Why? Weekends!

It was another fun, festive weekend! Here’s what we were up to:


On Friday, my mom watched Jeffrey for the day, so that I could have my self-proclaimed “Mommy’s Holiday Get Sh*t Done Day.” The day included gift shopping, grocery shopping, party prepping, and some time for me, too.

I started my day at Brewnuts, which I had been dying to get to since they opened their storefront in Gordon Square.

The store is as adorable as the donuts are tasty. Brewnuts are HUGE donuts and a great balance of sweet frosting and not-too-sweet dough. I had a hard time deciding which to get, but I chose the mint chocolate coffee, made to look like a Frappuccino.


Yum! Brewnuts also has a large selection of craft beer and options to make your coffee or hot chocolate boozy.


Whether you stop for a morning treat or an after-work libation and donut, Brewnuts is an awesome, funky, tasty place to try!

The Beauty Room

From there, it was time to pamper my long-neglected toes with a pedicure at The Beauty Room in Tremont.


I met up with my girlfriend Kimberly, which meant that the pedicure was also good for my soul! Add in some pomegranate mimosas and you have the makings of a perfect morning!


The Beauty Room is bright, inviting, and has a wonderful selection of products and services (everything from massages and facials to blowouts to manicures) to make you feel, well, beautiful! And starting my day with so much relaxation guaranteed a productive, low-stress remainder of the day at the stores.

Goodyear Blimp Toys for Tots Drive

On Saturday, Matthew, Jeffrey, my parents, and I drove down to the Goodyear Blimp hangar to participate in their annual Toys for Tots drive.


For a donation to Toys for Tots, you get to drive through the Goodyear Blimp hangar and see the hangar and blimp all decked out for Christmas.


Santa is also there to greet you, as well as Marine in full dress uniform to accept your donation.

Jeffrey loved getting to check out the blimp up close, as well as any chance to have even a brief audience with Santa.


What a cool thing to be able to see and a great way to drive donations to a wonderful cause!

Jeffrey’s Holiday Play Date

For the third year in a row, we packed our house on Sunday with Jeffrey’s friends and their families for a holiday play date.


The calm before the toddler storm 


We played winter carnival games, did a holiday book exchange, and generally had a fun, slightly chaotic, wonderful time.

And while the food at the party tends toward the simple pizza, cookies, and brownies, I did add in a new addition this year: spiced wine (recipe here).


This was the perfect cozy treat and I loved that I could leave it in the slow cooker to stay warm for the entire party! Plus, anytime the toddler count in your house climbs to double digits, you need wine too.

The holiday play date has become one of our favorite traditions and I love the chance for everyone to get together in this festive season!

So, that was our weekend! How was yours?



Why? Weekends!

Welcome to the time of year where every weekend is so packed with fun and festivities that they might burst. So, let’s get right to it!

Pajamas and Popcorn

On Friday night, Jeffrey’s school hosted Pajamas and Popcorn, a family movie night with pizza, popcorn, kids in PJs, and cookies.


The movie was “Horton Hears a Who,” so there were also cute Dr. Seuss photo opps. It was a really cute idea and a fun way to ease Jeffrey into the movie theater experience.

The Capital Grille

On Saturday night, we met up with my parents to celebrate my Dad’s birthday with dinner at The Capital Grille.


I started with the Blackberry Bourbon Sidecar, because apparently I like cocktails with bourbon now. I’m clearly growing as a person. Matthew and I also shared the lightly-breaded calamari with cherry peppers that give it a nice kick.


For my entrée, I decided to be the only non-red meat eater at the table because I just couldn’t resist the evening’s fish special: grilled swordfish topped with crab gratin.


Paired with a nice Sauvignon Blanc, this meal had lots of delicate flavors that were executed perfectly. Swordfish is one of my favorite fish and when you top it with crab…wow! My dad ordered the lamb chops, which received rave reviews!

For dessert, Matthew ordered the warm double chocolate cake with port-wine cherries and I had the apple crostada.

Each was the perfect compliment to our meal. We have never been less than totally impressed with the food and the service at The Capital Grille. And during the holiday season (until December 30), The Capital Grille will also be open for lunch from 12-3pm.

Breakfast with Santa

Sunday morning, we attended the John Carroll Alumni Breakfast with Santa. The event includes a Mass, a toy collection for Bellefaire JCB, breakfast, and of course a visit with Santa!


My favorite part of this event has been how my friends and I have used it as a chance to gather with our kids. I spent the morning with people I’ve known for 18 years (whoa) and got to see our kids forming friendships with each other too. It’s really special, especially being up on campus with our future Carroll students!

If you’re a John Carroll alum, you have another chance to celebrate the season on campus at the annual Christmas Reception this Wednesday, December 6. It’s truly one of my favorite events of the year, so don’t miss it!

Om for the Holidays Cleveland

While Jeffrey was napping away his Santa-induced exhaustion, I headed to Om for the Holidays Cleveland.

The rainbow in this pic. I just can’t. @namastenik led an awesome flow!

Om for the Holidays was the brainchild of Angela from Universal Architect and Scare Your Soul. It brought together not only some amazing merchants for holiday shopping…

…but also live music, coaching, community-building, and yoga.

What better way to kick off the busy holiday month than with an opportunity to not only accomplish some holiday gift-buying, but also a chance to nurture your soul with like-minded folks?


Merry Everything, indeed!

So, that was our weekend! How was yours? Is Christmas crazy starting to creep into your life yet?




Why? Michaelangelo’s Amarone Wine Dinner!

In order to properly prepare myself for Thanksgiving, I put on my eatin’ pants (OK, a boxy dress) and headed to Michaelangelo’s for their Amarone Wine Dinner.

Michaelangelo’s is one of those restaurants that fell into a black hole for me…I always heard great things, but somehow never got there. After last night’s dinner, though, I have a feeling I’ll be a regular at this charming and delicious Little Italy spot.

We started our evening with prosecco (as all evenings should start) and a selection of appetizers, including crostini with artichoke espuma, arancini, and crimini mushrooms stuffed with ricotta and spinach and truffle cream.


I tried to restrain myself, knowing how many courses were to come, but the appetizers were delicious!

We were treated to the history and wine-making techniques associated with Amarone wines, courtesy of Alfred from Southern Glazers. These big red wines pack a higher alcohol content, but also a lot of body and flavor.

Our antipasto course was an Ora King Salmon torte, served with baby arugula, white peach emulsion, and Amarone glaze.


Next was the risotto course (shouldn’t risotto always have it’s own course?!), with Amarone risotto with grilled Nebrodini Bianco mushrooms.


Rich, earthy, and so delicious!

Our next course was grilled New Zealand lamb chops with parmesan roasted cauliflower and red currant-Amarone reduction.


The lamb was tender, flavorful, and perfectly cooked and the cauliflower could make anyone love eating their vegetables. This course was paired with Valpolicella Ripasso, a more cost-friendly version of Amarone.

Our last savory course was braised beef shortrib with dried Washington state cherries, rosemary spaghetti squash and fried leeks. We were treated to two different Amarone wines with this course!


The shortrib by itself was amazing, but a bite with all the elements on the plate was truly something special. And the flavors stood up to the large and in charge Amarone wines paired with this dish.

The meal ended with the decadent and sweet triple chocolate mousse torte that was as fluffy as the cloud of foodie happiness I floated home on.


The food, the wine, and the knowledge and experience that were all shared at the Amarone Wine Dinner made the entire evening truly a treat!

Stay tuned for more special event dinners at Michaelangelo’s (they had a Truffle Dinner a couple months ago) and, the next time you’re thinking about dining in Little Italy, pop into this delicious restaurant for an experience you’ll love!

***Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Michaelangelo’s Amarone Wine Dinner in exchange for covering the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***


Why? Weekends!

It was another fun weekend in CLE! Here’s what we were up to:

Solon Fit Crawl

On Saturday, I met up with friends for the Solon Fit Crawl. This fitness bonanza benefitted the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Go Team Orange!


I joked that the last time I did a crawl, it was going to bars (but it’s really true)! This crawl took participants to four different Solon workout studios, with 25-minute classes at each stop.

Our first stop was Oasis Yoga and Fitness for a quick vinyasa flow (we got to keep the towel, too).


Next up was TITLE Boxing Club, where we all got a bit punchy.

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Our penultimate stop was at barre3 Solon to get strong and centered.


And we ended our day with the high-energy circuit at Orangetheory Fitness.


Predictably, yoga and barre3 were my favorites of the crawl, but I was a bit charmed by Orangetheory Fitness (and probably would have enjoyed it even more had it not been our fourth and final stop).

Along the way, we received treats not only from the studios but also from Vitamix, Raw Trainer (OMG, that Notcho Cheese is amazing), Athleta at Beachwood Place, and the Womb Wellness Center.

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I enjoyed trying some new fitness options, as well as some familiar ones, plus getting to help a great cause and laughing a lot as we attempted to complete the crawl. What a fun, unique, fit idea!

Burntwood Tavern

The unofficial final stop on the Solon Fit Crawl was obviously Burntwood Tavern, where we saw many fellow crawlers after the event.


We took advantage of their 4-6pm, seven-days-a-week happy hour (!!!) with $4 glasses of house wine and half-priced appetizers and flatbreads. The shrimp tacos and chicken avocado flatbread (and wine) were the perfect post-crawl treat!


What a great deal and a good opportunity to talk while not wheezing on a treadmill!

Brenna’s First Birthday Party

On Sunday, we had a magical unicorn-themed birthday party to attend for the lovely Brenna!

Alicia and Hans planned a perfect party, with adorable details, delicious food (thank goodness I fit crawled the day before!), and lots of love!


I always feel like the first birthday is just as much a celebration for the parents for making it through the first year, so congrats to these fabulous folks for thriving, smiling, and starting their unicorn off so well.

And I love seeing the friendship developing between Brenna and Jeffrey!


You guys have lots of years of shared events ahead, if your mommas have anything to say about it!

So, that was our weekend! How was yours?


Why? Yours Truly!

Matthew and I are season ticket holders for this year’s KeyBank Broadway Series at Playhouse Square, which not only provides us with great entertainment, but also with regular date nights in an awesome Cleveland neighborhood.

Before we went to see Waitress last week, we stopped in at Yours Tuly in the Halle Building.


The bright, fun diner atmosphere was the perfect place to eat, especially before seeing a show set in a diner!

I got the mac ‘n cheese, which was dreamy deliciousness with the perfect balance of thickness and creaminess to the sauce.


Matthew went a healthier route, with “The Envelope,” with hummus, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and grilled chicken.


Yours Truly has award-winning hummus that is so tasty!

We couldn’t pass up a piece of pie (again, so appropriate before Waitress), which was absolutely yummy, with some of the lightest, butteriest crust I’ve tasted in ages!


With a wide variety of comforting foods, a full liquor, beer, and wine menu, and affordable prices, Yours Truly is a welcome addition to Playhouse Square and a great stop for a pre- or post-show meal!


Why? Mia Bella Restaurant!

On Wednesday night, I met up with Ann of Annie’s Signature Sweets for a chatty and carby dinner at Mia Bella Restaurant in Little Italy. We started with generous drinks: a Moscow Mule for Ann and a Old Vine Zinfandel for me.

After devouring the delicious bread with garlic butter, it was entrée time (AKA, bring on more carbs). I chose the scampi risotto, with butternut squash, zucchini, huge scampi, and a slightly spicy red sauce.


The seasonal vegetables were the perfect compliment to the not-too-creamy risotto. And as someone who is almost always in the clean plate club, I will confess to taking some of this large dish home for leftovers!

Ann chose the Mia Bella pasta, a traditional linguini with marinara dish that was executed flawlessly. I totally approve of Ann’s decision to add mushrooms…I love me some pasta with mushrooms.


Photo credit: Annie’s Signature Sweets 

We had decided to go to Presti’s Bakery for dessert, but we lingered over dinner too long and they were closed. There’s nothing sadder than pressing up against a bakery window, longing for a cannoli.

Luckily, since I had dinner with a baker, I got to take home some of Annie’s Signature Sweets ginger cookies, which helped to satisfy my sweet tooth!

The next time you find yourself in Little Italy, Mia Bella is a delicious, cozy, friendly choice!




Why? Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner!

Since it was finally feeling like fall this weekend, it was the perfect time for the Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner at the Lake Metroparks Farmpark.


Our evening started with a horse-drawn carriage ride to the beautifully-refurbished machinery barn, which was decked out in rustic elegance, setting the tone for the event.


While we nibbled on appetizers and enjoyed the first of our Debonne Vineyards pairings (a nice Riesling), we also had the opportunity to try pressing apple cider or take a stroll through the Farmpark’s apple orchard and learn more about apple trees.

Then it was time for the sit-down dinner. Our first course was pumpkin soup, with yummy notes of sweet potato and butternut squash, which paired nicely with Debonne Vineyards’ Pinot Grigio.


Our main course from J&J Catering was pork osso bucco braised in apple and served with layered white and sweet potatoes with candied pecans.


I was blown away by this dish. The pork was fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth tender. The flavors of fall delighted your palate in every bite. It was truly an incredible course. It was paired with a Rose Pinot Noir from Debonne Vineyards.

And finally, we ended our evening with an apple dumpling with peanut butter sauce, paired with Debonne Vineyards Chardonnay.


I would eat these apple dumplings every day! And the apple and peanut butter combination was so comforting and delicious!

It was a truly lovely and seasonal evening. The setting was filled with rustic charm, the food was extraordinary, and the wine was nicely paired. All of this for only $45 per ticket, which is an incredible deal!

And if you’re looking for more fall fun at the Farmpark, check out the Corn & Pumpkin Festival happening October 7-8!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the Apple Harvest Pairing Dinner. In exchange, I received two complimentary registrations for the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***


Why? L’Amour du Vin!

It’s probably time to admit that I’ve become a confirmed East sider. And while much of my life is spent between Downtown Cleveland and the 90/271 corridors, I will always travel for good food, good wine, and good friends.

Which is why I couldn’t miss the 20th annual L’Amour du Vin, held at Avon Oaks Country Club to benefit the Arthritis Foundation Ohio. And with Amanda as my date, I knew I’d have a wonderful time!

We started in the VIP area, with specialty cocktails from Brown-Forman, chair massages from EXHALE Spa, and delicious nibbles from Bonefish Grill.


Their pumpkin ravioli with grilled shrimp and feta had me dreaming of fall-like weather!

In the main room, there was so much good food to enjoy that we had to pace ourselves. Amanda and I took breaks in the eating with regular stops at the silent auction tables, where we both ended up winners!


When we weren’t silent auction perusing, we were enjoying food and beverages from places such as Heck’s Café. Their take-home packets of coffee were a lovely touch too (and I might be drinking mine as I write this!)

The strawberry balsamic bruschetta from Rocky River Wine Bar was a favorite of the evening!


We also enjoyed the walleye chowder, an Ohio spin on a classic soup, from Blind Perch.


There was plenty in the pasta category to enjoy, but my two favorites were the rich and decadent sacchetti al tartufo bianco from Luca Italian Cuisine, which will soon be opening a Westlake restaurant…


…and the classic and comforting Bolognese from Café Piccolo.


And to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth (raises hand) there were desserts from Melt Bar and Grilled, which just recently opened their Avon location, and Kiedrowski’s Bakery, which this year covered most of their desserts in edible glitter which sent me over the moon.


It was a fabulous foodie evening and a good reminder that a drive to the West side is almost certain to be a culinary journey worth taking!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Arthritis Foundation Ohio to help promote L’Amour du Vin. In exchange, I received two complimentary VIP tickets for myself and two general admission tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***


Why? Adega at The 9!

On Friday night, Matthew and I got a delicious, expansive tour from Executive Chef Nelly Buleje of Adega‘s new menu. Adega is still focused on modern Mediterranean cuisine, but the new menu offers more options, amazing flavors, and a renewed focus on authenticity.

We got to enjoy nine exquisite courses, each expertly paired with wines selected by Adega’s resident sommelier, Michel Emerick. One of the best things about Adega’s wine selection is that it offers a wide variety, including many wines that are often not available by the glass, such as a Beaujolais and a Chateau Neuf de Pape.

Before you read about all the deliciousness, everything we got to taste is available on Adega’s dinner menu, so find your favorites and create your own perfect dining experience!

Our first course was hands-down the tastiest hummus I’ve ever had, topped with tabouli, citrus, and mint and served with housemade pita.

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This dish was so well executed that it took a dish we’re so familiar with and elevated it to new heights.

Next up were the mussels with chorizo, fennel, garlic, shallot, absinthe, and cinnamon. From the moment the dish was brought to the table, the aromatic broth had us salivating.


All the flavors of the broth came together perfectly to make a drinkable, dunkable, delicious dish.

Then it was time for some jamon iberico, which our server Jay referred to as prosciutto on crack. This melt-in-your-mouth Spanish cured meat was incredible. It came served with tomato, manchego, and ciabatta. Chef Nelly suggested taking a bite of meat with the manchego; a bite with the tomato, manchego, and ciabatta; and a bite of just the jamon.


Each nibble was distinctly delicious!

We got to try a mini version of Adega’s flatbread, made with housemade dough and finished in their brick oven.


The beef kafta flatbread came with beef sausage, piquillo pepper, manchego, fennel, and arugula dressed with an incredible basil vinaigrette.

Next up, salad: the Lyonnaise with frisee, baby spinach, arugula, egg, pancetta, ciabatta croutons, parmesan, and a sherry-mustard vinaigrette.


All things should come with a poached egg!

The Italian bolgnese was our next course, a light cream bolognese with Italian sausage that is cooked on the stovetop for 6 hours and then sits in the Adega refrigerators for 72 hours to let the flavors to fully come together.

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This time-intensive process is 100% worth it: the delicious, comforting sauce clings to the pasta made in house and is just incredible. Similar to the hummus, the execution on this bolognese is what elevates a dish you can find on many menus to something truly extraordinary.

Next, we enjoyed the Atlantic sea bass, with tarragon, shallot, citrus, polenta, and mint coulis.


The fish is served skin-on and the polenta is so creamy! Just an incredible dish!

Then we got to enjoy some more jamon, in the form of secreto iberico, which is from a different part of the same animal as the jamon iberico.


The meat is high in Omega 3 fatty acids due to the pig’s diet of exclusively acorns in its final months of life (the pig will literally double in size!) Due to this, the meat just melts in your mouth. It was tender and rich and delicious!

Our final savory course was the branzino, served as the whole fish, flash-fried, with orange, mint, star anise, pomegranate glaze, tomato relish, and couscous salad.


I love me a whole fish, which is always so moist. The tomato relish was incredible and the couscous salad, which was a bit sweet, was a nice compliment.

Finally, dessert: we were presented with rosewater flan and cheesecake. And while at this point in our meal, I would have eaten anything Chef Nelly told me to eat, I was a bit apprehensive. Flan and cheesecake would not be my usual choices for dessert.

The pistachio crumble on top the delicately-flavored flan was my favorite part of that dessert. And the cheesecake, made with Greek yogurt, was light and fluffy and truly a treat!

I can’t adequately express how the food, the wine, and the service were all at the highest level. Adega pushed some of my culinary boundaries, but it was worth every bite. This is the kind of high quality, inventive, and unique cuisine that Cleveland should embrace whole-heartedly! Treat yourself to Adega today!

***Disclosure: I was invited to enjoy a tasting dinner at Adega with a guest. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***


Why? Weekends!

It was another busy, fun weekend in the CLE, with plenty to do and plenty of baseball to watch too! Here’s the round-up:

Iain McGovern Fundraiser

On Friday night, our whole family attended a fundraiser for a remarkable young man, Iain McGovern. We are fortunate to know Iain and his family. Iain has been a great “big” buddy for Jeffrey. But in the midst of that, Iain has also been battling going through major brain surgery.


Iain has such a positive attitude and strong family support. So, we couldn’t pass up the chance to attend a fun evening that also helped to defray the cost of his still-accumulating medical bills.

We enjoyed BBQ from Stewart’s Smokin’ Backyard BBQ, cupcakes, carriage rides, and a live auction and Chinese raffle packed with fun prizes.

To see the room packed with so many people from all different parts of the McGovern family’s life was really heartwarming! If you’re interested in learning more or donating to Iain and his family, click here.

Nature Center at Shaker Lakes Hike, Run & Explore

Somehow I had never explored the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes and surrounding lakes, which is why I was so excited to attend the Hike, Run & Explore event on Sunday.

I participated in the 5-mile hike that took in all 4 of the Shaker Lakes, with lots of historical facts and anecdotes provided by our guides, Leo and Jane.


They are lifelong Shaker Heights residents and so much to share about the area. Plus, the Shaker Lakes are beautiful and serene! If you haven’t been, you definitely need to take a hike of your own to check them out!


Back at the Nature Center, there was lots more to explore, including tree climbing, archery, food trucks, a beer garden, and live music.


Hike, Run & Explore was such a fun community event and it definitely got me keyed in to some natural beauty I didn’t even know existed in the area!

Dinner at My Parents’ House

Sunday evening, I earned back all the calories I hiked off with a delicious dinner at my parents’ house as an early birthday celebration. From seared tuna for an appetizer to perfectly-cooked scallops as our entree to a decadent cake from Michael Angelo’s Bakery to a wine bottle with my very own “J” on it, everything was fabulous!

It was a great weekend and a wonderful kickoff to birthday week!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes to help promote Hike, Run & Explore. In exchange, I received one complimentary registration for the event of my choice. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***