Wednesday, December 8, 2010

NYC 5th Avenue Holiday Windows

During this biz trip, I had about a 30-minute break each day to walk outside. That's not enough time to shop (Phil is rejoicing), so I settled for second-best: window shopping. Luckily, this is the best time of year to do so since the department stores go all out with their holiday displays. Plus, this article in the Times, which previewed the windows, got me in the mood.

I didn't make it to Barneys or Bergdorf, but here are highlights from Cartier, Saks, Fendi and Hollister. 

 Love, love, love the big red ribbon on Cartier's building. Big gold boxes that opened and closed with jewelry inside were in the windows.

A snippet of the windows at Saks, which were very whimsical. There was a light show at night, but I missed it. Sorry for the bad photo. At least you get a glimpse of me in the reflection! :)

Fendi's display was my favorite! The lights looked like icicles dripping.

While not Christmasy, Hollister's giant panel of a live feed of California waves was pretty cool.

Happy holidays! Any big trips planned to close out 2010?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Back to work and back on the road

I've been back at work for a month, and today was my first biz trip (and the longest time I've been away from The Pickle). I'm in NYC for an overnight, and so far, so good. The weather forecasters freaked me out a little last night because of the anticipated snowfall in Cleveland, but my trip to the airport and flight were smooth. Fingers crossed for an easy trek home tomorrow night. 

Initially, I thought about having Phil bring the baby, but then I realized I'd have little free time and that flight prices were astronomical (I bought my ticket not long ago). I'm glad he's not here because all of the little kiddies I see bundled up make me cringe. They look like little icicles. Poor peanuts.

It's been more than a year since I've been in the Big Apple, and I'm glad to be back. (Seeeee. I told you I'd still want to travel.) However, I think I lost my mojo when it comes to basking in unseasonably warm weather here in late November/early December. It is COLD.

Today I had only 30 minutes of free time so I wandered by Rockefeller Center and Radio City to see the trees. I remember walking by there a couple years ago in December and taking off my wool coat because it was so warm. Not this trip. No sir.

I was reading old NYC posts and came across this one about my favorite places to Christmas shop while in the city. I am a creature of habit! Today I stopped in the MOMA Design Store and I'm hoping to at least get a peak at the holiday shops at Bryant Park. And, I dined at an old standby for dinner, Buddakhan. Hooray for edamame dumplings and rock shrimp! I love taking people there and it was perfect because my client was staying in Chelsea.

During my walk, I saw some pretty holiday windows at the big stores. I hope to see more tomorrow and share some pics. Tis the season!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tips for traveling with an infant

Since amazing moms like my friend Sarah and bloggers I read like Baby Making Machine inspired me to take my Dallas trip with Dylan, I wanted to pass along some tips for traveling with a baby that worked for me...

Comfort your baby - Feed him on your flights during takeoff and landing to help his ears adjust to the change in pressure. Consider wearing a wrap to keep him close to you and give you free hands when you need it.

Protect your gear - I bought a stroller bag and big plastic bag to protect my stroller and car seat from rough handling. I also asked to gave my stroller hand-screened when we went through security so I didn't have to maneuver it on the conveyor belt (P.S. Don't dress baby in a hoodie or shoes since both will need to be removed in the security line. Seriously. See here.)

Ask for help when you need it and accept help when it's offered - It would have taken me FOREVER to fold my stroller and put it in the bag if kind strangers hadn't offered to help.

Arrive early to check in at your gate - Befriend the gate agent and flight attendant and ask if there's a row free so you can have some extra room and privacy if you're nursing.

Get over nursing in public - I was DREADING this, but it ended up being fine. No one cares and it's less of a big deal if you remember you need to do what's best for your baby. With that said, I'm a weirdo and am more comfortable nursing in front of strangers v. people I know.

Stay hydrated - this is easy to forget to do when you travel. Remember to take care of yourself despite being extra focused on your kiddo.

Make the baby the focus of your schedule -  Know that he'll need you even more than usual. For that same reason, keep your schedule light on your first day of travel and clear your calendar when you return since he might need to readjust yet again. 

Good luck!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

We did it!

We're home! We got back yesterday afternoon. I'm feeling rather accomplished that we successfully navigated our first big travel adventure, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'm totally exhausted! In fact, we all snoozed yesterday afternoon in the comfort of our own bed. And, Dylan thankfully slept like a champ overnight.

On Friday, we went to the Dallas World Aquarium, which reminded me of parts of the Cleveland Botanical Garden and our zoo.

The first portion is like a rainforest but with critters like crocs, otters, toucans, flamingos and turtles. The second portion has all kinds of underwater creatures. My favorites were the sharks and sea dragons.

Ella hearts sharks and sported her Halloween costume when we visited. Dylan's eyes were wide during our visit, but he got freaked out by a giant manatee. Guess we won't be getting that kind of pet anytime soon!

We stayed in Friday night since D and I had an early flight (he was an angel again and two kind souls helped us with gate-checking our gear on the jetway). Sarah and I chatted for a while while her parents tended to our babies. I'm sad that I have no idea when we'll see each other next. Maybe we'll head to Wisconsin next summer...

Friday, October 22, 2010

A happier baby, a sculpture garden & shopping

I got my baby back! Today, I focused more on keeping him on his "schedule" and keeping myself hydrated and less stressed. He was a happy kiddo! 

We visited the Nasher Sculpture Center, which displays art indoors and outside on grounds in the heart of downtown Dallas. The outdoor portion of the Nasher is carefully nestled within a grove of lovely trees. You forget you're outside until you peek through the branches and see skyscrapers. Dallas' arts organizations are clustered together, but according to Sarah's mom, there's a shortage of nearby restaurants. I would have liked to have seen the Asian museum across street and Dallas Museum of Art next door, but we had to defer to the babies. :) 

After the Nasher, Sarah and I got dropped off at the mammoth North Park Mall, which is a mecca of designer labels and baby stores. I restrained myself and only bought a present each for Dylan, Phil and me...OK two presents for me, but it is my birthday month.

Sarah, ever my mom role model, suggested I try facing Dylan outward in his wrap since he can hold his head up...he loved it! I kept hearing him coo and Sarah said he was smiling up a storm.

We utilized Nordstrom's women's lounge to feed him before shoe shopping. I measured my feet..still the same size! Dylan passed out again in the magical wrap, so we went to the locally owned Blue Mesa for dinner...he slept like an amgel while I chowed down goat cheese enchiladas. We headed home for a low key night, and I was so relieved he had returned to his usual charming self cuz I wad so frazzled last night.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Baby overload at the Arboretum

So, the morning was amazing...a great flight and even a great lunch at Afrah, a mediterranean cafe with yummy eats and hookah pipes. Dylan slept in the magic wrap through lunch and then pretty much didn't sleep again.

We visited the beautiful Dallas Arboretum with our stroller twins but Dylan didn't want to ride in stroller so he mostly stayed in the wrap while I pushed the stroller like a chump. We saw a bazillion brides taking photos on the grounds...Texas is really big on bridal portraits...and a bunch of girls taking pics for their quinceanera. One girl even posed with a matching miniature doll of herself...seriously. 

Dylan was super fussy the rest of today. I hope he gets back on track tonight. It's unnerving to hear your baby cry, particularly when you're not at home and fear you're inconveniencing others. Sarah keeps telling me that I'm more sensitive to it than others, which I'm sure is true, but I hope he feels more comforted tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Whew! An easy flight

I'm so relieved! Dylan was an angel on our flight and everyone from start to finish at both airports was so kind and helpful. From the parking attendant at CLE who let Phil park and walk in with me to security, to the gate agent who moved us to a row with no one else seated in it to the two guys on my flight who helped me prepare and unpack the stroller for gatechecking...awesome karma!

I was a bit intimidated about navigating the airport with all of our gear, but it ended up fine.

On our flight, we chair danced to the new Jimmy Eat World album Phil got me for my birthday. Dylan LOVES Jimmy Eat World. I actually first felt him kick while jammin to Praise Chorus during my D.C. trip in March back when he was Mingus.

Here's hoping for a great return flight too!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dallas reunion

I know this is a terrible shot, but it's one of the last pics I have of Sarah and me before kids four years ago. It's from a bar crawl we did in Hudson, Wis., where Sarah lives. Here's what this picture tells me:

1) I haven't had a drink in a LONG time
2) We're both
3) The last photo album I put together was from 2006 and there's no way in hell I'm going to get everything organized before my maternity leave is up
4) Our Dallas trip is most likely not going to involve a bar crawl with three kiddos in tow

Sarah came to Cleveland with Eliza, her one-year-old, to throw me a baby shower in June (<3). When she was here, she reminded me that you can still do fun stuff with a little one strapped to you. We ate lunch at Anatolia Cafe, browsed local Cleveland goods at Made in the 216 and ate dinner at Luxe. I also drove them on my fave Cleveland street, Cliff Drive, for awesome views of the city, and we walked the paths at Edgewater Park and Lake View Cemetery until my preggo toes tired.

I know we'll have a blast on our Dallas trip, and I'm sure Sarah will inspire me to try to take Dylan places I might otherwise be intimidated to visit. The weather looks great, too, so I'll have a few more days for flip flops... BONUS!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dylan's first road trip

Just got back from a whirlwind trip to Michigan for my cousin's wedding near Detroit. The trip with a newborn was manageable with a few key items: my magical wrap which is 2-0 for putting him to sleep at weddings, the unfortunately named My Brest Friend nursing pillow and D-man's pacifier and clip.

The reception was at Waldenwoods, which is a charming, historic resort/luxe campground. Lots of little cottages and lodges on the ground. The bridal party kept the soirée going post-reception with a bonfire, but we hit the hay instead thanks to D-man's haphazard sleeping the night before. My aunt and uncle hosted a yummy brunch this morning since so many guests were from out-of-state and it was nice to recap the weekend.

We hit major traffic driving home because of the Michigan game and we wished we were driving Phil's car with his OSU tire cover. To add insult to injury, we had our own unfun version of a tailgate in a rest stop parking lot when I had to feed Dylan cuz of a mini hunger meltdown. Such is the life of new parents, I guess.

Dylan was a charmer and handled all of the attention (I lost track of how many people held him) and new surroundings like a champ. Let's hope I have similar luck with our Dallas trip!

Monday, September 27, 2010

There's a new sheriff in town and he's headed west

My new little traveling companion, Dylan (aka Mingus), arrived almost seven weeks ago. As I mentioned when I first announced on the interwebs that I was pregs, I was really looking forward to taking him out and about and planning his first trip. Then the little bugger rocked our world and it was hard to imagine how I'd ever feel comfortable enough to take him on a flight by myself and navigate with all of our gear. 

Now I'm starting to feel like I can handle it...maybe. Particularly after hearing how other new moms have tackled this challenge. Before I chickened out, I booked us a flight over the weekend for a trip to Dallas next month (my birthday month :)) to meet up with my friend Sarah (my mom hero) and her two girls at her parents' house. I'm really excited, but also slightly terrified about maneuvering Dylan, his stroller, car seat and diaper bag and my gear through the airport, not to mention keeping him comfortable on the flight. 

In terms of gear, so far he loves my Moby wrap (see above pic), so I plan to keep him in that on the flight. Our stroller (love, love, love our Bumbleride Indie) is thankfully a model that's compatible with a car seat, so that will be less to carry. And, I bought a cover for the stroller to minimize dirt when it's gate checked (all recs from Sarah).

Wish me luck on my quest to find Dylan the world's tiniest cowboy hat and stay tuned for pics of how we manage to fit three car seats in the back of Sarah's parents' car...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tips for seeing Tokyo on a budget

Love this USA Today article that highlights what to see and where to stay in Tokyo when you're on a budget. I definitely concur that it's worth the experience to stay in a ryokan and travel the intricate subway system. In terms of sights, the Tsukiji fish market is one not to miss, the Imperial Palace grounds are beautiful and you can't go wrong exploring the plethora of temples. Don't forget to karaoke in your own private room...I promise that you'll find your cojones!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Travel by DVD

Since I'm holed up at home (for the most part) while I wait for Mingus to make his/her arrival, I've been watching A LOT of movies. (I don't think I can bring myself to read anymore baby books without making myself crazy.) I've come to realize, which really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, that my favorites all feature destinations. A couple have pregnancies or births as part of the plot, too (nice bonus as I try to appeal to Mingus). Here's what's on my play list:

Under the Tuscan Sun: Italy
Memoirs of a Geisha: Kyoto
Woman on Top: Brazil/San Francisco
Gladiator: Rome
Troy: Greece (I need to go!)
Chocolat: France
Sense & Sensibility: England

I also recently discovered the show Sam Brown's Asia on The Travel Channel, and I am IN LOVE. Can't wait to see the episodes on Thailand and Japan so I can relive my trips.

Since Phil pretty much hates most of those girly movies and the Asia show :) I'm looking forward to having Mingus be my built-in travel partner, but he/she needs to come out first. C'mon Mingus!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Goo Goo for Gaga

Yes, I know I'm WAAAAY overdue for a post...let's hope Mingus also doesn't become overdue. 

Since I've been homebound as I hit my last few weeks of being preggers, I've been really, really, really looking forward to the Lady Gaga concert this week. I knew it would be a close call since it was three weeks before my due date, but Mingus stayed put and I had a great time! My homemade "Goo Goo for Gaga" faux "maternitard" was really comfortable too.

I tagged along with former co-workers Allison and Maureen (check out Allison's awesome recap of the concert with some of my photos and her video). We had great seats for my last concert before becoming a mom.

UPDATE: a friend shared this All the Pregnant Ladies Beyonce video spoof and asked me to do one for Gaga. Um, no, but you have to watch the video.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pros for traveling solo

Over the weekend, I read this
column by Rick Steves in the PD about the benefits of traveling solo. I've found that when I'm on my own in a new city, I'm much more adventurous and likely to chat up people I don't know. Two trips in particular stand out in my mind. First, Paris when I crashed the dinner party of my Eurostar seat mate and then San Diego (my first trip) when I met a woman who treated me to a flight of wine at an awesome outdoor wine bar. And, NYC solo is always fun since my schedule is usually frenetic anyway. (Plus, you guys make fun of me for asking random strangers to take my pic in front of landmarks. I have no shame.)

Don't get me wrong, I think I would have hyperventilated multiple times if I traveled to Asia on my own. Having a traveling companion when we got super lost on a four-hour bus ride in Thailand while looking for a beach would have been extra terrifying without a friend at my side. Same for navigating multiple bus and train routes throughout Japan...Gina's navigating skills were a lifesaver!

So, wanna go somewhere but can't find someone to go with? First, ask me :) and second, just go! You'll learn a lot about yourself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Girls' weekend in The Cleve

One of the downfalls about being pregs is that my traveling is starting to become limited. :( One of the benefits is that my out-of-town girlfriends are coming to visit me to see the belly firsthand. 

Jen, my favorite Southern belle from Charlotte, flew into Cleveland this past weekend, and we had a blast. But, she refused to acknowledge any of my prego sleepiness and kept me out WAAAAY later than my usual bedtime (you should be very impressed that I was out until 1 a.m. Saturday night)...which is why I look oh so tired in most photos from the weekend.

Usually I drive down to Charlotte once or twice a year to visit Jen and get my piggies out of hibernation and into flip flops. Although Jen grew up Ohio (we met at Kent State), this was her first visit staying with me.

I picked Jen up bright and early Friday morning and we headed straight to breakfast in Rocky River followed by our spa day at the Brown Aveda Institute (facials and blow outs). Then we met up with a mutual friend at Dante for a delightful dinner, grabbed drinks at Lolita and then crashed our friend's friend's 30th bday party at Reddstone in Battery Park. (I was not allowed to have a microphone during our Don't Stop Believin' karaoke performance so I rocked the blow-up guitar.)

So nice that hail the size of ice cubes decided to make an appearance during Jen's visit. Actually, with the exception of Friday afternoon, the weather blew. I guess it was payback for the last time I visited Jen in Charlotte during her birthday party monsoon.

Saturday morning, we went to Tommy's on Coventry for breakfast and to window shop the cute boutiques (Brigade, Blush, Next) since they weren't open yet. Afterward, we did some nursery shopping and then piled on more carbs at Melt (or "The Melt" as Jen kept calling it). Mmmm!

We hit Beachwood Place for some mom's day gifts, stopped home for a quick refresh and to grab Phil and then continued our gorging at Lago followed by another meet-up with a friend at 806. (We wanted to recreate my 30th birthday celebrating that Jen missed out on.)

So, dearest Jen got tastes (literally...did you see how much we ate out?) of all corners of The Cleve. Next up will be a visit from Sarah and one of her little nuggets in June. Can't wait!

Monday, April 26, 2010

36 Hours in Kyoto per The New York Times

While I highly recommend spending longer than 36 hours in Kyoto, this travel article from The New York Times highlights some of the best ways to experience the city.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Key West: where to stay

I've mentioned in an earlier post that when I travel, I do my best to take advantage of rewards programs. With that in mind, Phil and I booked the Marriott Beachside Hotel for our Key West babymoon. Initially, I was eyeballing the Dewey House, Key West's only B&B with beachfront access, but by the time grumpers agreed to the trip, rates went up significantly.

I really relied on Trip Advisor's reviews to make our booking decision. Reviewers raved about the suites at our hotel and free shuttle service to Duval Street, but explained caveats (high-demand for shuttle, small beach area) to manage our expectations. 

For the reasonable rate we paid, we loved this hotel. I loved lounging on the beach/by the pool until late afternoon each day and then heading out to Duval Street to grab dinner and walk around. I didn't mind being away from Duval Street at all, particularly since Mingus put the kibosh on boozing.

I posted pics of our room and my favorite cabanas on my Trip Advisor review.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I want my cabana back!

Weekend temps projected for Key West: high 70s

Weekend temps projected for Cleveland: mid-40s

Arrgh! I can't imagine wearing a coat.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Strip House 24-layer chocolate cake

This pic does not do the size of this cake justice. It took me three sittings, but I crushed this mofo. Mmmmm!

Sailing and diving in Key West

Last night Phil and I took a sunset sail on a catamaran with Fury for pretty views of the sky, ocean and reef. The wind was very gusty so we ended up doing laps outside the harbor by Sunset Key. But, we did see dolphins jumping in the water, which was really, really cool.

If I wasn't pregs, I would love to do some diving or at least snorkeling since my dad always wanted to come here to dive. Key West supposedly has some of the best diving in the world, particularly because of the reef. Seeing all the pretty shells in the markets reminded me of my dad. I'm so glad I got to come here with Phil and little Mingus because it makes me feel still connected to him in some way.

Why did the chicken in Key West cross the road?

To get away from Phil! 

OK, maybe from me. I started squealing when I saw all of their baby chicks. (P.S. When I was little I would hide eggs in the back of our fridge because I thought it you didn't eat them in time, they would grow into baby chicks...sorry Mom.)

Key West has a stray chicken population, which is really funny. You'll walk down the sidewalk and hear clucking from within the bushes and many random cockadoodle doos. 

We also saw six-toed cats at Hemingway's house, which is now a museum. (The cats are descendants of his cats...not sure how the six toes mutation came into play.) Hemingway wrote many of his most celebrated novels from the pool house out back. I brought The Old Man in the Sea with me and read it on the beach yesterday in tribute.

Who does Mingus look like?

I'm six months pregs today. Who does Mingus look like? (The baby's face is turned upward.)



(Note: despite what Phil says, Mingus is NOT the baby's name. Just an at-first horrific and now endearing nickname.)

P.S. No, I did not comb my hair today. Back's Key West. ;)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Babymooning it up in Key West

Ahh, paradise.

We've had beautiful blue skies with a refreshing breeze and temps in the high 70s since we got here yesterday afternoon. We love our beachfront hotel and somehow got upgraded to a suite that's the size of an apartment...we have a full kitchen, living room, dining table, 2 bathrooms and an outdoor balcony with a Widow's walk. Yessss!

We took a tiny plane from Tampa's airport to get here, which was a little comical (I was so glad for great weather). It reminded me of the flights my mom, brother and I took in our grandpa's four-seater plane to Michigan when I was a kid (note: his nickname was Crazy Lew and my g-ma was our co-pilot!).  

Once we got to our hotel, we hit the beach. We have fun yellow cabanas on our little beach and roofed (with a fan!), open-air cabanas by the pool. I'm in heaven.

Last night, we took our hotel shuttle to Duval Street for dinner and exploring. We loved Mangoes, an open-air restaurant, for dinner and also Blonde Giraffe for some AMAZING Key lime pie. And, I ran into a friend, Patti, I used to work with...what are the odds?

This morning, we walked to the grocery store to buy some fixins to make use of our kitchen and then hit the beach again. Tonight, a sunset sail on a catamaran.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Traveling for two

So...I'm five and a half months pregnant today and due in August. Whoa.

Phil and I are really excited, but I'm still processing everything, which is why I've been pretty private about sharing our news. I told my extended fam and work my news a month ago, and I'm finally ready to admit on the interwebs that I have a new traveling status: Christina + 1. (No, this is not an April Fools joke.) Some of you might have noticed my bump in my last post while in D.C., so I figured it's time to spill the beans.

Baby K, aka Mingus (our official nickname...long story) has been an amazing little traveler to-date. (Actually, I've had a super easy pregnancy so far.) He/she's been to St. Louis (which I never end up writing about because they're quick day trips for work), Vegas, Chicago and D.C. without incident. And, Mingus will get to experience Key West in a couple weeks. Woo hoo!

My fam keeps asking if I'll still travel while pregs (obviously, yes) and after the baby is born. Of course! I thrive on planning trips, and I don't expect that to change. I'll just need to make some adjustments. My friend Sarah has been an amazing role model for me. She traveled by herself with Ella, who was one, a couple years ago for our San Francisco trip, and she took Ella and her newborn to Dallas by herself a couple months ago. She started a blog to write about being a working mom, Postpartum PR, which I love reading.

In any event, I'm excited to have a go-to traveling companion. This kid is going to experience the world, one city at a time!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunshine, Asian art and the Eastern Market

The weather yesterday was delightful, and lots of people were out to celebrate the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which kicked off with kite flying near the Washington Monument. We took the train in to Union Station and took a leisurely stroll to the Freer Gallery, one of my all-time favorite museums. Along the way, we walked through more groves of cherry blossom and magnolia trees...the air smelled so sweet!

I got to show Carli the Peacock Room at the Freer and some of my favorite Whistler and Dewing paintings, but the Thayer angel paintings weren't on display (or I couldn't find them). Carli started not feeling well, so we never made it to the Sackler galleries below. 

We headed to the area near the Eastern Market to grab lunch and then browsed the stalls, which were a smaller version of Cleveland's West Side Market. We bailed on a play we were going to see at the Woolly Mammoth since Carli looked like death. Poor girl almost made it home before puking (if you're walking on Colesville Road today from the Silver Spring metro station, stay clear of the flower beds).

We watched the West Virginia v. Kentucky game and a movie and then called it a night before Carli went to bed with her bucket. 

Today's a little gray and I'm hoping that the rain stays away for my drive. Phil had his softball banquet last night, so I'm also hoping he's not curled in the fetal position in our bed. :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Everything's better with cherry blossoms


Last night I had the privilege of experiencing Carli's infamous evening monument tour. She was right -- they look amazing at dusk and in darkness. It was chilly last night, but definitely bearable from all the walking we did. Oh, my piggies were oinking.

Today starts D.C.'s two-week long Cherry Blossom Festival. This year marks the 98th anniversary of when Tokyo gifted the trees to Washington. I read on the train yesterday that the festival is the district's highest-grossing tourist event, but we barely saw anyone as we walked around the Tidal Basin. I'm sure today will be a different story.

I can't believe my Japan trip was a year ago. Walking around the Tidal Basin reminded me of when Gina and I walked around the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, which was lined with cherry blossom trees (and young professionals wining and dining on tarps beneath their branches). I hope Carli and I see tarps filled with people today!                                                                                                                                                           
She's been spoiling me with her new domestic diva skills -- homemade guac when I arrived, pesto pasta last night and now hashbrowns this morning...mmm! She's a girl after my own heart (love you, Jen)!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's time for cherry blossoms! (this time in D.C., not Tokyo)

I just read that Tokyo's cherry blossom season has officially begun. Last year, I had the fortune of timing my Japan trip to coincide with the opening (Kyoto) and closing (Tokyo) of cherry blossoms. It was such a lovely experience. The impermanence of the cherry blossom season, which appears and then vanishes within 10 days every March/April, always reminds me that life is short and should be seized and treasured. 

This year, my friend Carli invited me to visit her in D.C. to view the cherry blossoms for our National Cherry Blossom Festival. I've been on bloom watch via this site and looks like this weekend will be perfect for a visit. Carli said she's been seeing blooms here and there, so hopefully it warms up and they're all in full view soon.

I haven't been to D.C. for fun since college when my roommate and I would stay at her aunt's in Maryland and take the train in to go to our favorite museums like the Freer Gallery and the National Gallery. (I've always been a museum nerd. Most kids spent all their money on booze in college and I was the dork buying prints to frame.)

Can't wait for this weekend!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

2011 March Madness takes a spin through Cleveland

Even though right now I am in severe bracket mourning (effing Kansas), I'm pumped that next year's tourney will make a stop in Cleveland for the first and second rounds. Find the 2011 schedule here.

We had a blast in Dayton last year and got to watch two of my favorite teams: Ohio State and Louisville. If you're interested in scoring tickets, start stalking the NCAA site once the championship game in Indianapolis is over. Last year, you could apply for tickets about two weeks after the end of the tournament. I detailed instructions about how we scored our tickets in this post, in case you're interested.

Hope your brackets are faring better than mine. :(

Friday, March 19, 2010

Move over key lime pie in Key West! I want some Strip House 24-layer chocolate cake too!

I have been salivating over Key West dessert options based on the guide books I've been perusing as we prepare for our trip next month. Our hotel supposedly serves up a good Key lime pie, so you know I'll be actively sampling. I was also thrilled to realize that there's a Strip House in Key West, which serves up an AMAZING 24-layer chocolate cake (or so I've heard from the Food Channel). Cleveland's The Greenhouse Tavern was featured on a Guilty Pleasures episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and the show also highlighted this dessert.


Watch The Best Thing I Ever Ate tonight at 10 p.m. to see Cleveland Heights' Lopez featured by Michael Symon for its yummy guacamole. Lopez is one of my favorite restaurants, and I've written about it here in The Heights Observer.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My fav hotel reward programs

When I travel, I'm all about maximizing rewards...airline miles, hotel points, etc. When it comes to hotels, I heart Kimpton boutique hotels because of their fantastic amenities. I also participate in Marriott's rewards program, and have redeemed their free hotel rooms when in Paris, Raleigh for the Krispy Kreme Challenge and Dayton for March Madness (woo hoo). I'm "this close" to a Kimpton redemption.

While in Chicago a few weeks ago, I stayed at Hotel Monaco. I’ve never stayed at this location, but I’ve stayed at other Hotel Monacos in other cities (and other Kimpton-branded hotels) and loved them. I was cheerily greeted when I arrived, upgraded and given a card to redeem two mini bar items for free…despite my already steeply discounted rate. How's that for a welcome?! My room was immediately available and had a pretty bay window with a nice view...see above (the circular condos/parking building near the House of Blues has served as my beacon many times when visiting Chicago).

Many Kimpton hotels are green and they always offer great products like Aveda and L’Occitane in the room. Plus, they have daily free wine receptions, fun animal print bathrobes and offer complimentary items like fashion tape by request. I love staying in their hotels because they have a boutique feel, yet offer all the amenities and services (and then some) of a major hotel chain.

What about you? Where do you like to stay when you travel? Any travel reward programs that stand out to you?

Monday, March 1, 2010

How can we not be happy in Cleveland w a Man v. Food visit?

I usually write about my travels away from Cleveland, not my adventures in my hometown, but I want to make an exception because of this b.s. that has Clevelanders in an uproar. Saturday was an AMAZING day, and I think it's a great illustration of awesome things that happen in our city.

First, Man v. Food filmed at Melt, which was incredible enough in itself, but I also got to meet Adam Richman! Phil and I have been huge fans of the show for the past two seasons, and even visited Hash House A Go Go when we went to Vegas in December because we salivated over the waffles Adam sampled on the show. So, I was pumped! (However, there is no way ever that I could eat 4 lbs. of grilled cheese, which is the Melt Challenge that Adam attempted.)

From Melt, we scrambled home to get ready for PlayhouseSquare's Jump Back Ball, an event I helped to plan (I was co-chair of ticket sales for this year's event). What a great night! The Spazmatics played some dynamite 80s tunes and everyone's outfits/costumes were great. We also ate delightful appetizers by Zack Bruell during the V.I.P. party before the event (even though I was still really, really full from our Melt outing). Mmmm.

So, a great night and a great example of how awesome Cleveland is! Holla!

UPDATE: read this blog for a great account by one of the Melt tattoo brothers of his experience during the filming Saturday: