Hey, Cool Mom! With Vanessa Hutchinson-Szekely
Get psyched up, ‘cause you’re about to meet your new best friend. She’s a San Francisco native (about as rare as the abominable snowman), teacher, traveler, joy-radiator, and burrito-enthusiast. As if that’s not enough, she’s eager, she’s excitable, and she’s well-researched on all the good topics (i.e. skincare, clothing, and collective bargaining). She’ll give you the complete rundown on all things fun and get you pumped up about issues that matter. She’ll meticulously plan the little things, like hygge-filled friend-hangs, and be completely spontaneous about the big things, like moving her family (and you and YOUR family, obvi) to France for a year.
She’ll support ALL your stuff.
She’ll run a mile or marathon with you.
She’s superb, she’s sensational, she’s your next great pal... Meet, Vanessa!
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Vanessa Hutchinson-Szekely...a half-Californian and half-French mama who loves living in big cities (SF, NYC, Paris and LA). I’m born and raised in SF, and currently live there with my fam. YES to living in a place where you hear your neighbors, you don’t need your car and you can listen to music or grab a quick bite at any time. My heart swells with city energy. And yet….I’ve always wondered what it would be like to switch everything up: nature, calm, less hustle bustle...so this year….I’m planning a major change: a year sabbatical in a tiny French mountain village. OMG. It makes me nervous and excited to think of this new reality.
These days I am pretty obsessed with …. skincare (how many facial cleansers or acid toners are too many in your bathroom cart?!), home decor (Hygge anyone?), newfound love for running (had no idea that I would/could ever voice that statement a year ago) and green smoothies (the staple that launches me out of bed and in the morning), oldfound love for yoga and …. burritos (saved the best for last). Except I’m not eating them right now because I’m on the January Whole 30 diet craze.
Oh, and I’m turning 40.
Describe your family.
I’m married to one of the most dynamic dudes on the planet, Jack Doyle, so there’s quite a lot of outdoor activity, music and rad friends/family in my life. He’s such a force! We met teaching in LA and now both work for SFUSD. We’ve been together for fifteen years and have two little girls (Marcelle, 6 and Lexine, 4). Both girls are bilingual and it’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of in my life. My mom lives in SF and also plays a massive role in their upbringing. The girls see her almost daily, and it’s such a bonus for us because it encourages date nights. Thank you Mamé!
What do you do most days?
I work full time, but my job provides an amazing quality of life since my husband and I are both on the teaching calendar. I love my work (mentoring new teachers) and have been in education for almost 20 years. Currently, with work in mind, I’m focusing my energy on union activities and working to ensure our members’ rights are being met, and striving to connect with the larger CA educator community around issues that impact us all. I support California Educators Rising, which is working to fully and progressively fund public education in CA. Currently, CA is almost last when it comes to per pupil funding yet we are the richest state. This needs to change.
When I’m not at work there are so many things to think of and do. Especially since having kids, I feel like my brain is constantly ping ponging, cause there’s so much to constantly manage between all of our different roles: self, wife, mom, daughter, friend, work person, etc….All that said, I spend a lot of time thinking of my home and how to constantly maximize the coziness vibe. Recently, I’ve been on a plant rampage and have been adding plants to every room. Only two succulents are fake so I have to remember not to water those little guys. I read tons of design blogs, fall into the Pinterest rabbit hole and am always redoing layouts of rooms in my head. So, when I’m at home in the evenings, once the little ladies are snoozing, I love to lay under a blanket and watch tv (deep dive into The Americans series), or scroll on my phone for way too long. Or, I go upstairs because our neighbors are also our BFFs and it’s great to be able to walk 30 seconds and plop down for a chat session over a beer with some of my favorite people. We keep talking about how we should play scrabble but the plastic wrapper remains intact. They also have two kids (both boys) so we’ve got quite a rambunctious house. We call it The Compound, and it’s basically my dream turned into reality.
Who and/or what is inspiring you these days?
All the ladies in this country who are taking care of business every single day. Hello midterm election results! Some are doing that within their families, others are running for office and/or leaders of their organizations or making ways in the art/music world. There are so many brilliant, outspoken, talented, wise, beautiful and inspiring young and old women. They are reminders of how I want to be now and who I want to continue to grow into as I age. Women are a force and that force will be making more waves in the future as our patriarchal society continues to be confronted with our frustrations and how we want things to change. To increasing maternity/paternity leave and paying educators a living wage!
Tell us about what it's like living in San Francisco with a young family.
I love raising the girls in my hometown. This city is amazing for children as there are so many parks, playgrounds, beaches or other outdoor spots to visit (in the city or within a 5min to 3 hours radius) as well as the best food and people from all over. We ride bikes all over the city, with them on the back, or take public transport and try to limit the use of our car. We’ve had passes to the Academy of Sciences and the Zoo. Typical weekends involve going to China Beach, where the kids play in the water in wet suits and then we get burritos (so many debates regarding “best” burrito...Two thumbs up to La Taqueria, and our local spot Chino’s). I’m not a fan of cold water or swimming near sea creatures but I don’t want to get left behind so I recently purchased a wetsuit. It’s hot pink & neon yellow and was insanely discounted. I haven’t used it yet, but am praying this is my ticket to learn to enjoy the Nor Cal waters.
Though the city has changed a lot in recent years and the cost of living is outrageous, I’m doing all I can (read side hustles like airbnb-ing my own home) to continue to live here and raise kids. SF is still such a gem: progressive, dynamic, diverse (though this is one of the biggest issues with the current cost of living and how it’s reshaping the face of SF in negative ways).
One of my treasured (and trying to be monthly) rituals with two girlfriends is to plan an evening of our favorite things. We each throw in $40 and one of us is responsible for curating the agenda, which is a surprise for the other two. One evening involved drinks on Haight St at Zam Zam, then a hike up to Buena Vista park to check out the sunset, before further explorations of Lower Haight where we stopped for dinner at The Lodge and then went roller skating at the Church of 8 Wheels. We end up taking turns and usually just tell the other two the initial meeting location and what the theme is so everyone can plan outfits accordingly. It’s become one of things I look the most forward to!
And finally...this post would not be complete if I didn’t mention our new sauna. In turning 40, it’s making me really take stock of life. Like preparing for prom is the most fun about actual prom, I'm embracing this concept for the next 60 years of my life. Death and turning 100 will be prom and all that that entails. But the 60 year sojourn I'm embarking on now will be full of that flush faced excitement that finding the perfect vintage rose colored prom dress brings. Side note, I still own this dress and my daughter put it on yesterday. Which leads me to the sauna…..we invested in a Compound sauna, and it’s such a fantastic ritual in which to participate. We are so little without our health. Cheers to the next year, to adventures and to health.
What books are you reading or wanting to read?
I recently finished My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (must get my hands on the second one AND start the HBO series). Another blog I read (Cup of Jo) highly recommended the first book and I found myself clicking “buy” on Amazon. I have Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie waiting on my nightstand. I recently read A Feminist Manifesto and saw a TED Talk by Adichie so I wanted to read more from her. Also wanting to read “Rich People Problems”. Loved books 1 and 2, and the movie for Crazy Rich Asians was so fun and clever. In general, I’m trying to reach for more female writers or watch films/shows produced by female directors/producers. The more we support women artists, and women from different backgrounds, the better we are as a society.
What’s your favorite song for 1) a dance party 2) feeling sad
1)a. MIA- Paper Planes: I listened to this on repeat during miles 11-13 of the half marathon. Literally, this song saved me. Those last two miles were SO brutal.
b. Second fave if I’m in the car with the girls: ZAZ- Je Veux. It’s so cute when they try to belt out her lyrics at the top of their lungs.
2) Leonard Cohen or Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah: I adore this song.
3) Overall: Anything by Tom Petty. Am so thankful that I saw his last tour.
What’s catching your eye?
My favorite modern painter is also one of my girlfriends. Her canvases are GORGEOUS. Colette Hannahan. She paints these beautiful SF landscapes (some tiny, some HUGE) in these great muted color combos with big skies. I have like 7 pieces from her up right now.
For the home:
Since the age of 12….or as long as I can remember...I’ve been thinking about my skin. Initially due to puberty’s outcry on my face and then in my pore minimizing life search, and general love of applying creams/oils to my body. Outside of my prescription Retin A…..my favorite skincare products right now are: Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 (works MAGIC on the everlasting hunt to tighten pores. If you haven’t tried an acid exfoliant, run don’t walk.), Filorga’s anti brown spot spf 50, Biore’s UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen (it’s SPF 50 and texture is gel like and sinks in so quickly), Glossier’s Balm Dotcom or Nuxe Reve de Miel lip salves (I reach for these morning, noon and night) and Kiehl’s Ultra facial cleanser or Acure’s Brilliant Cleansing Gel (so many in rotation but I’m digging the feel and smell of these ones and how they remove makeup too) and for Vitamin C oil AND MY CURRENT TOTAL MUST HAVE PRODUCT… “C” Perfect Skin by Nieves. Digging Glossier’s Creme de Glossier as a night cream (thick creamy texture) and Claudalie’s Spray elixir. Still looking for an amazing eye cream, and really want to try Elta MD sunscreen and Sunday Riley’s Good Genes. SokoGlam, & Into the Gloss are some of my go to beauty blogs.
I keep it super simple. Focus is primarily on skincare but I can’t live without Benefit’s Roller lash curling Mascara and Reina Rebelde’s Brava lipstick when I need a pop of color. Heard about this makeup line in a killer interview with Regina Merson on my favorite podcast, Forever 35. This podcast is like listening to two of my girlfriends hash it out over serums, and life issues. So much wit, humour, interesting topics and laughs.
Kristen Ess “Signature” Hair line at Target for Shampoo and Conditioner. Want to try their sea salt air dry spray. Recently, I’ve been sleeping with a high wet bun, and loving how my hair looks the next day. This spray may just take it to the next level.
COS, Uniqlo, Anthropologie, Everlane, Madewell, and socks/underwear from Old Navy in the girls section. Post Kondo kraze (oh, Netflix, be still my heart!), my closet feels empty. Am hosting a “closet cleanout” party in a few weeks where pals are bringing their pieces that no longer spark joy, and am hoping to acquire a few new items to fill my now half empty dresser.
Colleen Mauer!!! This is a woman owned and operated business that makes beautiful, cool, edgy, awesome pieces. Mixed metals, cool designs. Obsessed with my earrings. Thank you husb! Gifted my sister-in-law the interlocking bangles for her 40th. Sooo coveting.
Warby Parker glasses. 3 pairs of affordable, cool glasses (including sun ones!) later…..Plus, their staff is supremely helpful.
What clothes are making you feel good?
Really into boxy tops right now, and giant pockets.
I have a dress and sweater from COS that both have giant pockets, and boxy cuts and they are so comfortable and cool. My French girlfriend intro-ed me to COS when I was visiting her a few years ago and my only regret is that the SF store no longer exists. Vacation stops in the summer are sometimes planned around COS visits. That’s a secret that my family doesn’t know.
Also, I recently bought a crew neck white T-shirt from Everlane that has a boxy cut and I cannot stop wearing it. It goes with everything, looks awesome and at the end of the day...is just a white T so you can also sleep in it. I wish I had like five….and maybe one with a scoop neck. Other than that, I love sneakers (Adidas, Vans, New Balance, Converse High Tops) and jumpsuits/overalls. Give me a classic white sneaker over a high heel any day or time. The Gap has nailed it twice in the overall category. I have a black jumpsuit that goes so easily from day/night and a pair of jean overalls that I wear every weekend.
Jackets. Can you have too many??? They really pull together an outfit. Love a long jacket, a furry white sheep one, a boxy black winter short guy or a jean jacket.
Finally, one of my favorite items is a super soft and cozy sweatshirt that my COS-loving friend’s brother made! So much love for the Menegaux family. His brand is called Ville Lumiere and is a nod to the Parisian soccer team PSG.
Thanks so much Vanessa!!
Can I hold your (acid-exfoliated) hand across the Golden Gate Bridge someday?
P.S. There’s more Vanessa where that came from. An in-depth rundown of her skincare/beauty routines is forthcoming!