cleveland, my hometown

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I’ve found myself inspired to write about my “hometown”: Cleveland.

The truth is that I’m from a town closer to Akron but after going away to college in another well-known Ohio town, “Cleveland” became the learned response to the question “where are you from?”  (Until LeBron, no one really knew of Akron so the chances of anyone knowing a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of Akron was highly unlikely.)  So I’ve been saying “Cleveland” to answer “where are you from?” for ages even though my real hometown is about 45 minutes away.

I’m in Ohio this week visiting my family for my usual summer trip and it seems like every time I’m here, I appreciate it just a bit more.  When I lived here prior to making Iowa my home, I kept my radius a bit tight.  I didn’t venture far from the fanciness of Beachwood where all the shopping is, University Heights where the Whole Foods is, and the east side where my sister lived.  As it turns out, Cleveland is really cool when you know where to go and I wasn’t going to the right places.  It took moving away and stalking the city from afar to really figure out what made Cleveland tick.

I’m continually amazed at how much this city has changed.  Even in the three short years since I’ve been gone.  There’s such a sense of community and the local movement has really taken root here.  It’s exhibited by the restaurants all along W 25th St that pride themselves on dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.  And with the West Side Market around the corner, how could they not feel inspired?  The food scene here could rival almost any big city.

(A few highlights: The Greenhouse Tavern, Townhall, Bier Market, Bar Cento, L’Albatros, The Black Pig and I’m dying to try The Butcher and the Brewer.)

Beyond the food, though, this city is a crafter’s dream.  It’s like an Etsy beyond the internets with vendors lining some of the coolest streets for things like Hingetown, and Cleveland Flea.  This city has really become an artist’s community and really celebrates their creatives.

The city stretches far and wide – you have your outskirts communities like Rocky River and Avon and Westlake – and there are so many more people, places and things beyond just my scope.  I’ve written about CLE in the past; sometimes in good and not-so-good context and I’m happy to embrace this place I call home.

There are still things that make CLE less-than-ideal (the crime rate, lack of an organized public transit system, spaced out neighborhoods, lack of walkability between aforementioned spaced-out-neighborhoods) but I do believe I could kill it (socially speaking) in this city after having been forced to spread my wings and learn a different city.  I’d be more active in the community, more likely to get involved and celebrate all that’s going on here (versus lamenting what’s not).  I’m someone who is somewhat of a city snob but I’m real and I’m from CLE.  Having very little “hometown” loyalty, I am happy to say that this city is something to celebrate and there’s a lot of good coming from CLE right now.

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not faking

I think the thing that’s most true about me is that I’m not a faker.  It also happens to be the thing that keeps me from getting stuff filed away in the DONE pile.

Let me explain.  Even though I’ve been away from this space for much longer than I’d hoped, it’s not because I haven’t been thinking of being here – cause I think about it a lot.  It’s actually because I’m not a faker.  When things in my non-blogging life are slow, my blog life becomes increasingly spotty.  I’m going to focus on spending more time talking about those little things that happen in my life.  That way I don’t spend time trying to conjure up the most epic post ever and then fall down the sneaky guilt spiral of neglecting this space.

So here’s a hodgepodge of what I’ve been up to:

1. I worked a bar tent during a festival here in DSM recently.  I officially poured my first beer from a tap (I exclude all prior college-party kegs because those were for me) and then proceeded to do that all.night.long and you know what?  It was so much fun.  St. Lucia was there, Weezer was there, Wilco was there – it was awesome.

2. I started official training for the DSM Half in October.  I’m so pleased that there’s about four weeks of running ahead of me that consistently includes 2 miles because with the heat (okay, humidity) we’ve been enjoying lately, it’s been so hard to keep motivated.

3. I am almost finished with a 21 Day Fix (shoutout to my sister who is doing it too and she’s pretty much owning me).  I’ve been working out consistently and have fallen in mad-love with Shakeology.  I’d drink it for every meal.

4. I’ve been listening to a lot of Pond (just Medicine Hat, really), Cold War Kids, Father John Misty (and Fleet Foxes, by extension), Lord Huron and how did I just now discover The Decemberists?!

5. I’ve been pretty wiped after work lately but with the bounty of squash from the garden, there have been some delicious squash recipes coming out of the kitch.  My most favorite and one that I recommend to everyone is Summer Squash Gratin by Smitten Kitchen.  It’s incredibly easy, very forgiving and I’ve made a lot of changes to suit my own tastes and laziness.  Personally, I sub Fontina for Gruyere (yuck), add a dollop of goat cheese after it’s served up and always leave out the anchovies from the salsa verde.  Not because I’m afraid of anchovies or anything… but because they’re never on hand.

6. After my summer trip home, I need to save some coin for this little gem.  I’ve been eyeing it for about a year now and I think it’s finally time to make it mine.

Thank you guys for sticking through my inconsistency and my desire to always bring something true here.

stuff i love: fall edition (aka back to school)

We’re in what my dad referred to as ‘the dog days of summer’.  I knew that was a phrase, I just didn’t realize it was one people actually used in the course of conversation.

It’s HOT here—and I don’t just mean the temps are hot—it’s sticky.  The days are shorter and it’s positively miserable to be outside.  I’ve stopped wearing 90% of my makeup because it just runs down my face the moment I step outside.  And after my lunch time workout it’s pointless.  I am so excited for the days to get cooler, the nights to get even cooler and for all things fall to begin.  I think Des Moines is probably doing this to me on purpose (like how I said “me” right there?!).  It’s getting me primed for my favorite season, which also happens to be the shortest.  In the back-to-school vein, I thought I’d post a couple of my favorite internet finds here.  I am known (mostly to myself) as a queen of the internets so I thought I’d share some with you guys.  Let’s get ready for fall!

  • Some new spectacles for fall. I’ve loved Warby Parker since I learned about them five or so years ago. Reasonably priced stylish glasses?! Yes, please. I’m surprised I’ve held out so long but I’ve been searching for the PERFECT crystal frame. I think these are them.
  • With the nights getting cooler in the fall, it’s the perfect time for bonfires! Since DSM has been beating us down with heat since about May, it’s made fire-lit evenings few and far between. What else goes better with fire than s’mores?! I submit for your snacks this recipe, and this one, and this one (cause I obviously have one thing on my mind).
  • I recently made my way back to Ohio for my summer trip home to spend time with my family (read: AVERY) and while I was home, I ate some amazing food. One was a dish that my mother made. We had a cookout for Avery’s dedication and my mom made panzanella and guys… this is a tried and true success for grilling family get-togethers. Also, *I* cooked one of the nights (what, what). Rach and I went to stay with my mom and I suggested this dish which I could pretty much eat every night for dinner. I’ve made some modifications of my own to fit it to my tastes and it’s a very forgiving dish. I aim to impress and mission: accomplished. There were also A&W root beer floats consumed that same evening…. and my mom beat us both at Phase10 but then what else is new.
  • I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of creating the perfect inspirational home office. These pretty things could go a long way toward creating that space.
  • THIS APP!  Guys, I am an app snob and pretty set in my ways…that is till Mailbox came along. I actually deactivated my Apple Mail apps on my phone and desktop in order to use this. It’s pretty much organized the chaos that is my mailbox at all times. You can snooze messages to come back, archive, delete and sort all with one swipe. Through the generosity of RDB and through my own usage, I have 4 bit coins available to anyone who wants Mailbox Beta for their desktop OS (it’s still in beta but I’ll hook you up)—otherwise you can download the app and start using it for FREE on your iPhone (or other smartphone).
  • Currently reading: this, this, and I’ve kind of been meaning to start this. The Goldfinch is amazing. How authors can basically take the everydays of life and make them so emotional and engaging is beyond me. I’m definitely feeling all the feels in this book. I had to take a small break cause I’m at that point where I want to kind of draw it out because I want to be able to be a part of that world just a little longer.

Oh, and this year I joined a Fantasy Football league at work. I think it’s going to change the way I watch football this year and I’m pretty excited about that. I hope you guys liked this post of some of my favorite finds.

DSM to CLE and back

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This would be a great time for a catch-up post. It’s been almost two weeks (goodness!) since I took some time off work, jumped in a rental and drove the ten hours home to visit my family. (Shout out to books on CD for keeping me awake!) It was a bit of a whirlwind trip. Despite it usually feeling rushed, I like to keep some degree of regularity when it comes to seeing my family; time with them is always a bit of a recharge for me. This time was especially important (but more on that soon!!!).

It felt so good to jump back into the life I left as though I never did. As it always has been, staying with my mom, time is filled with laughter, home-cooked meals, coffee talk and I usually sleep like a baby. When I stay with my sister, there is always laughter (a common theme for our family: we love to laugh), deep talks about things that really matter and we’ll usually follow one another around the house just because. So this trip home, I stayed a bit with my mom, a bit with my sister, had breakfast and catch-up time with my lovely step-mother; had meals, shopping and time with some of my favorite friends; I packed as much as I could into the little time I had. I hit my bff’s sister’s wedding reception on Saturday as soon as I got in. On Sunday, after the usual Kate/Ryan ritual of Mexican food, I hit the road to go to my mom’s. She took the time I was home off work so we got to spend a good 2.5 days together. Saying goodbye (albeit temporarily) to my mom is never something that gets easier. I got the expected “the house is so quiet” phone call and it tugged at my heart.

I ended my CLE trip by staying two nights with my sister and her husband, then I packed up shop and headed to Chicago where I’d meet some Iowa friends for one day of Lollapalooza! I’ve never experienced anything quite like Lollapalooza. It was organized very well and I was only really disappointed with one show – everyone else brought it down. We started the day with The Neighbourhood, meandered over to Smith-Westerns from there, checked out Houndmouth (huge surprise! They’re amazing live!), cut that a little short to make it to Band of Horses (I desperately wanted to see them and they didn’t disappoint.), caught a private show by Frightened Rabbit, skipped Imagine Dragons because the crowd was so intense, saw the official show for Frightened Rabbit and then had it in mind to see some Lana Del Rey. Saying the Lana fans were out of control would be an under-statement. I was tired at that point, my feet hurt and I was getting pushed around by teenage girls clamoring to get up close to Lana. So I took it to the back and what I heard of Lana was really impressive. She sounded even better live.

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(Chicago)

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(Band of Horses!)

I wish I could bottle up the feeling of being home with my family; I know my words don’t paint near enough of a picture. The experience in the bottle would consist of waking up to the sound of country music and the smell of coffee that’s been on since 4 am when my mom wakes; seeing the sun come up and hearing the birds sing in the trees from the enclosed porch; walking in the grass with no shoes on, eating blueberries right from the bush; having heartfelt conversations with the ones I love fiercely and cooking recipes that my mom’s mom used to cook from (some of them literally taped to the inside of the kitchen cabinet doors). It was always a concern for me that my family lacks tradition. I went through a phase a few years ago where I felt like it was the most important thing. However, I realized being home that tradition is all around me. It may not be something as obvious as a family reunion every year but my family is warm, welcoming, refreshingly transparent and the things we do and the things we make are all in celebration of the time we get to spend together.

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(Homecooked meal = worth the 10 hour drive)

stuff I love: music edition

I can’t even believe that for as much as I love music, I have yet to do a music-related blog entry.  I finally feel like I have some decent music taste so why not share it with you all?  (That was a little backhanded compliment to me, from me—did you see what I did there…)

I am drawn to music that I wouldn’t be able to make myself.  Granted, I can’t make music at all but I’m really drawn to the nuances in songs that take it from being only okay to being something truly magical.  Spotify is pretty much the best invention ever (I say that a lot, I think).  It completely changed the way I listen to music.  I used to have to rely on friends and the old standby, NPR, to find good new music.  While NPR is still trusty, Spotify recommends obscure bands that I may not have found on my own (and when I say “on my own” what I really mean is Under the Radar Magazine).  If you don’t have Spotify, I highly recommend you get it.  I happily pay for my subscription every month so I can listen to it outside wi-fi (like at work).  The picks below are just some of the songs/bands that would show up on my top plays because they’re on constantly.

Haerts,BRR,PacAir

From the top:

Haerts – Their song “Wings” has pretty much been on repeat since I found it.  It’s produced by St. Lucia (whom I love) and there’s the perfect mix of 80’s pop and synthy-electronic.  I don’t normally get into girl singers (cause I hold them to a higher standard when it comes to music – their voices all sound the same to me) but this girl is a mixture of The Bangles and Gwen Stefani.  I am really into it and I can’t wait till they release an EP or a full-length album because I want more!

Bronze Radio Return – Up, On & Over.  Amaze.  I can listen to this entire album which is a rarity for me.  They have a great mixture of twang, tambourine and banjo without being country.  It’s easily my go-to when I’m at work and I want something fun.

Pacific Air – I don’t remember how I found them.  I decided to give a listen recently and have been playing it often since.  I think it was the song Sunshine that converted me.  They’re kind of My Morning Jacket meets Temper Trap.

TroubleWillFindMe

The National – Obvi this had to be on here.  I started playing High Violet two years too late, so to say I eagerly anticipated this album would be an understatement.  Trouble Will Find me is the perfect follow up to an album I enjoyed so well.  I can’t stop listening to Humiliation and I Should Live in Salt (and Demons).  I think if I ever met Matt Berninger, I’d ask him what the heck he’s singing about.  I never have any idea.  For example, I recently read that Humiliation is about drones ruining a dinner party — I would have never guessed that.  Whether I know what he’s singing about or not, I love the melancholy sound and Matt Berninger’s baritone; it compliments the music, which itself is unfussy and stands on its own beautifully.

LordHuron,Fitz,Neighb,JB

Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams.  This is another indie-country album that I can listen to from beginning to end.  There are a few surprises (the percussion is a really nice touch) and it just makes this album solid.

Fitz & the Tantrums – Okay, okay—I know all the cool kids have been listening to Fitz forevs but I’m just now getting on that train.  It’s a super fun summer album.  The Walker is heavy on repeat around here.  In the car with the windows down, in the apt while I’m cleaning; it’s catchy and gets stuck in my head.  Listen to it.

The Neighbourhood – Album: I Love You. Thank you NPR for this one!  Sweater Weather was the first song I heard and it’s probably number two in my Spotify top plays (after Wings, of course).  This album is hard to describe.  It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve listened to in a while cause it’s kind of hip-hop meets indie pop.  It’s produced really well and I was really surprised to like this album as much as I do.  Try it out so you can say you got in on the ground floor.

Jeff Buckley – Oldie but always good.  Grace is an album I can revisit time and time again—and I have recently.  Lover, You Should Have Come Over may be one of the best songs written (I know saying that is a tall order).  He just sings it with such conviction (as he does most of the songs on the album), raw passion and honesty.  Jeff Buckley was a huge talent and it’s easy to hear why.