Welcome to our winter e-Newsletter, in which our talented and knowledgeable spa experts will give you some tips on how to care for yourself and your home during the winter months.

 
 
 
 

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Each of us is made up of mind, body and spirit. Your spirit is your inner self -- a non-physical part of you that is the core of your emotions and character. It’s your true self. Nourishing the self should be a fundamental practice for all who seek peace and happiness in life, yet so many of us do not find the time and space to do that.

Too often when we think of how to take better care of ourselves, we make a New Year’s Resolution to increase our exercise and decrease our daily calorie intake. While taking care of your physical body is very important and has been addressed often in this newsletter, so is taking care of your self.

Do you find yourself over time trying to squeeze more tasks into each day’s plan… and require that you complete them all in the same day? If so, you many find that you are in motion from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep. This leaves you with little downtime for thought and self-reflection. And if you are primarily engaged in taking care of others, plus taking care of your own external tasks and responsibilities, you may not be taking care of your self. If you continue this pattern for a significant period of time, you may find yourself overcome by exhaustion.

How do you learn to better care for your self? Let’s start at a basic level –just take a few minutes to stop your activity and the noise around it. Sit down in a quiet place. Close your eyes. Listen to your breath and slow down your breathing rate. Take a deep, slow in-breath. Expand your diaphragm and fill your lungs. Now release it by slowly exhaling. Continue this while you visualize a place you would like to be. Or continue to breathe while thinking of nothing at all. When you feel you have sufficiently calmed down and are breathing at a relaxed rate, open your eyes. You may find that something – even something small – has shifted in your perspective. Make this practice part of your day – and be sure to stop and use it if you start to feel overwhelmed. Gradually, increase the amount of time you spend in this meditative exercise. Breathing with eyes closed seems like such a small thing, but it slows you down, helps you relax and enables you to connect with your true self.

The next step is to start taking active time for your self - daily or weekly – whatever you can arrange. Do something you enjoy – take a walk, go to the movies, get your hair or nails done, schedule a massage or just take an afternoon nap. Make a phone call and catch up with a family member or an old friend. Have a cup of tea and actually read that magazine that has been sitting on your coffee table for a month.

I confess that I sometimes find myself thinking that I have to complete every single task before I leave for work or before I go to bed at night. With a full-time job, extended family, three children, and a dog, I am beginning to realize that the expectations I have set for myself are not only not good for me, they are nearly impossible to accomplish. I have now given myself permission to allow some of these things to wait until the following day, and I am finding that to be okay. My new routine is to prioritize each day and determine what HAS to be completed and, just as important, what can wait. Caring for one’s self, I believe, is not something that can wait.

We at the Spa wish you the very best for a new beginning in the New Year of 2013!

 
 

BOUTIQUE

Brrr! The cold weather is upon us, and we’re wearing socks and boots and hats and mittens. Now, just because we are covered up doesn’t mean we can skip all the hard work we have done over the past several months to keep our hands, feet and especially heels in pretty, show off shape! There isn’t much that will dry out the extremities as quickly as the harsh cold and the dry indoor air of winter.

There is much we can and should do to keep these areas supple and hydrated. Take a look at your hands; do they look the same age as you do? Unless you are a hand model and your hands are insured for thousands of dollars, you probably take them for granted! I know it takes me a while to get in the habit of putting gloves on when the weather starts turning cold. It’s the same with socks and tights, I fight it as long as I can!

I must sound like a broken record but, as always, the key is hydration. When I was a child, I remember my mother making me slather my hands with hand cream and sleep with little white gloves on to keep the cream on my hands for an extended period. Not everyone will go the sleeping-with-gloves-on route these days, so there are many products that will give the same results while awake. Look for formulas with nut oils and vitamins as ingredients. Also check for skin-brightening ingredients like magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, all found in our Hand Revitalizing Treatment. Your hands will thank you!

The feet and heels are the next priority areas that need extra attention in the cold weather. There is nothing like a winter pedicure to soothe and pamper! In between those pedis keep up with thick moisturizers that contain shea butter. You also might want to try a specific product for heels such as Cucumber Heel Therapy. For a treat, buy a pair of heated booties in anticipation of when you are curled up by the fire with a good book. To prepare to relax, apply your favorite moisturizer to your feet, pop the booties in the microwave to heat up for a minute or so and you have a soothing little spa experience at home. The booties from our Boutique come in Lavender or Eucalyptus.

 
 

FROM OUR KITCHEN TO YOURS

Coq au vin

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into thin strips
  • Two 3-pound whole chickens, cut into serving-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, cores removed, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 2 cups sliced leeks, white parts only, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch sliced parsnip rounds
  • 1 cup 1/4-inch sliced celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 750 ml bottle good-quality dry white wine, such as Chardonnay or Meursault
  • 1 cup seedless green grapes
  • 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Cooked noodles, steamed rice, or French bread, for serving

Serves 6 to 8

Preheat oven to 325°

In a large Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.

Season chicken with 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons white pepper. In the same Dutch oven, working in batches, brown chicken in rendered bacon fat over medium-high heat until golden on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Once browned, transfer chicken to a platter and set aside. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Pour off and discard any remaining fat and any dark bits left in pan, and return pan to stove. Add butter and whisk in flour, stirring constantly and reaching every portion of the bottom of the pot, until the roux begins to take on some color. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low and continue cooking and stirring constantly until the roux reaches a dark blond color. Add fennel, leeks, mushrooms, parsnip, celery, and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated.

Add grapes, stock, thyme, bay leaf, remaining wine, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper and bring to a brisk simmer. Add browned chicken back to pan; cover and place in oven. Cook until chicken is tender and sauce has thickened, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf; discard. Serve directly from the Dutch oven, over cooked noodles or rice, or with warm French bread. Garnish with bacon.

 
 

HOUSEKEEPING

Cleaning solid wood furniture is not as laborious as you might think. If the wood is quite dried out, which can be especially true of older pieces and antiques, I recommend a wood-restoring product. The one I like is Howard’s Restor-A-Finish, which comes in eight different wood shades. The product restores, but does not strip, the finish.

Oh, what it does for the wood! It goes deep to do its job. One coat may work… or you might have to apply a second coat if you see some spotting, which happens if the piece of furniture has some areas that are drier than others.

When you’ve got the finish right, follow up with a paste wax, which you usually only need to apply once a month. (I urge you not to use weekly spray waxes on your wood furniture – they really do leave a wax build-up.) I use Howards Feed and Wax from the same company. It is a blend of beeswax, carnauba wax and orange oil. You can find these and similar products on the Internet. (As you can tell by reading my essays, I tend to look for my cleaning products in hardware and specialty stores, or online, rather than at the supermarket.)

I just had a pleasant experience with these products on two tables I was thinking about throwing away. My sister did the process and the tables look so good I decided I could not part with them!

For your weekly maintenance of wood furniture, dust, preferable with a microfiber cloth. And for monthly maintenance, dust and then re-wax. The secret to the care of wood furniture is care and upkeep; and less is more in the frequency of polishing.