Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Have Become A Groupon Junkie

I have become a Groupon junkie.  I have restaurant coupons for restaurants that no longer exist.  I have had haircuts where the tip has cost me more than the coupon –because it states that you must tip on the full worth of the service.  I bought four coupons for the Emperor Norton tour of San Francisco and can’t, for the life of me, think of anyone who might like to go!  But the Groupon experience I most like to tell about is my visit to Natasha for a facial.

I have only had one facial in my life before this one.  I treated myself when I turned sixty.  So here it was, seven years later, and I get this Groupon for a $125.00 facial with Natasha for only $35.00.  What a deal!  And I deserve it.  And my pores were probably well clogged since the last deep cleansing my face received seven years ago.  So CLICK! 

The day came and I looked up the address on MapQuest.  Hmm… strange… it was in a very weird part of town, but what did I know?  But it was in a very strange place- a one-way alley hemmed in between two very large commercial streets.  Natasha’s place turned out to be her home - #3.  I rang the bell and a man answered the door.  “Are you here to see Natasha?” 

“Yes,” I replied.  He led me up some stairs, through a cluttered den into their living room and told me that Natasha was with another client, but that she would be with me shortly.  In the meantime, would I fill out these sheets.  He handed me a clipboard with four sheets of questions on it.  Are you allergic to____;  have you ever had skin cancer;  have you had surgery?   How many pregnancies... I mean, I’m just here for a facial- why did they need my medical history?  Then the questionnaire wanted to know what products I use, how often I use them.

By the time Miss Natasha arrived, my blood pressure had risen and I was wondering if I really wanted to go through with it all.  “Are you Nancy? Hi, I’m Natasha, won’t you come up to my studio.”  Natasha was a very petite young girl about 27 years old with lovely skin!  I followed her up a short flight of stairs to a very small room with a table covered with sheet and a blanket, lemon verban incense, and  Enya type music.  She gave me a white strapless terry cloth wrap and told me to take off everything above my waist and get under the covers. 

After a short while, she knocked and entered.  Coming over to the head of the table and peering down at my face she asked, “When you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, what is it you don’t like about it?”

I was a bit dumbfounded- not quite computing her question.  Picking up on my hesitation, Natasha added, “Is it the wrinkles?  Is it the lack of elasticity?  Is it the lack of luster?”

‘Well,” I said, “I am sixty seven years old.  It would be nice not to have any wrinkles, but I think I’ve earned them.  When I look into the mirror, I like myself.”

“Tell me why you’re here?” she queried.

“I’m here to treat myself.  The last facial I had was seven years ago, and I just thought it would be a treat.”

“You don’t treat yourself to a facial.  You skin is something that needs daily maintenance.  Did you know that the skin is the largest living organ in the body?”  What do you use to clean your face?”

“I use soap,” I replied naively.

“BAR SOAP?” she asked with a noticeable rise in her voice.

“No.  It’s liquid and comes in one of those push bottles.”

“You really need to learn to take care of your skin.  There are nine steps to good daily maintenance.  First you need a cleanser or purifier then a toner then an exfolient, then a rub followed by a moisturizer.  Then put on a specialized foundation before applying any makeup.  The final step must always be a sunblock.”

“I need to do that every day?:” I asked incredulously.

“Optimally, you should do that twice a day,” she said.

By this time I was ready to bolt out of my strapless terry cloth wrap and go home.  My head was beginning to pound and I was feeling as if I had taken the wrong train.

The facial began.  The warm heat felt good; the oils smelled lovely, and I began to relax just a bit.  Well in to the procedure, Natasha said, “I could sculpt your eyebrows and make them very nice. “

“Oh, yes, that would be lovely.”  My eyebrows are very unruly.  I have taken of late to just plucking out any white ones that appear, so I was delighted to have a professional help them out.  I was told it would cost an additional $15.00, but I was already getting such a deal that I had no problem with that.

“I could also dye them for you.  They would look very nice.  That would only be $15.00 more.”

“Dye them?  How often would I have to have that done?

“Oh, just every six weeks or so.”

“No, thanks.  I’ll just take the sculpting.”

When the facial was over Natasha said,  “I will start you out very slowly.  I would recommend a cleanser and a sun block at first , and as you get used to applying those, you can work your way up to full care.  She showed me a small bottle of the cleanser and an even smaller bottle of the sun block. 

“How much are these,” I asked.

“The cleanser is $35.00.  The sunblock (which was a smaller bottle) is $45.00 but you only need a very small amount each use.”

“Thank you very much.  I will think about it, but pass for now.”

She left the room; I got out of my wrap and back in to my clothes.  I opened the door, smiled, and said, “Thank you very much, Natasha.”  She walked me to the front door, and the cool San Francisco breeze hit my newly cleansed face as if to say, “Nancy, you are free!”  I was exhausted; I had a migraine headache; my armpits were sweaty, and I was a tightly wound ball of nerves.

Now in all fairness, I think Natasha was probably a very good facialist-cosmetologist- or whatever one might call her.  And I would not be at all surprised that, if she were writing in a blog, a sixty-seven year old named Nancy would have been one of her nightmare clients that she wrote about.  Let’s just say when the next Groupon deal comes along for a facial, I can guarantee that I am not going to CLICK!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Paraty - an enchanted place

Glorita, her cousin, Angela, and I left Rio around noon on Thursday to drive to Paraty, a kind of fishing village on the coast half way between Rio and Sao Paulo.  The drive down was beautiful as we weaved between the coast and lush green hills.   We arrived in Paraty about 5:00 after stopping for lunch.

Arthur, Clo and the boys, on the other hand, left Sao Paulo at 9:30 Thursday morning.  The drive to Paraty should have taken them about 5 hours as well.  Instead, it took 12 hours, and they arrived bedraggled at 9:30 at night! We hadn't experienced any traffic from Rio because people GO to Rio for long holiday weekends. 
It is beautiful and there are gorgeous beaches, so even the Cariocans stay in the city.  Sao Paulo, on the other hand, is a huge concrete city and when a long weekend offers itself, everyone wants to leave and go to the coast.  Arthur said that over 386,000 cars left Sao Paulo on Thursday.

It was almost like an evacuation, and there were times when they sat in traffic not moving for more than ten minutes.  How they did it with three children in the car, I can't begin to know!

The owner of our cottage had told us of the horrendous traffic from Sao Paulo, so after Glorita, Angela and I had settled in, we decided to head for the old town of Paraty to have dinner.

 The town was settled more than two hundred years ago by those seeking gold.  It is absolutely charming with little shops alongside cobblestone roads.  All the shops used to be the homes of the gold miners, and they have remained the same, so you really get a feeling for what the town must have been like originally.

We ended up eating at a kind of Italian place.  We had a delicious lobster meal that came in two parts: the first was a pasta dish with the lobster meat in it, followed by a stuffed lobster.  We ate outside on the cobblestone watching all the people go by.

When we returned to our place, Arthur & Clo had just pulled in.  The boys were very excited to be there and seemed to have amazing energy considering they had been sitting in a car for 12 hours.  Arthur and Clo had nothing left!!

The next morning we headed out to find one of the many beaches in the area.  We got some excellent advice from the owners of where we were staying and found a beautiful beach.  We parked in a lot by the water's edge where many fishing boats were moored, and then walked down a path to the beach.

It was really quite beautiful, and the kids immediately headed for the water which was warm but refreshing - so different from the cold Pacific Ocean!

 Glorita was not about to make the trek back to the car, so she commandeered a fisherman to take her back by boat.  Of course the kids thought that was a great idea, so we all hopped aboard.  It was a fun trip!

 We returned home and I took the boys on a walk along the river towards town where Glorita, Angela, Arthur & Clo were going to meet us for dinner.  The river walk was charming.  We saw an egret perched on the prow of a boat, and some very cute houses that lined the pathways.

 We had a delicious meal of Pastilles - a deep fried pocket of dough filled with various choice fillings.  Nicky likes his with hearts of palm;  Timmy and I had a pizza filling.  There was cheese, meat, and other selections.  Yum!!

 The next day, Saturday, Glorita and Angela left for Rio, and we headed out to a different beach, but not before dying some Easter Eggs which Arthur had blown out and brought up from Sao Paulo!

The beach was VERY crowded- we almost couldn't find a parking place amid the seemingly thousands of cars.  But the surf was quite strong and Timmy & Nicky LOVED it!

Because we didn't want to have another 12 hour road trip home on Sunday, we decided to leave after an early supper on Saturday night.  We hit the road about 6:00 and had pretty smooth sailing arriving in Sao Paulo around 11:00.  They boys slept most of the way, and it was a nice trip.

Sunday was both Easter AND Matthew's 4th birthday!!  We headed out to the club where we tried to convince Matthew that all the Easter decorations were made just for him because it was his birthday!!

  After we had a lovely buffet dinner at the Club, we all went back to Olga and Peter's house for birthday cake and more presents. 

Then we went outside for an Easter Egg hunt.  The boys were so excited and had a wonderful time.  And Matthew, the birthday boy, found the golden egg which had American money hidden inside!!

 The next day was my last.  I would be leaving late Monday evening to return home.  After the boys returned from school, and homework was done, a final project we embarked on was to paint the small wooden boats that the boys had bought in Paraty.  It was really fun.

Looking over these pictures from my desk in San Francisco makes me ache a bit.  It was a fun visit, and I miss being close to these children.  Let's hope they return to the States before too long!