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Budgeting for everyday scenarios.

There is no end to the number of budget articles advising you on what items you should splurge on and what items you should save on, so instead I’ll just share my personal approach to spending. In a nutshell: Spend money on the things that make life better and don’t spend money on things that add no meaningful value.   

You don’t need to deprive yourself, but identifying the real value you derive from purchases will help you determine if you truly need these things. Before opening your wallet, take a second to ask yourself, “What does this really do for me?” Also, take a good, hard look at your credit card statement. Seeing your charges, line by line, in black and white, may surprise you and help you rethink the way you spend.  

And now for my two cents in common spending scenarios: 

Eating 

Spend:You are what you eat. Food is fuel and what you put in is what you get out. It’s reflected not only in your health and energy, but your hair, skin and nails. You don’t need to break the bank to eat well. Instead of going out all the time, spend money on fresh, high-quality, natural (preferably local and organic) food and then cook at home.    

Save: Cut back on the alcohol. Two drinks with dinner can easily double your check. Next, cut the crap: soda, juice, chips and anything processed. Easier said than done but that non-essential stuff adds up fast. Examine your receipt next time you leave the store and see how much you’re really spending on those little guilty pleasures.

Dinner Party 

Spend: Fresh flowers on the table are an easy way to brighten a room. Scented candles in the bathroom are a must!  

Save:Everyone knows how much a bottle of Yellow Tail costs, so skip it. Visit a local wine shop and ask for a good, inexpensive Spanish red. You can get a great Tempranillo for $10 and no one will know what you spent because they won’t recognize the label. A signature cocktail is another great way to avoid the expense of a full bar. One liquor, one mixer, possibly a garnish and a bag of ice, done and done. Those flowers? Get ‘em at Trader Joe’s. 

Closet 

Spend:Buy a pair of jeans that makes your butt look amazing. Pay the extra $10 to have them hemmed, if necessary. Own a nice pair of high heels that don’t make you wobble when you walk. Buy a blazer you can wear to work or on a date. Replace your white T-shirts and tanks annually — sweat stains are for teenage boys.   

Save: Don’t get hung up on name brands. Who are you trying to impress? They aren’t worth the interest that MasterCard charges you! It’s much better to have a few quality, classic pieces that fit really well than dozens of disposable trendy items. Sure, we envy the girl that always has a new outfit, but not nearly as much as the girl who always looks great in her favorite dress.    

Looking Pretty 

Spend: My mom once took me to have a professional make-up artist select my colors and teach me proper application. I occasionally freshen up supplies and update my look, but not much changes. The result? A tiny cosmetic bag and a three-minute routine. Spend the money on a professional consultation and a few high-quality staples. And if you’re putting chemicals and dyes in your hair, splurge and get it done right. 

Save:Get creative! I am a huge fan of apple cider vinegar as a skin toner, and I do a weekly face mask made with Greek yogurt, crushed aspirin and honey.  

Birthday Dinners  

Spend:Whether it’s a close friend or acquaintance, these are always expensive and can induce anxiety in the best of us. Order the steak because you’re going to pay for a nice dinner no matter what. 

Save: If money is tight, the friend isn’t your BFF and you truly cannot afford it, politely bow out. We’ve all been there and your friends will understand.  

Final Splurge 

Try to shop locally! Websites like Amazon and Zappos may be cheap and convenient, but local shops employ your friends, family and neighbors. So mix it up and spread the wealth around a little bit.

DID YOU KNOW:Women With Low Levels Of Financial Literacy Are More Likely To Engage In Costly Credit Cards Behaviors (Incurring Late Fees, Paying Only The Minimum Balance) Than Men With Low Financial Literacy, According To A 2012 Study By The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Money management tips from children.

It’s remarkable how less exciting the concept of money becomes as you age. For adults, it’s a burden that plagues us daily with its hair-pulling, insomnia-inducing wrath. But for most children, a few dollars is a precious commodity used almost exclusively for purchases involving sugary red dye No. 40 or toys padlocked with zip ties.  

That’s the case for siblings Owen, 7, and Ellie, 8, who look forward to Sundays every week, the day when their six-dollar allowance tickles their hands and imaginations.  

The two shared with me their experience upon receiving allowance, expressing their income, savings, charitable givings and job descriptions without the slightest reservation. I’m not ready to make them my go-tos for advice on 401ks, but they did offer a refreshing take on money management that reminded me maybe it should be just as simple as saving up for the ice cream man every once in awhile.  

Her Cincinnati: What do you do with your allowance every week?  

Ellie: We give 10 percent to the church every week. That’s 60 cents! We put it in the giving envelope. 

H: Where do you guys keep all your money? 

E: We keep it in the bank and in bags. One bag is spend, one says save and one is give.  

H: So if you could go out and spend everything that’s in your spending bag right now, what would you get?  

E: One of those electric scooters. They’re $130.  

Owen: Probably a remote-control helicopter and some Legos. Oh, wait! A big, GREEN remote-control helicopter. It’s only $100. But I don’t think I’ll buy it. I’m wishing for it for Christmas.  

H: That’s pretty expensive. That doesn’t sound like too much to you?  

O: No. It’s easy to save up. 

H: Really? I find that hard to believe. Don’t you see things that you want all the time?  

O:No. Not anymore. I used to, but now I just want to keep saving. Now I want to earn money and keep it, and not spend it and lose all my money. 

H: Has that ever happened before? Where you spend all your money on one thing?  

O:Yea, I got $106 and then I spent it all on a Lego castle and I lost it all. 

H: What kinds of things do you have to use your allowance for? 

E:The ice cream truck. I always use my spending money when the ice cream truck comes around. But last time I didn’t get it because I didn’t want to spend my money.  

H: Are there things that you have to use your allowance for, besides the ice cream truck?  

E:Yea, maybe if I get nail polish in the carpet like I did. I think I might have to pay for the carpet.  

H:OK, what about if you had $1000 dollars on top of everything you’ve already saved?  

O: I would buy nothing. Yea, because I would keep it and so I could keep saving. I would put it in the bank so I could save up for a car.  

E:I think I would maybe buy a lot of jewelry. 

O:But Ellie, then you would lose all of your richness! 

H:What kind of chores would you do to try to get mom to give you more money? 

O: I would clean the entire kitchen, and the bathroom. And every single thing in the downstairs. And then get $10 for it. I can do it. I would organize dad’s desk! 

H: What’s your least favorite chore?  

O: Probably cleaning the toilets. But Lucy* actually really likes cleaning the toilets. Sometimes we have minty toilet spray and Lucy loves to stick her face in the toilet and smell it.  

H: What do you think kids who maybe do a lot of chores, but don’t get allowance because maybe their parents can’t afford to give it to them? Is that fair? 

O:No, that’s not fair. Because then you do hard work then you don’t get any reward. 

E:But it may not be money. Maybe it will be like an extra dessert or something.

*Lucy, 3, is Ellie and Owen’s little sister. Her schedule was booked with coloring and was unavailable for comment.

How to balance cost and quality in the kitchen.

Every time I step into a shop like Hyde Park Gourmet Food & Wine, I’m convinced I’ve entered the foodie equivalent of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Glimmering bottles of amber-colored oils and ruby red vinegars catch my eye. Tiny emerald-like capers and crystalline sea salt from all corners of the world beckon from jars, which are equally fabulous in their own right. But, of course, these gastronomic gems cost dearly, and the price tags often emit jaw drops of their own. As a chef, and someone who cares deeply about the quality and taste of my food, I tell myself I need these items, but how do I afford them? By knowing exactly where I should splurge and remembering a few simple rules that help me shave big bucks off of everything else. 

Here are my absolute kitchen must-haves for dining divinely, and the low-down on how to make it all work: 

Must Have: 

  • Olive oil. Stellar first-pressed Italian, Spanish and Greek extra virgin olive oils can set you back $20 – $50 a bottle. These spectacular, fruity, bright green oils are not meant for the casual sauté or stir-fry. Drizzle this liquid gold on roasted meats and fish, and make yourself the best homemade vinaigrette you’ve ever tasted. Keep a bottle of basic olive oil — I like Trader Joe’s  — as well for general cooking needs. 
  • Salt. Yes, there really are differences between salts, and it can be very confusing. Salt is no longer just a basic commodity; there are dozens of global varieties. I have about a half dozen different salts just on my counter top. A good, basic, inexpensive box of Kosher salt is perfect for seasoning just about everything while cooking. Then, tableside is the place for a great “finishing” salt. Try the lovely, delicate Fleur de Sel. Just a pinch of these scale-like flakes between your fingers will add the perfect touch to any dish. 
  • Pure maple syrup. No argument. Just do it. I don’t care how charming that talking old-lady-shaped bottle is. Once you try the real stuff, you’ll know why pancakes were invented.  
  • Real vanilla extract. A little goes a long way in baking, and nothing else tastes like it — or makes your kitchen smell like it. 
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Or any hard cheese, for that matter. Use a vegetable peeler to shave this nutty wonder over steamed veggies, pasta and rice to make it go as far as possible. And don’t ever throw away that super valuable rind. Toss it into a pot of homemade soup for richness and extra depth of flavor.

Pinch A Penny: 

  • Grocery stores. I tend to shop the perimeter of the store. That’s where you’ll find the actual food: produce, meats, dairy and bread. The processed items are typically in the center isles. I know most folks are pressed for time these days, but processed items tend to be more expensive than whole, natural foods, which are healthier for you anyway.
  • Do as many things for yourself as possible.A general rule is that anything cut up and packaged by the grocery store costs more. This includes things like produce and poultry. So pass on those colorful containers of melon. As for the poultry, don’t skimp on quality. Buy that plump, free-range bird whole, and learn to cut it up. There are dozens of tutorials on YouTube. Bonus round? You get the bones for stock. 
  • Make friends at the farmers market … and shop at the end of the day. Instead of lugging home leftover goods, vendors will often be willing to make a deal. Learn to can or freeze the bounty and you’re a savings super hero. There is no greater feeling than pulling summer goodness out of your pantry in the middle of winter. 
  • Buy basics in bulk. Legumes, grains, pasta and rice store well, and are all things that should be the foundation of your diet. They’re inexpensive, healthy and filling. Grocery store brands are fine for these. 
  • Herbs and spices. This one spans both splurge and save. I absolutely must have the best, freshest items, but I hate the thought of unused spices going stale in my cabinet. Always buy the smallest amount necessary. I love shopping at Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices in Findlay Market so that I can buy exactly what is needed for each recipe, and nothing more. 

My Classic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  •  cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. finely minced shallot
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped mixed fresh herbs
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped capers (rinsed and drained)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Place all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake to mix. Add a tablespoon of honey, if desired. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve immediately. Keeps in refrigerator for one week.

Photography by Gina Weathersby/Kiwi Street Studios

Dallas Latos on the myths and challenges of being a Red’s wife.

The wives, girlfriends and life partners of professional athletes enjoy a more-than-comfortable income, travel opportunities and access to fame if they want it. But the perks come with their own dark sides. Like, for instance, finding out you’re moving from sunny San Diego to Cincinnati when the news is reported on ESPN. 

Enter Dallas Latos.

The 25-year-old wife of new Reds pitcher Mat Latos, Dallas might seem like a force to be reckoned with. Not content to cheer quietly from the sidelines, she uses her social media clout to remind the masses that she is, in fact, a person beyond “Mat’s wife.” 

If you follow her on Twitter (@DallasLatos), she may seem a little intimidating, but in person, she’s just like the rest of us: sipping afternoon drinks at the Holy Grail at The Banks, receiving extremely attentive service from the wait staff, watching her true love throw baseballs on national TV. 

OK, maybe not exactly like the rest of us. But Dallas wants you to know that being a “baseball wife” isn’t always what it seems. 

Myth #1: All Pro Athletes Are Hard-Partying, Philandering High-Rollers.  

Born and raised in Northern California, Dallas had a specific plan for her post-college life: work hard and enjoy being single without the pressures of dating. A friend whose boyfriend played with Mat in the minor leagues kept suggesting Dallas and Mat would really hit it off, but Dallas wanted nothing to do with him at first. 

“It annoys me that people have stereotypes about relationships in baseball, but I had the same mindset,” she says. “You see other people’s issues in their marriages or how the single [baseball player] guys act.” In her mind, baseball players were, well, players. She wasn’t interested in the drama of being cheated on or eventually becoming a bitter ex-wife.  

Finally, sick of being a third wheel on her friend’s dates, Dallas decided to give Mat a shot. To her surprise, he was nothing like what she expected. He was looking for a woman who would like him for who he was, not for his profession. “For him it was like, ‘Why would I want to keep dating random girls? I’ve been single [while] playing baseball. There’s nothing fun about it,’” Dallas says.  

The next season, Mat joined the San Diego Padres and asked Dallas to move with him during spring training. “I thought, ‘Sink or swim, either I want to be with this guy or it won’t work out.’ Everything just kind of went from there.” 

Dallas and Mat hadn’t been dating long and were still fairly young when they got married — a decision that shocked her family. “My dad was like, ‘What are you doing?!’” Dallas says. Ah, overprotective fathers: a fact of life almost all of us can relate to. 

MYTH #2: It’s Fun To Pack Up Your Life And Move Across The Country On Short Notice.

“If you’re married to a baseball player, MLB trade rumors may be your secret lover,” Dallas wrote in her blog last winter. “If you’re anything like me, you spent the offseason wanting to know what your lover was up to. You checked and you checked, you refreshed and you refreshed.

Nobody thought Mat was going anywhere in 2012 after two successful seasons with the Padres, so Dallas was shocked when, one Saturday morning, she awoke to a slew of text messages and voicemails from family members demanding to know more about the fact that the Reds had just given up four players to the Padres in exchange for Mat. 

“I think I’m just now destressing from it,” she says with a laugh during our interview, almost six months later. 

Although Mat and Dallas welcomed the change with open arms, there’s no doubt that becoming a Midwesterner after a lifetime as a California girl is a bit of a culture shock. “We’re literally having to start all over again,” she says. “[But] one of my favorite things about Cincinnati is the people. Everybody’s pretty much offered to help. The Reds’ front office, people at local businesses … it’s not something I experienced in San Diego. Knowing that everyone’s so willing to be supportive is a good thing.”

MYTH #3: More Money, Fewer Problems. 

Dallas tries to downplay her financial situation as much as possible, insisting that she and Mat “are pretty simple people.” However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Mat’s making a larger salary in his twenties — $550,000 this season — than many of us ever will. It does come with a caveat, though. “It’s like they say, mo’ money, mo’ problems,” Dallas says. “He could get injured and his career could end tomorrow. That’s what people don’t understand, the additional stress. It’s not a cakewalk. Day to day, you never know what’s going to happen.” 

Furthermore, Dallas had to give up her career and entrepreneurial ambitions in order to live the MLB life, at least for now — and despite the obvious advantages of not having to work, it still wasn’t an easy decision.  

“I was successful in what I was doing, but I have to put that on hold,” she says. “It took me awhile to be at peace with that. It made me feel sort of bad about myself … [But] I’m trying to be as supportive of him as possible. Baseball is a career that expires; he’s not going to be doing this for the rest of his life.” 

One advantage of giving up the nine-to-five life is having more time to volunteer. Last spring, for example, Dallas and other MLB wives helped organize a donation drive for Alabama tornado victims; she’s currently seeking out ways to give back here in Cincinnati. “It’s nice to have the freedom to help others out,” she says.

MYTH #4: When You’re Married To A Baseball Player, Having Your Own Life And Personality Are Unnecessary. 

“I think a lot of baseball wives feel like once you’re married, you don’t have your identity. I decided I’m not going to fall into that trap,” Dallas says about her MLBlogs.com blog and Twitter feed, which she uses as avenues for personal expression and to give fans a glimpse into life with the Reds.  

“People have a vision of what your life is and it’s so far from the truth,” she says. “The Real Housewives — nobody does that. It’s the most unrealistic depiction of anyone’s baseball life that I’ve ever seen. It’s hard for children and families. You see [wives] doing all the stuff on their own that normally you’d have more support from your spouse from … Blogging is an opportunity to write my own story.” 

Indeed, the blog’s content isn’t what you might expect. Dallas writes about trips to Newport Aquarium, Mat’s favorite Crock-Pot recipe and her obsession with impractical shoes. And on Twitter, she interacts with polite and supportive fans — and tries to ignore the others. 

“Everyone has an opinion,” she says of the people who tweet rude comments to her when Mat pitches poorly, or for no reason in particular. “I used to get upset, but now it just rolls off my shoulders. Being in the public eye, you really can’t take any of that in.” She could stay off social media completely — and in fact, Dallas suspended her Twitter account temporarily back in June, sick of dealing with the haters. 

But the advantage of staying in the digital fray, as Dallas and many other public figures have found, is that they get to have more control over their own PR. “Before [social media], all you knew was what was in tabloids,” she says. “Now everyone has their own voice. It took some control away from people who want to start rumors.” 

And it’s paying off, because both online and in person, Dallas seems very approachable and down to earth. And the things she wants are not so different from what the rest of us want. 

“I value quality time with my husband,” Dallas says. “I tell him, ‘I wish you could be a fisherman and we could live on an island in Greece and have no responsibilities.’”  They’re looking for the next best thing — a house in Florida to retreat to during the offseason — and hoping Mat will be offered a permanent contract soon, so they can start feeling more settled about their uprooted lives. 

But for now, Dallas seems happy to be in Cincinnati. “For the most part, fans have been really welcoming,” she says. “I’m kind of enjoying it because it’s so much more slow-paced [than California]. It’s just different.”

Interior designer Aubrie Welsh decorates on a budget.

No matter your design style, taking on the task of redecorating can feel a bit overwhelming. And trying to do it on a budget can feel nearly impossible. Local interior designer Aubrie Welsh of Aubrie Welsh Interiors offers some advice to prove decorating on a budget really isn’t all that daunting — you just have to know where to look.   

A Cincinnati native and graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s Design, Architecture, Art and Planning school, Welsh opened her Mt. Auburn studio in December 2008. Working with both residential and commercial clients, she mixes and matches price points to create a complete space.  

Here are some of her best tips for pulling together a beautiful living space without spending a fortune.

Start With Art 

“One way to fill out a wall to create a focal element is with artwork. While I’m always keeping an eye out for the perfect investment piece, often I’ll use less expensive images as framed subject matter. A great place to find vintage books full of prints or illustrations is the Cincinnati Library used book sale held each year in June. I’ve purchased a book full of Currier & Ives prints, and another full of illustrations and watercolor paintings from Ludwig Bemelmans’ travels around Paris. Add an Ikea ‘Ribba’ frame for $19.99, and you’re ready to hang it.”

Explore Online 

“Etsy can also be a great place to look for artwork or custom pillows without the typical ‘custom’ price increase. Sure, you have to be discerning, but once you find vendors that fit your style, it’s a great source for original works of art, well-designed furniture, etc. A couple of etsy vendor’s I’m fond of right now include: WillaSkyeHome (good source for decorative pillows), Dwellbeing (vintage accent furniture, sourced by local architect Sara Aschliman), MatteArt (whimsical illustrations by Matte Stephens), MaiAutumn (beautiful watercolors).”

Add Some Color 

“Paint is another inexpensive way to add a pop of color or dramatic new look without updating everything in the room. Personally, I tend to prefer mostly neutral colors, but that doesn’t mean beige. … Paint can be a bit tricky. Always give it some time before deciding. Make sure you’re looking at the swatch in a vertical manner, as that’s how it will look up on the wall. Also, be sure to look at the swatch on every wall surface in the room, as the lighting will shift the color as you move around the room.”

Welsh’s Quick Tips & Tricks

  • Save your money for investment pieces. “Many times you can find these at a much lower price if you know the right places to look.”
  • Be creative and listen to your aesthetic. “An artful, curated space is much more interesting (not to mention fun) than pieces that are too matchy, look dated or are no longer your style.”
  • Have a discerning eye. “Use an inspiring piece such as an old chair you’ve wanted to reupholster or a bold print on your wall that you can build the room around.”
  • Hardware. “Adding unique, colorful hardware to an otherwise simple dresser or desk can instantly update the piece. Anthropologie has terrific hardware options at great price points!”

Bringing It All Together

Scouring flea markets, estate sales and auctions, Welsh has found many of the rare, vintage pieces in her home for a fraction of what they originally cost. We dissect her dining room to find out where she got her items and how much they cost:  

  • Vintage concrete greyhound statues, estate sale, $125 
  • Wingback chairs (retail $1,200/chair), estate sale, $175 for the pair, reupholstered later
  • Pillows and throw, West Elm, $100
  • Moooi red table (retail $3,200), Design Within Reach Warehouse Sale, $27
  • Heller clear chairs (retail $220), Design Within Reach Warehouse Sale, $60/chair
  • Pendant light, Circa Lighting, $420
  • Silk drapery, West Elm, $44/panel on sale
  • Vintage rug (retail $2,600), estate sale, $225
  • Vases and mantel accessories, Anthropologie, $42
  • Silk magnolia branches, Target, $16/stem
  • Artwork above fireplace, Anne Wainscott print from the “Inspired by Anne” exhibit at Landor, $0 
  • Total cost: around $1,600

Squeeze, stretch and shake your way into shape.

Leave your dancing shoes at home because you’re about to make use of the ballet barre in ways you’ve never seen.   

As I wait for my first Pure Barre class to begin, a group of women slowly file into the mirrored studio and take their places on the carpeted floor, toes pointing forward to reveal their identical Pure Barre-brand grip socks. (I would later learn that these come in handy when trying to hold tricky lunge positions for minutes at a time.) We quietly stare ahead at our reflections, anxiously awaiting owner Janna Williams to come obliterate our abs, tushes and thighs to jelly.   

Williams opened her Pure Barre location in Mason in October 2011, just after the first Cincinnati Pure Barre opened in Oakley. Pure Barre is one type of several new barre-centered workouts aimed to target women’s most tough-to-tone areas: the abs, thighs and seat. It incorporates Pilates, yoga, ballet and strength training techniques into one hardcore hour of fat-burning warfare utilizing a ballet barre along with several other props.

While the name might be a tad misleading — Pure Barre doesn’t involve dancing — the technique is still modeled to sculpt a dancer’s physique.  

“If you come three to four times a week for 30 days, you will see a change in your body,” Williams says. “It might not be on the scale; it might be that everything’s tighter, comes in and up, it’s lifted a little bit. It might be your flexibility, or it might be through strength.”   

Juggling tubing, weights, ball and mat throughout the workout keeps things from getting dull. You might even say, “A ball? That sounds like fun.” No. It is not fun. It’s work. Good work. Williams commands our group to squeeze the ball between our thighs, hold, lift and hold some more for what seems like days.   

Exercises alternate between holding positions for extended periods of time (a squat at the barre, for instance) and small, calculated muscle movements. Stretches in between the sets provide relief that might trick a participant into thinking the workout is almost over; that’s when things are only about to get tougher.   

The stretch sessions interspersed with muscle work are meant to help create long, lean muscles rather than bulk.

“You want to work to fatigue. You want the shake. That’s good; that’s when your muscles start to change,” Williams says. The act of taking those exhausted, warm muscles and stretching them is meant to elongate muscle fibers, sculpting that lean, toned exterior her clients seek.

Williams has yet to meet someone who can’t do Pure Barre; her 67-year-old mother modifies movements to suit her abilities during classes. That said, this workout is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not just for women, either. The studio was open to couples for Valentine’s Day, and boyfriends and husbands quickly realized they might have underestimated the class’ intensity.

“They come in, they grab the five-pound weights, and you know: ‘This is going to be so easy,’” Williams says. “And about five minutes into it they’re dying. They gain respect for what their wife or their girlfriend or whoever has been doing.”  

As my hour of Pure Barre dwindled to its final minutes, I actually pushed myself harder to finish strong; I truly felt the burn and love it. That endorphin-riddled sense of accomplishment I felt as I walked my wobbling spaghetti legs out the door left me already craving another round at the barre.     

Want To Test The Pure Barre Waters Before Cannonball-Ing Right In? Try Out One Of The Workout’s Signature Moves. If You’re Left Wanting More, This Form Of Fitness Might Be For You.

  1. Stand with your right side facing the barre (or a sturdy piece of furniture). Rest your right hand on the surface for balance.
  2. Stand with feet outside the hips, toes pointed outward.
  3. Bring seat toward knee level, thighs almost parallel to the ground. Keeping your back straight, raise your body up an inch, and then lower it back down in small, controlled movements for 30 seconds. Speed it up for another 30 seconds.
  4. Don’t pop out of the pose just yet! Instead, rise up on the balls of your feet, hold, and slowly lower your heels back to the floor. Continue this process for an additional 30 seconds. Thighs shaking? You’re doing it right. Release.  

Executive Director Liz Carter accelerates the mission of St. Vincent de Paul.

Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods may seem like an eclectic stitched quilt, with each neighborhood as its own unique patch, but one necessity, which remains the same throughout the city, binds everyone together. 

“People who are in poverty are in nearly every neighborhood,” says Liz Carter, executive director of the Cincinnati chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “When you live in poverty, you sometimes feel so much like an outcast, so overlooked. Often there’s an element of shame, but there really shouldn’t be.” 

Liz Carter has advanced St. Vincent de Paul’s mission of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” through over a decade of dedication. In addition to the basic goal of quietly caring for those in need, she has added more thrift stores with SVDP’s well-known blue and white logo, renovated the Edyth and Carl Lindner Choice Food Pantry in the West End, and jump-started Ohio’s first Charitable Pharmacy program, which offers free, professional pharmaceutical care to those who could otherwise not afford it. 

And after being named the 2011 Non-Profit Woman of the Year by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Carter and the other 80 volunteers, aka “Vincentians,” have returned to tackling Cincinnati poverty one canned good and one utility bill at a time. 

Thirteen years ago, as a community reporter, Carter entered a disheveled building in the West End through a red door with a tiny sign that read: “St. Vincent De Paul Pantry.”  She had arrived to help the nonprofit organization write press releases, but this was just the beginning. 

“I had no idea that my life was about to change when I walked through that door,” Carter says. “I just found on the other side this world of people who are so loving and so caring. They are doing all the good stuff that there is in the world, very quietly.”

Awestruck from the volunteer’s selfless efforts, Carter knew she could do more than write press releases. “I just fell in love with [the volunteers]. They are the most charming people. So giving, so selfless. I just wanted to be part of it.” 

Nine months later, Carter was offered the executive position. She accepted and set to work. “I wanted to have a way that people could come together, learn more and see [poverty] from a different perspective,” she says. 

So Carter and a dozen Vincentians lobbied Ohio’s state legislatures to pass the law to allow the Charitable Pharmacy to open. Roughly 250 prescriptions are now filled each day through the Charitable Pharmacy, with 40,000 free prescriptions filled in 2011. 

“We go to a family, and they don’t have enough food. They have an eviction notice because they can’t afford to pay their rent. Then what we find in the underlying problem is that they have health issues,” Carter says. “They can’t afford to pay for their medicine.” 

“We’re not changing the world,” she says. “We’re not able to take care of that thousand dollar utility bill. But we can help them get plugged in to other sources of help to give them a little something to keep them going. [We can] give them food for their families, coats in the winter and a fan in the summer. Just the things that in the old days, neighbors used to do for each other.” 

The Vincentians of St. Vincent de Paul today give more than just a meal; they give empathy to those they are helping. 

“There are members of ours, people that have given help today, that at one time had to ask for help,” Carter says. Volunteers are able to go on home visits to any family in need, encouraging assurance and guidance on any kind of life problem, from health to finance to general emotional support.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about the food, it’s not about the practical assistance that we give, even though that is terribly important,” Carter says. “Anybody that’s ever been hungry or ever faced being homeless knows that. But at the end of the day, it is about having somebody come to you who cares about what happens to you and your family and brings that hope to you.” 

DID YOU KNOW:The Society Of St. Vincent De Paul Is Always In Need Of Volunteers. For Over 140 Years They’ve Been Joining The Hands Of Those In Need To Those Wanting To Help Through Opportunities Ranging From One-Time To Episodic. Current Volunteer Opportunities Include Everything From Pantry Help To Front Desk Assistance To Pharmacy Stocking. Go To SVDPCincinnati.Com For More Information.

A girls’ trip leads to a fork in the road.

I stood on the top of a small mountain in Golden, Colorado, with two of my best friends, Sophie and Maree. We had just hiked up the rather tortuous path, toting a six-pack of beer and blaring songs from my iPhone. This wasn’t just your average boozy hike. We were on a mission.

My divorce had been just been finalized. Maree had recently ended a four-year relationship. Sophie had a extremely intense job and desperately needed a break. We all needed a vacation. So, we decided to head west, hike up some mountains and just have fun.

These women had been friends of mine since our early 20s, when each of us moved to the same relatively big city. Like many 22-year-olds, I showed up to adulthood without a job, without money, and without a general plan of what I was going to do with the rest of my life. All I knew was that I wanted to do work that was honest, artistic and impactful. 

When I found my first job — a job that I loved so much, but paid next to nothing — it didn’t feel like a sacrifice. Other practical, more lucrative offers were on the table, but it felt like I was on the right path. My friends also made sacrifices on their own paths to finding happiness. Maree moved halfway around the world from her family to pursue a career, and Sophie, who married young, started a business to support her husband while he followed his own artistic path. None of us had any money. But one thing we all had in common was that a simple little splurge, like buying a $6 lip gloss at the drugstore, had the ability to make us incredibly happy. We still joke about that to this day.

As I climbed the mountain, I thought of everything that had happened in the decade that we’d known each other. We were definitely older, and hopefully wiser, and absolutely in better financial shape after years of working hard in our respective careers. We could now afford $28 lip gloss, even though we all still preferred the $6 kind. Each of us had suffered tragedies — heartbreak, miscarriages, divorce, deaths of loved ones, family feuds — the kind of tragedies everybody experiences in life, although that certainly doesn’t make them any less tragic.

We were old enough to have some serious life experiences under our belts, yet each of us somehow had retained the sense of fearlessness and adventure that we had in our early twenties.

While this particular trip was intended to be a good old-fashioned girls’ trip — staying in Estes Park’s haunted Stanley Hotel, flirting with cute cowboys on an early morning horseback ride through the mountains, splurging on big brunches and lots of dessert — it definitely ended up being something bigger.

Somewhere in between acting like tourists at the Coors Brewing Company and visiting Sophie’s nearby family, I noticed that my wedding ring was still inside my wallet. This is going to make me sound like a horrible person, but when my marriage was on the rocks, I didn’t feel like wearing my ring. So, I hid it in my wallet in lieu of leaving it home, because I just didn’t want another thing to argue about. After I filed for divorce — and even after it was finalized — the ring remained in my wallet. I honestly wasn’t sure what to do with it.

I didn’t want to sell it, because that seemed wrong. I didn’t want to keep it, because that seemed even more wrong. You get a ton of paperwork when you get divorced, but none of it tells you what you’re supposed to do with your wedding ring, so it lies in a morally ambiguous area. But at that moment I felt like I just had to get it out of my wallet and out of my life. So I decided that I was going to throw it off the mountain.

When I revealed my plan to Sophie and Maree, they loved it, although Maree, eager to avoid a strenuous hike, suggested that throwing the ring in the stream behind the hotel might be preferable.

“Maree,” I said. “I need a mountain.” She got it.

Sophie suggested I write a note to put in the ring, which seemed like a nice gesture. I really didn’t feel any hostility towards my ex-husband — a term that I was still getting used to — and writing a note would provide some healthy closure. (On my end, at least. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t wondered what he did with his ring, and I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t worried he’d be offended if he found out what I did with mine.)

I thought about what I wanted to write on that little piece of hotel paper. I thought about the last four years of my life, how I felt I had sacrificed so much to try to play the part of a wife to a man who didn’t understand me at all. I thought of all of the friends — Sophie and Maree included — who I lost touch with during that time. I thought of all of the material things we’d splurged on to pretend like nothing was wrong — a house, new cars, jewelry I didn’t need, fancy dinners with people I didn’t really want to be friends with — all to assimilate into a role I thought I was supposed to be in at that point in my life. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t even really mine, was it? At this point, I didn’t even know.

And then I remembered the broke 22-year-old who could barely buy groceries, the one who lived paycheck to paycheck but always had good lip gloss. She was scrappy, and she was sharp. She knew better things were on the horizon, and she was willing to work hard for them. I was still that girl. I just needed more wrinkle cream now.

I scribbled the first thing that came into my head. I’m sorry. And I forgive you. Then, after thinking for a moment, I added, And I’d really like to see my dog again. I rolled the note into a little tube and stuck it inside the wedding ring.

Maree decided she needed to send a note to her ex, too, so we started our hike with an iPhone playlist rotating between Lady Gaga, Queen, and other anthemic, fist-pumping music. Eventually we found ourselves singing — or, rather, yelling — the ubiquitous Gotye song at the top of our lungs. It seemed appropriate (also, it’s a really fun song to sing). I shudder to think what the other hikers must have thought of us that afternoon, but, like I said, we were on a mission.

When we got to the top — or as far as we could go, since we expended so much energy with our off-key singing and beer toting — both Maree and I took turns throwing our parcels off. We laughed, we cried, we danced around the top of that mountain. As cliché as it sounds, I felt like a great weight had been lifted. After what felt like years of holding my breath, I felt like I could breathe again.

I realized I didn’t need to forgive him. I needed to forgive myself. For several years, I’d let myself sacrifice what I wanted — and even who I was — but I was fortunate enough to figure it out and admit that it was worth leaving what appeared to be a comfortable life. It was worth missing my dog every day. It was worth starting over on my own. I knew I wasn’t cut out for the white-picket-fence, 2.4-kids-in-the-suburbs type of life. It may sound selfish, but I needed to splurge on the life I’d always wanted, a life filled with wanderlust, romance, laughter, music, art, inspiration, and — above all — happiness.

Urbane austerity complemented by flashes of fashionable extravagance.

Something Old, Something New

Enjoy breakfast at Tiffany’s with a reasonably priced dress, bold necklace and a vintage tiara — hopefully handed down through generations.

Dress, Kismet, O’Bryonville, $52.50; Necklace, HighStreet, Downtown,$45; Sunglasses, House of Harlow, Sloane Boutique, OTR,$125; Tiara, Victorian silver wedding tiara from the 19th Century, Kimberly Klosterman Jewelry, kklostermanjewelry.com,$2,800.

The Fountainhead

Practice individuality by mixing the function of practical pieces. Try wearing a shirt as a cape for a double duty wardrobe.

L to R: Dress, Monique watercolor, Jack by BB Dakota, Pangaea, Clifton, $64; Necklace, Serket Jewelry, lyn@serketjewelry.com,$35; Sunglasses, Sloane Boutique, OTR,$125; Sandals, Kismet, O’Bryonville,$32.50; Clutch, Pangaea,$42; Top, Pangaea,$29.50; Slip, Kismet,$32.50; Sunglasses, Pangaea, $9; Clutch, HighStreet, Downtown,$62; Sandals, Dolce Vita, Sloane Boutique, $69. Location: Fountain Square.

Verdant Valet

Trending prints and patterns can be found at different price points, allowing you to decide when to splurge.

L to R: Dress, Kymerah, Sloane Boutique, OTR, $365; Necklace, Pangaea, Clifton, $18; Clutch, HighStreet, Downtown, $72; Shoes, Seychelles, Kismet, O’Bryonvile, $86; Dress, Pangaea, $54; Bracelet, HighStreet, $18; Clutch, Sloane Boutique, $150; Shoes, model’s own. Location: Hilton Netherland Plaza.

Color Coded 

Fashion-forward tangerine can be cheap and chic, or become a tailored wardrobe staple.

L to R: Slip, Kismet, O’Bryonville, $32.50; Vest, Kismet,$26.50; Necklace, HighStreet, Downtown,$165; Clutch, Kismet,$44; Dress, Kymerah, Sloane Boutique, OTR,$285; Necklace, wood, Kismet,$16; Bracelet, Kismet,$13.50; Shoes, model’s own. Location: “Ice Cream Daydream” mural, E. 12th St., OTR.

Photos by Claudia Susana. Hair & Makeup by Megan and Niki at Blink Makeup Design & Studio. Models are Gwyn and Zarina for New View Management.

1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab: A Saturday afternoon must.

I’m a bad Italian. 

Well, stereotypically speaking. You see, I have a strong aversion to wine, and since wine is such a huge part of Italian culture and I don’t like it, I’m statistically a 34-percent-bad Italian.  

A friend who is a wino (in a professional sense, as she works for a vineyard) thought my disinclination to wine — and the terrible headaches and flush I get after not even a full glass — could be attributed to my box-and-jug friends Franzia and Carlo Rossi. And because “Under twelve dollars? Yes, please!” has been my only dalliance with wine thus far, I decided to man up (headaches and all) and give good wine a go.  

My friend Kate (not the wino) and I ventured to the Gateway Quarter’s 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab one hot Saturday afternoon — perfect drinking weather — and found the place packed. Inside, the airy bar featured little four-seater tables, a row of tables against the wall, and a long, curving bar top. Outside, there were three or four tables on a teensy patio.  

After about a 10-minute wait, a table and a few spots at the bar opened up. I decided the full bar-top experience would be pretty cool, so we cozied up, were given menus and I relayed our interest in trying a flight of wine.  

Now, if I’m quite possibly a bad Italian, I’m most definitely a lightweight, and as each flight of wine consists of three “generous” half-glass pours, I knew the moon would be hitting my eye like a big pizza pie faster than you could say “amore.” I relayed this to Kate and she agreed to share a flight with me. We chose a flight of Riesling (a “terroir-expressive” sweet white wine, FYI).  

1215 offers cheese or meat plates to accompany your flight, and I couldn’t love cheese more if I were married to it, so we ordered the cheese plate suggested to pair well with Riesling. Then our server told us about a fun tasting game to play when you’re trying a new wine at the bar: They give you wine glasses marked with only numbers, and then you have to use the descriptors on the menu to see if you can correctly match each wine with the correct glass number. 

I like a challenge as much as I like cheese, so we took turns sipping each wine, trying to slosh it around and decipher the tastes. I took my time with each mouthful to notice different flavors popping in and out of prominence. Flavor tags on the menu like “apple butter,” “underripe pineapple” and “mineral overtones” helped me reference what I was tasting. Kate and I made a chart reminiscent of those ridiculous logic puzzles from elementary school — “If Jack is 12, and Sally is 15 years older, when will Rob go to jail?” — to keep track of our guesses. We made a “first impressions” chart and a “final answer” chart. (I think Kate and I would make great third-grade teachers, by the way.)   

The cheese arrived two wines into our “first impressions” round, and we lost ourselves in the goat-and-cow-milk goodness for a while. We were served generous portions of Polder Blanc (a goat’s milk gouda, which was my hands-down favorite), Belgio Mozzarella (taffy-like, but a little too bland for me), and Port Salut (semi-soft French cheese, which I enjoyed). The presentation and taste of the cheese was a nice addition to the wine tasting experience.  

We concluded our charts after the wine and cheese. Had I stuck with my “first impressions” chart, I would have won. And had Kate stuck with hers, she would have lost. Winning or losing, the Riesling flight was only $12. So reasonable! I love that affordability. Too many places on Vine Street (I’ll let you fill in the blank) tend to be slightly overpriced, supposedly because of the quality. I like quality, but I also like being pennywise, and 1215 totally fit the bill.  

We ended the afternoon with pour-over cups of coffee, which were perfectly made. I’m a barista in my other life, and I really appreciate the craftsmanship of pour-over coffee. If you’re unfamiliar, “pour-over” is essentially a brewing technique where hot water is slowly hand-poured over coffee grounds, no automatic anything. It’s a very simplistic and honest approach to coffee, and definitely keeps with the approachable, friendly vibe that 1215 gives off. 

I can’t wait to go back with more friends to try the brunch menu (bacon and mimosas), and yes, more wine.

Photos by Jesse Fox.