Everythingspa’s Blog

CNYSPAGIRL blogs about all things spa

Studio 8 Fitness and A Time For Me Wellness Center, Clinton NY October 22, 2011

You would never expect an upscale day spa and fitness studio to be tucked away along this mostly rural stretch of Route 5 near Clinton, NY.  But just when I had started to lose confidence that my GPS would deliver me to my pre-programmed location, there it was.

It was a Wednesday morning in early September when I arrive at Studio 8 Fitness, prepared for a serious workout. I am joining a small group of women for a circuit training class as a guest of Kelli Corasanti, the fitness center’s owner. It’s the first time I’m meeting Kelli, but she hugs me like a long lost friend. And before I know it, we’re warming up on the cycles to signal the beginning of our workout.

It doesn’t take long before Kelli asserts herself in a drill sergeant-like manner that you’d never expect to come from the pretty, slim blonde.  One minute, she provides nurturing guidance to this group of ladies that follow her in an almost cult-like fashion. (And I mean that in the nicest possible way!) The next minute, she’s a rough and tumble fitness instructor issuing training instructions that you wouldn’t dream of deviating from.  But it’s all good: Kelli is the perfect combination of Barbie and G.I. Joe.

When I asked the other members of my small group why they come to Studio 8 Fitness instead of a traditional gym, the response was overwhelming:  It’s the personalization and the motivation provided in this somewhat non-traditional environment adjacent to A Time For Me Wellness Center.  But most importantly, it’s Kelli herself. “I love what I do and I think it shows”, says Kelli, whose classes are fun, energizing and certainly challenging.  It’s no surprise that Kelli has such a following, given her warmth, spirit and positive energy.  But she also holds an impressive resume of educational degrees and fitness certifications, so you know you’ll be in extremely good hands:

  • ACE Certified Personal Trainer specializing in functional training.
  • Certified as a TRX Instructor.
  • Certified as a Youth Fitness Specialist through the International Youth Conditioning Association.
  • Master’s degree in Counseling Education.
  • Previous experience as a Mad Dogg certified SPIN Instructor.

Kelli has published two books: Kelli’s Quips: Happy Thoughts for Busy People (available on Amazon.com) and Finding My Way Back to Me: A Journey of Self-Discovery (available on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble). Finding My Way Back to Me is also the title of an online life coaching program that Kelli created at http://findingmywaybacktome.com.

When my workout was over, I dragged myself down the stairs and into the day spa.  The tough part of my visit was over.  Now I was in for some serious and well deserved relaxation:  a massage, facial and lunch!

A Time For Me Wellness Center’s owner, Amy Croft, has created a welcoming sanctuary in this unassuming location. When I first arrive at the spa, Amy is decked out in gardening clothes and is going about the business of planting fall flowers out on the deck.  When I emerge from my massage, the first of two treatments in store for me that day, she has transformed herself into a sophisticated spa owner.  Along the way, she and her staff have baked oatmeal cookies (they’re still warm!), made the fruit-infused spa water and are mentally and physically preparing for the clients who are scheduled for appointments that day.  This is the typical day-in-the-life of a spa business owner who wears many hats.  What distinguishes Amy and her family-like team of associates apart is their passion for their clients, the spa and their work.

But don’t take my word for it: just ask the massage therapy client who has just received her 92nd massage at A Time For Me Wellness Center.  If that isn’t a testament to why the spa was Voted #1 Day Spa in the Utica Observer-Dispatch Readers Choice 2011 Awards, then I don’t know what is!

The spa itself is a stunning piece of architecture that has surely caused more than one guest to desire, wistfully, to live there.  The large deck, a spectacular gathering place for pre or post-treatment relaxation during nice weather, overlooks the thickly wooded surroundings, which were already showing signs of the fall spectacle that Mother Nature puts on annually.  I can imagine winters in the great room, in front of the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, sipping a warm beverage as the temperature dips outside.  It is the most unpretentious of settings – the kind of place where the clients feel “at home” moments after walking through the door.  The décor has a sunny, Tuscan feel – deep green ceramic tiles complement bright yellow walls. Warm wood flooring covered in patterned area rugs and rich woodwork lend a rustic feel to the open, airy design.  A cozy upholstered seating area is perfect for sinking into while you await your treatment; it’s the kind of place that makes you want to linger just a bit longer, so plan on making the most of your relaxation time and not rushing away after your service is complete.

With a full kitchen available, it’s a sought after place for holiday and office parties and just about any other event that a guest can dream up.  There’s even a designated spa party room in the works that can accommodate private groups. Since it’s opening in November 2006, the 4,000 square-foot three-level wellness center has become a popular place for couple’s massages, thanks to its two couples massage rooms. There are eight treatment rooms in total, with service offerings that include massage, esthetics, manicures and pedicures.

Christine Hansen is one of five Licensed Massage Therapists.  What impressed me the most about her massage technique is that there was nothing perfunctory about it.  If you’ve ever had a perfunctory massage, you know exactly what I mean.  Christine used a variety of techniques and assisted stretching to work all the muscles and areas of the body she knew would be sore the next day, courtesy of my morning workout with Kelli at the in-house Studio 8 Fitness (Coming soon –  more about Studio 8 Fitness). The signature massage is a customized 60 or 90-minute treatment that includes hot towels on the feet, hot stones on the back and a touch of aromatherapy.  During my visit, the spa was running a promotion that included a complementary add-on, normally a $5 value.  There were so many interesting offerings; I opted for the foot scrub as the ideal complement to the hot towels.

Jen Salvo, a cosmetologist who offers esthetic and nail services, gave me a pampering and relaxing facial using products by Plantogen, know for plant derived spa therapy.  Afterwards, I followed my own advice and lingered just a bit longer over lunch on the deck before making the surprisingly quick and picturesque drive back to Syracuse.  A Time For Me Wellness Center and Studio 8 Fitness is a gem of a spot that simply cannot be kept a secret!

A Time For Me Wellness Center

7201 Route 5 West

Clinton, NY 13323




Studio 8 Fitness

7201 Route 5 West

Clinton, NY 13323

(315) 723-9986




Spa Review: Skana Spa and The Lodge at Turning Stone (Verona, NY) August 22, 2011

Guest Suite at THe Lodge at Turning Stone

In Verona, thirty miles and just a few Thruway exits east of Syracuse, The Lodge at Turning Stone is a haven among the dizzying array of activity at The Turning Stone Resort Casino. The Lodge squashes the notion of what a typical casino hotel is like. With its separate entrance, complementary valet parking, and refreshingly smoke-free environment, you just might forget that it’s connected by attached walkway to the rest of the bustling casino resort. This is super convenient if you want to take in a show at the Showroom, dine in one of the abundant restaurants, attend an event at The Events Center or if you can’t resist the lure and excitement of the gaming opportunities.

My sister and I are overnights guests at the resort – no husbands and kids allowed.  It’s our first sister’s getaway and it’s so convenient – halfway between our homes in Syracuse and Utica – that it just might not be our last.

Double queen guest suite, The Lodge at Turning Stone

The glitz-free guest rooms at The Lodge have a subtle masculine feel. They have quite possibly thought of every amenity: there is even a full-sized golf umbrella in the closet. All 96 suites are spacious – the smallest at 550 square feet – and many feature balconies or terraces.  Frosted glass French doors separate the bedroom from the invitingly spacious living room with cozy seating options.  The smart layout of the pass-through bathroom features a dual-headed shower, soaking tub, a trendy vessel sink and a full spectrum of heavenly scented bath products from L’Occitane. Plush bedding, warm woodwork and pops of rich crimson create an inviting respite you’ll look forward to returning to each evening.

The welcoming open design of the great room is almost completely surrounded by windows, creating a sense of airiness and grandeur.  Beautiful views overlook the golf course and the pristinely manicured garden in all of its spring glory. This is the heart of The Lodge where you’ll find nooks for reading, lounging, casual conversations or relaxing by the fireplace.

At turn down, soft music plays (The Only Real Thing, by Mark Kelso), slippers are placed bedside and the ice bucket is filled. Instead of traditional chocolates, our bedside table contains a dream catcher, said to move freely in the night air and grab dreams as they pass by; the bad dreams get tangled in the netting and perish with the first light of day.

If you’re staying at The Lodge, Skaná Spa (skah-nah) is just a short stroll from your guest room.  If you’re staying at one of the resorts other three lodging options, it’s an easy walk from anywhere on the property.  Day guests are welcome at the spa too.

Skaná is the Oneida word for “peace” and peace and tranquility are exactly what you’ll find. Prepare to be spoiled here: the spa attendants are among the friendliest in the industry. They will take excellent care of you and nurture you throughout your entire visit.  Plan to spend the good part of a day at Skaná – sauntering from the herbal infused steam room to a cooling shower, to the sweat-lodge inspired sauna and light-filled whirlpool in a prescribed five-step circuit that detoxifies, opens pores and relaxes you before or after your treatment.

The beauty of visiting Skaná on a Friday afternoon is that I have it mostly to myself.  It’s a busy graduation weekend at local colleges and multi-generational families are taking full advantage of all that the resort has to offer, proof-positive that luxury can be family friendly.

Inspired by the natural surroundings and the Oneida Nation culture, not a single detail at Skaná deviates from this theme. Nature is evident everywhere you look:  In the botanical print fabric on the lounge chairs, in the artwork adorning the walls, in the frosted glass embossed with leaves and the botanical print wallpaper and curtains.

Skana Spa

Even the chandeliers represent blossoming florals. The centerpiece of the bright and airy spa lobby, surrounded by windows, is a spectacular circular fireplace.  Everything is designed circularly and curvy to mimic nature.

Amenities are first rate: Okab spa sandals – loved for their comfort, fit and superior slip-protection in the wet areas of the spa, spa robes the color of golden-hued sand and the nourishing healthy spa snacks.  The infused spa water changes with the seasons; if you time your visit right, you might get to try the strawberry water (recipe below) served in conjunction with Strawberry Festival, an annual event in the Oneida Annual Calendar of Thanksgiving.  Hungry spa goers can refuel on dried fruit & nut mix, fresh fruit, bottled water and Native American teas.

Light-filled whirlpool at Skana Spa

For an over-the-top experience, schedule time in the ultra-private VIP lounge at Skaná. You’ll enjoy access to a gated herb garden, a lounge area with a hidden flat screen TV, side-by-side deep soaking tubs, a shower à deux, your own steam room and sauna and treatment room for two.

I’m wondering how my therapist, Michael, will react when I tell him that I won’t be joining him in the hallway outside the treatment room.  After all, he did tell me to relax and take as much time as I need before hopping off the treatment table and slipping back into my robe.  I’m going to recommend that he just wheel the warm and cozy massage table right into the relaxation lounge, with me still ensconced in it’s many layers of plush comfort.  I’m not trying to be difficult, but the eighty-minute poultice massage I just experienced has left me completely relaxed and quite possibly incapable of carrying on with my day.

The prior afternoon, my strong and intuitive therapist, Valerie, escorted me to a spacious two-room treatment suite for a White Pine Foot and Body Treatment.  My treatment began with a foot soak in Bourbon Vanilla Foaming Bath Milk. A medley of heated towels was placed over my eyes, under my neck and on my feet.  I was spritzed with cooling lavender and honey mist and then scrubbed from fingertips to toes with Kerstin Florian’s Turkish Scrub with Eucalyptus. A full body massage with Deep Forest oil followed, formulated with pine and a luscious blend of other essential oils. The Oneida people honor the pine tree as the Great Tree of Peace and the oil is valued for alleviating fatigue and mental exhaustion. At Skaná Spa, one treatment is more luscious than the next.

Our eight-course dinner at Wildflowers was an extravagant indulgence.  It’s an extraordinary dining experience the caliber of which is normally only found in large cosmopolitan cities. The delightful company of Loretta Taylor, Spa Director at Turning Stone, enhanced our meal. A personalized scroll menu, steamed hand towels between courses and an intermezzo of lemon sorbet created a dining experience that we won’t soon forget. Service is crisp and efficient with a welcome lack of formality, pulling out all the stops to ensure that every element of this culinary event is at it’s finest. Our dinner server, Jason, entertained us by reciting the menu as if performing a monologue on stage, pausing at all the right moments for questions.

Soft Shell Crab at Wildflowers Restaurant, The Lodge at Turning Stone

Diners can expect the freshest available local ingredients on a menu that changes rapidly with the growing season. The five pepper crusted bone in filet mignon is buttery tender; the asparagus & morel mushroom salad meaty and earthy. The sweet and subtly briny flavor of the at-the-moment, delightfully in-season soft shell crab can only be found a few weeks out of the year.  The menu describes the Wildflowers Salad as beets, beets & more beets with chicory salad.   A combination you probably hadn’t considered: beet ice cream, beet glass, and brilliantly colored beets in white, red and purple is part culinary theatre and part cinematic performance by the chef and wait staff.

Other highlights from our dining experience:

  • Amuse bouche course, fried steelhead over risotto
  • Foie Gras Torchon with infused rhubarb, Melba toast & fresh berries.  The foie gras had an extraordinarily rich and smooth texture with a creamy mouthfeel
  • Five pepper crusted bone in filet mignon with asparagus & morel mushroom salad
  • Sweet and succulent scallops
  • Gifts from the chef that kept on coming, like short ribs over polenta

You’ll be too full for desert, but order it anyway.  The childhood memories tasting is five bites of sweetened bliss: banana split, peanut butter gelee mousse, raspberry rice krispy treat, cookie dough truffle and S’more truffle.  At Wildflowers, one dessert course isn’t enough. The second dessert course, a final gift from the chef, includes a chocolate surprise (we won’t give away the “surprise” element – let’s just say it’s a combination I hadn’t considered) and a rich liquidy cheesecake shooter.

Stay midweek for the best deals on room rates.

Turning Stone Resort

5218 Patrick Road

Verona, NY 13478


Strawberry Water Recipe, courtesy of “Skana” the Spa at Turning Stone

“Skana” the Spa at Turning Stone means “peace” in the Oneida language, and combines modern treatments with Native American healing principals to create peace and harmony within.  We offer our guests spa water based on the Iroquois Annual Cycle of Thanksgiving.  Our Strawberry Water celebrates the Strawberry Ceremony which signifies thanksgiving for all berries and new life birth, and the Maple Ceremony signifying the coming of the life giving season after the harsh winter.  The power of maple is highly regarded and considered to be both preventative and restorative. This recipe is simple and refreshing.


1 lb of strawberries

8 oz. of maple syrup

10 cups of water

2 quart pitcher


Wash, hull and cut the strawberries into chunks, place in the pitcher

Mash the strawberries with a potato masher to a chunky consistency; not smooth

Add the water, and the maple syrup and stir.

Refrigerate and stir before serving.

As is common in the travel industry, this writer was provided with accommodations, two spa treatments, dinner at Wildflowers Restaurant and breakfast the next morning.  While it didn’t influence this review, Everythingspa believes in full disclosure.


Spa Music Review: Escapes, by Jeff Gold May 2, 2011

Filed under: Spa music reviews — everythingspa @ 2:45 am
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Escapes, Music for Relaxing by Jeff Gold

Music composer Jeff Gold found me through a shared interest group on LinkedIn.  His message couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’d been wanting to venture into reviewing spa and relaxation music for some time, but hadn’t reached out to any composers or vendors.  When Jeff offered to send me a copy of his Escapes CD, I was thrilled!  But the truth is, I had just purchased a pair of Bose QuietComfort® 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones and I was looking for the perfect music to enjoy while trying them out for the first time.

Escapes is fifteen tracks (one hour playing time) of peaceful instrumental music that sets the mood for a relaxed state of mind or quiet meditation.  It’s the perfect backdrop to restorative yoga class, a warm bath or a simple evening at home.

My favorite track that I’ve played over and over again is Del Playa (track #1). When I asked Jeff to describe the inspiration for this beautiful song, he tells me “I wrote Del Playa as a love song for my wife. We met at a party on a street named Del Playa, which overlooks the beach, while we were both students at UC
Santa Barbara. I told her it was for her and she thought it was the prettiest love song she’d ever heard. She wanted to name it Del Playa
because it reminded her of the night we met. “  It’s an incredible calm inducing song with just the right amount enchantment; you won’t be able to get it out of your head.  The rest of the tracks are equally beautiful, but there is something about Del Playa that has won me over.  The entire tranquil compilation was even more of a perfect escape when it was piped through my new Bose headphones.

Jeff is finishing up his next CD, and I for one can’t wait to hear what comes out of his studio next.

Everythingspa’s readers can get 20% off CD’s at Jeff’s online store by typing “everythingspa” in the textbox. The 20% will be deducted at checkout.


Jeff Gold


The best reason to plan a girlfriend getaway? No reason at all! April 27, 2011

Turtle Landing Retreat

If your friendships have become virtual, it may be time to reconnect with your gal pals in-person. The girlfriend getaway: It’s synonymous with shopping, lounging in your pj’s, wine or cocktails, great food and maybe some time at the spa.  What you won’t find on a girlfriend getaway? Husbands, significant others and children.  A well-executed girlfriend getaway lets one recharge their batteries and return to the real world a better person. It might be a weekend long bachelorette party, reuniting the girls from college, or just work-weary moms needing a change in scenery. Or the best reason to plan a girlfriend getaway soon?  No reason at all.

Jamie Virkler, owner of Turtle Landing Retreat in Fulton, NY, recognizes that she herself is a better wife and mother after taking brief retreats with her girlfriends. This realization inspired her to open the retreat, a contemporary refuge surrounded by nature on the banks of the Oswego River, in October of 2010.  While the house was designed with scrapbooking groups in mind, you don’t have to be a crafter to enjoy all that Turtle Landing has to offer.  The retreat house, which sleeps 15 in super-fun themed rooms, is ideal for a girlfriend getaway and has garnered rave reviews from first-time and repeat guests. Rent the entire house for the weekend, including the fabulous outdoor spaces, and let Jamie take care of everything including the gourmet meals the retreat has become known for.

45 minutes southwest of Syracuse, the picturesque town of Skaneateles offers boutiques, gourmet and casual dining, and plenty of places for you and your girlfriends to call home for a night or two within every budget.  The cool, deep waters of Skaneateles Lake abound with water activities.  The Monet-inspired Mirbeau Inn & Spa, named to prominent award lists from top travel publications, has everything a girl could want for a getaway: a world-class spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, luxury accommodations, cooking classes, wine seminars, and unique dining experiences spread out over 12 acres. The newly created Life Enrichment Programs focus on health, wellness, spa, culinary and wine experiences.

Speaking of wine, a vino-tasting weekend in the Finger Lakes Region is the perfect setting to reconnect with friends.   For a hassle-free and safe approach, hire a tour company to take care of all the details.  Take a vineyard tour, taste some world-class wines at over 100 unique vineyards and be driven around the lakes in style.  At days end, hang your hat at one of the cozy bed and breakfasts or country inns.  La Tourelle Resort & Spa in Ithaca makes an excellent home base for your weekend in wine country, and they’ll customize a girlfriend getaway to your liking.

For a savvy planning guide, consider “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Girlfriend Getaways,” by Lisa Kasanicky. This seasoned travel and spa expert guides you to more than 70 destinations throughout the United States and Canada including where to stay, where to eat and what to do. Each chapter has a theme — shopping, adventure trips, volunteer vacations, cultural excursions and of course spas — so that you can skip right to the type of destination you want and start planning your getaway.

Here are seven steps to planning a great girlfriend’s weekend that will be relaxing, refreshing and fun:

Step 1 – Select a date.  This may be the toughest step of all with multiple friends who have many commitments.

Step 2 – Set a budget.

Step 3 – Where will you go? Location. Location. Location.

Step 4 – Select your activities.  Or plan to do absolutely nothing and don’t feel a bit guilty about it!

Step 5 – Make reservations: Transportation, accommodations, dining, spa treatments and activities.  If you’re more spontaneous, skip this step and let the wind take you!

Step 6 – Manage expectations and iron out final details.

Step 7 – Have a great time!


Spa Review: Mirbeau Inn & Spa (Skaneateles, NY) April 13, 2011

Club Room at Mirbeau Inn & Spa

I’ve just arrived at Mirbeau Inn & Spa again after a several year hiatus.  As soon as I drive through the gates onto the 12-acre property, I ask myself, “Why don’t I come here more often?”  To continue reading the article, click here to be directed to my National Spa Examiner column on Examiner.com.


Terra Organic Spa and Syracuse Chi Spot: Environmental friendly efforts March 30, 2011


Terra Organic Spa - Fayetteville, NY

Earth Day (April 22) is the annual celebration of the environment, created to honor one of the most noteworthy “women” of all times: Mother Earth. This month, we’re showcasing wellness businesses owned by spectacular Central New York women who show adoration to our planet through their personal and professional environmentally conscious practices.

Rachel McClean, owner of Terra Organic Spa in Fayetteville, walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to honoring the earth.  So much so, in fact, that she named her spa after it.  “I was completely obsessed with the human language for months. Terra is a Goddess in the mythical world, but it also means Earth. It’s a name that came to me in a dream.” The clients at Terra Organic Spa are split evenly among genders, so the unisex name appeals to both men and women.

When you name a business after the earth, there is a mighty expectation to live up to.  Terra is a gleaming example of a local business going the extra mile using Earth-friendly practices that include the use of organic products, holistic concepts, energy efficiency, and green cleaning methods.  A spa generates a great deal of laundry and that can be rough on the environment.  At Terra, the laundry soap is organic, biodegradable and free of chemicals – better for the environment and better for the client.  The cleaning products are chemical free and yet still effective against dirt and germs.  Old sheets and towels are repurposed and donated to local animal shelters.

High quality products used during spa treatments include critically therapeutic pure essential oils from Aromatics International, a company dedicated to supporting organic farmers and essential oil distillers in countries around the world. Clovertree Apothecary products have been chosen for their effectiveness, organic properties, strict purity standards and because they’re made in the USA.  And all that goodness only adds to the appeal of the treatments: The organic facial is wildly popular.  McClean says “It’s a delight to hear people talk about the service after the fact.  It smells so good and fills the spa with wonderful aromas. The products can be purchased and used at home to take the experience with you.”

Debra Lee Gertz has practiced acupuncture at 510 Jamesville Avenue in Syracuse for twenty years.  She recently bought the building, welcomed some independent practitioners and christened the space ‘Syracuse Chi Spot’. Along with Donna Heitzman (Chiropractor) and Madelaine Greacen (Ayurvedic practitioner), the three ladies have created a complementary wellness facility that treats mind, body and spirit in earth-friendly ways.  For starters, clients are encouraged to eat locally and seasonally for balance and health and as a way to lessen our carbon footprint.

Syracuse Chi Spot - Jamesville Ave, Syracuse NY

Food scraps and used tea bags generated at the office are composted and added to the practitioners home gardens to enrich the soil and to grow their own food in the summer months.

All herbs that are provided to Syracuse Chi Spot’s clients are wild crafted, organic and most are fairly and directly traded. They are free of pharmaceuticals, preservatives, dyes, yeasts or sugars and are safe and independently tested for heavy metals, pesticides and microbes.  They are also sustainably harvested and grown.

Gertz says “The organic oils used by our Ayurvedic practitioner, Madelaine Greacen, are recycled by a local business and often reused for heating oil.  All laundry is cleaned in a high efficiency machine and if possible, hung out to dry. The detergents we use are eco-friendly and free of dyes and perfumes. “

Here are some simple and effective steps to reduce ones impact on the planet at home:

  • Buy only what you need to help reduce food waste in your home
  • Compost yard and organic household waste
  • Buy organic products whenever your budget allows
  • Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.
  • Use energy mindfully
  • Eat locally and seasonally
  • Practice sustainability
  • Plant a garden; grow your own fruits, veggies and herbs


KSS Professional: The new, modern mineral makeup March 26, 2011

Filed under: Product News,Product review — everythingspa @ 1:52 am
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KSS Professional Mineral Makeup

If you think all mineral makeup is the same, think again. I recently came across a line of products whose founder has lovingly crafted a line of mineral makeup to avoid unhealthy, harmful and irritating ingredients after extensive research into raw minerals.

I’m talking about KSS Professional Mineral Makeup, first used in practice on private esthetic clients for two years at Kenlee’s Skin Shop near Kansas City, Kansas, before launching in August of 2010. Here’s what master esthetician and owner, Kenlee Livingston, would like you to know about the products she has created: “KSS products will never contain talc, bismuth oxychloride, carmines, dyes, parabens, sulfates, propylene glycol, or nanoparticles. The ingredients we use are of the highest grade and primarily consist of titanium, iron and zinc oxides. The sun protection value is very high due to the level of titanium dioxide and ranges from SPF 30-50, depending on the shade. We also support eco-friendly vendors and do not use raw materials that are not animal friendly or cruelty-free.”

This modern mineral makeup is handcrafted in small batches to be long-wearing and densely pigmented.  The product line consists of:

  • Nine shades of premium mineral foundation powder (shades can also be customized)
  • Three shades of sheer loose mineral powder
  • Premium mineral blush in Shine
  • Two formulations of professional toners
  • Two custom vegan brushes formulated specifically for use with KSS products

I tested the loose mineral foundation, available in nine shades, in Sabrina, a near-perfect light to medium neutral shade.  It was just the slightest bit “yellow” for my skin tone (the medium-neutral shade Oleha would probably have been 100% perfect), but I loved the look and feel of the silky powder so much that I used it every day for weeks! To warm up my skin a bit, I used the premium mineral blush, Shine, to add luminescent tones of gold to my skin, making it the perfect blush or bronzer.

What I also loved about the KSS Professional line is the custom foundation brush with its dense but soft bristles.  This tool allows you to apply the foundation and blusher/bronzer perfectly to the skin.

Under development and launching soon are more products to enhance the line: pure vitamin C crystals and two formulations of face washes.

To purchase products, go to Kenlee’s Skin Shop Webstore at http://shop.kenleeskinshop.com/main.sc.

To learn more about KSS Professionals, visit http://www.kssprofessional.com/.


A break from the spa: Learning the art of espresso making at Cafe Kubal in Syracuse, NY March 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — everythingspa @ 1:50 am
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Cafe Kubal in the Eastwood neighborhood in Syracuse, NY - Photos courtesy of Cafe Kubal

My friend Christine’s birthday snuck up on me, I’ll admit it.  It comes around every March, like birthdays tend to do, but it’s early enough in the month that it could have easily gone off my radar if I hadn’t been paying careful attention.

Christine is one of the hardest working people I know and she doesn’t take much time out for herself, so celebrating her birthday in a grand sort of way was a top priority.  I approached my co-conspirator, Robin.  “Let’s do something special for Christine’s birthday!”  I was determined to give her an experience we could bond over rather than buying her a random gift.  “I have some ideas brewing”, I told Robin, “Let me pursue some of them and I’ll get back to you.”  Little did I know that “brewing” would literally be the heart and soul of the celebration.

How about a private tea party at one of my favorites, the Brickhouse Cafe in Brewerton?  She doesn’t drink tea –  she drinks coffee, Robin reminded me. Right, I should know that. I’ve rarely ever seen Christine on the soccer field without a cup of coffee in her hand.  Side-by-side pedicures?  Even this spa-loving writer tires of the “same old” sometimes.  Lunch at her favorite restaurant?  So been-there, done-that.

I don’t remember how or why I stumbled across Cafe Kubal’s website.  Truthfully, I don’t even drink coffee.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Over the last year, I’ve started to drink highly sweetened and flavored iced coffee beverages a few times a week.  I’m not exactly a coffee purist and I rarely drink hot coffee.  But when I saw that the cafe was just a few miles from my doctor’s office, I had to take a slight detour on my way back from a recent appointment to grab an iced chai latte.  As luck would have it, owner Matt Godard was on the premises that day and I asked him about the coffee classes I had read about on the website.

Espresso 101, Milk Steaming 102 and Latte Art 201 are the standard offerings taught in the La Rosteria, a multi-purpose event space within the same building as the Eastwood Cafe. Classes are normally 1 1/2 hours long and are taught to individuals or small groups. I asked Matt if he could teach a private class to celebrate a special occasion.  He took the ball and ran with it, customizing an offering that blended the basics of espresso making, milk steaming and latte art into a single class with a mighty purpose: to learn the art of coffee preparation from a purist while having fun and lots of laughs with friends!

We weren’t sure what to expect from the experience, but we were up for whatever Matt had in store for us. After arriving at the cafe, the friendly staff escorted us over to the production area a few doors down.  A casual brunch of vegetable Quiche and fresh squeezed orange juice was waiting for us, which we savored while chatting with Matt as he worked behind the coffee bar setting up for our class and preparing us hot espresso drinks to order. As if on queue, Kirsten arrived from the cafe bearing a tray of fresh-made scones and breads for us to sample.

After breakfast, the action moved behind the bar and centered around a rather intimidating pump-driven commercial espresso machine with a bevy of buttons, nozzles and levers.  I would soon learn that the coffee beans are ground only moments before each shot of espresso is “pulled”. But first, I had to learn what espresso really is:  a small shot of pressure-brewed coffee that takes about 20 to 30 seconds to brew.  A longer brewing time means the shot will be too strong and less brewing time will cause the shot to be too weak.   Properly brewed, high quality espresso has a layer of caramelized-looking “crema” on the surface.   We each took a turn crafting a practice shot: grinding the beans, tamping them down, brewing them in the machine with just the right temperature and pressure.

Under Matt’s expert tutelage and infinite patience, we sailed right through the steamed milk module and were headed straight towards latte art. Before we knew it, we were making our own lattes, cappuccinos and cafe americanas, creating patterns and designs on the surface.  The designs were barely recognizable as real life objects – but we had fun deciding what we think they resembled.

Thanks to Matt and the expert bakers and baristas at Cafe Kubal, Christine had a special birthday celebration that was a fun and educational experience, richly steeped in coffee culture.  We knew that Cafe Kubal had exceeded our expectations the moment we hopped back in the car: “That was an awesome experience!”, Christine said.  Robin and I exchanged a not-so-secret high-five for a plan well-executed.

Robin, Christine (birthday girl) and me at Cafe Kubal


Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and Willow Stream Spa blend family friendly atmosphere and zen spa experience March 1, 2011


Fairmont Scottsdale Princess



Come out and visit and bring your son”, my cousin’s wife from Scottsdale has been saying for years.  I took her up on the offer in the spring of 2009 and traveled solo to Scottsdale to spend time with family and to visit some of the acclaimed spas that The Valley (as the locals call it) is known for.  There are so many to choose from and one is better than the next; it was easy to fall hard for the spa culture and to begin plotting a return visit.  So this year, when school let out for February break, my eight-year old and I hopped a plane to Phoenix for some quality time with our extended family and some quality spa time for me.

We’re staying at the AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for 6 nights.  The sprawling 65-acre resort manages to seamlessly blend a classic Southwestern exterior setting with delightfully modern interiors. More than once, I gazed at the pink-hued Spanish colonial-style architecture with its expansive plazas and flower-drenched gardens and imagined it could easily be mistaken for a Mexican beach resort. Arizona’s McDowell Mountains rise and fall in the distance creating a stunning setting.

The resort features 649 oversized guest rooms, suites and casitas.  Our 525 square-foot deluxe guest room (3130) with two oversized double beds is designed like an apartment (minus the kitchen). The room is decorated in neutral shades of rich brown, mushroom and earthy greens. Walk to the end of the hallway to the main area that contains the bedroom, wet-bar, workspace and entertainment area. But what I really love about the unique layout of these guest rooms is the walk-in closet, entryway with abundant storage shelves and the oversize bathroom with double sinks, walk-in shower, soaking tub and separate water closet. Our private covered balcony overlooks one of the lushly landscaped tropical pool areas.


Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - Double Double Room



Adults and kids alike are drawn to the five heated swimming pools:  The fun and flirty South pool, the sporty East pool, the ultra kid-friendly Sonoran Splash pool with dual 200 foot long waterslides and zero-entry splash zone, the private casita pool and the rooftop spa pool.


South Pool at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess


The near-perfect service is positively, can’t-get-enough addictive. On our first night, I opted to utilize the valet parking service since we arrived past midnight.  I had every intention of using the self-parking lot the next day. But I found myself being unable to resist the unfailingly friendly “welcome back” from the ever-smiling valet staff every time I drove up the circular drive and stopped under the porte-cochère.  I slipped into full relaxation and vacation mode and never came out until we drove off to a dose of reality – that is, the airport. There is nothing like air travel to undo every bit of good that was done from our week at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

At the informal LV Bistro, you’ll never feel like you have to rush through your meal because you’re dining with children.  It parents want to linger over dessert and coffee or a glass of wine, the kids can play in the specially-designed elevated play area with comfy couches, a flat screen TV and an impressive selection of toys geared towards kids of all ages.  Serving favorites for the whole family and fresh twists on reinvented classics like savory BLT pizza and shrimp Cobb salad, it’s a family-friendly bet for any meal or for an adult-only occasion at the fiery outdoor seating area overlooking the South pool.


La Hacienda - Fairmont Scottsdale Princess


It’s not often that fine dining and kid-friendly can co-exist in the same restaurant experience, but our dinner at La Hacienda, a modern Mexican restaurant by Richard Sandoval, did just that. Wood-beamed ceilings, tile flooring, roaring fireplaces and candles on every wall and surface created a cozy, casually elegant atmosphere. And yet, I was incredibly comfortable dining with my eight-year old son.  A reasonably priced kids menu with kid-friendly options, kids cups with lids and straws, and a dining server who took my cues to move the service along at a good pace and yet never made us feel like we were missing out on attentive service. With energetic Spanish music playing in the background, a décor of black and earth tones and ambient lighting, La Hacienda is a sophisticated and comfortable dining venue that blows traditional hotel and resort dining out of the water.

I couldn’t resist ordering a mango maraschino margarita after our savvy server shared that the cocktails were handcrafted with fresh juices and premium tequilas.  Queso fundido with chorizo was oozing with a blend of warm, salty and gooey cheeses. Be warned: Tacos will never taste the same again after you savor the lobster tacos with their chunks of the buttery crustacean, creamy avocado and black bean puree over petite corn tortillas.

You won’t have room for desert and coffee, trust me. But go ahead and order the warm cinnamon churros anyway. My son declared the rich, melt-in your mouth pillows of sweetened dough “scrumptious and delicious” after devouring half the plate.  The deal was sealed for me with an accompanying trio of dipping sauces: cajeta (sweetened caramelized milk), a slightly spicy chili chocolate fondue and cream cheese natilla (vanilla infused soft Spanish custard).  But the pièce de résistance of the meal was the flaming coffee prepared tableside to an appropriate chorus of oohs and aahs from intrigued nearby diners.  My choice was the Café 1921: Tequila de Créma and coffee in a fiery goblet rimmed with crusty caramelized sugar and topped with whipped cream and chocolate. It was the perfect ending to a very special and memorable meal.

I’ve been at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess for five days now and haven’t had a chance to check out the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont.  I check my son into the National Geographic Explorers Camp for kids ($35 for half-day including lunch) and head over to the spa in plenty of time to enjoy all the amenities and facilities before my treatment.  In the women’s wet area, the domed ceiling rises to a circular skylight and I can see just a tease of bright blue sky.  Red rose petals seem to float on top of a bowl of chilled washcloths.  And while it’s simply beautiful inside – all marble and tile in earthy shades of mushroom, taupe, khaki and chocolate – where I really want to be is outside, especially after the severe winter we’ve had in the Northeast.


Rooftop Spa Pool - Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess


I climb many stairs to reach the infinity edge rooftop spa pool, and it’s worth every single step.  When I reach the top, I’m treated to awe-inspiring 360-degree views of the mountains that surround this valley.  It’s a blue-sky day here in Scottsdale in late February; the morning air is still brisk, but it warms quickly as the sun rises in the sky. Steam gently rises off the water, and it’s not hard to imagine claiming a thickly cushioned lounge chair under a cabana and camping out until the sun begins to set. But instead, I have a 44,000 square foot spa to explore including a fitness facility, salon services, 25 treatment rooms, meditation gardens with waterfall, and men and women’s spa and lounge areas.

The exploration will have to wait until later. Now it’s time to meet my provider, the capable and confident Danielle, who is about to guide me to peace and tranquility over the next two hours during the spas signature treatment: The Havasupai Body Oasis Experience ($319, 120 minutes). In NYS, estheticians can perform body treatments, so I’m delighted to learn that Danielle is a licensed massage therapist. At the end of my treatment, the application of warm massage oil will be performed by someone who is an expert in the craft of massage, a bonus I don’t expect but am thrilled to discover.

Danielle leads me outdoors to the co-ed cave-like waterfall and gives me a few minutes to soak under the varying strengths of warm cascading water.  When she returns, she hands me a towel and my robe and we head to the treatment suite where my journey will take place.  “There are a lot of steps to this treatment”, she explains, “but they flow together wonderfully”.


Havasupai Falls Water Feature - Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Willow Stream Spa


We arrive at my treatment suite that has all the amenities I’ll need for my experience without having to shuffle from room to room. We begin with an aromatic footbath and foot scrub and Danielle offers me hot or iced Ayurvedic tea with hints of cinnamon and cardamom. Next is a gentle Chamomile body polish and body wash.  I step under the rain shower to rinse off the scrub while Danielle freshens up the room.  Already waiting for me is an inviting thermal bath, which I soak in for 15 minutes after Danielle steps out of the room.  She leaves me with lavender soaked iced washcloths and a bottle of neroli water (extract of bitter orange) to use as a cooling and hydrating mist.  When Danielle returns, the treatment resumes with a soothing warm oil massage application before I’m wrapped up to allow the oil to penetrate the skin. During my wrap, I experience a massage of the face, neck, scalp, shoulders and décolleté.  As Danielle removes the oils being from my hands and feet with warm cloths, I have just one worry:  After two hours of warm bliss, would I physically be able to put one foot in front of the other and walk to the relaxation area under my own power?

Miraculously, I’m able to float back to the National Geographic Explorers Camp to pick up my son.  He is happy and content, chattering about the photo safari and fishing adventures of the morning. Miss Janey, the camp’s no-nonsense but fun-loving manager, runs the program like a well-oiled machine. She hands me a digital photo disk, bids us an affectionate goodbye and we’re off.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a dream for families traveling with children: abundant pools with fun water amenities, family-friendly dining, a fishing pond, the kids camp, a sports court, and flexible room accommodations for families of every size at many price points.  The staff went out of their way to create a special experience for us at every opportunity with professional and unobtrusive service.  Business travelers, spa lovers and couples looking for romance can all peacefully co-exist within the same beautifully manicured peaceful resort.  And the fresh-baked, best ever chocolate chip cookies are worth mentioning too!

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

7575 E. Princess Drive

Scottsdale, Arizona 85255


Toll Free: 1.866.540.4495


As is common in the travel industry, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess provided the writer with a complimentary spa treatment, dinner at La Hacienda for two, lunch at LV Bistro and a half-day at the National Geographic Explorer’s Camp for the purpose of writing this article. While this did not influence this review, Examiner.com believes in fulldisclosure of any potential conflicts of interest.


Discovering Reiki in Central New York February 27, 2011

Since middle school, Elizabeth Curley Elizabeth Curley of Whispering Wolf Wellness has known that she was supposed to be a healer. At the time, she didn’t exactly know what that meant, but it became crystal clear to her many years later when she attended a program on reiki at Natur-Tyme.  Curley said “I’ve got to learn that.  I just knew!”

For the uninitiated, the Japanese word Reiki can be translated to “life-force energy”, a healing that involves holding the hands above the body.  It’s not affiliated with any creed, religion or denomination. You might seek reiki to release stress, promote relaxation, boost your immune system and balance your chakras and auras (otherwise known as energy fields).  Reiki is known to heal at the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual level.

So what can you expect from a reiki session?  You’ll normally spend between $45 and $100 for an hour of reiki.  Before you get started with your session, the reiki practitioner should complete a verbal or written intake to find out why you’ve come to them for reiki treatments.  In a typical reiki session, you’ll recline fully clothed on a massage table, maybe experiencing dimmed lights, soft music and candles. Close your eyes and settle in under the blankets for what you’ll likely find to be a soothing and relaxing experience.

The reiki practitioner will start at your head and scan your body with their hands hovering above your body, reading your energy and searching for warm and cold spots.  The practitioner is trained to use set hand positions or they may position their hands intuitively.  They might feel a sensation from a particular body part, such as trauma or digestive issues.  They can experience tingling, temperature changes or a wavelike motion as the energy flows.  The client might experience similar sensations or see colors behind their closed eyelids.

For Ann Latocha, owner of Belladerma Wellness Spa in Brewerton, it was personal health reasons that led her to the exploration of reiki; a gift that Ann says everyone has.  Ann has studied the scientific evidence on how reiki works and uses her wisdom to demystify reiki for her clients and guide them into an understanding so they aren’t afraid of the unknown. “If you think of a radio antenna, it receives information through waves.  When you become in tune with reiki, you learn to amp up the voltage”.

During a reiki session, Ann keeps the mood light by laughing, talking or joking with her clients.  “Reiki is very validated here in Central New York.  Crouse Hospital and Hematology-Oncology Associates offer reiki to patients.”

If you are considering reiki, seek treatment from a certified reiki practitioner or certified reiki master.  Discuss in advance the number of reiki sessions and the costs associated with those sessions.  Reiki is considered a component of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); you’ll want to inform your healthcare providers that you’re experiencing reiki for optimal health and well-being management.

For more information about reiki, visit www.reiki.org and http://nccam.nih.gov/health/reiki/.

Ann Latocha – Reiki Master, NYS Licensed Aesthetician, Certified Aromatherapist, Certified Laser Technician

Belladerma Wellness Spa

9570 Brewerton Road

Brewerton, NY 13029



Elizabeth Curley – Reiki Master and Animal Communicator

Whispering Wolf Wellness