The Importance of Finding a Work/Life Balance

This summer flew by. I mean that in the most serious, non-exaggerated sense. It feels like just last week I was hauling all of my stuff out of my dorm room and back into my parents’ houses. I was nervous but eager to start my summer internship at Cincinnati Magazine and I was planning on filling my days with adventures around the city.

In reality, it’s been four months since my summer break started. As I sit here, at the end of the first day of my last week of interning, just one week before moving back to Athens, I can’t help but reflect on the reality of my summer. The summer exceeded my expectations in some ways but fell short in others. Regardless, with its highs and lows, this summer has given me countless lessons to incorporate into my everyday life from here on out. 

Something I didn’t anticipate at the beginning of the summer was just how much of my time would be spent working. Between 15 hours at my internship and around 28 hours at my retail job, I didn’t have nearly as much downtime as I had hoped. As a result, I didn’t have as much leisure time to go out and do things around the city. While this is a bummer, I did realize how important quality time with loved ones is. 

By the end of most of my days [after heading straight from interning to working], I was way too exhausted to even think about anything other than sitting around watching TV. While this may sound boring to some people, these were some of my favorite nights. Whether it was binge-watching Gilmore Girls with my boyfriend, having a face mask and movie night with my mom or watching movies and eating ice cream with my dad, those nights ended up being so special to me, especially considering I live away from home most of the year.

This isn’t to say that I just sat around all summer. Some of my favorite memories from the summer have been going to the drive-in movie theater for the first time [I’ve always wanted to be a romance novel cliche], attending LaureLive Music Festival for the first time and getting to catch up with friends from high school and elementary school that I don’t get to see often. 

I’ve also really enjoyed my internship this summer. Though this was my second summer interning with Cincinnati Magazine, I took on a completely different position. Rather than just fact-checking and pitching story ideas, I helped the magazine’s digital team upload online and social media content. Through this internship, I’ve realized that I want to do more as a journalist than just write. I’ve loved learning about audience engagement and the importance of an online presence in the quickly changing world of journalism and hope to continue to pursue this in my career. [I was even able to take tips I learned from the magazine and apply it to Backdrop magazine’s new website!]

Summer can be tough when you’re working almost full-time. It’s hard to balance work, internships, time with family and time with friends. But, the next time you start to feel overwhelmed remember these three tips:

  1. Don’t take quality time for granted
  2. Remember to spend some time trying new things
  3. Find something you’re passionate about to make workdays enjoyable

We’re still trying to find the perfect life balance as well [if that’s even possible], but we’re slowly getting there! Share with us on Instagram what you took away from your summer break.

How to Make Your House Feel Like Home [On a Budget]

This past month, I did something I didn’t think I would be doing for a LONG time: I picked up the keys to the first house I’ve ever signed a lease for [I mean, I’m not really THAT much of an adult yet, am I?]. Living in a college town, the choices for off-campus housing are slim to none [and incredibly expensive]. Our house is nice, but it still feels like any generic college housing; it lacks the “home” feel. Though this is just a temporary living situation, I’ve still found some ~simple~ ways to make my house feel like a home.

FOR THE BEDROOM

Photos
Personal photos are the easiest way to instantly spruce up your bedroom. If you’re like me and attend college outside of your hometown, having a visual reminder of all of your loved ones can be the most comforting feeling when homesickness hits [and trust me, it will]. How you choose to display these photos is up to you. I do have a couple of picture frames displayed on my bedside table, but I prefer to hang individual photos directly on the wall [if you’re leasing, be sure to use removable adhesive for this!]. White walls can feel cold and barren, but by filling the space with vibrant photos [I’m a sucker for a good gallery wall], the room already feels more personal.

Tapestry
Another easy way to add color to a boring wall is with a tapestry. I bought mine off Society6 and absolutely adore it [notice the Disney’s Tangled vibes?]. A tapestry is a simple way to cover a large amount of space with little effort. When choosing yours, think of scenes that bring you comfort. If you’re an outdoorsy person, look for a tapestry that holds the same vibe. If you prefer magical settings [like me], opt for something a little more ethereal. While I love Society6’s tapestries, they can get to be pretty expensive. Check out Amazon for some more affordable yet equally adorable tapestries!

String lights
Okay, I will advocate for this until my last breath: the lighting sets the mood of a room. If your room’s lighting is dull, you’re going to feel lethargic. If the lighting is harsh and looks like hospital lighting [like most dorm rooms], you’re going to have a hard time relaxing in your space. Personally, I prefer a combination of lamps and string lights. I want my room to be well-lit enough that I can still see, but not so much that I still feel like I’m sitting in a classroom. [This has also helped motivate me to get out of bed to study or do homework. If I can’t see my work, I can’t do it from my bed. If I don’t do it from my bed, I won’t be tempted to sleep. Life is all a mind game, people.]

FOR THE BATHROOM

Towels
Hand towels are already an essential for your bathroom, so you might as well choose ones that are #cute. Whether you prefer witty phrases or delicate designs, decorating your bathroom with a fun hand towel adds your own personal flare to the space. 

Soap dispenser
Again, soap is a bathroom necessity, so why not choose a fun soap dispenser? Sure, you could stick with the generic store-bought hand soap bottles OR you could buy that hand soap in bulk [saves money, too!] and splurge a little bit on a decorative dispenser. Any way you can add your own style [and use less plastic to be a ~sustainable~ queen] into your living space is a win.

FOR THE KITCHEN

Mugs
Mugs will forever be my ride or die kitchenware of choice. Need coffee? Mug. Want some soup? Mug. Need to buy someone a gift? Mug. There’s just no down side to a good mug. It also helps that there is an endless design of mugs out there so you can find ones that fit your personality exactly. [A lot of my mugs were gifted to me and also serve as a reminder of the person who gave it to me.]

Food storage
My college students on a budget can relate to the struggle of trying to save money by not eating out so often. One way to do this is to meal prep. In order to do so, you’ll need a good amount of containers of different sizes. It is definitely worth it to opt for a set of food storage containers that you like [or, as Marie Kondo says, ones that spark joy]. I prefer glass containers with rubber lids, but many people prefer plastic [reusable, of course]. 

FOR THE LIVING ROOM

Throw pillows
If you know anything about me, you know that I LOVE a good decorative pillow. Though your couch will already bring a lot of comfort to your living room space, adding a couple of throw pillows can bring an even more significant pop of color and personality.

Blankets
There’s nothing quite like cozying up on the couch on a rainy day with a fluffy blanket and a good movie marathon. Draping a few blankets over the back of the couch [or folding them in a decorative basket] provides easy access and allows you to, quite literally, wrap yourself in comfort at any given moment.

Share with us on Instagram your favorite ways to spruce up your house!

Why Detox Teas Shouldn’t Be Capitalizing on Girls’ Insecurities

Last month, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal called for a federal investigation into the companies that produce detox teas. News of the demand went viral on Twitter, and even gained attention from actress Jameela Jamil [a well-known advocate against such products]. 

Detox teas and other weight-loss supplements [like appetite suppressant lollipops] are promoted online by celebrities and social media influencers. The problem with this marketing strategy? Very few [if any] of these products are regulated by the U.S Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. 

LVNG Limitless contributor and soon-to-be Registered Dietician, Leah Maxey, explains the importance of our food and supplements being approved by the FDA in a previous blog post. She adds, “They’re not regulated and no one knows what’s actually in them half the time.”

Though it may be obvious to many people that unregulated weight-loss products are nothing more than a capitalistic scam, a lot of impressionable young women still fall victim to these companies’ false promises. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve tried detox teas in the past and neither are Jess Deyo [our own copy editor] and Alicia Heninger [our co-founder]. 

Last semester, Jess bought Zerotea, a detox tea off of Amazon to try to lose water weight before a beach vacation. The tea cleanse was meant to be taken three times a day to suppress hunger. In turn, Jess wasn’t consuming as many calories as her body needed to sustain her very active lifestyle. The flavor of the tea wasn’t even good, Jess says, remembering how she would have to force herself to finish the drink. “I know so many girls who’ve tried it and I’ve never seen anything good come from it,” she says. 

Alicia was one of those many girls when she tried Skinny Tea’s 28-day teatox. “I wanted to lose a substantial amount of weight in an impossible amount of time,” she says. But, after only a week of drinking the tea three times a day [and intense stomach pain], Alicia gave up on the cleanse. Not only was she feeling sick, but, like Jess, Alicia couldn’t stomach the taste of the tea. After deciding the cons of the product outweighed the pros, Alicia discarded the cleanse, feeling immensely disheartened.

When I was in high school, I had a similar mindset to Jess and Alicia. I was very self-conscious of the way I looked, had low self-esteem and thought “I just need to lose a few pounds.” After a celebrity promoting Teami tea, a “natural detox tea” showed up on my Instagram feed, I figured it was worth a try. The two teas [one for the morning, one for the night] were meant to provide energy [i.e. now I could substitute my sugary coffee and creamer] and increase metabolism. I bought the 30-day cleanse and lasted only about a week. Again, the taste of the tea was so bad that I could barely force myself to drink it. 

Though I didn’t finish the cleanse and therefore cannot speak to its effectiveness, I did realize one thing: the ads I saw on my social media feed were playing to my insecurities and I had fallen into the trap. Just like so many other young girls. 

Whether or not the supplements work and whether or not they are FDA regulated, the fact of the matter is this: girls, should not be taught from such a young age to rely on supplements and products to live a healthy lifestyle. Promoting these products only furthers the notion that there’s only one kind of “healthy” for women [the skinny, low-weight kind]. 

Healthy does not have only one look, it looks different on each individual person, which Leah says is sustained by a healthy and balanced diet [with real food] and an exercise regimen. On top of that, “Your body naturally detoxes itself, so products like this aren’t necessary.”

Fortunately, the body positive movement has been growing and proving that healthy is not synonymous with skinny.

Discover: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

If you grew up in Ohio, chances are you’ve spent at least one family vacation on Hilton Head Island. [Even HHI locals know it and cater witty banter and jokes to the stereotype.] But, just because you may have spent one or two [or more?] summer vacations here, doesn’t mean there’s not still more to be discovered. Prior to this most recent trip, I had visited HHI three times and still, this time I experienced the island in a completely new way. Here are a few must-sees and must-dos for your next trip!

Pro-tip: Upon arriving on the island, be sure to rent a bike from one of the many bike rental companies in the area. The beauty of a small island is the fact that pretty much anywhere you go can be reached by biking [as long as you’re willing to put in the mileage ;)].

WHAT TO DO:

Photo courtesy Jacinta Harshe

Kayaking with Saltmarsh Paddle Tours

Looking to add a little bit of an adventure to your typical beach vacation? Saltmarsh Paddle Tours, established more than 60 years ago, offers guided and non-guided kayaking tours Wednesday through Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Guides encourage you to view Hilton Head’s diverse marine life up close [bonus points if you can spot a dolphin!]. The two-hour excursion allows for plenty of time to paddle leisurely, taking time to embrace the wildlife that inhabits the coast. 

Harbour Town Day Sail

In 1987, Dennis Conner sailed the Stars & Stripes vessel in the 26th America’s Cup [a sailing contest], the oldest international sports competition. After winning four races and reclaiming the Cup for the USA, America’s Cup ’87 is often considered to be one of the greatest of all time. Now, Stars & Stripes is open to the public. Sailing out of Harbour Town Monday through Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., the sailboat can accommodate up to 25 passengers with a captain and two deckhands at your service. Soak in the sun while you sail around the island on this 90-minute tour and experience Stars & Stripes in all of its glory.

FOR YOUR SWEET TOOTH:

Sweet Carolina Cupcakes

Just like its name states, Sweet Carolina Cupcakes [located in Coligny Plaza] are on a whole other level of sweetness. These gourmet, freshly made cupcakes are offered in two sizes: mini and large. There’s no in between. While the mini cupcakes are just the right size to temporarily satisfy your sweet tooth, you can’t help but be left wanting more. But, with the rich icing and dense cake, the large cupcakes are a bit too much for one person to handle. My family’s solution? Buy a bunch of large cupcakes and cut them into fourths … this also offers the perfect excuse to taste-test multiple flavors [my favorite was definitely the strawberry cupcake topped with strawberry icing].

Frozen Moo Ice Cream

Still craving more after those cupcakes? Frozen Moo Ice Cream is just around the corner in the same plaza and is the perfect relief after a long, hot and humid day at the beach. The rich, creamy ice cream is offered in a variety of flavors [listed two columns long in tiny font on a menu, to be more precise]. Fortunately, the long line that often spills out the door provides ample time to choose which flavor to go with [we promise, the ice cream is worth the wait]. Warning: one scoop of Frozen Moo is comparable to two scoops elsewhere, so decide accordingly 😉

A NIGHT OUT:

The Jazz Corner

As a passive fan of jazz music [meaning I only really listen to it with people who are avid fans], I wasn’t sure what to expect when my family said we were going to a dinner at The Jazz Corner. However, after being seated [and learning that it was acclaimed as one of the top “100 Great Jazz Rooms” in the world by Downbeat Magazine] I was immediately intrigued. The small dining room includes a handful of tables to seat four while smaller two-tops line the wall. Louise Spencer & Lavon Stevens have been performing at The Jazz Corner for 15 of the 20 years that it’s been open [and with Spencer’s silky smooth, soulful voice and her playful stage banter with Stevens, it’s easy to see why]. The mouth-watering entrees add the perfect complement to the night’s entertainment. 

Side stop: Savannah, Georgia

Though it’s common to tackle the 10[ish]-hour drive from Ohio to Hilton Head, my family decided to fly instead this year. Like most HHI tourists, we flew into the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport … meaning that with our departure time of 9:30 p.m. on the last day, we had a LOT of time to kill. The historical building blocks of Savannah, Georgia run too deep to squeeze into one day, so we decided to explore the shopping instead [if you know me, you’re probably not shocked reading that]. I hadn’t heard much about Savannah before, but was pleasantly surprised by the culture and art that flourished within the small part of the city I visited.

City Market

After walking from the visitor’s center [with no real destination in mind], we stumbled upon Savannah’s City Market. The architecture and atmosphere of the restaurants, cafes and boutiques that lined the street mimicked a blend of New Orleans’ French Quarter and Seattle’s Public Market [or at least the pictures I have seen of them … those two still go unchecked on my bucket list]. I couldn’t help but stop at Byrd’s Famous Cookies the minute I saw the slogan “May your cookie jar never be empty.” [We’ve already established I have a massive sweet tooth, right?] The crunchy, bite-sized cookies were some of the best I’ve ever tasted [granted, I usually eat break-and-bake from Pillsbury, but still]. I even left with a jar to bring home!

Broughton Street

After browsing the market, we ended up on Broughton Street. If you’re looking for typical name brands [Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, etc.] this is the place to be. However, scattered throughout the big corporations are many locally owned cafes and boutiques. I stopped in a few that showcased work made by local artists, my favorite of which was Arrowleaf Boutique [thanks for my new sunglasses!]. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I was out of space in my luggage … I truly believe I would have bought everything in that store!

Share your favorite ways to rediscover cities with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

Discover: Over-The-Rhine, Cincinnati

When I went to New York City for the first time, I fell in love with Brooklyn. Don’t get me wrong, I was awestruck when I saw the lights of Times Square for the first time, but something about Brooklyn — with its red brick buildings and trendy boutiques and coffee shops — captured my soul in an unexplainable way.

When Over-The-Rhine [located in downtown Cincinnati] first began its renaissance a few years ago, it was often compared to Brooklyn’s own revitalization. Since then, OTR has flourished and its streets are now lined with locally owned boutiques, coffee shops and other makers. When I’m looking to get away from the [often monotonous] routine of the suburbs of Cincinnati, OTR is my favorite place to spend the day. 

Okay, so in all honesty my favorite place to start my day at isn’t actually in OTR [but, it’s only a 20 minute drive and is definitely worth it!] The Contemporary Arts Center is a FREE art museum that focuses on performance art, photography and architecture in addition to the traditional painting and sculpture mediums. When I visited, one exhibit in particular caught my eye: it was a blend of visual art and performance art.

In a dark room behind the white walls lines with breathtaking photographs and drawings was a single projector and a video displayed on a screen. The speakers were loud and seemed to encompass the entirety of the small room. On screen, hands fiercely typed away at an old typewriter, each line showing up on the page in real time. The conversation followed a man and a woman who had recently ended their relationship. The dialogue mimicked that of a modern-day text conversation, a stark contrast to the vintage tone of the piece itself. As I stood and watched, I [quite literally] held my breath. The words were so raw and real, I had never seen or experienced art that had touched me so deeply before. My only regret is the fact that I don’t remember the title of the piece or the artist [if anyone knows, please share!].

After wandering the many floors of the CAC [including the top floor designed to entertain children and adults alike with interactive art pieces], my day in OTR finally actually takes place in OTR. After the ~short~ drive, stop at 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab for a post-museum refuel. This eclectic cafe offers a variety of drinks [I certainly would not have thought to pair wine, beer and liquor with coffee] that pair perfectly with one of their fresh pastries or. When I say they serve one of the best vanilla almond milk lattes I’ve ever had, I am NOT exaggerating. The vanilla is just sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth without overpowering the espresso. 

While sipping on the last of your drink, visit one of the many boutiques and shops that line the streets of OTR. From home goods to candle making to clothing stores, there’s a little bit of everything here. My two favorite places to browse are Continuum and Elm & Iron. With racks of carefully curated clothing and display tables of funky accessories, it’s hard for me to resist purchasing everything inside Continuum [but, as mentioned many times before, my college student income cannot sustain that :(]. Similarly, the furniture, home goods and other miscellaneous items that Elm & Iron sell are constantly calling my name every time I step inside [I don’t even have my own house to decorate yet!]. 

After a day of art and shopping, my favorite place to satisfy my now growling stomach is at Krueger’s Tavern. The two-floor restaurant is in high-demand, so expect a slight wait if you go right at dinnertime [I prefer to go around lunchtime when it’s a little less crowded.] Ever since befriending so many people who live vegan and vegetarian lifestyles, I’ve made more of an effort to substitute meat products wherever I can. One way I’ve done that is by opting for a veggie burger instead of a beef patty and Krueger’s has one of the best veggie burgers I’ve tried thus far. Served on a challah bun with pesto mayo with a side of mixed greens [or french fries if I’m feeling particularly indulgent], the veggie burger at Krueger’s is a must-have when in OTR. 

I’ve recently been rediscovering Cincinnati and have been so awestruck by the culture and passion for supporting locally owned businesses within my city and OTR is the perfect example of this. Though I’ve spent countless days wandering its streets, I’m always more than willing to go back!

Learning to Stay Motivated Over Summer Break

Summer has always been one of the most intimidating times for me in terms of my health and wellness regimen. At school, I have nearly unlimited access to a gym seven days a week. One simple swipe at the front desk and I have all the equipment I need. I mean, working out doesn’t get much easier than that.

At home, though, it’s a bit harder. Despite advocating for people of all genders, ages, sexualities, etc. to have a right to feel comfortable in the gym, I still get gymtimidation from my local Planet Fitness, or any gym that’s not Ohio University Campus Recreation Center, for that matter. I don’t know what it is, but I get so nervous to be in a new place, to not know the gym’s layout, that I psych myself out and forego purchasing a membership summer after summer [not to mention, memberships can be expensive and I’m a college student on a ~tight~ budget]. So, year after year I’ve had to find ways to keep myself motivated to be active.

CHAARG [Changing Health Attitudes + Actions to Recreate Girls] has been instrumental in helping me find my motivation. Though I’m not physically with my #OUCHAARGies, one scroll through my _inchaarg Instagram profile has me feeling connected to hundreds of inspiring women. If I’m having a day where I feel particularly unmotivated, I know one message to our chapter groupchat will leave me with more inspiration than I know what to do with. It’s also comforting to know that National CHAARG has uploaded mini sweat seshes and workouts to the Instagram page [in addition to the annual Summer Bootycamp] and I always have these workouts when I’m in lacking ideas and motivation for workouts of my own.

Last summer was particularly challenging. Not only was I feeling unmotivated, but I was taking all the steps to become motivated and it still wasn’t working. I bought the Summer Bootycamp,  and I only finished less than half of the workouts. I tried to get into running, only lasted a few weeks. I started following new trainers and saving their workouts, but then never looked at them again. By the end of the summer, I felt okay, but definitely not my best.

This summer, after having a particularly stressful semester and having been off my routine for the last few weeks, I knew I wanted to make changes to my summer workout regimen.

For the past few months, my mom and I have been saying we want to run a 5K. For avid runners, this might not seem like a difficult task, but for us [and me, especially as someone who hates cardio] to finish one by the end of the summer would be the most fulfilling accomplishment. It’s helped to watch my mom take this goal seriously and to take her own personal health and wellness into her own hands with her daily workouts. Now, I’m constantly reminding myself that if my mom, who carpools my younger brother around weekly, works a full-time job and takes care of the rest of the house effortlessly can make time for a 30 to 45 minute workout, then so can I.

One of the biggest changes I’ve made so far this summer [and that’s helped keep me accountable so far] is participating in Blogilates’ 28 Day Summer Sculpt Challenge. I started doing Cassey Ho’s pilates-style workouts when I was still in high school and still attribute the initial spark of my passion for fitness to her. However, the past few years I’ve drifted away from pilates and focused more on weight training and cardio with the occasional yoga flow. When she announced the start of her latest series, I knew this was just the thing I needed to keep me motivated this summer [or at least for the month of June]. So far, the 30-minute workouts have been the perfect length to complete before I work in the mornings [yes, I’ve been getting up at 7:30 every morning, but it’s fine. I’m fine] and have had my muscles ~shaking~ by the end. Though I miss lifting and hitting new PRs with weights, it’s honestly nice to take a break and focus on the smaller muscles that have been neglected all year [muscles that I didn’t even know I had are sore as I write this].

My summer health and fitness journey is an imperfect, up and down process, but I’m learning more about myself, my own goals, motivation and capabilities every day. I’ve realized that it’s not about what other people tell you will work [trust me, I’ve asked many people how they keep themselves motivated and tried to copy it, but to no avail] but rather, taking the time to find what works for you. You know your body better than anyone else and as long as you stay patient and allow yourself to experience the process fully, motivation will come naturally.

Laurelive Music Festival Offers New Kind of Fest Experience

It’s already mid-June, the end of the semester has come and gone and college students have either returned home for the summer or are taking advantage of every travel opportunity they can manage. The one thing that tops most summer destination bucket lists? Music festivals.

Between Bonnaroo’s four-day camping festival, Hangout Fest’s beachy experience and Lollapalooza’s usual star-studded lineup, each festival is unique in its own way. But, the festivals I’m most interested in are those that haven’t yet reached A-List exclusivity.

COIN

To be honest, I was pretty disappointed by a lot of the festival lineups this year [due to my own personal tastes] but Laurelive’s was one that instantly intrigued me. With headliners Hozier and Sheryl Crow and other artists like Misterwives, COIN and AJR, how could I resist purchasing a weekend pass? I hadn’t heard of Laurelive prior to stumbling across this year’s lineup, but after looking into it, I could tell this was a legit festival worth the investment [I think we can all agree on thanking Fyre Festival for causing any apprehension when buying tickets to a festival we’ve never been to before].

So, Hannah [our very own media director!], my boyfriend and I booked an Airbnb about 30 minutes from the festival [trust me, the affordable price and Laurelive’s complimentary parking made the drive worth it] and made the four-hour drive from Cincinnati to Cleveland. The festival is held at Laurel School’s [an all-girls K-12 private school] 150-acre Butler campus.

Handmade friendship bracelets are a must.

The two main stages are positioned at both ends of the school’s track and field with food trucks and vendors outlining its circumference. The short walk from the gates to the main festival area is lined with local artisans and other crafters [think handmade jewelry, unique art prints and a locally-based wine slushie vendor; an obvious favorite amongst festival goers]. A third, smaller stage is also set up in this area where local and regional bands show off their talents.

When I entered, one thing immediately stood out to me: Laurelive is much more family-friendly than most music festivals. [There was even a kids’ area, complete with bounce houses and face painting, set up on the school’s tennis courts.] Blankets and lawn chairs dotted the large grassy area between the two stages as parents mingled with friends and barefooted kids ran around with bubbles and balloon animals. I noticed that most people just picked a spot for the day, set up camp, and enjoyed the music from a distance; a refreshing and laid-back atmosphere in comparison to the usual chaos of fans rushing from stage to stage in hopes of being barricade for their favorite artists.

While a variety of musicians took the stage over the course of two days, attendees couldn’t help but continuously browse the many local food vendors. From Asian cuisine and Thai bowls to barbeque and Italian, there was something for everyone’s taste. My favorites, though, were two local food trucks: Wild Spork and Cleveland Cookie Dough Co.

With a tagline like #SporkNotPork and a bright red truck, it’s hard not to stop at Wild Spork. The truck’s menu is 100% plant-based, but still has all the flavor of your usual, greasy, fried food [I mean, isn’t that the kind of comfort food we’re all looking for at this kind of event?]. Wild Spork’s menu is ever-changing, but the staple of the weekend was the buffalo ranch tots [the perfect blend of spicy and creamy atop crispy tots that keeps you full all day long].

Cleveland Cookie Dough Co.

Of course, how can you attend a music festival without treating yourself to some sort of sweet treat? Cleveland Cookie Dough Co.’s multi-colored, pastel truck mimics the aesthetic of a quaint cafe that you’d expect to see in some trendy part of New York City or Los Angeles … except it’s on wheels and it’s based in Cleveland so … better. The rich cookie dough has the consistency and flavor of what you’d expect of freshly made dough, but does not contain eggs so it is completely safe to eat. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, try CCDC’s signature dough-daes [equal parts cookie dough and ice cream that’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth].

The atmosphere and experience that Laurelive provided is one that I haven’t yet experienced at any other festival in the past. I felt relaxed all weekend and the leisurely vibe seemed to make time stand still — it was like we were completely disconnected from the world beyond the campus.

Discover: Cincinnati

Growing up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, I never really thought much of my city. To me, it was always boring and there was never anything to do.I had the WORST case of wanderlust all throughout high school and I lived for the occasional trips my family would take to New York City and Huntington Beach, California.

Recently, Cincinnati has been named one of the top 50 best places to live in the United States by the U.S. News & World Report. It wasn’t until I started interning at Cincinnati Magazine last summer that I really understood just how much the city has to offer and exactly why it received that ranking. During my time at the magazine, I experienced a completely different side of my city — a side rich in arts, culture and diversity [something I hadn’t previously experienced in suburbia]. Here are my top five favorite hangouts in the “Nasty Nati.”

Favorite place to shop: Handzy Shop + Studio

Okay, so technically Handzy is located in Covington, Kentucky but I’m pretty sure it’s closer to my house than some areas of Cincinnati so … I’m including it. Owned by college friends Brittney Braemer and Suzy Strachan, Handzy specializes in handmade stationary and everything that goes with it [think fun pens, cute stickers, notepads, etc.]. The shop’s exposed whitewashed brick and aesthetically pleasing decor feels like a shop straight out of Dumbo, Brooklyn [aka #trendy as heck]. Braemer and Strachan carefully curate a women’s clothing line for every season, but my favorite items are the ~quirky~ greeting cards. Each card adds a little bit of personality to whatever holiday you’re celebrating. [I promise, I’ll never buy a generic Hallmark card again.]

Favorite place to work: Aroma’s Java & Gelato

Between writing for Backdrop magazine, interning for Cincinnati Magazine and writing for/managing LVNG Limitless, all while working a part-time retail job, a lot of my work takes place outside of your typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. business hours. Aroma’s is my favorite coffee shop to get caught up on everything over the weekend. Just a five minute drive from my house [and one of the only locally owned coffee shops on the west side of Cincinnati], the calming atmosphere of the cafe is the perfect place to get my creative juices flowing. With an assortment of pastries, breakfast foods and lunch foods, I can camp out at the newly installed window countertop or in one of the comfy couches for hours. All with the convenience of the variety of espresso drinks to keep me energized.

Favorite pop-up market: City Flea

If there’s one thing going to school in Athens, Ohio has taught me over the past two years, it’s the importance of supporting local artists, creators and business owners. City Flea is my favorite summer pop-up market simply because of just how many artists and vendors are featured at every market. Seven times a year, tents sprawl across Washington Park in downtown Cincinnati. From textile makers to jewelers to local popsicle trucks, City Flea has virtually anything you could ever ask for from a market!

http://www.publictheband.com/

Favorite weekend activity: Local music

It only takes having, like, one conversation with me to know how much of a #LocalMusic fan I am [insert *I’m not like most girls, I’m ~quirky~* meme here]. But, how can I not be when Cincinnati’s music scene is home to so many talented artists. Spending most of the year in Athens, it’s often hard for me to get to shows now, but when I do, they’re some of my favorite nights. I’ve met so many incredible people through the Cincy music scene and I’ve watched it launch the careers of so many of my friends [not only its musicians but also photographers, journalists and other content creators]. Cincy music is really good. I promise. Check it out if you’re ever in town. [Disclaimer: Not ALL of the bands on that playlist are technically from Cincinnati. Some are from Columbus, some are from Athens, etc. But, I heard about all of them through the same scene. So, I’m counting it.]

Favorite outdoor space: Smale Riverfront Park

Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s no time that I thrive more than in the sunlight [we LOVE that serotonin]. Even if I’m working inside all day, I’ve found that I’m just generally happier if there are large windows filling the room with natural light. My favorite place to soak in the sun [on the off chance that Cincinnati is actually having consistent weather patterns] is Smale Park on the banks of downtown. If I had to describe a perfect day, it would simply be grabbing something to eat from one of the many delicious eateries on the banks and then walking down to the park. Stainless steel swings allow you to relax and overlook the Ohio River [okay, not much of a sight to see but the John A. Roebling bridge looks pretty lit up at night] and the walking pathway at the bottom of the park offers a postcard picturesque view of Cincinnati.

Share with us on Instagram once you check out one of these five Cincinnati hangouts!

Paving Platforms for Positivity

Over the past few years, female empowerment and the feminist movement have made great strides toward encouraging women to speak up, make their voices heard and be themselves without apologizing. The growth of the movement has also sparked an increase in advocates for body positivity. Celebrities throughout the industry have taken to various platforms to share the love they have for their bodies in its most natural form and encourage others to do the same. But, no one has made quite the impact that Jameela Jamil has with the start of her movement i_weigh.

In 2018, the British actress, best known for her current role on The Good Place, posted an Instagram story of a generic mirror photo of herself. Written across the photo were the words, “I weigh” followed by a list of characteristics such as “great friends” and “I speak out for women’s rights.” The one thing missing on this post? A number from a scale.

Earlier this year, Jamil tweeted that her original intention for this post was to protest the way women are valued in society. Outraged by an Instagram post of group of women with their weights plastered across the photo, Jamil decided to take action. She wanted to prove that women are worth more than just a number on a scale. Instead, she wants people to “weigh” themselves as all of the unique character traits that make up who they are inside.

After Jamil’s initial Instagram story, she created an Instagram account dedicated specifically to the i_weigh movement. Since its launch, the page has accumulated 647 thousand followers and over two thousand posts of people sharing what they weigh.

“I started this page so that the moments that these women fought back and took pride in their lives beyond their exterior can live on forever,” Jamil wrote in an Instagram story. “And so that we can inspire other women to do the same.”

Although this movement began with the intent to inspire women, i_weigh is not a narrow-minded initiative. Jamil and i_weigh’s supporters encourage empowerment for people of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities and sexualities. To celebrate its one year anniversary, i_weigh introduced a new interview series where other celebrities have the opportunity to share their stories. The interview series’ first collaborator was Sam Smith.

“This is the first time I’ve spoken about [body image]. My whole life, I struggled with my body and my relationship with it,” Smith said in his interview with Jamil. “… For the first time ever I just had a surge in me to fight against my issues instead of being a victim to them all the time.”

The i_weigh movement has already impacted so many people, from celebrities like Smith, to every day Instagram users. Share with us on Instagram what you “weigh” and how the body positivity movement has impacted you!

Getting Curious About Jonathan Van Ness

I’ve been thinking about the question, “If you could have dinner with any famous person, dead or alive, who would it be?” a lot lately. I’ve never had a consistent answer to this question — in eighth grade my answer was Justin Bieber and in high school it would’ve been One Direction, so we see what that says about me. However, recently, my response to this age old question has unwaveringly been Jonathan Van Ness.

I was first introduced to Van Ness during the debut of Netflix’s “Queer Eye”. Immediately, I admired his charisma and outgoing, unapologetic personality. When I began listening to the Van Ness’s podcast, Getting Curious, I realized just how much there is to the “Queer Eye” star than just fabulous outfits and flawless hair flips. Van Ness embodies everything that I aspire to be and has quickly topped the list of celebrities I’m fascinated by.

Van Ness, a culture icon, first found the spotlight in 2013 with his web series parody, Gay of Thrones, which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award in 2016 and 2018. Two years after the web series started, Van Ness debuted his podcast, Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness. Every week, Van Ness interviews an expert regarding  something he is curious about [my favorites thus far have been How Do You Ignore Haters & Learn to Love Yourself with Jameela Jamil and Did Social Media Make Artists Need to be Business People Too? With Austyn Weiner]. Even in today’s polarized social and political climate, Van Ness is a prime example of how to maturely approach controversial topics [heard in podcast episodes like Have We Lost the Capacity to be Civil? With Sally Kohn].

Since the revival of Queer Eye in 2018, Van Ness’s social media presence has quickly grown — especially on Instagram. There, his 3.4 million followers eagerly await his frequent ice skating training updates, yoga flows and, of course, his iconic looks while he poses in stiletto heels with the rest of Queer Eye’s Fab Five.
Although Van Ness’s fame provides him with a platform to use his voice, his A-List celebrity status is just a side result of the activism work he was already doing. That’s what makes him so inspiring to me. Van Ness uses the platform he has been granted to continue to stand up to adversity, advocate for the LGBTQ+ community as well as other minority groups, and works to educate society on relevant topics … all in a entertaining way. Without intimidating his audience, Van Ness controls a room and speaks with so much confidence and assurance that you want to listen to him. He is so unapologetic in the way he defies preconceived social norms that it’s hard to not be inspired by him. I believe, no matter what field you’re in, what your political or social views are or how you choose to live your life, we can all learn something from Jonathan Van Ness.