Monday, August 16, 2010


If I didn't already know that I'm incredibly blessed with an amazing extended family, these passed couple of weeks have definitely clued me in!!

Last Wednesday, Elin and I finished up AMERICA WEEK by going to our favorite amusement park when we were little, Kennywood! This week of reassimilating Elin to American culture and cuisine. We ate cheeseburgers, pizza and went to our favorite breakfast dinner, had a spa day and a shopping day and went to and Indians game and to Chautauqua! It was quite a week (a half) of fun! Elin's been relearning a lot of American traditions and I've been learning a lot myself, too. Like, don't drive with welcome home balloons in your car with ANY of the car windows down, if you lose your balloons after you leave the party store, they still make you pay for new ones, AND I'm not scared of roller coasters anymore!

I learned this particular fact when Elin and I met our cousins Jenny at Kennywood, not only the BEST amusement park in the world, but also the first place I ever rode a roller coaster, followed closely by the first time I ever cried after a roller coaster! So I couldn't think of a better place to conquer my fear! Plus, Kennywood has awesome rides, too which Elin, Jenny and I rode, giggling the whole time!! We also rode the carousel, which completed our little kid dreams of each having our own horses! Although, in our dreams, our horses were always from the movie Black Beauty..haha!

Me, Elin and Jenny on the carousel!

About three weeks ago, I got to see almost all of my cousins on my dad's side AND all my second cousins (cousins once removed? I NEVER get the right! It's my Dad's cousin's kids. Anyone who knows what the right title for that is..let me know!) at Chautauqua for a big hoopla celebrating the cottage's 100th year in our family! It was quite the bash! Even mother nature wanted to party..she sent a tornado our way just for the occasion! Besides the INSANE storms which shut off our power, we had a great time and (most of us) stayed dry! My cousin Ben and I got soaked scurrying over the the neighbor's fridge to get appetizers! Did we have an umbrella? Yes. Did we save the food and not ourselves? Yes! How did that crazy man convince me to help him??? I have no idea!! After the rain subsided, a band played on the porch of the cottage next door and we all sang and danced! It was a blast! Especially getting to meet all my cousins kids who are all SUPER cute! I tried to become all of their favorite cousin, but it's hard to beat Aunt Val! I even fed a baby cake to get him to like me! It totally worked!
All the Castle/Hudson cousins

The Castle/Hudson Clan!

Me and Julia! That's my cousin Aaron's adorable oldest daughter.

The fab cake that I bribed a baby to like me with

The beautiful banner celebrating our amazing family!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Expensive Energy? No! It's Free!

Yet ANOTHER Cleveland adventure!

Jeff and I went down to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yesterday because Free Energy, THE BEST BAND EVER, was performing outside on the steps! A local band, Founding Fathers opened, and Jeff and I visited the weird free stamp (art?) on our way!
Look I touched it!
Then the fun began. They started out with their song, Free Energy (watch/listen here: and dance moves and smiles were instantly infectious! It was probably one of the funnest show I've ever been to!

Before they played my second favorite song, Bang Pop ( The lead singer complimented Jeff and I on our shirts! We were right in front and looked like we'd taken a time machine from the 80s to get to the show so I don't know how he could've missed us! Afterward, he was super nice and ever took a picture with us because "he needed to take a picture with the two most stylin people at the show"!!
After picking up posters and records, Jeff and I walked away feeling like we needed to do something really cool (we were a little hopped up on the show...) so we stopped by Star Pop (the vintage toy store Jeff helps out at) to tell the owner, Troy about how Free Energy loved our clothes...which we had gotten at Star Pop! haha He was obviously very excited!
As Jeff, and the lead singer of Free Energy, would say, it was totally RAD!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cleveland Rocks?

Cleveland has been in the news so much lately! From Betty White's new show Hot in Clevelandto the Lebron staying or leaving debate, to the TV show, Man vs. Food making it's Cleveland debut. But, can I just say that I never imagined myself making a post about Cleveland because I never really ventured outside of my bubble that is Chagrin Falls. But lately, my adventures have taken me downtown and midtown Cleveland where I've actually discovered that Cleveland isn't even a little bit miserable (GASP!) and in fact, I actually like it a lot (even BIGGER gasp!).

So, Cleveland, you're wonderful, let me count the ways:

1. Melt: After seeing the Man vs. Food Melt challenge, it's hard to stay away from this place! And since there was a two hour wait one time when we attempted to go here, it seems like everyone in Cleveland thought the same thing! The menu is pretty much just grilled cheese sandwiches with anything you could possibly imagine in them! And the beer list is huge, too! Best gourmet grilled cheese I've ever eaten!
below: the Man vs. Food guy with the owner and Melt

2. The Waterloo Arts Fest: In the last weekend of June, the neighborhood of Colinwood in Cleveland has a huge arts fest on Waterloo street. The close off the whole street and close to 10,000 people come to eat and shop and hear the bands (everything from rock to acoustic to a polka band). Jeff actually has been helping out at Star Pop, the vintage toy shop on the street, so of course I HAD to go! And I'm so glad I did because it was a BLAST!3. B-spot: Jeff and I went to this new Michael Symon restaurant with his Mom and we had the best food and the best time. The menu has any kind of burger you could ever want a ton of different milkshakes (which you can make alcoholic, as we accidentally found out!) and the best fries EVER (they use rosemary instead of the usual salt and pepper to season!) Not to mention that the decor is weird and awesome, and they used the space amazingly well--it used to be a Coldstone creamery, but you would NEVER guess!
4. Humphrey Popcorn Company Tour: Jeff's Mom and I went on a tour of a local popcorn and candy company whose products I used to sell at the popcorn shop. They were recently on the Food Network for their Toffee Crunch popcorn, and about two years ago they were on the Food Network's Christmas special, too! It's a family owned business (we met the 4th Humphrey to own it, although he might be the last) that actually used to own Euclid Beach, an amusement park on Lake Erie in the 40s, 50s, 60s era. We got to see how the popcorn balls were made and sealed and how their taffy was made! It was so fun, especially since we got free samples and we were on the tour with a summer camp! haha
5. West Side Market: I didn't even know that this historic part of Cleveland, located in Ohio City downtown, even existed until I watched the Man vs. Food Cleveland episode! Jeff and I went there a few days ago and it was so FUN! And DELICIOUS! We walked around the fruit and veggie stands for about .4 seconds to get into the unhealthy part of the Market (haha). But even the healthy stands had delicious pineapple and watermelon (we got to sample!) it reminded me of the market in Aladin where Jasmine and Aladin first meet! The unhealthy part of the market has a million meat stands and sweets and bakeries! We walked around and got popcorn and marshmallows covered in chocolate and pepperoni bread and beef jerky and Chinese chicken! Everything was cheap and delicious! Afterward we went across the street to a little arts fest that they have every Saturday with a bunch of jewelry and art tents! As we made our way through the tents, we ended up at the Great Lakes Brewery which I should honestly have as it's own reason why I love Cleveland because it's SO cool!
6. The Happy Dog: Even though I didn't eat here, I HAD to put it in. Jeff and I went here for a show, and found out they have the BEST hot dogs EVER! They offer about 50 topping from potato chips to fruit loops to mustard and ketchup.
So, Cleveland, I'm sorry for misjudging you! And don't tell Jeff, but he was always right about you!

Hopefully I'll have more fun Cleveland based adventures to report at the end of the summer! I still want to go to the Zoo again because they have a funny exhibit on animal poop (I'm not kidding!) and I want to go to the Science Center again!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What am I, an adult or something??

Ever since I got home from Africa, I've been doing a whole lot of hanging out with Jeff, scrapbooking and Friends watching. But now I have to go back to reality and start working. I eased myself into it by working two days two weeks ago with my favorite kids to babysit ever, Sarabeth and Susannah. Last week, I sat them three days and another family on Tuesday and Thursday. My Tuesday and Thursday kids I'll have the whole summer from about 9 to 6 and phew! turns out they're great kids! I was pretty nervous to babysit a boy, which I don't usually do. AND a going-into-seventh-grade-boy at that! But both he and his sister, Alyson (a 6th grader), were super fun! They like crafts and video games and nerf guns (some of my all time favorite things!) And yesterday we saw Karate Kid (one of the worst movies ever made) and had some fun outside playing WATER TAG! The best game ever which he invented..the person who's "it" has the hose and if you get wet, you're it! it was SO fun..until their mom came home and got mad! yikes! I'm really excited for a summer full of fun that might get their mom mad! hahaha

Another adult-like project (besides working 5 whole days last week!) that I've taken on is tutoring! I'm now the proud private Language Arts tutor for three kids in the Orange School district! Yay! It's almost like I'm a real teacher or something! The pay isn't amazing, but it's a blast to make up lesson plans and read all my old favorite books again! Neil, the fourth grader, is reading Half Magic with me. He's so smart! He really doesn't need a tutor! Haha he's a fabulous reader! He reads with great fluency and he sounded out words very well! He was great. My first third grader was supposed to read The BFG by Roald Dahl (I'm renewing my 8 year old self's obsession with one of the most amazing children's writer's of all time) but he already read it! So next week I'm bringing Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator instead! He is such an avid reader, he's read a lot of favorites! AND he picked up on my similes lesson really quickly, and was always proud of himself when he picked one out! My next third grader, Sonia, is tomorrow and I'm so excited to meet her!

Hopefully, I'll have more updates on my kids throughout the summer! YAY!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

African Adventure: Part TWO!

So the next part of my adventure took place in the beautiful Cape Town! Since I have now discovered that I am a city girl at heart, this was my favorite part of the trip! It also led to the the most playtime with Elin so how could I NOT love it? I've been in Elin withdrawal for about two months now!

On Saturday morning we went up the cable car to the aptly named Table Mountain. We could NOT have asked for better weather! It was probably the warmest day of the trip with not a cloud in the sky. The view from the top was breath taking, and we had some fun exploring.

After a few hours we returned to the bottom to get over to Elin's Cape Town abode for a braai held for us and a few other families that were visiting and in celebration of two birthdays! Elin and her fellow grad and undergrad students cooked some DELICIOUS sausage, chicken, lamb, corn and garlic bread for us! Like everything on the trip, it was wonderful! I stayed for awhile after to watch an intense ultimate frisbee game (I was way too full and uncoordinated to participate) and to watch that night's soccer and rugby games! Rugby is a sport I will NEVER understand..I feel like Ross from Friends when I watch it! haha

On Sunday the whole family piled into our rental car to explore the Cape Peninsula! It was on this car ride that I ate the most delicious food of all...a whole city!!
The Cape of Good Hope was windy but very cool! You could see only oceans for as far as the eye could see in every direction! Then we went to where the old and new lighthouses are and I don't remember much else from that part of the trip because I used most of my energy to complain during this half hour of uphill walking to both lighthouses. But when we stopped at the two oceans restaurant afterwards for burgers, it was doubly delicious!!

My favorite part of the day was when we stopped to see the jackass penguins! They're called jackass penguins because they have a TV show where do stupid stunts to potentially hurt themselves...JUST KIDDING! They make this funny sound that sounds like donkeys! That's why! The best part about it was that they had babies!! And watching them waddle!! They look so silly!

Monday we went to Green Markey Square, a big open-air market in the city, and we wandered around a little bit in the slave lodge (they had a decent Nelson Mandela exhibit) and the community gardens. On Tuesday, we were glad to have visited the Mandela exhibit because we went to Robben Island, the island where political prisoners were kept during apartheid. The cool part about Robben Island is the tour guides, because they were all political prisoners themselves, and seeing Nelson Mandela's cell. For me, the cool stopped there. I wasn't really impressed with any other part of the tour, and I felt like they didn't really do justice to the experiences of the other prisoners there.
After our stay in Cape Town, we left for Stellenbosch, a cute town north of the city in the wine country. I liked this part of the trip because it included days of wine tastings and spa visits, and nights filled with delicious wine and food. I learned something very important about myself in this part of the journey...I'm and ABC-er, and "Anything But Chardonnay" wine drinker! A woman on one of our tastings pegged me as an unwooded white wine drinker and I haven't turned back ever since. Who would've thought that I would discover myself as a wino in South Africa and not Italy?? haha
On our very last day in Africa, We drove down to Cape Town to hang out with Elin (our flight wasn't until midnight!) This was another one of my favorite days, because we went to Old Biscuit Mill, a Saturday market that is filled with people, food, and shops..all my favorite things!! We hung out there for a while, drinking cappuccinos (which had heart designs in the foam!! so cool!) shopping and tasting food. Then Elin and I spent a looong time getting everyone lunch and we packed it up for a picnic in the Kirstenbosch gardens. They gardens were beautiful but my favorite part was eating the gyro that Elin and I got for ourselves: chicken, onions, yogurt-y sauce -y stuff, lettuce and FRENCH FRIES all rolled into a pita! Seriously, best thing I've ever eaten. After some hours wandering around and looking for a flower bigger than my face to bring back for Erin, we left to say goodbyes and head back home.
And after a loooooooong journey home, we made it home and now we get to tell everybody about the best trip ever! YAY!

Monday, May 31, 2010

African Adventure: Part ONE!

There is SO MUCH to tell about Africa that I have to do it in installments! haha Part One is Day 1- 8 in Africa, so basically the first half of our trip, which we spent in an AMAZING safari camp in the province of Limpopo, which is about 2-3 hours outside of Johannesburg. Elin and Teek met us in Joberg (that's what the cool kids call it) and traveled up with us to Dinkweng.

Our lodge was amazing and the view of the back porch was spectacular, we even had our very own fire pit and braai (essentially South African bbq) area!! But it got better: since we were the only guests that week, we got the Polaris (basically a huge golf cart!) ALL to ourselves for the whole week. Since Dinkweng is the "nice animal reserve" (no lions and tigers and bears!) we got to drive into the valley in our Polaris and drive around looking for the two giraffes that were on the property (which we saw--TWICE!) and a ton of different kinds of African deer. It was basically my dad's way of figuring out his menu for the next two weeks on wheels!! (he ate warthog, kudu, ostrich and springbok! I ate chicken!).
The night of our arrival, the nicest people in the entire world (the family that manages the gianormous property) hosted a braai for the 5 of us at the main lodge which was the most amazing kickoff to probably the best eating two weeks of my entire life!! We had chicken skewers and pork chops and the best sweet potatoes I have ever eaten and beer bread and God's gift to man: bacon and cherry skewers (my mouth is literally watering just THINKING of them right now!). What an awesome way to start an truly awesome vacation!
The next day we headed out to K'Ingo which was the sister and neighbor camp of ours which had the big 5, which is buffalo, elephants, leopards rhinos and lions. Of the big 5 we only saw two, elephants and rhinos (which we saw at night so we don't have pictures of them sadly!), but we saw a lot of other cool non big 5 animals too!

My favorite moment of the ride came when we saw two elephants near a watering hole and our guide stopped on the other side of the lake and pulled out a cooler full of beer and a cheese and cracker plate! We all got out and watched the elephants from from probably about 70-ish yards away (I'm TERRIBLE at estimating) and drank a beer!! It was definitely one of the high lights of the trip for me! Another braai followed our game drive, which included the BEST dessert I've ever had: a chocolate cake-y thingy with PUDDING inside! yum yum! Next morning we woke up really early to try to catch the giraffes and saw a lot more on our property than we had the previous day!

(Kudu above, impala below)
Elin and Teek left that day which left me, Mom and Dad to relax, play cut throat Canasta, take afternoon Polaris rides and watch Planet Earth for the rest of the week...but that doesn't mean it got boring!! On Tuesday, Dad and I decided to go mountain biking. This might shock you, but I was actually the one to suggest it! The next hour or two consisted of probably the funniest and hardest bike ride of my whole life. First, the terrain was MUCH harder than we thought. The uphills were so hard! The downhills were fun though! After we took a break, things got interesting. My Dad's pedal (and arm of the pedal!) kept falling off so we either had to stop every 5 feet to put it back on or he had to continuously kick it back on between pedals. THEN my seat starting getting thought it was on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride or SOMETHING! It was moving around in a seesaw motion unless I put my weight in exactly the right spot..I fell off the back! hahahaha I'm just glad no one saw the two of us was so disastrous!

On Wednesday, we woke up super DUPER early to get over to K'Ingo for our second game drive. It ended up being just us and Brian, our CRAZY but trusty guide. We did a LOT of off roading through the brush which was different than our previous game drive, where he stuck to the trails. But when we ended up seeing two cheetahs, that's when he earned is title of crazy!! We saw them heading away from us so what does Brian do? Stops the car and tells us to all get out to follow them! We did and they ended laying down to groom each other. So there we are, standing about 30 feet away from CHEETAHS (which they could probably travel in .2 seconds..literally) and that's when Brian decided to tell us that Cheetahs drink more blood in a day than water!! Mom and I are naturally FREAKING out, so he decides to tell us how to handle the Cheetah's if they come for us: "Don't worry, if they come for you it'll be at your throat so when they try to attack you just reach out at grab them by their throat. You'll get a few scratches, but you'll be fine." ExCUSE me?? hahah it was so terrifyingly awesome (after we got out alive, of course!) and is another one of my favorite African stories.

On the last day, Dad relinquished his role of driver..for a few minutes..and let me drive! It was a BLAST! I don't know why I didn't INSIST I drive earlier!! I smiled the whole time!!! It was a great way to say goodbye to Safari time. Next post will be Hello City Time!! YAY!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Off to the PRIDE LANDS!

That's right. Tomorrow I'm getting on a plane to South Africa. I'm going with my family on a safari and to Cape Town! To get my feelings of excitement, you have to realize two things: 1. I'll be seeing my older sister Elin for the first time in about two months and 2. I have had a crush on Simba from the Lion King since I was about two. I know it seems illogical that I'm in love with an animated lion (not even an animated human or anything!) but now is my chance to finally nab my dream man (sorry Jeff!). I might never come back!

Just look at this face!
Hakuna matata! See you in 2 and 1/2 weeks!