Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hello (and Goodbye) to Old Friends

These last few weekends have brought a few of our old friends to the Cleveland area. Robbie’s friend Mikie and his girlfriend Michelle called to let us know they would be in Cleveland visiting Michelle’s dad who is an architect and just moved to Cleveland for a new job opportunity. We got to spend a few hours with all three of them one afternoon showing them the “west side” highlights. I guess our enthusiasm for our new city really shows through. We sounded like salesmen! Not only did we sell them on Cleveland but apparently also convinced Michelle’s dad to buy a Kuerig coffee machine – maybe we should think about a career change?

Mikie, Robbie, and Michelle outside our house
In reality, working in sales would be a disaster career move for Robbie as we discovered while negotiating with car salesmen in pursuit of the first ever new car for both of us. Robbie couldn’t stand the haggling but in the end did a great job getting us to a number we could live with. Finally, at the end of many hours of car shopping and negotiating we said goodbye to a very tired, old friend – our Ford Taurus. After 147,000 miles it was time to part ways. We said hello to a 2012 Kia Sorento! We were busy finalizing the paperwork when the salesman said he would go get the Taurus to drive it over and make sure we got everything we needed out of it. When he came back to us he said, “That thing sounds like it’s about to die!” I held my breath for a minute hoping we had all the paperwork complete. Rob laughed and said, “Well, there is a reason we are buying a new car!”. I have to say as sad as it is to see an old friend go, all I feel right now is the relief of getting it off our hands! The night we brought the car home Robbie wanted to go for a celebratory ice cream. We tried a place he had heard about called Mitchell’s. It was an adorable little shop with really unique flavors of homemade ice cream. After we left the shop Rob turned right out onto the street instead of left to head home. When I asked what was going on he said, “I just want to drive it around a little while longer!” I guess he really likes the car!!

Robbie LOVES our Sorento!

Pregnant me in my new mom SUV

It fits (barely)!!!
We also got the chance to meet up with our med school friends Jayme and Sarah who are spending an intern year in Sandusky, OH. Sarah let me know Jayme needed to come to Cleveland area for some residency training and wanted to meet up while he was at work. As it turns out, Robbie had to attend the same training that day! We were able to meet up for the day and take Jayme, Sarah, and their 6-month old baby boy, Titus, to a few of our new favorite places in Cleveland. It was great seeing them and catching up!

We have been really fortunate to have so many visitors right after moving to Cleveland. It definitely helps make us feel closer to home. This weekend we are looking forward to a visit from Robbie’s family. We are refining our sales pitch to hopefully sell a few more people on Cleveland!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CSAs and Patty Pan

Several years ago my sister told me about something called a CSA. For those who aren’t familiar, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s basically a risk/gain sharing partnership between local farmers and community members. Typically at the beginning of the year, individuals or families will buy “shares” of a farm and each week will receive their share of whatever is in season and being harvested. So from year to year or week to week people with shares will receive more or less depending on how much is being harvested and how the year is going. This gives local farmers a guaranteed income and spreads the risk around.

One of the first things we searched for on the internet when we found out we were moving to Cleveland was “CSAs in Cleveland”. We found there were pages and pages of options with options to pick up your food all over the city, every day of the week. (Just as a side note – these do exist in Des Moines and probably wherever you are too if there is a farmer’s market nearby. We just hadn’t been able to participate all summer long in the past.) We were really excited to find a CSA called City Fresh that allows you to buy in week by week rather than the entire summer. There are a few things we like about going to a CSA rather than buying all our produce at the grocery store. First, the produce just looks amazing! It can’t be picked more than 24 hours in advance and is hand selected so everything looks really fresh and colorful. Also, most of the produce is grown organically. Finally, I love supporting local farmers!

Produce from a CSA varies each week and can be a mixed bag so you need to be flexible. Luckily, I pretty much love any and all food and Robbie never gives me trouble in this department. Honestly, there isn’t a thing I have cooked that he wouldn’t try – including brownies made with black beans (which are delicious by the way). If you are vegetable averse or a picky eater, obviously you would not enjoy CSAs at all. We, however, have a healthy appreciation for vegetables. We picked up our CSA items as instructed and headed home. As we unpacked them there were two items we were completely unfamiliar with. One was an herb and the other a gourd-like veggie that was the color of honeydew melon. We remembered the herb was lemon “something” but the gourd was a source of debate. I thought the handwritten sign said Polly Pon and Rob insisted it was Potty Pon. A quick phone call to my vegetarian sister ended our debate. It is a Patty Pan squash and she (of course!) had a great recipe from her CSA she promised to send over. The other item was lemon balm which is somewhat of a cross between lemon and mint – great for making sauce for fish or adding to tea. I have a feeling my sister might be getting weekly phone calls for awhile!

Week 1 items: 2 heads of lettuce, 1 bag of mixed cooking greens, 1 green cabbage, 2 bags of green beans, 1 cucumber, 2 yellow squash, 1 zucchini squash, 1 Patty Pan squash, 1 onion, 1 garlic, 1 small bag of pickling cucumbers, 10 green apples, 1 jar of homemade dill pickles, 1 bunch of beets, 2 eggplants, 1 basil, 1 dill, and 1 lemon balm.

Below are some photos – the cute farmer’s market basket was a gift from my mom a few years back which we use almost every time we go to a market!

Back with our CSA goods

The Patty Pan

Patty Pan

Friday, July 15, 2011

Doctor Robbie

June 26, 2011 Dr. Robbie reported to his first day of orientation at St. John’s Westshore hospital in Westlake, OH. Robbie and his fellow residents went through a one week orientation before officially starting their residency program on July 1st. His first month he was scheduled to work in the Orthopedic Surgery department and it has been an easy month for him to adjust to residency. He has already worked his first 24 hour call night and made it through like a pro! He really likes the residents he is working with and the hospital in general. St. John’s hospital in specific was rated one of the top 10 employers in the Cleveland area and so far they are a great first employer for Rob.

Our first weekend here the hospital invited the residents to the hospital picnic celebrating their 30th anniversary. They served great picnic food including ribs and had games and entertainment lined up. A ridiculous relay race was held for hospital employees that involved rock wall climbing and some bouncy castle obstacles. The new resident team came in 2nd place (see photo) which gave them something to brag about in their first few days. It was a really nice opportunity for us to meet the residents and their spouses/significant others and it was nice for me to get to connect with a few of the wives. We all met up for dinner later the next week and Rob and I plan to host a barbeque later this summer when we get a little more settled in our new home.

For August and September Rob will spend his first two months working in the Emergency Department. He will be scheduled to work 20-22 shifts each month so it will be much more intense than his first month here. We will keep you posted on how it goes!

Robbie and some new residents - 2nd place relay team!

Home Sweet Home

With the arrival of Annabelle we knew we needed to find a three bedroom house or apartment for our family. I searched Craigs List and found a three bedroom brick cape cod in our budget in the West Park area of Cleveland. Although over 50 people contacted the landlord in the first three days, I talked to him over the phone and he decided to rent it to us without ever meeting us in person. Additionally, we hadn’t seen the house in person! Over Easter we drove out to take a look at the place and were thrilled with what we saw – the house is perfect for us and we fall in love with it a little more each day. Our landlord, Bo, and his wife, Anastasia, have been such a blessing to us – they have bent over backwards to help us get familiarized with the city and have given us such a nice place to live while we are here. Our first weekend here Bo spent hours driving us around the city and showing us most of the places I listed that we now love!

It has 3 ½ bedrooms with a nursery nook off the master bedroom, two bathrooms (one in the basement), kitchen, living room, downstairs family room, and an unfinished side of the basement for storage and laundry. It also has a small backyard and two car garage. Our landlord rennovated the kitchen prior to us moving in putting in a dishwasher and all new cabinetry. The cabinets are amazing with a built in spice rack and wine rack. Very functional for a fairly small space. We will post more photos in a few days but here are a few to appease the curiousity of those who have asked!

Orchard Park Avenue

The tulip Grandpa Sullivan made for me that travels to all my homes :)

Herbs we planted!

Our little backyard

Back of House

Cleveland Rocks!

No, seriously, it does! There is so much to do and see here. We had our first visitor right away. My best friend Katie came in to visit over the 4th of July and even with just over a week under our belts we were able to entertain her the whole weekend showing her our newest favorite spots. We took in a fireworks show at Crocker Park which was one of the most amazing shows any of us had seen. They shot fireworks off the four corners of the roof of an outdoor mall. We were so close we were getting rained on with cardboard pieces and ashes. Rob’s parents are heading out at the end of July and we are excited to show them everything we love about Cleveland.

Things we love so far:

Westside Market – a year round indoor/outdoor market that sells every culinary item you could imagine. Produce, meats, breads, pastas, meats, desserts (amazing canolis!), hummus, herbs, nuts, mushrooms, you name it and there is a booth selling it! There is even a stand called the Pierogie Palace which Robbie can’t wait to try.

Lakewood Park – Gorgeous view of the city skyline and a small brick walkway right on the lake. Great ark with a huge play area for kids that reminds me of the wooden park in Pella where we went to college.

Melt Bar and Grilled – This restaurant is amazing! They have gourmet grilled cheese with unusual combinations. For example, the Jalepeno Popper which is a grilled sandwich with jalepeno poppers and cream cheese between two giant pieces of battered and fried bread, the Godfather which is lasagne grilled between two sliced of garlic toast, the Gyro Melt, the Parmageddon with pierogis grilled inside it, and our current favorite, the Smokey Russian which has turkey, saurkraut, smoked Gouda and a russian dressing. You are guaranteed a wait but it is so worth every minute!

Tremont Neighborhood – An artsy area of town with great coffee shops, Ukranian churches, art stores, and pastry shops like A Cookie and a Cupcake (which Katie and I quickly tested out – yum!). Also, the church and reception hall from the movie Deer Hunter are in this area along with Ralphie’s house from the movie A Christmas Story.

Coventry Street – A street that has unique shops and restaurants in the downtown Cleveland area. Shopping for women with clothing boutiques and home stores and for guys with the store Big Fun. Big Fun is a store that has toys from the 70’s and 80’s primarily like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Smurfs, Popples, My Little Ponies, etc.

Metro Park System – This park has 100 miles of trails that run right next to the Rocky River. It is almost completely untouched so the trees and wildlife are amazing to look at. It is also referred to as the valley since it sinks below the city. Enormous bridges are vaulted in the sky to take Cleveland traffic over the park.

West Park Neighborhood/Kamm’s Corner – The neighborhood we live in is adorable. Tree lined streets with small brick homes. Children out riding bikes and playing baseball in the front yard with their dads. Ice cream trucks going by and postmen who stop each morning to say hello.

Malley’s Chocolate and Ice Cream Shop – Here they sell everything you could ever want covered in chocolate! They have an adorable soda fountain counter where you can order old-fashioned ice cream desserts with a homemade fudge sauce topping.

Marc’s – Do you need a patio umbrella, bathroom rug, and some lettuce? Go to Marc’s! The most random grocery store ever but their prices are amazing and so inexpensive compared to everything else in the area. It’s somewhat of a mixed bag (like a TJ Maxx some items they buy in excess from other stores and sell it at a reduced cost) but it’s always interesting!

Cleveland and Lakewood Libraries - Free internet and awesome reading programs for adults and kids (even reading to your newborn counts!). When Bella gets here there is a weekly activity, reading programs where you get free tickets to the zoo at the end, and even free lunch for kids every day of the week. The library might become our new second home!

And we woke up in Cleveland...

June 20, 2011 we wake up on a mattress on the floor surrounded by piles of boxes in our 3 bedroom rental house in Cleveland, OH. It’s still hard to believe this is our new home for the next four years. Never would I have thought we would be living in Cleveland. We spent the first few days tearing open boxes, cleaning, agreeing and disagreeing about how things should be organized, and slowly putting together a home for our family. Our first house and we are in love.

At the end of day one we are dragging empty boxes and trash to the curb since Tuesday is trash day. Box after box we drag out and on one of our many trips a little girls walks boldly up to us. With extremely articulate speech she asks, “Did you just move in?” Yes, we explain we just moved here from Iowa. She then sticks her hand boldly out and says “Nice to meet you. I’m Julie. This is my sister Morgan.” Morgan, several years older than this spunky little girl shyly shakes our hands while looking at the ground. Julie turns to Rob and says, “I hear you are a doctor. Is it like Grey’s Anatomy?” Rob laughs and says no, that he’s an Emergency Medicine doctor so it’s not really the same. Morgan finds her voice and chimes in, “Julie is obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy.” We chat for a few minutes and the girls are on their way. I watch as they walk away from us down the sidewalk. Julie fans her face. I smile and look over at Robbie. “Apparently she thought you were pretty cute, huh?” Rob just shakes his head. We grab another load of cardboard boxes from the house and as we are setting them down a woman yells from across the street and motions for us to cross. She is walking a dog that looks like Simba from the Lion King who is clearly battling arthritis. “I’m Ruth,” she says. “I wanted to introduce myself and make sure you got an invitation to the block party in August.” As we are talking we end up meeting one neighbor after another. They welcome us to the neighborhood and tell us it is a community here. “If you need anything, you let us know,” Sue offers. “When Sarah across the street had a baby we did the same thing for her. With your husband working odd hours it can be tough.” We thanked them all and headed in for the night. We already feel at home.

Each day we venture out a little farther from home as we locate our bank, library, grocery stores, etc. Slowly making sense of the tangled, winding streets that make up Cleveland. I would love to meet the person who designed the streets here. They seem custom designed to confuse visitors and newcomers. Streets wind through the city curving every which direction making the words North, South, East, and West completely meaningless. Still, getting lost is an adventure and we learn a lot by just enjoying each trip out of the house – wherever it might take us! We are thrilled to find new treasures like West Side Market, Lakwood park (great view of the city skyline and Lake Eerie!), Melt restaurant (gourmet grilled cheese), Metro Parks, etc. I think neither of us have completely grasped the concept that we will not be returning to Des Moines anytime soon. We are learning to make Cleveland our home one day at a time.