Sweat Lodge Ceremony in Santa Fe Ancient healing in modern times

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom.

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Concha Garcia Allen MA, LMT, curandera, ceremonial leader, and Aztec dance leader. Photo courtesy of Sunrise Springs Resort

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom. When we are in harmony with nature, we can unlock the answers to our problems and better interpret and fulfill our dreams.

Concha reminds us before the ceremony that our close relationship with nature has been broken. It is her desire to help us better understand our place within this world and our interdependence with all that is nature. Through a guided journey we explore the four directions of the medicine wheel.

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A Native American medicine wheel is the physical center of Sunrise Springs Resort. The wheel represents the four physical directions North, South, East, and West. It is also in alignment with the calendar and represents the four seasons. Each quadrant is also used to reframe the four phases of life from birth, adolescence, parenthood, and ultimately, death. The circle represents the never ending cycle of life with no beginning and no end. Each quadrant can represent the four elements as well Air (mental), Fire (spiritual), Water (Emotional), and Earth (physical). Animals totems are also assigned to stages of the wheel of life.

Concha makes a smoke offering to the four directions as well as the universe above us and below us. Chanted prayers and requests for the spirits of this world and all of our present and past relations are brought to mind.  She brings an emotional power to the ceremony.

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Tobacco is burned as an offering

 

Participants are dressed comfortably. Some in spa robes, some in bathing suits, and some in traditional Native American attire. We will enter this journey together, and we are reminded of the interdependence on one another for a successful spiritual experience. Our guide functions not only in a shaman, or curanadera, role, but she is also in the experience with us. Concha is joined by two of her nephews who assist in the ceremony.  We are each smudged while chanted prayers are shared. A ceremonial flute and conch shell are also played.

Sweat Lodge  Ceremony at Sunrise Springs Resort

Outside of the traditional stone and timber sweat lodge we are given a description of the physical and mental aspects of this journey. We are told that it is a place of rebirth. Like the womb of a mother, it will be dark, cramped and hot. Birth is where we begin the journey. In the hot lodge, we move through the four cycles of life in fifteen minute intervals. Guests are offered the traditional Native American “Gatorade”, an icy salted water with lemon. We are instructed on ways to endure the heat. We are also instructed on what type of conversations and prayers will be offered once inside the sweat lodge.

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Sweat Lodge at Sunrise Springs Resort

Heated stones on a stove are basted with water, as in a sauna. Once Concha has said her prayers and opened the conversation, we are instructed to pass a talking stick and share, if we like, how this particular quadrant of the wheel or phase of our life is affecting us. We speak only when we are handed the stick and at the close of our shared thought, we offer up the words “All my relations.”

We on our own individual spiritual journeys, from various religious and non-religious backgrounds. What brings us closer together to our relationship with the earth and its living beings is an understanding that we are all in this cycle of life together. It is through this dark, hot journey that we gain insight to what is blocking us from our personal growth. By reframing our aspirations or problems in alignment with the four elements of air, water, earth and fire, and where we are within our life’s journey, we hope to better understand that we have the answers to all of life’s questions if we can just slow down long enough to think of them. From a practicing Buddhist’s perspective, I am amazed at the similarities between the Native American traditions and the Tibetan.

Emerging from the first session, we spent time sharing childhood experiences and reflect on that ability to naturally use our imagination without the typical constraints we place on those mental aspects as adults. It was hot. I mean really hot! Some of the guests took the opportunity to plunge into the cool natural spring between sessions. These four sessions have us emotionally travel through the various stages in life and to the point to how we understand our place in nature at this very moment.

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Guests can share as much or as little as they like.  We keep our water handy. We also know that if we can just endure one more phase of this circuit, a cool plunge awaits us. There is no shame if one needs to step out early.

We left this experience feeling much more connected to the Earth, our current phase of life, and better understanding the connection to all people physically and mentally.

This is not a treatment for the faint of heart. It will test the physical and mental strength of even fit people. If you have questions about your ability to endure this experience, there are many other helpful services available at the resort, including counselors, a physician specializing in wellness, and much more.

Medical Considerations

  • If you have any chronic medical conditions, please consult with your medical provider before attending the Sweat Lodge ceremony.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day of the ceremony. It is recommended to have at least 6 glasses of water prior to the event.
  • The lodge is an enclosed circular space and the number of participants may vary. If you have a tendency to anxiety in small, dark spaces, you can be seated near the door.

 

I was a hosted guest of Sunrise Springs Resort, a sister property of Ojo Caliente . All opinions are my own.

Easy Authentic New Mexican No Cook Red Chile Sauce

Authentic New Mexican Chile Sauce is easy to make and has many uses.

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New Mexican Tamale at Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico

When dining in New Mexico, the same question is always asked. Would you like red chile sauce, green chile sauce, or Christmas, which means both. As a cook searching for chile sauce recipes you will be asked if you will be preparing the sauce from powder or the pods. This simple recipe only requires chile pods, water, salt, and a blender or food processor.

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I turned to a native New Mexican chef for guidance. Chef Rocky Durham is the executive chef at Sunrise Springs Resort located on the outskirts of Santa Fe. His philosophy is not only authentic to New Mexico, it is authentic to the wellness vibe at Sunrise Springs Resort.
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Red chile is made differently from family to family, and village to village. The two main differences begin with powder or pods. Do you use whole, dried chiles or dried chile powder (not to be confused with “chili powder” which is a spice blend that might contain some cayenne pepper.) The majority of chile makers would agree that starting with whole pods is the preferred method.

A new, easy technique that Chef Rocky embraces follows:

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Chef Rocky Durham recommends pods. Using disposable kitchen gloves will help avoid irritation to the skin on hands or accidental irritation via touching the hands to the face and eyes.
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A knife is handy to split the chile pods. Since the chiles are dry, they can also be broken up by hand. Another great reason to uses gloves. Break off the stems and remove the seeds.
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This is not an exercise in reducing the heat of the chile sauce, but rather producing a beautiful, bright-red sauce. The seeds are pale yellow and dilute the red color within the flesh of the pepper. I saved the seeds in an air tight container for use on my pizzas.
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I place the stemmed and seeded peppers in a container and cover with cold water then placed a plate or other weight on top to keep them submerged.
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Refrigerate the chiles overnight. I used about twenty five pods or half the bag.
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The following day puree the rehydrated chiles with enough of the soaking medium to produce a sauce consistency puree. Add salt and water slowly to taste and consistency. A blender would also work well if you do not have a food processor.
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The purist will add only some good salt to the mixture. The more avant-garde cooks will add sautéed garlic, yellow onion, oregano and sometimes honey to the sauce. Everything is done “to taste” as every chile pepper is unique unto itself and resists being standardized.
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By not cooking the mixture, the color is shockingly red and all those super-B-vitamins (cyanoids) are left intact.
Just warm the sauce “to order” when applicable but do not be afraid to use this for your enchiladas or other baked recipes. Refrigerate for up to one week. Follow Chef Rocky Durham on Instagram for more inspiration.
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I decided to stick to the purist mindset for my first batch. It took much less salt than I expected. I could see adding other cooked veggies like onions and garlic to dial back the heat. Chicken stock could also add some depth. On my next batch, I think I will add some lime juice. Using vinegar instead of water would make it like Tabasco. Fresh is always best and you can definitely taste the difference with this sauce.
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Approximately twenty five pods with about a teaspoon of salt and nearly a cup of the reserved soaking water produced one pint of red chile sauce. My meal plans this week for this batch include using it on grilled grouper one night and on beef enchiladas this weekend. I’m also planning on serving it on omelets for Sunday brunch. Red chile sauce is delicious on eggs.  It would also be great tossed on cooked chicken wings with a blend of sauce and melted butter for Buffalo wings. I’m pretty sure it would also make an amazing addition to a bloody Mary.
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I picked up the local red chile pods en route to Ojo Caliente for a day of soaking in the mineral springs. It is less than an hour drive from their sister property at Sunrise Springs. Hotel staff can arrange day passes if you are staying at Sunrise Springs Resort. Chef Rocky Durham has worked at both properties. Lightweight and easy to pack, chile pods make an excellent souvenir for “foodie friends.”

American Culinary Federation Halloween Chef’s Table Featuring Chef John Schopp

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. 

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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!

 

 

 

Last Call…Metro! — Enlightened Spa Review

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

Last Call…Metro!

It is impossible for me to think that the restaurant failed for any food or service failures.

 

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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.

 

 

 

How to get a great music festival massage

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…

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.

 

 

Burnt Offering; a sage-smudged massage treatment

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

Burnt Offering; a sage-smudged massage treatment

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 perfect way to relax, right?

I promise this is hilarious…give me a minute.

I want to share a day in the life of this spa blogger. It’s been three months since my last post. It’s not that I haven’t traveled, but I haven’t written for months due to some pretty depressing stuff going on in my life. I’ve had some family issues, that I would rather not relive at the moment. I think most of you can understand that type of lingering, heavy stress. I also recently lost my closest friend to cancer. It was a very long and difficult year watching not one, but two friends lose their lives to cancer. Last week I was just absolutely devastated. I could not even find peace in my mediation practice.

Fast forward to today. I have two friends painting the entire interior and trim in my home. Yeah, even the ceilings. The dry wall guys were here for a couple of days at the first of the week. This project will likely take a month to complete. My entire house, spare one room, is covered in plastic. And now, I have a fine, white film of dry wall dust covering everything. Not a single scrap of anything Christmas is found in the house. Christmas is just three days away. So yeah, it’s just a mess. I have been a hot mess. It has been a struggle. Any one of these things is stressful. The three combined has me at my emotional limit.

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 perfect way to relax, right?

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Master massage and Reiki Therapist, Josh Hazlewood from the Homestead Resort makes a house call for me.

My therapist visited my neighbor Kathy’s house first. She lives up the street. He was a little turned around and was on her doorstep, massage table in hand, asking for Erin Wolfe. Thankfully, Kathy has her finger on the pulse of the neighborhood, so naturally she could direct him to my house just at the end of the cul-de-sac. His wrong house call will only add to my “amazing” reputation in my neighborhood.

I introduced Josh to my two friends and painters, Dexter and Tim. And with his typical fabulous humor, Dexter quietly says to me under his breath…”Oh great, we now have three queens up in this house.” At that point I had to remind Dexter that there is in fact only one queen in this crib and it isn’t him! #Drama

Josh and I head downstairs to my guest room, the only room in the house not completely destroyed. He and I went over my mental and physical state for a few minutes before the treatment. Since Josh and I have known each other for twenty-plus years, we can quickly cut through the typical update on my mental health and overall lack of wellness at this point. He suggests we do a combination of therapies including Reiki, massage, as well as some other energy work for my grief. Wonderful. I am so thankful to have my long-time friend here to help me. I plan on keeping an open mind. We chat about treatments, some trips I have planned for my blog, when the subject of Donald Trump comes up. Josh follows me and was tickled about my response to the 2016 election on my Facebook feed (total shock, peppered with swear words). At that point, I said we should probably burn some sage to clear out some negativity, especially since we invoked Donald Trump’s name. What an epic turn this took. Stay with me…

Josh’s massage style can be what a mutual friend calls “woo woo.” Of course he is classically trained and he takes his craft to another level by adding a spiritual aspect to it.  He smudges some sage around me, himself, and in the guest room. He puts the sage out and opens some windows. He leaves the room, and I get comfortable on his table and tuck myself in under his mint green sheets. Outside I have three men finishing the mulching of beds in my yard. I kind of forgot about them.  Yes, mulch in December. Don’t ask, It’s a long story. I know it doesn’t make any sense. You cannot make up what follows next.

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A treatment full of promise!

Josh begins the treatment with some incantations, chanting, and heavy breathing. You need to imagine him invoking spirits. He calls some spirits to come into our presence. He mentioned St. Germain, and I swear I tried to not giggle. At this point I’m thinking about my painters upstairs. Can they hear this?Dexter worked in restaurants, and that is were we met many years ago, so the fact that Josh is calling on a spirit, a name of a distilled spirit, to help me, is beyond ironic.

Josh is now doing a combination of G-Breathing which I swear sounds just like a combination of Darth Vader heavy breathing and making sounds like a digeridoo…yeah that Australian instrument…kind of freaky. This is now mixed with a chant of my name, and he spells each letter out “E-R-I-N.” He owns this spiritual part of the treatment, and his voice is loud, guttural chanting, like Buddhist monks. We have no music on during this treatment, so I’m just rolling with it and trying to focus on my breath and not giggle. Josh asks me to breathe with him. Ok, I will give it a try. I’m pretty weirded out, but least I’m not weepy, so I will try anything to feel better. We do chanted prayers at my meditation center, so I tell myself this is probably not that different.
So Josh teaches me the G-Breath technique…breathe in through the mouth, out through the mouth, then in through the mouth, out through the nose. Then, inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose, then nose, mouth, then mouth, mouth again. We repeat this breathing pattern first at a regular pace, then at a slower pace, then again at a faster pace. I know I sound like Darth Vader now, too. Oh boy, I can just imagine Dexter’s reaction if he can hear any of this. He would die laughing.
The two of us are doing this heavy breathing thing. I’m lying on the table. Josh is standing at the head of the table. I hear something else. What is that? I hear this noise in the mulch, and at first I think its a wild animal or maybe my cat. Then it dawns on me that my super-devout, Christian landscapers can hear us and see it all!!! Just a few feet from me is a landscaper digging in my garden bed right outside of the open, drapery-free window!! So when Josh is doing his myofascial release of my glutes, he exclaims, “Girl! Your butt is so tight!!!” Not once, but several times. He is in awe of the tightness of my butt muscles. My landscapers are not only hearing this, they had to see him fully extend my leg and then push my leg forward towards my shoulder. This is not a good look on anyone. He is now rotating my leg in a figure eight for what feels like infinity. Really? I just keep thinking, how am I going to explain to the landscaper? Josh now has one hand under the sheet, under my lower back, and one hand on top of the sheet, not far from my lady bits in an effort to open my chakras??? Josh continues with occasional guttural sounds while opening my different chakras. He tells me he is going to stop at my heart chakra as that is what is needed for me today, due to my grief. I am just imagining the landscapers thinking I am under some kind of surgical sheet having some weird new age treatment that may appear sexual to an untrained person. Oh man…did I mention that I already have an “awesome reputation” in my neighborhood??? This is a small town. My landscaper also works with other friends and neighbors.

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Five windows in this guest room…all open, and all without drapes!

Since Josh and I had done about an hour of the Reiki and other metaphysical techniques, we were at a point were it was mostly massage and more appropriate to have a little chat. Josh is now sitting on the end of the massage table facing me, I’m face up and he has my left leg is in what I can only explain as a wresting move, like a figure four, while I attempt to explain why I have a “tight a**.”

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My new trainer, Nicole, that kicked my butt, literally.

Josh finishes up the treatment with some rhythmic chopping on my back, backside, and legs. He throws in a little reflexology for my feet. Again, it is silent in the room, so you can hear hollow sounds on my body like a drum, AND people rooting around in my backyard. Josh varies his sound therapy at this time. This time, he is creating loud vibrations with his voice.  I would liken it to a singing bowl treatment.  He tells me it will bring about peace in most clients. I would guess that it is very effective, if you are not on display to three men covered in mulch witnessing this outside!

Ok, I can laugh at the randomness of the universe at this point, until we took another turn! No, It gets worse!!! Deciding to do another round of sage smudging for extra measure, Josh sets off my smoke detector. This is a problem as it is connected to an alarm service. I need to leap from the table, but I am just draped in a sheet wearing only my birthday suit.  Alarm blaring, he leaves for me to get dressed. I throw on some shorts and tank top…IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW!
Can I remember the code to the alarm? Hell no! I have spa brain!!! I’m trying to turn it off before the fire department gets called. Too late! My neighbor, Lorraine, is walking over with her phone to check on me. “Erin, It’s Audiotronics, there is a fire in your basement.” “No, no, I’m fine I was just burning some sage for a massage.” I am mortified. “Thank you!” I then called 911 on myself (second time this year) and inform them that we are ok, and not on fire. At that point I hear the fire truck and a moment later I see it, a large, bright, yellow, ladder truck. Now I have the siren in my house going off, and a super loud, huge, fire truck with an awesome siren, alerting all the other neighbors. Oh JEEZ! I still haven’t cleared the code. Now I’m outside in my shorts and tank top, explaining to the firemen, springing out of the fire truck to save me, that it was a false alarm. Thankfully, they were kind and understanding. Wow, I am so beyond embarrassed at this point. Can you visualize my #spahairdontcare, smudged face make up, flimsy outfit, dazed and confused look, standing in my barefeet outside on my freezing cold brick entryway? Nuts! Then my neighbor next door, Kathy #2, quickly pulls up in her SUV. “Erin are you ok, the alarm service called me.” “Um, yeah…I’m fine. It was a false alarm.” She is looking at me, then looking at the ladder truck, totally puzzled. I then have to confess my sage/massage thing to a lady that already thinks I’m totally high-maintenance. Now, I am certain there is no doubt in her mind of my diva ways.  Two painters and a massage therapist standing behind me in the house, three men in the yard, four men on the ladder truck…no, I’m definitely not high maintenance.  It’s just me getting a smoking massage. She will be giving me a hard time about this for a while.

I still can’t find the code to my alarm system. It’s so loud! I’m digging for my key fob, missing in action, of course. The painters are loving this more than you can imagine. My phone is ringing. Total chaos. It’s my husband. He is telling me our house is on fire. “No baby, its ok. It’s like what happens when I cook bacon. We’re good. Just trying to get a little massage over here.” Oh man, who is going to call or show up next???

I take a moment to just find my bearings and try to clear the alarm code. I decide to go out to the garage to get a bottle of water from refrigerator and the garage door is open. Right outside the garage are all three of my landscapers taking a break. I can only describe the look on their face, seeing me like this today, my disheveled hair, smudged makeup, summer attire, my three-man crew, and now the fire department…as an open mouth stare and total awe. I just can’t even. I have to see these guys every Wednesday. I just said false alarm, took my water, and hit the automatic garage door button to close the door. I’m out.

My painters and Josh are sad for me. They know how stressed I have been and now my momentary bliss has been squashed. They suggest a cocktail. It’s only 2:30. My massage therapist agrees. “You need water and a shot.” Dexter, Josh, and I have a shot of bourbon neat, from a now, “no longer able to be a Christmas gift” bottle of fancy bourbon that was on my counter. None of us typically drink bourbon. Drinking it without ice or a mixer is also not typical, but then again, what is typical about this day?

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Laugh or just cry? Josh, Dexter, and I chose cocktails. Yes, that is spackle on my kitchen wall.

My helpers, now paid, leave in very good cheer. My next door neighbor, Kathy #2, text me to follow up and make certain that I am ok. I give her the update on my holiday travel plans and remind her that she can use our secret Santa stash and and hot tub while I am away. She usually hides her kids’ large Christmas gifts in my lower, back porch until Christmas morning. She then texted me back, …”No need for the secret Santa stash…haven’t had that since college…but I might take you up on the hot tub.” OMG!!! What does she think I’m offering her??? I reaffirmed that I was burning SAGE!!! WTH???

I can’t wait to hear about this from my other neighbors. I live in a small town. I am certain this story will morph and evolve. It’s always smart to get your version out first.  I can’t even make this stuff up.

I know a much more epic version of this will make its rounds. Let me know if you hear a better version. I am certain we can all use a good laugh in 2017.

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IT WAS SAGE!!!

Epic.Spa.Day.

I paid for this day in many ways.  Happy to be writing again, thank you Josh! Extra special thank you to the Cave Spring Volunteer Fire Department and all of my neighbors on the security system phone chain.  One does not need to be a spa junkie to appreciate a good laugh. Please share. I know 2016 has been a hard year for many. This is my life.

My First Botox Injection: The single most important thing you must know!

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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.

Greenbrier Wellness

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

Greenbrier Wellness

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.

 

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.