Why I Ride

Friday, August 31, 2018

Earlier this week, I finished #HarnesstheSummer, the summer challenge set by my cycling studio, & I can't remember a time in recent memory when I felt more proud of myself. Why? Well, for starters, you may recall that I cried at my introductory class in April - yet I somehow felt compelled to return, maybe precisely because I cried that first time. Four months later, I still prefer to ride on bike 37, the one wayyyy back in the corner of the room, but now that preference comes from a place of comfort, not fear.

I've finished 42 classes, & my new goal is to hit 100. So what is it about riding? Why do I ride?

I'll tell you.

I ride because at the end of a difficult day, I can zone out to 45 minutes of blank space, of nothing but music & beats & words of motivation. I ride because at the end of a good day, I can celebrate with 45 minutes of music & beats & words of motivation.

I ride to feel strong, to feel like my body can do hard things despite its size. I ride because I have never had a particularly positive or loving relationship with this body, but when I ride, I feel like maybe, eventually, I could change that about myself, even if my body itself never does change.

I ride because, yes, I want to lose weight, even though I haven't dropped a single pound since starting & have maybe even gained a few. I ride to feel more toned, at least, though I'm not sure that's happening, either, even though I don't know how that could be possible after all this damn riding.

I ride because more than I love riding, I love to eat, & I can eat a donut or half a loaf of asiago bread with sightly less guilt if I also spend three nights a week riding for 45 minutes. I ride because of guilt, sure, but also because I used to eat those things & not ride, so this has to be a step up, right?

I ride to get out all the stress of being overwhelmed & feeling like I can never get my to-do list in order, personally or professionally. I ride because I was recently diagnosed with two separate sleep disorders that have me feeling like I am damaged or lazy or weak, & riding reminds me that I am not.

I ride because I live with chronic pain & have tried everything under the sun to alleviate it, including medication, physical therapy, acupuncture, & various weird apparatuses purchased on Amazon. I ride because consistent movement is the only thing that has ever made me feel as good as I feel right now.

I ride because even though I mostly love my job, work is still work, & work days are still stressful. I ride to cancel out bad days & to rid myself of feelings of inadequacy - to forget about tasks left unfinished, to block out harsh critiques, & to take a break before I go back to even more work.

I ride because I have grown enamored of the community that riding fosters, of the people who are maybe nothing like me but with whom I still have this one thing in common. I ride because each one of us matters, in that room, when it comes to riding as a pack. I ride to be a part of something.

I ride because politics are stressful & our president is a freaking monster & my heart hurts for every minority who lives in or wishes to come to this country. I ride because sometimes fear & pain need a physical escape from the body, & for me, it's either riding or crying.

I ride because the room is dark & no one can see me (especially on my trust back-corner bike), which means I can do my best or my worst or somewhere in between, & no one will know it but me. I ride to the beat, to take in the tunes, & to really just feel the music - & allll my feelings along with it.

I ride because I want to be like my mother, who discovered her love of exercise at age 56 & who has inspired me in ways neither of us ever imagined possible. I ride because I don't want to end up waiting until I am 56 years old to follow in her footsteps, at least on this front.

I ride to feel proud of myself, not just for the riding but for all the things I do now that I once thought I couldn't. I ride because I have overcome death & surgery & heartbreak & mental illness & because I am not & have never been the terrible person I once insisted I was - & I'm damn proud of that.

I ride because I've never worked out consistently in my entire life, even thought, at 34 years old, that's totally unacceptable. I ride because I was always too cynical to believe people who said, "Once you find a workout you love, you'll want to do it," & now I have to repay the universe for my skepticism.

I ride because I want to.

I ride because I have to. 

And now? Well, now I ride because I love to. 

InCuya 2018: My First Music Festival Was Cleveland's First, Too

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I've never been a music festival person. The bands I tend to like most aren't usually the kind that appear at festivals, save from, like, Lollapalooza 2004 (what I wouldn't give to see Morrissey....). More importantly, festivals have never much appealed to me because once you get there, you're sort of captive - no leaving, no showing, no comfortable seating, lots of people & lots of sweating... just not my jam, literally & otherwise.

And then came InCuya. For the curious, that's pronounced "in-KYE-ya," like the first half of the word "Cuyahoga," the county where & the river upon which Cleveland is located.

My City Knows How to Throw a Party - & It's Teaching Me a Lot About Myself

Monday, August 27, 2018

Disclaimer: This post is about a Cleveland event, but even if you're not from here, I think it will have relevance to you. It's not necessarily Cleveland-centric, despite all the CLE love. Stick with me!

About a year ago, I decided to try to start attending more events around the city - even if I didn't have anyone to go with me. This was a decision that put me way outside my comfort zone because even though I'm outgoing enough to ghappily hold conversations with strangers, my anxiety keeps me from ever feeling fully comfortable in large groups of people I don't know.

When I signed up for Cleveland Vibes' first event, a mixer held at Platform Beer Co., I thought I knew a few people who were going - but when the time came, I showed up alone, & two of them never made it. I did know a few people IRL, including Julia & Ben of Beard and the Broad, & there were a number of other people I "knew" from the Internet, even if I'd yet to meet them in person.

Still, I was shaking in my boots - er, my animal-print Target flats - for the first 45 minutes or so after my arrival.

I had no reason to be as panicky as I was, but if I'm being honest, I never got entirely comfortable that night. Sometimes I just don't - but it was a really, really great party nonetheless. It was Cleveland Vibes' first time hosting an event, & damn, did Katie & her husband did a great job of it.

Here are just a few elements of a great party, all of which they touched on:
  • A free drink included in the price of ticket: Anything from Platform's menu! I went with the C'est What, a sour saison in a pretty raspberry color. it's one of my new faves.
  • Balloon background for photos: A peach-colored balloon arch in the back of Platform's patio provided the perfect background for group photos, & gold balloon letters spelled out CLE, making for yet another great photo backdrop. Julia & I used it to take this ridiculous Boomerang of us "dancing." Slick moves, I know.
  • Instagrammable eats: Their elaborate charcuterie spread was out of this world, & Mikey's Pizza provided all kinds of creative pizzas for the event, too. My photo only shows a standard pepperoni pie, but the slices I tried were, get this zaatar & cheese, and chicken & waffles. The latter had actual waffles chunks on it
  • The sweetest desserts: There was tons of tasty dessert options, from the Goldie's Donuts donut wall to Art of Sucre spinning champagne & peach cotton candy on-site. Daisy Cakes made the cutest CLE cake pops, & Little Red Bird made gorgeous cookies that were gone before I could even admire (or eat) them! 
  • A killer swag bag: On our way out, we grabbed little pink swag bags that included discounts for OcĂ©anne Jewelry, Legend Headwear, & Nosotros Rock Climbing Gym.
  • The city's best brands & influencers: In addition to the brands that were officially involved in the event, there were also lots of local entrepreneurs & Internet folks in attendance, including FOUNT founder Jackie Wachter, photographer Emily Roggenburk, Shore Society's Rachel Koenig, & Kiwi Wongpen of Thai Thai, plus a wholllle bunch of food Instagrammers, like Nikki of @eatlocalohio, Melvin of @cravetheland, & all three ladies from @cravecle

Photo by Ben of @beardandbroad

In other words... it was a really cool event, the kind I felt honored to be a part of - and it got me thinking about a lot of things, not just my anxiety around strangers. 

First, it's always a weird, humbling, & thrilling experience to meet people who are like, "Oh, I know you! I follow you on Instagram!" I never think of myself as an "influencer"; I just write what's meaningful to me & share photos of stuff I like. I love this city & my life here, so it comes naturally to me - & when I learn that people I don't know are out there reading & enjoying, man, that's a really incredible feeling, to hear that people like what I'm doing. To be honest, I'd be out here doing it even if no one gave a damn - which makes the accolades even sweeter. 

The other thing I loved about this event was that it highlighted what a small & tight-knit city Cleveland really is. Look, you all know how much I loved living in Washington, D.C., & how badly I hoped to someday live in NYC - but Cleveland is the better city for me, & I'm so glad I finally recognized it & moved my butt up back up north four years ago. It's much easier to connect with people on a personal & individual level, & there's absolutely a sense of collaboration over competition.

Lastly, of course, it was yet another lesson in my anxiety. I've been to plenty of events where I didn't know anyone & did just fine - & then sometimes, like this time, my anxiety gets in the way of my ability to feel fully myself. I had a hard time at this particular event, & I never got over the feeling that I was being a weirdo - but I pushed through & had a good time anyway, even if I wasn't able to be at my max capacity. 

Have you ever been to an event like this in your city? If not, well... go find one! Yes, Cleveland is a little bit unique in its closeness, but I know that other cities are doing cool things like this, too. All you have to do is seek them out - & isn't that what the Internet is for?! 

Photo by @LegendHeadwear

A New View: Exploring Cleveland from Beneath the Detroit-Superior Bridge

Friday, August 24, 2018

Once a year, the City of Cleveland opens closed-off portions of the city's Detroit-Superior Bridge to the public, including the old subway tunnels beneath the city and the pedestrian portion of the bridge itself. The tours are self-guided, though along the way, you'll find informational literature, documentary-style videos, & a few helpful folks to get you educated & answer your questions.

Our friend Darren turned 30 this week, & one of the things he wanted to do in celebration was explore this little-seen piece of the city. As someone who's always down for a local adventure, especially of the little-seen variety, I was all in.

We had no idea what to expect. Would it be really dark? Creepy? Muddy? We were about to find out!

Our first stop was in an old train car called Lady Rosie, named after Rosie the Riveter. It had seats like a train, but it felt more like a subway care - though we didn't recognize a single location on the stop map. Has Cleveland changed that much?! Streetcar service was discontinued in 1954, & when the subway tunnels were deemed unsuitable for vehicular traffic, the space was abandoned.

When it was first built in 1918, the Detroit-Superior Bridge (renamed the Veterans Memorial Bridge in 1989) was the world's largest double-deck concrete reinforced bridge, per the literature we received on-site. At 3,112 feet long, it features 12 concrete arches & clearance of 96 feet. 

The bridge was rehabilitated & reinforced  in the late 1960s & is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it's still heavily trafficked from the top deck, connecting Ohio City & downtown Cleveland by way of The Flats

The best part of the tour, in my opinion, was exploring the lower deck of the bridge, which is not typically open to foot traffic anymore... & maybe doesn't feel suuuuuper safe, though I'm sure the Department of Public Works made sure it was sturdy before they let thousands of people cross it this weekend. 

Pieces of the lower deck were removed during the bridge's reconstruction in the '60s, & though wooden planks have been placed over much of it, you can still see the mighty Cuyahoga River through the slats. I'm not afraid of heights, but this had me more than a little nervous!

The best part of the lower-deck walk - aside from the cool breeze blowing through it on a sunny day - were the views of the city. I know that some of you, fair readers, hail from places like the Pacific Northwest & New England, places known for their natural beauty. Cleveland... is not one of those places. But something about the rust belt views from this resilient city always get me right in the feelings.

By the way, that little boat you see floating on the Cuyahoga was named Novocain. A dentist's toy, perhaps? I'm always curious to know how people name their boats!

And one more thing: Though the lower portion of the bridge is no longer open to the public during most of the year, the top deck does have sidewalks for pedestrian crossing. In fact, it's the bridge that I ran across earlier this summer as part of my cycling studio's summer challenge! This was a much more leisurely visit, let me tell you.

Have you ever explored old, abandoned parts of your city like this? If you're local, tell me: What else do I need to see in Cleveland?! 

My Nighttime Routine: Do You Have One?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

I feel like morning people are always talking about their "morning routines," mostly because a lot of morning people are like vegans: You will know them by how much they talk about their habits. (Sorry, morning people & vegans. I still love you... & kinda wish I were like you.)

As decidedly not a morning person (stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about my recent sleep disorder diagnosis), I've thought a lot about the morning routine I'd like to have, if mornings were my jam. As it is, I basically just roll out of bed, eat a granola bar at my desk, & change out of my pajamas by 11am.

What I do have is a much more established nighttime routine. While it's nothing special, I've found that I feel more prepared & therefore sleep better when I go through this routine before crawling into bed.

1. Pick up the apartment.

I don't do as much of this as I ought to, but before I head to bed or begin the rest of my nighttime routine, I do a little bit of picking up around the house. One of our cats leave balls of socks everywhere; my husband is prone to leaving beer bottles & books all over the place. I certainly don't do any deep-cleaning most nights, but putting away some of the smaller items of clutter gives me some peace of mind before bed.

2. Take care of the cats.

You probably already know (especially based on the fact that they have their own Instagram account) that I lovelovelove our fluffs, Helo & Dora. They get fed at night, plus a bowl of clean water, & I spend some time scooping out the litterboxes, too. Helo has been known to poop in the bathtub if the litterbox is anything less than pristine, so I try to appease his majesty before I call it a night. Bonus: The more I engage with them before bed, the more likely they are to cuddle with me in bed.

3. Take my medicine.

I used to be the kind of person who couldn't remember to take anything, which is why I've never been on oral birth control (TMI? You'll live). Now, though, I take at least three pills every night: Zantac for acid reflux, Singulair for asthma, & Lexapro for anxiety. Per a recent visit to a pulmonologist, I also take two puffs of an inhaler designed to help better control my asthma. I have to rinse out my mouth after using it so I don't get oral thrush, a goddamn yeast infection of the mouth. How gross is that?

4. Wash my face.

I remove my makeup with Neutrogena makeup wipes, which I've been using for more than a decade now. They're the best I've yet found! For a long time, they were my only means of washing my face outside of showering, but now I also use Glossier's Milky Jelly Cleanser, a birthday gift from a friend. Ut's a weird consistency and has a weird smell, but it leaves my face feeling so fresh that I am willing to overlook any & all weirdness.

5. Apply my potions.

Once my face is clean, I apply plain, pure argan oil to my skin. It sounds counterintuitive to put oil on an already-oily part of your face, I know, but since I started using it (at the recommendation of my mom's coworker, no less), my skin has never been better. I let the argan oil sink in while I brush my teeth & braid my hair (for morning waves), then I apply Jane Iredale moisturizer, which smells like lemongrass, sinks in quickly. & feels fresh & light enough for overnight use.

6. Turn on the air purifier.

Mike bought an air purifier a few months ago because we were both struggling with ongoing allergies. It's made such  a difference! I can breathe better (probably also helped along by the new inhaler, I know), & the white noise it creates helps me sleep better, too. We sometimes leave it on during the day, especially because I work from home, but I always make sure it's on overnight.

7. Set my alarm(s)... across the room.

I used to sleep with my phone nearby, but I'm prone to sleeping through my morning alarm, & I also wanted to follow all those best practices tips doctors share about "sleep hygiene" (like, you know, not sleeping with your cell phone). My dear iPhone X now resides on the other side of the room overnight so that I'm at least slightly less likely to turn off the alarms in my sleep - & yes, I set multiple alarms. Like, nine or 10 of them.

8. Get cozy. 

I'm perhaps weirdly particular about the setup & placement of my bedding. I like lots & lots of blankets, including but not limited to a top-sheet (remember all my top-sheet feelings?), a duvet, & a comforter, plus sometimes a few other blankets thrown on top. I like them to very nice & even, like I'm sleeping beneath a bed that's been newly made, so before I go to sleep, I organize everything just the way I like it - on my side of the bed, at least. Mike has no bed-related rules or scruples!

9. Read. 

I don't always read before bed, but it's my favorite time to get in a few pages & to give my eyes a post-screen rest before I fall asleep. I bought a book light so that I can get my read on even while Mike is asleep beside me, & I also sometimes read on my Kindle to help me keep track of my bedtime (especially with my phone all the way across the room!)

What's your nighttime routine - or, for that matter, your morning routine? Are you a morning person or a night owl? 

Behind the Scenes with One of Cleveland's Most High-End Fashion Brands

Monday, August 20, 2018

I took a long lunch break one day last week in order to attend a lunch-and-learn event at the headquarters of FOUNT Leather, a Cleveland brand that specializes in high-quality, handmade leather goods - namely, really beautiful handbags. The tour was hosted by The Cleveland Flea, which has recently begun running fun "Flea Club" events like this, & it seemed like a fun way to spend my lunch hour.  

Prior to this event, I hadn't known much about FOUNT, but clearly I was in the minority: I was one of just a few attendees who wasn't carrying my own FOUNT bag on the tour. My friend Jessa of Citrus Social was carrying their big, beautiful Banjo Bag... which I later learned has a price tag of upward of $1,400. Indeed, that was almost all I knew about FOUNT going in: that their bags are gorgeous & expensive.

What I discovered during the tour, though, was that that price is set with good reason: FOUNT's bags are all handmade, and their business is incredibly devoted to ethical practices. They use high-quality leather imported from Italy, from a farm that uses every part of the cow. They save their scraps for years, using as much as they possibly can, & when they can no longer use the smallest of the pieces, they donate them to local artists & youth art programs. Oh, & they pay their workers fair wages & strive for a positive, healthy work environment for all.

FOUNT's founders, Jackie & Phillip Wachter, spoke with us about how the business got started (out of their home in Cleveland) & how it eventually grew to into what it is today. They hit it big when Country Living magazine featured them in a two-page spread, & business began booming. Today, they employ about 40 people, plus one house puppy (whose job is just to be cute).

We spoke a little bit with each of the artisans working on FOUNT's bag production. The lead designer showed us her patterns & zipper prototypes; we met a woman who hand-paints the edges of each bag; each artist sitting at a sewing machine told us what he or she was working on. I wish we'd gotten to know a little more about them, like what sort of background led them to this job. I have a feeling at least a few of them were alumni of Kent State's fashion school. (Go Flashes!)

I know, in theory, that buying handmade is the best way to go - but who among us isn't tempted by the fast fashion of Target & Old Navy? There was something so real, though, about standing inside a production studio, watching people hand cut, sew, & a burnish product, paying close attention to detail & imbuing it with love.

FOUNT does not hold sales; their bags cost what they cost, period (though they do occasionally run sample sales, selling discounted bags that are slightly "off" or lightly damaged). This ensures the integrity & quality of their products & allows them to maintain their high standards. Yes, they know their bags are expensive, an investment - but they also create them to last for years, to be passed down from family members, to be a lifelong wardrobe staple. They aim to create heirlooms.

At the end of the tour, we enjoyed a quick lunch from Cleveland Field Kitchen, a boutique catering company that's also one of my favorite Flea vendors. They served us delicious, fresh salads... & the best chocolate cookie I've ever tasted. That sea salt on top was the key!

I so, so, so want to own one of FOUNT's Petite Coventry Bags, a mini hobo crossbody that comes in three colors. At $240, it's a steep price for me, but I'm thinking that maybe I could buy myself one toward the end of the year, as a reward for doing so much Harness Cycle this year. Have you ever made a fashion investment like this?

Read more about FOUNT & shop their gorgeous leather goods on their website. If you're local, go learn more about upcoming Flea Club events, too! I'll be at the Emily Roggenburk studio tour. See you there?

14 Hebrew & Yiddish Terms I Use a Lot - & One I Can't Stand

Thursday, August 16, 2018

My maternal grandfather's mother, Katie, for whom I'm named, spoke very little English. She immigrated to the U.S. from Poland before World War II, & as my mom tells it, she never quite got the hang of English. She spoke Yiddish almost exclusively.

Because my grandparents lived in a very not-Jewish area of the U.S. (that'd be Lima, OH) during a time when American Jews were trying to blend in, I never heard much Yiddish out of them - even though I'm told that my grandfather & his two sisters spoke it fairly well. My mom knows & uses a few stray phrases that I've picked up since childhood. Eleven years ago (!), I started working at a Jewish nonprofit, & since then, my Hebrew/Yiddish vocabulary has expanded.

Here are a few of the phrases I use on the regular - & one I hope you won't.

1. Oy (Ugh)

Everybody's familiar with the term "Oy vey," but my mom doesn't say that nearly as much as she says "Oy" alone. It's pronounced less like "Oy" & more like a very fast "Aaaii," a sort of guttural, Yiddishe sound that's impossible to write out. Whenever Joyce says "oy," I know something is going on. Either she's peeved or annoyed or in disbelief or has some opinions to share.

2. Mazal tov (Congratulations)

This is my default congratulatory greeting, though I find myself saying it to everyone, including people who aren't Jewish. Most people know what it means, but non-Jews are always a little confused to hear it (like the time my friends got engaged & I said "Mazal tov!" to their very Catholic parents). Pull a will.i.am & embrace it, goyishe friends!

3. Schlep (Lug)

Moving? So much to schlep to the new place! Carrying all your worldly possessions on the subway because you've got happy hour & the gym after work? You're schlepping a lot of stuff. Mom's making you carry her bags while you shop together? You're thinking, "Schlep your own shit, lady." (Don't say that to your mom, though. Love you, Joyce.)

5. Shvitz (Sweat)

As the world's self-proclaimed sweatiest human, I've passed the point of feeling like this word describes me. To me, shvitz is the flop-sweat that creeps in when you're nervous about something, or it's when you're just starting to glisten. But I am usually sweating like a whore in church, to mix some religious metaphors, so I'm typically far beyond shvitzing.

6. Kavod (Honor/Glory)

This word has a few translations & can be used in a lot of ways. The most common is "Kol ha'kavod," or literally "All the honor," which you might say to someone who has completed a difficult task, put on a great performance, gotten into a great college, etc. I usually use kavod in the middle of English sentences, though, like, "That project was actually my coworker's idea, so she deserves the kavod for it."

7. Shanda (Shame/Embarrassment)

No, not the one who created Grey's Anatomy & other such pop culture gems - though some people might consider it a shanda that I still watch & love that show. A common phrase is "a shanda fur die goy," which means something like "An embarrassment to the Jews,"

8. Schmutz (Dirt)

I am most commonly found saying this one to my husband, i.e. "Your shirt is covered in cat fur & you've got schmutz in your beard."

9. Balagan (Mess)

This isn't the sort of mess you might find in an unkempt home; it's the kind of mess that applies to a situation, especially one that has escalated - like when a work project has gotten out of hand or a gossipy game of telephone has resulted in serious issues. "What a balagan," you mutter, shaking your head & stepping away quietly.

10. Mishegas (Craziness)

Similar to a balagan, yes, but lightly different. Chris Matthews once referred to "fake news" as mishegas, & actually, the word probably nicely applies to the entirety of the Trump administration (though the Russia stuff is becoming a real balagan). The Yiddish word for a crazy person is "meshugga," which perfectly describes our Cheeto in Chief, too.

11. Mensch (Good person)

Here's one that doesn't describe the leader of the free world - though I would still use it to describe his predecessor. A mensch is anyone out there doing good, whether they're fighting for a better world or just walking a little old lady across the street. The word for doing such acts of good is menschlichkeit. 

12. Shmatte (Rag)

This is literally the word for, like, what you'd use to mop of a spill, but it's also more commonly used, today, to refer to clothing. The Olsen twins are a perfect example of celebs who were expensive dresses that always look like shmattes. And basically, I aspire to dress only in black shmattes so that I can someday achieve my dream of dressing like a crazy old bag lady.

13. Tchotchkes (Knick-knacks)

This is another one you probably know, but you've probably been spelling it wrong. In Savannah last fall for my bachelorette party, my friends & I stopped into a crowded store that I described as being "full of fun tchotchkes." My friend Elise, who I don't see often in person, responded, "You still use that word, huh?" to which I answered, "Well, I'm still Jewish."

14. Hock me a cheynik (To bother or nag)

There's a fun story to go with this one: This is the only Yiddish phrase my mom really said when I was growing up, but I didn't know it was Yiddish. I always thought she was saying, "Don't hock me to China about it," meaning "Don't nag me." I said it back to her one day, & I will never forget the look on her face as she realized what I was saying - & what I'd thought the phrase really was, all these years.

Bonus: And one phrase not to say...

It has been my experience that, upon learning I'm Jewish, a number of people have responded with "Shalom!" I cannot eye-roll hard enough at this.

Look, I get it. Shalom, which means hello, goodbye, & peace, is, like, the primary Hebrew word that most American non-Jews know. And that's cool. But to just shout "Shalom!" at a person when you learn that they're a Jew is the equivalent to yelling "Arigato!" at a Japanese person or "Hola!" at a Hispanic person. It's sort of stupid, it's not endearing, & it's vaguely racist, to boot.

What's your ethnicity? Do you use any non-English words in your everyday life? Do you use any of these?! 

How to Throw a Very Chill Baby Shower

Monday, August 13, 2018

My childhood best friend, Christina, is due with her first child in November. She lives in Tennessee, & though her local friends are planning to throw her a shower closer to her due date, her mom & hometown friends & I wanted to be sure she got an Ohio shower. I was honored to be asked to co-host it with her friend Jen (who you see above in pink).

1. Ask the mom-to-be what she wants.

This is key, obviously. If the mom-to-be doesn't want a very chill baby shower, you may have to step it up & plan something more dramatic. In our case, though, Christina specifically requested something very low-key. In fact, she compared the baby shower she envisioned to the bridal shower my aunt had thrown for me a few months earlier - a few friends & family members enjoying one another's company with some light food & desserts. Nothing over the top.

2. Find a low-key place that'll do all the catering.

Instead of having to Pinterest our way through a picture-perfect menu, I booked The Mustard Seed Market in Fairlawn, OH, a high-end market & cafe with a private room that we rented out for the morning. It didn't even have a rental fee; we just had to commit to spend $300, which was easy to do with a headcount of 15. It came out to about $20 a person, which is a pretty normal - & perhaps even nominal - amount for a catered event. We picked out a delicious brunch menu, & everything was ready & waiting for us when we arrived the day of the shower.

3. Buy your decor from Target's Dollar Spot.

I was worried this would seem tacky, if only because everyone shops at Target, & I, for one, know what's being sold in the Dollar Spot at any given time. I didn't want people to look around & think, "Wow, Kate went low-budge." At the same time, it seemed ridiculous to count out perfectly good decor just because it was affordable! I picked out colorful pinwheels, a string of lanterns, pink chalkboards, the "YAY" balloon you see in that top photo, &... not much else, to be honest. My mom made diaper cakes as a gift to Christina, & we stuck pinwheels in them to use them as decor, too.

4. Decide on a few cute activities - not cheesy games.

Christina was really clear on the fact that she didn't want any of the baby shower games that so often embarrass moms-to-be & their guests. You know the kind: guessing the width of the mom's belly, tasting baby food out of diapers, etc. Instead, I chose the following activities:

  • Bring a Book for Baby: The invitations asked each attendee to bring at least one book to help build the baby's library. As Christina opened her gifts, these books made for fun conversation points - & plenty of nostalgia.
  • Design-Your-Own Onesie Station: I bought a few packs of plain white onesies in various sizes, plus two packs of colored Sharpies, & throughout the event, guests drew on them at their leisure. Christina left with 15 colorful, personalized onesies that are perfect for one-time use & photos to send to the loved ones who created them. 
  • "Advice Art" Station: From Michael's, I bought a picture frame that contained 30 blank, white hearts & one pink heart, all displayed through the glass. (They're meant to be alternatives to a wedding guestbook!) I provided fine-tip Sharpies for guests to write notes to baby on the white hearts, then arranged them in the frame to create a custom piece of art for the nursery.
  • Secret Letters of Support for Mama: I've never had a baby, but I know being a new mom is difficult. And exhausting. And sometimes even lonely. I secretly asked each guest to write a letter to Christina, & I'll mail her one a month after the baby is born to remind her that she's loved & supported by her friends & family. 

5. Keep the shower gifts simple.

Jen offered to create shower gifts for all attendee: homemade bath fizzies. They were so cute & smelled so good, & they're something attendees can actually use & enjoy. She included little notes on them that said something like "From Christina's shower to your bath!" & set them on the place settings of every attendee.

6. Don't get too crazy with the cake. 

Sure, we could've gone overboard with some massive cake creation, the kind you see on Pinterest & in Instagram posts that have thousands of likes, but... why? Instead, Jen's aunt made the cake as a gift to Christina, & it was both simple & delicious. It wasn't multiple tiers high or covered in fondant, but it was custom-made & one of the best-tasting cakes I've ever eaten - which is saying a lot, given that I once worked at a bakery!

7. Buy flowers from Costco.

The day before the shower, I stopped by Costco & picked out three matching bouquets of purple & magenta flowers for $10 apiece, instead of pre-ordering expensive florist bouquets. They didn't really match our otherwise brightly colored decor, but because I had kept the decor itself fairly minimal, the flowers didn't look out of place or mismatched. I coordinated them a bit by sticking colorful pinwheels in the center of each bouquet, which we gave out to attendees at the end of the event.

8. Just add mimosas. 

We weren't originally planning to serve alcohol at the shower, but as my mom & I were setting up, we wanted mimosas ourselves... & my mom decided that, given the price of ordering individual mimosas from the cafe's bar area, she'd just buy carafes or orange juice & bottles of champagne from the market, which we could serve to all attendees. It turned out to be the perfect last-minute addition to the day, & those who didn't want booze had the option of coffee, juice, & a variety of teas instead. 

9. Focus on celebrating the mom-to-be - not throwing a perfect party.

This was my first time hosting an event like this, so yes, I was pretty anxious - & very sweaty, as is my standard. As soon as everyone arrived, though, I was able to calm down a bit, recognizing that the day wasn't really about whether everything went smoothly & looked perfect. The day was about celebrating Christina, making sure she felt loved, & just allowing her to enjoy some quality time with some of her favorite people. When I reminded myself of this, I was able to calm down a lot, morphing from a would-be hostzilla into a chill BFF hostess.

Overall, it was - if I may say so myself - such a lovely day. Christina is a bit of an introvert, & this was exactly the sort of event that suited her, not some crazy, over-the-top, Pinterest-heavy masterpiece. I was honored to be able to host this day for her - & I can't wait to meet Baby C this fall!

Have you ever hosted a baby shower? What was your baby shower like? Are you more of a low-key kinda gal or a Pinterest-it-up type? 

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