Mission unplug, unwind, refresh & recharge

Did you know 40% of Americans don’t use their vacation days (aka PTO=Paid Time Off)? I was aware PTO went to waste in most organizations, but I had no idea the statistic was so staggering until The NOW (News Channel 5) visited my workplace to highlight our sabbatical program. Hyland’s sabbatical program is pretty spectacular: after 8 years, employees are encouraged to take 4 weeks off, paid, with no obligation or expectation to work. Five years for me to go!

I digress. Dean and I have an upcoming 8-day vacation planned to go down to Florida to visit his parents and get some QT in with the beach, ocean and fishing rods. When are we going you ask, internet robbers? I don’t think so! :)

Pompano, January 2013

Pompano, January 2013

I am using 7 days of PTO for this trip. Historically, when I take a long weekend or a few days of PTO, I check my work phone multiple times throughout the day. It’s not something that bothers me. Part of my job requires me to always be ‘on’ to a certain degree. I am going to try my best to leave that habit in the 440 for this upcoming trip. I earned that PTO after all, right? Editors note: My honeymoon doesn’t count for this type of behavior. I think I even turned that extra iPhone off.

Younger toes in Pompano, 2009.

Younger toes in Pompano, 2009.

And let’s be honest, I’m not saving lives. Also, my teammates are baller and more than willing to take on extra responsibility…while I drink Corona Lights on the beach with a book in hand…

This is also going to be a test for my personal self. Not checking into work will feel nice for a week, but putting my phone down to enjoy the present may be tough. What’s going on in the Twitterverse? Who just snapchatted me? How many likes did Dean’s Instagram get (serious concerns in our household)?

Enjoying drinks in South Beach in 2010

Enjoying drinks in South Beach in 2010

So, as I prepare to semi-detach (let’s be honest, there will be some personal emailing, instagramming and snapchatting on the trip), I wonder if I’m alone in this addiction to my mobile device and email. When you take time off, do you turn it all off or are you still connected to your responsibilities and devices?

All About the Bag Benefit {+ giveaway!}

Did you know 150,000 Clevelanders live in poverty? That’s a staggering number. As I sit here writing this blog, after eating 3 wholesome meals today (and every day for that matter), looking at my hubby and dog in the comfort of our heated home, it’s a reminder I tend to take these things for granted all too often.

Through my career at Hyland, creator of OnBase, I am continuously encouraged to give back to our local community. I often participate in our programs like Volunteer Time Off, Adopt-A-Family and our annual Summer of Service. However, there is always more we can do.

Enter the All About the Bag fashion event benefiting the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland.

All About the Bag is a fashionable evening full of ‘fancy frocks, fun and fundraising!’

A collage from a previous All About the Bag. Hi Elcin! Photo courtesy of  The Hunger Network.

A collage from a previous All About the Bang. Hi Elcin! Photo courtesy of The Hunger Network.

The mission of the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland is to reduce hunger by providing food and linkages to other vital services for hungry people, especially children and families, and by actively participating in a coordinated community response to people in need.

Now that’s an event and a mission I can get behind. And let’s be honest, I love a fun night out.

The details:

WHEN: Thursday, February 25, 2016 from 6-10PM

WHERE: Executive Caterers of Landerhaven

TICKETS: Premier Package: $150.00; General Admission: $75.00. Purchase here. {The event sold out in 2015!}

If you haven’t guessed by now, I have two tickets to giveaway! You can enter two ways:

1. Post a comment on this blog sharing one way you give back to the community. (note: only one comment per person).

2. Tweet the following: I want to win tickets to All About the Bag benefiting the @HungerNetworkGC from @dawgpndgirl: http://wp.me/p1euS9-Do #ThisIsCLE (note: you can tweet once per day but are required to comment on this post after each tweet!)

You can enter now until Friday, January, 22, 2016.

I’m running this giveaway over a month from the event because we are all busy people. My calendar, like yours I’m sure, fills up very quickly.

Good luck and my mom and I hope to see you there!

Alana Edie 2

Disclosure: I am friends with members from the Hunger Network and their event board. I was asked to promote the event in exchange for two tickets to attend the event and two tickets to giveaway to the event. All opinions are mine.

Out with 2015, in with 2016!

Happy 2016! Not surprising, 2015 went out with a crazy amount of get togethers, happy hours, parties, celebrations and overall holiday debauchery. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

We tried to keep the Christmas gift-giving minimal this year, but Dean always finds a way to spoil me. This year the spoiling included (but was not limited to) 4 bottles of lotion from Victoria’s Secret (who doesn’t need that much lotion!?). Last year, I think I received 6 VS lip glosses (maybe Dean just likes wandering around this particular store).

3 of 6 parties!

3 of 6 parties!

xmas 2015 cabela

One particular gift stole the show this holiday season among the Coticchias. Dean’s creativity and love for garage projects led to brainstorming gifts for our niece Grace and the chalkboard was born!

chalkboard xms

This magnetic chalkboard only took Dean about 2 weeks to create. Sometimes I think he needs to open an esty shop. After hanging the masterpiece, we all enjoyed some classic doodling. I have to admit, the chalkboard is an amazing addition to the new playroom!

grace chalkboard

That may or may not be an ‘elephant’ I attempted to draw. Clearly, I’m not an artist and the wine hurt, not helped my cause.

Following Christmas week, I was a little over all the hectic partying which led to a lower key New Year’s Week. Netflix was reactivated and Making a Murderer was watched in about two and a half days! So. Many. Questions.

My brother's snap creation

My brother’s snap creation

You can sleep better tonight know that Cabela’s little scar, which we have absolutely no idea how she got, is finally beginning to heal. Her modeling career is sadly over though.

Cheers to a 2016 ful of love and laughter, friends!

PS: Look for a fun giveaway on the blog in the next week or two!

Happy Thanksgiving week!

Happy Thanksgiving week, friends! This is one of my most beloved weeks of the year and I’m looking forward to spending it with Dean, our family (we’ll miss his parents who are luckily in Florida!) and friends. Hopefully we can sneak in a few glasses of wine with Dave and Julie, too 😉

2013 Thanksgiving at The Lincolnshire Estates

2013 Thanksgiving at The Lincolnshire Estates

Thanksgiving 2014 at our new pad!

2014 Thanksgiving at our new pad

Dean and I are off the hook this year for Turkey Day as my ‘rents are going to host our small Munro party :)

My little bro’s birthday is also this Friday and we’ve decided to torture ourselves celebrate at the Ravens/Browns Monday Night Football game (at least we have club seats and won’t be listening to ESPN tear the Browns apart – I am thankful for that!).

Besties.

Besties.

My life has been incredibly busy these past few months between weddings, birthday parties, engagement parties, work travel (Vegas and Europe!), clam bakes and football parties. I’m not complaining!

My lifeline!

My lifeline!

Happy First Birthday Marge! You are so loved by all your aunties!

A photo posted by Alana Coticchia (@dawgpndgirl) on

Meta.

Meta.

Social media party.

Social media party.

Paris with Christie and her awesome photog hubby :)

Paris with Christie and her awesome photog hubby :) #PrayForParis.

So much excitement that I’m absolutely grateful for. I hope to slightly disconnect (ha) over the next 6 days and I hope you can, too! Yes, I have a 6-day weekend.

HAPPY TURKEY WEEK!

PS: I haven’t been around the blog a ton lately, but I have been active on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat so add dawgpndgirl if you want to follow along with my adventures!

I'm in #Paris!! #ParisThirdWheel

A photo posted by Alana Coticchia (@dawgpndgirl) on

UnCommonGoods: Unique gifts and fun shopping

Everyone has that person in their life that is impossible to shop for, right? Whether they are nit-picky or simply don’t need anything, each holiday or special occasion can bring extra stress trying to buy for that buddy or family member. Enter: UnCommonGoods.com.

Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, UncommonGoods is a privately-owned retailer that endeavors to feature unique designs and crafted gifts created in harmony with the environment and without harm to animals or people.

About six months ago, Dean and I found an awesome terrarium-like bowl on a popular home store’s website. We ordered the piece and we’re disappointed it was back-ordered over 6 months. We canceled our purchase and scoured the internet for something similar. We landed on the UnCommonGoods website and debated purchasing the ‘molten sculptural bowl.’

molten bowl

Since Dean really wanted to put a ‘fighter fish’ in the bowl, we weren’t sure if this was big enough. So, when UnCommonGoods recently reached out to me to help promote their website, I decided we needed to have the molten sculptural bowl!

molten bowl 1

We’re figuring out if Dean’s going to get a new pet for the bowl or I’ll create a little indoor succulent terrarium (after all, I have a couple from my friend Missy’s wedding!). Either way, I love our one-of-a-kind bowl that will surely be a conversation piece in our new home.

molten bowl 2

So, are you looking for the perfect gift for your wife, girlfriend, mom or other special person in your life? Take a look at UnCommonGoods this holiday season! I know I will be.

Disclosure: I was gifted the molten sculptural bowl in exchange for this blog post. As always, all opinions are mine!

#MyCLEPhoto: Be part of Hilton’s art installation!

Have you heard the Republican National Convention is coming to Cleveland in 2016? Well, if you haven’t, we can’t be friends :) It’s impossible to ignore the excitement buzzing downtown as CLE preps for the massive event. One of the largest projects taking place right now is the new Hilton, slated to open in June 2016. I’ve spent many weekends on Lake Erie this summer and the crane at the Hilton towers over everything downtown.

CLE from Lake Erie

The Hilton needs our help, Clevelanders! They want your Cleveland photos for their innovative art installation. How fun would it be to see photos you snapped incorporated into pieces of art at Cleveland’s newest hotel? All you need to do is to upload photos using the #MyCLEPhoto hashtag – make sure your accounts are public to be included!

Pano Rock Hall

I’ve gone back through my (public) Instagram account and added the #MyCLEPhoto hashtag to some of my favorite photos…it’s that simple!

Browns Win Sept 20

If sharing photos on your personal social networks isn’t your thing, you can fill out this form and upload your images while also being entered to win a free weekend stay at the Hilton.

Browns Sunday Sept 27

So help the Hilton show off some local flair and upload today!

Disclosure: I was asked to help promote the #MyCLEPhoto initiative. As always, opinions are mine. #Ad.

Taste of the Browns: Giveaway

It’s almost time for the Taste of the Browns! There’s no secret this is my favorite charitable event of the year. And it involves two Cleveland organizations I love: The Cleveland Browns (duh) and The Cleveland Foodbank. My love for the Browns? I wear it on my shoulder. My respect for the Cleveland Foodbank? It’s skyrocketed since I began working at Hyland – thanks to Volunteering Time Off that I’ve spent in their warehouse.

Taste_Browns_PMS_UPDATE

This quote sums up how utterly important The Cleveland Foodbank is to our local community:

“With more than 45 million meals delivered to more than 800 local food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs just last year, the need for hunger relief services continues to rise as people are still struggling to make end meet,” Kristin Warzocha, president & CEO of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Taste of the Browns 2014

Taste of the Browns 2014

Powerful, considering more than 750,000 meals were raised at last year’s Taste of the Browns. Unfortunately for me, I was traveling for work and couldn’t attend last year. However, Dean and his Browns-loving brother, Dave, represented! They were kind enough to share with me how much fun they had…


Now you obviously want to attend the 17th Annual Taste of the Browns on Monday September 21, right? Well, you can purchase your tickets here, or you can enter to win two General Admission tickets by:

1. Post a comment telling me what purveyor you’d be most excited to try.

2. Tweet the following: I want to win #TasteOfTheBrowns tickets from @dawgpndgirl to benefit the @CLEFoodBank: http://bit.ly/1JCmr4W (You can enter once per day but must leave a separate comment each time letting me know you did so in order to count!)

3. Share this post on your Facebook page (Leave a separate comment letting me know you did so)

You can enter until midnight on September 10, 2015. The winner will be randomly selected and notified on Friday, September 11, 2015.

Disclosure: I was offered two General Admission tickets to the Taste of the Browns in exchange for hosting this giveaway. Opinions are mine.

GO BROWNS!

BLT Avocado Cups of Heaven

As each summer winds down, it’s always all about the tomatoes in our house. Salsa, tomato/basil/mozzy, tomato with zucchini, heirloom bruschetta, the list goes on. Unfortunately, this year we didn’t start our own garden since we ran into a few hiccups in the backyard. Thankfully, we had Door to Door Organics to take care of us!

All summer, I’ve included many varieties of local and fresh tomatoes in my weekly Bitty Mixed Box. And most recently, we’ve been noshing on the cherry tomatoes like they’re candy.

BLT bacon cups in the making

Oh and avocados…avocados all the time. We’ve also fallen in love with the Smoking Goose Applewood Smoked Bacon thanks to DtD Organics. Sundays got a lot better when we discovered this delicious gem…BLTs are a weekend menu regular around here.

BLT bacon cups1

The fresh tomatoes and salty, yet slightly sweet bacon inspired me to whip up some BLT avocado bites of bliss. I was looking for an appetizer that was hearty enough to translate into a meal…if one loves bacon as much as we do.

BLT bacon cups

A chef I am not, however, I know how to mix up some fresh ingredients for a flavorful meal, snack or appetizer. So if you’re looking for a new way to savor the last dog days of summer, I invite you to try this recipe:

BACON BACON BCAON

BLT Avocado Cups of Heaven

Ingredients:

1 Package: Smoking Goose Applewood Smoked Bacon
1/2 Pint: Organic Cherry Tomatoes
1/2: Organic Avocado
4 Leaves: Organic Red Leaf Lettuce (or your favorite type of lettuce)
4-5 Tablespoons: Annie’s Organic Caesar Dressing
1/2 Bunch: Organic Basil
8-12: Homemade or Store Bought Croutons
Salt & Pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Create cups out of the bacon slices by placing them in muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes (or until crispy and easily slides out of the tin). While the bacon is cooking, chop the tomatoes and basil – mix in a small bowl. Dice the avocado and add to the mixture. Sprinkle with salt & pepper (not too much salt since the bacon is full of sodium). Once the bacon cups are ready to slide of the muffin tin, line them up and get your assembly line ready! Add a small piece of lettuce to the cup followed by a spoonful of the tomato mixture. Once the cups are full of the tomato mixture, place one crouton on top of each cup. Drizzle or spoon your desired amount of Caesar dressing on top of the crouton. Enjoy!

Chef’s Cook’s note: Mine didn’t turn out super beautiful but they tasted SUPER DELISH!

BLT Bacon Cup in a cup

Enjoy all the bacon and all the tomatoes summer has left to offer!

Disclosure: I was offered to blog for Door to Door Organics Ohio in exchange for free groceries this summer. All opinions are mine (forever and always).

A whirlwind weekend, I won’t soon forget

This past weekend was one of those weekends that flies by in a flash, but so many forever memories were made. My family is my everything and this weekend was full of my friends that are a large part of my family. The pictures paint a better picture of that sentiment than I can with words.

It all began Thursday night when we attempted to have a low-key girls night in to catch up and prep for Saturday night’s bachelorette party. When Alissa is in town, low-key somehow always flies out the window. We just love seeing her so much everyone gets a little too excited! Lots of wine was consumed (after the beautiful baby left) and hilarious memories were made.

Marge and the girls!

Marge and the girls! And lots of denim.

While I wrapped up some last minute errands Friday, the evening not-so-surprisingly turned into a milder repeat of Thursday night. When my girls are in town, we make the most of it and Ali had just arrived! As assumed, Saturday morning crept up on me and thankfully, I had the house prepped for the party that was about to kick off to celebrate #MissysLastFling before the ring!!!

The calm group

The calm group

After some bachelorette festivities, the gals loosened up a bit and next thing I knew, we we’re busting out the selfie stick. I think the Moscow Mules encouraged us:

missys bach group

Following dinner and drinks on our patio, we piled into a tour bus equipped with a master bedroom, bathroom, shower and stainless steel refrigerator! And by the push of a button, our driver could extend the ‘living room’ area 4 feet on each side as we were parked! We know how to arrive in style.

Drink, drank, drunk!

Drink, drank, drunk.

Most of Missy’s bachelorette party pics will never see the light of the Internet, as any good bachelorette party-goers should know. We enjoyed bottle service and Sandstorm at Liquid and eventually made our way over to Shooters. So much hilarity took place, mostly from the people watching we did. But I have to say, The Flats are coming back!

Once Sunday rolled around, one would normally nurse their wounds and eat lots of pizza. That wasn’t in the cards since Alissa and her new man we’re staying with us for another day. Off to the marina it was! We couldn’t let Matt go back to Charleston without experiencing one of Dean, Alissa and I’s favorite Cleveland weekend activities…it would have been quite rude.

sunday funday august

In true marina style, we ran into Lori and Tabs who made Sunday a more fun day. After a few hours at Wagar Beach, the South Carolinian’s went to see her fam, and we went back out for a sunset cruise. What a way to end a fabulously-packed yet wonderful weekend celebrating friends and the bride-to-be!

Lake Erie, I love you!

Lake Erie, I love you!

As much as I HATE to see summer go, I am ready for Browns season, tailgating, Missy & Kalman’s wedding…and maybe, just maybe, some down time.

Thanks to Mike for helping hook us up for #MissysLastFling!

Backyard renovations: An update

As it goes for most homeowners, what was supposed to be a small upgrade has turned into a many mega projects at our new place. Back in May, I blogged about the beginning of our backyard renovations and on May 12th, I would have guessed on July 22, our backyard entertaining space would be upgraded and complete! But guess what? Not even close.

This is what the back of our house looked like in the beginning of June:

backyard before

When our landscaper began the project of installing installing a drain and grating the ‘nook’ above, he noticed some shoddy craftsmanship. Enter my dad, aka, the guy who gets sh!t done.

greg and the deckOur entire deck had to be torn off! Part of the siding had to be removed! Dean and my dad had to remove a crawl space window that was installed BACKWARDS and replace! They also had to repair and waterproof the back of the house because a huge rain storm was heading our way and the next thing to get ruined by the crappy carpentry they discovered? Our beautiful hardwood floors and walls INSIDE the home! Oy vey.

back of house

The back of the house still looks like this; mostly because we involved our insurance company and that’s never a quick, nor fun, experience.

We may not be thrilled at the lack of outdoor space to enjoy during our first summer at the house, however, this was a major blessing in disguise. All the rain that we’ve had this summer had zero to do with this fiasco. Yet, if we let the deck and siding remain as it was, the inside of the house would have eventually been damaged.

The timing of this hiccup was less than stellar. Three days later, Cleveland could have been mistaken for Seattle. After 12+ hours of incessant rain, we noticed two roof leaks and EIGHT inches of water in our crawl space.

bad weekend in the village

Total nightmare. It was one of those weeks that made us wonder if he made a mistake buying this house! We stepped off that slippery and depressing slope and thankfully could laugh through a lot of this. What would I do without my life-saving Dad, husband and ‘godfather’ Jimmy? I joked to a friend that I would call 911. Seriously.

The roof leaks ended up being very small issues and the lake of water under our house was taken care of by the superheroes listed above.

All the bad led to one glorious upgrade: our new outdoor paver living space! When we eventually build a deck and clean up the backyard, this space will be amazing for everyday hanging out and entertaining:

Pavers in backyardIf you need me for the rest of the summer, I’ll be at the marina. :)