Happy New Year’s Eve Eve! I am so excited because today is the last day before I go on vacation for a couple of weeks. Scott and I are starting things off with a friend’s birthday celebration at Light Bistro, then a lowkey New Year’s Eve at Fat Head’s Brewpub and hopefully Happy Dog’s Biscuits and Gravy Brunch to celebrate the start of 2012.
As I reflect on 2011, I am amazed at how much of it sped by in a whirlwind. From last year’s New Years Cleve until now, it was non-stop – often juggling multiple projects, events, and shenanigans at the same time.
Because I would be bored to tears writing a full year in review (so I can’t imagine how you would feel reading it), 2011 can be summed up in 4 themes of how I experienced my favorite city this year:
Eating local, never hungry
From trying a lot of new restaurants to enjoying events like NEO Food Tours, C-Town Chow Downs, Taste of the Browns and Emerging Chefs, Scott and I had a wonderful year of eating our way around Cleveland.
I discovered some new personal favorites like Greenhouse Tavern, Light Bistro and AMP 150. And Scott – who used to be a picky eater – has really expanded his tastes.
For instance, prior to this year he never would have eaten peking quail on soba noodles with a juicy “quick” pickled egg, but he did at one of Noodlecat’s Brick and Mortar Pop-Ups and even enjoyed it.
As I noted in my last post, the best part of all this dining out has been my increased desire to cook. Cooking has always intimidated me but I’ve found that I really want to learn how to make some of these dishes I’ve been enjoying. So I’ve been taking small steps here and there and even Scott has realized he needs to step it up in the kitchen – adding spices and more flavorful ingredients where he wouldn’t before.
Next on our plate (horrible pun intended) is The Chubby Cook’s “Cooking with Beer” class and finishing my list of 10 restaurants I keep saying I’ll visit but haven’t. I have 2 down, and 8 to go!
Of course after eating all of that food, I needed to balance it out with exercise. Although I still enjoy the strength training I’ve done the last couple of years, I branched out this year and found additional ways to be active and have fun.
I surprised myself by how much I loved running my first 5k – the “Run for the Pierogies“. And although I only ran two 5ks in 2011, I’m looking forward to the Spring so I can slowly keep improving my PR. In the meantime (because I’m not quite at the point where I can run outside in this cold), I’ll be training on the indoor track at CSU.
I’m specifically eyeing up the Jog Into Spring 5K on March 31 and will be registering in the next couple of weeks for the Cleveland Marathon’s 5K. However, I’ve bookmarked mojamala2’s blog as she continues to update her list of 2012 races.
In addition to running, I also enjoyed Scott’s and my little foray into kickball during the Spring and picked up a couple yoga classes here and there. I have a long way to go before I can say I’m truly active, and there’s not enough time in the day to squeeze much more training in; however, compared to previous years, I improved by leaps and bounds (ugh, another horrible pun!) in 2011.
Experiencing the “Social” part of “Social Media”
In 2010, I felt like I was blogging in a vacuum. I knew there were plenty of other bloggers out there to meet, but – thanks to my social anxiety – I felt awkward about meeting them or putting myself out there in my blog and on Twitter.
2011 was a different story, though. In addition to incorporating more of my voice and personal stories into my blog, I also worked on getting past my worries of meeting new people. From joining the conversation through things like the Ohio Blogging Association and @clevelanddotcom’s Twitter Twenty, I ended up meeting some pretty fantastic peeps both on and offline.
For the first time I also experienced how social media is not just for work or reading @Nerdist’s Tweets (nerd crush!), but also for doing social good in our community and abroad.
Helping @KaseyCrabtree and @Kimikay organize this year’s Twestival Cleveland was a really rewarding experience. In addition to meeting and working with 2 great people, I got to learn about We Run This City, an awesome organization that helps local children prepare for the Cleveland Marathon. And thanks to over 100 people attending and donating money, over $2000 was raised.
I also enjoyed pairing up with iNeed a Playdate as part of the Soles4Souls Blogger Challenge. We ended up being one of the finalists after collecting 473 pairs of shoes which are going to support individuals across the world. I also got hang out with my friend both on and offline more, so that was definitely a plus.
From Observer to Participant
Hands down my favorite part of 2011 has been the longer-term projects that allow me to be active within the community. Between getting involved with NEO Food Tours and taking on a larger role in PlayhouseSquare Partners, I can’t complain about not having enough to do (in fact, sometimes it’s the reverse complaint).
Co-chairing this coming February’s Jump Back Ball has been a fantastic experience not just because it’s going to be a ridiculous party, but also because I’m passionate about Partners’ mission and am really happy I can contribute to the planning of one of our bigger events in this way. Although we have a lot of things already done, keep an eye out towards the end of January for my second annual “behind the curtain” look at Jump Back Ball.
NEO Food Tours has been the other big reason I’ve needed an infusion of caffeine this year to keep me going. Helping to grow a locally owned small business from the beginning has been a very fulfilling learning experience. And on the days I’ve had to get up at 3 am to work on a project, I think about how much I love Cleveland’s culinary scene and the fact that I want others to love it just as much, and it makes the lack of sleep much easier to bear. We have a lot of cool ideas that we’re working on for our 2012 season, and you can keep up to date on this progress at @NEOFoodTours and Facebook.com/NEOFoodTours. Our next event is February 20 — Battle for Battery Park, Cleveland’s first-ever comedy food fight!
Although there were plenty of speedbumps and a lot of moments where I wasn’t really at my best in 2011, why waste time dwelling on those? Overall, 2011 qualified as a pretty decent year. I’d rather remember the many moments of awesomeness as I look ahead to 2012 – which I think is a lesson Cleveland as a whole can take to heart.
As the Cleveland Scene noted yesterday, 2011 was the year we did not suck. And with the Cleveland Aquarium opening up, the revitalization of the Flats underway, and many other neighborhoods continuing to blossom, we have a lot to be excited for in 2012.