My 2012 New Year's resolutions

I love the last day of the year, for a variety of reasons. First, more than any other day, champagne reigns supreme. Second, it is the occasion to wear something red and new. Mom always said that wearing something red and new would bring us good luck in the New Year, and this was always the perfect excuse to buy a new dress, new underthings, a new necklace (tonight I will wear a beautiful new red dress from my favorite store in Geneva, Apostrophe). Third, the last day of the year is the day to take stock of the previous 364 days, and to plan for the next 365. Last, but not least, the 31st of December is no longer “only” New Year’s Eve, it is also the eve of my wedding anniversary. Tomorrow will be the first…

I also love the last day of the year because it is the day to think about New Year’s goals and resolutions. Here are mine.

  1. Read one book per month. (In continuation of my 2011 “read more” goal – this time it is more measurable and thus more actionable).
  2. Have one spa treatment per month. I will count eyebrow waxes and pedis as spa treatments… this should be one resolution that is fun to work on. An expression of my belief that we all need to take better care of ourselves, and that I need to live what I preach.
  3. Continue to reduce clutter. I am a firm believer in quality over quantity, and I commit to purging more and buying less (but always nicer things).
  4. Develop a better morning routine. This is the same goal as I had for 2011 – I failed miserably at this this past year. Maybe it is because I don’t quite know what a better morning routine is. I just know that waking up to my phone’s horrible buzzer, checking email before getting out of bed, and immediately having my mind race about everything I need to do, every fire I need to put out, is not very zen. Maybe I should split this goal in two and say the first part is “figuring out what a better morning routine is,” while the second part will be implementing this new morning plan.
  5. Practice one random act of kindness per week. Kindness to my family, my friends, to perfect strangers, and to myself. Just because.
  6. Drink 16 ounces of water per day. In 2011, one of my goals was “drink more water” – like “read more,” it was too general and not quantifiable enough. Hence I failed. I will try again in 2012. 16 oz. may not be enough, but it’s a start. Baby steps.
  7. Continue to work at my personal relationships. Be the best wife I can be. The best sister I can be. The best friend I can be. The best daughter I can be. And more. Never take anyone I love for granted. And show/tell the people I love that I love them. Early and often.

It is only 9:30 am in New Orleans, and I have my 2012 resolutions figured out. This leaves me the rest of the day to get a head start on some of them… Happy New Year to you, may your 2012 be filled with love, happiness, health, and peace.

The pleasures of holiday travel

I love to travel. Good thing, as I just realized earlier today that this calendar year I will have travelled just over 100,000 miles. And that’s just on US Airways (which is 80% of my travel, Southwest gets the rest…). Good thing I do love to travel, I am on the plane, my second plane of the day, from Philly to Zurich. I am taking the roundabout route from DC to Geneva (DC-Philly-Zurich-Geneva). A few minutes aog, I had to get my passport checked at the gate check-in desk. The nice US Airways flight attendant looked at my boarding pass and said “Wow, Chairman, you must travel a lot, that’s a lot of miles.” I smiled, nodded, as she continued: “Are those your dad’s miles… you look so young…” I assured her they were all mine, and was somehow happy she asked if they were my father’s instead of my husband’s. May I don’t look like the globe-trotting beauty entrepreneur that I am, but at least I still look young enough that I must be getting perks from my father, not from my husband… Small victories.

One of the reasons I love to travel is the people watching at the airport. Have you ever noticed that airports seem to be these “unreal” spaces, out of time, out of space, out of our usual accepted behavior? Hence beer drinking at 7 am (which I have most seen at BWI airport). Or meltdowns at ticket counters where we forget all decorum and behave like 3 year olds. And the sweeter scene that I just witnesses, two sisters on my flight, one about 20, absolutely European, the other about 15, European but “Americanized” as my Mom would say. The older is encouraging the younger to drink Evian (did I say she was European?) and do some pre-overnight-flight stretches. So sweet. We smile at each other, that smile of older sisters taking care of younger sisters, and I think about Roxane, my young “Americanized” sister whom I will see tomorrow.

Today, I am particularly excited to sit on this plane for what I hope will be 7 hours. I can’t wait to sleep. No internet, no cell phone, just quiet time 30,000 feet up in the air. I am comfortable in Coach, and I wanted to share with you my travel tips. I know I share travel tips often (I do travel constantly), but the ones today are geared to overnight flights during the Christmas holidays.

  1. Extra time. I got to the airport in DC 90 minutes before my flight to Philly. I booked my flight from DC to Philly to have a 2.5 hour layover in Philly – just in case we would be late… which happens. Especially over the holidays. I love the US Airways lounge, and always thought the $40 day pass was the best investment even before I had access for free. Space. Quiet. Outlets to charge various devices. Nice bathrooms. Free wi-fi. Free wine. Free food (the warm kind). It is worth every bit of $40 if you don’t have automatic access.
  2. I can’t travel in sweatpants. I can’t even travel in yoga-wear. Not even for overnight flights. Instead, I have an all-cashmere outfit. Cashmere pants from White and Warren, which I bought years ago this time of year from my BFF’s boutique, Treat. A gray cashmere turtleneck from Apostrophe, my favorite boutique in Geneva. I can’t give up my heels – my travel heels are Lillybees of course. But at least I do take them off on the plane, to put on my bright pink Life Is Good socks. The whole outfit feels so good I get excited the day before knowing that I will get to wear all of this.
  3. My favorite eye mask – pink, silk, and so used that the elastic is a bit loose… I got this as a gift a few years ago from BFF Virginie, and haven’t used another since.
  4. My own bottle of water. There is nothing more uncomfortable than being thirsty on a plane, and while US Airways service is great even in coach, I hate to have to rely on someone else for water.
  5. Raw almonds. I don’t eat on overnight flights – I just get on, and go to sleep. So I need my emergency food.
  6. My very own Kantic+ intensely nourishing cream. Last night, I did our Kantic mask (as does Sharilyn Abbajay before every flight J), but throughout the flight, I need to moisturize.
  7. Judith Jackson Luna Body Elixir. It’s a roll-on, travel-friendly, and it smells so calming and soothing. Helps me relax, helps me not smell like plane.
  8. A toothbrush. Have you ever left your house in the morning without brushing your teeth? No. I don’t do it off a redeye either…
  9. Similasan Dry Eye Relief eye drops. Next to being thirsty, having dry eyes is the most uncomfortable feeling on a plane.
  10. A pashmina (which I think of as the adult woman’s blankie). More cashmere – a girl can never have enough cashmere. The one I have tonight is pink. Just in case it gets cool. Or in case I need a pillow.

The pilot just came on to say our flight will be 7 hours and 5 minutes. And boarding is complete, I have no one next to me. Tonight, coach feels very luxurious! And I need to turn off my computer.

By the time I post this, it will be Wednesday morning and I will be in Geneva, hopefully with my two suitcases filled to the brim with holiday gifts…. Is this how Santa Claus travels? In disguise? Happy holidays!

BeautyView: Sharilyn Abbajay, VP Global Spa, Retail and Fitness, Marriott International

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day with the board of the Washington Spa Alliance (WSPA), a DC-based association I am a founding member of whose mission is to “act as a knowledge center, connecting spa professionals in the nation’s greater capital region. WSPA works to promote the exchange and innovation in the field, and to ensure that the highest ideals of spa are met through policy and action.” I loved our meeting, our 2012 planning ideas, our brainstorming. And I particularly loved to be able to spend some time with Sharilyn Abbajay, WSPA’s co-chair, a dear friend of mine, and an industry veteran. During the breaks in our WSPA retreat day, I learned some new things about her…

AP: What city were you born in? SA: Toledo, OH.

AP: What city to do you live in? SA: Lanham, MD, although I feel like I live on an airplane.

AP: What is your middle name?  SA: Sue.

AP: What is your astrological sign? SA: Libra.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? SA: Touching people and making them feel special.

AP: Least favorite thing? SA: Too many choices.

AP: What is your most prized possession? SA: My family.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? SA: I’m a Nana… I have two grandsons, 4 and 1.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? SA: Yes, A Toy black watch. It’s all plastic, so I never have to take it off, and don’t have to worry about it when I travel.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? SA: Pearls.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? SA: Coco Chanel.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? SA: Hot bath with essential oils. Small indulgences…

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? SA: 1. Drink plenty of water. 2. The night before, use the Alchimie Forever blueberry Kantic Mask, religiously. 3. Pack light. If you forget it, you can always buy it there.

AP: What is your favorite book? SA: The Incredible Journey by British author Sheila Burnford. It teaches your survival, the importance of hope, perseverance, and protecting one another.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? SA: Fiji water. Per Dr. Pamela Peeke, I swore off alcohol two years ago.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? SA: Sleep. 7 to 8 hours every night.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? SA: I blend the Aveda Shakras with Chanel Number 5. Depending on the day, a bit more of one or a bit more of the other.

AP: Botox or not? SA: Not. Not to say I don’t need it…

AP: Hair color: natural or not? SA: Not.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. SA: I don’t have an ipod.

AP: Quote to live by. SA: Never take your eye off the ball.

AP: Who is your mentor? SA: I have a lot of mentors… Margory Abbajay, my aunt. She was the first female Vice President of Revlon.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. SA: Stay true to who you are.

BeautyView: Katia Beauchamp, Founder and Co-CEO, Birchbox

I love women entrepreneurs. I particularly love beautiful women entrepreneurs who have chosen the beauty industry as their playground. And above all, I love beautiful women entrepreneurs who have chosen the beauty industry as their playground and have gone to my Alma Mater, Harvard. I know two such women (I hope there are more…): Marla Malcolm Beck, of bluemercury fame, and Katia Beauchamp, of Birchbox fame. Last week, I had the pleasure of catching up with Katia, and learning a bit more about her.

AP: What city were you born in? KB: I was born in Austin, TX and grew up in El Paso, TX.

AP: What city to do you live in? KB: New York, NY.

AP: What is your middle name?  KB: Winter. My Mom’s maiden name; she had only sisters and wanted her name to be carried on.

AP: What is your astrological sign? KB: Scorpio.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? KB: I love how smart and imaginative it is. To me, the beauty industry is the perfect mix of creativity and business.

AP: Least favorite thing? KB: Working in the beauty industry, I feel like I have to look perfect and polished and beautiful every day. I hate having to blow dry my hair every day.

AP: What is your most prized possession? KB: My husband, if I can call him a possession.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? KB: Most people don’t know a lot about me… In high school I was captain of my cheerleading squad and president of my school. More recently, most people wouldn’t know that that my favorite workout is dance class, from hip hop to ballet and everything in between – and my favorite food is dumplings. (I dance so I can eat more dumplings!)

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? KB: Yes, a gold Michael Kors.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? KB: Diamonds.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? KB: Dead: There are so many… Cleopatra. Alive: John Stewart; I love his point of view and intellect.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? KB: The secret is forgiving yourself. And forgetting about the concept of work/life balance. There is no such thing. That balance is overall life, not this week or this month; you don’t have to be balanced, just prioritize different things at different points in your life.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? KB: 1. Avoid any restaurants that have pictures on the menu. 2. Try to befriend locals. 3. Book only one night at a hotel and find where you want to stay once you get there.

AP: What is your favorite book? KB: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? KB: A dark and stormy.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? KB: Face oil, any kind. I really believe in oil as a makeup remover and moisturizer. I have really dry skin, so I layer a mist, then the oil, then a moisturizer.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? KB: I wear Sugar Litchee by Fresh. I also love Serge Lutens fragrances for when I need to feel more grownup.

AP: Botox or not? KB: Whatever makes you feel beautiful; no judgment. Personally, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? KB: Not. I love coloring my hair color, I switch colors a lot, it’s one of the most fun things about being a girl.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. KB: Pumped up Kicks by Foster People; Suicidal by Adele; the entire She and He Christmas album.

AP: Quote to live by. KB: I’m not the type of person that likes quotes.

AP: Who is your mentor? KB: A friend and entrepreneur that is the founder of a few different companies. He is one of the smartest people I have ever met, a great sounding board, always makes time for me when I need advice.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. KB: Work hard and own it. You make your own success and your own luck. Ask for what you deserve. Don’t feel you have to abandon your femininity in the process…

Ajune medical spa to close on December 28th

I love the train. Perhaps it is because growing up I took the Swiss train regularly. Always on time (not a myth, one second late and you miss it), always clean (also not a myth), it wound through the mountains slowly but surely and brought me to my Nona, to the ski slopes, to Bern. Amtrak doesn’t quite live up to the Swiss trains, but I still love the 3.5 hours of peace between DC and New York City. While my trips to NYC are always hectic, tiring, fun, and productive, this trip will also be sad. Tomorrow for the last time, I will visit Ajune medical spa, my favorite medical spa in the City and one of my very first Alchimie Forever clients. Indeed, on December 28th of this year, Ajune will be closing its doors (its website is already down, perhaps as a precursor to the closure).

Ajune has been at 1294 Third Avenue since it opened, 13 years ago. Owned by Dr. Maura Romita, a famed plastic surgeon, Ajune was one of the first spas to understand that spa goers wanted results, medical-style procedures, under medical supervision, but all in a softer, more spa-like setting.

Over the years (I started working with Ajune in 2004), I have had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful people, whether managers, therapists, aestheticians or receptionists. Margaret (now the spa director at Merge, also in NYC) was the one who brought Alchimie Forever into Ajune, and for that (and for the fact that she has since brought my line to Merge!), I will be forever grateful. Having worked at Avon prior to Ajune, she is a numbers-driven, no-nonsense operator, someone whom I have learned much from (and continue to today). I worked with Josephine for many years, whose smiles and kindness I still remember. Cara was my colleague Catherine’s favorite aesthetician at Ajune, a petite brunette, with a great extraction technique and constructive feedback and input on the Alchimie Forever product prototypes I would have her test. Most recently, I have had the pleasure of working with Amy, who was hired to work at the front desk a number of years ago and has since been promoted to spa director; today, Amy is in charge of this transition time.

To all of you, to Dr. Romita, to Dana, to the entire Ajune team, I say thank you. Thank you for taking on Alchimie before anyone did in NYC. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for your support and friendship over the years. Thank you for your business. Thank you. I will miss you. Catherine will miss you. New Yorkers will miss you.

Having spoken with Amy, she shares these bittersweet words: “Thank you to our loyal clients for their patronage; we hope that during our time open on third avenue, we provided you with incomparable service and an education about skincare that you will take with you throughout their daily life.”

Dr. Romita will be taking a select few technicians to continue working at his office at 853 5th Ave at the beginning of 2012. The services they will offer will be strictly clinical.

While the recession has not been kind to the spa industry, this is the first long-time Alchimie Forever spa partner that has closed. Ajune closing makes this economic turmoil feel a whole lot more personal, and brings home the fact that we are not out of the woods yet. We small businesses must continue to support each other, to help each other, to work together. And we consumers must continue to shop local, spa local, and to support our own communities.

BeautyView: Tina Alster, Director, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

I have always been fascinated by Tina Alster. I have the privilege of calling her my friend, of considering her my mentor, and of almost being her neighbor in Georgetown (indeed, she is a true DC native!). She is one of the top dermatologists in the country, known to her friends and fellow doctors as the “laser diva.” She always looks perfect, is invited to speak at all of the leading dermatology conferences, has consulted for Lancome (she even appeared in ads for them), and she has a shoe closet (and shoe collection) to die for. When I grow up I want to be just like her.

AP: What city were you born in? TA: Washington, DC.

AP: What city do you live in? TA: Washington, DC.

AP: What is your astrological sign? TA: Capricorn.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? TA: It’s always changing; new advances are more frequently scientifically based.

AP: Least favorite thing? TA: Overpromising results; the high variability in product quality.

AP: What is your most prized possession? TA: A George Rickey sculpture.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? TA: I was a Duke University cheerleader.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? TA: Yes, a white ceramic Chanel J12.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? TA: Pearls (lots of them mixed with other necklaces- like Coco).

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? TA: Besides my husband, President Obama.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? TA: Choose a life partner who is a team player (and has your back).

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? TA: 1. Travel light (never check luggage). 2. Keep a travel bag with appropriately sized skin products packed at all times. 3. Check in and print boarding passes before going to the airport.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? TA: Daily application of antioxidants and sunscreen.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? TA: Balenciaga.

AP: Botox or not? TA: Of course!

AP: Hair color: natural or not? TA: Not.

AP: Quote to live by. TA: “Work hard, play hard.”

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. TA: Do something you love, but remember…there are no shortcuts…you will need to work hard to be successful.