weekending in michigan

At the start of summer, I promised myself that I would do two things over the next three months -

1) spend as much time at the beach or on a boat that I could.

2) spend time with friends that lived outside of Cleveland who I always "said" I wanted to visit but came up a million and one excuses not to.

Mission freaking accomplished.

My friend Nadine and I headed to Michigan (get your Michigan jokes out of the way now....) to spend the weekend with a college friend who I hadn't seen in at least two years.

After a quick 3 hour drive to her house, we caught up over a few bottles of wine and discussed important topics from politics to our love of the Nordstrom catalog. Deep conversations, I tell ya!!

an evening of wine, friends and butt-shaped cake pan
Her slipmates were nice enough to let us hop on board their boat for the afternoon because we were pretty confident we could get her boat out of the marina, but weren't exactly sure how we would get it back into the dock in the evening.

We headed out on Lake St. Clair to an area called Muscamoot Bay where I was told was a mix of Put-in-Bay meets Mardi Gras meets Spring Break. I wouldn't have believed it until I saw it but tons (not kidding you!) of boats all tie together for the entire day, creating this guantlet of sorts down the middle where you walk through and mingle with other boaters.

 Boats beginning to line up

Don't believe me? Check out this video that shows just what the party was like.

People walk through the guantlet with their floating coolers wit dogs sometimes sitting on top of them, 50-year-old men have beads to offer to girls like Mardi Gras and you can even happen along a floating beer pong game, where I swam away as the winner! (Sidenote: We chose to leave our iPhones safe and dry on the boat while we waded through the boat gauntlet.)

Celebrating being together on a random Saturday in August

Our weekend host Elaine with Nadine

See ya later, Muscamoot!
After spending the entire day on the boat and soaking up the last rays of the day, we ended the night with a sushi dinner and spent the next day touring the gorgeous little downtown of Birmingham, where my friend lives only a short walk away. It's this cute little brick-lined street with local shops where every single restaurant has an outdoor patio.
Brunch at Toast

There you have it - all my summer trips have wrapped up! From Charlotte to my getaway to Catawba to the countless weekend afternoons I spent in Lake Erie and laying out on the beach relaxing with a good book and friends, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every day of summer 2012.

Maybe....just maybe I have a Put-in-Bay trip left in me.....

my most perfect Sunday Funday ever

You know those days you want to bottle up and remember forever? Where you can’t seem take enough photos to capture the absolute amazement of the day and you want to replay it over and over in your mind? Well that day for me was day three of our Key West vacation from the beautiful weather to the laughing to the storytelling to the views of the islands.

After asking me what my friends and I wanted to do on our vacation, my cousin and her friend took us out in the Gulf for a day of sun, boating, fishing and snorkeling around in their favorite spots
We started off by fishing at first but it was proving to be a bad spot chosen by our "tour guide," so we headed over to the reef to spend some time snorkeling before trying to catch dinner again later.

Sidenote: This was my first real time snorkeling out in depths where a shark could have me breakfast.
Ready to swim with the sharks

Since I was with two locals, I threw caution to the wind and jumped in the water like I was Michael Phelps, quickly realizing that I better put on a life jacket for good measure to make sure I made it back to the boat alive. After all, I’m not THAT great of a swimmer. We probably spent a good forty minutes swimming around this reef where I was up close and personal with yellow tail and a few HUGE parrot fish where even a barracuda was getting a little too close for comfort at times. Eeek!
Let's see some fish
We drove further away from Key West and after trying two spots, we hit a gold mine where we (me included) caught a few yellowtail, a 15 pound grouper and even a shark on accident. Who knew we would all rock at fishing?!

I caught dinner; jaws sighting; grouper for dinner; Lissa and Melissa rocking the fishing poles
To finish off our Gulf tour, we anchored on a deserted island where the water was the perfect mix of blue and turquoise where we sipped coronas in the middle of the ocean. The next hour was absolutely amazing and this where my description just won’t do the experience justice.

You know when you look around and think, “How am I even doing this right now?” That’s it. That’s what I did the whole time. There was nothing around us – just white sand, a few other boaters and us laughing and in total awe of how perfectly awesome our Sunday Funday turned out as we looked out into the endless ocean as the sun set.

just a little deserted island for our happy hour
We ended the day grilling our hard work complete with lobster to end a truly magical day out in the waters of Key West.

To close out our vacation, we slowed things down a bit and rented bikes to tour the island to see Hemingway’s house and the Southernmost point and finally eat brunch at Blue Heaven. Several people recommended we hit this spot where the roosters walked freely and there was a reggae band for live music. Just a typical Monday….
best $15 of the trip

Southern most point
The afternoon concluded with more pool and mojito time and we watched the sun set along with at least a 100 other people for sunset celebration right off the Westin’s deck bar before eating our final dinner at Alonzo’s Oyster House for crab legs, wine and our final slice of key lime pie.

Sunset celebration at Mallory Square
To say we enjoyed ourselves is an incredible understatement. This vacation is one of those that completely exceeded my expectations where we didn’t really have a set of a schedule but knew we wanted it to be laid back and filled with lots of laughs and stories to wrap up the summer of 2012
From our unofficial theme song from the vacation and as Eddie Money said, can we go back and do it all over again?

my favorite feast of the summer

Ohhhh how quickly the Feast came and went this weekend for all of Cleveland. Unlike past years, the weather wasn't blazing hot so instead of literally going down on a Sunday and picking up strombolis, fried dough and mozzarella because the heat was too much to take, I actually spent all Saturday afternoon in Little Italy.

Having grown up on the far west side as a kid, we never attended the Feast of the Assumption but had our Croatian and Hungarian festivals that we would attend every summer to eat our ethnic food - I mean, have you ever had chicken paprikash?!

It wasn't until seven years ago when I moved up to the east side did I hear about this event and went for the night time festivities where Cleveland's Jersey Shore wannabes come out at night - hair gel, gold chains and lots of muscles, ladies!

But this year, my friend Gina held a pre-party in her adorable apartment which made parking and getting to Little Italy super easy with just a short walk down to the hill. Here is where we all spent the entire afternoon, sampling all the amazing food we could get our hands on.

Gambling in the church allowed
pre- food consumption with Kayla and Jenna

Hostess Gina arriving with jazz hands into the beer tent

The Feast is sort of the first signal that the end of summer is near because then Labor Day comes and it's for sure the end of summer. I'm pretty sure the whole group fasted the day before because in between drinks, we were eating from the plethora of amazing vendors on the street from cavatelli with meatballs to pizza to rice balls with marinara to tiramisu gelato. Why yes I had a little bit of everything and loved every second of it!

Corbos in the background
First on my list - fried dough from Spuzzillo's because you can't go wrong with hot fried dough covered in sugar. I have been waiting all summer for this deliciousness.....

fried dough = my love; jess and jenna snacking away; power rangers unite w/ gold watches; showing us how to shag

And just like that, the Feast has come and gone. Did you make it down this year? What was your favorite part?

Key West take 1

How exactly do I exactly explain how I spent the past five incredible days? I don’t even know where to start because my friends and I truly enjoyed ourselves, beyond what we all initially expected for this little summer getaway. So let me try and do our trip some justice – the trip we collectively like to call “summer break 2012.”

Earlier in the year, my girlfriends and I were all about heading to Europe for two weeks but that trip is being delayed slightly so we started to throw out other destinations for a summer getaway.
Mexico for an all-inclusive? Nah – we’ve been there, done that.
Sonoma for a wine tour? Great idea – but we’ll save that for fall.
Key West? Sure – why  not!?!

Out of the gate, we knew Key West was going to be a blast because we had a local as our tour guide, my cousin Josie, to take us around the island and it was coincidentally Lobsterfest, which was something we definitely didn’t plan for but it proved to be an awesome bonus!
After spending most of the day traveling Thursday, we lounged by the pool, sipping our first few mojitos until we headed out for dinner at the Conch Republic Seafood Company, where we knew what was on the menu – conch, seafood and key lime pie.

Westin pool view - no filter needed
Sidenote: My goal was to judge all the restaurants we went to by their key lime pie and in all places dessert rocked, so I can’t even pick out a favorite other than tell you to order it wherever you go the next time you visit.

Post dinner, we walked past Duval and decided to head into Sloppy Joe’s for a few beverages, listen to the band and see what was in store for us the next night because we knew we would end up there. Of course, upon entry, we met some colorful people and danced to a few 80s songs before heading home.

iconic establishment
On Friday, we spent the rainy morning at La Creperie West where we filled up on crepes, omelets, mimosas and fresh fruit before we lounged by the pool for the rest of the day where our biggest decision in between a few work emails was, “What should we drink and eat?”

Between recommendations from friends, Twitter and the locals, we had indirectly mapped out where we would be eating the whole trip so before what will be lovingly called “summer break 2012” was to commence, we went to Amigos Tortilla Bar for Pacifico, fish and lobster tacos for dinner before my cousin and her friend met up with us on crazy Duval street.
At this point, I blame the Lobsterfest bar crawl we signed up for because we all decided, especially me, to sip vodka sodas like they were water – I also blame the ridiculous heat. Let’s just say it made for an interesting night of hilarious meet and greets with people and an even more interesting morning filled with lots of advil and water. It was vacation, right?!?

Cousin Josie and me; Lissa, me and Melissa; pretty much sums up the night; Stamped at the bar
Saturday we tried to get into Pepe’s but we desperately needed breakfast, which they stopped serving, so we ate at Harpoon Harry’s where we recounted the night’s activities over blueberry pancakes, breakfast burritos, coffee and mimosas in this electic diner. Why stop now right?!?
After a day in the pool, we ventured out to Duval street where we ate lobster on a stick! Yes, on a stick dipped in a delicious honey butter with lobster macaroni and cheese and even some lobster fritters. (Seriously, next August, book your trip and get there!)

tails and mac and cheese.. yum.
Post lobster coma much later in the evening, we went to Santiago's Bodega, which is about a mile from the Westin Key Resort where we stayed, for wine and tapas, which sounded like the perfect combination of what we needed that night. We toasted to Melissa’s recent engagement with lots of champagne and wine and to an exciting year past and ahead of us while eating a ridiculous mix of burrata, dates, tuna and beef tartare and a few other dishes.

toast to melissa; using the flashlight; brie and chocolate grilled cheese; chocolate cake w/ bing cherries; welcome sign
To continue to the faux bachelorette party, we heard some locals talking about a dessert only place called “Better Than Sex.” Yes please!  The walls are dark red with velvet curtains and an assortment of chandeliers hanging in each room where you literally order these incredibly decadent desserts with cocktails all set with the perfect mood lighting, where they offer mini flashlights to read the menus if needed.

We chose two of their top rated desserts and glasses of prosecco with lavender infused honey dripping down the glass. And honestly, if you go, I don’t think you can go wrong with ANYTHING you order. Plus, if you need an excuse to get the conversation flowing, they offer sex books and hilarious question cards, which left us cackling and smacking the table because we were laughing so hard in between each of our answers.

Up next – the best Sunday Funday on the water ever in my whole entire life and a bike tour of the island.

only in my dreams

At times, I have the most incredibly vivid dreams and I wake up thinking, "what the hell did I eat or read last night that I was dreaming about THAT?!"

Later that day, I will remember parts of the dream like if it was in my childhood home or took place in my old algebra classroom or was on vacation in the Outer Banks with my family or if I'm able to talk to one of my grandparents who aren't here anymore.

Sidenote: THOSE are awesome dreams - amazingly awesome because you hear their voices as if they were still here and it was perfectly normal for your grandmother to comment on your chosen outfit or suggest a book you should read.

But without fail, there are two things that I can't do all the time in my dreams - I can't run or dial a phone. Or if I can, it only lasts a few moments and I instantly wake up.

Can I fly? Totally.

Can I suddenly tumble like I'm Dominique Moceanu in the Olympics? Of course!

I can't run to save my life. It's like everything around me is in slow motion and then I wake up and I'm thinking, "Damn, I thought I was going to run!" I'm not necessarily running from anyone but I just can't run at all. Or, if I can, it's just for a little bit then I almost instantly wake up.

I also can't dial a cell phone and normally, as I think about it now, I'm always dialing some old school Zack Morris phone from 1999. Picture the old Nokia that EVERYONE had that was blue with the small antenna - you know what I'm talking about!

I also can't dial 911. Why my dreams involve me calling 911 I'm not exactly sure but I can't dial 911 or if I do, I dial another 999, or 991, or 919 but never 911.

So what does it all mean?

According to this site, it means that I'm losing touch with reality or a part of my body can't function when I can't dial a phone and that I'm chasing an ambition but clearly I'm not chasing it hard enough, if I can't actually run.

Interesting, very interesting. Maybe I need to bring these dreams up to Astro Sandy on my next visit.

Seeing as I'm headed on vacation for the next five days, I'll try relax with friends and find a karaoke bar to sing with Debbie Gibson to - I'm sure there will be a few on Key West, right??

What can you do or don't do in your dreams?

my favorite kind of houseguest

This past weekend, a friend who now lives in Charlotte, came back to Cleveland to visit for a long weekend. Because I visited her a few weeks ago, Amber was excited to hang out in Cleveland for a few nights with my friends and see how much downtown has changed since our high school days of going to the flats and the rooftop of Velvet Dog.

In order to kick off the weekend, we headed back to our hometown to sip on a few glasses of sangria and catch up on the patio of Corks wine and bistro. We decided take a little tour through the downtown area (it's only a few blocks total) to grab ice cream from our favorite place and then head to the town hall to take pictures on the cannon, which is no longer in the spot we remembered. (If you come from a small town, chances are you did photo hunts in high school and we thought there was no time like the present to reenact our teen years.)

at the infamous five points stop and center of town
twist cones with crunch and sprinkles is a MUST!

in Ziggy's, our favorite hometown bar
Both Amber and I were looking forward to Saturday because it was our first trip to Krusty's Summer Sauce Camp. Years ago when I started reading Alexa's blog, she talked about this amazing awesome day of draft beer, sun and beer pong with a fun group of strangers. What's not to love?!? I've unfortunately missed it the last few years with weddings and BlogHer last year in San Diego but made sure it was on my calendar at the start of summer.

best spot of Whiskey Island; "grab harder" butt shot; Krusty's; staying cool by the lake

Those are made of duct tape!
To wrap up the night, more friends came out for dinner at the Greenhouse Tavern for Moscow mules, chicken wings, crispy hominy and a few other appetizers before finishing the night out at a few bars.

All in all, Amber had a fabulous time and Saturday's afternoon festivities served as great practice because I'm headed to Key West for the first time with two girlfriends for five glorious days of white sand and turquoise water where I'll be trying every bar's version of a mojito and restaurant's take on key lime pie.

arm candy 2.0

When I think back to my childhood, my personal style really hasn't changed that much when it comes to the jewelry department. I only knew one way to wear bracelets and that was all of them at the same time on both wrists so that when I ran around, my mom at least could hear me and knew I was alive.

I pretty much took the same approach when it came to earrings and necklaces - the bigger the better....

That little trend has carried through my whole life whether it was wearing multiple scrunchies from my wrist to my elbow in junior high to gold sparkly bangles in college to cuffs on both wrists last month.

Don't believe me?
Of all the crazy things happening in this photo, let's just focus on the 10 bracelets per wrist.

Big earrings, necklace, white gloves and lipstick stain - check!

Now at 29, I'm still a huge fan of anything sparkly on my wrists, neck, hands and ears and the bigger, the better - like I said, not that much has changed since my early years and probably not even the way I organized it.

this needs some organization

While it's a little too early to create a new pinboard for my fall must-have items (even though I can't wait for tall boots and jackets), I created one for all the mix and match jewelry style I am in love with and can't get enough of gold, rose gold and silver combinations. You can never mix too many metals at once, right?

too many to choose from!

never too much gold, right?

What's on my list of must-have-on-my-wrist-right-this-second?

Nadri pave bangles - one of each color please!

aqua, gold and grey Alexis Bittar bracelets please. so pretty!

Are you more minimalist with a few key pieces or bring-on-the-bling kind of girl where you can't be wearing too much jewelry?

Obviously, you know what side of the fence I fall on....