A Short List of Good Things

Monday, November 12, 2018

OK, OK, last Friday's post was a bit of a downer, I know. I;m trying to focus on some good things to keep my spirits up. 
  1. My new "niece": My childhood best friend, Christina, gave birth last week to her first child, a healthy baby girl named Cara Joy, & she is beautiful. Christina had to have a surprise C-section, but she's home now & recovering well, with her husband & her parents at her side to help out. Auntie Kate is doing her best not to request a thousand photos a day.
  2. Vacation! My family is headed to Hilton Head, S.C., for Thanksgiving, where we'll stay in the spacious, ocean-side vacation rental home my aunt & uncle own. Everyone's coming in at different times, but my mom & I will be there for a full week - & it'll be Mike's first holiday with my side of the fam.
  3. Freelancing: I've just wrapped up a number of cool freelance projects, including two interviews for Cleveland Magazine's Most Interesting People issue, coming in January. This work is so fun & so enriching for me, getting me all over the city to explore new experiences, new foods, & other worthwhile new places - & I always love seeing my byline in print.
  4. So much fall TV: Everything will soon come to a halt for winter break, but for now, I've been loving having new episodes to watch every day of some of my prime-time favorites: Grey's Anatomy, Station 11, Chicago Med, The Good Doctor, New Amsterdam, Manifest, Criminal Minds, Law & order: SVU, 9-1-1... fine, yeah, I keep up with a lot of TV.
  5. Oversized sweaters: Realizing that my winter wardrobe was seriously lacking, I picked up a few cozy but inexpensive sweaters from Marshall's, & they've perfectly rounded out my closet. And get this: Two of them aren't even black.
  6. Working for good: I've been assigned to my organizations' Disability Rights Task Force, & I'm enjoying both the presentations from experts within the disability field & considering how we can better implement inclusivity within our work. This is a topic I've long cared about, thanks to my late mentor, Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, & I feel honored to carry on her legacy in this way.
  7. Podcast appearance: My friend Marisa invited me to be a guest on her podcast again! Are you listening to Get Well, Girl? Give it a listen, & stay tuned for my Thanksgiving-themed appearance, coming soon.
  8. Booooooks: Earlier this fall, I reached my goal of reading 75 books for the year. I've surpassed it by reading 86 of them - & I'm still goin'! I bought an Audible subscription so I can give more audiobooks a listen, given that the library waitlist for them always seems to be forever-long. Speaking of forever-long: my TBR list. (Psst: Do you follow my bookstagram account?)
Tell me: What's a small list of good things going on in your life right now? 

PS: The title of this post was inspired by Your Wishcake, even though she hasn't done one of these posys for awhile! 

It's OK to Admit: I'm Having a Hard Time

Friday, November 9, 2018

I haven't been doing all that great lately. 

It doesn't feel good to say, especially as someone who has struggled with mental illness in the past. I'm definitely not there right now, nor do I feel like I'm on the road to there - but I worry, you know? I worry that I could end up back there, no matter how hard I try not to, so whenever things start to shift in a downward direction, well... I get nervous.

First, I had two back-to-back busy weeks, filled with Harness rides, blogger events, freelance interviews, meetings with friends & colleagues, & more than a few late work nights. For the most part, they were all fun things, but for literally 14 days straight, I didn't have a single night to myself. I got through it by knowing that, soon, I'd have nothing but free time - that my busy weeks would come to an end & I could rest then.

Except then the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting happened. I work for a major Jewish organization, so not only was I personally devastated, I was suddenly, professionally, very busy. By now, given our past responses to global crises, I'm used to launching into go-mode when something awful happens - but given the specifics of this incident, it was incredibly difficult not to be able to take the time to process my own feelings.

When I was finally able to do so, I took a day off just to sleep - & no joke, some days I can sleep until 4pm. Horrifying, right? I haven't had my sleep study yet because of a scheduling error (the hospital's fault, not mine); in the meantime, I feel like my sleep disorders are getting worse, if that's possible. I sleep way too much, & sometimes I can hardly function during the workday. I have to leave the house just to convince my body to stay awake, & even then, it barely works.

I'm also struggling with money. I'm dealing with medical bills that haven't even reached full capacity (hello, upcoming sleep study), & I freelanced so much this year that I'm my taxes will likely wipe out a massive chunk of my savings. I'm trying to make better everyday choices, but I continue to never get it quite right. I recently read The Financial Diet, which inspired me but also made me feel worse; how am I 34 & still sucking at all this?Am I ever going to get this right?

In the vein of feeling bad about myself, I'm the biggest/heaviest I've ever been, despite the fact that I've been working out more - & more consistently - than ever before in my life. COME ON, body.I know, in theory, that I'll only see actual results if I start eating better & probably doing some sort of cross-training, but, well, it just feels bad. And it feels incredibly discouraging, which makes me not want to ride anymore, which is absolutely not the right decision.

Oh, & my house is a mess, too. Mike & I rent a duplex, in part because we know we wouldn't be able to keep up, right now, with owning a whole house - but that makes me feel kind of inept sometimes. The floors are always dirty, the sink is always full, & I've always got four loads of laundry do. A clean home brings me mental peace when everything else is crazed, but I can't ever seem to get to the place clean. (And I'd hire cleaners again, except for that whole money business!)

God, this doesn't even touch on the politics of the world right now & how all of that feels... I can't even begin to get into that.

In other words, things have been feeling kind of tough lately. I'm having a hard time, even though I know it won't be forever. I know I am fortunate & privileged & overall, doing just fine, but I've been feeling, well, off. I feel sad & discouraged & overwhelmed & tired & just never good enough. I want to be better than I am at... well, at everything, really. At time management, at self-care, at health, at cleanliness, at finances, at cooking, at... the list goes on.

OK, I'm getting carried away. I am, all things considered, a perfectly good & high-functioning adult - but sometimes it's difficult to give myself that credit, especially when I see so many ways I could be doing better. Right now, I'm just I'm trying my hardest not to retreat into a sad winter hole, a.k.a. my bed.

How do you make it through the downswings? What do you do when you're feeling bad about yourself &... you know, everything else?

Spooky, Scary: Exploring Haunted & Historical Spots

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I was excited to be asked last month to write my first story for Ohio Magazine, a look at haunted spots around Cleveland. While that piece won't be published until fall 2019, I thought I'd share a peek here of some of the cool places I've recently explored as part of my research for it.

The Variety Theater

First opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1927, this theater at Lorain & 118th St. was the pinnacle of glamour. Now, it's fallen into utter disrepair, with only a few of its original 1,900 seats remaining & pieces of its crystal chandeliers literally falling to the floor at random. The beautiful marquee sign outside has been restored, & a renovation of the rest of the theater is in the works - but for now, it's abandoned & spooky.

Patrick Colvin, a board member of Friends of the Historic Variety Theater, says at least 19 spirits inhabit the space - including that of his brother, who committed suicide just two years ago while working on the building's renovation. Check out News Channel 5's coverage of the theater, which ran on Halloween.

The Cleveland Police Museum

Located inside Cleveland Police Headquarters in the Justice Building downtown (where I served jury duty!), the Police Museum is a small but well-done space that shares the history of the city's police force. Of particular interest is the Torso Murders exhibit, where original replicas made of victims' faces are still on display. (They were created in an effort to get the public to help identify the victims.)

Unfortunately, most of the indigent victims remain unidentified, & the killer has never been formally named - though local expert James Jessen Badal explains who today's detectives think committed the crime. During our visit, I stopped into the museum's Cop Shop to purchase Twilight of Innocence, Badal's book on the unsolved 1951 disappearance of Beverly Potts, & he was kind enough to sign it for me. Read more from Dr. Badal.

The Soldiers & Sailors Monument

This giant monument in Cleveland's downtown Public Square was erected in honor of those from Cuyahoga County who served in the Civil War. It features a 125-foot column topped with a statue called the Goddess of Freedom, plus a memorial room telling the story of those who served. The inside of it is truly beautiful, featuring Tiffany-style glass, bronze busts & reliefs, & the names of local servicemen carved in marble.

I also got to explore the tunnels beneath the monument, 200 feet of walkways originally designed for uniform storage. There's nothing in them anymore except a lot of standing water - but the Haunted Cleveland folks say the ghost of Levi Schofield, who built the monument, haunts the space.

Cleveland Gray's Armory Museum

Once home to the city's independent militia, called The Cleveland Grays, this castle-like building (described on their website as "Richardsonian Romanesque Revival-style") sits just off the main drag downtown - but even its docent admits that many Clevelanders have no idea its there! The original armory burned down & was rebuilt in 1893; it's now on the National Register of Historic Places & is a popular event space for weddings; there's also a shooting range in the basement that's still in use.

Today, the Grays are largely a social club, & their home is a museum - though it's thought to be haunted by the spirits of several individuals with connections to the spot, including a lieutenant who died in the ballroom.

Erie Street Cemetery

The city's oldest existing cemetery is located in the heart of downtown Cleveland. More than 17,000 people are interred there, including many of the city's original pioneers and architects. One of its most famous resident is Chief Walking Bear (commonly known as Chief Joc-O-Sot), chief of Iowa's Mesquakie tribe, who became a performer & patron of the arts after fighting in the Black Hawk War against the U.S.

I already showed you the photo of me in Erie Street Cemetery with my dowsing rods, which are thought to help detect paranormal activity. There were a few spots where they went absolutely crazy, spinning all the way around!

OK, so: Do you believe in ghosts? Do I? I'm not sure, but I do love exploring old history & hearing the personal stories that go with it.

Want to learn more about Cleveland's ghostly history? I'm currently reading Haunted Cleveland, written by the owners of the tour company - &, of course, stay tuned for my magazine piece next fall! \

All My Potions: Some of My Favorite Natural Products, Oils, Etc.

Monday, November 5, 2018

I've become a big fan of all things scented & relaxing & essential oil-based, aside from, like, actual essential oil diffusing itself. Why haven't I gotten into that? I don't know, but perhaps it's because I currently have enough scented stuff to keep me busy for awhile. Here are just a few of the products I'm loving lately, some of them made in Cleveland & all of them delightfully & naturally scented.

In My Home

Aura Mist (Grey Moon Botanica)This pretty, shimmering "protective room spray" is made with sandalwood and lavender essential oil, rose water , & a piece of mica that slowly disintegrates into the spray over time (& is what makes it to sparkly). It smells strong but soothing, for when you don't have time to burn a candle but want to feel relaxed by scent. ($20)

Palo Santo & Jasmine Purifying Spray (Lesley Saligoe Botanicals)
I know, I know, how many room sprays does a girl need? Well, I do have a few more rooms... I bought this one after seeing a friend rave about it on Instagram. This "liquid energy cleanser" is made with distilled water, an undisclosed essential oil bledn, & a piece of honey calcite, said to "increase feelings of self worth, confidence, and courage and assists to overcome obstacles.." Hey, I'll take that. ($10)

White Sage Smudge Stick & Palo Santo (Positive Life Haven)
This white sage & palo santo bundle came from a local business owned by a girl I met at an event a few months ago. I also ordered a few crystals from her because, yeah, apparently I'm trying out crystals now, I don't know, OK? I haven't used the sage yet but love burning the palo santo. I've also purchased a few of these "cleaning" bundles for friends who have moved into new places. Made in Cleveland. ($5)

In My Bedroom

Stress-Fix Composition Oil™ (Aveda)
This one feels great on sore muscles, & it smells nice, too, because it's made with lavender, lavandin, and clary sage. Sometimes I put a few drops in the bathtub for some aromatherapy while I soak. The description says you can also massage it into your scalp, but that sounds... well, oily, so I haven't tried it yet. ($30)

Calm Balm (Lesley Saligoe Botanicals)
This is probably my favorite product, like, ever. It smells so heavenly, made with coconut oil, grapeseed oil, lavender, ylang ylang, & beeswax... with an amethyst in the middle because apparently the stone "is a natural vacuum for negative energy and aids in restful sleep, sobriety, and helps ease fears." OK. Well, it smells incredible. I rub it on my palms before bed & take a huge breath in to relax me as I head to sleep. ($10-$20)

Post-Training Massage Oil (Way of Will)
I use this one on my back & neck when I'm done a little bit too much (or just enough) riding during the week. It's made with sweet almond, apricot kernel oil, jojoba oil, all of which help the skin, plus cooling agent like peppermint, spearmint, & German chamomile, which are incredible for soothing muscles.it smells good, but surprisingly, it has no lasting or long-term scent. ($29.50)

Midnight Shift Overnight Facial Oil (Moonlit Skincare)
This night oil is made with ginseng & papaya to "help fuel skin cell turnover," plus grapeseed oil for "a firming collagen boost." I don't know about all of that, but I do know that it's very light, & it both smells & feels soothing, with a lovely lavender scent. I use this one on nights when I'm especially tired & want to be sure I get a good night's sleep. ($34)

Breathe Touch Respiratory Blend (doTERRA)
I'm not a fan of MLMs (multi-level marketing businesses) & I try not to give them my money, so I wouldn't have purchased this on my own, but it came in a swag bag, & damn it, I love it. when I'm feeling stressed, I put a few drops on my temples, under my nose, or even on my chest to help me breathe better. ($17)

On My Body

LEO Essential Oil Blend (Venus in Aquarius Apothica)
I purchased this at a Cleveland Flea & could not love it any more. Venus in Aquarius creates roll-on scents for each zodiac sign; this one is called "I Will." It's made with frankincense, rosemary, neroli, & lemongrass, infused with dried hibiscus & sunflower petals - plus a tiny peridot crystal, my birth stone. Do I believe in its power? Um, probably not, but I believe that it smells amazing. Made in Cleveland. ($20)

Rose+Yarrow+Tulsi Facial Toner (Venus in Aquarius Apothica)
This light, crisp, spray-on toner is made with rose water, yarrow flower essence, hibiscus-infused witch hazel, and tulsi (holy basil) hydrosol. It's designed for sensitive, acne-prone, and combination skin, none of which I have - but it feels refreshing, & I love that its all-natural. Made in Cleveland. ($16.95)

Face Oil Cleanser (Olive Me)
When I first ran out of argan oil, I won this cleanser on Instagram, & I started using it as my daily overnight oil. It's a blend of olive oil, jojoba oil, chamomile, and neroli oil. Now, I swap it out with argan oil every other day or so. Made in Cleveland. ($8)

100% Argan Oil (Aria Starr Beauty)
I'm not loyal to any one particular brand of argan oil, so long as it's pure; this just happens to be the one I own right now. Yes, I put oil on my face overnight; yes, I have really nice skin that, no, is not disgustingly oily. I swear it works wonders... except for when my cat tries to lick it straight off my face? Ew. ($10.95)

In My Bath

Handmade Soaps (Puget Sound Soap Shop)
I mentioned these soaps, made by my friend Stevie, in a previous blog post, but since then, I've ordered even more of them, in a variety of scents. They're all handmade & smooth & lovely. ($5-$7)

Olive Oil Body Scrub (Olive Me)
Sure, I could probably try to make this body scrub myself, but Olive Me does such a good job of it! This simple scrub is made with olive oil, raw cane sugar, and neroli oil, sloughing all all the wintry bits & helping my skin feel as good as new, even in cold Northeast Ohio weather. Made in Cleveland. ($10)

Aura Quartz Geode Bath Bomb (Lesley Saligoe Botanicals)
Can you tell how much I love this brand? It's so great, I swear. These geode bath bombs are amber scented & sparkly, because they include mica, & they make every bath feels divine. They also made with coconut and grapeseed oils to help moisturize. Did I mention that they're sparkly? ($5)

What natural products are you loving right now? Send me your best recs!

6 Small Goals for November

Friday, November 2, 2018

Oh, hi, it's almost the end of the year. Time flies when you're an adult, huh? I did a pretty good job of my October goals - except for those damn carbs! Here's how things panned out:
  1. Don't feel too overwhelmed. I'm not sure what a great job I did at this, but I tried really hard & I think I succeeded in the first half of the month, at least. Toward the end there, things got really stressful (I work for a Jewish organization, so the Pittsburgh shooting resulted in a ton of feeling plus a ton of unexpected work). I bought some scented candles, took baths when I could, & got enough sleep, reminding myself that soon, I'd be able to relax. That time hasn't come yet, but I'm looking forward to it. 
  2. Work out my health insurance woes. Done! My $5k doctors bill is almost paid off (not by me; thanks, work), so I'm good to go in continuing to pursue wellness. My sleep test has been rescheduled for December, & I can't wait.  
  3. Excel at my social media webinars. Also done. Sure, I waited until the very last minute to finish both PowerPoint presentations, but they went well, I didn't vomit beforehand as I sometimes do, & I got lots of positive feedback. I even volunteered to do another future webinar sooner rather than later. Unheard of! 
  4. Plan something for our anniversary. Donnne. We're working out details of an upcoming trip to Ann Arbor, MI, for our anniversary weekend. we don't have a place to stay yet, but we'll figure that out. And our list of places to visit is full of spots I'm really excited about. Got tips? Leave 'em in the comments! 
  5. Cut way back on carbs. Yeah, yeah, here's the one I didn't excel at. Surprise, surprise. I love my bread, OK?
  6. Start "tipping myself" for cycling classes. I started this at the beginning of the month & saved $50 by the end of the month - which means I hit 10 classes in October. Not bad! Planning to keep it up in the month to come.
So what am I aiming for in November? Let's see...
  1. Relax. I feel like I didn't get to do any of this in October, so I'd really like to prioritize a little bit of relaxation, where I can, in November. That means books, Harry Potter, & cuddling with cats.
  2. Finish my holiday shopping. I like to get my holiday shopping done early so I can shop for myself in December. Ha! Thanks to Shop Cleveland Market, which I visited in October, my holiday shopping is actually almost done - but I'd really like to wrap it up (no pun intended) this month. 
  3. Cook more. There's a very low bar here because I don't really cook at all. I've looked up a few recipes I'd like to try, &, well, I'd like to try 'em. Any of 'em. 
  4. Do the laundry in a more timely fashion. Weird goal, but hear me out: I have a bad habit of starting the laundry at, like,  8pm, & then Mike goes to bed before I finish it. The laundry room is off our bedroom, & I don't want to wake him, so I leave wet laundry in the washer overnight... & then have to rewash it in the morning! This is such a pain and such a waste of water, so I'd like to prioritize not doing it that way anymore. 
  5. Go to 10 Harness Cycle classes. I sort of dropped the ball on cycling in October, in part because the studio where I usually ride was closed for renovations. It's open again, so I'd like to pick it back up & make sure I get another 10 rides in, even though I'll be gone for a whole week.
  6. Consume less sugar. I have never been a big sweets person, but I ate a ton of candy & desserts in October. I could blame it on Halloween, or I could suck it up & promise to tone it down in November.
I'm looking forward to this month, especially two trips coming up: Mike's & my anniversary trip to Ann Arbor next weekend, & a week in Hilton head, S.C., with my family for Thanksgiving. This will be Mike's first time spending a holiday with my family, & I could not be more excited for that. Keep an eye on the Insta for photo updates! 

What are your goals for November? What are you looking forward to? 

What I Read in October

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Just like that, it's November. In September, I hit my annual reading goal of 75 books, but I still want to try to see how far I can get by the end of the year. I made it through eight books in October - not a bad number, considering how busy the month was. 

The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani

I think I hated this book. I was intrigued by the premise: a seemingly perfect nanny is suspected of brutally murdering the two children within her care. The book opens with a violent scene, then  moves into a plodding narration that I found ]tedious, cold, & distant. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the novel was translated into English from French - but even translation couldn't have changed the story's lackluster, dissatisfying ending. Skip this one, please. I wish I had. ★★☆☆☆

I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux 

Arceneaux, a comedy writer, tells of growing up Black and gay in a religious Texas home. Though he knew from a young age that he was gay, he knew, too, that he couldn't reveal it to his family. At one point, his priest even suggested he enter the priesthood - but eventually, Michael fell away from the faith, moving to bigger cities, pursuing a writing career, & exploring both race, sexuality, & other elements of his identity in ways both poignant & hilarious. ★★★★☆

Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M. Martin

Four BSC books down, about a billion to go... I originally tried to read this book in Spanish (Mary Anne Salva la Situación), but I quickly realized that my grasp on the language is nowhere near sophisticated enough for this middle-grade novel. Womp. Anyway, I never much liked Mary Anne as a kid, but reading the first book in her voice, I realized that she's actually cooler - & a lot more bold - than anyone ever gave her credit for.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Carreyrou is the journalist who broke the story of the mega-scam that was Theranos, a medical start-up worth billions... that couldn't do a damn thing it said it could. Its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, had been called the next Steve Jobs, featured in The Wall Street Journal & beyond; Henry Kissinger & other big names sat on the board; the company had a major partnership with Walgreens stores... & yet, it was all a farce: Holmes - & Theranos - was a total fraud. ★★★★★

The Lost Girls: The True Story of the Cleveland Abductions and the Incredible Rescue of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus by John Glatt

Yes, this is the fourth book I've read about the Cleveland kidnappings. The others were memoirs, though, making this the first reported nonfiction book from an outside source. It's written by New York Times bestselling crime writer John Glatt, & it's an incredibly in-depth look at all things Castro-related, including his childhood, his personal life, his horrifying abuse of his ex-wife, his treatment of his own children, the kidnappings themselves... & what his neighbors knew, without even realizing it. ★★★★★

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

This is the fourth book in Rowling's popular series about British detective Cormoran Strike and his business partner/friend/potential eventual lover Robin. This one was massively long & an incredibly convoluted, & I listened to it at 1.25x speed on audiobook - the equivalent of about 21 hours of listening. Yowza. This wasn't my favorite of the series - it was pretty hard to follow - but I still love these books, overall. If you're new to the series, be sure to start at the beginning, with The Cuckoo's Calling★★★★☆

The President is Missing by James Patterson & Bill Clinton

When you miss the way life felt under competent presidents, immerse yourself in fiction about them. This was my first Patterson novel, but because this one also bears Clinton’s name across the front, it’s also delightfully liberal in a way I'm guessing most of his books aren't. It's about a brave, decent, action-hero president who’s committed to saving the country, the world, & the dignity of the democratic system during a terrorist attack. The speech he gives at the end of the book is such a dream - exactly what we need right now. ★★★★☆

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

This book was so gooooood. Sure, it was totally predictable, as wacky as the storyline was - but it was done really well, & even though I was pretty sure I knew what would happen, I still enjoyed reading about it as it played out. Laurel, a middle-aged mother, still mourns the disappearance of her 15-year-old daughter Ellie. When she starts dating a new guy, she's alarmed by how much his young daughter looks like hers. Could there be some connection? This was my first time reading anything by Lisa Jewell, but I look forward to checking out some of her many other books. ★★★★☆

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. 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.

5 of My Favorite True Crime Books

Friday, October 26, 2018

I think I'm a true crime fanatic because I'm scared of everything. You'd think that consuming so much true-crime media would make that fear worse, but somehow it's the opposite - like maybe if I know all about it, I will become immune to it. I know that's not true, of course, but brains are weird places.

I've already told you about my favorite true crime podcasts, but I thought I'd also round up a few of my favorite true crime books. I find, unfortunately, that many true crime books are, frankly, terribly written, so though I've read far more than the five listed here, these are the ones that have risen above, for various reasons.

Have true crime recs for me? I'd love to read your faves! 

Amy: My Search for Her Killer (Secrets & Suspects in the Unsolved Murder of Amy Mihaljevic) by James Renner

Renner, a Northeast Ohio-based crime writer, was the same age as 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic at the time of her disappearance from Bay Village, OH, in 1989, & he'd followed the case his whole life. She was taken from a 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 the local community; her killer has yet to be identified.

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

The late Ann Rule, a psychologist, worked with Ted Bundy at a crisis hotline, & they became fast friends. Though Rule believed her charismatic, friendly colleague couldn't possibly be violent, she did send his name to the police as a potential suspect when she realized he matched much of their criteria in the search for a local serial killer. Rule, a journalist who was working with police on this case, was stunned when her friend was arrested & tried, & she continued to write letters to Bundy years into his incarceration. Eventually, she came to believe in his guilt.

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker

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

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

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

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Part true crime research & part personal memoir, this book was written by the late crime writer, blogger, & wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, who died before she finished writing it. Oswalt hired her fellow researchers & friends to help finish the book, but the end result is a story that is disjointed & often difficult to follow - though incredibly well-written & well-researched, not to mention creepy as hell - about the search for the prolific rapist & murder who terrorized California in the late '70s & '80s. He was caught very shortly after publication! 

Again: I'd love your recs! Leave them for me in the comments so I can add your favorite true crime reads to my TBR list - which you can find on my "True Crime" shelf on Goodreads.

It's a Boo-tiful Life: My Spooky Adventures this Fall

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

It's Halloween season, & you might be surprised at how spooky Cleveland can get! This city is chock-full of old-timey history, & a few interesting shops have recently opened in Lakewood, a suburb right outside the city. I've been trying to visit them all & thought I'd share them with you here. Whether or not you're local, I think you'll be interested in how cool all these weird little spots are...

The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magick

This tiny Wicca museum is located within a record store on 14th St. in Tremont, just around the corner from me. It's just one small room (though they're currently in the midst of an expansion), & it costs $5 to enter, as a means of maintaining the space & the world-renowned collection curated by the late Raymond Buckland. It's a museum, so nothing in the space is available for sale, but it's absolutely worth a visit if you want to learn more about the wide world of Wicca. (2676 W 14th St., Cleveland)


Local witch Miranda Scott just opened Coven in July, & it, too, is a small spot, though she's definitely making the most of it. It's chock-full of witchy goods, including crystals, spices, sage, palo santo, & more, along with kitschy feminist items like Beyonce prayer candles ("Our Lady of Lemonade"), anti-Trump goodies, journals, etc. I bought an aura-cleansing spray made with mica (so it literally sparkles in the bottle), along with a little button that says "HEX TRUMP." Blessed be.

Cleveland Curiosities

If you're in the market for a two-headed taxidermied goat, a pig fetus, a human kidney, or a camel skull, his is the spot for you. Also new as of July, Cleveland Curiosities has been described by local press as "a world-class oddities shop," & you certainly get the feeling that it is when you enter to see a real guillotine. All of their taxidermy is ethically sourced, & some of the owners' work has been featured on American Horror Story! They also offer classes in offbeat hobbies like bat-pinning. (13375 Madison Ave., Lakewood)

Haunted Cleveland Ghost Tours

For my first assignment for Ohio Magazine, I went on Haunted CLE's 20th anniversary tour, a four-hour bus tour with four stops in downtown Cleveland - but it went quickly because it was really interesting & fun. It's mostly a tour of spooky history, but there are also a few references to ghosts, of course! We visited the historic Gray's Armory Museum, which has a creepy shooting range in the basement; the State Theater, one of Playhouse Square's oldest spots; the Cleveland Police Museum, where local author/expert James Jessen Badal spoke about the Torso Murders; & finally, Erie Street Cemetery, where we used copper dowsing rods to try to locate paranormal activity. Spooky indeed!

So tell me: What spooky stuff am I missing? What's spooky in your neck of the woods?

How I Reward Myself After a Workout (a.k.a. How I Convince Myself to Do the Damn Thing)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Look, working out is hard, & I still hate anything that isn't cycling. I'm only a few months into my attempts to get healthier, & I'm still very far away from feeling healthy or in-shape or like I'm doing half of these things right at all - but it's important to start somewhere, & at 34, I figured it was better late than never.

Still, when you've gone 34 years without working out ever much, you may find that you need to entice yourself a little. Here are just a few of the ways I've come up with to trick myself into reward myself after working out.

Stretching at the End of Class

Each class ends with three minutes of guided stretching, though they're not mandatory. As soon as the ride ends, lots of people hop off their bikes & head out - but when I began, I promised myself that, unless I was really under a time crunch, I would always stay for the stretching portion of class. My favorite stretch is one where you unclip one shoe & bend your foot & knee up onto the handlebars, then lean in at the waist to stretch out your hips. Aaaahhhh. Sometimes, when class is kicking my ass, I think about how, soon, I'll be able to do that stretch I love so much.

A Healthy Meal

I'm trying not to reward myself with food, but I think a healthy food reward is OK, especially when it's something I wouldn't make at home. When I first started working out, I told myself that each time I went to a Harness class, I could also get dinner from Boaz Cafe, a fast-casual Mediterranean place I love. Sure, it meant I was spending more money than usual, but if that was what it took to bribe myself into working out, so be it - & their loaded lentil bowls are so delicious and so good for me.

A Little Tip

At the recommendation of my friend Ashleigh, I downloaded the Tip Yourself app & pay myself $5 after each ride. The money comes right out of my bank account & is held by the app until I withdraw it. I haven't yet decided what I'll do with the money I save - invest, buy something nice, put it into my actual savings account? - but I love the idea of rewarding myself monetarily for my workouts, even if it does come from my own wallet. Pay yourself first, they say!

A Really Hot or Cold Shower

A shower isn't so much a reward as it is a necessity, but that doesn't mean it doesn't feel rewarding to wash away all that sweat & grime. Sometimes, a reaaaaally hot shower is exactly what I need to melt away some of the soreness; other times, I want a borderline-cold shower to rejuvenate me, wake me up, & help me feel alive again. Either way, they feel great - &, yes, totally rewarding.

A Good Cup of Coffee

As perpetually sleepy as I am, workouts sometimes make me tired instead of waking me up. After class, I let myself enjoy a soy latte or an iced coffee (no crazy, sugary drinks, though!) to slowly bring me back to life. Sure, I could make them myself, but, uh, I'd rather the staff of a cute coffee shop make it for me. Luckily, both of my studio's locations are next to great coffee shops: Pour downtown & Rising Star in Hingetown, plus my favorite spot, Civilization, which is on my drive home. If there's one thing Cleveland doesn't lack, it's good coffee!

Bath Bombs

I've never been a fan of baths, but once I started riding, especially in the beginning, I needed to relieve sore muscles. I started soaking in Epsom salts & using bath bombs to make the experience more soothing & satisfying. My favorites right now come from Puget Sound Soap Shop, an Etsy shop run by my Internet friend Stevie, who sent me a few to try. Unfortunately she doesn't have any for sale right now, but she also sells really amazing handmade soaps! I also just ordered a few geode bath bombs from the incredible Lesley Saligoe Botanicals.

Legs Up the Wall

I'm trying to get better about stretching, generally, but this alleged yoga pose hardly feels like work or exercise. You just lie on your back & rest your legs against the wall, straight up in the air, to help with circulation & alignment... & damn, it feels so good. It also usually means I have to vacuum my carpet first, but that also feels worth it.

Tell me: How do you reward yourself after workouts? Anything I should add to my repertoire?

Disclaimer: I received three bath bombs & a soap from my friend, who owns Puget Sound Soap Shop. All opinions are my own.

12 of My Best Celebrity Sightings

Friday, October 19, 2018

One of my favorite weird topics of conversation is celebrity sightings, meetings, & near-misses. I recently realized that I've had a surprising number of these for someone who's never lived in either New York or LA - & in fact, only one of these celebrity sightings (albeit admittedly my best one) happened in either of those places.

John Glenn (2008)

In my first year of work in Washington, D.C., I attended a memorial event following the death of Sen. Howard Metzenbaum. I spotted my boss, Rabbi David Saperstein, speaking with Sen. John Glenn, former astronaut & one of my favorite people of all time, & instead of going over to be introduced, I simply watched from afar, longingly, & never met my idol before he died. (Read about it here.)

Katie Couric (2009)

I was standing in line to get into the U.S. Capitol building, which can sometimes be a slow process because of all the security you have to go through. When my part of the line finally reached the entrance, the woman in front of me held the heavy door open for me & turned to apologize. "I'm so sorry," she said, "but it's probably going to take me forever to get through." Unsurprisingly, Katie Couric travels with a lot of gear - & is very, very polite.

Maria Bello & Maggie Grace (2009)

When my then-boss spoke at a press conference calling on the international community to help in Darfur, one of the other individuals appearing alongside him was actress Maria Bello, of ER fame. It was in a very small room, & to one side of me was the reporter who wrote the coverage I linked to above; on the other side of me was a confusingly familiar-looking woman who I couldn't quite place - Maggie Grace, who'd just come off her stint as Shannon on Lost. Why was she there?! I never found out.

Sen. Mark Warner (2010)

I was lost in the basement of the Senate office buildings while the government was recessed (which meant it wasn't very crowded & I wasn't likely to  run into any politicians). I asked the only guy around if he knew how to get where I was going; he didn't, but he tried to point me in the right way, looking pretty confused himself. As the elevator doors closed on his face, I realized he was the new Virginia senator I canvassed so hard to elect. (Read about it here.)

Mila Kunis (2011)

I was waiting on a flight from Boston to D.C. when I noticed that the woman sitting next to me was wearing matching Juicy sweatsuit. My friend Jonah always says you should dress up when you fly, & as I tried to determine whether high-end sweats qualify as "dressed up," I realized that I recognized the voice of the woman wearing them. Turns out Mila Kunis was headed to that night's White House Correspondents Dinner - where she was actually dressed up. And she flew Southwest, so no first-class! (Read about it here.)

Nick Jonas (2012)

When Newsies first hit Broadway, my best friend Christina & I bought tickets & met each other in NYC to be among the first wave of viewers to see it. While we stood outside hoping to catch a glimpse of the cast - just for fun, not because we needed autographs or anything - we realized that the handsome man standing next to us was none other than Nick Jonas, who had a night off from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which was showing next door. (Read about it here.)

Kelly Giddish (2012) 

I was in New York with a friend, standing in line for a latte at some some nondescript bakery. I immediately recognized the woman in line in front of me as Law & Order: SVU actress Kelly Giddish, although she was then new to the franchise in her role as Amanda Rollins. She ordered a black coffee & a croissant. It was all very cosmopolitan, I know.

Jason Mewes (2013)

When I lived in New Jersey, I often worked from the Starbucks in downtown Red Bank, which was across the street from Secret Stash, a Kevin Smith-owned comic book store & museum that features tons of paraphernalia from his movies. One afternoon, a long-haired dude came in to get coffee, & a teenager at a nearby table asked, "Does anyone ever tell you that you look like Jay from the Jay & Silent Bob movies?" Yeah... yeah, he gets that sometimes. (Read about it here.)

Cory Booker (2013) 

The same day I met Jason Mewes, I met Cory Booker, then the mayor of Newark, who was known for his many tweets responding to citizens' complaints & concerns. He was walking down the street with a flock behind him, & as I stood nearby to take a photo from a distance, someone in his camp asked if I wanted to meet him. Of course I wanted to! Now, he's the junior senator from New Jersey, elected later that year. (Read about it here.)

Justice Elena Kagan (2013)

My former boss is a well-known lobbyist & one-time U.S. ambassador whose circle of friends is a who's-who of... well, some big-name whos. At his annual Hanukkah party, I chowed down on store-bought latkes while gushing maniacally about them to my former boss's wife (a former NPR exec) &... Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. No, it was not embarrassing at all(Read about it here.)

Joe Biden (2015)

OK, fine, this one was less of a "sighting" & more of a very planned & highly coordinated event, but how could I not count it? The vice president was the keynote speaker at a major event hosted by the organization where I work, & I was working backstage, live-tweeting his address. "Do you want to meet the vice president?" my boss whispered. UM, YES. As he worked the line, shaking my coworkers' hands, I asked for a selfie - & Uncle Joe obliged. (Read about it here.)

Evangeline Lilly (2016) 

I was eating lunch at a neighborhood Ty Spot with two friends when we realized that the beautiful waif of a woman dining solo on soup in the corner was none other than Kate from Lost. She was in town to film Little Evil, a super-cheesy Netflix horror comedy co-starring Adam Scott... who my friend spotted in the parking lot of a local Trader Joe's a few days later. (Read about it here.)

Tell me about your best celebrity sighting! I love hearing about other people's. 

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