Okemo

Winter may be officially over, but there is a very vibrant, energetic group of people still skiing and they will be until the lifts are turned off. Okemo Mountain Resort has always been one of my favorite places to ski, they groom to let you zoom and when mother nature doesn’t deliver on the snow, the team at Okemo always does. From an alpine fashion standpoint, the sophisticates who make the quick trek up from the greater New York area always makes it a treat. The best people watching and style scouting can be found in the Jackson Gore area, where I always see the most interesting on-mountain looks. Once the aprés action starts, the Jackson Gore Lodge is teeming with well dressed people and I believe owner and fashion fan Diane Mueller must have had that in mind when she and husband Tim expanded Okemo and built this lodge. Here are some of my favorite looks from the always outstanding Okemo:

JUMPING JACK ALL FLASHSlope style

Where’s the party? Bet he knows! From his K2 special edition Rolling Stones Side Show skis, to his multi color gridlock print outwear by Sessions, this gentleman hit the hill ready to rock and roll. Mick Jagger said “Don’t you think it’s sometimes wise not to grow up?” Mick was right and everybody who skis and rides isn’t completely grown up when they play in the snow at Okemo. Just ask this guy…if you can catch him.

ROCK STAR / BOARDER / BADASS

Snow board or musical instrument, on the slope or on the stage – either way Ashley Cox just kills it. Her infectious energy can’t be contained and her choice of Aperture’s Peak to Creek printed jacket and pant is perfect for shredding it up on her Feather Snowboard by Burton. Check out her band Professional Victims and their new album “Fathom the Cosmos” because chicks that ride and rock rule.

LUX SKI SIREN

Slope style Fur hat

When Laura Aman strode into the Jackson Gore lodge, everybody noticed and I did a cartwheel. How I love seeing a gorgeous woman carry herself with such confidence and grace! Her beauty caught my eye but it was her incredible accessories that hooked me. Her amazing fur bomber hat and to die for Chanel bag, paired with basic black was aprés perfection. As warm as she is striking, Laura is a fashion executive with NSR Nina Runsdorf, the exquisite high end jewelry line favored by celebrities and style setters.

SPRING FORWARD

spring forwardSporting yellow that is anything but mellow, the fabulous Victoria K. from Washington DC  brought some elevated ski style to the top of the run. Her yellow and white Nautica ski jacket works like a charm with these super flattering,  3/4 zip pants by Marmot, and her pom pom hat brings the vibrant colors together perfectly.  Victoria works in an interior design firm that specializes in luxury hospitality and loves to ski because she finds it the perfect medium of personal expression.

GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN

girls just want to have fun

Ali and Helena are uniform wearing students from Connecticut during the week, but once school is out it’s all about colorful jackets with printed ski pants. Popping with color against the snow, they don’t want to just look good, they demand performance from what they wear and mix brands to create their own unique looks. Ali’s Eider fuchsia jacket is nicely matched with her blue, swirl print Zoe technical pants by Sunice. Not to be outdone, Helena is giving us some tropical thunder by pairing her purple Patagonia jacket with farrow jungle print pants by North Face.

Times Square

THE SCENE — Broadway. (Nomad, Midtown, Times Square)  A theater extravaganza.

THE MUSTS — Ultimate destinations — within 20 walking blocks

THE STAY —  The Nomad Hotel (stands for ‘North of Madison Square Park’- the newly hyped triangle),  at 28th and Broadway- A Beaux Arts masterpiece, dark and romantic with belle epoque décor; celebrating its three-year anniversary; a secret ‘locals’ getaway.  It is touted as the Ace Hotel for Adults. The service? Just right; hip, attentive, engaging- with a youthful exuberance.  Rainforest shower heads deliver a soothing spa experience; Frette linens and down feather beds for the ultimate ZZZzzzzzs. Furnishings are a mix of high and low, historic and contemporary.  And the push and pull hits the right mix in a neighborhood of the same.NoMad Hotel

THE EATS — DAY ONE:  The Parlour at the Nomad- Brunch – Featuring the ‘ne plus ultra’ of chicken sandwiches masterfully crafted by chef/owner Daniel Humm with buttery brioche, fois gras and black truffle.  Pair it with a glass of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bourgogne blanc from Burgundy France 2011. (One of the many fine wines by the glass sourced from around the world). For dessert: Milk & Honey- a deconstructed sweet with shortbread, brittle and ice cream. Finish with a glass of Sauterne and a white Peony tea. Truly a flawless dining experience.  Ask for Rudy – a dedicated artist in customer service.

Aldo Sohm Wine Bar— Dinner: at 51st and 7th (located across the Galleria from Le Bernadin)- This restrained and discreet Wine Bar is the casual love child of star Sommelier Aldo Sohm and renowned Le Bernadin Chef/Owner Eric Ripert.  It is a marriage of fine small plates and some of the best sourced wines of the world.  Like Le Bernadin, the professional staff hits the right note in service.  Unlike Le Bernadin, no reservations are needed.  In fact, they are not taken at all.  Musts are the Truffle Pasta with aged Parmesan – a decadent delight – both delicate and dynamic, the roasted, spiced carrots and the grilled chorizo manchego Panini.  Wines by the glass never tasted better than in their super fine crystal stemware from Zalto (a collaboration with Mr. Sohm).  Try the 2013 Vouvray Domaine Huet by Le Mont, and the 2012 Cotes de Nuits-Villages Les Essards by Antoine Lienhardt. Perfection.

DAY TWO: Stumptown Coffee OutPost at The Ace Hotel – a neighborhood favorite.  A simple, smooth cup of java.  Authentic Doppio Macchiato. Get it to go and be a ‘flaneur’.

Eataly–Lunch:at 23rd and  5th Avenue- Mario Batali’s- Authentic Italian Mecca delivers sensory overload. A Harrods food court for Italian foodies.  With a curated Alessi outpost to satisfy the discerning designer. La pizza & la pasta served in an insalata de Finocchio – arugula, fennel, shaved parmigiano with lemon vinaigrette and a chewy/ crispy pizza with prosciutto & mozzarella. Molto bene. Simply satisfying.

THE COCKTAIL — Night Cap at The Elephant Bar – the Nomad – craft cocktail heaven. The menu is divided into 3 categories -The Dark Spirited -The Start me Up (for Bourbon Lovers)-Bourbon Rum, Strega, Honey Ginger, Lemon and Orange Bitters; The Light Spirited – The Red Light-Niguraguan Rum, Aquavit, Campari, velvet falernum, vanilla, grapefruit, lime, wormwood bitters, and the Soft Cocktail –the Basil Fennel Soda. Something to satisfy every whim and palate for a creative local crowd.

Cocktail at the NoMad

THE SHOPPING — MOMA Design Store at 5th AV and 53Rd – get your artistic culture on.  This is curated like the Museum with some hi -lo design objects heavy on the functional luxury.  Some perennial favorites include the Sky Umbrella and the Yanagi flatwear.

Fishes Eddy—889 BROADWAY, Purveyor of American Sturdy ware.  Hotel ware reimagined – Many items with humorous anecdotes.  Dare you NOT to leave with a smile

THE SHOWS — “The Audience”: (Matinee) Starring the incomparable Helen Mirren at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre at west 45th St.  A transformative tete a tete with the Queen and her successive Prime Ministers. Intelligent, witty and touching glimpse of the royal weekly behind the scenes meetings. This restrained and elegant production is directed by Stephan Daldry (“An Inspector Calls,” “Billy Elliot”) and designed by Bob Crowley (“Once,” “Glass Menagerie”).

Helen Mirren-the audience

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre at West 47th St.  A mystery (it’s title is taken from a Sherlock Holmes quote) with brilliant perspective from the eyes of 15-year-old protagonist Christopher Boone—who describes himself as a mathematician with behavioral difficulties (identified as Asperger’s Syndrome). If anything, the play is about being an outsider, about differences.  It is based on a novel by Mark Haddon,  winner of 17 literary awards.  The playwright is Simon Stephens (“A Doll’s House,” “The Cherry Orchard”). Alex Sharp, a 2014 Julliard graduate makes his extraordinary Broadway debut.

Honeymoon in Vegas: (Matinee) Starring Tony Danza at the Nederlander Theater at  West  41st St. – Based on a screenplay by Andrew Bergman, with a rousing score by Jason Robert Brown- (a fine story teller like Stephen Sondheim – only funny, with the angst of Woody Allen).  This has everything a Broadway musical needs – a splashy opening number with a catchy tune (Betsy), humor, shtick, romance, and flying Elvis’.  And, yet, it has a surprising restraint, due in part because of a charming performance by Mr. Danza.

Ben Mezrich

Breakfast at The Betsy with literary minds from Miami and Boston—not something you normally associate with South Beach, a sprawling beach community that has become the go to place for everyone from basketballers, rap stars, and winter snowbirds.

How did we end up here?

The BetsyIn December, we had a lovely dinner at the BLT Steak restaurant because my father in law is obsessed with steak, and thought it would be a great kid friendly place to bring the whole family. It was in fact, all of the above. On my way to the ladies room, I noticed a sign on the door which said “Writer’s Room”. A lightbulb went off in my head, my husband was a writer, could he use this writer’s room? I needed to learn more. I headed to the front desk to inquire about more information. The gentleman was very excited to tell me that the owner’s grandfather was a famous poet and because of this, literature and writing were always an important part of his life. He felt that it was important to support other writers-so on April 1st 2012, he developed the Writers in Residence Program at The Betsy, an opportunity for emerging and established writers alike to stay on the premises in a room designed for writing to occur. I toured the room, to see what it was all about, and discovered a well appointed cozy room, with a couch bed, antique desk (that had belonged to the grandfather of the owner), and a brightly lit bathroom with a TV embedded in the mirror. Who knew, maybe TV while you showered was a way to get inspired.

Fast forward two months, the present:

As part of the program, we set up a Literary Breakfast Salon with Ben. The Betsy sent out invitations to their community and within minutes of going live, the breakfast was filled, and they had to close the guest list—something that made us feel proud, because we were told that this has never occurred in the past!

BLT Steak

The salon was held in BLT Steak around a long “L” shaped table. Deborah Plutzik-Briggs, sister of The Betsy owner Jonathan Plutzik, and VP of Marketing, Philanthropy and Programs, moderated the Salon, having the over 30 guests in attendance, introduce themselves. We had quite a diverse Salon, from heads of Florida International University, to restauranteurs Seth Greenberg and wife Sasha with the youngest attendee, their 5 month old son; club owner Sharrokh Reza and wife Dianna, to Margaret McNeill of Boston/Fisher Island, who brought Real Housewife friend Adriana DeMoura, and PR agent Olivia Wolff, and of course close Boston friends Adriana Hassan of The Tannery, and Alex Winston and his wife Dr. Daniela.

Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder.Everyone had interesting comments and questions for Ben, but the bulk of the conversation centered around Ben’s new book Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder, which is scheduled to be released June 2nd, 2015. For the first time, Ben discussed the process of writing this book, and how book writing is transitioning from a process where the movie idea comes first and then the book follows. This is a stark difference from the past where books were always developed first then movie options were taken, then eventually movies were made (if you were lucky). Sorry, but I have to brag a little about my hubby, because having had two number one box office smash hit feature films made from two of Ben’s books is a feat that no other non-fiction author has accomplished.

Seeing his books transformed into movies was a topic that attendees of the Salon were interested in, as one asked Ben if he was satisfied with how the movies turned out. Ben talked about working with Aaron Sorkin, in Boston at the Four Seasons Hotel, and how a daunting but finally fortuitous leak on gawker.com lead to David Fincher and Sorkin both discovering the project.

Ben also discussed meeting Eduardo Saverin and how at the time he had only known of Facebook because of me. He told the story about how Eduardo eventually signed a contract with Facebook that said he would never speak to him, which lead to his subsequent breakup with my friend, de-friending of us on facebook, and how he subsequently got billions of dollars. He touched on the Winklevi, Sean Parker, and Justin Timberlake.

ben mezrichGuests of the Salon were also intrigued by the way that Ben has always seemed to be able to predict what is going to be “hot”, as in the case of his bestsellers Bringing Down The House, Rigged, and The Social Network. Ben explained that the process of writing a book starts about 2 years before a book is actually published, so a large part of deciphering what is going to be relevant is about picking a subject matter that appeals to him, and also having his pulse on what is going to be hot.

I personally think that the key to being a good writer comes from Ben’s innate ability to observe, decipher and make excellent judgement calls. He describes his ability to write as stemming from his view of the writing as equivalent to what a terminator is in  James Cameron’s The Terminator:  This is what he does , this is all he does, and he absolutely will not stop.

Harvard BookstoreStopping by the Harvard Book Store to get a copy of “Master Thieves” by Stephen Kurkjian seemed easy enough. (I’ve always thought the hardest part about shopping at the store is finding a parking spot or making the trek up from the Red Line station.) Then I started to puruse the “staff recommendations” and look at the “signed editions” available for sale in the Massachusetts Avenue shop.

First, let me say that the staff at the Harvard Book Store takes the idea of recommendations seriously, very seriously. This staff has a running list of the “Top 100” as well as their own—printed on-demand—book with staff recommendations.

And the “Staff Recommendation” section contains more than 750 suggestions online. Here are a few I’d recommend as well:

First up is a pick from store staffer Ben N., which he says is “not quite like anything I’ve ever read,” the novel “The Man With the Compound Eyes,” by Wu Ming-Yi.0221 compound eyes

Melissa L.-O. calls Sarah Manguso’s book of essays “Ongoingness: The End of a Diary”, which was released by Graywolf Press on March 3, “a dazzling philosophical investigation of the challenge of living in the present.” High praise, indeed.

And, like all of us who love books, the Harvard Book Store is celebrating the life of Terry Pratchett, the acclaimed author of 40 “Discworld” books, who died this month in England.

The store recommends this young readers (ages 8 to 12) book “Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales,” a specially released “never-before-published collection of 14 funny and inventive tales.” It is a great way to celebrate the life of this talented writer.Dragons

Kennedy Save the HarborEach year a few hundred people come together at The Curley Center on M St Beach for Harpoon Helps Cupid Splash raising funds for Save the Harbor, Save the Bay. Save the Harbor is an amazing organization whose mission is to restore and protect Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Bay, and the marine environment and share them with the public for everyone to enjoy. What is the Cupid Splash?  Well, we dress up in silly costumes (in our case it was prom dresses) and run willingly into the harbor with the understanding that once we get out of the water there will be Harpoon beer and burgers from Sullivan’s.  JetBlue provided prizes for the best costume and top fundraisers  This year to add insult to injury it snowed.  SNOWED.  Good thing Kennedy’s Crew runs on vodka.  Thank you to everyone who supported us and donated to our cause!

Gigi Hadid/Daniela Corte

Gigi Hadid wearing the Daniela Corte Playa Bustier Top and Knot Bottoms.

Our very own Daniela Corte just reached one of the career pinnacles of swimwear designers across the globe–to have her bikinis featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue–an iconic read that has been around since 1964, generates upwards of 35 million dollars in ad revenue yearly, and has featured supermodel greats such as Tyra Banks, Paulina Porizkova, and Elle Macphearson on its covers.

Initially, the idea for the issue came about by then managing editor, Andre Laguerre, as a way to fill the magazine with content in the winter months, when sports reporting was slow. Who knew that this “filler” would take off to become the backbone of the entire magazine and create revenue and promotional opportunities  for several new industries? So tops off to designer Daniela, who spoke to me a few days ago on being chosen for this coveted issue:

IT MUST BE SUCH AN HONOR TO BE CHOSEN FOR YOUR SWIMSUITS IN THE MOST HIGHLY RATED SI ISSUE OF THE YEAR— HOW DID THIS PARTNERSHIP COME ABOUT?

They approached us, it was love at first sight :-)

YOU’VE BEEN DEVELOPING YOUR SWIM LINE FOR THREE YEARS NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR SIGNATURE STYLE FOR THE LINE?

It’s difficult to choose one, it really depends on the market but a style we always have and repeat is a one piece, deep V!

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 AS IN THE ONE I’M MOST OBSESSED WITH, THE WINE COLORED FRINGE SUIT. WHERE CAN PEOPLE BUY THESE?

The fringe suit is available via special order at danielacorte.com or via phone 617-262-2100

I SEE THAT SI WENT SIMPLE BUT SEXY WITH THE ACCESSORIES FOR THE SWIMWEAR. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON HOW THE STYLIST ACCESSORIZED THE LOOKS? DO YOU CARRY THOSE ACCESSORIES AS WELL?

I always love seeing what talented stylists do with my suits. And yes, we are on the same page at DC,  we have a gorgeous line of jewelry called “Lexi” that we offer at our studio. Lots of body chains and multi-layered necklaces.

HOW MANY STYLES OF SUITS DID YOU SEND THEM AND HOW MANY ENDED UP IN THE MAGAZINE?

We sent tons of suits! Three images ended up being chosen for the Sports Illustrated website.

Daniela C_SI lace bikiniWHAT’S IN THE PIPES FOR THE NEXT SWIMWEAR COLLECTION AND WHEN CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE IT?

We are in the middle of collaborating with some great designers, creating really captivating, unique prints while always exploring new suits and techniques and different ways to tie suits. There will be a suit for every body type but, as always, I love curves!

redsox1

Like most Bostonians, I am D-O-N-E with winter. Just as the Red Sox are gearing up for the new season, I’m hitting the market for some spring wardrobe. I stopped by ROSTER in Faneuil Hall to pick up a ‘47Brand cap. Ironically, something happened as I was putting on a Boston Red Sox hat for the first time in my life. I felt as if I had finally become a citizen of Boston, Massachusetts. The experience seemed more official than receiving my driver’s license from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

If you know anything about me, you know that I am all in for Boston. I was so proud to be wearing apparel that represents Boston-based brands (Red Sox, Twins Enterprises, and ROSTER Stores) that I instagramed an image with hashtags #FranchiseTag #Boston soon after I left store.

The B cap is a distinctive sign of Boston culture, just as cowboy hats are for the western part of the country.

True or False? People are often profiled depending on what they wear-those who wear cowboy hats are thought to drive pick-up trucks, to listen to country music and to speak with a western accent. Someone in a B cap would be branded with the Boston accent, outstanding schools, world-class hospitals, winning sport teams, and record snow falls.

How would you like to be profiled in your Boston Red Sox hat?

A LADY IN RED

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Red Cleanup Hat.

A trendsetter who likes the new.

”47 FRANCHISE BOSTON RED SOX

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Garment washed Boston Red Sox clean up with a broken-in look and feel.

Someone who likes to kick it old school.

By the way, the Garment Washed cap is more my speed.

redsox2Check out the assortment of Red Sox hats and other apparels at ROSTER stores.

Go Sox!

 

magicParis, Texas and Chicagoland is Where It All Starts for this band. Magic Man is a five-piece, major label, synth rock band from Boston. Formed in 2010, they released their first EP You Are Here in September 2013, followed by their first major full-length release, Before The Waves on July 8, 2014. In February 2014, their song Paris debuted at #39 on the alternative charts and in March 2014, Alt Nation debuted Paris at #1 on the Alt 18 countdown. Also in March, they decided it was time to take things to the next level and perform at the well-known Austin, Texas festival (SXSW) alongside other bands such as Smallpools, Grouplove, New Politics and more. Shortly after opening for these bands, they embarked on their west coast US tour, headlining for the first time alongside Panic! At The Disco and Walk the Moon.

If you’ve listened to these guys, you’re probably familiar with their Passion Pit vibe. They released their first music video (PARIS), which debuted on VH1’s Mid Morning Buzz with Nick Lachey, and in a few days they sold out their first concert in NYC. Signed to Columbia Records, this band is a must see.

Happy to say that I’m friends with such a talented band. Make sure to see them this year as they headline a show near you.

Conv W-Andris-lead photo

All eyes are on the energetic – and telegenic  — Andris Nelsons when he bounds across the stage of Boston Symphony Hall to take his place at the conductor’s podium, his sheer physicality a performance unto itself. At 35 years old, Nelsons is one of the youngest and most electrifying conductors on the international scene today and the youngest music director to lead the BSO in more than 100 years. He might also be the only one to have ever been a student of martial arts. Prior to his arrival in Boston, the Latvia native was music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), where he earned critical acclaim. Born in Riga to a family of musicians, Nelsons began his career as a trumpeter in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra before studying to be conductor. He is married to the internationally renowned soprano Kristine Opolais, who joined him on stage for his first opening night leading the storied Boston Symphony Orchestra.

AS A YOUNG CONDUCTOR, WHAT DID THE BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA MEAN TO YOU? WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS?

As a music student growing up in Latvia, I was aware of the leading position of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), one of the world’s greatest orchestras. I followed the careers of several BSO‘s legendary music directors, especially Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Erich Leinsdorf, and Seiji Ozawa, and more recently, James Levine. I remember listening to many BSO recordings and feeling overwhelmed by the extraordinary performances.  I never imagined that I would become this orchestra’s music director!

WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE ABOUT BOSTON AUDIENCES FOR YOU SO FAR?

The enthusiasm that the Boston audiences has shown to me, has touched me deeply. I have always heard that the Boston audiences were passionate music lovers—and it is very true!  They also are generous in expressing pride and love for the orchestra. The BSO has been a great inspiration and joy for many of our patrons. My hope is to do all I can to continue to inspire them to ever greater levels of satisfaction and reward.

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IS THE ORCHESTRA DIFFERENT TODAY THAN WHEN YOU FIRST GUEST-CONDUCTED IN 2011?

I don’t know that I can speak to how different the orchestra is today than it was in 2011.  When I conducted the orchestra for the first time in March 2011, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and power the orchestra displayed in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.  It is a very difficult piece of music, but we developed quickly a good connection and were able to make incredible music together. My joy nearly four years later comes from getting to know the orchestra better. I enjoy meeting and getting to know each individual musician, knowing them by name. This helps us work better together and make some great music.

WE’RE IN THE AGE OF “NEW” MEDIA. DID YOUR TRAINING AS A MUSICIAN AND A CONDUCTOR PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR NEW ROLE AS HOLOGRAM AT SYMPHONY HALL?

I have never participated in the creation of a hologram before, so it was fun to see how they created the 3D image. It’s both strange and exciting to stand next to your own talking and moving hologram – and I was happy to see that I have lost some weight since recording the image last July! I hope our wonderful patrons enjoyed this technology, and that the hologram and overall exhibit communicated some interesting and new information, especially to newcomers to the BSO.

IS THE ROLE OF CONDUCTOR OF A WORLD-CLASS ORCHESTRA OF THE 21’ST CENTURY DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS FOR YOUR HISTORIC COUNTERPARTS?

I would say that it is a faster moving world today, of course it is, and this pace applies to all aspects of modern life! However, in contrast, the fundamental role of the conductor has not changed so much at all on the podium. This profession is still based on personal communication and it rather stands the test of time in this sense. It’s such a magical and of historic profession.

BOSTON HAS A REPUTATION FOR BEING A FAIRLY TRADITIONAL CITY. CAN YOU GIVE US A PREVIEW OF ANY EXCITING, NEW WORK YOU’LL BE INTRODUCING?

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has always presented many new interesting compositions with major composers as Bartok, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Babbitt, Birtwistle, Carter, and Saariaho, and many others, and also significant premieres.  So there is no doubt that with the great repertoire that we all love so deeply—music of Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, etc.—we will also explore works by new composers and go back to some of the works of the 20th and 21st centuries that have made the recent history of classical music.  Sophia Gubaidulina’s Offertorium is a great example of bringing back a late 20th century work that is now considered a masterpiece of our field—and Baiba Skride’s recent performances captured the extraordinary sound of Ms. Gubaidulina’s composition. This season we’ve also programmed works by Boston composers Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, and Michael Gandolfi, as well as works by Australian composer Brett Dean and my Latvian compatriot Eriks Esenvalds. Our audiences have responded very enthusiastically to what we have performed so far. We will continue to explore new works and bring the very best of music to our wonderful patrons.

For further information about the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a complete spring schedule, visit Boston Symphony or click here for complete programs, ticket information, photos, press documents, and artist bios.

The Parador de Cardona

You really can live like royalty in a castle in Spain…at least for a night or two.  Since the 1920s, the Spanish government has run a for-profit chain of luxury hotels which is officially called Los Paradores de Turismo de España.  While the word parador literally means a “place to stop,” you will find that this hardly describes the overnight experience in many of these 94 historic convents, castles, monasteries, stately homes and other monumental buildings that spread across the Spanish countryside from Galicia to Andalucia, and beyond, to the Balearic islands.

Here are a few of my family’s favorites:

In Cardona, you can visit not only a splendid castle but also the nearby salt mines whose productivity financed it.  The “Muntanya de Sal” (Salt Mountain Cultural Park) is a great family excursion underground, where you can visit the source of the all-important ingredient of seasoning and preserving foods that was once worth its weight in gold. The parador itself, which was the fortress home of the Lords of Cardona, who were wealthy salt barons since the Middle Ages, overlooks the plain of the Cardener river valleys in northern Catalunya, near the Pyrenees.

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Cave in Salt Mountain Cultural Park

The town of Cuenca, about 140 kilometers east of Madrid in Castilla-La Mancha, boasts an elegant parador in the former convent of San Pablo.  Perhaps as impressive as its rich interior is the view that greets you when you emerge from the front door: across the sixteenth-century Puente de San Pablo (Bridge of Saint Paul) is the 15th-century neighborhood known as the “hanging houses” of Cuenca.  One of these gravity-defying structures houses a first rate collection of mid-century modern art in the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art (Museo de Arte Abstracto Español), part of the Juan March Foundation.

Hanging Houses

Hanging house in Cuenca

 

For visitors to Andalucia who choose to stay outside urban centers like Seville or Córdoba, the enchanting parador in Carmona, which lies between the two cities, offers a delightful option.  Housed in a stunning 14th-century Arab fortress, the parador boasts of one of the best restaurants in the region, housed in the former refectory of the castle.  (We recall it fondly as the first place we tasted the local specialty, ajo blanco, which is a refreshing white variation on its cold-soup cousin, gazpacho.)  When you get tired of the pool with its view of the castle hovering overhead, check out the nearby ruins of the Roman necropolis in Carmona.

If money is not a concern in your travel budget, you might consider spending a night in one of the two most luxurious paradores: those in Santiago de Compostela in the north and Granada in the south of Spain.  The former, officially called the Hostal de los Reyes Católicos, occupies pride of place on the main square of the historic city in Galicia and is considered to be the longest-running hotel establishment in the world.  Built by Ferdinand and Isabella (hence the name) next to the cathedral in Santiago as a royal hospital in the 1490s, it sits at the end of the pilgrimage route across northern Spain.  Its fine restaurants occupy spaces that were once the stables and the morgue.
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In the heart of Andalucia, the Parador de Granada, besides being a honeymoon destination for Princess Grace and Prince Ranier in 1956, sits smack in the middle of the grounds of the enchanted Alhambra.  It started life as a 14th-century Moorish palace, and was a Franciscan convent before becoming a parador.  Like the rest of the Alhambra (one of my favorite destinations in all of Spain), the hotel grounds are filled with trickling fountains and sweetly scented gardens of jasmine and flowers.

The grounds of Parador de Granada

 

Not all of the renovated buildings in the system can boast of equal charms, however.  While the Parador of Ronda in Andalucia sits atop a spectacular piece of real estate, hanging over the edge of the town’s famous gorge, the hotel itself is the former city hall, a building of no great distinction, save its enviable location.  We also once found ourselves booked into one seaside parador near Valencia which did not have beach access and whose architecture was more like a Holiday Inn than a castle.  So do your homework before making your reservation, and check with those advisor sites.

Parador Ronda

Parador Ronda

Portugal, by the way, has s similar system called the POUSADAS modeled on the Spanish example.

Okay, you can also find a swell place to stay through home rental sites, but, come on…a castle in Spain!

dancing with myself cover

Disco does something to my body. I’m not sure if it’s the tempo, the funky synthesizers, occasional brass influences or piano chords, but there’s something about it that takes my two Jewish left feet on a ride that I never want to get off. The Knocks never fail in my book; they take the world of disco and funk to an unparalleled level of greatness. Their music speaks for itself and the new track, Dancing With Myself, follows the trend of becoming another dance masterpiece. With smooth vocals from Mr. J. Patt, over a bass heavy piano driven track, this mid-tempo funky jam should have your head bobbing. Dancing With Myself is the lead single from The Knocks’ debut full length album. If their past singles and EP’s are any indication, the future of the Knocks,  should be nothing less than spectacular. Watch the brand new video for Dancing With Myself below.

Flower show:tulips

The Boston Flower Show exhibits at the World Trade Center in the Seaport district through the weekend and after the weather we’ve been through this winter there is a veritable stampede to get in. The parking situation is very tight so you might want to consider taking the T, check schedules to see what’s running on time, or a taxi and leave your car in another part of the city.  Upon entering the show, there is an excited buzz in the air as everyone is full of anticipation around the coming of spring. Colors! you think to yourself as you walk in and smell the mulch and fresh, moist air. We’re not talking tropical either, because spring in New England is a very quiet, subtle burst of color when it begins, and the delicate daffodils, hyacinths and tulips were plentiful in number. Greens, yellows, purples and reds were the dominant tones and my thought was I wish there were thousands more, gardens so lush you could get lost in them. But we’ll take what we can get.

My favorites were the displays that incorporated a bit of fashion-the white floral cut out dress with the evergreen hat and green wellies was really fun. A beautiful, white paper maiche (remember that?) bridal gown with roses entitled “The Paper Bride” was set in a gothic, elegant landscape that evoked a fantasy image. There is lots of stone-patios, pillars and waterfalls are in abundance for those looking to create a rustic setting. Numerous stalls selling anything from herbs, bulbs, seeds and all types of garden accessories shared space with patio furniture, quilts, hot tubs, and my favorite-dog collars. Is that for little fido playing in the garden? Not sure, but they were cool.  Definitely worth the trip, so take your kids and friends and enjoy some spring.

 

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Paint the Town Red – Kennebunkport Inn Kennebunkport, Maine

Falling in love is all about fateful timing: being in the right place at the right time.

Like most native New Englanders, I suspect, I’ve always enjoyed visiting Kennebunkport in the summer. (Warm days and fresh lobster on the Maine coast — how can you not swoon?) But as anyone in a relationship can tell you, it’s during life’s little storms – not under its fair skies – when love really reveals itself. Kennebunkport was walloped with a winter storm this Valentine’s Day, while me and my other-half were celebrating with an off-season weekend getaway. It could have been a disaster — but as fate would have it, it was just what we needed: a reason to slow down and soak in the sweet charm of a quintessential New England resort town. The place has a lot of heart.

Another shot of the Paint the Town Red Inn

Front view of the Paint the Town Red Inn

If you haven’t bothered to visit Kennebunkport in its quieter season, now’s a good time. (In fact, during the weekend of Friday, March 13, the town is hosting a series of “Valentine’s Do-Over” promotions and events. More on that momentarily.) Kennebunkport in the off-season is quiet — very quiet. That’s part of the appeal, of course, though we didn’t expect it would be entering such serious hibernation mode when we checked in to the Kennebunkport Inn on Friday, February 13. As unluckiness would have it, a major winter storm – predicted to dump about two feet of snow amid hurricane-strength winds – was swiftly moving in, scheduled to hit Saturday night. The inn was ready to receive overnight lovebirds: a sparkling red “Valentine’s” tree (more tasteful than it sounds) glowed in the parlor, and a stack of souvenir pins reading “Love KPT” awaited at check-in. But several guests had already cancelled their stay, said the front desk clerk as she processed our arrival; hopefully, she added, we won’t lose power.

Uh-oh.

The good news was: if there was a place to be snowed in – it was here. The Kennebunkport Inn is part of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, a portfolio of properties with distinct identities but a common, contemporary sheen that runs throughout. The Kennebunkport Inn is housed in a stately, rambling structure built in the 1890s but recently renovated. Our room – 214, perhaps not coincidentally for a Valentine’s getaway – had a casual elegance, as though Ralph Lauren had signed on board for an HGTV-aired interiors makeover show.

river house 3

A vibrant palette of reds, white and blues made it a warm and welcoming space to nest after a filling dinner at One Dock, the inn’s restaurant and lounge housed in what feels like an ample living room. We dug in to contemporary American plates of mussels, bourbon-glazed pork belly and red wine-braised short ribs as a fireplace flickered to one side and a pianist tickled ivories to the other. After fighting Friday evening traffic out of Boston, this is just the right way to unwind.

Winter might be overstaying its welcome, but at least that allows for extended opportunity to enjoy some of New England’s snow-filled fun — and the Kennebunkport Inn can help guests make arrangements for everything from snowshoeing to sleigh rides. With a blizzard about to bear down, we weren’t in the position to take advantage. But there’s plenty to do and see even while keeping it low-key, from ducking into adorable art galleries and shops that line Dock Square (check out Minka and Abacus in particular for art, fashion accessories and gifts) to taking a sip from the area’s craft brew scene: upstairs from the Kennebunkport Brewing Company is Federal Jack’s, a casual neighborhood eatery for grabbing topnotch chowder and clam rolls alongside a pint of suds. Afterwards we took a quick drive to neighboring Kennebunk for treatments at The Spa at River’s Edge. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a spa snob, but I indulge often enough to offer strong context — and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my facial was one of the best I’ve had, period, in or outside of Boston’s higher-end Back Bay spots. (And at a predictably lower price point too, even if you add on the extra eye treatment. You should, by the way.)

By the time we slipped out of our robes and back into street clothes, the storm was starting to pick up the pace. So it was back to the Inn for a quick sip of bubbly before our dinner reservations at David’s KPT, the sleek, modern American at sibling property The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, just across the Dock Square.

Interior shot of David's

Interior shot of David’s

The three-minute trudge through swirling snowflakes was just long enough for a laugh before battening down in the window-lined riverside dining room that bustled with cocktailing couples (younger, compared to some of the other restaurants) for the standout meal of the weekend. The New England-inspired fare included a tender filet mignon with a perfect cauliflower-parmesan mash, skewers of citrus- and truffle-inflected shrimp and scallops, and plenty of fresh oysters from the raw bar. Outside the window, inches accumulated on a docked ship; it looked like something phantom Arctic pirates might hijack. But inside we were warm, rosy from wine and five years of Valentine’s Days. We hadn’t been counting on this interfering snowstorm, but in a world of constant digital connection – buzzing phones, rapidly refilling email inboxes – we were suddenly grateful for Mother Nature imposing upon us a moment to stop, slow down, and appreciate what was right in front of us. The timing was just right, and I found myself in love with Kennebunkport in a whole new way.

An exterior shot of David's --- from the summer of course.

An exterior shot of David’s — from the summer of course.

Visit DestinationKennebunkport.com to check out winter packages and special rates. Try to make it up for the “Valentine’s Do-Over” weekend on March 13-14, which also coincides with Maine Restaurant Week.

Spring is alive and in the air! Tuesday night I was honored to be host of the first annual Fashion Power Play to benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation and The Second Step at Copley Place in Boston’s Back Bay district. Neiman Marcus dressed the gorgeous wives and significant others of the Bruins — as well as professional models, to show off the looks for Spring/Summer ’15. Our own Kathy Benharris organized the entire production and did a beautiful job indeed. Managing the models and wives, who generously volunteered their time for this good cause, is no easy task.  Backstage was an organized frenzy, with makeup, hair and fittings all taking place at once. Racks of Milly, Shoshanna, and Prada filled the room. Neiman’s Spring/Summer vision was Spice Market, so we saw the runway decorated with a mix of vivid oranges, blues and yellows, intermingled in floral patterns and expressionist type prints. Kathy started the show with boho chic fringe, lots of leather and jeans, then transitioned to some demure cocktail attire, focusing on trends such as the crop top, which  I happened to be sporting that evening. I received many compliments on my outfit and was happy to represent two local designers who are near and dear to my heart, Daniela Corte and Monika Ramizi. And of course, sitting front row across from the entire Bruins lineup was quite a treat…well, I mean someone had to do it.

Watch below to see how Kathy Benharris took over the center of Copley Place, while showing off Spring/Summer ’15, all for a good cause.

Bikram student in standing bow pose

I am a certified type A personality – high energy, constantly moving – a multi-tasker, who despite the occasional setback, is very optimistic about life in general. I am also a runner, or was, until last February when I found something that surpassed even that endorphin high we runners crave so much.  The epiphany? Bikram Yoga, a seemingly unlikely replacement for the cardio workout I had incorporated into my daily life for the past 20 years. Yoga? Come on, that’s for granola eating, Birkenstock wearing vegans, who wouldn’t know an endorphin high if it hit them on the head. How wrong I was.

Introduced to the United States in the early 1970’s, the yoga practice was suggested to me through a good friend, who is also a runner and had been preaching the benefits of Bikram for some months before I actually set foot in the door. The fundamentals of Bikram are the same 26 postures in the same sequence every class; breathing and heat – a Bikram studio is hot…very hot. The temperature hovers around 105 degrees, with 40 percent humidity and is an essential element for this type of yoga. Breathing in and out through your nose takes some getting use to, but it is an effective way to control your discomfort with the heat and regulate your heart rate. I have come to love the heat, it is absolutely necessary to achieving the length in limbs needed to do the postures, but when I first walked into the class I turned to Lucas, the instructor, and said ‘There is no way I am staying in this heat for 90 minutes…no sir.’ Not only did I finish the class, but when I staggered out the door I felt so cleansed afterwards I couldn’t wait to go again. That was a year ago.

There are a handful of locations in the Boston area, including Back Bay and Harvard Square, but the classes I attend are held in a little gem of a studio on Hancock Street in Quincy, where I have come to understand and embrace all its benefits. Bikram is not just a workout, although the physical demand is great. It is about connecting your mind and body for 90 minutes, a time that includes meditation, focus, hard work and a respite from the bombardment of information that has become an integral part of our daily lives.

You sweat – a lot – and the detoxification is addictive. Bikram benefits range from the obvious-improvement in flexibility, balance and an increase in strength and muscle control, to the not so obvious – it has been proven to help with depression, and many practitioners believe it wards off arthritis and controls stress levels. My experience has seen improvement in focus, flexibility, significantly lessened joint pain, and emotion regulation. (My two kids will attest to that.) Hydration and nutrient replacement are key to practicing this kind of yoga, as your body sweats out not only water but potassium, sodium and other electrolytes.

I have pretty much given up running and try to take classes at least four times a week. When I travel, I google the area to find the Bikram studios nearby as I have become reliant on how good these classes makes me feel. I am still that certified type A, but with a stronger, focused, and more balanced perspective on how I run around like a maniac.

Namaste.

 

(Photography and video by Shannon Hawkins)

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