How do Swedes Sleep in Summer? Part 2

Posted by Maria on June 24, 2009 under Homespunspa, Sleep, Uncategorized | 3 Comments to Read

How does a Swede sleep in summer? To answer this deep, philosophical question,
I decided to go straight to the source — Facebook. I have two friends who are currently living in Sweden, one is a native and one just moved there, and they said it was OK for me to post their wisdom on my blog.

This is what Erik said:

The solstice celebration is our most beloved (and heathen) event all year. Noone has any trouble sleeping given that the celebration is coupled with eating small pieces of herring, singing, and drinking unhealthy amounts of schnapps. Most people literally fall into deep sleep regardless of the light. If for some reason, one is awake it’s because of love. Either one is in love and with the person and doesn’t need sleep. Or one is unhappily in love and can’t sleep because of that reason, no matter how light or dark. Further, we generally don’t sleep as much in the summer. We maybe cut an hour or two off the our regular sleep. There’s too much fun to be had. So, you see, we solve the light question by pragmatics.

Kidding aside, we are quite used to the changing seasons and varying light conditions. We are taught early to sleep in a cool (north facing – architectural know how), dark (dark black window shades – IKEA has em), and well ventilated (window open) room. That and going to bed at regular times does the trick.

And this is what Roma said:

All is well here. Finally it is warmer and sunny outside, and so I’ve been trying to make the most of the nice weather. I couldn’t think of any clever tips to get a good nights sleep, and I asked a few people, but no one had anything special to say. What I DO suggest though, and what everyone here in Sweden uses, are blackout blinds. When the sun rises at 3:30 am and sets at 11, and the rest of the *night is barely dark, the blinds REALLY come in handy. Swedes also use two duvet covers instead of one. What I mean by that (and you could probably see it on the IKEA (SWEDEN) website in the bedroom photos), is that they take one duvet and fold it in half, and place it on one side of the bed, and do the same on the other. That way you can have your own and not have to fight over the covers in the middle of the night with your partner. I think that that’s a great idea. They then cover both duvets with some throw or something so that it looks uniform.

Not sure if that helped any, but they are definitely two things I’ve noticed here.

Funny. Both of them mentioned IKEA. But neither of them mentioned ABBA.

I think having a North-facing bedroom is good because northern light is a little bit bluer and cooler than the others which might make sleeping in summer easier. I also think that double-duvet idea is brilliant. It solves an age old tug of war. I don’t know why the rest of us don’t do that — but I’m sure someone out there is going to try it.

Thank you so much Roma and Erik for your enlightening thoughts! Skål!

How do Swedes Sleep in Summer?

Posted by Maria on June 21, 2009 under Books, Magazines, Music, Homespunspa, Photo gallery, Sleep, Uncategorized | 5 Comments to Read

June 21st is one of my favourite days of the year. I wish the whole world celebrated the summer solstice as enthusiastically as the Scandinavians and some First Nations do. I was lucky enough to be invited to a backyard BBQ last night on midsummer’s eve-eve and at this time of year in Victoria, British Columbia, the sun sets after 9:00pm and stays light out till around 10:00pm.

Experiencing a midnight sun for myself with my own eyes has been a dream of mine ever since I studied medieval Icelandic literature in university. While I was taking that class, my father went to Iceland for work and was given a book, Iceland, a portrait of its land and people, text and pictures by Hjalmar R. Bardarson, which he gave to me (like he had a choice) and it only seems fitting (as a happy father’s day moment to my late father) that I use one of the photos from the book to demonstrate the arc of the midnight sun in this post.

This series of pictures of the midnight sun was taken from Iceland between June 8 & 9, 1980 by Hjalmar R. Bardarson.

This series of pictures of the midnight sun was taken from Iceland between June 8 & 9, 1980 by Hjalmar R. Bardarson.

Pretty cool eh?

This whole idea of summer solstice got me thinking about insomniacs. How do people catch their zzz’s when the sun is shining? I personally have a lighthearted memory of when I was 4 or 5 years old, of my parents insisting that my brother and I go to bed when it was clear to us that it was too early to hit the sheets at around 8:00pm. We thought they were trying to pull the wool over our eyes so we stalled and stalled — can I have another glass of water, oops I forgot to brush my teeth, are you sure your watch is right? — till finally it was dark enough to go to bed.

So if you’re resisting going into the land of slumber like I did when I was a kid, here are my tips on what you can do to get some shut-eye during the bright nights of summer.

1) Get into the habit of taking an evening walk through your neighbourhood or in a park or on the beach to get some fresh air and to spend that last bit of energy from your day. Take your dog and a friend and your camera.

2) Keep a regular sleep time routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day as best you can — I know that’s hard, especially for the social butterflies out there.

3) Freshen up your bedroom with crisp, clean, cool linens and keep the space dark with blinds, curtains and window treatments. Now is not the time for cozy clutter.

4) If, like me, you don’t have blinds covering your windows, buy or make some eyeshades like you get on the airlines to block out the light. Ask me about Homespunspa’s satin eyemasks that come with pockets so you can add some scented tea bags for further relaxation. They’re $12 CAD plus shipping.

Homespunspa eye mask with lavender sachets, $12 CAD plus shipping.

Homespunspa eye mask with lavender sachets, $12 CAD plus shipping.

and 5) Listen to Swedish music. If nothing else, it will make you smile.

If you have any tips on how to sleep in the sunlight, by all means, send me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.


Looking at Life Through Rose-Coloured Tresses

Posted by Maria on June 14, 2009 under Dating, Fashion, Hair, Photo gallery, Pop-Psychology, Self-Care, Spa Review, Stress Management and Relaxation, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized | 2 Comments to Read

****What Not to Wear spoil alert****

In an effort to cling to the vestiges of my youth as they slip through my fingers like sand, I went to my hair appointment with a colourful idea. I wanted to add some pink.

I personally think that getting your hair done is one of the best ways to manage stress. I particularly love getting my hair washed.

I had been toying with the pink idea for a while. I thought about it during my last appointment with Richard as I was flipping through some hairstyle books. There’s lots of stuff being done these days with deep blues and vibrant reds. I couldn’t decide between pink and purple. Purple has always been my favourite colour but pink seems more flattering with blonde.

At first Richard wasn’t so keen on the idea. He has been a hairstylist for over 20 years and knows a thing or two about people, their attachment to their hair and the concept of change. He knows when to green light an idea and when not to. He tested me with some questions like, Why do you want to do this? — Because I’m turning 40 in a couple of days and I want to do something youthful?

He showed me all of his colour samples and the tube of “Pretty Flamingo” and said I had an hour to think about it. Should I or shouldn’t I? What will my cat think? What will my mother say? How will my forestry co-workers react? I was thinking, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea afterall and was talking myself out of it.

As Richard was cutting my hair, I was telling him about Friday night’s episode of What Not To Wear where they literally roped Jessie, a 52-year-old woman from Texas, into a make-over. They caught up to her at the South Fork Ranch, home of Dallas, the 80’s tv show and she was wearing an animal print dress, a leather coat, rhinestones and pumps. She was nominated by her 34 year-old daughter with long blonde, big Texas hair, who was going to be moving out of her mother’s house soon. Apparently, the mother was divorced and single and the mother and daughter would hang out together to meet men, though the men would always pick the daughter.

Jessie admitted that her feelings were really hurt after being nominated for the show. But I guess a $5000 shopping spree in New York City didn’t sound so bad.

Jessie reluctantly went to New York. She didn’t see anything wrong with what she was wearing in the first place but tried to take in the rules as best she could. No more rhinestones for her, she thought. Admittedly, I think giving up 20-year-old clothes would be hard for me also. I have clothes like t-shirts and socks from my high school days in my drawers too. Why?  I don’t know. Do I still wear them? No.

It was obvious Jessie was clinging to the good ol’ days of yesteryear — when things were the way she wanted them — she was young, beautiful, married and living the high life. Unfortunately, things changed and she was resisting big time. There were no smiles. There was no enthusiasm. At first Stacy and Clinton, the show hosts, were their usual joking selves, but they quickly learned she had no sense of humour about this and they reined it in to a more demure level.

When it came to her hair, Nick, the resident hairstylist on What Not to Wear, sat her down in his chair and callously held her hair in a fan above her ears and said something to the effect of, this is going, say good-bye. I think that was the last straw for Jessie. It was the turning point where she lost the rest of her patience and wasn’t going to tolerate this invasion into her life a second longer. That’s when things went southfork and had Nick approached this with a little more finesse, things may have turned out differently.

All in all Nick did a nice job on her hair. He made it more golden, than platinum, and cut her hair into a chin-length bob. I often don’t care for his hairstyles though because he tends to border on mullets — and by that I mean, he straightens the hair near the ears leaving it to lie flat — but in this case the style was quite flattering. She looked younger and better.

I think she used the word “pretty” but her face was saying something else. You could see her disappointed and angry thoughts fermenting under the surface of her skin. She knew if she said anything out loud, she would either say something really awful or she would burst into tears. I’ve been there before in many situations but I’ve never actually watched someone else do it. Cut to commercial.

We’ve all had bad haircuts in our day. I can remember the time I went to a new stylist and as I left the salon, all of the other stylists stopped what they were doing, watched me as I walked past and all had this look on their face that said, “Oh you poor thing.” I can laugh about it now.

When they returned from the ads, Jessie was in the greenroom crying and Carmindy, the make-up artist, came to talk to her. Jessie said, none of the men would like her hair, so Carmindy said she would send someone in to fix things. The fix was blow-drying the hair in a more flippy way.

I happen to know, (by eavesdropping on a conversation between my bus driver and another passenger a few years ago — it was a story about how the bus driver gave up a scholarship with Vidal Sassoon in England to take care of her grandfather), that Nick charges something like $250 or $400 U.S. for an appointment. He’s no slouch. He knows what he’s doing.

Carmindy was treating her with kid gloves and applied her make-up, although I didn’t pay attention to a word. I was watching Jessie’s face as she seethed in anger. She said, “I’ll live with it for a week and see how it goes.”

When she checked in with Stacy and Clinton in her new outfits, new hair and make-up, there were no yahoos. No cheers.

And low and behold, within the month, she had extensions put in and the colour re-platinumized. Talk about kicking a gift horse in the mouth.

She was less than impressed with her tress. I, on the other hand, felt blessed. As you have probably guessed by now, I went ahead with the pink and I’m really happy. What’s the difference between my experience and Jessie’s? First of all, my hair wasn’t drastic on the grand scheme of things and second, I asked for it. Jessie did not. It was my idea in the first place. I have been going through gradual changes over the past several months and am getting used to seeing a different person in the mirror, while her transformation happened all of a sudden and it was too shocking.

My hairstylist Richard said people don’t like change — they think they do, but they don’t. That’s why we find the nearest Starbucks or the Gap and shop there because these places are familiar and predictable. Don’t mess with Texas.

My advice to Jessie is:

1) Smile more and frown less — no quality man would be interested in spending time with a bitter woman with a poor attitude.

2) Hire a personal trainer — if nothing else, it will do wonders for your self-confidence.

3) Appreciate the wisdom you have gained over the years — it will serve you better than your youth and beauty ever did.

Watch What Not To Wear on Friday nights on TLC and check out the fansite at for more comments on this episode.

Can you find the pink? What do you think?

Can you find the pink? What do you think?

Mud Messy? … Who Knew?

Posted by Maria on June 6, 2009 under Bath and Body, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Spa Review, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, Weight Management, Yoga | 8 Comments to Read

I took Homespunspa (read yours truly) on a road trip to Whistler, British Columbia last weekend.

Whistler will be the home of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and is a wonderful outdoor playground and a perfect location for a summer spa weekend retreat.

I could not have picked a better weekend weather-wise. We were experiencing the best stretch of weather I have seen in these parts in years — clear blue skies and sunshine all the way!

View of mainland BC near Horseshoe Bay from the ferry. Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eye.

View of mainland BC near Horseshoe Bay from the ferry. Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eye.

I planned a trip to Whistler because I wanted to reward myself for my weight loss. I also wanted to do something special for myself on the edge of my 40th birthday. I called it my “39 and holding road trip.”

I made an appointment at Solaris Spa the week before and that was the highlight of my trip. First I took a yoga class with Colleen at 10:30 am. The poses were more challenging than I was used to and we did some new-to-me stuff — like tilting, turning and twisting on one leg — which kind of reminded me of those tipping duckies that drink water. The space was really lovely with a spectacular view of the snow-covered mountains. Colleen new her yoga inside and out, so to speak, and was a good instructor. It just goes to show no two yoga instructors are alike and you’ll never take the same yoga class twice, even with the same instructor. Colleen also added a chant to her practice, which I enjoyed, but wasn’t exactly sure what to do with.

After the yoga class, I had my first ever mud wrap treatment. At first I had signed up for the thalassa seaweed wrap because I wanted a detoxifying treatment, but Shelly, my spa specialist, suggested I go with the mud instead, which does the same thing, without the unpleasant smell.

This trip was all about stepping out of my comfort zone and this propelled me out of my nest. I soon wondered, what have I gotten myself into? I didn’t know what to expect and I soon found out how messy and involved a mud treatment was. I was so glad I didn’t have to do the laundry there.

First I had to strip down to my skivies. Cringe. I quickly hopped on to the bed that was covered with a heated blanket, a plastic sheet and regular towels and sheets. I thought Shelly did a great job in making me feel at ease. First she exfoliated my skin with some sort of abrasive glove or brush. It just acted to stimulate the skin, preparing it for the mud. I definitely felt the bristling effect, but at the same time, it was quick and painless.

Then she took the dark, coffee ground-brown mud and painted it on my limbs. It was cool to the skin. After that step, she wrapped me up like a burrito in the plastic sheet and heated blanket. It was very relaxing. I just closed my eyes and was glad my nose didn’t start to itch. Meanwhile, Shelly massaged my face and feet.

Shelly warned me about the contrast I’d feel in the air temperature as she unwrapped my cocoon and yes it was noticeable. The hardest part of the whole process was getting out of the warm bed and into the shower to wash off. I had to make my way covered in clay, wearing a bathrobe and flip flops, across the spa lobby and into the Swiss shower room. (That is my only criticism of the whole experience). People just don’t need to see that before lunch.

Anyway, I tried not to take too long in the shower, but the mud doesn’t exactly rinse off that easily, even though it’s water-soluble. Thank goodness for their pipes that it virtually contains no clay.

Moor Mud (also known as therapeutic peat moss) is an organic substance, produced from the natural decomposition of a galaxy of plants, herbs, flowers and grasses, under special conditions, over thousands of years.

Found in moor mud bogs of Europe, moor mud has been used as a spa treatment ingredient since day one. It contains minerals, trace elements, vitamins, amino acids, plant hormones and fatty acids in a molecular form that is easy for human skin to absorb.

Moor mud has an extraordinary ability to heal, nourish and detoxify the body as it promotes circulation, stimulates the immune system, relaxes muscles, relieves pain, breaks down fat cells, reduces cellulite and improves range of motion — perfect for someone like me who is exercising and doing yoga regularly to get fit.

Getting a back massage was the last part of my mud spa treatment. Unfortunately, I took too long in the shower which didn’t leave much time. I chose the mimosa fragrance, as part of my celebration theme, for this stretch. Shelly told me to drink lots of water because some people get dehydration headaches after detox treatments.

All in all I felt so relaxed. What a beautiful morning. Sipping my water, I walked so slowly through the village and forest path. It took me 40 minutes to walk back to my hotel room — a trip that would normally take 10 to 15.

There’s something to be said about getting away on your own to enjoy your own company and not having to deal with other people’s agendas. As much as I wanted to meet people there, I’m so glad I had the luxury of “Me time.” It was worth the trip.

Here's my Moor Mud Treatment in writing. Drop-in yoga class was $20.

Here's my Moor Mud Treatment in writing. Drop-in yoga class was $20.

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