Everythingspa’s Blog

CNYSPAGIRL blogs about all things spa

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

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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




Turtle Landing Retreat: A respite for mind, body and spirit February 8, 2011

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I had the best intentions of taking a take a tour of Turtle Landing Retreat for months now, but it seems that snow, more snow and hectic schedules somehow thwarted every attempt.  But even before I visited, I’d already decided that I just HAD to host an event there and had most of it mapped out in my head.  I’d been dreaming up a Women’s Wellness Weekend – complete with morning yoga, massages, a healthy cooking demonstration and organic wine tasting – before I’d even laid eyes on the place, but it all came into clear focus as soon as I started my tour.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Turtle Landing Retreat is the inspiration and passionate creation of Jamie Virkler of Baldwinsville. It’s a contemporary refuge surrounded by nature on the banks of the Oswego River, just 25 minutes from Syracuse. Recognizing that she herself is a better wife and mother after taking brief retreats with her girlfriends, Jamie opened Turtle Landing in October of 2010 to rave reviews from first-time and repeat guests. I had the pleasure of joining an in-progress Creative Memories scrapbook retreat for a one-night stay to experience all that Turtle Landing has to offer, spend some time with friends, make some new ones and enjoy the fabulous meals that the retreat has become known for.  I’m not a scrapbooker, but it doesn’t matter at Turtle Landing Retreat.  If you’re a crafter of any sort, you’ll be in heaven here.  And even if crafting pursuits aren’t your cup of tea, there are many other reasons to book a weekend, week or any length stay at Turtle Landing:  Family reunions, girlfriend getaways, bachelorette party, birthday celebration, rehearsal dinner and holiday gatherings are all welcome here.  If you can conjure it up, Jamie and her crew might just be able to accommodate it.

Turtle Landing is a cross between a bed-and-breakfast and a vacation home rental. Your hosts, Jamie and her father Larry Tuttle, offer attentive but unobtrusive service. Unlike a traditional bed-and-breakfast where the owners are onsite at all times, they’ll stop by during your stay to prepare and serve dinner (and take care of the cleanup too!), but they’ll leave you to enjoy the home for the rest of your stay. Breakfast and lunch will be left behind for you to enjoy at your leisure on your own timetable.  You’ll be so comfortable; you’ll feel like you’re in your own home with a personal chef preparing meals for you.

During my stay, the other guests endlessly praised their surroundings and unanimously agreed that Turtle Landing is the only place to scrapbook. Creative Memories Consultant Anna Maria Lankes, who was one of the hosts of the weekend scrapbooking retreat, says:  “It’s conveniently located in a relaxed, cozy atmosphere. It’s like you’re in your own house, but not.  You don’t have the cooking, cleaning or laundry to do.”  In fact, everything can be done for you.  You simply have to show up.  Your reservation can include exclusive use of the house plus meals, or you’re free to bring your own supplies and cook up a storm in the well-supplied gourmet kitchen.

There are five unique and creatively themed bedrooms at Turtle Landing. Thirteen twin beds are spread out among four bedrooms and one queen-sized bed is situated in a main floor bedroom with ensuite bath.  I spent the night in the fun Wild, Wild West room that sleeps 5.  It’s a huge room with a dormitory-style yet fun, festive and colorful feel to it.  It’s right next to the Life’s a Beach room that sleeps two and just down the hall from the Groovy Girls room that also sleeps two.  But the coolest bedroom in the whole house is the main floor Pussy Cat Doll’s room that sleeps four with a huge master bathroom, Jacuzzi tub and separate shower.  In total, the house has 3 ½ baths – an essential that you’ll appreciate when the house is at capacity with fifteen guests.

Turtle Landing Retreat


What strikes me most about Turtle Landing is that Jamie has thought of virtually everything.  There are baskets of rolled towels thoughtfully placed in each bedroom, throw blankets waiting fireside to cozy up on the leather sofa, and a well-stocked supply of snacks, drinks and basic food items in the kitchen and in the lower level multi-use room.  Flashlights are strategically placed in the bedrooms drawers, nightlights cast a soft glow in the hallways, and an Internet equipped computer and office space– all the amenities of a high quality hotel but with all the comforts of a luxury home.

Turtle Landing Retreat is a dream come true for scrapbookers and crafters who’ve formerly retreated at institutional style hotels and conference centers that lack charm and ambience.  Since the owner is a Creative Memories Consultant herself, the space was designed with scrapbooking in mind:  Six-foot long tables, great lighting, comfortable ergonomic chairs and room for 20.   The space is a well-outfitted venue for a productive executive retreat or business meeting too. A small refrigerator, microwave (popcorn too), Wi-Fi access and a separate entrance complete the space.

Relax outdoors at Turtle Landing Retreat

I’m sitting in the dining nook watching the Tuttle/Virkler clan working their magic together in the kitchen.  The crew operates like a well-oiled machine to get dinner on the table for the guests each night of their stay, if that’s your chosen preference. It’s a family affair:  Jamie’s in charge of the concept, the creativity, some of the baking and the bookings, just to name a few of her duties.  Larry handles the bulk of the meal prep – he’s a barbecue champ!  For nine-year old Megan Virkler, getting the chance to work closely with her mom and grandfather is the best part of serving guests at Turtle Landing.  She takes drink orders, sets and clears the table and stocks the fridge with the professionalism of someone many years her senior.  She happily dons an apron, nametag and logo shirt on weekends and pitches right in alongside her family.  She loves her grandfathers cooking (and for the record, so did we!) and thinks his tri-tip beef is his best recipe.  Her favorite bedroom is the beach-themed room because it reminds her of summer.

A typical Friday night dinner at Turtle Landing is homemade pizza and grilled wings.  Saturday breakfast is fresh-baked muffins, quick breads and fruit salad.  Lunch seems to miraculously appear and it might include a hearty soup from scratch, fresh bread and brownies or gourmet sandwiches and salads.  Sunday brunch might include a variety of quiche and fruit salad, plus all the leftovers from the weekend.  But the crowning gastronomic glory was dinner on Saturday night.  We feasted on a smoky pork loin stuffed with apple and cranberry bread stuffing, rosemary smashed potatoes and a lemon and tarragon vegetable medley, all lovingly prepared for us by Larry.  Not that we had room for dessert, but who can resist berry cheesecake to round out a meal?  Guests are welcome to bring their own wine or other adult beverages to enjoy with dinner and during their stay.  I coincidentally brought a bottle of Cranberry Frost from Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery that was a sensational match for Larry’s pork loin.


But back to my Women’s Wellness Weekend concept.  The riverside outdoor gazebo just begs to host a massage therapist and a very content client.  If nature doesn’t provide a cooling breeze, the gazebo’s ceiling fan will.  If an outdoor massage doesn’t appeal to you, Turtle Landing has an answer to that too.   The enormous first-floor master bathroom is large enough to accommodate a massage table and it’s so convenient to hop off the table and step right into the shower, if that’s your desire.

I had to promise Jamie that I’d come back once the snow melts to enjoy the four outside spaces to relax. There is a screened in gazebo on the river with cozy chairs and couches (the same gazebo that is just begging for a massage therapist to occupy the space). The wrap-around front porch has rocking chairs and a view of the river and boats passing by. The back deck and patio are is ideal for lounging, meetings or meals.

As you can see, I’ve already got my own event at Turtle Landing in the works.  What are you going to plan at Turtle Landing?  It was definitely worth the wait!

If you go:

Turtle Landing Retreat

130 Millard Bassett Road

Fulton, NY  13069



Turtle Landing Retreat - Safari Room


PRK laser eye surgery update January 20, 2011

Filed under: Zyoptix — everythingspa @ 4:51 pm
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Two weeks ago, I underwent a corrective laser eye surgical procedure known as Zyoptix PRK.  The procedure was to reduce my dependence on wearing glasses, which I’ve worn since second grade. I’ve been holding out on writing about my experience because I wanted to have some good news to write about.  Oh, and because I haven’t been able to see the keyboard or screen well enough until now.  Click here to read about my decision to have laser eye surgery.

What I can see since the surgery is quite a miracle.  Colors, textures and anything with really large font, like the Exit sign that I could see immediately after surgery.  And that’s amazing, considering my uncorrected vision was so poor.  It’s what I can’t see that’s been scaring me.  The surgery was in the neighborhood of $4,000, not covered by health insurance.  For that price, I want to be able to see without glasses until my age dictates I’ll need reading glasses – which my surgeon suggested would be in a few years.

When I first started writing this article, a few sentences at a time, I had the zoom blown up to 500%.  It was obnoxiously large, but its what I could see at the time.  Now, 200% zoom at close distance, with reading glasses, is just fine.  If this is as good as it gets, I’ll be disappointed for sure.  But my doctor has assured me, repeatedly, that everything I’m experiencing is normal and that my vision will get better.  Not overnight, but it will get better.

The procedure itself was painless and I barely experienced any discomfort. I was more uncomfortable when my doctor was explaining the steps of the procedure to me just before I went into surgery.  OK, so there may have been a little incident where I almost passed out and the surgery had to be delayed for about 20 minutes while I recovered from the cold sweats, nausea, and nearly blacking out.  But as soon as the feeling passed, I was ready to go!  (This isn’t my first near-fainting experience when it comes to medical procedures.  The mere act of having blood drawn has been known to cause this reaction.  Needless to say, I’m not a frequent supporter of blood drives – I’m just too high maintenance of a donor for that).

When my vision allows me to resume writing regularly again, I’m planning to write a more detailed account of the experience.  I’ve found it helpful to read other patients accounts of their experience and healing process and I’d like to do the same for others.

My left eye is trailing behind my right eye in visual acuity and healing.  This can be maddening at times because the left eye is so blurry and much more uncomfortable – scratchy, a little red, itchy and generally just a bit more “hyper”.  It took eight or nine days for my right eye to feel comfortable. If I focus too long, I get headaches above my eyes and in my forehead.  I’m able to use my laptop for a short duration with very large font at very close range.  Strong lighting is a must.  I went out and bought several pairs of reading glasses with various magnification powers and I’ve been using +2.0 to sharpen my vision and to be able to read a bit.  I started to be able to read for enjoyment for 10 or 15 minutes at a time around day 12 and that feels like more trouble than it’s worth.  This has perhaps been the toughest part about recovering from this surgery because I’m an avid reader.  By the end of the day, I can’t wait to close my eyes and sleep because of fatigue, eye pressure and pain.  By morning, I’m seeing my best and have a few hours before things start to go downhill again.

It took me 12 days post-surgery to feel comfortable enough to drive again.  I kept thinking that I’d get out and make a test run, but I kept putting it off because I didn’t have to drive and I didn’t feel I was ready.  My friends and family have been incredibly helpful and supporting:  bringing meals to my family (soup has been very popular), driving me to doctor appointments and taking me grocery shopping, lest I spend more than 3 or 4 days without a visit to Wegmans.

I’ll return to work on Monday after a 2-½ week absence.  I only expected to be out a week, but my visual acuity and discomfort have dictated otherwise.  I’m working up to being able to focus for more than short periods of time since my job requires using a PC almost 100% of the time.

Every day gets a little better: a little less uncomfortable, a little less pain, and just a little bit more visual clarity.  With PRK, the recovery time is significantly greater than Lasik.  It can take several months before the vision is completely stable and I can expect fluctuations during healing.  I can’t drive at night and may need glasses for night driving, but it’s too early to be fitted for glasses because my vision is changing so rapidly.  Needing a correction is not out of the question, but it’s not even an option for 2 to 3 months.  It takes about 6 months for follow-up care to be complete.

Many times over the last two weeks I’ve questioned my decision to have this surgery.  I miss the clear, sharp vision that my glasses provided and the quality of life I had before.  Just last night, I had a breakthrough and some of the pain and discomfort subsided in the left eye and the clarity is a little better today.  I’m holding off on casting final judgment until I’ve fully healed and until my vision stops changing.  Wish me luck and don’t hesitate to send a prayer, blessing or positive thought my way.  🙂  And I’ll be sure to ket you know how my first visit to the spa is without glasses when I finally get there.


Demystifying Couples Massage – Just in time for Valentine’s Day January 15, 2011

Resting Room at Spa Mirbeau

“I’d rather have a sharp stick in the eye”.  That’s what my husband would say if I suggested that we try a couples massage this Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter. You see, he’s not exactly the massage or spa treatment type of guy.  And that’s putting it mildly.  Since we’ve been paired up for most of my adult life, it’s probably no surprise that I’ve never experienced a couples massage; they’re not for everyone. But Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and if the traditional dinner and a movie seem all too familiar, it might be time to break out of that rut and try something new.

Valentines Day is the perfect excuse to book a couples massage.  Not that you need an excuse – massage is more than just a pampering indulgence.  Regular massage can provide relief from stress and pain, relaxation and long lasting effects for personal well-being. Can you think of a better way to enjoy quality time with a partner, loved one, friend or someone special?

Couples massages aren’t just offered at fancy spas; there are plenty of options around Central New York ranging from basic to luxury.  You can receive a massage at a wellness center, massage studio, day or resort spa or even in your home.  You can find independent massage therapists working for themselves or practicing out of a facility that offers massage and other spa treatments.

So what can you expect during a couples massage? A couples massage is generally offered in a private room that is large enough to accommodate side-by-side massage tables or in a special space dedicated to couples massages. Two therapists will work on the couple simultaneously.  Every spa or studio will offer different pricing for their couples massage offerings. If you’ve purchased a package or special deal, you might enjoy champagne or other beverage, fruit, chocolate, or other goodies before or after your treatment.  Your treatment might start with a foot soak or other add-on. If you want a basic couples massage without all the trimmings, just say so when you book the appointment.

Before the massage, your therapists will step out of the room while you and your partner disrobe to your comfort level.  You’ll get settled on the massage table and your therapist will knock before entering.  During the massage, you’ll be professionally draped with sheets and/or blankets except the area that is being massaged.  You can have a conversation with your partner or therapist or lose yourself silently in the treatment.  Gentle music might be playing in the background and can be customized to your liking.  Be sure to communicate your preferences to your therapist (deep tissue massage often carries an extra charge): pressure, lighting, music and warmth.

After the massage, your therapists will leave the room while you get dressed or put your robe back on.  If there are relaxation facilities, you might be invited to hang out for a while and relax.  You may want to shower (if available) or freshen up.

Tips for couples massage:

  • Appointments book up fast, especially for Valentine’s Day.  As soon as you’ve found a therapist or place that you’d like to try, book quickly.
  • Allow extra time.  Rushing into or out of a massage can defeat the purpose.  Be sure you have a little extra time to decompress before the massage and take time to relax before re-entering reality post-massage.
  • Ask about the cancellation policy before booking and make sure you can live with the terms.
  • When determining your budget for your couples massage, factor in gratuities for your therapists. Gratuities are typically 15% to 20% of the total cost of your treatment or package, depending on your experience.

Here are a number of ideas for a special Valentine’s Day couples massage experience throughout Central New York:

At Waterfalls Spa in Hope Lake Lodge at Greek Peak Mountain Resort, you’ll feel like a VIP when you book one of the truly decked out suites for your couples massage.  Personalization is the key to a specialized spa experience at this four season family resort near Cortland. Except for a small relaxation area, there aren’t any common spaces at Waterfalls Spa. Couples will be escorted to their private treatment suite to change, relax and enjoy time together. All treatment spaces have the ability to change color allowing complete customization of services and harmonization with the individual guest.

You can reserve a specific treatment, like a 60-minute Signature massage for two ($180), or you can reserve increments of time in one of the two luxurious Waterfalls spa suites (2 hours, $275; other time increments available).  The suites have been designed to accommodate most spa services; complete with two multipurpose tables, a two person tub that incorporates chromatherapy, sound resonance and vibration therapy, a two person infrared sauna, a shower and lounging area with a flat screen television for the ultimate spa event.  You might wish to book a two hour increment, start with a hydrotherapy bath with a customized bath additive, relax in the private seating area for a bit, and then enjoy a side-by-side couples massage.  Whatever you can conjure up, the professional staff at Waterfalls spa can work to customize a special experience just for you!

Waterfalls Spa at Hope Lake Lodge

Greek Peak Mountain Resort

2000 NYS Route 392

Cortland, NY 13045




SpaZend in Syracuse has just the answer to an alternative date night activity. If a candle-lit and rose petal strewn spa, wine, cheese and fruit, followed by a 50-minute couples aromatherapy massage sounds like a dream, book an appointment for “Date Night”, a wildly popular offering from SpaZend ($150). The event is held one Friday each month from 6 to 9 pm. SpaZend has partnered with Strong Hearts Café across the hall to offer all Date Night participants 10% off their meal if you’d like to stay for dinner.  Guests are encouraged to come early or stay after their treatment to enjoy the soothing relaxation room, have tea or refreshments and enjoy the company of that special someone.

Date Night at SpaZend

“We love the idea of giving people in Syracuse another option” says spa owner Liz Goldenberg. Former participants have described the event as “a magical evening”. Other patrons remarked how “everything was so romantic!”.


719 East Genesee Street

Syracuse, NY 13210

(315) 424-3772



Jeannine Gettis is a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) and owner of Hearts Content Healing who offers massage therapy at two locations throughout Central New York.  I enjoyed the gift of a highly customized session with Jeannine at Kelly’s Massage and Holistic Health Spa in Manlius.  She’ll pair up with another therapist to offer couples massages in a purposely-designed couples suite with an infrared sauna.  A basic 60-minute couples massage is normally $140, but customized packages with add-ons can be arranged for Valentine’s Day. “

Jeannine Gettis, LMT



Kelly’s Massage and Holistic Health Spa

136 W. Seneca Tpke (Route 173)

Manlius, NY  13104



At Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Skaneateles, couples can enjoy a posh resort experience without the added expense of spending the night.  Matt Dower, Spa Director at Mirbeau, encourages couples to check in as early as possible, enjoy all the amenities the spa has to offer such as the dry sauna, herbal infused steam rooms, fireside resting area with foot pool and all-season Aqua Terrace with 15 person freeform whirlpool.  The workout room features cardio and strength training equipment and the motion studio offers exercise class, all included in the price of your treatment.

Spa Mirbeau Monet Room for couples treatments

Mirbeau is Best for Romance according to SpaFinder Readers’ Choice Awards for several consecutive years, including 2010.  Dower tells us the most popular couples treatment is The Art of Living, combining an herbal bath in an oversized soaking tub for two, chocolate covered strawberries and then a luxurious side-by-side massage in front of a fire in one of their signature treatment suites for two.  The 100-minute treatment is priced at $400 (Mon-Thu) and $430 (Fri-Sun).

Mirbeau Inn & Spa

851 West Genesee St., Skaneateles, New York 13152

1-877-MIRBEAU (647-2328)


While a couples massage isn’t in the cards for me this Valentine’s Day, I hope you take the opportunity to take time for yourselves and do something calming, relaxing and fabulous for your well-being.  A couples massage might just be what the doctor ordered.


A slight delay for my new and improved vision January 4, 2011

The house was clean, the laundry was done, the groceries were bought and put away.  All the childcare and carpool arrangements had been made. Well-wishing friends had claimed their assignments in answer to the most welcome question: “How can I help?”  We were on time for our scheduled appointment, even a few minutes early. Everything was ready for my corrective laser eye surgical procedure (Zyoptix), it seems, except the laser.

My husband and I had just pulled into the parking lot of the laser surgery center when my cell phone rang. There was a problem with the laser.  It’s being repaired, but not in time for my procedure that was scheduled to start in 45 minutes.  No, I’m not kidding.  It’s rescheduled for the morning of Thursday 1/6.

So we headed back to the highway, back to our home. To the clean house, with the well-stocked fridge and pantry.  To reverse the childcare and carpool arrangements.   To reschedule the efforts of the well-meaning friends and family.  To worry just a little more.  And we’ll do it all over again in 48 hours.  Well, hopefully not all of it.

To read my original post about my scheduled Zyoptix surgery and how I expect it to allow me to see my next spa visit through a fresh set of eyes (literally!), click here.