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Rip Van Winkle Never Imagined Living So Well!

16 Jan

Emerson Resort and Spa. (Photo courtesy of the Emerson.)

The Catskill Mountain gnomes who Rip Van Winkle encountered were fond of bowling and magical brews. These days they’re hanging out in hot tubs and getting massages after dining in style…of course, still while imbibing magical Catskill brews.

Winter’s the perfect time in the Catskills to indulge yourself in both active and therapeutic recreation. You’ll find luxurious Catskills escapes come in many guises. I was fortunate to spend nights at the serene Emerson Resort and Spa and the funky-chic Roxbury Motel. Each is family friendly yet also a sophisticated anomaly in this charming old Dutch colonial haven.

The burbling Esopus River and East Branch Delaware River and rounded mountains are extraordinarily calming. The entire Ulster and Delaware county region is laced with streams and rail beds, many of which carry antique trains or have been converted to trails. These flows continue the formation of the Catskills, which aren’t mountains in the usual sense but rather are remnants of a carved plateau. That’s why so many of these green mounds have nearly uniform height.

Esopus River running past the Emerson. (Photo courtesy of the Emerson.)

The beautiful view from the bed of our duplex suite, as it appeared in Autumn. (Photo by Erik Baard.)

At its core, the Emerson is an ayurvedic retreat. “I thought I’d have to travel back to India to find a space like that,” said my travel companion, who hails from that nation.

Behind the imported, ancient Indian hand-carved gate at New York’s first Mobil Four-Star Spa you’ll discover ten treatment rooms adorned with antique fixtures and sculptures of deities and a striking raw stone sculpture centerpiece. Guests can stroll between these private sessions and steam showers, saunas, a fitness room, relaxation lounge, and outdoor hot tub. To take healthy wisdom home with you, there are Yoga classes too.

The Country Store with a silo converted into the world's largest kaleidoscope. (Photo courtesy of the Emerson.)

When you’re ready for more fanciful fare, dizzy yourself with the world’s largest kaleidoscope at the Country Store just yards away. But steady yourself on your feet for serious shopping — the Country Store is stocked with distinctive jewelry, gourmet delights, glassware, antiques, women’s apparel, furnishings, accessories, and more.

The Emerson's road sign, complete with glowing eyes. (Photo Courtesy of the Emerson.)

Ol' Red Eyes at the Catamount. (Photo by Erik Baard)

At the Emerson’s restaurants it’s as pleasurable to fill your belly as it is to fill your luggage and spirit. The glowing red mountain lion eyes of the Catamount’s imposing sign announce “carnivores welcome.” But vegetarians and vegans will find very satifying choices. I had the pleasure of feasting on a tofu and veggie stir fry while I enjoyed the company of Lisa Berger of Ulster County Tourism, who had sauteed Atlantic salmon.

Catamount stir fry. (Photo by Erik Baard.)

Catamount trout. (Photo by Erik Baard.)

Over at the Roxbury Motel, in Delaware County, each room is a unique and elegant work of art, reflecting a broad palate of periods and influences. If you’re a more playful sort, a sleepover can transport you to an ancient cave, the helm of a starship, or into a coconut cream pie one can imagine was whipped up by Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island.”

The Roxbury cheerfully greets the night. (Photo Courtesy of the Roxbury Motel.)

Mary Ann's coconut cream pie. (Photo Courtesy of the Roxbury Motel.)

A starship for the night. Uhura not included. (Photo Courtesy of the Roxbury Motel.)

The Noir Boudoir. (Photo Courtesy of the Roxbury Motel.)

Bride of Amadeus suite. (Photo Courtesy of the Roxbury Motel.)

The decor reflects the engaging and fun personalities of its delightful owners, Gregory Henderson and Joseph Massa. The two met through New York City’s theater life and so it’s no surprise that they brought stagecraft to create shared dreams into which they personally welcome each guest.

But this dynamic duo is in touch with the rooted tranquility all around them too. This past weekend they were moved to post this little video of the East Branch Delaware River running past the Roxbury Motel:

 

 

Just contemplate that snowy stream for now, until you too can head up for a spa retreat in the Catskills!

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Catskills Snow Season Begins!

14 Dec
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Belleayre Mountain in Highmount, N.Y. is owned & operated by the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation.

Santa and his elves are busy in the North Pole at this time of year, but far closer to home you’ll find snowy fun if you Visit the Catskills!

Opening day at Belleayre Mountain was a smash over the weekend and you’ll find numerous skiing, sledding, snowskating, snowboarding and other downhill thrills  popping now through the start of spring!  Nature watchers can slip quietly into gorgeous scenery on cross-country skis or on snowshoes. Families will love snow tubing too, as much as they love tubing rivers lacing the region in summer.

Tubing at Plattekill Mountain Resort in Roxbury, NY.

A vacation in the Catskill Mountains will work your body if you choose such active pursuits, but it will also feed and sooth those muscles. The region is home to top rated resorts and restaurants. Stay tuned for next week’s installment on spas and dining!

How to Give the Gift of Green this Holiday Season

16 Dec

It’s mid-December, and you haven’t shopped for gifts yet. What to do!?

Don’t panic. There’s still time to get great deals, plan delicious meals, and sing some holiday jingles!

This season, think about giving money-saving and eco-friendly gifts to show others you care about them as well as the environment. This gives you the opportunity to get your creative juices flowing too.

First, look for the gift you want to give. Second, figure out how you want to gift to be presented. Third, how will you and your gift(s) get there? Make sure your gift is protected from the elements. Because Ezine’s Tips For a Frugal and Environmentally-Friendly Holiday Season article was so organized, I’ve highlighted the basics with some good-natured humor:

Gift Giving

1. Make a gift or re-gift unwanted gifts, as long as you don’t return it to the original giver. You can also organize a gift swap – one person’s trash is another’s treasure, but of course there’s no guarantee.

2. Give used items, such as books from local used book stores, or green gifts. Buy seeds, bulbs, other plants, compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs, a thermos, a water bottle, etc. A bike is one of several items on my wish list, hint, hint…

3. Save on wrapping paper using newspaper comics, which you can then recycle sans scotch tape. If this isn’t your cup of tea, consider reusing any gift bags that you received from previous years. Consider “wrapping” some presents in tote bags so the recipient can use fewer plastic bags in the coming year. For a quick gift tag, reuse last year’s holiday cards, or make your own from construction/poster paper.

 

Entertaining

1. Bring a dish or two. Create your best dish so others know what you can do and consume happily. The hosts would definitely appreciate your efforts – less food for them to prepare.

2. Organize carpool trips together and save on gas and parking space. Of course, make sure there is a designated driver, and the riders are people you like or can tolerate, depending on how long the drive is.

3. Cook with a group and make a masterpiece, all with some good fun, music, and cheap booze!

 

Home Life

1. Earn extra cash from a seasonal part-time job. Those gifts can add up.

2. Green Tree. If possible, get a tree that can be planted so you can watch it grow!

3. Make it a game night. Have fun without spending a lot of money, unless of course you’re betting and want to make things more interesting…

The Huffington Post mentions how we can “Give Back Painlessly: 50 Ways To Donate Time And Find Spare Cash For Others” and simply pay it forward, like volunteering. Additional resources are listed here:

–          Planet Green, 9 Ways To Cut Waste This Holiday Season

–          Greenpeace International, Your gift to the environment

–          Eartheasy.com, How to have a Green Christmas

Traveling light and green this winter is another great way to lower your carbon footprint. Some green travel choices can be found here, and aside from carrying your own water bottle, you’ll find more travel tips on Travel Gear’s website. I don’t remember where I got the following message, but it makes a strong case for being a Green Traveler:

Supporting local businesses–keeps money in your neighborhood; you’ll receive better service; helps create and keep jobs; promotes competition and diversity; less sprawl and environmental damage; in return local businesses usually support local organizations; works toward a positive economic impact locally; you’ll invest in your community.

It’s important to reflect on this past year and make some goals for 2011, especially as New Year’s approaches, that include ways to be a greener New Yorker. A lot of us struggle with this prospect, but I hope my blog has given you some helpful and tangible tips on how we can achieve this. One 2011 tip I’ll leave you with is the “How to Save on Winterizing Your Home” article from one of my favorite websites – Real Simple’s Green Living section.

Stay tuned for my next blog entry on green resolutions. Until then, keep warm and Happy Holidays!

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