Welcome to our Winter e-Newsletter. In this issue, our talented and knowledgeable spa experts will give you tips based on a common theme: Warm, Bright & Happy. During the darker days of winter, we have helpful information on how to boost your spirits, improve your mood, and bring light into your environment. 

Topics covered this month include:

 
     
 

SPA

chocolateSpa Director Betty Loiacono welcomes you to enter a world of comforting spa services that will delight your senses and boost your spirits this winter.

We’re using elements of chocolate, rose, sugar and champagne for our winter “Celebrate the Season” spa services.  What better ingredients to  keep your mood elevated through the gray skies of winter?

These luxurious spa services are designed to connect you to comforting memories,  indulge the senses and nourish your body. We use aromatherapy, carefully sourced ingredients, and our own spa touch to create a special experience. Our goal is to bring you mentally and emotionally to a place of peace and tranquility. And for your body, our services offer the benefits of deep hydration and nourishment for your skin, deep relaxation and the release of tension from tired muscles. 

From now through the end of March, we invite you to enjoy our Champagne Facial*, Chocolate & Rose Body Wrap, Cocoa Rose Sugar Scrub, and Chocolate Rose Manicure and Pedicure. The simple aroma of chocolate provides both pleasure and comfort. The scent of a rose crème can transport you from a bleak day in February to a garden in June.  Champagne extract provides vitamins and amino acids for the skin.

Celebrate the arrival of 2010 with an energizing and nutritious Champagne Facial* that will give you a bubbly outward glow.  Let your body savor our Chocolate & Rose Body Wrap or Cocoa Rose Sugar Scrub. And don’t overlook our seasonal manicure and pedicure, which are one-of-a kind indulgences. The Chocolate Rose Manicure and the Chocolate Rose Pedicure include a soak in a softening chocolate, an exfoliation with cocoa rose sugar scrub, and a chocolate masque, followed by application of a rose crème, then polish.

All of this takes place in the Spa, and the delicious aromas might make you a bit hungry. We invite you to dinner at Kensington’s, where you will find roses on the tables, a not-too-sweet molten chocolate lava cake on the dessert menu, and a wine list with many excellent varieties of Champagnes and other sparkling wines. There also is a new winter dining menu representing Earth, Ocean, Sea & Air. We think you will enjoy it.

Please accept our warmest wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

* Not for sensitive skin
 

 

BOUTIQUE

Our retail guru, Amy Edgar, meditates on candles in winter. You can, too.

A lit candle in the window has said ‘welcome home’ for centuries, and the tradition continues to this day. We dress our tables with candles and use them to brighten our domestic landscapes. We light them to send a prayer or intention on its way, or in memory of a loved one. We count our years by them. And we often use them as centerpieces for holidays and celebrations because they create a sense of warmth and well-being.

This season, make a retreat from the hustle and bustle that surround the New Year. Taking the essence of candlelight to heart, compose an arrangement of complementary candles as a centerpiece or a focal point. You can also create a sanctuary inside your home as a place to unwind at the end of the day. Find a quiet corner and a comfy chair, light your favorite candle, put on some soothing music and just breathe! 

Guests in our Boutique tell us that they place candles on the bath and powder room counters, behind shower doors and across the tub lip; on the stove top; along a porch railing and as luminaries on a pathway, inside fireplaces, and of course, in windows.  One guest collects jars throughout the year, fills them with votives and hangs them from wire in the tree outside her window. It looks beautiful when viewed from indoors or outdoors.

Candles come in so many beautiful shapes and sizes, not to mention scents.  There are beautifully ornate carved works of art, more simple candles in jars, traditional shapes including pillars and tapers, and modern candles in practically any shape you can imagine. There are even candles in tins to take on your travels. The most popular candles these days are made from soy or beeswax and have a lead-free wick.  They burn much cleaner, and thus, greener, which is always good. Trimming the wick to ¼” before lighting keeps the wax from pooling and drowning the light. We stock many candles in our Boutique.

Remember:  keep safety in mind as you illuminate the season with candles. Ensure flames are not near flammable fabrics, furniture, or in harm's way. Keep candles away from children and pets. While you’re thinking about decorative candles, it’s also a good time to replenish your supply of household emergency candles. Be sure you keep your matches dry in a lidded glass jar, and that you have working roadside flares in the trunk of your car. 

Our best wishes for a merry and bright 2010 to you and your family!
 

 

FROM CHEF DAN'S KITCHEN

Food can be a good mood enhancer. So can certain herbs, exercise and meditation. Chef Daniel Chong-Jimenez gives you his advice on all three approaches in  "Mood Enhancing Foods & Other Tricks." And he's also included a recipe for Black Bean and Chocolate Happy Soup.

Mood, it seems, sometimes takes a life of its own.  It can take control of a situation and lead it to success or utter catastrophe.  Sometimes, we don’t want to acknowledge what is bothering us: “Leave me alone, I’m in a terrible mood.” Or “I didn’t mean what I said; it’s just that I was in a weird mood.”

There are other options besides the larger steps of  therapy and prescription medications that can help us improve our mood. Food and activity can be both fun and rewarding.

Mood Food:

Comfort foods are good mood enhancers because they work on two levels – the body and the mind.  Carbohydrate comfort foods stimulate the body to release serotonin, a brain messenger that elevates mood.  Comfort foods also remind us of happier times in childhood, when eating a sweet provided pleasure and satisfaction, although we didn’t know then that seratonin was helping raise our mood.

Chocolate is the favorite mood enhancer because it provides one of nature’s best sensory experiences.  It contains both sugar and fat.  The sugar triggers a serotonin response.  The fat (cocoa butter) lands on the taste receptors that then signal you that a good thing has landed on your tongue.  Chocolate also contains a variety of antioxidants that protect our bodies from cellular damage. Experts like to recommend dark chocolate because it’s lower in fat and higher in antioxidants.

Ice cream is another favorite, but unfortunately the abuse of it can lead to rapid weight gain.  Again sugar and fat play lead roles as chemicals triggering pleasure responses.  The sensory pleasure of ice cream alone makes this sinful food worth the transgression … but be mindful of portion control.

More recently, fish oil, naturally high in omega-3 fatty acid, has been touted as a mood stabilizer.  The research isn’t clear as to how it works, but experiments clearly show that there is a correlation between the consumption of omega-3 fats and a decrease in the incidence of depression.  You can find these oils in salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and many other ocean fishes.  Another way is to take fish oil supplements.  If you do, always check with your doctor and buy quality product.

Herbs:

St. John’s Wort is well-known as a natural aid for mild depression.  Research shows that there is not much difference between it and a placebo, but millions take it regularly.  There is research underway to test its effectiveness in mild depression.  Other herbs and teas include jasmine, rose, orange blossom and oat husk, among many others.  If they don’t enhance or stabilize mood or help abate depression, at least they make the moment pass more pleasantly.  Think about enjoying a hot cup of jasmine or orange blossom tea sweetened with a touch of honey and accompanied by powdery tea cookies. Again, check with your doctor regarding any herbs you want to take.

Exercise:

Physical activity plays a very important role in mood stability.  Research continues to show that regular exercise keeps the mind focused and the mood steady.  Recent studies show that our internal clock can be reset through vigorous exercise.  This was demonstrated in experiments with subjects suffering from jet lag.  After vigorous exercise, the symptoms diminished and quickly disappeared.

A regimen of regular exercise and a good diet are probably the best natural medicine for maintaining a stable outlook.

Meditation:

As recently as 10 years ago, most people thought that meditation was something that was practiced only by men in saffron robes, and by hippies.  Today more and more “regular” folks are actively participating in this activity of non-activity.  Physicians are recommending it as a way to manage pain and lessen anxiety for people being treated for cancer, AIDS, infertility and depression, among other conditions. An article in Time magazine, “Just Say Om,” discusses how doctors are recommending its application in a variety of formats.

From personal experience, I can say that meditation works wonders for my mood.  It helps me maintain a sense of calm in adversity and helps stimulate my creativity.  Brain scans show that regular meditation practice actually changes the anatomy of the brain to one consistent with good mental health.

The best approach is a combination of all of the above:  good nourishment based on moderation and a broad variety of foods, parsed with occasional doses of comforting foods like chocolate and other antioxidant-rich treats, herbal teas and regular exercise.

Mood Enhancing Foods and Other Tricks
By Daniel Chong-Jiménez

A Recipe For You

Black Bean and Chocolate Happy Soup
By Daniel Chong-Jiménez
Serves 12

Amount Measure Ingredient
10 cups chicken stock
2 cups dry black beans
1/2 cup chopped Spanish onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tahini (sesame butter)
1 tsp chopped Serrano pepper (hot)
1 tsp Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 clove garlic
1 each bay leaf
    salt & pepper
  1. Heat a thick-bottomed pot to medium heat.
  2. Add the olive oil, onions, celery, peppers and garlic.  Cook until translucent.
  3. Add the beans, cocoa and bay leaf and stock.  Cook at a simmer until the beans are soft and tender.
  4. Stir in the Tahini and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer the soup to a blender and purée to a velvety consistency.  Serve hot.

Nutritional Facts per one ounce serving:
Portion size: 1 cup, Calories: 159, Protein: 8 grams, Carbohydrates: 23 grams, Total Fat: 4 grams, Saturated Fat: trace.

 

 

HOUSEKEEPING

Everyone needs a quiet cozy nook somewhere in the house as a retreat.

Whether man, woman or child we all need our private space, and it should be a place that we carve out for ourself.

For the male it can be a corner of the family room, or if he is lucky, a small den of his own, with his favorite chair, good lighting and surrounded by his favorite reading material and, of course, the TV remote. The man of the family might also enjoy a section of the basement or garage to set up a workshop for himself to enjoy his favorite hobby or project.

For the children usually their room is their retreat. A desk and chair where they can comfortably do their homework with good lighting, a comfy chair to cozy up in to read and, of course, talk on their cell phone or to just listen to their favorite "tunes." Kids almost naturally carve out a space in their rooms to 'do their own thing.'

For the woman of the house, if she is lucky she may be able to convert a small bedroom into her private getaway at home. She may choose to do handwork such as quilting, crocheting or knitting in her quite private place, write in a journal, or even do some yoga. It might be just the space to surround herself with favorite things she has collected over the years or things the children have made during their school years, or just a space to go for some solitude. If you do not have a special room you can call your own, take a small section of your bedroom and put a comfy chair or chaise where you can go to read, relax and get away for a bit of quiet time.

If none of these options are available to you, go into the bathroom, close the door and take a long, leisurely bubble bath, relax by quietly reading a book or magazine while you soak, or just let your thoughts drift. You need those precious minutes of down time for yourself. Be creative. And don't feel guilty about it. Sometimes you just have to seize the moment and do what is right for you.