How to Throw a Very Chill Baby Shower

Monday, August 13, 2018

My childhood best friend, Christina, is due with her first child in November. She lives in Tennessee, & though her local friends are planning to throw her a shower closer to her due date, her mom & hometown friends & I wanted to be sure she got an Ohio shower. I was honored to be asked to co-host it with her friend Jen (who you see above in pink).

1. Ask the mom-to-be what she wants.

This is key, obviously. If the mom-to-be doesn't want a very chill baby shower, you may have to step it up & plan something more dramatic. In our case, though, Christina specifically requested something very low-key. In fact, she compared the baby shower she envisioned to the bridal shower my aunt had thrown for me a few months earlier - a few friends & family members enjoying one another's company with some light food & desserts. Nothing over the top.

2. Find a low-key place that'll do all the catering.

Instead of having to Pinterest our way through a picture-perfect menu, I booked The Mustard Seed Market in Fairlawn, OH, a high-end market & cafe with a private room that we rented out for the morning. It didn't even have a rental fee; we just had to commit to spend $300, which was easy to do with a headcount of 15. It came out to about $20 a person, which is a pretty normal - & perhaps even nominal - amount for a catered event. We picked out a delicious brunch menu, & everything was ready & waiting for us when we arrived the day of the shower.

3. Buy your decor from Target's Dollar Spot.

I was worried this would seem tacky, if only because everyone shops at Target, & I, for one, know what's being sold in the Dollar Spot at any given time. I didn't want people to look around & think, "Wow, Kate went low-budge." At the same time, it seemed ridiculous to count out perfectly good decor just because it was affordable! I picked out colorful pinwheels, a string of lanterns, pink chalkboards, the "YAY" balloon you see in that top photo, &... not much else, to be honest. My mom made diaper cakes as a gift to Christina, & we stuck pinwheels in them to use them as decor, too.

4. Decide on a few cute activities - not cheesy games.

Christina was really clear on the fact that she didn't want any of the baby shower games that so often embarrass moms-to-be & their guests. You know the kind: guessing the width of the mom's belly, tasting baby food out of diapers, etc. Instead, I chose the following activities:

  • Bring a Book for Baby: The invitations asked each attendee to bring at least one book to help build the baby's library. As Christina opened her gifts, these books made for fun conversation points - & plenty of nostalgia.
  • Design-Your-Own Onesie Station: I bought a few packs of plain white onesies in various sizes, plus two packs of colored Sharpies, & throughout the event, guests drew on them at their leisure. Christina left with 15 colorful, personalized onesies that are perfect for one-time use & photos to send to the loved ones who created them. 
  • "Advice Art" Station: From Michael's, I bought a picture frame that contained 30 blank, white hearts & one pink heart, all displayed through the glass. (They're meant to be alternatives to a wedding guestbook!) I provided fine-tip Sharpies for guests to write notes to baby on the white hearts, then arranged them in the frame to create a custom piece of art for the nursery.
  • Secret Letters of Support for Mama: I've never had a baby, but I know being a new mom is difficult. And exhausting. And sometimes even lonely. I secretly asked each guest to write a letter to Christina, & I'll mail her one a month after the baby is born to remind her that she's loved & supported by her friends & family. 

5. Keep the shower gifts simple.

Jen offered to create shower gifts for all attendee: homemade bath fizzies. They were so cute & smelled so good, & they're something attendees can actually use & enjoy. She included little notes on them that said something like "From Christina's shower to your bath!" & set them on the place settings of every attendee.

6. Don't get too crazy with the cake. 

Sure, we could've gone overboard with some massive cake creation, the kind you see on Pinterest & in Instagram posts that have thousands of likes, but... why? Instead, Jen's aunt made the cake as a gift to Christina, & it was both simple & delicious. It wasn't multiple tiers high or covered in fondant, but it was custom-made & one of the best-tasting cakes I've ever eaten - which is saying a lot, given that I once worked at a bakery!

7. Buy flowers from Costco.

The day before the shower, I stopped by Costco & picked out three matching bouquets of purple & magenta flowers for $10 apiece, instead of pre-ordering expensive florist bouquets. They didn't really match our otherwise brightly colored decor, but because I had kept the decor itself fairly minimal, the flowers didn't look out of place or mismatched. I coordinated them a bit by sticking colorful pinwheels in the center of each bouquet, which we gave out to attendees at the end of the event.

8. Just add mimosas. 

We weren't originally planning to serve alcohol at the shower, but as my mom & I were setting up, we wanted mimosas ourselves... & my mom decided that, given the price of ordering individual mimosas from the cafe's bar area, she'd just buy carafes or orange juice & bottles of champagne from the market, which we could serve to all attendees. It turned out to be the perfect last-minute addition to the day, & those who didn't want booze had the option of coffee, juice, & a variety of teas instead. 

9. Focus on celebrating the mom-to-be - not throwing a perfect party.

This was my first time hosting an event like this, so yes, I was pretty anxious - & very sweaty, as is my standard. As soon as everyone arrived, though, I was able to calm down a bit, recognizing that the day wasn't really about whether everything went smoothly & looked perfect. The day was about celebrating Christina, making sure she felt loved, & just allowing her to enjoy some quality time with some of her favorite people. When I reminded myself of this, I was able to calm down a lot, morphing from a would-be hostzilla into a chill BFF hostess.

Overall, it was - if I may say so myself - such a lovely day. Christina is a bit of an introvert, & this was exactly the sort of event that suited her, not some crazy, over-the-top, Pinterest-heavy masterpiece. I was honored to be able to host this day for her - & I can't wait to meet Baby C this fall!

Have you ever hosted a baby shower? What was your baby shower like? Are you more of a low-key kinda gal or a Pinterest-it-up type? 

"Choosing Life," My New Essay in Cleveland Magazine

Friday, August 10, 2018

I didn’t look like someone who was depressed. I was a straight-A student at Ohio University, I’d just joined a sorority, and I was working at a summer job I loved at a swimming pool in my hometown of Cuyahoga Falls. I was outgoing, involved and well-liked.

I was also planning my own suicide.

In 2003, the summer before my sophomore year of college, I planned out exactly how I would die: I’d arrive early to work one morning and hang myself in the staff office, leaving a note on the door for my co-manager to warn her of what she’d find inside. All summer, I wrote out goodbye letters to my friends and family, sobbing my way through each word and counting down the days.

The only thing that stopped me, plain and simple, was fear. I didn’t trust myself to fashion a noose, and I was terrified I’d do it wrong, leaving myself injured, institutionalized, stigmatized and worse-off emotionally than before.

I put my suicide plans on hold, but I never stopped thinking about them, continuing to fantasize about the mental freedom of simply ceasing to exist. I always assumed that someday, when the time was right, I would take my own life.

Read the rest of this essay in Cleveland Magazine, available both online & in print.

Photo by the absolutely incredible Angelo Merendino for Cleveland Magazine. Makeup by Cleveland Makeup Artistry because I didn't trust myself with my own damn face. 

It's My Party & I'll Cry if I Want To (But I Don't Want To)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

photo by a life en route 

Birthdays are sometimes a little weird, right? Like, the older you get, the more you want to channel that birthday enthusiasm of your youth, but the more difficult is can feel to actually do it. I'm not unhappy or ashamed to be growing older (as that adage says, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many."), but it just starts to feel strange to, like, celebrate your own mortality.

In that vein, I was admittedly a little unnecessarily mopey for much of my birthday weekend, going too deep into the mental rabbit hole with questions like, "Am I living it right?" (cue the John Mayer!), "Do my friends really like me?" (um, I hope so), & "What am I even doing with my life?" (answer: living it). Still, I managed to have a pretty darn great birthday weekend, in spite of myself - thanks mostly to my husband & my mom, who told me to suck it up & made me do a few things that were much more fun than having an existential crisis.

On Friday, I had a great birthday dinner at Fat Cats (their cashew-crusted tofu noodle bowl is divine) with Mike & my mom, then we headed downtown to see Hamilton at Playhouse Square. I hadn't listened to any of the music beforehand, & my God, yes, it totally lived up to the hype. I absolutely wept at the end. We're considering getting season tickets to the theater for next year.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early (for me) & headed back downtown for a collaborative event hosted by Harness Cycle & The Cleveland Flea, two of my favorite things about the city. My college roommate, Cortney, met me there for a morning ride, then we grabbed our boxed lunches from Byte Cafe (so tasty) & headed to Public Square for a picnic with a small group.

For about an hour, badass entrepreneurs Anne Hartnett (owner of Harness) & Stephanie Sheldon (founder of the Flea) chatted with us about life, business, & balance while the sun shined down & the Goodyear Blimp flew above us. We also went home with sweet swag bags full of Harness/Flea goodies.

On Saturday, I celebrated with a few close friends at Hi and Dry, one of my favorite spots in my neighborhood. I consumed a massive pulled pork sandwich because I am a shameless food-monster, & we spent the evening drinking on patios & even taking shots to toast birthday boy Barack Obama.

A lot of the people I invited on Saturday couldn't come - & many of them backed out the day or night of the event - which had me feeling really down until Mike pointed out that it's about quality, not quantity. The few friends who did show up are some of my favorite humans in the world, & it was a really fun night. I took almost zero photos, which should prove it!

On Sunday, the day of my actual birthday, I slept in, then Mike & I went to Brewnuts for birthday donuts. I housed a blueberry Trix donut & a rosé slushie (& said hi to fellow birthday girl Reena, who was celebrating there with her friends & a few fellow bloggers!) before we wandered Gordon Square a bit to check out some of the new murals on display.

We realized we'd only eaten donuts all day, so we stopped in XYZ the Tavern for a quick brunch. Look at that glorious breakfast burrito, wouldja? (And no, Mike & I took no photos together on my birthday, just photos of me consuming various treats. Whoops.)

We closed out the day with a viewing of Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, a lot of cuddling of cats, & an flatbread from Town Hall delivered by Uber Eats.

Thank you to everyone who called, texted, social media messaged, & otherwise celebrated with me this weekend. There was a time when I didn’t expect to make it to 30; every year after is an incredible blessing, & I credit the amazing people in my life for making it so. I love you.

And as always, I end my birthday with a donation to the cause of suicide awareness & prevention, this year to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - a symbol of my appreciation for this life I love. If you’re so inclined, I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

Here’s to 34!

I've Been Trying Workouts I Never Thought I'd Get Excited About

Monday, August 6, 2018

Since starting Harness Cycle in April, I've found myself much more open to trying other forms of exercise, too. I think it's because I was so terrified to start riding (to be terrible at, to be embarrassed about it, to be surrounded by fit "'workout people") that I feel like I have the courage to face the same fears elsewhere. After all, this one turned out OK!

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly no athlete or one of those people who loves working out, & I don't imagine I ever will be. But I'm grateful to my Harness experience for helping me feel more comfortable, overall, in exploring my fitness options.

Recently, I've signed up for not one, not two, but three new-to-me forms of exercise, & I'm surprised by how much I (mostly) don't hate them.

Running the Bridges with Harness Cycle

Yes, Harness Cycle is a cycling-only studio, but every Wednesday for the last five years, they've been hosting a free just-for-fun run from their studio in Hingetown across two of the bridges into/out of downtown Cleveland. I would never have done this on my own, but I'm participating in their #HarnesstheSummer challenge, & one of the activities I needed to complete was a bridge run - so I did.

Most folks do a 3.5 mile loop, but I took the lesser option, choosing the one-mile run down the Detroit-Superior Bridge. I hated every minute of it, & I was sore for days - after running one damn mile - but it was worth it for the punch & the pride.

Yoga with Bottoms Up Yoga & Brew

Sometimes being a blogger means getting to check out cool sneak peeks! A million thank-yous to Bottoms Up for inviting me & other Internet folks to the first class hosted by this brand-new business, which hosts roving yoga classes at local breweries. Classes are $15, & the all-levels classes end with a beer from the host brewery.

This particular class was held at Sibling Revelry Brewery in Westlake, & though it was way beyond my abilities (super uncoordinated girl with scoliosis over here!), it was surprisingly fun to try - & the Space Force saison I sipped afterward with friends didn't hurt, either.

Aerial Yoga with Barre Fly 

I follow a girl on Instagram who always seems to be hanging from the ceiling in some kind of incredible yoga pose... & it turns out it's because she's an aerial yoga instructor! Savannah sent me a DM to let me know that she'd be teaching a (free!) upcoming beginner session at Barre Fly's downtown location. Unfortunately, I ended up not being able to go that day due to some work conflicts, but I'd really like to try again in the future. The intro class is free, & drop-in classes are only $8!

Overall, I kind of can't believe that in just a few short months, I've become a person who wants to try new workouts - but I figure that if I could power through my fear of Harness & end up loving it as much as I do, surely there's something else out there that I'll enjoy just as much. I might as well go find it!

What workouts do you love? If you're local to the CLE, is there anything you can recommend that I should try? And do you wanna do it with me? Showing up alone is scary! 

6 Small Goals for August

Friday, August 3, 2018

I didn't slay my July goals quite like I did my June ones, but I didn't do too badly at them, either. Perhaps because it's summer, & I've been aiming low? Ha. Here's a look back on July:
  1. Be proud of the final version of my mental health essay. I feel really good about this one, you guys. So much credit goes to Kim, my editor, for being so kind & working through edits with me so that I felt comfortable with & proud of the final version. You can read it here. 
  2. Plan something for my birthday. I didn't go big here, but I did put together a small happy hour at a local bar for the night before my birthday (this Saturday). And we're going to Hamilton tonight, which is birthday gift enough! 
  3. Make as much progress as possible on my #HarnessTheSummer challenge. Yesss, so proud of myself for this one! I'm not done with the challenge yet, & I have a few really hard items left to go (namely taking back-to-back classes!), but I checked off 10+ items from the list in July. 
  4. Eat mostly vegetarian. I didn't do a great job of this, but I didn't fail at it, either. While I ate some meat in July, I did eat primarily vegetarian, & I tried to be thoughtful about when & why I chose to eat meat. 
  5. Plan a trip to Put-In-Bay with my mom. We didn't do this, & now we probably won't - but I'm counting this as done because instead, we're planning a weekend together in Pennsylvania & focusing on our week in South Carolina this September instead. We booked those flights! 
  6. Change my name with my banks. LOL didn't do this. Someday I'll finish all of this, but until then, I'm leaving it off my official goals lists so that I stop feeling like a failure about it.
I can hardly believe it's August, which means summer is ending, but alas, here we are. My birthday is in two days, which I'm not excited about but also not not excited about, if that makes sense. I feel like I've finally reached that point where I'm just like, "Oh, this is just a day where I get markedly older, woof." Still, I'm looking forward to our weekend plans.

Here's what I want to accomplish in my first month of being 34:
  1. Get my car fixed. Some big piece of plastic is draggggggging from the front of my Mazda when I reverse, which is A) annoying, & B) mega-tacky. Time to get this taken care of.
  2. Finish the #HarnesstheSummer challenge. I'm so close! Technically, the challenge doesn't end until early September, but I'd like to finish it this month just for peace of mind... & personal pride. I've got 10 punches left to go.
  3. Seriously curb my spending. I had some unexpected expenses in July, & the result was that I wayyyy overspent & was very low on funds for the last few days of the month. I don't know if I can manage a no-spend month, but inspired by an idea from Stephany Writes, I may try a no-spend week (or two), at least. 
  4. Make some doctors appointments. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a few health concerns I need to sort out with various specialists. Time to stop procrastinating & make those appointments. (At the time this goes live, I'll have just had two appointments - a good start!)
  5. Plan my upcoming webinars. I have to host two social media teaching webinars in October, which will be here before I know it. I want to get the outlines & PowerPoint presentations completed so I don't have to worry about this during a very busy September.
  6. Start the Cleveland Brewery Passport. I've recently been to half a dozen breweries without picking up the new Cleveland Brewery passport, which means I could've gotten so many stamps! I want to work my way through it, just for fun (although not during those no-spend weeks).
What are your goals for the month of August? 

What I Read in July

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

July started out as a slower-than-usual reading month for me because it was a suuuuper busy one in all other ways: We went to upstate New York, we checked out the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art, & I went to multiple cycling classes per week. Still, I managed to fit in some really good reads, a few of which I finished in 24 hours or less.

Also, announcement: I started a bookstagram account! You can follow me, should you feel so inclined, at @katereadseverything

And now, what you came here for...

American Panda by Gloria Ghao

I never figured out why this book was called American Panda, which bugged me, though I liked the story overall. It's not an uncommon plot in itself - strict & traditional family, Americanized daughter who doesn't want the life they've demanded of her - but I thought this one was done particularly well. Mei, a Chinese-American freshman at MIT, is supposed to become a doctor, but all she wants is to be a dancer - & to date the cute Japanese-American guy who's pursuing her. To do either of those, she'll risk losing her family. I like that this one didn't necessarily wrap up nicely, like so many others in this vein do. ★★★★☆

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Essie Hicks is the youngest daughter in a fundamentalist Christian family that's been on reality TV since before she was born - & now she's pregnant. She concocts a plot to marry a fellow student she barely knows, one who has secrets of his own to keep, & with his help, she secretly befriends a journalist (who was once in a cult) to help her reveal what's behind the cameras. This was a Book of the Month Club pick that turned out to be completely different than I expected - in a good way. ★★★★☆

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

I really enjoyed Sager's first thriller, Final Girls, so I was excited to see his second novel available on Book of the Month Club this month. I tore through this one, staying up until 2am one night to finish it. The main character, Emma, is a painter with a tortured past: During her time at summer camp at age 13, the three other girls in her cabin disappeared & were never heard from again. When the camp reopened 15 years later, Emma returns as a counselor - but is she the one in danger this time? The language sometimes felt stilted, & much of the ending was wildly unbelievable, but you guys, I loved this one. ★★★★★

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser 

Another BoTM read! Everyone's trying to write the next Gone Girl, so I appreciate when I finally find a thriller that's just a good, old-fashioned thriller. This one was equal parts predictable & unexpected in a way you don't seem to find very often these days. After a night drinking with neighbors, Kristin & her two young kids go missing. Did they leave voluntary, or is something more sinister at play? Her neighbors try to figure out what happened to her... all while dealing with issues of their own. ★★★★★

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Guys, I... kind of hated this book (yet another BoTM choice). I'd heard such good things about it, but I found it to be basically a trashy romance novel disguised as something move - & it just wasn't. Stella is a successful businesswoman on the autism spectrum. She wants to learn to be better at sex so that she can feel comfortable dating, which leads Stella to hire an attractive young escort to teach her - &, of course, they fall in love. I did like & care about the characters; I did enjoy the parts of the book about actual plot, instead of porn & gratuitous swearing. But so much of it was the latter that I didn't get enough of the former to like this book. ★★☆☆☆

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

I wish everyone would read this book, but I also recognize that the people who need it most are the ones who would never touch it. It tells of Tareq & his family, Syrians living in relative comfort & happiness until the unthinkable happens. Narrated by Destiny - like, actual destiny, not a person named that - the story follows Tareq & his surviving relatives as they set out for a better life - where, they don't yet know. In an era of multiple refugee crises & devastating levels of xenophobia, this book should be required reading for literally every human ever. ★★★★★

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Another Book of the Month read, this one started out a bit meandering - at 128 pages in, I still wasn't sure of the plot - but it was still interesting enough that I stuck with it. The agoraphobic Dr. Anna Fox hasn't left her home in 10 months, subsisting on pills & wine & old films & spying on her NYC neighbors. When she witnesses a horrible crime, no one believes it happened - so how can she possibly help? I anticipated a few of the big reveals in this twisted story, but I still didn't see the end coming - & loved every word of it. ★★★★★

The Selection by Kiera Cass

How was I sleeping on this ridiculously entertaining 2012 YA series?! The Selection is set in a dystopian future in which the U.S. is now known as Illéa, once under Chinese control, & its protagonist is America Singer, a lower-caste teenager chosen to participate in a Bachelor-style competition for the heart of the country's young prince - despite being in love with someone else. It's deeply cheesy, but I appreciate that America is, at least, a pretty feisty female lead. ★★★☆☆

The Elite by Kiera Cass

Onto the next one! America makes her way through the royal Selection process, &... OK, not much happens in this book, though she shows herself to have a lot more tenacity & strength than some other YA female leads (ahem, Twilight, ahem) (but she's still no Katniss Everdeen). I've now moved on to the third book in the series, & I have a feeling I'll be blowing through the rest of them in August. ★★★☆☆

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.

Whatcha Drinkin'? My Summer Faves

Sunday, July 29, 2018

I shared some of my favorite fall drinks last October, & even though we're hitting the tail-end of summer (!), I figured, why not share my favorite drinks for this season, too? 'Tis the season for all things refreshing!

Saisons, Ciders, & Kolsches

First things first, beer. I used to be a Miller-Lite-only kinda gal, but shortly after turning 30, I finally figured out what kind of craft beers I like (no hops ever), & life is so much better because of it. Some of my locally brewed favorites are: Holy Moses White Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Co.; Space Force Saison from Sibling Revelry Brewery; Rosellini from Platform Beer Co.; & the Habituale Kölsch from Saucy Brew Works... to name a few! 

Teabloom Fruit Teas

You might think hot tea is best left to the colder months, but I say: What could be more summery than a mug full of flowers? Teabloom's little ball-shaped bundles come in all different flavors, & when you pour hot water over them, they literally bloom into your mug. You let the tea steep for five to 10 minutes, & you've got a fresh mug of flower-filled tea! I'm working my way through a canister of their Flowering Fruit Teas, with my faves so far being the peach & the acai berry. This is definitely a love that will carry over into fall & winter, too. 

The Green DK from Beviamo

I loved Beviamo's original DK smoothie, but their new green version is even better - & even healthier! It's made with spinach, kale, banana, peanut butter, & plant-based protein, all blended together, & it's perfectly refreshing on a hot summer day. (Hot tip: It pairs well with their Princess Pesto sandwich on a Cleveland Bagel Co. bagel, too!)

The Occasional Fruity Cocktail

I'm not much of a cocktail gal, but every once in awhile, I go in for something sweet. Of particular note are the passionfruit caipiroska I had on our honeymoon & the Phuket Sunset I had from Ty Fun a couple weeks ago. My favorite time to have a cocktail is on the beach (a rarity) or while sitting alone on a patio with a good book (much more common). 

Iced Coffee

Someday I'll be a drinker of black coffee, but for now, my favorite way to drink it is lightly sweetened & with just a liiiittle bit of soy milk. It seems like these days, the fancier coffeeshops don't have soy milk, & I just don't like the other faux-milk options as much. Coconut milk tastes like sunscreen, almond milk upsets my stomach, macadamia nut milk is bitter, oat milk is heavy... gimme my damn soy milk, please.

Strawberry Basil Mead from Western Reserve Meadery

Like tea, mead may seem to be a heavy, cozy, cold-months-only kind of drink, but some of the lighter flavors are perfect for summer. Come winter, I'll switch to a heavier variety, but this flavor, in particular, is my favorite summer sipper, almost like a light wine. It's best drunk on my home patio, just watching the world go by. 

PSA: I also drink a ton of water in the summer (& all year round), as should you. That said, I need to get a water filter; my mom's aversion to tap water has made me paranoid! 

What's your favorite summer drink? Anything I need to try?

Disclaimer: Thanks to Teabloom for sponsoring this post. I was provided a canister of teas of my choice in exchange for an honest review. As always, all views are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog! 

A Few Things I'm Obsessing Over Right Now (Pt. XI)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Annnnnd we're back! Here are just a few of the things I've very into right now. How about you? Leave a comment & let me know what you're currently loving.
  1. Underthings from Tommy John
    I recently received a pair of pajama pants & undies from Tommy John, podcaster advertisers extraordinaire, & I couldn't possibly love them more. The Second-Skin Pajama Pants feel like, well, a second skin (in a not-gross way) - so soft & comfy that I never want to wear anything else to bed. I also got their Cool Cotton Brief in black, & damn, they're way better than my usual undergarments. They're on the expensive side but absolutely worth shelling out for, if you can swing it.
  2. Brighton Wool & Honey Laundry Detergent
    My mom bought this lavender-scented laundry soap from a kiosk at the Cleveland Flea, & it didn't take long for her to get me on board. This stuff smells so good, gets everything so clean, & it's all natural, to boot. One mason jar full of it costs $12 & lasts 75 to 100 washes.
  3. Southern Grove Coconut Cashews
    No link to these. You can only buy them in stores at Aldi! I have to try reaaaally hard to keep myself from eating the entire bag.
  4. Nature Valley Granola Cups
    I bought these breakfast snacks from Costco on a whim, & I can't get enough of them - though it's possible that they're like eating candy bars for breakfast? They come two to a pack, & I eat them when I wake up for a little bit of morning protein.
  5. Bachelor in Paradise
    The show hasn't started yet, but I'm so excited about it. I've been reading every news (er, "news) story that comes out about it, from gossip to bios to trailers. The season starts two days after my birthday, & I can't imagine a better gift from the universe (aside from world peace or a Donald Trump impeachment) (which are basically the same thing, at this point).
  6. Dr. Teal's Pure Epsom Salt Soaking Solution
    I never liked taking baths, but since starting to ride, I've really begun to enjoy them. Yes, it's sort of gross to feel like you're steeping in human tea, but they also feel so good on achy muscles, especially when you add in soothing Epsom salts. I like the plain kind, but I'm particularly partial to the eucalyptus variety.
  7. S'well Water Bottles
    I'd been wanting a S'well water bottle for awhile, but they're fairly expensive. This summer, I snapped one up at a discount, & now I use it for every ride - not to mention all day, every day. They keep everything so much colder than any water bottle I've ever used, & as someone who's particularly picky about water temps, this is a big selling point.
  8. Peach Peony Iced Tea from Cleveland Tea Revival
    I don't always like iced tea, but man, this tea is something else. it is so unbelievably delicious, & so refreshing. All of their teas are certified organic, & they steep them in some crazy tea contraption as you wait. It takes forever (or, OK, the amount of time you wait for a latte), but it's so worth it. And it'a a super cute spot, too!
  9. Sexy Mother Pucker XXL Pillow Plumping Lip Gloss by Soap & Glory
    The first time I used this stuff, I decided I'd never wear it again because it burned so badly that I couldn't stand for my lips to remain attached to my face. For whatever reason, I gave it a second try - & once my lips were used to it, I found that it felt great, & not at all painful anymore. It leaves my lips moisturized for the long-term so I don't use it much or use often.
  10. Harness Cycle
    OK, I know, I know, you're super tired of hearing this from me. But do you know how exciting it is to find a workout you actually like & want to do after a lifetime of dreading, like, all movement. I've convinced my friend Brittany to join me for a couple classes, & I love being able to ride with a friend. Anyone else wanna join me? Hit me up, and/or sign up with my referral link.
Gimme your recs: What are you loving right now? 

My "A Few Things..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to some of the products I write about. If you buy something 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, I thank you greatly for your support.

Thank you to Tommy John for the complimentary pajama pants & undies I received in exchange for an online mention. As always, all opinions are my own - & yes, their stuff is actually just amazing. 

If We Were Having Coffee...

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

If we were having coffee, I'd be drinking an iced coffee, lightly sweetened, with a little but of soy milk. The largest size available, & I might even pay for my refill in advance.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that it's been a great summer so far. We've done a bit of traveling (to Costa Rica in May, to the woods of Pennsylvania in June, & to upstate New York earlier this month), but overall, we've spent most of the summer at home, which is so nice. It's been incredibly busy, from Harness Cycle classes to blogger events to festivals & cultural activities, but I can't complain about a summer full of so much fun stuff. I'm looking forward to a quieter August, though!

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that I'm still really loving Harness Cycle. I'd probably try not to gush about it & end up failing; I have, as my friend Brittany pointed out, officially joined the cult of indoor cycling. I've been taking two to three classes a week, & I'm still working my way through their #HarnesstheSummer challenge, with about 10 punches left to go. No inches or pounds lost (ugh, ugh, ugh), but I'm still feeling good.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that technology expenses foiled my travel plans. My iPhone 7S, which was only a year & a half old, went on the fritz last week. I couldn't make calls or take photos, & Siri's talk-to-text feature was really freaking me out with some robotic repetition. I had to spring for a new phone, which means I now can't afford to take a quick weekend trip to NYC later this summer for a reunion with some of my best friends. The phone is nice, but my friends would be better.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that last week was bananas. I've had a few really crazy-busy weeks this summer, which isn't exactly how you want to spend the most relaxing of the four seasons. To top it off, my sleep schedule was completely messed up, so I was way off my game. I took a really chill weekend & then, to start this week out on the right foot, I made lists upon lists to keep myself organized & moving forward. If work goes well, I think this week will be a lot better, so I'm begging the universe for a light load.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that I've had some health concerns lately. I've had a persistent cough on & off for awhile now, & I really need to see a pulmonologist, per my doctor's instructions... but I keep putting off making the appointment because I am genuinely afraid that they'll tell me I have lung cancer. But ignorance isn't bliss., especially when you're as anxiety-ridden as I am, so I need to suck it up & make that appointment ASAP.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that I've had some cool writing assignments. My mental health essay for Cleveland Magazine is coming out soooo soon (keep an eye out for the August issue!), & I can't wait to see how it turns out - especially because I got to do a really fun photoshoot with Cleveland photographer Angelo Merendino, who's super talented. I've also recently written pieces about bacon-wrapped dates, National Bratwurst Day, & Cleveland's best cream spots, to name a few.

If we were having coffee, what would you update me on?

"No Thank You" to...

Monday, July 23, 2018

No thank you to restaurants that are closed on Mondays & bars that stop serving food way earlier than any drunk people get hungry. No thank you to places that don't have their menus online or are located nearby but don't deliver on Grubhub. No thank you to Uber Eats' outrageous delivery surcharges that once tricked me into paying $40 for a pizza.

No thank you to IPAs & porters & stouts & rum & tequila & gin. No thank you to iced tea. No thank you to decaffeinated coffee or ever trying to cut back on my caffeine intake even though it's healthy & I'd sleep better & whatever, whatever, leave me alone about it.

No thank you to wet tacos from Barrio & soggy pizza from Citizen Pie. No thank you to ketchup, mustard, & ranch dressing. No thank you to meat on bones & maybe to meat in general (I haven't decided yet). No thank you to cooked carrots, raw cauliflower, & eggplant in any form.

No thank you to $400,000 condos in shitty parts of Cleveland that look like they're made out of shipping containers. No thank you to buying a house & having to spend my weekend cleaning gutters & grouting bathrooms & mowing lawns & all that other stuff that's currently included in my rent. No thank you to owning a dog or to conversations about mortgages & furnaces & renovations.

No thank you to Mad Men, Breaking Bad, & other shows I'm "supposed" to like but don't. No thank you to anyone who tries to make me feel guilty for loving The Bachelor & Grey's Anatomy. No thank you to paying for cable, but really, who does that anymore?

No thank you to spending time looking for cool new music when I could be listening to 2003 emo. No thank you to Taylor Swift's newest album & to the insistence that I should love Beyoncé as much as the rest of the world does. No thank you to all country music forever.

No thank you to gyms & trainers that focus on yelling, shaming, or otherwise making me feel like I need to be better than I am or work harder than I'm already trying. No thank you to "before & after" photos, to social media ads targeted at "losing flab fast," & to the Internet troll who called me a "fat fuck" last week. No thank you to ever being without Harness Cycle again, weight loss or not.

No thank you to toxic friendships based on guilt & perpetual apologies & always wondering if the other person is mad at you again. No thank you to adult women who still insist upon exclusionary cliquishness. No thank you to competition about collaboration & to making others feel like they need to keep up with the Joneses when the Joneses are secretly flailing, too.

No thank you to my $120-a-month AT&T bill or to not being allowed to buy a new iPhone outright (see you soon, Cricket Wireless). No thank you to getting a Nordstrom card just so I have early access to a sale intended to sell me a bunch of shit I don't need. No thank you sharing my budget or my expenses with the Internet.

No thank you to Donald Trump, or to people who are too politically apathetic to mind his presidency. No thank you to people who think being pro-Palestinian requires them to also be anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic. No thank you to people who claim their right to free speech is being infringed upon any time they get crap for voicing aloud a stupid, offensive view.

No thank you to people who drive super-fast in my residential neighborhood or to the folks who block my driveway while they're picking up food across the street. No thank you to watching videos or listening to music in public without headphones. No thank you to smokers.

No thank you to cruise ships or camping or vacations in Paris. No thank you to the elitist view (which no one ever says aloud) that international travel is inherently more meaningful than domestic travel. No thank you to traveling to foreign countries & not giving a damn about the local culture or language.

No thank you to white women using the term "spirit animal" & insisting on using darker-than-their-skin-color emojis, probably out of white guilt. No thank you to people who still say "retarded" without shame. No thank you to phrases like "Your vibe attracts your tribe," even though I believe in the sentiment.

No thank you to pretending to like anything I don't like.

So many no thank yous. What about you? 

The idea for this post came from this Instagram post from The Upspeak Collective.
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