Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Return of Fall TV & My Top 10 Shows of All Time

It's nearly my favorite time of year again: the start of fall TV! As I anticipate the return of some of my favorites, I'm thinking about all the TV shows I've loved in the past - & damn, there are a lot of them. I wouldn't say I'm a person who watches a lot of TV, but I do a lot of Hulu & Netflix bingeing, which has resulted in quite a few small-screen loves. Inspired by the upcoming TV schedule & a long-ago episode of The Shepod, here are my all-time favorite TV shows - & hey, I never said I had good taste.

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1. Grey's Anatomy 

At this point, the fact that I've seen every single episode of a show that's been on since 2005 is just... well, it's impressive, really. I don't know many people, aside from my mom, who have stuck with Grey's this long, but I can't quit it. The characters, the drama, the wacky bomb-in-a-body scenarios, the many, many deaths, & all the times it's jumped the shark... Despite - maybe because - of it all, I eagerly await this show every single week, & I will undoubtedly be a fan until its dying day (no pun intended). 


2. Dawson's Creek 

Don't we all have some TV show that marked the first time we fell in love with the small screen? For me, Dawson's was it. I knew, from the very first time I saw a commercial on the WB - before the show even premiered! - that it was going to be my favorite, & it was. I watched Dawson's at a time when I thought I'd never get to see it again, a day long before DVDs & DVRs & Internet streaming, & so, on the day the show came to an end, I kicked my freshman roommate out of our room so I could sit on a plastic purple beanbag chair & watch the two-hour series finale while sobbing in solitude.


3. Law & Order: SVU 

I lived with my mom during my junior year of college, back when Law & Order marathons ran on TNT practically 24/7. We'd leave it on for hours, truly, just reading magazines & cooking & chatting as Benson & Stabler rid NYC of pervs in the background. These days, even sans Stabler, I'm still a big fan - & I've ever gotten Mike into it, such that it's become our favorite go-to show when there's nothing to watch. He doesn't even mind my deep love for Ice-T. 


4. Battlestar Galactica 

I thought this show was going to be the absolute worst. I'm not much of a sci-fi person, & this sounds like the ultimate nerdy sci-fi show. What a nerdy name! And yet, it's probably technically tops on this list. Hands down, it's one of the best, deepest, & most engaging shows I've ever watched. I felt fully immersed in their space world, in the politics & the plans & the people. I practically went insane trying to guess who was a Cylon - & I was so proud of myself for having guessed at the final twist. 


5. Friday Night Lights 

Here's another one I doubted I'd like. Football in the south? No, thanks. But having seen it now, FNL is the one show that, if I could, I would wipe from my memory simply for the joy of being able to see it again for the very first time. Its storylines are realistic, for the most part (OK, except for that whole murder scenario) while still glitzy enough to make for good TV. Its characters are so lovable, so real, so raw that by the show's end, they felt like my family. Texas forever. 


6. The Walking Dead

I know plenty of folks have jumped ship on this gruesome, grotesque, post-apocalyptic drama, but it's still one I look forward to every week. I'm admittedly annoyed with, like, every other plotline - & I'm not really looking forward to this new villain, Negan (played by Grey's Anatomy's Denny Duquette, of blessed memory). But I also just can't wait to see what happens next. I am compelled. Who will be eaten by a zombie next? How did everyone look so clean-cut in Alexandria? Will Carl ever get less annoying? And who did Negan hit with that bat?


7. Criminal Minds 

So desperate am I for the return of this serial killer-centric show that this summer, I rewatched the entire show. All of it. Every single episode of every single season. I was devastated to learn, just last week, that main character Thomas Gibson, formerly of Dharma & Greg fame, has been fired from the show for allegedly kicking a writer (who kicks another person?!). Now, I'm left hoping that this spooky thriller can pull it together & keep on keepin' on without its longtime lead character at the helm. Hotch, how could you?!


8. Game of Thrones

Yep, I'm totally on the GoT bandwagon. This is yet another show I didn't think I'd enjoy, but I became quickly obsessed, & now I'm one of those people who reads Reddit theories & can't wait to debrief each episode with fellow viewers. I can't believe there's so little time left for this series, but I'm clinging to every twist & turn while it's still on the air. I've lost my love for Daenerys, but I sure am curious to see who ends up on the Iron Throne.


9. GIRLS

I know, I'm supposed to hate Lena Dunham, but I just... don't. Sorry. I know a lot of her work is problematic, but I think that, at its crux, so much of it is just true creative genius. The unlikable but somehow still relatable main characters in this show make decisions that seem absolutely crazy - & yet, they evoke emotions & life crises that are all too familiar to anyone who's ever been a twentysomething in limbo. 


10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Man, do I miss this one. I wasn't allowed to watch it when it debuted while I was in middle school, I think in part because my mom was scared of it - but I watched all of during college & fell quickly in love, which precipitated a 2011 rewatch. The first few seasons are, frankly, a little bit unbearable, with their bad special effects & one-off monster stories, but the character development throughout the series is just really incredible. By the finale, I couldn't imagine never returning to Sunnydale - which means another rewatch is probably coming my way soon.


Runners up include Roswell, My So-Called Life, Gilmore Girls, & I Love Lucy, among others. So what about you? What are your all-time favorite TV shows, & which fall TV return are you most excited about?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Happy Caturday: It's This Little Guy's Adoptaversary!


I knew I wanted a cat. I desperately wanted a cat. Before sealing the deal on my Cleveland apartment, I made sure I was allowed to own one because I knew I couldn't go much longer sans fluff.

I planned to go to the Cleveland APL, just a few blocks from my then-new apartment, to look at the cats they had available for adoption. But then, a friend texted me to tell me she'd found a cat up for adoption on Reddit, & its current owner lived just a few blocks from me, too, right here in Tremont. At first, I was disappointed about the idea of not going to the APL to coo over every feline on the premises - but once I met this guy, I knew I wanted to be his mama.

And so, he came home with me exactly one year ago today. 

I'd planned to name him Omar, from The Wire, but once I met him & spent some time with him, it didn't feel quite right. After much brainstorming, Mike & I settled on another TV show-themed name: Helo, named for a character from Battlestar Galatica. It suits him perfectly.

I worried that adopting a cat might be bad for my relationship. Mike wasn't a big cat person - which is sort of an understatement, actually - but almost immediately, he loved this little guy as much as I did. And it's mutual. Helo runs to the apartment door & meows whenever he hears Mike coming up the stairs on his way home from work.

He's totally manic, sometimes the sweetest guy in the world & sometimes mean as sin. He bites. He scratches. He has induced countless scars on my arms & chest. He hisses at my mother & claws at my calves when I walk past him in the apartment. And one time, he pooped in the bathtub.

But he's also my best little buddy. I talk to him an embarrassing amount when we're alone in the apartment. I call him my Boo, my Fluff, & a dozen other stupid, schoompy nicknames. When he's feeling nice, he's so nice. He licks my hands & purrs as I pet him. He sits right on my chest when I'm lying in bed, & he tries to groom my hair.

He's chatty. He chirps & screeches & meows & makes all kinds of little noises."Why are you always yelling at me?" I demand to know of him, but he just yowls at me in response.

He wakes me up every morning circa 5am by either thundering across the apartment, biting me on the arm, or yelling in my face - not because he needs anything, but because he's bored. He just needs us. Companionship. Attention.

Oh, & he's enormous. I call him my little lion, but there's nothing particularly little about him. He weighs 16 lbs. now, bigger than both of my mom's dogs, but he isn't fat, he's just a big guy. His paws are huge, like he might grow even larger still. God, I hope not.

He loves wet food & tries to eat right off our plates. His favorite spot to sit is in the cardboard Amazon box I once dropped in the corner of the living room & have now resigned to never throw away. He desperately wants to go outside, so badly that he sits on the end table near the door to our deck & paws at the doorknob while meow-screaming. His favorite game is playing "cat cave," invented by his dad.

In short, he is my favorite little thing in the world, the best-worst cat I can imagine. I dream of a day when he settles down & doesn't always want to run full-speed around our small apartment, when he instead wants to be cuddly & cozy a little more often. But even if he doesn't, I love him just as he is - claws & all.

Happy adoptaversary, little guy. I am so glad we found each other.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How to Run a Successful Poshmark Shop



Now, this is certainly no business blog - never has been, never will be, not least of all because I am not a businesswoman. That said, I've always had a knack for bringing in a little bit of extra money when I need it, from selling my beloved Michael Kors purse on eBay in college to freelancing for Hearst's now-defunct The Mix (RIP) for some travel cash earlier this year.

As I blogged this spring, one of my favorite side hustles is Poshmark, a mobile app for buying & selling clothing, shoes, accessories, & more. Originally just a sales forum for women's goods, Poshmark recently expanded to include men's & children's gear, too - which means there's potential for more profit than ever.

A few Poshmark users have commented to ask me for tips boosting their sales & making their closets more appealing. I thought I'd share those thoughts here.

1. Take clear, well-lit photos.  

Not a master of the beautiful flat-lay? Me neither. But as long as you take clear, well-lit photos, you don't need to go crazy with the details. I take all my photos against a solid-colored wall (ideally a white one) during peak sunlight hours, ensuring that clothing is hung from a clear hanger, with sleeves hanging neatly at the sides & everything as wrinkle-free as possible. People want to see what the clothes look like!

2. Set your prices a little bit high - but not too high. 

Buyers on Poshmar will haggle; it's just a part of the culture. Assume that potential buys will try to bring down your prices, & then price your garments accordingly. People like to feel like they're getting a deal, but this also keeps you from getting ripped off. The other upside to this is that when someone decides not to haggle & makes a purchase at your face value, you'll make a little bit more than expected!

3. Include measurements.  

Poshmark makes buyers nervous because they can't try on the clothes, & they can't return them. Take away some of the guesswork by including measurements, like shoulder to hem & armpit to armpit. Do all this when you photograph & list the garment; otherwise, you'll have to dig it out of storage later when someone asks about a specific measurement.

4. Use SEO best practices.  

Good marketers know that search engine optimization is everything when it comes to helping the general public find your product. On Poshmark, this means writing a description that includes keywords your potential buyers would use. Write detailed descriptions that includes terminology customers may search for, including alternative phrases (tee/T-shirt, blazer/jacket, etc.) Does the piece include some special feature? Include descriptive words like "peplum," "scalloped," "high-low," etc., where appropriate to make your items easily searchable.

5. Be up front about flaws.

Is there a small stain that you just haven't tried to remove? Note that it's there but that it may come out with a spot treatment. Is there a run or a small rip? Say so. It won't necessarily prevent people from buying - but your honesty will ensure that buyers can't return the item by claiming that your description didn't give them the full story.

6. Respond to inquiries & offers.

This is a no-brainer! Respond to questions in a timely fashion to keep potential buyers' interest piqued & to set yourself up as a reliable buyer. Offers expire within 24 hours, so get to those quickly (& don't be afraid to turn down an offer that lowballs you).

7. Share other closets.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, share items from other users' closets with your followers. I can't say for certain, but I suspect that Poshmark's algorithms actually favor users who aren't selfish with their shares; the more I share, the more people seem to find me! Of course, that could be because it also fosters goodwill with other users, making them more likely to share your closet in return.

8. Participate in parties.

Poshmark hosts themed "parties," sort of like virtual trunk shows, a few times a day. Join in & share your listings into the party to get them in front of the eyes of potential buyers who might not otherwise find you. If you're lucky, your item may be chosen as a "host pick," meaning it's highlighted by the folks at the party's helm. This can be huge for sales!

9. Add a personal touch.

This is a little extra touch that can go a long way, reminding buyers that their clothes are coming from a real person's closet & not a big-name company. Let buyers know when you've dropped their package in the mail, or if you're running on a delay. Include a little note in your package to thank them for buying & to encourage them to leave feedback to boost your seller score.

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And that's about the gist of it! Fellow Poshmark sellers, have I left anything out? It's not brain surgery, but it can feel overwhelming for new sellers, especially for those who aren't communications-savvy to begin with. Think of Poshmark as an opportunity to market your own closet - & the better job you do of it, the more likely you are to rake in some side cash!

If you join Poshmark, use code HMUGD for a $5 credit. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Our State Fair is a Great State Fair!

Our state fair is a great state fair.
Don't miss it, don't even be late!
It's dollars to donuts that our state fair
Is the best state fair in our state!
(Rodgers and Hammerstein's "State Fair")


Here's something you might not have known about me: For two summers in high school, I was a member of the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir, a choir of 200 teenagers from across the Buckeye State. For three weeks, we lived in barracks-style dorms on the grounds of the Ohio State Fair, & during the two weeks the fair was in session, we performed three to four daily concerts throughout the event. It was one of the best experiences of my life, & I still remember those six weeks as a semi-carnie with fondness & nostalgia. (I can't find a photo of us in our dorky uniforms, but here's a good one of a bunch of us spending our free time at the Ferris wheel!)


I haven't been back to the fair for years, in part because I lived out of state for so long. I wanted to go last summer, but my move to Cleveland made the timing impossible, so this year, I told Mike that the only thing I wanted for my 32nd birthday was a day at the Ohio State Fair. And so it was.

We drove down to Columbus after work on Friday & spent the night in a great AirBnB in the Short North. The hostess even left us a sign that read "Happy birthday, Kate!" We had dinner at Crest Gastropub & watched the Olympics opening ceremony from Bier Stube, a dive bar recommended by our broey Uber driver. And early the next morning, we set off for the fair.






The Ohio State Fair is one of those places where time stands still, where everything is as it always has been. The faces are different & the technology is better, but so much is exactly as it ever was. As we walked the fairgrounds, I told stories & pointed out familiar places & sought out my favorite food stands, nearly all of which were just where I'd remembered them being.





The first summer I was in the choir, my friend Kari & I ate a corndog every day for two weeks, as only 15-year-olds can. There are plenty of corndog stands throughout the fairgrounds, but to my shock, the famously cheap corndog stand next to the big slide is still there, right next to the big slide! The price has gone up for $1 to $2, but hey, that's inflation for ya. After 15 years, I'm actually surprised they still cost so little. I didn't buy one last weekend, but I was still really excited about this discovery. 



Why no corndog? There are more than 200 food vendors at the fair, & I wanted to try it all! We were starving when we arrived, & unfortunately, I couldn't remember the way to the breakfast stand where I used to grab bacon & cheese sandwiches on my way to choir practice. Instead, Mike bought biscuits & gravy from the Der Dutchman stand, an Amish restaurant, & I got cheese on a stick from a standard carnie kiosk. That's sorrrrt of like a breakfast sandwich, right?! Off to a delicious start.



Of course, everyone knows that state fairs, especially in the Midwest, are known for their copious amounts of fried food - & it's true, the Ohio State Fair is chock full of it. At one stand, you could get deep-friend anything, basically, including entire PB&J sandwiches & balls of cream cheese stuffed with crickets. Yeah, you heard me. Look at this crazy list!





What you don't hear quite as much about is all the meat. First, there's an indoor (air conditioned!) building that houses the Taste of Ohio Café, which serves only Ohio-grown foods. All the watermelon is from Ohio farms, all the hamburgers are from the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, & so on. The meal options are broken down based on types of meat: the pork stand, a beer stand, a lamb stand... And outside, there are massive, block-long food stands that serve nothing but grilled meats, of every shape & variety.




Dairy products are a main feature of the Ohio State Fair, which is famous for its annual Butter Cow. The Butter Cow, which has been carved each year since 1903, is the size of a real cow, & its accompanied by a life-sized baby calf. They take more than 500 hours to carve. And each year, some other butter statue goes up, too; in past years, it's been Darth Vader, astronaut Neil Armstrong, Wendy's icon Dave Thomas, & Brutus of the OSU Buckeyes. No surprise: This year's bonus butter feature was a tribute to the Cavs!







While we were visiting the Dairy Barn, we bought strawberry milkshakes made fresh with milk from Ohio dairy cows. It was thick, creamy, & flavorful, one of the best milkshakes I've ever had, but as soon as I finished it, my stomach started roiling & I felt compelled to quote Anchorman: "Milk was a bad choice," at least on such a hot, sunny day. Woof.

The fair is also full of show animals that are on display throughout the fair. We spent a lot of time admiring the rabbits, & a handler even let me pet one of them, although it seemed terrified. I didn't get any pictures of them, but my favorite kind of rabbits are the ones that are so fluffy they look more like mopheads than bunnies.





I also cooed at the baby cows. Two of them were born just the day before! So wobbly. But I passed on milking the mama cows, as I have a distinct memory of wanting to vomit at the texture of their udders circa 2001.








And how 'bout these massive pumpkins? One of them weighed more than 300 lbs.! This display was, quite brilliantly, sponsored by a company that makes industrial strength scales. How genius is that? That's product placement done right, folks.



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We spent a significant chunk of the day in the Ohio Department of Natural Resources park, a large, wooded section of the fairgrounds dedicated to showcasing Ohio's slice of the great outdoors. It includes a large, talking Smoky the Bear statue, & much of it is set up like an outdoor museum, with explanations of the flora & fauna you'll find throughout the state. There's also a large hands-on space, where fairgoers can try their hand at fishing, kayaking, archery, & shooting.









The park also includes an aviary, where we saw three kinds of owls, two bald eagles, a peregrine falcon, & a blue herron, all rescues that spend the rest of the year in rehab facilities. "Do you think bald eagles have any idea just how American they are?" Mike mused. 





One of the best parts of the day, for both of us, was visiting an entire garden full of butterflies! There were four types in there, & after awhile, we finally spotted all of them. "Real-life Pokémon Go," Mike joked. We spent probably 20 minutes just staring at butterflies.




For me, a highlight of the day was watching the choir sing at the ODNR Stage, an outdoor amphitheater in the park section. It was their last day of performances, so it was way more casual than usual - think staff jumping into the moat around the stage mid-song - but it was still great to hear the choir. So many memories! And when they reached the last three songs, alums were invited to join in. I haven't sung "professionally" in ages, & I was pleased to find that I still remembered the words - & most of the right notes.






One section of the fairgrounds that we didn't really make it into was the area full of rides & games. We wandered through for the people-watching (SO GOOD), but that was about it. Mike doesn't love heights, so the Ferris wheel was off the list, & the line was much too long for the sky glider.







In part because we didn't take the sky glider, we walked more than 17,000 steps (seven miles) that day, which still wasn't enough to burn off all the calories we surely consumed. So what else did we eat? Let's see... we split a Bloomin' Onion, & during consumption, I learned that I don't hate ranch dressing, as previously thought. Who knew?! Twenty-four hours into age 32, I found a new food I like. And ranch! How Ohio of me. (Don't worry, we only ate half of this.)


We drank four bottles of water apiece throughout the very hot day, but when we wanted something a little different, we bought lemon shakeups, a fair favorite. The shakeup stand used to be right near the ODNR park, & after shows, all the choir members would sprint out to beat one another to the line. It's since moved to a better location, but they taste just as I remembered!



Of course, there are a few things we didn't try, like that whole table full of smoked meats & whatever the hell this is. Actually, I don't think I want to know.


We did, however, end the day my splitting an order fried Oreos. They don't look like much, but let me assure you: They tasted incredible. I had to throw away the last two so we didn't overindulge, & even then, we felt pretty darn gross afterward, but, like, how often am I eating fried Oreos, right? Gotta live a little. Sorry, arteries.


At the end of the day, I left full & happy & hardly sunburned, thrilled to have finally returned to this place that has always brought me so much joy. It's such a weird event, but it's also just so wonderful. Have I mentioned lately that I love this state? Thanks for a great 32nd birthday, Ohio.

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