Wednesday, December 29, 2010

& There's Reason to Believe Maybe This Year Will Be Better Than the Last


Like so many other bloggers, I am, indeed, vain enough to do a countdown of my own. 2010 was a big year for me, & I'm not about to let it slip away unnoticed. Here, a compilation of the things that, for better or worse, stand out most:
  1. There was a snowstorm. A big one. My best friend spent the night for... three nights? We never technically had off of work (technology is a jerk), but it sure felt like we did - "Home Alone" marathons, fancy-ish brunches, & lots of Snuggie-wearing? I love co-hibernation.
    • Moral: In the right circumstances & with the right people, there's no such thing as too much togetherness.

  2. I experienced a bit of an emotional breakdown when my bosses asked me to hop a train to New York City with just a couple hours' notice to help facilitate a meeting between the big boss & members of the Israeli government. After a full-scale freak-out, I did as instructed - & was pleasantly surprised by the experience. 
    • Moral: Believe in yourself as much as others do. And for Pete's sake, take some deep breaths.

  3. On the 15th anniversary of my father's death to lung cancer - & one of the hottest days of the summer - I spent 12+ hours with a gaggle of my closest friends at Relay for Life in Arlington, Va. Together, we raised thousand of dollars for the American Cancer Society - & I didn't even get sunburned!
    • Moral: Charity is fun & fulfilling. Sweet combo.

  4. The universe smiled upon me & gave me the opportunity to visit the set of "Top Chef," my favorite TV show in ever. And miracle of miracles, I actually appeared in an episode! With a speaking role! Talking about... root beer & meat
    • Moral: A good sense of humor gets you stuff. Like gourmet food & pseudo-fame.

  5. In April, I accepted a new job with a respected public relations firm. They offered, & I accepted, enamored of the idea of working for such a creative, successful team.
    • Moral: The smartest choice is not always the best choice.

  6. To take a new job, of course, I had to leave my old job. While this seems, on the surface, like it ought to be the same bullet point as #3, it's not. Leaving my old office was a landmark life event - it was like leaving home for college, like leaving my family behind. I am, in truth, still struggling with the fact that I left; I miss it terribly, even six months later, but my life has since taken so many twists & turns that I cannot regret my decision. Sliding doors & all that...
    • Moral: I'm not sure yet. But I think it's that you should take risks, even when they're scary & you're comfortable where you are. Choose your own adventure.

  7. Three months after starting it, I left my new job. I never blogged about this, either, because I didn't want to go into too much detail, but it was decided by the time I wrote this post. Though I was (& remain) eternally grateful to my employers for their support & understanding, I couldn't deny that it was not the right fit - no matter how much we both wanted to make it work.
    • Moral: Follow your heart. No, really. Even when it seems illogical & completely undoable.

  8. During the Fourth of July weekend, I began dating Nathan, who I have since only blogged about informally. He's my cousin's best friend, & we met when he was still in high school but just reconnected this year. I have truly never been so happy with another person, & I'm positive that I am, in fact, capable of the kind of relationship I once doubted. 
    • Moral: Love comes to those who believe it, & that's the way it is.

  9. Jobless & soon-to-be-apartmentless, I made the decision to move back to Ohio. It was so, so difficult to leave the places & people I had come to love, & the time came sooner than I'd planned or hoped for, but I always knew I wouldn't stay in D.C. forever... & so I leapt.
    • Moral: Bon Jovi was right. You can always go home again. At least, I can. And for that, I am so very lucky.

  10. After four nerve-wracking, disheartening months of unemployment, I got a new job - with the organization I left in May! Though it's an entirely different position (consulting rather than communications) in an entirely different atmosphere (working from home rather than from an office) in an entirely different place (New Hampshire instead of D.C.), I'm confident it's a good move for me, & I can't wait to begin it - next week!
    • Moral: As my dad used to say, press on, regardless.
It's been a long year. A stressful year. A year full of equal parts laughter & tears, good luck & bad. I don't know what 2011 brings, but I dare it to give 2010 a run for its wishy-washy, John-Kerry-flip-floppy, sometimes-awesome-sometimes-awful money.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Very Merry Jewish Christmas

Here in the Eastern time zone, Christmas has arrived! I plan to spend it on-call for the local news site I've been freelancing for, which basically means listening to the police scanner while watching as many episodes of "Law & Order: SVU" as I can crunch into the day, all while consuming leftover kung pao chicken from tonight's Christmas Eve dinner at PF Chang's.

My mom & I originally sent this Picniked greeting to my boyfriend, who's stationed in Key West for the holiday, & then to our former foreign exchange students in Costa Rica & Spain & then to the Christian half of our family. Of course, I couldn't resist sharing it with the rest of you. Because, um, it's ridiculous. 


Wishing a very Merry Christmas to all my friends who celebrate it! Don't shoot your eye out.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's a Jungle Out Here! (Pt. II)

I asked my fellow Ohioans to chill with the animal-related stuff, but it seems that was too weighty a request. Case in point is the vehicle depicted below, spotted in the parking lot of my local library.

There are so many things wrong with this picture. Four, at the very least:

  1. Why, yes, it is drafty. It's 23* F, to be exact. I wonder how this plate plays mid-summer, but for now, it's spot-on. Weird, but spot-on.
  2. This one is self-explanatory.
  3. This one is EVEN MORE SELF-EXPLANATORY. Or is it? What is this? A whimsical watercolor tire cover? Where does one purchase such an abomination? (Let me guess. Wal-Mart.)
  4. This sticker reads "Be happy!" though I can't see how this person could be.
And that's not even taking into account the fact that this vehicle is chartreuse.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gamechangers: Go Ahead, Keep Making My Day

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine referred to his brother as "an enthusiast," someone who obsesses over certain new-found things for brief periods of time before moving along to the next bit of excitement. I instantly related with this personality trait & adopted the "enthusiast" label for myself. A good example of my enthusiasm is Thai food, namely the restaurant down the street from my first apartment in D.C. I order spicy fried rice for take-out so frequently that one day, when I called to place my order, the employee said, "Oh, the girl in the red coat!" I was mortified, & thus ended my enthusiasm for that restaurant - onto the next one!

I wanted to share with you some of the things I'm currently enthusiastic about. Be warned: They're going to severely lower your opinion of my coolness.

  • Shakti Gawain's "Creative Visualization: Meditations"
    My mom gave me this Oprah-approved meditation CD years ago, & I was bemused by the cliched "inspirational" cover art; needless to say, I never listened to it. On a whim, I recently uploaded it to my iTunes & began listening to it at night as I fall asleep. Gawain's voice is relaxing & her instructions are simple. Sure, I feel a little ridiculous imagining spheres of golden lights encompassing my body, but it's helped me slow down my late-night worry-fests & sleep a bit easier.

  • These a.n.a® Derby boots
    I've worn these every single day since Black Friday, when Nate got them for me for Christmas, with the only exceptions being days I haven't let my home. They go with everything. They are so comfortable they may as well be slippers. They look badass. And they were on sale for something like $25.

  • The Best Grilled Cheese in the World
    I blogged about my brilliant grilled cheese invention once already, but it warrants repeating. Recipe is as follows: Layer muenster cheese, goat cheese, baby spinach, crumbled walnuts & a smear of fig jam on ciabatta & press it in a George Foreman, panini-style. Rinse & repeat daily. Again: I am a culinary genius with the sophisticated palette of a 10-year-old.

  • Complete All Day UV Moisturizer
    Until last month, I'd never moisturized. I know, WHAT? I wanted to, I just didn't know, like, how. Or, more importantly, with what. My aunt turned me on to this genius Olay product, which has saved my skin from the dreaded winter itch.

  • AB Studio's Skinny Ponte Pants
    Dress pants that are basically pajamas with a button. Adulthood win. I wish they came in more colors or that I needed 10 pairs of black slacks, because I basically want to be wearing these at all times.

  • Taylor Swift's "Speak Now"
    I am only mildly ashamed to admit that I have been listening to this album on repeat for approximately three weeks. Every time it restarts, I think, "Not again, resist!" & then quickly fall prey to the temptation of this country sweetheart's sappy lyrics & catchy beatz.

  • Crest 3D White Toothpaste
    Yes, toothpaste. Though I'm not enamored of the name (I don't want my teeth, like, popping through the screen at you live-action-style), I am convinced that this toothpaste is reverting my chompers back to their God-given whiteness rather than their latte-induced yellowness. Say cheese.

    I hear you: "Come on, Kate, toothpaste & Taylor Swift? JC PENNEY? You're right: You are way less cool than I thought - a combination of my 10-year-old niece & my 90-year-old grandmother." But sometimes, folks, it's the little things that bring the big smiles. Go ahead: Tell me what makes your day.

    *Disclaimer: None of these companies asked me to write about their stuff. I just like their stuff. But if Taylor Swift asked me to write about her CD, um, I would.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    (Doing Your Part to Actually Bring) Joy to the World

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    ***
    When I was a kid, I was easily swayed by effective nonprofit marketing. I guess that as a kid, the phrase "effective nonprofit marketing" would have made zero sense, but in retrospect, it's true. I was frequently moved by things like telethons & bell-ringers & commercials about sad animals, & I was thus suckered into donating my allowance, my bat mitzvah money, & the coins I saved in a Tupperware container with a hole cut in the top. "Suckered" is probably a crummy word to use in this regard, but you get it.

    One of my favorite Christmas traditions was to buy gifts for The Angel Tree, a program of the Salvation Army (apparently now in partnership with JC Penney); I loved buying Angel Tree gifts more than any of the other holiday gifts I helped my mom shop for. The local mall would display a Christmas tree near the food court, decorated with gift tags that each bore the name of an "angel," a child who needed a little bit of extra assistance around the holiday. The tag included the child's age, Christmas wish list & clothing & shoe size, sometimes noting a favorite color or cartoon character. You'd choose an angel's name from the tree - I always picked them based on how much I liked their names and/or how good their taste in gifts was (I liked the kids who were desirous of books & board games because I was a big nerd) - & then buy them a gift or two that the Salvation Army would deliver before Christmas.

    I wanted to buy gifts for all the angels, but of course, that was never possible. I wanted every angel to get the best things on their holiday lists, but somehow, knew that wasn't possible, either. I always knew that the kids who quite hopefully listed things like "Purple bike" & "Nintendo" were more likely to end up with Barbies & sweaters & packages of socks. I rarely got big-ticket items for the holidays, either, but I was living in a house with two loving parents, & I had a warm, cozy bed, & my clothes were nice & fit well, & I knew that there would be no shortage of holiday cheer at my house & in my life. I often wondered who those "angels" really were & what their lives were like - where they were living, & if they got to have Christmas trees, & if there would be any gifts at all if they were among the children whose names were not plucked from the tree at the mall by eager & fortunate kids like me.

    I haven't done the Angel Tree in awhile. In fact, I'd forgotten about it until recently, & the JC Penney site tells me it's too late to buy Angel Tree gifts this year. But the sentiment still stands. This Christmas, while you're wishing for Kate Spade planners & sparkly cocktail rings & J Crew peacoats & new Wiis, little kids all across the damn planet have placed their hope in the big guy in the red suit, hoping he'll bring them some small bit of holiday joy. For that matter, there are plenty of adults who are hoping the same. At a time when so many need so much, ask yourself what you can do to make the season a little brighter for those who aren't as well-off as you are - because frankly, if you're reading this post, chances are that there are plenty of people who are worse-off than you, even if you're feeling the effects of the bad economy, too. (Aren't we all?)

    I don't celebrate Christmas in the traditional tree/tinsel/lights/church way, but that doesn't mean I don't value the spirit of the season. Have you thought about how to spread joy this year? Go find an angel & pay it forward.

    ***

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    Friday, December 17, 2010

    It's a Jungle Out Here!

    Listen, fellow Ohioans. I love you, but can you ease up on all the bizarre, tacky usage of animal-related stuff?

    A fancy winter coat or a glorified robe? I'm still not sure, but it looked like this woman ripped the seams out of a large leopard stuffed animal & climbed inside it for her trip to CVS.

    What's that atop this truck's trailer hitch in the parking lot of my local Panera? Let's get a closer look!

    Oh! It's a golden retriever. Naturally.

    And because it's Christmas, car antlers are obviously an appropriate decoration. Who needs trees & mantles when you can adorn your sedan windows with holiday cheer?

    Seriously, guys. Animals belong in your home & in the wild & maybe on your plate & possibly, like, in limited accessorization situations (by that I mean that I desperately want this necklace), but they do not belong in ANY of the situations pictured here.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    No Such Thing As Cabin Fever

    It's -3 degrees here & we have two feet of snow & even though 75% of my recent blog posts have been about precipitation, I've made yet another list that I'd like to share with you. I call it "A Lot of Things That Are Fun to Do When The Weather Sucks." I know, I'm super-creative with the titles.
    1. Sleep in, guilt-free. I woke up at 11:30am & still felt guilty because, look, when you're unemployed, every day is a snow day, & I sleep in more than I ought to. But still. In theory, there should be no snow-day sleep guilt.

    2. Read shallow books. I borrowed L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad from a friend the other day. From its dusty spot on my bookshelf, my unread Bret Easton Ellis book is giving me the stink-eye.

    3. Turn mailboxes into PacMan.

      [Source]

    4. Bake scones. Why scones? I don't know. Why not scones? I'd planned to make these goat cheese & chives biscuits, but my mom beat me to the punch by making cherry walnuts scones this morning. Before I was awake. Annnnd my guilt returns.

    5. Color your hair. I read the formerly blond Lauren From Texas' post about her new red 'do & was instantly inspired to perk up my own dishwater brown locks. And when I say "dishwater brown," I mean two things: 1) My dishwater is never that brown, I swear! & 2) Approximately 25 unwelcome white hairs threaten to take over the right side of my temple. Obviously, they must be stopped. Weirdly, Luckily, my mom has about 10 boxes of hair color stockpiled in our linen closet, & because she's decided to go au naturel with her grey self, they're all mine. Hey, it was a good reason to show & dry my hair on an indoors-only day.

    6. Skype with your boyfriend. And your mom. Together. That's right, we're cute. Or should I say, Nathan is cute & my mom & I look like we haven't left the house all day. Which we haven't.


    7. Watch Hilary Duff movies. You can, of course, watch whatever movies you want, but I went with Ms. Duff's unknown 2009 work of art "According to Greta," which somehow sneaked through the Netflix recommendations that have otherwise been overrun with suggestions for my Nathan ("American Outlaws." "Taken." "Autism: The Musical"? Huh.)

    8. Take an hour-long nap. Even if you woke up circa noon. Just don't tell anyone. And definitely don't blog about it.

    9. Practice your fancy food skills. For the last two days, I've made the exact same thing for lunch. Inspired by my favorite food blogger, I like to call it Big-Kid Grilled Cheese - it's muenster, goat cheese, baby spinach, crumbled walnuts & a smear of fig jam on ciabatta & pressed in my George Foreman, panini-style. It's so delicious that I never want to eat anything else ever again, except maybe for the equally delicious bananas I've made to accompany it - sliced & sprinkled with salt & brown sugar then put in the oven for 10 minutes. You don't have to say it: I AM A CULINARY GENIUS WITH THE PALETTE OF A SOPHISTICATED 10-YEAR-OLD.

    10. Get a job. That's right, y'all, I'm makin' a little bit of cash! A college friend of mind is the editor of a local Patch.com site, & she's asked me to freelance for her, so I spent a good chunk of the day my making calls & hittin' the keyboard. It's a little bit overwhelming to dust off my old reporter's cap, but I'm thankful for the chance to get some clips & to not be totally broke & to not have to work at, like, a gas station. 
    Did I mention that we have two feet of snow? And that I haven't even opened that bottle of wine? I think I'm doing this whole blizzard thing wrong...

      Sunday, December 12, 2010

      Let's Make a Deal!

      Because I'm currently sans income, I'm constantly looking for sneaky ways to stretch what little money I do have. As a result, I've become a deal-hunter of the first order, which is not quite as exciting as, say, the Order of the Phoenix, but which does result in some killer bargains. Because a few people have asked me to share my penny-pinching wisdom, I've collected a bit of insight for you:

      • By sheer luck, I stumbled upon a few Groupon credits, which meant snagging $30 free. Like... free. Thirty bones, just sitting there in my Groupon account, waiting to be spent on something practical like groceries or an oil change. Or, more likely, something indulgent like a massage. And you'd better believe that I'm now obsessively scouring the internet for the existence of any additional free credits.

      • As much as I enjoy Groupon & LivingSocial, I'm confident that Offermatic is about to blow them both out of the water. You sync it up with your credit card (sounds dodgy but Reuters & TechCrunch swear it's legit), & it offers you deals based on money you're already spending. I, for example, dropped dough at WalMart (don't judge) last month; today, Offermatic offered me $5 off my next WalMart purchase; it's offered me similar deals for Macy's, Fandango & my next gasoline purchase, wherever it may be. Best of all, I acquire points in a variety of ways, & when I reach a certain number, I can trade them in for a $25 gift card to Target or Macy's or someplace else where I'm inclined to spend far too much money I don't have. Except I will have it - for free.

      • At this point, nearly everyone is familiar with Restaurant.com, which sells seriously discounted gift certificates to a number of desirable dining spots. What you may not know is that the coupon code "DEAL" nearly always saves you 80% off your Restaurant.com purchase, which is how I scored a $25 credit to a fancy local bistro for... $2. Excited about the bonus cash, Nathan ordered a $40 steak, just because he'd never done it before. Maybe we went overboard? But it was all the more delicious knowing that some of it was free.

      I'm sort of addicted. (And please, no Jewish jokes? Thanks.) Free stuff is fun stuff. Got any deals to share?

      Saturday, December 11, 2010

      Suburban Emergency Preparedness

      It appears as though my local CVS does not exaaactly have a hang of the way sale prices work:

      But that doesn't mean I didn't buy the wine anyway. In fact, nothing quite says "Big snowstorm's a'comin'!" like my combined CVS purchases late this evening:

      Cheap wine & 12 lbs. of ice melt? Yeah, we're planning to be indoors for a stretch:

      And, uh, P.S., who's making the strategic decisions behind Target's Google AdWords buys? This is one thing I do not need to buy, though I'd like to see exactly how they ship it:

      Wednesday, December 8, 2010

      The Art of Perseverance

      I sneak a look at the doctor's pad while he is out of the room. "Depressive disorder," it reads, from five years ago, when Dave died. Below that, two other diagnoses - something about back pain & allergies, no big surprises there. And today, a new one has appeared: "Generalized Anxiety Disorder," this one says. It isn't a surprise, but it takes me by surprise all the same, seeing it attached to my name & highlighted in yellow.

      I'd cried when I started talking to the doctor, the one I'd waited three years to come back to because no doctor in D.C. compared or made me feel comfortable enough. I answer "yes" to all of his questions: Do you get teary like this a lot? Well, yes, but doesn't everyone? Are you having trouble sleeping? Yes, but it's probably my own fault for not getting in bed sooner. Do you feel stressed out? Yes, all the time, & I don't even have a job! Are you afraid of making big decisions? Yes. Oh, God, yes. Do you lash out at people you love? That, too. And so on. I tell him about the dizzy spells & the crying jags & my sudden paralyzing fear of the future.

      "It's chemical," he assures me, "And genetic." He asks about my father: "Did he struggle with depression or anxiety?" No. No, I don't think so, but what do I know? There are more questions: What about my grandparents? Aunts, uncles, cousins? I find myself wanting to defend my family, to say that it's not their fault that I'm this way. That they are normal & that it's only me who is not.

      There are more questions. There are tests. There are kind words of encouragement & reassurance. And then he writes me a party pack of prescriptions: one for anxiety and depression & a temporary one to help me normalize my sleeping schedule. A face wash & a night cream to clear up the skin problems he says are likely an effect of an increase in anxiety. There's another, too, the crowning jewel: a small slip of paper with the name & phone number of a therapist, someone to help me "smooth things out." Drugs & hugs, a combination deal.

      I should feel better. This is a relief, isn't it? There are names for these things, for these problems, & there are ways to overcome them. I've spent years arguing that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of, that they're chemical & genetic, your body's fault & not your brain's, just like any other disease, but amplified by your environment & the circumstances of your life. Yet here I am, newly diagnosed - newly re-diagnosed - asking for help because I can't get through it through sheer perseverance alone. Feeling defective & damaged & ultimately blaming myself instead of my body.

      I don't feel depressed. I just feel scared. And even when I'm scared, I'm happy. This isn't like it was before, with all the dark & twisty parts. My life feels beautiful, even when it's a mess. I just feel scared - scared that I won't make the right decisions, scared that I'll squander what I've been given, scared that I'll fail at adulthood. I look at the diagnosis on the small slip of paper in my hands, & my heart sinks every time I read the words on it: "Anxiety/depression." Anxiety, maybe. But depression: I don't have that, not anymore. Do I?

      On the way home, I stop by the cemetery to talk to him. I haven't been in months, not since early spring. I brush the snow off of his grave to find fresh flowers underneath, preserved in a sheet of ice.  Like always, I promise both of us that I will never be him. That I will try harder.  That I will always - yes, always - be OK.

      I stop crying. I get back in my car. I call my new therapist & I fill my new prescriptions & I restart my life. Ready, set, keep going.

      Tips for Surviving the So-Called Winter Wonderland

      I made a list. I like to call it "Six Vital Things I'd Forgotten About Real Winters Because Three Years In D.C. Turned Me Into a Big Wuss," which I think is pretty self-explanatory. So let's forge ahead in no particular order, shall we?
      1. Winter is cold, snow or not.
        I used to have a strict policy of refusing to wear coats until snow fell. This? Was a stupid policy. Because sometimes it's actually too cold to snow, which means my limbs are exponentially more likely to freeze & fall off. See also: Wind.

      2. Snow is wet.
        Sure, it's also beautiful, all falling softly on cedars & such. I always remember that it's cold (see previous bullet point), but I somehow develop amnesia about the wetness. I forget that snow in the eye is like a miniature squirtgun to the eye. This also reinforces the importance of wearing hats. What, you thought I meant for warmth? I meant for the safe-keeping of my hair.

      3. Every trip is a road trip.
        Add 15 minutes of travel time to all car trips, even ones that are typically fewer than 15 minutes long. Because even if you're just heading out to buy tortilla chips & queso at midnight (not that I do that!), you're going to first need to scrape an ice rink's worth of build-up off the windshield.

      4. Child labor is A-OK.
        A piece of paper was slid into our front door handle yesterday, possibly delivered by an angel: "MIGHTY SHOVELERS!" it proclaimed. One hour & $25 later, four neighborhood kids were happily heaving the snow out of our driveway by the pileful while I lazed happily in front of AMC's showing of "Mrs. Doubtfire." I never even had to take off my slippers.

      5. No one knows how to drive.
        Do I pump the breaks or not pump the breaks? I can't remember. Either way, I'm probably ending up halfway into your front yard. No inflatable lawn ornament is safe! And on that note...

      6. I'm the Patrick Bateman of lawn ornaments.
        I'm not actually murdering them. But I'm thinking detailed, gory, maniacal thoughts about how & when I would murder them. And how I'd celebrate with a reservation at Dorsia.

        Monday, December 6, 2010

        I Am the Pigeon Lady.

        It snows here. A lot. I'd almost forgotten, what with D.C.'s practically-snow-free-save-last-winter's-freak-snowstorm weather.

        I avoid shoveling snow whenever possible (sorry, Mom), so I try to find tricky workarounds whenever possible. Today, for example, I used a broom on our back deck. And though I've got no place to be, I braved the cold & precipitation to brush off my car so that I'd have less to do later, when I actually do need to get someplace in a hurry. I know, I'm like the MacGyver of winter.

        I scared my dog, too, because I dressed like a cross between a chimney sweep & the little kid from "A Christmas Story" who can't put his arms down. Though fashion bloggers may claim it's possible to look trendy in the dead of winter, I strongly suspect those fashion bloggers don't live in the Great Lakes region. My ensemble was as follows:
        • A red woolen scarf. This was the most normal of my attire.

        • Brown tweed & leather gloves. Also normal, though they clashed with the red. Heinously.

        • Leggings. Not the normal cotton or tights kind but some weird, elastic, work-outy kind I bought for $5 from a store off the Rhode Island Ave. Metro that closely resembled a Deb or a Dots. High-end, I know. I typically only wear them to bed.

        • A maroon peacoat my boyfriend says makes me look resemble the pigeon lady from "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York." I'm not going to show you a picture of me wearing it because I'm aaaactually self-conscious about this. To my knowledge, the actual pigeon lady is not:


        • RED GALOSHES. They matched the scarf, but... dude, they're red galoshes. In the winter. In case you're one of those West Coasters who thinks 50 degrees is cold, you should know that galoshes do not winter snowboots make. And of course, they look fairly absurd.

        • And the crowning glory: a furry, black & yellow houndstooth hat purchased in a Steelers store during my impromptu weekend visit to Pittsburgh. DON'T KILL ME, Browns fans! I'm one of you! I just couldn't resist. Ain't she a beaut?
        Put all these together & you've got a blind Russian hobo with a knack for snow trickery. The MacGyver of winter.

        Try not to be too jealous of my dashing combination of smarts & style.

        Friday, December 3, 2010

        This Shiz Is Bananas


        Spotted at Circle K, just 49 cents a pound. Which is definitely the first place I think of when I need to buy bananas. (B-A-N-A-N-A-S!)

        Tuesday, November 30, 2010

        Eight Craaaazy Nights!


        Chanukah is coming, Chanukah is coming!

        Let's be clear. Chanukah is not the Jewish version of Christmas, nor is it nearly as big a deal - or as much fun - as Christmas. But just like Christmas, Chanukah has its own traditions, ones that are meaningful & fun &, my favorite, delicious. So while the rest of the blogosphere is writing about trees & garlands & "Home Alone," I thought I'd share some Chanukah thoughts. Eight, to be exact.
        1. Let's start with the obvious: Yes, there are as many ways to spell this holiday's name as there are days to the holiday. Maybe more. I have opted to go with "Chanukah" for no real reason other than double K's border on Klan-like.

        2. My mother is making a Chanukah meal for me & Nathan tonight, even though the holiday doens't begin until tomorrow (she works Wednesday nights). Said meal will include a roasted chicken with potatoes, onions & carrots & a side of matzah ball soup - which is quite possibly my least favorite food on the planet, as I am firmly of the belief that it tastes like stomach acid.

        3. Speaking of Chanukah food, last year's Chanukah party blew all other Chanukah parties out of the parted waters (Jew joke, get it?!). What I wouldn't give for a second coming of Latkapocalypse...


        4. After a quick Twitter convo, one of my favorite Jewish musicians, the talented & hilarious @julieannsilver, sent me a free copy of her 2006 Chanukah album, "It's Chanukah Time." Of course, I love her even more for going with my preferred spelling. (P.S.: This in no ways means I've given up on N*SYNC's "Home for Christmas" or my newly acquired copy of Hanson's "Snowed In.")

        5. On a related note, to my knowledge there's no such thing as a good Chanukah movie. I do, however, own all four "Home Alone" movies. Yes, four, though only the first two are worth watching. And the fourth, if you're sick or snowed in. And even then, you should first watch "Elf" instead. Smiling's my favorite.

        6. My mom gave up on Chanukah decorations when I was still a preteen, finally admitting that classy Chanukah decorations are about as realistic as Barack Obama having an affair with Sarah Palin. Instead, she amassed an extensive collection of holiday-neutral decorations: snowmen! I put them up today & am in love. See also: desperately wishing I had a place of my own to decorate as I see fit.


        7. I still want a Christmas tree (& this post from last year is still one of my favorite I've ever written.) In the meantime, I'm swooning over the new menorah my uncle gave me, on the far left:


        8. Annnd finally: Though I love my new riding boots & the various other Chanukah gifts I've already received from friends & family, I'd like to take a moment to remind everyone - Jewish, Christian, secular & otherwise - that the holiday season isn't just about consumerism. Rather, this is a time when we have the abundant opportunity to spread holiday cheer in the form of bettering the world. For starters, check out the Religious Action Center's Social Justice Chanukah Gift Guide, a guide to suggestions for gift-giving that will make the world a better place. Many of the suggestions are not Jewish-specific - from fair trade coffee to community supported agriculture (CSA) shares to a $10 donation to send an anti-malarial bed net to an African village, there are plenty of ideas applicable to people of all faiths & no faith alike. Whatever you celebrate, put some thought - & compassion - into your gift-giving this year.
        And do yourself a gift-giving favor, too: Enter my giveaway to win a $25 credit to Oh! Nuts, good toward the purchase of anything from their site you like - pistachios & cookies & candy, oh my!

          Topanga, I Never Knew!



          I guess Black Friday had us all a little frazzled...

          Sunday, November 28, 2010

          The Benefits of Retaining Ex-Boyfriends for Purposes of Friendship & Bodily Safety

          My good friend Sean turned 26 yesterday, so we met up at our favorite townie bar, located approximately one mile from my home. (Not this bar. Another mile-away bar. It's the Midwest, y'all. We like our townie bars.)

          I was just looking for darts & '90s beats, not for dramz. But toward the end of the night, when I made my way to the jukebox to select some sweet tunage a la Salt & Pepa's "None of Your Business," a bachelorette party clad in matching tie-dyed shirts swarmed in. I am not a squealing kinda girl, in case you were unsure; in fact, the thought makes me shudder. So a they squealed & stampeded all around me, I shot them my best withering "keep it down" look - & that's where the trouble began.

          Small, blond & pretty, the offender was unassuming - but boy, was she squealy. She sidled up to me & literally screamed into my left ear, a high-pitched "SQUEEEE" designed to either piss me off or break my eardrum or both. Probably both. When I turned to her, terrified, she giggled, "Oops, sorry. Didn't mean to offend you," then turned to walk away... but returned to close with, "Except I did!" As I kept picking songs (I believe there was some MGMT & some Elton John involved), I heard her tell her comrades in tie-dyed arms about the incident, laughing at me for scaring so easily & calling me a number of names I hadn't earned just for going deaf.

          I could've let it go, but... I couldn't. As I returned to my friends & the dart board, I brushed past her: "You're hilarious," I said, stone-faced. And kept walking. Not my best line, but it did the trick... except then I got scared. I heard her retelling the story to her equally squealy posse, then stepping it up by purposefully bumping into my friends & trying to intimidate us. It worked, as I am easily intimidated.

          But I had a secret weapon. What the woo-girls didn't know was that the friend they chose to bodycheck was Kevin, my friend-turned-boyfriend-turned-ex-boyfriend-returned friend... the off-duty bartender. He was quick to jump into action: A few stare-downs & a bit of tinkering behind the bar later, the offenders realized their mistake & before Kevin could kick them out, left. Without further incident. In a hurry. On a party bus.

          One good thing came of this bizarre & unexpected encounter. In the adrenaline rush that came with fear trumped by power & then by victory, I threw a bullseye & promptly roared, "MY FURY IS A GENIUS!"

          Who takes their bachelorette party to a townie bar, anyway? I win this round, woo-girls.

          Saturday, November 27, 2010

          Bieber Fever Makes People Do Crazy Things

          Some little girl at a movie theater in Lima, Ohio, loved the Bieb so much that she stole his head.

          Friday, November 26, 2010

          Nuts to You: Another Holiday Giveaway!

          In my family, we give nuts as gifts. Case in point: My boyfriend, Nathan, just spent his first Thanksgiving with my family. Because we're half-Jewish, half-otherwise, we exchange holiday gifts the Friday after Turkey Day, which meant tonight was the big night. My family really pulled through on the gift front, making him feel welcome with a few great gifts. From my aunt & uncle, he received both chocolate-covered pretzels & a huuuuge tin full of assorted nuts, which are already about halfway gone.

          Yep. We like nuts, especially in gift form. And this is A-OK by me, because nuts are delicious.

          So in a weird two-giveaways-in-one-month-when-I-haven't-done-any-for-at-least-a-year twist, I'm hosting yet another giveaway, this time from Oh! Nuts, which sells, you know, nuts (duh), as well as chocolates, dried fruits, candies, & custom gift baskets for holidays & occasions (all kosher, if you're concerned!). One reader, chosen at random on Friday, Dec. 3rd, will win a $25 gift certificate to be used on any Oh! Nuts order.




          Mandatory entry: Check out Oh! Nuts Christmas gift baskets page or Chanukah gift baskets page, whichever your holiday fancy, & leave a comment on this post with the name & URL of the gift you'd most like to own. Or give. Or eat without sharing.

          Optional additional entries (please leave a separate comment for each):

          • Visit the Oh! Nuts Facebook page & leave a wall comment with the name & URL of your favorite Hanukkah or Christmas gift with a comment that reads something like "I'm here via SuburbanSweetheart.com."
          • Follow @ohnuts & tweet about the giveaway to the effect of "Win a free Hanukkah or Christmas gift from http://bit.ly/6nIsCi. Follow @ohnuts & RT to enter."
          So go: Browse nuts. Crave nuts. Make "That's what she said jokes" about nuts. And ultimately... win nuts!

          * Annnd a note: Mazel tov to Kate from New Life on winning the Defy the Wick Scentsy giveaway! She was chosen by Random.org. Why am I doing so many giveaways? I don't know. WHY NOT?

          Thursday, November 25, 2010

          Still Cynical But Always Thankful

          Here I am in Lima, Ohio, home to my lovely grandmother & also the setting for "Glee." I woke up at 10:30 & missed most of the parade; now, I'm listening to my mom, grandma & aunt prepare Thanksgiving dinner, & the converstion is going something like this:

          Grandma: "I feel like the turkey is my friend."
          Mom: "Well... so long, friend."
          Because posts titled "Thankful" are all the rage throughout the blogosphere on Thanksgiving Day, I figured I ought to join in the fun. So on this day, Thanksgiving 2010, I'm thankful...
          • that winter weather makes it acceptable for me to be a homebody.
          • that I have a boyfriend who actually wants to get up at 4a.m. to go Black Friday shopping, or at least tells me he does.
          • that my grandma bakes a mean poppyseed honey cake &, relatedly, that I don't need to be drug-tested anytime soon.
          • that my half-Jewish, half-Gentile family compromises & exchanges holiday gifts tomorrow evening.
          • that my family loves my boyfriend so much that it's even making them like me more.
          • that I still get cell phone service in the boonies of Ohio.
          • that my oversized GAP cardigan that will hide all most Thanksgiving-induced stomach bulges. And most stomach bulges that are not Thanksgiving-induced.
          • that my family no longer forces me to "just try!" the turkey. Or the stuffing. Or the rutabagas. Or anything that's not the rolls & the marshmallow salad. (Please see previous bullet point.)

          And on the more serious side,
          • that I was able to quit a job that wasn't right for me without having to also start living on the streets.
          • that I can live in my mom's house while I figure my life out, even if it sometimes resembles an episode of "Hoarders" & is always at least three degrees too hot or too cold for my liking.
          • that I'm not flat broke yet. Yet.
          • that I actually do love Ohio just as much as I thought I did.
          • that I still have a handful of really truly good friends back in my hometown who I can talk to about everything from politics to Disney princesses. And of course, whatever comes between.
          • that I have more than a handful of really truly good friends in D.C. & across the country, even in foreign lands like Rwanda & Brooklyn, who I hope I always consider the best of the best.

          And on an even more serious side (HOW MANY SIDES DOES THANKSGIVING HAVE?),
          • that I had the opportunity to spend three rich, happy years in the District that changed me for the better - and for good.
          • that I took it upon myself to create the opportunity to start something new, whatever it may be. And to keep changing & growing & loving & learning.
          Happy Thanksgiving, kids.

          Wednesday, November 24, 2010

          I Think I'm Broken


          I initially titled this post "Things Other People Like That I Do Not." I just wanted to tell you about a few things I don't dig, despite their abounding popularity. But as I wrote it out, I noticed a theme. Can you spot it? 

          1. Sushi: Raw fish? Just no. No, no, no. I don't even like cooked fish; why would I want it uncooked? On the few occasions that I have attempted to eat sushi, I have always had the distinct sensation that a sea creature is actually dying inside my mouth as I chew.

          2. Pink
            1. The color: I hate the color pink, unless it's of the '80s-style neon variety. I do not do Victoria's Secret or pale pink nail polish. (See #3.) This hue, the official color of girliness & sickeningly sweet old-fashioned feminity, makes my skin crawl. I do not wear pink. I simply do not do pink.

            2. The musical artist: Upon second thought, I'm not sure whether other people actually like Pink. My mom & my former boss do, but they may not count, by virtue of their titles. Still. How does this grown woman get away with making music - Top 40 music, no less - that contains the most awful, nonsensical lyrics ever written? Case in point: "Party Crasher, panty snatcher, call me up if you want gangsta. Don't be fancy, just get dancey." This is nothing.

          3. Nail polish: I haven't painted my nails in approximately five years, save some short-lived gold glitter polish for Halloween. Nail polish makes me feel like my hands are suffocating, which makes me feel like they're about to fall off, which makes me nervous. This is not a sensation I enjoy recreating.

          4. Children: OK, OK. I don't dislike kids. But I don't know what to do with them! When I'm around a kid - which isn't often because I don't know any kids - I clam up like I'm a nervous 9-year-old myself again. Also, I refuse to speak in wittle baby voices, so kids often seem confused by me. I don't like pretending; I don't do Barbies or house or lawn sports. And I just don't know what kids want from me. It all feels very suspicious.

          5. "Sex & the City": Perhaps this goes along with nail polish & the color pink. And children, come to think of it. Perhaps my woman parts are broken. But listen, I just can't bring myself to relate to or care about four high-pitched, whorish women who obsess over ugly men & designer shoes & ugly men. I don't even like high heels. And... oh, shoot, my woman parts are broken, aren't they?

          Also on this list, though not a threat to my womanhood: pickles, Tumblr, "Mad Men," Beyonce, yellow cars, coffee.

          Tuesday, November 23, 2010

          My Stomach Is a Fan of Local Small Businesses

          Thanks to American Express for sponsoring my writing today about small businesses. American Express is presenting Small Business Saturday, a way to honor the local merchants who are the backbone of the economy, this Saturday, November 27. They're offering statement credits to people who shop at small businesses, advertising for small-business owners, and donations to Girls Inc. for "Likes" of the Small Business Saturday page on Facebook. Join the celebration by clicking the "Like" button and then visiting the Facebook page to learn more about the program and read the terms and conditions that apply.


          When I announced to the interwebs that I'd be moving back from D.C. to Ohio, my decision was met with a lot of (anonymous, cowardly) criticism by people who insisted that there's no culture in Ohio, nothing but chain restaurants & WalMarts & people with mullets wearing camo pants.

          There are a lot of chains in the Midwest, it's true, & I'm not ashamed to admit that one of the greatest joys of being back in the 'burbs is the ease of trips to Hobby Lobby & Target. But it's not all a big-business nightmare! It's no D.C., sure, but if you make an effort to seek them out, there are tons of small businesses around town worthy of frequenting.

          In honor of American Express's Small Business Saturday, I want to tell you about three of my favorite small businesses in the Akron/Cleveland area. And because I am Jewish & therefore culturally permitted to be a big fan of all things concerning cuisine, all three of my choices are food-related. Herrrre goes!

          • Rockne's
            This local pub chain was opened by the father of one of my elementary school classmates in the early '90s. And though their website could fool you into thinking it's still the '90s, there are now 12 Rockne's locations across Northeast Ohio, each individually owned. When I was living in D.C., I was known to dine Rockne's three times in as many days in an effort to consume as much Cuban Black Bean Soup as humanly possible. On Foursquare, I hold two Rockne's mayorships. Clearly, this is a love that will never die. 

          • Crazy But True Popcorn
            I don't even like popcorn, kids. Like, if I'm at the movies? It's nachos, please, or gummy bears. And I once refused to eat popcorn for nearly a year after discovering that the buttery topping looks like a brain tumor when it's still packaged in bulk barrels. So it's crazy, but it's true: I love Crazy But True Popcorn, which I discovered just last month, with its buckets upon buckets of flavors. Savory. Candied. Chocolate-covered & peanut-butter drizzled. Free samples. I die. And did I mention that they're also super-philanthropic? I keep dying.

          • Swenson's Drive-In
            When I was a kid, my dad & I had a routine. He'd pick me up from ballet class & on our way home, we'd stop at Swenson's, a drive-in where the servers bring the food to your cars. He'd order a burger & fries; I'd order a grilled cheese & tots. And there was always a mint sundae in it for me at the end. Swenson's, a Northeastern Ohio institution if ever there was one, was once voted "Best Burger" by Forbes magazine, along with a handful of Buckeye State publications. Bottom line is that you need to be jealous that you don't have one. And then come visit me so we can go there together.

          Do you shop & eat local when you can, or are you a big-business devotee? What's your fave small business? And most importantly, who wants to go get dinner with me? And by the way: For each person who likes Small Business Saturday on Facebook, American Express will donate $1 to Girls, Inc., one of my favorite non-profits. What are you waiting for?


          Small Business Saturday

          I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

          Monday, November 22, 2010

          Happy Dog = Happy Kate (Please Note: This Post is Not About Canines)

          Something you should know about me is that I typically abhor condiments. I do not eat ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, relish, or salad dressing. I do not like marinades or dipping sauces. I sometimes enjoy barbecue sauce, & I make a blanket exception only for sriracha sauce.

          It goes without saying, then, that I eat my hot dogs plain. For all these reasons & probably more, you'd think a gal like me would absolutely despise the idea of eating at a hot dog restaurant that offers 50 toppings.

          As it turns out, you would be wrong.

          On Saturday, I visited Cleveland's Happy Dog, a hot dog bar & restaurant that only offers hot dogs, veggie dogs, tater tots & alcohol. For a meager sum of $5, you order up a dog loaded with whatever you want, bubbling in your choices on an order sheet that's much more fun than voting ballots & college exams, its sober bubble-sheet counterparts.

          But because I don't like ketchup or mustard or mayonnaise or relish, I had to get creative:


          We submitted our orders (I should admit that my wacky peanut butter/onions/mole sauce/bacon combo was not an invention of my own but rather was one of Happy Dog's "suggestive weiners"), along with a few orders of tater tots with sides of - GASP! - dipping sauces! I totally lived on the edge with saffron aioli.


          It was so good. And we were so full. But... but we had to order more. Because how can you pass up 46 more toppings?! Thus:*


          Needless to say, I almost died. This was gluttony to such a high degree that I almost felt guilty, like I was the perfect candidate to become a Se7en victim. Rather than risking stomach combustion, I took the rest of dog numero dos home. Let me tell you, hot dogs are not a few-hours-after-the-fact food - but that doesn't mean I didn't eat it anyway.
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