A Must-See in CLE: The Magic of PIPPIN at PlayhouseSquare

The Cast of the National Touring Production of PIPPIN, at PlayhouseSquare through Feb. 15. Credit Terry Shapiro

The Cast of the National Touring Production of PIPPIN, at PlayhouseSquare through Feb. 15. Credit Terry Shapiro

How many times have you watched a play, attended a concert or seen a painting and left inspired to take on greatness?

Art is magical in the way it fills us with the desire to pursue glory, revolt against whatever’s holding us back, and love with every inch of our body.

PIPPIN now playing at PlayhouseSquare until February 15, brings that magic to the stage in one of the most thrilling productions I’ve ever experienced.

As the curtain rises (well, in the case of this show, drops with a grand flourish), the Leading Player entices the audience to hear the tale of Charlemagne’s son Pippin.

Fresh out of university, Pippin doesn’t want to lead the sedentary life of a scholar. I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free. Got to find my corner of the sky,” he sings.

Lured from home by the Leading Player, Pippin tries his hand at battle, revolution, politics, and a lot of loving. But with each, he remains unsatisified. 

When he stumbles into ordinary life, he’s torn between his desire to pursue his daydreams and the comforts of a quiet family. It’s a struggle that resonates with all of us, and I wish I could go back in time to tell 20-year-old Amanda to see it.

Sam Lips as Pippin. Photo Credit Martha Rial

Sam Lips as Pippin. Photo Credit Martha Rial

The Leading Player and Pippin are brought to life in this production by Sasha Allen and Sam Lips, respectively.

Fans of The Voice and Camp will recognize Allen’s dynamic voice and magnetic stage presence. She’s perfect as the production’s ringleader. Lips, who understudied the role in the Broadway company, does a very convincing job of transforming Pippin from spastic, unsure teenager to a more settled (but at times, still conflicted) adult.  

However, as incredibly entertaining as Allen and Lips are – especially when on stage together, the performance that will stick with you long after the curtain is drawn is the Leading Player’s circus troupe.

From stunning acrobatics to showstopping musical numbers like No Time at All (beautifully sung — upside down on a trapeze! — by Priscilla Lopez) , the performances left my jaw on the floor. The trapeze work, stunts, and illusions the cast creates are worth the ticket price alone. In fact, describing them would ruin that magic.

Sasha Allen as Leading Player and the cast of the National Tour of PIPPIN. Credit Terry Shapiro

Sasha Allen as Leading Player and the cast of the National Tour of PIPPIN. Credit Terry Shapiro

After a fiery grand finale that left me breathless and a bit choked up, there’s no surprise that PIPPIN won Best Musical Revival at the Tonys and in my heart.

Run to PlayhouseSquare and see PIPPIN before it swings out of Cleveland. Tickets are going very fast and only a few performances remain. You really don’t want to miss it.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the opening night of PIPPIN with a guest in exchange for sharing my experience. All opinions are 100% my own.

[UPDATE] GIVEAWAY: Cleveland’s Great Big Home + Garden Show

home and garden show

UPDATE: After removing two duplicate entries and placing the remaining number in Random.org, congratulations go to entry #15 – Laura B! Please reply to my email by 2/4 at 5pm to confirm you can attend.

home show winner

When I’m stuck inside for more than a few days, my eyes drift to those home improvement projects I need to tackle. With the snowy weather, I’ve been eyeing the bedroom and bathroom updates we need to finish.

Fortunately, February’s Great Big Home and Garden Show, March’s Cleveland Home + Remodeling Expo, and my giveaways for both are perfectly timed to my need to tinker!

Mark your calendars for two weeks of home and garden inspiration when the Great Big Home and Garden Show returns to the Cleveland I-X Center February 6 through 15. (And save the date for the Home + Remodeling Expo March 27-29 – I’ll be giving away those tickets later.)

This year’s Great Big Home and Garden Show will include:

Tom Silva (This Old House and Ask This Old House’s), Matt Muenster (Bath Crashers and HGTV’s 2015 Dream Home), and nationally recognized design/build contractor Ramsin Khachi will be among the guests appearing on the combined Main Stage and Loretta Paganini Cooking Stage.

The brand-new Danny Vegh’s Break Room will serve up pub food and give guests a chance to compete in ping pong and other table games.

This year’s model homes include a 2,400 square foot Idea Home by Blossom Homes, a 1,500 square foot Xtend Technologies Entertainment Home with an in-ground pool, and a Weaver Barns house.

More than 1,000 home industry experts and 600 exhibitors will be on hand showcasing their techniques and tips for cooking, gardening, home improvement and more.

My favorite part of every year’s show is the Garden Showcase, and it sounds like this year’s showcase will rock, literally. Northeast Ohio landscapers will tackle some of Cleveland’s landmarks with the theme Cleveland Rocks.

Photos from my favorite garden at last year's show themed around Ohio beer.

Photos from my favorite garden at last year’s show themed around Ohio beer.

See the show features and stage schedule for more details.

Tickets at the I-X Center box office cost $15, but buy them online and save. Online tickets cost only $12, plus take another $1 off by using promo code CLUECLE15 when you check out online.

I’m also giving away a pair of general admission tickets to the event. How to enter: Do one, some, or all five of the entries. A separate comment is needed for each. 

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) What home improvement or gardening project is on your to-do list this year? Leave a comment on this post with your answer.

2) Follow @GreatBigShow and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave one comment on this post telling me you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of Clue Into Cleveland and Home and Garden Events on Facebook, leave one comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to go to @GreatBigShow. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway to win 2 tickets to #Cleveland’s home and garden show: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2DI

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until February 2 at 11:59pm to enter. Random.org will select the winner, which I will announce on February 3. Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend The Great Big Home and Garden Show with a guest in exchange for hosting a giveaway. My choice to post about this and any opinions are 100% my own.

Pier W: Fantastic Food, Even Better Customer Service

Two pieces of housekeeping: 

1) Congratulations to entry #34 – Megan Kilway! You won two tickets to CIFF’s Get Shorty Film Feast. Please reply to my email by January 26 at noon ET to confirm you can still attend.

Don’t have your tickets yet to Get Shorty on January 29? Tickets can be purchased here. You’ll have a great evening out, while helping to raise money for CIFF 39.

ciff tinyu

2) A note about today’s blog post: At various points in both of our careers, Scott and I worked in some form of customer relations. Because of this, we love seeing examples of businesses that go out of their way to provide stellar service, especially in response to a misstep. No one’s perfect; it’s how a business handles a mistake that truly demonstrates the value they place on their customer relationships.

I say all of this because of a recent experience Scott had at Pier W. He asked me if he could share it on the blog. Take it away, Scott.

Pier W 1

There was a saying I often heard as a child:

“It’s not your mistakes that define you, but how you deal with those mistakes.”

Most of the time I find sayings like that trite and indefinable in real life, so when I come across an actual example of it I take note.

Amanda and I have been big fans of Pier W for some time. I’d long been interested in going thanks to the billboard that towers over the Shoreway (especially when the modern ad fell off and the awesome old Pier W ad was visible for a few days).

It’s one of the few places around Cleveland where this Jersey boy can get really good seafood. I was hooked after my first sip of lobster bisque at a happy hour.

Add to their food the lakeside location, view of Cleveland’s stunning skyline, an incredible layout (love the glass elevator that goes past a fish tank!), and live pianist tickling ivories with superhero movie theme songs, and you have one of the coolest places in Cleveland.

It should come as no surprise that when it came time to plan Amanda’s birthday dinner, Pier W was at the top of my list.

Unfortunately, a customer service glitch kept our group from having dinner there that evening. Amanda’s birthday still turned out fine, but like all plans gone awry one does feel somewhat hardened to what threw things off. I loved Pier W, and I didn’t want to have a smudge on my opinion of it. But that was the fact of the matter.

Thankfully, that issue will not be what defines Pier W for me. I reached out to the restaurant, and after I explained to General Manager Mark Kawada what happened, he was determined to make sure what went wrong was put right.

Shortly after the start of 2015, Amanda, I, and a small group of friends were able to have that birthday dinner at Pier W.

Pier w food smaller

Iced Seafood Tower, Lobster Pappardelle, Chocolate Mousse Cake

It was an incredible time, and this was thanks to the wonderful customer service of Mr. Kawada and the staff at Pier W. He was determined that one bad experience would not define my view of the restaurant.

His above-and-beyond work paid off. I could not have a higher opinion of Pier W than I do right now. It was a mistake well fixed. (The free glass of champagne that Pier W is giving all of their guests for their 50th anniversary didn’t hurt.)

As grateful as I am to Mr. Kawada, let’s not forget the true star of our dinner at Pier W: Succulent raw oysters, the Iced Seafood Tower, the salty juices of Alaskan Crab Legs, and of course the lobster bisque.

I know Amanda thoroughly enjoyed the Maine lobster pappardelle she ordered. It’s the addition of ingredients like red peppers and French green beans in the pappardelle’s rich cognac sauce that sets Pier W’s dishes above others.

We were all delightfully stuffed, but that didn’t keep us from some delightful dessert. Chocolate mousse cake for myself and refreshing housemade sorbets for Amanda..

I’m thankful Mr. Kawada was able to put Pier W back in my positive thoughts, because the idea of going through life without any of that again makes me very sad.

So that is my delicious illustration of a trite – but important – saying. Pier W has redefined itself to me as not only a fantastic Cleveland dinner spot, but a true believer in excellent customer service.

I can’t wait to go back and recommend the restaurant to anyone looking for a special night of exquisite food and service that matches. If you go during the first 100 days of this year, you’ll also get a free glass of champagne (and flute to take home) in honor of Pier W’s 50th anniversary.

Because I love any chance to pen a limerick, here’s one dedicated to Pier W:

There once was a man who liked seafood,
And desired some that was real good.
So he tried very hard not to drool,
As he looked at the menu of Pier W,
And when there he’s always in a fantastic mood!

Giveaway: Win 2 Tickets to Cleveland International Film Festival’s Get Shorty Film Feast

CIFF39

UPDATE: Congratulations, entry #34 - Megan Kilway! Random.org’s generator selected you as the winner of this giveaway. Please reply to my email by January 26 at noon ET to confirm you can still attend.

CIFF Winner

The thawing of ice, the sound of chirping birds, the return of the Cleveland International Film Festival. These are all signs that spring has come to Cleveland.

As much as I’ll welcome the warmer weather, I think that CIFF is the sign of spring I’m most excited for.

If you haven’t been to the festival before, here’s a post I wrote a couple of years ago about it.

If you have been, you’re probably saying to yourself: “But, CIFF39 doesn’t start til March. We still have two, long winter months to get through.”

And you’d be right. The 39th Annual Cleveland Film Festival runs March 18 – 29, when 350+ films will take over Tower City Cinemas. (Even better — some of this year’s screenings will be coming to a neighborhood venue near you like the Beachland Ballroom, Cedar Lee Theatre, Chagrin Cinemas, the Akron Art Museum and more.)

However, although the festival is a couple of months away, you and a friend have the chance to enjoy an evening of films and food on January 29th for free!

On January 29 at 7pm, CIFF will host the Get Shorty Film Feast at the Capitol Theatre, and I have a pair of tickets to give away.

CIFF’s Film Feasts are a series of parties to celebrate the arts, cultivate new film buffs, and help raise money for the festival.

Get Shorty is an extra special (and one of the most popular) feasts because it gives you the chance to help program some of the short films that will play at the 39th CIFF.

That’s right: During Get Shorty, CIFF will screen a selection of short films; audience members will cast their vote for each; and the top scorers will be screened at the festival in March. 

And don’t worry about doing all of that “work” on an empty stomach. Before the screenings, Culinary Occasions will be serving food and drinks at the Arcade next door.

Tickets to Get Shorty are $100 each and available at clevelandfilm.org/support-us/film-feasts/get-shorty; however, you can enter my giveaway to win two free tickets to the party!

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**Do one, some or all of the entries. Separate comments needed for each.**

1) What’s your favorite film? Leave a comment on this post with your pick.

2) Follow @CIFF and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave one comment on this post telling me you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of Clue Into Cleveland and Cleveland International Film Festival on Facebook, leave one comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for tix to the Get Shorty film feast & help @CIFF pick the short films they’ll show http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2D7 #CLE

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Friday, January 23 at 11:59PM to enter. On Saturday, January 24, I will select a winner using Random.org and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was offered complimentary tickets to Get Shorty in exchange for hosting a giveaway. My opinions are 100% my own.

Cuddle Up at the Zoo’s Animal Attractions on February 5

Animal Attractions Postcard 2015

Over the holidays, Scott and I celebrated our tenth anniversary together. I know that’s not so long for others (I marvel at my parents who have been married for over 45 and together for over half a century). But still, a decade.

All those mushy feelings make getting through the drabness of another cold winter much easier to bear. Because there’s nothing like a little bit of passion to warm the cockles of your heart when temperatures dip into the single digits.

The Cleveland Zoological Society knows what I’m talking about. This February 5th, join them in the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s RainForest for one of my favorite winter events, Animal Attractions.

Animal Attractions is an evening for adults only, featuring food, cocktails, and fun presentations on the birds and the bees … and lions and tigers and bears … oh my. ;)

In addition to the food, drinks, and presentations, some of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's animals will be on hand for up-close meet and greets.

In addition to the food, drinks, and presentations at Animal Attractions, some of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s animals will be on hand for up-close meet and greets.

From 6:00 to 9:00 pm, guests can enjoy a sampling of tastes from these area restaurants:

  • AMP 150
  • Butcher & The Brewer
  • Cleveland Cupcake Company
  • Creekside Restaurant & Bar
  • Great Lakes Brewing Company
  • House of Blues Cleveland
  • Merwin’s Wharf
  • Tremont Tap House
  • Whole Foods Market Cedar Center

I’m happy to see a few of my favorites from previous years’ Animal Attractions on the list (AMP 150 and Cleveland Cupcake Company are always must-stops for me!) plus new ones like Butcher & The Brewer, Merwin’s Wharf and Tremont Tap House.

An open bar from Samuel Adams and Rain Organics Vodka, plus wine tastings round out the evening’s menu.

You’ll also enjoy conservation education with a twist at Animal Attractions. In years past, Scott and I attended a 50 Shades of Grey presentation about the zoo’s elephants and a trivia game on the mating habits of bears.

All in all, it’s a wonderful evening out at one of Cleveland’s most beautiful spots. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s RainForest showcases more than 10,000 plants and over 600 animals from the jungles of Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Dr Chris Kuhar, the Zoo'S Executive Director, will be among the featured speakers at Animal Attractions

Dr Chris Kuhar, the Zoo’S Executive Director, will be among the featured speakers at Animal Attractions

With a 25-foot waterfall, research hut, and other interactive exhibits, the two-acre, two-level indoor space is a wonderful way to enjoy the Zoo — especially when it’s so cold out. Getting the chance to explore it after-hours is definitely another perk to attending Animal Attractions.

General admission tickets for Animal Attractions cost $65. Or save $5 on your ticket and get a bunch of other great benefits by becoming a member of the Cleveland Zoological Society. You can purchase tickets online at www.clevelandzoosociety.org/events/2015/02/animal-attractions.

The Cleveland Zoological Society is also hosting an Animal Attractions sweepstakes on their Facebook page. You can learn more and enter it here: http://woobox.com/ronn89.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Animal Attractions with a guest in exchange for blogging about it. I’ve attended this event in years past and opinions and the decision to blog about it are 100% my own.

Why Urban Farmer Has Been My Saving Grace These Last Couple of Months

Steak Final

Steak from Urban Farmer in downtown Cleveland

It’s been a while, I know. Between work and PlayhouseSquare’s Partners board kicking into high gear, I haven’t had time (or residual energy) to blog here.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been busy the past couple of months over on PR Newswire’s Beyond Bylines blog.  (If you’re a blogger, feel free to check out a few of my recent blogging tip articles here, here and here.)

All of this has meant a lot of late nights and working through lunch. I’m not complaining, though. Ever since Urban Farmer opened in the Westin attached to my office building, I have a delicious and terribly convenient go-to for a late after-work dinner or happy hour.

Enjoying a summer happy hour at Urban Farmer

Enjoying a summer happy hour at Urban Farmer

Scott and I have worked in the Penton Media Building for eight years and with the exception of the occasional restaurant in the Galleria like Winks, dinner near work usually meant walking to PlayhouseSquare or E4th Street. Especially if we were in the mood for something special.

Although that 15-minute walk isn’t the worst, I sometimes think twice about it when it’s February and a few feet of snow or ice coat the ground.

With Urban Farmer, the trip consists of one elevator ride and a short walk down the hallway into the Westin.

It’s not only the convenience that makes Urban Farmer amazing.

From a blogger dinner a couple months ago to numerous happy hours and lunch meetings, Scott and I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring their menus. Scott even picked Urban Farmer as his birthday splurge for the year — and there were no complaints from me about having to go there again.

lobster final

Even if you’re not a steak fan, Urban Farmer offers something delicious like this lobster with tomato, avocado, and verjus sorbet

Here are my five favorite picks when I eat there:

For Lunch: The roasted pork bbq sandwich. One of the best sandwiches I’ve had. Wonderful BBQ flavor, juicy. The brussels slaw really complements it.  While I’ve heard wonderful things about their fries from Scott, my recommendation is to go with their salad for your side. Always delicious with seasonal vegetables and quinoa on top.

For Happy Hour: This is my favorite time to go to Urban Farmer. I recommend sitting in the lounge seating instead of at bar. You’ll have table service and still enjoy the happy hour specials.

To drink, try a salted honey beer for $5. This drink is perfect – gin, pilsner, lemon and a honey rim. I wish that it was on their regular dinner drinks menu.

Pair that with: their deviled eggs topped with a large chunk of house bacon and maple; their bangers and mash dish with chicken cherry sausage and potato puree; and the bbq pork shoulder, shrimp and grits. Three fantastic small plates that range in the $5-$7 range.

For a Special Occasion: Go ahead and splurge. Urban Farmer’s steak selection rivals some restaurants’ wine menus. If you can’t make up your mind, go with the New York Steak Tasting (6 oz each of White Oak grass-fed, Creekstone corn-fed and Ohio Proud twenty-one day dry aged).

For the Non-Steak Fan: Although Urban Farmer really shines at steaks, they offer excellent pork, chicken and fish dishes. I actually went with a flounder special for Scott’s birthday and as someone who grew up eating fresh flounder we had just caught off a boat, this dish blew me away. I also love pairing a couple first courses and sides, such as the lobster, tomato, avocado, and verjus sorbet, their prime beef tartare, or creamed spinach gratin.

Save Room for Dessert: I never save room for dessert. Sweets are great, but I’d rather another serving of oysters instead. Not at Urban Farmer. Ever since they served their Great Lakes Barley Custard at the blogger dinner, I’ve been hooked. It’s a mild flavor with an undertone of hops.  And to top it off, a crunchy honeycomb.

Urban Farmer's Great Lakes Barley Custard

Urban Farmer’s Great Lakes Barley Custard

In addition to their food, I love disappearing into Urban Farmer’s beautiful surroundings after a long day. The restaurant designer has created an atmosphere that perfectly encapsulates the Urban Farmer name.

While of course it feels like a posh restaurant you’d find in any city – be it Cleveland, Philly or New York, there are elements that make you instantly comfortable like you’re sitting down to dinner with friends in a warm, comfortable farmhouse.

And although the restaurant isn’t actually that large, it feels huge with at least 4 or 5 interconnected spaces, all a little unique in their decor to one another.

Two of the spaces in Urban Farmer

Two of the spaces in Urban Farmer

I love it because there’s a level of familiarity whenever I dine there, but I also feel like I see the restaurant with fresh eyes each time. Which is good, because I plan on dining there a lot.

Urban Farmer is open seven days a week at the Westin in downtown Cleveland. They offer breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner Monday-Friday. On the weekends, join them for brunch and dinner.

If you’re looking for a special way to celebrate New Year’s Eve or Day, join them for dinner on the 31st before heading out to your NYE party (dinner will be served til 11pm) or enjoy a hearty brunch on January 1.

Disclosure: I attended a dinner for bloggers a few months ago at Urban Farmer, but have visited the restaurant a few times since to get a feel for the rest of the restaurant and their other dishes. All opinions are 100% my own.

Jump Back to the Future: PlayhouseSquare Partners’ #JBB24 Ticket Kickoff Party

PlayhouseSquare Partners' Jump Back Ball 24: Jump Back to the Future

The Back to the Future trilogy has a very soft spot in my heart.

Like most kids from the 80s, I watched the first Back to the Future a zillion times growing up. I don’t know whether it was my penchant for only listening to oldies music, but the Earth Angel scene was the one that stuck with me the most. The film also instilled in me a life-long obsession with Christopher Lloyd.

For some reason, though, I never saw the second installment and only a few scenes from the third on tv. So, when Scott and I started dating, he decided to remedy this.

For our first of many road-trips together, Scott bought a portable dvd player (this was before we could stream or rent movies on our tablet) and loaded it with the full trilogy. As we drove through the night, Scott and I watched the three films, back to back to back.

Back to the Future is also the reason I ended up joining PlayhouseSquare Partners when PlayhouseSquare showed it during their Cinema at the Square Young Professionals Night. I met Dawn and Robert, that year’s Membership Chairs, at the happy hour beforehand and that was it. I was hooked.

Five years later, I’m co-chairing the Partners board. So it’s sort of fitting that this year PlayhouseSquare Partners is jumping back to the future.

Of course that’s not the reason Jump Back to the Future is the 24th annual Jump Back Ball’s theme. In all honesty, I found out the theme the same time as everyone else. This is one reason why, though:

Screenshot from Back to the Future 2

Screenshot from Back to the Future 2

Yep, the future that Marty and Doc jump to in Back to the Future 2 is 2015.

For one night, you can pretend that time-traveling DeLoreans and hoverboards do exist. (Actually, a hoverboard of sorts is currently being Kickstarted.)

This year’s Jump Back Ball is taking place February 28, 2015 at PlayhouseSquare. While it’s still a few months away, you’ll want to get your tickets at the Ticket Kickoff Party on November 10.

Last year’s Jump Back Ball sold out in only 10 days – breaking another record for ticket sales for this event. So if you don’t want to miss this year’s Jump Back Ball, you need to get your tickets right away. Here’s the scoop on how.

Jump Back to the Future Ticket Kickoff

When? Monday, November 10 from 5:30-7:30pm

Where? Hofbräuhaus Cleveland (1550 Chester Ave.)

How much? $130 for Partners* and $165 for Non-Partners, a portion of which is tax deductible. Ticket prices increase by $15 plus handling fees the next day, so save the most at the Kickoff Party.

How many? Ticket limits will apply at the event. Non-Partners can purchase two tickets per person. Partners* can purchase two tickets at the Partners price and two at the Non-Partners price per membership.

Learn more about the Kickoff Party: facebook.com/events/1462714320674361

What’s all the fuss about? Read my recap of last year’s Jump Back Ball to find out.

*If your current membership expires before Jump Back Ball, renew on or before November 10 to be eligible for discounted tickets.

PlayhouseSquare Partners is also partnering with the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland at this year’s Kickoff Party.

Bring a new, unused personal care item to do be donated to Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland and be entered into a raffle to win an overnight stay at the Wyndham the night of Jump Back Ball, a VIP upgrade for yourself and a guest, and loge tickets to upcoming performances at PlayhouseSquare.

Here’s a suggested list of items to donate:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Lotion

So, join me at the Hofbräuhaus on November 10 because once Jump Back Ball sells out, there’s no time machine to take you back.

Disclosure: I am a co-chair of this year’s PlayhouseSquare Partners board. I’m also a blogger for the event, offered one complimentary ticket in exchange for blogging about and purchasing a ticket to Jump Back Ball.

Lake Erie Love: Falling in Love with Fall on Put-in-Bay

Smiles all around - it must be Fall in Put-in-Bay

Smiles all around after a wonderful Fall day on Put-in-Bay

Although everyone may think of Put-in-Bay as a summer locale, Fall is my favorite time to visit the island.

Island life is a little less hectic. The ferry trip on the lake’s choppier waters is its very own thrill ride. And the tree-lined streets are absolutely gorgeous — all of that red, yellow, orange, and green against the backdrop of Lake Erie. 

Earlier this month, two of our friends from college visited us for a weekend of Northeast Ohio winery hopping, with our first stop being the Island Wine Festival on Put-in-Bay.

Throughout the afternoon, we sampled from more than 400 wines, including ones from Heineman and other Ohio wineries. Old Forge was also on hand serving up their delicious crepes. In my opinion, nothing pairs better with sweet wine on a Fall day than a prosciutto, brie and apple drizzled with honey. 

Crepe from Old Forge and our silent auction win from Put-in-Bay's Island Wine Festival

Crepe from Old Forge and our silent auction win from Put-in-Bay’s Island Wine Festival

While Scott and I didn’t bring home any wine from the festival, we did win a Put-in-Bay history basket from the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society’s silent auction. The cloth Hotel Victory napkin, early 1900s island postcards, and signs were pretty cool, but my favorite find was the vintage tea cup featuring my birthday bud Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry.

After enjoying a couple hours at the wine festival, a break was needed so we hopped back in our golf cart and puttered around the island. 

The wonderful thing about any visit to Put-in-Bay is that if you need a break from whatever activity you came for, there are plenty of other ways to spend your time. We spent the afternoon spelunking in Perry’s Cave, braving the winds atop Perry’s Monument, and grabbing some of the Candy Bar’s chocolate-covered bacon to enjoy at home. 

Scott and I even took in another tour of the Put-in-Bay Winery. After my third tour, I can say it’s the only place I’ve taken a tour of more than twice and still enjoyed myself. (The wine you get to sample throughout the Doller House’s buildings doesn’t hurt.)

Touring the ice house at Put-in-Bay Winery with delicious wine in hand

Touring the ice house at Put-in-Bay Winery with delicious wine in hand

I love being able to show off Put-in-Bay. Over four bowls of the Boardwalk’s hearty and delicious Lobster Bisque, I was happy to hear that our guests are just as enamored as we are with this little getaway. 

You have one more chance to enjoy Put-in-Bay’s Fall festivities this year. Today through tomorrow is the annual Halloween Boo Bash at the Bay

For Ohio’s largest island Halloween Party, Put-in-Bay’s downtown bars and taverns will be decked out in halloween decorations and live entertainment throughout the two days. Come in costume and you could win a cash prize in one of the island’s costume contests (the Miller Ferry blog has some great island-themed costume ideas). Many of the island’s stores will also be offering end-of-season discounts on some of their wares.

If you need one final Put-in-Bay fix before the long winter, check it out.

You can keep up with Put-in-Bay’s other upcoming events at millerferry.com/events/put-in-bay and find out what’s currently open on the island at millerferry.com/events/put-in-bay/2014/10/open412.html.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Island Wine Festival and received 4 tickets for the Miller Ferry, 1 ticket to the festival, and a golf cart to use throughout the day. We had already been planning a trip to the island, though, and opinions here are 100% my own.

Giveaway: Halloween Fun for Everyone at Cedar Point’s #HalloWeekends

Enter to win 4 tickets to Cedar Point's Halloweekends (good through November 2)

Enter to win 4 tickets to Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends (good through November 2)

UPDATE: We have a giveaway winner! After tallying up the entries, removing two duplicates, and placing the remaining total into Random.org, congratulations to entry #54 – All Lacquered Up! You’ve won a family 4-pack of tickets to Cedar Point. Please reply to my email by Wednesday at 5pm confirming you can attend.

Halloweekends Giveaway Winner

When it comes to Halloween, it can be difficult to find one place that makes everyone happy.

Sure, there are some places that do family-friendly fun exceptionally well. And there are other places that can put a fright in the bravest of souls. But excelling at one usually happens at the expense of the other.

That’s not a problem with Cedar Point’s HalloWeekends. Just like the amusement park’s regular offerings, their HalloWeekends festivities offer something for everyone.

The monsters come out to play at Halloweekends

The monsters come out to play at HalloWeekends

Scott and I made back-to-back trips to Cedar Point this past weekend (thank god for season passes) – Saturday was spent exploring Cedar Point with Scott, his mom and grandmother, while Sunday was spent rollercoastering and haunted housing with Scott.

And over the two days, there was not a moment where we weren’t having a blast. In fact, we’ll probably find an excuse to make use of our season passes one more time before the season ends Nov 2.

Here are 5 reasons why:

Unlock More Haunts: Cedar Point’s 5 haunted houses and 6 Scare Zones have always been fantastic, usually worth the wait in line. However, a new feature for this year’s Fright Lane pass had me purchasing one on Sunday’s visit to the park.  In addition to front-of-line access to all haunted houses, Fright Lane gets you a skeleton key that unlocks a secret room in each house.

Each Skeleton Key room offered an experience that preyed on a different fear – we got plenty of scares out of it and even a few laughs. Scott’s and my favorite room was at Boeckling’s Estate, followed by Cedar Point’s newest haunted house Hexed. Fright Lane costs vary depending on the day you’re going to the park.

Dine in a haunted house at Cedar Point's Boeckling's Banquet

Dine in a haunted house at Cedar Point’s Boeckling’s Banquet

Dinner with Ghouls: Boeckling’s Banquet at Cedar Point has been a longtime favorite of Scott’s and mine. Dining inside of a haunted house on delicious lobster tail, perfectly cooked filet, and a unique Halloween-themed dessert? Who wouldn’t miss that? This year’s was the perfect way to celebrate Scott’s birthday with his mom and grandmom. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind Halloween experience, Boeckling’s Banquet is worth a look.

Midway Monster Invasion: Every Saturday and Sunday at 5pm, the Cedar Point midway is taken over by monsters …. friendly monsters! It doesn’t matter what age you are, Cedar Point’s Midway Monster Invasion will put a smile on your face and a bob in your step as you dance along to the parade music.

The Peanuts make an appearance in Cedar Point's Midway Monster Invasion

The Peanuts make an appearance in Cedar Point’s Midway Monster Invasion

Take in a Show: The Cleveland-based music group Midnight Syndicate has come to Cedar Point for their first live performance ever. Known for their gothic horror instrumentals, Midnight Syndicate has put together a performance that blends music, theatrics and film. After experiencing it for ourselves, Scott and I definitely found ourselves in the Halloween mood. Another must-see is the cirque-style Skeleton Crew on Celebration Plaza. I’m not always one for big outdoor shows, but I really enjoyed it.

Entertainment you make yourself: Often the best moments are the fun you make for yourself: From posing with all of the incredible decorations throughout the park…

Scott sees into his future, and his future doesn't like what's looking back

Scott sees into his future, and his future doesn’t like what’s looking back

…to grabbing a beer or glass of wine at the Trail Tavern and watching a scare zone unfold in front of us from the comfort of the Tavern’s front porch.

On top of all of the Halloween fun, there are the rollercoasters, bumper cars, merry-go-rounds, and other entertainment that make up every visit to Cedar Point.

There are only a few weekends left to enjoy this year’s HalloWeekends, which runs Friday-Sunday through November 2nd. But you can enter my HalloWeekends giveaway today and win a family four-pack of one-day tickets good for one of the final two weekends.

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**Do one, some or all five of the entries. Separate comment’s needed for each.**

Please note: This giveaway runs til Oct. 20 and tickets are for this year’s HalloWeekends only, which ends Nov. 2, 2014.

1) What’s your favorite thing about HalloWeekends? If you haven’t been to HalloWeekends yet, what are you most excited to do? Leave a comment on this post with your pick.

2) Follow @CedarPoint and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave one comment on this post telling me you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of Clue Into Cleveland and Cedar Point on Facebook, leave one comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

Scare up some fun at @CedarPoint’s #HalloWeekends. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for a family four-pack of tickets: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2BN

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Monday, October 20 at 11:59PM to enter. On Tuesday, October 21, I will select a winner using Random.org and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was offered complimentary tickets to Cedar Point; however, as a Platinum Season Passholder, I did not need them. I was also offered the opportunity to host this giveaway. My opinions on Cedar Point are and always have been my own.

Giveaway: Spice Up Your Fall with Two Westside Wine Events

Spice up your fall with these two west-side wine events

Spice up your fall with these two westside wine events

UPDATE: We have a giveaway winner! After tallying up the entries and placing the total into Random.org, congratulations to entry #19 – Jessica Z! You’ve won 2 L’Amour du Vin general admission tickets. Please reply to my email by Tuesday at noon confirming you can attend.

lamourduvin

If Target and Lowe’s are right, the holidays are quickly approaching. Ok, maaaaybe Christmas in September is a bit too soon; however, seeing the decorations on the shelves has been a good reminder that there’s one thing I need to do sooner than later: make sure my wine coffers are filled. 

Whether it’s a last-minute Halloween party, Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws, or my friend’s Waffle Christmas bash, I’ll sleep better knowing I have a reserve of reds and whites at the ready for the next holiday party.

What to buy, though? Fortunately, two upcoming events on the westside offer the perfect opportunity for some wine recon.

Keep reading for details on both events and a chance to win tickets to one of them!

Island Wine Festival, October 4

I never need an excuse to spend the day on Put-In-Bay, but if you do, this Saturday’s Island Wine Festival is a really great one.

Hop aboard the Miller Ferry to South Bass Island for a leisurely afternoon of wine, delicious food, and island living. Put-In-Bay’s Island Wine Festival runs 11am to 6pm on October 4 at the Put-in-Bay Winery and Doller House Estate.

Enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Erie or take a stroll through Put-in-Bay Winery's beautiful grounds at the Island Wine Festival

Enjoy beautiful views of Lake Erie or take a stroll through Put-in-Bay Winery’s gorgeous grounds at the Island Wine Festival

Sample more than 400 wines, including ones from the Put-in-Bay Winery, Heineman Winery and other Ohio wineries. Sampling tickets are $1 each with most samples running between $1 and $4. Bottles can also be purchased to take home with you.

In addition to wine, enjoy a display on the history of island wineries and grab a bite to eat from one of the festival vendors. Benefits from the event’s silent auction will go to the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society.

Scott and I went to the Island Wine Festival two years ago and made a full day out of the trip, checking out Perry’s Cave, the Crystal Cave and Perry’s Monument before and after the festival.

Although most people think summer when they think of Put-in-Bay, Fall is where it’s at, in my opinion.

L’Amour du Vin, October 9

I know everyone loves the Arthritis Foundation’s Silver Spoon Awards — I do too. But if I had to pick a favorite between that and their fall fundraiser L’Amour du Vin, I’d be hard-pressed to make my choice.

Presented by University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, L’Amour du Vin puts the spotlight on Lorain County and Cleveland’s Westside.

Enter to win 2 tickets to L'Amour du Vin on October 9

Enter to win 2 tickets to L’Amour du Vin on October 9

The wine and food event is taking place next Thursday, October 9 and will feature wines from Heidleburg of Lorain and cuisine from 41 North, AMP 150, Bistro 83, Taki’s Greek Kitchen, Kiedrowski’s Simply Delicious Bakery, and other area restaurants.

I LOVE this event. Living in Avon Lake, I may be a little biased but L’Amour du Vin’s smaller size and targeted approach is the perfect opportunity to experience what the westside of Cleveland has to offer (spoiler: a lot).

The VIP lounge has also always impressed me, featuring cocktails from Brown-Forman (loved last year’s Ward 8!) plus more food, spa services and other VIP surprises.

Scott and I even purchased L’Amour du Vin tickets for his parents so that they can get a taste of some of the different restaurants in their new neighborhood.

Cocktails and food from last year's L'Amour du Vin VIP party

Cocktails and food from last year’s L’Amour du Vin VIP party

The 17th annual L’Amour du Vin takes place October 9 at the Avon Oaks Country Club from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. General admission tickets are $65 per person ($80 at the door) and VIP costs $95 per person. Event proceeds support local programs and services for the nearly 1.3 million Northeast Ohioans with arthritis. Purchase tickets at lamourduvin2014.eventbrite.com or by calling Alicia at (216) 285-2822.

As much as I’m looking forward to attending L’Amour du Vin,
I’m even more excited that one of you will also be going!

Whether you’re a longtime westsider who’s already clued into our local restaurants, or want to explore more of this region’s cuisine, here’s your chance to win a pair of general admission tickets to L’Amour du Vin:

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**Do one, some or all five of the entries. A separate comment’s needed for each.**

1) What’s your favorite Lorain County or Cleveland Westside restaurant? Leave a comment on this post with your pick.

2) Follow @ArthritisFouNEO and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave one comment on this post telling me you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of Clue Into Cleveland and The Arthritis Foundation, Northeast Ohio Chapteron Facebook, leave one comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

Raise a glass to @ArthritisFouNEO at #LAmourduVin. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for your chance to win tickets: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2Bp

You can tweet once per day for additional entries. Just leave a separate comment each time you tweet.

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Sunday, October 5 at 11:59PM to enter. On Monday, October 6, I will select a winner using Random.org and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend L’Amour du Vin with a guest in exchange for hosting a giveaway, I also have been invited to attend the Island Wine Festival. My choice to post about these events and opinions are 100% my own.