Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy, Happy Day!

My all-time-favorite restaurant is finally opening a location in Cincinnati!!!

When I lived in Cleveland, I got hooked on the food from a little Lebanese/Mediterranean restaurant called Aladdin's Eatery, and I have missed it terribly ever since I moved to Cincinnati. For the past 10 years I have been whining about how much I miss Aladdin's. Anytime we are anywhere near Cleveland, I try to arrange a detour so that we can eat there, but that only happens every couple of years, and it just isn't enough.

So today, my husband and I were on our way up to Jungle Jim's, when I happened to spot the Aladdin's logo on a new shop front along Union Center Boulevard! It made my day! Heck, it made my year!

Now, if they would just open an Arabica coffee house, my life in Cincinnati would be complete!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fake Plastic Fish

I just stumbled across a blog called Fake Plastic Fish - "They're cute, and if we don't solve our plastic problem, they could be the only kind we have left." It caught my attention because my sister also writes a blog about issues related to our oceans.

What I find interesting is that this woman is not trying to change the entire world, she's just trying an experiment to see if she can eliminate plastic waste from her own life. Her blog is well-written, honest, and open-minded. If she took a tone of "Everyone should be doing this" then I would probably be turned off by the whole concept. But instead, she writes from the perspective of "Here's what I'm trying to do, and how I'm going about doing it." And I find myself inspired and challenged by her lead-by-example attitude.

I'm really intrigued by her list of changes and sacrifices that she's made to reduce plastic waste. It made me think deeply about how very, very difficult her quest actually is. In fact, most of the plastic sources she mentions are in products that I would never think about: return mail envelopes, frozen vegetable boxes, feminine hygiene products, etc. (Not to mention that virtually every product comes wrapped in some sort of plastic film.)

This concept hits especially hard because a bunch of news stories came out on Monday, disclosing that traces of pharmaceutical drugs and hormones are present in most cities' tap water, regardless of the source-- reservoirs, rivers, aquafers, and even well water.

A friend of mine from ski patrol works for the EPA, and last year he told me that virtually all of our food and water sources are contaminated with traces of hormones and plastic compounds. He said that most of their efforts at the EPA are focussed on trying to figure out which chemicals are actually harmful, and at what concentrations, because there's simply no way to eliminate them from our food. Most of the chemicals are very stable, so they don't break down over time, and they can't be filtered out of our water supplies. Disturbing and depressing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Who would do that to a child?

This morning, I stumbled across this article about the long-term effects of giving children bizarre names. This section made me laugh, because it's so completely true:
“Today it’s all about individuality,” Mr. Sherrod said. “In the past, there was more of a sense of humor, probably because fathers had more say in the names.” He said the waning influence of fathers might explain why there are no longer so many names like Nice Deal, Butcher Baker, Lotta Beers and Good Bye, although some dads still try.

“I can’t tell you,” Mr. Sherrod said, “how often I’ve heard guys who wanted their kid to be able to say truthfully, ‘Danger is my middle name.’ But their wives absolutely refused.”

A few years ago, my husband came up with "Perry Winkle" as a name for one of our future kids. He thinks my infatuation with the color will get me to buy into his goofy suggestion, so he brings it up frequently, hoping that he'll eventually wear me down. But he is tragically mistaken in this belief. I would never do that to a little boy. (Although I could totally see myself succumbing to the temptation of naming a girl Violet or Lavender.)

I will grant you this: Punny and unusual names give other people something to talk about. I know I've had numerous conversations with friends, exchanging anecdotes like "I knew a kid named Dusty Hall" and "I went to school with a guy named Joe Blow, Jr." Of course, the African-American community has also contributed greatly to the list creative and unique names, including kids named Uneek, as a matter of fact.

My personal favorite comes from my high school English teacher. (Her name, incidentally, was Sharon Stone.) She swore that a family of three kids went through our school with the names Jack Pine, Douglas Fir, and Merry Christmas Tree. (At least those kids had the option of playing it straight by simply keeping their middle names under wraps.)

I'd love to get some comments on this-- What are some of the best/worst names you've ever encountered personally? (I'm not asking for urban myths about ignorant parents naming babies after diseases or anatomical terms.) I'll start the ball rolling by saying that I had a friend in high school named Scott Crabbs, which seems innocent enough until someone asks, "Who's Scott Crabbs?"

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Snow Geek

My husband is a geek. (That's not an insult-- He's proud of it!)

He's on the phone with his dad right now. They're curmudgeoning together about the stupidity of the news broadcasts. (It's how they bond.)

Changing the subject, he says, "Have you noticed how every surface is covered with a perfect, three-dimensional parabolic arc or dome? I just think that's really cool!"

When we first woke up this morning, he called me over to the kitchen window to point out the dome of snow on the post-light in front of our garage.


Channel 5 News is using "SNOWMAGGEDON" as a sub-title for their news stories. I kid you not.

We're under a Level 3 snow emergency, and the news is devoting their entire broadcast to providing helpful tips and critical information such as:

  • Police can give you a ticket if you are out driving without a really good reason, so stay home if at all possible. Unless you need to get groceries, or you want to take your kids sledding, or you're planning to run some errands today...

  • If you are going to drive somewhere, file a travel plan with somebody so that they can tell authorities where to start digging. Pack an emergency kit in your car, including an ice scraper, a blanket, a bottle of water, a cell phone, a brightly colored rag to tie to your antenna, several bags of sand, road flares, an avalanche beacon, a month's supply of food, water-proof matches & firewood, self-contained breathing apparatus, and a team of sled dogs. If you get stranded, stay in your car, because you could get disoriented by the vast expanse of white and wind up walking in circles for hours, until you eventually freeze to death.

  • Road crews are not using salt on the roadways, because it wouldn't be effective for these types of conditions. (i.e. It would be pointless to create a big slushy mess on top of packed snow. They know what they're doing, so please don't call and complain.)

  • Everything in the greater Cincinnati area is closed, but just in case you have any doubts, we're going to list every school, business, store, charity, and government agency, one by one, across the bottom of your screen.

  • [Repetition of the above, ad nauseum]

Friday, March 07, 2008

The White Death

We're having a blizzard! Or, more technically, Cincinnati is under a Blizzard Warning until tomorrow afternoon.

When we woke up this morning, we found just a light dusting of snow had fallen overnight. We haven't had any really heavy snow showers, but it's been coming down in a steady flurry all day long, so we now have about 6 inches in our back yard, with plenty more on the way. The weathermen are breathlessly predicting 11-15 inches, which is a huge amount of snow for a city so close to the Mason-Dixon line.

Bella has been loving every minute of it. One of her favorite toys is a open-mesh ball made from a foam-rubber material, like Crocs. When she takes it outside, it fills up with snow, and then she brings it back inside and scatters snow all over the place. (I don't mind snow on the floor much-- It's an improvement over her normal habit of bringing sticks into the house and turning them into mulch all over the carpet.)

She's clearly one of the few souls who enjoys snow as much as I do. Everyone else around here views it as a dreaded plague!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Consume-Less Challenge

So, back to the Consumed series...

Normally, our small group meets on Friday nights, and we take turns hosting at our respective homes. We have dinner together from 7-8pm and then start our discussions around 8-8:30. Since my husband and I were supposed to leave for a vacation last Friday, we rescheduled the meeting for Wednesday night last week. Our friends' R & B offered to host everyone at their house in Villa Hills, KY. We had a very nice meal together, and then we cleared the table and moved into the living room to start our discussion. As I was setting out the homemade cookies that I had made, I realized that I hadn't brought the materials for the group discussion. (The materials for each week are sealed, and we're not supposed to open them in advance, so I had no idea what we were supposed to discuss.) I felt so irresponsible-- I was so focussed on providing dessert that I forgot the whole point of why we were getting together that evening.

I placed a couple of desperate phone calls to folks who are on staff at the church, and I was lucky enough to get in touch with one of the guys who works on the Facilities team. He wasn't working at the church that evening, but he's a host for a group too, so he had the materials with him at home, and he read the topics for discussion to me over the phone while I took notes, so I was able to redeem my stupid mistake.

Here's the challenge that was described in the group materials:
What if we could do with less? What if we could simplify our lives by letting go of behaviors that consume us? What if we could better appreciate the things that are free? This is the Consume-Less Challenge - A week to see what it's like to live differently, spend differently, rest, re-prioritize, and maybe discover something you've lost.

Our group had to commit to one of the following levels:

1. Use cash for every purchase. No exceptions.

2. Use cash for every purchase AND eliminate that one thing that consumes your time that you wrote about in your [personal study] guide this week. It could be anything from channel surfing, to driving all over the city, to finding the best sale. But don't quit taking care of your kids or doing regular work and school stuff. This isn't a doctor's note, wise guy.

3. Use cash for everything; eliminate that one thing that consumes your time; AND borrow, barter, or just receive one thing you need or want. For example, cook someone's dinner all week in exchange for landscape help. Need a suit? Borrow your friend's. Need a ride? Carpool. Have extra tickets to a game? Give them to someone in your group, and now they've got free entertainment.

4. Use cash for everything; eliminate that one thing that consumes your time; borrow, barter, or just receive one thing you need; AND don't buy anything except groceries and gas.

5. Eliminate that one thing that consumes your time AND don't buy anything at all. All week. Reduce, reuse, reclaim. (Congratulations on being so hardcore. Now go make sure your Prius isn't double-parked.)

Our group chose to commit to Level 2, although R & B have decided to try to fulfill Level 3 as well. (We tried to imagine what we would have to do for Level 5. Everyone agreed that we had enough food in our pantries to ensure that we would have plenty to eat, but not being able to buy gas for our cars would be a major problem for most of us.) I think we're going to have lots to talk about this week, and I'm looking forward to hearing about everyone's experiences.

The church is open to the public everyday, and volunteers make sure that free coffee is always available. Yesterday, the building also served as a polling site for 6 precincts in Cincinnati, so I volunteered to help keep the coffee flowing for all the people coming to vote. I asked some of the other volunteers what levels their groups had committed to, and one of the women said that her group had opted for Level 5. I'm intrigued.