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

https://www.cnet.com/products/apple-earpods-with-remote-and-mic-white/

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. ...so 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.


Waitress

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.


RENT

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.


Aladdin

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. 


Hamilton

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.

Beauty

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. 
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