Mardi Gras

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street.

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street. Here is what you need to know:

  1. Mardi Gras is the culmination of Carnival season, which starts on January 6th.
  2. The actual Mardi Gras day depends on when Easter falls (which depends on the Moon). This means that Carnival season can be as short as a month or as long as two.
  3. The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold.
  4. The foods of Mardi Gras season are delicious, and fast – given that no one has time for a sit-down meal: King Cake, finger sandwiches, fried chicken, and one pot Louisiana dishes such as red beans and rice, jambalaya, or gumbo.
  5. King Cake is the Louisiana version of Galette des Rois. In New Orleans, the two best sources of said King Cake are Gambinos and Dong Phuong (at a recent taste test at my friend Angie’s house, Dong Phuong won hands down). It is not possible to eat King Cake after Fat Tuesday.
  6. Krewes are Carnival organizations that exist solely for the purpose of putting on parades and balls during Carnival season.
  7. Costumes are de rigueur during this weekend. Most New Orleans residents have entire costume closets, and costumes don’t necessarily represent specific characters (one year I dressed up as the color purple).
  8. Mardi Gras day is followed by Ash Wednesday, which is the official start of Lent.
  9. The Mardi Gras rules of our household are the following:
    1. Me first.
    2. No plans.
    3. Always have something to drink in your hand.
    4. No breaking up.
    5. No fighting.
    6. Everyone is welcome.
    7. If one partakes in the revelry of Mardi Gras, one must give up something for Lent. (I am still trying to figure out what to give up on Wednesday).

Happy Mardi Gras weekend y’all!

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!

Strong and Healthy is The New Sexy

While I work to be healthy and active year-round, I can’t help but pay more attention to my diet and exercise routine during the warmer months, in particular as   my annual trip to Greece approaches. So for the past six weeks, I have been particularly diligent. It’s not easy… while in my 20s I could diet for 3 days and lose 2 pounds, the reality of being 40 is quite different. I have had to develop some new strategies along the way. Here they are – may they be useful to you as well.

While I work to be healthy and active year-round, I can’t help but pay more attention to my diet and exercise routine during the warmer months, in particular as my annual trip to Greece approaches. So for the past six weeks, I have been particularly diligent. It’s not easy… while in my 20s I could diet for 3 days and lose 2 pounds, the reality of being 40 is quite different. I have had to develop some new strategies along the way. Here they are – may they be useful to you as well.

Eating and drinking

  • For much of my adult life, I have lived on bread and cheese. That is now a treat versus my usual meal – once per week max.
  • Fish and vegetables have instead become my friends… (and I’ll keep telling myself that until I believe it).
  • I enjoy wine and champagne. In the warmer months, I switch to wine spritzers and “piscines” (literally, swimming pools – also a word to describe champagne in a large red wine glass filled with ice).
  • I am forever trying to drink more water… still, sparkling, naturally flavored, with Emergen-C powder in it – anything to help!

Exercising

  • I set out my work out clothes the night before… seeing them right there helps me put them on.
  • I’m a morning work out person, so I get in my workout clothes the minute I get out of bed. It’s often the hardest part. Once I’m in them, I know I’m heading out for a run.
  • I have been taking advantage of the nice weather to run outside more. Something about the river (the Potomac in DC) and the songs of the birds is so soothing.
  • Even if I have only slept 4.5 hours (as I did last night), I remind myself that a 30-minute run will do a lot more for me than 30 minutes of extra sleep.
  • When I know I am going to need some extra help motivating, I call one of my best friends to see if she will come to SoulCycle with me. Knowing she will be there helps me make it there. (Thank you Julie!)
  • Finally, I have realized that going for a fast walk in Dumbarton Park with a BFF is just as lovely as going out for a glass of wine. My friend Isabel in particular has been a fan of this idea (which now that I think about it might have been hers!). A way to blend exercise with girlfriend time.
  • I try to walk as much as possible – for errands, around my favorite spots in Georgetown, to and from SoulCycle. Every step counts.

It’s about making healthy choices and moving. Every single day.

Highlights From Our Louisiana Memorial Day Weekend

Last October, I turned 40. It was a milestone birthday for many reasons, including the fact that I felt I could ask my 3 sisters for a significant present. And I did. I asked them to come to Louisiana for Memorial Day 2018. Why? Because I wanted them to see that side of my life, because I wanted to share the delights of New Orleans and the Natalbany River with them, because I wanted them to meet my husband’s family (in particular his many brothers). And my sisters being who they are, humored me. Our time together surpassed all of our expectations… here are the highlights.

Last October, I turned 40. It was a milestone birthday for many reasons, including the fact that I felt I could ask my 3 sisters for a significant present. And I did. I asked them to come to Louisiana for Memorial Day 2018. Why? Because I wanted them to see that side of my life, because I wanted to share the delights of New Orleans and the Natalbany River with them, because I wanted them to meet my husband’s family (in particular his many brothers). And my sisters being who they are, humored me. Our time together surpassed all of our expectations… here are the highlights.

Roxane:

The highlight of my Louisiana trip was without a doubt my haircut. More than a haircut, it was an experience. As soon as I entered Paris Parker Prytania, I felt a positive buzzing energy. My hairdresser (and brother) Tatum Neill sat me down and gave me a “consultation” – something I had never experienced before. He asked me questions about my hair-styling routine and about the products I use. I confessed that other than shampoo, I don’t use any products, and was relieved when he assured me his questions were not about judging, but about understanding my hair. He then asked his apprentice to shampoo my hair and was very specific about which products to use – I loved knowing that even the shampoo treatment was personalized! While cutting my hair, he explained each movement to his apprentice – I loved being part of a teaching moment and it was extremely interesting to learn about hair cutting techniques. I have never had someone cut my hair with so much attention to detail, which resulted in the most perfect haircut I have ever had. Having understood how I deal with my hair, Tatum was able to recommend the perfect products to incorporate in my daily routine: Aveda Smooth Infusion. Everything was perfect. There is one problem however… I am now faced with the following dilemma: how do I reconcile the fact that I live in Switzerland with the fact that my favorite hairdresser lives in Louisiana? I guess the future holds many more trips to Louisiana!

Rachel:

I adore my sisters and brother-in-law, so every moment was magical – especially because for once we were outside of Switzerland. My highlight of the trip was the stroll we took in the French Quarter the day after we arrived. When I am on an adult-only vacation, I relish the complete lack of planning. As a working mom, my life is ruled by plans, by schedules, so my vacations need to be the opposite. This trip was all about making the best of our four days together, and there were things to check off the list, such as meeting the (fabulous) Neill brothers and family, wakeboarding, and more – there was a plan and there was a schedule. So this unscheduled afternoon spent meandering the streets, randomly entering boutiques (and bars!), trying (and buying) items from brands not available in Europe (including the amazing Krewe sunglasses), tasting absinthe for the first time and deciding to take it to go, being together but respecting each other’s rhythm was magical in two ways: I felt free, and in a “discovery mood” of this great city I fell in love with.

Cyrille:

I could sense this vacation was going to be something special. This was the first time the four Polla sisters were together in the US since… well, ever! It was my first time in New Orleans and my first Memorial Day celebration. But I didn’t expect to live so many other “first times.” Here are my top 10 firsts:
First taste of a homemade southern breakfast with fried eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits; first daydream on a porch swing; first attempt at wakeboarding on “Louisiana glass”; first swim with alligators; first hula-hoop game; first feel of warm rain; first topless water balloon contest; first sip of a “Worm Bucket” – a colorful and tasteful 😉 drink containing a wiggly piece of candy; first time seeing Kermit Ruffins live; first midnight hot tub.

Me:

Where to begin… My highlight of the trip has to be the various moments the Polla sisters got to spend with the Neill brothers. Both the Pollas and the Neills are such strong, large families, two families with family businesses – one family more girl-dominant, one family more boy-dominant. The moments (in the salon, on the boat, at the Prop Stop, at dinner, in their homes…) during which the Neill brothers saw the Polla sisters interact, and vice versa, are moments that I will cherish forever. Moments I will cherish for so many reasons, including because having met my sisters, the men who I call my brothers now know and understand me better; and having met my brothers, my sisters also now know and understand me better.

I can’t help but hope that this becomes an annual tradition…