Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nemacolin Woodlands Spa

Located just about an hour and a half from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the Nemacolin Woodlands Spa.  Just off the National Road, Route 40 (other interesting sites along route 40 include Fort Necessity, where an important battle was fought during the French and Indian War), it is a bit of European luxury in the Laurel Highlands.  Famous for its Five Star restaurant, Lautrec, Nemacolin offers the guest a full menu of entertainment and resort options.  It is the home of the outstanding Pete Dye designed 18 hole golf course, Mystic Rock.  Along the 18th green is a hotel called Falling Rock. Originally built to be used by touring professionals during tournaments on the course, now, anyone can reserve a room. Not only is it a golf resort, Nemacolin is also a small ski resort, Mystic Mountain, perfect for beginners.  Coming this summer is a new casino.

The brainchild of 84 Lumber founder, Joe Hardy (whose family owned the Hardy & Hayes Jewelry Store), it features something for just about everyone. In the new 26,000 square foot ski lodge, there is a bowling alley, an arcade for the kids and a restaurant, Apex.  Also on the property is a shooting range and an off-road driving experience using Jeep Rubicon vehicles.

There are two main buildings, the Chateau and the Lodge. Separated by an extensive series of walkways, reportedly filled with some $46 million of artwork and collectibles, the Lodge is the more informal of the two hotels. Our room in the Lodge was quite nice, with two queen beds and a small balcony. The bathroom was huge by any standard and seemed to be quite new. We did not see the rooms in the Chateau, but I am sure they are even more lavish.

Not to be missed is the Woodlands Spa.  In a separate building from the Chateau and the Lodge, it can be reached on foot through a series of buildings and a skyway or via the Nemacolin shuttle. For a $20 fee, you are given access to the large, indoor, heated pool, the hot tub, sauna and steam room. Laying on the lounge chairs and listening to the soothing spa music is a great way to just relax.

The piece de resistance is the spa itself.  The spa offers a variety of massages, facials, etc at additional cost.  The massage therapists are well-trained and they make sure you are released of all tension by the time they are done with the 50 minute treatments (which cost $125). 

In addition to Lautrec, which offers a tasting menu at between $110 and $200 per person, Nemacolin affords additional dining experiences, including Autumn and the Tavern.  Autumn is more informal than Lautrec and offers an eco-friendly menu featuring locally-grown and raised foods, in addition to seafood flown in daily. At our dinner recently, all 5 of us had seafood entrees, including crabmeat stuffed trout and sesame tuna. The wine list is extensive and a sommelier is available to help with your selection.  The wines are slightly pricey. The sesame tuna was perfectly prepared and rare as ordered. Autumn also serves breakfast. Among other selections is a freshly-prepared sausage patty, which is actually more like a pork meatball and quite good.

The Tavern and the adjacent ice cream shop are even less formal, but do offer a nice selection of sandwiches, burgers, chili and a fairly expensive fish and chips offering.

For more information on rates and availability, please go to the Nemacolin website,

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Just a short note wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and I hope you have enjoyed these posts.  I want to thank everyone for your support and hope you will continue reading them.

Peace to all and to all a "good day and night!"

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Save For Retirement the Easy Way

How would you like to save for retirement the easy way?  We all would, of course.  The statistics consistently show that Americans are simply not saving enough for their retirement.  Here is a possible easy solution that you can use to make sure you are on track for that retirement.

In this month's AARP The Magazine, there is an article by author, Jeffrey Yeager, adapted from his new book, "How to Retire the Cheapskate Way:  The Ultimate Cheapskate's Guide to a Better, Earlier, Happier Retirement."  The plan is very simple:  Yeager suggests that each year, you plan on saving at least an amount equal to your age---and two zeros. In other words, at age 40, you would save $4000 and at age 50, $5000.  If you are going to follow this plan, you might want to consider having a set amount deducted automatically from your checking account each month and transferred to your IRA or other retirement account.

According to Yeager, if you follow this plan beginning at age 20 and assuming a 5% annual return compounded, you would have at least $500,000 at age 60.  Not an insignificant amount .Of course, no one can predict the future as to rates of return or the effect of inflation, but this seems like a relatively painless plan to save for the future.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How to Save Money Buying a Car and House and Everything Else

The Guidelines to Saving Money When Making a Purchase

1. Establish reasonable goals resulting from solid preparation.

2. Listen in order to understand the other party’s position and interests.

3. Always be polite and avoid showing your emotion.

4. Never make the first offer or bid against yourself.

5. Work through impasses.

6. Hold people to their representations

Establish reasonable goals through research

I sometimes think that this is the most important aspect of preparing for any negotiation. Before you can begin negotiating you must know what it is you want. Often people have no clear understanding as to what they would like to accomplish by the negotiation. They may well have some vague idea about what they would like, but have not established in their heads where they want to end up. Nor do they have any plan on how to get there even if they do have some goal. Such vague notions and lack of preparation will almost surely mean that you will not reach your goal.

There was a folk song that was popular in the 1960s that became the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement, "Keep Your Eye on the Prize." It sounds simple enough. Nonetheless, this is exactly what you need to think about each time you negotiate: What is the prize you hope to receive through the negotiations? What is it that you really want? The late Stephen Covey in his popular self-help book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," identified the most important of his habits for a successful negotiation: "begin with the end in mind."


That is what I am asking you to do each time you begin a negotiation: "begin with the end in mind." Every time you are engaged in a negotiation, and as we will discuss, you are probably engaged in some form of negotiation many times every day, keep this principle in mind. If you do, you will be more successful in those negotiations. Why does this formula work? Because, if you keep your goal in mind, you are more likely to negotiate in a way that will facilitate the accomplishment of that goal. It does not matter whether you are asking for a raise from your boss or discussing where to go to dinner tonight with your spouse. These are negotiations and having a firm goal in mind will enable you to achieve that goal. Sometimes people are afraid to express that goal to the other party. That can be a major source of frustration. Who hasn’t stood outside with their co-workers deciding where to go to lunch and no one speaks up until finally someone does and then you end up going someplace you hate. Believe it or not, that is a negotiation and you just lost it.


How do you decide upon your goal? Let me suggest that one way of doing so is to do your research and plan out what you want to say and do. Let me give you a few examples. Let’s say you are interested in buying a new car and you want to make sure that you get the best price. When you go into the car dealer’s showroom, you will see the sticker price on the side window of the car you are interested in. As you know, that is really just the beginning price; it is not the price you should pay. You will soon be entering into negotiations with the salesperson and perhaps the manager. You want to be prepared; you want to know what the best price you can expect to get for the car you want.


One way to find out is to research the price paid by the dealer so that you know how much the automobile has been marked up in price. Two excellent sources of that information are and Consumer Reports magazine. Edmunds will show you what other people are paying for the same car you want to buy. Consumer Reports, in addition to its yearly car issue and periodic reviews, has an online product that for about $14 will give you a printable guide for the exact car with options you are interested in buying. It will show you not only the cost of the vehicle to the dealer (what he paid for it from the manufacturer) but also the costs of any accessories and packages available for that model.


Armed with that information, you can confidently go into the dealer, present your research and ask for the best price based upon the cost to the dealer. Now, the dealer will complain that he will not make a profit if he sells you the car at his cost. Certainly, he is entitled to some profit. Your research also should have taught you that frequently the dealer will receive certain incentives from the manufacturer that are not shown anywhere. That may be the only source of profit he needs.  So don’t be shy about asking for the car at the dealer’s own cost. Who knows, you might actually get the car at that price. In any event, as a result of your research, you have established your goal: get the best price from the dealer. And you have used that research to get that price.


This same strategy can be employed when buying a house or a new television as well as many other products. For example, when buying a house, before making an offer, you should research the real estate records  for your county (some of these are available online, so start there) to determine the price paid by the seller as well as research the price recently paid by buyers of comparable homes. Now, your agent may say that she has done so, but I suggest you do your own research. It is your money and no one has a greater interest than you in making sure you do not overpay for your dream home.


When buying appliances such as televisions, a good practice is to go to one of the big box stores such as Best Buy or Target, find the product you are interested in, noting its price. If you then go online and check on Amazon, eBay or similar sites, you can determine the price others are paying for that same product. Of course, you can purchase the item from Amazon if the price is lower; or, as an alternative, take your research to the big box store and ask that they either meet or beat that price. You will probably be surprised how often they will make the sale at the lower price. You have established your goal through research and will probably reach that goal.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Health Updates

Recently, I have written on the studies that show that lack of sleep can torpedo your efforts at dieting.  "How to lose weight while sleeping," December 11, 2012.  Well, a recent study in the medical journal, Sleep, has shown that losing sleep may also reduce your tolerance to pain. Although it is not known why, there appeared to be a connection between chronic sleep loss and acute pain.  So there is another reason to get your 8 hours every night.

In my November 29, 2012 post, "The Benefits of Tea and Why Starbucks is Getting into the Act," I wrote about all the health benefits of drinking tea.  A new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology has now demonstrated that coffee may also have some unexpected benefits.  The study conducted by a researcher from the National Cancer Society has found that drinking caffeinated coffee may reduce the risk of oral cancer. The risk was shown to be reduced significantly by those drinking 4 to 6 cups of coffee a day. 

Today's New York Times contains an article entitled "Grapefruit is a culprit in More Drug Reactions." I first reported on this same subject in my December 6, 2012 post, "Should You Be Eating that Grapefruit?" The Times article reiterates that eating grapefruit can heighten the effects of  certain common medications including birth control pills and estrogen.  The full list is on  the Times' website,

Hitchcock: The Movie

Anthony Hopkins does not merely play the famed director, Alfred Hitchcock, in the new movie, "Hitchcock," he literally seems to inhabit his body.  Because the movie is about the filming of the horror movie, "Psycho," which shows a man taking on the personna of his dead mother, that seems particularly appropriate. 

The movie is both a technical exploration of the making of Psycho and also a love story of a sort, between Hitchcock and his long-suffering wife, Alma Reville.  As most people probably know by now, Hitchcock was obsessed with his blond leading ladies such as Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren.  Although it is believed that these were strictly fantasies on the part of Hitchcock, the movie shows that his obsession had a lasting effect on his relationship with his wife. Helen Mirren portrays Alma with her usual strength of character and shows that Alma, in her own way, was as impportant figure as her noted husband in the success of his movies.

The movie gives Alma quite a bit credit for the success of "Psycho", suggesting she was responsible for the terror of the famous shower scene involving the stabbing of the main character very early on in the movie. There is now some controversy over just how large a role she the changes that made that scene so memorable as the movie downplays the work of the screenplay's author.

 Psycho starred Janet Leigh and in this movie she is played by Scarlett Johansson as a rather sweet, family-oriented woman who was amused by Hitchcock. Jessica Biel has a rather small role as the actress Vera Miles, who also appeared in "Psycho".

Hopkins' portrayal of Hitchcock is clearly Oscar worthy.  Wearing all sorts of prosthetics on his face and presumably on the rest of his large and imposing stomach, he is totally believable as the tortured genius. Anyone who has heard Hitchcock's voice on the reruns of his famous television show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, will recognize how closely Hopkins has captured that unmistakable diction and accent.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sherlock Holmes and Mindfulness

In an interesting article in the Sunday New York Times, author Maria Konnikova, suggests that Sherlock Holmes was one of the early practitioners of mindfulness.  "The Power of Concentration."  She points out that Holmes frequently was able to solve his cases while sitting in his rooms at 221 B Baker Street, by concentrating on one aspect of the case at a time.  Rather than a multitasker, he was the ultimate unitasker.

The article also discusses several studies which have shown that as little as five minutes a day of mindfulness (sitting quietly, observing the breathing and clearing the mind of all thoughts) can have a beneficial effect on both your emotions and your thinking ability.  Based on those studies, mindfulness may even have an effect on preventing the decline in mental ability as we age, including, perhaps, helping to prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Bottom line:  if it was good enough for Sherlock Holmes, it surely is good enough for all of us. After all, don't we all want to remain mentally sharp as we age? 

Please see my November18, 2012 post, "What is Mindfulness?" for a further discussion of how to use mindfulness and its cognitive benefits. You will be glad you did.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


"When it rains, it pours."  I recently wrote about the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, and gave it the highest marks. Well, there is another movie that recently came out that surpasses even that movie, Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln".  Recently, it received 7 Golden Glove nominations, including best picture, best director and best actor.

There is probably no president who attracts more attention than Abraham Lincoln. It is said that more books have been written about Lincoln than any other person in history, with the exception of Jesus Christ!  He is a fascinating figure and is on Mount Rushmore for a reason.

The movie captures Lincoln in a way we have never seen him before.  Played by the English actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, he comes to life on the screen. You may remember the movie, "Young Mr. Lincoln," which is sometimes shown on late night television. Henry Fonda played the young Lincoln as he came into his own as a lawyer and politician. I always thought that was one of the best performances of Lincoln I had ever seen.  Day-Lewis does not merely portray Lincoln, he is Lincoln for almost two and one half hours.

Now no one knows exactly how Lincoln sounded or moved because there are no movies or recordings, but based upon contemporary accounts, Day-Lewis, with the help no doubt of Spielberg, has captured the man and not just the president

The movie, based upon the book by Doris Kearns-Goodwin, "Team of Rivals," details the last few months of Lincoln's life. It shows both the intimate side of his relationship with his children and his wife, Mary, called Molly, played by Sally Fields, and his frantic efforts to get the 13th amendment banning slavery passed by the House of Representatives and to end the Civil War.

The Lincoln in the movie has the warts of every man and is not portrayed as just the saint he is sometimes seen as.  He is not above offering postmaster jobs and other patronage to congressmen in return for votes for the amendment. Although we all know the outcome of his efforts, nonetheless, it makes for exciting viewing.

If you haven't seen it yet, now is the time to see "Lincoln".

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Baby Boomer's Practical Guide to Everday Negotiations

Some people hate negotiating. They think it is too confrontational or they just don’t want to be bothered. They would rather pay full price than negotiate. When they buy a car, they pay the sticker price. When they experience problems with an appliance or computer they have purchased, they accept the response that there is nothing to be done from the customer complaint office. As a result, they sometimes become frustrated, blaming themselves for giving in or being timid.

This practical guide will show you that negotiating those everyday transactions and maneuvering life’s daily little annoyances does not have to be confrontational at all and can sometimes even be quite fun. It will show you how you can avoid confrontation in certain circumstances and still achieve your goals in the negotiation, whether it is getting the best price on a new car or dealing with an overworked and underpaid service representative. It will provide you with a new way of dealing with those pesky call and service centers that never seem able to help you. Although intended primarily for baby boomers, I think it will help just about anyone to be a better negotiator in those day to day negotiations.

 What is Negotiation?

The dictionary defines "negotiation" as the "mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement." [1] From this definition, it is apparent that one of the characteristics of a negotiation is that it is "mutual." That means that a negotiation is not intended to be one-sided. Each party is expected to be heard.

There are some people who believe that unless they receive everything they are seeking in a negotiation, they have failed. They are usually the ones who are rude and love confrontation. However, as the Rolling Stones sang, "you can't always get what you want." That is not to say that you should not try to get whatever you can. But keep in mind, in a negotiation there are bound to be compromises by both parties.

There are other people who believe that at the end of the negotiations each party should have received something of value. Often, this is called a "win win" result. While that may be the best result for all parties, the reality is that generally one party does get more than the other. This guide will help you be the one who gets more. Stuart Diamond, the author of a book on negotiation, in fact, titled his book, "Getting More." As he notes repeatedly in his book, that does not mean getting everything.[2]

How to Become a Successful Negotiator
What makes someone a good negotiator? There are many books on the subject of negotiations and seminars that may cost thousands of dollars. In this small guide, I hope to distil the best practices of a good negotiator in everyday situations. The best way to become one yourself is to practice. As the old joke went: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”  “Practice, practice, practice!” Let me suggest that the following guidelines are a good start. Much of what follows is simply common sense. Yet too often we forget them.

This is the first in a series of posts on negotiations which will appear periodically on this blog. So, stay tuned.


How to lose weight while sleeping,

Have you ever noticed that if you weigh yourself at night and again in the morning, you will inevitably weigh less in the morning? I am not sure what causes that phenomenon but a number of recent scientific studies have clearly shown that there is a direct correlation between the amount of sleep you get each night and your ability to lose weight.  But it is not what you think. The studies have shown that the more that you sleep while trying to lose weight, the more weight you can lose.

I know this sounds almost too good to be true, but an article in the Ann Intern Med, dated November 2, 2010, summarizes the results of.a study of some 10 men and women who were trying to lose weight.The results were quite surprising. Those who slept 5.5 hours a night over a 14 day period lost 55% less weight than those who slept 8.5 hours The authors of the study concluded that the amount of sleep plays a role in the maintenance of fat free body mass. Lack of sufficient sleep may cause the diets not to work as efficiently as they otherwise would.

So, don't worry if you are sleeping more while dieting.  It is a good thing, not a bad one!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Getting Through Airport Security with Gifts and Food

Millions of people will be traveling during this holiday season. Many of them will be traveling by air. Some of those people will be bringing with them gifts and food for family and friends.  So what is the easiest way to get through airport security with gifts and food items?

The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers a few tips on traveling with food or gifts on its website. Often people will be carrying with them gifts which they have already wrapped. TSA does not prohibit wrapped gifts.  However, the security officers may unwrap the gift if it sets off an alarm or looks suspicious.  If you are traveling with gifts, leave them unwrapped and bring with you separately wrapping paper, ribbons, bows etc. which you can use to wrap the present after you reach your destination.  It's a simple tip but it saves time and trouble.

Many people like to bring food items either as gifts or to use in preparing holiday dinners at their destination.  The TSA has compiled a list of such items which it suggests should be placed in your checked bag, shipped ahead of time or left at home if in excess of the permitted 3.4 ounces.  These include cranberry sauce, cheese dips, jams, jellies and gift baskets containing such items.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Should You Be Eating That Grapefruit?

For years doctors have been advising patients who take cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor not to eat grapefruit. Most of us probably never knew why. A recent study in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association, CMAJ, suggests that grapefruit as well as other citrus fruits such as Seville oranges and limes contain something called furanocoumarins which can inactivate a certain enzyme in the body. When that enzyme is inactivated, certain drugs remain in the system longer than they should.Serious side effects may result, including kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding and even sudden death.

The CMAJ study, which was conducted by a pharmacologist from the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario, Canada, concluded that as many as 85 drugs may interact with grapefruit and the other citrus fruits in that way. As little as one grapefruit or a 7 ounce glass of grapefruit juice can be enough to cause these problems. Those over the age of 45 are believed to be the most at risk.

While grapefruit  and Seville oranges (which is sometimes used in marmalade) appear to be the worst culprits, fortunately, the two common varieties of oranges, Valencia and navel oranges are not implicated.

Bottom line: before grabbing that glass of  grapefruit juice in the morning, talk to your doctor and ask her whether you might have a problem with an interaction with one of your medications. It may save your life.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Baby Boomer's Practical Guide to Everday Negotations

"The Baby Boomer's Practical Guide to Everyday Negotiations", a free e-book is now available on this blog at the entry dated November 24, 2012.  Let me know what you think.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stand Up for Good Health

If your mother was anything like my mother, when I was a kid watching television, she was always chiding me to "sit up straight." Then it seemed like it was good healthful advice. Turns out mothers were wrong. We shouldn't be sitting at all. Recent research cited in The New York Times suggests that we should be standing, not sitting, when working on our computers or at our work desk or cubicle.

Reporting on two studies in the The British Journal of Sports Medicine and Diabetogia, the Times article, Taking a Stand for Office Ergonomics, quotes Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at UCLA,  as saying, "we believe that sitting is harmful in itself." According to the article, sitting at your computer for an extended period of time (over an hour or so) can significantly reduce the number of fat burning enzymes and can also lower the amount of good (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. It may even contribute to diabetes and heart disease.

So, what is the solution?  One answer is standing while working.  This usually involves some form of stand-up desk.  There are many models for sale ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands. There are even under the desk treadmills and stationary cycles that you can pedal while seated. An easier (and cheaper) solution is to put your laptop on a bookcase and work from that. I have tried it and it works quite well. I suggest you give it a try and let me know if it works for you.