Olympics Day 1 and Homespunspa Was There!

Posted by Maria on October 30, 2009 under Fitness, Newspapers and Newsworthy, Photo gallery, Uncategorized, Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games | 3 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, citizen journalist

The Olympic torch blew through my town today.

I found out by fluke that the Olympic Torch Relay for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games was actually coming through my little town of Saanichton, BC. And on Day 1 of all days. I had no idea when I was blogging about Centennial Park two days ago that I would be blogging about my neighborhood again so soon.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay began on October 30th, 2009 in Victoria, British Columbia. The Olympic Flame was originally lit in Olympia, Greece on October 22nd, 2009. The Olympic flame will crisscross Canada over the next 106 days, visiting 1000 communities.

I love the Olympics because the athletes show us the amazing strength and beauty of the human body and spirit. And the Games bring people together.

I like to think of myself as an athletic supporter ;>

Day 1 Olympic Torch Relay for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games – A Photo Essay

Olympic Torch Relay Interactive Map Screen Shot

Olympic Torch Relay Interactive Map Screen Shot

Photo by Maria Koropecky

The neighbours are starting to gather at City Hall. Photo by Maria Koropecky

From City Hall. Photo by Maria Koropecky

From Mt. Newton and Wallace. Photo by Maria Koropecky

A Canadian flag. Photo by Maria Koropecky

A Canadian flag. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Relay 3 and Vancouver 2010. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Relay 3 and Vancouver 2010. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Brian the next runner steps off the bus. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Brian the next runner steps off the bus. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

Interview. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

He bought his torch for $300. Nice souvenir. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

Brian is one of 12,000 relay runners. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Brian in his uniform and me wearing my Whistler turtleneck and Whistler toque

Brian in his uniform and me wearing my Whistler turtleneck and Whistler toque

Photo by Maria Koropecky

Security. Photo by Maria Koropecky

"We haven't had this much excitement around here in 15 years," said the lady in the Hawaiian shirt. Photo by Maria Koropecky

"We haven't had this much excitement around here in 15 years," said the lady in the Hawaiian shirt. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

Parade float #1. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

Parade float #2. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

More security. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

Here comes the transfer. Photo by Maria Koropecky

This is where the relay part comes in. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

Setting up the transfer of the flame. Photo by Maria Koropecky

We have lift off. Photo by Maria Koropecky

We have lift off. Photo by Maria Koropecky

And Brian is off and running. Photo by Maria Koropecky

And Brian is off and running. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

Onward! Photo by Maria Koropecky

It happend so fast. Photo by Maria Koropecky

One brief shining moment. Photo by Maria Koropecky

There he goes. Photo by Maria Koropecky

There he goes. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Photo by Maria Koropecky

After all of that waiting, it happend so fast. Photo by Maria Koropecky

Let Your 5 Senses Guide You Through The Forest This Fall

Posted by Maria on October 28, 2009 under Aromatherapy, Green Living, Home spa, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | 8 Comments to Read

By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Photo by Maria Koropecky, Centennial Park, 2006.

Photo by Maria Koropecky, Centennial Park, 2006.

I’m lucky enough to live down the street from a lovely park that I don’t visit nearly often enough. Centennial Park is filled with grand trees and all kinds of plant life. There’s also a creek that trickles along the western perimeter. I like to walk along the path and take it all in step by step. Over the years, I’ve seen eagles and woodpeckers and even an iguana but have yet to see the notorious owls that live there too. I love this photo I took on one of my walks because it reminds me of the height of the trees in my neck of the woods.

Each time I go, my mood brightens and I feel more relaxed. Going to the park just perks me up.

If you have a chance before winter comes, take a walk in the park and enjoy the show.

Let your senses guide you.

  1. Sight – Obviously, the colours during this time of year are brilliant. Mother nature’s autumnal palette includes: apricot, cherry, chestnut, chocolate, cinnamon, honey, peach, pea green, plum, saffron and wine. (Yes, I picked these foodie colours on purpose because they make great home spa ingredients :>). Yesterday, I noticed a tree whose bark had an aubergine hue and the emerald moss on top just made it pop.
  2. Hearing – As you walk along the forest path, take a moment and listen to what’s going on around you. I like to hear the crunch of the leaves under my feet or the squishy sound my shoes make as I step through mud. Of course the chirping and fluttering birds also add to the ambiance. Sometimes I just stop and listen to wind rustling through the trees or the water flowing downstream. I’ve also heard the trees creaking as if they’re talking to each other. The whole effect is quiet and noisy at the same time.
  3. Taste – I had to think about this one for a second but then it occurred to me — yes, there is a way to taste your way through the forest if you’re so inclined — but unless you know what you’re doing, I wouldn’t recommend it. Still you can find and collect all kinds of treats like nuts, herbs, flowers, berries, mushrooms, and rainwater. And they all happen to be excellent home spa ingredients, too.
  4. Smell – This one is easy. Walking into a forest, particularly after a rainfall, is aromatherapy at its finest. Just close your eyes and breathe it in. The piny-scented fresh air will do wonders for your spirit.
  5. Touch – I usually keep my hands in my pockets as I walk in the woods because I don’t want to disturb the wildlife. Every now and then, though, I just have to reach out and put my hand on a tree. The texture of the bark just speaks to me. Maybe next time I’ll go all out and give the tree a big hug too.

Nightmare, Sleep Terror or Ghost?

Posted by Maria on October 22, 2009 under Books, Magazines, Music, Dear Homespunspa, Homespunspa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Pets, Pop-Psychology, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized, Weight Management, Yoga | 2 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

“‘Twas the month of Halloween and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…” until I sprung up from the depths of sleep like a bat out of hell. I saw — and felt — plain as day — a bald man standing over me at the foot of my bed. He made some sort of gesture as if reaching for a pencil behind his right ear and said something like, “Alright then.”

He scared the bejeesus out of me

I…FREAKED…OUT. I screamed so loud I’m surprised I didn’t shatter glass. I frantically turned my bedside light on and the figure disappeared, but I wasn’t sure if I was alone or not. Maybe he dropped to the floor or dodged into the next room? My heartbeat by this time was racing like a runaway train. It felt like my heart was the size of a pumpkin and was protruding from my body, like you see in the cartoons.

I kept on expecting my landlords to call asking me if everything was alright but they didn’t. I couldn’t for the life of me get out of bed. I wanted to check around to see if anyone was there but I was frozen. I sat there scared stiff for the next 10 minutes just trying to catch my breath, my screams still echoing in my ears. The time was 10:30 pm.

Within a few minutes, my black cat, Charlie, who wasn’t in the bedroom when I initially woke up, appeared in the door. He wondered what all of the hubbub was about. I figured, because he’s a bit of a scaredy cat around strangers and likes to hide, no one else was in my apartment with us. What a relief. But then again — it begs the question — if a real person wasn’t standing there, (scary enough), what did I see, (also scary)?

I pulled the covers up to my shoulders and shivered. Somehow I dozed off again and I’ll admit, I slept with the light on until about 2:30 am.

What happened?

Let me backtrack a little bit. I have been feeling really anxious lately (hard to believe, I know) because I was layed off from my job with the government in September and have been worrying about my finances ever since. How am I going to earn a living and pay my bills now? I’m sure many of you can relate.

I didn’t think I was feeling that stressed about my situation, but now that I think about it, I have been falling back on my old stand-by habits in an effort to cope. I have been eating more, drinking more, shopping more and watching too much tv. (Thank goodness I’m still exercising regularly).

Earlier that evening, I was watching the tv show, “Lie to Me.” I had only seen the show once before. This episode was about some guy taking hostages and pointing a gun at people and I thought to myself, I don’t want to see these kinds of images before I go to bed, so I turned the tv off. Too late. I think they had an influence on my psyche and sleep anyway.

When in doubt, read a book

The next day I grabbed the book, Sleep, by Dr. Carlos H. Schenck (Penguin Group 2007) off the shelf. Dr. Schenck is a senior staff psychiatrist at the Hennepin County Medical Center and Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center. I learned about him when he appeared on Oprah.

I flipped to Chapter 10, Sleep Terrors, The Night the Ghost Got Scared. The jury is still out though on whether or not I had an actual sleep terror episode because:

  • I woke up with a scream;
  • It happened in the first hour of sleep, during slow-wave, NREM sleep rather than toward the end of sleep during the REM cycle, like nightmares;
  • My heartrate (tachycardia) and breathing (tachypnea) increased;
  • I have been under stress which may have triggered a sleep terror episode;
  • I vaguely remember hearing a thump-thump noise right before waking up which may have been just loud enough to jar me awake;
  • I suspect this event will have happened in conjunction with the days leading up to my period (sorry about the TMI) which can be a contributing factor;
  • I saw a ghost and/or a robber in the house which are common sleep-terror images.


  • I do remember having had the experience which is not characteristic of sleep terrors;
  • I recognized my surroundings (my cat for example);
  • I did not experience super-human strength;
  • I did not have the fight or flight response in the sense that I did not blindly try to attack anything, protect anything or try to escape;
  • I do not have a history of sleepwalking which often goes hand in hand with sleep terrors;
  • I did not drink any alcohol that evening which is often a variable in the mix;
  • It could have been a nocturnal panic attack where there is memory of the event, increased heart rate and an awareness of surroundings but there are no screams or hallucinations.

Regardless of what you call it, a nightmare, a sleep terror, a nocturnal panic attack or a ghost sighting, I need to turn up the dial on my relaxation routine. For a start, I’m glad I went to my yoga class the next day because that really helps. I’m also going to stick to my regular sleep routine as best I can. I’m also going to try to practice some self-hypnosis, visualization and breathing techniques more regularly before bedtime but that’s a post for another day.

If you would like to get a copy of Sleep, please visit Amazon.com, your local bookstore or your library.

And if you’re having trouble relaxing, managing stress or sleeping, please contact me and tell me your situation. Maybe I can help because this is a interest of mine and I can relate.

Somebody call 9-1-1

Posted by Maria on October 17, 2009 under Dating, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Newspapers and Newsworthy, Photo gallery, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | 2 Comments to Read

By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

I had the chance to mix and mingle with local off-duty firemen on Thursday night at the 2010 Greater Victoria Firefighter Calendar launch party charity event.

The cocktail party was held at the Bard and Banker – a space that used to be this massive year-round Christmas store on Government Street. Now it’s a pub with a floor-length bar and elaborate staircases bridging two open-concept floors. There’s even a balcony that doubles as a stage for live bands and such. Not a Christmas ornament in sight anymore.

It was a girls’ night out and we had a blast. What a great way to vent a little steam from the ups and downs of everyday life. We got there super early to get good seats and that was smart planning because we had a bird’s eye view of everything and first glance of the firefighters from the 2010 calendar as they entered the room. It was like being at a fashion show and sitting right on the catwalk. Speaking of cats, yes, the cougars were out, but we behaved ourselves :> more or less.

We each got our own copy of the calendar and a free drink ticket included in the steep-but-worth-it ticket price. I was drinking non-alcoholic mojitos because I was the designated driver.

There were so many handsome men in the room, it was hard to know where to look next. While we were waiting for the firefighters to be introduced one by one and month by month, some other firefighters from past and future calendars served us appetizers of pepperoni and bacon pizza, fish-and-chips-style halibut (I so wanted to say out loud, that I came here for the halibut, but I kept that oldie to myself) and oysters on the half shell – which I was not interested in sampling at all.

I could not however resist getting my picture taken with the oysters and Firefighter Troy who made the evening a lot more fun for us in general. Isn’t Troy the best name for a firefighter? Straight out of central casting… I love a man in uniform. Troy was Mr. January, 2009.

Once the firefighters were introduced, they came around to each table to sign their page on the calendar. It was a good icebreaker. They always asked if we wanted the note to be on the spicy side – the pun possibilities are endless – but I always asked for mild. My friends, on the other hand, always insisted on a little heat.

It was fun to see the calendar photos side by side with the real men. Some were very recognizable and others weren’t and some were way hotter in person than you would expect.

My favourite out of all of the 2010 firefighters was Vince. Notice he wrote, “Happy Birthday.” The first three people who can tell me in a comment which month he signed, will get a free recipe emailed to them from my book, How to Throw a Home Spa Pajama Party, the Homespunspa way, perfect for your next girls’ night with your friends.

If you want to get your own copy of Victoria, British Columbia’s 2010 Firefighter calendar, please copy and paste this link in your browser and click on “Where to buy:” http://www.greatervictoriafirefighters.com/calendar.htm.

I didn’t come home till after midnight, well past my bedtime, but it was worth it. Thanks to all of the firefighters for all of your hard work. We appreciate it.

5K all the way!

Posted by Maria on October 8, 2009 under Fitness, Newspapers and Newsworthy, Photo gallery, Pop-Psychology, Self-Care, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Weight Management | 5 Comments to Read

By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

On Sunday, October 4th, 2009, I reached a new milestone in my life. I participated in the CIBC Run for the Cure for breast cancer with huge trepidation and managed to run the whole 5-kilometre course non-stop. It was quite an accomplishment for me and I’m so glad I did it.

If you’re curious to know what it’s like for a first-timer to run 5K — that’s 3.107 miles for those of you on the Imperial system — here’s a rundown of my day.

I’ve learned that distance running is just as much of a mind game as it is a physical challenge. In this post, I’m trying to recall the types of thoughts I was thinking throughout the morning as I got closer and closer to the finish line and beyond.

Breakfast of Champions

I woke up long before 6:00 am and by 7:00, I ate a big breakfast. Eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast is important every day of the week and on Sunday-Runday, mine consisted of a glass of orange juice and a toasted plain bagel topped with unsweetened, smooth peanut butter, honey and a banana. I also drank a cup of green tea instead of my regular coffee. I haven’t had a bagel in a long time and it was a nice change of pace for me. I think it was a good choice because the meal gave me the energy I needed for the run. In this case, carbs are recommended.

Suiting Up

Emily, my Team Bosum Captain, suggested I wear a long-sleeve shirt under my event t-shirt because the morning air would probably be chilly. (Thank God it didn’t rain or worse, snow, like it did in Calgary! We had brilliant weather!) When I unfolded this year’s Run for the Cure official t-shirt and saw the word “Hope” splashed across the front for the first time, a tear came to my eye and I had to take a deep breathe.

Everyone knows that having the right shoes makes a big difference when running and I’m so happy that the New Balance cross-trainers I bought 6-weeks ago fit me like a glove and presented no issues for me. What a relief!

Oh and how can I forget the pink tiara and the fuchsia tutu? More on those embellishments later.

Getting to the start line

I left my house at 7:30 to give myself lots of time to get to the University of Victoria and to find a decent parking space. It took me longer to get there than it should have because I completely missed my exit onto MacKenzie. I just drove right past it. And it didn’t occur to me for at least 5 minutes. I guess I was more nervous than I realized. My excuse is, I was listening to Coldplay’s “Now My Feet Won’t Touch the Ground [Prospekt's March Edition]” on the radio, a song I had never heard before, and thought, wouldn’t that be a fun way to run this race, running so fast and effortlessly like I was running on air. That’s not exactly what happened although one of the photos below gives that illusion.

In spite of my detour, I was the first to arrive from my team. It took awhile for all of the team members to find each other in the crowd. Emily asked if anyone else wanted to wear a tutu. I was going to pass — the pink foam crown was goofy enough for me, but Jeanette, my trainer, insisted.

Warm Up

Local Jazzercise instructors, including Jeanette, lead us through the warm up. I’m so glad they picked the 9-1-1 song — “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston — because that’s one of my faves these days.


Photo by Adrian Lam, Times Colonist, October 4, 2009

There’s Team Bosum right in the front row. And look at all of the people behind us! I heard 4000 of us registered in Victoria! We managed to raise over $500,000 for breast cancer research. Over $5000 of that was raised by Team Bosum and of that, I raised $300 (200% of my initial fundraising goal).

And they’re off

Well sort of. Jeanette, who inspired me to sign up for the run in the first place, made a deal with me and another Team Bosum runner, Peggy. She promised to tag team between us and motivate us throughout the whole 5-K course, which meant she ended up running way more than anyone else did that day. So the three of us had to start together and there was a bit of a delay because they both had to check their bags and use the facilities right before embarking on the run.

I was losing patience. I just wanted to get this thing over with. Jeanette said to me, “You’re panicking; I can feel it.”

I would not have used the word “panic.” But now I know what “Chomping at the bit” means.

And then she said, “I do this every year. Trust me, we’ll fly by everyone anyway. Just follow me. First we’re going to walk for a few minutes to warm up and then we’ll run. And it’s not a race.”

Challenge #1

I was surprised by the amount of people who were participating. Jeanette, Peggy and I walked briskly along the grassy median past all of the walkers on the road. Within a few short minutes we starting running. Keep in mind that I trained on a treadmill for the past several months and running outside with people was a totally different experience.

The first challenge was to keep up with Jeanette and Peggy, who is a grandmother by the way, and dodge past all of the people. There were women, men and kids of all ages walking and running at various speeds, shoulder to shoulder, along the campus road. We had to maneuver around dogs too. It was an obstacle course!

We mostly ran along the outside edge of the circuit which also meant we had to occasionally jump over the odd, orange pylon. Later Jeanette said she prefers weaving in and out and forging a path because it distracts her. I think in this case, distraction is a good idea.

imgp5580Soon enough, Jeanette and Peggy started pulling further and further ahead of me. I just clipped along at my own pace, which was pretty slow. Slowest runner in the west, I think.

I enjoyed meeting other Team Bosum members at various moments along the way. The pink tutus were easy enough to spot and the spontaneous high-fives were a huge boost.

Challenge #2

I barely noticed running downhill which apparently can be hard on the knees. Running up hill was a completely different story. It wasn’t a steep hill — it was just long. That’s when I really slowed down. I simply chugged and chugged and plowed my way up. I realized when I finally crested the top, my heart rate escalated too. Jeanette caught up to me at that point and I was breathing heavily. A little too heavily for my liking — somewhere in the 170-plus beats per minute I’m sure and I was having trouble catching my breathe. I told her I was at the top of my zone and she agreed.

And then an interesting thing happened. Jeanette said to pick up the pace. I thought about that afterward and I realized it was a make or break moment. Most times when you think you’ve hit your physical and psychological limit, you slow down and maybe even stop things altogether. The natural tendency is not to increase your effort or over exert yourself. Although counter-intuitive, pushing myself that much harder at that critical moment did the trick and I was able to continue. I applaud Jeanette for reading my situation and for catching that.

And then she felt confident enough to leave me and find Peggy who was out of my sight by that time. I rounded a corner and one of the volunteers yelled, “Less than two kilometres to go.”


I thought I was so much farther along than that. Ironically, that’s when I started to actually add a little stride to my run.

The Home Stretch

Somewhere in the last kilometre, I had a thought. It occurred to me that this whole thing was a given. It was a given that I would finish this run. It was already a fait accompli. A done deal. It was just a matter of a few more minutes. I also remembered hearing someone else say, “Never slow down in the home stretch.” And those thoughts somehow made the last steps so much easier.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my friend Debbie running out to meet me. She and I have been sharing Jeanette’s treadmill for months and she knows the journey I’ve been on better than most. Grabbing my hand, she said “I’ll run in with you.” And then Jeanette came out of the crowd and grabbed my other hand.


Debbie said, “I know you don’t think you can do this, but you can. I want you to sprint to the finish.”

Somehow, I gave it everything I had and ran all the way home. See, our feet aren’t touching the ground!

All in all, I’m guessing it took me about 50 minutes. And remarkably, my body bounced back well afterward. I felt my quads for a couple of days and that’s about it.


In the midst of all of this, photographer Adrian Lam of the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper was on hand at the finish line too. I was tickled to learn that a professional photographer captured this intense moment, one of the greatest victories of my life, for posterity and posted them online for all to see. Check out the gallery photos at: http://www.timescolonist.com/health/Victoria+Cure+raises+more+than/2065682/story.html?tab=PHOT.


Photo by Adrian Lam, Times Colonist, October 4, 2009

My first run and I get in the paper. It doesn’t get any better than that. It was totally unplanned and unexpected. Pure gravy for me. Thanks Adrian.


Photo by Adrian Lam, Times Colonist, October 4, 2009

Thanks also to Team Bosum with a special mention to Debbie, Emily and Peggy for welcoming me aboard. And finally I’d like to thank Jeanette, a very special person indeed. Onward and upward!

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