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Editor in Chic

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I had a tough time deciding what to write about for this week’s column. It’s our "Hero" issue, so I felt like I should write about a hero in my life. But I haven’t experienced anything life-threatening (knock on wood) where I’d need a hero to rescue me from an otherwise looming tragedy. I couldn’t believe I didn’t have a hero (or at least I didn’t think I did) to write about!


In search of inspiration, I looked up the definition of "hero." For the record, professional writers consider the classic "Webster’s Dictionary defines (insert topic of story here)" a literary cop out. So, I apologize to any of my fellow writers I’m about to disappoint.


I learned that, dating back to Greek mythology, a hero has been defined as someone who displays great strength and courage and is celebrated for bold exploits. In mythology, it’s often the offspring of a mortal and a god.


After reading this, I immediately knew who I’d write about: Heather Ray. Our health story this week tells you more about her, the heroic life she lived and how it was unfortunately cut too short due to a long battle with breast cancer. But I want to tell you about my personal experience with her, and how she touched my life after spending one short day with her.


I met Ray last October though our Bras with Flair on the Square event. We held a contest for people to nominate a breast cancer survivor, and then readers voted on who they thought should win a pamper package. Ray was nominated and won by a landslide.


A made-over, freshly-pampered Ray was scheduled to be the grand finale of our fashion show at the event. I wanted a video to run on the jumbotron on Fountain Square so that everyone could hear her story before she walked out on the runway. So I went to the spa to do a video interview with Ray before she began her day of pampering.


Ray hobbled through the spa doors on her crutches (she lost a leg early in life to a different kind of cancer), her hair thinning from all the chemo and radiation her body had endured. She had every reason to be depressed and grumpy. I curiously watched Ray as the stylist worked on her hair. Ray simply smiled the whole time, as if she didn’t have a care in the world. It baffled me to see how genuinely thankful and happy she was.


When I got the opportunity to interview her for the video embedded below, I learned why she was so thankful and happy. It wasn’t because of the pampering (albeit, I’m sure that helped!). It was because she battled with cancer from such a young age, came toe-to-toe with death more times than she could count. She considered every day borrowed. She said her bad days helped her appreciate the good ones.


She said she was thankful for her diseases and treatment in some ways because they put other challenges she faced into perspective. She participated in day-long Spinning marathons and raised more than $30,000 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure Cincinnati. She lost a high-powered, high-paying job in the midst of a divorce. But none of these challenges were more difficult than her battle with cancer.


In our interview, where she was just given a clean bill of health, Ray said, "Can [the cancer] come back? Sure it can. It’s a realistic thought. But I live for my kids. My kids need a mommy."

She lost her battle with cancer in February this year, and now that line haunts me.


There, right in front of me sat a real-life hero. She exhibited great strength to bravely fight numerous kinds of cancer over the course of several decades. She found the courage to stay vigilant and continue treatment because her two little girls depended on her. She’s celebrated for her bold exploits of raising large sums of money for breast cancer research and inspiring thousands through her personal experience. And while she might not literally be the offspring of a mortal and a god, I think the big man upstairs sent her here for a short time to let us meet a true earth angel.


When I learned of Ray’s death, I sobbed. I felt like I cried a tear for every day she had to battle those deadly diseases, for every worry she had about supporting her family without a job or a husband, for every day those two little girls would have to live without the mommy who loved them so dearly.


I’m crying again just writing this. She affected me more than some people I’ve known my entire life — and I only knew her for a day. She inspired me to be better, enjoy life more, hug my loved ones a little tighter and put all of my challenges into perspective because they couldn’t compare to hers.


Heather, if there’s Internet in Heaven and you’re reading this, I want you to know how thankful I am to have met you and learned your story. You have forever affected me. You truly are my hero.

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Ever since I started Cincy Chic three and a half years ago, I’ve been pinching myself. I love my profession, my staff and all the cool people I get to meet along the way.


But I have to say, my pinchers have been working over time this year because I’ve really gotten to meet some out-of-this world people. From olympic gold medalists to the hosts of my favorite show, TLC’s "What Not to Wear," I’ve been truly blessed with who I’ve crossed paths with this year.


On April 1, I got a call from someone at P&G. She said Stacy London was in town and asked if I’d like to meet her later that day. I thought it was an April Fool’s joke, so i didn’t take her seriously at first. Luckily, she got it through my thick skull that London really was in town and I did get to meet her. It was surreal. She was so nice, down-to-earth, well-spoken and knowledgeable.


She was in town to talk about P&G news about Pantene, and I wrote all about it on the blog I write for, but we also got to talk about trends. She rattled off several great trends to keep an eye out for. Here are a few she mentioned: Pale/nude/neutral colors, neo-tribal ethnic prints, nautical horizontal stripes, military/army-inspired styles and caged sandals.


I loved how in-tune she was with the latest and greatest fashion trends, but she did mention several times how to modify the trends. That intrigued me, because any other time I’ve talked to people in the fashion industry, they give me a laundry list of the newest trends, and that’s that. But with London, she said not everyone can pull off the pale colors and pastels. She said to be careful with greens, and that pinks and blues are easier for the average person to pull off. And she cautioned anyone with "big girls" to not attempt the horizontal stripe look, as it won’t be flattering.


Then, just last weekend, I got the opportunity to meet London’s co-host on "What Not to Wear," Clinton Kelly. He, too, was very friendly and informative. But he said something very interesting in his interview that inspired my column’s topic this week: Timeless Trends.


When I asked him about the latest and greatest trends for my blog interview, be sighed and said "You know, I don’t really focus on trend, trend, trend. It’s not that it’s not my area of expertise. I’m just not passionate about trends. I’m really passionate about dressing women — real women at that."


They both opened my eyes to focus less on fashion-forward trends, and more on what looks right on my particular body type. Kelly especially underscored the importance of knowing where your lumps and bumps are, how to diminish them with shapewear and a properly fitted bra, and dressing in a way that flatters your figure — regardless of your size.


Because this week’s issue is our "Summer Trend Report," I wanted to share my "a-ha" moment with you. Remember to focus more on dressing for your body type than dressing to mimic the runway trends you see on the size zero models. That’s not realistic. But the timeless trend of a classic beauty is.


Check out my interviews with both Stacy and Clinton below. And click here to read my blog!


Stacy London


Clinton Kelly

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I signed up for an art class in high school, thinking it would be a cake class. I loved art and thought it would be a nice break from all the difficult trigonometry, physics and chemistry I was learning in my other classes.


It was my senior year, and I was weeks away from graduating. We had one last project in art class to complete: A clay vase. Not to brag, but I created a masterpiece. It was beautiful, with intricate vines and ivy leaves climbing up the sides and encircling the top rim. My teacher, Pam Kravetz who you can read about in this week’s spotlight story, complimented me and so did a lot of my friends in class. I was really proud of it. My mom loves ivy, so I was going to give it to her as my last art project of my high school career.


All the students put their projects in the kiln and went home for the day. The next day, I came in to class so excited to see my piece and how it turned out. Mrs. Kravetz started passing out the finished projects to students one by one. And when she was done, I was the only student without a project in front of me. She saw my concerned and confused face and quickly came over to me.


As she knelt down, she whispered to me, "I’m sorry, Amy. Yours must have been the one that blew up in the kiln last night." I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I decided crying was the best option (typical emotional teenager choice).


I felt like kicking the kiln, yelling at the teacher, and breaking someone else’s project so they could see how I felt. Luckily, in retrospect, I did none of the above. I just sulked.


I was sad that my beautiful creation was no more and sad I couldn’t give my mom the gift I had planned to give her. I also was concerned I would get a bad grade. Apparently, when you use too much water when forming the clay, it expands and will cause the project to burst in the kiln. Rookie mistake, but I wanted to maintain a high GPA for the last semester of my senior year. I had some pending scholarships depending on it!


Mrs. Kravetz kept me after class that day. It was then I learned the most important lesson of my entire 16 years of school. She took my hand. In it, she put a clay leaf she recovered from the kiln explosion. She told me the semester wasn’t over and that she would stay after school if I was willing to put in the extra time so I could remake my project. And she said, "The great thing about failing is that you know more the next time you give it a try." 


I stayed after school for several 051710EIC.jpgdays, remade my vase, got an A in class, gave the vase to my mom and she loved it. But more importantly, I’ve repeated Mrs. Kravetz’s important lesson to myself countless times since. All throughout college, at my first "real world" jobs and especially since starting my own business here at Cincy Chic, I’ve used this lesson to remind myself that failure is just an opportunity to do better the next time.


I recently reconnected with Mrs. Kravetz on a personal level (gotta love Facebook). We went salsa dancing the other night together and I got the opportunity to thank her for that important life lesson. She smiled, and without a word, I could tell that’s exactly why she’s in the teaching profession.


We headed back on the dance floor and put that life lesson to good use. Despite stepping on a few partners’ toes while learning our first salsa moves, we knew more and were better for our second, third and fourth dance.

I think Garth Brooks said it best: "I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance."

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With today’s modern technology, it’s so easy to live life behind a TV or computer screen. I find myself getting wrapped up in an "America’s Next Top Model" marathon, chatting on Facebook and sending e-mails, and then I end up wondering what I did with my entire weekend.


Growing up, my parents refused to get cable and Internet. Mainly because they were cheap and we lived out in the boonies. But still, my parents believed in adventure.


My dad built me a tree house. Being the science teacher he was, he rigged up a pulley system so that my parents could put my lunch in the basket and I could reel it up. I’d stay up there the entire day hanging out with me, myself and I. Oh, and my imaginary friend Samadella (she’s a whole other story).


Me, myself and I — and Samadella — would play in the tree house, swing from the tree swing, dig in the sandbox, swim in the creek, build dams in the streams and pick wildflowers in the woods. My parents encouraged that and praised me for my adventures, dams and bouquets — even if what I picked were more weeds than wildflowers.


My parents were always taking me on road trips, too. Reading through this week’s stories, I relived a lot of my childhood as I visited Serpent Mound that this week’s Spotlight story mentioned and took a weekend retreat to Brown County Indiana that this week’s Career story highlights.


Another one of my childhood favorite weekend retreats was French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind. Get the sulfur water bath if you go. It’s stinky but effective!


It wasn’t until I read this week’s stories that I realized how different my life is now from when I grew up. Now, unfortunately, I’m attached to my computer, addicted to my Blackberry and sucked into my TV. This week’s stories have inspired me to unplug and get some real adventure back in my life.


I’m making a promise to myself to unplug and experience life like I was raised to do. Life is meant to be discovered, unearthed and explored. Not fed to you on an LCD screen in 30 minutes with three commercial breaks.


So, here’s to Adventure: Unplugged! Maybe I should call Samadella and see if she’d like to come along for the ride! Ha!

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I was a typical teenager: I knew everything and my parents were clueless. Only later would I learn it was quite the opposite.


I didn’t want to be seen or associated with them. I would defy them for the sake of defiance and argue for the sake of argument. This caused a lot of friction in the family unfortunately. But at this point, I’m just going to go ahead and blame it on my raging teenage hormones.


Things got better after I moved away to college. I became more thankful for the things they provided for me. (Funny how you gain gratitude for 18 years of free food and shelter when you have to start paying for it yourself!)


After college, I got a job in Philadelphia, but I came back often to see friends, family and my now-husband who all lived here in Cincinnati. I would call my mom on those long overnight drives from Philly to Cincinnati. We’d talk all throughout the night — partially because she wanted to keep me awake and partially because we really enjoyed each other’s company. So, there I was, having several hour-long conversations with the woman who I avoided in public and picked fights with at home.


My mom recently had some health issues, and I thought we were going to lose her to be quite honest. At her bedside, at one of her sickest states, I remember praying that she would be OK. She had so much life to still live, and it crushed me to think she might not see me get married, hold her grand babies or share in this friendship that was just budding between us.


I’m happy to report that she is fully recovered and I have my mom — and friend — back. She doesn’t live in town anymore, so we don’t get to see much of each other. But she’s the first person I call when something exciting happens, if I’m sad about something, or if I just need a good conversation on a long drive — because that’s what friends do.


I’d love to hear your mother-turned-friend stories, too. Please feel free to share them in the comment section below. And share them with your mom. Ahem, I mean "friend"!

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I was a fast food junkie and pre-packaged meal queen. I ate at my desk, in the car and on-the-go. Food was a nuisance to me. It was just something I had to do. You know, along with breathing and sleeping. But that all changed the summer I was a foreign exchange student in Dijon, France, my sophomore year of college.


No one appreciated my Quick Meal Queen status there. In fact, the other students pegged me as American the second they saw me huddled in a corner scarfing down a sandwich while doing homework on my lunch break. They said I needed to sit, relax and enjoy my meal. Granted, I still think their two-hour lunches are a little extreme, but I agreed I should at least slow down enough to taste my food.


I started going to cute little cafes at lunchtime with my new French friends. The streets were just lined with these adorable spots with open-air patios.


The people-watching was great, and so was the food. My new friends loved to teach me things about their food, culture and drinks. We’d get in great conversations about everything from the food to foreign politics. I started to look forward to lunch. I’d start the day wondering what we’d see, eat and talk about.


Every day we’d peruse the streets, and if we didn’t like how the food looked at one restaurant, we’d walk right next door and find something we did like.


Now, looking back, I learned how to enjoy myself at a meal that summer. It wasn’t just the food. It was the patio, people-watching, conversation, friends and everything else I experienced at those restaurants on the streets of Dijon.


I’ve tried to recapture that experience here in Cincinnati, but few places have the open-air patio feel I fell in love with. Lavomatic in Over the Rhine and Tellers in Hyde Park each have a good patio, but they’re on rooftops, so I miss people-watching from sidewalk passersby. Plus, I’ve yet to find anywhere in town with a street lined with cute cafe patios.


But last week, as I walked down Sixth Street to Mr. Sushi to meet friends, I saw a sign on the outside of a vacant window. It boldly said "Cincinnati Restaurant Row." I screeched to a halt and looked closer.


The sign read, "Five great restaurant spaces are available now, ranging in size from 2,100 to 3,600 sf. Each also has a particularly wonderful and rare commodity – outdoor dining space." The sign had a concept drawing of what this Restaurant Row soon will look like. The drawing looked like it had been perfectly captured from my dreams. This is what I had been looking for. I thought "This is exactly what the heart of our urban core needs!"


I’m in huge support of this new development, and I can’t wait to see which restaurateurs step up to plate. Ha! Literally!


To learn more about this tummy rumblin’ row, go to