On Saturday, December 12 we left a sweltering summer in Sydney and jumped straight into a white Christmas in Cleveland, Ohio. Previous visits to Mickey's hometown were dominated by family gatherings and left little time for sight-seeing. Likewise, we spent a lot of time with my in-laws this Christmas as well, but Mickey made an extraordinary effort to show me some of Ohio's tourist gems.
We spent a chilly afternoon driving through Amish country, reminding ourselves how much chillier it would feel in a horse-drawn buggy without heating. We stopped at an Amish restaurant and toured Heini's cheese factory which gets its raw material from hand-milked cows on Amish farms. Heini's allows visitors to taste over 50 different cheeses, including a clever green variety labeled 'Moon cheese.'
Mickey and I also explored the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and learned why Cleveland Rocks. Allow yourself an entire day there to get your $22 worth. We started watching 15 minutes of a U2 in 3D movie not realizing that it actually went on for an hour and a half! Don't get stuck watching all the videos because you'll want to see exhibits, too (except Jim Morrison's boy scout shirt, give that a miss. What's the point?)
Mickey's cousin Gagan treated us to a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA game. We watched Lebron, Shaq and the others eventually defeat the Milwaukee Bucks in a lively game.
Other highlights include excursions to Toledo to meet up with Mickey's college roommate, Mike, and to Pittsburg to see my best friend Allison and her munchkins at the Pittsburg Children's Museum. This is the best museum for young kids I've ever seen; every exhibit was interactive. Dacia and Timmy and I had a blast.
Indeed, playing with babies was the major theme of our trip. Our niece Priya (three years old) and twin nephews Isaac and Isaiah (18 months old) made noisy messes, but they were joyous, noisy messes and I learned to smile at the chaos. The story we keep retelling about the boys is that when we made the mistake of mentioning their Baby Einstein video out loud, they immediately understood what we were talking about and began working in concert to make watching the video a reality. One opened the DVD player and actually put the correct DVD inside while his brother handed us the remote and hopped up on the couch to get in prime Baby Einstein watching position. I spent much more time with Priya, the sweet little princess who demands less attention than her brothers now that she's a big three year old. I listened to stories about her friend Ariel for an entire week before learning that she was imaginary. My sister-in-law Bava explained that Ariel assists Priya with adjustments such as preschool, has every toy that they don't yet own and even works on the computer in the evenings for Aflac, coincidentally, the insurance company that also employs Priya's dad, Shaun.
Amish country and an NBA game in Cleveland, could it get more American? Yes, actually. We did our part to assist the struggling US economy and bought lots of stuff at one half or even one third the cost of these same items in Sydney. We were thrilled to take advantage of 50% off everything Christmas sales, but sad that it meant that others were a lot less fortunate this year.
I have so many warm memories that I'm forgetting that we nearly froze in Ohio. Toward the end of our trip we got a couple inches of snow, enough to look pretty, but not enough to prevent travel to our next Christmas destination, California with my family.