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Freedom Writers
Featuring Hilary Swank, Scott Glenn, Patrick Dempsey and Pat Carroll

"Freedom Writers" is a movie starring Hilary Swank as an ambitious newcomer to the staff of an inner city high school. She is a teacher who chooses to teach at risk students in Los Angeles. Against her father’s approval, her spouse’s wishes and the naysayers' within her own faculty, she prevails in making a difference in the lives of her students.

"Freedom Writers" is the true life story of Erin Gruwell who succeeds in motivating her students to outperform expectations. She teaches them tolerance, empathy and self realization of taking responsibility for their lives rather than living behind hate. In Gruewell’s classroom mistrust no longer holds captive these young, hardened people.

Gaining this social metamorphous was hard won. Repeated attempts are made by the naive Gruwell to encourage her students to move out of their deep rooted ethnic groups. She is consistently met with disdain. She finds studying “required” literature to cultivate social awareness pales to the students’ own true life stories. Begun as a personal exercise in writing, an opportunity for change is born when Gruwell gives each student a notebook to keep as a journal.

In their writings grow lessons on integrity, diversity and the commonality of the human experience: We hurt when someone judges us because of our skin color; We anger when someone justifies violence in the name of righting a wrong; We devalue life for all when we refuse to see the similarity of our experiences; We cultivate prejudice and hate when we allow ignorance and long rooted vendettas dictate our actions.

In the exposure of their written experiences we are privy to realities wrought with questions of family loyalty, gang betrayal, commitment to graduating and changing the course of their "at risk" life. They are forced to ask themselves can they forego the expectation of being high school drop outs, pregnant teens, absentee fathers, drug pushing dealers or gun carrying gang members.

This movie is graphic. Hollywood did not make a candy stripe story with a picture perfect outcome neatly tied up with sanitary “closure”. We have seen many teen inspired movies of triumph overcoming diversity and ethnic difficulties. Rarely do we see one of this caliber.

Patrick Dempsey as Swank’s husband gives a bland performance that matches the paucity of spine his film character lacks. Scott Glenn as Swank’s father portrays a man with lofty ideals that go to the wayside when his daughter’s safety and future are so affected by her work.

Hillary Swank gives a top notch performance. And in a crucial addendum to the film Pat Carroll gives an Oscar worthy performance as a woman who lived the injustice of social cleansing.

This movie is not recommended for the faint of heart. It is recommended for all those who are comfortable with the status quo. For every blind eye turned away from the problems of our children’s youth, the complacency will have consequence.

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Theme

Cincinnati Flower Show, presented by Edyth and Carl Lindner, runs April 21- April 29 on a beautiful Lake Como, at Coney Island. It traditionally attracts more than 55,000 visitors from all over the country and abroad, and it is recognized as one of the country’s top events of the year. It is the only show in North America to ever receive the official endorsement of Great Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the only show in the world to feature awards from both the RHS and the American Horticultural Society. In celebration of its 18 years of unparalleled horticultural success, the Cincinnati Horticultural Society looks into the future with this year’s new theme, “Play in the Dirt.”

Exhibits

In all, the show will feature over 40 exhibits, presenting outdoor gardens, such as landscaping, hedging ponds, professional floristry and dramatic table settings. Visitors will be able to view and to experience the different displays and to participate in various events during the show. In addition, there will be panel of horticultural experts available for the “Askflower_a.jpg the Experts” program that will answer questions about the challenges or goals you face in your personal garden. Visitors will find inspiration among the myriad of gardens, plants and floral arrangements. Many new varieties of plants will fast become the new favorites for your own garden, front yard or patio. Designs form miniatures to grand landscapes.

What’s New in 2007?
Going Green: Sustainability is on everyone’s lips this year. In 2007 Cincinnati Flower Show will take one more step into the future and will undertake the environmental challenge. Six highly renowned Ohio organizations will come together to create an outstanding backyard garden
exhibit that will inspire an audience embracing the elements of a sustainable lifestyle. This “Garden of the Future,” in tune with nature, will include a façade of a “Green House,” with a green roof, that offers a unique opportunity to recreate a natural habitat with a highly practical function of planning for a flower_c.jpggreener future.

Fine Food Show: On the other side – just imagine – crispy bread sprinkled with specialty oils, savory and fine gourmet cookies, rich and exotic chocolate bites, golden honey and a delicious cup of coffee. Yummy. No, you won’t be sitting in the top restaurant of the world; you will be at the Cincinnati Spring Flower Show. A unique journey into the world of international cuisine, this fantastic event will run concurrently with the first three days of the Show, on April 21, 22 and 23, 2007. During these three days, the visitors will be amazed to discover the specialty foods available to consumers around the world and the cornucopia of food arrangements, from meats and cheeses, to preserved fruit and vegetables, from pasta and desserts, to olive oils and wines will sure to tempt every food coinsurer out there to try some of the bites.

DIFM

We’ll show how it’s done, while introducing those who know how to do it best – check out our “Do It For Me” exhibition that has ideas you’ll want to see.

To get more information about the show dates and times, visit the show's Web site at www.cincyflowershow.com or call 513-872-9555.

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“Why aren't men more courteous with us women? Whatever happened to opening doors and helping you with your coat?”
— Danielle, 31, Lawrenceburg

Dear Danielle,

What you're describing is known as "chivalry." Although the word sounds like something you do when it's cold outside, it's actually a term with which men should become more familiar.

The word "chivalry" comes from an old French word chevalier, or "knight." The American Heritage Dictionary defines "chivalry" as "The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor and gallantry toward women." Still waiting for your "knight in shining armor"? That's where the phrase comes from. Unfortunately, instead of showing up on a magnificent white steed and professing his unconditional love, today's man seems content on pulling up in a tricked-out Honda Civic pumping out thousands of watts of misogynistic crap.

And for whatever reason, many of you women fall for it.

I'm not saying it's your fault, entirely. But it makes me cringe when I hear women cranking up the "booty music" in their own cars, blissfully ignorant of the song's defamatory lyrics, all because they like the "beat" of the song. As long as it's funny, or you can dance to it, many women don't seem to mind being referred to as a sexual truck stop. To some of you, it doesn't matter that you're being called names so degrading I can't even repeat them. It's all just one big joke. Funny stuff, right? That is, until one day, you grow up and realize that, to a lot of guys out there, guess what? It’s no longer a joke, and they really will think you’re just another, well, insert synonyms for female dog and garden tool here.

 

Today's music tells guys that, hey, you know what? It's hard out here for a pimp. Livin' large and in charge. And dudes eat that stuff up. Why? Because in all reality, they have no clue what it means to live that kind of life. Wanna see how glamorous "thug life" really is? Visit your local prison on any given Sunday. Kinda puts things into perspective.

Look, don't get me wrong here. I'm a musician myself, and don't believe in censorship. Ok, not in extreme levels of censorship. Society has to have some kind of moral standards. And so do women. If you want men to respect you, ask for it. Better yet, demand it. And if you can't seem to find a guy who's willing to treat you like a lady, maybe you're looking in all the wrong places.

There are plenty of "gentlemen" out there – regardless of their taste in music. Guys who do things like open doors and send flowers. Not to toot my own horn here, but I've done that kind of stuff my entire life. Why? Because I was taught that that is the proper way to treat a woman.

Granted, no woman wants a doormat. But if you want respect, start by respecting yourself for the truly wonderful being that you are. You deserve nothing less. Then, one day, you and your gallant knight can ride off together into the sunset – in his Civic that he helped you to get into. And just maybe, live happily ever after.

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Cincy Chic: Where in Cincinnati did you grow up?

Mia Sears: I grew up in North Avondale. I attended Seven Hills grades 1-6 and Walnut Hills High School grades 7-12.

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Cincy Chic: Where did you go to college?

Sears: I received my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Florida A&M University and my MBA from Xavier University here in Cincinnati.

Cincy Chic: What’s the main thing about Cincinnati that brought you back?
Sears:
When I finished my undergraduate studies, the only job offer I had at the time was here in Cincinnati (although I did not accept that offer) and I had the opportunity to go straight into grad school. I moved back in with my parents for a couple years and worked full time while a full time grad student.

Cincy Chic: Where do you reside in the Cincinnati area now?
Sears: I bought a house in College Hill about three and a half years ago.

Cincy Chic: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Sears:
Getting my business up and running takes up most of my spare time nowadays. I am also pretty active in my community. I am currently the second vice president of the Cincinnati Queen City Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., a public service sorority; and also advisor to a local collegiate chapter of the sorority. In addition, I was recently appointed as a member of the Cultural Diversity Committee for Mayor Mark Mallory’s Young Professional Kitchen Cabinet.

Cincy Chic: Where your favorite hang out spot in Cincinnati?
Sears:
There isn’t one. That is a main reason for the existence of Posh VIP – to help make Cincinnati a more livable place for young professionals, specifically minority/diverse young professionals. In an attempt to answer your question though, lately I have been attending happy hour Fridays after work with a group of other young professionals. We visit a different location every week. In recent weeks, we have gathered at places such as Chez Nora, Boca and Palomino.

Cincy Chic: Is Posh VIP your full time occupation?
Sears:
No, I am currently employed full time in Corporate America. However, with all of the ideas that I have and things I would like to accomplish I could very well see my business becoming my full time occupation by age 30.

Cincy Chic: What gave you the idea to start Posh VIP?
Sears:
My vision when originally creating Posh VIP Ltd. was an attempt to make Cincinnati a more livable place for young professionals with the primary focus on minority and diverse professionals. So often we see the influx and then quick exodus of these individuals. Cincinnati is not able to offer the entertaining and upwardly mobile environment for this group that many other cities can provide. While it will take some time, and more than just my efforts, I hope that Cincinnati will one day be a city that can compete with other large metropolitan areas.

Cincy Chic: What’s the “posh-est” thing you’ve ever done in your lifetime?
Sears:
Still working on that! (smile)

Cincy Chic: What’s the least “posh-est” thing you’ve ever done in your lifetime?
Sears:
(laughs) That’s funny because I was just discussing this with my happy hour crew a few weeks ago. I would definitely have to say my car in high school! I think I am a good driver. Actually, I know that I am a good driver, but my luck back then in this area just wasn’t all that great. By the end of my senior year I was driving around a jacked up car with one headlight, a tied down hood/bumper and a bass tube in the truck that would go in and out every time I turned a corner. Definitely not posh.

Cincy Chic: When did Posh VIP start? How’s it going?
Sears:
Posh VIP Ltd. was officially formed in the summer of 2006. My first event, in which I helped with promotions for a particular event, took place in January. My most recent event took place on Feb 19 and was a speed-dating event. Check out pics here on Cincy Chic.

Cincy Chic: What do you hope Posh VIP will do to for Cincinnati?
Sears:
If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. This is my effort in being part of the solution for what I see as a deficiency here in Cincinnati. I already explained who my target market is and what part I hope to provide in meeting the demands of that market. Another side of the company that I plan to grow will be the opportunity to serve as manager/agent/publicist for certain clientele. My hope for this would be to start shedding national light on the talent that we have in Cincinnati.

Cincy Chic: How challenging was it to start your own company?
Sears:
The hardest part for me is just trying to hone in on what to focus on. I have so many ideas of things I would like to do, but I am only one person.

Cincy Chic: What’s the one piece of advice you’d impart to another young woman in Cincinnati starting her own company?
Sears:
I would suggest that they try to link up with an individual that is already doing something similar to what they want to do. Ask this person to be a mentor. They should hopefully be able to provide insight on the steps they took to get where they are and be able to offer suggestions on how to get there.

Cincy Chic: Who/what is your biggest inspiration?
Sears:
Inspiration is all around us. Sometimes we just have to take time from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and listen to what is going on around us. You can learn something (whether good or bad) from every single person you encounter. What you decide to take from that experience is what helps you get to the next level.

As far as individuals, many people have in some form or fashion inspired me but I would have to thank my mom for teaching me persistence – to never take “no” for an answer, my dad for teaching me the importance of “integrity,” and my brother and sister for allowing me to be the classic middle child. I also hold a special place in my heart for a friend of mine who I affectionately call my other “big brother,” Mr. Perry Simmons. I feel that God places certain people in your path at a certain time for a certain reason. That certain person at a certain time, for a certain reason was very inspirational in the establishment of Posh VIP.

Cincy Chic: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in starting Posh VIP?
Sears:
Your personality, your character, your ethics and your integrity will carry you a long way in the end.

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As an introduction, I am a 50 something obstetrician and gynecologist. I have been practicing in Northern Kentucky for 20 years. I am married with two wonderful sons.

 

Three years ago, I was a perimenopausal, overweight, out of shape, overstressed physician struggling to cope with my life’s schedule. I was full of advice and instructions but not the example needed for my patients.

 

One morning while racing from rounds and surgery at the hospital to the office, I grabbed the “typical” doctor’s breakfast from the doctor’s lounge – two donuts and three cups of coffee. Later while seeing patients, I became lightheaded, dizzy and nauseous. I felt horrible. A random screen of my glucose revealed it to be significantly elevated – a clear sign of diabetes. What a wake up call for me! So began my journey back to a healthy life style and fitness.

Taking the advice I had been giving my patients, I seriously changed my eating habits. After losing the first 15 pounds, I found the energy to exercise. I joined a local gym and health club, but found myself horribly intimidated by the many machines, weights and strutting bodybuilders. I signed up for a group exercise class called spinning and found my niche.
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Soon thereafter, I discovered the Fusion Studio in Fort Thomas. It has since turned into “my oasis.” It’s a small, local, group-oriented exercise studio with no high-pressure solicitation, and no memberships – just a fun and friendly place for fitness. They also offered the early 6:00 am classes, which fits my schedule.

Over the last two years I have built serious and lasting friendships with colleagues, clients and the remarkable instructors – Matt, Jamie, Scott, Sharon and all. At 6:00 am, there is no strutting and pretentiousness, but bed head, sans makeup and wrinkled shirts – just honest people with a dedication to fitness.

Last year, I moved my spinning to outdoor cycling with Fusion’s personal trainer, Jamie Hoffpauir. Jamie was the first personal trainer to design my workouts to my specific goals. Problems I found in the large gyms with personal trainers were the generic weekly workouts, trainers gossiping with everyone else, while I pushed out my reps, missed workouts and new trainers every other week. Jamie took my goals and training seriously, giving me the personal attention and encouragement to succeed.

Last May, with Jamie by my side, I accomplished one of my first major goals. I rode a century (100 miles in one day). And not just a century but back-to-back centuries – 210 miles in two days! Presently, she is working with me on one of my lifetime goals of riding across the USA, a transcontinental ride, maybe in 2008 or 2009.

I owe a lifetime of gratitude to my “friends in misery” and instructors at the Fusion Studio.

— Jackie Hanson

 

Click on the play button below to view a Webcast with Hanson at her oasis, Fusion Studio.

 

Tell us about your oasis at info@cincychic.com.

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Music and Lyrics
The movie “Music and Lyrics” makes a delightful composition. Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore star in this charming story of an 80’s pop rock star (Grant) and his unlikely muse, Drew Barrymore.

Grant plays a talented musician who can’t afford to rest on his laurels of past stardom yet it is past success that keeps him living comfortably in New York. He’s not so much a “has been” as a very popular “still been” performing his hits from the eighties at reunions, county fairs and amusement parks.

Through a quirk of fate, Alex Fletcher (Grant) has an opportunity to revitalize his career if he can write a song – complete with music and lyrics – in three days. His strength has always been writing melodies. The lyrics were his downfall. Barrymore as Sophie Fisher is a temporary employee hired to water Fletcher’s plants who ends up making a permanent mark on his career.

Barrymore delivers what she does best and that is to play a mild, nurturing, unpretentious woman seeking true happiness. We meet her character as a recent castaway from a failed relationship. Mindlessly watering plants in Fletcher’s apartment as he is working with a professional lyricist, she hums the melody and completes two stanzas of lyrics. An unlikely collaboration ensues.

The amiable supporting cast makes for a fun movie. Kristen Johnson plays Drew’s older sister who transforms herself from a tired, irritable housewife to an energized knockout in minutes as she accompanies her little sister to see Alex perform. Brad Garrett as Alex’s manager plays an affable friend and confidante.

The story line is familiar. This film has a feel good component that works because of the likeability of its two main characters. Barrymore doesn’t look like a glam starlet, any more than Grant looks like a teen idol. Perhaps what is so appealing about this movie is Grant’s willingness to show his age and never once apologize for it. He makes the most of his swiveling hips and his swooning fans. The cheesy rock video from the heyday of Grant’s fictitious eighties band is hysterical and it is worth going to this movie to see that alone. If you do go, stay for the credits. Music and Lyrics is a fine tune!

The Heart of the Game
“The Heart of the Game” is a movie about a Seattle Girls High School basketball team. It is a documentary that chronicles six seasons of the Roosevelt Roughriders’ history as a mediocre team propelling itself to becoming a state finals sports phenomenon.

At the heart of this game is the story of a mild mannered Superhero, Bill Ressler, who by day is a tax professor at the University of Washington. By night, he transforms into the same mild mannered human being who has no real offensive strategy and limited coaching credentials. Bill Ressler manages to whip these girls into ferocious, disciplined athletes.

Ressler uses unorthodox methods of strength training, guided imagery and the creation if the Inner Circle (a sacred circle void of parents and adults to allow teammates to air and negotiate frustrations, and commiserate). In the process, he convinces these women they are a calculating pack of alpha female wolves who begin every game in the huddle with a war cry of “draw blood!” and a resounding cry from Coach Ressler to remind the girls to “have fun!”

Sounds charming? It is and more. The director, Ward Serrill, does a superb job of giving the audience the feel of a team identity. He also takes the film a step further by accentuating a few of the girls’ stories concerning some of life’s ugly realities; child abuse, teen pregnancy, class distinction and gender discrimination.

One need not be a sports fan or knowledgeable about point guards and fouls to be keep up with this movie. The story has so much heart in showing issues of adolescence, doubt, acceptance and facing adversity while rising to become a better person because of its challenges.

This movie surpasses any feel-good commercial films in its ability to engage the audience in not only being a spectator of the Seattle Roosevelt High School Girls Basketball team but becoming a cheerleader for them as well.

SCORE!

For Your Consideration
“For Your Consideration” is Christopher Guest’s latest production and collaboration with Eugene Levy. Both as writers and actors, these two men showcase their talent in this comedy. Christopher Guest departs from the film venue of “mockumentary.” Yet the movie has the familiar mark of Guest combining lunacy with reality and coming up with one cerebral comedy.

Once again the talented cast of myrmidons from previous Guest films gather together to spoof Hollywood and all the hoopla that surrounds the Oscar Awards. Four actors filming a movie set in the South in the 1940s are all vying for an Oscar nomination after hearing that lead actress, Marilyn Hack, played by Catherine O’Hara, has been favored as an Oscar contender.

The film, Home For Purim is a hokey pretext to introduce these self-absorbed actors. It also serves to introduce us to the rest of the ensemble cast who so naturally caricatures all the beautiful “it people” who sell a Hollywood movie.

It is fun to pick out the ingenious veterans of this film. Jane Lynch as a TV “Hollywood Now” anchor gives an understated performance that balances the over the top antics of Now co anchor Fred Willard. A testament to the chameleon talent of these actors speaks for itself as Jennifer Cooleridge conspicuously plays a clueless blonde with power. Sporting a cropped haircut Larry Miller, as Syd Finkelman plays a studio exec whose job it is to convince the movie’s production company to tone down this epic film’s “Jewishness.”

In the span of this film Catherine O’Hara goes from mature film actress to playing an aging, Jewish, dying matriarch on film and then revealing her hip Hollywood botoxed self while promoting the film on all of the talk show circuits; only to be seen the day after the Academy Awards as a drunken disheartened Oscar less actress who later turns Acting Maven using her superior “acting chops” to enlighten younger, hopeful underlings.

Harry Shearer is the superannuated actor who hopes Home For Purim will revitalize his meager film career and save him from being the pitch wiener (ahem, pitch man) for a national hot dog chain. Ed Begley Jr. convinces us he’s a heterosexual happily married Hollywood gay make up artist; as does Parker Posey present herself as a marginal comedienne trying to crossover into films.

Anybody who is a fan of any of these actors will enjoy this movie. If all this sounds crazy enough to be plausible, then this farcical film is certainly for your consideration.

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“What would the perfect Valentine’s Day be for you?”

— Jackie, 26, Fairfield


Ah, yes. Valentine’s Day. A “holiday” that women are certainly more fixated upon than men. It’s not that we don’t care about a “special” day to show our love and affection – I guess it’s just that we don’t see why one particular day has to be singled out as more “special” than any other.

I think you can lump Valentine’s Day in the same category as birthdays or anniversaries. Don’t see the correlation? Just try forgetting any one of those days. Just once. If you’re still in the picture the next time one of those days rolls around, there’s a pretty good chance she’ll make sure you never forget again.

She might say “it doesn’t matter.” And maybe it doesn’t matter to her – not all that much, anyway. But it still matters. Trust me. It matters.

Valentine’s Day is the day women expect us to show them how deeply devoted we are to them, and express our undying love for them – through the use of flowers, cheap stuffed animals and chocolate. Unfortunately, it takes most of us guys quite some time to realize that it’s the thought behind those dancing hamsters and Whitman’s samplers that really counts. It shows that, no matter how busy we are every other day of the year, we take the time out of every February 14 to do a little something extra.

So we do it. Why? Because it matters to you. It’s not our day. It’s your day. We already have a day that’s all about us; It’s called “Super Bowl Sunday.”

I know there are plenty of men and women out there who could care less about Valentine’s Day. And there are plenty of men out there who actually do live for more than just football. When it comes to Valentine’s Day, I think it’s really all about taking a moment to tell someone how much they mean to you. To say “I love you.” Or, if you’re single, “I like you enough to let you buy me a drink.” Or something like that.

Whether it’s a nice, romantic dinner, a night away from home or even the ubiquitous bouquet of red roses, I think the perfect Valentine’s Day would consist of doing whatever it is you enjoy doing together, and showing the other person just how grateful you are to have them around. And personally speaking, chocolate wouldn’t hurt, either. Preferably dark.

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Lindt Chocolates conducted a survey for Valentine’s Day 2007, and the results are shocking. Ladies, we aren’t looking too hot when 70 percent of men do not expect to get a gift in return on this day of love. Don’t believe it? The numbers don’t lie – 52 percent of women say those men are right. They aren’t giving a return Valentine’s Day gift.

How did it get to this point? For starters, it is hard to buy a man a gift for Valentine’s Day. After all, a fluffy teddy bear holding a heart doesn’t exactly scream masculinity when sitting on your guy’s desk. That’s not to say chocolates and flowers are a no-no, but what do you get a guy when you really want to say, “I love you.”


Big Spenders ($100-more)
Around the Tri-State, there are many places to go and things to buy for your man when you want to splurge. So there are many options when it comes to getting a stellar Valentine’s gift. Here are some ideas for women who want drop some dough:

Get Him “The Good Seats”
Check out www.ticketmaster.com for an upcoming show or game you know he’ll like. The key thing here is to spend the extra money for the front row or box seats. Check out the Official Reds™ site and pick a set of season tickets from all sorts of packages, or see what Riverbend has scheduled – and get the pavilion seats. The important thing here is to get the tickets for something he likes, not a show you want to see, or might be more of a duty than fun for him to attend.

Bet on Your Love
Take your man to one of the gambling boats in Indiana and let him take his chances with the cards. Stick a ton of cash in a Valentine’s card and let him have some fun. Go together and try playing numbers like your anniversary or birthdays on roulette, or blow on the dice for a lucky set. Whatever you do, go together and leave your credit card at home. The important thing here is to have a night out and let him take a chance with money that’s not his – not to lose everything you own. Maybe even foot the bill for a nice hotel room if the night gets a little late.

Bring out the Sports Fan
If your man fancies himself a sports fanatic, get him something that works for his sport of choice. Try Golf Galaxy for a customized grip for a club, or take him to Dick’s Sporting Goods and let him pick out a new bat. This way, you get the points for letting him choose the gift, plus you can see the kid in him come out when he runs down the sports store aisles with eyes the size of footballs.

Take Him out for a Night on the Town
Make dinner reservations at a nice restaurant. Then, go out to his favorite hot spot. Pay for his meal, his drinks and do the driving for the night. For an added kick, wear that outfit that you know he really likes. For a romantic setting, check out places to eat along the river from Bellevue to Lawrenceburg. Or, take him to a place offering a Valentine’s Day dining special, such as The Golden Lamb, Morton’s The Steakhouse and McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant.

Take a Breather
If you have kids, or just find it hard to get some alone time, find a sitter and turn off your cell phone. Use a hotel search engine, such as expedia.com or priceline.com , and get a hotel room for a weekend.

Get Him His Toy
Men like their toys, whether it is a TV, gaming unit or expensive power tool. Whatever he’s had his eye on, surprise him with it and earn yourself remote privileges for years to come.

Pseudo Big Spenders ($31-$99)
Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to spend a pretty penny on our sweeties, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them any less! It’s easy to show how much you care about your Valentine without breaking the bank. Some thoughtfulness, love and a little cash can get you a long way:

Food: The way to His Heart
If you are good in the kitchen, prepare a meal with all the fixings. Don’t skimp on anything; ask the butcher for a high grade of meat and go for fresh versus canned products. Buy a nice bottle of wine for the meal and his favorite drink for relaxing when dinner is finished. Add the good old lover’s touch and have a dessert of strawberries dipped in chocolate or whatever might tickle his fancy.

It’s a Date
Instead of your man footing the bill for date night, treat him. Let him pick the movie and you pay for the tickets and all the movie snacks. The kicker here is to enjoy the movie of his choice – avoid rolling your eyes or making that face when he tells you he wants to see a guy flick. Newport on the Levee has an awesome theater, and the Rave Cinema in West Chester has a ton of great restaurants surrounding it.

Get Comfy
Get your guy some nice pajama bottoms. Don’t just get any PJs, go for a high quality fabric, even a designer label. Skip the cheap cotton, flannel kind that cost less than the gas you burned driving to the store. Men love lounge wear like this, and they look hunky in it too, so it’s really a win-win.

Box It Up
Pick up a box set of your sweetie’s favorite movies. Check out movie sets or even grab a couple of television series. The older the season, the cheaper they are, so you can score big if they are into some oldies but goodies.

Reds™ : The Color of Love
If you can’t fork out the cash for Reds season tickets, go for just a couple of games. The ballpark is always fun, plus it’s a local pastime. This is also a way to extend the romance well past the cold months. Who knows, maybe you might end up on the Kiss Cam!

Laughter is the Key to Happiness
Check out a comedy show at a local comedy club. Funny Bone at Newport on the Levee and Go Bananas off of Montgomery Road are both great spots to have a night of laughs and are sure to put anyone in a carefree mood.

Flowers Aren’t Just for Girls
If you want to be daring, get your Valentine a floral arrangement. The important thing is to not, we repeat N-O-T, send them to the office or have them delivered anywhere. Bring them home to give to him, and hand them over in a hot little number you picked up in the lingerie department. According to Michael Skaff, FTD.com ’s head floral designer, the top flowers for Valentine’s Day are: 1) Red roses (romance), 2) Pink roses (grace), 3) White roses (innocence), as well as the additional gifts of assorted chocolates. So, get the gift that gets your message across and play up the emotions. Yes, men do have emotions somewhere in there.

Taste the Love
Use a fondue pot to melt assorted chocolates, dipping a variety of sensual foods in them. As with flowers, flavors of chocolates suggest certain emotions. In the Lindt survey, 42 percent associate milk chocolate with love, and 53 percent say white chocolate stirs “innocent feelings of friendship.” As for that rich, dark chocolate, almost a third of people surveyed connect it with lust. Grab all different kinds and see what kind of feelings you can muster up.

Itty Bitty Spenders ($0-$30)
So, you’re eating Ramen soup three times a day because you “accidentally” bought cute Manolo Blahnik pumps the other day. Your sweetheart probably won’t enjoy a candlelight Ramen Noodle dinner, so you’re going to have to get creative with his gift this year. And so he doesn’t think you’re cheap, tell him anyone can splurge on a formal dinner or a pricey gadget, but it takes creativity, forethought and time to be truly romantic.

Valentine Heart Jar
Make a heart-shaped stencil and tape it onto the front of a jar. Spray jar with the spray paint and let dry. Spray a second coat, let dry. Once dry, take maroon paint and old toothbrush, and splatter paint around your heart design. Let dry. Gently pull stencil off gently, and tie ribbon or raffia around the top of the jar. Secure with bow. Fill the jar with his favorite candy to make a cute gift he’ll fall in love with.

Valentine’s Day Screensaver
Surprise him with a Valentine’s-themed screensaver to remind him of you when he opens up his laptop at work. Go here to select your free Valentine’s Day screensaver: www.freevalentinescreensavers.com.


Love Letterhead
Go ahead and confess your undying love for him. But don’t do it on a boring piece of paper. Go to www.theholidayspot.com/valentine/love_letterheads and download a free “love letterhead” to make your message go straight to the heart.

Love is Like a Box of Chocolates
Empty a box of chocolates. Then cut out 50 to 100 hearts from lace doilies, construction paper, or fabric. On each cutout, record something about him that you love. Be specific. Then, fold the cutouts, place them in the chocolate box and top with a red satin bow. The time you spend coming up with these ideas will contribute to your own romantic mood, and what he thinks is a plain box of chocolates will be a gift he’ll keep close to his heart forever.

Mentally Recreate Your First Date Together

What were you wearing? Where did you go? Do you remember what you talked about? Spend the evening reminiscing and reflecting on how far you’ve come as a couple.

Songs From the Heart
Make a tape of the songs special to your relationship. Include “your song,” songs from your favorite movies and songs that remind you of him when you hear them. Add a personal voice dedication and leave it in his car stereo.

card3.jpgHave a Scavenger Hunt
Write a few poems, wrap candy kisses inside and hide them around the house. Each poem should be a clue to finding the next one. Make sure the final clue lands your man someplace you want to end up for the entire evening. A romantic touch, such as a bottle of champagne or a new piece of lingerie, is a nice “treasure at the end of the rainbow.”

Make a Handmade Card
This card, designed by www.allfreecrafts.com , is made from a dark red piece of paper and a cream colored piece of paper. Cut a piece of the dark red paper to fit the front of your blank card and glue it in place. Cut a large square from the cream colored paper and glue it just above the center of the card. Glue the piece of paper in place. Tear a large heart from the dark red paper and glue it in the center of the cream colored square. Type “Happy Valentine's Day,” print it on cream-colored paper and glue in the center of the heart. Stitch around the cream colored square and the edge of the card. Voila!

main021207SOCIAL2_intext.jpgMake a Love Brew
Put hot chocolate mix (homemade or purchased packet), Hershey kisses, mini marshmallows, a red peppermint stick and an optional red napkin in a mug or Styrofoam cup. Place in tulle, bring up ends and tie off with red ribbon. Then print this poem on pink paper, and tie it on the peppermint stick with ribbon: “This is Cupid’s love brew, made special just for you. Pour it in a cup of hot water, and use the love stick to stir. Inside is tucked a kiss or two, that is sure to warm you through and through.”


Antique Valentines
Go to your local antique store – there are quite a few in Miamitown – and buy some antique Valentine's Day cards. They won’t be any more than a couple of dollars, but he’ll love the extra time you took to find it. Plus, everyone knows men are history buffs, so he’ll love looking at the date it was postmarked, the message written on it and reflecting on what was happening in the world at that time.

Love Coupons
Make him a coupon book full of romantic gestures, hot and steamy favors, household chores, etc. that he can cash in at any time.

Spoon all night
Enough said.

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Valentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated as a romantic holiday, but to a single woman that’s not necessarily so.

Michelle Kilpatrick, a human resource manager for a local corporation, isn’t dating anyone at the moment, but will still celebrate Valentine’s Day. She plans to see the new movie, “Daddy’s Little Girls.”

 

As a single, Kilpatrick gets to choose what movie she wants to see, can sit wherever she likes and doesn’t have to share her popcorn.

Sheri Florio, community liaison for Deaconess Home Care from East Walnut Hills, will get lots of lovin’ on Valentine’s Day. But not the traditional hugs and kisses. Her lovin’ will come from the cats at the O’Bryonville Animal Shelter. It will be just like any other day that Florio volunteers at the shelter.

 

She will be busy cleaning and caring for 70 cats. Not what everyone would call the ideal way to spend Valentines Day, but Florio wouldn’t have it any other way. The only thing that makes her sad is that she can’t take them all home. But maybe you can. If you need a little more love and021207SOCIAL2_intext.jpg affection in your life, check out the O’Bryonville Animal Rescue Web site at: www.theanimalrescue.com.

Having fun with people you care about is what Valentine’s Day means to Mary Beth Maitre, a community relations manager residing in Blue Ash. Maitre will slip into her Valentine’s Day PJs and meet up with her friends at their favorite bar. In fact, all of Maitre’s friends attending this slumber party-esque soirée will be wearing their Valentine’s Day PJs!

Carmen Taylor, a West Chester resident, knows how to budget and plan where her money should go. Taylor, a financial analyst, plans to treat herself to something special on February 14. She’ll be shopping at Tiffany’s for whatever her heart desires. Taylor knows she’s worth it and she already figured it into the budget.

Valentine’s Day can be celebrated with or without romance, but not without love and appreciation. It only comes around once a year so take a moment and reflect on the things you love in your life, and celebrate whatever that may be. Enjoy time with friends, felines or yourself; just do whatever makes you happy. After all, you’re not half a woman just because you’re not half of a couple.