Wednesday, July 29, 2015

NYC Honey Day Coincides With New Raw & Unfiltered Honey Release

Raw, unfiltered local honey
At The High Line today, local beekeepers and artisanal honey purveyors celebrate the burgeoning NYC (and Brooklyn-centric) honey movement The pop-up includes samples of local honey and a glass enclosed beehive so you can see the inner workings.

Coincidently, I was sent a sample of L.R. Rice Raw & Unfiltered Honey. The company works with local beekeepers around the country so you can get local honey. With the way my allergies have been this year, I am grateful to get any benefit available from eating local honey.

Or drinking. 

I decided the make a simple syrup with the honey, substituting honey for the usual sugar. For cocktails, I prefer a less sweet simple syrup, so I use a 1:2 ratio of sugar to water; 1 part sugar to 2 parts water.

With honey, which is even sweeter, I used a 1:3 ratio. I steeped fresh mint in the syrup, then used it in a mint julep that both helped beat the heat and included the antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of raw unfiltered honey.

The syrup was cloudy, since honey is thicker than water, so the cocktails were not the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. But they may have been the healthiest.

Maybe next week I’ll try kale and gin.

For the mint simple syrup:
1/3 cup honey
1 cup water
3 sprigs of mint
Heat water and honey in a small pot till boiling. Turn off, add the mint, cover and let cool.

Pour into a mason jar and refrigerate.

If you don't use within a few days, strain the mint out.

For the mint julep
Fill a shaker with ice. Add 2 shots bourbon, 1 shot mint syrup. Shake and strain into a martini or coupe glass.
Garnish with fresh mint.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Feel Good About Your Food: The Real Co

The Real Co's Pink Himalayan salt
Buying organic food is great, but when companies like Walmart get into the organic food game, you have to wonder how much the local farmer is being helped.

The Real Co seeks to change that. 

This single origin global food company espouses the mantra “good comes from good.” It just launched with three products: Basmati Rice, Himalayan Pink Rock Salt and Organic Raw Cane Sugar. All of these are sustainably harvested from either a single farm or family with products that can be traced back to their exact origins.

The transparency in food origin extends to transparency in packaging- you can see inside each item.

The Himalayan Pink Rock Salt is handcrafted in the Himalayan Mountains and is a gorgeous contrast in color - I sprinkled it on white chocolate chip cookies for a sweet and salty effect.

The Organic Raw Cane Sugar dissolves in cold liquid as well as hot, so it is ideal for cocktails when you've forgotten to make a simple syrup or for sweetening iced tea.

The third product, white basmati rice, is harvested in Punjabi. It cooked up fluffy and nutty, with each grain holding its integrity.

That integrity extends to the products themselves; the farm workers who help produce these products are paid a fair wage.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Family Vacation: Camping in an RV

Our cabin - and the car that got us there
Growing up with 3 siblings, a stay-at-home mother and a father who didn’t make much money, camping was what we often did for vacation. We had a pop-up trailer that we used for a couple of cross country trips and my summer camp had cabins, but we took overnight hikes with tents.

But the RV experience was totally new to me. For those who have no experience with RVs, is a great website for all-things-camping with tips on what to bring, when to go and even road-trip games for the kids.

The kitchen in our park model RV
My family got to try a ‘park model’ RV, a cabin that theoretically could move, since it was on wheels, at the Mystic KOA in Stonington, Connecticut. But it looked like a cabin, with a wooden porch, and porch swing, a patio with Adirondack chairs and a tricked out interior with a full kitchen, plumbing, air conditioning and flat screen TV.

Bunk beds!
OK, so the Wi-Fi was spotty. But this was nothing like the camping I did as a child, with a thin sleeping bag and a shovel for a bathroom.

Yet it still was a great way to celebrate the outdoors. Some may deride this as camping light, but I prefer to think of this as inclusive camping. Sure, you can stay in a tent if you want (and plenty of people do -  it is cheaper) but if you like having a hot shower, a comfortable bed and AC, you are welcome too.

Best perk of an RV - an actual toilet!
The park models sleep six, with a pull out couch, bunk beds, and bedroom - with a door - for the parents. I was supposed by how comfortable the queen sized bed was and how quiet it was in the woods. I am a city girl, used to sleeping with sirens, cars honking and people screaming. Here, all I heard was crickets. Ah, serenity.

The cabins are fully equipped with sheets, towels, dishes - even a Keurig coffee maker. No one makes your bed, and you only get fresh towels and linens once a week - but really, do you need fresh sheets daily? I am happy when a hotel lets me opt out of daily changes so I can conserve water, so I felt particularly virtuous about this greener way to vacation.

Breakfast - artisanal granola
We met a large family group that included some staying in cabins, some staying in tents, and some staying in RVs - but all having a great time.

For those who like to bring their pets on vacation, camping has another perk - dogs are welcome. The dog friendly campground had a special dog park where dogs could romp, and my dog loved walking from campsite to campsite, meeting other dogs and sniffing around the picnic tables where somebody just had to have dropped a morsel of meat.

Camping is so dog friendly that Karat got a welcome gift
We had a huge barbecue where everyone but my family chowed down on Omaha Steaks burgers, T-bones and ribs - but I have to say, the veggie burgers, also by Omaha Steaks, were delicious. Unlike many veggie burgers, these were able to stand up to the grill and they had a satisfying crunch (I thought it was quinoa, but it turned out to be sunflower seeds and brown rice). My husband also had a juicy salmon burger.

We ate and drank well throughout the weekend - Happy Camper Wine provided the appropriately named vino and Cabin Fever Whiskey a maple infused bourbon. We also had delicious granola from Henry Hudson Bakery

Nearby hiking trails - don't forget the tick medicine
The KOA campground, just outside Mystic, CT, is ideal for families. You can hop on 95 and tour Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport during the day. We opted to hike from a trailhead right near the Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Veggie burger and kale salad - not your average camping fare
But you don’t even have to leave the campground to have fun. There are organized activities daily during the season, and the young, enthusiastic staff, much like camp counselors, were both personable and helpful. One noticed us trying to start a fire with inadequate kindling and ran off to bring some. There are outdoor movies on a giant screen, campfires with s’mores and wagon rides.

There is also a large pool, mini golf and bike rentals. We are already planning out next family camping trip.

Note: this is a sponsored post. Opinions expressed and family fun are my own.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Rain, Rain - Bring It On!

Despite drought conditions in California, the forecast for my recent SheBuysCars trip for Hyundai to Huntington Beach was rain, rain, rain.
Luckily, I had a defense - the new Gustbuster. This durable double canopy folding umbrella comes with a lifetime warranty, so it’s a far cry from the $3 umbrellas (now often $5) that proliferate like moss during NYC flash storms.

I’m not so sure a lifetime warranty is the issue for me and umbrellas - my kids take them and leave them all over the city. I’ve tried obnoxiously vibrant patterns to reduce the chance of petty theft, but still they take my stuff, and then lose it.

But the Gustbuster  was hiding in my luggage now is a beaut: a two tone black and red sturdy with wind release vents that prevent it from turning inside out. It also has a double strap closure, but the company recommends you open up a wet umbrella and let it dry out before closing it.

It didn’t rain at all in California, but I was happy I was prepared. I came home and it’s already rained twice. My garden is happy and I was glad to try out  - and then hide - my new accessory.

Although, apparently not well enough. When I went to take a photo of my Gustbuster, it was not in the umbrella stand.

Note: Gustbuster provided an umbrella for review and I was not otherwise compensated; opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Feeling Lucky? Avoid The Slots And Exercise At MGM Grand Detroit's Excellent Gym

Treadmills at the MGM Grand Detroit's gym
Most travelers don’t choose a hotel solely based on the fitness center, but once they have found a great work out space, they often return. Such is the case the the MGM Grand in Detroit; the excellent exercise facility, deluxe spa and gorgeous pool make me yearn to return.

Stability and Bosu balls
Every treadmill or cardio machine was stocked with its own towel and water bottle, plus individual screen. Of course you could also get a chilled towel, another towel form the stacks of thick, plush towels, and a glass of citrus infused water. You could even grab a piece of fruit for a post-workout snack.

There are plenty of free weights, weight benches, stability balls and a Bosu ball. And there is plenty of space to use all the equipment.  There are also weight machines and mirrors so you can watch your form.

The empty glowing pool at the MGM Grand Detroit
If you remember a bathing suit, you can take advantage of the pool, which has comfy lounges and, at least when I checked it out early in the mornings, few visitors.

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.