Life Lessons #16 – 20

It’s now March 23 and I’ve only got a few short days to provide you with 10 more valuable life lessons. Impossible? Not quite. Challenging? It’s starting to feel that way. Worth it? Absolutely.

(To be honest, I just spent the last hour crafting a well-thought out blog post, but in my attempt to save the post as I continued writing, I ended up deleting it ūüė¶ As such, the lessons I’ll provide here will be short, but just as important and valuable as all the others.)

Life Lesson #16: Ask yourself is it worth it?

After crying to a friend about how so-and-so hardly noticed me and woe was me, my friend posed a simple question: Was it worth it? Was it worth it to like someone who didn’t like me and to be so upset about it? Probably not. What was the point in willingly putting myself in a situation that made me so unhappy? I learned that lesson early on in high school and it’s one that’s stuck with me for the past 8-9 years. And, don’t think it applies to things as superficial as having a silly crush at 16. It applies to anything and it applies to everything. If you find yourself in a situation that makes you unhappy, or that adds unnecessary stress to your life, or pushes you to your limits, as yourself if it’s worth it. Sometimes, the answer will be a clear and definite no. Nope – it’s definitely not worth it to be in this situation because I know this isn’t good for me. On the other hand, just because the situation is stressful or challenging doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. It just means you’re dealing with a difficult situation that you need to accomplish. You see, the question does more than just make you think about what you should or shouldn’t do. It helps to focus and think more clearly about whether or not it’s worth it to stay in this situation or if it’s better if we move on for now.

Life Lesson #17: Go back to the basics. 

What’s the magic word? I know you all know it.

As kids, we’re all taught to mind our manners: say “Please” when asking for something; thank someone when receiving something; ask people how they are; how the door for others; be kind to everyone;¬†say “Excuse me” when you bump into someone or commit other social faux paus.

It’s simple: we were taught these lessons for a reason. They teach us how to respect others and how to show gratitude and compassion for our fellow human beings. We learn these manners at a young age, and yet somehow they are often forgotten as we grow up. Today, whenever someone thanks me for doing something for them, I’m often pleasantly surprised, but I shouldn’t be, should I? I almost think that these are things we should come to expect. These things aren’t hard and when we forget to them, we often make other people feel like we don’t care about them and like they’re taken for granted. So, go back to the basics – I know that it’s simple and it might not seem that important, but it can really make a difference to someone.

Life Lesson #18: If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your BS. – W.C. Fields

I’ll keep this one short. I often think about this in the context of giving a speech: If you can’t remember what you wrote for your speech, but know the general ideas, just go for it. You might not be able to get your ideas across as intended, but you may have a general idea. And if you don’t, perhaps you’ll talk in such a circular way that you’ll confuse them ūüėČ

Life Lesson #19: Make the time for the people and things that are most important to you.

Whenever I make a short trip home, I always try to make time to spend with my mom, dad, and brother and I make sure that I spend time with all of our pets. If possible, I always try to see some of my closest friends and I always try to make time to go to mass. It’s often very difficult to accomplish these things because my trips home often only last 2-3 days and they are also usually filled with a number of appointments (i.e., doctors, car, etc.). It’s hard to fit everything, but I think it’s important that we try to make the time for the people and things that are important to us. ¬†I think it helps people realize how much we care about them and it helps us to realize that we would want them to do the same thing if they were in our situation.

I also do have to mention that my group of friends from high school does an excellent job with this. For a few years after high school, we’d often meet up weekly or every couple weeks for some sort of shenanigans. I think it’s gotten a little more challenging as people have started moving out of the area, but we still have big events with everyone when we know most people will be around. Even though we’re all incredibly busy, we all still make the time for each other and these events are things that I look forward to year-round.

Life Lesson #20: Take the time to figure out what you want.

This lesson can apply to anything in life. Kind of seems like an understatement, doesn’t it? Take the time to figure out what you want – don’t let others, or even yourself, force you into make a decision before you’re ready. I often think about this lesson in the context of college. For many of us, for multiple reasons, we probably felt like we had to choose a major early on in college, perhaps before we were ready. Maybe we felt rushed. Maybe we felt pressure from our family or friends to make a certain decision in a timely manner. Whatever the reason may be, we shouldn’t make a decision before we’re ready. Take time to figure things out. Ask yourself what you want out of time. Don’t make a hasty decision only to realize too late that you’ve made the wrong choice. Give yourself the right figure out what you want and then make a decision.

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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. <РStop 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 <РAlways 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!

Channeling John Lennon: Ralph Rich is a Musician You Ought to Know

It’s no secret that we Dames like music. Pop, rock, classical, hip hop, and even some rap. We’ve also had our personal experiences with music. Abbie personally knows Red Wanting Blue, Jeannette has touched Josh Groban’s hand, and I wish I had touched Josh Groban’s hand…

Much of my high school experience was spent surrounded by music. Particularly, during long hours of choir and theater rehearsal where for weeks on end we would try to get the harmonies just right — to the point that we were sick of the songs, sick of each other, and physically sick. So not only do I love music, but I’m pretty skilled at discerning good music.

One of my new favorite artists is someone who I’ve known for nearly my whole life — even longer than I’ve known Jeannette (and I’ve known her since I was six.)

My new favorite artist is Ralph Rich.

A Northeast Ohio native (from Hubbard, a suburb of Youngstown), Ralph Rich has been involved in the local music scene for about 4 years, performing both as a solo artist and as a member of various bands including Krave, The Fuzzy Dice, and Super Cheef. He has played at multiple venues big and small including The Lemon Grove, Cedar’s, O’Donold’s, and Barley’s Pub in the Youngstown area, The Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Red Hook, New York, and Sadie Rene’s in Canton.

Rich, 24, began playing drums at age 4 and has played guitar since high school. He cites his main influences as The Beatles, John Lennon, Dashboard Confessional, and The Killers. Rich’s sound, however, also evokes the spirit of artists like The Goo Goo Dolls and John Mayer.

Rich has been writing music since high school, using personal experiences as inspiration, and his hard work is paying off. Looking forward to an eventual move to Los Angeles, Rich has just released his first EP. Comprised of original songs written by Rich over the last several years, the EP features six acoustic tracks that capture all of Rich’s influences.

The self-titled EP highlights all of Rich’s talents and his promise as an artist. My favorite tracks off the EP are “For You,” “Gia,” and “Leaving You Behind.”

“For You”: (Sample)

“Gia”: (Sample)

“Leaving You Behind”: (Sample)

Equally as fantastic, are the EP’s remaining 3 tracks, “I Want to Know,” “Think Back-Remember Me,” and “Heartbreaker.”

“I Want to Know”: (Sample)

“Think Back-Remember Me”: (Sample)

“Heartbreaker”: (Sample)

The CD version of Ralph Rich’s self-titled EP is available now directly from the artist. It will be available for digital download on iTunes and Amazon.com on June 1, 2012. It will also be available on Spotify on the same date.

Make sure you check out his Facebook Page here: Ralph Rich on Facebook.

Rich’s new EP is truly excellent and a representative of the talent housed here in Northeast Ohio.

Abbie may have Red Wanting Blue, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can say: “You know Ralph Rich? I knew him in Kindergarten…”

DISCLAIMER: All images and audio included in this post are the property of Ralph Rich.

In Celebration: Public Radio Music Month

Like Jeannette mentioned in her most recent post, there has been quite a hiatus here at The Dish. April is always a busy month, and for me, that was no exception. I’ll be finishing up grad school in May, and it seems like many of my classes backloaded our syllabi with rather large projects (or busy work, depending on the class), and my projects and events for my internship have been consuming most of my in-front-of-a-computer time, which is ok with me since I definitely love working in Student Programming. Besides being a part time graduate intern, part time student employee, and full time student, I’m also serving as one of my sister’s maids of honor for her upcoming wedding, which kind of equates to another part time job. (I really like doing this, too — if Student Affairs doesn’t work out for me, I’m totally becoming a craft concierge!)

April is almost over, though, and I wanted to write this post while it was still relevant. Public radio stations across the nation are celebrating Public Radio Music Month, in recognition of these small, locally supported radio stations that aren’t afraid to take chances with their playlists and programming. These stations are able to bring a more diverse sampling of music to a wider audience than mainstream stations on the dial, providing tunes that don’t necessarily sound like anything else that’s out there right now. For classical music lovers that can’t make it to the symphony in person, public radio puts the listener right in the front row, and alternative music fans can have that small club right in their own car. According to¬†NPR Audience Insight & Research, public radio stations play 4,797,660 hours of music a year. That’s a whole lot of listener supported music.

In Northeast Ohio, my public radio of choice is The Summit FM (91.3 Akron/Canton, 90.7 Youngstown), and that’s usually where you’ll find my radio set. Don’t get me wrong, NPR is great, too, but I just can’t get into classical music on the radio. I do, however, like to catch up on the news and listen to Fresh Air and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me when I get a chance. (Can I¬†please have Carl Kasell record my voice mail message?!) The Summit is an entirely listener-sponsored radio station, and has been for over 30 years. This allows them to bring you music for your drive home, minus all the annoying commercials that you get on other stations. Plus, there’s a wider variety of what you’ll hear, since they don’t play the Top 40 in a continuous loop. As I’ve traveled all over Northeast Ohio, I’ve discovered a lot of great music that I never would have heard on other stations. While some of the artists they feature are quite well-known (Bruce Springsteen, Adele, and the Black Keys, to name a few), there are others who are gaining more and more¬†notoriety by being featured on these local stations.

Here are a few of my favorite finds that I’ve discovered listening to The Summit (which you can listen to right now, since they stream it online for free, and also through a free app for your iPhone!). Whenever the first two songs on this list come on, I tend to crank it up and rock out… ¬†Support your public radio stations and tune in; you never know what you may find!

Other songs on the list:
Mat Kearney –¬†¬†Hey Mama
Michael Franti – Subterranean Homesick Blues
The Head & the Heart – Lost in My Mind
Of Monsters & Men – Little Talks
Eric Hutchinson – Watching You Watch Him
Mumford & Sons – The Cave
Dr. Dog – That Old Black Hole
Imelda May – Mayhem
Wilco – Dawned On Me
Florence + The Machine – Dog Days Are Over
NEEDTOBREATHE – Drive All Night
Dave Matthews Band – You & Me
Red Wanting Blue – White Snow

Tackling the Cookie Table: Why Pinterest Has Made A Wedding Tradition Easier

It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of February. It seems like 2012 just started and now we’re already 2 months in. Crazy. I have a lot of things to accomplish in the next 2 months including: decide what the heck I’m doing with my life, finish my thesis, take comprehensive exams, and find something awesome to wear to 2 different weddings (one for the sister of a fellow Dame and one for my cousin).

But a smashing outfit is not the only thing I have to worry about when it comes to weddings, my cousin’s in particular. No, I have time to worry about a dress and shoes. Right now, my main concern is cookies.

Yes, cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

You see, here in Northeast Ohio (Western Pennsylvania too), we have this tradition at weddings called the cookie table. And it is epic.

This is one example of a wedding cookie table. Cookie tables range in size and arrangement, but a traditional cookie table is laden with dozens of cookie varieties.

While the wedding cake is still a mainstay of the wedding reception, the cookie table is equally, if not more, important. A traditional part of the wedding reception in the Northeast Ohio/Western Pennsylvania region of the United States, the cookie table is truly a force to be reckoned with. No one is really sure of how it got started or where it actually began, but it’s easy to make an educated guess.

Most likely, the cookie table tradition became prevalent from a combination of the high influx of immigrants that came into this region in early twentieth century and their baking traditions, the expense of an elaborate wedding cake, and the hardships caused by the Great Depression. For a more nuanced explanation, one of my history professors (a Youngstown native) explained that the cookie table was (and still is to a certain extent) all about social power and social debt.

Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, cousins, etc. spend months before a wedding baking and freezing cookies for the big day. Requests go out – “Can you make cookies for s0 and so’s wedding?” The number of cookies you display and the number of people you can get to bake them for the occasion says something about your social power, but it also puts you in debt to the person baking the cookies. They call in that debt later when they need cookies for a wedding.

As for where the cookie table exactly originated, both residents of Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania both claim their city to be the birthplace of the cookie table. We’ll probably never really know, but I’m betting on Youngstown.

Today, cookie tables are different at every wedding. It depends on the bride and groom’s preference, the number of cookies people have time to make in this busy world, the size of the wedding, ethnic and religious traditions, and your family’s past usage/experience with the cookie table. My family definitely adheres to the cookie table tradition, but we don’t have anywhere near as elaborate a cookie table as some others do.

That doesn’t mean the cookies are in short supply though. Recipes won’t just be doubled or tripled. Some will be octupled. (Yeah, I know this might not really be a word. But for my cousin’s wedding 5 years ago, my Mum made 8 times the normal recipe for one cookie alone.) Needless to say, I didn’t eat any of those cookies at the wedding, nor do I have an easy time even looking at them now, 5 years later.

IMG_1332 - Copy

 

IMG_1331 - Copy

So, it’s full speed ahead with the cookie baking. And, all I have to say is: Thank God for Pinterest!

Over the next few months, I’m going to be using Pinterest to seek out some new (to me at least) cookie recipes to make for my cousin’s wedding in June.

I’m going to catalog my cookie baking progress on here where I’ll share the recipes and my take on the cookies I try.

First up is Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies.

Here’s a picture of what they’re supposed to look like:

I hope to make them this weekend, so check back soon to see whether they are cookie table appropriate.

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