My 10 Favorite Books of 2017

Saturday, December 30, 2017

I read 101 books in 2016, but I knew I wouldn't be able to make that happen in 2017. Between planning a wedding & working on a big conference for my job, I didn't think I'd have the oomph to make it to 100 - & I was right. To be fair, much of that is because I watched a lotttt of bad TV.

My final total for 2017 is 77 books, which is pretty darn good, all things considered. Below are my top three favorite books of the year - all of which happen to have been new this year (though that's not the case with the honorable mentions listed below them). Without further ado...

The Mothers by Brit Bennett 

This Book of the Month Club read was my 75th book of 2017 & easily one of my favorites. Told from the third-person perspective of an older church-going woman, it tells the story of teenage church member Nadia, whose mother recently died by suicide; her boyfriend, Luke, the preacher's son; & her best friend, Aubrey, who soon becomes close to Luke, too. The book follows them into adulthood and is one of the most agonizingly, exquisitely human stories I've ever read.  ★★★★★

Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar 

I read this one for Cleveland Magazine after its entertainment editor asked me to write a couple reviews for their holiday issue - & what an incredible book it is! Anton, a biracial 9-year-old, is taken away from his drug-addicted mother & fostered by a well-to-do white family who later adopt him. He subsequently grows up in the footsteps of his famous father & grandfather, both respected politicians - but what happens when he finds out more about his mother & his past?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

Is a "new classic" a thing? If so, this is one of them - as evidenced by the fact that it was voted Best YA Fiction Book of the Year & its author was named Best Debut Author of the Year by Goodreads users. Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter lives in an all-Black part of town ruled by gangs but attends an almost-all-white prep school, leading her to feel like she lives two separate lives. When a cops kills her best friend during a traffic stop, Starr is the only witness - leading to national attend, local unrest, & plenty of inner & outer turmoil for Starr herself.

Honorable Mentions: I read so many good books this year that it was difficult to pare down the top 10, but here are the best of the bunch, in no particular order:
What's the best book you read this year - & what's on your to-read list in 2018? Gimme all your recs! And as always, you can get your first book for $9.99 - plus a free tote bag - when you join using my referral link. Happy reading!

2017 in Review: Globally Awful but Personally Lovely

Thursday, December 28, 2017

I've been pretty lucky to have a few good years in a row. What does it say about me if I'm perpetually living in fear of waiting for the other shoe to drop?

OK, wait, let's not think about that. Let's think, instead, about the year we're leaving behind, which was a pretty darn good one.

Let's take a look back, shall we?

For the second year in a row, we rang in the new year with friends at Darren & Lilly's apartment, eating cheese & charcuterie & enchiladas & donuts & only watching "New Year's Rockin' Eve" in the two minutes before the ball dropped. Perfect!

My first trip of the year was to Austin in January for my friend Jill's bachelorette party. I only knew one other attendee, but was so much fun to get to know Jill's friends - & how fun is Austin? I need to get back ASAP, for those breakfast tacos if nothing else.

We spent a weekend in Pittsburgh visiting friends & for a change of scenery. Though very cold, we hit up a delicious dinner, had drinks on a twinkly, enclosed rooftop patio, ate a boozy brunch, & had a quick, caffeinated meetup with another set of friends.

I staffed a teen conference in Chicago, where it was unseasonably warm - but I never even left the hotel, so it didn't really matter! I did get to spend time with some great coworkers, & I was proud of the work we did at the event. 

We discovered lots of great new places in the CLE, including Western Reserve Meadery, Hi & Dry, Brewnuts, Chow Chow Kitchen at the Parkview, HiHo Brewery back in my hometown, & lots of others. I look forward to seeing what opens in 2018! 

I took a work trip to D.C. for a team retreat, where we did a bunch of team-building activities & learned about our own work styles. For the first but not the last time this year, I sucked up my fear of public speaking & gave a presentation on SEO, blog headlines, & online marketing.

Mike & I hit up New Orleans for our friends Jill & Michael's wedding. It was Mike's first time there, so we did a whirlwind tour & tried to fit in as much as we could, including the Pharmacy Museum, the oldest bar in America, & a little voodoo visit. 

I struggled with losing my best friend after we had a major falling-out in March. I haven't talked much (read: at all) about it, but it weighed on me for the entire year, & I'm only now starting to come to terms with it - if that's even possible.

We headed to D.C. for another wedding, this time celebrating our friends Allison & Ryder. We were only there for 24 hours, but it was worth it for a wedding full of a bunch of my closest friends in a snazzy, trendy art gallery.

Speaking of art, I photographed as much Cleveland street art as I could, starting in the Hingetown neighborhood of Ohio City. I haven't done a blog post on it yet, but stay tuned in 2018 - & send me tips on where to find your favorite murals! 

My now-sister-in-law graduated from Ohio University, so the whole family made the trip down to Athens, OH (where I attended my first three years of college) to watch her & their cousin William walk. Such a proud day.

In May, Mike & I moved into a new apartment & signed a whopping three-year lease. It's a great place, right in the heart of the Tremont neighborhood (three blocks from our old place), & there's great comfort in knowing we're settled in for a little while.

On Instagram, I talked about body image & my ongoing struggles with weight loss, size acceptance, body positivity, etc. It was a moment of vulnerability that I was terrified to post, but to my relief & gratitude, people responded with such kindness.

We hit up tons of fun events around Cleveland, including Ale Fest, two shows at Playhouse Square, the Festival of Trees, my first church basement fish fry, a pierogi festival (also in a church basement), the Cleveland Asian Festival, & multiple Cleveland Fleas - to name a few. 

My friend Marchae & I presented a Lit Cleveland session on blogging to about a dozen newbies who were incredibly enthusiastic to learn about our favorite online medium. It took place in my new favorite book store, Loganberry Books.

In July, we spent a long weekend at a cabin in Pennsylvania with my cousins & some friends. I've been going to the cabin since childhood, but this was Mike's first visit, & I loved showing him this piece of my past. Unfortunately, we didn't see any bears.

I had jury duty... kind of. It was my first time ever being called, & though I didn't end up on a case, I did have a surprising amount of fun doing my civic duty & waiting in a nearly windowless room for a week with total strangers & spotty wifi.

We went back to D.C. for the wedding of my cousin Patrick & his longtime girlfriend, Claire, this time accompanied by my mom. We didn't see much of the city, but we did love celebrating with them at a fancy Georgetown wedding with a reception at a nature reserve.

My aunt threw me a bridal shower attended mostly by family friends - though my maid of honor did drive up from Tennessee for it. Toast in Gordon Square was the perfect spot for a lovely, intimate get-together with these wonderful women.

I attended my first Cleveland blogger event, a meetup at Hi & Dry right here in my own neighborhood, where I met local bloggers new & old. It also paved the way for me to feel comfortable attending other events, like a menu reveal at the Rowley Inn & a pizza party at Platform.

I spent lots of time with N, my "little sister" from Big Brothers Big Sisters. We mostly go out to eat - including a trip to Olive Garden - but we also visited the toy store Big Fun, hit up the Feast of the Assumption, toured a candy warehouse, & went to a Cavs watch party.

Thanks to the organizing skills of seven of my closest friends, I had a bachelorette party weekend in Savannah, GA, that involved no penis-shaped things & no public sash-wearing, which was exaaaaactly the kind of party I wanted.

My mom & I spent a week at the beach thanks to her timeshare (so '80s!) in Hilton Head Island, SC. Her friend Gloria joined us, which helped diffuse any possible mother/daughter tension, & the whole vacation was so much-needed & relaxing.

My friend Lilly & I spent a night in Detroit to see a live show of our favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder. We loved the show but couldn't figure out Detroit's Greektown, which seems to be full of nothing but clubs - so we spent the night drinking boxed wine in our hotel room.

Our friends Trevor & Callie got married in Geneva, OH, so Mike & our friends & I spent the night in cabins on Lake Erie after attending their beautiful reception at Trevor's parents lake house right on the water. Such a pretty weekend!

For the third year in a row, we dressed up as Harry Potter characters for Halloween. This year, I was Tonks, & Mike was Lupin - though we were only really identifiable as such when standing next to one another. Can we do it again next year? Stay tuned!

On November 11, 2017, Mike & I got married in a beautiful ceremony here in Cleveland, attended by 170 of our loved ones. The party that followed was, in a word, epic, & marrying the love of my life was easily the happiest day of my life.

We haven't taken a honeymoon yet, but we took a few days off work & spent an "afternoon honeymoon" in Amish country. It included a cheese factory, Ohio's oldest general store, homemade mac & cheese, & a covered bridge.

I spent Thanksgiving with my whole family (minus my new husband), who all gathered together for the first time in more than five years. We met up in Cincinnati for a throwback holiday celebration that was so very joyful.

My mom retired after 16.5 years as the head of the children's department at my hometown library. She was worried she'd be bored or wouldn't know what to do with herself, but now she's turning into a gym rat & learning how to sleep in.

I was published in Cleveland Magazine for the first time in more than 10 years, since I was a college intern there, after an entertainment editor there read my book reviews here on this blog & reached out to be about freelancing. 

Mike & I hosted Friendsgiving at our apartment, finding it a worthwhile use of our leftover wedding booze. It was one of the smaller versions of this annual gathering, but it was a lot of fun, aided by copious amounts of baked mac & cheese & the joy of testing Alexa's limits.

I saw two of my favorite musical acts live: Billy Joel for the first time (be still my heart) with my mom at Progessive Field, & Jimmy Eat World for the fourth time, at Blossom with friends. (The latter opened for Incubus, but we left when they came on.)

On the work front, I staffed my organization's biennial convention in Boston, with headlining speakers like Senator Elizabeth Warren, author David Grossman, & actress Fran Drescher.

I read 76 books this year, surpassing my goal of 60. The longest book I read was Stephen King's 11/22/63, a book club read; my shortest was for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. Stay tuned for a roundup of my favorite books of the year, coming soon.

We celebrated Hanukkah & Christmas together & with family. My mom even came to my in-laws' house for Christmas! It was a simultaneously stressful but low-key holiday season, with lots going on but also plenty of time to chill.

Whew, what a year! More good than bad, at least on the personal front, but I can't even begin to speak about politics & global concerns. I have a feeling those will continue into 2018, but I continue to hope for - & work toward - better.

Tell me: What are some of the best things that happened to you in 2017? What are you looking forward to in the coming year? 

What to Do When the Power Goes Out While It's 5° Outside

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Go outside to take a look at your neighbors' houses to determine whether the power outage is just in your home. Seeing that some neighbors do, in fact, have power, seek out your fuse box in the creepy basement, where you also discover the carcass of a massive & terrifying bug of unknown origins. Confirm that no fuses have blown & immediately abandon ship.

Check the neighborhood Facebook group, which indicates that everyone in your neighborhood who uses the same power company as you is, indeed, sans power. Light every candle you own, which is in't many because you recently threw a bunch of them away when you realized they were inciting allergies.

Turn on every piece of technology that has its own battery (including two computers & an iPad) so you may benefit from the warm glow of their screens. Google "what to do in a power outage," which isn't very helpful because you're not an idiot & this isn't brain surgery. Put on a winter hat.

Get a text from your mother that's more helpful than the Internet: a reminder to put your faucets on a low drip so your pipes don't freeze. Do that, then feel like you're going slightly insane as you listen to three faucets drip... drip... drip in the blackened silence of your apartment.

Weigh the options, including freezing to death alongside your cats in your own bedroom & driving to your mom's house alone in very cold weather while all the lights are out on the highway (as reported in your neighborhood's Facebook group, of course). Frantically text all options to your husband, as though you don't know how to make decisions alone. Excessively refresh aforementioned neighborhood Facebook group to see if there's any news about power restoration. There isn't.

Continue to text your mom & your husband. Update Twitter. Like literally everything you see on Instagram. Use up all the battery on your phone. Oops. Recharge it in your husband's computer until the computer dies, too, taking its warm technological glow (& half your light source) with it.

Return to obsessively checking Facebook, where you learn that a transformer explosion is the cause of the power outage, which spans most of the west side of the city of Cleveland. Decide to go to your mom's when you see an update from the power company that says no estimated timeline is available for the restoration of power... to 40,000 homes across the city.

Pack your suitcase in the dark, using your iPhone as a flashlight held under your chin so you can use both hands for the task of assembling clothing for a who-knows-how-long stay. Remember that your mom's house is usually freaking freezing, anyway, & pack extra sweaters for the move from one icebox to another.

Make repeated trips out to your car to load it up with everything you need for a trip of indeterminable length, including cat food, an extra blanket, & a bag of stuff you've been meaning to take to Goodwill. Keep an eye out for carjackers because there's been a rash of break-ins lately, as though you need additional anxiety tonight. Or ever.

Briefly consider going to the restaurant across the street to wait out the outage, because somehow, they still have power, those bastards. They also have curry. And beer. Instead, head back into your home, where you catch one of your cats & put her in a carrier in the middle of the living room, suppressing your guilt as she screams & cries & thrashes & generally appears to be miserable.

Set our to catch your other cat, who is now hiding underneath the bed. Prod him using a long back massager, then proceed to chase him around the bedroom a few times until you are finally able to drag him out of his hiding place. Try to avoid his wrath as he hisses at you while you shove him headfirst into his carrier. (Sorry, buddy.)

Lace up your snowboots (because it's icy as hell, because of course it is) & schlep both cats out to your car, where one of them continues to hiss & the other continues to scream. Spend the 40-minute car ride murmuring, "It's okayyyy" in a soothing voice, upwards of 100 times, to no avail. Worry that your cats have peed in their carriers. (Good news, to be determined upon arrival: They have not.)

Stop at Taco Bell for cinnamon twists & nachos because this night has been stressful, OK? Eat your contraband fast food while parked one street over from your mother's house so that your mother will not know of your secret shame. Feel embarrassed about doing this at the age of 33. Moms, man.

Arrive home & smuggle your cats into your childhood bedroom before your mother's chihuahuas can realize they're in the house. Sigh with exasperation as aforementioned hissing cat makes his way under a new bed... & continues to hiss. Lock cats in bedroom & pour yourself a glass of red wine.

Realize you've forgotten your allergy medicine, which is problematic because you've recently become deeply allergic, somehow, to your childhood home. (Prime suspect: dogs.) Decide to run to the 24-hour CVS pharmacy down the road, but first, lose your keys & take, like, 20 minutes to find them.

While at CVS, check social media... & learn that the power is back on across Cleveland, just an hour after you got out of dodge. Contemplate crying; contemplate returning to Cleveland; decide to do neither.

Find a cookie in your purse. Eat cookie. Buy allergy medicine. Go back to your mom's house. Settle in for the long haul - or at least until tomorrow morning.

Happy Holidays, with Love from the Kaputs

Monday, December 25, 2017

This post is a copy of the holiday letter Mike & I sent out to family & friends... & the image above is the front of the card we sent. Oops - though, luckily, we sent out very few of them because we were too tired (from sending wedding invitations, thank-you notes, etc.) to do a full-on Christmas card mailing this year. 

Anyway. Mike wrote this letter, so it's in his voice, & parts have been redacted for publication here. Happy holidays, friends.


Friends, family, compatriots,

Growing up, both Kate and I loved receiving annual holiday letters from friends and family. These letters, which recounted the joys, successes, and milestones of the previous year, were just one more way to stay present in the lives of our loved ones, near and far.

Today, we’re blessed to have friends and family all over the world. Though we all share the joys and sorrows of everyday life online, we thought it’d be a lovely tradition to send our own holiday letter to give you the big picture view of our family’s year.

So, let’s get to it: 2017 was, to put it mildly, a hell of a year. The biggest news, of course, was the dizzying rise of the price of bitcoin.

Just kidding! The biggest news was that we got married! (Though seriously, check out bitcoin.) We sincerely could not have imagined a better way to celebrate our union than with the people we love most.

Most people know that Kate and I count our friends as family, and on November 11, we were lucky enough to be surrounded by the best family imaginable. Most people also know that a few years ago, both Kate and I would’ve put “getting married” low on our list of likely things to happen in the near future, so it’s an understatement to say that “finding your person and marrying them” was such a pleasant surprise.

In fact, we’re so eager to start our first full year of married life together that we accidentally ordered holiday cards that say 2018. The future is, quite literally, now.

2017 was also notable in a number of other ways.

We attended beautiful weddings that took us all over the country, including New Orleans, which is most certainly haunted, and Washington, D.C., which is definitely in need of an exorcism. In May, we moved into a new apartment and decided to call it our home for the next few years while we ease into this whole “being adults” thing. We also adopted a second cat, which is enough responsibility for now. (Our cats are named Helo and Dora. Helo is named after a character in the 21st-century reboot of the science fiction show Battlestar Galactica; Dora is short for Nymphadora, a character in the Harry Potter series. None of this should be shocking to anyone reading this letter.)

For Kate, 2017 brought amazing new opportunities and experiences. Kate has been blogging steadily for 10+ years, maintaining a blog that showcases her beautiful complexities, amazing characteristics, and unique insight on the world. Personal writing is like a window into a person’s soul, which meant Mike, who read most of her blog after their first date, fell in love before Date #2. (Thankfully, this worked out.)

This year, Cleveland Plus named Kate one of the top Cleveland top bloggers to follow, so now, when people on the internet want to know more about CLE, they can more easily find her blog, which we can all agree is the role she was born to play in the blogosphere. (Check her out at

This year, Kate was also published on Alma, Localeur, and in Cleveland Magazine; this is in addition to her full-time job. In her spare time, she fit in seeing Billy Joel in concert and reading 75+ books. The sad part is that 75 books is 25 fewer books than she read last year. That is not a joke.

Last but not least, we were overjoyed to celebrate the retirement of Kate’s mother, Joyce, after serving as head of the children’s department at the local library for 16 and ½ years. Joyce continues to be a bright and beloved light in her community — and is a better dancer than both of us.

Mike, on the other hand, is lucky he managed to stay alive, free of incarceration, and gainfully employed in 2017. (Calm down guys, it’s kind of a joke.)

Mike continues to work as a consultant at an online marketing agency, where he puts Don Draper to shame. His pet project focuses educating marketing professionals about artificial intelligence. So far, it has attracted significant interest from key players in AI, led to high-profile speaking gigs, and even gotten some paying sponsors. Not too bad for a passion project he’s been developing on the side.

Mike has, this year alone, started writing two novels that will probably never be finished. One is a sci-fi thriller of AI run amok; the other is a young adult fantasy novel in the vein of Harry Potter. He’s also spent a huge amount of time trying to learn more about real estate and understand cryptocurrencies. On this last point, he’s become fond of saying that there are two types of friends: friends who humor his discussions of bitcoin, and people who used to be friends. He makes this joke before crying himself to sleep at night.

On Mike’s side of the family, we were been truly blessed to watch Mike’s sister Maggie graduation from Ohio University in May. The entire Kaput clan made the trip to Athens to watch Maggie walk. It has been one of the proudest moments of Mike’s life to watch his sister grow into a smart and talented young woman.

Thank you for taking the time to read about our family, support us in our endeavors, and make our lives so rich and full of joy. To reward you for reading such a lengthy letter, here some of the books we loved this year that you may want to read yourself:

Kate recommends: Everybody’s Son by Thrity Umrigar (a Clevelander!); The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. Mike recommends: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashley Vance; The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph by Ryan Holiday; and Red Rising by Pierce Browne.

We can’t wait for the adventures 2018 has to offer. Until then, we wish you and your loved ones a holiday filled with joy, warmth, and good tidings toward all humankind (or most of it, depending on your mood). Above all, we wish you presence. We spend most of our time thinking about the days to come, but the days happening now are the most valuable things any of us own. We hope you’re able to sit back and savor these treasures.

Mike & Kate

11 of the Best Shops in the CLE for Last-Minute Christmas Gifts

Thursday, December 21, 2017

It's that time of year: Time for last-minute gift-buyers to panic! My fellow Clevelanders, you've got lots of options that aren't Target or the mall or picking up a gift card from CVS (though I do love me a good old-fashioned gift card). You may be cutting it close, but that doesn't mean you can't shop small. Here are a few of my favorite local shops, all open this weekend before Christmas's arrival. 

1. Banyan Tree

By now, every Cleveland gal knows of Banyan Tree, repeatedly voted the city's best boutique on various such lists. From on-trend clothing to quirky accessories to lifestyle & homegoods (think lots of CLE-themed bar items!), Banyan Tree is a one-stop shop for any lady on your list. With three locations, there's probably one pretty nearby, too. (2242 Professor Ave., Tremont, open Fri./Sat. 10am -9pm, & Sun. 11am-5pm | 162 Main St., Westlake, open Fri./Sat. 10am-9pm & Sun. 11am-6pm 24677 Cedar Rd., Lyndhurst, open Fri./Sat. 10am-9pm & Sun. 11am-5pm)

2. Big Fun

Haven't yet shopped for the kid on your list... or the kid-at-heart on your list? Big Fun is the spot to shop, stuffed with modern-day toys & vintage gems alike. You'll find every action figure imaginable, giant Star Wars characters, old issues of Disney Adventures magazines, joke items & penny candies, pretty paper goods, & basically anything & everything in between. Needless to say, shopping at Big Fun is, well, big fun. (1814 Coventry Rd., Coventry, open Fri./Sat. 11am-10pm & Sun. 11am-8pm)

3. City Buddha

If you're looking for candles, crystals, beaded jewelry, wall hangings, scarves, & the like, City Buddha is the place to try. This spacious East Side store is jewel-toned & incense-scented, & as its name suggests, it specializes in items with an Asian flair. prices range from low to high, so you're bound to find something within your gift-giving price range. (1807 Coventry Rd., Coventry, open Fri./Sat. 11am-9pm & Sun. 11am-7pm) 

4. Evie Lou

Whether you're shopping for your mom, your wife, or your best friend, you're likely to find something for her within this surprisingly expansive boutique with locations on both the East & West sides. They're primarily a clothing boutique specializing in upscale but comfortable, wearable clothing (think aspiring Stevie Nicks types), but they also carry a variety of jewelry & accessories, too. (2509 Professor Ave., Tremont, open Fri./Sat. 11am-8pm, & Sun.12-4pm | 20075 Chagrin Blvd., Shaker Heights, open Fri./Sat. 10:30am-6:30pm & Sun.12-4pm)

5. Intro Boutique

This shop in the 5th Street Arcades has been open just over a year, & while the space isn't very big, they're making great use of it with a curated selection of clothing, candles, accessories, & homegoods, all at surprisingly affordable prices. Think Francesca's bit with a more minimalist, less corporate vibe. And it's owned by a friend of a friend! (530 Euclid Ave #34, Downtown, open Fri./Sat. 10am-6pm & Sun. 10am-4pm)

6. Lilly Handmade Chocolates

Perfect last-minute gifts: chocolate, beer, wine. Lilly has all three... & more. From truffles to bars to bark, they've got tons of varieties of couture chocolate to choose from (sugared plums for me, please!), & they can help you pair it with the perfect craft beer or fine wine for a classy, delicious gift that definitely doesn't look last-minute. (761 Starkweather Ave., Tremont, open Fri./Sat. 12-10pm; closed Sunday)

7. Lovely Paperie & Gifts

For all things paper-related (& paper-related-adjacent, like pens, tumblers, totes, & other such knick-knacks), Lovely Paperie is the best place in town. It's bright & beautiful, with high-quality curation at mostly-very-affordable prices. They also sell some of those go-to gift brands your older sister & your aunt love, like Vera Bradley & Nora Fleming. (19315 Detroit Rd., Rocky River, open Fri. 10am-6pm, Sat. 10am-5pm, closed Sunday)

8. Océanne Jewelry

I've written before about my love of this local jewelry artist originally form France. Her work is both classic & trendy at the same time, in familiar shapes & styles but always with a very of-the-moment vibe. Expect pieces that are primarily gold-toned in varying price points, plus lots of other fun, giftable goodies that make her new storefront more than just a jewelry shop. (6515 Detroit Rd., Gordon Square, open Fri,/Sat., 11am-8pm, & Sun. 12-5pm)

9. Room Service

This shop is freaking beautiful, & it's as much a work of art as the items within it, regularly redesigned to be not just a shopping trip but an experience. From statement watches to baby clothes to their "French pantry" collection, this husband-&-wife owned boutique is full of the unexpected, the unusual, & the unique. (2078 W. 25th St., Ohio City, open Fri. 11am-7pm, Sat. 11am-8pm, & Sun, 11am-6pm)

10. Visible Voice Books

I love me a good independent bookstore, & while Cleveland has a few great ones, I'm partial to the one on the street where I live. It reopened just this summer after a few years off, & its beautiful new space is modern & cozy at the same time. They sell both new & used books (& buy the latter), & if they don't have it in stock, they can order it for you - though probably not in time for Christmas! (2258 Professor Ave., Tremont, open Fri., 12-10pm, Sat., 11am-10pm, & Sun. 11am-5pm) 

11. Wild Cactus Boutique

This newish Ohio City shop features both new & vintage pieces that scream Free-People-meets-Pacific-Northwest-in-the-'90s. This is where you go to snag a Christmas gift for your coolest friend... or yourself, once you're thoroughly exhausted from shopping for everyone else. (2138 W. 25th St., Ohio City, open Fri./Sat. 11am-6pm & Sun. 11am-5pm)

Am I missing any of your favorites? Leave a comment & let me know where you'll be grabbing your last-minute gifts from this weekend. And merry Christmas!

Images from: @introboutique@wildcactus_boutique; &  @oceannejewelry

All I Want for Christmukkah Is...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

There are just 11 days until Christmas - & Hanukkah began yesterday! Now that the holiday season is in full swing - & I finally have the time to sit down & focus on the holiday season - I've put together my annual holiday wishlist. At 33, I hardly expect gifts anymore - but it's fun to imagine that Santa cares, right? And let's be honest: If these items don't end up under my tree, I may order them for myself anyway!
  1. HD Camera Lens Kit 5 in 1 for iPhone: I can't afford a new iPhone right now, but boy, am I dying for portrait mode! This relatively inexpensive lens set seems like a great way to fake it until I can spring for a new phone (which won't be for awhile). 
  2. Cleveland AF Crewneck SweatshirtI don't often wear sweatshirts (are there 33-year-olds who do?), but I know this one would get a lot of wear. I love Emily Roggenburk's prints, too, but my walls are nearly full, & this item is calling my name. 
  3. Marc Fisher Yommi Chelsea BootieFellow blogger Kimi has been wearing these for months now, & I swoon over them every time she posts a pic. They're on sale, but still slightly anove my price point at the moment.
  4. Glossier Boy BrowFine, fine, fine, I've resisted the global Glossier obsession, but I'm pretty interested in this cult-favorite product. I usually use E.L.F. on my brows, & for $3, it works great, but I wouldn't hate giving this stuff a try.
  5. The Sun and Her FlowersRupi Kaur's last book of poetry was one of my favorites of the year, & I can't wait to own her newest one. At just $7, it's got to end up on my bookshelf sooner or later. 
  6. FabFitFun subscription: This was my favorite of all the many subscription boxes I've tried, but I promised Mike I'd take it easy on them this year. If someone gifted me a subscription, though, that's technically a loophole, right...? 
  7. Bobeau One-Button Fleece Wrap Cardigan: A friend wore this to brunch the day after my wedding, & I immediately bought one in olive - but I like it so much that I also want it in heather charcoal, burgundy stem, &/or black.
  8. Baleen Levy Necklace: The last thing I need is more necklaces, but this is a wish list, right? Not a need list. This pretty, geometric bauble from Seattle-based shop Moorea Seal is the latest piece of jewelry to give me heart eyes. 
  9. Kanguru Glow-in-the-Dark Throw Blanket: Another thing I have plenty of: blankets. But this one glows in the dark, so I extra want it. It looks so cozy, & it's got constellations on it, & I just wanna cuddle up in the couch beneath it.  
  10. Natori Classic Pajama Set: I've long been wanting a nice pair of PJs to at least partially replace my current nighttime wardrobe of sweatpants & old T-shirts - but so far, this is the only pair I've found that I really like!
What's on your holiday wishlist this year? 

My 6 Favorite Christmas Movies... Plus an Embarrassing New Holiday Addiction

Monday, December 11, 2017

I've got to tell you a secret: I don't watch black & white movies. I don't know why exactly; I have no doubt that many of them are wonderful & heartwarming - but it's just never appealed to me to watch a film that doesn't show the full-color joy of life, especially at Christmastime. So no, you won't find any classics on this list - but you will find a few colorful favorites that I find myself watching year after year after year... & sometimes as early/late as July.

Home Alone

It's a well-known fact that Home Alone is one of my all-time favorite movies, period, & not just at Christmas. I know almost the entire movie by heart, & don't come at me with those BuzzFeed lists of "stuff you never noticed" about this movie because I have noticed. I've been "Buzz, your girlfriend, woof"-ing since I was 17, at the latest, & I shed real tears when John Heard passed away this year.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Our Idiot-in-Chief's brief cameo aside, I truly believe that Home Alone 2 is one of the most perfect sequels in American film history (even though, by this point, I believe the elder McAllisters to be woefully unqualified parental units). Also, I once purchased a winter coat that a then-boyfriend told me made me look like the Pigeon Lady.


When I first saw this Will Ferrell comedy, I just didn't get it. The grown man in an elf suit, the spaghetti with maple syrup, the animated narwhal... like, whaaaat? Now, though, this is one of my favorite modern-day classics, to be quoted all year long. Don't think I don't yell, "I know him!" every single time I see Santa Claus alllll throughout the Christmas season.

Love Actually

I know, I know, this film is outdated & fairly problematic in more than a few ways, but I give it a pass because, hey, a lot of the early 2000s was fairly problematic - & so much of this movie is so adorable that I can overlook the rest of it (I'm lookin' at you, weird scene with Keira Knightley & Andrew Lincoln). That scene of Hugh Grant shimmying through the prime minister's mansion? Priceless.

The Santa Clause

I find this plotline to be weirdly sort of genius, & here's another secret: As a kid, I had a huge crush on the actor who played the head of the "Elves with Attitude" team. I watched this movie over & over because of it. These days, though, I just like Tim Allen as a bumbling accidental Santa & Elf Judy as his adorable little cocoa-making sidekick. "Seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing."

A Christmas Story

As a proud Clevelander, I love this movie, which was filmed right here in my neighborhood. And as an American Jew, I spent a lotttt of time watching this movie on repeat on Christmas Day, when it played on TV all day long. As this leg-lamp-loving man in Iowa says, "Nothing says Christmas like the soft glow of electric sex!"

This holiday season, I'm also watching a few Christmas movies of the absolute cheesiest variety - the Hallmark kind! My coworker Marissa & I binged Snow Bride late night in our hotel while we were on a work trip last week, & I just devoured Netflix's A Christmas Prince (which, yes, made me cry). Got any recommendations for more in this vein? I want to watch as many as I can find!

And tell me: What are your favorite Christmas movies?

The Best Wedding Vendors in the CLE (a.k.a Mine!)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hard to believe it's been nearly a month since Mike & I got hitched, but here we all, are married & stuff. Our professional photos aren't in yet (keep an eye on Instagram!), but while it's all still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a bit about the local vendors we used & loved. 

Venue: Ariel Pearl Center

We booked our venue on the spot, although it was still being renovated. What a find! It's an old bank building with high ceilings & lots of marble, so our bars were vintage bank tables, & our photobooth was in the vault. We didn't have to do much decorating because the venue was so beautiful on its own. If you're considering this venue for your own wedding, get at me for a few thoughts I won't share here - but overall, we loved the space, & it was the right locale for us.

Welcome Dinner: The Winking Lizard

It wouldn't occurred to me turn to this local chain for a rehearsal dinner, but it's right across the street from Mike's office, so we decided to look into it when we had trouble finding a large enough location. It turned out to be a great spot! The Huron location has a private party room with its own bar, servers, & a buffet menu, & they let us set up our own speaker system for toasts. Our attendees enjoyed the best wings in the CLE, & we enjoyed the casual space & low cost.

Coordination: McPherson Events & Design

I didn't plan to hire a wedding coordinator, but I sure am glad I did. Enter Denise McPherson, local planner extraordinaire, who helped manage every element of our big day, from coordinating with vendors to pressing us to make decisions on details we might've overlooked. She also set up & took down everything the day of the wedding itself, & she oversaw flipping the room between our ceremony & reception, ensuring that everything ran smoothly.

Food: Taproot Catering

Another caterer quoted us $15k - wayyyy outside our budget - so our coordinator recommended we look into Taproot, based in Kent. We knew upon our first meeting with the owner, Brian, that it was the right choice. He created the menu of our dreams, complete with a pierogi bar & a sandwich bar featuring mini Polish boys & reubens. It was some of the best food we've ever had - which is saying a lot for food generally, but especially for wedding food, which is so frequently subpar.

Photography: The Oberports

This duo isn't actually from Cleveland - or even Ohio - but I had to include them here. They're based in Charleston, WV, but I went to college with the wife half of their husband/wife team, & having them as our wedding photographers was the only thing I knew I wanted for my own wedding. They were definitely a splurge for us, but without even seeing our pictures, I know they were absolutely worth it.

Hair & Makeup: Cleveland Makeup Artistry

Hiring Karin as my wedding day makeup artist is one of the best wedding decisions I made. She's warm & kind, & she really listened to try to understand my style & what I wanted; she perfectly executed the "fancier version of my everyday look" that I requested. I also hired Cleveland Makeup Artistry to do my hair for the big day, & Daniel, too, perfectly executed my request. My bridesmaids who had their hair & makeup professionally done were thrilled with their work, too. Everyone looked beautiful that day, & we have Karin & Daniel to thank for it. They were a dream to work with!

Tailoring: Christina Catherine Sewing

How lucky am I to have a friend who's also a professional tailor? Christina holds a fashion degree from Kent State & worked for a designer in NYC before moving home to Cleveland & opening her eponymous shop in Little Italy. She tailored both my wedding dress (an Oleg Cassini from David's Bridal) and my welcome dinner dress (on sale from Eloquii), as well as my mom's mother-of-the-bride dress. She was also kind enough to bustle me before cocktail hour so my bridesmaids didn't have to figure out her complicated loop-&-button system!

Earrings: Bombay Taxi Boutique

I knew I wanted, if possible, to incorporate Shibani's jewelry, handmade in India, into my wedding day wardrobe. I was deciding between a few pairs of earrings, but ultimately, my dress was so busy that I needed something simple. I decided on the Kiara earrings in moonstone, which, as I said in the last post, were fancy enough for the big day but simple enough to wear on a day-to-day basis. I love wearing them with jeans & a sweater & thinking of our wedding day when I do.

Sound & Lighting: Freddie James DJs

Freddie James, a local radio DJ with an absolutely incredibly speaking voice, also runs a company that brings together local radio personalities to DJ weddings & other events on the side. Their company did a great job DJing two of our friends' weddings, so hiring them was a no-brainer for us. Our DJ was friendly, upbeat, & fun, getting the crowd on the dance floor to some of our favorite songs.

Accommodations: Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center

We wanted our out-of-town guests to stay at a downtown location that showed off all Cleveland has to offer... especially because our venue was located in a neighborhood that doesn't do the city justice. My uncle's close friend is a Marriott exec, so whenever possible, we go the Marriott route; in this case, it was a perfect choice because the hotel is located right on Public Square. It was also a great spot for outdoor photos, freezing cold though the day was.

Transportation: West Side Shuffle

I let this detail slip until nearly the last minute, but luckily, our wedding coordinator came through with another great recommendation. OK, OK, so I was expecting our ride to a shuttle bus rather than a renovated school bus, but for such a nice price, I can't complain. Our driver was friendly & let the bridal party drink, charge our phones, & play "The Final Countdown" on our ride to the venue, & he made multiple trips to get all our guests safely to & from the reception.

Did you use any of our vendors? If you're planning a CLE wedding & are interested in learning more about our experiences with any of these companies, hit me up. I'd love to tell you more! 

6 Small Goals for December

Monday, December 4, 2017

OK, let's be real: I didn't do a great job of my November goals. I'm inclined to give myself a pass, given all I had going on - including getting married, the Thanksgiving holiday, a week-long illness, & prepping for my major work conference - but I hope December will see me slightly more in control of my personal life. 

Here's how I fared on November's goals:
  1. Get married. Hey, I did this one. Spoiler alert: This is about the only thing on the list that I managed to complete, but it was also the most important one. 
  2. Start the process of changing my name. OK, this one is sort of underway - but just barely. Turns out it's a complicated process that involves lots of paperwork, a court date, & a newspaper ad - but I did do all the research & print out the forms. 
  3. Put new windshield wipers on my car. Simple though this would've been to do, I haven't yet - but I've got to do it in December because my current wipers can't handle precipitation!
  4. Hang artwork in my bedroom. Didn't do this one, either, though I did hang a few pieces of artwork in other rooms of the house. That sort of counts, right? 
  5. Do yoga at least six times. Unsurprisingly, I did yoga exactly one time last month. 
  6. Start wearing my FitBit again. I cannot find my charger. Womp. 
Although November was a bit of a fail, as far as small goals go, I did achieve my one major goal, which was to get hitched. Whew!

I'd like to complete the above live in December, plus the following:
  1. Do my best at my big work conference: I leavetomorrow today for this event in Boston, featuring speakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, author Anita Diamant, & The Nanny's Fran Drescher. It's my sixth time working this event, & I try to do a better job of it each time around. I hope I leave this one feeling on top of my game & proud of my work. 
  2. Make some sort of holiday-themed plans: A Christmas Story at Playhouse Square is sold out, as is the downtown lights trolley tour. So what'll it be? I'm not sure yet, but I want to do some fun, Clevelandy Christmas thing aside from just... celebrating Christmas in Cleveland. 
  3. Successfully complete my DietBet: This is a large goal, actually, so we'll see if I can manage it: I joined Fat Girl Fed Up's DietBet, betting $30 that I can lose 4% of my body weight by the 21st. I'm not off to a great start, but if I lose the weight, I get a share of a $159k pot! 
  4. Buy a mattress: We're sleeping on a mattress I purchased from Overstock while tipsy at a party in 2013, & my back is feelin' it - in a bad way. We decided to spend some of our wedding money on a good new mattress - extra firm! 
  5. Put together our new bed frame: When I say "new," I mean, "I bought this before we moved in May, but we still haven't put it together." The massive box has been sitting in our bedroom for months, & I'm dying to get it put together so our forthcoming mattress can go with it.
  6. Send all our wedding thank-you notes: I'm almost done writing my thank-you notes, but I'm gotta find some stamps & get on Mike to write his half. I'd love to have these finished by 2018!
What are you aiming for this December? Are you trying to get a head start on any of your 2018 resolutions? Comment & let me know! 

What I Read in November

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Hello, December. Weird. In the immortal words of Shania Twain, "Looks like we've [almost] made it..." - to 2018, that is. I had a lot going on in November, between wedding planning, wedding recovery, the Thanksgiving holiday, a bout of illness, & prepping for my upcoming work conference. Still, I managed to make it through three books, & they were all good ones.

I skipped November's Book of the Month selections because I'm so behind on my to-read list, but my December pick was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which I'm excited about. As always, you can use my referral link to get your first book for just $9.99, plus a free tote bag. Let me know what you choose - or just what you're reading right now!

Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin

It took me a long time to finally read this book, knowing that it would be a difficult one to get through. Can it already have been six years since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot walking home from a 7-11, Skittles & an iced tea in his hoodie pocket? His parents' memoir is a painful, powerful look at the case, a testimony to race & racism in America. No justice, no peace. ★★★★★

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

After developing a fast & furious obsession with the Hulu adaption, I decided I ought to read this book, a "new classic" to be sure. It is, as expected, just as effed-up & terrifying as its TV counterpart. This is a rare instance in which I'm glad I watched the show before reading the book because I think having the visuals in my head made it easier for me to follow along with the written story. ★★★★★

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman

This was a book club pick that I committed to finishing even though I had a hard time with it. It's a good book, to be sure, & I can understand why it's so beloved. It tells the story of Ove, a lovable curmudgeon who's lost his wife & his job & is ready to die - if only his suicide attempts weren't continually foiled by well-intentioned neighbors & a stray cat. As a suicide survivor, though, it was difficult for me to make it through this story line. Life doesn't come with trigger warnings, I know, but I probably would've spared myself & put this one down if I didn't want so badly to be able to join in the convo at book club - which I had to skip when I got sick, anyway. I'm actually glad, in the end, that I "had" to keep reading this book - because as difficult as parts of it were for me, the story itself was truly touching & lovely by the end. ★★★★★

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

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

Have I Even Had a Holiday Season this Holiday Season?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Between my wedding, being out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday, a week of illness, & some upcoming travel, it feels like this holiday season has completely gotten away from me. It's not even Christmas yet, & I already feel like I missed Christmas... 

Someone recently commented on one of my Instagram photos that I'm "sick all the time," & I've since felt self-conscious mentioning when I don't feel well. I do seem to have a crummy immune system, & 2017 has been a year full of illness for me. Fortunately, none of has been major, but, yeah... I've been sick a lot. And it kind of sucks.

On Thanksgiving, I slept in a chilly room & woke up with a terrible sore throat. By Saturday, I was full-blown sick - nose running, head throbbing, throat burning, muscles aching. I spent most of Sunday in bed, & though I haven't taken any time off work, I've taken significant naps every weekday thus far.

The reason I can't take off? My huge biennial work conference - attended by 6,000 people! - is next week. I leave for Boston on Tuesday, so I'm completely underwater & overloaded. When I'm not sleeping, I'm working. A lot.

I'd originally made some fun plans to balance out all the work this week, figuring I'd work my butt off during workdays, then do some entertaining stuff each evening. Alas, I've had to bail on every single thing aside from working & communing with my bed.

Because I'm feeling whiny, here's what I'd planned & exactly how bummed I am to miss all of it.
  • Tuesday: I abandoned plans to attend the launch of CLE Starts Here, a new exhibit of the Western Reserve Historical Society. The exhibit, "a digital portal that explores the rich & diverse history of Cleveland & Northeast Ohio," is now open to the public, & though I still look forward to checking it out, I was excited about the fanfare of the launch event.
  • Wednesday: I didn't make it to Cleveland Heights for my book club's discussion of our latest read, A Man Called Ove, which was a bummer because A) I like spending time with my book club friends (who are just my regular friends), & B) I have a lot to say about the book. Instead, I took a nap at 5pm... & woke up at 8:15pm.
  • Thursday: I haven't seen my Big Brothers Big Sisters CLE "little sister" at all in November, which breaks my heart because I aim to see her once a month as promised. This time, we were going to get Brewnuts; what 15-year-old wouldn't love couture donuts? Alas, Mike reminded me that I am sick & need to cancel my plans, which it broke my heart double to do.
  • Friday: Mike & I are planning to put up our Christmas tree & get cozy, & I was going to surprise him by taking him to The Spotted Owl, one of two bars in Ohio to be transformed into a Christmas bar called Miracle. Their special menu includes cocktails like Muletide, Bad Santa, & You'll Shoot Your Rye Out. We'll still do an indoor date night, but cocktail-centric plans are probably a bad idea for someone on a Prednisone prescription.
  • Saturday: I'm headed to Hudson for a fellow blogger's Coffee & Collab (which I'm still planning on, as I hope/assume I'll feel better by then), & afterwards, I'll continue on to Cuyahoga Falls. Originally,  my friend Sam & I were going to the Front Street Pub Crawl - but again, Prednisone, so now, we're just getting dinner. It'll still be nice, but it's no holiday bar crawl!
On Sunday, I'll be getting everything ready for a week of travel & a very intense work schedule. I don't get back until December 10th, & by then, the holiday season will be very nearly over. I don't have any plans for my return, though, so I'm hoping I can fit in some fun stuff.

My 5 Favorite Cleveland-Based Jewelry Brands

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I've got to be honest: My wardrobe is not particularly creative. I mean, I try to look nice, & I like to think I succeed, but I don't get very into trends or colors or patterns. My clothing is fairly basic, usually black or another neutral.

The only thing that keeps me from being too boring, on that front, is my jewelry. I'm always on the lookout for quirky, creative, interesting jewelry - the kind you won't see everywhere, or that not everyone would feel comfortable wearing.

I sometimes buy my jewelry from major labels, sure, but if given the choice, I'd much rather given my patronage to local brands. Luckily, Cleveland is home to a few great ones, & some of my favorite pieces are from right here in the CLE - all made or curated by female entrepreneurs.

As we enter the full swing of the holiday season, here's a rundown of five of my favorite Northeast Ohio-based jewelry sellers. If you're so inclined, check 'em out. They all make great gifts (for yours truly included). Happy holidays!

Bombay Taxi

I've written before about Cleveland businesswoman & fellow blogger Shibani Faehnle's online boutique, which mostly sells bespoke goods imported from Indian artisans. Her prices range from totally affordable to a little bit of a splurge, but for limited-edition luxury pieces, sometimes a little splurge is worth it. She runs pop-ups all over town, too, so if you love something you see online but want to catch it in person to be sure you love it, she's never hard to find.

My favorite item: I wore a pair of Bombay Taxi's Kiara earrings in pink chalcedony to my wedding welcome dinner, & I wore the same pair - this time in moonstone - to the wedding itself. How beautiful are these?! The best part is that they're fancy enough for a wedding, but casual enough to continue to be worn on an everyday basis - & they're already getting plenty of everyday play.

Cleveland Street Glass

Having your car broken into sucks. Know what doesn't suck? Salvaging the refuge of those broken car windows to be turned into beautiful, one-of-a-kind glass jewelry. That's what artist Deanna Dionne does, & the results are surprisingly gorgeous - & totally unique. These upcycled pieces "find beauty in the broken," & when you're sporting one of these pieces, you definitely won't run into anyone else who's wearing the same piece of jewelry as you.

My favorite item: On impulse, I snagged this pretty necklace Cleveland Street Glass while shopping around at the final CLE Night Market of 2016. I don't wear a lot of silver, but when this necklace does make an appearance in my wardrobe, it always gets tons of compliments & questions.

Oceanne Jewelry

French jewelry artist Anne Harrill moved to Cleveland in 2002 & has since become one of the best-known names in local accessories, with her goodies for sale at boutiques, pop-ups, the Cleveland Flea, & elsewhere. Her delicate style ranges from mod to bohemian, & her classics collection features hand-stamped favorites with inspirational quotes, snarky commentary, & Cleveland love. Every time I stop at her stand, I have to force my hand away from my wallet - which is why I'm excited about but wary of her new storefront in Gordon Square!

My favorite item: At last year's Last-Minute Market, a Christmas pop-up in downtown CLE, I did my fair share of gift shopping... but also bought this long-coveted bracelet engraved with the constellation of my astrological sign, Leo. I wear it more than any other piece of jewelry I own, aside from my engagement & wedding rings.

Odyssey & Oddities

Want quirky? Fellow Kent State alum Nikki Lundberg specializes in quirky, & her statement pieces are my latest jewelry obsession. She uses natural stones, brass, & fringe to put together jewelry creations in unusual shapes & combinations like you've never seen before. Her Instagram account shows off all her newest pieces, & her bio always has information about which local fair/festival//pop-up she'll be at next.

My favorite item: Uhhh, how can I choose? At a Cleveland Flea last summer, I was all set to buy a gorgeous agate necklace... & then I dropped it. And it shattered. I was massively apologetic, but Nikki was kind & unfazed, saying she'd repurpose the pieces. I instead purchased this lapis-colored necklace, which I wear to infuse some color into my all-black wardrobe, & I've since purchased five pairs of earrings from her, too, including this beautiful fringed pair I bought just last week.

Ode Vintage

Truth be told, I'm not much for vintage; I just don't have the patience to scour through things or the vision to see hidden gems beneath the rust & dust. Luckily, local business owner Olivia Delyamu has done it for me - & what gems she's come up with! A staple at the Cleveland Flea & other local shows, Olivia's Ode Vintage sells more than just jewelry - but it's the jewelry that's my favorite part.

My favorite item: I love long, gold-toned necklaces & am always on the lookout for unique ones - the kind I won't see 12 other people wearing from Target. At a Cleveland Flea this summer, I stumbled across this $10 item at Ode Vintage's booth... & unwittingly wore it to the next two Fleas I attended! Simple but elegant, it's become a wardrobe staple that pulls together just about any outfit.

Do you have a local favorite jewelry brand, whether Cleveland-based or from your own city? Leave a comment or link so I can check them out! 

The Rowley Inn: I Triple-Dog Dare Ya!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fun fact: The beloved holiday film A Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood, where I happen to live. The house that served as the movie set is now a museum open all year round, not just during the holiday season. When you're done there, head across the street to one of the neighborhood's best restaurants, an old bar with a brand new menu: The Rowley Inn.

Opened in 1906, The Rowley Inn is a local dive that originally served as a third-shift bar for nearby steelworkers; even now, it opens at 5:30am on weekdays & starts serving brunch at 8am on weekends (including Saturdays, a rarity in the CLE). It's an unassuming little place located a bit off the beaten path of Tremont's main drag, so it's the kind of spot that could easily fall off your radar - but you, dear Clevelander, cannot let that happen.

Why? Because this place is freaking incredible.

New owners Jon Oberman & Raphael Rivilla set out to make The Rowley Inn a premiere gastropub, the sort of place worth going out of your way for - & in my opinion, they've succeeded. Earlier this month, I was among a few Cleveland bloggers invited to try out 10 of The Rowley Inn's new menu items. It was a feast - & a damn good one, too.

The menu focuses on comfort food, including classics like thick, creamy mac & cheese made with smoked Gouda, cheddar, & panko bread crumbs. Unfortunately, Mike made me ration it (just five freaking noodles!) because we're pretty sure I've become lactose intolerant. Same for the Cleveland’s Best Grilled Cheese (a high claim that The Rowley Inn's version totally lives up to) made with smoked gouda, a mozzarella/provolone blend, & a touch of mayo to keep it creamy.

The menu is heavy on Polish favorites like pierogis & kielbasa, often with a twist - like the Cleveland Burger, topped with Pierogi, kielbasa, kraut, beer cheese, & stadium mustard. I didn't get a good pic of that one, mostly because it went so quickly. They also serve kielbasa corndogs - for brunch!

Speaking of brunch, let's talk about how much I love chicken & waffles. I love chicken & waffles. So, it turns out, did the other diners at our table, & we even agreed on the best in town (Soho Chicken + Whiskey) & the worst (we'll never tell). Soho's got a run for their money, though, with the Rowley Inn's version, which might actually be my new fave. Cinnamon waffles & homemade gravy? Swoon.

Perhaps the most unusual dish of all - & among the tastiest, if I had to choose - was the Loco Moski, a Cleveland take on a Hawaiian dish. The original is made one a bed of rice, but The Rowley Inn has swapped in... you've guessed it, pierogis. This huge plate of sautéed pierogis is topped with a hamburger patty, gravy, onions, & fried egg. Look at this delicious beast!

They also offer plenty of lighter, slightly healthier fare, including a chicken club on challah with homemade walnut pesto (so good) & a flavorful, fresh Southwest chicken salad that could actually convince me to order a salad. (PS: The chicken club pic was Mike's first try photographing food for the blog. Well done, babe!)

And because this is still, after all, a bar, there are lots of drinks. The Rowley Inn's quirky specialty cocktails are Christmas Story-themed, like the Red Ryder cocktail made with Bulleit. Get it? (You'll shoot your eye out...) We also got to try the Pink Nightmare (please tell me you're getting these references), which is a fruity, bright pink tequila cocktail that packed a punch.

Speaking of fruity & bright pink... onto dessert! The Rowley Inn's caramelized apple pierogis are filled with cinnamon apples & topped with candied sugar & orange peel. They taste like an upscale version of those little hand pies we ate as kids, the ones that came wrapped in wax paper. Anyone remember those?! They've gotten a serious upgrade:

By the end of the night, we were almost too stuffed to move, but we also knew we'd found a new local favorite. My terrible photos hardly do their food justice; the bar gets fairly dark in the evenings, & I wasn't sitting beneath a light, so I did the best I could. The good new is that I'll definitely being back soon, so you can bet Instagram will boast some bright new pics in the weeks to come.

Bottom line: If you haven't tried out The Rowley Inn's new menu, get thee to Tremont, stat - & if you don't want to go alone, you can almost definitely convince me to join you - no triple-dog dare needed!

Disclaimer: Disclosure: I was invited, along with a guest, to attend a blogger event dinner that included complimentary food & drinks, along with a $25 gift card to use in the future. As always, though, all opinions are my own. All photos were taken by me expect for the header photo, credited to The Rowley Inn's Facebook page
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