How I’ll Find Happiness in 2011: Avoiding Overthinking in March

In my third month of exploring The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky as a part of my journey on finding happiness in 2011, the month of March was dedicated to the act of avoiding over thinking and social comparison: using strategies (such as distraction) to cut down on how often you dwell on your problems and compare yourself with others.

In the past month, I came to discover I have a serious problem in allowing self-hate and negative talk determine my mood. Addressing this exact issue, I found inspiration from so many bloggers over this past month :

But the one that resounded with me most was Andrea’s Emotional Hunger post on her blog, Can You Stay For Dinner?  The beautiful written post is worth a full read, but these words stuck with me most:

I’m a people pleaser. The type who probably comes across as extroverted and sunny and light. I spend mornings, days, and early evenings, trying to radiate positive energy, becoming totally absorbed in interactions with others, really just giving life my absolute all. It’s part of my wish to never have regrets. I like to live fully. Give it all I’ve got… So at the end of the day, I feel drained. I feel as though I’ve got to take something back for myself.

So at night, when I feel zapped of energy, when I feel like I’ve done a lot for others, and maybe tried too hard to make life a bit sunnier for other people, to make them laugh (mostly at me- and for good reason), when I’ve given it all away, I’m left with a body and mind that needs restoring.

I am a living and breathing example of Andrea’s words. A strong work ethic was instilled in my brother and I by my parents. I took this concept to a new ridiculous level after an interaction with a business contact early in my career.

I went to drop something off to said contact at the hotel she was staying at on my way home one weekend. I found her in the valet waiting area, sitting on a banquet chair with her laptop, typing to capture a flurry of thoughts. Handing her the paperwork I was sent to deliver, I inquired why she was still working in such a random spot after hours on a Friday evening. Her response: “I try to do all the work I can with all the time I have. Every moment of the day. You have to take advantage of them all, no matter where you are.”

Without even knowing it, I found myself embracing this mantra. It didn’t take long to realize the ridiculousness of it. Even still, I fill my days with too many business meetings, plenty of personal interactions and a list of goals to reach that is a mile long.  I do my best to be realistic and not overtax myself, but some days that concept is abandoned and I’m back to giving 200%. Unfortunately, this isn’t a reasonable or realistic way to live. Burnout is bound to be the next thing on your to-do list.

This way of life sets a person up for failure: they expect by working on tasks every moment they have in order to  reach perfection. But as we all know, perfection in impossible. And when that burnout happens, I feel defeated. All I can think is, “I didn’t get that done. The task isn’t completed. I let someone down.” It took until this month’s project to realize just how much I let the self-depreciating thoughts seep in. And the more that happens, just how much my anxious and depressed tendencies tend to rear their heads.

In assessing all this, I had a break thru, starting with throwing out the to-do list. Andrea says, “it’s about filling myself, my time, and my mind with something that I want to mean so much more.” So I asked myself:

  • “what makes me insanely happy? what makes me sad?”
  • “knowing what brings me joy, what do I want to spend my time doing?”
  • “who/what are the people/things in my life that inspire me? how can I spend more time with them?”
  • “how can my self-love spread positively into other areas of my life?”

Some questions were easier to answer than others, but I was able to figure out what really was important to me. Over the month, I decided to use one of the book’s strategies to focus on a new intention. When I caught myself thinking negative thoughts, I stopped that internal monologue and said to myself, “FEED YOUR SOUL”. I then ask myself, “what do I need in this moment to feel fulfilled?”

Sometimes it’s simply some downtime: a nap, some trashy reality TV or some quiet time alone.

Sometimes it’s some physical activity: a fabulous hot yoga sweat fest or a pup walk with the fuzz.

And sure, sometimes it’s ice cream – but in that craving, I remind myself the ice cream is only going to solve the problem if the problem is hunger.

That simple three-word phrase has drastically increased my self-awareness and self-worth in the past month. Filling your head with negativity is only bound to end in negative results. Instead of just putting the positive out into the world, I now keep some of that positivity inside for my own personal use. And with a new sense of “anything is possible”, I’m on my way to creating a realistic to-do list filled only with those things that bring me absolute bliss.

What’s in store for next month? Practicing Acts of Kindness! I’m so excited for April!

Parma Fish Fry Guide: St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral

When looking for fish fry suggestions to go with the ones found on the’s 2011 Northeast Ohio Fish Fry Guide, I stumbled upon the WTAM 1100 Fish Fry Guide. Another search of the word “Parma” lead me to recommend Hans’ next stop on his fish fry challenge: St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral.

As Broadview Road has plenty of churches to keep us going, we chose St. Sava partly because it was so close to the previous two fish fry locations he tried. Located at the corner of Broadview and Ridgewood Roads, the church is hard to miss – it is a cathedral, after all:


Check out St. Sava’s fish fry menu on the WTAM site:


(image c/o I’m wondering if those dates are correct…)

Hans stopped by St. Sava for take out around 5:30PM on Friday, March 25th. For $7.50, he got the standard meal with no add-ons:


Under those fries was a large piece of fried fish:


A close up on the meal:


A photo for size comparison of the fish to the carry out box:


Here’s what he thought on his dinner from St. Sava:

The piece of fish: In comparison to the previous two weeks, he was happy to see such a large piece of fish. Unfortunately, the fish had a very strong “fishy” taste – no good in this household. He was pretty sure it was cod, which is unfortunately not his fish of choice. Overall, he liked the taste of St. Columbkille’s the best so far.

The french fries: These were definitely better than the ones served at St. Columbkille: I base conclusion on the fact that Hans ate all of these from St. Sava. He kept saying “they are crinkle cut”, but wouldn’t say if that was a good or bad thing. Hans’ potato side of choice is still the potato pancakes from Pokrova.

The bread: The bread looked to be homemade, which earned bonus points compared to those options from previous weeks. He took a bite and said “I think it’s potato bread”. He was it was “good” but again didn’t want to fill up on “empty calories”. This from the guy who tried to break the record at Mongolian BBQ for most bowls eaten in one trip…

The slaw: Hans – the consummate cabbage hater – left this side for me. Vinegar based instead of mayo based, I appreciated this option of coleslaw. It would have been a nice compliment to the rest of the meal. The slaw was good, but nothing to flip out about.

The soup: This soup was a thick veggie soup – almost chowder like – with an emphasis on potato and peas for thickener. Another nice veggie option to the meal, the soup was good with the addition of some salt and pepper.

Additional notes: Hans was impressed by the speediness of the kitchen staff at St. Sava, as well as their portion size for the price. He was moderately hungry, but didn’t have to order additional sides to fill his belly.


LONG STORY SHORT: Overall, St. Sava did an admirable job this Friday evening. Hans appreciated a lot about this meal, but ultimately was bummed that the potential star of the fish fry – that fried cod – was such a let down. Unfortunately, speedy service & good portions don’t ensure an out-of-this-world meal.

Admitting that he hasn’t been blown away yet, Hans and I are still on the search for the best fish fry south of I-480! Next week, blogger friend Tom from Exploring Food My Way will be headed up our way as we join fish fry forces. What will happen when Akron and Parma combine? Looks like you have SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO!

event recap: Emerging Chefs’ ThEATrical

On the evening of Thursday, March 23rd, Team PIP headed to Cleveland’s Theatre District for Emerging Chefs’ “ThEATrical” at the East 14th Street Theatre in the Theater District downtown:

Melange’s Executive Chef Adam Bostwick had prepared quite the menu: several courses inspired by a variety of films.

Just like I had done for my event Wednesday night, he had researched, conceptualized and developed his menu to ensure a successful evening. And then life got in the way.

At 7:15AM, Emerging Chefs co-founder Michael DeAloia received word that Adam was unable to partake that evening due to the passing of a family member. But by 7:45AM, Michael’s phone began to ring, and by mid-morning, Chefs Matt Creighton, Jeff Jarrett, Brian Okin, Brian Doyle, Chris Quinn, Kimberly McCune, and Chris McCarthy agreed to step up in order to show their support for their fellow chef and friend.

Melange’s Co-Executive Chef Matt Creighton found himself holding the reigns, leading his fellow chefs through a creative menu inspired by the film clips – each were shown before each course.

Enough with the previews: on to the food! Here’s what was served that evening:

Inspired by 9 1/2 Weeks: Hard Boiled Egg, Tuna and Strawberry Tartar and Kalamata Olive served with a Strawberry Jalapeno Shooter, a mix of a strawberry jalapeno simple syrup & champagne. 

Inspired by Forrest Gump: Cleveland Shrimp Gumbo, Shrimp Pierogi and Crisp Fried Shrimp…


…served with an “Adult Dr. Pepper” with amaretto, Southern Comfort, sloe gin, sour mix, grenadine, splash of coke, fresh orange:


Inspired by The Social Network & Meet Joe Black: Chicken Stuffed Chicken, Thai Peanut Butter Sauce, and Peanut Salad…


…served with a Stella Artois with a Salted Peanut Rim.



Inspired by Pulp Fiction: "Royale’ With Cheese": Short Rib Pave with Tomato and Kornichon Bruschetta, Crispy Onion, Ketchup Broth, Aged Cheddar and "Big Kahuna Fries"…

…served with an "8 Dollar Milk Shake", with vanilla vodka and Godiva dark chocolate.

Inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Blueberry “Wonka Bar” with Gobstopper Brittle…


…served with a Fizzy Lifting Drink, with Brut champagne, spiced blueberry simple syrup & Pop Rocks:


And for the ride home: Inspired by The Godfather: “Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli” (which eaten before we could get to the car for the picture).

My favorites from the menu included:

  • The entire 9 1/2 Weeks course: clean flavors from fresh ingredients, some of my favorite things combined on that small plate had me asking for five more. (Wasn’t kidding with that request, although I think Rick Turner thought I was!)
  • The “Adult Dr. Pepper”: I may or may not have traded my gumbo and my Stella for a few more of these with my fellow diners.
  • The "Royale’ With Cheese": The individual components of this “burger” were special on their own, but if you combined them all, you found a perfect bite of food.
  • The “Wonka Bar”: That dessert had our table puzzled with its gelatin-like structure with complex flavors. All five of us at our table were confused, amused and happy to be dipping it in that blueberry compote. I learned via Bite Buff it was a panna cotta. How did we not figure that out?!

Table favorites included:

  • The Cleveland inspired gumbo dish: it didn’t hurt that pierogi goodness was waiting for you in the bottom of the bowl! Since it was a gluten trifecta, Hans got my bowl of this table favorite.
  • The Stella Artois with a Salted Peanut Rim: My fellow diners were lovin’ on the enhanced beer experience and wondered if they’d get a funny look ordering a salted peanut rim at a bar in the future.
  • The “Sour Patch Kids”: While it wasn’t my favorite (I couldn’t place the flavors & foods that confuse me drive me batty), I believe Paul was quoted as saying “I could drink several of these”.

At the end of the evening after a job well done, all the chefs joined Melange owner Andrew Zelenkofske to receive the round of applause that they deserved.

In time of need, what people do for others say a lot about all the parties involved. What I learned Thursday night? That Chef Adam Bostwick is a beloved man by many. That the brotherhood & talent that is the Cleveland culinary scene is alive and well. And that Clevelanders come together to support one another, in the good and the bad. While these chefs were brought together under sad circumstances, their presence lead to a wonderful result. Congrats to them and the Emerging Chefs leadership for a wonderful evening!

I encourage you to check out these recaps of the evening:

Ready for the April 13th Emerging Chefs event with Ellis Cooley from AMP 150? Get your tickets today by visiting the site. Tickets are going to go fast!

Disclosure: I was provided a media pass to the ThEATrical event via Emerging Chefs. In return, I agreed to blog about my experience. My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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