6 Small Goals for December

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Just like everyone else, I'm stunned that it's already December. Is this what adulthood is like? The year just zoom on by? Cue the Amy Grant.

As we head into the final month of the year, here's how I did on my November goals:
  1. Relax. Honestly? I did a decent job of this but not well enough to cross it off the list. I had a few crazy weeks of work, & even on vacation, I was stressed out & uptight. I didn't schedule the massage I'd hoped for (it's next week), & I stayed up late working on more than a few last-minute deadlines. How am I so bad at relaxing?
  2. Finish my holiday shopping. Yesss, I nailed this one, & I'm so proud of myself! You can read about it in this post. The only thing I haven't done yet is to put together my gift for Mike's aunt & uncle, a basket of local foods, but you can only put that together so early, you know? Holiday shopping soooo close to done!
  3. Cook more. I didn't do a great job of this, but I would say I accomplished it. I started making tostadas with gallo pinto, although Mike made the gallo pinto; I baked pumpkin banana bread & made no-bake peanut butter energy bites. And even when I wasn't cooking, I was making, if that makes sense. I had lettuce wraps for lunch, tortellini for dinner, etc. etc. Lots more eating at home than usual.
  4. Do the laundry in a more timely fashion. Accomplished, for the most part. I think I only had to re-do one or two loads of accidentally-left-overnight laundry all month long. 
  5. Go to 10 Harness Cycle classes. Nope. During those busy first two weeks of the month, I I ended up canceling two classes at the last minute, & I was out of town for a full week. I only made it to a total of seven classes in November.
  6. Consume less sugar. Total fail. I forgot that I even set this goal. I did, however, eat significantly healthier this month than usual. 
OK, OK, so this was my worst month in a long time, when it comes to achieving the goals I'd set for myself. Here are some much more achievable (I hope) goals for the month of December:
  1. Get an oil change. Dude, I neeeeeeeed to take better care of my car. I have not been getting regular oil changes, & that needs to change, like, now.
  2. Starting using the Calm app. On Black Friday, I paid for a discounted, year-long subscription to Calm, a meditation & sleep app. I haven't used it much in the past, but I'd like to get in the habit of using it regularly - or at least exploring its options. 
  3. Complete my sleep study. It's here, it's here! OK, it's almost here: My 24-hour (!) sleep study has been rescheduled twice & is finally happening this Sunday. I'm dreading the sorting out of health insurance mess that comes with it, but I can't wait to get answers about my sleep disorder(s). 
  4. Get (or at least schedule) a haircut. It's been almost a year since I last got my hair cut, & man, I look bedraggled. I don't really have a go-to stylist, so it seems like a pain to figure this out, but it's probably more of a pain to look as gross as I do.
  5. Search for a new therapist. I won't get into this except to say: It's time. It's apparently, like, borderline impossible to find a therapist, but I've got to try. Cleveland friends: Any recs?
  6. Successfully host Christmas dinner. In the past, Mike's family has done Christmas at his grandmother's house. Sadly, she passed away last weekend, & we have offered to step up & take on the Christmas celebration. It will be so hard without her here - but I hope we can do justice to the holiday in her absence.
What are you December goals? Do you set new year's resolutions, & if so, are you planning them already? I think I may just stick with the small, monthly goals in 2019... 

What I Read in November

Monday, December 3, 2018

Hello, December! I probably won't hit 100 books this year, & that's OK. I'm trying to focus on quality over quantity, reading things I enjoy & want to be reading, instead of trying to reach a particular number. Sometimes I find myself looking at read-time estimates & going "Seven hours?! No way," then ditching long reads in favor of shorter ones. I don't want to do that anymore!

Incidentally, I mostly only finished short reads this month because I was stressed & wanted a mental break. But they're what I wanted to read, so it's OK. Going forward, I just want to be sure to pay attention to my reasons for reading so that I don't overlook great long reads in favor of shorter ones that will boost my "numbers."

Reading isn't a competition, with myself or anyone else. 

Anyway. Onto my November reads.

Before He Preys by Blake Pierce

I can't believe I've made it all the way to book nine in this very cheesy crime series, but man, these books are perfect when I need a quick & easy escape. I get through them quickly but enjoy them, even if they do seem to be riddled with typos. Hire me as an editor, bro. This one is about a case in which someone is stages murders to look like suicides. ★★★☆☆

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

I think Albertalli is one of my favorite writers. I've loved everything I've ever read of hers, & this might've been the best yet - which is saying a lot, given how much I loved Simon versus the Homo Sapien Agenda. This book is loosely set in the same universe - it's all about Simon's best friend's cousin, Molly, so he makes a brief appearance - which was a cute revisit. Molly is 17 & has never been kissed, though she's prone to intense crushes. Her twin sister tried to set her up with cute guy... just as Molly starts falling for her nerdy coworker. Can she follow through on either? ★★★★★

The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner's Guide to Getting Good with Money by Chelsea Fagan

This book was a good start for learning more about financial literacy & getting some good ideas about savings, credit card usage, credit scores, & the like. Unfortunately, it was far too simplistic on some topics & way too complicated on others. It also veered weirdly off-topic into areas like wardrobe selection & cooking, even going so far as to include recipes. I understand what they were going for, but I have cookbooks for that; I wanted more of the financial help! ★★★☆☆

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

The world feels gross & overwhelming right now, & so I wanted a lighthearted read to get my mind off of it. Enter Meg Cabot's 2001 hit, later made into Anne Hathaway's big break. When New York native & noted dork Mia Thermopolis learns that she's the heir to the Genovian throne, her first instinct is to keep it secret. When she's outed by way of a front-page news story, her life changes... in surprisingly very normal ways. Unsurprisingly, this book is adorable & was the perfect antidote to my stress. ★★★★☆

Dawn and the Impossible Three by Ann M. Martin

This title is a bit of a misnomer, as it wasn't the three kids who were impossible; it was their scatterbrained & irresponsible mother, who left a 12-year-old babysitter to watch her kids, clean her house, & basically sort out her entire life. One of the kids was freaking kidnapped because she was so scatterbrained! You guys, this book was incredibly dramatic.

My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir Through (Un)Popular Culture by Guy Branum

I first heard of Guy Branum when he appeared as a hilarious guest on My Favorite Murder, so when I saw that he was coming out with a memoir, I got on the library's waitlist, stat. What I didn't expect was the level of intelligence behind Branum's humor. He's not just a comedy TV writer; he's also a lawyer & an all-around brilliant dude, thanks in part to his life growing up as a weird, dorky, closeted gay kid in a podunk southern town. He's a fascinating, funny guy, & this book was a delight. ★★★★☆

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

I hated this book. It seems to be so well-loved that I thought I'd give it a try, even though I could've known by the touchy-feely title that it wouldn't appeal to me. I didn't know who Hollis was, but I also feel like I somehow should've realized that she is a Christian woman writing for a Christian publishing company & that this book would contain a great many eye-rolly platitudes, Jesus-loves-yous, & statements of unchecked privilege that are just not my jam. ★☆☆☆☆

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I thiiiink I liked this one, but it wasn't necessarily memorable. I'd read that the plot twist was incredible, but I saw it coming halfway through. Still, I enjoyed the reveal. The main character, Cadence, comes from a wealthy family headed by an aging patriarch who pits his three daughters against one another in competition for his money. Every summer, the whole family gets together on Beechwood, a small island he owns - but one summer, something terrible happens. So why can't she remember it? And why won't anyone just tell her? ★★★★☆

Tell me what you're reading, then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past. You can also follow my bookstagram account!

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.

How To Get All Your Holiday Shopping Done in a Single Day

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Pinecrest, with whom I am partnering for a holiday series. 
I have been compensated for my writing, but as always, all opinions are my own. 

One of my November goals was to finish all my holiday shopping before December even started. I'm happy to say I accomplished that goal by employing a two-pronged tactic: snapping up some handmade items over the course of the summer & fall, as I spotted them, then doing a final gift push at Pinecrest, a new mixed-use district in Orange, OH - about 20 minutes from me.

I am not one of those people who loves shopping & wants to do a ton of it, so I love places like Pinecrest, where I can do it all at once. This year, Hanukkah starts December 2nd - hey, that's tomorrow! - so I really needed to get things done early.

What stops were on my list? Some of the best! Here's how to make a perfect shopping day of your time at Pinecrest.

Fuel Up for the Day

Start at First Watch, an Ohio-based breakfast & lunch chain that opens bright & early at 7am. I've been trying to be healthier these days, but let's be real: I am particularly enamored of their Million Dollar Bacon, hardwood smoked bacon with brown sugar, black pepper, cayenne, & maple syrup.

Look at a Little Bit of Everything: 

I wrote about Laura of Pembroke a few months ago, after I attended their grand opening, & I've been back a few times since to pick up wedding gifts for friends. It's the perfect spot for hostess gifts & the like, so it was definitely at the top of my list of places to stop this holiday.

Laura of Pembroke has a gorgeous holiday display up - both Christmas and Hanukkah are represented! - & as always, they've curated a beautiful array of gift items.This is the perfect mother-in-law spot... or the perfect buy-something-for-yourself-while-you're-at-it spot.

Grab Gifts for Your BFFs

Pinecrest is full of independently owned women's boutiques, the kind that are perfect for grabbing gifts for your friends or your mom or your cousins or your sisters. I won't tell you what I got for my sister-in-law, Maggie, or for Mike's cousin, Clare, but suffice it to say I did plenty of wandering & left with more than a few goodies.

The Pinecrest store marks Thread's third location. Their grand opening is this weekend! 

Vernacular has five Ohio locations, plus one apiece in Texas & Georgia. 

Blackbird Fly recently relocated from its original Ohio City location.

Gracy Lane also has a location in one of my favorite NEO small towns: Kent, my alma mater! 

Do the Corporate Thing

Pinecrest is home to a Pottery Barn, a West Elm, & a Williams-Sonoma, which I just learned are all owned by the same company - which means they all use the same rewards system! I stopped into all three, picking up a couple of ornaments for Mike's & my Christmas tree (including a small, beaded menorah) & a couple small gifts for both him & my mom.

I signed up for their rewards program to earn 3% back in rewards - & with sales factored in, a $100 purchase went down to less than $80. Deals, y'all! (P.S.: How is everything in those stores so darn Instagrammable? That is some skill.)

Taco 'Bout it Over Lunch

The new Condado Tacos is now open at Pinecrest, & I can't believe I'm telling you to go there instead of Shake Shack, which is down the road, but... y'all, Condado is freaking delicious, & if pressed, I've gotta go with a locally owned chain rather than a national one.

Yes, Condado has feels similar to another particular local taco joint - but if I'm being honest, I like it a little better. It's bigger, so I feel less claustrophobic, & everyone who works there is so nice - & ohhh, the food. Their elote queso is the best I've ever had, & I love how many vegetarian proteins they offer, including Thai chili tofu & BBQ pulled jackfruit.

P.S.: Take a selfie in the bathroom, obviously.

Stock Up on Stuffers: Sweeties Big Fun

This spot is a hybrid of two beloved local brands: toy store Big Fun, whose Coventry shop closed earlier this year, & b.a. Sweetie's, a massive candy emporium in Old Brooklyn. Together, their new location features all things quirky, jokey, & sweets-based, like old-fashioned & unusual candies (Strawberry Whoppers, anyone?), pop culture-themed card decks, a myriad Mad Libs options...

Mike & I keep our stockings chill, but I did grab a few goodies to include in his on Christmas Day. And the week before Thanksgiving, I popped in here & bought a pack of drinking cups featuring different noses - so when you take a sip, it looks like you're wearing some weird nose on your face. Hilarious, right? OK, I thought so!

Get to the Love Shack, Baby

I'm betting my husband won't read this blog post, which is good, because I'm about to tell you about one of his other stocking stuffers: a gift card to Shake Shack. The Pinecrest location is the only one in Ohio, so the lines are always long - & even though I was still stuffed from Condado, it was a struggle not to want to eat a second meal at Shack Shack, one of my all-time faves. They even have a Christmas cookie-flavored milkshake! 

Pay Tribute to Our Great State

My father-in-law did both his undergrad & his dental degree at Ohio State - sorry, sorry, The Ohio State University - so I headed to Homage to grab a gift for him. All I can say is that it's scarlet & grey, as is the custom of our state, even for those of us who have never set foot on the OSU campus. Homage has everything you need to, well, pay homage to the Buckeye State. 

Donut Worry about Calories

OK, so I didn't get a milkshake at Shake Shack, but I did end my trip with a visit to Duck Donuts' first & only Northeast Ohio location juuuust to see what it was like. I asked an employee for her recommendation & went with it - vanilla coconut - but then added Christmas sprinkles. You guys, have you ever had a warm donut? No? Well, you've gotta have a warm donut.

There are plenty of other places at Pinecrest I haven't yet checked out, including gyms, a movie theater, a gorgeous spa, a spankin' new Whole Foods, & a restaurant with a bowling alley. Do I need to go back? Big yes. Anyone wanna go make candles with me soon at The Candle Studio

OK, OK, that was a really long post, I know. If you made it this far (did you make it this far?), hugs & kisses & an A+ thumbs-up to you. At the end of the day, I was proud of myself for knocking out all my holiday shopping before the holidays started - & before December even began.

Now, all my goodies are hiding in a big box in my office, waiting for the next big feat: wrapping them all. Dun, dun, dunnnnnn.

Where do you do your holiday shopping? What's your favorite stop at Pincrest? How much do you love Shake Shack? 

Other People's Comments about Myself that I've Too Long Believed

Friday, November 30, 2018

I recently finished Rachel Hollis's Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be - & I absolutely hated it. More on that to come in my November reads post, but it did get me thinking about what lies I've been believing about myself.

I want to be very clear: If you are one of the people who said these things to me, please don't feel like this post is an affront or an insult to you. It is not. I know that, for the most part, none of these things were said in cruelty or with malice. We can never know what we say that will stick with other people in the long-term, what will make an impact.

These are the things that have made an impact - & that I am trying my damndest to let go, some of them decades later.

"You look so funny when you dance."

A friend told me this when I was approximately 8 years old & we were rocking out to the B-52s while wearing our favorite Power Rangers T-shirts (yeah, we were weird kids). I was devastated. I'd taken dance lessons my whole short life, & while I was under no illusions that I was particularly talented at it, I did think I was a decent casual dancer, & hearing otherwise broke my heart.

Following that comment, I didn't dance for nearly two decades - no joke, not even for fun or as a joke. In recent years, though, I've discovered that I looooove to dance at weddings & don't give a flying you-know-what how dumb I look. It's fun as hell.

"You look nicer on the weekends than you do for work."

A coworker (whom I adore) said this to me not long ago on an emergency weekend video call. I'd just rushed back from being with friends, & I was dressed normally - jeans & a sweater, hair down, eyeliner on. Lately, though, I haven't been dressing up much for work or wearing makeup often, & when she said this, I started to feel bad, anxious. Do I look gross at work? Does it seem like I don't "try"? Should I be embarrassed of my workday appearance? Am I letting myself go?

But I keep reminding myself: I don't owe anyone a particular version of my face - not during the work week, not on weekends, not ever. If the version of my face that you see is one with makeup, so be it; it doesn't mean I value you or our meeting circumstances any more than when you see me bare-faced. Period.

"You don't seem to be holding back when it comes to food."

This is one of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said to me, & it was said in such a cheerful, casual, off-handed way that I did the aural equivalent of a double-take to be sure I'd heard it right. I was sitting in an NYC courtyard with a friend, discussing my recent weight gain - at the time, I was at my heaviest - when she commented on my Instagram.

Even now, years later, I think of this statement whenever I'm about to post a photo of something decadent online. How will it cause people to judge me & my body?

There's no way around this, really, because overweight people - women, especially - aren't given the benefit of the assumption of health. Like, just because I post a photo of a pizza doesn't mean I ate a whole pizza (but also, maybe I did). As I try to become healthier & make better choices, I remain aware of the judgments that come with my outward sharing of my decisions - & I decide when I do & don't care enough to post. 


"Fat bitch."

A nasty bouncer - himself an overweight man - said this to me on New Year's Eve 2012 when I was freaking out about my cell phone being stolen. Even now, I don't know why, but it stuck with me - like, really stuck with me. I still think of it when I'm feeling bad about myself, when I'm feeling fat or unattractive or unlovable or in any way equating my body to my worth.

For me, there's no way around this one, either - I can still hear his angry, spitting tone, the way he looked me up & down in disgust - but I have to remind myself that I am more than my body, that fat does not equal gross, & that one man's opinion of me (a stranger, no less!) is by no means the basis of my self-worth.

"You should wear higher-quality clothing."

A friend said this to me years ago, back when I was making a whopping $22,000 a year & trying to manage a life in Washington, D.C.  At the time, of course, all I could afford (& even then, barely) were clothes from clearance rack at Target. A wealthier friend with a slimmer body & a much better sense of style told me my cheap clothing made me look cheap - & larger than I was. She was probably right. 

I couldn't afford to buy better clothing, but I could try to disguise how cheap my clothing looked - which is why I started wearing nothing but black. These days, I still largely shop at Target, though only because I like it, & I still wear a lot of black, but again - because I like it, not because someone else says I should wear it to, like, look thinner.

"No one's ever going to love you, & you're going to die alone."

This one came from an ex, many years ago, & even though I knew it was unlikely to be true, it stayed with me for a long time. At the time, I was in the midst of a fairly severe mental breakdown, & I was deeply unhealthy; I'd treated him terribly, & I was fully deserving of this horrible insult.

Because of that, I don't blame him at all for saying such a mean thing to me - but it also set the tone for me to be terrified & mistrusting of relationships for years to come - like, right up until Mike. But, um, can you look at this photo below, please? So clearly not true.

What lies about yourself have you believed? How are you moving on?

Where to Go & What to Do in Hilton Head, S.C.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

For about the bazillionth year in a row. my family visited Hilton Head Island, S.C., which I wrote about just before Thanksgiving. That was an emotional-ish trip down memory lane; today's post is a travel-centric, telling you some of my favorite spots & things to do on the island.

First you should know that in the 1980's, the island marketed specifically to Ohioans, selling it as the "best family vacation" & not too far from the Buckeye State. When I was a kid, we drove, but now, Allegiant offers easy, inexpensive direct flights to Savannah, GA - & Hilton Head is just a 45-minute drive way. There are so many Ohioans who vacation in or have moved to Hilton Head - like, generations of us, by now.

In the mid-1980s, my grandparents bought a timeshare here, which is now in my mom's name. Each September, she stays in the same little house we've been in since my childhood (though this year, our trip was canceled due to hurricane!) A few years ago, my aunt & uncle bought a large rental house with private beach access, which is where we stay during this Thanksgiving trip.

Without further ado, here are just a few of my favorite spots on the island. If you're a Hilton Head-lover like I am, I'd love to hear your recommendations for my next visit! 

Rent bikes from Sharky's.

There are tons of bike rental shops on the island, but we like this one best. Their bikes are in good shape, & the guy who owns the place is super-friendly & easygoing. For $25 apiece, we got the bikes for seven whole days, baskets & bike locks included, & they picked them up when we were done with them. How convenient is that?!

Our beach house is about 1.2 miles from Coligny Plaza, where all the closest stuff is, & it's a nice, easy ride down a bike path. There are even two Little Free Libraries along the way!

Do a little local shopping at Coligny Plaza.

We always stay down the road from Coligny, a shopping & food plaza full of locally owned & independent spots (along with a few more corporate ones, like Francesca's & Chico's). Some of my favorites are House of Jerky, The Shell Shop, The Spice and Tea Exchange, & Black Market Minerals, an incredible shop full of hippie stuff like Himalayan salt lamps & crystals & driftwood masks & God-knows-what else.

Search for weird sea creatures along the beach.

Our beach house is right off a private stretch of beach that runs into Coligny Beach, the public beach. All along the way, we spotted horseshoe crabs (I'd never seen them here before!), jellyfish, fish, & all kinds of other deep-sea weirdness. There aren't many shells on this beach, but the weirdness makes up for it.

Get your seafood fix at The Sea Shack.

Mike wanted to hit up a hole-in-the-wall seafood joint while we were on the island, which led us to The Sea Shack. It boasts lines out the door during the busy season, but we were lucky to wait only about 10 minutes during the off-season. Still, the place was slammed throughout our visit.

Don't expect anything fancy of this place, which is what you'd expect from a place with "shack" in the name. They've got a letterboard menu & serve lots of fried foods - but they do it well. We both got the shrimp po' boy sandwiches, which Mike inhaled (though I wished they'd come with remoulade). My sides of choice were "field peas" - black-eyed peas, apparently! - & sweet potato cornbread, plus each meal comes with two hush puppies. Yum.

Watch the sun set on the beach.

We were lucky to have a few beautiful, warm-ish days during our visit, which isn't always the case during the off-season. When the skies were clear, we headed out to the beach to watch the gorgeous sunsets over the Atlantic... & to take a bunch of goofy family photos on a timer.

Taco 'bout the soup at The Sandbar Beach Eats.

This spot is located on the edge of a popular shopping plaza full of local stores. It used to be the location of one of my favorite restaurants, which has since moved into a new building - but the Sandbar has gained it's own place in my heart as one of the best little places on the island. My mom & Mike watched the Michigan v. Ohio State game there on Sunday while I finished a little freelancing.

Their tacos are huge & fresh, served in fried flour tortillas for a little bit of a crisp, & their she-crab soup (a South Carolina specialty) is a thing of delicious beauty. I'm a sucker for a coconut shrimp, too, & theirs hit the spot, served with a mango wasabi dipping sauce.

Get your tiki on at Pool Bar Jim's.

I was so excited when Mike discovered an oceanside bar that no one in my family had ever heard of! This place was super difficult to find, as it's located within a gated community & there are "No Trespassing" signs everywhere, but once you make it to Pool Bar Jim's, you'll feel like family.

Jim is an expert in tiki & exotic drinks - literally, he wrote a book on them, full of 200ish incredible & over-the-top recipes, We got rum painkillers, then Mike ordered a Jamaican milkshake - & Jim was kind enough to give me one, too!

As you can see, we did quite a lot of eating & drinking on this particular visit - even though we spent two solid days cooking & eating at home, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday & all the leftovers it provided! Because it was colder than usual, we stayed in more than usual - not as many days spent sitting on the beach, lots of time hanging out on the porch of our beach house - but it was nevertheless a great trip.

I loved being able to show Hilton Head to Mike for the first time - & as always, I'm looking forward to going back!
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