King Cake

The Boston I Love

October 1, 2013

Boston holds a special place in my hear … my best childhood memories are from 1984 to 1986 when I lived in Brookline and went to Lawrence School, learned to tie-dye t-shirts, and discovered chocolate chip cookies. I came back for college and spent my early adult years there also, until 2002.

I spent this past Friday through Monday there, and loved every minute of it. Here are the highlights, and some must-see places whether you are going back or heading there for the first time.

(Photo by: Ada Polla)

Number 9 Park is one of the most romantic restaurants in Boston, located in the heart of Beacon Hill. In Boston with my husband for the first time, dinner Friday night had to be there. Chef Barbara Lynch blends French favorites (excellent foie gras) with Italian classics (fabulous gnocchi). And the voluminous cocktail menu is to die for (and made for somewhat of a headache on Saturday morning…).

The main reason for my trip to Boston was the “Clean up your skin care routine” event at my favorite North-End beauty boutique, A Matter of Face. Paula, the owner, always has the best beauty tips, prides herself on excellent service, and of course, loves Alchimie Forever!

The Beantown Pub was the perfect spot to watch college football Saturday afternoon. A casual pub with great service and great beers, it also has a very satisfying food menu (try the cheeseburger or vegetable stir-fry).

It is impossible to come to Boston without eating some (or lost of!) seafood. Saturday night’s dinner was at another favorite, Island Creek Oyster Bar, in Kenmore Square (which has the added benefit of enabling me to see my favorite Boston landmark, the CITGO sign, all lit up).

(Photo by: Ada Polla)

Number 9 Park is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. Island Creek Oyster Bar is newer, just a few years old. The décor is modern, combining wood and steel, the atmosphere is electric, and the food is excellent (oysters and lobster pasta for me!). They are also known for their extensive list of half-wine bottles. By the same owners, Row 34 should be opening soon, and will surely be another must.

Sunday brunch was a boiled lobster, an absolute treat. Forget Legal SeaFood and head instead of James Hook & Company. A true Boston institution, there is no better lobster roll (pictured here) or anything else lobster for that matter. Fresh lobster is cooked to order, never chewy, and always delicious.

I think it’s time for me to schedule my next trip there already!



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Recapturing Camelot

September 24, 2013

This past week, I did something touristy in Washington, DC. No family member was visiting; no out-of-town friend was staying over. I met up with a girlfriend, and we went to the Newseum to see the JFK exhibit. We had connected a couple of years ago over our joint fascination over the Kennedys, and thought it would be fun to compare our reactions to the exhibit (she is American, I am not; she was alive when JFK was shot, I was not).

We started with the "Creating Camelot" part of the exhibit, an amazing array of photos of John and Jacqueline Kennedy, and their children. Jacque Lowe, the photographer, was as their personal photographer able to be a part oft heir life and depict some very candid moments. Many of the photographs I had seen in books before, but a few I had not, including an amazing one of Jackie in which she reminded me of a young Sophia Loren (sultry and sexy, which is not really how I think of Jackie). These images made me miss 'Camelot' – I know it wasn’t real, I know everything wasn’t as beautiful, perfect, or idyllic as the images make it seem; yet the exhibit made me nostalgic for what appears to be a quieter, more elegant time (a time in which ladies wore long gloves … how I wish that trend would come back!).  

From there, we went to the 6th floor, to the part of the exhibit entitled “Three Shots were Fired.” My feeling of nostalgia turned into true sadness, and goosebumps. I have read countless books on the Kennedys, on various family members, on the events of that fateful day. I realized however I had never actually heard the news excerpts. It was chilling to hear CBS anchor Walter Cronkite’s voice announcing that the president was dead. Seeing the TV moments made it very clear why the entire nation was fixated to their TV screens for the four days following this event.

We ended on the 5th level, to watch “A Thousand Days,” a 16-minute Newseum-produced film on the JFK White House and Presidency. That movie captured what I think of whenever I think of JFK as a president: youth, modernism, international affairs, beauty, and the true American Dream.

So as not to end on a sad, nostalgic note, we ended our tour with a glass of wine at The Source, and couldn’t help but talk politics … from the presidency to the DC mayoral race. A DC afternoon, through and through.    

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Practicing Safe Sun

August 20, 2013

As I look forward to my last weekend at the beach this coming weekend, I cannot but help to think about my two grandmothers, one from an Italian farming family, the other from a Swiss-German pastor family. They did not agree on many things, but they did agree on one thing: a suntan is inelegant, and a sunburn is downright offensive. Between them and my dermatologist father, with whom I have never been in so much trouble as when I sunburn my skin, I like to think I have perfected the idea of practicing “safe sun.” While this is something to think about daily, including in the dead of winter and on rainy days, it is particularly important during vacation season. If you are heading to the beach, the pool, on a boat, for one last weekend of summer, keep this in mind:

1. The safest way to be in the sun is not to be in the sun. In particular in between the hours of 11:00 am and 3:00 pm, stay in the shade. You will still get some color, I promise. If you hate the shade, consider wearing a hat, to shade your face.

2. Use sunscreen! Even if you are planning to be in the shade all day, sunscreen is key. A body oil with SPF 2 does not count as sunscreen… UVA and UVBs are both harmful to the skin, so make sure your sunscreen says “broad-spectrum” (the SPF value only refers to protection from UVB). Keep in mind that SPF 30, which my father recommends for “beach vacation days” will protect you from 97% of UVB. A higher SPF will increase the protection only by one percentage point: SPF 50 will increase it to 98, and SPF 75 to 99%.

3. Apply sunscreen liberally. Don’t think of it as applying your moisturizer or foundation – be generous, err on too much rather than not enough. The general rule of thumb is a shot-glass worth of product for an “average-sized” body.

4. Re-apply after every time you get in the water. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen; the FDA does recognize the term “water-resistant,” so look for that word when making your purchase, and reapply.

5.Purchase new sunscreen annually, at the very least. While you may not need a new bathing suit before every summer vacation, be vigilant about the expiration dates on sunscreens. The formulations are delicate, and do break down – an expired sunscreen will not provide the protection claimed on the bottle.

6.Remember the ears, back of the neck, and top of the feet (where I have gotten some of my worse sunburns). Ideally, apply your sunscreen before you put on your bathing suit, to avoid getting a burn right around where your bathing suit meets your skin.

There are lots of great sunscreens out there, I tend to find a favorite one every summer. This summer, my go-to has been by La Roche Posay XL 50+ Sunscreen Oil, which is super easy to apply, works on face and body, and has a delightful aroma. And remember, no sunscreen is 100%. This means using an antioxidant product is key, both layered under your sunscreen and as a post-sun product, so that you instantly repair any free radical damage caused. Once again, there are many great antioxidant products on the market, my current favorite being the newest baby in the Alchimie Forever family, our Daily Defense Cream SPF23. As a first layer of protection, it is packed with antioxidants including blueberries, vitamins C and E, and edelweiss extract, and also has some chemical filters to help fight UVAs and UVBs.

Lastly, remember, practice “safe sun,” and your skin will thank you.

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