Thursday, June 28, 2012

Having a party

I’m always happy to go to a party, but I hate when drinks are served in cheap plastic cups. It brings me back to college keggers, and not in a good way.

You can upgrade your party, inexpensively, by shopping a hotel supply site. If you stock up on reusable, dishwasher safe glasses, you will save money (and the environment) and can plow the savings into better quality booze.

PeachSuite Wholesale Hotel & Restaurant Supplier has beer glasses for just $2 each so that growler filled with a hoppy IPA tastes even better.

When you go to the source for hotel supplies & catering supplies you know you are getting items that have withstood the test of thousands of travelers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 76

The Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking District has a rooftop pool and lounge for the beautiful people in NYC. If you want to exercise to get the body you need for that pool, a small basement gym, with an exercise studio run by Exhale Spa, is your ticket.

The compact gym has a couple of treadmills and stationary bikes, free weights, and weighted balls and mats. There are nice soft towels for mopping up your sweat, and plenty of mirrors so you can check out your guns.

There is also a bowl of fruit so you can grab a healthy snack on your way out.

The small locker room has just one shower, but towels are new and soft. There are robes and slippers for spa guests, but anyone can use them.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Broadway Kids

One of the joys of traveling to New York City is gorging on theater. You can see a different show every night, and even two in the same day if you add a matinee (typically offered on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays).

But what if you are on vacation with young kids? Some shows are appropriate for children, but others are not. Or maybe they can’t sit still for a show.

This is where Playtime childcare comes in.

Playtime is for tourists and New Yorkers alike, and is offered at the off-Broadway theater, Playwrights Horizons. But you aren’t restricted to seeing a show at Playwrights Horizons. You can also see a show at Signature Theatre or Westside Theatre, both of which are very close to Playwrights Horizons.

The childcare is free for Playwrights Horizons subscribers, so most NYC visitors won’t be eligible, but the cost is a very affordable $15 per child.

My teens babysit in NY, and that is the going rate per hour. If you see a 2 hour show, you are essentially getting the second hour free.

And if you were to arrange a babysitter through your hotel, you would pay far more, plus you would need a sitter for longer. Since you are bringing your kids to the theater, you only need a sitter during show time, not travel time

Playtime is for potty trained kids, ages 4 to 12. And the child minders, arranged by Sitter Studio, are themselves dancers, actors and musicians, so your kid can expect a fun time.

In fact, check out the names of the sitters. In a year or two, you might see them onstage!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 75

When an exercise class doesn’t require sneakers, I am skeptical that I can get a good workout. But Exhale Spa’s signature Core Fusion fitness classes, using free weights, a small ball and barre, is challenging in its own way. There is no cardio element (though there are Core Fusion Boot Camp and Core Fusion Cardio classes for those who need to sweat more).

The core fusion class combines elements of yoga, Pilates and dance, and you may find yourself cursing that little red ball as you squeeze your glutes (only 20 more times!) and work deep within muscles.

Although I took a packed class, the instructor managed to know everyone’s name – there were a lot of first timers – and was able to keep on eye on our body positioning. Since 2 sides of the studio were mirrored, there is no hiding in the back.

The studio has tons of classes throughout the day, both yoga and barre, in three exercise rooms.

I was a little surprised out how threadbare some of the Upper East Side studio seemed. Cushions in the waiting area were stained; the place is in need of a make over.

But the locker room as spotless, with thick towels, keyless lockers with hangers, and amenities like razors (though no shaving cream) and mouthwash. Since this is also a spa, there are robes and slippers, too.

Exhale’s reach extends far beyond NYC, to Los Angeles, Dallas and Turks & Caicos, among other locations. It’s nice if you travel a lot; you can use your classes at any location when on vacation.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reading Material: saving money on vacation

If you are going on vacation, one of the best ways to save money is with ereader books. Once you make the initial outlay for the ereader, the books are much cheaper than hard covers.

Money savings are more significant, of course, for bigger readers, but even average readers who go on one or two vacations a year should save money pretty quickly.

Just a quick glance at Amazon's Kindle ereader books shows best sellers for less than 50% of list price. Kindle books include children’s books, fiction and nonfiction, and how-to’s.

Some ereaders, like the Nook and iPad also let you read magazines and newspapers on their devices.

Environmentalists may laud ereader books for saving paper, but the raw materials and energy used to make a tablet or ereader, plus the energy needed to charge the device, may negate those alleged environmental benefits.

You save further with ereader books when you are flying because your bags will weight less, and if you are the type to bring a couple of hard cover books on vacation, you save space. You might be able to avoid checked luggage fees and carry your bags on.

If you are the type of person who shares paper books, you might not be able to do so with ereader books. However, many libraries do loan these as well as paper books, so you can save money there, too.

Don't break the family vacation budget on on your books; save by going electronic.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 74

You trade the camaraderie of a gym when you embark on a solo fitness quest, even if you take a lot of classes. But at Lori's All Star Fitness ( I was welcomed into the fold. Classes are held at Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in a large open room.

Though the classes are mainly populated by older women, they are anything but a cake walk. Lori, a dancer, infuses her classes with easy to follow dance steps. It is not Zumba, but it is equally fun. Yet, the cardio and strength training give you a complete work out.

Stretching is an important part of the class, and for someone as inflexible as I am, that was a true challenge.

Classes are $15, and if you buy a 10 pack, you get one class free. Mats and hand weights are provided; bring your own water and towel.

Fitness Challenge: Looking Good

One of the benefits of exercise is improving how you look, but if you feel too self-conscious to even be seen in body-hugging work out clothes, Marika shape enhancing clothes solves the problem. the stretch fabrics hold your tummy in, and since holding your core is the key to many fitness routines, you get a constant reminder to engage your core.

The beauty behind both the new Magic line (a cotton/spandex blend) and the Miracle line (with Marika's own ELASTA-TIGHT fabric) is that the short, pants and tops are super comfortable even while providing compression core support. And the breathable fabric means that you don't get overheated even before you work out.

Pant inseams now come in short, regular and tall versions, so you don't have to fuss with the fit.

No excuses. Hit the gym.

Calgary Real Estate

Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, was the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics and
like other former Olympic venues, became a much bigger tourist destination after hosting the Olympics. Canada Olympic Park offers downhill and cross country skiing, luge and bobsled rides, and mountain bike rides in summer.

The city also attracts American retirees looking to stretch their retirement money. It is also a good place for second home buyers, particularly those who enjoy active vacations.

Calgary real estate offers value to American buyers, with a favorable exchange rate and a lot of inventory.

Calgary Realtors can help you negotiate an international purchase. One Calgary Realtor stays up to date with a blog, and provides clients with an iPad to take notes while house hunting.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 73

Seattle is known for its food scene, with the famed fish market, Pike Place, and tons of locavore restaurants. If you are a vegetarian who doesn't eat fish, you can find chefs who rely on the region's produce bounty.

On my recent visit, it was so cold that I had to warm up with a hot chocolate at Chocolate Box. The chocolate bar features a number of add-ons, including peanut butter. So it's almost a health food.

Then I had to run off those calories. Seattle is very hilly, so it was a challenging run to go down to the waterfront, then back to my hotel, Mayflower Park. It was also a very short run, so I continued by work out by following the monorail path, about a mile, to the Space Needle.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 72

When you travel, it's nice to have a fitness center in the hotel, though you can always just exercise in your room. The historic Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle has a compact fitness room with a couple of treadmills and exercise bikes, a stepper, free weights and mats.

Sure, a view is more inspiring, and a studio where classes are offered is wonderful, but when you wake up at 5am because you are still on east coast time, you don't really need a perky spin instructor. You need to work on your abs.

The Mayflower Park Hotel fitness room is not the place to start an exercise regimen, but if you are a committed to fitness, and you can satisfactorily work out in a basic space, you will do fine.

Then you can treat yourself to one of the signature martinis at the bar, Olivers.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fitness Challenge: Day 71

One of the signifiers of a neighborhood's arrival is a fitness studio. In Red Hook, Brooklyn, a free community center has a seasonal outdoor pool and one of the most uninviting (but free) gyms anywhere. Red Hook also now boasts a bright storefront gym, Sessions Fit Spin Studio.

Sessions Fit is basically one room, lit by a huge skylight and windows on the street. Half the space is devoted to spanking new Livestrong spin bikes; in the other half, classes like boot camp and body sculpting are held.

I caught the end of a spin class, where the participants used the part of the studio where they weren't spinning to stretch. Then I took boot camp, which was an intense, hour-long class. We kept our heart rate up between strength cycles with jumping jacks or marching.

The studio also offers a marine boot camp, held outside at a playground.

Sessions Fit has few amenities - a bathroom and soft face towels are it - but the mix of classes throughout the day, plus the offer of a free first class - make this a place worth checking out.