Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hotel Monaco: Staying Fit While Eating Around Philly

The well equipped gym at Hotel Monaco in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has become a foodie paradise, and vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of places where they can fill their bellies.

The pulley machine
But what to do about belly bloat? If you stay at the Hotel Monaco, you can work out at the excellent gym. The bright, spotless gym has state of the art cardio equipment, all with their own television screens - or you can watch the hive of activity below around the Liberty Bell.

There are also stability balls and a bosu ball, hula hoops, free weights and weight machines and weighted balls. The large pulley machine intimidated me.

Cardio machines at Hotel Monaco
The gym also keeps in mind creature comforts, with a water cooler, soft towels - and chilled ones - ear buds if you've forgotten, newspapers - even fresh fruit so you don't hit the mini bar and negate all that exercise.

If you are shy about your workout, you can use the yoga mat in your room.

Gym amenities include chilled towels
Group fitness fans can take one of the free weekly classes; cardio sculpting at 6:30am on Wednesdays, or cardio boxing, also on Wednesdays at 6pm. Of course, that cuts right into the free daily cocktail social hour...

If you prefer to get your cardio outside, take one of the free bikes for a spin. The hotel is right on a bike lane and you can easily zip over to Fairmont Park.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stay Awhile, Stay Fit - Extended Stay America

The exercise room at Extended Stay America
People stay at Extended Stay America hotels for a variety of reasons: price, convenience, the full kitchens, the huge discount for long stays.

But just because you are at a budget hotel, it doesn't mean you don't want to ignore your fitness routine. In fact, if you are at the hotel because you are relocating, on a long business trip, or renovating your house, you may NEED to exercise.

Breakfast is included
The exercise room at the Extended Stay America in Secaucus, where I recently spent a weekend, won't win awards, but the facility did let me continue my marathon training.  There were 2 treadmills and an elliptical machine and while I was disappointed that they didn't have individual screens, there was a television on the wall, and there wasn't anyone else using a machine while I was there.

The outdoor patio where I completed my exercise routine
I wanted to run outside, but the office park location was not conducive to an outdoor run.  There is a pretty enclosed patio, though, where I was able to go through a routine of squats, pushups and burpees.

There is also an indoor pool where you can get a decent workout.

The breakfast was also a good post workout touch: there were granola bars, packs of unsweetened instant oatmeal (alas, no milk to make them, though) and whole pieces of fresh fruit.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Working it in Louisville - Fitness at the 21C

Staring at a stone wall can be a little claustrophobic
On a recent work trip to Louisville, Kentucky, I stayed at the 21C museum hotel, a cool boutique hotel downtown. I was excited to hop on one of the free bikes, but the only ones there after breakfast had flat tires, so I had to use the fitness center.

That is not a problem for me, but this basement space had a dungeon-like quality; it was cramped and windowless (of course - as was my room, which was a surprise).

This tiny space was where you could use the stability ball
But the fitness center did have a large flat screen television, which I was able to tune into a food show; I like to watch cooking while I burn off calories. And there was a mirrored wall so I could watch my form.

The compact space had a couple of stability, free weights, a yoga mat (not much room to stretch) and towels. Normally, I wouldn't mention the fact that there were towels, but I just returned from another business trip where the much larger fitness center had no towels. So I won't take those for granted any more!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Perfect Storm: Storm Cafe, Middlebury, VT

Middlebury, Vermont, is the epitome of a small New England town, with a village green, a gorgeous, most selective liberal arts college and a smattering of charming shops, vegetarian-friendly cafes and galleries.

One of our favorite spots is The Storm Cafe, overlooking Otter Creek. On a recent trip to Middlebury, we ate there with our dog tied up to post near the outdoor patio, Two others labs were there and the dogs all played while we ate.

The heirloom tomato salad was nearly a meal in itself, with local mozzarella and baby spinach; with this an d another appetizer of grilled flatbread and hummus, served with olives, roasted peppers, more tomatoes and pickled beans, we were pretty full.

But we also got a winter salad - in summer - with gorgonzola, caramelized onions, pears and walnuts - we didn't miss the bacon that it comes with, though we did consider getting it on the side for the dogs.

And because my husband insisted we still needed more food, we had the crab cakes, served with yet more greens and a spicy remoulade.

We had to leave too early the next day to get the fabulous rustic hearts panini- artichoke hearts, asiago, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and sun-dried tomatoes.  I thought about getting one for the road, but this sandwich is best eaten warm.

Another reason to return!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back to School, Back to School Parent Obligations

Imagine organizing the families of all these kids for a travel choir  performance 
Nothing says end of summer faster than the onslaught of emails from class parents, PTA presidents and teachers

Coaches get into the act, too, whether your child plays a varsity or club sport.  I think I have already gotten 3 dozen emails and texts in the last day about an upcoming Ultimate tournament - and school doesn’t even start for 8 days!

I am suggesting that the entire team get on board with VolunteerSpot, a wonderful fee online tool that helps you organize car pools, snack duty and bake sales, without the endless clogged inbox. [Disclosure: I was compensated for this post].

VolunteerSpot is useful for all kinds of after school activities -anything where you need to coordinate a large group of people.  My sister just organized a dinner for 270 (!) parents and family members of her son’s marching band, and this would have been invaluable help.

I’m not sure what it says about me that when she said they ran out of Rita’s at the dinner, I was picturing a bunch of parents with empty margarita glasses (‘rita’s) - she meant they had so many people not bring promised desserts that they ran out of Rita’s water ice.

But parents not getting Italian ices (all the kids got) could be a blessing in disguise; VolunteerSpot can avert potential disasters, like the one we had at a travel tournament, when a parent had to leave with his car and five girls were stranded without rides.

We also had a situation where there were so many emails in a chain that when our hotel was switched, some parents didn’t get notified, and were shut out of rooms. The sign up sheets are accessible to everyone and the info is clear and easy to read - no danger in vital info getting lost.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I see an empty margarita glass that needs attention.

Note: check out VolunteerSpot’s Back to School promotion, where you can win money or swag, for you or your kid’s after school activities, and money for the school.

Free Movies in NYC

See Frozen tonight at South Street Seaport - free!
One of the pleasures of summer in NYC is seeing free movies around the city. And as days get shorter in August (I know - end of summer already?) movies can start a little earlier, making them perfect for taking little kids.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has an exclusive event, for members only, where you can picnic and watch a movie  - tonight. This is a rare occurrence - usually, you can't picnic on the lush lawns here, but a couple of times a year, they allow it.

Tonight's movie is the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and there is even a pop-up chocolate shop.

Another venue, open to all, has Frozen tonight. The South Street Seaport sets up chairs for its al fresco movies, saving the backs of aging parents.

The screening, part of the See/Change 2014 series, includes dressing up as your favorite Frozen character.

Seeing all that snow and ice will really make you cherish the last of summer!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Vegetarian Beer: Yes, Please

Tröegs Dreamweaver Wheat Ale
Most vegetarians don’t usually worry about meat in their beer, but it is very refreshing to find this on the Smuttynose website:

"Vegetarians, please take note: Smuttynose beers are made without the use of any animal products, such as isinglass or gelatin. Why? Because we prefer it that way, and we're sure you do, too, so enjoy!"
I never even thought about meat products in the suds with my veggie burger, and it's nice to know that this craft brewery has my back.
Smuttynose Big A IPA is one of my favorite beers and though it is not in season right now, we were able to have a Finestkind IPA on tap on our recent college tour.
My 16 year old looked at Dartmouth College, (New Hampshire, home to Smuttynose) Middlebury College (Vermont, home to Otter Creek Brewing Co and Skidmore College (near Albany, NY and the excellent brews at the Albany Pump Station).
We also went to Hamilton College, near Utica.  The F.X. Matt Brewing Company is there, making Saranac Beer.  We were a day early for the hop picking festival, but we still had very hoppy, ice cold beer.
And just for kicks, we swung by my sister’s in Pennsylvania, drinking the lovely Tröegs beer from Hershey, PA. We are huge fans of the Dreamweaver Wheat Ale. My sister happens to live just feet from the Delaware border, so of course we had to have Dogfish Head Brewery 90 Minute IPA.
Best of all, both Delaware and New Hampshire have no sales tax, so we were able to load up the car with bargain craft beer.

Yes, it’s good to be the parent of a teen looking at colleges in New England and the mid-Atlantic states.

Friday, August 15, 2014

College Prep and The College Trip

So she didn't like Georgetown. We got to walk around this pretty campus.
Next week, my husband,, youngest daughter and I are embarking on what I hope is our last college touring trip.
Don’t get me wrong, going to visit colleges can be a lot of fun. We have done it multiple times with both of our older girls, and you would think the youngest had seen enough schools that she wouldn’t need to go to anymore.
But she is looking at some different colleges, and we don’t want to deny her the opportunity to explore some of the same places with a fresh eye. She is going into her senior year of high school, and did well enough on her standardized tests that those at least are off her plate.
My very organized oddest daughter created a spread sheet, with dates of upcoming standardized tests, and deadlines, but you can also download the very useful KapMap, which gives yo a month by month planing guide, form freshman through senior year of high school.
We looked at Hamilton College in winter since you need to love snow to go here.
Don’t stress if your kid is already past the first or second year of high school; though you may have missed some critical planning, you can double up and get back on track pretty quickly.
Some of the KapMap suggested guidelines include building a strong resume, with quality extra curricular activities and good grades, things that most parents of college bound students are already thinking about once their kid starts college.
What We Learned
One of the most important things we learned about the college process, having been through it with two kids (and ourselves, a hundred years ago) is that it really has to be all about the kid. Maybe you think the dorms look grotty - keep that to yourself. Unless your daughter solicits your opinion, don't say a word.
We have also learned to listen, but not speak during info sessions and college tours, unless the school encourages parents and kids to take separate tours. I actually love this - then we can ask the adult about safety, drinking parties and the food pyramid and not have our children give us the hairy eyeball.
Make it a Vacation
Don’t despair if you kid hates the college you are visiting. Maybe you found a cool art museum nearby, or a craft brewer. You might discover a great little vegetarian restaurant.
Think of the college touring trip as an opportunity to explore different areas, like Middlebury, VT or Washington, DC. Have fun with it.
Just be careful about how successful you want the college process to be. After all the testing, the applications, the tours, you face a new challenge - cramming in trips for all the admitted students days. 
And then you start paying tuition…

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.” 

Friday, August 8, 2014

VTech - Not Just for Kids’ Electronics

Wearing the lightweight safety pendant from the VTech CareLine phone system
When my mother moved into senior housing recently, we had to buy her a new corded phone, a new cordless phone and a safety pendant in case she had an accident.

What I didn’t know was that we could have saved money and a lot of headache if we’d just gotten the new VTech CareLine SN6197. The 3 in 1 phone system has everything we needed, along with easy to follow instructions and even better features than the phones we got. I tested the phone out - after we’d already bought the separate components - and was impressed with the quality and ease of use.

The oversize buttons on the corded phone are perfect for someone whose vision isn’t what it used to be; my mother often calls one of her four kids and insists she dialed another.

See Who You Are Calling
Even more useful are the photo speed dial buttons. There are four, perfect for my three siblings and me to be our mother’s photo contacts. Though here, the instructions are way too complex for an older adult to follow.

And who wrote these instructions: “we recommend you store two contacts that you may need to call them more often or immediately to photo speed keys 1 and 2.” If my mother had read this she should have burst into tears.

But my 15 year old didn’t even need the instructions - she just intuitively knew how to add photos.

While it seems like cell phones and caller ID would eliminate any question about who’s calling, my mom still gets confused. I get it - I have 3 daughters who sound alike, but still - their names pop up if they call her. With the VTech system, a voice actually announces who is calling.

And the audio asset turns up the volume during a phone call so your parents can actually hear what you are saying.

Safety Pendant
The lightweight safety pendant can be clipped on to a pocket or belt, or worn around the next. If your mom has an accident, she can call just by pressing button 1 or 2 (which correspond to the 1 and 2 on speed dial). There is also voice activated calling from the pendant. And there is no extra monthly fee.

Disclosure: I was compensated by VTech for this post; opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Luxury Spa, Luxury Gym: Lodge at Woodloch

The Lodge at Woodloch's gym; a playground for adults
Whether you are an avid exerciser, or just looking to dip your toe into starting a fitness program, the Lodge at Woodloch offers an array of exercise classes, plus a state of the art gym, so you can work out on your spa getaway.
The gym had all the toys I love; bosu balls, stability balls, box steps, free weights and weigh benches, plus a few goodies - hula hoops, a barre for stretching, and a priceless view when you use the cardio machines.

Look at those trees outside the gym
Woodloch is set in the Poconos, and the wooded backdrop is quite an inspiration. Plus, if you grow bored with the exercise equipment, you can bike, paddle a kayak, run outside, hike. There are yoga classes and guided meditations.

My husband and I took a spin class, which was pretty much like any other spin class in a gym; not SoulCycle, but also not music at a bone-crunching volume. We also took a weight class with an energetic young instructor, who challenged us to push our limits. I wanted to take a bosu class, but three exercise classes in one day exceeds almost every limit, and I really wanted to take a cooking demo.

Two days was hardly enough to scratch the surface of Woodloch, but if you are there for a few more days, you can take advantage of more exercise classes and that great gym. The gym also had soft towels, headphones, and a bowl of fruit and nuts outside if your workout left you a little worn out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bathing Suits and Ice Cream: Strange Bedfellows

Relaxing in my MiracleSuit
Low-fat frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet and the like all have their place, but nothing beats premium, full-fat ice cream.

This is a rare indulgence for many women, particularly since in summer, when you are crazing ice cream the most, you are usually baring more skin, and more self-conscious.

I found it particularly ironic to be at the MomTrends party where the ultra premium Adirondack Creamery  ice cream gave samples to women bloggers checking out bathing suits.

But those bathing suits, by MiracleSuit magically make you look better - 10 pounds lighter in 10 seconds the tag claims.

Here’s the thing - the suit delivers. I don’t know how a bathing suit can be so comfortable and make everyone in one look so good, but when I saw another mom wearing a MiracleSuit, I thought, “I’ll have what she’s having” (thank you to When Harry Met Sally).

Of course, one spoonful of that Adirondack Creamery ice cream and you  might be making indecent moans a la Meg Ryan. The upstate New York ice cream makers keep thing simple, with just a dozen flavors and a few seasonal specialties.
Earl’s Chocolate Peanut Butter is how I roll; there’s also an amazing vanilla with toffee called Barkeater, a coffee flavored High Peak Perk and a banana chip with dark chocolate chunks. Pure heaven.

And if after indulging in a few bowls of this rich dessert, you need to go up a bathing suit size, you can feel confident that you’ll still look great in a MiracleSuit.
Note: I was not compensated for this post.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Family Travel Tips, Dog in Tow

We brought our dog on a family trip to surprise our middle daughter
Whether you are traveling by car or plane, dogs have special needs. You will have to plan extra stops if you are driving, and may need to limit food for a dog before he rides in a car or airplane.

Car Travel with Dogs
Don't let dogs sit in the front seat of the car. The safest place for a dog is in the back seat, secured with a harness.
If you are crossing state lines with a dog in the car, you need to have the pet’s health certificate; visit the vet to get a copy.  
Weather Considerations
Our dog had the whole back of the SUV to herself
Never leave a dog in a car with the windows all the way up- in summer, or even spring, a dog can quickly overheat.  The safest thing is to take the dog with you. In winter,  bring unscented baby wipes to clean your dog’s paws; rock salt and anti-freeze can harm his paws.
Airplane Travel with Dogs
Dogs over a certain size (which varies by airline) have to travel in the cargo hold. Certified therapy or guide dogs of any size can travel in the cabin, but you may need to bring certification.

Traveling in the cargo hold can be very stressful for dogs, and in winter or summer, downright dangerous. Air cargo holds are not temperature regulated. Make sure your pet has plenty of access to fresh water.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dirt Happens: Exercise, Smells and Laundry

Smiling, but sweaty, the Ultimate champions
I love to run and bike outside, but the smell of sweat - not so much. And a team of teenage girls, playing 6 games of Ultimate Frisbee in 2 days - the smell of their feet could kill you.

We chaperoned a trip to Schenectady for the state championship (which we won, thank you very much) and had 3 girls in the back sea on the way home. They played 4 game son the final day, with no chance to shower and feet that had been confined to cleats all day.  The huge sunroof on the Lexus RX450 did not sufficiently air out the car.

Then I realized we should have used Bounce Bursts. The scent boosters bring in the fresh scent of the outdoors, rather than the rank odors of sweat, mud and a soupçon of animal excrement.

Actually, it could have been human waste- we had to use Porta potties for 2 days.

I tried the Bounce Bursts in the laundry; we had plenty. The outdoor scent comes in time released capsules, so the clothing smells fresh, even after all day play.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Exercising My Right to Drive a Convertible

My favorite ride on a recent trip to Disney
Disney is all about fantasy, so driving a Camaro SS was a dream come true at the ultimate fantasy land, Walt Disney World.

I was in Disney at the TravelingMom retreat and Chevrolet http://www.chevrolet.com/ brought a bunch of shiny cars for everyone to drive. There was a 2014 Impala, the 2015 Tahoe and Suburban and the 2014 Camaro.

It poured for most of our time in Florida, so we really got to test the cars in less than ideal conditions - wet roads, mist falling. So we didn’t have the top down.  But the car handled well on curvy roads in the rain; I could imagine how much fun it would be to tool along on the California coast in this sporty car.

Where to Go

Chevy MyLink has a built in navigation system, but this Camaro was also equipped with OnStar, a remarkable concierge service for your car. You press a button, and within seconds are connected to a live phone call. All you have to do is tell the person where you are going, and directions will be either loaded into the nag system for you, or spoken aloud while you drive. Amazing.

The Camaro looks great from any angle
OnStar also offers incredible peace of mind - they provide roadside and emergency assistance, even for weather situations out of the scope of the car.  If say, the car in front of you hit black ice and had an accident, you could contact OnStar and get that person emergency help.

Connected Car

Chevy MyLink has an easy to use touchscreen, with Sirius XM radio and bluetooth integration with your phone.

Eyes on the Road

Everyone else is looking at you, but you want to make sure that you keep your eyes on the road.  It’s easy with this car, which has color heads up display. There are also audio controls on the leather steering wheel, so you won’t get distracted playing with the touchscreen.

Midlife Crisis

The money shot; the Camaro with the top down
If you drive this car with little kids, there are rear child seat latch anchors.  And up to teen years, a couple of kids will fit comfortably in the back seat. 

But if you are tall, and/or have large children, they will not enjoy the rather cramped rear seat. I like to drive with my seat pretty far forward, but still, my rear seat passengers were happy to get out of the car.

However, the Camaro does offer creature comforts like heated front leather seats, remote keyless entry, parking assist and power outlets.

The Camaro starts at $41,885; extras including special headlights, racing stripe, automatic transmission, remote start and the navigation system brought the price up to $46,650. It gets 15 mpg in the city, 24 on the highway.

Note: Chevrolet provided the Camaro for my test drive. Opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Summer Hair - Whether Traveling or at Home

When I travel, I sometimes try out new products, figuring the people I meet will never see me again.This is also why I am the family photographer, hiding behind the lens with frizzy hair or flaking eye shadow.

But I put a new hair product to the ultimate test last week - three days in the rain and Florida humidity. I had just gotten a sample of SheaMoisture's Tahitian Noni & Monoi Smooth & Repair High Shine Glosser, a silicone free styling product that promised smooth hair and controlled frizz.

My curls were even subjected to a test drive in a convertible, and a couple of turns on Disney’s newest ride, the MineTrain roller coaster.

Like all  SheaMoisture products, this is organic and paraben free. Tahitian Noni is an antioxidant, and Vitamin C is added to keep hair healthy. Monoi Oil repairs damaged hair, and keratin smooths it.

Not only that, it is sold at drugstores and is reasonably priced.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Every Mother Counts: Counting Your Blessings

My sister, on right, and me, before the More half marathon
My kids never really got why I was so excited on THEIR birthdays. But the day each of my 3 kids was born is extra special to me because on those days, I became a mother.
Ok, technically I was already a mother after the first child, but still - your child’s day of birth is a very powerful day.
That’s why the Every Mother Counts organization resonates with so many moms. Christy Turlington Burn’s maternal health organization is a sobering reminder that every day, 800 women die giving birth. That works out to one woman every two minutes.
Post run - still smiling
I was thinking of this statistic as I ran the More half marathon in Central Park. The race is a celebration of the power of women. My sister and I ran together and we got a sister chant going. Not every runner was a mother, but we all cheered as moms high-fived their kids on the race route.
One of the reasons I run now is that all three of my daughters run and we sometimes run together. My middle daughter and I are trying to get into the NYC marathon.
The day I first became a mother, I was exhausted, thrilled, overwhelmed,  ecstatic, excited. I want every mom to have such an empowering experience (well, maybe not the exhaustion) so I pledged the "Take 2 minutes to Take 2 actions."

These were simple action to accomlishs: running 2 miles using the Charity Miles app, (so that half marathon was a bit longer…) donating $2 to Every Mother Counts, asking two friends to participate.
This Mother's Day, count your blessings as a mom., and help those who were denied the chance.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Get Happy - Giveaway of a New Plush Toy, The Happy's

Stuffed animals have a place in most homes, but kids often want the ‘real’ thing. But  allergies, lifestyle, or apartment rules on pets can limit the ability to get a furry friend.

Enter the new line of plush interactives, The Happy’s™. These battery operated puppies and kittens run around on hardwood floors or tile (they don’t move so well on carpet) and may get your pet-deprived kids chasing after them.

The Happy’s are also easily trained - each cat or dog comes with a treat that makes the pet do a trick. Your pet may chase, wiggle its butt or pounce - and if you have a friend or a sister with a different Happy’s, your pet will do the other one's trick with the second treat. Unlike real animals, the cats and dogs don’t mind playing with each other, or their toys.

You can also expand the play with a Chase & Play ball. The toy doesn’t fetch, but it does chase after its ball. And again, kids are often motivated to run around after the pet. We tested this out with a tired puppy and she chased after the motorized fur ball.

The Happy’s are a new line from Cepia, makers of ZhuZhu Pets.

Unlike needing to buy kibble and treats, you only have to feed these pets batteries. And no vet bills or fleas!

Want to try out The Happy’s™? You can get them at Toys ‘R Us, Wal-Mart, Target, Justice and Radio Shack. 

Or leave your name and email below for a chance to win one of your own.

Note: this is a sponsored giveaway

Monday, March 31, 2014

Healthy Breakfast on the Go: Reality vs Fantasy

Breakfast commercials often feature smiling families sitting down enjoying a freshly made meal, or at least slurping down a bowl of cereal, the kids with their hair combed and the mom in full make up.

The reality in our house is screaming over lost shoes, misplaced homework and coffee that just won’t drip through fast enough. The dog needs to pee, the litter box has to be scooped, a soccer uniform is dirty and no one picked up the dry cleaning.

Are we having fun yet?

So my kids grab whatever they can and run out the door.  Sometimes I have planned ahead and made relatively healthy muffins that they can pop in the microwave, but that is the kind of advance planning that would have also foreseen the dirty uniform, dry cleaning slips and overdue library books.

And maybe picked up some more coffee beans.

But for those crazy mornings, Garden Lites comes to the rescue. A new line of delicious frozen vegetable muffins, Veggie Muffins hit the trifecta - they are tasty, healthy and portable.

The muffins are also gluten free, low in calories and a good source of fiber.

And they take 35 seconds to heat up in the microwave- faster than you can say," did you find your homework, remember your gym shoes, take your lunch, bring an umbrella and oh no, step over here and avoid the puppy’s accident."

Consider the zucchini chocolate muffins. The first two ingredients? Zucchini, then carrots. One muffin has 50% of the RDA of vitamin A, and 40% of the iron. And they taste great.

My daughter loved these and I had to fight her for one post workout (much more satisfying than a granola bar).

The corn muffins don’t have quite as impressive a nutritional profile - but they are also not loaded with crap.

There are also a veggie berry oat and zucchini banana chocolate chip, both with zucchini as the first ingredient, and a carrot berry with carrots at the helm.

Veggie Muffins are sold frozen, but take about 4 hours to thaw, so they are great snacks for a road trip, or for teens who can’t stomach food first thing in the morning.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Veggies to Go: Healthy Drinks

Orange Mango Smoothie
One of the first things my kids learned to make in the kitchen was smoothies. First, they just peeled the bananas and dropped them into the blender; they gradually added skills such as washing berries, cutting mangoes and pouring in milk.

As they became tweens, they took over the whole operation (minus the clean up). But as busy teens, they don’t have time in the morning to make a smoothie.  Enter Green Mustache, fruit and veggie juice smoothies. These veggie packed drinks come in grab and go 10 ounce bottles, ideal for a vitamin packed drink on the run.

The brand was started by a NYC mother of two, VanTrang Manges, who had to sneak veggies into her younger daughter’s diet. Once your kids learn to read, though, the gig is up.

The orange mango has spinach and kale, plus chia seeds, but the fruit flavors dominate. My daughters liked the strawberry banana which had pineapple (I’m allergic) and more spinach, kale and chia seeds. There is also a mixed berry, with pear, three berries and more of the healthy green stuff; soon to come is Tropical Twist, with pineapple, guava and passion fruit.

The nutrition labels will make you happy - no added sugar, great source of vitamins A and C,  plus rich in folate, iron and fiber.

The smoothies are organic, vegan and gluten free, with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors. They are sold at sold at FreshDirect.com, some Fairways in New York and all Gourmet Garage stores in NYC.

One oddity; the FDA requires a serving size based on eight ounces, so the bottles technically have 1.3 servings. Really?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Luvo - Lots to Love

Luvo flatbreads
Finding healthy, frozen food can be like hitting the daily double: rare, but so satisfying. Luvo, a new entry into the frozen entree business, at least in the East Coast, hits the mark again and again.

Flatbreads come with whole wheat / flaxseed crusts, but they taste delicious, not virtuous. I tried the the Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Flatbread with Ricotta Cheese, which is a perfect dinner with a salad. My daughter also sampled the breakfast version, topped with ricotta, a touch of honey & apricot jam & chopped apple; for kids who get up too late to sit down for breakfast, this is a healthy breakfast on the go. There are also more combos, including an appealing sounding mushroom, egg and spinach version.

Unlike many prepared foods, the Luvo entrees are loaded with flavor, not salt. They are also made with no GMO ingredients.

And if, like me, you feel guilty about the excessive packing used in prepared foods, you can rest easy - the meals come in recyclable paper pouches that go from freezer to microwave to recycling bin.

If you aren’t a vegetarian, you can enjoy the hormone-free animal products. But anyone can savor the vegan whole grain pilaf, with quinoa, wheat berries, brown rice and kale.

Luvo meals are available in supermarkets and are a great idea when you travel - if your hotel room has microwave, you can healthy meals on the road. And now you can also have them in the air: Delta is serving them on West Coast shuttles and transcontinental flights to and from JFK, LAX, SFO and SEA.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chef Meals for Kids? Alain Ducasse

People who eat at fine restaurants around the world often want to introduce their children to fine dining early, but don't know how. Famed restauranteur Alain Ducasse has a new cookbook, Cooking for Kids: From Babies to Toddlers: Simple, Healthy and Natural Food, that can help pave the way.

The cookbook emphasizes seasonal ingredients and suggests using only organic produce. Children raised on these recipes, which include a turnip, potato and parsley puree, pumpkin and blue cheese soup and hake with grapefruit and garden peas, are unlikely to be satisfied with children's meals at fast food restaurants.

You can help your children develop a sophisticated palate, and make food that even adults can enjoy, though the squid, cucumber and lime muffins may have lost something in the translation.  Simple dishes like risotto with pumpkin, polenta with zucchini and millet with turnip, zucchini and mint will please any age.

The recipe that really struck me was a simple to make yet rich onion soup, using Melba toast or zwieback. The vegetarian soup was hearty and a huge crowd pleaser.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dinner to Go, From Far Away

My daughter with a Chilean empanada cook
My middle daughter spent her junior year in Chile, and she developed a passion for empanadas. These vegetable or meat pastries are cooked to order throughout the country, but in the US, they are not as common.

Luckily, Fairway Market
Fairway empanadas
has stepped into the fray. The stores just introduced a Latin Table with empanadas and tamales.

The empanadas are fine - as long as you haven't experienced the freshly made ones in Chile. We visited my daughter and had some straight from the oven, so you can't really compare But my other 2 daughters didn't go to South America, and they loved the spinach-Portobello mushroom empanadas.

Even better are the tamales, with black beans (there are also meat versions of both, but we stuck with the vegetarian). They all come with spicy chipotle dip and avocado-tomatillo sauce.

Fairway tamales
These are great for combo meals - a healthier than fast food treat, plus a salad and you have dinner. And next time I stay in a hotel with a microwave and a fridge, I will bring a pack or 2 along. Somehow my kids are always starving once we get to a hotel and the food at hotels is usually quite pricey.

The empanadas and tamales are $4.99 each, for 2 and 4, respectively, and filling enough for a meal.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fit in DC: Hotel Palomar

Too cold to run outside in DC? Use the Hotel Palomar fitness center
Kimpton Hotels offer a variety of ways to keep fit, with free bicycles and large fitness centers.

We recently stayed at the Hotel Palomar, in Washington, DC, during the polar vortex. Those bicycles were hidden away (though we saw many hardy Washingtonians cycling around the city on Capital Bikeshare bikes, the bicycle sharing system) and the outdoor pool was hidden under an impermeable layer of ice.

Lots of exercise 'toys' at the Hotel Palomar
But the Dupont Circle luxury boutique hotel has an equally luxe fitness center, with plenty of floor space to spread out mats, stability balls and bosu balls, plus free weights and cardio machines.

There were also hula hoops, weight benches and strength machines.

I liked the extra touches; bananas and apples for a post-workout snack, headphones for those who forgot their own, and soft towels.

Note: we received a special media rate for our Hotel Palomar stay. Opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No Excuses: Keeping Fit

Discreet packaging for JustGo Pads
I am the queen of exercise excuses - it’s too hot, too cold, too sunny, too rainy.  My ankle hurts, my knee hurts, I didn’t get enough sleep, I have the sniffles -  you get the idea.

Luckily, I don’t have a problem that plagues untold numbers of women, particularly those who have had kids - Athletic Leaks™. This is urinary incontinence during high impact activity - jumping, cross fit, running long distances. And it doesn’t just bedevil moms.  Teens have it, or grown women without kids.

But a mother of 5, (!!!) Brooke Solis, wouldn’t take this problem sitting down.  The lawyer and athlete had this vexing problem and hated the choices on the market - bulky incontinence pads or sanitary napkins.

Brooke started a company, JustGoGirl and patented the term Athletic Leaks™ (there’s that legal training) a polite way to describe the seepage that can happen during high impact workouts - or, she pointed out, in a bouncy house at a child’s birthday party.

Brooke developed a tapered JustGo Pad™ that can’t be seen from behind, yet absorbs accidents like a pro. After all, if you are rocking Lululemon pants you don’t want a reverse camel toe revealing your secret.

I put the pad to a comfort fashion test in spin class - my friend claimed she couldn’t see any evidence of the pad through my spandex shorts. The pad didn’t chafe and though I didn’t pee in class, I could see how the pad would be very useful on a long cross country ski outing, or during a marathon, even if you don’t have athletic leak issues.

Although the athletic leak condition is different from the kind of involuntary pee almost every woman has experienced - when she sneezes or laughs - I could also see the pads coming in handy if I were going to a comedy show. The pads hold almost a half a cup of liquid, so technically you could also use them for your period, though they are on the expensive side.

The pads are sold on amazon and through a JustGoGirl subscription service; 10 pads for $8 if you are an occasional exercisers, $20 for 14 pads a month and $18 for 30 a month for the every day exerciser.

Monday, February 10, 2014

History, Luxury - and a Modern gym

The Dearborn Inn, on Ford Motor Company property, is not your typical Marriott, though it is owned by the chain. The hotel is across the street from company headquarters and is convenient for visiting the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and the Automotive Hall of Fame.

The historic inn has several outbuildings with rooms, along with rooms in the main part of the hotel, where you'll also find a bar, the lobby with a fireplace and a restaurant. The fitness center is also in the main building, and if you are staying in winter, you may want to make sure your room is not in one of the outlying buildings.  I had an icy sprint, in shorts, to the gym.

But the gym offers new cardio and strength equipment, along with little touches like headphones and a stack of magazines.

There is also a seasonal outdoor pool if that's how you get your workout. But no polar bear events for me - just that short wintry run was enough.