Greatest Escapist | A Blog about Life in Cleveland
I'm Katie and welcome to the Greatest Escapist. I've been writing here since 2007, so if you have a lot of time on your hands you could find 50 Things I've Done, Testing the Strong Ones, You Can Do It, Put Your Back (Brace) Into It, and much more.
When I travel, I sometimes like to save up for one nice meal. That's not to say that the other meals I eat aren't nice, but we're talkin', like, money nice. I can't always swing it, but when I can, well, I want to try to eat something while away that I just can't get while at home.
On my recent trip to D.C., that meal came from Rose's Luxury - & oh, what a luxurious meal it was.
I met up after work with my friends Arielle & Rachel at this unassuming but renowned Capitol Hill hotspot, where reservations are hard to get & walk-ins can be even harder. Fortunately for us, there was a bit of a flash storm right around 4pm, when people typically start lining up for walk-in spots at the restaurant, so it was less crowded than usual - even though it wasn't raining anymore & had become quite a nice evening.
Arielle & I got there first, so we settled in for drinks upstairs while we waited for Rachel. Arielle went the mezcal route, while I went with an amaro cocktail whose ingredients I can no longer recall (apparently the drink list changes pretty regularly, too, because a Google search shows me all kinds of other amaro-based creations that weren't on the menu when we were there).
Needless to say, this drink was right up my alley, & I ordered it twice. I wish I'd taken notes on what else was in there! It was a perfect patio sipper for a cocktail-lover who doesn't enjoy extremely sweet or sour drinks - think a lightened-up Mantattan, almost.
We were celebrating, in part, Arielle's upcoming birthday, which made me feel even more confident in my decision to ball out a little bit. Rose's Luxury does most small, shareable plates, so I was delighted to find that we were all in agreement that we wanted to go the route of the tasting menu.
Our server, Dominic, chose 10 items from the menu & a few things that weren't on it, making for a fun surprise of of an evening for us. I told him of my mushroom allergy, & we told him we weren't too keen on meat on bones, but that we were open to just about everything else.
With that, we trusted him & let him come up with whatever he wanted for us - & as you can tell by the gushing title of this post, he did not let us down.
Our first dish was a dollop of coconut ice cream topped with white caviar caviar & lime juice & served in an open coconut shell. When I asked on Instagram if my friends & followers would try this one, a whopping 44% of them said "Hells to the no."
Frankly, I was surprised that I wanted to try it, but I'd just committed to this big, fancy meal. How could I turn down the first dish?! Lucky for me, this one turned out to be a delightful mix of sweet & salty, with a smooth, creamy texture like... well, kind of like gummy bears atop ice cream. I don't love the texture of caviar, but as long as I didn't think too much about it, I liked this a lot better than, say, the weirdly crunchy texture of fish roe atop sushi.
This next dish, wish I thought was especially gorgeous, was grilled cucumber topped with yogurt, sumac, & anchovy. There must be some other things on there, too, but I can't remember, nor is the Internet turning anything up for me.
Again, the Internet seems pretty opposed to this dish - but again, the Internet is entitled to its incorrect opinion, because this was a surprisingly good combo. Especially tasty was the green liquid beneath the dish, which was unexpectedly sweet & which we each ate a spoonful of, like soup, when the dish itself was gone.
Rachel & Arielle were so excited when the next dish was delivered to our table; apparently, it's among the restaurant's most popular & thus most famous: lychee salad with pork sausage, habanero, peanuts, red onions, garlic flakes, & coconut cream.
Weird, right? And yet so freaking good. I'm honestly disappointed that this photo looks the least appealing of all of them, because far & away, this dish was the most delicious. It's sweet, it's salty, it's garlicky, it's got fruit, it's got meat, it's... legitimately one of the weirder things I've ever consumed, & yet, I desperately want to eat it again. Like, daily.
Next up: Singaporean soft-shell crab, served as an open-faced sandwich with a side of pickles. I've only ordered soft-shell crab once before, not realizing that, unlike hard-shell crabs, you eat them whole - shell & all. That other time, well, let's just say I didn't end up eating them.
But this meal was special, & again, I wasn't going to not eat what they served me. Fortunately, because the dish was fried, I didn't have to see the whole crab & thus wasn't freaked out by it. (Eating legs is always a little weird, right?) It looked & tasted like fried chicken, but with a light crab taste - & the spicy glaze was just right, with the sourness of the pickles to cut it,
Next up was a trio of pasta, all served at the same time, & all evoking our collective delight.
I so wish there'd been more of the farfalle pasta with honey, pecorino cheese, & 'nduja (which is apparently a spicy, spreadable pork, though I'm glad no one described it to me that way before I ate it). Before we'd decided on the tasting menu, this was the menu item that was highest atop my to-order list, so I was glad we got to try it - & it was everything I'd hoped it would be.
It tasted like upscale comfort food, you know? All that cheese, the sweetness of the honey, the savory taste of the pork, the spices... I only got, like, three pieces of pasta, but I would've happily eaten three bowls, had they been available to me.
Arielle had been hoping for the cacio e pepe, with handmade rigatoni, which isn't always listed on the menu but is apparently a known off-menu fave & usually still available to order (per Arielle & Washingtonian).
I don't know if I've ever had a proper cacio e pepe before - & if I have, well, it still wasn't as properly delicious as this one. So much butter, a light dusting of cheese, the crunch & zing of the pepper... as a bougie reviewer on Yelp said of it, "Wow, what a symphony of flavor & texture."
Our third & final pasta was one of Rachel's prior favorites & another iconic Rose's Luxury dish: the strawberry pasta is made with a jammy tomato-strawberry sauce, for a sweet-meets-acidic combo that is strange but also lovely, topped with red onions & ricotta.
Onto desserts! These, too, were served at the same time: The one you see here is chocolate cake with cashew frosting & passionfruit ice cream.
Though I've never been much of a chocolate person, cashew & passionfruit are two of my favorite flavors, so I was all-in on this one - & to my delight, it wasn't nearly as sweet as I'd expected it to be. And yes, the flowers were edible.
This foie gras French toast marks the first & only dish of the evening that I didn't try in its entirety. I ate some of this dish - the desserty parts - but I confess that I couldn't bring myself to try the foie gras. (I hate the idea of the way its harvested, & I don't love fatty meats, & everything about it just gives me the squicks.)
It was, however, served alongside some truly fantastic cinnamon French toast ice cream (hey, Mitchell's, can you please start making this?), & the French toast itself was... oh, just so delightful. It was steaming hot, the perfect little breakfast pastry, but with the ice cream quickly melting around it like a glaze... whew, was that good. (It, too, was written up in the Post, if you're interested.)
We left Rose's Luxury full & happy, our wallets lighter but our hearts more full. It was one of the best meals I've ever had, if not the actual best, & it wasn't just the food that made it that way. It was the whole experience, from the friendliness of the staff to the thoughtfulness of our server to the decor & atmosphere to the company I dined with.
Overall, this neon sign on the back wall at Rose's Luxury really summed it all up:
Have you ever been to Rose's Luxury? Anything on this tasting menu you wouldn't dare eat? Do you ever go the tasting menu route? I think I'm a convert!
I spent about 90 of my first 100 rides at Harness Cycle on the same bike: the one in the back corner of the room. Bike 36 is my jam. No one can see me, but I can see everyone, which means I can do my best to keep up, but if I fail, well, not a damn soul is watching me do it.
But at what point do I have to admit that I am sometimes just back there to hide?
Recently, I wanted to sign up a little late for a particular class, but the entire back row was booked. Instead, I took a bike in the middle of the second-to-last row - & I was surprised by how much it changed the way I rode.
I always think I'm giving my all, but now I think I might sometimes be fooling myself.
Riding in the middle of the second-to-last row meant that not only was there another rider directly behind me, there were also riders behind me on both sides. For someone who's used to riding in a corner, that's a lot of potential people who could see me screw up - & I was nervous as hell.
Even though I recently wrote about how we don't know what anyone else's body can do- or why it does what it does - I still worry that people who see me ride will think, "Oh, that overweight girl can't keep up" during the times when I need to ride seated instead of "up & out," or when I set down the weights during arms, or when I miss the beat during push-ups. Or whatever. That first class when I rode with an entire, packed row behind me felt terrifying at first. As class progressed, though, I realized that it was actually helping me to be a better rider than ever before.
Let me explain.
When I'm in the corner, I can "sit out" as needed... but do I actually need to, or am I just kind of tired? Kind of sore? Kind of lazy?
With people behind me - people who could potentially be judging me or, more importantly, looking to me as a role model as they get acclimated to riding - I felt more inclined to ride through my comfort zone. There were times when, had I been on my standard corner bike, I would've sat down instead of riding up & out - but knowing that other riders could see me, especially ones who were new to riding themselves, kept me out of the seat, pushing my limits, & trying to ride the best I could.
I used to ride in the back because I couldn't keep up - & now I ride in the back because I can keep up & maybe just don't always want to.
But that's not how we get better. That's not how we grow.
So I'm moving up. Not far, & maybe not always - just to that second-to-last row, for now, where a total of about eight people can see me, if they're even paying attention - but for now, that's enough. For now, that's just a little bit more motivation to ride my hardest. To be my best. To move myself forward &, hopefully, to inspire a couple of other folks to do the same.
That's a lesson for life, isn't it? If you're doing what no one can see, you're probably slacking a little bit. Putting yourself out there may make you vulnerable, but it may also make you work that much harder - & be that much better.
See you on a bike, friends. I'll be the one in the middle of the second-to-last row, flying like the wind.
As the series finale of Game of Thrones approaches, I'm thinking a lot about, well, series finales.
Overall, I tend to watch TV shows after they've already finished, to catch up & binge them when everything is already available online. That way, there's none of that "OMG what will happennn" anticipation or drama - just me trying to be sure I don't spoil things for myself on Wikipedia or IMDB beforehand.
As I prepare to watch the end of GoT in real-time, though (hopefully, given that I'll be at a hotel in D.C. for work at the time...), I'm thinking back on other series finales that gave me those "OMG what will happen" feelings - & whether they lived up to the hype.
My roommate, who didn't watch the show, had left for the night to give me space to have Feelings - & when she returned to the room at the end of the night, I was full-on weeping about the tragic death of Jen Lindley (spoiler alert, sorry), Joey Potter's final love partnering, Dawson Leery's TV-instead-of-film career, & the freaking six-season beauty of it all.
LostIn this case, my roommate did not leave to let me watch in peace - & in fact, he decided to watch the finale with me, despite the fact that he hadn't watched the show since its second season. If you know anything about Lost, you know you couldn't skip multiple seasons (or even a single episode) & expect to have any idea what's going on!
I was so annoyed. He talked through the whole thing, making random commentary, criticizing the show, & basically just blathering. (I don't know him anymore, so I think I can safely say this?) Overall, it really ruined the finale for me, & when I rewatched it the next day, I was ticked not to have gotten the full impact of it as it aired.
On the whole, though? I did not hate the ending nearly as much as the rest of the world seemed to. I was baffled by it, yes, & I suppose I hoped for a little better, but it didn't leave me as furious as it did others.
How I Met Your Mother Speaking of series finales I didn't hate: I know, I know, everyone is still real mad about this one, but I, for one (& I know I may be the only one) thought it was kind of perfect.
I watched the last episode of HIMYM alone, quietly, in my studio apartment in D.C. back in 2014, & when it ended, I texted with my friend Arielle about how much we both loved the ending. We'd yet to learn that the Internet wholly disagreed with us - so for a bit, I got to hold onto that feeling of truly loving the way a show ended, without anyone else's input or criticism. It was glorious.
Hmm, maybe that's a show that deserves a full-series rewatch...
What series finales do you remember anticipating and/or watching in real-time as they aired? Will you be watching Game of Thrones when it ends? And if so, who do you hope ends up on the Iron Throne?!
It's now been a couple of weeks since I returned from my second April trip to NYC, & I was feeling like it was too late to blog about it - until I remembered that I'm still working on a blog post about Mike's & my one-year wedding anniversary trip to Ann Arbor, which we took in November. Guess this one is pretty timely, comparatively.
I spent nearly two full weeks in New York in April. Here's some of the best of the stuff I did while I was there - & some of the things I didn't get to.
Explored the Color FactoryI already told you all aboutmy very fun day in SoHo with two of my coworkers, but if you missed that post, it bears repeating: This was really awesome, & if you're headed to NYC soon (or live there), I can't recommend it highly enough.
Checked out the Glossier storeEveryone's favorite cult makeup brand has a flagship store in SoHo, & what a delight it is! At various stations throughout the crowded shop, you can try all of the brands various makeup & skincare products, guided by pink-jumpsuit-clad employee who can tell you about each of them, make recommendations, & glam you up.
You place on-the-spot orders with those employees, then head over to a waiting area where your order is delivered to you via a strange system or levers & pulleys reminiscent of old-school ATM vacuum tubes. Remember those? They're out of the Super Bounce Serum, so I just ordered a Mango Balm Dot Com - mostly because I wanted to see my order come down the pike. I'm a sucker, I know.
Took a trampoline classThis is another one I wrote about already, meeting my friend Sam for a 50-minute class at TrampoLEAN in the Flatiron District. Now that I'm back home, I've been on the lookout for anything similar in my area, but I've yet to find anything like it here in the CLE. We get things late but eventually, so perhaps there's hope for us yet? I'd love to take one of these classes again.
I was visiting my friend Rachel, & not that you ever need an excuse to get ice cream, but we were with her toddler, AJ, & if anyone loves ice cream, it's toddlers. I ordered a cherry dip cone with vanilla ice cream, took this one terrible photo, & proceeded to enjoy the smoothest dairy delicacy I've ever consumed. Mister Softee is no joke, y'all.
Shopped at the MoMa Design storeI didn't go to the Museum of Modern Art itself, but while in SoHo, I spotted the MoMa Design Store & couldn't resist. This two-story shop sells all kinds of artsy yet functional items, from jewelry & reading glasses to lamps & other home decor goods. There is so much to look at, & nearly all of it is beautiful and/or colorful and/or expensive.
I bought a pair of IZIPIZIreading glasses & the guided journal 99 Things That Bring Me Joy. I did not buy this $300 banana lamp, much as I wanted it, or any of these lovely, quirky clocks. Ugh, so responsible of me, I know.
Made my own BirchboxBirchbox recently closed its flagship store in the city, instead opting to open a few partnership locations within Walgreens stores. Those stores sell Birchbox-featured beauty items & include a staffer who can help you with those items. Luckily, they still offer the opportunity to build your own Birchbox, though in a significantly limited-from-the-flagship-store way.
I chose five items from the 14 offered (love those tube displays), including a full-sized Laura Geller lipstick that's quickly become one of my faves. Though I wished I could've visited the Birchbox store itself when it was open, this smaller DIY version was still quirky & fun, the kind of thing you can't get in the CLE - & thus worthwhile.
Took my first Peloton rideFor the first time in my life, I brought workout clothes with me on a trip - sneakers & all, despite how annoying they are to pack! I wanted to take a SoulCycle class but didn't get to it, so one night, I hopped on the Peloton bike in the fitness center at my hotel, Hotel Boutique at Grand Central, & took a 25-minute on-demand class.
Truth? I hated it. The bike felt uncomfortable & unintuitive; I felt like I was sliding off of it as I rode, & one of the adjustment handles kept hitting me in the shin. The instructor was good enough, but I didn't find her particularly compelling, maybe because it was via video - & I did not do well at all in the class itself, which is weird because I'm pretty darn good at my cycling classes IRL.
Hey, at least I didn't drop three grand on a home bike (lol) to learn that Peloton isn't my jam.
Spent time in BrooklynI visited Brooklyn twice: the first time to see my old D.C. friend Rachel, who lives there with her husband & daughter, & the second to see Mike's (now our) friends Adam & Kristina, who are getting married in August. I hadn't yet gotten to know them well, so it was great to spend some one-on-one (err, one-on-two?) time with them, though I wish Mike had been able to join us!
Rachel & I mostly just hung out at her place, because her kiddo had to go to bed, but Adam & Kristina took me on a little Gowanus/Park Slope adventure day. We started with brunch at Sweet Chick, where I had the seitan chicken & waffles, then explored Prospect Park, checked out the Brooklyn Public Library, & hit up a few bars until it was time to part ways. I refrained from quoting Newsies all day long.
Visited my famMy mom's first cousin, Michael, lives with his wife, Samantha, & their two young sons on the Upper West Side. They invited me over for dinner at their apartment, where we just hung out in the kitchen, catching up & drinking Svedka Rosé Vodka while Michael cooked salmon, rice & beans, & green beans almondine.
As we ate, the boys told me about their recent vacation to New Orleans, the instruments they pay, their new schools, & their feelings about Avengers: End Game, of course. It was so nice to catch up with them - & truly, it always feels like we've picked up right where we left off.
Braved Times SquareI wouldn't usually willingly go to Times Square in adulthood, but I don't love switching trains, & on my way to the UWS, I was supposed to have a switch-over that I didn't want to bother with. Instead, I walked to Times Square to catch the train there, instead - but it was so bonkers that I kept walking until I got to a quieter stop!
I was actually glad to have walked through, because it had been years - 2012, I think? - since I'd been. It's crowded & sort of horrible, but it also retains, for me, some of that childhood magic that made me fall in love with New York in the first place, all those years ago. As I fought my way through the crowds, I reminisced about my junior year of high school trip to NYC with showchoir, & how obsessed we were with all things Times Square. Those memories were worth the wander - & I hit up Strand Book Store's kiosk!
Tried cookies from Levain BakeryFor years, I've been hearing about the joy of cookies from Levain Bakery, which is known for its chocolate chip walnut cookies. I don't really like chocolate chips or walnuts, so I was a little skeptical, but when I passed Levain on my way to my cousin's place, I knew I had to stop in.
I got one of each cookie, except the gluten-free kind, plus an extra chocolate chip walnut, & I was not disappointed. I brought most of them home for Mike to try, but not before I slowwwwly ate a chocolate chip walnut cookie, savoring every warm, delicious bite. Those cookies are the stuff dreams are made of.
There were, of course, plenty of things I'd hoped to do but didn't get around to, including:
Seeing a show: I was supposed to see Book of Mormon but didn't make it to the show. I don't wanna talk about itttt.
Shopping for books at The Strand's main store: This has always been on my to-do list, but it's not in a convenient location to any of the places I typically visit in New York. Next time!
Exploring The Vessel: This wacky-looking new structure at Hudson Yards is, well, wacky-looking. It features 154 flights of interconnected stairways, a la Hogwarts - but I don't think they move. Fortunately.
Visiting the 9/11 Memorial: I can't believe I've still never been, but I guess that when I visit New York, I don't typically make a lot of time for touristy stops. I should! I think this would be nice to do if I go back with my mom, who has been asking to visit NYC with me.
Take a SoulCycle class: A former Harness Cycle staffer works at a SoulCycle location, & though I'd messaged him about taking a class there, I didn't make it. Again: next time!
All told, I had two great trips, saw lots of friends & coworkers, & ate a ton of delicious food (I miss you, VIV Thai). I feel so lucky to be able to visit New York at least once a year, & even though twice in one month felt like a lot for me, it was a lot in the best possible way/
See you again soon, New York.
What are your favorite things to do in the city or, if you haven't been, what's on your would-visit list? I hope to head back soonish - so I'm keeping a list of my own!
I’m really proud, actually, of the way I’ve been taking care of my teeth & gums since that appointment, guided by instructions & product suggestions from Sandra, my hygienist at Hudec Dental. I’m planning a future post about what products I’m actually using, but for now, let’s talk about the sort of funny, very childish, but also extremely helpful way I’m keeping track of my new dental care routine.
That’s right: a chore chart!
The background is this: I’m not great at remembering to do stuff, especially when said stuff is new to my usual routine. I have Post-It notes all over the apartment & my desk reminding me to do things like “Take medicine!” along with three forms of calendars (an Erin Condren planner, Google Calendar, & an at-a-glance “My Week” pad I fill in each Monday) to keep me on track.
It makes sense, then, that with the addition of a bunch of new-to-me health-related tasks to add to my regular routine following my last trip to the dentist, I also needed a new way to keep track of them.
Enter my chore chart, which I chose from a variety of options on Amazon. It’s a magnetic dry-erase chart that comes with its own dry erase marker, which will allow me to re-write or re-arrange my “dental chores” as needed.
Here’s what’s on the daily to-do list & why:
Brush: I’ve always been good about brushing twice a day, so this one’s easy. I’m planning to buy an electric toothbrush as recommended by my hygienist, but for now, I’m using a soft-bristle brush purchased from good ol’ Target.
Floss: I’m terrible at remembering to floss my teeth, so now I keep floss in my medicine cabinet & floss picks in my car to be sure I make time for it every day.
Scraper: My hygienist recommended I purchase a plastic tongue scraper, which is easy to use & not nearly as disgusting as it sounds. I’ve gotten good at remembering to use it every day & even weirdly enjoy it?
Paste: I’m currently using a dental-grade topical paste for sensitive teeth, which isn’t for daily use but which I should use more often than I do. The chart is helping!
Night Guard: For now, I’m using a DIY kind I bought at CVS, butI’m headed back to the dentist soon to be fitted for a high-quality custom night guard to minimize my grinding issues
…& a bonus item: My “medicine” task isn’t dental-related, but it’s my other most important medical thing to remember, so I added it to this list to be sure it gets the daily treatment.
Yes, the chart currently hangs on the side of my refrigerator, but that’s because there’s nothing magnetic to stick it to in the bathroom – & our apartment is small enough that the fridge is the first thing you see when you leave the bathroom, anyway, so it works.
Tell me: What does your daily dental health routine look like? And have you ever used a chore chart like this in adulthood? How’s it working for your kids? Maybe if I had used these as a kid, I’d be better at some of these daily rituals by now – but hey, it’s never too late to start!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hudec Dental. I have an ongoing partnership with Hudec Dental in exchange for the creation of original content; as always, all opinions are my own.
When I was in New York City at the beginning of April, I desperately wanted to visit the Color Factory, but no one was available to join me - & it seemed like the kind of place that was pretty sad to visit alone.
Instead, I made plans to go the next time I was in town, when my coworkers Paige & Jenny & I had a Friday off. We met for brunch at an Israeli cafe called 12 Chairs before heading over to the Color Factory in a veritable monsoon. It was a good day to be indoors!
The Color Factory is an interactive exhibit all about... you know, colors. It originally debuted as a temporary pop-up in San Francisco, & now it's a semi-permanent installation at a 20,000 sqaure-foot space in SoHo through the end of summer 2019.
Upon visiting (tickets required), you go through the 16 exhibits room by room, as you would at a museum, & along the way, you experience all things hands-on, educational, fun, & even edible. Various displays are sponsored by big-name companies (think Maybelline & Gymboree), & everything is highly Instagrammable - but it also feels like a true experience, like art, like science.
In other words, it was very cool - & very fun. And we took a lot of photos.
We got My/Mo mochi when we first checked into the exhibit; I went with mango, but I ate it before I even photographed it - &, in a very on-brand move, got powdered sugar all over my all-black outfit in doing so.
In the first room, we chose a Mille Feuille macaroon from a conveyor belt. I went with a simple vanilla cookie because I didn't know what flavor blue would be - & because vanilla looked best on the color-wheel of a coaster it was served on. Guilty as charged. Also? That macaron was really damn good.
With that, we were off to a tasty - &, of course, colorful - start.
You go through The Color Factory at your own pace, taking as many photos as you'd like along the way. Many of the exhibits are connected in some fashion, thematically, starting with the room right after the macarons: In a hallway with huge, color-blocked walls, we were instructed to choose a solid-colored button in a hue that "spoke to" us.
I picked that rich green color you see on the far right in the first pic below; Paige & Jenny both picked shades of light blue. We were told to wear our buttons through the exhibit, where they would eventually come into play.
In this musical installation room from artist Lakwena& musician Abimaro, we used xylophones & drums & other colorful instruments to create joyful noises with strangers. It was hard to tell whose sound was whose, which was, I guess, the point. You can see my looking very grumpy below (I was just concentrating!) as I make sweet, sweet music... & then, as we took photos with some of the words on the wall once the other visitors cleared out.
Taylor Swift had debuted her new song, "Me," just the night before, so Paige picked the corresponding word; Jenny, who is quintessentially cool, went with "back" & turned her denim-clad back to the camera. I went the Michelle Obama route with "high" - you know, as in, "When they go low, we go..."
After that, we were asked to split into pairs for the next room, which initially posed some issues.
My friends & I were in a trio, as were the people ahead of us - a young mom & her two kids, from whom she didn't want to be separated. I volunteered to be her partner so her kids could partner with each other, & she could be near them; Paige & Jenny were also split up on either side of a wall barrier, so we promised my partner we'd keep an eye on whichever kid she was separated from (which turned out to be her son, who was about 9 or 10).
It was such a Midwestern suggestion of me, but it also worked out well. When we got into the next room(s), we were separated from our partner by a glass wall, much like a prison visitation situation. We were each asked to put on a pair of headphones, which guided us, in tandem, through the process of identifying all of the colors associated with our partner &, eventually, drawing that person without ever removing our pencil from the paper.
In the first image below, you can see the colors I chose for my partner; in the third image, on the grey slip of paper, you can see the colors she chose for me, including pale skin, pinkish lips, red earrings, & my green button. Her line drawing is wonderfully Picasso-esque.
Afterward, we headed into a room filled with... candy! We were each given two pieces of colorful (or, in my case, not-so-colorful) candy, instructed to try each of them both separately & together. I had the black & white pairing you see below - black licorice & vanilla. I thought I'd hate the former, but paired with the latter, it was actually really good.
One room was full of Mylar balloons in colors that represented sunset over the Hudson River, bearing statements from kids about their ideal world. Fans on all sides of the room kept the balloons blowing around us.
Then we entered a life-sized flowchart, where we chose our own answers to various questions, like, "Do you like playing with fire?" & other such vital, personality-defining probes. At the end, we entered a small, private room the size of a closet, where our "secret color" was revealed.
Mine? "Artisanal School Bus," a.k.a. bright yellow, which has never been one of my favorites. Just look at how jaundiced my mega-pale self looks in that third photo below! Still, I wasn't unhappy with my big reveal. It was kind of fun - & that color name can't be beat.
When we exited our closet, we took a small, paint-chip-like tag off the wall, picking the one that bore the name of "our" color. On the back was a dance move that matched our color.
Mine, of course, was something like, "Move your hands in a steering wheel motion while quoting, 'INDOOR VOICES!'" I am offended on behalf of bus drivers everywhere - but this is also sort of how I normally dance, so it all worked out. We showed off those moves in a dimly lit, sequin-walled dance floor room, where we also tried fizzy raspberry drinks.
Even the bathrooms had good art, man. I didn't photograph the toilet seat because that's weird, but the seat covers were clear with silver glitter inside them, & this eyelash art was everywhere.
The last installation of the day was a giant ball pit, a.k.a. a huge vat of other people's germs. Although it freaked me out mightily, because who knows what's lurking in here, I loved this whole experience. The balls were soft & squishy, & the pit itself was deep, so you could really just sort of sink in & get lost in a sea of plastic balls.
At the end of the exhibit, we got light blue gelato (colored with pea shoots!) to resemble the balls in the ball pit, plus a freebie of our choice from a cute little stand; I picked an enamel pin in the shape of a whale). Then we checked out the gift shop, took some more photos, & bought matching "OY VEY" keychains in bright pink. For $20. Because New York.
When you're done with the exhibit, you can pick up this map of the surrounding neighborhood, where art installations large & small are embedded throughout. We hit up one of the locations, an unassuming ATM at the Canal Street Market that dispenses money-shaped art by NYC artist Jason Polan. So cool, right?
I wish more of these bespoke pop-up experiences would make their way to Cleveland. I know we're not a "big city," in the grand scheme of things, but I think Clevelanders would really enjoy & appreciate these experiences in a way that has become rote & routine in bigger cities like NYC & San Fran. Just look how well & how quickly we sold out tickets for Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors exhibit! Invest in the Midwest, Instagram experiential museum pop-ups...
All in all, though, I'm so glad I made this one happen while I was in the city, & I loved getting to know my coworkers a little better, given that we usually only ever see one another from behind computer screens. It was such a fun day exploring the Color Factory & all of the many colorful experiences within. If you're in New York this summer, 10/10 would recommend visiting the Color Factory! Find tickets here.
Write a pitch for an upcoming anthology. Done... & accepted! I'm excited to share that I'm working on an essay about my childhood experience with scoliosis for a new anthology from Kelly Jensen, the genius editor behind Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World. Stay tuned for more on this! And now, to write my actual essay...
Do something new-to-me in NYC. If you follow me on Instagram (shameless plug), you might've seen my photos from The Color Factory, which I visited with friends last Friday. We had so much fun, & I'll be writing about it here soon. Gotta prioritize that anthology piece, though!
Hit my Apple Watch move goals every day in April. I am so proud to say that I accomplished this one! I mean, sure, I was helped along by the fact that I spent nearly two weeks in New York, but I also stuck to my own tips for getting in more steps every day. My daily move goal was set to 550 calories (which I hit); I also did my best to hit 10k steps a day (which didn't always happen). LOOK AT THIS!
I'd love to keep that up in May, so let's see how I do... & now, onto my "real" May goals:
Get my airbags replaced. I think I need to keep this one on my goals list until I actually do it. This is me trying to shame myself into action.
No French fries. Even when I'm eating relatively healthfully, French fries are my damn weakness. Mostly, I love them because I love barbecue sauce. Aren't fries the perfect vehicle for consuming as much barbecue sauce?! Just say no to French fries in May.
Limit my Instagram posts. I'm starting to feel like I post way too much to Instagram, so this month, I'm to post once a day (or less) to my main feed. Can I do it? Wish me luck.
Try Orange Theory Fitness. A few of my friends have been sharing their newfound love of OTF workouts (read Berrak's story here), & I want to give it a try. The first class is free; anyone local wanna join me?
Save some money. Two trips to NYC during April, even partially on work's dime, drained my account more than a little. Time to close that wallet for a little bit!
Turn in my freelance work before it's due. I've always been a wait-until-the-last-minute type when it comes to completing assignments, & it's a habit that's become even more frustrating as I grow older. I have two Cleveland Magazine pieces, three pieces of sponsored blog content, & one anthology essay draft due this month... & I would like to turn in at least half of them at least 24 hours before they're do. Honestly, this feels like one of my loftiest goals yet.
How'd you do in April? What's on your docket for May?
April 2019 marked the first month in years that I read fewer than five books, but I have a good reason for it! At the start of the year, I vowed to focus more on quality than on quantity when it comes to my reading - to stop aiming for high overall numbers & quit skipping long, daunting books just because they'd make my numbers lower.
So in April, I finished nothing but Harry Potter books.
Is that really worth reviewing? I mean, listen, "worth" isn't the right word there: The Harry Potter books are always work reviewing, discussing, analyzing, dissecting, etc. But I think we all know how I'll review them: 10/5 stars, A+, would re-read again forever & ever, amen. But still. In April, here's what I read:
Based purely on my own "anecdata" (a.k.a. "asking around"), this books seems to be, broadly, the favorite of so many fans of the series. I think my love of the book is clouded by my dislike of the move, which, in my view, left unexplained so much of the brilliance & nuance of the book - so it was nice to reread the book & remember that I do, in fact, adore it, even if the film adaptation did it dirty.
This piece of the series has long been my favorite, both in book & movie form: the further glimpses into the wizarding world, as we learn of Durmstrang & Beauxbatons & see into the Dark Lake; the vibrant visuals from the Quidditch World Cup; the sheer genius of the Mad-Eye Moody storyline (no spoilers, if you somehow haven't gotten around yet to reading the series); & end of the book, when Harry finds himself face-to-face with Lord Voldemort & their wands bring on "Priori Incantatem."
I haven't finished this one yet, so it will also be on my May list - but in a post all about my series re-read, how could I not include it? Phoenix features all of Harry's newfound teen angst, what with the secrecy & the scar pain & the almost being kicked out of Hogwarts. It feels, to me, like a turning point in the books' tone & seriousness (err, Siriusness?)
I didn't even listen to any audiobooks during the month, because I spent all my audio time listening to Binge Mode, a podcast that does a deep dive into the Potter cannon, the magical world, & the brilliance of J.K. Rowling. Truly, this is the podcast the Harry Potter series has long deserved, & listening to it as I make my way through the series has brought so much added joy to my re-read.
One last thing: I finally have a new personal email address (after changing my name, you know, a full year ago), so I decided to sign up for Pottermoreagain... which means I got sorted again, got a new Patronus, etc. I've been so mad about being sorted into Hufflepuff in the past, so I'm not at all unhappy about this development:
Am I deserving of Gryffindor House? Look, probably now. I don't know that anyone would ever describe me as "brave" or "daring." And yes... I'm a Leo, y'all. It seems fundamentally incomparable with being a Hufflepuff, so even if I'm a not-brave bottom-of-the-barrel misfit Gryffindor, that feels a little bit better, to me, than being an inappropriately sassy misfit of a Hufflepuff.
Are you a Harry Potter fan? How about a Binge Mode fan? What's your house?
My "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books.
One of my April goals was to try two new-to-me gyms or workouts, so earlier this month, I did two Rise Nation classes - which I loved & which absolutely destroyed me, functionally, for, like, a week afterward. I wanted to try something new & fun while on my second NYC trip of the month, but I didn't exactly budget in the time for a SoulCycle class - so when my friend Sam asked if I wanted to join her for a class at trampoLEAN, you could say I jumped at the chance.
Sam & I met in 2006, the year before my senior year (errr, second senior year) of college, when we both participated in a Jewish internship program in Washington, D.C., with the organization where I went on to work after graduation. She now works for an affiliated organization, so we're technically coworkers, though we don't get to see one another often - so we mostly keep up via social media & our blogs. You can find hers at La Petite Pear.
I met her after work in the Flatiron District, which told me that some people now joking call the "Fitiron District" because it's so full of gyms & studios. I couldn't seem to find the trampoLEAN studio, even though my GPS said I was standing right outside it, so I waited for Sam to arrive. Good thing, too, because trampoLEAN is located inside a ballroom dance studio, & you have to walk across the ballroom floor to get to the trampoline room - literally trying not to get mowed down by dancers as you do.
It's a small room full of 18 individual trampolines, with fitness bands hanging from the ceiling. Thea walked us (err, jumped us?) through each part of the workout, from doing jumping jacks to running to doing all sorts of Zumba-like cardio moves - all on the trampoline. I couldn't keep up with all of it, but truth be told, neither could most other participants, so I didn't feel out of place or too flaily.
The only thing I really couldn't do a the bit of trampoline yoga, when we were supposed to get on all fours on our trampoline & do leg raises, etc. My busted knee is still kind of busted - that bone bruise screams in pain if I try to kneel on my right knee - so I did those exercises on my back instead.
Overall? Super hard workout, but also a really fun one. I wouldn't have been brave enough to try it without a friend, so it was great to do it with someone who already knew the ropes. Afterward, Sam & I got wine & cassoulets at Vin Sur Vingt (half-priced bottles of rosé at happy hour!) then met our friend Andrea for liquor-infused ice cream from Tipsy Scoop. I ordered the Hot Buttered Rum ice cream, made with cinnamon & ginger & infused with rum.
By the end of the day, I'd walked/jumped a total of 20,000+ steps & nearly 10 miles, burning more than 1,500 calories. Suffice it to say, I didn't feel an ounce of guilt about that ice cream - & I slept like a baby in my miniature hotel room & my twin bed.
I'm proud of myself for branching out & trying new workouts - something that, at one point in my life not very long ago, felt absolutely terrifying, bordering on undoable. Am I super in-shape? Hell no. Can I always keep up? Definitely not. But am I excited about trying new things & giving it a go? A million times yes. Sooo... what workouts should I try next month?!
I'm back in New York for a bit, mostly for my best friend's dad's memorial service but also to work out of my office for a bit (which is headquartered in Murray Hill). As I always do when I'm here, I way overbooked myself, cramming plans into every spare non-work moment - & even into a lot of my work moments, with coworker lunches, face-to-face coffee meetings, etc.
My calendar is a liiiiittle scary to look at right now, so it's safe to say that I'm feeling more than a little overwhelmed - though mostly in a good way.
Last night, though, I didn't schedule anything. Initially, I didn't make plans because I thought my flight got in a lot later; when I realized I landed earlier than I thought, though, I opted not to make plans in case I was burnt out after travel.
I missed a lot of the workday while traveling, so I stayed at the office until 6:30, then checked into my alarmingly tiny hotel room; seriously, about the size of a boxcar. I knew I couldn't stay cooped up there while the sun was still out, so I set out to explore & to hit my daily step goals.
I ended up at a Thai restaurant called Viv, which I spotted while wandering. Turns out, they hve great happy hour specials - $6 martinis, mojitos, & margaritas - so I settled in at the bar, ordered chicken pad Thai, & read Taylor Jenkins Reid's Maybe in Another Lifeon Kindle.
Before I knew it, I was chatting with the bartender, Tanya, & a solo bar-goer named Kat. They'd been talking about all kinds of things - relationship woes, job stress, the possibility of getting Botox in the future - & at some point, I just... ended up in their conversation. I spent an hour & a half slurping noodles & reassuring Kat, who'd just quit her emotionally abusive job in the fashion industry, while drinking a free lychee mojito that Tanya gave me "for being friendly."
By the time I left, I felt pleasantly tipsy & emotionally fortified.
I know not everyone likes talking to strangers but for me, sometimes it's just the ticket. These conversations - with people I know I'll never see or talk to again - help me remember that life is so much bigger than my own bubbles, than the corners & spaces I know & inhabit.
Don't we all need that reminder sometimes? It's interacting just for the sake of a bit of added humanity - & it always leaves me feel refreshed & refilled.
Afterward, I walked "home" the long way & sat alone in my verrrry tiny hotel room (it's got a twin bed), watching The Resident& 9-1-1on Hulu while writing blog posts & catching up on emails - & I felt much better about it than if I'd come right back to the room & stayed in for the night. If I hadn't ventured out solo - or if I'd scheduled every single moment of this trip - I wouldn't have met Tanya & Kat, wouldn't have gotten to interact with kind strangers, to hear about other people's lives, to get that dose of energy that comes with taking in other people's stories.
It was such a surprisingly nice night, just what I needed - without a plan in sight.
People say New Yorkers are mean, but repeated experiences here have shown me that they're not. If anything, I sometimes think New Yorkers are lonelier than the rest of us - that in a city so crammed with people & places & sights & smells & sounds & everything else that overwhelms & assaults the senses, they learn to excel at the art of shutting out the world around them.
When they let their guard down, though, & let the world back in, well - let's just say that tonight, Manhattan's friendliness made this chatty Midwesterner feel right at home.