Give the Gift of CLE

The holidays are sadly over and you may not be thinking about gifts right now, but I certainly am! Why? Because my birthday is just a few weeks away. And as is the curse of having a birthday around the holidays, people often don’t want to celebrate, don’t know what to get me, or even sometimes forget. Do you have a friend or family member who just got everything on their list for the holidays, but has a birthday coming up? Fear not – here’s a potential gift idea … CLE Pack!

CLE Pack is package featuring products from local Cleveland organizations. You can pick a package of 5, 7 or 9 items and they range from foodstuffs (sweet treats and savory snacks), local collateral (like tote bags or can holders or stickers) and other fun items like chapstick, keychains, etc. CLE Pack sent me a package of 7 items to try out for free (thanks, CLE Pack for the early birthday gift!) and I loved it.

Some fun facts about CLE Pack:

  • CLE Pack was just started in August 2018. Igor Oliyarnik is the founder and the idea was born over 4 years ago when he saw a similar business in Baltimore called “Baltimore in a Box”.
  • The most popular items in the package are the food. Bertman Mustard has been the #1 seller, followed by Campbell’s popcorn and Malley’s Chocolates.
  • The founder, Igor Oliyarnik, is not originally from Cleveland. He was born in Ukraine and moved to Cleveland with his parents when he was ten years old. He shared: “I’m now in my 30’s and proud to call Cleveland my home. I think the city has a very unique personality and a bright future because of the people that live here. It has been great watching the city improve in many different ways over the last two decades that I’ve been here.”

The items I chose for my package included:

  • Malley’s CLE Chocolate Bar
  • Fear’s Confections CLE Chocolate Bar
  • Ohio Pure Maple Syrup
  • Crazy Monkey Baking Dark Chocolate Chip Granola Cookie Crunch
  • Bertman Ball Park Horseradish Sauce
  • Sweet Moses Cleveland Chocolate Bar
  • Cleveland Landmarks Tote Bag

I LOVE that CLE Pack is all local Cleveland items. And while I was familiar with some of the companies they include (like Malley’s, Bertman and Campbell’s), CLE Pack also introduced me to some new local brands, like Crazy Monkey Baking.

CLE Pack would make a great gift for more than just a friend whose birthday is coming up. In fact, I was thinking that CLE Pack would also be a great unique gift for:

  • A new neighbor, especially one new to the city
  • A friend that has moved away and misses their Cleveland favorites
  • A hostess gift for that family who has everything
  • Members of a wedding party or close family coming into town for a wedding

Some questions for you:

  • What would you choose?
  • Have you had any of these items?

Disclosure: I was asked by CLE Pack to promote their products. In exchange, I recieved a free box for myself. As always, views are my own.

ellasport Long Sleeved Tee Review

This week a fun surprise came in the mail – my new ellasport shirt, kudos of Poise in Parma’s recent blog giveaway! I was excited to try it out – it seemed like the perfect thickness to wear alone on any run in 45+ degree temps, or under a jacket or vest in cooler temps. Plus, the company seems super cool – not only is their mission perfect for running ladies like myself, “to provide women with technical athletic apparel that is designed for a woman’s body and makes you feel good,” but they are also super active and attentive on social media and they even tweeted when my tee was shipped!

SO I was super pumped to try out the Chloe Long Sleeved Tee, which has a mesh design in the lower back, as many of their products contain, “mesh panels in particularly sweaty spots to help your skin breathe.”  I lucked out – Wednesday this week called for a 5 miler and B and I decided to do it outside, downtown. The weather was 40 at 6 p.m. when we started running, so I put on the new shirt, a running vest and some pants and tested out the shirt. It was great! It was cute, the perfect fit (I got a medium because I do not like my running clothes too tight), the perfect length for my short-torsoed 5’4”ish self and perfect at keeping me warm, but not too hot.

I washed it with my other running clothes on Thursday and decided to try it out again, this time under a jacket, for our long 10 miler on Saturday. Again, the shirt held up. The sleeves are slightly long, something I like, so I was able to pull the sleeves over my hands while running to keep them warm during the more breezy parts.

I LOVE the shirt! I hope I get to try out some other ellasport workout clothes – I have such a hard time finding workout capris that I like, but the Power Capris look PERFECT for running and spinning.

Thanks again to ellasport for the shirt!

Disclaimer: ellasport provided me this shirt, free of charge, thanks to Poise In Parma’s blog giveaway. I was not required to blog about the product, but I couldn’t help myself.

Amazingness on a Plate … aka Great Lakes Brewmaster’s Dinner

You must walk … no, run … I repeat .. RUN over to Great Lakes Brewing Company immediately. Why? To purchase yourself a ticket to their next Brewmaster’s Dinner.

What’s a Brewmaster’s Dinner? And how did I get to go to one? Well, after FINALLY taking advantage of an almost-missed wedding gift (Sorry and THANK YOU Matt and Kim!), B and I finally got our dates to the Brewmaster’s Dinner on our calendar and headed over one of our favorite local breweries, Great Lakes, to see what they had in store for us. Here’s a summary of the experience.

Your night starts with an accelerated tour of the brewery. Yes, the brewery offers free tours every Saturday (and yes, I’ve been on them 2 or 3 times before … and not just for the “free” samples!), but this tour is faster AND you get to actually see the brewery when the workers are there. We walked in and immediately smelled cinnamon and nutmeg — which, if you’re a Clevelander, you know that means CHRISTMAS ALE was brewing! The tour didn’t offer the usual free samples – but that’s because the beer, and food, was yet to come.

After the tour, we were treated to an incredible, seasonal five-course meal. Ready to be jealous (and don’t judge me on the date.. yes it was almost a month ago):

AND in case you can’t read that, here’s what we ate in layman’s terms:

A crawfish ruchetta appetizer

Butternut squash soup

Arugula salad with a black pepper dressing

Beef short ribs over polenta

Burtternut squash pound cake IN A PUMPKIN

The dinner was SO good that I didn’t even take photos of everything! Honestly, everything was incredible. The crawfish was delicious and the salad dressing was so yummy – I loved the black pepper. My favorite beer? The Glockenspiel. Which, of course, you can’t just pick up from your local grocery store on a regular basis. I did stop to breathe and take a photo of the short ribs (they melted in my mouth!) and pound cake. Seriously- how could you NOT take a photo of the pound cake that was served inside a small pumpkin!?

That’s why you MUST reserve your spot for the next event ASAP. It’s not until January 10, but hurry – they book up quickly! Great Lakes is also letting you order dinner for a holiday gift for someone else! (HINT. My birthday is in January. AND the February event is Valentine’s DAY!)



The reviews and opinions here expressed are my own. I was not paid to attend the dinner (though I’d love to have been!)  or compensated in any way for this blog post. Or my tastebuds.

Next To Normal – Anything But Your Normal Musical­­

Wednesday night B & I saw Next To Normal at Playhouse Square. It was the last night of the inaugural Review Crew’s duties. It was a bittersweet feeling – I felt proud to know that the first season was through, but sad that our time as Playhouse Square insiders was over. And that’s exactly the feeling the end of the musical – bittersweet.

The show was incredible. The set was really unique – it was stationary, hardly ever moving or changing, yet providing the backdrop for every scene in the play, from a kitchen to a doctor’s office to a high school dance. The orchestra was incredible – not only was the rock music refreshing and catchy (even when the lyrics were depressing, I found myself bopping my head and tapping my toes, it was that entertaining), but the members of the ensemble were all scattered throughout the set.

Without beating around the bush – the lead actress, Alice Ripley, did not live up to the hype. I really really really wanted to like her – she’s from Cleveland (went to Kent State), is a member of the original cast and even won a Tony award for this very performance when the play first came out. Her singing was just uncomfortable. Maybe she had a cold? Whatever it was, it sounded like every song was forced and that she was holding her true voice in.

That being said, the other actors were incredible. The story itself was amazing. The play was well-written, the actors were great and the plot intriguing. For those of you that don’t know what it’s about – read this first, and then decide if you want to see it. In plain words – and without giving away the surprise that I didn’t see coming – it’s a depressing, not-uplifting storyline. It’s about mental illness and all the ways a family is affected by it. It’s about losing loved ones and letting go. It’s not a happy, upbeat musical. When the curtain lifts at the end, you’re left with a haunting feeling, and want to ask yourself, “well, where do we go from here?” But that, in itself, and the fact that I’m still thinking about the play and how it made me feel – is the very reason the musical is worth seeing.

If you’re looking for a feel good, average musical, Next To Normal is not for you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it – quite the contrary, as it­­­­ was amazing. It’s a show that gives you an insider’s look into the lives of a seemingly normal family, that’s falling apart. It’s a show that makes you think about yourself and examine the life you’re living. It’s a show that stays with you.

The show is in town through the 19th. Buy tickets today here.

See what the other Review Crew members had to say:

Plus – here’s my new favorite song … such great music!

A Review Crew Review – Shrek the Musical

This past week, I was lucky enough to get two free tickets to the Broadway showing of Shrek, which had just opened up right here in Playhouse Square at the gorgeous Palace Theater.

I was really excited to see it – I loved Shrek (the movie) when I first saw it however many years ago and remember watching it over and over again with my younger brother. I was curious to see how the movie had been adopted for the theater.

What did I think of Shrek? Should you see it? Did it do the movie justice? Read on …

What were some parts of the musical that I enjoyed?

The scenery was great – it was childlike and colorful, which fit the show perfectly. The costumes were also great – Donkey’s head-to-toe getup was lifelike and creepy at the same time (a compliment), and Pinocchio’s costume (complete with a growing nose) was perfect!

The dancing was also fabulous. Lord Farquaad’s costume and dancing was hilarious – perfect for kids. There’s also a scene where the Princess dances with some rats (from the Pied Pieper of course), which turns into a full-blown tap dance (and the rats become tap shoes) which was unforgettable. My favorite song (singing and dancing), was Let Your Freak Flag Fly –  a song with a beautiful message (a la Lady Gaga’s Born This Way) and a catchy tune.

The musical also paid homage to and made fun of various other musicals and nursery rhymes – which was great. I lost count of all the references, but there were shoutouts to the Disney Lion King musical, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, etc.

How did the musical relate to the movie?

I’ve only seen Shrek 1 and Shrek 2 … sorry, I never made it past those two. The musical follows the plotline of the first movie pretty closely. Even some of my favorite scenes, word for word, were in the musical (“Not my gumdrop buttons!!!” was even included).

I thought the musical did a good job of bringing the movie to life on stage. The kids in the audience definitely agreed – they were all cheering, laughing and even dancing along. My only complaint? Sometimes the plotline felt a little lost (as I feel sometimes happens when things are sung, rather than spoken) and the characters weren’t as developed as they could’ve been. Shrek was still bumbly and loveable – but not the same as the movie.

Also, the music was fun – but that’s about it. Besides the aforementioned Let Your Freak Flag Fly and the finale (surprise for you), there really weren’t any catchy, memorable songs.

Should you see the musical Shrek?

Yes! Here’s who should see it:

  • Anyone with kids. Kids in the audience and children of Review Crew members loved the musical. They were laughing, smiling and dancing along.
  • Anyone who needs to be cheered up. Seriously, if you’re in a bad mood, I promise you won’t leave Shrek in a worse one! I went in feeling a little tired and sick (was coming down with a cold) and left feeling awake and energetic.
  • Anyone who’s a kid at heart. Would it have been better if I had brought a kid with me as opposed to my fiancé? Perhaps (he liked it but wasn’t singing and dancing along). Would I have enjoyed the musical more about 16 years ago? Perhaps … but the kid at heart in me still loved the musical and had a great time. Thanks Playhouse Square and Review Crew!

More from me and my other Review Crew friends:

A Mid-Winter Escape to a Tropical Paradise – South Pacific

It’s been two weeks since I saw South Pacific at Playhouse Square with the Review Crew, and I feel awful that I haven’t sat down and written a review. Why? It’s not because I was at a loss for words (am I ever?). It’s not because I was simply too busy. No, it’s because I was trying to think of something critical to say. How could I write a review of a musical without critiquing the acting ..or the music … or the dancing? Well, all that and more were incredible and with that, I give you my review.

South Pacific was amazing. As I sat inside the majestic Palace Theater on the freezing winter February evening, I was transported to a tropical island in the South Pacific and forgot about the treacherous ice storm that was building outside. As soon as the curtain rose and the sound of the full orchestra (yes, you read that right — South Pacific is one of the few traveling productions with a full orchestra), I was captivated by the singing and romantic story. It was my first time seeing the production (I hadn’t even seen the movie before) and the music was all that music in a musical should be- memorable, catchy and something that makes you smile. Even the next day I found myself singing a few of my new favorites – There Is Nothing Like a Dame (who wouldn’t like a bunch of military men singing about ladies?!) and I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair. I enjoyed the story itself. While I loved the World War II era setting (especially the costumes .. loved the old bathing suits!), the tale, a timeless love story with underlying tones of racial prejudice, could have taken place in any era.

While it’s too late to buy tickets (sorry, I meant to have this posted sooner!), I highly recommend you keep an eye out for the next time it comes to Playhouse Square. Besides a few technical difficulties (mainly microphone/sound system issues) on Opening Night, the musical was a masterpiece and a must-see for anyone looking to take a mini tropical vacation — without leaving Cleveland.

Don’t take my word for it – see what the rest of the Review Crew had to say: