A Relaxing Birthday Getaway To Vermont

Sunday was my mom’s birthday! She’d kill me if I told you how old she is, but since it was a somewhat milestone celebration, my dad, brother and I wanted to do something special. She is definitely not a surprise-party person (she’d probably also have killed me if I had planned one of those) but she does enjoy the occasional surprise. So, between my dad, brother and I myself we managed to surprise her with a weekend getaway to Vermont.

Being from NY, Vermont is only a short drive away (hour or so) and growing up we often spent long weekends at the various inns, B&Bs, and so on in the beautiful state. Unfortunately, the inn that we so often stayed at was booked with a wedding for her birthday weekend, but we managed to find another great Inn (the Inn at Ormsby Hill) not too far away in Manchester. So we booked the Inn, made Saturday night dinner reservations, and waited hoping that she wouldn’t find out. She knew I was coming home for the weekend and spending three days home (Sat-Mon) but that was it.

I got in from Cleveland around 11 pm Friday night and just relaxed with my family before heading to bed somewhat early. Saturday morning I got in a quick run, and then it was time for the surprise. During breakfast, we handed my mom a birthday card. Inside the card was a picture of the Inn. She was confused, obviously. She didn’t know why the photo was there or what the picture was of. After we explained everything to her, she was pretty much in shock. She had no idea that we had planned her weekend away and even had planned a quick meeting in her office Monday morning (that she was able to postpone).

Me and the birthday girl!

Me and the birthday girl!

What a great weekend in Vermont! Not only was she surprised but we had a wonderful time relaxing, reading, drinking wine, trying Vermont cheese, sight-seeing and eating. My flight back to Cleveland got delayed a day – and while somewhat an inconvenience, it meant spending an extra day with my family and celebrating my mom.

Breakfast at the Inn. This was a polenta egg bake and it was amazing.

Breakfast at the Inn. This was a polenta egg bake and it was amazing.

 

Another Inn breakfast. We all had our own minim omelets!

Another Inn breakfast. We all had our own mini omelets!

So easy to relax with chairs like this.

So easy to relax with chairs like this.

WWe drove to the top of the Equinox.

We drove to the top of the Equinox.

Great view from the top!

Great view from the top!

Beautiful parents before dinner

Beautiful parents before dinner

Dressed up for dinner in downtown Manchester

Dressed up for dinner in downtown Manchester

We also drove to a museum that ended up having a bunch of land and tons of crazy buildings (including a boat!) on site.

We also drove to a museum (the Shelburne) that ended up having a bunch of land and tons of crazy buildings (including a boat!) on site.

They also had a merry-go-round

The Shelburne also had a merry-go-round

Enjoying some local Vermont cheese.

Enjoying some local Vermont cheese.

Thai for dinner one night

Thai for dinner one night

Surprise! Birthday candle @ the Thai restaurant

Surprise! Birthday candle @ the Thai restaurant

Happy Birthday to the most wonderful woman I know … my mom!

 

Some questions for you:

  • Any July birthdays? I feel like everyone I know is born this month! Okay maybe not everyone. But quite a few people!
  • Have you ever been to Vermont? What’s your favorite place to visit in the state?
  • Have you ever had a birthday surprise? Or surprised someone for his/her birthday? How did it go?

 

 

An Evening at the Ronald McDonald House

In case you haven’t noticed, besides running, I love cooking and baking. There’s just something about food and creating (and sharing) a meal that makes me happy. So this week, when I was asked to help prepare a meal at the local Ronald McDonald House with several other bloggers, I knew it was something I couldn’t say no to.

fine chopping skillz

fine chopping skillz

veggie platter almost done!

veggie platter almost done!

Ashley (from Teamtaseff) and I with our veggie platter

Ashley (from TeamTaseff) and I with our veggie platter

Are you familiar with Ronald McDonald House Charities? Many people aren’t. Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) helps families with sick children. When a child is fighting an illness, the last thing a family should have to worry about is financial strain. That’s where RMHC comes in. There are more than 338 Ronald McDonald Houses around the world, including Cleveland, that allow families to stay together near a hospitalized child. The House its services can help alleviate expensive travel costs, and most importantly, allows families to spend more time with their child as they heal. So instead of having to stay in (and pay for) a hotel or travel far to be near a sick child, a family (including their other children) stay at the House for nearly free (and they don’t turn anyone away who can’t afford to pay the donation). The Cleveland House was the 9th Ronald McDonald House built in the country AND these days typically has families from multiple states and 5-10 countries staying in there at a time!

This week, I met with a few other bloggers for a tour of the House and to make dinner and dessert for those staying here. Jacquie from Cleveland Kiddos helped organize the event, including planning the menu for the evening that we would use to feed the 70 or so people staying at the House. I was a terrible food blogger and did not take pictures of our food (except the dessert!) but we prepared fruit salad, a veggie crudite, steamed green beans, fried chicken fingers and homemade mac and cheese.

This is what cupcakes for 50 families looks like. We had a blast decorating them with the kids!

This is what cupcakes for 50 families looks like. We had a blast decorating them with the kids!

I also helped prepare the chicken

I also helped prepare the chicken

The group of us after cooking

The group of us after cooking

It was a great event. I really enjoyed meeting the other bloggers, getting a tour of the House and its facilities (they have a meeting room and kitchen that’s for rent too!), and hanging out with the families (after dinner I spent some time decorating cupcakes with the kids). I feel so fortunate to have been able to attend and participate, as well as help spread awareness of the House and the services it provides to those in the community. If you’re interested in volunteering for the House, you can learn more here, and also check out how to donate money or supplies to the House.

Me and Laura, a friend from DCA City Advocates AND the House's Communications and Marketing person

Me and the amazing Laura, a friend from DCA City Advocates AND the House’s Communications and Marketing person

Some questions for you:

  • Are you familiar with the Ronald McDonald House? Did you know what services they provide?
  • Have you ever cooked a meal for 70 people?
  • Do you regularly volunteer? Which charity do you volunteer with?
  • What’s something you did this week that you feel good about?

Wine Night! And a nearly photoless Sunday

We’re at the point of the summer we’re I inevitably start to panic that the warm nights and beach days are going to be ending soon and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I try to soak in as much time outside as I can, drink a few too many fruity drinks or summery beers, get in as many outdoor runs as I can (even when I haven’t taken a day off in weeks) and wear shorts even when it’s a little too cool or buggy outside. Am I the only one who does this? Am I the only one who really really loves summer and doesn’t want it to end?

Anyway, for the first weekend since May, B and I didn’t have any plans going into the weekend. A few things on our to-do lists, yes, but no concrete, must-do plans. Which meant that we could do whatever we want! And we did.

Friday started with happy hour with a few coworkers. After happy hour, I found myself doing something I hardly ever do after a drink or two – went back to work and THEN made dinner. We had found ourselves with a TON of zucchini from our CSA and overzealous farm stand visit and they had to be used. So I cooked some of those and the pork tenderloin we had gotten at the West Side Market the week prior.

tomatoes and zucchini mostly from Fresh Fork

tomatoes and zucchini mostly from Fresh Fork

The finished meal

The finished meal

Pretty low-key night, followed by several episodes of Orange is the New Black. Shh, don’t tell me how it ends (I’ve heard this season’s ending is cuhh-raaazy) – but we only have a few episodes left.

Saturday started off as usual. Started off with a nice 6 mile run with B, followed by a trip to the Souper Market, the West Side Market and then Cleveland Tea Revival. Yes, I’m a creature of habit.

Jambalaya soup @ Souper Market

Jambalaya soup @ Souper Market

So much local stuff @ the Market this time of year

So much local stuff @ the Market this time of year

After the Market, it started raining a little bit so we spent the afternoon indoors. Meaning I got in some baking. Whatchamacallit bars (peanut butter rice krispee treats with caramel and chocolate – SO GOOD the recipe is here) and lemon blueberry bread!

just finished baking ....

just finished baking ….

Later that afternoon, B told me to grab a light jacket because we were going somewhere. Where? I had no idea. A walk? A picnic? We had bought some cheese and bread at the Market so I was sure we were going to walk to the water for a snack.  Was I right? Not really – we ended up getting in the car and driving to Wine Country in Northeast Ohio!

First stop – the Red Eagle Bar and Distillery next to our favorite winery. We did a tasting of their bourbon, rye and vodka. I ended up getting a ginger bourbon drink they had on special which was great!

What we tasted

What we tasted

B at Red Eagle

B at Red Eagle

Red Eagle Distillery

Red Eagle Distillery

View of South River from Red Eagle Distillery

View of South River from Red Eagle Distillery

Next stop – South River Winery. South River is my favorite winery that B and I have gone to together and we enjoyed some flights, our bread & cheese and a great night to sit outside. The Polar Vortex (yes, it’s back) hit us this weekend so it was a little chilly but the rain had let up for us. The South River property is beautiful – it’s a nice somewhat quiet winery (they don’t allow tour buses, etc.) and it was great to enjoy a snack and some wine on a relaxing Saturday night.

Wine flight @ South River

Wine flight @ South River

Enjoying the warm weather and scenery at South River

Enjoying the warm weather and scenery at South River

A few hours later we decided it was time to head back downtown and grab dinner. We stopped by Sushi 86, which pretty much made my night. Baking, running, wine, cheese, and sushi? I think I had the perfect Saturday.

20140719_212534

Sunday was another relaxing day- I went to watch B play softball, but the game was cancelled. So we decided to use the time to clean the apartment (meaning B cleaned the apartment) and I got to go for another run, this time about 7.6 miles and around Ohio City. I ran to the Hingetown Market which had a great showing.

7 20 run

After a lazy Sunday, we enjoyed a perfect summery meal at B’s parents house. Ribs, corn, and ice cream.

B's mom's homemade frozen yogurt and ice cream

B’s mom’s homemade frozen yogurt and ice cream (raspberry cheesecake frozen yogurt and coffee almond ice cream)

Is there a better end to a no-plans weekend?

Now it’s your turn! Some questions for you:

  1. When was the last time you had a no-plans weekend? What did you do?
  2. Do you make your own ice cream? What fun flavors do you make?
  3. What’s your favorite type of sushi?

Do you have a favorite wine?

Do you like bourbon or rye?

Whatchamacallit Bars

I recently asked a group of coworkers what their favorite candy was. You know, for scientific research purposes (my study will be coming out in a few years. It’s going to take a while to taste all this candy*). Anyway, one of my colleagues mentioned Whatchamacallit bars as being his favorite. Do you remember those Whatchamacallit bars? You know, they were peanut butter/rice candy bars with caramel and chocolate? I came across this commercial from the 80s to describe the bar (the sad thing is, I was definitely younger than these kids in the commercial when this was airing on TV):

Now do you remember?

Anyway, the bars sounded like a glorified Rice Krispies treat to me. So of course, I had to buy a few, sample them, and make a dessert after them. You know, for science!

whatchamacallit bars - i crashed the web

Whatchamacallit Bars
(AKA Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Treats with Caramel and Chocolate)

Inspired by this recipe. But not as much work :)

Here’s what you need:

  • 7 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 8 cups mini-marshmallows
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 11-oz bag caramels, unwrapped
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Here’s what you do:

  1. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil and set aside.
  2. Measure out Rice Krispies and pour them into a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan over low to medium low heat, melt together marshmallows and butter. Melt until fully combined and fluffy. Add in peanut butter and continue melting. Stir the mixture to avoid burning.
  4. Pour the peanut butter/marshmallow/butter mixture into the Rice Krispies and combine the ingredients well so that Krispies are completely coated.
  5. Once coated, add the Rice Krispies mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the cereal throughout the baking dish and flatten out.
  6. In the same saucepan, add caramel pieces and milk. Heat until melted and combined. Stir so as not to burn the mixture.
  7. Pour melted caramel over Rice Krispies mixture and spread across, creating an evenly distributed top layer.
  8. In the same saucepan (I’m all about reusing my dishes) or in the microwave, melt the chocolate chips over low heat. These will burn or change texture if you take too long so continue to stir the mixture until melted. Pour melted chocolate over caramel layer and spread across.
  9. Optional: Find real Whatchamacallit Bars and chop them up into thin slivers. Sprinkle slivered bars across chocolate layer when still wet.
  10. Cool for 30 minutes to one hour before cutting and serving. I put mine in the freezer to speed up the process slightly :) Yes, I’m that impatient.

whatchamacallit bars - i crashed the web

 

look at those layers!

look at those layers!

 

Some questions for you:

  1. What’s your favorite candy bar? Heath bar, duh! 
  2. Favorite candy? (NOT candy bar) Peanut M&Ms, peanut butter M&Ms or Reese’s pieces. 
  3. What’s your favorite variation on Rice Krispies treats? Give me your ideas! These toffee nutella rice krispies treats are pretty good if you’re looking for inspiration. They combined nutella+Heath bar!
  4. Did you remember Whatchamacallits?

 

*Please note: I’m not actually doing a study on candy bars for science. Or baking for science. BUT HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE?

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

The love affair started a few years ago, when B and I went to Ireland. I hadn’t been a fan before then – and neither had B – but after our trip, the seed was planted. We were hooked. We LOVED scones.

OK that may be a little dramatic, but it’s true. I never reallllly liked scones. I didn’t not like them (the only baked good I really don’t like are donuts…I know, I’m weird) but I didn’t love them. But something happened in Ireland – each bed and breakfast we stayed at we were greeted with freshly baked scones, tea, and sometimes Irish coffee. The scones were often warm, right from the oven, and had the perfect texture. And so shortly after we got home, B started ordering scones at more and more coffee places. And I was hooked.

So, when I found myself with two pints of fresh blueberries (thanks Fresh Fork!) and not enough time to eat both of them, I knew what I had to make – blueberry scones. The recipe is easy, it’s quick (quicker than banana blueberry bread, another contender) and pretty delicious. Try it!

blueberry buttermilk scones - i crashed the web

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries (I used fresh ones from our Fresh Fork CSA)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together.
  3. Cut butter into small chunks. Add pieces to dry mixture. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, incorporate butter pieces until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Add blueberries carefully. Coat the blueberries with the crumbly mixture and set aside dry ingredients.
  5. In a small bowl, combine egg, buttermilk and vanilla.
  6. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add buttermilk mixture to the well. Carefully combine, just until moistened.
  7. Place dough onto a work surface, and pat and shape dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Cut into 8 wedges. Transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted in dough comes out clean.
blueberry buttermilk scones - i crashed the web

YUM

Some questions for you:

  • Are there any baked goods you don’t really enjoy? Mine are donuts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat one if I have to, but I almost always choose a different baked good. Like a muffin. Or cookie. Or apple fritter :)
  • Any great blueberry recipes to share? I still have another pint!
  • Do you have any fond food memories from recent trips? Any foods you grew to love after experiencing them on a vacation?

Waking Up At 5:30 On Saturdays

Like most people living in Cleveland, my weekend started off with the announcement that LeBron James was returning to his home- Northeast Ohio. The news hit the town pretty strong; I was outside grabbing a late lunch shortly after the announcement and there was an undeniable buzz in the air. You could feel the excitement in the streets, as people smiled and high-fived complete strangers. I ended up having to work a little later than usual so I didn’t get to join the gazillion people who seemed to show up downtown for happy hour in LeBron and Cavs gear to celebrate, but the night was still young and I ended up with other plans.

B surprised me with an impromptu date night. Shortly after I got home from work, he told me to get ready, bring a light jacket and we were heading to dinner. We ended up at Flaming Ice Cube, a favorite of mine that we hadn’t been to in a while. I of course got my usual – the Kalebouli Wrap and Black Bean and Corn Salsa.

Kalebouli and bean/corn salad

Kalebouli and bean/corn salad

After dinner, B surprised me and suggested we keep walking – and we ended up making it to the river and caught the tail end of the sunset. It was pretty gorgeous and there were quite a few people out and about in their Cleveland gear and a few boats as well.

Sunset along the river

Sunset along the river

Then, after the sunset, music began and Sara Bareilles came onto the stage across the river. B had planned an evening watching the concert and hadn’t even told me. It turned out to be a great way to spend the evening, enjoying a free concert in the beautiful weather.

And don’t worry, we still caught some of the LeBron madness on our way home.

LeBron fever

LeBron fever

Saturday morning started out bright and early. And by early I mean 5:30 a.m. ick! The bridge near our apartment was being blown up shortly after sunrise and we decided to meet up with B’s sister and roommate Koli to watch it, along with hundreds of other crazy Clevelanders. I mean, who gets up that early on the weekend?

Selfie before watching the bridge - photo stolen from Koli

Selfie before watching the bridge – photo stolen from Koli

Explosion!20140712_060157After the explosion, B, Mary and I went for a run because what else do you do when it’s 6 a.m. on a Saturday and you’re up?

Then we decided to drive around and check out the destruction. Do you see the bridge pieces on the ground?

 

The bridge is gone!

The bridge is gone!

After that, we headed to the West Side Market, first stopping at the Ohio City Farm Stand to stock up on more produce for the week.

More veggies!

More veggies!

And then it was time to head to the Cleveland Flea! The Flea has gotten bigger and better and was at a new location. We did some shopping, tried a local beer, sampled some homemade pickles (yum!) and B got a burger.

The FLEA!

The FLEA!

Beer @ the Flea

Beer @ the Flea

20140712_114613

People hanging out outside the Flea

After the Flea it was only 12:30 p.m. I guess that’s what happens when you wake up before 6 a.m.? So I snuck in a little baking (blueberry scones!) before it was time for our evening plans, Shoes and Clothes For Kids fundraiser, Luau on the Lake.

blueberry scones!

blueberry scones!

Here’s a sneak peek at the Luau on the Lake festivities – it was such a great event that I wrote all about it in a separate post!

Luau on the Lake

Luau on the Lake

After Luau on the Lake, we headed to a friend’s house in Ohio City. He has a gorgeous house with a great backyard and it was a perfect night to just hang out on his porch. I’d say Saturday was a success.

Sunday was just as amazing. The day included a pool party at B’s grandma’s house AND my first trip to Blossom, the Cleveland Orchestra’s summer home. For those non-local readers, Blossom is an outdoor venue for the orchestra. There is an outdoor area with lawn seats where people can bring picnics, chairs, blankets, etc. plus indoor seating. It was my first time at Blossom and the venue was gorgeous, plus we had gotten tickets and food for free because we were there for B’s work event.

Pool party! Flying baby?

Pool party! Flying baby?

B and me @ Blossom - I took a photo of a photo

B and me @ Blossom – I took a photo of a photo

A shot of the lawn - packed with people!

A shot of the lawn – packed with people!

The Jetsons!

How was your weekend?

  • NEOhioans – did you celebrate LeBron’s decision? Have you been to Blossom before?
  • Did you get to spend some time outside?
  • Scones – yay or nay? What kind of scone do you like?
  • Do like outdoor music?

A Luau – In Cleveland!

This weekend, B and I attended a luau. In Cleveland. That’s right – one with some cooked pig, leis, dancing, and a beach. Oh, and there were even some grass skirts.

luau banner image

No, I’m not joking. Saturday, B and I scored free tickets (thank you so much Charlene!) to the 9th annual Luau on the Lake, put on by Shoes and Clothes For Kids (SC4K). The summer Hawaiian-themed event takes place on Whiskey Island and is a fundraiser for the local Cleveland charity. Never heard of SC4K? From their website: SC4K is the only non-profit organization in Greater Cleveland providing new shoes and clothes to thousands of children in need at no charge throughout the year. Through a network of 35 distribution partners, SC4K positively impacts the lives of area children by giving them the self-esteem and confidence that comes from having brand new shoes and clothes.

Great organization, right? I know several people on their board. It’s great to see local organizations doing things that impact the people of our city!

Anyway, on to the event. B and I had gone to the Luau on the Lake in 2008 and enjoyed it a lot. BUT it was amazing to see how much had changed in just four years – there were many more people, more activities and more dancing then I remember.

2008 Luau - don't we look the same?

2008 Luau – don’t we look the same?

This year’s Luau was a huge party, outdoors, on the beach and they had sand volleyball, cornhole, giant Jenga, great food, drinks, a limbo competition, dancing and more.

some of the crowd

some of the crowd

corn hole - I didn't partake because I lack those skills.

corn hole – I didn’t partake because I lack those skills.

We enjoyed the food, drinks and even the dancing. And the coconut sorbet for dessert? OMG. I will dream about that for weeks.

Coconut sorbet. SO GOOD.

Coconut sorbet. SO GOOD.

The event was great. I’d highly recommend you go to the 2015 event (and I hope we do too!) if you want to spend some time celebrating summer in Cleveland, enjoying food and entertainment and of course lovely lake views – all for a good cause.

2014 Luau. Nearly the same pose as 2008!

2014 Luau. Nearly the same pose as 2008!