ZippityZooDoo: June 6 at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Reminder: Sunday is your last chance to win 2 tickets to the Silver Spoon Awards.
Tweet daily for extra entries.

Photo provided by ClevelandZooSociety.org, courtesy of Dale McDonald

Photo provided by ClevelandZooSociety.org, courtesy of Dale McDonald

There’s a lot going on at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo right now, as the Zoo shakes off winter and prepares for a summer full of activities. Summer Day Camp starts in less than a month, tickets are on sale for Twilight at the Zoo, and – as I write this – Carousel Works is at the zoo installing the new Circle of Wildlife carousel:

Carousel Works

It’s no wonder with everything going on that Cleveland’s zoo is one of the final nominees in the USA Today 10Best U.S. Zoos contest. Be sure to vote for the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo here!

To continue bringing us more educational and conservation activities, the Cleveland Zoological Society raises money and awareness through zoo memberships, adopt-an-animal programs and fundraising events.

Their next fundraiser, ZippityZooDoo, will be held June 6. It’s the event’s 41st year and is always a wonderful evening celebrating the kick off of the Zoo’s summer season.

ZippityZooDoo starts at 6pm with an open bar and hors d’oeuvres. Enjoy strolling around parts of the Zoo and getting up-close with some of its animals.

Then at 8pm, sit beneath the summer night sky for a gourmet dinner. Check out the menu, which includes olive and goat cheese stuffed mission fig with citrus pomegranate syrup, caviar, and maple citrus glazed airline chicken.

Photo provided by ClevelandZooSociety.org, courtesy of Dale McDonald

Photo provided by ClevelandZooSociety.org, courtesy of Dale McDonald

Dancing to The Element til 11 and a silent auction featuring behind-the-scenes experiences with orangutans, gorillas, and flamingos (among many other prizes) round out the night.

The event’s goal is to raise $300,000 overall for the Zoo. Individual tickets start at $250, which includes valet parking, dinner, dancing, and entertainment. Other ticket levels include preferred seating, name recognition in the program, plus an exclusive VIP pre-party in the African Elephant Crossing. 

Learn more and get your tickets online. You can also read my recaps of the last two ZippityZooDoos here and here.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend ZippityZooDoo but am unable due to a scheduling conflict. Opinions are 100% my own and based on my experience at previous ZippityZooDoos.

Giveaway: Celebrate Twenty Years of Silver Spoon Awards

UPDATE: After removing one pingback and three retracted entries, and placing the remaining total in Random.org:

silver spoon winner

Congratulations, entry 26 – Franklin Mayse, for winning this giveaway!
Please reply to my email by the morning of 5/13 to confirm you can attend Silver Spoon.

Silver Spoon Awards Party, May 14, 2014

Cleveland Magazine’s Silver Spoon Awards Party, May 14

When it comes to Cleveland food events, I like to prepare in advance. That means scouting which restaurants are going to be there, developing a game plan for the most efficient tasting route, and getting my appetite in shape.

There are some events I can get away with going in blind; however, if there’s anything I’ve learned from previous years, the Silver Spoon Awards Party is not one of those events.

I mean that in the best way.

When I’m asked for a list of my favorite Cleveland food events, a small handful come to mind. Year after year, Silver Spoon is consistently tops.

tacos

Photo via Silver Spoon CLE, by Lane Baldwin Photography

Each year, Cleveland Magazine readers vote on restaurants that are the best at what they do. Whether that’s pizza, brunch, sushi, Greek food, dessert, happy hour … the list goes on. The restaurant finalists are then invited to show off their signature dish in May to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation, Great Lakes Region, Northeastern Ohio.

Add on top of that, wine from eight international vinters, cocktails from Brown-Forman, a silent auction, late-night after-party in the VIP lounge, and loads of other surprises, and now you know why I prepare like I’m going to run a marathon. 

This year’s Silver Spoon Party promises to be bigger than  ever because  it’s the 20th Anniversary. On Wednesday, May 14, over 40 restaurants will take over 200 Public Square. 

20 Years of Cleveland Magazine's Silver Spoon Awards

20 Years of Cleveland Magazine’s Silver Spoon Awards

And today I’m happy to not only share a sneak peek at what this year’s restaurants have planned, but also 2 tickets for you to win!

Here are some of the dishes you’ll be salivating over:

  • Aladdin’s Eatery: Jasmine’s Favorite and Lebanese Salata
  • Blue Point Grille: Blue Point oysters
  • Bubba’s-Q World Famous Bar-B-Q: De-boned baby back rib steak and Texas style brisket
  • EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute: Rabbit pie and ratatouille
  • Felice Urban Café: Grilled Calamari Salad with New Potato Confit
  • Great Lakes Brewing Co.: A tasting of a variety of beers and Bananas Foster Mousse Cups
  • Humble Wine Bar: Chocolate towers and cheese cakes
  • Jammy Buggars: PB&J Meatball Slider
  • Luca Italian Cuisine: Sacchetti al Tartufata Bianco, white truffle and ricotta stuffed sacchetti, black truffle cream sauce, aged fig balsamic
  • Lucky’s Café: Mini Reuben, corned beef, sauerkraut, on rye with Thousand Island dressing, all house made topped with swiss
  • Master Pizza: Pepperoni, plain, sausage, and the award-winning “Popeye” pizzas
  • Pacific East Coventry: Assortment of sushi
  • Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar: Braised Beef Ropa Vieja
  • Pearl of the Orient – East: Phoenix Salad (smoked shredded duck breast, chicken breast, agar agar, honeydew, cantaloupe, sesame seeds, sesame vinaigrette)
  • Pearl of the Orient – West: Strip Steak with Hoisin Sauce and Crispy Wonton
  • Phnom Penh: Vegetable Kuy Teav Chha Khmer; Chicken Preah Vihear
  • Pier W: Crawfish etouffee and zucchini bloom fritter, fava bean emulsion
  • Salmon Dave’s Pacific Grille: House cured wild salmon with citrus barbecue sauce and a mango poblano salsa
  • Society Lounge: Ramos “Bathtub Gin” Fizz, Kegged and Carbonated Moscow Mule and Barrel Aged Woodford Manhattans
  • Spice Kitchen + Bar: Seared Ramp Ravioli with green garlic sauce and micro greens
  • Sweet Melissa: Chocolate covered strawberries, cannoli, chocolate cake, red velvet cake, NY style cheesecake, keylime tarts, cookies, and more
  • Taki’s Greek Kitchen: Lamb chops w/mavrodaphine syrup, and spicy feta dip w/pita chips
  • Toast: Pigs in a blanket
  • Ty Fun Thai Bistro: Pad Thai
  • Zoup! Euclid & East 4th Street: Lobster bisque and chicken pot pie

Check out the full list of participating restaurants to see who else will be there. Personally, I can’t wait to discover what Cork & Cleaver, DANTE/Ginko, Fired Up Tacos, Lolita, and Mama Roberto’s have up their sleeve.

Hungry yet? You can purchase tickets for the Silver Spoon Awards Party online for $150 (VIP) and $100 (general admission).  Or you can enter to win two general admission tickets right here!

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 which dish or restaurant you’re most excited for.

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

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

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

I want to win tickets to @SilverSpoonCLE! Enter @ADHicken’s #SilverSpoonCLE giveaway: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2uQ #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 Sunday, May 11 at 11:59PM to enter.  On Monday, May 12, Random.org will select a winner and I’ll 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 Silver Spoon with a guest and give away 2 tickets on my blog. My opinions and the choice to post about this event are my own.

This Saturday: Free Comic Book Day in Cleveland

fcbd

Whether you’re an avid comic book reader, a fan of superhero movies and television, or just curious about what the fuss over comics and graphic novels are, this Saturday is a day for you.

Free Comic Book Day, the first Saturday in May, is one of my favorite days of the year. Sadly, I can’t attend any of this year’s festivities because we’re hosting family from out-of-town. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

What is Free Comic Book Day, you ask?

The first FCBD was held in 2002. And in the last 12 years, it’s grown and sparked a nationwide movement around comics and literacy. This year, Diamond Comics Distributors estimates 2,000+ shops will be giving away more than 4.6 million free comics in one day.

Archie, Hello Kitty, GI Joe, Batman, Rocket Raccoon and The Guardians of the Galaxy will all be in attendance — as well as a bunch of comics you may not know about, but should be reading. Over 60 titles are represented in this year’s haul.

USA Today has an awesome primer on which Free Comic Book Day books to read, based on your non-comic tastes.

However, Free Comic Book Day is about more than reading comics. It also spotlights your local comic book shops and the incredible community these brick-and-mortar small businesses build.

Sure, you can just find your local shop using the FCBD store locator, pick up your free books on Saturday, and leave.

But that misses the point of FCBD, in my opinion.

Instead, stick around for a few minutes or a few hours. Talk to the other comic book fans and the shop’s staff if they’re available. Take part in any of the day’s activities that the store has planned – many of them do. You’ll learn a lot and meet the nicest, coolest people.

My local shop, Comics Are Go in Elyria, will have Cleveland artist John G signing copies of “The Lake Erie Monster.” It’s a fantastic comic (read my review here).  Even if you aren’t into comics, you’re likely familiar with John and his work, as the artist of Melt’s monthly special posters.

Lake-Erie-Monster-Movie-Poster

Carol and John’s will be hosting not one, but two parties for Free Comic Book Day. Their annual Midnight Early Release party starts at 10 pm on Friday and goes til 2 am on Saturday. They’ll have free comic books (10 per person), free graphic novels, photo ops (including this TARDIS!), rewards for costumes, free sketches, food and drink including a special FCBD micro brew from Cleveland Action Brewery.

The day event goes from 10am til 7pm. Mark Sumerak will be autographing 200 free copies of his book Franklin Richards Son of a Genius. There will also be free sketches for kids and the live creation of a mural by the Rust Belt Monster Collective.

FCBDPostCardBack

You can read all about Carol and John’s event here.  They’ve also distributed comics to every single branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library for Saturday.

For other shops and FCBD events closer to where you live, check out Michael Sangiacomo’s column on Cleveland.com.

Guest Post: One Brunette’s Personal Connection to BvB CLE

This year’s Blondes vs Brunettes CLE game is right around the corner. In fact, player registration  closes May 4. I love this event and how it’s raised over $80,000 for the Cleveland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. 

This year, I figured I’d have someone stop by whose family is affected by Alzheimer’s so she can share her story and why BvB CLE is such a great cause to support.

Take it away, Ann!

Guest blogger Ann McDonald with her Team Brunette teammates at the 2012 BvB CLE

Guest blogger Ann McDonald with her Team Brunette teammates at the 2012 BvB CLE

I first heard about Blondes vs. Brunettes Cleveland (BvB CLE), a flag football game that raises money for the Cleveland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, two years ago thanks to a tweet from Amanda (truly the source for everything Cleveland).  

The fundraiser is now in its third year and I am so excited to be back again volunteering for a cause so important to my family.

Like many involved with BvB CLE, I have a personal connection to the disease. In 2008 my mom, at the age of 66, was diagnosed with Dementia.  It’s a difficult diagnosis, for many reasons, but particularly because there really is no treatment and the doctors can’t tell you what to expect.  Six years after diagnosis, my dad is now a full time caregiver for my mom, helping her with many of the tasks of daily life.

It’s not an easy thing to talk about, but that’s why fundraisers like BvB CLE that allow people to share their stories and bring more awareness to the disease are so important.

The entire event is planned by young professionals who all have a passion for bringing more awareness to the disease and raising money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

I love that a fun event can bring together people dealing with such a devastating disease.

Ypalz, the Alzheimer's Association Cleveland Chapter's young professionals group

Ypalz, the Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Chapter’s young professionals group

This year’s BvB game will be played June 7 at Krenzler Field on Cleveland State’s campus.  As you probably guessed from the name of the event, the teams for the game will be divided based on the age-old rivalry between blondes and brunettes.  Redheads are “free agents,” permitted to play for the team of their choice.

Funds raised by the players will benefit the care, support, advocacy and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.  If you’re interested in signing up to play (women only) or coach, visit www.bvbcle.org – and hurry! Sign up for players ends May 4.

There will also be some fun events leading up to the game.  On May 9, BvB CLE will host a night of bowling at Madison Square Lanes (you can buy discounted tickets here) and on May 16, BvB players will be treated to a Pamper Night at Vanity Lab. Find out more about these events at www.facebook.com/bvbcleveland.

If you can’t make BvB CLE – check out the Young Professionalz Ypalz Facebook page for other volunteering opportunities.

Hope to see you at the game!

Ann McDonald is the Marketing Chair for BvB CLE. If you’d like to donate, please visit her fundraising page. Dog lovers should also check out her blog Dogs in the CLE.

#DazzleCLE: PlayhouseSquare to Shine Even Brighter

Over the last year, changes have been coming to the outside of PlayhouseSquare. But a few more are yet to come...

Over the last year, changes have been coming to the outside of PlayhouseSquare. But a few are yet to come…

Anyone who has visited one of PlayhouseSquare’s theatres recalls the first time they took in its restored beauty. The old-school glamour of its lobbies and theatres. The State Theatre murals. The Hanna’s ornate ceiling decked in mythological creatures. Those chandeliers.

It’s all the more stunning knowing that at one time these theatres fell into such disrepair that they were going to be torn down.

But because of Ray Shepardson - without whom, we would have had parking lots on Euclid Avenue – they were saved and a neighborhood in downtown Cleveland restored. In fact, PlayhouseSquare announced last month that they now have more season ticket holders than any city in America.

If you haven’t seen it or are unfamiliar with PlayhouseSquare’s comeback story, check out the Staging Success documentary:

To match the dazzle inside of its theatres, PlayhouseSquare is about to complete a dramatic transformation outside.

Over the last year, we’ve seen the plaza in the PlayhouseSquare district updated with an outdoor music stage, firepit, and dining area. Beautiful archways (my favorite of the exterior additions) now mark the boundaries of the neighborhood. Digital signs provide information and interaction opportunities for visitors. And a retro sign above the buildings at E. 13th St. and Euclid Avenue pays homage to PlayhouseSquare’s 1920s-era beginnings.

PlayhouseSquare 1

New signage can be found everywhere you look around and above you

All of these changes have led to the unveiling of the neighborhood’s centerpiece: The GE Chandelier.

20-feet tall and adorned with 4,200 crystals, it was inspired by the stunning chandeliers inside of the theatre. It will be a permanent fixture, connecting the points of the Euclid Ave. and E 14th Street intersection and serving as a can’t-miss welcome for PlayhouseSquare guests.

The massive chandelier was constructed by Montreal-based company Lumid. In addition to looking good, it’s been designed and tested to withstand the harshest conditions (take that, Cleveland winters!). 

The frame is currently up at PlayhouseSquare; however, you can be the first to see it lit up in all its glittering splendor this coming Friday:

Dazzle-countdown-events-images-general1

On May 2, the lights will be turned on at Dazzle the District. This free community celebration starts at 5pm with Taste of PlayhouseSquare, happy hours and live music on the U.S. Bank Plaza (previously Star Plaza).

At 8:30 pm, Nashville’s Hot Chelle Rae takes The University Hospitals Main Stage for a concert.

It all culminates with the GE Chandelier Lighting Ceremony at 9:30 p.m.

I hope you’ll join me this Friday! Admission to the event and concert is completely free. And stop by the blog after Dazzle the District for photos and a giveaway of PlayhouseSquare Dazzle swag.

The chandelier, even without its lights, is beautiful

Soon, this sight will be even more spectacular

Get all the Dazzle the District details at dazzle.playhousesquare.org and watch these videos to learn more about the GE Chandelier:

Disclosure: I was invited to blog about the event, though I was already planning on it because I love PlayhouseSquare and can’t wait to see the chandelier’s unveiling. Opinions here are 100% my own.

A Blast for Yuri: Great Lakes Science Center’s Yuri’s Night

Yuri's Night Cleveland 2014 at Great Lakes Science Center

Yuri’s Night Cleveland 2014 at Great Lakes Science Center

“Only in Cleveland,” Scott turned and said to me at this year’s Yuri’s Night Cleveland, “can I enjoy a drink at a science center to celebrate a Russian cosmonaut, while a band dressed in Star Trek uniforms named after a Mel Brooks pun plays Boogie Man.”

On April 12, space geeks came together with fans of science fiction, Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who and the Jetsons at the Great Lakes Science Center for Yuri’s Night. The party is Cleveland’s contribution to the worldwide celebration of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.

Only at comic book conventions have I seen a celebration of so many layers of nerdom under one roof.  It’s why I love this event and look forward to it every year.

A photo with the guest of honor

A photo with Yuri

Our first stop at Yuri’s Night Cleveland was for a bit of rocket fuel.

Upstairs in the VIP lounge, we sampled a shot of chilled pea soup from AMP150 and grilled asparagus salad with parmesan biscuit from Crop. Downstairs, they had some of my favorite comfort foods including empanadas and fried ravioli.

And then of course there was dessert. While there were many sweets to choose from, I opted for A Cupcake a Day‘s blackberry sage cupcake, Peace Love and Little Donuts‘ raspberry lemonade donut, and astronaut chocolates from Sweet Designs.

Cupcakes

While we ate, Scott and I enjoyed a lot of rock and a little ska from Abby Normal. They embraced the spirit of the evening and captivated the crowd - dressing as a Star Trek crew and making great use of the Science Center’s escalators:

Abby Normal at Yuri's Night Cleveland

Abby Normal at Yuri’s Night Cleveland

After enjoying their performance, I tracked down the special guest I most-wanted to see.  No, not Astronaut Greg Johnson … R2D2!

Scott holds R2D2's gin and tonic while they get a picture together

Scott holds R2D2′s gin and tonic while they get a picture together

Ok, @Astro_Box was the Yuri’s Night guest I was second-most excited for, and we managed to have our photo taken with him at the end of the night.

Astronaut Greg Johnson

Astronaut Greg Johnson

I also had the pleasure of meeting the Doctor Who Society of Cleveland who brought their TARDIS. The craftsmanship was incredible. 

If you missed the TARDIS at Yuri’s Night, it’ll be at the premiere of episode 1 of T.R.A.C.E,  a Doctor Who Fan Film, on May 7.

Night made:

It IS bigger on the inside!

It IS bigger on the inside!

Some of the fashions at Yuri’s Night could have rivaled costumes at a convention. The costume contest winner honored the man we were celebrating, Yuri himself. However, this one was my favorite:

Vader

All this sightseeing and people watching tuckered me out. Fortunately, we were able to rest our feet in the Black Light Lounge.  New to this year’s Yuri’s Night party, the lounge featured an art wall for everyone to draw and write on and a CIA fashion show of wearable tech.

Of course, Yuri’s Night wasn’t all fun and games. In addition to checking out the Science Center’s exhibits, Scott and I made sure we took in a few lectures.

These weren’t your run-of-the-mill physics lessons. We first caught part of a talk on the similarities between real-life space science and its pop culture counterparts, and then we witnessed the Big Science Show’s rocket launch while learning about propulsion. 

Blast off!

Blast off!

Unfortunately, what goes up must come down and even the best of times must come to an end. So after GLSC’s epic midnight balloon drop, Scott and I called it a night and headed home.

However, we only have to wait til the Earth goes around the sun one more time before our next Yuri’s Night. I hope we’ll see you there!

Yuri's Night Balloon Drop

Yuri’s Night Balloon Drop

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Yuri’s Night with a guest in exchange for blogging about it ahead of the event. Opinions expressed here are 100% my own.

Giveaway: Harvest for Hunger’s Market at the Food Bank

UPDATE: After removing one pingback and placing the remaining total in Random.org:

Market at the Food Bank winner

Congratulations, entry 26 – Jessica Z, for winning this giveaway!
Please reply to my email by 4/25 to confirm you can attend Market at the Food Bank.

This year's Market at the Food Bank takes place May 4 to benefit Harvest for Hunger

This year’s Market at the Food Bank takes place May 4 to benefit Harvest for Hunger

Checkout for Hunger, Brown Bag Day, food drives at WKYC, Indians games and area businesses — all around the region, people have been coming together for Harvest for Hunger.

Harvest for Hunger is one of the largest annual, community-wide food and funds drives in the nation, serving food pantries, hot meal programs, and shelters across 21 of Northeast and North Central Ohio’s counties.

During last year’s Harvest for Hunger, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and other local hunger relief organizations provided 16.5 million nutritious meals to the community. The plan this year is to top 17 million meals.

Ambitious? Yes, but hunger continues to be a growing problem in Northeast Ohio.

One way the Greater Cleveland Food Bank will reach this goal is Market at the Food Bank, Harvest for Hunger’s annual food tasting fundraiser.

On May 4, L’Albatros, EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute, Greenhouse Tavern, Vintage Wine and 50 of Cleveland’s restaurants and beverage purveyors will spend the evening serving up delectable dishes and fine wines throughout the Food Bank’s distribution center.

The goal: to raise 1 million meals in just one night. 

Photos from last year's Market at the Food Bank (photo on left courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank)

Photos from last year’s Market at the Food Bank (photo on left courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank)

The meals provided through Harvest for Hunger will help seniors like Phyllis, families like Katie and Luke, children like Francisco. Our friends and neighbors.

Market at the Food Bank starts at 5pm on May 4. Early bird general admission is $85, though the price goes up on April 18. You can buy tickets online or enter this week’s giveaway for a pair of tickets.

How to enter: Do 1, some, or all 5 of the entries. Separate comment 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) Leave a comment telling me how you support Harvest for Hunger. (Need ideas? Check out the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s site.)

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

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

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

I want to win tickets to @CleveFoodbank’s Market at the Food Bank! Enter @ADHicken’s #MarketatFB giveaway: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2tG

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, April 21 at 11:59PM to enter.  On Tuesday, April 22, Random.org will select a winner and I’ll 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 Market at the Food Bank and give away 2 tickets on my blog. My opinions and the choice to post about this event are my own.

Cleveland Anew: Big Spring at Cleveland Botanical Garden

Scott and his grandmother tour the Cleveland Botanical Garden

Scott and his grandmother @ CLE Botanical Garden

In the hustle of the last few months, I forgot that March marked 7 years since Scott and I moved to Cleveland. I think back to that first year, how much fun we had seeing the city the first time and how new every experience was.

With Scott’s parents and grandmother’s recent move to Cleveland, we’re experiencing that feeling all over again. Now that their house is unpacked and they’ll have their first house guests in a few weeks, it’s time to explore!

For their first post-move outing, Scott and I decided to take them to the Cleveland Botanical Garden for Big Spring

Going on now through April 27, the Big Spring Show has transformed the Cleveland Botanical Garden into a larger-than-life paradise. Beautiful displays and family activities such as dressing up like insects and racing mealworms make it a whimsical experience for young and old.

Cleveland Botanical Garden Big Spring

Cleveland Botanical Garden Big Spring

The Hicken house in New Jersey had a stunning garden, so I thought that Big Spring would be a great way to put the long, rough winter behind us and get everyone excited for transforming their new landscape.  

As we entered the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s front lobby, it brought me a lot of joy to see Scott’s mom and grandmother marvel at the oversized flowers, gardening tools, and flower pots:

3 - The Hickens

After soaking in the scents and the light, we headed to the Botanical Garden’s Glasshouse.  First we traveled to the deserts of Madagascar, then the rain forest of Costa Rica. I’m always struck by the beauty of the plants and the butterflies inside CBG, and I was happy to see I wasn’t the only one:

Scott's dad and mom checking out the Glasshouse's butterflies

Scott’s dad and mom checking out the Glasshouse’s butterflies

Scott’s grandmother commented that it was incredible to see butterflies up close that she had only seen in books.

5 - Butterflies

This trip was also my first exposure to the garden’s tropical bird collection. I’d been so preoccupied on previous visits by the glasshouse’s butterflies that I somehow missed their other winged inhabitants.

Not this time!

6 - Garden Birds

Another thing Scott and I missed on previous trips was the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s library. Scott and his mom got lost in their Book Sale while Scott’s dad, grandmother and I enjoyed coffee at the Garden’s cafe.

We ended our trip with a quick romp through the ladybug maze.

7 - Scott and his mom

We’re all looking forward to returning when the weather is just slightly warmer. Scott’s mom remarked how the benches throughout the garden will be perfect for walking his grandmother around. And Scott and I can’t wait for the Garden’s Summer show: Nature Connects: A LEGO® Brick Experience!

Until then, you can catch Big Spring through April 27. Learn more and buy tickets here.

Scott and I look forward to showing off our other favorite Cleveland haunts, though the Garden will be hard to beat.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Big Spring with my family in exchange for blogging about it. My opinions of the event are 100% my own.

A New (York) State Of Mind: Billy Joel in Concert

Blogkeeping: Congrats to entry 8, Kim for winning the Uncorked giveaway. Please reply by the end of today to confirm you can attend.
Scott and me seeing Billy Joel for the first time at the Q in Cleveland

Our first Billy Joel concert at the Q in Cleveland

Last week, I fulfilled 10-year-old Amanda’s dream of seeing Billy Joel in concert. Although I initially had to drag Scott with me, Billy Joel had a new lifelong fan by the end of the concert.

I had never been to a Billy Joel concert before last Tuesday night. In fact, before then, any significant exposure to Billy Joel I’d had was what played on the radio in my formative years, when my only indicator of “what successful music sounds like” was nothing more than “it played on the radio.”

All the more I knew of Billy Joel was that “Weird Al” Yankovic did the It’s Still Billy Joel To Me spoof (and if “Weird Al” spoofed you it meant you were pretty damn important) and that, during my time in chorus, we had a lot of very hoity-toity vocal adaptations of Billy Joel songs which had some very deep – or at least intricate – lyrics. So I never formed my own opinion of Billy Joel, instead carrying on a concept that was formed over decades from other people’s reverence.

It was this conception of a lauded and serious artist that I took into the concert. As Billy Joel entered the Q’s performance stage and sat down at the piano under a single blue spotlight, I was 100% prepared for the show to be little more than Billy Joel dutifully playing each of his hits, with nay but a pause between for a sip of water. I’ve seen the same from lesser-known songsters.

Let me be perfectly blunt upfront – Billy Joel in concert was amazing. Basked in a soft glowing light while seated at his piano, the man pointed out at the people surrounding him in the fully packed Q and observed that while he hadn’t released a pop album in two decades he was still touring to massively sold-out crowds.

This wasn’t ego talking. He’d brought it up so that he could proudly announce his own career was proof that he was “full of crap and lies.”

This was in reference to lyrics he had written for his song The Entertainer, “I won’t be here in another year; If I don’t stay on the charts.”

This statement made it clear from the start that Billy Joel had an acute self-awareness of himself that allowed a very a unique attitude to show through during the concert.

I have no idea if Tuesday night’s performance is reflective of the concert experience across his entire career, but I know that it certainly shattered my expectations of him.

Subtle aspects of this unexpected mindset popped up throughout the night.

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland's Q

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland’s Q

There were the intermittent segments Amanda and I began to call “Story Time With Uncle Billy” where the audience was regaled with tales of being stranded and cursed at on Ohio freeways, and his claims that Ted Nugent needed to aim his throat spray “up his ass.

There was the lengthy explanation of every factual inaccuracy and “complete bullshit” to be found within The Ballad of Billy the Kid. Or the alternate lyrics for She’s Always a Woman: ”She’ll ruin your face with her powerful thighs.” And yes, I heard that right.

But the pièce de résistance was yet to come. As the show’s three-quarter mark ticked over, Billy Joel stood up and was handed a bright red electric guitar.

I didn’t know that he was introducing the defining moment of my existence on this planet, when I would realize I had now lived a Complete Life.

Billy Joel told the audience that he hoped the next song would be a religious experience, and that he would be welcoming to the stage a roadie that had been with his crew for many years.

At this point, imagine if you will, a middle-aged Al Lewis stomping out onto the hardwood. His many arm tattoos were visible thanks to the black Guy Harvey t-shirt that had the sleeves cut off with a deep V of fabric that ran down his ribs. He had in his hand, pressed firmly to his mouth, a microphone.

Billy Joel introduced him to us with his given Christian name of “Chainsaw.”

Chainsaw then broke into Highway to Hell, with Billy Joel rocking out on the guitar. And I do mean the full, 3-minute and 29-second song. Chainsaw stomped around the stage shouting at camera men, instrumentalists, and front row audience members. Billy Joel dug deep into that guitar. Red lights and spectacle flashed around them. It was a fantastic rendition.

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland's Q

Billy Joel performing at Cleveland’s Q

When the song was over the soft lighting once again came up. Chainsaw retired to the back, and Billy Joel handed over his guitar while retaking his seat at the rotating piano.

The expected lyrical repertoire earnestly resumed with the same energetic humor displayed earlier in the night, punctuated now and then by the odd rendition of Uptown Girl.

But nothing quite matched the “What the Hell did I just see?” moment that had arisen when Billy Joel shared the stage, and an AC/DC cover, with Chainsaw.

So, my friends, that is what I wished to share of our experience. After the other night, any of my thoughts of a “stuffy songwriter nearing the end of his career taking for granted the endurance of his work” were blanched out.

I have mixed feelings about whether or not to recommend that you go see Billy Joel in Concert, should he tour near you:

On one hand it’s an amazing experience orchestrated with great love by a talented man who clearly wants you to have as much fun in the audience as he’s having on stage.

On the other hand, as you leave the concert, your mind may be completely blown by the realization that Life will be all downhill from there forward.

Largely thanks to a man called Chainsaw.

Giveaway: Win 2 Tickets to Nature’s Bin Cornucopia Uncorked Wine Tasting

Update: After removing one duplicate entry:

Uncorked winner

Congratulations, entry #8 – Kim, for winning this giveaway.

Wine Lovers: I have an event and giveaway specifically for you today

cornucopia uncorked

Are you the person everyone turns to to select a bottle of wine? If you think you know how to pick a good red or just love Cabernet, join Nature’s Bin at the 78th Street Studios’ smARTSpace for Cornucopia Uncorked.

A fundraiser for Nature’s Bin’s Cornucopia program, Uncorked takes place next Thursday, April 10 from 6:30-9:30pm.

Enjoy an evening of food from Nature’s Bin (including something for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans), live music from Men with Short Beards, and a competitive wine tasting.

Tickets cost $50 ($30 of each is tax-deductible). I’m also giving away two tickets below.

But first … What is a competitive wine tasting?

  • Uncorked guests bring 2 bottles of Cabernet, the evening’s theme wine (preferably priced between $12 and $24, or as close as possible). 
  • At check in, one bottle is bagged and numbered.  The other bottle is then set aside. 
  • The bagged bottles are put out for tasting (you can’t see through the bags so no one knows what they are tasting).
  • Everyone then votes for their favorite blind-tasted wine.
  • The guests who bring the top five voted bottles are awarded prizes.
  • The person who brings the number one wine will receive the majority of other bottles that have been set aside.

Uncorked is not just a great way to put your wine tastes to the test, but the event will also raise money for Cornucopia.

Since 1975, Nature Bin’s Cornucopia program has helped people with disabilities develop their skills, confidence, and workplace potential by providing work adjustment training and job coaching and placement services.  Today, they serve people with a wide range of severe disabilities including developmental disabilities, mental illness, autism, visual and hearing impairment, and injuries resulting from accident or illness.

Fundraisers like Uncorked help Nature’s Bin fund their non-profit program so that they can continue to help unlock individuals’ potential and become fully functioning members of their communities.

Cornucopia

While I’d love to attend Uncorked, I’m unfortunately allergic to red wine. (I know, with a maiden name like DiGiandomenico, it’s a funny allergy to have.)

The upside of this is that one lucky person and their friend get to benefit from my allergy by going in my place. All you have to do is enter my giveaway.

How to enter: Do 1, some, or all 5 of the entries. Separate comment 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’s your favorite type of Cabernet? Leave a comment on this post letting me know.

2) Follow @Naturesbin 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 Nature’s Bin 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 win tickets to #CLE’s Cornucopia Uncorked wine tasting. Enter @ADHicken and @Naturesbin’s giveaway: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2sQ

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 April 7 at 11:59 pm to enter. Random.org will select the winner, which I will announce on April 8. Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry. Good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Uncorked with a guest in exchange for blogging about it. I can’t attend so am giving away my two tickets. My choice to post about this and any opinions are 100% my own.