What I Read in April

Monday, April 30, 2018

I'm going to level with you: I didn't do much reading in April.

The reason I didn't do much reading in April? I spent a lot of time watching E.R. Like... all my time.

I made it through a few books, but if I keep up at this pace, there's no way I'll hit 100 books by the end of the year. I will, however, have watched all 331 episodes of E.R. by mid-May. Only two & a half seasons left to go!

I know the month isn't quiiiite over, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to finish anything else before May begins - so here's what I made it through in April:

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

This book, part true crime non-fiction research & part personal memoir, was written by the late crime writer, true crime blogger, & wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, who died before she finished writing it. Oswalt hired her fellow researchers & friends to help finish the book, but the end result is a story that is disjointed & often difficult to follow - though incredibly well-written & well-researched, not to mention creepy as hell - about the search for the prolific rapist & murder who terrorized California in the late '70s & '80s. And who they caught this month!!! ★★★★☆

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

I thought I was having a difficult time getting into this suspenseful crime thriller, but before I knew it, I was already halfway through & fully engrossed. It goes back & forth between the perspectives of Nellie, a young preschool teacher engaged to Richard, & Vanessa, a struggling sales clerk who is also Richard's ex-wife. It's slightly tough to follow, but the moment when you hit that first big twist? Well, it all feels worth it. ★★★☆☆

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson

This nonfiction home-help book was written by a Swedish woman who describes herself as being "somewhere between 80 & 100 years old," & thus, while reading it, it's best if you imagine it to be written by your adorable grandmother. It's all about how to clean your home in a way that will make it easier for those who love you to manage your affairs after you've died, which sounds depressing as hell, but she manages to make it, well, adorably grandmotherly - & helpful even if you're just trying to get a handle on a standard mess, without any plans to die soon. ★★★☆☆

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman

Will you accept this rose? Kaufman's book about my favorite guilty pleasure reads like long-form journalism you might read in Vice or Rolling Stone, a surprisingly serious & in-depth look at a show that's about as deep as a puddle. If you're looking for Perez Hilton/Reality Steve-style gossip, you won't find anything here that you haven't already read there - but if you're interested in the psychology of the show - of the folks who make it, who go on it, & who watch it - this is the read for you. ★★★★☆

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.

A Road Trip for Yinz: Two Days in Pittsburgh

Friday, April 27, 2018

Two of Mike's best friends live in Pittsburgh, & Mike himself lived there before we met. It's just a two-hour drive away, & though the city has a Rust Belt vibe that makes it quite familiar to us Clevelanders, it also has its own distinct personality - one that I really, really like. Like, if I didn't live in Cleveland, I think I'd live in Pittsburgh - though I can't imagine driving up & down all those crazy hills!

We stayed with our friends Nick & Susan, who live in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, & spent time with them exploring some of their favorite local hotspots. Here's what our weekend looked like (not including the post-brunch nap we all took on Saturday afternoon).

Dan Dan & Dumplings at Everyday Noodles

We didn't want to do anything fancy for dinner, so our friends chose Everyday Noodles, which is apparently a bit of a cult favorite - & with good reason. I found the menu so intimidating - it didn't explain what anything was or what came in/with each dish! - so I just ordered something suggested by my friend Susan & hoped for the best.

It didn't disappoint! The spicy noodles came in a lightly soupy, peanut buttery sauce with a taste I hadn't experienced before. We also got two order of pork soup dumplings to split, which I thought I might not like because something dumpling skins feel to me too much like... well, like real skin. That wasn't the case this time; these were divine.

Manhattans at The Independent Brewing Co.

No photos available of this one, but we sat at a table on the patio & enjoyed a few cocktails. I love any place that has a sidecar on its drink menu, & this one - though it was missing the sugar on the rim - was one of the best I've had in awhile.

Smoke, Home of the Breakfast Taco

Again, no photos of the breakfast tacos themselves, which came rolled in aluminum foil & thus less than attractive - but nevermind that, because they were legitimately the best breakfast tacos I've ever had, beating out the many I consumed in Austin. The best of the two I ordered was the migas taco (egg, cheese, hot peppers & onions, black beans, & crispy tortilla strips). We also split a deep-fried avocado stuffed with brisket, which is pictured in the unidentifiable photo below.

Look, photos weren't my priority. Deliciousness was.

Caffeine from Crazy Mocha 

I don't like black coffee, so I never order it in restaurants & always wait to hit a coffee shop later. For a quick caffeine jolt after brunch, we stopped by Crazy Mocha, a local chain with sustainably sourced coffee & funky decor. They also serve cookies the size of my face, which I didn't indulge in - just ogled. The latte I ordered was tops, & perfect for a stroll through the neighborhood on a sunny-but-not-hot day.

A Quick Adventure at The Mattress Factory

I already wrote about how angry I was during our visit to this contemporary art museum, where a group of rude Instagrammers got in the way of our enjoyment of nearly every single exhibit. What I didn't write about was how much I liked the museum, regardless of that frustration.

It was cool to experience Yayoi Kusama's dots exhibits before her art comes to the Cleveland Museum of Art later this year (we got tickets for July!), & the other exhibits were interesting, too - especially a room full of mylar walls & purple-lit plants, & a separate building full of tiny dollhouse-like architecture. It had a distinctly Pretty Little Liars creep-factor vibe.

One of the museum buildings was closed, so we sort of missed out - but it was still a worthwhile visit.

Pints & Pierogis at Church Brew Works

Thrillist listed Church Brew Works as a Pittsburgh must-see, & though everyone else had already been, they kindly indulged me for Saturday night dinner at this church-turned-brewery. Our friends Mark & Daniel drove in from the suburbs to meet up with us over pierogis (a Rust Belt staple) & craft brews; I went with their Ambrosia Ale, a pale wheat ale, which was really light & refreshing... & surprisingly boozy.

Mike swears their pierogis were Mrs. T's, but I've never met a pierogi I didn't like, so I didn't mind too much. The price point is a little high for the quality of the food & drink, but the beautiful & unusual setting - it's so strange to see brewing machines on the altar! - make it worth it.

Pancakes from Pamela's Diner

I first visited Pamela's in 2015, seven years after President Obama ate there, so of course I was thrilled to follow in the president's brunch footsteps. Pamela's crepe-thin pancakes are a thing of delicious beauty, with the crispiest, butteriest edges you've ever tried. They soak up syrup like sponges, & they'll keep you full (& carbo-loaded) the whole day long. To die for, I tell you.

A Missed Opportunity to Visit Jerry's Records

We planned to stop at Jerry's on the way out of town, which is widely regarded as the world's largest all-vinyl record store & has been named by Rolling Stone as one of the best record stores in the country. I've been once, & while I'm no expert in record stores, I've got to agree that it's such a cool space.  I hope to take Mike there sometime to replenish his seriously dwindling record collection.

With that, we headed home - just a two-hour drive back to the CLE, but we felt like we'd gotten the experience of a completely different place. We're lucky to live so close to Pittsburgh, which is way cooler than I ever hear it get credit for. We'll be back!

Have you been to Pittsburgh? What do I need to see next time?

A Love Letter to Bike 37 (& a Note About Our Eventual Breakup)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Class registration opens at noon every Monday for the next week's classes, & there I am, ready to sign up within those first few minutes. I've even added a note to my Outlook calendar: "REGISTER FOR CYCLING CLASSES."

It's not because I am so committed to cycling (not yet, anyway) but because if I'm going to go to cycling classes, I need bike 37. I took bike 36 once, & that was fine-ish - but what I really want is bike 37.

Bike 37 is in the back, in the dark. It's so dark back there that I almost can't see the gauges on the bike to be sure I'm setting it to the right specifications. It's so dark that I can barely see myself in the mirror next to me, were I to look (which I try not to). It's next to the fan. And it's so far back, set in the very right-hand corner of the room, that I have a perfect view of the rest of the class - of the instructor up front but also of the more experienced riders all around me.

They're the ones who can "up & out" when the instructors calls on us to, raising their butts off the seats. They're the ones who can do push-ups from the handlebars while they're up & out. They're the ones who can keep the beat & stay with the pace & follow the choreography. And some of them are the ones who leave class hardly looking like they've broken a sweat.

Me? I can't keep up. Not even close. And I always, always leave class looking like I used a full compact of blush across my face. It takes hours for my regular complexion to return.

I choose bike 37 because I can see everyone, but no one can see me. I choose bike 37 because it feels like the only safe space in the room for someone like me, someone who isn't there yet - & who might not be there, wherever there is, any time soon. I choose bike 37 so I can try my best to keep up but fail without anyone's eyes on me.

And I choose bike 37 because someday, I won't need bike 37 anymore.

Someday, I'll move up a row. Maybe I'll move closer to the center. I don't have any grand delusions of being a front-row person, not ever, but I know that I'll get closer, someday, than bike 37, which is as far away & as closed-off as humanly possible.

Someday, I won't choose bike 37. And when that day comes, I promise to look to the back - but casually, because I know that whoever's back there doesn't really want to be seen - & to give a little smile, a little "You won't always be on bike 37" nod to that girl, whoever she is. In solidarity.

I choose bike 37 because it's the safest place for me right now. And because when it finally feels like I don't need that safe place anymore? Well, that's how I'm measuring my own success.

Bring it on, bike 37. I love you, but please just know: This is not going to be a long-term relationship. I intend to make sure of it.

7 Ways to Combat the "Rudeness Epidemic"

Monday, April 23, 2018

There's an ongoing problem in my neighborhood, where parking is at a premium: People keep parking in front of other people's driveways. In some cases, their cars hang over the driveway juuuust a little bit; in the most egregious cases, they block the driveway entirely.

A few weeks ago, I pulled into a small spot of curb between two neighbors' driveways. I wasn't sure if my car would fit, so I put it in park & got out to see if I needed to adjust or park elsewhere. As I started to get out of my car, my neighbor started gesturing wildly at me.

"Come on!" he shouted. "My neighbor is 80 years old! He's gotta be able to get out of his driveway!"

"I was just seeing if my car fit!" I yelled back, incensed. "I'm your other neighbor! I'm not going to park here if I don't fit! Give me a minute to figure it out!"

I was so mad at this guy. I've called to have multiple cars towed for blocking my own driveway; I'm not going to block someone else's! My neighbor couldn't have known that, or my intentions to readjust if I didn't fit into the spot, but I was so peeved about being shouted at that it impacted my whole day - & the way I feel about him when I see him out & about now.

I was reminded of this story when I listened to a recent episode of the podcast Part-Time Genius titled "Are We in the Middle of a Rudeness Epidemic?"

Danny Wallace, author of F You Very Muchcame on the podcast to discuss how being on the receiving end of rudeness impacts us on a psychological level that influences our physical actions. For example, doctors who experienced rudeness the morning of their shift were less likely to aptly treat their patients that day. Crazy, right?!

Rudeness occupies such space in our brains that it can truly distract & upset us.

So, is there anything we can do about it?

Fortunately, the same studies found that just as rudeness can negatively impact us, so can politeness positively impact us. Perhaps the solution to combating rudeness, then, is, quite simply, to practice kindness.

With that in mind, here are a few of my go-to ways to better someone's day.

1. Be thankful. 

It's that simple. Say "thank you" to individuals who help you, including the bus driver, the usher at a sporting events, the barista who makes your latte, & the coworker who responds to your email quickly & helpfully. Literally, just saying "thank you" can brighten someone's entire disposition.

2. Mail kindness. 

Send a handwritten note to a friend - or even a care package, if you want to go big! Visit Pretty by Post for snail mail ideas of Greetabl to send easy care packages entirely online (& click that referral link for 15% off).

3. Smile at somebody. 

When I was 11, I made my first visit to NYC, & a friend, who was a native New Yorker, chastised me: "Did you just smile at a stranger?!" she panicked. Why, yes. Yes, I did. "Never smile at a stranger in New York City!" I'm 33 now, & this lesson has stuck with me - but I continue to do the opposite

4. Be patient. 

As Ferris Bueller once said, "The world moves pretty fast," & sometimes our default is to be annoyed with slowness. Instead of rolling your eyes when a line is taking forever or assuming the worst about the person who went out of turn at a stop sign, take a breath, give a smile or a wave, & let it go. Are you really in such a hurry that you can't be a decent person to someone else?

5. Pay it forward. 

Let someone cut you in line at the grocery store when you have a full cart & they only have two items. Leave a slightly bigger-than-usual tip for your harried server. Let that mom with two wild kiddos go ahead of you at Starbucks.

6. Leave a nice comment on social media. 

Don't just hit that "like" button & move along. Take the time to tell someone they're inspiring you, or that you love their smile, or that you're sending them good vibes on a bad day. In a world full of trolls, be the opposite.

7. Share a positive review. 

You'd be surprised how far a positive review can go, especially for service workers. Write a five-star Yelp review, rave on TripAdvisor about the concierge who made your trip that much better, or take it a step further & even report good service to a manager.

These are all so basic, I know - but if you take the time to really prioritize kindness, you'll find that it is pretty basic. Tell me: What acts of kindness am I missing? And when's the last time rudeness really riled you up? 

8 Lessons Learned from Successful CLE Businesswomen

Friday, April 20, 2018

I had the honor of attending yesterday's Next generation of women in leadership event yesterday, hosted by Engage! Cleveland & Sherwin-Williams & held at the stadium where the Cleveland Browns play. It was a beautiful day for views of Lake Erie, & inside, the view was even better: The 200+ young women in attendance heard from six of our city's successful businesswomen, who each spoke on a different topic that impacts young women in our personal & professional lives.

Here are some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom from throughout the event.

1. "Be the CEO of your life."

This was my favorite line of the day, from Kim Jenkins Manigault, EVP & chief diversity/inclusion officer at KeyBank, who spoke about finding your tribe & your support system. The full quote was, "Be the CEO of your life. Demote or fire people who don't deserve to share your space." Amen, right? Give yourself permission to be in charge of your mental, emotional, & physical space, including who is allowed through the doors. If someone deserves to be fired from your life, so be it.

2. Your personal brand is who other people think you are.

This seems like a no-brainer, but it's something I never really thought about: Liza Zone, managing director of Dix & Eaton, pointed out that your personal brand isn't the image you want to convey; it's the image you do convey. What are your blindspots? What don't you realize you're doing? Whether it's Resting Bitch Face, a lack of eye contact, or a haughty attitude, you could be contributing to your personal brand in a way you don't realize - & don't mean to.

3 It's OK to cry. Just do it behind closed doors.

Micki Byrnes, president & general manager of WKYC, spoke about having difficult conversations at work, from discussions about harassment to navigating maternity leave to asking for a raise. It's hard to believe that a badass like Byrnes has ever cried at work, but she admitted that she's sobbed after firing people - key word being after. Take your lumps (or give them out, depending on your position) & then feel free to be emotional about it... when no one is watching. 

4. Women who use conversational "hedges" have lower professional status.

Amy Shannon, president of Pinnacle Leadership Solutions, shared a handout titled "10 Common Things that Undermine Women's Speech Habits." I already knew to be wary of words like "just" & "actually," which indicate a tentativeness & a lack of professional confidence, but I didn't know they were called "hedges" - or that the women who use them are almost always in lower positions than women who don't. Trim the hedges!

5. Seek organizational investment in your civic engagement.

Teresa Metcalf Beasley of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP has her hand in a million projects, including motherhood, volunteerism, & being a partner at her law firm. She spoke about the need to discuss your volunteer work with your superiors in order to get buy-in from them - which gives you more wiggle room to participate in that work. Instead of simply being seen as leaving half an hour early one day, you'll be seen at leaving half an hour early to go serve on a board to help better your community - which makes a world of a difference to higher-ups. 

6. Yes, your personal brand can evolve over time - for better or for worse! 

Lisa Zone 's two examples of this were Snoop Dogg (who ever expected him to become BFF with Martha Stewart?!) & Bill Cosby (who ever expected him to fall from grace so very hard?) - talk about a change in perception! Not every brand evolution is so drastic or identifiable, but you can change the way you're perceived - whether it's by doing something major or just by chipping away at a better version of yourself.

7. Pauses in conversation denote confidence. 

It's no secret that people who ramble usually do so because they're nervous (hand up over here!) Amy Shannon taught us that women who are able to speak slowly & to take deliberate pauses while speaking (especially when presenting) are seen as confident & knowledgeable. It's one of those things you know but don't realize - that if rambling indicates nervousness, not rambling indicates that you're cool, calm, & collected. Something to strive for!

8. Almost no one says no to a genuine request of "Can you help me?"

Another no-brainer, but it was somehow impactful to hear this from someone at the top: KeyBank's Kim Jenkins Manigault said she never turns down a request for help & is willing to mentor anyone who asks - to some extent. How much you get from her depends on how much you put into it & the level of support you're willing to offer her in return. 

"Lift as you climb, but you're under no obligation to carry," she told us. Deep.

Disclosure: I was offered a complimentary ticket to Next Generation of Women in exchange for the creation of promotional content in advance of the event & recap content after the event. All opinions are my own. Truly, it was a great event!

You Can Be a Successful Instagrammer without also Being a Massive Jerk

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mike & I recently visited Pittsburgh, where two of his closest friends live. It's only a two-hour drive, & visiting is a great excuse for us to get out of dodge for a weekend & explore another city.

I'd long wanted to visit The Mattress Factory, a modern art museum & incubator located in Pittsburgh Mexican War Streets neighborhood (how's that for the coolest neighborhood name you've ever heard?), & our friends kindly obliged. In particular, I was excited to see the permanent installations by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, whose Infinity Mirrors exhibit is soon coming to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

We showed up around 1pm on a sunny Saturday & were relieved to find that the museum, while heavily populated, didn't feel particularly overcrowded. It seemed like we'd be able to take our time & really enjoy each of the exhibits.


We happened to be on exactly the same touring timeframe as a group of three girls around the ages of 16-20 (I'm 33, man, I can't tell from youth anymore). They were all very dressed up, hair done & wearing full faces of makeup - not your standard museum fare, but whatever?

I first started to get annoyed with them in the Solar Grow Room, artist Meg Webster's exhibit representing "replenishment to [the] ecological threat" of the destruction of bees' habitats. In other words: It's a room full of plants under purple lighting, with cool, shiny, Mylar walls.

The girls were staging a photoshoot in the room, posing behind plants & with plants covering their faces, etc. One of them, holding a professional camera, guided the shoot: "Oh, that's gorgeous. Oh, move your hand & look to the left a little. Oh, this is going to be great with a hazy filter." I purposely walked through the middle of their shoot because I wanted to get to the other side of the exhibit, & they showed no signs of moving or acknowledging that people needed to pass.

I laughed it off because I thought that'd be the last we saw of them, but oh, how wrong I was.

When we crossed the stairwell to get to the next floor, they were taking photos against the Pittsburgh skyline. When we crossed between buildings, they were taking photos on a dilapidated porch. When I finished using the restroom, they were taking photos in an old chair right at the bathroom entrance. At the museum's second building, & we all but begged the docent to hold them back for a few minutes so that we didn't have to encounter another one of their photoshoots.

The worst, though, was encountering them in the Yayoi Kusama exhibit.

The Kusama exhibit is two small rooms, both full of mirrors, so that the dots painted on the floors appear to go on forever (hence the name Infinity Mirrors). It's an amazing photo opportunity, but the more people in the room, the more difficult it is to either enjoy the depth of the reflections or take good photos (because every photo includes, like, everyone who's in the room with you).

The three girls entered ahead of us & claimed the exhibit as their personal photoshoot space.

They monopolized the space in both rooms, laughing & chatting & art-directing. They took sultry selfies with the mannequins in the Repetitive Vision room. They laid down on the floor & shot a series of group selfies, lips puckered & boobs out, that seemed to take forever, effectively barring anyone else from exploring the exhibit.

There was no way to enjoy the exhibit with them in there. Just no way.

My friends & I did, re-enter the exhibit once they'd left so we could better appreciate the art - & take a few quick, unobtrusive photos of our own before leaving so that the looooong line of people behind us could enter. Still, I was livid.

Later, my husband sent an email to the Mattress Factory about our experience, politely suggesting staff monitoring of the museum's most popular exhibits. I'll tag them when I share this post on social media. And I continue to check Instagram to see if those girls have posted any of their photographic masterpieces, if only so I can see if the end result is in any way worth the way they ruined our museum experience.

But it's not about the Mattress Factory, is it? This is a problem everywhere, a problem of people who believe they are above others, above politeness, & above rules. It's a problem of people who believe that getting X amount of likes online trumps being a decent person IRL. This was a particularly egregious example of Internet-driven egotism, but it is, overall, all too common.

Here's the bottom line: If you are taking Instagram photos at the expense of the convenience, enjoyment, & sanity of the people around you, you are being an asshole. Period.

There are so many chill ways to take photos. You can, for example, wait your turn in busy spaces & be cognizant of the amount of time you take up - even if it means you don't get your perfect shot.

You can be kind, respectful, & apologetic of those individuals you interrupt, if you must do so, allowing them the space to go about their day without you right in the center of it. This means not giggling loudly or art-directing at top volume, & allowing people to pass by without holding up lines & experiences.

You can choose less-busy times to stage photoshoots in busy public places (for example, maybe not at noon on a Saturday). You can even - gasp! - take pictures in places that aren't in other people's way at all.

As we repeatedly encountered these three budding viral stars </sarcasm>, I kept thinking about a photoshoot I recently witnessed in Cleveland's Fifth Street Arcades. A dapper young guy, around my age, posed on the seats of a shoe-shine business that was, at the time, closed for business. His friend snapped professional-grade photos of him, stepping out of the way as others passed by. Most of the shops in the arcade are closed on the weekends, so this was a perfect time to stage a shoot that wouldn't interrupt or affect anyone else - & it looked like the photos were going to turn out great.

That is how you do it. And I wish I could find his photos online to tell him so.

Because, look, I'm not saying don't take photos in public ever. On the contrary: Take lots of photos! Show off your city & your self! Be proud! Have no shame in staging public photoshoots! Look damn good on the Internet!

But for the love of God, & everyone else around you, please don't be such a jerk about it. While you're trying to nab the perfect shot, other people are trying to live their lives, to experience their surroundings, enjoy art & scenery & the hustle & bustle of every day life.

And if you are unapologetically in the way of everyone around you? You're doing it wrong.

Sip, Savor, Social: Where to Feast Like a Queen in Tremont

Monday, April 16, 2018

One of the things I love most about my neighborhood is all its great restaurants & bars. Thrillist even named it one of the best neighborhoods in Cleveland for food - second only to nearby Ohio City, which, in my humble opinion, has actually been eclipsed by Tremont in the last year or so.

Just about a mile & a half from downtown Cleveland, Tremont offers a more laid-back vibe with the same level of upscale & creative dining options as you'll find in the heart of the city. In fact, just last month, I had the opportunity to interview Chef Rocco Whalen, owner of Tremont's Fahrenheit. He raved about his fellow Tremont chefs & what a great neighborhood this is for food & drinks - & I couldn't agree more.

Just a few days after that interview, I attended "Sip, Savor, Social," a ladies'-night-out event hosted by Tricia of Edible Cleveland. Tricia's friend Natasha Pogrebinsky is the chef at two Tremont joints: The South Side, a trendy restaurant/bar with one of the best patios in the area, & Hi & Dry, a bar & duckpin bowling spot that also has a great patio. With patio season fast-approaching (God, I hope), Natasha & Tricia hosted a special event to show off the restaurants' evolving food & drink menus.

I don't blog much about food, but I do Instagram it a lot, & I was thrilled to attend this event alongside some of the city's best foodstagrammers, like @eatlocalohio, @clevelandfoodiegirl, & @clefoodies. I had no idea how much food we'd be served, so unfortunately I did eat before attending - which was a terrible idea, because we were served so. much. food. 

Cue up "These are a few of my favorite things..."

My Big Fat Greek Salad

This isn't your standard olive-heavy Greek salad. It's watermelon-based! A big slab of watermelon is topped with a big slab of feta, plus cucumber, tomatoes, onions, & basil. If you're not familiar with this combo, get familiar, because it's ideal for summer.

Kielbasa Kebabs

I always think I'm not a fan of kielbasa, which is ridiculous because who doesn't like kielbasa? (Except you, vegetarians, pipe down.) I think I confuse it with bratwurst (ew), but I won't now that I've experienced the delicious joy of these kebabs, skewered with tiny potato pancakes.

Steak Tacos

These tacos are to die for: big lettuce leaves filled with thin-sliced sirloin with slivered carrots & red onions, & drizzled in a sticky-sweet soy sauce. I like to take them out of the shell & eat them as lettuce wraps instead.

Tuna & Avocado Salad

Mike's hates the smell of tuna, so I don't make or order it often, but I'd make an exception for this dish. The tuna is mixed with the avocado, giving it a creamy, smooth, not-mayonaissey taste & consistency. It's served in scooped-out avocado shells & served with tiny toasts.

St. Louis Pork Ribs

Uhhh, these are coated in South Side's special Bloody Mary BBQ glaze. Do I need to say anything else about them? They're sweet & spicy & tender & tasty. Done.

And that doesn't even begin to cover half of what we ate - or drank! After we gorged ourselves at The South Side, we headed over to Hi & Dry, which is only a couple blocks away - an easy walk for bar-hopping around Tremont, especially in nice weather.

There, the general manager served us all of the cocktails from their drink menu - & there wasn't a bad one in the bunch (though I didn't try the one made with pickle juice). Amusingly, they all have hashtagged names; the one below, for example, is either the #Blessed or #AboutLastNight, I can't remember which. Like I said: all delicious, all boozy,

Hi & Dry serves food, too, though their menu has a much for "something to supplement my drinking" vibe. We didn't eat there - too full! - but Chef Natasha still whipped up a Spam & pineapple sandwich to show us. I've never had Spam, so I'm pretty interested in trying this one sometime - though I'd definitely have to split it with someone because damn, just look at it.

Hi & Dry has been one of my go-to spots since it opened (though I've yet to bowl), but after this experience I'm definitely bumping both it & South Side to the top of my neighborhood dining list!

If you live in the CLE, have you tried these two spots? And if you're not local, what's your favorite place to chow down in your neck of the woods? 

Disclosure: I was invited to attend this event, including complimentary food & drink, hosted by Edible Cleveland, The South Side, & Hi & Dry without any expectation or agreement to share online unless I so desired (which I did, as you can tell). All opinions are my own.

Life in the Fast Lane: 24 Hours in Columbus, OH

Friday, April 13, 2018

When The Eagles announced their latest round of tour dates, they didn't include a show in Cleveland. Instead, my mom bought two tickets to the Columbus show & asked me to join her told me I was coming with her. It was a Sunday-night show, so I took that Monday off work & we planned a little weekend getaway.

We got into town at noon on Sunday & left at noon on Monday. So what did we do with our 24 hours in Ohio's capital city? I thought you'd never ask.

Boozy Brunch: CBC Restaurant

When we got into town, we went straight to the CBC Restaurant, part of the Columbus Brewing Company, for brunch with my Aunt Joan & her partner, Alvarez. I thought about going healthy but instead went straight for the chicken & waffles because who can resist chicken & waffles? Not me. I also ordered the Gold Mine, a bourbon brunch cocktail. I'm not a Bloody Mary gal, but theirs almost tempted me!

The Great Indoors: Franklin Park Conservatory

That was the extent of our plans with my aunts, but they were free for the rest of the day, so we all headed to the Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. I was admittedly cranky - I did not want to go - but unsurprisingly, it turned out to be a great decision. Bonus: The conservatory is full of Chihuly glass, which my mom absolutely loves.  

The best part of the conservatory? Petting a penguin & meeting an armadillo. OK, with no offense meant to BJ, the armadillo (who looks like a real-life Pokemon or a basketball come to life), petting Wahoo, the penguin, was actually the best part of the day. I've wanted to pet a penguin my entire life! Who knew penguins were so soft?! I'm not usually a squealy, excitable person, but I was, like, the most excited person in the world after petting this dude. So happy.

The other best part was the Field exhibition, described as "a 46’ long ecosystem projected on the gallery walls, where grasses and flora grow based on [bodies’] position and movement in the space." Basically, it was this big, long, screen wall, & when you walked past it or moved in front of it, it reacted to your movements.

Livin' that Hotel Life

My mom & I didn't want to have to deal with parking before the concert, so we booked a night at the Hampton Inn by Hilton, just half a mile from the arena. They upgraded us to a suite, but instead of sharing the king-sized bed with my mom, I slept on a (very comfortable!) pull-out couch, in total silence & darkness. It was freaking glorious.

Dinner Fit for a Foodie: The Pearl

We walked just a few short blocks to The Pearl, a restaurant I'd been to a few years earlier. It's an oyster bar with a seafood-heavy menu (which is not my fave), but we both found options that were right up our alleys. 

My mom got the pub burger with homemade tater tots - OMG, that tomato jam! - & I got a grilled cheese with brie, bacon, butternut squash, & pesto - to die for. I also got a bourbon apple punch, which was the perfect combination of lightly sweet & boozy - & far too summery for the snow falling outside in April.

Welcome to the Hotel California: The Eagles, Live

My mom first saw The Eagles in 1973, when she was attending Kent State University (yes, we share an alma mater). Though I never considered myself much of a fan, the show proved that I knew far more of their songs than I'd ever realized - & as I said multiple times on social media, this was easily the best concert I've ever been to. I loved the addition of 24-year-old Deacon Frey to replace his late father, Glenn Frey, & country legend Vince Gill was the perfect sixth member. What. a. show.

Buy Local: North Market 

Our hotel overlooked North Market, a food-and-farm market that opened in 1876, so we wandered through on Monday morning before we left town. If you're familiar with Cleveland's West Side Market, throw out the image in your mind; North Marker is much closer to Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market (though smaller & slightly less hectic), with more restaurant kiosks than grocery stands. 

Ready-made lunch options from Pastaria

Mouth-watering desserts from Omega Artisan Baking
Gorgeous, brightly colored Gerber daisies from Market Blooms
Spices galore from North Market Spices

Grabbed a soy latte from the fabulous Stauf's Coffee Roasters
Those chaiiiirs from Coco Cat Bakery & Chocolates

How beautiful is this giant cinnamon roll from Destination Donuts?

Move aside, Auntie Anne's, you ain't got nothin' on Brezel

Black Radish Creamery's cheese case is what dreams are made of.

These Destination Donuts creations are the most delicious-looking donuts I've ever seen.
My mom bought two big bottles of flavored balsamic vinegar from Green Olive Co., while I bought a mini bottle of their pomegranate-quince balsamic to put over salad this summer. In anticipation of warm-weather cookouts, I grabbed this peppery BBQ sauce from CaJohns Fiery Foods, plus some spice rubs for Mike from North Market Spices. Spring, we're ready for ya! 

Not pictured: the butterscotch & sea salt donut we split from Destination Donuts. *heart eyes*

The Drive Home

We headed back at noon - almost 24 hours exactly since our arrival - & my mom requested that we listen to more of The Eagles on the drive back. "Take a selfie of us singing!" she requested; don't worry, there was no one else on the road, & her eyes remained firmly facing forward.

Overall, it was a great weekend & a fun excuse to go on a mini-trip with my mama. I love living so close to her (but not too close - sorry, Mom), & this was one of our best adventures to date.

Have you been to Columbus? What do I need to see next time I'm in town?
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