The only online publication for women in Greater Cincinnati

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    Pink Ink Design Group
    (513) 772-0145
    www.pinkinkdesign.com
    At Pink Ink, they know design. Your invitation is one of the most important parts of your wedding. It sets the tone for your event and personally reflects your style. That's something you can't find in catalogs. The ladies of Pink Ink Design Group are graphic designers by trade and they believe in details. They'll use their expertise to create something specific to you with different papers, type styles and colors that you'll love. "Because we think you should get what you want!" Pink Ink says. Make sure you check our their Web site to view their unique designs or give them a call to schedule a time to check them out in person.

     

     

    Receptions Conference Centers
    www.receptionsinc.com
    Receptions Conference Centers are located in Northern Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Eastgate and Western Hills and host all types of events such as wedding receptions, anniversary and retirement parties, business meetings, expos and award ceremonies. Receptions’ four facilities are always clean and updated. Receptions’ chefs specialize in high quality food and extensive beverage choices are provided. There is 65,000 square feet of quality meeting and banquet space available from Receptions. Receptions' slogan is "Reliable People…Remarkable Events." That certainly is true, as it's reflected in their kind staff and affordable pricing. Visit them on the Web, give them a call or even stop by one of there facilities to see for yourself. With four locations, you're bound to find one that's near you.

     

     

    All Star Chiropractic
    (859) 727-6888
    www.allstar-chiropractic.com
    Because your wedding is one of the most important events in your life, you should be able to relax and enjoy your special day. Call All Star Chiropractic about "The Ultimate Bridal Massage Package" that includes a free massage for the bride. Also, ask about their amazing (and unique to this area) Hot Stone service and pamper yourself for your wedding.

    Neysa Ruhl Photography
    (513) 353-FOTO
    www.neysaruhl.com
    Neysa Ruhl Photography prides itself on creating relationships with its couples. This allows the relaxed, natural, intimate images that we all love. Neysa Ruhl tells the story of your wedding day through her lens by creating the captivating and artistic images that are unique to each couple. She's not there to photograph "a" wedding, she's there to photograph "your" wedding. Check her out and let her photographic imagery illustrate the amazing details of your wedding day!

    Mitchell’s Salon & Day Spa
    (513) 793-0900
    www.mitchellssalon.com
    Mitchell’s Salon & Day Spa has over 20 years experience with bridal services. They'll walk you through the different services and tell you how far ahead of your big day you should begin incorporating them. Their bridal coordinator will help you schedule all your appointments, send out confirmations and handle any change requests you may have. Take time to relax before the big day and schedule a relaxing bridal luncheon with your bridesmaids. Or be assured the day of your wedding will run on time with their experienced stylists and make-up artists. Visit their Web site or give them a call to learn more about their unique wedding packages.

    David's Bridal
    www.davidsbridal.com/dress_your_wedding.jsp
    Get the total look with David's Bridal's new and exclusive online feature that allows you to virtually coordinate your entire wedding party. This is the first and only place where you can personalize and preview how everything will look together. Mix and match all the details that will make your wedding unique, from fashions and flowers to colors and backgrounds.

    Wedding Sneakers
    www.weddingsneakersLLC.com
    Wedding Sneakers are just what they sound like. Sneakers you wear on your wedding day. But they have several designs, colors and even Swarovski Crystals to choose from. They also customize sneakers to match your attire in a classy, comfortable way.

    Albertz & Associates, CPA, LLC
    (513) 891-8400
    www.albertzcpa.com
    Albertz & Associates, CPA, LLC can help brand new couples plan for the rest of their lives together. They like to stay current with all tax changes and strategies that may help clients save money on taxes now and in the future. Marriage is an exciting time for a couple and a lot to think about before the wedding. But what about after the wedding? There are a few things to think about, especially when it comes to tax planning. Life changes not only as a couple, but also to the IRS. You are no longer single, but “married filing jointly." Here are a few things to think about after the honeymoon and before “tax time":

    1. Make an appointment with a knowledgeable accountant to plan for tax time.
    2. You may need to change your W4 form where you work because of taxes that are withheld.
    3. The spouse (wife) needs to change her name with the Social Security Administration, if applicable, as soon as possible.
    4. Get life insurance to protect you and your spouse if something happens to either of you. This can be inexpensive to get but very important.
    5. Start planning for some kind of retirement that is “tax deferred” and “tax free” outside of your 401k at work.

     

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      Cincinnati loves their female rockstars and the proof is in the pudding. This year's seventh annual Chicks Rockfest, held April 5-8 at the Poison Room, expanded from two nights to four, and from 30 bands to nearly 50 acts. In fact, it's now the second largest indie-band fest for the area, quickly gaining on September's Midpoint Music Festival.

      The Chicks Rockfest promotes local and national artists. Cities such as Chicago, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., were represented with several bands from each. The artist that traveled the furthest distance was Freyja from London.

      That's cool and all, but we're kind of partial to the local ladies…

      Among the artists from the Greater Cincinnati area were: The Walker Project, The Whitney Barricklow Band, The Jellyhearts, Mercurochrome, Subliminal, Deadly Seven, Pike, Tracy Walker, Star Cherry Seven, Holly Spears, Twisted Wood, The Trojan Rabbit, Backseat Virtue and kelp.

      If you missed this year's Chicks Rockfest, several of these women will be featured in the Latitudes Cafe "She Jams" series held at both the Milford and Anderson locations. Check out our article on this series for more details.

      We got close and personal with Holly Spears, one of the talented women featured in both the Chicks Rockfest and the She Jams series. We asked her to explain the sounds of the major players on Cincinnati's female artist scene and where we can learn more. Here's what she said:

      Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups
      www.myspace.com/kellythomasampthefabulouspickups
      Kelly Thomas is a passionate singer with a Country-meets-Blues feel. Sit back and appreiciate good ol' country singing. She's a beautiful soul with a great back up band.

      Kristen Key
      www.kristenkey.com and www.myspace.com/kristenkey
      If you like Avril Lavigne and high-energy pop music, Kristen is your girl. She's pretty much Cincinnati's Pop Princess and always shows the crowd a good time with her rockin' band! Be prepared to jump around and throw your arms up with this girl.

      The Walker Project
      www.walkerprojectmusic.com and www.myspace.com/thewalkerproject
      Carole Walker's powerful voice will blow you away and leave you in awe. Her soulful folk rock is accompanied by her brother's amazing ability to make the bass guitar sing. Chris Walker was just named Cincinnati's Best Bassist by ITAL***City Beat***. He's also Holly Spears' bassist.

      Kim Taylor
      www.kim-taylor.net and www.myspace.com/kimtaylor
      This alternative, folksy, adult contemporary singer is very clever with her lyrics and is extremely easy on the ears. Kim's soft voice is soothing and comforting to the soul. Wine would go well with a Kim Taylor CD.

      The Kelly Evans Trio
      www.myspace.com/thekellyevanstrio
      Kelly's acoustic/classical guitar, Chris Walker on bass and her drummer are the perfect combination to back up Miss Evans' soulful and jazzy voice. Think jazz club and enjoy the groove.

      The Whitney Barricklow Band
      www.whitneyb.com and www.myspace.com/whitneyb
      If you like Jewel and Lisa Loeb, you'll love the Whitney B Band. Whitney's voice is smooth and pretty, and at times, really big. Her songs are catchy and lyrically lovely. She's got her right hand man (her husband) on guitar, an awesome drummer and of course music man Christopher Walker on the bass. She's fun to chill and listen to, as well as sing along with.

      Pale Beneath The Blue
      www.palebeaththeblue.com and www.myspace.com/palebeneaththeblue
      This poppy, electronica band is led by a singer who some say sounds like Tori Amos and Bjork meets Ben Folds Five for coffee. You may even catch Rhonda on her piano as she sings the lyrics of which she has so artistically placed together in front of her synthesizer and beats.

      Tracy Walker
      www.tracywalker.com
      This folk/rock singer/songwriter/musician could be compared to a mixture of Joni Mitchel and Tracy Chapman. Her adult contemporary music has filled the air of Cincinnati for over a decade. To hear Tracy is to give your ear a treat.

      And if that didn't quite fill your belly with enough female rock fodder, here's a few more morsels that might do the trick:

      www.womenrockradio.com
      Women Rock Radio. The name says it all. Women Rock Radio is the premier showcase for women who simply rock, and rock hard. From rock to grunge, from metal to punk, from mainstream to indie. Women Rock Radio is out to prove you don’t have to be a guy to play hardcore music, and ladylike isn’t always what it seems.

      Women Rock!: Girls and Guitars
      "Women Rock!: Girls and Guitars" is a compilation of songs by the big guns of female rockers. Legendary voices joined together for the 2000 Women Rock concert in an effort to heighten awareness and to help the fight against breast cancer. This CD by Sony Music Special Productions was inspired by the songs these legends performed at this very important event. There are nine tracks (about 38 minutes total time). Included are: Heart ("Barracuda", "Crazy On You"), Sheryl Crow ("If It Makes You Happy"), Wynonna ("Only Love"), Amy Grant ("Takes A Little Time"), Melissa Etheridge ("I'm The Only One"), Cyndi Lauper("Girls Just Want To Have Fun"),and "Destiny's Child (A beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace"). There is also a touching live track from the concert in which Lauper and Heart, sing Paul Mcartney's, "Maybe I'm Amazed" as a tribute to Linda McCartney.

      ROCKRGRL Magazine
      ROCKRGRL is the only national magazine to exclusively feature, encourage, provide resources for and inspire women. It is a resource for musicians and provides useful information on industry news, starting your own label, juggling music and motherhood, booking your own tour, publicity, getting on the radio, legal issues, gear, studio tips and more.

      Women in Music National Network
      The Women in Music National Network, accessible online at www.womeninmusic.com, is a non-profit organization that supports the efforts and achievements of women in music through media, education and networking.

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        It’s astounding how clutter affects our daily lives. Check out these stats from the National Association of Professional Organizers:

        • 80 percent of what we keep, we never use.
        • 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late (resulting in late fees) because they lose them.
        • The average American kills 12 weeks a year looking for things they know they own, but can’t find.
        • Americans waste more than 9 million hours each day looking for lost and misplaced items.
        • About 80 percent of the clutter in your home is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.
        • Getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in the average home.
        • A study conducted by IKEA reported that 31 percent of customers were more satisfied after clearing out their closets than they were after sex!


        It doesn’t end at home. Messes and clutter can put a real damper at the office.

        • Executives waste six weeks per year searching for lost documents.
        • 73 percent of workers say that impressions of colleagues were influenced by the way their desks are organized.
        • The average business loses one out of every 20 documents.


        HOW DID IT GET TO THIS POINT?
        The Learning Channel (TLC) brought us the first show to put organizing in the spot light with “Clean Sweep.” The show is captivating with mounds of clutter that put Mt. Rumpke to shame, and can leave you awe-struck with the final reveal of a neat, tidy place to live. For anyone that has seen this Emmy worthy show (excuse the personal bias), it never fails to ponder, “How on earth did it get that bad?”

        According to Janice Ash, professional declutterer, organizer, Feng Shui provider and owner of I Declutter, there are many reasons. If we don’t know it, how can we do it? With 17 years of decluttering under her belt, Ash should know. She says, “we’re not taught how to cohesively set up out living and working environments.” Keeping things organized might seem like common knowledge, but if people who are chronic clutterers aren’t shown how to keep things tidy, the mess can just accumulate. Also, in today’s day in age, people are rarely home to keep things organized, and we are there, most of our time is spent taking care of our families or catching up on other things around the house that have been neglected.

        Sales can also have the “Dr. Jeckle & Mr. Hyde” effect. Yes, we save money during these low costs times, but we also tend to take the store’s complete stock without the real need for those items. Who doesn’t love the 10 for $10 deals at Kroger and Biggs? As much as we love to stock up, it just adds up to an overcrowded pantry. Speaking of buying power, Ash also says that we have lost sight of the “less is more” state of mind, and we have fallen into the “more is more” lifestyle, always wanting the newest, latest and greatest items.

        WHERE TO START
        You have the motivation, but it can deflate on a dime when you stop and really look at your mess. Perhaps you have one room that needs a little fixing up – that’s no so bad. But what about when multiple rooms and spaces are in dire need of help? Ash provides five places and areas to start with:

        1. The first place to organize is the space that bothers you the most. Is it your bedroom? Pantry? Basement? Wherever it is, it typically gets under your skin more than any other place, and will give you more satisfaction to see tidy.
        2. Think about the first think you see in the morning – the four walls of your bedroom, which also happens to be the last thing you see before you go to bed. How do you feel waking up to a closest spewing like Mt. St. Helen, or a dresser that hasn’t been seen since the day you got it? How does this make you feel? More than likely, it’s not exactly the best part of waking up.
        3. It is also known as your personal storage unit – your garage. Ash reminds us how important this area is, particularly when you can use it for its intended purpose. Similar to the bedroom, it is usually the last thing you see when you leave for work, and the first thing you see when coming home, assuming you can even park your car in there.
        4. The most common thing people tend to organize first is their closet. Have you ever felt like you needed a miner’s hat with the beam light on top just to see the back? Often times, it is crammed with old clothes that you haven’t worn in years, don’t fit into or won’t ever fit into. Ash says that “a cluttered closet makes us late more often than traffic.”
        5. Drawers and cabinets are just like closets. Aside from the “junk drawer”, searching through a cluttered drawer is time consuming and wasteful. Old products or food take up space, and can be very harmful is used past their expiration date.


        Here are 10 quick and easy tips to get a start when opting to “do it yourself” from HGTV and TLC:

        • Clean out that makeup drawer, or in some cases, the entire counter. Toss makeup that is over a year old. Some products have expiration dates, but are in different form. They appear on either the case or packaging as a container with a number on the inside, typically in months.
        • Can your garage double as another room with all the extra furniture in there? Load it all up on your truck (or a friend’s) and donate it. Most of the time, the furniture is old or out of date, and that is why it is in there in the first place. It’s amazing how much space a coffee table and an old couch takes up.
        • “Clean Sweep” says, “If you have shoes or accessories that go with a certain outfit, keep them in a bag and tie it to the hanger the outfit is on.”
        • Pick and purge before you start. It will make putting things back in place much easier when there isn’t so much junk.
        • Have a home office in an extra bedroom and a small space? Take off the doors and put the desk in the closet.
        • Use bed risers/lifts/blocks. They are an inexpensive way to give you a little extra storage, plus it gives your bed that “high and royal” look.
        • Kids’ toys can be a pain in the neck (and feet when you step on them). Attention mothers: if you have more than one child, assign them each a bin and label it with their name. Teach the children to put toys in their bin when finished.
        • You don’t need expensive plastic totes for storage. Ask a grocery store employee in receiving if you can have a couple of large boxes. They are free and great to store holiday or seasonal items.
        • Sharpie markers can be your friend. Label, label, label – it makes it much easier to find things later.
        • Use closet space vertically as well as horizontally. You can buy kits or “build-you-own” materials at home improvement stores to get extra hanging space. Use the extra depth and height space for a full “wall shelf” for the home office. Keep the doors on the closet to tuck it away, or take them off if accessed all the time.


        KEEP IT THAT WAY
        Your space is clean and organized. Now what? The first rule of thumb is to purge items in your trouble spots every six months. Sell or donate any items you don’t use anymore, and don’t be afraid to toss. Another rule is the buy/toss policy. This can be extremely hard for us females, but it helps to keep that closet clean, and it can actually help save money when you get the shopping itch. For every new item of clothing you get, toss or donate one. Hard – yes, but people swear by it. It works for kids toys too! Also, work together to keep you space organized, and teach your children to take care of things they have.

        If you feel that your clutter is out of your hands and you know something needs to be done, contact a professional, such as Ash. She not only helps with decluttering, but also uses Feng Shui to help create a more serene and calm space. The cost of hiring a pro is minimal and can take a ton of stress off of you. A professional is also great for the office because it doesn’t take away from the time that you need to spend on getting down to business.

        If you want more tips on how to do it yourself, here are a few online sources that offer addition help getting organized:

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          What do you do when you stay home? Well, that depends on your mood. You have lots of options. Make the most of your "in night" time. Relax, be creative or do something you’ve been meaning to get around to doing.

          Clean out your underwear drawer. Seriously! You’ll be surprised at what’s in there. Last time I cleaned out mine, I found a pair of those old big whites, a picture of an ex-ex-ex boyfriend and my 2004 New Year’s resolutions. Ironically, one of the resolutions was to get rid of stuff I don’t use, don’t want or don’t wear anymore. So, the big whites and the picture had to go. I’m still working on the other resolutions.

          But don’t stop at your underwear drawer, you’re on a mission. Clean out everything. Put on your favorite song, grab a drink and move from room to room.

          Tackle that "I really don’t have the time to do that" pile. Sew the missing button on your pink blouse, shine your shoes or lighten your load and clean out your purse.

          If you’re in a sentimental mood, put those pictures in the albums you bought a year ago. Looking at your pictures might inspire you to connect with an old friend.

          If you find yourself more in the creative mood, grab some paper, scissors, double-sided tape and those old magazines you’ve been meaning to go through. Check out the magazines for pictures or little blurbs you can use to make a card. Write a quick note to a friend on your masterpiece and make their day.

          Pick up the phone and connect with the brother you should have called weeks ago, the person that talks forever who you usually don’t have the time to listen to or your mom that’s been hoping you would just call to say, "Hi."

          If the kitchen is your favorite space, bake cookies for a friend, make chili for dinner tomorrow or stir up a simple meal for you to enjoy out on the deck under the stars.

          Of course, there is the "treat yourself right while you have the time" option, too. Check out those toes. Could they use a pedicure? Have you been meaning to condition your hair, pluck your eyebrows or bleach your teeth? Go girl!

          Would you rather just relax? Put on your favorite music. Corinne Bailey Rae is one of my favorite CDs to unwind to. Throw a damp towel in the microwave to warm it up. Wrap the towel around your neck, close your eyes and daydream.

          Enjoy the outdoors. Walk around your backyard or sit on your deck and read a book. Wish on star. Let your mind wonder. Enjoy the smell, sights and sounds of spring. It's a a beautiful time to live in Cincinnati!

          Make the most of staying in. You have lots of options. Take a few minutes, while you stand there in your comfy at home attire and decide what makes you happy.

          Tomorrow when you’re out with a friend, you’ll have a new attitude. You’ll be relaxed as you step out in the sandals you just found in your closet that show off your freshly painted pink toes. Oh, and don’t those toes coordinate nicely with the pink blouse you sewed the button on yesterday?

          "In night" time gets you ready to enjoy the outside world.

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            Lisa Hogeland, associate professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Cincinnati puts it perfectly, “I am a feminist. Anyone who participates in a robust critique of social norms, policies and practices… can be expected to be ridiculed on a good day. That is the American way.”

            With that said, isn’t every woman today a feminist at some point? The short answer is yes, but no one can deny, women have changed and society has changed with them. It’s a breaking point. Not only do women have more rights today in a broad sense, but it’s about access. Access to things like credit, loans, education, leadership and the belief that women can and will do whatever they want; buy a home, start a business, make more money than their male counterparts, even have children without a husband and through a fertility center. Sound radical? Not in the least, these are the women of today.

            The Housing Market “Boom”

            Why rent, when you can buy? Sounds like an ad for a condo or housing subdivision, but women across the country are hearing it – and living it – loud and clear. They’re taking on home ownership at a feverish pace. Many of them are young, just starting out, financially secure and ready for the challenges that come with owning a home. Studies from as early as 2000, show single women spending billions in real estate across the country. The National Association of Realtors says in 2002, twice as many women bought their first homes as single men.

            In Cincinnati, condos like “The Edge” downtown and “Southshore” in Newport have an appeal to successful women who want to live in an urban setting. Visit a model; you’ll notice large bathrooms, made with dual sinks, vanities, balconies, large kitchens and lots of light. Not to say that men don’t like these same designs, but there’s an appeal women can’t deny.

            So how are women doing it? Unfortunately, there’s still a disparity between earnings for women and men; but the difference is access. Enter the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Basically, it says no lender can deny your application, discourage you from applying for a loan or give you less favorable terms than another applicant because you’re a woman or minority. Seems simple today, but it gave women the legal means to purchase a home. This act, coupled with society’s changing view about what women “should and shouldn’t do” opened the door for home ownership. It’s no longer necessary to be a "Mrs" to have a home, bank account, credit report and so on. Still, Hogeland says, “Women navigate what’s legally, socially and psychologically permissible in all kinds of ways.” And we’ve always been pushing the envelope.

            Business Moguls?

            Take a walk around Cincinnati. Think about your favorite restaurant, hair salon, boutique, even where you buy treats for your pet. Not only are these businesses privately owned, but some by women entrepreneurs. In cities across the country, women are taking stock of their lives, and following their professional dreams; a luxury once reserved largely just for men. Loans for women, small businesses and that all-important line of credit are opening doors and creating successful places, to shop, relax and treat oneself like a lady. On the Web, sites like womenowned.com and the “Women’s Business Initiative” from OPEN by American Express help women understand what it takes to run their own business. From teams of investors that will help get your ideas off the ground, to scores of women offering advice, the World Wide Web is a great place to start and continue your business.

            If women aren’t opening their own businesses in Cincinnati, they’re working hard to reach the top. A recent study by the Women’s Fund, called “Pulse: Women in the C-Suite” suggests women are working hard, and climbing the ladder one rung at a time, but the top is still dominated by men. There’s good news though, women hold more than a third of the top jobs in hospitals and hospital systems in Cincinnati, up from 28 percent two years earlier. And the percentage of women directors at the top 25 largest public companies is steadily inching up. To name a few, take a look at Procter and Gamble, Omnicare and hospitals in the area. Women are holding their own, and it's a trend that's here to stay.

            The Next Generation

            No one can deny there’s still a stigma attached to single mothers. It’s a situation that brings up so many questions about a woman’s personal life. People talk, other women whisper and soon there’s a rumor mill churning. While the US Census Bureau points to a jump in the number of babies born to unmarried women, it’s hard to examine the statistics because of race, income and socioeconomic status. Single Mothers by Choice , an Internet support group for single women who are, or want to become mothers, has many more members than 10 years ago. On their Web site, moms to be can read up on adoption, find a clinic in their area, chat with other women who have become single mothers and learn what its like to raise a child on their own.

            It might sound like social suicide to some, but these women don’t feel like they need a man, or a husband to be a mother. They have overwhelming support on the Internet, from friends, family and community. Reading their online testimonials, you can’t help but understand their position. Many of them are working women in their 30s or 40s, successful, driven and for a variety of reasons, never married. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have support, the Web, friends, family or clinics across the country helping them achieve the goal of motherhood.

            There’s an old saying out there, somewhat trite, but bears mentioning: “you might have lost the battle, but you haven’t lost the war.” In some ways, feminism is a war of silent means. It’s not fought on grand battle fields where good and evil are clearly defined. You could say boardrooms, offices, clinics, doctor’s offices, even homes have become the new battlefields. Whether or not you want to call yourself a feminist, at some point, more than likely, you’ve become one. That’s the thing, you can try to define a woman’s role in society, but like the creatures women are, it’s really indefinable.

            If owning homes, climbing the corporate ladder, and starting businesses are the strides we’ve made, things like using sperm donors, female breadwinners, decorated CEOs and gaining greater equality appears to be the next step. We might not burn bras anymore, but we can’t forget about the women that did. We might not march with our voices held high, but every woman that pushes the envelope adds her thoughts to a silent majority that rises above what society thinks is normal. We’d like to think it’s not a man’s world anymore, but in some ways it always will be. What women have found are ways around some of the detours, and they're full speed ahead.

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              According to Julie Nolan, science teacher and ecology club director at Harrison High School in Harrison, what being environmentally friendly does mean is making a conscious effort to understand how the Earth is affected by consumer choices and how tweaking a few of those detrimental habits can have a huge impact on the environment.

              “Everyone thinks that you have to do everything right to be an environmentally friendly person,” Nolan says. “I disagree, because even one small step to help the environment matters. You do not have to be a vegetarian, drive a [Toyota] Prius and join PETA to be environmentally friendly.”

              Nolan says she tries to communicate to her students the importance of understanding their actions and how even one small green change can affect the environment, but it’s hard to get her environmental message through to them for one simple reason: state-mandated testing.

              “Teachers are forced to focus on the material that is on the State Proficiency and Ohio Graduation Tests, and as a result the practical, useful information is getting left by the wayside,” Nolan says. “Ohio has put so much emphasis on these tests that they are creating a generation of students who are disconnected from nature and the environment.”

              Connie Brockman, education and visitor services director of the Cincinnati Nature Center agrees that communicating about the environment is harder in today’s society.

              “A few years ago, a Roper study indicated that while people seem to be increasingly concerned about the environment, they are not well informed about environmental issues,” Brockman says. “One of the reasons might be that environmental education is not mandatory in most schools and people are getting their information from informal sources that might not be accurate.”

              Brockman says that even though it is increasingly difficult to communicate to the community about the environment, people need to be aware of the environment for their own benefit.

              “People must learn about the environment for their own survival,” Brockman says. “We can’t trust that that someone else is looking out for our wellbeing. Each of us must take personal responsibility to learn about and make the right choices to move us toward a greener, healthier society.”

              After the choice is made to begin living a more eco-friendly life, switching, according to Nolan and Brockman, can begin with a few easy steps:

              The Organics Have It
              Purchasing organic food, produce grown three years without the application of synthetic pesticides or chemicals or livestock raised on organic feedstuffs for at least a year, is a step in the right direction.

              “I buy almost all organic food, with the exception of some favorite junk food items,” Nolan says. “It (organic food) is better for you – the soil and water – and with regards to agriculture, the person working in the fields.”

              Nolan recommends taking the time to look at the local grocery store to see what organic foods are available.

              The Green House Effect
              Maintaining an environmentally friendly environment around the house can start with avoiding pesticides in the home and yard, making the house as energy efficient as possible and recycling.

              And according to Brockman bringing the green feeling into the home, can also leave a person with a sense of pride in her efforts.

              “I am fortunate to have almost four acres of land, and I’ve worked hard to create (in her yard) a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation,” Brockman says. “I feel a great deal of responsibility and compassion for the plants and animals with whom I share the land. Stewardship is a deeply moving experience, and I’m grateful for a little piece of land to protect and cherish.

              Become an Advocate
              Working to spread the word about the environment can fall under a broad spectrum of actions from voting for candidates with environmental platforms, purchasing from companies that are making environmental choices, supporting environmentally friendly non-profits and communicating environmental issues with children.

              Nolan, who has two nieces, understands the importance of providing a message to children outside of school. “Kids will live what they’re taught. If they are taught to respect the environment, it will simply become a part of who they are and they won’t consider doing things any other way,” she says.

              All Talk Leads to All Play
              Brockman encourages people who are trying to become more environmentally friendly to get out and experience the fruits of their labor.

              “All people, especially children, benefit physically, emotionally and intellectually from frequent contact with nature,” Brockman says. She added that at the Cincinnati Nature Center guests can benefit, all year round, from the 20 miles of trails on 1,600 acres for hiking and viewing wildlife.

              Stay Motivated
              While Nolan understands that changing to an environmentally friendly lifestyle can be intimidating, she continues to encourage people to at least try. “Give yourself credit for the changes you make,” she says. “You don’t have to try to do everything overnight.”

              And as Kermit the Frog says, “Being green isn’t easy.” But, according to Nolan and Brockman, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

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                1.    MFJ vs. MFS – married filing joint and married filing separate. Try both ways. It could save you taxes.

                2.    You could receive up to $500 max “energy credit” back on your tax return for home improvements.

                3.    If you are in business for yourself, make sure to keep your mileage for business use. Mileage rate for 2007 is 48.5 cents.

                4.    You’ve been supporting a war that’s been over for years. A refund is available for you called “phone excise tax credit” up to $60 max.

                5.    Have some kiddies at home? There’s an increase in the “Kiddie Tax” for a child under age 18, any unearned income over $1,700 will be taxed at parents’ tax rate, not the child’s.

                6.    Interested in a hybrid vehicle? A “hybrid vehicle credit” is now available for the purchase of such a vehicle thru Dec. 31, 2010. There is a max of $3,400 credit with a few stipulations.

                7.    All charitable cash contributions must have a receipt from the organization indicating; amount, date and name of the charitable organization. In other words, use checks if putting money in the collection plate at church or for the sidewalk Santa.

                8.    Since Aug. 17, 2006, no deduction will be allowed for non-cash contributions of clothing or household goods that are not in good condition or better, unless total value is over $500 and the taxpayer attaches a qualified appraisal to her/his return.

                9.    For ages 50 or older, your contribution into an IRA for tax year 2006 is $5,000, up from $4,500 last year. Everyone less than 50 is $4,000, same as last year. You can contribute up until you have your taxes prepared or April 15, 2007, whichever is closest.

                10.    For those of you who are 70 ½ years and older; you are required to start taking from your IRA account (RMD – Required Minimum Distribution). Good news, though! If you don’t need the money, for tax year 2006 and 2007 only, you can directly transfer funds to your favorite charitable organization up to $100,000 per year. That could save you a bunch in taxes depending on your tax bracket.

                Contact your accountant for more details on any of these tax tips.

                 

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                  Budget Tips

                  • Spend less than you earn. There are hundreds of thousands of men and women that spend way more than they earn with the help of car loans, home equity loans and credit cards. The only two options available to help in this situation is a large pay increase or reduction of spending.
                  • Save for important things first. It is nice to have a budget, even though we all don’t follow them 100 percent. It gives us a roadmap for our finances. You need to try and save a percentage of your pay each month, equal to approximately 12.5 percent, then pay your monthly expenses. If you can’t do this, then it’s time to cut out unnecessary spending so you get to the place where you can.


                  Ways to Save

                  • Emergency Fund – put a percentage away in a savings account for a rainy day. You never know when that roof will leak or car repair will hit your pocketbook.
                  • Christmas Club – take a few bucks every pay period and stash it where you aren’t allowed to touch it until Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) time. It’s always nice to get that check in October from the bank to spend. Just remember, it’s for other people, not you.
                  • Vacation Fund – set aside a separate account just for your vacation for that year. This way, you won’t have to use those high interest credit cards for fun and relation.
                  • Purchasing Fund – maybe you want to buy a new car, boat or any kind of expensive play toy. This is a great way to be able to pay cash for it when you are ready to buy!
                  • Retirement Fund – let’s not forget to have a savings for those days ahead. If you don’t save for retirement, nobody will save it for you. Whatever you do, don’t lean on the government for that help.


                  Credit Card Tips
                  Balance Transfers
                  Not recommended due to either a higher interest rate or additional fees on the amount transferred.


                  Negotiate a Lower Interest Rate
                  You can call the credit card company and get them to lower the interest rate while you are trying to pay off the balance. Most of the time they will lower it because they don’t want you to go to another credit card company.


                  Keep Yourself at Two Major Credit Cards
                  It’s always good to have a spare in case a company won’t accept the one you use the most. I’ve had that happen when out of town and it’s no fun!


                  Beware of Retail Credit Cards
                  These can be a “snake pit." Be careful when they say, “save an extra 15 percent when you use your retail credit card." That’s fine if you pay it off when you get the statement. Otherwise, they just made money off of you by charging a 21-22 percent interest rate.


                  Always Use Your Debit Card as a Credit Card
                  It’s best to use your debit card but always say it’s a credit card. That way, you’re not charged a $1.50 fee per every time you use it. Not only does this money come out of your checking or savings account, but also saves you from using any credit cards in the future and paying those high interest rates.


                  Be Disciplined

                  Try to pay off the balance each month, and only use your credit card if for two reasons:

                  • You have the money sitting in the bank instead of your pocketbook to pay it off the next month, or
                  • An emergency has occurred over and above your savings. Just make plans to pay it off in short order.