Sunday, October 3, 2010

Plate 52, Week 9: Fini

Fini is not the name of the restaurant I went to with Eric Norman last Friday but rather the state of my blog series, Plate 52, and my blog, Trap Traphagen.

In regards to Plate 52, the intent of my criticism was never to diminish a restaurant or a meal but rather to share my honest opinions with others because, more often than not, my friends used me as a resource for restaurant recommendations. But even with that disclaimer, I now find myself in an awkward situation when I was about to publicly criticize a restaurant where I know someone who works there and that has provided in-kind gifts to a respected nonprofit organization. So having said that, I decided to end Plate 52 to avoid jeopardizing any relationships. Sadly, not all restaurants bring me such joy as Sidney Street or Haute Dish. So, if you want to read a fun blog about food and see awesome food photography, check out my dear friend Irvin Lin’s blog, Eat the Love.

In regards to Trap Traphagen, when I first started it in February 2010, the goal was to share things that brought me joy. Well, I can tell you in one sentence what I enjoy: I enjoy my family who loves me unconditionally; my friends who I adore and are an extended family; my work and the volunteer employee council that I am a part of; my health, wellbeing, and the anticipation I feel about next year’s 2011 Red Ribbon Ride; and my enthusiasm for opera and my volunteer work with Tempo; and learning how to play the cello. To have six focuses right now in my life is enough for me; blogging for a fan base of 12 (ha!) was just one extra thing that really wasn't adding value to my life. I’d rather do a few things well and a few that I can’t. So, if you want to read a new blog from someone who is inspired by similar things as me and is wickedly talented at creating cards, check out my friend Erin O’Leary’s blog, Denim & Ink.

So until my novella Golf Balls for Fish is written and published, au revoir.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Plate 52, Week 8: Convention Grill

Convention Grill is a grill and fountain soda shop that looks as old as it sounds. I wouldn’t be surprised if everything was original except for a new coat of paint here and there, but that’s part of its charm. Located in Edina, MN where Edina has become its own acronym – “every day I need attention” – the only customers that need attention are the children running around but that seems to be the norm, or at least it was last Saturday when I went with my father and step-mother, Madelyn, who were both in town for belated graduation and birthday celebrations.

I had heard Convention Grill was known for its burgers, malts, and fries. Sadly, none of us had burgers so I can’t comment on that. Madelyn had a chocolate malt and said it was very good. We all shared the fries and the ‘rents thought they were good; I didn’t care for them that much. My father and I ordered Convention Double Decker sandwiches that were made from Muenster and Smokey sharp cheddar cheeses on whole wheat bread with grilled tomato slices and bacon. My father asked for a single decker sandwich and for some reason I followed suit – big mistake considering my big appetite. It was tasty, though.

All in all, the plates ranged from fair to good. But regardless of the popular burgers, malts, and fries, my impression was that customers went there because it was where their parents took them and now they wanted to take their kids. And even though my parents never took me there, nor had I ever been there, by the time we left we felt like a part of the tradition, or at least appreciated it.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Plate 52, Week 7: Trattoria Da Vinci

Before I get to Da Vinci, let me tell you, this Plate 52 blog series has changed my paradigm on dining out. First, I’m gaining weight as a result of the dairy and other delicious ingredients that I’m consuming and that’s not cool. And second, after living in the Twin Cities for three years, there aren’t a lot of restaurants that I still want to try that I haven’t tried, which I guess is the point of this blog project. Ha! But you get my point. So when someone recommends a restaurant, I’m 99% open to it, but boy, there have been some doozies along the way. Unfortunately, I’ve made the mistake of then trying to find another restaurant within the week to replace the disappointment of the first restaurant. No more. My waist line can’t handle it anymore.

Anyhow, I’m hoping over the next 45 weeks I’ll be rejuvenated by a fresh surge of good restaurants in the Twin Cities that are new to me. Take for example La Grolla – it is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in St. Paul, in the Twin Cities, perhaps in general. It is a true gem – the food is authentic and the atmosphere is energetic – and in my opinion, it is worth the 30-minute drive to St. Paul, MN. However, I can’t write about it in Plate 52 since I’ve already been, so when my grad school buddy Rachel Wright described Trattoria Da Vinci in downtown St. Paul, MN, as “modern Italian … both times it’s been very good” followed by the restaurant’s décor is “over the top,” I had to check it out.

Whoa! Da Vinci certainly isn’t La Grolla! (Rachel and Scottie: we will be going to La Grolla this autumn.) Walking into Da Vinci was a subcultural experience to say the very least. It was quite comical. The décor was hideous; it looked like an Italian cliché threw up all over the walls and ceiling. Vaulted ceilings ... candle lit tables (where none of the tables had their candles lit) ... antique stone fountains ... live entertainment (solo singer covering adult contemporary songs) ... copies of Leonardo da Vinci's work all over the place ... and a mural! Cute.

Now about the food: in only my opinion, which is what this blog is about, the food was fair. I ordered the gnocchi di patate (homemade potato dumplings served with Bolognese). My gnocchi was too pillowy for me, which I’m starting to wonder if it’s a regional thing. Week 6’s Cara Troye ordered the gnocchi at Hotel Donaldson and it was the same texture and she loved it. It’s not that either gnocchi was bad, per se, but that overt pillowy texture is not for me. However, Rachel, who isn’t from the Upper Midwest either, agreed that the gnocchi was too tender, so that’s why I’m inclined to think it’s regionally prepared this way. The sauce was subpar; it needed to be richer.

Even though the food wasn’t quite what I was expecting, I have to say the waitress was darling and even offered us free dessert since we all finished our plates. (See, this is why I’m gaining weight – I didn’t even like my dish but I still finished the damn thing.) However, we declined since we were all stuffed which is why she probably offered it to us for free – she probably knew we couldn’t eat anymore!

All in all, my plate was fair. I won’t be back, though.

- H.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Plate 52, Week 6: Rojo and Hotel Donaldson

Sorry I’m late, birthdays get in the way of blogging, and for that, I’ll give you a bonus treat – my high-level impressions of two restaurants during week 6! I can tell you’re just beyond excited. :-)

Rojo: Rojo was a standard, middle class, Mexican chain with a dreary espresso décor. I went with my former Life Time Fitness FIT gym pals Kathryn Frankson, Gregg Massey, and Cara Troye. Kathryn and I both ordered the chicken enchilada, and I have to admit it was quite delish, but Gregg’s beef enchilada was so horrific that it stole the thunder from anything potentially good. In Gregg’s words, “It was like liquid smoke invited Hickory BBQ sauce to a party on my plate and there wasn’t a chaperon; the flavors were all over the place.” Ha! Personally, I think he was being nice.

All in all, the plates were fair but Gregg’s plate lowered my overall impression: poor.

Hotel Donaldson: The aforementioned Kathryn, Cara, and I, along with Luke Toft and Amanda Kaeding, went to Fargo for my 35th birthday dinner. Honestly, my expectation of Fargo restaurants was so low that anything could have been good, and even though the food at HoDo was in fact very good, I didn’t find the food to be innovative or inspiring, which is what you would expect from a $36 roast rack of North Dakota lamb (however, the side of sweet potato lyonnaise was off the hook). However, since the presentation was delightful and the food was delicious, I’ve posted some pictures of my favorite plates below:

A fried green tomato and walleye cake sandwich with fire roasted sweet corn succotash and a lemon caper emulsion

A goat cheese and artichoke tarlet with confit tomatoes and kalamata olives

A roashed rack of North Dakota lamb with sweet potato lyonnaise, brussel sprouts, and carrot ginger essence

All in all, the plates were very good and I highly recommend HoDo for the food. The service was poor.

- H.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Plate 52, Week 5: Molly Cool’s

Let me preface this blog post by saying that within Minnesota, I rarely venture to another city or town outside of the Minneapolis proper or county zip code of 554XX. (St. Paul is a constant exception due to some of their delicious downtown restaurants, the Xcel Energy Center, and the Ordway.) And after Week 5’s experience, I don’t know if I feel more strongly about that decision or intrigued by abnormal places like Molly Cool’s Seafood Tavern in Lakeville.

Molly Cool’s. Oh, Molly Cool’s. It means so well, it really truly does. I do hope it does well but I fear it will need a quick and life-changing lesson in the concept of cohesion before it’s able to sustain itself. Nadege Souvenir (of Week 4’s Haute Dish) took Jamie Nieman (of Week 3’s The Bulldog, N.E.), another opera friend Eric Norman, and me there for brunch last Sunday. It was, shall we say, a true subcultural experience. Here’s why:

Food: Jamie, Eric, and I had the All-You-Can-Eat family style brunch. It came with a free glass of orange juice or a mimosa, which tasted like a full glass of orange juice; a cinnamon roll for
the table, which was good; home-style scrambled eggs, which really could have benefited from adding some cheese or any other ingredient, but it was fine enough; creamy hash browns that weren’t nearly as creamy and delicious as the ones served at Salut in Edina but that’s a completely different experience, a different planet; applewood smoke bacon, which were good; sausage links, which to me, were the best component of the brunch and I had more than I should’ve; and French toast, which should’ve had a warning that said they were fried because it was quite a surprise to me when I bit into them (the waitress may have explained that they were fried and I just wasn’t paying attention; it happens). However, all these carbs were only $12.95 per person and they replenished items that we had devoured and you could even take home leftovers. I know, right?! I did, and I ate them later that afternoon!

Décor: Good lord. I have to say, even though the interior was mismatched, the personality of Molly Cool’s brought character to Lakeville, which seemed lifeless. Everything was taupe. Seriously. Molly Cool’s is a seafood tavern and carries on the tavern décor of having prominently displayed fish taxidermy on the walls. But since Molly Cool’s kept the furniture, tiling, lighting, and other contemporary touches of the previous establishment, its décor is comical. The ceiling light fixture looks like white bristles of hairbrushes, and in the men’s bathroom is a wall of framed pin-up girls and above the urinals are ads for Snap fitness. It would be a perfect candidate for a makeover show on HGTV. No lie.

Service: The good: the waitress Roxy was darling. When I ordered a Bloody Mary and then the free mimosa, she said, “Oh, that’s a lot of alcohol,” to which I replied, “Are you judging?” We all laughed. But really, she was darling. The bad: the busboy (man, actually) kept grabbing our water glasses right around the rims of where we drank from and that grossed me out but I choose not to say anything. It was a challenging to drink the water. So note to any server, host, or anyone pouring water for someone else: please grab the glass from the bottom. I don’t want to taste your palm.

Cost: Considering I essentially got three meals for the price of $12.95, I’d say the cost was pretty darn good.

All in all, I'd say the plates were good for what you expect.


P.S. – For Week 5, the other restaurant I tried for the first time was Nami but it was before the Scissor Sister concert and I really wasn’t focusing on food.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Plate 52, Week 4: Haute Dish

Go directly to Haute Dish. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Haute Dish is easily one of my favorite restaurants in Minneapolis. In fact, I went last Tuesday for the first time with opera friend Nadege Souvenir and then again last Friday with San Francisco friends Peter Nguyen and Grant Kalinowski who were in town. The food, décor, service, and cost were friendly yet complex: a perfect combo for good friends who wanted good conversation and good food that was cohesive and contemporary but didn’t appear like it was trying too hard.

By nature, I tend to be critical (blame it on astrology), so generally I’m able to provide (solicited or unsolicited) constructive criticism. However, there are times when I genuinely do enjoy something, and those are the experiences where I just let things be as they are because providing feedback feels forced. This would be one of those times, and why I am late in sharing this blog post. I have been wracking my brain trying to think of what to share that would be beneficial to you but I really don’t have anything to say other than try it yourself!

Below are some pictures from my visit with Nadege (who by the way has an impressive knowledge base of the menu):

Minnesota Mule (Prairie Organic Vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer)

House Salad (South Dakota steak house salad)

Fried Chicken (watermelon, cucumber salad, dill, and spoon bread)

Oh wait, I do have one thing to say! Both Nadege and Peter spoke very highly of the General Tso’s Sweetbreads with foie fried rice. Peter said it was amazing and it is a must try for anyone who enjoys sweetbreads. The idea of sweetbreads still scares me but I figure if you’re going to try sweetbreads for the first time then this dish sounds like a good introduction!

Oh, and one last thing they had this killer brie cheesecake. Try it!

All in all, I'd say the plates were very good. The service was hip and cool.

- Hadley

P.S. – For Week 4, the other restaurant I tried for the first time was Tryg’s but I just had drinks because the happy hour menu didn’t look worth the calories.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Plate 52, Week 3: The Bulldog, N.E.

The Bulldog in Northeast Minneapolis has received a lot of accolades for its bar menu, so last Tuesday when new opera friend Jamie Nieman suggested we go there – “the one in Northeast, not Uptown” – I was more than thrilled. I tried going to the Bulldog back in February on a Saturday but the wait was over an hour and no place is worth that wait-time, especially if you are hungry!

Now, about the food; the food is exactly what you except it to be: comfort food in a bar. However, it had a good variety of appetizers, a long list of burgers to choose from, some delicious-sounding hotdogs, and lots of cupcake, however, if I remember correctly, the waitress said they only made three cupcake flavors each day.

Jamie and I started with the bacon scallion wontons, which were fun. (Sorry, no pictures. I wasn’t comfortable using the flash on my camera but I got over that for next week’s post.) They were served with a sweet and spicy sauce, which really wasn’t spicy, but as my step-uncle says, “Minnesota spicy is so spicy you can almost taste it.” Ha! The cream cheese in the wontons was all kinds of goodness but the deal clincher was really the bacon. Everything is better with bacon, and I know Jamie really enjoyed them since she posted about them on her Facebook status!

Next I had the Rooster burger based on the recommendation of the waitress (who was just super friendly and looked like Carrie Underwood). The Rooster was served with a sriracha glaze, housemade sweet pickles, roasted garlic aioli, and pepperjack cheese, and instead of French fries I opted for Tater Tots and a side of mayo (I know, you probably need some Lipitor now after reading that, but that’s how I like my fried sides). The Tater Tots were good but that was expected; Tater Tots are usually always good unless you burn them, and even overcooked Tater Tots still have the potential of tasting good. The Rooster, however, well, that’s a different story. The condiments were on point but the burger was overcooked (I asked for medium) and the bun was too thick and substantial that it dominated the potential juiciness of the burger.

I ordered a Boston cream pie cupcake for dessert but it was average. Having said that and in the Bulldog’s defense, I think cupcakes are overrated and in general not worth the calories, so I was biased from the start.

All in all, I’d say the plates were good for what you would expect. I am taking my San Francisco friends there this Friday to fulfill their craving for Midwestern comfort food (unless we come up another place). However, I think this time I will try the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. Anyone who has known me long enough knows I love Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, and “love” may be an understatement.

- Hadley

P.S. – Other restaurants I tried for the first time were the Craftsman and Aster Café.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Plate 52, Week 2: Parma 8200

For my second Plate 52 dinner, last Friday I went to two-month old Parma 8200 in Bloomington in a corporate park. Parma 8200 is the type of restaurant that could easily be listed as a first-ring suburb power lunch hotspot and where you could run into your step-first cousin once removed sampling the happy hour menu and then a little while later see your divisional CEO walk in. :-)

When I met former colleagues and friends Lynn Stano and Becky Benson at 4:30 PM, there were probably fewer than 30 people in the bar area during happy hour. However, the same cannot be said around 7 PM – the place was packed. This gives me hope for their sustainability for dinner service. Speaking of, let’s talk about the dining experience.

Let me introduce you to Andres the waiter. He was soft spoken but his tone allowed you to romance the menu. He was knowledgeable and descriptive in a way that would even tempt a vegan to eat some butter. He was never pushy or impatient and was happy to re-describe items as the three of us were undecided due to the all the delicious sounding options. After Andres repeated the specials again, we were all in agreement with sharing the asparagus and we each got the swordfish special.

The first plate served was their cheese garlic bread. Ummm, it was pretty freakin’ delicious. The cheese dissolved on your lips and it wasn’t greasy like a lot of other cheese breads I’ve tried in the past. I was kind of hoping Lynn and Becky didn’t want anymore but alas. Ha!

Next up was the asparagus with burrata, hazelnuts, and brown butter. OMG, it was like dessert. That brown butter was sinfully delicious. I even spoon-fed myself some of the remaining brown butter. I know, classy.

And lastly was the seared swordfish, which had a caper reduction garlic Italian sauce, and seared fingerling potatoes with fennel. Lynn and Becky loved this dish. I admit that it was quite flavorful, though not complex, but my issue was the texture. To me, the swordfish had this ravioli texture, which I couldn’t get over.

All in all, I’d say the plates were good. The service was very good.

- Hadley

Also tried: Ciao Bella

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Plate 52, Week 1: Victory 44

If you are what you eat, and if you are anything like me, neither a gourmet nor a foodie, then what you are is a gourmand, someone who takes great pleasure in food. Whether driven by my state of mind or palate, this new blog post series you are reading, Plate 52, is a one-year journey and opportunity for me to explore new dishes from fifty-two (new to me) restaurants.

Anyhow, I hope to share my plate experiences at the latest every Wednesday, so check back weekly. I’m just a guy who likes to eat, so you won’t find industry jargon in this series, but what you will find are my experiences shared with honesty and possibly a bit of humor. If, for some reason, that motivates (or prevents) you to make that reso, well, that’s fantastic!

But back to me: the launch of Plate 52 could not have come at a better time in my life. Last week was the three-year anniversary of when I moved to Minneapolis and my last semester in the part-time MBA program at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. I was in the mood to celebrate, to try new things, to jump-start the next chapter of my life! I was feeling unpredictable and sought restaurant recommendations from my friends; two people recommended Victory 44. So last Saturday night, my friends Kathryn Frankson and Ryan Stadt and I ventured to North Minneapolis for a celebratory dinner in honor of, well, me! Fabulous!

Now, my objective at Victory 44 was to eat well and select a favorite dish from the possibility of two choices (an appetizer and an entrée). The menu was written on the walls and the items were listed by name only, so after asking, the waiter answered our questions that we had on specific items. Now, I would have preferred the waiter to have proactively explained the menu like they do at Sidney Street Café in St. Louis (seriously, one of the best restaurants, ever).

After several minutes of bantering while trying to get a better understanding of the menu, the waiter suggested we select a few items to share in the form of a tasting menu (and before I forget, let me thank him for being patient and describing each item as I transcribed them into my BlackBerry). I personally wasn’t keen on the idea but Kathryn and Ryan were game and I figured, “Why the hell not!”

Our first course was a mozzarella agnolotti and it was very good. It was made from pork belly, snap peas, peaches, Tasmanian honey, and truffles. The pork was tender and delicious but the agnolotti was all kinds of buttery goodness. Kathryn can confirm. All I remember was the taste of butter and it was heavenly, especially since I rarely eat butter these days. I don’t even remember the rest of the flavors but Kathryn said they were complex.

Our second course was a foie hot dog and it was very good, as well. The hot dog was homemade with bacon jam, Julian apple, foie gras torchon, and French fries with homemade ketchup. It really may have been one of the best hot dogs I’ve eaten and I know that Kathryn and Ryan thoroughly enjoyed it as well. Same goes for the French fries and the homemade ketchup. And let me take a moment to talk about the ketchup – I don’t know what was in it but it certainly wasn’t Heinz. The waiter said there were “800 ingredients” in the ketchup but regardless of what was in it, it was whimsical and brilliant.

The third course was the “chefwich” – chef’s ingredients of choice. On the Saturday we visited, the chefwich consisted of braised pork, sauce gribiche, dried feta, and whipped lardo on a garlic baguette. Horrible. In fact, none of us finished it. I don’t know which ingredient it was – I speculate it was the dried feta – but there was this odd taste that dominated the rest of the sandwich. Bleh. But we did manage to finish the French fries and homemade ketchup that came with it. Our second helping, okurrr!

Next up, not really a course we ordered, but they called it a pre-dessert platter. It consisted of a homemade Oreo, cookie dough, peanut butter maple bacon cookies, and meringue. I don’t really recall anything special about it but it was a decent presentation.

And lastly, the fourth, or arguably the fifth course, was the dessert platter. By that time, the wine had kicked in and since the waiter said that the dessert platter changed, I didn’t bother writing anything down. All I remember was the dried beet cracker that sat prettily on top of the beet dessert. It had a stern crispness and was surprisingly more flavorful than the anchoring larger beet base. Sadly, I don’t remember details of the other desserts.

All in all, I’d say the plates were fair but that's because there were so many and that's the risk of averages -- things can end up subpar.

- Hadley

Also tried: Maria's Cafe

Monday, July 5, 2010

At the Moment: Entrepreneurship Metaphor

If an entrepreneur were described as someone who is “improvisational, quick, clever, resourceful, and inventive,” then I would never consider myself an entrepreneur. However, I recently read the following metaphor, which made me consider the possibility of there being an entrepreneur inside all of us.

“Perhaps the game of golf, more than any other, replicates the complex and dynamic nature of managing risk and reward, including all the intricate mental challenges faced in entrepreneuring. No other sport, at one time, demands so much physically, is so complex, intricate, and delicate, and is simultaneously so rewarding and punishing; and none tests one’s will, patience, self-discipline, and self control life golf.”

Word! When I read the above I seriously felt it was written with me in mind. “Rewarding and punishing.” Perfect. I have hardly played golf this summer but when I did, it invoked such satisfaction, especially when the ball went in the desired direction. :-) I also felt the same way when I took cello lessons last fall. Activities such as golf, cello, and countless others, almost require you to have an obsession to be successful. I now suppose the question is, “What I am passionate about?”


[1] 7.Entrepreneurial Mind in Thought and Action: from New Venture Creation: Entrepreneurship for the 21st Centruy, 6/e by Timmons et al. 26

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Leisure: Everyday Essentials

With only 17 MBA classes left (not to be confused with courses), I will soon finish school and return to my life where my job is my only job. I will retire my backpack and re-introduce my Louis Vuitton Kiowa Tote – something originally purchased for travel and has been severely underused. This tote is handsome and holds all of my necessities: my work laptop or my MacBook Pro, my BlackBerry smartphone that keeps me current, a one liter of Smartwater that satisfies my thirst, and various flavors of Stride gum that tame my hunger. I like most of the flavors – I am even warming up to the Stride Shift flavors – but Always Mandarin has always been my favorite.

Oh, and my 11 followers, sorry for the month lag time in between blog posts. I was on break from school, so I took advantage of that time off. But it took a little while to get back on track.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Leisure: Wanted: Mid-Century Modern Patio

My rambler was built in 1952 and by the looks of my patio after this last winter, one would think that the patio was originally built then, too. (Actually, that could be the case.)

My patio, with its charming red brick wall and two seating areas (only one is shown in the below pictures), is now cracked, warped, and creates uncomfortable puddles when it rains. Boo.

So, now I begin the process of designing a patio that reflects my appreciation for mid-century modern landscape design. Ideally it will have clean lines but be warm and comfortable. For those familiar with my patio, I am thinking about moving the dining area to the grill area, and turning the current dining area into a lounge area. Below are some pictures I found online that caught my eye.

So, maybe by July 2011 I will finally get around to having a housewarming party (three years later!) and can unveil a new patio!


Monday, May 17, 2010

At the Moment: Mentorship Programs: Part I

I work with talented people at OptumHealth, a UnitedHealth Group company. Three people, in particular – Chengny Thao (who is leaving us, boo!), Cara Troye (my former boss), and Wendy Mateega (who sat directly across from me in our cubefarm) – inspired this topic (brief Part I) about mentorship programs. Each has influenced my experience in seeking and establishing a mentor as well as wanting to share the wealth with others. Chengny is the one who suggested I obtain a mentor. Cara was my boss who interviewed prospective mentors and made the first contact with my mentor. And Wendy has talked about establishing a formal mentorship program within her department at OptumHealth with the hopes of extending it throughout all of OptumHealth and eventually the other UnitedHealth Group businesses. (Okay, I may have thrown in that last bit about going UHG-wide, so I may have unofficially expanded the scope of Wendy’s plan. One may already exist but I have yet to hear about it.)

Anyhow, Part I of this blog post subject is me actually asking you to share your thoughts and experiences on mentoring/ship programs. As I recently expanded my role at work to include the management of a small team, I now find myself accountable for more than just me. It is in my interest to help develop these team members and when I think back to what has been successful for me at work, my relationship with my mentor and those relationships which were derived from my primary mentor relationship have been invaluable. In fact, I even proposed establishing a membership program (perhaps very informally at first) with my interim boss and she has asked me to present best practices and benefits at her next management meeting. I am not sure how a bunch of IT managers and analysts will respond to a mentorship program but it is a start. So, I ask for your input, articles, links, etc. to share with us. It would be greatly appreciated.


Monday, May 10, 2010

At the Moment: Back to Board and Volunteering: Part II

Excellent news! Three blog posts ago I shared my feelings on board service and volunteering and since then two fabulous things have happened: (1) wingwoman Kathryn Frankson signed up to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters and (2) I received word that starting in July I will be a part of the Marketing & Communications Committee of Tempo, the young professionals group of the Minnesota Opera. Directorship will have to come at a later time, one which I will have to earn!

Anyhow, if not for the enjoyment of opera, I love the idea of helping the Minnesota Opera cultivate new audience members – especially as the existing audience grays – yet ensuring that it stays true to its artistic mission. I realize that a lot of people have assumptions about opera: high ticket prices; a lack of understanding because it is sung in foreign languages; and a lack of familiarity with storylines, music, and performers. However, you can address these issues by purchasing less expensive seats, knowing which opera companies display subtitles in English, and doing some preliminary light reading, respectively. If you think about it, an opera is essentially a play set to music. :-)

But what I look forward to in this volunteer role is how to market to the audience/consumers, donors, volunteers, membership groups, and recognize the complexity of overlapping stakeholders and addressing their needs and interests ... to understand what is important to them and communicate our value proposition in exchange for their time. Operas can be as long as 2.5 to 3 hours, however, from my experience, it is worth it! But if you must, I suggest starting off with an opera that has popular music and a fast-paced storyline like "La bohème," which is absolutely beautiful.

Anyhow, see below for more blogs/articles on board service and volunteering:

Board Life Matters
BoardSource's "What I should know before joining a board?"
Metro Magazine's "6 Reasons to Join a Twin Cities Board of Directors"


Sunday, May 2, 2010

At the Moment: Total Money Makeover - Baby Step 1

Give me a goal that I believe in and it will be so tangible to me that I cannot even imagine not attaining it. (I realize that this behavior of mine is taxing for some of my friends, alas.) My No. 1 goal for 2010 has been to have a healthy financial physique and I am achieving that goal with the help of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. As I said in my first blog post, Mr. Ramsey's Total Money Makeover (TMM) program has changed my paradigm in managing my personal finances – the seven baby steps are pragmatic and easy to commit to. TMM may not be for everyone but I can honestly say that since I committed myself to this program I have not been stressed financially once this year.

In Baby Step 1, Mr. Ramsey tells us on his website to build a $1,000 emergency fund:

"An emergency fund is for those unexpected events in life that you can't plan for: the loss of a job, an unexpected pregnancy, a faulty car transmission, and the list goes on and on. It's not a matter of if these events will happen; it's simply a matter of when they will happen.

This beginning emergency fund will keep life's little Murphies from turning into new debt while you work off the old debt. If a real emergency happens, you can handle it with your emergency fund. No more borrowing. It's time to break the cycle of debt!"

In January 2010, I put $1,000 into a money market account because I knew that if the money sat in my checking account I would have spent it. (Just being honest.) A money market account allowed the money to be readily available in the case of an emergency, and lucky for me I had already completed Baby Step 1 because just the other week in April I encountered an emergency.

When I took my car in for its annual oil change, the service adviser was shocked to see that my 2006 car with 32,000 miles had tires that were completely bald. Sadly, this was not a surprise to me. I live in Minnesota and drive a rear-wheel car without the optional AWD, snow tires, and have an upward-sloping driveway. I know. Please. Anyhow, road safety was my primary concern, so new tires that day were a must! I paid for the new tires with cash. It did not even occur to me to charge them. This confirmed that TMM was the right personal financial plan for me. To financial peace! (I have since replenished the once depleted emergency fund. Thanks, Geithner.)


Sunday, April 25, 2010

At the Moment: March for Babies

The blog post for this week was going to be a follow-up to last week's post, Back to Boards, and specifically address the involvement of Generation Xers and Yers in regards to board service; however, I just returned from the March of Babies walk, a fundraising event for the March of Dimes, and I wanted to briefly touch on the experience.

First, I overtly thank all of you who supported my participation in honor of my darling twin nieces, Lucia (pronounced "lu-see-a") and Amelia, who were born two months premature. (By the way, my posts on supporters' Facebook walls do not count as my official "thank you.") Because of people's generosity, I raised $1,825! This is a success for me considering my original goal was $500, and the first and last time I participated in such a fundraising event was at the Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk 2003 when I raised $1,260.

Second, as just mentioned above, I do not generally participate in these types of fundraising events but a week after I returned from New York City last month when I met L&A for the first time, my company sent out an email recruiting employees to participate in the March for Babies walk. I took the timing of the communication as a sign for me to register.

Third, the event seemed very well-attended but I must admit, I was a little overwhelmed with all the people, strollers, and dogs. I guess working predominately from home has taken its toll on my once-developed social skills. :-) Anyhoo, the walk in the brisk air took about 70 minutes but it felt good to support the March of Dimes. To babies!

And fourth, there is nothing more satisfying after a baby walk like brunch with a Bloody Mary followed by a strawberry cosmo! I so desperately wanted the lemon-ricotta hotcakes but my dairy-free diet does not tolerate such brilliance. Alas.

So anyhoo, now that I am back on the community service wagon, I have been thinking about which fundraiser I shall participate in next year. I need something bigger. The answer: the Red Ribbon Ride! This commitment is 100% inspired by my dear friend A.J. Bates (the partner of Irvin, who I have introduced to you before – happy 10 year anniversary guys!) who has participated in AIDS/LifeCycle since 2000. AIDS/LifeCycle is a seven-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Oy! The Red Ribbon Ride is only four days in Minnesota – whew! But I will most definitely need the upcoming year to prepare mentally and physically. Perhaps I should start by attending a spinning class – better yet – how about I first buy a bike?! Ha!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

At the Moment: Back to Boards

… or at the very least, back to volunteering. My sabbatical from volunteering ends this year. When I look around, I see volunteer opportunities all around. When I moved to Minneapolis I told myself I would just focus on work, school, and nesting and I would resume volunteering after I graduated. I wanted to make sure the variables in my life were receiving the best of me. But graduation is in approximately four months, so the life where I thought I had no time has no more excuses.

Quite frankly, though, there was always time to serve on a board or volunteer but it was not a priority. I spent my downtime watching television, which just made me fat. But when I canceled my cable last winter and started thinking about things that were intrinsically satisfying, I thought about how much I enjoyed board service and volunteering. I also was reminded that as an educated person, it was my responsibility to give back to the community, which could come in the form of working for a nonprofit, raising a family, or as we are discussing, volunteering. Volunteering was always an opportunity to network, meet fabulous people who shared a common interest, and where I learned new skills. Do not get me wrong, though, I strive to donate 10% of my take-home salary but realistically these days it is around 4%. Giving money is a privilege but giving time is an honor.

But you may be asking, “How does one get involved in board service?” I have to admit that my board service experience fell into my lap. When I lived in my hometown of St. Louis, I was asked to join the young professional boards of membership groups at the Alzheimer’s Association and the United Way of Greater St. Louis. This is not always the case and sometimes it takes an increase of involvement with membership groups before being asked to join.

In my opinion, the most effective board service occurs when you genuinely resonate with a cause, a political, social, or cultural organization; can bring needed expertise or insight to the board; and are committed with your time and responsibilities. Last month when I started thinking about a certain cultural organization that I was really interested in volunteering for in a board or committee capacity, I consulted with my friend Robin Gillette, executive director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and she said, “You’re smart to pick board service in an area you love.” Apparently my emerging passion for the Minnesota Opera and its young professionals group, Tempo, was evident. But the verdict is still out on whether or not and how I will be volunteering for Tempo.

So, while you think about how to incorporate volunteerism into your life, know that there are several organizations that would welcome your experience, insight, and relationships. But select an organization that is important to you. I prefer to focus on one to three organizations rather than spreading myself too thin, especially because board service usually requires time and possibly fundraising, and I do not want to dilute the level of my commitment.

Now, if you need help figuring out what type of organization to volunteer for, click here for some fun ideas about volunteering by your Zodiac sign. Oh, and did I mention that this is National Volunteer Week?! :-)


P.S. -- The above March for Babies badge is actually my walker page for this Sunday, April 25, 2010 come rain or shine or snow!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Leisure: Spring Mugs

Since I started working remotely more frequently, I have been drinking my morning tea from the comfort of my own home. However, the charming white, porcelain mugs that I drank tea out of (which were a part of my everyday dinnerware set) started to lose their efficacy. I found myself constantly reheating more water to make more cups of tea because the first 11 oz. went by too quickly. This was a problem for me since the basis of much of my life is about efficiency and effectiveness. So, in true Virgo fashion, I overanalyzed which kinds of mugs I was going to purchase and how many. But then the other week I walked into Crate and Barrel and was greeted with mugs of in an array of spring colors but I personally was drawn to the grass hue and an orange one. So, in a somewhat spontaneous, unlike-Virgo move, I purchased these 10 different mugs to spruce up my morning routine:

I am drinking from the blue one this morning as I type this blog post. :-)


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Leisure: OMGlysolid Skin Balm

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the inexpensive yet highly effective Glysolid Skin Balm. During my last visit to Spalon Montage in Edina, MN, my nail technician told me to use a certain cuticle oil on my cuticles but the saloon was out of it so I opted for the .25 oz sized jar of Glysolid Skin Balm, a nice and inexpensive alternative.

For weeks, I had not taken an interest in this balm since it seemed disposable. However, this last week I have been using it and my cuticles have never looked better (and I would not say they were in a bad condition to begin with). This balm may be the most effective product I have ever used. Ever. It provided immediate results. Sometimes hand cream is just not enough. I assume it works for all skin types and areas of the body, as well.

This is a must have if you live in the Upper Midwest with these elongated winters or if your cuticles need some TLC!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eats: Cooking Barefoot

“If you’re going to wear pleats, wear them like you mean it!” This was the response of my dear friend and fellow gourmand, Meg Behl, when I told her about someone I had gone out with who, to my surprise, wore one-pleated pants – something I had not considered in almost 15 years. But her comment made me think about the level of intensity for which we commit to things, e.g., work, school, fitness, family, friends, and food!

These days when I cook for just myself at home, I stick to a bland diet: eggs, veggies, bananas, cinnamon raisin bagels, wheat pasta, and milk-free frozen boxed lunches. Do not be fooled – this is a new diet. In the past, my dailies included such deliciousness as pizzas of all kinds and Philly cheese steak sandwiches. And when I say daily, I mean daily.

However, when I have time to entertain and cook for friends, I like to cook like I mean it! I owe much thanks to my step-mother Madelyn Harris, Peter Nguyen, and Irvin Lin, who inspired this blog post about food due to the launch of his own blog, Eat the Love, and who I will get to see Tuesday. Yay! During the most recent years, these people have cultivated my culinary knowledge and sluggish knife skills; provided direction in menu planning with interesting yet contrasting temperatures and flavors; and helped me accept the fact that the food I serve may not look like the food in the photographs of some cookbooks.

But when I am not being supervised, I owe much thanks to the brilliant recipes of Barefoot Contessa. They are easy to follow, even for an amateur like me. And my food, more often than not, has actually looked the pictures in her cookbooks! Below are my favorite starters, soup and vegetable recipes I have tried: (1) Raspberry Royale, (2) Roasted-Tomato Basil Soup, (3) Chicken Chili, (4) Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread, and (5) Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples. The recipes come directly from the cookbooks.

Raspberry Royale (Makes 4 to 6 drinks)
Heaven! And if you do not believe in heaven then believe in this raspberry royale! I served this at a brunch last summer and it was a major hit. Major!

· 6 teaspoons raspberry liqueur
· ½ pint fresh raspberries
· 1 bottle of good Champagne, chilled

Pour 1 teaspoon of raspberry liqueur into each champagne glass and add 2 or 3 raspberries. When guests arrive, pop the cork and fill each glass with Champagne. Serve immediately.

Roasted-Tomato Basil Soup (Serves 6 to 8)
I served this last August for friends at a “last minute summer supper.” It was delicious and spicy. The recipe was perfect.

· 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
· ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
· 1 tablespoon kosher salt
· 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
· 2 cups chopped yellow onions
· 6 garlic cloves, minced
· 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
· ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
· 28 ounces canned plum tomatoes with their juice
· 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
· 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
· 1 quart chicken stock or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss together the tomatoes, ¼ cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in one layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

Chicken Chili (Serves 12)
I served this in January for a dinner party for some colleauges. It was unpretentious, delicious and allowed the company to be the main entrée.

· 8 cups chopped yellow onions (6 small onions)
· ¼ cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
· ¼ cup minced garlic (8 cloves)
· 4 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
· 4 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
· 2 teaspoons chili powder
· 2 teaspoons ground cumin
· ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
· ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
· 4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
· 4 28-ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
· ½ cup minced fresh basil leaves
· 8 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
· Freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

· Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread (Makes 12 large pieces)
Flavorful, impactful, all kinds of goodness! I served this with the Chicken Chili above. Please note that I modified the original recipe. My version is below.

· 2 cups all-purpose flour
· 2 cups yellow cornmeal
· ½ cup sugar
· 2 tablespoons baking powder
· 2 teaspoons kosher salt
· 2 cups buttermilk
· 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
· 1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
· 8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated, divided
· 1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish (3 scallions)
· 4 oz diced jalapeño peppers
· Small can of Mexican corn

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don’t overmix! Mix in 2 cups of the grated Cheddar, the scallions and jalapeños, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples (Serves 8)
I think this was the first Barefoot Contessa recipe I ever cooked without supervision … Valentine’s Day 2008. This is also a family favorite.

· 4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6 large)
· ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
· ½ cup heavy cream
· 4 tablespoons (½ stick), melted
· ¼ cup light brown sugar
· 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
· ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 2 teaspoons kosher salt
· 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:

· 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
· 3 McIntosh or Macoun apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
· 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Scrub the potatoes, prick them several times with a knife or fork, and bake them for 1 hour, or until very soft when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and scoop out the insides as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Place the sweet potato meat into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and add the orange juice, cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Mix together until combined but not smooth, and pour into a baking dish.

Bake the potatoes and apples for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through.

Looks like I still have my work cut out for me to try some Barefoot Contessa salad, dinner, and dessert recipes!


Monday, March 22, 2010

At the Moment: All About My Name

I just returned from a long weekend in New York City, where I had the pleasure of reuniting with friends from undergrad and those from St. Louis, who had moved there. I also met several delightful people who I hope to see again. I met my new and darling twin nieces and fed and unsuccessfully burped one of them.

I ate at Michelin starred restaurants Perry Street and Rouge Tomate, both which were delicious. I saw “West Side Story” on Broadway, my first time in Times Square. And I saw an outstanding dance performance by KEIGWIN + Company.

I may have overcompensated in activities for my eleven and a half year absence since this was my first real visit to the city since I moved away on August 20, 1999. A lot of memories came back to me including the history of my name. The following is that history. I figured it was time to get everyone on the same page.

Srisak Veggabul, 1975 – 1976
On September 11, 1975, I was born in an orphanage in Thailand. I remember at one point my (adoptive) mother told me that it was rumored that my biological father was a cop and my biological mother was a grad student from up-country Thailand. I was given the name Srisak Veggabul (to my understanding it was pronounced “See-sok Wech-a-boon”). I believe all of us orphans were given the last name of Veggabul either because that was the last name of the lady who ran the orphanage, the doctor who delivered us, or maybe it was for both reasons – sadly, I do not recall what my mother told me because I do not always do a good job at listening. :-)

Anyhow, I lived in the orphanage for six months before my paternal grandmother, Gram (a.k.a., Dorothy Wilson), visited my maternal aunt, Suchada Holmes, and grandmother, Yai (rhymes with “lie” and means grandmother in Thai). During Gram’s visit my parents had asked that Gram go to the orphanage to inquire about the adoption process. So, Gram went to the orphanage and unbeknownst to them all, was able to choose me right then and there. Gram said she chose me because I was the “longest baby in the orphanage” and she wanted to make sure I would fit in well back in the United States.

Brian Wilson, 1976 – 1998
In 1976, I was legally adopted by Peter and Pun Wilson in the United States and given the name Brian Wilson. I grew up my entire life with references to the Beach Boy Brian Wilson: “You don’t look like Brian Wilson” or “How’s Carnie?” But none of this made me think to change my name.

It was then in the fall of 1998 that my dear friend Peter Nguyen asked me what my initials were because he needed them for the monogrammed business card holder that he gave me as a graduation gift.

“B.W.,” I told him.
“What’s your middle initial?” he asked.
“I don’t a have one,” I replied.
“I guess they can monogram it with just B.W.”
“No, they can’t!” I quickly responded. “Give me a week! I’ll find a middle name!”

B. Hadley Wilson, 1998 – 2006
So for one week I researched names. The first thing I did was see how each letter looked straight forward, i.e., BHW, and then in an actual monogram format, i.e., BWH. But before selecting H, I had narrowed it down to G and D. So from there, I researched the meanings of names or found names that I thought sounded good with Brian and Wilson. By midweek I came up with Greer and Dean. I actually thought Greer was kind of cool for a middle name and I told another friend about Greer and she said, “No, you can’t use Greer. That was the name of that strange model I hooked up with.” Ha! So, I scratched that one and chose Dean.

However, before I committed to Dean, I sent an email to the Brian Wilson fan club and asked if Brian Wilson’s middle name was Dean and that I was hoping it was not because I wanted to differentiate our names. The president of the fan club replied and said, “It’s not Dean but close, it’s Douglas.” Well, here was an opportunity for me to end the Beach Boy jokes but with Dean our initials would have stayed the same, so I called Peter Nguyen and told him I needed another week to find a middle name.

So, the search continued until I found Hadley. It was also during this time that my schoolmates and I were researching prospective employers and providing feedback on each others’ resumes. I had changed my resume from Brian Wilson to Brian H. Wilson and my friends kept asking what the H stood for, so I told them and they all said they liked Hadley. So in 1998, I changed all my information to B. Hadley Wilson and started using Hadley as my primary name.

S. B. Hadley Wilson, 2006 – Present
After my mother passed away in 2005, I felt that I owed it to her to become more engaged with my Thai heritage. I thought about taking Thai lessons but that was just too much of a commitment for me. So, in the summer of 2005, I decided that I would integrate Srisak back into my name. I played around with the four names. Such combinations included B. S. Hadley Wilson – you can imagine my own reaction to that one – and B. Hadley S. Wilson, which looked weird to me. By the end of summer, I finally decided that Srisak should come first since it was my given name.

So, a year later, I finally got around to submitting the name change request forms to the St. Louis courts where they reviewed it, filed it, and told me to come back to appear in front of a judge. They provided two dates for me to choose from to appear in court and the first date was September 11, 2006, which was my birthday, so I knew it was a sign.

And that is how S. B. Hadley Wilson was born!



Sunday, March 14, 2010

Leisure: Head-to-Toe Products

Imagine that you are a company. You have a board of directors who reviews your performance but then you have an advisory board who you have selected for when you want to seek advice to stay relevant. If my company were SBHW, Inc. and I had an advisory board that I could turn to for all things related to body, skin, hair, tools of the trade, fragrances, and grooming products other than my norm, I would most definitely seek the advice of Melissa Reel and Irvin Lin.

Melissa is the Chatecaille Product Specialist at Neiman Marcus – St. Louis but she can help you with anything throughout the entire store. Irvin’s knowledge base about historic and current trends, fads, and crazes ranging from pop culture to high culture is incomparable and beyond my level of comprehension. Anyhow, when shopping for your beauty needs or grooming products, here is a tip from Irvin:

“I highly suggest people go to their dept store cosmetic counter … find someone knowledgeable and describe their own skin. What works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for you, and every environment is different (what I would use in SF is totally different than what I would use in Minneapolis or in Hawaii).

Describe your skin type and describe what you are looking for to the person and then ask for samples. If you show a genuine interest in the product, and you are at a reputable cosmetic counter, chances are they will give you something to try out. Be sure to ask for their business card too, so if you like the product you can go back and purchase from the person that helps you.”

Body Care
Melissa says:

ReVive Sans Veines Body Repair Cream: “Deeply penetrating body moisturizer that helps skin maintain firm and supple appearance and also helps with spider veins.”
ReVive Neck Renewal Cream: “Smoothes out the décolletage area and the nasty creases we get on our neck.”

Irvin says:

“I use a glycerin based soap – usually Purely Natural,” which is inexpensive and good for sensitive skin types.

My dailies:

Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Beauty Bar
Jergens Ultra Healing
Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish: This is a new product that Melissa just introduced to me the other week and I look forward to using it once a week. I'm such a believer in this product that even without having tried the Sugar Face Polish I am ready to order some.

Skin Care
Melissa says:

Chantecaille Nano-Gold Eye Cream: “Can’t live without it! Brightens, firms and smoothes fine lines almost immediately!”
Chantecaille Vital Essence: “Can’t live with out this either. Very, very hydrating and allows your moisturizer to penetrate more effectively into your skin.”

Irvin says:

“I also use Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 15. I’m a fan of their Lip Balm SPF15 and I washed my face everyday with their Foaming Non-Detergent Washable Cleanser. It’s tough enough to clean out my pores but gentle enough that I can use it everyday, especially since I’ve got combination skin. I also use their Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub” for exfoliating.

My dailies:

La Mer The Cleansing Gel
La Mer The Tonic
La Mer The Eye Concentrate: Best ever!
Aquaphor Healing Ointment: For lips. Best ever!
La Mer The Moisturizing Lotion: Spring/summer.
La Mer Crème de la Mer: Fall/winter.
Chantecaille Detox Clay Mask with Rosemary and Honey: Once a week.

Hair Care
Melissa says:

Frédéric Fekkai: “I love the Brilliant Glossing Shampoo and Conditioner. I also use the Salon Technician Color Care Rapid Results Moisture Mask a couple of times a month. My hair feels and looks fabulous!”

Irvin says:

“I actually love using a variety of shampoos, and usually rotate between four to six of them. Which seems extreme, but I use a lot of product in my hair and if you use the same shampoo, your hair can get too use to it. Or so I tell myself. I’m usually way too lazy to use a different conditioner so I try to use a moisturizing shampoo. There is a local shop called Nancy Boy who’s signature shampoo is what I use most often. They also have the best shaving cream, something I am very loyal to.

Other shampoos I’ve used include Bumble and bumble Seaweed Shampoo which is great and I feel strengthens my hair a lot and Aveda Rosemary and Mint Shampoo.

For hairstyling, [my partner] AJ uses a Kiehl’s Leave-In Hair Conditioner when he has short hair, and something stronger when it gets a little longer. Here I just use a cheap product called Surf Hair by Fructis. It’s my little secret …” Not anymore! :-)

My daily:

Bumble and bumble Sumotech

Tools of the Trade
Melissa says:

neuLash: “Helps extend and thicken eye lashes within days! (I have used this and love it!)”
Clarisonic: “Electronic cleansing brush for face and body. Gently cleans pores so effectively that your skincare absorbs better into your skin. Removes 6x more makeup and reduces appearance of pores, fine lines and wrinkles. (I have not used this yet, but want to buy one. The people that have been using it swear by it!)”
Baby Quasar: “Stimulates the production of collagen diminishing appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and enlarged pores. Firms and tones skin. (This is supposed to do what light therapy treatments do at the dermatologist, but A LOT less expensive.)”
Baby Quasar Blue Anti-Acne Light Therapy: “Anti-acne skincare device. Kills acne causing bacteria. It is a light therapy treatment.”

Melissa says:

Chloe: “My favorite right now is Chloe.”

Irvin says:

“… my absolutely favorite fragrance is Odeur 53 by Comme de Garçons. It smells like no other fragrance out there, angular, contemporary and very avant garde (just like their clothes). It’s completely unique and though it’s been on the market for 10 years, I have yet to find another smell that comes close to what they were able to achieve with it. It’s not for everyone, and it’s definitely not a traditional smell, but I love it.”

Irvin adds a tip:

“Just as an FYI, fragrances do break down … If you own a large bottle and don’t go through the scent very fast, I suggest storing the fragrance in the refrigerator. It will help preserve the scent.” Who knew?!

Men’s Grooming
Melissa’s fellow colleague Ryan Britton can sum up his choices in one word: Kiehl’s. Below are his favorites:

Kiehl’s Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion: “Use once a week, good for very oily skin.”
Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado
Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Moisturizer with SPF 18
Kiehl’s Razor Bump Relief
Kiehl’s Grapefruit Body Scrub
ReVive Sensitif Oil Free Lotion SPF 15

Irvin says:

“I used Art of Shaving Unscented After-Shave Balm as it is a good balming feel without stickiness or weird smells. It’s expensive, but a little bit goes a long way.”

My daily:

Gilette Shave Gel for Sensitive Skin

On that note, play around, see what works for you. Just remember, it is our responsibility to maintain what our parents (or plastic surgeons) gave us.


* All of Melissa’s and Ryan’s recommended products are available at Neiman Marcus.
* All of Irvin’s recommended products are available at Aveda, Nancy Boy, Neiman Marcus, Target, and Walgreens.