Friday, February 27, 2015

Warm Up with Hotcakes: Pancake Breakfasts to Try

The bone-chilling weather may have you yearning to stay inside under the covers, but you won't regret leaving your home a little early in the morning to enjoy a plate of pancakes with friends, family and neighbors. Check out our list of flapjack fun below.

Photo courtesy of Burton-Middlefield Rotary 

Bissel Maple Farm
Chow down on a free pancake breakfast during the Maple Madness Tour. Known for their sweet maple syrup and dedicated staff, your taste buds are bound to be happy. Shuttle services of horse-drawn wagons also add to the scene of this maple farm. Free, March 7, 14, & 21, 10a.m.-5p.m., 3741 Higley Road, Rock Creek, 440-563-3263

Westwood Ruritan Club and Wooster Township Fire and Rescue
These two are teaming up to celebrate their 30th Annual Pancake Day. Dress comfortably because you get all the pancakes you can eat here. Each meal comes with sausage, apple sauce and a drink. If you want your pancakes to go, carryout is available. All proceeds go to the Wooster Township Fire Department. $5 advance, $6 at the door, March 7, 7 a.m.-7 p.m., 3205 Shreve Road, Wooster, 330-264-9786

Rotary Club of Burton-Middlefield
Feast on the pancake breakfast served with maple syrup and butter each Sunday in March. It's a must try since it was voted No. 1 pancake breakfast by the Sun News. Meal includes sausage patties, and your choice of orange juice, coffee or tea. Not enough food? Omelets are also an option.  Children under 3 free, Children 4-10 $5, Adults $8, pancakes breakfast with omelet $11, March 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29, 8 a.m-1:30 p.m., 14510 Main St., Burton, 440-476-8486

Maple Sugar Festival at Hale Farm Village
Pancakes? Check. Learning activities? Check. Arts and crafts? Check. The Maple Sugar Festival makes sure you leave with your stomach and mind full. Pancakes by Bob Evans will be served with opportunities to learn about where that sweet satisfactory syrup comes from. Tree tapping and maple sugar process will be demonstrated. Other mind-stimulating tasks including glassblowing, pottery and more activities will take place. Members $5, children 3-12 $10, adults $15, March 14, 15, 21, & 22, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., 2686 Oak Hill Road, Bath, 330-666-3711

Maple Sugaring Weekends at Farm Park
Learn how to make maple syrup in your own backyard at Lake Metro Parks Farm Park. After you watch how sap is collected, boiled and turned into syrup, don't forget to stop by J & J Cafe to partake in a pancake breakfast. Other events include hand-milking cows, making ice cream and getting up close and personal with horses, sheep, pigs and chickens. Admission $6, Children under 2 free, pancake breakfast, $7, Children under 11 $4, Feb. 28-March 22, 9 a.m.-5 p.m, 8800 Euclid-Chardon Road, Kirtland, 440-256-2122

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Soulful Band Bassel and The Supernaturals Address the Syrian Civil War in Hometown Show

Photo Credit: CB Lindsey
Five days before Bassel and the Supernaturals left on tour in 2012 to promote its EP Dreamer, frontman Bassel Almadani’s apartment complex burned down. Since moving to Chicago from Ohio with his band, Almadani has encountered setbacks including theft and a fainting spell that led to broken teeth and broken noise. Almadani also struggles with the reality that his family is living inside the conflict in Syria. But Almadani isn't defeated. He uses those trials to inform his soul-infused, indie-funk band that he describes as “Stevie Wonder meets Steely Dan meets Asia.”

Bassel and the Supernaturals will be returning to Northeast Ohio to headline a show at the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern at 8 p.m. Feb. 26. A Kent native and his band are working on a new record that draws from Almadani's experiences as a Syrian-American and connections to his cousins, aunts and uncles that are in the throes of conflict in Syria. To Almadani, music is a way to get the message out and help further humanitarian efforts in Syria. “We’ll donate a percentage of our merchandise, but it really goes above and beyond that, whatever we can afford to send over for charity purposes we do,” says Almadani, who also has hosted workshops and seminars to raise awareness about the issue. We talk to him about coming home, how being Syrian-American has shaped his music and how he turns his struggles into art.

CM: What does it mean to return to Northeast Ohio to headline a show?
BA: My musical roots tie back to my days in Kent. I used to travel every weekend to see some of my favorite bands, and I have some very vivid memories of shows at those local venues. It kind of puts things in perspective when you get the opportunity. We’ve been increasing momentum for a really long time. When we get a show booked, you don’t think too much of it until you put that in perspective of how I viewed that venue as a kid, and the bands I looked up to. Once you take it in, you realize that it’s really neat. It’s really cool that it’s coming at a time when Cleveland is really getting back on the map.

CM: How has your connection to Syria influenced your music?
BA: There’s a lot of it coming into our next album. It’s taking me a bit of time. I didn’t want to rush the creative process when approaching this particular subject. The crisis in Syria is a very sensitive subject. People are affected by what’s going on, and I’ve taken a lot of time to figure out how I personally connect with this. As a soul musician, you can see right through it if it’s not genuine. I experience Syria through the lens of my family, the news article I read and the pain that I feel every single day. It’s constant anxiety because of my role here. I must find a way to connect back to that experience and make a difference. There are a lot of examples of that going into the new record. I’m really excited about getting that material out the door.

CM: Is there a specific song on your upcoming album that stems from your personal setbacks?
BA: There’s a song on there that hits the subject real hard. The song "Lost" relates to two stories. It’s about my cousin being murdered in Syria last year; she was a victim of crossfire, as well as a story about my guitar being stolen during a crazy rainstorm at a festival in Painesville. The song is really about that emotion of loss. Anybody can really personalize to them about something that they lost as well.

Downtown Heinen's Opens in Grand Style

Mobs of shoppers crammed every nook, aisle and cranny of the new Heinen's downtown for its grand opening yesterday, making the space feel like a cross between a trendy gallery exhibit and a looting-in-progress.

Had the market, located on Euclid Avenue and East Ninth Street, not been prepared, shelves might have been emptied in the first few hours of business. But with a staff almost numbering the shoppers — you could barely take two steps without bumping into another friendly sales associate eager to escort you to the organics aisle, customer service counter or wine bar — row after row of immaculate products stood ready for the taking. Basically, this location is what grocery stores look like in heaven. Think we jest? Look up.

Tiffany-style glass adorns the 60-foot dome overhead. What's more, the second-floor space contains the kind of grocery shopping that should actually keep young downtown residents coming back again and again: Rows upon rows of wines and beers, complete with a draft bar and tasting stations sprinkled throughout. 

Heinen's pulled out all the stops for its first day in business. Local chefs Zack Bruell and Dante Boccuzzi were both on hand to promote their product lines. Bruell offered tastes of his olive oil in a fresh carrot and cilantro salad, while Dante Boccuzzi dished out steaming bowls of pasta coated in his new tomato and truffle cream sauces.

Housed in the 1906 Cleveland Trust Rotunda Building, this new retail spot embodies positive progress in Cleveland. Not only does it bring fresh food (as well as prepared menu items and beer and wine by the glass) into the city center, it's dusting off extravagant turn-of-the-century architecture, all while keeping control in the hands of Cleveland's oldest family-owned grocers. Here's to past and future, Heinen's. You actually make me want to go grocery shopping.

Heinen's Downtown Cleveland, 900 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-302-3020,; Mon-Sat 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The 'Spirit of Goodyear' Gondola Touches Down at Western Reserve Historical Society

The gondola's final resting place is in the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum.
This gondola doesn't have a bucket list, but it probably flew over a few of the items on yours. In its 31 years in flight with three different blimps, the gondola soared over three Super Bowls, three World Series games and the Daytona 500.

Today, the gondola touched down for the last time at the Western Reserve Historical Society's Crawford Auto Aviation Museum thanks to a donation from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. The 23-foot, 3,400-pound vessel joined the Setting the World in Motion exhibit in an unveiling event Wednesday afternoon.

While it rests safely near the Euclid Beach Carousel now, the gondola was most recently in flight with the Guinness World Record-winning Spirit of Goodyear airship. That blimp didn't give up its standout career without a fight. Before the gondola's unveiling, Spirit of Goodyear pilot Jerry Hissem gave a dramatic retelling of its last landing in Pompano Beach, Florida. He said it took three tries.

"I don't know if I've done three go-arounds in my whole career," he said. "I've done one or two but not three."

The crew also struggled to wrangle the blimp into the hanger, as if it was reluctant to go, proving to Hissem that the airship has a soul.

Here are some of his favorite sights from 1,500 feet in the air.

Boston Pops. "To fly over and see the fireworks at night over the Charles River up in Boston is very memorable. CBS usually films the Boston Pops, and they have a TV show that we got to go out there for."

Manhattan Skyline. "In general, just flying in Manhattan up and down the Hudson River, that's memorable. Just to see Central Park at night. You see the whole Manhattan island, and Central Park is just this black square with no light."

Kentucky Derby. "There were 14 or 15 aircrafts over Churchill Downs, such a little spot. They separated us with altitudes. So they had the banner towers and airplanes at one altitude, helicopters at another altitude, and blimps would be the highest."

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Incredible Lou: Cleveland Comic Con Brings The Hulk to Town

Maybe you wouldn't like him when he's angry, but who's crazy enough to upset Lou Ferrigno? The former bodybuilding champion and, of course, the no-CGI-necessary Incredible Hulk of the '70s TV show, has retained his massive, intimidating frame. With a smile as giant as his biceps and a concise quip for every question, Ferrigno, who is appearing at the inaugural Wizard World Cleveland Comic Con this weekend, evokes a real-life superhero. From Feb.20 to 22 at the Cleveland Convention Center, you will get your own chance to meet Ferrigno, along with dozens of other celebrities, including fan favorites William Shatner and Bruce Campbell. The Cleveland media got to see what he was about yesterday, as he stopped by Flannery's Pub for a special press event. Here's what he had to say.

Q: Looking at the weather outside, it's minus ten degrees and snowing. Why do you come out to a place like this for a comic con?

A: Tonight the cold weather is bringing the beast out of everyone, but inside it will be warmer. Ohio is my second home. I lived in Columbus in 1973-74. And Ohio has been a huge fan of my series, and also, I love the people in Ohio. I wanted to come because I know it means a lot to the people. And it means a lot to me.

Q: What are your thoughts on seeing the Hulk, who was so popular when you played him, re-emerge as everyone's favorite big green monster? 

A: The legacy is almost 40 years. At the time [The Incredible Hulk] came out, it was the first successful franchise. And now, when The Avengers came out, the Hulk was the star of the film and he saved the day. He's more popular than ever. I'm excited because they have a library of my voice and used it in The Avengers. It's nice to see it on the big screen, knowing that it's still connected with me as the Hulk.

Q: So they use what you've already said for the films. If you could record one new line for Avengers: Age of Ultron, what would it be?

A: "I love you, Betty."

Q: What's your favorite part about being a guest at comic conventions?

A: The instant gratification I get. The fans, the excitement. They take pictures of me  and take them home, knowing they saw the biggest superhero in person, not just the costume but because the way I'm built.

Q: You got a chance to do the voice of lead character Finn's hero on the popular animated show Adventure Time. What was that like?

A: It's great because a lot of the kids come up with the Adventure Time comic, and they tell their parents I played Billy. Sometimes I forget how popular I've become with the Adventure Time series. It's a great story and has a very positive message for children.

Q: This is the first major comic con in Cleveland, which has such a rich history, from Superman's creation to the Marvel movies filmed here. Have you seen a different excitement level here than in other cities?

A: Yeah, because this town has a superhero power. I know you have the blue-collar workers who love superheroes and that connection. And they are very family-oriented. They are excited about the comic con because it's a place they could escape and to be part of the fantasy.

Q: We have to ask you this, because we are in Superman's hometown. Who would win in a fight: Hulk or Superman?

 A: It'd be a close fight, but I'd have to say the Hulk, because I'm the Hulk. And I think if the Hulk would get him in a bear hug, he'd crush him. Superman's got the costume, but the Hulk has the real muscles. The Hulk would be victorious!

3 to Know: Legacies of the Gay Games

Panel from left to right: David C. Barnett, ideastream senior reporter and producer; John Grafton, board member, Gay Community Endowment Fund of the Akron Community Foundation; Phyllis Harris, Thomas Nobbe and Michelle Tomallo

As snow swirled outside and below zero temperatures enveloped the town, the City Club of Cleveland bell rang once again. Just more than six months after the closing ceremonies of Gay Games 9, a panel met Feb. 19 to discuss the lessons and legacies of the Gay Games. For our August 2014 cover story, we did the same, examining the impact and difficulties of the LGBT community on Cleveland, centered around the games. Economically, the Gay Games were estimated to have had a $52.1 million impact. Nearly 75 percent of games attendees came from outside of Cleveland.

Safety was a top priority, said Phyllis Harris, executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. Her organization conducted 40 trainings at the Cleveland Police Department academy over 40 weeks before the games. Harris led some of the classes herself, teaching 40-50 police officers at a time. "It was scary and it was life changing," she said. "In a way I think it set the tone for much of the training that continued to happen throughout the year."

The community center is in the process of purchasing a new headquarters building with an anonymous $1.8 million donation, announced during the games. The center has been located in a Gordon Square storefront since 1999. The network established during the games was instrumental to their move, said Harris. "People listen if I call now," she said. "They want to collaborate now, they had a good experience."

Here's three things you need to know from the discussion:

1) The 2014 Gay Games were the most profitable in the history of the organization, finishing with a surplus of $150,000. "From the outset of planning the games, our board and staff were really determined to see that these games finished in the black," said 2014 Gay Games executive director Thomas Nobbe.

2) The $150,000 surplus will be donated, with 80 percent going to form a new Gay Games legacy fund at the Cleveland Foundation, and 20 percent to the Gay Community Endowment Fund of the Akron Community Foundation.

3) Though the Gay Games were certainly a symbol of progress, both the panel and attendees were quick to emphasize that Ohio does not provide legal protections for same-sex couples. "We had all this grand success and there was all this celebration. It literally was palpable, all the energy, vibrancy and love," said Michelle Tomallo, president of the board of directors of Plexus, the LGBT chamber of commerce. "All of that happened in the context of a state where we don't have any protections for the exact people that we're celebrating."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

R.A.K.E.: Spreading Love with Comedian Ricky Smith

Just like any day, the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland volunteers were quietly working at their desk when comedian Ricky Smith came in carrying two bright pink boxes of treats. The volunteers paused to place him. Maybe he's with the Harlem Globetrotters? No, Smith says, but he offers another option: Fifty Shades of Grey.

"You're with Fifty Shades of Grey? Who were you?" asks the volunteer, playing along.

"I'm with Fifty Shades of Black, actually," Smith responds. "More like Fifty Shades of Brown to be exact. ... Today is Random Act of Kindness Everywhere Day, and I am here to strip."

He was actually there to deliver Colossal Cupcakes to the volunteer simply as an appreciation for their work. He also dropped off a full box of books for the patients and their families that stay at the house at low cost. And in case you didn't catch it, his comedy is part of his gift. 

Today is Ricky Smith's day. Mayor Frank Jackson proclaimed Feb. 17 to be "Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere" Day, also known as R.A.K.E., a growing movement started by Smith to help others. Every hour today, Smith is doing an act of kindness to put a smile on a stranger's face.

This hometown stop also marks the end of his tour of doing acts of kindness in 30 cities for 30 days. During his tour, he did acts of love from handing out socks, hats and gifts to people on the street in Washington, D.C., to singing songs with patients at the Children's Health Care Hospital in Atlanta. He has put on a senior prom at a retirement home in Las Vegas where seniors got to dress up, wear corsage, had a DJ and punch. He also dressed up as Spongebob Squarepants and wandered through downtown Nashville and gave high-fives to people. There, they met student football players trying to raise money and so he helped them raise quadruple the money they already had. 

Smith tells us in his own words how R.A.K.E. got started, why he does it and what spreading kindness means to him.

There was a woman a year ago in Lakewood I bought coffee for and broke down and cried because her mom and dad had died the day before, so everybody needs some type of kindness if you will.

I didn't really think it would take off this big, it started off me buying pizzas and posting it on Instagram and Twitter and people liking it and doing the same thing.

The biggest misconception is that once you help somebody ... when you give a homeless a guy a blanket, hat or shirt, you don't cut it off; you still think about that person.

I have a great ability to make people laugh and make people smile.

People tell you're a great person, but you sit there thinking I didn't do anything I need to do more.

I started R.A.K.E not to help people, but I started to motivate and inspire people to help other people.

Hear stories from the road on the #RAKE show on