Sunday, April 28, 2013

Those People

"Why do those people downtown even want a trolley?"

It's a statement some whisper under their breaths at dinner parties, dripping with condescension and disdain.

On lush, kelly green golf courses, at book clubs and beauty salons, people around Greater Cincinnati critique and criticize Downtown Cincinnati's streetcar plan.

And I wonder how many of these folks have recently visited Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District.

They might have a different impression of who those people are. And why they want more public transportation.

I'm one of those people.

Raised in the suburbs of Cincinnati, I grew up going to private swim clubs and excellent public schools.  Ours was a four-bedroom, four-bath house. It had a back deck and lush, sprawling lawn.

My family was like everybody else's in insert Cincinnati suburban name here.

Make no mistake, I am grateful for everything my parents gave me. A great education, opportunity aplenty - I am the product of my parents' hard work and sacrifice.

But things have changed over the years. Just last month, the New York Times reported on a study that shows Gens X and Y won't do as well as our parents.

I won't even begin to discuss the rapidly retiring Baby Boomer generation and its ramifications on the future of Social Security and Medicare.

Life was good in that four-bedroom house in the 'burbs, but it's not a realistic dream for my generation. We're learning to live with less. We're retreating to the Urban Core, where we can live smaller and more affordably.

Yes, we're learning to live without cars.

The suburban model is not a sustainable one for us.

Even Fox News reported on the great migration back to American cities. People are moving back to the urban core because they want to experience a walkable lifestyle.

And a note to my suburban/exurb readers - that Fox News link also mentions that urban crime stats have plummeted (yes, the reporter used the word plummeted) in the past 20 years.

It's probably safer down here than it is behind the wheel of your car on Interstate 75.

So. Streetcar. Why do those people want one?

They want one so they can get around the urban core a bit easier. They want one because our larger public transportation initiative has to start somewhere, and they believe this streetcar is a great way to get moving. They hope for even bigger public transportation offerings - Light rail! High speed rail!

We know this streetcar will integrate beautifully with future trans offerings.

Cincinnati has voted on the streetcar twice. Both times, the residents of Cincinnati voted in favor of the streetcar.

And we will continue to champion this until the rails are in the ground.

Join Cincinnati's streetcar supporters for a special hearing on the status of the streetcar project - Monday at City Hall at 6 pm. 

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Grab A Seat

What is old is new again.

Many of the residences in Over-the-Rhine are a blend of antique features and modern trimmings. My own home is a melange of distressed oak floors, brick walls dating back to 1877, and shiny, silver duct work.

It's a beautiful space that blends old and new, and it presents some interesting opportunities where home decor is concerned.

The clean lines of Ikea work well with the modern metal kitchen racks and exposed beams, but the old brick and flooring do well with antique wood and warm lighting.

And that's where crafting comes in.

I've become quite good at reupholstering chair seats to blend modern fabrics with the traditional lines of old chairs. It's easy, affordable, and can leave you with a sense of accomplishment.

Things you'll need:

  • Wooden chair
  • Screwdriver
  • Sharp scissors
  • Foam padding - 1 to 1.5 inches thick depending on your preference
  • 1.5 yards of upholstery fabric
  • 1.5 yards of batting
  • Staple gun

First, find a well made wooden chair in great shape.

Turn over the chair and unscrew the seat, separating the seat from the frame. Put the screws to the side - you'll need them later.

 Seat and frame - ready for a renovation

Use the end of your scissors to pry the staples out of the old upholstery and batting.

This stuff looks like it's been through the ringer

You can buy foam padding at your neighborhood craft store; I think I got this piece for $7. I like my chairs on the fluffy side so I opt for thicker foam; it's all based on your preference. 

Cut the foam to fit a half inch beyond the seat. Any smaller and the wooden seat will protrude beyond the foam. That could feel funny and it would look horrible.

Next, you want to lay down your fabric, batting, foam, and then the seat. Trim the fabric so that it extends a couple inches beyond the perimeter of the seat.

Affix the fabric using your staple gun. Make sure to pull the fabric taut as you staple - this will ensure your finished product is firm and the fabric is tight around the foam and seat.

A word about corners. They are tricky. It's somewhat similar to folding hospital corners on a bed. I usually staple down one side of the seat, play around with how I fold a corner, then begin stapling this perpendicular side.

You might want to start with the corners that face the rear of the seat to allow a little practice before you tackle the front-facing corners. If worse comes to worse, you can rip out your staples and try again.

Voila - finished product. I spent about $20 on the chair itself and less than $15 on the fabric, batting and foam.

Antique chair with an Ikea bookcase in the background. You can't get more OtR than that.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's the Wurst. Really.

Cincinnati is in love with its sausage.

From the homemade links at Avril Bleh to Bockfest's much heralded Sausage Queen competition, the Queen City is infatuated with its wieners and franks. 

We strolled down Linwood to this new gastropub a few weeks ago a few days after its opening last month. A cozy spot with high top tables and wood paneled walls, the Wurst Bar is one of the best things going in Mount Lookout.

Moscow Mules garnished with fresh mint in a frosty copper mug

A mix of great cocktails, inventive sausages and hot dogs, and other delicious offerings, the Wurst Bar brings handcrafted offerings to a neighborhood that needed a new shiny on the strip.

We split:

  • The All Time Wurst Burger - a blend of veal and ground beef stuffed with cheddar wurst, topped with onion straws, tangy mustard, American and cheddar cheeses atop a pretzel roll
  • The Roonie - chicken, garlic and truffle sausage topped with fried onions and Boursin cheese
  • Vinegar-based homemade cole slaw
  • Traditional French fries

The Wurst Burger was absolutely out of this world - it was prepared beautifully and packed an assortment of zippy and sweet flavors. 

The Roonie was also a great choice; how can you go wrong with anything boasting truffles and Boursin cheese?

The cole slaw was a colorful blend of thick strips of white and purple cabbage. Homemade and a nice, light choice to balance the meal's heaviness.

Good to the last bite.

The Wurst Bar does a great job of blending traditional German flavors with trendier ingredients and handcrafted techniques. Seating is limited; the space is small and cozy and the epitome of that German feeling of gemutlicheit.

The Wurst Bar in the Square
3204 Linwood Ave.
(513) 321-0605
Hours vary: Dinner seven says a week, lunch Thursday - Sunday

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sex and Feeling Sexy

So, I got this book in the mail last week.

Not Tonight Dear, I Feel Fat is available beginning May 7. A PR rep offered me an advance copy and I quickly accepted; sex and body image is something every woman can relate to easily.

It's my duty to review this, right?

Some of us spend hours and hours in the gym, others go under the knife for regular nips and tucks. Some women carefully watch their intake, counting calories down to every last piece of lettuce.

Still others grapple with the darker side of body image - eating disorders, diet pills and other less wholesome ways to manage weight.

Those sticky dynamics of body image can dramatically impact a woman's ability to enjoy a healthy sex life and shared intimacy with another person.

And that's a damn shame.

I'm trying to crank through this book before I go on vacation (the title alone would likely lead to my arrest in Dubai) and will tell you what I think.

Until then, Big Os and strong swagger for everyone.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Have Taste Buds, Will Travel

Wanderlust is a funny thing.

Once you get your first taste of far-flung adventure, it's easy to spend the rest of your days dreaming of new lands to discover, new cultures to savor.

No matter how much you love your hometown (and, boy, do I), we travel bugs seem to have a one track mind.

Words can't express how grateful I am to my parents for exposing me to the deliciousness of travel at a very young age. Ever since those first bites of torte at the Hotel Sacher, I've been dreaming of international travel.

It's almost time to pack my bags, grab the passport, and brace for long haul flying.

Wingman and I are setting off for another whirlwind trip. This vacation is not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced - we are traveling to Dubai and Bangkok during the same itinerary. It makes our trek to India look like child's play.

CVG to LAX to DXB to BKK; back through DXB to LAX and then to CVG.

Six flights, 55 hours of flying time, eight hours in layovers - this is the epitome of marathon travel.

We have some fun excursions planned, including a trip to the top of the Burj Kalifa, the world's tallest building, and a desert safari with a barbecue dinner and belly dancers. In Bangkok we'll visit several amazing temples, enjoy a tour of the city's extensive canal system, and try to work in a ladyboy show.

But I'm most excited about some of the edible offerings we'll uncover.

In Dubai, we've booked a culinary flight at the Burj al Arab, the world's only seven-star hotel. Six courses in six different restaurants, this will surpass last summer's dinner at Charlie Trotter's as the most expensive meal of my life.

It better be worth it; I've been dining on a lot of canned soup and spaghetti and red sauce to save my pennies for the occasion.

Along the way, we'll visit the spice souk to buy saffron, frankincense and other unusual flavors.

Bangkok brings us to two meals of extremes.

First, we'll dine at Nahm, recently voted the third-best restaurant in all of Asia. Chef David Thompson is from Australia and regarded as an expert of Thai cuisine. We're excited about the restaurant's adventurous prix fixe menu and the chance to experience some of Thailand's best.

But what I'm really tickled about is the chance to experience Thai cooking in more authentic surroundings. Chote Chitr is billed as one of the best unassuming spots you can find for good Thai cooking. A hole in the wall with dogs running around in the kitchen and surly service, I can't wait to taste every bite.

We've also worked in a half-day class at the Blue Elephant Cooking School. I'm excited to learn more about the vegetables, flavors, and techniques used in Thai cooking; I have a feeling I'll be treating my friends to some more exotic meals this summer.

Some people make their travel destinations based on the whereabouts of prominent museums or historical sites. Those are well and good, but I can't help but let my taste buds lead the way.

Until then, back to my can of black beans and hard boiled eggs.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

No Vanity in Clapping

The crowd roared to a fever pitch.

Clouds sailed overhead in a big, azure sky. More than 20-thousand people waved and clapped, celebrating at a game of baseball. An American pastime stitched with tradition and determination and revelry. The baseball players, the fans. The guys in the press box.

They were all focused on what was happening on that dusty diamond.

And for a moment, I was focused on how we're all going to die someday.

I sat there, watching Reds fans swathed in crimson, mugging for photos, all the while wondering if we all looked like a bunch of shallow fools for grinning and glad-handing as the minute hand stroked closer and closer to death.

Shouldn't we be panicking? Running around and outfitting ourselves in armor or signing up for every vaccine known to man? Should we be crying in the streets, wrought with fear over the inevitable fact that our days are literally numbered?

Good, bad or indifferent, I fall victim to morose thoughts from time to time. They strike at the oddest occasions, but those moments of introspection remind me how tender and fragile we each are.

It's easy to chalk up life's levity as foolish. Around this blue pearl of a globe nations wage border wars, destitute children know the depths of hunger and hopelessness. Our fellow man toils with real tragedy.

It's true - life can hand us a bag of shit sometimes.

But in between those crises of heartbreak and devastation, we are given opportunities to connect with others, chances to taste success. We are offered moments to lead with love.

And that's what makes the rest of this mess worth it. Taxes, long lines at the DMV, traffic jams and meetings that feel like purgatory. I'd take it all to know the balance of my life tipped with more hugs with loved ones, nights of wicked laughter with dear friends, and fleeting chances of genuine human connection.

Will I get to play all nine innings of my life? Is mine a game The Ref will call short for stormy weather?

I won't know until I get there. And I can't worry about how long my game runs because it could force me to miss out on some great hits.

Until that time comes, I'm having a ball just playing.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.