07 December 2008

Festivus for the Rest of Us

The holiday party season is upon us & I’m still in denial that the end of the year is rapidly approaching. Didn’t it just begin? This time last year I was packing for a long Puerto Rican holiday and now I am battling snow, ice & 14 degree temperatures! I think it is time to pack again. The Chicago holiday season is always a blast. There is a black-tie almost every weekend until the end of January from the city to the North Shore. What I love about these FĂȘtes is that they are fundraisers for very good causes: cancer, domestic violence, homeless people, homeless pets, stroke and others.

01 December 2008

Woman's Club Fashion Show

What I really love about the different women's clubs that my sister & I belong to are the fashion shows! Many times we incorporate the members into the show as models and that is when I have the most fun. I always find it interesting what the designers pick for me to wear. Sometimes I think the outfits are absolutely perfect & I may even walk away with a purchase off my own back-other times LeAnita &  I wonder, "What in the heck were they thinking??!!"

23 November 2008

Preppy Get-a-way to the Islands

The final holiday get-a-way idea is to the Islands. What a great time to get out of the cold, especially when it has already snowed in some places and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet!! Puerto Rico, Martinique & St. Lucia are some of my favorite places. Cory & I spent every waking moment on the beach or in the water, with a couple of retreats for a couples’ massage to recuperate from all of the sun exposure. The nice thing about an island get-a-way is that you can pack very lightly and you don’t have to travel far to submerge yourself in a foreign language. I loved Martinique because they truly put my French skills to the test. The islands are full of unusual things to do. Where else can you ride a horse bareback into the ocean? I grew up riding horses, but taking one out into the middle of the water was quite an experience. Snorkeling among tropical fish is incredible. You may even catch a school of fish following you as if you are the lead fish! One of my favorite days was a morning trip by Jeep through the rain forest, which lead to an afternoon bike ride through a banana tree-filled jungle to a lagoon. At the lagoon, a group of us cooled off under the waterfall. At night, you can find party boats and ships on the water. One of the ships used in Pirates of the Caribbean can also be seen sailing among the many Caribbean islands. You can still find a lot of deals during the holidays and there are a lot of housing options at your destination. Instead of booking a hotel, look for house rentals along the beach-of course, booking them well before you get there. Renting a home with another couple can also cut down on your expense. While everyone else is shut inside trying to stay warm during the winter holidays, you can return after the new year with a tan.

18 November 2008

Preppy-get-a-way to the Mountains

The second Preppy get-a-way pick for the holidays is an escape to the mountains. A lot of people hit the slopes during the holidays, but I love snowmobiling! Ironically, growing up on the right coast, I always envisioned the left coast as perpetually sunny & hot-until I met Cory. He introduced me to the mountains of California and specifically of his second home in Bear Valley. What a blast it is to stay in the mountains where the snow is “deafening”. With a ground powdered in flakes, you can’t hear a thing in the woods. Everything is silent and peaceful. Peaceful-until we kick the snowmobiles into gear! We spent all day hitting the different trails along the mountainside, even giving a couple of kids a lift along the way. When we took a break inside the clubhouse, we ran into actor, Bob “Duke” Conrad. The three of us sat alone in a restaurant with a bottle of vino and talked about his movies. Several years before, he had judged a pageant where my sister was a contestant and he called her on the phone to chat a bit. If you have to be in a cold weather climate during the holidays, I would recommend a nice mountain hideaway where you can spend every night by the fire.

15 November 2008

Preppy Get-a-way to Italy

As the holidays are rapidly approaching, people are booking their get-a-ways & I am putting a few suggestions on the blog. The first is Italy. Although Italy is not my favorite country, I have had an amazing time each time I have visited. My sister picked our dog’s name, “Giuseppe”, after one of our visits. Below is a photo of Seppe and his very famous Shih-tzu underbite. In addition to obvious destination sites like the Vatican, Pantheon and the Coliseum, it is always fun to find more obscure things to do while traveling abroad. After spending time in the more common areas, Cory found a cute hotel in Costiera Amalfitana (the Amalfi coast) for us. Every day, we walked down the winding roads of the coastline to a small restaurant for our meals. It wasn’t so bad going down to the restaurant, it was the walk back up that became a challenge! We also had a tiny grocery store nearby & stocked up on all sorts of Italian treats for our room. There are few tourists in this area, making it a very romantic part of the country too. There is not a lot of shopping available either. It is best to book a private car & have the driver take you to nearby Positano, down to Sorrento or out to Capri for the shops. With a breath-taking view (as seen in the above photos), we also spent an entire day in the room & on our patio sipping vino, watching the children in the street below our window play football (soccer) and simply enjoying one of the most spectacular parts of Italy. The truly nice thing about where we were along the Amalfi is that few people spoke fluent English, which forces a person to really brush up on one’s Italian skills! By the way, I took the photo of Cory & me looking out over the coast. I am especially proud of this one because it looks like a third person would have taken it. I think I should make photography my day job too.

08 November 2008

L.L. Bean comes to Illinois

One of my favorite stores finally made its way to the midwest. L.L. Bean has finally migrated from the East coast. In the past I had to wait for a trip back home to stock up on my duck boots and other goodies from the preppy outdoor store, or I had to order from the catalog. Now I can roll into The Bean without any great fanfare. This is my brother-in-law trekking it through the snow to the store with me shortly after their grand-opening.

07 November 2008

What was your favorite concert?

I have been to some amazing concerts in my life & all of them vastly different. Seriously, how does one compare a multi-band rock concert featuring Def Leppard, Foreigner and Styx to a concert with Kenny Rogers; or Destiny’s Child to Sting?  Other than flirting with Philip Bailey & the rest of Earth, Wind & Fire while sitting front row with my husband, I have to admit that Kenny Rogers will always be at the top of the list, considering the number of times that I have had the chance to go back stage and “hang” with the bearded one before he performed. Kenny has even called my mom on my cell phone, which needless to say was quite a shock to her.  They had a great conversation talking about his music and Texas-the native state to both of them.   I met Kenny Rogers in a Dallas parking lot in May 2001,when I was an anchor/reporter. The night before the parking lot encounter, my friend,Guy,called me to say that Kenny was giving an interview at a country music radio station & suggested that I go to the station to try and meet him. I drove my car into the lot singing to his music and happened to park next to Kenny’s car driven by one of his promotional guys named Gator, who still remains a good friend. It was incredible! I just stood there in the parking lot telling Kenny all about my childhood crush and the poster of him that I kept over my bed when I was 9 yrs old. It was right next to my poster of Benji. Here’s a secret: I still have that poster, but now it stays rolled up in my closet (and yes, it really IS in the closet and not back over my bed for you doubters!!). After that, I received a lot of autographed things from Kenny and a lifetime backstage pass.   WHAT IS THE BEST CONCERT YOU HAVE EVER BEEN TO? My top three, not including Kenny Rogers are Elton John,  Phil Collins and a tie between Earth, Wind & Fire & George Michael (yes, I’m reaching way back on this one, but George was hot).

23 October 2008

Trick or Treat!

Being married to the owner of a chain of Halloween stores, coming up with a costume idea for the past several years has usually not been that difficult. This year, Cory’s stores, Spirit Halloween Superstores in Houston & Austin are raising money for the kids at Texas Children’s Hospital. In mid-October, he spearheaded a fabulous Halloween party for children, ages 2-16, at Texas Children’s. Kids spent an entire afternoon forgetting about their illnesses & focused on face-painting, pumpkin painting, movies, games and best of all, a free costume from Spirit Halloween. Speaking of costumes, this is the first year where I am simply stumped on what to be. I’ve searched my personal stash of costumes, as well as the Spirit aisles left and right-first planning on a sexy vampire costume, then a trendy Go-Go girl. As the parties begin this weekend, I’m completely indecisive. Ok, preppy readers, what are you going to be, and can you also give me some more ideas? I hope each of you has a Happy Halloween-Trick or Treat & stay away from those smelly feet!

09 October 2008

My Breast Cancer Story

As I approach my 37th birthday this Sunday, I am celebrating by coincidentally being featured in Girlfriends Health Guide . October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and my story is about having breast cancer at a young age. Girlfriends is a free quarterly health publication, published by Strive Media Institute. In 2007, I had a lumpectomy which, after a biopsy, was found to be the very beginning stage of breast cancer. I am VERY fortunate. I did not have to endure chemotherapy or radiation, but was urged to begin an oral treatment of tamoxifen. I am a huge advocate of self breast exams for the prevention of breast cancer, and especially encourage women in their 20s & 30s to do them because of our generation’s invincible attitude that breast cancer could “never happen to me-I’m too young.” I recently hosted a video about self-examinations for ABCAP.org . I also hosted a DVD for cancer survivors for my sorority, Phi Mu Fraternity, called “Scarves”. Now that I have been without cancer for a year (still not considered cancer free) , I will spend the next four years of my life doing MRIs, mammograms and appointments with two different oncologists every six months. Breast cancer stories about younger women, including actress, Christina Applegate, are becoming a bit more common. Hopefully, this will encourage women our age and younger to become more informed of this disease. Encourage all of the women in your life to do self-examinations monthly, in addition to having an exam done by a physician. Men are prone to breast cancer too and should also be checked. Please share your stories or dedicate a message to someone you know who has been touched by breast or other types of cancer.

05 October 2008

Galveston after Hurricane IKE

Sadly, it will take a VERY long time before Galveston, Texas, recovers from Hurricane Ike. There is complete devastation in the Bay City just south of Houston. Homes are gone & those that survived will more than likely end up abandoned. With no electricity or plumbing (there are port-a-potties on every other block), Galveston is now a ghost town. Trash mounds about 50 feet high and torn up buildings litter this coastal city. Gas stations have simply collapsed on themselves and hotels and other buildings will remained closed for a while. Driving down I-45 South from Houston to Galveston there are boats scattered along the interstate from where Ike lifted them out of the water and threw them about. The boat pictured above is sitting on the shoulder of I-45. The photo of the building next to the port-a-potty with all of the boarded windows is the JP Morgan Chase Tower in downtown Houston. It is the tallest five-sided building in the world & sustained a lot of damage with blown out windows. Keep the people of Galveston in your prayers!

25 September 2008

It's All Greek to Me

One of the greatest decisions I have made in my life was to become a member of Phi Mu Fraternity. Founded in 1852 at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, Phi Mu has provided 156 years of amazing sisterhood. Once known as the Philomathean Society, the second oldest secret society for women, our sorority became Phi Mu in 1904. I had the honor of hosting a Phi Mu Foundation fundraiser video for breast cancer survivors and was a national convention speaker in 2006 in Nashville, TN. What an experience it was to look out into a sea of faces who were all my sorority sisters! On a particular flight from TX to MD several years ago, a flight attendant brought me a note from a passenger who was sitting in the back of the plane. I opened it and it said “Hi Phi Mu Sister, it is nice to see you on board!” I was wearing a pink Phi Mu jacket which I had embroidered in a store near SMU in Dallas, and it was my first time wearing it. How awesome it was to meet a sorority sister on the same flight, thanks to my jacket. Not only are Phi Mus everywhere, but GREEKS are all over the place! Now that you’ve heard about my Greek highlights, I want to hear about YOU! What fraternity or sorority do you belong to & what do you love the most about your organization? GO GREEK!!

23 September 2008

Rock the VOTE

There is absolutely NO reason why people should not vote in this year’s election. At a time when our laws actually allow everyone to vote now, all of us need to go to the polls this year. When one thinks about all of the women and people of color who were DENIED the right to vote & the sacrifices they made for us all to cast our ballots, we owe it to them and to ourselves to go to the polls. You can ROCK the VOTE by registering on their Website if you have not already done so.

18 September 2008

Rikki Hosting WISE TV: Faith, Race & Politics

Wise TV Forum WISE-TV Forum is a new television series in Chicago, Illinois, that promotes WYCC-TV 20’s mission to enrich, enlighten, entertain and engage the diverse and multicultural Chicago area and help bridge the gap between racial, ethnic, class and gender groups. WATCH ME HOSTING THE SHOW Faith, Race and Politics Saturday, September 20, 2008 8:00 PM Monday, September 29, 2008 8:00 PM Wednesday, October 01, 2008 4:00 AM Prominent religious leaders representing the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths discuss what happens when race, politics and the clergy collide. The guests discuss how the media manipulates the message and attempts to restrain the clergy's freedom of speech. They also discuss the issue of Neo-McCarthyism in the current political climate in America, and how the religious can create social change both locally and globally.

15 September 2008

11 September 2008

The Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ) is a very special non-profit organization that helps to provide equal employment and education for Ethiopian Israelis. IAEJ is based in Jerusalem, with employees through Israel helping to further their cause by helping Ethiopian immigrants assimilate into Israeli culture. You can see more photos by photographer, Ilan Ossendryver, and learn more about Ethiopian Jews who benefit from IAEJ through his amazing photos! As a Black woman who is also Jewish, I will always have a fondness of the incredible work IAEJ is doing to help my brothers & sisters in Israel. I am working with the jewelry company Israel Blesing who is also helping IAEJ by offering a 10% discount to you for your online purchase. In addition to your discount, they will donate 6% of your purchase to IAEJ. To redeem your discount, use the code IAEJ in the coupon code box and click “Apply Coupon.” Thank you for helping to support Ethiopian Jews as they seek equality in Israel. Every donation is a big step towards that goal.

10 September 2008

A Treat from Israel

I received a special treat from Tel Aviv. It is a necklace with my Hebrew name, “Rachel Tovah.” If you don’t read Hebrew, it is read from right to left. The first three letters represent (in English) “R” “CH” “L” The next four letters from right to left are equivalent to “T” “O” “V” “H.” I bought my necklace from a company in Israel called Israel Blessing, and they truly are an amazing company!! Before I ordered my name necklace, I sent them an email with several questions about their products, which were answered immediately. A real bonus is their shipping. They sent my necklace weeks before I had expected it. I will certainly order from them again. Their products also come in script & not just the block letters. I prefer the block because I learned to read Hebrew in block when I was studying for my Bat Mitzvah.

07 September 2008

Polo in the Park

There is nothing like a Sunday afternoon of Polo in the Park. As an avid equestrian and former novice polo player myself, I have enjoyed this season for many years. Mercedes-Benz sponsored today’s event and flanked one of the fields with their vintage cars. I even found one made in the same year I was~and like any early 1970s model, is still in its prime ;). Of course, the half-time brings the ever-popular & traditional stomping of the divots, but not the steaming ones! Some very clever little boys turned the goal posts at one end of the field into their personal soccer match while the rest of us stomped the rest of the field. Only one more weekend of polo is left, then the only polo ponies I will see for a while will be at the Ralph Lauren store.