Supporting Your Favorite Brands and Businesses During COVID-19

The last ten days have changed my reality as I knew it. Two of my family’s three businesses are closed because of Swiss government action (Forever Institut and Forever Boutique). In the US, many of the spas and boutiques that sell Alchimie Forever have made the choice to close for a number of weeks, and our sales have already decreased as a result. All of the favorite places I love to go to are closed (from exercise studios to boutiques to bars and restaurants).

I know that we are all in this together, and that we will come out of this together, stronger, wiser. But when? And will my world look like then what it looked like two weeks ago? 

As both a small business owner and a small business supporter, I am concerned about small businesses and independent brands everywhere. Here are some of the ways I am helping my favorite boutiques, bars, restaurants, spas, and salons. I am: 

  • Leaving five-star reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc. 
  • Following social accounts, and like, comment, share. 
  • Creating social media content that highlights your favorite brands and locations; post and tag. 
  • Purchasing products online from any of your brick and mortar faves that have a website presence. 
  • Purchasing gift cards from your favorite service providers. (Getting my holiday shopping done early!). 
  • Ordering takeout / delivery from my favorite restaurants who can no longer accept table service. (Side note: in many municipalities they can now also sell beer and wine for delivery or takeout)

This too shall pass. Until then, let’s work together to ensure that our favorite small businesses and independent brands are here when it does. 

Our New Year’s Resolutions

When we were children and still spending New Year’s Eve with our parents, they implemented a tradition of discussing our current year successes and New Year’s intentions and…

When we were children and still spending New Year’s Eve with our parents, they implemented a tradition of discussing our current year successes and New Year’s intentions and resolutions over New Year’s Eve dinner. We did this for so many years, all four of us still live a version of this tradition ever 31st of December.

Here are each of our 2020 resolutions.

 Roxane: Be ok alone.

My husband just started a new job that requires him to be away during the week and home only on the weekends. This is a wonderful opportunity for him, but a challenge for me. I have never learned how to spend time alone nor do I like it. My 2020 challenge and resolution is to be ok when I am alone. I’ve come up with a number of tactics and strategies to set myself up for success:

  • Getting to know my neighbors and having dinner parties with them.
  • Becoming a regular at the local diner.
  • Having friends over and/or test new restaurants with them.
  • Going rock-climbing once a week with a colleague.
  • Engaging in local activities: Thursday evenings in Nax (the village I live in) I can do yoga classes or ski under the stars.
  • Working late or going to bed early (instead of binging on TV shows).
  • If I am eating at home by myself, I will try reading a book, listening to an audio book, watching a good movie, calling family and friends or Skyping with my husband and having a virtual dinner with him.
  • Creating evening routines: turning music on when I walk in the door, starting a fire, lighting candles, doing 30 minutes of yoga, taking a long shower and treating my body with many Alchimie Forever products.

I think there is a slight change I might actually start to enjoying spending time with myself, by myself.

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Rachel: Let go of my fear of taking risks.

In 2016, when I became CEO of Forever Institut, I took a big risk to launch our first expansion project, Forever Boutique. This risk has paid off as the Boutique is break-even and showing growth every month, yet more than ever I am afraid of failure, and plagued with too many doubts. Yet, to succeed as an entrepreneur (or as a seasoned business leader), you have to embrace risk. Calculated risk, yes, but risk nonetheless.
This year, I feel sufficiently serene to be able to take a leap forward and embrace a new risk. We will be looking out for our second Forever Boutique, and I trust that my change of mindset will be like a message to the Universe who will answer with the perfect location for our expansion.

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Cyrille: Continued affirmation of (my)self.

Last year I tried yoga nidra for the first time, and it was like a revelation. The practice starts by setting a powerful intention for yourself; creating in your mind of a precise sentence that helps support your heart’s wishes. This intention (or sankalpa, the Sanskrit word for resolve) should be positive, short, and stated in the present tense. Sankalpa is not about achieving goals or fixing something that is “wrong”. Instead, it’s about connecting with your emotions and beliefs. I learned that my sankalpa already resided within me, as a heartfelt longing. And I repeat it to myself everyday “I am a conquering queen, creator of my own life”. I think of it as a vow between the Universe an me.

While this may not be a traditional resolution (I have never embraced these as much as my sisters LOL!), I vow to continue to repeat my sankalpa daily, as I have found it to be a powerful tool, a gateway to positive change and personal transformation.

Cyrille

Me (Ada): Feel (be) healthier.

This may be the most non original and common New Year Resolution, yet it is not one that I have made in the past – so it is new and interesting to me. I am working to feel healthier, to be healthier, despite traveling 100,000 miles per year, sleeping five to six hours per night, mostly in hotel rooms. To start off strong, I am doing a 21-day cleanse that entails no alcohol, no sugar, no carbohydrates, limited fat and limited dairy. As I write this, I am on day 5, and feeling good. To me, this is as much about the physical cleanse, as it is about the emotional breaking of bad habits, such as relying on wine to de-stress, and on food to feel better.

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What are your New Year’s intentions?

Red Eye Flights

On Friday, I left DC and made my way to the amazing island that is Tinos, in the Cyclades. This is a 24-hour journey door to door… and it is worth every minute of the trip. I arrived on Tinos on Saturday 18:30 pm Greek time, on my birthday, dropped off my bags, showered, and headed to an amazing birthday dinner. I had no time for jet lag, no time for red eyes.

On Friday, I left DC and made my way to the amazing island that is Tinos, in the Cyclades. This is a 24-hour journey door to door… and it is worth every minute of the trip. I arrived on Tinos on Saturday 18:30 pm Greek time, on my birthday, dropped off my bags, showered, and headed to an amazing birthday dinner. I had no time for jet lag, no time for red eyes.

Here is how I prepared for the journey, and for my birthday dinner.

  1. The minute I get on the plane, I go (or try to) to sleep. A glass of champagne or wine before we take off, but nothing as soon as my seat can reline. No movie, no dinner. Every minute counts.
  2. My favorite overnight travel outfit is a black jersey dress that looks like a class black dress and is as comfortable at a nightgown.
  3. Soft socks. I never wear socks, except when working out or on an overnight flight. Cold toes are the number one thing that will keep me awake. My favorite pair is from Life Is Good, super soft, and fuchsia pink.
  4. An eye mask. This does two things: it tells flight attendants you are out for the night and they better not wake you; and it actually helps filter the light out and enhances sleep. A silk one is kindest on my skin.
  5. My favorite mask, by Alchimie Forever of course (Kantic Brightening moisture mask). I made the travel size for selfish reasons; it meets the FSA travel size requirements and both seals in moisture and protects me from the deadly “airplane air.”
  6. Eye drops. There is a reason these overnight flights are called red-eyes. I am fond of Similasan Dry Eye Relief, but whatever you favorite brand is will work.
  7. I avoid makeup other than mascara and lipstick. Skin makeup (concealer, foundation, powder), travels quite poorly, and ends up making skin feel dryer and more uncomfortable.
  8. A travel toothbrush and toothpaste. A must in the morning before getting off the plane. Nothing like a clean mouth to make one feel civilized. Add a bright lipstick, and your day is off to the perfect start.
  9. A bottle of water. Other than cold toes, being thirsty will keep me awake and uncomfortable. I like to flavor mine with Super Orange Emergen-C. It helps keep me healthy too…
  10. A smile. Delays, cancellations, just the fact of flying overnight can be taxing. A smile will make the entire experience more pleasurable. For yourself and for those around you.

And well, when I land in Athens, pick up my bags, and tell the cab driver to take me to the Port of Rafina, well, then life is good regardless of any of the above traveling tips!

Always Be Overdressed

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed.

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed. After 20+ years in the US, where yoga wear is considered stylish outside of the yoga studio, and sneakers are worn off the running path, I have had to create a daily motto for myself to maintain these Swiss standards in my appearance. 

Dressing (up) is not about pretention or vanity, but about how I present myself to the world, and hence, how I behave. Every occasion is made more special by a nice dress or powerful pant suit and the perfect pair of shoes. I reminded myself of this yesterday when I had a 3:30 am wakeup time to fly across the country for meetings. All I wanted to do was to wear comfortable (of course presentable) clothes, but I reminded myself that in particular because of my wake-up time, it behooved me to pay extra attention to my outfit.

Why? 

1. When I dress up, I want to live up to my outfit. If I look good, if I feel beautiful, I want to behave that way. I am less likely to be rude when I am wearing fancy shoes. I am more likely to smile and be polite when I am wearing a fancy dress. After all, when I dress up, I am putting my best self forward – and my behavior needs to be coherent with my appearance. 

2. When I dress up, when I look good, people compliment me on my outfit. That means two things. First, I am happy and I feel good about myself, so I am nicer. Second, I smile and say thank you after each compliment, and the more I smile the easier it is to keep smiling (no matter my wakeup time). 

3. When my husband and I both dress up for date night, I feel that we are doing something special for each other – we are putting effort into how we look, for each other. That makes me feel good, like he did something for me, which in turn makes me act nicer, and less likely to pick a fight. It also makes it harder to pick a fight because he looks so good!  

Somehow, how I dress really does make a difference in how I feel, and thus how I act. It is not about expensive clothes. It is not about vanity. I have come to think of it more as a uniform. When I put on something dressy, I am putting on my “best behavior uniform.” And it works every time… 

Safe Sun

My two grandmothers, one from an Italian farming family, the other from a Swiss-German pastor family, did not agree on many things. But they did agree on one thing: too dark a suntan is borderline inelegant, and a sunburn is outright offensive.

My two grandmothers, one from an Italian farming family, the other from a Swiss-German pastor family, did not agree on many things. But they did agree on one thing: too dark a suntan is borderline inelegant, and a sunburn is outright 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, which is upon us. If you are heading to the beach, the pool, on a boat, or anywhere else where you are planning on spending most of your summer days outdoors, 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 and 3 pm, stay in the shade.
  2. Use sunscreen. Even if you are planning to be in the shade all day, sunscreen is essential. 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 96% of UVB. A higher SPF will increase the protection by a few percentage points only: 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). Apply your sunscreen before you put on your bathing suit, to avoid getting a tan right around where your bathing suit meets your skin.

There are lots of great sunscreens out there, I tend to find a new favorite one every summer. La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Nutritive Oil Comfort SPF 50+ and all Coola products are wonderful. Yet 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 Alchimie Forever cream, Protective day cream SPF 23. 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, you earn the skin you’re in! Protect it, and always practice “safe sun.”

Polar Vortex

This week, I experienced the coldest temperatures I can remember while not happily skiing down a mountain (wearing ski clothes). Zero degrees Fahrenheit, felt like -5 with the wind. Fahrenheit. Not Celsius. I experienced the polar vortex that is embracing the Midwest of the United States this week. I still love you Missouri, and I am grateful this week’s travels didn’t take me to Minnesota (-30 Fahrenheit without wind chill).

This week, I experienced the coldest temperatures I can remember while not happily skiing down a mountain (wearing ski clothes). Zero degrees Fahrenheit, felt like -5 with the wind. Fahrenheit. Not Celsius. I experienced the polar vortex that is embracing the Midwest of the United States this week. I still love you Missouri, and I am grateful this week’s travels didn’t take me to Minnesota (-30 Fahrenheit without wind chill).

Here is what I learned.

  • Arctic temperatures make people kinder. My girlfriend Kirby who lives in Chicago once told me the same thing: “In the freezing temperatures, we all come together. It’s like a bonding experience.” I guess everyone is suffering so much from the cold, we all decide to be nicer because we realize everyone else is also suffering so much from the cold.
  • Floor to ceiling windows are lovely. Except during a polar vortex. My hotel room could not get warm no matter the setting on the thermostat.
  • Gloves were my most prized possession this week. Along with the travel size of our Dry skin balm. Freezing hands are red, shriveled, old-looking, not attractive.
  • On that note, I need to invest in a pair of touchscreen gloves. My fingers almost froze while trying to text outside.
  • My lips looked as shriveled as my hands. I use Aveda Lip Saver and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream on a regular basis, but had to do something more. I was recommended the VenEffect Anti-aging Lip Treatment and it helped. Or maybe I was just looking for a reason to buy an anti-aging lip product…
  • This cold is no joke on my skin. Redness from the freezing cold. Dryness from the heated indoors. Discomfort all around. Hydration, nourishment, oils, heavy creams. Thank you Kantic Brightening moisture mask (which I slept in twice this week), Kantic+ Intensely nourishing cream, and Vintner’s Daughter facial oil.

Stay warm. Build a fire if you can. Have a hot toddy. Hug someone. And have a great weekend!

Gift Giving Guide

‘Tis the season… the season of gratitude, and the season of giving. In many ways, I find even more pleasure in giving the perfect gift than in receiving gifts! Finding the perfect gift for everyone really is one of the most satisfying things ever. If you are stuck buying yet another tie for your father, here are some out of the box ideas that will bring a smile to even the “hardest-to-shop-for-person-ever.”

‘Tis the season… the season of gratitude, and the season of giving. In many ways, I find even more pleasure in giving the perfect gift than in receiving gifts! Finding the perfect gift for everyone really is one of the most satisfying things ever. If you are stuck buying yet another tie for your father, here are some out of the box ideas that will bring a smile to even the “hardest-to-shop-for-person-ever.” (I have three of them on my list…)

For your significant other: Erotic Poems by E. E. Cummins. (With the promise of a live reading by candlelight)

For your dad: Smartphone Film Scanner. (So all of those pictures of you as a baby can make it to his phone instead of being relegated to a cardboard box at the bottom of a closet)

For your mom (in particular if, like mine, she loves art and espresso): Color Lab espresso cups.

For your brother (or brother-in-law): a top of the line double-edged razor. (And for an even smoother shave, add Alchimie Forever Antioxidant skin repair gel)

For your sister (or sister-in-law): a gorgeous sparkly clutch that will take her from day to night.

For your best friend (or for your mother-in-law who has everything), this hand-beaded silk chiffon bib necklace is the perfect accessory, and it won’t be one that all of her friends have.

For your co-worker, the most beautiful candle from the unique NYC boutique Aedes de Venustas, which smells as delicious as it looks.

For your secret Santa: a bottle of Bourbon and these will for sure help him/her stay warm throughout the winter.

For that special person on your list who has everything, these two options always enchant: an artsy iPhone case, and a beautiful notepad.

Fall Beauty Resolutions

As we are in the middle of what always feels like the last weekend of summer, I am turning my attention to the rest of 2018, and to my fall beauty resolutions.

As we are in the middle of what always feels like the last weekend of summer, I am turning my attention to the rest of 2018, and to my fall beauty resolutions.

  1. I will discard any left-over sunscreen (any sunscreen I bought this summer will not be good next summer).
  2. I will continue to apply a day cream with SPF protection even when the sun stops shining (SPF 20 or above, per the recommendation of my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla).
  3. I will practice regular exfoliation, on face and body, to help cellular turnover (I love the Alchimie Forever Gentle refining scrub twice a week).
  4. I will diligently use my Advanced retinol serum twice a week to repair any sun damage from the summer.
  5. I will continue to take extra care of my toes even after putting away my sandals (I am loving the clear polish natural look these days, beautiful in summer and winter).
  6. I will get two trims between now and the end of the year (this may sound like a minimalist approach, but considering I usually get one trim per year this is actually an aggressive goal for me).
  7. I will continue to exercise three times per week and will be mindful of my eating and drinking, in particular during the holiday period.  
  8. I will purchase a new lipstick color for the fall. I am intrigued by the new Aveda Feed My Lips colors…

What are your fall beauty resolutions?

Tips For a Successful Annual Family Meeting

A few years ago, we attended the INSEAD executive program on family business. It was a turning point for our family business in terms of identifying goals and best practices. One best practice that came out of this program was to hold an annual family meeting – we call it our Family Council meeting.

A few years ago, we attended the INSEAD executive program on family business. It was a turning point for our family business in terms of identifying goals and best practices. One best practice that came out of this program was to hold an annual family meeting – we call it our Family Council meeting.

The intended outcome of this meeting is to spend time together, of course, but beyond that it is to update those family members not involved in the day to day operations of the family business on the current states of our business units, and to benefit from their thinking, insights, and questions.

We just came back from our third Family Council meeting, held at Villa Verde Resort in Friuli, the region of Italy where our father grew up. Each meeting gets better, as we learn from our experiences. Here are our best practices so far:

Roxane:

  • Have someone take photos; these times are precious! My husband Guillaume is (one of) our assigned photographer.
  • If the work meeting lasts the equivalent of a full work day – which it should – make sure there is time to exercise or practice an outdoor activity before dinner. Your body fluids get moving again, your brain is oxygenated, and everything feels much better afterwards. I know I needed this time!

Rachel:

  • Do not schedule anything right after the meeting, as ours usually lasts longer than scheduled. We learned this the hard way our first Family Council meeting (we all had a train to catch): everyone left rushed and frustrated at not having been able to share everything we wanted to share (yes, we do talk a lot and the goal of these moments is to share, share, share). However, balance this with respect for timing and scheduling.
  • Set a clear code of conduct. I love ours – love, respect, no sleeping (see photo!).

Cyrille:

  • Organize some bonding time before starting the meeting. Reconnecting emotionally and tuning our energies towards one another makes the business discussions much more open, rich and authentic.
  • If one or more family members has a hobby they are passionate about, it’s great to include it in the schedule. Our dad loves golf, and so do some other family members. Thus, we set aside time to golf (see bonding time above). The rest of us were by the pool and that was superb too!
  • Include a festive and joyful together time after the meeting. Either a dinner – or even better, stay overnight and have some fun the morning after.

Ada:

  • Schedule “alone time” in the midst of all the “together time.” Without it, I am not very much fun to be around.
  • Include the children in the day as much as possible. Either in terms of them participating in the presentations and discussions (depending on the age), or in terms of them being present even if they are not actively participating. Per our Dad, it is never too early to start – and they learn by osmosis.
  • Think about all of the possible tension points that will surely come up during such intense family time. Plan for them. Figure out how to diffuse them before they occur.

We already can’t wait for next year’s meeting!