is. I’ve only been using it for a few days but the difference is noticeable. It seems the recipe is about 2-3 oz of ACV to 12-15 oz. of water. I bought this because it was $3 from soap maker in my neighborhood and I can refill the bottle on my own.

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Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point

Disclosure: As a #BloggingatCP blogger for Cedar Point my family stayed one night at the renovated Hotel Breakers and entered the park for free.  Food, travel and all other purchases were on my dime. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own.

I have lived in Ohio my whole life and an annual (or more!) trip to Cedar Point is a must. While I’ve been going there for decades I’ve always lived close enough to not necessitate an overnight stay. I recently learned that there is no reason to “need” to stay overnight when the accommodations are enough of an attraction to stand on their own.

When Cedar Point offered me a stay in the newly renovated Hotel Breakers I very literally gasped at the offer. Hotel Breakers has always been the fanciest place to stay near Cedar Point. The U.S. National Historic Landmark beachfront hotel has been there for 110 years and has always been “THE place” to stay when going to Cedar Point. In it’s heyday it hosted celebrities like John D. Rockefeller,  Hellen Keller and many US Presidents. I said yes immediately and started counting down the days to our trip.

The reason I was invited was to see the new renovations – 2 years in the making and the largest cost project ever at Cedar Point. The results are stunning.

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With an indoor pool, outdoor pool, zero-depth entry splash pool with watersides and the beach there is something for everyone. Plus each pool is watched by some of the most alert and attentive lifeguards I’ve ever encountered.

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The indoor pool was a good size, guarded and had plenty of chairs. Bonus – it overlooks the lake! IMG_6192

They each got 2 trips down the slide before the thunder started rumbling, sending us inside. This pool has 2 very alert guards and is enclosed by a fence. The opposite end is zero entry and has all kids of splash/spray stuff. 

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Lots of room on the beach to enjoy the sun and sand.

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Of course, there are two more lifeguards keeping watch over the Lake Erie swimming area.

If dry activities are more your thing there is an arcade, fire-pits overlooking the lake, a bar with views of the beach, lots of lounge chairs and rocking chairs . Plus tons of eating options including an ice cream shop serving delicious, local Toft’s ice cream, and a full-service Starbucks.

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With the storms keeping us inside, we had lots of time to explore the hotel. We found this great ice cream parlor tucked away near the doors to the outdoor pool area.

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When your kids are up before 7:00 AM no matter what, you are some of the first guests at the on-site Perkins restaurant

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View from Starbucks on Sunday morning.
Lake Erie was angry that day and the rain was pouring down.

Guests staying at all Cedar Point resorts get early entry into Cedar Point, discounted tickets, free shuttle service, and free parking. From Hotel Breakers you can enter the park at the beach entrance – a 2 minute walk with no lines, no crowds. Due to the thunderstorms the weekend we stayed we didn’t get to take advantage of these options but it would make for a very easy trip. Plus the early entry would mean getting to ride a number of rides before there are any crowds! That is worth a lot.

The rooms are playful with punches of red in the decor and the best headboards around. The desk chairs are so cute I was looking at the bottom to see who made them because I want to buy them for our kitchen table.

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A seagull nest was right outside our window and the kids checked on the bird constantly. 

But what really stood out throughout the whole hotel was the family-friendly attention to detail:

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The area near the front desk has tons of seating and the kids immediately started making faces in the fun-house mirrors on the wall. It made checking in so easy to have them entertained nearby. 

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The rooms have a dorm-sized fridge with a real freezer – an unexpected bonus – plus a microwave and shelves to stash snacks. I loved this set-up.

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This seems so silly but this drying rack in the bathroom MADE MY DAY. We are always draping wet suits and bath towels all over the bathroom when we’re at hotel and they get in the way. I have been know to travel with those Command removable hooks just to have a place to hang wet swim gear. Having a bathroom with plenty of hooks is a DREAM.

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We got to say goodnight to Snoopy, who was dressed for bed himself.

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The room had plenty of space for the 4 of us and our stuff. It was very comfortable. 

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I think she was excited to ride. Too bad the storms meant we couldn’t go the following morning.

Mark and I also really enjoyed the attention to detail they took when renovating and decorating. As owners of our second 100-year old home we could appreciate the craftsmanship and care they took in the work of updating the historic Hotel Breakers. From the beautiful stained glass in the entry to the often-photographed rotunda. Everything was well done and well cared for. We also enjoyed the artwork – nostalgic photos of the park’s 145-year history.

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We went back to the park to ride 2 weeks after our stay and I found myself wishing we had booked a room for the night on this very hot day. Even so, we had a great time as always:

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After 2 Cedar Point trips with him refusing to ride anything but the CP & LE Railroad it was fun to watch him ride a few things this year.

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 I can’t leave the park without taking this pictureIMG_6345

Checking out the view of Hotel Breakers from the top of the Giant WheelIMG_6336

She has refused to even think about riding the Gemini ever since her first time in 2013 that included the train stopping while going up the first hill. After a little bribery (I promised to ride the Pipe Scream with her) she conquered her fear and declared the Gemini “the best ride ever”. 
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Madman and I spent some time in the (air conditioned) Town Hall Museum in Frontier Town while Matilda and Mark rode the Mine Ride. It was there that we found this great Gemini photo set up.

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It was Matilda’s idea to recreate this shot to copy the artwork from the Hotel Breakers bathroom.

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THIS is how you end a 95 degree day at Cedar Point.
Which leads me to my #1 Cedar Point tip: ALWAYS bring a complete change of clothes, including shoes, for every person!

The Monday-est of Mondays

Scene: Monday morning. 7:20 AM. First day of camp and our summer schedule, which has us leaving about 45 minutes earlier than the school year. Includes me driving another kid to camp.
Internal monolog in italics.

  • [Up early, backpacks packed, kids eating breakfast. I go to load the car about 30 minutes before we leave.] “New schedule, I OWN YOU.”
  • “Hmmmm, my keys aren’t on the hook. Must be in my purse”
  • “Um, where is my purse? Not on the hook, did I leave it on the table?” “OMG DID IT GET STOLEN LAST NIGHT?!?!”
  • “Calm down, Kate. No one broke in to the house and took only your purse then locked up behind them. You last had it at the hardware store yesterday. Where is it? Let’s see… when you came home you went right into the garage to glaze windows….oh crap! It’s in the car!”
  • [Walking out to car, which is parked in driveway] “Please let it be there, oh please oh please.”  “YAY there is is!”
  • [Goes to open door] “CRAP! LOCKED!! NOOOOOO!”
  • “Ok ok, it has this nifty keyless entry button… maybe that will work” [tries both front doors] “SH*T”
  • [texts Mark to tell him I’m an idiot]
  • [texts mom of car pool kid to tell her I’m an idiot]
  • [calls police to ask if they can help – they can and they will be there “soon”]
  • [text Mark to say he doesn’t have to come home with his key after all]
  • [flurry of texts – girls will get to camp thanks to other kid’s dad who has the week off. whew!]
  • [25 minutes later the cops arrive] “Hooray! we’ll be out of here in a few seconds!”
  • [10 minutes pass]
  • Madman thinks it’s the coolest thing ever that a cop is outside and the squad car is in our driveway so he digs out his old police car toy

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  • Cop: “Ma’am, I can’t seem to get it unlocked. There’s an anti-theft bar blocking the tool. I’ve called for backup and a different tool”
  • [2 more cops arrive, they fuss with car] “This does NOT look promising” 
  • [Mark texts to say he’s coming home anyway because the A/C in his office is broken. He’s on the train already]
  • [car is still not open] “Sir, my husband is on his way home with the extra key. You can stop trying. Thanks so much for coming over to help” [cops leave]
  • [about 10 minutes pass] “I should go check to see if they damaged anything while they were trying to unlock it”
  • [sees a few small scratches. Tries door handle just for fun. IT OPENS. Car alarm blares] “WUT?!?! OMG IT’S OPEN” 
  • [flurry of texts to Mark. he’s almost home. dangit!]
  • [pick him up at train stop and drop him at home]
  • [take Madman to daycare, nearly get hit head-on by an F150 speeding the wrong way down Courtland Blvd] “Are you freaking KIDDING ME WITH THIS DAY RIGHT NOW?!”
  • [text from Mark. He forgot about a meeting downtown so he has to go back. I feel terrible] “OH COME ON, MONDAY!”
  • [realize I have a Starbucks gift card in my purse and if any day needs a venti iced double dirty chai it’s today]

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End Scene

Garden Local with Petitti + a Giveaway! #ad

Disclaimer: This post is part of a Petitti’s campaign. I was given a gift card to use for myself and one to give away in exchange for a post about my experience. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. Since I was already a Petitti’s customer, I was happy to be a part of this campaign. 

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Update: Congratulations to Jennifer – winner of the gift card!

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Last month Matilda and I were lucky enough to get a tour of Petitti Garden Center’s Casa Verde, in Columbia Station. This massive greenhouse operation is where 98% of the live product sold at Petitti is grown. NINETY EIGHT PERCENT! It means that every plant you buy from Petitti is already acclimated to our climate (hello 80 degrees one day and 45 the next!) because they were grown from seed right here. In fact, Petitti is one of the only area growers that takes the plants through 3 stages of growing (in different greenhouses) before deeming them ready for purchase. During high growing season they have as many of 100,000 hanging baskets at Casa Verde – it’s truly amazing to see!

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Casa Verde is also where they do things like mix their custom blends of potting and planting soils, and assemble and plant their beautiful planters that are ready for your porch.

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During our tour we got to hear Angelo Petitti’s story of how he immigrated to the US from Italy when he was 16, started his business and grew it to 9 stores plus a 32-acre greenhouse which employes up to 400 people during peak season. I have always known that Petitti was a family-owned operation but hearing his story and seeing the facility was eye opening. I always like to shop as local as possible and it was great to see “behind the scenes” of a robust local company.

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As part of the visit we were given a gift card to start our garden for this year (and some awesome Troy-Bilt garden tools – also a local company!). This past weekend Matilda and I were finally able to hit up the original Petitti Garden Center in Oakwood for our plants. We were after some tomatoes and herbs to fill our patio pots of for the summer. Our yard gets a lot of shade, the soil is a terrible clay, and our neighbor has a black walnut tree so growing veggies in the ground is nearly impossible. So we make due with a hodgepodge of pots on the back patio.

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Matilda picked what we were planting this year – lots of cherry tomatoes (the kids snack on these right off the vine when they are playing outside), some big heirloom tomatoes, cilantro, basil, rosemary and mint. She was also pretty excited to pick up several bags of Petitti’s soil since we saw it being mixed and bagged at Casa Verde. We added a bag of organic vegetable fertilizer and some compost to the cart before we checked out.

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Once we got home she declared the planting her project. With just a little guidance from me she filled up all 6 pots with soil and plants. She might have more of a green thumb than I do!

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Do you have a garden project you want to tackle? A black thumb you want to turn green? I have a $50 Petitti’s gift card to give away and it could be yours! To enter leave a comment about what you would buy with $50 at Petitti’s. For an extra entry tweet the following: I want to win a @Petittis gift card from @kakaty #Pettitis: http://wp.me/p3i9i6-Pa 

Limit 2 entries per person (one comment + one tweet). This giveaway will run until Monday, May 25th at 11:59 pm. Good luck!   Giveaway is closed.

In the Kitchen, Noodle Kid Style

When I heard that Jonathon Sawyer was releasing a cooking-with-kids cookbook I immediately went to Amazon to pre-order it. Last week Noodle Kids arrived and we were SO! EXCITED!

The timing was perfect with the long MLK Day weekend ahead. Matilda and I read through the book and she picked Roasted Chicken Ramen and Pho to make and made the shopping list. Of course with a list including things like bonito flakes and seaweed we headed to the always-fun Park to Shop in Asia Plaza. The kids love Park to Shop with all the amazing room of noodles, Hello Kitty items and, of course, Pocky (their favorite). We loaded up with all kinds of noodles, spices and sauces we headed home – dreaming of ramen that wasn’t instant.

On Saturday I made the broth – basically your standard chicken broth with the not standard (for me) additions of seaweed sheets and dried mushrooms. I always have a chicken carcass or two in the freezer since we roast a chicken almost weekly, so this want’s an issue for us. You may need to plan ahead of you’re not in the habit of having a bone collection in your deep freeze. The house smelled delicious.

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Matilda had a friend over so I had the girls help me chop up the additions to the ramen – tofu, a couple of left over chicken breasts, and green onions. While I peeled the 6.5 minute eggs and added the last ingredients to the the broth, they assembled little bowls of sesame seeds and bonito flakes and made our kitchen island into a ramen station.

IMG_1111(why is the friend cut out of the frame? because unless you are regularly posting pics of your kid on social media I won’t post pics of your kid, even with your permission.
I’m quirky like that.)

They each got to mix and match what the wanted (as long as they both picked something green to go in!) and made their very own custom ramen bowls. Her friend was a little hesitant, never having had ramen before, but she ended up having 2 bowls and even tried some tofu!

Yum!

Matilda’s verdict: “I’m so in love with this dinner right now!”

My verdict: it was amazing. And I was pretty darn proud of how close my bowl was to the picture in the cookbook (minus the styling and professional photog, of course):

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mineMy bowl – yum!

On Monday we made the pho – an all day process since the broth needs to simmer 8 hours and I forgot to do it the night before for overnight stock. Next to ramen, pho is Matilda’s favorite food so she was excited for this. Unfortunately this one didn’t knock it out of the park like the ramen. But I can hardly fault the recipe since I didn’t follow it exactly (i.e. I used 3 bones instead of 4 because that’s all the store had, I didn’t have a cinnamon stick so I added ground cinnamon later. I also added some very thinly sliced beef because that’s how we like our pho). So this is operator error more than anything. It was still VERY good but wasn’t on the level of our favorite pho place. Which, honestly, is a pretty high bar. I will likely try this again when I have all the proper ingredients on hand.

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I can’t wait to make other recipes in this book over the coming weeks and months. The Grilled Ramen and Cheese and the Little Ears with Kale (a from-scratch version of a house favorite: orecchiette with sausage and kale) are the next two I plan to try.

In case you want to give Noodle Kids a try – the book is for sale in all Team Sawyer restaurants, on Amazon (non affiliate link above) and some local book stores.

*We are friends with the Sawyers however I pre-ordered and purchased the book through Amazon myself. I wrote this post because I am so thrilled for our friends and honestly, it’s a pretty kick-ass book. They have no idea that I’m writing this and I got nothing in return for doing so. What I’m trying to say is: yes, we know them; no this is not an ad. You should buy the book because it’s rad. (hey! I’m a poet!)

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.

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.