Spa Travel and Wellness Inspiration

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts.

Source: Greenbrier Wellness

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Chef John Schopp, Chef Greg Moran and Chef Jim Ziesler members of the American Culinary Federation

My husband, Mike, and I won the live auction for a chef’s table featuring Chef John Schopp at the annual Derby Day Gala at Rockledge held every May in Roanoke. With our busy schedules we finally found a window of opportunity to enjoy a fun evening at home with some of our friends and the finest food that the Roanoke Valley has to offer.

The American Culinary Federation of Southwest Virginia delights guests with two food and beverage driven fundraising events each year. The annual Al Pollard Memorial Golf Tournament and chefs’ cooking competition held every September at Roanoke Country Club, and the Derby DayGala hosted by Dr(s) Nancy and Kevin Dye at their beautiful home, Rockledge, on Mill Mountain. Both events benefit students of the Al Pollard Culinary Institute with scholarships, as well as funds to compete in culinary competitions on the national level within the ACF.

When Chef Schopp suggested Halloween as a possible date, we jumped at the opportunity. In 2016, Chef Schopp competed on the Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship. Having gently stalked this amazing chef for decades, both online and IRL, we’re well aware of his talents.  l try to attend any event featuring his catering business, Center Stage Catering. I have had the pleasure of dining at his chef’s table on more than one occasion, so knowing his creativity, I did not want to give him any limitations on number of courses, types of food, or themes.

What arrived at my home Tuesday at 4:30pm, October 31, 2017 was a carefully invented, meticulously planned and implemented symphony of culinary art with Chef Schopp as the lead conductor.  Chef Schopp designed entirely new dishes for my dinner! Working from a general theme of Fall, the following dishes knocked our socks off.

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Autumn Musings; 14 brand new dishes made by Chef John C. Schopp, CFC,CEPC, CCA

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Chef Schopp front and center. His two wingmen for this ACF fundraiser, Chef James Zeisler, Sr. CEC, CCA, CDM,CFPP.  Chef Z is a Graduate of the University of Florida and Johnson & Wales. He is the Department Chairman at the Al Pollard Culinary Institute.  Chef Greg Moran, also an instructor at the Al Pollard Culinary Institute

Amuse Bouche

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Festive friends enjoy Turkish spiced acorn squash with pepita

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New England charcuterie plates are placed in strategic gathering areas in my home for our guests to enjoy as they like. Housemade sausage with pickled red onions, housemade mustard, gherkins and spiced pecans

 

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Hammer and Forge La Cabaza de Fuego. Figs and cheese with a unique apple butter puree

 

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Chef Greg Moran passes an amazing seared saffron scallop, glazed with a vanilla white raisin lacquer. Cocktail portion of evening in full swing

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Chef John Schopp lives in Franklin County, the moonshine capital of the world. He treated us to a flight of Vanilla Pineapple Brandy. I was careful to ask him about his infusing technique, and not sourcing. It’s on a need to know basis

Pasta

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This is what handmade, fresh pappardelle pasta looks like before he dresses it…paper thin and tender to the bite. It is a labor of love to make pasta like this

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Hazelnut pappardelle with buttered bread crumbs, cooked egg yolk, manchego, lemon, parsley,  and butter.  For the record, I thought my dinner guest, Yvette, was going to explode in her seat! Anyone who makes their own pasta knows how much time and attention is needed to pull off perfect pasta. Served family style with the salad, I was able to send her home with some leftovers

From the Field

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baby lettuces, shaved radish with grapefruit white balsamic and robust olive oil from Chile (Olivito on 419) and micro plained manchego.

 

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Escar-Foe

 

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This is definitely the most creative way I have ever eaten pork! Chef Schopp combined his own Housemade winter spice-cured bacon AND sorghum braised pork belly served on buttered stoneground grits, apple garlic soubise, and parsley and ham ‘Snail Foam.’ My husband lost his mind over this one! Just when you think it can’t get any better, Chef Schopp brings us a tasting of spiced micro beer to accompany it

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Winter spice cured bacon…this could have stood on its own. Absolutely delicious.

Seafood 

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Coriander-crusted ahi tuna served rare with butternut squash silk. I kind of remember going into the kitchen to open some white wine for this course 🙂

Meat & Potato

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Ras-el-hanout ribeye. This has a special rub made by Chef Ted Polfelt, also an ACF member and instructor at the school. It made my house smell incredible. I watched Chef Morgan sear this in duck fat when they first arrived. It roasted in my oven creating the most manly potpourri imaginable. Served with potatoes anna, and garlic aioli

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Passing through my kitchen earlier, the three chefs spoke in shorthand, cut jokes, and moved in unison. They were so calm and well organized. I would hear a little timer go off every now and again. It was a treat to see this level of professionalism working together. I can tell they are like brothers, and enjoyed the camaraderie of this performance.  Just the number of sauces and garnishes would have overwhelmed most cooks. They made everything look effortless and had a blast working together

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Ras-el-hanout ribeye with duck fat, potatoes anna, garlic aioli…yeah, that is bearnaise… My husband told me he watched Chef Schopp work on that sauce for about a half an hour. He would stir it continuously with a whisk and check the consistency until it was perfect. Crusted bread, also made by the culinary students to accompany this course.

Pre-dessert Morphing

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Wine spiced apple encased in foie caramel cream with fried winter herb salad and toast

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I paired this goose liver caramel spiced apple with a 40 year old Noval Tawny Port, a special gift from our friend Dr. Walid Azzo of Bluefield, WV.   Decadent!!!

But wait, there is more!!!

Sweet Amuse

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Snickerdoodle palmier

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Macadamia buttermilk ice cream with macadamia nuts, crystal ginger, and pineapple

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Roasted cashew tart with with cornmeal short dough

 

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Anise sea salt caramel suckers with fresh raspberries and dehydrated spiced apples

 

 

 

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Rick James was our playlist inspired by my friend David’s costume. The kitchen loves funk!

We are full of joy and gratitude sharing this spectacular meal with our friends.  Roanoke has another star in the city in the Al Pollard Culinary Institute, and all the beautiful and talented humans that make it shine bright. Many thanks to Chef Schopp, Chef Ziegler, Chef Moran and all the culinary students who worked diligently to make this meal a reality.

If you would like to contribute the the scholarship fund, please contact the American Culinary Federation, Southwest Virginia Chapter. Also, keep an eye out for opportunities to bid on chef’s tables at local events, but be prepared that we will be there bidding, again!

 

 

 

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Every seat is at the Chefs’ table in Metro!

Dear Andy,

I’m sorry. It’s me. It’s definitely not you. You did all the right things. Every day open and waiting to delight guests with new and exciting dishes, plated in always different and beautiful ways. You showed up. You shined bright.

I feel like there has been a death in my family. I have this overwhelming sadness. I try to not ruminate as there are many layers to think about with the closing of my family’s favorite restaurant. It had been a second home to me for just over fifteen years.

I know things have been tough for the past couple of years. Many people are wondering what happened? How could such a fine restaurant with a dedicated following shutter its doors? I would guess that if I asked you what happened, I might get a different answer depending on the typical weekly calamities…downtown flooding, streets closed for parades, high overhead,  expensive table linens (Frette, I noticed), long meals with clients who have short attention spans, increased food costs, the unsightly dumpster parked in front of your restaurant for endless months while the building next door underwent renovations. The regular need for sandbags and early closing every time it rained hard. Humidity from all the water in the ancient basement doing a number on your HVAC system.  You endured many years of intense stress with changing palates, competition from the next new restaurant that garners all the attention for the few extra dollars that so many people manage. Constant festivals are both a boon on some days and a bust on others. Closed streets and full parking garages. None of these things ever stopped you. You always powered through.

It is impossible for me to think that the restaurant failed for any food or service failures. The contempt that some people spew on pages like Yelp, Open Table, and Facebook is disturbing. You, my friend, were never offering a factory food model that so many are willing to eat. Pre-made frozen desserts are a quick and easy solution for other establishments. You were not that type of purveyor…ever.  In fact, to the untrained eye, it might appear that you placed a burger on your menu just to appease the unsophisticated palate of guests who may have been talked into going to a “sushi place.” Not so…you always understood there were days that people just need a burger, or a steak for that matter.

 

 

 

Metro! wasn’t just a place to grab a quick bite and move on. This special place was like my second living room. In the early years, it was my every weekend watering hole for my single social life. You provided me a safe and friendly place to meet people before social media changed the way we engage with each other. I never forgot the night you gave me the heads up on a guy that was chatting me up. You let me know he was a bad apple. You looked out for me.

Metro! was my go-to place to entertain physicians as a medical sales rep. Also, it was the only place in my mind for a girlfriends’ night out. Once remarried, it quickly become a place to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays.  As our kids left the nest and returned for short and sweet visits, it was always assumed we would go see Andy while they were in town. When they were old enough to drink, they wanted to have their first adult beverages with us at Metro! Now as empty nesters, Metro! was in heavy rotation for our cherished date nights. And is it where we often entertain visiting physicians while we try to convince future fellows and partners that Roanoke is a cool place to live and work.

 

 

 

We are in shock and disbelief at the closing of your innovative restaurant.  You made it through so many tough times. You weathered the 2008 stock market collapse. You made it though marketing reforms which essentially stopped all medical marketing dinners, once a steady source of revenue. You blazed the trail for fine dining in Downtown.

The last three Januaries, my husband Mike wanted to do the Dry January challenge. This is a month where we challenge ourselves to give up alcohol for the health benefits, and to ensure that we still can. January is notoriously slow for restaurants, people overindulge from Halloween to New Years, then do a 180 in January to reset physically and financially, and to give the liver a break. The last 90 days, my husband and I have been eating low carb…I’m sorry Andy.  I know that you always offer healthy choices including low carb, but my willpower to be in your living room without one of your craft cocktails is something I just couldn’t do and stick to my weight loss plan. I’m weak. Again, it was me, not you.

As we collectively scratch our heads on how this restaurant could close, the answer is simple. We didn’t show up for you. I know that each person will have a different perspective and even if I asked you three days in a row, I would probably get some different scenarios, but really it is basic. You would still be running your family business if we showed up.

Instead of pointing out all the inequities of being a small business owner in a challenging and ever-changing economy, I would like to help you remember all the things you did right.

First off, I loved the fact that I could be an adult in Roanoke. You gave me a place to get dressed up and turn out with friends, clients, and family. You provided an atmosphere that was sophisticated, not stuffy. Your food was always the focus and never an afterthought. Your attention to detail was superb. The drama of having a perfectly plated meal was impressive. Even up to the bitter end, you continued to innovate. You kept me guessing and dreaming. You inspired me to be a better cook at home.

Your passion for the freshest ingredients and innovative ways to prepare them was the main difference among your peers. Just provisioning the place would be a full-time task. Bacon was cured in-house. Bloody Mary mix, also fresh. That delicious half-sour dill pickle you spent years perfecting, atop the perfect grassfed beef burger…this is what separated you from others. I’m guessing it was hard to keep up with all those vendors.

I’m still in shock about how quickly people just want to make a quick judgment so they can file away the reason a restaurant closed, and move on to the next thing.  There are textbook ways to do a grand opening; there are no textbook ways to end a business.

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Girls night out. Nothing but love for you, my friend.

Our perceptions are the lens through which we experience life and the world around us.  The uninformed on social media point to a common scenario, saying it is typical for a restauranteur to just shut the doors and leave a note. How simple-minded to imagine that is was an easy decision for you. You carefully arranged for other restauranteurs to meet with employees, and had job offers waiting for all of them on Sunday afternoon. The fact that your competitors are also your friends is a testament to the way you ran your business.

If others are quick to believe that you had bad intentions for your employees, then they weren’t regulars. Besides making phenominal cuisine daily, you were also a tenured restauranteur. Over your lifetime, you learned how to run a successful business from your parents. This is in your blood.  I was speaking with one of your longtime employees just this morning. Dexter, a former server, who climbed his way to management within a couple of years. Dexter quickly rattled off a dozen things that you did for your staff.  Dexter was respectful of your management style. He said you grew your own managers. You never hired outside managers to come into the team. You always promoted servers to assistant managers and then to managers as they developed the high level of customer service that you expected. Dexter appreciated your willingness to train staff members to DJ if they were interested, and give them a Thursday night shift to have the experience of getting a crowd on the dance floor. You always had a theme for the staff each year for Halloween costumes and a contest just for them. Dexter told me that one year the staff was ask to dress as their favorite superhero. He won with his Ghostrider  costume, and was thrilled to be given a bottle of Dom Perignon as his prize.

As you are well aware, the nature of a restaurant is an ever-changing staff. One staff member relationship really stood out to Dexter. He said that when Chef Tom was working in the kitchen, it was a beautiful thing to watch. He said that ‘Tom and Andy worked together like a father and son.” When Chef Tom discovered he had cancer, it was his dying wish to continue working, right up to the bitter end. Andy, you followed his wishes and made that happen for him.  For years you kept Chef Tom’s name listed as sous chef on the menu–long after he had passed away.  Many highly-trained chefs helped you over the years. You became a regular mentor for many who were studying and working through our local Al Pollard Culinary School. You are a respected peer among local chefs.

Speaking of menus, can we talk about how frequently you changed yours? There were always a few dishes on the list that the regulars would not let go out of rotation, but there was also always something new to the season, or just new to Roanoke.

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I love the tradition you shared with your daughter, Emma. You always placed a Hello Kitty for her somewhere on the menu.

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Emma is a talented artist that pitched in with your side walk menus.

You were the first to offer Wagyu beef in Roanoke. Remember that stint of mini dessert flights? Just three or four bites, enough to satisfy most sweet tooths after a special meal. I remember you offered the dozen desert choices on an iPad. That was a cool new way to use technology, until a dinner guest used the tablet to search for adult materials, then when it was handed to the next table, a family, those naughty images came back. Sometimes we can’t have nice things here. Looking back further, remember when you did tableside fondue with the craft breads, house cured meats, local veggies and those adorable little fiddlehead ferns. I do. I know I annoyed you by begging you to bring it back, but that was so ten years ago. You have long moved on to master the next new technique. How about when more recently, you offered binchotan grilled food? This Japanese style of cooking uses special wood that had to be imported from Japan. Having affordable quick bites of Japanese street food was a special treat for Roanoke.

It will be a drastic change for your family that has fought hard week in and week out to put their special stamp on fine dining in Roanoke. I know you will adjust. I am deeply saddened that we could not sustain your presence in downtown.

The Wolfe Family loves you and your family, this will not change. Thank you for a fabulous fifteen years. It was awesome.

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Random treat sent out by one of our favorite bartenders, Jackie. She could hear my girlfriend and I discussing her new status as a widow, seeing the tone of our girls night headed South, she intuitively cheered us up. You always surrounded yourself with employees with high EQ.

 

 

 

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My first botox injection recorded live
I might be a little late to this party, but I have finally arrived. It seems that I may be one of my last girlfriends in my age group that has taken the plunge into the cosmetic injectable  market. What took me so long? Well, I am Buddhist, so I tend to look at my intentions before I act on them. Since I truly believe happiness comes from within, why would I consider this medical intervention for appearance?  I should clear up right away that my desire to keep myself looking younger does not include doing anything drastic. And by that, I mean with a scalpel. I am absolutely not against plastic surgery for aesthetics. I would just prefer to burn that bridge at a much later date. I had to meditate on why I really wanted to take the plunge, so let me share those reasons with you, and the single most important thing you need to know about these injections.

As many facials as I have had and will continue to have, let me just tell you this:  I am lazy when it comes to my own skin care routine. I am still going to fall asleep with my eye makeup on. I refuse to wear any kind of thick night cream. I have tried many, but none of them work from inside the jar. One needs to be compliant for these types of products to work. I know myself, and at 47,  I am not going to spend a tremendous amount of time at the end of my day doing multiple steps of a skin care regimen before I go to sleep. If it hasn’t happened by now, its not going to happen. I did attempt Nerium for a month and I was totally non-compliant because I didn’t like the new bedtime routine and it smelled like rotten bananas. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I also keep it simple with my daily skin care regimen. I do the basics; wash, tone, moisturize. A few times a week I will do exfoliation and treatments masks while I soak in a tub. I also travel extensively, and I am not willing to lug around tons of products. A quart sized baggie can only hold so much and I am adamant about not checking luggage.

Why didn’t someone tell me Botox was for lazy divas?

Friends have asked, why would I inject a “poison” into my face? It seems drastic to a few, others probably wondered why I hadn’t already. Safety and efficacy are key in my decision making process. Botox has been on the market for over 10 years, and I believe we know it is a safe and effective product for correcting and preventing wrinkles. It is FDA-approved for this application and has been thoroughly studied before and during its time on the market (for non-biased medical information, always read the prescriptions package insert!). There are no wrinkle creams on the market that will work as well as Botox for muscles of movement.

I was also a marketing major in college, and appearances do matter. As a Buddhist, I playfully try on many different versions of self minute-by-minute. I am very in tune with my connection to my body and my mind, and they are not mutually exclusive. Feeling good about myself can impact my attitude as well as affect how others perceive me.

What started to weigh on my mind was something a friend pointed out. She pointed to a long vertical line between my eyebrows. Ever since it was brought to my attention that I had a noticeable wrinkle, I could never not notice it anymore. Thanks, I think.

But it did get me thinking to back when I first switched from glasses to contacts.  One day I was walking down the hallway at a university medical center. A nurse stopped me and asked why I was so angry.  Thing is, I wasn’t!  I was having trouble reading hospital signs in the corridor. At that moment, I decided to get my vision checked. I did need glasses.  But, I also needed to make my number as a rep. Appearing to scowl is not good for sales.  I did think glasses made me appear smarter to the medical community I called on, so that was a bonus. Fast-forward a few more years and I was going to have a new sales manager that was ten years younger than me. In an effort to appear young and energetic at work, I switched to contacts. Maybe it helped with my manager, maybe not, but I certainly liked all the complements I received and I enjoyed the benefit of wearing non-prescription sunglasses. My point is, I’m not really attached to my appearance to the point that I can’t change it, I just continue to try on new shells, as I continue to grow. So where do you draw the line? To me, the first line was using hair color when the gray started to appear. Is it that big of a stretch from hair color to Botox? I used to think so, but then again, I have continued to change and grow as a person, and my idea of what is acceptable has also changed. So why shouldn’t my body match my mind? I do know one thing, I don’t want the “deep 11” on my face. Having two deep lines between the eyebrows does make one appear to be angry, even when they are not. When I discussed this with my doctor, you can imagine the horror when he pointed out that not only did I have two lines now, but at the  rate I was changing, I could actually end up with three lines. It turns out I made it to the party just in time!

Botox Brow Lift

Happy surprise, I did not know I was also going to get the benefit of a brow lift! I was aware that surgical brow lifts can have the effect of a face lift. I didn’t realize that an added benefit would be a dramatic lift of my brow. My doctor and I discussed my desire to not appear waxy, which is generally a look achieved by overuse of these injections and fillers. Let’s get this clear right now. If you go to the right specialist, you will not end up looking  “surprised” or have that frozen-face look that some people end up having. I had a successful two-site course of Botox because I chose a doctor that not only does these injections daily, but has additional training as a FAOS plastic surgeon. This select group of physicians have undergone extensive aesthetic training far beyond their chosen fellowships. These surgeons are peer-reviewed to meet the highest standards in the industry. I knew that if I picked the right doctor, he would be able to help me sift through all the options available to me. There are countless products and procedures on the market to reverse the signs of aging. I need someone who is up on absolutely every surgical and non-surgical option available to me. When I pick the right, well-trained specialist, I don’t have to do all the homework of researching new products, treatments, and procedures. This is their profession and passion.  A surgeon like the one I researched will do all the heavy lifting for me. So my advice is this:  Spend a ridiculous amount of time looking for the right doctor, not the right product. They want the best outcomes for their patients and their reputations are at stake. It just takes one trip to a website like http://www.NewBeauty.com to research all the latest aesthetic products and procedures, and you will find the same comments over and over again…I wish I had not gone to this dentist for my botox, I wish I had not used a Groupon, now my eyebrows are crooked for 3 months or longer…Every nightmare post reveals the same thing…I went to someone who was NOT a specialist and the results were not great.

Two site Botox

This is a long-term relationship and one that should be researched thoroughly. Botox needs to be injected every three months on average. At some point, I might opt for additional therapies and I want a physician that can grow with me as a patient for many years to come. The right physician will listen to your concerns and take the time to explain to you what the risks vs. rewards are. FAACS and FACOS surgeons have first hand experiences, and time in practice to master the art of beauty. This is what they do! So skip the Google search on the product and start stalking these doctors online. With technology, we can usually see examples of their work, read patient reviews, and check on their biographies to see exactly how qualified they are and in what subspecialty. Medicine is complex, and many doctors are super subspecialized. My husband is a orthopedic surgeon and only performs hip and knee replacement.  If you are going for cosmetic changes to your body, you better know what the doctor’s subspecialty is. As a former medical sales rep and wife of a surgeon, I have a certain amount of medical information and access that is not available to everyone. I thought it would be helpful to share my physician search process with you.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BOTOX IS WHO IS MOST QUALIFIED TO INJECT YOUR FACE AND CHANGE YOUR APPEARANCE.

 

It is my opinion that since these injections are cosmetic and not covered by insurance for treatment of wrinkles, that I get the best injector. Ever had a bad haircut?  Think about what a bad injection could do to your self-esteem. Even the “fancy surgeon” I picked offers very competitive pricing due to the self-pay nature of these products. I checked!

I began my search locally, and moved out from there. I didn’t want someone who took a weekend workshop to be able to change the appearance of my face, when I could have someone who finished medical school, internship, general surgery residency, plastic surgery residency, and a cosmetic fellowship, which involves a much higher level of training, than other people who are technically able to provide this service. If the cost is the same, why would I not go to a plastic surgeon?  Truth is, since I don’t really want to do any surgery for a while, a dermatologist might have been a great choice as well, but in the semi-rural city where I live, dermatologists are few and far-between. I have not found a local one that I liked and could actually get in to see. It would be nearly impossible to have great access to a dermatologist locally, and I would end up with a physician’s assistant giving me my injections.

I was looking for a plastic surgeon that matched my expectations of training and accessibility. I had two options I considered locally, one was close to retirement, and the other was booked out a few months. Skill and access are important to me.

My checklist for finding a qualified plastic surgeon:

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I also want accessibility. Can I get in? Will I see the doctor or a physician’s assistant. Depending on what I need, that may or may not be important. For Botox, I want a doctor that truly understands the esthetics of this product as they use it and fillers daily in their practice almost like an artist uses paint.

Allow me to introduce you to my doctor, Dr. Michael Kluska.

Dr. Michael S. Kluska

Dr. Michael S. Kluska, board certified plastic surgeon and fellow and board member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (FAACS)

Dr. Kluska is a Board certified plastic surgeon and he specializes in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. Director of the Greenbrier Center for Cosmetic Surgery and MedSpa, he has been in practice for more than 15 years. He is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, graduating from the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Des Moines, Iowa. He did his general surgery internship and residency at Cleveland Clinic Health System and South Pointe Hospital (This is key!!! This is a hard residency to be admitted to and the residents here work with some of the best plastic surgeons in the world).He also did his fellowship (subspecialization) at Ohio University, Cleveland Clinic Health System and South Pointe Hospital.

I also checked the Botox website to see if Dr. Kluska was listed. This was due to my experiences as a biotech sales rep. Some doctors will buy illegally reimported drugs, that cannot be tracked for safety, to lower their costs and increase their profits. Some of these may be counterfeit. I am not going to anyone not on the Botox site as the company would not have a record of sales with that physician. I would view an omission  as a huge red flag. I also want to see the Botox  vial at the time of the injection to insure the writing is in English and has a hologram of the logo. Of course Dr. Kluska is on the website, no corners are cut at The Greenbrier Clinic.

Accessibility:  How does a house call to your room at the Greenbrier sound? Due to the nature of concierge medicine, access is one of the biggest patient advantages. Physicians who limit their patients to a smaller population do this to provide more in-depth care. I know that my physician will be able to see me when I am available to see him, not the other way around! Also, I do not have to stay over night at the Greenbrier to visit Dr. Kluska at the Greenbrier Clinic. If I do stay at a guest of the hotel, I can then decide if I would like to walk over to the Clinic or have him visit my guest room. If privacy is important to you, it does not get any more clandestine than this. If in the future I decide to have a surgical procedure, I can fully recover at the hotel in one of the special medical suites and he will round on me in my suite. How sweet is that? Patients of the Greenbrier Clinic receive special room rates. Call for a quote 877.269.8118

Do you know someone that could use this information? Please consider tagging or sharing this post.

If you would like to see the entire consult please take a peek, it is just 20 minutes.

This is a sponsored post. I contacted the Greenbrier Clinic when I researched Dr. Kluska and extended the offer to work with him and share my experience. All opinions are my own. If you are considering cosmetic procedures it is always important to discuss your personal health and medical history with your family doctor before beginning new medical treatments. I am not a doctor. I am a spa blogger. This is my life.

 

http://www.enlightenedspareview.com/google66dfc194e4d2cd5c.html.

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A visit to Monticello and a stay at the Trump Albermarle Estate and spa located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Donald Trump and Thomas Jefferson on the same day? 

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The  Trump Albermarle Inn and Winery

I had the pleasure of spending time with my family touring Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, VA earlier this month. We stayed overnight at the Trump Albermarle Estate. Trump’s is the largest winery in Virginia, and includes a 45-room estate with 10 guest rooms. Surrounded by all the presidential history in Charlottesville, I could not help but make comparisons of the two homes and, at times, the two men. The Albermarle Estate and winery is just down the road from both President James Monroe’s home, Ash Lawn-Highland, and Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. I was entertained by the thought of considering TJ and Trump as neighbors. Would they have been civil?

 

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Monticello

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My family at Monticello

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My husband, Mike, a double Hoo looks up to TJ.

Thomas Jefferson, famous as an American Founding Father, principle author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), architect and founder of The University of Virginia (1819), elected as the second vice president under John Adams (1797-1801), elected our third president (1801-09), one-time minister to France (1795) and our first Secretary of State serving under George Washington (1790-1793). Jefferson was also an avid botanist and gardener. His home in Charlottesville is the only private residence protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Jefferson and another Virginia President, James Madison, organized the Democratic-Republic Party to oppose the Federalist Party . There is so much to learn about Jefferson, that a tour of his home is important, but also grounding. Touring Monticello with my husband a “double Hoo” and our older daughter, also a Wahoo, (nickname for UVA students and alums) was eye opening. This historic site evinces so much greatness, but was built on the backs of slaves. It left me in awe of the accomplishments of the time, but also heartsick at the inhuman treatment of the enslaved. Three tours happen each hour on the hour–the home tour, the slave tour, and the garden tour.

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The most recent addition to Donald Trump’s library.

Donald Trump–businessman, real estate mogul, hotelier, reality tv show host, author, and now Republican Party presidential candidate–is running for the very same office that was once held by Jefferson. While it may seem improbable and almost inappropriate to make comparisons to the two men as statesmen, it is a natural progression to compare their two homes while staying at the Albermarle Estate and visiting Monticello.

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When entering the Trump estate and winery, I was directed through an automated secure gate. Oh, the irony! The estate is surround by an impressive brick wall. The Trump winery, well known locally as the former Kluge winery and estate, is now part of a separate portfolio within the Trump hotel brand, as a bed and breakfast. Trump winery is the largest wine producer in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Located just down the road from Monticello, this winery is in the heart of a wine-making region which is also famous for being the home of past presidents. Staying at the Albermarle Estate is logistically perfect for a wine trek in this region. At first glance, this estate is dramatically larger than that of his neighbor, Jefferson’s Monticello. Albermarle Estate includes a wine making facility, tasting room, meeting rooms, and even a little chapel on a massive 1300 acre estate. Having toured Monticello prior to checking in at the Trump Estate, I was impressed with the scale and design of this once famous private mansion. TJ preferred to use 10 foot wooden fences , to deter deer, around his property with intermittent use of ornamental hedges and fruit trees, to make beautiful, functional partitions on his property. At UVA, TJ also used red brick to make the famous Serpentine Wall.
Jefferson graduated from the College of William and Mary. He could speak and read in seven languages. TJ’s library at Monticello has been meticulously recreated by donations. His original library is maintained at the Library of Congress. While the collection of books housed in his original bed room and study is impressive, it is limited to just a few book shelves. Trump on the other hand, has a YUUGE library (sorry, I can’t help myself). It, too, is a curated collection of first editions, law books, and of course, an entire shelf of his own works. He even included his daughter Ivanka’s book. It would have been impossible to find a book by one of Jeffersons daughters, as only men were allowed to be educated and attend universities at the time. TJ’s daughters, particularly Martha, were involved in the operation of his estate while Jefferson was away serving as ambassador to France, Vice President, and President. Trump’s daughter is also in the family business and is currently redesigning the spas at his hotels.

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I am excited to visit the new spa that Ivanka developing in Washington, D.C..

Tj was a lover of the finer things in life. He once sent a trusted slave to France to train in the art of French cooking–for eight years! He also received a slave as a gift from a friend that was a skilled cider maker, to improve the quality of the cider produced at Monticello. Jefferson ‘s home has two kitchens: One where preparation and cooking took place, close to the kitchen garden, and second just to plate the food and present it in impeccable fashion to the many distinguished (and ordinary) guests of Monticello.


Jefferson was constantly hosting guests at Monticello. It was custom to never turn away any travelers that showed up announced or unannounced. It was a custom of the time to stay with friends, friends of friends, family, and even strangers. All were made welcome. Guests would sometimes stay for weeks on end. This is where I believe Jefferson would have made use of Trump, as a hotelier and neighbor. I often wondered why Jefferson built a second summer home, Poplar Forest, not far away, in Bedford, Virginia. I now know it must have been to escape the constant onslaught of house guests at Monticello. I don’t doubt that TJ would have also traded his hard apple cider for some Trump wine. Obviously, the Neo-Georgian design of the Albermarle estate echoes that of Monticello, so I believe Jefferson may have at least been flattered by the mansion, even though it is nearly six times the size of his home.

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The pool house has a pool house!

I stayed in the pool house at the Trump Albermarle Estate. My room was actually named after President Harrison. It was surreal to page through Harrison’s biography. The book jacket summed up his presidency well. Harrison’s run for office was “full of drama and comedy.” “Harrison entered the national stage as an overblown Indian fighter. Harrison actually did his fighting by pen, negotiating the tribes of the American Midwest out of millions of acres of land. His presidential campaign, an extravaganza of parades, songs, dances, and ball rolling, was all about a humble solider in a plain log cabin who bore little resemblance to the actual candidate. But voters loved it and the 1840 election had a record turn out that still stands today.” Harrison is most famous for his brief time in office. He died just a month after his inauguration in 1841. (Gail Collins on William Henry Harrison.) Sound like anyone we know? Is a Twitter rant the new poison pen?

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The Albermarle Estate pool house includes a few guest rooms, a state of the art gym, a spa treatment room, sauna, and provides easy access to an outdoor hot tub and of course, the pool. Multiple salons, a billiard room, a card room, and a home theater complete with any Netflix program or internet movie you might want. The popcorn machine and all the candy you can eat made for the perfect conditions to Netflix and chill. His celebrity gallery in the movie theater is priceless. Only one movie poster, Saturday Night Fever. I’m guessing it must be the Donald’s favorite. The inn also features Donald Trump’s favorite sporting teams, golf memorabilia, and of course, magazine covers of himself. The estate also has a disco ball, but I will let you discover where that is on your own.

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We were able to dine at the Albermarle Estate for breakfast Sunday morning. (They only serve breakfast, for now). Large windows look out onto the formal fountains and gardens. Due to a very strong wind storm, my breakfast was cooked without electricity! The estate lost power in the very early hours of Sunday morning. A shower or recharging my precious iPhone was not happening for me. Sorry, no food pics. At TJ’s house, they did not allow photographs to be taken inside. I wanted to capture the irony of both men having yellow living rooms.  A trip to the “necessary room,” while dark, was at least not outdoors as at Monticello. This wrinkle in our stay did not dampen our enjoyment of the property. While we were inconvenienced a bit, it definitely fit with the ironic, historic weekend we were having. The scale of this estate is impressive.

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Prior to breakfast, I was able to enjoy a 90 minute Swedish massage in the spa. I had requested my services the day before and Michael, the manager, was able to accommodate my last-minute booking for my desired time. I was beyond pleased with my skilled therapist, Bridgette. The single spa room, was large and well lit, thankfully. If we had had functioning electricity, it would have been a heated table. With no music, I enjoyed a fun chat with my therapist about all things spa-related, Trump, local knowledge of restaurants and wineries, and my family adventures over the weekend. Bridgette is lovely.


I don’t recall seeing a church on the property of Monticello, however the Trump estate has a gorgeous chapel used for weddings. I was not told of any special denomination, but it was obvious it was a Christian church with traditional white cladding and a white steeple. Destination wedding guests will love that they can take over this estate by booking the ten guest rooms. The property, rooms, winery, gardens, and chapel make for a picturesque bespoke wedding venue. Catering would be arranged with an off-site vendor. Being able to toast a special day with the delicious Trump sparking wine is a bonus.

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Trump wines are actually highly rated. The 2008 Rose blend is rated at 90 by Cellar Tracker.

My husband and I enjoyed time visiting our daughters over the weekend in Charlottesville. Our oldest is a fourth-year at UVA and the younger is a sophmore at VCU, in Richmond. Together, they chose to stay on campus for some late night fun with friends, while Mike and I were able to unwind from our long day of sightseeing. As a family, we spent some time sipping wine by the pool and getting caught up. Later, after the girls left, we spent some time reading in the library, and checking in on the golf tournament. Late night, we watched the Amy Winehouse documentary in the theater, which we had to ourselves. Michael made us popcorn and we hit the all-you-care to eat candy bar hard. We typically stay on the Downtown Mall when we visit C’ville, but this was a nice change of pace, and a quiet, private place to spend time with the kids.

 

What to know before you go:
Due to the size of this estate, it is easy to forget that this is not a hotel. Breakfast is served in the dining room. There is no room service, and lunch and dinner are on your own.
The location of this winery cannot be understated. Blenheim (Dave Matthews’ winery) is right next door. Nearly a dozen more wineries are on the same road.
While trekking to the other wineries is a piece of cake, driving 15-20 minutes back into town on 2-lane roads for lunch and dinner could be tricky if you have been drinking wine.
A Trump tasting room is on property and open from 11am-5pm daily. It includes a souvenir Riedel glass, which of course has the Trump logo on it. It also has a limited selection of cheeses, charcuterie, and picnic lunches. Special events at Trump are scheduled on holidays and Thomas Jeffesron’s birthday (April 13th), and the Fourth of July, the day TJ died.

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Michie Tavern is also on the same road and is a historic site with tours as well. Famous for their fried chicken and BBQ, the line will likely be out the door. It moves quickly and we enjoyed our family style meal there.
Monticello is a must see, and just a few minutes down the road. It has a cafe and also offers grab-and-go food, perfect for a picnic or enjoyed back at the estate. A beautiful gift shop offers a nice opportunity for retail therapy.
This is a kid-friendly property only if your child is over 12. Due to the fragile nature of the artwork, furnishings, glass, and overall adult vibe, young children are discouraged from visiting. It was perfect for my college age kids.

Factoid: Thomas Jeffersons, highly regarded as one of our greatest presidents, spent much of his time during his second presidential term dealing with domestic issues, including the trial of former vice president Aaron Burr for the murder of political rival, Alexander Hamilton, in a famous duel. In 1807 Jefferson wrote the Trade Embargo Act. It was meant to normalize trade while England and France were at war and “retrieve our lost honor and bring the mad King back to his senses”(Make America Great Again? lol). Jefferson also spent time removing Indian tribes from the newly organized Louisiana Territory. He also penned the Slave Trade Act 1807 which prohibited new slave import into the United States. It is interesting to note that law did not stop slaves from trickling in to the U.S.

Factoid: Billionaire John Kluge built this 23,000 square foot mansion in the 1980s. His third wife, Patricia Kluge, originally listed this estate for sale at 100 million dollars. The 1300 acre estate includes 200 acres of French vinifera grapes planted in 1999. Trump purchased this property from his friend, Patricia Kludge for 6.5 million in 2011 and she stayed on for one year working for Donald. Eric Trump, Donald’s son, now manages the winery and inn, visiting monthly via helicopter.

Factoid: Thomas Jefferson brokered the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The territory, consisting of 828,000 square miles (or what is now 15 states and two Canadian territories), was bought for 11.2 million, less the forgiveness of French debt of 3.7 million for a total of 15 million dollars.

I’m sorry. The irony is just so thick.

Wow! This was a lot to learn in less than 48 hours. I would recommend a long weekend in order to see and do more in this rich, historic, wine-soaked area. Learning from history is important. Learning by experience brings history to life. Visiting this property during this election cycle was a trip!
Famous American poet Robert Frost penned the poem “Mending the Wall,” in his book North of Boston (1914). In this poem the narrator, a New England farmer, contacts his neighbor to rebuild a stone wall between their two farms. As they both build the wall, the narrator questions the purpose of the wall. The neighbor replied not once, but twice, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

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Iconic serpentine wall on The University of Virginia,  designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Photo credit:By Karen BlahaFlickr: Daffodils and serpentine wall, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12911111

 

Names and places change, but the same arguments remain.

 

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I have also stayed at Trump Doral,  Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Coral Gables, Florida. I loved it. I guess this Presidential  election is adding a ironic vibe to what is a great Inn.

 

I was not given any special treatment at this property other than being a paying guest. I will return as we did have fun, despite a little inconvenience without electricity Sunday morning. I found the property to be exquisitely furnished, comfortable, and private. Look for additions to the spa soon, and potentially a golf course in the more remote future.

You might also enjoy checking out my favorite spa service of 2015 

 

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Golden Eagle Treehouse at Primland Resort

Golden Eagle Treehouse at Primland Resort

Meadows of Dan, Virginia

A meditation in gingerbread

Gingerbread houses are a labor of love. I am a huge fan of baking, so when my friend, Beth, offered to teach me how to bake and build a gingerbread house, I was thrilled. I knew it would be a challenge, but I had no idea how much actually goes into building such a magical project. I learned a lot from my friend. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Keep Scale in mind. I opted to build what I thought would be a pretty simple pattern for a cute little treehouse. If you want to spend more time decorating than baking, keep it simple.

IMG_9030Have a plan. Ginger bread house patterns can be copied and cut out from templates in books. My friend uses one or two different templates and makes the same couple of houses every year but decorates them differently. I however was not thrilled with my choice of standard home (nothing normal for me!), so naturally I had to make my own template. This adds a considerable amount of time to the project, but hey, why not? When you invest this much time is baking and building, you better love what you are going to make. I actually drew my plan out a couple of times to get the proper scale I was looking for.

IMG_9017I wanted to create a natural-looking house that is a copy of an actual treehouse that I have stayed in many times. When picking a design, be sure to think out about how you want the gingerbread to look. Will this be a candy-crusted house with lots of frosting to simulate snow? Do you want something that looks like a fairy tale house? What color do you want the house? Will you actually be able to see the cookie part, or will it be coated with frosting or other decorations? I knew my house would be rustic and not covered in frosting. I actually made a second batch of dough as the first batch was too dark. I was making a treehouse, so dark brown did not cut it. Light and dark corn syrup can be mixed to get the right color. If going for a brick look, red food coloring could also be used.

IMG_9025Consider your base. Will you need to move this once it is built? I knew I was going to travel with mine in a car, so I chose a thick piece of wood. I inverted a foam cooler on top of the wood to simulate the edge of the mountain just like the real treehouse. Other options could be a cutting board, foam core, or even a table-top piece of glass. To make a gingerbread house really pop, the setting is almost as important as the house. Will you want a yard? Trees? Fences? All of these little touches can really make a house really special. These also take time so consider your available time when picking the scene.

Structural supports are important considerations. How heavy will the roof be if it is coated with frosting and candy? There are many cute ideas to cover a roof. Candies, cereal, frosting, cookies, and fondant are all great choices. If a slab of gingerbread will be coated with frosting and cookies or candies, the thickness of the slab needs to be considered not only to hold the sugary roofing material, but also the walls need to be able to support the weight. There are several tricks to hold together walls. I used royal icing and allowed the pieces to dry together over night before adding additional decorations, and in my case, that was frosting with Cinnamon Toast Crunch to simulate shake shingles.

Dry time is not exciting, but very important and should be considered in the overall project plan. Also, the actual cookie dough should be made ahead of the day of baking to allow it to cool in the refrigerator. It is important to work with cool dough when rolling out the dough and cutting the pattern. I used an additional day to let the cookie pattern pieces completely cool and dry out.

IMG_9159Did you say Dremel? I had no idea that you could cut cookies without them crumbling with a Dremel tool. This can be done only after a day or two of leaving the cookies to air out. This tool worked great to help make the roof and walls have the proper angles needed. Trimming warm cookies with a sharp knife, right out of the oven, is also a good options. Rounded cookies don’t stick together with frosting as well as straight edged cookies. Thankfully, Beth had the Dremel with a wheel blade, which was perfect for cutting the cookies.

IMG_9203I used a shoe box to hold the walls at angles, and set the roof overnight with royal icing. Once the frosting was hard the next day, I was able to put the house together. If you are planning to do a more advanced project with cutaways and a decorated interior, some of these walls may have decorations on them. I chose to have windows made of melted Life Savers, and I used the royal icing to glue those in before adding the roof. Attaching the house to the base with icing also helps keep the house from sliding if you will be transporting it, even if it is just to another room. Make considerations for lighting. Will you add a battery-operated tea candle like I did to have the house glow? Keep this in mind when cutting doors and windows.

IMG_9188Now, the most fun part. With a collection of candies I had purchased from both specialty candy stores and craft stores, I had what I needed on hand. I did the candy shopping the same day I drew out my blueprint and templates. Royal icing can be made thick and then thinned out with water for various applications. Thick frosting for the wall and roof joints, thin icing for decorating the yard. I had several batches of white icing, then thinned it out and added food coloring for different applications. I made grey icing with McCormick’s black food coloring to cover the entire cooler where I didn’t use other colors like green and brown. I did not want my joints to show with white as I knew the house would not be covered in candy, so I tinted the icing the same color as my gingerbread. It was easy to use this tinted spackle to even out walls or the base.

Since I was going for a natural-looking treehouse, I needed to have a tree or several trees and bushes around the house to create a natural setting. I thought I would use actual greens and some fake greens. Since this was a winter scene, I chose to use grape stems. I trimmed the stems in the shape of bushes, then dipped them in milk chocolate to simulate leafless bushes. For the tree, I used pipe cleaners and wrapped the tree with fondant. This was the hardest part of the project and it definitely could use a lot of improvement. It was my first time working with fondant (maybe my last, LOL). The deck and supports for the treehouse were made of pretzels.

The more details the better when it comes to gingerbread houses. The treehouse I made has a hiking trail in the woods just under it, so I used gold covered chocolate rocks to simulate the path. I also purchased little chocolate rocks and I made large boulders out of dates. The front side of the treehouse is facing the 4th green of the gorgeous Highland golf course. I took the liberty of removing one of the sand traps as I am a golfer and I hate that particular trap! For the putting surface of the green, I used green tinted icing, thinned out then sanded the green with tinted green sugar. I used coconut dyed green and chopped to simulate the second cut of the  putting green. I toasted coconut to simulate the fescue that is light brown on the golf course this time of year.

Attention to  the smallest details is what makes a gingerbread house magical. I loved the process of thinking through the project, spending time with my friend, and making my gingerbread home with with a loving intention. I knew I would be taking it to the actual resort for Christmas. I have spent many holidays at this resort, and the staff always spoils me rotten when I visit. I wanted to return some love during my Christmas stay. They are working hard though out holiday season, so I wanted to show them my appreciation!

 

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I do not have any agreements with Primland. I am a regular guest and I consider this resort my second home. This is my life.

 

 

 

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The new Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, on Hilton Head Island, SC.

The new Indigo Spa at Hilton Head Health, on Hilton Head Island, SC.

I could not be more excited to visit the #1 weight loss spa in the country, Hilton Head Health (H3). Having thoroughly researched my destination, I thought it only appropriate to try some of the slimming spa treatments they offer. In the back of my mind, I did think I would have to weigh in, so I booked some of my treatments prior to my first day in my program. I know this is sneaky, but I also knew that if I started my program with the spa treatments I would be totally relaxed from my drive to Hilton Head Island. I also knew I could pump my therapists for any information I thought I might need during my stay. Very sneaky. Or brilliant–you decide.

The new spa features a beautiful relaxation room overlooking water and the Shipyard golf course.

The new spa features a beautiful relaxation room overlooking water and the Shipyard golf course.

I would be participating in a one of the two programs they offer. They have a Lose Well program designed to get people kickstarted on weight-loss, and a second program called Live Well, which is more for people that are interested in a tune up to get back on track. I participated in the Live Well program. Since this was not my first visit to a wellness retreat, I had an idea of what it would be like, but each resort has their own spin on this. I was happy to find the Hilton Head Health plan encourages healthy weight loss by teaching the fundamentals of lifelong success by reframing the diet issue into more of a way of life, so that dieting essentially is over. Time is devoted to teaching skills to integrate these new lifestyle choices, and classes on planning scenarios to make weight loss successful long-term. One of their main tenets is that small changes over time can lead to big results. They also stress the importance of not trying so hard to be perfect when it comes to dieting. It is how we manage the missteps that truly have the greatest impact on long-term success. I thought this was a very useful perspective as so many times we can feel like a failure if we don’t follow a diet perfectly, then end up giving up. Not just me? Apparently, it’s a common issue and this program is all about real-life scenarios and how to manage wellness for the long term.

Hilton Head Beach is a perfect setting for this spa.

Hilton Head Beach is a perfect setting for this spa.

I mostly did the Lose Well program, and the medical checks like weighing-in and blood tests were optional, so no scale for me! So maybe I didn’t need to book the slimming ritual before the weigh-in that never happened, but the benefits of this body treatment definitely enhanced my weight loss while I was there.

Melissa, my esthetician was knowledgeable about the many organic facial products they use.

Melissa, my esthetician was knowledgeable about the many organic facial products they use.

My first spa treatment was the Wild Comfrey Glycol Peel Facial Detox. Indigo spa designed this treatment to meet the needs of participants going through the process of weight loss which can at times trigger skin reactions like temporary acne breakouts, oily skin, or inflammation. I knew I was due for a good peel, and this one suited my needs. This particular treatment removes the top twenty layers of skin without any redness. Melissa, my esthetician, used a combination of organic products and traditional facial techniques of steaming, cleaning, extracting, application of a mask and moisturizing to customize my treatment to my skin care needs. I found her facial to be relaxing, yet it yielded the results I was looking for. I received a deep clean due to the exfoliation, extractions and a peel, but the application of acids to reduce a breakout I was experiencing was very beneficial. I was completely relaxed by my facial and I hadn’t even checked in yet! I had a longer drive than I anticipated due to road construction and some holiday traffic. I could really relax for back-to-back treatments, as the staff had called the front desk to alert them of my arrival and ordered my supper. I had dinner waiting for me after my treatments, so no worries about finding food or getting settled for my first evening.

Kristy, my massage therapist had excellent touch and technique!

Kristy, my massage therapist had excellent touch and technique!

My next service was the Naturally Slimming Ritual with Kristy. Kristy and I bonded immediately. I was extremely relaxed after my facial and ready to ask for some insider tips from Kristy now that I was settled in. She has been a therapist at Indigo spa since it opened. My treatment with Kristy is exactly what many people are looking for when they buy those “crazy wrap things” from home parties, except much more luxurious, and, I think, beneficial. Kristy applied organic products that helped brighten my skin via exfoliation, and reduced my water retention by using lymphatic drainage massage techniques. Slimming spa products really do work best, in my opinion, when combining specially-designed products with the massages. Once Kristy finished applying the organic scrub that contained plant enzymes, salt, aloe, and coffee berries, I was neatly wrapped in a special sheet to retain the heat of my body, as well as the heat of the massage table, to let those products absorb while she moved on to the next step. Normally, a relaxing facial massage with collagen would be the next step of the treatment, but since I had just had a facial we adjusted my treatment to include an in-depth scalp massage instead. My head and neck felt great now. All that driving stress was behind me. Her ability to adjust the treatment for me went so smoothly, I would have thought that the scalp massage was just part of the treatment plan. While I was face up and getting a serious scalp massage, I had time to pump her for information. She mentioned that stretching prior to exercise classes would be beneficial as well as massage appointments if I were experiencing too much stress or strain from all the exercise. She assured me availability of treatments, which put my mind as ease. Massage therapists always advise drinking water post therapy appointments, but that was never truer than in this case. Since she did an extensive lymphatic drainage massage, designed to removing excess water from my body, drinking enough water insures that my body does not try to hold on to the water already in my system. As we remove the excess water from the body, we are also removing toxins and helping our metabolism work better. Drinking plenty of water makes us feel fuller at meals, as well. There is a reason they gave me a giant water bottle at check-in, along with a backpack. I would be hydrating more than normal due to all the exercise but also as a tool for weight loss. I can assure you my water was definitely moving out after this treatment. There is no doubt that I lost more than water weight while at Hilton Head Health.

4 days of clean eating and exercise had a noticeable result!

4 days of clean eating and exercise had a noticeable
result!

By my third day in the program, I was not really in pain from all the exercise, but I was definitely ready for another healthy evening in the spa. One extremely cool thing about Indigo spa is its hours. They open up late at 2pm and stay open until 9 pm. On Saturdays they are open from 10am till 9pm! There is no need to cut classes or skip daytime activities to get your spa time in. It is actually designed to fully support the program and not compete with it. So, instead of going back to your cottage in the evening and zoning out, you can continue your in-depth program with treatments that address what is happening to your body. For locals and other visitors to Hilton Head Island, this means you can put in a full day at the beach, golf course, or tennis facilities (such as the internationally-renowned Van Der Meer tennis academy), then get a spa treatment in the evening. Brilliant!

Lisa has a healing intuition that is undeniable.

Lisa has a healing intuition that is undeniable.

Lisa was my massage therapist for my final treatment, the Indigo Blue Eucalyptus Ritual. I booked this treatment along with the other two treatments after speaking with the spa manager, Kelly, prior to my visit. I wanted to make sure that I got the true essence of the Indigo spa and I did not want to miss anything really special or unique. Kelly was a great help in narrowing my choices based on my needs and desires. She swore by this treatment, and now I know why. It is designed to relieve fatigue, low mood, stiff muscles, and aches, and to support a healthy immune and digestive system. I had timed this treatment just right based on my participation in the program. Organic products from the Naturopathica product line were used. Eucalyptus oil opened up my sinuses at the beginning of the treatment allowing me to breathe deeply and really relax. A combination of ginger and mint massage lotions were used on my body. The eucalyptus did not overpower the entire treatment. As the treatment began, it kind of reminded me of when my mom would rub Vicks vapor rub on my chest when I was little, and really, is there anything more soothing than that touch? Lisa was such a skilled and nurturing therapist, I was able to really breathe in deeply and my body was really relaxed and receptive to the deep tissue massage she provided as the treatment progressed. I did not want to leave the table after 80 minutes. Lisa had a great knack of knowing where I was sore without my specific direction, I would have to call her intuitive. She is fabulous.

I will admit, I did make some big changes to the amount of exercise that I normally do while at H3. It wasn’t that I could not do the exercises, or that I hate exercise, it was more of a tune-up for me, and a revitalization of my desire to be healthy and active. It was also a time to try new types of exercise like water yoga, and stand up paddle boarding. I also was able to ride my bike to the beach in the evenings and one Saturday afternoon, so I wasn’t totally spent from all the classes. I think we all get in ruts from time to time. There is a natural ebb and flow with lots of things in life, and eating right and exercising gets the back seat when we get busy or when other pressing things come up. My visit to H3 gave me time to focus on my health, learn new skills for making meals easier, healthier but still satisfying my tastebuds and typical cravings. My time post-spa in the relaxation room gave me a quiet place to really think and process all the new information I was taking in. I enjoyed journalling my thoughts and ideas, and thinking about ways to integrate these new habits once I got home. This wellness vacation was definitely a mental and physical way for me to hit the reset button.

Michelle Rogers and I enjoying beach yoga.

Michelle Rogers and I enjoying beach yoga.

The therapists in the spa were very skilled professionals. They were also personable and fun, very much like my time at Hilton Head Health. The people that work at H3 are required to go through the program as part of their training for new hires. Because of the H3 commitment to a healthy, happy well-informed staff, any staff member is able to answer questions that guests have, and can relate with them about all the things they’ve learned, and the nerves we might have about taking this journey. My advice to future participants would be to start your program off with some time in the spa for three reasons:  They can answer any questions you might have and make you feel more at ease. It is a easy way to de-stress from travel and get mentally prepared for the visit. The treatments also enhance the weight loss program due to their specific design. Many participants travel great distances to take this wellness journey. Some guests stay at H3 for at least a week, many stay for two weeks or a month to make the this new perspective on living well a habit that can last a lifetime. Indigo spa is just one of the many pieces of this well-designed weight loss retreat to empower guests to get the most out of their visit. This attention to the spa design is exactly the type of attention to detail they teach guests, to maintain a healthy lifestyle going forward.

My spa tips:
Start your week off at with spa treatments to de-stress from travel.
Bring your spa bag. Make sure you include a pen and journal to capture your thoughts.
Drink plenty of water before and after your treatments.
Plan to visit the spa more than once during your stay, to fortify your body and mind.
If you are staying for an extended period of time, book a series of treatments to complement your program.
The spa recommends alternating a trim treatment with hot stone treatments as trim treatment works better in a series. I agree.

This is a sponsored post. My thoughts and opinions are genuinely my own. I was a guest of Hilton Head Health, but received no direction on the writing of this post. I would like to thank Hilton Head Health for this life-changing opportunity and I look forward to sharing more of my wisdom gained over the stay in future wellness posts. Keep an eye on my resort recipes. I am already cooking differently, and I am excited to share these changes with you all. I would also like to thank my fellow blogger, Michelle Rogers Healthy living for all of her support during this fun week.

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Chicken Cordon Blue

Courtesy of the Hilton Head Helath H3 Healthy Kitchen

Hilton Head Health Chicken Cordon Blue.

Hilton Head Health Chicken Cordon Blue.

  • 4 each  Chicken breast, cleaned and pounded flat (4 ounces each)
  • 4 each Swiss cheese slices (reduced fat, pre sliced)
  • 2 ounces Canadian Bacon
  • 4 cups Spinach, cleaned (stems removed)
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 T.   Parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Onion powder
  • 1 cup Egg Beaters (or egg whites)
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • 1/8 tsp. Pepper
  • Prepare breading bowls; one bowl with panko crumbs, onion powder, and parsley and the other bowl with egg beaters. Set aside until ready.

Heat large skillet with non stick cooking spray.

Saute spinach with salt and pepper and cook until wilted.

Lay chicken breast out flat on cutting board.

Place Swiss cheese, then the 1/2 ounce slice of Canadian bacon, and then 2 tablespoons of sautéed spinach on the top of the chicken breast.

Roll breast up tightly. I used a wooden skewer to help me hold it together.

Dip rolled breast in egg beaters and then coat in panko crumb mixture.

Set on parchment covered baking sheet, or use a cooking spray to prevent chicken from sticking to the pan, and continue with remaining breasts.

Bake in oven 375 degrees F for about 12-15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Let set for for another 5 minutes on baking sheet or pan and allow breast to carry over cook to 165 degrees F.

Chef Carrie Adams and I really hit it off. It must be our shared passion for cooking.

Chef Carrie Adams and I really hit it off. It must be our shared passion for cooking.

Chef Carrie worked with me in the “Easy Freezy” cooking class at Hilton Head Health. She recommended a few tips. She uses a thermometer to check the temperature and also allows for carry over cooking that happens after the meat is removed from the oven. Taking this additional cooking into consideration keeps us from over cooking this chicken dish. We also made a batch that could be frozen for up to six months. For freezing, freeze all the pieces throughly on a baking sheet (once cooled) in the freezer. Then tightly wrap each serving with plastic wrap and label each portion individually with “Cordon Bleu” and todays date. Wrapping already frozen portions insures better freezer storage and quick, easy future dinners on evenings that you might not feel like cooking.

Serves 4

Serving size 1 chicken breast

250 Calories 10 gms of Fat

I'm back home and still cooking! I made these with prosciutto ham in place of Canadian bacon.

I’m back home and still cooking! I made these with prosciutto ham in place of Canadian bacon. Ready for the freezer!

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Hilton Head HealthJust show up and change your life. It really is that easy. We are constantly being told that we are an obese nation. Many of us have an idea of what it means to live a healthy, active lifestyle, but few of us know exactly where to begin. We are constantly bombarded with new studies, new diets, new exercise programs–and few of us know exactly how to get things going, let alone get the to changes stick. If overwhelmed by all the obstacles, what to do? Well, a few of us know exactly what to do. You see this was not my first visit to a wellness spa. Once you’ve made the choice of lasting changes, a fitness vacation could be exactly what you are looking for to revamp your eating habits and reenergize a sluggish or non-existent workout routine. One visit and you will understand how easy what it takes to be successful.

Hilton Head Health is located in a gorgous gated community in South Carolina.

Hilton Head Health is located in a gorgous gated community in South Carolina.

The Hilton Head Health vacation I took did reenergize my sluggish workouts, and did inspire me to not only eat right, but in the right portions. By vacationing in an environment that is completely focused on my well being, surrounded by like-minded guests and staff, one will definitely be successful while at the resort, but also be given the tools to continue on this daily journey of mindful living when returning home.

Enjoying some free time on Hilton Head beach.

Enjoying some free time on Hilton Head beach.

Each aspect of my health was addressed; mind, body and spirit. Let’s start with the confusing diet information. We hear low-carb, no carb, paleo, no dairy, vegan, gluten-free, detox, blood-type, South Beach…I could go on for hours. Hilton Head Health has been mastering this sea of trendy information for forty years, so they have the answer to this question, “Which diet?” I could not have been happier to hear it simplified in a way I could truly understand. It is a combination of calories in and calories out, but everyone wants to know exactly how much? Well the real answer is another question:  What are you willing to give up in order to live the life you would like to be living? Professional athletes train hard at a high level, and if you ask a person that has dedicated themselves to achieving success in athletics, they will tell you training, practice, coaching, and desire. Truth is we know what we need to do, eat less and exercise more, but finding the exact way to make it livable is the key. The actual answer is to stop dieting all together. Finding a way to build healthy habits into my life and my surroundings is setting myself up for success.  It might be small steps at first, but the consistency of pushing on, even thorough setbacks, is what makes people stop yo-yo dieting and maintain a healthy weight for life.

Bob Wright, Director of Education, has been part of the Hilton Head Health team for over 30 years. He holds a Master's Degree in education from the University of South Carolina.

Bob Wright, Director of Education, has been part of the Hilton Head Health team for over 30 years. He holds a Master’s Degree in education from the University of South Carolina.

I received coaching from some of the best thought-leaders in the weight loss industry. The combination of information that is useful along with daily activities that reinforced those new thoughts, were powerful. A perfect example hit me like a bolt of lightning while I was in the Live Well Portion Control class led by Bob Wright. Through his experience, keen insight, and great communication skills, he was able to help me understand how to read nutrition labels and understand what a portion actually looks like. He basically ruined my love for Mike and Ikes.  He spoke to us about how food is super-sized now. The movie theater-size box of candies that I love is basically all sugar (duh!).  He let me know that it would take walking to the movies 4.5 miles to and from, for a total walk of 9 miles, to burn the calories in that candy box! That was a real eye-opener for me. Bob urges you to ask yourself whether it is worth it.  He pointed out ways to win this battle. He did not say I could never eat my favoirite candy again. It really comes down to how much, how often, and what am I willing to do to get to my fitness goals. If going cold turkey on candy (or cocktails, ahem) is not one, then we need to look at the portion, frequency, remaking a recipe lighter and then look at the other side of the equation, exercising more. Can you actually walk to the movies to enjoy this candy? Apparently that box of Mike and Ikes has five days worth of our daily sugar allowance. Can I actually go five days and have a cheat day or is there another way to work with this want. He gave me some excellent strategies.

The exercise that was available was varied enough to please anyone at any fitness level. All classes could be modified to meet your fitness level, and multiple choices of classes were available at each class time. The structured days begin with a walk, led by an staff member, all of whom have advanced degrees along with fitness certifications. Taking a walk though the palm trees and large live oak trees thoughout the extensive pathways at the ShipYard Plantation was beautiful. I also chose to bike while I was there, as the private beach was less than two miles away. I chose to take some classes that I was not familiar with, like pool yoga. I was able to get a deep stretch and I found it much less challenging yoga on land, as I am a beginner. I also took a beach yoga class early one beautiful morning on Hilton Head Beach. Stand up paddleboarding is a new love of mine, and I took a guided trip out into a protected cove and worked on my form. All of these classes had me engaged and excited to be exercising.This comittment to great staff is why I believe Hilton Head Health wins top awards for wellness retreats.

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As a foodie, I was excited to take the cooking classes offered each day. I took a class called “Easy Freezy.” At first the idea of frozen food did not excite me, but I am more pumped about this class and what it can do for me at home than just about anything else. I love to cook, but I don’t love to plan. I would really just rather eat what suits me or my schedule on any given day. Well, apparently, I am not alone in this thinking. Chef Carrie spent time with me hands-on in a gorgeous kitchen practicing exactly the kind of skills I need to be successful. We learned which foods freeze well, how to prepare the proper portion, and label, mark, and store food.  So, if I am too tired to cook or short on time, I can just go to my freezer and pull out something I love and quickly reheat it. No more last-minute pizza calls for me! I learned how to make awesome, healthy pizzas that will be ready to heat and eat quickly.  I sharpened my knife-handling skills and learned shortcuts to save time. We also made pesto encrusted salmon, and chicken cordon blue. It was another light bulb moment for me. I cook anyway, why not just make a batch and freeze future meals? I guess I knew this all along, but actually showing me how to pick successful recipes that freeze well, measure and weigh real portions, and how to store and lable them really just made it easy for me to comprehend. By practicing these recipes in class, I know I can do it at home now, too. Another unexpected bonus:  I will no longer waste a giant bunch of herbs or not know what to do with my CSA, as I will be using them all at once when doing my meal prep day! Delicious food, less waste in my kitchen, and a smaller waist to boot.  I found this class very enlightening!

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With all the educational classes and fitness classes, there was still time to find a balance and enjoyment while on this program. Participants are encouraged to have some rocking chair time, spa treatments (I had three treatments in four days), and even take in some of the local sights. I enjoyed my morning meditation with Lisette Cifaldi. Lisette is a nutritional coach, licensed councilor, and a food addiction specialist. I began one morning with her leading a guided meditation and then attended a class she taught on finding motivation through spirituality. It was very interesting to me because no matter what religion you may practice, or none at all, she pointed out our need to be connected as a society. Her lecture crossed over into why people sometimes overeat to fill a void. I loved her talk about deepening our spiritual practices, and how that plays into our eating habits. Even if one is a hard core atheist, there is still a spiritual need, and she pointed out ways to feed it whether it was time in nature, volunteering, or philanthropy. All of which reminds us that there is something bigger than self and that this positive mindset feeds us spirituality.  As a meditation practitioner, the attention to the mindful aspect of eating was powerful to me.

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Each meal I ate in the True dining room just cemented all of the things I was learning in my classes. The meals were beautifully prepared in the right portions, and delicious. Sharing a meal at a table with others in the same program allowed for interesting conversations and insights into how all these wellness concepts work together in our lives. Creating a sensible environment at home begins with sensible meal planning, a meal prep time, and serving on right-sized dishes. The portioned meals with lots of flavor, but still low in salt, were easy to enjoy. I was never hungry and always satisfied with the selection of choices from the menu. Snacking was also addressed and a self-serve snack station helped me visualize exactly what I should stock at home, but also what a real portion looks like.

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My abbreviated trip to Hilton Head Health, just four days, yielded some impressive results! Sunday, my final morning, I was ready to put on some “real clothes” for my drive home. My roommate and fellow blogger Michelle Rogers @MRHealthyLiving and I wore comfy exercise clothes day and night for the duration of the vacation. I had to sprint to her room to show her what I thought was shocking, my “real shorts.”  You see, Michelle and I had attended all the classes, activities, and meals together through the week as bloggers, and when I showed her how baggy my shorts were we were both stunned! I really did not think I would see such noticeable results in a such a short time. “Wow”, is all I can say. Hilton Head Health reinforces the idea of a no scale (ok, maybe one in the kitchen for portions), no diet, healthy, active lifestyle.  Most guests take this wellness journey in two weeks to a month. Many choose a roommate to reduce costs, so sharing a cottage with Michelle was very much like a regular guest experience. Traveling and taking this journey alone is definitely not a problem, though. Guests were of all ages, marital status, and nationalities that participate in this program.  I was really surprised how many guests were return visitors at first, but again, once you figure out how easy it is to take a fitness vacation and see results, I am sure I will be back as well.  With this new information, I am totally motivated and know exactly what, where, when, and how I will be making better choices for the rest of my life. It was truly a transformational week for me.

Ok, it was really early, so ignore my hair! These shorts fit me perfectly the week before. I was shocked!

Ok, it was really early, so ignore my hair! These shorts fit me perfectly the week before. I was shocked!

No scale, just my regular shorts gave me something tangible to measure. I really was stunned.

No scale, just my regular shorts gave me something tangible to measure. I really was stunned.

This is a sponsored post. My thoughts and opinions are genuinely my own. I was a guest of Hilton Head Health, but received no direction on the writing of this post. I would like to thank Hilton Head Health for this life-changing opportunity and I look forward to sharing more of my wisdom gained over the stay in future wellness posts. Keep an eye on my resort recipes. I am already cooking differently, and I am excited to share these changes with you all. I would also like to thank my fellow blogger, Michelle Rogers Healthy living for all of her support during this fun week.

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Anam Day Spa in  Old San Juan is located next to Parque De Las Palomas park on the water.

Anam Day Spa in Old San Juan is located next to Parque De Las Palomas park on the water.

I literally stumbled upon this little day spa while roaming the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. My husband and I decided to take a few suggestions from our concierge and Pinterest, and hit just one or two of the more than a dozen of recommended eateries and vistas recommended. What happened was pure serendipity. After a short walk up to Fort Cristobal, a little retail therapy at some local stores, and a great meal at a bean-to-bar chocolate cafe, (Casa Cortes ChocoBar restaurant that was on my hit list) we decided to ditch the list and just walk towards the water. We wanted to just see the city from a different perspective and allow it to open up to us in its own way. We literally happened upon a huge marble plaque that stated “home of the original pina colada.” So, of course we had to have a couple of those! Our bellies were still full from the chocolate cafe, or we would have eaten at Barrachina Restaurant, as well. The food coming out of the kitchen looked authentic and smelled amazing. We came to a a beautiful gate behind which was a small park with the most beautiful knotted and twisted shade trees. A plaque explained the park and a bronze pair of shoes. We sat on a bench and took in the view of the cruise ships, sailboats, and water. After some time resting our legs from the hilly climbs of the city we glanced over and noticed a day spa. This was no ordinary day spa. It was a Buddhist-themed bar in the front of the building and a day spa in the back. Was this a reverse mullet? Party in the front, business in the back? The sign outside posted modest prices, and spa services included cocktails. Are you kidding me!?! As a practicing Buddhist (I need a lot more practice) and a spa enthusiast and now, a mildly buzzed tourist…I thought my head was going to explode. Was this sheer luck or was it karma? I don’t know, but we had to go in. It was not a hard sell for my husband. We had no plans for the evening. He spied several very large flat screen tvs and and a full bar with beer taps. Of course I could use another spa treatment. My answer is always yes! YES!

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I chatted up the owner/bartender, Marcos Long, who had impeccable English, and was happy to round up a manicurist for me. My service would include a sangria. I explained my desire to stay on the rum vibe we had started and he was more than happy to make me a special frozen drink at no additional charge. Sometimes, my husband will join me for a pedicure, but the lure of the sports and the beer taps proved stronger than my pitch, and I happily took my seat in the manicure chair while he bellied up to the bar. Heidi was a fairly new technician, and her English was not as great as the owner’s, but she gave me a great manicure. She was so young and cute. She shared with me her time behind the chair and the name of her pet beta fish as she scrubbed, rubbed, washed and groomed my nails in preparation for the polish. While we were chatting, I noticed a rhythmic drumming sound.  As Heidi applies polish, I realized the drumming was not recorded music, but rather Thai massage.  I hadn’t noticed the two massage tables behind the heavy drapes! Another guest pulls back the drapes, hands a wad of money to the massage therapist, and thanks the owner’s wife for another awesome weekly massage. Turns out the owner’s wife is a Thai massage therapist, and he is a bar owner, so they just combined their businesses. Brilliant, in my humble opinion.

Later, not wanting my nails to smudge, my husband and I decide to sit outside watch the cruise ships leave port. It was a fantastic sight to take in as the sun set. Outdoor bar seating at this spa, next to a beautiful park, this was a great and unusual way to end the day.

My tips for visiting Anam?  I wish I had known Mrs. Long,  the owner was actually trained in Thai massage, in Thailand, if I go back to San Juan, I am totally booking massage with her!  If you are visiting from a cruise ship, this is a great late afternoon stop to end the day. Spa and nail appointments are not required but if you are in a large group, call ahead. The owners would be happy to get a cab for you to get back to the ship on time, as they know exactly when the ships depart. The last spa appointments are around 7 pm, so 3 or 4 pm would be perfect to see the park, get a treatment, have a drink, and catch a cab without stress. Tell them I sent you. Cheers!

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New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland

New Pinnacle Cottages at Primland

Nothing like some fresh mountain air, a little exercise, and some new Frette sheets to soothe my soul. I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek prior to the grand opening of the new Pinnacle Cottages at Primland. Of course, since I consider this to be my second home, I have been watching the progress of the build out over the past year or so. Even having done a walk-through about a month earlier, I was not prepared for how spectacular these new cottages would turn out. Having walked though all four of the multi-unit buildings, I knew exactly which unit I would be booking for my future visits.  I just didn’t know the name or room numbers yet. Well, allow me to share with you the awesomeness that is Oriole 70 & 71.

Pinnacle Suite, perfect size for a couple

Pinnacle Suite, perfect size for a couple. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

View of the Dan River Gorge

View of the Dan River Gorge. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

Porch for two with a spectacular view

Porch for two with a spectacular view Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

Each of the buildings were designed with group stays in mind. The idea was for families, golf and hunting groups, wedding parties, or corporate retreats to have a place where they could open up adjoining rooms if they like and share an entire floor or building, or group of buildings, if needed. When the staff helped me carry in my luggage, they told me they thought these rooms were even more spectacular than the main lodge. Having stayed in every suite in the lodge, all three tree houses, all of the fairway cottages, and most of the mountain homes on the property, I thought, “I am the perfect person to be the judge of that!”

Custom Cabinets and Art are beautifully blended for this stunning suite

Custom cabinets and commisioned art are beautifully blended for this stunning suite. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

The larger suites include a kitchen

The larger suites include a kitchen. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

Original art works hint to the Oriole theme of this suite.

Original art works hint to the bird theme of this suite. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

The larger suite has a grand livingroom for entertaining guests

The larger suite has a grand livingroom for entertaining guests. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

Livingrooms have gorgeous views of the gorge and pinnacles of Dan

Livingrooms have gorgeous views of the gorge and pinnacles of Dan. Photo courtesy of Primland and Kevin Meechan

The same attention to detail in the architecture, quality of the furnishings, and oh baby!…new bath tubs had me a little twitterpated. One of my favorite daily activities, a long soak, was over the top.  When I am on vacation, my soaks can be pretty epic, pruney toes, long reads, maybe some vino therapy, and Primland has the best bathtubs, I swear! I could probably do an entire post just on which of the tubs I like best and why.  This is not a cookie cutter resort with five hundred rooms with the same tub in each of them. Oh, no…this is a place for fans of Architectural Digest to come and read the latest issue while soaking in one of many different dreamy bathrooms. I can tell you as a super soaker, without a doubt, this tub and view is my new favorite on the entire property!

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My room is connected to my friend’s room next door. He is an excellent neighbor, friend, and Primland enthusiast himself. I will give you a little tour of our suites, but then I have to tell you about our trip out to the reservoir. We have the entire upstairs of Oriole Cottage among us. One suite has a huge porch with lots of seating, enough for all of us to have a party, and the second smaller suite has a much more private porch meant for just two. Each suite has all of the modern amenities that are expected at a five-star property, but the gorgeous mountain view and meticulously-curated custom art work takes this space to another level. Giant Baby and I are in the smaller suite. I called it the romance side 🙂

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We enjoyed birding and paddling

We enjoyed birding and paddling

Funyacks on Dan River

Funyacks on Dan River

I have been wanting to try the funyaks ever since they first added the activity, but something always seemed to get in the way. First it was winter, then we needed to golf or hike or something. I have done nearly every activity on property, but still need to learn fly fishing, tree climbing, disc golf and horseback riding. It just happens that Summer, our funyak guide, is also an equestrian guide, so I might get talked into one more activity. Getting to the reservoir is no small task. Four-wheeling in the Suburban with Summer on some of the very remote dirt roads was an adventure in itself. Once at the reservoir, we needed to get our gear on and take a short hike through a rhododendron thicket. For those that have not spent time in the Blue Ridge Mountains, these are gorgeous evergreen flowering bushes that grow very tall. Summer gives us some basic instructions as we have all canoed or kayaked before, and just like that, we are out on the water. Funyaks are inflatable kayaks that are open on the top like a canoe. So there was no need for lessons on how to roll over under water or anything scary like that. As a matter of fact, the reservoir was very calm. The Dan River flows into it, but we will be staying in the calm open spaces just to enjoy an easy paddle, check out some wildlife, and enjoy the afternoon. That said, other guests have wanted to explore further up stream and really challenge themselves, and get a workout. We are not like those guests. We came to float, and as luck would have it, we were able to watch a beautiful bald eagle catch its own lunch. At one point, we just hung out under some trees and did some bird watching. Summer shared with us that some guests like to just float and take a nap. I like how those people think! On my next trip to the reservoir, I think I will have them pack us a picnic lunch. Stand up paddle board have just been added, so I will have another activity to add to my bucket list. Yup, I learned some new stuff, paddled a bit, and exercised my mind and body. This is what I call wellness!

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Fort San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Fort San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is where most people want to stay when they want to visit the rain forests, the bioluminescent bays, historic old San Juan, the forts, and of course, the wide variety of food that Puerto Rico has to offer. I chose Puerto Rico for our tenth wedding anniversary trip for a few reasons. First, it is in the perfect climate for a beach retreat during some of our coldest winter days in Virginia. Second, I could book a flight with no passport, as my husband’s had expired.  And, last but not least, it is just a three-hour flight from Charlotte to exotic tropical beaches with coconut palms and clear blue waters. What I did not know was how much I was going to fall in love with Puerto Rico! One of my husband’s partners is from Puerto Rico, and when we asked him what we must do there, he said, “See the rain forest and eat, eat everything you can! Try all the delicious foods, you are gonna love it.”

I decided to split up my trip into two distinct vibes, sightseeing primarily in and around Old San Juan for the first half of the trip, and serious spa services in Dorado Beach to end the vacation completely relaxed.  I have had the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado Beach on my spa bucket list since it opened in 2012. What better combination than to do and see all that San Juan has to offer, get a feel for Puerto Rico, then finish out our vacation the way I prefer, lounging at a gorgeous beach and spa? I’m not a travel agent, but my plan worked like a charm. We checked in at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan on a mission.

Ritz-Carlton San Juan

Ritz-Carlton San Juan

The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan was the perfect home base for the sightseeing portion of our vacation. Not only is the hotel centrally located for all the best sites, my concierge, Angela, ensured I saw the best that San Juan had to offer. She helped me coordinate our tours, spa services, and an easy transfer to the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado Beach, later in the week. The Ritz San Juan actually has two types of concierge at this property, one for general requests like dinner reservations and spa services and one just for off-property excursions. I was able to book private car tours of all the sights with the very best tour guides and skip lines, crowds, and other time-consuming hassles.

I was paired with the most experienced tour guide from Castillo Tours, Roberto Garcia, for our tour of El Yunque National Park, the rain forest. He picked us up at the hotel and chauffeured us into the park. My husband and I were amazed at his knowledge of all things Puerto Rico. His seventeen years of experience led to great conversations on the history, people, plants, animals, climate, and culture that made the trek enjoyable. He literally walked us into the rain forest and pointed out all sorts of interesting facts. It was very educational, but he also picked up on our laid back style and made the day fun and enjoyable. Of course he had towels, water, and umbrellas for us.  We made several stops along the mountainous road to see different waterfalls, take some pictures, and pick up souvenirs. He was also outstanding at giving us tips for the rest of our week.

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We also booked a private car to take us to the Bacardi factory. Roberto did let us know that despite all the tourist information that is out there, this is actually the second most popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico. San Juan is the most popular destination. I was happy to hear this as I found this information much more useful in my daily life. For example, did you know that the number one drink in the world is the Cubra Libre? Well, it is easy to understand as rum and coke are so easily available to so many people, but to really make this drink, one must use rum that has been aged at least eight years in an oak barrel, add Coca-Cola, and serve it with a wedge of lime– otherwise it’s just a rum and coke. There is a difference! The luxury of being able to enjoy a tasting or two and not have to drive is amazing, and as far as I am concerned, the only way to go.

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We chose to visit Fort San Cristobal, and wander around Old San Juan to get a feel for the culture and food firsthand. Getting a taxi from our hotel to the fort was easy, as was walking through Old San Juan. We felt safe, and most people we met were bilingual. Again, I was armed with a map from my concierge, Angela, and notes from Roberto of great places to eat with stunning views, but we chose to wander for the most part and let the city open up to us naturally. We did find this amazing bean-to-bar chocolate restaurant, Casa Cortes ChocoBar, that was on my hit list and did not disappoint. We also stumbled on Barrachina, a great restaurant with the claim to fame of having invented the pina colada. We shopped, and ate, and shopped, and ate, until we found a Buddhist bar with a day spa. More on that later–it deserves a post of its own. I am a spa blogger after all. Funny thing about drinking in Old San Juan, I kept hearing Spanish, so I almost felt like I was in Mexico.

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Valentine’s Day dinner in our bathing suits was pure luxury for us. It was snowing hard back home. We skipped the crowded restaurants and dined next to the ocean at the Ocean Bar and Grill which is wedged between the pool and the beach. The atmosphere was casual but the cocktails and food were top shelf. After several delicious mojitos, we ventured to try our luck at the casino that is on property at the Ritz. I’m happy to report that Lady Luck was on our side. We decided to quit while we were ahead so we could get up early and go for a walk on the beach. The local surfers love the way the waves break just a short stroll down from the Ritz.

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Knowing I was going to one of the best spas in the world later in the week, I just booked a couples massage, as that is what my husband requested. Ok, full disclosure here, I am not usually a fan of couples treatments. The main reason is that my husband usually falls asleep on the massage table and starts snoring, not exactly relaxing or romantic for me! Angela booked me with Millie and Mildred knowing my high standards. Our therapists spoke with us ahead of time about the typical issues, as they generally do, sore areas, recent surgeries, allergies, etc. Ok, this was it. This was the time for me to speak up and tell Mildred that she needs to give Mike that really deep tissue massage that he prefers and and if he starts snoring, go deeper! Wake him up! Of course Millie and Mildred were true professionals and took my comments in stride, but hey, I think it worked! He made it through 90 minutes, 30 minutes longer than his normal massage attention span, and no snoring.  Both therapists met my standards for treatments not just in technique and touch, but also on an emotional level. They hit all the marks I am looking for in a solid service. Thank you, ladies!

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I fell in love with the people and the all the interesting nooks and crannies of Old San Juan. It is a very large city with nearly 400,000 residents, but everywhere we went, we found everyone really friendly and genuinely warm. Off-property, most restaurants we went to offered us a free dessert, a little extra drink, or something to make us feel special. The spa at the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan was no different. Every guest at the Ritz is a treated like a V.I.P., but somehow someone always seems to make a personal connection. The ladies at the spa front desk put together some Valentine’s-themed spa products for me to take back to my room. How sweet! I love this place.

My tips for San Juan:

Get out of the resort and explore the island and all of the culture. Find some adventure. Eat local.

Staying in the city is key for many of the major sites like the rain forests, Bacardi factory, and beaches. I skipped some famous beaches like Flamenco Beach, Culebra. I knew I would be at Dorado Beach later in the week. I never left the Dorado Beach Reserve once I checked in, so I was right about that.

Skip the kayak tour of the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo. We spent more time getting instructions on how not to fight with our boatmates from our guide than actual kayaking instructions, and both were needed! It was overbooked with teeming hordes of tourists who, like us, don’t know how to kayak, trying to find their way into and out of the pitch black mangroves, running into trees and other boats, and dodging the occasional motor boat. I understand there is another tour where you can walk up to a beach in Vieques that might be better. Either way, no one is allowed to get in the water. It was definitely a test for our ten-year marriage, but we survived. Bioluminescence cannot be photographed without special equipment either, that is why I don’t have any pictures of it.

Valentine’s Day does mean something to the people of Puerto Rico. Many folks go out to dinner, and we found the hotel crowded with people (kids) from the northeastern U.S. getting in a quick vacation while their kids were off from school for Presidents’ Day.

Normally, when I visit a spa resort, I book treatments every day. This half of the vacation was different for me, but still fun. My tip for this spa would be to bring your tennis racket. Not too many tennis courts are on the ocean with a spa right next door.  Book individual spa treatments, and spend time together in the relaxation room and co-ed jacuzzi, unless of course it’s your anniversary.

Stay tuned for the 411 on the incredible spa experience at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado Beach!

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My best spa treatment in 2015 was also the most decadent of the year. The Montasanto Apothecary Ritual at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Dorado Beach, in Puerto Rico. This spa has been on my bucket list since it opened in 2012. I had the pleasure of taking in all that the Ritz-Carlton, Dorado Beach has to offer with my husband for our 10th wedding anniversary in February. It is the most beautiful spa I have visited to date.

 

Living on the east coast of the United States, Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico is just a quick three-hour flight from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, requires no passport, and is an exotic beach get away. Coconut palm trees, secluded beaches, four world-class golf courses on the property, and every amenity that you would expect at a Ritz-Carlton, taken to a new level. This is a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property. What makes this an ultra-destination spa is the five-acre rain forest in the center of this resort and the exceptional staff. The world-class therapists make full use of the the flowers and herbs grown within the organic spa garden. The botanicals are used in all of the spa treatments and even some of the resort meals. The extensive treatment menu, with exotic settings tucked away in private casitas bring all the elements together for an otherworldly experience.

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A treehouse pavilion in the center of this rainforest is used for treatments. It was set up for a hammock massage.

Guests can arrive to the spa several ways. Your personal ambassador makes all of your arrangements for you, be it dining, tours, golf, spa treatments, packing or unpacking your luggage, or even transportation to the spa. Each guest is given a bicycle to explore the property, delivered to your room at your request. For my first treatment, a Dorado diamond facial, I arrived by golf cart, but by the end of the week, I was exploring the property and arriving at the spa on my bike.

Entering the spa though the Spanish gates, I pass under a gorgeous ancient banyan tree. I realize I am about to enter a very special place. On each spa visit I take my time to take in the scale of this gorgeous tree. I can see why the design team chose this site for the welcome center. At 30 yards from the front door, one can actually smell all the organic herbs and flowers coming from the huge open air pavilion where they harvest, dry, and store the botanicals for treatments. This pathway really sets the tone for what is the most spectacular spa I have ever visited.

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I booked for the signature three-hour Montasantos Apothecary Ritual treatment with Giselle. She is my therapist and esthetician, and has been all week. Since Giselle has gotten to know me over the course of the week, it would be easy for her to rush through my consultation, but that is not the case. We again discuss my desired goals, health conditions, and personal preferences specifically for the botanicals preparations she will me making by hand for me. The goal is to help me achieve my optimum state of wellbeing. Personally, I was already feeling amazing. I had been eating extremely well, I was drinking the best Puerto Rican rum at the pool daily, strolling the beach during the evening, and getting plenty of sleep. My husband and I were feeling connected and happy. He was in great spirits and very relaxed. I was missing a second winter storm back home, so no real complaints here. Any treatment issues to be addressed were just some lingering dry patches of winter skin, and the typical desire to address aging on my face and decolletage.

Dorado Beach Apothocary Spa treatment

We begin our consultation in a special pavilion also used for couples therapies, to allow for more room and access to the special stone-carved tub where I will take my rainforest bath. But first, Giselle prepares the room by burning some fresh sage, and sets an intention for the treatment. She presents this gorgeous box that reminds me of a fancy tea presentation. In that box are dozens of dry herbs and flowers. Several other bowls containing fresh botanicals and oils are set out and ready to pick and choose for my custom-blended treatments. We continue to talk as she carefully chooses the flowers and herbs to make two poultices for me. In a special deep mortar, she places a bag and begins to fill it with my blend. She is able to do this fairly quickly as she has been on property since the opening, and has decades of experience. Once she is satisfied with the combination, she begins to muddle and blend the delicate petals and leaves with the pestle. She makes quick work of wrapping my poultice. The next step is to prepare the infused oil that will be used in my massage. Again, we continue to discuss my skin and select the flowers and herbs to be used, muddled, and added to the bottles and topped off with the oil we selected based on my needs. Salts are also prepared with the same attention to detail for my scrub and placed in a bowl. This process, while it was involved, did not take long as Giselle knows her apothecary, the benefits and uses of each botanical, and how to make effective blends, from using them daily. I was in awe during this process. I just took in the gorgeous treatment room, the smells coming from her emulsions, and continued to ask her questions about the various flowers and treatments. She was a wealth of information.

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Walking over to still another private, open-air pavilion, she seated me for a foot soak and scrub. I am now soaking my feet in a beautiful bowl of water with fresh flowers and the salts she just prepared. Giselle gives me a special passion fruit drink. I enjoy the architecture, the design and decoration of the room, and just enjoy her company as I soak. We are alone. I can just hear water and tropical birds. I can see beautiful palm trees and exotic plants. The setting is tranquil and I feel completely relaxed and we are just getting started. What separates a good spa therapy from a great spa therapy is the therapist. At this point, I feel connected to her as if we were old friends, yet I don’t feel the need to be chatty.

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Feet botanically, salt soaked, cleaned and buffed, Giselle helps me walk out into my own private rainforest garden. This is where I will take in the next few steps of the treatment. She has personally arranged a special treat for me of house-made passion fruit candies, along with a chilled bottle of champagne, to enjoy while I take my rainforest bath. It was the perfect example of a Ritz-Carlton staff member going above the regular service to make a guest feel special. She did this on her own, knowing what a spa enthusiast I am based on our treatments earlier in the week and she went out of her way to really make my tub time special. Bravo! I adored my soak! The granite carved tub outside in the open air rain forest, surrounded by all the exotic foliage, was breathtaking. I was left alone for a while to just soak it all in and enjoy the solitude of bathing in nature in the most luxurious way imaginable. I sipped champagne, ate the passion fruit candies, and I think I teared up a little. It was so beautiful and sweet!

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Later, Giselle returned to help assist me from the tub to the thick granite table within the garden for my full body exfoliation. Once I toweled off discreetly, and was helped to the table, I was draped for modestly and my exfoliation began using the botanical salts she made earlier. Giselle has an excellent touch and was able to thoroughly address my dry winter skin issues with out being abrasive to the point of aggravation. I smelled lavender, rose hips and rosemary. It was divine.

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Giselle helps me off the table and over to the outdoor shower so that I could rinse off the salt preparation. Again, she is respectful of my modesty and gives me time alone to thoroughly rinse off and enjoy this beautiful outdoor rain shower in the center of this rain forest. All wrapped up in a soft and sleek robe, she helps me make my way back to the pavilion for my massage.

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Giselle remembered I like a therapeutic massage that is somewhat deep but not quite a deep tissue massage. Her touch and knowledge of anatomy is undeniable. She knows her techniques, how and where to apply them, and because she is a good listener, she knows exactly where I need a little more attention from our consultation. As the massage progressed I could smell the flowers open up even more from the steaming poultice she applies to my body. I am just amazed how sweet and delicate but not overpowering this fresh preparation is. I am completely silent at this point, if I wanted to talk, I couldn’t. I am just speechless.

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Leaving the treatment room, I ask her what jengibre means. She tells me Ginger. How perfect for me!?!

I am given a big hug post treatment and delivered back to the women’s relaxation room. I just sit and take in the beautiful garden and art work in the spa. I can’t possibly consider doing anything but meditation at this point. I spend some quality time in the spa enjoying the amenities: steam room, walking in the miniature pineapple meditation garden, and lounging in the ladies-only hot and cold rain forest plunge pools. I took my time.

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When I finialy feel like I want to leave this dreamy state and rejoin my husband who is happily waiting for me at the pool, I find him in a similar state. Armando, our exceptional pool attendant, has set him up in an amazing hammock under palm trees with a cold rum punch by his side. Our chaise lounges and umbrella are all ready for our relaxation. Before I can even ask, Armando brings me my favorite cocktail. Yeah, its like that.

 

What to know before you go:
This treatment respectfully requests 24-hour notice to pick and prepare the botanicals for the treatment.
I would recommend booking this treatment at the beginning of your stay at the Reserve as the staff will customize your treatments for the rest of your stay based on this in-depth consultation.
I did not spend a lot of time talking about specific flowers and herbs as so many were used and it will absolutely be tailored to you individually. No two experiences will be alike.
Shorter versions of this treatment are also available.
Booking times on the weekends can be difficult last minute. To insure your preferred times and treatments I would strongly recommend making these spa appointments prior to arrival.
If you find another treatment in the Caribbean or anywhere 🙂 more impressive than this, by all means, please let me know. I have been to many destination spas and have had hundreds of treatments in many countries over the last twenty years (my complete list is on Pinterest). Please share.
Namaste.

 

 

No special consideration was given to me other than being a paying guest at this property. This is my life.

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Private beach for use of spa  guests at Peter Island Resort

Private beach for use of spa guests at Peter Island Resort

For those of you that are not familiar with Peter Island, it is a small, but extremely luxurious, island in the British Virgin Islands. For those of us that live on the east coast of the United States, it is a very easy, exotic destination to jet off to in a relatively short amount of time. I however, arrived by yacht. That’s right, I moored overnight at this amazing island resort on a luxury catamaran with a group of friends. Technically, I did fly through Charlotte, North Carolina, and  landed in Tortola, St. Thomas. My friend Valeta and I took a ferry to our yacht, and after a couple of days sailing around other islands stopping to snorkel and explore, we had made it to my island, the one I picked for “Erin Day.” Ok, so the yacht was chartered and the group of friends I was sailing with allowed me to pick one day as “Erin Day” so…On Thursday January 22nd, while it was super cold back home in Virginia, I had my day in the sun!

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What does “Erin Day” look like? Well, I would like to think I picked an activity that my friends would also enjoy. It is of course a spa day. And I had done my homework. The best spa to visit while cruising B.V.I. is at Peter Island Resort.  For those that did not join me in the spa, the fellas, they spent the day hiking the many trails on this gorgeous island, taking photographs, and enjoying frozen cocktails at one of several bars.

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I had e-mailed my girlfriends and the spa a couple of weeks ahead of time and made arrangements for our treatments so that when we arrived we were all set with the treatments we each desired. Since I was the one e-mailing and coordinating, it wasn’t until that morning that I broke the news that I would be getting a 3 1/2 hour treatment while they were getting one hour facials. This was not an issue at all and we arrived early for our treatments on a dingy from our yacht…sorry…I still can’t believe this really happened. My treatment started a bit ahead of theirs so they could spend some time using the spa facilities, and post-treatment they spent time at the gorgeous infinity-edge pool.

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I booked the Drift Away treatment. It began in one of their largest spa suites, which all happen to have patios that overlook the ocean. It was breathtaking. My therapist, Latoya, was such a kind and gentle soul. She started my treatment on a couch facing the ocean with a soothing foot exfoliation, soak and aromatherapy session. While seated, I gazed at one of the most spectacular beaches I have ever seen. I really did not want to close my eyes! Ok, but I had to because she started to give me the most incredible scalp massage, which is a favorite treatment of mine. Once Latoya got her hands on my head, in my hair, and started working deep on my scalp, I knew I had an excellent therapist.

My excellent massage therapist and esthetician, Latoya.  I just loved her!

My excellent massage therapist and esthetician, Latoya, I just loved her!

The next part of the session was on one of the two heated massage tables in the suite. With a beautifully arranged assortment of local flowers and herbs in a bowl beneath the face cradle, I could inhale the island’s essence. Latoya spent a lot of time working on my different areas that we had talked about earlier. This visit I was really feeling great. The signature drink for B.V.I. is the Pain Killer, a delightful combination of pineapple juice, rum, coconut milk, and nutmeg. I was not feeling anything but awesome, really, but I did have some dry skin issues from the wintry conditions back home. Latoya used a combination of oils she blended just for me, to get me back to a softer, smoother version of myself.

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Just when I thought I could not be more relaxed, it got better! Latoya used very warm, wet, bundles of sand sewn into fabric to knead, roll, and compress my muscles into submission. It took this treatment to another level. Wow, just think excellent massage, then add hot stone massage or poultice massage, but instead she added the sand bundles instead. It gives the treatment flexibility, softness, yet firmness and weight. It was really quite ingenious how well the sand retained heat, yet the sand was in a flexible sheath to contour to my body to provide better compression and warmth. I was totally impressed!

Warm sand bundles, part of the Drift Away treatment at Peter Island.

Warm sand bundles, part of the drift away treatment at Peter Island.

Well, for most people that would be enough, but this was “Erin Day” and I had booked the Drift Away package which means I still have a facial to round out this experience! I had checked the esthetic cart earlier and found some of my favorite products on it. Latoya and I were able chat a bit once I came out of my dream-like state and was positioned face up. We chose a June Jacobs enzyme peel that I really like, in an island vibe I had not tried. Again, many steps of hot wet towels and steam to clean my skin. Latoya had to get a better look, and make some recommendations for products, and we were again off to the land of bliss. Latoya again made adjustments to pressure and touch that reminded me that I was with a seasoned esthetician. More massage to my arms, hands, legs, and feet while my enzyme mask did its magic. More warm wet towels remove each step, until Latoya begins to apply several different moisturizers. Of course, she finished by applying a light but effective sunblock, as I will soon be joining my friends at the pool.

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Outside the spa are a few hot tubs, but one is the most spectacular hot tub I think I have ever seen. I needed to hang out for a little while on a chaise lounge, enjoy some tea and regain consciousness before joining my girls back at the infinity-edge spa pool. All agreed that they had the most delightful day and  amazing facials. I, of course, could relate. Now, back to the big main pool to meet up with the fellas and enjoy some more beverages. You know, the therapists always tell you to hydrate at the spa. I’m not a therapist, but I am an expert spa client and I am certain that if you order your drinks frozen, you are getting even more water than usual 🙂

Tips and tricks

Few moorings are available if you are sailing. Call early and book ahead.
This spa’s specialty is Ayurvedic treatments. I could not, however, pass up the warm bundled sand treatment.
I noticed a day excursion group coming in from a cruise ship, check to see if an excursion is available on your next cruise.
This place was made for honeymooners, destination weddings, special occasions, nature lovers, and for anyone who wants to unplug.
This is a destination spa, why on earth would you pick a one hour service on vacation? Live & learn girlfriends!
Book your treatments ahead of arrival to insure you have the times and treatments when you want them.
The entire island is available for private events, and many of the accommodations are also very private.

Sunset from the back of the  boat…yeah, it was a good day.

Sunset from the back of the boat…yeah, it was a good day.

 

 

I would like to sincerely thank Captain Rudy & Johnsie, Valeta, and my other sailing friends for including me in their family/friend cruise. If you would like more information on sailing B.V. I., comment here or please visit my Enlightened Spa Review boards on Pinterest for more photos and information.

No special treatment was given to me at this spa other than being a paying guest at this resort. This is my life.

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Primland, inspired mountain magic

Primland, rated a top 25 spa in the world.

My Primland obsession began in September of 2010. It has been exactly four years since my first visit to my favorite place. With every returning visit I am inspired by the people who make this magical mountain retreat come to life. My husband I and had heard about this amazing five-star resort, located in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, a 90-minute drive from our Roanoke home. I had not read anything about this resort until a friend of mine, Joey Beck, at Bella Magazine, urged me to “run, not walk” to this place. She knew I would love the spa and she was right!

This part of Virginia is very rural. Getting to the resort was a short trek. What happened after check in was so magical, that we rebooked for the following weekend while we were still on property!!! I vividly remember sitting in our robes on the balcony of #29 (still one of my favorite rooms) enjoying an excellent breakfast, as we watching a huge grounds crew, manicure the gorgeous golf course for hours. We could not believe we did not see a single golfer until almost noon on a Saturday! We spent the better part of the morning alternating between the balcony and the bed. We were enjoying some serious high thread count therapy in this deluxe suite. It baffled us that something so massive, so ultra lux, and so well staffed was not teaming with guests. In short, it was heavenly. Here is the magic– we were not alone! One of the wonders of this property is the feeling of having it all to yourself, even when it is booked.

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My first treatment in the spa was the same body treatment I requested on my latest visit, the Magic Lake Float. This treatment was so unique, it blew my mind! Let me explain. It is not uncommon to have a massage paired with a bath soak. What is unique about this combination is the Soft Pack tub used in the spa at Primland. The water in the tub is sealed and pressurized with a membrane over top of the tub water. On my latest visit, I chose the milk and honey option for my Magic Lake Float. My therapist this visit is Brenda. She is also my same therapist from my very first visit. Brenda lovingly applies milk and honey combined with Montana oil product to my entire body on a massage table in long strokes with her warm hands. Now covered in a thick white slather, Brenda helps me over to the Soft Pack bath tub. While seated on the side of the tub, she finishes applying more luxurious goop to my hard to reach bits and pieces, like the bottoms of my feet. Brenda helps me get settled on the top of the tub while still keeping me partially covered to insure my privacy and comfort. Once lying comfortably on my back, Brenda pushes a button on the soft pack tub. I am slowly lowered into the perfect temperature of bath water. I am warm, but not wet. The heat of the tub water and the nutrient rich ingredients work wonders on my dry skin. All products used in this spa are natural, and inspired by Native American Medicine.

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The room lights are now lowered. The candlelight, sounds, and smells of the room come to the front of my mind. Brenda, again checks my level of comfort and proceeds to give me an excellent head, neck, hand and foot massage. Amazing! But wait, there is more!!! While I am floating in this warm cocoon, she then applies cold marble stones to my pressure points on my hands, wrists, and feet. Whoa! The contrast of the warm tub and the cool stones is amazing. Brenda then wraps a heated towel under my neck and gently supports my weight. She is stretching my head and neck relieving any pressure that might have been there. I am now being floated by her in the tub while getting a very helpful gentle stretch to my upper body and neck. Kids? What kids? Teenagers? I forgot all about them!
Once Brenda is satisfied with my relaxed state, she steps out and says “I will leave you for some quite time now.” Relax and enjoy.” I am now left alone to enjoy the solitude. I really tune into the Native American music. I smell sage. I watch the candle flicker. I just I float, and enjoy the moment. When Brenda returns she tells me that she has left a towel for me by the shower for the next step of this treatment. She also places a towel on the floor so I will not slip. With a push of a button, my body rises up to the surface of the tub. The membrane now firm and supports me like a table.  I am instructed to shower off the preparation and return to the massage table in the same room. Brenda reminds me to take my time in the shower, and return to the massage table lying face down. Several minutes pass and I rinse off the milk and honey in the gorgeous, turquoise- tiled, rain shower. I was definitely moving slowly.I rinsed off, and enjoyed the steam. I also contemplated why it didn’t occur to me sooner to install a smooth river stone floor in my shower at home.

Once I towel off and get settled on the massage table, Brenda begins to work her magic on me, again. There is no chance that she is going to leave any knots in any of my muscles. She continues to give me a therapeutic massage. Magic Lake Float is listed as a swedish massage, but Brenda knows what I like. I prefer a little deeper massage than swedish, but not quit a deep-tissue massage. Brenda reminds me of my preference and adjusts the treatment to suit me, I don’t even have to ask!

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The fanning of eagles’ feathers and a chime remind me that this service is coming to an end, just as they invited me to relax and mentally check in at the beginning of my treatment. Typically, it is pretty hard to get up off the table after a good massage. Sometimes you feel a little woozy, dreamy, or sleepy after a spa treatment. After a long rest in my dreamy state, I am now able to read my animal medicine card that I picked at the beginning of the treatment. I can now meditate on the animal-inspired medicine from my card and its meaning from a book they provide. I just rest, sip tea, and enjoy the view of the golf course and a butterfly garden.

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Each visit to this magical place continues to make me daydream. Every visit a new facet of this gem is revealed to me as I explore all the activities and accommodations. I have been over a dozens of times and I have never not learned something new or not experienced something extraordinary. Many of these experiences inspired me enough to try to recreate Primland at my own home (that would be another blog post!). I continue to be inspired by the bespoke design of the Lodge, my time in nature, new activities I learn, and meals I have eaten at the chef’s table. I realize that I can never copy what is available to me here. It is not just the expansive land, beautiful scenery, and world-class activities. It is the people, too!  The people who guide me through Primland are amazing. I always feel inspired by their intuitive service and attention to detail. When I return home, I am inspired to apply a little mountain magic for my family in my own home.

I will now give you some of my favorite ways to experience Primland to the fullest…

I play golf and the Highland Golf Course is gorgeous and perfectly conditioned! I like to play nine on one day and the second nine on another day. That way, I have more time for other stuff like spending the day at the spa and lounging by pool. Recent renovations to the Primland golf course have moved up three tee boxes for the forward tees (#2, #3, and #9) and have made the course much more playable for ladies. I love to take pictures of the stunning mountains and nature while my husband is searching for his golf ball 🙂

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I love the tree houses and the fairway cottages. I have stayed in all of them. My favorite was the Golden Eagle with its view of the Dan River gorge…until they built the other two tree houses, Barn Owl and Cooper’s Hawk. They provide a little more privacy, yet still amazing views. Don’t forget to take your putter to your treehouse or fairway cottage. Those accommodations all have access to private putting greens. Barefoot putting in the moonlight with beverages is so fun! I love to watch birds fly below us from the  treehouse deck. Breakfast delivered to you in your treehouse is a must!

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The chefs table is mandatory for any guest that is a foodie. I prefer to spend a little extra to insure we have the table to ourselves. Three days’ notice must be given for this custom, seasonal experience. Three levels of wine pairing are available as well. If you don’t know Karl, the sommelier, you have not eaten properly at Primland, in my humble opinion. He is the best sommelier I have ever come across, and a conversation with him about your preferences will deliver you to the land of bliss with old favorites and new ones that you are probably not familiar with. I have learned so much about wine from him. He is truly a gem! He also does liquor tastings. I have really enjoyed bourbon and moonshine tastings as well (Not on the same visit! Don’t judge!!!)

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The staff will drive you if you ask. One cannot do nine flights of wine at the chef’s table and expect to be able to drive back to your house or cottage afterwards. I dont want to name any names, but trust me, even in a golf cart, driving after that many flights is a very bad idea (golf carts are given to fairway cottage guests). I have also arranged for them to drive us to and from Floydfest, a music festival in July, just 20 minutes away. They are always happy to accommodate.

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Every activity is exceptionally well planned and provides the highest level of professional training and equipment. I had a great golf lesson with Brian, the head PGA pro, and I still use one of his chipping tips on every round I play.

I now use a start chart app on my iPhone after an inspiring star tour we enjoyed. I now see the night sky in a differently and I can identify many constellations and planets.

I learned to shoot a shotgun at Primland. My first time shooting any gun ever, and I even broke several clays.

complimentary tea is served in the main hall each day at 4pm. All the fixings for smores are also set out every evening for your enjoyment.

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I learned to ride ATV’s, but I have to admit, I just wanted an excuse to see more of the property (ladies, they provide coveralls and boots to make our lives easier).

My husband and I took a cooking class on anniversary visit. We learned how to make hand-dipped chocolates with a chef while pairing (drinking) wine and eating lots of chocolates…good times!

We have spent hours walking the extensive trails on this property and we are far from seeing all of them. We have also taken a guided hike with a naturalist to help understand many of the native plants and animals that make up this massive 12,000 acre nature preserve.

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The spa was named in the Top 25 spas in the WORLD by Travel and Leisure readers. Are you really just going to book “a massage” after what I shared here? The Shenandoah, Daughter of the Stars facial is an amazing experience and it deserves a post of its own.

So many activities and places to explore are already laid out for you, but I would encourage you to come up with your own fun ideas too. I went through a low-carb phase (thankfully that has passed), and arranged a three course “healthy low-carb” meal delivered to our tree house for a romantic, sunset dinner on the deck.

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This resort’s goal is to go above and beyond. My goal is to push the limits 🙂 Have you visited Primland? Let me know if I missed one of your favorite activities, I still have many left to try.

No special consideration was given to me other than being a paying guest at this resort. This is my life.

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So you’ve booked your room, and your spa treatments. But, are you really ready for an entire day at the spa? I’m guessing you are, but what about you’re partner? Typically, my husband and I will ask me to carry his swim trunks down to the spa. On the upside, he remembered to pack his trunks this time, but on the down side, who do you think carries his wet trunks back to the room?  He also likes to stop and have a drink on the way back to the room. Ok, in reality it is more likely several beers while waiting for me to finish all of my treatments 🙂  Hanging ones trunks on the bar is not very appetizing. In order to get a little more organized about our spa activities, lets take a realistic view about what you will need to bring for yourself and possibly others.

Why does my cat always want to help me pack?

Why does my cat always want to help me pack?

Let’s start with the bag. The satellite bag. That’s right, once your kids have graduated from the diaper bag, you still have to schlep the kids stuff or in my case, the hubby’s stuff. If traveling solo, you will still want to have some of these items with you. I have a couple of ways I pack for a day at the spa. I like to carry a large tote/oversized handbag for car trips. When I fly, I like to use very compact, thin bags that I can pack within my luggage. Taking a dry cleaning bag from the room to the spa pool, gym, or beach is not exactly chic, but in a pinch, it will work just fine.

I like to always keep a thin, lightweight bag in my luggage to use at the spa, pool, day trips, or for additional luggage.

I like to always keep a thin, lightweight bag in my luggage to use at the spa, pool, gym, day trips, or to use as additional luggage.

This is the bag I prefer to carry when taking car trips and I don't have to worry about size or weight of my luggage.

This is a bag I prefer to carry when taking car trips and I don’t have to worry about size or weight of my luggage.

I am hoping that you are staying at a fancy resort that has pool/beach towels, a vat of sunscreen, and a cute towel boy at the pool. But if you are not, the bag needs to be at least large enough to hold a towel.

Don’t forget your sunglasses! I can’t tell you how many times I was just going to get a massage, then end up sitting out by the pool or on a patio for hours. Not having your sunglasses is a total bummer.

Pool cover up, change of shoes and or clothing, bathing suit, hat, sunglasses, and maybe a towel.

Pool cover up, change of shoes and or clothing, bathing suit, hat, sunglasses, and maybe a towel.

Wallet, room key, and cash. Cash is king when it comes to tipping.

I prefer to use a business card carrier for my room key, credit card, and business cards. It is also easy to put into an evening bag for a night out on the town.

I prefer to use a business card carrier for my room key, credit card, and business cards. It is also easy to put into an evening bag for a fun night out.

Sunscreen is a must if you will be enjoying the outdoors for an extended period of time. Many high-end resorts will have some sun block in the locker room  or at the pool. Or, they will sell you some very expensive sunblock. Tuck your favorite brand in your bag and don’t sweat what kind of coverage you will be getting.

If you are booking a facial, you may also want to pack a hat. Sun exposure after a facial is not a good idea.

I am always impressed when the spa offers really nice hair care products and real brushes. Those little “man combs” that are usually provided are pretty worthless. Keep a large tooth comb or vented brush in your bag and you will be able to fix your hair much easier. Ponytail holders, clips, or a headband can be handy. Worse case scenario, you packed a hat, right?

I don't always carry this much product, but it is nice to have what you need if you are not going directly to your room or home, after your treatments.

I don’t always carry this much product, but it is nice to have what you need if you are not going directly to your room or home, after your treatments.

Bring your bathing suit. Pack your own and enjoy the coed whirlpool or pool without having to buy one or worse, use a “loaner suit.” Sorry, it’s a nice idea for a service, but I’m a germaphobe about certain things.

The dry cleaning bag from your room or a plastic bag. I use these to put my wet suit(s) in, to keep it from dripping or getting everything else wet.

Ok, those are my bare basics for a trip to the hotel spa. Here are some other items I like to have with me.

A book, magazine, or tablet/smart phone.

Extra stuff I like to have if I am spending an entire day at the spa.

Extra stuff I like to have if I am spending an entire day at the spa.

Your iPod (yes, I have a spa playlist).

A compact for light make-up coverage, if we are not going back to our room or home.

Lipstick. I don’t leave the house without applying lipstick. Why would I leave the spa without some on? After a great facial, this may be all the product you need.

A notebook and pen to write ideas or make lists. I find a lot of inspiration in the quiet of a spa and I need some way to remember these ideas. Typing on your smart phone may not be the best way to capture these thoughts, as cell phone usage is generally frowned on in a spa.

I like to keep a small pad of paper and pen to jot down all those incredible revolations that occured to me in the meditation room.

I like to keep a small pad of paper and pen in my robe to jot down all those incredible revelations that occurred to me in the meditation room.

If I am staying at a budget spa/day spa for an extended day, I may bring my own cover up and spa shoes. Don’t get me started on “spas” that don’t provide robes!

If I am working out in the fitness area, I will usually wear my workout clothes and sneakers to the treatment. If you don’t want to be an outfit repeater after your workout, you will want to bring a change of clothes. Expert note, wearing Spanx (which are awesome) right after a treatment is a struggle, don’t do it! It will kill a good spa buzz.

I realise this stuff is common sense, but I cannot tell you the number of people I see who carry in their huge luggage/briefcase/enormous make-up bag into the spa. It kills the vibe when it looks like your luggage exploded all over the shared locker room. Most hotels/spas will gladly store your bags for you if you have already checked out, or are just a day guest. Do us all a favor and have your satellite bag. I always keep one in my small carry on. It can also serve as additional luggage if you end up having a little retail therapy while traveling.

Did I miss anything? What’s in your bag?

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Blue Heaven Spa

Boone, North Caroline

Street signs let you know you have entered a different state of mind.

Street signs let you know you have entered an enlightened area.

The philosophy of Ayurvedic treatments is that the mind, breath, intellect, and emotion are all connected with the body, and all need to be brought into a rhythm. This ideology pervades each treatment at the Blue Heaven Spa in Boone, North Carolina. It is important to reflect on ourself in this natural harmony. Once we are tuned into our own balance, we can then look to others and see that we are all connected as people. I found my connection to Heather, my therapist, very genuine. I could tell that she cared for me and my health. Heather is extremely well-trained in Ayurvedic treatments. Her life is also in alignment with these beliefs. During my consultation prior to my treatment, I got to know a little bit about Heather. She lives what she teaches, not only to other therapists, but to anyone she meets. I can tell she is living in harmony.

Indian inspired art is in all the architecture on this property.

Indian inspired art is in all the architecture on this property.

Katti Basit is a Ayurvedic lumbo-sacral rejuvenation. I booked this treatment to follow the Abyyanga massage that started my morning in the Blue Heaven Spa. The goal of this treatment is to ease any tension in the back. My therapist, Heather, positioned me on the table face down and placed some folded towels under my abdomen to flatten the surface of my lower back. Heather made several passes on my back massaging my muscles with long, smooth strokes. She then placed long, wide, cloth strips on my back. Heather then spooned a drizzle of hot oil over the strips in a slow, methodical fashion. It was important for me lay still so that the oil would stay in the dough reservoir she created for me. She continued to check on my comfort and that the temperature of the oil was at a suitable temperature for my comfort. Once positioned so that the dough dam could hold oil, the ring of dough was placed on my lower back. The dam was positioned in the small of my back and right above the sacrum. Several passes of oil were made within the dam in directional patterns. The dam was then filled with warm oil and hot oil to the desired temperature of myself and the therapist. Once the damn was full, I was instructed to lie still. I was again left in complete silence to contemplate.

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At the end of the treatment, I was super relaxed. My lower back felt more mobile and less sore. I was also drenched in sesame oil from both my treatments. Heather gave me the most excellent tip on how to get oil out of your hair. If you apply the shampoo first and lather, before adding any water, you have the best chance of getting the oil out of your hair. She said I might need to do this twice. She also recommended that I relax for the rest of the afternoon, as the treatment continues after completion. I did have to shower and hit the road, but she was right on both accounts. All the oil was out of my hair with little effort due to her tip. And, I really did feel an overwhelming sense of peace as I travelled home.

On my next visit, I plan to book the Shila Abhyanga (it is like a hot stone massage) and the Shirodhara, one of my favorite Ayurvedic treatments. Shirodhara uses a continuous pouring of warm oil in a slow steady stream on the forehead that helps promote relaxation, and improves mental clarity and concentration. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Do you find it helpful to do healing treatments in a spa or do you prefer a clinical setting?

“Health and happiness is related to our connection to our mind and body” – H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 

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Blue Heaven Spa uses Ayurevedic techniques as a holistic approch to help balance your body, soul, and mind. The staff helped me determine what my goals for treatment were prior to my arrival in the spa. In my case, stress relief and treatment of a sore lower back were at the top of my list. I booked the Abhyanga and the Katti Basti treatments back to back, based on that phone consultation.

Abhyanga Massage is an ancient massage technique within the Ayuredic method of healing. Prior to my one hour massage, I met with Heather, my knowlegable Ayurvedic therapist. We discussed my current health. This consoletation was much longer and more indepth than previous spa consulations I have encountered. We discussed my body, mental wellness, and diet. She was not rushed and she spend a good deal of time talking with me about the treatments while I enjoyed some tea in the pretty relaxation room.

Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.

Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.

Heather began my treatment with a rhythmic massage of my scalp in an upright, seated position at the end of the massage table, facing her. The treatment is quite intimate due to the silence in the room. I was also not use to having eye to eye contact with a therapist. Heather instructed me not to talk during my massage during my consultation, and that she would remain silent as well. I found this silence a little uneasy for me at first. My conversation with Heather prior to my treatment helped answer the many questions I had. The information she shared with me, allowed me to ease into a peaceful state and enjoy the treatment. The silence was part of the philisophy of the treatment. I was repositioned, face down and warm sesame oil was massaged into my body to help release toxins and relax the nervous system. The strokes were not unlike a Swedish massage, long, slow, and a light to medium pressure.

I have had hundreds of massages over the years but this was my first one done in complete silence. Because of my meditation practice, I was comfortable with silence, but I can imagine that is might seem odd to someone who has only visited a typical Western spa with the usual sounds of nature or light music playing in the back ground. It is in this silence that we can look inward and reflect.This treatment was ment to treat the mind as well. Many thoughts came to my mind about my body, spirituality, and my idea of what massage is, and can be. It was amazing to receive authentic Ayuvedic treatments in such an beautiful setting. In Boone of all places!

Mindfulness sets the tone at this spa.

Mindfulness sets the tone at this spa.

At the conclusion of my first treatment I was covered with a warm blanket and left to rest while my therapist  prepared the dough dam to be used in my next treatment for my back. This time on the table in silence provided me a profound meditation. I felt a sense of equinimity with other spiritual practitioners and a deep sense of respect for thier practices. I sank into my setting and enjoyed the serenity. I could see the beautiful mountains through the window. I was in a very peaceful state.

 

Have you every experienced an Ayurvedic spa treatment and what was your thoughts on it?

 

No special consideration was given to me other than being a paid guest at the Blue Heaven Spa. This is my life.

 

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Thankfully, I found my way to the Blue Heaven Spa under no duress what so ever. I was not seeking the meaning of life, ending a relationship, or beginning a new one. However, if I was seeking a place to find balance, this would be it. No need to update your passport to get that world away feeling. This retreat is now open to the public as a hotel and spa. It is truly a sanctuary to rest, regroup, and imagine.

Ayurveda Wellness Spa

Ayurveda Wellness Spa

This hotel is not like many others you will find in the United States. It is a massive collection of Indian inspired buildings that had functioned in the past as a huge ashram for the followers of transcendental meditation. It still functions as a retreat for thousands of followers of the Art of Living, a non governmental organization that focuses on humanitarian projects. Main areas of interest are education and elimination of stress.

The purpose for my visit was to take our youngest daughter on a tour of Appalachian State University in Boone North Carolina. I booked this hotel over some other  area spa resorts for a few reasons. I really wanted our daughter to get a feel for Boone and I knew this would give her some of that flavor that I was looking for. She loves yoga and I thought it would be great for her to stay where people come to study yoga. She is also a health nut, so I knew the vegetarian meals would be right up her alley. And, it is just minutes from the Appalachian State Campus. Ok. I have to admit, my inner spa junkie had a little bit to do with the choice as well.

Meals can also be included in your stay. Due to the quick trip down for just an overnight, we were not able to get the full scope of what this retreat offers. We did eat in one the two massive dining halls in the morning. It was a modest meal, but definitely kept me full and ready for a big day at the spa. Whole grain hot oats, breads, various spreads , and coffee were ready to enjoy in a self-service dining a hall. Early Sunday morning, guests of a weekend yoga retreat were already in the hall enjoying some fellowship and food before their first yoga class.

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I would recommend checking this place out if you are a spa junkie, like myself or have a love of yoga. If meditation is what you are looking for then this place is incredible. It appeared to me as a perfect place to get back to peak health and enjoy some physical activity, clean eating, and reconnect with the beautiful mountains. This is the perfect place to unplug. Wi-Fi services is available, but cell phone service is spotty at best.

This is not a lavish spa by American standards, but it is a serious spa when it comes to treatments. What the spa lacks in typical western comforts like saunas, pools, and whirlpools, it makes up for in the level of attention and knowledge of the staff when it comes to treatments.  Personally, I think this would be heaven for a massage therapist or esthetician to visit. It is affordable enough for any budget and the treatments are truly therapeutic and inspirational.

Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.

Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.

This resort is what you make of it.  Various trainings on meditation, yoga are offered. Silent retreats can also be booked.  You will find very comfortable accommodations (minus air-conditioning and alcohol). I am happy to report that my husband and I made it through the weekend without either. The mountain top setting is gorgeous. Rooms are freshly remodeled, spacious and supplied with fluffy robes, spa slippers as well as  Ayurvedic bath products. Downtown Boone is just a ten minute drive and offers some amazing local restaurants.

Accommodations for guest of the spa are located in the same building.

Accommodations for guests of the spa are located in the same building.

We left this hotel with many more questions than answers. I picked up a couple of Art of Living books while I was there and I have enjoyed the wisdom in them.  An overnight was just too short in my opinion.  I cannot wait to return and explore more of the trainings offered at this spa. I did accomplish my goal of giving our daughter a taste of Boone. She fell in love with the area and has decided to attend ASU. Fortunately, I will be able to return again very soon.

On my next visit, I will pack more workout clothes to take advantage of the gym and the daily  meditation and yoga classes. I will also bring along my hiking shoes to take advantage of all the trails on the property. No fancy dress code here! My next post will explain the treatments I received.

What is the most far out spa you have visited?

Blue Heaven Spa

Blue Heaven Spa

 

I was not given any special consideration other than being a paying guest to this spa. This is my life.

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I applaud the Ritz-Carlton for making such a creative treatment for their spa in New Orleans. As a serious spa enthusiast, I generally book treatments that are the specialty of that spa. This treatment set a nice tone to start out my week in New Orleans. What makes this treatment a little different from just a soak and a massage is the tone set by the room, the whirlpool, and the staff.

Double chaise whirlpool tub used for the Voodoo Love treatment

Double chaise whirlpool tub used for the Voodoo Love treatment

A double lounge whirlpool tub that is  programmed for lighting, temperature, and time greeted me in a room that definitely had a New Orléans vibe. Red Drapes, red tub lights and a hot bubble bath set to 20 minutes was ready on my arrival. In the room incense was burning, and my therapist turned on some music featuring a drum vibe with a voodoo chat that set the tone nicely. Bubbles filled the tub and continued to build up during my soak. Lots of red candles surrounding my bath and tall stand candles operas in the room enhanced the bath. Ice cold towels within an arms reach were ready to cool off my neck, head, and wrists as I soaked. I also sipped Champagne which the helpful staff handed to me upon my arrival.

Bath Bubbles and Bubbly

Bath Bubbles and Bubbly

The most interesting  portion of the massage treatment was the oil they used. Kneipp warming massage oil with arnica and ginger, smelled great and had a warming effect and is the formula for the voodoo oil.  The therapist used a combination of long soothing strokes, heated wet towels,  a few hot stones, and of course the special voodoo oil. After my massage my skin felt soft and the aches from my flight were gone.

Kneipp warming massage oil with arnica and ginger a.k.a. Voodoo Love Oil

Kneipp warming massage oil with arnica and ginger a.k.a. Voodoo Love Oil

If I were to book this treatment again, I would. My tip would be to book it in the late afternoon or early evening, and if possible, with your significant other. The treatment had a very romantic vibe, thus the “love” in the treatment name. It would be more fun to experience as a couple. This would be a great treatment to have prior to a late night on the Quarter. This service would also pair nicely with a late dinner. End your evening after midnight with a bar crawl down Bourbon Street to The Dungeon. This local bar features lots of skulls on the wall, caskets hanging from the ceiling, and drinks served in chalices with dry ice that give the appearance of blood. Continuing your voodoo vibe will make for a fun night. We are in New Orleans after all! I booked this service  at 11am, as a solo with a pretty good hangover…but I was still thrilled to get into the spirit of the Quarter and still found it fun.

Roses: Champagne on arrival, ice bucket filled cold wash clothes, cool voodoo music, unusual theme, incense, very comfortable bath tub, probably the coolest treatment I have ever received

Thorns: Better as a couple

I have experienced many unusual treatments, but none really that had a “cool factor.” Please let me know if you have had a spa experience with a cool vibe!

This was not a paid visit. No special treatments were given other than being a guest of the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. This is my life.

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Kadampa Life

This continues directly from this article.

busy 1Time off?!

Also, if you actually itemize what many frenetically “busy” people do every week, my bet would be that they (we, you) have far more leisure time than they think, it is just that instead of using the time to unwind and recharge they just fill it up with more stuff and distractions, eg, surfing the internet, driving places, organized leisure activities, computer games, Netflix. Having fun on the outside, perhaps, but feeling preoccupied on the inside. So leisure time feels busy too.

Flying recently, the moment we touched down almost every single person on that plane grabbed their phone. That withdrawal and addiction – it’s a bit like smoking, only smoking has been banned from public places whereas everyone can indulge their addiction for digital data. Scratching that itch – where is the happiness in that? We can’t live like…

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Originally posted on Enlightened Spa Review: ? Every seat is at the Chefs’ table in Metro! Dear Andy, I’m sorry. It’s me. It’s definitely not you. You did all the right things. Every day open and waiting to delight guests with new and exciting dishes, plated in always different and beautiful ways. You showed up.…

via Last Call…Metro! — Enlightened Spa Review

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Sending a little love to my friends at Metro!

Enlightened Spa Review

IMG_1377 Every seat is at the Chefs’ table in Metro!

Dear Andy,

I’m sorry. It’s me. It’s definitely not you. You did all the right things. Every day open and waiting to delight guests with new and exciting dishes, plated in always different and beautiful ways. You showed up. You shined bright.

I feel like there has been a death in my family. I have this overwhelming sadness. I try to not ruminate as there are many layers to think about with the closing of my family’s favorite restaurant. It had been a second home to me for just over fifteen years.

I know things have been tough for the past couple of years. Many people are wondering what happened? How could such a fine restaurant with a dedicated following shutter its doors? I would guess that if I asked you what happened, I might get a different answer depending on the…

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Lollapalooza Music Festival

I look forward to big music festivals every summer. Now that I am getting older, I find that VIP service is the only way for me to roll.  I’m a little old for the mosh pit, but I still prefer to get in close for some great live performances. Several years ago, events like Lollapalloza integrated a VIP experience to the festival experience and now it seems to be standard at most large concerts and festivals. Many of the perks are obvious, premium seating and view, unlimited food and drinks, sometimes air-conditioned tents to escape the heat, deluxe air-conditioned bathrooms, and of course spa services.

My hesitation to use these services due to my germaphobic mentality is usually overridden by alcohol. In more sober moments I have thought about what is being offered, and I can say I feel pretty good about the cleanliness of most of these spa services. Here is what you want to look for…

It is helpful to have a beverage while you wait in line.

It is helpful to have a beverage while you wait in line.

1) A giant vat of hand sanitizer. Usually services are provided backstage or in a tent, preferably in a more quiet area. Bathrooms and running water are not typically a feature of these mobile spas.  Also, check that the therapist uses sanitizer on their hands between guests. If no care is taken to make the area appear as clean as possible, skip it, and move on to the beer garden.

2) Paper towels. Typically used in the face cradle of chair massage or massage table to provide additional cleanliness. Hauling in towels and sheets does not usually happen. Watch the therapist. If they sanitize and wipe down the massage chair and use new paper towels for the face cradle between every guest, that is a good sign.

3) Washable surface. It would be my preference to be on a wipeable mat vs. a sheet that has seen one too many festival goers.

4) Appointment times. Who wants to miss the show waiting an hour or two for a “free” 15 minute massage? Get on a list, or move on, unless the chair is empty and ready to roll. Set an alarm on your phone if you think you may forget.

5) Pick treatments times in the morning versus afternoon. Therapists usually work in shifts, so you want to catch one at the begining of the shift. Heat is usually a factor at these outdoor venues so cooler temperatures in the morning or late evening make for a better treatment experience. Hot, sweaty, sticky clothes in the afternoon are not optimal for a great experience.

I wish every festival massage was set up like this tent that was at Floyd Yoga Jam.

 

Helpful hints:

Use sunscreen daily and skip the massage if your skin is too damaged from the sun.

Don’t forget to tip! If you received a great service, show some love. Many times these folks are voluntold by their spa or massage school to work the event and they have to deal with some ungrateful and many overserved guests. I like to tip prior to the service. I find that I get a better, and usually longer, service rather than the tired therapist who phones it in. If this is a three-day festival and you are sleeping in a tent, these people are life savers. You may want to repeat treatments daily, so asking a good therapist when they will return is a smart idea. They may just rebook you on the spot.

If you are day drinking, don’t forget to include water in the mix. Try to alternate between adult beverages and water or other non-alcoholic caffeine-free beverages to stay hydrated.

 

 

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I decided to call in the big guns for some healing therapy. I had my favorite massage therapist, and Reiki Master, Josh Hazelwood, from the Homestead Resort, make a house call. Sounds like a perfec…

Source: Burnt Offering; a sage-smudged massage treatment

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Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa

Greenbrier Resort Woman’s Wellness Weekend

Greenbrier Resort Women’s Wellness Weekend
I was thrilled to host a women’s wellness weekend at America’s Resort, the gorgeous and historic mineral springs resort, the Greenbrier. I cut my teeth as a spa enthusiast at this resort some two decades ago. Over time, my respect and admiration for a tradition of wellness dating back 236 years has continued to grow! While some may argue which spa is considered the beginning of destination spa travel in America, not many can argue that this resort not only was a part of the American spa tradition, but it basically invented many of the things we consider hospitality in this country.

Having been greeted by Mr. Frank Mosley so many times, his hospitality never gets old. Working at the resort for the past 58 years, he is 86 years young and the personification of West Virginia warmth and hospitality. Entering the lobby, the explosion of color matches the summer blooms outside. At check in I was greeted exactly the same way I have been so many visits before–iced tea, lemonade, or champagne.

This weekend was remarkably different from many past visits. This time I have a mission and a schedule. While some may eschew the idea of a scheduled vacation, perhaps they have never taken a wellness vacation. It is a beautiful combination when you can take a break from everyday life to learn new ways of living better. Since this resort has such a storied past of health care, hospitality, and wellness, I was excited to deepen my knowledge of living well thoughtfully presented by the Greenbrier.

Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts. Since the Greenbrier has had a serious concierge executive medical program since 1948, this wellness program has a medically-based foundation. I will be combining evidence-based medical services with state-of-the-art diagnostics, and weaving in my choices of subspecialty providers, seriously luxurious spa treatments, and an endless list of fitness activities and world-class cuisine. Oh yeah, did I mention that Greenbrier tennis pro emeritus Pete Sampras will be playing Andy Roddick Saturday night while I’m here? The amount of activities and services available at this resort is mind-boggling, so I am happy to keep their expertly prepared, individual schedule to glean as much goodness from one weekend as possible. It’s also fun to share this experience with a group of like-minded ladies with the same goals.

Dr. Michael S. Kluska

Dr. Michael Kluska, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

After checking in at the Greenbrier Clinic and receiving my printed schedule, I begin my day with a consultation with Dr. Michael S. Kluska. My first appointment has me both nervous and excited. I scheduled a specialist visit with Dr. Kluska, a world-renowned plastic surgeon with a passion for skin care. I had been considering getting my first Botox injection for years. I finally decided it was time, and took the opportunity to do it with an extremely well-trained board-certified plastic surgeon…(see results here). The Greenbrier Clinic offers a multi-specialty approach to treating the whole patient within a single resort visit. Patients can schedule in-depth visits with many specialties including internal medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology, orthopedics, nutrition, as well as a multitude of other diagnostic and preventive health treatments and procedures. Nearly every specialty is housed within the clinic wing attached to the resort. The convenience of walking over to appointments all within the resort is amazing. It is entirely possible to see an internist, a cardiologist, get a colonoscopy, have a radiologist review images including imaging from their own CT- scanner and mammography, or even have surgery over a weekend. Thankfully, I am in good health and my wellness visits on this weekend include time with my internal medicine doctor, a nutritionist, some blood work, and a plasitic surgeon. I could not help but think about how easy it would be to bring my husband here for a year’s worth of medical visits and testing, and have him not miss a single day of work, which is always his excuse for not taking better care of himself. I will be bringing him back another time!


I also had some time to enjoy the resort on my own. I chose to have lunch courtside near the golf shop. This is a favorite tour stop for PGA players and fans of the the PGA tour. I also had time for a little retail therapy in the pro shop. Who am I kidding…I was stalking Lee Trevino. I just missed him by five minutes! Jack Nicklaus was also in town this weekend as they are designing a new golf course….(more on celebrity stalking later :))And, knowing I would be seeing the pro emeritus Pete Sampras play Andy Roddick Saturday night, I was very tuned in to people-watching at the tennis courts during my lunch. Guests can schedule private golf and tennis lessons with tour professionals.

During my clinic phone consultation prior to my visit, I scheduled my doctor’s appointments as well as one of my favorite spa treatments at the Greenbrier. It is really hard to pick just one, so I usually don’t, but I have new doors to open this weekend, including a vault door in the bunker, and I need to experience some other aspects of this massive 40,000 acre property. If you have never been, the Greenbrier signature treatment, featuring a Scotch spray, is a bucket list spa item for any true spa junkie. I also strongly recommend having a facial at the Greenbrier. The staffing in the spa is second to none. Many of the therapists and estheticians have been here over twenty years! Some have even worked here for 30. Talk about expertise–you would be hard-pressed to find a more tenured staff in the entire country.

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Enjoying some quiet time in the relaxation room before my spa treatment

Friday evening is here and it is time to meet my newest friends and fellow participants for an anti-aging reception. Staff from the Clinic, medical vendors, and participants gather to meet and share excitement for the weekend. Many ladies were traveling with their husbands, but broke away to have a little lady time and kick off the program. Two of my friends and blog followers took me up on the opportunity to revisit wellness for the weekend and we had dinner at Forum after our reception. We could also not help ourselves…we had healthy dinners on our own, but the lure of the casino was too strong for us to pass up. Dancing counts as cardio, right?


Saturday morning we were greeted with a beautiful and healthy buffet in the Clinic conference room. We were instructed to fast after 10pm Friday night. Prior to breakfast, we had our blood drawn and tested. Individually, our test results are reviewed with us during our complete medical history and physical with our internist. We each had hour-long appointments with our doctors to go over our medical history and come up with a treatment plan for the next twelve months. My internist was Dr. Kelly Redden. I was impressed with her thorough exam. A few things really stood out as different for me during this exam. First, I was meeting with an actual doctor and not a mid-level provider at the exact time of my appointment! Second, remember what it was like when you would get an exam, then meet with the doctor in their office afterwards, once you are dressed, to get the results? I vaguely do.  Another eye opener was the ability of the Greenbrier Clinic to pull up all of my current medications from two different pharmacies. The accuracy of my prescriptions were not left to my sometimes short attention span. I actually brought mine in a ziplock bag, but they were able to retrieve all of my prescription data, even for a bottle of medicated shampoo I had filled and forgotten about. And finally, I was given a spa robe for medical appointment and assigned a locker. No giant paper napkin patient gowns here! It made me feel more human. I love this level of detail.


We enjoyed more fellowship while some awaited physician appointments, others, time at the spa or activities on property. Our schedules were set up with blocks of open time as well as scheduled group activities. We could use our open blocks for discovering any activities at the Greenbrier, or just spending some quiet downtime. It is up to the patient to decide.

Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa

Personal Training at the Greenbrier Spa

Mid-morning, just outside the spa, the wellness ladies took a private fitness class designed specifically for us by a personal trainer. It was a different workout than what I generally do, but I love trying new activities, so I really enjoyed it and enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather and gardens of the resort.

At lunchtime, we convened in the bunker kitchen for a wellness cooking class. Here, we learned about a variety of superfoods, cooking techniques, and portions to enhance our healthy, active lifestyle. I am always inspired by eating really great, well-prepared whole foods, and the Greenbrier has been a culinary leader in the hospitality industry since the resort opened.

After lunch, we returned to our personal blocks. I went for my signature spa treatment, others saw various physicians and received personalized care or had activities scheduled. At 3:30, I went over my lab results from the morning with Dr. Redden and had my in-depth medical history and physical.

Dr. Kelly Redden Reviews my results

Dr. Redden reviews my lab test and makes a treatment plan for me for the next twelve months.

Tennis Match at The Greenbrier

Saturday night, I watched the tennis match between Andy Roddick and Greenbrier Pro Emeritus Pete Sampras. I was able to catch Pete for an autograph !

Sunday morning, we started the day with a wellness walk and meditation. It was beautiful to walk through the gardens, grounds, and golf course with our personal trainer. I took the opportunity to snap lots of pictures on this scenic stride. Joanna, another participant and I took this selfie with Andy Roddick having coffee in the background on our way to meet up with our trainer. You really never know who you will bump into around here. Once we met up with Josh, we walked at a brisk enough pace to burn calories and get the heart rate up, but we also made time to stop and smell the flowers. Josh Beverage, our trainer,  made sure to point out interesting facts about the grounds and various events and activities available on the property. On completion, a couple of us did have breakfast together in the main dining room. I am a huge fan of room service at the resort, and generally opt for breakfast in bed, so it was nice to see the gorgeous main dining room in the daylight. We decided to stick to our healthy eating plan and ordered a spa breakfast from the menu instead of the decadent Sunday brunch. I was able to keep my convictions due to my wellness walk.


Our final group activity was a meeting with Connie Gottshall in the clinic. She is the nutritionist for the Greenbrier Clinic. She reinforced the information we received at our cooking class, and gave us helpful strategies to make better food choices. She actually had sample meal plans to follow as a guide and definitely inspired us all to take a closer look at food labels, not just for ingredients, and hidden sugars, but also portions. I think her talk just reinforced to me why I prefer to eat whole foods rather than prepared foods. I was definitely more motivated to cook at home more often after this class, and with the skills Iearned in the cooking class, I had everything I needed to prepare better food choices back home.

Greenbrier Nutritionist

Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Connie Gottshall shows us how much sugar is in one can of Coke.

If I could stress anything to you about this wellness weekend, it would be that it was still a vacation. I just learned to live better, armed with new knowledge and motivation to continue to make these educated decisions about food choices, what my body needs. Dr. Redden suggested I add vitamin B-12 daily, Calcium 1200 mg daily, and vitamin D3 1000 mg. She also prescribed exercise for at least 150 minutes a week. In six months she will recheck my HDL cholesterol. This won’t be a problem for me, as I live 90 minutes away, and plan on visiting every three months to get my Botox injections. How cool is it that the doctor would come and give me my Botox injections in my room, if that is what I want? This is what concierge medicine is all about–old-fashioned service, like a housecall to my suite! I have an iPhone app to refill my prescriptions, and they will work with my local physician if needed for additional issues as they arise.

Travel Tips

Private medical suites are available with competitive pricing. If you are planning medical testing or procedures, let the Clinic staff help you book your room. Medical suites have two refrigerators for ice packs and medical supplies. Ample space is available for your family to stay with you. The doctors make rounds in the hotel. Recovering from surgery here is best-in-class.

The Clinic executive medical program caters to people that keep tight schedules and they respect your privacy and time.

Book your spa appointments in advance to insure the optimum therapist and treatment time for your schedule. Add on a 25 -minute mineral soak to any spa service you book. It is a must!

Fitness classes are always new and exciting. Try a new class before your spa appointment. Guided meditation is available most mornings in the spa. Keep your eyes peeled in the gym, lots of celebrities visit and have homes in the area.

Get outside! The grounds at this resort are magnificent. Your normal walk, run, or bike ride will be inspiring. Comfortable walking shoes will take you far at this property.

Try a new sport. Equipment and staffing is always top notch. Falconry or whitewater rafting, anybody?

Book a tour at the beginning of your stay. Historical tours provide a wealth of information about the resort as well as American history.

EAT! This resort has a culinary apprentice program that takes classically-trained chefs three years to complete, much like a masters program.  There is a specific farm-to-table restaurant, but much of the food is grown right on property and always has been.
If you are going to have a cheat day, this is the place to do it. They employ one person who just makes housemade ice cream for eight hours a day, every day. This is a serious foodie paradise. Check calendars for specialty chef’s tables and memorable holiday meals.
This resort is dieter-friendly, with spa menu choices on most dining menus. Staff are happy to cater to your special food preferences. Mom can have an egg white omelet while the kids get treated to chocolate chip pancakes, so everybody is happy.

The Greenbrier is set in the gorgeous mountains of West Virginia. It is easily accessible by half of the country for a family road trip. Air and train service will also take you door-to-door from New York City or Washington D.C.

One visit will not be enough to see and do everything–plan ahead to make the most of your vacation.

I was an invited guest of The Greenbrier Clinic. All opinions are my own. This is my life.

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