Category Archives: OH Blogging Association

A Downtown Bike Tour with Cleveland Bike Tours and Ohio Blogging

Thanks to this month’s Ohio Blogging Meetup, I got back on a bike for the first time in years and somehow managed to not hurt myself (or others!)

Cliches exist because there’s usually some element of truth to them.  And earlier this week I proved that you never in fact forget how to ride a bicycle when I got back on one after years and years of not biking.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I have almost no balance — check me out in a yoga class if you’re ever curious.  When I was a kid it took me a really long time – and a lot of falls into ditches – to get on a bike. But once I did, I didn’t stop – spending anytime I wasn’t in the water during the summer biking through the neighborhood and along the beach.

But then I stopped. After I moved to Philly, I had a huge fear of biking in the city because I thought my clumsiness combined with cars and crowded streets would likely result in an accident.

The group takes a break from the bike tour to check out Marine Week and get a photo in Public Square (photo courtesy of Ohio Blogging/Poise in Parma)

Flash forward to this week and the Ohio Blogging Association‘s latest blogger meetup.

For this month’s Blogger Night, we met up at the Bike Rack in downtown Cleveland for a bike tour with Cleveland Bike Tours.

Our fearless tour guide – Anne Smith, founder of Cleveland Bike Tours

Cleveland Bike Tours (iBikeCLE on Facebook; formerly called Great Lakes Tour Company) was founded by Anne Smith in 2010. As Northeast Ohio’s premier source for custom bicycle tours, Cleveland Bike Tours brings fitness and adventure together on Cleveland-area bicycle trails while promoting interest in regional tourism and history.

From Cleveland neighborhoods – like downtown, University Circle and Ohio City – to the Bike Aboards in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cleveland Bike Tours has designed excursions for riders of all experience levels – even (re-)beginners like me!

I love exploring downtown on foot – and now by bike – because you get the best view of Cleveland’s beautiful buildings

For the Blogger Meetup, we took a tour through downtown Cleveland. We picked up our cruiser bikes and helmets outside of The Bike Rack (Don’t have a bike? For a few dollars more you can rent one from BikeCLE). Then we were off!

We first biked past the Q and Progressive, learning about our sports teams’ histories, and then over to Erie Street Cemetary (my first time there!) to learn about the legend of Joc-O-Sot’s angry ghost and downtown’s other “permanent residents.”

Joc-O-Sot, why would you ever want to break out of your grave and leave the Cleve?

Biking down Euclid and E 9th Street, we stopped at PlayhouseSquare, the Cathedral and the Free Stamp for this fun group shot:

Taking a break from checking into FourSquare (photo courtesy of Ohio Blogging/Poise in Parma)

From there we headed to Public Square for the War Memorial Fountain, Medical Mart, Old Stone Church, the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument and Marine Week.

Everytime I see a helicopter in an unusual setting, I have an uncontrollable urge to take a photo and exclaim “Go-go-Gadget-copter!”

Although I work downtown, even I learned a few things about the buildings and monuments I pass by everyday thanks to Anne’s tour.  I also got over my near-paralyzing fear of getting hit by a car.

Anne did an excellent job at guiding us through the streets and sidewalks. I didn’t get hit, hit anything or fall over and embarrass myself (I know – I was shocked too!)

Even though I pass by this statue everyday, it was fun to take a closer look and learn some trivia about it

We finished the tour with a trip down E 4th to end up back at The Bike Rack. Through a partnership with the City of Cleveland and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, The Bike Rack offers the region’s first full service bicycle parking and commuter center for everyone.

Clevelanders like Julie who own their own bike can take advantage of The Bike Rack’s commuter facilities (Don’t have a bike? They do rentals too!)

With the goal of making downtown Cleveland a more bike friendly environment, it provides convenient, secure bicycle parking and fulfills everyday commuting needs with individual shower/changing facilities, lockers, bicycle rentals and a full service bicycle repair shop.

Although I didn’t need a shower, it was nice to have a spot to freshen up afterwards and relax. If you have the capability to commute and bike downtown, I would highly recommend taking advantage of their facility.

Cooker Girl’s husband Kevin goofing off — we clearly needed food in our stomachs at this point. Good thing there was food back at The Bike Rack!

While our group of bloggers hung out and caught up with each other, we grabbed a post-tour bite to eat courtesy of Cleveland Bike Tours. Anne even sent us on our way with a treat to enjoy when we got home – a bag of Love Kettle Corn. Cleveland Bike Tours has just started selling these to help raise funds for Blessings in a Backpack.

Because no child should go hungry, each purchase of Love Kettle Corn will provide a child with one meal through the organization.   After tasting devouring the bag I took home, I need to order some more.

So good! And for a good cause! Each purchase of BikeCLE’s Love Kettle Corn will provide a child with one meal through Blessings in a Backpack

It was great getting in a bit of fitness and Cleveland history in one evening – plus the chance to catch up with new and old blogger friends alike:

PlayhouseSquare will host our next Blogger Meetup on 7/11, courtesy of the young professionals group PlayhouseSquare Partners

Thanks again to Cleveland Bike Tours and The Bike Rack for hosting; all of the bloggers who were there that didn’t laugh at me wobbling on my bike; and Alicia (as always!) for organizing this month’s Meetup!

Harvest for Hunger: Hunger is closer than you think

Updated March 18, 2013: This post has been updated to reflect ways you can support the 2013 Harvest for Hunger.

Harvest for Hunger

22nd Annual Harvest for Hunger is underway – learn more at clevelandfoodbank.org

The last couple of years have been a difficult wakeup call for many.  With an unstable economy, issues such as hunger and people’s inability to afford food have become more widespread and pressing than in recent decades.

In our own region it’s a signficant and growing concern, with the Cleveland Foodbank’s distribution rate up by 59% in the last three years and a recent article in the New York Times demonstrating the changing face of hunger. With nearly 60 percent of Cleveland’s poor now residing in suburban areas, many municipalities are faced with an unprecedented challenge of how to feed so many of their residents.

Although the Cleveland Foodbank makes a signficant effort year-round to keep up with the demand throughout their six-county region, each Spring they partner with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, and Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio to host one of the largest annual, community-wide food and funds drives in the nation.

Local Anchors Mike Dunston and Macie Jepson participate at the Harvest for Hunger Kick-Off (photo from Cleveland Foodbank)

The 22nd annual Harvest for Hunger recently kicked off on February 13th at Tower City. This food and funds drive will run through Spring with a significant focus during the month of March.

During last year’s Harvest for Hunger, businesses, supermarkets, schools and individuals contributed enough resources to provide over 16 million meals to the 21 Northeast Ohio counties served by the four foodbanks.

Because the need for emergency food in our community continues to rise, this year’s goal is to beat that total.

2011’s Harvest for Hunger raised enough for over 14 million meals (photo from Cleveland Foodbank)

Although this year’s goal is huge, there are a number of ways we can achieve it:

The easiest is Check Out Hunger. When you go grocery shopping now through March 30 at Giant Eagle, Heinen’s, Dave’s Markets, Fishers Foods, Buehler’s or any other participating retailer, make a $1, $5 or $10 donation to Harvest for Hunger everytime you check out. It’s fast, simple and for every $1 donated, the Cleveland Foodbank can provide four nutritious meals.

You can also donate online or organize a food and funds drive at your school or workplace. For family, friends and coworkers who may not be nearby, the Cleveland Foodbank can help set up a virtual drive. Call 216.738.2046 or go to www.HarvestForHunger.org for more details.

YP Pantry Harvest for Hunger

Join YP Pantry for their Harvest for Hunger Happy Hour, 3/21/13

Throughout Spring 2013, the Cleveland Foodbank is partnering with local organizations to host Harvest for Hunger events.

  • YP Pantry, the Foodbank’s young professionals group will host a happy hour at Noodlecat on March 21. Bring canned goods for a drink ticket. More info: eventbrite.com/event/5836562315
  • At select home games in March, the Cavaliers will be collecting canned goods for the Foodbank. The Lake Erie Captains will also host food drives April 4-7.
  • As part of Case Western Reserve University’s Greek Week, stop by the campus on April 13 to marvel at structures built out of cans – all food items go directly to Harvest for Hunger.
  • And on May 10, University Circle hosts the Wade Oval Walk Against Hunger. Hundreds gather for the 2 mile walk around Wade Oval, each donating $10 to Harvest for Hunger.

Check out this list of Harvest for Hunger community events for more.

Market at the Foodbank

Market at the Foodbank – April 14

Finally, you can enjoy an evening out while raising money for Harvest for Hunger by purchasing tickets to Market at the Foodbank. Taking place on Sunday, April 14, Market at the Foodbank is an evening of food and drink from 50 of Northeast Ohio’s finest restaurants and beverage purveyors.

This is the second year the benefit takes place at the Cleveland Foodbank.  By hosting the event at the Foodbank, guests can enjoy the food, live entertainment, celebrity servers, and silent auction raffle while seeing firsthand the impact of their contributions.

Although I’ll have more info over the next couple of weeks about the event, go to cleveland.com/marketatfoodbank to see some of the restaurants who are participating and to purchase your tickets.

As this year’s Harvest for Hunger mission reminds us: Hunger is closer than you think. But so is the solution. How are you going to help?

Need more ideas for how you can help? Visit harvestforhunger.org

Event Recaps: Whole Foods Blogger Meetup + Battle Mint = A Week of Good Eats

A little bit of blog-keeping this Wednesday morning:  Congratulations to Sarah @ Cooker Girl – Random.org selected you to win 2 tickets to the Great Big Home and Garden Show! Email me at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com to arrange for your tickets.

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Thanks to the Ohio Blogging and #TeamSawyer meetups, I learned last week that social media + food is a recipe for some kickass evenings out with friends:

This month's Ohio Blogging Meetup at Whole Foods Market (Photo from poiseinparma.com)

Since moving from Shaker Heights to Avon Lake, one of the places I’ve missed is the Whole Foods at Cedar Center.  Since graduating from college, I haven’t lived more than a few miles from a Whole Foods.

While Scott and I don’t get there as often as we used to, I am now frequently trying to find reasons to make the 50 minute drive. Thankfully for the Ohio Blogging Association, I didn’t need to make up a reason to go last week.

To celebrate one year of Cleveland blogger meetups, we returned to Whole Foods Market where the first official meetup was held in January 2011.

And we packed the house! I not only got to see some of my favorite people, but meet a lot of new bloggers as well:

Scott joined me that evening (blog supporters are always welcome!) and I don’t think he regretted that decision because it was Pizza and Beer Night.

Alicia (Poise in Parma) kicks things off at the Blogger Meetup

Lisa and the team at Whole Foods Market passed around a Pizza Throwdown form – each of us could pick whichever cheese, sauce (including hummus), and meat or vegetable toppings we wanted. Although the form came with a lot of options to choose from, we were invited to write down items that weren’t listed (with the exception of things like lobster and truffles — now that I write this, I’m jonesing for a lobster pizza).

As everyone turned in their orders, the chefs at Whole Foods would bake our pizzas in the brick ovens and bring them out to the group a short while later to dig in.  Besides how fresh everything tasted, I have to applaud Whole Foods for putting all of the pizzas together so quickly. There were a lot of orders placed that night.

In my opinion, Kristian’s pizza with eggplant, honey, apples and ham was the most delicious. I was not so inspired in my creation, which included spinach, tomatoes, squash and bacon. However, while I don’t get points for creativity, it wase very delicious (you can never go wrong with bacon).

The delicious carnage that occurs when you put a bunch of hungry people in a room of made-to-order gourmet pizzas.

As always, while it was nice to catch up with friends, it was even better to also finally meet bloggers I follow – like Kristian, Kimberly and Tony – in real life and find new blogs to read.

The most pleasant surprise of the evening, though, was being able to go home with a Whole Foods growler and $1 off our first growler fill up.  Scott was particularly excited because he’s been wanting a second growler to go along with our other one from Fat Head’s.

Being somewhat new to the wonderful world of growlers, I took a moment to chat with their Beer and Wine Department about keeping my beer fresh and picked up a few tips.

Again, much blogger love to Lisa and everyone at Whole Foods Cedar Center for hosting a wonderful evening and reminding me how much I miss their store (and thanks to Alicia for organizing)! For next month’s blogger meetup, we’ll go from beer to wine as MissWine OH hosts a wine tasting at Tremont’s Wine and Design on Feb. 21.

Chef Sawyer's mint fritter and chevre salad at the Battle Mint Tweetup

Last week’s social media food party didn’t stop there as a few days later was the Battle Mint Tweetup at Greenhouse Tavern.  Chef Jonathon Sawyer took on Iron Chef Zakarian for the season premiere of Iron Chef America, and instead of watching from home, Scott and I decided to enjoy the episode at the #TeamSawyer tweetup.

Chef Sawyer and Chef’s Widow are some of the most gracious hosts you’ll meet – down to earth, humble, and hilarious. Scott and I got there early enough to snag some seats next to @TweetmeSlow and his wife; we were then joined by @WhyCLE and @TheRealCLEGuy, @EatDrinkClev and her boyfriend, and @TLColson and @FrankZupan.

While I don’t think anyone at our table guessed the secret ingredient of mint, we all enjoyed watching Chef Sawyer demonstrate his prowess with the herb on tv and were surprised with samplings of a few of the dishes he had prepared for the judges.

As much as I loved the Mint Fritters and Chevre Salad (the fresh chevre cheese complementing the lamb sausage and lamb confit was particularly good), my favorite tasting was hands down the Stoner Sandwich. The
shamrock semifreddo, sicilian pistacio and chocolate dirt sandwiched between two fresh waffles gives their Pot de Creme (my other favorite dessert) a run for its money.

If you weren’t at Greenhouse on Sunday and are dying to try the Stoner, you’re in luck.  According to Joe Crea’s wrapup on the evening, it can currently be found on the menu.

Yes, the Stoner Sandwich is as good as it looks.

Scott and I also ordered a few other things from the menu.  Scott, of course, could not pass on another opportunity to enjoy their Beef Tartar and I tried the Pork n’ Pumpkin Pasta.

@Tweetmeslow’s wife had ordered the pasta first and when they brought it out to her it looked too delicious for me not to order. Rich, creamy and salty — a much-needed, hearty combination for the middle of winter.

Paired with a glass of Viognier and some Caramel Popcorn Pot de Cremes, the dinner was amazing – on par with what we’ve come to expect from Greenhouse.

While we loved our food, I think my favorite part of the evening came at the end.  Even though Chef Zakarian brought home the win in Kitchen Stadium that night, the mood in Greenhouse Tavern was celebratory:

Cleveland is lucky to have a lot of chefs who are not just rockstars in the kitchen but also personable, approachable and excited to be here. And Chef Sawyer is one of the best out of this group. Many thanks to him, Chef’s Widow, and everyone at Greenhouse Tavern that night that made the evening so enjoyable. I hope everyone in the kitchen enjoyed Scott’s and my Kitchen Coffee – it was well-deserved.

Blog Swap: MissWineOH says, Wines you HAVE to try

Today is the Ohio Blogging Association‘s Cleveland November Blog Swap. As part of it, I’m happy to introduce you to Tammy, Chief Tasting Officer at MissWineOH . On this day, bloggers from around the Northeast Ohio area are guest posting on one another’s blogs as a way to get to know each other in our blogging community. For a full listing of blog swap participants, please visit Poise in Parma today.

I met Amanda at a Wine and Cupcakes event recently, and we have a shared love of the city of Cleveland and its culinary and wine delights. I’m happy to be swapping blogs with her today and sharing some of my favorite wines.

Many of us head out for social gatherings or parties in restaurants during the holiday season. And many of those events are held in our local restaurants, where some of the best chefs in the country make their homes – and their incredible food. Some of Cleveland’s best restaurants also have some pretty intimidating wine lists. When you are blessed with great food, you can also be cursed with the “what do I pick off this wine list?” dilemma.

Your first avenue of information should always be the sommelier if he or she is available – a good sommelier can recommend the perfect wine to compliment your palate, your food and your budget.  Your second avenue, however, can be this list.

As I’m a huge fan of eating in my neighborhood, these picks are from Tremont restaurants, but these wines (or very similar ones) are widely available.

Lolita

Chef Michael Symon’s bistro is reflective of his love of Cleveland. Funky, locally inspired and always changing. One of my favorite things there is the early and late Happy Hour menu. 

Nessa, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain, 09 8.50 gl – 34 btl 
This spanish white has abundant peaches and pears and a crisp minerality that will blend seamlessly with the Lolita Happy Hour mussels (only $5!).

Revelry, “The Reveler”, Colombia Valley, 08 (Petite Verdot, Merlot, Cab)
10 gl – 40 btl

Washington State makes some great wines, and I love that this one uses Petite Verdot as the primary grape in the blend. It’s inky in color, and you’ll like the chocolate and coffee flavors on the finish. It’s an INTERESTING wine – in that “wow, pretty cool, I’ll sip and savor this a while” sort of way. And I love putting the Lolita burger with it.

Parallax

While Parallax has a lovely by the glass menu, their strength is in their bottle selections. They specialize in asian fusion and seafood – and they have a sushi menu!

Sauvignon Blanc, St. Supery, Napa Valley 2010 – 40 btl
Grapefruit and lime are the highlights with this wine, but it’s not overly tart like you will find in many New Zealand Sauv Blancs. This one is a perfect complement to the asian fusion and seafood that dominates the menu at Parallax. I love to order this and an assortment of sushi and settle in for a sensory feast.

Pinot Noir, The Four Graces, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 09 – 72 btl
While on the higher end, this pinot noir is one of the best you will find on a restaurant list in Tremont. The subtle fruit and soft tannins on this pinot serve any of the meat dishes well. I particularly love it with the Duck Confit and brussel sprouts.

Dante

Dante is a great place to stop in early or late if you find yourself having trouble getting a dinner reservation. They have a lovely bar, 2 pages of wines by the glass and 50 wines under $50 to pair with Chef Dante Bocuzzi’s incredible menu. Their wines reflect the Italian influence of the food.

Vernaccia, Le Rote, San Gimignano, Toscana, 08 8 gl – 32 btl
A Tuscan Vernaccia at this price in a restaurant in Tremont, I’m all over it. Vernaccia is a grape grown and pressed in a particular town in the Tuscan region of Italy (San Gimignano), and this particular wine is medium bodied and just the right balance of acid and fruit. You’ll want to make sure it is well chilled. Pair it with the octopus, or any of the fresh seafood dishes for a little slice of Tuscany in Cleveland.

Barbera d’Alba, Boffa, Buschet, Piemonte 08 11 gl – 44 btl
A quintessential Italian red, the Boffa is a dry selection made from the barbera grape. This wine has some spice on it, but I’d pair it with the venison or polenta, depending on which direction your culinary tastes lead. This wine also works well for the vegetarian dishes on the menu.

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One piece of advice I always give: Ask for a taste if you are unfamiliar with the wine. The worst possible thing they can say is “no” – and I’ve never had a sommelier refuse a taste.

Do you have favorite dishes you don’t know what to drink with? Just ask!

Happy Sipping!

Dinner at Deagan's with Ohio Blogging Association

Danielle, CLEGal and I at the Ohio Blogging Association's dinner at Deagan's

Last month, motivated by Cleveland’s results in the LivingSocial restaurant poll, I came up with my list of 10 restaurants I need to try.

After enjoying Flying Fig a couple weeks ago, I’m happy to say I can now cross a second off my list: Deagan’s in Lakewood.

Deagan’s opened last year and quickly became one of the more heralded restaurants in Cleveland for its laid-back “gastropub” attitude and the creative, well-executed dishes you’d expect from a fine dining establishment. Not surprisingly, this has led to many awards including the Cleveland Magazine’s Best New Restaurant in Cleveland.

Poise in Parma who organized the evening introduces Deagan's Executive Chef Demetrios Atheneos

Although I’ve enjoyed their food at Chef Jam and the Silver Spoon Awards, I hadn’t had a chance to visit Deagan’s until this past Wednesday during the Ohio Blogging Association’s monthly Cleveland Meetup.  

As I walked into the restaurant, the dark wood and brick interior created a warm and welcoming escape from Wednesday night’s cold rain. It immediately struck me as a place you can go to for almost any occassion — happy hour after work with friends, brunch, laid-back lunch during the week or an intimate date night.

After meeting up with my group, I set about the difficult task of what to order.  Wednesdays are Vegetarian/Vegan Nights featuring an additional menu with 4-5 vegetarian and/or vegan specials that are appetizing even to omnivores.

Pumpkin Bisque

I ended up ordering the Southern Tier Pumpkin Bisque from the Vegetarian menu and the Lump Crab Mac and Cheese from their dinner menu.  Before those came out, though, we were surprised by a few delicious charcuterie boards that featured an excellent variety of well-selected meats, cheeses, olives and spreads.

The Pumpkin Bisque sounded so good that a few of us at the table ordered it.  It was sweet and creamy with a very noticeable curry kick  that I haven’t tasted in Pumpkin Bisque before. That surprising heat made it the best pumpkin dish I’ve tasted all Fall.  I’ve been craving salty and sweet combinations lately so I put a little salt on a few bites to see how that would be — craving satisified!

As soon as I saw the Lump Crab Mac and Cheese on the menu, I knew that had to be my main course.  Crab is my favorite shellfish and I miss it not being as readily available in Cleveland as it is in Virginia or the Northeast.  So when I see an appetizing crab dish, I have to order it.  Plus, it was combined with mac and cheese, another hearty dish perfect for a cold night.

Lump Crab and Mac and Cheese

Unfortunately, because I didn’t have too much room left after the rich bisque, I got to try only a few bites of the mac and cheese.  However, I enjoyed the petite salad that accompanied the dish (loved the fresh, thinly sliced radishes!). 

It’s reasons like this why I love to-go containers. I had my mac and cheese for lunch yesterday and got to fully appreciate how good the dish is.  The lump crab meat was full of flavor which complemented the subtle tillamook white cheddar.

I also tried the Pork Belly Brussel Sprouts Danielle ordered. If you’re nervous about trying Brussel Sprouts, this dish is the perfect introduction.  They were very juicy and tender and the chunks of succulent pork belly paired with the care the chef took in preparing these brussel sprouts prevented the dish from having an overwhelming cabbage taste. 

Pork Belly Brussel Sprouts

Scott and I have had our share of bad brussel sprouts in the past and I think the next time we go to Deagan’s, I’ll have him order their version so he can get over his dislike of the misunderstood vegetable. When Executive Chef Demetrios Atheneos came to see how everyone was enjoying it, much praise and many thanks erupted from our table.

To complement the food, I had a room full of excellent dining companions.  For the 10th meetup of the Ohio Blogging Association’s Cleveland chapter (can’t believe it’s almost been a year!), we had a great turnout!

Similar to our April meetup at Touch Supper Club, the evening featured a roundtable discussion on blogging.

We started with introductions. As with previous meetups, my favorite part was not just the variety of topics our blogs cover but also how long everyone has been blogging. There was an excellent cross-section — from bloggers who’ve been around a couple months to 5+ years, to those who write about food, yoga, health insurance and parenting.

Bloggers Noshing and Chatting

At my side of the table, Alicia (Poise in Parma), Danielle (Namaste or Should I Go?), CLEGal (WhyCLE?), and Dave (Health Insurance Issues with Dave and Again? Really?)  discussed how to respond to blog comments and the techincal aspects of WordPress vs. Blogger’s spam filters. I had a good laugh when we compared notes on the different Spambot comments we all get.

While it was nice to hear different bloggers’ perspectives on the issues we run into, I moreso enjoyed meeting new faces and catching up with people I had seen online but not in person for awhile — like @SOS_JR who was debuting the coolest social-media-accessory I’ve ever seen:

The award for best tie goes to @sos_jr!

Here’s who was at this month’s Ohio Blogging Meetup.  Check out these great additions to my Google reader and Twitter feed:

Catching up with Alicia

If you blog — or are a fan of blogging — stop by one of Ohio Blogging’s upcoming meetups. For November, we’re planning a blog swap and December will feature the second annual cookie swap. You can keep up to date by liking the Ohio Blogging Assocation on Facebook.

You can also read other bloggers’ experiences of the night over at Poise in Parma and WhyCLE?.

Deagan’s Kitchen and Bar 411:

Thanks to CLEGal for sharing the photos of her, Danielle and me; Alicia with Chef Demetrios; and the blogger table.

The Flippin' Good Deeds Challenge with iNeed a Playdate

flipflop wines and Soles4Soul have joined forces to invite bloggers to participate in the Flippin' Good Deeds Challenge

When I was prepping for my first 5K, one of the biggest things I learned was that having the right shoes makes a huge difference. I couldn’t imagine not having the support of a nice running sneaker when I go out for a jog.

After reading about Soles4Souls, the first thought I had in my head was how grateful I am for those sneakers.

In 2004 when the tsunami hit Southeast Asia, Soles4Souls’ founder Wayne Elsey was watching TV one evening when he saw a picture of a shoe wash up on the beach. After making some calls to other executives in the footwear industry, he helped spearhead a donation of a quarter million shoes to victims. Then Hurricane Katrina happened and they sent over a million pairs of shoes down to the gulf coast communities affected by the hurricane.

This is when Elsey founded Soles4Souls — to continue collecting shoes year-round and getting them to people in need.

Why shoes?

Worldwide, over 300 million children are without shoes. Providing footwear to individuals in impoverished areas is the first step in helping them live healthy, productive lives.

In addition to footwear helping eliminate the spread of diseases through the foot, many schools’ uniforms require footwear — so providing shoes to children in need helps them obtain an education. You can learn more about the importance of shoes here.

The Flippin’ Good Deeds Challenge

Over the last few years, Soles4Souls has partnered with retailers, churches, nonprofit ministries, civic groups, schools, and individuals to continue their mission. One of these partnerships is with flipflop wines, a California-based wine producer. For every bottle of wine that’s purchased, Soles4Souls will distribute one pair of shoes to those in need. 

Their latest program is the flippin’ good deeds challenge, where bloggers are invited to reach out to their community and collect gently worn shoes to donate to Soles4Souls.

My coworker and fellow blogger Mary from iNeed a Playdate (you may remember her from her guest post on the Great Lakes Science Center) is a huge fan of flipflop wines and approached me about teaming up to run a local drive together. We’ll be sharing more details next week, but in the meantime you can learn about the challenge here or email me at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com.

Mary and I are really excited — so keep an eye out for a post at the beginning of next week about how you can get involved with the flippin’ good deeds challenge!

flipflop wines 411:

Soles4Souls 411:

Clue Into #My7Links

I love making lists! If I were to ever get a tattoo, it'd be like this one.

I’ve been making a lot of lists lately — to-do lists for NEOFoodTours’ upcoming Kamm’s Corners/AMP150 and Shaker Square Restaurant Tours, lists for Jump Back Ball, and lists to help get me ready for vacation.  I feel a bit like Santa with everything I’ve been checking off.

So, I’m taking a momentary break from them to do a list that’s a little less stressful.  There’s a meme making the rounds called “My 7 Links” where the blogger gets tagged by someone else, shares links from their blogging past that fit in the below 7 categories, and then continues the meme by tagging 5 other bloggers.

If you’re new to Clue Into Cleveland, read on for some posts I haven’t shared in a while as well as a behind-the-music into what I think about them.  This was just the kind of list I needed to take my mind off everything else — thanks to WhyCLE for tagging me!

1. Most Popular

Courtesy of WordPress’ handy stats page:

2. Most Beautiful

Cleveland’s lucky to have a theatre community that produces fantastic shows. My favorite from the last year  was Cleveland Play House’s Legacy of Light. It was beautifully written, acted and staged (loved the set design!). And while I don’t think I fully captured how beautiful the show was, I really enjoyed writing my blog post Embracing Change with Cleveland Play House’s Legacy of Light because it allowed me to look not just at the beautiful changes going on in our city but also in my own life and family.

Cleveland Play House's Legacy of Light. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni.

3. Most Controversial

Although this is a repeat of one of the most popular posts, I’m going to have to go with my review of the first C-Town Chow Down. This was the first time I got a negative comment on my blog and it helped me learn how to respond to them. I always welcome constructive feedback here and appreciate your comments. Sometimes I’m not the best at replying to them, but please feel free to share what you’re thinking (even if it’s how I can do a better job with my blog).

4. Most Helpful

Every once and in a while I am completely surprised when someone tells me they learned about something through my blog. I don’t know if Clue Into Cleveland is really helpful for others – I mostly do it as a way to document my journey in this incredible city.  So, for #4 I’m going to have to go with the post that was most helpful to me as a blogger – Clue Into Cleveland: One Year Later.  It helped me get some much needed perspective on my first year of blogging – what I learned about the city, my favorite memories and how I couldn’t believe I made it through one year!

5. Surprise Success

Earlier this year, I decided to document the months leading up to PlayhouseSquare’s Jump Back Ball – mostly because, as a first-time attendee, I was really excited for the event and wanted to learn everything I could about it.  I didn’t realize how much fun I would have writing this series of blog posts and that other people would actually read it.  I was even more surprised when the blog series was mentioned as a reason I was awarded New PlayhouseSquare Partner of the Year and would help me out as I start co-chairing Jump Back Ball 2012 (more on that later this week!).

When it comes to blogging experiences, my Jump Back Ball series was one of my most fulfilling and surprising. What began as a fun little project to get myself blogging more helped me become more involved with an organization I love – PlayhouseSquare Partners.

Jump Back Ball 2011

6. Not Enough Attention

I went all the way back to my 2nd month of blogging for this post. For Free Comic Book Day, I combined two loves of mine — Cleveland and comic books.  In Comics in CLE: Drawing Them Together, I looked at a couple ways Cleveland is connected to the characters and creators from the books on my shelf.  With the Avengers movie shooting here this month, I thought this old post would be very fitting.

7. Most Proud

Although my selection for the last category was an oldie-but-a-goodie, the post I’m most proud of is a recent one. Hands down, it’s my recap of my first 5k – last month’s Run for the Pierogies. I can’t believe how much fun I had getting ready for the run and the event itself.  And I’m happy to say I finally registered for this Saturday’s Independence 5K Run/Walk to A Healthier You which I’ll be running with PoiseinParma. Despite the heat and feeling a little under the weather, I can’t wait to get back out there!

Run for the Pierogies

Now that this flashback through my blog is complete, it’s time to pass on the #My7Links love and tag 5 other bloggers. I picked bloggers that I’ve either just started reading or write about a variety of topics.  Go check them out!

(Tattoo Photo attribution: RobStephAustralia)

Fresh Water Featuring CLE Bloggers

Looking to expand your Cleveland blogger reading list? Check out this week's Fresh Water. (Photo by Bob Perkoski)

After Saturday’s Blogger 5K and Sunday’s Blogger Night at the Orchestra, the past week has been all about discovering and reading new blogs.

The trend continued yesterday when this week’s Fresh Water came out.

Fresh Water is a weekly e-magazine and website that focuses on creative people and organizations who call Cleveland home. Recent articles I’ve enjoyed have included Child’s Play (on Clevelanders who turned childhood hobbies into money), Indie Spirit (on the Cleveland Independents promoting local restaurants) and a spotlight on Paula McLain, the local author who wrote The Paris Wife.

In this week’s Fresh Water, you can check out “They Heart CLE” by Erin O’Brien — featuring a handful of bloggers who are sharing their different perspectives on the city. I’m excited — and a bit flabbergasted — to say Clue Into Cleveland was one of these blogs.

However, this entry is about discovering new bloggers — so enough about me! There were a lot of great blogs featured in the article including:

  • Writes Like She Talks
  • Cleveland SGS
  • Mirandized
  • Cleveland Food and Brews
  • I Rock Cleveland
  • Cleveland Sports Torture
  • Bitter Orange and Brown

Check out the article to learn more about these bloggers and see some excellent photographs from Bob Perkoski.

And while you’re at, visit the Ohio Blogging Association‘s site if you haven’t already. Their directory has over 200 bloggers who write in Ohio — so there’s plenty out there to choose from. And if you don’t know where to start, the Blogger of the Week segment features a different local blogger each week.

While I know this weekend is a crazy one (check out Poise in Parma for an overview of some of the great events going on), find some time soon and discover a new blog!

(Photo source – Fresh Water)

Run for the Pierogies – Blogger Meetup and My First 5K

"Run for the Pierogies Day" at Cuyahoga Community College's Western Campus.

When I woke up on Saturday, it felt like Christmas morning.  However, the excitement and adrenaline weren’t for unwrapping presents under the tree.  It was raceday – my first 5K.

After Alicia at Poise in Parma announced that July 9th’s Ohio Blogging Meetup would be The Run for the Pierogies, it was the motivator I needed to try running for the first time in ten years.  So, for the last couple of months, I’ve been cluing into getting active in Cleveland

I upgraded my crosstrainers to running shoes (they feel so much better!).  I started walking and jogging around the neighborhood and dedicating part of my weekly personal training sessions at CSU to running on the treadmill and the indoor track.

I knew going into it I wouldn’t wake up one day and suddenly be able to run. When  I started training, I clocked in at 50 minutes and could hardly jog for more than 30 seconds. Although I didn’t want to set a difficult goal for myself, all I knew was that I wanted to at least beat that.

Pierogies - the perfect motivator

Over July 4th weekend, I got my time down to 44 :55 (a personal best). But then two days before – due to a combination of stress and a shoe mishap – I had a horrible run, coming in at 48:30. 

I was discouraged and went into my default mode for dealing with things like this — I started worrying. After some helpful advice and motivation from Alicia, my trainer Sean and Kali at Finishing Firsts, my anxiety faded a bit.  Regardless, though, when I woke up on Saturday, I could feel the nerves. And on the drive out to Cuyahoga Community College’s Western Campus in Parma, they intensified. 

Once Scott and I got out of the car, I realized it was a lot hotter and more humid than I had expected. The sun was beating down and I started reliving Thursday’s horrible performance in my head. 

Then I saw Alicia, HungryinCLE and WhyCLE’s friendly faces and reminded myself I had come out to Parma to have a good time and hang out/meet some local bloggers.

Hans, Poise in Parma, WhyCLE and me at the start line.

 In addition to Poise in Parma, Hungry in Cleveland and WhyCLE, here’s a rundown of who was there:

Get ready .... get set .... go!

After meeting everyone, we took our places for the race.  Whether it was the distraction of meeting new people or the adrenaline I had been told so much about, my nervousness turned to excitement as we lined up at the starting line. 

When they told us to go, the crowd lurched forward all at once.  I usually start my practice runs with a 5-minute warmup walk, but this was raceday and nothing could stop me from keeping pace.  Well, nothing could stop me for 2 minutes.  Usually I fizzle out after 1 and a half minutes of running but thanks to the adrenaline I pushed myself to 2 minutes straight. 

As I knew I would going into this, I soon fell behind the other bloggers. The heat and the sun were zapping my energy quick. However, I was surprised when I looked at my phone to check my status and realized after a mile I had shaved 4 minutes off of my normal time. Now I just had two more miles to go.

My personal paparazzi (Scott) stalked me down.

The track was a double loop through part of the Tri-C campus and as I was heading back for the second half of the run, the actual runners were starting to arrive at the finish line. Not letting that discourage me, I focused and kept moving, alternating every couple of minutes between walking and jogging.  

I saw a couple of bloggers who had already finished  or were nearing the end and got a boost of motivation from being cheered on.  And when I felt my worst around the 2 mile mark, there was Scott all of a sudden. 

Perfect timing! Scott had apparently camped out near the 2 mile marker for a couple minutes waiting for me to run by.  Seeing him for just a moment was all that I needed for the last stretch. I could finally see the finish line and despite how much my legs were screaming at me and my chest was heaving, I knew I was going to run it in.

As I crossed the line, I looked up at the clock and was floored. 42 minutes and 28 seconds.  A personal best for this non-runner on her first 5K!  

After cooling down, I grabbed a banana and my pierogies. “To the victor belong the spoils” and all that.  The pierogies were cooked up fresh by the Little Polish Diner and Krakow Foods. And if you’re going to run for something, I can’t think of anything better than delicious pierogies!

The finish line! Time to get those pierogies.

I know that if it weren’t for the help and motivation I got from friends and my fellow bloggers, I wouldn’t have been able to do the 5K. The emails, tweets and cheers along the way from everyone listed above and others like @MildlyRelevant and @TheHeldawg  were the best motivation. And Sean Grasso who has been an excellent trainer for the last couple of years helped me re-learn how to actually run and pace myself.

Most importantly, though, thanks to Scott — who put up with my training and cheered me on — especially when he popped up during the race. As usual, that guy has impeccable timing.

Even though I didn’t expect it when I first signed up, this month’s Ohio Blogger Meetup has been my favorite yet. I learned I actually enjoy running. While I know I’m not going to win medals anytime soon, preparing for the race and competing against myself was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to my next 5k on August 6 — the Independence 5K Run/Walk to A Healthier You.

If you’d like to read other bloggers’ recaps of the race and how they did, check out posts from Mollyberries’ Hodge Podge (she placed 2nd out of women — congrats!), Finishing FirstsMojomala2, Poise in Parma, and WhyCLE.

And if you blog — or are thinking about blogging — join us at our next meetup on August 11 when we take in a Cleveland Indians game.

The best cheerleader anyone could ask for.

Taking a Short Blog-cation

While I’ve been #happyinCLE to clue into different ways to get involved in Cleveland, lately I’ve been stretching myself in a lot of directions.

So I’m taking a mini blog-cation. I’ll be gone for only a few days with a new blog post by the end of this week.  Additionally, I’ll probably be moving to 2 posts per week for a while to allow myself a bit of extra time.

The short break will help me catch up on a couple projects like helping with NEO Food Tours (more fun announcements coming soon about the tours!), training for the 5k and a few additional writing projects.

In the meantime, though, I’ve recently updated the RSS feeds and links on the left with bloggers I love to read when I have the time.  Go check them out and I’ll be back before you know it!

(Photo from Flickr – credit Alan Cleaver)