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.