Sunday, December 28, 2008

Anything But Rice-A-Roni

The countdown is on until I officially start my vacation.


My extremely kind father and I will set out in the dark of night (or morning, depending on how you look at things), leaving Cincinnati at a truly bleak and black 3 AM, destination: Louisville.
Now, I know the River City isn't the most exciting of locales, but it's merely a stop on my journey West (long live the CVG boycott). My 6 AM flight takes me to Chi-town for a brief respite (do you think the bars there will serve Bloody Marys at 7:30 AM?), and then I will make it to my first real vacation stop - San Francisco.
I scored a sweet deal on a hotel - the Hyatt Regency San Francisco for $75 a night. They were the only schmucks who would take my uber low ball Priceline bid on a four-star hotel. The hotel sounds pretty nice - it's steps away from the Ferry Building, looks on to the water, and was even featured prominently in Mel Brooks' movie, High Anxiety.
Jinkies.
I've packed about a million different accessories to dress up or dress down the arsenal of black clothing I've packed for the journey. My red-and-white polkadotted rain boots are also making the trek as the forecast for Eugene and Portland includes nothing but rain.
My suitcase includes a good variety of pleasure reading and I also hope to tick away my birthday and Christmas thank you note list while I'm gone.
And though I intend on avoiding any bit of work on this adventure, I might have to take care of a cookbook duty or two, though I am really contemplating putting it off until I come back.
I've got both my Flip and still cameras packed, so I intend on doing some blogging while I'm exploring CA and Oregon...
Wish me luck on finding the REAL San Francisco treat.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christ's Morning

Not a creature is stirring this morning.

Years ago, my sisters and I would be up and at 'em on Christmas morning, the youngest one jumping in the parents' bed (by far, the best technique to rouse two exhausted adults) and us two older girls combing through the carefully wrapped packages to determine our first strike.

Fast forward, oh, 20 years or so, and this morning I am left to my own devices while all the grown-ups (even those of us who were once children) stay warm and snuggly in their beds.

The meaning of Christmas has changed quite a bit for me.

As a kid, it meant hoisting up itchy kilts and scratchy woolen sweaters for Mass. Christmas meant amassing piles and piles of toys and books and clothes (and the ever treasured Whitney Houston tape - how will I know, indeed). The holiday was an occasion for gastronomic decadence, complete with Christmas cookies in red and green sugar crystals and silver dragee balls, fudge and the most amazing confections between two layers of pie crust.

These days, Christmas is less about the pile of presents beneath the tree and more about loving the people exchanging those treasures. Now, Christmas is about reliving the memories and remembering those loved ones who aren't able to join us around the fireplace - I love and adore you, baby.

Speaking of my niece, these days, my Christmas is about reflecting on the blessings we've each been given, no matter how fleeting.

Every day I am grateful for the gifts God has given me - and today I am blessed to celebrate Christ's birth.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Go Tell It On The Mountain

Around the globe, people are celebrating the holiday season.

Whether you celebrate the birth of Christ, the miracle of the oil in the temple or Kwanzaa, please make sure you refrain from celebrating as wildly as these two ladies.

(My TV peeps will especially enjoy the state-of-the-art editing and camera pans in this video).



Special hat tip to Tacky-Holiday-Sweater-Birdman for posting the video on Facebook - you know who you are ;)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Longing

"You know what San Francisco does to people who have never seen it before... Everything about the city excited her; she had to walk all the hills, explore the edge of the ocean, see all the old houses and wander the old streets; and when she came upon something unchanged, something that was as it had been, her delight was so strong, so fiercely possessive! These things were hers."

The quote above was cut from Hitchcock's Vertigo, a spectacular psychological thriller I was delighted to study in a college film class.

The movie starring Jimmy Stewart was perhaps my first exposure to the sights of San Francisco - a movie that to this day has left me with a desire to see Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts.

This week my brain is juggling thoughts of sugarplums with dreams of catching cable cars and sinking my teeth into spectacular, off-the-boat seafood.

New additions to the to-do list: visit the Buena Vista for an Irish Coffee (okay, I might have more than one), spin by the Fairmont Hotel for a cocktail & visit with Rusty's cousin, check out Coit Tower.

I only need to get through the next week and then my brain and I will be able to enjoy a nice rest.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Go West, Young Woman

I know parts of the East Coast like the back of my hand.

My travels have taken me from Florida to Maine, but my area of expertise lies between New York City and Boston. From my favorite stores in the Big Apple (one of them: Pearl River Mart in SoHo) to one of the most beautiful inns I've ever explored on the coast of the Atlantic, there are plenty of places I've been lucky to experience in the Northeast.

And of course, there's Madison, my home-away-from-home.

All of these treasured places, experiences and people have made me a solid resource on all things New England, but when it comes to the West Coast, I got nothing.

Wine Country, the sublime always-in-the-70s weather of San Diego, the bright lights and glitter of Los Angeles, the progressive attitude of Seattle - it's all foreign to me.

Sure, I've seen the glossy postcards before, and the scenic, celebrity-laden shots in movies and in television. I've heard stories from friends and family about these spectacular destinations, but I've never had a chance to walk the paces and sip the tastes on my own.

That's all about to change, though.

I'm hopping on a plane and heading West to explore a bit of the unknown. I haven't spent much of my own vacation time exploring this beautiful nation of ours, and so I thought I'd get in some sightseeing while visiting D Money over the New Years holiday.

My adventure starts out in San Francisco - that glittery gem on the Bay.

I have a short list of things I want to do, including walk across Golden Gate Bridge, take a boat cruise in the Bay, check out City Lights Book Store - the mecca of the Beat movement. I've also been directed to swing by Dottie's True Blue Cafe and The House of Nanking when making my dining excursions (actually, my friend Freeman says he won't speak to me again if I fail to hit up these two restaurants).

I'm also hoping I get to check out Bourbon and Branch, one of SF's not-so-secret speakeasys.

On New Year's Eve, I'll fly from California to Eugene, OR to see D Money and savor the beauty of the Willamette Valley. I don't really know what to expect or explore, but I know D will do a spectacular job of showing me this new place she calls home.

After a few days in Eugene, we'll make a trek to Portland, where I am dying to ride on a streetcar (uh, hello, Cincinnati). I haven't done much research on travel suggestions in Portland, but I fully expect to be amazed by this town that is both incredibly progressive and yet protective of its green space.

I've got quite a bit of researching to do before my big trip, and I'd love to hear your suggestions. Have you ever been to San Francisco, Eugene or Portland? Got a great restaurant I should spin by? Perhaps a favorite street to stroll along?

Please feel free to pass on your suggestions to this adventurous traveler!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Deck The Halls With Debauchery

I hadn't seen so much T and A since I was in Vegas.

And that's highly appropriate because last night's Christmas party was a cast of characters from the liquor and gaming world (I'm talking casinos, folks, not D and D). At least that's what I could piece together based on the clues I'd been provided by my friend, X5, and the awards I saw lining the walls of the tricked out home well north of town.

X5 had invited me to this soiree, saying it would feature open bar and tons and tons of delicious food. Never one to turn down a tasty morsel or a good party, I decided to tag along to meet new people and soak up an interesting scene.

The guests had lined the neighborhood with Jaguars, BMWs, Corvettes and every other kind of flashy car you could imagine. I took it as a sign that I was in for some interesting people watching once inside.

We made it through the door and the host greeted us with open arms (X5 did not know this generous gentleman - she was a friend of a friend of the host's daughter, making me a friend of a friend of a friend...), and he directed a young 20-something blonde in a tight, black, lacy mini dress to swiftly take our coats and put them in a den-cum-coat closet.

Another party guest quickly briefed us on the particulars of the party. Upstairs: Open bar, company chefs preparing fillet, scallops and crab cakes in the expansive, marble-everywhere kitchen and a dining room filled with every dessert imaginable. Downstairs: open bar, live band, cold appetizers, and wine and cigars in the wine cellar.

We cruised toward the throng of people and I noticed I was woefully overdressed - as in, every inch of my flesh was covered, especially when my wrap sweater was around me. Everywhere I turned, I noticed overly tanned bodies with overly plump chests heaving out of underly covered dresses and plunging tops. The women glittered head to toe in diamonds, crystals and sequins. Their beautifully sculpted and shellacked nails looked like talons, ready to claw their way through the crowd while hot stepping on four and five-inch heels.

You can only imagine my disappointment in knowing almost every hot pair of shoes I own was out for repair.

Before arriving at the party, I was a bit concerned that my hair style of the evening (something that involves hot rollers, teasing and hair spray - I affectionately call it Big Texas) would be out of place that evening, and I was relieved after scanning the room and noticing other big, frosty 'dos that rivaled any of Dolly Parton's wigs.

The men - they were mostly older - like cigar smoking and, "Come here little girl, and sit on my lap" older. Slicked back hair, sport coats and a diamond pinkie ring here and there.

It was not my normal scene.

I had a few nice conversations with some of the folks there, but I mostly stared in amazement at the crowd and basked in the sense that I felt like I was in a movie entitled, "Classy, Preppy, Smart Girl Goes To A Christmas Party With Larry Flynt's Friends."

After several (and I mean several) Maker's-and-Cokes, X5 and I decided to hightail it back to the comfort of Hamilton County.

Who knew the City felt safer than the 'burbs?

The car sailed in the direction of Jeff Ruby's latest invention - Bootsy's Produced by Jeff Ruby. While crossing Walnut, X5 told me, "This place will never survive because you have to actually go in the bar to know whether it's busy or not, and people in Cincinnati want to already know that kind of thing before they get there."

I didn't really get the logic, but it all made sense after ascending the stairs - the crowd was full of a bunch of people trying to look important.

It turns out there are still some places where conspicuous consumption is alive and well, despite the economic crisis.

Men in suits everywhere, women in tight tops and more plunging necklines. I felt like giving some of them directions to the party in the 'burbs. The circular bar ringed a collection of bartenders in satiny, Vegas-like mini dresses. The ladies slinging booze behind the bar were quick with a pour, which I was grateful for after receiving my very dirty gin martini.

We cruised through the room before making our way to the patio - a painted, wrought iron creation clinging to the front exterior of the now purple and yellow building. After nearly hugging a heat lamp for a good 20 minutes (another girl on the patio almost attempted to pole dance on the heat lamp until management asked her to get off the furniture), X5 and I made our way back inside to join some friends in the casbah-themed VIP room.

The bottle service we enjoyed included a pair of bottles of Grey Goose and unusual, pie wedge-shaped pitchers of cranberry and orange juice and Red Bull.

We sipped on a couple cocktails courtesy of the gentlemen hosting the special get-together behind the velvet rope, and then we decided to make our way home.

I wrapped up the evening thinking a multitude of things, but first and foremost, gratitude for the moral compass, intelligence and modesty that tends to steer the direction of my life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Two Choices

One of my bosses sent this email to our department today.

We're in the business of doing good work for people, and sometimes that means reflecting on what's in our heart to motivate our mission.

I'm a pretty altruistic individual (and admittedly super sensitive), and so I would be lying if I said this didn't bring a tear to my eye.

Please only read it if you have the time and patience to consider the message - I decided to share here because I'd reach a larger audience on the blog than through email (besides, most of the folks who I'd email read the blog, anyway).

KtG

------------------------------------------------------
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question. "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story:

"Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps. I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'

"Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.

"In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

"Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

"The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

"Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!' Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.


"He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

"Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!' Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.

"By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.

"Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay.'

"Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third!' As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!' Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

"That day", said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world. Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!"

AND NOW A LITTLE FOOT NOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate.

The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the 'appropriate' ones to receive this type of message Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the 'natural order of things.'

So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Zuzu's Petals

I've always had a thing for George Bailey.

I don't know if it's because of his vulnerability, his naivety or his ultimate ability to overcome hardship, but I've always adored him.

Double Platinum says I love It's a Wonderful Life because I am a very "capra-esque" kind of gal - you know, glass half full, overly positive, blah blah blah.

Anyway.

I got my annual fix of IAWL by attending a unique performance put on by the Falcon Theatre in Newport.

The show is "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Drama" is a clever turn on an old story. It features a cast that portrays live radio in its heyday. The show includes jingle singers, sound effect masters and of course a list of actors pulling double and triple duty where the character voices are concerned.

Michael Potter played George Bailey (the irony of his last name was not lost on me), and his delivery definitely captured inflections and expressions reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart. He did a fine job portraying G.B., but I felt like he was more trying to assume Stewart's ghost instead of making the role his own.

In my opinion, Peter Weiglin and Jim Waldfogle stole the show. These distinguished gentlemen took on no less than seven characters a piece, demonstrating a remarkable command of voice, tone and dialect (and now I'm delving into my college linguistics classes). They transitioned flawlessly from grumbling and gravely characters to insecure, hesitant personas.

The entire cast was spectacular, and though the show intended to portray a live radio broadcast, I was enthralled by watching the amazing work done at the sound effect table and the subtle back stories woven between the characters.

I highly suggest you take a trip to Newport's Falcon Theatre (inside Monmouth Theatre on Monmouth) to see the show - it runs this Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Sotto Voce

That I was in madrigal choir is probably of no surprise to many of you.

My high school years were not the epitome of athleticism (though I was on the track team - as a shot put and discuss thrower) and while I perhaps had the smarts, I didn't gravitate to more scholastic activities like debate team or Latin club.

My gig was singing.

I started young, performing with school children's choirs, and that's when I determined that I loved the limelight of the spotlight that came with belting out solos. The most memorable solo of my youth involves me getting in a garbage can and teasing my hair, crooning to a dirty Chuck Taylor while singing my part of a Sesame Street medley.

In later years I tackled solos in German, French and Italian, all tunes that allowed me to explore the power and range of my voice.

High school brought on the opportunity to audition for a select madrigal choir. That group came with period costumes and the chance to experience an intense holiday performance schedule at venues around Connecticut. Ours was a group full of "chorus" people - you know the type. We sang our set list in the hallways during study hall. We'd belt out trills and embellished versions of the most popular tunes on the radio.

We would sing after school, we'd sing in the car. We'd sing at each other's homes. We were such a solid group of singers that we snagged an opportunity to tour Europe for two weeks. We never stopped singing (on that trip and in general), and I loved every minute of it.

A powerful mezzo-soprano (my torch song is "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina"), I really wanted to go to college to pursue a degree in voice. To this day, I don't know if my parents were wise or harsh in insisting I chase down a more lucrative vocation. Honestly, I also delight in the bit of irony that my chosen major of journalism has never really been considered a cash cow.

Their firm request sent me off to college a bit hurt and disappointed.

With the exception of the rare karaoke night, I haven't sang in an organized fashion since. In college, it was too painful to "play sing" by joining any one of the choruses on campus. I'd watch those groups with envy, though, knowing full well I could belt out a tune with the best of 'em.

These days I get my singing in while showering or driving.

I gave it up many, many years ago, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to jump back in to some kind of organized musical endeavor. I have a feeling the opportunity would take me back to the good 'ole days when I was a kid.

I wonder if that's how these guys feel.




Straight, No Chaser is an a cappella group that first started singing over ten years ago at Indiana University. Back in the day, the group was known for singing classic songs with a humorous twist. One of members uploaded an old holiday performance on You Tube, and it's now been seen by more than eight million people.

The viral sensation has led to a record deal for SNC, so the group is apparently getting back together after all these years.

They're squeezing in a tour and time in the recording studio in between their day jobs - all for an opportunity to relive a moment of their youth and crank out some really fantastic music.

I can only imagine how ecstatic these guys are.

Friday, December 05, 2008

On The Books


Hopefully you can make this graphic out. If not, here's what you need to know:

The Cincinnati Women Bloggers are hosting a Holiday Social at Pachinko in MainStrasse Village, Covington on Monday, December 15.
The social runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
You don't have to be a blogger, twitterati or even a computer user (though I don't know who, besides my mother, isn't online).
Cover is $10, with proceeds going to the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Northern Kentucky (a United Way of Greater Cincinnati partner agency).
The donation includes a drink ticket and appetizers.
Would be wonderful to see you there!
KtG

Monday, December 01, 2008

32

I was going to start this post with melancholy reflection - only because that's the emotion my birthday tends to prompt these past few years.

But then I experienced an unexpected series of events this morning, and thought I should reflect on that.

My day started with the unfortunate chore of having to clean up three piles of dog poo and a little pool of dog pee.

Such are the trials and tribulations when you are house sitting for two dogs, and though I was very disappointed and highly disgusted, I couldn't help but think to myself, Only on MY birthday would this happen.

Most people start their birthdays with a special cup of coffee or perhaps breakfast in bed. Me? I start mine with cleaning up crap.

To make matters worse, I couldn't find a pair of rubber gloves, there were no paper towels in the house, and the poop was kind of mushy (sorry for the over sharing). The whole scenario was a little bit, uh, undesirable.

So, there I was in my pajamas, my hand wrapped in two plastic grocery bags, using toilet paper to clean up the mess.

The whole time I was cursing the dogs and thinking about how I had planned on curling my hair and putting on some makeup that morning. I mean, there's no better time than a birthday to put in a little effort in one's appearance, right?

Instead, I was nose deep in mushy shit that I had to clean up myself. Not a stellar start, but at least I knew the day could only get better.

Now for the melancholy reflection...

Curiosity raced through my veins for the very first time on this day in 1976. After a long day of procrastination, I finally made my debut at 10:10 pm in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A bloody, cone-headed mess, my eyes were wide open and dancing around the hospital room, taking in the bright lights, the many faces, and of course the two people who gave me life - at least that's what I'm told. The story is always the same. I was checking the place out, looking around with unabashed interest in my surroundings, and I guess it's been that way ever since.

This passion for discovery, understanding and experience has offered a thrilling journey during these 32 years.

And though today marks the anniversary of my birth, I am all too aware of the fact that I am dying with each breath. It's a very morbid way of looking at life, but I am cognisant of the fact that we're all getting closer to death with the sweep of each second hand.

It's that acknowledgement that I suppose fuels my eternal hunger for life experience. I don't know the expiration date of my life, and so I am working damn hard to savor every taste while I can.

This sense of adventure, paired with low expectations and a laid back attitude, have served me well thus far. Sometimes life hands me a great moment, like walking down the steps of the Eiffel Tower, a special moment of bonding with my family, or savoring a spectacular dinner with my closest friends and an almost limitless supply of wine.

Other times my life is all about cleaning up the shit.

I guess it's the balance and the ability to take it all in stride that makes me grateful.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Long Weekend: The Video Recap

5chw4r7z takes on the task of carving the turkey at winemedineme's Thanksgiving Day Orphans' Dinner. It was a convergence of the Cincinnati blogger scene...




Getting laid in the car- karaoke roadtrip style. That I am sharing this with you at all is a huge sign I have no pride.




Out and about with D Money and friends at the Garage Bar in Columbus. We celebrated after the Blue Jackets win at Nationwide Arena. The hockey game was fun, but seeing my good friends was the true highlight of the mini-trip.




We got nabbed by a C-bus "party pix" photographer while at the Garage Bar. This was snapped well before we took our "grape bomb" shot. I just can't party like I used to...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Thanks

First and foremost, I am so grateful I have hope in my life.

I am thankful my personal spiritual relationship with God provides me with almost eternal optimism. I know there are times when I feel depressed, defeated or disappointed, but I am blessed this tide of hope is strong enough to crush even the strongest sentiments of pessimism and despair in my life.

I am so lucky to have a wonderful family that strives to be together. We struggle with boundaries and we bicker like we're still kids, but I wouldn't trade a single one of them for anything in the world. My family made me who I am, and I am thankful for all the beauty and challenge in that.

I cannot begin to express my thanks for such a wonderful group of friends. When I want to be accepted, loved and appreciated, my friends are there in full force. My friends have become a second family for me, a family where I can seek unconditional support, acceptance and the absence of judgment.

I am so grateful to have a new career that allows me to explore my talents and new obstacles. The opportunity is immense, and I feel so grateful for the belief that I am doing something to help the world get a tiny bit better.

Grateful is how I feel about the gift of Maeve. Her life was fleeting, but her strength and stunning spirit will last for eternity. I am so thankful I was given the opportunity to get to know Maeve's essence, and I am also blessed in knowing I will someday be with her again.

Health is another factor in my life that deserves appreciation. I am so blessed to be pain free and without any significant ailments threatening my being. I am grateful for good health insurance and a financial stability that ensures I can take care of any sickness with the best available health care.

I must also say thanks for all the beauty I experience almost daily. Whether it is in kind words from my friends and readers or in the swift chance to appreciate the marvels of an azure sky or a crimson rose, I am so blessed to have been given the gift of sensitivity and appreciation for all my surroundings.

Finally, I am thankful my life includes adventure. Without variety, travel and the opportunity to explore, I wouldn't feel motivated to live in the first place.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Penny Pincher

As much as I hate to admit it, it's time to trim the fat.

As a singleton with relatively low overhead, I tend to enjoy a pretty savory life. My schedule includes dinner out with friends, lunch at local, non-fast food spots. As long as my paycheck continues to roll in, I am grateful to enjoy good alcohol and quality entertainment on a somewhat regular basis.

I guess that's how most of my life has been, save for a couple rough spots that I'm glad I weathered.

When I was a little girl, I used to wonder about Ends Meat. I didn't know what it was, but I got the impression it was something families had to make and eat when "times got tough." My voracious reading clued me in to the equally less enticing option of tongue - poor Ramona and Beezus Quimby - but ends meat was always a mystery to me. I guess my eight-year-old brain thought it meant that someone was struggling so hard that they had to eat a cow's bum, and I knew that was a fate no one deserved to suffer.

It wasn't until years later that I figured out the phrase had less to do with meat and more to do with pay periods, and by the time I really understood the struggle of making ends meet - I was thick in the middle of the fight, myself.

These days, I thank God every day I go to work. I know so many good, intelligent people who have experienced the wrath of this wretched economy, and so my employment is not lost on me. I am so blessed to have a steady job with reasonably affordable health benefits and a provision that supports my saving for retirement.

Even with my blessings, I know its wise to dial down, tighten the belt, stretch a dollar. We're all trying to be smarter with money, and sometimes that means cutting things out of our routine - other times it means using smart substitutions.

Me? I crave socializing and tasty morsels. I can sit at home with a good book or twelve, and even if they're the best thing since sliced bread, I would struggle with the lack of social contact (well, save for the Twilight series). My sanity demands a somewhat regular schedule of conversation and cocktails, so I am now seeking out the more affordable happy hour options to pencil in my available evenings. Thankfully, I stumbled across this list of eats-on-the-cheap options at Newport on the Levee (in fact, Melissa Huelsman's entire blog is a great resource for folks looking to save money).

I normally don't spend much time at the Levee, instead choosing to support businesses and shop owners north of the Ohio in neighborhoods and close to downtown. However, this list of affordable happy hour bargains is enough to make me re-evaluate my list of hot spots, especially considering I spend a lot of time in Newport. $1.25 raw oysters? Specially priced appetizers? Dollar drafts? It all adds up to a delicious way to enjoy cocktails and your friends on the cheap.

Another way to buckle down? Forget a night on the town, stay home and sip on your favorite cocktail. I don't necessarily condone drinking alone, but I think drinking at home is a great, budget minded way to visit with friends and unwind after a long day. And you don't need to roll out the fully stocked bar for these get togethers chez moi, plan ahead of time and stock up on a case of wine at Trader Joe's. You can buy 12 bottles of Charles Shaw's best for less than $40 bucks. I think Two Buck Chuck is a fine wine to enjoy at home when you're just relaxing and not trying to impress anyone - and check the accolades, it's won several awards in California, too. If you can't make it to TJ's, head to the grocery and pick up a bottle of Crane Lake - it's great for the price point, too. Here's a great article with a few more suggestions for affordable wine.

If wine's not your thing, I suggest buying a couple bottles of inexpensive liquor. The fact of the matter is, premium vodka is exactly the same as the less expensive versions. You can enjoy your cosmos at home without shelling out for Ketel One, Grey Goose or those other obnoxiously overpriced versions. Now, bourbon is a different story. I'm partial to one of the best in the Bluegrass - Woodford Reserve - but sometimes I can't swing it on a tight budget. The fact is, I rarely drink bourbon on the rocks, and that's really the only scenario that calls for the best money can buy. If you're mixing with coke or vermouth, Jim Beam or Maker's Mark is just as fine.

Happy hour isn't the only thing I'm cutting back on.

Lunch time is a great time to stretch a dollar. There have been times in the past when I would think nothing of popping out the plastic to cover a $14 bowl of bibimbap and a soda while lunching away from the office. I have discovered I have less cash to my name since changing careers from a profession that did not allow for lunch out to one that does. With that in mind, I've been packing more lunches - frozen meals from the grocery store. Even that option provides frugal shoppers with some choices to cut back. Lately I've been forgoing the delicious but more pricey Healthy Choice Steamer Bowls (around $3.50) for the more basic HC offerings of spaghetti, broccoli alfredo and other less gourmet offerings (around $1.75).

One other opportunity to cut corners - look for more affordable options when getting your hair done. Some folks are willing to cruise in to Great Clips for their regular trim. I tend to rely on an option that's just as affordable - Aveda Frederic's Institute in Hyde Park. As someone who parades around with less than natural blonde hair, I am a slave to my monthly highlight job. The price of a full highlight is pretty great at the Aveda School (full foil for long hair, $50), but I try and stretch it out a little further by alternating between full foils, partials ($39), and accent lights (which are just along the part and crown, $25).

The School is a wonderful way to maintain your luxurious locks for less...

Whether you are a happy hour bar fly, a cocktail connoisseur or a diva dedicated to doing your hair, you can still indulge during these uncertain times while keeping your budget in check.

If I stick to my tips and tricks, I know I'll be less likely to have to eat Ends Meat.

What are your shortcuts for chic on a shoestring?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Late Night In Spain: The Photos

Bluegrass Brit finally put the pics from Saturday night up on Facebook. Here's a look at some great friends - and one random character (I'll let you guess who that is...)




Flying By

I can't believe I shot this video November First.

The weather was gorgeous, the company agreeable (thank you, Double Platinum) and the entertainment adrenaline inducing.

It's too bad Kings Island got rid of the backwards Racer - that one was my favorite.



I'll admit - the screaming was a bit over the top... but what can I say, I scream when I'm excited.

(6:21 pm) PS- In watching this video - I completely forgot about the portion at the end... when Andy makes the comment about the "jiggling." It appears to me the ride got things a bit out of kilter. I assure you I was far more covered up than the video may indicate.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Breaking News: Your "Late Night in Spain" Questions Answered


No one has ever said that I didn't know how to party.
In fact, I have all kinds of photos and documentation that would disprove that claim.
This weekend I will be putting my party skills to good use at an event benefitting the Cincinnati Opera - serving as one of the many hosts for the Opera Late Night in Spain event.
As a host, I am inviting the fun and fabulous to a spectacular event that allows you to live large on a little budget. Guests take over the space left behind by the black tie glitterati attending the Cincinnati Opera's annual gala, avoiding the hefty $250-a-person ticket.
If you're frugal and fab, and looking for a swingin' shindig - the after-party is the best way to live like a high roller without spending like one.
Tomorrow's event starts at 10 pm in Music Hall's grand ballroom. You can buy tickets now for $30 a person - they'll be $40 a person at the door. The event includes a midnight buffet, a great DJ and "aerial entertainment."
Think - going to one of the hottest clubs in Ibiza without the layovers and brutal exchange rate.
Anyway.
If you're still interested, I've got some NEW INFORMATION from my contact at the Opera.
Check it out:
If you haven't bought your tickets yet, please do so! Just visit www.cincinnatiopera.org to purchase them. All tickets are increased price at the door, and we can only accept online reservations until 1:00pm tomorrow.
Doors for Late Night open at 10:30pm. Parking is available in the surface lot on Elm Street directly across from Music Hall.
Do note that our bar is CASH only - no credit cards. So be sure to hit an ATM before you arrive. (FYI: we do have an ATM in Music Hall. Should you need one, any opera staff member will be happy to show you where it is.)
Lots of folks have asked about the dress-- we've settled on "Cocktail / Club". Use your judgement (& creativity) with that one. You'll look fabulous! :)
Speaking of looking fabulous, we'll have a "photo station" available for you to have your picture taken. We will then email you your photos.
Can't wait to see you dressed to the nines and on the dance floor!
KtG

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Price of Thanks

Have you ever really been hungry?

Not, Oh, crap. We missed the last exit with a McDonald’s and will have to wait another 40 miles until we get a Big Mac hungry.

More like, scrounging and counting change and hoping it amounts to a can of baked beans that can tide you over until tomorrow hungry.

I mean, staring at your cupboard and refrigerator and wondering how inventive you can be with ketchup, canned tuna and a bag of rice when preparing your family dinner tonight hungry.

For most of us, “hungry” is the emotion we feel between lunch and dinner. Hungry is the twinge in our tummy that erupts when we opt to forgo the pastry in the morning meeting and realize we’ll have to wait until the afternoon to run out for a chicken burrito (yes, I’ll take the guacamole) at Chipotle.

But for a silent minority, hungry is something far more critical than a passing emotion. Hungry is a state of existence that transcends generations and neighborhoods. Hungry is a scenario facing not only those folks below the poverty line, but also those folks who are considered the “working poor.”

What do you know about poverty, anyway?

I sure as hell didn’t know much about poverty until I started exploring the circumstances. I brushed off those in need as people who perhaps didn't take advantage of the many human services available in Greater Cincinnati. I perceived some of these people to be lazy or mentally challenged – a nearly hopeless cause, trapped in a cycle of disadvantage.

The fact of the matter is, many people living in poverty are the same people who drive your bus, take care of your dry clean-only items or hand that Big Mac over to you through the drive-thru window.

Research shows a family or individual must be making 200% above the poverty level to be considered financially stable and self sufficient. The “poverty line” doesn’t cut it anymore – individuals must make more than $20,000, families of four $42,000 – to be considered economically solvent.

But there are many, many, many families in our area praying to pull together far less than 42 grand.

And those are the families and individuals that receive assistance from the hundreds of human service programs available in the Tri-State.

FreestoreFoodbank is one of those noble agencies.

Freestore has a variety of programs to help those in need. Some of these programs are what you’d expect, including grocery distribution to families with bare cupboards. Freestore also feeds our hungriest children, through a Kids CafĂ© program that offers prepared meals to students at local schools, and through a Backpack Program, which sends children home with enough food to tide them over through a weekend at home.

The agency certainly offers many hand outs, but I also am incredibly impressed with Freestore’s “hand up.” Cincinnati COOKS! is a program that helps train those in need, giving low-income, at-risk adults the skills they need to work in the food service industry. The program also strives to place these people in higher paying jobs with benefits and career potential.

So, you’ve read all this and you’re thinking, “That’s great, Kate. Freestore sounds wonderful, but what do you want me to do about it?”

Well, I’ve made my pitch – here’s the ask.

Like many agencies, Freestore is in need of your support this holiday season. Cash is tight for everyone, but even more so for those folks living on the edge of financial stability. More and more people will need Freestore’s services this holiday season, and that means more of us need to step up and make what sacrifice we can to help out.

I’m not asking for your time – though that’s just as valuable (if not more so) as cash for most of us.

I’m asking you to think about what you can contribute financially. Be it a couple cans of green beans or an entire Thanksgiving spread – any effort of any size will make a difference. A whole fryer turkey checks in at $26.55, and a 1/5 a pound of onions is a buck. There’s something for every budget.

Please join me and visit FreestoreFoodbank’s Virtual Food Drive, and consider what contribution you can make.

Let's ensure everyone will have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sever

I guess even the bartender needs a good, stiff drink once in a while.

The aisles were full tonight at Kroger - people stocking up on frozen dinners (fyi: Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones and Healthy Choice are all running at about the same price point, all save for the el cheapo, lower end HC meals - $1.69), Thanksgiving dinner ingredients and jugs of milk for tomorrow's cereal.

I was on a mission to find my fixings for lunch, casing the shelves for something ambiguous and insignificant. Tuna salad? No. Ramen. NO. Crystal Lite? Okay. I toted my basket up and down every aisle, just checking out the merchandise, when I noticed a familiar face.

He used to be my bartender. I mean, not just any bartender - but MY bartender. The guy who I visited at least three times a week. My dear friend and I would perch on a bar stool on any given afternoon, sipping Blue Moons and noshing on pizza, savory apps or extra generous slices of BonBonnerie's Opera Cream Cake.

We would trade stories and kindness with our friend behind the bar, receiving in return extra pints of beer on the sly. Our checks were always closed with generous tips.

Tonight, my blond-tipped friend was intently eying the juice section.

I spotted his form while stepping toward his direction. His antsy stance jerked back and forth between the varieties, contemplating the ramifications of his selection. My bartender-cum-friend was intensely eying the plastic bottles lining the shelves when I offered my cheery hello.

The response was decidedly frazzle wrapped in courtesy, and so I immediately knew this would be the briefest of conversations.

He didn't bury the lead - my acquaintance was wrought with emotion after a charged argument with his ex-fiancee, a situation, he shared, complicated by a nine-month-old baby.

Ten different shades of awkward washed over me, but I maintained my polite disposition and took a step toward the greeting cards on the other side of the aisle, physically preparing for my quick exit.

The man said he was at the store, trying to blow off some steam (aside: the grocery is the last place I consider when needing to dial down the emotion). I attempted to lighten the mood with a smile and a gesture, saying the liquor was in the opposite direction.

A sad state of affairs, and yet I saw this coming from a mile away.

I remember bumping into this guy last January. I was with a few of my gal pals, barhopping in Hyde Park. We walked into an establishment where I discovered this gent getting his drink on in a kilt. He was flush-faced and jovial at that place in time, slamming down Irish beer and clinkng glasses to toast the impending birth of his child. Our bartender-friend's celebration was in full swing as he offered that his pregnant fiancee was at home, alone on a Saturday night.

That's an equation that's hard for any chick to swallow, much less an engaged chick with a baby swiftly approaching.

The whole scenario - the story about the break-up, the baby, last year's bar encounter - it made me wonder: Have I ever done something that someone else saw coming?

Was there ever a moment where a person - a stranger, really - knew me better than myself? An occasion where someone could plainly see something I was blind to?

Now, that's something to sip on.

Meeting Edward

Twilight freaks - have you bought your tickets yet?


I am so grateful to GOP Big Wig for turning me on to the series that has consumed my life since Mid October. I am just about to dive in to book four, Breaking Dawn, and am just as anxious to see the flick Friday night.

Interesting discussion I had with the local Twitterati (are you going to the OTRtweetup?): Do you think the movie version of Edward is just as hot as the Edward you've imagined while reading?

I, for one, have envisioned a guy who's a cross between princes William and Harry.

I am so jealous of Bella.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rock Steady

Forget Interview With a Vampire. What about an interview with an ex?

KtG: Hey there... I always wondered if this conversation would happen. I mean, it's been a long time since we've spoken... and yet I think about you - voluntarily or not - at least every other day.

Him: Well, darlin'. It's nice to talk to you, too. What's this all about anyway? Lots of time has passed but I have an idea of what's goin' on - I catch your blog from time to time. Still, it's not like we talk or anything.

KtG: I have to say, this wasn't really anything I felt like sharing with you, or the world for that matter. But I guess it all came about after I had a few glasses of wine with some friends and heard Anthony Kiedis on the radio. Really, if I knew all those moments would have had this Pavlov's Dog kind of reaction on me, then I would have never let you play Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik every. single. time. I was with you.

Him: Whatever. It's not like you didn't like it. Besides... I was sick of all that acoustic Dave Matthews crap that you would play with him. I guess I needed to come up with my own theme music. Right?

KtG: Riiight. You know, I didn't really intend on having this conversation with you, either. But you hijacked my thoughts... er, Anthony Kiedis did, and so here we are - having this imaginary chat. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I think at this point I'd enjoy spending a conversation with you. A lot of shit is under the bridge - if you forgive the pun - and I guess I'm just curious or wondering how you're doing.

Him: You know what, you don't need to know shit about what I'm doing. But since you're so interested, things are great. I love my wife and I adore my children.

KtG: Dude. No need to get pissy. I really don't want to upset your applecart. I don't mean to disrupt any of your shit - I just wonder about the past, you know? And I guess you are a fraction of my past - good, bad or indifferent. It's not my fault I thought about you tonight.

Him: That's cool - as long as that's all it is. But if you're wondering, yeah, I am pretty happy with the way things are. I'm still doing what I love and I have a family I treasure... so I guess things are really good.

KtG: That sounds wonderful, and in some ways I'm kinda jealous. I guess we all end up where we really want to be, right? I'm really happy with the way my life is, too. I finally got out of TV and have grown up a lot since back in the day. I'm involved in a bunch of things and I have an amazing group of friends. I guess I'm not the girl you had to clean up after a drunken drama anymore. Or was that you?

Him: That's a cheap shot. But I'll give you that... because that evening was pretty awful, and I have the scar to prove it. So tell me, are you liking life out of the newsroom? I mean, really? 'Cause I remember the raving bitch you used to be in the newsroom when you didn't get your way. And it seemed you kind of liked things the way they were.

KtG: Yeah. I've mellowed out a ton. Don't know if it's time or maturity or perspective - but I've changed immensely. My confidence isn't... You know, I don't think I really want to share much more with you about my professional or personal lives. You said it yourself - you read the blog, so you know everything about me... or at least everything I share. I guess what I really want to talk about is... what would have been.

Him: What would have been? Like what? What would have been if you stayed in town and weren't so clingy?

KtG: Whatever. What I mean, is, I guess if we had stayed together and I followed your lead - then maybe I would still be in town. Maybe things would have turned out different for us. I guess I have wondered on more than one occasion what would have happened if we had stayed together and if I had stayed in the business.

Him: First of all, you're the one having this imaginary conversation, so you can brush off clingy all you want - it's obvious you developed some sort of attachment. But in regards to your comment, if things would have been so different, tell me your little fantasy. I'm curious.

KtG: Well, I don't really know. Lots of time has passed and I've discovered more about what's important to me, and I guess I realize that I don't think much of it is important to you. It would have made things really difficult along the way. I'm guessing we'd be divorced by now, or extremely miserable. But that doesn't mean our lives wouldn't be different than they are now.

Him: Yeah. I guess if we were together - then I think things would be different, too.

KtG: How?

Him: Well, I guess in some ways you get what I do. I think the one good thing is you would have been supportive of what I do. I mean, I adore my wife and she is totally supportive of what I do, but I think you have a more solid sense of appreciating all the bull shit I go through... you would get all the crap that folks outside of the business don't.

KtG: That was one thing that I always loved about you. Your talent. Really, I don't think we'd be anywhere near this area if we were still together. Honestly? I think we'd be in Denver or Minneapolis. 'Cause I think I'd wanna go where you'd flourish, and I've had job opportunities in both cities. It would have definitely been a different scene. But I also wonder whether I'd be lonely.

Him: Well, if we were together, why would you be lonely? Granted, this is all Let's pretend, but why would you feel alone if we were together? Don't you think we could have held things together? As I remember, there were a few occasions where things clicked just fine.

KtG: You changed for her, but would you have changed for me? And how much changing would you have gone through? I would have needed more than a good dad and a fun husband. I would have needed a fellow adventurer to seek out new excursions in life - whether they be new restaurants around town or far-flung vacation spots. I guess that's a little bit different than going to the beach with the kids, right?

Him: Don't talk about my fucking kids. I love my kids. Don't say shit about my kids.

KtG: Seriously. You've got to do something about the hostility. You were always a hostile person, but really, it's been years since we've talked and I really don't harbor any bad feelings about you anymore. I think more than enough time's passed for you to get over whatever wrongs or indiscretions may have passed back in the day.

Him: Fine. You're right. What were you gonna say?

KtG: Well, what I was going to say is - I still don't think I'm ready for kids. I'm ready for seeing the world and experiencing new things and going to fun parties. I'm not a homebody. I don't want to cook you dinner every night. I don't want to have to pick up the toys in the den. I don't want to have to take the trash bag (full of poopy diapers) to the garbage can. I don't think we had much in common other than our profession, so maybe things worked out for the best. That doesn't mean I don't wonder.

Him: Yeah. I don't know if it would have worked, either. But it doesn't mean I'm not curious about what's up with you. Just because I'm married and in love with my wife doesn't mean I don't wonder. We all wonder about the past on occasion.

KtG: Well, I guess we're doing what we were meant to be doing. I guess it all works out the way it's supposed to.

Him: I guess so.

KtG: Well, I've gotta go. I've got some stuff to take care of, and I hear your kids in the background.

Him: It's been nice talking to you. Despite the the attitude, it doesn't mean I don't think about you, either.

KtG: I wondered about that, too. It's too bad we didn't part as friends. I think we could have really hit it off if we didn't let the rest of the mess get in the way. Oh well, what was - was. Right?

Him: Right. Best of luck and I'll see you around the internet.

KtG: Okay... best of luck with your disolves and other tricks. And dude, - don't hold this imaginary conversation against me. It was all Anthony Kiedis' fault. Really... most of the time I don't feel like sharing this shit... but it came at his suggestion.

Note: This interview is fictional in nature and doesn't represent anything of any substance - other than a few historic incidents and emotions that may or may not have transpired in the past.

Other than that, it's total bunk.

Twitterati Freak Out

Tweeps, I am dyin'.

It's almost like we're gonna have to exchange email and phone numbers so we can communicate, kibbitz and otherwise exchange information - one. person. at. a. time.

What Are You Doing To Save The World?

It only takes a second (and an office recycling box) to do your part of something great.

Kiss Off, Miami

I didn't see SNL this weekend, and only just caught wind of this skit.

Kiesewetter has started some of the conversation about the impetus for the Miami t-shirts...

If they really wanted to spoof Miami U, they would have had Paul and Andy wear polo shirts with popped collars.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vast Anticipation

Restlessness is buried deep within myself.

Not the kind of restlessness that comes with sleepless nights, or the anxiety one feels in a meeting that drags on and on. No, my restlessness is married to wanderlust - an insatiable desire to see and feel and taste and experience more than my world can offer.

Don't get me wrong - Cincinnati is pretty damn great - but my soul grows anxious for new experiences, and sometimes that's best achieved when you're removed from familiarity.

I think the whole process is akin to a super hero getting recharged with an elixir that feeds sub-human powers. I can't move mountains, but a little R and R (and adventure) can do wonders for my disposition, motivation and happiness.

And so a year has passed since I took my last vacation - a year since I piled on that plane, returning home with bags of tulip bulbs and Indian spices. More than 12 months since I had an opportunity to wander and wonder without a pressing deadline, without a concern for commitment or schedule. Since then, my heart has grown hungry - longing for a new destination and untold adventure.

For me, half the fun is planning the journey.

I love scouring the internets, in search of the best four-star hotel my Priceline purchase can buy. The planning also involves reading a more than a dozen websites, guide books and consulting friends with tales to share about my given destination. I weigh my options, considering tricked out dining experiences against more dive-y but genuine offerings enjoyed by locals.

Each trip requires seeking out the neighborhood bead shop - filled with the hope I'll find the perfect semi-precious beads for my own handmade souvenir.

Long walks are the fabric of my journeys. My well worn shoes are comfortable with the paces around an unfamiliar metropolis. I like walking memorable paths, taking treks in significant spaces - across Abbey Road, along New York's Broadway, down the Eiffel Tower.

And so now my brain is dreaming of my newest adventure - a trip to the West Coast.

I've been wanting to visit my dear friend, D Money, in Eugene, OR. I've decided to tack on some extra time, starting my vacation in San Francisco. My brain is already dreaming of burritos from the Mission District, a boat cruise in the Bay, a long walk along the Golden Gate Bridge.

I can't wait to check out Fisherman's Wharf, and all of the fresh delicacies from the Pacific. No doubt about it, there are a couple cocktails in my future in San Fran - I just have to decide on which swanky bars to explore.

The restlessness is still inside my soul - but, at least at this moment, it's got something to focus on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Season of Change

The trees are on fire, burning shades of sienna, crimson and goldenrod.

Graceful gusts of wind catch the wayward leaves, swirling them around until my feet shuffle through their crunchy bits on the sidewalk. The statuesque trees of copper and gold line the streets, a seasonal awning I pass beneath in awe.

I pull tight my coat, fighting off the brisk weather and wondering about a year gone by.

The months started with the mercury bottomed out, and with each passing day this sphere I call home spun and tilted a little closer to the sun. Nature turned green and then the days grew warm and long - a series returning us to this season of reflection.

Autumn is the time to examine the year gone by and make amends before time closes the chapter on another year.

High heels click on the cold concrete after a long day at the office, a gray evening with shadows more familiar in a black-and-white movie. Nature spent everything it had, thriving during spring and summer, and now is retreating to a more subdued state of relaxation.

It seems the maple tree is burning all its energy, striving to go out with a final burst of beauty.

My nostrils flair, I inhale deeply to savor the smoke from a nearby fire, roaring in someone's cozy living room.

More often then not, these days are spent with some kind of scarf wrapped around my ivory neck - soft pashminas, luxurious velvet versions, itchy-scratchy wooly woven scarves. I retreat into a closet full of warmer clothes, my only defense against what I'm powerless in preventing.

I am content with my season.

I am content with my change.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Shake It Off

I've been told I'm pretty tight - at least where my grip is concerned.

I distinctly remember the first time I was motivated to shake someone's hand. I was about 16 years old and I was meeting a man whose children I was going to babysit one evening. This gentleman was a local police officer, and so for some reason I was inspired to show him I would be strong enough to care for his children. When he greeted me at the front door, I threw out my right hand, poised to introduce myself in the traditional manner.

The police officer-father shared his surprise in discovering my firm handshake. I blushed because it was truly the first time I shook a man's hand without my parents' prompting.

I had shaken hands many times before. I remember meeting executives who worked with my father; it was an industry made up of mostly men in nice suits or sport coats. These men would visit from out of town, stopping by the house for a cocktail before dinner on the company expense account. My mother would be upstairs, pulling the hot rollers out of her hair, so my dad would introduce my sister and me to the guest du jour.

They all were typically the same. They'd bend over in our direction, shower us with big grins and then shove out their hands, waiting for us to reciprocate.

Our tiny hands would timidly limp out, not sure of the technique of this ritual.

Over time, we'd play along with this little game, gently offering our hand with smiles and giggles, knowing our grown-up counterparts were getting a kick out of this charade.

Years passed, and the handshaking ritual was pretty much lost on me. My friends and I greeted each other with high-fives, friendly waves or hugs, but nary a handshake. Even in high school, any handshake was embellished with fancy hand gestures and "secret" moves establishing an inside joke of sorts.

I recall one classmate who did greet people with the standard handshake enjoyed by adults around the world, and I remember thinking that was a little bit odd.

College came, and with it - independence, responsibility and promise. I began relying on the 'ol handshake for more formal ventures - meeting with politicos (I was well-connected back in the day, but it was for the "other" side), professors and parents of friends.

Senior year. Graduation. Finally, my opportunity at a "real job," and with that opportunity, a chance to establish myself as a credible professional. The hand shake is the first greeting that shows your potential employer your mettle. Do you offer a dead fish? Do you tilt your hand down and shake like a lady? Are you a bone crusher?

Over the years, I have perfected the perfect grip. It's a full on, finger tips-on-the-other-person's-wrist, clinch. My technique is disarming when a gentleman is expecting something a bit demure. Most people embrace my handshake, a firm but comfortable gesture that imparts grace and confidence.

For all my expertise as one of the world's great handshakers, I absolutely HATE it when I encounter someone who offers a less than substantial hand. Women whose handshakes are archaic and demure disappoint me. Men who adjust their handshakes to accommodate my female form are embarrassing and patronizing.

I prefer encounters with people who offer handshakes as confident and respectful as mine.

These days, I am now the crazy lady who bends down to a child's level and thrusts out my big, soft palm. Most children stare at my hand, a bit confused about its intentions.

After some prodding by mom or dad, the weary child's hand creeps out and briefly comes in contact with mine. Sometimes I feel like saying, Hey kid. I think it's kinda weird, too.

I'm just trying to prepare the business world for a new mover and shaker - one hand at a time.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

All A-Twitter

Are you on Twitter?

Would you like to meet your local Twitter friends?

Come to Greater Cincinnati's first tweet-up at Over-the-Rhine's Below Zero Lounge at 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 20.

It's a great way for you to put a face to a name, and talk to your Tweeple/Twitterites/Twitterverse in more than 140 characters.

No need to come looking like your avatar...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thank You, Jesus

John McCain is conceding.

Thank you, Lord, for granting my heartfelt prayer.

A new day is dawning in the United States of America.

Viva change!

Viva Obama!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Pilgrim's Pride

I revere Election Day as a more patriotic holiday than the Fourth of July.

Sure, fireworks and 21 gun salutes are fun.

And I guess it's kinda cool when we all dress up in red, white and blue and sit down to corn-on-the-cob and potato salad (I prefer the German version, but that's just my opinion) to celebrate our independence.

But the fact of the matter is, my casting a ballot on Election Day is the single most patriotic demonstration I can make to show my pride.

My interest in politics and our lawmakers started off young - I remember writing a letter to Ronald Reagan when I was a girl (the subject, long forgotten, likely fit somewhere between the war on drugs and a request for a pony so I could avoid the school bus), a message that was rewarded by a generic yet friendly missive on White House stationary and an 8x10 glossy photo with a stamped signature.

I was tickled.

My interest in politics is ingrained in my genes. My father's parents were dedicated servants of the Youngstown Democratic Party, working on campaigns and serving in elected positions in their community. My mother's parents were also interested in politics. My grandmother volunteered at the polls on occasion. My grandfather, despite a longtime Republican, sent a scathing letter to then vice president George H. W. Bush.

His fiery note was responded to with another potent letter - handwritten by the Vice President, himself.

This morning, I cast my ballot for Barack Obama and was filled with pride. Pride because I was voting for a politician I actually believed in. I fought back the tears, savoring the awe that this (at least for me) was not an election of lesser evils. This was a contest of hope, of promised change.

The 2008 election had finally arrived, and I was elated I could take part in such a monumental occasion.

I will truly be crushed tomorrow morning if "the other guy" claims the White House.

Monday, November 03, 2008

GOTV

Republican or Democrat - please take a moment (or several, considering the expected lines) to consider what you value and how those beliefs translate in the voting booth.

Just get out and vote.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick Or Treat!

"H.

A.

Double L, O.

W.

Double E, N - spells Halloween!"


That was a silly song I remember learning from Mrs. Grayson in the 2nd grade music class at Maple Dale Elementary.

Hope yours is filled with as many thrills and chills as mine!




Shameless plug: I highly reccomend y'all get your Halloween gettups together and join the "In Crowd" for tonight's Bite Me Ball at the CAC.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fright Night

People, you've got one more night to slice and dice 'em up before the little ghouls and boys ring your door bell.



FYI - I was not really inspired - my pumpkin is the one with the polka dots.

One Leg At A Time

I really hated wearing tights when I was little.

But when I think about it - the torturous garments for my legs were just one of many signs that I had a good mom. She'd force us in to those stretchy, confining things for special occasions - like mass on Christmas Eve or Thanksgiving Dinner. My sister and I would be dressed to the nines in our velvet dresses, Polly Flinders (complete with all the beautiful smocking) or wool kilts, our legs surviving the brutal Minnesota winters thanks to our tights.

They came in all different varieties - cottony white, fuzzy and ribbed red, navy and scratchy. I always hated them. I hated tights because they were itchy. I also hated them because their tight, elastic waist would pinch my tummy and otherwise drive me crazy. I hated the tights because I didn't really have any hips to hold them up, and sometimes they'd get all droopy around my legs by the end of church.

I am sure it had nothing to do with all my running around and climbing in the pews during mass.

My sister suffered through a worse fate with her tights.

She was still in diapers, and sometimes those tights would start sliding off her trunk like the casing on a link of sausage. She'd end up with the a look that to this day my parents affectionately call, "Droopy Drawers."

Fast forward, oh, 27 years or so.

I knew the mercury was going to take a nose dive, and so I had picked up some tights over the weekend. Black and herringbone, they were far more professional looking than the white, fuzzy red or knit navy leggings of my youth.

Not wanting to take my skirts out of my wardrobe rotation during winter, I decided to break the tights out Monday morning. I put them on, one leg after another, and instantly felt transported back to the days of my youth.

And for that, alone, I believe those tights were worth their weight in gold.

Fortunately the tights stayed up all day long - I have no idea whether they were affected by my curvy hips, or my power to control myself and not climb the chairs during an afternoon meeting.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A State Divided

This guy is proposing something called the Mike Polk Ohio Secession Compromise Plan.

It's interesting, and I generally agree with the concept.

But, dude, please warn us when you want to bomb Cincinnati... Us *normal* folks want a chance to escape to the Promised Land.




Hat tip to abbylaner for the heads up on yet another great clip.

Whasssssup?? CHANGE

Yet another political video with an excellent point.



Get out and vote!

Special hat tip to loreestark, World's Best Burger, for the heads up on this clip.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I'm Voting For "That One"

Hollywood's Old Guard bands together to show their support for Barack Obama.



Hat tip to Bluegrass Brit for the heads up on this video.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hollywood For Obama

I don't necessarily believe that the opinions of the celebs in L.A. carry any more weight than yours or mine.

But, c'mon, people.

The fact that Opie, Andy Griffith, Richie Cunningham and Fonzie (and Ron Howard) all want you to vote for Obama???

LOVE IT!


See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die


And while we're at it, let's celebrate the appearance of the founder of Funny or Die, Will Ferrell, on SNL's weekly Election Special!!!