A Few Things I'm Obsessing Over Right Now (Pt. X)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Has it really been nearly a year since I last shared with you a list of things I'm loving? Surely I've gone through plenty of love in that time - but here's what tops my list of favorites at the moment. Leave a comment & let me know what's on your currently-loving list! 
  1. Libby: I've long been a fan of libraries (librarian's daughter over here) but this app, recently launched by Overdrive, has made it so much easier to manage my ebook borrowing. 
  2. Passionfruit LaCroix: Basic bitch status, y'all. I'm drinking, like, four of these per day, which isn't the cheapest habit, but at least it's not the unhealthiest, either. I am nothing if not well-hydrated.
  3. NYX Epic Ink Liner: After Urban Decay changed its liquid liner formula, I spent ages (& $$$) trying every liquid liner on the market. This one, at just $8, has turned out to be the best of them, & it's just about the only one that doesn't sweat right off my face. 
  4. Palmers Coconut Oil Formula with Vitamin E Repairing Conditioner: This drugstore conditioner probably doesn't help my hair as much as it should, but it smells so freaking good & feels like I'm slathering cool, vanilla yogurt on my scalp... in a good way. I can't help how much I love it.
  5. Poke bowls: I'm into one specific poke bowl, actually, from Corner 11, the new lunch spot in my neighborhood: greens, shrimp, avocado, mango, shredded carrots, sesame seeds, & tom yum sauce. I can't get enough of it.
  6. Glossier Balm Dot Com: I finally joined the cult off Glossier after a friend (hi, Anna!) sent me a few items. I pulled the trigger & placed my first order with them: this trio of lip glosses. I love them all, but currently, my favorite is the coconut.
  7. Poshmark: I'm back on the Poshmark train as I undertake my attempt to declutter my closet, my apartment, & indeed my entire life. I made $100+ in just a week, so I'm feeling hopeful about this effort. (Check out this old post for more on my Poshmark habit.)
  8. Todoist.com: I can't remember who, exactly, recommended this app/website to me when I was on the hunt for ways to keep my life - & my to-do list - in order, but Todoist is a real lifesaver. 
  9. LINENSPA Shredded Foam Reading Pillow: I bought this to replace a very sad, uncomfortable Target version I'd been using. This one arrived looking equally sad, all tiny & vacuum-sealed, but within 48 hours, it had puffed up to full size & it is just the best. Perfect for bed-reading. 
  10. E.R.: I had just committed to rewatching all of Dawson's Creek when this 15-season behemoth debuted on Hulu, so I put everything on hold to make my way through it. See you in, like, June. 
One more thing I'm loving: my new blog banner, designed for me by the lovely Rachel, who has recently taken up hand-lettering. If you're reading this post in through a third-party reader, click through to check it out! 

Gimme your recs: What are you loving right now? 

Recapping the Wackiest Day of Travel Ever

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Did you see that news story, a couple weeks ago, about the incoming flight that landed in Dulles only after everyone on board barfed? I was fortunate enough (that's sarcasm, folks) to be flying that day... out of DCA, which is just a few miles away from Dulles.

As early as the morning before, I knew my flight might not make it out of D.C. A Nor'easter was heading toward the East Coast, & there was already a surprise snowstorm back home. D.C. is notorious for shutting down at the mere thought of inclement weather, so I tried not to keep my hopes too high for the possibility of making it back to the CLE as planned.

Off to a rocky start...

Late Thursday night, I checked the status of my flight & saw that it was delayed two hours for operational issues, so I planned to sleep in a little later than expected. The next morning, I woke up at 7am on my friend Barb's pull-out couch to a text telling me the federal government had shut down due to high winds - but I also saw that my friend Allison made it out of town on an early-morning flight from DCA, which gave me some hope.

Around 9:15am, I caught a Lyft to the airport - but not before texting my friends who live in Virginia, to ask if I could stay with them if I got stranded. They have a guest room & two adorable kittens that I knew would help ease the sting of getting stuck.

The sexual video-chat guy...

After grabbing breakfast, I settled in at my gate to charge my phone & read A Wrinkle in Time. The relative silence was broken by a loud-voiced man a few seats down, video chatting his ladyfriend. He was intermittently arguing with her & then attempting (poorly) to whisper very sexual things to her.

It started with a fairly benign comment: "Is that what you're wearing? God, you look sexy. I love your smile." That wouldn't have been so bad, but it quickly escalated: "I can't wait to have you tonight, to feel your nails in my back." No. Stop. "Get your sexy ass back to Washington," he said, which was especially confusing given that he was waiting on a flight out of Washington.

This continued for a whopping hour & a half, & though it was a deeply uncomfortable conversation to overhear, I couldn't drown it out because I had to charge my phone, & on iPhones, the charging port & the headphone jack are one & the same. Damn you, Apple.

The Christian music lady...

Blessedly, sexy-talk guy eventually left. But speaking of blessings, he was quickly replaced by a woman who was listening to loud Christian music on her laptop... sans headphones.

I actually don't think this woman knew she was doing it. She was, in fact, wearing headphones, but her music was most definitely not playing through them. Instead, it was blasting aloud to the entire gate... & she seemed none the wiser.

I kept making hilarious eye contact with two women sitting across the gate from me, pantomiming to one another as we tried to determine whether this woman knew what was going on, & rolling our eyes at her bad tunes.

Alllllll the delays...

Initially, our flight was delayed two hours for "operational issues," which likely meant that something needed to be fixed.

And then, we were delayed because our incoming flight landed in Baltimore instead of coming into DCA. We had to wait for them to deplane & fly to us.

And then, once our plane arrived & the staff boarded the flight, an announcement over the PA system told us that we couldn't take off yet because the wind had picked up again.

The gate agent said that the weather tower at Dulles had been evacuated due to high winds, & our staff couldn't determine a safe route through the wind without their assistance. The gate agent even said something to the effect of, "It''s really dangerous out there, folks. I was on the plane myself, & you can feel it rocking back & forth from the wind." Thank you, sir, we weren't already panicky.

When we finally boarded, I had two seats to myself, but I was sitting behind a single mother traveling with two babies. (Poor lady.) Another mom got on the flight & whispered to her, "I almost didn't get on the plane. I asked the gate agent whether she would take this flight, & she told me, 'Not a chance.'" Continue the panic.

And more delays! 

As we waited for a not-too-windy window for takeoff, we learned that we couldn't take off because the flight was too heavy. We needed to spend 30 to 45 minutes on the runway burning off excess jet fuel. OK, what?

Fifteen minutes later, the flight attendant told us the crew had recalculated the weight distribution & determined that we could leave sooner if two people from the front of the plane would move to the back. Even though I had a great window seat & no seatmate, I volunteered because hey, why not? Maybe I could get away from those babies!

Guess where I ended up sitting? Behind the only other baby on board, the one whose mom almost didn't board. Her anxiety was palpable, & it made me at least 25% more anxious than I already was. (The baby was pretty cute & chill, though, tbh.)

I was seated next to a man who was feverishly rubbing a rosary. Maybe some of his good luck would wear off on the rest of the flight? I considered asking him to say a little prayer for me, too. At this point, I was mostly just amused by the whole day - &, you know, praying we didn't all go down in a ball of flames.

The final chapter...

I fell asleep almost immediately, & though I'm told that takeoff was bumpy, the rest of the flight couldn't have been too bad, because I didn't wake up until we hit the ground in Cleveland. My seatmate laughed at me for my ability to snooze the whole ride through.

There was no barfing, to my knowledge, & as a bunch of us passengers stood on the jet bridge waiting for our gate-checked luggage to be unloaded, we were able to laugh about the whole situation. Apparently DCA shut down right after our flight took off!

We feel grateful that we had a skilled & determined pilot... who was from Cleveland &, apparently, wanted nothing more than to get home to his own family. Thanks for getting us out of there, United!

I was thrilled to make it home to Mike for a whopping 36 hours before I took off for NYC... a visit that had some weather issues of its own. Suffice it to say that I'm happy not to have any more March travel plans. What an unpredictable time of year!

Your turn. Hit me with your craziest travel story.

If I Had More Time in New York, I Would...

Monday, March 12, 2018

I just got back from a few days in New York City, where my office is located. As longtime readers may know, I work from home but work a standard 9-to-5 (or, fine, 10-to-6) because all of my coworkers work together in an office in Manhattan. It's great to be able to go into the city every so often to visit them!

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't ideal on this trip, and I hurt my knee pretty badly one day at work, both of which severely limited my plans for the week. I forfeited a ticket to Book of Mormon because I didn't feel like my knee could take the pressure, & on my last night, my friend Rebecca & I canceled our plans because the snow was so bad.

I did do a few fun things while I was in town, mostly food-related, like eating a big, delicious bowl of curried ramen at Iron Chef Morimoto's Momosan - but now that I'm back in Cleveland, I'm dreaming of all the things I'd like to do next time I get a little more time in the city. Believe me, I'm kicking myself for not visiting Manhattan more frequently back when I lived in New Jersey!

Here's what's on my "Someday in New York" list. What would be on yours? 

1. Browse books at The Strand.

Yes, hello, this massive, historic, independent bookstore is home to more than 2.5 new, used, & rare titles. I'd like to read them all, please. Wait, what do you mean, I don't have time for that? Fine, can I at least touch them all?

2. Take a double-decker bus tour.

I'm weirdly very into these touristy-as-hell bus tours, but of course, only if the weather is nice & only if I'm sitting on the top level of the bus. I took one all over London & always wanted to do one in D.C.; I bet NYC would be a lot of fun.

3. Pay my respects at the 9/11 Memorial.

I've not been to the new National September Memorial & Museum, which is, at this point, not exactly new anymore; still, I think this is a spot all Americans ought to visit at least once.

4. Check out Coney Island.

Who doesn't love a tourist trap? Bring on the bright colors & peeling paint & creepy rides! And corndogs. Are there corndogs? I'm in.

5. Visit Dylan's Candy Bar & Momofuku Milk Bar.

I don't even know why I want to go to these two places, specifically, except that I seem to hear about them a lot &, like, why not? Plus, I'm always a sucker (no pun intended) for a pretty candy shop & a beautiful pastry.

6. See a show on Broadway. 

It's been a few years since I saw anything on Broadway; my last visit was to see Newsies way back in 2012 when it made its debut. Though Cleveland gets lots of great live shows, there's something so sparkly & special about seeing them on Broadway, where it all begins.

7. Walk the High Line.

About a decade ago, this abandoned freight rail was turned into a mixed-use public park that looks freaking wonderful. it's a 1.5-mile walk, too, which means you can get your exercise in while exploring a cool space suspended above 11th Ave.

8. Eat at an old-fashioned diner.

I've been reading Alexandra's blog for years, & though I've been to a few old-timey diners in my day, her photos make me want to seek out, like, the old-timiest diner possible & settle in for an egg cream.

9. Visit my best friend in Brooklyn.

My friend Rebecca, who grew up in Manhattan, now lives in Brooklyn, & it's been three years since I visited her there. Apparently her neighborhood has changed a lot, so I'd love to get back to explore a little... &, uh, check out the GAP outlet next door.

10. Take the Gossip Girl site tour.

My friend & coworker Marissa says that this tour, which stops at key spots from the popular show, is not exactly worth it, but I want to take it anyway. And I would even wear a headband for it. Who wants to take pics with me on the Met steps?

11. Browse MoMA and The Met.

To be honest, I'm not much of an art museum gal, but what kind of tourist would I be if I didn't want to see these ones? They're both world-class, they're both incredible, & they're both on my one-of-these-days list. My grandmother the painter would be proud.

12. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Have you ever seen Newsies? My whole life, I've wanted to stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge while wearing a jaunty newsboy cap... & Instagram an artsy photo with the caption, "I spent a month there one night."

13. Visit the Tenement Museum.

This cramped museum is located in an old tenement home on the Lower East Side, one where working-class immigrants (including many Jews) lived in close quarters in the early 1900s. it's supposed to be, like, the must-see museum for living American Jewish history.

14. Eat something Instagram-worthy.

From cronuts to rainbow bagels to rolled ice cream to the sushirito, it seems that all great (slash ridiculous) food trends originate in NYC. Some of them filter down to the rest of the country, but just once, I'd like to eat - & 'gram - something on the cutting edge of absurdity. 

Annnnnd there you have it. What's on your "Someday in New York" list? 

What I Do & Don't Pay For

Friday, March 9, 2018

Where does your money go? I loved Kimi's recent post about what she does & doesn't spend her money on; I always think it's interesting to see what other people invest in & where they choose to scrimp. I thought you might enjoy the same look into my life, so here you go!

What I Pay For

Going Out to Eat 

I'm not a great cook, & I don't like to cook - but more than that, I just really like food made by someone else. I go out to eat with some frequency (probably too high a frequency) because, well, I just enjoy it. I try to keep it healthy (or I try to try, at least), but I don't foresee a time when this won't be high on my list of things worth paying for.


I certainly don't get massages often - maybe once a quarter - but when I do, I never regret a penny of it. I had back surgery when I was 12 years old, & I still suffer from chronic pain & have some nerve damage around my spine. To be honest, even professional, deep-tissue massages don't exactly hit the spot (see again: nerve damage), but they're still worth it.

House Cleanings

Mike & I decided to hire a house cleaning company to come spruce up our place every few months. I don't want to throw him under the bus or anything, but he's notttt exactly the neatest or cleanest person, & I'm not a neat-freak, but I do like a certain level of organization - & am not a great cleaner myself. This seems like a worthwhile investment not for our marriage.

Coffee Shop Lattes 

Yes, I have a coffeemaker, & yes, that means I could easily make coffee at home. But do I? Never. For starters, I really like my lattes, & I can't make those at home. But more importantly, going out for coffee is often my only daily interaction with people who aren't my husband. Because I work from home, I don't have a lot of daytime opportunities to engage with other humans, except online. My latte budget is really more like a "keeping me from going crazy from loneliness" budget.

Having My Hair Colored

I am going significantly grey, but not in a cool or attractive way, which means I'm not yet ready to embrace it & allow it to happen. I love having my hair professionally colored, ensuring that it actually looks complex & dynamic & shiny & pretty, instead of whatever I'm able to do for myself from a box.

What I Don't Pay For

High-End Brands

This applies to most products, including clothes, shoes, hair, & makeup. While I'll splurge very occasionally on something brand-name, most of my clothes & shoes come from Target & Old Navy... & come to think of it, nearly all of my makeup comes from Target, too. I'm not particularly brand loyal, for the most part, so aside form my iPhone, there's nothing expensive I feel I can't do without.

Manicures, Pedicures, Facials, etc. 

I can count on one un-manicured hand how many times I've had my nails done in the last decade. I don't actually really like having my nails painted; I feel like my hands are suffocating. I like it slightly more now that I've discovered gel polish (which I had done for my wedding), but it's still not something I'm willing to pay for on any sort of regular basis. I've never had a facial & have only gotten pedicures when someone else has purchased it for me as a gift.

The Latest Technology

I kept my last iPhone until it straight-up died after two & a half years of use. While I'd love to have an iPhone X, I just can't see paying $1,000 for something I know is going to be made obsolete within the next year or so.

Having My Hair Colored

Wait, what? Didn't I just say...? Yep, this is one of those things that I waffle on. I love getting my hair done - & of course, it looks so much better when I have it done professionally. Often, though, I just can't bear to shell out for it, so I do it myself, out of a box. I even have a go-to box color.

I'm sure I'm missing some things, but these are the first ones that come to mind. So tell me: What goes on your spend/skip lists? 

Find Your New Favorite Meal in a City You've Never Been To

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A few weeks ago, I shared my seven favorite meals in the CLE, as determined by, um, my tastebuds & whims - & today, I'm linking up with the Social Fabric blogging community to share similar posts from bloggers in cities across the U.S.!

A lot of the cities on this list are places I've yet to travel - & a few of them are places that I'm heading to in the near future. I'll be referring to this list when I head to the Finger Lakes region for a wedding this summer & when I visit friends in Chicago in the fall. Maybe you'll even see a blogger from your city on this list. If so, go get some local recs - & maybe make a new friend, too.

Without further ado...

Eastern US

Asheville, N.C. - A Thousand Country Roads
Baltimore, MA - Theresa’s Reviews
Boston, MA -  Bianca Blogs
Charleston, W.V. - Honey and Pine
Fairfax, VA - Cook With 5 Kids
Fort Lauderdale, FL - Acupful
Lanham, MD - Jenny Day by Day
Lehigh Valley, PA - Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Miami, FL - Sabrina’s Sea of Colors
New York City, N.Y. - Smiling Notes
North Jersey, N.J. - Crayons and Cravings
Western Finger Lakes, N.Y. - Home in the Finger Lakes

Western US

Austin, TX - Kitchen Concoctions
Austin, TX - My Big Fat Happy Life
Austin, TX - Hi Lovely
Forney, TX - My Life Homemade
Houston, TX - Pop Shop America
Houston, Texas - It’s Pam Del
Los Angeles, CA - Moore or Less Cooking
Palm Desert, CA - Tabler Party of Two
San Antonio, TX - Sincerely Onyi
Seattle, WA - Revel and Glitter
Seattle, WA - Satsuma Designs
Skagit County, WA - Long Wait for Isabella

Northern US

Bloomington-Normal, IL - Become A Coupon Queen
Carmel, IN - Home Maid Simple
Canton, OH - Hall of Fame Moms
Cleveland, OH - Greatest Escapist
Fort Wayne, IN - Kiddies Corner Deals
Grand Rapids, MI - The Epicurean Traveler
South Suburbs, Chicago, IL - Home Everyday
St. Louis, MO - And Hattie Makes Three

Southern US

Atlanta, GA - Sunshine and Holly
Charleston, S.C. - My Borrowed Heaven
Greenville, S.C. - Joann’s Food Bites
Macon, GA - Intelligent Domestications
Pigeon Forge, TN - Creative Southern Home

FInd any new faves? What's your favorite restaurant or meal in your hometown? 

The 3 Episodes of TV that Made Me Cry the Hardest

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

We watch TV for all kinds of reasons: to laugh, to feel connected, to get sucked into drama the likes of which doesn't exist in real life... & also to cry. Wait, is that just me?

I know, real life can be difficult enough. Why do we want to watch TV that will make us cry, too? To that I say: I don't want to cry, necessarily. I don't invest myself in super-heavy shows. But I do like dramas (think soap opera-style, like Law & Order: SVU How to Get Away with Murder & Chicago Med), & with dramas comes the occasional, well, drama - the sad kind. The sobbing kind. The body-wracked-with-emotion kind.

Below, I'm recapping the top three episodes of television - ever - that have broken me into a million emotional little pieces.


3. Criminal Minds

Episode: "Nelson's Sparrow," S10 E13
Air Date: January 28, 2015

I was living with my mom when I watched this episode, which aired on a Wednesday night, while she was at work. She arrived home shortly after 9pm to find me, just a few minutes into this episode, standing in front of the TV & sobbing as though a beloved friend had died. In a way, one had: This is the episode in which Mandy Patinkin's character, Jason Gideon, is found murdered & his former BAU teammates have to put aside their own grief to solve the case.

Though Gideon hadn't been on the show for more than half a decade (& Patinkin has since called his time on the show his "biggest public mistake"), this death felt personal, somehow, to those of us who have been watching since the beginning.


2. Dawson's Creek

Episode: "All Good Things...Must Come to An End," S6 E23/24
Air Date: May 14, 2003

The Internet says this counted as two episodes, but for my purposes, it's just one. They aired back to back on the same night, the series finale of my long-time favorite show, & I watched them while sitting in a bean bag chair on the floor of my freshman dorm room in the days before DVR. My roommate, Kiko, didn't watch the show, & so she kindly offered to be away from our home base that evening so I could watch in peace.

As Jen's fate was revealed - not to mention Jack's relationship, Gail's marriage, & Joey's final choice between Dawson & Pacey - I openly wept. I cried myself into such a state of dehydration that I woke the next day with a headache to rival any college hangover. I still mourn the fact that there can never be a full-cast reunion show.


1. Grey's Anatomy

Episode: "Now or Never," S5 E24
Air Date: May 14, 2009

Ohhhh, this episode. Hardest I've ever cried at any episode of TV. This was the season five finale, which I watched with friends who weren't regular Grey's watchers - & boy, were they shocked to catch me heaving with silent sobs in the back of the room. I gave myself away when I snort-sobbed loudly during the scene when a gravely injured John Doe writes "007" in Meredith's hand, revealing himself to be her dear friend & colleague, George O'Malley.

The dream sequence scene when the elevator doors open on Izzy to show an army-outfitted George on the other side, confirming his unexpected death... oh, God. No episode of TV has ever done me so dirty. I still watch it sometimes when I'm feeling down & need a little bit of help crying it out.

What episode of TV made you cry the hardest? Do you have any specific memories of where you were when you watched them, the way I do? 

6 Small Goals for March

Saturday, March 3, 2018

OK, OK, so February wasn't my best month, goals-wise - but my home goals took my top priority, & I got most of that done, so I feel all right about everything. (And I read 10 books.) Here's a recap:
  1. HANG ART ON MY WALLS. I did this! Are you proud of me? I finally did this - & I even blogged about it. Cheers to home feeling a little bit more like home.
  2. Finish setting up our apartment. I didn't hang curtains, but I did take down our Christmas tree, put in a few maintenance requests, move some things to the basement, & schedule a home-cleaning appointment for March. I'm feeling really good about our place right now.
  3. Push my social boundaries. To be honest, I canceled a lot of plans in February. My anxiety & depression were higher than usual, the weather was worse than usual, & I was more of a hermit than usual. Still, I'm going to try not to beat myself up about this one. It's OK. And I did keep a lot of plans, too, so I'm calling this one a win.
  4. Make a dentist appointment. Oops. 
  5. Set up at least one new friend date. I didn't actually make plans with anyone new, though I did connect with two people I'd like to make plans with. Guess I need to take that next step, huh?
  6. Don't buy any new clothes or accessories. Faiiiiiled. First, I bought a final-sale tunic from Banyan Tree. Then, I ended up at Kohl's with my mom, where I bought a denim sundress & this LC by Lauren Conrad blazer, then two blouses, &... yeah, I failed. I also gave a lot of stuff away, but overall, this goal was not a success. 
My goals list for March is more than a little intimidating - it seems like a lot to try to get done in a month - but what's March for if not for some serious spring-cleaning & getting life in order? This month, I want to...
  1. Make the most of my time in NYC. This is an ambiguous goal, but I had to include something related to this upcoming trip. I'm headed to the city for work for the first time in three years, & I'm looking forward to seeing my coworkers in person. I've also got one or two fun things planned, so stay tuned to my Instagram
  2. Move along the name-change processI've officially changed my name but haven't done much of the other paperwork, like going to the Social Security office or getting a new driver's license (in part because of my upcoming NYC trip). 
  3. Clean out my car. When I bought my car in 2015, I decided I'd keep it clean by never allowing food inside it. HA. These days, my car is more than a little gross - not necessarily even messy, just unclean. It's time to get it cleaned up for spring's arrival. 
  4. Spruce up the guest room. I'm hosting a friend's bachelorette party in late April, & I'd like to get our guest room/Mike's office cleaned up & "finished" by then. It's the last step in really making this place feel like home. 
  5. Get my taxes done. OK, Mike will actually be the one doing our taxes (married liiiiife!), but I need to give him all the right stuff to move forward on my end of things. I've always had an actual accountant do my taxes, so I'm a little nervous about our first year of joint filing... 
  6. Move forward on my "year of less" goals. I blogged at the end of February about how the book My Year of Less inspired me to pare down a little bit. In particular, I'd like to make some progress on listing some items on Poshmark & beginning to budget.
Like I said: not such small goals! We'll see how the month goes, right?

What are your goals for the month? Happy March!

What I Read in February

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Another month gone, another 10 books read - & it was another round of good ones! Let's cut right to the chase, shall we?

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

When your seemingly perfect sister dies & your parents think it's your fault, how are you supposed to move forward with your life? Julia, the teen daughter of Mexican immigrants in Chicago, is mourning the sudden & tragic death of her demure older sister, Olga, while also arguing incessantly with her traditional, hardworking, & old-fashioned parents about her lifestyle, a stark departure from their expectations of her. This is a beautiful YA novel about family, cultural expectations, & finding yourself, even through the most difficult of times. ★★★★★

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

This is the third in the Cormoran Strike series, & it takes a completely different tack than its predecessors. Whereas past books feature Strike, a London PI, taking on hired cases, this time, the case is closer to home: His partner, Robin, has received a package containing an amputated leg. Together, they investigate possible suspects, all men from Strike's complicated past, & try to solve the case before the perpetrator strikes again - at Robin herself. This was my first time listening to an audiobook, & I love the British reader's voice, including his Strike voice - which was very Hagrid-esque. ★★★★★

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark Lukach 

This was a very difficult read. With his wife's permission, Lukach tells of her psychotic break(s), which seemingly came out of nowhere & upended their perfect life together. Guilia, previously a beautiful, put-together ad exec, was hospitalized when she began insisting she was in communication with the devil; during the course of her recovery, she repeatedly attempted suicide. It's a beautifully written story, raw & real, but it's also unbelievably painful - & terrifying, when you think about how quickly the mind can bend & break. ★★★★★

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

The full title of this book is My Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store. That says it all, doesn't it? Flanders is a personal finance blogger who did a year-long experiment in minimalism & thoughtful buying. I read it in the hopes that it would jump-start a change in my own habits - & I think it has. Post to come! ★★★★★

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This book was so hard to get my hands on! I've been on the waitlist for ages & once borrowed the Catalan version - oops. Now a blockbuster movie, Wonder is the story of fifth grader Auggie Pullman, who was born with a serious facial deformation & is entering public school for the first time. Understandably, he & his family are worried about what that will entail. What follows is a moving & really lovely YA story of bullying, resilience, friendship, & family. ★★★★★

The Julian Chapter by R.J. Palacio

This was a short story written as an accompaniment to Wonder, a missing chapter of sorts - one of three of them, in fact. I loved that Palacio went further in depth from the point of view of Wonder's bully, Julian, giving us a sense of how he has become the bully he is to Auggie, including parents who serve as enablers & his own senses of fear & denial. A surprise lesson from his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, teaches Julian the true impact of his actions toward Auggie. ★★★★★

Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin

This book was not at all what I expected, but what a beautiful surprise. It's told in poetry in prose, the unlikely love story between Ronit, an Israeli teenage girl, & Jamil, a Palestinian teenage boy, whose fathers are both doctors &, to an extent, colleagues. It's intended to be a modern-day Romeo & Juliet & even quotes some of Shakespeare's original. Though it lost me a bit in places - almost too prosaic for my liking - it was a really lovely look into the minds of would-be enemies turned lovers, fighting the odds the world has set against them. ★★★★☆

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Mannn, this book. Though it was a slog, length-wise, it was an absolutely gripping one. Author Ann Rule was friends with Ted Bundy. They met while volunteering together at a crisis hotline, & though Rule believed her charismatic, friendly colleague couldn't possibly be violent, she did send his name to the police as a potential suspect when she realized he matched much of their criteria in the search for a local serial killer. Rule, a journalist who was working with police on this case, was stunned when her friend was arrested & tried, & she continued to write letters to Bundy years into his incarceration. Eventually, she did come to accept his guilt. ★★★★☆

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

This was a simple & uplifting non-fiction read about the Danish concept of hygge, which most closely translates, in English, to "coziness" - but which is, in reality, so much more. The author, himself a Dane, is also the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute - what a job! I wish I'd read this book sooner - say, in November, when winter first began to set in, but it still came at a good time, right when Cleveland winter is grossest & most depressing - a Danish how-to on happiness in times of cold weather & beyond. ★★★★☆

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

I first learned of this book when I saw author Angie Thomas of The Hate U Give speak at the Cleveland Public Library in mid-February. Haitian author Zoboi writes a bit of her own background into this YA novel about Fabiola, who leaves Haiti with her mother - but her mother is immediately detained at the border, leaving Fabiola alone with a family she barely knows in Detroit, a new & different environment that's nothing like the American dream she expected. ★★★☆

We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union

This is not your average celebrity memoir; this is the gold standard of celebrity memories. I didn't know much about Union before reading this book, aside from the fact that I liked her in Bring It On, & I was excited that she (briefly) lived in Cleveland when the Cavs acquired her husband, Dwyane Wade. I was drawn to her book when I saw it getting high reviews from friends, & now I wish I'd tracked her down in the CLE to try to be BFFs - because this book is amazing, & so is she, tackling topics like racism, rape, & more. ★★★★★

Comment to tell me what you're reading, then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past.

My "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books.

Easy Home DIY: How I Put Together My Gallery Wall

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

I'm not crafty, & I'm definitely not a DIY home person. I don't want to own a house, in part because I don't want to have to spend my weekends, like, cleaning out gutters & re-caulking kitchens, or whatever. When it comes to at-home items, like headboards & centerpieces, forget Pinterest; if I can buy it instead, I will.

Perhaps that's why it took me a whopping nine months to hang photos in our "new" apartment. We moved in May, & boxes of artwork have just been sitting around, gathering dust & taking up space. It seemed like so much work to hang things... that I just didn't bother to do it.

Finally, last weekend, I'd had enough - enough of the bare walls, enough of the boxes of un-hung art - so I got to work readying our bedroom gallery wall.

But again, because I'm impatient & not into home decor stuff, I did it my own way, using a method I've perfected over the years, what with all my many moves. Instead of whipping out levels & measuring tapes, I used my patented "paper replica" method.

Oh, & by the way: I spent nine months avoiding this project because I thought it would take too long. Final running time? About 90 minutes. Yes, I should've done this much sooner. Here's how I did it:

1. Lay out your gallery wall on the floor.

The top photo in this post shows step one of the process. I got out all out all the pieces I wanted to include in the gallery wall & laid them out on the floor in the way I might want to hang them on the wall. I rearranged it until I landed on the combination I liked best, which I then photographed.

2. Create paper versions of each piece of art.

Using plain old computer paper, I created properly sized replicas of each piece, labeling them with a quick description of each piece of art so I wouldn't lose track of any of them.

3. Tape paper replicas to the wall.

Referring back to the photograph of my floor layout, I recreated that layout on my wall with the paper replicas. I taped them to the wall using washi tape so that it wouldn't do any damage to the paint.

4. Nail paper replicas to the wall. 

Checking the backs of each piece of artwork to determine their hanging mechanisms, I nailed each paper replica to the wall, then simply ripped the paper replica off the wall, over the nail.

5. Hang artwork! 

Finally, I hung each piece of art on its respective nail &... voilĂ ! Gallery wall complete, nine months later. The lighting in my bedroom is fairly terrible, so please bear with me on this photo, but I think the final product is pretty good. Yes, it's a little bit too close to the ceiling - but hey, I've got low ceilings.

I also hung a few pieces in my office, & I hung a painting from my grandmother in our bathroom. I have a few more pieces to hang, including a very large, framed Paul Duda print that will likely require a second set of hands & a level - but for now, I'm loving our homier apartment. A little art goes a long way!

What's on your walls?

Gotta Get Down on Fryday (Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

You get the title reference right? Right? Mike & my mom & I went to a fish fry on Friday, & they both got reaaaal mad at me for reminding them that this song exists. (P.S., Rebecca Black just came out with a new album.)

The cause for celebration was the fish fry itself. It's the (other) most wonderful time of the year!

As an American Jew, I've never much liked Easter season. Frankly, if you're not a Christian, there's not much to celebrate. I'm not big on Jesus, & Easter doesn't have the same cozy, celebratory secular vibes that the Christmas season gives off. Instead, I've always found myself waiting for spring to end so I can stop hearing about Easter.

But then I moved to Cleveland & discovered Lenten fish frys, & now Easter is truly a time of celebration - or at least, the season leading up to it is. (By the way, The Plain Dealer says "frys" is the proper spelling in this case. I feel weird about it.)

I'd never been to a fish fry before moving here, but now I'm hooked - & I've finally gotten my Yiddishe mama hooked, too. 

There are fish frys all over the Cleveland area, so many that you could never hit them all up over the course of Lent. Some are more popular than others, but it seems like most people pick the fish frys closest to them (or at their own church, if they attend one). 

We don't belong to a church (Jew & atheist here), but we do feel a strange fondness toward Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in our neighborhood. We've been there for the Greek Festival & for holiday markets, so last year, when we were trying to figure out where to attend our first fish fry, it made sense to hit up theirs. 

We liked it so much that we've never gone to any others. 

The fish fry takes place in the church basement - or ballroom, I guess, as there's a dance floor & a stage & a full bar. The servers are all little old Greek women with heavy accents; their grandkids help you carry your food to the table.

And man, it's a lot of food.

For $10, you get three huge pieces of fried whitefish, fries, coleslaw, & two hushpuppies (they have baked fish options, too, but who's getting those?) Add-ons cost extra: a side of mac & cheese is $3, baklava is $2, a bottle of water is $1... & did I mention the pierogis? The $8 pierogi platter comes with four very dense pierogis smothered in onions, with sour cream on the side.

I don't even like fish, but this food is so good.

This time around, my mom, Mike, & I split two fried fish platters & two pierogi platters. Yeah, it was... an accidental feast. We ate as much as we could, but since Mike & I have cut down on carbs, we've gotten, well, less adept as consuming mass quantities of carbs. We left feeling stuffed to the brim, to-go boxes in hand. 

I've been poring through local fish fry guides to figure out where we should go next, but if I'm being honest? Well, all I want is to keep going back to Annunciation, alllll Lent long.

So tell me: Have you ever been to a fish fry? Are they "a thing" where you live, or does this seem bizarrely Midwestern to you? 

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