by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Well, it’s January and I’m still in Ontario. It’s snowing right now and there’s about 4 to 5 inches of snow on the ground already but I’m not letting that stop me from taking daily walks through my neighbourhood.
Over Christmas vacation, I walked for almost an hour every day at around 3:00 in the afternoon going along the same path. There’s some green space in this neighbourhood and the various suburban streets are interconnected with nature trails, which I wasn’t expecting to find at all. Normally, I’d get on the path from the street entrance, enter the park, turn right, walk past the ponds and streams and trees and head over to the shopping centre. Then I walked around the whole parking lot, cut across the gas station and then looped back onto the trail again, walked up a hill, crossed a street, and down a hill and past my original starting point and carried on to the next exit which took me a couple of blocks further west past my house. Then I’d pass another big pond and ended up in the residential area on the streets again and walked a few more blocks back to my house.
Usually, the path has been cleared of snow but once it wasn’t and I got an extra work out from walking on an uneven surface, which I was grateful for. Walking on snow requires more effort and that burns more calories. Yay.
And some days have been super cold and windy. Thank goodness I have my big coat, hat, scarf, gloves and boots. Once it was so windy, I ended up running for about 20 minutes instead of walking and let the wind push me some of the way. Running into the wind was another story. Try doing that with a 20-pound winter coat on your back.
As I was walking down the hill, I heard something different behind me. I can’t explain the sound but it caused me to stop in my tracks and look back over my shoulder. On the crest of the hill, there stood five deer, sun shining behind them. I greeted them with an “Oh, Deer.” They were about a standard backyard length away from me and I was able to count them. If only I had my camera!
I think I was in their path and the deer would have gone right where I was into the valley, if I wasn’t there at that moment. They decided to veer to their left, around me, and with like five grand leaps each, they whisked over the snowy terrain and quickly disappeared from my sight around the bend. It was quite a moment. Almost poetic. I felt like I was in a nature documentary even though I was in the middle of suburbia.
Now that I’ve returned to work at the wellness centre, I’ve decided to get my walks in first thing in the morning. It’s not easy getting out of a warm bed to go outside to walk for a half an hour or so, but I’m really enjoying my “Me Time.” I get to think, make plans, meditate, relax my stress, get exercise and fresh air and yes, enjoy my local winter wonderland — all for free.
And this morning, I saw two bright red cardinals playing and fluttering about and they looked stunning against the snowy backdrop. Again, I wish I had my camera.
I hope this blog post inspires you to find the time to take walks and explore your own neighbourhood. I recently came across an article about what they’re calling, “Sitting Disease.” Maybe you have heard of it already.
According to current thinking, too much sitting can seriously harm your health and lead to conditions like heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease. And sitting for most of your day, everyday, may even shorten your life.
Standing is better than sitting and walking is better than standing and running is better than walking. If nothing else, get up off your chair at least once an hour, at least for a few minutes, just to move your body, especially if you have a full time desk job or spend most of your day sitting.
Here are some ways you can stand and move around more in your daily life:
- Stand whenever you use the phone (my sister-in-law does this — she paces while she talks on the phone and now her kids do it too!)
- Stand while ironing and folding laundry and other household chores,
- Stand while watching television,
- Stand during business meetings (I’ve seen people do this many times),
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator,
- Walk or ride a bike to work, school or the shops, (studies show that people who drive their car to work are heavier than people who take the bus, ride their bikes or walk),
- Park your car further from your destination and walk part of the way,
- Get on/off public transportation a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way,
- Stand up when riding public transportation, if possible (balancing in a moving vehicle will do wonders for your core), and
- Use any excuse like lunch time or coffee breaks or last minute errands to walk.
Now that you’ve read this, do yourself a favour: stand up, stretch and walk around for at least 5 minutes right now. I just did!
Happy New Year, everybody!
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
My Homespunspa Wellness Tour 2012 is starting in just a few days and I’m getting really excited about my trip. But while I’m away, I don’t want to forget about exercising and lose all of the ground I’ve covered in the last several months. And with American Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays coming up, I’m sure many of you will be tempted to let your exercise routine lapse while you’re travelling to different cities to visit family and friends. My advice: Now is not the time to slack off; try to find a way to include regular exercise in your daily routine throughout the festive season and beyond.
And if you need a little extra motivation to get off your butt and move your body, I recently heard the average person consumes 3000 calories on Thanksgiving Day. That’s a lot of delicious food! If you workout regularly, you’ll definitely avoid gaining unnecessary weight and you won’t need to make any New Year’s resolutions come January 1.
“So, how do I stay fit while travelling,” you ask? Well, as much as I’d like to bring my yoga mat, 12-pound weights and treadmill on the road with me, that’s not practical. My personal trainer, Jeanette, however, came up with a brilliant solution: Bring an elastic/ resistance tube and use it. That’s the tip to stay fit on your trip.
She suggested I bring my tube with me on my trip because it’s lightweight and fits in nicely in my suitcase and there are countless strength training exercises I can do with it wherever I go.
Jeanette told me I’ve lost almost 24 inches since May and I’m not about to undo all of that hard work by discontinuing my regular workouts. I plan on running, doing abdominal crunches and push ups and using my resistance tube often.
Before launching into the exercises, make sure you’re wearing proper fitness clothes, have a bottle of water handy and you warm up for 5 minutes to get your heart rate up. Also, remember to cool down and stretch when you’ve finished your tube workout.
Obviously, you’ll need a tube for these exercises. Mine is purple (of course) and has medium resistance. It also has a casing over it to protect me if the tube ever wears thin and suddenly snaps during a workout. I think it cost me around $30 at a local fitness supply store but I don’t remember exactly. I definitely recommend adding one to your home gym.
Of course there are dozens of strength training exercises you can do with a tube but I’m just going to highlight seven. I’m sharing these instructions and illustrations with Jeanette’s permission.
1) Elastic Double Overhead Press: Stand on the tube and hold the elastic in both hands with your arms at each side and your elbows bent. Push your arms over your head, keeping your elbows no higher than your ears. Return to the starting position. Do 12 reps and 2 sets. Maintain good posture and wrist alignment and exhale while pushing your arms up and inhale while bringing them back down.
2) Elastic Double Lateral Raise: Stand on the tube and hold the handles in both hands with your arms at your sides and palms facing forward. Lift arms to shoulder level, keeping your elbows straight, then lower and repeat. Do 12 reps and 2 sets. Exhale while lifting your arms and inhale while lowering them. Maintain good posture, abdominal contraction and wrist alignment.
3) Elastic Bent Over Crossed Row: Stand on the tube with feet hip-width apart. Take the end of the tube that is under your left foot with your right hand and the end that is under your right foot with your left hand making a criss-cross with your wrists. (I have to think about this every time). Bend your knees slightly and tilt forward from the hips. Pull up the elastic and raise your hands toward your waistline then return to start. Do 12 reps and 2 sets. Exhale when pulling the tube back and bending the elbow and inhale while straightening the elbow. Keep wrist aligned, abs contracted, and spine neutral.
4) Elastic Single Biceps Curl: Stand on the tube with feet outside hip-width apart. Grab the handle with palm facing forward, keeping your arm extended. Pull up while bending at the elbow and then return to start. Do 12 reps and 2 sets with each arm. Exhale as you pull the elastic and inhale on the return. Maintain good posture and keep the abs engaged and watch your wrist alignment.
5) Lateral Biceps Curl with Elastic (External Rotation): Stand on the tube with feet hip-width apart. Grasp handles. Arms are at each side and palms are facing away from the hips. Bend elbows and pull the tube until the hand reaches the shoulder. Lower the hand and repeat. Do 12 reps and 2 sets. Exhale when bending and inhale while extending the elbow. Maintain a space between the elbow and the side of the trunk, keep abs contracted and wrists in neutral position.
6) Elastic Trunk Sidebend: Stand on the tube with your right foot and hold the other end with your right hand. Bend to the left, keeping the elbow straight. Return to start. Repeat 12 times. Switch sides and repeat, bending to the right. (I just figured out I’ve been doing this one without following the instructions and bending the wrong way… oh well). Do 12 reps and 2 sets each side. Exhale when bending the trunk and inhale when straightening the trunk. Maintain good posture and keep abs contracted.
7) Standing Hip Abduction with Tube (Outer Thigh): Stand on tube with both feet together. Place your weight on your left leg. Keep your knee straight and raise your right leg to the side. Return to the starting position. Repeat 12 times. Switch sides and repeat with your left leg. Do 12 more reps and 2 sets each side. Exhale as you abduct your leg and inhale as you lower it. Maintain good posture and keep your ankle aligned in neutral.
I hope you get a chance to try out these tube exercises. I’m sure they’ll keep me busy and fit in the coming weeks. Let me know how things go and I’ll keep you posted on my progress during my Homespunspa Wellness Tour 2012. And thanks Jeanette for your great idea!
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Last December/January, I caught the worst cough I can remember and I don’t want to go through that ever again. I lost my voice to laryngitis for a few days, the painful, phlegmy coughing kept me and everyone in my household up at night, and it took about three weeks for the nastiness to clear out of my system.
Flu, short for influenza, is a viral illness that tends to flare up in the winter months and to involve many people in the community at the same time. Flu symptoms include: fever (38.3 to 40 degrees Celsius or 101 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit), chills, body aches, headache, pain when you move your eyes, fatigue, weakness, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, etc. It usually lasts for about 10 days and then everything will be back to normal, but the flu can also lead to more serious and dangerous complications for some.
Having a cold or flu or cough is not fun to say the least so I’ve come up with a list of home-spa-inspired suggestions that will help us all stay healthy this season.
20 things you can do to prevent, avoid, or at least minimize the flu this year:
- Immune System: Fortify your immune system and keep up your resistance to infections by eating a healthy and nutritious diet, exercising regularly and getting plenty of good quality sleep year-round.
- Avoid exposure: If you can at all help it, (easier said than done, I know), avoid contact with people who are showing flu symptoms.
- Vitamin C: Take Vitamin C supplements daily, (I like the chewable kind), and eat foods that have a high vitamin C content.
- Vitamin D: Boost your Vitamin D intake during the dark, winter months.
- Echinacea: Take Echinacea capsules or drink Echinacea tea. Echinacea is a popular healing herb that boosts the immune system, has antiviral properties and helps prevent the onset of colds.
- Zinc: Take Zinc Lozenges at the onset of a cold. This mineral is often used to reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms. Foods that contain zinc include: eggs, meat, seafood and whole grains.
- Panax Ginseng: Take Panax Ginseng supplements during the winter and especially at the onset of a cold. You will find Ginseng in products like ColdFX.
- Garlic: Eat fresh garlic (like on toast or in a salad dressing) at the onset of flu symptoms.
- Oil of Oregano: Take drops of oil of oregano to boost your immune system.
- Hydrate: Drink lots of liquids throughout the day. Choose hot tea with lemon and honey, water, orange juice, and apple juice.
- Soup: Eating a bowl of comforting chicken noodle soup may be just the recipe to alleviate your cold symptoms.
- Clean Hands: Wash your hands regularly and keep your hands away from your nose, eyes and mouth. Also, use a tissue or your upper arm when you cough or sneeze.
- Exercise: Sometimes exercising just as you are starting to feel a cold or flu coming on, may be a good idea; however, do not exercise if you have phlegmy congestion below the neck.
- Relax: Managing your stress will go a long way to keep illness at bay.
- Sauna: Sitting in a sauna for a few minutes may help flush out your cold symptoms.
- Room Sprays: Use room sprays made with essential oils like: basil, bay, benzoin, bergamot, black pepper, cajeput, citronella, coriander, eucalyptus, frankincense, ginger, grapefruit, helichrysum, juniper, lavandin, lavender, lemon, lime, marjoram, myrtle, niaouli, orange, oregano, peppermint, petitgrain, pine, rosemary, tea tree, and thyme (wow that’s a long list) to freshen the space, disinfect surfaces, help breathing and foster sleep.
- Stop smoking: You may think now isn’t the time to quit smoking altogether, but many years ago, my father went off on a fishing trip and came home with the most miserable cold and after that, he never smoked his pipe again. Quitting smoking will only increase your health in the long run.
- Flu Shot: Consider getting a flu shot early in the season.
- Stay Home: If you’re feeling sick, stay home and rest. Your co-workers and the people that you would otherwise meet when you walk down the street, would appreciate it.
- Sleep: Get lots of rest and do your best to sleep well at night.
I hope these suggestions and recommendations help keep you and your family healthy this winter. If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment and share your wisdom.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
“The Road to Wellness is up the road and around the corner” was the lead in an article I wrote in 1998 when I was a reporter for the Peninsula News Review. My assignment was to interview a Naturopathic Doctor who had just opened a wellness clinic in Saanichton. At that time, I wasn’t as concerned about health and wellness as I am today (aah… “youth is wasted on the young…” as the saying goes) so I didn’t take advantage of what the clinic had to offer. But now, looking back, (I can still remember the long, white, billowing curtains in the treatment room), I think my conversation with the Naturopath and my visit to his clinic may have had more of an influence on me than I realized because within a couple of years of that meeting, I opened Homespunspa Enterprises, and have been on the road to wellness ever since.
Now, 12 years later, after going back to school to become an esthetician and adding a mobile spa to my business, I’ve come to a new stretch of road. Dr. Oksana Sawiak, who is a friend of my mother’s from childhood and also a holistic dentist (retired), has graciously invited me to spend some time with her in her new Integrative Wellness & Detox Centre, youwell.ca, in Norval, Ontario. Dr. Sawiak is a frontrunner in the dentistry field and throughout her 30+ year career, has focused on mercury-free/biological dentistry and is now delivering lectures on holistic dentistry, non-surgical gum treatment, pain control, hypnosis, and detoxification, etc.
I can’t wait to learn everything I can from her and her colleagues so I can transfer my new knowledge about this super-big topic of wellness to my readers and customers. I’ll be calling on my writing skills from my aforementioned journalism days and will be making regular updates on my blog about what I’m learning so everybody benefits.
I’ve already purchased my plane ticket and will be leaving Victoria in mid November. I’ve decided to call my adventure to the Toronto area, the Homespunspa Wellness Tour 2012. If you’d like to help support me while I’m on my wellness tour, (and I’d really appreciate this ) please buy a t-shirt or knick-knack from my special collection in my Café Press store. If you ask me, I think those t-shirts and mugs and blankets are pretty-darn cute.
While I’m in Toronto, I will not be available to accept any mobile spa appointments myself until I return but can facilitate any alternate arrangements with other trusted spa practitioners, if you’d like. Just send me an email and I’ll hook you up.
In the meantime, why not buy or rent a copy of the movie or book by T.C. Boyle, “The Road to Wellville” for a laugh and to catch a glimpse of the early days of how this whole wellness movement started in the first place.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Are you planning to celebrate a special occasion soon, like a birthday party, bridal shower, wedding, anniversary or seasonal holiday and would like to do something fun and unique for your bff’s?
How about hosting a spa party?
If a spa party sounds like a great idea to you, here’s a checklist that will help make the job easier:
- Pick a date & time: Choose a date that works for most, if not all of your guests. Spa parties usually last no more than 3 hours, so if you have plans before or after your spa party, (like dinner at a restaurant or a golf game or a night on the town) pick a time that gives you some wiggle room. There’s no point in adding stress to your special spa day by rushing to the next event.
- Pick a venue: Spa parties can be held virtually anywhere like a hotel room or office but oftentimes your home is best. Just make sure you have enough open space to accommodate your party guests and anyone else you may have hired (like caterers, massage therapists, yoga instructors) to help you with your party.
- Decide on a party budget: I know, “budget” and “party” don’t sound good together but it’s a good idea to know what you want to spend ahead of time and stay in that ballpark. Overspending on impulse purchases will dampen your fun in the long run and having a budget will keep you on track.
- Send invitations: Nowadays, you can either send your invitations electronically like through email or you can create an event on Facebook or you can hand deliver your invitations door to door. It’s up to you. On your invitations, make sure you ask your guests which types of spa services they’d prefer and let your guests know to bring things like: flip flops, if they’re getting a pedicure; pj’s; bathrobes; a bathing suit for the hot tub; a potluck item to share or cash, if you want them to pay for their own spa services and tip.
- Get a head count: Now that you have your guest list and everyone has said “Yes, I’ll be there with bells on,” know how many guests will be attending your spa party.
- Hire a local mobile spa company like Homespunspa: Mobile spa companies are popping up all over the place and I’m sure there’s a good one in your city. And if you happen to live in Victoria, BC, then please call or email Homespunspa Mobile Spa. We’d be thrilled to help make your spa party extra special and stress-free.
- Choose spa services to offer at your party: Mobile spas can deliver all kinds of spa services like manicures, pedicures, facials and massages to your guests. At Homespunspa, we have designed a mini menu of 30-minute spa treatments for spa parties which lets guests get pampered and still participate in the party.
- Prepare spa snacks and beverages: Of course, what’s a spa party without food and drinks? I recommend serving crispy kale chips and refreshing cucumber water.
- Create your spa music playlist: I’ve been collecting spa music for over 20 years, long before I became a lover of all things spa and an esthetician, and I love, love, love the Homespunspa playlist. Regardless of whether you want something quiet and relaxing or something more pop and upbeat in the background, having music will add whole nother dimension to your spa party.
- Design your spa space: It’s time to create a spa environment. First move your furniture and make room for the different spa stations. You want to create a space that allows for people to move around freely. You might also like to create some private areas for the quieter spa treatments. And don’t forget to vapourize some essential oils into the air to enhance the spa mood.
- Decorate your space: If you can swing it, try adding some spa-chic elements, like a water feature, a low-burning fire in the fire place, smooth stones with inspiring words painted on them, lit candles of all sizes, throw pillows, plushy white towels folded just so, waffle bathrobes with slippers, and leafy tropical plants with big flowers to your décor.
- What about pets and other family members? I love family pets, especially cats, but sometimes they may not be the ideal guests at your spa party. Figure out what to do with your pets ahead of time so they don’t cause a distraction. And if there are family members or roommates that will not be participating in the spa party, (like husbands during a bridal shower) give them lots of notice so they can make alternate plans.
- Decide if there will be games and/or craft activities during the party: Some people like to play spa games while others like to encourage everyone to do a short craft project during their parties. If you want to do some spa-themed crafts and use essential oils, find some home spa recipes and try making your own perfumes, massage oil blends or bath salts. These activities are completely optional but if people are up for it, they might add some fun to the spa party.
- Collect and package party favours: Once the spa party starts winding down and everyone has received their pampering spa treatments, you might want to send your guests home with some party favours (or a loot bag, as I like to say). You can keep it simple, like a bottle of nail polish, or go all out with travel-sized shampoos, conditioners, lotions, lip balms, eye shadows, soaps, candles, assorted tea bags, packets of chocolate covered almonds, costume jewellery…whatever you want. You can always ask your mobile spa ahead of time if they’d also like to contribute some free product samples or coupons to the party favour bags.
- Clean up: Your spa party was a success and you can rest assured your friends had a good time. Once the mobile spa leaves and takes all of their equipment and supplies with them, clean up will be a snap. You may even like the furniture the way it is and not feel the need to move it back.
I hope this checklist for a successful spa party helps you plan the best spa party ever. And I hope you include Homespunspa in your next spa party. Please leave a comment if you have anything to add and please share this with your friends if you have a spa party in the works right now.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
I’ve come up with a genius (if I do say so myself) idea on how to manage stress and I really want to share it with as many people as I can. I call it “stone throwing on the beach” and I highly recommend it to anyone who is feeling down and stressed and needs a pick-me-up.
So yesterday, I was feeling irritable and annoyed and in a moment of frustration, I threw a plastic dish scrubber down the stairs. That felt pretty good so I thought I’d throw a box of SOS pads down the stairs, also. It occurred to me that I should go and play some tennis or something to release more of my pent up negativity but I couldn’t think of anybody who would be available to play with me on short notice.
And then the light bulb above my head switched on and I thought of going to the beach just to throw stones into the ocean. Then I noticed (just from that insight) that my energy shifted and I started feeling better. I knew this was a good idea and I couldn’t wait to try my little experiment.
Lucky for me, I live on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so there are several beaches around here for me to choose from. I wanted a beach that was more rocky than sandy (for once) so I picked one in Sidney, BC. (If you don’t leave near the ocean, maybe you can go to a lake instead and try to count how many skips your flat stones make across the placid water).
The Stone Throwing Experiment
I arrived in the beach parking lot around 12:50pm. Except for the odd jogger, dog walker, crow and seagull passing by, I basically had the beach all to myself on this really bright and sunny summer afternoon. I went close to the ocean and said I prayer to get myself into a positive frame of mind and then started picking up stones that I thought had a nice shape and size.
My goal was to release and let go of any and all negative emotional blocks that were weighing me down and keeping me from getting ahead in life and living the life of my dreams. Yeah, I know, pretty heavy stuff.
I consider stone throwing a spiritual, emotional and physical exercise and I figured on a symbolic level, that the mighty ocean could absorb and dissolve my burdens.
Every time I bent down and picked up another rock (there were so many to choose from), I thought about a specific limitation that I wanted to get rid of (like the fear of trying new things, or expressing my true feelings, or losing 5 pounds of extra body fat) and then with my left hand (because I’m left handed), I hurled that stone as far as I could into the sea.
Some of my throws dropped into the ocean with a heavy plunk and some hooked far to the right. One of my throws didn’t even make it into the water and shattered into several pieces on the beach instead. I threw that one with my right hand and realized that the belief that I was thinking about at the time needed a few more rock throws to clear and a little more work.
Some of my throws were just beautiful and I could see the stone spinning like a flying saucer as it arced into the waves. In that case, I said to myself, “That was a good one.”
I had the song, “Walk on the Ocean” by Toad the Wet Sprocket replaying in my mind. I felt all kinds of emotions that I wasn’t expecting as I launched more and more rocks into the sea. There were a few moments of sadness in the mix but they didn’t last. Most of the time, I felt really joyful. I was having fun and I didn’t care who saw me. I’m sure they were wondering, “What is she doing?”
I don’t know how many rocks I ended up throwing into the ocean — maybe 50, maybe 100, I’ll never know because I lost count after 4, but eventually, I looked at my watch and to my surprise it was 1:50pm. I had been stone throwing for an hour! I knew at that point, it was time to go home.
Did my stone throwing experiment work?
Yes, I think so. I felt really good and dare I say, lighter than I had before. I didn’t have the energy to do much else later that day but I didn’t really care. I just relaxed. And that night, I slept like a rock.
Today, my arms and shoulders feel a little stiff. Earlier this morning, I had a chat with my personal trainer on Skype and the first thing she said to me was, “You’re looking really good today” (which she has never said to me in that particular tone before as far as I can recall) and she noticed that I had more confidence than usual. I told her about how I went to the beach to throw stones into the ocean and she thought my idea was “brilliant” and she had never heard of anyone doing that before. She said she’ll certainly recommend the idea to her other clients because it’s a physical activity and it lets you get back to nature. She also said, it was exactly what my body needed to do that day and she was glad I listened to it. I genuinely think she saw a positive difference in me and because of her feedback, I do believe this little idea has some therapeutic value. And it’s free so why not try it for yourself. It’s time to let go of your blocks and get on with your life.
Please leave a comment and let me know your experience with throwing stones into the sea. Here’s to letting go.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Many of my neighbours grow lavender and I often see vibrant purple and green bushes of lavender teaming with bumble bees and butterflies this time of year.
Lavender is the ultimate Homespunspa ingredient because it’s so versatile and can be used in thousands of different ways for thousands of purposes. But have you ever thought to use it as inspiration to make your bedroom more sleep- friendly?
Lavender has been recommended for centuries as a sleep aid and if people like the aroma, than using lavender in all of its forms — from the dried plant, to the essential oil, to the colour — is a quick, easy and natural solution to help with occasional insomnia.
If you associate lavender with sleep, then try decorating your bedroom with a lavender theme by:
- hanging sketches and photographs of lavender growing in a garden;
- keeping dried lavender in vases on your window sills;
- stuffing sleep pillows and sachets with lavender;
- keeping a bottle of lavender essential oil on the night table and if you’re having trouble falling asleep, put a dab of lavender under your nose. You will feel more relaxed almost instantly and will be able to get some shut eye sooner rather than later.
- sleeping on a bed made and covered with lavender-coloured bed linens, comforters, and throw blankets;
- wearing lavender pajamas, bathrobes and slippers;
- misting your room with a light spray of lavender flower water will help set a relaxing tone for the evening;
- painting or wallpapering bedroom walls in a soft lavender palette.
Together, these small visual and aromatic cues will help remind you that this is a sleep-friendly bedroom and may in fact improve your quality of sleep. Please leave a comment and let us know if this suggestion works for you.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Did you know that blue lights (like the lights from your tv, computer, cell phone and even your alarm clock/radio) dim your chances of getting a good night’s sleep? As it turns out, blue lights tamper with our circadian rhythms and therefore our melatonin levels and therefore our sleep cycles.
The circadian rhythm is an innate daily fluctuation of physiological and behavioural functions, (including sleeping and waking), that is generally tied to the 24-hour day/night cycle. Our rhythms are regulated by external cues (also known as “Zeitgebers”) such as sunlight and night sky, temperatures, what we eat (including medicines), when we eat, and our social interactions with others.
Light (and the absence of light) has always played a significant role in our daily lives and it affects our activities, hormone levels and sleep cycles. As humans, we have intuitively sought shelter and a safe place to sleep at night and we use the illumination and safety of daylight for hunting, gathering and travelling.
For millions of years, blue light (like the light from mid-morning sky) has meant daylight and time for us to be busy and productive. When we sense blue light, the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, is limited, and we stay alert and awake.
We have also evolved over millions of years to have the deepest, most restful sleep in a very dark environment that does not expose us to any light (especially blue and green wavelengths) while we are sleeping. The absence of blue light cues the melatonin and we get sleepy.
Have you ever watched tv in a room that doesn’t have any other lights on? Everything becomes blue. Manmade blue lights, like those eminating from your tv or computer screen, mimic broad daylight and also disrupt our sleep patterns and sleep hormones. If we are getting ready to go to bed at night but continue to “work” under artificial lighting, the blue lights will send mixed messages to the brain and the brain won’t know whether to 1)relax and go to bed or 2) suppress melatonin, stay up and be alert. This may be a good time to rethink having a tv in your bedroom or checking your Twitter and Facebook one last time before midnight.
Curiously, reddish light (like from a candle or fireplace) doesn’t effect melatonin production, so it’s fine to use in the evening hours or as a nightlight in the middle of the night.
Here are some tips of how to turn off the blue lights at night and sleep better:
- Seek yellow light and avoid blue light after dark;
- Minimize or eliminate the use of electronics that emit blue light after dark;
- Trade your blue/green digital alarm/clock radio to one with red lights;
- Pay attention to the time you start feeling sleepy and honour it — Don’t let that second wind kick in;
- Go to bed earlier;
- Take a bath by candlelight and see how much better you sleep. (The bath and the candlelight will work synergystically and I don’t recommend taking your iPhone with you on this occasion ).
- Keep your bedroom as dark as pitch when you are sleeping.
- Try falling asleep with a pair of eyeshades to block out more light.
- Spend at least an hour a day in direct sunlight.
- Try to decrease the light in your bedroom gradually in the hours before you hit the hay;
- Try to time your wake up with light;
- Spend less time watching tv or playing/working on the computer in the evening, especially within an hour of your bed time.
- Use a reddish light as a nightlight if you need to go to the washroom in the middle of the night.
I hope this helps with your insomnia. Please leave a comment and let us know if this was new information to you or if you knew about blue light and insomnia already.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
When I tasted kale chips for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised. Kale chips have a light and crispy texture like potato chips (which I love) but are 10 times more flavourful and satisfying. One kale chip goes a long way. Kale chips are now officially added to my spa snack recipe book.
Kale is from the cabbage family and is related to broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and Brussels sprouts. Nutritionally, kale is very rich in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and calcium. People all over the world have been eating kale since at least the middle ages. I highly recommend adding kale to your weekly menu to maintain your health and wellness.
Here’s a recipe for Kale Chips that my mother got from a friend’s daughter, who is a chef. When roasted, kale develops a very hearty, earthy and complex flavour and although it may not appeal to everyone, if you like it, eat it.
Kale Chips, my new favourite spa snack.
- 1 bunch Black Kale (Lacinato)
- 1 TB Olive Oil
- 1/4-1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder (optional)
Step 3: Cut out the stems of each leaf of kale.
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Choose fresh Lacinato or Black Kale over other varieties of kale because the flatter leaves will roast better. You can also try this recipe with seaweed or Swiss Chard and then let me know how it goes.
3. Cut out the rib/stem out of each leaf of kale. You can set the stems aside and use them in a vegetable stock, if you wish.
4. Rinse the leaves and dry them in a salad spinner. Place the leaves on 2 baking sheets.
Steps 5 & 6: Massage in the olive oil and salt and arrange on baking tray.
5. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Gently massage in the oil and salt and make sure each leaf is coated evenly.
6. Bonus step: While you’re there and have olive oil and sea salt on your hands (and this was my mother’s idea) give your hands a quick massage, too. Then rinse your hands with warm water. Your hands will feel softer after this impromptu spa treatment, I promise.
7. You can also go ahead and sprinkle on some garlic powder at this time, if you wish. I like the garlic, myself, but it really doesn’t make that much difference.
8. Arrange the kale leaves so they are lying flat and are not overlapping each other. Put the baking trays in the oven and roast at a low temperature for 1 hour.
Kale chips straight out of the oven.
9. When the timer goes off, remove the kale from the oven. After an hour, the leaves will have lost their moisture and will reduce in size and will become more brown. Go ahead and taste a healthy kale chip. What do you think? Different, isn’t it? But good, in its own way. Right?
Try serving kale chips to your friends during your next home spa party and see what they say. I’d be curious to know if they like the strong flavour or not. If nothing else, it will make for an interesting conversation. Here’s to your good health!
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
In 2012, Mother’s Day will be celebrated in Canada on Sunday, May 13. I know what I’m going to give my mother this year but shh, it’s a surprise.
There’s still time for you to plan something special for your mom and all of the mother figures in your life. On top of giving your mom a nice card, some flowers and maybe breakfast in bed, I recommend giving your mom the gift of spa to thank her for all the kind things she does for you, for your family and for the community.
Getting a spa service like a facial, massage, manicure or pedicure feels really good and people are often surprised at how much more relaxed they feel during their appointment and for hours afterward.
If the idea of a spa appointment appeals to you and your mother, have you thought about inviting a mobile spa to come to your mother’s door instead of taking her out to a busy day spa in town? A mobile spa will save you and your mother time, energy and maybe even some stress — just ask Grampa Earl in the cartoon below.
If only Grampa Earl knew about Homespunspa Mobile Spa. He would still be able to take his afternoon nap and wouldn’t have to worry about Gramma’s comings and goings. Meanwhile, Gramma would feel pampered and beautiful and wouldn’t feel the need to swear at her husband for being late in picking her up and therefore undoing all of the relaxing goodness of the spa. It’s win-win. What’s that old expression, “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure?” — Sounds like something a wise mother would say.
Here’s some good news. Homespunspa Mobile Spa is offering a Mother’s Day Special. If you book your appointment for your mother before May 12, 2012 for anyday of the week between Sunday, May 13 and Sunday, May 20, 2012, we will take 15% off your service. Choose from any of our fine services on our menu. (Note: the offer does not include the mini menu for the spa parties, however). Be “Early” and call or email soon to reserve your appointment.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers of the world!