Muses and beads: Happy Mardi Gras

When my now husband and I started seriously dating, the topic of Mardi Gras came up very early on in our relationship. I had always heard about this New Orleans celebration, I thought I knew what it was all about (beads, right?), but over the last few Mardi Gras, I have truly learned to appreciate the meaning of this special day, really, this special week-end.

Of course, the clichés about Bourbon street, beads, and what ladies (and gentlemen) are ready to do to get the really good ones are only partially exaggerated. But truly, Mardi Gras is about friends, about fancy beaded dresses, about celebrating life and its many pleasures, before the arrival of Ash Wednesday.

In learning about Mardi Gras, I have learned a few new English words, such as “krewe.” Prounounced as “crew,” krewes are the organizations that put on parades and/or a ball during the Carnival season. Being a member of a krewe has quite the social cachet, and is quite expensive. One of my best friends, Angie, is in Muses.

While most krewes are men-only, there are three that are exclusive to women. My favorite, of course, is Muses. First off, its symbol is a shoe, and it really has the best floats. And while strange things happen on Bourbon Street to catch beads, the excitement of seeing the parades on St. Charles Avenue has nothing to do with showing skin, and everything to do with catching the best possible bead.

My Mardi Gras started on Thursday evening, when Muses rode to kick-off to the really fun parades. The festivities continued on Friday, the day of my friend Angie’s annual Mardi Gras Luncheon. Hosted in a private room at Arnaud’s, Angie brings together 11 of her best friends for a 5 hour lunch filled with champagne, famous dishes such as Shrimp Arnaud and Turtle Soup, and lots of laughs. Arnaud’s (and Antoine’s and Galatoire’s, the other two classic New Orleans restaurants) is taken over by Mardi Gras festivities and ladies in hand-made beaded dresses.

After lunch, around 4 pm, we stroll through the French Quarter, with stops at two of my favorite bars, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and Cosimo’s. Overall, the perfect ending to a Friday afternoon filled with more pleasure than work. Luckily, Cosimos’s is literally across the street from my New Orleans home, and while by then my feet hurt, I make it home thrilled to have experienced another successful start to Mardi Gras week-end.

The rest of the week-end was slightly mellower, with visits to Frenchman street for some fabulous live music and dinners (not 5 hour dinners) with friends. By the time you read this, it will actually be Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnival. At midnight precisely, the New Orleans streets will be cleaned, broken beads will be thrown away, and people will focus on Ash Wednesday – and what to give up. I have only started giving something up for Lent since I have started partaking in the Mardi Gras celebration; if I do one, I must do the other, right? This year, I am giving up artificial sweetener in all its forms (Splenda, Equal, whatever is in Diet Coke). Wish me luck…

Any given Sunday

The day after the Superbowl is always a sad day. After all, it signals the end of football season. Today, however, is particularly sad. My beloved Patriots lost. I woke up a few times last night hoping that it was all a nightmare. Then I woke up for real this morning and turned on NPR, only to listen to Superbowl commentary and relive the 4th quarter. This game 4 years ago broke my heart, and it broke all over again last night. Rather than dwell on the fact that we really should know how to count to 11, on the fact that even the best teams, even the best players, still get the jitters, and on the passes that Brady threw that should have been caught, let me focus on what was amazing last night.

Faith Hill was amazing. She gave me goose bumps, as she does every Sunday evening during football season.

Al Michaels was amazing. His voice is just like no other, even when he says things like “The Giants are looking like they should have been the favored team.” Even Eminem agrees that Al is the best football commentator.

Madonna was amazing. True Blue was the first cd I ever bought for myself. I loved her in the 80s, and admire her even more today. No wardrobe malfunction. No malfunction at all actually. Maybe a misstep, but that didn’t slow her down. Her production was cinematic. I want to dance like that and look like that when I am her age.

David Beckham was amazing. Enough said.

The Fiat commercial was amazing. Italians know how to make a sexy commercial, and Italian is the sexiest language.

Clint Eastwood was amazing. His voice rivals Al’s. And I have a soft spot for Detroit, even though I have never been there.

The Patriots’ performance was not amazing, however, and tears were shed. According to the Bud commercial, “Great times are awaiting.” I guess that means there is always next season. Forever Forward. Forever Football.

BeautyView: Mara Segal, Founder & CEO, Utique Inc.

Mara Segal is changing the face of beauty distribution. I like to think that her idea for vending machines that sell beauty and care products (displayed behind her in her head-shot), in both travel and full retail size, came from an altercation with an FAA agent who forced her to throw away a bottle of shampoo. I know I have been in that situation before… but it took Mara to come up with the concept of Utique. I admire Mara – I admire her work ethic, her resilience, her determination, and her art collection! Next time you forget your moisturizer, or your body lotion gets taken from you, remember to look for a Utique!

AP: What city were you born in? MS: Rochester, MN.

AP: What city to do you live in? MS: San Francisco, CA.

AP: What is your middle name? MS: Clair.

AP: What is your astrological sign? MS: Sagittarius.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? MS: I love packaging design and the spectrum of colors that changes each season.

AP: Least favorite thing? MS: It is overcrowded and complex, making it difficult for consumers to navigate. It also often takes itself too seriously in advertising tonality and can feel intimidating for consumers.

AP: What is your most prized possession? MS: Assuming we are limited to material goods: music and my random art collection. My latest acquisition is a neon orange Qi Guangci bunny sculpture that I picked up in Beijing – I love looking at it every day.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? MS: I was pre-med in school before I fell in love with architecture and design and switched my major.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? MS: ToyWatch; it was a gift from a dear friend.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? MS: Depends on the presentation!  Check out Solange Azagury Partridge: she can make anything beautiful and provocative!

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? MS: Diane Von Furstenberg; she is a brilliant, progressive woman and pioneer in so many ways.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? MS: I think this is the hardest part and something I am still working on it. Balance likely rests in a strong team that has your same standards of execution so that you can truly get away with peace of mind.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? MS: 1. Pack light/have travel-sized versions of the regulars to reduce packing/unpacking time. 2. Be in the moment. 3. Find a local or someone who knows a local via your network – always invaluable for insights.

AP: What is your favorite book? MS: I cannot commit to one!

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? MS: Gin with different fresh accents like cucumber, mint, or basil.  I have also seen more hot chili infused drinks recently and love these – I am slightly addicted to spicy food and drinks!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? MS: Sleep.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? MS: Malin and Goetz, Lotus Root.

AP: Botox or not? MS: Not.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? MS: I go back and forth, mostly to mix it up.  Right now I am experimenting with balayage, which is supposed to be less harsh on the hair.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. MS: Video Games by Lana del Rey. Clair de Lune by Alexis Weissenberg and Something Good Can Work by Gotye.

AP: Quote to live by. MS: Eleanor Roosevelt is my favorite source of quotes and inspiration:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

“What you don’t do can be a destructive force.”

“You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.”

AP: Who is your mentor? MS: I cannot cite one…  I have learned from all of the entrepreneurs and risk takers I read about and those I am lucky enough to come into contact with.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. MS: I see a lot of young adults place pressure on themselves to have the final career solution with a first or second job… I encourage open mindedness and the strength to make a change when something feels stagnant or you lack passion for it.  You learn just as much about yourself and your career desires by doing a job that doesn’t suit you!  Also, always rationalize your fear and define the downside of taking a risk with something unknown…  It is always better to have tried!

Cleaning out closets, Spring 2012 fashion trends

Every January, I like to clean out my closet. It makes me feel organized, it helps me plan my clothes and accessories purchasing for the first half of the year, and it means that usually I will wear some long-forgotten clothes during the first month of the year (shopping my own closet). This week, I organized my closet, with two new twists. I happened to do this the same week as the Fashion Group International of DC Spring Trends event, which was this past Tuesday at Tysons Galleria. I got a fabulous preview of spring 2012 trends, which further motivated me to clear out some space for a few new gorgeous pieces. The second twist is that for the first time in my life, I have coordinated hangers. I made the mistake of walking into The Container Store about two weeks ago, to buy just one item, and I got lost in the hanger aisle. $150+ later, I am the proud owner of a complete collection of Platinum Huggable Hangers. I never thought that good hangers could make such a difference in a closet, but now I can’t believe I waited so long. My closet looks better, my clothes aren’t slipping off the hangers. And, added benefit, I had to physically touch every hanging piece of clothing I own to switch its hanger. This made for a more thorough closet clean-out. And thorough closet clean-out + springs fashion trends = I have my shopping list ready.

  1. More boots. This may be left over from fall, but with a single pair of black boots, I need to invest in this department. At the same FGI event mentioned above, I found fabulous olive-colored Chloe Gold Accent boots on sale (which usually wouldn’t sway me, but Chloe….).I still need rain boots, and I would like them in plum color please. Thank you Simply Soles. For this DC winter weather, I definitely need a pair of real winter boots; I am fascinated by the Caribou nubuck leather and rubber ones by Sorel.
  2. With boots come tights. I am not a fan of tights, I feel so strongly about not liking tights I even blogged about it a long time ago. But, tights are necessary it seems (I have stubbornly tried my black boots with dresses and no tights in the winter, with no positive results). Hue opaque tights it is. I’ll stick with black, I am not ready for their Deep Red or Aubergine selections.
  3. Spring 2012 will be filled with color, color that pops, jewel tones. Specifically tangerine and deep turquoises. Trina Turk exemplifies this perfectly in this dress. If not that one, I will definitely add a jewel-toned short dress to carry me from day to night this spring.
  4. The LWD is taking over the LBD. White is back, I can’t wait to wear more of it. My choice, Jason Wu for Target, I am in love with this white dress. It comes in black too, I might have to get both.

BeautyView: Lynne McNees, President, International Spa Association

The first thing I did way back when I decided that I was going to launch Alchimie Forever in the US to spas, of course, was to become a member of ISPA. Since 2005, I have benefitted so from the International Spa Association. I have learned from spa professionals. I have met numerous spa owners and managers. I have learned from peers throughout my Task Force involvement. I have made BFFs. And, perhaps most significantly, I met my husband. Since 2005, throughout these experiences, both personal and professional, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Lynne McNees, President of ISPA. I know not to discuss politics with her; I know she gets up earlier than I do most mornings; I know she loves Wyoming. Yet I did not know much of the below…  and I now have a new must-read book on my list!

AP: What city were you born in? LM: Okinawa, Japan.  My dad was in the US Army.  I really “grew up” in Dallas, TX but moved to Washington, DC my senior year in high school… ouch!

AP: What city do you live in? LM: Georgetown, Kentucky, about 30 minutes outside of Lexington.

AP: What is your middle name?  LM: Jeanice, but I use my maiden name Walker now.

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

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry?  LM: The entrepreneurial spirit and inventiveness.

AP: Least favorite thing? LM: The unnecessary and excessive packaging.

AP: What is your most prized possession? LM: Can I say my cute husband?  If not, our two longhaired miniature dachshunds Jackson Hole and Teton Spirit would be my final answer!

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know?  LM: I’ve landed on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean. I’ve stood on the DMZ.  I flew a fighter jet during mid-air refueling.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? LM: Sometimes. The model varies depending on my mood.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? LM: Diamonds – definitely diamonds.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? LM: Paul McNees, my husband’s father who passed away when Barry was in college.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? LM: I will never be balanced! Balance is a daily practice I work at with a lot of great friends, hard exercise and a great bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? LM: 1. Water. 2. Hiking. 3. Humor.

AP: What is your favorite book? LM: China Calls by Anne Collins Walker (my mom). It’s about my Dad advancing President Nixon’s historic trip to China.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? LM: Other than Oregon Pinot Noir, Bourbon and Ginger.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? LM: Experimenting with all the fun ISPA member products and LOTS of water!

AP: What fragrance do you wear? LM: Aromatherapy Associates – Revive!  I am addicted.

AP: Botox or not? LM: Why not?

AP: Hair color: natural or not? LM: Luckily – my natural color but now I have to cover the gray!

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. LM: “Its 5 o’clock in the morning” by Lily Allen. “The Walk” by Mayer Hawthorne. Everything Garth Brooks and Willie Nelson.

AP: Quote to live by. LM: Clear eyes. Full heart. Can’t lose.

AP: Who is your mentor? LM: I’m lucky, every ISPA Chairman and their unique style has been a valuable mentor to me.  Additionally, both my parents with their unique (and distinct) approach to business.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. LM: Hard work prevails (and, never underestimate the impact of a handwritten thank you note!).

BeautyView: Kelly Kovack, Co-Founder, Brand Growth Management

Last fall, with the help of my Board, I decided that it would be helpful to have some marketing and branding professionals look at my brand. After all, I turn to experts to help me formulate my products, why should I not turn to experts to help me brand my products? While this seems very rational, if you know me, you know how much of a control freak I am, which made entrusting a branding firm with Alchimie a personal challenge (I have had a few extremely strange dreams about this project… the kind of dreams that remind me of those I had when I started school, in which I would show up to class realizing I had forgotten to prepare for a test, or forgotten to put on my clothes). After 9 meetings, 8 RFPs, and much thinking, I put my brand in the hands of Kelly Kovack, of Brand Growth Management. I have not regretted my decision for a single minute. We are in the midst of our brand renovation project (you may see some fine-tuning of our website and copywriting in the next few weeks), and given how much Kelly and I interact these days, it seemed fun to have a call with her where for once I was doing the asking, and she had to do the thinking and the answering…

AP: What city were you born in? KK: Montreal, Canada, but I grew up in Palm Harbor, Florida (it sounds more beautiful than it is).

AP: What city to do you live in? KK: Manhattan.

AP: What is your middle name?  KK: Ann, which was also my mother’s middle name.

AP: What is your astrological sign? KK: Taurus, which most people do not find surprising…

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? KK: I love that our industry offers a great balance between creativity and business. This suits my personality and skill set.

AP: Least favorite thing? KK: I don’t like the perception of the beauty industry from the outside. Outsiders seem to feel that it is a superficial industry. Being in the industry, you realize that there is nothing superficial about helping someone clear their skin. The beauty industry is really about giving confidence to people.

AP: What is your most prized possession? KK: I have a lot of things I truly love, like books and art. But things can always be replaced. Experiences and memories are my most prized possessions. They mean much more to me than things.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? KK: I am a very good cook. But I don’t cook very often and my fridge really only contains champagne, water, and vitamins. I live in NYC, I eat most of my meals out… but when I do cook, my dinners become type A extravaganzas…

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? KK: I do. A vintage Rolex. It was a gift to myself after I went through the sale of Bliss to LVMH. It was the first time I had money and felt comfortable making such a significant purchase. Since then, I have been a consultant and I have had my own business. Throughout that time, I always thought “if all else goes bad, this is another month’s worth of expenses.” That I still have the watch and never had to sell it to make my rent is worth a lot to me.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? KK: Both.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? KK: It depends on my mood. At this very moment, dead would be Katherine Graham, and alive would be Christine Lagarde. I find her completely fascinating and so chic. The way she has been able to navigate a truly masculine industry in a truly feminine way is amazing.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? KK: I’m not sure I have found it, but as I have gotten older, I have realized that setting up standing appointments is key (acupuncture, gyrotonics, core fusion). They are non-negotiable, my team knows it, I know it, and I have learned to work around them.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? KK: 1. If traveling in a group, always rent a house or apartment rather than staying in a hotel. 2. I like to pick a regular spot to go to every day when traveling, like a coffee shop, where I can be recognized, and ask people for tips. (This includes when I travel for business, I like to always stay at the same hotel). It brings familiarity to the traveling process. 3. Always have loads of reading material.

AP: What is your favorite book? KK: It’s impossible for me to pick one, so here are my most recent reads: Just Kids by Patti Smith and A Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? KK: Vodka martini. A little dirty, and very dry.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? KK: Mixing super aggressive products with super gentle ones. At night right now I use Renova with Rodin face oil over it. Also, hydration: I would love to bathe in hyaluronic acid.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? KK: Odin Fragrances… of course. Right now I am wearing a fragrance we are launching next year. Usually however, I constantly rotate between the 6.

AP: Botox or not? KK: It took me a long time to do it, but now I’m hooked.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? KK: Unfortunately and only out of necessity, not. I would really rather do anything than sit in a salon for two hours. I wish I could rock my gray hair… but not yet.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. KK: Just a growin by Young man. It’s around you by ANR. Bald by The Darkness.

AP: Quote to live by. KK: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever.” by Gandhi.

AP: Who is your mentor? KK: I don’t really have a mentor, but there have been a lot of people who have taken a chance on me during my career.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. KK: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Never stop learning. Work hard and own successes and failures. You can learn more from failures than successes, but don’t make the same mistakes twice. And most importantly, if you hate getting up in the morning and going to work, find another job.