Friday, September 21, 2012

The Truth about Diner-en-Blanc

Unless you were under a social media rock last Saturday, you saw various outlets explode with tweets and pictures about this Dinur and Blank thing.

I went.

I saw.

I managed not to get tomato sauce on my borrowed white dress.

You want to know the truth behind the flash-mob paid picnic craze that's sweeping the world?

It's a giant pain in the ass. How French!

A very pretty, fun, champagne-floaty bother in the rear end. But my, the people watching was exquisite. And you know I can't resist a chance to a) do something unique b) that might be kind of exclusive and c) requires dressing up where d) I'll get to talk about it afterwards.
And so here I am, talking bout it.

Judging from my fellow picnickers (and come on, everyone was judging each other), attendees fell into three categories (note: none of these are bad or wrong, just my snarky assessment!):

1) Older Couples - older men and women who have things like wedding china, fold up tables, and rolling carts already in their possession. White linen pants? Check. Fancy silver? Check. Pay the registry fee, stop by Fresh Market, and wham bam thank you mam - they were ready for a picnic.

2) Younger Socialites - The "In" Crowd was able to go out and buy all the things they needed for an exquisite picnic on the lawn. Designer dresses, catered dinners, elaborate table setups - no worries. If you have the cash, your picnic evening was a multi-champagne-bottle, $100 Orchid picnic basket breeze.
We fall under #3 - borrowed dresses, pants on clearance, and accessories from Cappel's

3) The Rest of Us Who Like Weird Hard Things To Do Because It's Fun: after days of thrift store and outlet scrounging (white pants after Labor Day?!), borrowing furniture from three sets of relatives (thank you Aunt Karla, Liz's mom, and Ali's grandma), my roommate, boyfriend, and other friend scraped together a quasi-acceptable get up. We made our own, very French dinner... totally oblivious to the fact that our courses were all tomato based until after we arrived to the picnic. (No one spilled, amazingly.)

That afternoon we scrambled to get everything packed and ready, adjusted our white accoutrements, and set off to hoof it down from 14th Street to the meeting point at 3rd Street - not a far jaunt until you're trying to juggle folding tables, chairs, still-drying spray painted plastic animals, and a 60 pound dolly with leaky chicken tangine and squished linens and flowers. In heels.

this got turned into
this (Horatio, Polonius, Demetrius and Vernon)

Luckily for us my dear friend Lauren happened to be driving by and took pity on us. She helped us transport most of the stuff in her car, chuckling at us being all stressed out about a picnic.

Once we were settled in, unpacked, eating (AND DRINKING), the night was exquisite. After feasting on our delicious dinner, naming our silver plastic animals (Horatio, Demetrius, Polonius, and Vernon), and splitting a few bottles of bubbly, the effects of the night set in. We were surrounded by hundreds of others dressed in white. The candlelight flickered softly, the French music was in the air, and everyone was laughing, drinking, eating, and eventually dancing.

Liz and Ali and our lovely table
We saw lots of friends, and at the end of the evening, lighting sparklers and releasing white balloons in the air was a beautiful, unique experience (I was tipsy enough to not let the thought of hundreds of balloons ruining the environment bother me). The DJ at the end of the evening was killer, and we all got our dance on.

all's well that ends very well

Would I do it again? Yeah, probably.
With one under my belt, I'm feeling a little better prepared. Next year can only be even better!

For much better photography (and food) check out 513{eats}.

Tips for Diner-En-Blanc:

* Share food with friends.
* Make sure your food is not soupy or red.
* Bring lots of champagne.
* Travel most of the way in a car if you can.
* Simple is easier
* Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reaching new heights

My dear friend Jamie wanted to try something new for her birthday. This past Sunday, we did a trapeze class with Cincinnati Circus Company. They set up a net and trapeze system in Burnet Woods right across from DAAP, so hundreds of people drove by while we got harnessed in and climbed thirty feet in the air to swing from our arms.

not me
Jamie, Lauren, and Kristin all fearlessly climbed to the top and swung upside down from their knees, doing flips, and even swinging by another's hands - circus style!

I am not inclined to be upside down. At all. I can't do a cartwheel. I never signed me up for cheerleading or gymnastics. I got to be the comic relief in our group, managing to ascend the ladder and swing awkwardly by my arms all while praying not to be killed in the myriad of ways that were mentioned in the release form we signed. Someone had to do it.

more my speed

"Go ahead and get your knees up!" called the spotter from the ground. "No freaking way!" was my reply.

I faced my fears, and tried something new. Whatever keeps you fresh!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

This is why we go to work every day.

I'm baaaack! Phew! 9 days jam packed with adventures in transportation, language, maps, and eating lots of great food.  While we were eating our first meal abroad, soaking in the sights and sounds over a glass of wine, my friend Katie looked around and said, "so. This is why we go to work every day." I couldn't agree more. Rack up that vacation time, pinch your pennies, and get the heck out of Dodge, friends. Travel is exhilarating. I take a great deal of satisfaction from figuring a city out- learning how to navigate around, finding the best places to eat, shop, do things, and having spontaneous experiences along the way. This trip encompassed all that and more. I was a little tweaky about the entire experience, but only because I was so excited to be out of the country, exploring, on vacation.
I wanted to do it all!!
News flash: not possible. ESPECIALLY in Paris. We spent four days in Paris and I could go back three more times and not have a repeat experience. Not knowing much French was also frustrating - but now I'm pretty good at asking for the check!

For your reading pleasure: a short collections of tips, tricks, experiences and oddities that comprised my trip abroad - if you're wanting to travel to Europe, maybe this will inspire you!


* Pack light. Lay out all the things you'd like to take with you... then remove half of it. I did this and STILL could have left things at home. Streets in Europe are windy and cobblestoned, and if you're staying at a more reasonably priced hostel or hotel, you might have to walk a ways from the train station - which makes lugging a huge suitcase a pain... plus you look lame. I packed all my clothes into a Jansport rolling backpack, and brought a day bag with LOTS of pockets. It sounds lame, but the rolling backpack is great - you can pull it in airports and swing it on your back for the cobblestones. Also, it fits in the carryon section of the plane. Don't be scared - just bring a little container of laundry detergent and you can wash clothes if you need to. 
For 10 days, I took 5 pairs of underwear, 3 bras, 3 short sleeved shirts (rolled up), 2 sundresses (rolled up) 4 pairs of tights/leggins (rolled up), one pair of black ankle pants, 3 tunics, and 2 long sleeved shirts. Throw in a few accessories, 2 pairs of shoes and as long as your colors coordinate, you can mix and match for tons of different outfits. And if you're a dude... well, you're only packing 3 outfits anyway. Easy peasy. 

* Print things out. I had printed Google maps directions from each main train station to each hostel - transit directions with walking. This was super helpful and made transitioning from city to city easier.

* Smart phones are awesome. I used the MyMaps, SpeakEasy French, and Spotted by Locals apps while we were abroad, and Dana used MyTrip. The Maps app was able to pick up our location, which helped when we biked ourselves all the way over to the far eastern suburbs of Amsterdam by accident. And unless you're a really, REALLY big camera buff, leave the DSLR at home. The iPhone 4S camera worked well for my needs. It was much easier to retrieve for a quick picture, and wasn't nearly as heavy.

* Do your research - but be flexible.  I was SO excited about this trip, I did tons of research to prepare. I scoured HostelWorld for the best hotel/apartment deals (and we got to stay at some sweet places, including a boat hotel! Yep, a private boat.) I made a Pinterest board. I downloaded the Spotted by Locals guides for each city. I made lists and read books. Ultimately, though, there was so much to do in each city, it eventually bogged me down. I knew I wouldn't be able to experience everything (even though I tried convincing myself I could), and ended up getting a little pouty when I had to compromise or realized the truth. Once I let go of my expectations and enjoyed the present, I had a lot more fun.

* Take the trains! Using the public transportation in a new city can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. It saves a lot of walking in bigger cities and is a fun experience in and of itself. Paris' metro has a 3 day card you can buy with unlimited rides in the city. Paris has a metro (subway) and the RER - commuter rail lines. Also, pull the latch up to open the doors if they don't open automatically.
Brussels has trams and a small Metro line. The trains don't run at night, only the trams do. This means some of the trams (above ground) don't run during the day. We didn't figure this out for a good half an hour and were waiting like dummies for a tram that never came.
Amsterdam has above ground trams. They're very efficient and run every few minutes. At night only the door near the front of the tram opens. Again, we learned this the hard way.

* Brussels is totally underrated. We loved Brussels. It's not a place I would spend an entire week, but it is an extremely manageable city for a few days' visit. It's easy to navigate and fairly small. The locals are nice and will speak whatever language necessary to communicate - I'm pretty sure I haggled with a guy over some trinkets in a mixture of Spanish, French, and English. The architecture is BEAUTIFUL, there is a lot of history, and the food is yummy! Waffles, beer, fries... we even had some really excellent Indian food. I'd recommend Brussels (with a day trip to Brugge) for people who feel super overwhelmed in a huge city or are new to traveling.

* Sketching is fun! The last time I traveled to Europe was for an architecture study abroad program, and we sketched all sorts of landmarks during our travels across Scandinavia. Visually analyzing a space is helpful to understand it more completely... but you don't have to be an architecture student to keep a sketchbook/journal. I did at least one half-hour sketch a day - usually while we were eating or resting in a park or someplace pretty - and recorded our adventures every day. It's a tangible memory that I can look back on later. 

The biggest thing I realized on my journey across the ocean? I am capable. The pancake picture was taken at my "lowest" point on the trip - I had gotten seperated from Isaac in Amsterdam in the pouring rain without an umbrella or a way to directly contact him. It was a potentially scary sort of situation, but then I realized: I knew where I was and where I was going (we were headed back to a deli to buy some Curiousity Cola); I had money and a tram card; I knew how to get back and into the hotel; and I was certain Isaac would wait for me and we'd figure it out. So instead of freaking out, I celebrated - enjoying the quiet of the city in the rain. I bought myself a little pannekoek (like a crepe or blini) and recognized the moment.

If I can figure things out in a foreign city on my own, the challenges waiting for me back in Cincinnati are a piece of cake.

Check out the rest of the trip!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Leaving and it feels so good.

If you've paid the slightest bit of attention to me this week you already know. I'm getting ready to go on a trip! Isaac and our friends Katie and Dana and myself are all gearing up to spend the next 10 days in Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. I've struggled a little bit with not wanting to gush and tell the whole world - that can get annoying. But for me, this isn't just some vacation.

This trip represents so much more. The last time I was out of the country was 2008. The last time I took a trip longer than 4 days was in 2010. This is my first vacation as an Adult with an A. I'm in a secure enough place financially, emotionally, and with my job that I've saved up enough cash and vacation days to go somewhere new with people I love.

I've been packed since Tuesday. I've researched everything from hostels and trains to bike rentals and places to eat cheap, local food. I've been practicing my French (my roomie wrote me out a cheat sheet, and there are some apps that are helpful.) The only thing left to do is leave.

Maybe it's humblebragging. Maybe it's annoying. But honestly? I don't care. I've worked my butt off for the last 2 years to get to this moment. I hope ya'all can celebrate this with me.

Au revoir!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Goetz Alley Update

Though I love doing graphic design and marketing work at ArtsWave, I still occasionally miss interior design (my undergrad degree.) My friends Sarah, Justin and I teamed up with our design skills and entered a urban design competition with the Niehoff Studio and UC's Community Design Center.

The DIY Urbanism competition proposed designing a project utilizing public space that would, if implemented, be a temporary installation altering the space for the public good. After some discussion (and searching on the Hamiltion County Auditor's website for possible public spaces), my team started tossing around the idea of altering one of the alleys in Over-the-Rhine to make it a more hospitable space.

Our final result is the Goetz Alley Update. Goetz Alley is parallel to Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, connecting 12th Street near Park + Vine and Neon's all the way north to Liberty Street. Inspired by public installations in France, Copenhagen, and NYC, we envisioned a series of lighted sculpture pieces creating a colored walkway, leading Fringe Festival attendees (this is a pretend temporary installation, remember) from one venue to another.

The basic setup takes standard scaffolding and colored 3-Form plexiglass, along with solar powered LED tube lighting, to create the arches. With one color of plexi spanning one block, the combination of scaffolds create a wayfinding system and a colorful, unique experience that is surprising and dynamic, day and night.

Our team trio was unstoppable - we created the idea, drawings, and board in under 15 hours - after work! I headed up the concepting, copy, and graphics - maps and board layout. Sarah was a rendering superstar - she developed the awesome drawings in Photoshop. Justin (an arch major at DAAP) went technical and figured out how it would all work - and created an exploded axon drawing showing how the sculpture came together.
The cool thing about this project is that it is actually pretty feasible - could probably come together for around $1000 or so. The end result is a clean, safe, alternative way to get around in OTR. We wanted to reverse all the reasons people don't hang out in alleys more.

If you want to see it in person, please come to the DIY Urbanism reception - there's a people's choice award (so you could vote for the project...) and see the other submissions from other local designers. It's Friday, June 1, from 6-9 pm, at the Architecture Foundation of Cincinnati - 811 Race Street (next to the CityBeat offices). See you there? If not, the exhibit is open from June 1st - June 14th.

Check out the deets (and more work, hint!) on my portfolio site.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Your Goof, My Gain

Over the last year or so, several companies and organizations have managed to embarass themselves in some way online. Social media is still something of a wild west, and even the biggest brands have the potential to really mess up their marketing. One wrong move and the People of The Internet let them have it. Everyone makes mistakes, but an online gaffe seems to have more impact - say or do the wrong thing and your idiocy will be on display for the whole world to mock.

I'm something of an expert when it comes to sticking my foot in my mouth in personal and professional interactions- thought I've gotten a LOT better since my first co-op job in 2007. I've culled my favorite Foot in Online Mouth moments from brands over the past year and siphoned out some lessons we can all learn.

1. Kony 2012- the video and activism campaign to bring Joseph Kony to justice went viral beyond Invisible Children's wildest imaginings - and stirred up global criticism. I'm of the opinion that IC was in the wide-eyed optimist camp and never imagined that their video would become as popular as it did - and were totally unprepared for the questions and backlash that subsequently followed. Their inability to completely answer the questions about the organization and affiliations caused a lot of confusion and diluted their original message - and the leader of the movement pretty much lost his mind. I would, too.

Lesson: For your sanity, vet yourself before everyone else does.
2. General Motors"bikes are lame" campaign- General Motors rolled out a huge ad campaign geared towards college students. The goal: shame bike riding and pedestrian college students into buying a new car. The problem? College students are among the top bike-riding demographic in the country, and the Millenial generation is particularly passionate about environmentalism - and voicing their opinions on the Internet. After thousands of irate college kids and bike supporters told GM how very wrong they were, the car giant sheepishly pulled the campaign - and made lots of apologies to individuals.
(picture source)

Lesson: Get outside opinions of your work before displaying it to the public - ESPECIALLY from your target demographic.
3. Chapstick - Chapstick's social ad campaign featured the above image. Someone online didn't like the prominence of the girl's booty in the air and wrote a comment on Chapstick's Facebook wall letting them know. Instead of responding to the message, the admins for the page deleted it. Other people also wrote on Chapstick's wall voicing their opinions about the ad - those got deleted, too. The sticking point is that the campaign hinged on one sentence:
"Be heard at" - Pretty soon people were posting so much that the admins couldn't keep up with deleting all the comments. The message ran away from them, and they posted a half-hearted apology without actually admitting they'd done anything wrong. (picture source)

Own your mistakes - don't hide from critics. They won't go away.
4. Tidy Cat- a bit closer to home, Tidy Cat recently retracted an ad campaign that was directed at the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. As part of their NoMorePU #lifestinks campaign, the kitty litter manufacturers posted a billboard: "You're so over Over-the-Rhine. #lifestinks" - The marketing team meant the joke to be directed towards the view of OTR from 10-15 years ago - a scary ghetto that no one would want to visit. Apparently they missed the memo that the neighborhood is in the midst of a renaissance, with new trendy businesses, arts groups, and a VERY passionate fan club. Word spread and Twitter revolted - taking Tidy Cat to task over their ignorance. The billboard was gone in less than three days. (picture source: Noel Prows)

Lesson: Do your homework! A city-specific ad + outdated opinions = very pissed off Cincinnati.

Maybe these lessons are obvious (they weren't to the big guys), but as more and more attention is focused in the digital realm, a haphazard or half-assed attempt at marketing online just isn't going to cut it.

Did I miss any?

Monday, January 23, 2012

How to be Safe-ish

Is OTR diverse? Heck yes! Scary? Eh. (photo by 5chw4r7z)
Oh, you live in Over-the-Rhine?... *whisper* don't you feel safe? I get this question more often than you would think. I usually laugh it off. I'm not one given to fear my surroundings. I've learned over the last year to replace fear for understanding, empathy, and confidence - tempered with trusting my gut and common sense.

But. But!

It's so SCARY in Over-the-Rhine!

Is it?

I mostly find it quiet... especially in the winter. I find it interesting. I find it diverse. I find it impossible to avoid my fellow humans... but not particularly scary.

It sucks when people get shot, get hurt, when bad things happen in my neighborhood... it really does. It also sucks in Westwood, Fairfield, Avondale, Clifton Heights, and other neighborhoods in the area.

The people I interact with on a daily basis - my neighbors - are an eclectic bunch. I am surrounded on both sides of my apartment building by Mercy Housing - that is, Section 8. You know, THOSE people. What people? People who aren't like me? Yep. We're all co-existing in close quarters. It's what people do in cities.

I'm not saying bad things don't happen. I'm not naiive; they do. But for the last 20 years we have been conned into this self-important state of believing we are special enough to be singled out, that there is terrifying danger lurking around every corner.

FBI statistics show we are living in a time with the least amount of violent crime in the last 40 years. Increased isolationism through suburban living, a 24 hour news cycle and crime-based TV shows (don't even get me started on Criminal Minds!) inflate our fears to the point where we think that EVERY stranger is out to get us. Come on. You're just not that important.

There was an editorial the Enquirer ran about a man who went downtown and Over-the-Rhine one Saturday, and had a great time with his family. When he came home he found out someone had been shot hours after he had been through the neighborhood, and declared he would think twice before going down again. 

 That's like saying you will never ever set foot in a car again after that multi-car pile up on the Brent Spence Bridge (or any other of the hundreds of car accidents that happen in the area every year, many of them deadly.) We certainly don't see that happening. "Safe" is a pretty relative term; taking risks is an inevitable part of life.

Look. You can do what you want. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I refuse to let fear or intimidation keep me from living my life. I've been mugged. I've had my house broken into. Yet, I move forward; I won't let fear of the past prevent me from the future. There's too many amazing things going on downtown and Over-the-Rhine to let the remote possibility of something bad happening prevent me from participating.

just a few of the fun and ridiculous things I could have missed out on by avoiding the 45202

If you don't buy or sell drugs or engage in prostitution, your odds of being shot in Over-the-Rhine automatically decrease by about 95%. Thieves mostly strike when they see opportunity - leaving change in your car or absentmindedly counting your cash while walking down the street will increase your odds.

That being said, here are my tips for decreasing your chances of being a victim of crime, anywhere. Don't come crying to me if it doesn't work, or blame me the next time something happens (because it will.) I'm just telling you what I do. No guarantees. Okay.


How to Stay Safe(r) - Anywhere.

* Don't carry a purse/bag if you can help it.
Purses are easy to grab and run off with, and are shiny and inviting. Only carry what you absolutely need - card/cash/id, keys, phone, chapstick. Put them in your pockets or utilize a friend with pockets if necessary. Alternatively, wear a bag or purse that goes across your chest instead of over your shoulder.

* Be aware of your surroundings.
Only keep one headphone bud in. Know what and who's around you. Walking with your head buried in your smart phone is a great way to get punched in the face by someone wanting your phone (a friend of mine found this out the hard way)

* Protect your ish.
Lock your phone. Get renter's insurance. Set up a GPS locator phone app to see where it's gone if it gets taken.

* Don't walk into trouble if you see it.

Riding your bike up hill and see a bunch of teenagers at the top? Turn around. Have the option to walk down a deserted dark street or go one block over to the busy, well lit one? Duh. See a drug deal going down? Ignore it.

* Engage.
Even if the person walking down the street from you sounds/smells/acts/looks different than you, the odds of them actively wanting to hurt you/take advantage of you are small. Smile. Say hello. 9 times out of 10 they will... smile and say hello right back. It's crazy, really.

* Listen.
Panhandlers happen. I try to listen to people when they're talking to me without initially brushing them off. They may have an elaborate story. They may want your money. They may just be wanting to talk your ear off. They may need directions. Before you brush someone off, listen and understand what it is they're asking you for.

Nothing made me feel more like an jerk than when I cut a woman off once who was just wanting directions to a coffee shop. If they do ask you for money and you don't want to give them any, just a smile and "Sorry, I don't have any" will do.

* If you've got a gut feeling something's wrong, go with it.
If someone's getting in your physical space, if you have an uncomfortable feeling something's not right, there's nothing wrong with being abrupt and getting to where you need to go - inside your car, inside your apartment, inside a random bar/shop/restaurant/intersection where there are people and where it's well lit - do it. It's a balance.

* Other unconventional ways of guaranteeing people will give you your space:
Wearing ridiculous hats. Riding a pink bike. Sobbing loudly and uncontrollably while walking down the street in the middle of the night. Singing or dancing down the sidewalk. Not that I would know from experience...

I don't think guns solve any problems. I suppose a whistle or pepper spray or something might be useful, but then I'd have to go and get some and that sounds like work.


I made a choice to live in Over-the-Rhine because I wanted to be challenged with humanity, every day. I wanted to be caught up in the exhilaration that comes from being surrounded by people during a street fair or at Findlay Market. I enjoy being greeted every day by Marc Antony, one of the more outgoing homeless residents, or Ed the car washer guy, engaging friends and strangers as I walk or bike down the street.

I didn't want to live in a bubble, by myself, isolated in a non-descript housing complex, hemmed in by development I couldn't get to without driving, intentionally cooping myself up in the American dream. Being around people has its trade offs. I'll take the risk that comes with the overwhelming good, every time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Intention > Resolution

ohm shanti, ya'll (Yoga Bar)
At the beginning of every yoga class, my instructor asks us to set an intention for our practice. To decide, in that moment, what we want to focus on while we're twisting ourselves into interesting shapes. Intention helps guide and focus the practice, and it brings another element to the table - focusing with the mind makes yoga more than just exercise.

Rather than set a resolution or five that I will inevitably break, I decided to set an intention for 2012.


As in, starting to grow up a little and train myself to go through and do those things that sometimes I don't want to do. Wake up a little earlier. Dress a little nicer. Make my bed. Do those dishes. Answer that email. And so it goes.

Getting in the habit of just pushing through and getting things done will hopefully leave me more time to do things I actually want to do, instead of mucking about and putting off the things I'm dreading.

It's a mindset, I think. We'll see how it goes.

The flipside of the discipline coin is then to discover what it is that I really actually love doing in the free time I have after the other adult stuff is done. I'm a bit of a 'yes girl', and have a habit of over-promising to make people happy. The result is then doing way way way too much and not making myself happy.

I got pretty dang inspired late last year by the Holstee Manifesto. They made this great video (with bikes!!) that sums up my mindset.

Bikes, yoga, laughter, friends, cities, design, travel, love. 

2012 looks to be pretty amazing. What's your intention?