What Career Advice Would You Give Your Younger Self?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Me at work, circa 2008

I've worked for the same organization since I graduated from college, with the exception of a few months, when I worked elsewhere... & then came back. Bear with me, though: Yes, I've been at the same place for a long time, but things change, people change, & growth still happens.

I'm 34 now, more than a decade out of college (yowza!), & when I look back on my career, sure, many of the faces look the same, as does the employer on my pay stub - but I have learned so much. There are so many things I wish someone had told me... or that I'd figured out for myself just a liiiittle bit sooner.

Here are a few of the lessons I've learned & that I'd impart to my younger self, if I could.

1. Be yourself.

This isn't to say you should be the wackiest, loudest, most inappropriate version of yourself. Like, this is a workplace; tone it down on that front! Don't be afraid, though, to be a human with personality.

I feel so fortunate that my first job was in our D.C. office, which has a comfortable, casual, work-hard/play-hard vibe. I told bad jokes & was honest about some of my lack of knowledge about politics & wore bright clothing in an office full of folks in black suits. And yet, working there marked one of the first times in my life that I felt like I was truly myself - & that my coworkers really liked me anyway/because of it/whatever.

Young folks so frequently think that being "professional" means being completely devoid of personality - when so often, the opposite is true. When you allow people to see who you are, to understand you, & to get to know you a bit, they're more likely to enjoy working with you - & vice versa.

2. Make allies in the office.

"Allies" may be too cold or cordial a term, & I originally wrote "friends." But I know that not everyone's workplace - or work style - is conducive to real friendships, nor are they always necessarily appropriate. What I mean is, bond with some people.

Again, I was fortunate that my first office was a place where friendships were encouraged & appropriate, & in fact, they became vital to our everyday survival. We worked long hours & late nights, & being able to do so with our best friends made it that much easier to manage. They're still some of my best friends to this day.

Even if you're not comfortable truly befriending your coworkers, make some close professional acquaintances; how's that? Identify folks you like & eat lunch with them, or talk about The Bachelor with them, or run on the treadmill in the office gym next to them. The more you like the people you're around all day, the more you'll like your job.

3. Find mentors.

It took me way too long to understand the concept of mentorship - or, more accurately, to see its potential value in my own life. Mentors should encourage you, teach you, guide you, & genuinely care about bettering your life & career. They're not just cheesy professional relationships; they are relationships, period, & having a good mentor can enrich your work life so much.

The first person I ever considered a mentor was Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, who died just over a year ago. Lynne truly believed in me & saw in me potential I'd never seen in myself. She even wanted me to become a rabbi! (Sorry, Lynne.) Her insistence on high-quality work, I've since realized, was not just for her own sake but for mine, because she knew I had it in me & she wanted to see me achieve that potential.

At this point in my life & career, quite honestly, I don't feel that I have enough mentors - & I'm still not entirely sure how to go about finding them. Especially in Lynne's absence, this is an area of my professional work where I could be doing better.

4. Be a mentor.

The older I get, the more I realize that I, too, can be a mentor. I had it in my head you had to be, like, 60 to be able to be a mentor - which is sort of absurd. But a mentor is anyone who has lessons to teach, wisdom to impart, connections to make, ways to help those who are younger and/or less successful than they are.

Since realizing this, I've started to try to act as a mentor to women in my field who are younger than I am & in whom I see a lot of promise & think I might be able to help. Even when I'm not explicitly acting as a mentor to someone, I try to raise up the other young women I work with, in particular, to make sure they feel valued, that someone is looking out for them, & that they receive helpful feedback & guidance that they may carry with them beyond their current work.

5. Know your value.

This doesn't necessarily apply to money, though certainly, you should recognize (& fight for) your financial worth. No, what I was thinking of is the fact that, as young women new to the workforce, it can sometimes feel like we're on the bottom rung of the ladder, with no way to climb higher. And sometimes that feels crummy.

I wish someone had helped me, when I was younger, to remember that I am a good person, a hard-working person, a valuable person - even on days when the higher-ups feel disdainful & the work is a slog. Social media was brand new when I graduated college, & it wasn't nearly as easy to find a supportive online community or to find a like-minded women online to build you up or help you out.

Tap into those communities & relationships, as well as your real-life, in person-ones, so that when you feel down on your professional self, you have safe spaces to turn to to lift you up & remind you how great you are.

6. Do work you love.

You know that inspirational quote, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life"? Yeah, that quote is bullshit. You can love your work & still feel exhausted or overwhelmed by it, period. Work is work.

But here's the thing: When you love your work, those negative feelings are a lot easier to deal with.

I feel so lucky to have found a job I love with an organization I care about - & while I may not always work there, well, my feelings toward both the work & the workplace have clearly gone a long way (12 years, to be exact) in keeping me there. When you love your work, the good days are great & the bad days are, at least, balanced out by the others - & that's pretty damn important.

So tell me: What advice would you give your younger self - or a young woman you meet today? 

More-recent me, circa 2018

If you're in the CLE & want more words of wisdom about navigating the workplace in your twenties & thirties, attend Engage! Cleveland's 2nd Annual Next Generation of Women, presented by The Sherwin-Williams Company & designed to provide professional & personal advice to help guide Cleveland's up-&-coming young women. It's Thursday, March 28, 2019, at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo - & I'd love to see you there. Learn more about the event & register to attend.

Disclosure: I am serving a media partner for this event & received a complimentary ticket in exchange for online event coverage. As always, all views (& advice!) are my own. 

True Life: I'm Afraid of the Dentist... but Not for Long

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

My grandfather was a dentist in my mom's hometown of Lima, OH (yes, the one from Glee). Throughout my childhood, visiting my grandparents meant getting my teeth cleaned by Grandpa – especially at Thanksgiving, when he'd take my cousins & me into his closed-for-the-holidays office & do exams, cleanings, etc. We always got little prizes are rewards at the end, like Beanie Babies.

Ahhh, the '90s.

His practice was called The Smile Shoppe, & though it's long gone now, just thinking of it makes me, well, smile. The business logo was a hand-drawn caricature of my grandfather himself, working on a smiley-faced patient; we owned red & green T-shirts galore featuring that logo. Grandpa's office was small & cozy, with a pet parakeet named Barney who whistled the Ohio State fight song until the health department deemed office birds a no-go; given my grandmother's general loathing of animals, one of Grandpa's staffers adopted Barney.

My grandpa was a nice guy & a gentle dentist. His office featured a wall called "The No-Cavity Club," & we were so proud to be on it - ohhh, how I wish I could find those old photos! After each cleaning, he took a Polaroid of us to hang on the wall, replacing our last photos. In part because of my desire to remain on the wall, I didn't have a cavity until college, after my grandpa had retired (& I certainly didn't tell him about it!)

When my grandpa retired, though, I started seeing a dentist in my hometown, a no-nonsense woman who'd been an army dentist before going into private practice – & I was terrified of her. My mom & I argued so much about my going to that dentist; I was still on her insurance, so I couldn't go to a dentist of my own choosing. Instead, I chose to stop going to the dentist altogether.

I have, of course, been to the dentist since then – but not nearly as often as I should. My grandfather has been gone for a decade now, but the idea of his disappointment in me for not taking care of my teeth is reason enough to guilt me into it... occasionally. In truth, I haven't been to the dentist for four years. That's before I met my husband, you guys. That is not OK. 

But here's the truth: Without my grandfather as my dentist, I am really scared of going to the dentist, even at age 34. Cleanings with my hometown dentist left me scared to return – so I just haven't. I brush twice a day & floss semi-regularly, but I know I need to step foot inside a dentist's office to make sure everything's OK in there.

So I'm doing it.

I'm excited to share that I'll be partnering with Hudec Dental, a neighborhood dental office with 20 locations across Northeast Ohio, to conquer my fear of the dentist & start prioritizing my dental health in the same way I've prioritized the rest of my physical, mental, & emotional health. I’ve sorted out my dental insurance & named Hudec’s Ohio City location my primary dental care facility – so my first appointment with my new dentist is later this month.

Remember how I dubbed 2018 the year I got my life together? This is the next step: Dental health, I'm comin' for ya!

Maybe you’ve never heard of a blogger partnering with a dentist – but bloggers work with gyms, plastic surgeons, & wellness companies all the time, & this is similar. In fact, a trusting relationship with a dentist's office is something most people really need – especially scaredy-cats like me. I'm looking forward to working with them, to getting my mouth healthy, to spreading the word, & to doing my grandpa proud.

My 2019 “smile resolution” is just to get these teeth taken care of – & of course, I'll report back. I may not be in the No-Cavity Club anymore, but I'm finally gonna go find out!

Are you scared of going to the dentist? What gets you through it? And if you're local to the CLE: Have you tried Hudec yet?!

It's Fish Fry Seasonnnnn!

Monday, March 11, 2019

I had never been to or even really heard of Lenten fish fries until I moved to Cleveland in 2015. I grew up with plenty of Catholic friends, & I know how Lent works, generally - that they put a hold on bad habits, that they don't eat meat on Friday, that it leads up to Easter, etc. In fact, as a teenager, so many of my friends observed Lent that I typically "gave something up for Lent," too, because it was the most supportive time of year to try to ditch bad habits.

In Cleveland, which has a large Eastern European Catholic population, the best thing about Lent is all the freaking fish fries. They're everywhere, a true Cleveland tradition even for those of us who don't observe Lent. Last year, I wrote about my first fish fry experience - & this year, I'm stepping it up.

I had the honor, this year, of writing four small blurbs for Cleveland Magazine's 2019 Fish Fry Guide. I wrote about the Latin-flavored fish fry at El Carnicero in Lakewood, the one-woman fish fry at Marta's in Euclid, the brewery-adjacent fish fry at Hansa in Ohio City, & the year-round fish fry at Union House in Parma.

That last one - a fish fry held every Friday throughout the year - that got me really excited. So before Lent even began, Mike & our friends Darren & Lilly & I hit up Union House for a little bit of pre-fish fry fish fry- & what a delicious decision it was.

If you've never been to a fish fry, the gist is this: Restaurants & church basements offer platters of fried fish, usually hand-battered. The fish itself is often a variety you'll find in Lake Erie, like perch, though cod, pollack, haddock, & walleye are popular, too. (Learn more in this piece from the magazine.) Some places offer grilled fish (like the branzino at Hansa), or a seafood option, like shrimp, & a few spots offer less-traditional fish formats (like the tacos at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church).

These platters always come with sides. Big sides. Lots of sides. Think coleslaw, french fries, hush puppies, potato pancakes, cabbage noodles... and pierogis. This is Cleveland, after all. Even the Greek church serves Polish pierogis at its fish fry!

We loved the fish fry at Union House, which came with coleslaw & french fries, & we ordered lots of pierogis to go with it. Mike went with classic potato & cheddar, but I found myself enamored of the ricotta-filled "sweet cheese" pierogis, which I'd never had anyplace else. They're like a dessert pierogi!

It was just so quintessentially Cleveland, to head out to this dive restaurant & bar in Parma (which is a super-Polish suburb), where we ate this big, old-Eastern-European-style meal, washed down with pints of Yuengling & Bud Light. I introduced myself to the owner, Michelle, who I'd interviewed for my piece on Union House, & she was so friendly & welcoming - yet another very Clevelandy element of the evening.

To cap off the night, we headed to Murphy's Law, an Old Brooklyn bar best known for its appearances in The Drew Carey Show (though it was then known as The Warsaw). Again, we drank Bud Lights & talked to locals & even met a regular who's close friends with Drew Carey's brother. The bar doesn't serve food but did have a large platter of eggrolls out on the bar for... I'm not sure. For anyone? For everyone? They seemed to be there for the snacking.

Again: So Cleveland.

It was one of those nights that made me remember, all over again, how much I love this city & its traditions & all the people & places within it.

If you observe Lent, may it be a meaningful season for you - & whether or not you observe Lent, may you find yourself a delicious fish fry to enjoy during the most delicious of seasons.

My Cleveland Restaurants Bucket List

Friday, March 8, 2019

There are so many incredible restaurants in Cleveland - with more opening every day, it seems - that I decided it was high time I set up my very own Cleveland restaurants bucket list. I'll be working my way through it this year, or however long it takes, & I'll update you along the way... with the hopes of

Addy's Diner

Addy's, a family-owned legacy diner, has newly reopened in the 5th Street Arcades in downtown Cleveland, where Jack Flaps used to be. Their menu isn't available anywhere online, so I don't have a clue what's in store, but I'm a big fan of all things brunch, especially from diners.

Batuqui Cleveland

I've tried Batuqui's food, only once, at a fundraising event, but even that one small plate was good enough that it has stayed with me. This East-Side Brazilian restaurant is on the more expensive side, but for a menu of options you can't find anywhere else in the CLE - lookin' at you, bolinho de bacalhau & prato misto - it's probably pretty damn worth it.


Crepes & coffee? Yes, please! I stopped in for some caffeine during their first week in business, last summer, but I need to get back to get the full experience, including dining in their gloriously vintage-decorated dining room, where most of the collectibles that hang from the walls are also for sale. One tomato/basil/mozzarella crepe, plz.

El Carnicero

It's truly unconscionable that I've yet to visit either of Chef Eric Williams' popular Cleveland restaurants, & I'm desperate to try this one, in particular. That brunch menu, though! The tlayuda & the blue corn enchiladas, in particular, are calling my name - & I can already tell they'll be totally worth the trip to Lakewood.

Johnny Mango World Cafe & Bar

"Inspired by Mexico, Thailand and other faraway locales," this Ohio City spot features entrees from the world over, including a long list of "Meatless & Delicious" section. Their margaritas & cocktails are city-renowed, too, so it feels like this would be a great spot for a low-key celebration of sorts.

L'Albatros Brasserie

I'm willing to give French food a go for this popular East Side date spot, owned by Cleveland chef extraordinaire Zack Bruell & set in an old carriage house on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. They specialize in cheese & wine - yes, please - & their root vegetable cassoulet sounds right up my alley.

La Plaza Taqueria

I can't believe I've yet to visit the city's most beloved & authentic taco joint, which recently expanded its in-house menu & seating options. Owned by a Mexican immigrant who says Cleveland didn't have any real tacos in town when he began, La Plaza still remains tops among Clevelanders who want the real thing.

Larder Delicatessen & Bakery

There’s a new(ish) Jewishly inspired deli in town - one that's up for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant! While I’ll have to be careful of mushrooms here (the owner is an expert forager, & they end up in lots of his recipes), I'm dying to try... well, just about everything. Modern takes on Ashkenazi Jewish favorites? You had me at hello.

Le Petite Triangle Cafe

Another French eatery! This little spot in Ohio City is, indeed, little, seating only a few folks at a time. It has lower prices than L'Albatros & offers different options, slightly more casual - with a brunch people adore. The roasted chicken croissant with mango chutney & currants is giving me heart eyes.

Lola Bistro

RIP to Lolita, the companion restaurant that caught fire in 2015 - but why have I not yet made it to the original Lola, Michael Symon's flagship spot on East 4th St.? I confess that the meat-heavy menu is not necessarily of major appeal to me, but I still feel like this is one of those Cleveland restaurants that every Clevelander needs to try.

Lox Stock & Brisket

Another new take on a Jewish deli? I'm in. This one is on the East Side, owned by Chef Anthony Zappola, who worked for celebrity Chef Tom Collichio before returning to Cleveland just over a year ago. I'm very interested in the Lincoln Park & the Larry David & The Mirage &... fine, everything, really. L'chaim!

Marble Room Steak House & Raw Bar

You don't have to like steak or oysters to find something to love on the menu of this new-ish downtown hotspot. I've got my eye on their diver scallops, jumbo lump crab cakes, & curry coco shrimp roll - but I know my husband will be in it for the steak & oysters. Perfect pair! This is a higher-end spot, so it'll be a "celebrating something" kinda meal.

Mason's Creamery (Ramen)

I've enjoyed Mason's Creamery's ice cream in the summer months, but starting this winter, when the weather gets cold, this Ohio City biz transforms into a ramen shop! They're another eatery without an online menu, or even any hint about it, aside from "ramen," but... well, ramen alone is enough for me to want to check it out.


This is Chef Eric Williams other spot, a modern (read: Americanized, but extremely creative) take on Mexican cuisine, & one I remember hearing Clevelanders rave about long before I moved to town. I want to try the salsa fruta, all the many kinds of guac, the butternut squash flautas, the chorizo tostadas... yeah, I may need to visit this spot more than once, huh? Time to get on it!

Superior Pho

I've been to & love Number One Pho, just around the corner, but it's past time that I try its number-one competitor, Super Pho, just around the corner - you know, so I can make an informed decision (or perhaps my informed decision is that I love all Vietnamese food equally!) Once I've tried their bún bò xào, I'll be sure to report back.

Urban Farmer Steakhouse 

I'm not a steak gal, but this downtown spot is beloved by just about everyone who's ever eaten there, which means I've got to give it a try! They partner with local farms, ranches, & fisheries to be sure everything is locally sourced, high-end, creative, & delicious. I've got my eye on their squash pasta with veggie bolognese.


Located just down the road from my apartment, this upscale shabu restaurant has extremely limited seating &, from what I'm told, extremely delicious food. They specialize in Japanese nabemono (cook-it-yourself hotpot), yakitori (chicken skewers)& even a seven-course omakase-style tasting menu (where the chef chooses for you). Do I like any of these things? Look, I'm more than willing to find out.

Have you tired any of these places? What's on your must-try list?

6 Small Goals for March

Monday, March 4, 2019

I'm feelin' pretty good about February, lemme tell ya. In some ways, it was a difficult month - but nowhere near as difficult as January was. I hope March is a little bit kinder to me than either of them were, but overall, I can't complain.
  1. Heal. My knee still hurts - it's definitely significantly bruised - but it no longer feels loose, wiggly, swollen, or unstable. Phew! I went to Harness Cycle only twice in February, both times too soon, but feel like I'll be ready to return for real this week. I have two free passes, so let me know if you want to join me!
  2. Complete a modified no-spend month. I'm going to cross this off the list because I did, in fact, make a big effort not to spend frivolously in February. I fell off the wagon toward the end of the month, but spending less on unnecessary things did, overall, allow me to buy items I'd needed but hadn't been prioritizing - & to sock away more into savings than usual.
  3. Sort out my medications. Done, I think! My neurologist & I have agreed on my medication & dosage, though I encountered some issues trying to get my last refill. My pharmacist is trying to sort that out, so I should be good to go very soon - & the medication itself is working wonderfully. Instagram explanation here, with a full blog post to come.
  4. Take down the Christmas tree. Not to be revisited until the appropriate season returns! 
  5. Eat better. I'm really excited to say that I have been doing this - & hope to continue, of course. I started using Noom, a health app (get 20% off with my referral link, if you're interested), & I've been using it to track my food & exercise, better understand my habits, get support from others in a similar phase of their Noom experience, etc. I also signed up for meals through Raw Trainer, which ensure that I always have something healthy and tasty on hand. 
  6. Get my airbags replaced. I haven't done this yet, but only because my car started rattling, & I needed to get it fixed urgently. My uncle, who is a mechanic, had time to take a look, so my car has been with him for the last week. (I needed four new tires. Ouch!)
All in all, it was a pretty successful month, especially given that the one thing I didn't complete was for a good reason - that I was taking care of my car in another much-needed way! 
  1. Finish & file our taxes. This is kind of cheating, because we've hired an accountant - a longtime family friend - to do our taxes for us. Still, I want to be sure it's all done & out of the way well before the April filing deadline. 
  2. Stop picking my eyelashes. Ugh, this has become my absolute worst habit. I used to suffer from trichotillomania, & while I don't overall have problems with it anymore, I do find myself picking at my eyelashes again lately - mostly at my mascara, but eyelashes come out with it, & I don't have any to spare! I switched mascaras to one that I feel less inclined to pick at, but I really need to just try harder not to pick. Anyone else have this problem? Any tips to share? 
  3. Keep a clean home. I've been doing a really good job, lately, of keeping things neat & organized - in part because cleaning the house helps me get in steps on cold winter days when I'd otherwise not be inclined to move much. I'd like to focus on making this a habit that I can continue in the long-term. 
  4. Finish Michelle Obama's book. I know, it's a little weird of me to include a specific book on my goals list, given that I usually read so much & so quickly. For some reason, I haven't yet gotten through Becoming, & I need to make sure it's all read before my mom & I go see the First Lady at Playhouse Square later this month! 
  5. Schedule a dentist appointment. I've got some blog news to share soon, related to the dentist - yes, really, & it's fun news! - so stay tuned for that, hopefully coming in March. I haven't been to the dentist in... um, an embarassingly long time.
  6. Organize my books. I feel like Mike's & my books are taking over. I read a lot on Kindle... but continue to hoard paper books that I then don't get to (because I prefer to read in bed, in the dark); he has books everywhere, including about 40 of them in the trunk of my car. We need to purge, give away, & maybe take some of them to a secondhand store - & then organize the rest. We also have two new-to-us bookshelves that we need to assemble, which will go a long way in making this goal a reality. 
What's on your docket for March? Let me know!

What I Read in February

Friday, March 1, 2019

I made it through six books in February, all of them good ones. I likely would've read more had I need been out of town for five days for a work conference, which had me, well, working non-stop, which left absolutely zero time for reading. Still, I can't complain about six, right?

My plan was originally to read only books by black authors during Black History Month, & I am a little embarrassed to note that I didn't stick to that at all. The last three books on this month's list were all ones I'd been on long waitlists for, & I couldn't pass up the opportunity to read them when they became available to me. More importantly, I am committed to reading authors of color's voices all year long, not just during February, & I suppose that's what really matters? I'd like to make up for it a bit in March, though. (If you're trying to do the same, start with my recent post, "For Black History Month & Beyond: 15 of My Favorite Books (so Far) by Black Authors.")

March's TBR list includes Michelle Obama's Becoming, which I have to finish before I see her live in the CLE (!), & Angie Thomas's On the Come Up, which was my most recent Book of the Month Club pick. I'm also halfway through Tiffany Haddish's The Last Black Unicorn on audiobook & Maid by Stephanie Land, another BoTM pick.

Ummm, speaking of BoTM, this month, I chose not one, not two, but three new books. Get a free book if you sign up with my referral code, & join me in this monthly obsession.

What are you reading this month? Here are my January reads.

Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock

After a long waitlist, I finally got this audiobook again from the library & got to finish it up. I started listening in the fall! I love Mock, her writing, & her narration style, so this was the perfect memoir for listening rather than reading. Anyone who's read Mock's first memoir, Redefining Realness, will want to follow up on her story & her insights with this second installation & look into her life. ★★★★★

I'm Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

Shraya is a trans musician, writer, & visual artist who writes about her past experiences withs men, both while living as a woman & as an effeminate queer young man (prior to recognizing, in adulthood, her desire to transition). This is a very short memoir, but it's a powerful, worthwhile one that all women will relate to in some way, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Bustle called it "an essential guide to being a good ally to trans women," too, so, you know. Read it. ★★★★★

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I started an HP reread because why not? I'd long been wanting to, but I was moved to start when I learned that it was available to borrow for free via Prime Reading - only to discover, when I finished, that it's the only book in the series available to borrow. Ugh! I don't even have a review here, of course, because this series is golden & this book is golden, & now I need to read all the others again, ASAP. Goodbye forever. ★★★★★

Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky

A coworker recommended this book, & while I wouldn't normally have thought it up my alley, I found it fascinating. I listened to it on audiobook, learning the storied history of New York City's Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the United States - including its founding, its significant medical progress, its controversial psychiatric ward, its handling of 9/11 & Hurricane Sandy, & of course, its early & ongoing racism/xenophobia/anti-Semitism. ★★★★★

Educated by Tara Westover

I read this one for my work book club, but the library waitlist was so long that I just bought it. I'm glad I did, because this is a can't-miss memoir. Westover grew up in rural Idaho in a family of Mormon survivalists who didn't believe in government-run education. Her parents claimed she was home-schooled, but in reality, Westover & her siblings received no education whatsoever. Despite her family's unconventional ways, her father's destructive & untreated bipolar disorder, & significant abuse by an older brother, Westover went on to receive her PhD from Cambridge. ★★★★★

American Fire: Love, Arson, & Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

This is another I listened to on audiobook, which I felt like one long podcast. (I think that's my new favorite way to read nonfiction.) How did this story not make bigger news?! Starting in 2012, someone set more than 60 fires in Accomack County, VA, mostly to abandoned buildings. Local law enforcement did everything within their power to catch the perpetrator(s), but in the meantime, fighting & investigating the fires depleted local resources & plagued residents. ★★★★★

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.

Greatroom, Great Food: A Delicious Date Night at Our Wedding Hotel

Thursday, February 28, 2019

A new report says downtown Cleveland hotel occupancy was higher in 2018 than in either 2017 or 2018 (the year of the Republican National Convention), & while that's great news, 2017 was my personal favorite year for staying downtown... because of our wedding, of course!

Mike & I, along with our wedding party & most of our out-of-town guests, stayed in the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center, which is is literally attached to/part of the Key Bank building (one of the city's noteworthy skyline buildings). The Marriott was really easy to work with in advance, the rooms were nice (including our bridal suite), & our guests after-partied pretty hard at the hotel bar after formal wedding festivities had concluded. 

We even took our family wedding photos there. Just look at that brightly colored carpet! 

While the carpet turned out fine in the photos (I even kind of liked it!), we definitely wanted to check out the newly renovated Key Marriott, which we were told no longer boasted such bold colors. When we were invited to check out The Greatroom, the restaurant's new bar & restaurant concept, it seemed like the perfect time to see what the "new" Key Marriott is about. 

The Greatroom is situated right in the middle of the newly renovated lobby - but it's a full-service bar & restaurant, open to the public. Because it's smack in the middle of downtown Cleveland, it's an ideal location for drinks or dinner either before or after a big game, a concert, or just because. It would also be a cute spot for a date - including a first date, if you want to eat someplace nice that doesn't cost an arm & a leg or feel awkwardly fancy. 

Look! No more red, orange, or yellow carpet! Damn, would've looked great in wedding photos... 

We were treated to a tasting menu courtesy of the Greatroom & its chefs, executive Chef Joseph Dubbs & Executive Sous Chef Daniel Jira. They've both been with various Marriotts before, but they're new to this one - & they're both originally from Cleveland! Both chefs says they're glad to be back in the CLE & providing a new level of culinary service at the Key Marriott.

The menu proved that they know exactly what they're doing - & they're damn good at it, too.

We started with champagne & cocktails, including a bourbon drink whose name I can no longer recall. I'll just say that it was strong & that it made me happy. (The two were not unrelated.)

First course was an amuse-bouche that Mike declared "the best appetizer I've had in a long time." Sometimes the texture of tartare squicks me out, but this was a perfect balance of crunchy & complex & umami. I'd eat an entire plate of these, if made available to me. Just sayin'.

I've become a stan for Brussels sprouts, which is such an annoyingly millennial foodie thing to say, but damn, this was a great version of them. Hickory-glazed & topped with chopped walnuts & large slices of Parmesan, they were appropriately sweet & savory, & they felt healthy but, you know, not too healthy. Just the way I like it. 

For dinner, Mike, who was following some Keto/Whole30 hybrid, chose the veal short-rib. It was barely on the bone, the meat so tender that it slid right off. Beneath it was a roasted veggie chili; atop it was a pumpkin seed gremolata. And all of it went into my happy husband's stomach. 

I didn't feel like going healthy, so I went with the open-faced chicken paprikash sandwich. How could I turn down such a creative & quintessentially Cleveland dish? I've loved chicken paprikash since first trying it at my college boyfriend's parents' house.

While his mom still makes the tastiest version I've ever had, I loved this fun take on such a delicious dish. It came with melted muenster cheese, frizzled onions, & pickled vegetables on the side... & I did not leave behind a single bite of it.

One of our friends got the hickory glazed Aukra salmon, served with root veggies & a Brussels sprout pesto. I think even I would eat this salmon! (Yes, I am sort of a picky eater, leave me alone.) Look at what a big piece of salmon that is! 

For dessert, I chose the warm salted caramel apple cheesecake, which was, plain & simple, one of my favorite desserts ever. I'm a sucker for all three of those flavors, & this one was absolutely delicious, with a sort of granola-like topping. I don't think Mike even got a bite in before I finished!

As for Mike, he threw his keto plans to the wind & ordered the hot chocolate cake, a mini bundt topped with marshmallows. It was rich & decadent, but I also like that it was served in such a small, individualized format - like a regular-sized cake had been shrunken to appropriate size, just for us. 

Did I mention that a few of my favorite local bloggers were there, too? It's always fun to pass things around & try a little bit of everyone else's meal, to get an actual taste of all the options! 

At the end of our meal, Mike & I took a photo in a spot similar to one where we took one of my favorite wedding photos. The background is totally different, of course, &, uh, we're dressed slightly more casually than we were in that first photo - but it was fun to revisit our wedding hotel for a date-night meal with friends.

...OK, but what do you think they did with that sweet glass sculpture that was behind us in the wedding photo? That thing was pretty cool.

Bottom line: We loved the Greatroom & are already figuring out when we can get back. If you're headed downtown any time soon, check them out!

Disclosure: The Marriott Downtown at Key Tower invited me & a guest to attend a complimentary dinner. As always, all opinions are 100% mine.

In Cleveland, Outdoor Festivals Aren't Just for Nice Weather

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

I think Brite Winter might be the Clevelandiest of Cleveland events: It's an outdoor concert... in February... under a bridge, next to the Cuyahoga River. Did I mention that it's outdoors in February? In Cleveland?

First things first, why does Cleveland do this? I know that's what you're asking, especially if you're the kind of warm-weather person who wears a winter jacket when it gets as "cold" as 50 degrees. But here's the thing you have to understand about the Midwest: It gets cold here, & sometimes it sucks, but a lot of the time? Well, a lot of the time it's mostly OK by us.

I, for one, have always preferred cold weather to warm weather. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't want 365 days of polar vortexes, but overall, I prefer coldness over warmmth. I'm too sweaty to function during summer, & I look cuter in sweaters than in shorts, & maybe my internal thermometer is off, or something, but I've always felt very Elsa about winter. You know: The cold never bothered me, anyway. 

Brite Winter is a celebration of that aspect of Cleveland life: that, yes, it gets really cold here, but no, life doesn't stop when it does. As a city of robust activities & events during the warmer season, why should we have to stop all those activities & events when it gets cold? 

I’ve only been to Brite Winter once & wanted to go this year because one of my favorite bands, Smallpools, was the headliner. Exciting! Mike’s friend Adam was visiting from Brooklyn, & he was surprisingly enthusiastic about joining us at this outdoor event on a cold, windy Cleveland night.

What’s it like to attend a festival beneath a bridge in the middle of winter? Imagine:
·         Two stages with live music throughout the day & late into the night
·         Drink tickets at varying price points, to be redeemed for Mancan wine, Tito’s cocktails, & a variety of beers from local brewery Platform Beer Co.
·         Lots of lighting – including snowflakes, pro-Cleveland slogans, & names of event sponsors –  projected onto the side of the bridge & other architectural elements
·         A food truck court featuring a few of the best local mobile eats, including Swenson’s. We decided Adam had to try a Galley Boy & Potato Teezers!
·         Photo ops like ice sculptures, the roving #ThisisCLE statue, & large seating structures shaped like ice formations
·         Warmth provided in the form of bonfires in trashcan-like receptacles… with $5 s’mores kebabs for sale to roast over them.

Unfortunately, due to incoming rain & a particularly intoxicated member of our party, we did not get to see Smallpools play live. In fact, we were back in our apartment by 9:30pm, doing a Disney movie-themed power hour & eating pizza from Edison’s. But I was glad we went at all & especially that we got to show an out-of-town friend one of Cleveland’s finest & more unique events. Brite Winter makes the rest of winter feel a little bit more bearable!

I didn't get many photos, & the ones I did get are terrible. You can see some really good ones in this roundup from Cleveland Scene, taken by local photographer Nathan Rogers. 

What's Your Sign? Talkin' 'Bout that Leo Life

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

I've never been too into astrology, but I have done some significant digging into what it means to be a Leo. Honestly, I've always been annoyed by the way Leos are described & portrayed - like we're kiiiiind of the worst.

Everyone sign has their positives & negatives, but it seems like Leos are frequently described using words that tend toward the negative: "dramatic," "dominant," "self-confident." None of those words is inherently negative, but... man, are Leos just jerks? For this reason, I've always been a little reluctant to identify too closely with my astrological sign.

Still, I've been seeing more astrologically themed content online lately - & IRL, actually - so I thought it'd be fun to do a little roundup of what my sign says I should like/be like versus me-in-real-life. I'd love to hear whether you identify with your zodiac sign!


According to Refinery29, Leo's keyword (or, more accurately, key phrase) should be "I will" because we're gonna do it anyway. That's pretty accurate for me, given that when I put my mind to something, I usually make it happen - but given my penchant for procrastination, a better mantra might be, "I will... later" or "I will... after this nap."

Refinery29 also tells me what my 2019 mantra should be: "I win when I follow my joy." I mean, I think this is probably true of everyone, right? (And therein lies my annoyance with horoscopes.) But the description of my work style (stable traditionalist) & my current feelings about it (antsy, eagerness for some change) are spot-on, so maybe this isn't too far off-base, after all.


Earlier this month, I attended Scents & Signs, an astrology & candle-making event at The Candle Studio at Pinecrest in Orange Village. As we arrived, each attendee received a list of scents tailored to our astrological sign; Leo's were honeycrisp apple & jasmine. I don't love jasmine, but I did end up using honeycrisp in my custom-made candle, mixed with the scents of manuka honey & whipped cream. (Yes, I basically made a Rosh HaShanah-scented candle.)

Scentbird, a personalized fragrance subscription, shares three perfumes appropriate for Leos. Two of them sound interesting to me, one with blackberry & vanilla & another made with "leather and tonka bean." Say what? The third features "powdery florals," which sounds like a sneeze.

Me? Well, I wear Old Spice deodorant every day (original scent only, please) & only own one scent, called "Grit & Poise." It's made with a bunch of words I can't pronounce & smells... rough & tumble, I guess? I wouldn't call it over-the-top, though.


In a holiday gift guide from late 2018, Refinery29 says to gift Leos, "Something luxe that won't break the bank...They love flashy accent pieces, but hate knowing you spent a ton of money on them — they're the generous ones." They recommend a candle, a pair of sunglasses, & a gold-flecked vase, all of which are lovely but also... probably not my ideal gifts?

Another holiday list from Refinery29, "Create An Oh-So-Festive Beauty Look Based On Your Horoscope Sign," says Leos want to be "glitteriest, shiniest, and sparkliest person at [the] holiday soiree." Can I note that this is almost never the case for me? Like, I wanna look good, but miss me with your glittery texturing spray, please. You'll find me wearing all-black & zero glitter.

Similarly, I'm very much not into Brit + Co's Leo makeup look, which features bright purple eye shadow. (I am 34 & thus far too old for this look, but even 22-year-old Kate wasn't gonna try this.) I do, however, always desire bigger, better, curlier, more majestic hair than I currently (or ever) have. Maybe that's the most Leo thing about me: I want a mane.

Know what would look excellent with a proper mane? Allure's Leo beauty look, which is, appropriately, very golden. Gimme dat. (And fine, I really like that gold-flecked vase, too.)


EpicReads says  Leos are "magnanimous, self-aware, aristocratic, & romantic" & our books should be the same. While I've never cared for romance plotlines (& certainly not for romance novels), I can get down with those other descriptors. Alas, I've only read one of EpicReads's suggestions - the Selection series, which was cheesy but enjoyable - & their other recommendations sound too fantasy-based for me.

Bustle says Leos' next read should be The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, to which I quote an admirable non-Leo who might as well be one: "thank u, next." What I like better from Bustle is this list of books to read during "Leo season," a.k.a. summer: "Some have plots or characters that all feisty Leos will love, others are written with bad ass sensibility all Leos can relate to, and some are even written by authors who are Leos themselves." Accurate, given that at least five of these books are already on my TBR list!


I'm loving Spotify's Leo playlist, created as part of a playlist capsule for all zodiac signs. I haven't listened to any of the other playlists & would likely enjoy some of them, too, whether they match my sign or not - but for now, I'm content with Leo jams from Kendrick Lamar ("I Love Myself," obviously, because Leos are jerks), Lizzo, Robyn, The 1975, John Mayer, & other faves.

Bustle's 2015 list "Songs Every Leo Should Listen to Because They Represent Every Facet of the Sign" also speaks (errr, sings) to me. It features Lady Gaga, The Spice Girls, Hozier, & Florence + the Machine. Doesn't that really make you "Wannabe" a Leo, too? (See what I did there?)

Tell me: Do you identify with your astrological sign or think it's all kind of hokey? Even when I don't buy into it, I do think it's fun!

Remembering My Friend & Mentor

Monday, February 18, 2019

Rabbi Lynne Landsberg was the first person I ever considered to be a true mentor, someone who was invested in both my personal and professional well-being and truly wanted to help me be a better activist and Reform Jew. On her first yahrzeit (anniversary of death), I can’t help but recall how she influenced my life and the legacy she left behind.

When I started my first job after college, working as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (known affectionately as “the RAC”), I knew almost nothing about Judaism or politics (I know, I know, how did I get there?!), and I certainly knew nothing about disability rights issues – but by the time I left the RAC three years later, I had become deeply passionate about all three, thanks in no small part to my time working so closely with Lynne.

In that job, part of my job was to represent the Reform Jewish community on Capitol Hill on matters of disability rights – and in that capacity, I reported directly to Lynne, the RAC’s senior adviser on disability issues.

Years prior, she had been the RAC’s assistant director, a fast-talking, quick-thinking shining star of the Jewish community. In 1999, though, at age 48, her Jeep skidded on ice and careened into a tree, leaving her with a Traumatic Brain Injury that almost killed her. Though medical issues plagued her for the rest of her life, Lynne went on to become one of the Jewish community’s most noted disability rights activists, turning the worst moment of her life into one of the biggest opportunities of her life.

Keep reading on ReformJudaism.org.

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