Category Archives: Mind•Body•Soul

The beauty of holiday traveling

Vocalists from Perry Como and the Carpenters to Michael Buble have warbled about how wonderful it is to be home for the holidays. But who says you have to buy into that belief? Not being home for the holidays offers many advantages, including the opportunity to travel, visit far-off loved ones or just immerse yourself in total relaxation during one of the most hectic times of the year.

While families with small children may embrace the experience of decorating, cooking and gift-giving in the comfort of their own home, other groups – such as families with teens, couples without kids, and baby boomers who love to travel with friends – may feel ready to revel outside their home zone. Like traveling at any time of year, holiday trips are not without hassles, but the benefits can make the challenges worthwhile.

Here are a handful of reasons why not being home for the holidays could make the season bright:

* Total relaxation – Instead of hurrying to decorate your home, host a soiree, accept every invitation, prepare enough food to feed an armored battalion, and find exactly the right gift for everyone you’ve ever met, going away to a resort during the holidays can help ease holiday stress. Opt for a quintessential winter getaway and you’ll enjoy a snowy holiday season, complete with carolers, hot cocoa and holiday decor around every corner.

* Visiting far-away loved ones – Is there an adored cousin whom you just don’t get to see that much anymore? A brother who lives five states away whom you haven’t shared the holidays with since you both lived with your parents? Giving up being in your own home for the holidays affords you the chance to enjoy part of the season in the home of loved ones you see infrequently. While you spend the whole year with the family you live with or the ones who live nearby, the holidays are the perfect time to re-connect with family and friends who live far away. And, if you don’t want to add to their stress during the season, you can find plenty of great hotel deals in cities across the country.

* Savoring seasonal flavors without the work – Holiday cookies, pumpkin pie and elaborate dinners are an integral part of the season for many people, but they’re also a lot of work. Staying in a hotel or luxury resort during the holidays ensures you’ll be able to enjoy all your favorite flavors of the season – prepared by a professional chef and leaving cleanup chores to someone else. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen preparing and cleaning, you’ll get to share those seasonal flavors with your traveling companions.

* Great travel deals – Knowing many people prefer to stay home for the holidays, top hotels and resorts across the country offer travel packages, deals and incentives to entice holiday travelers. Add-ons abound, from all-inclusive offerings with meals, parties and special dinners, to shopping packages that provide travelers with access to and discounts for premium shopping venues.

Travel like a local

Americans are on the move: logging two billion business and leisure trips of 50 miles or more from home for at least one night last year alone, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Today, more people are looking for authentic travel activities – ones that are outside the traditional museum or monument visit. To get more out of your next vacation, consider expert advice on how to break out of the tourist rut and have a truly authentic local experience.

“The single biggest thing you can do to trigger these experiences is to talk to people – talk to locals,” says Reena Ganga, Gadling blogger and Wanderplex Founder. “But since that’s easier said than done, I think there are several ways you can try to foster interactions with locals and put yourself in a position to create great travel memories.”

Hyatt House, an upscale extended stay hotel brand located across-the United States,-has teamed up with Ganga and America’s favorite lifestyle maven, Martha Stewart, to help vacationers learn the tricks of travelling like a local with the following tips:

Reena Ganga’s tips:

* Trek like the locals. Don’t limit yourself to sightseeing buses or taxis. If the locals travel in communal mini-vans or via bike, do it too. Locals who aren’t used to seeing tourists take that form of transport often find their tenacity endearing and will make the effort to talk to them.

* Go off the beaten path. Make time to head to the smaller, secondary cities when you travel. These are often the places that feel the most culturally distinct. If you’re in a big city, head outside the tourist zones and into interesting neighborhoods where the locals spend their time.

* Choose a place that feels like home. Instead of staying in a traditional hotel, think about staying in a serviced apartment or an extended stay hotel like Hyatt House, where you have a living room and kitchen. Then head out to the local market and talk to the vendors. You’ll discover the produce and products that are special to that area, and you never know where the conversations will lead.

* Eat with the locals. Don’t just eat at chain restaurants that you’re familiar with or that only have English menus. Go where the locals congregate. Whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant or a street stall, local eateries are likely to have more authentic food and the locals are often eager to tell you about the food, how to eat it, etc.

* Put away technology. If you find yourself lost while traveling, don’t immediately refer to maps on your phone – stop and ask a shopkeeper for directions. If you need a restaurant recommendation, don’t just search online. Ask locals for their tips – it’s a great excuse to strike up a conversation.

Keep in mind, traveling with a local mindset means taking a new approach to packing, too. Stewart offers these smart packing tips:

* Distribute weight evenly. Pack the heaviest items, such as shoes and toiletry bags, at the bottom. Pack socks inside shoes to prevent footwear from getting squished.

* Skip checked baggage. A canvas bag with a sturdy strap is great for packing for any length of trip. Remember, if you forget something, often hotels can help. Hyatt House has the Hyatt Has It – Borrows program, which can supply everything from a phone charger to yoga mats.

* Carry-on with care. Because you never know when weather or unforeseen events will cause travel delays, pack a carry-on bag containing items you would be very unhappy to lose, such as medications and toiletries.

* Stay clean on the run. Travel-size packaged antibacterial towelettes are great for keeping your hands and face clean.

* Regulate wrinkles. Use large drycleaner bags to pack bulky sweaters or cardigans. The plastic helps prevent wrinkling.

* Secure belongings. If you’re traveling a long distance, use a lock and key or combination lock to protect your belongings.

These simple tips make it easy to travel like a local and get the most out of your next vacation. You’ll be delighted by the unique memories and wonderful stories you get by traveling with a local mindset.

Sources: Martha Stewart Living, June 2003; Martha Stewart Digital, Article: Smart Packing Tips; Martha Stewart Video – Organizing: Helpful Tips for Packing Travel Bags; The Martha Stewart Show, Season 7, Episode 7099 (How to Pack a Suitcase Lightly for Easy Travel)

Fall Activities Your Family Will Love

Crisp air, changing leaves and cozy knit sweaters signify the return of autumn. Fall can be a busy time for most families, juggling back-to-school routines, carpools, homework, after school events and sports practice. Now is a great time to slow down, bring the whole family together and enjoy all of the exciting activities fall has to offer.

Here are a few fun ways to spend quality time with your family and relish in fall to the fullest:

1. Visit an apple orchard.

This is a great way to make the most of the beautiful fall weather and do something active with the family. Use apples to make apple sauce, a tasty tart or just slice them up for a great on-the-go snack. Try unique apple varieties you’ve never tried – they all taste a bit different! Pack a picnic for the orchard and make the most of the day!

2. Go for a nature walk.

With the vibrant, colorful leaves and the cool, crisp air, autumn is a great time to get your family outdoors and learn more about nature in a local nature preserve or state park. Pick up a few fall mementos along the way to integrate into crafts. For example, bring home some colorful leaves and decoupage them onto the outside of a mason jar to create a seasonal fall candle holder, or create a lively fall-inspired canvas incorporating several different leaf shapes and colors.

3. Gear up for Halloween.

Host a Halloween themed get-together by incorporating fun foods the kids can help prepare and will love to eat! Use a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter to create cut-out cookies and involve the kids in decorating – with everything from sprinkles to frosting. Or, for a quick and easy themed treat, try making marshmallow lollipops drizzled with chocolate or caramel dip, then use chopped nuts or candy bits to make ghoulish faces.

4. Visit a local farmers market.

Fall offers a whole new repertoire of amazing fresh fruits and vegetables. Encourage your kids to try new items like figs, acorn squash or cauliflower. If they find samples that they enjoy, purchase a few and find a way to incorporate them into your next meal. You can also buy items such as tomatoes and pickle peppers in bulk, and then can at the end of season to store for the long winter ahead.

5. Have a bonfire.

As the weather cools down, bonfires are a great way to stay warm at night and make lasting family memories. Gather everyone together and reconnect by huddling around the fire in cozy blankets. Pour mugs of warm apple cider and munch on Nutty Caramel Popcorn while swapping ghost stories over the glow of the fire.

NUTTY CARAMEL POPCORN

1/2 cup caramel dip (We like Marzetti Old Fashioned Caramel Dip, but you could easily make your own!)

2 tablespoons butter

8 cups popped microwave plain popcorn

1/2 cup peanuts

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set it aside. Melt butter in small saucepan. Stir in dip; simmer over low heat five minutes, stirring frequently. Pour mixture over popcorn and peanuts in prepared dish. Stir until evenly coated. Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely in dish on wire rack, about 45 minutes.

Family Staycation Ideas

Many working families have neither the time nor the money to take elaborate trips while the kiddos are out of school. Such travel takes time, money and planning. Here is a list of Roanoke Valley staycation ideas:

  • Spend a Friday evening listening to blue grass at the Floyd County General Store
  • Enjoy the Butterfly Garden and Aquarium at Center in the Square
  • Go on nature walks
  • Check out KIVA’s monthly events
  • Salem Red Sox games
  • River Rock Climbing Gym

Written by Lauren Ellerman

For more ideas on family staycation ideas, pick up our latest issue, on stands now!

London’s Salt Spa

Air ten times purer than the outside air, minerals that are healing components used in the treatment of allergies, sinus infections, asthma, skin conditions, hypertension, weakened immune system and stress related conditions, a salt spa…the “not so new”, new, spa trend.

Salt therapy has a history spanning back to ancient times, but this healing, all natural, therapeutic spa idea took off in Wieliczka, Poland where salt mines were prevalent and the unique qualities of the salt and minerals within the salt were first put to use for modern healing. Salt contains elements essential to life, minerals that we need. Beginning in the 16th century, salt was mixed with other products to help cure diseases and as time went on, the necessity for salt for medicinal purposes. Today, Wieliczka, Poland is the home of the one of the largest and most extensive salt spas in the world, 135 meters underground.

How does salt therapy work? When salt particles are inhaled, the tiny particles travel to the lungs where the minerals break down to help support the body’s immune system, thinning the mucus (gross!) and reducing inflammation! Salt therapy works differently for each person, where your body needs healing, that is where the salt particles travel to.

Located in Forest, Virginia, right outside of Lynchburg is such a spa – London’s Salt Spa.  Upon entering the welcoming front lobby, guests are lead to a room that has been transformed into a complete salt cave.  Salt blocks cover the walls, floor to ceiling, and salt pebbles layer the entire floor of the cave.  You are transformed into a soothing, calming atmosphere of healing.  Comfortable reclining chairs are available for relaxation and it is recommended that guests lay back, relax and let the minerals work their “magic” for at least a 45 minute session. It might seem like quite a different spa experience at first, but the results are almost immediate-breathing is better, head is clearer, stress is relieved and aches have gone away…just by sitting there!

One of the most common types of salts at London’s Salt Spa is Pink Himalayan Salts. Pink Himalayan Salt contains over 84 minerals help keep the cave’s air 10 times purer than the outside air. Some of these minerals include: calcium, copper, magnesium, zinc, selenium, lithium, iron and iodine, all with numerous health benefits.

Pink Himalayan Salts can be used in many different ways. Use the crystals to gargle with warm water and sooth a sore throat, mouth sores or bathe in them for skin issues.  Salt sticks can be helpful with insect bites, fever blisters or even acne (just wet the stick slightly and rub it on your problem area…then let it air dry!) You can even use the salt blocks for a deodorant or to help with eczema or psoriasis. Salt scrubs help remove dead skin and relieve dryness, leaving your skin feeling smooth and silky (and is also a great natural cleaner for silver and gold).

Aside from London’s Salt Spa’s Salt Cave, London’s Salt Spa offers massage sessions in another salt covered room with glistening smooth salt bricks on the walls, memberships, group packages and a wide array of salt products to take home with you to continue your healing experience.

After London’s Salt Spa’s owner, Debbie Naff’s husband and son received such an incredibly healing reaction from a salt spa they visited on vacation, Debbie decided to research what it would take to bring a salt spa closer to home. Large salt blocks were shipped from Poland to Forest, Virginia where salt spa specialists carefully and strategically placed each stone to create a salt cave….and the rest is history.

Visit London’s Salt Spa in Forest, Virginia on 6152 Thomas Jefferson Road or online at www.londonsaltspa.com. Call 434-525-7727 for appointments

Rock’n Women

We’ve all had some sort of meaningful connection to the outdoors-it’s part of our intrinsic makeup.  We are pulled to discover, explore, find and create relationships with the natural world.  Maybe it was making mud pies with the boys on the playground, searching the lawn for four-leafed clovers, attending camp in the summer. Through outdoor play, young girls begin to form a sense of wonder and the confdence they need to continue their personal and physical growth.

Written by Dustin Eshelman

To find out more about outdoor recreation in the Roanoke Valley and The River Rock Climbing Gym, pick up our latest issue, on stands now!

Tea Bag Treatment

Everyone loves their beauty sleep. But sometimes, no matter how long you rest, or how well you sleep, you wake up with dark, puffy (even swollen) circles under your eyes.

Dark circles are very common. They are due to leaky capillaries – small blood vessels, surrounding the eye, that break and then nest under the skin under your eyes. Yes, it’s harmless, but it can make you look aged and feel insecure, affecting your mood and self-esteem.

So, here’s a quick DIY to get your face back to beautiful.  A very popular (and effective!) method is the tea bag treatment. Grab tea bags with lots of caffeine, as well as antioxidants – the caffeine removes excessive moisture, and the antioxidants soothe the skin. (Green or black tea are good choices to roll with.)

Use the tea bags for your tea, then place them in plastic bags and refrigerate them overnight. You want the tea bags very cool when you use them. Cooler temperature reduces redness and puffiness. Lie down comfortably, and place the tea bags over your eyes.

Make sure they are covering the affected areas under your eyes. Leave them on your eyes for about 15 minutes. Repeat as often as you wish – or until you see results. Remember to swap out used tea bags for fresh ones.

Good way to feel beautiful and refreshed – and use your tea for something other than as your beverage!