THE SANTA MARIA, A LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL & GOLF RESORT IN PANAMA CITY, PANAMA

It’s brand new and utterly wonderful. The Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort opened in February, 2018, and is already Panama City’s first-choice stay for golfers, business persons and luxury travelers.
Located in the exclusive Santa Maria Panama community—eight miles from Panama City and seven miles from the Tocumen International Airport—the resort perfectly suits contemporary travelers seeking sleek and sophisticated accommodations with an overload of amenities.
In addition to 182 well-appointed guest rooms and suites, and over 18,000 square feet of meeting space, the resort includes a great spa, good restaurants, lush bars and—the showstopper—an 18 hole, 72 par Nicklaus design private golf course.
The Santa Maria infuses the resort experience with not only every up-to-the-minute convenience, but also the best of Panama’s rich cultural heritage.

Designers installed lobby pillars fashioned from the unusual cottonwood trees that grow with square trunks in El Valle de Anton, and accented public areas with wood rescued from from the depths of Gatun Lake.

Lobby of The Santa Maria.

Decorators dressed beds in Mola bed runners inspired by the Guna people of Guna Yala, and filled lobby shelves with baskets and masks woven by Embera Indigenous community.

Bed with Mola runner.

 

Lobby Shelves filled with Panamanian Artifacts.

Chefs add a variety of Panamanian food specialties to menu offerings. And the coffee shop/deli showcases the rare Panama-grown Geisha coffee, said to be the most expensive coffee in the world.

 

GOLF
Gotta confess, I’ve never played golf. At one time I thought “above par” was something good. That’s why I might be forgiven for initially thinking the view from my third floor room overlooked the pool and golf course. Got the pool right, but what I thought was the course was only a practice area.

Practice Area.

The 100 acres of golf course winds around the property creating an “urban oasis” complete with rolling fairways, well-placed bunkers and man-made lakes (providing water hazards, irrigation for the course and hangouts for lazy crocodiles). What makes the course unusually attractive, in addition to the impeccable condition of the greens, is the backdrop of narrow skyscrapers that jut to the clouds like brilliant stalagmites.


Being a private country club, the golf course is available only to homeowners and golfing members in the luxurious Santa Maria golf community AND to hotel guests. (Word of advice: book tee times when you make reservations. The course is justly popular.)

SPA
The Santa Maria’s cosy spa offers a sweet choice of treatments. I found the Espiritu Santo Signature Massage, (described as massage hands moving like a flower unfolding erasing all stress) as soothing as a lullaby, but it was the Cacao & Coffee Santa Maria that completely captured my heart.
What a WOW! First the therapist slathered me with pure coconut oil. Then exfoliated my skin with a ground coffee rub. Next she wrapped me in a chocolate mask and let me bake in warm sheeting for a few heavenly minutes. After a warm shower to rinse away the chocolate (I would have licked it off if allowed), the therapist topped the massage with a confection of creamy moisturizer. I have never felt so succulent! YUM!

 

FOOD and DRINK

Menus at the resort’s various bars and restaurants weave Panamanian specialties with international favorite dishes.

Dining Areas and Lobby Bar.

Tasajo

The breakfast buffet offers all the usual breakfast fare, plus some special Panamanian dishes that no tourist should miss. Here’s where I became addicted to not only the Panamanian breakfast speciality Tasajo, a stew-like mixture of sausage with tomato, onion and peppers, but also the deeply delicious thick, crunchy corn tortillas.

In addition to serving familiar dishes, celebrated Panamanian chef, Carlos Chombolin Alba adds personal Panamanian-fusion fare to the resort’s gourmet Mestizo Restaurant.

Chef Carlos Chombolin Alba and some of his gourmet dishes.

And although mixologist, Anny Arroyave, can produce whatever is requested, she likes to create a spirited array of speciality drinks to charm guests at the Lobby Bar and AQVA Pool Bar (see recipe below).

Mixologist Anny Arroyave and a few of her speciality drinks.

 

Aqua Pool Bar.

EXCURSIONS
Guests who want to explore Panama City and beyond can call on Santa Maria concierges to arrange for custom sightseeing.

Hotel excursions to nearby sites include a tour of REPROSA (a factory reproducing Panama’s golden antiquities) and Panama Viejo (an archaeological site holding the remains of the oldest European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the Americas plus a museum with historical exhibits).

Touring REPROSA

 

Panama Viejo

THE VIBE
Despite being a big city hotel, packed with glossy marble, polished wood and super stylish furnishings, The Santa Maria feels casual and intimate. Although the setting surrounded by greenery contributes to the easy-going vibe, I think it’s the ever-smiling, always-accomodating staff that creates an atmosphere of genial hospitality and makes the resort stay so special.


Then, again, it could be Anny’s intoxicatingly pleasurable drinks.

 

ANNY’S SANTA MARIA SIGNATURE COCKTAIL

Yield: 1 cocktail.
1-1/2 ounces raspadura syrup (see NOTE below)
1-1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
3 ounces Ron Abuelo Añejo (rum)
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Club soda (optional)
Put all ingredients except club soda in a shaker with ice. Shake well and pour into a collins glass filled with ice. Top with a splash of club soda.

NOTE: Raspadura is unrefined whole cane sugar generally sold in blocks in Mexican or specialty markets. To make raspadura syrup, mix equal amounts of raspadura with water and heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Instead of a raspadura syrup you can substitute a simple syrup made from raw or brown sugar (See recipe for the Bentley at www.SweetLeisure.com or click HERE.)

 

For more information about THE SANTA MARIA HOTEL AND GOLF RESORT click HERE.

 

 

CAL-A-VIE HEALTH SPA, AMERICA’S MOST PERFECT DESTINATION SPA

The second I win the lottery, I’m calling Cal-a-Vie and booking an extended stay.
Why do I love the spa? Here are just a few of the many reasons:

LOCATION
Nestled in a valley surrounded by lavender scented hills, Cal-a-Vie sits 40 miles north of San Diego and seven miles inland from the Pacific coast in Vista, California. Cooling sea breezes and luscious Southern California sunshine combine to grace the spa with a marvelous Mediterranean climate that is warm enough for swimming during the day, cool enough for cashmere at night, and chilly enough for vigorous morning hikes.

 

SETTING
With its collection of buff-colored buildings and sun-burnished roofs graced by shade trees, gardens and greenery Cal-a-Vie could double as a village in Tuscany or tiny town in the heart of Provence.

A French-style fountain sits in the courtyard surrounded by villas. Vineyards roll over the hills. A windmill overlooks the property.

 

Two extraordinary buildings, imported from Dijon and reconstructed on property, shine like jewels crowning the top of the hill. Guests head to the lovely 400-year old chapel for yoga and meditation and to the L’Orangerie for classes, wine tastings, receptions and dinners.

The Chapel at Cal-a-Vie.

 

L’Orangerie.

 

DECOR
How does one describe it? Casual elegance is wanting. Upscale chic doesn’t do it. Homey is more like it, that is if the home is an entire village owned by super wealthy Francophiles with great taste and a dramatically wonderful collection of 17th- and 18th-century French antiques.
Antiques and historical pieces fill most public rooms. Some are French Provincial treasures, others belong in palaces.
The lounge in Cal-a-Vie’s fitness center wears a rare tapestry that was woven for Louis XIV. French chandeliers from the 18th century glow overhead.


Portuguese tiles form murals. European antique mirrors, candlesticks and wall art add sumptuous decorative touches here, there and everywhere.


Despite museum-quality art and antiques, Cal-a-vie feels more comfortable than formal and forbidding. Floors and ceiling made from reclaimed barn wood and charming French Provencal antiques lend a casual element.


The spacious villas (26 guest rooms and six suites) contain hand-crafted and imported antique furniture, with King-size beds topped by memory foam mattresses that are dressed in Frette linens. Bathrooms come with Travertine tile, built-in dressing tables, huge tubs, and a generous supply of fragrant and appealing bath amenities.

Villa # 21.

Colors are soft and restful and fabrics luxurious. Each and every decor element contributes to making Cal-a-vie a heavenly haven.

FITNESS PROGRAMS
A typical day begins with 6:30 a.m. guided hike on 10-miles of picturesque trails (or walk on the 18-hole golf course), followed by a full day of fitness classes and activities. All is available: Spin, Tread and Shed, Cardio Resistance, Rowbics, Aqua Zumba, Club Boxing, TRX Circuit plus many types of yoga, different forms of Pilates, lots of water activities, a variety of dance classes, and…well..the list goes on with more than 125 classes geared to tone, build, strengthen and otherwise satisfy guests’ workout wants.

Swimming in the heated pool.

 

Yoga in the Chapel.

PAMPERING
Workout classes of the morning give way to afternoons that most guests devote to pampering treatments. Skilled and caring therapists offer outstanding massages, facials, reflexology, body wraps, Reiki and scrubs. Skilled beauticians provide a full menu of salon care in the beauty salon.
In addition, the spa offers a collection of body enhancing and/or medically restoring treatments and therapies, such as Alpha-hydroxy fruit peels, genetic testing, teeth whitening, acupuncture, “Wellness injections,” and medical testing.

FOOD
When registering, guests say how many calories they wish to consume a day and staff designs individual food programs to meet their specific goals.
Breakfast offers a choice of dishes, including nutrition heavy and delicious Cal-a-Vie Benedict, granola and fresh berries and assorted omelets.

Cal-a-Vie Benedict.

Lunches and dinners are plated and served, with lunches featuring protein topped salads and dinners more course complete.

Lunch is served on the verandah at Cal-a-Vie.

 

The Dining Room at Cal-a-Vie

No need to worry about going hungry, even if you choose the 1200 per day calorie options. Bowls of apples sit within easy reach in most public rooms, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks (nuts, veggies and smoothies) show up in various public rooms and the kitchen staff will bring a healthy snack to your room, if asked.

Mid-morning and Mid-afternoon snacks as served at Cal-a-Vie.

And yes the spa serves coffee—even expresso drinks if desired.
Any yes, you can drink in your room and sometimes wine is available for purchase at dinner.
And yes, room service is available.

STAFF
The ratio of 5 staff for every one guest spoils one for ordinary life.
Starting with the three staff members that meet your car on arrival (one to show you to the front desk—the others to whisk away the car and carry the luggage to your room)

Arrival and reception desk.

to the waiter who brings you early morning coffee (within 10 minutes of your call) to the maids doing nightly turn down service, the care is complete, competent, cordial, and comforting.

 

GARDENS AND GROUNDS
Gardenias, lavender, jasmine and bee-loving flowers line garden paths scenting the air with natural poetry.
Graceful white orchids decorate every room. Boxwood hedges encase roses and orange trees at L’Orangerie.
The vineyards grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes.
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, African blue basil and a variety of beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage and micro greens flourish in the culinary gardens.
Lush greenery surrounds ponds and streams where frogs hide and sing evening lullabies in mating season.
Gardens gift wrap Cal-a-Vie, enabling guests to walk in lovely wonder wherever they wander.

 

ATTITUDE
Nothing is mandatory.
Schedules are adjustable.
Wake up early and hike—or sleep in and order breakfast in bed from room service. All is okay.
Not into vigorous exercise? Doesn’t matter. Do what you like.
Find that your yoga class and hot-stone massage are in the same time slot? Not to worry, staff is eager to work with you to arrange a schedule that fits your wants and wishes.
Don’t like group activities? No problem. With Cal-a-Vie’s personal trainers, in-room treatments and room service one can enjoy fitness programs, beauty services and meals in total privacy.
Want to go treatment to treatment, stroll about the meditation garden or head to dinner in your comfy Frette robe? Easy. You’ll fit right in.

ALL THE EXTRAS
A well stocked boutique selling fashion (good looking casual clothes for working out and lounging around), gifts (jewelry, beauty products) cook books, wine and Vinothérapie products made from grapes grown in Cal-a-Vie’s vineyard.

The Antique Boutique offering original artwork, glassware, furniture, decorative pieces many leftovers from the owner’s collection that was not used in the spa.

Golf on Ted Robinson-designed championship 18-hole golf course.

Tennis on a red clay court.

Heated pool near the villas.

Olympic-size pool on the hill.

And a variety of arts and crafts mind and body, and cooking and nutrition-classes that supplement spa activity.

Produced in Cal-a-Vie’s arts and craft classes.

 

Dietitian Gina Worful demonstrates Cal-a-Vie’s new Muse brain sensing technology that is useful for providing feedback on brain activity during meditation.

 

Chef Curtis Cooke leads a cooking class that shows guests how to make a Spanish Lentil Stew and a Garden Salad.

CAL-A-VIE GARDEN SALAD

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
8 cups mixed lettuces
1 cup thinly sliced radish
1 cup peeled and thinly sliced jicama
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup blanched green beans
1 cup roasted sweet potato cubes
About 3/4 cup lemon-mustard vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Put greens in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle top of greens with enough of the lemon-mustard vinaigrette to very lightly coat leaves, but not drench them. Gently toss mixture until greens are coated with dressing.
Put a mound of greens in the center of 6 to 8 serving plates, dividing greens evenly among the plates. Put radish, jicama, tomatoes, green beans and potato cubes in mixing bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss mixture to coat vegetables with vinaigrette. Top lettuce with vegetables, dividing the vegetables evenly among the serving plates.
(Dressing and plating the greens and vegetables separately, allows more even distribution of both.)

LEMON-MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

Yield: About 1-3/4 cup.
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Put lemon juice, honey, mustards and salt in a mixing bowl. With a wire whip, whisk in oil. Continue whisking until ingredients are well blended. Set aside.
For more information click HERE.

 

 

TEN REASONS KIDS LOVE ATLANTIS PARADISE ISLAND

Cross my heart, Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas is the tip-top, absolute best resort in the Caribbean for kids of all ages.
Why?
Many reasons. Here are ten:

1. Atlantis sports what is probably the greatest waterpark on earth. Covering 141 acres, the wet and wonderful playground includes 18 different thrilling, chilling water slides, two splashy “river” rides, 20 swimming areas, 11 distinctly different pools—several designed especially for kids. And then there is the beach.

 

2. Walk-through aquariums, swim-through lagoons and an astounding number of age-specific feeding and petting programs bring kids up close and personal with a variety of marine life including dolphins, sea lions, stingrays, sharks and turtles.

 

3. Atlantis provides a profuse number of organized, supervised activities and classes to educate and entertain kids. Toddlers love the mock grocery store, the giant doll house, the fish nursery. Preteens go for the cooking lessons, the game rooms and the performance studio. Teens like the scuba and snuba lessons and thrive at the underwater video arcade and teen-only nightclub.

 

4. Kids can be independent, as parents can drop the kids at a supervised program and comfortably do their own thing, which might include

5. the spa (kids also welcome);

 

6. the casino (kids have their own game rooms and do not play in the casino);

The Casino at Atlantis

7. two shopping areas loaded with boutiques and restaurants (fun for the whole family).

 

8. Travel is easy on families. Paradise Island sits about 180 miles off the southern coast of Florida (and a 600-foot bridge across from Nassau, capital of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas).

Bridge linking Nassau and Paradise Island

Many airlines offer quick, non-stop flights from major U.S. cities directly to The Lynden Pindling International Airport (formerly called the Nassau International Airport). The airport is a short ride from the resort.
Return to the States is also easy as U.S. citizens go though customs at the Nassau airport, not in Miami, making re-entry a breeze and catching connecting flights hassle free.

9. Paradise Island covers about 685 acres. Within the complex are a number of accommodation choices—all suitable for families and all within easy reach of activities.

The Royal, an iconic Atlantis Paradise Island hotel.

10. From poolside hot dog and pizza stands to pizzazzy upscale restaurants, Atlantis Paradise Island offers a broad menu of food options guaranteed to please picky eaters as well as junior gourmets.

Families particularly like the buffets where choices include not only a tempting array of favorite American foods, but also some local Bahamian dishes. The local fare at the self-serve buffets gives kids opportunity to expand their horizons and engage in the culture of another country—without making a full meal commitment.
A Bahamian staple, Chicken Souse, shows up from time to time on Atlantis’ buffet menus.

Locals make Chicken Souse (pronounced sow-se) with inexpensive ingredients and serve it for family and/or company meals, especially for breakfast on weekends as the dish is believed to cure hangovers. The dish is traditionally served with johnnycakes, sweet coconut bread rolls and/or grits used to sop up flavorful juice.

Divine Bahamian Coconut Bread Rolls served at Atlantis

 

BAHAMIAN CHICKEN SOUSE

Coconut bread rolls and Bahamian chicken souse

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

2 pounds chicken wings divided into drumettes and wingettes (save tips for another use)
1 large baking potato
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 carrot, peeled and sliced on the diagonal about 1/8-inch thick thick (optional)
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
Salt to taste
Red pepper flakes
1 celery stalk, diced
Two limes, one for broth and one for garnish

Put chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Set pot over medium heat and bring water to a boil. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Strain chicken and rinse under cold running water.
Return chicken to pot. Peel and cube potato and add to pot along with sliced onion, carrot and allspice. Add water to come 1-inch above ingredients. Sprinkle lightly with salt and red pepper flakes. Set pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in celery and continue cooking until potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes more. Turn off heat. Squeeze juice of one lime into the pan and stir gently.
Garnish with lime wedges and serve warm with johnny cake, grits or sweet bread rolls. DO NOT EAT THE ALLSPICE BERRIES.

For more information about Atlantis Paradise Island, click HERE

 

 

LUSCIOUS RECIPES FROM THE BEST OF THE BEST KITCHENS

The very best
(no fooling),
the most divine
(really)
recipes from people and places
(all totally superlative)
to make for gift giving.
(Marvelous to the max!)

COFFEE RUB SEASONING MIX
A coffee and spice and everything nice recipe from Jim Leonardo, chef of Vinology, the spiffy wine-bar and restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Recipe HERE.

Coffee Rub Seasoning Mix gives hamburgers extra pizzazz.

 

HOT COCOA CAKE
A divine bundt cake that remains a perpetual best seller at Zingerman’s Deli and Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Recipe HERE.

Perfection at any time of the year.

 

SPONGE CANDY
A speciality of Kathy McCarthy, a chocolatier who teaches classes in candy making and sells sweet delights at the Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Recipe HERE.

Such a sweet and well appreciated gift.

 

GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
A combo of two favorite cookies and gluten free to boot from The Living Room coffee cafe in Maplewood, Missouri. Recipe HERE.

Two favorite cookies baked into one and gluten free. Yes!

 

SPICED PECANS
A positively addictive spice pecan placed as a VIP welcome in guest rooms of  The Capital Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. Recipe HERE.

Sweet Leisure is nuts about these.

 

POMPELMOCELLO

A sweet, grapefruit-infused liqueur designed by mixologist Joe Pietrzykowski to serve at the Polo Wine & Martini Lounge in Hotel Colorado, Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Cheers!

Yield: About 7 cups.

5 large grapefruits (organic ruby red best)
1 (750) bottle vodka
3-1/2 cups water
2-1/2 cups sugar

With a vegetable peeler, cut yellow peel from grapefruits (cut in long thin strips, avoiding white pith). With a kitchen knife, scrape as much white pith as possible from each peel. Place peels in a large pitcher or jar. Pour vodka over peels and cover with plastic wrap or jar lid. Set pitcher in a cool dark place and steep for five days or longer (up 2 weeks), agitating occasionally.
After vodka is infused with grapefruit flavor, put water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring, until sugar completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
Pour syrup over vodka mixture, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight.
Strain vodka mixture into bottles (discard peel). Cap or cork bottles and place in the freezer. Serve directly from the freezer in port glasses as an aperitif and/or after-dinner digestif. You can also use pompelmocello as an ingredient in cocktails.

 

 

 

GIFTS THAT GIVE

Making a list?
Checking it thrice?
Want to give something that triple-dips nice? Then read on for special stores that can make shopping a breeze, provide enough choice to please a Santa load of recipients and help ease the lives of families around the world. For gift-giving at its win win win best, click in, fill your cart and help yourself and others have a very merry holiday season and a splendid every-other-gift-giving celebration.

UNICEF MARKET

From jewelry to accessories to home decor, each item purchased through the UNICEF Market benefits programs that provide children with basic necessities such as nutrition, medicine, education, clean water and more. The UNICEF Market is a partnership between UNICEF USA and Novica that offers unique items from around the world.  UNICEF Market practices fair trade for all of its artisans. Gift items that especially appealed to Sweet Leisure include:

TRANSITIONS, a pair of 100% spun silk scarves from Thailand $20.49
(This purchase can provide 13 doses of measles vaccine to protect children from this deadly disease.)

BUDDHA IN NATURE, a hand carved and painted wood mask made in Indonesia $67.99
(This purchase can provide 218 sachets of oral rehydration salts, which can help children combat dehydration and diarrhea.)

 

THE OFFERING sterling silver pendant necklace $42.99 (This purchase can provide enough polio vaccine to vaccinate 53 children against polio.)

Click HERE for more information about UNICEF Market.

 

TEN THOUSAND VILLAGES

As the world’s original fair trader, Ten Thousand Villages works to change lives in developing countries through income-earning opportunities. With a network of over 50 branded stores and 300-plus retail partners throughout the United States as well as an e-commerce shop, Ten Thousand Villages connects customers to a global village by sharing the extraordinary stories of artisan partners and handcrafted, ethically sourced gifts, jewelry, personal accessories, home décor and art. Headquartered in Lancaster County, Pa., Ten Thousand Villages has been building business relationships in places where artisans lack opportunity for sustainable incomes since 1946. Today 20,000 makers in 30 countries are safely employed, earning fair and consistent wages that secure basic needs, send children to school, build savings and plan for the future. Especially popular gift items include:

ESSENTIAL COMPANION TOTE, a basket of woven palm leaf fiber with leather straps made in Bangladesh  $39.99

Reverse painted glass FLORAL ANTIQUITY TRAY handcrafted in Peru $125.00

SHESHAM TRAVEL CHESS SET for games on the go handcrafted in India $34.99

Click HERE or more information about Ten Thousand Villages.

 


One hundred percent of St. Jude Giftshop profits, after all related expenses, benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90 percent, and won’t stop until no child dies from cancer. St. Jude freely shares the discoveries it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
Gifts run the gamut, but these are especially popular:

CHALKBOARD CANISTER SET good for everything from cookies to rubber bands. $28.00.

Dishwasher & Microwave Dolomite ceramic POLKA DOT PASTA BOWL $28.00

The soft and cuddly BRANTLEY TEDDY BEAR $15.00

Click HERE for more information about St Jude Giftshop.

 

May your shopping be accompanied by the greatest gifts of all–peace, love and goodwill towards all mankind.

Keep Peace In Your Heart paper cut by Ilisha Helman

 

 

OURAY COLORADO, HOT SPRINGS & BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Whoever first said, “The best things come in small packages,” had to be thinking of Ouray. This teeny tiny Colorado town covers only about 0.84 square miles, yet it overflows with appeal. Located in southwest Colorado, near the Four Corners where Colorado meets up with Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, Ouray sits in a box canyon surrounded by the San Juan Mountains.
A natural wonder, the town and environs offer glorious forests, mountains, waterfalls and other scenery for a a wide range of outdoor activity.
In summer over 100 trails lure the hiker. In winter, cross country skiing and ice climbing take precedence. But best of all—winter, spring, summer and fall, are Ouray’s natural hot springs that are corralled in various pools throughout town. Nothing beats a long soak. The thermal water is Ouray’s most relaxing, rejuvenating, renewing, refreshing, revitalizing and rewarding activity.

 

WHERE TO SOAK
Head to the Ouray Hot Springs Pool & Fitness Center where a recent multi—million dollar renovation polished the thermal pools to perfection. In addition to the main pools, sporting varying degrees of non-sulfur water (105°F the warmest), the fun includes lap lanes, climbing wall and water slides (open in summer). The view make the pools unforgettable. Mountains by day. A sky packed with sparkling stars at night. Magic throughout.

 

WHERE TO STAY
The Wiesbaden waters have always been considered special. Early users, the Ute Indians, called them “Miracle Waters,” for their healing properties.
It may have been the water (as well as silver ore found nearby) that made prospectors stake a claim on Ouray, incorporating the town in 1876.
It was certainly the water responsible for the original building of what is today The Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings to spring up over a natural vaporcave at the side of a mountain in 1879.

The original building that is now part of The Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa &n Lodgings.

Water keeps flowing to The Wiesbaden and so do guests.
Today’s Wiesbaden offers a full service spa and a choice of  accommodations. By contemporary standards, the rooms are faded, albeit filled with historic charm. For example, the most requested room, the “Sunroom” sits in the original lodge over the vaporcave. It’s filled with antiques and has a stone wall, where the room butts up against the mountain.


What makes the Wiesbaden special is the constantly flowing, chemical free, thermal water that the property captures in three pools for guest use. The vaporcave and its 108°F soaking pool, the thermal swimming pool and the Lorelei, a private, soaking pool, bring bliss to the hot springs lover calling the Wiesbaden home for a night or two.

 

WHERE TO DINE
Sweet Leisure’s two favorites Ouray eateries are:

Mouse’s Chocolates & Coffee for breakfast, house-roasted coffee, pastries, lunch salads, anytime chocolates and famous “scrap” cookies made from scraps of chocolate candy.

and

Brickhouse 737 for a thoroughly special, sophisticated, farm-fresh dinner of “travel inspired” dishes, such as Fried Brussels Sprouts served as a hearty appetizer. (The brussels sprouts would also shine as a side dish at a special dinner—we’re thinking Thanksgiving here.)

 

BRICKHOUSE 737 BRUSSELS SPROUTS

(Adapted from recipes supplied by Brickhouse 737 restaurant in Ouray, Colorado. See NOTE.)

Yield: 4 servings.

About 1 pound brussels sprouts
About 1/3 pound Portuguese sausage
Canola oil
4 to 6 tablespoons Miso Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
About 1/4 cup Candied Macadamia Nuts (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Trim and halve Brussel sprouts. Place sprouts in a glass baking dish. Cut sausage into small chunks and scatter over sprouts. Drizzle with oil, and toss gently with two spoons to coat ingredients with oil. Place dish in preheated oven and roast until sprouts and sausage are crispy, 30 to 45 minutes.
Toss cooked mixture with miso vinaigrette and top with candied nuts.
Serve immediately.

MISO VINAIGRETTE

Yield: About 1-1/4 cup.

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons yellow miso
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 shallot, peeled
1 cup oil
Salt
Black pepper
Place first six ingredients in the jar of a blender and blend until smooth. Slowly add oil, blending to emulsify oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
(May be prepared up to a week in advance and refrigerated in a covered container.)

CANDIED MACADAMIA NUTS

Yield: 1 cup.

1 cup Macadamia nuts
Pure maple syrup
Put nuts in a small saucepan. Add enough syrup to cover nuts. Set over medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Cook until syrup thickly coats nuts, 15 to 20 minutes. Strain nuts to remove any excess syrup and cool on a baking sheet.
May be prepared a week in advance and stored in an airtight container.

NOTE: Brickhouse deep fries their sprouts and sausage mixture in canola oil. Our recipe calls for roasting the sprouts and sausage mixture. In addition the restaurant also fries the candied macadamia nuts, but we do not.
The resulting dish is not an identical twin of Brickhouse’s, but a very pleasing rendition.

 

WEBSITES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Ouray: OurayColorado.com

The Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and Lodgings: www.wiesbadenhotspings.com

Mouse’s Chocolates & Coffee: mouseschocolates.com

Brickhouse 737:  www.brickhouse737.com

 

Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway leads to and from Ouery.

 

 

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING APPLE MUFFINS

AUTUMN. APPLES. ABUNDANCE. ACTION PLAN: Make ABSOLUTELY AMAZING  (gluten-free, low-calorie, nutrient rich, healthful and wholesome)  APPLE MUFFINS.

 

 

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING APPLE MUFFINS

Yield: 12 muffins.

1/2 cup and 1/3 cup gluten-free oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Big pinch nutmeg
Big pinch cloves
2 eggs
2 tablespoons honey
2 ripe bananas
2 apples
1 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts)
1 tablespoon flax seed

Heat over to 400°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease cups.
Put 1/2 cup oats in a medium size mixing bowl. Add baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Stir to mix.
Put 1/3 cup oats in the jar of a blender and blend until oats are a powder. Put powdered oats in bowl with dry ingredients.
Put eggs, honey, and bananas in blender and blend until smooth. Add to mixture in mixing bowl and stir until all ingredients are well blended. Core apples. Chop one apple. Add chopped apple, walnuts and flax seed to mixture in bowl and stir until blended.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Core remaining apple and slice into thin wedges. Place several apple wedges on top of batter in each cup.
Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.

 

And don’t forget ABSOLUTELY AMAZING APPLE PIE.
Click HERE for recipe .

 

 

PETERSEN AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM

Anna Marco is not only a writer with over 800 articles to her credit, but also a magazine editor, film actress, model, professional makeup artist, advertising expert with over 28 years of experience in the entertainment industry, stylist, fashion designer, creator of a cartoon series and an automotive industry spokesperson. Whew! This high octane woman is also a drag-racing, hot-rod, automobile and actually-any-thing-with-wheels enthusiast and expert.
Born in Southern California, the birthplace of hot rodding, Anna became involved at a early age. She reports that as a teenager she would illegally win local street races and buy shoes with the winnings, jump-starting her trademarked motto, “I like my heels high and my cars low.”
Also know as “Anna Octane” and “Hot Rod Doll,” Anna is as generous as she is sassy.
Sweet Leisure bumped into her in Los Angeles at the Petersen Automotive Museum where she works as a tour guide.
“What should we see?” we asked her at the third floor start of the exhibits. “Everything,” she answered.
As everything is almost impossible to view in a one-shot visit, we asked for a summary of musts.
The hot rod babe sent the following:

 

THE PETERSEN AUTOMOTIVE MUSEUM

By Anna Marco


Los Angeles is one of the most car centric cities in the United States and this museum is a destination hub for travelers and their families. The museum boasts 300 of the world’s finest modes of transportation, interactive displays, rare motorcycles, a Discovery Center for kids and play area, The Art Center College of Design studio, the Forza driving/racing experience, Drago restaurant and ample parking, all housed in a sleek exterior that mimics ground effects aerodynamics.There is much more to see and do here including the Petersen store, rotating exhibits, special events, cruises, movie nights, and art shows, but you have to go see it for yourself.


Here are my thoughts on the top 10 reasons to visit:

The Petersen Crown Jewels of Autos collection: The Petersen acquired some of the most valuable vehicles on Earth especially the 1925/1934 Round Door Rolls Royce Phantom One by Jonckheere. This stunning 22- foot long vehicle is a tribute to the Art Deco movement and the only one of its kind in the world. It is the crown jewel of the Petersen collection which also includes the Steve McQueen Jaguar (and 3 other of his vehicles), Preston Tucker’s Tucker 48 (Car #30), The Rita Hayworth Cadillac, the world’s most original Mercer, a 1929 DuPont Speedster G by Waterhouse, a Cisitalia, the Prince of Persia’s 1939 Delahaye Type 165, and the all original 1952 Ferrari Barchetta that was a birthday present from Enzo Ferrari to Henry Ford II.

 

The 1959 Outlaw by Ed Roth: This iconic fiberglass vehicle started the Kustom Kulture movement in hot rodding and the use of fiberglass material in show cars of the 1960s. This original vehicle is part of the crown jewel collection at the Petersen and valued at over 7 figures. This original car inspired Hot Wheels and Revell to make miniature versions of it.

 

The Mullin Grand Salon: Peter Mullin, avid Bugatti historian, has a most impressive collection of Bugatti memorabilia and cars and showcases his personal collection in the main gallery on the first floor. The rotating exhibit sometimes includes the most valuable Bugatti on Earth, a 1936 57SC Atlantic of which only two are known to exist.

 

The Nearburg Family Gallery: An impressive collection of Dan Gurney race cars and other race vehicles valued at over $80 million. The 180-degree wall of sound and image surround is an immersive “day at the races” audio visual experience.

 

The Meyer Gallery: Bruce Meyer was a dear friend of the Petersen’s and helped support the establishment of the museum in 1994. An avid car collector himself, The Meyer Gallery features a rotating exhibit of the world most impressive vehicles based on their color. Currently: “Seeing Red: 70 years of Ferrari” is on exhibit.

 

The Hollywood Gallery: This exhibit pays tribute to cinematic cars of Hollywood such as the Batmobile, the “Back to The Future” DeLorean and others.

 

The Vault Tour: Beneath the museum is a working car garage with 120 cars on display. For an additional fee, you can join a guided 90-minute tour of this high security area highlighting the car collection stored here including Billy Gibbons 1948 Cadillac “Cadzilla.” No photos are allowed in the vault and the display changes daily depending on what cars are being worked on.

 

The Petersen Publishing Archives: Soon to be available for public research, the Petersen Publishing Archives houses extensive records of hot rodding from 1948 to 1994 and is a treasure trove of information for historians.

The Petersen Museum Staff: Honestly, excellent customer service is at the heart of any business model and the Petersen Automotive Museum is top notch when it comes to a friendly atmosphere and cleanliness. There are resources available for private events/parties, private tours and corporate events as well.


Easy access to museum row, the Fairfax District, Hollywood and Farmers Market:
What more can we say, you can make an entire day of sightseeing in the Hollywood adjacent area, starting at the Petersen. This museum anchors the crossroads of antique cars in the modern world. Where else can you see an 1886 Benz Patent Motor wagon and a 2017 Ford GT in one place?

The museum is open daily with reasonable admission prices and parking.

Visit www.Petersen.org for more info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEST RESTAURANT IN NAPLES, FL, & FLATBREAD RECIPE

The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/sweetleisure.comWish The Local restaurant was local—to me that is. The restaurant is local to lucky residents of Naples, FL, which I think is essentially unfair. It may be jealousy talking, but folks in Naples get all the breaks. They enjoy great weather, sand and sea and a cornucopia of other pleasures. I don’t see why they should have the added perk of this inexpensive, super cool restaurant open for lunch and dinner six days a week (closed on Monday).
Located in a strip mall on Airport Pulling Rd N, The Local takes casual dining to a tasty, healthful high.

Inside The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL./SweetLeisure.com
Most ingredients come from sustainable Southwest Florida farms (thank you Florida weather)

The Local serves locally sourced foods.

and menu items present a feast for vegans, vegetarians, carnivores, omnivores, pescatarians…well…let’s just cut to the chase. People with all sorts of food preferences will find something to strike their fancy from the ever-changing menu of delectable

soups

Tomato Soup from The Local Restaurant/sweetleisure.com
salads

The Local restaurant in Naples, FL, serves terrific Salads/sweetleisure.com
flatbreads, both constructed and deconstructed (see recipe below)

Flatbread from The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/sweetleisure.com
sandwiches

Sandwich from the Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/SweetLeisure.com
specials

Specials at The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/SweetLeisure.com
desserts

Dessert Table at The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/SweetLeisure.com.

and beverages.

Bar at The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/SweetLeisure.com
Although owner-chef Jeff Mitchell serves some of the freshest, most gorgeous vegetables in Florida,

Crudités Served at The Local Restaurant in Naples, Florida/sweetleisure.com

he also devotes detailed attention to pork. “We butcher a hog daily,” Mitchell says, “and use everything from the hooter to the tooter.”

Owner/Chef Jeff Mitchell of The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL./SweetLeisure.com

Jeff Mitchell

Much can be said about The Local’s food. Often used descriptors include:
“organic,” “grass-fed,” “free-range,” “farm-to-table,” “sea-to table,”“so delicious” “beautiful” “clean,” “healthful” and “Mmmmmmmmm!”
Meticulous sourcing, creative preparation, vibrant presentation—oh, how I wish The Local was local to me.

THE LOCAL’S MEDITERRANEAN FLATBREAD

Yield: 2 to 4 servings.
2 ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 red bell pepperMediterranean Flatbread Recipe at www.sweetleisure.com
1 stalk celery
1 tablespoon diced red onion
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Sumac
3 mint leaves
1/4 cup feta cheese
Seasoned toasted flatbread (recipe follows)
Trim tomatoes and cut into bite size pieces.
Peel and cut ends off cucumber. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Slice cucumber crosswise into 1/4-inch thick half moons.
Trim, seed and cut red bell pepper into 1/4 inch thick strips.
Trim celery and cut into 1/4-inch thick pieces.
Put all cut vegetables into a medium mixing bowl. Add onion and dill. Sprinkle lemon juice over ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sumac. Toss gently with two spoons to distribute ingredients and seasonings. Taste and correct seasonings. Put into a serving bowl. Tear mint leaves into thirds and sprinkle over top of salad. Top with feta.
Serve with seasoned toasted flat bread.

SEASONED TOASTED FLATBREAD
Flatbread
Olive Oil
Za’tar
Cut flatbread into wedges. Brush both sides of each wedge with extra virgin olive oil and set on a baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with za’tar. Place baking sheet in a preheated 350°F oven and toast flatbread until golden brown and crispy, about 7 minutes.
For more information about The Local click HERE.

Menu Items from The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL./SweetLeisure.com

 

 

FABULOUS FRENCH HOTEL BARGE CRUISE AND RECIPES

Shhh!…keep this between us as it’s not too cool for a travel writer to claim a favorite cruise. But when it comes to barging, I’ve taken two trips that I adored above all the others and just can’t stop praising them.
Both were on the same Horizon II, one of the luxurious hotel barges in the French Country Waterways fleet. Both traveled divinely, dreamingly, deliciously through the ancient man-made canals of the Upper Loire in France. Same vessel. Same country. Same itinerary. Different years. Double-dipped delight.


So what is it about the Horizon II that inspires devotion?

SPACE and LAYOUT
A barge is a barge is a barge. Most reconstructed hotel barges floating in France have the same dimensions. The number of passengers tucked into allotted space offers best clue to comfort.
The supremely comfortable Horizon II carries only eight passengers, which maximizes bedroom size, public area space per person and personal attention.

The large bedrooms sit on a lower level, down a few stairs.

 

En suite bathrooms overflow with amenities including Bvlgari products, heated towel racks, fluffy bathrobes and great showers.

 

The dining room/lounge/library/help-yourself bar (which staff stocks with passengers’ favorite brands) occupies the mid-level deck and is the place where passengers gather for drinks, meals, relaxing and conversation.

 

The upper level sundeck stretches over the front of the barge, a few steps up from the lounge. Passengers use the sundeck for alfresco dining, sunshine lounging and to embark and disembark from the barge at docks.

 

Passengers can borrow a bike stored on the sundeck and hop off of the barge as it travels through a lock, and then bike or stroll to the next lock to re-board.

 

Sounds like heaven? There’s more:

DECOR
French cherry wood walls, red and blue solids, patterns and plaids for fabrics, and nautical finishing touches make the barge feel as cozy as a country house, and chic as an upscale boutique hotel.

STAFF
The Horizon II’s talented crew consists of a captain, a chef, two hostesses, a tour guide and a deckhand. (Six crew to eight passengers—a pampering ratio if there ever was one.) Although some of the crew on most of the cruises are French, all speak fluent English.

FOOD
Eating and drinking on the Horizon II could substitute as a crash course in French culinary delights. Breakfast comes with breads and pastries purchased in dawns early light from the best bakery wherever the barge docks.


Buffet lunches include an array of colorful salads with ingredients sourced from local markets and/or farms along the route. (See recipes below.)


Multi-course dinners match any served at three-star restaurants.

 

Three extraordinary French cheeses accompany each lunch and dinner as does a dramatic selection of Premier Cru, Grand Cru and special wines available only locally.

 

 

ACTIVITIES
Nothing much happens on the barge trip and that’s the beauty of it.
The barge docks at night, on the outskirts of tiny villages.

 

During the day, it glides with the grace and pace of a swan through ancient canals and locks, floating through backyards of villages and fertile countrysides.


Once a day, passengers take a tour or excursion, by foot or car to some point of nearby interest. Excursions could, and usually do, include: visits to legendary châteaux, wine tastings, and tours of tiny villages, some with terrific shopping opportunities, e.g. famous chocolate shops and the  renowned Gien French Faience dinnerware factory and outlet.

 

But excursions aside, the best part of a Horizon II trip is simply being on board, drinking fabulous wines, eating luscious meals, maneuvering through locks, and relaxing on deck while floating through scenery where every blink reveals a picture postcard image of rural perfection and every minute brings pure pampering pleasure.

 

Cyril Bedu

Everything that Horizon II’s chef Cyril Bedu makes pleases, but he is especially gifted with preparing a variety of salads with the freshest vegetables sourced from markets and farms along the barge’s route. Two favorites include:

 

RED CABBAGE PINE NUT SALAD

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
1 small head red cabbage
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (See NOTE)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Hazelnut vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 large tomato for garnish, optional
Halve cabbage. Cut away core. Sliver remaining cabbage and put slivers into a bowl.
Add raisins, pine nuts and chives. Toss. Sprinkle to taste with hazelnut vinaigrette and toss gently to distribute ingredients.
Cut tomato peel off of tomato and form into a “rose.” Place tomato rose in center of salad. Cut remaining tomato into wedges and place wedges around outer edge of salad.

HAZELNUT VINAIGRETTE
Yield: 1/2 cup.
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste.
Put vinegar and mustard in a small bowl and whisk together until blended. Slowly whisk in the oils until dressing is emulsified. (Or place all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously to blend thoroughly.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

NOTE: TO TOAST PINE NUTS
Spread pine nuts on an ungreased baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350°F oven and roast, stirring often, until nuts are light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Immediately remove from heat and transfer pine nuts to a plate to cool.

 

BISTRO POTATOES (POTATO SALAD)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Water
Salt
About 2 pounds small red potatoes
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
1-1/2 tablespoons finely sliced shallot
1 tablespoon finely chopped gherkins
Freshly ground pepper
Lettuce leaves for garnish, optional
Cocktail tomatoes for garnish, optional
Mushroom rose for garnish, optional
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cut unpeeled potatoes into bite size pieces and add to boiling water. Boil until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a small knife, about 10 minutes.
Drain well.
Sprinkle potatoes with wine and toss very gently. Set potatoes aside to absorb wine.
Make dressing: Whisk vinegar with mustard and 1/4-teaspoon salt until salt dissolves. Very slowly whisk in oil. Stir in parsley, gherkins and shallots. Pour dressing over warm potatoes and toss gently to blend. Serve warm or chilled, garnished as desired.

For another great Horizon II recipe click HERE.
For French Country Waterways Information, click HERE.