Monday, December 31, 2012

The Wonders of the Season

Bridget snuggled under the tree to enjoy the lights. But after a long day of playing with all that Santa brought her, she fell asleep under the tree. So sweet.

Yesterday, we also enjoyed a nice afternoon with my family. Even managed to snap another picture under the Easton Christmas tree. Another wonderful holiday season this year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Overnighter in Detroit

I have passed through Detroit before, but this past Friday was my first time to stay overnight. Greg needed one more night to reach a certain hotel status, so he challenged us to find a location within a 2-hour driving radius that would be interesting, kid-friendly and fun. Enter Detroit. We stayed at the Westin Cadillac Downtown and it was fantastic. Cool, modern vibe. Very clean. Incredible hospitality. We had dinner reservations at Michael Symon's Roast and it did not disappoint. Meg had a wonderful salmon dish. Greg enjoyed the Beast of the Day. I had Pork Shank Confit. Miss Bridget enjoyed their finest buttered plain pasta. We all shared a side of brussel sprouts that were possibly the best I have ever had.

After dinner, and with very full bellies, we had a pajama party while watching Hotel Transylvania. I told Meg I'd love to see this movie again...and this time, I promise to keep my eyes open!

The next morning, we found a great little breakfast spot - the Hudson Cafe. They are famous around downtown Detroit for their red velvet pancakes. Since every year I celebrate with red velvet cupcakes for my birthday, Greg knew this place would make me happy. And let me tell you, those pancakes were delish! Greg had graham cracker crusted french toast (mmm!), Megan had monkey pancakes filled with bananas and caramel, and B had a very special and gigantic Mickey Mouse pancake. We were all thrilled. The food and service was outstanding. A must place to visit if you're ever in Detroit!

The little trips with family make such wonderful memories!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I'm a Big Girl Now - Can't You See!

Lately, Bridget has been enjoying wearing my coat, scarf and heels. The minute I come in the front door from work, she will change right away into my stuff. I have to say, she wears it well.

Funny story about the coat. I am a loyal Banana Republic and JCrew shopper. I rarely bother with other stores because I know these two have consistent sizing and good quality clothes that I can wear to work and on the weekends. I bought the coat a few years ago and couldn't remember if it was 4, 5 or 6 years ago. Greg and I went out Saturday night with a group of friends and popped into Crop for a drink. A girl came up to me and said, "I have that same coat - Banana Republic 2007!" Yes! Gotta love what a small world it is and this fun stranger answered my question or how old my coat is!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What a Wonderful Day

We had the BEST Christmas so far in our little family. We slept till about 8:00 a.m. (a luxury around here!), woke Bridget up to see if Santa had visited, gave Meg a cup of coffee to get through such an early morning hour, then we each took turns opening gifts from Santa and from each other. We sat in a little drum circle, if you will, just enjoying the peace and quiet and the morning with each other. It was truly wonderfuly.

Bridget got her big item of an Easy Bake Oven, a right of passage for every little girl. Seriously, didn't you have one? She also opened up a Justin Bieber DVD, a One Direction book and an American Girl Doll (the one from Target - shhh!). We laughed that I loved Donny Osmond and Shawn Cassady in kindergarten, Meg loved the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync, and now Bridget is into JB and One Direction. Funny how times change, yet they stay the same.

Megan enjoyed a Michael Kors watch that she had really been loving and hoping Santa would bring to her. She also wrapped herself up in a faux fur vest and pink flamingo slippers - yep, Project Runway here folks!

Greg loved his Moscow Mule started kit, new luggage with a weekend trip (yay!), and a snowglobe from Bridget from the school Christmas fair. It was perfect.

I felt truly blessed. I had my amazing family around me and even received something from my favorite designer - yes, Under Armour! Greg got me the cutest hot pink thermal hoodie. Best of all, all of us, including the dogs, enjoyed a nice little hike today to burn off a small fraction of the calories we've ingested. Christmas Ale, cookies, and holiday baking can seriously damage a girl's willpower!

Hope your Christmas or holiday celebration was surrounded by family and friends.

Friday, December 21, 2012

24 Days of Christmas - Week Two

The girls have enjoyed FaceTime and Skype as they open each other's gifts. We've had to improvise, but it's still been good family fun!

Day 7 - Family Pizza and Movie Night
Day 8 - 8 mini Reese cups for day 8
Day 9 - Color a wooden ornament
Day 10 - Write a letter to Santa
Day 11 - Donate toy and book at Church toy drive
Day 12 - Reese pieces candy cane (to be used as a microphone) so the girls could interview each other.
Day 13 - holiday sparkle headbands (from the dollar store)

And on Day 14, I got to bring Megan home from Miami!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Date Night at Tartines

Tartines is one of our favorite restaurants, primarily because the owner is so attentive and the food really is quite spectacular. This past Monday we enjoyed their first beer pairing dinner and it didn't disappoint! About 18 couples were seated at two long tables while we enjoyed four seasonal/holiday beers paired with four wonderful dishes. To start, we enjoyed beer cheese soup with ginger croutons served in an espresso cup followed by the second course of sweet potato hash with an incredibly succulent scallop on top. Third couse was a porchetta stuffed with a honey crisp applesauce. The last couse was a little brick of brie cheese with fresh blackberries. Yum! My two favorite beers were Thirsty Dog's 12 Days of Christmas and Southern Tier's Old Man Winter. Great evening with my wonderful dinner companion, Greg. Can't wait to try one of Tartine's wine dinners now!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Easton - Then and Now

When Meg and I lived in Athens, it was an annual tradition that we park ourselves in front of the giant tree at Easton Town Center in Columbus. After we moved to Cleveland, those trips dwindled, but we were lucky enough to squeeze in a trip last week, with the added bonus of the girls seeing their Aunt Angie.

Just look at what a difference 11 years makes!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Can't Wait to Bake These - And Eat Them, Too!

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Place 3/4 cup granulated sugar, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well-blended. Add the honey, vanilla, and egg; beat well. Add the flour mixture, beating at low speed until well-blended. Cover dough and freeze for 1 hour or until firm.

Lightly coat hands with cooking spray; shape the dough into 24 (1-inch) balls. Roll the balls in 1/4 cup granulated sugar; place the balls 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes on pans. Remove cookies from pans, and cool on wire racks. (Recipe from Cooking Light)

Both my girls and I love love love gingersnap cookies. The house always smells so wonderful after baking a fresh batch and I can't wait to try them out!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Did I Really Agree to This?

And the answer is, "Yes, I did."

My sister-in-law, and partner in 50 states quest, innocently dangled an offer my way. Would I be interested in running a leg of one of the Ragnar Relays. I had heard about these relays. And, if truth be told, had been very very very intrigued by the idea. But I didn't think I could gather THAT many people together to run 200+ miles over 2 days. Enter Kim. And her 10 other friends...rounding out our group to the perfect number of 12. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. I have agreed to be "Runner 2" of the Southern California Ragnar Relay. If I understand correctly, I will run 3 legs as Runner 2 for a total of 21.6 miles (5.1 miles, 9.2 miles, and 7.3 miles).

I had been feeling incredibly unmotivated lately and my running had been pretty non-existent. This has been the perfect kick-in-the-pants that I needed. So join me over the next 4 months while I train to run 21 miles with Kim and her friends and enjoy the best girls weekend in Southern California. Oh, and I can't forget, Meg will be one of our drivers!

Sunny Southern California, here we come!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

24 Days of Christmas

Since Megan was very little, I have always done various versions of the 24 Days of Christmas. During the lean years, most days included free activities and one or two Hershey kisses and mini Reese cups. Along the way, I've added little ticket items like a find-a-word puzzle book, magazine, and other little dollar store finds. The first year I included Bridget in the mix, she received a mini Reese cup on day 2 and, from that point forward, she thought Reese cups were called "2s". And each year, I've made sure that we open each day's little gift or activity together as a family or it included a family activity or charitable event.

This year was the most challenging since Megan is away at college. Thank goodness for technology. The deal I made between the girls is that each day they could only open each item if they opened their items together while on FaceTime or Skype. Wow, it's been so much fun. We log on around dinner time. The girls can talk to each other and open their day's activity or gift while I'm fixing dinner. It really is like we're all together.

So here's how the first week has played out:

Day 1 - A mini polar bear that, when put in water, expands up to 600% over 10 days.
Day 2 - One Reese christmas tree.
Day 3 - A washcloth that pops up full-size while in the bathtub.
Day 4 - Make hot chocolate with each other.
Day 5 - Santa bubble gum tape (Meg's all-time favorite)
Day 6 - Make paper snowflakes together.

Tonight's activity was so much fun watching my two wonderful daughters making snowflakes. One is 19 and one is 5 and yet they couldn't seem closer. Love my girls.

I hope your December is just as magical and filled with close friends and family.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

DIY Christmas Gifts

It's that time of the year to start planning for Christmas gifts. If you're wanting to save money, spend time at home, and make some neat Christmas gifts, here's a few good ideas for you!

Paint a wooden picture frame, glue on initial.

Epsom salt, twine and rustic ornament.

Source - Great site for more ideas!

Glass vase, print photos on vellum, and modge podge to vase, add votice candle. Nice personalized gift!

Wishing you a wonderful December!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cookbooks: Do You Have a Favorite?

I have such an affection for cookbooks. I've acquired a nice collection and am always finding myself in the cooking section at Barnes & Noble. My newest obsession has been to find a vegetarian cookbook to provide inspiration for replacing the same-old, same-old pasta, rice and potatoes.

Three on my "wishlist" include:

Megan and I first came across this cookbook during one of my B&N browsing sessions. I loved how the recipes included ingredients I might actually own!

I have a habit of taking my daughters to Trader Joe's and wasting many a Sunday there. Bridget enjoys the fresh fruits and vegetables and I love stocking up on the frozen veggies. Meg just comes along to have the coffee and walk aimlessly up and down the aisles. Who doesn't love an afternoon at Trader Joe's?!

What a wonderful movement encouraged by Paul and his daughters! I had the opportunity to flip through this cookbook and have to admit that the pictures are as pleasing as the recipes. Another cookbook definitely on my wishlist.

So what's your favorite cookbook? Are you asking Santa for good old fashioned recipes?

Friday, November 23, 2012

My 10th Turkey Trot!

One of the things I love most about living in a big city is the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. This year marked my 10th consecutive race! Such a cool milestone! Most years I've run by myself. My favorite year was running the 1-miler while 6 months pregnant. We joked that it was Bridget's first race! Last year I ran with Greg; other years I've ran with Megan and Greg with Bridget in the jogging stroller. One year the weather was painful sleet; this year it was in the 50s any sunny. Great family fun and, in my mind, it offsets the afternoon of pure gluttony that befalls us.

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoyed some special turkey day traditions!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Omaha Zoo

While traveling, we always try to visit the local aquarium or zoo. Omaha was the jackpot. In one expansive area, the Omaha Zoo treated visitors to a spectacular zoo, aquarium and rain forest. In fact, the Lied Rainforest is the largest indoor rain forest in the world.

Probably the best part about the Omaha Zoo was seeing Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom in big letters. As a kid, I remember sitting in front of the TV on Sunday nights watching Marlin Perkins take me through the Wild Kingdom. Such excitement for a kid, you know! The zoo actually rivaled the Columbus Zoo, a standard that I hold all zoos up to. We managed to spend 4 hours walking around, enjoying and taking in all the wildlife. Just look at some of these pictures!

The Aquarium was amazing. The exhibits were colorful and introduced us to marine life we hadn't seen before.

They had a butterfly room that allowed us to walk around among an incredible assortment of butterflies. We could scoop them up with our fingers and take in all their beauty. As you exited, they had you look at yourself in the mirror to make sure you weren't taking any "hitchhikers" as they called it!

The rain forest allowed us to get up close and personal with many different species, even bats. Shiver! At one point, we had to walk through a tunnel with bats hanging at the top - right over our heads. Blech!

But this was my favorite picture of the day - loved how this turned out! As Bridget said, "This was the best race weekend ever", which you can see from her smile!

After a long day at the zoo, we headed back to the hotel so I could shower. We walked over to the Old Market area and had dinner at the Upstream Brewing Company. Excellent choice. I had the most yummy veggie pizza and we all toasted our glasses with pints of the local microbrew.

Thank you, Omaha, for your hospitality. If I have the chance, I will definitely come back to visit. I simply can't say enough good things!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What a Great Race Experience!

I'm not even sure where to begin - I loved everything about this race!

The Goat and the Gobbler was a small, local race with the proceeds benefitting the Ibex Leadership School, who was fundraising for a trip to Nicaraugua to work with youths. I liked that my race fees did not go to a corporation that really didn't care about a true race experience. I didn't get another t-shirt to throw in my t-shirt drawer. Instead, I got a cool ski cap and an even cooler travel mug! Woohoo - great race schwag!

Race temperatures was dicey. I started out in a beanie, only to shed that after 4 miles because the temps quickly warmed. We were so fortunate to have sunshine throughout most of the race and the temps never exceeded the low 50s during the latter half. Perfect running weather!

There might have been 200-250 runners for both the 3-mile and 10-mile races. The race started on time with instructions and a prayer, which, strangely, was nice. The volunteers were so friendly. At mile 4-ish, I had a volunteer ask if she could run alongside me. Heck yeah! Then at mile 6.5, a volunteer ran with me to the turn-around and I noticed he did that with the girls running a few paces behind me. At one of the water stops, several volunteers carried signs and shouted lots of encouraging words. Volunteers really are integral to a race's success.

The course was very challenging. Almost the entire course was on concrete with some tough rolling hills. I was worried early on that my hips or knees might talk back to me, but everything held up well. Most of the course was run through some absolutely breathtaking neighborhoods, keeping my attention with great landscaping, beautiful fencing (which reminded me I desparately need to stain our backyard fence!), and magazine-perfect homes. The last mile, however, was a bitch. No other way to put it. It was 3/4-mile of steep incline that I had to walk. I lost about 4+ minutes on the final mile due to the unforgiving ascent! I had never seen a hill like this in a race. Even with such a tough final mile, I still loved this event. My cramping calves...not so much love!

Oh, and this race had a great little finish line surprise - Chick-fil-a breakfast biscuit. I had never had one of those before and, wow, was that yummy! And I'm pretty sure that by completing 10-miles before the first bite, I definitely burned off the calories of that sandwich!

Thank you, Omaha, for the wonderful race experience!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Party Snack

Sharing this great idea in case you have a Thanksgiving party or dinner to attend and don't know what to bring. So easy to make this - and, best of all, it's healthy!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nebraska, We're Coming for You!

Getting pretty excited about our next state - Nebraska. I'll be running the Goat and the Gobbler 10 miler in Omaha this weekend! As I've mentioned before, I prefer running local races where the race fees stay in the local community - and this race sounds perfect.

One of the things I've enjoyed about chronicling our travels and race adventures has been learning about what makes each state special. So here's what makes Nebraska cool --

1. In 1927, Edwin E. Perkins of Hastings invented the powered soft drink Kool-Aid.

2. The state nickname used to be the "Tree Planter's State", but was changed in 1945 to the "Cornhusker State".

3. State insect is the honeybee and the State motto is Equality before the law.

4. The Lied Jungle located in Omaha is the world's largest indoor rain forest.

5. The largest porch swing in the world is located in Hebron, Nebraska and it can sit 25 adults.

6. Nebraska is the birthplace of the Reuben sandwich.

7. Spam (canned meat) is produced in Fremont.

8. Nebraska has more miles of river than any other state.

9. The Union Pacific's Bailey Yards, in North Platte, is the largest rail classification complex in the world.

10. Nebraska is the only state in the union with a unicameral (one house) legislature.

11. The 911 system of emergency communications, now used nationwide, was developed and first used in Lincoln, Nebraska.

12. Nebraska has more underground water reserves than any other state in the continental U.S.

13. Marlon Brando's mother gave Henry Fonda acting lessons at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

14. Mutual of Omaha Corporate headquarters is a public building built with 7 floors underground.

15.The largest Kolache Festival in the world is located in Prague, Nebraska

Also onn our agenda is walking across the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge, checking out the Old Market area, and visiting the Zoo, which is supposed to be amazing. Can't wait!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's That Time of the Year

The weather in Cleveland finally got and stayed cold. No more fluctuations. No more surprise 70 degree days. Just the usual cold, dreary, gray days. Ahh, the town I love. And this also means bike to the basement kind of days. So Violet is officially in the basement on the CycleOps trainer. I've had a couple sessions with her and it's not so bad. I'm even considering one of those trainer DVDs - we'll see.

What do you do to make the miles go by better, or be less boring, while on the trainer?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Halloween 2012 or the Trick or Treat We Almost Missed

Halloween 2012 was rescheduled to Sunday, November 4 due to the horrific winds and rain from Hurricane Sandy. We were blessed to not have near the damage of New York and New Jersey, but we still lost power and had lots of downed lines and trees.

You would think Sunday would be perfect - no work, stay home all day and wait for candy. But we had to dash to Oxford and back to drop Meg back to Miami! Could a group of 3 girls known for piddling make it back in time for 6pm trick or treat?

As we neared Cleveland, Bridget kept worrying she was going to miss it. No matter how many times I assured her that through by skillful speeding and breaking the law, we were going to make it!

As we pulled into the driveway, I sent her upstairs to change and, within minutes, Super Girl appeared and ready to trick or treat with 45 minutes to spare!

Happy Halloween to all and to all a good night!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy 19th Birthday, Pumpkin!

Pumpkin treated us to a wonderful weekend trip home to celebrate her birthday. We did all the fun birthday weekend stuff, including our annual Pettiti's Holiday Open House. Megan chose Players on Madison for her birthday dinner because they make her favorite pizza combination of bacon and feta cheese. Afterwards, we all sat at the bar at Malley's and enjoyed yummy ice cream sundaes and sang Happy Birthday!

I love you with all my heart, Pumpkin!


Monday, November 5, 2012

Bridget's First Race in Seattle

Exhausting getting here, but loving it once we got some sleep. Kimpton hotel did not disappoint! Great location, fantastic modern decor and amenities that always appeal to us.

Thanks to not being able to adjust to the 3-hour time change, we got up early and headed over to Pike Place Market. We enjoyed little pastry puffs and cafe au lait at Le Pannier for breakfast while B enjoyed a coffee macaroon and hot chocolate (although she drank more of Greg's cafe au lait than her hot chocolate-that's my girl!).

Wandered around some shops, darted in Mountain Hardware for a rain jacket since MY rain jacket seems to have taken up temporary (or permanent) residence at Miami University. To escape the drizzle, we lunched at the Taphouse Grille and enjoyed a couple of yummy Pints from good pacific northwest brewers. This place had 160 craft beers on tap. Wow!

After lunch, we headed over to the Space Needle. What an amazing view! The Space Needle was originally designed for the 1962 World's Fair and has such an interesting history with the design starting out on a napkin. And besides, this was one of those must see sights while in Seattle.

After wandering around various neighborhoods and enjoying the cool vibe, we found our way back to the hotel for a short rest period (thank goodness because Seattle is very very hilly!). Dinner was supposed to be Brouwer's, but they have a 21 age limit so off to plan B. We shopped a bit while in the Fremont neighborhood (which actually reminded us of our own Tremont) and found the most amazing cycling lifestyle shop called Hub and Bespoke! There were SO many items I could have bought here! Dinner ended up being at Norm's, which is also known as a Canine Pub. Yes, owners and dogs. We had the best time petting dogs, drinking great pints, and I had the BEST CHILI EVER. They use cocoa powder and peanut butter instead of flour to thicken the chili. It had black beans, corn, tender chunks of chicken, stewed tomatoes. The bowl of chili and a pint of Manny's Pale Ale warmed me up nicely on this cold, rainy day. Bridget even told the waiter it was the BEST grilled cheese and she ate ALL of it. Back to the hotel to rest before Bridget's big race morning.

Although it was windy and chilly race morning, there was no rain-phew! The packet pick-up was easy and, while we waited for the race to begin, Bridget was beyond excited to play on the playground, which had one of the best zip lines. This year, we went as Vampires. Don't we look scary?

As we lined up at the start, the race organizers treated us to pre-race stretching and exercises set to fun music. And then we were off! The first quarter mile started flat, but that wouldn't last for long. About a third of a mile in, we were greatest by a really steep hill. Ouch! Ok, ok, I survived that one with a nice shuffle. I no sooner caught up with Leonardo, Raphael, Michaelangelo, and Donatello (the best group of running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles) that I had to tackle nasty hill #2! Ok, this will not result in a PR, but the scenery made it all worthwhile! Mile 2 flattened out as I passed a few super heroes, a family of explorers with their kid as a lion, and Wayne and Garth (who would pass me in the last half mile). The space between mile 2 and 3 was mostly along the water with some wicked wind, but amazing views. And then it was time for the final stretch to be greeted by Bridget and Greg at the finish line.

Next up was Bridget's turn at the Kids 1k Fun Run. Bridget was so excited to start her first race. When they said GO, she took off with lightening fast speed. I couldn't even catch up with her! My guess was she was clocking in somewhere between a 6:30-7:00 minute mile!

She finally stopped at the turnaround and I was able to catch up. She was so excited in the final stretch, but nothing compared to the look of pure joy when she received her finisher's ribbon! When she ran to Greg, she told him that she finished her first race and got her first ribbon! I love this kid to pieces! And that's how Bridget helped to check off our 47th state!

We were also treated to some very clever costumes, including:
Honey Boo Boo
Running of the Bulls (one guy as the bull and 5 others dressed as Pamplonians)
Wayne & Garth
Pac Man
Family with husband as dog on leash and jogging stroller
Popcorn kernel
Gangnam Style
Bane from Batman-scary!

Greg, who is the BEST travel explorer of them all, found us a wonderful Sunday brunch spot at Skillet. Afterwards, Bridget got her "promised" stuffy for being so good on this trip, I got a new Lululemon running top and a warm infinity scarf, and a cool scarf for Meg (who was stuck back in the dorm). Greg indulged us with a trip to another coffee house, then time to relax, have dinner, pack and return back to our day jobs.

Seattle, we will be back. Thank you for your hospitality and coffee!