Eat Your Heart Out

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My favorite thing about coming home is eating. Also, you know, spending time with people I love, but mostly the eating. I've been known to make four trips in two days to my favorite hometown restaurant chain, Rockne's, & whenever possible, I try to convince friends to make the 45-minute trek to Cleveland to eat at gems like Happy Dog and Melt, Northeast Ohio's finest artery-clogging establishments.

But some of those establishments, it turns out, exist right in my old backyard - almost literally. While home this week, I seized the opportunity to ditch dieting & embrace unhealthy gorging. Yeah, yeah, judge away. Sometime you've just gotta eat your weight in gourmet in food.

  • Flip Side
    I don't even like hamburgers (actually, I've never had a hamburger), but I couldn't passup the quirky menu at Hudson's new(ish) burger joint. After an truly epic wait, I bucked the trend & ordered a chicken sandwich with two-year aged cheddar & an appetizer of mini corn dogs. And I washed it down with a Medjool date milkshake spiked with bacon vodka. And my palate will never be the same. In a good way.

  • Pad Thai
    While I think it's weird to name a restaurant after your most recognizable dish (can you imagine an Italian joint named Lasagna?), that's not the point. The point is this: I inhaled my basil chicken with a ferocity not seen since my early DC days, when the servers at my neighborhood Thai establishment came to know me by name. I doubted the Midwest's ability to bring me delicious Thai food, but I underestimated my fair Ohio.

  • Totally Cooked
    On Fridays, the catering-company-slash-café down the road from my house sets up a midday BBQ truck in their parking lot, advertising with the motto, "We do the grillin', you do the chill in'." I paid inside for a pulled pork sandwich & carried my order out to the truck, where Dante, TC's loudmouthed & enthusiastic owner, laughed at me: "I love serving this to my Jewish customers!" Guilty as charged. I planned to take a photo, but this was all that was left by the time I remembered.

  • Mr. Zub's at the Matinee
    Circa 1:00am in Akron's Highland Square neighborhood, I consumed a hot dog named after cinematic porn star Dirk Diggler (see: "Boogie Nights"). It was topped with cheese & onions & chili & was undoubtedly the largest wiener I have ever seen. Pun intended, har de har har. I took half home & can now confirm that cold, leftover hot dogs taste as foul as they sound like they will.

Now, pardon me while I stock up on nothing but Diet Coke & heads of lettuce to eat for the next month as my body recovers...
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Hunkered Down in the Buckeye State

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Hunkered down" is such a funny term because you never hear the word "hunkered" without the word "down" to accompany it. It's almost like they have to go together for "hunker" to exist at all, like the way you never hear anyone say the word "crannies" unless they says "nooks and" before it.

Anyway. The weather sucks in the Midwest right now. Maybe you've heard?

I arrived home in Ohio on Tuesday evening & spent Wednesday night hunkered down indeed, hiding out in my mom's unfinished basement with one very scared dog. Here's a highlight reel. I:
  • Realized that the faint wailing in the background of my DVRed episode of the "Glee" finale didn't quite match the music & was actually the city's tornado siren

  • Carried my mom's 35ish-lb., elderly dog to the basement because she refuses to make the descent on her own

  • Made myself as comfortable as possible in a cold, wet corner better suited to shackling someone to the wall or harboring a secret slave. Not that my mom does those things. I'm just saying.


  • Created a cozy little corner for aforementioned scared dog, who shook like a leaf (what a weird expression - lots of things shake more than leaves) during our entire time together hiding out from would-be twisters. Please note: "Cozy" is an exaggeration.

  • Videotaped potential last words, which I will not post for you here, because retrospectively, they are terribly embarrassing now that I'm still alive

  • Tweeted profusely with @jensteer & @betternovembers, who let me know that funnel clouds had been spotted over my hometown, though nothing had touched down

  • Killed three spiders with a yardstick

  • Cried twice out of fear of both spiders & storms

  • Created this Fourquare event to make myself feel better. My first Event Space, woooo! I'M ALMOST THE MAYOR OF TORNADOVILLE.

  • Uncovered this hysterical photo of my father circa God-knows-when:

  • Found this not-quite-as-embarrassing photo of me dressed as a spider ballerina, sporting some really heavy side-bangs for a ballet recital. Don't worry, the rest of my hair existed; it was just in a bun:

  • Received blessed word that though a thunderstorm warning was still in effect, I probably didn't need to spend the rest of the evening cohabiting with spiders

  • Carried my dog up the stairs at the end of the ordeal only to discover that she had peed herself in fear. Can't say I blame her.
I shouldn't complain. We're safe, & as far as I've heard, the storm didn't cause any injuries, though it did a hell of a lot of property damage - roofs ripped off & caved in, trees downed across major streets, general chaos.

The moral of my personal experience: Tornado warnings are the best case I can think of for having a finished basement. But I guess it was worth it for that photo of my dad.
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    Accidental Counterprotest?

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    I have a few questions about the photo below. Questions like, "Why is the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in Portsmouth, New Hampshire?" and "Why is it sitting in a hotel parking lot?" and, of course, "Why are abortion protesters picketing the local diner?" (Some of their signs had the restaurant's name written on them, but not in conjunction with any message directed at it.)

    But mostly, I want to know this: Am I the only one who finds it pretty darn funny that abortion protesters chose to picket right next to a giant wiener...?
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    The Time I Shaved My Head

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    When Maxie wrote about the possibility of shaving her head while in Las Vegas this weekend & having to wear wigs for the rest of her life, I realized that I've never told a pretty major story on here: the story of the time I shaved my head. Want to hear it? Well, OK, if you insist.

    During my junior year of college, I was the Greek life reporter for my campus newspaper, a well-respected student daily where I hoped to work my way up the ranks from my somewhat embarrassing initial beat. As a transfer student late into my college career, I knew just about no one, but I committed to making myself known. That's not why I shaved my head, but, uh, it didn't hurt.

    I'd been doing background reporting for a few weeks on an upcoming event to raise money for the Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute. The goal of the event, sponsored by a campus fraternity in honor of a brother they'd lost to cancer, was to break the world record for Most Heads Shaved. I no longer recall what the original record was, but these guys were dead-set on blowing it out of the water.

    The day of the event went like this: The fraternity set up shop in the quad on a sunny spring day, local barbers donating their time to take the razor to the heads of as many people as wanted to participate. I? Did not have any intention of participating. I was there to report, & a good reporter stays impartial. With her head full of hair. But when the brother in charge asked me if I'd be joining the head-shaving party, I joked, "If you can find 10 girls to shave their heads, I will, too." Impossible, right?

    But he did. And so... I did. I could've ducked out of that bet, this I know. But I was at a point in my life when I'd recently been accused of a lot of things - chief among them dishonesty & an inability to keep my word - & I couldn't bring myself to let them be true. What better time to be spontaneous & promise-keeping than when it's for cancer research?

    I'm sunburned. Also: BALD.

    We beat the world record that day, topping out at more than 300 heads shaved in just a couple of hours. We raised thousands of dollars. We looked like a campus full of skinheads, but... you know, for a good cause.

    So that's it, the fairly straight-forward story of how I became the eleventh & final girl to shave my head that day - the story of how I went bald at age 22. I wish I could say I didn't regret a second of it, that I was self-confident enough to always feel awesome about my decision, to look in the mirror & say, "You're beautiful!" even on the days when a policeman accidentally called me "sir" or when an acquaintance covertly asked one of my friends if I had "become" a lesbian (not a thing). But mostly, I just felt like the bald girl, & then the girl with a bad faux hawk, & then the girl with a Spock-like 'do bordering on a '90s bowl cut.


    Still, I don't regret it. It remains the most spontaneous thing I've ever done. It was for a cause that matters deeply to me. I stayed true to my word. I learned a lot about myself & about society, about standards of beauty & femininity & bucking them. I focused on my personality instead of my hair. Also? The next semester, I was made assistant news editor of the paper.
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    And I'm Like Baby, Baby, Baby, No...

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    When people tell me, "I have good news & bad news. Which do you want first?" I always ask for the bad to start because I'd rather end on a good note. Like, if the entree sucks, at least dessert is coming. For this post, an in-the-moment recap of my less-than-awesome travel experience from New Orleans to Boston on Monday morning, I have set it up in this bad entree/good dessert style. I am, you see, ever the optimist! (Ha.)

    I wrote this post on my iPad while on the plane*, but I'm just now posting it because a post-travel bout of The Plague had me down for the count for the past 48 hours. That counts as a sucky entree. The good is that... um, the plane didn't pull a "Lost," I guess? Though it's definitely cold enough for a polar bear up here in New Hampshire right now. ANYWAY. Onto the business.


    The bad: When I attempt to pay for my airport breakfast of Diet Coke & an almond/flaxseed health bar (where is McDonald's when all you want is an 8am McGriddle?!), I realize my debit card is nowhere to be found.

    The good: I am thrilled to learn that the cab driver who dropped me off at the airport has located my debit card in his backseat. I think he never gave it back to me & was possibly attempting to steal it, but it's more possible that I am simply a paranoid, neurotic individual.


    The bad: It will cost me another $33 plus tip for the cabbie to return to the airport to drop off my debit card.

    The good: The cabbie has time to drive back to the airport to drop off my debit card. Also, I am a paranoid, neurotic individual, which means I arrived at the airport a full two hours before my flight, giving me plenty of time to deal with such shenanigans.

    The bad: I have already passed through security but will have to do so again after retrieving my debit card. The security line, which was short upon my first go-through, is now approximately the length of a midnight showing of a new Harry Potter flick.

    The good: A kindly TSA agent tells me I can go through the priority line on my way back through so I do not have to wait in the line a second time.


    The bad: On my second security go-through, TSA confiscates the fig jam I stupidly & impulsively purchased from the St. James Cheese Company (& had initially managed to smuggle through lax security). As added punishment, they also confiscate a miniature snow globe I'd purchased for my boyfriend as a souvenir. Apparently snow globes of any size are a terrorism hazard. Glitter is a deadly weapon!

    The good: What I lose on souvenirs ($23, to be exact - that fig jam was fancy shiz), I make up for in cabbie kindness. Despite his 20-minute drive back to the airport to remedy my mistake, he did not charge me for the trip. He does call me "baby" - twice - but I'm willing to endure minor sexual harassment in exchange for the safe return of my sole source of money retrieval. Is this some form of lesser prostitution?


    The bad: When I choose Justin Bieber's "Baby" as my inaugural flight song, the teen superstar's photo pops up FULL-SCREEN SIZED on my new iPad. Because I haven't yet mastered iPad technology, I frantically swipe at a few buttons while the Biebs' swooshy-banged mug grins at the man sitting next to me, making me feel like a pop culture pedophile.

    The good: The dude next to me is approximately 65 years old & does not speak English. It is my hope that Beiber Fever has not yet become a trend in his native Guatemala.

    *This post is so long that none of you will read it in its entirety. That's OK. I'm conceited enough to post is anyway, sans editing.
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    Folks I Like

    Thanks to Trop50 for sponsoring my writing about fabulous bloggers. This year Trop50 is granting 50 Fabulous Wishes. Click here to enter for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous!

    I don't typically like to name names - even when it's for good reason. I don't often participate in memes, tag friends, etc., etc., in part because I don't think it suits my style, but also because I don't want to make anyone else feel like I don't like them as much. Or something. Clearly I have the sensitivity of a third grader chosen last for kickball. Not that that ever happened to me.

    So when asked to write about five of my favorite bloggers, it's a difficult a decision. Who do I like? Who do I love? Whose new posts have me in excited palpitations? Who might you not already know about? Because others often ask me for recommendations of blogs they ought to start reading, here are a few of my faves:

    Amy of Just a Titch
    Amy is real, funny, emotional & everything a good blogger should be, including winner of the 2010 Bootlegger Best New Blogger Award. Also, she’s just the cutest. She's a high school English teacher in California documenting just about everything: love, friendship, pet peeves, weight loss, general funny & interesting stuff. I am a fan of all of these things & of her. 

    Chaviva of Kvetching Editor
    Chaviva is a newlywed (their one-year anniversary is at the end of the month!), a Modern Orthodox Jew, a sometimes poet, a former journalist, a current grad student, & a tech junkie writing on all of the above & more. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person this spring, & she was exactly as expected: spunky, intelligent, entertaining, not creepy. I like that in a person. 

    Simone of Skinny Dip
    It seems that I read a multitude of Californian & Canadian blogs; Simone's is one of the latter. She's a sex & relationship blogger who has sass, snark & supreme writing skills. In other words, color me jealous. Her "When Sex Toys Go Hilariously Wrong" is, well, hilarious (and NSFW, clearly, folks), & she once wore a bra made of cucpcakes. Enough said, methinks.

    Tara of Tara Bites Back
    Tara is technically a mommy blogger, but I would never, ever call her that. She writes about her kids, divorce & other adventures in motherhood, but she's also hysterical. And verbose. And hysterical. Like the time she wrote about her son's missing testicle. Her blog's tagline is "That which does not kill you deserves to be ridiculed." I could make that a tagline for my whole life, probably. Also, she is not actually a dinosaur - just anonymous.

    Hayley of The Hayleylujah Chorus
    I feel weird including Hayley here because I pseudo-know her in real life, yet I'm convinced she thinks I'm creepy because once I saw her at the mall & she, like, ran away. But I'm including her anyway because she's addictively funny & going to be mad-famous, & I can be like, "Hey, I remember when that girl was born" because her sister used to be my bestie. So maybe I'm including her because I'll someday feel famous by distant association. But also. She's really funny. See her YouTube channel for proof: 50,002 subscribers can't be wrong.
    So. Those are five of many. What blogs do you love? Who should I be reading?

    Don't forget to enter the 50 Fabulous Wishes contest for a chance to win $1,000 to celebrate a friend with a refreshing attitude about looking and feeling fabulous. I was selected for this Tropicana Trop50 sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. I received compensation to use and facilitate my post.
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    "I'm a Loner, Dottie, a Rebel:" A Guide to Solo Movie-Going

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    I'm an only child, which means I grew up doing a lot of things alone - dressing up my cats, rocking out to Amy Grant in my bedroom, playing The Game of Life. Though I no longer force my cat to wear clothes designed for my American Girl doll, I am still perhaps most comfortable when by myself. In keeping with my affinity for aloneness, I see nothing embarrassing about going to the movies all by lonesome - but I've learned that apparently, a great number of adults do not share this belief.

    Recognizing that others are not nearly as comfortable, I have put together an instruction guide for all you would-be solo cinema-goers.
    1. Arrive early but not too early. Do not be late. The more inconspicuous you are, the less awkward you'll feel. This includes not being the first person sitting in the theatre - "HI, I'M HERE BY MYSELF!" - & not having to shuffle through half a dozen seated, popcorn-eating folks to get to the only open spot in the joint.

    2. Stay away from animal movies, unless they are animated. The first time I saw a movie by myself, I was a junior in college, depressed & bored. I chose an admittedly cheesy/weepy/ridiculous movie, "Because of Winn-Dixie," which amused my friends to no end. There is something terribly sad about seeing an animal movie by yourself. I do not have an explanation for this. Just trust me.

    3. Keep your weird noises to yourself. I have friends (please take a moment to consider whether I'm talking about you) who react to every little thing in a movie. If you cannot refrain from grunting/sighing/chucking/talking, solo movie-going is not for you. In fact, movie-going is not for you. Invest in Netflix.

    4. If you're planning to show-hop, dress like a chameleon. Depending on the set-up of your local theatre, it may be easy to pay for one show & slip into another afterward (even though you shouldn't do that because it's illegal, OK?!?!). Still, if you plan to do this, you should also plan for the worst-case scenario, which is that theatre employees may recognize you. To prevent this, wear layers - this way, you'll be wearing a totally different outfit from one show to the next. "No, no, my identical twin saw Thor alone right before me, I swear!"

    5. Pick movies with generic plots. This goes back to the animal rule. If a movie is too heavy, you will wish you had someone to break down to. If a movie is too complicated, you will wish you had someone to clarify questions with. If a movie is too freaking awesome, you will wish you had someone to high five. I suggest emotion-free movies such as Thor & Something Borrowed, both of which I saw last weekend & neither of which required the input of a fellow movie-goer - or any brain cell usage whatsoever. 
    Remember: Seeing a movie alone in a theatre is no different than watching a movie alone in your home, except that it's against the law for you not to wear pants & it's more likely that you'll end up eating corn dog nuggets & Sour Patch Kids. Above all, be confident. The truth shall set you free & encourage you to see movies alone: No one cares who you're there with or that you're there at all. So hold your head high as you slink into the movies unseen & unjudged. Enjoy the popcorn & lemme know how the movie is.
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      The Long & Winding Road

      Saturday, May 7, 2011

      I try to keep this blog relatively free of adult themes, because I believe humor is for everyone, not just sailors & sinners. But when my iPhone mapped directions to WalMart yesterday, I couldn't resist sharing with you the path it instructed me to take. I can't help thinking that there's a pervy Google cartographer out there who doesn't care that I just paid $4.12 a gallon to fill my tank or that the street he's leading me down is the darkest, creepiest, least-well-lit bit of road since that time I stupidly tried to take a shortcut through a graveyard at night. This guy's goal seems to be to get me to take the most phallic route possible, efficiency be damned.

      It's sort of like a real-life Disney movie, where you have to keep an eye out to spot the inappropriate add-in. I found it, I found it!
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      In Which I Pledge Temporary Allegiance to the Boston Area


      Where am I looking? I have no idea. But I SURE AM EXCITED ABOUT IT. This shirt was purchased in the little boys' section of WalMart for $7, & yes, I do indeed recognize the irony of the Red Sox sucking & the Indians not sucking the moment I switch cities. It's OK, I don't really know anything about sports, anyway. I do, however, like sports paraphernalia & fitting in & seeming more hardcore than I am. Was that supposed to be a secret? Probably.

      Also, in case you're wondering what the rest of my really awesome outfit looks like, I present you with this:

      Yeah, it's a pretty rockin' Friday night.
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      Meeting Mila Kunis. Or Not Really.

      Friday, May 6, 2011

      My friend Jonah once taught me to wear a blazer to airports for better service. His dad taught him that if you encounter a crisis that requires you to interact with customer service, you're more likely to be treated well while dressed in a blazer - & I've taken their advice to heart.

      Though I didn't wear a blazer on my flight from Boston to DC last Saturday, I did wear a dress & tights. Smugly, I looked over at the two women sitting next to me at the flight gate & thought, "Oh, that schlubby girl in Victoria's Secret sweatpants & Keds sure is lucky her friend is classing it up with skinny jeans & a camel blazer," because this is how my brain works, apparently. You know how my brain doesn't work? It's doesn't tell me, "HEY, KATE, THAT SCHLUBBY GIRL IN THE SWEATPANTS IS MILA KUNIS, YOU IDIOT."

      That's right. Sitting two seats down from me, dressed like every middle-class teenager in America, was international celeb Mila Kunis, she of such direct-to-video cinematic hits as American Psycho 2 and Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. Oh, also of the Oscar-nominated Black Swan. That, too. She was, I learned, on her way to the White House Correspondents Dinner, held two blocks away from my friend Rachel's apartment, where I stayed while I was in town. Trust me, I tried to stalk down some celebs after the event, but the closest we came was a chat with a Rite-Aid security guard who told us he'd just offended Marlon Wayans by calling him Damon. Or the other way around, I forget. Seen one Wayans & you've seen 'em all, eh?

      In case you're wondering, the answer is no, I didn't speak to her, as is my custom when encountering famous folks. She seemed to be doing a pretty good job of going incognito, despite the fact that sunglasses indoors scream, "Look at me, I'm a celebrity in hiding!" & I didn't want to be the awkward pseudo-fan who blew her cover.

      Some details, for the curious-slash-jealous amongst you: Her friend/publicist/handler/mother was carrying a garment bag that likely contained the dress she wore to the event (left), where she walked arm in arm down the red carpet with... Wolf Blitzer. Let's just say she cleans up nicely. She looked pretty but totally average at the airport - and she flew coach, too, sitting right in front of me! I thought she might be, like, eating diamonds or something fancy like that, but in reality, she was texting, listening to music, reading a book, sleeping - all of the things I do on a plane. How normal!

      The last time I saw someone famous at the airport, it was Dennis Kucinich, whose "fame" is arguable outside Cleveland & DC. Also, I accidentally hit him in the head with my luggage. Memorable, yes, but not in the way I'd like for it to be. Don't worry: I was careful to wait for Mila to take off before I lugged my bag down from the overhead compartment.
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      "True Happiness Is Giving It Away"

      Wednesday, May 4, 2011

      I have a soft spot for ABC's new show, Secret Millionaire (the eight-episode season ended last month). Every Sunday night, I repeatedly choked back tears as I watched undercover rich folks volunteer with non-profits in cities that are experiencing hard times - before making massive donations to help the people they befriended continue to make differences in their communities.

      I am, quite obviously, not a millionaire. But when I secured my new job this January, I committed to donating some portion of it - with regularity - to charities with missions I believe in. I remembered the One Percent Foundation, founded in part by someone who used to work at the office where I used to work, though not at the same time (a coworker of coworker, if you will, which is the grown-up version "a friend of a friend"). Their motto is "Philanthropy is for everyone!" which I really dig. The gist is this: You donate 1% of your annual income to OPF, & at the end of the year, they pool all of the money together & their board chooses deserving non-profits to be the recipients of the combined funds.

      I trust OPF to donate my money wisely (& liberally), but I still make donations on my own, too. Places I've chosen to contribute to in the last year or plan to contribute in the coming months include:

      • Love146, which works to end the modern-day slavery of child trafficking
      • GirlUp, a UN Foundation campaign that teaches American girls to advocate for the rights of girls worldwide
      • Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT rights advocacy organization in the country
      • Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which advocates for progressive Jewish values in public policy
      • The American Cancer Society, which is near & dear to my heart, as my dad & three grandparents have all died of various forms of cancer
      • Planned Parenthood, which doesn't just perform abortions but also provides STD & cancer screenings, birth control, contraceptives, family planning, crisis counseling & so much more
      • The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, which funds & sponsors research on the debilitating disease that took my friend Zach in 2006
      • Hopeline, which runs 1-800-SUICIDE, a 24/7 hotline for people battling suicidal thoughts. This is one that means a great deal to me.

      Now it's your turn: I want to know where your money goes. Do you make an effort to forgo the occasional latte or new pair of shoes to send your hard-earned dolladolla bills to causes that you care about? What causes rev you up? 
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