Tinos Reading List – 2019 Edition

One of my biggest pleasures on vacation is the ability to read during the day for hours on end. I try to consume a book every day or two. Fiction, non-fiction, recently published books, older publications. Always paper books – no e-book for me, even though it does mean all of these traveled in my suitcase from DC to Tinos, via Geneva. 

Here is my (very ambitious) reading list for this year’s time in Tinos. 

Bad Blood by Jon Carreyrou. I have been fascinated by Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos for as long as I can remember, thinking of her as an example of what a woman entrepreneur can accomplish. Her company’s demise makes her all that more fascinating to me. And this book reads like fiction – and is the perfect example of reality being stranger (and more stressful!) than fiction. 

The Next Girl; Her Pretty Bones; and Her Final Hour by Carla Kovach. These three will be my guilty pleasures, crime thrillers that will be hard to put down. 

Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing by George Cloutier. I have been meaning to read this for some time after my husband gave it to me as a reminder that while a company’s mission is everything, profits make the mission possible. 

The Naked Truth by Leslie Morgan. This is our next Book Club book, a memoir of a woman in her 50s who gets divorced and decides to actively date for a year (aka have sex with five guys) to get over her sorrows. 

Atomic Habits by James Clear. My friend Jenny gave me this book as she knows one of my favorites is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I can’t wait to dive into this one! 

Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham. A Brigadoon-recommended book, these never disappoint. 

Building a Great Business by Ari Weinszweig. Adam Ross, co-founder of Heyday, with whom I enjoy trading book recommendations, said this was the best book he read in 2018. “Unconventional, but awesome,” I believe were his exact words. 

Le Prophète by Khalil Gibran. My sister Cyrille gave me this book (one of her personal favorites) last week. I guess she thought I needed to add something less prosaic than all my business books to my reading list…  

Le Nouveau Féminimse by Barbara Polla. It’s not a Tinos reading list without my Mom’s latest non-fiction… and this one will be quite the controversial read. 

What are you reading this summer? 


Vacation. Vacay. Vacances. A magical word.

In three days, I will be on vacation. Every year, I take the last week of June and the first week of July off and head to a tiny island in Greece with limited wifi, more churches than people, and good Raki. There, I rest and prepare myself for the second half of the calendar year. I read. I think. I sleep. I swim. I watch the sunset. Sometimes I watch the sunrise. I eat Greek salads. I drink rosé. I nap. I do nothing. I work (some).

In 2017, Americans gave up 212 million days off in 2017 ($62.2 billion in lost benefits). This year, 39 million Americans won’t take a summer vacation. I get it, taking time off is not really how I am wired. I have learned, however, that vacation is necessary. It is part of health care, part of self-care. It is not an indulgence, but something that makes me better at my job (CNBC and USA Today). 

Pre-vacation benefits:

“Isn’t it amazing how much stuff we get done the day before vacation?” (Zig Ziglar)

  • Knowing I am about to be on vacation is a great motivator – almost like I am giving myself an ultimatum. This week I completed two projects that I have been procrastinating on (one of them for 3 months) because I didn’t want to have them weigh on me during my time off.
  • Knowing I am about to be on summer vacation also has positive self-care consequences – I have been eating better (because bikini…) and got my second pedicure of the year because of my upcoming trip.

Vacation benefits:

“A proper vacation does three things. It takes you away from the stresses and demands of your daily life; it gives your body time to heal and rejuvenate, and it invigorates your mind by returning you to your normal rhythm.” (Sage Wilcox)

  • Sleeping. Being constantly sleep deprived, I have a rule to sleep 10 hours minimum every night while on vacation.
  • Daydreaming. I actually let my mind wander, I create space and time in my brain for new thinking, new ideas, more creativity.
  • Exercising. I swim every day in the clear, cold, salty sea, which is good for my body and my soul.
  • Being. I try to disconnect and to not be constantly attached to my devices. This year, I will try harder.

The post-vacation benefits are real. If you don’t believe me, trust the experts: “We know that when people can rest, relax, recharge, there’s a ripple effect of benefits in terms of productivity, creativity, and collaboration when they return to work.” (Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glass Door), and studies show that vacation has proven benefits, including alleviating burnout and making employees more resilient and better able to cope with stress upon their return.

I will come back from Greece refreshed, reenergized, remotivated, more creative, and more productive, ready and excited for the rest of 2019.

My Rendition of Vanity Fair’s ‘My Stuff’


Beauty products

Living & inspiration

Taking a look into the life of Joanna Vargas: Celebrity Facialist and Founder of Joanna Vargas Salon and Skincare Collection

Coaching and mentoring young women is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job, and our fabulous Alchimie Forever interns give me the opportunity to do just that. A couple of years ago a lovely young woman named Elizabeth walked in to my life as an Alchimie summer intern. She thought she was interested in fashion, but decided after her internship to pursue aesthetics. She became an aesthetician, and with her skills, personality, and overall drive began working with one of the very best celebrity facialists in NYC, Joanna Vargas. This is a happy ending if I ever heard one – especially as getting a facial from Vargas herself is on my bucket list. Before then, and thanks to Elizabeth, I was able to catch up with this amazing woman and learn more about some of her life and beauty secrets.

AP: What city were you born in? JV: Chicago.

AP: What city to do you live in? JV: Just outside of NYC.

AP: What is your astrological sign? JV: Leo.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know?  JV: Fragrances are just as much a passion of mine as skincare.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? JV: I always tell clients who come to my salon in NYC that in truth, the biggest beauty secret the stars have is that they take time for themselves every day. It’s a luxury that really pays off as we grow older and anyone can start now! I have had clients start for the first time in their 60’s, and even they can achieve great skin!

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? JV: I find that the best skin diet is one that involves eating veggies of different colors for every meal and a green juice every day. There is really no substitute and it works on everyone!

AP: What do you do for exercise? JV: I always make sure I exercise- I love soul cycle – to burn off stress and to restore my energy levels.

AP: What is your favorite thing to eat and drink? JV: Sashimi and sake are my favorite things to eat and drink!

AP: Botox or not? JV: I never judge a woman for seeking injectables. I tend to attract women who are seeking alternatives to that. I don’t think they are for everyone and I would encourage anyone who is thinking about them to try a results oriented facial first. You might be surprised at how much you get out of it.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? JV: I make sure that I take time for myself- exercise is a big part of that, eating right so I feel happy with myself, and also spending lots of quality time with my kids. My daughter is really into art right now, so I am capitalizing on that- it’s so relaxing to draw and color with her. It’s what makes me whole again.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? JV: Well over 100,000- like 130,000.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? JV: Travelers generally get dehydrated, starting on the airplane. I encourage my clients to take my Rejuvenating Serum on board. Using it mid-flight will rehydrate the skin with skin softening Olive Oil, Rosehips Oil and Neroli Oil for increasing circulation. The Jojoba Oil in it will ensure that your pores won’t be clogged once you arrive at your destination. I also have clients pack rosewater toner in a spray bottle.  Rosewater is incredibly hydrating, so if you spray it directly on your face, it gets moisture into the skin immediately.  If you’re traveling overseas, I recommend doing it twice mid-flight and your skin will be refreshed when you get off the airplane.

When you arrive at destination, exfoliate to get dead skin cells off the skin. It helps you to look refreshed for a business meeting or to go out. My Exfoliating Mask contains Lactic Acid and Volcanic Ash to draw out impurities, dirt and oil from your pores, as well as Galactoarabinan, which is derived from the larch tree and causes mega cell turnover and skin lightening. It’s also an anti-inflammatory, so it’s great for even the most sensitive skin. I’m a big fan of multi-tasking with products anytime, and especially while traveling. A good cleanser and a serum are the two must-have essential products you can’t leave home without. Nothing throws your skin off like substituting your cleanser with a bar of soap. Facial cleansers are made for the delicate skin on the face, the formulas are pH balanced. My Vitamin C Face Wash is great as an exfoliating cleanser that even removes make up. All the products in my line do multiple things for the skin to make it easy to pack and run!

Drinking water on board is essential. I also tend to bring Dr. Lipmans Recharge for a mid-flight boost – all the greens help keep me hydrate and replenished more than just plain water.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? JV: People who use drugstore products because they think it’s all the same. It isn’t. I wish I could teach classes on this subject!!

AP: What professional beauty/fitness/wellness experts do you have on your speed dial. JV: Amanda Topaz is my trapeze instructor. She’s amazing and her class is so empowering. Dr. Frank Lipman is my go-to for everything health and wellness related. He is a genius and his acupuncture is like a vacation. Pati Dubroff is a great friend to discuss new products, treatments and of course trends in makeup.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? JV: I get up at 6am. I like to have some time to myself before the kids get up. I usually get about 7 hours sleep a night. I honestly can’t function without sleep.

AP: Who is your mentor? JV: I feel like everyone I have had the pleasure of meeting in this industry has had an influence on me. I’m inspired by so many people and other facialists like Renee.

AP: What do you do to relax? JV: I see Dr. Lipman once every two weeks for acupuncture. It’s like a vacation!

AP: Quote to live by. JV: “Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Most of my rebellions are against mediocrity.” – Anais nin

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to ones courage.” – Anais nin

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. JV: Never stop learning. The best thing that I have done for myself in my career is continuing to educate myself. I have always made time to read new books, research new tools, new technologies and most importantly, I never think I know it all already! I have always kept myself in the know when it comes to new technologies in my industry, which keeps my clients happy with my work, but I like this rule because it can apply to every part of life.

AP: Describe your dream day. JV: My life is a dream come true. I have an amazing family and an awesome career. Nothing could top that.

AP: What makes you feel beautiful? JV: I think women always feel best when they take care of themselves. My daughter and I do masks together at home. It’s both great for my skin and just wonderful to share my life with her.

Ada Polla

I get up at 5 am and this is what happens…

A couple of weeks ago, my sister Rachel paid me the best compliment in the form of a question. She asked me how I did it all. How did I manage the work load, the stress load, of running a beauty brand, how did I manage to still look good and act coherent with short nights and sometimes up to 5 flights per week. Did I have any tips or secrets to share with her?

Her questions made me pause, and reflect. Did I have any strategies to share? And I do. This is the first of a few posts to share my morning and evening routines, and a couple secrets, which keep me sane.

My morning routines depend on the type of morning I am having, which fall into four “types.”

  • Mornings when I wake up at home in DC with no travel plans.
  • Mornings when I wake up on the road somewhere.
  • Mornings when I have early flights (7 am or earlier, which happens more often than it should).
  • Weekend mornings.

All mornings share a few things in common:

  • A regular wakeup at 5 am (except if I have a 6 am flight or it is a weekend). And yes, my iphone is my alarm.
  • A tall glass of water with Super Orange Emergen-C. People are fascinated that I fly up to 150,000 miles per year and am not sick more often. I credit this morning ritual.
  • Inspiration from three sources: Danielle LaPorte Truthbombs. Harvard Business Review Management Tips of the Day. And a Milepost quote on running.

Mornings when I wake up at home or on the road without an early morning flight, I exercise. SoulCycle or a run in DC. Hopefully a swim while on the road (even budget-friendly hotels often have swimming pools). Part of what helps me keep it all together is a regular exercise routine, with a minimum of 3 workouts per week.

Mornings when I have a flight at 7 am or earlier are my fastest, most minimalist, mornings. I have learned to get ready in 20 minutes tops: no exercise, no breakfast except for a power bar on the way to the airport, no coffee until I get to the airport (gives me something to look forward to). Those mornings require extra red lipstick.

Weekend mornings are precious treasures. I catch up on sleep during the weekends, and try to have at least one 10-hour night per weekend. The most luxurious morning weekend involves waking up next to my husband around 8 am after a long night. Those mornings include a long run and brunch, catching up on my reading, and on my day-dreaming.

Beautiful in Seattle

I travel a lot for work. Mostly to the same places (NYC, LA, New Orleans, Charlotte), but once in a while I have the opportunity of discovering a new city, as I did this week-end. There are two ways I like to discover new cities: through their beauty boutiques and spas, and through their culinary offerings. This week-end, I did both in Seattle. To read about my culinary experiences, please click here. If you want to learn more about Seattle’s unique beauty destinations, keep on reading.

The goal of my trip was to visit two existing Alchimie Forever clients that I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting face to face – I have to admit I am old fashioned that way, and I love knowing my clients “for real” as opposed to just by email and Facebook. My first meeting was with the beautiful Suzy, who took a leap of faith and brought Alchimie Forever to beauty.com. That visit took me to the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, to the corporate headquarters of this beauty giant (which also encompasses drugstore.com, and another favorite Alchimie client, skinstore.com). While not a beauty destination per se (you can’t really go there and purchase products), I always love touring beauty companies’ corporate headquarters… the air always smells like products…

The second Alchimie Forever client I visited with is our first and only bricks-and-mortar client in the Pacific Northwest, men’s grooming boutique Ward & Co., located in Rainier Square. During my coffee meeting with the owner, Mark, I learned that while his core customer is the downtown business man, tourists are a significant client segment (almost 1 million tourists visit Seattle due to cruise ship stopovers starting in May). We talked about how tools (all types of razors and more) had become his most significant revenue category, and about how much more loyal the male beauty consumer is when compared to his fickle female counterpart. From Café Migliore, we walked over to the boutique, a chic, 400+ square foot haven of men’s grooming products and accessories. Michael runs the day-to-day operations (Mark’s day job is to be an architect) – and clearly knows what he is talking about. Savvy about skin care, about shaving methods and tips, and with a background in upscale men’s fashion, he is the go-to expert customers come to visit time and time again. Alchimie products are in good company: you will also find such unique men’s grooming products as Taun (a new line out of NYC) and Kyoku.

Right around the corner from Ward is a Calidora Skin Clinic. This Seattle-based medical spa chain (they have 7 locations in Washington state and California) has been on my radar for a while as one of the few that has somehow managed to grow and successfully roll out across multiple locations (some of you may remember Sona Laser Centers for example, with a similar yet unsuccessfully implemented business model). While Alchimie Forever products are not (yet!) in Calidora, the clinic I visited was beautiful, busy, and the front desk manager truly pleasant.

Also on my list of places to visit, in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, was Essenza. Since 1998, Essenza has been supplying the area with hard-to-find skin care, fragrances, and makeup, as well as unique jewelry, baby gifts, and bathrobes. There, I had the pleasure of meeting Becky, the owner and brain behind the store (she also owns a clothing store right around the corner). Obviously, she understands her customers’ wants and needs, having owned this indie boutique for 14+ years. She was intrigued by Alchimie, hopefully my next visit to Seattle will be to train her and her team on my line!

In planning this trip, and in doing research as to which hotel to stay at, I came across Hotel 1000 thanks to its Spaahh. I was introduced to Juanita, the spa manager, by email, and thanks to her discovered this fabulous hotel with fabulous service. And a fabulous Spaahh. A must for any jet-lagged, travel-weary business woman (aka yours truly).

Finally, randomly across the street from the hotel, I discovered Parfumerie Nasreen, a European-style jewel-like boutique with hard to find fragrances (they even had Jicky, my ever-harder to find perfume by Guerlain!). A testament to the boutique and its eponymous owner, Nasreen: it has been there for 26 years and business is going strong.

If you ever are in Seattle, do stop by these unique beauty destinations. Of course, there are more, which I didn’t get to this trip. I am saving Gene Juarez Salon & Spa (true Seattle institution), Frenchy’s (a Parisian inspired day spa and boutique), and Blackbird (in Ballard) for my next visit…