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!

Disco will never die…

A few weeks ago I got a call from a beloved New Orleanian, Anais St. John, a seductive, talented Jazz vocalist who I first heard singing at the Windsor Court bar (I remember a song about a dentist named Dr. Long John “drilling for cavities”). She was calling to tell me about a Donna Summer show she was doing during Labor Day Weekend in New Orleans. I wanted to ask “Donna who?” but didn’t dare. Don’t blame me. I was born in the late 70s and was raised in Europe. Coincidentally, when this call came in, I was in the car in Tennessee between Memphis and Nashville with a man from Kentucky driving. A man who loves Donna Summer and had just started playing a song of hers.

I took this as a sign from the Universe that I needed to attend that show. So I spent last night at Allways Theatre in the lower Marigny watching Anais become Donna Summer. The first thing I realized is that while I didn’t know the name, I knew the music of the “Queen of disco.” The second thing I realized is that my husband knows all the words to every Donna Summer song. And the third thing I realized is that the evening was quintessentially New Orleans. This was not Karaoke. I was listening to Donna Summer music played by a full band involving keyboards, bass, guitar, drums, percussion, saxophone, two vocalists, and two dancers. An analog version of electronic music performed in the digital age – performed perfectly.

Anais’ three costumes were perfectly disco. She started out in  long-sleeved gold lame deep v-neck dress and bright green eyeshadow. Switched to a sleevless black sequined dress cut even lower, and ended as is to be expected in tight black pants and a sparkling gold top (an outfit that at least a few women in the crowd were wearing).

Anais was the perfect impersonation of Donna Summer, and described herself as having much in common with LaDonna Adrian Gaines: “We are both chocolate; both tall; we both have big hair. We both married white men, have a background in musical theater, and a flair for the dramatic.” Indeed!

It was an amazing evening. If I could, I would go back tonight. Summer’s songs are still playing in my head, reminding me of a few key life truths:

  • Sometimes, enough is enough is enough.
  • Love to love the one you love.
  • When all else fails, just dance the night away.
  • Don’t ever stop listening to the radio.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. Bad girls are sometimes good girls.
  • Treat everyone with kindness because everyone is working hard for their money.
  • And disco will never die…

Being Swiss… on Swiss National Day

Today is Friday, August 1. Other than the fact that it is Friday, that we can say TGIF, what, might you ask is there to celebrate. Well, two things. First, August 1 is Swiss National Day – our equivalent of your July 4th.

Second, unrelated, in any way other than timing, I am celebrating the first national piece of press on my sisters and I. We are the Polla sisters. And now, the Alchimie Forever sisters. Thank you Vanity Fair.

Perhaps it is indeed all related beyond timing, since we are Swiss. What do you think of when you think of Switzerland? Probably skiing; chocolate; watches; cheese. (If you are thinking about IKEA right about now, you are getting your Sw countries confused…). Here are a few more, perhaps less well knows, typically Swiss traits.

–       We are punctual (maybe because we like watches so much). In Switzerland, being on time means being 5 minutes early. Or, as my Mom always said, “The only way to ever be on time is to always be early.”

–       We cherish “Apero time.” This is our version of “happy hour.” “Apero” being short for aperitif. No beer, no chips. Instead, white wine or champagne, with olives and cheese. At 5 pm on the dot, any day of the week, apero rarely lasts just an hour.

–       We have to introduce ourselves to everyone when arriving at a party; a seated dinner party; a cocktail party; a holiday party… this makes being early or on time particularly desirable, as the rounds of introductions are more manageable when most guests have yet to arrive.

–       We don’t touch our drinks until everyone we are with has a drink. This is true at a bar, at apero, at dinner, and everywhere in between. Only once everyone has their drink do we do cheers, and take our first sip. Anything else would be considered rude.

–       This may in part be caused by the fact that doing cheers is not only an absolute must, but we must look in the eyes while doing it. Why? Well… if you don’t you will be punished with 9 (some say 7) years of bad sex. So don’t ever clink your glass without looking that one person in the eye.

On this special Swiss day, I wish my sisters, and my Swiss family, a particularly happy Friday. And to all of you non-Swiss, TGIF!

The politics of fashion…

This past Tuesday evening, I realized something important to me. I realized that I am not the only one to whom people raise eyebrows and ask “but why would you base your business in DC.” I get asked that because I am in beauty. I realized many, many others get asked that because they are in fashion. And I realized that we are all in this together.

On Tuesday evening this week, The Politics of Fashion. premiered at Mazza Galerie. The baby, the brainchild of my amazing friend Elaine Mensah. Well – truthfully, she had “real” baby Sage in fewer months than it took her to conceive and birth this movie.

This movie was both a political statement and an industry overview. Elaine captured the thinking of designers, retailers, marketing and PR experts, stylists, fashion and beauty entrepreneurs, and more, who all get the question about “But, why in DC.” And we all answered, in our own way.

While some of the specifics of our answers may have differed, we all agreed on the following:

  1. DC is amazing and should not wish to be what it cannot be (i.e. New York).
  2. We should all stop giving DC a bad fashion rap (us insiders and you outsiders). And DC should stop being so defensive about its fashion status. We look great, and wear outfits that do not include dark suits or flat shoes.
  3. We are all in this together. The success of one indie brand or boutique is the success of all indie brands or boutiques.
  4. DC is special – for many reasons, including for the fact that we do not have a presence in Congress similar to that of the other states’. And yes, that does influence our industry (and many others).
  5. We can do anything we set our mind to. Elaine is the perfect example. “I want to make a movie about the fashion industry,” she said one day not that long ago. In various iterations, haven’t we all said something like that some time? And how many of us actually do what we say we want to do? Not many. Thank you Elaine for reminding us we can do anything we set our mind to. If we work hard.

And to DC, to my fashion and beauty industry friends, who said no to New York and many other cities, who chose DC,  I say, I love you. And I love our city.

(Next screening is on 6/17 at E Street Cinema and tickets can be purchased here.)

My favorite Boston beauty boutiques

As some of you may know, one of my favorite ways of discovering a city and its surroundings is through its beauty boutiques. Not that long ago, I wrote about my favorite New York City beauty boutiques.

And not that long ago, I was in Boston, rediscovering the first American city I ever fell in love with (when I was 6 years old – the reason why I came back for college). Here are my favorite Boston beauty boutiques.

A Matter of Face (425 Hanover Street)

While the North End might be better known for its Italian pastry shops, cafes, and restaurants, the neighborhood would not be the same without this intimate boutique owned by the ever-smiling Paula. Stop in for a makeover in between your latte and dinner reservation.

B Boutique (558 Adams Street, Milton)

Known first and foremost for her classy, always-perfect wedding makeup, this boutique is a treasure trove for niche brands. I go there for Becca eye pencils and  to get my eyebrows waxes by the beautiful, blonde, and leggy owner, Danielle.

Beauty & Main (locations in Wellesley and Hingham)

I started shopping at Beauty & Main in college, at their Cambridge Square location. While that store is no more, I continue to go to the Wellesley and Hingham  locations for my makeup go-tos: Trish McEvoy mascara and Laura Mercier tinter moisturizer. And yes, if you need to, you can pick up some Alchimie Forever there also. I love the neighborhood boutique feel, the amazing service, and the fun events.

Beauty Cafe (515 Main Street, Melrose)

Whether you go to see Karen, the owner, to ask for skin care advice or to pick up a gorgeous piece of cocktail jewelry for yourself or as a gift, or stop by to see Heather for one of her fabulous facials – you will leave happy and smiling – and with glowing skin.

Bella Sante (various locations)

Whenever I have some time in between meetings, I head to the Newbury Street location for a manicure, pedicure, or if I am really lucky, both. There is a reason why this spa is repeatedly voted top pedicure spa in Boston. Don’t take my word for it… go try it for yourself.

The Beauty Mark (33 Charles Street)

Located near landmark Charles street institutions such as The Hungry I and Linens on the Hill, this tiny jewel of a boutique is packed with the best makeup brands. Stop in for a lipstick, and leave with fuller eyelashes. Indeed, Amy is the eyelash queen, known for eyelash extensions and refills. Her newest brainchild is Townhouse Beauty Bar, right across the street, where stylists will make your hair look as good as your eyelashes.

And should you decide that you need something a little bit more medical than the expert advice of any of these owners, and their amazing products, head to The Newbury Center (69 Newbury Street, make sure to meet the beautiful Nicole, wife of plastic surgeon Dr. Ramsey Alsarraf), or Boston Dermatology & Laser Center (30 Lancaster Street, Ste. 400).