As a matter of principle, I like to do what my clients ask me to do. Usually, this is even a pleasure. A month or so ago, I had an unusual request from one of my long-time favorite clients, Hela at the Collection. Monica, the spa manager, asked me to come in and discover the newest treatment on their menu, acupuncture. This was I think her way of thanking me for some fun training and gratis product. Thank you with needles…??? I initially declined, but then reminded myself that I do have a rule about doing what my clients ask of me. So I relented, and booked a treatment for the 5th of November, which back then seemed like a very far away date.

Yesterday was the 5th of November. At 10:30 am, I arrived at Hela at the Collection, always amazed by the beauty of the space. I came so close to backing out of the treatment, but the lady at the front desk told me how she had already done 5 such treatments, and that acupuncture had changed her life. “You don’t even feel the needles,” she said. Yeah, right. Anyway, cancelling at the last minute would have been rude so I dutifully filled out the required forms, and waited.

In comes Sung – my acupuncturist. He leads me to the treatment room, and asks me a few questions: do I have pain anywhere? No. Am I ill? No. How is my stress level? I run my own business – enough said. Have I ever had acupuncture before? No. Am I afraid of needles? Yes. He is reassuringly calm, and tells me he is a third-generation acupuncturist, and that as I am in no specific pain, we are going to work on balance and boosting my immune system. OK.

I lie on the treatment bed, fully clothed (no shoes), and he covers me with a sheet. Before pulling out the needles, he feels my belly. Stomach, intestines, whatever else is in that general area. Apparently, from that, he can tell that I don’t drink enough water and eat too quickly. Hmm. He is going to adapt the acupuncture treatment to help me flush out toxins and relieve stress in my stomach.

This is when I close my eyes. I can’t look at needles without feeling faint (yes, I also get Botox with my eyes closed), even though he insists on showing me how small they are. And the treatment begins. To distract me, Sung tells me he is from Korea, but has been living in California until very recently. He spends part of his time at Hela at the Collection, part of his time working with an acupuncture professor doing research at NIH. All of this sounds very serious. He pauses. “Are you feeling any pain?” “No, you can begin.” Actually, during our brief discussion, he had inserted needles in my feet, lower legs, head, ears, and arms and hands. I didn’t feel a thing. I still couldn’t bring myself to look at the needles.

He said I should stay there about 25 minutes. I might start to feel relaxed, calm. He would be just outside if I needed him. Within about a minute of him leaving the treatment room, I fall asleep. Deep sleep. My phone rang (I noticed later) and I didn’t even hear it (which never happens, usually even just a vibrate ring will wake me up). Apparently, between the relaxing needles (!!), the infra-red light he placed over my naked feet to help with blood circulation, and my general state of sleep deprivation, this was exactly the treatment I needed.

It was painless. It felt relaxing. I had a power-nap mid-morning, and an extra spring in my step for the rest of the day. Thank you Sung. Thank you Monica. May I please come back?


Tomorrow is my birthday

Tomorrow, October 19th, 2010, is my 33rd birthday. Which means that tonight feels particularly wonderful, like an early Friday evening, before the week-end has officially begun, but with the expectations of great things ahead.

Tomorrow will be a great day, filled with some of my favorite things, including work (of course!), a BFF, my current favorite playlist, gorgeous shoes, and champagne (of course).

While I was initially supposed to spend tomorrow in DC with my someone special, I am instead spending tomorrow in Abingdon, VA surrounded by special people. Tomorrow and Wednesday marks the true beginning of Alchimie’s partnership with Universal Companies, the leading US spa distributor. While we signed our contract on the 21st of last month, tomorrow is when the real work begins. I will be spending two days at the HQ training the entire Universal Companies team. I have been working on the training content for weeks; I have been working on this relationship for years; I cannot imagine a better birthday present than to spend the day with them, a true step to taking my business to the next level.

With me, sharing this experience and this momentous birthday (on Wednesday, can I still say I am in my early thirties, or am I know in my mid-thirties?) is one of my favorite people in the universe, my business partner and BFF Catherine Littlefield. She has been by my side since 2004, she has seen Alchimie Forever grow, and has always believed in it as much as I have. She knows what this means to me, to our brand. And she loves birthdays. I can’t wait to celebrate my 33rd with her.

I have always been of the mind that my birthday is special, no matter where I am, no matter if I am working, not working, with family, without family. Tomorrow, in addition to being with the Universal Companies team and Catherine, three specific things will make October 19th, 2010, special to me.

First, I will wake up and immediately turn on my current favorite playlist, tunes by Goldfrapp. I will play them loudly, at 5:30 am, in my hotel room (sorry, neighbor!), and prance around to the sound of them, before even having coffee. I might even sing along a little. How can a day that starts with this music not be a great day?

Second, I will wear my birthday present from my someone special, the most gorgeous sexy shoes I have ever owned. Thank you my BFF Kassie from Simply Soles for carrying this pair of Bruno Maglis. I know I should save them for evening celebrations, but tomorrow, I will wear them all day long! How can a day in those shoes not be a great day?

Third, at dinner, I will have champagne. Of course. Veuve Cliquot if I can find it in this remote area of VA. If not, any sparkling wine will do. And whatever it ends up being, the bubbles will taste absolutely magical. How can a day that ends with champagne (or bubbly) not be a great day?

I can hardly wait for October 19, 2010.


I am a pen and paper kind of girl

I am a pen and paper kind of girl. I have always known that about myself, but this week was reminded of that fact by my girlfriend Anne. I started to wonder about why nice notebooks, specific colored pens (of specific thickness of course), and a paper calendar are so important to me. I owe it to Madame Menegay…

When I was in middle school, she was my favorite teacher. She was super strict on everything and on one thing in particular: how we took notes and how we underlined our notes. She taught us the hierarchy of note taking (roman numerals, numerical numbers, capital letters, small letters). For example:

– Football

1. AFC

A. East

a) The Patriots

b) The Miami Dolphins

B. West

2. NFC

– Baseball

I am sure you all see how the hierarchy works… of course, back then she was teaching French, History, and Geography… We had to underline our notes – that was the process to be used to review class material before exams. We had to have different colored pens, underline with a ruler (the Roman numeral categories were underlined twice), and underline particularly important points with a squiggle line.

This might explain my obsession with paper and colored pens. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Blackberry, but for calendaring, I can’t bring myself to replace my At-A-Glance calendar. I have been using them since 2003 (and of course keep all of the old ones). I love being able to see my week on two pages – it gives me an overview that I can’t get on a screen. I color code my appointments and at the end of every week, I do something I learned from Deborah Szekely, founder of Rancho La Puerta. At the end of every week, she looks at her calendar and color codes various activities retroactively. I have three different colored pens to group the week’s activities and meetings in three categories: the meetings that contributed to your professional development or development of your business, the activities that contributed to your personal enjoyment, and the tasks that I should do less of. That enables me to visually get a sense of how I am spending my time, and if there is too much of the “do this less” and not enough of the “personal enjoyment” then I shift things around the following week. How would all of this visualization and color coding work on an electronic calendar?

I was at a luncheon with Anne a couple of weeks ago, and the subject of paper / pencil versus electronic preferences came up. I told her about my complex calendaring process, and she seemed surprised… yet intrigued. This week, she emailed me and wrote that she had been mulling over my system, and was considering going back to paper, and would I let her know what type of paper calendar I use, and next we get together would I show her my color coding system. Yes and yes!



When I was growing up in Geneva, there was a certain rythm to the week. One of the things I knew for sure, no matter what, was that Sunday night was family dinner night. Spaghetti with home-made tomato sauce, more specifically. My mother would cook the tomatoes on low heat all Sunday long, then peel them, add rosemary, salt, pepper, cook them some more, and then finally boil the water for the spaghetti. Any family member, immediate or less immediate, who was in Geneva on Sunday nights was invited, wordlessly, and would show up. That was our Sunday evening ritual. The sun rises every morning. And spaghetti is served at my Mom’s house every Sunday night.

My summer reading list

A few years ago, I came across the book The Georgetown Ladies’ Social Club, by C. David Heymann. I had just graduated from Georgetown McDonough School of Business, and it seemed like an interesting book given that I lived in DC (well, technically, in Arlington, VA). I started it, but could never get into it.

Fast forward 6 years, to a month or so ago. I have since moved my home and my business to Georgetown, and have become fascinated with all things having to do with this neighborhood. I can’t start my day without reading The Georgetown Dish. Finding The Georgetowner in my mailbox makes me feel special. I guess you could call me a Georgetown groupie.

Looking through my bookcase a few weeks ago (reading more is one of my 2010 New Year’s resolutions), I found The Georgetown Ladies’ Social Club once again, and a project formed in my mind. I decided this book would be the starting point of my summer reading list, which would focus on all things Georgetown, or at least all things DC.

I shared my summer project with my friend Stephanie Greene; somehow I knew she would have the best book recommendations. Not only was she excited about my project and eager to share her recommendations, she showed up at my office with a bag full of books for me to take on my week-long summer vacation in Greece (where I am writing from; more on that later).

So here is the beginning of my summer reading list (June-July), in the order in which I am reading them. Somehow I get the feeling that this project will last into the fall, possibly the winter, so please suggest additional titles that you would recommend.

The Georgetown Ladies’ Social Clubby C. David Heymann

All The President’s Menby Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

The Washingtonienneby Jessica Cutler

Farewell Jackie, by Edward Klein

The Other Manby Michael Bergin

The Other Mrs. Kennedy, by Jerry Oppenheimer

Personal History, by Katharine Graham

I could go on, but I must sign off. Books await me…