Delicious and Healthy Kale Salad

May 26, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Blog  |  No Comments


  • 2 tablespoons dried cherries or currants *
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar *
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar *
  • 2 tablespoons honey *
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil *
  • 2 bunches Tuscan kale (about 1 pound) washed, with stems removed, leaves roughly torn into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted *
  • Parmesan cheese shavings *
  • Lemon

*When making this salad, especially the dressing, I tend to eyeball the amounts instead of actually measuring them out. I find that it always comes out slightly different and I always make it to taste, but the amounts above are a good starting point. I am also big into toppings, so I tend to add more of the almonds, cherries and parm.


  1. Place the kale into a large bowl
  2. Whisk together all of the wet ingredients in small bowl
  3. Add the almonds and cherries (or currants) into the kale bowl
  4. Pour the dressing over the kale and mix thoroughly. Let marinate at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  5. Before serving, mix in the parmesan cheese and squeeze the juice from about half or so of a lemon (again to your taste and liking)


My Breakfast With Harvey

May 19, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Big Fun, Blog, Newsletter  |  No Comments

30 years ago, I enjoyed watching a film directed by one of my favorites, Lois Malle, entitled—My Dinner With Andre. This brilliant film dealt with the true or maybe not so true life of  2 characters- Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn over a meal at a restaurant. One never knew if they were actually acting or telling their true life stories. Wallace Shawn went on to star in another great film—The Princess Bride with another Andre …. Andre the Giant.

A few years ago, I was most fortunate to have what I call—”My Breakfast With Harvey.” You see, Harvey Pekar called one day and said that he wanted to write a graphic novel about me. I was obviously floored and I immediately agreed to meet Harvey, whose work I’d admired for years, for Breakfast at Tiffany’s …. I mean Tommy’s (a real favorite of Harvey’s and my home away from home). The next morning I sat in awe as Harvey asked many questions. We talked about the “Diner Saga” and life afterwards. We had several more of these breakfast conversations at Tommy’s and then walks and talks through Big Fun.

We sat at a table eating and I watched in amazement as Harvey drew a comic panel grid, filling in the spaces with stick figures and verbiage that was coming from my mouth. I said verbiage, not garbage. Honestly, I couldn’t believe that this was going on. Harvey Pekar writing a comic about me. I asked Harvey why. In his traditional raspy voice, he said-” I know that you put your heart and soul in the Diner …. it sadly closed. I want to know the whole crazy diner story.” As we continued our talks, Harvey also became interested in the Big Fun move and renovation. Harvey told me that he was impressed that I was able to get back on my feet to take my existing Big Fun store and move it across the street to a much bigger space. Harvey was meticulous about detail and he let me know the importance of all the artist touches that became the framework of the new Big Fun.

Truth be told …. I would have been okay if the graphic novel that Harvey wrote never made it to print. I have learned in life that it really is the “journey” that is important. As we all know, sadly Harvey got sick and passed away. I was never sure if the book would ever be published. I got a call and then a visit from Joyce Brabner, Harvey’s wife and co-conspirator on so many of Harvey’s projects. The book would become reality …. A new Harvey Pekar graphic novel that was a compilation of several short stories using a relatively unknown artist named Summer McClinton (no longer unknown), that Harvey and Joyce had discovered. I never met Summer McClinton …. all of the images drawn are from photos that were sent her way.

So my 15 minutes of fame are here. The book is out-Huntington, West Virginia  “On the Fly.” Joyce was kind enough to give me an advanced copy. I opened it to my chapter and read the title—Neighborhood Spark Plug. That sent a wonderful feeling through my body. It didn’t end there. Underneath was the following:


Harvey was Harvey. What you see is what you get. Harvey had no filters that most of us use to placate others. Harvey said it like was. You know the phrase—S/he had me at …. I honestly didn’t need to go any further than the—(AND MY BUDDY). Harvey left me the best gift that he ever could with those 3 words. I am thankful for our friendship, I am thankful for our special time together, and I am thankful to be included in a Harvey piece. Thanks so much to Joyce for seeing this projection to fruition and being a friend with a heart of gold.

Finally, when Harvey passed, word got to Anthony Bourdain, chef, writer, television man extraordinaire. I, along with my wife Debbie, have always been a huge fans of Anthony (Tony) Bourdain, his works and his non-traditional look on life. Immediately upon learning of Harvey’s death, Tony wrote the most incredible piece about Harvey. The first time I read it, I had tears in my eyes …. OK, I actually cried. Tony and Harvey met, I believe only once when Tony was in Cleveland to film for his show—No Reservations. This poignant piece has been included as an appreciation in Harvey’s new book.

Thanks Tony.

One last note ….

On Thursday June 2nd from 7-9pm, Suzanne, my neighbor from Mac’s Backs and I are having a book party for Harvey’s new book. Come join us for a fun evening.

See ya then ….

~ Steve

Mac’s Backs Bookstore

May 19, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Blog  |  No Comments

It’s a shame that so many independent book stores are closing. We are blessed to have a real special indie book store here in Coventry, let alone right next to us at Big Fun. I’ll argue ’til I’m blue in the face that it’s not just books that make a book store special. Case in point at Mac’s Backs—Suzanne DeGaetano. Suzanne not only is an incredibly knowledgeable literary individual, but equally as important, Suzanne is a community activist who supports local writers and poets. Suzanne and Mac’s nearly weekly book signings and readings give both first timers and experienced writers/poets a chance to read to the public. We all need more champions like Suzanne who never asks for anything in return.

Next time you are in the Coventry area, stop in to Mac’s Backs and tell Suzanne Thanks! If you can make a purchase, better yet! Mac’s Backs can get you anything that Amazon can. Support Your Local Independent Businesses!

Mac’s Backs originally opened in Kent, Ohio in 1978 while founder Jim McSherry was attending graduate school. He had bought a used bookstore in Chagrin Falls and moved it to Kent for a year. After grad school he returned to Chagrin and reopened the store there which has subsequently closed. Jim and business partner Suzanne DeGaetano opened the Coventry store in 1982.

The Coventry store opened in a second floor walk-up space in 1982, moved to a larger ground floor space on the north end of Coventry in 1984 and then moved to the current location in the middle of the business district in 1993. We share a doorway with Tommy’s Restaurant and customers can go back and forth between the bookstore and restaurant.

Mac’s has three floors of new and used books and magazines. We are a book exchange—people bring in books to trade for other used books. About 80 percent of our store is used books. We also stock new books which tend to be neighborhood favorites, classics, small press titles, local publications and new releases that would appeal to our customers.

We also have a diverse magazine selection of current event, cultural, music, art, philosophy and literary titles.

Mac’s hosts readings, book-signings, author events, book clubs and workshops and makes our basement space available for free for community members who need a meeting space. Our monthly poetry reading has been ongoing on the 2nd Wednesday each month for 27 years.

Our clientele represents a wide cross-section of the community. People who live or work in the neighborhood, visitors from nearby suburbs, regional shoppers from the outlying counties like Medina or Ashtabula and day trippers from places like Erie, PA. People come to the Coventry business district because it is their neighborhood place to shop or they come because they are attracted to the mix of small shops and restaurants that can’t be found anywhere else.

There is and always has been a lively street culture here. Cleveland Heights grew as a streetcar suburb and the business districts developed in an era when the automobile did not dictate design. Therefore, it is a very walkable street with a lot of shopping and restaurant variety in a few blocks. The streetscape is welcoming with trees, flowers and the 60 + public art decorative iron sculptures that surround attractive minigardens. Even the street signs reflect the heritage of the street—the non-profit group Heights Arts installed tie-dye colored street signs to reflect the counter-culture era of the late 1960’s into the 1970’s.

We wanted to open our store on Coventry because of it’s cultural diversity and because of the lively street scene. It is very important for communities to have a place where the public can gather, congregate, hang-out and socialize. Coventry has always been a crossroads and a natural gathering spot and Mac’s is glad to be part of this vibrant and historic neighborhood.

Push Button For Portal Crosswalk

May 17, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Blog, Humor  |  No Comments

[Found via Pleated Jeans]

Mincraft Grass Cube

May 13, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Blog, Video Games  |  No Comments

From the Etsy store where you can purchase one:

I’ve been sucked in to playing Notch’s awesome game, Minecraft (if you have not played it, go get it now!) and wanted a little souvenir to remind me of it on my desk at work. The cube is just over 2.5″ on each side, and sealed with 6 coats of clear lacquer to help keep it durable. It isn’t intended as a toy, but I think these look really nice sitting on my desk.

I think one of these would look nice on my desk as well.

Wiffle Ball Sickest Curves

May 5, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Blog, Video  |  No Comments

Table That Doubles As Bike Stand

Apr 30, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Blog, Geeky  |  No Comments

[Found via TreeHugger]

Positively Cleveland Visits Big Fun

Apr 23, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Blog, Interview, Video  |  No Comments

An Easter Story

Apr 21, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Blog  |  No Comments

I grew up thinking the Easter Bunny had no ears. I think I was 10 before I realized what actually was going on. You see, my beloved Father, Marvin, was a chocoholic. We are talking a HUGE chocolate eater! Pops lived for that divine candy. It was at the top of his food pyramid. Even when he had Diabetes and was on 2 shots of insulin a day, he found a way to justify a daily dose of chocolate. Most often, a Hershey bar. You now see where I get my affection for chocolate.
Back to the earless Easter Bunny ….

My father had a best friend, Norty (you gotta love that name!) growing up who was not as financially comfortable as my father(amazing, because my father’s family struggled through tough times). My grandmother set her priorities in an awkward way. So, “Little Marvin”(reported to weigh 212 pounds at age 13) often ended up with a chocolate treat, regardless if they could pay for rent or put gas in the car. My Father would always share his beloved chocolate with his best friend, Norty.

Norty and his family’s business began to prosper. Each year at Easter, Norty would reward my father with his very own chocolate Easter bunny, as sort of a Karmic payback. Legend has it, that it started out as one of those hollow 4 ounce babies. My father was a professor at heart when it came to food. He often called himself a ” Commonsewer” of delectable delights. My father’s well respected theory, was that the sweetness of the Easter Bunny, migrated to its ears. In fact, the very tip of the Easter Bunny’s ears was the highest percentage of the sugar content.

Hence ….

The ears mysteriously disappeared from ALL, and I mean all of my Father’s prized annual treat. You see, Norty did quite well in life. What stated out as a mere fraction of a Easter treat, grew over time. 1 pound solid, became 5 pound solid, became 10 pound solid ….


Do you know how big a 25 pound solid chocolate Easter Bunny is?

Many of the families that I grew up had an extra old refrigerator in the basement. Some used it for extra fruit …. others for the “contraband” beer. Our basement refrigerator basically had one use- A mausoleum for Marve’s Easter Bunny. The shelves were taken out to house this earless creature. You see, the bunny could not fit(that’s what Dad told us) unless the ears were removed-by none other than the pre-eminent Easter Bunny removing surgeon, Marvin Mickey Presser. After, the ritual of circumcision of the ears, which by the way-NOBODY witnessed, we were all allowed to take a stab at our earless bunny. Pops left a butter knife for us to use.

So, this Easter, as all in the past, remind me of my beloved Pops.

EARS to you !!!

HAPPY EASTER …. and to my Jewish friends- Happy Passover—Chag Sameach

One of Marve’s very favorite chocolate places and mine too is Mitchell’s Fine Chocolates on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. For years, beginning in 1939, the Mitchell’s operated their fine hand-made chocolate store on Coventry Road, next to the Coventry Theater. Son, Bill Mitchell continues the family tradition serving some of the finest chocolate treats around. Mitchell’s has that wonderful chocolate aroma that hits you as soon as you walk in the door.

As I mentioned before, I got the “chocolate gene” from my Dad. One of my favorite all time chocolate candies is made right here in Cleveland …. make that Collinwood by Baker’s Candies. It is a Marshmallow Whip. As my Mom used to describe it- “To die for!”

I must say that every person that I have turned on to these amazing chocolate treats is now sadly or happily hooked. Although I am traditionally a “Milk Chocolate” kind of guy, the dark chocolate marshmallow whips are as most of my friends have admitted- Orgasmic. You be the judge.

Finally, what started out as a Mom and Pop, but has grown and still has that family feel is Cleveland’s own—Malley’s Chocolates. My favorite is their tripped out hallucinogenic, Alice and Wonderland pink and green soda fountain on Madison Ave in Lakewood.

~ Steve

Lego Starcraft II Siege Tank

Apr 15, 2011   |   by Tommy   |   Blog, Legos, Video, Video Games  |  No Comments