The Sunscreen You Should Have Used this Summer

Just because it’s no longer summer doesn’t mean you can put away the sunscreen! Especially here in the Bay Area, we tend to have Indian Summers. However, we’ve already had several strange and unusual heat waves, so who knows what the weather will actually be.

This is my go-to sunscreen recommended by every dermatologist and esthetician I’ve seen. It’s Colorescience Sunforgettable and it’s (gasp!) a powder that’s really easy and convenient to apply. Because let’s face it, the sunscreen that’s easiest to use is the one that you’ll actually put on.

My whole life I was allergic to sunscreen. Always broke out in a rash whenever I dabbed any on. Sadly, I’m also allergic to the sun (yes, the f*ing sun) so I was miserable during the summers. A dermatologist finally figured out that I was allergic to chemical, but not physical sunscreens.

15 years ago, there weren’t many physical sunscreens (those containing Zinc and Titanium) in the market which meant I looked like Casper the Friendly Ghost when I applied them. But now it looks like it’s mainly physical sunscreens (which are way better for you) that are being sold and they come in a variety of textures and opacity.

Colorescience Sunforgettable is much more expensive than regular sunscreens, but hey, you pay a premium for quality. Active ingredients are Zinc Oxide at 24% and Titanium Dioxide at 24%. I challenge you to compare these percentages to your brand of sunscreen and I’m confident you will be impressed.

Have you heard of the Environmental Working Group? They publish several consumer guides and maintain databases of products with an assigned safety rating. You can lookup and research sunscreen products here.

Do you have a favorite sunscreen?

The People’s Pope

If you haven’t gleaned from reading my blog, I am very Catholic. I say that with a wince because even though I’m proud to be Catholic, I am not one of those religious fanatics who follows the letter of the law. People think that when you say, I’m very this or that, that you adhere to a certain set of rules. I’m not like that. Against the backdrop of the Catholic faith, I follow my own set of principles and values that work for me. As an example, I am pro-choice. Who am I to tell someone else what they can and cannot do?

My son’s name Francisco came about for a variety of reasons. The name is common in both Italy and the Philippines which is Dean’s heritage and my heritage, respectively. Also, the kid was born in the city of San Francisco. The patron saint of San Francisco is St. Francis and the pope chose to honor St. Francis and his mission to serve the poor by taking on that name. For all of those reasons, Franco is so named, but mainly he is named after Pope Francis. Here is a recent shot of my 16 month old baby ringing the bell in front of Maria Lanakila Catholic church in Lahaina, Maui.

I couldn’t be more thrilled that the holy and humble Pope Francis has ascended to lead the Catholic church. Even from the beginning, he eschewed the upgrades in clothing, transportation and lodging provided to the pope. He opted to live in a guest house outside the papal palace. This is unprecedented, but so welcome by his followers. Finally! Someone who is following in the footsteps of Jesus. Makes sense, right? And his actions and message of openness and humility are obviously resonating with legions of people.

“God has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone…even the atheists, everyone!”

Here is the leader of a major religion who cares about all of humanity, not just his own religious congregation. “In a world where different forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or as I mentioned before, try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices calling for peace, tolerance, respect for the dignity and rights of others.” I love the picture above of Pope Francis with other religious leaders. This is the way it should be. Everyone praying for each other.

Another thing I love about this man is how he asks for our prayers. Most priests and religious leaders bless the people, but Pope Francis constantly asks for our prayers in return. To me, he is saying, I am a sinful man. I am not without fault. I need your prayers too.

In his speech to Congress, Pope Francis said the following in regard to immigration, but obviously meant it in all aspects of our lives. “We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Many blessings and prayers for this amazing leader who is spreading messages of love around the world.

PS. I have to throw out there that I saw Pope John Paul II in his popemobile in the Philippines in 1995. The crowds were shockingly large since the Philippines is a very Catholic country. Nevertheless, as short as I am, I got to see him! I am hoping we will get to see Pope Francis one day.

SOS from Hawaii

A quick note to say that I will be offline for a while as we are vacationing in Hawaii right now. Note to self: next time I travel with a toddler we need to either: 1) stay in the same time zone which would be ideal, or 2) vacation in a time zone that is ahead.

Hawaii is 3 hours behind California. So when little human alarm clock Franco buzzes awake at 6am California time, that means it’s 3am in Maui. You know what’s happening in Maui at 3am? Crickets are chirping!

Now let’s say we were in Montreal and Franco wakes up at 6am California time, at least we could go to a cafe and drink hot chocolate and eat croissants because that would be 9am Montreal time. No one told me that changing time zones would be a big red flag. Pretty much everything I read said that kids adjust easily. Haha! That’s bullshit. But we’re only a few days in, so we shall see!

We went to one of the few places that was open at 7am Maui time and the place was packed with tourists. Anyone need a business idea? Open restaurants in Hawaii with very early hours. Guaranteed business!

Burning Love

Photo by Shawn Harlan

Photo by Brad Grossman

I have been reading the recaps pouring in from Burning Man (here is one of my faves), and I feel nostalgic for the magical memories I have from attending the event over the course of 10+ years. I wish I could go again, but right now, my time is devoted to my baby boy. As I scan the pictures of art installations, colorful costumes, and the temple engulfed in electric orange flames, I’m not jealous. I’m happy that 70,000 people were able to experience the same joy I felt when I was there.

The night that the Man burned, I texted some of my friends, “Thinking of you tonight on Burn Night and all the memories we shared during Burning Man.”

One texted back, “Wow what great times we shared. I cherish them. Some of the best times of my life. Thank you.”

It’s hard to convey what Burning Man is…a festival, an experiment in temporary community, art and raves in the middle of the desert. Maybe I can demystify it a little with a couple of those cherished memories.

I remember biking around the playa with my friend Joanna, exploring the city. We stopped at bars, chugged a few drinks, then biked around some more, making our way from one outdoor dance club to another. We were about done for the night when she pointed at a structure in the distance, glistening from the dim light of lanterns. We pulled up to an open yurt with a long dining room table and benches to sit and relax. There was no one there, just the two of us, stumbling upon this oasis. Laid out on the table were slices of cake on paper plates. Timidly, we took a couple bites. Moist sugary goodness, as if a sheet of cake had recently been cut up. We looked at each other, eyes arching in shock, is this for real? Seriously, is this place for real?

I have heard several people say that the event is about bartering. That’s not true at all. It’s a gift economy, with nothing expected in return. And it’s not necessarily gifting of material things, but offering and sharing from the heart. Once I was caught in a dust storm. You’re supposed to be prepared at all times for the worst, but I wasn’t. In fact, I was scared. Scared because I could not see anything in any direction except for sand-colored dust. Plus I was alone. I crouched down low to protect my face, but I was also scared that at any moment a car or bike would bludgeon me. Out of nowhere, someone crossed my path on foot, saw that I was unprotected, removed his own goggles and placed them over my head while tightening and making adjustments to fit them over my eyes. He took his dust mask off and cupped it over my mouth. Then he walked away.

Or the time when my camp mates decided to forego the wild parties and stay in for the night. We gathered in a circle, cups of wine in hand, and played round after round of Apples to Apples. We couldn’t stop giggling and jabbing each other. The next day, everyone kept saying how fun it had been, as if we had partied like a bunch of yahoos when all we had done was play simple board games. These are only a couple examples, but I have a lot of stories like that.

But more than anything, what I genuinely feel as I read the news articles and scroll through picture after picture is love. In a world where people have turned their backs on one another, where children are washing ashore dead, we need love. It may be hidden or clouded, or we may have lost our way or conscience, but love exists. Sometimes we have to take a trip or make a realignment, and that’s ok. Whether that means attending a festival, conference, spiritual retreat, or Burning Man, then let’s do it.

The reason why Burning Man means so much to me, and I imagine to the many people who have attended, is because love spilleth over on the dusty playa. The ethos and culture is pure, effusive, love for strangers.

If we connected in more kind, generous ways, there would be less gun violence, more openness to refugees, diminished politics, more collaboration, and greater understanding. That said, we may think we need to travel to Black Rock City to find that connection again, but love is accessible, right here and now in our own communities.

I began this post with pictures of a haunting art installation from this year’s Burn. I had to learn more about this sad, beautiful piece. Serendipitously, after writing the majority of this post, I learned that the name of the piece is LOVE, created by Alexandr Milov from Odessa, Ukraine. Here is a description of the piece from the Burning Man 2015 Art Installation web page.

“LOVE is a sculpture by Alexandr Milov. It demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature. The figures of the protagonists are made in the form of big metal cages, where their inner selves are captivated. Their inner selves are executed in the form of transparent children, who are holding out their hands through the grating. As it’s getting dark (night falls) the children chart to shine. This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up when the dark time arrives.”

Although I did not go this year, I’m reminded of how connected I felt, how respected and loved. Burners call normal life, the ‘default world’ and we all profess how we will try very hard to take the ethos of Burning Man back to the default world after the event is over. That is difficult to do. But my hope is that today on the anniversary of September 11, even in the midst of darkness, you will think back on treasured memories when your heart soared and you loved. Life can be and is good.

Guide to Palm Springs

It’s Fall already and it is hotter than hell in this neck of the woods. Dean had to install an air conditioner in Franco’s room yesterday, it was so damn hot. By the way, no one has AC in the Bay Area. You just always opened up a window to sufficiently cool off. But global warming has ushered in a new era of unbearable heat. After putting together a Guide to Seattle, I thought it would be fun to continue building my travel guides. There’s no better way to say good-bye to summer than a trek to always sunny Palm Springs.

Palm Springs is very special to us as it’s the place where we got married and celebrated with 100 family members and friends. Someone had suggested we might want to check it out as a wedding location and the very first time Dean and I stepped into the Ace Hotel, we knew we had found our spot. Everything about Palm Springs screams VACATION! It’s hot, fun, and relaxing.


Ace Hotel & Swim Club
701 E Palm Canyon Dr.

A converted Howard Johnson motel, the Ace Hotel is desert hip. The rooms are rustically decorated—like you are camping, but in a luxury tent. Plus everything you need is at the hotel: bikes (not that I have ever biked in 90 degree temperature!), Vespas, two pools, a spa (nothing fancy), a diner (a converted Denny’s called King’s Highway), a bar (the Amigo Room), and a photobooth.

Motel 6
595 E Palm Canyon Dr.

There is a Motel 6 next to the Ace Hotel that is super cheap (obviously) and perfectly sufficient if you don’t plan to spend all day lounging in your room. I say that because you can sleep at the Motel, then make your way to the Ace to lounge poolside.

Parker Palm Springs
4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr.

If I had my druthers, this is where I would stay in Palm Springs and I would not leave! Designed by Jonathan Adler, who is one of our favorite designers, it is a photographer’s dream. People stop by just to take pictures at the Parker—not that that’s the only thing to do. You can play croquet, order cocktails from the outdoor lemonade stand, relax at the amazing PSYC (Palm Springs Yacht Club) spa, have brunch at Norma’s, and dine at Mister Parker’s.

415 S Belardo Rd.

We’ve also stayed at the Viceroy and enjoyed it. Pretty standard with pool, spa, and restaurant/bar. It’s closer to the main drag of town which may be appealing if you don’t want to drive everywhere. It’s also a smaller boutique hotel, meaning less crowds and raucousness.


Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
One Tram Way

The tram is the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world. Incredible views! At the very top, there’s a café, restaurant, and bar. I would love to go back and do a hike. Apparently, there are miles and miles of hiking trails all around the mountain. The cold weather and breeze at the top of the mountain are a huge contrast to the desert heat.

Palm Springs Visitor Center
2901 North Palm Canyon Drive

The Palm Springs Visitor Center is a former gas station at the bottom of the road that leads to the tram. It’s a historic site noted as an example of modern architecture.

From the Visitor Center, you can see Palm Springs’ iconic windmills. You can see the windmills from many different directions, but the Visitor Center is a good anchor location if you don’t know exactly where to go.

Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway
1350 Ladera Circle

It was closed when we went, but we did a little tour from outside. Super cool. It’s like being transported to the 1960s. I wish we could have gone inside. Next time!

Palm Springs Yacht Club (PSYC)
4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs

I love spas! I could spend all day in a steam room turning into a prune. If I had limited time on this earth, I would hightail it to PSYC at the Parker Hotel and tell everyone I knew to meet me there. It’s probably my favorite spa ever! Beautiful indoor pool and every spa amenity you can think of. Put this on your bucket list.


622 N. Palm Canyon Dr.

Exceptional brunch spot. All the classics (chilaquiles, eggs benedict, French toast, bacon flight) done with zeal. I detest waiting, but this place is worth it.

200 W. Ramon Rd.

Melvyn’s is an upscale classic restaurant which defines 1950s Hollywood glamour. Waiters in uniform and tableside cooking!

330 E Amado Rd

This place is one of my faves. The food is great. They call it world cuisine, but it’s really just a smorgasbord of every kind of food you can imagine: sushi, pizza, spring rolls, ribs, shrimp tacos…and it is all so damn good! Great vibe. Fun for small or big gatherings with tables both inside and out.

Kings Highway
701 E. Palm Canyon Dr.

This is the diner attached to the Ace Hotel. The menu is extensive and the food is good, especially for a hotel restaurant with a daytime, evening, and kids menu.

Mister Parker’s
4200 E. Palm Canyon Dr.

Having dinner at Mister Parker’s is an ideal option for checking out the hotel without splurging on accommodations. You can also opt for breakfast or lunch at Norma’s (the daytime restaurant at The Parker), but I think you get more bang for your buck with Mister Parker’s. Food is good too. Food is actually pretty good all over Palm Springs!

The Original Las Casuelas
368 N Palm Canyon Dr.

This is where to go for margaritas and Mexican food.


200 W. Ramon Rd.

If you only have one night in Palm Springs, go to Melvyn’s! Imagine me, Dean, a friend of ours, and Dean’s parents, ordering rounds of drinks, dancing, and howling along with the singer at the piano bar. Music and entertainment every night of the week.

Amigo Room
701 E Palm Canyon Dr.

The bartenders make stiff drinks—not really my style, but this is a fun place to have a cocktail.


Renting a car is ideal, but you can also call for cabs. Does Uber service Palm Springs?!