Saturday, April 29, 2017

Best of Cleveland 2017: Where the City's Faves & My Faves Overlap
Cleveland Scene just came out with their Best of Cleveland 2017 results, voted on by readers (myself included!) I've always loved going through "best of" lists in the cities where I've lived, & now that I finally at home in this city - I know it, I love it, & I never plan to leave it - I was especially excited for this year's reveal.

I know lots of my readers aren't located in the Cleveland area, so I try not to write Cleveland-centric content too often - but this time, I couldn't resist! Here are a few of the Cleveland Scene Best of Cleveland winners that also happen to appear on my personal Best of Cleveland list - you know, the one in my head. Let's make it official, shall we?
  1. Mitchell's: Best Ice Cream
    Graeter's? Jeni's? Nahhh. When it comes to the battle of the Cleveland ice cream giants, Mitchell's has my heart. I already told you that their Vegan Salted Caramel Pecan Ice Cream is one worth eating in silnce to you can fully enjoy its deliciousness. Need I say more? (Fine: Their Ohio City location is in a cool old theater!) (multiple locations,
  2. The Grog Shop: Best Bar/Club for Underground Music
    In fairness, I haven't been to the Grog for ages, truly, but the nostalgia is strong with this one. This is where I fell in love with emo music, all the way back in 2002. Before we were old enough to get into shows, my late ex-boyfriend, Dave, & his best friend, Kevin, used to stand outside the back door & listen in. (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588,
  3. Taste of Tremont: Best Street Festival
    Braggin' on my neighborhood! It's not just walking distance of home; for the next one, we'll be living right on Professor Ave., where the whole thing takes place. It's a perfect opportunity to try a little bit of everything Tremont has to offer - & to do some good day-drinking, of course. (
  4. Velvet Tango Room: Best Cocktail Bar
    Wanna get a little fancy? This is the place. Located in a super-weird little spot off the beaten path between Tremont & Ohio City, Velvet Tango Room serves innovative & immaculately crafted cocktails that are worth every penny - as long as you're not having more than one. (2095 Columbus Rd., 216-241-8869,
  5. CLE Clothing Co.: Best T-Shirt Company/Store to Find a Piece of CLE
    Is there anyone in town, at this point, who doesn't own a CLE Clothing Co. tee? Their downtown location is my favorite way to kill time (& lighten my wallet), & they regularly swap out their existing styles for new ones to keep things fresh. Show your pride & getcha some. (multiple locations,
  6. Great Lakes Brewing Company: Best Local Beer & Best Local Brewery
    There are plenty of great new breweries in town, but sometimes, the original is still the best - or, as Scene calls it, "the archbishop of Cleveland's microbrewery diocese."They've got a great patio, a lurky live-music basement, & a second floor that's home to my favorite trivia in town. (2516 Market Ave., 216-771-4404,
  7. West Side Market: Best Place to Take a Visitor
    If you're seeing Cleveland for the first time, you've got to see West Side Market. It's a beautiful, breath-taking, historic building jam-packed with vendors selling all things local & gourmet - cheese, meat, produce, spices, even homemade pasta. And cupcakes, of course. (1979 West 25th St., 216-664-3387,
  8. Best Local Jewelry Maker: Oceanne
    I've got a whole post in the works about my favorite Cleveland-area jewelry makers, but now's as good a time as any to raise up Oceanne, who's top of the list. Her minimalist style is both funky & chic, & her prices range from affordable to worth-the-splurge. Catch her at the Cleveland Flea! (2570 Superior Ave. East, Suite 403,
  9. Lucky's Cafe: Best Brunch
    This is my favorite brunch spot in the city, & even before Scene named it so, I knew it was everyone else's, too, given that you can barely walk through the door on a weekend. Everything is locally sourced, & some of it is even grown right there in their backyard garden. Get the pecan-crusted bacon & regret nothing. (777 Starkweather Ave., 216-622-7773,
  10. Cleveland Bagel Co.: Best Bagels
    No longer just available at the Cleveland Flea, these delightfully crispy bagels are now sold all around town, including at the company's brand new brick-&-mortar shop in Gordon Square. Their cheddar cheese & chive cream cheese it to die for, & the bagels themselves don't even need to be toasted. Take that, NYC. (4201 Detroit Ave., 216-600-5652,
  11. Rising Star: Best Coffee/Coffeehouse
    My new Friday ritual is to head to the Rising Star location in Hingetown, which is hip but laid-back, bustling but somehow also peaceful. I'm no coffee connoisseur, but I love their Promised Land Latter... & the days when they also sell Brewnuts booze-infused donuts. (multiple locations,
  12. Beet Jar: Best Local Juice Bar
    The other part of my new Friday ritual is to grab lunch at Beer Jar, just across the street from Rising Star. Their smoothies are healthy & delicious (I love the Phat Beets), & their Bravacado sandwich is seriously one of the best things I've ever eaten. Smoked coconut flakes?! Smoked coconut flakes. (1432 West 29th St.,
  13. Cedar Lee: Best Movie Theater
    This indie arthouse theater is an old favorite in Cleveland Heights, & it's the one reliable spot in town for indie films & oops-I-missed-it Oscar nominees. They also play Rocky Horror Picture Show once a month, complete with on-stage actors enhancing your viewing experience. And there's beer at the concession stand, of course. (2163 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights, 440-528-0355,
What's your favorite spot in Cleveland? Do you agree with Scene's final results? Comment & let me know! 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A List of 31 Things to Do & Worry about Before You Move

Look, everyone knows that moving is awful. I don't have to tell you that. But as I prepare for yet another move, I am again reminded that moving is awful.

Also, in the past, I've mostly moved into/out of apartment complexes, the kind that take care of the utilities for you so you don't have to call those companies yourself. Having to do so is an added layer of stress, for sure.

The good thing about all of this is that I've moved so many times that I know how to do this, & I am also comforted by the fact that, soon, the stress of moving will be over, & I will be moved - which is the best part of moving. I can't wait to settle into our new place, but in the beginning, here's how the last few days have looked. Sound familiar to any of you fellow frequent movers?! 
  1. Book movers for once because you're a real goddamn adult.
  2. Pack everything, obviously.
  3. Run to Target to buy more trash bags & packing tape.
  4. Continue packing everything.
  5. Sort of give up & just start throwing things into garbage bags.
  6. But make sure not to pack the cleaning supplies so you can clean the old place before you leave it.
  7. Load everything you've packed into one place so the movers have easy access.
  8. Make about a dozen trips to the trash.
  9. ...including throwing out your broken kitchen table & a massive rug.
  10. Load bags & boxes of giveaway items into your car to take to Goodwill.
  11. Take bags & boxes of giveaway items to Goodwill.
  12. Order cat carriers so you don't have to worry about an escaped feline mid-move.
  13. Call the gas company to transfer utilities.
  14. Panic because the gas company says they can't turn off your gas at the old place until a week after you've already moved out.
  15. Text your mother and your fiancé in a panic.
  16. Make an appointment within a four-hour window to wait for the gas company to come turn off service, figuring you'll sort it out later.
  17. Make an appointment within another four-hour window to wait for the gas company to come turn on service at the new place.
  18. Call the Internet service provider to transfer services.
  19. Call the electric company to transfer services.
  20. Call the new landlord to see when you can pick up the keys.
  21. Try to figure out how you'll pick up the keys at 9am if your movers are also arriving at 9am.
  22. Call the old landlord to see when you can do a walk-through of the old place.
  23. Feel really relieved when the old landlord says he'll have the gas service transferred into his name so you can cancel one of your appointments with the gas company.
  24. Try to change your address on the USPS website.
  25. Go to the post office in person because USPS doesn't recognize your new address.
  26. Email your neighbor to ask if your moving truck can use the driveway on moving day.
  27. Leave a note for your new neighbors to ask if your moving truck can use the driveway on moving day.
  28. Keep packing. 
  29. Stay up at night worrying about the details.
  30. Continue to stress out your significant other by sending frantic texts every time you think of a new potential complication.
  31. Hurry up & wait.
Did I mention that there's plenty of other life stuff going down right now, too? It's not like the world stops when you're getting ready to move! In the midst of all this, add the following:
  1. Confirm jury duty
  2. Confirm with your boss that you can't make your upcoming work trip to NYC because of said jury duty.
  3. Return your broken modem to your Internet service provider.
  4. Buy gifts for your fiancé's sister & cousin, who are graduating from college.
  5. Make a trip out of town for aforementioned graduation the day before moving.
Again: I know that the moving part will soon be over, & Mike & I will be settled into a place we already know we love. I just have to keep telling myself that it'll all be worth it. New place, we're comin' for ya, & I am about to relax so hard once this is all said & done.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Few Things I'm Obsessing Over Right Now (Pt. VIII)

It's been awhile since I've done one of these! A little bit of truth, though: I've had a hard time lately thinking of anything except staying afloat. Our big move is happening in less than a week, & our wedding is in about six & a half months, so I've been more than a little busy these days.

Still, there's always time to find a few new favorites, right? Here are a few things I'm loving right now. What about you? Comment & let me know!
  1. Elsie Larson's "Up Your Instagram Game" e-Course: I'm technically taking this online class for professional development purposes via work, but it so happens to be applicable in my personal life, too, & I'm really enjoying it. (Follow me on Instagram to see how I'm doing!)
  2. PopSockets: These expandable/retractable phone grips adhere to your phone or its case, making it easier for you to hold onto your tiny technology. No weird finger pain! They're $10 apiece & come in tons of designs. 
  3. Strappy Caged Bralette from Charlotte Russe: As a big-busted gal, I figured I had to opt out of the bralette trend, but then I realized I could this one over my regular bra. I bought it in black (of course), & it's a little edgy for me, but I love it under lower-cut blouses.
  4. Calm Balm from Lesley Saligoe Botanicals: I loooove this stuff, which I first got in a Self-Care Box (the one I once modeled for!). I rub it on my hands just after I crawl into bed, then I cup my hands over my face & breathe deeply. So relaxing.
  5. Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty: I bought a tiny container of this at Off the Wagon in Kent, OH, & can't stop playing with it! It's like silly putty but less, well, putty - more of a gummy plastic feeling, really soothing when you're feeling stressed.
  6. Digit: I wrote about this a few months ago (check it out), but I'm still goin' strong with it. Yes, Digit recently began to charge $3 a month for their services (atop interest I assume they were already making off users' savings), but for me, it still feels worth it.
  7. Charmed: Inspired by Gretchen's rewatch, I've started watching this '90s WB fave while I work. It's so freaking cheesy but perfect for background noise - & it's so funny to message about ridiculous plot points with Lanny, who's also bingeing it!
  8. Lancôme Artliner: My IG friend Anna Marie recommended this precision felt-tip liner, which, at $30.50, is a little pricey - but also totally worth it. It doesn't stay on as well as my beloved, now-defunct Urban Decay liner, but it's the closest I've yet to find.
  9. The #sendcardspreadlove Challenge: All April, I've been participating in Pretty By Post's snail mail challenge, tuning in to her weekly to-send tasks. I already send out tons of letters to friends & family; this just gives me an excuse to do it for prizes!
  10. Mitchell's Vegan Salted Caramel Pecan Ice Cream: OK, this is a pre-Whole30 obsession (did you read my post about that?), but damn, is this stuff delicious. I told Mike we had to stop talking while we ate it because I needed to enjoy this stuff in silence.
So? Your turn. Tell me what you're loving!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

We Started Whole30, & Here's How It's Going So Far

I've been asking Mike for months if he'd do a Whole30 with me, & he kept saying he wasn't into it. Then, last Sunday, he asked, "Want to start a Whole30 tomorrow?" Tomorrow! I'd been trying to plan this thing for months, & he wants to jump in with less than 24 hours' notice.

But that's how Mike operates, & that's how we operate together, &, unsurprisingly, I didn't need all the damn planning time I'd tried to allot, anyway. He was right: 24 hours was just about all we needed to get started.

I'm not a great cook. I actually hate to cook - so much time & effort for something that's gone so quickly! - so, for me, one of the biggest changes in doing a Whole30 is, well, having to cook a lot. Fortunately, Mike is a really good cook who also likes doing it, but he's not with me for every meal, so I've got to fend for myself a bit. (Man, I sound a little pathetic.) We've been planning our meals, including making enough for leftovers, & we've even found a few meals we can eat at restaurants.

Let me tell you: I'm feeling awesome. My digestive issues have gotten better, I've been sleeping better, I've had more energy, I've felt less bloated. I hate to say it, as much as I miss bagels & blue cheese & beer, but I may have to keep on eating this way - which, you know, would probably be a good thing, which is the whole point. 

Here's some of what we've been eating:
  • Chicken Avocado Burgers: We ate these two nights in a row, once alongside rosemary sweet potato fries & once with roasted red potatoes. While I'm not usually a big chicken person, these were delicious: All the feel of a burger without any of the greasiness that sometimes accompanies them. The sweet potato fries really upped the flavor of the whole meal. 
  • Single Skillet Chicken with Bacon, Brussels Sprouts and Apple Au Jus: This recipe comes from Buzzfeed, of all places, & while it was a tasty one-pot meal, Mike used chicken breast rather than chicken thighs, so I think we were lacking some of the flavor it was supposed to have. Next time, more bacon!
  • Buffalo Chicken Casserole: This is one of the best home meals I've ever eaten, & it even tastes cheesy, somehow, despite not having any dairy in it. It's spicy & gooey & tastes totally unhealthy, but it's really just full of meat & veggies.  
  • Healthy snacks: Thank goodness for Larabars (I love the Lemon Pie flavor) & for cashews, dates, & bananas. They've been my go-to snacks when I've felt hunger pains - though I've also been less hungry between meals than usual, one of the goals of Whole30.
And now for a confession: We totally broke our Whole30 today - on purpose, though not without some regrets about doing so. We went to Mike's aunt & uncle's house for Easter lunch, & there was nothing we could eat without breaking it; we didn't plan well enough, figured we'd wing it, & then let ourselves get sucked into, well, a really delicious, non-Whole30 meal.  

I know the hardcore folks out there will be like, "It's doesn't count! Start your 30 days over!" The Whole30 website itself reads, quite aggressively IMO,
"Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a  pizza, there is no “slip.” You make a choice to eat something unhealthy. It is always a choice, so do not phrase it as if you had an accident. Commit to the program 100% for the full 30 days. Don’t give yourself an excuse to fail before you’ve even begun."
This language, frankly, makes me want to punch the program's founder, Melissa Hartwig, in the face. I get it: If you want to see the real & full benefits, you can't also cheat & eat BBQ ribs & pistachio cake on Easter. At the same time, it's language like this that makes people like me - & people with even worse food-related discipline than me - feel alienated & ashamed & like there's no way we'll be able to be successful at healthy eating.

That language fails to recognize that, for someone like me, even six days of eating like this is really freaking amazing. And I won't be deterred or dismayed by my Easter Day decision to go off track for a minute.

It's OK to slip (& I do believe slips happen). It's also OK to make a conscious decision to eat something that isn't "Whole30-compliant," as I did today. It's OK to want to celebrate with your family. It's OK to decide a certain diet or lifestyle is not for you, or that you want to tweak it to better suit you for now. Quite simply, it's OK to do whatever the fuck you want when it comes to the food you put in your own body.

So while Melissa Hartwig would surely tell me I failed (& she also seems like the kind of person who'd call me a loser for doing so), I don't actually feel like I've failed. I've eaten like this for six straight days, & I'm starting it back up tonight. I ate one meal that wasn't "compliant," & it was delicious & joyful, & now I'm going to go back to a way of eating that, while difficult, has made me feel really great for the past week & which I would like to try to continue, if not for 30 days in a row. I'm not "starting my 30 days over," so I guess I'm not doing a "real" Whole30 - but I am following the guidelines as closely as possible, & I feel great about it so far.

And for me? That's a big deal. And I'm proud of it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Cleaning Inspired by the Perpetual Pursuit of Minimalism - & What's In My Way

I read Marie Kondo's cult-favorite Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last January, & like so many people, I had mixed feelings about it (which I wrote about back then). I found the author's tone deeply annoying & stilted, which I chalked up to a bad Japanese-to-English translating job, & some of her advice felt truly absurd. I'm never, for example, going to fold a perfect underwear drawer - but I did find some elements of her "tidy" lifestyle to be really appealing.

I've moved so many times that I don't have a ton of extra stuff, really. When you move approximately once a year, you learn pretty quickly to pare down your possessions, keeping only what matters - & yet, there always seems to be too much. Still. 

I have too many clothes, things I liked at the time of purchase but that don't fit me quite right or don't flatter me as well as I'd like & rarely get worn.

I have too many shoes, too, pairs that, as much as I like them, only come out of the closet when I want to switch it up from my usual go-to style - which, admittedly, isn't often.

I have too much food in my pantry, cans of stuff I probably won't make & don't even really like, & bags of quinoa & walnuts that I've over-purchased because I forget I've already got plenty.

I have too many tchotchkes on my shelves, items that don't necessarily make me happy & sometimes even annoy me just to look at, but they maintain their spots because, well, they go there, right?

I have too many books, ones I picked up at Little Free Libraries or library fundraisers, ones I'd like to read but will likely never get around to because they're not at the top of my list.

I have too many beauty items, Sephora samples that are probably already expired & expensive full-size products I got in subscription boxes but never even opened.

I'm not bad at getting rid of stuff - but I'm all too good at bringing in more stuff, at wanting & buying & recreating the problem all over again. It's hard on my shelves & on my wallet.

I have too much of everything, yet somehow, I catch myself wanting more. Why is that?

I've been thinking about it, & I think the answer, at least for me, is simple: Instagram.

When it's just me, in my home, looking around at my space, I recognize that I've got all I need - & sometimes more. But when I'm scrolling through social media, looking at all the beautiful ways other people have styled their lives? Their homes, their clothing, & their food, & even their damn bookshelves? That's when I start to want more than what I have, when I feel the urge to buy, buy, buy.

When I'm scrolling through Instagram or watching Insta-stories, I want lives that aren't mine. I want an apartment with more sunlight so I can take better photos. I want to eat tastier-looking food, own prettier home decor, wear more stylish clothes, learn to do my makeup better, organize my bookshelves in rainbow order... Of all the social media platforms, Instagram is my favorite, but it also makes it too damn easy to compare my life to others'. When I do that, I start to want things that are out of character for me - things I don't need, a life I don't need or even really want. A life with more stuff. "Better" stuff. Even as I'm trying to own less stuff!

The Jewish holiday of Passover starts tonight, & one of the traditions of in the lead-up to the holiday is, basically, spring cleaning - purging our homes of chametz, which literally means "leaven" but figuratively translates into anything oppressive in our personal environment. This times up nicely with my desire to do some good old spring cleaning anyway, & it feels especially pressing in advance of the big move.

So I'm throwing stuff out - & vowing not to replace it with a bunch of new crap that I'll eventually want to throw out, too. I will pursue minimalism, even if I know I'm always likely to be a person who likes & desires stuff. Passover is all about freedom, & in the modern day, that can be interpreted in lots of ways. For me, this year, the holiday is a reminder not to be beholden to my desire for more stuff, which is, in part, directly tied to my tendency to compare my life to the lives of others, especially those I can only see via the Internet.

In going through my belongings & trying to scale back, I keep telling myself: Life wasn't made to look good on the Internet. If it happens to look pretty on there, well, so be it - & I will keep trying for that because I enjoy it, within the confines of my normal, existing life. But I am not going to live for the likes, & I'm certainly not going to add more baggage to my life - literally - just so I can arrange it into a square shot for display on the Internet.

P.S.: Still wouldn't hate it if you wanted to follow me on Instagram. You can find me at @heyescapist.

Friday, April 7, 2017

My Creative, Non-Traditional Passover Seder... with Thai Food

When Passover arrived last year, I was nowhere near ready. I’d made big plans… and hadn’t followed through with any of them. OK, I whipped up a bowl of charoset – the mixture of fruit and nuts that goes on the seder plate – but that was about it. I hadn’t found a shank bone, and I hadn’t hard-boiled an egg, leaving me without two key elements of the seder plate. And though I’d planned to make a traditional brisket, using my grandmother’s recipe, guess what: I hadn’t done that, either.

I felt terrible, in part because Jewish guilt is a powerful, permeating thing, and in part because this was my first time holding a seder in my home – not my mother’s house or the community hall in my synagogue, but in my very own kitchen. It was all on me, and I’d failed, right off the bat.

It was also my first seder with my boyfriend, Mike (who has since become my fiancé and will soon become my husband). Mike grew up Catholic and has since become an atheist, but he’s curious about my religious views and cultural practices. We were both looking forward to our first seder together, and I wanted to show him a good one.

Read the rest of this post on

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

That Old Familiar Refrain: We're Moving Again!

It was my deepest wish that when I finally moved to Cleveland, I would, like, never move again. And while it's true that I never plan to leave Cleveland, I've already moved twice since coming back to Ohio... & now it's about to happen again.

Long story short: Mike & I love our Tremont apartment, which is old & charming, with wood floors & strangely colored walls. We gladly would've glady stayed for awhile, & planned to - & then our friend Rick got transferred to California for work. 

Rick's apartment, which he only lived in for a few months, is the bottom half a duplex. It's chic, shiny, & newly renovated, with two bedrooms & an in-unit washer/dryer (which I've never had before & would basically die for). It's next door to a small park, across the street from one of my favorite restaurants, & caddy-corner from another great restaurant/coffee shop. It has a front porch & a small backyard. And best of all, the rent is almost exactly what we pay now.

Needless to say, it's perfect. And while we'd gladly stay where we are if it meant Rick hadn't moved across the country (j/k Rick, happy for you), this is a pretty perfect opportunity, & it just fell into our laps.

The great news - aside from the fact that the apartment itself is awesome - is that it's in the neighborhood we live in now, just a few blocks away from our current place. We can stay in Tremont, upgrade our place, maintain our rent costs, & wash our damn pants on our own timeframe, thankyouverymuch.

Want to hear something else kind of crazy? We signed a three-year lease. The rental company guarantees to keep our rent costs the same for the duration of our lease, so we figured, why not lock it in? We definitely don't want to move again... & now we don't have to. 

Look, I hate moving, but all things considered, I'm over the moon about this one. Did I mention that we'll have a spare bedroom? See you in Cleveland, suckahs. We're movin' on up.

(P.S.: These aren't my house keys, so creeps of the Internet, don't even bother trying to duplicate them so you can rob me.) 

Monday, April 3, 2017

My 9 Single-Lady Behaviors When I'm Home Alone

 Last week, Mike went out of town for five days, something he rarely does without me, & while he was away, I realized that, when I have the apartment to myself, I revert back to a few elements of my singledom. Here are just a few of the ways my lifestyle temporarily changed while he vacationing & I was solo in the CLE.

1. Jump at every little sound

Every time I heard the downstairs door slam, I thought, "Mike's home!" before realizing, nope, that's someone else. Only two other people live in our building, but when I'm home alone, every little noise makes me nervous, & there's a lot of lock-rechecking.

2. Order delivery, like, daily

Mike does the cooking, & I do the cleaning. Iam capable of preparing food, & when he goes out of town, he tries to set me up with some options for his time away, but still I usually end up ordering Indian food from GrubHub & vegan pizza from UberEats. Oops/yum.  

3. Clean like a madwoman 

I know, I get wild & crazy when I'm home alone! Mike has a tendency toward messiness, so when he's away, I take the opportunity to go a little nuts with the cleaning. I feel like I have more time to do it when it's out of town, & I know it won't get messed up again right away. I love having a few days of my preferred level of neatness. 

4. Wear pajamas all day

I can get away with this because I work from home, but usually I at least make an effort to look nice, knowing Mike will be home at the end of the day. I put on real clothes, do my hair, wear lipstick... but when I get a few days to myself, I'm known to wear comfy, cozy clothes, like, the entire time.

5. Get gross

When I have the house to myself, I burp as loudly as I want & revel in the freedom of peeing with the door wiiiiiide open. Ain't nobody here to see or hear or be disgusted by me! Um... wait, please tell me I'm not the only one who does this?

7. Indulge in long self-care routines

Mike falls asleep fast, so if I want to head bed when he does, I don't have much time to spare. When I fly solo, though I take long showers, do face masks, put on argan oil & body lotion, breathe in essential oils, wear my robe around the house, & in other words become a total hippie. 

6. Go to bed super late

I tend to lose track of time in the evenings; I've never been a morning person, but I could easily stay up until 4am if it were acceptable at age 32. When Mike's home, I try to go to sleep when he does, but when he's away, the clock ceases to exist. I intend to go to bed by 10:30pm & usually hit the 1:00am mark instead. 

8. Pray (or something like it)

When I was a kid, I talked aloud to God every night; now I mostly just talk to the universe - a "just in case" kinda thing, like being my own therapist. I'm agnostic these days, but on nights when I fall asleep alone, I still sometimes whisper up a quick conversation to the universe.  

9. Sleep like a freaking rock

I don't sleep very well these days, in part because Mike snores. He feels terrible about it, I know, & earplugs usually help mitigate it, but when he's out of town, I confess, I sleep like I've been drugged, minus the drugs. It's a beautiful thing.

Your turn! If you live with your significant other, I'd love to hear what single-lady (or dude!) behaviors come out when you have the house to yourself. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What I Read in March

I didn't read as much as usual again this month, in part because I did a week of traveling (D.C. & NOLA pics are on Instagram!) & in part because I got hooked on The Great British Baking Show. Nearly everything I read this month was non-fiction, aside from one YA book; interestingly, I'm more interested in non-fiction these days than in my standard fictitious fare. Got any recommendations? Let me know in the comments, or add me on Goodreads. 

And before we get into my reads, just a quick note that today is my favorite day of the month: Book of the Month Club's book reveal day! Use my referral code to get three months for $30, plus a BoTM tote. I'm obsessed, & you will be, too.

Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson 

This is the true-life account of the 1893 World's Fair, held in Chicago, but it's written in a way that makes it feel more like a novel. It weaves two tales related only in their connection to the fair itself: that of architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair's director of works, who faced countless challenges in bringing the fair into physical being, & that of H.H. Holmes, one of the first & most prolific serial killers in the U.S., who preyed upon the atmosphere & lifestyle the fair brought to Chicago. ★★★   

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

This short non-fiction book is a must-read for anyone who consider themselves a creative... or wants to. I've certainly never referred to myself as an artist, but maybe I could, someday? This book is both grounded & inspirational, providing solid tips for creative work, mentality, & process. Go read it. ★★★★★ 

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker 

This is another one recommended by the My Favorite Murder podcast. It tells the converging stories of a five sex workers whose bodies were all found on Long Island in the early 2010s. The disappearance of one woman, Shannan Gilbert, lead to the initial police search, though Gilbert's death is now thought to be accidental & unrelated to the other women's deaths. All the murders are still unsolved. ★★★★★ 

Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson 

I was initially put off by the first few pages of this memoir, in which Oscar-nominated Henson defends her abusive father as a fundamentally good & kind person, even after describing him beating her mother. Ultimately, though, this book gave me so much respect for Henson, an incredible actress who is also an incredibly strong, powerful, & thoughtful woman. I loved the insight into her work ethic, her backstory, & her outlook on life - yes, including the many lessons her flawed father taught her. ★★★★★ 

Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay

This YA novel tells the "what if" story of one young woman told two different ways. In one version, a childhood accident left her disfigured; in the other, the accident never happened. Though this debut novel got surprisingly negative reviews on Goodreads, I found it to be an interesting & compelling story with likable, relatable characters (though I guessed one of the big twists about halfway through). I'll be curious to see what McStay does next. ★★★ 

Triumph: Life After the Cult by Carolyn Jessop

Carolyn Jessop was the fourth wife of Merrill Jessop, a leader in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, a religious group deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center & widely understood to be a cult. Her first book, Escape, told of her in the polygamist sect & her daring exit with her eight children in tow. This book follows up on their story, including what happened after they escaped & when the FLDS was raided by law enforcement. Like the first book, it was a fascinating & well-written look into a nightmare of a life that most of us can only imagine. ★★★★★ 

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

That Voodoo That You Do: The 10 Best Things I Did in New Orleans

I went to New Orleans! I had a great time! I Instagrammed about it incessantly!

While most of my good pics have already shown up on IG, I wanted to take a sec to share a little but more about some of my favorite parts of the trip. While in New Orleans, we...

1. Stayed in a super-trendy hotel

Our home base for the weekend was the Moxy, a Marriott-owned hotel between the French Quarter & the business district. When we walked into the hotel lobby, we were struck by the lack of registration desk; instead, all we saw was a bar! Turned out they were one & the same, & when we checked in (yes, at the bar), we were also given a "welcome cocktail." Now that's some Southern hospitality, y'all. 

2. Ate beignets

This wasn't high on Mike's list of priorities, but having been to New Orleans before, I knew this was right at the top of mine. In the past, I'd only eaten them from the famed Cafe DuMonde, but this time around, we went the Cafe Beignet route. We still had to wait, but for far less time than we would've at Cafe DuMonde... & for beignets that were just as delicious. We ate them in a little garden patio next to a stray cat sunning itself in a flowerbed.  

3. Learned all about old medical stuff

My friends made fun of me for the fact that I couldn't stop, wouldn't stop, when it came to talking about the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. Mike & I loved it! This museum was two floors in a smallish space with a gorgeous secret garden out back (dedicated to Walgreens, lol). It's jam-packed with evidence of & information about early medicines, superstitious cures, & even an old-timey birthing room complete with four-poster bed.  

4. Listened to live music on Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen is known for its jazz, but truth be told, we didn't end up listening to much of it. Instead, we found a couple chill spots that had low-key music & smaller crowds that were a little bit more our speed. We also went during the daytime, which kept things from getting too raucous. Let me tell you, drinking Abita Strawberry Lager while taking in live music in an open-air restaurant is pretty much the perfect way to spend a sunny day. 

5. Drank at the oldest bar in America

Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, built between 1722 & 1732, is said to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the U.S. (though a Rhode Island bar claims the same title). It's small, a little dirty, & lit at night only by candles, but its ope-air structure makes it a perfect place to hang out on a sunny day. We grabbed Hurricanes from the bar, befriended a traveling Australian dude in a Space Jam jersey, & settled in for a few hours of people-watching.  

6. Ate a lot of shrimp

Again, this was more me than Mike, but, man, I love me some fresh shrimp, & I never quite trust shrimp available in Ohio unless it's from some nice restaurant - which usually means it's expensive, too. In New Orleans, fresh gulf shrimp is everywhere, prepared in every way. I ordered shrimp & grits, coconut shrimp, a fried shrimp po'boy... basically New Orleans turned me into Bubba Gump, & a very happy one, at that.

7. Looked into a little bit of voodoo

The first time I was in New Orleans, I visited the Voodoo Museum but didn't pay to enter the exhibits, just wandered around the creepy little gift shop out front. This time, I paid the entrance fee, & as Mike predicted, regretted it almost immediately. Though there are some informative plaques & other info behind the (literal) curtain, the exhibits are essentially just voodoo shrines that visitors are encouraged to build upon by adding their own offerings. I confess that, as unimpressed as I was, I did add a $1 bill to the mix. Hey, just in case, right? 

8. Dined at majorly impressive restaurants

We started our visit with a Thursday-night dinner at Israeli-themed Shaya, 2016 James Beard award-winner for Best New Restaurant in the U.S. The food was, as expected, amazing, but the lamb ragu hummus & the babaganoush were especially delicious. On Saturday morning, we met friends for lunch at Toups South, owned by three-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef in the South Isaac Toups, also a former Top Chef contestant. I ordered (surprise!) - shrimp, this time abed ham-braised peanuts & pumpkin mash. Weird but tasty!

9. Learned all about Southern food

Conveniently attached to Toups South is the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, which is split up into state-based exhibits to teach visitors about the history of food & drink in each geographic region - like The Shed in Mississippi, Smith Island Cakes in Maryland, & Popeye's right there in Louisiana. It was so weird to learn about food traditions right here in the U.S. that might as well be foreign to me, as a northerner! Also inside the SoFAB, as its known, are the Museum of the American Cocktail’s New Orleans collection and La Galerie d’Absinthe. Lots to see!

10. Experienced a second line

We were in town for the wedding of my dear friend Jill, who was marrying a fellow Tulane grad, Michael. The "second line" is a New Orleans tradition of a brass band parade that plays after the wedding ceremony; the band itself is called the first line or the main line, & the marchers who follow them are the second line, sort of like a jazz Conga. The second line began as soon as the bride & groom walked down the aisle together as a newly married couple. They each got a tiny parasol, & all guests got a hashtagged handkerchief to wave as we followed the band in a parade through the venue.

Having a beautiful, joyful wedding to attend was the perfect excuse to get away to New Orleans for a long week. Mike & I had a great time, & I know I end every travel post this way, but we're literally already planning our next trip back. On day one of our visit, we texted two friends to ask if they'd want to return with us sometime soon!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Another Day, Another Stupid Facial Injury

Longtime friends & readers of this blog may recall that, a few years ago, I slipped in the shower & fell face-first into the porcelain toilet paper holder just outside the tub. That resulted in a gash that literally split my left eyebrow in half, requiring a handful of stitches & leaving me with a villainous scar. Still, I'm so lucky that I didn't fall an inch off-kilter; truly, I could've lost my eye.

Yesterday's facial injury isn't of the same caliber, thank God, but it inspired the same moment of terror & relief when I realized just how close I was to gouging my eye out. There are no stitches today, but my face is similarly sore.

Wait, let's back up. Here's what happened.

My cat was yowling from the living room, & when I went to inspect, I found that our coat rack had tipped over (from the weight of all our goddamn Ohio winter coats) & that one of our fallen jackets was covering the litter box (yes, hello, dry cleaner? I have a cleanliness emergency). As I attempted to right the coat rack, I realized it had actually come apart into two pieces, & I began to try to put them back together, fighting off a sea of coats as I did.

I bent down to pick up a falling coat... & BAM, jammed the metal pole of one half of the coat rack right into my cheek. I've injured myself a few times while home alone, but never before have I screamed the way I did yesterday, moaning & muttering & holding my face & trying not to pass out from the pain. I immediately iced it (nothing embarrassing about icing your face on a conference call), took Advil, & hoped for the best, but within a couple of minutes, it was so swollen that it was partially blocking my line of sight.

Somehow, miraculously, I woke up without a black eye. Not even a bruise! I have a small slice across my cheek where the pole hit my skin, but even that isn't too bad - & totally concealable with a little bit of makeup.

Even without a visible mark, though, it hurts like hell. Here are a few things that are painful to do with a severely bruised cheek:
  1. Smile
  2. Laugh
  3. Yawn
  4. Sneeze
  5. Chew
  6. Lay on a pillow 
  7. Remove makeup
  8. Wash my face
Needless to say, I'm driving the proverbial strugglebus today - though fortunately, at least, I can drive, since the swelling has gone down enough that it's no longer impairing my vision.

Take care of yourself, kids. It's a dangerous, coat-rack-eat-girl kinda world.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Short Rant About the New iPhone Earbud Situation

Just after the first of the year, I bought a new iPhone 7 to replace my iPhone 5s, which had finally bitten the dust for good. I bought that 5s on the day they became available, all the way back in October 2013. Damn, that phone was hardy.

I'm pumped about my iPhone 7, though. It feels so much more chic & up-to-date. There's nothing like buying new technology, is there? Something about it just makes you feel so chic & up-to-date. And also a little bit futuristic. Just me? OK. Oops.

Let it be known that I have zero beef whatsoever with the iPhone 7 except for one considerable piece of beef. I love everything about it... except this new bullshit about not having a headphone jack.

if you're not an iPhone user, here's the deal: The new iPhones don't have a headphone jack. Instead, they come with special Apple earbuds that are designed to plug into the same hole you use to charge your phone. Those earbuds also come with a little adapter jack that turns your Apple-only earbuds - I'm sorry, apparently these new ones are called earpods - into regular-headphone-jack earbuds. Smart-ish, right?

But here are my issues:
  • Apple earbuds have never been my favorite. They don't fit well into my ears, & they don't stay in my ears if I start to get even slightly sweaty, as when working out (a key time for wearing earbuds, so that's not at all convenient). With this new change, I'm effectively forced to used them. Not cool. But that's not even my main issue.
  • I usually listen to podcasts while I'm driving, but now I can't plug my phone into my aux cord (to play over my car stereo) and charge my phone because that all happens out of the same plug. This means that on longs road-trips, I have to choose between listening to my phone & charging my phone.
  • I work from home & need to have laptop-friendly earbuds on me at all times, but now, because I listen to my phone so often while on the go, I need to have my iPhone earbuds with me. That's just plain annoying because I try to be minimalist & who needs to carry around two pairs of earbuds?
  • Conversely, I can try to bring the little adapter jack with me everywhere I go, but I undoubtedly leave it behind sometimes - it's in my car when I need it on my person, or it's in my laptop bag when I'm on the road. Also, it's tiny, so I'm bound to lose it eventually. I can't wait to spend $12.99 buying them over & over & over again!
And look: I don't usually use the terms #firstworldproblems (even people in developing countries have technology, y'all), but I recognize that this is a very bougie problem if ever one existed. Still, it's been on my mind, like, every day since I got this phone, which makes it worth mentioning, right?

Overall, I just feel like this is one of Apple's self-indulgent Appley moves that seems smart but doesn't take into account the many ways people actually use their phones in everyday life & how frustrating this one little change makes their everyday usage.

I've always hated when people use their phones in public spaces without wearing earplugs, but with this new development... man, I may just be joining their ranks.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

If We Were Having Coffee...

If we were having coffee, I'd be drinking a large soy latte. Extra-large, maybe, if I'm expecting a long day ahead.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that I'm sort of relieved not to have to be in a coffee shop right now. We were sans wifi for 11 days (!!!), & during that time, I had to spend all day of every workday in a coffee shop so that I could, you know, work. I'm lucky to live next door to an awesome coffee shop with understanding baristas who don't kick me out for squatting, but man, am I glad to be able to work from home this week.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that wedding planning is coming along nicely. We've found an officiant (a friend of mine who is a rabbi & was going to be invited, anyway), we've inquired about a DJ, I've picked bridesmaids dresses, we've booked the photographer of my dreams, & my mom is hard at work on our centerpieces (thanks, Mom!). The big thing we haven't figured out yet is catering, which is stressing me out kiiiind of a lot.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that I've been sick on & off for, like, the entirety of 2017. My issue right now is that every time I lie down, I start wheezing terribly - like, so badly that I can't fall asleep because my body is too damn noisy. But nothing else is even wrong! No cough, no stuffiness, nothing - so, of course, I'm afraid I have cancer. Have I gone to the doctor, you ask? Of course not.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that I'm trying to work my way out of debt. It's not a ton of debt, all things considered, but the credit card portion of it was entirely preventable & thus completely inexcusable (unlike, say, my student loans or my car loan). As much as I'd love to be shopping & traveling right now, all my spare change is going toward reducing this debt &, after that, doing my best to live debt-free.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that I haven't been super into reading lately, which is weird, given how much reading I've been doing for the last year & a half. What gives?! I just can seem to get into anything. I've read some great books lately, but nothing is, like, calling my name throughout the day & driving me to crawl into bed early with my Kindle.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that I'm really looking forward to two upcoming trips: one to D.C. for a work retreat with my coworkers, who I never get to see in person, & another to New Orleans, for my friend Jill's wedding. Mike has never been to New Orleans, so I'm excited to explore with him... & to eat as many beignets as humanly possible, if I'm being honest (wedding dress be damned).

If we were having coffee, what would you update me on? 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Yes, I'm Changing My Last Name

I'm planning to change my last name when I get married, but I don't like the assumption that I'm planning to change my last name when I get married. I've already started hearing comments referring to me by Mike's last name. You guys! Lots of women do not change their names. Can we not assume they're going to?

In that vein, a few friends have reacted with surprise when I've told them that, yes, I'm planning to change my last name. "I wouldn't have expected you to," one friend told me. "You don't seem like the type who would," said another.

While I understand where they're coming from - for whatever reason, I probably wouldn't have expected me to, either! - I will indeed be taking his last name when we get married. Here's why.

1. I have no real attachment to my last name. 

Don't get me wrong, it'll be weird not to go by the name I've used for 33 years. It's my name. At the same time, it's not a last name I've ever loved, & I used to joke that I couldn't wait to get married so I could get rid of it (sorry, Mom). I don't feel that strongly against my own last name - I've actually become kind of fond of its weirdness - but I also don't love it so much that I need to keep it forever.

2. Mike's last name is super quirky.

Real talk: When I first learned his last name, I thought it was was so bizarre (sorry, Mike's parents), & hoped I'd never have to choose whether I'd adopt it as my own. After nearly two years together, though, it's grown on me, & I can barely remember a time when I didn't think it was actually a lot of fun. Sure, it means "dead" in Yiddish, but isn't that kind of funny? We joke that my future name sounds like a cartoon superhero in a children's book. Can't beat that.

3. I'm going to change my whole name...

If you know me IRL or have been reading this blog for awhile, you might remember that Kate isn't actually my first name. My full name is Sara Kathryn, but I've always gone by Kate or Katy. It's weird to feel like my legal name isn't my name, like when I have to put "Sara" on legal documents & doctors call me by it & DMVs refuse to put my middle name on my license. When we get married, I'm going to drop Sara & make Kate my legal first name, with my maiden name as my legal middle name.

I'm really excited to have an excuse to do this because it's hella difficult to change your name if you're not getting married. In some states, you have to go to court for it & even put it an ad in the local paper inviting townspeople to challenge your name change. Yes, for real.

4. I'll still have my maiden name.

I haven't yet decided whether I'll go by the whole thing, or whether I'll use my maiden name in my writing & my married name in my personal life, or what, but either way, since I'm changing my whole name, the last name I've had my whole life will still be very much present & still a part of my new legal name. I'm just tacking on an extra one!

5. Mike's last name is important to him...

Why not both change our last names? Fun fact: Mike has actually already changed his last name. Basically, his last name at birth was his mom's maiden name, & when his mom & dad married when Mike was in grade school, he & his mom both took his dad's last name. He got to choose whether he wanted to do that, & I can't imagine asking him to change it again, as an adult, when it was so important to him to take this name in the first place.

6. ...& I want to have the same last name as Mike.  

When it comes right down to it, I want to have the same last name as my husband &, should we have them, our future children. As long as I get to keep my own last name in some form or another, whether I go by it or not, I am totally comfortable taking his last name, weird though it may be. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Tribute to My Tribe of Strong Women

On International Women's Day, I am inspired first & foremost by the women in my very own family.

My mom, Joyce, who experienced devastating loss &, as a young widower, left her job to go to grad school & create a better life for us, all while struggling with her own grief & managing my health issues. She graduated with her masters & has been the head of her department for more than in a decade - & in her late 50s, she got into Zumba, dancing, biking, & more, proving that it's never too late to find new hobbies.

My grandmother, Jeanne, z"l, who was the strongest, most headstrong, most outspoken & opinionated lady I ever met, while managing to be entirely likable, too. She campaigned for Democrats in a solidly red district & was a longtime patron of the arts, in addition to being an incredibly talented-yet-humble artist herself. Though she never finished college, she became a pillar of her community & amassed a self-made fortune through smart investments.

My aunts: My Aunt Sarah, a successful realtor & a consummate people-person whose business, organizational, & design savvy never ceases to amaze me. And my Aunt Joan, who has multiple degrees & has worked as a dental hygienist, a truck driver, a maintenance woman & more; she is
constantly learning & seeking out new passions.

My cousins: Emily, who kills it at a big-time corporate communications job while still finding time to travel the world & run marathons, & Grace, who dropped everything to live in Australia & experience new cultures before coming home to hustle at a million jobs that allow her pursue her many passions.

My sister, Ani, who fought like hell to stay in this country & make the best possible life for herself, a wild child turned hippie artist who now channels her love of life into gorgeous handmade jewelry.
And my new tribe, future mother-in-law Debra, sister-in-law Maggie, aunt-in-law Terri, & Grandma Mary Ann, women who are just as incredible as the women who raised me & whom I can't wait to call family.

I feel so fortunate to call family so many strong, intelligent, beautiful, thoughtful, powerful, compassionate women. This International Women's Day, as we celebrate the past & look to the future, let's start by showing love & appreciation to the ladies who made us who we are & who impress us every damn day.

tl;dr: Strong women: May we know them, may we raise them, may we be them.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Broadway Comes to the CLE... & Next Year's Gonna Be Huge

I love musicals. A lot of people think this is surprising or amusing because, I don't know, maybe something about me doesn't scream, "Musical theater is my jam!" - but it so is. As I kid, I auditioned for Annie; in high school, I was in State Fair, Guys & Dolls, & Fiddler on the Roof. I've seen a few shows in NYC (Aida, Lion King, Newsies), & living in Cleveland, fortunately, gives me the opportunity to see plenty of other shows as they tour the country.

Cleveland has the second biggest theater district in the U.S., second only to Broadway itself, & our Playhouse Square has 36,000 season ticket-holders for the 2016-2017 season. How's that for impressive?!

Last week, Playhouse Square hosted its annual Key Bank Broadway Series reveal event, unveiling the shows that are coming to town for their upcoming season. The 2016-2017 season is, of course, still in full swing right now, with shows like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time & Something Rotten still yet to come, plus The Wiz, Mamma Mia!, & others.

It was so much fun to be there live for the big announcements about next year - & they're huge! Here's what's coming to Playhouse Square next season.


Scored by the incomparable Sara Bareilles & based on the film of the same name starring Keri Russell, Waitress tells the story of a pregnant server who falls in love with someone who is very much not her husband. For the event last week, Sara Bareilles herself showed up to discuss the show... & then sang one of its songs for us! What a treat. Running October 17-November 5, 2017.

On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Musical

Did you know such a musical existed?! I, for one, did not, but alas, it does exist, & I've heard from friends that it's incredible - & that it gets audience members literally doing the conga down the aisles of the theater! It tells the life story of Cuban immigrants Emilio & Gloria Estefan, from international superstardom to life-threatening tragedy. Running December 5-23, 2017.

Love Never Dies

Musical theater legend Andrew Lloyd Weber came out of retirement to pen this musical, a sequel to his smash hit, The Phantom of the Opera. The show, which has been running in Berlin, will make it's North American debut right here in Cleveland. Running January 9-28, 2018.


Everyone's favorite '90s musical is celebrating its 20th anniversary, & even though I've seen it on stage three times, I'll definitely be hitting up Playhouse Square to catch it again. I dare you not to cry as you consider measuring your own life in love. Running March 6-25, 2018.

The Humans

Key Bank's Broadway series isn't all musicals! Stephen Karam's play has won four Tony Awards, includingBest Play. It takes place over the course of a family dinner on Thanksgiving, with family dysfunction on full display, both hilarious & heartbreaking. Running April 10-29, 2018.


I've long wanted to see this Disney animated  classic come to life on the stage, & now I can! Set in the fictional Middle Eastern town of Agrabah, it's equal parts love story & a story of heartfelt friendship between its titular character & the hysterical, grandiose Genie. Running May 2-27, 2018. 


Annnnd the big one: Hamilton is hitting the CLE for a whopping six-week run... over my birthday! It's the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton, set to hip-hop, rap, & R&B. Though I can't believe we've got to wait so long to see it, I know the wait (& the cost) will be worth it. Running July 17-August 26, 2018.

I can't decide what I most want to see because I most want to see everything. My mom & I are talking about getting season tickets so that we can, in fact, go see everything together... which sounds like the perfect solution, don't you think?!

Thanks to Playhouse Square for inviting me to attend last week's Key Bank Broadway Launch Party in exchange for my social media coverage. As always, all opinions & excitement are my own.

Friday, March 3, 2017

My 25 Carry-On Travel Essentials

After my recent flight from Cleveland to Chicago for work, I landed at my destination only to learn that  my luggage hadn't arrived with me. Somehow, my bag didn't make it onto my 45-minute direct flight, & thus began the process of trying to figure out what I had & what I needed as I waited for my luggage to make it to the Windy City.

Luckily, as an experienced traveler, I'd brought some of the important stuff with me in my carry-on luggage. What I didn't bring was a change of professional clothes, which is how I found myself at a Macy's upon my arrival, buying a quick change of clothes so I could be presentable for work (note to self: Don't wear neon "Hello, there!" sweatshirt while traveling to work events).

In case you don't travel much, or just want to be nosy & peek inside my bag, here's a look at what goes into my carry-on.

The Basics

My wallet is a tiny leather card case from Dagne Dover, which I received in a recent Box of Style (here's $10 off a subscription, should you be interested!). I used the 25% off coupon that came with it to purchase this bag from Dagne Dover, which is the perfect size - & has the perfect amount of pockets - for traveling. It's big enough to carry magazines & my iPad, but it fits neatly under airport seats; I also like that it has a zippered top so that nothing spills out of it if it shifts around in flight.


I usually shlep all of my makeup around with me in this little zipper bag from Target. If I'm trying to downsize my carry-on, I pack most of it & only bring the important stuff in my carry-on. That includes...
  • Lip balm: My favorite is this Burt's Bees balm in "mint and cocoa" flavor. It smells so cozy!
  • Concealer: I'm now a devotee of the brand Makeup Forever, expensive though it may be.
  • Mascara: I have an annoying habit of picking off my mascara, especially when I'm bored, so I keep this with my for touch-ups on travel days (& all other days).
  • Powder: I'm the shiniest, sweatiest human alive. Gotta have this on hand for a quick fix!
Also in the beauty category, at the intersection of fashion & functionality: sunglasses. I've lost all my good pairs, though, so all I've got right now is some pair from a lost-and-found. And don't forget dry shampoo, which keeps me from looking greasy during long travel days. My favorite is from Dove, but I haven't found it in a travel size, so the TRESemmé version does the trick.

Health & Wellness 

This is by far the largest category of my carry-on items because I never want to find myself without something important... & the essentials cost so much in airports!
  • Anxiety medicine: I take Lexapro every night for anxiety, & without it, I start to get headaches. I always make sure the whole bottle travels in my carry-on bag with me in case of lost luggage.
  • Allergy medicine: I always have a Zyrtec on hand during flights, lest my allergies flare up at random. I pack the rest, though, because my allergies aren't that bad.
  • FitBit: I'm always surprised by how many steps I get in on travel days as I rush from terminal to terminal. If only I could remember to pack the charger for my FitBit Alta...
  • Earplugs: I'm weirdly sensitive to noise, & sitting next to a snorer or a baby can ruin a flight for me. Enter these squishy Mack's earplugs, which I also use nightly.
  • Tissues: Again with the allergies. I sneeze all throughout plane rides!
  • Gum: I pack my toothbrush, & I'm not one for mints, but I love Orbit Spearmint gum for freshening up, especially after airport snacks. 
  • Deodorant: Yes, I wear Old Spice, & I keep it in my carry-on to stay fresh throughout the day. Traveling can be a sweaty affair!
  • Makeup removing wipes: Speaking of freshness, these Neutrogena wipes are a godsend for refreshing my skin up, & they smell so calming.
  • Healing stick: I prefer to have lotion with me for dry airports & hotels, but because I try to minimize liquids in my carry-on, I travel with this shea butter stick from Perfectly Posh
  • Glasses & contact case: I always fall asleep on flights, & waking up with my contacts suctioned to my eyeballs is so unpleasant. For long flights, I fill my contact case with clean solution & pack it in my carry-on so I can pop out my contacts as needed.

Technology & Entertainment

I used to all kinds of things to keep me busy during travel: books, magazines, my iPad... it started to get heavy! Finally, I admitted that I spend most of my time on my phone, on my Kindle, or asleep, & I stopped packing so damn much. Now I just bring...
  • Phone charger: My new phone holds a charge much better than my old one, but when I travel, I use it so much that I suck up the battery reaaaal fast.
  • Power bank: For times when I don't have access to outlets, I have this pig-shaped power bank with me. It's not as powerful as some varieties, but it works in a pinch.
  • Headphones: I hate the new Apple headphone situation (no headphone jack in the new iPhones), & I've yet to master remembering to bring the right listening apparatus for actually being able to use my headphones while I travel... but I'll get it right eventually!
  • Kindle & charger: Buying a Kindle Paperwhite revolutionized my reading - & it's so much lighter than traveling with books!
  • Camera remote: This CamKix Bluetooth Camera Shutter goes everywhere with me, in case I want to take better photos than the standard selfie timer can provide.
  • Magazines: If I finish them while I'm away, I leave them behind to lighten the load on the way home. I often offer them to flight attendants to read during their downtime.
  • Pens: My favorite pens come from my old workplace, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. I swear, they're the best pens in the world.
  • Note cards: Sometimes, if I have a lot of thank-you notes to write, I tuck a few into my bag so I can get them done in the airport.
Packing a carry-on full of clothes? I like this video from Brit + Co. for some space-saving packing tips.

Tell me: Am I missing anything that you always make sure to bring in your carry-on? I've got a few trips coming up - including D.C. & New Orleans later this month! - so I'd love to hear your travel wisdom.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What I Read in February

I read six books in February, but I don't feel like I did a lot of reading. Quite honestly, I just didn't feel like it. I picked up & started a bunch of books but nothing really kept my attention - even the ones I finished. After reading 11/22/63, which was great but really long, I guess I just needed a little break. Here's what I did made it through this month - & better luck in March!

11/22/63 by Stephen King

This was my first book by King, weirdly enough, & what a first book to choose! At 800+ pages, it was a beast of a read, but it was also totally worth it. Jake's dying friend Al leads him to a rabbit hole that goes to the past, urging him to go back in time & prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK. But how will it affect the future if he does? Time travel, murder, romance... yes, please. ★★★

After Anna by Alex Lake

Apparently this author is a well-known, bestselling British author writing under a pseudonym & I want to know who because this book felt too predictable for an experienced storyteller. It was enjoyable enough to read, but I'll be damned if I didn't know a third of the way in exactly who it was that kidnapped 5-year-old Anna & returned her unharmed to her family for reasons mysterious & unknown. And yet, somehow, I still want to read Lake's next...★★★☆☆

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham 

As much as I love Lauren Graham & the way she played the character of Lorelai Gilmore, this wasn't my favorite celebrity memoir. It made me really like her, yes, more than I already did, but it just didn't compel me much beyond that. It did, however, compel me to rewatch all of Gilmore Girls, which is the best decision I've made in awhile. Her season recaps, complete with outfit critiques & technology analyses, were straight-up hilarious.  ★★

Wreckage by Emily Bleeker

Why do I keep reading books about airplane crashes? As a kid, I was weirdly obsessed with the book Flight #116 Is Down by Caroline Cooney, in part because I was absolutely terrified of it. And now, here I am, reading Wreckage, about a romance that blossoms between two plane crash survivors on a deserted island. I really enjoyed this book until the second half, when it became unbelievably corny bordering on the absurd. Somehow, I'm still thinking about it, but I wouldn't necessarily call it good. ★★

March: Book One by John Lewis with Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

This was our latest book club choice, & damn, was it a good one. It also marked my first time ever reading a graphic novel, which I thought I'd dislike but actually loved, at least in this case. Congressman John Lewis is a giant for social justice, a civil rights legend who has been putting his values into action for decades by working to desegregate the South &, in turn, the nation. This was a fascinating way to read his personal story, & I look forward to moving on to Book Two soon. ★★★★

Right now I'm reading The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, among other books; I started this one because it got so much play on early episodes of my current favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder. Review of this one & others to come in March!  

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

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Here's the Crotchety Letter I Wrote to My Grocery Store in Advance of Passover

In this age of activism, let our advocacy not be limited to the halls of Congress & the Twitter feeds of our Cheeto-toned president. Recently, I decided to be that cranky old lady who writes a letter to my local grocery store, the downtown Cleveland Heinen's (which is, by the way, the prettiest grocery store you've ever seen). I wrote:
To whom it concerns at Heinen's,

Each year during the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, Jews around the world cut from their diets all products made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt. During this time, the only bread we may eat is unleavened bread, commonly known as matzah.

Last year, the Heinen's in downtown Cleveland - the only grocery store in the city's center - did not carry matzah. In fact, when I entered the store to inquire about the product, three separate employees looked at me as though I'd grown three heads, & when I tweeted to @Heinens to ask, I was told, "...we have a limited kosher offering downtown due to space constraints." The downtown Heinens did, however, find room on its shelves for non-kosher-for-Passover matzah, which, incidentally, cannot be consumed during the holiday of Passover - the only time of year that most Jews would ever need or want to eat matzah.

I can certainly understand that space is typically limited in your small store for kosher foods that are, during most times of the year, only consumed by a fraction of the American Jewish population. Passover, however, is the most celebrated Jewish holiday in North America, even by secular Jews who don't keep kosher. As of 2012, there were an estimated 80,800 Jewish people in the Greater Cleveland area.

Twenty-seven percent live in the Cleveland Heights area - but that leaves 73% of Cleveland's Jewish population to reside elsewhere, & surely a great many of us live or work on the west side & in the downtown area.

I find it unacceptable that, as downtown's only grocery store - & a high-end one, at that - that Heinen's has made the conscious decision not to carry kosher-for-Passover matzah during the Passover season (which this years runs from April 10-18). Cleveland has one of the biggest Jewish populations in the U.S., & we're not restricted to the East Side. It's troubling that a west side Jew should have to travel upwards of half an hour to Pepper Pike or University Heights to find the one food vital to celebration of the most widely celebrated Jewish holiday, rather than being able to purchase it at the singular grocery store in the city center.

As Passover approaches, I hope the downtown Heinen's will reconsider last year's decision not to carry kosher-for-Passover matzah during this important holiday. Thanks for your consideration.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Heinen's customer relations representative less than a week after writing:
Thank you for taking time to share your comments about the lack of matzah and Passover products at our Downtown store last year.

We apologize to you for the inconvenience and frustration this caused you and any other customers. We did order these products last year, but we didn’t anticipate it selling out so quickly. I have shared your email with the team of buyers and the Downtown store management team and they will be making adjustments to the ordering for this Passover. Again, our sincerest apologies to you.
Congress may not be listening, but at least my grocery store is. Thanks, Heinen's! 
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