cleveland, my hometown

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I’ve found myself inspired to write about my “hometown”: Cleveland.

The truth is that I’m from a town closer to Akron but after going away to college in another well-known Ohio town, “Cleveland” became the learned response to the question “where are you from?”  (Until LeBron, no one really knew of Akron so the chances of anyone knowing a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of Akron was highly unlikely.)  So I’ve been saying “Cleveland” to answer “where are you from?” for ages even though my real hometown is about 45 minutes away.

I’m in Ohio this week visiting my family for my usual summer trip and it seems like every time I’m here, I appreciate it just a bit more.  When I lived here prior to making Iowa my home, I kept my radius a bit tight.  I didn’t venture far from the fanciness of Beachwood where all the shopping is, University Heights where the Whole Foods is, and the east side where my sister lived.  As it turns out, Cleveland is really cool when you know where to go and I wasn’t going to the right places.  It took moving away and stalking the city from afar to really figure out what made Cleveland tick.

I’m continually amazed at how much this city has changed.  Even in the three short years since I’ve been gone.  There’s such a sense of community and the local movement has really taken root here.  It’s exhibited by the restaurants all along W 25th St that pride themselves on dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.  And with the West Side Market around the corner, how could they not feel inspired?  The food scene here could rival almost any big city.

(A few highlights: The Greenhouse Tavern, Townhall, Bier Market, Bar Cento, L’Albatros, The Black Pig and I’m dying to try The Butcher and the Brewer.)

Beyond the food, though, this city is a crafter’s dream.  It’s like an Etsy beyond the internets with vendors lining some of the coolest streets for things like Hingetown, and Cleveland Flea.  This city has really become an artist’s community and really celebrates their creatives.

The city stretches far and wide – you have your outskirts communities like Rocky River and Avon and Westlake – and there are so many more people, places and things beyond just my scope.  I’ve written about CLE in the past; sometimes in good and not-so-good context and I’m happy to embrace this place I call home.

There are still things that make CLE less-than-ideal (the crime rate, lack of an organized public transit system, spaced out neighborhoods, lack of walkability between aforementioned spaced-out-neighborhoods) but I do believe I could kill it (socially speaking) in this city after having been forced to spread my wings and learn a different city.  I’d be more active in the community, more likely to get involved and celebrate all that’s going on here (versus lamenting what’s not).  I’m someone who is somewhat of a city snob but I’m real and I’m from CLE.  Having very little “hometown” loyalty, I am happy to say that this city is something to celebrate and there’s a lot of good coming from CLE right now.

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traveling.

Before moving to Iowa two years ago, I couldn’t remember the last time I was on a plane.  In that very short time, I’ve done more air travel (and land travel, for that matter) than I have in the last decade combined.  It occurred to me when I mentioned to my sister the other day that all I needed to do to get on a plane was move away from home.  It seems like the last two summers have been jam packed with travel and it’s usually around July or August.  I make my 2ndAnnual Summer Pilgrimage home in about two weeks and I’ve already begun making requests for my mom’s home cooking.

I can’t wait to see this little face:

Avery-bear

Avery-bear

 

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to San Francisco for work.  I got to spend some time with my amazingly awesome friend Jen (who I haven’t seen in something like 10 years!!) and she gave me a great tour of her city.  San Francisco is one of the places that I’ve dreamed of visiting since I started taking this foodie thing seriously.  They have it all: breweries, ethnic food, wineries, TARTINE and pretty much everything else a gastronomique could want.  I may have made up that word just now.

Here are a few shots from my short (but sweet) trip.

 

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First stop: Tartine

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Shotwell’s for some local Drake’s Chili Smoked Porter. This beer is amazing. A-mazing.

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Bi-Rite Grocery – it’s where they keep all the ice cream in San Francisco.

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The Ferry Building. This is where they keep all the fancy food in San Francisco. Also, I want to live in it.

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Cellarmaker. The new brewery my cool friend Jen took me to.

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No words.

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Oh, hai Alcatraz.

Ohio.  I’ll be seeing you soon.

2014

Hey guys!  Hard to believe I haven’t said a peep since before Christmas.  Let’s do a recap post, shall we?

Christmas

I rented a car this year and went home for Christmas!  Unlike last year, it wasn’t Christmas Eve, I wasn’t sick as a dog, and I didn’t have to stop in Chicago to sleep off my inability to stay awake—this year was crazy pleasant.  Other than the torrential downpour from Illinois to Ohio and Indiana’s lack of highway lighting, it was relatively uneventful.

First stop: Christmas Ale

First stop: Christmas Ale

Rachel's tree is so festive

Rachel’s tree is so festive

Christmas morning and everyone's awake

Christmas morning and everyone’s awake—even the cat.

Best.wrapjob.ever. Yes, that's a Zeppe's menu.

Best.wrapjob.ever. Yes, that’s a Zeppe’s menu.

Reba Christmas in the background - the aftermath of present time.

Reba Christmas in the background – the aftermath of present time.

The dessert table… which I hit pretty hard this year.

The dessert table at mom’s… which I hit pretty hard this year. Why yes, that *is* queso.  And my pregnant sister.

 

Other stuff whilst at home

I tried really hard this trip home to make sure I saw everyone.  I love my home time and I wanted it to feel like the vacation that it is.  I was able to see my family, some great friends (though I missed you Jess and Rusty!), and in true Ryan fashion it revolved mostly around food.  If you guys have the time (you know, next time you’re in Cleveland) do yourself a favor and go to B Spot.  It’s a place I really miss being away and usually a lunch or dinner spot when I’m home.

Apple Pie Bacon Shake.  That's a chunk of apple pie crust. In the background is my sister's banana chocolate marshmallow shake.  Oh yeah.

Apple Pie Bacon Shake. That’s a chunk of apple pie crust. Legit. In the background is my sister’s banana chocolate marshmallow shake. Oh yes.

 

Christmas tradition

Turns out I didn’t outrun the Christmas cold this year, guys.  It hit me right when I turned off the car after arriving safely home in Des Moines.  It was pretty quick to take me down from there.  That leads me to NYE.

New Year’s stuff

This is how I spent my NYE:

Flu central.

Flu central.

And that’s pretty much how New Year’s Day looked as well.

Speaking of New Year’s, a lot of people make resolutions.  I’ve made resolutions in the past but always end up really hard on myself for making lofty goals that I can’t keep to.  I prefer the idea of “themes” for the New Year.  Last year was ‘the year of me’ and I think it was pretty darn successful.  I’m going to continue that into 2014 and also christen it ‘the year of travel.’  I’ve enjoyed traveling to Chicago, Branson, Omaha, and Minneapolis  in the past year and I want to continue, and even expound on, that pattern.  I’ve traveled more in the last two years than I have in my entire 20’s combined, which is awesome.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with family, fun, food, drink, football and happy memories.

 

 

 

 

DSM to CLE and back

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This would be a great time for a catch-up post. It’s been almost two weeks (goodness!) since I took some time off work, jumped in a rental and drove the ten hours home to visit my family. (Shout out to books on CD for keeping me awake!) It was a bit of a whirlwind trip. Despite it usually feeling rushed, I like to keep some degree of regularity when it comes to seeing my family; time with them is always a bit of a recharge for me. This time was especially important (but more on that soon!!!).

It felt so good to jump back into the life I left as though I never did. As it always has been, staying with my mom, time is filled with laughter, home-cooked meals, coffee talk and I usually sleep like a baby. When I stay with my sister, there is always laughter (a common theme for our family: we love to laugh), deep talks about things that really matter and we’ll usually follow one another around the house just because. So this trip home, I stayed a bit with my mom, a bit with my sister, had breakfast and catch-up time with my lovely step-mother; had meals, shopping and time with some of my favorite friends; I packed as much as I could into the little time I had. I hit my bff’s sister’s wedding reception on Saturday as soon as I got in. On Sunday, after the usual Kate/Ryan ritual of Mexican food, I hit the road to go to my mom’s. She took the time I was home off work so we got to spend a good 2.5 days together. Saying goodbye (albeit temporarily) to my mom is never something that gets easier. I got the expected “the house is so quiet” phone call and it tugged at my heart.

I ended my CLE trip by staying two nights with my sister and her husband, then I packed up shop and headed to Chicago where I’d meet some Iowa friends for one day of Lollapalooza! I’ve never experienced anything quite like Lollapalooza. It was organized very well and I was only really disappointed with one show – everyone else brought it down. We started the day with The Neighbourhood, meandered over to Smith-Westerns from there, checked out Houndmouth (huge surprise! They’re amazing live!), cut that a little short to make it to Band of Horses (I desperately wanted to see them and they didn’t disappoint.), caught a private show by Frightened Rabbit, skipped Imagine Dragons because the crowd was so intense, saw the official show for Frightened Rabbit and then had it in mind to see some Lana Del Rey. Saying the Lana fans were out of control would be an under-statement. I was tired at that point, my feet hurt and I was getting pushed around by teenage girls clamoring to get up close to Lana. So I took it to the back and what I heard of Lana was really impressive. She sounded even better live.

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(Chicago)

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(Band of Horses!)

I wish I could bottle up the feeling of being home with my family; I know my words don’t paint near enough of a picture. The experience in the bottle would consist of waking up to the sound of country music and the smell of coffee that’s been on since 4 am when my mom wakes; seeing the sun come up and hearing the birds sing in the trees from the enclosed porch; walking in the grass with no shoes on, eating blueberries right from the bush; having heartfelt conversations with the ones I love fiercely and cooking recipes that my mom’s mom used to cook from (some of them literally taped to the inside of the kitchen cabinet doors). It was always a concern for me that my family lacks tradition. I went through a phase a few years ago where I felt like it was the most important thing. However, I realized being home that tradition is all around me. It may not be something as obvious as a family reunion every year but my family is warm, welcoming, refreshingly transparent and the things we do and the things we make are all in celebration of the time we get to spend together.

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(Homecooked meal = worth the 10 hour drive)