Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Healthy Smoothies

In New York City, where I live, calorie counts have to be posted at fast food outlets and chain coffee shops like Starbucks. Sometimes I am shocked to see the calorie count in a muffin or scone.

At least at Starbucks, a smoothie is a great choice, a blend of banana, strawberries, milk and protein powder.

But although Starbucks let’s you customize your milk, with nonfat or soy, they don’t have Lactaid. I can understand this; if you are lactose-intolerant, you can just use soy milk.

But my daughter prefers the taste of cow's milk. So at home, we use our blender to create smoothies using whole fresh fruit and Lactaid.

My secret is two-fold. I freeze overripe bananas (after peeling them – believe me, mentioning this step is important) and use those in the smoothies. The brownish bananas are much sweeter, and using them frozen means I can use less ice, and more milk.

Freezing bananas is also a great way to use up extra bananas that ripened too fast too eat - i keep them on hand for banana bread and a not-at-all-healthy but delicious chocolate peanut butter cake.

My smoothies are loaded with vitamins from the fruit and protein from the milk, so there’s no need to add protein powder.

Healthy Smoothie for one

½ frozen banana
3-4 strawberries, hulled
¼ cup Lactaid
2 ice cubes

Blend and enjoy.

You can also substitute peach, watermelon or mango for the strawberries.

Melissa d'Arabian showcased Lactaid’s versatility on the TODAY Show, with this recipe:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Skinny Jeans in Portland: Staying Fit

To fit in in Portland, you literally have to fit in - to skinny jeans. But with popular calorie bombs like Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts tempting you, your exercise regimen cannot take a back seat.

Thankfully for my bottom line, I stayed at the Hotel Monaco, which has a fully equipped fitness center. There were a couple of treadmills and elliptical trainers, with their own screens (one only seemed to play CNN but maybe that is a better choice for keeping my mind fit than Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

There were weight machines, free weights, weighted balls, barbells, foam rollers, stability balls and a bosu ball.

The gym also had a couple of mats, including a cushy one for gymnastics, plenty of soft towels and cold water, along with headphones.

I also liked the eco touch of a light sensor, so when I went there at 6am (still on New York time) the lights were off.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Emjoi Micro-Pedi Saves Your Feet

If you travel, run, walk the dog or just spend time with your kids, you are on your feet a lot. I am plagued by calluses, rough heels and hard skin on my feet. Pedicures are an occasional indulgence, but they cost time and money. Enter the Emjoi Micro-Pedi tool.

This battery-operated device has a spinning roller that smoothes skin in just a few seconds. You don't have to worry about cutting too deeply and getting an infection, or having such rough skin that you tear your socks.

Then there's those Manolo Blahniks from a sample sale that don't really fit, but they were such a steal that you cram your toes into them anyway.

New mani and pedi attachments can have you cut your ties to the nail salon entirely. The manicure kid as 5 attachments, to puff and polish nails and push cuticles back. the Precision Cone has tiny rollers that fit between your toes to get out those bumps and rough spots.

The Micro-Pedi is $39.95 and the attachment kits are $19.95 each; with the money you save on mani-pedis, you can spring for a pair of Manolo Blahniks.

This time in a size that fits.

Note: I received a sample of a Micro-Pedi in return for writing about it. My opinions and my smooth, happy feet are entirely my own.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Radisson Hotel Utica: delivers on fitness

When I heard that the Radisson Hotel Utica had recently renovated its fitness center, I looked forward to staying there. The hotel, in upstate New York, has an indoor pool; on our visit over Memorial Day, it was 43 degrees and raining the whole time. So an outdoor pool would have an extremely short season.

And any other outdoor activity was curtailed, even though it was late May.

So we headed to the gym, a basement space with plenty of room. There were new treadmills and elliptical trainers, with individual TVs, a full array of Life Fitness weight machines, free weights and stability balls.

There were also mats, with space to use them, towels and water. 

It wasn't the most inspiring place - the blank walls could use some decoration, but it was more than ample.

The hotel also offers a free breakfast buffet on weekdays, though oddly of the four rooms our group reserved, only one was given the breakfast coupons. Free breakfast is one of our favorite family friendly amenities.

The Radisson has an elaborate Sunday brunch, with free-flowing champagne and made to order omelets.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Days Inn Oriskany: 1 day is plenty

When we planned to go to my oldest daughter's college graduation, we didn't think we needed to come 2 days early. But then she won some awards and the honors ceremony meant we needed to come a day early.

Unfortunately, all the good hotels were booked and we found ourselves at the Days Inn Oriskany. How bad could it be for one night?

Well, we had only 2 towels for 3 of us and no one answered at housekeeping.  The walls were paper thin, but the room next to us was under construction and looked forbiddingly like something from The Shining.

And when we tried to get breakfast at 7, there was no food. So we decided to exercise.

The fitness room had probably last been updated in the Eisenhower era. Broken TVs were piled in the corner, the cardio equipment was rickety and the iron barbells had prison weight room written all over them.

There were exactly 2 small towels and a decent amount of space so I ran my husband through boot camp drills. We used a weight bench and the barbells.

An house later, we checked on breakfast, which was being set up. Stale English muffins and coffee in Styrofoam. We waited for our youngest to wake up and went out for breakfast.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Family Planning: summer vacation

When I plan trips, particularly family vacations, I write notes on scraps of paper, on my computer and  on my iPhone. MiniTime offers a way to plan family vacations and keep track of all the info.

This new website, with smartphone and tablet versions in the works, has both trip tips by family travel writer Suzanne Rowan Kelleher and custom itineraries the vacationing family can use, both as a planning tool and as a vacation diary.

I love the drag and drop feature of the itineraries; if you see attractions you want to visit or restaurants where you want to eat, you just add them to your trip planner.

The site offers personalized recommendations based on ages of your kids. It goes from infant to teen (17), and if you have kids in different categories, it offers the full range of attractions.

You can also book kid-friendly hotels directly from the website, with family-friendly amenities like roll-away beds, cribs, pools and microwaves in rooms noted. You can also sort hotels by amenities that your family wants, like a fridge in the room.

Foursquare provides restaurant suggestions, but you can’t yet sort by things like vegetarian food or availability of high chairs.

I was able to create an itinerary for my upcoming trip to Portland, Oregon, but planning one for Louisville, Kentucky, was incomplete. MiniTime uses crowd sourced info and started with top destinations; as the site grows and more reader feedback is added, planning trips outside major tourist destinations will grow easier.

For now, I am happy to recycle all those scraps of paper.