Five Below Fun for the Family

Thursday, October 29, 2015

I'm going to brag on my step-daughter for a moment here. 

When the kind people of Five Below reached out about a partnership that included a $50 shopping spree for my step-kiddo I couldn't wait to tell her.



She loves shopping at Five Below and points it out to me every time we drive by, so I knew this truly would make her day. Trust me when I tell you, there was quite the high pitch scream of excitement when I gave her the good news!

What I didn't expect was what came out of her mouth next, "Can I give one of the gift cards to another kid shopping in the store? Like a RAKE (Random Act of Kindness)!"

My eyes immediately teared up. Here I am all excited to give HER the opportunity to pick out fun, high quality gear at an amazing price and she's excited to give the opportunity to another kid.

Melt my heart, sweet child, MELT IT.

I didn't want to capture a photo of the family that Maria gave a $10 Five Below gift card, but I smile just thinking about it.


We had so much fun shopping at Five Below. Admittedly, I don't go there often without the kiddo, but after this most recent trip that will change. I'm already thinking about stocking stuffers and gifts for my nieces and nephew.

From collectible Pokemon trading cards and Shopkins to room decor to media accessories to sports there's something for every kid or tween on your list. Plus, kids can go in there and spend their own money because all items are $1 to $5.


Talk about a haul right? A poster, super cool safe, Shopkins, Duct Tape that we used for our Halloween costume, Cleveland Cavaliers cup, neon bouncy ball, Ty plush cat, "#" battery powered light for her room, sunglasses and a hilarious pizza themed t-shirt for CK.

Maria would have brought the whole Five Below store home with her if she could, and to think that she could have had more but decided to make someone else's day makes me very proud to be her step-mom.

Thanks to the great people of She Speaks and Five Below for providing this fun and unique opportunity for my family, it's one we won't soon forget.

Editors note: This is a sponsored post, but as always, opinions are 100% my own.

#MyCLEPhoto + Hilton Cleveland Downtown Getaway

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Interested in a free weekend stay for two in Downtown Cleveland? Who wouldn't be?

The oh-so-close-to-being-completed Hilton Cleveland Downtown is sponsoring a contest to help curate art for the hotel. They're asking Clevelanders to submit photos in and around Cleveland showing their CLE pride in front of their favorite locations and landmarks. Selfies work too!

The final product will be a swanky mural full of submitted photos that will be unveiled when the Hilton opens in Downtown Cleveland in June 2016. 

There are two ways to submit your photos to not only be included in the art, but also to win that fabulous getaway:

1. Upload your photo via the My Cleveland Photo website

2. Use the hashtag #MyCLEPhoto on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

Admittedly, I had more fun than anticipated looking through my semi-recent Instagram photos, tagging some of my favorites for inclusion in the mural.

Case in points:

Fun at the inaugural Ohio City Street Festival with Shibani and the kiddo!
Taken from my car on West 25th Street in Ohio City post-morning Harness Cycle spin class. The West Side Market was just about to wake up, guys.

That Corn Maze Life at Mapleside Farms
Scene from one of my bike rides in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath

I mean, these are all #MyCLEPhoto worthy, right?

So what photos will you be adding to the Cleveland Hilton's mural? I bet you have more than you think on your iPhone, add them today and who knows, you just may be the grand prize winner!

Door to Door Organics is the epitome of #joydelivered

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

We order everything else online, so why not order local organic fruits, vegetables and more to be delivered right to your door?

Enter Door to Door Organics.

I've participated in weekly farm buying clubs in the past, Fresh Fork Market is a great Cleveland example, and while I enjoyed my subscription, the lack of flexibility in my weekly order caused me to waste perfectly good food.

Once I got into my weekly Door to Door Organics deliveries, I realized that what I loved most is that on Monday morning I'd sign into my account and meal plan. You can add, subtract and modify your entire order or produce box prior to delivery straight from their website.

Not in the mood for bananas? Simply swap them out for another fruit or vegetable of your choice. Planning on making (spoiler alert) zucchini bread? Make sure you load up on extra zucchini!

It's not just about produce though, one can purchase bread, snacks, dairy, etc. or my family's favorite, Smoking Goose Applewood Smoked Bacon. If it wasn't for Door to Door Organics, we never would have found this brand which is now a household staple. 

Here's an example of a box I received over the summer, those organic chicken thighs went right into my Yiayia's chicken and noodle recipe. I can even order my local favorite Good Greens bars - a win for everyone!

It may still be sunny and warm in Northeast Ohio, but let's not fight fate, fall is officially here, and my brain goes straight to Browns football, apples, pumpkins, Sunday soups and zucchini bread. I just love being in the kitchen this time of year.

So I may have jumped the gun when I made my "famous" zucchini bread a few weeks ago, but the time is now, and I highly recommend you add this, or any of the amazing Door to Door Organics recipes, to your collection.



Zucchini Bread
- 3 cups flour
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

---- Combine above dry ingredients and put aside in large bowl.

- 1 1/4 cup chopped nuts (I use walnuts, but pecans are good too.)
- 1 cup raisins
- 4 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups oil (I use half oil and half applesauce as a substitution.)
- 3 cups grated zucchini (Beautiful, organic and delivered straight to my door!)

---- Beat eggs, vanilla and oil well. Add dry ingredients and beat until combined. Add zucchini, raisins, nuts and mix well. Pour mixture into two greased and floured 9x5 loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 1 1/4 hours and ENJOY!

Guys, once you go home delivery you never go back and who better to try than Door to Door Organics. Interested in signing up? Click here to receive $10 off your first order.

Or, wait for it, you can win one of three $50 gift certificates for good food I'm giving away right here on the plum!

To enter, complete one or all of the following:
 
1. Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite fall food.

2. Tweet the following. You can tweet once per day, but must leave a comment each time telling me you did so.

I want #joydelivered to my doorstep from @dtdorganics, @clevelandsaplum! http://bit.ly/1Fs72FF

3. Share on Facebook - http://bit.ly/1Fs72FF - leaving a comment on this post telling me you did so.

You have until end of day Tuesday, September 29th to enter - GOOD LUCK!

Disclosure: I was provided a gift certificate from Door to Door in exchange for this brand partnership. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.


Gardening with Petitti's Garden Center

Monday, August 24, 2015

With this being our first round of seasons at #HalleysCarriage, we had to start from scratch when it came yard maintenance. We have nearly an acre of land that's covered with 100+ year old trees, overgrown bushes and patchy grass coverage in addition to being home to all sorts of wildlife.

It's actually wonderful surroundings, but the elderly woman who lived in our home before us hadn't properly maintained the yard in years, and we've basically spent the entire summer cleaning/digging out our flower beds - a solid first step.

But as we continue to prep for fall planting, I couldn't just leave our yard flowerless for the summer. Enter lots of big, beautiful pots to fill with colorful, hearty flowers.

But what to plant? All my favorite go-to annual flowers were full sun and I have nothing but shade.

Also, I had to think about the deer.

Exhibit A: a friendly, flower eating deer straight chillin' in my backyard.

Deer resistant: a phrase that never crossed my mind until I moved into a home adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Enter Petitti Garden Center, Northeast Ohio's premier garden center. Their knowledgeable staff walked me aisle by aisle helping me pick out flowers and plants that would be most likely to survive (and thrive) in my new yard.

Admittedly, I didn't listen to all their advice, which is probably why I'm going to need a slightly altered plan for spring 2016, but I'm confident that my yard is going to improve year over year.

An easier portion of our outside to maintain, the front porch, has plenty of sun and from what I can tell thus far, no real deer interference. Bring on the big beautiful pots!



CK and Maria helping me pick out two glazed clay pots for our front porch at Petitti's.

Top left: the day we planted the annual flowers - Penta, Lantana and Bacopa - in our new pots. Top right and bottom: growth progress after a month or so - blooms for days!

While we may not want to admit it, summer is basically over, and I'm already thinking about my fall planting and spring planning -- mums, flower bed prep, weed killing, grass seeding, perennial planting and leaf removal.

There's so much to do! Luckily, Petitti Garden Center, and their nine locations in Northeast Ohio can help. I even already have a date set over Labor Day weekend with my Mom to make a trip to the Avon location for yard prep.

If you plan on doing the same in the upcoming weeks I have a giveaway for you - a $50 gift certificate to Petitti's!

To enter, complete one or all of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite flower, tree or bush.

2. Tweet the following (You can tweet once per day, but must leave a new comment each time letting me know you did so.)

Hey, @Petittis - help make my garden grow with a $50 gift card from @clevelandsaplum! http://bit.ly/1LsOX9D

3. Share this post on your Facebook page - http://bit.ly/1LsOX9D - leaving a separate comment letting me know you did so.

You have until end of day Tuesday, September 1st to enter to win - GOOD LUCK!


Editor's note: I've partnered with Petitt's Garden Center to help bring this contest to you. As always, opinions are my own.

It's patio weather in Cleveland!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

When it comes to summers in Cleveland, when one has the opportunity to sit on a patio, one sits on a patio.

Alternately, when one has the opportunity to sit on a patio with a Lake Erie view, you run as fast as you can to sit on that patio.

Case in point, Pier W

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Piew W is one of Cleveland's finest dining establishments. Known for a critically acclaimed seafood menu and a breathtaking view of Downtown Cleveland, every trip I've ever made to the restaurant, whether for brunch or a happy hour on the patio, has been spectacular.

This includes my most recent trip to kick off this summer's patio season..

Friends on the patio!

Hanging out with some of my favorite CLE Bloggers, Allison, Shibani and Alana. Our heads may be covering the Cleveland skyline but I promise it's there!

My love of oysters knows no bounds. I mean, we had our own personal oyster shucker!

Sunset over the lake photo? Check. Here's mine and Alana's dates for the evening, Seanski and Edie hamming it up for the camera - thanks for the photos, Alana! Good times had by all.

Champagne, oysters and sunset aside - another favorite from the Pier W patio menu were the crispy pork wings which I'm still craving to this date.

Thanks again to the fine folks at Pier W for inviting myself and my fellow Cleveland blogger friends to this event - as always though, my opinions are my own.

Happy Tuesday, kids - the sun is shining, so go find a patio!

Spring was most definitely sprung!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hello old friend. I've missed you!

{{ As a reminder, if you're still looking for a daily dose of plum, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram.}}

How do I even begin to update you all on my whirlwind month of May (and end of April)? There were trips to Toronto, Nashville and Detroit. Overnight guests three weekends out of the month and numerous trips to Canton. 

Guys, I was all over the place.

This is not a bad thing, but whoa delly the number of pics I took. So instead of publishing gobs of photos, I'm going to share a single image that most accurately represents the weekend's festivities. 

Here goes!

My sissy is officially a Nouna (Godmother in Greek) to the most adorable little boy, my cousin Owen. That face he's making is totally all, "um, I'm not going in there!" And that face my Mom is making in the background is all, "um, I'm totally not supposed to be in this picture!"

I was honored to be able to standup as a bridesmaid in my dear friend Foxx's wedding - her and Brian make such a wonderful couple and have surrounded themselves with quite a crew if this picture is any indication! This particular photo was taken by the wonderful Marianne Mangan at Stone Mad Pub in the D-Sho - bombs anyone?

This little light of mine had her first communion and it was perfection.

My cousin Marissa and little Gabriel a.k.a., Boomer, also got welcomed into the Greek Orthodox faith this past month - what a precious nugget!

I'm kinda cheating with this one but there was just too much family fun when CK's Dad and Step-mom came to visit us from STL. They did a lot more than just help us with our backyard patio lighting though!

This pic, even though you can barely see my face and I'm apparently attacking my friend's heads, sums up my whirlwind 24 hours in "the bubble" a.k.a. Grosse Pointe, Michigan, with my college roommies. When we reunite it's always more than your average good time.

So that's that. We're officially, for the most part, caught up.

Now, let's keep this fun rolling straight into summer.

Happy Tuesday, kids!

Provenance at CMA Culinary Series: Food and Wine Inspired by Art + Giveaway

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Update: This contest is now closed, congrats to @BiteBuff - you're the big winner!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Cleveland Museum of Art is my favorite space in Cleveland.

I'm also fairly certain that eating and/or cooking is my favorite pastime - combine the two and I'm happy as a clam.

Lucky for us, the CMA has wonderful dining establishments right in the heart of the museum and a new monthly culinary series that allows one to indulge in seasonal specialties. The Food and Wine Inspired by Art Chef's dinner series at Provenance is an 'artistic experience for the senses' where the incomparable Chef Partner Doug Katz crates a unique five-course menu with wine pairings. 

CK and I were invited to attend the April 15 event and were, as usual, greeted by the wonderful Provenance at CMA staff and a table full of lively guests. I truly think my favorite part of these dinners is getting to meet fun new Clevelanders that love food and wine as much as we do.

Let's get to the good stuff though, the food, wine and A GIVEAWAY.



April 2015 Food and Wine Inspired by Art Dinner at Provenance
Amuse-Bouche: Spring onion bisque with grilled local ramps, EVOO and dried kalamata olives + Dry Creek Chenin Blanc
First Course: Braised artichoke salad with shaved Iowa prosciutto, local feta, micro basil and roasted pepper-fennel chutney + Au Contraire Chardonnay
Second Course: Pan-seared Scallop with jumbo lump crap, roasted asparagus, glazed radishes, green goddess sauce, lentil chickpea-almond pilaf + wine the same the first course
Third Course: Grass-fed filet of beef with Anna potatoes, red wine jus, fried sage and shallot butter + Justin Cabernet Savignon
Fourth Course: Strawberry rhubarb crisp with minted local yoghurt + Domaine Chandon Brut

Yes, we ate and drank very well this evening. The New Creation Farm filet of beef was so good that I think all future beef tenderloin is ruined for me, thankfully I can run to the farmer's market and pick some up. Whether I'll be able to cook it as well is yet to be determined.

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Provenance, I'm able to provide a pair of complimentary seats at the table to a future Food and Wine Inspired by Art dinner to a lucky cleveland's a plum reader, a $130 value! Upcoming events through July are listed on the website.

Enter for your chance to get a seat at the table by completing one or all of the following:


1. Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite season - spring, summer, fall or winter.

2. Tweet the following (You can tweet once per day but must leave a new comment each time letting me know you did so.)

I want to win two seats at the @ProvenanceatCMA Food and Wine Inspired by Art dinner table from @clevelandsaplum! http://bit.ly/1HU4C2u

3. Share this post on your Facebook page - http://bit.ly/1HU4C2u - leaving a separate comment letting me know you did so.

You have until end of day on Tuesday, May 5th to enter to win - GOOD LUCK - the winner in in for a real treat!

The one where I catch myself on fire

Monday, March 23, 2015

You guys, this past Thursday evening, while cooking dinner for my family, the string on my favorite zip-up hoodie caught fire.

We can blame the damn power boil feature on my fancy new stove for this one.

The thing is, I didn't even realize the string was on fire until I smelled something burning, looked down, and realized it was me... I WAS ON FIRE.

It started spreading so fast!

I fumbled around trying to pat the flame out, but mid-panic decided to run out the backdoor and strip off my burning clothes - a hoodie, t-shirt and bra - ALL on fire mind you. My hair even singed.

I can only image the show my neighbors got.

The image below shows the three non-living layers that got burned. 

Except there's a fourth layer, my skin, that now has blisters over a very, very sensitive area. Ahem.

Photographic evidence, doh.
 
Sweet Jesus.

In hindsight, I probably should have just gone to the sink and simply places the damn hoodie string under some water. Way to buckle under pressure, Alexa.

Genius.  A genius with blisters on her boob.

R.I.P. favorite grey hoodie, you'll be missed.


Window Nation: Cleveland windows

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Who says you can't get new windows in winter?

I didn't, and neither did Window Nation.

As CK and I continue to tackle getting our new home organized, we have a pet renovation project in the works that recently had its first item checked off the (very long) task list: new windows courtesy of Window Nation!

So, there's this "carriage house" on our property. But I'm not sure who are we kidding calling it a "carriage house" though, it's really a lofted garage, but because it's over 105-years-old it once housed carriages/horses. There are even trapdoors for hay distribution and the floor is old sandstone.

Truthfully, I'm shocked it's still standing, having not been given the same proper updating and attention that the home has, but we have a soft spot in our hearts for the thing. There's just so much possibility! 

Now that we have new windows from Window Nation, we just need to drywall (or something to that effect), add some flooring, put in a heat source and BOOM - multipurpose room. I'm thinking a music/game/storage space would just be divine.

But back to the windows, in total we had 8 double-hung windows replaced by our friendly Window Nation team. From start to finish - the measuring, picking out the windows and installation - the team was a dream to work with. Super friendly, professional, knowledgeable and FAST. 

Oh my goodness, SO FAST. I swear I blinked and all the windows were installed.

Kenny from Window Nation tearing out our god knows how old windows and prepping for installation.

TA-DA - new windows! Here's CK and I with the Window Nation installation team upon completion.

I sincerely can't thank the Window Nation team enough, such a pleasure to work with. In fact, I'm already thinking about my next project with Window Nation - vinyl siding for the carriage house. Who knows, by the end of this pet project our #HalleysCarriage may end up being cooler than our actual house!

Stay tuned for updates - I have a feeling this "carriage house" renovation is going to be a fun (and long) one.

Happy Tuesday, kids!

A nice Cleveland-centric weekend in February

Friday, February 13, 2015

People tend to get down in the dumps during Cleveland winters, and while I can wholeheartedly get on the "it's-not-as-fun-as-summer" train, winter doesn't mean we need to sit at home wrapped in blankets waiting for the first sign of spring.

Take this past weekend for example. My sissy was visiting from NYC, my cousin Jenna was visiting from Columbus and we didn't let the cold weather slow us down as we hopped from Cleveland hotspot to Cleveland hotspot.

First stop Friday: MIX at CMA: Soul. This Cleveland Museum of Art monthly event is always a winner in my book, and this month's Soul theme didn't disappoint. I mean, who doesn't love to boogie to soul music? Love, peace and soul baby!

#MIXatCMA

Next stop Friday: Noodlecat + House of Blues Cleveland for Greensky Bluegrass. Warm ramen and steam bums on a cold winter's day? Clicking your heels to some damn good bluegrass? CHECK. If you're really too cold to go out for ramen though, check out Chef Jonathan Sawyer's Noodle Kids cookbook on sale now!


Greensky Bluegrass + Sissy, the Driggs' + CK

First Stop Saturday: Bon Bon Pastry & Cafe + Campbell's + Penzeys Spices. We've been on a big Bon Bon kick in the Marinos/Kramer family and I don't foresee it stopping anytime soon. Campbell's, duh - it's my kryptonite. And Penzeys? I'm proud to say my spice collection is growing. New favorite? Not surprisingly, THE GREEK! 

Sissy and Jenna during brunch at Bon Bon - aren't they pretty?!?

Next Stop on Saturday: Platform Beer Co. where we sat and drank too many beers to count for too many hours. Well, I didn't drink beer - I drank mead, because we all know how I feel about beer. Luckily I'm in the minority though, because even at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon Platform was bumpin'. It's such a wonderful place and has a good vibe with a friendly staff.

Bopping around Ohio City on a Saturday afternoon will always be one of my favorite pastimes. 

CK, Sissy and Jenna posing with a map of Cleveland's near west side that I admittedly tried to steal. I need one of these.

After successfully achieving a day buzz - my Mom even joined us later in the day - we headed to our house to eat Romito's Pizza and make cookies for a very special church service on Sunday.

Family fun time at it's best.

So, instead of staying in all weekend with a blanket because Lord know it's going to be FREEZING this weekend in Cleveland I recommend layering up and enjoying this fine city we call home.

Have a good one, kids!

#CIFF39: Get Shorty Giveaway

Thursday, January 15, 2015


[The ticket giveaway is now closed, congrats to @HeyEscapist whose comment was chosen via random.org]

It's January in Cleveland which means it's almost time for the 39th Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF). 

Can you believe it?! Yippee! 

This year's CIFF, which runs March 18-29, will again make its home at Tower City Cinemas with over 350+ films being shown on premises. Neighborhood theaters/venues will also be getting some love with film events at Beachland Ballroom, Cedar Lee Theatre, Chagrin Cinemas and the Akron Art Museum.

One thing I've always respected about CIFF is that it does such a great job with its events. It's more than just films and it's more than just a singular event during the proper festival. Case in point the Film Feasts series sponsored by Hyland, creator of OnBase (full disclosure, I work at Hyland), where for the 12th consecutive year an opportunity is provided to engage the community, celebrate the arts in Cleveland and cultivate new film buffs. 

The Film Feast I'm most looking forward to this year (and have attended in the past) is Get Shorty. On Thursday, January 29 at 7p.m., my beloved Capitol Theater will play host to the Get Shorty event where attendees will gather to view a selection of short films, vote on their favorites and actually have a say in what films get screened at this year's CIFF. 

In addition to films, Get Shorty attendees will be served up an array of food and beverages provided by Culinary Occasions.

Tickets are $100 a piece and can be purchased online here - OR - you can win a pair here on the plum!

So if you want to join me, CK and lots of other fun Clevelanders at this year's CIFF Get Shorty Film Feasts - here's your chance.

1. Leave a mandatory comment on this post telling me your favorite movie(s) of all time. 
2. Follow CIFF on Twitter and/or Instagram, leaving a new comment on this post telling me you did so.
3. Tweet the following, leaving a new comment telling me you did so:

Hey, @clevelandsaplum, I want to go to @CIFF's Get Shorty Film Feasts at @CapitolW65th! #CIFF39 http://bit.ly/157Qp0H

You can tweet daily for extra entries, leaving a new comment on this post each time you do so.

Entries will be accepted until end of day Thursday, January 22, with the winner being announced the following day. Best of luck to all!

Happy Thursday, kids.

This is the year

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wait, where am I? What month is this? What year is this?

Have I really gone a solid month without posting? This surely is a first. 

Thankfully, I'm still a sharing fool on my @clevelandsaplum Twitter and Instagram. Other social media platforms notwithstanding, I missed the original plum channel turning seven last week - SEVEN. This little piece of the internet is officially as old as my step-daughter. My how different my life was back then
.


So, instead of trying to recap a month of memories via photo montage recap post, just head over to my Instagram to catch up. I promise you I've had a lot of fun this holiday season, there was even champagne jello-o shots.

As I look to 2015 there's much to look forward to - settling into our home, decorating said home (!!!) and finally taking a honeymoon with my handsome husband.

Today I'm reminded of something that CK so elegantly said on New Year's Eve, "2015 is the year we've been working for."

2014 was full of happiness (getting married, new house), but it was also the most trying year I've had in my adult life. Between starting a new job, planning a wedding, house hunting, purchasing and moving into a new home, becoming a step-mom, starting to live with a man and a kid.... 

I could go on, but let's just agree that it was a year. A hard, challenging, makes you second guess everything you thought was holy kind of year.

But as I begin to settle into my new home and my role as a wife and step-mom, I agree with CK. This is the year we've been working for. The hard shit is behind us and this is the year, god willing, that we get to just... live.

Happy 2015, kids. Let's make it a good one because we only get one shot to do so.