Ohio Blogging Association’s Holiday Night Out in University Circle

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.” — Claude Monet

cma stars

I consider myself a person that leans towards the creative side. While I have found my creativity sparked in music and drama, I struggled to connect deeply with visual arts. Perhaps not easily comprehending pieces made me appreciate them more. So any opportunity I have to visit The Cleveland Museum of Art I take happily as an opportunity to expand my learning potential to understand the art form better.

The chance to work with staffers from University Circle Inc. and CMA to bring together a group of local bloggers to enjoy the neighborhood presented itself this Fall, and I knew it would be a hit even before the details were ironed out. Combining CMA’s latest and hugely popular exhibition — Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse — and ice skating at The Rink at Wade Oval, we had quite the night in store for the Ohio Blogging Association this past Wednesday evening.

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Bloggers and social media friends gathered from all over the Northeastern Ohio area — coming from as far as Geauga County and Canton — to start the night with enjoying dinner at the museum’s Provenance Café. We then dove into the Monet to Matisse exhibition: first with about a half an hour on our own before our docent tour began.

Margie, the CMA docent who lead our tour, was outstanding. Her knowledge of all the artists in the exhibition seemed endless as she provided so many detailed, interesting facts and tidbits of knowledge. She also proved to be quite the photographer, helping to capture the group shot above — thanks again, Margie! 

CMA atrium

The special exhibition is flawless. There aren’t enough words to describe the awe that comes over you as you view some of the pieces as they were truly meant to be seen together. As an arts supporter and fellow Clevelander, I encourage you to visit before it closes on January 5th. Good news for us all is that CMA recognized just how popular its been and is offering extended hours on certain dates this holiday season. With this exhibit, its Centennial year upon them, plus USA Today recently naming our hometown museum to its list of Top 20 Museums in the United States, The Cleveland Museum of Art has a lot to celebrate as it celebrates the upcoming new year!

From water lilies to frozen water, our group crossed CMA’s front lawn over to the lawn of Wade Park to enjoy the ice skating rink, a part of University Circle’s Wade Oval Winter programming. With lit up stars, camp fires and a cozy outdoor setting, it was very easy to settle in, lace up and get out on the ice.

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I’ll admit — I was slightly terrified about putting on a pair of skates and trusting my very rusty ice skating skills from the second grade. But fueled with some courage, some popcorn from the concession stand and my husband’s fearlessness, I was back on the ice and having a grand time. (#morefunlessfear, right?!)

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Hans and I won’t be entering any pairs competitions any time soon, but I can easily say it was one of the most enjoyable things we’ve done together all season long. While the ice rink has been open since Thanksgiving, this balmy December we’re having here in Cleveland has made it a bit challenging on the rink. That said, their crews are working magic to make sure it’s open as much as possible! It’s incredibly reasonable in terms of pricing — only $2 to skate with $3 skate rentals if you need them — making it quite the affordable date night or family outing option. The rink is open through March 6th — I know we’ll be returning in the new year to enjoy it and the Museum again in 2016.

Many thanks again to The Cleveland Museum of Art and University Circle Inc. for making Wednesday’s Ohio Blogging Association meet up possible! Stay in the know and support these two local organizations: follow CMA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and follow University Circle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Disclosure: The Cleveland Museum of Art provided our group with complimentary passes to the Monet to Matisse exhibit. University Circle provided our group with complimentary skating passes and skate rental. My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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I said that. (An Ohio Blogging Association / ToldCLE Meetup)

“I said that.” It’s a phrase that we all say from time to time. As as Dave, the creator of ToldCLE, noted at the beginning of the Ohio Blogging Association / ToldCLE Meetup at Deagan’s Kitchen and Bar last Wednesday night, the emphasis can change… I said that. I said that. I said that.

toldOBA

The emphasis happens on the last word of that phrase for me more than I’d like to admit as I teach yoga. Attempts at being “inspirational” come out kinda clunky. I repeat myself — a lot. I even make up verbs based on pose names — dolphin-ing, down dog-ing (which I realized quickly upon first saying is probably highly inappropriate). So that evening — with the help of BuzzFeed’s 20 Ludicrous Things Said By Yoga Teachers — I had some enjoyment poking fun at myself that night, even admitting I’ve said at least one of those things. Since giving instruction verbally is such a large part of teaching, it was a fun way to tackle the theme of the evening.

However, I much more enjoyed hearing my fellow bloggers’ tales of what they said: Jen admitting to an accidental moment at a mom-and-baby function. Jill giving us the behind-the-scenes glimpse as life as a movie extra. Kristian sharing that words don’t always translate from English to Italian as you expect them too. Stuart & David telling their stories. Even my mom getting in on the fun and sharing the tale of what our family dog “said” after eating a whole nut roll. And all of us enjoying one another opening up even more than what we’ve read on each others blogs over the years.

This OBA meetup was one of my favorites. As bloggers, we tend to be oversharers, so it’s easy to feel you already know someone from their online persona. But that’s one of the reason why I started planning these meet ups back in 2011: I wanted to know more about all you lovely Northeastern Ohioans that wrote all those fantastic blogs. Even in the  many gatherings we’ve had over the years, I still heard stories and learned things last Wednesday I never knew. Better yet, hearing the inflection and  emotion verbally from the bloggers’ storytellings took the experience to a brand new level. Crazy idea of the day: Maybe we should start a OBA vlogging series next!

LONG STORY SHORT: Great company, stories and food combined to prove for another wonderful Ohio Blogging Association meetup. A special shout out goes out to Jen at WhyCLE for taking the lead on planning this gathering. I’m finally learning how to delegate as I grow older and somewhat wiser, ha!

On behalf of all the OBA members, many thanks again to Dave & ToldCLE. The next public Told event takes place on Thursday, June 18 at Market Garden Brewery. Keep up-to-date by following @toldCLE on Twitter and visiting toldstories.com.

Our next Ohio Blogging Association meetup will take place this Sunday, April 26 at XHIBITION. Come see this Ohio City establishment, see some fashions and enjoy a Jack Flaps brunch. Click here to RSVP, please.

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Ohio Blogging Association Meetup at Jim Alesci’s Place

Sundays are 100% my day. They are my chance to recharge, reconnect and rejuvenate myself. So two Sundays ago, I filled it with my favorite activities: connecting with those that share my passions of Cleveland, food and yoga. This post is specifically about those first two things. (The third sneaks in, as always.)

The kind folks from Jim Alesci’s Place reached out to me about bringing together a group of bloggers for a Sunday brunch at their new location in Solon. A quick Ohio Blogging Association Facebook event page later, we were all gathered in their cafe area, welcomed by quite the spread.

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About Alesci’s (from their website)“We are your food professionals. We offer affordable premium dishes available for catering, or if in the neighborhood, daily lunch specials… Our commodity is homemade, fresh, high quality food made with care an pride. Our product is service, culture, and the ability to join our family.”

Boy, they weren’t kidding about that last point. Bloggers were welcomed with open arms and huge hugs from Frank Alesci, son of Jim, and the entire Alesci family. (One junior OBA member event got a special treat from Papa Jim at the start his visit.)

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Frank lead us on a tour of the Italian import store, highlighting all the history of his family’s business over the many years and all the specialty products the proudly provide. As he spoke about their pizza dough and pasta offers, the Italian in me rejoiced. My brain immediately started planning my next Sunday night family dinner.alesci 1

Speaking of a true Italian meal experience, the brunch that was to come was nothing short of what you’d expect: so much delicious food and so much joy coming through each and every bite. After our lattes, anipasto and bruschetta teasers, we sat to enjoy an array of dishes, paired lovingly with wines available at the store:

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Pictured from top left going clockwise: Roasted Beets salad with brussel sprouts, fresh herbs & honey vinaigrette; Sicilian Pizza (white and old fashion), my gluten-free salmon salad with all of my favorite accents, and Italian Beef Sliders with roasted top round and hot giardiniera.

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From left to right: Alesci’s version of the classic Chicken Pot Pie, my gluten-free entree filet with sweet potato bake and Eggplant Parmesan piled high with their famous sauce.

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Members of the Alesci family with the infamous dessert tower — and detail of all the goodies it held.

I think the most important thing I can share from my dining experience is that being gluten-free doesn’t have to mean you can’t enjoy Italian inspired cuisine. Sure, I wasn’t diving into Alesci’s well-know pizza dough, breads or pastries, but I had PLENTY to eat. Several of the courses were naturally gluten-free. The items their team kindly provided to me (the salmon salad and the filet/sweet potato combo) are available via their catering department. I could eat each of those dishes for lunch and dinner every day and be completely content with life. From start to finish, I never felt like I was missing out as my fellow diners enjoyed all the gluten they could!

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A very sweet love note — and I’ll never miss a chance to snag a photo op with two fellow local yogis/CLE food lovers.

LONG STORY SHORT: Over the years, I’ve had the immense joy and luck to experience so many special dining experiences here in Northeastern Ohio. And as I shared at the end of our time together that day, the experience at Alesci’s ranked up there at the very top. Sure, I’ve sat at white tablecloths, dressed to the nines, enjoying a fine meal. But there’s something about the tradition of a family coming together on a daily basis to share what they love most that can’t be matched. The Alesci family can’t help but bring you into their brood — and that made my time that day so much more special: to know, somehow, I was paying even a small part by enjoying myself to my fullest. That is that special treat that is available at Alesci’s — not necessarily that cookie that my godson Baby J got to enjoy — although the gluten-free flourless chocolate cake I took home did help to seal the deal…

Stay in-the-know with all that Alesci’s is sharing with Clevelanders by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Better yet — get in your car, drive to Solon and enjoy everything first hand yourself.  Many thanks to entire Alesci’s family for their hospitality.

CLE bloggers and social media users, please join us in April for two more meet up opportunities:

  • Wednesday, April 15: Told CLE — OBA edition at Deagan’s in Lakewood. Learn more at the Facebook event page here.
  • Sunday, April 26: XHIBITION & a bonus — a Jack Flaps brunch! Learn more at the Facebook event page here.

Keep in touch with the OBA happens by liking the Facebook page.

Disclosure: Jim Alesci’s Place’s PR contact reached out with an invitation to coordinate an Ohio Blogging Association meeting at their Solon location. Jim Alesci’s Place provided appetizers, entrees, desserts and  beverages tastings that morning/afternoon.  My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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