BeautyView: Karen Terranova, General Manager, Great Jones Spa

Karen Terranova

Karen Terranova, NYC Licensed Aesthetician, General Manager, Great Jones Spa

I met Karen Terranova, NYS licensed aesthetician and General Manager of Great Jones Spa, at a tradeshow in New York City in 2006. I had been to Great Jones Spa, one of the best spas in the Big Apple, and of course pitched Alchimie Forever to her. This summer, she added my products to her skin care assortment. During the 8 years in between, we got to know each other, speaking often about ingredients (what she likes the least about the beauty industry is also what I like the least about the beauty industry), about the benefits and challenges of both organic and medical skin care formulations, and about family business. We became friendly, then friends, and now are finally working together. And still on my bucket list… experiencing a Karen Terranova facial!

AP: What city were you born in? KT: Beechhurst, NY.

AP: What city to do you live in? KT: Bayside, NY.

AP: What is your middle name? KT: Anne.

AP: What is your astrological sign? KT: Virgo.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? KT: I am a Reiki Master, Crystal Practitioner, and when my schedule allows me, I study Botany at the New York Botanical Garden.

AP: What is your most prized possession?KT: A small curio cabinet that holds treasures of the past from my parents and grandparents.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? KT: My Mother.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. KT: NYC Black, Casual, Chic.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? KT: Both – why discriminate!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret?KT: Exfoliate, mask, moisturize.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? KT: Since 21 I have been wearing Quelques Fleur by Houbigant, I have recently purchased Elie Saab and love it!

AP: Botox or not? KT: Not.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? KT: Some of it is natural and some of it is not.

AP: What do you do for exercise? KT: Cardio, weights and dance.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? KT: Arugula, fruit, and a yummy french cheese.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? KT: Lately, Vanilla Martini.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? KT: Reiki and meditation.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. KT: Album ” Mai Dire Mai” by  Anna Tatangelo.

AP: What book are you reading right now? KT: Vibrational Medicine by Richard Gerber, MD.

AP: Quote to live by. KT: “When the student is ready, the master appears” Buddhist Proverb.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? KT: Being late.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? KT: Rise and shine at 5:20 am. I usually get 7.5 hours of sleep.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? KT: Overwhelmingly, I hear how people in this industry want to help others; there is such passion and compassion towards humanity.

AP: Least favorite thing. KT: Misinformation regarding ingredients in products.

AP: Who is your mentor? KT: My Mother and my Grandmother.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today.  KT: Be patient, listen and learn from everyone.

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BeautyView: Alyssa Barrie, Founder & CEO,

Alyssa Barrie, Founder & CEO,

Alyssa Barrie, Founder & CEO,

Some relationships take time to come to fruition. That was the case of my relationship with Alyssa Barie, Founder & CEO of We met about five years ago when she was working for the New York Times, and had this brilliant idea about a beauty website geared towards travelers. I loved the idea back then, have loved seeing her bring her idea from concept to reality. In the few months since her launch, her company has been featured on TV, in Elle Magazine, and more. Learn more about the brains behind this project (my favorite factoid: she keeps nail polish in the fridge). And don’t pack for your next trip without visiting her website.

AP: What city were you born in? AB: New York City, NY.

AP: What city do you live in? AB: New York City, NY.

AP: What is your middle name? AB: My middle name is actually Barrie. In my twenties I was an actress and stand-up comedian and changed my last name to Barrie because I thought that my real last name, Weiss, sounded too Jewish. I didn’t want people to have preconceived notions of me before I walked through the audition room door. I wanted to make certain that I created my own first impression.

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

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? AB: For 6 years I was an actress and stand-up comedian.

AP: What is your most prized possession? AB: I wouldn’t call it a possession. While possessions can make life a bit nicer or exciting at times, the most important thing in my life is my family.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? AB: My husband. It’s not anything really so romantic, he is simply the person that I enjoy spending time with the most.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. AB: Not possible. I dress completely differently almost every day. I tend to dress for the day or occasion. Stella Adler used to say that your costume gives you the part or helps you get into character. I dress according to the character that I need to be on a given day. It’s always me inside but it’s important to know your audience and dress right for the part.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? AB: Funny you should ask. My watch is at the watchmaker being fixed and I feel absolutely naked without it. I keep looking at a bare left wrist that gives no guidance as to what time it is. It’s a Cartier Tank Francaise.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? AB: I would have to say diamonds, but I prefer that they be fancy yellow.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? AB: Taking care of my skin consistently. That means going for a facial, at least once a quarter and making sure to keep my skin, clean, hydrated, and protected from the elements. I also massage my face on a daily basis to wake up the dermis and muscles under the skin. I believe in being in touch with my body. Just like when we are hungry we generally know what we our bodies are craving, we must listen to our skin too. If you know yourself and your skin, you know what you need on a given day. Sometimes my skin will be dry and will require a richer moisturizer, other times I might have a light breakout and only require a light serum and a dab of moisturizer. Learning to take care of one’s skin means learning to listen to it.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? AB: I typically do not wear a fragrance, but while in Italy, earlier this summer, I found a very light scent called Acqua Dell’Elba, from the Island of Elba on the Tuscan Archipelago. I have been wearing it all summer and love it.

AP: Botox or not? AB: I believe in doing whatever is necessary to feel and look great. If Botox is part of that practice and it works, I am all for that.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? AB: Not. My hair is actually colored to look faux! I believe in committing to a look and going for it! I color my hair and am proud!

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? AB: I believe in listening to my body. If you sit with yourself quietly for a moment, you can feel if you are hungry, full, about to be hungry etc. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am satiated. Growing up I fought with eating disorders galore and found peace by tuning into my body.

AP: What do you do for exercise? AB: I used to be so good about exercising but not so much anymore. When I do, I play tennis, do TRX or Physique 57. I need something hard-core.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? AB: Nail polish, jarred Italian capers and Stonewall Country Ketchup. With the exception of the nail polish, in moments of desperation, a meal can be made from these items.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? AB: Barley flavored Shochu. Very tasty, very strong… hangover.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? AB: I struggle with this. Right now I work significantly more than I do anything else. What has helped me is scheduling things that I know I need to fit into my day. As pathetic as it may sound, that might include having dinner with my husband or scheduling some time to read a book.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? AB: I fly at least five or six times a year sometimes more. I would say around 34,000 miles, mostly to Europe and Israel.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? AB: 1. Don’t skimp on what you need! People end up compromising on what they take with them when they travel, whether it’s clothing, shoes or beauty and grooming products because they feel they must. It’s hard to feel your best when you don’t have your best stuff with you!  So take it all! 2. As much as possible, pack clothes and beauty products that multitask. Whether it’s a blazer that you can pair with dress pants or jeans, or face oil that can also be used on the hair, body and nail cuticles. 3. When flying, resist the urge to apply eye makeup. It can really dry the skin around the eyes, and combined with dry cabin air, can cause puffy lids. A simple cleansing and moisturizing regimen is your best bet. If you must cover your skin, try a BB Cream over a light serum.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. AB: Right now I am listening to mixed songs by Paolo Conte, The Stars and The Afghan Whigs.

AP: What book are you reading right now? AB: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell.

AP: Quote to live by. AB: ”Success can depend on tiny things,” Vincent Van Gogh.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? AB: Pet Peeves. Everyone has something that really irks him or her. The sooner we move on and focus on what we love, the better off we will be.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? AB: I typically wake up at 5:30am and get at least 7.5 hours of sleep. I can’t function optimally with less.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? AB: Working in an industry that one is passionate is about is extremely rewarding and I am OCD about products. With so much new technology and product on the horizon, the prospect of finding incredible brands and products is very exciting.

AP: Least favorite thing. AB: I can’t think of one!

AP: Who is your mentor? AB: My mother. She is a successful entrepreneur and a trailblazer in her field. My work ethic comes from her. She taught my brother and I to have respect for everyone and stressed the importance of being charitable, compassionate and a good person. These are values I hold dear.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. AB: Be open minded and learn everything you can from everyone you come into contact with. Make certain that you have a voice and your voice is heard. Know that you will get further with kindness, but expect that if you are driven and successful you will have critics and that is ok. Don’t worry too much about what people think of you.

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Being Swiss… on Swiss National Day

Today is Friday, August 1. Other than the fact that it is Friday, that we can say TGIF, what, might you ask is there to celebrate. Well, two things. First, August 1 is Swiss National Day – our equivalent of your July 4th.

Second, unrelated, in any way other than timing, I am celebrating the first national piece of press on my sisters and I. We are the Polla sisters. And now, the Alchimie Forever sisters. Thank you Vanity Fair.

Perhaps it is indeed all related beyond timing, since we are Swiss. What do you think of when you think of Switzerland? Probably skiing; chocolate; watches; cheese. (If you are thinking about IKEA right about now, you are getting your Sw countries confused…). Here are a few more, perhaps less well knows, typically Swiss traits.

-       We are punctual (maybe because we like watches so much). In Switzerland, being on time means being 5 minutes early. Or, as my Mom always said, “The only way to ever be on time is to always be early.”

-       We cherish “Apero time.” This is our version of “happy hour.” “Apero” being short for aperitif. No beer, no chips. Instead, white wine or champagne, with olives and cheese. At 5 pm on the dot, any day of the week, apero rarely lasts just an hour.

-       We have to introduce ourselves to everyone when arriving at a party; a seated dinner party; a cocktail party; a holiday party… this makes being early or on time particularly desirable, as the rounds of introductions are more manageable when most guests have yet to arrive.

-       We don’t touch our drinks until everyone we are with has a drink. This is true at a bar, at apero, at dinner, and everywhere in between. Only once everyone has their drink do we do cheers, and take our first sip. Anything else would be considered rude.

-       This may in part be caused by the fact that doing cheers is not only an absolute must, but we must look in the eyes while doing it. Why? Well… if you don’t you will be punished with 9 (some say 7) years of bad sex. So don’t ever clink your glass without looking that one person in the eye.

On this special Swiss day, I wish my sisters, and my Swiss family, a particularly happy Friday. And to all of you non-Swiss, TGIF!

The Polla Sisters: Ada, Rachel, Roxane, Cyrille

The Polla Sisters: Ada, Rachel, Roxane, Cyrille

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BeautyView: Molly Schrader, Owner, Retro

Molly Schrader, Owner, Retro

Molly Schrader, Owner, Retro

How can I not love a woman who likes champagne as much as I do (maybe even more) and believes the best diet is never to eat anything that comes in a package? Her beauty phislosophy is to always make an effort – and I can attest that she does. She always looks fabulous, a combination of Marilyn Monroe and Amy Winehouse. Meet Molly Schrader, owner of Retro. The best salon ever not just because they carry Alchimie Forever, but because in addition to offering hair and skin services, they also offer champagne.

AP: What city were you born in? MS: Houston, TX.

AP: What city to do you live in? MS: Southern Pines, NC.

AP: What is your middle name? MS: Lee.

AP: What is your astrological sign? MS: Aries.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? MS: I absolutely LOVE Bossa Nova music.

AP: What is your most prized possession? MS: My super hot husband!

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? MS: My maternal grandmother. I never had the chance to meet her but I heard she was fearless, wild, and beautiful.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. MS: Glam. Rock. Chic.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? MS: I have cursed wrists. Bracelets and watches look terrible on me.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? MS: Diamonds! A girl needs to shine!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? MS: Always make an effort. No matter how tired you are. Style your hair, put on some lip gloss, get a manicure.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? MS: In the daytime, Pure Grace by Philosophy. At night, Coco Chanel.

AP: Botox or not? MS: I haven’t yet but my girlfriends who do it LOVE it!

AP: Hair color: natural or not? MS: Not! I love to change my hair color. It’s like being reborn!

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? MS: If it comes in a package, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

AP: What do you do for exercise? MS: Running and squats. Lots of squats.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? MS: Coconut milk, champagne, veggies

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? MS: Champagne of course!

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? MS: When at work, focus on work. When your at home, focus on you. It’s important to find the seperation.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? MS: Between 6-8,000 miles

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? MS: 1. Always look nice. You never know who you will meet while traveling. 2. Make a playlist. Music sets my mood. It’s essential to get my head right for the next adventure. 3. Bring your own toiletries. Hotel products are not catering to your skin type!

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. MS: All the rage back home by Interpol; Desperate youth by Santigold; and Love is to die by War Paint.

AP: What book are you reading right now? MS: #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso.

AP: Quote to live by. MS: “Shut up, and put your big girl panties on.”

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? MS: Panty lines!!! The worst!

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? MS: Probably around 9 hrs. My cats send me hate stares if I’m not up to feed them by 8:30.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? MS: The amazing products and how they can change a person’s life.

AP: Least favorite thing. MS: I want to take home everything.

AP: Who is your mentor? MS: My former boss, Michelle. She’s a woman of beauty, dignity, and strength. I learned a lot from her.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. MS: DO NOT expect to be handed anything. You have to WORK for it. Once you have it, work harder to keep it.

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Interviewing tips and highlights from #GIRLBOSS

One of my summer reads this year has been #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, Founder and CEO of Nasty Gal. I admired her and what she has accomplished even before I knew her story. And knowing more about her story only makes me more admirative. I enjoyed her book, and her messages to women entering the workforce – and cannot recommend the book enough to young women everywhere.

In particular, her chapter on “Hiring, Staying Employed, and Firing” resonated with me. I am fortunate enough to have three amazing summer interns for Alchimie Forever this year (Alchimie’s Angels, as we know them, partly because all three have names that start with A). As I have gotten to know them better over the last couple of months, they have shared some of their dreams, fears, and professional ambitions with me. They remind me of how it was to be a junior or senior in college, of the unique combination of carefreeness and stress of that time. And their stage of life reminds me of the painful process that interviewing can be.

On page 161 of her book, Amoruso lists “Interview No-No’s That May Doom You to Unemployment.” Here is her list of interviewing tips, with which I wholeheartedly agree:

-       “Chewing gum

-       Bringing things with you – a beverage, a pet, a boyfriend, a child

-       Leaning back in your chair and crossing your arms

-       Staring at the floor, out the window, or at the interviewer’s boobs

-       Picking your nose or your nails

-       Having your phone even visible

-       Having zero questions

-       Asking so many questions that it seems like you’re interviewing the interviewer

-       Not writing a thank-you email or note – I especially love a handwritten note because to me, someone who knows to have good manners knows how to get what she wants in this world

-       Dressing like you’re headed to a nightclub instead of a job interview

-       As a female, thinking that you don’t have to wear a bra, even if you’re interviewing at a company with a name like Nasty Gal”


I would add a couple more recommendations to her list:

-       Be late, even by one minute

-       Be too early; if you arrive more than 10 minutes early, find a nearby coffeeshop

-       Lie on your resume, in particular about languages; you never know when your interviewer might switch to French because you have “conversational French”

-       Cry

To all young women (and men) interviewing everywhere, good luck! And to my three amazing interns, enjoy the process!

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Notes from Cosmoprof: sales advice from one Shark and four retailers

During his opening remarks at the Professional Beauty Association keynote breakfast during Cosmoprof, a week ago today, Mark Cuban focused on sales. His remarks were short and to the point, and the two key messages I took away, and have written on postits now strategically placed in my office were:

“Sales cures all ills.”

“Keep on grinding. Keep on working. Keep on selling.” 

Not that I don’t know this already – but a reminder that I (and most entrepreneurs out there probably) need to focus my time and energy on revenues is always welcome. No business can exist without revenue…

This message informed my attendance at a panel the following day, The Retail Evolution: What’s New In Stores. This panel, led by Andrea Nagel of CEW, included:

-       Marcia Gaynor, DMM Prestige Beauty, Walgreens. Her Duane Reade Look Boutiques focus on making shopping easier and more convenient for the consumer, who is already shopping there for her family.

-       Shannon West, VP Beauty, Costco. 1.5 million people walk in a Costco every day. The company offers items at a 14% markup from their full landed cost, launches a line with their hero SKU, and never wants to be more than 25% of a brand’s business (i.e. they like to work with established brands).

-       Nicky Kinnaird, Founder and Creative Director, SpaceNK.  She built a beauty empire on two continents, with 62 stores in the UK and 22 in the US (including store in stores at Bloomies). Her role with the company recently shifted away from day to day operations, as she launched her own consulting business (of course with SpaceNK as a key client).

-       And Richard Parrott, President, Ricky’s NY. Ricky’s has 29 stores in New York City (of which 15 have salons), and segment their business between tourist-based business and the neighborhood store (in which of course relationships and clienteling are much more important).

Not surprisingly, the panel was sold out. I guess I am not the only indie beauty brand looking for more distribution… Here are my key takeaways.

-       Apparently, the difficulty of establishing new relationships goes both ways. While I often feel that retailers are not being as responsive to me as I would hope, Marcia, Shannon, and Nicky all expressed that finding brands is not easy, and that when they call brands they would like to have represented in their stores, they often do not even get a call back.

-       Stores like to cherry pick from lines. Nicky said she likes to offer in her stores what reflects the consumer’s bathroom, which is most often an assortment of the best products from a number of different brands. Shannon echoed this stating that Costco’s philosophy is usually to pick the brand’s hero product to launch… “Exactly what they don’t want to sell us” she admits…

-       The trends identified by the panel include:

  • From Richard: anything coming out of Japan, products for men, and sexual wellness
  • From Shannon and Marcia: devices
  • From Nicky: supplements and smart fabric

-       Apparently, boutiques are looking for new brands! Nicky told the brands in the audience “email me and you will get a response” (which I confirm is true), and Richard admitted freely “we are looking for new brands.” Indeed, he urged brands to “stick with it and be persistent.” “Don’t stop,” he concluded, echoing Mark Cuban’s exact advice.

And with that, my focus on sales, prospects, leads, and cold and warm calls just doubled!

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BeautyView: Cathy Cluff, President & CEO, The Oaks at Ojai

Cathy Cluff, President & CEO, The Oaks at Ojai

Cathy Cluff, President & CEO, The Oaks at Ojai

I met Cathy Cluff, President & CEO of The Oaks at Ojai 10ish years ago (!) because of my fascination with daughters who work with their mother – I do, and she does too (her Mom is the amazing Sheila Cluff). And we happen to work (and play) in the same industry. Since our first meeting during which we talked about the dynamics of family business and specifically mother-daughter relationships, we have shared stories of love, life, loss, and shots of Patron (although now we will have to switch to Crown and ginger…).

AP: What city were you born in? CC: Plattsburg, New York.

AP: What city to do you live in? CC: Ojai, CA.

AP: What is your middle name? CC: Sheila, after my Mom.

AP: What is your astrological sign? CC: Virgo on the cusp of Libra.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? CC: I like oddities like circus side shows and Lucha Libre. I also ignore everyone in the room while watching TV.

AP: What is your most prized possession? CC: Sophia and Roman, my kids.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? CC: Today it would be Jodi Foster for her intellect and talent. From the past would be Frieda Kahlo for her tortured creativity.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. CC: Hipster, business, stylish.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? CC: Yes, it depends on the outfit but usually has a wide leather band.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? CC: Diamonds of course.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? CC: Sunscreen.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? CC: Georgio Armani.

AP: Botox or not? CC: If I need it but I hope not I am deeply afraid of needles.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? CC: Natural with added highlights.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? CC: Gluten Free and high protein snacks.

AP: What do you do for exercise? CC: Swim, hike and walk on the beach, but not often enough.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? CC: Peanut or almond butter, milk and Girard’s Italian salad dressing.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? CC: Crown and Ginger plus Baileys and coffee.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? CC: Simply recognizing the need for one and realizing that the work will always be there tomorrow.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average?CC: Only about 10,000.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? CC: A magazine, no alcohol on the flight, and hydration.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. CC: Jackson by Johnny Cash, Problem by Ariana Grande and Los Angeles by X.

AP: What book are you reading right now? CC: Positive parenting.

AP: Quote to live by. CC: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain” by Vivian Greene.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? CC: Being late and watching a movie from the middle.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? CC: 6am and out of bed by 6:30. I need 8 hours of sleep but I am not a great sleeper.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? CC: That beauty can come in so many different forms.

AP: Least favorite thing. CC: That people let external beauty rule their lives.

AP: Who is your mentor? CC: My dynamic and innovative Mom Sheila and the late Alex Szekely.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. CC: Surround yourself with really smart people and always be kind because it will be remembered. Hire the attitude teach the skill.

Tinos… it’s good for the soul…

After a week in Tinos, I feel like a new person. Someone healthier, more rested, calmer, someone with more breathing room. It may be all of the fresh Greek salads, and the swimming in the sea, but I think there is more to it… Tinos is good for my soul.

A girl and the sea

A girl and the sea

Time spent outside is good for the soul. Reading outside; eating outside; having cocktail hour outside. How can I implement this back in DC? More outdoor furniture; discipline to walk down three flights of stairs to the side yard for my morning coffee…

Time spent in the clear, cold, salty sea is good for the soul – and the body. Something about the cold invigorates me. At my favorite beach, I am often alone in the water, and that solitude among the waves is magical.

Time with the data on my phone turned off is good for the soul. I check emails when I choose to, not when I can or because I am addicted to the device; I must try this type of digital detox in DC, even if for just a couple of hours.

Simplicity is good for the soul. Simplicity such as a small house that has exactly everything you need in it, and not one thing more; 6 Tinos glasses, 6 and no more because you won’t ever need more; no TV, radio, internet, because the entertainment comes from books (and books there are…) and looking at the view from the terrace.

Doing things  “the old fashioned way” is good for the soul.  For example, drying clothes on a clothesline, rather than in a dryer, is somehow soothing, more environmentally friendly, and better for the clothes. And they end up smelling like sunshine.

Using “old” things is good for the soul. I love making coffee in the old-stlyle coffee maker that probably belonged to my grandmother; I love the old, somewhat ragged beach towels that have been here ever since I have been coming to Tinos, that still “work” perfectly. Somehow with age these belongings have taken on more meaning through history, I have grown attached to them. Who needs the latest and greatest all the time?

Eating local is good for the soul – and for the palate. For the soul, it reminds one of where everything comes from, and of the circle of life. A farmer plants a tomato plant. Tomatoes grow. Next door, a restaurant serves those tomatoes to happy American tourists. Such is the very simple circle of life.

Singing out loud is good for the soul – I have heard more men sing while working here than I ever have. It started with our cab driver from the Athens airport to the port. The radio station was on, Greek songs, of course, and twice during the 40-minute cab ride, he sang to those songs. Loudly and happily, no humming there. It was beautiful. It reminded me that the smallest things can change someone’s day, someone’s mood.

Church bells are good for the soul – no matter the church. The first time I hear them during this trip is at 8:45 pm Saturday evening on our terrace, for no apparent reason. Perhaps they are just there to remind us of the higher powers that watch over us.

Silence is good for the soul. This may be the most significant luxury of our time here. Sitting in our terrace, no matter the day of the week or the time of day, it is quiet enough to hear the wind rustle through the leaves; hear the birds chirp; hear nothing… It is so quiet that we all wonder at the lone car that drives on the single village road, once in a long while.

Tinos, it’s good for the soul.

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Two weddings and a birthday…

Saturday five days ago, on Summer Solstice, my sister Cyrille got married. The day prior, my brother-in-law Stern got married. The day after, my god-daughter Jade turned 8. Needless to say, last weekend was one of many celebrations.

Two of these celebrations took place in the idyllic place of Chateau de Roussan in St. Remy de Provence, a small town in the Rhone region of Southern France, not far from Avignon. I learned while there that the city’s two claims to fame (other than the amazing countryside, kind residents, excellent produce, and overall beauty) is that St. Remy is the birthplace of Nostradamus (I saw the house where he was born), and where Caroline de Monaco lived for a few years with her two children after the death of her second husband, Stefano Casiraghi.

Chateau de Roussan (photo coutresy G Varone)

Chateau de Roussan (photo courtesy G Varone)

The entire weekend was spent in the Chateau, which was fully occupied by the wedding party and guests – in effect, we felt like we lived there for three days. I felt like I got a glimpse of what it would have been like to live in the French equivalent of Downton Abbey. I definitely could have gotten used to it, including the part where my husband and I played a game of chess in the Chateau’s library…

The Polla girls

The Polla girls (photo courtesy M Eckstein)



The rehearsal dinner consisted of a gathering of 30-some Swiss guests, and one French guest, cheering for opposite sides of a World Cup game this past Friday. The wedding celebration was held in the garden, on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon, a perfect setting for a perfect couple and my nephew Leonardo. A picnic apero in the grass was followed by an outdoor dinner, and then dancing until 3 am. Apparently, my sisters and I can dance!

The bride, the groom, and Leonardo

The bride, the groom, and Leonardo

Picnic apero, with champagne (photo courtesy M Eckstein)

Picnic apero, with champagne (photo courtesy M Eckstein)

My sister, the most beautiful and generous bride, shared the “morning after brunch” with my god-daughter Jade, who turned 8 that day.

My goddaughter Jade and I

My god-daughter Jade and I 

Jane and I the morning after on her 8th birthday

Jade and I the morning after, on her 8th birthday

The entire weekend was filled with love, laughter, some tears, hugs, kisses, and champagne. The best part? The people. I was reminded of the best reason to have a wedding – the opportunity to bring together all of the people you love in one place, at one time. Thank you Cyrille and Marin! And we get to do it all again this fall, when another of my sister is getting married… in Bordeaux! Stay tuned…

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I feel naked without VoMor!

Almost a month ago to the day, I had VoMor hair extensions put in, as part of research for a work-related project. While I was less than thrilled at the idea of having another person’s hair in my head, I learned a lot from that experience, which I expected. As it turns out, I actually loved having the extensions in, which I far from expected.

First, I got more random compliments on my look this past month than ever before. People did not comment on how good my hair looked. They did not ask where I got my hair extensions put in, or even if I had hair extensions. People just said nice things such as “You look really good today.” Maybe I looked better because I felt more beautiful than usual.

VoMor selfie

VoMor selfie

Second, I did not feel the extensions at all. They didn’t itch, they didn’t snag, they didn’t feel like anything really – other than I was much hotter (in the temperature sense of the word) than before. Apparently, hair does keep you warm.

Third, they were much less high-maintenance than I had expected, or had been warned they would be. I only made two changes to my daily hair routine: to run, I had to trade my high ponytail for two braids; and I did blow dry my hair after each shampoo (but the low maintenance way, without a round brush, just using my fingers).

Yesterday, a week before I head to Greece to the salty sea (which can be damaging to hair extensions), I had the fabulous Scott Messina from Paris Parker remove them. As scared as I was to have him put them in, I was even more concerned about having him take them out. What if I really don’t look good with “just” my natural hair?

Scott Messina removing my VoMor hair extensions

Scott Messina removing my VoMor hair extensions

Scott had warned me: “You will get addicted to them.” And I did. I feel naked without them. I miss “my” hair. In the fall, after a summer of sea, river, and pool, I will be back for more. Who knew?!

Sans VoMor selife, immediately post removal

Sans VoMor selife, immediately post removal

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