My 10 Favorite Books of 2017

Saturday, December 30, 2017

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I read 101 books in 2016, but I knew I wouldn't be able to make that happen in 2017. Between planning a wedding & working on a big conference for my job, I didn't think I'd have the oomph to make it to 100 - & I was right. To be fair, much of that is because I watched a lotttt of bad TV.

My final total for 2017 is 77 books, which is pretty darn good, all things considered. Below are my top three favorite books of the year - all of which happen to have been new this year (though that's not the case with the honorable mentions listed below them). Without further ado...
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2017 in Review: Globally Awful but Personally Lovely

Thursday, December 28, 2017

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I've been pretty lucky to have a few good years in a row. What does it say about me if I'm perpetually living in fear of waiting for the other shoe to drop?

OK, wait, let's not think about that. Let's think, instead, about the year we're leaving behind, which was a pretty darn good one.

Let's take a look back, shall we?
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What to Do When the Power Goes Out While It's 5° Outside

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

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Go outside to take a look at your neighbors' houses to determine whether the power outage is just in your home. Seeing that some neighbors do, in fact, have power, seek out your fuse box in the creepy basement, where you also discover the carcass of a massive & terrifying bug of unknown origins. Confirm that no fuses have blown & immediately abandon ship.

Check the neighborhood Facebook group, which indicates that everyone in your neighborhood who uses the same power company as you is, indeed, sans power. Light every candle you own, which is in't many because you recently threw a bunch of them away when you realized they were inciting allergies.

Turn on every piece of technology that has its own battery (including two computers & an iPad) so you may benefit from the warm glow of their screens. Google "what to do in a power outage," which isn't very helpful because you're not an idiot & this isn't brain surgery. Put on a winter hat.

Get a text from your mother that's more helpful than the Internet: a reminder to put your faucets on a low drip so your pipes don't freeze. Do that, then feel like you're going slightly insane as you listen to three faucets drip... drip... drip in the blackened silence of your apartment.

Weigh the options, including freezing to death alongside your cats in your own bedroom & driving to your mom's house alone in very cold weather while all the lights are out on the highway (as reported in your neighborhood's Facebook group, of course). Frantically text all options to your husband, as though you don't know how to make decisions alone. Excessively refresh aforementioned neighborhood Facebook group to see if there's any news about power restoration. There isn't.

Continue to text your mom & your husband. Update Twitter. Like literally everything you see on Instagram. Use up all the battery on your phone. Oops. Recharge it in your husband's computer until the computer dies, too, taking its warm technological glow (& half your light source) with it.

Return to obsessively checking Facebook, where you learn that a transformer explosion is the cause of the power outage, which spans most of the west side of the city of Cleveland. Decide to go to your mom's when you see an update from the power company that says no estimated timeline is available for the restoration of power... to 40,000 homes across the city.

Pack your suitcase in the dark, using your iPhone as a flashlight held under your chin so you can use both hands for the task of assembling clothing for a who-knows-how-long stay. Remember that your mom's house is usually freaking freezing, anyway, & pack extra sweaters for the move from one icebox to another.

Make repeated trips out to your car to load it up with everything you need for a trip of indeterminable length, including cat food, an extra blanket, & a bag of stuff you've been meaning to take to Goodwill. Keep an eye out for carjackers because there's been a rash of break-ins lately, as though you need additional anxiety tonight. Or ever.

Briefly consider going to the restaurant across the street to wait out the outage, because somehow, they still have power, those bastards. They also have curry. And beer. Instead, head back into your home, where you catch one of your cats & put her in a carrier in the middle of the living room, suppressing your guilt as she screams & cries & thrashes & generally appears to be miserable.

Set our to catch your other cat, who is now hiding underneath the bed. Prod him using a long back massager, then proceed to chase him around the bedroom a few times until you are finally able to drag him out of his hiding place. Try to avoid his wrath as he hisses at you while you shove him headfirst into his carrier. (Sorry, buddy.)

Lace up your snowboots (because it's icy as hell, because of course it is) & schlep both cats out to your car, where one of them continues to hiss & the other continues to scream. Spend the 40-minute car ride murmuring, "It's okayyyy" in a soothing voice, upwards of 100 times, to no avail. Worry that your cats have peed in their carriers. (Good news, to be determined upon arrival: They have not.)

Stop at Taco Bell for cinnamon twists & nachos because this night has been stressful, OK? Eat your contraband fast food while parked one street over from your mother's house so that your mother will not know of your secret shame. Feel embarrassed about doing this at the age of 33. Moms, man.

Arrive home & smuggle your cats into your childhood bedroom before your mother's chihuahuas can realize they're in the house. Sigh with exasperation as aforementioned hissing cat makes his way under a new bed... & continues to hiss. Lock cats in bedroom & pour yourself a glass of red wine.

Realize you've forgotten your allergy medicine, which is problematic because you've recently become deeply allergic, somehow, to your childhood home. (Prime suspect: dogs.) Decide to run to the 24-hour CVS pharmacy down the road, but first, lose your keys & take, like, 20 minutes to find them.

While at CVS, check social media... & learn that the power is back on across Cleveland, just an hour after you got out of dodge. Contemplate crying; contemplate returning to Cleveland; decide to do neither.

Find a cookie in your purse. Eat cookie. Buy allergy medicine. Go back to your mom's house. Settle in for the long haul - or at least until tomorrow morning.
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Happy Holidays, with Love from the Kaputs

Monday, December 25, 2017

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This post is a copy of the holiday letter Mike & I sent out to family & friends... & the image above is the front of the card we sent. Oops - though, luckily, we sent out very few of them because we were too tired (from sending wedding invitations, thank-you notes, etc.) to do a full-on Christmas card mailing this year. 

Anyway. Mike wrote this letter, so it's in his voice, & parts have been redacted for publication here. Happy holidays, friends.


Friends, family, compatriots,

Growing up, both Kate and I loved receiving annual holiday letters from friends and family. These letters, which recounted the joys, successes, and milestones of the previous year, were just one more way to stay present in the lives of our loved ones, near and far.

Today, we’re blessed to have friends and family all over the world. Though we all share the joys and sorrows of everyday life online, we thought it’d be a lovely tradition to send our own holiday letter to give you the big picture view of our family’s year.

So, let’s get to it: 2017 was, to put it mildly, a hell of a year. The biggest news, of course, was the dizzying rise of the price of bitcoin.

Just kidding! The biggest news was that we got married! (Though seriously, check out bitcoin.) We sincerely could not have imagined a better way to celebrate our union than with the people we love most.

Most people know that Kate and I count our friends as family, and on November 11, we were lucky enough to be surrounded by the best family imaginable. Most people also know that a few years ago, both Kate and I would’ve put “getting married” low on our list of likely things to happen in the near future, so it’s an understatement to say that “finding your person and marrying them” was such a pleasant surprise.

In fact, we’re so eager to start our first full year of married life together that we accidentally ordered holiday cards that say 2018. The future is, quite literally, now.

2017 was also notable in a number of other ways.

We attended beautiful weddings that took us all over the country, including New Orleans, which is most certainly haunted, and Washington, D.C., which is definitely in need of an exorcism. In May, we moved into a new apartment and decided to call it our home for the next few years while we ease into this whole “being adults” thing. We also adopted a second cat, which is enough responsibility for now. (Our cats are named Helo and Dora. Helo is named after a character in the 21st-century reboot of the science fiction show Battlestar Galactica; Dora is short for Nymphadora, a character in the Harry Potter series. None of this should be shocking to anyone reading this letter.)

For Kate, 2017 brought amazing new opportunities and experiences. Kate has been blogging steadily for 10+ years, maintaining a blog that showcases her beautiful complexities, amazing characteristics, and unique insight on the world. Personal writing is like a window into a person’s soul, which meant Mike, who read most of her blog after their first date, fell in love before Date #2. (Thankfully, this worked out.)

This year, Cleveland Plus named Kate one of the top Cleveland top bloggers to follow, so now, when people on the internet want to know more about CLE, they can more easily find her blog, which we can all agree is the role she was born to play in the blogosphere. (Check her out at

This year, Kate was also published on Alma, Localeur, and in Cleveland Magazine; this is in addition to her full-time job. In her spare time, she fit in seeing Billy Joel in concert and reading 75+ books. The sad part is that 75 books is 25 fewer books than she read last year. That is not a joke.

Last but not least, we were overjoyed to celebrate the retirement of Kate’s mother, Joyce, after serving as head of the children’s department at the local library for 16 and ½ years. Joyce continues to be a bright and beloved light in her community — and is a better dancer than both of us.

Mike, on the other hand, is lucky he managed to stay alive, free of incarceration, and gainfully employed in 2017. (Calm down guys, it’s kind of a joke.)

Mike continues to work as a consultant at an online marketing agency, where he puts Don Draper to shame. His pet project focuses educating marketing professionals about artificial intelligence. So far, it has attracted significant interest from key players in AI, led to high-profile speaking gigs, and even gotten some paying sponsors. Not too bad for a passion project he’s been developing on the side.

Mike has, this year alone, started writing two novels that will probably never be finished. One is a sci-fi thriller of AI run amok; the other is a young adult fantasy novel in the vein of Harry Potter. He’s also spent a huge amount of time trying to learn more about real estate and understand cryptocurrencies. On this last point, he’s become fond of saying that there are two types of friends: friends who humor his discussions of bitcoin, and people who used to be friends. He makes this joke before crying himself to sleep at night.

On Mike’s side of the family, we were been truly blessed to watch Mike’s sister Maggie graduation from Ohio University in May. The entire Kaput clan made the trip to Athens to watch Maggie walk. It has been one of the proudest moments of Mike’s life to watch his sister grow into a smart and talented young woman.

Thank you for taking the time to read about our family, support us in our endeavors, and make our lives so rich and full of joy. To reward you for reading such a lengthy letter, here some of the books we loved this year that you may want to read yourself:

Kate recommends: Everybody’s Son by Thrity Umrigar (a Clevelander!); The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. Mike recommends: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashley Vance; The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph by Ryan Holiday; and Red Rising by Pierce Browne.

We can’t wait for the adventures 2018 has to offer. Until then, we wish you and your loved ones a holiday filled with joy, warmth, and good tidings toward all humankind (or most of it, depending on your mood). Above all, we wish you presence. We spend most of our time thinking about the days to come, but the days happening now are the most valuable things any of us own. We hope you’re able to sit back and savor these treasures.

Mike & Kate
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11 of the Best Shops in the CLE for Last-Minute Christmas Gifts

Thursday, December 21, 2017

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It's that time of year: Time for last-minute gift-buyers to panic! My fellow Clevelanders, you've got lots of options that aren't Target or the mall or picking up a gift card from CVS (though I do love me a good old-fashioned gift card). You may be cutting it close, but that doesn't mean you can't shop small. Here are a few of my favorite local shops, all open this weekend before Christmas's arrival. 

1. Banyan Tree

By now, every Cleveland gal knows of Banyan Tree, repeatedly voted the city's best boutique on various such lists. From on-trend clothing to quirky accessories to lifestyle & homegoods (think lots of CLE-themed bar items!), Banyan Tree is a one-stop shop for any lady on your list. With three locations, there's probably one pretty nearby, too. (2242 Professor Ave., Tremont, open Fri./Sat. 10am -9pm, & Sun. 11am-5pm | 162 Main St., Westlake, open Fri./Sat. 10am-9pm & Sun. 11am-6pm 24677 Cedar Rd., Lyndhurst, open Fri./Sat. 10am-9pm & Sun. 11am-5pm)

2. Big Fun

Haven't yet shopped for the kid on your list... or the kid-at-heart on your list? Big Fun is the spot to shop, stuffed with modern-day toys & vintage gems alike. You'll find every action figure imaginable, giant Star Wars characters, old issues of Disney Adventures magazines, joke items & penny candies, pretty paper goods, & basically anything & everything in between. Needless to say, shopping at Big Fun is, well, big fun. (1814 Coventry Rd., Coventry, open Fri./Sat. 11am-10pm & Sun. 11am-8pm)

3. City Buddha

If you're looking for candles, crystals, beaded jewelry, wall hangings, scarves, & the like, City Buddha is the place to try. This spacious East Side store is jewel-toned & incense-scented, & as its name suggests, it specializes in items with an Asian flair. prices range from low to high, so you're bound to find something within your gift-giving price range. (1807 Coventry Rd., Coventry, open Fri./Sat. 11am-9pm & Sun. 11am-7pm) 

4. Evie Lou

Whether you're shopping for your mom, your wife, or your best friend, you're likely to find something for her within this surprisingly expansive boutique with locations on both the East & West sides. They're primarily a clothing boutique specializing in upscale but comfortable, wearable clothing (think aspiring Stevie Nicks types), but they also carry a variety of jewelry & accessories, too. (2509 Professor Ave., Tremont, open Fri./Sat. 11am-8pm, & Sun.12-4pm | 20075 Chagrin Blvd., Shaker Heights, open Fri./Sat. 10:30am-6:30pm & Sun.12-4pm)

5. Intro Boutique

This shop in the 5th Street Arcades has been open just over a year, & while the space isn't very big, they're making great use of it with a curated selection of clothing, candles, accessories, & homegoods, all at surprisingly affordable prices. Think Francesca's bit with a more minimalist, less corporate vibe. And it's owned by a friend of a friend! (530 Euclid Ave #34, Downtown, open Fri./Sat. 10am-6pm & Sun. 10am-4pm)

6. Lilly Handmade Chocolates

Perfect last-minute gifts: chocolate, beer, wine. Lilly has all three... & more. From truffles to bars to bark, they've got tons of varieties of couture chocolate to choose from (sugared plums for me, please!), & they can help you pair it with the perfect craft beer or fine wine for a classy, delicious gift that definitely doesn't look last-minute. (761 Starkweather Ave., Tremont, open Fri./Sat. 12-10pm; closed Sunday)

7. Lovely Paperie & Gifts

For all things paper-related (& paper-related-adjacent, like pens, tumblers, totes, & other such knick-knacks), Lovely Paperie is the best place in town. It's bright & beautiful, with high-quality curation at mostly-very-affordable prices. They also sell some of those go-to gift brands your older sister & your aunt love, like Vera Bradley & Nora Fleming. (19315 Detroit Rd., Rocky River, open Fri. 10am-6pm, Sat. 10am-5pm, closed Sunday)

8. Océanne Jewelry

I've written before about my love of this local jewelry artist originally form France. Her work is both classic & trendy at the same time, in familiar shapes & styles but always with a very of-the-moment vibe. Expect pieces that are primarily gold-toned in varying price points, plus lots of other fun, giftable goodies that make her new storefront more than just a jewelry shop. (6515 Detroit Rd., Gordon Square, open Fri,/Sat., 11am-8pm, & Sun. 12-5pm)

9. Room Service

This shop is freaking beautiful, & it's as much a work of art as the items within it, regularly redesigned to be not just a shopping trip but an experience. From statement watches to baby clothes to their "French pantry" collection, this husband-&-wife owned boutique is full of the unexpected, the unusual, & the unique. (2078 W. 25th St., Ohio City, open Fri. 11am-7pm, Sat. 11am-8pm, & Sun, 11am-6pm)

10. Visible Voice Books

I love me a good independent bookstore, & while Cleveland has a few great ones, I'm partial to the one on the street where I live. It reopened just this summer after a few years off, & its beautiful new space is modern & cozy at the same time. They sell both new & used books (& buy the latter), & if they don't have it in stock, they can order it for you - though probably not in time for Christmas! (2258 Professor Ave., Tremont, open Fri., 12-10pm, Sat., 11am-10pm, & Sun. 11am-5pm) 

11. Wild Cactus Boutique

This newish Ohio City shop features both new & vintage pieces that scream Free-People-meets-Pacific-Northwest-in-the-'90s. This is where you go to snag a Christmas gift for your coolest friend... or yourself, once you're thoroughly exhausted from shopping for everyone else. (2138 W. 25th St., Ohio City, open Fri./Sat. 11am-6pm & Sun. 11am-5pm)

Am I missing any of your favorites? Leave a comment & let me know where you'll be grabbing your last-minute gifts from this weekend. And merry Christmas!

Images from: @introboutique@wildcactus_boutique; &  @oceannejewelry
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All I Want for Christmukkah Is...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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There are just 11 days until Christmas - & Hanukkah began yesterday! Now that the holiday season is in full swing - & I finally have the time to sit down & focus on the holiday season - I've put together my annual holiday wishlist. At 33, I hardly expect gifts anymore - but it's fun to imagine that Santa cares, right? And let's be honest: If these items don't end up under my tree, I may order them for myself anyway!
  1. HD Camera Lens Kit 5 in 1 for iPhone: I can't afford a new iPhone right now, but boy, am I dying for portrait mode! This relatively inexpensive lens set seems like a great way to fake it until I can spring for a new phone (which won't be for awhile). 
  2. Cleveland AF Crewneck SweatshirtI don't often wear sweatshirts (are there 33-year-olds who do?), but I know this one would get a lot of wear. I love Emily Roggenburk's prints, too, but my walls are nearly full, & this item is calling my name. 
  3. Marc Fisher Yommi Chelsea BootieFellow blogger Kimi has been wearing these for months now, & I swoon over them every time she posts a pic. They're on sale, but still slightly anove my price point at the moment.
  4. Glossier Boy BrowFine, fine, fine, I've resisted the global Glossier obsession, but I'm pretty interested in this cult-favorite product. I usually use E.L.F. on my brows, & for $3, it works great, but I wouldn't hate giving this stuff a try.
  5. The Sun and Her FlowersRupi Kaur's last book of poetry was one of my favorites of the year, & I can't wait to own her newest one. At just $7, it's got to end up on my bookshelf sooner or later. 
  6. FabFitFun subscription: This was my favorite of all the many subscription boxes I've tried, but I promised Mike I'd take it easy on them this year. If someone gifted me a subscription, though, that's technically a loophole, right...? 
  7. Bobeau One-Button Fleece Wrap Cardigan: A friend wore this to brunch the day after my wedding, & I immediately bought one in olive - but I like it so much that I also want it in heather charcoal, burgundy stem, &/or black.
  8. Baleen Levy Necklace: The last thing I need is more necklaces, but this is a wish list, right? Not a need list. This pretty, geometric bauble from Seattle-based shop Moorea Seal is the latest piece of jewelry to give me heart eyes. 
  9. Kanguru Glow-in-the-Dark Throw Blanket: Another thing I have plenty of: blankets. But this one glows in the dark, so I extra want it. It looks so cozy, & it's got constellations on it, & I just wanna cuddle up in the couch beneath it.  
  10. Natori Classic Pajama Set: I've long been wanting a nice pair of PJs to at least partially replace my current nighttime wardrobe of sweatpants & old T-shirts - but so far, this is the only pair I've found that I really like!
What's on your holiday wishlist this year? 
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My 6 Favorite Christmas Movies... Plus an Embarrassing New Holiday Addiction

Monday, December 11, 2017

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I've got to tell you a secret: I don't watch black & white movies. I don't know why exactly; I have no doubt that many of them are wonderful & heartwarming - but it's just never appealed to me to watch a film that doesn't show the full-color joy of life, especially at Christmastime. So no, you won't find any classics on this list - but you will find a few colorful favorites that I find myself watching year after year after year... & sometimes as early/late as July.

Home Alone

It's a well-known fact that Home Alone is one of my all-time favorite movies, period, & not just at Christmas. I know almost the entire movie by heart, & don't come at me with those BuzzFeed lists of "stuff you never noticed" about this movie because I have noticed. I've been "Buzz, your girlfriend, woof"-ing since I was 17, at the latest, & I shed real tears when John Heard passed away this year.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Our Idiot-in-Chief's brief cameo aside, I truly believe that Home Alone 2 is one of the most perfect sequels in American film history (even though, by this point, I believe the elder McAllisters to be woefully unqualified parental units). Also, I once purchased a winter coat that a then-boyfriend told me made me look like the Pigeon Lady.


When I first saw this Will Ferrell comedy, I just didn't get it. The grown man in an elf suit, the spaghetti with maple syrup, the animated narwhal... like, whaaaat? Now, though, this is one of my favorite modern-day classics, to be quoted all year long. Don't think I don't yell, "I know him!" every single time I see Santa Claus alllll throughout the Christmas season.

Love Actually

I know, I know, this film is outdated & fairly problematic in more than a few ways, but I give it a pass because, hey, a lot of the early 2000s was fairly problematic - & so much of this movie is so adorable that I can overlook the rest of it (I'm lookin' at you, weird scene with Keira Knightley & Andrew Lincoln). That scene of Hugh Grant shimmying through the prime minister's mansion? Priceless.

The Santa Clause

I find this plotline to be weirdly sort of genius, & here's another secret: As a kid, I had a huge crush on the actor who played the head of the "Elves with Attitude" team. I watched this movie over & over because of it. These days, though, I just like Tim Allen as a bumbling accidental Santa & Elf Judy as his adorable little cocoa-making sidekick. "Seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing."

A Christmas Story

As a proud Clevelander, I love this movie, which was filmed right here in my neighborhood. And as an American Jew, I spent a lotttt of time watching this movie on repeat on Christmas Day, when it played on TV all day long. As this leg-lamp-loving man in Iowa says, "Nothing says Christmas like the soft glow of electric sex!"

This holiday season, I'm also watching a few Christmas movies of the absolute cheesiest variety - the Hallmark kind! My coworker Marissa & I binged Snow Bride late night in our hotel while we were on a work trip last week, & I just devoured Netflix's A Christmas Prince (which, yes, made me cry). Got any recommendations for more in this vein? I want to watch as many as I can find!

And tell me: What are your favorite Christmas movies?
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The Best Wedding Vendors in the CLE (a.k.a Mine!)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

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Hard to believe it's been nearly a month since Mike & I got hitched, but here we all, are married & stuff. Our professional photos aren't in yet (keep an eye on Instagram!), but while it's all still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a bit about the local vendors we used & loved. 

Venue: Ariel Pearl Center

We booked our venue on the spot, although it was still being renovated. What a find! It's an old bank building with high ceilings & lots of marble, so our bars were vintage bank tables, & our photobooth was in the vault. We didn't have to do much decorating because the venue was so beautiful on its own. If you're considering this venue for your own wedding, get at me for a few thoughts I won't share here - but overall, we loved the space, & it was the right locale for us.

Welcome Dinner: The Winking Lizard

It wouldn't occurred to me turn to this local chain for a rehearsal dinner, but it's right across the street from Mike's office, so we decided to look into it when we had trouble finding a large enough location. It turned out to be a great spot! The Huron location has a private party room with its own bar, servers, & a buffet menu, & they let us set up our own speaker system for toasts. Our attendees enjoyed the best wings in the CLE, & we enjoyed the casual space & low cost.

Coordination: McPherson Events & Design

I didn't plan to hire a wedding coordinator, but I sure am glad I did. Enter Denise McPherson, local planner extraordinaire, who helped manage every element of our big day, from coordinating with vendors to pressing us to make decisions on details we might've overlooked. She also set up & took down everything the day of the wedding itself, & she oversaw flipping the room between our ceremony & reception, ensuring that everything ran smoothly.

Food: Taproot Catering

Another caterer quoted us $15k - wayyyy outside our budget - so our coordinator recommended we look into Taproot, based in Kent. We knew upon our first meeting with the owner, Brian, that it was the right choice. He created the menu of our dreams, complete with a pierogi bar & a sandwich bar featuring mini Polish boys & reubens. It was some of the best food we've ever had - which is saying a lot for food generally, but especially for wedding food, which is so frequently subpar.

Photography: The Oberports

This duo isn't actually from Cleveland - or even Ohio - but I had to include them here. They're based in Charleston, WV, but I went to college with the wife half of their husband/wife team, & having them as our wedding photographers was the only thing I knew I wanted for my own wedding. They were definitely a splurge for us, but without even seeing our pictures, I know they were absolutely worth it.

Hair & Makeup: Cleveland Makeup Artistry

Hiring Karin as my wedding day makeup artist is one of the best wedding decisions I made. She's warm & kind, & she really listened to try to understand my style & what I wanted; she perfectly executed the "fancier version of my everyday look" that I requested. I also hired Cleveland Makeup Artistry to do my hair for the big day, & Daniel, too, perfectly executed my request. My bridesmaids who had their hair & makeup professionally done were thrilled with their work, too. Everyone looked beautiful that day, & we have Karin & Daniel to thank for it. They were a dream to work with!

Tailoring: Christina Catherine Sewing

How lucky am I to have a friend who's also a professional tailor? Christina holds a fashion degree from Kent State & worked for a designer in NYC before moving home to Cleveland & opening her eponymous shop in Little Italy. She tailored both my wedding dress (an Oleg Cassini from David's Bridal) and my welcome dinner dress (on sale from Eloquii), as well as my mom's mother-of-the-bride dress. She was also kind enough to bustle me before cocktail hour so my bridesmaids didn't have to figure out her complicated loop-&-button system!

Earrings: Bombay Taxi Boutique

I knew I wanted, if possible, to incorporate Shibani's jewelry, handmade in India, into my wedding day wardrobe. I was deciding between a few pairs of earrings, but ultimately, my dress was so busy that I needed something simple. I decided on the Kiara earrings in moonstone, which, as I said in the last post, were fancy enough for the big day but simple enough to wear on a day-to-day basis. I love wearing them with jeans & a sweater & thinking of our wedding day when I do.

Sound & Lighting: Freddie James DJs

Freddie James, a local radio DJ with an absolutely incredibly speaking voice, also runs a company that brings together local radio personalities to DJ weddings & other events on the side. Their company did a great job DJing two of our friends' weddings, so hiring them was a no-brainer for us. Our DJ was friendly, upbeat, & fun, getting the crowd on the dance floor to some of our favorite songs.

Accommodations: Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center

We wanted our out-of-town guests to stay at a downtown location that showed off all Cleveland has to offer... especially because our venue was located in a neighborhood that doesn't do the city justice. My uncle's close friend is a Marriott exec, so whenever possible, we go the Marriott route; in this case, it was a perfect choice because the hotel is located right on Public Square. It was also a great spot for outdoor photos, freezing cold though the day was.

Transportation: West Side Shuffle

I let this detail slip until nearly the last minute, but luckily, our wedding coordinator came through with another great recommendation. OK, OK, so I was expecting our ride to a shuttle bus rather than a renovated school bus, but for such a nice price, I can't complain. Our driver was friendly & let the bridal party drink, charge our phones, & play "The Final Countdown" on our ride to the venue, & he made multiple trips to get all our guests safely to & from the reception.

Did you use any of our vendors? If you're planning a CLE wedding & are interested in learning more about our experiences with any of these companies, hit me up. I'd love to tell you more! 
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6 Small Goals for December

Monday, December 4, 2017

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OK, let's be real: I didn't do a great job of my November goals. I'm inclined to give myself a pass, given all I had going on - including getting married, the Thanksgiving holiday, a week-long illness, & prepping for my major work conference - but I hope December will see me slightly more in control of my personal life. 

Here's how I fared on November's goals:
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What I Read in November

Saturday, December 2, 2017

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Hello, December. Weird. In the immortal words of Shania Twain, "Looks like we've [almost] made it..." - to 2018, that is. I had a lot going on in November, between wedding planning, wedding recovery, the Thanksgiving holiday, a bout of illness, & prepping for my upcoming work conference. Still, I managed to make it through three books, & they were all good ones.

I skipped November's Book of the Month selections because I'm so behind on my to-read list, but my December pick was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which I'm excited about. As always, you can use my referral link to get your first book for just $9.99, plus a free tote bag. Let me know what you choose - or just what you're reading right now!

Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin

It took me a long time to finally read this book, knowing that it would be a difficult one to get through. Can it already have been six years since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot walking home from a 7-11, Skittles & an iced tea in his hoodie pocket? His parents' memoir is a painful, powerful look at the case, a testimony to race & racism in America. No justice, no peace. ★★★★★

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

After developing a fast & furious obsession with the Hulu adaption, I decided I ought to read this book, a "new classic" to be sure. It is, as expected, just as effed-up & terrifying as its TV counterpart. This is a rare instance in which I'm glad I watched the show before reading the book because I think having the visuals in my head made it easier for me to follow along with the written story. ★★★★★

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman

This was a book club pick that I committed to finishing even though I had a hard time with it. It's a good book, to be sure, & I can understand why it's so beloved. It tells the story of Ove, a lovable curmudgeon who's lost his wife & his job & is ready to die - if only his suicide attempts weren't continually foiled by well-intentioned neighbors & a stray cat. As a suicide survivor, though, it was difficult for me to make it through this story line. Life doesn't come with trigger warnings, I know, but I probably would've spared myself & put this one down if I didn't want so badly to be able to join in the convo at book club - which I had to skip when I got sick, anyway. I'm actually glad, in the end, that I "had" to keep reading this book - because as difficult as parts of it were for me, the story itself was truly touching & lovely by the end. ★★★★★

Comment to tell me what you're reading, then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past.

My "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books.
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Have I Even Had a Holiday Season this Holiday Season?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

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Between my wedding, being out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday, a week of illness, & some upcoming travel, it feels like this holiday season has completely gotten away from me. It's not even Christmas yet, & I already feel like I missed Christmas... 

Someone recently commented on one of my Instagram photos that I'm "sick all the time," & I've since felt self-conscious mentioning when I don't feel well. I do seem to have a crummy immune system, & 2017 has been a year full of illness for me. Fortunately, none of has been major, but, yeah... I've been sick a lot. And it kind of sucks.

On Thanksgiving, I slept in a chilly room & woke up with a terrible sore throat. By Saturday, I was full-blown sick - nose running, head throbbing, throat burning, muscles aching. I spent most of Sunday in bed, & though I haven't taken any time off work, I've taken significant naps every weekday thus far.

The reason I can't take off? My huge biennial work conference - attended by 6,000 people! - is next week. I leave for Boston on Tuesday, so I'm completely underwater & overloaded. When I'm not sleeping, I'm working. A lot.

I'd originally made some fun plans to balance out all the work this week, figuring I'd work my butt off during workdays, then do some entertaining stuff each evening. Alas, I've had to bail on every single thing aside from working & communing with my bed.

Because I'm feeling whiny, here's what I'd planned & exactly how bummed I am to miss all of it.
  • Tuesday: I abandoned plans to attend the launch of CLE Starts Here, a new exhibit of the Western Reserve Historical Society. The exhibit, "a digital portal that explores the rich & diverse history of Cleveland & Northeast Ohio," is now open to the public, & though I still look forward to checking it out, I was excited about the fanfare of the launch event.
  • Wednesday: I didn't make it to Cleveland Heights for my book club's discussion of our latest read, A Man Called Ove, which was a bummer because A) I like spending time with my book club friends (who are just my regular friends), & B) I have a lot to say about the book. Instead, I took a nap at 5pm... & woke up at 8:15pm.
  • Thursday: I haven't seen my Big Brothers Big Sisters CLE "little sister" at all in November, which breaks my heart because I aim to see her once a month as promised. This time, we were going to get Brewnuts; what 15-year-old wouldn't love couture donuts? Alas, Mike reminded me that I am sick & need to cancel my plans, which it broke my heart double to do.
  • Friday: Mike & I are planning to put up our Christmas tree & get cozy, & I was going to surprise him by taking him to The Spotted Owl, one of two bars in Ohio to be transformed into a Christmas bar called Miracle. Their special menu includes cocktails like Muletide, Bad Santa, & You'll Shoot Your Rye Out. We'll still do an indoor date night, but cocktail-centric plans are probably a bad idea for someone on a Prednisone prescription.
  • Saturday: I'm headed to Hudson for a fellow blogger's Coffee & Collab (which I'm still planning on, as I hope/assume I'll feel better by then), & afterwards, I'll continue on to Cuyahoga Falls. Originally,  my friend Sam & I were going to the Front Street Pub Crawl - but again, Prednisone, so now, we're just getting dinner. It'll still be nice, but it's no holiday bar crawl!
On Sunday, I'll be getting everything ready for a week of travel & a very intense work schedule. I don't get back until December 10th, & by then, the holiday season will be very nearly over. I don't have any plans for my return, though, so I'm hoping I can fit in some fun stuff.
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My 5 Favorite Cleveland-Based Jewelry Brands

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

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I've got to be honest: My wardrobe is not particularly creative. I mean, I try to look nice, & I like to think I succeed, but I don't get very into trends or colors or patterns. My clothing is fairly basic, usually black or another neutral.

The only thing that keeps me from being too boring, on that front, is my jewelry. I'm always on the lookout for quirky, creative, interesting jewelry - the kind you won't see everywhere, or that not everyone would feel comfortable wearing.

I sometimes buy my jewelry from major labels, sure, but if given the choice, I'd much rather given my patronage to local brands. Luckily, Cleveland is home to a few great ones, & some of my favorite pieces are from right here in the CLE - all made or curated by female entrepreneurs.

As we enter the full swing of the holiday season, here's a rundown of five of my favorite Northeast Ohio-based jewelry sellers. If you're so inclined, check 'em out. They all make great gifts (for yours truly included). Happy holidays!

Bombay Taxi

I've written before about Cleveland businesswoman & fellow blogger Shibani Faehnle's online boutique, which mostly sells bespoke goods imported from Indian artisans. Her prices range from totally affordable to a little bit of a splurge, but for limited-edition luxury pieces, sometimes a little splurge is worth it. She runs pop-ups all over town, too, so if you love something you see online but want to catch it in person to be sure you love it, she's never hard to find.

My favorite item: I wore a pair of Bombay Taxi's Kiara earrings in pink chalcedony to my wedding welcome dinner, & I wore the same pair - this time in moonstone - to the wedding itself. How beautiful are these?! The best part is that they're fancy enough for a wedding, but casual enough to continue to be worn on an everyday basis - & they're already getting plenty of everyday play.

Cleveland Street Glass

Having your car broken into sucks. Know what doesn't suck? Salvaging the refuge of those broken car windows to be turned into beautiful, one-of-a-kind glass jewelry. That's what artist Deanna Dionne does, & the results are surprisingly gorgeous - & totally unique. These upcycled pieces "find beauty in the broken," & when you're sporting one of these pieces, you definitely won't run into anyone else who's wearing the same piece of jewelry as you.

My favorite item: On impulse, I snagged this pretty necklace Cleveland Street Glass while shopping around at the final CLE Night Market of 2016. I don't wear a lot of silver, but when this necklace does make an appearance in my wardrobe, it always gets tons of compliments & questions.

Oceanne Jewelry

French jewelry artist Anne Harrill moved to Cleveland in 2002 & has since become one of the best-known names in local accessories, with her goodies for sale at boutiques, pop-ups, the Cleveland Flea, & elsewhere. Her delicate style ranges from mod to bohemian, & her classics collection features hand-stamped favorites with inspirational quotes, snarky commentary, & Cleveland love. Every time I stop at her stand, I have to force my hand away from my wallet - which is why I'm excited about but wary of her new storefront in Gordon Square!

My favorite item: At last year's Last-Minute Market, a Christmas pop-up in downtown CLE, I did my fair share of gift shopping... but also bought this long-coveted bracelet engraved with the constellation of my astrological sign, Leo. I wear it more than any other piece of jewelry I own, aside from my engagement & wedding rings.

Odyssey & Oddities

Want quirky? Fellow Kent State alum Nikki Lundberg specializes in quirky, & her statement pieces are my latest jewelry obsession. She uses natural stones, brass, & fringe to put together jewelry creations in unusual shapes & combinations like you've never seen before. Her Instagram account shows off all her newest pieces, & her bio always has information about which local fair/festival//pop-up she'll be at next.

My favorite item: Uhhh, how can I choose? At a Cleveland Flea last summer, I was all set to buy a gorgeous agate necklace... & then I dropped it. And it shattered. I was massively apologetic, but Nikki was kind & unfazed, saying she'd repurpose the pieces. I instead purchased this lapis-colored necklace, which I wear to infuse some color into my all-black wardrobe, & I've since purchased five pairs of earrings from her, too, including this beautiful fringed pair I bought just last week.

Ode Vintage

Truth be told, I'm not much for vintage; I just don't have the patience to scour through things or the vision to see hidden gems beneath the rust & dust. Luckily, local business owner Olivia Delyamu has done it for me - & what gems she's come up with! A staple at the Cleveland Flea & other local shows, Olivia's Ode Vintage sells more than just jewelry - but it's the jewelry that's my favorite part.

My favorite item: I love long, gold-toned necklaces & am always on the lookout for unique ones - the kind I won't see 12 other people wearing from Target. At a Cleveland Flea this summer, I stumbled across this $10 item at Ode Vintage's booth... & unwittingly wore it to the next two Fleas I attended! Simple but elegant, it's become a wardrobe staple that pulls together just about any outfit.

Do you have a local favorite jewelry brand, whether Cleveland-based or from your own city? Leave a comment or link so I can check them out! 
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The Rowley Inn: I Triple-Dog Dare Ya!

Monday, November 27, 2017

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Fun fact: The beloved holiday film A Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood, where I happen to live. The house that served as the movie set is now a museum open all year round, not just during the holiday season. When you're done there, head across the street to one of the neighborhood's best restaurants, an old bar with a brand new menu: The Rowley Inn.

Opened in 1906, The Rowley Inn is a local dive that originally served as a third-shift bar for nearby steelworkers; even now, it opens at 5:30am on weekdays & starts serving brunch at 8am on weekends (including Saturdays, a rarity in the CLE). It's an unassuming little place located a bit off the beaten path of Tremont's main drag, so it's the kind of spot that could easily fall off your radar - but you, dear Clevelander, cannot let that happen.

Why? Because this place is freaking incredible.

New owners Jon Oberman & Raphael Rivilla set out to make The Rowley Inn a premiere gastropub, the sort of place worth going out of your way for - & in my opinion, they've succeeded. Earlier this month, I was among a few Cleveland bloggers invited to try out 10 of The Rowley Inn's new menu items. It was a feast - & a damn good one, too.

The menu focuses on comfort food, including classics like thick, creamy mac & cheese made with smoked Gouda, cheddar, & panko bread crumbs. Unfortunately, Mike made me ration it (just five freaking noodles!) because we're pretty sure I've become lactose intolerant. Same for the Cleveland’s Best Grilled Cheese (a high claim that The Rowley Inn's version totally lives up to) made with smoked gouda, a mozzarella/provolone blend, & a touch of mayo to keep it creamy.

The menu is heavy on Polish favorites like pierogis & kielbasa, often with a twist - like the Cleveland Burger, topped with Pierogi, kielbasa, kraut, beer cheese, & stadium mustard. I didn't get a good pic of that one, mostly because it went so quickly. They also serve kielbasa corndogs - for brunch!

Speaking of brunch, let's talk about how much I love chicken & waffles. I love chicken & waffles. So, it turns out, did the other diners at our table, & we even agreed on the best in town (Soho Chicken + Whiskey) & the worst (we'll never tell). Soho's got a run for their money, though, with the Rowley Inn's version, which might actually be my new fave. Cinnamon waffles & homemade gravy? Swoon.

Perhaps the most unusual dish of all - & among the tastiest, if I had to choose - was the Loco Moski, a Cleveland take on a Hawaiian dish. The original is made one a bed of rice, but The Rowley Inn has swapped in... you've guessed it, pierogis. This huge plate of sautéed pierogis is topped with a hamburger patty, gravy, onions, & fried egg. Look at this delicious beast!

They also offer plenty of lighter, slightly healthier fare, including a chicken club on challah with homemade walnut pesto (so good) & a flavorful, fresh Southwest chicken salad that could actually convince me to order a salad. (PS: The chicken club pic was Mike's first try photographing food for the blog. Well done, babe!)

And because this is still, after all, a bar, there are lots of drinks. The Rowley Inn's quirky specialty cocktails are Christmas Story-themed, like the Red Ryder cocktail made with Bulleit. Get it? (You'll shoot your eye out...) We also got to try the Pink Nightmare (please tell me you're getting these references), which is a fruity, bright pink tequila cocktail that packed a punch.

Speaking of fruity & bright pink... onto dessert! The Rowley Inn's caramelized apple pierogis are filled with cinnamon apples & topped with candied sugar & orange peel. They taste like an upscale version of those little hand pies we ate as kids, the ones that came wrapped in wax paper. Anyone remember those?! They've gotten a serious upgrade:

By the end of the night, we were almost too stuffed to move, but we also knew we'd found a new local favorite. My terrible photos hardly do their food justice; the bar gets fairly dark in the evenings, & I wasn't sitting beneath a light, so I did the best I could. The good new is that I'll definitely being back soon, so you can bet Instagram will boast some bright new pics in the weeks to come.

Bottom line: If you haven't tried out The Rowley Inn's new menu, get thee to Tremont, stat - & if you don't want to go alone, you can almost definitely convince me to join you - no triple-dog dare needed!

Disclaimer: Disclosure: I was invited, along with a guest, to attend a blogger event dinner that included complimentary food & drinks, along with a $25 gift card to use in the future. As always, though, all opinions are my own. All photos were taken by me expect for the header photo, credited to The Rowley Inn's Facebook page
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My 2017 Cleveland Gift Guide: Give a Little CLE this Holiday!

Monday, November 20, 2017

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Listen up, Clevelanders, it's that time of year again! With the holidays fast-approaching, I've pulled together the second annual Greatest Escapist's Cleveland Gift Guide. If some of it looks familiar, well, that's because it is: So much of the 2016 guide was still wonderful & relevant that I've included it again here, rounded out with new trinkets, tchotchkes, & other Cleveland goodies for that Northeast Ohio-lover in your life.

Keep in mind that these aren't necessarily items made in Cleveland (though most of them are). They're items about Cleveland, showing off that 216 love in a variety of ways. Plenty of other gift guides will tell you where to find Cleveland-made soaps & clothing & candles & other items - but these ones are Cleveland-centric themselves.

To Eat

  1. In the Kitchen with Cleveland's Favorite Chefs by Maria Isabella: This locally focused cookbook asks 35 Northeast Ohio chefs the same question: "If you were suddenly to get a call at home from good friends who wanted to stop by, what would you prepare for them in one hour or less?" Make your own versions of recipes shared by Michael Symon, Zach Bruell, Jonathon Sawyer, & other CLE foodie faves.
  2. "Cleveland is Delicious" Chef's Apron from CLE Clothing Co.: Your favorite local home chef (or, heck, restaurant chef!) needs this Cleveland-inspired apron ($25), perfect for grilling out kielbasa & pierogi on holiday weekends. Just maybe, uh, think twice about snagging this for the vegetarian foodie in your life, please.
  3. Six-Pack of BBQ Sauce from the Winking Lizard: Have you ever had this BBQ sauce? If you've never had this BBQ sauce, stop what you're doing - yes, right now - & get thee to the Lizard, stat. The restaurant, repeat winner of local Best Wings awards, also has, in my humble opinion, the best BBQ sauce on the planet. A six-pack under the tree ($18) will keep your favorite Cleveland foodie rollin' in BBQ well into 2018.
  4. The 2018 Cleveland Independents Deck: For a few years in a row now, independent Cleveland restaurants banded together to create this deck of 52 cards ($29.95), which offers savings at 49 of Northeast Ohio's best restaurants. Each card saves you $10 on any $30 food purchase (tax & gratuity not included) at a different local joint - & it even includes two jokers so you can get repeat savings at your faves!

To Decorate

  1. Home Sweet Ohio Print from Natterdoodle: Hand-lettering is all the rage these days, & when it comes to Clevelanders doing a bang-up job of it, no one's doing it quite like local artist Natalie Keller Pariano. This sweet print, lettered atop a map of the great Buckeye State, is available in two sizes ($15 - $20) & printed on recycled cardstock. Perfect for the Clevelander who loves more than just Cleveland.
  2. The Guardians Wall Clock by Christina Sadowski: This Etsy seller has tons of Cleveland-related inventory, but this 10" wall clock is my favorite ($45). It's available in black or white frames, with hands to match, & featuring a gorgeous image of the Guardians of Traffic that watch over downtown Cleveland's Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.
  3. A Christmas Story Leg Lamp: Clevelanders love their leg lamps, & I am no exception, having nearly cried with joy when I received my "major award" as a wedding gift. The movie A Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood & is now a local museum. Though a full-sized leg lamp costs a whopping $199.99, there are more cost-effective options, like a desk lamp ($99) & even a nightlight ($14.99). Careful, they're frah-jee-lay!
  4. District Collection Print from Cuyahoga Collective: If the Clevelander on your holiday gift list loves not just the city but his or her particular corner of it, this is the perfect gift for hyperlocal representation. With 22 options to choose from (both neighborhoods & suburbs included), they're almost sure to have a 13x19 print ($18) of your favorite Clevelander's favorite part of Cleveland.
  5. Cleveland Snow Globes from ApeMade: I collect city-themed snow globes, so I'm gonna neeeeed one of these ($74.95). Available in both White Downtown & the sort-of-hilarious Gray Steel Mills, these magical items are 3D printed with painted maple bases. Appropriately, the steel mill version includes black & rust glitter. Shipping is expensive ($17.95) but, in my opinion, wholly worth it to own one of these Clevelandy beauties.

To Wear   

  1. "Cleveland or Nowhere" Tee from Knowlita: LeBron James made this shirt famous when he wore it to Game 6 of the 2016 World Series last fall. There are lots & lots of locally made Cleveland T-shirt options (for much less money!), but if you've just gotta have what the King's wearing, you can score this simply but sassy cotton graphic tee ($58) from Saks Fifth Avenue
  2. "Cleveland is Home" High-Top Chucks from Fresh Brewed Tees: In case it's not enough to broadcast your Cleveland love across your chest, now you can say it with your feet, too, in this pair of custom Chuck Taylors ($99), available in both men's & women's sizes. Just remember not to ruin them in the muck of our Cleveland winters!
  3. "Our Lil' Pierogi" Onesie from Lil' Burritos: Your favorite Cleveland baby should rep your favorite Cleveland food. This local kidswear company ships all its onesies wrapped in aluminum foil... to look like actual burritos, of course! This bright red outfit ($18) features a joyful, babushka-wearing pierogi family of three, & while it doesn't explicitly mention the CLE, well, this city is basically synonymous with pierogi by now, right? (Psst: The "our" is a tiny kielbasa!
  4. CLE Skyline Necklace from CLE CLothing Co.: "Come see both of our buildings...!" Voted a Best of Cleveland item by Cleveland Magazine, this dainty necklace ($30) features Terminal Tower, 200 Public Square, & Key Tower. It's made of stainless steel & available in both gold & silver tones - & it fits handily into a Christmas stocking.
  5. Guardians of Transportation Neckties from ApeMade: Available in nine colors, these satin-finish polyester ($28.95) ties are screenprinted by hand & feature Cleveland's one of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge's famous art deco pylons. Let's just say that my husband is lucky I didn't find these before our wedding.
  6. Ohio Map Wood Tie Bar from Bearded Woodcraft: Lest the Guardians tie be a little bit too much Cleveland for your tastes - or if you want to double up & get extra Clevelandy - this tiny, wooden tie bar is made in Columbus but solidly reps the CLE. I could actually include everything from this brand in this guide; go check them out for all things handmade & Ohio-loving.
  7. JR Smith Tattoo Shirtless Shirt from Fresh Brewed Tees: This is literally the tackiest & most wonderful Cleveland item I've ever laid eyes upon, & I only wish I knew someone ridiculous/brave enough to wear it. If you know such an individual, please, please, please snatch up this limited-edition T-shirt made to look like Cavs' small forward JR Smith's tattooed chest ($34.99), as seen in the flesh at the 2016 Cavs parade. It's even JR-approved! 

To Drink

  1. Great Lakes Brewery's Beer School: Most Clevelanders have been on GLBC's brewery tour, but they can step it up a notch with Beer School ($35), which provides a full tour of the production brewery & a tasting of six beers, plus a two-hour course (snacks included!) on the history of the company & the brewing process. All "students" leave with a T-shirt, a tasting glass, and some serious beer knowledge.
  2. Local Cocktail Mixes from Pope's Kitchen:Your booze deserves the best - & the Clevelandiest! Put together a gift basket of mixers from Pope's, a growing regional brand that uses fresh local ingredients in all their products. Try the Bloody Mary or chill a little with the Mellow Mary ($4-$11); get sugared up with the Strawberry Daiquiri mix ($11); or go a little unusual with a syrup like like lavender lemon or orange habanero ($10).
  3. Fifty Must-Try Craft Beers of Ohio by Rick Armon: Sure, this new release is available on Kindle, but don't the CLE beer-lovers on your list deserve a paperback copy ($17.95) to mark off their progress as they drink their way through? Armon's roundup also includes brewer profiles, Cleveland-centric food pairings, & more. Cheers!
  4. CLE Skyline Wine Glasses from 2CraftyHons: Yes, there are tons of options for CLE-themed drinking glasses, but I especially like these hand-etched, made-to-order options from Etsy. They come in other cities' skylines, too, but do other cities even really matter...?
  5. Cleveland Drinks Card GameWarning: Only Clevelanders will understand this game - but it's sure to get a room full of them laughing & drinking - & pretty quickly drunk. The deck ($20) was co-created by the local comedian who coined the phrase "Factory of Sadness" (the Browns), so you know it's gonna be a funny one. Rules include, for example, "10 Cent Beer Night: Whoever has the cheapest beverage drinks."

To Stuff a Stocking

  1. Cleveland Babe Canvas Pouch from Oceanne JewelryMake it easy for your favorite makeup-toting Clevelander to take her love of the city on the go with this cute canvas pouch ($15) from local maker Anne Harrill. Hew new storefront recently opened in Gordon Square, so if you want to go beyond this adorable item, go check her out in person. May I recommend the Cleveland is My Paris necklace ($48)?
  2. Peanut Butter Coffee Porter Soy Candle from Weird Beard Candle Co.If you've ever enjoyed a pint (or two or three) of Willoughby Brewing Co.'s Peanut Butter Coffee Porter ($14), you'll love the scent of the 8oz soy candle it inspired. I burn it throughout the winter to keep my apartment smelling cozy & delicious & extraordinarily Clevelandy.
  3. "Bitch Please I'm From Cleveland" Mug from Banyan TreeI own this in tote bag form & carry my laptop around in it every day, but I can't seem to find it available anywhere online. Enter, instead, this scappy little mug ($16), which will keep your coffee warm and let everyone know which city you love most.
  4. Ohio Shaped Bottle Opener Keychain from Midwest Opener Co.Never struggle to open your favorite locally made craft beer again! This Ohio-shaped bottle opener is available in both a polished & tumbled finish, with or without a a heart over your city of choice ($9.99 - $12.49). At 2" x 3" & made of stainless steel, it'll look great adorning a keyring and opening a cold one.
  5. Cleveland Snow Soy Candle from the Cleveland Candle Co.Fine, fine, Cleveland probably smells the same as other snowy cities - but this fun take on a snowy Northeast Ohio day ($15) will keep your home feeling cozy & smelling fresh as the flakes fall outside your window. Other locally inspired scents include CLE Magic, Ohio Harvest, & Lake Erie.

Just for Fun

  1. Cleveland in a BoxI've now sent two of these customizable Cleveland boxes as gifts, one to a friend living out of state & another to friends who just bought a house. Choose from their selections of local & iconic Cleveland goods, from Dichotomy Popcorn to Cleveland tees to Pope's Hot sauce & beyond. It's $30 for a box of five items or $50 for a box of 10 - & they ship worldwide!
  2. 100 Things to Do in Cleveland Before You Die by Nikki DelamotteThis 2016 release ($12.94) is exactly what it sounds like: a list of the very best Cleveland has to offer. The only problem? Plenty of new & exciting places have opened up since the book's publication! Still, this is a perfect starting point for new Clevelanders, as well as for longtime residents who want to be sure they're experiencing the city's best.
  3. Subscription to Cleveland MagazineFull disclosure: I interned here in the summer of 2007, just before I first moved to D.C., & it marked the summer I fell in love with the CLE. I still read the magazine religiously to see what's new & cool not just in Cleveland but across Northeast Ohio. A new yearlong subscription is $14, which is 75% off the cover price.
  4. Memberships, Subscriptions, & Event TicketsInstead of loading up your loved ones with more stuff, consider investing in experiences instead. Check out tickets to shows at Playhouse Square or Cavs games, or memberships to any of Cleveland's many museums, the Botanical Gardens, the Zoological Society, the Great Lakes Science Center, the Cleveland Orchestra... the list is endless.
  5. You Gotta Know Cleveland Sports: Your favorite Cleveland sports aficionado will love this 500-question sports trivia game ($19.95) - & hopefully they've got a similarly sports-loving friend to play it against. They can play the game the "official" way (first one to 21 points wins), or just ask their friends the questions over a few (local, of course) beers. Playyyyy ball!
  6. Charlie Browns Cornhole Set from CLE Clothing Co.: See if you can score better than CLE's not-so-beloved-these-days football team; it shouldn't be too difficult to one-up, considering their longtime losing streak! Painted in Browns colors in the style of the perpetually mopey Peanuts character, this handmade cornhole set ($225) is a big-ticket item sure to bring oohs, ahhs, & "Ugh, the Browns" lamentations. 
So there you have it! Will any of these make it under your tree this year (or next to your menorah, depending on how you handle the holiday season)? And if you've got Cleveland favorites, tell me: What other CLE-themed gifts would you add to the list?

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