2019 Books

“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.” – Lena Dunham. 

As 2019 draws to a close, I realize I have read 31 books this year. Fiction, non-
fiction. Short, long. Great, less great. For book club, not for book club. Here are my favorite, in the order that I read them.

  1. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de St. Exupéry. I started 2019 with this book, which I have read a dozen times at least. There is a reason why this novella of love, loss, friendship, and loneliness is one of the best-selling and most translated books ever published.
  2. On Becoming by Michelle Obama. I miss the Obamas. That is all.
  3. Love you Hard by Abby Maslin. I don’t often cry while reading, but this memoir of love, loss, and marriage is a real tear-jerker (in the best sense of the word).
  4. The Banker’s Wife by Christina Alger. The author is a friend of a friend and a fellow Harvard graduate, and discovering her writing is one of my 2019 highlights.
  5. The Darlings by Christina Alger. I am addicted.
  6. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.The best book I read this year, this Theranos exposé is proof that reality is indeed stranger than fiction.
  7. Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing by George Cloutier. A powerful reminder that profitability enables the mission.
  8. Girls Like Us by Christina Alger. Christina, please write more faster.
  9. The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy by Michael Lewis. A must read in today’s political climate. (Truly, anything by Michael Lewis is a must read).
  10. The Friends We Keep by Jane Green. A touching book about friendship.
  11. The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins. A lovely story about a small town and the power of books.

My goal for 2019 was to read a book per week. I did not quite get there – although I do plan on reading four more books before 2020:

This has been on my reading list since this past summer. It is time.

Getting a head start on my holiday gift list

I love the holiday season for many reasons, and one of these is the gifting… receiving gifts, of course, but even more, giving gifts. I love to think of the perfect present for everyone on my list, I love the look on their faces as they open the gift I carefully selected and wrapped for them.
Here are some of the items that made my list for this Christmas.
1. Who doesn’t want something soft and cozy? Freecountry butter pile fleece blankets. These come in colors that will please everyone, and I love to get them embroidered for that extra personalized touch. I love these for nieces and sisters.
2. Just as soft and cozy, these Soft Surroundings cuddle up slippers are also on my list, ideal gifts for my BFFs.
My friends who keep their phones on their bedside table and look at them during the night and first thing in the morning will be getting the Oct17 Wooden Alarm clock. And actually, I may have to get one for myself.
3. I don’t have children, but I have children in my life. And for them, Jacadi is who I turn to.
4. The Book Of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images will give those on my list who have everything something to look at and to think about. Thank you The Georgetown Dish for the recommendation!
5. I discovered Blenko Glass during one of my work trips to West Virginia. With over 120 years of history, their shapes remain modern and are forever practical. The ruby water bottles are particularly giftable.

Happy holidays, and happy holiday shopping!

50 days left…

There are 50 days left in 2019. You read that correctly. 50.

I can’t believe it, I have not yet accomplished all I set out to do this year, I am not ready for 2020 to be here, and I am slightly freaking out about this. Then again, I have 50 days. So here is what I am doing between now and then:

  1. Holiday gifting planning. Yes, I am starting now, and this is possible the funnest project ever.
  2. Compiling a list of everything I have accomplished so far in 2019. It feels good to see that while I am not close to checking off everything on my goal list, some goals have indeed been achieved.
  3. Starting my “2019 year in review” project, something I tend to do early January (looking backwards). This year, I decided to do this earlier so that I can still course-correct if there is something that needs to happen before 2020 that has not yet been put in motion.
  4. Daydreaming (not planning) about 2020. Letting my brain imagine things that can be next year, so that when the actual planning begins (later in December), I will have some creative, out of the box ideas.
  5. Reviewing my financials. Personal and professional. So that I don’t have any surprises come December 31st, and can make adjustments where need be, if need be.

How are you preparing for a successful end of 2019?

Change + Disruption + Triggers + Purpose

“The only constant is change” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and this has never been truer than today. Change is both an opportunity and a challenge, and I love (and need!) reminders about how to deal with change and disruption. Yesterday, I was reminded of just that by Carol Sanford.

Sanford encouraged her audience to think about the sources of change, namely:

  • Startup business phase
  • Growth business phase
  • Economic downturns
  • Industry / market disruption
  • Personal situations

The two typical responses to disruption are:

  • Panic / blame others / feel like a victim
  • Work to reduce harm / slow impact of change

Both of these responses are reactive.

“What makes you reactive?”

Sanford encouraged us to ponder this important question and to think about our behavior when we are in “reactive mode.” Words such as “defensive, demanding, insistent, unable to hear others, aggressive” come to mind.

Instead, Sanford advised, approach change and disruption in a purposeful way. Questions to ponder to move from a reactive mindset to a purposeful mindset include:

  • What are you seeking to contribute to the world?
  • What is the intended outcome?
  • What does the group of people you are interacting with (employees, customers, family) need from you?

Know your triggers. Respond, don’t react. Act from a place of purpose.

Two New Favorite Spots in Geneva

I love going home to Geneva, Switzerland, partly because I feel like the city is the same as when I left it in 1995. I love going to the same places over and over again, and have written about my favorites both in National Geographic and here.

Yet, as I leave after three days in my childhood home, to go back to my adult home of Washington DC (go Nats!), I was thrilled to discover two amazing new places that I look forward to visiting again and again.

La Comtesse Champagne & Cocktail Bar

My sisters and I had an apéro there last night, with Mom. A 6th generation family business run by the lovely Anaïs Leconte, this elegant yet cozy bar is an expansion of the core business, which is making champagne. Highlight: the champagne cocktail list is the longest I have ever seen. I will need to go back many times to try them all! 

Le Decanteur

Nestled in the Quartier des Eaux-Vives, this modern Italian restaurant and wine bar is my new favorite. Amazing pasta, amazing Italian wine list. Luca Ragnelli, the owner and master chef, has been cooking since the age of 13, studied at the Ecole Hoteliere of Geneva, spent time in Parma, and worked at the Noga Hilton (now Kempinski) before opening his restaurant. My favorite factoid? One of the restaurant’s signature dishes is inspired and named after is aunt Tina.

Reminders

This week, I am in Tinos, Greece. Not my first visit, but my first visit during the low season. The magic of this island is as strong as ever…

Fewer people make for stronger connections – those of us here really want to be here. The cooler temperatures make for new experiences – walking through the villages and heading to the Chora (town) more frequently. And the lessons of the island are as insightful as ever.

  • Feeding the island cats feels like the day’s most important project. AKA taking care of others, with no expectation in return, makes me happy.
  • Leaving the book I just devoured (The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda) in the unofficial “sidewalk book exchange” of Isternia village, and seeing it gone the next morning makes my whole day. AKA an act of random kindness for an unknown stranger, makes me happy.
  • Going to the bank (inside the building, not the ATM) feels like an enlightening, welcoming, kind, human connection. AKA taking the time to enjoy every human interaction, even in the form of an “errand,” makes me happy.
  • Slowing down and watching the sunset, grateful for nature and her rhythms, no matter the season, is good for the soul.
  • Finally, as the Greeks say, “eteron ekateron.” AKA “it is neither here nor there.” And/or “it is said of two things that can both apply simultaneously, different from one another, without affecting one another.”