Winter Break in Kahneeta

I’d seen the turnoff for years, but never gone down the 15 or so miles from Highway 26 to Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa in central Oregon. But I finally did the day before the last day of 2015.

Kahneeta waterslideIt turned out winter was a good time to visit, as not so many people want to swim in the double-Olympic mineral water pool when the temperature is below freezing. However, the pool is gloriously warm. Steam floats magically over the warm water. A lifeguard in a parka and ski mask patrols the pool’s edge.

Village at KahneetaWe stayed in the area called The Village so we could bring the world’s cutest dog. The exterior looks like a condo. Inside we had a large room with a table, one comfortable chair, a Murphy bed and a full kitchen. Even after we pulled the bed out of the closet, we still had plenty of space. The kitchen was fully equipped with dishes, fridge, stove, microwave, dishwasher and coffee maker. We got a winter deal of $138 for one night, including dog, pool pass, breakfast for two and taxes.

Kahneeta fireplaceKahneeta breakfastThe Village is very close to the mineral pool, but a mile or so down Highway 26 from The Lodge. The Lodge is nicer in that it has a common area with an awesome fireplace, but it would be a drag to have to drive to the mineral pool, which really seems to be the biggest attraction. However, we did go to The Lodge to check in and for breakfast. The dining room’s huge windows provide views of the central Oregon landscape. A nice break from the prolific trees of Portland. The breakfast menu had plenty of standard choices for vegetarians – pancakes, eggs, potatoes – and a couple for vegans. I got oatmeal with raisins and vanilla soy milk, and thick slices of wheat bread with huckleberry jam.

KahneetaA network of hiking trails surrounds the resort. We walked up far enough behind The Lodge to take in the view, and to get glamour shots of Rudy, world’s cutest dog.

This was a relaxing overnight from Portland. I suspect it’s bonkers in summer with two zillion kids on the water slides. So if you like a quieter time to visit — when you can actually swim laps — winter might be for you.

New Year Fitness Review: Topo Athletic Tribute Shoes

Like most travelers, I hate paying checked bag fees so am always trying to squash as much stuff as possible into my carry-on. Shoes are the worst problem – it’s very hard to fit even one pair in my hand luggage, let alone two. The Topo Athletic Tribute shoes are the lightest, most packable shoes I’ve found yet. They pack almost flat and weigh only a few ounces. The breathable mesh upper is designed to keep feet a comfortable temperature, and evaporate sweat so your luggage doesn’t end up smelling like dirty gym shoes.

My new Topos have enough support that I’ve used them for jumping rope and doing step aerobics, as well as lifting weights. Ideally I like even more support, so they won’t replace my everyday at-home shoes. But for traveling? They’re definitely winners.Topo Athletic Tribute

New Year Fitness Review: Body Works Band

Body Works BandHow many times have you packed a resistance band in your suitcase and then forgotten all but two or three exercises you can do with it? The Body Works Band solves that problem by printing 11 exercises right on it. You’ll never forget your seated rows, squats, seated chest flyes, tricep extensions, hip extensions, lateral arm raises, side leg raises, hammer curls, inner thigh crossovers, crunches or prone back extensions again.

Estelle Underwood, a South Pasadena exercise trainer, developed the Body Works Band. It’s a nifty tool which I plan to take on my next trip.

If you buy the Body Works Band, let it air out before you pack it. It outgases in a heavy-duty way – enough that my dog was intrigued and tried to eat it. When a non-food item smells strongly enough to attract the dog, you don’t want to immediately confine it in a suitcase.

New Year Fitness Review: Skipfit

SkipfitI definitely plan to bring my new Skipfit, made by Empower Fitness, on my next trip. It weighs only a few ounces and provides a good cardio workout. You attach the strap around one ankle, then skip so that the ball swings under your other foot. I picked it up quickly with the strap around my right ankle. The left took a little more practice.

Skiptfit

It’s hard to imagine using the Skipfit for more than two or three minutes at a time. But it would be excellent for a quick workout in a hotel room when you only have 15 minutes and/or the hotel gym is cruddy or nonexistent. For example, alternating between, two minutes of Skipfit, some pushups, tricep dips, squats, lunges and plank wouldn’t take long and would be a whole lot better than nothing. Which is what I’m usually looking for in a travel workout, rather than perfection.

 

New Year Fitness Review: Crossrope

Crossrope starter setA jump rope that comes with a DVD? When I unpacked my new Crossrope starter set from its shipping box, I found that a tad intimidating. Instead, I focused on the ropes themselves. Crossrope is an interchangeable weighted jump rope system. You can attach and detach the ropes – weighing from two ounces to three pounds – to a pair of sturdy handles.

My circuit training class helped me test them. We tried the very light black rope, and a heavy bright orange rope that looks like an extension cord. The light rope was fun and quick. The orange was brutal! I’d never used a weighted jump rope before and wasn’t prepared for how much more arm work it is. I probably made it 30 seconds before needing a break.

People who are serious about their jump roping will love the Crossrope set. It will travel well, too, especially the lighter-weight ropes. The only thing I don’t like about it is I find the catches on the handles a little hard to open – thought I’d bend my fingernails back switching out the ropes.

10 Things I Love about Staying at Monastère des Augustines

I recently spent two nights at the Monastère des Augustines, the fabulously restored 17th century monastery turned wellness hotel in Quebec City. I’d wanted to stay there since I first heard about it opening in August. The Monastère did not disappoint. It’s right in the old walled city, so guests can wander around and see old buildings and more old buildings, which is one of my favorite things to do. Here are 10 more excellent features of the Monastère.

Silent breakfast

The Augustinian nuns who first arrived in Quebec in 1639 had a long tradition of silent breakfast, except they had a novice nun reading religious texts while everybody else was silent. Nowadays, the server might whisper an inquiry about whether or not you want coffee. But other than that, blessed silence! Who needs to make conversation first thing in the morning?

Vegan food!

monastere des augustines mung bean burgerI thought I’d faint when I saw coconut yogurt on the breakfast buffet. And both soy and rice milk. And lots of nuts and dried fruits as toppings. I also ate dinner there one night. They have a whole vegetarian salad bar, mostly of premade salads mixing vegetables and grains. For an entrée I ordered a house-made mung-bean burger. The chef even whipped up a special olive tapenade for me since the usual one has anchovies. Oh, and when you enter the restaurant, there’s the most massive refrigerator full of microgreens, which they change out every few days because they serve so many.

monastere des augustines microgreens in rstauran

Antiques in my room

Instead of keeping all the nuns’ artifacts behind glass or in storage, the rooms incorporate old monastery furniture. I had an old wardrobe, nightstand and desk.

3 yoga opportunities per day

Three! Seven in the morning, noon and 5:30 in the evening. I went to the early morning session, which was just a little movement and a lot of meditation.

Museum

Guests can tour the onsite museum for free. I learned more about the history of this order of nuns, who are responsible for TWELVE hospitals in the province of Quebec. These were some smart, industrious and caring ladies.

Relics

relics monastere des augustinesI’ve always loved the Catholic tradition of relics. I got a chance to visit the chapel which the remaining nine nuns in residence still use. And there I saw relics of the Blessed Marie-Catherine of St. Augustine, the order’s most famous member. She’s already partway to sainthood, and perhaps Pope Francis will canonize her soon. The nuns are understandably proud of her. One of her femurs and some cervical bones are displayed in a relic case.

Religious artwork

monastere des augustines quebec artWhile the wellness center is a secular space, it’s decorated with lots of Catholic paintings and statues. Fun to browse the hallway art.

Idea of unplugging

monastere des augustines Quebec unplugLittle signs all over encourage guests to unplug. The spotty Wi-Fi in the building also encourages unplugging. I made it about three minute. But it’s a really nice idea.

Meeting nuns

I met a couple of the nuns, who were lovely. At the monastery’s peak, 225 Augustinian nuns lived here. But the number of women entering religious life has nosedived since the 1960s. Sister Sarah McDonald, one of very few young women to enter the order in recent years, gave my little group an excellent tour of the chapel and told us about the life of Blessed Marie-Catherine. I liked the way she explained the spiritual path: “Each vocation starts with one little yes, and then becomes a plenitude.”

A caring place

The Monastère reserves seven of its 65 rooms for caregivers and people who accompany a loved one to the hospital next door. The Hotel Dieu hospital specializes in cancer and dialysis and serves many people in more remote areas of Quebec. The Monastère also offers free retreats for family caregivers to come and recharge. And that makes me love the place even more.

VegeNation: Another Vegan Vegas Find

Vegenation in VegasAfter not expecting much food-wise from Vegas, I was in for quite a few vegan thrills. The all plant-based VegeNation was only a few blocks from my downtown hotel. All their food is vegan, and most of it is locally sourced. You can get salads, pizzas, smoothies, an artisan vegan cheese and fruit plate, tacos made with jackfruit instead of meat, and lots of other veg food.

I wanted to order it all. But since I was staying in a room without a fridge, I tried to restrain myself. I hate to waste food. So I focused on the smaller stuff. My favorite thing was a Bao Wow, a steamed bun with Asian barbecue tofu, spinach, shitake mushroom on a bao bun, as pictured here.

Vegenation steamed bunI also ate a side of curried red beans and quinoa. The curry sauce rendered these superfoods delicious. On a second trip, I tried the Mexican hummus, made with chipotle peppers, lime and black beans. Much better than regular hummus, that’s for sure. I still regret not ordering one intriguing dessert, the chocolate tacos with salted caramel sauce. At the time I told myself I didn’t need dessert. But now I think maybe I did!

I like a veg place that isn’t afraid to show its ethics in a fun and colorful way. I dug this pig picture with the message “Friend not Food.”

Vegenation pig photoChef and owner Donald Lemperle has cooked in lots of top restaurants during his 30+ year career. But after he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer a few years back, he decided to investigate ways to improve his health. Between adopting a vegan diet, exercise and a positive mindset, he felt better and was convinced of the power of veganism.

My friendly young waitress seemed unsurprised by the restaurant’s success in the year or so since it’s been open. “I just think people are realizing how important it is to eat plant-based foods,” she told me matter-of-factly. Wow. This is so much better than the Vegas of old! At least, for people who eat like me and their friends, the pigs.

Simply Pure: Las Vegas Vegan Find!

Simply Pure is a raw vegan restaurant in the awesome Downtown Container Park. I was starved for vegetables, and did they ever make me a giant salad. The Asian salad is field greens, cabbage, marinated mushrooms, avocado, sesame seeds and seaweed. I felt ten times better after eating it.

Asian salad Simply Pure (1 of 1)Owner and chef Stacey Dougan was on the premises, so I corralled her into an impromptu interview. Originally from Detroit, she owned a restaurant called Everlasting Life in Atlanta before moving out west. She founded Simply Pure in December 2013, when the Container Park opened.

“The response has been tremendous,” Dougan said. “We work on developing the flavors, and making sure that people who are not vegan don’t miss anything.” Guests are about half local and half out of town visitors, she said.

“Vegas is on the upswing as far as healthy options,” she said. “That’s the direction people are going.”

Hallelujah! On my previous trip to Vegas, about 12 years ago, the closest to vegan I could find was a Subway vegetable sandwich. But now with Simply Pure and few other newish veg places, I ate really, really well in Vegas.

Las vegas Container Park Container Park 2 (1 of 1)The Container Park is a mini mall made of shipping containers. Shop here for local art, gifts and knickknacks. Kids can play in a fun playground featuring…yes, containers!  And don’t miss Stacey’s coconut-based chocolate cheesecake or other delicious vegan treats.

Olympic Peninsula Highlights

Hoh rainforest Olympic Peninsula

 

Planning your trip to Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula only two weeks ahead during high season means a lot of places will already be booked. Everybody wants to visit in August, when this famously rainy area is a little drier.

Another thing about the peninsula: It’s big. The southernmost part is about four hours north of Portland, the northernmost at least seven. And if you want to drive around the entire Olympic National Park? Well, that’s at least 8 hours in the car. And you did want to get out and hike, didn’t you?

Add a dog into the equation, and you have a bigger quandary. Like most national parks, Olympic isn’t exactly a dog fan. We found the Olympic National Forest much more welcoming.

But my boyfriend, dog and I still managed to have a beautiful, magical four days on the Olympic Peninsula. Here are a few highlights.

Marmot Pass

Marmot Pass
Marmot Pass breakRelaxing at Marmot Pass

Climbing 3500 feet in 5.2 miles is a bit of a slog, but a beautiful one. This is on the drier eastern side of the peninsula, so chances for avoiding rain are better here. We took our time walking along the Big Quilcene River beneath old-growth hemlocks and cedars. Once the path turns away from the river, the steep part begins. But the views make it worth it. If you’re like me – not so sure-footed on the steep downhill – I highly recommend trekking poles. And snacks. And a water filter. I hoped my efforts would be rewarded by seeing a large extended family of marmots at the top, but we only saw one.

Ruby Beach

Who needs sunny beaches when you have mysterious fog, giant driftwood, and tide pools filled with green anemones and ochre stars? This gorgeous beach pleased us all. It’s right on Highway 101, 27 miles south of vampire-filled Forks. Good for tide pool-watching, sitting on a log to chat with friends or throwing a stick to your dog. Wear a jacket. Don’t expect a suntan.Ruby Beach Olympic peninsula

  ochre star Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach Olympic

The Glen Ayr Resort

The Glen Ayr Resort offers motel rooms or RV camping in Hoodsport, at the southern end of the peninsula and right on the Hood Canal. Our room was pretty standard, but some of the amenities made the place special. The large Jacuzzi and picnic gazebo were pretty great. But my favorite Glen Ayr amenity is a private dock on the Hood Canal. Boaters and divers love this. For me, it was one of the greatest places ever for early morning yoga. The tide was very low in the morning. So I saw sea stars, anemones and bazillions of barnacles on the exposed pilings. Just inches above the water level, the dock rolled with the water’s motion, and at times brought me almost eye to eye with curious seals. I hoped to see the tentacle of a giant Pacific octopus, but that was a little much to ask. Later my dentist told me that his first diving experience was at the Hood Canal. Underwater, he shared a raw scallop with a fearsome-looking wolf eel. I love the Hood Canal!Glen Ayr Resort

yoga on the dock at the Glen Ayr
photo by Gideon Parque

Hoh Rainforest

We debated going to the Hoh itself. This quintessential Pacific Northwest rainforest is in the national park itself. The park allows dogs on a few very short and crowded trails. After lots of discussion, we decided to make the long drive to the Hoh on our last day and leave poor Rudy in the car for 90 minutes (Don’t worry, it wasn’t a hot day). This added about eight hours onto our drive home. Which was a little crazy. But oh my God, this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Worth a long drive and missing our sleep that night.Olympic Peninusula August 2015 Hoh

 

 

mushrooms in Hoh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegan Thai Food in Aberdeen

Thai SmilesWe mostly cooked our own meals on a camp stove in our room, or ate crackers and peanut butter sandwiches while hiking. So we were more than ready for hot, fresh vegan Thai food at Thai Smiles. This funny little Aberdeen restaurant inhabits a former hot dog stand. You can’t miss the brightly colored murals painted on every side.

Vegan Sandal by Wellrox

Wellrox Casey in red and pinkWellrox contacted me a couple of years back to introduce its new line of shoes featuring toe-separation technology. Since it’s always fun and an honor to be asked to test new products, I was happy to try them out. But disappointed at the time that their shoes were leather. Now I’m thrilled they have a vegan option. Their vegan shoe, called “The Casey,” has the same toe separators and arch support as their other shoes, but no leather.

I grew up in San Diego, where we wore a lot of flip flops. I love flip flops, but these are WAY BETTER. You don’t have to scrunch up your toes to keep them on. And I can easily walk two or three miles in my Wellrox shoes. I even wore them on a Segway tour, though I’d recommend closed-toe shoes as safer for dismounting.

Wellrox Casey in blackThe Casey comes in solid black or brown, or blue/red, red/pink or natural/black multicolor. I think the red and pink is cutest, but I ordered the black so they’d go with everything.

I still have the same aesthetic complaint as I do with the other Wellrox shoes. I wish they were a little narrower and shorter – there’s excess shoe beyond my toes. I feel more Sasquatch than femme fatale in these rather clunky shoes. They’re not as cute as my bling rhinestone flip flops. But they’re much better for my feet.

Here’s the short version of Wellrox GRABS technology:

G = Gripping

R= Relief

A = Alignment

B = Balance

S = Support

Find out more at the Wellrox website.