Share + Give – Cats Advocates of Troy + Purrs in Piqua

This month’s Share + Give is all about cats – which are pretty much my everything. I love hanging out with my cats, talking about my cats, meeting other people’s cats, looking at pictures of cats on Instagram and watching funny cat videos on YouTube. While I love love love cats, I know that overpopulation is a serious problem. There are simply too many cats and not enough crazy cat ladies and gents (me and my husband included) to give them all homes. Always get your cat spayed or neutered, dear readers! If you need a vet in Miami County, I know a guy. 😉

Speaking of cats, Miami County, and cat overpopulation… did you know that Miami County is lucky enough to have not only one TNR organization in our community but two TNR organizations? TNR stands for Trap, Neuter, Return and is a way to control stray and feral cat populations. A female cat can have, on average, two to three litters of kittens a year. If each litter has 6 kittens and the female cat lives to be 10 or 11 years old, she could give birth to 120 to 180 kittens in her lifetime! That’s a really high number and that’s looking at one cat if we take into consideration the female cats of each litter also having 120 to 180 kittens in their lifetime the number gets even bigger and even more out of control. Spaying or neutering is the best way to control cat populations and TNR is the best way to control the population of stray and feral cats.

Purrs in Piqua, started by Tiffany Pontius in March 2015, is a group of volunteers who practice TNR in Piqua. Since April 2015 Purrs has neutered 250 cats, thus preventing thousands of unwanted kittens from being born on the streets of Piqua. Purrs has been able to raise over $7000 since September 2015. 90% of the money raised goes directly to veterinary fees.

Cat Advocates of Troy, founded by Felicia Watson in June 2016, is also a group of dedicated volunteers who practice TNR to control the population of stray and feral cats. In addition to getting cats spayed or neutered, the cats are vaccinated and ear tipped (in order to identify that they have been neutered). After the cats have time to recover, they are then returned to the area in which they were trapped.

I also have to point out how awesome these two organizations names and logos are – Purrs has an ear tipped cat for their logo and Cat Advocates of Troy, or CAT, has a cat in their logo which also spells CAT. It’s almost too purrrfect.

Purrs and CAT are both local organizations, so I’ve had the opportunity to interview both Tiffany and Felicia. In order to better highlight each of these organizations, I will be posting each interview separately later this week. So, you will get to learn more about two TNR organizations and see more pictures of cats. I might also finally remember how to spell neuter correctly… win-win-win.

Since I’m focusing on two organizations this month, I am splitting my donations, $15 towards Cat Advocates of Troy and $15 towards Purrs in Piqua.

Donate to Purrs in Piqua Here

Donate to Cat Advocates of Troy Here

 

I am making my donation in honor of:

  • Lori – my mom, who always talked my dad into keeping the kittens I brought home.
  • Michelle – my friend who loves cats so much she had allergy shots so she can have cats of her own, sans sniffles!
  • Anita – a family friend who shares my family’s love of cats, gardening, and a good bonfire.
  • Taylor – a fellow cat and coffee lover – I love sharing cat stories with Taylor while pulling shots of espresso at Winans!
  • Amanda – my first crazy cat lady internet crush – Amanda is an amazing advocate for women’s reproductive rights and has a bad-ass kitty named Boo Radley.
  • Patty – one of my WGS professors from Ohio University – I knew she was going to be one of my favorite professors when she started a lecture with pictures from I Can Has Cheezburger.

Happy Share + Give 2017!

If you feel like sharing the love by sharing this post on your social channels and/or by giving to Cats Advocates of Troy or Purrs in Piqua in honor of a friend or family member, please use the following hashtags in your post! You don’t have to donate to share the love, just re-tweet or share on FB or regram on Instagram! Let’s see how far we can Share + Give!

#shareandgive2017
#thisohiolife
#CatAdvocatesofOhio #PurrsinPiqua #tnr #trapneuterreturn #spayandneuter #straycat #feralcat

Travels: Louisville KY

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When I think of our little 2015 family vacation to Louisville, Kentucky, I think of firsts. This was the first time that my Dad’s extended family had gone on a vacation when my sister, cousins and I were adults (and all of us bringing along significant others). Our last big family vacation was to Disney World and Brittney and I were in elementary school. This was also the first time Kenneth and I had gone on a trip together as a married couple, outside of Ohio, since our honeymoon. This was also the first time we were gathering together, around the holidays, since my grandmother, Ruby, had passed away.

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We actually didn’t celebrate Christmas with my Dad’s side of the family in 2014. We weren’t ready to celebrate without her. My grandma was as vibrant as her name, Ruby. She made a family gathering feel festive. She was always down for a game of cards, dominoes or one of the board games we liked to play (Taboo and Pictionary were my picks, as long as Brittney was on my team so we could win!). She was colorful, a real character, she could be loud and she didn’t mince words (she and my grandpa on my mom’s side of the family liked to “argue” over who was more proud of their grandkids), but she was real. Ruby in full color.

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I think that’s why when I think of our trip to Louisville it’s always gray. It was a gray, overcast and rainy weekend, so that’s definitely part of it… but I think it was gray because it was our first time really getting together without Grandma there. We had a good time on the trip, but it was definitely one that she would have made more fun and festive.

I plan to visit Louisville again, probably in summer so I can see the city at its brightest and most colorful!

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We did a lot of dining on this trip, which is personally one of my favorite things about vacations. You have to eat out. Technically you could plan ahead and pack a lot of your food, especially on trips where you drive to your destination, as we did. But for the most part, trying out new restaurants is a big part of vacationing, even on weekend trips.

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We dined at the Troll Pub Under the Bridge, an underground restaurant full of trolls where we had lunch in the hidden bookcase room! My assistant, Cam (actually, my sister’s boyfriend), demonstrated how the bookcase swings open to reveal two tables with booth seating. The Troll Pub offers pretty standard but delicious pub fare and has a unique atmosphere. The music selection was a nice mix of indie and alternative music. I’d check it out again!

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We spent a few hours exploring the Kentucky Science Center. This science museum got its start as the “cabinet of curiosities” in Kentucky’s Public Library System in 1871. Today it’s one of the region’s leading centers for informal science education! Within the three levels of interactive exhibits, we explored human health and the body, natural science, chemistry, physics, and weather.

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At the entrance to the Kentucky Science Center – is a giant parabolic reflector. It reminded me of a giant mosaic of mirrors. You can see a mini version of this in your car’s headlights (it’s nowhere near as cool, though).

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We split up a few times throughout the center and I lost track of everyone a couple of times taking photos. We had fun watching my cousin’s kids play with the interactive children’s components and Kenneth and I took a few selfies with the two polar bears on display.

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Aiden had an absolute blast in the tornado simulator!

For dinner, we enjoyed authentic Louisville cuisine at Dish On Market. This popular, locally owned restaurant is in downtown Louisville and was a short walk from our hotel. Housed in the building where the old restaurant, Delta, once stood for decades, Dish On Market is the winner of several Leo Awards. In 2014 the restaurant won the Readers Choice, Best Burger, Best Bourbon List (they have 70 different Bourbons!), Best All You Can Eat Brunch, Best Bloody Mary and was a finalist in the Best Breakfast category.

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The restaurant has a clean, rustic atmosphere. Hardwood floors compliment the wood bar and red brick walls. We enjoyed supper on the second floor, overlooking diners sitting in booths in the room opposite the bar. Everything was delicious – everyone ordered something a little different, seafood, Cuban-style black bean soup, fresh salads, and sandwiches. It was at Dish On Market that I discovered that I really enjoy grits, which are usually made gluten-free.

Our food was fantastic and we had really great service! I will definitely keep Dish on Market on my list of go-to restaurants for the next time we’re in Louisville! If you go, I highly recommend the country peach tea – it’s made with Benchmark peach bourbon, sweet tea, and lemon.

Since we were in Louisville at the end of the 2014 winter holidays, we were able to catch the last weekend of the Louisville MEGA Cavern’s Lights Under Louisville. This Christmas light show features 17 miles of underground passages, 850+ Christmas light displays, 2,000,000+ points of light and festive Christmas music. The driving tour lasts about 30 minutes and is the only underground light show of its kind.

Louisville MEGA Cavern, which was mined between the 1930s and 1970s, also offers a rentable underground event space, and an underground zip line course, tram tour, bike park and ropes challenge course. The entire cavern spans approximately 100 acres and stays at a steady 58°F year round.

It was a fun experience! The light displays featured classic Christmas songs and characters like Santa and his reindeer, Christmas carolers and ice skaters, as well as modern winter themes, like Disney’s movie Frozen. I enjoyed trying to take photos of the lights as our vehicle slowly rolled through the cavern. I’ve never taken photos of Christmas lights while moving before, it was definitely a challenge and resulted in some rather trippy photos. 

North End Cafe was the last restaurant we dined at before splitting into two separate groups and returning home. Kenneth and I went with my parents, my sister, Brittney and her boyfriend, Cam, to check out the Kentucky Derby Museum. My aunt, uncle, cousins and their spouses and children visited the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.

North End Cafe was a great way to end our mini vacation in Louisville. Opening in the spring of 2003, it’s a relatively new restaurant and features locally sourced produce, some of which they grow themselves on their multi-acre farm in Simpsonville, Kentucky. The menu features lots of healthy dishes, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options as well as standard American breakfast and lunch items.

The cafe reminded me a lot of one of my favorite restaurants in Columbus, Northstar Café, which also focuses on local, healthy ingredients and has vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free options. Breakfast is my favorite meal and not many restaurants have gluten-free options beyond eggs, needless to say, I was pretty stoked. 🙂

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We had so many delicious breakfast foods – including gluten-free almond pancakes with warm honey and a dollop of whipped cream. Everything was fantastic and we had a great time at North End Cafe! The restaurant has a nice laid back atmosphere with plenty of natural light from the large windows. I loved the exposed brick and gorgeous paintings displayed. The next time we’re in Louisville, I definitely want to dine here again, if only so I can get those pancakes again!Happy Smilies Edible/Food Smilies

After enjoying our breakfast at North End Cafe, we explored a very eclectic and full backyard just up the road from the restaurant. It’s a private residence, owned by Jerry Lotz. He calls his collection Jerry’s Junk and this property is one of five houses in the neighborhood full of junk. It made for some interesting photos!

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Our last big stop of our Kentucky mini-cation was to the Kentucky Derby Museum. The museum was opened in 1985 to preserve the history of the Kentucky Derby. The museum is located on the grounds of Churchill Downs, which is where the Kentucky Derby is held annually on the first Saturday in May. The museum has two floors of exhibit space, including a 360-degree theater playing The Greatest Race. Many of the exhibits are interactive: we were able to place bets, ride in a simulated race and play with horse-inspired games and toys. We also went on a guided tour of  Churchill Downs, learning the history of the Kentucky Derby and hearing stories about the talented horses that won the derby and the jockeys who rode them.

Horses have a special place in my family on my dad’s side. My dad and Aunt Deedy grew up with horses and showed them at the Miami County Fair. My dad even brought his pony, Sugar Babe, with him when he married my mom. My dad and Sugar Babe were the same age and I’m one of the few people I know (who didn’t grow up on a farm) who can say I had a pony when I was growing up!

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My dad was the most excited to visit Churchill Downs and the museum, but we all had a great time!

Ramsi’s Cafe on the World was one of the restaurants I found and requested we visit specifically when I found out we would be going to Louisville. The website for Ramis’s Cafe describes its cuisine as “global comfort food.”

This is the food your Grandmother might have cooked for you if your grandmother was from Egypt or North Africa or Spain or Alabama. 

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Half of the menu is advertised as being vegetarian, which even though I’m no longer a vegetarian, I still enjoy vegetarian fare. My mom is a vegetarian, so I also want to make sure she can eat more than a salad when we go out! Thirty percent of the menu is vegan and many dishes are available gluten-free. Ramsi’s Cafe also serves local produce, eggs, and chicken from their own farm, Raising Hope Organic Farm.

A huge menu with diverse international flavors, gluten-free and vegetarian options with locally grown ingredients? I had to eat at this restaurant! And my family was happy to comply. 🙂

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Having enjoyed a large breakfast earlier that day at North End Cafe we arrived at Ramsi’s at the odd time of afternoon that is well past lunch but not quite time for dinner. We essentially had the restaurant to ourselves, which I only attribute to the odd hour we chose to eat, not a reflection of the popularity of the restaurant. Everything we had was delicious and I loved the restaurant’s laid back and eclectic decor.

My notes for that day describe our food as “Amaaazing.” Going from memory, I can confidently say that I will be eating again at Ramsi’s Cafe on the World the next time I am in Louisville. My only regret is finding yet another delicious restaurant that is not down the street from where I live, looking at these photos and thinking about what we ate has had my stomach growling for the past hour thinking about fried plantains and gluten-free sandwiches. 🙂

While were only in Louisville for the weekend, I definitely feel like we made some lasting memories and have a new city to visit when we need to get away from the business of our everyday lives.

Have you ever been to Louisville? What are your favorite spots to visit? Share in the comments below – I’ll need new places to check out the next time I’m there!

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New Project: #HomeGrownStories

I have a new and exciting project to announce! In partnership with the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau, I am working on #HomeGrownStories. Inspired partly by Humans of New York (@HumansofNY), #HomeGrownStories will feature images and stories of the people of Miami County. Folks who live here, work here and visit, people who just love Miami County.

This is a project that feels like a really good fit for me. I’ve been trying to share why my community and home state is amazing with my blog and on social media, but lately it’s felt like something was missing. I wasn’t connecting with the people in my community who already know how awesome Ohio is.

That’s what I will be able to do with #HomeGrownStories. I will be going out to meet business owners, residents, and visitors who love Miami County and interviewing them. I have a couple interviews under my belt and already I can tell that this project is going to be amazing. There are so many interesting stories in my home county!

To follow along on this project, be sure to follow the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau on social media. You can also check out the initial blog post about the project on the MCVCB blog and my first interview with Mainstreet Piqua Director, Lorna Swisher.

I hope you enjoy these small glimpses into the lives of the people who make Miami County such a wonderful place to live!

Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau

Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

BlogThis Will Be Our Story. #HomeGrownStories

#HomeGrownStories – Lorna Swisher

Share + Give – National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

This month’s Share + Give post is going to get just a tiny bit political, which I said I wouldn’t do in my introduction post, but I hope you will let it slide. The political climate of the past year has been weighing on me. The 2016 election and the current administration have left me feeling hopeless, worried and to be completely frank, depressed. I am worried about my friends and people in my community who are not white or Christian. I did not see or feel any love for black, brown, LQBTQ, non-Christian, not native-born and low-income people in this past election. Every time I turn on the radio or watch an episode of shows I usually enjoy, I feel the weight of this worry, pressing down on me. This election was not about love or kindness and it breaks my heart.

For the time being, I’m on a news cleanse no NPR, no Daily Show, no Samantha Bee, no John Oliver. I have stopped notifications for all of the political groups I belong to on Facebook. My husband and I don’t talk politics right now. I’ve been “news-free” or as much as I can be, for a week and a half now. I’m honestly surprised by how lighter I feel. I also feel guilty, I feel like I should be calling my representatives every day and keeping up on the news. But I know that I can’t help anyone if I’m too depressed to do take care of myself.

I want everyone to be happy, feel loved and safe in their home and community. No matter what your political beliefs are, I feel that is something we can all agree on. While I am not currently engaging in politics, I am working to make a difference, small as it may be, in my community. One of those ways is this project, Share + Give.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Photo by Farshid Assassi/ Assassi Productions

For the month of February, I have chosen to donate to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati or NURFC for short. NURFC seems like an obvious choice since February is Black History month, but I also chose NURFC because it gives me hope right now.

Not only does NURFC center educate its visitors about the history of the Underground Railroad and African American history, it also focuses on the efforts of Modern Abolition. Yes, the Modern Abolition, as in efforts to end slavery that is currently happening. Slavery didn’t completely end with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. NURFC estimates that there are approximately 27 million people currently enslaved around the world. The center hopes to educate, inspire and encourage ordinary people to take actions every day to end slavery. The heroes that they highlight are ordinary people who have worked with others to do extraordinary things.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was opened in Cincinnati, right on the bank of the Ohio River, in 2004. Over 100,000 people visit this museum every year to learn the history of the Underground Railroad and about the modern freedom heroes who work to end slavery and human trafficking today. The center serves to create a dialogue on freedom and human rights. The mission of NURFC is to share stories about freedom heroes, from the time of the Underground Railroad to today.

Everyday Freedom Heroes, Photo by Farshid Assassi/ Assassi Productions

I find the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center inspiring, especially now when I have been feeling discouraged. This quote by Bill Clinton, from the video about NURFC above, seems particularly relevant today.

We never struggle to be free so that we can be divided. We struggle to be free because equality was required for us to be one out of many. That is now the challenge that faces us in an interdependent world. It is the most important thing of all. More important than any specific position on climate change or terror or anything else is whether we are capable of living with the absolute conviction that as wonderful as our differences are, our common humanity matters more.
– Bill Clinton, 2007 International Freedom Conductor

I love that line – “… whether we are capable of living with the absolute conviction that as wonderful as our differences are, our common humanity matters more.” I’ll say it again, OUR COMMON HUMANITY MATTERS MORE. This is my new mantra.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center gives me hope and reminds me that there is a lot of love in the world, even when I don’t see it on the news or hear about it on the radio. My small donation will help NURFC continue their work, using the lessons of the Underground Railroad to teach, encourage and inspire the modern fight for freedom.

Donate Here

The following six people inspire me to be a better person, some of them on a daily basis (thank you, Facebook!). They also serve as a reminder of how many wonderful and caring people there are in the world.

They also serve as a reminder of how many wonderful and caring people there are in the world.

I am making my donation in honor of:

  • Monica – a friend from my library days, Monica constantly reminds me on FB to be kind. Just today she posted a picture that said “Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people” a quote from Karen Salmansohn. With the picture, Monica wrote, “I don’t always get this right, but I strive to do it when I’m able.”
  • Regina – my hairstylist when I lived in Columbus, Regina makes me laugh on a daily basis with her snarky political posts and inspires me with her fantastic yoga poses.
  • Antuan – a friend from my library days, Antuan made me feel so welcomed when I came to work with him at a different library branch in Cincinnati. I am grateful that FB has allowed us to keep in touch!
  • Jamie – I know Jamie from my Columbus days when I was a member of the Emerging Museum Professionals group. She shares my love of social media and is so bright and positive! She works at NURFC and I think of her as a role model for my own work.
  • Nate – Nate owned a coffee shop, called Perks, that I used to frequent when I was at Ohio U. He hosted my very first photography show in Perks. I’m grateful for that first solo art show, but I’m more grateful to be able to read what Nate writes on FB. He writes so elegantly about his family, life in Athens, spirituality and what it means to be loving and accepting of others.
  • Tim – Tim is a fellow coffee professional and writer whom I met through a coffee event last year. Since becoming friends online I’ve come to know Tim as a very kind and compassionate person who is so open-minded and willing to really talk to (and listen) people whom he does not agree with.

Happy Share + Give 2017!

If you feel like sharing the love by sharing this post on your social channels and/or by giving to National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in honor of a friend or family member, please use the following hashtags in your post! You don’t have to donate to share the love, just re-tweet or share on FB or regram on Instagram! Let’s see how far we can Share + Give!

#shareandgive2017
#thisohiolife
#cincyusa #mynurfc #revealstories #inclusivefreedom #blackhistorymonth