Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ricardo Suitcase: Better Luggage for Easier Travel

The Ricardo suitcase, with 2 sections
Although I am hearty in some ways - running half marathons, rocking boot camp, climbing mountains, I have delicate parts. When I travel, and pull my roller bag, I get blisters on my hand.

At least I used to, until I was sent a Ricardo suitcase. This amazing travel companion has 360 degree wheels, making it easy to push or pull - basically with a fingertip. I may never require another hand massage!

Of course, the suitcase has other advantages, too. It is neatly divided in tow, so you can put delicate dresses on one side, running shoes and smelly clothes on the way home on the other.  And the bag is expandable, so if you are like me and shop on vacation (or business trips) you can create room for the purchases.

The Ricardo suitcase is great when going down increasingly narrow airplane aisles - you can turn the bag sideways and roll it down, avoiding the feet of the people already sitting (we’d like to welcome first class, premium members, people flying with babies or young children, people whose last name starts with an ‘M’ - basically anybody but me). 

One place where you have to be careful, though, is on escalators. I rolled my new Ricardo bag onto a down escalator and it started rolling so fast it was practically airborne. It’s fine going up escalators, but for going down, I think I’ll stick to an elevator.

Surprisingly, the bags are quite inexpensive - and downright cheap if you act fast. TravelingMom has a deal of 65% off, even on sale prices, with free shipping for orders over $99. Just use the  coupon code TMOM65Off 

Note: I was given a free Ricardo suitcase to test out. Opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fitness At The Omni Riverfront New Orleans

Sad elliptical machine missing its screen
The eating and drinking in New Orleans spell a tough recovery period for even a casual athlete. I resolved not to abandon my good habits and exercise while I was in New Orleans, staying at the Omni Riverfront.

It was not easy. Distractions included the French Quarter Festival, where bars advertised 3 for 1 drinks (never heard of that before). There was live music at every turn in the French Quarter, along with fried food and drinks sold right on the street - no need to even go inside to get your booze or sat fat on.

The rest of the small fitness center at the Omni Riverfront
So I was a little disappointed by the minuscule fitness center at the luxury boutique hotel. There were only a couple of cardio machines, one broken, and none had its own screen. There were also just a few weight machines and free weights, and almost no room to stretch. There were also no mats, stability balls or other extras.

But the Omni does offer a healthy traveler kit delivered to your room - mine had a yoga mat, a 5 pound kettle bell and a couple of 1 pound weights. There were also a few hard plastic balls in a package - no idea what they were for.

The hotel is down by the river, of course, and there's a pedestrian path that runs about a mile and a half, so you can go for a 3 mile loop with no worries about cars. We did see quite a few people running, and figured the path was short because no one in the city would be up for a longer run. It was also incredibly humid - in April, at 7am - so maybe running just 3 miles outside is a good thing.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Handbag Giveaway With Good Housekeeping And Toyota

Not my old Toyota: the 2015 Toyota Highlander
Just as I’ll always be fond of boys who wear Stan Smith tennis shoes, (as my first boyfriend did) I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for Toyota, my first car.

OK, my only car.

I learned to drive in a 1979 Toyota (yes, I am THAT old) and my mother passed it along to me when I was in college. I then dumped it on my sister since my boyfriend at the time (different boyfriend, same Stan Smith tennis shoes - go figure) had a better Toyota and we were moving back to NYC, where we only needed one car.

We owned several cars over the years, but they were never actually MY car. Now, I get to drive cars from all different brands. But I’ll always love a Toyota.

And I’ll always love to check out the hot new cars at the NY Auto Show, which starts next week at the Javits Center. We always went here when the girls were little - they loved to sit in the back of pickup trucks (city girls!) and they still do, even as young women and teens. 

My daughters, hanging out in the back of a pickup truck
When they were younger, another draw was Camp Jeep, a simulated off-road drive. Fun!

But this year is extra special. Good Housekeeping is giving away 35 designer handbags between April 3 and 12th! To enter to win, show attendees must take a photo of themselves in the drivers seat of a vehicle in a booth with the Women in the Drivers Seat plaque and tweet or Instagram it with the hashtags #GHDrives and #LetsGoPlaces.

You can get more info about the contest here.

The Toyota booth is front and center, so it should be easy to stop by and snap a selfie - and maybe win a pocketbook.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Running a Half Marathon - and Celebrating at the Spa

What a greeting: champagne & dark chocolate
When I first started training for a marathon, even a half marathon seemed a huge challenge. But now with 5 halts (halves?) under my belt, I think I'm ready.

My bathroom, for an hour
Unfortunately, I once again didn't get into the NYC Marathon. But I will persevere, doing my 9 New York Road Runners races, plus one volunteer spot, to guarantee entry in 2016. As long as no bike accident derails me again.

This year, my friend and I decided to celebrate the day after with massages at Guerlain Spa at the Waldorf Astoria.

The lobby of the Waldorf is a hive of activity, but once you reach the 19th floor, where the spa and fitness center are located, serenity sets in.

State of the art fitness equipment
When you check in, you are escorted to the locker room, with a robe and slippers, and you can use the fitness center before your appointment. I got stuck on the subway so I had no time to exercise - but then, I had just run a half marathon. I'd love to work out there some time - everything was brad new and pristine, and there wee cold towels and chilled water bottles available.

Room to stretch, or use the stability ball or Bosu ball
My friend and I had our rooms for the massage, each with a fully equipped shower - great products from--, razor, shaving cream and plenty of soft fluffy towels. We used the too cool steam room after our massages, so we showered in the fitness center showers, which also had rain shower heads and the same products.

The massage was fabulous - an hour of bliss, with a heated bed and a masseuse who worked out all the kinks of my 13.1 mile run. Having my feet and legs rubbed was amazing, and the head rub, back massage and full body relaxation was wonderful.

Romantic setting - though just for me & my friend
When I got to the room, a bottle of water and a piece of dark chocolate was waiting. My masseuse also brought in a glass of champagne; and at the end, she sets up a couple of glasses in the relaxation lounge for my friend and me.

It looked so romantic, I think my husband and I have to celebrate our anniversary this way!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Teen Driving: Tire Safety AND Giveaway

Don't let bad tires lead to an accident
My 21 and 23 year old went to public high school in New York City, where driver’s education doesn’t exist. They took a local driving course and learned how to drive, but even after passing their road tests, we didn’t feel fully confident in them as drivers.

Turns out, we weren’t being overly cautious.

Teen drivers, even those who have had driver’s ed at school, just don’t learn everything they need to know in those courses. And tire maintenance, an important component of safe driving, is often neglected altogether.

That’s why I was glad to hear about Michelin’s new campaign promoting tire safety and other safety tips.

And the need for more time behind the wheel was driven home a two weeks ago when my nephew, who had just gotten his license after completing his high school’s driver’s ed program, took my brother in law’s new car for a spin.

My brother in law bought a new car on a Saturday morning, coming home around 11:30 with it. At noon, we headed over to a festival in Kennet Square, PA. My nephew got home about an hour later and called, asking if he could take the car for a spin.

He drove fine, until he returned home and drove the new Audi through the garage wall. True, this had nothing to do with poor tire maintenance; the car was 90 minutes old, but it was still a reminder that new drivers, even those who pass the test on their first try, still are inexperienced and have a lot to learn.

My brother in law, after he regained the power of speech, allowed that in a way, this accident was a teachable moment, showing his son that he needed to be alert at all times. The damage was limited to a smashed in front end, no one was hurt, and every driver, at some point, is involved in at least a fender bender

But why not check out way to increase the likelihood that any accident is minor.

And enter the SheBuysCars giveaway for a new set of tires!

Note: this is a compensated post; opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Driving Me Crazy: My Daughter's Song Choices

U2 on Sirius XM!
It's funny how quickly you get used to something that you never knew existed. WiFi in the car? Great when we drove a Chevy Silverado but then we missed it in the otherwise luxe Kia K900.

So we were shocked - shocked - when the tricked out Ford Expedition we took on a road trip didn't have Sirius XM. Oh, it had the preview stations, but I like to listen to my 70s & 80s Next Wave station. Elvis Costello, The Kinks, Joe Jackson...

We listened to a few radio stations, but the commercials are so annoying and the reception was spotty. Then we plugged my daughter's iPhone in and she controlled the tunes.

I don't know how it happened that we raised a kid in the city and she likes country music. Not exclusively - she also likes pop, Bruce Springsteen and U2. But she's on this country music kick right now.

I guess it's preferable to her addiction to Music Together as a toddler, or her obsession with Broadway show tunes, ages 3-11. And I like Broadway music, just not the pained moaning when my husband sings along.

This was one of our last trips with our teen daughter - we were returning to a college for admitted students day, and soon we will be driving an empty car to visit her. So I guess listening to country music for a few hours is a small price to pay.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Disney Side: I Think Bambi Was a Vegetarian

Brussels Sprouts, ready for roasting
It used to be hard to visit Disney World as a vegetarian, but the powers that be got smart, and now cater to all sorts of special meal needs: gluten free, Kosher and vegetarian.

So when I hosted a DisneySide party, I wanted to highlight fun vegetarian food . I had originally planned to do this for the Super Bowl, but I didn't get my Disney package in time.

We had to warn the kids to be careful of toothpicks. Wouldn't large colorful Disney toothpicks have been great?
The first thing I'd been wanting to try was Brussels Sprouts sliders. I figured these were a great party food, able to be eaten in a bite or 2. The recipe I found incorporated caramelized onions, marinated tempeh, grainy mustard and of course roasted Brussels Sprouts. They were complicated to make, messy and a huge hit.

Brains anyone? My vegetarian cauliflower soup
My youngest daughter has a recent obsession with cauliflower and I've been preparing it every which way. For the party I made a vat of cauliflower soup. I wanted to incorporate the villains theme and the mashed up cauliflower looked a little like brains. Vegetarian brains, of course.

Beet puree, before the toppings
We also had a beet puree that had a certain blood resemblance. But the roasted beets, topped with Za'atar, goat cheese and hazelnuts, was a pure vegetarian delight.

Lentils with roasted carrots
Our final dish wasn't the most attractive - intestines, maybe? But it was a crowd pleaser. It had French lentils, roasted carrots and a spicy harissa made with cilantro and habaneros.  I used purple and orange carrots to make it more colorful.

Note: I received a package of Disney goodies, for me and my guests; there was no other compensation.