Erin Romney

Erin Romney: Owner of ROMNEY

If you know me, you know how important my girlfriends are to me. I cherish each and every one of them, and they are a big reasons I live in DC – most happen to live there. If you know me, you also know I spend a lot of my time in New Orleans. My love story with New Orleans started in 2008, and continues strong. There is something about the spirit of the people there that I have yet to find elsewhere. And little by little, I am discovering amazing women there, some who have become girlfriends, and some whom I hope to one day have the privilege of calling that.

Erin Romney falls in the latter group. The friend of a friend, I reached out to her because of her very New Orleans story – and cannot wait to meet her, and get to know her in person.

Read on… and go visit her studio!

AP: Tell me a little bit about yourself. ER: I am the owner of ROMNEY Pilates and RIDE. I started this studio 11+ years ago shortly before Katrina. After losing the studio for a bit while New Orleans built back up I lived in Paris, France teaching Pilates there.

AP: Katrina… such a loaded name. ER: Yes… Katrina changed me, like Katrina changed the personality of New Orleans. All for the better of course and I appreciate what I went through now but it was a rough go for a while. People are passionate about this city and it showed in the rebuilding efforts.

AP: You moved from New Orleans to Paris… and even Paris couldn’t keep you from coming back to New Orleans. ER: I came back to New Orleans with a vengeance to rebuild my business in the city I had fallen in love with. I realized when I moved back that people needed a place to escape the stress the city was under, and for a time our studio was a refuge. People would stay for hours. It was a source of happiness and release not only for clients but for me as well. That’s when I took it over the top to create that atmosphere that provided that daily escape through the surroundings and movement. Today, 11 years later, three studio upsizes and a location within The Ritz-Carlton is we are where we are. We have expanded our offerings to Pilates, Cycling, Barre, Gyrotonic, Megaformer and now boxing. I have got an incredible team that I work with daily and we are in a beautiful facility that my father designed in a lovely location.

AP: What city were you born in? ER: I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico but shortly after my birth we moved to Salt Lake City, UT.

 AP: What city to do you live in? ER: I live in New Orleans (NOLA, The Dirty, The Big Easy, The Crescent City).

AP: What is your astrological sign? ER: Cancer with a sprinkle of Leo.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? ER: I love interior design and fashion. I love creating beautiful spaces to surround oneself in. A beautiful, comfortable interior really affects people. Fashion is a way to express yourself. It’s your personality coming out for everyone to see even if they never have a conversation with you. 

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? ER: Eat healthy, that is number one! It’s what fuels you. It’s what raises your vibration. Beauty is from the inside out. It’s your skin, your physical shape, your hair, the clarity of your eyes, your mental and physical energy. Those all contribute to beauty and it begins with a healthy diet. I’ve been down that road before of abusing food (sugar in particular) and suffered the consequences of bad skin, low energy levels and physically not my best.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? ER: I start every morning with lemon water, ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper in warm water. It’s alkalizing, anti-inflammatory and speeds up metabolism. I limit dairy, gluten, caffeine (former addict) and sugar (former addict as well).  I only drink on special occasions because alcohol affects me negatively and I’m suffering the next day. I know it sounds like an extreme diet and it’s certainly not how I’ve eaten in the past but the results are outstanding in my physical body and mental clarity!

Every season I do a food based cleanse. It’s 10 days, seasonal, vegan, very clean vegetable based recipes. Since doing this cleanse/detox I have managed to rid my addiction from caffeine and sugar. I will trip up after a few months and then it’s time for the next cleanse so it gets me back on track.

AP: What do you do for exercise? ER: A lot of different things to cross train: Pilates, Cycling, Megaformer, Barre, Gyrotonic and recently Boxing. Everything I do I really believe in for the specific results it provides. No one exercise covers it all unfortunately. Fitness is not about one modality, you can’t train the same way over and over and get the same results. That’s why we offer a variety at our studio, we are basically five boutique studios under one roof. You eventually plateau or over-train the same muscles groups the same way and then injury happens. I want to look good and feel good well into my older years. To live life with vitality, vigor, and no physical pain.

 AP: What is your favorite thing to eat and drink? ER: One thing that I love to drink but I don’t think it’s great for you is sparkling water. It prevents me from drinking soda or sugary juice drinks. To eat? Circa 3 years ago it was pizza, fried stuff and sugary desserts. Today, I actually love roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale salads and avocado toast. 

AP: Botox or not? ER: Whatever makes someone feel beautiful…within reason. I always say try natural alternatives first, facial massage, creams, acupuncture, to see if those are effective and if not then take the next step if you feel like you need it. Skin ages differently over time. Aging and gravity take their toll on people in different ways and someone else’s path is their path. Just remind them of their worth and inner beauty with or without the needle.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? ER: I’m still trying to figure this one out. I absolutely LOVE what I do and I also am blessed with the most magical family but both worlds pull at me like a tug-of-war.   

I’m proud to show my children what hard work looks like for an entrepreneur. I have found my life’s work and I believe that I’m showing my children that anything is possible in life with some passion, grit, and elbow grease.

When I’m with my children and not working I can really focus on them and be an attentive mother. When I’m with them, I’m pulled into their world, which is very different from business world. Children are so sweet, innocent and awed by life. A very successful business woman told me once that in order to pursue/grow/attend to your company you need really good help/team at home and I have been fortunate to have found that. I couldn’t do what I do without it.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? ER: Oh gosh, I have really started traveling recently because my children are easier to travel with but it’s mostly in the U.S. Roughly about 7 trips per year. I hope to travel to more foreign territory in the next few years.   

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? ER:

1) I’m that person who cleans my space on the plane.  I have this blended essential oil spray that kills airborne germs since the air is recycled on planes. I will also bring hand wipes and wipe down the seat, the air vent and anything I touch. 

2) I always bring an apple with me to hold me over. Airport food is horrible and when I’m starving is when I make poor food decisions. 

3) Always carry on a simple black outfit in case they lose your luggage and you are without clothes 

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? ER: Slow, inefficient drivers. I said it. Not proud but that always brings out a little road rage in me unfortunately. I recently put a calming essential oil diffuser in my car so hoping that helps.

AP: What professional beauty/fitness/wellness experts do you have on your speed dial. ER: Local: Tisa Beauty Bar for make-up, Dr. Deirdre Hooper for skin, Angelina Marzano for massage and Melanie Weller for body work, chakra aligning.

General experts I turn to: Taryn Toomey is my spiritual guru (she’s an amazing human being), Gwyneth Paltrow for various alternative treatments, natural products that I’m into and love her cookbooks, Kate Hudson for a little happiness which is just as important as everything else for health. I also really look up to trainer Todd Durkin, he is another incredibly inspiring person. You can simply walk into his gym and you feel his positive energy.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? ER: I try to wake up before my children so I can meditate. That’s usually around 5:30am. Meditation has been life changing for me.  I am able to handle stress better and I’m overall more calm and focused. I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. I love sleeping and I’m good at it.

AP: Who is your mentor? ER: Salma Hayek once told me that I need to create a mentor within myself. Brilliant words I live by. If I had to pick one person it would be Taryn Toomey because she helps inspire me to build my inner mentor. She’s touched my soul with her words, classes and philosophy on life. I look up to her in so many ways.

AP: What is your skincare routine (products, facialists, etc)? ER: Skin hasn’t been my greatest asset and it’s probably because I ate very poorly for decades. I’m turning that around now and regularly get facials about every 2-3 weeks. The skin should be more about regular maintenance rather than a really aggressive peel once a year when your epidermis isn’t necessarily prepped for that. 

I recently switched to the La Mer oil facial cleanser and love it. Exfoliation is good for my skin so I use a scrub as well. I also discovered these natural facial products called Kypris from Donna Karan’s space in Aspen. They are organic, natural and use essential oils in their serums. I firmly believe in the power of therapeutic grade organic essential oils. I use a lot of Skinceuticals products as well. If I need a strong moisturizer, I’ll use Crème de la Mer.

I get facials from Marlene at La Visage Day Spa and my dermatologist is Dr. Deirdre Hooper

AP: What do you do to relax? ER: I take bath’s daily. I can’t remember the last time I showered. There’s something so healing about being in water and the weightlessness of the body. I love to read and always bring a book/magazine with me. I could stay in there for hours, literally. 

AP: Quote to live by. ER: Here are a few: 

You are love, fall for yourself.  – r.h. Sin

Paradise isn’t a place. It’s a feeling.  – L. Boyer

Life doesn’t get any easier. You just get stronger. 

The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes. – Mark Nepo

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. ER: You don’t have to choose the career or the family. You can have both if you want it bad enough. Raising children is very important absolutely but so is following your dreams and becoming your own person. More specifically…

1)  Do it because you LOVE it. Do it because you can’t stop thinking about it. Don’t do it for money, that will come because you love it.

2)  Surround yourself with people who lift you up and support you. It doesn’t have to be many, but they should be significant. 

3)  Listen to your intuition. Setbacks will happen and they will sting but know that they are just guiding you to something better.   

4)  No one is you and that is your power. You have more strength inside of you than you realize, if you only learn how to tap into it you can achieve the life of your dreams. Conquer from within!

AP: Describe your dream day. ER: Even though I’ve created a pretty great daily life for myself I need to be in nature to be well. I would love to wake up early near the ocean with a forest nearby, watch the sunrise and walk around exploring the outdoors or swim for a couple hours. Return to have breakfast with my family and enjoy them for a couple hours then work on an art project. Eat lunch with my family. Explore outdoors on horseback with kids. Read a book in the bath for a bit then help prepare a beautiful, outdoor dinner for a close, fun group of good friends and family. At the end of the night, sit next to a fire under the stars with a cup of tea and reflect/express gratitude for the perfect day. 

AP: What makes you feel beautiful? ER: When I exercise, meditate, eat clean and hang out with my loved ones.

If you have 36 hours in New Orleans…

One of the best things about having family visit is the excuse to do some typical touristy things in a city I love. This past weekend, my youngest sister and her fiancé visited my second (third?) home, New Orleans. Should you find yourself in Louisiana for a summer weekend, here are my recommendations, all “sister-approved.”

Thursday evening:

For the most special dinner in town, head to Stella, owned by Chef Scott Boswell. This is definitely a special occasion splurge, the four course tasting menu with wine pairing will leave you delighted, but not overly full. While I am a fan of all of the fish dishes, my sister’s was their best-selling Duck 5 ways.

After dinner, we headed to Frenchman street, where despite the summer off-season period, the music was plentiful. DBA remains a favorite, and this past Friday night was no disappointment.

Friday:

After a morning of work, we headed to Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar uptown. This is perhaps one of the most reknowned Po-Boy places in New Orleans, a hole in the wall with freshly made Po-Boys like you cannot find outside of New Orleans. The traditional option for a Friday lunch is half fried shrimp, half fried oysters, but I prefer the ham and cheese Po-Boy. Either way, there is no wrong way to go…

Since we were already uptown, we made a slight detour by Magazine street, one of the longest shopping streets in the United States. I finally got to visit my new favorite shoe store, Ceces, and of course we went across the street to Jean Therapy, both locally-owned boutiques of course. While we could have spent the rest of the weekend on Magazine, we quickly moved on to avoid going over-budget.

Only in New Orleans do cemeteries qualify as major tourist attractions… indeed, as the city is built on a swamp, the dead have to be buried above ground, which makes for elaborate crypts and mausoleums. We stopped by Lafayette Cemetery for some quiet reflection, a cemetery established in 1833 in the Garden District (which reminded me that next time my sister comes, we will have to go to Commander’s Palace, perhaps the most famous restaurant in town).

Finally, our last stop that afternoon was the World War II Museum, formerly known as the National D-Day Museum, located in the Central Business District. For two Europeans, the Pacific part of the exhibit was particularly interesting (our museums focus mostly on the European part of WWII).

As no day is complete in the Big Easy without a fabulous dinner, we headed to Maximo’s Grill, my favorite Italian restaurant in the city.

The rest of the weekend was spent in the Hammond / Springfield area of Louisiana, mostly on a wakeboarding boat. And that, my friends, will make for another story, one involving the Prop Stop (a bar accessible only by boat), alligators, and a couple epic face-plants…

A family Jazz Fest

The end (at the beginning)

The evening of day 7 of Jazz Fest is always bitter sweet. Nothing can explain it better than the photo below, which makes me so happy and breaks my heart at the same time.

While I don’t know this for a fact, I would bet that this couple has loved Jazz Fest in that house, together, for many a decade. And this year is their last. They somehow symbolize what Jazz Fest is all about. It’s not about the music, it’s not about the food. It’s about family. About family love.

My water booth family

The magic of Jazz Fest, for me, happens at the Water booth. Yes, we sell water. “Cold water, 3 dollars…” I have re-mastered my multiplication table of 3. Which is sometimes thrown off by the Monster Energy drink that we sell for $5. No, we don’t sell beer (oh, the hand movements and grimaces we have witnessed in answer to that cold hard fact). No, we don’t sell Coke (despite the bright red Coca Cola truck out of which we get the Dasani water we sell). The magic of the water booth is the family of friends that every year comes to help sell water, manage the cash register, and make Jazz Fest so fun. There are too many to name, but the highlights this year were the sisters… the Smith sisters, the Schwarzmann sisters. Maybe I just think that because I am fascinated by sisters…

My family of friends

The water booth is also amazing because it becomes ground zero for friends. Best friends Josh and Jaclyn are there rain or shine (Jaclyn modeling the classic Jazz Fest rain outfit). Ric and Michelle make the trek from Dallas annually (Michelle rocking the best rain boots ever). And more…

The family of music

There is, of course the music. I didn’t want to like him or them, but I loved Adam Levine and Maroon Five. How could I not?! I wanted to love Fleetwood Mac, and did, but not for as long as I thought I would (the music family in that band, and the re-configuration of those couples is amazing to me). Then, I discovered Phoenix, an alternative rock band from Versailles, France. They are so very French, and there are two brothers playing in that band. My people. Then, of course, there were the Black Keys. Not brothers per se, but Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney could have been… and amazed the crowd with the fact that two musicians can make the sound that seems like it should be coming from a band of 5+.

My family

Above all else, there is family. And that is perhaps the most amazing magic of the Water booth, the fact that it brings family together. Multiple generations. Multiple family units. Multiple brothers. The modern reconfigured family, all coming together, with love, happiness, and an open heart. Thank you Mary for making it all happen. 7 magical days.

My sisters

Of course, there are my three little sisters. I tell them about Jazz Fest, about the music, about the Water booth, about the headsets that their babies can wear to protect their ears. Next year, I hope. Next year, maybe one of my three little Swiss sisters will have the opportunity to experience what I have the pleasure of now calling a family tradition.

The end

It will come as no surprise that these 7 days filled with family and families ended up on a slightly bitter-sweet note. The painting that was created today in the water booth, the

painting that had all of us in it, somehow ended up in the hands of a stranger (at least, a “stranger-to-me”). Then again, we have our family, so who needs the painting? Then again even more, Paris wasn’t in the painting, so it wasn’t a real representation of the family anyway… We will just have to have Alex do another live painting next year… Till 2014, Jazz Fest!

The true meaning of "hunkering down"

I married a man from Louisiana. Translation(s) = I married a man who can cook amazing dishes and introduces me to things such as turduckens. I am learning to appreciate bourbon. I now own seer-sucker clothes and know not to wear them before Easter or after Labor Day. Also, I married a man who knows a lot about hurricanes. Actually, we kind of started dating during Hurricane Gustav, now that I come to think of it.

We split our weekends between New Orleans and DC. And of course, as luck would have it, this weekend my husband flew from New Orleans (where hurricane season is over), to DC, only to be greeted by Sandy. He is stuck here for a couple extra days, which makes this entire “hunkering down” experience a lot more fun – and has been teaching me all kinds of things about hurricanes. Here is his top 10 to-dos to prepare for, and during, a big storm.

  1. To be always fully and correctly informed, forget about the TV. There’s an app for that, specifically, Hurricane by KittyCode. Don’t trust any other source of information.
  2. Have spare cash. As he tells me, “who knows when you will need to buy siphoned gas or produce from a guy off his truck.” (Me: “What?”)
  3. On that note, make sure your tank is full of gas. Since we prepared so late, this means I had to gas up at the (expensive) Exxon on Q and Wisconsin. I’ll plan better next time.
  4. Have bottles of water to spare. (Me: “What?” Him: “In case the sewage system backs up and you can’t drink the tap water.” Me: “Let’s go to Safeway.” Sold out. Conclusion: we have cases of Perrier in the house.)
  5. Make sure you have plenty of flashlights. His favorite one is a fluorescent Coleman lantern. (Me: “What? Let’s go to Safeway.” Sold out. “Let’s go to the hardware store.” Sold out.)
  6. Conclusion: plan B. I have plenty of candles and matches. Less effective, but so much more romantic… (my favorite: Aveda Shampure candles and tea lights).
  7. Make a pot of jambalaya. For the 6th time, Me: “What?” He explains, make a big pot of stew, so you have something cooked to eat for a few days if need be. The alternative, make sure you have lots of canned goods. (I now know he loves Cambells Chunky Sirloin the best).
  8. Pick up the lawn furniture. I don’t have any, now I know why.
  9. Make sure your car doesn’t flood. Meaning don’t park in an underground garage on K street. I was thinking that was a great idea since then no tree would fall on my car. I forgot about the flooding risk… maybe the sand bags should have given it away.
  10. Make sure all of your electrical devices are charged: phones, Ipods, Ipads, laptops, Wifi cards, Kindles, backup batteries, potable DVD players, and anything else you can think of.

And my favorite of all, have a (or a few) bottle(s) of Jameson’s to play the “hunker down drinking game.” Whenever anyone says, texts, or facebooks “hunker down” (including the news channel), take a shot.

Be safe, stay dry, stay warm, and “hunker down” my friends!

Be safe, New Orleans!

This morning, Louis Armstrong International airport is abuzz with more nervous energy than is typical on an early Monday morning.  The lines are longer at the checkin counters, at security, and at the PJ’s Coffee stand; people seem simultaneously more awake and more tired. As I sit by gate B12 and wait to board my flight back to DC this morning, I can’t help but feel like I am abandoning my city, abandoning my family. I have had this flight scheduled for months (and tomorrow I fly to Geneva), but leaving this morning seems like taking the easy route out. Shouldn’t I be staying to help fight Isaac?

This weekend was one of the magical Louisiana weekends that I have the privilege of enjoying. After months without a working boat, I was reunited with the Natalbany River. As boat weekends go, this one was particularly enjoyable. Perhaps it was the fact that I hadn’t been on the river since the end of June. Perhaps it was the company. Perhaps it was the weather, which was particularly perfect – cooler than typical for this time of year (apparently, we have Isaac to thank for this). Perhaps it was the mechanical problems we experienced despite a completely new engine. I now know what spark plugs look like, what “hydrolock” means, and why having a 5’8 wrench is essential. Most importantly, I have witnessed the “code of the river,” the kind helpfulness of strangers.

As we were stranded on the river with a dead boat, without tools, and with a single, small paddle, two boats stopped by to offer their assistance. The first boat went to the Prop Stop (the river bar) to find us a 5/8 wrench. They came back with a mechanic. By then, however, we were back in business, thanks to the second boat that stopped by, and offered us their 5/8 wrench. For free, no questions asked, refusing to take any money for the part. With this tool, which may now be one of our most prized possessions, Josh, who earned the nickname “Josh the amazing mechanic” was able to remove the spark plugs, dry them off, put them back in, and start the boat. This process was one we would all be quite familiar with come Sunday evening…

The weekend was complete with my first experience at Waffle House, and the discovery of their famous eggs and cheese with cinnamon toast. The weekend was also complete with Sunday night dinner at my favorite restaurant in New Orleans, Maximo’s. At the end of the meal, instead of the usual cheerful “Good night,” the Chef gave us a solemn “Be safe.” Indeed, the topic of conversation throughout the meal was of course Isaac. Tulane cancelled classes until Wednesday, so my step-son (who just moved in to his new dorm) will be heading to Hammond for the coming few days. As I fly back to DC and a “normal Monday” awaits me, my husband’s to-do list today includes purchasing a generator and making sure the house is filled with all of the necessary hurricane foods. Somehow, I feel I should be staying. And not just for the hurricane parties I know I will be missing…

Crawfish season

One of the things I have learned about New Orleans is that there is always a festival, and if there is not, it is still always the season to celebrate something. Right about now, after Mardi Gras season and before Jazz Fest season, it is Crawfish season (crawfish is best between March and June). Believe it or not, Louisiana is responsible for 90% of the US crawfish production, 70% of which is consumed in the state. While Louisiana’s earliest commercial crawfish harvest on record dates from the 1880s, crawfish eating in the state goes back to early Cajun settlers. And while for a while crawfish were considered “unclean shellfish,” the lowly dirty siblings of the more precious and delicious crabs and lobsters, crawfish farming developed in the 1950s and the mudbug regained its popularity as both a delicacy and an emblem of Cajun culture.

While I have not yet had the pleasure of going to a crawfish boil in someone’s backyard, I have fallen in love with J’s Seafood Dock at the French Market. For the last few sunny Sundays I have spent in New Orleans, I have eater oysters, crabs, and my fair share of crawfish at J’s, sitting on a stool, people watching. J’s Seafood Dock is family-owned: the Mom is the boss, the Son shucks oysters (a friend of theirs owns the oyster bed) and entertains the crowd, while the Sister handles the register. The Uncle, meanwhile, cooks the crawfish in the two massive pots are constantly boiling. The crawfish are boiled in spicy water (I can still taste the nutmeg and clove), with a mixture of fresh vegetables including celery, garlic, lemon, and more. They are then consumed by the pound, no silverware needed. I am just learning how to peel those little guys myself… indeed, apparently there is a rule in Louisiana: “you peel your own crawfish.” Two hours and three pounds of crawfish later, I am getting pretty good at it!