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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Road Trip: Colorado or Bust! Part 1: Planning, Prep, and Trip Tips!

  
Ever since my husband and I returned from our Road Trip across the USA and Canada to Moose Hunt in British Columbia in 2013 (about which I blogged extensively:  https://southernwestvirginia.blogspot.com/2013/12/oh-canada-british-columbia-moose-madness.html is the post about my getting us our moose), we have been talking and dreaming about doing an elk hunt! That moose provided us with years of THE best meat I think I've ever eaten in my life; we both love elk, caribou, and other delicious game, and Dan, who hunted extensively in Alaska, Canada, Virginia, and other places, has been wanting to do an elk hunt for decades. Although our part of West Virginia, like many other places around the nation, was once Elk Country, (our inn, the Elkhorn Inn, is named for Elkhorn Creek, the great wild trout stream which runs behind our building, and the town of Elkhorn in 5 minutes down the road from us...), the elk population in our area became basically nonexistent many years ago. Elk have recently been re-introduced to West Virginia, but it will be many years before they are huntable again. Elk were successfully re-introduced into Kentucky, just across the border, however, and hunts there are now possible, and so every spring we have plunked down $20 for two elk tag raffle tickets from the State of Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife: https://fw.ky.gov/Hunt/Pages/How-to-Enter-the-Kentucky-Elk-Hunt-Drawing.aspx, in the hope of winning at least one hunt there- and every year so far we've been disappointed. Elk hunts are usually wildly expensive, especially “bull” hunts for hunters who primarily want a “rack” for display- bull elk hunts are often in the $20,000 range and up! But we are not trophy hunters at all- we are meat hunters: we wanted to do a “fill the freezer” rifle elk hunt, and cow elk hunts are often much cheaper, as cows don't have a rack- and the meat is more tender, as well. As I learned from all my “Googling” and internet research (I now know enough about elk hunting to be seriously dangerous, LOL), elk hunting, which is often thought to be primarily in western states such as Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, and Colorado, can be done in many states (https://metallens.com/elk-hunting-states/), but it isn't “just a hobby”, like, say, deer hunting- it's an absolute passion and an all-consuming lifestyle for many- especially bow hunters! There are many websites and forums devoted specifically to elk hunting, as well as numerous Facebook pages, YouTube videos, online courses, etc. One great (and free) elk hunting course is available online on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website: “Elk Hunting University”: https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/EHU-CH2-L01.aspx 
Dan and I have also wanted to go to Colorado for many years: Dan because he was stationed there while serving in the US Army many years ago and wanted to return, and I, as my grandfather, the fine artist, Yasha Rivkin, had painted a number of beautiful paintings at The Garden of the Gods around 1900, making it a place I have long wished to see in person: 
And as we are both “railfans” who love train travel, we also wanted to take at least one of the many excursion trains Colorado has to offer, as well as enjoy some of the state's many wineries, distilleries, and brew pubs, and unique Colorado things, such as historic gold mines and hot springs! And so, last year I began collecting tourism publications on Colorado, and Googling, and signing up on Colorado tourism websites, and joining blogs and forums, amassing quite the Colorado Dream Trip File! But the COVID fiasco intervened, and resulted in the cancellation of some of our travel plans, and Colorado got put on the back burner... But then, in August, the possibility of a cow elk hunt in Colorado in December materialized, AND our BFF agreed to stay at our Inn and care for our pets while we were away, and it truly seemed like all our Colorado and Elk Hunt stars were aligning... and so we booked the “once in a lifetime” elk hunt we'd long dreamed of!

Oddly and interestingly, although COVID wreaked havoc on our business this year, and forced us to cancel and change many things, including travel plans, we had a wonderful Caribbean cruise on NCL in January (my blog post on “railfanning” the Caribbean: https://southernwestvirginia.blogspot.com/2020/03/railfanning-caribbean-barbados-st-kitts.html) prior to COVID, a great 9-night West Virginia Road Trip in July: (https://southernwestvirginia.blogspot.com/2020/07/west-virginia-road-trip-part-4-cass.html is my 4th post in this 5-part series), and this 3 week hunting Road Trip out to Colorado in December- so we actually wound up traveling MORE this year than we ever have before! And that was a great, good thing, too, as COVID restrictions forcing us to to turn away guests at our Inn all year was absolutely devastating, and the trips we were able to take truly helped us keep our sanity!

After speaking with the elk hunt outfitter and being assured that his cow elk hunts were “99% successful”, and that a 3-day hunt was “more than sufficient” for a successful hunt, (and also that the hunt would be largely done by vehicle, as we're not kids, and hiking for 11 hours a day in the wild isn't something we can- or want to- do, at this time in our lives), I booked a 2-cow elk hunt for us for December 4-6, arriving on Dec. 3, at a cost of just under $6000. Due to my young age, LOL (I was born in 1959), I had to pay for, take, and pass a certified Hunter Education Course in order to purchase a Colorado elk tag, and, thanks to COVID, Colorado is now providing the course online. I took it and passed it, and got my Orange Hunter Card! (Dan, born in 1946, was exempt from that requirement). The course was actually quite interesting, and although I have hunted, successfully, I learned a lot of things! After I passed the course and got my certificate, the outfitter then gave me the lot numbers for his land, and I was able to buy us two cow elk tags from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) for $500 each. 

Our original plan was to take Amtrak from West Virginia to Colorado, which would have entailed a two-night trip with a stop in Chicago. Although way more expensive than flying, at over $2000.00 for two nights in a small “Roomette” that is so tiny that Amtrak employees refer to it as “the coffin”, I thought it would be romantic and fun to take the sleeper, and enjoy some (hopefully) fine dining, as well as the glorious views along the way, without the stress and aggravation of driving or flying... We thought we'd rent a vehicle in Colorado, and then either ship the processed, frozen elk meat from our hunt home and fly or take Amtrak back, or buy a freezer in Colorado and drive the rental vehicle home. But after 5 full days of trying to make a reservation with Amtrak, and being given wrong information by every single Amtrak employee I spoke to, we realized that Amtrak was, quite apparently and very deliberately, making it absolutely impossible for hunters to take their trains. The issue was our rifles, which we had to have for the hunt, and while Amtrak states on their website that firearms can be checked as baggage in locked, airline-approved cases (which are not cheap, and which we bought, specifically for this trip), their website gives no specifics; when you click the link for more information nothing happens- it was clear that everything concerning transporting firearms has been removed from the Amtrak website. Not one Amtrak employee I spoke with over the course of 5 days, including Supervisors and Mangers, could or would give me straight, factual answers, or provide anything in writing stating the rules and regulations that had to be followed to legally transport a firearm. Instead, in addition to all the misinformation, I was finally told I would have to drive 6 hours to an Amtrak station in northern Virginia, where the firearm information was supposedly posted! After 5 days of calls, and being connected and rec-connected to an endless number of Amtrak employees, all of whom gave me different and conflicting information- and refused to provide anything in writing- I gave up- literally in tears. I then contacted UPS and FEDEX, in the hope that we could ship our rifles to Colorado, either to one of their offices where we could pick them up, to the outfitter, or to a hotel where we would be staying, but that turned out to be impossible, as well. I then called the airlines, including Delta, and got the same, loosey-goosey run-around, with no specifics (“contact TSA” was their answer to everything I asked, and the TSA's website information is loosey-goosey, as well), and nothing in writing or online stating actual rules and regulations for legally transporting a firearm. It became crystal clear that no one wanted our money or our business, and that the only way we were going to get to Colorado with our rifles and be able to hunt was if we drove our 230,000 mile pick-up truck there and back. Which is what Dan wanted to do, anyway. LOL(This was actually the same reason we wound up doing a month-long Road Trip across the USA to B.C. Canada to hunt in 2013, hauling a 7-foot freezer in the back of our pick-up truck; that turned out to be the only way that we could take our rifles, and definitely get the meat back home without it spoiling).
Dan likes to drive- thank goodness- and we do enjoy Road Trips, which enable us to stop along the way to see and do interesting things on the spur of the moment, but he was also convinced that driving would be cheaper. Riiiiiight...
Once we had decided that we would be doing a Road Trip to Colorado and back (and would be gone about 3 weeks), the next thing we had to do was buy a “camper top” for our pick-up truck- which cost the same $2200.00 that Amtrak would have charged us for a 2-night trip. LOL
Then Dan had to get the truck checked out and serviced to make sure it would make the trip (and yes, we have AAA https://www.aaa.com/AAA_Travel/Travel/travel.htm- and wouldn't dream of driving anywhere without it), and we had to buy a freezer for the elk meat we intended to bring home- and in The Era Of COVID Shortages, that proved to be quite the challenge! We spent several weeks- literally- trying to buy a freezer, both online and at an assortment of brick-and-mortar stores, including Walmart, Sam's Club, and Lowe's, as well as amazon, eBay, and others, but no one had them in stock! Every time I had one in my online cart, it would mysteriously vanish the second I pressed the “Buy It Now” button and be “out of stock”! (There was one seller on amazon who had a freezer for sale, but he was in the Ukraine, and we wouldn't get it until Feb. 2021. LOL) We finally snagged a 7-cubic foot chest freezer for $199.00 at a Rural King https://www.ruralking.com/ in Wytheville, Virginia: while Dan waited in the parking lot of the Bluefield, WV Rural King (where they didn't have one in stock), I managed to buy one online from their Wytheville, VA store, after which Dan immediately drove there and picked it up! Phew! (And YAY! for Rural King!)

The next thing we had to do was buy a number of things that the outfitter recommended, such as camo leg gaiters (which we never used, LOL), rifle scope covers (which we had to ditch as they kept falling off and getting in the way), a shooting stick (which broke almost immediately, and which we thus didn't have, and didn't need), Blaze Orange hats and vests, which are required in order to rifle hunt elk in Colorado, and some new hunting duds, including Glommets (glove/mittens), long underwear, socks (Heat Holders are wonderful!), a new pair of hunting boots for Dan, targets for practice, eye protection and ear plugs, bullets for both rifles, and Scent Killer wash and spray... I also bought us two "Ghillie" masks, figuring that if we were forced into wearing masks on this trip at least we'd have really cool (and hilarious) ones... 
I indulged myself in a Boonie Packer Safari Rifle Sling: https://www.midwayusa.com/product/2262497974/ , a new pair of spiffy, pink camo sunglasses, and a camo headband, and an absolutely Adorable camo makeup palette that included 5 colors of tan, brown, black, and green AND a little mirror- so I could feel like a Huntress again, and do a “smoky eye” without having to smear my face with real dirt. LOL  
My favorite stores for hunting supplies and gear are Cabela's https://www.cabelas.com/, Midway https://www.midwayusa.com/, and Wing Supply https://www.wingsupply.com/, but I often find what I want- especially when it comes to clothing and footwear- on sites like Cabela's first, and then try to score them for cheap on eBay http://www.ebay.com or Poshmark http://www.poshmark.com! :-) (That's how I got my lovely pair of Ugg booties for this trip, and Dan's Eddie Bauer flannel-lined jeans and flannel shirts...) I dug out our 2013 hunting clothes, including our camo bibs and jackets, my fur-lined “Elmer Fudd” hat, camo purse and heels, and wonderfully comfy Cabela's She hunting boots, and I found my Lucky Hunting Charm from the moose hunt: my “Hello Kitty with an AK” pendant:

The dining room table was now piled so high with Hunting Stuff that we could have opened a branch of Cabela's at the Elkhorn Inn! LOL 
And then we had to practice target shooting with our rifles, as we hadn't used them since the 2013 hunt! 

As we live in the Extremely Rural mountains of southern WV where there are no ranges, we did what we, and everyone else around here, does, to practice target shooting: drove up into the mountains, found a place in the middle of nowhere with a good backstop, taped up our targets, paced back 200 yards, and shot, standing, kneeling, or prone- after which I posted my good, “center mass” targets (I had bought a couple of elk targets to augment the standard, circle ones) on Facebook to impress my friends. LOL Yessiree, ma'am: after 18 years here, this NYC-born gal is now a Real West Virginian! 
(Side note: When we arrived at the outfitter, and asked to sight our rifles to make sure nothing had messed up in transit, he took us to his “shooting table”, which was a table with an attached bench and a gun rest, about 300 yards from a target. I had No Clue how to shoot from a shooting table, having never done so, and I squirmed about, trying to find a comfortable position from which to shoot accurately, while the outfitter acted like there was something wrong with me, and got a Very Concerned Look on his face. I tried to explain to him that in the Army (I was a Sgt. In the IDF, 1984-1986) I always target shot prone, resting on sandbags, and at the range or in the field, always standing up or kneeling, without a gun rest or a shooting stick, and that I thus had no clue how to shoot sitting at a table, but I don't think he believed me. LOL)
Then we had to pack- and I, as usual, took WAY too many pairs of shoes. LOL Our bulky hunting gear filled one entire suitcase, and we each had a suitcase of other clothes and shoes, a giant bag of toiletries, and boots and coats! Dan was actually concerned that, along with the freezer, we wouldn't be able to get it all into the truck. LOL
And then I had to map out our road trip to Colorado- which for me is The Fun Part!
Having both Hilton and IHG hotel-branded credit cards had enabled us to accrue a lot of points, and I used the IHG points, and points we had accrued on our Capital One credit card, to book all six nights of our trip out to Colorado, saving us well over $1000! We couldn't leave until Nov. 27, and had to be at the outfitter near Meeker, Colorado on Dec. 3, so I planned our six-night trip there using mapquest http://www.mapquest.com, as I usually do, with approx. 4 - 5 hours of driving each day, basically taking I-70 due west. (Yes, you can do it a lot faster than that, but that's no fun- especially as you get older- and we like to be able to stop when we discover cool things along the way, such as historic sites and museums, as well as wineries and distilleries, and nice restaurants!) I only booked hotels for the 6 night trip out to Colorado, as after the hunt there were things we wanted to see and do in Colorado, such as take an excursion train, and go to the Garden of the Gods, an historic gold mine, and the hot springs, and we didn't know exactly how long it would take us to get home. On the way back, I was able to use our Hilton Honors points to book hotels as we needed them, using my iPhone. :-) 
Packed up and ready to go, I went to the salon (Beauty Concepts in Bluefield, WV https://www.beautyconceptswv.com/ is my new favorite salon here) to have my hair cut, and treated myself to a pedicure, and Dan went to the barber. Thus made suitably Vacation Spiffy, we celebrated Thanksgiving with our BFF and his son, and the next morning, with the freezer, our rifles, and suitcases loaded on the truck (and yes, everything fit, LOL), we kissed our dogs and kitty on their noses and headed west!

Next: First stop: Kentucky and the Distillery Trail!

Road Trip Tips:

  • Use your hotel point credit cards to accrue points- and use them! Don't let them sit there until they expire!! We are primarily loyal to Hilton properties (Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, etc.), and IHG (Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Intercontinental, etc.) at this time, as we have enjoyed many years of using their frequent guest programs and credit cards for free hotel stays all over the world, as well as throughout the USA, and have credit cards for both, which allow us to accrue points even when we're not traveling. Hotel-branded credit cards often give sign-up bonuses, too: the American Express Hilton card gave us a sign up bonus of 100,000 Hilton Honors points, which covered 5 nights of hotels rooms on this trip! We also used points we had accrued on our Capital One credit card for two lodgings in Colorado: a fine, “boutique” hotel in Denver, and a lovely B&B in Grand Junction.

  • As you plan your trip (I use http://www.mapquest.com, and I make an old fashioned "calendar chart" on paper with a pen, Luddite that I am), look up the places where you will be stopping online, and do internet searches for unique, independent lodgings, such as bed-and-breakfasts, historic inns, hot spring hotels, etc., as well as cool things to see and do. We stayed at two hot spring hotels in Colorado, as well as a lovely B&B. TripAdvisor, airbnb, and many other sites list unique lodgings. One of the sites I love to peruse is “Roadside America”: https://www.roadsideamerica.com/ which has tons of cool, and “off-the-beaten-path” things to see in every state! TripAdvisor and Yelp are great for finding attractions and restaurants on the road. State and city tourism websites are excellent sources, as well, and many states have winery, brewery, and distillery websites (Distillery Trail is a good one, too: https://www.distillerytrail.com/) and maps, as well as special pages and sites for music, the arts, outdoor activities, history, etc. Researching your trip takes time, but this really is The Fun Part- you basically start enjoying your trip the minute you start planning it!

  • Have TWO map apps on your cell phone. One for the route to where you are headed that day (such as your lodging), and one to find cool stuff along the way, such as historic sites, museums, wineries, distilleries, breweries and great restaurants! While Dan drives, I “ride shotgun” and hunt for cool things to see and do on my iPhone!

  • Take “old-school” paper maps of where you will be going, and paper copies of all your hotel reservation confirmations, etc. Do this even if you have “everything” on your cellphone. You WILL find yourself in places with no cell phone reception and no internet access. Trust me!

  • Take a notebook or a journal, and a pen. Trust me!

  • Have at least $200 in cash, as well as credit cards. While paying by credit card is often the best bet, there are times when it isn't, or isn't even possible, and you will want and need cash for tolls, tips, parking meters, and other things. Trust me!

  • Get AAA coverage for your vehicle, (this is non-negotiable as far as we are concerned), and then get the free AAA Guide Books for all the states you will be traveling through. They have great information, list excellent restaurants, and provide hotel ratings and details, such as if the hotel has an electric outlet for plugging in a freezer... something that even hotel staff don't often know! The AAA books were absolutely indispensable for our Canadian Road Trip, as our GPS surprised us and didn't work in Canada! Many hotels and attractions also give discounts for AAA members, as well. Whenever we pay for something I always as if they have a discount for seniors, military, or AAA members- and most do!

  • In addition to your toiletries, vitamins, medications, etc., buy, and take with you, every OTC (over the counter) medication you think you Might possibly want or need, such as Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, Senokot, Advil, Benadryl, iodine, tea tree oil, etc., as well as bandages, duct tape (a MUST for any road trip!), a sewing kit, etc. That way you won't need any of it. :-)

  • Given the COVID situation and the constantly changing rules and regulations, openings, and closings, CALL every place you want to go, and speak to a Real Person before you book! Do NOT rely on website information, as many websites are not being kept updated, and the information on them is often inaccurate.

  • My best Travel Beauty Tip is to use the sugar packets you will find everywhere in lieu of sugar scrub! Sugar is an excellent and gentle exfoliator, and it's one less thing to pack!

  • Buy things you can eat and drink as souvenirs to take home. That way you can extend the fun of your trip by eating and drinking them, remembering all the cool stuff you did while gaining weight. LOL Wine from wineries, booze from distilleries, local honey, oils, hot sauces, condiments, candies... you get the idea! My other favorite souvenirs are books, and locally made art and crafts, especially by artists and craftspeople we meet and get to know...

  • Yes, you can do a road trip wearing a pair of sweatpants, a fleece, and booties every day, but that's no fun! Take (and wear) the nice clothes you rarely get to wear, and makeup, and have some fun dressing up for dinner- and reminding each other of why you fell for each other in the first place! :-)

  • Once you get home, take the time to review all the wonderful places you've been, and all the great things you've done, eaten, drank, or seen on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other review sites. As we know, having an historic inn in West Virginia for 18 years, great reviews can truly help businesses, especially small businesses, many of which are literally struggling now simply to keep their doors open. Do NOT bother to review places you didn't enjoy. Let it go! If we have a problem somewhere, we take it up with the manager or owner of the property right then and there, and almost always get it resolved. If not, when we get home I contact the owner in writing, and again, almost always get the issue resolved. For that reason, I have well over 100 reviews on Trip Advisor and they are all 4 and 5-star ones, with photos, to prove we really did the things we reviewed!

  • Travel with an open mind and as few preconceived notions as possible, remain flexible and optimistic, don't live in fear or sweat the small stuff, and- most importantly- HAVE FUN! Once you hit 50, almost everything you do seems like a “bucket list” event, so we try to glean as much fun and joy as possible from all our trips!

What are your best Road Trip Tips? 
Tell me in the comments so we'll know for next time! :-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

I did the “Curl Keeper Challenge”- check out my curls!

Thanks to Tryazon, the great sampling program I belong to that enables me to try and review excellent products (and you should join, too! Go to www.tryazon.com to sign up), I recently had the opportunity to take part in the 3-day #CurlKeeperChallenge using two Curl Keeper Products: The Original Curl Keeper Liquid Styler, and their new Refresh with Hold Styling Spray, and host a Facebook Live Party to show off my results! I was sent Curl Keeper's “Style & Refresh” Kit, which includes the Original Liquid Styler, Refresh with Hold Styling Spray, a water mist spray bottle, a Flexy Brush, and samples of the Original Liquid Styler for my Party attendees!

I started the Curl Keeper Challenge by washing my hair on Friday as I usually do, and then combing the Original Liquid Styler thru my hair using the Flexy Brush. Then I “scrunched” my hair into curls, and styled it as usual, which, for me, meant simply “plopping” it in a Turbi Twist and sleeping on it! And yes, I woke up the next morning to curls!
For the next three days, all I did was spray my hair with water and Refresh Spray, comb it thru with the Flexy Brush, and scrunch it back into curls... and yes, as you can see from the photos below of my Facebook Live Party on Sunday, my curls lasted for 3 days, without my having to shampoo again!
The water and Refresh sprays reactivate the Curl Keeper Liquid Styler, and enable you to keep those curls going without having your hair turn into a mass of unruly frizz!

I have always been a pretty “low maintenance” gal with regards to hair styling: Even in my “heyday”, when I had an art gallery in NYC in the mid-1990s, and had to be pretty darn chic every single day, I had my curly hair cut short and chic so I could literally wake up, shake my head, and dash out the door! And although I have Lots of hair styling tools, including blow-dryers, a curling iron, a flat iron, and a straightening brush, I almost never use them... because 1) I am lazy as sin, and 2) I stink at using them. LOL I have friends who have been blow-drying their hair since 1975 and can do it in their sleep, but I stank at it in 1975 and I still stink at it. LOL I am convinced that you have to be double-jointed to be able to properly blow-dry or iron the hair at the back of your head. LOL When I go to a salon I always ask for a cut that can be worn curly AND straight, and I always have them blow and iron my hair into glass-like smoothness, as I know I will almost never do that at home. LOL

How I got my Naturally Curly Hair is another Story... I was not born with curly hair. My hair was always straight as a board and fine, and wouldn't even hold a curl set with rollers and Dippity-Do. So when I hit my teens in the 1970s, I did what my mom had been doing since she was a child in the 1920s and Shirley Temple's curls were all the rage: I got it permed. If you are my age (61) you will well-recall that Big Curly Hair was very “in” ca. 1975: everyone from Disco Queen Donna Summer to Barbra Streisand had Big Curly Hair- and so did I! 

And then when I was 29, in 1988, I got really sick with Pancreatitis and almost died... and lost my hair. All of it. I had no hair, no eyelashes, no eyebrows, nothing- for 6 truly ghastly months. For 6 months I wore a wig and penciled in my eyebrows and prayed my hair would grow back... And when it grew back- which, thank G-d, it did- it grew in CURLY! I was over the moon! I felt like the little girl in the Peanuts cartoon boasting about her Naturally Curly Hair! I didn't have to ever even Think about getting a perm again! I called this “G-d's Thank You Present” for my having survived that mess...

And I loved my curls... most of the time. 

For, as all curlies know, curly hair has a Mind of Its Own, and is not always the easiest thing to live with and deal with. The slightest hint of dampness made it frizz to the point where I looked like I'd stuck my finger in a light socket. If it got even a little bit too long it went flat and limp, and wouldn't curl properly. And it changed back and forth from Wavy to Curly to Something In-Between to Totally Out Of Control... So, for the most part, for the next 20 years, I kept it fairly short, and easy-to-manage curly. 

But, as you know, you always want what you don't have, and so, when I let it grow out a bit, I often got it blown and ironed into silky-straight, glass-like smoothness- which lasted for a day or two at most, and for a minute or two if it was damp outside, or- heaven forbid- raining. 

When my husband met me in NYC in 2001 I was a Seriously High Maintenance Double-Process Blonde, which I often wore in a salon-done, blow-dried bob... But when we moved to West Virginia in 2002 and opened our Inn, Low Maintenance Hair became a necessity. The nearest good salon to us was over an hour away, and I almost never got there... and, as I have stated, I am definitely no hairstylist. But I had to look good for our guests! So I went back to my Naturally Curly (usually short) Hair- and my natural Mousy Brown color... periodically augmented with highlights or lowlights... and remained forever on the internet lookout for the Holy Grail Product(s) that would enable me to keep the ringlet curls I love, and stop them from turning into a mass of OOC frizz.

I have thus tried LOTS of curl styling products over the years, and my bathroom looks like a Sephora Outlet, LOL. I have also had several very expensive “curl cuts” at various salons, but wasn't particularly impressed by any of them. I had used Curl Keeper Original Liquid Styler, and Tweak, their cream hairspray, and I liked them, which is why I applied to do this "Curl Keeper Challenge"- I had never tried their “Refresh with Hold” Spray, and I wanted to see if these two products, used together, would be my “Holy Grail” hair duo for lasting curls- and it actually is!
I no longer have to use tons of hairspray to lacquer my curls into permanency in between shampoos!

The Facebook Live Party was a lot of fun to do, as I got to "see" some of my Curl Friends who I haven't seen in person in years!

I got to demonstrate the products and how I use them, we shared "curly hair horror stories", LOL, and then I sent off samples of Curl Keeper Original Liquid Styler to them so they can try it! 
You can watch it here:


I ordered the Curl Keeper Treatment Shampoo, as it has "ColorKeeper Technology" and is safe for colored and chemically treated hair, and it strengthens hair, and I want to use it in conjunction with the Liquid Styler and Refresh Spray, as I continue on my "Learning to Love My Curls" journey!

Curly Hair Solutions has a lot of great products, both for adults and kids, which you can check out here: www.frizzoff.com 



Have you tried Curl Keeper products? What are your faves? 
Do you have any styling tips for curly hair?
Any hilarious horror stories?
Tell me in the comments!

#CurlKeeperChallenge #tryazon #curlkeeper





Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Loving the Ritual of (Good!) Karma from Rituals Cosmetics!

"Ritual of Karma" TryaBox

As a member of Tryazon: www.tryazon.com, the really excellent sampling program, I have been privileged to enjoy several "TryaBoxes" of Rituals Cosmetics bath products, and I think this one – the “Relaxation at Home” Ritual of Karma set- is my favorite! I actually learned about Rituals through Tryazon, and was first able to enjoy testing their Ritual of Sakura, with its delightful light cherry blossom scent that really brought back our Honeymoon days in Kyoto, Japan for me, and then their Ritual of Dao set, and I thoroughly enjoyed them both- and reviewed them on this blog: Ritual of Dao:  http://southernwestvirginia.blogspot.com/2019/11/rituals-for-holidays-creating-dao-spa.html  Ritual of Sakura: http://southernwestvirginia.blogspot.com/2019/09/rituals-sakura-collection-delicious.html 

This time I had the opportunity to try the Ritual of Karma https://www.rituals.com/en-us/collection-story-karma.html, and I was seriously quite excited, as heaven knows we could all use some Good Karma right now, right?!  But I Was wondering: what does Karma (the good kind, naturally) smell like?! Spoiler Alert: Good Karma smells GREAT! Scented with Holy Lotus and White Tea, the Ritual of Karma fragrance is in the floral category, but way more interesting than “just” a floral scent. All the products truly smell delicious, and I truly look forward to getting into the bath with them!  The philosophy behind the “Ritual of Karma” products is that, “according to ancient Hindu belief, living with good intent attracts good karma. Say good words, think good thoughts, do good deeds, and keep the circle positive, because ultimately, you reap what you sow!” Sounds like just what we all need right about now, yes?! The Ritual of Karma collection aims to help you immerse yourself in the positive vibes of summer all year round, instantly enhancing your mood, and making you radiate "positive vibes", as well as a great scent!

There's a delightful little video on You Tube that shows how the Ritual of Karma can make you feel: https://youtu.be/B-YfvlRp7p0


Ritual of Karma Sugar Scrub
I have especially grown to love Rituals' Sugar Scrubs and Foaming Bath Gels, so I was delighted to be able try the Ritual of Karma Sugar Scrub:   https://www.sephora.com/product/rituals-the-ritual-karma-body-scrub-P463648, and Foaming Bath Gel:  https://www.sephora.com/product/rituals-the-ritual-karma-foaming-shower-gel-P463647as well as the Body Cream:   https://www.sephora.com/product/rituals-the-ritual-karma-body-cream-P463649and the three products really make for a delightful “spa” experience at home! It is “relaxation in a box”! Add a bath tub pillow, a scented candle (and yes, there is a Karma Candle...), and a glass of wine, and you are All Set!
This would be a GREAT gift for a good friend, too- I can't imagine anyone not loving this- and as Rituals products are not overly expensive, you can afford to treat friends, as well as yourself! 
The Ritual of Karma Sugar Scrub, which is enriched with holy lotus, almond oil, and jojoba, is an absolute delight! I not only use it on my body- especially feet and knees and elbows- but as an exfoliator on my face and neck- it's that good! I MUCH prefer sugar scrubs to salt scrubs, as they never burn the way salt can, and so I truly enjoy Rituals' sugar scrubs. The scrub is made with fine sugar that has just enough exfoliating power to be effective without being rough, and it dissolves into your skin quickly and leaves it feeling silky smooth.
Ritual of Karma Foaming Bath Gel
The Ritual of Karma Foaming Bath Gel is super creamy and deliciously sensual! I have used a lot of bath gels in my time, and I have to say that Rituals makes the ones I like best! Their gel-to-foam technology is truly unique, and their foaming bath gels are the creamiest, and most luxurious ones I've ever used!
The Ritual of Karma Body Cream is rich and luxurious, but not greasy, and it absorbs super-fast. I use it all over, immediately on getting out of the tub (I'm a Total Tub Soak Gal...), and I especially like to use it on my feet, and then put on comfy socks to help it absorb...

Ritual of Karma Body Cream






I love to layer scented products, to make the fragrances last as long as possible, and so I am planning to treat myself to more products in this line: I especially want to get the Karma CandleHair And Body Mist, and the golden Body Shimmer Oil, which looks amazing!

Rituals products just launched on Sephora in September: https://www.sephora.com/brand/rituals, but if you want to see ALL the products they have, and ALL the different Rituals (and there are lots!), go to the Rituals website: https://www.rituals.com/en-us/home, which also has an Outlet page with discounted products from lines that they no longer have on the regular site: https://www.rituals.com/en-us/outlet

Another great thing to note is that Rituals products are happily free of the bad stuff, such as sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban, and they contain less than one percent of synthetic fragrances. And their products are also cruelty-free!

I can honestly and highly recommend Rituals products, as well as Tryazon- its a Lot of fun being a member, and getting discover and try great new products like these- and share them!

Have you tried any Rituals products or given them as gifts? 

What are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!

And if you're not yet a member of Tryazon, you can sign up here: www.tryazon.com



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Foodie Fun with the Vasta Vegetable & Fruit Sheet Slicer- and RECIPES!

Thanks to being a member of Tryazon, the great sampling program, I was selected to do a Facebook Live Party for the Vasta Vegetable and Fruit Sheet & Noodle Slicer! The Vasta is an inexpensive, fun, and easy-to-use kitchen tool that enables you to make “sheets” from both fruits and vegetables, as well as “Fettuccine”-style noodles, and Chef Dan and I have been having a lot of fun making some delicious dishes with it for dinner guests at the Elkhorn Inn, as well as ourselves! 
RECIPES BELOW!

Here is a link to my Facebook Live Vasta Cuisine Party, where you can see me demonstrating the Vasta, and showing some of the things we made with it, including Cucumber “Maki” rolls filled with Tuna Ceviche, Apple and Potato Puff Pastry Roses, and Zucchini "Fettuccine" Agli Olio! At the end of my presentation I did a giveaway, and raffled off a Vasta to one lucky attendee!  https://www.facebook.com/ElkhornInn/videos/10158563561804730/


The Vasta is different from a Mandoline or a Spiralizer, in that it makes thin sheets of your fruits and veggies, not slices, and it makes flat “fettuccine” style veggie noodles, rather than spirals. So if you're on a Keto or Vegan or Vegetarian diet, and looking for new foodie ideas, or just trying to get your kids or grandkids to eat more veggies, the Vasta gives you lots of new ways to enjoy your fruits and veggies! 
With the Vasta you can make fruit and vegetable crepes, burritos, lasagna, noodles- all sorts of things! So far, we've used it with cucumbers, zucchini, apples, and potatoes, but you can use it with pears, squash, and lots of other things, too! I love to make Apple Roses for Rosh Hashonna (Jewish New Year) which is coming up shortly, and the Vasta makes it fun and easy to do!

As you can see in my Facebook Party Video, the Vasta is really easy to use, and SAFE, too, as the blade is protected. If I can demonstrate it live while watching Facebook at the same time, you know it's REALLY easy and a safe to use!

 

There are lots of recipes on the Vasta website: https://www.getvasta.com/

Vasta also has tutorials on YouTube: How to make Veggie Noodles with the Vasta Veggie Slicer: https://youtu.be/fOblP2NHYXI 

How to make veggie sheet noodles using the Vasta Veggie Slicer: https://youtu.be/GGsbfvzrVlI

My step-by-step on making Cucumber Roll Appetizers with the Vasta:

https://www.facebook.com/events/677509623110760/permalink/685631542298568/

     

First you cut the cucumber to size, using the guide notch on the skewer. TIP: You want cucumbers or zucchini that are as straight and even as possible, so you get even sheets. Then you place the cucumber on the Vasta, insert the skewer in the top, and push it down through the cucumber until it locks into place. 

  

Then you turn the Vasta on its side and snap in the handle. Then you start turning the handle...
  
  
And out comes your thin sheet of cucumber!!  You can then used the smaller pieces of cucumber you cut to make additional strips. 
 Here you see the two sheets of cucumber I was able to get from one cucumber. I then cut the sheets into 1" strips, approx. 5" long, and rolled them around circles of Mozzarella cheese and secured them with toothpicks. I then topped each one with a dab of Basil Pesto and a small roll of Prosciutto. I used this same technique to make the cucumber rolls I filled with Tuna Ceviche - recipe below.
 

My Vasta Recipes:

Vasta Cucumber Rolls filled with Tuna Ceviche, served with a spicy Asian-Style Dipping Sauce  (Adapted from Chef Ruth Van Waerebeek, Mapuyampay Gastronomic Hotel, Chile)

Ingredients:

6 cucumbers, as straight as possible

Kosher Salt

Paper towels

¼ cup red union, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated

½ lb. sushi-quality fresh tuna

½ cup pink grapefruit juice (approx. one grapefruit, squeezed)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely minced

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Toothpicks

Dipping Sauce:

2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (Chinese chili sauce, Sriracha, or similar)

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons dark sesame Oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted

¼ cup red, green and yellow bell peppers, very finely diced

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Directions:

Slice the cucumbers into sheets using the Vasta.

Lay the cucumber strips on paper towels and sprinkle with Kosher Salt, and let sit for a max. of 30 minutes.

Prepare the Ceviche: Dice the tuna into ¼ inch cubes and place in a non reactive bowl (glass or ceramic). Add all the other ingredients. Mix to combine, and place the bowl in the refrigerator to marinate. (The lime juice "cooks" the tuna, so it has the taste and texture of cooked tuna!)

Make the Dipping Sauce: Mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Rinse the salt off the cucumber sheets and dry them with paper towels.

Cut the cucumber sheets into strips approx. 1” wide and 5 inches long, and roll them, securing each one with a toothpick.

Set the rolls on a serving plate. Fill each roll with the Tuna Ceviche.

Spoon the dipping sauce on top & drizzle it around the rolls, or serve it in a bowl on the side.

Appetizer: Cucumber Rolls with Mozzarella, Basil Pesto, & Prosciutto

Ingredients:

Cucumber - as straight as possible

Mozzarella Cheese - the good stuff! 

Basil Pesto

Prosciutto, cut into small pieces and rolled, as in the photo

Toothpicks

Directions:

Use the Vasta to make cucumber sheets. Cut into strips into pieces approx 1” wide and 5” long.

Cut the mozzarella into 2” circles.

Roll the cucumber strips around the mozzarella circles and secure each with a toothpick.

Top each one with a dab of pesto, and then a small roll of prosciutto.

Vasta Apple (or Potato) Roses in Puff Pastry - 12

I love to make Apple Roses for Rosh Hashonna (Jewish New Year) which is coming up shortly, and the Vasta makes it fun and easy to do!

Ingredients:

One package of Frozen Puff Pastry (Pepperidge Farm)

3 Apples or 3 Potatoes (I used Adirondack Blue Potatoes, and they came out great!)

Apricot or other fruit preserves if you are making Apple Roses

Pesto or other savory spread if you are making Potato Roses (or you don't have use anything)

2 tablespoons of lemon juice if you are making Apple Roses

Melted butter or vegetable oil and a brush, or vegetable oil spray

Cinnamon-Nutmeg Sugar for Apple Roses

Chopped herbs of your choice for Potato Roses

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Butter 12 porcelain baking ramekins or a muffin pan. (Or spray them with vegetable oil spray).

Remove Puff Pastry from the freezer and thaw according to package directions. It should be cold.

Use the Vasta to slice the apples or the potatoes into long strips:

 

If you are using apples, put the apple sheets into a bowl of water with the lemon juice, so they don't turn brown.


I then used the Vasta to slice an Adirondack Blue Potato into long sheets for potato roses.

Place one sheet of puff pastry dough on a floured surface and roll it out a little thinner with a floured rolling pin.

Cut the dough into 6 even strips.

Spoon the apricot preserves or pesto onto the bottom half of each dough strip.

If you are making apple roses, remove the apples from the lemon-water and bot them dry with paper towels.

    

 

Place the apple (or potato) strips on the dough, sticking up above the edge of the dough:

  

You can fold the bottom over the edge of the apple or potato strip if you like. I didn't here, and they turned out fine. Then roll each strip up into a “rose” and place into the buttered ramekins or muffin pan.

Do the same with the other sheet of puff pastry dough.

Brush each one with melted butter or vegetable oil spray. You can sprinkle the apple roses with cinnamon-nutmeg sugar if you like. 

Place a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven so the bottom of the pastries don't burn.

Bake for 40-50 minutes at 375 F until the pastry is golden brown.

Sprinkle the apple roses with cinnamon-nutmeg sugar, and the potato roses with chopped herbs, and serve!

Zucchini Fettuccine Agli Olio (with Garlic and Oil)

Make “fettuccine” noodles from zucchini using the Vasta!

Heat olive oil in a pan with chopped fresh garlic.

Saute the zucchini “noodles” in the oil for a max. of 2 minutes and serve!

These “zoodles” are delicious served with shrimp scampi, or with Asian sauces as pictured above- or 100 other things!! I tossed them with tomato sauce, sausage, and minced, fresh herbs, and they were delicious! Pasta without the carbs!

Have you tried the Vasta yet?

 Have any great recipe ideas for the Vasta? 

Please share them in the comments!