Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Cleveland- The Good Stuff

Every year is filled with hits and misses, positives and negatives, successes and failures.  But today, the last day of 2011 I want to reflect on what went right this past year so I can enter 2012 on a positive and cheery note. (And, I guess not all of these things happened in Cleveland, but they all happened to a Clevelander!)

In 2011 I...

  • partied with and made new friends when I spent NYE in Las Vegas
  • was recalled to my job
  • met a guy and had a fun couple of months going on unique dates
  • went on a road trip to IKEA with a coworker
  • got my first coach purse
  • saw my cousin get "hooded" as she finished veterinary school
  • went to Missouri and spent a week with some of the best people in the world with
  • partied with my ladies on Kelley's Island for an awesome bachelorette party
  • attended a rocking wedding at the House of Blues
  • travelled to St. Joseph Michigan to see my big cousin get hitched
  • was the maid of honor in my lil cousin's wedding
  • witnessed a friend of 16 years marry the love of her life 
  • attended my first professional conference in Chicago! NCTE 2011!
  • shared a family holiday with a boyfriend for the first time
  • applied for and registered for grad school
  • maintained three blogs
  • went completely dairy free
  • performed twice in front of my entire school as part of the all staff group "the pepettes"
  • helped my special ed students perform and film Hamlet
  • got a Droid
  • adopted Titus (my adorable new kitty!)
  • read 14 books!
What went right for you in 2011?  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone had a very happy holiday with their family and friends.  As we gear up for the new year I am starting to think about what my goals/resolutions are going to be.  Stay tuned to find out!

In other news I got one of the things, a Glee soundtrack from my Santa wish list and several other things that I didn't ask for but appreciate none the less, including pajamas for my kitten!  I got one big ticket item unexpectedly from my parents but I'll save the surprise till I have a picture to show you.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Graduate School... My Next Endeavor

Immediately following undergrad I wanted to stay on my parent's medical insurance and consider my career options so I enrolled in several classes at Cleveland State University in counseling and education.  I enjoyed the counseling classes a lot and seriously considered going for my school and clinical counseling degree/licenses.  Then, I found a master's program at The Ohio State University for English Education which sounded perfect for me.  I applied immediately but due to some mix ups on my part and on theirs I was non-degree seeking for the three courses I took (one a quarter) for the year. By the end of the year I'd been accepted I was a bit disillusioned by the process and felt like I needed to return to Cleveland.  I will say though, I felt I held my own quite well in English classes filled with PhD candidates and students persuing their Master's in English.  It hit me, that I perhaps was more equipped to handle a tougher program than I initially thought.  The following fall I was substitute teaching and, since I'd never not been enrolled in school since the fall of 1989 I decided to take a few online classes at CSU.  I did not like those classes so I decided to take a break from graduate school after acquiring approximately 23 credit hours.

Cut to today.  At times I am in love with my job and incredibly fulfilled by it.  But other times, unfortunately more often than I care to admit, I am fearful for my job security and reminded that I am not using all of my skills and talents as a teacher when I am performing my duties as a classroom aide.  After attending the National Council of Teacher's of English convention a few weeks ago I was renewed with this drive to find a teaching position and do what I do best; teach English!  Coupled with uncertainty about my current position being around past this year I have decided it is time to reconsider graduate school.

For a few months now I've been weighing my options.  Should I finish a master's in counseling?  Get my special education license because that seems the only way to get hired?  Perhaps a master's degree in English )which is what private/independent schools prefer, can help you get chosen for AP/Advanced English positions, and gives you the option of teaching at the community college) is the best option.  There are certainly pros and cons to each.  After looking at several programs, considering my career aspirations, and evaluating the costs I think I have finally made my decision.

I am going to apply for the English Master's program at John Carroll University.  When it comes down to it I enjoy the English classes I take more than I do the education courses.  I feel more stimulated and inspired by them.  I still am really interested in counseling, but the job prospects are just as dim if not dimmer in that field so I'm not sure it would really help me in the long run.  While the special education certification may land me a job I'm afraid it's just not where my passion lies.  I have a soft spot for my students who have special needs but unfortunately I think that with a special education license I could end up having to teach more than just English and honestly I am not interested in that!  I really want to teach English and I think an MA in English will help me do that.  Not only may I still be able to work with high school students but I will be qualified to teach at the community college level.  There is a lot of appeal to teaching at that level and I think it would provide a unique challenge for me.

Earlier this week I finished the online part of the application.  Today I requested my transcripts from all of my previous universities.  Tomorrow I will be getting at least one of my recommendations and hopefully finalizing my statement of intent.  Ideally I will apply by the 17th which I believe is the deadline for spring quarter.  If things go according to plan I'd like to take one course, to get back in the swing of things, this spring.  Here's hoping, as well, that at least two of the courses I took at OSU will transfer!

Wish me luck!  Any advice as I finish up my application?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New Goal: Saving Money

In general I am a thrifty person- I pride myself on my ability to find great deals on things.  I never pay full price!  But, that doesn't mean I still don't spend.  I just tend to get more for my money.  I've decided that I need to try to curb that spending for the next couple of weeks in preparation for the holidays!  I know I will be going out more, buying gifts etc, so my goal is to save as much money as possible and or make some extra cash.

Here is my plan:

1.  Keep posting on my blog- as when people visit and check out the ads I make a small commission.

2.  Collect all my spare change and cash it in to coinstar for gift cards or something similar.

3.  Sort through my clothing and sell things I don't wear that are in good condition to either Clothes Mentor (Plato's Closet for adults) or consign them.  - Please let me know of any good consignment shops in the area.

4.  Use coupons, shop for groceries, and avoid the fast food places.

5.  Avoid going to the mall.

6.  Use when shopping online so that I can earn cash back on everything I spend! Seriously, I was dubious at first but all you have to do is sign up and use their site as a portal to all the normal places you shop online (Old Navy, Shutterfly, Macy's, Groupon etc) and they give you a percentage back in the form of a check every 3 months.  My first check from them was less than 10 dollars, but I don't do a lot of online shopping.  I do have plans to order some gifts from Shutterfly though so Ca-Ching, it will be a little more money in my pocket.

What are your best money saving/making tips? Oh- and help me out- visit one of the ads!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dear Santa 2011

As I've been surfing the interwebs I keep seeing things I want, so I figured it's time to write my letter to Santa.

Dear Santa,

I have been a very good girl this year and I'm hoping you can get me a few things:

1.  Scrabble: Alphabet Scoop

2.  Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith

What are you eyeing this Christmas?

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Challenge Update #1-2

I know I'm late, but here are the first two weeks of my shirt challenge.  I have not included the weekends because frankly, it's a lot harder to get pictures of.  I might just take pictures of the tops on hangers instead of on my body.  

Week 1- Tuesday thru Friday

Week 2- Monday thru Friday

I'm really enjoying this project so far... it might be a little more of a struggle at the conference later this week but we shall see!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Restaurant Review: B-Spot (Crocker Park)

Last night my date Mike took me to B-spot at Crocker Park.  This is the third full-fledged location of Michael Symon's burger spot.  For those of you not in the know, Michael Symon is Cleveland's resident Iron Chef!  We got to the restaurant a little after nine following a movie and were seated immediately.  The place was filled, but not over-crowded.  Our waiter was very prompt and though it took us a few minutes to decide on what we wanted to eat our food came in less than 10 minutes after we ordered.

Mike ordered the Shroomage which had portabella mushrooms, blue cheese, Lola steak sauce, and griddled onions on it.  At one point he commented that the blue cheese was rather strong but that certainly didn't stop him from eating the entire burger.  I ordered the Thin Lizzy which comes with griddled onions, cheddar, mayo, and pickles.  Again, due to my dairy issues I asked for no cheddar.  The waiter offered to add something on instead so I asked for lettuce and tomato.  My burger was cooked a perfect medium, just as I asked.  It was very juicy and tastey- albeit a bit on the messy side.  We also shared an order of Lola Fries which were thin cut fries with rosemary and salt.  I liked them a lot.   Mike and I both ordered Pepsi but it should be noted they have some delicious sounding cocktails and offer what they call "bad a**" milkshakes that can be made "adult" by adding different liquors.  Last night was definitely one of the times I really missed being able to have dairy.

The ambiance was great.  The place was casual but not too casual.  Stainless steel, wood, and a few spots of color were all part of the decor.  On our table, and I believe all of the tables was a full roll of paper towels (ingenious if you ask me) and a basket of condiments.  There was a young fun feel that made me feel right at home.  Oh, and their prices are very reasonable!  The cheapest burgers go for $6 and the most expensive burger is $11.

I would definitely recommend B-Spot to anyone.  It'd be a great place to grab a bite with friends, or like we did, on a date.  Enjoy!


Here's the info for all of their locations:

Crocker Park- 20 Main Street- Westlake, OH 44145

Eton- 28699 Chagrin Boulevard- Woodmere, OH 44122

Strongsville- 18066 Royalon Road- Strongsville, OH 44146

The "Q"- Downtown Cleveland (Only open during Cavs games)
B Spot Burgers on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Challenge

As I was frantically cleaning my apartment the other day in anticipation of a realtor visiting I realized something... I have a ton of clothes.  Yet, I tend to wear the same 10 tops or so over and over again.  So starting yesterday (November 1st) I am seeing how long I can go without re wearing the same top.  I'm having a coworker take a picture of me each day so that I can document the process.  I plan on lasting at least the month- but I may be able to go even further.  I'm going to do my best to not buy any new tops during this experiment as well... though I may bend that rule when I attend a conference in Chicago that is just a mile away from all the Michigan Ave shopping.

Stay tuned, on Fridays I will post my outfits from the work week.  On Sundays I will post my weekend outfits.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Free in Cleveland: The Cleveland Zoo

Many people know this, but some may not.  The Cleveland Zoo is FREE on Mondays!  And, the Rainforest is available at a reduced rate!  This would be a fun unique date or outing with friends!

Here's how it works: (taken from

On Mondays, the Zoo (not including The RainForest) is FREE for residents of Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township.* From Memorial Day through Labor Day, if Monday is an observed holiday, free Zoo admission applies on Tuesday instead. If you qualify for free Zoo-only admission on Mondays, tickets for The RainForest may be purchased at the following rates: Adults (12 and older) are $5.00, Children (2-11) are $3.00, and Children under 2 are free.
*To confirm your residency, bring your driver's license or state I.D. or a current utility bill with your Cuyahoga Cty. or Hinckley Twp. address along with a photo ID.

Are you going to wild out at the zoo this fall? Haha... like my play on words?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Envy Salon

A few months ago I bought a Groupon for a shellac mani and a pedicure from Envy Salon in Rocky River.  I saved it until right before my cousin's wedding so I could have some extra pampering!  I feel horrible, I forget my nail technician's name but she was great.  Friendly, fast, and talented.  I hadn't had any sort of manicure since I was 13 and my last pedicure was about 10-11 months ago!  I couldn't have been happier.  Here is what my manicure looked like 3 full weeks after having it done... (I forgot to take a picture of my toes, but they held up very nicely.)

Other than growing out, they were PERFECT.  Now I'm a little addicted to the idea of having nice nails... I'd definitely recommend Envy Salon's Shellac manicures.  It is located in the Westwood Town Center near the movie theater!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Free in Cleveland: Lakewood's Friday Night Flick's

As a child my family and I would walk up the street to Lakewood Park a few times a summer to see the Friday Night Flick!  It's a great family event and each week a different movie rated G or PG is shown.  Here's the schedule for the rest of the summer!

July 8 ~ Despicable Me (PG) at Lakewood Park
July 22 ~ Yogi Bear (PG) at Lakewood Park
July 29 ~ RV (PG) at Lakewood Park
August 12 ~ Toy Story 3 (G) at Madison Park
August 13~ Finding Nemo (G) at Foster Pool in Lakewood Park (Dive-In Movie)

In the event of inclement weather, movies will be shown at in the Lakewood City Hall Auditorium, 12650 Detroit Avenue, at 8:00 p.m. To find out if a movie has been moved indoors., tune into Lakewood Radio 1660 AM, call (216) 529-6650 after 5:00 PM or visit

(all information taken from the blog at

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Free in Cleveland: Wade Oval Wednesdays

Looking for a fun Wednesday night out?  Check out Wade Oval Wednesdays.  At University Circle on the green space every Wednesday from 6-9 is a free concert!  Each week features a different group with a different style of music!  On select weeks they offer free family friendly movies as well.  This is a great event for families, couples, or groups of friends.  Pack a dinner and make it a night.  You might even want to come early and check out a museum before the concert starts.

I went last night and had a great time with a couple of friends and their family.  I was surprised to see such a large turn out.  The crowd was very diverse and was great for people watching.  I discovered upon arrival that you are permitted to bring wine/beer/libations along with your picnic dinners which is neat.  There were several food vendors set up as well selling anything from noodle bowls to gyros to hamburgers and hot dogs.  I enjoyed a freshly made freshly squeezed lemonade like you get at a county fair!  Mmmm delicious. 

There is meter parking on the streets in the area and plenty of lot parking as well, but head up early for the best spots.  My friend and I parked at the Severance Hall garage which was a short walk away and cost us 5 dollars for 2.5 hrs. 

Here's the schedule for the rest of the summer!

July 13*
Speedbumps (Indie Rock)
July 20*
Please note schedule change: New Barleycorn (Irish Celtic)
*Movie Night: The Karate Kid
July 27
Chris Allen & the Guilty Hearts with Austin “Walking” Cane (Alternative Rock)
August 3*
Carlos Jones & The P.L.U.S. Band (Reggae)
August 10
Mo’ Mojo (Zydeco Jam Band)
August 17: GREEN WOW
Cats on Holiday (Rockabilly/ Swamp Rock)
*Movie Night: Wall-E

August 24
Son Gitano (Latin/Salsa/Rumba/Flamenco/Merengue)
August 31
Sultans of Bing (Rock and Roll)
*PNC Grow Up Great Mobile Learning Adventure will be onsite. For more information, click here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Free in Cleveland: The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival

As I am now on a tight budget, and in general am a frugal person I've been looking into free things to do in Cleveland for the summer.  Here is a great one!  The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival!  Each summer this group puts on two Shakespearean classics for free at various outdoor venues.  I remember going several times as a child but haven't gone in recent years.

This summer they are doing Othello and Love's Labour's Lost.  Othello is being done in the traditional fashion but Love's Labour's Lost is being put on in an abridged and gender-reversed manner which should be interesting.  This would be a great date!  Pack a picnic dinner or go out to eat before or after! Here's their schedule for the rest of the summer:

July 9th Othello
July 10th Love's Labour's Lost 
Lakewood Park

July 16th Othello
July 17th Love's Labour's Lost
Shaker Hts. Colonnade

July 23rd Othello
July 24th Love's Labour's Lost
Lorain County Community College Stocker Center for the Arts

July 30th Othello
July 31st Love's Labour's Lost
The Kulas Stage at Wade Oval 

August 6th Othello
August 7th Love's Labour's Lost at Lincoln Park

Curtain for all shows is 7pm.

Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets and seat themselves prior to each outdoor performance.  Rain spaces have been secured for every venue except Wade Oval, allowing performances to proceed, rain or shine. (Taken from The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival website)

Stay tuned for other free activities posts and reviews!  What other fun free things do you like to do in the summer?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Date Night in Cleveland

The Warehouse District has come together to present Friday night Date Nights at 14 restaurants in Downtown Cleveland.  Each of the restaurant offers either $59 or $89 (or both) price fixe menus for two.  Ampco parking is offering $3 parking and nearby hotels are offering special rates.

Whose participating?

Barley House, Blue Point Grille, Brasa Grill Steakhouse, Cleveland ChopHouse, D'Vine Wine Bar, Johnny's Downtown, John Q's Steakhouse, Mallorca, Nauti Mermaid, Osteria di Valerio, Sushi Rock,  Waterstreet Grill, XO Prime Steaks , Zdara

For all the details and to check out all the menus go to:

Make sure to look at the menus because some definitely seem like better deals than others.  Some include more courses, alcohol etc.

This promotion is running till Labor Day!  Enjoy!  Happy dating everyone!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Speed Dating Tips and Tricks!

So the results are in, out of 15 men, 14 of them indicated that they were interested in me.  I feel bad that I wasn't interested in more of them, but alas that's how the cookie crumbles.  I don't want to toot my own horn, but I think I did a few things that led to this number of dates wanting to spend more time with me.

Ladies, listen up- maybe these things will work for you too:

1.  I dressed cute with a touch of "sexy."  I wore a black top, skinny jeans, red patent leather heels, and a tan blazer.  A few guys told me I looked nice, and I think the red shoes gave them something to remember me by.

2.  Even when I wasn't 100 percent interested I made a conscious effort to keep smiling.  It had been a very long day and I was exhausted, but I tried very hard not to let it show.

3.  I shook everyone's hands, immediately, and with a firm grip.

4.  I tried to let them do most of the talking.  I of course answered all of their questions but always brought it back to them.

5.  I kept it light.  Laughing and joking is good.

Now, unfortunately some of the guy did not do these things... so here's some advice as to what guys SHOULD NOT DO when speed dating- or dating in general.

1.  Do not wear a "free" t-shirt (you know what I mean, those XXL shirts that get handed out on college campuses and sporting events) and have it tucked into outdated jeans.

2.  Do not start the date by speaking in a foreign language. (Didn't happen to me, but did to a friend.)

3.  Do not mention that in your free time your favorite hobby is playing with your two cats.  (I like cats but I hope you have more interesting hobbies. - again this didn't happen to me but to a friend.)

4.  Don't have a weak handshake.  You're a man, shake hands like one.

5.  Do not reference your ex-wife.  Especially do not reference her more than 3 times in a 3 minute date.

6.  Do not interrupt other people's conversations.

Have you tried speed dating? Would you?  What advice do you have for daters?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sara Goes Speed Dating...

Last night I crossed something off of my "bucket list."  I went speed dating

My friend and I arrived at D'vine Wine Bar downtown around 7pm.  When we signed in a coworker of mine was there and scored me free entrance*! (Pre-pay is $35, at the door is $40!)  We were each given a name tag with a number on it and a folder that held a sheet on which we could write down each of our "dates" and whether we wanted to have further contact with them, along with any other notes to help us remember everyone.  After sitting around looking at the people that were showing up it was announced that the dating was about to commence.  After one last fist bump with my wing woman I took my place at table #2.

As I sat at my table nervously, I watched men come and sit at all the other tables but alas, table #1 and I were left man-less.  I commented to the woman sitting next to me, "I can't believe I'm getting stood up at a speed date!"  She laughed and agreed.  While all the couples around us began their first three minute round she and I conversed with each other- good practice for our upcoming dates.  The three minutes went by quickly and soon my new friend found herself with a date, while I sat dateless again.  Throughout the first half of the speed date I had about 4 dateless sessions, but the other dateless girls and I got together to chat.  There was a pretty decent sense of camaraderie throughout the event.

Finally, at round three, I had a date.  I'll call this one TD.  TD sat down at the table and was immediately smiling and shook my hand.  I was nervous, not quite sure how to start.  Luckily he took the lead- though I could tell he is a little shy too.  He asked me about why I was speed dating and what I do for a living.  I in return asked the same.  We didn't get too deep into anything, and at the end of our three minutes I decided that while he was nice he just wasn't the guy for me and I circled my first "no" of the evening.

The mix of men that I met was very interesting.  There were guys who were still in college or had recently graduated to men who worked at banks, worked for NASA, or who were divorced.  There were tall guys, shorter guys, bald guys, cute guys, fat guys, skinny guys, red heads, blondes, and everything in between!  I definitely felt like I was attracted to the guys who were confident from the get go and didn't seem to be relying on me to lead the conversation. 

Later in the evening, after the 10 minute break we were granted, I felt I really hit my stride.  I was being more friendly, didn't only focus on what people did for a living, and felt more relaxed.  It was during the second half that I met "Forge".  During our three minutes all we discussed was my hobbies (reading and photography) and our mutual enjoyment of travel.  Forge smiled the entire time, held his own in the conversation, and seemed to be enjoying himself.  He was one of my 4 yes votes! 

People might see that out of 15 or so guys I only said yes to 4 and take that to mean that it was a waste of time.  I don't think that is the case at all.  I had a great time, and most of my "no's" were still really nice guys, just not what I thought would be a good fit for me.  If I were a guy I'd look at the forty dollars as being way cheaper than taking 20 girls on 20 first dates! 

After the event was over my friends and I stayed and chatted with a few of the guys we found interesting before heading home.  It was nice to get a little more conversation out of people.  While I was talking to Forge some more, another guy, who I'd like to call "Orange" came up and stood by us.  When "Forge" asked him if he needed something he said, "I just came to listen to Sara tell stories."  We both smiled awkwardly and I responded, "I do tell really awesome stories" and then continued on with my conversation.  He ended up quietly slipping away taking his awkward social skills with him. 

If you're thinking of speed dating do it.  It was fun and an interesting way to spend a Tuesday evening.  And who knows, maybe you'll be like another coworker of mine and meet your future spouse at the event!  I'll update you all when I get my email telling me who was interested in me!  I will also be writing a post of "tips" for speed dating... especially what guys should and shouldn't do...

*Even though I got in for free it had nothing to do with me writing this post as neither the coworker nor the woman running the event knew that I would be talking about it on this blog.  It was just a surprise perk!

Monday, May 9, 2011

In Sara's Kitchen- Bruschetta

There is one dish that I make for almost all family get togethers- Bruschetta.  It's amazing and I honestly think it's better than any restaurant's around!   I decided to be generous and share a step by step guide to making my amazing go to appetizer!

Things you need before you start...
Salt, Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic Cloves, French Baguette (sliced), Olive Oil, Baking Pan, Knife, Cutting Board

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

2.  Take a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

3.  After drizzling with olive oil sprinkle with salt- sea salt is best, but if all you have is regular salt in a pig shaped salt shaker- it will do.
4.  Take the slices of baguette and place them on the baking sheet.  Move each one back and forth a few times to get some oil and salt on them, then flip them and do the same to the other side.  Leave sitting while you start the next steps. (you may need two baking sheets- or to reuse this one)

5.  Take your basil and remove the stems.  Then chop up as finely as you'd like.  I use a whole packet of basil from the grocery store.  Place in a bowl.
6.  Cut your tomatoes in half and de-seed them.  The drier your ingredients are the better as it keeps the bread from getting nasty and soggy.  Dice your tomatoes into approximately 1 centimeter cubes.  This time I used one and a half large tomatoes.  I would have used more, but I dropped one half into my dirty sink. (ooops)
7.  Stick the pan of bread in the oven (leave for around 5 minutes).  Mix tomatoes with the basil.
8.  Take several cloves of garlic- depending on how garlicy you want it- or how likely you are to make out with someone later.  I used 3 in this recipe.  Mince.  DO NOT SUBSTITUTE WITH PRE-MINCED GARLIC- THAT'S GROSS AND CHEATING!  Fresh garlic is the only way to go.  
(Sorry, I forgot a picture of the minced garlic.)

9.  Take the bread out of the oven.  Turn each piece over and put it back in (3-5 minutes) Add the garlic to the garlic and tomato!  Taste, if it seems good then leave it.  If not, add more garlic- or basil, or tomato. 

10.  Remove the bread from the oven.  Let cool.  Spoon the tomato, basil, garlic mixture onto each piece of bread (this is best to be done immediately before serving, and when the bread is already on the serving platter.)  

This batch made enough for 20 pieces.  I had enough bread for more- and could have done more with a little more tomato and garlic.  It took me just shy of 30 minutes to complete this.  If I had better knife skills, and knives in general I could probably do it in 15-20.

A variation- that is very tasty but no longer an option for me is to add fresh mozzarella cheese!  Don't bother with dry shredded mozzarella.  If you want to add cheese, after you take the bread out of the oven the first time lay a slice of mozzarella on each piece of bread before sticking it back in.  Leave in till melted, then remove.  In this case I do not let it cool before adding the topping- but still encourage people to eat immediately so there is a contrast between the hot cheese and cool topping.  So delicious.

I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sara Thinks...

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. ~Souza
 A few days ago I was reading a post on Wedding Bee and saw this quote.  It struck me, because several times lately I have told friends that I feel as if I'm in "limbo" and am "waiting for my life to start."  As I've searched for a steady job in my chosen career and for a steady relationship I've felt that when I find these things I will finally be an "adult."  My life will begin.  
This, is stupid. 
The random jobs I've had, if even for a year have been a part of my life.  They have helped form my life.  
The numerous first dates?  The short term relationships?  They've taught me a lot and have provided me with some pretty fun experiences.  Movies, plays, music, restaurants all that I might not have seen.  
I need to stop waiting and just enjoy what my life is now.  Of course I will keep pursuing my things, but I can also be satisfied with where I am now.  I can at least recognize that this is my life- imperfections and all, and THAT is O.K.  
Enjoying life, in the moment, on my last day at my first school of the year.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Restaurant Review: Angelo's Pizza

On Wednesday night The Dude and I went to dinner at Angelo's to utilize his Groupon!  I was excited to have their deep dish pizza (without cheese) but when I ordered it the waitress delivered some terrible news!  It turns out Angelo's puts cheese in their sauce!!  I'm glad she thought to tell me but I was still very disappointed.  I went with my second choice and ordered their Philly Steak sandwich that has Steak, Provolone Cheese, Mushrooms, Onions and Green Pepper.  I of course asked for it without the cheese, and as I dislike cooked mushrooms without those as well.  

This sandwich was AMAZING.  The meat was tender and flavorful and had a great ratio in comparison to the pepper and onion.  The roll that it was served on was toasted and had just the right amount of crunch.  It was served with a sauce that reminded me of cucumber sauce from a gyro- I didn't think to ask exactly what it was.  It was a sour cream-y sauce, and so I used only a little- which was stupid as I still ended up with a slight lump in my throat.    

The Dude got a deep dish pizza with pepperoni, banana peppers, and mushrooms.  He said he didn't like the mushrooms since they tasted canned, but enjoyed the pizza overall.  

I'd revisit Angelo's anytime, and since I have a Groupon of my own I will do so sooner than later!  

Angelo's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Things I want to Do in Cleveland- Part 1

Do you ever feel like there are tons of things that you say, "Oh, I want to do that" and then never do?  I feel as if I'm always saying that and then promptly forgetting what those things are.  In light of this realization I'd like to make a list of some of the things I'd like to do in Cleveland- either for the first time, or to revisit.

1.  The Natural History Museum
2.  Walk around Little Italy
3.  Hike in the Metroparks
4.  Eat at Niko's on Detroit
5.  Eat at Palookaville Chili (when it opens- which should be soon)
6.  Eat at one of Michael Symon's restaurants
7.  Go to the West Side Market
8.  Pier W's Happy Hour
9.  Momocho's Happy Hour
10.  The Zoo

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Restaurant Review: Momocho

Last Saturday The Dude and I met up with two of his friends and their ladies for dinner at Momocho in Ohio City!  I hadn't been there in three years so I was super excited to go.  Apparently we had the time wrong and everyone else had to wait for a half hour.  While there were waiting they ordered the smoke trout guacamole with bacon and chile poblanos along with the blue cheese guacamole with garlic confit and chile verde.  I decided to be brave and try the smoked trout.  I'm not normally a fan of smoked things, but I enjoyed this guac a lot.  Of course, due to my dairy allergy I could not try the bleu cheese version.

To drink I ordered a pomegranate margarita, on the rocks, with salt.  Nom, nom, nom so good.  It tasted like a margarita with just the right amount of pomegranate flavor.  Next time I go I'll have to try a new flavor.

For my entree I had the grilled hanger steak taquito.  The steak was great and I asked for a side of the original guac to go with it.  The tortillas that came with were my one complaint.  First off mine all had a weird slice in them so they were falling apart.  Secondly their edges were very hard- as in too hard to eat.  Others at the table had no problems, so I'm not sure what happened to mine.  Overall the food was great and I can't wait to return!

Momocho Mod Mex on Urbanspoon

Around Town...

 Here are a few pretty cool things going on in the next few days in Cleveland!  I'm on Spring Break so I'm looking at all sorts of fun things to do!  Any suggestions?

March 24- April 3 The Cleveland Film Festival- Tower City Cinemas

March  27 C-Town Chow Down- A Convoy of Cleveland's Finest Food Truck- Lincoln Park, Tremont

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Entertainment Review: Play House Square- The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

On the 12th after our fabulous dinner at Bricco my date- henceforth referred to as "The Dude"- took me to The Hanna Theater at Play House Square in downtown Cleveland to see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).  First off, from the time he ordered the tickets our experience was fantastic.  After ordering the tickets he received an email intended to help us plan our entire night downtown.  It included helpful links about the show, activities they host surrounding the show on varying nights, information about parking, and a comprehensive list of places to either eat or get drinks before or after any of their performances.  I thought this was a great touch that helped get us excited about our upcoming visit.

I had not been to the theater district since the winter of 07/08 to see Wicked.   And I'd forgotten what a cute little area it is.  The Palace and Ohio Theaters were the first two we saw after parking and they had bright marquees that seemed so "big city" to me.  There were several nice looking restaurants and casual eateries and the vibe was great.  Around the corner from the bigger theaters was The Hanna which also boasted it's own marquee.

Having printed our tickets at home we were able to go directly to our seats which were in the first row of the balcony slightly stage left.  We could see the stage perfectly.  The play was super engaging from the get go.  The three actors did a fantastic job of being high energy while going through all 37 of Shakespeare's plays in 2 hours.  There were tons of Cleveland specific references from the Indians, to LeBron, to Tom Hanks (he acted in the Great Lakes Theater Festival for 3 years back in the late 1970's when it was located at the Civic Auditorium in Lakewood- coincidentally I performed there for several years in high school :) )  I was laughing out loud for the majority of the show, and my only complaint was based on my own lack of knowledge of Shakespeare's comedies- the tragedies are covered so much more thoroughly in school. 

The Dude also seemed to enjoy it.  He had said this was his first visit to the theater in his adult life.  He commented that it seems as if it'd be a good idea to be a season ticket holder as they seem to put on a variety of shows that would appeal to a wide range of people.  I concurred.

In short, this show is going on for 7 more days, and you should try try try to see it!  I would say it would appeal to any one with a decent knowledge of Shakespeare's plays, and who is in their 20's to 30's as many of the jokes included pop culture references referring to Facebook, Jersey Shore (I think) and other such things.  If you go let me know how you like it.  And remember, the theater doesn't have to be an expensive night out.  Playhouse square offers Smart Seats for $10 or $20 dollars to many of their shows- though look in advance because it seems like they sell out fast!

What are your favorite shows to see?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Restaurant Review: Bricco (Downtown Cleveland)

Last night I was treated to a wonderful meal at Bricco in the theater district downtown.  We did not have reservations but had heard, rightfully so, that they maintain a few tables to be first come first serve and we were seated after sitting for about 15 minutes at the bar. (We arrived at approximately 5:45pm)  Their menu is rather extensive with a nice sized appetizer section, several types of pizza, a few salads, a large pasta section and, their entrees.   The interior was split into three sections- one side had table cloths and a bit more of an upscale vibe.  In the middle was the bar area, and on the other side was a slightly more casual area where we sat.  The tables were some sort of brushed aluminum, and it still had a very nice atmosphere.

Our server was very prompt and helpful.  After we ordered she brought us a basket of bread and butter.  This is the one place during the meal I was disappointed.  The bread did not seem fresh and was a bit heavy for my taste.  Finally our meals came.  I had ordered the grilled sirloin steak.  It was supposed to come with a smoked mozzarella potato cake, in addition to a sesame truffle vinaigrette and fresh vegetable- but as I'm allergic to dairy I asked for the potato cake to be substituted.  The waitress suggested substituting with orzo, which I'd never had, and I agreed to try it.  I'm so glad I did.  The orzo was prepared plainly with just a little butter or olive oil and was delicious.  My steak was a very nice size and was prepared a perfect medium rare as ordered.  I even ate a few of my green beans, the fresh vegetable of the day, which were nice and crisp and sprinkled with sea salt.

My generous dinner date ordered the grilled maple glazed center cut pork chop with a sweet potato risotto cake and fresh vegetable, much to my chagrin.  (Pigs are my favorite animal- so I rarely consume them!)  He said that it was very good and commented that the maple glaze made him feel like he was eating breakfast.  He also ordered the half wedge salad and enjoyed that as well.

After eating at Bricco we both agreed we would gladly return.  It was the perfect spot for a nice date.  Immediately after dinner we headed to the Hanna Theater for a show- a review of which is forthcoming!

Bricco on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 11, 2011

March- My Goal Progress

First of all I must apologize, I never fully recapped my February of happiness.  So I'll leave you with this there were only 7 or 9 days that I didn't do anything outside of work or hanging alone that I didn't do anything the entire month.  Some days I did two or three things.  I found myself quite happy at the end of the month- and am still writing down what makes me happy every single day. 

This brings us back to my March goal of preparing for Job Search 2011.  Today I decided I had to stop postponing things and requested letters of reference from a ton of people I work with.  I'm still at a loss as to what to do about my cover letter and resume.  I need a basic body for my cover letter that can be tweaked if there are any major differences in my job.  But how do I show how AWESOME I am at teaching in a short letter or on a one page resume?  Is it possible?  I know I'm good, great even.  I LOVE teaching, it's important to me, and I cannot wait to find myself in front of my own classroom again getting kids to learn and maybe even like literature- from the classics to new inspiring young adult lit. 

It's been hard to be inspired about teaching as I keep hearing acquaintances, some friends, and the media talk about teachers in a somewhat negative way.  There are perks to being a teacher too- but there is a lot of things that we do that no one ever recognizes.  The extra hours before and after school, the original worksheets and assignments that we create specifically for classes, the hours and hours of grading on the weekends, the money we spend so that our students have pens, pencils, and paper.  The general public doesn't know that even when I'm sitting on my couch watching The Office, I'm also googling lesson ideas, printing out worksheets, researching teaching methods and more.  At my current job I get spit on, cussed at, and am at risk of injury daily.  In fact one of my coworkers recently got a concussion.  This isn't to complain- I like my job a lot, it's to point out that we go through a lot more than people realize, and I think deserve to be treated with a bit more respect because we are well educated professionals, just like private sector employees. 

Anyone with any ideas on how to translate my passion into words and put it into a cover letter please let me know.  Even as an English teacher I sometimes struggle with finding the right words to get my point across. 

Are you searching for a job too?  Any tips or tricks?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mini Review: The Plank Road Tavern

Last Thursday my coworkers and I ventured to The Plank Road Tavern in Lakewood.  It's located at the corner of Lauderdale and Detroit in the old Panini's.  I was of course, starving when I got there and decided to order the friend pickles and onion rings.  They were DELICIOUS.  I also had a hard cider.  I don't remember if there were any drink deals or what have you so I will have to go back to do a full review.  I will say the interior has been changed drastically and it looks great.  I'm excited to revisit sometime in the future.

Plank Road Tavern on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Weekend of the Groupon

I suppose the title of this post is a bit misleading because really it was a weekend filled with Groupons AND  Living Social deals! 

First on Friday I attended the Lake Erie Monster's game down at The Q.  My date had stolen my idea and bought a Living Social deal to get two $28.75 tickets for $12 each!  That's a savings of $33.50!!  Then, on Sunday we went to see The Adjustment Bureau at Crocker Park using a Groupon where I got 2 Fandango tickets for $9.  This ended up saving me $9.50!! And after the movie we went to TGIFriday's where I used another Groupon that had cost me $10 for a $20 certificate thus saving me $10.  Total savings for the weekend: $53 dollars between the two of us!  I saved just under $20 on my own.

I'm signing up for every deal website I can find, and I'm trying to be careful to only buy deals that I know I will use and are in line with my lifestyle already.  Here are some links to local deal sites for Cleveland.

Living Social- Cleveland

Groupon- Cleveland Cleveland

Daily Deal Cleveland

What are some of the best deals you've found?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March- A New Month, A New Goal

I will do a final recap of my February goal soon, but today is the first day of March so I feel the need to get a new goal down in writing. 

While at work today I thought about this a lot... what do I need to change in my life.  I came up with several thing I think I could work on, but I think some are more pressing than others.  So here is my goal for March:

Prepare for Job Search 2011

Unfortunately this has to be a more serious goal than perhaps my last two have been.  Yet the reality is my job is in jeopardy for next year, and right around now is when job postings start popping up for area school districts, and I have to be ready.  I'm tired of searching for a new job every spring.  I graduated college five years ago, and this certainly isn't where I thought I'd be career wise.  So this time I'm coming out "guns blazing."  I'm starting from scratch. 

Instead of just updating my resume I'm redoing it now.  After last year and this year's positions I have a lot more real world experience to highlight.  I'm rewriting my cover letter from scratch. (Does anyone else find cover letters super awkward?)  I'm creating a website that highlights my experiences and skills as a teacher- an online portfolio if you will. 

I know that I am good at what I do.  Now I just have to convince everyone else of this.  If any of you have creative ideas to make me stand out from the crowd please let me know.  Any tips, tricks, and suggestions are very very welcome!

Do you have your dream job?  If so how did you find it?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Flowers Make Me Happy

Flowers, in my favorite color, definitely make me happy.  As did the great company and live music that followed.  
Being happy is proving to be pretty easy this February!

Sara Dating Tip for Men: Flowers while not necessary are ALWAYS appreciated by a woman and may just win you some bonus points!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Hour Happenings #3: The Ice House

 On Thursday I went, per usual, to Happy Hour with my coworkers.  This week we went to The Ice House on Brookpark Rd.  We went there two weeks ago as well but I didn't review so I'm combining my experiences into this post.

Now here's the dirt on The Ice House's Thursday Happy Hour:

Drink Deals:
Margaritas were on special for $2- they were small but decently strong.  I believe there were draft beer deals as well, but forgot to make note of exactly what they were.

Food Deals:
We all ordered their $1.50 tacos.  Oh so good.  They fry up their own tortillas for the shells and give you a choice between mild and hot.  I chose mild but heard that the hot aren't that hot and really just add a little jalapeno to the tacos.  One thing that I like about their tacos a lot is that they add fresh diced tomato instead of canned salsa.  I love tomato.  I think that these are my favorite tacos!

I have also ordered their beef hot dog- super big, juicy and delicious. One of the ladies I was with ordered a basket of fries and those were really delicious too.  Their prices on their whole menu are really reasonable and tastey!

The Atmosphere:
When we first got there the bar had only a few other customers.  A few hours later (we were there 4-8) the place filled up.  There was plenty of room though.  It seemed like the were short on servers and it took us quite awhile to get our bills.

Overall I really enjoy this spot and am sure I will be making more trips there.

What other Happy Hour spots should I try?!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Be Happy: It's working

2/3 shopping and dinner with my mom
2/5 "Dress Up Your Heart" cocktail party and fashion show at Around the Corner
2/6 Superbowl at my parents
2/8 Dinner at my girlfriend's with her and her daughter
2/9 Made dinner with a friend and watched a movie at their place
2/10 Happy hour at Cleats in Parma
2/11 Happy hour at The Winking Lizard in Lakewood
2/11 VIP Party at Spin Bike Shop in Lakewood
2/12 Breakfast with my mom at Diana's in Lakewood
2/16 Middle School Basketball game with former coworker
2/16 1.77 mile walk with good friend R and her puppy
2/17 Happy Hour at the Ice House in Parma with coworkers (Review coming soon!)

And with 10 days left in the Month I've reached my goal.  I'd like to see if I can do let's say 5 more social activities, because it really is helping me be happier.

I've also started writing down in a notebook several things that make me happy each day.  I'll share a few with you soon.  What are you doing to make yourself happy?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Be Happy: Update!!

Here's an update on my attempt at going out at least 12 times in the month of February:

2/3 shopping and dinner with my mom
2/5 "Dress Up Your Heart" cocktail party and fashion show at Around the Corner
2/6 Superbowl at my parents
2/8 Dinner at my girlfriend's with her and her daughter
2/9 Made dinner with a friend and watched a movie at their place
2/10 Happy hour at Cleats in Parma
2/11 Happy hour at The Winking Lizard in Lakewood
2/11 VIP Party at Spin Bike Shop in Lakewood

It's been a busy week a you can tell.  8/12 accomplished!! And it has been making me happier!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Being Happy- The Power of Positive Thinking

At my job we do yoga with our students a few times a week.  At the end of each session we all repeat the following meditation:

May I be filled with loving-kindness
May I be well
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be happy

After saying these words I always feel so calm so I'm hoping I can remember to repeat these words every morning and every evening to help center myself and to remind myself to be happy!  

6/12 social activities have been attended!  Well on my way to my goal!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Being Happy- One Week In

The first week of February is drawing to a close and I'm happy to say I've made some progress on my February goal!

On Thursday, I went shopping and had dinner with my mom.  It was nice to spend some one on one time with her, and I found two awesome dresses for SUPER good deals!  Gotta love 70% off!

Then, on Saturday I helped set up and volunteered at a great charity event.  A group of lovely ladies from Lakewood put on the, "Dress Up Your Heart" cocktail party and fashion show at Around the Corner.  We featured designs by Valerie Mayen (from
project runway) and had a grand ol' time.  The event raised money for the Go Red For Women campaign and I believe, was a success.  (I'll do a bigger better post on this later.)

Tonight I'm going to my parents house to watch the Steeler's LOSE the Superbowl, and to see awesome commercials. 

Tentatively I have dinner plans for Tuesday and Wednesday lined up. 

Looks like by the end of this week I'll have at least 5 out of my 12 social events completed for the month!  And you know what, this keeping busy is definitely helping me with my mood.  Let's hope it continues!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review: Tease Hair + Body Salon

I have crazy hair.  This has been the case for my entire life and it's been a battle.  From 8th grade till my sophomore year of college I went to the same stylist.  I trusted her with my hair and knew she wouldn't do anything horrible to it.  Unfortunately she moved on from the salon and I lost track of her.  Since then, i.e. the past 6 years, I have been trying different stylists each time I go to get my hair cut- which admittedly is no more than 2x a year. 

Enter Tease Hair + Body Salon.  I've been feeling like I needed a haircut for awhile, but couldn't figure out where to go as I still hadn't found a new "go to" stylist.  So one day, while perusing Facebook an old friend from high school, Emily, had posted that she was working at a new salon and looking for customers.  I promptly asked her if she was good with curly/wavy hair and she said she loved it!  I figured why not try her out and a couple of weeks later booked an appointment. 

Emily took my hair from a pretty shapeless mess to this:
Immediately following the cut!

2 weeks later- styled curly by me!
I have had very few knots in my hair- which is almost unheard of for me.  For $35 plus tip I think I got a great deal.  If you're looking for a great salon in Lakewood check out Tease!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Be Happy via Etsy!

It's officially February so operation Be Happy is in full effect.  Let me tell you, the weather this morning made it very difficult to be happy!  But, one thing that I'm doing that's making me happy is getting my Etsy shop up and running.  I have two sets of note cards listed so far, and while I haven't sold anything (it's been less than a week) I have been featured on another user's list!

If you want to check out my shop, One Touch of Nature please do!  I hope that people find my prices fair, and my products high quality!  If you have any ideas for other nature inspired things I can make and sell please let me know.

Here's a sneak peak at some of my products:
Textures of Nature- $6.00

Scenes of Tahoe- $4.50

Will be for sale soon!
Beautiful Blooms- $7.00

Which set is your favorite?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Restaurant Review: Reddstone

Last night I went to Reddstone in with some friends to celebrate a birthday.  Located in Battery Park, I've heard good things about this place.  Unfortunately, my experience left a bit to be desired.

Courtney, was our server and I'm not sure if she was new or not but she definitely struggled throughout the night.  When we first got got there my friends and I ordered drinks.  After a bit of a discussion about what my friend T was ordering Courtney still brought the wrong beer out.  I ordered my standard vodka and tonic and was definitely given vodka and soda. 

It took us about 20 minutes to be given menus but we ordered quickly.  I will say she got our food orders correct.  I ordered "Just a Burger" without cheese of course.  It was delicious but at least three times I bit down on something hard- like tiny pieces of gravel- too hard to be gristle.  The fries were good but heavily seasoned with what I believed to be rosemary.

My two friends and I were part of a larger group, but were leaving before them so we asked for our portion of the check.  Courtney told us, "I can't split the check because then I can't put the 20 percent gratuity on there."  We told her we still planned on tipping her.  She said, "Yeah, but this is a $350 check and the tip will be like $46."  It went back and forth for awhile but finally she came back and told us it was fine, she could put us all on one and still put the 20% on and brought us the check.  We certainly didn't give her anything about the 20.  It was one of the weirdest experiences I had ever.

The bar itself was crowded though I heard a rumor that there is more of a restaurant area upstairs.  There was a good size patio, but as it's January and we're in Cleveland, that wasn't an option last night.

I'm not sure if I'll head back to Reddstone anytime soon, but I hope they work on training their servers a bit more.

Reddstone on Urbanspoon

Eddy's and Iggy's Take 2

My ladies and I went to Eddy's and Iggy's again on Wednesday!  I don't know why more ladies in Lakewood don't flock to that bar for the free drinks!  This time, as promised, we all indulged in some $0.50 tacos!  They were good- but I like Merry Arts' better.  BUT they were $1.50 less... so I think really it's a wash.  Be warned though- you can get sour cream, but one side of it is 50 cents! Still, the five of us all ate and drank for I'd say around $20 with tips!  Not a bad night out, not bad at all.

Have you tried the Eddy's and Iggy's happy hour?!

EDIT 2/2/11: Apparently we were just lucky that the two times we went they were offering the fifty cent tacos.  Follow them on Facebook to find out when they're doing the special because they do not do it every Wednesday!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Don't Worry, Be Happy

It's time for me to consider what my goal/resolution for the month of February should be.  Upon some  reflection I've realized that I have not been very happy recently.  I've felt stressed, lonely, worried, and a host of other not so pleasurable emotions. My natural instinct when feeling like this is to just wallow in it and not really make any changes.  So I have decided I need to make an effort to BE HAPPY.

A lot of what has been weighing on me is completely out of my control, so I have to stop thinking about it, stop worrying about it, and just find ways to be happy in other aspects of my life.  In October I was feeling a little down and out and I set a social activity goal for myself, and it worked out really well.  I'm going to do that again. 

Here's my Happiness Plan:

1. Accept all reasonable invitations to do something.  In October my goal was to do at least 15 social activities.  I'm going to aim for 12 in February due to the shorter month.

2. Start a new "happy thoughts book."  In high school I had a book that I, and many many friends, all wrote down lists of things that made us happy.  I still have it and my tastes have changed, so I think an update is in order.

3.  Be proactive.  Whenever something is bothering me I will deal with it as directly as possible. 

Hopefully by the end of February I will be in a great mood all the time! Well, at least most of the time!

What makes you happy?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Little More Green part 2

I think I did a good job of getting off of a lot of snail mail lists in January, but really only time will tell.  I have failed majorly on the using reusable bags when shopping, and I never got around to researching composting.  Maybe I will in the next three days- we'll see.  Obviously as 2011 plugs along I will keep trying to maintain the drive to be more earth conscious. 

Stay tuned for my February goals!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January Goal Fail...

I went grocery shopping and forgot to take any reusable bags.  Green Fail :(

I did encourage more recycling at work this week though!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review: Betsey Johnson store (Las Vegas)

When in Las Vegas, the girls and I went shopping of course and ended up in the Betsey Johnson store that was having a major sale.  All regularly priced clothing was 40% off and all clearance items, already marked down were an additional 50% off!  Two of the girls I was with immediately started trying on the most adorable dresses, and they looked amazing!  Being on a budget I didn't let myself, but I was jealous!  One girl- a new bff "D" bought a great little party dress in white and silver.  The sales girl Ari, was fantastic.  She let everyone try stuff on, hooked up them up with accessories from sweaters, to jewelery, to shoes.  And, she gave us a few tips on clubs to go to and the number of a guy who could get us freebies.

The next day "D" and I wound up back in the store and once again found ourselves with Ari.  This time I decided it was a chance I couldn't pass up and let myself try on a few dresses.  None of them fit me as perfectly as they did the other girls- I think they're made for less busty women- so I didn't buy a dress.  "D" found a couple other things she wanted.  But- I figured, I'd spent 2 days at this store, and I never buy anything "designer" so I had to get something.  I got something a teacher could afford... these $12 awesome-sauce socks (in cream- they were out of black)!

So, thanks Ari for a great shopping experience!  And, I can't wait to wear my designer socks!

Have you ever bought designer clothing?  Was it worth it?  And if you're ever in Vegas- stop by the Bestsey Johnson store in the Miracle Mile Shops.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Marriott Grand Chateau - Las Vegas

For New Year's Eve I headed out to Vegas with six other girls, only two of whom I knew.  And, one of the ones I knew I hadn't seen in six years.  We flew in on the 29th, and after I had dinner with my cousin who lives out there I made my way to the hotel. 

This hotel, The Marriott Grand Chateau, was amazing.  We could not have had a better hotel.  Located just- and I emphasize just- off the strip by the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino it was centrally located and a GREAT deal!  For under $50 a night we had a pimped out suite. 

One room had a king size bed, a double pull out couch, a kitchenette and it's own bathroom.  This bedroom connected to the living room which had a queen size pull out, a glass top dining table that fit all 7 of us, and a FULL kitchen.  I'm talking full size appliances, dishwasher, dishes, pots/pans etc.  Then, on the other side of the living room was the master bedroom.  This room had a king size bed, a sit and soak tub for two, a sink/vanity, and a bathroom with another sink and a double shower head shower.  Super luxurious! 

I picked up some food before I headed to the hotel which I think was smart- the hotel did have a mini store, but some of the prices were a bit inflated.  I'd also recommend bringing your own salt/pepper and coffee as no salt/pepper is provided, and each room only gets one packet of coffee a day- no matter how many of you are staying there. 

Overall though, I'd stay at this hotel again in a heart beat.  Everything was clean, the staff was helpful, and it was a great deal.

Where are your favorite places to stay in Vegas?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Getting Rid of Snail Mail

Step 1: Getting rid of credit card offers- for at least 5 years that is.  

If you go to this site: you can opt out of getting pre-screened credit card offers.  Since there are plenty of sites online to check out if and when you want a credit card or new credit card this seems like a no brainer.  There was an option to opt out of life but it required printing things out and mailing them in and frankly, maybe in 5 years I will want the offers again!  I'll let you know in a month or so how this worked out for me. Oh, and make sure you read the fine print- it did not require me to put in my SSN or my phone number despite the misleading red text next to the fill in fields. 

Step 2: Getting rid of pretty much everything else:
Start at this website: www.dmachoice.orgThis site provides you the tools needed to rid yourself of unwanted snail mail.  While they have a section for getting rid of credit card offers it just directs you to the site mentioned above.   Here is an excerpt from the site describing what they do.

DMAchoice™ is an online tool developed by the Direct Marketing Association to help you manage your mail. This site is part of a larger program designed to respond to consumers' concerns over the amount of mail they receive, and it is the evolution of the DMA's Mail Preference Service created in 1971.For the purposes of this site, direct mail is divided into four categories: Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazine Offers and Other Mail Offers. You can request to start or stop receiving mail from individual companies within each category—or from an entire category at once.

If you go to the catalog page or magazine page you can go to the bottom and click a button to remove you from all lists.  There is a disclaimer about whether you've bought from these places before- but I'm not going to worry about that till I see if this changes my mail intake at all.  It may be helpful to have a list of the catalogs/magazine offers that you receive that you don't want any longer, because you can look them up individually to find out what you have to do to be removed permanently.

The same option listed above is available for "other mail offers" which includes things like charities and more companies.  If you've donated to a charity and receive mailings from them it says you will have to contact them directly to be removed. 

Step 3.  Getting rid of RedPlum coupon mailers

The amount of these that I get is ridiculous, and most of the products that they have coupons for I do not use.  Also you can go to to get the coupons and that way you can just print what you need.  Here's a direct link to the form you need to fill out to be rid of these unwanted mailers:

Almost all of these solutions say they will take at least a month to take effect.  So I'll collect the rest of my mail for January and then compare it to what I collect in February to see what if any change I see.  I will also continue to look for other places to unsubscribe from!

How do you cope with junk mail?