Takehome lessons from Tinos, Greece

The week of 4th of July is my favorite week of the year. It really has nothing to do with the 4th of July – actually, I haven’t spent this week in the US in the past three years. I love the week of July 4th because it is the week I spend in Triandaros, a village known as the “balcony of Tinos,” on Tinos Island in the Greek Aegean Sea. Almost 50 years ago, my maternal grandfather bought a house there. It fascinates people from Tinos that I am not Greek, and that I do not have any Greek family. My grandfather, Yaya as I used to call him, taught Greek philosophy and Ancient Greek. He thought, if he were to be a “real” professor of these subjects, he should experience Greek culture, Greek life, Greek people, firsthand.

For the past three summers, I have been so fortunate as to spend a week in this house. And every year on the way back home, with melancholy, I think about how I can take some of Triandaros back with me. This year, here are my takeaways:

  1. Eat more fresh food. The rule at every meal (except breakfast, although I don’t know why) is that every meal I have starts with a Greek salad. I’ll write on that separately for the Georgetown Dish – but the important thing is that the Greek salads I have, regardless of which Taverna serves them, are made of ingredients grown or made basically in the garden. Fresh tomatoes; fresh cucumbers; fresh peppers; feta cheese; olive oil and rosemary. It’s like my Mom always said: a tomato a day keeps the doctor away. Try 5. And the second best eating rule: “Eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables.”
  2. Spend more time outdoors. On Tinos, other than “sleeping time,” no time is spent indoors. Breakfast is taken on the terrace. The day is spent at the beach or walking through the island. Dinner is eaten at a restaurant, outdoors. And after-dinner drinks are taken on the same terrace as breakfast. Spending so much time outdoors reminds me that however long ago, man spent all of his awake time outdoors. Somehow, it seems healthier. My body feels better. I have a slight tan. My hair is blonder. I am happier.
  3. Find simpler pleasures. This is perhaps the essence of the magic of Tinos. I don’t think about stilettos (I don’t even pack them anymore since my first trip). I don’t consider air conditioning a necessity. I forget about TV. I think instead about the direction of the wind. About the color of the sky. About the phase of the moon. About the state of the fig trees. I want to learn to take that back to DC.
  4. To find simpler pleasures, spend more time in quiet and be more present. On Tinos, my phone works as a phone. Very old fashioned, I know. No emails, no data, no internet on the phone. Just a plain-old voice device. I will work against my every instinct to not look at my phone during meals (meals that involve others). To not be a slave to technology. To remember quiet time. To quiet my mind.

Next time you see me, please remind me of these four commitments. I may need help to remember them until end of June 2013, when I hopefully will go back to my happy place.

The magic of Tinos – a letter to my grandfather

I am in terminal F of the Philadelphia airport, trying (not very successfully!) to ease my way back from paradise to reality. And I am thinking of my maternal grandfather, Yaya, as I called him. He has been gone for over twenty years, yet this past week he was with me every day. Every day I thanked him for finding Tinos, a beautiful island in the Cyclades in Greece. For finding this paradise, for designing and renovating the house we still have there, for making this island a part of my life.

While we used to go there as a family when I was a child, I re-discovered this magical place last year. I loved it so much that I returned this past week – I hope this trip can now become an annual tradition. On the 11 hour flight from Athens to Philly, I could not help but re-live this past week, trying to remember every detail, every moment, every memory.

Tinos is not an easy place to get to – there is no airport on the island, which is part of what keeps it quiet and unpopulated. An eleven hour flight form the Northeast is followed by an hour cab ride to the Rafina port, which is followed by a two-hour ferry (if you take the fast ferry). Paradise awaits when you step off of the ferry. The island is a small mountain, it rises above the water, with patches of white and blue, the various villages visible behind the town of Tinos. Mykonos, Delos, and Syros are the neighboring islands visible in the distance.

Our house is in the village of Triantaros, known for its beautiful views on the town and the sea. Watching the sun rise at 6 am (jetlag…) and set at 9:30 pm from the terrace are two of my favorite things to do. Listening to the sounds of nature (mostly silence, crickets, church bells, and once in a long while a car or Vespa) while enjoying Boutari rosé wine is one of the most peaceful, calming activities. The lack of internet, TV, radio is one of the house’s best features, the ultimate luxury in terms of disconnecting from the modern world.

Our days on Tinos (after jet lag subsides) have a very regular rhythm to them. We wake up around 10:30 am, spend time on the terrace, eat Greek yogurt and have some strong coffee. All outside. Slowly, we make it to the Para Pente Café in town, where the Wi-Fi always works and is really fast (my capacity to disconnect is still quite limited). After making sure the world has not stopped turning while I was enjoying the lack of connectivity of the house, we enjoy an iced coffee while watching the ferries zoom across the sea.

After about two hours at Para Pente, we drive 30 minutes through the windy mountain roads to our favorite beach, Kalivia, near the village of Kardiani. Along the way, we marvel at the Tinos aromas, which range from figs to rosemary to juniper. We count the churches on the way… there are 750 on this island!

We discovered Kalivia beach last year, and we would never dream of going to another beach. The beach bar is owned by Marco, who is from Kardiani and is known as “The German” to his friends (he is Greek, but blond-haired and blue-eyed). Marco is the best host, offering a plethora of beach-side cocktails, all home-made (he also makes his own honey-raki), as well as interesting tidbits about Tinos. The beach is flanked by two hills, which creates the perfect bay to swim in. And swim we do. Back and forth, across and back again. We discuss the wind, the water temperature, the size of the waves, the best technique for rock skipping… We read… We practice our Greek alphabet… We nap on the beach, listening to the Greek conversations around us (vacationers here are mostly Greeks from the mainland) and the sound of the waves… We watch the start of sunset.

Around 8 or 9 pm (sometimes as late as 10 pm), we head to dinner. Our favorite restaurant on the island is Bourou, where the owner Dimitri remembered us from last year. His food is amazing, his wine list surprising, and his attention to the beauty and ambiance of his restaurant, unlike I have ever seen.

Our days usually end around 1 am… although this year we discovered a few of the local bars, which really don’t get going until 1 am… and don’t get really fun until around 3 am….

I have been trying to think of how I can incorporate some of the magic of Tinos in my everyday life. Is it the amount of time spent outdoors? The time spent without connectivity? The quiet? The swimming? The aromas? The Greek salads? Or is it that this trip was a bit like a honeymoon, with Edwin and I by ourselves, spending all of our time together, 24/7? Whatever it is, I wish I could bottle it and bring it back. I am already dreaming about going back next year… and thanking my grandfather…

One step at a time…

Summer is the time for barbeques, beaches, sundresses, and most of all sandals and flip flops, and even spending time barefoot. Our feet get to come out of closed shoes and show themselves… Indeed, I have spent the better part of the last ten days sans shoes as I am in Tinos, Greece, and am spending my days at the beach. I have a renewed appreciation for feet, often viewed as the lowliest part of our anatomy, and how essential it is to take good care of them. 

Did you know: 

  • There are 52 bones in a pair of feet – almost one-quarter of the total number in the human body. 
  • Socrates once said, “When our feet hurt, we hurt all over.” 
  • The typical American woman owners 27 pairs of shoes, and spends $277 on shoes annually. (Although Carrie Bradshaw estimated she had spent $40,000 on shoes in a season four episode of Sex and the City…) 
  • The average shoe size of American women is 8. 
  • 23% of women get a monthly pedicure. 
  • And yes, feet rank #1 on the list of most common sexual fetishes. 

(All data from Allure Magazine). 

My foot care rituals include cuticle oil nightly (I love CND’s Solar Oil and SpaRitual’s Cuti-Cocktail Nail and Cuticle Oil), my Dry skin balm daily, and using a nice foot file weekly (SpaRitual’s Soul Mate Eco Foot File is the best). What are yours? 


Keep Calm…

Our Alchimie Forever marketing calendar says that April is the month of Calm. As in calm skin, and calm spirit.

Calm skin. April is National Rosacea Awareness month. Those who suffer from rosacea know this is the antithesis of calm. Red, angry, irritated, uncomfortable, are words that describe rosacea skin; calm is not. Helping to calm your skin looks like this:

  • Avoid triggers. These will vary somewhat individually: heat, alcohol, spice, and more.
  • Protect your skin. From the sun (always), but also from the cold and the wind.
  • Treat your skin gently. Avoid harsh products, cleansers and otherwise. Look for anti-inflammatory ingredients. Remember that less is more.
  • When all else fails, apply makeup to cover up the red. I so rarely recommend makeup other than for color… but sometimes it really is necessary.
  • Your dermatologist is your friend. Listen to his / her recommendations, follow his / her prescriptions, trust the expert.

Calm spirit. Is there a calm spirit month? This is the time of year when my spirit is the antithesis of calm. Tired, overwhelmed, irritated, uncomfortable, are words that describe an agitated spirit; calm is not. Helping to calm my spirit looks like this:

  • Avoid triggers. I know what mine are, I trust you know yours.
  • Protect my energy. Be more quiet. Spend more time in nature (as I write from the gardens of Salamander Resort & Spa).
  • Treat myself gently. Sleep more, drink less, exercise more. Cancel appointments (responsibly).
  • When all else fails, smile until I make it. A Saturday with absolutely zero commitments is 3 days away. Tinos is 64 days away…
  • My therapist is my friend. For me, that means my massage therapist… thank you Brian!

Calm – of skin and spirit!


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Mid-Year Reflections…

I am a planner, a list maker, a goal tracker. I start new years with a list of goals, some new, some left over from the previous year. And usually, sometime in the middle of the year – typically during my vacation in Greece, or around Labor Day weekend – I re look at my goals and set myself up for success for the fall.

This year, my mid-year reflection happened this past Saturday, August 18. I was in Magnano in Riviera (Italy), where my father is from, a place I have not visited in over 20 years. I was there with my husband, my three sisters and their partners and children, and with my father – per his request, to celebrate his 70th year of life, and have our annual Polla Family Council meeting. Such a family gathering, and such a birthday, were conducive to reflection.

So, I reflected.

The first few months of 2018 were challenging, for reasons I still had a hard time processing. I acknowledged this to myself and thanked myself for getting past it. I thought about a note I made for myself at the end 2017 about strengthening my tolerance for tension. I certainly can check that off my list.

I thought about what I am most proud of professionally, namely continuing to grow Alchimie (look for some new distribution this fall), launching our newest product (Advanced retinol serum), continuing to lead Neill Fulfillment.

I reflected on my relationships and the people closest to me. Am I contributing to their happiness, to their growth, to their personal and professional development? These goals are important for the rest of 2018 (and beyond).

I reaffirmed my commitment to my self-care and reminded myself how part of the reason I started feeling better late Spring was more running, more water, more sleep, more reading. I re-commit to ending the year healthy and strong, physically and emotionally.

I thought about some very specific goals I have yet to achieve: redoing our YouTube videos; working on my book idea; reaching 10,000 Instagram followers for Alchimie; reading the books remaining on my “Marie Kondo-ed book pile.”

Finally, I think about what I am looking forward to for the rest of the year. These next few days in Italy, maybe becoming a home owner, lots of productive work travel, my god-daughter Jade’s week-long visit, the holiday season.

So much to be grateful for, so much to do, so much to look forward to…