Cleveland Arctic Plunge – Another one for the “bucket list”

Call it “midlife crisis” or just a little insanity. Last Saturday was my latest “bucket list” moment as I joined dozens of Northeast Ohioans for the 2015 Arctic Plunge at Edgewater Park near downtown Cleveland.

After jumping out of a perfectly good airplane two years ago, I thought it would be fun to dive into the frigid waters of an icy Lake Erie to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Team Fox (Parkinson's Disease), University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and Westshore Critical Incident Response Services.

Before taking the plunge, I videotaped my fellow “plungees” (plungers?) as they entered the water like sheep being lead to their slaughter. There were plenty of whoops and laughter as they proceeded in single file down the narrow channel that had just been carved out of the frozen lake by an excavator.

Then it was my turn. I peeled of my winter coat and pants, removed my socks and shoes, turned on my chest-mounted GoPro camera and ran into the lake in my t-shirt and shorts. Good times!

Surprisingly, while the water was cold, it really was quite bearable. The biggest issue I encountered were the chunks of ice floating on and below the water surface. I had a number of cuts and bruises on my lower legs when I finished.

When I got back to the registration tent, someone called a paramedic to attend to my bloodied legs. While he doused the cuts with hydrogen peroxide (which I couldn't feel due to the numbness of my legs), I asked him how many people his crew had treated. Almost apologetically he said, “Well, you're about the only one.” Proud moment for me – NOT!

Have you ever jumped in a frigid lake for a good cause? What was YOUR experience like? Please comment here.

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My ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has surprise ending

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Yep, I knew it would happen eventually. I've been waiting to be asked to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but I never thought it would come from our Australian foreign exchange student from 24 years ago – Rebecca Freeman Haines! I asked her to do the ice bucket honors. She came all the way from Australia to be with us!

In this video, I weathered a bucket of ice water dumped over my head and then challenged my neighbors at Cypress Station in North Ridgeville and my co-workers at University Hospital’s Eye Institute Reading Centers to also support this worthy cause.

Watch the video to the end to see a surprise in my ice bucket.

Also included in this video are VERY COOL celebrity challenges from around the Internet including President Barack Obama, Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James, professional ice hockey player Paul Bissonnette, “The Besties” – Brittany and Brittani, Jimmy Fallon with Rob Riggle, Horatio Sanz, Steve Higgins and the Roots.

Please take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or make a donation to

Fireworks photos with a unique twist – these aren’t your mamma’s snapshots


Fourth of July fireworks get a new look with simple-to-use software that almost anyone can master in minutes! This photo was taken by North Ridgeville photographer, Mark Madere - a portrait and commercial photographer covering Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.

Fourth of July fireworks get a new look with simple-to-use software that almost anyone can master in minutes! This photo was taken by North Ridgeville photographer, Mark Madere (owner of SpectraLight Photography) – a portrait and commercial photographer covering Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.

For years I've been bored with photographing fireworks. Fighting the crowds to get a good spot, dealing with hot and humid July weather, bugs, crying children… the list goes on. I'd much rather stay home and chill-out with the Mrs. – UNTIL NOW!

I recently read an article by a photographer who captured some great fireworks photos. He gave the technical settings that he used for beautiful shots that were taken over a scenic lake. His photos inspired me to see if I could create images unlike any I've made before.

So I set out for the annual fireworks display in my town – North Ridgeville, Ohio. The weather was cool and comfortable for a July evening. I was able to stake out a spot by the lake where the fireworks would be launched. The bugs weren't annoying either (I think they preferred the taste of those around me.) And the crying children? It's amazing what ear plugs can mask out!

For 20+ minutes I shot photos with my Nikon D90 camera mounted to a tripod with exposures ranging from one to four seconds at f/11 at ISO 100. If you don't have a clue about the settings I just covered – have no fear! It seems that anyone can get decent photos with just about any camera – even with smart phones. If you already have photos you wish to add some excitement to – read on!

When I loaded the photos onto my computer – I was UNDERwhelmed by what I had captured. They looked similar to the old, boring photos I'd taken in the past.

I played with some Photoshop filters to see if I could add some pizazz to the images but nothing really excited me. I then opened a photo in an inexpensive software program (Star Effects by Topaz Labs) that I've used to spice up some photos from previous travels.  The two photos in this article were created with just a couple mouse clicks using Star Effects.

Topaz Labs is a company that has created several easy-to-use photo effects programs that can be used without even reading the instruction manual – well, at least after the initial install. It has a simple user interface that will have you creating photo masterpieces in minutes.

I found myself immersed for hours in the software as I created countless variations of each image.

To see how easy Star Effects is to use, I created this short video. Let me know what you think with a comment on this article.

SAVE 15% off Star Effects or any of their other Topaz Labs software using code “15topaz” at checkout: Scroll down that page to see all the software titles available.)

Have fun!

NOTE: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, you'll help support this blog at no cost to you – allowing us to continue sharing information like this for your education and enjoyment. Win/Win! Thanks!

Mark’s embarrassing moment with John Lanigan on Majic 105.7


Now that John Lanigan, the popular and sometimes controversial radio host/DJ has retired, I thought I'd share an awkward moment I had with him during an on-air visit to Cleveland radio station WMJI.

I was invited to appear on a COSE sponsored segment where member businesses try to stump the DJs with the type of business they own. After guessing that I owned a portrait studio, John Lanigan then asked if I did nude photos. To be clear – I DON’T do nude photos although I have done several glamour sessions over the years – all done in a tasteful fashion. Any way, my mind began to race as I began to sweat while I quickly formulated my response. How do you think I did? What would YOU have said? Please comment below!

Click here for the two minute interview on WMJI

Adorable baby Halloween costumes create the best photo memories


Check out some of the cute costumes this year's best dressed babies will be wearing!

Halloween is just around the corner and moms are now shopping for cute costumes for their babies and toddlers in stores and online. Statistics from an October 2012 report by The National Retail Federation reveal an astounding 2.2 billion dollars was spent on costumes for babies, children, adults and even pets!
Every year, parents dress their kids in the cutest Halloween costumes! There are lions and tigers and bears – oh my! There are cows, bats, monkeys and peacocks. What mom wouldn’t want to wrap her arms around her child dressed as a purple octopus?

For little girls, princesses are always popular with Star Wars’ Princess Leia, Snow White and Cinderella in high demand. There are plenty of super hero costumes for the younger set including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – even the Incredible Hulk.

For “crafty” people who like making their costumes, there are sources on the Internet with tons of ideas. With a few materials and some imagination, you can make a unique costume unlike anything found in stores.

What will your baby or child be wearing this Halloween?

Check out some of the cute costumes this year's best dressed babies will be wearing in the related video! Shop for baby costumes at

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Phantastic phfurry Phil is at it again

Punxsutawney Phil at Gobbler's Knob on Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil at Gobbler's Knob on Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil is about to do his annual prognostication (OK, prediction) on how much longer we have to deal with cold, snowy, winter weather. After Clevelanders got socked with a rough morning commute to work in near white-out conditions and many schools canceled classes – spring can't come soon enough!

Ten years ago, I had the opportunity to see the crazy antics of Punxsutawnians during their week long, Groundhog Day celebration. Punxsy (as the locals call their hometown) has a HUGE statue of a groundhog outside one of their fast food restaurants, the library keeps the real, live Phil in a glass enclosure year round, the city has a huge week long festival with ice sculptures created by a chain saw carver, food vendors (Groundhog Dogs anyone?) and all kinds of “Phil” related items at their annual craft fair.

There's even a “Little Mr. & Miss Groundhog” contest. And who could pass up a screening of the movie, “Groundhog Day” at the Punxsutawney Community Center?

You'll see many of the Groundhog Day activities in the video photo collection from my visit in 2003 at Enjoy!

See the 2013 Groundhog Day schedule at

Have you ever been to Punxsutawney to see whether Phil would see his shadow? If not, do you think you'll ever make the trip? Please share your thoughts below.

A dilemma for the ages – what to get Dad on Father’s Day?

Fathers Day gift idea - a hand made book from Blurb

Fathers Day gift idea – a hand made book from Blurb

So what do you give to the guy who has everything on Father's Day? Ahh, a dilemma for the ages. Most dads don't wait for a special occasion to get their “toys.” If they want it now – they get it now.

Fortunately, a San Francisco based company has come to the rescue. provides the resources to create a personalized book with your own snapshots that look as good as one you’d get in a book store.

What dad with a heart wouldn’t appreciate a hard cover book with photos of his children and stories of their experiences with dad? Dad’s the guy. The hero. The rock star. The guy who fixed it all. Photos from then. Photos from now. Make him a book that will make him proud.

Even though it may be too late to have the book delivered by Father’s Day – you can always tell him in a card that “a very special gift that you’ll treasure for a lifetime is in the works and that you’ll be getting it soon. I promise it will be worth the wait.”

Right now, Blurb is offering a special discount of 15% off ANY book until June 30, 2012(and it doesn’t even have to be for Father’s Day). Why not check it out right now?

Have you ever wanted a high quality, hard cover book of your personal photos? Have you already created one? Did you give it as a gift? How did the recipient like it? Please comment.

How much do you love YOUR mom?

Blurb coupon code - 15% savings

A picture really is worth a thousand words. That's why I love the idea of gathering family photos and creating a Blurb photo book for Mother's Day this year. No more spending time trying to figure out what to write in that generic card you purchased from the drug store. The pictures will speak for themselves. A card is thoughtful but is easily thrown out or tucked away in a drawer. Creating a Blurb book will allow any mother to flip through and see memories she help create that you both share. I could almost guarantee it would be a gift that would be left out all year.

I created my first book with Blurb and was thrilled with the results. Although you can't actually see the quality of the cover and pages, you CAN see how nice the design looks using Blurb's free book design software. Check out my book Picturesque Olmsted Falls.

Start creating your Blurb book today and save 15% with promo code 15OFFBOOK valid through 5/30/12.

Ever eat 800 different kinds of cereal?

The Great American Cereal Book by Marty Gitlin

This is the cover of The Great American Cereal Book by Marty Gitlin

Marty Gitlin of North Olmsted hasn’t actually tried the 800+ cereal brands in his newly published – The Great American Cereal Book – but he has eaten his fair share of them.

Whether it’s Alpha Bits, Fruit Loops or Cocoa Crispies; Gitlin enjoys eating, collecting and researching each one.

Gitlin, 55, grew up in South Euclid in the sixties where he developed a passion for trying at least one bowl of every cereal that came out on the market.

At age eight, a new cereal called Banana Wackies came out. Gitlin says it was like Lucky Charms – only banana-flavored. “I knew I was going to hate it,” he said. “I didn’t like banana-flavored anything as a kid. I was in a quandary but I made my mom get it anyway.”

From that point forward, Gitlin tried almost every brand that hit the market through his teenage years.

Gitlin stocks about 40 boxes of cereal in his house at all times. He arranges them by his favorites with his “first team” on the top shelf. “I’ll only move one up to the first team if I like it a lot,” he said.

Gitlin typically eats about 10 or more bowls of cereal a week – one every day for breakfast and sometimes one in the evening.

The Great American Cereal Book shares a lot of information and trivia about the 800+ cereal brands that have hit American shelves over the years.

Gitlin said he wanted to make his book a fun read. “I wanted it to be colorful and alive and funny.” It looks like an actual cereal box with “nutrition information” on the spine. It covers 800 cereal brands with 350 photos of box covers, memorabilia and ads. Some of the brands date back more than 100 years.

Each brand includes information as to when the cereal was “first poured” and a “milked until” date along with any slogans that were used to market the product.

Gitlin started gathering information for the book in 2002 – researching such cereal giants as General Mills, Post and Kellogg. He found facts that even diehard cereal lovers wouldn’t know. For example, one out of every 11 cereal products purchased in America is a Cheerios product or derivative.

The book has turned out to be extremely successful. It has been featured in the Readers Digest, Time, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and

The Great American Cereal Book has ranked No. 1 on Amazon’s Americana category and rose into the 400s on their overall book sales list.

So next time you’re sitting down at the breakfast table to enjoy your favorite cereal – have a copy of The Great American Cereal Book by your side to pass the time away.

So what's your favorite cereal and why? Please click the comment link to the right of this article's title.