Category Archives: Winter

CSU Packs the House for The Gathering Place

Have you entered to win 2 tickets to Cleveland’s Great Big Home and Garden Show? You have until Tuesday, January 24 at 11:59pm – good luck!


When I was in college, it was basketball not football that was really big at our school. When I first moved to Ohio, I was fascinated by how OSU and Michigan fans filled the bars on Saturdays to watch football. I really hadn’t experienced anything like that before.

College basketball, on the other hand – now that’s something we would drop everything for. With the Philadelphia Big 5 (La Salle, St. Joe’s, Villanova, UPenn, and Temple), basketball season was the time of year the campus would rally.

Now that I live in Cleveland I still don’t have to go far to get my fill of college hoops each season, as the Cleveland State Women’s and Men’s basketball teams make their home in the heart of downtown CLE.

When the Cleveland State University Women’s Basketball team takes on Detroit next Saturday, you too will have more than one reason to attend the game:  the Vikings are participating in the NCAA Pack the House Challenge.

The purpose of the January 28th Pack the House Game is to increase awareness in the sport of women’s basketball and help prepare the next generation of women’s college basketball players and fans.

All tickets for the 2pm game cost only $1, with the goal of setting an attendance record. For first-time attendees, it’s a great (and inexpensive!) way to experience Vikings basketball.

There will also be post-game free throws, $1 menu items and a free KidZone for families.

If local school pride’s not enough to get you down to the Wolstein Center on the 28th, a portion of all ticket sales will benefit The Gathering Place, a nonprofit, community-based cancer support center serving the needs of Greater Cleveland.

My dad’s a three-time cancer survivor so I’ve seen firsthand how excruciating the journey can be. Programs like the ones that The Gathering Place provides free of charge are often essential for the individuals and families touched by cancer.

It’s easy to build awareness for Women’s Basketball and raise money for The Gathering Place — for only $1:

When you buy your tickets, let them know you learned about the game through this post by entering the code ClueInto in the promo code section of the ticketing website. If you purchase your ticket in person, provide the code to the box office seller.

If you can’t make it on January 28th, you can learn more about the Vikings’ 2011-2012 Women’s Basketball Season here. All home games are played at the Wolstein Center, 2000 Prospect Avenue.

Disclosure: I was invited by the Wolstein Center to participate in a contest among other local bloggers to see who can pack the house the most. As always, though, my thoughts and the choice of events I share are 100% my own.

Great Big Home and Garden Show Giveaway

One of the goals on my 30×30 list is to start a major home improvement this year. Scott and I have settled into our house over the last two years, and it’s time to start a couple projects. Short-term? We’re hoping to re-tile one of our rooms this summer. Long-term? We have plans to add on a 3-season room to the back of the house.

Fortunately, The Great Big Home and Garden Expo is back – February 4 through 12!

The first time I went to this annual show was a few months after we moved into our house. As a new homeowner, I was a little over-zealous … stopping at every landscaping and home improvement booth. While there, I picked up a few things for the garden, including a locally handmade glass hummingbird feeder we still hang in our backyard.

This year, I’m heading back with more of a game plan – doing some research for the key projects we’re looking to accomplish.

The 2012 Great Big Home and Garden Expo will fill the IX Center from Feb. 4 through Feb. 12 (show dates and times). Features of this year’s show will include:

  • More than 650 exhibitors to help you with your gardening, home improvement, and decorating projects.
  • Celebrity guests, including Chip Wade of HGTV’s Curb Appeal; The Block and Designed to Sell and Christopher Straub from season 6 of Project Runway.
  • Tours of an eco-friendly Idea Home and two efficient log cabins.
  • The Home Builders Association Pavilion, featuring a 53-foot-long interactive mobile display and the Dream Home Theatre.
  • Celebrity Designer Rooms created by a Northeast Ohio interior designer and local tv and radio personalities.
  • The Gardening Stage presented by Petitti Garden Center with daily gardening seminars on landscape design, flora and furnishing outdoor rooms.

In addition to researching our upcoming home improvement projects, I’m also looking forward to having some fun by checking out the classic tv-themed gardens (Batman, Twilight Zone and The Flintstones are top on my to-see list) and the Easy, Elegant & Entertaining Eats demonstration from Fahrenheit Restaurant’s Chef Rocco Whalen on Feb. 11 and 12.

I hope to see you there too!  Tickets are $14 at the door for adults, but buy your tickets online before the show and save $3.

Plus, Clue into Cleveland readers can save even more: Use the code “CLUE” when you’re buying tickets online and they will cost only $10 – a total savings of $4. Purchase tickets here.

I also have 2 tickets to give away that are good for any one day of the Great Home and Garden Expo, Feb. 4 through Feb. 12!


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

1) Leave a comment telling me how you plan to spruce up your home or garden space this year.

2) Follow @ADHicken and @GreatBigShow on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did both.

3) Like “Clue Into Cleveland” and “The Great Home and Garden Expo” on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know you did both.

4) Add Clue Into Cleveland to your Google Reader or subscribe to receive Clue Into Cleveland posts and leave a comment letting me know you did.

5)  Twitter users can get an extra entry each day for tweeting: “Want to spruce up your home and garden? Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway to win @GreatBigShow tickets″.  (Each day you do this, you must leave a new comment.)


You have until Tuesday, January 24 at 11:59PM to enter.  On January 25, I will select a winner using and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

***Disclosure: I was provided 2 Great Big Home and Garden Show tickets for myself and 2 to give away to a reader.  As always, though, my thoughts and the choice of events I share are 100% my own.***

Ringing in 2012 with Fat Head's Brewery and #TeamSawyer Tweetup Heads Up

Happy New Year's!

I love New Year’s Eve – hanging out with friends, Dick Clark’s admirable tenacity, the anticipation of the countdown. However, when it comes to partying on New Year’s Eve, I prefer a low-key gathering.

Last year, we had friends out from Philly and rang in 2011 with a dinner at home that featured some of our favorite things from West Side Market. For New Year’s Cleve 2012, we decided to venture out, but still wanted something that was not over-the-top.

Fat Head’s offered the perfect solution: dinner, dessert, two beers of your choosing, and a midnight toast for $30.

I love Fat Head’s. A short drive from Great Northern Mall, it’s Scott’s and my post-shopping escape. When the mall is crazy, a beer is a nice way to decompress and they have excellent beer.

Scott considers their Starlight Helles Lager his favorite beer. He’s a lager man so he sticks with that whenever we’re there.  And he’s right — it is a very good, clean lager, but I like to experiment and Fat Head’s tends to not disappoint on that front either.

Their Happy Holidays brew was my favorite Christmas Ale this season and their Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale is one of my go-to standards — a refreshing, but unique taste.

I also like their Sorcerer, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, and the Battle Axe Baltic Porter. For fans of IPAs, I recommend making a visit to Fat Head’s because their Head-Hunter IPA is a consistent award-winner.

Fat Head’s isn’t just for beer lovers, though, boasting a very robust menu – both in variety and serving size. I am a huge fan of their 4 Onion Honey and Ale Soup (especially during this time of year), smoked prime rib burrito and all of their pizzas.

However, in my opinion, their selection of Headwiches is really where they shine. The first time you order one, you realize they’re called headwiches thanks to their size.  I can usually get 2-3 lunches out of them.

The Southside Slopes has been named one of the best sandwiches in the country with its kielbasa topped with fried pierogies, American cheese, grilled onions, and horseradish sauce.

If you like a lot of heat, I recommend the Bay of Pigs (pulled pork, ham, swiss cheese and pickles with their homemade Honey Mustard and spicy Killer sauce) or the Steak Out.

My favorite, though, is the Pot Head.  Featuring beer braised pot roast with celery, carrots, potatoes, cheddar cheese, and horseradish sauce, it’s a hearty, warming sandwich – a delicious dinner with all the fixings, but in sandwich form.

Being the Fat Head’s fans that we are and in search of a well-priced, low-key New Year’s Cleve, we quickly made plans when we saw their New Year’s Eve special.  And it was a great way to ring in the new year.

The dinner buffet featured pierogies, giant and rich wings, ribs, pulled pork, large soft pretzel sticks, lots of their awesome pizza and – Scott’s favorite – a bin of bacon. To drink, I celebrated 2012 with a Sorcerer, a Pimp My Sleigh and their midnight beer toast.

The food and drink were well-complemented with good company. In addition to hanging out with Kate, Brian, Dan and Sarah, the crowd that packed into Fat Head’s on Saturday night was jovial and not too crazy.  I even randomly met someone who reads my blog – hi, Bridgid! (I may have geeked out when she told me that because it still takes me by surprise that someone besides Scott’s and my family reads this).

I know New Year’s Eve often gets blown out of proportion — it’s easy to go overboard and set really huge expectations for what – in reality – amounts to little more than counting down from 10 and changing the calendar from one day to another.  I think that’s why I’ve always preferred parties at home or out at a pub for New Year’s Eve.

And I’m happy to say between the free-flowing food, some pretty fantastic beer, hanging out with new and old friends, and a little bit of Apples to Apples and UNO, New Year’s Eve at Fat Head’s was totally worth it.

And for the beginning of 2012? I don’t think you could start a year much better than with Happy Dog’s Gravy and Biscuits Brunch and a hot dog.

I hope the start of your new year was likewise filled with delicious food and good company.  And if you’re looking for another great party this January: Greenhouse Tavern just announced their Iron Chef America Watch Party and #TeamSawyer Tweetup.

The January 22nd episode of Iron Chef America will feature Chef Sawyer’s first time as a challenger in Kitchen Stadium (he’s been there before as Symon’s sous chef). You can watch him take on Iron Chef Zakarian either from the comfort of your own home or at The Greenhouse Tavern Tweetup.

The episode starts at 10pm, but from 9-10pm #TeamSawyer is hosting a contest to guess the secret ingredient with a bottle of GHT pinot noir, house made beer vinegar, and an autographed GHT t-shirt going to the winner.

And if you’re not on Twitter, the mezzanine will be open to watch, relax, and order off the special Iron Chef Menu. Either way, register here.

2012’s already looking good!

All I Want for Cleve-Mas, Part 4: Fighting Cabin Fever

Have you entered the Clue Into Cleveland giveaway for a Dolce Gusto Piccolo coffee machine? Only a few days left to enter here!

From ice skating in University Circle, to the Zoo, Metroparks and Progressive Field, there are plenty of ways to get outside and fight cabin fever this holiday season.

Cleveland winters get a bum rap. Although I know I’ll complain about it when we’re in the throws of February dealing with endless snow, during this time of year I’m not quite ready to hunker down indoors.

In fact, with my holiday shopping and errands nearly done, it’s time to enjoy the season, throw on my coat and head outside in the brisk December winds for some of these festivities:

The Frozen Diamond FaceOff is just one of the new features at this year's Indians Snow Days.

Cleveland Indians Snow Days

Cleveland Indians Snow Days was one of my favorite parts about last year’s winter (here’s last year’s recap). So as soon as tickets went on sale for this year’s return of Snow Days to Progressive Field, I bought mine.

I think it’s a perfect example of Cleveland’s ingenuity — transforming Progressive Field, which would sit mostly empty during the off-season, into a unique and fun wonderland.

Back again this year are The Batterhorn Snow Tubing hill (loved launching down the slick hills last year!) and the Frozen Mile ice skating track (the first non-symmetrical ice skating path in the U.S.).

The Cleveland Indians also added The Frozen Diamond, a regulation-sized ice skating rink covering home plate and stretching down the first base line. On January 15, The Frozen Diamond will host Ohio’s first-ever outdoor college hockey match when Ohio State and the University of Michigan play each other in The Frozen Diamond FaceOff.

I grew up watching the Philadelphia Flyers and hearing stories of the legendary Broad Street Bullies, so hockey’s been in my blood since I was a kid. I’ve never been to an outdoor game, so I bought the Snow Days Bundle Package, which gets you tickets to the January 15 game and a good-any-day combo pass for snow tubing and ice skating fun between now and the end of Snow Days on Jan. 16.

Thrillseekers can shoot down the Cleveland Metroparks' Tobogganing Chutes throughout the winter.

Take a Hike in the Cleveland Metroparks

Cleveland’s “Emerald Necklace” glimmers even more brightly this time of year with plenty of winter recreation opportunities.

Top of my list to try this season is tobogganing at the Chalet in Strongsville’s Mill Stream Run Reservation. If I thought snow tubing down the Indians’ Batterhorn was fast, I don’t know what to expect from the Chalet’s 1,000-foot ice chutes. And when the thrills get too much, I can head indoors and enjoy the warmth of their fireplaces.

For those who like to get some exercise while enjoying the great outdoors, the Cleveland Metroparks are also hosting a series of Holiday Hikes. The next two will explore CanalWay Center on Dec. 22 and Bacci Park on Dec. 29, both in the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation starting at 1pm.

Other upcoming hikes include this Saturday’s Candlelit Hike and Caroling through South Chagrin’s Look About Lodge, as well as this Sunday’s Winter Blues Hike with Naturalist Kelly McGinnis along Deer Lick Cave Trail.

The Cleveland Metroparks Calendar of Events lists the dates and locations for all of their programs.  And before you take a hike, check out these two Metroparks articles to learn a bit about winter birdwatching and the animals living under winter’s blanket.

During December Days, the Cleveland Zoo is offering discounted admission and plenty of holiday activities.

Cleveland Zoo December Days

I love visting the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and after October I love it even more because I can save $3 when I want to visit my favorite exhibit: the tigers, bears and wolves in the Northern Trek.

Starting this coming Monday, Dec. 19 and running until Dec. 30, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is hosting December Days at the Zoo. Admission is discounted even further to $7 for adults, $4 for children 2-11.

In addition to all of the exhibits, the Zoo is hosting a number of festive activities during December Days. From cookie decorating and holiday crafts in the Welcome Plaza’s Exhibit Hall to live music and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, it’s another low-cost way to spend the holidays with your family, especially if you have children.

Wade Oval lights up with lanterns from the Cleveland Museum of Art and festive trees and gingerbread houses at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Find Yourself (and the Holidays) in University Circle

My final favorite winter spot is the eastside’s University Circle. From more ice skating to winter lights and holiday treats, there are plenty of things to enjoy in the museum neighborhood.

The Cleveland Botanical Garden WinterShow boasts gingerbread houses made by professionals, amateurs and local families. Other festival highlights include the beautiful WinterShow Tree, holiday plants, trees decorated in the themes of children’s tales and fables, and Christmas cacti. It runs through Dec. 31st.

After the Botanical Garden, head over to the Cleveland Museum of Art for their Winter Lights Lantern Displays. Even though I missed the Procession of Lights during Holiday CircleFest, the Environment of Lights installation in Wade Oval is on view through this Sunday, Dec. 18.  The 5 indoor lantern displays will continue inside of the Museum of Art until January 16.

And for those who haven’t gotten their fill of ice skating at Progressive Field or in the Metroparks, there’s always the Rink at Wade Oval Circle. It’s free if you bring your own skates, $3 for skate rentals.


As the season wraps up, I have to remind myself to relax and go out and enjoy these seasonal festivities. I hope you also find some free time this holiday – whether it’s enjoying the outdoors at one of these events or inside with a warming hot chocolate or glass of wine.

Check out Parts 1-3 of All I Want for Cleve-Mas 2011:

Pictures from,,, and

Guest Post – Queen of the Ice Wine: South River Vineyards and the Ice Wine Festival

I came to the sad conclusion a while ago that I’m incapable of exploring everything in Northeast Ohio. Case in point, I was really disappointed to have to miss the Geneva Ice Wine Festival this past weekend (and the coming weekend since I’m going to be in Chicago for this).

Fortunately, Clue Into Cleveland guest contributor Kate Galo was happy enough to enjoy a day of wine tasting for me. Enjoy her writeup of the experience and be sure to check out the Ice Wine Festival this Saturday, March 19th (your last chance this year!).

— Amanda


I find that there are certain proposals that could be made to me that I will always say yes to.  Would I like to bring some food to a dinner party?  Would I mind asking that embarrassing question so my friend doesn’t have to?  Would I like to go drink some wine?

A bottle of South River's Karma wine in their cellar

The answer will always be an emphatic YES.  So when Clue Into Cleveland was asked if we’d like to go to South River Vineyard and maybe try some ice wine, I said YES.  (And maybe threatened to knock Amanda and Elizabeth out of the way so I could go.)  I was already planning on making my way to Geneva and had no problem with visiting South River Vineyard first!

I learned from Gene Sigel, owner of South River Vineyard, that this is the 8th year of the Ice Wine Festival for the various wineries around Geneva and Ashtabula, and that the three weekends in March are some of the busiest times of their year.  He chalks it up to cabin fever, and I agree with him, but I’d also say it has something to do with the fact that ice wine is delicious and sweet and gives you a feeling of doing something special in the end of winter when last weekend you were wearing 5 layers of clothing in your house and debating whether or not you could stand to get out from under the blanket to feed your stupid pets.

Gene Sigel of South River using a wine thief to draw wine from a barrel.

Learning more about ice wine just highlighted how little I know about wine making, and chemistry in general.  Ice wine is a specialty in places like Northeast Ohio since it needs to b 18 degrees Fahrenheit for the grapes to freeze, the grapes have to picked (sometimes by hand!) when they’re frozen, and pressed when they’re frozen in a giant bucket press.  If the grapes get warm, they get squishy (technical term), and then the chemistry changes and the kind of wine changes.  South River picked their grapes last December and made a Concord Ice and a Blush Ice wine.  The Blush Ice wine is fantastic!  Not too syrupy or overly sweet, it was clear and sweet and had very clear cherry and berry and lilac aromas.  The Concord Ice was very “jammy” as Gene put it, and he’s right – it was as if I had taken a bite of homemade grape jam.

First Runner-up Amanda Wight, Ice Wine Queen Stephy Gorgeny, Second Runner-up Sara Galbreath

And this was the first year for the Ice Wine Queen!  Gene and his wife and co-owner Heather put together this event for the first time this year.  Contestants learned about the Ice Wine Queen from their website,, and from the winery’s Facebook page (, and were asked to answer a few questions, including one very challenging one: “What is your favorite wine?”

Ice Wine Queen Stephy Gorgeny described her answer as very detailed (from vine to wine!), and chose Gewurztraminer.  First Runner-up Amanda Wight took this as an opportunity to do a lot of reading on the grapes, and went with a Riesling.  Second Runner-up Sara Galbreath, who journeys from Erie, Pa. once a quarter to the area, just picked her favorite, a Pinot Noir, pointing out its versatility and ability to be paired with so many things.  All three winners were very excited to be a part of the first Ice Wine Queen contest.  Queen Stephy (I don’t know if she’s made people refer to her as “Queen Stephy” from now on, but you shouldn’t miss the opportunity, girl!), said that she has always been a fan of South River and finds it so beautiful, and was happy to be able to help promote our Northeast Ohio wineries.  Second Runner-up Sara agreed, saying that South River’s history and grounds and wines make it a place she really loves.

I did spy all three winners later in the day at some of the other wineries with their crowns and sashes, and I have to say, it really inspired myself and my drinking buddies to plan for next year’s Ice Wine Queen.  My favorite wine?  Um… will be… delicious?  I will prepare more over the year!  And I would also recommend a talent portion – hand the contestants a wine and tell them to pair it with a meal!  Blind taste test to see if they can pick up the notes in the wine!

A selection of South River's white wines

I did not stick with just ice wine, because who could?  I got the chance to taste South River’s Dry Riesling, Semillon, Creation, Temptation, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc wines as well (I also ate a small loaf of bread, and spread those out over two visits, so I was fine to drive!).  Let me break it down:

  • The Dry Riesling tasted to me like a very classic dry riesling – not too sweet, crisp and light.  The boyfriend was very pleased with this, as he actually does not much care for overly sweet wine.
  • The Semillion is a buttery, smoother wine, and one of the most planted grapes in Bordeaux, France.  Because I don’t know what figs taste like exactly, I could not say for sure that I tasted the fig honey, but I did note that it was really creamy and smooth.
  • The Creation and Temptation wines were my new best friends!  The Creation is South River’s blend of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, and Temptation is a blush wine made from Cabernet Franc and Riesling.  They were both excellent.  I really loved Temptation, but I have a tendency to go towards slightly sweeter, edging into dessert wine territory wines that don’t necessarily have to be parried with things.
  • South River’s 2010 Pinot Noir was made from Dijon clones from France, and their Cabernet Franc was actually a pleasant surprise for Gene, who typically uses their cabernet francs to blend with their other wines.  The 2010 year however turned out really well and was bottled on its own, and as a person who doesn’t know all that much about Cabernet Franc, I would say that yes, it is a really fresh, almost peppery wine and I could see how it would mix really well with other blends.

Whew.  And people, this was only my first stop of the day.  I went on to Debonne, Grand River Cellars, Ferrante, Laurello, and back to South River.  Judging by seeing the Ice Wine winners and a number of familiar faces at all the stops, making a day of the Ice Wine Festival is very much the thing to do in March.  Saturday March 19, 2011 is the last Saturday for this year’s Festival, so strap on your drinking snow boots, and enjoy!

South River Vineyard

About the Guest Author: Kate Galo
Long long ago, Kate Galo was a professional blogger at the now-defunct  Her writing style has vastly improved over the years, and she’s excited to sharing her thoughts about this city with the loyal readers at Clue Into Cleveland!

My Name is Asher Lev at the Cleveland Play House

Asher Lev is onstage at the Cleveland Play House in the Baxter, March 4 – April 3, 2011.

Religion and art can simultaneously be two of the most unifying and polarizing topics between people.  This is because – unlike other heated subjects such as politics or your favorite sports team – the two have become about much more than beliefs and opinions. They’ve seen entire cultures and ways of life created around them.

Although there is the occasion where religion and art can complement one another, more often than not they clash — many times with significant consequences. The production currently on stage at the Cleveland Play House examines this conflict.

In My Name is Asher Lev, a young man who grows up isolated in a Brooklyn Hasidic sect finds that he is driven by a desperation to develop his art. The power of his gift introduces him to a similarly isolated community – the Manhattan art world. However, the isolating nature of these cultures is where the similarities end – because to stay true to his vision, Asher is compelled to paint subject matter forbidden by his family’s culture.

The play examines whether someone torn between two dramatically disparate cultures can reconcile them or whether they have to make the ultimate decision to abandon one.

In My Name is Asher Lev, Asher (Noel Joseph Allain) struggles with his family's culture and the gift of his art that conflicts with it. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

My Name is Asher Lev is an adaptation of a novel by Chaim Potok. Potok, who was a rabbi in addition to being an author and educator, often took inspiration from his religion and upbringing. This is particularly evident in My Name is Asher Lev which has many autobiographical links to Potok.

The most interesting similarity is how the conflict caused by Asher’s need to paint mirrors Potok’s own childhood desire to be an artist. In Potok’s case, he turned away from painting when his extremely Orthodox family discouraged it – eventually becoming an author. Subsequently, the story takes on additional meaning as the artist’s exploration of ‘what if?’

Playwright Aaron Posner’s adaptation was faithful to the story but pared down the novel to seven characters whose relationships were key to Asher’s life. In addition to Asher, there was Aryeh and Rivkeh Lev (Asher’s father and mother), his Uncle Yitzchok, the Rebbe of their sect, an art dealer Anna Schaeffer, Asher’s artistic mentor Jacob Kahn and a model named Rachel. We see how each one impacted Asher and how imparting their passionate beliefs created the conflict within him.

Even as a child, Asher’s obsession with his art alienates him from his father. Pictured from left: Tom Alan Robbins, Noel Joseph Allain. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

These seven characters were portrayed by three actors – Noel Joseph Allain, who played Asher from a child of six to his twenties; Elizabeth Raetz, who played his mother, Schaeffer and the model; and Tom Alan Robbins, who took on Asher’s father, Uncle, the Rebbe and Jacob.

This intentional triple casting worked for a number of reasons. Most notably, the roles Robbins played were all father figures to Asher. Having the same actor portray these roles – especially those of Asher’s father and artistic mentor – not just demonstrated the differences in the cultures but also how similarly isolating they could be — worthy of only the most singularly devoted.

Robbins (who as an interesting side note created the role of Pumbaa in The Lion King on Broadway) deftly jumped from each of these characters — not missing a beat when he had to leave from one side of the stage as the somber Aryeh and enter moments later as the animated Jacob.

The thrust stage of the Baxter Theater is the perfect environment for such an intimate story portrayed by a cast of three. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

And while I loved Elizabeth Raetz’s sparkling Schaeffer (an art dealer/talent hunter inspired by Peggy Guggenheim), I on occasion struggled with her portrayal of Asher’s mother. It’s a very difficult role. Rivkeh is a balancing act in fragility and resilience. Early on in the play, Rivkeh is broken by a family tragedy that she needs to overcome so that she can intercede and mediate between Asher and his father.

There are a couple of moments that Raetz could have been more dynamic in her portrayal. However, I thought the moments her sorrow drives her to absolute hysteria were beautiful.

Without an intermission in My Name is Asher Lev, Noel Joseph Allain had the most challenging job of playing Asher from age six to his twenties without leaving the stage. With only slight costume changes like the removal of a jacket or a wig, Allain is solely responsible for tracing the development of Asher’s artistic gift and his struggle – even as a young child – to stay true to both his Hasidic culture and the art worlds of New York and Paris.

With such a small cast and personal story, My Name is Asher Lev was staged in the Play House’s Baxter Theatre. This was my first time seeing a show on the Baxter, which is actually a special 3/4 thrust theater built on top of the stage in the Bolton. It created a small environment perfect for telling the intimate story of the devastating effects larger beliefs can have on individuals.

My Name is Asher Lev / The Cleveland Play House 411:

A busy week for TwestivalCLE: Updates on Buying Your Tickets


From unveiling our new logo to selecting a charity and getting the ticket site up, it's been a busy week for TwestivalCLE. Not too busy, though, for a short update from the frontlines.

If you’ve been following @TwestivalCLE, you’ll know it’s been a really busy week for the coordinating team as we unveiled our new logo (courtesy of Casual Images Graphic Design!), announced the Cleveland charity that will benefit from the March 24th event and got the ticket and donation sites up and running.

So which charity was selected for Twestival Cleveland? I’m proud to say We Run This City Youth Marathon Program will be this year’s benefiting nonprofit.

Promoting fitness and healthy lifestyles is often a major challenge for schools. Subsequently, the Y of Greater Cleveland, Cleveland Department of Public Health and Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon teamed up with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to create We Run This City.

For the last couple of years, they’ve organized a 14-week program where students prepare to run in the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. The children who participate not only learn about the benefits of staying active, but are also taught how to set and achieve goals — skills that benefit them long after the May 14th Marathon has been run.

You can read about how supporters of We Run This City rallied with nominations in my blog post on the Twestival Cleveland site.

After the charity was selected, @KaseyCrabtree quickly got to work with the Twestival organization and our ticket partner Amiando to get our ticket site up and running (thanks, Kasey!).  Now you can join us at AMP 150 by purchasing your $10 tickets for Twestival Cleveland.  The $10 admission is a donation that goes completely to We Run This City. Although food and drink isn’t included in that price, there will be specials running until 9pm since the event is designed as an extended happy hour.

I know there are a number of other events like Emerging Chefs and CIFF’s opening that night, so if you can’t make it to TwestivalCLE you can still donate to We Run This City at our donation site.

Just because the charity is selected and the tickets are selling doesn’t mean things are slowing down.  We’re currently seeking items for our Chinese Auction and Raffle.

If you or your business can donate something, please email us at

The only downside of all this Twestival fun?  I haven’t had a chance to update here as often as I would have liked this week.  So keep an eye out soon for my review of Cleveland Play House’s My Name is Asher Lev.  I would sum it up as a quiet but devastating look at a young man’s struggle to reconcile his true self within two disparate cultures.  However, I’ll have a much fuller review of why I’d recommend seeing it in the next day or two.

Guest Post – Orchid Mania: Purple Reign comes to the Cleveland Botanical Garden

One of the things I enjoy about Clue Into Cleveland is when someone offers to share their CLE experiences with me.  So, when my friend Elizabeth asked if she could write about the Botanical Garden’s Orchid Mania show, I immediately said yes.

You may remember Elizabeth from her previous Clue Into Cleveland contributions: People-Watching Spots in Coventry and Celebrating Jewish Culture at the Maltz Museum. You can also follow her on Twitter @egrepp and @cleyogi. With our shared love of the Cleveland Botanical Garden, having her write this was a natural fit. Enjoy!

– Amanda


I love Orchids and I love the Cleveland Botanical Garden. When I discovered that the annual event Orchid Mania: Purple Reign was happening while a friend would be visiting it seemed serendipitous. I made an executive decision to Cleveland Botanical Gardensvisit while she was here. I then begged Amanda to write about it, even though she just wrote an entry about the place last month. She kindly appeased me. I visited with my out of town friend the first weekend in March.

The Botanical Garden was much more crowded then it has been during previous visits; a true testament to the popularity of the annual happening. The lobby of the Botanical Garden was filled with a temporary display of different types of orchids. Orchids littered both permanent exhibits in a photographer’s heaven. In fact, there were many people wandering the gardens with fancy cameras. Ours was not nearly as fancy but even an amateur photographer can get beautiful shots because the flowers are featured seamlessly in the exhibits. I absolutely loved the new twist and ascetic achieved through the addition of the lovely Orchids.

Anyone who is a member of the Cleveland Botanical Garden can participate in the sale of Orchids after the event. Color me jealous! Sadly, I’ve killed two Orchids in the past four years. After seeing more of these amazing plants, I was determined to give it another go; hoping that I really haven’t inherited my mother’s “black thumb”.

Luckily, there were vendors selling plants and even a glass greenhouse. Those who were participating were Borlin’s Orchids, Carter’s Greenhouse, Windswept in Time, Storehouse Tea Company and Boko Botanicals. I tried some of the tea from Storehouse and will be purchasing some of their tea from their website. I stopped by Borlin’s Orchids display, confessed my poor luck with previous flowers and asked what they’d recommend for someone like me. I spoke with a very knowledgeable gentleman. I am almost positive it was the owner Louis, who went through all of my different options. I opted for a kind that needs less watering. I must admit I don’t remember the type but I was told if I take good care of it that it will flower in another six months. So, I am crossing my fingers that in 6 months I will have taken good enough care of little Olivia that she’ll give me some more flowers!

I would highly suggest visiting the Cleveland Botanical Gardens during this event, even if Orchids aren’t your “thing.” Orchid Mania extends through the end of March. Hours for the Botanical Garden are 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and they are closed on Mondays. Adults are $8.50 and children are $3.00.


Have a Cleveland adventure you’d like to share on Clue Into Cleveland? Tweet me @ADHicken or send me an email at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com.


Cleveland Botanical Garden 411:

"See. Shop. Learn." at Crafty Goodness — New Arts Store Opening in Lakewood

Crafty Goodness opens on Saturday, March 5th, 9 am at 15621 Madison Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio.

I don’t really consider myself very good at producing art.  Sure, I enjoy sketching and painting, but my ability there is pretty limited. And if you get me near any sort of craft that demands a lot of physical dexterity, I’m often defeated by an innate clumsiness. Understanding how much talent and skill is necessary to create artwork helps me really appreciate artisans who can turn that excellent idea in their head into a well-crafted reality.

Fortunately, Cleveland is ripe with talented artists and artisans — from group shows like the Cleveland Artists Foundation’s Cleveland Collects (ongoing until March 12th) or pop-up shops like last November’s holiday pop-ups and Valerie Mayen’s March 11th Yellow Cake pop-up in Tremont.

Subsequently, I’m really excited that another store is joining the ranks of locally produced art this weekend in Lakewood.  On Saturday, March 5th, Crafty Goodness is opening their doors to the public.

Crafty Goodness is owned by Chris Sorensen and Joanna and Matthew Orgovan, who wanted to provide the local community with an affordable alternative to big-box retail chains.   

The store has a three-pronged approach that helps set them apart from others.  With a tagline of “See. Shop. Learn.” they want to give Northeast Ohio a place where consumers can see what their neighbors have created, help stimulate the economy at a local level, and learn how to create artwork themselves.

Crafty Goodness' See. Shop. Learn. tagline incorporates their three-part mission of providing a gallery for Northeast Ohio artists, a buy-local retail experience, and educational opportunities for the community.


  • SEE. The walls of Crafty Goodness will feature an extensive art gallery representing a number of local artists — some who have already gained local recognition and others who are up-and-coming. A variety of media will be highlighted, including traditional canvas and panel art, 3D mixed-media pieces, photographic compositions, original screen prints and wood-carved and burned wall decorations. There are consignment opportunities available for local artists as well. 
  • SHOP. A unique retail establishment, Crafty Goodness will carry only locally made works of art as well as gift and everyday items from artisans who reside in Northeast Ohio. Over 50 local artists from the seven counties that make up Northeast Ohio are represented. To visually document this detail, the shop features a large map of Northeast Ohio that pinpoints all of the communities where items are made.  Some of the items on sale will include pottery, bath and body products, cosmetics, clothing, jewelry, baby items, toys and plush, canvas art, and housewares. 
  • LEARN. In addition to providing a place for artists to sell their products, Crafty Goodness specializes in an educational component. They’ll host arts and craft classes that patrons of all ages can take. The goal is to provide an affordable and varied offering of classes so that students can both broaden their personal interests and hone their skills in particular disciplines.  The majority of classes are organized in a make-and-take format, where each student takes his or her creation home. Included among the creative course offerings are classes in soap making, fused glass, poly clay jewelry, and needle arts.

On Opening Day (as well as all Saturdays going forward), Crafty Goodness will be open from 9 am – 9 pm.  Their regular store hours for the rest of the week are Monday – Friday from 12 – 9 pm and Sundays from 12 – 5pm. You can find the store at 15621 Madison Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio.

I’m looking forward to heading down there on Saturday morning to see what I can only dream about making. And who knows, maybe I’ll pick up a trick or two in improving my skills!

Crafty Goodness 411:

Jump Back Ball, Part 8: A recap of JBB20, Passport to Party

Scott and I pose at the Running of the Bulls

The last time I posted, I had been rushing out the door to finish getting ready for Saturday night’s Jump Back Ball.  I pretty much had been looking forward to PlayhouseSquare’s annual benefit since I first read about it last year — so when I walked in the doors of the theatre, I knew there could be the slight possibility of it not living up to the huge expectations I had set.  Fortunately, I’m happy to report I wasn’t disappointed at all by my first Jump Back Ball.

One of AMP 150's delicious food stations at the VIP pre-party

Our evening started in the lobby of the Palace Theatre for the VIP Pre-Party.  Chef Ellis Cooley and AMP 150 took an around-the-world approach with the pre-party food, setting up stations upstairs and downstairs specific to different cultures. I liked this set up a lot because it was easy to get to the various tables to sample it all.

And try the food I did! At the Chinese New Year table, my favorites included the crab rangoon in chili sauce (which tasted like classic crab rangoon but was a little lighter than usual) and the vegetable potstickers in ponzu sauce. Other options I enjoyed included the olive oil poached swordfish with romesco suace, their hummus, and of course AMP 150’s signature mushroom soup.

The St. Ignatius High School Circus Troupe entertained at the pre-party and throughout the event.

Throughout the pre-party, guests mingled and were entertained by one of the St. Ignatius High School Circus Troupe students as he wandered from table to table demonstrating card tricks. Around 7:30, we wandered over to the State to join the rest of the festivities.

The State lobby was filled with a buffet from Sammy’s. I’ll be honest — I tried so much of AMP 150’s food that I was too full for dinner.  Scott, though, is in a constant state of hungry and enjoyed the beef sandwich he grabbed from the buffet. Outside of the lobby, there were also other stations of food including soft pretzels for Oktoberfest.

One of my favorite thematic costumes - Jack Frost and the Snow Queen themed for the Quebec Winter Festival.

After eating there was plenty of partying to enjoy. Before the first band went on and the stage in the State filled up, we wandered around, sampling the ‘Canadian Cones’ (Puckers snow cones) and stopping by the various photo ops.  Word of advice – don’t wear a green dress and take a photo at the green screen photo booth.  Fortunately, Scott and I f0und my disembodied head in our picture pretty hilarious.We also played a few rounds of roulette while others crowded the blackjack and craps table. Since gambling isn’t really our thing, we left that to those who were much better at playing as soon as the first band took the stage.

The first band was The Menus. From Cincinnati and often on the Put In Bay circuit, they brought a high level of energy and often ridiculously crazy performances to the show. Lead singer Tim Goldrainer donned a variety of costume changes throughout (including a few strange ones). Trust me, I didn’t expect to turn around at points and see a song coming from a ladies dress and wolf mask  or his final piece – a square-cut sheath made out of a Target bag.

The Menus entertained with crazy costume changes, high-energy performances and spot-on covers of classics.

It wasn’t just spectacle, though. The Menus hit all the right notes (vocally and musically) in the classic cover songs they performed. The highlight was also being able to just dance on the stage of a theatre where we’ve seen shows before.   I was likewise impressed by the St. Ignatius High School Circus Troupe who treated those of us listening to The Menus with their juggling act – often grabbing volunteers to launch pins back and forth around.

Of course, with numerous bars stationed throughout the State Theatre, no one went thirsty (with the exception of one person I overheard who was told they didn’t have water at one of the bars). The ice vodka bars from Absolut featured mango and sweet tea flavors. Both were pretty sweet so I wouldn’t recommend them in moderation. But you could also order cocktails, wine and beer from any of the other bars or grab one of the Puckers snow cones. RadioActive then wrapped the evening up with a bouncy selection of Top 40 covers.

It was fun meeting up and hanging out with fellow Clevelanders like Alicia from

Although Scott and I enjoyed the wide assortment of food and entertainment, my favorite part was hanging out and seeing people. Our friends Allison (the sister of Clue Into Cleveland guest blogger @EGrepp) and Mike were there, as was Alicia and her husband Hans from PoiseinParma.

I personally also loved looking at everyone dressed up either in their blacktie garb or costumes. From cocktail dresses to evening gowns, anything goes and they were all beautiful. There was also the brave few who donned a costume. A lot of guests who went in costume opted for the bull and bull-runner theme. However, two members of Partners took a unique approach by dressing as Jack Frost and the Snow Queen – complete with full body makeup.  I also loved how one guest incorporated the Passport to Party theme into their blacktie attire with an internationally inspired handbag from Room Service. I loved the foreign stamps that decorated the bag which you can see in the photo below.

This internationally themed handbag from Room Service was the perfect accessory for the evening.

Throughout the evening, I was asked by friends and other Partners how my first Jump Back Ball went. From the food to the entertainment, it was definitely worth the ticket price and surpassed what I had expected. It was a great first Jump Back Ball and won’t be my last!

Scott and I with our friends Allison, Mike and Bonhomme.