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"There are too many books I haven’t read, too many places I haven’t seen, too many memories I haven’t kept long enough." - Irwin Shaw

Datability Ranking of the men featured on 'Gilmore Girls'

Lizzie Williams

This is perhaps the most juvenile post I’ve ever written - ohh well! Since I just spent the past 6-9 months binge watching every episode of the Gilmore Girls I often found myself wondering -- Who would I want to date/marry if I were one of the Gilmore Girls?! It might SEEM easy to decide while you’re early in the Dean/Jess phase to pick one or the other, but when you’re watching the full story unfold, episode after episode, year after year, it feels much harder to decide with certainty. Well, I took some time and I've figured it out. Below is my official datability assessment of the Gilmore Girls men, based on watching all 157 episodes. (Note: I figured out that watching 157 episodes equates to roughly 7,245 minutes, or, 120 hrs 45 mins, or 5.03 FULL days of straight Gilmore Girls - what an accomplishment!)

The official datability ranking of all the (primary) Gilmore Girls men:

  1. Dave Rygalski (I mean, right? Was so sweet/thoughtful/amazing to Lane back in the day. Also, so cute.)
  2. Logan Huntzberger (Again, right? I don’t need to tell you why he’s easily crushable.)
  3. Max Medina (Such a smart, sweet dude!)
  4. Luke Danes (Love me some Luke, but boy would prob drive me a little nutty when he gets in his stubborn moods.)
  5. Christopher Hayden (Chris is smart/hot/funny but that flakiness would prob be too much for me.)
  6. Tristan DuGrey (Yes, this is 100% based on looks.)
  7. Marty (MARTY! I was all about him until he was so odd in later seasons. Prob has some issues to work out.)
  8. Dean Forester (Sorry #TeamJess, I’ve always been #TeamDean - which I do find a little surprising about myself, but I can’t help that I’m (almost) always drawn to the good guys!)
  9. Jess Mariano (Only post-college Jess. I would never have been able to tolerate his youthful shenanigans.)
  10. Richard Gilmore (Don’t hate! Richard’s a solid dude! Martinis + hanging at The Club all day? Doesn’t sound that bad!)
  11. Jason Stiles (Funny-ish, smart - but too douchey to date long-term.)
  12. Jackson Belleville (Jackson is nice, but I am 0% attracted to him.)
  13. Zach Van Gerbig (Zach drove me NUTS. I think he’s okay looking but I just could not date him. He has virtually no substance.)
  14. Taylor Doose (TAY IS CRAY. Also, he might be gay?)
  15. T.J. (I shudder a bit at the thought of kissing TJ, Liz’s husband,  because he’s so childish, and odd, but he is still not in absolute last place.)
  16. Kirk Gleason (This has got to be universally agreed upon, right?)

Would love to hear how your datability lists compare! ;)

The Top 9. ;) 

The Top 9. ;) 

(Note: This is who I would date, not who I necessarily think Lorelai/Rory should date.)


National Pizza Day Competition

Lizzie Williams

Happy National Pizza Day!

For years I have wanted to host a competition to determine “GR’s Best Pizzeria”. I dreamed of sampling all my faves in one sitting to determine what sauce/crust/cheese combo would impress my taste buds enough to be able to say, with certainty, “X” is my favorite pizzeria. (Ok, so in my dreams I probably also had a brew in hand – but this time sparkling seltzer water was my only option!) A few months ago I threw the idea out there to my teammates at OST and, no pun intended, they totally bit. So, today, for National Pizza Day we hosted an official competition to determine which pizzeria would earn the highly coveted title of: OST’s favorite.

We had 15 OST-ers bring in pies from their favorite pizzeria’s and 50-60 people showed up for the tasting. We asked all pizza purchasers to follow a few simple rules:

  • Keep the toppings minimal – cheese or pepperoni only
  • Ask to have the pizza’s cut into squares so more people could sample (vs. slices)
  • No frozen or homemade pizzas
  • Pizza’s had to be ready to be sampled at exactly 12:00PM

To determine the winner, each taster could vote for their top two favorite pizzas. After doing a final tally, the results are in and OST’s FAVORITE Pizza is….

[Drumroll, please]




The official breakdown:

1st Place – Andrea’s [2014 Boston St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506]

2nd Place – Harmony Brewing [1551 Lake Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506]

3rd Place – JB’s Pizza Parlor [2433 Eastern Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507]

4th Place – Mitten Brewing [527 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]

4th Place – Fratelli’s [435 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]

5th Place – Big O’s Cafe [80 Ottawa Ave NW #1, Grand Rapids, MI 49503]

5th Place – Vitale’s of Ada [400 Ada Dr SE, Ada, MI 49301]

6th Place – Salvatore’s [654 Stocking Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]

6th Place – Giordano’s [3333 W Shore Dr, Holland, MI 49424]

7th Place – Brick Road [1017 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506]

8th Place – The Knickerbocker – New Holland [417 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]

8th Place – Rocket Pies [435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503]

8th Place – Georgio’s Pizza [15 Ionia Ave SW #150, Grand Rapids, MI 49503]

Last Place – “Mom’s Secret Recipe” AKA: Little Caesars [245 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]


I’d encourage your business/friend group/family to try something similar and let us know what pizzeria floated to the top of your list!

Happy National Pizza Day, friends!


Creating a dedicated "Quiet Space" at Work

Lizzie Williams

If you’ve ever been to my office at OST you’ve probably looked around at one of our gorgeous kitchens, the beautifully restored brick, or the custom shuffleboard table and thought, “Man! How do I get a job here!?”. It’s a seriously beautiful work space. However, one downfall of having an open-concept office, where even our conference room doors are glass, is there isn’t a ton of privacy. That can cause discomfort for those times when you receive a tough call, when you’re fighting a migraine, or you just need a minute to yourself. We recently recognized an additional need for a dedicated private space that, as a young company, we hadn't needed before - a spot for moms returning to work to pump their breast milk. In order to provide a private space that would be suited for all needs, our OST Well-being team decided to jump in and create a designated “Quiet Room” for team members seeking a mid-day respite.

When we decided to move forward with the creation of the Quiet Room we knew we only had one month until the first of our new moms would be returning to work. Since I haven’t had any children myself, I quickly started researching best-practices online for workplace pump rooms and talking to colleagues and friends who returned to work shortly after having babies. We put together a list of room must-haves, nice-to-haves and maybe-laters. We worked with our facilities team to secure a room and then we went to work drafting out a floor plan. Within just a few quick weeks we had a fully operational, comfortable, private space.

Once the new moms started returning to work we asked if there was anything else we missed, or things that we bought that they didn’t need. We've done our best to compile all the research, suggestions, and comments that we've heard and created a guide so other people who are looking to create this type of space in their own offices can have a solid starting point. I will say, one thing I learned through working on this project is that it’s really not that hard and it doesn’t have to be a huge investment, but it makes a BIG difference for the people using it.



  • Re-purpose an unused, or underutilized, conference room  - heck, even a closet! It does not have to be big! The room we used was a little 9’x11’ conference room that no one liked because it was small and had no windows. Some actually referred to it as “the interrogation room”.
  • If the door has glass panels make sure you get a full-coverage shade or replace the door with a solid one. (We swapped doors with an office that didn’t need it.)
  • Make sure the door has a lock!
  • To let people know that the room is in use we simply hung a “Do not disturb” on the handle. That works great for our office but other companies I know of have added the room to their reservable conference system so you can “check it out” when needed.


  • Comfortable seating - with pillows and a blanket. (We found a couch from for $350 and had it delivered directly to the office - easy peasy!)
  • An additional seat or two, since the room might be used by more than one person
  • A foot stool (I snagged a $40 ottoman at Meijer & it works great)
  • A refrigerator is very helpful so moms can immediately put their milk away and don’t have to walk around the office carrying it. (Mini fridges are <$100)
  • A storage location so people can leave their pump at the office. (We used an old filing cabinet - not glamorous, but does the job!)
  • A small table
  • A trash can
  • Hand sanitizer
  • A mirror (I didn’t think of this right away but makes total sense)
  • Reading material (Ideas: Amy Poehler’s new book, a few magazines, etc.)
  • Kleenex
  • Paper towel + baby friendly cleaner for any spills
  • A power strip
  • A clock that can be seen from the couch


  • A sink
  • Phone chargers
  • TV (with a remote) 
  • If you have a lot of new moms it might be worth investing in a pump that anyone is welcome to use. They would just be responsible for bringing their own attachments.
  • A fan/white noise machine or a Bluetooth music player. Turns out pumps are not exactly quiet and some new moms can feel uncomfortable having their co-workers hear them pumping..
  • A plant (Just make sure if you don’t have windows in the room that it’s a shade-loving plant!)
  • Artwork - I mean, if you’re gonna do it, might as well do it right. :)


The final step is so simple, but critically important -- you have to actually let everyone know that it has been re-purposed and your process around using it. :) 


I’m sure that anyone who finds themselves in need of a little privacy will be incredibly grateful. I posted a picture of our Quiet Room on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe how many people expressed that they wish they had something similar instead of pumping on the toilet, or how they had to run to their car when they learned of a death in the family. We all need quiet spaces at one point or another.

If you have any additional suggestions, let me know!

BEFORE PHOTO -- when the room was being used as a conference room. 

AFTER PHOTO - The official "Quiet Room"&nbsp;

AFTER PHOTO - The official "Quiet Room" 


Note: my cousin Laura mentioned that it might be helpful to include information about the legal rights that a new mom gets based on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Great idea, Laura! Here is what I found:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, known as the “Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” See 29 U.S.C. 207(r). The break time requirement became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The Fact Sheet and the Frequently Asked Questions provide basic information about the law. (Via the US Department of Labor)


Airbnb & Me | The (So) What

Lizzie Williams

If you’ve been following my Airbnb series at all then you’ve heard me talk about “the why” (I do it), “the who” (is staying with me), “the how” (you set it up), but now I want to talk about “the what” - or more specifically, the so what. I want to share some of my perspective on why allowing residents to host Airbnb guests contributes to the vibrancy of a city. I will also explore why I think we need to set up systems and policies to encourage the sharing economy instead of seeing it as a disruption in our neighborhoods or threat to stability. From my perspective there are four primary benefits of being an Airbnb friendly community and hosting Airbnb guests:

  1. THE SIDE HUSTLE - It provides additional income for residents (which increases tax dollars collected)
  2. LOCAL FIRST - It supports Grand Rapids’ culture of localism  
  3. COMMUNITY AMBASSADORS - It allows visitors to be welcomed to our community by passionate community ambassadors
  4. OPTIONS - It provides affordable, unique options for visitors

Now let me dive into those a bit...


Ok, let me just put this out there: Airbnb is a legit side-hustle. Like Uber, Lyft, and other shared-economy businesses, it’s a solid way to earn some real cash. Just for context, I’m currently making about an extra grand a month. (And that’s just for a spare bedroom in an old house where you have to deal with a wild little dog and a common bathroom!) For Grand Rapids, a City with a median household income around $39,913 (according to the 2014 census), an extra ~$12,000 (pre-tax) for simply using the space you already pay for is not something to scoff at. For homeowners, that extra income could help pay down a mortgage, make home improvements, cover utilities, put extra money toward student loans or contribute towards savings. I know fellow-hosts who use a percentage of their Airbnb income to support local non-profits that they are passionate about and others who use it exclusively to travel. For me, it’s a combination of things.

For many in GR, having extra income to put toward home expenses without having to get a second job or take in additional roommates is a huge opportunity. According to The Regional Consolidated Community Development Report the total number of cost-burdened households (which is defined as, those paying 30% or more of their income toward housing expenses) in the City of Grand Rapids currently sits at 25,220 households. Of those, 9,075 are home-owners. That’s a significant number of people who are likely looking for unique ways to offset their home costs. Even for those of us in our late 20’s/early 30’s who have good jobs and no longer want roommates (as delightful as they may be!), but are still looking for ways to earn extra income, it’s a great option. I had wonderful roommates for many years but what I like about Airbnb versus a long term renter is that I can choose to block days that I don’t want guests. This comes in handy when I know I have a busy week, or want a guest room available for friends/family who are in town. It’s flexible, it’s manageable, and it’s an asset I already possess.


Having guests in my house on a regular basis makes me think about my space a lot - the cleanliness, the design, the vibe - all of it. Due to that frequent attention, I’ve found myself making more investments over the past nine months then in the previous three years combined. The reason I don’t mind making investments in my house - and even ENJOY it - is because I know that every investment I make is a decisions to “vote with my dollars”. What I buy, and where I buy it matters.

Research shows that when $100 is spent at a local business that $68 of that stays right here in the community, vs. the $43 that stays when that same $100 is spent at a non-local business. I know that I have the choice to support fellow local businesses, or big box stores. To purchase new flooring from Verhey Carpets, which was a Wealthy Street staple long before the bakeries and beards, and to invest in beautiful statement pieces from local artists like Amy Carroll instead of a grab-and-go prints from Ikea. I like only having to drive a mile to snag stain and supplies at Rylee’s Ace Hardware vs. hoofing it out to 28th Street. I've also really enjoyed having the financial flexibility to hire some talented GR entrepreneurs like Steve Naylor (Paintworks) to do my interior painting, Kelley Howley (Hunt & Gather) to consult on interior design decisions, and my will-work-for-food neighbor who keeps my yard lookin' fresh. These are my decisions, my investments, because I know that every one of those shops, families, and individuals are making similar investments in our local economy. 


I have learned that, as a host, I have the option of influence on what version of Grand Rapids my guests get to see. Every-single-time a guest asks me for a suggestion on where to go/eat/shop/visit they have taken me up on at least one or two of my recommendations. I encourage them to go see Jason and Peter at the Cakabakery, to have a drink at one of Larry’s restaurants  - perhaps Derby Station in Gaslight Village, or Logan’s Alley on Michigan or the new Little Lucy’s in the Creston neighborhood. I tell them that Terra has great happy hours and that Harmony’s Good Earth pizza is my all time favorite. I clue them in on the delicious egg sammies at That Early Bird, the margs at Donkey, and that my #1 cocktail can be found on the NW side of town at Long Road Distillers. I encourage them to walk over to Rebel.Reclaimed, because they have the most unique gifts in town (and because Chip is the best), to check out Erica’s bomba$$ prints and clothing at Woosah and to grab a juice at Malamiah in the Downtown Market. If they are looking for the best boutiques in town, I steer them towards my personal go-to’s: Lee & Birch, Denym and Gina’s. They always go, and they are always impressed. This level of care and commitment towards being a community ambassador matters just as much for local businesses as it matters for the guests. They get to dine, shop and visit wonderfully curated local gems that are recommended based on their individual preferences. They get to see the many great neighborhoods of Grand Rapids. They aren’t stuck choosing between franchise stores they have in their own city for lunch and they don’t have to resort to the mall as the only option for a new outfit.


The majority of guests that I have hosted were choosing to stay in an Airbnb for two primary reasons: to stay in a walkable neighborhood, to save money, or a combo of both. As mentioned in a previous post, just under half of my guests are fellow Michiganders and many of them decide on a whim if they are going to visit. They book last minute and often have the option to drive home if they don’t find a place to stay, or they simply decide not to come. Many of them keep hearing about how great Grand Rapids is and they want to explore the neighborhoods, try the restaurants and, of course, drink the beer. They ride the Rapid, they visit our museums, they spend their money in local restaurants and businesses. They go to Stella’s, to Founders, to Bombay. They see shows at the Pyramid Scheme, the Intersection, the Arena. And then they catch an Uber back to Eastown, grab a quick Yesterdog, a gyro at Sami’s or a nightcap at Billy’s. The crowd that stays with me and my dog for $55/night in Eastown, is simply not the crowd that would be forking over $250 for a night at the Amway Grand, albeit a wonderful hotel.  

Staying in an Airbnb is a great option for people who don’t have other options. I hosted a couple from a small town in Ohio recently that had been saving up for weeks to go to a concert in GR and stay the night. The woman was a manager at an Arby’s and her boyfriend was a car mechanic. It was a big deal for them to take two days off work. They were so happy when they heard about Airbnb because it provided an opportunity for them to enjoy a mini-vacation. They had actually driven to Grand Rapids for concerts before, but in the past, they would literally drive the 5 hours back to Ohio because the nearby hotels were out of their price range. Finally, they were able to find a nice, safe place to rest that was under $60 a night.

An independent videographer from Detroit recently shared a similar sentiment. He said he certainly couldn’t afford to stay in the downtown hotels because it would cut so far into his margin that he’d be losing money on the shoot. He had tried the “affordable hotel” route but the ones that “weren’t too bad” had increased their rates from $80/night to $118 over the course of the last 12 months. Not to mention, these hotels are typically out on a busy commercial thoroughfare that doesn’t display the best of what our community has to offer. He had resorted to driving back and forth to Detroit for every shoot until his son told him about Airbnb. He stayed with me for his first time a few weeks ago and he was so relieved to cut out the 5+ hours/day of driving - and it only cost him the price of tank of gas.


Let’s make Grand Rapids a city that ENCOURAGES homesharing. That welcomes people. That allows for its residents to build capital in unexpected ways that contribute to a growing economy. To encourage residents to think creatively, to learn the responsibilities of having your own small business, while still having the support of a large community. To share our stories, to make improvements, to patronize other local businesses. There is so much possibility from the good that comes out of the human connections that Airbnb creates. Let’s be a community that’s leaning in to the possibilities instead of creating more rules, regulations and red tape. Let’s stop being afraid of "what could happen” and let’s instead focus on all of the amazing things that could happen, if we let them.


The Bag'n'Bagel Eggstravaganza

Lizzie Williams

Note: I wrote this for the OST blog on 10/18/16 but thought I'd share it here too. :) 

The Bags’n’Bagels Eggstravaganza

I walked into OST this morning and my sleepy senses came alive with the smell of bacon & eggs, the sound of caffeinated colleagues, and the sight of 30+ adults coloring with crayons.

A few weeks ago, in our employee-led Community Outreach Committee meeting, one member suggested we encourage employees to decorate bags for Kids’ Food Basket’s annual “Brown Bag Day”. Kids’ Food Basket is a nonprofit that provides nutritional sack-suppers for kids who might not have access to dinner. They serve schools where ~90% of students qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program. KFB is currently providing 7,500 sack suppers A DAY to West Michigan kids.  They host their annual “Brown Bag Day” to challenge the community to provide 75,000 decorated bags to add that extra special touch for the students they serve. Everyone on the Comm Outreach team agreed, this was a worthy cause and we wanted to help out.

After the decision was made to participate in Brown Bag Day we paused and asked the question: “what does that look like for OST?”. We all knew it wouldn’t just be an email asking people to decorate bags and bring them in. We know, in our DNA, that with every challenge, and every project, there is a traditional way, and then there isour way. Here at OST, innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in every meeting and in every conversation. So, we got creative.

Two Community Outreach Committee members, Joel Vanderveen and Steve Henderhan, took it upon themselves to try out a new method of encouraging our busy business professionals to decorate bags with the help of an age-old motivator: food. After brainstorming, seeking feedback, and planning, the concept for “The Bags’n’Bagels Eggstravaganza” became a reality. Everyone in the office was invited to stop by the OST kitchen between 8:00AM-9:30AM for a made-to-order breakfast. Steve & Joel cracked, chopped, sliced, flipped, toasted, and assembled. And then, they collected. Each item ordered required a certain number of decorated bags as currency.


  • Bagels & Fruit – Assorted Bagels with Cream Cheese and Fruit Salad (self-serve) 
    • Cost: 3 Decorated Bags
  • Eggs n’ Bacon – Scrambled Eggs, 3 Strips of Thick-cut Sobie Meats Bacon, and Toast 
    • Cost: 7 Decorated Bags
  • Breakfast Sammy – Egg, Cheese & Bacon on a Bagel 
    • Cost: 10 Decorated Bags
  • Omelet – Onion, Green Pepper, Tomatoes, Bacon and Cheese
    • Cost: 15 Decorated Bags

Instead of shooting out an email, hoping a few people would make their kids decorate bags, but knowing most would take a split-second pause, only long enough to remind themselves that they “don’t know how to draw” or “don’t have time” before clicking “delete”, we ended up having a DELICIOUS breakfast, laughed a lot, got to channel our inner artists – and we ended up with 332 beautifully decorated bags and many new enthusiastic KFB supporters.

There are a million little decisions we make every day and countless repetitious behaviors – I want to encourage everyone to take a few minutes today to look at a task, a project, or a routine, and ask yourself, could there be a better way to do it? A way to broaden it for greater good? An opportunity to not just check a box on your to-do list, but to make an impact? At OST, these are the questions we ask ourselves every day.