Good-Bye 2010

I can’t believe it’s time for another wrap-up post. When it comes to my adult life, 2010 just flew by faster than any other year I can recall. While I may not me the most prolific blogger or keep to any kind of schedule, I’m so happy I have this place to chronicle our life. I love this family to pieces and this year I feel like we are complete. So, here is 2010 in review:

  • Allowed my daughter to full-fill her ballerina dreams. A year later and she’s still dancing.
  • Had much angst over what order my son’s first and middle names would be.
  • Remained 100% confounded by RITA (Regional Income Tax Authority). I don’t think I will ever get it right.
  • Blogged political. Again.
  • Sat court-side at a few CAVS games.
  • Tried to soak in every final moment of being a family of 3.
  • Gave birth to the mighty MAD.
  • Knew without any doubt that our family of 4 was complete.
  • Took an infant and a preschooler strawberry picking. By myself. (where is my medal?)
  • Celebrated the 10th anniversary of marrying my perfect match.
  • Was lucky enough to become friends with some wonderful local bloggers.
  • Ate several meals from our favorite chef.
  • Saw my girl turn 4.
  • Wrote about a professional athlete on my blog. Ugh. Can’t believe I gave him space.
  • Cheered on my husband as he ran a 5K, a 10K and a half-marathon.
  • Tried to get back into a workout routine (I’m still working on that).
  • Started stressing out about M and Kindergarten. Already.
  • Laughed at something M did or said on a daily basis.
  • Finally visited Velvet Tango Room.
  • Marveled at the boy and how fast his babyhood is going by.
  • Had our family portrait taken. (Thanks Heather, for making us ALL sit in front of your camera!)
  • Marked 3 years of living in the CLE.

2010 was a great year for many reasons. I’m sad to see it go but can’t wait to see what 2011 has to throw our way! Happy New Year!

(Want more? Read 2008 and 2009)

Merry Christmas

As I mentioned last year, we do our big family Christmas gathering before the day itself. Last weekend we were in Lima where M got to go crazy with her cousins and MAD got to meet his oldest cousin for the 1st time.  While we were there shots were taken

cousins were met and adored

cookies were decorated

cracker houses were constructed

and the snow was played in

And that was just one day! More family came to visit on Sunday and we all came home exhausted but happy.

With family obligations out of the way, it gave us the last 2 days to just relax at home and make our own traditions and memories. One tradition is that we open gifts from my college BFF “Aunt Linds” on Christmas Eve.  She spoils my kids rotten.

Last night Santa stopped by and loaded up the tree.

And this morning M was thrilled to find a stocking full of Christmas books (one of the things she asked the big guy to get for her) and tickets to see Toy Story on Ice

From us she got more books including a beautifully illustrated Nutcracker to mark her 1st year of seeing the ballet. And she also found a brand new musical jewelry box under the tree. She has been fascinated with the old beat-up one from my childhood so we decided she needed her own. She was delighted

MAD got several board books from Santa, much to his gnawing pleasure.

From us he got a “fill and spill” toy and… more books.  We are a nerdy bunch.

Overall it was a wonderful holiday, which wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory pajama shot:

Running Man

Back in May we took a few-weeks old MAD and M and headed to downtown Cleveland to cheer on one of my college friends who was running the Cleveland Marathon. We caught him around mile 17 on the lake shore and erupted into cheers and shook our cow bells and waved our signs. Then we loaded back into the car and drove to the finish line where we cheered for him again.  Tom is a fast runner so we were in place to see the first athletes cross the finish line right around the 2:30 mark. Tom ended up in 38th place out of nearly 12,000 finishers. Not bad for someone who smoked and drank with the best of them back in college.  On the drive home Mark said he wanted to run the same race for his 40th birthday.

I didn’t think much of his comment until later in the summer when he downloaded the Couch to 5k app to his iPhone and started going out a few evenings a week to complete the run/walk training. Every other night without fail he went out after the kids went to bed and in just a few weeks he was running the entire 3.1 miles. I was surprised and impressed by his dedication because I figured it would fizzle out after a few weeks, like most exercise programs. But he caught the running bug and on a Thursday in in August I saw a flyer for a 5k race that weekend and (jokingly) said he should enter.  He did and had a PR of 25 minutes.

Of course he did have the cutest cheering section of all the runners.

With a 5k under his belt he loaded the Bridge to 10k app on his phone and started increasing his runs. This time he had registered for a 10k race just 5 weeks away and had a goal to train towards. Needless to say he was up to 6.2 miles in no time and finished with an impressive 55 minute time.

Before this race M asked if she could cross the finish line with her daddy and I might have teared up a bit when he took her hand for the last few meters of the race. She has so much fun cheering for him and she was so proud to cross the finish line with him.

As soon as that race was over he was back at his every-other-night training. Leaving for 2-hour runs at 8:30 PM, running in the dark and eventually pushing himself to complete over 13 miles.  Of course the search for a half-marathon began and in 2 weeks he’ll be running that race and we’ll be on the sidelines shaking our cowbells, waving our signs and cheering him on.

Over the last 5 months I’ve become a “running widow” and I couldn’t be any more proud.

Happy Father’s Day

He didn’t want kids when we met.  No way, no how.  But I knew better.  I saw the father he could be buried beneath everything else.

8 years later he became a father.

And she instantly wrapped him around her little finger and showed him how to be a great Daddy.

Now, he’s a father twice over.  And he’s just as smitten with the little dude as he is with her.

Happy Father’s Day to my husband.  I knew you had it in you to be an incredible dad.

With the coffee mug M made for him at school

This is How We Do It

Growing up all of our Christmas Eves were spent at home, with just our immediate family.  Once in a while a grandparent or 4 would join us but for the most part it was just the 5 of us.  We did extended-family celebrations before and after Christmas, sometime even heading to Toledo or Defiance on the afternoon of Christmas Day. But Christmas Eve was the calm in the storm.

As an adult I can really appreciate this tradition where at least one day of the holiday season can be spent as a family.  When my older sister got married she established the same tradition for our generation – and thus one by one as we all got married we stopped going to my parents for Christmas Eve & Day.  At first my mom was crushed, but over the last 11 years my parents have embraced their holiday vacation freedom by traveling – last year they took a cruise, this year they are in the Florida Keys.

And best of all, I have no horror stories about dragging us, the kid, the dog and all the swag from house to house while her schedule goes to pot and she gets more and more overstimulated and cranky.  We did the extended family thing last weekend, therefore the last 2 days have been just the 3 of us relaxing.

Mark and I both worked until noon on Christmas Eve but that afternoon we took advantage of the fact that we still had some snow and went sledding.



That evening we had a relaxing dinner, drove around to check out Christmas lights and M opened gifts from her cousin & Uncle in FL my BFF from college.


Everyone got to bed at a good time.  M was up a couple of times during the night and seemed to be up for the day at 6:30 but we managed to hold her off until about 7:15.  She was awfully excited to see what Santa had brought.  After checking to see if he ate the cookies and orange juice (her choice) she left out, she dug into her stocking where she found the DVD of Snow White, a Santa doll (the only thing she asked Santa for) and a Care Bear’s card game.  Under the tree were more gifts including Candy Land, a trampoline, a tent/tunnel set and a tea set.  Just enough to open without getting bored with the process, not so much that she forgets about half of what she received.






The rest of the day brought several rousing games of Candy Land, tea parties, a long nap in her new tent, 2 viewings of Snow White, lots of time with the Lego Duplo farm and lots and lots of jumping:

jumpA trampoline is my new recommended gift for anyone in a cold climate with a preschooler – she loves it and jumps all day long.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Thanks to lots of other CLE bloggers, I had a huge list of holiday cheer I wanted to experience.  And in the last few weeks we have been busy checking things off that list.

I finished off my shopping at local places and hit the Bazaar Bizarre where I scored a couple of things for me (90% of the shopping was done before Thanksgiving, given my general fear of shopping centers during the month of December). I got my “Hot Rod” Williams shirt from C.L.E. Clothing and will be sporting it at the game next Tuesday.  We hit a bunch of fun things and the girl is so enamored with all things Christmas that it’s been lots of fun.

There’s been lots of unbloggable things going on lately, nothing bad just not for public consumption yet so I don’t have much to say.  So, instead of rambling on anymore, here are some highlights of the last few festive weeks:


The Night of Lights @ Legacy Village
(tip for anyone going next year – go a little early and get a spot on the balcony near Melting Pot – best view, no crowds)

holiday2Helping me get the assigned side dishes together for Thanksgiving at my parents

holiday3The annual making of graham cracker houses at grandma’s house


holiday5Cousins M & A and M stringing popcorn and cranberries for the birds and deer at grandma’s house


holiday7At Kringle’s Inventionasium in Tower City. Very cool for me and Mark, M was a bit freaked out by it all


holiday10Meeting the Abominable Snowman & Rudolph at the Public Square Tree Lighting

holiday11Watching the fireworks at Public Square, with Terminal Tower dressed for Christmas in the background

holiday13Of course she helped decorate the tree.  This meant she put every single ornament on one branch. We did some rearranging.

holiday12Her favoriate ornament – Rudolph (purchased for her in 2008)

holiday141800 lights and countless ornaments from my childhood (the oldest, still in tact ornament being a 1984 breaddough angel I made in Sunday School). We get a new family ornament and M gets a new ornament every year.

Last night we started a new tradition – lighting a menorah and playing dreidel. M is learning all about Hanukkah at her Jewish preschool and was asking where our menorah was at home.  We figured why not? So after a mad scramble on Friday night (after I realized that Hanukkah started this week and not next) to get a menorah failed, we made one together using Play-Doh.  It’s a fun new twist on our holiday and assures us at least 30 minutes a night of all 3 of us around the table playing a game.

All that’s left is an early Christmas celebration with my family (my parents travel during the actual holiday), a relaxing Christmas at home and then the Cleveland Children’s Museum New Year’s at Noon party.

I hope you all are having a great holiday season and are avoiding the stress that can come with it!

The Big Move

I’m about to show you how amazingly ugly our kitchen is.  Brace yourselves.

When we moved to Cleveland almost 2 years ago, it was a whirlwind.  We had about 5 weeks from my job offer for Mark to find a job (which he did quickly because he is brilliant at what he does), find a place to live and sell our Toledo house.  We were heartbroken over leaving our awesome 1912 bungalow in the best neighborhood ever, but it was on to bigger and better things.

DSCF0042Oh Stratford house, we miss you!

We looked to the inner-ring eastern suburbs because we like old houses and it was close to both our offices.  Plus we had friends here whom we had been close with when they lived in Toledo.  The prospect of carrying 2 mortgages was scary and we knew our budget that would allow us to do so would limit our buying options.  But we looked to purchase over rent just to see what we could find.  3 all-day visits later and we thought we found our house.  It was astonishingly like our old house and close to our friends, schools, grocery stores and the library.  The same day we decided to bid someone else also bid and, knowing our limited budget, we knew we would lose a bidding war.

So my thoughts kept circling back to a house our realtor showed me on a whim – it was just a few houses down from the dream house and way, way underpriced for the neighborhood.  The house was in severe need of cosmetic updating and Mark had only seen the dozens of photos I had snapped during my walk through.  Apparently the previous owners lived here for 35+ years and I think the last time they updated anything was during the Carter Administration. Inspections showed that although ancient, the mechanicals were in good shape so we took the plunge.  The thought was that we would hopefully sell the Toledo house within 6 months (hoping only to break even, given the market slide at the time) and then get an equity loan and update this house.  So before we moved in we removed all the nasty carpet and wallpaper with the hopes that within a few months we could afford to have professionals come refinish the unfinished but nice wood floors.  We also planned to have the plaster re-done on the first floor and have the whole interior professionally painted.

P1030350Looks pretty cute from the outside, right?

Then the market started to tank.  We sold our Toledo house after 5 months but took a 5-figure hit to do so.  Paying off that debt took about a year, which meant no updates to this house.  Now, another year later and really the only update we’ve made was to install a dishwasher in the kitchen (when we bought the house it had a portable dishwasher, the kind you have to roll over to the sink, hook up to the faucet and plug in.  After a few months it started to leak all over the place).

Anyway, I’m not someone who can’t/won’t do a bit of work in the name of updating a house.  We painted most of our old house and did several other small projects.  However the scope of what this house needs (new plaster, sand and re-finish floors, woodwork stripped and repainted, etc) is best left to professionals. Trying to tackle projects with a kid is drastically different then without one.  Plus, if I stay up to midnight or so painting one night, I’m wrecked for a week – I need my sleep.  So this house has sat basically untouched for almost 2 years.

The worst offender has always been the heinous kitchen.  It’s something we looked past because of it’s size (our Toledo kitchen was tiny).  It’s done in 1981-era country and it hurts your eyes just to look at it.  2 counters are faux woodgrain and the other has an atomic pattern on it.  Besides the aforementioned portable dishwasher it also has crappy (original?) cabinets painted country-blue with wallpaper in the insets.  Plus one wall is covered in faux brick wall paper.  It’s U.G.L.Y.  But it functions and there are other things on the list to be done before we sink tens of thousands of dollars into a complete remodel.

But, there was one thing I couldn’t take anymore.  The refrigerator wasn’t in the kitchen.  It was in the adjacent back entry/mudroom (but it’s really to small to call a mudroom, it’s more of a mud cubby).  This has always drove me crazy.  And it doesn’t make any sense.  Here – I’ll show you pictures so you can laugh at my ugly kitchen:

P1030328Behold the lovely blue cabinets and faux brick wall.  Note the portable dishwasher next to the stove.  We got rid of that about a year ago and since then M’s art easel has occupied that spot. The green box on the wall is an electric knife – klassy.

P1030330The assault of country-blue continues into the back mud cubby.  The back door is just to the left outside of the frame. This area is only about 3-feet wide and in addition to the refrigerator also houses the basement door and the smallest half-bath you’ve ever seen.  This area tends to get overrun with too many coats and shoes, not to mention that there are FOUR doors opening into this space. It’s an architectural wonder.

So, Friday night I mentioned to Mark that maybe we could fit the fridge in the space that the old dishwasher used to occupy thus opening up some real space in the mud cubby for coat and boot storage.  I wasn’t prepared for him to tackle the project Saturday morning but that’s what he did.  It involved removing one door, both fridge doors, an amazing amount of found dirt and grime behind the fridge and help from a neighbor to install a new outlet.  But by mid-afternoon it was in it’s new location.  It’s not ideal set up, and we had to really squeeze everything together so we could still open the dishwasher.  But it works and it’s so nice to actually have the refrigerator IN the kitchen.  What a novel idea.

P1060911Three appliances all in a tidy row.  Kitchen designers are falling off their chairs right now, but it works…and it will need to work for another few years (or until we win the lottery).  Maybe I should just take that damn knife down already.

P1060912The new mudroom area.  I need to find a bench with storage baskets that fits in this nook and will put coat hooks just under the cabinets.  This makes the entire entry feel so much bigger.  And believe it or not, Mark scrubbed that wall with bleach; that’s just how disgusting it was behind the fridge.

It’s small, but it’s one of the few things we can do to make things more livable until we have the money to really tackle the other projects (a new boiler has been added to that project list but we can’t do that until we have the entire electrical system updated – old houses = money pit).

Better Late then Never

No real reason for not posting here for awhile…just busy freezing (broken boiler – it’s now fixed and we are now broke) and hanging out under layers of blankets.  Or, if I’ve had time at the computer it’s been spent trying to sort the 558 photos I’ve selected for M’s baby book.  No, she doesn’t have a baby book, or any sort of photo album for that matter.  Yes, she’s 3.  My goal is to make photobooks for year 1 and 2 before the baby is born.  To do that I need to slog through about 4000 photos and figure out which ones to use. It’s a bit overwhelming.

Anyway, in lieu of a real post here are some week-old Halloween photos of a really cute bumble bee.

Restaurant Week Review, Part 3

Sorry for the delay on this post – my wonderful hubby is working on some new design stuff for the blog and we’ve spent our evenings (my writing time) working on that. You will see the new design very soon! Without further ado, here is the 4th and final post containing updates and reviews from our Restaurant Week. You can read other posts on this great week here, here and here.

One of the first rules we had established when we came up with our Restaurant Week was to only go to places we had not yet tried. But as we finalized our list we kept circling back to The Greenhouse Tavern, even though we have been there before. The truth of the matter is that while we enjoyed our first visit, eating out with a 2-year-old hardly makes for an evening to savor the food. So after much deliberation we broke our only rule and made Greenhouse Tavern the conclusion to our week. It was hands down the best night of them all. If you live in NE Ohio and have not heard of Greenhouse Tavern you must live under a rock as they have been featured in numerous publications. And if you have never endeavored to eat there – what are you waiting for? I really do think it is the best restaurant in Cleveland.

I arrived on the rainy night and was seated in the rear mezzanine with a great view of the activity below. As I waited for Mark to park the car the Hostess with the Mostess, Chefs Widow, stopped by to chat. She is just as sweet as they come. Her blog is one of the first I started reading when we moved to Cleveland and was the catalyst for my interest in the Cleveland food scene. It’s been pretty amazing to read as her and her Chef-husband work their tails off to make GHT a reality and how involved they are with the local “farm to table” movement. If there is a food event in town, they are a part of it and it’s inspiring to see a young couple who have invested so much of themselves into this city. Anyway, I digress…

When Mark joined me we were served the GHT’s pork rillette and crusty bread while we pursed the menu. We started out with the House Made Fromage Blanc with grilled bread which was creamy, rich and just slightly tart and heavenly when spread on the crispy bread.

Mark ordered those ethereal Crispy Chicken Wings while I moved on with my apparently cheese-themed dinner by ordering the Goat Cheese Tart with Heirloom Tomatoes. The Sawyers should really come up with another name for the chicken wings because when most people think of “wings” they conjure up an image of overcooked chicken drenched in sauce and these wings are anything but that. They are crispy outside and perfectly fall-off-the-bone juicy inside with a nice kick of heat and not a drop of sauce in site. I knew Mark had been looking into that dish all week. While Mark enjoyed his wings I dug into my tart which was a beautiful plate of colorful sliced tomatoes topped with an herb salad and accompanied by a dish of sorts made of dough with yummy Lake Erie Creamery goat cheese tucked inside. I am impressed how the kitchen at GHT can make something as simple as these fresh ingredients taste so spectacular. There is a real art in making simple food that allows the favors and freshness show off. This dish proved to me that Chef Sawyer is a master of this art because the overall dish was more then the sum of its parts – the acid of the tomatoes played off the creaminess of the goat cheese while the herbs infused everything with fresh, bright flavor.

By this time I was pretty full so I ordered the Blue Crab Gnocchi from the “Halfs” menu and Mark dove into the Ohio Beef Burger. We had heard great things about both items and they did not disappoint. My gnocchi was incredible – I really wanted to lick the plate clean! Nice chunks of blue crab paired with the sweet crunch of fresh corn and the tender pillows of pasta beneath. I’m not sure what all went into the sauce but the entire dish was amazing and I ate it very slowly not wanting it to end. I could have happily eaten 2 orders had I not already stuffed myself with all things cheese. Mark’s burger was exquisitely cooked to medium rare – no overcooked beef here! It was juicy, flavorful and was one of the best burgers he’s ever eaten.

At this point we were both happily full and still talking over how much we love the GHT not only for its amazing food but lively atmosphere and affordable prices when our server told us that Chef Sawyer was sending up a dessert for us. We were excited to taste the work of Keri Garcia, the GHT Pastry Chef and were wowed by the Pot of Chocolate Mousse For Two that Chef Sawyer personally delivered to our table. He also poured us each a glass of a 26-year-old port which he said paired nicely with the chocolate mousse. I’m not a connoisseur of port and in fact most of those I’ve had in the past were overly sweet and sticky. But this was seductive, silky and supple and when paired with the mousse was downright sexy. It really was a perfect ending to a fantastic meal.

We left GHT totally enamored with the place. You really can’t find better food for such great prices anywhere else in the city. And to see both Chef Sawyer and Amelia working the tables, greeting guests and delivering food was wonderful to see. You can tell they are both passionate about the restaurant and want to make sure everyone has a wonderful experience. It was an ideal finish to what started out as a frustrating week. And if you are in the area doing your own Restaurant Week or just want a night out, make sure Greenhouse Tavern is at the top of your list.

Restaurant Week Review, Part 2

This is the 3rd of 4 posts containing updates and reviews from our restaurant week.   You can read other posts on this great week here and here. The Greenhouse Tavern is going to get it’s own post because it was hands down the best meal we’ve had in Cleveland. These posts are pretty Cleveland-centric…for any of you not from NE Ohio, there is a bit of mommy-blogging at the bottom of this post.

On Wednesday I was kind of feeling that going out 5 nights in a row was too much. I was not feeling well after too much foie gras the night before and Mark was going to the Indians game so we were headed for an early dinner. The choice for the evening was Ponte Vechhio on the Superior Viaduct, which Mark chose.  He can’t recall how he heard about this place – he thinks it was on the website for Cleveland Independents but isn’t sure.  Either way it was a charming find.  The food was good, the view was spectacular and the service prompt. One of the really nice things is that you can get most of their pasta entrees as a half order, which is exactly what I did to give my stomach a break.

I started with a Caprese salad which was well done with fresh, homegrown tomatoes and a light dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar – nothing special but a well done Caprese. Mark had the Ceasar which he really enjoyed; it was not overly dressed and had a pleasant tang. For dinner I had a half order of Goat Cheese Ravioli which was the perfect size – 3 large pasta pockets. They were served in a brown butter and balsamic vinegar sauce with cantaloupe and prosciutto. I really liked the taste of the slightly warm melon with the goat cheese and prosciutto, I’m not a big fan of cantaloupe plain but I really enjoyed this pairing. Mark had a full order of the Spaghetti Bolognese which gave him enough for lunch the next day. From my bite I found it a really well balanced dish which wasn’t over powered by the flavor of the sausage.  Mark declared it very good with perfectly cooked pasta and a nice, meaty sauce.  His only complaint was that it lacked the hit of garlic he was looking for. We shared a dessert of tiramisu which was…odd.  Instead of the classic ladyfingers theirs had some sort of soaked chocolate cake with pecans.  It was okay, but not at all what we were expecting.

The real charm of Ponte Vechhio is their amazing view of the city. It’s location, tucked far down on Superior Viaduct, is not the easiest to find but I think it would be a fantastic location for a romantic dinner. We were there too early in the evening to enjoy the city all lit up but I’m sure it’s beautiful. They do have a covered outdoor eating area, but it doesn’t have the same views. If you go, ask for a seat by a window to take full advantage.


Yesterday we picked up M after 5 days with my parents and our house is already trashed.  We are so happy to have her back, and from the looks of my mom and dad they were happy to hand her off. M has been talking our ear off with all the highlights of her week including a trip to the Toledo Zoo, the Lima Historical Museum (I didn’t even know they had one) and all the adventures she had with her beloved cousins. She learned new songs – The Beatles Yellow Submarine was their song of the week – and I swear she grew an inch. My parents also discovered her love for hamburgers – something she would never touch before (I’m sure she saw her cousins eating them).  She keeps telling us “I’m so happy to be here” and we are elated to have her back.  This morning Mark suggested we go find Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and we had a great time hiking the Brandywine George Trail and playing ing the Brandywine River. She spent a solid 30 minutes tossing rocks into the stream and almost walked the entire 1.5 mile, “difficult” trail…. Mark had to carry her up the steepest hill, poor guy.


Her school doesn’t start back up until Thursday so Mark and I are taking turns next week staying home with her. Hopefully the weather is nice so we can do some more exploring.