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It’s about time for me to go away for a few days an escape the traffic and work that comes with living in Los Angeles. Palm Springs seems to be calling since it is a relatively easy 2 hour drive. The Spring Breakers and Snowbirds (i.e., people from colder climes like WA, OR & Canada) are gone, the rates are coming down, and the temperatures are still moderate, so this is the perfect time to take a few days to unwind.

The Ace Hotel combines the retro look with modern chic at good prices. For Sunday through Monday reservations from May 1- September 30, you can get 50% off each night if you book two nights. This deal is not applicable during the major holidays in this period and it is hard to find online, so call them at 760-325-9900 and ask for the “Cool Pool” rate which works out to be about $99 a night after the discount. The only thing I don’t like about this place is they do have a $20 resort fee that allows you free internet, spa, and pool access, but as more resorts are adding on this fee (like baggage fees) it seems that nickeling and dimeing at resorts is now here to stay. Figure that you are still saving $80 a night off the regular room rates, so it still works out to a good deal even after adding on the nickels and dimes.

Sometimes I need a quick getaway that does not require a flight. After the week of nonstop work I’ve had, the last thing I want to do is go through airport security and figure out which containers hold less than 3.4 fluid ounces of shampoo. So all that translates to driving far enough away to feel like I am out of town, but not so far that I need to spend so much time driving to my destination that I am exhausted just getting there in the first place.

The Miramonte Resort in Indian Wells is about a 2 hour drive and Perfect Escapes has a great bed and breakfast deal for only $159 a night. Aside from breakfast for two, you also get a confirmed 2pm late check-out, a $25 spa credit towards any 60 minute treatment at their spa, The Well, and a complimentary upgrade based on availability. This is a perfect peaceful retreat with fountains and mountains. Just ask for offer OID: 515 when you call them at (877) 589-7688.

The Ivy in San Diego at the Gaslamp District is also about 2 hours away by car, but a world away in atmosphere. If your mood is to be around shopping, restaurants, and nightlife, reserve the Gourmet Ivy package and get lively luxury for $189 a night for a two night minimum with code OID: 924. You also get a $50 daily credit for meals and drinks at the Quarter Kitchen, Envy Nightclub, or Ivy Rooftop bar (my fav). Other extras include a welcome glass of Champagne, 12 pm early check-in, 4pm late check-out, and complimentary upgrade based on availability.

Now the only question is do I want peace or to party?

Sometimes girls just wanna get away, and if you have your own “Sex In The City” crew and the Hamptons are too far away, then head over to Two Bunch Palms. It’s only a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles, but millions of miles away in ambiance.

You can get a 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite for $124 per person per night (2 night minimum, but why would you want any less time?). Because you will be staying in one of their premier accommodations, you will have a private backyard and jacuzzi, DVD player & popcorn, welcome champagne, fruit, cheese & crackers, 10% off all spa treatments during your stay and a $200 dining voucher for the Casino restaurant. It’s VIP treatment all the way; just ask for the “Girlfriends Getaway” package.

Since this was once Al Capone’s hideaway, why not make it yours?

I lived in Palm Springs for five years, so now when I go back to visit, I know where the good restaurants are and one I keep returning to is Le Vallauris. Just off the main street, in what was once a residence, the Vallauris is a classy understated venue which serves traditional French cuisine with all the classic touches like white tablecloths and candlelit tables. From the minute you enter, you will immediately feel pampered by the staff, and the co-owner Paul will likely stop by to say hello (he is Belgian), say hello back in French, “Bonsoir“, and he will return a broad smile.

It is one of those legendary hangouts for celebrities past and present, with an impossibly romantic garden full of twinkling lights wrapped around a huge tree (in the middle of the garden dining area); the interior is low key with a nice fireplace and tables far enough apart to have private conversations. This is the place to propose marriage or at the very least, to ask for a second date. The garden makes a wonderful setting for a balmy brunch lunch, but I love going there for dinner, when the full menu showcases the talented chef. Try the classic whitefish served with a Dijon whole grain mustard mousseline, leaf spinach, shitake mushrooms with a thin julienne of fried leek, served with a side of steamed potatoes, or the Maine lobster salad, with baby curly endive, asparagus, julienne of carrot, served with a passion fruit, grape seed oil, mustard and champagne vinegar dressing.

Classics are still around for a reason; we only go back to places we love, Le Vallauris is one of mine.

>I lived in Palm Springs for five years, so now when I go back to visit, I know where the good restaurants are and one I keep returning to is Le Vallauris. Just off the main street, in what was once a residence, the Vallauris is a classy understated venue which serves traditional French cuisine with all the classic touches like white tablecloths and candlelit tables. From the minute you enter, you will immediately feel pampered by the staff, and the co-owner Paul will likely stop by to say hello (he is Belgian), say hello back in French, “Bonsoir“, and he will return a broad smile.

It is one of those legendary hangouts for celebrities past and present, with an impossibly romantic garden full of twinkling lights wrapped around a huge tree (in the middle of the garden dining area); the interior is low key with a nice fireplace and tables far enough apart to have private conversations. This is the place to propose marriage or at the very least, to ask for a second date. The garden makes a wonderful setting for a balmy brunch lunch, but I love going there for dinner, when the full menu showcases the talented chef. Try the classic whitefish served with a Dijon whole grain mustard mousseline, leaf spinach, shitake mushrooms with a thin julienne of fried leek, served with a side of steamed potatoes, or the Maine lobster salad, with baby curly endive, asparagus, julienne of carrot, served with a passion fruit, grape seed oil, mustard and champagne vinegar dressing.

Classics are still around for a reason; we only go back to places we love, Le Vallauris is one of mine.

>Many airlines are now charging for extra bags, curbside check in, and extra fuel charges, but Southwest Airlines is not, and to put an extra cherry on top of it, all they are offering special fares within California for only $49-$59 (plus taxes and fees) each way! Depending on the car you are driving, that may be less than what you would pay for gas to drive. One way to Chicago is only $129, so even with a hybrid and today’s price of gas running $4.23 a gallon, you will save not only money, but time and your back by flying. If you want to take advantage of the offer, make sure you book early to get the flights you want.

Trains are another alternative to driving that I always use in Europe; now with gas prices here at European levels (well, almost, gas is running about $8 a gallon there now), trains are becoming a more popular choice here too. Trains are always a better option if you hate freeway traffic (and who doesn’t?). Now with Amtrak’s special rates, if you book through August 8, you can get a $15 fare between Los Angeles and Palm Springs with no added fees or taxes good for travel from September 2 through December 11, 2008. Not only will you save the aggravation of time and traffic, but you will also enjoy two hours to read or snooze.

Who would have ever imagined that planes and trains would be a wiser choice in both dollars and sense than automobiles?

Many of my friends are becoming vegans and one of them is into raw foods, so dining out has become an adventure. Seeking tasty meals that will satisfy organic, vegan, and raw, even in the natural food mecca of Los Angeles, is like searching for alternative fuels in a gas guzzling economy; they exist, but most are not yet available or accessible enough for mainstream consumption.

There are a few jewels which promise to advance the cause. If you are courageous enough to be one of the pioneers to sustain the movement towards tasty organic, vegan, and raw foods, I have a few finds to share today.

Leaf is has all the qualities that even the most strict raw, vegan, organic foodie could want, and it has the added quality of taste and green philosophy for those of us who are more concerned about flavor than guidelines. For people new to raw food, this is a great place to begin with familiar appetizers like their cole slaw, hummus, or guacamole. Their salads are beautifully composed creations with organic vegetables, like carrots, sprouts, red cabbage, tomatoes, and mixed greens. For the more adventurous, they offer sprouted chickpea falafal croquettes with tahini sauce, sun dried tomato and walnut croquettes with spinach pesto sauce, and wakame seaweed in ginger shoyu sauce, All their salads can be wrapped in a collard green leaf or a sprouted grain tortilla (not raw). Their freshly juiced drinks and wheat grass shots are fantastic either with your meal or as stand alone smoothies.

They have very simple (raw) decor, and give you a vegetable as your number if you eat in to show the server where to deliver your plates. It’s not the most relaxing of atmospheres, so my advice is to order your food to go and enjoy your feast at home. Portions are big, so even if you do eat in the restaurant, you will probably end up taking some of it home (to be eaten the same day).

For a nicer atmosphere and food options that include cooked organic vegan foods, try Native Foods. They have several locations from Palm Springs to Orange County, but the one in Los Angeles is in Westwood Village. They have creative names to go with the creative flavors that mimic familiar classics, like the jerk burger, a Jamaican jerk-marinated seitan steak, lettuce, carrot, red onion, and vegan mayo. Or their Tijuana tacos, with soy taco meat, salsa fresca, Native cheese, shredded romaine lettuce and guacamole on grilled corn tortillas. For stricter diets they offer Mina’s Macro Macrobiotics in a bowl, with brown rice, quinoa, tempeh, steamed veggies, sea veggies, sauerkraut & sesame salt garnishes, served with mighty miso sauce. I love how tasty and flavorful everything is on the menu and they explain what seitan and tempeh are in detail on the menu, so that you get a nutrition and history lesson as you decide what to order. Parking in Westwood is difficult, but they do offer their meals to go, so consider coming to pick up a meal if you find limited time street parking. It really is worth the hassle. Consider taking public transportation here (especially with the price of gas these days), since this is prime UCLA territory, numerous bus routes stop here.

Both restaurants offer cooking and educational classes so you can learn about the food you are eating as well as how to prepare it at home. That is really at the heart of this movement; learning why and how food can enhance your well being and your life will change what and how you eat. Once a palate is awakened, it can never again go back to white processed chemical food.

>Many of my friends are becoming vegans and one of them is into raw foods, so dining out has become an adventure. Seeking tasty meals that will satisfy organic, vegan, and raw, even in the natural food mecca of Los Angeles, is like searching for alternative fuels in a gas guzzling economy; they exist, but most are not yet available or accessible enough for mainstream consumption.

There are a few jewels which promise to advance the cause. If you are courageous enough to be one of the pioneers to sustain the movement towards tasty organic, vegan, and raw foods, I have a few finds to share today.

Leaf is has all the qualities that even the most strict raw, vegan, organic foodie could want, and it has the added quality of taste and green philosophy for those of us who are more concerned about flavor than guidelines. For people new to raw food, this is a great place to begin with familiar appetizers like their cole slaw, hummus, or guacamole. Their salads are beautifully composed creations with organic vegetables, like carrots, sprouts, red cabbage, tomatoes, and mixed greens. For the more adventurous, they offer sprouted chickpea falafal croquettes with tahini sauce, sun dried tomato and walnut croquettes with spinach pesto sauce, and wakame seaweed in ginger shoyu sauce, All their salads can be wrapped in a collard green leaf or a sprouted grain tortilla (not raw). Their freshly juiced drinks and wheat grass shots are fantastic either with your meal or as stand alone smoothies.

They have very simple (raw) decor, and give you a vegetable as your number if you eat in to show the server where to deliver your plates. It’s not the most relaxing of atmospheres, so my advice is to order your food to go and enjoy your feast at home. Portions are big, so even if you do eat in the restaurant, you will probably end up taking some of it home (to be eaten the same day).

For a nicer atmosphere and food options that include cooked organic vegan foods, try Native Foods. They have several locations from Palm Springs to Orange County, but the one in Los Angeles is in Westwood Village. They have creative names to go with the creative flavors that mimic familiar classics, like the jerk burger, a Jamaican jerk-marinated seitan steak, lettuce, carrot, red onion, and vegan mayo. Or their Tijuana tacos, with soy taco meat, salsa fresca, Native cheese, shredded romaine lettuce and guacamole on grilled corn tortillas. For stricter diets they offer Mina’s Macro Macrobiotics in a bowl, with brown rice, quinoa, tempeh, steamed veggies, sea veggies, sauerkraut & sesame salt garnishes, served with mighty miso sauce. I love how tasty and flavorful everything is on the menu and they explain what seitan and tempeh are in detail on the menu, so that you get a nutrition and history lesson as you decide what to order. Parking in Westwood is difficult, but they do offer their meals to go, so consider coming to pick up a meal if you find limited time street parking. It really is worth the hassle. Consider taking public transportation here (especially with the price of gas these days), since this is prime UCLA territory, numerous bus routes stop here.

Both restaurants offer cooking and educational classes so you can learn about the food you are eating as well as how to prepare it at home. That is really at the heart of this movement; learning why and how food can enhance your well being and your life will change what and how you eat. Once a palate is awakened, it can never again go back to white processed chemical food.

It is hot here in Southern California in the summer, but nothing like the heat in the desert. I used to live in Palm Springs where it has reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Those of us who live (or have lived) in hot places know the necessity of cooling off when it seems we step into Hell every time we step outdoors. In Palm Springs the shops and restaurants use misting systems to add some humidity and cooling without having to pay the staggering air conditioning bills. But what if you are not in town or in your car and you need some cooling relief without the aid of air conditioners or misters?

Chill Factor is a clothing company founded in Tempe, AZ which makes caps and neck coolers which you can wear anywhere. Their products contain hydro crystals will swell to over 400 times their original size, and transform into a cooling gel. It is simple to use, just soak the cap or neck cooler in cold or ice water for about half and hour and then wear it! The cap and neck coolers are washable by hand and completely reusable. With prices ranging from $5-$25 it makes sense to buy two so you can switch off if you are going to be outdoors for several hours. Golfers love this product, as does anyone outdoors for any length of time in the summer. Even people who are indoors all day appreciate the cooling factor if they heat up doing physically intensive labor all day; movers, trainers, and construction workers all love these items. They make kid sized clothing too, so the little ones can benefit.

Chill out this summer with chill factor clothing of you can’t get to your favorite pool or beach.

>It is hot here in Southern California in the summer, but nothing like the heat in the desert. I used to live in Palm Springs where it has reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Those of us who live (or have lived) in hot places know the necessity of cooling off when it seems we step into Hell every time we step outdoors. In Palm Springs the shops and restaurants use misting systems to add some humidity and cooling without having to pay the staggering air conditioning bills. But what if you are not in town or in your car and you need some cooling relief without the aid of air conditioners or misters?

Chill Factor is a clothing company founded in Tempe, AZ which makes caps and neck coolers which you can wear anywhere. Their products contain hydro crystals will swell to over 400 times their original size, and transform into a cooling gel. It is simple to use, just soak the cap or neck cooler in cold or ice water for about half and hour and then wear it! The cap and neck coolers are washable by hand and completely reusable. With prices ranging from $5-$25 it makes sense to buy two so you can switch off if you are going to be outdoors for several hours. Golfers love this product, as does anyone outdoors for any length of time in the summer. Even people who are indoors all day appreciate the cooling factor if they heat up doing physically intensive labor all day; movers, trainers, and construction workers all love these items. They make kid sized clothing too, so the little ones can benefit.

Chill out this summer with chill factor clothing of you can’t get to your favorite pool or beach.

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