Tuesday, December 2, 2008

5 Under $50 for the Holidays: Spa Gifts that are Great for the Wallet and Spirit

Forgive me as I state the obvious. Times are tough…and if you’re like me, you don’t expect for a personal bailout package to come your way any time soon. So does that mean you need to abandon your spa dreams this holiday season? Absolutely not! For the poor in the pocket, but wealthy at heart among us, here are five “can’t lose” gifts for the spa goers in your life….and, as always, feel free to chime in at the end with your own ideas at the end!

A spa gift certificate – Whether it’s to a specific spa (including any of the ones I link to at right) or a service like
Spa Finder or Spa Wish whose gift certificates can be redeemed at thousands of spas around the world, you can’t lose with a spa gift certificate. Depending on the spa, a gift of $25 or $50 can get your favorite spa enthusiast a manicure, pedicure or in some cases a short massage. At a higher end spa, it can provide the perfect add-on to a basic treatment. You can’t go wrong with this one, trust me!

A spa gift basket – You can buy a pre-made gift basket from sites such as the
NJ Spa Girl & Co. Company Store, Red Envelope, Spa Finder or Wine and Country Baskets for $25 - $50 (of course you can spend more if you want!). Or, if you’re more of a “bricks and mortar” type of shopper check out Sam’s Club, Costco (yes, you read both of those correctly!) for some lovely baskets for under $25 all year round. And, if you’re feeling really creative and want to make your own basket (or gift bag), have no fear! I’ve given you a head start by linking to the more than 1,000 spa-related products available from Amazon. Or, a quick trip to the dollar store and/or a health and beauty retailers like Bath & Body Works can lead you to wonderful spa related treasures for $1 - $10 to fill up your gift bag or basket. From bath oils, lotions and candles, to relaxation masks, bath pillows, spa journals and CDs, the only limits to a wonderfully personalized spa basket are your imagination and budget!

The gift of aromatherapy – Ahhhhh….treat your favorite spa goer to the scent-sational gift of aromatherapy with a scented candle, fragrant aromatherapy oil or home fragrance stick diffuser kit. For about $20 you can find a broad range of scented candles and home fragrance stick diffusers at Hallmark, Red Envelope, Yankee Candle Company, Bed Bath & Beyond and just about any other places where house wares are sold. For those on tighter budget, check your local dollar store or even the seasonal discount aisle of your local CVS, Wal-greens or drug store. You’ll be surprised at what you might find! For those more into aromatherapy and essential oils for the body and/or home, check out the “Fragrantly” section of
Stimuliart.com or the guest post below from my friend at YoungLiving.com for some inspiration.

A relaxation CD – The right sounds and music can truly soothe the body and soul. So consider a relaxing CD. The beauty of this gift is that for under $20 you can tailor the soothing sounds based on the recipient’s personal preferences. While there are a variety “spa sounds” out there, such as the ones covered in my earlier post, a relaxation CD is truly defined as anything that helps the listener to relax. So whether your favorite spa goer is into Coltrane or Kenny G, Motown or Mozart, the hypnotic chants of Tibeten Monks, the drizzle of a Brazilian Rainforest or the sounds of the sea, there’s a relaxation CD out there with their name on it!

Spa gear – What would a post like this be without a shameless plug for some comfortable gear to wear while relaxing at home or at the spa from the
NJ Spa Girl & Co. company store? From t-shirts and spa journals to tote bags and sweats, we carry a full line of one-of-a-kind merchandise, the majority of which can be purchased for under $50! Of course there are other places you could go to buy spa gear for your favorite spa goer, but why would you?

So, if you’re looking for a little wallet-friendly, spa gift inspiration this holiday season—or all year round—consider this post just for you. Or, the next time someone asks you, what’s on your gift wish list, feel free to pass this article along. You’ll be glad you did—and so will they! J

Wishing you good spa and the happiest and healthiest of holidays!
NJ Spa Girl

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Can't Get to the Spa? Indulge in Some "Retail Therapy" at ideeli

Greetings fellow spa goers!

Who says membership doesn't have its privileges?

When I first launched NJSpaGirl.com, I dreamed of offering my community members exclusive benefits from businesses who share our commitment to making time and taking time to luxuriate and enjoy life's pleasures--from the simple to the luxurious. I'm pleased to report that we've just solidified our first such arrangement with ideeli, a unique, invitation-only shopping community.

ideeli creates daily online events that provide its members with the ideal shopping experience: privileged access to the most sought-after products and experiences, often at privileged prices. Each event is designed by ideeli editors to offer members an exclusive shopping opportunity in a fun, social way. The surprises include not only great products and prices, but items not yet available in stores, finds from abroad, and fabulous giveaways.

Now, as an NJSpaGirl.com reader, you have the opportunity to save as you indulge in one of the most exclusive retail therapy experiences around!

To access this unique service via ideeli's private code for NJSpaGirl.com readers, click the ideeli link in the "Shop for your favorite spa goer" section at right, or click the link below:

NJSpaGirl.com Reader Private Code

Wishing you good spa (and some good retail therapy!)!
NJ Spa Girl

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Everything You Want To Know About Aromatherapy Oils (But Are Afraid To Ask!)

Enjoy this guest post by my fellow Spa Girl Nia (aka FoxyLayd!)

Aromatherapy & Essential Oils

What is aromatherapy? According to Wikipedia, Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile liquid plant materials, known as essential oils (EOs), and other aromatic compounds from plants for the purpose of affecting a person's mood or health.

Aromatherapy is the oldest method of holistic healing and is employed to modify a person’s psychological and physical well-being.

Since scent is the most enduring of our senses, it has the power to transform our emotions, and heal our bodies. It can take us to another place and time, it can invoke memories both good and bad (i.e. grandma’s kitchen, an old boyfriend or girlfriend’s cologne).

The Egyptians used aromatherapy for medicinal and cosmetic purposes as well as embalming. In China it was linked to other ancient therapies such as massage and acupressure. The Greeks found that the fragrance of some flowers was stimulating while others had relaxing properties. The use of olive oil as the base oil absorbed the aroma from the herbs or flowers and the perfumed oil was then used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes.

Aromatherapy, although practiced for thousands of years, has only recently become popular in our culture as a result of a return to a holistic lifestyle. We are now considering all factors when treating illness, taking into account physical, mental and social conditions (mind, body & spirit).

Some of us practice aromatherapy every day. When we burn a scented candle, walk through a fragrant garden or even take a shower or a bath, we are practicing aromatherapy. Most of the bath and body care products we use contain some form of essential oil - the basis of Aromatherapy. One of the reasons aromatherapy is so popular today is it’s easy to practice and readily available.

Essential oils are liquids distilled from shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes and seeds. The healing properties of Essential Oils are capable of treating our physical bodies, enhancing our state of mind (alleviating anxiety, fear, depression, insecurity, irritability, low self esteem, poor memory, sadness and stress) and extend into the effective treatment of a variety of physical ailments (i.e. headaches, acne, bruises, sunburn, indigestion, toothache, halitosis, colds, allergies and PMS). They have been found to provide both psychological and physical benefits when used correctly and safely.

Essential oils have been used medicinally to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses. They provide exquisite fragrances to balance mood, lift spirits, dispel negative emotions, and create a romantic atmosphere. They can be used in the shower, bath, diffused, applied, inhaled or taken internally.

Essential oils that are inhaled into the lungs offer both psychological and physical benefits. Not only does the aroma of the natural essential oil stimulate the brain to trigger a reaction, but the natural constituents (naturally occurring chemicals) can supply therapeutic benefit.

Essential oils that are applied to the skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream. They can aid in health, beauty and hygiene conditions (to apply essential oils to the skin, single oils should be diluted into a carrier oil).

In addition, essential oils are helpful in other applications. Essential oils can be used in household and laundry cleaners (lavender, melaleuca, peppermint); others can be used as a natural insect repellent and pesticide. Lemongrass & bergamot are effective against biting insects, peppermint is effective against spiders.

Essential oils can be blended together to create appealing and complex aromas. Essential oils can also be blended for a specific therapeutic application (Purification® (1) can be used to cleanse and soothe insect bites, cuts, and scrapes).

When purchasing essential oils, look at the ingredient label to make certain that the product does not contain fragrance oils or unpure (chemical) components (look for products that contain pure essential oils on their ingredient list and avoid those that have words like fragrance – they are not the same).

To learn what oils will be suitable your intended use (antibacterial, disinfectant, etc.), please contact me.

Remember, only purchase your essential oils from a reputable company (check out my website:

1. Purification is a Young Living Essential Oils registered trademark product.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Got Spaaaaaah? How To Manage Your Stress, Before It Manages You

A Slight Break From Our Regularly Scheduled Programming -- This post departs from my usual spa review focus and format. But I thought it was necessary to take time out to revisit why the art of spa plays such an important role in my life. For me, a trip to the spa is a wonderful way to relieve stress and escape from them the hectic pace of my daily grind. So, this post is dedicated to the stressed out, the overworked, the tired, the frazzled and those among us who are hanging on by a thread. Please visit www.njspagirl.com and share your thoughts.

Who knows…your journey, idea, affirmation or kernel of wisdom could be the inspiration that someone else needs!

When Dealing With The Mundane Seems Like Moving A Mountain – A friend who is like a brother to me called me stressed out the other day. The last straw in his very hectic, demanding, stress-filled week as an educator, father, and husband occurred when he sought refuge in a cup of hot tea at the drive though of a local fast food restaurant.

His request was quite simple. A hot tea with sweetener, for this purpose, let’s say sugar.

The order taker said she would happily put the sugar on the side for him, ok? Well, today, in this moment, no, that was not ok. It was about more than just a cup of tea fixed how he wanted it.

He had driven 2 hours to spend the last day of his weekend haggling with salespeople at the appliance store then moving and installing the heavy appliances (all by himself) for his sickly in-laws, despite the fact they had able-bodied adult sons at home. This was on the heels of a highly stressful week in his professional life, followed by a full day at work on a second job on Saturday and, all the while, trying to be a husband to his lovely wife and keep pace with two pre-schoolers at home.

So today, that cup of tea represented his escape--his oasis from a hectic week that crescendoed in a physically exhausting weekend. So who was the young lady at the drive through to ruin it by putting the sugar on the side instead of in the tea for him?

Sound like any days you’ve had lately…?

In a tight but polite voice, my friend told the young lady at the drive-through window to please put the sweetener in the tea because he was driving and that would make his life much easier. For him, putting the sugar on this side that day was not an option.

I happened to be on the phone with him when the transaction occurred and he asked me if he had been unreasonable? Was his request too much to ask? What exactly was wrong with customer service today?

How To Blow Off Steam Before Reaching Your Boiling Point -- As we talked about the events that had just transpired, I thought, if it were me, here’s where I’d immediately book a spa appointment then recommit to “getting my spa on” much more regularly in hopes of never again allowing the stress to get to the point where I was about to explode.

Once of my favorite Rolling Stones songs goes, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” But how do you learn to get what you need, even when you can’t get what you want? Asked another way, how do you learn to deal with getting the sugar on the side when all you really want is for it to be put in your tea?

While there are numerous books, web sites, spiritual leaders and therapists better equipped to offer advice on effective coping skills and stress management than me, I decided to devote this post to sharing what I do know in hopes of helping you take another step in the ongoing journey of learning nurturing your mind-body-spirit connection. So here goes…

1.) Learning how to manage stress effectively and healthily takes work, especially when you first begin the process. For me, going to the spa for a massage, facial, body treatment or whatever, is how I deal with getting the sugar on the side when all I really want and need is for someone to put it in my tea for me. But it wasn’t always that way.

Those who know me today often find it hard to believe that I used to be a stressed out train wreck. I developed an ulcer and other stomach problems, suffered from muscular tension headaches, and had terrible insomnia – all before I reached my 20s!

So for years I’ve been working on learning how not “to sweat the small stuff” and how to embrace the reality that “it’s all small stuff” (a favorite slogan of my brother’s which Richard and Christine Carlson turned into a popular series of terrific, best-selling books).

I’ve also learned how not to “major in the minors” and to “keep the main thing the main thing” as a former manager and mentor of mine used to say. But it wasn’t easy. I’ve read a lot of books, listened to a lot of inspirational and motivational speakers, and talked to a lot of wise friends, mentors and colleagues over the years – and continue to do so today!

2.) It takes a commitment be good to yourself so you can be good to everyone else around you. One of the best things about
www.NJSpaGirl.com is that it helps to keep me honest about keeping a commitment I made to myself to become more diligent about practicing relaxation until it became a routine part of my way of life.

By now you’re saying, but I’m busy. I don’t have time to go to the spa, take a yoga class, mediate {or whatever what I’d like to do in order to relax}—I mean, I can barely find time to go potty by myself without my hubby or the kids knocking on the door at home or being called into back to back meetings and managing concurrent emergencies at work.

You may also be saying, I can’t afford to go to the spa on a regular basis. While I’ll be addressing affordable spa escapes in a future post, for now I’ll challenge you to consider how can you afford not to?

Given the mental, physical and emotional toll stress takes if left unmanaged, how can you possibly compare those costs to that of an occasional spa outing or whatever you need to do to relax?

The bottom line is we find time and money for the things that matter most to us. Whether it’s the mortgage or the kids’ tuition or that cute designer bag, dress and shoes we just couldn’t leave in the store, we always find a way when it’s something that’s really important to us.

So why not add taking better care of and regularly pampering yourself to that list?

3.) Give yourself permission to take a time out. As an over-achieving, female, youngest child with perfectionist and workaholic tendencies (although I’ll NEVER admit to owning either title!) this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to reprogram myself to do. I mean, I feel guilty if I leave work on time, if I spend a frivolous dime on myself, or if I’m not constantly being productive in some way.

Sound like anyone you know?

Ironically, learning to give myself permission to take a break, say “no” or ask for help is one of the hardest things I’ve learned to do and also one of the easiest stress management strategies I’ve ever employed. The best thing about it is that it’s entirely up to you to control. The worse thing about it is that it’s entirely up to you to control. But the good news is, if I can learn to do it, anyone can.

The next time you’re feeling frazzled, here’s a two step exercise to try. Step one, is to look in the mirror and say “You REALLY need and deserve a break, right now”. It feels a little funny at first, but trust me, it gets easier over time. Step two, is to immediately (not tomorrow, not in 5 minutes, but immediately) make that spa appointment, light a candle, take a hot bath with the door locked, meditate or do whatever will ease your mind, body and spirit.

You can do it, really you can!

4.) You don’t have to go it alone…and you shouldn’t! My friends, family members and colleagues are all involved in my stress management strategy, even if they don’t realize it. When I’m frazzled, my sweetie gently reminds me that I haven’t gone to the spa in a while and helps me free my schedule to I can find the time to sneak in a chance to recharge. He also cooks and cleans when I don’t feel like it and helps me give myself permission to do nothing when I really need to.

My wonderful family members and friends are never in doubt about what to give me on gift-giving occasions because they know a spa gift certificate or a spa themed gift is always just the right size and color! And luckily for me, many of them are always ready to join me for a spa outing whenever I don’t feel like going it alone.

Additionally, my team at work knows that I leave on time, which to my guilt-ridden over worked soul feels like early, on Mondays to go to yoga class. They also help me remember to take time for lunch every day and that not everything is an emergency that needs my attention.

And my inner circle of confidants are always there to lift me up or sit me down (depending on what the situation requires!) whenever I need it.

By embracing these four life lessons, I’ve learned exactly what to do the next time I get my sugar on the side instead of in my tea—safely pull over to the side of the road, stop, fix my tea however I want it and sit there, sipping it quietly for as long as I need to…

And when my time out is over, I’ll also be sure to call and make that spa appointment as soon as I get home, if not sooner!

Wishing you good spa!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Wanted: Your Favorite Spa Sounds

Every time I go to the spa, I wonder "Where do they find all that wonderfully relaxing music?" There seems to be a spa CD to match every flavor of spa, from the zen to the carribean to the avante garde to the classically jazz inspired and everything in between.

In this age of the ubiquitous MP3 player, I thought, what a better way to take a piece of spa with me to work, on the train, in the car, on the plane, in my living room or wherever I go than to load up my device with some relaxing spa sounds?

But where to start? How do I separate the good from the bad and the ugly, if there is such a thing, when it comes to spa sounds?

Given the nature of http://www.njspagirl.com/, the natural place to start is to go straight to the source--to you, my fellow spa goers. So here's your chance to chime in.

Please log on to http://www.njspagirl.com/ and share the name(s) of your favorite spa tunes and CDs. My goal is to compile a list of your favorites for sharing in a future post, so that all of us can take a little piece of spa with us wherever we go.

To give you a little inspiration, I put together the following slide show which captures some amazing spa sounds I've come across, some of which I've taken for a test drive and others that are on my "to do" list to explore. The rest is up to you. Log on and post your ideas or links to the spa sounds that inspire you most.

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing where this part of our spa journey might take us!

As always, wishing you good spa!

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Pampered Spirit NJ & Other Good Reasons To Try A Mobile Spa

The Gift For The Man (or Woman or Couple) Who Has Everything – Last summer, my brother got married which presented me with a not so unique challenge—so what to get the man who has everything, including a lovely new wife?

My brother is like many men when it comes to his concept of “spa.” He would LOVE to try a massage because the idea of anything promoting stress reduction, serenity and relaxation is appealing to say the least. However, the thought of going to a spa to get a massage seems too “girlie,” too far “outside his comfort zone” or too {insert whatever understandable reason you can think of here} for him to give it a try.

My sister-in-law is a bit more adventurous when it comes to things spa. Before the wedding she mentioned she would love to try a spa, so for her bachelorette outing, I treated her to a wonderful spa experience at Ethereal Day Spa and Day Spa (http://www.etherealdayspa.com/) in Parsippany (don’t worry, the review is coming soon – I promise!). In fact, she was so open, she even let me pick her treatments!

So, when it came time to pick the perfect wedding gift, I decided to treat them both to a magical spa experience that would allow them both to enjoy their first professional massage, a romantic candlelit dinner, and soothing music all in the comfort and privacy of their own home.

Enter the mobile spa experience.

The Experience – I contacted Bridget Turnbach, founder of The Pampered Spirit Mobile Spa & Massage Co. (
www.thepamperedspiritnj.com) who helped me design the perfect gift for my brother and his new bride. Since it was a surprise gift and my sister-in-law subscribes to my blog, I will not tell say how much it cost, but I arranged for what is now posted to her site as The Ultimate In Romance Dinner and Massage package.

Bridget and another skilled massage therapist met me at my brother’s home along with Chef Ted, proprietor of Ted Can Cook Personal Chef Service (
www.tedcancook.com). We knocked on the door and within minutes, the newlyweds’ living room was magically transformed into a serene spa, complete with candles, music and aromatherapy where my brother and sister-and-law received their side-by-side relaxation massages.

As the Pampered Spirit team worked its magic, Chef Ted prepared a gourmet meal, complete with an entrĂ©e of my choosing (I selected Chef Ted’s signature salmon dish) flowers (in colors to match their wedding colors), sparkling apple cider (they don’t drink alcohol) and a wonderful chocolate dessert of Chef Ted’s choosing. The beauty of that add on is that Chef Ted literally bought EVERYTHING from all the ingredients, to the cooking equipment and serving dishes. And when it was all said and done, the Pampered Spirit team, including Chef Ted, cleaned everything up, returning my bother’s apartment back to its original state – except of course for the relaxed, rejuvenated and transformed newlyweds left behind!

While I have yet to personally indulge in the privacy, comfort and convenience of the mobile spa, my brother and sister-in-law were BIG fans of their experience. And, for two people who had never had a massage before, I knew if they enjoyed it, there must be something to it.

Why Try It Yourself? – So, based on their feedback, and some research of my own, here are the top 5 reasons to consider a mobile spa experience, even though in some cases, it may be a bit more expensive than a more traditional spa.

1. It’s convenient – Mobile spa companies schedule appointments based on their availability and their client’s schedule. And many, such as Pampered Spirit, work on weekends, including Sundays!

2. It’s private – Mobile spa companies come to you – at work, at home, at a hotel or wherever you prefer. So, if you’re a little “spa shy,” what could be better than your place for a spa experience?

3. It’s customized – Mobile spa companies totally customize their services. And while you don’t have to have all the trimmings like the gift package I selected for my brother and his bride, you can often get the experience you want, when you want, where you want.

4. It’s great to try alone, with a friend or with a group – In addition to individual treatments, many mobile spa companies offer packages for two and “spa party” services for groups. While, I’ll cover spa parties in another post, mobile spas offer a great option to share a unique spa experience with your sweetie or with your best friends. They also make for unique fundraisers and special events.

5. The extras are limited only by your imagination (ok, and maybe your budget!) – From manicures, pedicures and facials to massages, personal chefs, psychics, martini bars, champagne, flowers and almost anything you can dream of (within your budget and that the space will allow), mobile spa companies can help deliver all the extras needs to bring your ultimate “in home” spa experience to life.

Ways To Spa On The Go – So, if you’re looking for a mobile spa service to try, listed below are a few sites for companies in the NJ/NY metropolitan area that I came across in my search for the perfect wedding gift for my brother and sister-in-law:

The Pampered Spirit NJ (
Earthtones Holistic Products and Services LLC (www.earthtonesmobilespa.com)
obile Massage Spa, LLC (www.mobilemassagespa.com)
Spa Chicks on The Go (
SpaLean Day & Mobile Spa (
Pampered Soul Mobile Massage & Spa (
SPArties (

Many of them offer gift certificates or special services for the office and/or corporate events, fundraisers, weddings and other special occasions. Please note, this list is by no means inclusive and The Pampered Spirit NJ is the only company whose services I’ve purchased to date. So if you’ve tried any of these mobile spas, or know of one that’s not listed, please let us know by posting your comment below.

Oh yes, before I forget, here’s one last – and perhaps the best – reason to try a mobile spa experience (or any spa experience!)….YOU DESERVE IT!

Wishing you good spa!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Balance Spa & Fitness at the Loews Philadelphia

1234 Market Street, 5th Floor
Philadelphia, PA


Visited: November 2007

Genre: Hotel Spa

The Scene: Chic, Art Deco, Modern Facility Where Fitness and Spa Meet

Spa Environment: In Transition When I Went, But Generally, Well-Appointed and Well Worth Another Visit Once Management Change Is Completed

The Damage: Reasonable For A Luxury Hotel Spa; I had the 80 minute East Meets West Combination massage for $140.

The Experience -- the Prelude: When my sweetie and I decided to go away Thanksgiving weekend, we were almost instantly drawn to the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia. Like many other travelers,we researched our travel options online and armed with our AAA discount, we decided on the Loews--a luxurious, first class, affordable option for our holiday escape. In addition to a fantastic view, quality service and a great restaurant (The Loews is home to the very chic and very yummy Sole Food), The Loews had a spa that you KNOW I just had to try.

I admit I was a little nervous at first, when I had difficulty finding a price list or other details (aside from a few pictures) about the spa on the Loews Hotel web site. These fears were allayed some when we called the hotel and were immediately connected with the Balance Spa and Fitness center upon request.

When the gentleman who took my call asked what services I would like, I asked him what he would recommend since I couldn't get any ideas from the web site. He instantly suggested the spa's signature East Meets West Combination massage. He explained the treatment was a custom blend of Eastern Shiatsu and Thai massage with Western Swedish/Deep Muscle techniques. And, at only $100 for 50 minutes, I decided to treat myself to the 80 minute version for only a few dollars more at $140. Besides, I had always wanted to try Shiatsu and figured this might be a great entree into the Japanese art of applying pressure to various points on the body in order to relieve stress and tension.

The Arrival: When I arrived at Balance Spa & Fitness, I was immediately blown away by the size of the facility. With a 20 meter, two lane heated lap pool the immediate right and a spacious cardio and strength training area in front of me, it was easy to see why the space was called the Balance Spa AND FITNESS CENTER!

I later learned that hotel guests could use the pool for $10 per day and that the 15,000 foot spa encompassed the entire Fifth Floor of the Hotel. The latest hip hop and dance music piping in provided a very fitness-friendly atmosphere but begged the question in my mind, how is this going to translate into my spa experience?

The reception area was to the left, flanked on one side by a curiously almost empty beverage case stocked with only a few bottles of water. The friendly receptionist who checked me in made me raise an eyebrow when she explained she needed to find my massage therapist, who had yet to return from lunch. A rookie mistake perhaps, I thought as she handed me a robe and towel. Upon entering the women's locker room, it occurred to me, she hadn't offered me slippers, any refreshments or a tour of the facility--all of which I've come to expect from hotel spas.

Luckily, I always bring my own slippers and my spa robe was very roomy and comfortable. In fact, it was just like the cozy spa robes that were in our hotel room, so I was optimistic when I took a look around while waiting on my massage therapist.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that I had an assigned locker but no key! I quickly returned to the front desk, where the receptionist apologized for her mistake and again assured me she was still trying to locate my massage therapist, this time by placing a call to her cell phone. Fortunately, the spa was completely empty and my things were just where I left them when I returned to my locker.

The Tour: I quickly forgot about the receptionist's oversights when I saw a rather large sized sauna, across from which stood an equally roomy steam room. Both featured easy-to-understand instructions for setting the temperatures and timers to your likely. And, the steam room was equipped with my favorite eucalyptus spray, which beckoned me to indulge after my massage.

The showers and rest rooms were pristine, although I noticed that extra towels were not available anywhere aside from the front desk. I also noticed that the spa was strangely quiet, without any zen-like or yoga-friendly music that typically provides the soundtrack for a hotel spa experience. Beyond that, the spa was fairly well-appointed with cotton swabs, lotion, mouthwash, showers, a hair and makeup area and many of the other accouterments you would expect from a luxury hotel spa.

In the waiting room adjacent to the treatment areas, though, there was a bowl of apples and oranges, but no tea, water, juices or refreshments of other kinds that I could see. In fact, in the entire chic, modern, minimalistic, art-deco-meets-the-neon-50s-diner decorated spa, the only thing I could find to read while waiting was a back issue of Liberty Sports magazine.

This was another strange detail that seemed disjointed with the very chic but inviting, luxurious client experience promised by the Loews Hotel. But before I could ponder that disconnect any longer, Eloisa, my massage therapist arrived to take me to my treatment room.

The Treatment: In a word, my East Meets West Combination massage was fantastic. I mentioned to Eloisa that I had no idea what to expect from the Eastern portion of the treatment but was hoping that the Western portion would focus on my neck and upper back, since that's where I typically carry my stress.

I chose a lavender scented oil for the Swedish portion and Eloisa explained how she would go about employing the various techniques throughout the course of my treatment. The first half, she incorporated Eastern techniques, gently pulling, stretching and applying pressure at various points across my arms, legs, feet and face.

At first, I was a little tense since the movements were a bit reminiscent of some of the range of motion exercises I had in physical therapy when I hurt my knee many years ago. However, there was no pain this go round and when I finally relaxed, I was surprised of how quickly I started to feel "tension free" in the parts of my body the therapist was working on.

When I turned on my stomach for part two, Eloisa employed a familiar combination of Swedish and deep tissue massage. And, in spite of the fact that there was no background music and the massage table wasn't heated, I was so relaxed I nearly dozed off by the time she was done.

Insider Info.: On my way out, I grabbed a photocopied price list from the receptionist. It was then that I solved the mystery of the disconnects and rookie mistakes that had provided a curious undercurrent for my Balance Spa & Fitness spa experience. It seems that the Balance Spa & Fitness center's contract with the Loews Hotel was expiring and management of the spa, fitness center and pool would soon be switching hands in the months to come. That single fact explained so many of the minor disappointments I had experienced during my visit (all of which were made up for by my wonderful East Meets West massage) that I'm looking forward to returning to the spa to see if and how my escape might be different once the facility is under new management.