How To Be a Happy and Relaxed Host

JOY OF COOKING CMs. Batmanglij in her kitchen.
JOY OF COOKING CMs. Batmanglij in her kitchen. Photo: Eli Meir Kaplan for The Wall Street Journal

A DETAILED MAP unfolds when you open “Cooking In Iran” (Mage Publishers), the latest cookbook by Najmieh Batmanglij. It traces the contours and regions of the mountainous country as well as those that border it, bringing into vivid focus a part of the world unfamiliar to many Americans.

Born in Tehran and educated in the U.S. and France, Ms. Batmanglij has spent the last 35 years living in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., chronicling Iranian cooking and customs. After decades of guiding readers into the land of saffron, roses and pomegranates, this cookbook, her eighth, is the first she researched on the ground in Iran. The author, now 70, returned to the country she hadn’t seen since the 1979 revolution, journeying to its farthest corners, from cosmopolitan cities like Tehran and Tabriz to tiny mountain towns, to eat and cook local foods. “It was exhausting, emotionally, politically and logistically,” she said, “but every day I learned something new about Persian food.” At over 250 recipes, “Cooking In Iran” is her most ambitious book yet.

For now Ms. Batmanglij enjoys traveling to Los Angeles to visit her sons—Zal, a filmmaker, and Rostam, a musician (formerly of the band Vampire Weekend)—and to sample the city’s wealth of Persian food. But she hopes to visit Iran again soon. “My dream is to lead chefs on cooking tours there,” she said. Let’s hope she saves a few spots for home cooks.

The best feature of my kitchen is: the wonderful view. I have a pool, and a garden where almost six months of the year I grow all my herbes de Provence and Persian basil, which I love. I use it in sharbat sekanjabin, a vinegar and sugar-syrup drink, along with cilantro, mint, a slice of lime and a slice of cucumber. It’s very rafraîchissant.

The kitchen tool I can’t live without is: my Krups spice grinder. I love the mortar and pestle, but it’s heavy and hard and retains smells. I have a microplane zester for limes, oranges, tangerines and also garlic, which I grate because it’s easier than mincing and you get more flavor. Like for yogurt soup, where you use it as a raw ingredient. I use my Pars rice cooker all the time. It’s cheap. You don’t want to get a Chinese or Japanese rice cooker because they don’t make tahdig [the crispy rice at the bottom of the pot]—the temperature isn’t right. I only use the kind of rice cooker sold in Iranian stores.

Najmieh Batmanglij's wall of herbs and spices.
Najmieh Batmanglij’s wall of herbs and spices. Photo: Eli Meir Kaplan for The Wall Street Journal

My pantry is always stocked with: Olio Quattrociocchi Olivastro, an organic olive oil produced near Genoa, Italy. When you use it in salad its flavor is so wonderful. I actually use olive oil for most things now, even in baklava and other pastry; it’s vegan and it tastes so good. I buy only whole spices and keep them in glass jars. There are a few different brands of basmati I like for making classic Persian rice: Aahu Barah, Royal and Empire. I use Cortas brand rose water, and Sadaf pomegranate molasses—not the concentrate. It’s so tasty, sweet and sour.

My refrigerator is always stocked with: saffron water. I grind my saffron and dilute it in rose water, orange blossom water or plain water, and keep it chilled. I use it to flavor everything from potato croquettes to pickled mango. Always start with saffron threads, not ground saffron, and grind them yourself. You can get Saharkhiz brand Iranian saffron in the Iranian stores. The Farsi name means “rising sun at dawn,” because that’s the time of day when you harvest saffron. I always keep Sadaf brand lebni [drained yogurt] on hand. And I make dalar, a Caspian green salt blended with herbs—I also use a little olive oil and lime in mine—every three days. You can use it on everything: fish, chicken, avocados.

When I entertain, I like to: be prepared. I mise en place every dish the day before. I caramelize the onions and chop the herbs. On the day of, I only cook for 2 hours. Then I’lI shower and change and put on my make-up. When people come I’m not exhausted and overwhelmed. When I go to someone’s home I want to be greeted by someone who’s happy and relaxed. I usually ask people to do things, like toss the salad, or place a vase of flowers. I give people tasks so they become involved. It’s not a show. They should be part of things. Everyone is in the kitchen, so I have to be organized.

A wedding photo and other treasures.
A wedding photo and other treasures. Photo: Eli Meir Kaplan for The Wall Street Journal

I love it when my dinner guests bring: something nice to plant. Twenty-five years ago a woman brought me a sapling of a fragrant wintersweet tree that is now in my garden. The yellow flowers bloom in winter and the aroma is wonderful. Another friend brought me a pussy willow tree. My recipe for saffroned almond paste, in the chapter of “Cooking In Iran” on Yazd Province, makes use of it. When I was researching the book there, a woman showed me how she blanched the almonds and then spread them on sheets and covered them with freshly picked pussy willow flowers. The next morning she would remove the flowers and grind the almonds into powder.

A drink I love is: icy vodka from the freezer. When guests come over I give them a warm, spicy lamb sambuseh pastry with a shot of Grey Goose vodka in a Persian tea glass. Life changes immediately when you serve someone this combination.

The music I listen to when I’m cooking is: my son Rostam’s. He is also a very good cook.

The most underrated ingredient is: crispy fried onions. It’s one of the secrets of Iranian cooking. People use fried onions all the time but they don’t talk about it. You can scatter them over every rice dish, every stew. I have a barberry braise recipe from Kurdistan that I like to garnish with fried onions so it’s all golden and crispy on top. It’s just—oh! On salads, too. They look beautiful, and they have so much flavor. Often I season my onions with a little saffron, which has a beautiful, potent taste. Or sometimes I use turmeric, the poor man’s saffron, which has the added benefit of being good for your health. You can even use a little of both.

My favorite place to shop for food is: the Dupont Circle Farmers Market [in D.C.]. The first thing I buy is a bouquet of white flowers, which I love, from a wonderful woman farmer. I’m having fantastic time now that my kids are adults. They come to Washington and we all go to the farmers’ market, and then we cook together. It’s such a joyful experience.

I started cooking because: of the next generation. I write for my sons and every other young Iranian so they will always have these recipes and know how to cook the food of their heritage.

Najmieh Batmanglij fries onions at her home kitchen.
Najmieh Batmanglij fries onions at her home kitchen. Photo: Eli Meir Kaplan for The Wall Street Journal
Crispy Fried Onions

TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes MAKES: About 4 cups

4 medium yellow onions, sliced into thin half-moons

4 cups olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground saffron threads or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1. Line a sheet pan with paper towels. Fill a medium saucepan three quarters full with water and bring to a boil. Gently add onions, stir twice, and bring back to a boil. Drain and let sit in sieve 10 minutes. Wipe saucepan dry.

2. Heat oil in saucepan over high heat. Once oil is hot, carefully add onions. Fry stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until golden, 7-10 minutes. Stir in salt and saffron.

3. Wipe sieve dry. Use a heatproof slotted spoon or spider to transfer onions to sieve, and shake to drain. Spread onions over prepared sheet pan to cool. Use cooled onions immediately or transfer to a lidded container lined with paper towels. Crispy onions will keep in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Before using, spread onions on a parchment-lined baking sheet and reheat in an oven at 375 degrees until crisp, 5-10 minutes.

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Focused on Sustainability, Graanmarkt 13 is a Go-To for Tastemakers

VROOM WITH A VIEW A work by Philip Aguirre y Otegui, Cambiamos el Mundo, hangs in the entrance, built for horse-drawn carriages, above a 1967 E-type Jaguar.
VROOM WITH A VIEW A work by Philip Aguirre y Otegui, Cambiamos el Mundo, hangs in the entrance, built for horse-drawn carriages, above a 1967 E-type Jaguar. Photo: Frederik Vercruysse for WSJ. Magazine

TWICE A YEAR, Graanmarkt 13, a concept store and restaurant in Antwerp, Belgium, reaches out to clients, but not to promote a new collection or a final-markdown sale. Instead, it asks customers to bring in old clothes, which the whole store then turns over to sell. Participants get a voucher to put toward new items.

It’s just one of the radical ideas from Ilse Cornelissens and Tim Van Geloven, both 39, the married couple who started the place. Sustainability is a common word these days, but they take it to new extremes at Graanmarkt 13, which is their grand experiment: retail as personal expression. There are never any sales or discounts at this tucked-away gem so that customers won’t be tempted to buy things they don’t need. One brand they stock turns tie scraps into dresses; another wraps its Moroccan-clay soap in paper bags. “The only solution to lots of issues is to buy less,” says Cornelissens.

The reclusive Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela, a friend of the couple and patron of the store, admires their “ignoring deliberately the prevailing fashion system.” It’s “definitely not the average concept store,” he says by email in a rare interview, likening it to “entering somebody’s private place where all items are carefully picked and displayed in a serene and quiet atmosphere.”

Ilse Cornelissens and Tim Van Geloven.
Ilse Cornelissens and Tim Van Geloven. Photo: Frederik Vercruysse for WSJ. Magazine

Designer Dries Van Noten, like Margiela a graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, says that Cornelissens and Van Geloven were brave to open a store that emphasizes “items to be collected, not bought and thrown away.”

“It was difficult,” says Van Geloven. “It’s still difficult. We are a little bit hidden. We don’t have any windows to show things. You have to take the stairs—so we’ve bent all the retail rules. But now people know us. No one asks for discounts anymore.” He and Cornelissens are taking a lunch break at the restaurant they run on the lowest level of the neoclassical, five-floor building, an abandoned home they bought in 2007. Graanmarkt 13—named for the address on a quiet, tree-lined square where a market takes place on Sundays—centers on a back courtyard with a towering old ginkgo tree. Interiors designed with Belgian architect Vincent van Duysen set a tranquil tone for the fashion, housewares and beauty products. A low-key vibe pervades the shop—when a young boy musses a pile of garments, he gets nothing more than a beatific smile from the sales staff. “We just think of it as a house, because it has that feeling,” says Cornelissens. “A nice lifestyle starts from a house.”

Last year Graanmarkt 13–branded products became available in the U.S. for the first time. Barneys is carrying the duo’s candle and fragrance, created by the London-based “nose” Lyn Harris of Perfumer H (Cire Trudon manufactured the candle). Graanmarkt’s chef, Seppe Nobels, will devise dishes on a spring menu for Genes Cafe at Barneys’ Madison Avenue store for a month, starting March 20. Nobels emphasizes local and sustainable foods; at Graanmarkt he serves only easily replenished fish from the nearby North Sea. “This chef doesn’t call to order something,” says Van Geloven. “The farmer calls to say what he has. That’s where we start.”

Although they once lived over the store, he and Cornelissens quickly outgrew that space—their children are now 9, 8 and 1. So in 2015 they moved into a grand, six-story townhouse in another neighborhood. They had been driving around Antwerp with their two oldest children sleeping in the car when they saw a somewhat distressed Venetian-style building. It had a handwritten for-sale sign with a phone number.

A huge backyard with room for a pool and ample greenery was part of the attraction. “It’s for the garden that we bought the house,” says Cornelissens. “It’s old-fashioned to live in such a big house, but we love it.” The circa-1900 structure measures some 11,000 square feet and required a two-year renovation. Executed with architect Thomas van Looij, of Antwerp’s Studio 22, the remodeling returned the floors, ceilings and windows to their original state. There are guest rooms and project rooms aplenty, plus a gym and a changing area for the pool. (Despite the many options, their two boys elected to share a room.)

A garden pavilion designed by landscape architect Ludovic Devriendt includes an outdoor shower.
A garden pavilion designed by landscape architect Ludovic Devriendt includes an outdoor shower. Photo: Frederik Vercruysse for WSJ. Magazine

The interiors, honed with van Looij and the help of Graanmarkt’s artistic director, the scenographer Bob Verhelst, have the same spare aesthetic that reigns in the store. They even hung the same linen curtains and used the same chalk-infused painting technique to give warmth to the walls. Antiques mix subtly with modern pieces. In the eat-in kitchen and dining room on the ground floor, there’s a 19th-century English glass-fronted cupboard filled with earthenware by noted Brussels ceramist Pierre Culot. (The couple don’t cook much—for dinner the nanny helps, or they make a simple soup.) They own contemporary furniture classics like the Crossed Double Seat by the Belgian design duo Muller Van Severen. There are small marble-topped Tube tables from Michaël Verheyden, whose work they also sell at Graanmarkt.

AGAINST THE GRAIN In the dining room, a 19th-century English cupboard displays ceramics from the atelier of Belgian artist Pierre Culot, next to a table made by local craftsmen. The Sven Markelius Orkesterstolen chairs were designed for a concert hall in Helsingborg, Sweden. The light fixture is Massimo Castagna’s Bolle hanging lamp, and on the wall is a series of Luc Tuymans prints.
AGAINST THE GRAIN In the dining room, a 19th-century English cupboard displays ceramics from the atelier of Belgian artist Pierre Culot, next to a table made by local craftsmen. The Sven Markelius Orkesterstolen chairs were designed for a concert hall in Helsingborg, Sweden. The light fixture is Massimo Castagna’s Bolle hanging lamp, and on the wall is a series of Luc Tuymans prints. Photo: Frederik Vercruysse for WSJ. Magazine

Cambiamos el Mundo, an etching on canvas by Philip Aguirre y Otegui, has pride of place at the entrance, where it moved after a stint at the restaurant. They like the idealism of it—a group of friends smoking, drinking and talking about how to change the world. “Most of the pieces that we collect are made by local artists that we know,” says Cornelissens, pointing to a colorful painting by Ben Sledsens, The Flowerstore. “This piece just makes us happy every day.”

As a couple, they are unusually in sync. Married for a decade, they actually met much earlier, as teenagers. “We’ve known each other since we were 13,” says Cornelissens, who is Belgian but went to high school with Van Geloven, who is Dutch, in Breda, a city in the southern Netherlands. They both attended the University of Amsterdam, with Cornelissens studying law, Van Geloven economics. “In school we were best friends,” she continues. “And then all of a sudden when we were studying, there was something happening.”

DOUBLE TAKE The 2012 Crossed Double Seat by Muller Van Severen sits on an antique Libyan carpet, and on the mantel is the Ripple lamp by Poetic Lab.
DOUBLE TAKE The 2012 Crossed Double Seat by Muller Van Severen sits on an antique Libyan carpet, and on the mantel is the Ripple lamp by Poetic Lab. Photo: Frederik Vercruysse for WSJ. Magazine

It soon became a business partnership, too. In 2007, after moving from Amsterdam, they bought the Graanmarkt 13 building and set about pursuing their vision, though it didn’t open until 2010. “We started in the middle of the recession,” says Van Geloven, who recalled how tough securing bank loans became after the global recession in 2008. But on the bright side, he says, “We could only grow bigger from there.”

The couple has informally divvied up their responsibilities so that Van Geloven tackles finances, personnel and the apartment; Cornelissens has sway over the curating of the shop itself, where fashion (both women’s and men’s) is more than half the inventory. The reigning aesthetic is one that she calls “post-cool.” It’s minimalist and practical, but also fun.

Karen Van Godtsenhoven, now an associate curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, got to know the couple when she worked at Antwerp’s MoMu fashion museum. By featuring upstart Belgian fashion brands like Bernadette and Sofie D’Hoore, says Van Godtsenhoven, “they nurture talent.” She adds, “Ilse picks things that fit her own personal taste, but it’s a style that a lot of women share: high-quality, but for real life. Women recognize themselves in it.”

The main stairway boasts a chandelier by Vincenzo De Cotiis.
The main stairway boasts a chandelier by Vincenzo De Cotiis. Photo: Frederik Vercruysse for WSJ. Magazine

Local designers are a focus, as are brands that are seasonless, genderless and sizeless. You can buy a one-size-fits-all sweater from the Dutch brand Extreme Cashmere ($455) or a gleaming rain slicker from Kassl Editions ($1,140), a design collective co-founded by Cornelissens, Van Geloven and seven partners. It is also available at Barneys (imagine it donned by a very trendy, slim fisherman).

Though Graanmarkt 13 sells the dish-shaped, fiberglass Roly Poly Chair, by British designer Faye Toogood, for $8,500, also on display are the $10 highball glasses used in the restaurant. “We don’t only want to be there for the happy few,” says Cornelissens. “We love craftsmanship and the handmade.” Visitors can rent the top two floors of the four-bedroom lodging where the couple used to live, decorated in a style you might call warm minimalism (if it were in Copenhagen, you’d say hygge).

Many things in the Graanmarkt universe come imprinted with whimsical texts: “I am one of the deep secrets of nature” is emblazoned on the bergamot- and lavender-infused fragrance. “We like to be playful, and we see the store as our playroom,” says Cornelissens.

REST STOP A Serge Mouille sconce in the master bathroom, next to a print by Aguirre y Otegui.
REST STOP A Serge Mouille sconce in the master bathroom, next to a print by Aguirre y Otegui. Photo: Frederik Vercruysse for WSJ. Magazine

That’s partly why Graanmarkt has become a style incubator and meeting point for tastemakers. “They’re connectors, linking people, introducing people,” says Boris Vervoordt, who runs the Antwerp antiques and design gallery founded by his father, Axel.

Vervoordt and his husband, Michael James Gardner, are close friends with Cornelissens and Van Geloven. “They came to us when they furnished the apartment on top of Graanmarkt,” says Vervoordt, mentioning the black linen sofa and pouf that were purchased from him; in turn, he recently picked up a cutting board and glassware from the couple. For him, the Graanmarkt brand trumps any one particular item. “What they’re doing is so out of the box, ” he says. “I’m wearing jeans today that I bought there. I have no idea who designed them, but I think of them as Graanmarkt.”

An interior from the townhouse belonging to the founders of the concept store Graanmarkt 13 in Antwerp, Belgium.
An interior from the townhouse belonging to the founders of the concept store Graanmarkt 13 in Antwerp, Belgium. Photo: Frederik Vercruysse for WSJ. Magazine

For Cornelissens and Van Geloven, Antwerp’s under-the-radar status is an attraction, not a drawback. The city is best known for being the home of Baroque-era painter Peter Paul Rubens and the center of the diamond trade, and it’s less of an international destination than Brussels. The success they’ve achieved was hardly preordained, and it wouldn’t have happened without Verhelst, a figure on Antwerp’s creative scene long known for production design and fashion exhibitions at museums. He went to school with Margiela and Van Noten, and has worked with the couple for 11 years, turning Graanmarkt into what he calls “an oasis in the city.”

The ideas of Graanmarkt are now taking root. A book on the store, A white facade, five floors and an open door: Graanmarkt 13, recently came out from the Belgian publisher Lannoo. Van Geloven says he toys with the idea of expanding their footprint to Amsterdam or somewhere even farther flung. “We went out of our comfort zone for this whole project, and I’m happy we did,” says Cornelissens as she prepares to go back to work.

The Hotel Fees That Barely Even Make Sense

The Hotel Fees That Barely Even Make Sense
Photo: John Tomac

The push by hotels to swamp travelers with fees is expanding: The fees you used to only find at resorts are moving downtown.

Many big-city hotels are adding mandatory facility fees or urban-destination fees to hotel bills, hiding the add-ons, which sometimes reach $50 a night, from advertised room rates. The Boston Park Plaza adds a required $22 fee per room per night. The St. Regis in New York, often more than $800 a night, now adds a $50 mandatory destination fee.

There’s a $25 a night resort fee at the Radisson Blu Aqua in downtown Chicago. Same at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Neither are what most travelers would consider a resort.

The Park Plaza in Boston has a long list of amenities covered by its $22 per night (plus tax) facilities fee. But many are things you probably don’t really need, like unlimited phone calls, checkout via the guest-room TV and notary services.
The Park Plaza in Boston has a long list of amenities covered by its $22 per night (plus tax) facilities fee. But many are things you probably don’t really need, like unlimited phone calls, checkout via the guest-room TV and notary services. Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

New fees come in all shapes and sizes. Jeff Cappelletti, a Florida-based consultant who travels frequently, was shocked to see a $1 per night housekeeping gratuity on his bill in addition to a $29.95 daily resort fee at the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno, Nev.

“The fees are out of control,” he says. Mr. Cappelletti likens the pricing to online retailers who post a low price on an item and then add above-cost shipping fees. “You do not know the price until just before you buy,” he says.

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Fees are growing at airlines, too. Airline baggage fees totaled $4.8 billion at U.S. airlines in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That was up 8% over the previous 12 months, and likely to go higher with a price increase to $30 for the first checked bag from $25 at American, Delta, United and JetBlue last fall.

With hotels, resort and destination fees increased 400% last year over 2017 and will spread to the suburbs this year, says Bjorn Hanson, an industry consultant and adjunct professor at New York University’s hospitality center.

Mr. Hanson’s annual survey of hotels found that overall fees and surcharges, including things like early check-in fees, minibars, cancellation fees and a host of other add-ons, increased 8.5% in 2018 from the previous year.

Hotels are enjoying high occupancy and record profitability, but room rates are increasing only at about the same pace as inflation. At the same time, hotels have faced higher labor and borrowing costs, plus higher real estate taxes, Mr. Hanson notes. In addition, fees for Wi-Fi service and telephone-use have declined. So hotels are getting creative to maintain profitability.

Even high-end hotels with lofty daily rates above $800 a night are tagging guests with destination fees. At the St. Regis in New York, the destination fee is $50 a night.
Even high-end hotels with lofty daily rates above $800 a night are tagging guests with destination fees. At the St. Regis in New York, the destination fee is $50 a night. Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/Associated Press

Some hotels have pushed parking fees higher or added charges for in-room safes or bellhop services, whether you use them or not. Some have gotten more aggressive with cancellation penalties.

Some hotels offer credits at their own bars and restaurants and free Wi-Fi to placate guests angry over the fees. Others load up previously free hotel services as justification for the new fees. Some offer services business travelers likely would never use, like a personal shopper at a local department store, an audio tour of a nearby landmark or free local calls.

The Boston Park Plaza offers a laundry list of services its facilities fee covers. (Laundry isn’t one of them.) What is included: high-speed Wi-Fi, unlimited phone calls, complimentary boarding pass printing, access to the fitness center, access to digital news and magazines, checkout via guest-room TV and complimentary notary services Monday to Friday.

Hotels argue the fees can actually represent a good deal for guests. The “value” of the daily $25 destination amenity fee at the JW Marriott Essex House in New York is $107, according to Marriott spokeswoman Kathleen Duffy. The fee includes a $25 daily food and beverage credit, plus seasonal activities such as ice skating in the winter or bicycle rental in warmer months.

“We don’t expect you to go ice skating every day,” she says. Asked why the hotel is adding the charges, Ms. Duffy responded: “Guests are always looking for added value.”

Do you leave a tip for the housekeeping staff? You do at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev., which adds a mandatory housekeeping gratuity to guest bills. Hotels are increasingly dreaming up fees to boost profits when competition has crimped room-rate increases.
Do you leave a tip for the housekeeping staff? You do at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev., which adds a mandatory housekeeping gratuity to guest bills. Hotels are increasingly dreaming up fees to boost profits when competition has crimped room-rate increases. Photo: Grand Sierra Resort and Casino

Of course if it were all about a good deal for guests, it would be optional, not mandatory. Even food and beverage credits can be annoying if guests don’t want to eat at the hotel. The added fees are waived on a case-by-case basis, Ms. Duffy says, only when the traveler can convince the hotel he or she didn’t see notice of the charge when booking.

Mr. Hanson, the industry consultant, says the harder hotels try to justify the fees, the louder guests complain. “Sometimes it’s actually backfiring,” he says. When you offer a free walking tour or free incoming faxes, consumers think, “This is just fake. You’re trying to justify things I don’t need.”

Not all hoteliers are enamored with the fee frenzy. Robert Rauch, a San Diego-based hotel owner, operator and consultant, says only one of the 16 hotels in his portfolio has a resort fee. It’s been a longstanding $5 daily charge with few complaints, so he decided to let it stand when he took over management of the property.

One survey of hotel customers showed that 15% of guests insist on making hotels take resort fees off their bills, he says. “The other 85%, I don’t know how many of them are angry, disappointed or feel like they’ve been taken advantage of,” says Mr. Rauch, chairman and chief executive of RAR Hospitality.

But revenue pressure is real, he says. If hotels rely on fees, he thinks they should be more transparent about the total cost of a stay.

Online booking services have scrambled to display notice of the mandatory fees, just as they have added information about airline baggage fees and warnings about unique airline fares like Basic Economy. At Hotels.com, sometimes disclosure of mandatory resort fees shows up right away when prices are first posted for different types of rooms. Sometimes it isn’t until you make a selection and get to a credit card payment screen.

Booking Holdings , the parent of Kayak, Priceline, Booking.com and others, says all its brands show the total price sometime before a customer clicks to complete a booking. Hotels are required to enter the mandatory fees when they load their prices and availability, a Booking spokeswoman says.

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Write to Scott McCartney at middleseat@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications
Booking Holdings is the owner of Booking.com. An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to them as Bookings Holdings and Bookings.com. (Jan. 9, 2019)

Appeared in the January 10, 2019, print edition as ‘The Rise of Baffling Hotel Fees.’

A New Take on Women and Aging

Mary Pipher’s new book ‘Women Rowing North’ comes out next week.
Mary Pipher’s new book ‘Women Rowing North’ comes out next week. Photo: Sarah Greder

Twenty-five years ago and then in her 40s, clinical psychologist Mary Pipher wrote “Reviving Ophelia, ” a seminal book about adolescent girls. Now Dr. Pipher is exploring women getting older and finds this stage too, like teenage years, is a time of dealing with changing bodies, expectations and stereotypes.

From her home in Lincoln, Neb., which sits at the edge of a city park and looks out onto a lake often filled with hundreds of geese, Dr. Pipher, 71, discussed her new book “Women Rowing North,” which will be published Tuesday. She talked about what society gets wrong about aging, what surprised her most about getting older and what has changed for adolescent girls since she wrote “Reviving Ophelia.” She and her daughter Sara Gilliam, a teen when the book was published, are collaborating on an updated 25th-anniversary edition to be released in June. Edited from the interview with Dr. Pipher:

What do adolescent teen girls and women entering old age have in common?

Both are in major life transitions. Adolescents are moving from childhood to adulthood, and women in their 60s and 70s are moving into years without work, without family to raise and into caregiving roles.

What interests me is the discordance between what I’m experiencing personally and the cultural script. The teens I was seeing in practice weren’t from dysfunctional families, which was the script at that time: If a teen was in trouble, the parents were making mistakes. It was the toxic culture they were living in that was making them crazy. With older women, the cultural script suggests that we’re unattractive, sexless, bossy, in the way, useless. When in fact, most women I know are deeply engaged with their communities and families. They’re activists. They’re artists. They’re volunteering. They have great groups of women friends, which at least for me, is my mental-health insurance program.

A New Take on Women and Aging

What about the differences?

Adolescent girls are children. We adults need to be responsible and offer them some guidance. When I wrote “Reviving Ophelia,” we weren’t doing that. I’m writing an update with my daughter. One of the things we found was that 1994—when the book was published—was almost the worst year for girls in terms of depression, anxiety, drug use, pregnancy, dropout, alcoholism. After that, those indices steadily improved. Professionals caught on to the idea and parents, too, that the problem girls were having was the culture was too rough and they weren’t getting enough support.

We all have the ability at 55 or 70 to determine our own happiness. Our friends can help us. Our resources can help us. But we have to realize at some point we are in charge of our own fate. Happiness is not a matter of circumstance. Happiness is not a matter of genetics. What I’ve really looked at what are the survival skills women need to be happy at this stage of life

What are those skills?

Gratitude. People think of gratitude as a nice virtue. I see gratitude as a skill that we build in response to pain and suffering. As more is taken away, that which is left is more deeply savored.

Another is managing expectations. As my Aunt Grace says, “I get what I want, but I know what to want.” We have a pretty good sense that our adult children are not waiting with bated breath to hear every opinion we have about their lives and that not everything that happens each day is going to be wonderful. That gives us the capacity to be deeply grateful if someone calls us to see how we’re doing.

Humor. A friend told me about her mother. Her mother never took prescription drugs, was really healthy and a hard worker. Now she was dying of cancer and in a lot of pain. The nurse came in and wanted to give her morphine. Her daughter said, “Mom, please take it.” “OK, I’ll take it.” The nurse gives her a shot. She looks at her daughter and says, “I’ve made a terrible mistake with my life. I should have taken drugs long ago.”

What do you find most difficult about this stage of life?

That I’m always going to funerals and people I love are sick and dying.

The other thing is, I’m aware the runway is short. I try to work very hard to be in the moment and be present and grateful, but it’s easier said than done. In the title of the book, “north” refers to winter and “rowing” refers to the fact that it’s an effort, and if you are going to stay on course at this age you have to work hard. As we enter this life stage, various aspects of our identity disappear. We’re no longer a working woman. If we don’t add new chunks of identity, if we don’t grow better, we end up bitter.

You write, “This life stage requires a constant process of adjustment and accommodation.” What was yours?

I wore out my hands. I can’t chop vegetables. I can’t garden anymore. My physical therapist told me not to write. My whole identity as writer was somehow stolen. I thought, “Why me?” Then, I thought, “Why not me?” We all have things we have to cope with. One of the secrets of being happy as an older person is to figure how to cope with them and go on. I used to write 100 paragraphs and throw away the first 99. I can’t afford that luxury anymore. I have to write more slowly and more carefully with fewer drafts.

What is overlooked about women and aging?

Attribution is very different for old people than it is for young people. Say a 40-year-old woman has a fender bender. People tell her to drive more carefully and not be in such a hurry. If an 80-year-old has a fender bender, people suggest she should give up her driver’s license.

Do you think aging is much different for men than women?

I don’t speculate about that. I’ve always written about women because that is what I know.

Write to Clare Ansberry at clare.ansberry@wsj.com

Claire Foy Steps Into the Spotlight

Claire Foy Steps Into the Spotlight
Photo: ALASDAIR MCLELLAN FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE STYLING BY FRANCESCA BURNS

ENGLISH ACTRESS Claire Foy is famous for playing powerful women learning about the limits of their agency: Anne Boleyn in the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall; Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of the hit Netflix drama The Crown; and, most recently, Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the latest film adaptation in the best-selling Millennium series.

Claire Foy, in Calvin Klein 205W39NYC sweater, $1,750, Calvin Klein, 654 Madison Avenue, New York.
Claire Foy, in Calvin Klein 205W39NYC sweater, $1,750, Calvin Klein, 654 Madison Avenue, New York. Photo: ALASDAIR MCLELLAN FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE STYLING BY FRANCESCA BURNS

Janet Armstrong, the first wife of the lunar astronaut Neil Armstrong, whom Foy plays in the film First Man, might seem like the odd character out, but she is also grappling with constraint. Janet’s sphere of influence is bound by the four walls of her home, while her husband’s is as vast as 1960s American aeronautic technology will allow. Foy, 34, plays the role of the woman who must wait on earth, caring for the Armstrong children, Eric and Mark, and grieving the loss of their sister, Karen (who, at age 2, died of complications relating to a brain tumor). The dramatic heart of the film is not, as one might expect, the moment when Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling, bounces on the surface of the moon, but when Janet loses her temper with her husband, a man focused on his mission and adept at subsuming his grief.

“It is tough to be married to that kind of character, who doesn’t emote, doesn’t communicate,” says Foy on a chilly morning in London in the late fall. “But I get really annoyed when people say that Janet was just the wife, or that she wasn’t free, [or when people] make it seem like her life was terrible. How dare you say that about her? She made her choices. If you say that, you completely discredit the majority of women’s lives for thousands of years.”

To prepare for the role, Foy spoke to Mark and Eric Armstrong about their childhoods. And although Foy was unable to meet Janet due to illness (she died of lung cancer in June 2018), she listened to hours of recordings in order to get Janet’s Midwestern accent just right.

“I did have reservations about a non-American doing the role,” says Damien Chazelle, First Man’s director. “But I realized within 10 seconds of seeing her read an interview that Janet had given that she had to play Janet. There was so much humanity and emotion in what was essentially a very poker-faced, banal situation.”

Foy’s performance has been praised by critics for its precision and power, garnering her a 2019 Golden Globe nomination for best performance by an actress in a supporting role in any motion picture. She has already won awards—a Golden Globe, an Emmy and two Screen Actors Guild awards—for her performance in The Crown, in which she portrays Elizabeth in the early years of her reign (season 3 will see a new cast taking over, including the English actress Olivia Colman as the Queen). Foy’s mastery of the subtle response was very much in evidence in the series. “She has this amazing capacity to be still and transformative and communicative all at the same time,” says Matt Smith, who played the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip.

GAME FACE “I am determined to be good at my job,” says Foy. Chanel jacket, $12,900, and skirt, $4,050, select Chanel boutiques nationwide, Sonia Rykiel sweater, $580, Sonia Rykiel, 816 Madison Avenue, New York, Falke tights, $20, barenecessities​.com, Prada headband (worn throughout), $240, select Prada boutiques, Sophie Buhai necklace, $450, sophiebuhai​.com
GAME FACE “I am determined to be good at my job,” says Foy. Chanel jacket, $12,900, and skirt, $4,050, select Chanel boutiques nationwide, Sonia Rykiel sweater, $580, Sonia Rykiel, 816 Madison Avenue, New York, Falke tights, $20, barenecessities​.com, Prada headband (worn throughout), $240, select Prada boutiques, Sophie Buhai necklace, $450, sophiebuhai​.com Photo: ALASDAIR MCLELLAN FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE STYLING BY FRANCESCA BURNS

“I don’t feel like I played The Queen. I know this sounds trite, but I feel like I played Elizabeth Mountbatten,” Foy says, which is perhaps how she was able to find humility in an individual who is perceived more as a symbol than a person.

“There is something visceral about the way Claire plays a role—you can’t look away,” says Peter Kosminsky, who directed Foy in Wolf Hall. “When Claire is on the screen, God help other actors.”

We meet for breakfast at a quiet cafe in Hampstead, where, to her disappointment, the bacon and sausage delivery has yet to arrive. She must content herself with a plate of sliced avocado and raw tomato. (A recent illness means her diet is restricted, so there’s not much else on the menu she can have.) Foy is jauntily bohemian in jeans, boots, a purple mohair sweater and a yellow silk scarf. She is also weighed down with two bags of books that she has just purchased and a bag of woolly hats from Gap for her 3-year-old daughter, Ivy Rose. “My life is very normal,” she says.

Foy and Ivy Rose live in a terraced house in Wood Green, in North London. (Foy announced her divorce from her daughter’s father, actor Stephen Campbell Moore, at the beginning of 2018.) Foy hasn’t taken on any major roles since summer but has been promoting a series of back-to-back films. “I am very confident in saying I deserve a rest,” she says. After finishing the second season of The Crown in 2017, Foy starred in Unsane, a film by Steven Soderbergh set in a psychiatric ward and shot over 10 days on an iPhone. That fall she made First Man, quickly followed by The Girl in the Spider’s Web. “I was a bit scared by it because when I finished Spider’s Web I was like, ‘I never want to work again,’ ” she says.

Foy has not committed to any new projects and is currently spending as much time as possible with Ivy Rose before she starts school full time.

“It’s lovely, completely self-indulgent. I only have a year left with her. I just can’t bear it,” Foy says. “There is a quote, and I am not sure if I am remembering it right…. ‘Having the option of doing the extraordinary makes the ordinary more extraordinary.’ That makes sense to me.”

TICKET TO RIDE You feel like you can see into her. She has this transparency. But she also has steel,” says casting director Nina Gold. Prada coat, $3,970, and headband, $240, select Prada boutiques
TICKET TO RIDE You feel like you can see into her. She has this transparency. But she also has steel,” says casting director Nina Gold. Prada coat, $3,970, and headband, $240, select Prada boutiques Photo: ALASDAIR MCLELLAN FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE STYLING BY FRANCESCA BURNS

Foy’s happiest days involve being with her daughter, visits to the theater, dinners with friends, playing her Bechstein piano or putting on a fire at home. When asked how she would like to make Ivy Rose’s upbringing different from her own, Foy answers at once: “Holidays. We never had enough money to travel. [It doesn’t have to be] fancy, just swimming in a pool, a time that is happy and [about] exploring.”

Foy, the youngest of three children, was born in Stockport, England, but the family soon moved to Longwick, a village in Buckinghamshire, where Foy grew up. Foy’s mother, Caroline, an office worker, and father, David, a Rank Xerox sales director, separated when she was 8. Her older brother and sister attended the local secondary schools, but Foy did not pass the entrance exams. “So my mum went to the council and was like, ‘We’ve got divorced, please let her in. She’ll be heartbroken otherwise.’ ”

Foy did not find her secondary school years easy. “Feeling stupid is not a nice thing. I wasn’t really good at anything. I was relatively good at home economics, at making cakes, and I was quite sporty,” she says. “But I had juvenile arthritis from the ages of 12 to 15, so I was on crutches.” Her nights were spent in agony (“[The arthritis] was extremely painful,” she says); her days were spent sitting in classrooms unable to understand math; and she started to experience the debilitating anxiety that is still with her. “Anxiety was part of my life at that age, but I didn’t realize that was what it was until my mid-20s,” Foy says.

Life didn’t get any easier. When Foy was 17, it was discovered that a tumor was growing in one eye. She was treated with steroids for over a year and had a biopsy that revealed the tumor to be benign, which meant that invasive surgery would not be necessary. And although she loved drama class, she did not think that she was a good actress. “It felt so unnatural, like I was standing up and going, ‘I think I am amazing!’ That was not me, and that was not my upbringing,” she says. At school she appeared in only a few productions. “I was a guy with PTSD from World War I called David. I liked rehearsals, but on the day that we had to do it in front of people, I was absolutely f—ing terrified. I realized the only way I would make myself calm down was to walk around the room, pacing in a circle. People must have thought I was mental.”

Dolce & Gabbana dress, $2,445, select Dolce & Gabbana boutiques, Prada headband, $240, select Prada boutiques.
Dolce & Gabbana dress, $2,445, select Dolce & Gabbana boutiques, Prada headband, $240, select Prada boutiques. Photo: ALASDAIR MCLELLAN FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE STYLING BY FRANCESCA BURNS

Nonetheless, she enrolled in drama at Liverpool John Moores University. But she remained so terrified of performing that she did not act until her final year, when she and some friends put on a few small plays, including Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. Soon afterward a teacher stopped her. “He said, ‘Have you thought about drama school?’ And I was like, ‘Thank you for saying that!’ I needed someone else to say it was OK.” She applied to the Oxford School of Drama, where she completed a one-year program.

Foy insists that she is not ambitious. But she is determined. “That is the only word that has ever made any sense to me,” she says. “I am determined to be good at my job.”

Determination enabled Foy to push through illness and anxiety to do the thing she loved even though it made her so scared; and her drive and courage paid off. After Oxford, she moved to London and supported herself with odd jobs—handing out free newspapers at train stations, working with a film-catering company—while auditioning for roles. In 2008, she was cast as Little Dorrit in the BBC adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, and in 2011 she appeared as the lead in Peter Kosminsky’s four-part television drama The Promise. “It required a hugely mature performance,” says Kosminsky. “She was very focused on set. She never showed up ill-prepared, and she always knew her lines. She is a hardworking actor, not the sort to be out drinking with the guys.”

“In my early career, in order to have the confidence to do it, I did so much [preparation],” says Foy. “I wanted to get it right…. But where was the spontaneity? As I have got older and have worked more, I have allowed myself to think that I have enough experience. It doesn’t mean that you are bragging, it just means you are allowed to say, ‘There are certain things that I can do.’ ”

Concurrent with this growing sense of confidence is an increased awareness of how to deal with her anxiety. “It’s not as bad at it was, but that’s through a lot of work, doing things that I never thought I would do,” she says. She has had therapy, and for the past year she has been using a meditation app called Calm. Her problem, she says, is too much thinking, chewing over the same problem. “I know that I need to catch myself early in a process of overthinking. It’s always about questioning myself. Even though I have had a thought a million times…it will always be something I need to think about another million times that day. It will be like, ‘Shall I go for a walk today?’ or [about] massive life decisions.”

A MIGHTY FORCE “When Claire is on the screen, God help other actors,” says director Peter Kosminsky. Celine by Hedi Slimane coat, $5,900, and hat, $1,490, celine​.com. Hair, Orlando Pita; makeup, Jeanine Lobell; manicure, Yuko Tsuchihashi. Prop styling by Nicholas des Jardins.
A MIGHTY FORCE “When Claire is on the screen, God help other actors,” says director Peter Kosminsky. Celine by Hedi Slimane coat, $5,900, and hat, $1,490, celine​.com. Hair, Orlando Pita; makeup, Jeanine Lobell; manicure, Yuko Tsuchihashi. Prop styling by Nicholas des Jardins. Photo: ALASDAIR MCLELLAN FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE STYLING BY FRANCESCA BURNS

Decisions about which roles to take are simpler: “I don’t fanny around. My stomach normally tells me whether it’s something bad or good.”

Nina Gold, the casting director who championed Foy for Wolf Hall and The Crown, remembers the moment in late 2014 when Foy landed the part that every actress in England wanted. “She was very pregnant. We got her in the long gloves and tiara. She did the audition, and we just forgot she was pregnant. She’s just got those amazing eyes—you feel like you can see into her. She has this transparency. But she also has steel.”

The shooting schedule for The Crown was grueling. As the lead, Foy was in most of the scenes, and when the first season started filming, her daughter was only 5 months old and still nursing. “The first AD [assistant director] would ask me if we could go an hour over. So then I am just like, ‘What does everyone want to do? Do we want the overtime, or do we all want to go home because we have been working eight days straight?’ Time is f—ing precious, and making a TV program is really important, but getting back in time for my daughter’s bedtime is far more important to me,” she says.

Queen Elizabeth is about as far removed from Lisbeth Salander, the tattooed and abused hacker vigilante, as two individuals can be—one bound by duty and tradition, the other who “thinks authority is a bag of shit,” says Foy. But just as Foy found humanity in a monarch, she discovered vulnerability in Salander (previous incarnations of the character have been played by Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara). Foy felt protective of how Salander would be depicted and worked closely with the film’s director, Fede Alvarez, on how the character was portrayed.

“I gave Fede a really hard time,” Foy says. “Whenever we were doing anything where Lisbeth was being observed, I was like, ‘I can’t explain to you what it is like to be a woman, but you have to try and understand. Why are you on a low angle if you are doing a shot of [Lisbeth] in the shower, why are you creeping around a corner, why are you making it look sexy?’ I don’t make a habit of halting filmmaking, but I refuse to be part of something that I don’t believe in.”

In The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Foy played the lead and, she acknowledges, was paid accordingly. In First Man, Foy says the “favored nations” payment structure was used. “It is a tiered system,” she explains. “If you have a certain level of input into the film you are paid the same. It doesn’t matter if your profile is bigger. Everybody who is playing a similar-level part gets paid the same.” This was not the payment system used in The Crown. In March 2018, at a television conference in Israel, Left Bank Pictures, the production company behind The Crown, revealed that Matt Smith had been paid more than Foy for their relative roles in seasons 1 and 2 of the series.

“I was being paid less than Matt,” Foy says, taking a sip of her lemon tea. “It was a short, sharp initiation into people wanting you to have an opinion about something you’re involved in. You want to make sure you are saying something beneficial for a huge number of people, something that is not reductive and that you believe in, but you don’t really know enough about.”

The production company issued an apology, and there were reports in the U.K. press suggesting that Foy was back paid $250,000, which she has said were false. “People have decided all sorts of numbers that are not right, but I don’t think it’s helpful to go into that. I don’t think I need to. It is not important to anyone else,” says Foy. General outrage was expressed that the Queen was being paid less than her consort. “We were suddenly thrust into this discussion that none of us knew anything about,” says Smith. “But we had a sense of unity, and I fully support Claire.”

Part of the difficulty Foy experienced was a realization of her increasing public influence. “Especially in the last three years, with how my career has changed, how much more I am on show, I still don’t know how to deal with it,” she says.

Prada coat, $3,970, and headband, $240, select Prada boutiques.
Prada coat, $3,970, and headband, $240, select Prada boutiques. Photo: ALASDAIR MCLELLAN FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE STYLING BY FRANCESCA BURNS

This, it seems, is one of the reasons she is taking a break: to recalibrate, and to be kind to herself. “I just didn’t get life until I was 32. Now I am just awake,” she says. “It is that thing that you suddenly have your eyes opened to the way you are living your life, who you are, the healthy way you are supposed to.”

Perhaps it is this sense of self-discovery, coinciding as it did with her growing professional status and motherhood, that has enabled Foy to be brave enough to take a step back even though the offers are flooding in. “In terms of casting, Claire is now at the top of everyone’s list,” says Gold.

There is talk of working with Kosminsky again, and Foy would also like to find a charity to partner with. “Three of my best friends work in charities, so I know what they are up against,” Foy says. “I don’t want to do anything where I’m not being practically helpful. I want to genuinely be involved. The problem is I care about everything. How do you choose what is the more important issue?”

“Claire is interested in good things and good people,” says Smith. “She is f—ing brilliant; she is compelling, beguiling, interesting, irreverent. If she could hear me now she would be sticking two fingers up at me. The only challenge is trying to get her out.”

Which is not a surprise given all the books she just bought, including novels by Haruki Murakami, Colm Tóibín and Pat Barker; a book of verse called Flux, by Orion Carloto; and Eve Was Shamed: How British Justice Is Failing Women, by the human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy. “I’m an all-or-nothing reader,” says Foy. “I am either obsessed and won’t stop, or I am like, ‘Nothing is doing it.’ ”

She picks up her phone. “I’ve done a really stupid thing,” she says, thumbing at the screen. “I’ve booked myself into a fitness class. I’m not much of a class person, but I like them because you can’t get out of doing them. The other day I had some free time and had the opportunity to go to the gym, but instead I had a bath. I booked it [this time], because that way, I have to do it.”

And with that Foy gathers up her books and bags and heads off to her class. •

What’s Up With Men Who Don’t Wear Coats in Winter?

EVERY WINTER, the season’s most confounding species emerges: the Male Nojacketus. On that first freezing day, you can spot him standing on the subway platform or hoofing it to Starbucks, nonchalant in his meager button-up shirt. Even when this foolhardy creature can see his own breath, he may not don a coat, or even a pair of pants (Male Nojacketi adore shorts, especially of the cargo variety). Scarfs or gloves? He would never stoop to such compromising accessories. The most extreme variety of the species will bare his toes in flip-flops on days that could easily end in snow.

What…

What’s the Rush? The Power of a Slow Morning

Monica Dangerfield works during the hours before her two children wake up. Above, Ms. Dangerfield at her computer before sunrise last month at home near Richmond, Va.
Monica Dangerfield works during the hours before her two children wake up. Above, Ms. Dangerfield at her computer before sunrise last month at home near Richmond, Va. Photo: Julia Rendleman for The Wall Street Journal

In reaction to hectic, over-scheduled lives burdened by 24-7 technology, a counter movement is emerging: the slow morning.

Proponents spend time—sometimes hours—doing very little in the morning. Rising early, they relish beginning their day in quiet solitude, free of interruptions and deadlines. They say it provides a foundation for productivity, calm and focus that lasts the rest of the day.

“I wake up early so I can do nothing,” says Leslie Harris, a marketing executive in New York.

Some people meditate, plunge into cold water, slowly jump on trampolines or have no plan at all except for avoiding a rush.

Slow-morning enthusiasts range from business leaders to artists to stay-at-home parents. They all say it’s a way to manage stress and find control in anxious, always-connected times.

“Slowness is earning a new appreciation,” says Gabi Lieberman, a director of trends for market-research firm Mintel. The company, which advises clients on consumer behavior and trends, has noted consumers’ desire to “slow it all down” since 2011, but recently detected a new attitude toward the behavior. “We’re not apologizing anymore about it,” Ms. Lieberman says. “It’s being celebrated.”

Part of Chris Danuser’s early-morning routine is meditating in his home office in Maplewood, N.J.
Part of Chris Danuser’s early-morning routine is meditating in his home office in Maplewood, N.J. Photo: Caitlin Ochs for The Wall Street Journal

The slowing-down trend is countering another one: consumers’ need for speed, convenience and around-the-clock service, Mintel says. People often exhibit both behaviors, since those who embrace a fast-paced lifestyle need a break from it even more. “The more we try to save time, the more we realize how important it is to savor it,” Ms. Lieberman says.

To be sure, many Americans still view their pre-workday routine as a sprint out the door, and consumer products are mostly marketed that way. Showers are faster with “3-in-1” soaps that wash hair, face and body; coffee pods shorten the effort and wait for caffeine and there are more and more options for breakfast on the go.

Geir Berthelsen, founder of the World Institute of Slowness, a think tank in Norway, says starting the day with intentional slowness helps spark creative thinking. “Business leaders need to take time to forget about time, and that helps them be creative when they arrive at work,” he says. “That’s the goal of doing this before going into the workplace.”

‘If you have too many interruptions you become absent from yourself.’

—Geir Berthelsen, founder, World Institute of Slowness

If you have too many interruptions you become absent from yourself.

—Geir Berthelsen, founder, World Institute of Slowness

Mr. Berthelsen advises spending at least 20 minutes before the workday doing nothing. “If you don’t do that, if you wake up stressed that you’re late to work, then the whole day is really destroyed in a way,” he says. Each morning Mr. Berthelsen spends about 25 minutes meditating before sitting down to breakfast with his wife and two children, he says.

Spending time doing nothing gives the brain a break from multitasking and interruptions, especially from technology, Mr. Berthelsen says. “If you have too many interruptions you become absent from yourself,” he says. “Technology isn’t bad, but we have to find ways for it to serve us better—that interruption is probably the biggest loss of productivity.”

We Want to Hear From You

What’s your morning routine? Would a slow morning work for you?
Tell us your thoughts by emailing ellen.byron@wsj.com

More than 60% of consumers say they look at their phone within 15 minutes of waking and check their phones about 52 times a day, according to Deloitte. Some 63% of consumers say they are trying to limit their smartphone use, yet only about half say they’ve succeeded, according to a Deloitte survey released in November.

The peak hour for Calm’s Daily Calm meditation practice—its most popular—is 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., says Michael Acton Smith, Calm’s co-chief executive officer. “I think it is part of a wider movement in Western society around health and wellness and being more conscious of how we live—eating better, sleeping better and starting our days better,” he says.

Before running the meditation startup, Mr. Smith says he used to check his phone as soon as he woke each morning. “Then you’re into the chaos of the day already, and your head is spinning with all these thoughts,” he says. About three years ago he stopped checking his phone until he left home for work. “I love the mornings now, it gives me time to breathe and think and I fill up my notebook with ideas,” he says. “As wonderful as technology is, it’s very healthy to carve out a little bit of time without it.”

Here’s how four individuals spend their slow mornings.

Monica Dangerfield’s wake-up time: 6 a.m.

Before Monica Dangerfield starts her day job, she works on her hobbies, such as selling essential oils. “They’re not money-makers yet,” she says. “But it’s work that I truly enjoy.”

She wakes at 6 a.m. and spends time at her computer in the kitchen, communicating with customers and posting on social media. She also jots down goals for the day. “I find those early-morning hours are so peaceful and calm and my attention isn’t being pulled in a million directions,” says Ms. Dangerfield, who lives in Richmond, Va., and works as a child-development specialist. “This is time that I give to myself, it is my self-care, doing something that I really enjoy.”

To maximize her early-morning hours, Ms. Dangerfield, 39, usually makes oatmeal the night before and heats it up for breakfast. She does the same with coffee, which she makes every few days and keeps in a pot in the refrigerator. She typically works until about 7 a.m., when she hears her 9-year-old or 5-year-old upstairs. “I take a deep breath when those feet come down the steps and say ‘OK, my time is up,’ ” she says.

To wake up early, Ms. Dangerfield adjusted her nighttime routine, which starts after her children go to bed. Realizing that she was unproductive on her computer in the evening, Ms. Dangerfield now spends time cleaning the kitchen or walking on her treadmill for 30 minutes before getting into bed to read. “I leave my phone downstairs so I don’t see it or hear it,” she says. “Then I’m usually lights out by 10 or so.”

So far, Ms. Dangerfield has stuck to her ritual for nine months. On days when she can’t have an hour or two of solitude, her energy feels low and her stress level is high. “I feel like I’m too rushed,” she says.

Matt D’Amour’s wake-up time: 6 a.m.

To keep his mornings serene, Matt D’Amour prepares for them. In a ritual he calls “unpack, repack” Mr. D’Amour, a director of sales and marketing in Madison, Wis., spends an hour or more after work readying the following day’s clothes, breakfast and lunch. “I prepare every single night so that I can start the day with as much ease and grace as possible,” says Mr. D’Amour, 37.

He wakes up around 6 a.m. and drinks water with the lemon juice he presses every three days. Then he does a 20-minute “gratitude meditation,” which can range from being grateful for being able to get out of bed that morning to having food in the refrigerator. A glass of celery juice, which Mr. D’Amour also makes, follows.

Then he pursues what he calls “cold-water therapy,” which can include a plunge in the lake near his apartment or, if the lake is frozen, a cold shower. He tries to stay in cold water for one or two minutes, focusing on breathing exercises rather than how he feels. “You build up a tolerance,” he says.

Breathing through the discomfort of feeling cold boosts his energy and improves his skin tone and stress management all day, Mr. D’Amour says. “There are moments when I’m in a business setting and I need to make decisions, and I can revert back to breathing through uncomfortable situations,” he says. “You breathe into it as opposed to trying to escape.”

Typically three to five times a week Mr. D’Amour heads to the gym by about 7:30 a.m. for an hourlong workout. He follows that with breakfast, usually vegetables and eggs, which he has prepared the night before.

Mr. D’Amour aims to start work around 9:30. “And then it’s game time,” he says.

Genevieve Aronson’s wake-up time: 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.

Genevieve Aronson, 38, gets up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The communications executive relishes the unhurried, uninterrupted hours her morning routine allows. “I have that freedom to do what I need to do at my own pace,” she says. “I know some people think I’m crazy, but it works for me.”

Ms. Aronson, who lives in Westchester County, N.Y., started this schedule a year ago when she had trouble staying asleep with a long to-do list on her mind. “I thought, let me just bang out two things and I’ll go to bed,” she says. “I never went to bed.”

After turning off her alarm, Ms. Aronson heads downstairs, opens her laptop, and digs into her work email. “Anything I can do to get myself ahead, I will do then,” she says, including preparing presentations and catching up on work-related reading. “I feel like I do my best work at this time because it’s quiet and I can put 100% of my attention to it.”

When she finds a good stopping point, she exercises with a half-hour workout video, loads some laundry in the washing machine and does other light housework. “That’s the great freedom of it,” says Ms. Aronson, who says she moves from task to task at a leisurely pace. “I literally just do what I need to do or want to do.”

The activities haven’t disturbed her sleeping husband or daughter, who is in first grade. “It’s not like I’m vacuuming,” she says. Around 6 a.m., Ms. Aronson starts making her daughter’s lunch; by 6:30 the family is awake.

Ms. Aronson, who doesn’t drink coffee or any other caffeine, says she is motivated to wake up so early because of how much these hours energize her. She typically goes to bed at 10:30 p.m. and sleeps until 6:30 or 7 a.m. on weekends, Mondays and Fridays. “This probably isn’t long-term,” she says. “No one is making me do it, but I enjoy it because I have time for myself and I’m doing things on my own terms.”

Chris Danuser’s wake-up time: 5:30 a.m.

Chris Danuser doesn’t consider himself a morning person. To rise at 5:30 a.m. during the week, he sets the alarm on his phone and leaves it in the bathroom overnight, forcing him quickly out of bed for fear of waking his wife. “That first thought of the day is not about me, it’s about keeping things cool at home,” he says.

Mr. Danuser, a 51-year-old filmmaker and real-estate agent, dresses and heads to his office, which is on the top floor of his Maplewood, N.J., home. There he sits on the couch and meditates for 20 minutes.

By about 6:15 a.m., he is in the kitchen making matcha tea or coffee with blended butter and oil. Preparing either drink involves several steps requiring about 10 minutes, which he appreciates. “It’s very deliberate, you’re not just pushing a button,” he says.

After finishing his morning brew, he does some light stretches, yoga or a rhythmic bounce on a trampoline in the basement. By 7 a.m., Mr. Danuser’s wife, 17-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son are up and ready for breakfast, which he helps prepare. “They never try to join me,” he says of his early-morning routine. “They accept it as part of ‘Dad.’ ”

Mr. Danuser’s days lately are filled with meetings, fundraising and fast-approaching deadlines for a pilot he has written and will produce. Methodical, slow-paced mornings ease his anxiety and frustration and bring focus and organization to his unpredictable days, he says.

Mr. Danuser started rising early about two years ago. “I was 49 and realized I can’t be disorganized and have a lack of focus all my life,” he says. “I figured out that waking up early and having a deliberate morning pattern is something I can control—the control that I capture in the morning sustains me through the whole day.”

Appeared in the January 9, 2019, print edition as ‘What’s the Rush? The Power of Slow Mornings.’

Should Rugs Stay Out of the Kitchen? Designers Duke it Out

RUG RATIONALE Architect Mark Maresca spread out a traditional vintage rug beneath a contemporary pendant light from Urban Electric to add an element of old-new contrast to his Charleston, S.C., kitchen.
RUG RATIONALE Architect Mark Maresca spread out a traditional vintage rug beneath a contemporary pendant light from Urban Electric to add an element of old-new contrast to his Charleston, S.C., kitchen. Photo: Anne Chandler/The Urban Electric Co.
Yes

FROM A PRACTICAL standpoint, many people greet the notion of a rug in the kitchen with a visceral response: Ick. “I can’t imagine anything less appetizing than something that absorbs smells, soaks up spills and holds footprints on the floor of an environment that is meant to be clean, beautiful and functional,” said bicoastal designer Tim Campbell. Some also question the wisdom of introducing a potential skateboard—a textile apt to slip across a slick floor—into the room. Rug-averse Toronto designer Anne Hepfer finds other, safer ways to add a layer of design, texture and color. “I love using tiles and custom vinyl runners in kitchens,” she said. Her favorite source of the latter, Bolon, creates a sustainable version by converting vinyl waste, she said. Minimalists such as Mr. Campbell villainize rugs in the kitchen as clutter, while Houston designer Margaret Naeve, a fan of natural stone and herringbone-wood floors, sees them as interlopers that interfere with the room’s aesthetic: “The kitchen is a place to mix finishes into the overall design,” she said. “Why cover it up with a rug?”

No

“A PATTERNED RUG adds a warmth and patina that take the edge off a kitchen’s hard surfaces,” said architect Mark Maresca, who says well-worn vintage examples do this job splendidly. Los Angeles designer Wendy Haworth points to a more-easily maintained option. “I’ve done a washable cotton runner from Nickey Kehoe that was well priced, so my client got two to rotate with cleaning,” she said. As for the banana-peel factor, she added: “A pad is good to prevent slipping or tripping, and something with a little cushion helps when you’re working in the kitchen for a while.” New York architect David Ling noted that rugs can make for an acoustically abusive kitchen (think stone floors under a high ceiling) easier on the ears but stressed that size and proportion matter. “A proper balance must be struck between the main kitchen-floor material and the area rugs so that the composition reads intentional rather than spotty, utilitarian or ill-fitting,” he said. That’s why Jeffry Weisman avoids “kitchen carpets that look like bathroom rugs one throws in the washing machine.” The co-founder of Fisher Weisman, based in San Francisco and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, conceded that clients usually want a rug in the kitchen: “They are divided between those who want something practical and those who crave something gorgeous.” His design team avoids pile carpets that harbor crumbs. “Instead, we find machine-made Oriental carpets from the first half of the 20th century,” he said. “They aren’t terribly expensive, camouflage the inevitable drips and spills, vacuum and clean easily and look gorgeous. Problem solved.”

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The 1948 Plymouth That Defeated the North Dakota Winter

Mary Motschenbacher, 68, a medical transcriptionist from Fargo, N.D., and her sister, Beth Boatz, a 67-year-old retired banker from Blaine, Minn., on their 1948 Plymouth, as told to A.J. Baime.

Ms. Motschenbacher: In 1947, our uncle, Laurence Boatz, bought this Plymouth new from the Corwin Chrysler dealership in Fargo, which still exists. In the mid-1960s, our dad took ownership. We had a good family, but we did not have a lot of material things, so this was a big deal.

Ms. Boatz: There were four of us kids who learned how to drive in the Plymouth. We lived in Humboldt, Minn., which had about 100 people. In our high school, everyone either drove or rode in this car.


Photos: Wicked Weather Has Nothing on This Car

A pair of sisters show off the 1948 Plymouth they dubbed the Bomb as teenagers and restored after it sat unused for 44 years

The 1948 Plymouth in all its glory. This vehicle’s model year was the year that Harry Truman defeated Thomas Dewey to win the presidency, the year of the Berlin Airlift and the founding of Israel.
Ann Arbor Miller for The Wall Street Journal

Ms. Motschenbacher: We called it the Bomb. Like, it was so cool, it was the bomb! There were nights we would have 12 teenagers and two guitars in the car.

Ms. Boatz: I was the last one to drive the car in our family back then. When I graduated college, it was a hunk of junk. I gave it to a buddy, because he said he would restore it. It ended up sitting on a farm in Bergen, N.D., for 44 years.

Ms. Motschenbacher: When my sister, Beth, met her current husband, Andy Hybben, in 2013, he thought it would be a good idea to find the Bomb and restore it, to use in their wedding.

Ms. Boatz: Using an old address book, I located the friend I had given it to 44 years earlier, and he agreed to give it back for free. Andy and I drove 1,000 miles round-trip to get the car. It was a rust bucket full of mice. I knew it was the Bomb because I found my father’s old registration in the glove box.

Ms. Motschenbacher: My sister and I hardly knew the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver. But with the help of our significant others, Andy and my husband, Roger, we dove in. We researched online and went to salvage yards. There were times we thought we would never get it done. But we did, in about nine months.

Ms. Boatz: I married Andy on June 17, 2017, and when we came out of the church, there was the Bomb, with my sister at the wheel to drive us away. Then last summer, the Bomb played a starring role at our high school reunion—my 49th and my sister’s 50th. People were in awe.

Ms. Motschenbacher: No one ever expected we would find the Bomb, or that we would turn it into a beautiful car again.

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