Georgetown, How I Love Thee…

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending Carol Joynt’s Q&A Café. She interviewed Nancy Taylor Bubes, during a fabulous lunch at the Georgetown Club. (Read more about the interview here). There is hardly anything more Georgetown than that, and it reminded me how much I love this neighborhood I live in…

The sights

  • The amazing architecture, the row houses, the hidden gardens (and swimming pools), the cobblestones. Every time I walk down the street, I discover something new, beautiful, and captivating.  (Go on the House Tour and Garden Tour to discover some of these secrets…)
  • The Potomac, with its boat houses and rowers.
  • The trees, which change their dress with the seasons, and also look magnificent.

The tastes

  • Thunder: the best burger in Georgetown, and heaven if you like beer. Also, Bernard and Josh are possibly the most entertaining bartenders you will come across…
  • Peacock Café: the best fries in Georgetown, and my personal favorite lunch spot.
  • Bourbon Steak: the best Manhattan (other than the one my husband makes), and fascinating people watching if you want to see (foreign) Government-looking types in suits.

The smells

  • Georgetown Tobacco. Every time I walk by there, I am reminded of when my Dad used to smoke the pipe, and then Blue Gitanes… (shhhh, don’t tell him I told you).  
  • I even love the ginkgo trees around Olive street… stinky in the fall, yet so Georgetown.  

The sounds

  • The birds of Spring. They start chirping at 4:10 am, like an orchestra of happiness for things to come.
  • The sound of tennis balls hitting racquets on the courts of Montrose Park. There is nothing quite so civilized.

The feels

  • The community feel of the neighborhood, where people still say “good morning” and nod and smile to each other when walking down the street.
  • The international feel of the neighborhood, enhanced by the embassies nearby and the international Georgetown students.

Spring Rituals

Today is my first day of Spring. Finally, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the flowers are blooming. After our Polar Vortex Winter, it feels like life is finally beginning anew.

I wrote earlier this year about the rhythm of the seasons, and once again I was reminded this morning, walking to and from SoulCycle, of how this natural cycle impacts my focus, and my activities.

Here are some of the ways I have begun to celebrate Spring, and how I will continue to.

  • I opened the windows in my house and let in fresh air. Simple, and glorious.
  • I cut 4 inches off my hair and I have never felt lighter. Thank you, Jason Snyder!
  • I cleaned out my closet, thanks to the inspiration of my dear friend Jennifer Mapp Bressan, who is constantly reminding the world that we need less clothing than we think we do.
  • I took a good look at my to-do list and got rid of two items that had been sitting on there since January; one task I (finally) completed, and one task I decided I was never going to complete and just deleted.
  • I switched my evening cream to the lighter Kantic Calming cream from what I use during the winter, our Kantic+ Intensely nourishing cream.
  • I had coffee in my yard, listening to the sounds of Spring, watching the sun rise over Georgetown, watching the world wake up.  
  • I incorporated abs in my exercise regimen, per the inspiration of my friend Anne who does 200 of them five times per week. This should be a year-round ritual (because summer bodies are made in the winter!), but for now, it will start as a Spring / Summer ritual.
  • I went to yoga. I don’t do yoga, but when my friend Kelly DiNardo, owner of Past Tense in DC, invited me. I figured at the very least it would help me get rid of the winter cobwebs in my body.
  • I finalized a new partnership for Alchimie Forever, which will yield its fruit a little bit later this season.
  • I still need to get my first Spring pedicure… I am hoping to make time this weekend to go to Mia Bella, my favorite nail place in New Orleans. 

How do you celebrate the first few days (weeks) of Spring?

DC, I love you

They say absence makes the heart go fonder. That is certainly true for me… after almost three weeks on the road, with 12 hours here and there in Washington, DC, I got back last night for 4 days straight. This morning, I woke up and my first thoughts were of the many reasons why I love the District (and Georgetown) so much.

  1. The monuments. Even with all of the scaffolding around it, the Washington Monument is jewel-like, in particular when it is all lit up at night. The list is long, I won’t mention them all…
  2. The cab drivers. In what other city is NPR the radio of choice for cab drivers, and where else can you have such insightful political conversations with them? I learn something every time I speak with one.
  3. The trees. The entire city is filled with trees… and today, they are the color of gold, copper, bronze.
  4. The security. There is something special about seeing the Secret Service or just some big security guys with earpieces outside the restaurant I am about to walk in to.
  5. The conversations people have. Invariably, they are educated, intelligent, hushed, and intense. And the conversations I randomly strike up with someone sitting next to me at a bar (see below for my favorites). Similarly educated, interesting, and enlightening.
  6. The running trails. Miles and miles of amazing running. The bridge loop. The C&O Canal. Embassy Row. The National Mall. The running trails, and the friendly (and numerous) runners.
  7. Town Hall. Ex-pat Louisianans come here for Saints games. New England Patriots haters are not welcome. The food is delicious. And their specialty cocktail, the Town Hall, is perfect to celebrate a touchdown or drown your sorrows following an interception.
  8. The Rye Bar, and its barrel-aged Manhattan made with Pennsylvania-based Dad’s Hat rye whiskey, Dolin sweet vermouth, and Byrrh quinquina. The restaurant at the Capella is just as amazing, topped only by the truly amazing service.
  9. Black Salt. I spend much time in Louisiana, where the seafood, the oysters, the shellfish is amazing. Yet (and even my Louisiana-born and bred husband agrees), Black Salt remains my favorite for seafood. And then, there is the fish market…
  10. Thunder Burger. Amazing beer selection, burgers worth dying for, and Josh the deadpan bartender, make this place a must.
  11. Peacock Café. When I need a French Kiss, or to feel like everyone knows my name, Peacock it is. And their fries are the best I have had in DC.
  12. Stachowski’s. As a European, it thrills me that the American city I live in still knows what it means to be a butcher, and to buy meat somewhere other than at the grocery store.
  13. And last, but not least, my amazing girlfriends who live here; you are my heroes, my sisters, my support network. You know who you are. Thank you.

DC, I love you.

An interview with the Swiss Doctors Polla

People are always asking me about Georgetown, about my favorite beauty tips, and my favorite Alchimie Forever products. For once, I thought I would take advantage of my parents’ stay in Georgetown to ask them these questions (in addition to being my parents, they are the co-creators of our skin care line, Alchimie Forever, and both medical doctors). Indeed, while I could have picked their favorite products correctly, I would not have been able to guess at their favorite Georgetown spots!

What do you love about Georgetown? What is your favorite place in Georgetown?

Dr. Luigi Polla:

I love Georgetown because it is so filled with the history of the United States. I love the harmony between the urban feel of this neighborhood and the tall and lush trees. When I am in Georgetown, I feel at the same time in a city and in the country.

My favorite place in Georgetown is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on South Street, where I always stay when I come to D.C. The space and architecture are beautiful, again bringing together the past and the present, conveying both a feeling of history and of contemporary style.

Dr. Barbara Polla:

I love Georgetown because to me it represents the perfect blend of the best of Europe with the best of America. The people in Georgetown look beautiful and happy. There are no McMansions here, but houses that are small and that touch each other – I love row houses.

I love Georgetown University, one of the best in the United States (which is why two of my daughters went there). I love it because there are as many squirrels on campus as there are students, which brings a lightness of spirit to the campus. Specifically, I love the University’s writing program. As a writer, I am fascinated by how many writers are Georgetown University alumni. I want to read all of the books they have written!

My favorite place in Georgetown is the Alchimie Forever showroom, where art blends with beauty, where I love to work while in DC, sharing the space with my daughter Ada, whether in person, or just looking at her portrait by contemporary artist Vanessa Beecroft.

What are your top tips for beauty?

Dr. Luigi Polla:

1.       Eat healthy, which to me means eating real food, mostly vegetables and fruit, and stay away from processed foods.

2.       Work out to enhance the strength and suppleness of your body. I work with a strength training coach for specific strength and muscle group, and I also play golf twice a week, never with a golf cart however – walking is one of the most essential parts of the game of golf.

3.       Have a positive outlook on life. Visualize positive outcomes and events. This may sound non-scientific, but I truly believe in the effect of such visualization not only one’s own happiness, but also in how good someone looks.

4.       Work to preserve the health and beauty of your skin, in a harmonious way. Avoid the sun, use antioxidant products, visit your dermatologist regularly for various non-invasive procedures, but never go too far. I always tell my patients they want to look the way they feel, not look like they are 20 when they are 50.

Dr. Barbara Polla:

1.       Smile. A beautiful face with perfect skin and a flawless complexion cannot be beautiful without a smile. Smile to yourself, smile to strangers, smile with your eyes and with your lips. Smile lines are so much more beautiful than frown lines. (A corollary to this, wear lipstick … that is the one makeup item I never leave the house without. I am loving the glosses from Haughty Cosmetics for the summer.)

2.       Move every day. Walk fast whenever possible. Leave your car at home, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Dance. I also think moving is energizing in terms of moving cities, moving jobs.

3.       Take baths. I have never gotten used to bathrooms without bathtubs. I don’t like showers, I treasure my time in the bathtub. I take the time to exfoliate, to put a mask on my face, and oils in the bath water. The time in the bath is a time of wellness, but also a time of reflection, a time of quiet, a time for you to take care of yourself. When stepping out of the bath, massage every inch of your body with your favorite lotion, from the tip of your ears to the tip of your toes.

4.       Look at yourself in the mirror. Every day, twice a day. Really look. Looking at myself in the mirror with love and attention enables me to see the subtle changes in my skin, in my face, so that I never wake up and feel that I have aged 10 years overnight. And of course, smile while you are looking at yourself …

What is your favorite Alchimie Forever products?

Dr. Luigi Polla:

1.       As a dermatologist, the products that I recommend to every single patient are our Brightening Moisture Mask and our Firming Gel for Neck and Bust. The mask is a treatment product that I use on all of my patients after peels and injectables, and it truly helps to heal the skin, give it an immediate glow, and minimize redness. It is a product that is both effective and results-oriented, and a sensorially delicious product to use. Our gel for neck and bust is the best product to maintain the health and youthfulness of an area of the body that women tend to neglect, namely neck, décolleté, and arms. It is both tightening and helps to even out pigment.

2.       As a man, I love our Antioxidant Defense Gel. I use it every day after shaving. It is oil free, it penetrates immediately in my skin, and I love the fresh, masculine scent. I truly believe this is one of our best products.

Dr. Barbara Polla:

1.       I love our Gentle Exfoliating Scrub. It is a face product, but I use it all over the body. The beads of cranberries and jojoba, and the papaya enzyme, physically exfoliate my skin and leave it soft, and the shea butter nourishes it. I use it up to four times per week.

2.       Our Brightening Moisture Mask is also one of my favorites, indeed I believe it is our hero product. I follow the scrub with an application of the mask to treat my skin, nourish it, and keep it supple and youthful-looking.  I love this product so much that I even mix a little bit of it in my favorite moisturizer, our Intensely Nourishing Cream.

3.       Our newest product, which we are launching next week, is a professional-only peel. I have been testing it on myself for the last two months, and I have to admit I am in love with it. It will be available at the end of the month in D.C.’s best spas, it is a fabulous treatment to help heal the damage of the summer, even out pigment, and prevent signs of aging.

BeautyView: Lizzie Francis, Chief Marketing Officer, Intelligent Beauty

I have had the good fortune of working with Dermstore for a couple of years now. Until recently, however, they were one of my clients whom I had never actually met. Over the summer, I met their business development and marketing teams at a conference in New York. And somehow, at a random Georgetown ladies’ lunch, I met Lizzie. This lunch, held at the Georgetown Club, brought together the women of the Georgetown community. Somehow, I had the good fortune of being invited. Somehow, I had the even better fortune of randomly sitting down next to a gorgeous brunette who seemed to be about my age. We started chatting, the subject got to relationships came up, and I told her about my husband who lives in New Orleans while I live in DC – unconventional, requiring much travel, but truly amazingly romantic. She laughed, and told me about her unconventional travel schedule: her husband, with whom she until recently lived in Georgetown works in politics, and she commutes back and forth to LA for work. Of course, the next question was to ask about the job that involved so many hours on the plane. “I am the CMO for Intelligent Beauty,” she says. Now I am really laughing… we are possibly the only two Georgetown residents involved in the beauty industry, and moreover she is a client! Indeed, Intelligent Beauty is the company behind Dermstore. Needless to say, we have been fast friends ever since. For this week’s BeautyView, please meet Lizzie Francis, Chief Marketing Officer for Intelligent Beauty, frequent traveler, DC native, and former (maybe soon to return?) Georgetown resident.

AR: What city were you born in? LF: Washington, DC.

AP: What city do you live in? LF: I currently live in multiple cities… including DC and LA among others…

AP: What is your middle name? LF: Hanako, for my Japanese Grandmother.

AP: What is your astrological sign? LF: Gemini.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? LF: Innovation.

AP: Least favorite thing? LF: Competition…

AP: What is your most prized possession? LF: My family, if I may call them a possession.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? LF: I absolutely love to cook.

AP: Do you wear a watch? LF: Yes. AP: If yes, what model? LF: Chanel J12 Classic in White.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? LF: Pearls. I particularly love my Grandmother’s pearls. There’s something wonderful about wearing a piece of jewelry with history.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? LF: My husband. He’s the best!

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? LF: I am still searching for it. A good laugh with friends does wonders for the soul, though.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? LF: 1. Carry-on only. 2. Bring a big, warm scarf no matter what the climate. 3. Don’t over plan…you never know where the day will take you.

AP: What is your favorite book? LF: Too many wonderful books to choose from… but Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is always a winner on re-read.

AR: What is your cocktail of choice? LF: Champagne.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? LF: Sleep. And a good moisturizer.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? LF: Jo Malone French Lime Blossom.

AP: Botox or not? LF: Not.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? LF: Not.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. LF: Arcade Fire’s “Une annee sans lumiere,” Mumford and Sons “Little lion man,” Keane “Stop for a minute.”

AP: Quote to live by. LF: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou

AP: Who is your mentor? LF: My sister Margaret.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. LF: Be passionate, don’t fear failure and believe in yourself!

A milestone to adulthood

Today, I feel like a real adult. I have been able to vote for 15 years. I have gotten married. And divorced. And re-married. I have bought my own new car. I have bought my own real jewelry. I run my own business. Yet today, I feel like a crossed a serious adulthood milestone. Today, for the first time, a housekeeper cleaned my house. Not just “a” housekeeper, “my” housekeeper, who calls me “Miss Ada”… I still can’t quite believe it.

This all happened very quickly over the last 10 days. The last two weeks have been so incredibly busy that two week-ends ago I welcomed my husband into a less than pristine apartment. I just didn’t have time to do my usual pre-husband-visit cleanup. Not wanting to have that happen again this past week-end, I spent Thursday night cleaning, until about half past midnight. All I wanted to do was go to sleep, but I was determined to clean. I cleaned so late that the next morning I decided that 2 extra minutes of sleep was more important than making my bed. I think this was only the fourth time in my entire life that I have left my house without making my bed…

I crave a clean house, and I love to clean my house. Dusting, scrubbing, even cleaning the floors is incredibly satisfying and relaxing to me – that is my go-to self-therapy when I need to de-stress. Still, I have never been attracted to the idea of a housekeeper. What if she doesn’t clean as well as I do? What if she doesn’t put everything back exactly in its place? And then, of course, I hate the idea that I have to give her keys to my house. And that I have a stranger in my house. And somehow a housekeeper has always seemed like such a luxury, something for people with multiple kids and large mansions…

Then, as often happens, a sign from the Universe. I subscribe to an amazing Georgetown neighborhood online forum. It is filled with the most amazing community feel and useful information. Last week, there were two posts about this amazing housekeeper who had some extra time. I read on… Given my hesitations and concerns (above), this housekeeper sounded like a true gem. She works only in Georgetown. Has a very specific list of cleaning products she requests her customers keep in her house. She fixes things. She sews. She charges more if no ironing is involved, because she loves ironing so much. And she worked for Richard Holbrooke (which is why all of a sudden she has a free afternoon… only in Georgetown!).

I called her, met her last Friday, but in my mind had hired her before the meeting. Somehow it was meant to be, and I began fantasizing about polished silver (has been on my list of things to do for about 6 months now), ironed sheets (one of the reasons I love staying at my parents’ house), and clean windows… Today, she started. I am on the road (as I am so often), and I cannot wait to go home tomorrow and see the results of her magic. And appreciate adulthood for one reason more.