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    Let’s talk about sex. Not the 1-900 kind of sex talk. It’s about time we discussed female sexual health.

    For years, we’ve been under-researched, under-represented and under-served when it comes to sexual health and education. And apparently, we just live with it. According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 43 percent of women have some sort of difficulty in their sexual function compared to 31 percent of men.

    But, thank your lucky stars, there are people doing something about it.

    “Throughout my studies, I found that women’s sexual health issues were still an unmet need in today’s world,” says Erin Hoschouer-Lapham, MPH, director of Health Education at Pure Romance. “I wanted to learn ways in which I could continue to educate and empower women to improve their quality of life, including their sexual health.”

    Turns out, Hoschouer-Lapham is one of many local women forging a new future for female sexual health. In fact, several female-focused organizations were started in Cincinnati, by women from Cincinnati, and are now impacting thousands of women across the country each year. Speaking of Women’s Health, The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation, The Foundation for Female Health Awareness and Pure Romance’s Patty Brisben Foundation were all started in Cincinnati with the female at the center of the organization’s mission and goals.

    0208GIBBERMAN.gif   “I don’t think women in Cincinnati are as conservative as we initially think,” says Hoschouer-Lapham. “Women all over the world, including Cincinnati, are demanding more information when it comes to their bodies – including sexuality. Many Cincinnati-based women stood up to answer that call.”

    The Patty Brisben Foundation in particular is enormously dedicated to advancing the field of female sexual health. How enormous? $1.3 Million to be exact. “The Patty Brisben Foundation has committed over $1.3 Million to research on understanding and improving women’s sexual health,” says Hoschouer-Lapham. “I think we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding women’s sexual health, but I am proud to be in a city and working for a company who have taken a stand in saying ‘this is important to women and we’d like to help.'”

    The $1.3 Million will be donated to The Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University over the next five years, in part of an eight-year-long commitment. Two special areas of focus for this research will be menopause and the effects of cancer treatments on female sexual health.

    Hoschouer-Lapham says women are just now starting to see the impacts of things like stress, medication, diet and exercise to their sexual well-being. And when they see those impacts, they’re demanding a healthier self for themselves and their relationships. “I believe women are stepping outside of once-traditional roles and taking on the responsibility of knowing and understanding their own bodies and how it relates to their sexual well-being and health.”

    And she hopes this trend will continue to increase. “I really would like to see women demanding more from their healthcare team – more time, information, resources and compassion to their physical and emotional health needs – including their sexual health and how that impacts their relationships.”

    Specializing in the impact sex can have on relationships is Rhonda Audia, LISW, owner of “Guru for Two: Enlightened Couples Therapy”. “When you evaluate a couple and their connection, their sex life is a barometer for the rest of their emotional relationship,” she explains.

    Audia says female patients want to talk about their sexual issues, such as a lack of sexual desire or difficulty in reaching orgasm. “They take this very seriously. They don’t want to be pandered to,” she says. “Women today believe sexual satisfaction is something they are entitled to, just like men.”

    Because there are no sexual dysfunction drugs for women, most female sexual problems are treated as an emotional issue. “But, that’s changing,” Audia says. “There is a great deal of research under way aimed at a better understanding of female arousal, with the hope of finding ways to treat dysfunction in ways other than therapy.” In other words, there are efforts underway to treat the minds, and the bodies, of women when it comes to sexual function.

    Audia says the next 10 years will bring some major advancements to female sexual health – especially in terms of medical treatment options. “I think the big change in women’s sexual health will be coming on the medical side. As research continues into the possible physical causes of female sexual dysfunction, it is possible that a female Viagra, of sorts, will fundamentally change the sexual lives of women as much as such drugs have for men.”

    According to Audia, a better understanding of the physical – as well as the emotional – causes of female dysfunction will result in a more positive sense of well-being among women confronted with sexual dysfunction issues. And these positive steps forward will continue to break new ground for female sexual health as long as various medical fields work together. “I think that as the psychotherapy and medical communities continue to collaborate on female sexual dysfunction, women may be able to make a quantum leap in their sexual health,” says Audia.

    The other key component is you. “As long as women continue to stay open to methods like therapy and driven to find answers,” Audia says, “I am convinced they can only progress in their relationships – and their sex lives.”

    PHOTO CREDITS:
    Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
    Location: Fischer Homes
    Model: Joanne Carey
    Makeup Artistry: Jocelyn Sparks, Zoë Custom Cosmetics

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      In the midst of all the crazy pranks and practical jokes, have you ever wondered how this crazy holiday got started? Well, you might be surprised to find out.

      April Fool’s Day got started as a way to have a good time — and just in time too! Placed at the time of year when everyone is at the peak of cabin fever and ready to get out, we can release some pent-up energy on a prank on someone else.

      Even though each country has a different explanation about how April Fool’s Day began, all of them are similar because they all encourage pranking. Each country plays jokes in different ways, but every joke ends up in a laugh:

      0208GIBBERMAN.gif  

      England
      If you can make it until lunch, you’re safe! Since its considered bad luck to play a practical joke on someone in the afternoon, all pranks must be done in the morning. Fools in England are called “gobs” or “gobby” and victims of pranks are known as “noodles.”

      France
      One common practice of prank playing was from the French, who would hook a paper fish onto someone’s back. This practice was most popular among school-aged children.


      India
      The Huli Festival commemorates the arrival of spring and is also celebrated on March 25. People play practical jokes on each other and smear and throw colored powder and water on each other to celebrate the changing of the season.

       

      Portugal
      On the Sunday and Monday before Lent, people throw flour on one another. Did someone say food fight?

       

      Rome
      Rome’s version of the holiday, the Festival of Hilaria, is held on March 25. This day was created to celebrate the resurrection of the god Attis and is referred to as “Roman Laughing Day.” Attis was the god of life, death and rebirth. From his body parts grew blossoming trees full of fruit. Ancient Romans believed celebrating his resurrection honored spring and brought a fruitful harvest.

       

      Scotland
      In Scotland, April Fool’s Day is dedicated to spoofs related to the posterier region, and thereby known as “Taily Day.” Instead of being called “April fish,” victims of Scottish pranks and jokes are known as April “Gowk,” another name for a cuckoo bird. As people would joke about the buttocks, signs would be placed on people’s back and this was the start of the “Kick Me” sign.

      Over time jokes have evolved. In the 18th century the American colonies began the tradition of prank playing we know now. In one, school children pointed at their friends’ feet and said, “Your shoelaces are untied!” Even teachers would join in on the fun, telling children “Look! A flock of geese!”

      No matter the country, April Fool’s jokes range from more simple tricks to the most elaborate hoaxes. Sometimes, even the media gets involved in trying to fool its viewers.

      One of the most remembered April 1st hoaxes was the infamous spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. On April 1, 1957, news reporter Richard Dimbleby showed a peasant woman harvesting spaghetti from trees. He claimed that the harvesters had finally foiled the “ravenous spaghetti weevil” that had wreaked havoc upon the crops in earlier years. Calls flooded in as anxious viewers volunteered to help and inquired about how they could have a spaghetti tree.

      Another notable prank occurred in Canada the year that Canada introduced the $2 coin. Radio personalities on CHEZ FM convinced listeners that April 1 would be the last day $2 bills would be accepted. This time, banks were flooded with calls.

      Pranks, jokes and hoaxes have evolved over the many years, but are still every bit of the holiday that it once was. People use their imaginations to come up with elaborate tricks that confuse and even scare their friends and loved ones, but make them laugh with all of their might.

      Pranks don’t always have to be this elaborate. A good joke can be simple, just to make you and the victim laugh. The simplest joke can keep you and your friends laughing for hours or even days.

      Many people believe that April Fool’s Day was simultaneously created in several different cultures, all involving the introduction of Spring. It is said that April Fool’s Day is a celebration of Spring that lasts from March 25 to April 1 and the trickery is part of a child like playing that people of all ages can participate in. This holiday is in place for people to be jovial.

      Even with many disputes over how this holiday came to be, the most widely accepted explanation comes from around 1582 in France. One explanation is the holiday began because of the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, which changed New Year’s Day from April 1 to January 1.

      Many people did not get news of this change for years. Once they did, many people were outraged and refused to acknowledge the change of the calendar, continuing to celebrate the New Year on April 1. These people were called “poisson d’avril,” or “April fish,” because they were easily caught by the prank.  

      For some, April Fool’s is just another day. But this April Fool’s, take some time to prank someone you love or care about. You can find some tips for workplace appropriate April Fool’s jokes in this week’s career story. Not only will it be a good time, but laughter is the best medicine.

      PHOTO CREDITS:
      Photo: Juniper Images

       

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        Along a popular pedestrian corridor, in a European lingerie shop called La Silhouette, Swedish Britt Cruikshank hums to classical music as she places La Pearla, Chantelle, and Millesia pieces on the window mannequins for passersby to see.

        She opened this lingerie shop because in Gothenburg, Sweden, all little girls are taught to dress from the inside out and lingerie is an integral part of that way of life. But, surprisingly, Cruikshank’s store isn’t in Sweden. It’s not even in Europe. It’s in Madeira, a town nestled about 13 miles away from downtown Cincinnati. And while that’s about 4,224 miles from her native Gothenburg, Cruikshank makes sure it doesn’t feel that way.

        0208GIBBERMAN.gif Owning and operating La Silhouette helps to keep her European heritage alive in Cincinnati. “If one travels in Europe, they will find quaint, yet sophisticated boutiques of all sorts throughout Europe,” Cruikshank says. “It is a part of life; and it is also a part of me.”

        Aside from the store, she often enjoys the traditional Swedish dish of herring, follows soccer and ice hockey closely and her heart flutters when she sees a sailboat. Sailing is a favorite pastime in Gothenburg, which is on the West Coast of Sweden.

        Since moving here 38 years ago, Cruikshank says she keeps in touch with loved ones via telephone and she still travels to Gothenburg several times a year to stay with friends or family. “Cincinnati has ‘beaucoup’ to offer culturally for the local folks,” Cruikshank says. “They just need to search them out.”

        And “searching them out” is what this story is all about. Read on for resources and useful information about the great multitude of multi-cultural offerings in Greater Cincinnati.

        Hispanic Culture
        According to MidwestLatino.com, a prominent organization keeping the Hispanic fires alive, the goal is promoting the richness and variety of the local Latino/Hispanic culture, as it helps Latinos/Hispanics maintain their cultural integrity as they crossover to the mainstream U.S. society.


        Whether you are a new transplant to the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area or just have a passion for anything Latino, then you’ll feel right at home in Cincinnati’s booming Hispanic scene!

         

        Organizations
        Have questions regarding immigration laws? Want to open your own ethnic grocery? Refer to these sites for all your business-related queries:

         

         

        Events
        Want to experience the authentic Hispanic culture? Take a Spanish class? Learn to salsa or merengue? Then check out these organizations that have a plethora of Latino-themed events to choose from:

         


        Dining
        Who doesn’t love some good ole’ Mexican food? But did you know that you can try Peruvian or Dominican food locally? Check out these prime examples of Latin-spiced cuisine.


        Asian Culture
        With the variety of different Asian backgrounds found locally there are many ways to say “Hello!”: Kumusta Po Kayo! (Filipino), Ni Hao! (Chinese), Chao Cac Ban! (Vietnamese), Ahn yawng hah she yoh! (Korean), Sa-Wat Dee! (Thai), Namaste! (Hindi) and Ohio Gozaimasu! (Japanese). Check out the resources below to learn more about the local growing Asian communities:


        Organizations

         

        Events
        There are a variety of Asian-themed activities right here in the area. Check them out here and here.

         

        Chinese

         

        Organizations

         

        Dining
        Nobody does takeout like the Chinese. Locally, we have a variety of options to choose from.


         
        Japanese
         
         

         

        Dining
        Check out this great listing of authentic Japanese restaurants.


        Korean
         
        Organizations

         

        Dining
        Check out this great listing of authentic Korean restaurants. 

         

         

        Indian
         

        Organizations

         

         


        Dining
        Whether you’re in the mood for vegetarian or non-veg Indian meal options, you’ll sure to satisfy both cravings at these restaurants.
         

         

        Thai

         

        Dining
        There are more than 20 restaurants offering the sweet and spicy flavor of Thai cuisine.

         

         

        Vietnamese

         

        Dining

        Don’t have to travel far for some authentic Vietnamese fare with these restaurants around.


         
        Indonesian
         
         
        Dining
        Experience authentic Indonesian food, art, gardens and drinks at Gajah Wong West.

         

         

        African American Culture

         

        Organizations
         

         

        Dining
        Everyone loves comfort food. Check out these local restaurants that serve up some awesome traditional soul food.

         

         

        Italian Culture

         

        Organizations

         

         

         

        Dining
        There’s not much too elaborate here. Make sure you eat at least at one of these authentic Italian joints.

         

        Greek/Medditerrian Culture
         
         
        Organization

         

         

        Events

        Did someone say Baklava?! Get them at the Panegyri Greek Festival

         

        Dining
        Check out these Greek/Medditerrian restaurants offering everything from falafel to kebabs.

         

         

        German Culture
        Cincinnati was originally founded as a German immigrant city. Today, a great deal of the German culture can be found. In fact, Cincinnati hosts the second largest Oktoberfest celebration in the world, second only to that of Germany’s! Guten Tag!

         

        Organizations 

         

         

         

        Events

         

         

        Dining
        Whether it’s schnitzel, sauerkraut balls or spatzel,check out these and these local restaurants offering authentic German fare.

         

         

        Jewish Culture
        The main focus of the Jewish community is founded on the Jewish people’s commitment to “tzedekah”-  that it is righteous and just to ‘do right’ by others. Check out these local organizations making a difference locally:

         

        Organizations

         


        Events/Holidays
        PlanitJewish.com is a great site for keeping your Jewish holiday and social calendar full and up-to-date.


        Dining
        It’s not hard being kosher in Cincinnati, check out these local restaurants that get the Rabbi’s seal of approval.


         
        Islamic Culture
        The goal of the Islamic community, according to Muslim American Society – Cincinnati Chapter is to revive the faith, develop and unite the Muslim community, contribute to the betterment of society and promote the universal values of Islam within the framework of the pluralistic American society.


        Organizations
         

         

        Events/Holidays
        Check here for upcoming Muslim events and holidays.

         

        Dining
        There are many local restaurants offering halal (Islamically permissible) food.

         

         

        French Culture

         

        Organizations 

         

         

        Dining
        Craving a nicoise or ratatouille? Then head over to these French-themed restaurants. Bon appetit!


         
        Russian Culture
         
         
        Organization

         

        Dining
        T
        he one and only Baltic Restaurant offers up some authentic Russian and East European fare.


         
        Polish Culture
         

         

         

        Dining
        See Russian Dining.

         

         

        General Resources
        Check these sites out for further details about the multi-cultural scene in Cincinnati:

         

         

         

        Editor’s note: We did our best in highlighting all the different cultures in the area, but as you can imagine, we have only scratched the surface of the local diversity. Please let us know of another great culture that we may have overlooked, in the comment box below.

        PHOTO CREDITS:
        Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
        Location: Fischer Homes
        Models (left to right): Joanne Carey, Tracy Harrison and Deborah Ward
        Makeup Artistry: Jocelyn Sparks, Zoë Custom Cosmetics

         

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          After conforming to what school cliques pressured you to be, complying to what your job pays you to be and molding into the person your family needs you to be, it’s almost impossible to grow up and become who you really are.

          But today, there’s a new breed of woman that says it’s okay to be true to yourself and live life how you want to. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there’s a growing number of stay-at-home-dads. More women are buying houses sans spouse. The National Association For Female Executives says 424 women start businesses each day – more than twice the rate of men – which means 15.6 million American women have left traditional jobs to venture into the entrepreneurial world.

          The statistics are plain as day. Women across the country aren’t afraid of breaking the mold to make their dreams a reality. Now, how can you be a part of this exciting dream-realizing revolution?

          Nine to Five, What a Way to Make a Living

          “Working nine to five; what a way to make a living.
          Barely getting by; it’s all taking and no giving.
          They just use your mind and they never give you credit.
          It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it.”


          0208GIBBERMAN.gifDolly Parton’s “Nine to Five” song lyrics say it all. Maybe you have the boss-from-hell. Or maybe you just weren’t cut out for a traditional 9 – 5 job. Whatever the reason, many people wish they could say “Sayonara” to cubicle land, but are too afraid to pack their bags.

          “The last time I worked a 9 – 5 job was five years ago, and even though I was ‘supposed’ to work from 9 – 5, I actually ended up working late into the evening on most nights,” says Kristen Folzenlogen, owner of Poeme in Hyde Park. “I finally came to the realization that if I wanted to work that long, and that hard, it should be for something I personally built, developed and would be able to look back on as my own.”

          As a 30th birthday present to herself, Folzenlogen quit her 9 – 5 to start her own business. Today, she’s not only the owner of Poeme, but also The Bridal Studio in Covington, a stationery business called Letter Heads and a card line called “Cardiology.”

          Folzenlogen was lucky (and smart), though, because she created a cushion of time where she was still working her 9 – 5, while getting her dream job started. Friends and associates asked her to do individual design projects for their weddings, babies, etc. She got experience in the stationery industry with those side projects, until she was faced with a big decision: “I enjoyed [the side projects], so I encouraged people to spread the word. Within eight months, I had to choose whether I would stop taking these moonlighting projects or do it full-time,” she recalls. “Otherwise, I would either fail at my 9 – 5, or my side jobs.”

          It’s now obvious which option won out. And today, she says she’d never go back. “I could never work for someone else again,” she says. “I just know my personality, and the one thing I am good at is that I like to succeed. I don’t mean that in a conceited way, but in a way that if given a task by someone, even if it’s not my specialty, I will find a way to meet that person’s expectations.”

          Folzenlogen says that’s a fantastic quality for a business owner to have, but is also a frustrating quality for someone who wants the credit for accomplishing something as part of a team. “When I worked for someone else – although the people who worked with me appreciated my efforts – I still remained anonymous to most of our clients. I like a good pat on the back!” She says you should keep this in mind if you ever go into business for yourself.

          Overcoming Obstacles


          You can’t get to the roses without getting pricked by a few thorns. Same holds true for overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of you and your goals. Patty Brisben, CEO and founder of Pure Romance, says the key to surviving comes from within. “It’s normal to feel apprehensive at the start of any career switch, but you should never underestimate passion. If you’re passionate about what you do, it can carry you through some of the toughest obstacles!”

          She speaks from experience. Pre-Pure Romance, Brisben was an assistant to four pediatricians. After getting inspired by consultants on a Phil Donahue Show who were selling intimacy products through in-home settings, she knew that was her ticket to having a flexible schedule and sufficient income. Everything was fine and dandy. That is, until that company folded.

          “I came to a crossroads where I had over 50 Consultants relying on me as their team leader, not to mention my own four children relying on me as well,” Brisben says. So, she turned that frown upside down and started Pure Romance, which is now a multi-million dollar company (more than $80 million in sales last year, to be exact). And giving her reason to never frown again, Pure Romance now boasts 80 full-time employees and more than 20,000 Consultants nationwide.

          But getting started in the industry wasn’t always easy. She hit an obstacle when people close to her questioned the nature of the business. “There were some people close to me who didn’t understand at first. But after attending a party, they realized that this was a clean and classy business and was truly providing a safe environment for women to learn more about sex and intimacy,” she says. “Believe it or not, I hadn’t even seen a bedroom toy before picking up the phone to sign up as a consultant. It was through my customers that I discovered how much women learned about their bodies and incorporated these products into their intimate relationships.”

          For Folzenlogen, everything left-brain presented an obstacle. “I found the most difficult things were the skills I had never developed; a lot of the paperwork, [such as] building a business plan, incorporating, taxes, accounting, outsourcing services,” she says. “I’m sure that’s true of most business owners though. Someone starting their own accounting firm probably doesn’t have a huge skill set for developing their logo and collateral.”

          Folzenlogen’s advice is to decide what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then commit to hiring qualified individuals to help with your weaknesses. “It’s scary to relinquish some of that control and to swallow some of the costs involved, but it’s definitely worth knowing that everything is being done professionally, correctly and in a manner that allows you to focus on what you do best.”

          Being True to You


          Gigi Gunckle, a Mt. Healthy-based lesbian, says her obstacle was realizing she wasn’t like everyone else. “Near the end of my senior year I did kiss a woman,” she recalls. “It explained so much in a few seconds. My thoughts were, ‘Oh, this is what people think I’m feeling when I kiss a guy.'” She made a wise decision to be true to herself early on, and come out to family and friends then, rather than later. She says many people she knows try to live the “normal” life, which often leads to failed marriages and getting children caught in the mix. “Starting out early in life upfront is what I think has made my life very uncomplicated.”

          But how do you be true to yourself? Mary Claybon, a certified nurse, wellness consultant and coach with The Middle Way, a local health promotion company, says you should close your eyes and envision yourself a year from now. Ultimately, what would you like to be doing, what will you look like, what will you feel like? From that vision, you can develop goals. But not just any goals. SMART goals, which stand for:

          Specific
          Measurable
          Action-oriented
          Realistic
          Timely


          “If you don’t stop and reevaluate, you’ll fall on your face. You have to stop sooner or later. Create a vision, and evaluate how important that vision is to you,” says Claybon. But why SMART goals? “They give you a way out. Otherwise, it becomes vague and your goals can very easily not be met,” she explains. “Also, there’s no way to measure regular goals. SMART goals move you toward your vision.”

          If you feel guilty about developing these goals, don’t worry; you’re in good company. “We often feel like introspection is selfish. We’ve been taught to be a giver, not a taker,” says Claybon. “As a woman it’s even worse. We’ve been conditioned to take care of others.” But, she adds, you must take the time to get to know who you are because “you won’t be able to give yourself to another, unless you really know yourself.”

          So, don’t feel guilty; take the time to set SMART goals. They will help you envision who you want to be and pave a defined path to your desired destination. Folzenlogen wishes she had done this when getting her business started. “[One] thing I wish I had done better was to make some projections so I would encourage people to make a list of goals – immediate, short-term and long-term – in writing,” she says. “I think if I had done that immediately, it would’ve been easier to prepare for some surprises!”

          Gunckle also suggests surrounding yourself with like-minded people to help support your decisions and dedication to a new life. For Gunckle, she’s now active in Parent, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which provides opportunities for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. She has also been greatly impacted by being a part of the West Chester-based Life Success Seminars, which have helped her gain awareness of what she wants out of life.

          Words of Encouragement


          At this point, you have the tools you need from success stories to SMART goals. But now you need a cheerleader to cheer you on to V-I-C-T-O-R-Y (insert spirit fingers and toe-touches). That’s what Claybon does for a living, so of course she has some words of encouragement. “In order to live your dream, you have to ask yourself, ‘What do you really want?’ People who live their dreams know what they really want,” she says. “You need to be very focused and keep reevaluating. Living the dream is very possible.”

           

           PHOTO CREDITS:

          Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
          Location: Fischer Homes
          Model: Kristen Folzenlogen, of Poeme
          Makeup Artistry: Jocelyn Sparks, Zoë Custom Cosmetics

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            The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the U.S. was – where else? – in New York City. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the city March 17, 1762. The parade and traditional Irish music helped them connect with each other and their Irish heritage. This deep Irish pride led to the formation of the organizations like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick in 1771 to help Irish immigrants in America. 

            St. Patty’s Day parades were not always the happy occasions they are today. In fact, because of the reputation given to Irish-Americans by the media as nothing but drunk, violent troublemakers, their celebrations were largely avoided by the upper class. But as the numbers of Irish-Americans swelled, especially after the spike in numbers during the potato famine in the 1840s, so did their strength.
            0208GIBBERMAN.gif
            Even in Cincinnati, the Irish were looked down upon. Most native Cincinnatians were white Protestants and had mixed feelings about the immigrants. They were blamed for overcrowding in the city and seen as a threat to American democracy because of their Catholic heritage. Cincinnati natives thought the immigrants would take jobs from them, cause trouble and just generally destroy the city. But what actually happened is the Irish helped build the transit systems around the state.

            The Irish who came to America thought they could get work as farmers, but things didn’t work out that way. Instead, the skill-less workers were left finding whatever meager jobs they could find. They helped build the Erie and Miami Canals and helped lay railroad tracks. Can you imagine how different Cincinnati would be without Union Terminal?

            Irish American’s really got a boost when President Truman visited the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City in 1948. It was a proud moment for the Irish who knew what struggles had been overcome to gain enough respect to overcome stereotypes.

            St. Patty’s Day didn’t start out exactly as the party it is today. It has been celebrated in Ireland for thousands of years as a way to honor St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. In fact, until the 1970s, pubs in Ireland remained closed on the holiday. Families attended mass in the morning and held feasting celebrations in the afternoon. It was the traditional day to pray for missionaries all around the world. 

            Finally, in 1995, the Irish government realized what a cash cow St. Patrick’s Day could be. Ireland began using the traditionally religious holiday as a way to increase tourism and give Ireland some face time with the press. And, of course, throw the best St. Patty’s party in the world – literally.

            Not much is known about St. Patrick except that he was born to wealthy British parents and that he was brought captive to Ireland as a teenager. Many of the stories told about him have been proven wrong, such as the one about how he banished all the snakes from Ireland.

            According to the story, St. Patrick climbed up what is now known as Croagh Patrick with nothing but a wooden staff and banished all the snakes from the island, causing them all to go into the sea and be drowned. In fact, Ireland has never been home to snakes. Now the story is seen more as a metaphor for how St. Patrick chased paganism out of the country.

            One account of his life says he was captured by Irish raiders and brought back to the island as a slave.

            According to the story, St. Patrick ended up in an Irish prison, where he claimed to be visited by God. He heard a voice in a dream tell him to leave Ireland. He escaped and returned to Britain where he was visited in a dream by an angel telling him to go back to Ireland. Then, St. Patrick began religious training to become a priest.

            Back in Ireland as a free man, St. Patrick was faced with trying to save the heathen from their pagan gods. Before he came, most of the Irish had a nature-based religion, so he found ways to incorporate parts of their religion into Christianity so it would seem more natural to them.  He would have bonfires because the Irish worshipped their gods with fire. He also created the Celtic Cross by adding the sun to a typical Christian cross so it would seem more natural to them. He even used the clover to illustrate the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

            The leprechaun, however, had nothing to do with St. Patrick. Its association with St. Patrick’s Day came from none other than Walt Disney.

            “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” a Disney film released in 1959, depicted a cheerful, friendly leprechaun that morphed into the St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun we know today. The original Irish name for a leprechaun is “lobaircin,” cranky little men with supernatural powers who repaired fairies’ shoes.

            So, when you tip back your green beer next week to celebrate the luck of the Irish, stop for just a moment to think about the struggles Irish-American’s faced as immigrants and tip one back for old St. Pat!

             

             

            PHOTO CREDITS:
            Photo: iStock photo

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              “Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less.”

              – Myra Pollack Sadker

               

               

              It may be hard to fathom, but it was only just up until the 70s that women’s history was virtually an unknown topic in the K-12 curriculum or in the general public consciousness. To bring more awareness to the topic, in 1978, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women, initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration with March 8 designated as International Women’s Day.
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              But then the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) petitioned Congress to extend the national celebration to the entire month of March. Long story short, National Women’s History Month (NWHM) was born to highlight and acknowledge contributions of women to events in history.

              In celebration of NWHM, Cincy Chic asked local women about the resources, mentors, programs, businesses, etc., that have helped them in the past, and is thus creating a brighter future for them and other women. Here’s what they had to say:

              “Although God did not give me the perfect family, he did give me the best family and extended family for me. My family continues to be a great source of inspiration for me. From my brothers’ continuous support and encouragement to my children’s belief that I can do whatever I put my mind to, to my husband believing that I have both brains and beauty (that’s important), I am inspired to move forward and to make a difference in the lives of others by being the best mother, wife, sister, friend and entrepreneur that I can be.”

              Jenifer Fox-Gerrits, Life Management Strategies, LLC

              “No one has helped me to grow as a business owner and as a person [more] than John Melvin. He is the Clermont County Small Business Administration (SBA) Guru, but he is much more than that to me. When I first decided to start my business in 2004, he provided much needed guidance and support. Since that time, he has become like a surrogate father to me; always there with advice, encouragement, a big hug, or a firm kick in the butt whenever I need it. Thanks for being there, John!”

              Corinne F. McNally, CDFA, financial advisor/associate investment consultant, Morgan Stanley & Co.

              “My work as a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) has inspired me to grow professionally in financial services. Having gone through a divorce myself I know, too well, the challenges women face during this type of transition. If I can help a newly divorced woman get financially organized, and help her set up a budget so she can confidently move forward with her new life, then I know I’m doing what I was meant to do.”

              Lauren Abel, president & CEO, Abel Associates, Inc. and Creative Consortium, Inc.  

              “Several years ago, I went in to have my first mammogram, as you’re supposed to do at age 40. Long story short, the biopsy determined it was benign.

              Needless to say, I felt very blessed and thankful. It was at that point I decided to live each day as if it were my last and do more things I’d thought about, but had put off because I was young, healthy and had plenty of time.

              With that said, I took up running in October 2006 and ran the 15k Heart Mini Marathon in March 2007. I [also] decided to train for and compete in a triathlon.

              I think one of the best parts of any journey is the people you meet along the way and what you learn from them. I had the honor and joy of meeting some amazing people. Some became mentors. Some are extraordinary athletes. All are incredible human beings who inspired me and taught me.

              First there was my trainer, Jamie Hoffpauir, who had taught me how to train properly to run long distances. A superior athlete, herself, she inspired me. Her work with me when training for the Heart Mini made the difference in my ability to compete in the triathlon.

              Then there was the woman I refer to as my ’bike mom,’ Karen Martin. She took me under her wing and helped me get up to speed with bike knowledge and skills…literally and figuratively.

              Next there was the owner of the bike shop I got my bike from whose honesty, patience, training tips, encouragement and passion for biking and racing made a huge difference for me, Mitch Graham at BioWheels. His ability to see my potential truly helped me see and believe it too.

              Last, but not least, there were the instructors and women in my triathlon training group, namely Kathy Krumme with Oakley Cyclery who taught us all racing bike skills and taught me so much more than that. All of the women in the tri training group are incredible cyclists and true athletes. They were patient and understanding and never made me feel like the slow poke as I tried to keep up when we first started training. Instead they would encourage me, assure me they remembered what it was like to be a new rider and told me it would get better and easier. They were right.

              But I think the one thing that really helped put a true perspective on my journey as I struggled through the early learning weeks was something sent to me in an email by one of the women in the weekly cycling group. She sent me a lengthy email talking about her experiences when she first started riding. It was heart felt and encouraging. But what really made me realize it would all work out is the quote she included at the end of her e-mail: ‘The miracle was not that I finished. The miracle was that I had the courage to start.’

              When I read that, I thought to myself, ‘Yes, it really is all about starting. It really is about the journey, what you learn, who you meet and how the experience enriches and changes your life for the better.’”

              Mackey McNeill, CPA, PFS, IAR CEO/president, Mackey Advisors

              “Ray Nelson was in charge of the accelerated learning program in my high school and always took a personal interest in each student.

              One day we were talking about what I would do after high school. The roles of women in the early 70s were limited to nursing, teaching and stay-at-home-moms. For the most part, if you married, you stayed home and it was the husband who went to work. While I was certain I would go to college, I had limited my consideration to the traditional roles of that day, nursing and teaching.

              As Mr. Nelson and I were talking about my choices, it became obvious he had a different vision. He got agitated [and] I could tell he was a bit miffed at me as I went through my laundry list of choices.

              ’What about medicine?’ he asked. ‘Well I could consider nursing,’ I told him, ‘but I am not found of needles.’ He replied, ’Mackey – if you are going to go into medicine you are going to be a doctor! You’ll have a nurse to take care of giving shots!’

              In that moment Mr. Nelson gave me a life-changing gift, he saw me bigger than I could see myself.

              While I chose not to pursue medicine, Mr. Nelson did open my eyes to a universe of possibility.”

              Shari Steinhaus, professional recruiter, Professional Staffing Solutions

              “I have been extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by incredible people in my life. Some I have met professionally through groups such as WE Lead Class II and others are in my personal life. The most influential person I have grown from is my mom. She once told me to surround myself with people who make me a better person. Those few words have helped grow tremendously and become the confident woman I am today.”

              Debbie Simpson, president, Multi-Craft

              “When I started my career in 1969, my father was and continues to this day, to be my most important mentor. I began working for him as his ’girl Friday,’ as we were called back then. I am now the president and one of the owners of our company and my father is retired. He always made me feel that I could do anything that I was willing to work for. At the same time, he was always in the background to support me, if I requested it. He also let me fail when appropriate so I could learn to do it my way.”

              Kristan Getsy, Life’s Eyes Media

              “Life’s Eye Media is 21/2 years old. We are a video production company, specializing in public relations and marketing materials for businesses. The ‘something’ that has helped my business is giving back, literally. We take 10 percent of our net and donate it to our church or other organizations. I didn’t do that right out of the shoot, but when I did, business started rolling in! So for about the last year and a half, business has been great!

              [Also…] Sister Bonnie Steilage, the founder of Franciscan Haircuts from the Heart.

              You can read more about her organization on the Web. But she’s one of those women, obviously a nun, who gives of herself 200 percent to make this world a better place. I have a number of mentors, in the business world, but the core of her values are in line with where I want to be and who I try to model myself after.”

              Marianne Buttner, owner of Creative Coverlets for Pet Carriers and Purses and Petrosexual™ Doggie Apparel Collection

              “As a first-time inventor, I am extremely thankful to the Inventor’s Council of Cincinnati for its support, encouragement and its deep well of knowledge in helping me navigate in a sea of uncharted waters. I am especially grateful to Andrea Brady, former president and executive director of the Council, and Jackie Diaz, treasurer of the Council, for taking a personal interest in my progress and going out of their way to provide advice and support when I need it most. If it were not for Andrea’s prodding and mentoring, I would not have entered my product in the Cincinnati Inventor’s Fair. Jackie’s counsel has inspired me to raise my expectations to new heights for bringing my products to market and to actively pursue goals, like selling on QVC and Home Shopping Network. These women are more than mentors; they are friends I can count on. Both women are accomplished inventors whose products are being sold in the marketplace. It is a comfort to know that when the going gets rough – and it does – when you yell for help you know you’re going to get a hand up!”
               

              Melissa Scalia, freelance writer, manager of administration, Aberdeen Express, Inc.

              “Cheering for the Bengals for four years completely changed me as a person, for the better. From it I’ve learned countless life lessons that I will carry with me always. It has taught me that hard work and dedication results in the most personally satisfying rewards, that devoting some of your time to charity should be a permanent part of your life and helps you just as much as the charitable cause, and most of all, that friendship, true friendship that adult women have is richer than the most priceless gem you could come across. I am so very blessed to have such bright, beautiful, well-educated women on my side always.”
               

              Barb Dougherty and Sarina Newstead, co-founders, Forever Cheeky, Ltd.

              “In July 2006, after being stay-at-home-moms for the better part of a decade, we decided to start our own business. We wanted to create fun t-shirts that would appeal to women who could relate to some of the funnier things that happen as we go through life’s journey. Our company name is Forever Cheeky and our message is simple: we encourage women to go out and flaunt their cheeky side, the one that is ’fun, feisty and fearless.’

              We had the creativity and the desire, but we knew we needed help to bring our ideas to market. We’ve met many extraordinary people who have graciously extended their time, talent and expertise to help us launch our business. The following are some of those folks:

               

              • Our first contact was with Kelly Palmer from Moondance Design Group in Loveland. Kelly’s high energy and creative flair gave a new face to our company mascot and helped us design a fun Web site.
              • Donna Drury-Heine, co-owner of Blue Chip Cookies, invited us to speak at her Loveland store to a group of ‘Amazing Women’ thus opening the door to new contacts and networking groups.
              • Through Kelly, we met our favorite (outside of our spouses of course) Cheeky Chaps, Jack Heffron and Howard Cohen from Keen Communications who helped us get some great PR in newspaper, radio and TV media.
              • It was through Howard that we learned of Cincy Chic and met Amy Storer and her cheeky staff.

               

              We continue to be inspired by all the people we meet who are so willing to share their stories, their words of wisdom and keep reaffirming what we are doing.

               

              “I am 52 years young and have been working in the fashion world since I was 14 years old. I am a newlywed, which goes to show that you never know what life has in store for you. I love everything about what I do and feel blessed to have a career that has never seemed like a job to me. The credit goes to my faith and my mother and father who taught me to believe that anything was possible. ‘If you dream it, you can be it’was the motto in our household. My dad taught me about discipline and good work ethic and my mom taught me compassion and nurturing, which I believe also helped me to be a good mother to my daughter, Julie, who is now 29 years old. My modeling and acting training, when I was just 14, helped develop my self-confidence and self-esteem, giving me the foundation to begin to build my career. My career has taken me all over the world as a talent scout for our international company and then brought me to Cincinnati to open my own agency in June of 2005. My platform in business is to help men and women (ages 7 and up) to become the best they can be in all areas of their lives- not only modeling and acting, but being successful in everything that they choose to do. I encourage people to get their education, find out what they are passionate about (what interests them) and figure out a way to reach their goals. Dream big! Don’t settle! Do not be afraid!

              What inspires me each and every day is watching someone change right before my eyes and seeing the confidence when they begin to feel good about themselves. Beauty starts from within and when the outside package starts to fade, it is the inner beauty that will carry us through.”

              Felicia Miller, freelance writer for Cincy Chic

              “My mother is behind all of my accomplishments. She’s my inspiration, my love! I’m a Xavier University graduate. I have my BA in business and minor in marketing. [I have a passion for fashion and] I love to write articles, come up with hot ideas and just write, write, write! My mother has always told me that [if] you have all these ideas, put yourself to work! I told my mother ‘I will!’ She’s the reason I’m doing what I am today. She’s the reason I’ve graduated school, and she’s my thought for everything I do. I now have a focus in life. My goal is coming along. I’m now happy doing what I love. Thank you, mom! You’re that special person!”

               
               Patty Brisben, Pure Romance CEO and founder

              “Pure Romance CEO and founder, Patty Brisben, has not only helped thousands of women feel more comfortable and empowered when it comes to their relationships and careers, she has also made a powerful difference in the lives of her family and colleagues. She is the generous and loving matriarch that binds her close-knit family together and carries that same matriarchal spirit into the corporate office. She has always challenged every single one of her employees at the corporate office to speak up and be heard, work hard and passionately, and to never be afraid of any challenge or obstacle. In addition, she has shown me and many of my colleagues that when you work tirelessly, you should always take some time and energy to spoil and pamper yourself as well! We’re lucky to have such a dedicated and fearless leader!” (Submitted by Kim Sheridan, Pure Romance public relations director)


              Women’s Art: Women’s Vision

              The NWHP has complied the following list of ideas on ways you can promote the 2008 theme of “Women’s Art: Women’s Vision” in March:

               

              • Ask your local schools what they are doing for NWHM. Suggest they visit the NWHP Web site for information and resources.
              • Suggest to your local schools and school boards that they encourage students to write an essay or draw a picture about the theme, “Women’s Art: Women’s Vision.” Encourage projects designed to help students at every grade level discover, recognize, and celebrate the ways that generations work together.
              • Contribute a NWHM Program Kit to a local school or local library.
              • Take a 2008 commemorative poster, banner, or bookmarks to your local library or bookstore and ask what special features or programs they have scheduled for NWHM.
              • Ask that your place of worship recognize women’s contribution to your spiritual community either in a special celebration or through announcements at gatherings.
              • Write a proclamation for NWHM and ask your local city council or board of supervisions to issue a special proclamation in honor of March being NWHM. Here is a sample proclamation for reference.
              • Plan a reception or luncheon to honor the women in your community who have been the builders of communities and dreams.
              • Ask your local paper to feature school and community programs that celebrate NWHM. Direct them to the Women’s History Month section of the Women’s History Month.
              • Bring “Generations of Women Moving History Forward” placemats to your workplace’s cafeteria or lunchroom.
              • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper explaining the need to celebrate and recognize women’s contributions and include information about NWHM and suggestions of women from the community to celebrate.
              • Invite a woman from history to be at your celebration program. See the NWHP listings of Women’s History Performers and Authors and Presenters. There may be a performer in your community that you can plan a special program with or one of the listed National Performers can travel across the country to be at your event.


              Local Lady Trivia
              How well do you know your fellow “sisters?” See if you can answer the following trivia about local women…without cheating and looking at the answers here:

               

              1. She became the University of Cincinnati’s 25th and first woman president in October 2003.
              2. This actress won an Emmy for her sexy role in the 70s TV sitcom classic “WKRP in Cincinnati.”
              3. This local legend was known as one of the nation’s premier TV and radio broadcasters in the 40s, 50s and 60s and for her charity that provides gifts for hospitalized Tri-State children.
              4. This Cleveland-born actress was the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actress in the 2001 drama “Monster’s Ball.
              5. Her world-renowned store Fabulous-Furs – headquartered in Covington, KY – provides luxurious synthetic alternatives to real-animal furs and has been worn by countless celebrities.
              6. This chic actress – born in Nelsonville, OH, and who attended the School for the Creative and Performing Arts – is most famous for her role as a Manhattan sex-columnist in an HBO series.
              7. This author of “Song of Solomon” and “Beloved” was born in Lorain, OH, and became the first African-American woman to win a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.
              8. She is the CEO and founder of the multi-million dollar Pure Romance, Inc. – based in Loveland, OH – that offers relationship-enhancing sex toy parties for women.
              9. This gun-slinging, spunky, red-headed legendary markswoman’s life was celebrated in the 1946 Herbert and Dorothy Fields musical “Annie Get Your Gun.”
              10. Thought Hilary was the first woman to run for president? Wrong! Touted as the leader of the American woman’s suffrage movement, this woman ran for president back in 1872!

               

               


               

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                Well, it’s that time of year again – tax time! No one likes to deal with this necessary evil, so some of us put off filing until the last minute because we are disorganized or know we owe money. The lucky ones are excited to get their tax return completed because they know they’re getting a refund! That’s like getting vacation money or an extra paycheck. But is it the smartest thing to let the Internal Revenue Service hold your money until you get your refund?

                Here are some tax tips and IRS news that will make this year less taxing for you:

                1. Refund from the IRS: It may not be the best strategy for you get a large refund back every year. You can’t make any interest by letting the IRS use your money during the year. Instead, take that additional money and put it into an interest-bearing savings account. The interest rates are usually low, but something is always better than nothing.

                The important thing to ask yourself is, “Can I take that money and set it aside without touching it?” Some of us can’t, so letting the IRS hold it until the following tax season, may be your only way to not spend it.
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                2. The AMT may hit you this year! Late last year, Congress approved a one-year patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), approving a one-year patch on December 19. This “short-term fix” could delay around $40 billion of refunds to as many as 17 million taxpayers!

                You may not have heard of the dreaded AMT before, so allow me to educate you. The AMT was originally created in 1969 to target “super-rich” families who used deductions to avoid paying taxes altogether. Unfortunately, the law has stayed on the books without being adjusted for inflation.

                By late last year, the law was threatening nearly 25 million middle-class taxpayers. This is an increase of 21 million taxpayers since 2006. The AMT patch helps taxpayers with incomes between $75,000 and $200,000 who might otherwise have seen their taxes spike by an average of $2,000.

                However, since the House of Representatives dragged its feet getting the legislation passed, the IRS wasn’t able to re-program its computers in time for the launch of tax season. It’s going to take the IRS until mid-February to update their systems in order to comply with the AMT patch. Taxpayers who use the forms listed below, will not be able to file their taxes until the changes have been made. Even if your refund may be held up, there’s no need for you to delay your appointment with your tax preparer.

                • Form 8863 for Education Credits
                • Form 5695 for Residential Energy Credits
                • Form 1040As for Child and Dependent Care Expenses or a Schedule 2
                • Form 8396 for Mortgage Interest Credit
                • Form 8859 for District of Columbia First Time Homebuyer Credit

                 

                3. More Tax Rebates Available! Finally some good news! You may not know most tax filers will get a rebate this year! Congressional leaders announced a deal with the White House on an economic stimulus package that will give single tax payers a rebate of up to $600 and couples up to $1,200 – plus an extra $300 per child. However, the rebate is equal to the taxes paid. If you didn’t pay $600 or $1,200, you won’t get that much back. The minimum you can receive back is $300 for singles and $600 for couples. However, the rebate amount can be decreased according to your income. Singles lose $50 for every $1,000 above $75,000 and couples lose $50 for every $1,000 above $150,000.
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                4. Are you at risk for a random audit? The IRS has reintroduced the controversial practice of random audits, targeting thousands of taxpayers nationwide. This comes in response to allegations from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) that many sole proprietors’ (individuals who own their own businesses) under-report their income.

                The first random audits began in October 2007, targeting approximately 13,000 income tax returns from the previous year including a wide range of income categories and 5,000 Sub-Chapter S Corporations (a type of corporation with limited shareholders and different tax rates). The IRS’s primary targets are taxpayers who file a “Schedule C” (business expenses) or “Schedule F” (farming expenses) with their federal tax return.

                To minimize your risk of being targeted or penalized by a random IRS audit, be careful to:

                • Document all company vehicle expenses
                • Document all meal and entertainment expenses defined as business-related
                • Verify that all home-office deductions are in compliance with current regulations


                5. Crackdowns on Charitable Giving. In 2006, the IRS was getting tough on charitable contributions used as tax deductions through the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Now the rules are getting even tighter for donations of clothing and household items. Previously, donations up to $500 in value didn’t have to be documented. Those deductions of $499 or less added up to $9 billion nationwide!

                Now, items donated with a value of less than $500 must be in good used condition or better. However, the IRS has issued no guidelines for what will be considered “acceptable proof” of such condition. Tax professionals predict that these kinds of deductions will decline.

                If you donate items worth more than $500 in any condition, make sure to attach a qualified appraisal to your 2007 tax return.

                6. Ways to Keep Your Taxes Lower. One of the best ways to minimize your tax bite is to maximize your retirement contributions. Whether you contribute to an IRA or a 401(k), you are lowering your tax liability. However, there are maximum contributions you can make each year:

                • 2007 IRA: Under age 50 = $4,000; over age 50 = $5,000
                • 2008 IRA: Under age 50 = $5,000; over age 50 = $6,000
                • 2007-08 401(k): Taxpayers under age 50 = $15,500; over age 50 = $20,500


                If you didn’t contribute the full amount by the end of December, don’t worry! You can still fund the amount you claim on your 2007 tax return as late as April 15.

                Here are some other ways to decrease your tax liability:

                • Create a home office if you do not have another office elsewhere
                • Contribute to a 529 college funding plan for your child, niece, nephew, etc.
                • If you bought a house in 2007, pay PMI insurance on your house. Your monthly payment will be higher, but the money you pay for your PMI insurance is tax-deductible.
                • Keep track of your mileage. Here is a breakdown of how much you can claim for different types of driving:
                  • Business: 2007 – 49 cents per mile; 2008 – 51 cents per mile
                  • Medical: 2007 – 20 cents per mile; 2008 – 19 cents per mile
                  • Moving: 2007 – 18 cents per mile; 2008 – 19 cents per mile
                  • Charitable: 2007 – 14 cents per mile; 2008 – 14 cents per mile


                7. Ask a Professional. If you’re not sure about a particular tax tip, talk to your accountant. They can get you on the right track. As we say at our office: It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep!

                 

                PHOTO CREDITS:
                Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
                Location: Fischer Homes
                Model: Attorney Maria McBride
                Makeup Artistry: Jocelyn Sparks, Zoë Custom Cosmetics

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                  You’ve finally met Prince Charming and you have the ice, ice, baby to prove it. Along with finding the perfect dress, picking a caterer and florist, ordering invitations and all the other little things that go along with planning a wedding, you have to pick where you are going to pledge your lifetime love.

                  0208GIBBERMAN.gif If that short list already has you overwhelmed, you need some help. But don’t worry, many brides need help and that’s why Your Wedding Mafia got started. “The wedding industry is pretty cutthroat,” Leigh Ann Miller, co-owner of the Mafia says. “I always say it’s like middle school. We try to make it easier for the bride and take away the pressure they feel.”

                  Miller says Your Wedding Mafia was created as an alternative to stressful bridal shows. “Brides don’t get to find out enough information about the companies vying for her business at bridal shows.We try to put together a group of vendors who might not be the most well-known, but that are dependable,” she says.

                  “[The Wedding Mafia] is a great resource for brides and vendors,” Miller says. In March, June and September, The Wedding Mafia hosts cocktail parties for its clients. Vendors will set up mock-ceremonies so you can actually see how things turn out and view the finished product. This allows you to see how the vendors work together and get creative on their feet. But the only way to get into one of the parties is to be part of the Mafia. Membership is $30, and after that you can get invited to cocktail parties, Wedding 101 seminars and other Mafia sponsored events.

                  The cocktail parties also follow themes. Miller says they will give different ideas to brides who might be fresh out of college, working professionals, glamour girls or party animals.

                   

                  But the best thing about Your Wedding Mafia is all the research they’ve done on all the wedding vendors in town. According to Miller, they researched the market by scanning online wedding forums where brides discuss various vendors, they secret-shopped vendors and they’ve held focus groups with brides about their experience with local vendors.

                   

                  And previous to co-owning Your Wedding Mafia, Miller was an event planner, so it’s safe to say she can offer advice to local brides. Chief among that advice, Miller cautions brides to be careful when looking for their little slice of heaven on their big day, as hidden costs lurk everywhere! “A lot of places will give a price per meal, but you also have a price per chair, per chair cover, for the tables, dance floor, stage, microphones…it really increases expenses more than you realize.”

                  Parking is also an important thing to look for in a venue. Many places in downtown Cincinnati do not come with parking, leaving guests to find their own. If you have out-of-town guests with no one to lead them in the right direction, they may never make it to your wedding.

                  Miller says the best way to protect yourself from any surprises on your wedding day is to get everything in writing. This will help you to document what will be provided, and have in writing should it not be provided. Check out this week’s career story in which wedding planners offer advice on contracts.

                  Here’s an overview of the places Your Wedding Mafia recommends for your ceremony and/or reception:
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                  The Savannah Center at Chappell Crossing
                  This eco-friendly center of southern hospitality can seat up to 1,200 guests. The five-acre lake not only looks gorgeous, but also heats and cools the venue. The Savannah offers a bridal parlor for the bride and bridesmaids and a bachelor pad complete with a putting green for the Groom and groomsmen! It also has a gazebo and two garden settings, so there will be plenty of places to take your wedding pictures! Just keep your checkbook handy – this is one of the more high-end venues in the area.

                  The Newport Syndicate
                  The Syndicate has seven different rooms that are each decorated with a different theme, eliminating decorating for your reception from your wedding to-do list. They can seat from 30 to more than 500 guests and offer catering and a wedding coordinator to help plan your event with them. They are also offering a bridal special right now. If you book your wedding on any remaining Saturday in 2008 or January 2009, you will receive Friday night buffet prices.

                   

                  The Shaker Run Golf Club
                  Miller says there are several golf clubs in the area that offer space for weddings and receptions, and one of them is The Shaker Run Golf Club. They have a Grand Ballroom that accommodates up to 325 guests and an enclosed pavilion with breathtaking views of “Ohio’s number one rated public golf course” that can hold up to 250 guests for a ceremony.

                  Other golf courses she recommended are Pebble Creek Golf Course and Ivy Hills Country Club.

                   

                  Millennium Hotel Cincinnati
                  Miller says the Millennium was recently remodeled to have the top two floors opened up to be used for banquets. It offers a breathtaking – and rotating – view of the Cincinnati skyline!

                  The Phoenix
                  Located in downtown Cincinnati, The Phoenix is a renovated gentleman’s club that features a marble staircase, Tiffany stained glass windows and 35-feet-high ceilings. The Phoenix offers inclusive wedding packages starting at $44 a person. The Grand Ballroom can accommodate up to 450 guests and the Archway Ballroom can hold up to 250 guests.

                  Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
                  Union Terminal offers an old-fashioned, classic atmosphere because of all the history within its walls, Miller says. According to their Web site, virtually any area of the Museum Center is available for private parties. And the Grand Rotunda will keep your wedding guests entertained for hours just looking at it!

                  Miller says popular places for outdoor wedding are in the Hamilton county park district. One of them is Ault Park in Cincinnati. It offers bandstands and music pavilions suitable for a wedding ceremony, garden wedding areas and The Pavilion, which has two rooms that can seat between 80 and 100 people.

                  Another Hamilton county wedding option is the Alms Pavilion in Alms Park. This will hold up to 120 people, but also has tenting options to increase capacity if needed. The stone pavilion offers a second floor arcade with a breathtaking view of the Ohio Valley.

                  Probably one of the most beautiful places to get married in this area, Miller says, is Drees Pavilion. Overlooking the city from Covington, it offers spectacular views of the city lights at night. Don’t believe me? Take a look at their Web site for yourself. It has space for everything from small ceremonies to receptions for up to 300 people. Event specialists are available that will help you coordinate all the details of your special day.

                  But the Cincinnati Netherland Plaza’s Hall of Mirrors is where many local celebrities go to tie the knot. This gorgeous hotel was built in 1931 with French Art Deco architecture. Take a look at a 360 degree view of the Hall of Mirrors! Just be prepared to spend on this spectacular venue, as it has quite the high price tag. But you get what you pay for. Miller says its staff helps you with every aspect of your reception to help make things go as smooth and easy as possible.

                  There are many more places around Cincinnati that offer space for ceremonies and/or receptions. MyCincinnatiWedding.com not only offers a more comprehensive list of venues available in the area, but also resources for everything from accommodations for your out-of-town guests to cakes to flowers to photographers to wedding planners.

                  Another great Web site for brides-to-be is TheKnot.com. Here, you can find tips for planning your wedding, picking out dresses, budget calculators and three choices of Web sites to list your wedding details and allow your guests to RSVP online. The WedORama.com premium option will even let you upload photos and video to your site.

                  Ultimately, Miller says, when a bride is looking for a place to share her special day, she should try to find somewhere that is convenient for her guests and will fit her personality. And after you find exactly what you want, make sure that’s exactly what you’re getting!

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                    If your perfect Valentine’s Day dinner means spending a quiet, relaxing evening staring into your sweetie’s eyes, try one of these romance-rousing restaurants:

                     

                    • If you are looking for a dinner full of bling, look no further than Pigalls! This Parisian-style restaurant is the region’s only Four Star Mobile and Four Diamond AAA restaurant. Even with all that sparkle and shine, this fine dining establishment isn’t stuffy! Pigalls’s Web site says you have your choice between couture and casual. Part of the Jean-Robert Group of restaurants, it boasts a New York ambiance with Cincinnati charm. Jean-Robert is also a noted philanthropist, so you’ll feel even better about splurging on your honey.
                    • If a romantic, candle-lit dinner – worthy of “Lady and the Tramp” – will get you in the amore mood, check out Barresi’s in Deer Park. Enjoy traditional Italian food, seafood, veal or beef entrees. Every dinner comes with zeppoles, one of Barresi’s most delectable treats. Fried dough with a dash of salt is the perfect mate for your Italian dinner!

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                    Maybe a view of the sparkling city skyline is just what the love doctor ordered this Valentine’s Day. These restaurants boast some of the best views in the city!:

                     

                    • Get a view of the Levee and Cincinnati this V-Day at the Chart House Restaurant! Some of the menu items they are best known for include the Snapper Hemingway, Shrimp Fresca and the slow roasted Prime Rib. And don’t forget the Chocolate Lava Cake! Check out the menu and make your reservation online.
                    • Take a peek at what you could see this Valentine’s Day! Primavista boasts the city’s best panorama view of Cincinnati, day or night. The Italian menu is a bit pricey, but the high-class atmosphere, glass tabletops and breathless view make it more than worth it!
                    • If it’s seafood you want, and you’ve got your sea legs, visit Mike Fink’s on the river! If you can take your eyes off your dreamy date this Valentine’s Day, you can enjoy the breathtaking Cincinnati skyline as you dine on an authentic paddle-wheel riverboat.

                    If you’re not into candle light and quiet and want a little more excitement this year, check out one of these red-hot hotspots:


                    • Want to lock up your love this Valentine’s Day? Well, now you can at Teller’s of Hyde Park. The former Hyde Park Savings and Loan plays off if its banker’s heritage by incorporating teller windows and putting a single table in the old bank vault.
                    • In the mood to get up and move it? Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday this year, meaning it’s Ladies’ Night at Havana Martini Club! There’s no cover charge and specialty martinis are only $4. The only craziness at this Cincy hotspot is on the dance floor; other than the drinks, Havana is best known for its class.
                    • Try something completely different this V-Day with the Argentine Bean! Enjoy drinks like The Naked Blonde, My Latin Lover and El Diablo. More of a coffee or wine connoisseur? The Bean’s got you covered. They also offer tango and salsa lessons, so you can get the full Argentinean feel.

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                    Looking for something completely different? Maybe some sushi or an island respite from winter? Check out one of these:

                     

                    • Want a little spice to take you away from a cold Cincinnati winter? Check out Cactus Pear Restaurant in Clifton, which is known for its Southwestern, Caribbean and Tex-Mex dishes. Go for the drinks, go for the spicy food and you just might find there’s more than one way to warm up on Valentine’s Day!
                    • Been wanting to try sushi but not sure where to go? Try the Dancing Wasabi at 1018 Delta Ave. in Mount Lookout. Although it offers a casual atmosphere, it’s one of the premier sushi restaurants in Cincinnati.
                    • Maybe some authentic Japanese dining is what you’re looking for this V-Day. If so, check out Soho on 7644 Voice of America Drive in West Chester. Teppanyaki chefs prepare your feast before your eyes in the main dining room while a wall-sized waterfall helps provide a relaxing atmosphere. If you want to go traditional Japanese, reserve a tatami room where you can eat bare-footed and on the floor.

                    Maybe you just want to get some dessert to accompany your main dish? Try out one of these yummy sweet shops to sweeten up your special night:

                     

                    • It doesn’t have to be your wedding to get some of Bonbonerie’s famous opera crème torte. You can get an entire cake, cookies, scones, pastries, cake candy, bon bons…well, just about any kind of sweet thing imaginable!
                    • You’ve heard of the battle of the bands, well now there’s the ice cream clash! You can either enjoy ice cream and chocolates at an authentic ice cream parlor in Oakley Square at Aglamesis Brothers or enjoy a Cincinnati staple in Graeter’s handmade ice cream with impossibly huge chocolate chunks packed into every pint.


                    All right, all you single women out there. I didn’t forget about you! If you’re not into spending Valentine’s Day alone, gather up a bunch of your girl friends and head to The Melting Pot. This fondue restaurant doesn’t just offer couples a fun-filled dinner together! It allows you to cook your own dinner at the table. They offer chicken, beef and seafood, and dark chocolate fondue and strawberries for desert. It takes a little longer to finish your meal, but that’s even better for catching up on all the gossip! What more could a group of sexy singles ask for? Check out the special Valentine’s Day menu and make your online reservation.

                    Or get dressed up for an evening at Via Vite downtown. Not only does it offer a great view (of the city and people), it's a great place to enjoy a yummy dish while dishing about your best dating horror stories, disastrous embarrassing moments and online dating drama.

                    Although we tried, it’s impossible for us to list all Valentine’s Day outing ideas, so if there’s somewhere great that we didn’t list, post it in the comment section below. We (and all the Cincy Chic readers) would love to learn about your beloved locale.

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                      National Heart Month kicked off Friday, Feb. 1 with Go Red for Women Day to raise awareness of heart disease in women. Previously thought of as a man’s health condition, heart disease is now the leading killer of women in America. In fact, 1 in 4 women will die from this problem, more than men and more than the next five top causes of death combined, according to the American Heart Association.

                      0208GIBBERMAN.gif But enough of the Debbie Downer humdrum. It’s easier than you think to help protect yourself against cardiovascular disease. Just follow these 10 tips for a healthier heart!


                      1. Know the Facts About Heart Disease. Since 1979, the death rate related to heart disease for men has decreased by 17 percent, but the rate for women has increased during the same amount of time. Despite the numbers, we are still less likely than men to get certain diagnostic testing and treatments, according to the American Heart Association. What’s even more disturbing is that doctors and researchers do not know how safe and effective some medicines or medical devices, like stents, are for us. Studies have shown that pre-menopausal women have a lower risk than post-menopausal women. The reasons aren’t clear, but it is believed that the loss of natural estrogen may be a factor. However, if you live a heart healthy life up until menopause, the risks of heart disease are reduced.


                      2.Know Your Family History. Heart disease and its causes are usually hereditary. Things like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol can be family traits you can’t control. Have lunch with the family gossip queen, who knows everything about everyone, and get the dirt on your family’s medical history. You might learn something new about yourself in the process!


                      3. Know Your Own Risk. Make an appointment with your family doctor and bring a short list of questions with you. Ask him or her which tests you need and how often so you can monitor your risk for heart disease. After having your blood work done, have your doctor explain the results to you. Even if you are not diagnosed with heart disease, get tips for your diet and ask what a safe exercise plan would be for you. And don’t forget to ask about the side effects of your prescribed medication, such as birth control. Your insurance company is paying good money for your doctor visit; make the most of it!

                       

                      4. Monitor Your Own Risk. Don’t make the first appointment with your doctor the only appointment with your doctor. Keep following up with him or her and to monitor things, such as your cholesterol and triglycerides. You can even check your own blood pressure at the grocery store. But remember, those machines are not always 100 percent accurate. Try taking the average of three readings for a more accurate number. Your blood pressure should be lower than 140 systolic, the maximum blood pressure reached as blood is pumped out of the heart chambers, over 90 diastolic, the amount of pressure on the walls of blood vessels when the heart is at rest. The ideal blood pressure reading is 120/80.

                       

                      5. Know the Symptoms. Susan Bradbury-Sneddon is a heart director with the American Heart Associaton (AHA). She was misdiagnosed for over 20 years, living with an intermittent pain in her chest, left arm and back. After ten years with a cardiologist, who called her “overdramatic,” she went to another who diagnosed her with a mitral valve prolapse (unnaturally large valve) and gave her a prescription for nitroglycerin. In November 1997, Susan came home from an AHA meeting feeling all the symptoms she had been living with, plus she had broken out in a cold sweat. She was afraid to go to the hospital because she didn’t want to be embarrassed as the AHA heart director if she wasn’t actually having a heart attack. Her husband may have saved her life when he held up an AHA flyer which said, “Don’t die of embarrassment.” The symptoms of a heart attack are different in men and women. Men usually just have pain or a feeling of pressure on their chest. Women can have that same pressure or pain in their chest along with other symptoms, such as pain in one or both arms, upper back, neck, jaw or stomach. They can also experience flu-like symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, trouble breathing, breaking out into a cold sweat, dizziness or lightheadedness, the inability to sleep, unusual fatigue, paleness or clammy skin. If you experience any of these symptoms, do not wait more than five minutes before calling for help.

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                      6. Stop Smoking. Smoking is the single most important preventable cause of death in the United States. By smoking, you increase your risk of developing heart disease by two to four percent. By smoking two packs a day, your risk is doubled. You may be scratching your head, wondering how inhaling smoke into your lungs affect your heart? Simple. Nicotine. It decreases the amount of oxygen your heart gets, while increasing your blood pressure, heart rate and blood clotting and damages the cells that line coronary arteries and other blood vessels. If you still think you just can’t kick the habit, think of it this way: Smoking gives you unattractive wrinkles, stained teeth and sallow looking skin. If you can’t quit for your heart, at least do it for vanity’s sake.

                       

                      7. Eat Heart Healthy. The American Heart Association recommends a healthy diet, with a variety of foods from each food group. Their Web site offers a helpful print-out, titled How Do I Follow a Healthy Diet?. It lists the food groups and how many servings each day you should have from each:

                      • Breads, cereals, pasta and starchy vegetables: six or more servings a day. Be sure to include whole grains and brown rice as much as possible.
                      • Fruits and veggies: eight to ten servings a day. These are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and low in fat and calories.
                      • Lean meat, poultry, fish and beans: no more than 6 cooked ounces per day. You should have at least two servings of baked or grilled fish each week.
                      • Fat-free and low-fat milk products: two to three servings per day. Two percent milk is NOT low-fat. Use dry-curd, fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese. Also, cheeses shouldn’t have more than 3 grams of fat per ounce or more than two grams of saturated fat per ounce.
                      • Fats and oils: two to three servings per day. Choose fats and oils with two grams or less saturated fat per tablespoon like liquid or tub margarines, canola, corn, safflower, soy bean and olive oils. Make sure you count the fats in the food you are cooking, as well as the fats you are cooking with. And be sure so avoid hydrogenated oils and fats. For more information about hydrogenated fats, see this week’s "Heart Healthy Foods” story! To cut down on saturated fat and calories in your diet, you can either exchange meat with pasta, rice, beans and/or vegetables or pair these items with a lean meat, skinless poultry or fish. You can also reduce fat and calories by boiling, broiling, grilling, baking, roasting, poaching, steaming, sautéing, stir-frying or microwaving your meats. Another good tip from “How Do I Follow a Healthy Diet?” is to trim the fat from meat and poultry. Brown your meat, then drain the fat. Finally, refrigerate soups and stews after cooking to remove the fat from the top. You can cut cholesterol by eating fewer foods from animals. Take eggs, for example. One large, whole egg has about 213 mg of cholesterol – about 71 percent of the daily limit. Instead of eating a whole egg, try two egg whites or one egg white plus two teaspoons of unsaturated oil. Substitute your regular eggs with something like Eggland’s Best. This brand of egg says they feed their chickens with vegetarian feed, making their eggs better than other brands. According to their Nutritional Facts, their eggs have 25 percent less saturated fat than regular eggs, and boast 180 less milligrams of cholesterol.

                       

                      8. Have a Heart Friendly Exercise Plan. At the Go Red for Women Web site, you can join the Choose to Move 12-week program, a free physical activity program for women. Each week, you get an e-mail with one topic in it that will help you on your path to being heart healthy! Some of the topics are creating a plan of action, avoiding traps and trip-ups and planning for the future.The recommended amount of exercise is 15 to 30 minutes a day, at least three times a week. You don’t necessarily have to join a gym, just find ways to add a little extra movement to your day. And make it fun- mall walking and dancing count as exercise, too!

                       

                      9. Lower Your Stress Levels. One of the 12 steps of the Choose to Move program is “De-Stressing the Stressed Out.” Constant draining stress puts serious pressure on your heart. Gay Purpura, owner and founder of the Heart Center is a licensed HeartMath™ provider. “I teach people how to change their heart rhythm, which reduces stress,” Purpura says. She trains people on how to use the HeartMath™ system, which works with the emWave. According to the Web site, the emWave measures changes in your heart rhythms that result from stress and helps you regulate your breathing to eventually regulate your heat beat.“The HeartMath™ program trains people to use their heart to activate the good hormones and deactivate the stress hormones,” Purpura says. Excess amounts of hormones, such as cortisol are like battery acid to your system, she says. It wears down your body, making you more susceptible to diseases.

                       

                      10. Sign the HEART for Women Act Petition. Two senators, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and two representatives, Losi Capps (D-CA) and Barbara Cubin (R-WY), introduced the HEART for Women Act on Feb. 14, 2006. There are three things this act seeks to do for women:

                      • Its first goal is to raise awareness among women and their health care providers about the difference between heart disease in men and women. According to the American Heart Association, more than 90 percent of primary care physicians do not know that heart disease kills more women than men. Included in this part of the Act is also authorization for the Medicare program to conduct an “educational awareness campaign for older women about their risk for heart disease and stroke.” The second part will provide gender and race-specific information for clinicians and researchers by requiring that data reported to the federal government be sorted by gender, race and ethnicity.
                      • Finally, it will try to improve screening for low-income women at risk for heart disease and stroke by expanding the WISEWOMAN program to all 50 states. WISEWOMAN is an acronym for Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation. It currently operates in only 14 states providing tests for high blood pressure and high cholesterol to low-income uninsured and underinsured women.