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    You, and millions of other women, are finding it difficult to balance work and home. How did we get in such a pickle? As women, we learned some powerful lessons at our mother's knee about self-care, self-priority and care for others that work against us every day. Plus, we are continually met with a barrage of messages from our society that brainwash us into attempting to do the impossible.

    In 2006, my education, expertise and experience in effectively balancing work and home was put to the test. The test included life-threatening health issues for my daughter, son-in-law and husband, loss of a baby, the death of my mother, responsibility of being the executor of her estate and even the death of our beloved family pet. These life-altering events coincided with some of the greatest opportunities of my career. Yes, it was the big test of life balance and I flunked. Like many of you, I tried to do it all. Ugly life lesson No. 1, it's just not possible. So it was back to the basics for me; maybe for you, too. Let's find out. Ask yourself these questions:

     

    • Do you feel exhausted most of the time?
    • Is guilt your constant companion?
    • Do you struggle to feel completely successful both at work and home because of the constant pull from the other side?


    "Yes" to any or all of the above means you are experiencing symptoms of balance burnout. If you are looking for techniques to get more done in less time, stop here. My recommendations are about rejecting some of those lessons learned at mother's knee and embracing a new philosophy. Having a successful career and a satisfying home life demands embracing the philosophy that you count as much as everyone else in your life, and that's not selfish. Try these strategies:

    Manage Your Guilt


    Survival equals managing your guilt. Guilt is a soul-robbing emotion that adds extra stress to life and can eat you alive. Many of you have taken guilt to an art form. You even begin to feel guilty when you don't feel guilty. There's functional and dysfunctional guilt. Functional guilt is what you feel when you have broken a law, a rule, a moral code or a social norm. You're at networking event and see someone you met six months ago. Out of your mouth come the words "Yikes, what did you do to your hair?" You feel terribly guilty, that's functional guilt. The antidote is an apology. It's all about something you have done. Dysfunctional guilt is quite the opposite. It's about what you have left undone. With dysfunctional quilt there is the sense that you can never do enough. Try these eight steps to managing guilt:

    • Determine the type of guilt (functional or dysfunctional)
    • Clarify actions to take (apologize)
    • Acknowledge positive actions (I've called my mother everyday this week.)
    • Embrace choices and priorities (Family members question your life choices? Get clear on why you have chosen that path and make peace with your decisions)
    • Avoid defensiveness and justifications ("Having a career and children is the best decision for our family, I'm sure you only want the best for us.")
    • Avoid the comparison game ("I know my sister Susan is a stay-at-home mom; that's great for their family, but this is what is best for us.")
    • Accept limitations of personality, time, energy, etc. ("Because of current work obligations I can't take on the association presidency.")
    • Release guilt as a norm (Guilt is a learned emotion that can be unlearned)


    Carve out Time for Your Self-Care

    Psychologists say to be healthy and balanced, you need a minimum of 21 minutes of daily personal time. Showering, sleeping and eating don't count. The goal? 11 hours a week. It Breast Cancer to force my colleague, Kitty, to put herself as a priority. Her rest, nutrition, exercise and self-care had to be priority No. 1. Don't wait until you have a life-threatening illness to put yourself as a priority. You deserve it now! If you are already stretched to the limit, where will you find the time? Follow "Kay's Rule": "When you do for others what they rightly can do for themselves, you rob them of opportunities to raise their self-esteem and sense of competency." Merely by teaching my children to do their own laundry at 9 years of age, I gleaned hours a week for myself. Warning: fight the temptation to fill that "found" time with more obligations. Take that time for you. Delegation at home and work gives others the opportunity to grow.

    Now, ask yourself these two pivotal questions daily:

    1. What do I need today?
    2. What do I want today?


    You may be surprised by the answers and get some great insight into how to use that newfound time.

    Cultivate Your Female Relationships

    Fascinating research out of UCLA by Laura Cousino Klein, PhD, indicates cultivating your friendships with women has a positive physiological effect on stress. When the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress response in women it encourages them to tend children and gather with other women. While tending and befriending more oxytocin is released reducing stress even more. Apparently, men's testosterone blocks the effect of the oxytocin, negating the stress reduction. Unfortunately, our outings with female friends often get erased from our schedules when work and home get crazy. Who knew boosting get-togethers with your women friends to a higher priority would actually be good for you? That's an important fact if you need a swift kick in the pants to prompt action. Looking for another excuse to connect with women? We know that networking can be essential for career enhancement and, based on this research, it can have stress-busting benefits as well.

    Don't let the stress of balancing home and work rob you of the joy of life. Try these steps to give yourself a break beginning now.

     

    (This article is a transcription of FIttes' speech, given at the June 27 eWomen Network's networking event)

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      Regardless of financial status, we all enjoy getting together with family and friends. However, when money is a little tight, you don’t have to opt out of hostessing if you utilize some sensible alternatives.

      Your first task should be to decide the theme for your event. This will help you to create your guest list as well as help you see what pre-party elements you can bypass and what areas you will want to make extra special.

      For a large party, consider cutting corners by cutting back your guest list. You could save a ton of cash that could be used for more practical purchases by narrowing your list by just 10 or 15 individuals. For more innovative themes that will feed – and please – a large crowd? Click here to get five great themes provided by the Food Network.


      For most of us we simply want to entertain a few friends. Be sure to supply a comfortable amount of room for your guests. If yours is a dinner party, you will want to ensure you have enough chairs for your entire guest list. If it is a cocktail party you can and should opt for “milling”; room rather than so many chairs.

      Another consideration is where you have your event. This can also either be costly or not. Here is a list of some inexpensive alternatives.

      1. Your own home or backyard
      2. Your local church Fellowship Hall
      3. A local residential clubhouse
      4. A local business or entertainment complex, i.e. skating rink, bowling alley
      5. Park or picnic area
      6. The beach or lakeside
      7. Your family or friend’s home


      The latter suggestion I offer with the thought of further spreading the expense by hosting a Progressive Dinner. These types of parties can be most memorable and fun.

      Just what is a Progressive Dinner? Simply put, each course of a meal is prepared and presented by a different diner. My recommendation here is to plan carefully the route to minimize driving distance.

      The next issue you need to decide is whether to give out invitations or not. Although a phone call is often less costly than a printed invitation you may want to consider sending them to at least some of your invitees. The more formal your event the more likely this should be done. Some ideas to consider that can help cut down on the expense here are:

      • Computer generated invitations
      • Printed
      • E-mailed
      • Online greeting cards
      • + Online digital greeting cards
        + Evite.com invitations

      • Hand crafted cards
      • Quilled
      • Stamped
      • Embossed, or otherwise embellished
      • Calligraphy

       


      Hand crafting your invitations can be fun and will provide a unique invitation that may be cherished by the recipient for many years to come. You can even have a group of close friends or family members assist you with the invitation’s design and creation. Think about the laughs and memories you will be making at the same time.

      Here are a few more tips, provided by the Food Network, for hosting the perfect soiree:

      • For an informal party, keep things simple. Purchase snacks like chips, salsa, nuts, cold cuts, bread and prepared salads.
      • Before you go shopping, clean out your fridge to make room for all those prepared foods and make-ahead dishes.
      • They're your friends; feed them right. Incorporate healthy dishes based on fruits, vegetables and grains.
      • If you are serving buffet-style, then you'll want to plan a little crowd-control — spread things out on small platters with the sides and meat pre-sliced.
      • There's no need to foot the bill for the wine as well as the food. Make it a BYOB and ask your guests to bring wine, beer or soda.
      • Make well-placed and clearly marked areas for trash.
      • Have plenty of ice on hand.
      • Set and dress your table before your guests arrive.
      • Get creative: use water glasses for crudités, breadsticks and even flowers.
      • Wrap utensils (either plastic or silver) in napkins and place them in a basket for your guests to easily grab and hold.
      • Keep plastic bags and containers handy to pack leftovers for your guests and yourself.

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        Europe
        Usually, agreeable summertime weather makes Europe a hotspot for history and sight seekers. Italy is especially popular this year. If you plan to visit holy sites in Italy, such as the Vatican, be sure to have appropriate clothing. This means no shorts or short skirts and women should have a sweater to wear over sleeveless shirts or dresses.

        Watch history come alive. Savor new foods. Shop for exquisite fashion. Thrill at a top-notch theater. Discover new passions.

        Europe is truly a palate of pleasures for the senses — enticing, entrancing and exciting. It's Harry Potter, Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes come to life. Its fairytale castles and real kings, queens and princes. It's thriving cities, breathtaking countryside, quaint pubs and the world's finest museums. It's days of sightseeing, or just a long afternoon sitting at a sidewalk café. It's magical and it's undeniably magnificent.

        National Parks
        The nation’s network of national parks is most busy in the summertime; some of the most popular are Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon National Parks. But don’t forget Washington, D.C., which always attracts throngs of families and tour groups all summer long. Washington, D.C. can be very hot and humid in the summer, so make sure your hotel has a pool.

        From the gaming cities of Nevada, to the cosmopolitan cities of California, to the purple sunsets and desert landscapes of Arizona, the West is full of fun in the sun. The heartland of the U.S. offers great lakes, great shopping and grand monuments. Travel east for history, culture and world-class entertainment in our nation's largest cities. In the south, slow down and enjoy blissful warm weather, wide beaches and make new friends.

        Theme Parks
        Walt Disney World continues to be a favorite for young and old. Summer is a great time for families, including grandparents, to take in the sights and fun of a Disney Vacation. Get a dining plan with the purchase of this 5-night/6-day vacation package including theme park tickets. Disney is inviting you to come live out Disney dreams like never before during The Year of a Million Dreams, a first-of-its-kind event, celebrating your dreams and the dream-making magic Disney cast members create every day at the the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

        Each and every day during The Year of a Million Dreams, the Disney cast will be surprising guests with enchanting dream-come-true entertainment and magical moments happening during this very special year. Suddenly you are not watching a parade, you are in the parade. Not only do you see a princess, you become a princess, or a pirate. It’s imagination in full force. Make-believe, made real.

        Cruises
        Summertime cruises make it easier to see many destinations in one vacation, especially to northern climates. Exploring the glaciers and wilderness of Alaska – and basking in never-ending days of sunlight – has become a favorite and affordable summertime trip. If you want to stay near the Denali National Park entrance, be sure to book early. Rooms are limited and July and August fill up fast.

        Hawaii
        Visiting Hawaii is so exciting. Each island has its own personality, weather patterns and activities to seek. Visit Pearl Harbor, explore Oahu and then hop over to one of the other islands such as Maui for R&R, golf and exploration.

        Another option to visit Hawaii would be a seven-day cruise! You can start in Honolulu and travel to Kauai, Hilo, Kona and Maui to name a few ports, all while unpacking just once. Of course, meals are included, making this an affordable way to visit the islands.

        – Cindy Berre is a travel agent with The Travel Authority. Contact her at 513.645.1754 or
        cindy.berre@thetravelauthority.com.

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          CONDOS

          South Shore
          There’s no hotter spot to be than downtown along the banks of the Ohio River. Between the shops, restaurants and scenic skyline views there’s plenty of reasons to make the riverfront your home.

          South Shore condominiums – located in Newport, Kentucky – is one of many brand new developments designed with all the luxuries of home.

          To be completed in the summer of 2008, South Shore offers a private marina, spacious master suites, 24-hour concierge service and limo transportation are just a few of the amenities that South Shore has to offer.

          South Shore residents can also take advantage of the Shore Club. This private clubhouse features a caterer’s kitchen, wet bar and billiards room, a wine bar with individual lockers for private reserves, a fully equipped fitness facility with massage and yoga rooms, a swimming pool with a waterfront sun deck overlooking the Cincinnati Skyline and an outdoor practice putting green.

          The Ascent
          Look up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no its the Ascent at Robeling’s Bridge! More than likely, you’ve seen this magnificent structure curving, sparkling and reaching towards the sky along the riverbank.

          Located in Covington, Kentucky, new condo owners can enjoy a wine cellar and tasting room, private theatre and a playroom for children with terrace access. The Ascent officially opens its doors at the end of November 2007.

          One River Plaza
          If you're partial to the Cincinnati shoreline, One River Plaza may be the perfect fit for you. These luxury condominiums and townhouses provide quick access to many traditional Cincinnati events at Yeatman’s Cove Park such as Riverfest, Party in the Park and Tall Stacks.

          In addition, the River Promenade walkway conveniently connects the Purple People Bridge and nearby Northern Kentucky with One River Plaza.

          The Queens Tower
          Once home to the Eighth Street Incline, is the Queens Tower, which is now home to the hottest condo homes on the West Side. With the help of several millions in TIF money provided by the government, the area surrounding the Queens Tower – also known as Price Hill – will soon be what's projected to be the "Mt. Adams of the West Side."

          If you're looking for affordable city-view condo living, keep this place on your radar because the Queens Tower is probably your best bet in terms of value.

          HOUSES
          If life along the riverfront doesn’t suit your tastes or budget, here are a few hotspot areas popping up across the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area:


          • Fort Thomas and Fort Mitchell: Northern Kentucky offers established, neighborhood charm in Fort Thomas and Fort Mitchell. Similar neighborhoods are found north of the river in Hyde Park, Mariemont and Maderia.
          • Boone and Kenton County: Newer areas of Northern Kentucky experiencing rapid new home developments can be found in Boone and Kenton County.
          • Mason, West Chester and Lebanon: In Cincinnati, the Mason, West Chester and Lebanon areas feature many custom built home communities.

           

           

           

          REHAB HOMES
          If you’re looking for a great neighborhood full of homes to rehab, look no further than Northside. This historical area has an array of older homes brimming with character.

          With an even balance of urban appeal and a small town environment, Northside neighbors can easily connect while staying in tune to the pulse of the city.

          Northside residents can conveniently walk to various businesses to shop for antiques, shoes, music, imported furniture, fresh produce and even a new hairstyle all within a four-block radius. Seven parks and woods are also nearby.

          Protecting homes and the Northside community is a communal effort. Citizens on Patrol walk the neighborhood streets to keep residents safe.

          RESOURCES
          You can search thousands of homes in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky for free. Try these sites to find the hot spot for your new dream home:
          www.LivingInCincinnati.com
          www.LivingInNorthernKy.com
          www.therealestatebook.com

          You can’t ask for more diverse options in living than this area. From an upscale home on the shoreline, to the rapidly growing Boone and Kenton County areas, to the custom built homes in Lebanon or a distinctive fixer-upper in Northside you’re sure to find a house you can make a home.

          Happy hotspot hunting!

           

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            Jeweled Glassware
            Materials:

            • wine glasses – any shape or size
            • rubbing alcohol
            • gold contour paint
            • glass stones
            • assorted beads
            • tweezers
            • optional: string of fake pearls
            • optional: gold ribbon


            Steps:

            1. Wash and dry the glasses. Remove all traces of grease, using rubbing alcohol if necessary.
            2. Starting at the bottom of the glass, apply gold contour paint swirls to a small area only so you don't smudge the work by covering too much of the glass at one time.
            3. Gently place the largest stones at random on the wet contour paint. Work in sections, adding to the piece as each section dries.
            4. Fill in the design by adding smaller beads. To avoid touching the contour paint, pick up and place the beads with tweezers. Gently press the beads into place. Let each section dry before building up the complete design.
            5. Optional: Wrap a string of fake pearls or gold ribbon around the stem of the wine glass, from top to bottom.

            (Source: DIY Network)

             

             

            Embellished Espadrilles
            Materials:

            • Canvas espadrilles
            • Beaded fringe trim, beads or buttons
            • Needle, thread and scissors
            • Straight pins


            Steps:
            Cut two pieces of beaded fringe to fit top of espadrilles. Secure with straight pins and sew in place. Try to begin stitching on the top of the shoe – hiding the stitches under the button or trim – so that knots aren't placed against top of foot.

            Alternately use buttons, if desired, to embellish the espadrilles. Sew the buttons across the top to secure.
            (Source: DIY Network)

             


            Lucky Dice Cufflinks
            Materials:

            • Cufflink findings
            • Dice (hopefully, a lucky pair)
            • Glue


            Steps:
            Once you have your dice, decide which side of the die you want on top. Add a bit of glue to the opposite side, as well as the cufflink finding. Allow glue to dry and repeat for second cufflink.

            Alternately, consider drilling a hole in one corner of each small die (four total). Glue small eyehook into each hole. Attach a short chain to pair of dice small enough to fit through buttonhole.
            (Source: DIY Network)

             

             

            Ribbon and Rhinestone Necklace

            Materials:

            • 4 x 15" pieces of ribbon
            • 15 Large flat-back Rhinestone beads
            • 15 small flat-back rhinestone beads
            • 15 AB colored flat-back rhinestones
            • E-6000 Glue


            Steps:

            1. Make sure the surface of your ribbon is free of dust and stains. Place the rhinestones in the pattern you have decided on for the ribbon necklace. Leave 2 inches on either end as the tying ends for the choker.
            2. Place a small amount of glue beneath each rhinestone, and press into place.
            3. Repeat this process until you get the design you want.
            4. Allow time for the glue to dry, then string some glass beads to the ribbon below to mix up the design.

            (Source: DIY Network)

            Sea Glass Jewelry
            Materials:

            • sea glass or other small beach treasure
            • small jewelry pliers, tweezers or old scissors
            • wire snips
            • 20-gauge wire of your choice
            • smaller gauge wire (optional )
            • super glue or hot glue (optional)


            First, determine how long you want your necklace to be and cut the wire to that length plus 1 inch for the hook. An average length is 16 or 18 inches.

            Hold on end of the wire in tweezers, pliers or old scissors about 1/4 inch from the end and curl the wire around in a loop. Be sure to tuck the end in to the wire so it won't scrape your neck.

            Curl in the other end in the same way, creating a slightly larger hook instead of a small closed loop this time.

            Play around with string or scraps of wire to determine how you want to wrap your treasure into a pendant. Be sure to wrap at least three sides, if not four, in order to make a secure casing around it. Start with about 6 inches of wire and make a small loop in the middle, twisting several times to secure it. Then, place the loop at one end of the glass and began wrapping the rest of the wire around it in a random manner. Then, feed the loop onto the hooked end of the necklace and slide it into place. When the pendant is on the necklace, simply slip the hook into the loop to close it.

            Tip: You might want to secure the wire to the back side of the pendant with super glue or hot glue.
            (Source: DIY Network)

             

             

            For Those Non-DIYers
            Not everyone has the creative gene, or the time to get crafty. If that's you, there are many talented local design shops – like Phoenix Rising Designs – that create breathtaking pieces that will never be duplicated, but will always be admired.

            Lindsay Hastings, owner and designer for Phoenix Rising Designs, has been in the jewelry business for 10 years. The benefit of getting an expert like Hastings make your designs for you is that she has the connections and a trained eye for the highest quality materials possible.

            "I am knowledgeable in gemology as well as a gemstone therapy practitioner, Precious Metal Clay Certified instructor – and of course – a jewelry designer. My designs are inspired by the gems themselves, I have been a rock hound for as long as I can remember." Hastings adds, "My company's phrase is 'Opt for the Unusual' and all the jewelry I make is one of a kind or custom made."

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              Foot Solutions
              513-777-0290
              www.footsolutions.com/franchises/index.php?id=177
              Do you tear off your shoes at the end of the day? Don't feel like going out with your friends because your feet are killing you? Want to exercise, but it hurts too much? Visit Foot Solutions in West Chester. They know feet! Foot Solutions in West Chester specializes in attractive, supportive shoes, as well as custom arch supports. Their experts will analyze your needs and make recommendations tailored to you. Your feet will be happy again!

              Morgan's Canoe and Outdoor Centers
              1-800-WE-CANOE
              www.morganscanoe.com
              Make a splash in the outdoors this year with a fun-filled canoe trip! Located on the Little Miami River and Whitewater River, Morgan's is the Tristate's largest, oldest and most experienced, outfitter. These fun-filled Canoe and Outdoor Centers offer 1-3 day canoe, kayak, rafting, tubing, camping and cabins. Enjoy the great outdoors with your family, company or group. We offer the best equipment, service and instruction to get you started out right!

              Satisfaction Cruises
              www.satisfactioncruises.com
              Vicky Bezak, 513-231-9042 ext #3
              Where luxury meets an outdoor adventure: Satisfaction Cruises. The “Satisfaction II” exclusive yacht offers a gracious entertaining experience, with fine food, dynamic sound systems, panoramic views of the Ohio and Kentucky shorelines and superior service. You’ll have to plan ahead for this one! Call or go to their Web site to book and confirm your event. Then, start planning your atmosphere or theme so the yacht is set to your specific expectations when you board.

              Southwest Ohio & Cincinnati Hiking
              www.trails.com/activity.asp?area=10254
              Type in “Cincinnati” into a search engine and you'll get the unexpected. You'll get the traditional weather and population information, but you'll also read “138 parks covering more than 5,000 acres.” For those trail-lovers out there, that's music to your ears. But before you trek all over Southwest Ohio in your car trying to find a trail that suits your needs, check out Trail.com that rates them all for you and provides helpful logistics about each.

              Summerfair
              513.531.0050
              www.summerfair.org
              For nearly 40 years, Summerfair has been supporting and promoting artists and the arts in Greater Cincinnati. The organization's activities include: supports for individual artists including grants and exhibitions; community-based art activities and events; and a nationally-recognized annual fine arts fair.

              Union Terminal's Omnimax
              513.287.7000
              www.cincymuseum.org
              Rather experience the outdoors indoors? The Union Terminal's Omnimax is now featuring "The Alps," which gives you the opportunity to follow one man's triumphant journey and personal quest to make peace with a mountain that took the life of his father 40 years earlier.

              Dude Ranch
              513-421-DUDE
              Dude, where's my horse? Okay, sorry. We couldn't resist. But all kidding aside, there's a dude ranch near Cincinnati! It's just 10 minutes from Kings Island. This place has horseback riding, western cattle drives, hayrides, roping, and more.

              Golf
              www.cincigolf.com
              Love to golf? Check out this site to learn more information about all the local courses, and also snag some coupons and discount codes for your next round!

              Women Outdoors
              www.women-outdoors.org
              A group that says it's okay to hike in heels: Women Outdoors. Check out this national organization that welcomes all women and provides activities for all levels of experience and ambition.

              Other Outdoor Activities
              www.gccc.com/relovisit_b.aspx?id=244&rid=158
              Cincinnati's Regional Chamber of Commerce provides a collective list of information and links to outdoor attractions and recreation. Learn more about Greater Cincinnati's parks, art, clubs, architecture and historic districts.

              Top Ten Survival Tips:

              1. Always leave a travel plan with someone.
              2. Carry a few basic items in case you do have to spend the night, such as a garbage bag, lighter, whistle, pocketknife and water bottle.
              3. Pack some basic gear along – like a garbage bag – and you can create a quick shelter if need be.
              4. Don't wear cotton. That just holds water and perspiration. Try a wicking material that will wick sweat away from your skin and evaporate quickly.
              5. Get into the habit of carrying at least three fire making sources on you. A lighter in your shirt pocket and a spark rod and Windproof matches in your pants pocket or pack will do.
              6. One of the best emergency fire starters are 100% cotton balls smeared with vaseline (a petroleum product). One of these will burn 4-5 minutes and a batch can be stored in a film canister.
              7. Carry a signal mirror in your pocket. The glimmer from a mirror can carry for miles and a signal mirror can be used on a windy day unlike the smoke from a fire.
              8. Always have a bandanna with you. This helpful item can be used as a water strainer, cap, scarf or water collector.
              9. Know your limits and when it is time to turn back or stop to rest.
              10. Keep your cell phone on you! If you have a Blackberry, turn the email update function off – after all, you are on a getaway adventure – and plus, it prolongs the life of your battery in case you need that phone later.

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                Learn and Munch – at EQ at the Party Source in Bellevue, KY. EQ stands for “Entertainment Quotient” and they offer hands on group cooking classes for 8 with scrumptious eats after your done. Don’t want to get your hands dirty? Attend a cooking demo – you still get to eat the results, but you watch while the experts do their thing.
                Find details at www.thepartysource.com.

                In Vino Veritas – Paul Ortiz has recently founded The Cincinnati Wine School, offering in depth educational classes on wine – a departure from the usual tastings at wine merchants around town. Ortiz was the sommelier at Boca for several years. The school’s “Basics of Wine” is a three-week series for $115. Each class is two hours, with six to eight wines tasted each class. Class I is about grape growing and winemaking. Classes II and III offer introductions to whites and to reds. “Expect to have a great time while you learn about old world and new world wines and what makes them different,” says Ortiz about the classes. You have to love his tag-line: “Where you’ll love the homework, too.” Find out more at www.cincinnatiwineschool.com.

                Vertigo No More –Try rockclimbing at Rockquest Climbing Center in Sharonville, where you can tackle 18 and 45 foot walls after a quick one-hour lesson for $7.00. You’ll need to climb in pairs, as one person is the “belayer” or helper, while the other climbs. Rockquest offers climbing for beginners and an 80 ft wall for the more experienced. Private lessons go for $30. They’ll help you organize a party, too. Check out details at www.rockquest.com.

                School for the Fun of It – UC’s Communiversity let’s you take advantage of living in a college town and have fun at the same time. Communiversity offers classes in sports, computer competency, cooking, music, dance, finance seminars, writing, handicrafts… the list goes on and on. A smattering of what’s coming up? Try Healthy Cooking with an Ethnic Flair, starting Saturdays on June 23 (four lessons for $139) or learn about antiquing with author and expert, Frank Farmer Loomis on July 21 in Sidney, Ohio. Or check out all the other offerings at www.uc.edu/ace.

                Amazing Grace – Become a Swan with ballet lessons from the Annelise von Oettingen School of Ballet, on the West side. Their adult beginner class, "From Misfits to Magnificence," is targeted to teens and adults who want to become more graceful: Mondays 7:45-8:45. Learn more at www.avoballet.org.

                Go Play Outside – Learn to play tennis, sail or horseback-ride. The Cincinnati Recreation Commission offers adult tennis lessons at Lunken Airport (http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/crc/pages/-8543-/) $60 for six lessons. Strictly Sail in Blue Ash will teach you to sail via their combined classroom and on-the-water lessons. Get two three-hour classes for $99, which includes one day in the classroom and the second day on the water in Brookville, IN. Billed as a safe way for the beginning sailor to learn, find out more at www.strictlysail.com. For horseback riding, try the Winton Woods Riding Center, at Winton Woods Park. Get more details at here. The park offers lessons from beginners to advanced and teaches Western, Hunt Seat, Dressage and Jumping. Lessons are $207-276, depending on the day of the week, for 12 lessons.

                Throw a Pot – Not at someone…I mean throw a pot on a wheel. Tap into Cincinnati’s heritage as the home of Rookwood Art Pottery by taking a lesson at Funke Fired Arts, (formerly Annie’s Mud Pie Shop) on Wasson Rd. in Hyde Park. Six week classes run $160. “People who come here say we have a great environment, a sense of community,” says owner Tom Funke. He also offers advanced lessons and “funkier” (ok, I couldn’t resist) classes like mosaics and metallic glazes. Check out their Web site at www.funkefiredarts.com.

                Get Crafty – One woman's scrap is another’s treasure. Scrap-booking is all the rage! Save those ticket stubs, wine labels (see above), photos of your first cruise and little Andrew’s handprint from preschool and turn them into treasured and artistic memories at Scraps Etc., with locations in Cherry Grove, Cincinnati Mills and Symmes Twp. Initial classes are free ($5 fee, with a $5.00 off coupon). All the materials you need for scrap-booking are available at the stores, but you'll have to supply the memories. Go to www.scrapsetc.com to start generating some crafty ideas.

                Find Your Voice – At Women Writing for (a) Change, in Silverton. Experience Creative writing classes for women (and some for men) in a safe environment where no one is going to take a red pencil to your words. The writer is in control of the feedback she gets. Materials even say you can request a standing ovation! “We offer a nurturing community which brings words to women and the words of women to the world,” says Mary Pierce Brosmer, founder of the Women Writing for (a) Change Movement. All kinds of writing are welcome, from journaling to fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. Beginners and more advanced students are both welcome. Monthly Saturday Samplers are free. Seven week summer classes begin the week of June 11th. Learn more about this group of aspiring wordsmiths at www.womenwriting.org.

                The Art of Self Defense – Learn Moo Gong Ryu, or “the way of guarding peace,” style of martial arts at Cincinnati Tae Kwon Do Center on Red Bank Rd. All fitness levels and ages are welcome. Adult beginners can start any time. Fees are on a monthly basis, costing $77 per month for up to 12 classes. The first month is $160, because you buy a uniform and get a 30-minute private lesson. After just a couple of lessons, you’ll be knocking out choreographed “forms” and breaking boards – yes, really! They promise. But don't break your keyboard out of excitement. You'll need it to type in this Web site: www.cincinnatitkd.com.

                While Watching the Boob Tube – Take up needlepoint and have something to show for your time watching Tony Soprano order a hit or the latest American Idol hopeful get thrown off the show. Would-be needlepointers can learn the basics at The Top Drawer in Mariemont. Beginner’s classes are $20, including materials, offered once a month on the second Wednesday from 6-8 pm. You’ll be stitching in no time and able to make some of the nifty things available at the store like eyeglass cases, Christmas ornaments, handbags and belts. Get one stitch closer to a new pastime by visiting www.topdrawer-needlepoint.com.

                Enchanted Moments – This metaphysical book and gift shop, offers workshops, readings and energy work. Reiki is offered once a quarter. Drumming is the first Tuesday of every month. In addition, upcoming special classes include Meditation and Visualization on June 8 from 7-9, with Steve Thompson from Sedona, Arizona. Thompson will also offer a workshop on June 10: 8 Steps on the Path to Spiritual Freedom. A tarot class is also being offered June 6th, 13th and 20. Check the Web site for more options: www.enchantedmoments.org.

                 

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                  The first step to sprucing is to decide how big you want the project to be, what you want to accomplish and how much you want to spend.

                  There's an abundance of resources to help you get through your project no matter how big or how small. Look through magazines like Veranda, Elle Décor, House Beautiful and Architectural Digest. Or check out the latest home décor products and trends in the online magazine Trendir at www.trendir.com.

                  Plan A. The cheap quick fix. If that's your plan for fixing the place up, maybe all you need to do is rearrange the room and get rid of clutter. Get started by removing all the accessories from the room. Consider the function and focal point of the room.

                  The focal point can be a piece of furniture, artwork or an architectural element in the room. Keeping in mind that you want to enhance the focal point, begin placing the essential pieces of furniture where they function best. Try to avoid the boxed in look with everything against the wall. Instead, create a softer look by placing furniture at an angle. Once you have the essential pieces in place, work with the complimentary pieces like end tables, ottomans and lamps.

                  Now it's time to accessorize your new room. Group your accessories by theme, content, color and texture. Pick your favorites. Redistribute them in odd numbers. Before you put any accessory in the room, consider if it really compliments the room. If it doesn't, stop! Don't put it there. Clutter makes the room look smaller, unorganized and can detract from the focus of the room.

                  Plan B involves more time and money, but you get to explore new options for your walls, windows, furniture and lighting.

                  Walls
                  Paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to update a room. Faux finishes and a variety of techniques make paint a design tool with endless possibilities. Learn about the different techniques on www.profaux.com. For a simple but stylish coordinated look, Matt Knotts from High Street furniture and accessory store in Over-the-Rhine, suggests doing your walls in a flat paint finish and the woodwork the same color, but in a semi-gloss. By the way, your ceiling doesn't have to be white. Paint it a neutral color that matches the walls.

                  Wallpaper, like paint, can be used in a variety of ways. It's not quite as easy to wallpaper a room as it is to paint, but either will quickly change the look and feel of the room. Use the two together. Paint three walls and paper the fourth with a bold large-scale pattern for a dramatic effect. Research the possibilities for wallpapering your walls at www.doityourself.com/stry/qnadecorate2.

                  Windows
                  Decisions, decisions, decisions! There's a lot to consider with windows. Do you want to emphasize the view, hide what's outside the window or see out during the day, but cover the window at night? There's a plethora of treatments to accommodate your needs. Of course, there are blinds, shades, shutters and fabric. Be daring; don't just think of two fabric panels to cover the window. Use an item you don't usually see as a window treatment. My bathroom window topper is an old corset. It works great and it was easy. I loosened the ties until the corset fit the window. It's attached to a curtain rod with Velcro. A simple lace curtain hangs below it. Click here to check out window treatments from Home and Garden Television.

                   

                  Furniture and Accessories
                  To me, this is the fun part. It's not as much work as painting or wallpapering. It's more shopping, mixing and matching. Key point…shop around! The next time you go to Home Depot, just buy screws. Check out unique stores for fabrics, lighting fixtures and accessories.

                  Drop by your local furniture store chain (I really can't believe I said that). But this will work as long as you don't do one-stop-shopping there. Don't stick to one design. Visit High Street, Bova or Voltage for unique furniture with a modern look.

                  Update your hardware. Change the knobs on your cabinets and doors. Shop Anthropologie at www.anthropologie.com or drop in the store. It's a great place to do knob shopping.

                  Stretch a tight budget. Shop the thrift store, garage sales, flea markets, or trade furniture with a friend. I once traded a ring for a dining room table and four chairs. Pull together an eclectic mix of furniture by painting all the pieces the same color. In my bedroom, I have an old four drawer metal Hallmark Card display unit that I use as my dresser, a bedside hospital stand I use as my nightstand and a tall metal laundry cabinet that holds my t-shirts. It's a fun mix of furniture that are totally functional all pulled together with paint in a lovely shade of butter crème.

                  Don't be a chain store bore. Be creative! Add a little individuality to your home. Make it your style. Anyone can go to Pottery Barn and buy everything to match. Then you'll be just like the Joneses. You can visit the Joneses, but spruce your place up so you enjoy coming home.

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                    Since childhood, girls are socialized to be cooperative and blend into a group. Girls who stand out in anyway are often ostracized and expressing strong opinions is usually frowned upon. Boys, on the other hand, are socialized to be competitive. Their individual strengths and strong opinions are valued. "This pattern persists into adulthood when men are generally viewed as autonomous leaders when they express strong opinions," explains Hillary Wishnick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the West Chester-based Bridgepoint Psychological and Counseling Services, "while women are often viewed negatively for expressing the same opinions, i.e. viewed as not being a team-player. So, in general, it is usually more challenging for women to be assertive."

                    Assertive communication finds a balance between meeting your own needs as well as the needs of the listener. "The aggressive communicator meets her own needs at the expense of the listener while the passive communicator does not meet any of her own needs and often does not express much of what she thinks or feels at all," explains Laurie Little, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and owner of the Florence-based Little Psychological Services. "Learning how to become an assertive communicator takes time. It is a skill to be learned and practiced."

                    Sharing your Opinion

                    Sharing your opinion, whether it is the same or different from those around you, is often a difficult task. Knowing what to say and when to say it is important. "A good way to express an opinion is to own it as your own by using 'I' statements," explains Wishnick. "Timing and setting are also important considerations to determine if it is an appropriate time and place to speak up. Generally, it is best to avoid 'you' statements, which can make opinion-giving feel more confrontational."

                    Be sure to identify your opinion as such before you start speaking. This sort of opener alerts others that what you are expressing is your own personal view and it allows room for others to share their opinions, whether the same or different. "People who are too forceful and blunt in giving their opinions are likely to turn people off, and the point they are trying to make may become lost due to the negative reactions they elicit from others," explains Sara M. Mills PsyD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Mt. Lookout. "It is helpful for these types of people to gain understanding of how their approach is affecting other people and modify it so that others want to hear what they have to say." Mills states that this can be obtained by demonstrating respect for the views of others, modifying their tone of voice and also intensity of their delivery.

                    When effectively sharing your opinion with others, you want to be sure that you are being clear without being rude or hurtful. "One must first have the underlying belief that everyone is equally entitled to their own opinions," explains Little. "Your own opinions, feelings and needs are just as worthy and important as everyone else's. Statements that imply that your opinion is 'the truth,' or that denigrate another's perspective, can alienate others or appear aggressive."

                    Speaking up When Shy

                    For a lot of women, it is easier to know what to say, or what you want to say, than it is to actually verbalize it. Overcoming shyness is an important part in learning to share your opinion. You have to realize that what you are saying is important and others will value you for speaking up. When listing ways that shy people can speak up for themselves Susan D. Gray, the regional director of education at Health Management Corporation, WellPoint Inc., says that, "they don't know that what they have to say is worthwhile. Know who you are speaking up to. What matters is speaking up in a way or manor that is perceived valuable. Find the hook, common language and go for it."

                    Knowing that you may not be the only person with a particular opinion can help when sharing. There may be others who agree with you and that can help to build confidence. "Oftentimes, we don't speak up when we believe that our opinions are in the minority," explains Little. "Remind yourself that there may be others who are feeling the same way, but are also hesitant to speak up. Also, remind yourself that your opinions are equally as valid and worthy as everyone else's opinions."

                    Along with the benefits of speaking up, you can also think about the costs of not doing so. "Are you being respected? Are your needs being met? Are you taken seriously?" asks Wishnick. "By evaluating this, one can determine whether the risk of speaking up outweighs the risk of not being respected at work and in interpersonal relationships."

                    Defending your Cause

                    When you are defending your cause, it is crucial to at least acknowledge the existence and possible validity of other points of view. "If a person comes on too strong by implying or stating that their view is the only ‘right’ way, others will get turned off," explains Mills. "On the other hand, it is good to be passionate about a cause and to express this passion. If you truly believe in something and are consistent in the way you demonstrate this, others are more likely to appreciate your sincerity, even if they disagree with your views."

                    Stay focused and be sure not to be overly emotional about your cause. "It is important to stay calm," explains Little. "Although one can feel very passionately about a cause, if it is defended with too much emotion, the listener is less likely to take you seriously."

                    If you listen to others, you can usually find out what is important to them and the business. "Once you identify this fact, then frame what you want to say in the context of what they see as valuable," explains Gray.

                    If you are clear and to the point, there is a better chance that people will understand what you are saying and possibly agree with your cause. "Have a simple clear message, explains Wishnick, "own it with ‘I’ statements, and repeat the message numerous times without wavering or changing your opinion."

                    Helpful Tips

                    If you feel like you are being lost in silence and your opinion and cause aren't being heard, you should reassure yourself that your opinion does matter and believe that your feelings are worth discussing. If you want specific helpful ideas and tips, Mills, Wishnick, Gray and Little list ways in which you can speak up for yourself, defend your cause and not get lost in silence.

                    "If you don't believe in yourself or that your thoughts or feelings are worth discussing, then it may be time to look at how your self esteem/self worth has gotten so low," explains Little. "You can address this issue through self help books, journaling and/or psychotherapy. If you know your opinion matters but you just don't know how to communicate it, then it is primarily a skills deficit which can be addressed with communication skills training classes, or therapy with an emphasis on teaching assertiveness skills."

                    Little also suggests writing your statement on an index card and carrying it with you to remind yourself of it throughout each day. She also explains that defending your cause often takes preparation. Rehearsing what you want to say beforehand is essential when expressing your feelings.

                    When it comes to overcoming shyness, Mills believes that people often have to practice and work up to being able to state their opinions assertively and openly. " If someone is shy, it might be enough for them just to be present while a group is discussing an issue," Mills states. "That person could increase their comfort level within the group, perhaps by first asking some clarifying questions, and working up to making a short comment about their own opinion. For people dealing with shyness, I think a good approach is for them to push themselves a little bit out of their comfort zone, but not so far out that they are unable to tolerate the anxiety. This is a process and it takes time, patience, and practice, and possibly, if the person is dealing with significant social anxiety, professional help from a trained mental health professional."

                    Easier said than done? Maybe not. Push yourself in a way you may not normally and you may be surprised with the results. "Choose not to be silent," states Gray. "instead choose to be a contributor."