Some of My New Sanity Rituals

Business has slowed drastically. My inbox is full of COVID-19 update emails instead of “normal” emails, so even “office work” is different. 

My meetings have been postponed and my trips cancelled for the foreseeable future. No trainings, store visits, events, or conferences for days. 

I have been home for 9 days straight. 

This is not my “normal life,” and I must rethink my days and my rituals, to ensure that I don’t think of every day as “day” (instead of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc), which I must admit I am guilty of. 

I am not there yet, but I am trying. Here are some of the things I have implemented (some new, some similar to what I did “before”) to stay sane during these insane times. 

  • Waking up between 4:30 and 5 am on weekdays (my normal wakeup time). 
  • Making a weekly gameplan on Mondays as I usually would, focusing on prioritizing projects I have not had a chance to work on over the past six months. 
  • Listening to Yo Yo Ma daily in the evening (on Instagram). 
  • Skyping weekly with my sisters during the weekends (instead of monthly). 
  • Defining Wednesday as vacuuming day. Given that we brought our cat to Georgetown, my husband just gifted me a new Dyson mini vacuum which is perfect for cat hair. Did I mention how satisfying vacuuming is? 
  • Being super strict about my eating and drinking. I am still not drinking three days per week (although last week I slipped and only made it two days) and am very aware of the “COVID-19” and eating with awareness to avoid gaining weight.  
  • Notwithstanding the above, ordering takeout from my favorite restaurants to support them as best as I can. 
  • Doing 100 sit ups every day. 
  • Taking advantage of the many (free) webinars that many publications and associations are offering to discuss the current crisis and how to do business during such times. 
  • Ensuring that at least two evenings per week involve no “TV.” 
  • Listening to a Master Class per day (so far, I only did this once this week though). 
  • Doing virtual cocktail hours and lunches and dinners with friends (oh friends how I miss thee…).  
  • Reading. I am still finishing The Only Plane in the Sky, the timing of which I can’t decide is scary or fortuitous, following which I plan on reading mostly fiction until “life goes back to normal.” 
  • Reminding myself of all of the things I have to be grateful for, including my husband, my health, my home. 

What are you doing to stay sane? Please share! I need more ideas…

Road Trip!

To say these are unprecedented times is an understatement. In the past week, two of my family’s businesses have been forced to close (for 45 days) per Swiss government regulations (Forever Institut and Forever Boutique). Many of the amazing spas and boutiques that carry Alchimie here in the US have chosen to close for two or more weeks. I have had entire days open up in my calendar as trips and meetings and events have been cancelled. And, I listened to my father’s request to not fly from New Orleans this week (I succumbed to the “I don’t ask you for much, but I am really asking you to do this for me” argument). Instead, I drove.

Or I should say we drove. My husband Edwin, my cat Chloe, and I took a road trip this week. We left Hammond LA on Tuesday at 6 pm and drove five hours to Birmingham AL. From there, yesterday, we drove 11 hours to “home,” in Georgetown, Washington DC.

While I am still processing everything that is happening, still adapting business practices, still getting used to what (at least for now) is the “new normal,” and still wondering every morning as to what the news will bring, these hours in the car brought me some clarity.

  1. My husband thinks road trip = fast food. We stopped at Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Shake Shack (I did not partake). Also, drive-thrus are weird.
  2. Driving through 6 states, through cities and through the countryside made me realize how our country has an incredibly varied understanding of the current situation. Everyone is interpreting this reality differently – from signs on the highway encouraging drivers to “don’t travel, stop the COVID-19 spread,” to “it’s life as usual”, I saw it all. Including a gas station in VA where I was told by the proprietor I could not use the restroom because “this is my shop and now this is my bathroom, because you know, corona virus.”
  3. While we had plans to listen to a couple podcasts and finish The Only Plane in the Sky (by Garrett Graff) as a book on tape, we did no such thing. Instead, we took turns calling people. We were driving, so no emails or texts were possible. Now more than ever, talking to people is essential. We need to feel connected to each other, we need to feel like we are in this together. I am so grateful for the phone.
  4. Cats can get used to anything (except big trucks driving by and loud engine noises). Chloe spent most of the drive sleeping on the lap of the driver (which she prefers than the lap of the passenger regardless who is driving). With her being so chill and not complaining about a thing, the least I could do was act the same.
  5. Being with someone you love during such uncertain times makes everything bearable, even makes everything feel like an adventure. My heart goes out to those going through this time alone.
  6. Everyone is uncertain about everything, is questioning everything. The only things we can control are the things we can control: for example, adapting business practices to this new reality; changing our personal habits as need be; improvising and going with the flow (my dinner party tomorrow night is now happening via Go To Meeting); our reactions to news and events; how kind we are.

This morning, I woke up grateful to be in my own bed. And reminded myself, “control the things you can control.”

Be well, stay healthy, stay sane.

 

Celebrating International Women’s Month

There are many reasons to love March. The official arrival of Spring. Spring break. St. Patrick’s day. March Madness. And International Women’s Day.

I celebrate women every day (my sisters, my BFFs, my team members), but I celebrate them extra in March. A few years ago I wrote about a few of my amazing innovative girlfriends.  This year, I celebrate this week’s International Women’s Day by highlighting some of my favorite DC-area women-owned businesses.

Bellacara
This Old Town beauty boutique is owned by Angela Sitilides, a former attorney and mother of four boys who decided that entrepreneurship and beauty were a more fulfilling career path. Her store, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, carries a curated assortment of skin (yes, including Alchimie!), bath & body, hair and makeup brands, along with amazingly delicious-smelling candles.

Betsy Fisher
My favorite clothing boutique in DC, the eponymous Betsy Fisher blends trendy and
conservative, as is necessary in the nation’s capital. Too busy to shop? Betsy will personally choose items she thinks will work for you and have them couriered to your home or place of business.

Hank’s Oyster Bar
An institution in DC, I must confess to having gone to Hank’s Oyster Bar for the first time just a couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday when I woke up craving a seafood tower… and realized that their first location (opened in 2005) is walking distance from my house. I don’t know owner Jamie Leeds, but I am grateful to her for helping with my random craving!

Ninotch, an Urban Retreat
Owner and therapist Tatiana Tchamouroff’s petite size belies her strength. She has been
offering therapeutic treatments and sports massage to the DC sports community for over 20 years, and I can personally attest that her hands are both powerful and magical. With locations in Bethesda and Tyson’s, her spas also offer facials, flotation therapy, and spray tanning. A must for the stressed out among us….

Salt & Sundry
Opened in 2012 in Union Market, this lifestyle boutique carries the most unique goods from independent designers both local and global. This is my go-to source for gifts (especially for that friend who has everything), and a favorite place to receive gifts from (most recently the most amazing gold-rimmed water glasses). Last night, at Moki Media’s Dainty Doesn’t Do It event, I had the privilege of hearing Amanda McClements, the founder of this boutique, moderate a panel – which made me love this boutique all the more!

What are your favorite women-owned brands and businesses?

The products I Cheat On Alchimie Forever With

Not surprisingly, my skin care routine is quite involved and I use all Alchimie Forever products. Once in a while, however, I cheat on my brand with other brands and products. Here are the non-Alchimie skin care products I am currently using. 

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 Pigm 400. I admire this brand and have heard a lot of wonderful feedback on their products yet have never used anything personally. Just last week, Sara Akram talked me into this exfoliating and brightening lotion to help even out my pigmentation. I don’t love the aroma, but the jury is still out in terms of the results. 

Naturopathica’s Rosehip Seed Regenerating Facial Oil. I love Naturopathica, and I love a good face oil… and so far I am loving this one (almost as much as I love the Vintner’s Daughter facial oil, which is my favorite oil so far).  

Veneffect Anti-Aging Lip Treatment. This is a product that I have frequent requests for from Alchimie fans: something for the lips and / or lip contour. This treatment is nourishing, anti-aging, not too greasy, and the taste does not bother me. In particular in the dead cold of winter, this helps cure and prevent chapped lips. 

Trish McEvoy Correct and Brighten Weekly Peel Pads. Another frequent request from Alchimie fans are peel pads. I am thinking about it, and decided I had to experiment with this category beyond the classic Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peels. I have used these a few weeks, once a week in the evening. I can’t say that I see a huge difference in my skin, but it is certainly not looking worse. 

Big Apple + Little Sister = Best Day

I go to New York every few weeks, and I write about my visits every few years (including here and here). This week, I had the pleasure of spending a day in the Big Apple with my youngest sister Roxane who was visiting from Switzerland. Here is what our perfect day together looked like.

Mimosas at the Loews Hotel

On Park in mid-town, this is one of the most civilized places in NYC, whether for coffee, lunch, or drinks. I love it for meetings, I love it alone when I need to catch up on emails or write, and I love it for everything in between.

A facial at Heyday Upper West Side

Despite family businesses involving a spa and skin care, Roxane is not a facial aficionado… so I had to gift her a Heyday facial. Not surprisingly, she loved everything about it – the setting, the treatment itself, the post-facial glow, the wonderful team members. No better way to start a day in the city!

A stroll through Nordstrom 57th street

Both of our first times in this gorgeous new store, we were in awe of the beauty offering. Not just the ground floor beauty store (which was packed with shoppers by the way), but also the first floor Beauty Services area. Featuring various “shops in shop” including Heyday (yes, they are in all the right places), Drybar, Face Gym and more, as well as wonderful niche brands, this area gave off a cool, chic, inviting vibe that made you want to shop and treat yourself.

A haircut at Fourteen Jay 

Roxane is addicted to her short haircut, and to Aveda. When she asked me for the best Aveda salon in the City, I had to recommend Fourteen Jay, a project my friend (and celebrity hairstylist) Frank Rizzieri was involved in creating.

Apero at the “new” Pastis

Pastis reopening last year after a five-year hiatus was to me some of the happiest 2019 news. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner there still feels like a party, something utterly “New York” that can’t be replicated anywhere else. A must.

We didn’t have a chance to visit all of the places on my list… here are a few left for her next visit.

The bar at Morandi

Another Keith McNally creation, Morandi in the West Village is on my list of places to try.

An afternoon at Great Jones Spa

One day I will make the time to have a long and perfect massage at this legendary spa, and I will take advantage of their amazing amenities, including the River Rock Sauna, the Chakra Light Steam Room, the Jacuzzi, and the Cold Plunge. One day…

Our Kantic® Brightening Moisture Mask: Better than Ever!

One of the things that I love about the skin care industry is the constantly evolving body of knowledge and the ingredient innovation that keep things exciting, and keep me forever working on our product formulations.

When we created our first Alchimie Forever products, back in the late 1980s, we used parabens (we also loved big hair and worked out to Jane Fonda). We no longer use parabens anymore of course, and the process of removing them from our formulations was not easy (imagine making your grandmother’s tomato sauce with cherry tomatoes instead of heirloom tomatoes and wanting it to taste exactly the same). That was Alchimie 2.0.

The improvements continue, as we move from Alchimie 2.0 to Alchimie 3.0.

Recently, we updated our Purifying gel cleanser formulation, removing sulfates, and replacing them with more natural, gentler alternatives – while preserving the beautiful foaming texture of this product.

We also just improved our hero SKU, the Kantic® Brightening moisture mask. For all of you out there who have used and loved this product for decades, and who do not like change (I am in this group), here is more information on exactly what we changed (starting with Lot Numbers 10151J21 and 11041K21).

We removed the following ingredients, in our continued effort to make our formulations as clean (yet still effective) as possible:

  • Phenoxyethanol (preservative, slightly controversial)
  • Dimethicone (silicone derivative, texture ingredient, can clogg pores)
  • Trimethylsiloxysilicate (silicone derivative, texture ingredient, can clogg pores)
  • PPG-15 Stearyl Ether (ethoxylated ingredient, slightly controversial)
  • PPG-20 Methyl Glucose Ether (ethoxylated ingredient, slightly controversial)

We replaced these ingredients with the following cleaner alternatives:

  • Coco-Caprylate/Caprate (non-controversial alternative to silicone)
  • Dimer Dilinoleyl Dimer Dilinoleate (non-controversial texture ingredient)
  • Caprylyl Glycol (non-controversial texture ingredient)

Rest assured: while we have made the formula “cleaner,” we have not changed any of the active ingredients that give the mask all of its wonderful properties and benefits. You will still get the same glow, hydration, calming and anti-redness effect, as you have for years.

And remember, as our products do not contain artificial dyes, the color may vary slightly with each production batch. Similarly, the viscosity (how thick the product is) is a range, as it cannot be replicated 100% batch to batch without a purely synthetic formulation. This means that sometimes the mask will be a little thicker, and sometimes it will be a little more watery.

But the Kantic® Brightening moisture mask, in all of its iterations, remains our best-selling, first ever product, and hero of our brand. And your favorite!