Only in Louisiana…

On January 1st of this year, I married a man from Louisiana. A southern man. I am still learning about southern traditions, and this Thanksgiving week-end, I experienced a few new ones. I guess I’ll start with the end, namely LSU beating Arkansas. My husband is a long-time LSU fan, as was his father, and his father’s father before that. So I have the privilege of going to Tiger Stadium. I have learned about the Bowls. I have learned about the rules that separate college football from the NFL. And little by little, I have learned to love Saturdays during football season almost as much as I love Sundays. So what, you say? Nothing Louisiana-specific about college football. Perhaps. Please take a look at the picture below.

This is post-game tailgating. An entire pig was cooked in the tailgate area made up of three RVs. Well, it was Arkansas Razorbacks… As the pig comes out of the smoker, the LSU cheerleaders arrive. To cut the head off. Apparently, this was not the first time they did it either.

I am also learning about the southern Thanksgiving traditions.

Turducken (turkey in a duck in a chicken). Fried turkey. And my favorite, Spinach Madeline, a la Edwin. A few of you have asked me for that recipe, which he reluctantly shared.

Spinach Madeline (double this)


2-pack frozen chopped spinach (no leaf)

4 tbs butter

6oz Roll Kraft jalapneno cheese (or substitute – apparently they don’t make this anymore)

2 tbs flour

2 tbs chopped white onion

1 tsp Worcester sauce

½ cup evaporated milk

Red pepper to taste

½ cup vegetable liquid (leftover from boiling the spinach)

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp salt

¾ tsp garlic salt

¾ tsp celery salt



Cook spinach; drain; save liquid.

Melt butter, add flour. Stir until smooth, not brown.

Add onions; cook until soft, not brown.

Add vegetable liquid slowly.

Add evaporated milk.

Cook until thick.

Add seasoning and cheese.

Still until melted.

Add spinach.

Place in casserole dish; cover in butter and breadcrumbs.

Bake in 250 degree oven for 20 minutes.

(Best if prepared a day before)

On that note, I am going to heat up some leftovers for lunch… and get ready for the Iron bowl. And call my Mom to let her know I am really still Swiss, through and through…

Time to reflect and be grateful

Thanksgiving week is always a very special week for me. While I grew up in Switzerland, this is my favorite holiday – good food, good wine, family, and of course football. It is also a week of reflection – reflection about all the people and things I am grateful for; reflection about the New Year that is almost upon me; reflection about life in general. And reflection requires quiet time and stillness of mind and body. Time not doing, but time thinking. This special week, which technically according to the calendar starts today, for me really started this past Friday.

Indeed, last Friday something happened to me which hasn’t happened since the fall of 2004. I missed a meeting. Not any meeting, a work meeting. And not any work meeting, but a meeting with Mei Xu, of Chesapeake Bay Candle, a woman whom I admire, and whom I had contacted after we were featured in the Washington Post Magazine together. A woman who runs a multi-million dollar company, and who has no time to waste. I didn’t forget about the meeting… I went to the wrong Starbucks. And of course, of all mornings, that was the morning I left my phone on my desk.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that this is totally non-Ada behavior. I was rushing. I had too many things on my mind. I was reading my emails in diagonal instead of paying attention to what I was reading. The last two months have been so busy, I forgot to take the time to think, to reflect, instead of always running around to “do” things. My body was trying to tell me to slow down (I have been sick for almost a week), but I am of the opinion “mind over body.” So I don’t listen to my body. But I do listen to missing a meeting with a CEO. My personal pet peeve… that I inflicted on someone else.

Lesson learned. I spent the week-end reflecting, not “doing” much at all, but listening to everything that was going on in my head, making to-do lists and holiday gifts lists, calendaring, quietly organizing my apartment (as if I weren’t busy enough, I moved 20 days ago – and this was my first week-end at home!), and spending time thinking. The result: I am starting this holiday week feeling “zenified,” grateful, and organized. Nothing better than that (except having Mei Xu forgive me for Friday’s mis-hap of course…).

Happy Thanksgiving week to all.

BeautyView: Marti Morenings, Founder and Chairman, Universal Companies

I don’t get star-struck in the typical way. Seeing or meeting Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, or even Angelina Jolie won’t faze me. However, having a burger next to President Obama makes me grin from ear to ear (some of you might remember that picture). And meeting successful entrepreneurs gives me butterflies in my stomach. Of the successful entrepreneurs I have had the good fortune of getting to know, Marti Morenings, Founder and Chairman of Universal Companies, is one of my favorites. She started Universal Companies with her father, grew the company, sold it, and then bought it back from the purchasers to grow it even further. She lives wellness through and through; she is a woman entrepreneur; she is a single mom; as a serial entrepreneur, she is now involved in the alternative energy sector; and she wears Jicky by Guerlain (Guerlain’s first fragrance, and the only perfume I have ever worn)! What is there not to love?

AP: What city were you born in? MM: I was born in Belem’, Brazil.

AP: What city to do you live in? MM: I now live in Bristol, VA.

AP: What is your middle name?  MM: I don’t have one.

AP: What is your astrological sign? MM: Leo.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? MM: My favorite thing is the spa and wellness component, and the idea that we can have an impact on the beauty that comes from within.

AP: Least favorite thing? MM: My least favorite thing is when beauty becomes all about the external image and less about what’s inside.

AP: What is your most prized possession? MM: My health.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? MM: I have two very energetic Jack Russell Terriers – Spud and Mia.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? MM: Yes, a Cartier wristwatch.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? MM: Diamonds.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? MM: I would have loved to have met Steve Jobs and shared a meal with him. I’m reading his bio now, and I think it would have been fascinating to have known him – he was the consummate entrepreneur.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? MM: Make time for yourself – it is the best thing you can do for your children, your family and your career, not to mention your health. I am hooked on doing yoga every morning, and I try to do it at sunrise and outside on my back deck if the weather is good. It is an incredible way to start the day!

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? MM: 1. Pack light by picking one color scheme and including items that can be dressed up or down.  2. Drink lots of water. 3. Pack almonds or other protein foods to snack on.

AP: What is your favorite book? MM: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? MM: Scotch and soda.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? MM: Moisturizer and getting enough sleep.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? MM: Jicky by Gurlain.

AP: Botox or not? MM: Not.

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

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. MM: Looking for Answers – Susan Tedeschi, Melt My Heart to Stone – Adele,  Songbird – Eva Cassidy.

AP: Quote to live by. MM: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

AP: Who is your mentor? MM: My mom – she was the ultimate multi-tasker!

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. MM: Don’t listen when someone tells you that you can’t do it. Think in terms of partnerships with employees, vendors and colleagues, and look for ways to make them more successful. It always comes back to you tenfold.

BeautyView: Debra Neill Baker, Chairman of Neill Corporation

I am writing this from Las Vegas, it is day 2 of the International Spa Association annual conference. The week of ISPA is always dear to me, not only for the industry learning, the visits with my favorite spa people, but also because ISPA has played such an important role in my relationship with my husband Edwin. After the BeautyView on Susie Ellis of SpaFinder (who is responsible for my meeting Edwin), it seems only fitting to interview my step-mother-in-law, Debra Neill Baker, Chairman of Neill Corporation, also referred to as Chief Energy Officer and self-declared Beauty Evangelist. I remember the first time I met her, at ISPA 2005 in Dallas, TX; I remember she was wearing a gorgeous white pant suit (she usually wears Aveda black on black); I have learned so much from her, still feel like I have so much to learn… starting with striking the word “favorite” from my vocabulary…

AP: What city were you born in? DN: I was born in Kansas, farm community…no city within 100 miles.

AP: What city do you live in? DN: I have lived the past 30 years in the country 50 miles outside of New Orleans.  Might sound similar and it’s nothing the same!

AP: What is your middle name? DN: June, after my Aunt Ava June.

AP: What is your astrological sign? DN: Taurus.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty (and spa) industry? DN: it’s life-supporting and gives us the opportunity to truly “touch” others.

AP: Least favorite thing? DN: favorite is not a word I use much…”least favorite thing”…even less!

AP: What is your most prized possession? DN: My home.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? DN: That I freak out (inside) when I speak in public… I seldom appear to be nervous. I move right through the fear   and use it to create energy!

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? DN: Yes. I wear a man’s Cartier that I have had for 18 years… I am practical and extravagant simultaneously, and I value quality and timelessness.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? DN: Definitely diamonds…although I have very few. Jewelry has never been that compelling to me.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? DN: My children, Garrison and Paris… my best work and best teachers.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? DN: I re-framed and re-defined balance years ago. I live a blurred life… work and life are intertwined intentionally. And balance is not a steady state; it’s a dynamic and energizing lifestyle that works for me.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? DN: 1. Let home be wherever I am.  2. Carry my essential oils/botanical aromas for anointing my environment. 3. Be in the Flow: accept delays, cancellations, etc… breathe, hydrate, read…

AP: What is your favorite book? DN: There’s that favorite word again… books have been my primary self-development tool my entire life, including from Your Erroneous Zones to Think and Grow Rich to As A Man Thinketh to anything by Rumi or Thich Nhat Hanh.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? DN: Vodka is my cocktail of choice…for the effect not the taste!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? DN:  No secrets, but rather purposeful decisions, a lifetime of taking care of this vehicle/temple/body, mind, and spirit. I have always had a whole-person approach…beauty/health/energy is an inside/outside process…breathing, moving, hydrating, conscious-eating, and sleeping!

AP: What fragrance do you wear? DN: I haven’t worn synthetic fragrance for over 30 years…Horst/Aveda created an awareness and sensitivity that has influenced my olfactory system forever! I wear Aveda aromas.

AP: Botox or not? DN: Why not?!

AP: Hair color: natural or not? DN: naturally, haircolor!

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. DN: Peter Gabriel/New Blood, my old stand-by Al Green, My Morning Jacket… I thrive on diversity.

AP: Quote to live by? DN: “Relationship is the key to the Universe … and the relationship with Self is at the source of it all.”

AP: Who is your mentor? DN: I have many… from my grandmother to my late husband Edwin to my present husband Michael to my children and too many in-between to list! When I was in my early teens I decided that I wanted to learn from everyone, from many teachers and Gurus…and ultimately be my own Guru! That may sound like a bit of arrogance… and truly, it’s about being a self-control freak!

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today? DN: Be clear about your values, what is truly important and meaningful to you, what gives you a feeling of fulfillment… that will lead you to work that expresses who you are and who you want to be!

Moving on up… to the third floor

While I have been a DC resident for about 10 years, I have not always lived in Georgetown. My first DC apartment was in Adams Morgan back in 2002. During business school, I lived in Georgetown at the Paper Mill. Upon graduation, I moved to Arlington for 5 long years, finally moving back to Georgetown about two and a half years ago. I remember that move so clearly, it felt like I was coming home. I could once again smell the trees, walk around surrounded by old rowhouses, walk to get coffee and walk home after having had a couple of drinks. I discovered the quiet beauty of East Georgetown, the side I much prefer to West Georgetown. I made my tiny 850 square foot, ground floor, one bedroom apartment my own, and imagined living there happily ever after.

Yesterday, I moved two floors up to the third floor apartment in the same rowhouse. I hate change, so moving just two floors up was the easiest move for me, both physically and psychologically (my fabulous movers, from Mighty Men Moving, who have done all of my personal and professional DC moves, may disagree about the physical ease of the move… no elevator of course). While all of my books remain to be unpacked, and none of my art collection is up on the wall, the rest of the apartment is already pretty organized, and I feel like I never left home. I love the extra space (one whole extra room!), the high ceilings, the gorgeous third floor views. And the three flights of stairs I will now have to run up and down at least once per day. My body thanks me.

When I moved to the first floor apartment a few years ago, Griffin Market was still open. I remember my first meal in that apartment, shared with my husband Edwin, which was purchased entirely from there: cheese, crackers, nuts, and good wine (see picture).


BeautyView: Susie Ellis, President, SpaFinder Inc.

I have known Susie Ellis for a number of years, and am a huge fan. While I met her through our industry, and while most of our interactions are more professional than personal, Susie holds a very special place in my heart as it is thanks to her (and Mary Elizabeth Gifford) that I met my husband. Indeed, this BeautyView is particularly relevant as we approach the annual International Spa Association conference. It is at ISPA back in 2005, at a chic industry dinner hosted by Susie and Mary Elizabeth, that I was seated next to Edwin (the seating chart apparently still exists somewhere). The rest, as they say, is history. As I prepare for ISPA 2011 (come say hi and learn more about Alchimie at the Universal Companies relaxation area in Lagoon H), it seems timely to highlight Susie and all that she has done, not just for my love life, but for our industry.

AP: What city were you born in? SE: I was born in Bloomington, Illinois.  My parents were immigrants from Germany who came over after the war.  They settled into a German community in the middle of Illinois.

AP: What city do you live in? SE: Today Peter and I live in New York and spend a fair amount of time in Palm Springs California where we have a vacation home.

AP: What is your middle name? SE: Dorette

AP: What is your astrological sign? SE: Gemini – twins…

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty (and spa) industry? SE: My favorite thing about our industry is that it is an all-around positive…we lift people up, inspire people toward healthy lifestyles and in general deal with places and products that people love being part of. Our SpaFinder research has shown time and time again that people love the word spa – it brings a smile to their face…even if they may define it differently. Another plus for me is that being part of this industry has been good for my own health and a real help in the beauty department!

AP: Least favorite thing? SE: My least favorite thing about the industry is that there are some fringe beliefs that make their way into spas that in my opinion don’t serve us well. Also, there is a lack of transparency and understanding in terms of some beauty products that also ends up tainting the whole. For example, when I see tarot card reading or past life regression analysis done at spas, I cringe. While these may be fun pastimes that people can enjoy in other settings – like carnivals, etc. I think the fact that they sit side by side with things like exercise, healthy nutrition, stress reducing massage and meditation calls the rest of the menu of our services into question. I also find it disheartening to read some of the claims made for beauty products that are simply not believable. I do think things are getting better ( is one major step) and the internet encouraging transparency in general has helped. I wish these transitions would go faster.

AP: What is your most prized possession? SE: A card my husband wrote to me on a birthday many years ago. I have kept it and cherish it. I don’t think he even knows I have it or that it meant so much to me. What he said on it was that throughout his life what he is most proud of achieving is our marriage. Since he has had a lot of achievements, this touched me greatly.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? SE: I have an identical twin sister who you would think is me if you met her!

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? SE: I do wear a watch and because Peter is sort of a “watch connoisseur” I have several of them. While I love them all and I have several, I have to say that my black channel watch keeps the best time and is easiest for me to read.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? SE: Oh my, do I really need to pick?  It’s simply a tie and they work well together!

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? SE: Probably my twin sister (no offense to my husband) but Katrine and I don’t see each other very often as she lives in Texas and I live in New York.  Having dinner with her is always a joy and we have been known to spend hours and hours dining and talking.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? SE: Hmmm, you are assuming that I have a good work/life balance. That is actually something I am still working on as I have a tendency to “overwork” like other people might overeat or overdrink or overspend.  I work too many hours to the detriment of my health (and my marriage), however, I have been doing better in the past few years. What has worked for me is separating myself from other people’s job, saying “no” more often, and trusting my intuition and gut that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and everything else just simply has to take care of itself.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? SE: 1. Comfortable and layered clothes for plane flights – it’s hot, it’s cold…you never know. So I travel prepared for anything. Always a warm scarf, socks, and usually a sleeveless cotton shirt with a sweater or jacket. 2. I always travel with my velour eye-shades – the kind that are shaped so your eyelashes don’t get squished and all light is blocked out. I am a nut about trying to get enough sleep because of how important it is to the health of our bodies and so these eyeshades come in handy not only on long plane flights but in every hotel room (and yes, I wear them at home in my NY apartment too!). 3. Treat yourself to a relaxing massage as soon as possible upon arrival at your destination. While my work generally results in my trying out a spa wherever I go, I learned that doing so as soon as possible (ideally on arrival day) helped me get over jet lag and in general relax during the entire trip.

AP: What is your favorite book? SE: How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey. While this may seem like an odd choice, it is one of the smartest books I have ever read. Not only is it based on Christian principles, but those principles are explained in such a way that it is much easier to understand various world views and where the plumb line is for mine. Written in 1999, I still have it on my nightstand after all these years.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? SE: I am not much of a drinker and so a simple glass of wine does it for me. I am not a connoisseur and generally order a Chardonnay if I am drinking white and Merlot or Pinot Noir if I am drinking red.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? SE: Get enough sleep!

AP: What fragrance do you wear? SE: Always Escada – the old Escada that comes in a gold-topped bottle in a bright red box.  Peter loves this fragrance so much that whenever I have tried something else he begs me to go back to Escada.  When they discontinued the fragrance a few years ago, he began hunting down whatever bottles where left and so I think I have a supply for another 4 years or so.

AP: Botox or not? SE: But of course!

AP: Hair color: natural or not? SE: The answer to this is both. I have highlighted my hair for decades and while there is a lot more gray now than there used to be, I think there is still some natural color in there somewhere.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. SE: I know this may be hard to believe, but I don’t have an ipod. Peter is the music expert in our household and so whenever I am in the car I enjoy whatever it is that he has curated on his many, many disks. Going back to the question on work/life balance….since I tilt toward anything and everything work related, if I do listen to something it would be TED talks or a copy of a session I missed at a spa conference.

AP: Quote to live by? SE: “This too shall pass.” It reminds me not to hold too tight to the good things and not to sweat too much about the bad things.

AP: Who is your mentor? SE: Deborah Szkeley has been my mentor ever since I met her when I first started working at the Golden Door in Escondido, California in 1974. She has been an inspiration to me in many ways…both in business and personally. At times she has been like a mother. These days we are more like friends and I cherish the times I am with her. She will be 90 next year and seems the same to me as the day I met her almost 37 years ago.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today? SE: I think that following your intuition in order to find something to do that you love is good advice. As I write this I reflect on what I have been reading about Steve Job’s via the biography and many interviews by the author Walther Isaacson.  He credited listening to his intuition with why he was so innovative in his work. That rings true. And after finding that something you love, then I think the principle that Malcolm Gladwell talked about in his book, “Outliers” applies.  He repeatedly mentioned that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.  While it may be popular these days to hop from job to job, I think amassing expertise in one area is very important. Since I have been in the spa industry for my entire career (although working in several different job capacities) I have probably amassed several blocks of 10,000 hours. In the end when you put in that much time, you do end up with an expertise that very few others have.