Truffle Hunting in the Tuscan Forest

For my birthday, Ray set up a Truffle hunting experience for us while we were in Florence on our recent vacation. Giulio the Truffle Hunter picked us up at the train station and took us to his house called Limonaia in Bagno Rapoli, a town about 15 minutes outside of Florence. He used to run a B&B out of the house, so it is beautifully furnished. Giulio is now a registered Truffle Hunter and organizes truffle hunts and wine tastings with his wife, Christina.

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Spa – Turkish Style

While recently in Istanbul, I made a point to visit a local Hamam, or Turkish bath. We decided to go to the Cemberlitas Hamam. It is a little more touristy, but still offered the traditional service of a scrub and oil massage. This hamam was built in 1584 by famed Turkish architect Sinan. It has identical separate spaces for men and woman.

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New Natural Deodorant Finds

After my first post on natural deodorants, I still wasn’t completely happy with the results so I decided to make my own! I found an easy recipe from One Green Generation – you can find it here. It was really easy to make, the whole process took about 5 minutes and involved only two ingredients – corn starch and baking soda. The mix works well but not perfectly. I’m thinking about adding a little more of the baking soda to take it up a notch.

I also got a sample of Purple Prairie Botanical’s  deodorant. To date, it’s my favorite natural deodorant. In fact, I just ordered another tube (I only had a trial size). It works really well and has a wonderful lavender smell. My husband tells me I smell nice almost every time I have it on. My only complaint is that it is a little greasy. I accidentally put it on before a rayon shirt and it got all over the shirt. So there are days I don’t use it because of the clothing I’m wearing. The price is also not bad – $6.99 a tube. It’s not as cheap as the homemade deodorant, but has a nice scent and I think works a little better.

Affordable Acupuncture

I was a little hesitant to try community acupuncture, but I gave in and gave it a go earlier this week. And I’m so glad I did. I went to City Acupuncture on Fulton St. in NYC. The space was welcoming and clean and the staff was friendly and helpful. I immediately felt at home. I assumed that you would be looking at other clients while getting treated, but the tables and chairs are arranged with screens, so I wasn’t even sure how many other people were in the room. Before arriving, I filled out a complete intake form and after I was taken to my table, Catherine, my acupuncturist, asked some questions and examined my tongue and pulse. We decided that she would treat my back for stress – my muscles were tight and achy. The acupuncture was great. I zoned out like I rarely had before. Catherine asked if I wanted a little cupping done too. I agreed and she put plastic versions of the cups up and down my back. I left feeling relaxed and happy. The cost for this great treatment: $25-$50 depending on your ability – no questions asked. This is definitely the most sustainable acupuncture I’ve come across and something I’ll definitely do again.

Finally a Natural Jewelry Cleaner

I love having my jewelry sparkling clean, but I hate using the terribly toxic cleaning solutions that are mass marketed, so I was really excited to try out a sample of Sparkle Bright. The set came with a liquid jewelry cleaner and a tarnish remover paste. I tried the paste on one of my favorite bracelets that had become unwearable because of the tarnish. A regular polishing cloth couldn’t get between the beads. Within about two minutes I had the bracelet sparkling clean. The paste was easy to work with and didn’t have a strong chemical. None of the products contain harmful chemicals like ammonia, acids, or alcohol and all are biodegradable. Plus the liquid jewelry cleaner smells like bananas!

How Often Should You Get a Facial?

I’ll admit it, I love the deal sites like Groupon or Living Social. But my favorite is Lifebooker, specifically, Lifebooker Loot. They often have discounted facials and I often take advantage. Today was one of those days. I was super excited to try this new spa but that quickly faded. The esthetician began to talk and talk and talk. She asked me the last time I had a facial and I said about six weeks ago (I estimated wrong, it was really 13 weeks ag0) and she was really rude about it. She started lecturing me about having facials too often and ruining my skin, challenging me about why I thought I needed a facial. She actually made me feel bad about making an appointment with her. Let me be clear, there was nothing harsh going on here… a mask, some lotion, some extractions (yes, I’m in the pro-extraction camp). We’re not talking dermabrasion or chemical peel here. In her (not so humble) opinion, women need facials about every 3 months. This was in direct contrast to everything else I’ve heard. So I did some research…

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Why is it so hard to play tennis in NYC?

Jelena Jankovic at The Family Circle Cup

Tennis is one of my favorite sports both to watch and to play. But since moving to NYC, my own game has suffered. Recently Ray and I were inspired by the French Open and the beautiful weather to try to hit the courts. This is a rare occasion partly because the nearest courts are a 15 minute walk away and partly because it costs $30 for the two of us to play for one hour, and you usually have to wait to get a court. It really irritates me that the city courts charge so much for residents to use city courts. In every other city I’ve lived in, there has been free access and unlimited play. I understand that New York is bigger and there is more demand, but $30 for an hour is more than I pay for a Pilates or Yoga class. But we got over all of that and headed out.

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Inside the Barre3 Community

It’s no secret that I’m a Barre3 Fan (see here and here). I had the pleasure of working with Sadie Lincoln and Amy Leclerc on a recent segment I produced for Better TV. They were happy with the results and I really enjoyed producing the piece. Check out the finished segment:

Natural & Sweet!

Who doesn’t love a good jam? I like sweet foods, so I was excited to interview Rachel Saunders from the Blue Chair Fruit Company for my day job. Rachel uses local sustainably harvested fruits and organic fair-trade cane sugar. She and her small team make all of her jams by hand. They use authentic French copper jam kettles to retain the  best possible flavor and believe me when I tell you it’s worth it! Her blackberry jam was the best I’ve ever had. She has many unique flavors like Early Girl Tomato Marmalade and Rhubarb Jam with Plum Brandy & Ginger, but the flavor I’m going to try next is Strawberry & Rose. The small batches are made in-season and available on Rachel’s website and in Williams Sonoma stores. Check out the video I produced with some unique ideas for using jam in every meal: 

Another reason to do Pilates and Yoga: Bone Health

Sharon from Rainbow Light preparing to administer my scan

While at the Yoga Marketplace at the Yoga Journal Conference I stopped by the Rainbow Light booth and had an achilles ultrasound test on my foot to gauge bone density. It’s the first time I’ve ever had access to a bone density screening, so I jumped at the opportunity. I am allergic to dairy, meaning I can eat some but too much gives me terrible headaches. Because of that, I drink soy milk and avoid many dairy products, so I was a little concerned that it was affecting my bones. Sharon was my technician and explained that this is the 2nd best screening for bone density. The first is called a DXA scan and it uses x-rays making it much less portable and impossible to administer in a busy area like the Yoga Marketplace. The entire screening lasted only a couple of minutes. I had to put my foot in a small machine that surrounded my ankle with tiny balloons while administering the ultrasound.

The test yielded two numbers – your density compared with an average 30 year old, and also compared with people in your age range. Since I’m 30, my numbers were the same and I am in the low risk category. Sharon told me that now is the time I should really start thinking about bone health. She said leafy greens and legumes are a great way to get calcium. She also said how important it was to do weight bearing exercises and that Yoga and Pilates are two of the best for promoting healthy bones as I age.

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