Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Massage and More

Zoe and Jack and Roxy and I are in Broken Bow, Oklahoma -- about as far southeast in Oklahoma as you can get -- close to where Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma meet. This is one of the prettiest parts of Oklahoma but, for many years, has been one of the poorest. The area has, in the past ten years, had an influx of wealthy Texans -- mostly from the Metroplex -- coming here to enjoy the gorgeous lake, rivers, and pine forests. So elegant accommodations have sprung up to meet the need.

I love this part of the state so when I got an invitation to check out a new spa, I jumped at the chance. But this is no ordinary spa -- no mani/pedis, facials, etc. What you will get is the most amazing body treatment you ever had. There are elements of massage but it's really a banquet for your skin delivered with the most nurturing touch plus the added element of music, the vibrations of which will get your body humming harmonically with the sound and feel of the melody.

The result is relaxation so profound that I was reduced to a state of overdone pasta. Zoe put it a little more definitively so I'm including her description.

Here's Zoe:

"The next time someone tells me to 'go to my happy place,' I’m going to Body Harmony in Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

More than just a massage, Body Harmony offers a treatment unlike anything I’ve previously experienced.

Skin Treatment

The bulk of the treatment involves drizzling melted shea butter on the skin then rubbing with Dead Sea salts. The salts exfoliate and the shea butter moisturizes.

Nutrient Therapy

The salts aren’t just Sodium Chloride. They are 90% trace minerals, which your skin soaks up as the heat opens your pores. We don’t usually get enough trace minerals through food or supplements.

Healing Touch

The massage itself is gentle and relaxing. You don’t talk, and you don’t move, letting the therapist move your head, legs, and arms. The massage starts with your head and face (many massages neglect the face), moves to the legs, each arm, and then your back. The shea butter is an ideal massage oil and the salt increases circulation. Then you are swaddled in heated towels, first moist and then dry, and covered with a blanket as the next appendage is addressed.

Musical Beds

No, you don’t jump up and change places with another client when the music stops! The massage tables used by Body Harmony are completely unique, channeling the vibrations of the ambient music straight into your body. Our auditory accompaniment featured the sounds of rain, and feeling the thunder resonate through my solar plexus felt so … natural. After the first few minutes, you don’t really notice the vibration, but it subtly adds to the relaxation. The table is also topped with thick memory foam which molds to your curves and provides custom support. You feel cradled in the table rather than perched on top, and there are no pressure points.

Total Relaxation

The combination of the shea butter massage and salt scrub, the hot towels, the therapeutic technique, and the Body Harmony table, left me about as relaxed as I can ever remember being. The treatment also encourages the release of endorphins (you know, those feel-good chemicals your brain releases when you’re having a good time) which battles cortisol, the stress hormone we’re all carrying around pretty much 24/7.

No matter what your previous experiences with massage, I guarantee you’ve never had anything quite like a Body Harmony treatment. I can’t recommend it enough and hope to have another go someday!"

As for me -- yeah, what she said!

Monday, September 21, 2009

To Market, To Market

Visiting local farmers' markets is one of my favorite things. And I always think of one of my favorite movies -- the 1981 "Four Seasons" with Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno, Jack Weston and Sandy Dennis. Dennis plays an obsessive photographer who is focusing (literally!) on vegetables.

I totally get it. The colors and shapes are irresistible.

The market in Birmingham, Alabama, is one of the best! Between the squash and the scuppernongs (the white grapes larger than the end of your thumb), the photo ops were endless -- which is why I'm posting more pictures than text.

And the piece de resistance is the tomato shot -- I couldn't believe my luck. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Writers Gone Rogue

I know people think the life of a travel writer is just one long party but the truth is, we work long hours, rush from place to place never spending enough time to really enjoy museums or galleries, and then spend hours writing and trying to find homes for our articles in an increasingly tight market.

Are you feeling properly sorry for us? Well, everything I said is true but it's also true that we have a lot of fun -- sometimes to the point of silliness. I have to admit that my own sense of humor often sinks to fifth grade level -- you know, booger and underpants jokes. And when we can find an accomplice, so much the better. Here the elegant and sophisticated Mary Hendron cooperates in a 2008, South Dakota, nose-picking photo op. So when my buddy Libba Young promised to show me the biggest ass in Alabama -- I knew it was time for misbehavior.

The statue of Vulcan, which has stood on a bluff overlooking the city of Birmingham since the 1930s, was designed and cast by Italian artist Guiseppe Moretti in 1904. "Vulcan" is the largest cast iron statue in the world. He symbolizes the importance of industry -- particularly the iron and steel industry -- to the city. Fifty-six feet tall, mounted on a 124-foot pedestal, it's a city icon. And it's REALLY ugly. And Libba didn't exaggerate -- it has unbelievably prominent naked butt cheeks.

Be honest -- these buns were made for mockin'!

In this shot Vulcan is too remote to get the full buttockal effect but props to Libba for the interesting angle.

I gave it a shot -- better bunnage but I couldn't get Libba's face in the frame.
Were the results worth the time we spent? I definitely think so. It's always a good day when I LMAO!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Hot Spot

One of Oklahoma City's hottest dining spots is the Iguana Grill, 9 Northwest 9th Street. It opened in June of last year -- but I just got around to trying it the other night. Small, in a 1905 building tucked between Broadway and the railroad tracks, it may be a bit off the beaten path -- but folks are beating a new one to get here. With an attractive outdoor patio and several dining areas, it was packed full of people looking for food and fun -- both available here.

Colorful paintings hang on the walls. It's noisy, both with recorded music and talking, laughing guests.

And the food? Chef Ryan Parrott rocks! As a Weight Watcher, eating out is a challenge and a Mexican restaurant provides many temptations. Twelve tortilla chips uses up 3 points -- but how can I resist? I get my own plate, count out my chips and break them into pieces. Then I go after the salsa! And the salsa here was superb -- fresh, tomato-y, just a bit of heat and not too much cilantro.

One of my buddies and I split this order of Enchilada de Camarones -- two large tortillas filled with sauteed shrimp and a chipotle tomato sauce and covered with cheese and a sour cream sauce. For our sides, we chose fresh fruit -- peaches, apples, mangoes and pineapple -- and grilled vegetables. The sour cream and cheese pushed the points envelope but by splitting and adding healthy sides, I was able to work it into my allotted points (this is where the extra 35 come in handy!) The serving was ample enough that we were both satisfied and I can't wait to go back and try some other specialties like the Chile Rellenos -- fresh Anaheim peppers dusted with blue corn and filled with adobo chicken (I'll have to pass on the one filled with the four-cheeses). While this restaurant is worthy of a splurge, you can enjoy a number of choices without straining your budget or worrying about your next weigh-in.