play that country music

Besides traveling all over the world and jumping out a plane, I checked off another bucket list item (so to speak) last weekend when I willingly attended my first country concert for Jason Aldean.

I consider myself a concert goer and really do go to anything from the New Kids on the Block concert to Lady Gaga to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. But really, chances are is that I'm up to try anything except country.

I have never been a fan. I blame my dad - my brother and I didn't grow up on anything country. And, quite honestly, I listened to so much Eric Clapton and Allman Brothers growing up, I didn't realize there was a world beyond "Layla" and "Ramblin' Man."

It all sort of sounds the same to me and involves girls wearing short jean shorts, drinking whiskey and achy-breaky hearts unless of course you are Faith Hill or Carrie Underwood.

Now that kind of pop country isn't exactly nails on chalkboard to me but you would never otherwise catch me blaring Blake Shelton or Miranda Lambert anything from my apartment.

As a group, the worst best decision we made was to rent a bus to carry our 20+ group to the dreaded Blossom Music Center, which provided an easy commute in and a hellish one on the way out.

The bus ride to the concert:

The concert and parking lot:

Mel and me; Jill and Allison; Jason Aldean; let us in!

Even though I hardly knew any of the songs, I still could pull off my white girl dancing that really applies to any type of music. Just a little less jumping and arm waving for this one.

meeting my girl crush

I'm still coming off my high of meeting the one and only Bethenny Frankel last night. I often tweet and have even blogged about my girl crush on the new media mogul and she did not disappoint in her 3 hour event to promote the launch of her new talk show on September 9th. 

The queen herself; MOCA all decked out like the Bethenny Show

She was incredibly energetic, enthusiastic, stylish with her Brian Atwood fuchsia pumps and appeared like there was no other place she wanted to be in that three hour period than with a bunch of excited Cleveland women. She took individual photos with all guests and even signed my friend's book as we made our way past her in the photo line, played an adult version of "Never Have I Ever" with "Would You Ever" with guests and provided some of Cleveland's most eligible bachelors to entertain the crowd. Please see their moves here.

Alexa loving her bubbles; ticket winners on stage with Bethenny; our guests with the Tommy Riley, one amazing event emcee
Whether you love her or hate her, there is something to be said for her drive and ambition and how she has built her empire from the ground up after a few failed attempts at other businesses. (I even remember her days on the Martha Stewart Apprentice wayyyy back in the day.)

Event swag and the book I started reading last night

Does she laugh at herself when she fumbles? Absolutely.

Does she sometimes stick her foot in her mouth? Who the hell doesn't.

Do I take fashion cues from her? Duh! Who doesn't love a skinny jean with a fitted blazer.

Does she inspire me and other women in our daily lives? You better f'ing believe it.

Now I'd really be excited if she put that underwear idea to paper and came out with some killer thongs like she mentioned during the event...

And my week was made as her community manager liked my photos.....

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event through the PR person and couldn't have been happier to attend. It was such a well orchestrated event for guests - they even offered to bring beverages while in line for photos with Bethenny.

island time

Crossing summer places to go off my list, one weekend at at time.....

Saturday: I was on island time....

The last time I was in PIB was for a bachelorette party was in 2010. I swear it was just yesterday I was celebrating my friend's impending nuptials but time really does fly when you are having fun. After canceling this trip more times than I want to admit, I was nervous we wouldn't make it to the island this summer but it happened on the most perfect mild summer Saturday.

Having never been to the pool bars, it was pretty much the exact scenery you would expect - lots of interesting characters (some clad with accessories like a bright green rubber glove) and then guy who was a dancing machine next to me in a video doing his best Britney Spears impression of sorts.

The morning boat ride to the island

Mist pool bar in all its glory

leopard casualty: RIP my favorite Sperry summer sandals

Sunday: everyone is Italian at the feast

I'm not Italian but always like to pretend I amwhen I'm at the Feast each year. My favorite choices? Fried dough, fried dough and fried dough! I understand that's just dough covered in an obscene amount of sugar but get out of my way - I have to have it!

Excuse me, while I eat this piece of fried dough.

After we ate cavatelli, artichokes, stuffed peppers and cannolis to go, I was able to finally take a look at what everyone has been talking about regarding the major renovations to the Uptown neighborhood. I still have to make a trip to MOCA but was able to walk through the new buildings and scope how much the area has evolved over the past two years. It looks so completely different and the only thing I recognized was Mi Pueblo a few blocks down.

(Sorry for the lack of photos if you haven't been - I was too busy chatting with my friend and eating lemon cookies from Presti's Bakery to snap any photos as we walked through Uptown and Case's campus too.)

Disclosure: Thank you to Katrina and the Miller Ferry for providing my friends and I free tickets and access to a golf cart for our island time.

back to back birthdays

how I spent my weekend.

Friday: acting like a chef

I headed to the Gatherings Kitchen in Lakewood for an evening with some friendly strangers where we were instructed by Ruth and her and her helpful staff on how to cook an authentic Cuban six-course meal.. Besides being in full paparazzi mode, I managed to not follow instructions when removing the corn husks, helped prepare the most complicated tamales of my life and then grilled some corn outside like a pro while sipping a glass of wine.

The meal was absolutely delicious and I would love to do this for the holidays with my family. If interested in booking a private party, all you need is 15 other friends and you are good to go!

table set and ready to go; reading the instructions; grilling corn like a champ

chicken and grilled corn; halibut tacos; black bean soup, shrimp with corn tamales and a banana rum dessert

Saturday: a surprise 30th birthday

First, she got married in June and now we celebrated her 30th birthday with three cakes and what is the most embarrassing video from her childhood, which was complete with a 10 year old Shawn dancing like a hip hop star at the end of the video.

Shawn, the birthday girl; Erin lighting the cake; time for shots - tequila or botox!

Sunday: brunching and sunday fundaying with my parents

While I'm known to have a birthday month and throw quite the big birthday celebrations, my brother wanted a Sunday Funday for his 29th birthday so my family came along for brunch at Soho and patio drinking at Market Garden Brewery to experience their first Sunday Funday.

They came, they saw and they conquered their first Sunday Funday in style with a hat.

family portrait; birthday boy; the hat looks good on even my dad

take me abroad

In almost exactly a month, two friends and I are taking what is quite possibly the most amazing and adventurous two weeks off any of us had in an incredibly long time by taking a trip abroad.

I have never been to Europe.


It has been a dream of mine for years to go and Paris was always at the top of my list. I'm not French and have never taken the language in school, but I have similar fascination with the French culture as I do with my obsession with all things Wiccan.

My idea of Paris is a complete mix of random things actually. I think all French women to be absolutely breathtaking in their every day life, gracefully smoking cigarettes at cafes and sipping coffee while surviving on a diet of nothing but wine, chocolate and baguettes. And when you think about the diet, I don't think it is really that bad of a fantasy now is it? To live off chocolate AND bread AND wine - stick a fork in it and call it a day!

After only a few conversations of our desired travel locations, my friends and I settled on an exciting itinerary to include four cities in two countries - Paris, Bordeaux, Biarritz and Barcelona.

my reading material among fashion magazines

I envision the trip to start with an incredible amount of energy (with my touristy hat on) and seeing a list of Parisian museums and sights from the Eiffel Tower to losing myself for hours as I browse the markets to stopping at the Louis Vuitton flagship store to trying to sleep in Marie Antoinette's bed at the Palace of Versailles.

We then head to Bordeaux for three days to soak up as much wine as possibly can on our wine tour and bike through the French countryside.

After we eat enough cheese and wine for our lifetime, we head to the coast to spend a weekend at the beach in Biarritz. I l-i-t-e-r-a-l-l-y plan to lay on the beach, read a book the old fashioned way (no iPad for me) and sign up for surf lessons. Then after I beat up my body trying to surf like a southern Californian girl out of a Hurley catalog, I plan to sign myself up for a massage as well.

We then head back southeast to the beautiful city of Barcelona where we stay in an apartment for four days and I try to speak the native language much better than I will in France. THAT is for sure.

My very detailed trip brought to you by the snipping tool and pen

My friends and I went from being ridiculously detailed with our travel wants and needs to a little more carefree about the trip and booked the necessities ahead of time. This approach feels much more natural (and like us) rather than over scheduling ourselves with too many agenda items.

For those of you who have visited any of the cities we are headed, we would greatly appreciate any tips or recommendations of what we must absolutely visit or eat at or what to completely stay away from and avoid at all costs. Where do we go and what do we do?

a little partying never hurt anyone

How I spent my weekend....

Friday: girls' night out
A girlfriend rallied the troops to grab sushi at Sushi Rock, which was our go-to Thursday night outing for half-off sushi  a few years back, so we decided to catch up over a few our favorite rolls and wine.

roll up on roll upon roll

Saturday: lakeside partying

Instead of last year's sizzling temperatures, this year's Krusty's Summer Sauce Camp was on the most beautiful 80ish day without a cloud in the sky. The weather gods said there was a 40 percent chance of rain but that didn't happen until very late, technically into Sunday morning, so I believe everyone had a blast celebrating the last Krusty's ever. Or so they say.....

Sean and Jenny; our tent for the day; the shortest beer line ever; me with Jill

sun setting over Whiskey Island

Sunday: patio brunching and card gaming

My friends and I spent at least 2 hours playing Cards Against Humanity (with no interruptions) on Market Garden Brewery's patio where I won with a whopping 12 cards. Apparently I'm the one with the sickest sense of humor...
siblings; Goonies sign outside of Barrio; the ultimate card game; a carafe of mimosa

Cleanse is not my middle name

I am not a cleanse person.

Not in the slightest bit.

There. I have said it. 

Now I would by lying if I thought I was cleanse person before I started my Dr. Oz 3-day detox cleanse. I had read all about the  cabbage soup diet, the master cleanse and even the Blueprint cleanse, which is the hot thing right now for women of any age.

Based on a few coworker's experience with this one and seeing as it is a short time period, I seriously thought I could pull it off as I shopped at Heinen's and Earth Fare, picking up the fruit and vegetables plus the vitamin essentials as part of my new 3-day regimen. I was happily putting my favorite fresh fruit and vegetables into my cart, humming Cheryl Cole's song in my head and picturing a more slender and thinner version of myself in a mere three days.

Only $126 later, I felt empowered and ready to take on day one with my trusty KitchenAid blender as my new BFF in my cleanse journey to ridding my body of all the toxins from the past month. Or so I'd hoped after realizing I had fallen off the wagon and needed to get back on a regimen.

Lunch drink: cucumber, celery, pineapple, almond milk and lime

Day one morning and afternoon I felt amazing, full of positive thinking and giving myself invisible high fives but by dinner, I was pretty much done for with these smoothies. I wanted food. I needed food. I caved and ordered my favorite pho dish and surrendered myself to the most amazing Vietnamese soup ever.

Not one to give up, I started again on day two with my morning smoothie packed with raspberries, bananas, kale and a dash of lemon and as I made my brightly green processed lunch smoothie pictured above, I knew I was done with this cleanse idea halfway through the chunky concoction which prompted the following tweet.

In my effort to get back on track, I gave this cleanse the college try, started working out daily again but I'm going to stick to the path of eating food. Real food. The kind that is alive and I have to grill, broil or bake into Paleo type dishes because this whole smoothie thing is just not for this girl.