Greatroom, Great Food: A Delicious Date Night at Our Wedding Hotel

Thursday, February 28, 2019


A new report says downtown Cleveland hotel occupancy was higher in 2018 than in either 2017 or 2018 (the year of the Republican National Convention), & while that's great news, 2017 was my personal favorite year for staying downtown... because of our wedding, of course!

Mike & I, along with our wedding party & most of our out-of-town guests, stayed in the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center, which is is literally attached to/part of the Key Bank building (one of the city's noteworthy skyline buildings). The Marriott was really easy to work with in advance, the rooms were nice (including our bridal suite), & our guests after-partied pretty hard at the hotel bar after formal wedding festivities had concluded. 

We even took our family wedding photos there. Just look at that brightly colored carpet! 


While the carpet turned out fine in the photos (I even kind of liked it!), we definitely wanted to check out the newly renovated Key Marriott, which we were told no longer boasted such bold colors. When we were invited to check out The Greatroom, the restaurant's new bar & restaurant concept, it seemed like the perfect time to see what the "new" Key Marriott is about. 

The Greatroom is situated right in the middle of the newly renovated lobby - but it's a full-service bar & restaurant, open to the public. Because it's smack in the middle of downtown Cleveland, it's an ideal location for drinks or dinner either before or after a big game, a concert, or just because. It would also be a cute spot for a date - including a first date, if you want to eat someplace nice that doesn't cost an arm & a leg or feel awkwardly fancy. 

Look! No more red, orange, or yellow carpet! Damn, would've looked great in wedding photos... 


We were treated to a tasting menu courtesy of the Greatroom & its chefs, executive Chef Joseph Dubbs & Executive Sous Chef Daniel Jira. They've both been with various Marriotts before, but they're new to this one - & they're both originally from Cleveland! Both chefs says they're glad to be back in the CLE & providing a new level of culinary service at the Key Marriott.

The menu proved that they know exactly what they're doing - & they're damn good at it, too.

We started with champagne & cocktails, including a bourbon drink whose name I can no longer recall. I'll just say that it was strong & that it made me happy. (The two were not unrelated.)

First course was an amuse-bouche that Mike declared "the best appetizer I've had in a long time." Sometimes the texture of tartare squicks me out, but this was a perfect balance of crunchy & complex & umami. I'd eat an entire plate of these, if made available to me. Just sayin'.


I've become a stan for Brussels sprouts, which is such an annoyingly millennial foodie thing to say, but damn, this was a great version of them. Hickory-glazed & topped with chopped walnuts & large slices of Parmesan, they were appropriately sweet & savory, & they felt healthy but, you know, not too healthy. Just the way I like it. 


For dinner, Mike, who was following some Keto/Whole30 hybrid, chose the veal short-rib. It was barely on the bone, the meat so tender that it slid right off. Beneath it was a roasted veggie chili; atop it was a pumpkin seed gremolata. And all of it went into my happy husband's stomach. 


I didn't feel like going healthy, so I went with the open-faced chicken paprikash sandwich. How could I turn down such a creative & quintessentially Cleveland dish? I've loved chicken paprikash since first trying it at my college boyfriend's parents' house.

While his mom still makes the tastiest version I've ever had, I loved this fun take on such a delicious dish. It came with melted muenster cheese, frizzled onions, & pickled vegetables on the side... & I did not leave behind a single bite of it.


One of our friends got the hickory glazed Aukra salmon, served with root veggies & a Brussels sprout pesto. I think even I would eat this salmon! (Yes, I am sort of a picky eater, leave me alone.) Look at what a big piece of salmon that is! 


For dessert, I chose the warm salted caramel apple cheesecake, which was, plain & simple, one of my favorite desserts ever. I'm a sucker for all three of those flavors, & this one was absolutely delicious, with a sort of granola-like topping. I don't think Mike even got a bite in before I finished!


As for Mike, he threw his keto plans to the wind & ordered the hot chocolate cake, a mini bundt topped with marshmallows. It was rich & decadent, but I also like that it was served in such a small, individualized format - like a regular-sized cake had been shrunken to appropriate size, just for us. 


Did I mention that a few of my favorite local bloggers were there, too? It's always fun to pass things around & try a little bit of everyone else's meal, to get an actual taste of all the options! 


At the end of our meal, Mike & I took a photo in a spot similar to one where we took one of my favorite wedding photos. The background is totally different, of course, &, uh, we're dressed slightly more casually than we were in that first photo - but it was fun to revisit our wedding hotel for a date-night meal with friends.



...OK, but what do you think they did with that sweet glass sculpture that was behind us in the wedding photo? That thing was pretty cool.

Bottom line: We loved the Greatroom & are already figuring out when we can get back. If you're headed downtown any time soon, check them out!

Disclosure: The Marriott Downtown at Key Tower invited me & a guest to attend a complimentary dinner. As always, all opinions are 100% mine.

In Cleveland, Outdoor Festivals Aren't Just for Nice Weather

Tuesday, February 26, 2019



I think Brite Winter might be the Clevelandiest of Cleveland events: It's an outdoor concert... in February... under a bridge, next to the Cuyahoga River. Did I mention that it's outdoors in February? In Cleveland?

First things first, why does Cleveland do this? I know that's what you're asking, especially if you're the kind of warm-weather person who wears a winter jacket when it gets as "cold" as 50 degrees. But here's the thing you have to understand about the Midwest: It gets cold here, & sometimes it sucks, but a lot of the time? Well, a lot of the time it's mostly OK by us.

I, for one, have always preferred cold weather to warm weather. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't want 365 days of polar vortexes, but overall, I prefer coldness over warmmth. I'm too sweaty to function during summer, & I look cuter in sweaters than in shorts, & maybe my internal thermometer is off, or something, but I've always felt very Elsa about winter. You know: The cold never bothered me, anyway. 


Brite Winter is a celebration of that aspect of Cleveland life: that, yes, it gets really cold here, but no, life doesn't stop when it does. As a city of robust activities & events during the warmer season, why should we have to stop all those activities & events when it gets cold? 

I’ve only been to Brite Winter once & wanted to go this year because one of my favorite bands, Smallpools, was the headliner. Exciting! Mike’s friend Adam was visiting from Brooklyn, & he was surprisingly enthusiastic about joining us at this outdoor event on a cold, windy Cleveland night.


What’s it like to attend a festival beneath a bridge in the middle of winter? Imagine:
·         Two stages with live music throughout the day & late into the night
·         Drink tickets at varying price points, to be redeemed for Mancan wine, Tito’s cocktails, & a variety of beers from local brewery Platform Beer Co.
·         Lots of lighting – including snowflakes, pro-Cleveland slogans, & names of event sponsors –  projected onto the side of the bridge & other architectural elements
·         A food truck court featuring a few of the best local mobile eats, including Swenson’s. We decided Adam had to try a Galley Boy & Potato Teezers!
·         Photo ops like ice sculptures, the roving #ThisisCLE statue, & large seating structures shaped like ice formations
·         Warmth provided in the form of bonfires in trashcan-like receptacles… with $5 s’mores kebabs for sale to roast over them.


Unfortunately, due to incoming rain & a particularly intoxicated member of our party, we did not get to see Smallpools play live. In fact, we were back in our apartment by 9:30pm, doing a Disney movie-themed power hour & eating pizza from Edison’s. But I was glad we went at all & especially that we got to show an out-of-town friend one of Cleveland’s finest & more unique events. Brite Winter makes the rest of winter feel a little bit more bearable!

I didn't get many photos, & the ones I did get are terrible. You can see some really good ones in this roundup from Cleveland Scene, taken by local photographer Nathan Rogers. 

What's Your Sign? Talkin' 'Bout that Leo Life

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


I've never been too into astrology, but I have done some significant digging into what it means to be a Leo. Honestly, I've always been annoyed by the way Leos are described & portrayed - like we're kiiiiind of the worst.

Everyone sign has their positives & negatives, but it seems like Leos are frequently described using words that tend toward the negative: "dramatic," "dominant," "self-confident." None of those words is inherently negative, but... man, are Leos just jerks? For this reason, I've always been a little reluctant to identify too closely with my astrological sign.

Still, I've been seeing more astrologically themed content online lately - & IRL, actually - so I thought it'd be fun to do a little roundup of what my sign says I should like/be like versus me-in-real-life. I'd love to hear whether you identify with your zodiac sign!

Lifestyle

According to Refinery29, Leo's keyword (or, more accurately, key phrase) should be "I will" because we're gonna do it anyway. That's pretty accurate for me, given that when I put my mind to something, I usually make it happen - but given my penchant for procrastination, a better mantra might be, "I will... later" or "I will... after this nap."

Refinery29 also tells me what my 2019 mantra should be: "I win when I follow my joy." I mean, I think this is probably true of everyone, right? (And therein lies my annoyance with horoscopes.) But the description of my work style (stable traditionalist) & my current feelings about it (antsy, eagerness for some change) are spot-on, so maybe this isn't too far off-base, after all.



Scents

Earlier this month, I attended Scents & Signs, an astrology & candle-making event at The Candle Studio at Pinecrest in Orange Village. As we arrived, each attendee received a list of scents tailored to our astrological sign; Leo's were honeycrisp apple & jasmine. I don't love jasmine, but I did end up using honeycrisp in my custom-made candle, mixed with the scents of manuka honey & whipped cream. (Yes, I basically made a Rosh HaShanah-scented candle.)

Scentbird, a personalized fragrance subscription, shares three perfumes appropriate for Leos. Two of them sound interesting to me, one with blackberry & vanilla & another made with "leather and tonka bean." Say what? The third features "powdery florals," which sounds like a sneeze.

Me? Well, I wear Old Spice deodorant every day (original scent only, please) & only own one scent, called "Grit & Poise." It's made with a bunch of words I can't pronounce & smells... rough & tumble, I guess? I wouldn't call it over-the-top, though.

Style

In a holiday gift guide from late 2018, Refinery29 says to gift Leos, "Something luxe that won't break the bank...They love flashy accent pieces, but hate knowing you spent a ton of money on them — they're the generous ones." They recommend a candle, a pair of sunglasses, & a gold-flecked vase, all of which are lovely but also... probably not my ideal gifts?

Another holiday list from Refinery29, "Create An Oh-So-Festive Beauty Look Based On Your Horoscope Sign," says Leos want to be "glitteriest, shiniest, and sparkliest person at [the] holiday soiree." Can I note that this is almost never the case for me? Like, I wanna look good, but miss me with your glittery texturing spray, please. You'll find me wearing all-black & zero glitter.

Similarly, I'm very much not into Brit + Co's Leo makeup look, which features bright purple eye shadow. (I am 34 & thus far too old for this look, but even 22-year-old Kate wasn't gonna try this.) I do, however, always desire bigger, better, curlier, more majestic hair than I currently (or ever) have. Maybe that's the most Leo thing about me: I want a mane.

Know what would look excellent with a proper mane? Allure's Leo beauty look, which is, appropriately, very golden. Gimme dat. (And fine, I really like that gold-flecked vase, too.)



Books

EpicReads says  Leos are "magnanimous, self-aware, aristocratic, & romantic" & our books should be the same. While I've never cared for romance plotlines (& certainly not for romance novels), I can get down with those other descriptors. Alas, I've only read one of EpicReads's suggestions - the Selection series, which was cheesy but enjoyable - & their other recommendations sound too fantasy-based for me.

Bustle says Leos' next read should be The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, to which I quote an admirable non-Leo who might as well be one: "thank u, next." What I like better from Bustle is this list of books to read during "Leo season," a.k.a. summer: "Some have plots or characters that all feisty Leos will love, others are written with bad ass sensibility all Leos can relate to, and some are even written by authors who are Leos themselves." Accurate, given that at least five of these books are already on my TBR list!

Music

I'm loving Spotify's Leo playlist, created as part of a playlist capsule for all zodiac signs. I haven't listened to any of the other playlists & would likely enjoy some of them, too, whether they match my sign or not - but for now, I'm content with Leo jams from Kendrick Lamar ("I Love Myself," obviously, because Leos are jerks), Lizzo, Robyn, The 1975, John Mayer, & other faves.

Bustle's 2015 list "Songs Every Leo Should Listen to Because They Represent Every Facet of the Sign" also speaks (errr, sings) to me. It features Lady Gaga, The Spice Girls, Hozier, & Florence + the Machine. Doesn't that really make you "Wannabe" a Leo, too? (See what I did there?)

Tell me: Do you identify with your astrological sign or think it's all kind of hokey? Even when I don't buy into it, I do think it's fun!

Remembering My Friend & Mentor

Monday, February 18, 2019


Rabbi Lynne Landsberg was the first person I ever considered to be a true mentor, someone who was invested in both my personal and professional well-being and truly wanted to help me be a better activist and Reform Jew. On her first yahrzeit (anniversary of death), I can’t help but recall how she influenced my life and the legacy she left behind.

When I started my first job after college, working as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (known affectionately as “the RAC”), I knew almost nothing about Judaism or politics (I know, I know, how did I get there?!), and I certainly knew nothing about disability rights issues – but by the time I left the RAC three years later, I had become deeply passionate about all three, thanks in no small part to my time working so closely with Lynne.

In that job, part of my job was to represent the Reform Jewish community on Capitol Hill on matters of disability rights – and in that capacity, I reported directly to Lynne, the RAC’s senior adviser on disability issues.

Years prior, she had been the RAC’s assistant director, a fast-talking, quick-thinking shining star of the Jewish community. In 1999, though, at age 48, her Jeep skidded on ice and careened into a tree, leaving her with a Traumatic Brain Injury that almost killed her. Though medical issues plagued her for the rest of her life, Lynne went on to become one of the Jewish community’s most noted disability rights activists, turning the worst moment of her life into one of the biggest opportunities of her life.

Keep reading on ReformJudaism.org.

My Work-Out Must-Haves

Friday, February 15, 2019


I suppose it feels somewhat laughable for me to write a post like this, given that I am 34 years old & only just started working out, but you know what? I've been working damn hard on that Harness Cycle grind, & I feel good about it, & I want to share with you some of the products I love most to help me make it through.

7/8-Length Workout Leggings

I love the length of these pants, which are longer than capris but shorter than full-length leggings. I guess you could also call them "ankle-length." My favorite pairs, so far, come from Target & Old Navy, but I'd like to invest in some higher-end pieces, now that I know I want to stick with riding. I recently ordered my first pair from Girlfriend Collective - they're made out of recycled plastic water bottle, & I adore them. (Get $10 off with my referral code, if you're interested.)

Shimano Shoes & Clips

At my studio, the shoes are the most important piece of equipment, aside from the bike you're on. Some studios let you ride in your street shoes, though I can't speak to how you secure yourself on the bike; at Harness, we wear special shoes with devices on the bottom that clip right onto the bikes' pedals. I'd been renting them from the studio, but my mom bought me a pair in July. I'm a real rider now!

Water Bottle

I like a water bottle I can squeeze, not one I have to drink out of with care - which is what I need when I'm on the go, drinking as I ride. I own a bunch of fancy water bottles, including a S'well that I love, but my go-to water bottle is a plain old plastic squeeze bottle. This isn't the one I have, but mine is close to it. 

Sturdy Hair Ties

Duh, right? But no, really, these matter way more than you might think. If I put my hair up in a weak hair tie, it's likely to flop out while I ride. Then, I have to disengage from class to try to put my hair in place... it slows everything down. I usually use not one but two of these thick Goody elastics, & you'll almost always find me with a few of them on my wrist. Luckily, my studio offers them for free for the days when I forget.

Manda Bees Headbeads

I discovered these headbands when I received one for free in a swag bag at a Harness Cycle event - & now I'm a total devotee! I've ordered a few more since then, & this one is next on my to-buy list. I never ride without one. I am the sweatiest human alive, & these are the only headbands I've tried that have successfully kept all the sweat out of my eyes. In a completely non-scientific estimate, I'd say that when I'm wearing one of these headbands, I use my hand towel 50% less than when I ride without.

Champion Sports Bras 

Until I found these bras, I was the girl wearing a regular bra under a sports bra whenever I tried to work out - & honestly, it was at least a quarter of the reason I hated working out as much as I did. That shit is uncomfortable - & still barely held in the girls! I love this adjustable, front-zip option from Champion (sold at Target), which keeps my ladies firmly in place & is easy to get on & off.

Tell me: What are your work-out must haves? 

Things I Love Right Now (Pt. XII)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


It's been a little while since I've done one of these, but I've amassed enough stuff worth sharing that I thought it was time for another. Here are 10 things on my heart-eyes list these days. How about you?
  1. Rae Dunn Weekly Desk PadI snagged this pad at Marshall's for a whopping $5, & even though I have a real, monthly planner that I love, this little calendar pad helps me get/stay more organized than ever. I like that the squares are big & undated, & it has a "To-Do" section along the right-hand side.
       
  2. White Cedar hemp oilI'd never tried CBD oil or hemp oil, so when White Cedar reached out, I jumped at the chance to try their organic hemp oil extract for pain & stress relief. It has a "cinnamint" flavor but still has an aftertaste of cannabis; I think it works best when taken with food or water. And it works! My knee pain & some other aches & pains feel significantly better since I started using this daily. 
       
  3. Redbook: Am I embarrassed by this one? OK, fine, yes, a little. Actually, I've loved Redbook magazine since I was, like, 11, & now I'm of the age to actually like Redbook magazine, so I finally subscribed - yes, to the paper version - & man, it's better than ever.
       
  4. Kindle PaperwhiteThis certainly isn't a new love, but lately, I've been using my Kindle more than ever. I still read plenty of paper books, of course, but because I do most of my reading in bed before I fall asleep, I like to be able to read on my Kindle, no reading lights or lamps needed.
       
  5. Spotify's Leo playlistI discovered this playlist when fellow Leo & Cleveland blogger Shibani of Bombay Taxi. I'm sometimes a little embarrassed to be a Leo because all of the descriptions of us are so freaking insulting, but Lizzo, TLC, Janelle MonĂ¡e? Yessss, ladies. Roar. (Find your astrological sign's playlist here.)
      
  6. AAAAre you an AAA member? Honestly, they've saved my broke-down butt so many times that I'll never not be a member again. Most recently, they jumped my car from dead in the driveway, my (AAA) battery sucked dry by the polar vortex.
       
  7. Archer Farms Sweet Cajun Trail MixI love this stuff so that much that I can't buy it too often. If I do, I will eat the entire bag in one sitting, & it is decidedly not healthy enough for that to happen on any kind of regular basis.
       
  8. The ResidentI started watching this Fox medical drama right after I blogged about my love of medical dramas. This seems to be the only current one I wasn't watching - & now I am! It took me a little bit longer to get into this one because the first scene is so galling, but I've come to really like it, especially with Matt Czuchry in the lead.
       
  9. Girlfriend Collective workout wear: I keep seeing Instagram ads for this slow-fashion brand whose workout wear is made of recycled plastic bottles, but basically everything is sold out because... slow fashion, man. I got lucky when I found their Topanga bra & high-rise compression leggings in my size, in the same color, available at the same time... so yes, I did order a matching set of workout gear. It feels like a dream, & I look damn in it good, body issues be damned. (You can get $10 off with my referral code, if you're interested.)
       
  10. Feminist Book Club: I signed up for three-months of this book club started by feminist extraordinaire Renee Powers. Each month, I receive a (hand-collaged!) box that includes a book & goodies from women-owned businesses. I've only been able to join one of the monthly book club video calls, but I look forward to more. This month's book is F-Bomb. Have you read it?
Tell me: What are you loving right now? 

Disclaimer: I received free product from White Cedar Naturals in exchange for my honest opinion. I chose to share it here because I really do like it that much!

For Black History Month & Beyond: 15 of My Favorite Books (So Far) by Black Authors

Monday, February 11, 2019


I wondered if it was appropriate for me to create a list like this at all. Who am I, a white, Jewish woman, to share my list of favorite books written by black authors? Those lists, I first thought, should come from black readers.

And then I re-thought. It should, in large part, be the work of white people to encourage other white people to try to learn & expand & to act as better allies. I am certainly not a perfect ally (none of us is, that's how this works), but I continue to try to put in the work, to learn as much as I can, & to be outspoken in ways that use my privilege for good.

One of those ways is by reading as many books as I can written by authors of color. I haven't done what some people have done, which is to drop white men - or white people altogether - from my TBR list entirely; I still want to read perspectives of the world, & sometimes, those come from white people, too. (And, look, I've gotta work on my Harry Potter re-read.) But I keep an ongoing list of books I want to read by authors of color, & I make an effort to prioritize them. 

The same is true of books by authors of other minorities (& overlapping minority identities): Asian writers, LGBTQ writers, Latinx writers, Jewish writers, etc., & overall, I do find that most of the books I read are written by women. 

I think this practice help me to better understand others & to be more aware of & empathetic to stories different than my own. I think this practice is important, & if you're an avid reader like I am, I hope it's one you practice, too - or that I can help you start. 

Before I begin, a note: I don't read a lot of classics, so some of the books that should probably appear on a list like this simply don't. I haven't read them, except for a few in high school (The Color PurpleTheir Eyes Were Watching GodInvisible Man) that I don't really remember. Maybe I should read more of them, though, so if you have recommendations, please leave a comment!

Without further ado, 15 of my favorite books written by black authors.

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter lives in an all-black neighborhood ruled by gangs but attends an all-white prep school, leading her to feel like she lives two lives. When cops shoot her best friend, Starr is the only witness - leading to national attend, local unrest, & inner & outer turmoil for Starr herself.

2. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

Hurston spent time interviewing Cudjo Lewis, the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade between Africa and the U.S. Taken from his home in West Africa, Cudjo was a slave in Alabama until he was freed at the end of the Civil War & helped found Africatown, AL.

3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In telling couple Ifemelu & Obinze, Adichie weaves an incredible story about blackness (African, American, & otherwise), life as an immigrant, the challenges of poverty & wealth - & the struggles unique to each of those elements that are universal, relatable, & human.

4. You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

Robinson, the co-host of the 2 Dope Queens podcast (a Cleveland native!), has a way with analogies, using hilarious & unexpected pop culture references to discuss important issues like racism, feminism, etc.

5. The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya

Wamariya left Rwanda at age 6, accompanied on by her older sister, staying in multiple refugee camps & in the homes of kind strangers to survive. Now a Yale grad & activist, Wamariya tells her story with grace & power, humanizing refugees & displaced people worldwide. 

6. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

The Daily Show host's memoir is both fascinating & informative while still retaining his signature wit & insight as he tells of growing up biracial in South Africa during & immediately following apartheid.

7. Rest in Power by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin

It's been nearly seven years since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot walking home from a 7-11, Skittles & an iced tea in his hoodie pocket. His parents' memoir is a painful, powerful look at the case, a testimony to race & racism in America. No justice, no peace.

8. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Suzette (Little) is black, Jewish, & bisexual, & Lionel (a.k.a. Lion), who is white, Jewish, & bipolar. Their parents aren't married, but the four of them have been a family since the two kids were young; they consider one another brother & sister, & they are best friends. This is a beautiful story of family & identity, & a fairly easy/compelling read.

9. Writing My Wrongs by Shaka Senghor

Senghor, who became a crack dealer at age 14, committed murder at age 19 just months after being shot himself (& likely suffering serious PTSD). He spent nearly two decades in prison, eventually relying on faith & writing to help him evolve into a peace-loving, justice-minded activist who now works to better the community where he grew up.

10. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This book should be a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand racial tension in America, whether you're a POC living that reality every day or a white person who seeks deeper understanding in order to become a better ally. Coates' writing - a memoir & social commentary in the form of a letter to his son - is a work of art.

11. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

This book is heavy, but each of the short stories within it is compelling and darkly powerful. Gay weaves the fictional stories of women who society deem problematic but who readers - presumably a lot of so-called difficult women themselves - will see as complex, thoughtful, & multitudinous.

12. The March series by John Robert Lewis

 Congressman John Lewis is a giant for social justice, a civil rights legend who has been putting his values into action for decades by working to desegregate the South &, in turn, the nation. This series is a fascinating way to read his personal story & to better understand the early civil rights era. 

13. The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Told from the third-person perspective of an older church-going woman, this novel tells the story of teenage church member Nadia, whose mother recently died by suicide; her boyfriend, Luke, the preacher's son; & her best friend, Aubrey, who becomes close to Luke, too. The book, which follows them into adulthood, is one of the most agonizingly, exquisitely human stories I've ever read.

14. The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

This memoir by the indomitable Angelou focuses primarily on her relationship with a South African civil rights activist who tried to mold her into the perfect African (rather than African-American) wife. Her spirit, work ethic, & sense of justice are all on display as she struggles to be the perfect wife while remaining an activist, writer, an independent woman.

15. This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

Sidibe, perhaps best known for her role as Precious in the movie of the same name, writes her memoir in a chill, down-to-earth, hilarious voice that sounds like her own. She hits on serious topics, like depression, body image, domestic abuse, & race, but she also tells funny stories from her own life & dispenses advice on funnier subjects, like dating & her job as a phone sex operator.

What are your favorite books by black authors? What should I add to my TBR list? 

When the Universe Has Other Plans for You, Like a Busted Knee

Friday, February 8, 2019


I knew as it was happening: "This is about the be bad." Mike & I were leaving Sauced Taproom & Kitchen in Lakewood, where we'd just had a lovely (& delicious!) date night. We were barely a few steps out the door when I hit a patch of ice... & down I went.

I landed directly on my kneecap &, like, bounced. It was the most sudden & excruciating pain I have experienced, surpassing even the pain of the time I broke my tailbone while sledding. (No, I wasn't a little kid when that happened; I was 21, lol, ughhhh.) So there I am on a street corner in downtown Lakewood, sobbing & screaming & trying to breathe & feeling confident that I have shattered my goddamn knee bones. I genuinely thought I was going to barf on the sidewalk with all of Panera watching on.

I didn't go to the hospital. Instead, Mike helped me hobble home, literally crawling up the front stairs to our apartment, & we did all the right things: Advil, ice, elevation... The next day, a friend brought my crutches, which we were a lifesaver. It continued to be the most painful injury of my life, though, which had me really worried. Still, I didn't think anything was broken - I hadn't heard a pop or snap when I fell - so I didn't get it checked out.

It took me nearly a week to go to urgent care, which I finally did because, once the swelling went down & the scrapes stopped hurting so badly, something felt off in my knee. It was weight-bearing but wobbly, kind of floaty & loose. It made strange noises. It was still swollen.

An X-ray showed that I hadn't broken, dislocated, or fractured anything, thank goodness - but it couldn't show what an MRI might, like a tear or a bone bruise. I was diagnosed as likely having a severe bone bruise with some fluid under the knee & told to continue what I was doing - Advil, ice, elevation - but to stop walking on it, if possible.  I started wearing an ACE bandage to compress it & keep things from wobbling & floating because the PA told me that by walking on it like I had been, I was making the swelling worse & keeping it from fully healing.

And, of course, I was told that I couldn't go back to spinning until I was fully healed & my knee felt "normal."

It still doesn't.

It's been weeks since I completed a Harness Cycle class. My quest for 10 classes, which should've wrapped up in early February, has been put on hold indefinitely - & it's killing me. I miss riding so much - and I forgot to cancel my auto-subscription, so I'm paying for a bunch of classes I can't even go to. I feel out of shape & lazy & I just want to keep riding.

My knee feels a lot better than it did the day I went to urgent care - the ACE bandage definitely helped - but it's still not normal, still not quite right. I can walk a lot better, but I still can't ride. I was told that if it didn't feel healed by the end of this week, I should come in for an MRI - but honestly, I'm having a hard time determining what's going on, what's healing toward normal, what's actually off, etc.

I was so proud of myself for working toward 100 classes. I was getting there, I was doing it, I felt invincible & strong. Because I've never been an athlete, I've also never experienced the agony of a workout that keeps me benched from the "sport" I love - & man, it really sucks.

I know that heath comes first, & in this case, the health of my knee has to come ahead of the healthy benefits of riding. I have to take care of myself. I'm 34, & I can't make my knee worse or I'll end up with a lifetime of knee issues (please, universe, no). I have to rest - but all I want is to start riding again, & when I can, it's going to make class 100 even sweeter.

I'm comin' for ya, 100. Wait for me.

My Solo Weekend at a Cabin in Pennsylvania

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


One of my goals for the new year was to book a solo trip someplace. While I'd still like to take a week-long solo vacation - like, someplace warm, or exciting, or on my to-visit list, or all three - I settled, in January, for a weekend-long solo trip that I designed as a writing retreat. It also turned into a bit of a reading retreat, a budgeting retreat, & a trying-to-watch-Top-Chef-on-bad-wifi retreat, among other things, but writing was my chief goal, & write I did.

To find a place to stay, I did a search for cabins on AirBnB & narrowed it down to places within a two-hour drive of Cleveland. I looked into spots near Columbus, Toledo, & Detroit before ultimately settling on No. 8 Schoolhouse, a four-bed tiny house just outside New Wilmington, PA. It's styled like a schoolhouse, although, to my knowledge, it was never an actual schoolhouse - but hey, seemed cool enough for me.



No. 8 Schoolhouse is attached to another AirBnB rental, Bridge House, which is a small cabin located inside a converted covered bridge! Longtime readers may recall my obsession with abiding love of covered bridges, & of course, I wish I'd realized this upon booking - but staying in a faux schoolhouse was the next best thing, & I did at least get to see the covered bridge cabin. I'd love to go back to stay in it.

See it there on the left? A creek runs beneath it. Real covered bridge, guys.



The week before my trip, I fell on the ice & badly injured my right knee so badly that I spent a couple of days on crutches. With snow falling as I hit the road, I worried I might have trouble hobbling around on my own in PA. Luckily, the roads were clear, the driveway shoveled, & my trusty Sorel boots didn't fail me. Because I didn't do much all weekend, I actually got to rest my knee quite a bit.

New Wilmington is just a 90-minute drive from the CLE, & most of the trip is a straight shot down the turnpike. No. 8 Schoolhouse is located on PA-208, a main highway that runs through a few small towns, so although the cabin feels secluded, it's actually very close to civilization, including a BP, a Rite Aid, a coffee shop, a brewery, & a few restaurants & bars.





The layout of the cabin was really interesting: The first floor featured a large combined bedroom/living room space, heated by an electric fireplace, with a small kitchen, pantry, & bathroom just off the back. Up a few stairs was a mezzanine-level landing with a large, wooden desk & a lamp - then up the stairs was the second floor, which included two twin beds & a large closet. There was a Harry Potter-style "room" beneath the stairs, just tall enough to sit up in, with a full-sized mattress on the floor for cozy, glamping-style sleeping quarters.












None of the windows had curtains, which felt somewhat alarming until I realized that the cabin was enclosed by fencing around the front & a creek & large hill out back. Someone would have to try really hard to look through the windows, & it was so quiet out there that I probably would've heard them crashing around through the snow & trees. There was also a colorful treehouse out back, plus a lovely sitting space that I couldn't enjoy, given the weather.

The best part, though, was a small, open-air chapel located on the rental grounds. It's open to the public, but it'd be hard to find or know about unless you were actually staying. Yeah, yeah, I'm Jewish, & yes, I felt more than a little uncomfortable, at first, walking into a place so, well, Jesusy. Upon entering, though, I felt completely at peace. It's such a cool space, so serene & still, & it's filled with tchotchkes & crosses & knick-knacks & photos & messages of love, peace, & goodwill. It was especially beautiful in the snow, with the creek rushing out back & hoofbeats out front.










Oh, right, the horses. I haven't mentioned that yet. New Wilmington is a heavily Amish area. To my delight, I woke up Saturday morning to the sound of a horse & buggy clip-clopping down the street outside the cabin! Many more passed throughout the day.

I even got up close(ish) to a horse who was tied up in a "horses only" parking spot behind the Rite Aid, & I spotted quite a few Amish folks in the downtown area. There was even a guide to local Amish businesses available in the cabin - none of them open Sundays, of course.








I saw the horse & buggy - & that cool mural - behind Mugsie's, coffee shop less than a mile away where I spent much of Saturday afternoon. It would've been a nice walk, but because of my knee & the falling snow, I drove instead. I ordered a breakfast sandwich & a cinnamon soy latte, both delicious, & settled in for some writing.

At some point, I started chatting with the man next to me, also hunched over a laptop. He was a local Presbyterian pastor, married to another local Presbyterian pastor, & he was one of the more interesting people I've met in a long time. We talked for nearly an hour, then exchanged emails; I told him Mike & I would love to take them to dinner next time they make it out to Cleveland.





I spent the rest of my time in the cabin, reading, writing, napping, & trying without much success to watch TV on my iPad throughout. I brought food with me, mostly charcuterie items, plus an oven pizza for Saturday night - & a six-pack of Dortmunder, of course.

I did a lot of writing, of course, though not as much as I'd hoped, & on completely different topics than I'd planned. I wanted to write a few essays for a book I've long been considering, but, well... I didn't write a single one of those. I did, however, write a few blog posts, two essays to submit elsewhere, & an application for Amtrak's #AmtrakTakeMeThere social media "residency." Fingers crossed for that one!

By the end of the weekend, I missed home but could've stayed in semi-seclusion like that for a few more days, quite honestly. I'm already planning when & how I can get back to No. 8 Schoolhouse - maybe the covered bridge cabin! - again very soon. And, uh, next time I swear I'll do some actual writing.
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