Easy Home DIY: How I Put Together My Gallery Wall

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

I'm not crafty, & I'm definitely not a DIY home person. I don't want to own a house, in part because I don't want to have to spend my weekends, like, cleaning out gutters & re-caulking kitchens, or whatever. When it comes to at-home items, like headboards & centerpieces, forget Pinterest; if I can buy it instead, I will.

Perhaps that's why it took me a whopping nine months to hang photos in our "new" apartment. We moved in May, & boxes of artwork have just been sitting around, gathering dust & taking up space. It seemed like so much work to hang things... that I just didn't bother to do it.

Finally, last weekend, I'd had enough - enough of the bare walls, enough of the boxes of un-hung art - so I got to work readying our bedroom gallery wall.

But again, because I'm impatient & not into home decor stuff, I did it my own way, using a method I've perfected over the years, what with all my many moves. Instead of whipping out levels & measuring tapes, I used my patented "paper replica" method.

Oh, & by the way: I spent nine months avoiding this project because I thought it would take too long. Final running time? About 90 minutes. Yes, I should've done this much sooner. Here's how I did it:

1. Lay out your gallery wall on the floor.

The top photo in this post shows step one of the process. I got out all out all the pieces I wanted to include in the gallery wall & laid them out on the floor in the way I might want to hang them on the wall. I rearranged it until I landed on the combination I liked best, which I then photographed.

2. Create paper versions of each piece of art.

Using plain old computer paper, I created properly sized replicas of each piece, labeling them with a quick description of each piece of art so I wouldn't lose track of any of them.

3. Tape paper replicas to the wall.

Referring back to the photograph of my floor layout, I recreated that layout on my wall with the paper replicas. I taped them to the wall using washi tape so that it wouldn't do any damage to the paint.

4. Nail paper replicas to the wall. 

Checking the backs of each piece of artwork to determine their hanging mechanisms, I nailed each paper replica to the wall, then simply ripped the paper replica off the wall, over the nail.

5. Hang artwork! 

Finally, I hung each piece of art on its respective nail &... voilà! Gallery wall complete, nine months later. The lighting in my bedroom is fairly terrible, so please bear with me on this photo, but I think the final product is pretty good. Yes, it's a little bit too close to the ceiling - but hey, I've got low ceilings.

I also hung a few pieces in my office, & I hung a painting from my grandmother in our bathroom. I have a few more pieces to hang, including a very large, framed Paul Duda print that will likely require a second set of hands & a level - but for now, I'm loving our homier apartment. A little art goes a long way!

What's on your walls?

Gotta Get Down on Fryday (Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

You get the title reference right? Right? Mike & my mom & I went to a fish fry on Friday, & they both got reaaaal mad at me for reminding them that this song exists. (P.S., Rebecca Black just came out with a new album.)

The cause for celebration was the fish fry itself. It's the (other) most wonderful time of the year!

As an American Jew, I've never much liked Easter season. Frankly, if you're not a Christian, there's not much to celebrate. I'm not big on Jesus, & Easter doesn't have the same cozy, celebratory secular vibes that the Christmas season gives off. Instead, I've always found myself waiting for spring to end so I can stop hearing about Easter.

But then I moved to Cleveland & discovered Lenten fish frys, & now Easter is truly a time of celebration - or at least, the season leading up to it is. (By the way, The Plain Dealer says "frys" is the proper spelling in this case. I feel weird about it.)

I'd never been to a fish fry before moving here, but now I'm hooked - & I've finally gotten my Yiddishe mama hooked, too. 

There are fish frys all over the Cleveland area, so many that you could never hit them all up over the course of Lent. Some are more popular than others, but it seems like most people pick the fish frys closest to them (or at their own church, if they attend one). 

We don't belong to a church (Jew & atheist here), but we do feel a strange fondness toward Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in our neighborhood. We've been there for the Greek Festival & for holiday markets, so last year, when we were trying to figure out where to attend our first fish fry, it made sense to hit up theirs. 

We liked it so much that we've never gone to any others. 

The fish fry takes place in the church basement - or ballroom, I guess, as there's a dance floor & a stage & a full bar. The servers are all little old Greek women with heavy accents; their grandkids help you carry your food to the table.

And man, it's a lot of food.

For $10, you get three huge pieces of fried whitefish, fries, coleslaw, & two hushpuppies (they have baked fish options, too, but who's getting those?) Add-ons cost extra: a side of mac & cheese is $3, baklava is $2, a bottle of water is $1... & did I mention the pierogis? The $8 pierogi platter comes with four very dense pierogis smothered in onions, with sour cream on the side.

I don't even like fish, but this food is so good.

This time around, my mom, Mike, & I split two fried fish platters & two pierogi platters. Yeah, it was... an accidental feast. We ate as much as we could, but since Mike & I have cut down on carbs, we've gotten, well, less adept as consuming mass quantities of carbs. We left feeling stuffed to the brim, to-go boxes in hand. 

I've been poring through local fish fry guides to figure out where we should go next, but if I'm being honest? Well, all I want is to keep going back to Annunciation, alllll Lent long.

So tell me: Have you ever been to a fish fry? Are they "a thing" where you live, or does this seem bizarrely Midwestern to you? 

My Year of Less: How I'm Trying to Have Less Stuff

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I've been reading Cait Flanders' personal finance blog for a few years, on & off. Sometimes, when I feel guilty about my inability to manage my finances, I skip her posts in my feed reader & move on to whatever's next. Sometimes, I save up a bunch of her posts & read them all at once for a double dose of inspiration & reproach.

When I saw that Cait had written her first book, I knew I had to get my hands on it - & that was before Vogue named it one of "7 Nonfiction Books to Change Your Life in 2018." Equal parts memoir & self-help, it's called The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store.

Whew, that's a verbose title - but the book itself, of course, is all about thoughtful minimalism.

This month, I listened to Cait's audiobook & started thinking of all the things I've purchased lately that I probably (OK, definitely) didn't need. Here's an abridged list: a dermarollera deck of tarot cards; this weird, twisty workout boarda leg lamp lapel pin; a curling wand I can't get the hang of using; & this cat toy that my cats have zero interest in.

There are many, many more ridiculous purchases lurking in the shadows, I'm sure.

I decided it was time to embark on my own Year of Less, whatever that means to me. I don't have the same personality as Cait or the same priorities; I wouldn't want to own just one pair of jeans, & I care more about makeup & skincare products. I'm also never going to give up my lattes, expense be damned, because going to the coffee shop to get them is sometimes the only socialization I get in a day. (Ah, that work-from-home life.)

Still, I finished the book feeling inspired & motivated to try my own version of a Year of Less. Maybe it won't be a year, & I'm sure I'll never be as thoughtful & intentional about it as Cait is/was. But I've started making small changes & have already begun to feel the benefits of these efforts. I feel calmer, more at peace, less claustrophobic - & I want to feel more of that.

We'll see how this transpires, but here's what I'm working on & what's next.

1. Social media clean-up 

I unfollowed 80+ people on Instagram, mostly brands & accounts that haven't posted in months. Not only am I excited about a cleaner, less cluttered, more thoughtful Instagram feed, I'm also looking forward to a lot less temptation to buy, now that I've unfollowed every brand I've ever loved.

2. Inbox clean-up

Using unroll.me, I unsubscribed from all extraneous email subscriptions, another way to keep myself from being tempted to buy things I don't need. I also unsubscribed from email lists for causes I only semi care about, allowing me more energy to focus on those that really matter to me (Planned Parenthood and Everytown for Gun Safety, especially).

3. Financial clean-up

With Mike's help, I'm going through my bank statement, line by line, to determine what I spend the most on - & where I can & should cut back. I know the answers, to some extent - coffee, eating out, Lyfts - but I think sitting down & budgeting will be really helpful.

4. Home clean-up

I've packed up three bags of stuff for giveaway & am always on the hunt for more. I also threw away any opened beauty products that I don't use & gave away any unopened items I didn't have plans to use. I also tossed nearly every sample I owned because for the most part, I never use samples.

5. Closet clean-up

I'm still running a Poshmark store, though I haven't sold anything for awhile. I've gathered a few high(ish)-value items - Frye boots, a Kate Spade bag, a Michael Kors watch - & am planning to list those on Poshmark, eBay, Facebook, and/or wherever else is appropriate. I may donate the rest & shutter my Poshmark shop entirely, just to be rid of it all. 

6. Bookshelf clean-up

I don't have a ton of books, but I do have a few I look at & think, "Never gonna read that, don't even want to." So why am I still hanging onto them? I'm planning to gather them up, consign what I can at Visible Voice Books or Loganberry Books, & put what's left in my neighborhood's Little Free Libraries.

7. Wedding clear-out

I've got a bunch of wedding stuff to try to sell in a local Facebook group for brides-to-be, including centerpieces, a beautiful sash I didn't wear, two never-worn rehearsal dinner dresses I rejected, & a massive backyard canopy we almost used as a wedding chuppah. My guest room will breathe a sigh of relief if I can get rid of all of this stuff!

That's where I am for now, with more, I hope, to come. I may or may not keep you updated along the way, but as I begin this effort, I'd love to know: How do you feel about minimalism, intentional ownership/purchasing, etc.? Do you have any tips for me?

You Know You're a Little Bit Too Into "The Bachelor" When...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I'm very defensive of but also very upfront about the fact that I watch a lot of bad TV. I blame this primarily on working from home, where I'm left to do my work in a silent, coworkerless home. I want background noise, so I turn on the TV (or, in most cases, Hulu on my iPad) - but I have to work, so I can't actually watch anything. I've got to turn on something I can listen to without having to follow closely. When I had cable, the Disney Channel was perfect for this.

One bad TV show I actually watch, though, is The Bachelor - &, actually, all Bachelor-adjacent shows. I also watch The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, and, now, Bachelor Winter Games (much to my husband's disgust & amusement). For awhile, I didn't have an actual TV hookup, but I love waking up on Tuesdays knowing that a new episode awaited me on Hulu - & yes, I religiously avoided Twitter the night before.

This season, unarguably one of The Bachelor's worst, is somehow the season I've gotten the most into. Want proof? Fine, fine. You know you're a little bit too into The Bachelor when...

1. You follow the contestants on Instagram. 

This goes first because it's the thing on this list I've been doing the longest - though admittedly, I've started following a lot more past & present contestants this season. I follow Rachel Lindsay, Nick Viall, Carly Waddell, Sarah Herron, Becca Tilley, Sharleen JoyntTaylor Nolan, & Andi Dorfman, & from this season, I've added on Seinne Fleming, Bekah MartinezKendall Long, Marikh Mathias, & Bibiana Julian... whew. OK, this is an embarrassing start, huh? And no, I have not purchased tummy tea or those hair gummies, thankyouverymuch.

2. You hook up your TV just to watch live. 

When we moved into our new apartment last May, I didn't bother hooking up our TV. We don't watch much in-the-moment TV, anyway, aside from Game of Thrones, so why bother? I was comfortable watching everything, even my beloved Grey's Anatomy, the next day on Hulu - until The Bachelor came back on. Suddenly I needed to watch it as it aired - & so on January 1st, just before the season premiere, I moved a spare TV into my office & set it up & cheered aloud when it worked & allowed me to tune into "Januarie" in real-time.

3. Your talk to your boss about The Bachelor

My Tuesday afternoon check-ins with my supervisor, Jill, eventually get around to focusing on work - but first, we recap The Bachelor. Jill is in her early 50s, so I never would've expected her to be a fan, but her love of it has really elevated our work friendship to the next level, boss or not.

4. You join a fantasy pool. 

One of my best friends, Christina, lives in Cleveland, TN, where she & her friends get together every Monday to drink wine & watch The Bachelor. They even created a Bachelor fantasy pool on ABC's website, where they've each taken guesses about which contestant will win the final rose (& Arie's heart, I guess). Though the game is strictly limited to their in-person attendees, Christina petitioned to add me to the group as a long-distance member because I have no one to watch with in person. I joined a couple weeks late, so I'm far behind & losing, but hey, I'm in a fantasy pool for a reality TV show.

5. You start listening to recap podcasts. 

That's right, I've escalated my Bachelor love to a disturbing new level by adding a second medium to the mix - podcasting. At the recommendation of friends & fellow bloggers, I've started looking forward to my weekly listening of Here to Make Friends & Bachelor Party. Despite my general dislike (on TV, at least) of former Bachelor contestant Ashley Iaconetti, I've even started listening to Almost Famous, her podcast with Winter Games co-star Ben Higgins.

6. You sent this card to someone.

For Valentine's Day, I made this Bachelor-themed card for my aforementioned friend, Christina, using Postable. I couldn't resist! (Use code MRPF5WB8 for $5 of credit on this fun, easy card-sending site. Not sponsored, I just use it a lot.)

There you have, five signs that I've become a bonafide crazy person when it comes to the Bachelor franchise. Are you a Bachelor fan? What's your guilty pleasure TV show? 

The Local Dish: My 7 Favorite Meals in the CLE

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I like food. I like to eat food, I like to photograph food, I like to talk about food, & I especially like to recommend my favorite food places to other people. Did I mention that I can't cook? So I have a lot of favorite food places.

If you're based in the CLE or if you're visiting soon (get at me), the recs in this post are for you. This isn't a sponsored post in any way, but I am partnering up with the SoFab blogger community. Bloggers in other cities are sharing their favorite local restaurant meals, too, in the hopes that wherever you are - or go! - we can help you find something delicious to enjoy.

Without further ado, here are a few of my favorites meals in the 216.

Kaju Curry from Tandul (Tremont)

I live verrrry close to this spot, & one of my greatest achievements is not ordering this dish every day of my life. It's tempting, though: This creamy curry dish, loaded with crunchy cashews, is warm & cozy & filling over jasmine rice & eaten with plain naan. Sometimes I order ahead on Skip the Dishes, & sometimes I head over there to get it fresh, with a mango lassi on the side.

Shrimp Poke Bowl from Corner 11 Bowl & Wrap (Tremont)

This spot is brand new, so it shouldn't really have had enough time to make it onto a favorites list - but hey, maybe I believe in love at first site. I'm so excited to have a healthy lunch spot right here in my neighborhood, & my poke bowl of choice is so delicious & fresh: shrimp on greens, topped with avocado, mango, cucumber, & shredded carrots with tom yum sauce, sesame, & crispy wonton strips. I'm really hoping this place succeeds because I could eat here every day, so help my wallet.


Slider Dog from Happy Dog (Gordon Square)

Call me gross if you must, but this hot dog combo, inspired by the Cleveland Indians' wacky & colorful mascot, Slider, is actually really tasty. It's an all-beef hot dog smothered pimento mac & cheese with real bacon bits... & Froot Loops. Yes, it looks & sounds like an absolute monstrosity, but if you try it, I think you'll agree: It's a deliciously genius combo, especially eaten at the ballpark on game days.

Chick'N Waffles Brunch Apizza from Saucy Brew Works (Ohio City)

This recently opened brewery specializes in thin, New Haven-style "apizza," & all the versions I've tried are delicious. My favorite, though, & one of their most unusual, is this brunch version topped with boursin smoked cheese, chicken, sriracha, walnut brittle, & OYO bourbon maple syrup. It's both sweet & spicy, & while it admittedly doesn't taste like chicken & waffles, it does taste divine.

Bún Thịt Nướng from My Du Number One Pho (Asiatown)

Right before I left D.C., I discovered my love of Vietnamese food - & was devastated to think that I might not be able to find it in Cleveland. How wrong I was! Number One Pho & nearby Superior Pho are both out of this world - & authentic, owned by Vietnamese families. Number One Pho gets my business mostly because they deliver via Skip the Dishes, which means I can get my beloved beef vermicelli bowl (extra peanuts, please) sent right to my desk while I work.

Breakfast Burrito from Lucky's (Tremont)

This is another spot close to my apartment, & while I stop in regularly for lattes, I have to resist eating there all the time. Luckily, they only serve my favorite meal on the weekends, which helps me resist temptation. This brunch meal is much more than a burrito; it's actually a breakfast casserole, or American enchiladas, or something, two thin egg-&-veggie burritos cooked in a casserole dish & covered in hot, bubbly mole sauce. It's my ideal breakfast food, which is saying a lot.

Jigoku Ramen from Otani Noodle (Downtown)

I'm not typically a big soup person, but I'll make an exception for this spicy dish from a new noodle joint downtown. Roast pork in tonkotsu soup with ramen noodles, scallions, kikurage, seaweed, & corn... yum. It's a huge bowl of food, but I never leave with leftovers. I am also very upset that the new downtown location doesn't deliver to my address. Pleeeeeeease, Otani Noodle?!? I'm begging.

And there you have it. I can think of at least a dozen other meals I love in the CLE - this is a great city for food - but these are my favorites, my go-tos, my "I want to eat something I know I'm going to love" meals.

What's your favorite meal in your city? Or, if your city is the same city as mine, share your local recommendations! 

5 Things You Want to Know About Instagram

Friday, February 16, 2018

I occasionally get Instagram DMs from friends & followers who have questions about how to better use Instagram, especially the Stories aspect. While I wouldn't say my Stories are anything special (look, I'm just being honest), I do know the ins & outs of how to use them, along with some other tricks of the platform - so I thought I'd share some quick-fix Insta solutions to the most commonly asked questions I've heard from friends.

This isn't the sort of content I typically post, but... why not, right? I'm a jack of all trades, & this blog is a smorgasbord of content representative of that. Are you following me on Instagram? Connect with me there - & then show off your newfound skills!

1. "How do I see who voted in my poll - & how they voted?"

Easy! When you create a poll in your Stories, you can see who's viewed it, just like you can with any Stories image. It will also tell you, at the top of that same screen, how many people have voted for each option within your poll - and if you click on those numbers, you can see exactly who voted for each. (Here, you can see which of my viewers have watched E.R., ha.)

2. "How do I choose colors not listed in the Stories color palette?"

First things first: A lot of people don't realize that there are four pages of color options! If you're looking for grays or tans, just swipe the color palette left & you'll find more options.

Want colors beyond those available in the tiny circular palette? Say you want a light lavender. Pick the closest circular color option - in this case, purple- then hold down on it & wait for a broader color wheel-style palette will appear. Slide your finger across the palette to choose the color you'd like.

You can also match the color of your text to a color within the image you're posting. Instead of touching a color from the circles in the palette, choose the white color dropper all the way to the left of the color options. That'll bring up a color-picker option that will let you choose from the colors in your photo for a matchy-matchy vibe.

3. "How do I know if someone has blocked me?"

OK, here's a big one: When someone has you blocked, you'll still be able to see & search for their profile - but there's an absolute tell to determine if they've blocked you.

An account that has actually posted zero photos (you know, lurkers, like my mother) will show a black & white camera icon with the words "No posts yet." The profile of a person who has posted photos but simply doesn't want you to see them will show the same thing - but there's a dead giveaway at the top of their profile.

That top line of their profile shows how many photos they've posted, how many followers they have, & how many people they're following. If they've actually posted zero photos, the "posts" number will be 0. If they have you blocked, the post number will accurately reflect the number of posts they've made - but the account itself will still say "No posts yet."

That's when you know: They've posted photos; you just can't see them. (This is a screencap of my best friend's account, by the way. Thanks for blocking me for the sake of the blog, girl!)

4. "How do I make a colored background to write on?"

This is so freaking easy, & I had no idea until a fellow blogger did a quick & easy Stories tutorial. Instead of, say, taking pictures of your finger to try to create a solid-black background on which you can write text, try this instead.

Take a picture - of anything at all, doesn't matter - then choose a color from the palette, whichever you want to set as the background. Hold your finger down on the screen, anywhere on the random photo you've taken... & voila, it'll change to a solid-colored full screen, a blank slate on which to write... or to add gifs!

5. "How do I add covers to my Instagram Stories highlights?"

I recently created title slides to separate my Instagram Stories highlights into categories. I got a lot of questions about where they came from & how to do it, so do you want to hear a secret? I bought them on Etsy.

Yep, for $2.50, I purchased a pack of Stories-ready images with little black images representing categories like food, travel, & pets. I chose the seven of them most relevant to my life & one evening, added them to all to my Stories in quick succession (with a preface saying that people could ignore them because I was just formatting my account).

Then, I went through & made each of those Stories images the cover of a highlight (which you can do my tapping the heart-shaped "highlight" button in the bottom right-hand corner & then following the easy steps Instagram provides). Now, when I post a Stories image that I want to add to a highlight, I just hit that same highlight button & choose which Stories category I want to add it to.

If you don't want to buy an Etsy pack like I did but don't have any design skills of your own, you can easily create them yourself using a site like Ribbet or Canva, or an app like Rhonna or Typorama.

Was this helpful to anyone? This was sort of fun for me to put together - so if you'd like to see more of this kind of content, going forward, let me know, & maybe I'll do something like it every other month or so.

Do you have any Instagram how-to questions? Leave them in the comments, & I'll help if I can! www.canva.com

14 Everyday Things I Love: A Tribute to Valentine's Day

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Today is Valentine's Day, which has never been my favorite holiday, for a few reasons. Don't get me wrong, I love love, & I think love is absolutely worth celebrating, I'm just not much of a fan of this love-centered Hallmark holiday & all the fluffy pink hearts that accompany it. 

Instead of talking about all the people I love - of whom there are a great many - I thought I'd pull together a quick-hits list of some of the things in everyday life that I love most:
  1. Finishing a good book & getting to rate it highly on Goodreads & just reflecting for a moment on how great it was before moving on to another... this has always been one of my favorite feelings in the world. 
  2. Having everything neat & orderly. I was always incredibly messy growing up, & as an adult, I still can be - but I find so much peace & comfort in neatness. I hate cleaning, but I sure do love the feeling of everything being clean.  
  3. Eating meals with people I love. There's something joyful about a homecooked meal with my husband, or brunch with my mom, or coffee with a friend. Maybe I have such a hard time with dating because, for me, food is so linked to love?
  4. Being downtown in just about any city. I do love my slightly suburban life, but whether it's someplace small like Cleveland or the ultimate, NYC, being in the heart of a downtown area makes me feel so reinvigorated. 
  5. New episodes of my favorite TV shows & podcasts. I have a whole pop culture schedule. Mondays are My Favorite Murder minisodes & a new episode of The Bachelor, Tuesdays are podcasts about The Bachelor, Wednesdays are Chicago Med, & Thursdays are the best: last night's Law & Order: SVU & Criminal Minds plus new episodes of My Favorite Murder & Grey's Anatomy. Whew! I swear I do other things.
  6. Those perfect days - in any season - when it's not too hot & not too cold, just sunny & warm enough to go without a coat & to wear flats... I'm daydreaming about this weather right now. February in Cleveland will do that to you! 
  7. Cuddling with my cats. It may sound silly, especially to anyone who's not a cat person, but when they decide to grace me with their cuddly presence, I just feel so warm & cozy & fortunate to be their mama. 
  8. Being published. I am never more proud of myself than when I write something & get it "out there" - even if it's just right here on my own blog. I've been writing for Cleveland Magazine lately & just picked up a new regular contributor gig to be announced soon. Very exciting! 
  9. Buying something at a good sale. I've gotten much better about my overall shopping habits, but there's something so deeply satisfying about scoring a good sale on something you love.
  10. Getting a good night's sleep. This seems like a no-brainer, but as someone who's long struggled with sleep issues, getting a full 8-10 hours & waking up feeling refreshed is just so. freaking. good.
  11. Talking with kind strangers. I love chatting up randos - the pharmacist, the barista, the guy checking me out at Giant Eagle, the woman sitting next to me at the coffee shop. It might be weird, but I find joy in small, friendly interactions with people I don't know. 
  12. Listening to early-aughts emo. My go-to music is always music from the early 2000s, when I was fully obsessed with finding new tunes & tracking down live shows. Jimmy Eat World, Brandtson, Dashboard Confessional, Death Cab for Cutie, The Starting Line, Acceptance... I'm a sucker for it.
  13. Planning my next trip. I don't travel a lot these days, but I love thinking about where I'd like to go next & preparing for the times I do, in fact, get to go someplace. I've got a trip to NYC coming up, & I'm really looking forward to a little change of scenery. Always have to have something to look forward to! 
  14. Looking at my wedding photos. Every time I look through them, I find myself smiling ear to ear without even realizing it. I look at them whenever I want a pick-me-up. 
How do you feel about Valentine's Day? What do you love?

You Could Buy a Dermaroller, Or You Could Just Set Your Face on Fire

Monday, February 12, 2018

Let me preface this by saying: My skin is fine. There are plenty of things I don't love about my body, but generally, the skin on my face is not one of them. I have decent skin. My skin-tone is a little uneven, a little reddish, sure, & I break out sometimes with, like, two zits, which I can barely complain about. My skin is fine. (That's my makeup-free morning face, above. See? Fine.)

And yet, I fell victim to Instagram marketing when, after watching some now-can''t-even-remember-who beauty blogger's IG Stories about dermarolling, I decided to order a dermaroller of my own. At just $20, it felt like a relatively inexpensive experiment for something that could... I don't know, make my already-good skin really great, or something.

Yeah, fine, it was a dumb investment.

Still, the day it came, I was very excited to use it. Late that night, I set myself up in front of the bathroom mirror with all the time in the world to dermaroll to my heart's content.

Wait, should I back up? Do you know what dermarolling is? Neither did I.

Dermarolling is the at-home version of microneedling, which is a very expensive dermatology/spa treatment thingy. A dermaroller is a thin, shaving razor-shaped tool with a spiky little rollerball on the end of it, designed to help minimize the appearance of lines, wrinkles, scars, etc. The needles on the roller prick your skin, causing damage that tricks your body into thinking it's experiencing trauma, thus stimulating collagen & elastin production. Both of those are ultimately good for your skin, so you've convinced your body to make your skin all nice & plump & smooth & shit - without actually damaging your skin to do it.

I don't know, man, I'm not a dermatologist.

Anyway, I bought this ORA Microneedle Face Roller in 0.25mm, the lowest needle size. Using mild pressure, as instructed, I rolled all over my face, "5-10 times in each of the four directions - horizontally, vertically and diagonally." (I assume they meant diagonally both ways, or else that's only three directions.)

It kind of hurt, but in that "hurt so good way," the way to hurts to tweeze your eyebrows or wax your upper lip. I kinda liked it.

...and then. And then, it started to get red. And then, it started to feel like I'd laid out in the sun for hours. And then, it started to burn. And then, it felt like I was fully engulfed in flames from the chin up.

All I could think of was this scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

Honestly, I can't even begin to tell you how badly my face burned. I put argan oil on it, which didn't help. I put a serum on it, which made it hurt a lot worse before it made it feel any better. I fanned myself. I broke into a sweat. I put ice packs on my face. I took Advil. I texted my mother & two of my best friends.

Oh, what's that, you say? I'm being dramatic? No, I am not

And this was after the argan oil & serum & ice!

Finally, finally, it stopped hurting enough for me to fall asleep, though I envisioned waking up to a face the color & tenderness of a tomato. 

I didn't. 

I woke up, actually, to my face looking like that photo you see at the top of this post - which is... yeah, that actually looks pretty darn nice, to my dismay. I'd hoped I'd have nothing to show for it so that I'd never feel tempted to use it again. But nope. My forehead burned again when I put on makeup later that day, indicating that my skin hadn't fully healed yet, but other than that, dermarolling didn't seem to have any lasting negative impact - & it did seem to make my skin look extra-good.

So will I dermaroll again? Doubtful. 

Apparently you can also use it on other parts of your body, like on stretch marks & scars (though that sounds like crap), & I'm kiiiind of interested in trying it someplace less sensitive than my face. But overall, this was such a painful & unpleasant experience that I don't think I'll try it again.

If I want to feel this way in the future, I'll just hold a torch to my face. And if I want to better my skin, maybe I'll go the old-fashioned route & just consult a freaking dermatologist.

Have you dermarolled? Did it hurt you as much as it hurt me?!

Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered: There's Nothing Quite Like a Live Podcast Show!

Friday, February 9, 2018

I still don't consider myself a podcast person, which is a little bit ridiculous because I listen to a lot of podcasts. The organization I work for also produces two podcasts (check out On the Other Hand & Stories We Tell, if you're interested!), so... yeah, I spend a lot of time thinking about, listening to, & even promoting podcasts.

Though Serial was my gateway podcast, my longtime favorite is My Favorite Murder. A few months ago, my friend Lilly & I made the drive to Detroit to see the show live & in person, assuming Los Angeles-based hosts Georgia Hardstark & Karen Kilgariff would never make it to the likes of the CLE. Shortly after that show, they announced a new tour schedule - which included a Cleveland date!

Lilly & I grabbed tickets within an hour of them going on sale, but unfortunately, the best seats were still pretty far back - though much, much better than our Detroit seats, which were in the nosebleeds! We snagged four tickets, inviting our friends Christina & Mary to join us, & on Friday, Feb. 2nd, we set out on our live podcast adventure night.

If you're not familiar with My Favorite Murder, here's the gist: It's a comedy podcast about murder. 

Yeah, yeah, that sounds weird & disrespectful & macabre, & maybe it is, but it's also pretty brilliant. MFM has made it socially acceptable to admit that you're obsessed with true crime, that you're a Nervous Nellie who reads about the worst cases in human history because, you know, you're terrified of the world. It's a coping mechanism, OK? Karen & Georgia are hilarious & chatty & relatable, so although they're talking about the dregs of humanity, they're also a lot of fun to listen to.

They've amassed a cult following. Listeners refer to themselves as "murderinos" & are active in a murdery Facebook group & revel in a bunch of weird inside jokes from the show (if hundreds of thousands of listeners qualify as "inside"). Their live shows sell out quickly, & tickets resell for hundreds of dollars above face value. Attendees often create their own shirts, signs, & even MFM-related crafts, which they sometimes even share with Karen & Georgia.

My friends dressed normally for the show, but I took to Zazzle to create the "It's never a mannequin" sweatshirt you see above. We didn't pay for the VIP package to meet the hosts, so one really saw my masterpiece aside from us - but hey, it was fun! Local bakery Brewnuts sent these special (& undoubtedly delicious) donuts backstage:

Great, right?

The Detroit show was only about an hour long, cut & dry, but the Cleveland show... oh, the Cleveland show. Karen started off by telling a story took more than an hour in itself, the story of Ed Edwards, a little-known serial killer from the Akron area who is suspected of being behind a number of famous murders - including the Zodiac killings. Crazy, right? After listening to his story, I added a book about him to my to-read list: It's Me: Edward Wayne Edwards, the Serial Killer You Never Heard Of. Georgia followed up with the Kirtland cult killings, another one I'd never heard about.

As Karen & Georgia said at the start of the show, Cleveland - & Ohio on the whole - seems to be a freaking gold mine of murder stories. That's of course not a good thing, don't get me wrong - but they sure did have a lot of material to choose from!

At the end of each show, Karen & Georgia pull a murderino onstage to tell a "hometown murder" story, something local. I had both hands raised in an attempt to tell the story of a super-crazy killing that happened in my hometown when I was a teenager, but those faraway tickets came back to bite me; I was too far back to be chosen. The girl they picked, Carly, talked about the murder of Diane Stroud, a local mother found dead in her garage; her husband, a former police officer, was charged with her death. (To Carly's credit, she didn't name names. I just Googled it later to learn more.)

By the end of the night, the show had run nearly two hours long. It was a great night - but next time MFM makes it to the CLE, you'd better believe I'm getting those close-up seats so I can try to tell my own hometown story!

Are you a murderino? Have you ever been to a live taping of a podcast? 

Get Your 1870s On: A Costume Party to Remember

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

I've always loved themed events, & I'm a big fan of dressing in costume. Halloween is my favorite holiday, & back in my sorority days, I lived for parties with costumed dress codes. These days, I don't find as many excuses for dressing up as someone else - which is why I was extra excited to be invited to attend the Western Reserve Historical Society's annual fundraiser, this year themed "Somewhere in Time: Satin & Soot," focused on the 1870s in Cleveland.

What do I know about the 1870s in Cleveland? Admittedly nothing - or at least, that was until I attended this event, which took place at the Cleveland History Center (which I wrote about a couple weeks ago).

With Mike out of town, I brought my friend Joey as my plus-one because he's good company and a fellow history buff. Unfortunately, neither of us fully thought through the costume aspect of the event (though, in fairness to him, I invited him three days beforehand!) As you can see, I wore a black dress with lace details & bell sleeves, paired with pearl earrings & a tiny, feathered hat I purchased on Amazon.

I'd never been to an event like this, so I was actually afraid I'd be too dressed up. As it turns out, I massively underestimated other people's dedication - in the best way possible. This is just a small & poorly photographed sampling of some truly incredible costumes. One guy was in full steampunk gear complete with a bulky metal face mask!

Right as we checked in, I ran into one of my favorite local bloggers, Jen of Why CLE? who I've only ever waved to across the room at crowded blogger events. What fun to say hello in person! Check out her blog if you're looking for reviews & suggestions of local events & brands - & for much better pictures of the particular party than I took.

Joey & I started out the evening with a scavenger hunt that led us throughout the museum to learn about various elements of Cleveland's past. We also played (& lost) trivia in the makeshift "pub" set up in a side room. A few things we learned about Cleveland history:
  1. Business magnate John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, made his millions right here in Cleveland. Did you know that he's buried at Lake View Cemetery on the East Side, also the final resting place of President James A. Garfield? 
  2. The Berlitz method, a way of teaching foreign languages, was developed in the CLE & is now used around the world - though the company is still based here!
  3. The Euclid Beach Opera House was, at the time of its opening in 1875, considered one of the finest theaters in the U.S. Alas, it was demolished in 1922. Its successor, the Hanna Theater, still stands & is in constant use today as one of Playhouse Square's venues.
  4. And a more lighthearted one: Clevelanders used to soot as shoe shine!
We never did hear the results of the (very difficult!) scavenger hunt, & a large group of boisterous older folks won the pub trivia, but we had fun trying - & listening to the accordion player while we did. 

The event also included betting on (carousel!) horses, polka lessons, a performance by the Cleveland Ballet, an ice cream scooper serving chocolate malt, roulette & faro tables, a silent auction...

Speaking of that silent auction, I texted my cousins & uncles & together, we decided I should put in a bid for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Crawford Auto & Aviation Museum. I come from a crazy-about-cars family, & while I'm the odd (wo)man out by not knowing a damn thing about them, I'd love to take a tour like this - if just to see the looks of wonder on my relatives' faces. 

I stalked the bid sheet for a little while until bidding closed... & I won! We've yet to plan our tour, but you can bet I'll be writing about it here when it happens.  

Of course, no event is complete without lots of delicious food & drinks, & this one was no exception. The suggested cocktails were delicious, & the menu was carefully chosen to reflect the ethnic makeup of the city in the 1870s - think Polish, German, British, & Irish small plates.

We tried everything, but I'm a sucker, especially, for potato pancakes, so when the caterer manning this table took off toward the end of the night & left all the food behind for late-night snackers, you'd better believe Joey & shamelessly snarfed a few more & tossed a couple into my purse for later.

Wait, should I not have admitted that here...?

All in all, it was a very fun & fancy evening, one of the most creative events I've yet to attend in Cleveland. I loved that it was both educational & festive, all for a good cause. Whatever the theme of next year's event, you can bet I'll do my best to attend.

I mean, just look how into the spirit of the 1870s I was by night's end!

Disclosure: I was asked to help promote Western Reserve Historical Society’s Somewhere in Time event in exchange for two complimentary VIP tickets to the event. As always, all opinions are my own.

9 Ways to Make More Time for Reading

Monday, February 5, 2018

One of the most commonly asked questions I get from blog readers is "How the hell do you read so much?!" I know, I know, I read so much every month that it must see like I have no life whatsoever. While it's true that I'm a bit of a homebody, my real trick is that I just love reading, & in the last few years, I've committed to making time to do as much of it as possible.

Here are a few of my "how to read more" tips. Am I missing anything? Leave a comment & let me know - or tell me what you're reading!

1. Make time for reading. Period. 

Reading is a commitment - but it's one worth making. As soon as you start carving out time for it, you'll find that you want to carve out even more. So read before bed. Read in long lines & while you're waiting in the doctor's office. Read instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media or binge-watching that bad reality TV show on Hulu. Did you hear me? Make time for reading. Period.

2. Buy a Kindle. 

I love reading in bed but always hated that I'd get all settled in & cozy, ready to fall asleep with a book in my hand... & then had to get up to turn off the light. I splurged on a Kindle Paperwhite with a backlit screen, so that I can turn off the lights & read in bed without a harsh screen damaging my eyes. It's also easier to slip into my purse than a book is, so I can take my reading on the road.

3. Download the Kindle App.

Before I got an actual Kindle, I used the Kindle App on my iPhone. I prefer my Kindle, but if I'm on the go without it, I just pull up my app & pick up exactly where I left off because the two are synced up. This is great if you're standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for someone to arrive at a restaurant, or just, uh, using the bathroom. As long as I've got my phone, I've always got a book with me.

4. Take advantage of your library.

I'm a librarian's daughter, which means I'm a firm believer in the power of my local library. I don't even mind paying library fines, in part because I see it as a community donation, & in part because, hey, they're still cheaper than the full cost of buying books. I especially love the Overdrive app, which allows you to borrow e-books & audiobooks using your library card. At any given time, I'm on the waitlist for ~20 books. In that vein...

5. Keep a to-read list. 

If I don't have any books to look forward to, I have no idea what book to pick up next - & oftentimes, that means that I just won't pick up anything at all (you know, because picking out a new book to read is so very difficult). If I know what I want to read next, I'm eager to pick it up, which means there's no lull in my reading habit. Start using Goodreads to keep track of what you want to get your hands on next.

6. Join a book subscription box.

OK, this is a bit promotional, but really: In keeping with the suggestion above, my Book of the Month Club subscription keeps me excited & knowledgeable about new releases. Each month, I pick from five new selections & have a beautiful new hardcover book sent to me for $9.99. Right now, get a free book if you sign up using my referral link. (Full disclosure: I get a free one, too!)

7. Read a couple books at a time.

Sometimes I'm not in the mood for a memoir. Sometimes life is too serious to read a serious book. Sometimes fiction doesn't tickle my fancy. What I'm saying is that I want to read different books at different times, & if you're committed to only reading one book at a time, you may find yourself foregoing reading at the times when that particular book doesn't appeal to you. I'm usually working on about three of them at any given time, so that something always fits the bill.

8. Listen to audiobooks.

I'm new to audiobooks - I just started my first one last month! - but so far, I'm enjoying the experience. I was skeptical, but after getting into podcasts, I decided this was the perfect way to read even more every month. Long commute? Listen to a book. Doing housework? Listen to a book. Waiting for the bus? You get the picture. If you're frustrated that the storyteller speaks more slowly than you read, bump up the playing speed to 1.25x or even 2x. You'll get through it much faster!

9. Get inspiration from Goodreads & Instagram. 

Follow some fellow readers & a few "bookstagram" accounts to help keep you excited about reading. You can follow me on Goodreads here, & some IG accounts I like are @sumaiyya.books@welldonebooks, @flatiron_books, @bookriot, &, of course, @bookofthemonth.

At the end of the day, my main suggestion is this: Don't beat yourself up for how much you're reading or not reading. Don't compare your reading habits to other people's - not to mine or to anyone else's. Don't feel like you have to read more, or you have to read the hottest new release, or you have to read X amount of books per year. Read at whatever pace & amount feels right for you.

Just make time for reading. Period. Your life will be richer because of it.

6 Small Goals for February

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Another month, another list of goals, linking up with Writes Like a Girl. Let's jump right into it, shall we? Here's how I did on January's goals:
  1. Hang art on my walls. This is not done. I hate myself. (I did hang, like, four things, though, & we got a new bed all set up, so I don't totally hate myself.)
  2. Get a damn haircut. I made an appointment with Daniel Price of Le Beau in Tremont, who did my hair on my wedding day. He chopped off nearly a foot of hair & gave me a beautiful bright red color, so vibrant it's nearly purple. I love it (even if no one else in my life seems to) (not that I'm being super sensitive to this or anything).
  3. Eat at home more, eat out less. Mike did a ton of meal-planning this month, & I started eating breakfast & lunch at home, for the most part. I still ordered in a lot, but I only went out to eat a few times - & most importantly, I cooked a lot more than usual.
  4. Work on my sleep issues. I certainly haven't solved my sleep issues, but I have been working on them, which is a start. I've been sleeping pretty well lately (albeit still too much) & have been trying to go to bed by midnight. 
  5. Schedule some sort of spa service. I have a massage appointment this coming week, which was the earliest I could get at The Beauty Room. I'm really looking forward to it - especially with 20% off! 
  6. Read only books I already own. I'm marking this as accomplished, despite the fact that I did, actually buy two new books. Both cost >$5, & I bought them for good reasons: One is part of a series, & I already owned the next book in the series, so I had to buy one to get to the other; the second book I bought was published just this month... by my husband! Extenuating circumstances, guys. Beyond that, everything I read was something I already owned. 
I think I did pretty well last month, wouldn't you say? I'm off to a decent start! Here's what's on the docket (I hope) for February.
  1. HANG ART ON MY WALLS. If I haven't finished this by the time February 28th rolls around, please, will someone just punch me in the face?
  2. Finish setting up our apartment. This is kind of related to hanging art, though not entirely. With our new bed up, we also need to rearrange furniture, hang curtains, buy a rug, take stuff to the basement, take down our Christmas tree (oops)... I want to get as much done as possible before the month is up. 
  3. Push my social boundaries. I've made a lot of plans for February, which stresses me out a bit. When I look at my planner, I'm slightly overwhelmed to see plans every night some weeks - but I want to do my best to attend as much as I can & try to master my anxiety of social situations.
  4. Make a dentist appointment. If I know myself, I'd say this is the one on this list most likely to be marked unfinished by the end of the month (aside from hanging art on my walls, apparently). I haven't been to my dentist, for, um... awhile, which is especially embarrassing considering that my aunt is a hygienist & my father-in-law is a dentist.
  5. Set up at least one new friend date. I actually went on a friend date on February 1st (hi, Meganne!), & it was so much fun that it made me much less afraid of trying it again. I've been DMing with a couple of other Instagram folks about setting up some plans (hi, Amber & Maddy!), so I'd like to try to move forward with that. 
  6. Don't buy any new clothes or accessories. I've gotten better about not spending money on stuff I don't need, but I haven't gotten that good at it. No new stuff in February! I'm not calling it a no-spend month, but I'm reaaaally gonna try not to indulge in unnecessary vanity items.
What are your goals for this month? How did you do on your January goals? 

What I Read in January

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The new year is off to a great start, reading-wise. I really enjoyed everything I read this month, & I'm moving at a good pace, with a list of to-reads that fit into both the PopSugar Reading Challenge 2018 & fellow blogger Space on Third's Reading Challenge. I've never done a reading challenge, so these seemed like a fun (if completely arbitrary) way to step up my book choices in 2018.

In keeping with my commitment to working my way through my own bookshelf, three of this month's books were past Book of the Month Club buys. As always, you can get your first book for $9.99 - plus a free tote bag - when you join using my referral link. 

And without further ado, my January reads: 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman 

This book. Ohhh, this book. Had I finished it one day earlier, it would've been among my favorites of 2017. Eleanor is a deeply odd, socially awkward, single, thirtysomething woman who has maintained a surprising lifelong relationship with her violently abusive mother - & has no other relationships to speak of until she meets Raymond, a coworker who becomes her very first friend. This story both broke & warmed my heart. ★★★★★

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Ng's debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, was my favorite book of 2016, so I had high hopes for this one. It didn't disappoint, necessarily - it's still one of the better books I've read in a long time - but I just didn't like it as much. It starts with a house fire & works backward: Who did it, & why? The novel tells the story of two families, a landlord & their tenants, brought together by their children's convoluted relationships & mass of secrets. It's still very good - & takes place in a suburb that fellow Clevelanders will know well. ★★★★☆

Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate by Sue Scheff

Here's a fun thing I forgot to tell you in 2017: I was interviewed for this book! The authors found me through HeartMob, a site that provides support to people who are being trolled or harassed online, after I was, well, trolled & harassed online. It's reminiscent of Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed, but it has more anecdotes (which I love), & it was a really fast, interesting read on a topic I'm passionate about. ★★★★☆

Before He Sins by Blake Pierce

This is book seven in an embarrassingly bad series that I can't get enough of. It features newbie FBI agent Mackenzie White, this time undertaking a case in which clergy are being murdered across the D.C. area in crimes reminiscent of the Biblical era. It was cheesy & shallow but deeply enjoyable, just like the rest of the series, & I'm moving on to book eight! ★★★☆☆

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

What an incredible memoir. Sandra & her family, members of the African Banyamulenge tribe, lived a normal life in the Congo until they were forced to relocate to a displaced persons camp in Burundi. One night, the camp was raided by armed combatants who set fire to the tents, looted their belongings, & murdered their inhabitants. Sandra, who escaped unharmed, watched her mother & her 6-year-old sister get shot - & returned the next day to find her sister's skull. Eventually, their traumatized family relocated to the U.S. as refugees, where Sandra became an activist dedicated to telling her tribe's stories & holding their killers responsible. ★★★★★

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

This is the second in Rowling's Cormoran Strike series, centered on the eponymous private investigator, a just-barely-likable curmudgeon who's just barely making rent solving crimes throughout London. In this book, Strike investigates the disappearance of a well-known novelist who's pissed off nearly everyone in the publishing industry - & who soon turns up dead. I found this installment of the series much more fast-paced & enjoyable than the first (which was a bit slow), & now I'm eager to move on to the third. Rowling plans to write at least 10 more! ★★★★★

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

This was my book club's latest pick, & it was also on my long to-read list - & I confess that before reading it, I had no idea of the extent of the impacts of apartheid. The Daily Show host has written a memoir that is, overall, both fascinating & informative while still retaining his signature wit & insight as he tells of growing up biracial in South Africa during & immediately following apartheid. I don't usually love celebrity memoirs, but this one gets an A+ from me. ★★★★★

Bitcoin in Plain English by Mike Kaput

Why am I reading a bitcoin book? Why does the author have the same last name as me? Oh, that's just because my husband published a book in January. Cryptocurrency is admittedly not a big area of interest for me, but Mike is very into it, & I could use a primer to keep up with his conversations about it - which made his short, explanatory book very helpful. I thiiiink I get it now - & I'm so proud of him! ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

I couldn't get into this book when I started reading it in November, but everyone else seems to have loved it so much that I gave it another go - & I'm glad I did. The story revolves around Claude, who is really Poppy. Her parents are incredibly supportive, as are her four older brothers, but that doesn't mean it's not terribly difficult on the entire family. Just about the others as much as it is about Poppy, this is a beautiful & well-written story - but I found some of language to be a little bit eye-rollingly overwrought, which took me out of it at times. Still, an overwhelmingly worthwhile read. ★★★★☆

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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