Thursday, March 31, 2016

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Don't be fooled by the happy-looking photo above, which is only to show you how thrilled I am by perfectly winged eyeliner, which is totally relevant to this post, I promise. I am issuing a personal state of emergency: My favorite liquid liner has been discontinued.  

Don't laugh at me. This is very serious!

I've been using the same brand & type of liquid eyeliner for nearly a decade, no joke. I use it almost every day (or at least I did in the days before I became comfortable with my eyelinerless face). I never use any other kind. I don't even know about any other kinds. I use Urban Decay's 24/7 Waterproof Liquid Liner in Perversion, period, & no other brands exist for me.

Until now, when they apparently have to, because Urban Decay is doing me dirty by getting rid of the world's best eyeliner. My friend Sammi emailed them about it, & they responded to confirm the discontinuation & to suggest a replacement product. Alas, that product - their 24/7 Glide-On Pencil - is, in my experience, absolutely terrible & a not-at-all appropriate substitute for their now-discontinued holy grail.

In case it wasn't clear, I'm having a difficult time with this.

Upon recommendations from other eyeliner-laden ladies, I bought the Kat Von D Tattoo Liner, which is described as a liquid liner. Let me tell you: That is a total lie on multiple counts. It's just, like, a wet pen, not an actual liquid liner, & it's basically impossible for me to create my standard winged liner look with it as it tugs at my eyelids & refuses to go on smoothly.

Furthermore, you'd think that a liner with "tattoo" in the name would stick to my face with some level of permanence, but no: This stuff smudges & runs & makes me look like a gothic hooker basically every day. It creases at my eyelid, it smudges down my face, & today, when I was in the rain for, like, 30 seconds, it did THIS:

Do I look sad in these photos? I am, because this happened by 10:30am, despite my wearing a hardy primer underneath the liner. Did I mention that this product costs $20? Not acceptable. In other words, the Kat Von D Tattoo Liner is not dark enough, it's not wet enough, it's not permanent enough... It's just not good enough, goddamnit.

But I am desperate. I need your help. I can't go around looking like a sad watercolor painting all day damn. Ladies of the Internet, assemble! What liquid liner should I be trying as I mourn the loss of my longtime favorite?
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Thanks, Kind Stranger, for Buying My Taco & Making My Day

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

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It was pretty late into the workday yesterday I realized I'd forgotten to eat lunch. I looked down at my watch - OK, fine, at my iPhone, - & realized it was already 4:20pm. My first thought probably should've been, "That's actually almost dinner," but instead it was, "That means Barrio is open!" The best taco place in town opens at 4pm, & it's just two blocks from my place.

I placed a pick-up order for a single taco - the Curd Ferguson, obviously, which is my all-time fave - & was told it'd be ready in 10 minutes. When I got to Barrio & posted up at the bar to grab my food, all seemed to be going well - fast & easy, a taco nearly in my posession.

Except their credit card machine broke - like, in that very moment, apparently. I asked the bartender if it was a problem with my card & then joked for a bit with the guy on the barstool next to me: nothing more embarrassing than being declined, I swear I have money, etc. I waited & waited, my taco sitting in front of me but not yet mine. I owed exactly $4. I kept waiting.

As the clock ticked, the guy on the barstool said something in a low voice to the bartender, who then turned to me: "My friend Adam here says he'll put your taco on his tab so you can get out of here." I turned to the guy on the barstool, surprised & protesting. "You don't have to do that!" I insisted. Because of course he didn't.

But he told me that $4 was no big deal & that I shouldn't keep waiting on it.

I relented, both because it was so damn nice of him & because I was in a hurry to get back to work (& also pretty hungry by that point). And then I thanked him profusely, promised to pay it forward to someone else, & headed for home, taco in hand - &, soon, in my stomach. I ate it on my new deck, & it was freaking glorious.

So, thanks, Adam with the beard & the turtle tattoo sitting at the bar at the Barrio in Tremont at 4:30 yesterday afternoon. You're exactly the kind of person who gives the Midwest the reputation it has for being home to some of the nicest people in the country, & I was lucky to be on the receiving end of that Ohio hospitality today. Lots of good karma & tacos to you
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Pay Me What You Owe Me: On Asking Bloggers to Shill for Your Brand for Free

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

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I’ve been blogging for nearly nine years, but I rarely work with brands. It’s just something I (don’t) do. Simply put, it’s not a main function of the reason I have a blog, so it’s not something I actively cultivate within my little Internet space.

That said, I was really excited, a few months back, to hear from one of my favorite brands. I don’t want to put them on blast by name as I put them on blast by practice, but I will say that they’re stylish, on-trend, affordable, & social justice-driven, all characteristics I value in a brand, & I’ve been a customer since long before they were as popular as they are now — a hipster, if you will, but not a douchey way.

So I was super pumped when they reached out to me about participating in a summer social media campaign. “We’re handpicking a selected group of bloggers,” their contact told started — ooooh! He explained that they were looking for bloggers to create a bunch of photos featuring their newest product line, sharing how I’d wear their products for fun summer experiences (vacations, adventures, etc.) They offered to send me products to borrow for the photos.

Upon receiving their jazzy but somewhat vague initial email, I responded to tell the brand rep that I was already a huge fan of their product & might be interested in participating if he could tell me a bit more about the project. I asked him to “Tell me more about the campaign, what you’re looking for from participating bloggers, compensation, commitment, length of the campaign, etc.”

He responded with a fair amount of information about the campaign, including a paragraph explaining that this was an unpaid campaign, but that they would raise up the bloggers with the best content on their social media accounts.

There was a time when I might’ve gone for this. There was a time when I was so taken by the idea of becoming a big-time, brand-coveted blogger that I would’ve said, “Yes, Company That Can Totally Afford to Compensate Me But is Relying on My Goodwill to Save a Few Pennies! This sounds awesome! Let’s do it! I’ll spend a bunch of my free time taking pictures & promoting your product, & I won’t get anything out of it, but maybe I’ll get exposure!”

But now? No. No.

Read the rest of this piece on Medium.

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Here's What Happens When an Introvert Chooses a Party School

Friday, March 25, 2016

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Like nearly every other 17-year-old on earth, I had grand plans of reinventing myself when I went off to college. Though I enjoyed high school, I wanted more out of college. I wanted to be one of the cool girls, to be admired and looked up to by the people who were, well like me in high school.

I wasn't necessarily popular growing up, but I wasn't unpopular, either. I was perfectly average, well-liked enough to be elected to student government but not quite well-liked enough to be invited to parties. I was happy, but I still hoped college would propel me up the social ladder.

When I began considering my college options, I quickly decided on Ohio University, which had the best journalism school in the state. It was also the biggest party school. Year after year, OU was named to national lists of the country's top party schools, and those rankings weren't lost on me: I wanted to get a good education, but I also wanted to let loose a little.

Read the rest on

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How I Keep Myself Happy (Or Try, At Least)

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I am prone to stress. I know, I know: Aren't we all? But truly, I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to recognize the signs of our own stress & to identify ways that help us cope with it. Of course, that looks different for everyone. My cousin's stress management, for example, includes running marathons on a whim, which is not a method that's probably ever gonna make it into my repertoire.

Lately, I've been a little bit more stressed than usual, so I'm revisiting some of the ways that I best deal with whirring thoughts, high blood pressure, & the physical ailments that stress so kindly brings along with it.
  1. Writing in a gratitude journal

    I bought a little journal from Marshall's awhile back that has just a few lines for each day, just enough space to write down a few notes of gratitude. A use it to list, whether in complete sentences or not, the things that have made my day good, even if my day wasn't, well, very good at all. Trying to focus on the positives keep me appreciative of all that's right in my life, even when much feels wrong.
  2. Reviewing my "gold star" folder

    I keep a folder in my Outlook labeled "Gold Star," where I store any & all emails I receive that include a compliment, be it about my work, my personality, or something nice I did for someone. When I'm feeling particularly bad about myself & struggling with self-destructive thoughts about how much I suck, I turn to this folder as a reminder that I am good at what I do & that, gosh darn it, people like me.
  3. Letting something go

    When I'm stressed about one thing, I end up being stressed about everything. I run through my mental to-do list over & over & over, wondering how on earth I'll finish everything (or anything, for that matter). I've discovered that it's important for me to pull apart each little element & to figure out which things can wait, what can be done to a lesser degree than originally planned, & what I can, frankly, pay someone else to do for me, when possible. If I can weed out some of the less-important items on my list, I can focus on the ones that are truly giving me grief.
  4. Practicing hygge

    In English, the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced "hoo-ga") translates as "coziness," though apparently this Danish way of life goes far beyond our typical understanding of that word: "The idea is to relax and feel as at-home as possible, forgetting life's worries." For me, hygge means eating my favorite foods, wearing my comfiest pajamas, lighting my best-smelling candles, relaxing in a clean apartment, cuddling with my cat... whatever it takes to just feel that deep sense of comfort & contentment that helps everything else fade away.
  5. Moving my body

    I'm admittedly not great at this, but when I'm stressed, I feel it in my body, especially in my shoulders, neck, & upper back. Turning to yoga as a means of releasing the physical impacts of stress can really help calm stress's effects on my mind. And if I'm not in the mood for yoga (lately, I haven't been, though I want to get back into it), I'll just take a walk around my neighborhood. 
  6. Zoning right the hell out

    Maybe watching TV isn't the healthiest way to cope with stress, but sometimes, I find that my stress is a direct result of firing on all cylinders for too long. Focusing on one mindless thing, like catching up on a favorite show on Hulu while not using my phone or doing a zillion other things, helps me normalize a little bit & gives my brain time to settle down.
So tell me: What else should I be doing to deal with stress? How do you handle it?  

PS: Now I have a new way to destress, too - hanging out on my new deck. I sat out there today & read a magazine, & my God, it was glorious. I may never be stressed again.
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Broadway Comes to Cleveland: Reviving My Long-Lost Love of Musical Theater

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

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Did you know that I was in showchoir in high school? There, now you know: I was in showchoir in high school. Maybe this photo will help you visualize it.


You're welcome. 

When I found out that my longtime BFF, Christina, would be in town from Tennessee the same night of Playhouse Square's unveiling of the 2016-2017 KeyBank Broadway Series lineup, I knew I wanted her to be my date to this very cool, very Clevelandy event. After years of performing together in showchoir, a cappella choir, & high school musicals, she was the perfect partner for a night full of Broadway surprises.

At this event, Playhouse Square reveals the Broadway shows that will make their way to Cleveland during the coming season. You may recall that I saw If/Then there this year, & I'm going to see Matilda in May, but I was eager to learn what else is on the calendar because, simply put, I want to try to see every damn show ever. 

Christina & I got a little dressed up, hit up Barrio for a taco dinner, & then scored superb seats in the Connor Palace, one of Playhouse Square's nine (yes, nine!) theaters. Did you know that Cleveland has the second largest theater district in the country? Take that, everywhere else that's not New York! In fact, Karey Kirkpatrick, co-writer of the Broadway hit Something Rotten, told the audience last night that Cleveland is putting Los Angeles, where he lives, to shame when it comes to the live theater scene. 
  1. Fun Home

    I'd never heard of this show (which is about a family that owns a funeral home - get it?), but after watching last night's live interview with Tony-winning composer Jeanine Tesori & a performance by one of the show's child actors, I'm totally sold. It's beginning its tour in CLE! (October 2-22)
  2. Finding Neverland

    I've wanted to see this show ever since I watched the cast perform one of the songs at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. I'm not much for fairytales, but it just looks so pretty & fantastical. Now for the big question: Will Matthew Morrison play the lead in the tour, too? Because swoon. (November 1-20)
  3. Into the Woods

    Admittedly, I haaaated this movie, which I saw on Christmas in 204. It was so damn long - like, just so long. I did really enjoy the concept & the music, though, & when it comes to a live performance, isn't that what matters? I'll put my movie feelings on hold to see this one live.  (January 10-29)
  4. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I

    This is my mom's forever-favorite show, though I barely remember seeing the movie as a child. Still, I think this might be the show I'm most excited about, if only so that I can take her on a mother/daughter date to see it. (February 7-26)
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

    I had no idea this book had been made into a play, but now I definitely want to catch it on stage. It won a Tony Award for Best Play, & based on the teaser, it looks like art meets math meets magic on stage. Sign me up for seeing the play and reading the book. (March 21-April 9)
  6. Something Rotten!

    This is another I saw in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, though it's got a totally different vibe from Finding Neverland. I happen to love the cheesy, over-the-top style of old musicals like this, & so, although my most Broadway-knowledgeable friend told me she didn't really like it, I have a feeling I will. (April 25-May 14)

  7. An American in Paris

    This romantic musical features a bunch of old Gershwin songs that everyone already knows, which is pretty exciting, & it's based of off both the play &y the film of the same name. I love that it incorporates so many various elements, a real representation of the smorgasbord of art that comprise modern theater. (June 20-July 9)
The evening ended with a singalong that included "All That Jazz," which had Christina & I laughing pretty hard as we hearkened back to our junior-year trip to NYC, where we took a dance workshop with some Broadway actor who taught us a Fosse routine.

In fact, the whole event got me so excited that today, I signed up for Playhouse Square Partners, the theater's young professionals group. Partners can join committees, get invitations to special events & discounted admission to ticketed events, & receive advance notice & priority ticketing for select performances. I've been wanting to get a little bit more locally involved, & this seems like the perfect way to give back to the community while indulging in my long-lost love of musical theater.

So bring it on, Broadway Series. I'm not kidding when I say I'm going to try to see every single show!

PS: As we stood in the lobby waiting for an Uber that hit surge pricing right as we requested our car, I complained, "They jacked up the price!" Christina immediately replied with, "Can you believe it? They jacked up the price! Ten cents a hundred!" to which I responded, "It's bad enough that we gotta eat what we don't sell. And they jacked up the price!" After all, what's a best friend for if not to quote Newsies with you, verbatim? I told you she was the perfect date for this event.

Disclaimer: This event was free, but tickets were by invite only. Playhouse Square invited me to attend the event in exchange for my honest reviews of the evening & the new Key Bank Broadway Series lineup. As always, all opinions are my own.
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My Hairstylist Was A Total Bully

Friday, March 18, 2016

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I shaved my head on a whim during college, and when it started to grow back in the shape of a very Spock-looking bowl cut, I made my first appointment with Jeremy, a punk-rock stylist with green hair and KISS tattoos. He gave me a fierce cut and color that made me feel like a million bucks, and from then on, I only made hair appointments with him—even after I moved out of state.

One autumn, though, with no upcoming plans to return home, my hair had begun to look pretty raggedy and, though nervous, I was excited to try someplace new. I turned to Yelp to find a highly rated salon in my new town and booked an appointment at a quaint, upscale salon nearby.

When I strolled in for my Friday afternoon appointment, I was greeted by Chris, the owner, and Anna, his friendly assistant stylist. Chris plunked down in a corner chair, hand on his chin, and asked me to describe my hair situation: What I had, what I wanted, what I liked, etc. 
I was the only customer there.

Immediately, I felt very tended-to, like Chris truly cared how I looked and felt. I was confident he'd make me look good. New salon jackpot!

But post-cut, Chris's mannerisms abruptly changed...

Read the rest on Redbook.

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The Anxiety-Ridden Confessions of a Nervous Talker

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

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I have this major fear sometimes that I have no idea how to speak to other human beings.

I seem pretty normal on the Internet, right? And I am. But hear me out.

I've worked from home for half a decade now, which means that on an average day, I only verbally engage with: my boyfriend, one or two baristas at the coffee shop next door, & maybe a singular video chat with my NYC-based coworkers, though even that's not a guarantee. On a really big day, I go to Target! I know, my life is bananas.

But so much of my time is spent alone. I am, frankly, a very adept writer, & I have mastered the art of communicating solely via email - friendly, succinct, normal-sounding. In person, though, when I meet with someone new... cue the panic.

It's not the extreme, brain-on-fire panic that, like, sends me running for an inhaler & a Xanax. It is, in some ways, a more insidious panic. It's the slow, low-level kind that sets in mid-conversation, when I listen to myself talking - as I'm talking - & think, "Why are you saying so many words? Stop talking so fast! This person didn't need to know that about you. You're too informal. You sound stilted. You are a total weirdo. Let them talk. You're rambling. Stop. Go crawl in a hole & only email forever."

It's not a self-esteem thing; it's just an "Oh my God, am I doing this right?" thing. I know I'm a pretty personable person. I like people, I'm friendly, I can carry a decent conversation, & I'm actually not a weirdo... but because I'm so not used to talking to people on a regular basis anymore, I can't help but worry that I'm completely dropping the ball when it comes to the art of engaging with other human beings.

I know, I know. That's sort of crazy because carrying a conversation is... like riding a bike. Or easier than that. It's not something you forget. And yet, there I am, halfway through a conversation with a perfectly lovely stranger, & it's like my brain folds in on itself & starts asking whether maybe I'm doing it wrong. And it's not even just with strangers! It's with my friends, too!

The worst part, I think, is that there's no real way of knowing if it's real or if it's all in my head, aside from my own anxiety-ridden assessments (which are obviously a little biased). Most people are too polite to be like, "Yo, shut up, you're nervous-talking something fierce," so I'm left trying to convince myself that my rambling is charming, not bizarre.

How's that for a personal tagline? "I'm not bizarre, I'm charming."

Compelling, I know. Don't you want to meet me?!

I try to remind myself that plenty of charming people are also bizarre, like Lady Gaga, or my hairdresser with the green hair & KISS tattoos, or the quirky, flamboyant photographer down the road who talks a mile a minute & will tell you the story behind every single picture he's ever taken. Nervous talkers are people, too. It's OK!

But man. I sure do wish my brain would get on board & quit throwing me off mid-conversation.
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Wanna Buy a Bar in Cleveland With Me?

Monday, March 14, 2016

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It doesn't look like a bar. From the outside, the building is totally nondescript, just another quirky Tremont home. If you look closely, you'll notice a Sam Adams logo in the window, but that's about all that distinguishes it from the residences that surround it. On the brick wall to the right of the door is a very small plaque denoting the fact that it's a bar, but it still doesn't sink in because it doesn't look like a bar, doesn't look like it's ever open, doesn't look like you're allowed to go inside.

But if you look a little bit more closely, you'll realize: This place is something weird. This place is something else. This place, specifically, is the Literary Cafe in Tremont, & it's for sale, & I desperately wish I were a person who had any interest in owning a bar or any money to buy this one.

The Literary Cafe only takes cash but has no ATM on the premise. It is open on Thursday, Friday, & Saturday nights only; it opens at 7pm, loosely, & closes whenever the owners feel like closing it. They have a small full bar & two beer taps, though they are always out of at least one of their drafts beers. They serve the other not in glasses but rather in glass chalices, the kind your grandma serves the Manischwitz in. The first time we were there, the only bar they had on draft was Sam Adams. Really. The bar does not serve food, though the owners (who double as the bartenders, of course) sometimes set Styrofoam bowls of Chex Mix along the bar.

There are a handful of barstools (apparently Robert DeNiro stole one?) & exactly two tables, plus a giant piano whose lid you should close unless you want to accidentally set the place ringing. Hanging on one wall is a painting of the inside of the bar, which feels strangely meta, sort of like looking into an angled mirror in a department store dressing room - like you can see tiny versions of yourself forever & ever, into infinity.

The owners, a married couple, have been there 26 years & were instrumental in launching the now-monthly Tremont ArtWalk. They refer to the neighborhood's gentrification as "urban pioneering."

The bar's back room that's more an art space & less a bar, though I suppose people drink in there, too. Two of the three times I've been, the room has been the site of a "drawing parties," filled with local artists of every age & shape & color & kind who sit in a semi-circle around a subject, furiously copying his or her likeness onto sketch pads & canvases. Completed works of past subjects plaster the walls, dozens of sets of eyes staring back at you from God-knows-how-long-ago.

The bar went up for sale in February & is listed at a cool half a mil. That price includes the bar itself, the liquor license that accompanies it, & a two-bedroom apartment above it, plus a backyard garden. According to the listing, the building dates back to the pre-Civil War era, & says it's one of the oldest in Tremont. The owners want to move south; I guess you can only do Cleveland winters & the Cleveland bar scene for so long.

OK, OK, so I'm not going to buy the Literary Cafe. I wouldn't want to live above a bar, & I wouldn't want to manage a bar, & oh, I also don't have the money to buy a bar, anyway. But I hope that whoever buys it keeps it pretty darn close to the way it is now: the perfect little neighborhood gem, refusing to conform to the trendy standards that the neighborhood is setting around it, hidden in plain sight & perfect just the way it is.
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Surprise, Surprise: I'm Moving Again!

Friday, March 11, 2016

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Something exciting happened today: We got the keys to our new apartment.

Yes, you read that right. I'm moving again. I haven't even lived in my current (beloved) apartment for a year yet, but I'm already moving on to the next one. And in case you were going to ask, yes: I am thoroughly exhausted of moving, of never settling down, of being on the go.

Luckily, this move should be a lot easier than all the ones before it: I'm just moving to another unit in my building, which means there won't be any packing boxes or moving vans - just a lot of shlepping stuff back & forth on foot. The new space is very similar to where I am now, but it's a little bit better fit for my needs.

Or should I say our needs? Even though Mike has informally been living with me for the last six or seven months, he's been paying rent on his place back in Lakewood the whole time. That lease ends soon, & we're making it official!

The new apartment has a layout much like our current one, so it feels very familiar. I'd been inside it a few times when the previous tenants lived there (they moved to Costa Rica at the start of the year), so I have a good mental sense of how it looks when it's full of furniture & looks like a home, instead of just a big open space; because I'm not great at decor & spacial stuff, this is really helpful to me.

The apartment is about the same size as our current one, though the bedroom is a little bigger, the living room is a little smaller, & it has an outdoor deck.

I've wanted an outdoor space for so long, but it just hasn't been in the cards in any of the places I've lived (except my mom's house in the suburbs, obviously). That means I am really effing excited about this deck, where I plan to spend the majority of my time when the weather is nice. It's large & lovely & has a little peek of the downtown Cleveland skyline. I think we may even have a prime view of all those summer fireworks displays over Progressive Field.

We didn't really get the keys today: We have to give them back tomorrow, as the place is still being worked on. But we did get to go in, walk around, & envision our life in this new space. We'll actually move the week of the 21st - so it's happening soon!

As annoyed as I am to have to uproot myself, my life, & my living space yet again, I am, more than anything else, thrilled to be moving into a space that so perfectly suits us. I want to be there for a long, long time - & to be with Mike even longer. I can't wait for this next step together.
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Things I Love Right Now (Pt. III)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

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Apparently I write one of these posts per months now. Hey, my tastes change a lot, and/or I find new things to obsess over on a fairly regular basis. There's just a lot of stuff to like, OK?
  1. NYX Lip Primer
    How did I not know about lip primer? This is changing my life, or at least my face. I've always had a hard time getting my lipstick to stay on, which has largely kept me from wearing it, but since finding this stuff, I'm no longer afraid. Before applying my lipstick, I first line my lip with clear lip liner & then fill it in with primer. VoilĂ ! Lipstick for hours.
  2. ALDI Banana Chips
    I cannot stop eating these - like, this is the only snack I want, ever. They're not that healthy - they have some added sugar - but they're probably better than anything else I might be tempted to nosh on. I have to be careful not to eat an entire bag in one sitting, though, 'cause ain't nobody needs that much banana in their system.
  3. FitBit Flex
    I forgot I even had a FitBit & assumed it wouldn't work anymore, but good news: It does! Of course, wearing it reminds me how difficult it is to get steps in when I work from home - the commute to my desk is all of 20 steps - but it gives me some tangible encouragement to get moving. For now, I've lowered my daily step goal from 10k (the American Heart Association's recommendation) to 6k, which is still difficult for me to achieve on a daily basis but is a much more manageable goal to work toward.
  4.  Perfectly Posh Best Face Forever Exfoliating Face Wash
    I can't get enough of this stuff. It's grapefruit & peppermint-infused, so it feels completely refreshing but not in the OMG-my-skin-is-burning way. A high school classmate sells it in those Facebook "parties" that I usually don't like, but she's so nice & the product is so great that I've drunk the Kool-Aid on it. If you want to shop, you can use my referral code to buy from her.
  5. Bath and Body Works Hot Buttered Rum Candle
    I'm not a Bath and Body Works kinda gal. It feels like the '90s, & it makes me sneeze, & everything is too... colorful. But my mom gifted me a "Champagne Toast"-scented candle that I burned immediately & was desperate to replace. They were out, but an enthusiastic employee guided me toward this replacement scent, which is almost as delectable. I bought three. At half price.
  6. Ebates
    I'd heard of Ebates but always figured it was a scam. Like, you're just giving me money to shop online? No way. But hey, it's real, & it's amazing. Start your online shopping from Ebates &, from there, click through to wherever you're planning to buy from - Amazon, Sephora, Kohl's, Macy's, wherever. You earn a percentage of your purchase back, to be deposited in your PayPal account. No catches... except that you're letting Big Brother monitor your online shopping habits. I can deal.
  7. Chicago Med
    I've long been a sucker for medical dramas & crime dramas, & this combines the best of both. It's produced by Dick Wolf, the TV mastermind behind the Law & Order franchise (my fave), so it feels like SVU meets Grey's Anatomy. Unfortunately, it's a crossover show between Chicago PD & Chicago Fire, neither of which is available to watch online (aside from the current season), so I can't catch up! I'm still tuning in to this one every week, though.
  8. Patterned Yoga Pants
    Since I've started doing EveryBody Yoga with Jessamyn Stanley (you can still get 50% off any yoga series with my referral link), I've also started to enjoy ridiculously patterned yoga pants. The pair in this image is from Groupon, & they're offensively pink, a color I absolutely never wear. But in yoga pants, somehow it seems acceptable.
  9. Vitamin D Capsules
    A recent study confirmed that Vitamin D can help mitigate the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so I bought a bottle & started taking two a day. It has bettered my quality of life in unspeakable ways (really, because they're TMI): I feel so much better, so much more confident, & all-around healthier ad a result of it. Added bonus? Vitamin D helps get S.A.D. folks through grey winters, & God knows Cleveland's among the greyest! 
Tell me: What are you into right now? 

Here's what I was loving in November & in February. With a few exceptions, I'm still into nearly all of those things, too!
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Some Very Ohio Phrases I Use That You Probably Don't (Unless You're From Here, Too)

Friday, March 4, 2016

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Longtime readers of this blog may remember the days, not actually so long ago, when I resided in the states of New Hampshire & New Jersey for about a year & a half apiece. I like to joke that not everyone at the Shore spoke like Snooki, but that in the Boston area really did sound like extras in The Departed.

I've long been fascinated by both regional accents & lexicons - the things we say & the way we sound when we say them. Everyone in Northeast Ohio grew up hearing that national newscasters are taught to speak like they're from here because we have neutral accents - but after more than half a decade spent outside the Buckeye State, I've been brought down a few pegs. People think I talk funny, & I do not like it.

People from Northern Ohio, including Cleveland, Akron, & Toledo, speak a dialect that experts call "inland north," which the Columbus Dispatch describes as "a dialect in which vowels often are 'shifted.' For example, the word 'trap' can sound a little like 'tree-ap.'" This looks ridiculous on paper, but when I whispered this sentence aloud... yeah, that's how I say it. In college, when I moved from Northeast Ohio to Southern Ohio, my Columbus friends regularly teased me for the way I pronounced words like "mom," "class," & "crockpot." We call it the Akron A.

I'm equally fascinated by regional dialect - words & phrases that are completely different depending on where you live. I started calling pop "soda" when I moved to D.C. so I wouldn't get funny looks, & now that I'm home, it's tough to switch back. I play sports in tennis shoes, I get water out of a drinking fountain, & I put my groceries in a shopping cart - all terms that are different across the country.

Here are a few phrasings that are particular to this area, or at least ones I've gotten flack for saying outside of Ohio. I'd be curious to hear: Do you use any of these? What do you say instead?

1. "Parking deck"

A conversation with one of my best friends, a native of Canada/D.C./LA, made me feel like a total crazy person awhile back when he was looking for a place to park his car & I said I was sure there was a deck nearby. He was like, "What is that?" & I was so confused by his confusion that I couldn't even figure out what he was asking me about. Like... a parking deck, duh? Right? No? Apparently that's not a widespread term.

Wikipedia (the best source ever, obvs) says this term is most widely used in the South, but a Google search tells me that "parking deck" must be pretty commonly used in Akron. Yesterday, as I was leaving a restaurant in my hometown & walking to my car, I realized that the parking structure even had a big sign on it: "PARKING DECK." The Internet tells me that "parking garage" is a more common term, & I do use that, but I always considered a deck to be, like, a smaller-scale parking garage.

2. "The ___ needs ___ed"

One of my more embarrassing moments was when I sent an email to coworkers with the subject line "This document needs edited!" At lunch that day, one of them commented on how ironic it was that my email about editing contained such an egregious grammatical error itself. I... had no idea what she was talking about. "You're joking, right?" she asked, "You're better at grammar than anyone I know."

My coworkers made fun of me pretty hard for it, & I was mortified. Apparently the correct phrasing is, for example, "This document needs editing" or "The document needs to be edited" but I, a communications professional with a journalism degree, had no idea I was I'd been saying it wrong my whole life: The lawn needs mowed, the house needs painted, the dishes need washed... I can't find much, officially, about why we do this, but Internet forums confirm that it's a thing (see these threads on Reddit & Yelp). I even saw it on job descriptions back when I was applying for communications jobs back in 2010!

3. "Calling hours"

I first learned that this wasn't an everywhere-term during a text conversation with a friend who's born & bred in New York City. "Is it appropriate to wear a sleeveless blouse to calling hours?" I asked in the middle of summer, & she responded, "I could answer this better if I knew what calling hours were."

Calling hours happen in the day or two before a funeral, a time when people can "call" upon the family of the person who's died. They take place at the funeral home, like an open house for condolences. I guess that in other places, this is known as a "viewing," but that seems really... body-centric, & most of the calling hours I've been to do not have the body of the deceased on display - just, like, photos & flowers. Others seem to call it a "wake," but that seems like a really religious term, no?

I don't know. It's always been calling hours to me. And unfortunately, I've been to a lot of them. And no, I didn't wear the sleeveless blouse. And yes, I was the sweatiest.

4. "Devil strip"

You probably don't have a name for this. You probably call it "That piece of grass between the sidewalk & the curb," though apparently some places refer to it as a "planting strip," "parking strip," "nature strip." Most of Ohio actually calls it a "tree lawn," but in the Akron area, in particular, we call it the "Devil strip." Where does the term come from? There's lots of debate, but seemingly no agreement. There's even a local arts & culture paper called The Devil Strip, a term so hyperlocal that it didn't even make it into the New York Times dialect quiz.

In writing this post, I came across this 2003 Dialect Survey from Harvard, the results of which are available by state. It was pretty fascinating to read through it & find that my answers match almost entirely with the Ohio results - & that some of the options chosen by others are terms I've never even heard of. For example, when it's snowy out & you spin your car in a parking lot for fun? We call that "doing donuts," but apparently somewhere else, it's referred to as "whipping shitties" - one of the funniest terms I've ever heard.

And now that I'm writing it down, doing donuts seems like a pretty Midwestern activity, anyway...

So tell me: What do you call these things? Are there any phrases that you say that other don't, or phrases that other people say that amuse you? I love this stuff!
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What I Read in February

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

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I didn't get nearly as much reading done in February as I did in January, when I devoured a whopping eight books, but I don't think five is a bad number, considering that last year, I read, like, five books total. (OK, that's not true: Here were my 15 favorites. But still.) In addition to the five I finished in February, I started reading two others, both of which I expect to finish soon & to review in March. Is this what you call "being on a roll"?

Maybe I'd finish more books if I watched fewer Law & Order: SVU reruns, but that's just not a sacrifice I'm willing to make. Viva la Ice-T. And without further ado...

Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein  

I started reading this book in December, & while I liked it all right, I didn't feel compelled to read it quickly. It was my filler book when I was between other books, & I just plugged away at it until I reached the end. Klein is a talented writer - funny, descriptive - but I wish she had waited to write this memoir until she was more at peace with her body & could convey a more powerful ending. Spoiler alert: Klein still has serious issues with food. It seemed clear to me that she needs a therapist, not a book deal. ★★☆☆

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

This book is about the true story of every hypochondriac's worst nightmare. Susannah is young, successful, & living a pretty snazzy NYC life when she starts to lose her grasp on reality, devolving into a full-scale breakdown that seems like psychosis. She would've been checked into the psych ward had she not also started having seizures, which led doctors to suspect something else might be wrong with her. But what? Cahalan, a trained journalist & adept storyteller, uses her own scarce memories, along with those of her family, friends, & doctors, to piece together the month she lost in the hospital & the recovery that has followed. ★★★★★

The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt

If you've seen other bloggers reviewing this book lately, it's because I put a few of my online friends in touch with my IRL friend, Daphne, who is longtime BFFs with the author & wanted to help spread the word about Blitt's first novel. And what a knockout debut it is! I love YA, but romance isn't typically my favorite genre, so I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this one, but I found it captivating. The main characters, Abby & Zeke, were fully fleshed out & both totally realistic, in the kind of way where you feel like this is the true story of someone's first love. It's safe to say that I'm pining for another book about them. (I received this book free from a friend, but opinions are my own.) ★★★★★

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

I received this book in a long-ago POPSUGAR MustHave box before their boxes went downhill & I angrily unsubscribed. I was really excited to read this one, but it languished for months on my bookshelf; I don't know why, it just didn't appeal to me as much as I wanted it to. The book itself turned out to be pretty good, though, very readable & very much in the typical Judy Blume voice & narration style we all know & love. It was a little long for my tastes, but I felt like I really knew each of the characters & cared deeply about what happened to them. Blume is a helluva storyteller, & I love seeing her back in the writing saddle again after all these years away. ★★☆

While My Pretty One Sleeps by Mary Higgins Clark

Look, judge me if you must, but I'm a longtime MHC fan, & I'm not embarrassed to admit it. Her books are easy to read & easy to become engrossed in, the perfect little criminal escape to keep me page-turning & wondering whodunnit. Truth be told, this book was not her best - it fell a little flat, plot-wise & in terms of the characters & the typical twists & turns I expect from her novels - but it still made for enjoyable reading during my stay in a cabin in the woods. Books like this are great for vacation! ★★☆☆☆

So tell me: What have you you read lately? 

Please note that 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 please also don't judge me for including them. 
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