What I bring home from Switzerland

I am grateful that my job as CEO of Alchimie Forever has me travel to Geneva quarterly – grateful because I get to go home and see my family “for work,” and grateful because there are still some things that I love to buy in Switzerland. Here are some of the things that often find their way into my suitcase when it is time to head back to the US, for myself or for my loved ones.  

Chocolates. Yes, Swiss chocolate is the best, no arguing about it. Having said that, I have an ongoing debate about the best source of chocolate in Geneva. My heart sways between Auer Chocolatier and Teuscher. Auer is one of the oldest chocolate shops, opened by Henri Auer in 1939. It is still a family-run today, and their signature product, Pavé Glacé, is to die for.  Teuscher, created by Dolf Teuscher over 70 years ago, makes the best truffles. I usually bring back a couple boxes of the Champagne Truffles, which my girlfriends adore.

Other than chocolates, there are two food products that are made the best in Switzerland. Rosti and Cenovis. These usually make it home with me for myself, not as gifts for anyone else!

Rosti are a typical Swiss dish, grated potatoes made into a flat cake and fried. You might think of this as the Swiss equivalent to hash browns. The best Rosti are the ones sold at Migros.

And Cenovis, well, it’s a little bit like “if you don’t know what it is, perhaps you shouldn’t ask.” Let’s say it’s an acquired taste. Think about it like Vegemite. It is a yeast-based product initially created in the canton of Argau in 1931, and included in rations for Swiss soldiers. I love it on bread, and on cheese.

Caran D’Ache products. This Geneva-based brand created in 1915 offers the most beautiful and well-crafted pens and pencils. Their wooden boxes filled with colored pencils can’t but inspire children and adults to find their creative side.

Bahina jewlery. Based in Corsier and created by two sisters (Bahina in Hindi means two sisters), this brand of jewels and pashminas makes beautiful gifts for the women in my life.   

Finally, Heimatwerk toys are the most traditional and cool looking. The brand, which features Made in Switzerland hand crafted goods, focuses on highest quality, functionality, and unique designs.

 

Catahoula Hotel, New Orleans

If you have 36 hours in New Orleans… Part Deux

I am fortunate to spend about third of my time in New Orleans, LA, also known as The Big Easy. Three years ago, I shared my favorite places to eat, sightsee, and shop, if you had 36 hours in New Orleans.

Two weekends ago, I experienced my first staycation – in said New Orleans. Which gave me a completely new perspective on this amazing city that is New Orleans, specifically on the emerging neighborhood known as the CBD / South Market District. So here are my recommendations if you have 36 hours in New Orleans – part deux.

Where to stay
At the Catahoula hotel. Granted, I was biased before checking in because my amazing sister-in-law Amy works there. She is the Director of Sales and Guest Experience, and in charge of the hotel’s social media – and does such a great job that the Catahoula was just named as one of the world’s top 9 “most instgrammable hotels” by Vogue.

Where to drink
At the Catahoula hotel – Sally (pictured above) makes amazing cocktails, as delicious as her smile! And the roof-top terrace transports you to another world, filled with Tiki culture and cocktails, and live music.

At The Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel. The scene is completely different from that of the Catahoula. This feels like the beautiful people of NYC, a scene filled with fancy people wearing stiletto heels and logo-d belts.

Where to eat
At Willa Jean, the latest John Besh creation. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this place might be best known for its “F’rose” (frozen rose), but it really should be on your radar for the breakfast cocktails (only in New Orleans do coffee-inspired vodka cocktails sound perfect for breakfast). Or the biscuits (they are square instead of round, and taste like amazingness). Or the Intelligentsia coffee. Or the service (which was impeccable at 7:30 am on a Saturday).

At Company Burger. BYOLT. Bring your own lettuce and tomato. As in these burgers don’t have any. They taste like the best McDonald’s burger, but even better. The double patty might be the secret. Or maybe the secret is the “secret sauce.”

At SeaWorthy. An oyster bar that now rivals Black Salt (in DC) as my favorite oyster bar. Complete with oyster (that comes with cornbread blinis) and champagne. In the most amazing décor, an old townhouse that has been renovate just enough, but not too much.

At Domenica. Yes, another John Besh concept. Named after Sunday (la domenica in Italian), the best day of the week. The pizza is to die for (try the Prosciutto), as is the roasted cauliflower (trust me).

Where to shop
At Hattie Sparks. I couldn’t help but walk in this boutique when I peaked through the window and saw a purple dress. I have been needing a purple dress (more to come on this later this week). As the card says, this store is filled with “cool stuff for you and your home.” The brainchild of Hattie Collins Moll and Kelly Lore Merry, this boutique’s style and its wares are both minimalist and whimsical. Perfect to shop for hostess gifts, girlfriend gifts, and “just for me” gifts. And to find that purple dress you have been wanting.

At Transportation Revolution. But just to window shop. Because the Triumph bikes look really, really good.

What else to do?
Go to a Saints game at the Superdome. Even when they lose, the energy is amazing and the crowd is fun.

Geneva

Places to visit, eat, and play in Geneva

I am often asked for recommendations about places to visit, eat, play in Geneva. This despite the fact that I left when I was 17, and that when I go back every quarter, being a creature of habit, I mostly go to the same places.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a few of my favorite places, here. But I realized in sharing this with my sisters that it was time to update my list, in particular for a couple of friends heading that way this summer.

Here are a few more current favorite addresses.

The best view of Lake Geneva is from the rooftop of the Hotel Metropole, recently opened, where you can have an apero and enjoy a glass of champagne. Get there early to secure a seat.

My favorite steak restaurant L’ Entrecôte, closed, so I had to find another one. One of my sisters recommended Entrecôte St Jean on the Boulevard Carl Vogt, and indeed the steak and fries are to die for.

For something a little lighter, a “US-sized” salad, Twins also on the Boulevard Carl Vogt is a great option. And in the wintertime, make sure you head to the Quai des Bains for a fondue, outside, on the lake.

After dinner, head to Bottle Brothers in the Eaux-Vives neighborhood, for original cocktails and great conversation. And for late night fun, the Baroque is still the place to be to drink and dance –including dancing on the tables. Indeed, when I ate there recently, Taz’s Angels were arriving just as I was leaving… and dancing on the tables there was!

Kelly Collis

You think you know Kelly Collis, Co-Host, Tommy Morning Show 94.7 Fresh FM & Publisher, CityShopGirl… but do you know what her pet peeve is?

It is past 10 pm in the nation’s capital, so Kelly Collis, Co-Host, Tommy Morning Show 94.7 Fresh FM and Publisher, CityShopGirl, is probably asleep. She has to be, given that she wakes up before 4 am for work every day. If you listen to her show, you know a lot about Kelly – she is very open and personal on air. You know she is from DC through and through. You know about her contentious divorce, her engagement, and her upcoming wedding. You know about her two amazing kids. You know she is funny and can be intense. And you know she is amazing at what she does (sometimes I think her show should be called The Kelly Show… sorry Tommy!). She is also an amazing friend and has given by far the best answer to the question about her “favorite thing about the beauty industry” (keep reading).

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

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

AP: What is your middle name? KC: Margaret (but I am thinking of adding my fiance’s last name to my middle name because I am NOT changing my last name!).

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

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? KC: I have a BA in Economics and had aspirations to have a political career.

AP: What is your most prized possession? KC: I don’t really own my 2 kids but they are my greatest creation. Prized possession is my quilted leather Chanel purse.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? KC: Jackie Kennedy.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. KC: Black Denim High Heels.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? KC: Cartier Panther Platinum.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? KC: Diamonds.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? KC: I can’t do just one! A flat iron and pedicures year round.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? KC: Tom Ford, Jasmin Rouge.

AP: Botox or not? KC: Botox.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? KC: When gray hair appeared, absolutely color.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? KC: Moderation.

AP: What do you do for exercise? KC: Yoga. I just discovered Solidcore which will kick your butt, and when I don’t have time for a class I love Barre 3’s online classes.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? KC: Club soda, champagne, and milk (for the kids).

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? KC: Red wine.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? KC: There is no such thing as balance and I am ok with that…sometimes I am really good at life and bad at work and vice versa.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? KC: I have no idea.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? KC: Always have a charger pack or 2, lip balm, moisturizer and hand sanitizer in your carry on.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. KC: Beast of Burden from 50 Shades soundtrak, I Bet My Life by Imagine Dragons, FourFiveSeconds by Rihanna, Kayne and Paul McCartney.

AP: What book are you reading right now? KC: If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

AP: Quote to live by. KC: “A happy woman is one who has no cares at all; a cheerful woman is one who has cares but doesn’t let them get her down.”

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? KC: When people say ” I am so busy.” We are all busy it doesn’t matter what you do or what is your situation.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? KC: I wake at 3:30 am, I am live on the air ay 5 am. I am good with 4-5 hours at night and try to nap at least 20 minutes in the afternoon (if I plan it right I can get 90 minutes).

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? KC: Ada Polla. (Editor’s note: WAA!!! Most amazing answer ever!)

AP: Least favorite thing. KC: Over-priced lipsticks

AP: Who is your mentor? KC: I worked for Congressman Tom Davis in my mid-20s and he was great mentor about life and career. He was always extremely patient, very loyal to his team and a role model of how to be a great mentor and manager. I still keep in touch with him to this day.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. KC: Work hard in your youth so you can have career options when you are older.

Wisdom from my grandmother

My Mom once told me that when you cry, you are crying for yourself, never for someone else. I have been reminded of this over the last week as I have shed many tears over the loss of my Mom’s Mom, my Nana, my beloved grandmother. She lived a long, beautiful, abundant life filled with family (many generations of family), art, laughter, music, and joy. She died at home, surrounded by people she loved, in peace. Yet I cry, selfishly, because I will not get to be with her again. I know that wherever she is now, she is happily singing and painting, two things she did throughout her life. And looking down on me (and the rest of her family) and making sure that I don’t forget the many things she taught me throughout our 37 years together.

She taught me to value aesthetics. In her world, everything had to be beautiful or life wasn’t quite right. Surroundings, homes, flowers, and yes, even people. Leaving things improperly put away was never beautiful. Leaving the house without the right shade of lipstick was not either.

She taught me to use my best dishes and silver every day, because that made for a more beautiful day, a more beautiful table. She never believed in saving beautiful things for special occasions, and indeed I now only have one set of dishes, my “good” dishes, dishes which used to be hers.

She taught me manners and propriety. As a teenager, I would spend Monday nights at her home during the school year and we would eat a delicious meal (her specialty was quail stuffed with grapes with Spatzli as a side). And over the years, she taught me how to sit (good posture, elbows close to the body, hands on the table), which fork to eat what with, even how to hold my glass. Bad manners were not beautiful, and she always told me, “you never know who you will be having dinner with, maybe even a queen one day, so always use your best manners.”

She taught me to be a better wife. Throughout the years, she had much to say about my partners, about how I should behave, and how I should not. She only finally fully approved of my choice when I introduced her to my husband, whom she nick-named Wilfried. Ever since meeting him, she reminded me to be gentle and kind for he has a sensitive soul, and to “stop playing cat and mouse games.” And every time she said that, her eyes (one brown, one blue) twinkled with mischief as if she knew exactly everything I didn’t tell her.

She taught me to appreciate the seemingly small things in life. The songs of the birds chirping on her balcony. The sound of the church bells we could hear from her bedroom. The smell of wisteria, which grew in her garden. And a moment of silence shared on her couch, simply enjoying being together, with my head on her bosom and her hand on my cheek. She taught me tranquility.

 

 

Traveling in beauty and style

I have tallied my airlines miles so far this year, and have already crossed the 100,000 mile marker. This much travel can take its toll on anyone and everyone… on mind and soul and skin. Even if you don’t travel regularly, the holiday season which is upon us brings with it the busiest travel days of the year.

I turned to my girlfriend Alyssa Barrie, the brains behind Travel Beauty, “purveyors of the best beauty from around the globe” for her travel beauty favorites, and included some of my own travel tips (most of these learned the hard way) for traveling in beauty and style.

Marilyn Monroe’s quote “A smile is the best makeup a girl could wear” is never truer than while traveling. Not only do I find makeup dehydrating during flights (especially longer ones), but a smile is the best accessory to deal with delays, angry travelers, and request upgrades. Leave your frown at home!

As much as possible, do try to carry on. It will save on luggage fees, and most importantly will save time (and the aggravation of lost or delayed luggage). If you must check, make sure to pack one change of clothes and bathroom essentials in your carry on.

Hydrate. Inside and out. Buy a large bottle of water as soon as you go through security. They still do serve water for free on most flights… but having your own bottle is so much more comfortable. For your skin, the multi-purpose mist Vine Minus Ion Care Water does it all: antibacterial protection for the close quarters of the plane, refreshing face mist and even a hairstyle refresher.

Another “water” must: eye drops. Nothing dries eyes out more than airplane air. Use moisturizing eye drops to soothe my weary eyes and help you look refreshed when you land (no “red-eyes” for you!).

Wash your hands often. This has always been true, but is even more important these days given the various diseases going around… Also pack Purel and wipes with you. Alyssa recommends the Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes, a unisex product that is cleansing and refreshing with an invigorating blend of essential oils. Great for face, hands and anywhere else that needs a wipe down.

Alyssa also loves the Alchimie Forever Dry Skin Balm, so super moisturizing and nourishing, with the lightest of scent so men can use it too. Airplane bonus – it reduces swelling! Says Alyssa: “I’ve thus been known to discreetly push up the leg of whatever J Crew lounge or sweat pant I’m wearing and apply Dry Skin Balm generously from knee to ankle!”

While I am not a fan of makeup during travel, I cannot leave my red lipstick or highlighter pen at home. Red lipstick will add glamour to even a Southwest flight packed with crying infants. Try NARS Cruella for the fall and winter. And highlighter pens are a saving grace in particular when you need to go from landing to a family party without a pitstop. I have my YSL Touche Éclat in my purse at all times. Again, a few strategically-placed swipes and no one can tell that we’ve just spent an entire flight comforting a cranky preschooler.

Finally, nothing helps me relax and tune out the surrounding craziness as my favorite playlist (ranging from dance music to soothing yoga tunes), and a couple of books. A few books on my nightstand right now include The Idea of Him, The 5 Love Languages, and The Paris Apartment. To think of it, I can’t wait to get on the next plane so I can start one of these!

Happy holidays, happy travel!