Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Browns Training Camp

A record breaking 4,200 fans showed up to Browns Training Camp
4,200 fans were ready for some Browns football on Sunday, with a record breaking turnout for training camp. Spirits and expectations were high on a beautiful sunny day.

We arrived about half an hour after camp opened because my dad just had to get an egg mcmuffin, and it was packed. I don't think it would be possible to stuff many more people in.
Kenny Roda, or as I like to call him, Pork Pie.
The camp was loaded with fans, all jockeying for position against a thin rope holding everyone back. I personally saw my opportunity when a guy walked away to take a call. Move your feet lose your spot.  My view would have been perfect were it not for radio host Kenny Roda, who I like to refer to as Pork Pie, in honor of his funny little hat. 

Most of the media, Tony Grossi, Mary Cabot, Craig from WFNY, all kneeled so fans could see the field. Pork Pie did not at any time. Fans would beg him to move and he would sway his head one way or another so they could get a shot. In all honesty, I had no idea who the guy was until a fan squished next to me mentioned it. He also said that Roda is a Steelers fan, which resulted in me calling him Pork Pie all the louder. 

In the defense of the media, I know they are there to do a job, but a little consideration goes a long way. And it might keep you from earning a nickname from me.

Brandon Weedon looked strong. He was making the majority of his passes and taking most of the reps. He looked like he had the starting job...and was fine with it.

Colt McCoy on the other hand seemed to be on the outside looking in. I honestly believe he thinks he can still win the quarterback job. The kid has heart, that much I will give him. After practice, he was one of the last guys on the field, getting some extra work in. I could almost hear him saying, "Put me in Coach!"

Fans were most excited to see Trent Richardson. The guy looked in shape and ready to go. No saggy pooch like Asdrubral showed up to Indians Spring Training wearing. TRich is built like a tank.

Phil Dawson. 'Nuff said.

The team looked good. I know, I know, it is just training camp, but I have high hopes for this year. Granted, I did last year too, but this year is different. I just know it.

From what I saw, Joe Haden is going to have a great year. I love his excitement about the game of football.

There was a lot of talk about Gordon.

I don't know why, but a lot of fans were complaining that there was a Buckeye's helmet on the tackling rig. It was just silver. No Buckeye.

I was surprised to see Fujita. For some reason I thought he was in NFL jail somewhere. The guy is huge.

Always nice to see TJ Ward catch the ball. Always nice.

What better way to end the day than Phil Dawson?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

LeBron Still Doesn't Get It

With his enormous wealth and the resources of the world at his fingertips, LeBron James still doesn't get it. When he left Cleveland, he set himself up as the villain. He tried to play the poor me card, seemingly unaware why fans all over the country turned on him.

Overnight, he went from beloved star of battle scarred Cleveland to the hated ring chaser of South Beach.  There would be moments of calm with misplaced comments about "getting where the fans are coming from" which gave way to explosions of jabs and punches attacking the fans and their little lives.

For as much as Cleveland is blasted in the media for not moving on, neither has LeBron. His fragile ego is crushed every time Chad Zumock cracks jokes about him. Over and over he has been given chances to make everything right with Cleveland. The number of fans that would clamour for him to return if he only would have thanked them for their support with a ring on his finger makes me nauseous to consider.

After LeFoolio's disastrous spectacle to announce where his talents were going, Dan Gilbert wrote a letter to Cleveland fans. It was harsh and stinging and perfect. Gilbert told fans that they "didn't deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal." He's right. We didn't.

Now - buckle up buttercups - now, LeFoolio is going to Aunt Oprah crying that Gilbert's letter was hurtful. I'm sure that it wasn't as hurtful as the kick to the cookies he gave to Cleveland, but whatever.

LeFoolio goes on to paint himself as a hard working guy that wanted nothing more than to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland. I wonder if Oprah asked him about is elbow. I mean such an awful injury that forced him to shoot left handed and stand in the corner. That right there is a story, I mean, whew, his career could have been over there. Maybe she will ask him about quitting during game 5. Probably not, but a girl can dream.

LeBron likes to play the victim. Running to the recess monitor about the bad, bad bullies picking on him. Can't you picture it - crocodile tears in his eyes, his voice quivering as he cries by the merry go round?

Let it go LeBron. We all make decisions in our little lives, decisions that have consequences that we deal with.

Maybe it is time for a Dr. Phil intervention or something...someone has to help this kid out.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Who is to blame?

By now everyone has heard about the tragedy in Colorado. A mad man methodically planned and murdered and injured fans in a crowded movie theater. The crime was so heinous that people are left wondering how and why someone could do something so evil.

The first thing that happens is we blame. We blame music, comic books, movies, television, the internet, the family - we do this searching for an answer.

I don't think we will ever find an acceptable answer for the tragedy, but I think it should give us all something to think about.

Today, we live in a constantly connected unconnected society. If there is a question, we google it or look in a chat room. We muddle through online communities for our answers. We now have the instant opportunity to exchange recipes with some nice lady in New Zealand instead of waiting weeks for a letter to come in the mail. 

As someone that snagged a great bbq pork recipe from someone in Canada, I'm not saying that this is wrong. I am saying that it has made us disconnected. We have lost that edge needed in dealing with people face to face.

Take bullying for example (and I am not implying the Colorado shooter was bullied). It used to be once a kid got home from school, they were safe. Now, bullied kids have text messages and websites and facebook pages set up to taunt them. There is no where to hide. People are now subjected to bullies entire continents away. It is very easy to dogpile a person that you will never see, and will never see you.

Bus monitor Karen Klein.
Take bus monitor Karen Klein. She was viciously bullied and taunted by a group of middle school kids. These kids unleashed a stream of profanity on the 68 year old grandmother, at one point threatening to stab and torture her. They told her to commit suicide, something that her son had done 10 years previously. The video, yes, video, because the kids taped it, went on for more than ten minutes. To make matters worse, these monsters put the video on youtube to further torment Klein.

But then something happened. The kids didn't get the reaction they were looking for. A guy in Canada, one man, decided he would do something. He wanted to raise $5,000 for Klein to go on a vacation. Since the makes about $15,000 a year, that would be an amazing trip.

Comments and funds streamed in from all 50 states and 83 countries. By the end of the campaign, over $700,000 was raised for Klein.


What does it mean? It means that there is still hope left for society, but it starts with each one of us. Maybe instead of hiding behind the computer monitor or smart phone screen, maybe step outside into that bright thing called sunlight and say hello to your neighbor.

Just a thought...

Friday, July 20, 2012

100 Awesome Things #86 - The Red Chimney

The Red Chimney is located in the Slavic Village area of Cleveland or as I like to call it, an oasis in a desert of horrible fast food joints. 

When I first came back to Cleveland, I took a job in Slavic Village. When I left Cleveland 20 years ago, the area was still Slavic and I imagined that little church ladies were going door to door selling their pierogies. I remember the hesitation in my soon to be boss' voice when she asked if I knew where the position was located. With a bounce in my voice, I happily proclaimed that it was in Slavic Village.  I could hear her shaking her head at me over the phone.

The area now is rough around the edges. Slavic Village is known more for shootings and car jackings than church ladies.


There is The Red Chimney.

While the area is less than desirable, I have never felt unsafe there. As my cousin who thinks she is a Klingon would say, it is in the Neutral Zone. I have been there on lunch hours with a wanna be gang banger at the counter, the Cleveland gang unit at a table, and various politicos chattering away as a table of grandmas chomped down their stuffed cabbage. 

The food here is comfort food. Not hipster comfort food, but meals that your grandma would make for you when you came to visit.

My first day of work, my co-workers took me there and gushed about the pierogies. We got along great. With the pierogies (potato and cheese) you get a choice of salad, apple sauce or soup. If you learn nothing else from me, always pick the chicken noodle soup.

The chicken noodle soup is made with the little noodles, hunks of chicken and pieces of carrot. I think the carrot is what makes it tasty.

They also have great breakfast food all day (I love the ham and cheese omelet) but I usually steer to the pierogies.

The pierogies come with butter, sour cream and onions, but I hate onions so those never show up on my plate.

The service is quick and the servers are friendly. At lunch, you can always get a seat but the parking lot fills up. The day I showed up there was a Crime Scene van in the parking lot...those guys have to eat too.

I love supporting local restaurants, especially the ones with a history and connection to the neighborhood. The Red Chimney isn't a fad or flash in the pan. Long after the next new thing is shuttered on East 4th, the Red Chimney will still be on Fleet flipping burgers and serving pierogies.

Give them a try. You might be surprised. 

If you do visit, make sure you bring cash. They don't take cards, so use that paper stuff you get in birthday cards from your Aunt Rose.

Photo Fun - Indianapolis

This is an on going feature here at the pierogi, I shuffle through my photos and pull something random out.

Since the weather is currently so ridiculous, this seems like a perfect set of pictures.

There are tons of reasons to live in the downtown area of any major city. There are great restaurants and shops, cultural activities, sporting events and the amazing lack of tornadoes.

For some reason tornadoes ignore tall buildings and heavily populated areas and go for the country.  When I lived in downtown Indy, there was a ferocious storm, rain and hail followed by apocalyptic winds. Fortunately, it was late at night and I believe on the weekend, with no one injured. 

The weather folks swore up and down that there was no tornado, and called the weather event straight line winds, to which everyone in the city stood up and cried, "Shenanigans!"  From the pictures you can see it blew the bejeezus out of the windows and littered the streets with the contents of the offices.  

It is still hard to believe no one was hurt. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

10 Simple Rules for Work

Workin' for a livin' oooo workin'
One of the original titles that I batted about for this blog was "Confessions of a Job Hopping Transplant." It had a nice ring to it and I still may use it for the title of my book. Over my career I have held a variety of jobs, numerous in the hospitality industry, and ohhh dawgie do I have some stories. 

If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you know *exactly* what I am talking about when I say I have some doozies of work stories. After each job, I created a new rule...something that would be on my non-negotiable list of demands for employment. I would like to share with you my ten simple rules for a work environment that encourages harmony not homicide. Your rules may be different, which is completely cool and I encourage you to post them in the comment section.

1.  Don't swear at me
I'm not a prude and admittedly, I can go on a tear that would make a Marine in a drunken bar brawl cover his ears. But not at work. I necessarily mind swearing at work in general. You can swear around me, even about me, but do not, I repeat, do not swear at me. 

I once worked at place that 70 work weeks and no days off for a month at a time was the expected standard. All I asked for in return was to not be sworn at, have a parking spot and business cards. More on those later.

Amazing that you need to make this a rule, but it is one my sticking points, especially after a brutal few weeks and in the middle of wrapping up a project the boss calling me and my counterpart stupid mothertruckers. But mother trucker wasn't what was said. This is a family blog, so I will let you use your imagination.

2. Get my name right
I know, you are sitting at home reading this thinking to yourself, "Duh," but this is an important one. Names are tough to remember, I get that, especially when you have hundreds of employees. I have to use every memory trick in the book, but at least I give it a significant effort. If I forget a name, I ask. I crack a joke, call myself a moron, whatever it takes.

If you can't remember your employee's name, you are subliminally telling them that they are not important, not to mention it is irritatingly disrespectful. 

I would rather someone tell me they forgot my name, apologize and move on than to call me Ralph. 

3. Be Nice
We all learned this rule from our moms and from the fabulous Mr. Patrick Swayze. Be nice. Say good morning. Say hello. Wish someone a happy birthday. Just be nice.

4.  Business Cards
This is a personal one for me. I love having business cards. It makes it easy when a client needs your contact information and let's face it, business cards make it simple to win a free lunch and the local TGIFridays.

5.  Give me a road map
I consider myself a professional and I am great at what I do. But, if a boss wants to do East and I'm going down the stairs, you can see the problem. I'm a grown up and I'm of the generation that I can actually read a map, I can follow directions. 

But I can only follow directions if I am given them. A boss that can not be clear and focused is like asparagus in the microwave - nothing anyone wants to be around.

6. Don't put more effort into asking me to do something than if you would have done it yourself
I worked with a guy once that everyone despised as a boss. He was always a bit of a jerk but I never saw the catalyst for the venom, until I was witness to what caused the staff to plot his destruction. 

During a walk through, I witnessed my fellow boss step over a big fuzz ball on the floor. He then stomped around for ten minutes until he found a staffer to pick it up.  He dragged her away from her task, tromped through the place until he found the fuzz ball and pointed it out, squawking like Donald Duck until she picked it up and threw it away.

7. Fight fair
I know I am less than perfect, and I have made mistakes. In fact, I will make more in the future. It happens. If you see someone that doesn't make a mistake, they are masters at the art of the cover up. If a boss wants to point out a mistake, do it and move on. It is nothing personal.

On this note, we all occasionally lose our cool, but it is important to acknowledge it. I had a boss once that was so mad at me that boss slammed a pen on the desk and started sputtering. Not really the way to get a point across.

8. Be clear that my Magic 8 Ball is in the shop

This is a lot like giving me a road map, with a twist. If a project has changed direction, say something. If a boss hates that I sign my name in blue and wants everything in black, share that nugget. 

I was in a situation once where I had to order *extremely* expensive chocolates for an event. They were so expensive that I was instructed to order them for VIP guests only. Cool. Day of the event, boss wanted to know why chocolates weren't at every place setting. 

After I stopped myself from spontaneously vomiting and peeing, I went over our conversation again about how we were going to cut down on the costs and the chocolates. Boss' response was, "I changed my mind."  In the immortal words of on Miss Liz Lemon, "blergh."

9.  Let me dream big
There are few things more frustrating than a boss that won't let you spit an idea out. Boss makes the assumption that your idea is wrong and slam goes the door.

In one of my many career paths, I worked in higher education. I was working with a fraternity that wanted to have a carnival for the kids in town.  This is the same fraternity that had an entire drawer of their transgressions, compared to a single file folder for the other groups. 

As the young man excitedly told me of their plans, I sat at my desk envisioning a ferris wheel breaking free, tossing families all over the town, and finally stopping after it had crushed every child in attendance. I imagined the entire community doubled over with food poisoning from their concession choices. But I let the young man talk. 

Instead of out right saying no, I told him all the steps he would have to take to make it work. The giant carnival never came to fruition, but they did have a small children's event with a petting zoo, finger printing and face painting. 

If I would have said no, there would have been nothing.

10. Let me do it my way
This is a lesson that  I have struggled with too as a boss. Letting your staff do things their way. I'm not suggesting that you let everyone run around willy nilly. 

There are dozens of ways to get from point a to point b. Some ways may be more direct, some more scenic, some with more lights, some on the interstate.

If a project has all the correct components, but I have done it differently than how my boss would have done it, is it wrong?

I have proofed gobs of letters that were great. Not how I would have written them, but they were still great. The grammar was in line, company standards met, but not how I would have said it. If you go to all the effort of hiring and training great people, let them do their job. 

I promise, as a boss you have enough crap on your desk to deal with.

What do you think? What are your rules for work?

Monday, July 9, 2012

100 Awesome Things - #87 Cleveland Chefs

Cleveland chefs Jonathon Sawyer and Michael Symon. Photo courtesy of Chef's Widow.
When you think of great food, you think of New York, Los Angeles and Cleveland? 

Yes, Cleveland.

The city of Cleveland may not have a winning sports franchise, but we have an amazing variety of rock star chefs, one of them Iron, I might add. Three Cleveland chefs, Jonathon Sawyer (owner of East 4th staple Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat), Michael Symon (Iron Chef, owner of B Spot, Lola, Lolita, general Food Network darling) and Rocco Whalen (Fahrenheit, Rosie and Rocco's, and the show Fat Chef) have joined to make going to a Browns game a little less gastronomically dicey. 

Each of the chefs will have two locations at Cleveland Browns Stadium for club and loge level dawg fans. The men will be hands on and involved to make a trip to the concession stand more than an over cooked soggy hot dog and heat lamp destroyed fries. 

Rocco Whalen is ready to cook for you
What makes this venture particularly awesome is these guys are Clevelanders making a difference in Cleveland. The new food stands very easily could have been chick-fil-a or dear God, something Bobby Flay inspired *shudders*. Instead, the Browns and Aramark looked at keeping it local.

I like that.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that these guys are awesome.  The chefs will also be handling the catering for special events at the Stadium and all I can say to that is I bet dried out banquet chicken will be a long distant memory.

The new stands will be in place by the end of the mouth for a concert at the Stadium, and I'm eager to see that they will impress.

Good luck and go Browns!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Play Like A Champion

I remember a time that winning meant something. It started with team sports as a kid with winners getting Dairy Queen and Pizza Hut and losers going home hungry, but it progressed to winners getting trophies and losers going home empty handed. 

And that is ok.

I may be showing my age here, but I was not a member of the "everyone gets a trophy so no one feels bad" generation. If you didn't win, you tried harder, you pushed your teammates to the brink to win,  or you were a loser. Plain and simple. You had heart and pushed to win or you failed and lost.

Being a winner was hard work. It required dedication, stamina and the desire to win. If you area winner, you are a champion- you are the very best, you have the attitude of a champion - win or lose.

At the University of Notre Dame, there is a no frills hand painted sign in the stairwell posted by Lou Holtz. It simple says, "Play Like A Champion Today." The players all hit the sign on their way to the field, promising themselves and their team that no matter what, today they are going to give their all. 

After living in Indiana for years, this motto was everywhere and it started to sink in. Maybe my black and white view of what a champion is was wrong. Maybe, just maybe a champion can lose. Maybe you can win a game and *not* be a champion.

A trophy or ring is not the sole sign of a champion. It may be a step in the right direction, but it is not the single determining factor. 

Take for example high school track runner Megan Vogel.  She was nearing the finish line of her race and competitor Arden McMath collapsed on the track in front of her. Vogel had a choice, run and finish the race, knowing that if her competitor had not fallen, she would have run, or so something different.

Vogel stopped and lifted McMath and carried her across the finish line.

Does that move make Vogel a champion?

The true worth of a champion is not based solely on the scoreboard. It is how the game is played - never taking a game off, never quitting.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Melting Pot - More Than Cheese

Wisconsin Cheese Trio, in other words, yum.
Some days being a blogger is a darn fine hobby. Because of my blog, I (along with several other bloggers) was invited by the good folks at The Melting Pot to give them a try.  I must say, I was impressed.

I had never been to a Melting Pot before, because I always thought it was some secret restaurant that only allowed couples and the fondue was server in mustard yellow or lime green containers. Crazy, I know, so I was very excited to try them out.

The Melting Pot pulled no punches by sitting us in a great room and the first course of a Wisconsin Cheese Trio, Spinach and Artichoke and Swiss cheese. The Swiss fondue was not as tasty as we would have liked (I ignored it completely) and they brought out a Fiesta Cheddar Cheese. The cheeses were accompanied by tortilla chips, granny smith apples, artisan breads and fresh veggies. If I could have, I would have injected the Fiesta Cheddar Cheese into my veins. It was *that* good. So if you had to pick one, that is it kids.

If you go, tell your server you want the flash and dazzle. They will go over everything with you and make recommendations along the way.  

The second course was a salad, which while tasty (I went with the California salad), it was salad and I would have rather had more cheese. I should point out that they offered us wine or beer pairings with each course. I went with the beer, and I must add, I ordered a Vanilla Porter by Breckenridge on my own and it was incredibly delicious. Not too heavy, a perfect addition to the meal.  

I'm not a foodie (although I love to watch the food network and *think* I know how to cook squash blossoms), so I go by what tastes good. 

Amazingly amazing main course.
And friends, the main course tasted good. They brought out a plate for two people to share that included shrimp (oh my), angus steak, lobster, bbq pork tenderloin and buffalo chicken. There were also bowls of fresh veggies and potatoes to drop in the pots of oil. The best part about this course was you couldn't ruin anything. Everyone had their own color coded fondue forks and we chatted as our selections cooked. This would be great for a girls night or any other occasion. I particularly enjoyed the steak, lobster and shrimp. Not a super fan of the chicken, but the shrimp made up for it. 

During our evening, I asked the manager what about single people that want to have a tasty meal. You can order smaller portions during happy hour (at happy hour prices) of cheese or chocolate. That made me happy. 

The final course was the chocolate course and while I'm not a huge chocolate fan, this certainly swayed me. There were three, yes, three chocolate options - the Ying Yang with white and dark chocolate, Snickers with milk chocolate and caramel and peanut butter and Cookies and Cream Marshmallow Dream which was dark chocolate with marshmallows, topped with cookie crumbs and flambeed at the table. I was a huge fan of the Snickers and all of the tasty things to dunk in it. Choices were strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, poundcake, graham cracker coated marshmallows, oreo coated marshmallows and rice krispie treats. If you try nothing else, go for the oreo coated marshmallows.

They have some fun upcoming events that you can check out here.
All in all, I was impressed. Our server was amazing and the food (with the exception of the Swiss fondue) was terrific. I would certainly go again, especially on another spa night. On Spa Night, Aveda brings in their students to give out massages and such. Sure they want to hawk their products, but I'm an Aveda fan, so it was well worth it. The Melting Pot was not what I thought, and that is a good thing.

The Melting Pot provided us with gift bags and a $25 gift certificate to the Melting Pot. I want to give my gift certificate away to a lucky Pierogi reader!

OMG! Cleveland Chick I'm hungry after reading this, how do I win?
  1. Mandatory first entry: Leave a comment telling me your fondue food or your favorite place to go with a group for dinner. It’s that easy!
  2. Follow @clevelandchick on Twitter. Please let me know if you do by commenting on this post!
  3. Follow @MeltingPotCleve on Twitter. Please let me know if you do by commenting on this post!
  4. Twitter users can get an extra entry by tweeting: "Mmm... I want to win the @meltingpotcleve #giveaway from @clevelandchick! http://www.happinessisahotpierogi.com". Please let me know each day you tweet this by commenting on this post!
You have until Friday, July 6th at 11:59PM EST to enter. Make sure to leave a separate entry for each one of these that you accomplish!

Disclosure: The Melting Pot provided me with the meal for free and gift certificate in hopes I would comment on it. My thoughts and opinions are my own, so I thank them for taking the risk.