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.

    I Like to StarMonkey Around

    My (very white, largely nerdy) cousin's band, StarMonkey - yes, StarMonkey - played at a local venue last Friday, so my mom, my boyfriend, my whole extended family & I made plans to see the show.

    I must admit: I wasn't hoping for much. My mom, who'd seen them play before, warned me to bring earplugs & lax standards, so the bar was set low. What I neglected to take into consideration, though, was her characteristically librarian dislike of loud noises (...she's a librarian, after all) - so while she covered her ears (& left early!), the rest of us rocked out to the sweet mash-up sounds of StarMonkey. Stupid name or not, they were damn good.
    [Bizarre name-dropping interlude: StarMonkey once opened for Wang Chung. But no, it wasn't in the '90s - it was, like, a few months ago. Also, Friday's show involved a kazoo solo. Who isn't a sucker for kazoos?]

    StarMonkey's mash-ups are far from the Girl Talk & Ratatat style the word "mash-up" evokes. Rather, they take hard rock & '90s Top 40 tunes & blend them... however the eff they feel like blending them. Friday's show started with a bit of Snoop rap & went on to cover everything from Nirvana to Britney Spears to the Beastie Boys to Sir Mixalot, as evidenced by their set list:


    ("Milkshake"?! Hells to the yes.)

    I tried to take video but largely failed. This one is the only one that turned out all right, a quick clip of StarMonkey performing Rage Against the Machine's "Pocket Full of Shells" mashed up with... I forget what. Please forgive my obnoxious "WOOOOO!"ing halfway through & instead focus on the fact that isn't my cousin weirdly baller? Even though he's wearing an argyle sweatervest & a pair of sunglasses that make him look like a total alien.

     

    And in case you're not yet sold on the awesome, here's the kicker: The show ended with some strange & unknown top-hatted man taking the stage to thank StarMonkey for playing... before regaling the crowd with an inspired little ditty... on the jazz flute. A la Ron Burgundy. Seriously.

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    My Etsy Shop is Open! Introducing: And Paper Hearts

    Who doesn't appreciate a little blatant self-promotion?! Today, I am so, so excited to announce the launch of my Etsy shop, And Paper Hearts.

    I'm been mentally planning this for awhile but didn't feel as though I had the resources or time to pull it off while living in the District. When better to toil away at jewelry-making than while unemployed? Thus, And Paper Hearts was born, & I'm so pleased with the results.


    Right now, And Paper Hearts features handmade jewelry - necklaces & earrings, to be specific, all in a very particular, vintage-looking style. It's odd, I think, that this is the route I took, as I've typically been a mixed-mediums crafter most comfortable with collages & other projects that involve paper. Also, lots of Modge Podge. But there's no Modge Podge on my jewelry, I promise.

    Even if no one buys a single thing, I'm quite relieved to have a little outlet for my creativity. I hope you'll take a look - and, if you're so inclined, purchase a little something from And Paper Hearts while you're doing your holiday shopping!

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    In Which I Become a Republican for the Sake of Harry Potter

    I was one of the thousands of nerds nationwide who showed up at the movie theatre three hours early last night to get good seats for a midnight viewing of "Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part 1." It was showing on 15 screens, each with a different start time to help break up foot & vehicular traffic. Our showing was scheduled for 12:07, so of course we arrived at 9:00, my purse stuffed with Chex Mix & Diet Coke. I'm a Boy Scout when it comes to movie-going - always prepared.

    We were there early enough to take the seats of our choice, two rows behind the handicapped row & right in the middle. Perfect view. Other attendees were less strategic, arriving late & forced to separate from their friends or to sit in the dreaded, migraine-inducing first row.

    It got crowded, y'all. An hour before showtime, a painfully saccharine theatre employee announced that our show was sold out & that we'd all have to work together to ensure that everyone got a seat. This meant: scooting to the middle of the row, filling in empty seats, etc., etc.

    Call me melodramatic, but I get very uptight about such requests. In fact, I started to feel very Republican about the whole thing. My thought process went something like this:  
    "People who got here late deserve to be punished with crappy seats! They can't just waltz in here at 11:00 & expect to be rewarded with primo seating! I worked hard for this spot! I've earned it, & ain't no lazy latecomer gonna take it away from me! Quit regulating us, movie theatre! Power to the people! NO BIG GOVERNMENT!"
    Ten minutes later, of course, the high schooler two seats away from me asked if we'd move down so his friends could sit with him. And, of course, we did (though not without at least a minimal amount of grumbling & pouting). And, of course, the two girls who took the seats talked through the entire thing.

    Stupid movie theatre socialism.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Livin' La Vida Lokos

    Last night, testing the boundaries of societal ire, my friends & I did this:


    The night went as follows: I drank half a can of watermelon-flavored dreck.* We watched "How I Met Your Mother." I ate some Doritos. And then?! We played Balderdash. Gasp!


    It was a really rockin' night, I know. Good thing the FDA is cracking down on these suckers! I don't know if I could handle another outta-control evening like that.

    *Personal responsibility for the win!

    A New Twist on Bar Bathroom Graffiti


    We've come a long way, it seems, from the days of "For a good time call ____" & "___ is an @$$!" Kindness is in, kids. Ya heard?

    *In the interest of not looking like a copycat, I should note that a friend recently posted the same photo on her Facebook wall. I didn't steal it from her but had, in fact, taken a photo of it, too. When it's funny, it's funny!

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    We nom.

    I'm noticing a theme in the photos stored on my iPhone...






    Oh, & don't forget about these:


    And so on & so forth.

    Thank God I have friends & family willing to humor me.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Like Father, Like Daughter

    Undoubtedly, one of the best things about this temporary living-with-my-mom situation (aside from free rent & food) is the tendency to stumble across pieces of my childhood on a daily basis. Yesterday, my mom & I came across a box of long-forgotten photos from the '80s; among them were a few of my parents & their friends at my favorite place on earth, my dad's friends' cabin in the Pennsylvania woods. I was pleased but not all that surprised to find this gem of a photo:


    On the far right, in blue? That's my dad, & those are three of his high school best friends - who are all accomplished hunters - shooting at clay pigeons. My dad, who was not an accomplished hunter but rather an accomplished race car aficionado, was not a particularly good shot, so his friends are backing him up so that the skeet he misses doesn't go to waste.

    Why does this photo matter? Well, for starters, I love finding anything to do with my dad, who passed away when I was 10. And secondly, this photo looks mighty familiar. Not because I've seen it but because I've lived it:


    On the far right, in blue? That's me. Next to me is my "cousin" Patrick, who's shooting back-up for me because, well, I suck. Patrick's father is the guy in the first photo who's wearing a red shirt, crouched down to launch the clay pigeons; he was my dad's closest friend & has remained a close family friend even after my dad's death. In the 2010 photo, the guy in the red shirt crouched down to launch the clay pigeons is Anthony, one of Patrick's best friends from high school & now one of my good friends, too. Patrick invites his friends to the cabin every August, which is where I met Nathan, who's now my boyfriend. Does this feel karmic & poetic & touchy-feely yet?

    And that's not all!
     

    As the Jewish people say, L'dor vador - "from generation to generation." Some things never change - & I'm so glad for it.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    The Midwest: Setting the Bar High

    My mom & I headed to a local bar last night, one that's located a whopping .9 miles away from our home. The occasion? My best friend's dad's band was playing, & we wanted to show our support. As a bonus, my best friend & her husband were in town from Tennessee, though I wish it had been for a better reason than a death in the family.

    Let me tell you a bit about said bar & my experience at it:

    • It is approximately the size of a large walk-in closet.

    • It's been there for decades, but prior to last night, I didn't think I knew a single person who'd ever been there.

    • It used to be another old bar, one that frequently sent well-wishes to bar regulars by putting things like "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RHONDA!" & "HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, ED & BEATRICE!" on its front sign... & leaving them there for months at a time.

    • It appears to be popular with drunken folks of parental age, particularly those who enjoy dancing.

    • The men's restroom is not labeled, which led me to believe it was a unisex restroom, which led to some embarrassment when another patron asked me in a patient yet condescending voice, "Are you looking for the women's restroom?" This was, of course, after I'd already used the men's.

    • Also, there was this:

      In case you can't see it in the lack of light, that's a walker. Atop an empty table. In a bar.

    • Finally - & perhaps most importantly - the bar is also home to a food cart called The Purple People Eatery, where the menu options include "walking tacos" (no idea) & "chicken sandwhiches" (spelled that way). I, however, wanted to be a little adventurous, so I ordered... wait for it... a taco dog. What, you ask, is a taco dog? Well, duh, it's a hot dog topped with taco fixins, including ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese & diced tomatoes. Of course. Lucky for me, it did not look like this:

      But, I am only mildly ashamed to admit, it did taste delicious.

    Ohhhh, Ohio. You've got me.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    All I Want for Christmas

    I don't even celebrate Christmas. Still, the societal transition to red Starbucks cups & that sparkly tinsel that gets all over your clothes has got me thinking about my mental holiday wishlist, no matter how unrealistic. Let's just say that a few of the items gracing it are more doable than others. Want to see? It goes something like this:


    KEY: 1. Damask tote with pink ruffle by Gussy Sews to haul around all my junk necessities; 2. GPS device to keep from being lost all the damn time now that I have a vehicle; 3. For the Dems to somehow miraculously take back Congress, despite this month's election results; 4. Record Player and Hearts 5-Pack of Screen-Printed Cards from Two Guitars so I can write to my D.C. friends in style; 5. Goldwell Kerasilk Rich Care Shampoo, because I'm worth it. Oh, wrong motto?; 6. Gift cards to places with inexpensive clothing so that I don't have to curb my shopping habit just because I'm unemployed; 7. Canon EOS Rebel T2i so I can learn to take photos on something that isn't my iPhone; 8. Skin that doesn't make me look like a 13-year-old boy going through puberty; 9. An iPad. This is actually at the top of my list, but it's just about as realistic as #16; 10. These sold-out ELLE Ryder ankle boots in cognac; 11. "City of Bones," the first book in the Mortal Instruments series; 12. A job, if you please; 13. For the women of Northeast Ohio to ease up on their '80s hairdos; 14. Bumble & Bumble Holding Spray, because I'm still worth it; 15. Tiered White Bubble Necklace from Basil the Cat, which I've been eying for about a year; 16. World peace. What you thought I was totally selfish?

    What are you hoping for this holiday season?

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    What's That Smell? It's a Holiday Giveaway!

    It's a fact: Scent triggers memory. And that's not just a fact in my head. The New York Times says it, so it must be true! That's how facts work, right?

    In keeping with yesterday's post, it's funny how a surprise whiff of some unexpected scent can send you hurtling back to some memory you thought was tucked away. How certain smells are inextricably linked to things that technically have no relation, like today when my mom & I walked into a craft store. "It smells like Christmas!" I exclaimed (like a good Jewish girl). "That's cloves," my mom explained. Not Christmas. But my brain begged to differ. Similarly, I loathe the scent of coconut because it reminds me of the time I drank too much rum at a Jimmy Buffet-themed party my freshman year of college. That's similar, right?

    Annnyway. My friend & former roommate Cortney recently became an individual consultant for Scentsy, which sells aromatic candles described as "decorative warmers with wax melted by the heat of a light bulb instead of a traditional wick and flame." Basically, candles that aren't at risk of burning your whole house down. Score one for safety!

    As the holidays approach, Cortney's store, Defy the Wick, is hitting its stride, & she asked if I'd like to host a giveaway to share the memory-scented love with my readers. (P.S. I recognize that "memory-scented love" sounds awkwardly sexual. Unintentional, I promise.) That means... (drumroll please)...

    GIVEAWAY!

    The goodies: One reader will win a warmer & scented bar of his or her choice from Defy the Wick, valued at around $40. The warmers, some of which are featured below, come in eleventy billion designs & themes, including holiday (reindeer! snowflakes! menorahs!), universities (Brigham Young but not Ohio State? Seriously?), military branches (sadly, no Coast Guard), sports & your typical year-round decorative variety. The bars (wickless candles, a.k.a. the scented part) last foreverish & come in 41 scents, including a fall & winter collection with scents like gingersnap & pralines. Yes, please. Also, did I mention you won't be at risk of burning your house down?

     

    The rules: Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite memory-related scent. What gets you all misty-eyed & nostalgic? Please enter with a valid email address so that I can contact you should you win.

    The bonus entries: Because I dig extra opportunities to score free stuff, you'll get one additional entry for doing each of the following. If you do any of these, please leave a separate comment to let me know.
    • Follow Suburban Sweetheart using Google Friend Connect on the right-hand side of the blog.
    • Follow @defythewick on Twitter.
    • Become a fan of Cortney's Scentsy site, Defy the Wick, on Facebook.
    • Tweet about this giveaway with a mention of me (@heysuburban) and/or @defythewick.
    This giveaway will remain open for one week & will close on Saturday, Nov. 20th. Enter away! Tell your friends! Go buy wickless candles! LOVE ME!

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Remember, Remember

    I had plans for tonight's post. Plans like a giveaway. Plans like reminding you to thank a veteran. Plans like the usual upbeat nonsense I usually write about.

    And then someone dies, & everything else stops mattering.

    My best friend's uncle died tonight. If it sounds like a distant connection, it's because, to some extent, it is. But I knew him well enough to cry when I got the news today, to stop what I was doing & feel numb, not just for my friend & her family but for him & the memories I have of him.

    I have a terrible memory. It's one of my worst qualities, I think, & the one that scares me the most about myself. I forget everything just about as soon as it happens; I don't remember the order of events or who was there or what we said or did. I often see old photos on Facebook & think, "When on earth did I do that?" but am too embarrassed to ask. My friends retell stories of times past, & it's like I've got social amnesia. Not only do I not recall the chronology of the events, I often can't remember the events' existence.

    My memories of Uncle Tom are recent; if there are any older than this spring - & of course there are - they're lost in the abyss of my vault of a brain. But two very recent memories of him remain fresh, two memories that have fallen to the front of my mind with a dull thud & have stuck there. This spring, I was home for a wedding & at a local bar with my mom, where my best friend's father's cover band was playing. The place was full of family friends & the parents of kids we grew up with, a live flashback in which I was suddenly & bizarrely old enough to have a beer with the adults who used to babysit me. When I saw Tom & his wife Ann, they asked me a million questions about my life & were genuinely interested in my answers. I remember being flattered that they wanted to have a real conversation with me, & I felt very adult for it. Take the new job, they advised &, adding their words to the collective wisdom I was gathering on the issue, I did.

    When I saw them next, they wanted to know all about it. They were in D.C. on vacation & had asked my friend if she thought I might like to go to brunch with them. I told my roommates, "I'm going to brunch with my best friend's aunt & uncle," & the connection seemed strange to them - but not to me. I met them at Open City on one of those truly, devastatingly hot days the District experienced mid-summer, & we could hardly breathe. Tom, newly retired, told me about the door-to-door work he was doing for the Census Bureau & all the crazy people he encountered through it. They paid for my meal & on the way out, I urged them not to try to drive into Georgetown themselves on a Saturday evening, despite Tom's protests that he'd be fine. I later learned that they took a cab & were glad they did.

    I didn't know this man well, & I always feel guilty writing about people I don't know well. Who am I to speak to his life & his contributions? But I know this: I was struck by the newness of my memories of him & the way they affected my reaction to his death. I'm grieving for my friend, of course, & for her family, who is like a second family to me, but I'm grieving for him, too, in a way that feels quite real & personal & not just tangential. I just saw him. He was so happy & had so much to say, & it was the first time I felt like I knew them as people & not just as my best friend's aunt & uncle.

    What is it about memories that, when someone dies, makes us say "But I just saw him!" & replay as much of that memory reel as we can, no matter who they are or how we knew them? And most importantly, how do I retain those memories? How do I hang onto all the things I know - & recover all the things I've lost - so that when the people I love pass away, I'm not left with a gaping hole where my memories of them ought to be? I'm so afraid of forgetting people before they're even gone, & I'm afraid that when they're gone, I'll have nothing to remember them by, no way of knowing what I knew.

    ...but I just saw him...

    Hairy Situations: It's No-Shave November!

    Here in Northeast Ohio, no one works on Capitol Hill because, well, that'd be geographically difficult. And while there are plenty of individuals here who hold traditional 9-to-5 gigs that require them to be clean-shaven & suit-clad, those people are not my friends. Not that I'm biased against clean-shaven, suited men; on the contrary, I miiight actually favor them. I just don't know any of them here.

    Back it up. Most of my Ohio friends (that is to say, all three of them) are typically clean-shaven fellas, despite their non-9-to-5y jobs (bartender, grad student, aide for teens with autism). But not this month. No, this month is No-Shave November, a yearly challenge left over from college days, & Movember, a fundraiser to collect money for cancer research. And before they dedicate their souls to a lifetime of desk jobs, my boys are participating while they still can.

    The average man will spend 140 days of his life shaving. Well, count this month out! The beards were out in full force tonight, as Adam strolled into the bar with a wild & crazy beard & mustache combo that hasn't seen hide nor hair (pun intended, duh) of grooming utensils since the month began. Astonishingly, his regular-beard to neck-beard ratio is fairly impressive (that is to say, less neck beard than expected). My dear friend Sean is faring less well, though perhaps more enthusiastically: He, too, is lacking in neck beard but is also sadly lacking in the volume of regular beard with which his best bud has been blessed.

    Despite their dedication to a razor-free November, I still think Sammi wins:
     

    Why does she own the same stick-on facial hair that my boyfriend wore for Halloween? I have no idea. Just trust the process.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Stranger Danger Is a Myth

    Since my Unemployment Adventure began, I've been spending a lot of time at Starbucks. And the library. I'm trying to rotate between the two so I don't burn out on either; so far, I've been successful in rotating, but not necessarily in preventing burnout. Starbucks has pumpkin scones, so it usually wins.

    Here's the problem: Because I have a whopping total of, like, two friends in town - & because they have, you know, jobs & lives & stuff - I find myself without anyone to talk to the majority of the time. The majority of my face-to-face interactions are with my mom & with strangers who frequent (& are employed by) places I frequent.

    So I find myself thriving on these few-sentences-long chats with people I don't & will never know. Conversations like, "Will you watch my stuff while I run to the bathroom?" that, if I'm lucky, turn into a few lines of good-humored banter about trusting strangers to keep me safe from other strangers. Conversations with a middle-aged Sears employee about the horrors of turtlenecks & the many treasures to be found on jewelry sales rack & whether coral is an acceptable color palette for anything but necklaces. Conversations with the couple in line of front of me at WalMart who lets me cut them so I don't have to wait 15 minutes while they pay for their meth lab supplies when all I need to buy is contact solution & a Lean Cuisine.

    I'm turning into my grandmother, who talks to every stranger she meets. I am one of those people. It's not new, of course; I've always done it, even in the city, where people sometimes thought I was crazy or obnoxious or an escaped mental patient for daring to strike up chats with folks I don't know. I even have a blog tag devoted to "conversations with strangers." And it suddenly occurs to me: This is, without a doubt, the most suburban thing about me. When paired with also being the loneliest thing about me, I'm a conversational time bomb just waiting to explode. No stranger is safe.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Learning to Fly, But Not in an Emotional, Tom Pettyesque Kind of Way

    Last I checked, no one really wants to sit in the exit row of an airplane. Or at least, I don't want to. Let's count the myriad reasons why:

    • It's got a crappy view. The glory of having a window seat is being seated near, you know, a window - but when that window overlooks the wing of the plane, you may as well be sitting anywhere else. Like, on land. The view from an exit row window isn't a pretty one, unless you dig witnessing the occasional avian ingestion.

    • The row is wider. While this may mean more leg room for some, for me it means no way to curl up into a little knees-on-the-back-of-the-seat-in-front-of-me ball, which is my preferred flight position. And yes, I am a grown woman. What of it?

    • The steward(esse)s stop the drink cart smack in the middle of the cabin as they distribute beverages down the aisle. You know what's smack in the middle of the cabin? The exit row. This is particularly cruel when you need to use the restroom but must wait for the beverage cart to pass you - but only after drinks have been carefully poured & cheerfully delivered to evvvvveryone in the four rows in front of & behind you. And no, I don't want a Sprite, why are you taunting me?! And hey, gimme those pretzels.

    • You actually have to pay attention when the steward(esse)s give the seatbelt/airbag lesson. And by "have to," I mean, "they'll stare you down heartily unless you do." This delays the start of in-flight napping by at least 15 vital minutes.

    • Annnnd of course, the kicker: You actually have to know how to use those airbags & the window chute-slide-thingies in case of an emergency! What's worse, you have to agree to help other people before you help yourself, which means sure & fiery death - though I think most airplane crashes result in sure & fiery death, no matter the order in which their victims go... Still, I don't want to be known, in after-the-fact news reports, as that weakling who couldn't get the window open or, worse, who jumped out the window without so much as a "good luck" to the elderly people & helpless children clambering to get out ahead of her.

    So listen up, AirTrain: Trying to charge me $20 to sit in an exit row just because there's more leg room? You can use all the fancy marketing terms you want, but I know a scam when I see one, folks. If I wanted to fly comfortably, I'd just take the train! Wait, that doesn't make sense. You know what I mean. 

    Please note: I found a way around this charge by not checking in online or at a kiosk & instead sweet-talking a real, live employee at the Air Tran counter who gave me the last window seat for free, despite the fact that it happened to be an exit row seat the company deems Andrew Jackson-worthy. So I didn't pay for my seat, but I still wanted to complain, because that's how I roll. Luckily for me, the plane did not crash, so it's OK that I didn't pay attention, yet again, during the airbag how-to.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    "The Wire" Goes Suburban (Or My Boyfriend Drinks a Raw Egg)

    I'm knee-deep in episodes of "The Wire," which Nate bought in its entirety off Amazon. At present, we're closing in on the end of Season Two, which focuses on Baltimore's Stevedores, or dock workers. "The Wire" covers lots of topics that ought to make me cringe - drugs & murder, for starters - but thus far, the scene I've found the most unsettling is one in which the longshoremen pop into their favorite bar early in the morning for a breakfast drink of beer, a shot & a raw egg. Together. Chugged.

    Yesterday night, Nate & I were headed out to meet up with his friends at a nearby bar. Before we left, he made clear his obsession with "The Wire" when he easily agreed, with only my gentle prodding, to try a longshoreman's breakfast of his own - one can of PBR, one shot of rye whiskey &, yes, one raw egg. Observe:


    Forgive me, for I was distracted by my disgust & briefly stopped filming. When I realized the error of my ways, I quickly turned the camera back on for a reaction shot:

     

    Frank & Nico would be proud. Or would they?

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    I am Not a Morning Person.

    I've been awake since 3am. I wish I could say that it's for some awesome reason, like: I have to catch a flight to someplace awesome! Or... well, that's the only legitimate reason I can think of to wake up at 3am, which is a time I'm more likely to first crawl into bed than to get up out of it. In reality, I was awakened this morning by a pounding headache & unparalleled back pain that refused to let ,e slumber.

    I tried lots of things: writhing around like a cranky newborn, sleeping on the floor in the living room, consuming safe-but-copious amounts of Advil, returning to bed after Nate left for work (at the ungodly hour of 6am) to sleep smack in the middle of it.

    Alas, I'm still awake, sitting in the dark cave of his underground bedroom, doing lots of very important too-early-to-be-alive things, including: watching the latest episode of "America's Next Top Model" and "Grey's Anatomy," catching up on blogs, & laughing alone at this bizarre & somewhat unsettling YouTube monologue:

     

    Haven't you heard? Smart people sleep late. On any other day, this would mean that I'm a genius.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    A Great Example of Neighborly Love. Orrr Not.

    Imagine if you will...

    The Occasion: Midterm Election Night 2010
    The Setting: A small apartment in a small town on the coast of New Hampshire
    The Characters: Me & my boyfriend, a Coast Guard Democrat
    The Mood: Hopeful but realistic. See also: downtrodden

    Remember when I didn't care about politics? Remember when I started my first job in D.C. & needed a high school civics book to teach me the basics of government? Remember when I couldn't name a single senator except maybe Ohio's?

    That was a long time ago. Since then, I've watched a handful of elections (& State of the Union addresses & other political events the average American replaces with "True Blood" & "Mad Men"), all with D.C. friends far more politically knowledgeable than me. I've watched with amusement as they yelled things like "It's all platitudes!" & "What is our metric of success?" at the television, measuring the likelihood of so-&-so beating so-&-so & calculating what it may mean for our country's future. I always feel invested, even if I have little to no idea what they're talking about.

    I spent this election night quite differently, with no access to cable TV & only my Twitter feed to sate me. Also, an angry redneck hassling me about my political views outside my own home (& by "my," I mean "not really mine, but I've been here for two weeks so it feels like it") for no legitimate reason whatsoever.

    We're in the parking lot, getting out of the car on our way home from WalMart ('MERIKA!) circa 8pm. "We need to get inside so I can obsess over election results!" I yelped. Nate's curmudgeonly neighbor, lingering nearby with his very cute dog, piped up: "Don't bother. The Republicans win." Unable to determine his party affiliations & figuring he was just making (truthful) small talk, I mumbled something neutral & unmemorable, such as "Yeah," or "Seems that way."
    The neighbor went on to ask, with no small amount of disdain, whether I'm "one of those" hoping against a Republican takeover. With a friendly "We'll have to agree to disagree," I tried to turn the topic of conversation away from politics & toward aforementioned mutt, who is nuzzling my leg: "She's so cute! Can I pet her?"

    This is where the curmudgeonly fella got way crankier than necessary - & where I found it necessary to hold myself together for the sake of loving thy neighbor, even when he is an a-hole. (Oh, that's not how the commandment is worded?) He proceeded to follow us inside & down a flight of stairs, hot on our heels us as we tried to unlock the apartment door, railing on & on about how it's been a long two years, how ObamaCare is ruining the world, & how the socialist agenda has taken over - but not anymore! Not now that America's party is about to regain control! On & on, just begging me to take the aggressive, ignorant bait.

    But I bit my tongue. I swallowed my pride. I stayed the course. I engaged in a million other cliches to keep myself from saying a word to this unnecessarily mean & entirely unwelcome man who verbally assailed me & my belief system for no reason whatsoever. And then I did what any polite person would do: I gave him the stink-eye & mean-mugged him as best I could, then I shut the apartment door behind me & seethed. Loudly. It's not just that he was saying moronic things; it's that he had no reason to say them to a complete stranger except that a little Democratic girl in the parking lot made an easy target for his hostility.

    Did the D.C. bubble have me this disillusioned? Is this what the rest of the world is like?! And in New England, of all places! My heart, it breaks.

    I wish it were possible to TP apartments. Just sayin'.


    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    It Runs in the Family!

    By any & all standards, my cousin's Halloween costume was really, really sweet.


    I can't decide whether this makes me feel better or worse about being a witch this year. Better because I'm obviously genetically predisposed to awesome costuming; worse because I didn't take advantage of it. But I'm glad someone in the family did!

    For the record, while in witch costume, I was all set to be like, "I'm you!" if anyone asked what I was (& in case the witch hat didn't give it away). But I guess that's a joke that would only have flown inside the Beltway. Or "SNL" fans (which I am not). And, uhhh, when did I start making wonk jokes?!

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Little Monsters of the Come-Work-For-Us Variety

    My daily routine goes something like this, in no particular order: MediaBistro.com, Monster.com, Indeed.com and the too-often-sketchy Craigslist.com. I've applied for dozens of jobs, all within the fields of writing, communications & social media, but so far, it's slow goin' because, uh, the economy's rough, y'all. Maybe you've heard.

    I made my contact information viewable to employers searching Monster for potential employees. My reasoning was basic: I want a job, & I want to hear from companies that have job openings I might be right for.

    Therein lies the problem. I want to hear from companies that have job openings I might be right for. That doesn't mean I want to hear from every company under the sun that thinks I might be an easy get for a job I A) am not qualified, B) never applied for & B) am not interested in. The unfortunate reality, I've learned, is that there are a lot of lecherous companies out there, ones that don't care about the individual - their skills, their abilities, their interests.

    I've gotten at least five phone calls from recruiters - mostly at large, spilling-over-with-profits insurance companies - that spotted my resume & think I'm an "ideal candidate" for sales jobs with them. Yesterday? The call I got was entirely automated - & didn't even tell me what company it was on behalf of! It was all "HELlo. YOUR res-u-me has been RE-ceived by OUR com-pa-ny & WE be-lieve YOU have the skills to BE suc-ESS-ful." And while it's sorrrrt of tempting to work for robots, I think I'll pass.

    I'm torn. Part of me finds it positively predatory that so many companies engage in these largely unsolicited cold calls, luring unemployed people into jobs they don't want & will inevitably despise. So many of these people are down on their luck already, downtrodden & despondent - laid off from their positions & out of work for months, often trying to take care of entire families & struggling to make ends meet.

    On the other hand, I've only been jobless for two months (by my own doing, no less), & I'm fortunate enough to have been able to move in with my mother while I figure things out. Perhaps if my situation were different, I'd consider taking one of these never-in-a-million-years jobs the robots are pitching. After all, any job is better than no job, right?

    I get it: The economy is shot & times are tough & job are jobs. But still, it just feels insulting, somehow. I be-lieve I have the skills to BE suc-ESS-ful, too, & I don't need a monotone-voiced robot to con me into a bottom-of-the-barrel gig to convince me of it. We're unemployed, not moronic.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Life Lessons from a Halloween in New Hampshire

    • Most men dress as exaggerated versions of themselves for the holiday. Examples include street fighters, wrestlers, beer kegs, cartoon characters, & lumberjacks (see photo).


    • Every year, I'm fond of declaring, "People who don't dress up for Halloween are the worst kind of people!" Mostly in jest, but also not. Of course, no one can have The Best Costume Of All Time all the time, but on the whole, I tend to think people who refuse to dress up for Halloween are either terribly uncreative or take themselves too seriously - two qualities I don't necessarily find admirable.

    • BUT. Though I've spent my entire life looking down on people who don't dress up for Halloween, it turns out that being the only one decked out in disguise when everyone you're out on the town with is dressed in their regular clothes is a liiiiittle bit embarrassing. My, how the tables have turned.

    • SO. If you're going to go out with people who refuse to dress up for Halloween, wearing a witch costume is likely the best way to go. It's cute but not so creative that you'll feel you've wasted The Best Costume Of All Time (which is impossible because you already used that costume up in 2008 when you dressed as "fishing for compliments").


    • Witch hats impede dancing & the wearing of across-the-chest purse straps. False eyelashes impede vision.

    • I wish people needed bat necklaces year-round. I could make a living out of creating these! But I bet business would be slow in, say, February.

    How was your Halloween?


    PS: If you're unsure about my love for this holiday or want to know more, please check out this post & this one. With bonus photos of me dressed as a crazy person!
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