Between workdays extending well beyond the old school eight hours, children’s extracurricular activities and the enigma of how to pay all of the bills while still having money left over for vacations and college funds, who has time to relax? To this day, when my mother is sick and you tell her to relax, her response is always, “Baby, I don’t have time to relax.”
Aside from making you grumpy, stress is a real medical problem. It contributes to headaches, muscle tension, heart attacks, high blood pressure and has even been linked to cancer. Stress can weaken your immune system, making it nearly impossible to fight off infection. With this in mind, there are a number of local businesses that are in your corner, ready to help with stress reduction.
The Relaxation Center, located in Loveland, offers exactly what their name says—pure relaxation and a vision of “healing the world, one body at a time.” According to Joyce Warner, co-owner of the center, hers is a company that prides itself on a quiet, warm and inviting atmosphere and was even voted Best Massage in 2006 by Citysearch.com. They offer many services to help your worries melt away including deep tissue massage, relaxation massage, pregnancy massage, sinus massage and craniosacral aromatherapy, just to name a few. The Relaxation Center also provides on-site chair massages, brought directly to your home or office.
Tucked away in a historic train station in Blue Ash is the Mantra Wellness Center. The key word for this business is “holistic.” They are focused on not only treating stress, but also preventing it. While they do offer some unfamiliar services such as Iridology, which studies a patient’s iris for signs of illness, and Feldenkrais, which focuses on body awareness and movement, they are best known for their customized services. Some of these include massage therapy, Reiki energy healing, acupuncture, diet and nutritional guidance, hypnotherapy and detox hydrotherapy. They have practitioners who specialize in bamboo massage and Thai yoga massage. In addition to their many services, they offer classes including Reiki Dojo, where one can be trained to become a Reiki practitioner, Primordial Sound Meditation for deeper, more effective meditation and even classes on aromatherapy and infant massage. According to Adrienne Davidson, owner and operator of the center, they take personal attention seriously. “We know who your are when you come in, and not just because we’ve looked at your chart,” she says.
If you’re looking for total energy treatment, then visit Het Heret Transformation Resources in Blue Ash. This center offers something completely out of the norm and, in fact, there are only ten practitioners in the country who offer Atlasprofilax services, which involve using a vibrating instrument as well as some light manual pressure on acupuncture and trigger points in the upper cervical region. The treatment works toward deep and thorough relaxation in the muscles and it leads to a new balance between the antagonist muscles (a medical term for muscles which pull in opposite directions), causing the vertebrae to function better.
Beverly Welbourne, owner of the center says, “Atlasprofilax relieves not only the neck and back, it also brings more life force, Qi or Kundalini to the body. It is an initiation into a new energy field, one which is very welcome for those who are prepared for it.”
These are just a few of the incredible alternative health experiences available in our area. Through holistic work, you may just find that there really is a happier, calmer you somewhere inside after all.
Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have begun seriously shopping for a replacement for my truck. There are two big reasons for this: First, my truck has a long shopping list of repairs that need to be done to it in the next six to twelve months, bills totaling about $5,000 according to two estimates; and second, we’re concerned about seating capacity for our whole family since we’re hoping for a third child in the next year or two (and my truck is already very cramped just with the four of us - yes, it’s possible right now, but very uncomfortable).
This isn’t a burning need. I don’t commute, so on the occasions when I do need a vehicle, I still use the truck for short trips to the library or the grocery store. Other than that, we use our car for everything. In short, this situation is making it possible for us to research the exact car we want and wait patiently to find it at the right price - the most cost-effective way to car shop.
Our biggest factors for purchasing a vehicle are interior space so our whole family can sit comfortably (including a potential third child), high reliability numbers from the manufacturer, a strong safety rating, and fuel efficiency. We don’t care that much about the glossy touches - I don’t really need a GPS in the dash, thank you.
One of our big challenges has been determining how much each of these factors is worth to us. With the reliability, safety rating, and comfortable seating, it’s hard to put a specific number on these issues - they’re more of a basic requirement before we’d consider purchasing a vehicle. Fuel efficiency, however, is another matter entirely. You can actually do some raw number crunching and see how much fuel efficiency is worth for you. So let’s dig in. Let’s assume that we’re looking at two more or less identical vehicles in terms of safety, reliability, and comfortable seating - we’ll use the 2008 Toyota Highlander and Toyota Highlander Hybrid for this example. The reason for this is so that we can get some real-world numbers to work with instead of hypotheticals.
According to MPG-O-Matic, the normal 2008 Highlander gets 17 city and 23 highway, while the hybrid gets 27 city and 25 highway.
So let’s walk through some of the basic premises here. First, how much do we drive in the city versus on the open road? We drive about a 50/50 split. Most of our day to day driving would be considered mostly city driving, but we occasionally go on three or four hour trips to visit family and those are mostly highway. You may be in a different situation, of course, with a higher portion of city driving. For us, though, that gives us an average of 20 miles per gallon for the normal version and 26 miles per gallon for the hybrid version.
Second, how many miles do we expect to put on the car? This is a question you should ask yourself before any car purchase. We intend to buy a late model used car with as few miles as possible on it and drive it until it starts breaking down. So, we would estimate 130,000 miles - an average of about 13,000 miles a year for ten years. Again, you may have a different assumption here - I’m just walking through my own assumptions for my family.
Third, where will gas prices go in the future? I expect an average of $5 per gallon of gas over the next ten years. Right now, it’s lower than that, but I expect gas prices to go up over the next decade quite a bit. Over a shorter term, I would estimate a lower price - maybe $4.50.
So how much will I be spending on gas in each model? For the normal Highlander, I’ll drive it 130,000 miles at 20 miles per gallon, paying $5 per gallon of gas. I just divide the miles I’ll drive it (130,000 miles) by the miles per gallon (20) to get the number of gallons I’ll use over the life of the car (6,500). At $5 a gallon, I’ll be spending $32,500 on gas for this model over its lifetime. For the hybrid Highlander, I’ll do the same: 130,000 miles, but at 26 miles per gallon, and $5 per gallon per gas gives me a total cost of $25,000 for gas over the lifetime of the car. Thus, the improvement of fuel efficiency in the hybrid is worth about $7,500 over the lifetime. I wouldn’t quite value it that high, since dollars today are worth more than they will be later on, but it’s a good thumbnail to work with. But is that $7,500 enough?
Edmunds estimates the value of a 2008 Highlander Hybrid at $31,687 to $37,363. Meanwhile, a normal 2008 Highlander goes in a range of $22,726 to $28,290. The difference? Almost exactly $9,000. In this case, the extra fuel efficiency isn’t worth the higher price (unless you believe gas will completely skyrocket way past $5 per gallon soon). You can use almost the exact same calculation to compare any two similar cars.
Let’s say I wanted to compare that 2008 Toyota Highlander to a 2008 Honda Pilot, which Edmunds prices at $23,476 to $30,736. The difference in prices would be about $1,000 with the Pilot being more expensive, but MPG-O-Matic reports a 22/16 split - meaning it’s a mile per gallon worse than the Highlander. For our purposes, the Highlander would be a better buy than both the 2008 Honda Pilot and the 2008 Highlander Hybrid.
Remember, though, gas mileage is only one factor in your calculations. You should determine what factors are important to you before beginning your search and make sure you’re selecting a vehicle that meets those qualifications. At a minimum for everyone, I’d look for a minimum level of reliability and then focus on the best fuel efficiency you can get for the buck.
Here’s your game plan. First, figure out what criteria are important to you. I encourage you to consider good reliability as a minimum requirement and also use fuel efficiency as another. Beyond that, make sure it fits your needs - and your family’s needs. If I were single, for instance, I’d probably just get a tiny, very reliable small car with strong fuel efficiency, as those are the only factors I would really care strongly about.
Second, filter through all cars based on those criteria. Identify as many models you can that meet your minimum needs. I would stick to brands that have a history of reliability (information you can easily find from auto magazines and Consumer Reports), but after that, it’s really a filter based on what you need. For us, we’re looking strongly at a van or SUV, simply because of the potential of three children.
Third, get prices and fuel efficiency numbers on those models. Sites like MPG-O-Matic and Edmunds are great sources for numeric data. You may also want to cruise a few local dealerships and get some idea of their asking prices (recognizing that they’re negotiable to an extent) and also get an idea of the value of your trade-in and of your down payment. Once you have that, start crunching numbers and find the vehicle that’s the best value for you. We’re still in this process, but as you’ve seen above, the Highlander is definitely in the running (though we’re looking more at 2006 and 2007 models, late model used). Good luck!
If you use cereal bars as a quick snack (as I often do), you might be concerned about the ingredients (high fructose corn syrup) and maybe even interested in making your own.
I tried this a couple of years ago and ended up with some rather dry fare. I learned that I didn't use a binder. A binder is exatly what it sounds like--a sticky substance used to tie grains and nuts together. Maybe I'll take these tips and try again. What have been your experiences with trying to make healthier food?
This article on the murky and industrialized world of high fructose corn syrup walks readers through a psychotically complex process that takes corn and turns it into sweetened gel (or fat Americans or poison, however you'd prefer to describe it).
"HFCS has the exact same sweetness and taste as an equal amount of sucrose from cane or beet sugar but it is obviously much more complicated to make, involving vats of murky fermenting liquid, fungus and chemical tweaking, all of which take place in one of 16 chemical plants located in the Corn Belt. Yet in spite of all the special enzymes required, HFCS is actually cheaper than sugar. It is also very easy to transport--it's just piped into tanker trucks. This translates into lower costs and higher profits for food producers"
Here are some other facts to consider--
HFCS consumption is up:
HCFS "... has become a popular topic in the discussion of obesity in America. The reason for this is that HFCS comsumption has increased dramatically since the 1970s when it was developed and so has obesity. It has not been proven that there is a link, but the average American consumed 39 pounds of HFCS in 1980 and 62.6 pounds in 2001"
HFCS doesn't trigger an insulin reaction:
"If you are an optimist, you are happy that fructose - unlike glucose - does not stimulate the release of insulin, and in small amounts can be a useful sweetener for people with diabetes.
If you are a pessimist, you will fret that fructose is preferentially metabolized to fat, raising the possibility that HFCS - or any other source of fructose (but we won't worry about fruit) - could have something to do with current obesity trends.
HFCS entered our food supply in the mid 1960s, but did not really come into its own until farm subsidies encouraged farmers to grow as much corn as possible. In 1981, at the dawn of the obesity era, the United States food supply provided 23 pounds of HFCS per person per year, along with 79 pounds of sucrose - 102 pounds total.
Today, the balance is 56 to 62 (118 pounds), with the increase entirely due to HFCS. Guilt by association! Glucose corn syrups and honey add up to yet another 18 pounds, but their use has not changed much over time. All told, the food supply provides a third of a pound a day of HFCS and sucrose combined, which works out to about 600 calories a day per person, just from these two sources."
HFCS may accelerate aging, boost hormones and more:
"Fructose interacts with oral contraceptives and elevates insulin levels in women on "the pill."
In studies with rats, fructose consistently produces higher kidney calcium concentrations than glucose. Fructose generally induces greater urinary concentrations of phosphorus and magnesium and lowered urinary pH compared with glucose.
In humans, fructose feeding leads to mineral losses, especially higher fecal excretions of iron and magnesium, than did subjects fed sucrose. Iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc balances tended to be more negative during the fructose-feeding period as compared to balances during the sucrose-feeding period.
There is significant evidence that high sucrose diets may alter intracellular metabolism, which in turn facilitates accelerated aging through oxidative damage. Scientists found that the rats given fructose had more undesirable cross-linking changes in the collagen of their skin than in the other groups. These changes are also thought to be markers for aging. The scientists say that it is the fructose molecule in the sucrose, not the glucose, that plays the larger part.20
Because it is metabolized by the liver, fructose does not cause the pancreas to release insulin the way it normally does. Fructose converts to fat more than any other sugar. This may be one of the reasons Americans continue to get fatter. Fructose raises serum triglycerides significantly. As a left-handed sugar, fructose digestion is very low. For complete internal conversion of fructose into glucose and acetates, it must rob ATP energy stores from the liver."
My wife and I chose our home in Norwood because more than two dozen of our friends live within a couple of blocks of our house. Camaraderie, to me, makes for a good quality of life in a neighborhood. It’s a friendly place and people frequently greet each other on the street.
Norwood also has its share of problems. Parts of the city are very nice, but in others, the effects of domestic violence, drug addiction, alcoholism and family breakdown are readily visible on its streets. It’s a far different place than Mariemont, which was recently voted one of the nation’s ten best neighborhoods by the American Planning Association.
From the Cincinnati Enquirer:
The association, which promotes good planning, announced its top 10 neighborhood list Wednesday. The 10 Great Neighborhoods list is part of the association's Great Places in America program, which singles out communities with exceptional character that were shaped by intelligent planning.
The association didn't rank the 10 neighborhoods.
Since Cincinnati philanthropist Mary Emery founded Mariemont, the village has been regarded as a paragon of planning and design. "Given the critical need for all of our cities and neighborhoods to reduce carbon emissions because of climate change, Mariemont provides us with a timely model of how to plan, build and adapt places for compactness, walkability and sustainability," said Paul Farmer, the American Planning Association's executive director.
I have no idea how friendly Mariemont residents are, so I won’t try to compare it with Norwood in that way, but there are some objective facts to consider.
- Norwood has a Kroger store, a viable retail strip and restaurants at its center, within walking distance of most residents. Mariemont’s nearest grocery store is of a mile east of the town square, more than a mile from residents on the west side of Mariemont. Mariemont’s central square is limited to entertainment and dining.
- Norwood is mixed income, including poor, Appalachian and Mexican residents, middle and working class folks and high-income residents.
What really makes a great neighborhood? Is it a resort styled community or one in which we can really live, work and engage with people from a variety of backgrounds?
• Park Vine is hosting a discussion and workshop on cloth diapers with cloth diaper authority Elizabeth Whitton. Free. 10 a.m. Oct. 18 at Park Vine, 1109 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-7275. RSVPs requested before Oct. 11.
Christian Science Monitor: The Supreme Court is considering whether smokers in Maine can sue Philip Morris USA for marketing "light" and "low tar" cigarettes. At issue is whether these descriptions are misleading and fraudulent, indicating these cigarettes are healthier than regular smokes. (Hopefully PM will be sued out of existence.)
The Enquirer: Prosthetics improve the lives of vets injured in the Iraq War. (How long until they ask for people with prosthetic limbs to go back onto the battlefield?)
The Simple Dollar: How you can become a millionaire by 30. (Which, of course, we already all are here at CityBeat.)
Live Green Cincinnati: 10 ways to go green. (More important now than ever.)
Wall Street Journal: Smokers may benefit from CT scans for lung cancer. (They might also benefit from a smoking cessation program.)
New York Times: Fat acceptance folks challenge the health risks of obesity. (Which is insane.)
— Stephen Carter-Novotni