Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Internet is Teeming With Trash Clothing: A Collection of Beautiful Bodysuits

I've looking for a plain, black bodysuit, preferably one with sleeves, that's available in plus sizes. I've been looking hard for such a garment. I've scoured the depths of the Internet for such a garment. I found sound a garment! Thanks, Torrid! It looks like this:



Alas... it isn't available in my size. Womp, womp. "OK," I think to myself upon realizing it, "Surely a similar item is available on some other site."

You'd think, right? But you'd be wrong. I've yet to find a replica of that bodysuit, but I have found dozens & dozens of hideous & horrifying alternatives. In a bit of a throwback to the kinds of posts I published here in the days before Twitter allowed me to share it all with you in real-time, I thought I'd do a round-up of some of my (least) favorites.

Let's start with this one! Perhaps appropriately, this little number is from a brand called HOTAPE. So, uh, is that pronounced liked "hot-tape" or like "hoe-tape"? In fairness, the description describes it as a bathing suit, not a bodysuit, but also in fairness, this is terrible. It's only appropriate if you're trying to dress as a birdcage for Halloween, in which case, nailed it. (HOTAPE, $16.99)


Why did this come up in my search? This isn't solid black. In fact, this comes in 18 patterns, & I didn't even choose the most visually offensive one to share with you here. This is ideal if you've ever wanted to, like, live inside a Magic Eye book. You just can't get mad when bleary-eyed people lock their gaze upon your torso. They're just trying to see the 3D stuff! (Rokiney, $13.99-$16.99)


You know how men's boxers come with a hole at the crotch so they can pee more easily? Lucky ladies, now you can do the same! Unfortunately, in order to get in & out of this thing, you probably have to struggle like a dolphin caught in a tuna net, which is nowhere near as sexy as this brand is aspiring to be. (Deksias, $9.90)


But if you've ever just wanted to straight-up wear a tuna net without any pretenses, you can have this one instead - which, weirdly, costs more money than its frilly friend above. (Forever 21, $17.90)


If you've ever wanted to be a real-life Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, this is the garment for you. Just don't wear it on days when you need to pass through a metal detector. (Forever 21, $17.90)


Sure, you know how to tie your shoes, but can you do it upside down & backwards? (ASOS, $42)


This model looks like she played dress-up in her ailing Mee-Maw's underwear drawer & tried to get creative with literal granny panties by just pullin' 'em alllll the way up & calling it fashion. (Forever 21, $28)


Look, I don't even hate this one. I'm just... not really trying to look like Lady Gaga on an everyday basis. But if you are? Hey, I've got a bodysuit for ya. Probably wears better than a meat dress. (XIMAN, $12.99-$20.98)


If you've ever dreamed of being the creepy sex stalker from the first season of American Horror Story and/or suffocating in a tarp, this "Wetlook Spandex Turtleneck Unitard" is probably perfect. And it comes in a rainbow of colors, in case "slick ninja" isn't quite the look you're going for. (Esnovo, $28.99)


There's also this option, for when you want that wetlook, but, like, way less of that wetlook, please. (Forever 21, $19.90)


Boohoo says this is a "Premium" item, but unless you're Britney Spears performing in Vegas, who is wearing this & why? (Boohoo, $80)


If you've got a Grease-themed party or an old-timey sock hop comin' up, you could wear this! And when you're not at the party, you can wear it to the soda jerk! Just don't wear it to the drive-in movies, 'cause it'll be hard to get felt up with crotch-snaps in the way. (ASOS, $48)


Wait, wait, this one is actually kind of lovely. It's something like Princess Kate meets an ice skating champion from the late 1990s. If only I had a place to wear such an item, like to the Royal Palace, or Ice Capades. (Forever 21, $38)


The only way this silk, dolman-sleeved bodysuit could be any more hideous is if the bottom were a literal diaper, instead of just looking like one. (Eloquii, $49.90)


I am equal parts horrified by this garment & amused by this garment. What's the appropriate time to wear such a piece? To the zoo? To a pep rally at a high school whose mascot is a tiger? For a mere $10, I suppose you can buy now & outfit-plan later. Wherever you go in it, though, you might wanna bring a sweater. (Rainbow, $10.00)


Why are there so many tiger-print bodysuits in the world? Is this like all the dudes whose Tinder pics include tigers? What is it about tigers? Should I get a tiger-something? (Forever 21, $12.90)


Again, I'm trying desperately to figure out the appropriate place to wear this article of clothing. I feel like it should only be worn around someone who is your babe, right? But it's given such explicit instructions... (Forever 21, 17.90)


For when you wanna wear a tutu but you also wanna wear pants & you just can't decide, so you do both. (ASOS, $28)


Are you a callgirl? Are you a cowgirl? Does there have to be a difference? Combine 'em! (Forever 21, $38)


If your body is not in possession of nipples, I've got a great outfit for you to try! (Forever 21, $15.90)


I used to wear a back brace for my scoliosis, & this garment looks so much like said back brace that I can barely look at it without breaking out into a bout of preteen angst. (Forever 21, $48)


As '90s style returns, so, too, does that Left-Eye-from-TLC vibe. Just don't burn down anybody's house. Or die in a car accident. Or... man, on second thought, please just don't buy this. (ASOS, $28)


If I'm gonna spend this much money on a bodysuit, I'm gonna request that the manufacturer at least sew up the loose threads at the thighs, please. Damn. (ASOS, $146.50)


I love the Cavs, but I do not think anyone wants me to show my love of the Cavs in this way. (Don't worry, Golden State fans, this line's got you covered, too!) (Rue 21, $21.99)


I don't even have anything snarky to say to this one. I am terrified of velvet, & this is my literal worst nightmare, & I can't breathe just looking at it. I would rather wear literally any of the hideous bodysuits on this list, in public, than ever have to try this one on. (ASOS, $29)


This bodysuit is a good option if you're considering a full-body tribal tattoo but aren't yet sure you wanna go, like, all in. Consider this your practice run. (Shawhuwa, $10-$15)


OK, OK, you think I'm being a jerk, don't you? I'm sorry, I'll stop. This bodysuit agrees with you, & it's got a message for me. (ASOS, $88.50)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Let's Talk About the Most Infuriating Book I've Ever Read


I've always liked to stay current on pop culture. OK, I didn't listen to "Despacito" for, like, three weeks after it first came out, & I haven't gone to the movies in about a year, but, uh... I try. Even if I don't see or listen to something myself, I try to read up on it so that I at least know what's going on, conversationally.

When everyone started obsessing over the new Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, based on Jay Asher's YA novel of the same name, my first instinct was to binge-watch it with the rest of the world. Every time I logged into Netflix, there it was, flashing across the top of the screen, waiting to be watched.

In the past, I would've done it. I would've put myself through an agonizing binge, knowing it was going to tear me apart & then suffering the emotional consequences anyway. I would've watched it just so I could say I had.

But I didn't. 

One nice thing about growing older is knowing yourself a little bit better - & in this case, I knew I was better off not watching 13 Reasons Why. I asked two close friends, just to be sure, & both confirmed that if I wanted to get in on the cultural zeitgeist, I should read the book instead. Less painful, they said. Better executed, they said.

I finished the book this week, & let me tell you: If that was the less painful, better executed version of 13 Reasons Why, I am so freaking glad I didn't try the TV show.

Put plainly, 13 Reasons Why is dangerously irresponsible. It makes a mockery of suicide & puts teens at emotional risk. It's meant to show that our actions, no matter how small, can have deep impact on those around us, but the message I see in it is very different. And much more sinister.

13 Reasons Why teaches teens that if someone they know commits suicide, it might be their fault. Do you know what a dangerous idea that is? What a horrifying accusation that is? 

Maybe you don't. But I do.

I know because I spent a decade of my life trying to convince myself that someone else's suicide was not my fault. That I didn't drive my ex-boyfriend, in some way large or small, to hang himself in his garage. That furthering my own story didn't put an end to his. Quite simply, that I didn't kill someone just by being a misguided, mistake-riddled teenager myself.

Unless you've lived it, you probably can't understand what that feels like. You probably can't conceive of the guilt & pain & self-loathing that comes with wracking your brain for every single interaction you ever had with someone & all its possible effects - wondering whether those acts drove someone to end their life. Especially when you were young & already full of pain & self-loathing yourself. That is a lifetime of baggage & torment. 

In 13 Reasons Why, 13 high schoolers receive a set of cassette tapes that contain voice recordings by Hannah Baker, a fellow student who overdosed on painkillers. Before ending her life, Hannah recorded these tapes to tell 13 individuals how they contributed to her suicide. Some of their infractions are huge - one is a peeping Tom, another the accomplice to a rape. There's no denying that some of these people have committed massive, life-changing, & perhaps unforgivable sins.

But the others? For the most part, they're just normal goddamn teenagers who hurt Hannah by, say, not really wanting to be her friend anymore. By putting her name on an undesirable superlatives list. But grabbing her butt once. By asking her for a ride to a party without really wanting to hang out with her. Hannah doesn't seem to be depressed; she seems vindictive & angry, sharing these stories as a means of perpetual emotional torment of those who hurt her - many of them unknowingly.

One of the girls Hannah accuses of contributing to her suicide is a girl whose rape she witnessed while hiding, drunk, in a closet at a party. Can you imagine the cruelty of telling someone they drove you to suicide by slapping you in the face once... when you could've stopped their rape, but didn't? Those are some seriously unequal actions - & that is some serious bullying, even in the afterlife.

And that, for me, is the crux of it: 13 Reasons Why represents a massive act of bullying & emotional manipulation. To accuse someone of killing you is, truly, the ultimate cruelty. That person can never apologize; they have to live with what they've been accused of for the rest of their lives. 13 Reasons Why tells teens that if they hurt someone, willfully or otherwise, & then that someone commits suicide, it is their fault. And that is patently not OK - nor is it true.

When someone chooses to end their own life, that's exactly the key: They choose it. 

Plenty of us - all of us, I'd wager to say - have been hurt by other people. Maybe we've been hurt to the point of agony, thought we'd never recover from it, that we might never feel OK again. And yet, most of us make the choice to push forward, to keep living - & in time, we learn to live with the pain we've experienced. 

In doing so, we begin to understand other people better. We begin to understand human nature, to see that we are more than what has happened to us & that, conversely, other people are more than what they've done to us. Imagine if something stupid you did as a 16-year-old turned out to be something you had to live with forever - if it was something that was said to have killed someone. 

I have never been as angry while reading a book as I was while reading 13 Reasons Why. For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone read this book or watched this show & saw anything except what I did. How could anyone think this story line was justified? How could this book make it to print, much less to its own hit TV show? How is this show anything but dangerous & damaging?

I know, I know. In choosing not to read this book until well after the hype surrounding the show had died down, my "hot take" is actually a pretty cold one since the show isn't a topic of conversation anymore. But you know what's always an important topic of conversation? Mental health. Suicide awareness & prevention. Depression. Bullying. All of this.

This book is trash. Period. It never should've been published. It does not deserve the attention & adoration its received in the media. It should not be on the air (errr, Netflix). It should be held up as a shining example of exactly how not to treat suicide.

Now you're probably going to want to read it, right? Don't say I didn't warn you. But seriously - if you want a great teen TV show, go watch Riverdale instead, or read literally any other book. Because this one is not worth the ink used to print it.

If you're struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with them online. They're available 24 hours a day, every day.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Happy 10 Years of Blogging - & More - to Me!

This week marks four very important 10-year anniversaries in my personal life - like, big ones. And they're all related. Bear with me for a sec, will ya?

Ten years ago this week, I graduated from college. 

It took me two schools & five years, but I made it, graduating the summer of my super-senior year with a bachelors of science in news journalism. The top of my cap read "THANKS, MOM."


Ten years ago this week, I left Ohio for the first time & moved to Washington, D.C. 

I'd lived there for a few weeks the summer before, solidifying my interest in moving there after graduation. And, OK, I actually moved into a room in a condo in Maryland with an hour-and-a-half-long commute into Dupont Circle, but it barely mattered. I was overjoyed to be in a big city, to feel free, to feel like an adult. I planned for D.C. to be a stepping-stone city on my ultimate path to NYC.


Ten years ago this week, I started working at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

It was a crazy job for me to have taken - for me to have been hired for - given that I didn't know a single thing about politics or even about Judaism. And yet, there I was, one of six recent college grads chosen for a prestigious one-year fellowship at a social action nonprofit in the heart of D.C., sitting in meetings on legislative policy & lobbying Congress on behalf of one million Reform Jews - with some of the best people I've ever met. The six of us became fast friends, & they remain some of my favorite people in the entire world.


And 10 years ago today, I started this blog right here.

Sure, it was originally called Suburban Sweetheart, a name that garnered me laughs from GoDaddy because it sounded so much like a porn site. Oops. I started it on a whim, knowing not a damn thing about blogging, because I wanted to be able to share my city stories more broadly than just posting them to my Myspace page. No really: My first post here was crossposted from Myspace.

All these things... they're related, really. Imagine: Within the span of a week, I wrapped up my existing life - finished my internship & graduated from college - & then moved to a big city on the East Coast to start my first adult job & meet an entirely new set of people.

They changed my life, all of them. The place, the people... they made me. When I first left Ohio, I planned to return, like, immediately. My D.C. job was a one-year fellowship, nothing permanent, & I I planned to move back to Ohio when it was over - to find an apartment in Cleveland & maybe try to work for Cleveland Magazine, where I'd interned before commencement. I was going to be a journalist in Ohio, obviously; this D.C. thing was just a quick detour on the path.

Except it wasn't.

It wasn't a detour; it was everything.

Here I am, a decade later, working for the same place, friends with many of the same people. Of course, so many of the details have changed: I did come back to Cleveland, albeit with a number of detours along the way. I spent four years in D.C., plus a year & a half apiece in New Hampshire & New Jersey. I briefly left my job for one I hated, & then I was hired back to my old one. I've lived in more apartments than I can count. I've been published - in a book & in The Washington Post, even! I've made new friends & lost old friends & fallen in love & out of love & in a better love. I turned 30 & lived with my mom again & settled into life in Cleveland & planned a wedding, and, and, and.

As with every life, there is just so much to tell.

And tell it I have.

In the 10 years that I've been writing here, I have published 1,140 blog posts in this space. Before I started blogging, I was, well, blogging. It just wasn't called that yet. I wrote on Xanga sites & a Myspace journal & in Facebook notes & in dozens upon dozens of old-school paper diaries. When I started blogging here, well, it felt like coming home - just like my move to D.C. did, like my job at the RAC did, like the life that I started when I started writing here did.

Life is very different these days, but it's also very much the same. Through it all, this blog has continued to serve as a sacred space for me to document & share my life - as much for & with you as for & with myself. Blogging may be dead, or so says the Internet, but my blog isn't. I have no plans to give it up any time soon.

Thanks for sticking around, friends. You make this space feel pretty darn worth-it - even after a whole freaking decade.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#IGoRTA: Gettin' Around Town the Easy Way (+ a Huge Cleveland Giveaway!)


Back when I lived in D.C. (man, doesn't that seem like a long time ago?), I didn't have a car. I relied solely on public transportation, taking the Metro & bus everywhere. I'm not a fan of driving, & if I'd had to so in D.C., I would've died of anxiety first.

Now that I live in Cleveland, I have a car, but I still don't love driving. Luckily, this city has a great public transportation system, & as I've gotten a feel for it, I've become much more comfortable using it to get around town. It saves me the hassle of driving & finding parking, especially in neighborhoods known for winding roads & lack of parking. Looking at you, East Side & Little Italy!

Speaking of Little Italy, I most recently took the Rapid home from the Feast of the Assumption, one of Cleveland's most delicious festivals. After shelling out for a stromboli, a cannoli, & a neon yellow rum drink, ain't nobody wanted to spend more money on a Lyft. We hopped on the Rapid for just a few bucks & headed out to Ohio City to continue the party. So easy - like my D.C. days!


The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority - more commonly known as the RTA - launched an app that makes it easy to plan your route & purchase your trip on the go. You can use your phone as your farecard. It launched to great fanfare this summer, given that RTA is a transportation option for so many major summer events: Think Edgewater Live, Wade Oval Wednesdays, & Tribe games.

Right now, RTA's partners are also offering discounts when you show your pass at purchase. Here are a few of the highlights:
  • $2 off admission at the Cleveland Zoo, Great Lakes Science Center, & Botanical Gardens
  • 10% off at Melt Bar & Grilled
  • 25% off a pastry or coffee at Blackbird Baking Company 
  • 15% off at Tremont Scoops
  • 10% off a purchase at the CLE Clothing Co.
  • 10% off your purchase at Fear's Confections
  • $1 off any hot dog at Happy Dog
You can also use the RTA site/app also plan your trip to get there. Their #IGoRTA page includes more info about discounts & trip-planning features, from bus to train to trolley.


I'm excited to partner with RTA & their many partners to offer a prize pack of Cleveland goodies to one lucky 216-loving reader. The winner will score...
As every Northeast Ohioan knows, Melt is one of the area's most delicious chains, serving grilled cheese creations that are also massive monstrosities (in the tastiest way possible). Thankfully, they sell their sandwiches by the half, which is plenty for me. My favorite is the Korean War Pig: BBQ glazed pulled pork, seared pork belly, kimchi slaw, pear/onion/cilantro relish, & muenster cheese. YES.

They also offer some Cleveland-centric sandwiches, including the Cleveland Cheese Steak, the Parmageddon, & the Lake Erie Monster. And the fries? Get the fries. With a side of BBQ sauce. And a beer.

As for Fear's, this Lakewood-based chocolatier made the transition from a home-based business to a Lakewood storefront in 2013, specializing in caramels, toffees, truffles, & turtles. They also offer "nerd candy," including the solid chocolates Millennium Falcons you see below. When I was last there, I got one of those for Mike, obviously - & chocolate-covered papaya for me.


OK, so you wanna enter? Duh, you wanna enter. For your chance to win:
  1. Follow me on Instagram at @heyescapist.
  2. Comment on this Instagram pic to tell me where you take RTA, or where it'll take you next.
  3. In separate comments, feel free to tag friends. Each one will count as an extra entry.
I'll select a random winner on Wednesday, August 30th, & I'll announce it by tagging them on Instagram & sending a DM. Soon, you could be eating your body weight in grilled cheese & chocolate - & taking a month's worth of free RTA rides to get to them! 


Thanks so much to RTA for sponsoring this post. I received a one-month RTA pass & gift cards to Melt & Fear's, as well as a prize pack to give away to one reader. All opinions are my own - now & always!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

11 of My Favorite Food & Drink Spots in Cuyahoga Falls


When I was growing up in Cuyahoga Falls, there wasn't a whole lot going on. That's not to say it was a bad place to live - I loved it then, & I still do now - but there weren't many activity options. My friends & I spent a lot of time at the bowling alley & the local Applebee's (which probably explains why my diet consisted largely of mozzarella sticks & chicken fingers until age 22).

These days, though, Cuyahoga Falls has become a bit of a hotspot. I'm always surprised when I meet people who work in Cleveland but live there for the fairly easy commute & the low property taxes; it seems like every other Lyft driver I chat with lives in the Falls, noting its inexpensive prices & close proximity to both Cleveland & Akron. In addition to - or perhaps because of - those qualities, the Falls has seen a recent boom in business. These days, its home to restaurants & bars I never would've imagined during its more podunk years.

I'm proud of Cuyahoga Falls (except for its heavily Republican voting record) &, having recently tried a few of its new spots, I wanted to show it off a bit. Here are a few of my favorite places to eat & drink in my hometown, spots that I hope you'll check out if you find yourself in the area or want to take a nearby day trip. The Falls just isn't what it used to be - in the best way possible!


The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery

Named to nearly all of Cleveland's "Best Of" lists, this spot is actually about a 45-minute drive from the CLE. Lucky for me, I visit CF often - & this is always my top request, especially when it comes to weekend brunch. Their menu changes regularly, but a few staples remain, including their massive, homemade pastries (I die for those croissants) - & everything is creative & unique, food you won't find anyplace else. Last time I was there, for example, I had freaking breakfast spaetzle. I'm always blown away by the fact that this restaurant exists in Cuyahoga Falls, of all places. (1970 State Rd.)


Burntwood Tavern

The CF franchise of this local chain has the best location in town, situated right on the Cuyahoga River in the former powerhouse of a river dam. From their patio & balconies, you can hear the falls rushing behind you (drowning out the sound of the highway on the other side...) & the original gears that moved the dam's doors now decorate the bar area. Their happy hour prices can't be beat: I'm a sucker for their margherita flatbread or their massive "tavern tots" with a Jack & Jill (blueberry infused vodka, muddled blueberries, & lemon juice) on the side. (2291 Riverfront Parkway)

The Cashmere Cricket

This little cocktail spot, located on Front Street, is so darn cute. Sure, the drinks are a little expensive - but they're also better than you're going to get anyplace else in the Falls. For awhile, they didn't really do food - but now they've got a robust menu of small plates that includes ricotta gnocchi, sauteed shrimp & chorizo, mushroom flatbread., & other tasty options. In warm weather, their patio can't be beat - & in colder climes, retreat to their cozy indoor couches. (2235 Front St.)

Craft Beer Bar

Though its name may not be the most creative, this place was, in my opinion, one of the first to begin to revitalize & invigorate the recent Cuyahoga Falls "craft" boom, in terms of both drinks and food. This small, local public house serves 30 craft beers on tap at any given time, rotating regularly with special events to boot, & their menu is simple but elevated (think poutine, flatbreads, cured meats, & even meatloaf). They're nearly always packed, so secure a reservation ahead of time. (1846 Front St.)
  

Crave Cantina

The Falls welcomed Latin fare to its local food scene with the recent opening of Crave Cantina, owned by the same folks who run Crave in Akron. Their taco-centric menu features unusual combos, like a flank steak banh mi taco & a coffee barbacoa duck confit taco, & they've even got two tasty vegan options: a Nashville hot tofu taco & a Chinese BBQ jackfruit option, both of which I love. They've got plenty of beer & margarita options, but my mom & I are thrilled to have Peruvian-inspired Pisco sours & chicha moradas just a couple miles from home. (2097 Front St.)


Darby's on Fifty-Nine

Formerly a biker bar of sorts called Frankie's, Darby's is now one of the hidden gems of the Falls, a tiny spot located at the edge of Route 59. It only has about 10 tables (plus a huge bar & a beautiful outdoor patio space), so you may have to wait - but it'll be worth it. Where else can you get scallop sliders & filet mignon tacos? (The answer, in the Falls, is nowhere.) My mom & I like to meet here for lunch, when their menu is similar but their prices are lower & the wait is shorter. (2764 Rt. 59/Front St.)

Flury's Cafe

This breakfast & lunch spot has limited hours & only takes cash, so plan ahead & bring your appetite with you. This is as close as Cuyahoga Falls gets to a Jersey-style diner, but it's done with simple elegance & none of those gross accents. This is the sort of place where you feel like a regular, even if it's your first time visiting - & you're treated like one, too. Try their breakfast quesadilla or their chorizo scramble. Or anything, really. (2202 Front St.)
  

Hibachi Japan

I actually haven't been to the new Hibachi, which recently relocated to a brand new building on the Riverfront. I have, however, had my fair share of meals at their original spot, just down the street, & I've heard that their food has only gotten better since then - which is a tall order, since it was stellar to begin with. Unrelated to the local chain of the same name, the CF Hibachi is beloved as a local prom dinner spot, date night option, & family meal locale all in one. (1803 Front St.)


HiHo Brewing Co.

A brewery in the Falls? A brewery in the Falls! Their new, industrial location is both spacious & gorgeous, & their homemade beer menu changes regularly. When they've got it, I love the SMASH German Pils, perfect for summer - & they've got a view of the river out back! Their food menu is limited mostly to snacks - charcuterie, hummus, hot pretzels - but everything's tasty, inexpensive, & enough to keep you satiated while you drink. Bonus: It's connected to The Social Dept., a hand-printed apparel company owned by two dudes I knew in high school. (1707 Front St.)


Moe's Restaurant

I haven't been to Moe's for ages, but I still think of it fondly because it's the first place where I ever ate crème brûlée, thus making the world a more delicious place to live. It's in a bit of a weird spot, nestled among car dealerships, but it's one of the Falls' best let's-get-fancy-tonight spots, with an ever-changing menu that ranges from elevated standard fare (grilled lamb with bacon jam, fig risotto, & heirloom carrots) to the regionally indulgent (potato pierogis with lobster & shiitake mushrooms). Leave room (& budget) for drinks, as their cocktail options are a thing of beauty. (2385 Front Street)

River City Bar & Grill

I couldn't leave my favorite dive bar off the list, could I? My college boyfriend was a bartender here back in the day, & I still freaking love this place, even after all these years. They have super-cheap drink specials (drinks on me, y'all!), & they actually have great food, too; try the wimpies, which are basically just sliders. Bonus: It's less than a mile from my mom's house, & it's next door to a 24-hour donut shop that lets you walk through the drive-thru. (2621 Bailey Rd.)

If you've been to Cuyahoga Falls, what's your favorite spot in town? Where should I try in your Northeast Ohio 'hood?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My 7 Necessary Self-Care Tricks for Busy Work Weeks


In a work meeting on Monday, one of my coworkers gave a short shpiel thanking all of us for the work we had already done this week & were preparing to do in the days to come. You see, I work for a Jewish organization, & in the wake of a rally full of literal Nazis, we had a lot of work to do: statements to write, members to check on, campaigns to get off the ground, content to prepare & share... we knew we had a long, full week ahead of us.

As my coworker spoke, she reminded us all to take care of ourselves personally while we were working so hard professionally. I chimed in with something to the effect of, "Self-care is important during tough times!" She rolled her eyes & responded, "No, it's not self-care, you millennials. Just do what you need to do to take care of yourself." OK, well, that's what I meant. Isn't that what self-care means?

I think self-care is important, & maybe it is a millennial obsession, but since when is focusing on our mental & emotional well-being a bad thing? Perhaps the generations before us don't focus on self-care enough!

Look, this week has been really hard. It's been a lot of work, & only a little bit of sleep, because when I'm anxious or busy, I don't sleep very well. It's emotionally grueling, too, to keep up with the news cycle when the news cycle is all about racism & anti-Semitism & hatred & bigotry & the list goes on.

Here's how I deal during difficult weeks:
  1. Keep easy food on hand. I don't really cook - like, at all. When I'm busy, I make even less effort, which usually results in ordering takeout or buying chips from the bodega down the street & subsequently feeling like utter shit. This week, wary of falling into that old trap, I ran to Target & bought frozen veggie burritos & a few Lean Cuisine pizzas. Are they the healthiest? No, but they're way better than ordering Domino's or binging a bag full of Cheez-Its - & they're just as mindless, so I don't have to put in much effort.
        
  2. Sneak naps on my lunch breaks: I don't usually take lunch breaks, actually, but on busy weeks, they're a must - & when I've streamlined a meal plan like that, I need less time for lunch, which means lunch breaks become nap breaks. Sometimes even 15 minutes of shut-eye can calm me down & rejuvenate me so I feel ready to get back to work. Perk of working from home!
        
  3. Don't underestimate the power of a shower. During particularly busy work weeks, I tend to work through times that should include taking a shower & sprucing myself up & becoming a real person. When I do finally take a moment to clean up, the result is almost always a complete 180. Even if it's temporary, it's important. Again: perks of working from home, I guess, though, is it a perk to not have to prioritize personal hygiene?
       
  4. Find a mindless TV show to binge while I work: I love to keep the TV on (or more specifically, my iPad), while I work, but I can only work through really brainless shows. I just finished the first season of the CW's Riverdale, a sinister take on the Archie comics, & now I'm back to watching season three of The O.C. Oh, & amidst it all, my guilty pleasure Bachelor in Paradise started, so maybe it's my lucky week, after all!
     
  5. Read a book: During weeks like this, I end of working well beyond standard office hours. Still, I try to take time for myself where I can, even if that just means reading a book during bathroom breaks or for a whopping five minutes before bed. Right now, I'm reading Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, a book of short stories that isn't necessarily light-hearted, but it is incredible, & it feels incredibly appropriate for the times, too. It's nice to get lost in something that's not work.
     
  6. Seek out support: This might seem like a no-brainer, but I think that I, at least, tend to forget about it or downplay how much it matters, especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed. I tend to think I ought to deal with it by myself - but why? That's what friends, family, & fiancés are for. When someone asks how I'm doing, I am honest without being a whiner or a downer, which opens the line of communication to talk a little bit about where I'm at & get a little bit of support.
      
  7. Know my limits: I've said no to a few things this week. I said I couldn't take on an additional project request from a colleague; I told Mike I needed to go to bed early instead of doing date night. I haven't bailed on everything, but during weeks like this, I try to pay attention when I'm feeling overextended, recognizing that time is a precious resource when things feel hectic. 
The world's a scary place right now, you guys. Take care of yourself. And tell me: How's your week going? How do you get through particularly busy weeks?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How the Charlottesville March Reminded Me of My Favorite Havdalah Service


“A good week, a week of peace. May gladness reign and joy increase…”

These are the words Reform Jews sing during Havdalah, the ceremony observed Saturday evening at sundown to mark the end of Shabbat. We gather together to sing and to pray, passing around a snifter of fragrant spices to soothe the soul as we say goodbye to Shabbat, the day of rest, and welcome a new week.

Joining in Havdalah services at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., made for some of the most powerful and profound moments of my Jewish experience. On Friday evening, as I watched videos of neo-Nazis wielding torches and chanting slurs at the Jefferson memorial in Charlottesville, I am struck by some of the parallels – and the vast differences those parallels present.

Read the rest of this piece on ReformJudaism.org.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Northeast Ohio Rocks: The Most Joyful Local Trend

We all know Cleveland rocks, but have you heard of Northeast Ohio Rocks? Apparently this is a trend that started in other cities, but the Northeast Ohio group was established in the summer of 2016 by a local woman named Nancy Powell. It's such a joyful, fun endeavor that I can't help but love it!

The gist is just that people... paint rocks & then hide them around the state. Simple & weird, right? But it's so cute. The painted rocks include a note on the back or bottom about the Facebook group, usually accompanied by a hashtag referencing the rock's creator. When you find a rock, you're supposed to post a photo of it in the Facebook group, using the hashtag so its original painter can easily follow its journey.

This activity is obviously great for families with young children, who paint rocks with their kiddos & take a few with them on family outings so they can both look for them & hide them. I don't have kids, but even as a childless adult, I'm having a lot of fun with Northeast Ohio Rocks, staying alert while I'm out & about as I look for my next find.

One day, as I was walking to my favorite coffee shop, I struck up a conversation with a little girl who lives a few doors down & is always rising her scooter around the neighborhood. "Have you found any painted rocks yet?" she asked me; she was upset that she hadn't found any yet. The next time I hid one, I made sure it was close enough to her house that she'd spot it - & she did! There's pretty much nothing as joy-affirming as seeing a little kid so darn happy.

So far, I've found three rocks: The first one was in the little garden area around a tree outside my favorite coffee shop; the second one was in a part next to my house; the third was atop the mailbox on a nearby street corner, & I found it was I dropped a package in the mail. I haven't painted any rocks myself, but every time I'm out & about in my neighborhood, I keep my eyes peeled for the next painted gem!

Have you found any rocks yet? If you live outside the NEO area, is there anything like this happening where you live?



Monday, August 7, 2017

7 Wedding Traditions I Just Don't Care About (& a Giveaway!)



Let's talk a little bit more about weddings!

First things first: If you're local & planning your upcoming wedding, you definitely want to check out Handpicked, A Bridal Event, an intimate, cocktail party-style bridal fair on Tuesday, August 15th at HiHo Brewery in Cuyahoga Falls. My mom & I will be there... & I have two tickets to give away, too! To be entered win, just leave a comment here saying you'd like to attend (be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field), & I'll contact the winner this Friday.

OK. Now let's talk a little bit more about weddings.

Weddings are absolutely mired in tradition, both of the longtime variety & of the "This is a brand-new trend, but we're going to act like it's been happening forever!" sort. I recently finished the book A Practical Wedding, which reassures brides- & grooms-to-be that we need not follow the so-called rules when planning our own big day. This isn't to criticize anyone who does do these or love them; I'm sure you don't care about a few of the things I do. I think it's interesting to see what does & doesn't resonate with individual people.

With all that in mind, I wanted to confess a few wedding traditions that I just don't give a damn about - & luckily, Mike feels the same!
  1. Cake: My mom insists we've got to have some sort of dessert at our wedding, but... why? Neither of us even likes cake, for the most part, or desserts in general. We looked into the idea of serving doughnuts from local biz Brewnuts, but the cost was a thousand dollars for 200 doughnuts, so that was an immediate no-go. We may still come up with a dessert idea, but if we don't? Oh, well, I say!
      
  2. Sitting on "sides": The idea of a bride's side & a groom's side during the wedding ceremony has always seemed like a bit of a foreign concept to me. I feel like most Jews don't do this at their weddings, & lately I've been to primarily Jewish weddings, so I haven't seen much of it. Why not just sit wherever? We're all there to celebrate the same love!
      
  3. A bridal party table: I've never liked the idea of the bridal party sitting at a head table, which inevitably means that bridesmaids & groomsmen have to sit away from their dates all evening. I want our wedding to be fun for everyone in attendance, & that means not abandoning their husbands, wives, & dates through the whole of dinner. [Edited to add: After posting this, I learned that Mike & I are not in agreement on this one. Whooooops. Looks like we may have a bridal party table after all!
      
  4. Chair covers: This is one that I don't entirely understand. I've never been to a wedding & thought, "Everything would be so much nicer if only these chairs were decorated!" I literally can't remember a single wedding where I've ever made note of the chairs at all, actually. So why spend money to cover them?
      
  5. Garter & bouquet toss: Again, these are traditions I haven't seen much of at Jewish weddings, & they've always seemed a bit old-fashioned to me. Someone is always made to be super uncomfortable (usually whomever ends up having to wear the garter), & it's all just too heternormative & awkward for me.
      
  6. A big exit: I've seen some cool wedding exits, like when my cousin & his wife paddled away in a canoe behind a stream of sparklers. Still, this isn't a tradition that matters much to me, & since we're having our ceremony & our reception in the same place, we won't need to do an in-between exit, either, the kind with bubbles or rice or butterflies or whatever. All the easier, I say!
      
  7. Honeymooning right away: It's stressful enough to plan a wedding; I don't want to have to plan my honeymoon at the same time! Mike & I are planning to do a quick winter getaway after the wedding itself, but we won't go on our "real" honeymoon until spring, when we've had plenty of time to plan, save, & relax after the big day - especially because my biennial work conference is less than a month after our wedding day! 
There are, of course, plenty of wedding traditions I do care about & am enjoying planning for. Check out my last wedding update (from June), a little bit about why I'm changing my last name, & a few Jewish traditions we're including in our wedding. With our wedding just about three months away, I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of almost-last-minute inspiration Handpicked, A Bridal Event provides me - & I hope you'll love it, too!

If you're already married, planning a wedding, or just considering your future options, tell me: What wedding-day traditions (or "traditions") do you just not care about?

Thanks to Handpicked, A Bridal Event for offering me two tickets for myself & two tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are my own! 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Return of Bear Bear: How My Instagram Pic Reunited a Kid with Her Stuffed BFF



I am 33 years old (as of yesterday!), & I still sleep with a teddy bear every night. His name is Jolly, & I've had him since I was 3 years old. You can see him in the photo above, sitting on my bed.

I don't sleep with Jolly because I need to - I can sleep just fine without him - but I prefer to. Just as some people hold onto a pillow at night, Jolly is the perfect size for me to clutch as I fall asleep. Plus, he's cute. When I was a kid, I called him my brother. (Any other only nerdy children out there? Holler.)

When I was a kid, my mom & I traveled to Disney World... & I accidentally left Jolly in our hotel room. I will never forget the devastation I felt when I realized I'd forgotten him, confined him to some dusty lost-and-found room until he was inevitably thrown out like trash; I sobbed for days. Conversely, I will also never forget the joy I felt, a week later, when Jolly arrived by mail, sent home by some kind member of the hotel's housekeeping staff.

About a week ago, I was on a walk around my neighborhood when I spotted a small, stuffed bear wearing a tutu, wedged into a chain-link fence so that it was propped upright like a tiny, welcoming ambassador. I snapped of a photo of it & posted it to Instagram, just a cute little find to share with the world:


A couple hours later, I got an Instagram DM from Emma, who lives on my street & is a barista at my favorite coffee shop. "Someone is looking for this bear!!!" she wrote, accompanied by a screencap of a post in our neighborhood watch Facebook group.

Whaaaat?!

I had inadvertently located a lost Bear Bear, some kid's beloved stuffed friend! Another resident had already posted a link to my Instagram photo in response to this parent's plea, but I followed up with the location of said stuffed friend (which I got by checking out the photo's metadata - thanks, Apple, for being both creepy & helpful). I crossed my fingers that Bear Bear was still there & waited to see if the original poster would respond with an update.

When I checked back the next day, Bear Bear had been retrieved, & its owner posted to the group with a note & a photo: Thank you so much Kate and everyone for your help. We have bear bear safely home! ❤️"


I wish you could see how adorable & happy this little kiddo looks, but far be it from me to be the jerk who shares a photo of somebody else's kid on my blog. Still, this should give you a bit of a feel for how freaking cute their reunion was. A day or so later, the original poster left a comment on my original Instagram photo, too: 
thank you so much for posting this!! This bear was given to my daughter on the day she was born and I was just sick when we thought it was gone forever. To tack on to your post- so maybe the bear was there as a friendly ambassador, but also as a sign that even in a place with a reputation for crime and misfortune, there are still good neighbors and great things happening all the time :)
I just can't express how happy it makes me to have been able to facilitate this reunion. May Bear Bear live a long & happy bear-life with this happy munchkin. Jolly & I wish you lots of joy together! 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Times When Money Can, Actually, Buy Happiness



A new study finds that money can indeed buy happiness - if you use it to save time. And a new study in my own life shows that this is indeed true, especially if I'm spending money to save myself the time & hassle of cleaning my home, something I haaaaate doing & am notably not-great at.

In my birthday wishlist post, I mentioned that I bought myself the gift of hiring someone to come clean my apartment. Mike suggested it, actually, & I was all in. Sure, we only moved in two months ago, but hardwood floors get dusty very fast, & our cats shed a lot, & our bedroom has carpet, &, well, cleaning is just not our strongest suit. Our home wasn't dirty, by any means, but it definitely needed some work... which neither of us felt fully equipped to do.

"Let's book it as soon as possible," he said. So we did.

I made an appointment online with Cardinal Maids, which I'd called once in the past but never actually used. There's a longer story there, one I couldn't share on the blog at the time: Basically, my then-landlord screamed at me & made me cry in front of the cleaning lady, & the cleaning lady gave me a big hug & a coupon for a future service before leaving (without cleaning my place, which is part of the long story). In short, it was a really bad day, & her kindness went a a long, long way - so when it came time to book a housekeeping service, I knew I wanted to go back to that company.

It was really easy to book online, & they have straightforward pricing that made clear exactly how much I'd be paying & for what. I also found a $30-off Groupon, which brought down the cost a little - though I knew it would absolutely be worth the full price.

The morning of my appointment, two cleaning ladies arrived a little bit before their scheduled time of 10:30am. They even called me to tell me when they were on their way! I was afraid it might be awkward that I'd be there the whole time, working from home, but they told me they'd clean my office last so that I could work throughout their cleaning. I put on a headset to take my morning call, & I mostly couldn't hear the vacuuming at all.

The whole thing only took about an hour because we didn't have them clean our guest room (which is still filled with unpacked boxes), & they didn't have to do much in the office (which isn't really set up, aside from two desks). They dusted, swept & mopped the floor, scrubbed the sinks & shower & toilet, & even took out the trash.

When they were done, I stood in my living room & basically just twirled around like a princess in love with her castle. Everything was so freaking sparkly-clean. There were no tumbleweeds of cat fur blowing in the ceiling-fanned breeze, no jam-like residue tracked in from the mulberry tree in our front yard, no slivers of carrots & onions on the kitchen floor that sometimes escape Mike's cooking creations. It was like our home was a hotel.

Truly, I can't explain how happy I was to stand barefoot on a freshly vacuumed rug, sunlight streaming through the windows, & take in this spotless apartment. Sure, it was an added expense - but if we have to cut back on a night out or a few frivolous purchases here & there to work it into our budget, so be it. What's extra income for, if not to make your life easier every now & again?

This is an expense I'm happy to pony up for. Because that kind of happiness? Well, it turns out you can buy it, after all.

Have you ever hired someone to clean your home? What's your favorite time-saving "money can buy happiness" indulgence, when you can afford it?

Note: This is not a sponsored post, & I paid full price (aside from my Groupon) for my service with Cardinal Maids. I just liked them so much that I wanted to raise them up! 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What I Read in July


Hello, hello, hello, & happy August! My 33rd birthday is in three days, & yet I spent most of July reading books written for seventh graders. I have no regrets. I read three books in one series (& am halfway through the fourth), but I managed to fit in three other books, too.

Know what I didn't read? Any of the three books I ordered from Book of the Month Club last month. Oops! I try to read one of them a month, but I have a bit of a backlog right now - which is fine, because it means I've always got something good in the queue. Today is BoTM's reveal day, so check it out if you're interested in getting new reads before they hit the shelves. My referral code will get you three months for just $30, plus a cute tote.

And now, onto the reviews!

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

This was a Book of the Month Club pick that I wasn't sure about. It's got a funky, bright cover, sure, but I feel like essay memoirs by hipster millennials are all the rage lately (saysas someone who wants to eventually write her own), & I just wasn't sure I wanted to bother. I'm glad I did because Koul, the daughter of Indian immigrants who's now a culture writer for BuzzFeed, has a funny, relatable voice & a lot of great stories. ★★★★★

The Gone Series (Book 1-3) by Michael Grant

I bought Gone, a dystopian YA novel, cheap from Loganberry Books - & immediately set to work tearing through it. The premise is that one day, everyone in town aged 15+ simply disappears - poof, gone. The result is a community full of youth in a beach town with a nuclear power plant at its center. The kids start gaining strange powers, the animals start mutating, & nobody knows what to freaking do. As soon as I finished Gone, I started on Hunger, which was even weirder than the first: talking coyotes, an abstract villain called The Darkness, a kind with a whip for a hand. And yet, I just could. not. stop, which led me to the third book, Lies. It was just as weird, & I loved it just as much. Must keep reading. ★★★★☆

A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene

Keene is the chill-bride mastermind behind the website of the same name, APracticalWedding.com, & boy, was this book ever a reassuring lifesaver of a read. It's all about the many options for throwing a wedding, including some I'd never thought of, & more importantly, it gives you permission to ignore everyone's expectations. There's lots of great - & practical - advice in here for a wedding that doesn't bankrupt you, turn you into bridezilla, or make you lose your ever-loving mind. ★★★★


True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner

As a true crime addict myself, I knew I wanted to get my hands on this non-fiction book, but what I didn't realize what that the author is from the Akron area. The book opens at a bar in Kent & mentions spots in my hometown. So weird! Renner investigates the disappearance of Maura Murray, a 21-year old nursing student who went missing in 2004 after crashing her car in a remote part of New Hampshire. Simultaneously, he tells of himself & his own life, including a lifetime of true crime obsession & how it affected his relationships, his family, & his mental health. ★★★★☆

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

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