09 December 2018

My Interpol driver


On Thursday morning a black car picked me up from Celebrity Cruises terminal 25 in Fort Lauderdale to drive me to the Four Seasons Miami on Brickell. The driver was a cheerful, chatty, friendly older man who told me he'd been specially requested, that he'd driven from Palm Beach just to pick me up. He asked me what I do for a living, and when I told him I work at Food & Wine, he seemed confused—he said he's usually only assigned to drive moguls and politicians because he has the highest level of security clearance, because he worked for Interpol for nearly 20 years.

We had a pretty normal conversation after that, at least for the next 20 minutes. We talked about restaurants and travel—Italy, China, Canada—and he told me some great stories from when he worked in government, how he used to travel ahead on security detail and how, in training, they'd be given specific instructions on how to speak, behave, and even order food in cities around the world.

And then, all of a sudden, he started to tell me about myself. He sort of glanced at me in the rear view mirror and casually said, "See, I'm just doing this police thing on you." Profiling, I guess? He instantly knew that I'm single, don't have kids, travel a lot, and don't keep a lot of close relationships. It was... weird. But also not weird at the same time, because it was all true. He told me long stories about how he spent decades traveling for work and how it impacted him and his family. As we pulled up to the hotel, I gave him the bottle of Veuve I'd gotten on board the cruise ship. And when he got my suitcase out of the trunk of the car, he hugged me and looked me in the eye. And the last thing he said to me was: "Don't be afraid of love."

26 November 2018

I'm a fan of weeknighting


I love early 6 p.m. Monday night dinners out with old friends—it's perfect: the no-pressure reservation, the uncrowded dining room, the weeknight-ness of the entire adventure. Sharon and I have been friends since the print / newspaper days—and tonight we met at Ilili and ordered duck shawarma, kofta, dandelion, hummus, and fattoush (no romaine, though!). Then we went to 7-Eleven to buy lottery tickets because Susan Miller says it's the luckiest day of the year.

25 November 2018

5 Best Sensitive-Oily-Aging Skincare Products I Swear By

I have slightly sensitive dry, aging skin that gets oily and shiny throughout the day in the T-zone. I'm prone to small but long-lasting breakouts around the sides of my nose and also the area between the corners of my mouth and my jawline. I deal with seasonal redness and flakiness around my cheeks and nostrils. My skin also eats makeup—eye makeup disappears throughout the day and I have medium-large pores around the center of my face. It's taken a lot of experimentation and trying new products over the years, but this winter is the happiest I've ever been with my skincare and makeup routine in decades. Decades! Here's are the exact skincare and makeup products I've been obsessed with and have repeatedly purchased for my sensitive combination aging skin:


Glossier Milk Jelly Cleanser: It's a little like Cetaphil, but way better, and rose-scented. I'd guesstimate I've purchased upwards of 30 of these over the years—so many that the Glossier consumer marketing team reached out to me and asked if I'd give them feedback on the product... you know, since I've used so much of it. Milky Jelly Cleanser is super-gentle and super-effective, it removes all my makeup, helps keep any oiliness in check without stripping the skin, never leaves me feeling irritated, and I've noticed a significant drop in rash / eczema / breakouts since I've started using it. Over the past few years, I have lapsed and tried other hyped cleansing products, but I always regret it and repent by ordering more Milky Jelly Cleanser. My only feedback to Team Glossier would be: I need this in both a TSA-friendly travel size as well as a mega-giant jumbo bottle size for home.


It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream: I started using Confidence in a Cream because I had been using Charlotte Tilbury's Magic Cream for a while and was looking for a less expensive alternative. Now I love Confidence in a Cream and I don't think I'd go back—even if I won the lottery or something. I use Confidence in a Cream as a day cream—it's great under makeup and I don't need a primer on top of it—it's light but rich enough to last all day. I've probably gone through a dozen jars of this stuff and tbh what I like most about it is that it's uncomplicated, doesn't irritate my skin, looks smooth and great under foundation, and I feel like, over time, very gradually, it's improved the appearance of my skin—i.e. I definitely notice a difference when I stop using it and think I want to experiment with something new.


Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin: Ask any of my friends or relatives— I've been evangelizing the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta peels for years. But instead of daily (because I have this irrational fear of my skin becoming dependent on acids), I use them once or twice a week to exfoliate, clean up and tighten my pores, and, subsequently, help my other skincare work / absorb better. The pads are especially useful for travel—they're individually packed and are the best thing to use as soon as you hop off a long flight and check into a hotel—very refreshing.

Sweat sessions at Shape House: OK, Shape House is not technically a beauty product—it's a 55-minute infrared wrap joint that just landed in New York City from Los Angeles earlier this year—and I'm obsessed. Far Infrared treatments are clinically proven to have all sorts of positive health benefits—and while, sure, it would be nice to lose weight from all these sweat sessions I've been booking this fall and winter, if that happens it will come with time. For me, the most immediate result of sweat sessions at Shape House is that my skin has been looking great. I think it's probably the result of just, you know, a very straightforward correlation of sweating things out of my pores on a regular basis, which thereby pushes bad gunk out of my pores. Other side effects of sweating at Shape House: I feel deeply relaxed and somehow simultaneously energized after each session and it's so nice to lie perfectly still for an hour several times a week tucked into a toasty blanket while it's blustery and cold outside.
It Cosmetics CC+ Illumination with SPF 50+: I'd been using the normal non-illuminating version of this CC cream / foundation for a year before I mustered up the courage to try the illuminating version—I was worried it would make me look shiny, sweaty, or sparkly. But then I watched a Pixiwoo beauty tutorial where they used it and it looked so good, I had to try it—and the rest is history, I've never looked back. I love that this foundation looks like skin, has good coverage but is also sheer-ish. It stays all day, is illuminating, so I don't feel like I get a gray cast from it (which sometimes happens to me with matte-r foundations), and it photographs and videos beautifully. I set it with a translucent powder from Rimmel (I was using Charlotte Tilbury powder, which I love, but honestly it's $45 and that's a lot for a tiny pan of pressed powder) and then dust a little MAC Studio Fix on top as well. I also have this feeling that the CC+ cream makes me look... younger?

The 6 Best Hotels I Stayed in This Year

There's nothing I love more than the feeling of freedom that comes along with arriving solo at an airport in a foreign country. Travel is one of my greatest loves—maybe it's because I grew up in New York, and as much as this city has to offer, it can also feel stifling and claustrophobic (like, I never get to see the sky) after too many weeks on the ground—and this year I was lucky enough to do my fair share of country-hopping, mostly for work, but oftentimes with a few extra days tacked on pre- and post- for personal exploration. Here are the 6 best hotels I got to stay in this year—they're all fantastic and memorable for different reasons.

Waldorf Astoria Beijing: The perfect city-center location for a long shopping or sightseeing weekend in town, the Waldorf Astoria is one of the most beautiful city hotels in Beijing—and, for sure, one of the most luxurious. I used my Hilton status to upgrade to a suite and it was so nice, I just about wanted to move in. The food and spa in the hotel are also spectacular—make sure to grab a casual lunch in Peacock Alley, and breakfast in the main restaurant shouldn't be missed.



The Grand Hyatt Xi'an: Situated in the high-tech district in Xi'an, this new-in-2018 high-rise luxury property-meets-convention-center is a nature-design-inspired breath of fresh air—and a sea of calm in the middle of an ultra-modern city. The restaurants are all uniquely themed and excellent—especially the pan-Asian barbecue restaurant Maple House, a must-visit destination for a long, leisurely dinner.



SLS Baha Mar: I visited the SLS in Baha Mar when it first opened—and I still tell people, today, how incredible the rooms and the property are. Each hotel in the Baha Mar collection has its own unique vibe and characteristics, so I'd recommend checking them all out before you decide which one suits your personality and travel needs best. I loved the quiet and low-key luxury of the SLS.



JW Marriott Austin: I've been to SXSW Interactive several times as a speaker and mentor, and the JW Marriott is, hands-down my Austin hotel favorite (I've also stayed at two other properties in town and they're great—but the JW is one of the only hotels in the city center that doesn't have all the roads around it shut down during the festival—this is key for getting in and out of town to and from the airport as well as to further-afield restaurant reservations). To me, the JW brand is the quintessential luxury business traveler hotel—great executive lounges, polished-but-not-too-familiar service, fancy-but-not-too-fancy everything, good spas, good dining options. I've stayed at a few around the country / the world and it's a brand I feel like I can always trust.



The Temple House Chengdu: To me, the Temple House in Chengdu is the only place to stay in Chengdu—the location, smack dab in the center of the city in a semi-tranquil oasis of lowrises and attached to some of the best shopping and dining areas in town, is unbeatable. The rooms are also ultra-chic, quiet, and beautiful, and the in-house restaurant and facilities (that swimming pool!) are excellent. The staff are also some of the best in the business and you'll want to be best friends with all of them.



Surfrider Malibu: I stayed at the Surfrider Malibu back before it was even the Surfrider Malibu—years ago, it was a small apartment complex and I used to rent a place on Airbnb from a surfer who kept a studio there. Since its transformation into a boutique hotel, it's my go-to spot in L.A. (besides Chateau Marmont, which is just the hands-down ultimate in-town hotel). For a non-driver, the Surfrider's location right across the street from the Malibu Pier and just a 10-minute walk from Malibu Country Mart can't be beat. It's also next door to Casa Escobar, a really great Mexican restaurant where I happily eat 30 percent of all my meals when I'm in the neighborhood, and the Malibu outpost of Aviator Nation, my favorite sweatpants store on Earth. Make sure to check out the private guests-only bar-restaurant on the roof deck of the Surfrider—great food, great views.




23 November 2018

Things I've accomplished

I've officially been on staycation for five days now and I've accomplished... not that much? I have managed to spend some quality catch-up time with friends, though, so that's something. And I got my brother to help me bring a bunch of stuff down to Goodwill this afternoon—he spent the whole time lecturing me about how I should just find someone to sell my clothes online for me, instead, but really I'd much prefer the tax write-off.


Today (Black Friday) I wrote a story, went out for sushi at Sugarfish, then a coffee at Think, and then a chair massage at the spa down the street.

Here's what I bought online this week:

  • Simone Rocha cardigan (versatile)
  • Comme des Garcons dress (not on sale)
  • L.L. Bean fleece vest (not on sale)
  • Cath Kidston alpaca print dress, for work (alpacas!)

Ended the day sharing a bottle of 2017 Raats Chenin Blanc (a gift from Luvo Ntezo) with my brother and my sister-in-law.

19 November 2018

Staycation To-Do List

Currently on my first staycation in... years? I have three days off, then Thanksgiving with the family, then one day off, then the weekend. So many days, lots of things I'm hoping to get to that I don't usually have time for, including but not limited to:
  1. Actually going to the gym
  2. Cleaning my apartment and hauling a huge clothing drop-off to Housing Works
  3. Recycling a bunch of electronics
  4. Figuring out my shoe storage situation
  5. Visiting my friend Rachel's new-ish shop The Goods Mart for the first time
  6. Having lunch with freelance friends
  7. Going for infrared wraps as often as possible
  8. Making a YouTube video of something
  9. Try to launch something tiny on Shopify, just to see how the platform works
  10. Catching up on all the writing I need to do that I can't get done in the office
  11. Drinking coffees in coffee shops
I did have momentary cabin fever panic over the weekend and tried to book a weekend trip up to New Hampshire, but with it being one of the busiest travel weekends in the calendar year, no go. It's all for the better, I think, staying in town over the four-day weekend. New York is glorious in the winter when it's quiet.

05 November 2018

The 5 Best Things I Bought in 2018. So Far.

These are the 5 best new-to-me things I bought in 2018. So far. That I can think of just sitting here at my desk at 11 p.m. on a Monday. That said, there are still a few weeks left to the year and I wouldn't put it past myself to get my hands on that cat bag.

1. Prada nylon backpack: Bought sometime over the summer so I could wear it walking to work every morning. And then it was, like, 100,000 degrees and humid every single day. I've still gotten plenty of use out of it, though. It's my go-to daily carry bag and super-convenient for travel, sightseeing, and shopping.

Fabric backpack, available at Prada.com



2. A $319 computer: I was thrilled in 2017 when I got my hands on a brand new Macbook Pro. So thrilled that I ordered a souped-up turbo version that cost more than $3,000. Fast forward just one year later and after spilling a tiny amount of water on the keyboard... RIP Macbook Pro. I've been using an older Macbook Air ever since, but recently went looking for a better keyboard experience (Mac hadn't released any new laptops yet), so I picked up a $319 machine from Lenovo—a Chromebook specially designed for elementary school children; it has a 360-degree rotating tablet touchscreen and a waterproof keyboard. Now I can snack and drink near my laptop as much as I want, without fear. Best $319 I've ever spent.

Lenovo 300e, available at Lenovo.com


3. This 64 oz. water bottle from S'well: OK, I have, like, 100 S'well bottles that I've gotten for free in gift bags, as PR presents, and as random gifts from other humans—and even though I love how easy they are to clean and how cool they keep drinks all day, they are so heavy, so I never really carry them around. All that backstory definitely makes the next statement seem like nonsense, but I love the 64 oz. S'well bottle. It's like the size of a gallon milk jug, but it's made of dense, multi-walled stainless steel. It's crazy heavy and keeps water cold all day. I never take it anywhere, it just sits on my desk at home. It makes me feel virtuous everyone I need to refill it. It helps me drink more water.

S'well 64 oz. bottle, available at Amazon.com


4. Artis Elite Mirror Palm Brush Mini: If you travel a lot and need makeup brushes to, well, apply your makeup in the mornings (people who can apply makeup with their hands or those tiny included applicators are magical unicorns), buying great travel brushes will completely upgrade your luggage situation. My favorite brushes come from Artis (my favorite drugstore brushes come from Real Techniques) and recently I bought a teeny tiny version of my favorite-favorite Artis Palm brush, and now all I use, even when I'm home, is the tiny Palm.

Elite MIrror Palm Brush Mini, available at Sephora.com

5. This ridiculous swimsuit: I fell in love with this swimsuit at first sight. I remember exactly where I was, I was sitting on my terrace at the Surfrider Malibu looking at Surfrider tagged Instagram posts when I saw it—and ordered it immediately. I didn't debut it til Memorial Day, in Turks & Caicos while on vacation with some friends. The truth is I've never been super-confident about going out in public in swimwear, but there's something so unapologetic about this super-bold Barbie-inspired print. I feel wrapped in confidence when I'm wearing it.

Pipeline zip one-piece, available at ShowMeYourMumu.com


04 November 2018

4 Days in Beijing



Two days exploring the Wangjing neighborhood in Beijing, a morning trip to the Great Wall of China, and a weekend at the Waldorf Astoria (stocking up on snacks!)

29 October 2018

My Xi'an Trip



Street food (I went on two Lost Plate tours), a trip to the Shaanxi Museum, and a visit to the Terracotta Warriors (must read up on that emperor). Stayed at the Hilton Xi'an and the Grand Hyatt Xi'an.

27 October 2018

City break

I’m holed up in the Waldorf Astoria Beijing for the weekend, which is probably one of the all-time best places to be holed up doing nothing, thanks to the magic of Hilton Honors Gold Status and an upgrade to a king suite. To be fair, I’ve also had a pretty fantastic week—part work, spending time with the global Hyatt team checking out two of their newest properties, one in Xi’an, the other in the Wangjing neighborhood in Beijing. Both hotels are gorgeous, pristine, and chock full of great amenities. But there’s nothing quite like coming off a week of programming and meetings, straight into a be-feather-bedded king overlooking a row of hutong houses and a courtyard. Oh, and there’s a marble wet room in my bathroom. I am so happy right now.