Daycations: The Best of Northeast Ohio and Pittsburgh

If you found your way here from Once Is Enough, welcome! We hope you’ll click around and check out our other posts!
 

Earlier this week, I wrote my first ever guest blog post for Sam over at Once is Enough while she went on vacation. I focused on daycationing, outlining several tips to help you have a great time while being a tourist in your own town. Head over to her blog to read more about finding the best local spots to explore and save money — great for the college girl on a budget! While you’re at it, read posts from Sam and the other guest bloggers for the week. 

If you’re still in school, summer is pretty much half over already… unless you’re in graduate school, and you’re very likely still in class till very late at night or early on Saturday mornings. I feel your pain. I’m currently still looking for a job, and while I’m cutting back on unnecessary purchases, I still plan on taking a daycation or two. I’m lucky that I live in an area filled with hidden cultural jewels, right between two large metro areas with experiences totally unique to each of those cities. It’s unlikely that people from outside of the area plan to vacation in Northeast Ohio, there’s much to do for those who are willing to explore, and do a little research ahead of time. Here are four of my favorite day-trips for a quick weekend excursion. Click through on the links to each of the attractions for more information about hours of operation, admission, and directions. 

Youngstown, Ohio

Home of my alma mater and Ed O’Neill from Modern Family, Youngstown is in the middle of a cultural revival, working to rebuild itself from the fall of the U.S. steel industry and shed it’s image as hub of organized crime. It boasts a rich ethnic heritage, and on any given weekend in the summer, you can sample Greek gyros, Italian sausages, or Polish pyrohies at any of their popular festivals held each year. In the six years I spent living in Youngstown earning my degrees, I learned to love the area and discovered many of the gems of the city and surrounding area. 

First, visit the Butler Museum of American Art, the first museum of strictly American art in all types of media, dedicated in 1919. Featured on the National Register of Historic Places, admission to this museum is free. Take time to reflect on paintings by Edward Hopper, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keefe, and Robert Rauschenberg. For lunch, take a very short drive over to Casesse’s MVR, one of the most popular restaurants in the Mahoning Valley. While you wait for a (massive) plate of cavatelli, or any of the other old school Italian dishes, look around at all of the Youngstown sports memorabilia, from the years the YSU Penguins won four national championships under Coach Jim Tressel (just before he went on to coach for Ohio State) and boxing greats, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Kelly Pavlik. Take your to-go box and head to Mill Creek Park, the second largest metro park in the United States. With over 4,400 acres for you to explore, its easy to spend an entire day here out on the hiking trails, paddling around Lake Glacier, or simply relaxing and enjoying nature. You might even happen upon a wedding in any area of the park, especially in the gorgeous Fellows Riverside Gardens and its visitor’s center. As the sun sets, head back into town for dinner and drinks at the Lemon Grove, part bar and restaurant, part performance venue, and part art gallery. Almost every night of the week, you can catch live music, poetry readings, or events like trivia games or karaoke at this lively downtown establishment. Don’t forget to check the schedules for the Dana School of Music and the Department of Theater and Dance at YSU, bringing top notch vocal, symphonic, and theatrical performances to the valley. 

Bonus Youngstown Sites
Charlie Staples’ Original Bar-B-Cue
Mahoning Valley Scrappers Baseball
The World’s Largest Pair of Drum Sticks, in honor of Warren native Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters 
Oakland Center for the Arts

Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

Geneva on the Lake has become one of my favorite weekend getaways for two simple reasons: there’s a beach and the wine is plentiful and delicious. The beach is on the shores of Lake Erie, and though I don’t think I would take a dive into it, it is quite beautiful to look at. Start your day at Geneva State Park, and don’t forget to pack your towels, sunscreen, and a good book. Bring a picnic lunch, too, and soak up the sun watching the waves coming in from the lake. After relaxing at the beach for a few hours, head over to Lake Road for food, drinks, and entertainment. For family fun, stop at the Adventure Zone for mini-golf, bumper boats, and go-carts. You can also rent bikes, golf carts, and surrey limos. To sample some of the area’s best vino, grab a map and choose your destinations. I recommend Ferrante Winery, Chalet Debonne Vineyard, and The Lakehouse Inn & Winery.  In the evening, park your car along the strand and grab a bite to eat at one of the many food stands that line the road, or pop over to my personal favorite, The Old Firehouse Winery, for a breathtaking view of the lake and live music nightly. Don’t miss their Ferris wheel and the wine slushies! Find your favorite wine and bring a bottle or two home to enjoy for the rest of the summer.

Bonus Geneva-on-the-Lake Sites
Eddie’s Arcade (on Lake Road)

Laurello Vineyards
Old Mill Winery

Cleveland, Ohio

While you could easily visit their amazing visitor’s page, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite things to do while in Cleveland. Since Brian and I love going to zoos, the first place I would go is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo & Aquarium, featuring The Rainforest and the new African Elephant Crossing. It doesn’t matter how many times or how many different zoos I go to, I’ll always take pictures of the penguins and the bears. They’re just too cute. After a hot morning and afternoon wandering around the zoo, head over to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a uniquely “Cleveland” experience. Nowhere else in the world can you find such an expansive collection of rock n’ roll memorabilia and learn so much about the music and it’s roots. See tour costumes, handwritten lyrics, and other belongings of your favorite musicians and watch films featuring all of the inductees. In the evening, find dinner and drinks in the East 4th Street entertainment district. I prefer the House of Blues for dinner — their cornbread is nothing short of incredible — but there are plenty of great little restaurants in the area, including Flannery’s Pub and the Corner Alley Bar & Grill.

Bonus Cleveland Sites
The Christmas Story House
CLE Clothing, Co. <– Stop here! The shirts are brilliant!
West Side Market
Great Lakes Brewing Company

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Ok, so this one isn’t necessarily in Ohio, but I live within 45 minutes of Pittsburgh, hence why I’ve always been a Steelers fan over the Browns. Recently, the city appeared as part of Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, and I won’t pretend that I didn’t get more than a little excited to see Bill Cowher’s face on the sidelines during the Heinz Field scene. I must insist that you take the Fort Pitt tunnel entrance into the city. There’s no other way to arrive, as Pittsburgh truly is the only city with an entrance, and it blows me away every time. Start at the Phipps Conservatory and immerse yourself in the beautiful botanical wonderland, featuring art glass hand-blown by Dave Chihuly. For lunch, make your way over to Oakland and stop in at Primanti Bros. for one of their famous sandwiches.  Take in the architecture of the University of Pittsburgh and other universities in the area as you head to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. Admission gives you access to Dinosaurs in Their Time, the Hall of Ancient Egypt, Monet’s “Water Lilies,” the stunning Hall of Architecture (can you sense a pattern here?). Cross the river to Station Square for dinner at Bar Louie, and at sunset, take the Duquesne Incline to the observation deck for the most beautiful view of Pittsburgh.

Bonus Pittsburgh Sites
Warhol Museum
Carnegie Science Center, IMAX, Laser Shows, and USS Requin
The Mattress Factory Art Museum
Pittsburgh Public Theater <– Always check for Student ID discounts!

While I could go on for days about the cool things to do in Pittsburgh, I really recommend checking out this link for lots of free ways to explore the city. Let me know if you’d like more ideas about where to go!

Locals, did I miss anything? Have you been to any of these places? Add your must-see attractions in the comments, or give me the daycation of your city!

Making a Symphony Out of Science and Making Learning Fun

It’s been a while. Summer, weddings, and Caribbean vacations will do that though. But, that’s no excuse. So I’m back! Miss me? Haha.

One of the main reasons that I’ve been MIA for the last month is that I’m on the job hunt, and every time I use my computer I feel that I need to be searching for jobs and not blogging. And every time I think about blogging I feel kind of guilty. But, I feel that I applied for an acceptable number of jobs today, and as I’m bored at the moment, I’m taking some time to pen the blog post that I’ve been thinking about for a couple weeks.

If you haven’t realized, I’m a nerd. I mean, I have a Master’s degree in History for Heaven’s sake. If that doesn’t qualify as one of the pillars of all that is nerdy, I don’t know what does.

Well, actually….I think this post will cement just how nerdy I can be.

History, social studies, grammar, and literature were always my strong suits in school. Math and science — not so much. But, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t interested in those two subjects. For example, I wanted to be an astronaut for most of my childhood, then amended that to wanting to be an aerospace engineer who designed the next space shuttle. I quickly determined, however, that I could never be either of those things because, like I said, math and science simply didn’t agree with me.

Despite my shortcomings in those subjects, I’ve maintained a hobby-level interest in science — especially in the study of outer space and its proper, related subjects of astronomy and physics. I keep up with the new theories, love Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene, read books on black holes and string theory. But, it’s all very complicated and I would be lying if I said that I completely understand it.

Now, I’m sure this all sounds like pure intellectual insanity. It does even to me. But, there’s something about the subject that enthralls me.

It’s about learning what lies in the wider world beyond us, about how it’s almost impossible to fathom that we are seven billion people living on this one tiny planet, circling this small to average size star, in a solar system, in one small part of a large galaxy, that is an even smaller part of a huge universe.

Our planet, our universe is an amazing place. It is awe-inspiring.

The best thing about it though, is that you don’t even need to be a nerd like me to grasp its awesomeness, or appreciate its beauty.

And you don’t need to be a nerd to learn about the universe, its parts, or the forces that hold it together.

I recently discovered something fascinating on YouTube: a series of videos called the Symphony of Science. The Symphony of Science is not just on YouTube. In reality, it is a musical project created and produced by musician John D. Boswell who aims to “deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form.

In his videos, Boswell takes clips of well known scientists from various television documentaries and programs and strings them together to present  short yet engaging “lessons” on various scientific subjects. But, these aren’t just dry video compilations of interviews. No. Boswell then sets the videos to music and auto tunes all of the clips, creating a musical lesson that leaves you replaying the videos over and over again.

I wish science class had been like this in school.

Up to this point there are 15 music videos, which are available on YouTube or on Boswell’s website. Most are related to outer space, physics or astronomy and heavily feature scientists like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, and Brian Cox. Others are concerned with the animal kingdom and life on Earth and feature other scientists like David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.

Here’s a sample of some of the videos:

1. “A Glorious Dawn” – the first video in the series and probably the best of them all.

 

2. “The Quantum World” – Morgan Freeman helps explain the forces of the universe.

 

3. “The Unbroken Thread” – the beauty of life on Earth and our interconnectedness.

 

4. “We Are Star Dust” – the universe exists in us.

 

So, what do you think? Do you need to be a nerd to appreciate science? To appreciate the universe around us?

Watch the videos. Learning can be fun.

Besides, it’s okay to be a nerd sometimes.

That way you can say:

DISCLAIMER: All Symphony of Science compilations are owned by John D. Boswell. All clips used within those compilations are the property of the programs from which he collected clips.

Fighting Imposter Syndrome and “Knowing Your Value”

As Abbie and Jeannette have stated in their posts this we Dames have been on a little bit of a hiatus. For myself, life has simply been unbelievably busy. I’m happy to report that my M.A. thesis is completely written and that I’ve passed my comprehensive exams. I still have to finish thesis revisions, but graduation is getting more and more tangible by the day.

I won’t lie, I have mixed feelings about graduating. I’m extremely happy to be moving on to something new, and I’m looking forward to exploring different job opportunities and just seeing what’s out there. Unfortunately, I will not be attending a Ph.D. program next year. I’m okay with this though. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and after going through the process of researching and writing a thesis, I’ve come to realize that I need a break. There are so many things I can do, there are so many ways to find happiness — and I can’t wait to find out what that might be.

I had some trouble getting my thesis started back in February. Unfortunately, when I write I have to start at the beginning. I can’t write the body of a paper first and then go back later and write the introduction. I have to write the intro first, even if it means completely re-writing it later. Once I did get going though, I wrote, edited, and re-wrote almost non-stop — to the point that I almost made myself crazy. I constantly second-guessed myself, stressing about every little detail, worrying that my readers would think I was a fraud, that my argument made no sense, that what I was saying was a bunch of crap. I’ve decided that I suffer from “Imposter Syndrome.”

Everyone has insecurities about a variety of things, but school has always been a major part of my life. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve been in school non-stop since age 3. That was 21 years ago. (God, I feel old — haha!) So, I forget sometimes that I’m not just a young student who has no authority. I have a Bachelor’s degree, I’m an adult, I have experience. I need to start remembering that and acting accordingly. Just because I’m still a student doesn’t mean that I don’t know things with relative certainty.

It’s the same idea with jobs. I’ve been looking around at different possibilities in between working on revisions. There are a lot of different jobs that I have the education, skills, and experience to do. But, I just need to remind myself that Ican do them. Yeah, they’re not “history” jobs — but that’s perfectly okay. They don’t need to be. I am not an imposter, in history or in terms of my other abilities. They’re not going to look at me immediately and say,  “You? Hahaha. We don’t think so.” I am not an imposter.

In addition to reminding myself that I am not an imposter, the process of writing my thesis also provided me with some insight on knowing my value. Even though I wrote almost non-stop for a month and a half, I didn’t write 24/7. In my downtime, I read a book called “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth” by Mika Brzezinski (co-host of Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC).

In her book, Mika Brzezinski discusses how she was re-hired at MSNBC in 2007 after losing her job at CBS. Grateful to have any job, Mika took what she could get — even if that meant only working a few hours a day for paltry pay and working the worst hours. A twist of fate resulted in Joe Scarborough singling her out as his desired co-host for a new morning show, but even with her new gig, she was still working on a host of other assignments for the network for far less pay than her Morning Joe co-workers. Upset with her unfair treatment and unequal (or, really in the same ballpark) pay, Mika when to her boss to ask for a raise. Her request was rejected.

This book, and my discussion of it, is not entirely about politics or the gender wage gap. Believe me, that gap is a real issue — but women’s consideration of their own value is equally as important in the equation. Mika, with the help of other famous friends, describes how many women (and some men too) lack the confidence of their own value in the workplace.

Instead of  asking for a raise in a confident manner,  Mika identifies that she went into the meeting with an apologetic tone — that she was sorry she had to ask, that she didn’t want to cause waves, that she understood money was tight and times were tough. She focused on the idea that she was so “lucky” to be on this program and to have a position at MSNBC — that she was grateful.

There’s nothing wrong with humility. But, at the same time, gratefulness isn’t confidence. Mika learned that she had to remember she deserved a raise. She deserved to be there. She was more than qualified for her job. She was valuable.

Here are some great quotes from the book:

“The problem is, a woman is socialized to accept that which she is given. So if somebody tells you that you can’t, you believe it. If somebody says you’re not worth it, you believe it.” – Suze Orman

“The key is to do your research. The most important thing that people don’t realize, especially women, is you can’t go in [to ask for a raise] expecting people to take care of you and that they’re going to be fair. They’re going to try to get the best deal they can.” – Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of More

“Assuming power is everything. You have to assume it … [don’t] wait to be asked.”  – Tina Brown, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and editor-in-chief of Newsweek

“A lot of getting ahead in the workplace has to do with being willing to raise your hand. . . . If we as women don’t raise our hands in the workplace, we’re not going to get the same opportunities men do. Because men keep their hands up.”
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Imposter Syndrome and not knowing your value go hand in hand. I myself am gulity of feeling lucky or grateful for simply being given the consideration for something. For downplaying my own achievements or my own intelligence to not stand out too much. Even to my own eyes and ears now, these statements sound a little arrogant. But they’re not. Everyone has strengths. Everyone has weaknesses. But we are all valuable in different ways.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not valuable. You are.

Reach for the Stars…Er, the Planets

When I was in grade school, I wanted to be an astronaut. This was followed by a brief desire to be be an aerospace engineer who designed the next space shuttle, which was quickly replaced by a desire to be President of the United States. Needless to say, none of those dreams lasted. I don’t like heights, I’m terrible at math, and being president of College Democrats in college left me so burnt out that I could have screamed.

But, regardless of the fact that my dreams of outer space have waned, I still love the stars.

I mentioned earlier this week that we’ve had some amazing weather in Ohio — it’s been in the low 70s for several days and I’ve been living in my flip flops. Because of this, I haven’t been running from my car to the house because of the cold at night, and I’ve actually had the time to turn my eyes to the sky and take in the stars.

Believe me, I’m no expert on the night sky — I usually rely on my Dad to point constellations and planets out to me. But, over the last couple nights, I’ve noticed something. There are two extremely bright stars located very close to one another in the Western sky. With the rudimentary knowledge that I have, I figured at least one was probably a planet, but which one I didn’t know.

Source: National Geographic online.

After a little Googling, I found my answer:

It’s not one, but two planets!

This week, Jupiter and Venus reached their peak for the year in proximity to each other in the night sky. In the photograph above, taken in France several days ago, Jupiter (on the right) and Venus (on the left) were virtually directly across from one another in the sky.

As of tonight, March 16th, the planets have begun to drift away from one another, but they are still very close together and very bright — particularly Venus which is often the brightest object in the sky.

This is roughly what they looked like tonight:

This photograph, taken by Greg Abbott and appearing on The Guardian website, shows Jupiter on the left and Venus on the right. This is roughly what the two planets looked like in the sky tonight, March 16th.

 

Jupiter and Venus are visible for about 4 hours following sunset. If you are having trouble locating them, look for the brightest object in the sky — Venus. It’s hard to miss. Venus is so bright that it looks like the headlight of a car shining at you from space.

According to Earthsky.org, March 2012 is one of the best months ever to view the five planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury) which are visible to the naked eye.

Next Sunday, March 25th, the Moon will enter into Venus and Jupiter’s dance:

Picture located at Earthsky.org

Take some time this week, look up at the night sky. Consider the immense universe we live in and the beauty it contains.

Plus,  it’ll be awhile until this sight comes around so brilliantly again. Although Venus and Jupiter come close to one another in our sky roughly ever 13 months, next year when they appear in May 2013, they’ll only remain visible for 1 hour before setting below the horizon.

 

“You don’t choose a life. You live one.”

I’m on Spring Break this week and, boy, has Spring made itself known today. The weather here in Northeast Ohio is beautiful, with the temperature forecast to hover near 70 degrees for the next week. This afternoon, after doing some writing this morning and spending a little time out in the sunshine, I decided to watch my latest movie from Netflix. I’m trying to be better about actually watching the movies soon after they arrive and then sending them back. I tend to let movies languish, and my list of movies isn’t growing any shorter.

I’d been looking forward to this movie though, so it wasn’t too hard to watch it.

The film in question is The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring Emilio’s father, Martin Sheen. I  love both Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, the former from his days playing President Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing and the latter from the other movie he wrote and directed, Bobby.

The Way tells the story of Thomas Avery, a California ophthalmologist, who travels to France to retrieve his son Daniel’s remains after Daniel is killed during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago. The Camino, also known as the Way of St. James, is an 800+ kilometer pilgrimage route from the French-Spanish border, through the Pyrenees Mountains and the northern Spanish countryside, to the city of Santiago and its Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the remains of the apostle St. James are (reportedly) housed.

Thousands of pilgrims have traveled this route for more than a thousand years, to find God, to find themselves, to find enlightenment, to see nature, to experience life. Thomas Avery doesn’t agree with his son Daniel’s choices, scolding that not everyone has the “luxury of just leaving it all behind,” but he loves his son greatly, despite their differences. After arriving in France and claiming Daniel’s body, Thomas, having no intention of staying, decides to walk the Camino and spread Daniel’s ashes as he goes.

His journey is deeply personal, but also communal as he shares experiences and his grief with other pilgrims walking the Camino. Thomas completes the Camino, both for himself and for his son Daniel, arriving at the Cathedral in Santiago to experience the daily Pilgrim’s Mass (a true sight to see). The Way has changed him, like it changes all of his companions.

I really liked the movie, but it may not be for everyone. It’s slow moving at times, very introspective with brief moments of comedy. But, it’s not about the movie’s pace, it’s about the overall meaning.

We’re all searching for something. Faith, answers, guidance, beauty, fresh air, history. We all go on journeys too. Maybe not walking the Camino or even going on a long trip, but we all take voyages – through nature, books, art, music, etc. Our purpose when embarking on that journey is hardly ever the same as we learn it was when the journey is over — we always learn something different or more than we expect.

But that’s okay.

That’s the point of the trip.

Where have you journeyed? Where do you want to journey to?

What do you think you’ll find along the way?