Well Within Spa-Santa Cruz, CA

Need a little slice of heaven at a heavenly price? The spa patrol is on it. Hey, the compadres and I love a day at the spa but we have to self-pamper on a budget. That doesn’t mean we’re cheap. I went to a “cheap” spa one time in my life and it was one step above feeling like I was about to be deloused before entering a prison. No, no. I still want luxury but I want it to be reasonable. So far I think the ladies and I have done a pretty good job this year finding spas that are off the beaten path, which is pretty much my style anyway. There are some incredibly beautiful spas out there that people like Janet Jackson frequent but I don’t have Janet’s money and I’m not one to be on a waiting list of any kind. Life is too short and there are too many choices these days to require a long wait when you want to feel good NOW.

A couple of blocks away from downtown Santa Cruz, CA., the Well Within Spa provides a great getaway to have the kinks taken out and enjoy and good soak. Their self-described Japanese traditions blended with California lifestyle is totally accurate and a perfect combination which makes this day spa so enjoyable. Their massage therapists are experienced, averaging over 5 years of experience each, and some have been with the spa since its opening in 1985. Always loving what’s new, I still love to find a place that has been continually good at what they do. Having gone in with a slight head cold the day we went (shame on me) I chose to have the deep-tissue massage. I almost immediately felt my head starting to clear and felt good energy throughout.

Next stop: the spas. All together now….Aaaahhhhhhhh. Whether choosing an indoor or outdoor spa, they are all private, stress relieving, and a perfect way to compliment your massage. Starting at $13 per person for the tub only, how can you not? You have a choice of indoor tubs which overlooks a beautiful Japanese style garden including koi ponds and plants, and the outdoor spas, are private and totally enclosed while still allowing you to enjoy the beautiful blue sky as we did. (It wouldn’t be half bad at night either.) They also offer a Japanese style soaking tub and cedar lined spa to get the full tub experience. All include nice, hot herbal tea to enjoy, towels, robes, showers equipped with body gel, beautiful music in the background and bath salts for the soaking tub.

They offer a Massage a month card which allows you to get your 13th massage or skin & body care treatment free! They also have a great mid-week special called, Together Wednesdays where you can bring a friend or your honey and each have a 50 minute massage and 50 minute spa for $165 or $82.50 per person. Pretty darn good if you ask me.

So, if ever in the Santa Cruz area, don’t just stop for the surfers and shrimp cocktail. This is a great spa which makes it easy to become a regular and is centrally located. It’s unpretentious yet friendly, and offers everything you could want in a spa experience at great rates.

Happy Hot Tubbing!

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New Year’s Non-Resolutions

It’s that time again. Another year gone and time for new beginnings. This is about the time of year that people start contemplating on what changes they need to make in their life and where there is room for improvement. In looking back, I think I’ve had a pretty good year considering the state of the world today so with that said, I’m not changing a damn thing! I have become a firm believer that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This realization sort of hit me this year after realizing that I spent so many years trying to reinvent the wheel for no reason. I am lucky that most of my friends and family have been relatively happy and healthy and the ones who have had extreme challenges this past year reminded me about what’s really important in life and that we have to embrace it the best we can for however long we’re here.

With that in mind, instead of creating the New Year’s anxiety that I seem to foolishly drum up annually for myself, why not try something different and let myself off the hook for once? I have never tried to start the New Year off with the intention of changing nothing or not wanting to shed anything. Those are the buzz words, right? CHANGE. SHED. START OVER. GAIN THIS, LOSE THAT. Bleh. I’m looking forward to a new year hopefully filled with travels, and good health but I decided to create specific non-resolutions for 2011 such as:

*  I’m not going on a diet. I have yo-yo’ed about 5-15 lbs for almost 20 years now. I’m at peace with that. My friends can tell you that I’ve gone vegan, organic, holistic, sugar free, gluten free, and fat free only to throw it all out the window on a whim and order a plate of pesto tortellini with a basket of garlic bread and a bottle of wine. FOR MYSELF. Considering that I do give all of the health fads an honest chance if only for a little while, I see this as my version of finding balance in my diet.

*  I will not be on the hunt for the perfect mate. I just got rid of my not so perfect…or perfect for somebody else, mate, and I would like to continue to focus on pastimes and interesting people instead of finding a replacement. I decided earlier in the year to go back to what I know which is allowing all types of fabulous people to come into my life with no agenda. It’s a formula that has worked, giving me life-long soul mates so if it ain’t broke………

*  I’m not going to try to save money. I know that sounds totally stupid to make it an actual goal  but I have finally burned out on the concept. I’m no richer or poorer than I was a year ago and as my little blog will tell you, I did o.k. Can I buy that charming cottage in the South of France right now? No, but I can afford the occasional plane ticket and cat food. What more do I need? (Although if this economy doesn’t pick up I may be buying cat food for two.)

*  I’m not going to exercise more. I exercise enough. I go to the gym when I feel that I am about to morph into a full-blown sloth, I take the occasional yoga class, walk at the beach when it’s warm enough, and we just acquired a Wii fit in the house which I may or may not use. I like to exercise, in fact need to exercise on some level, but I’ve never been one of those people who looks at a mountain and feels a need to conquer it. Great for those who do. I’ll just sit back and marvel at your brilliance!

*  I’m not going to drink less. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not promoting drinking, nor do I grab rubbing alcohol from the linen closet if I run out of Pinot Noir. But I enjoy one glass of good wine with a nice meal. I also love the 200 different types of Martinis created by a good Vodka, not to mention that my dad’s killer hot chocolate recipe calls for a splash of Brandy. Alcoholic drinks can be enjoyable when you want to compliment a really great dish. Food and a good drink go hand in hand as far as I’m concerned, calories or not. Like everything else, everything in moderation.

BUT DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE PEOPLE! YOU WANT TO BE AROUND FOR FUTURE NEW YEARS!!

*  I’m not going to “get organized” the way all of the magazines say I should. I do the spring cleaning routine in the spring, summer, fall, pre-Christmas, and after Christmas but if you have a borderline hoarding issue with books, photos, and magazines, then “getting organized” doesn’t really help anything. It’s only a band aid. I have what I call, organized chaos. It works for me, I’m sticking to it.

So there you have it. My Napolean stance on New Year’s Eve resolutions. A lot of thought went into my revolt against resolutions and I may decide to make this a part of my belief system. Or, maybe I’m just burned out from the holidays and am too damn lazy and tired at this point to make any!

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I want to thank everyone who has taken the time this year to read my little ramblings. I didn’t know how to put a blog together a year ago and have learned so much just from reading other creative and talented bloggers. I look forward to learning more from those who have this blogging thing down to a science while hopefully delivering happy, fun, and sometimes snarky tidbits to those who have the slightest bit of interest.

Have a safe, happy and healthy New Year everybody! Cheers!

Massage and Spa Treatments-SF Bay Area

Massage in Frankfurt, Germany

Image via Wikipedia

I truly believe that massages, received continuously, could increase one’s lifespan. I feel so healthy after I’ve had a quality massage that if nothing else, it has to at least increase your quality of life. Anyone who has not tried it, should give it a chance if at all possible. I will admit however, that finding a good masseuse can be as challenging as finding the right hair stylist. Having received many massages and spa treatments in the past, some good, some…..not so good, I have formed some beliefs on what spa-seekers and those wanting to experience a massage or spa treatment for the first time should look for in their spa experiences:

  • Be clear about what you want and speak up if something doesn’t work. If you need lighter or heavier pressure, tell your masseuse. They want you to let them know.
  • DO NOT strip down to your jockeys if you are not completely comfortable. Remember that the point is to be completely comfortable and relaxed during your session. Just because your friends have said that they drop their drawers in a heartbeat doesn’t mean that you have to. Keep your undies on if you’re more comfortable that way. They’ll still be able to get that knot out of your back.
  • Be sure to inform your masseuse or therapist of any problem areas you have. That way they can either avoid or treat those areas. I have neck and shoulder issues so I usually ask to have more attention given to those areas. Also, let them know if the room temperature is comfortable for you. I hate to be hot and cannot relax if I’m overheating so I always make sure the room temperature is right for me.

In case anyone is wondering what would constitute as a bad spa experience, let me give you a few examples.

  • I once paid top dollar, probably the most I’ve ever spent on a massage to a masseuse that not only was hitting on me while I was butt naked on his table but also managed to pass gas while giving me a rather weak massage. A high-end spa doesn’t guarantee a good spa treatment. It’s your time and money so speak up if it’s not satisfactory.
  • While in Jamaica lying on a comfortable table in a beautiful gazebo next to the turquoise sea, my masseuse yelled out constantly to her other masseuse buddies, forgetting that I was there to relax. Falling into a state of relaxation only to be jolted awake by a booming voice is not what I call relaxing. I ended up just laughing at the silliness of the situation. What else can you do?
  • If it seems like an especially, unusually cheap deal, your radar should go up. I once had a massage that was going pretty well until a train came roaring by leaving me to wonder if it was going to come through the middle of the spa. Be sure to check on the location.

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So where have I had continued success over the years in my own backyard? Here are a few that I have found to be tried and true:

Photo by Lavender Hills Spa

Calistoga, Ca. Lavender Hills Spa in Calistogahttp://www.lavenderhillspa.com Right before you make the turn into downtown Calistoga which is spa central, there is a small, discreet little spa which sits by itself. This is a day spa, and is great for couples, friends, and singles wanting to be pampered. For couples, they have really cool individual bathtubs in a private room which allows each person to customize their bath to their own preference. For example, you can have a seaweed bath and your partner can do a mud bath but still have the experience together. Really nice. I have had the pleasure of experiencing their Volcanic Mud Bath and their Seaweed Bath both of which left my skin feeling fantastic. The volcanic mud bath is a nice, soft mixture that is really soothing and leaves your skin baby soft. I’ve had mud baths that looked and felt like you were stepping into cow dung but thankfully, their mud is not like that! I have also had some wonderful therapeutic massages at Lavender Hills and they make it easy to combine a bath treatment with a massage treatment. Their website has some great recommendations for lodging should you care to stay in the area.

San Francisco, CA.

Photo by John Wilson

John Wilson is who I like to go to in SF. http://www.johnwilson.iwantamassage.com I don’t go to him as often as I would like because like everybody else, I get caught up in life, and time restraints. However, when I do see him, I leave standing up straight and loosened up, feeling the way I should on a daily basis. He’s an expert on tight shoulders and upper body trauma but is completely trained in full body massage including Shiatsu, Swedish, hot stone massage, and deep tissue massage. John is a sole practitioner whose concentration is in the therapeutic healing process which I can tell you takes place after just one session.

San Mateo/Peninsula

The Spa Studio- http://www.thespastudio.com

Photo by Spa Studio

Photo by Spa Studio

The first certified Green Day-Spa on the Peninsula, this lovely little spa is located in downtown San Mateo which is a nice addition to a day of shopping or dining out. Downtown San Mateo is full of good restaurants, bookstores, and quaint shops so a treatment at this spa is a great way to fully enjoy the area. The Spa Studio uses organic products and their prices are very reasonable. I’m constantly getting emails from them on the endless specials they offer. I’ve had great massages from them and recently noticed that they added a “Men’s Corner” to their website. If you’re looking for a different kind of gift to give the man in your life, a Masculine Maintenance Facial might be something to consider!

Pacifica, CA.

Ocean Yoga-www.oceanyoga.com – This studio offers so much beyond just yoga. I love their yoga classes but recently attended a belly dancing class which was a better workout than the dreaded treadmill and a lot more fun and feminine. I also had a fabulous warm stone massage from their massage therapist Lisa Cockerill, and as a result, slept better than I have in a long time. I often tell massage therapists that I prefer firm pressure to get the king sized knots out of my neck and back. Lisa has a fantastic touch, very firm but not so much that I was begging for mercy. She allows you to just relax, checking once or twice on how the pressure is and lets you enjoy the state of relaxation from the warm stones. I’m definitely going back as soon as I can.

* The all time funniest spa experience I’ve ever had was in Montecatini,Italy where Fellini’s 9 1/2 was filmed. Montecatini is a well-known spa town, almost dreamlike but when your Italian is limited and you feel intimidated asking questions, you run the possibility of screwing yourself over. Because we were simply afraid to bother anybody, my friend and I asked for very limited services just to get into this beautiful area and experience what it was about. After we changed into lovely, soft, white robes, the attendant sent us to a beautifully tiled room where we just sat and soaked our feet. That was it. Until they directed us to go into the next room  for “inhalation therapy.” Basically, you sit in front of a jet that blows out high pressured steam which caught me off guard and it got me in the eye. My friend then asked me to take his picture in front of this jet thing to have evidence of our “spa experience” in Italy. Honestly, the inhalation therapy makes sense but we failed to appreciate it at the time. They then sent us off to drink an invigorating glass of sulfur water. Yes, SULFUR WATER. I stuck my tongue in the glass and decided I didn’t need to live a longer life if drinking that crap was required. I’m all about good health but I do have my limits. This just shows you that when visiting spas in another country, it may be something different than what you’re used to. Take a look at this spa in Italy so you can check it out for yourself. Only I could screw up on a place that beautiful! http://www.termemontecatini.it

Having a spa treatment or a massage is an indulgence for some and a path to good health for others. If you’re going to do it, it should be enjoyable because it’s your time and money so there are qualifiers to consider. Just make sure that above all, it works for you and you leave relaxed.

Continued good health to everybody!

Macaques monkeys enjoying hot spring bath in Nagano, Japan