Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Collective Apology for Millennial Jews on Yom Kippur


Yom Kippur is coming, and as if we don’t already feel plenty guilty during the rest of the year (we’re Jews, after all), this is the annual holiday when our communal guilt is amplified and on full display. 

Jewish tradition offers a prayer called the Ashamnu, a literal ABCs of all our sins throughout the past year. The Hebrew word Ashamnu means “we have trespassed” or “we are guilty,” and on Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, congregations say this prayer aloud together as we ask for forgiveness. Why recite an alphabetical listing of our sins as a group? Because Judaism teaches that none of us is solely responsible for such major trespasses. (I think the alphabetical thing is just for show.)

I’ve always found the Ashamnu to be one of the most powerful elements of the holiday, but I don’t necessarily relate to the vague sins outlined in the prayer, e.g., “We have been stiff-necked, we have acted wickedly, we have dealt corruptly.” Hey, Jewish tradition: Can we get a little bit more specific, please? I appreciate the idea of the prayer, but I’ve always wanted to drill down a little bit further. If I’m going to repent, I’m going to repent fully!


Keep reading on HeyAlma.com

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Best Thing You Can Do in Cleveland for $10


After reading a this post on fellow CLE blog The Beard & The Broad about how to host a Broadway-themed party, I headed over the the Playhouse Square site. I'm not a great party hostess, but I am a great lover of musicals & other live theater, & their post inspired me to check out upcoming ticket options.  

What a great decision. For just $100, I snagged two tickets apiece to five upcoming shows:
  • The 20th anniversary tour of RENT
  • Love Never Dies, the Phantom of the Opera sequel
  • Sara Bareilles's Waitress
  • The epic Irish dance show Riverdance
  • And one that I won't reveal here because I'm trying to surprise my mom! 
Did you know that Playhouse Square offers Smart Seats tickets to select shows for just $10 a pop? Sure, they're in the nosebleeds, but there's no such thing as a bad seat at the theater - especially for such a low cost. But you've got to jump on it quickly: They sell out! If you don't mind going to the theater alone or sitting separately from your theater-going partner, you'll have even better luck snagging a few.

In addition to the shows I mentioned above, this year's Playhouse Square docket also includes the Gloria Estefan musical On Your Feet!, my favorite Disney movie Aladdin, even an Elvis tribute... they're all coming to Cleveland within the next year, & Smart Seats tickets are available for all of them.

I've written about it here before, but it bears repeating: Cleveland has the second largest theater scene in the country - behind only Broadway itself in NYC! If you live here & you're not taking advantage of it, what are you waiting for?

 And no, this is not a sponsored post. I'm just easily excitable.

So go see something! See you at the theater, friends.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

7 Things I Watched While Waiting for the Return of Fall TV


When it comes to TV, the end of summer is kiiiind of the worst. It's that weird in-between time when summer's mediocre TV offerings have ended, but fall's premiere season has yet to begin. 

I'm stoked about tonight's premiere of Law & Order: SVU & Criminal Minds, & I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's two-hour premiere of season 14 of my forever-fave, Grey's Anatomy. Good TV is back! Here, though, is what's occupied my TV is the months since we've been apart.

Riverdale

How did I not know that this show existed? A million thanks to Brittny at Pierre Into My Life for recommending it as a perfect binge-watch. Though it's based on the colorful & light-hearted Archie comics, it's got a distinctly sexy, sinister twist - & yes,, somehow that works without being terrible cheesy or weird. Just... whoa, it's the best.

Bachelor in Paradise

This season of the show was, frankly, total shit - as though the bar was set very high to begin with. Of course, as headlines told us, production on the show ceased within the first 24 hours of filming, which shook things up, & the season never really found its footing. I do, however, love the Derek/Taylor pairing & now follow them both on Instagram, so hey, something came of this season.


#RealityHigh

This Netflix original movie was admittedly pretty adorable, a modern-day Mean Girls with a social media twist. Dani, a She's All That-style "nerd," starts dating her longtime crush... & quickly becomes the target of his beautiful, popular ex, who just happens to be a major Internet celebrity. Like every movie in this genre, it's got a heartwarming, teaching-teens-a-lesson-in-friendship sort of ending.


The Walking Dead

I stopped watching this show after Negan's brutal murders in the season 7 premiere, but then I kind of missed it, brutal murders & all. Unfortunately, I couldn't catch up because AMC doesn't allow for free streaming. Fortunately, the latest season is now on Netflix! Unfortunately, I guess I'm screwed when season 8 begins. Fortunately, it will eventually be on Netflix, too!

Little Evil

This movie, another Netflix original, was filmed in my neighborhood. Remember when I saw Evangeline Lily at my local Thai restaurant?! She plays a mother whose new husband (played by Adam Scott) can't seem to get along with her young son... probably because her son is the literal spawn of Satan. But fret not, this is a comedy - & a decently funny one, too, with an unexpectedly happy & adorable ending.

The People v. O.J. Simpson

Admittedly, this one took me awhile to get through, but only because I'm usually watching crap like Bachelor in Paradise. An all-star cast goes behind-the-scenes of a familiar story, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. & Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark - & everyone in it does a truly incredible job. I was in sixth grade when the O.J. verdict came down, so I never knew much about the case itself, which made the details of the show all the more fascinating.


The Good Place

I don't usually like comedies, but I do love Kristen Bell, so this one was a no-brainer. I'd seen the previews but for some reason didn't realize this show was already through a whole season! Eleanor Shellstrop ends up in "the good place" (some vague & hilarious approximation of heaven), despite the fact that she lived her life as a truly terrible person. Hilarity ensues. But really.

Which shows are you looking forward to this fall? And what tided you over this summer? 

Monday, September 25, 2017

How Contacting My Congresswoman Solved a Major Problem



Mike & I moved into our new apartment on May 1st, just a few blocks away from our old apartment. Our neighbor at the old place reminded us to please make the appropriate change of address with the post office, & I of course assured him I would. I did, too, & almost right away - but little did it matter, as, two months into our new living arrangement, Mike & I had yet to receive a single piece of forwarded mail.

Obviously, this was a bit of a problem. There was no way to know what mail we're not receiving, & though I tried to pick up our mail from the old apartment as often as I could, I knew things must be falling through the proverbial cracks. When a new tenant moved into our old place, I knew I had to move things along with USPS to figure out why we weren't getting our mail.

It was not an easy process. 

In early July, I went to three local post office locations, & at all three, I was told that I had to go elsewhere. Finally, I ended up at the main post office near downtown, which is not actually made for customers. I couldn't even figure out where to go in! I shared what I thought was a funny, if frustrating, Instagram story about the experience; I rang a buzzer & sat in front of three doors labeled by zip code & waited 20 minutes for someone to help me, Wizard of Oz-style.

The manager I spoke to was A) rude, & B) unhelpful, saying he couldn't figure out what had gone wrong but he would call me with an update. Did he ever call? Of course not. When I finally reached him by phone two weeks later, he told me, "Oh, yeah, I remember your case. What's the issue?" I explained again, & again, he said he'd look into it & follow up with me.

But fool me once, shame on you, & fool me twice, shame on you. I wasn't about to wait for this guy to get his act together.

Enter Congresswoman Marcia Fudge's office. Rep. Fudge represents Ohio's 11th district, which comprises my neighborhood. When a friend who works in politics originally suggested I reach out to my member of Congress's office, I thought I'd first give USPS the benefit of the doubt - but when that fell through, I decided to ring up Rep. Fudge's Cleveland office.

The guy I spoke to was immensely friendly, helpful, & trustworthy. Immediately, I had the feeling that he'd help me get to the bottom of it - & I was right.

Less than a week later, I received a call from the local acting postmaster himself, explaining what had happened, apologizing profusely, & assuring me that our mail would start being forwarded ASAP. He even gave me his direct line so I could easily reach him should the issue persist - though he swore it wouldn't.

It still took another week or so for us to start receiving our forwarded mail - but it did eventually come. We also received a letter from Rep. Fudge's office confirming their involvement in sorting out this issue - something I have no doubt would never have happened had I relied solely on the rude, derpy guy from the post office to make it happen on his own.

Congress is here for more than just taking away our health care. Make 'em do their jobs. They work for us! Have you ever contacted your Congressperson for help like this?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

#TheBigKaput: My Hilarious, Haunted Bachelorette Party


I wasn't planning to have a bachelorette party. All my bridesmaids except for one live outside of Ohio, & I didn't want to make my friends travel twice for me. On top of that, none of my bridesmaids or close friends know one another very well; they all come from separate parts of my lives, so they've heard about one another, but it's not like they're a tight-knit group. And I'm not really a penis-straws-&-sparkly-tiaras kinda gal, anyway, so I figured it was no big deal.

When my friend/bridesmaid Sammi came home for a baby shower earlier this year, she told me definitively, "We've all emailed one another. We decided we want to do a bachelorette party." Well, OK. Who was I to argue with that?!

I invited a small group - man, there were so many others I would've invited if we weren't trying to keep it small & manageable - but in the end the guest list was just eight of us, myself included. We decided on Savannah, GA, because it was driveable for three of my out-of-state bridesmaids, & it's a cheap, easy flight from the CLE.

I flew out on Thursday with my friend Lilly, the only other Cleveland attendee, & we did a little bit of wandering that night before staying in a cheap but adorable AirBnB. On Friday morning, we checked into our weekend AirBnB, a beautiful, historic house in Savannah's Victorian district - & then other guests started to arrive!

Sammi, who lives in Atlanta & has spent a lot of time in Savannah, organized most of the weekend - & she did such an amazing job.

On Friday, we spent a lot of time exploring the downtown area, walking down beautiful, park-lined Bull Street & stopping into random bars & shops, including the shopSCAD boutique. We sampled cookies at the Byrd Cookie Co. (those cheddar pecan biscuits!) & drank boozy slushies from Wet Willie's & ate free samples of pralines at the various "candy kitchens" along the riverfront. We toured the Prohibition Museum (including its awesome speakeasy!), & we drank beers & ate nachos & petted dogs on the patio at Moon River Brewing.

Savannah is a hot spot for bachelorette parties, but I didn't want the standard matching-T-shirts-&-a-sash-in-public kind of event. In fact, I told Sammi that if I spotted anything penis-shaped, our friendship was over - so, of course, she found a loophole. When we arrived back at the house on Friday night, she'd hung this hilarious, glittery, vulgar-but-true banner (which I made Lilly pose under with me, as she's newly engaged, too).


My maid of honor, Christina, made the banner you see in the photo at the top of this post, a whole structure made out of PVC pipes, decorated with streamers & the weekend's hashtag. We'd compromised on #TheBigKaput because we all agreed that my original suggestion, the hilarious #KateGoesKaput, sounded a little too much like a celebration of my funeral. "It sounds like we're ritualistically partying before we murder you," Sammi said, so I relented. How cute is this photo backdrop?! (And have I mentioned here before that my new last name will be Kaput? Yes. Kaput. It means "dead" in Yiddish.)


On Saturday morning, we hung out on the patio of our AirBnB (it had a koi pond!) then wandered a farmer's market on our way to brunch at B. Matthew's. A few of the girls got fried green tomato benedict, which made me desperately wish I liked eggs! (My breakfast burrito was killer, though, so I can't complain.) We did more wandering, then a little napping, then dinner at Jazz'd Tapas Bar, where we split a bunch of dips (including a freaking melted cheese platter) & our lovely, gregarious server gave me a free blowjob shot (because bachelorette party). Sammi subsequently took the least flattering Boomerang of me that has ever existed.

Savannah is an open-container city, so we took our drinks in to-go cups for the weekend's main event, a haunted tour of downtown Savannah... in a vintage hearse-turned-convertible. Our driver was "Peg-Leg Ron" (yes, he told us to call him that) & he did, indeed, have a prosthetic leg. He also had a Southern accent so thick I could only understand every tenth word or so - which made for a lot of laughter from us as he shuttled us around town telling (what I think were) ghost stories. Look at this thing!


Peg-Leg Ron made a stop at an old butcher shop where some man (allegedly) killed his entire family. We were pretty sure Peg-Leg Ron was about to kill us there - the whole place was in the middle of nowhere & doused in red light - but as he reminded us, eight strong young women could certainly have taken on one middle-aged dude with a proclaimed peg-leg. Once we relaxed, it turned out to be a pretty hilarious part of the tour, complete with more of Ron's dramatic Southern storytelling & a creepy impromptu photo shoot.


Ron dropped us off at Jen's and Friends, a tiny bar that specializes in over-the-top martinis. After a stranger let me try her drink (she seemed trustworthy?), I went with the oatmeal cookie martini, which came with an actual oatmeal cream pie on the rim. All their drinks are dairy-based, & by the end, they started to taste like the leftover milk in a bowl of cereal - except boozy. We ended the night at Rocks on the Roof atop the Bohemian Hotel, which had a great view that I couldn't exactly appreciate because by that point, I was, uh, no longer seeing straight.

The best part of the weekend, in my opinion, wasn't the booze or the food or the city or the beautiful AirBnB or the warm weather. It was the fact that these incredible women - some of my favorite people in the world - came together for the weekend, all in one place. I thought it would be uncomfortable to bring together people who don't know one another & to have to try to connect them - but I suppose I underestimated how great they are. It was incredible, truly, to look around the brunch table & see all these friends from different parts of my life all in one place, together, chatting & laughing & genuinely befriending one another.

I felt so freaking lucky, & it was easily one of the most joyful weekends of my life. I feel so honored that they did this for me, & that they'll all be there to celebrate with Mike & me come November.

Truth be told, we didn't take a ton of photos during the weekend. Why? Well, look, you know me: I love social media... but I love real-life more, & frankly, we were too busy having fun & enjoying one another's company to snap many pics. The ones I do have are plenty - & the memories I have of the weekend are more than enough.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Best of My Summer in the CLE


Labor Day marked the official winding down of summer, & the weather here in Cleveland has been surprisingly cooperative & appropriately autumnal. As we make the switch to a new season - with plenty of new things to lok forward to, including Mike's & my wedding! - I wanted to pay homage to a great summer. Here's a look at some of the best of the season.

Cleveland Flea

I only made it to the Flea twice this summer - once with my mom & once with friends - but I've got one more chance before the event shutters until next year. My mom & I scored a vintage typewriter that will make an appearance in November's wedding decor - & cost under $100!

Night Market

Unfortunately, the first Night Market of the summer was canceled due to rain, which means I only made it to one Night Market all year. I did, however, get to try red bean sesame balls for the first time, & they were delicious, so I'm going to call it a win.

Indians games

I hadn't been to a Tribe game since I was about 10 years old - & then, this summer, I went to three! Once was just Mike & me, once we went with his parents, & once we met up with a gaggle of friends. I can't remember if the Indians won 'em all, but root, root, root for the home team!


Harry Potter Fest

Unfortunately, this event wasn't what we hoped it would be - we ended up spending most of our time waiting in a very long line - but it was some awesome people watching. All the costumes! All the HP swag! Those terrible Jelly Beans!

Literary Cleveland Workshop

My friend Marchae & I taught a two-session workshop on building a better blog, held at Loganberry Books & attended by about a dozen enthusiastic potential bloggers. I was terrified to do this, but it turned out to be such a great professional experience.

Pennsylvania Getaway

Mike & I made the drive out to the middle-of-nowhere, PA, to spend two nights at the cabin in the woods where my cousin is a member of a hunting club. It was a slightly unorthodox vacation, but it was a good time. Beer darts, anyone?


Billy Joel concert

I've long dreamed of seeing my favorite musical artist live, & my mom & I finally made that dream a reality when we saw the Piano Man play at a jam-packed Progressive Field as a birthday gift to ourselves. An incredible show, as expected!

Cleveland Scene AleFest

Rescheduled for the end of July to the weekend of my birthday, this turned out to be a perfect way to welcome 33. We had (free!) VIP tickets, so we spent most of the day chillin' in the shade & drinking a variety of our favorite local beers.

Feast of the Assumption

While our partners were together at a bachelor party, a few ladyfriends & I got together for an afternoon at Little Italy's most delicious annual event, complete with cannoli, tortellini, & some serious stromboli.


Cleveland Asian Festival

This event was a lot like the Night Market, except during the day - & fortunately, far less crowded, which meant more food options for us. I gorged on noodles & pork buns, cleansing my palate with coconut water... straight out of a coconut.

Rooms to Let

This beautiful but controversial art installation featured artwork from dozens of local artists, done in & on the property of abandoned houses in Slavic Village. I blogged about my feelings about it, but I also really loved the art itself.

Newsies at Porthouse Theater

As a birthday gift, my mom got us tickets to see my favorite movie-turned-musical playing on the local stage. We started the evening with a boozy picnic on the Porthouse grounds, then enjoyed a little bit of outdoor theater on a beautiful, cool August night.


My bridal shower

I admit it, I didn't want to have one - but I'm so glad I did. Thanks to my wonderful Aunt Sarah for hosting the perfect little brunch-time event, attended by about 20 or so friends & family members. Hashtag blessed, indeed.


Jimmy Eat World show

In my first & only Blossom concert of the summer, some friends & I scored tickets to a Jimmy Eat World & Incubus show at Cleveland's outdoor venue (located 40 minutes away, in my hometown). I loved seeing my favorite band for a fourth time.

Tremont Polish Festival

This event was less festival & more food-in-a-church-basement, but when the food is this good, who's complaining? Mike & I visited twice, breaking our no-carbs-before-the-wedding promise in favor of a plate of pierogis & a bowl (or two) of Sokolowski's cabbage & noodles.


Taste of Tremont

This fun annual festival takes place on the street where we now live, & though Mike was out of town, some friends & my mom came over to enjoy the festivities.  After having our fill of food, we skipped the beer garden & enjoyed our own beer on the front porch.


Cleveland Blogger Meetup

I've been a Cleveland blogger for awhile now - & a regular old blogger for even longer - but this summer marked my first time meeting up with other Cleveland bloggers. We had a great time schmoozing & boozing at the new Hi & Dry in Tremont.

Labor Day cookout

Marking the unofficial end of summer, if not the calendar's end, this was the perfect day to have a few friends over for a low-key cookout with burgers & hot dogs on the grill in our jungle of a backyard - even if we did almost lose our cat.


I feel like this roundup still doesn't skim the surface of all the fun things we fit into this summer - lots of days of just hanging out or grabbing appetizers on a patio or checking out new breweries - but this is a pretty solid look at what my summer looked like. It was a great one - & now, onto autumn!

Monday, September 11, 2017

My 7 Favorite Podcasts for Fellow True Crime Lovers


It took me awhile to get into podcasts, but now that I've got the bug, I've got the bug. Granted, I still don't listen to a ton of them, & there's only one I look forward to every week, but I've recently binged a few that I thought were worth sharing. Awhile back, I wrote about my favorite overall podcasts at the time, but I've since listened to a bunch more - all true crime-related.

Just a note: I do not recommend listen to true crime podcasts while you're also reading true crime books. I was reading James Renner's True Crime Addict at the same time I started listening to the Accused podcast - & I started having a really hard time keeping the stories straight!

Without further ado, here are my favorite true crime podcasts. Have one to add to the list? Let me know so I can start binging it, too.

1. Serial

Look, I don't really need to go into Serial here, do I? I've already written an entire post about it. Suffice it to say that Serial was the podcast that got me hooked on podcasts, although like everyone else, I couldn't get into season two. Still, I'm hopeful that season three will bring me back.

2. My Favorite Murder

This is my favorite murder... podcast, that is. With new episodes every Thursday & new mini-episodes most Tuesdays, I get a twice-a-week fix that still doesn't feel like enough. Hosts Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark are hilarious, real, & not pretending to be big-time journalists or investigators - just your average, anxiety-ridden American women who have become obsessed with true crime as a means of survival. I'm going to see it live in Detroit later this month!

3. True Crime Garage

If Karen & Georgia are too off-topic chatty for you (a common MFM complaint), then True Crime Garage is your dude-led alternative. Nick & the Captain tackle a new case each week, sometimes extending in-depth cases by a couple of episodes. They're more committed to the details of each case, & to their credit, stay on-topic while remaining interesting, conversational, & occasionally funny, too. As a bonus, they recommend a beer at the beginning of the show & a book at the end of it.

4. Accused

This one-season podcast is a special project of the Cincinnati Enquirer investigating the murder of Miami University grad Elizabeth Andes, 22, who was found strangled & stabbed in her Oxford, OH, apartment. Though her boyfriend was tried for the crime (once in criminal court & once in a civil suit), he was acquitted both times - & police don't seem to be pursuing any other leads, though Enquirer journalist Amber Hunt uncovered plenty of them.


5. Someone Knows Something

It took me just three days to blow through both seasons of Canadian journalist David Ridgen's search into two unsolved disappearances. Season 1 delves into the 1972 disappearance of 5-year-old Adrien McNaughton, who was on a fishing trip with his father; Season 2 is about the disappearance of Sheryl Sheppard, 28, who disappeared in 1998 just says after her engagement was broadcast on live TV. A project of CBC Radio, this podcast features some of the best Canadian accents you ever did hear.


6. Criminal

In each episode of this podcast, all varying lengths (which I like - something for every situation!), former journalist Phoebe Judge tells the story of some crime or an element of one, but not always the "If it bleeds, it leads" kind; they're always a little bit offbeat, interesting, unique. The first episode, for example, is about death by... owl. Writes New York Magazine, Criminal "understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological."


7. Up & Vanished

What happened to Tara Grinstead? The high school teacher & local beauty queen from Ocilla, GA, disappeared without a trace in October of 2005. Without a shred of evidence, her disappearance became the largest case file in Georgia's history, which meant that documentarian Payne Lindsey had a lot to go through when he started this podcast. Crazy twist: Just as the podcast was about to end, the killer was caught, & the podcast continued in real-time, delving into his background & covering the grand jury trial.

Friday, September 8, 2017

What I Bought on Amazon: Summer Edition


If you're anything like the average millennial, you're probably buying things left & right from Amazon. Right? Well, Lacey at Perks of Being a JAP is, at least, & she just started a monthly series to share what's on her recently-purchased list. I'm not sure if I buy enough to link up monthly (a lot of my purchases are, say, kitty little & cat food), but I thought I'd kick it off with a summer roundup.

Twone White Cloud Magnetic Wall Key HolderHow cute is this keyholder?! It's easy to mount - it just stick to the wall - & it's a magnet, which means that to "hang" your keys, you just hold them up to the cloud & they're stuck. I haven't lost my keys since I bought it.

Mrs. Meyer's Apple Hand Soap: This stuff smells so goooood. I used it at a friend's place & decided I needed to buy a bunch of it immediately. I'm almost out, though, so another order is coming soon.

Sunjoy Grill GazeboI'm going to try to use this backyard patio gazebo, sans bright green top, as our wedding chuppah. Will this work? I have no idea. Hey, that reminds me: I should probably do a trial run of some sort.

Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Soft Waves Sea Salt Spray, Tropical Banana ScentI don't think this smells like banana at all - which is good, because that sounds a little gross, tbh. This used to be my go-to salt spray, but I recently gave it up in favor of one that didn't make me quite so tangly.

Dominique Longline Strapless Smooth Torsolette BraOooh, gettin' a little intimate here! I first tried on this corset bra at David's Bridal the day I bought my wedding dress, but it was a whopping $90, so I took a pass... & then found the same one online for just $35.

Quilled Paper Heart USPS Forever StampsDid you know you can buy stamps on Amazon? You can buy stamps on Amazon. I'm never going to the post office again. No, really.

Green Tea Extract Supplement with EGCGDoes this stuff work? I can't tell. Is this stuff safe? I don't know. As a known snacker, I bought it in an effort to curb my appetite, & I think it makes me feel fuller, but who can really tell?

IN'VOLAND Stretchy Long Sleeve BodysuitI blogged last week about my search for a plain, lack, long-sleeved bodysuit... & I finally found one! The problem, it turns out, is that I don't feel comfortable wearing a bodysuit, but hey, that's not Amazon's fault.

ArtToFrames 17x22" Satin Black Picture Frame: Apparently 17x22 is a really weird frame size? This was impossible to find, but it's all gonna be worth it when it arrives & I can frame my Madame Talbot's Whiskey Jack print.

GE 14404 Polarized Grounding AdapterThe coffee shop that I work out of a few days a week only has a few outlets, & one of them requires a three-prong converter so I can plug in my laptop. I was tired of asking the baristas to borrow theirs, so I finally bought my own. Lame? Probably. Useful? Very.

CAP Barbell Neoprene Coated DumbbellsI bought these 8-lb. weights to try to get my arms in shape before the wedding, but guess how many times I've used them? Yeahhhh.

LILBETTER Spaghetti Strap Boho Long Maxi Dresses: This was my first time buying an article of clothing on Amazon (am I way behind the times?!), which I originally read about on Lacey's blog. I love this dress, which is so flowy & cool - & it has pockets!

I may not do this link-up every month, but it's a fun every once in awhile to see what others are buying. Apparently my Amazon purchases are a little boring; I swear my across-the-web purchases are better! For example, this week I received a shipment of 10 lbs. of individually wrapped chocolate buckeye candies...

What have you bought on Amazon lately? What's next? 

My "What I Bought..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the products I discuss. If you buy an item 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 random stuff on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

On Being a Crazy Cat Mom


We were hosting a Labor Day cookout when it happened: Our cat, Helo, who had been social all day long, was suddenly nowhere to be found. He wasn't responding to his name or to the sound of my shaking a bag of his favorite treats. And perhaps most tellingly, our other cat, Dora, was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, meow-screaming as if to tell us that her brother had gone missing.

Our apartment isn't very big to begin with, & we'd closed off two rooms for the party (mostly to hide the mess). Within the space that was left, there were minimal hiding places: under the bed (which is pretty cleared out), in the closet (which I recently cleaned & reorganized), & in cabinets (which all have doors that pull outward, so a cat could hide in there but not get stuck in there).

We all agreed: Helo seemed to have escaped.

He must've gotten out, we reasoned, during all our back & forth between the back yard & the kitchen. We'd all been careful, but cats are silent ninjas; he could be anywhere by now.

Immediately, I set about doing the most helpful thing: sobbing. Yep, there we were, semi-drunk & surrounded by friends during a really lovely midday picnic, & I started bawling. How could I not? I mean, yeah, he's "just" a cat - but he's a cat who's my best little buddy. he's soft & pretty & indoorsy, &  thunderstorm was coming, & he could've been anywhere. Including gone forever.

Our friends sprang into action, scouring our apartment, our yard, the nearby park, & the surrounding areas for anywhere Helo might be hiding. We gave descriptions to neighbors, texted our upstairs duplex-mates to ask them to keep an eye out, & posted a photo in a neighborhood Facebook group. Mike put a litterbox & treats on the patio to try to help Helo recognize the scent of his home. All the while, I continued to cry uncontrollably while yelling my cat's name all around the damn neighborhood. Like a crazy person.

Exhausted, I returned home & looked around the apartment again, just in case. I returned to the only place with dark, hidden corners: the closet. I'd looked there three times already, but why not a fourth?

And there he was, nestled in a duffel bag & covered in winter scarves, his big green eyes staring out at me. I wept harder, this time with joy, as I shouted out the window, "I found him! I found him!" I was so embarrassed to admit that he'd been in the apartment the entire time - but I wasn't the only one who'd scoured our home & failed to find him in his very concealed hiding place.

He was terrified, though I'm still not sure what of. The dogs who'd been at the party earlier? He'd watched them through the window & hadn't seemed to mind. The loud radio playing out the bedroom window? He hadn't cared about it all afternoon. But something must've spooked him because he did not want to come out of his closet corner.

He's fine, of course, & so am I, if I little bit mortified by my reaction. "Were you really that upset?" one friend asked, when it was all over. Embarrassed as I was, yes, I was definitely that upset. As someone prone to imagining the worst-case scenarios, all kinds of thoughts went through my mind - & the prospect of losing my little dude was devastating. "LOST PET" signs always make me tear up, & I couldn't stop imagining being the person to hang them.

So after all that, Helo's safe at home, like he was the whole entire time - & I'm definitely buying a door for my closet.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What I Read in August


August was both a great & terrible months for books. Some months, I feel like I just can't get into the swing of things, like every book I read is good but not great - not the kind that keep you up late at night racing through pages just to see what happens next. At the start of August, nearly everything I read felt that way, & it was exactly the reading rejuvenation I needed. 

Unfortunately, every rose has its thorn(s), & in August, I also read my two least favorite books of the year thus far - & maybe ever. I hated one of them so much that I wrote an entire blog post about it. But let's pretend like those books never even happened, OK? 

On a happier note: I just picked out my next book from Book of the Month Club! I've been eagerly anticipating Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere (her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was my favorite read of 2016), so I was excited to make that my BoTM pick. I also added Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air, which I've long been wanting to read. Check out BoTM if you're interested in getting new bestsellers before they even hit the shelves. My referral link will get you three months for $30, plus a cute tote.

What'd you read in August? What's on your to-read list? I wanna talk books!

Amy: My Search for Her Killer by James Renner 

This was my second book by local crime writer James Renner, this one investigating the 1989 disappearance of 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic. She was taken from a Cleveland-area shopping plaza by an unknown man who lured her in by posing as her mother's coworker & promising to take her shopping for a gift for her mom. Her body was discovered three months later, devastating then-11-year-old Renner; her killer has yet to be identified. ★★★★★

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

I'd been on the library's waitlist for this book for months, so when it came in, I dropped everything to read it. Dimple & Rishi, the children of Indian immigrant parents, meet when their parents conspire to introduce them for the purpose of a potential arranged marriage. Independent, Americanized Dimple is not having it... but as is the case in adorable YA novels, she starts to come around. This is a cute story that addresses more serious issues, like parental expectations, cultural connections, & modern love. ★★★★★

There Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Last year, weirdly, I read not one but two books about school shootings; this was my first of 2017. It's told from the perspective of four high school students, two trapped in the school auditorium during a massacre & two trying to help from the outside - & one is the sister's shooter. It was bone-chilling & well-written, & toward the end, it brought me to tears. ★★★★★
 

Finals Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy, Samantha, & Lisa are accidental media darlings, dubbed The Final Girls because they were each the sole survivor of some horrible massacre. When Lisa commits suicide, Sam shows up on Quinn's door. Soon, though, their relationship turns volatile, & Quinn isn't sure who she can trust. I literally stood in my bathroom reading this book at 2am so I could finish it; it was full of so many twists & turns toward the end that I had to find out how it ended. ★★★★
  

Before He Feels by Blake Pierce

This is book six in the trashy crime series I've been reading all year. In this one, rookie FBI ingenue Mackenzie White is tracking down a perp in Virginia with a strange M.O.: He's only killing blind people. I enjoyed this one as much as the others, but I was frustrated by the author's seeming lack of knowledge about how to appropriately discuss blindness - or disability in general. Would it have been that difficult to consult someone about whether or not you were being politically correct/polite? ★★★☆☆

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

I loved this book for, like, 90% of my reading of it... but I was so freaking angry about the ending that I ended up hating it. It felt so tacky & cheap & demeaning & made me so mad that I'd wasted my time. Before that, it was about two women who become friends despite the fact that one is secretly sleeping with the other's husband - or is it a secret at all? She begins to wonder what's happening in her friend's seemingly tumultuous relationship. But again: Though I can't say why without a total spoiler, I hated this book by the end. ★★☆☆

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

This took me a little while to read because it's so heavy that sometimes I just had to put it down for awhile. At the same time, each of the short stories within it is so compelling, so darkly powerful, that it's hard to walk away from. Gay weaves the fictional stories of women who society deem problematic but who readers - presumably a lot of so-called difficult women themselves - will see as complex, thoughtful, & multitudinous. From the first story to the final, there's not one in the bunch that I wouldn't recommend. 
  

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I've had this book on my Kindle forevvvver, but it didn't appeal to me until I started seeing other bloggers' positive reviews. It was a light & easy read, emotional but not too painful, telling the fictional story of the very real "orphan trains" that, around the turn of the 20th century, took orphaned children across the country to be adopted - whether by loving families or by cruel individuals looking for free labor. It's interwoven with the story of a modern-day foster teen named Molly who befriends 91-year-old Vivian, a former orphan train child. 
  

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

As someone who spent nearly a decade trying to convince myself that I didn't cause someone's suicide, just take a second to imagine how I feel about a book about a dead girl telling her peers exactly what they did to "make" her kill herself. I can barely explain how angry this book made me, but I did write an entire post about it. This premise is so wildly irresponsible & just not OK; same goes for the show, which I didn't watch & now absolutely won't. ★☆☆

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.

Friday, September 1, 2017

On Knowing My Style & Not Wearing Clothes I Hate (Plus: A Look at My Bridal Shower!)



My bridal shower was last Saturday, hosted by my Aunt Sarah & held at Toast in Gordon Square. It was a difficult time to plan an event - the last weekend of summer, when tons of people are out of town - but we were still joined by about 20 of my friends & family, including three of my aunts, my best friend who drove up from Tennessee, & a bunch of my mom's friends who I've known for years.

It was a great day, complete with lox & rosemary/sea salt bagels from the Cleveland Bagel Company, pretty little petit fours (with edible glitter!) from The BonBonerie in Cincinnati, & two sets of dishes that came in boxes featuring hilariously large photos of Gordon Ramsay's face.

So what does all of this have to do with the title of this post - about fashion & my sense of style & wearing clothes I hate? OK, OK, I'm getting there.

Originally, I bought a dress from Target's Ava + Viv line to wear to the shower - a bright pink floral maxi. It was flowy, colorful, & summery, perfect for an end-of-August event, though I was surprised I actually liked it because, if you know me at all, you know pink is not my jam. Literally, this would be the only article of pink clothing in my closet. But when I tried it on in the store, it seemed like the right purchase.

The night before the shower, though, I tried on the dress again... & hated it. For starters, it didn't fit as well as I'd remembered. It was a little too big, my bra slightly visible at my armpits, & my bra straps showed at the shoulders, where the dress thinned into ribbons. Worst of all, though, it just didn't feel like me. I felt like I was prepping for my bat mitzvah, sporting a stuffy dress made for someone else's style, & I started to have visions of myself feeling super uncomfortable & awkward at my own wedding shower - an event that I was already feeling a little bit uncomfortable & awkward about to begin with (hello, center-of-attention status - yikes!)

I texted my mom, who of course loved the look. "WEAR IT," she commanded, but I knew that, if I didn't feel like myself, I wouldn't fully enjoy the day.


Immediately, I got to work trying on every dress in my closet. Unfortunately, I've gained a bit more weight in the last few months (ideal right before my own wedding!) so not all of my go-to dresses fit comfortably. I tried on eight to 10 dresses... & nothing seemed right.

Finally, I landed on one outfit I  loved (& the dress was even white!) but it seemed too casual. In retrospect, I could've worn this - it's not like I threw a cocktail party - but at the time, it didn't seem like the right outfit for the occasion. My mom's text response, an uninspiring "Eh," wasn't a huge vote of confidence, either - though I'm definitely going to wear this combo someplace else in the near future. (Probably not to hang out with my mom.)


So what to do? Wear the dress that was right for the occasion but not right for me, or wear the definitely-my-style outfit that might not be right for the event?

I posted in a Facebook group I'm in filled with other women who are working their way through the Feel Good Dress Better workbook, created by Nicole of Writes Like a Girl. They shared some feedback & lots of support - but I still fell asleep wracking my brain for possible outfit options for the next morning...

...& then I woke up with the perfect thing in mind! I took my Macy's INC jumpsuit out of the dryer & paired it with gold sandals I bought long ago for a trip to Vegas, plus a simple gold rope necklace I got on the cheap this summer a Cleveland boutique called Banyan Tree.

Voila! Suddenly, I felt like myself again - albeit a casually-dressed-up-for-my-own-party version of myself.


This third outfit felt very me, & it was definitely dressy enough. It seemed to go over well with everyone else, too - even my mother. My aunt has a very classic, preppy, pretty-in-pink style, & once she complimented me on my all-black-&-gold outfit, I think my mom had to relent, too. My aunt told me she saw the photo of the pink dress & didn't like it. See?! It wasn't just me who thought it just wasn't me!





I'm glad I listened to my instincts & didn't wear a dress that felt too far from my style - but also that I resisted the urge to wear something that wasn't right for the occasion. I know I would've felt uncomfortable in both of the first two outfits: one because I didn't feel like myself, & the other because I would've been self-conscious about feeling underdressed.

I think the end result was a good one, & I'm proud of myself for listening to my style.

But wait, wait - does this mean I maybe, finally, actually have one?!

Another style post to come very soon...
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