Monday, June 24, 2013


The Cho + Salaff cousins unite! Watching these three play together is an absolute joy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dads rock

This guys loves being a dad. And I mean, LOVES it.

This guy is the best dad a girl could ask for.

Happy Father's Day to two astoundingly amazing dads!!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lake Erie sunset

The sun says goodnight @ Headlands Beach State Park.
June 13, 2013. #nofilter.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

This week's obsession: The Middle Eight

I stumbled across The Middle Eight while exploring YouTube this week. Watching random music videos and late-night interviews of interesting (The Lonely Planet) to semi-interesting (Monica Lewinsky) to idiotic (any of the Kardashians) people. That's the thing about YouTube-- you hop aboard meaning to make one stop, and one stop only (Oklahoma tornado footage, Psy's latest video, that "cute things animals do" clip your friend begged you to watch), until you realize you've spent two hours trolling (read: wasting your life).

And that's how I discovered The Middle Eight

My ears delighted at the sound of this Brooklyn-based band. Their music reminds me of 70s rock with a Beatles thing going on, layered with classical music sensibilities. No auto tune here, thank God.

I really dug their Latter Days music video. In my opinion, you can do no wrong when you use claymation. Check it out.     

Monday, June 10, 2013

39 things I love about Cleveland

Hangin' out with my pal Monet @ the Cleveland Museum of Art.

When we arrived from Southern California six months ago, we didn't know what to expect of Cleveland. "Cleveland?" our friends asked with equal parts confusion and fascination. "What's in Cleveland??" 

I'll admit, the West Coast doesn't give much thought to this part of the US (Northeast Ohioans, don't take it personally-- blame it on a culture of self-absorption thanks to Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Orange County). But once you've lived here you understand one thing: Cleveland is the Midwest's best-kept secret. 

This city has a great East Coast vibe. Charming neighborhoods with old trees (I'll trade in California palms for maple, buckeye and dogwood trees any day), a thriving arts and culture scene, and a progressive state of mind (Ohio was a swing state in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and both times went with Obama).

We've had such a great time exploring the Metropolis of the Western Reserve. From Lake Erie and Amish country to Coventry and University Circle, I'd like to present my 39 favorite things* about Cleveland, in no particular order:

1. simply delicious pies. Sisters Brittany Reeves and Beth Kaboth have been baking mouth-watering pies at this Shaker Heights treasure since opening in 2011. I haven't tried all of them yet (pick from cherry, blueberry, caramel apple, sweet potato, key lime, peanut butter, bacon + apple and more). I love that they use local produce and very few ingredients, which make the pies simply delicious. Hands down, the best in Ohio!

In our house, we fight over the last piece
of Simply Delicious pie.

2. asiatown. It took me five months to find, but I was ecstatic when we discovered downtown Cleveland had an Asian neighborhood. Now I know where to go to get my noodle fix.
3. severance hall. It's a special treat to listen to the world-class Cleveland Orchestra at this gorgeous concert all. Home of the Orchestra since opening in 1931, Severance Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Music to my ears: The Cleveland Orchestra playing
Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 on Valentine's Day.

4. coventry. We love hanging out at Coventry Village in Cleveland Heights. This is a cool neighborhood with a Brooklyn feel. My kids could spend all afternoon exploring at Big Fun Toys. I could get lost in my imagination at Mac's Backs Books. I'm loyal to the gals at who cut my hair (my daughter's and mom's, too!) at Laura Lee Salon. And one of these days, we're gonna check out the new organic frozen yogurt shop, Picadilly. 

The kids having fun at Big Fun in Coventry Village.

5. momentum church. One of our top priorities when we arrived was looking for a faith community. I love the old churches here. The stone buildings, the Gothic church architecture and the beautiful stained glass windows. Unfortunately the worship services felt stuck in history, too. So when we found out that Momentum was "a church for people who hate going to church," we knew we found our spiritual family.       

6. amish country. Did you know Ohio has the largest Amish settlements in the US (followed by Pennsylvania and Indiana)? The Amish communities in Middlefield and Mesopotamia, Ohio are only an hour away from Cleveland. It's another world and a fascinating cultural experience.

Life is simpler out here.

7. hot sauce williams. We just had to check out this restaurant on its name alone. My husband adores chicken wings and loves anything spicy even more, so Hot Sauce Williams was high priority on our must-try Cleveland restaurant list. In a nutshell: the Williams family did not disappoint (as witnessed here by my son, who couldn't get the wings into his mouth fast enough).

Chicken wings fried to perfection + finger-lickin-good sauce = Y-U-M.

8. shaker heights. This suburb 30 minutes outside downtown Cleveland is as picturesque as a Hallmark card. Tree-lined streets, charming homes and the kind of neighborhood where kids gather on front lawns to play kickball until sundown. I'm not much of a suburb girl, but Shaker will always have a special place in my heart.

9. lake view cemetery. This is a beautiful and large cemetery (285 acres with 70 acres remaining for future development-- enough room for the next 150 years!). Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War generals and members of President Lincoln's cabinet are buried here. We viewed President James A. Garfield's casket and walked past John D. Rockefeller's obelisk headstone. Lake View is also the final resting place of Carl B. Stokes, Eliot Ness and 22 Cleveland mayors.

Founded in 1869, Lake View Cemetery is the final resting 
place of John D. Rockefeller, Civil War generals
and Revolutionary War soldiers.   

10. cleveland museum of art. I was in heaven among the works of Picasso, Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, Seurat, Mondrian and Modigliani. World-class exhibitions with plenty of interesting offerings for the community (lectures, music and performances, happy hour events, art workshops for children).  

11. great lakes brewing co. Brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway opened this beloved brewery in Cleveland's historic Ohio City neighborhood in 1988. A favorite among locals, craft beers include Burning River Pale Ale, Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Commodore Perry India Pale Ale, and Eliot Ness Amber Lager.  

My husband often texts me when I'm at
the grocery store and requests beer from
Cleveland's own Great Lakes Brewing Co.

12. great lakes science center. We enjoyed watching animals come to life on the IMAX screen and explored the many wonderful exhibitions at the Science Center. One day is not enough time, so we'll be back for more!  

Not even 24 degree weather in the middle of February stopped us from 
exploring the William G. Mather on a frozen Lake Erie, the 
Great Lakes Science Center, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

13. cedar lee theater. I can always count on this indie theater to show an art house flick and the latest Hollywood blockbuster. And no lines on opening night!

14. corky and lenny's. This Jewish deli has been serving up yummy corned beef sandwiches, matzoh ball soup and smoked salmon lox for more than 55 years. They say Corky and Lenny's is the place "where people meet to eat." I think the same people have been meeting here since they opened!    

15. melt. How can I even describe the cheesy deliciousness that is Melt? You have to go for yourself to experience one of their mouth-watering, artery-clogging sandwiches. My fave is the Mushroom Melt. 

One of my favorite things about Melt (besides the sandwiches) are the original posters.
They make a new poster for each new sandwich creation. Truly, works of art!

16. lake erie. Locals sometime call Cleveland "The North Coast" thanks to its proximity to Lake Erie. The fourth largest of the Great Lakes, Erie feels like an ocean when you stand at the waters edge.    

17. winter. People here teased us when we gushed over the snow. The four of us just couldn't get enough. It didn't matter if it was a light flurry or three feet of it. We cheered and stood in awe as every house, tree and street was dusted with powdered sugar-like snow. 

Yes, it snows in California. But you have to go to the mountains.
Not like here in winter, where the snow covers everything. 

18. the goodman family. We didn't know many people when we moved out here which is why we were over the moon to connect with old friends. We've known Jeff and Julie from our Mosaic days in Los Angeles. Back before we were all married with children. That's why it's so much fun to get together again, this time as a crazy bunch with four wild kids. Our time in Cleveland would not be the same without these shiny, happy faces.       

We're so grateful to be near the Goodmans. They have become wonderful, dear friends.

19. malley's. When Albert Martin Malley was a boy, he worked in a chocolate store and dreamt of one day opening up his own shop. In 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression, Malley borrowed $500 and did just that. Seventy-eight years later, Malley's has 23 chocolate stores in the Cleveland area. We raid the $1 baskets and stock up on chocolate-almond bars and peanut butter cups.   

20. quirky things to see. Like Eggshelland. The late Ron Manolio of Lyndhurst used some 10,000 hollowed-out and hand-painted eggs to create his annual Easter masterpiece. Manolio created these egg-stravaganzas (sorry, had to go there) on his front lawn for more than 50 years. We were lucky enough to catch Eggshelland's last display.    

At Eggshelland's peak in the 1970s, local police were called
to direct traffic in this sleepy eastern suburb of Cleveland.

21. university circle. This is the arts and culture center of Cleveland and home of Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, Museum of Natural History and University Hospitals/Case Medical Center. One of my favorite things to do is stroll around Wade Oval and Wade Park Pond. I swear, I feel smarter when I do (must be all the world-class institutions surrounding me). 

22. cavani string quartet. One of the finest string quartets in the country, this all-woman group has been making beautiful music together for nearly 30 years. The Quartet-in-Residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music since 1988, we are lucky enough to call Annie, Mari, Kirsten and Merry friends. These gals rock!

Caden sneaks in a pic with Cavani String Quartet violinist
Mari Sato and cellist Merry Peckham during the quartet's
performance at Fernway Elementary School.  

23. on the rise. Every time I walk in to this artisanal bakery, I'm doomed. I go, meaning to pick up only a loaf of bread. But of course I walk out with a few croissants, blondie bars and my favorite, the "Jennifer" cookie (they must have made this cookie knowing my weakness for chocolate chips, oats and pecans).  

24. little italy. I think every major American city has a Little Italy. What would a metropolitan be without a pizza and pasta haven, anyway? We had the best Italian subs at Murray Hill Market and scrumptious homemade pasta at Mia Bella. I love this tiny neighborhood. 

25. cleveland cavaliers. Yeah, we missed the LeBron James Era (and we're not exactly sure how to feel about Cleveland fans burning LeBron's jersey when he left his native Ohio to sign with the Miami Heat). The team's 26-game losing streak a few years ago tied the record for the longest losing streak in American professional sports. I'm wondering when they're going to make a movie in the spirit of Major League (I guess the Cavs are gonna have to start winning games). No matter, I still love that they have a story to tell.    

Our first time with the Cavs (and our first NBA game)!

26. the children's museum of cleveland. My kids would say this is their favorite place in Cleveland. This is a great little museum. Big enough for the kids to explore and small enough for the parents not to feel overwhelmed.  

His favorite was the grocery store and getting to
play "doctor." Her favorite was the water exhibit. 

27. anatolia cafe. This Cleveland Heights restaurant is one of my favorite places to eat Mediterranean food. Delicious babagannoush, dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and filet mignon shish kabobs.

28. sweetie fry. Another great eatery in Cleveland Heights. Gourmet fries and super yummy hand-crafted ice cream. I went back two nights in a row for their goat cheese ice cream with honey and walnuts. 

29. lake metroparks farmpark. Plenty of barnyard animals: pigs, cows, goats, horses. Plus a cool greenhouse and Plant Science Center, which houses the Great Tomato Works hydroponic exhibit. 

We were really diggin' it at the Farmpark.

30. downtown willoughby. This quaint town 30 minutes outside downtown Cleveland is a fun place to explore with its cute boutiques and galleries, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Interesting trivia: Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the traffic light, first tried out his device in Willoughby in the 1920s.    

31. diversity. Cleveland's demographics is vastly different from Southern California's. At a glance: the population is 53 percent Black, 34 percent White, 10 percent Latino, and 2 percent Asian. It's a different kind of diversity than what we were accustomed to in Los Angeles and Orange County. I love that we're getting different perspectives, different insights and seeing the American experience through different eyes.   

32. spring. Springtime in Cleveland is absolutely glorious. Blankets of snow make way for blooming plants, trees and flowers. White daffodils, orange tulips, purple rhododendrons, yellow marigolds and buttercups. Divine!

I took a stroll around the Shaker Lakes and captured this photo on Earth Day.

33. mansions in cleveland heights. Bruce Wayne didn't have a mansion in Gotham. He had one in Cleveland Heights. I'm always in awe of these gorgeous, gargantuan estates whenever I drive along Fairmount Boulevard and often wonder, Who lives here?   I swear I thought I saw a man driving a Batmobile the other day.

We went to a dinner party recently at a home in Cleveland
Heights. It felt straight out of The Great Gatsby.

34. Gothic churches. I love worshipping in an old church. There's just something about the architecture, the stained glass windows, the stone. Maybe it's the memories and stories hidden within the walls of structures built hundreds of years ago. Cleveland has many of these Gothic churches.

Inside the sanctuary at Fairmount Presbyterian
Church in Cleveland Heights.

35. cleveland public library. Founded in 1869, this wonderful library boasts a 130,000-volume children's collection, a 74,000-volume rare book collection and a collection of 1.3 million photographs.   

36. public schools. The schools here are top-notch and we're so happy that our first-grader is thriving at his school, which just received its prestigious International Baccalaureate certification.

37. harvey pekar. The "poet laureate of Cleveland" is best known for his autobiographical American Splendor comic series, which in 2003 inspired a film of the same name. I love the fact that he kept his job as a file clerk at Cleveland's Veteran's Administration Hospital even after he got famous. For a crash course on the city's history, you have to read Harvey Pekar's Cleveland. Brilliant. Beautiful. Curmudgeony. Just like Pekar. 

Pekar described his work as "autobiography
written as it's happening. The theme is about
staying alive. Getting a job, finding a mate,
having a place to live, finding a creative outlet."

38. sense of history. Maybe that's why I'm fascinated with Cleveland-- it's steeped in history. There's a story everywhere, from the city's founder Moses Cleaveland and Standard Oil gazillionaire John D. Rockefeller to Eliot Ness' crusade during Prohibition and Cleveland's first black mayor, Carl B. Stokes.     

39. affordability. Last year, the average price of a home outside downtown Cleveland was $128,000. Compare that with $400,000 in LA and Orange County. Perhaps you pay more for the sunshine and the beaches, but there's something to say about stretching your dollar and getting your money's worth.  

*it's only been six months, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. Gimme another six months and I'm sure I'll have many, many more things to add...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Diva in training

The pink heart glasses were her idea.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Links jun01

Amazon princess Diana (aka Wonder Woman) was my
childhood hero in the 70s. This is one bad-ass chick.

Ever wish you could travel back in time in Marty McFly's DeLorean? Or wanted Star Trek to be real so you could beam yourself anywhere in the universe? Well until that happens, check out the links below. Like traveling through time and space.


  • This is got to be the coolest reel of footage-- taken in 1939 in New York City. In color and feels like you're walking down the streets of yesteryear's Manhattan in real time. 
  • For us children of the 80s, these commercials will bring you back to your childhood.