Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday gift guide: VND jewelry

When I met Valerie Nahmani Gitelson of Valerie Nahmani Designs (VND) a few weeks ago for coffee, a couple of people had already stopped at her table to ask her where she got her rings. And her bracelets. The answer was easy. She made them herself.

The gorgeous druzy pieces definitely merit a double take. I found them both unique and affordable and wanted just about everything she had. (I only like to blog about things I actually genuinely like and the jewelry from VND definitely makes the cut.) While I love all things druzy, what I loved about these pieces were the unique takes: the "dagger" necklace (above and below) ($220 at Bloomingdale's Chevy Chase).

I also loved the rings.

Most pieces are 24k gold-plated or filled and crafted from semi-precious stones like labradorite (one of my favorite stones) and jade. She also incorporates polished lapis, onyx and turquoise in her pieces. Because the pieces are all different and one-of-a-kind ), Valerie suggests if you see one you like, get it. Because once it's gone, it's gone. Find them locally at B Scene at Cabin John mall and every weekend through Christmas at Bloomingdale's Chevy Chase. She also donates a portion of the proceeds to The Children's Inn at NIH and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. You're welcome.


Valerie displaying her jewelry at the Bethesda Quartermaine where we met for coffee.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Drybar opens on Bethesda Row

A giant Buttercup, Drybar's mascot, on Bethesda Avenue
Drybar owner Alli Webb
(all photos taken by Karen Watkins)
Bar menu

On Saturday I was lucky enough to get my hair styled at Bethesda's new Drybar, which features a shampoo and blowout for $40. I also got to meet the fabulous Alli Webb, who came up with the concept two years ago as a stay-at-home mom. Now, she plans on having 26 locations by the end of the year. The Bethesda site is No. 18.

A former stylist, Webb wanted some "adult time" while staying home with her two boys. She advertised at-home $40 blowout services on "mommy" blogs and websites, and soon couldn't keep up with demand. She opened a space so clients could come to her, and thus, the first Drybar was born in Brentwood, Ca.

"Women don't want to pay $70 for a blowout from their regular stylist," she says. "Plus, then if they decide you need a cut and color, you could end up paying $300."

The Bethesda location is one of the biggest, according to publicist Barbara Martin of BrandlinkDC.  The pretty, feminine setting is done in all-white with signature yellow accents and chick flicks playing on a widescreen TV.  The sleek white blowdry bar stretches around the room with decanters of spa water, iPhone ports and magazines within reach. There is also a private party area and a shampoo room with comfy padded sinks. Most notable: the chandelier made of yellow Conair dryers.

Growing up in a business-oriented family gave Webb a business sense at a very early age. "My parents had a retail clothing store for older women in Boca Raton [Fla.]", she says. "They taught me about customer service." She said her father had about eight or nine chairs set up for their customers' husbands. "He would go out and bring them all bagels," she told me.

Drybar is also a family affair. Her brother Michael is the CEO and marketing whiz, while husband Cameron is the creative genius behind the branding and web design. You couldn't miss mascot Buttercup, the signature yellow blowdryer, parked outside for the opening.

The bar menu features six different styles: the signature Straight Up, the Mai Tai, Cosmopolitan,  Southern Comfort, Manhattan or the  kid-friendly Shirley Temple. I've never been able to manage a blow-dryer with any finesse and came out loving my "Mai-Tai" do. My stylist, Julie, who was in town from California, talked with me first about what I wanted and set to work. First the shampoo, then the style. Alli is definitely right when she says: "it always looks better when somebody else does it."  The whole experience was relaxing and my hair looked fantastic. Call or book appointments online. When I was in, the place was packed.
Celebrating my fab hair in the party room

All stations were buzzing on opening weekend

How cool is this? Vintage Conair chandelier


Monday, March 19, 2012

Andy Cohen brings the mazel to Bethesda's Front Row

Bravo's Andy Cohen's new book,
Most Talkative
The 411 on Bethesda’s Front Row fashion show:
Bravo’s Andy Cohen will be the three-day event’s VIP guest
It’s official: The date’s been set for Bethesda’s fourth annual Front Row fashion event—Thursday through Friday, May 19-21. And this year, Fashion show Friday's VIP guest is reality show master Andy Cohen, an executive producer at Bravo TV in charge of all of those Real Housewives as well as host of the network’s offbeat talk show, Watch What Happens Live. Front Row VIPs in previous years include publicist and author Kelly Cutrone and fashion designer Christian Siriano.

The Front Row kicks off Thursday, May 19, with the Washington premiere of God Save My Shoes, an appropriately fashionable documentary exploring the enigmatic relationship between women and their footwear. The eclectic cast includes celebrities as well as design luminaries Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik. Friday night is a live runway fashion show including Bethesda Row boutiques Ginger, Luna, Wear It Well, Sassanova and Urban Chic.

Saturday, May 21 brings style to the kiddies with their own special fashion event. All three days will be filled with sales, trunk shows and special events. Though this is what’s on tap so far, there may be more in the works. Please check the website for updates.  All events are free and open to the public, though some may require RSVPs.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Meeting Vicky Tiel

Coffee and book talk with Vicky Tiel  at Cosi, Bethesda 
Last fall I got to interview fashion designer Vicky Tiel whose trendsetting designs caught the eye of Elizabeth Taylor and other Hollywood icons of the '60s including Ursula Andress and Kim Novak She also designed costumes for movies including "What's New Pussycat" and "Pretty Woman".

I was just a little daunted when she suggested a sit-down at Cosi in Bethesda. I soon discovered there was no need.

She couldn't have been more warm and ingratiating.  A sharp businesswoman, Tiel was driven to live her life exactly how she envisioned it. "I was born to make dresses," she told me. And she still does. Just yesterday I saw one of her gowns on a show on Bravo. I'm convinced that's why at 68, she still has a youthful twinkle in her eye, a big sense of fun and a terrific sense of style. She was influenced by photographer Irving Penn and during a time of frill and fuss, went for spare, clean lines in her designs.

I already felt like I knew her because I'd done my homework and read her recent book, It's All About the Dress, which reveals so much of her. We talked about men, friendship, sex, growing up in Chevy Chase in the '60s, being a cheerleader, sex, being a geisha, men (read the book). We tried on coats down the street at Snowimage.

Now she's happily married to a (younger) man (remember, "geisha") and creating gowns for the Home Shopping Network. She still has her shop, Vicky Tiel, in Paris. Needless to say, I took in every word, eager to absorb the atmosphere around a woman who manages to retain her youthful energy, power, sexuality and creativity at age 68. Rock stars do it. Vicky does, too. 
Read more from my interview with Vicky Tiel in the Shop Talk column in the January/February issue of Bethesda Magazine. 

Vicky drawing a sketch in my book 
Book signing

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New year, new outlook

 As we leave 2011 behind and look forward to 2012, I just want to wish my readers all the best in the new year. Most of us ritually make resolutions and I'm hoping that all of you have some dynamic plans and hopes! There's nothing like a fresh start to renew and inspire, whether it's finding your true passion, a great love, a new job, a new business, a terrific book--all ways to help leave a mark on the world.

I'm looking to change up this blog with new eclectic thoughts, sightings and visuals. And finding time to pursue all the things I love most.

Here's to a new start in 2012, bringing in the new and letting go of the dull and rut-like things in our not-so-comfortable "comfort zone". Cheers to all and have a happy, healthy new year!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Fit: New Year's Resolution = Fitness Done Right

Strong IS the new skinny. Working out
at CrossFit Done Right in Rockville
Here we go, New Year’s resolutions. “I will lose 20 pounds.” “I will get sleek, firm arms like Michelle Obama.” “I will run an eight-minute mile.” We say these kinds of things every Jan. 1.

This time, why don’t you seriously, really do it?

If you’ve been slogging around with the same old routine—15 minutes on the elliptical, a weight machine circuit, a class here and there—yawn—maybe it’s time to try something new.

I don’t have a lot of time to wander around a gym trying to figure out what to do or the money to waste on programs that don’t work. At the suggestion of my trainer, Madeleine Watkins, I started taking classes at CrossFit Done Right in Rockville.

As a group of people ranging from military vets to new mothers to middle-aged men, we run, we squat, we stretch, we jump rope, we do pull-ups and sit-ups. Can’t do any of those things? No problem—you work at your own ability and pace with whatever props and help you need. That’s the point. Though the workouts come  “as prescribed,” the gym acknowledges the fact that most people require different prescriptions.

You’re in there for you. Want to lift weights and stoke your metabolism? Do it. You won’t be fiddling around with 3-lb padded dumbbells, you’ll be hoisting a barbell with plates. Granted those plates may not be as heavy as the big guy’s next to you, but who cares? It will not only make you stronger and more confident, it will totally blast the fat from your amazed, slacker self before you know it.

And that’s the best part. You won’t feel like a slacker for long. Once the clock for the workout of the day buzzes to start, you’ll feel like a kid on the playground, trying your best to beat it and having fun in the process. Everyone spends a lot of time cheering each other on. Then boom, it’s done, you’ve worked out as hard as you can and it’s time to stretch and go home. Every day is a different workout; there’s not much time for you—or your body—to get bored.

The coaches there, in addition to Madeleine, are certified and top-notch. They’ll help you with nutrition, skills and training and give you individualized instruction. There’s no wasted time and wasted effort. And you’ll love your new body and confidence—both inside and outside the gym.

For more information about classes and kids’ programs, visit the website at or contact Justin Bacon or Rob Koebke at 301-535-1316. Plans are in the works for a program to prepare runners for MoCo’s Pike’s Peek 10K race on April 29.

12160 Nebel St., 
Rockville, MD, 20852, 301-535-1316, 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Midnight at the Mall: Our guest blogger lives to tell the tale

Photo credit:
By guest blogger Will Watkins, 21, a college senior home for the holidays who hit Montgomery Mall's midnight Black Friday sale

Thanksgiving is one of the few days my friends from home ever feel too tired and full to go out, and so we found ourselves with a Thursday night and no idea what to do.  The night quickly took a turn toward the aimless nights of high school, with a group of guys piled into my car and no destination in mind. We headed to the Shell station next to Montgomery Mall—yes that was our best idea—and on our way we noticed cars streaming into the mall parking lot.

“Should we check out Black Friday?” I asked the group.

“Nah, there’s no reason to go.”

“Dude, we’re actually hanging out a gas station.”

After the aforementioned argument quickly took care of itself, we pulled into the mall and miraculously found a spot on the first floor of the jammed garage adjacent to the movie theater. We entered the mall--it was packed. As we walked into the food court, we were instantly brought back to our days of Walter Johnson open lunch: high schoolers were everywhere. 

Even so, we took note of the surreal nature of being in a crowded shopping center at 1 a.m. on a holiday. Hollister and Abercrombie had their half-naked models out in full force, and a DJ near one of the cell phone stands was blasting Miley Cyrus for the whole mall to enjoy. 

I realized I could pick up some toys for my sister. The gym where she works, CrossFit Done Right, was hosting a 5K race in support of Toys for Tots. After  stocking up on Matchbox cars and Batman action figures at Smart Toys, we were back in the food court waiting for my friend Tom to get Chik-fil-A (I guess Thanksgiving wasn’t enough?).  While we were waiting--and waiting--I realized that I needed a new pair of jeans. Tom echoed my sentiments. 

Our first destination was Old Navy, which promised all adult jeans at only $15 a pair. This was enough to get us into the store, but the line stretched from the cash registers all the way to the back wall. Given the fact that the Old Navy checkout lines are dreadfully slow when the store is empty, I decided that the savings were not worth the time.

Our next stop was American Eagle, which offered 40% off all purchases made before 9 a.m.. This too was attractive, but once again the line was too much for us to handle. 

Just as we were ready to leave, I spotted the sale advertisement at Aeropostale: 50% off everything in the store, with an additional 20% off before 9 am. I sped into the store. After some initial puzzlement about whether or not I was looking at men’s jeans, I found a pair that looked good and was roughly my size. It was marked at $49.99, and with the discount and tax they came to about $20, a great deal for good quality denim. As were waiting in line, another friend, Kyle, suddenly decided that the deal was too good to pass up. He went back for a pair and handed them off to Tom with some cash. Kyle needed shoes too, but he decided that DSW on a regular day was cheaper than anything in the mall on Black Friday.

We left the mall feeling satisfied with our purchases. I am definitely planning on returning to Black Friday next year.