What the holiday season looks like

It’s December and I’m fully embracing the holiday season. We’ve been lucky enough to have had seasonably warm weather (for the most part), no snow, and I’ve been loving every minute of it. This past weekend we were able to get out and enjoy some holiday-ish things around town, and it made me so giddy for this time of year.

lights in my neighborhood

lights in my neighborhood

Here’s what a holiday-ish weekend in CLE looks like:

Running a few miles outside. Yes, it’s cold (36 degrees), but there’s still no snow so it was GREAT!

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Baking a bunch of holiday cookies with some wonderful ladies.

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Comfort food out to eat. Superior Pho deliciousness. Plus a stop at the Asian market for some ginger candy.

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A 5 miler with B in 40 degree temps on Sunday. The hat was a little overkill – didn’t need it! It was beautiful out and I’m so grateful it’s not icy or snowy yet and we’re still able to enjoy the outdoors and trail and road runs.

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That afternoon, we met up with Dave and Anson to check out Circlefest and the great holiday events going on in University Circle. We got free admission to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens and got to check out their decorated trees and gingerbread houses.

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a MUPPET show decorated gingerbread house!

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Along with ice sculptures outside – in 50 degree weather they were starting to melt!

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For me, the holidays also includes a great Italian meal at Trattoria in Little Italy. Followed by their amazing tiramisu dessert. Their tiramisu is one of the few I like – not too coffee-ish, lots of cream and looks like ice cream 🙂

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AND Sunday night Cleveland Orchestra holiday concert. A PERFECT ending to a holiday weekend – my favorite concert all year!

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I’m so in the mood for the holidays. How about you? Some questions:

  • What’s one thing you do this time of year that signifies the holiday season?
  • What’s your favorite dish at an Italian restaurant?

Linking up today with Erin for my weekend snapshot post, Katie for MIMM and the weekly wraps.

That’s What I Like About Sundays

Ok I know I gave you my weekend update post yesterday,  but this weekend was so great that it needs two posts.

In addition to camping, we had a pretty fun Sunday. We left our campsite first thing and after grabbing breakfast in downtown Ohiopyle, B had a surprise in store- he had made us reservations for a tour of Fallingwater! I had never been there and it was truly incredible.  If you’ve never been there before, I highly recommend it. I don’t want to hype it too much- but it’s a house built basically into a waterfall!  How cool is that?!

The house is literally above a waterfall – you can see the steps in the background of this picture leading to the water:

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And the house from afar:IMG_20150816_114147

That wasn’t all the day had in store. After we made it back to Cleveland, we headed down to Blossom. Blossom is the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra and we had tickets to their British Invasion performance. I love the orchestra and love love love The Beatles and Queen and they played both so I was in heaven. Plus,  we had packed a wine and cheese picnic for the show ….

So many of my faves!

So many of my faves!

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It was such a great show. We really lucked out with an amazing evening – great music and weather.

And that, concludes my weekend update posts. What a fun-filled, busy weekend! I feel like I may need a weekend just to recover. Yup, I’m ready for another one, already 🙂

Some questions for you:

  • Have you ever been to Fallingwater or other Frank Lloyd Wright attractions?
  • What did you do this weekend?
  • What’s your favorite cheese?

Celebrating the Season

Warning- this post was written after a run, while listening to some holiday music, so it may be a little too cheery and full of holiday spirit.

What a great weekend! I really love this time of year and I definitely got my fill of holiday cheer this weekend.

Friday night I finally got to check out the lights in my neighborhood downtown. It was slightly warm and drizzly, but don’t they look great?

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Then B and I went out for a late dinner at Cowell & Hubbard. We enjoyed a few appetizers (including a cheese plate and clams with chorizo!), a great meal (I love skatewing …) and festive drinks (I had a spiced mulled cider with rum). I have leftovers too to enjoy thank goodness. My meal was amazing.

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Saturday, B and I went out for a 5 miler together. I hadn’t run with B outside of a race in forever – so I was so grateful to have him with me. He paced me the entire time so we were able to finish with a sub-9 minute mile pace.

After our run, we hit up the West Side Market. Again, it had been so long since we’d ben there – and the place was all decked out in holiday lights and even a live band playing holiday songs!

Then it was time for my monthly Ladies Craft Beer Society meeting. This week we were making holiday cards! Finally, a craft I could somewhat excel in. Earlier in the week I had seen this story on the Today show about a 6-year-old girl whose dying wish is to receive hundreds – or more – holiday cards. So sad – I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So LCBS made our cards in honor of Addie – I can’t wait to send her and her sisters all the cards next week!

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When I got home that evening, it was time for an Italian feast! Well sort of. B had bought all the goods to make sauce and homemade pizza and I finished making homemade limoncello while we decorated our apartment for the holidays and listened to Christmas tunes.  I told you – it was a festive weekend!

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homemade limoncello – almost done!

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We finished the night watching my favorite holiday movie – can you guess which one?

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Sunday, B had tickets to the Browns game with a friend, so I was able to spend the afternoon being somewhat productive – I did some laundry, cleaned up a little, listened to more holiday music and even caught up on some work. And since the sun was out, I had to get out for another 5 miler. Without B to pace me, I wasn’t sure if I could keep up the same pace we had done yesterday, but I decided to put on Serial (if you’re not listening to this podcast you MUST) and was able to get in the groove and get it done.

This used to be easy ... i've gotten slower this year!

This used to be easy … i’ve gotten slower this year!

Sunday afternoon we met up with B’s family for another Italian meal-this time in Little Italy.

After dinner, we all caught the Christmas performance by the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus. What a great show – I always love to hear them perform Christmas music and it really gets me in the holiday spirit. As if I needed any help, right?

Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, lit up for the holidays

Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, lit up for the holidays

How was your weekend? Did you do anything to get into the holiday spirit? Yes, see above 🙂

What’s your favorite holiday movie? It’s a tie between Love Actually and Christmas Vacation and Muppet Christmas Carole 🙂

If you could eat only one genre of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Oooh a tough one (not sure why I am asking this – I don’t like difficult questions!). I’d choose Italian.

Loving The Weekends: Comedy, Running, Burgers, Pho and the Beatles

What a GREAT weekend! I would have to say that this may have been one of my most favorite weekends of the summer. The weather was perfect, the food was good, B and I had a nice long run AND my parents were in town. Can’t really think of a better way to spend the weekend, can you?

The weekend, in photos:

My parents came in Friday late afternoon and we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy dinner outside. The weather was great, so we picked up beer and burgers at Dynomite before heading to a comedy show.

Check out my dad’s shirt 🙂

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My veggie burger. SO good. SO big. And yes, I ate it all (fries not pictured).

dynomite veggie burger

After the meal, we headed to Hilarities for a free comedy show. I had won tickets earlier in the week and we were able to see Alonzo Bodden. B and I had seen him at the Laugh Factory in LA and were looking forward to seeing him in Cleveland. Here’ s a clip from one of his shoes from this winter (not this weekend). He was great! My parents loved him!

Saturday morning started early with a 9 mile run with B. Honestly, I was NOT feeling it for the first 5 miles. Yes, 5 miles. But after a short water break at mile 5 I felt so much better and the last 4 were great! Who knows why – sometimes it takes me 2 … or 5 I suppose … miles for my legs to warm up.

9 miles

 

I bought new shoes! I was super pumped to model them (pardon the cheesy pic).

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Post-run, we met up with my parents and headed to Tremont to enjoy some lunch and then the West Side Market for some fresh produce. Of course we had to stop off for tea in the afternoon at our favorite place, Cleveland Tea Revival.

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My mom and I both got some iced tea – ginger and peach. Yum!

my favorite tea

Saturday night, we took my parents to Superior Pho. Since there were four of us, we got a feast! Not everything is pictured. We got a chicken cabbage salad, Bahn Mi,  the spicy pho, egg rolls AND spring rolls.

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I think my dad enjoyed his pho!

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But of course we saved room for dessert. We took a post-dinner walk and  got frozen yogurt at Lemonberry. Confession – you may not be able to see the froyo because I may have taken a little of every candy they had.

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Saturday night after my parents left/went to bed, I decided to use up some of the blueberries we had and made these buttermilk blueberry scones again. Because Sunday mornings with blueberry scones for breakfast = amazing. You should probably make the recipe sometime – it’s very easy and really yummy!

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Sunday after my parents got back on the road to NY (sadness!) B and I took a walk around downtown. It was a GORGEOUS morning! We stopped at my favorite fountain. I don’t know why but I LOVE this fountain – it’s a war memorial as well.

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And then we walked to the harbor. It was SO pretty out! I’m glad we went for a walk – I get sad to see my parents go, and B knows this – I think that’s why he decided to take my mind off them leaving and instead get me a ginormous coffee (I will be drinking it for 3 days) and take me for a walk.

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Sunday afternoon I got in an easy workout (I’m trying to be REALLY good and not run too many miles and days in a row and stay injury free this year!) while B golfed with his family.

After a little work, B and I spent the evening at Blossom! This is my second time this summer going and we this time we sat on the lawn, enjoyed some wine and cheese AND Beatles music. I LOVE the Beatles – they remind me of car trips with my family growing up (The Long And Winding Road has multiple meanings for me – I swear it always came on as we were driving through the long and winding roads of upstate NY) and hearing the Cleveland Orchestra play the songs was awesome. And it was another beautiful night, so we packed a picnic dinner of a great salad, wine and cheese. I had an AMAZING time and seriously almost cried of happiness. Yes, it was that good.

I can’t get enough of the amazing weather we’ve been having. Can’t summer just stay forever?

So this weekend was just what I needed after last week. And now I’m off to start a crazy week –  this week entails some travel for work, some super early morning meetings and even an event for a board I’m on. Yes, I’ll be counting down until Labor Day!

Some questions for you:

  • Do you have a favorite comic? Do you go to comedy shows?
  • Did you get in a run this weekend?
  • Just got new running shoes! What shoes are you running in these days? Loving my new sneakers!
  • What’s your go-to Vietnamese food item? I can never decide between pho or bun!
  • Did you do any baking this weekend?
  • Favorite Beatles song?

Friday Five: Five Things To Do In Cleveland for the Holidays

I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS. Yes caps lock is intended.

great holiday sweaters and sweater vests

Okay, I know I’ve said it enough. And the picture above probably says it all anyway. But seriously – it may have been 60 degrees yesterday (and it was amazing – I went for a run in shorts) – but don’t let the weather fool you – the holidays are here. So you missed the Holiday Flea, Winterfest and the Public Square tree lighting ceremony? Don’t worry, there’s still so much more to do in Cleveland to get you in the holiday spirit!  I know quite a few people have shared their favorite holiday activities – here are 5 things that I’m looking forward to:

1. Checking out the holiday decor and lights downtown

I LOVE living downtown – it seems like suddenly overnight the festive lights, trees, and even store windows popped up, all to get us in the holiday spirit. Want to feel the holiday spirit? Start in Playhouse Square (and see a show while you’re there! Spoiler alert – check out #3) at Euclid and 14thish and take the E line trolley until you arrive at Public Square. All along Euclid you’ll see various stores with lights, flower pots overflowing with wintry decor, and more. And when you get to Public Square, get ready to be in awe of all the lights – it’s gorgeous! And don’t forget to check out the big tree, as well as the Holidays at Higbee displays. Not had enough? Head into Tower City to check out Bruce the Talking Spruce, as well as the holiday shows in the food court featuring the Toy Soldier and Fairy Godmother (and more – the whole Tower City list of events is here).

Lights around the Theatre District

Lights around the Theatre District

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storefront window in the Higbee building

2. Enjoying a holiday performance from the Cleveland Orchestra

Did you know that the world famous Cleveland Orchestra and their chorus perform a series of holiday concerts each year? The concerts feature a variety of holiday music in the beautifully decorated Severance Hall. I’m lucky to be married into an Ignatius High School family – the Orchestra performs a private show for Ignatius alums and their family and I look forward to the event each year!

Here’s a sneak peak – disclaimer, I found this video on YouTube, it’s not mine:

3. Seeing a show in the Theatre district

Seeing  A Christmas Carol at the Ohio Theater at Playhouse Square has become a tradition for B and me. This Great Lakes Theater production runs through December 22, and no matter how many times I watch it (or even A Muppet Christmas Carol), it never gets old. Interested in seeing the show? If you call 216-241-6000 or go to http://www.greatlakestheater.org/tickets/shows/a-christmas-carol to order tickets, enter GLT as your promo code for a discount!

Wine @ Gallucci's!

Wine @ Gallucci’s!

4. Feasting on local treats (going to Gallucci’s and the West Side Market)

OK, OK I know you can do this any time of year – but there’s just something SO magical about the West Side Market and Gallucci’s during the holidays. Stands are decorated in the Market, holiday food comes out, and the smell of the Italian food at Gallucci’s just seems more memorable (maybe it’s the fact that I grew up with an Italian mother and those cooking smells likely got stronger during the holidays?). Anyway, one of my favorite traditions that B and I have is going to the Market and Gallucci’s, buying supplies to make pepperoni bread and sauce, and then making the meal, decorating our apartment, and watching Love Actually. Try it. I dare you not to feel in the holiday spirit after doing that!

5. Local shopping

Let’s face it – the holidays wouldn’t be the same without shopping. This year, I’m buying a lot of stuff locally – if possible. The Holiday Flea was awesome, and there are so many other upcoming opportunities to get your holiday (or personal) shopping done:

Ohio City Festival (Dec. 7): Ohio City Festival is THIS weekend! So get your gift list ready and visit local shops like the Cleveland Bazaar and Made in the 216. If that doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, there’s also photos with Santa, Christmas tree sales, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday crafts for children, a photobooth, carolers, and mulled Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Holiday CircleFest (Dec. 8): Keep the festivities going all weekend long and stop by University Circle on Sunday the 8th for the Holiday CircleFest! In addition to shopping, the event in University Circle will feature horse-drawn carriage rides, ice sculpting, live music, a gingerbread house competition – and more!

Pop Up Shaker (Thurs/Sat/Sun through Dec. 15): Pop Up Shaker started last week along Chagrin Boulevard and I can’t wait to check it out! (Yes I do LEAVE downtown sometimes. See numbers 2 and 4 above) This festive winter pop up combines crafting, food, and shopping and will take place Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through the 15th.

Tremont Holiday BrewHaHa (Dec. 13-15): In addition to stopping by the BrewHaHa weekend in Tremont for the famous Santa Shuffle (where the picture of  B and me at the beginning of this post is from), I can’t wait to check out the Pop Up Shop and Party on Dec. 13. AND there’s even a Tremont Holiday ArtWalk!


And now, some questions for you:

  • What holiday traditions do you have? Love Actually and holiday decorating. And pepperoni bread. And seeing A Christmas Carol. Use the discount code I shared and see it yourself!
  • Quick! What are five things you are looking forward to about the holidays?
  • What’s your favorite local shop?
  • Do you run in any holiday races?

Birthday Wrap Up and Thank You!

Last week was my birthday. It was on a Wednesday, a day I happened to be in Toledo for work … so it should have been a normal, ordinary day/week/etc. not worth mentioning. But I have so many awesome friends, family members, and so on, that I have to blog about it.

I have to start by saying I don’t think I’ve ever been one of those people who declares a “birthday month” or “birthday week.” A birthday celebration, to me, always happens on your birthday – or the weekend around it. So, having my birthday on a Wednesday shouldn’t have meant much … but boy, what a birthday!

It started out with dinner at L’Albatros and tickets to see Joshua Bell perform with the Cleveland Orchestra. Joshua Bell. Yes, he really is as amazing as they say in real life (this was my first time seeing him perform) and he really does look 25 years old. AND L’Albatros was amazing as always. B and I started with a cheese plate (you MUST try the epoisses cheese!! My new fave) and fois gras (B’s favorite). For dinner, I enjoyed the vegetarian cassoulet  – I’d definitely recommend it if you like beans … and goat cheese!

Cleveland Orchestra and Post Fridays @ 7 Joshua Bell Performance

joshua bell post joshua bell fridays at 7 cleveland orchestra

I also was treated to quite a few more birthday dinners from friends and coworkers. I enjoyed a fabulous meal at one of the most underrated restaurants in Cleveland (and one of my favorite restaurants) Pura Vida, where I had a lentil pot pie and goat cheese & beet salad (I’m still drooling over them!) and another great meal at Bonefish with drinks, bang bang shrimp, awesome seafood and a surprise dessert. I can’t resist a birthday meal … or two! 🙂

That wasn’t all though. A few of you have been asking about my “Birthday Surprise.”  Well, life has been insane lately. I thought things would get less busy in the New Year, but with work and my other “extracurriculars,” they haven’t … and B has been witness to much of the stress I’ve been under. He convinced me to take the Fri after my birthday off for a Birthday Surprise. Now, in my head, I imagined sleeping in, working out, going shopping, seeing a movie, maybe getting a mani/pedi and then some froyo. OR even driving to Grandpa’s Cheesebarn. Those would have all been a welcome surprise for my day off. So naturally, what followed, was not only SUPER surprising, but pretty awesome.

just your normal January weather

just your normal January weather

B woke me up at 4:30 on my Friday off. Yes, 4:30 in the morning, his alarm went off. Let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled about waking up so early – but definitely intrigued. He told me to shower, put on jeans and sneakers, and we were leaving in 30 minutes. We got in the car around 5 a.m. and he gave me his winter hat to put over my eyes so “I wouldn’t see where we were going.” (Yes, this sounded like an episode of CSI to me!) When the car stopped a little while later, I heard the trunk open (cueing CSI music) and he told me to remove my makeshift blindfold. We were at the airport. I was speechless, not sure where we were going, why were at the airport, or what to do next. “Leave your coat in the car, you won’t need that where we’re going,” was all B said as he led me to security. FINALLY in line for security, he gave me my ticket – CLE to MIA. We were going to Miami. For my birthday.  

no big deal, just standing on the beach in January!

fruity birthday drink!

fruity birthday drinks

more fruity birthday drinks … our hotel may have had a free happy hour

I don’t usually use this blog to gush about B, but seriously – he deserves major husband points. He had packed a bag with all the essentials for a beach vacation, booked us a room just off the beach in South Beach, and planned a complete beach weekend getaway behind my back, because I’d been complaining how cold it was, how I wanted to change my birthday to July, etc.  We had a great trip, stayed at an awesome hotel, and I came back from my birthday weekend with a slight tan.

mandatory selfie on the beach

mandatory selfie on the beach

SO thanks again to all of you who called (yes, real live phone calls and messages!), tweeted, Facebooked, took me out to dinner, sent me cards and gifts for my birthday.  I feel so special! And of course I now have high expectations for my 30th in a few years 🙂

A wonderful Cleveland holiday

I love the holidays. The lights everywhere. The baked goods. The cookies. The music. The Christmas Ale. The overall warmth and jolliness that everyone seems to espouse (especially after a few cookies and Christmas Ale!). And even though it’s not even the middle of December yet,  I’m already in full blown holiday spirit!

Cleveland public square at night - all lit up

Cleveland during the holiday times is great. Public Square is lit up and there’s so much going on! In addition to a few holiday parties (not mentioned below), here’s how I’ve been celebrating  – with 15 days left until Christmas!

Baking … and more baking!  

Yes, as if I need an excuse for baking … but so far this year I’ve made Oatmeal Scotchies, Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies and Cherry Almond Chocolate Kisses.  When I get back to NY, I’ll likely make some more – probably some lemon bars, thumbprint jam cookies, peanut blossoms, Tuxedo Cookies, and much much more.

Some of the holiday cookies we baked for our office potluck/cookie exchange party

Some of the holiday cookies baked for our office potluck/cookie exchange party

Rocking it at the Cleveland Rocks! Awards

Each year, before the holidays, the Cleveland PRSA Chapter celebrates the best in the year’s programs and invites local PR pros to celebrate as well. This year, projects I worked on won several awards, including Best in Show! Plus, the Silent Auction I helped coordinate garnered a record number of funds to support the chapter’s scholarship fund. It was a great night and definitely wonderful to celebrate with my other coworkers and friends in the business.

Coworkers Goofing Off At Our Photo Booth at the Awards

Coworkers Goofing Off At Our Photo Booth at the Awards

Best In Show winners with our award - a guitar!

Best In Show winners with our award – a guitar!

Enjoying the Cleveland Orchestra’s Holiday Performance

Each year, the  Cleveland Orchestra puts on a performance for St. Ignatius as a fundraiser for student scholarships during the holidays – and it’s amazing! They play holiday concerts during the entire holiday season for the public, but I love the Ignatius concert tradition. We get dinner in Little Italy with B’s entire family (parents, siblings, aunt, uncles, grandma, cousin, etc.), then enjoy a performance in Severance Hall by the Cleveland Orchestra. It’s a great way to get in the holiday spirit – and I love it!

third row at the Cleveland Orchestra!

third row at the Cleveland Orchestra!

Watching A Christmas Carol at Playhouse Square

This weekend, B and I got tickets (THANKS CHRIS!) to see A Christmas Carol, put on by Great Lakes Theater. We made the evening into a date, and got drinks with his brother and parents before, saw the show, and then enjoyed dinner at Cowell & Hubbard. It was a great way to spend a wintry evening  – the show was great (although it made me really want to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol) and dinner was awesome. We enjoyed some beef ceviche, escargot, fois gras donuts and seafood dumplings — all food that I don’t normally order.

Escargot, beef ceviche, seafood dumplings and fois gras doughnuts @ Cowell & Hubbard

Escargot, beef ceviche, seafood dumplings and fois gras doughnuts @ Cowell & Hubbard

Giving Back with Caring Cubs

This weekend, B and I took ourniece and nephew to the zoo! Not only were we there to see some of the animals, but we were there for a Caring Cubs event. Caring Cubs is an organization I became introduced to through Bridge Builders- they hold monthly events for young children, ages 2 to 7, designed to teach various lessons of social responsibility.  We took Oliver and Sofia to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, brought some new and gently used toys that were in turn donated to the Department of Child and Family Services, and then got to enjoy an animal show plus tour of the zoo afterwords. We finished up the afternoon in Little Italy, enjoying some pizza and dessert at  some of our favorites – Mama Santas and Presti’s.

caring cubs

Caring Cubs collected more than 500 toys!

sofia touching armadillo

zooo with children

hmm ... which cookies to choose?

hmm … which cookies to choose?

What about you? What have you been doing to get into the holiday spirit?