Monday, September 26, 2016

Today's Been a Real Monday So Far

I don't usually have any issues with Monday, not really. I like my job, & as such, I don't dread the start of the work week. Like, would I rather still be living in the weekend? Yeah, sure. But Monday & I don't have any beef.

Except today.

Today went pear-shaped right away, within the first few seconds of waking up - & it continued to move downhill from there.
  1. I woke up sweaty: Sorry if this is TMI, but lately I've been having very anxiety-ridden dreams, & I've woken up with rill bad night sweats. Apparently night sweats are symptomatic of lots of health issues, including anxiety - surprise! - but also, you know, cancer. So that's a little worriesome? And either way, it's gross as hell to wake up sweating through your clothes & sheets & to have to shower when you weren't planning to.
  2. I went broke overnight: I woke up to an email from Facebook saying that, because I had hit a $500 billing threshold paying for September's work ads, I'd been billed immediately, rather than at the end of the month. The problem? My work ads are currently billed to my personal debit card. Now my bank account is $255 in the red, & though my boss tried to expedite a reimbursement, I apparently cannot be repaid until Friday. The worst part? I had a meeting scheduled with the finance guy this afternoon to switch out my personal card for a business card.
  3. I split my pants: It's pouring rain & no warmer than 65 today, so I got to wear actual fall clothes. Great! I put on my favorite sweater & a new pair of black & white LuLaRoe leggings, then sat down to work. I quickly realized that one butt cheek was... very cold. The culprit: a huge, horizontal hole in my brand new leggings, resulting in bare flesh against wood. Good thing I noticed before I set out for my morning coffee, I suppose.
  4. I got soaked: Speaking of heading out for my morning coffee, it is, as I mentioned, pouring outside. I texted Mike to ask if we have an umbrella anyplace before realizing that we do - in my car. Super-helpful, past-Kate, thanks. The coffee shop is nearby, so I braved it &, you know, got soaked. I returned home with a latte, a yogurt, &, for the third time this morning, very wet hair.
It's now just a little after noon, & blessedly, the day seems to have evened out, despite the fact that I'm hundreds of dollars in the hole & down a pair of (leggings-as-)pants. I'm of the ridiculous & unscientifically based belief that bad things always happen in threes, which means I have two more to go today, though I suppose I could make the case that getting rain-soaked wasn't bad luck; I willingly opted into that one. So maybe I'm all set on today...

Chill, Monday. Is this how you treat your friends? No wonder nobody else likes you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When Celebrities Descend Upon the CLE

I've had some pretty good celebrity sightings in my 32 short years. There was the time I ran into Jason Mewes from Jay & Silent Bob at a Starbucks. The time I sat behind Mila Kunis on a Southwest flight from Boston to D.C. And the time I realized I was sitting next to Maggie Grace at a Congressional hearing. Oh, & that time Katie Couric held the door for me at the Capitol. And also, notably, the time I was too chickenshit to introduce myself to my all-time favorite human, former senator & astronaut John Glenn.

But you don't really expect to see famous people in Cleveland, Ohio. It's a city, sure, but it's not, like, a glamorous, celebrity-filled, hotspot of a city. Maybe you'll catch a glimpse of Michael Symon at one of his restaurants or LeBron James visiting the local swimming pool (speaking from experience), or you might spy Usher & the Biebs as they take in a Cavs game... but celebrities on their own? Just, like, chillin' in Cleveland? Less likely.

Yesterday night, though, over Thai iced teas at Ty Fun in Tremont with my college friends Brittany & Jen, we spotted a celeb in the wild. A big celeb. Walking in the door, sitting just two tables away from us, there she was: Kate from Lost. Evangeline Lilly in the flesh, looking beautiful & casual & low-key in a flannel shirt & flip-flips. She settled in with a script & ordered a bowl of soup.

I can only imagine the looks on our facing - the highly embarrassing looks on our faces - as we realized who she was & confirmed with one another. As she slid into her booth & caught us staring, she gave us a small smile that said, "Yes, I know who I am," & went about her business (script, soup, et al). We tried to play it cool but in actuality spent a lot of time eavesdropping on her conversation with the server (she wanted her soup to be spicier)  & Googling why she was in Cleveland.

Turns out she's here to film a Netflix original TV show called Little Evil, co-starring Adam Scott... which means he's here someplace, too. Not that we spied on Evangeline Lilly or anything, but she seems to be staying at an apartment complex in my neighborhood, which has me wondering: Is she AirBnBing? Renting? Where does she go besides the Thai place? Does she want to have coffee with me? No? Damn.

After The Avengers & Fast & the Furious #58673632 filmed here, I'm excited to see Cleveland getting a little bit more play - in my small neighborhood, no less! - with another project filming within city limits. I hope our fair city is treating Evangeline & Adam well & that they'll spread the word to their fellow celebs that the 216 is where it's at. Or something. At the very least, I hope I didn't creep her out by staring a lot.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Story Behind My Big Modeling Debut (Yes, Really!)

One weekday morning at the start of the summer, I trekked out to Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland, & arrived at the Old Screw Factory to meet my college friend Tara for my modeling debut. Yeah, you heard me: modeling debut.

OK, OK, it wasn't quite as fancy as it sounds, but it was still pretty darn fun.

This year Tara, ever the entrepreneur, launched the Bloom Beautifully Box, a bimonthly subscription box designed to help women focus on self-care. At $40 (though there's usually a discount available), it's full of goodies to get you to chill out & treat yo'self. She's only a few boxes in so far, but past products have included loose-leaf tea & a tea ball, fizzy bath products, & Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration, among others.

When she first launched the box & its accompanying website, Tara was using stock imagery, but as the business grew, she wanted to personalize it. Enter... me! She reached out to me & her friend Siobhan of The BeFree Project, asking if we'd be interested in doing a photoshoot for the Bloom Beautifully Box. Of course I said yes.

I arrived with my makeup done as well as my skills would allow & my hair looking damn fly, if I may say so myself. Tara had asked me to wear a light-colored top & jeans, but I didn't own any jeans (!), & nearly all my clothes are black, which presented a problem. I put on black ponte pants & a flowy white & grey top from Francesca's (even though I'm still mad at them), & I brought a couple alternatives along in case I hadn't hit the mark.

By the time I arrived, local photographer Kamron Khan was already on-site at Bella Ellie, a gorgeous, chic little boutique that sells restyled vintage jewelry, curated vintage clothing, & home goods. Once she'd set up the room just so, we got down to business - the fun part!

Kamron & Tara directed Siobhan & me as we opened & reopened Bloom Beautifully boxes, trying out a variety of facial expressions: "Look surprised!" "Look content!" "Look like your friend just gave you a gift!" I practiced looking much softer & kinder & more feminine than I think I usually do in real life. At one point, Siobhan & I got to talking & forgot we were even being photographed, which really broke the awkwardness as we tried to play BFFs for the camera.

And then, as soon as it started, it was over, & I was back at work, like any other day.

I confess that I am a little embarrassed by the final images themselves. Kamron is an incredible photographer, don't get me wrong. She did a great job! It's just so weird to see myself looking so... unlike myself, you know? It's hard not to be too hard on myself: I should've colored my hair, I could've had someone else do my makeup, I have double chins, I wish I'd worn something else... But I know I'm just being picky. In actuality, it's pretty cool that I got to do this, that my face is on this website selling a thing.

It was so much fun to push my boundaries & do something different & fun, especially to help a friend's company. Do I have a career in modeling? Yeah, OK, no. I know that. But I'm proud & excited to be one of the non-stock photography faces of a great, woman-run, Ohio-based small business.

Want to see the rest of the pics? Visit, where you can see Siobhan & me get our model on and sign up for 15% off your first purchase. My fourth box arrived today; check out my Instagram for a look at what I think is Tara's best box yet. 

All photos copyright Kamron Kahn Photography & the Bloom Beautifully Box. Do not use without express permission.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My New Favorite Way to Find My New Favorite Books

I like reading. Maybe you've noticed? Growing up, I was one of those kids with my head under the covers & a flashlight in my hand as I devoured whatever book had my attention at the time, long after bedtime hours. When I was in middle school, my mom began pursuing her masters in library science; for most of my life, she's been a children's librarian, so I've spent lots & lots of time around lots & lot of books.

At the beginning of the year, I pledged to stop buying books. Why buy what I could so easily borrow for free from my local library? For the most part, I've stuck to that commitment, checking out hard copies from the Cleveland Public Library branch three blocks from my apartment & borrowing Kindle versions through Overdrive using the four library cards to my name.

But I started to miss having a small library of my own, too. Aside from my intentionally collected stack of Bret Easton Ellis novels, most of my own books weren't even ones I really liked. I cleaned out my meager bookshelf & donated more than two dozen books to my local Little Free Libraries (& a few more, recently, to this week's kickoff of Cleveland Book Week)... & wasn't left with much of my own.

Enter Book of the Month Club, a monthly subscription box... of books. OK, really just one book, unless you pay extra for more, but the gist is basically that at the start of each month, BoTM reveals five brand new, just released book choices, each reviewed & recommended by literary judges & celebrity guest judges (recently Andy Cohen & Allison Williams, for example). Based on your preferences, BoTM chooses which of the five it thinks you'll like best, but you can easily change your selection - &, if you'd like, add another (or any book from months past) for an extra $9.99.

Their books are thick, sturdy hardcovers with beautiful, colorful covers, each stamped with the BoTM logo to identify them as part of a collection. (Whenever I start reading one, I slip off the cover for safekeeping until I'm finished!) The BoTM site also includes forums on each book so you can chat with other readers. So far, books I've gotten from BoTM include Siracusa by Delia Ephron, Shrill by Lindy West, Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner, & most recently, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. And the company has a stellar Instagram presence.

Why am I telling you this right now? A) Because I like spreading the word about things I like, & B) If you sign up for Book of the Month Club using my referral link & the discount code FRIEND50, you can get 50% off a three-month subscription. That's a month & a half free, which frees up some cash in your wallet... to buy more books, probably, if you're anything like me.

Fine, there's a C), too: If you use my referral code, I get a free book, & basically nothing makes me happier than free books - except reading them. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to read one of my Book of the Month Club books (Modern Lovers by Emma Straub) for my upcoming book club.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How to Recover from a Crazy Weekend

How'd you spend your Labor Day weekend? I attended a huge, wonderful, joyful wedding in which Mike was a groomsman. For us, then, the wedding was a three-day affair, complete with a rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself, & a day-after brunch at the groom's family farm. We had a great time, but  I was feeling pretty busted come Monday.

So how do you recover from a weekend like that? I created my own little mini self-care ritual to get myself feeling back up to speed, mind, body, spirit, & otherwise. Here's what it entailed:
  1. Mind: Post-wedding, I slept for almost 14 hours. I didn't set any alarms, just let my body do its rest & recovery thing. 
  2. Skin: After a loooong shower to rinse the weekend away, I did a face mask to purify & rehydrate my skin... especially because I slept in some of my makeup!
  3. Hair: I treated my hair to an upgrade with a Shea Moisture rinse that has made my usually straw-like hair nothing but soft & silky. 
  4. Body: OK, here's the big one: On Tuesday, I did a juice cleanse to help my body reset itself after a weekend of pizza & booze. That's what this post is really about!

My one-day juice cleanse came from Cleveland-based company Garden of Flavor (#buylocal!) & included six raw, vegan juices per day, labeled with the order in which you should consume them: 
  1. Goji Pineapple (pineapple, goji berries,, apple, ginger, mint, lemon)
  2. Green Harmony with Probiotic Cultures (cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, romaine, apples, lemon, parsley)
  3. Mean Green (cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, romaine, lemon, parsley)
  4. Twisted Roots (carrots, beets, lemon)
  5. White Knight (cashews, agave, vanilla, cinnamon)
  6. Turmeric Tonic with Probiotic Cultures (Hawaiian turmeric root, ginger root, lemon, agave, cayenne, mint)
I worried about how the juices would taste: Would they be gross, or grassy?! The answer was a resounding no. These juices were, across the board, damn delicious. If you have trouble with straight-up, unsweetened green juices, #2 & #3 might be tough for you, but because I often order the Super Green juices from Starbucks, they tasted familiar & refreshing to me. And so healthy!

To my surprise, my favorite juice was Twisted Roots. I don't like beets at all, but somehow, this juice tasted very balanced & not at all earthy, as beets sometimes are. It was sweet & robust, & I was devastated when I spilled the last of it all over my floor (narrowly missing my white rug, thankfully!)

Other concerns I had upon starting: Six juices is a lot of juices in one day, especially for someone with a pea-sized bladder & some weird digestive issues, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that body-wise, it felt like any other day. Another concern was that I'd be hungry all day, but given that six juices is a lot of juices in one day, I was actually so full that it was tough to get through all of them! I did miss food, but that was mostly mental, I think, because I was definitely not actually hungry.

Full disclosure, though: At one point, on autopilot, I dug into cold Indian leftovers - rice, cashews, & yellow curry - & three bites in, I realized my mistake. Luckily, it was a pretty soft, digestible food that I don't think interfered with my cleanse - though my failure initially had me riddled me with guilt. I tried to forgive myself, given that it was my first try cleansing, but I'm still mad that I messed up!

At the end of my cleanse, I felt healthy, rejuvenated, & full. It was a great experience that helped me reset my body for an autumn of better eating. My boyfriend has started making homemade pierogis, which complicates my resolve, but post-cleanse, I'm feeling a lot more committed to fruits, veggies, & my overall health.

Want to try your own cleanse? You can snag Garden of Flavor juices at stores across the country, including Heinen's, Whole Foods, & Giant Eagles throughout Northeast Ohio. You can also find them in cities like Washington, D.C., Chicago, & NYC - so go get your drink on, friends!

Thanks to the kind folks at Garden of Flavor for providing me with a one-day juice cleanse in exchange for my honest review. As always, all opinions are my own. Yes, I actually really loved this juice cleanse.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

19 Reasons I'm Excited for Fall

It's no secret that summer & I aren't friends. But just as I very quickly & easily penned 19 things I dislike about summer, I can just as easily come up with 19 things I look forward to about autumn. Actually, I could probably come up with 19 more, if needed, because I really, really like autumn. And fine, it was 82 degrees in Cleveland today, but those two days of fall-like weather we had last week were enough to get me excited.

Here's what I'm most looking forward to:
  1. No more sweating
  2. That crisp fall air & the smell that accompanies it
  3. Actually wanting to go outside again (see #1 & #2) 
  4. Finally wearing my hair down again (see #1)
  5. Finally wearing boots, sweaters, & jeans again
  6. Flavors like cinnamon, maple, & salted caramel
  7. Warm, cozy, hot coffee drinks in all the above flavors 
  8. Warm, cozy, hot foods, like soup & casseroles
  9. Leaves changing color...
  10. ...& later, leaves crunching underfoot 
  11. So many festivals!
  12. The return of fall TV (I'm lookin' at you, Grey's Anatomy.)
  13. The High Holidays
  14. Getting off work for the High Holidays (a special working-for-a-Jewish-org bonus)
  15. My favorite holiday, Halloween, & all its accompanying festivities
  16. Significantly lower electricity bills
  17. The arrival of football season (Go Browns! Go Bucks!)
  18. Mike's birthday (especially because he's turning 30 this month)
  19. Going to Szalay's to pick out pumpkins & produce 
What are you looking forward to this fall?

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Few Things I'm Obsessing Over right Now (Pt. V)

It's been awhile since I've done one of these, eh? I thought I didn't have enough new obsessions to pull together a list, & yet, here I am, obsessing aloud in list form. Here's a quick look at what I'm into these days:
  1. Pretty By Post: If there's one thing I love, it's sending snail mail to friends & family - & if there's another thing I love, it's subscription boxes. What's more perfect for me, then, than a monthly subscription service that sends half a dozen handmade greeting cards? And curated by a fellow Ohioan, no less!
  2. Starbucks Iced Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato: I hate ordering this because it's just so many words, & I can't help but feel douchey about it. Still, this is one of the most delicious drinks Starbucks has ever come out with, in my humble, Starbucks-loving opinion.
  3. Bachelor in Paradise: Should I be embarrassed about this? I'm embarrassed about this. I don't even like The Bachelor that much, so I have no idea why its epically trashy spinoff holds such appeal for me - & yet here I am, tuning in twice a week. I think there's some strange allure for committed women who don't necessarily miss their single days but who enjoy living vicariously through someone else's.
  4. Old Navy Metallic Pointy Flats in Light Gold Rush: I snagged these great flats on sale & can't wait to wear them with everything this fall. I would wear them to bed if I could. 
  5. LuLaRoe: I held out against yet another Internet business selling something that didn't appeal to me... until a friend sent me a free pair of leggings to try. Now, I never want to wear anything else, & I am trying my damndest to guard my wallet from repeated shopping sprees.
  6. I signed up for these daily inspirational text messages after reading about them on another blog. Sure, I could just, like, look up my own damn inspiration every day, but who has time for that? Now I just wake up to it every day.
  7. Homemade smoothies: I'm back on the smoothie train with my favorite recipe: two handfuls of baby spinach, a banana, a red apple, some almond milk, & a scoop or two of organic peanut butter, blended in my little bullet blender. I'm never healthier than when I'm on the smoothie train.
  8. Pokémon Go: I've already confessed to this on the blog, & already, the enthusiasm is winding down - can I can an update, Niantic?! - but my love for this app persists. I caught a bunch of new Pokémon while in NYC, including a Pikachu! I just hit level 22 & am desperate to keep on keepin' on.
  9. Urban Decay lipstick: I snagged a $25 lip color for $9.99 from Nordstrom Rack, which sort of numbed the pain of not finding a dress too wear to an upcoming wedding. It's shiny, not matte like I'm used to, but I kinda like that, & it stays on alllll day.
  10. Franco Sarto Delancey Crossbody: I rotate between two purses - a tiny one & a Longchamp - so I'm not usually on the lookout for anything new. But I scored this beauty for just $20 on sale at Marshall's before my NYC trip, & it turned out to be the perfect size for travel. It's also a great pop of color for someone who's prone to neutrals. 
Tell me: What are you super-into these days? 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

What I Read in August

If I felt like I didn't do enough reading in July, I certainly made up for it in August, with a new record: 10 books! This is due partly to the fact that I spent four days at a cabin in the woods sans wifi, where I plowed through about a book a day, & due partly to the fact that a few of these were very easy reads (see: an ebook by a former People staffer). August ran the gamut from frivolous (see: the memoir of a Bachelorette contestant) to serious (see: the memoir of a mass shooter's mother), with lots of character-driven novels & quirky personal essays in between. Oh, yeah - and a Harry Potter book! Let's get to it, shall we?

Red Carpet Regret: Confessions of a Cynical Celebrity Journalist by Sara Hammel

The author, a longtime freelancer for People magazine, recently quit her job in a spectacular, headline-making way, by writing a long letter about all the ways the magazine has changed for the worse during her tenure. While this short Kindle mini-memoir does provide a fun & sometimes juicy look into the world of celebrity "journalism," I was continually distracted by how poorly it was edited (so many typos). Moreover, it was clearly blatant promotional tool for the author's new novel (so many references to it), which felt insultingly PR-driven & frankly just tacky. ★★☆☆☆

The Girls by Emma Cline

A Book of the Month Club read. This one has a fascinating premise - about a woman who falls in with a cult - but the writing was so pretentious & overwrought that it was nearly impossible to like. We get it, Emma Cline, you've got a massive mental thesaurus & a way with analogies - but did you need to use all of it in this one little book? Tempted though I was to abandon it, the story kept me compelled, & the ending was mostly satisfying. Still, the language was so flowery & all the characters so pitiful that when I got to the last page, I just felt a mixture of exhaustion & relief. ★★☆☆☆

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Oh, how I wish this had been a "real" Harry Potter book, but still, it was enough to re-enter this world even just for a moment, in whatever form Rowling allows us. The fact that it was shared as a script made it easier for me to overlook major plot holes & my overall negative feelings toward the use of time travel as a literary device. I loved returning to Hogwarts & spending time with so many old friends - as well as meeting some new ones. ★★★★☆

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

Stole this book from my mom's bedroom; apparently it came from a Borders of long, long ago (RIP). This is a quick, easy read of short essays by the incomparable Nora Ephron (also RIP), the brilliant & insightful writer of You've Got Mail & other such gems. Topics touch on stereotypically female elements of life, like vanity, housekeeping, dating - all from a witty, feminist perspective. Ephron was in her late 60s when she wrote this, so don't expect it to be quite as progressive as you'd like, but it's still a wonderful, charming book. ★★★★★

Local Girls by Caroline Zancan 

I haven't read a book like this in a long time, the kind that feels compelling & creative but accessible at the same time. It flashes between past, present, & future, telling the story of four friends' rocky relationship, the kind all of us experienced in high school - the kinds that mean so much in the moment but inevitably fall apart with time. It simultaneously tells the story of two turning points in their friendship - their falling out with one of the four, & a brief reunion at a bar one night, where they meet a major movie star on what turns out to be the last night of his life. This is what I'd hoped The Girls would be like, but Zancan delivers it in much more relatable, enjoyable terms. ★★★★☆

It's Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Never After by Andi Dorfman

How embarrassed am I to admit that I read a book written by a Bachelorette star? Oh, but I did. My newest guilty pleasure is Bachelor in Paradise, & when a new arrival joined the show, this book became a topic of conversation for all it says about him. Yes, I fell for the marketing. Yes, it was largely an annoying & terribly written waste of time. Yes, Dorfman's ghostwriter appears to be a 17-year-old valley girl. But it was still juuust juicy enough to keep me reading until the end. Hey, I'm a woman of varied tastes. ★★☆☆☆

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This was a Book of the Month Club book that I didn't buy but was intrigued enough to borrow from the library before my trip. It's a Clue-style whodunit meets The Girl on the Train, the story of a PTSD-suffering insomniac journalist who drinks too much. While on assignment on a state-of-the-art cruise ship, she witnesses a murder - or did she? All passengers & crew are accounted for, so no one believes her. The pacing felt off to me - I wish there'd been more lead-up to the initial reveal - but overall, a well-told mystery that didn't so much keep me guessing who did it so much as it kept me wondering what would happen next. ★★★★☆

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

Like the rest of the world, I've long been interested in the Columbine shootings, researching them & learning all I can about both the victims & the perpetrators. I was surprised to find that one of the shooter's mothers had written a book, as both families have been notoriously quiet through the years. This was a painful, powerful memoir about a mother's struggle to grieve for her dead son - who she knew as a sweet, thoughtful teen boy - while fighting through oppressive, overwhelming guilt & grief for the community she loves. An absolute must-read. ★★★★★

Agorafabulous! Dispatches from My Bedroom by Sara Benincasa

Is it terrible that the first thing I thought of is what an ironic last name the author has, for being an agoraphobic? Like, "Been in casa"? No? Just me. OK, OK. Anyway, this is a really incredible look at mental illness - how it comes about, what it feels like, how someone comes back from it. Benincasa, now a comedian, was so agoraphobic at age 21 that she was afraid to leave her bedroom & thus urinated in cereal bowls that she hid under her bed. It's a memoir, but it's so readable that it almost feels like a novel. ★★★★★

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

I got this book for free from Book Bub & wasn't expecting much of it, but it turned out to be a great summer novel, easy to read but detailed & complex in its character development. It's about a small Southern community thrown into disarray when a young boy nearly drowns in the local pool; alliances are made secrets & secrets are revealed. Though I found many of the twists to be predictable, they were told in such a way that I was still thrilled to see them unveiled. ★★★★★


Oh, & one more! I read this book in one sitting in July but somehow forgot to include it in my July roundup (I guess I know how; see review). Here's my quick take on this quick read.

Sia by Josh Grayson

Terrible. Why did I read the whole thing? In my defense, at least it was quick, but it certainly wasn't painless. This YA fluff read taps into an ages-old trope - the main character has amnesia! - but it's so poorly done it's neither believable nor likeable. SO MUCH happens, in addition to the amnesia: An abduction attempt! Homelessness! Theft! Love! Friendship drama! Alcoholism! A film deal! Was this written by a 15-year-old on speed? It would've gotten an A+ if it were written as a high school project, but as a published novel? GTFO. ★☆☆☆☆

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.

Please note that 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 please also don't judge me too harshly for including them.   

Monday, August 29, 2016

I Don't Need to Leave (An Ode to My Days of Frequent Travel)

It used to be that I loved nothing more than to travel. When I lived in New Hampshire & New Jersey, especially, I traveled a lot. All my friends lived elsewhere, & traveling was the only way to get to them so, with a job that allowed me the freedom to work from the road, I spent much of my time away from home - visiting friends across the country, going home to Ohio, & traveling to place like NYC, DC, & Israel for work. I once catalogued all the flights I took in a year & found that there wasn't a single month that didn't see me flying someplace or another.

It's August, though, & just last weekend, I took only my second flight of the year.

Wait, what? How can that be?

Don't get me wrong, I still love to travel. I've gone out of town a few time this year, but for the most part, for now, it seems, my traveling days are behind me. I don't rack up the frequent flier miles anymore because I haven't been a frequent flier for quite some time now. Before this one, my last flight was for a wedding in South Carolina in April - & before that, I last flew in September of 2015, nearly an entire year ago, when I went to the beach with my mom.

So what the hell has happened to me? What happened to the cosmopolitan city-hopper I was once so proud to be?

The most telling change of all is that I finally moved to a place that feels like home, a place where I have a happy life & very little desire to escape it. I want to travel - I always want to travel, & there's so much of the world left to see - but if I can't afford to get out of town or don't have the times do it, well... I'm don't mind being at home, either. Not at all. In fact, I love it here.

I realize now that, as proud as I was of all my travels, I was also trying to compensate for something - for feeling like I didn't belong anywhere, for feeling perpetually displaced, for never quite being at home. I traveled to feel, to love, to relieve a pain that I wasn't willing to admit, aloud or to myself, was crushing me.

I'm not saying everyone who travels is trying to make up for some lack of loss in their life. Not at all. In fact, I'd love to travel a little more often - I do miss it - & like I said, there are still approximately a billion places I want to explore. But for me, at least, at that time, all that travel was the plug meant to fill a void, to stop me from drowning in my displacement. Travel kept my mind busy. Travel kept me from admitting to myself that I didn't like being home - that I didn't even know where home was.

Now, I like coming home just as much as I like the leaving. I want to see new places, to be with my people, to explore, to adventure. But at the end of the day, I want to board a flight back to Cleveland & pet my cat & settle into my bed & wake up in my neighborhood with my life - here, not anywhere else.

And so, I may not have as many miles as I once had. I can no longer call myself an avid traveler, because these days, I'm an avid stayer-at-home. But the whole point, really, the beauty of that, is that it's OK - that home is finally a place I like being so much that I no longer feel an overwhelming desire to leave, to be someplace else, to distract myself.

I will always love to travel. But at the end of the day, when my suitcase is stowed under the bed & the pages of my passport are curled with age & lack of use, home is where my heart is. I want to see the world - but I sure do love my little corner of it.

(P.S.: Perhaps ironically, within minutes of posting this, I booked a huge trip this fall. More on that later!)

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.


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.


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?
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