Three Wise Home Spa Gifts: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

Posted by Maria on December 21, 2009 under Aromatherapy, Bath and Body, Books, Magazines, Music, Gift Ideas, Hands and Nails, Home spa, Homespunspa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Recipes, Self-Care, Sleep, Spirituality, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | 5 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Winter Solstice is here. Today, December 21st, is the shortest day in terms of day light hours of the year. The sun will set in these parts at 4:17 pm and the day is already gray and overcast to begin with. On the bright side, the days are going to start getting longer again for the next six months starting tomorrow.

It seems like only yesterday I was writing about Summer Solstice and talking with my Swedish friends about how they sleep in broad daylight. I suspect they’re not having too much trouble in that regard these days.

My version of the star of wonder -- it's actually a photo I took of a lunar eclipse in March 2007.

My version of the star of wonder -- it's actually a photo I took of a lunar eclipse in March 2007.

All of this talk about astronomy is leading me to think about the night sky and how the three Wise Men followed the brightest star that would eventually lead them to the baby Jesus so they could deliver their gifts. If you want a refresher on the story, here are the words to the Christmas carol, We Three Kings of Orient Are, words and music by John H. Hopkins.

We Three Kings of Orient Are

(1) We Three Kings of Orient Are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

(chorus)

O, star of wonder
star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading still proceeding,
Guide us to Thy perfect light.

(2) Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
(chorus)

(3) Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him, God most high.
(chorus)

(4) Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
(chorus)

(5) Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and sacrifice.
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Earth to heav’n replies.
(chorus)

Back in the days of yore, gold, frankincense and myrrh were considered the creme de la creme of gifts — if you had to shop for a king or queen or royalty of any kind, these presents would have been the way to go. These days, you don’t hear much about frankincense and myrrh, but of course, you still can’t go wrong by giving someone gold, (hint, hint:>).

Have you ever thought about adding gold, frankincense and myrrh to your home spa?

If you want to use frankincense, here is a lovely recipe for a Shower Sachet. Hanging this herbal sachet from your shower head as the water runs will generate a steamy aroma to take care of your mood, skin, hair and breathing passages all at the same time.

Shower Sachet

from the book, How to Throw a Home Spa Pajama Party the Homespunspa Way, by Maria Koropecky, page 78.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds — Helpful in the home spa as a tension reliever, digestive aid and skin conditioner.
  • 1 tsp thyme — Good for sleep. Adds shine and strength to dark hair.
  • 1 tsp spearmint — Makes a refreshing, aromatic tea which chases away feverish colds, aids digestion, freshens breath and cools skin.
  • 1 tsp sage — Combines with other herbs to induce sleep. Treats normal or damaged hair, giving it extra shine and covers gray stands.
  • 1 tsp Frankincense crystals — Enhance deep breathing and meditation.
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds — Used to tone the scalp and to wash normal hair.
  • 1 tsp yarrow — Used for insomnia, headaches. Improves hair’s manageability. Excellent for oily or problem skin.
  • 1 tsp lemon peel — Can be massaged into temples for headaches or added to bath products for zesty aroma.

Method:  The easiest thing to use for the shower sachet is a pre-made (drawstring included) organza gift bag that you can find in a craft store. Or you can make your own pouch with cheesecloth and some ribbon. Place the herbs in the small bag and secure the opening.

Manner:  Squeeze the bag with your fingers to release the aroma and tie it to the shower head so the water hits it as it runs. Turn on the shower and step inside. The steam from the shower should intensify the aroma of the herbs and your tension will evaporate. Your hair and skin will also benefit from the herbs.

Storage / Shelf-Life:  Shelf-life will last at least 3 months, depending on the freshness of the original ingredients.

And if you want to use myrrh, here is a recipe for an exfoliating scrub. Ground rosehips add delightful red flecks to this purely luxurious recipe and you’ll be surprised by the depth of fragrance coming from the myrrh.

Sugar & Myrrh Massage Scrub for Hands

from the book, How to Throw a Home Spa Pajama Party the Homespunspa Way, by Maria Koropecky, page 56.

  • 1 cup sugar — Granules are abrasive and make sweet alternatives to salt in exfoliating scrubs.
  • 1 TB myrrh gum powder — Rich, exotic, velvety and smoky. It is known to treat dry skin and gum problems.
  • 1 tsp rosehips, ground — Antidepressant and sedative. Add to beauty recipes for scent, colour and for their astringent, anti-inflammatory and wrinkle-reducing properties.
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil — Ideal for massage because it is light, non-greasy, odourless and leaves a satin-smooth finish on skin.

Method:  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Manner:  Massage mixture on your hands for a minute. Rinse off with warm water.

Storage / Shelf-Life:  Keep leftovers in a sterilized jar in the fridge. Use within 3 months.

So I’ve got the frankincense and myrrh covered, but gold in a home spa treatment, you ask? Yes, it’s possible. Nowadays, you can find edible (food grade) gold leaf to add to your home spa recipes. And gold is not just a pretty face. Gold smooths out wrinkles, draws out impurities, softens skin and reduces puffiness. Gold gets glowing reviews all around. Apparently, Cleopatra, the mother of all home spa beauty secrets, slept with a gold mask on her face every night.

The thing is, I haven’t developed or tested a home spa recipe using gold yet. That’s on my to do list over the holidays. But here’s your chance to contribute a recipe to this blog. If you have a recipe using gold, by all means, post it here. You can leave your golden home spa recipe in a comment and I’ll make sure it appears online. I would really appreciate it. And as always, if you don’t know where you can find any of these ingredients or supplies, ask me and I’ll shed some light on the path for you.

Spritz and Spray some Christmas Cheer this Year

Posted by Maria on December 11, 2009 under Aromatherapy, Gift Ideas, Ingredients, Recipes, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Here’s another idea to add to your home spa gift basket — Christmas Tree Room Spray. It’s like a breathe of fresh air.

I came up with this quick and easy home spa recipe many years ago. For better or worse, my family has had fake Christmas trees for the past 15 to 20 years and one year I wanted to spruce the tree up with an authentic piny scent. Once I discovered woodsy essential oils like cedarwood and sandalwood and juniper berry, there was no turning back.

Using this recipe really brings some extra Christmas cheer to the room and it’s a great addition to your home spa Christmas gift basket. And feel free to mix and match your favourite seasonal aromas, like fir needle or clove essential oils, into this room spray also.

Christmas Tree Room Spray

xmasroomspray

Ingredients:

  • 4 drops juniper berry essential oil (middle note) — enhances dreams, treats exhaustion and worry, helps problem skin, puffiness, cellulite, detoxifying.
  • 5 drops pine needle essential oil (top note) — calming and comforting, it reduces muscular aches and relieves nervous tension.
  • 3 drops mandarin essential oil (top note) — brings cheer to the stressed and depressed. In massage oils, it heals problem skin and stretch marks.
  • 1 tsp glycerin — A vegetable by-product which comes as a clear syrup and can act as a preservative.
  • 45 – 55 ml pure water — Hydrates, lubricates and cleans. Extends recipe volume and provides a base to blend ingredients.
  • 1 small, 60 ml or less, dark bottle with a tight-fitting and spray-top lid.
  • 1 small funnel, optional

Method:

  1. Wash bottle with soap and hot water and rinse with 1 tsp of bleach to sterilize. Let dry.
  2. In a small bottle, add 4 drops of juniper berry essential oil (middle note). Use a funnel if you have one to catch any stray drops.
  3. Then add 5 drops of pine needle essential oil (top note) and roll the mixture around the bottle to amalgamate the scent. Smell the result.
  4. Then add 3 drops of mandarin essential oil (top note) and again roll the mixture around the bottle to blend the scent. Smell the result and adjust the balance to your preferences, if necessary.
  5. Pour in the water to the shoulder of the bottle and cap it. Shake vigourously.
  6. List your ingredients on the label and date the mixture.
  7. Leave the concoction to mature for two days. Sniff and adjust the recipe as necessary.

Manner:

  1. Spritz and spray your tree, wreaths, garlands, linens, sheets and the room to your heart’s content.

Storage:

  1. Store out of sunlight. Shelf life will range from 3 to 12 months.

Let me know what you think of this recipe. Contact me if you are having trouble finding any supplies like bottles or essential oils and I’ll point you in the right direction. Cheers.

Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe — My Own “Top Chef” Challenge

Posted by Maria on December 8, 2009 under Ingredients, Nutrition, Recipes, Self-Care, Stress Management and Relaxation, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized, Weight Management, Wellness | 4 Comments to Read

By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

It’s always a challenge to come up with a quick and easy recipe to bring to a potluck party and after I was invited to a party last week, I really had to think about my options.

I love watching the TV show, Top Chef. I marvel at the contestants’ hot creativity. Each week during the “quick fire challenge” the players have to brainstorm a recipe concept and then somehow deliver a finished product in minutes — all the while keeping in mind details like, taste, plating design, specific ingredients, technique, originality and — and — while using tools like sharp knives and burning fire. Now that’s stress.

In my case, I had a few things to consider. The first involved my personal trainer’s specific dietary requirements. She has severe allergies to preservatives and that includes, but is not limited to, canned goods, commercially-processed foods and a few wild card ingredients like iceberg lettuce and grapes. She also gave me a bit of a lecture the night before the party on my own nutrition and strongly suggested I not eat anymore cheese or more than one piece of bread in a day. On top of all of that, the hostess of the party was completely off sugar.

I wanted to bring something everyone at the party could eat and would enjoy. I also wanted the dish to be healthy in the midst of all of the seasonal indulgences. And of course, the recipe had to be portable.

Let’s recap — the recipe for the potluck must be:

  • tasty;
  • healthy;
  • without preservatives;
  • without sugar;
  • without gobs of fat;
  • unprocessed;
  • easy to make;
  • easy to eat with one hand; and
  • easy to move from point A to point B.

That’s a tall order. My first idea was to bring one of those shrimp platters because it’s basically lean protein. But, that’s too easy and has been done to death. It also occurred to me that someone at the party might have a shellfish allergy. So no go on the shrimp-o.

Then I thought about mushroom caps but I had no idea what to stuff them with (bacon? crab? artichokes?) and then the next morning as I was waking up, the radio station said something about “spinach.” That was my answer. I love it when that happens. I quickly leafed through several cookbooks and found three recipes that were close to what I wanted, but not quite. I had to come up with my own recipe and here it is:

Homespunspa’s Spinach-Stuffed Mushroom Caps

Homespunspa's Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms.

Homespunspa's Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms.

Ingredients:

  • 20 – 25 fresh whole mushrooms, preferably organic.
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed with stems removed.
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil.
  • 1/3 cup no fat cottage cheese, drained.
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.

Method:

For this recipe, you can make everything ahead and leave the baking for the party.

  1. Cut off the stems of the spinach leaves and rinse under cold water, checking for bits of soil that may be stuck to the leaves.
  2. Measure out a 1/3 cup of no fat cottage cheese and let it drain through a sieve.
  3. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a large skillet. Add minced garlic and cook on medium high heat.
  4. Quickly add the spinach and cook for 5 minutes or more until all of the spinach is uniformly cooked. Stir and make sure all of the spinach touches the garlic oil. The spinach will turn into a different consistency and will reduce in volume. Salt to taste and to brighten the green colour. Remove the cooked spinach from the heat into a separate medium-sized bowl.
  5. Meanwhile, clean the mushrooms and remove the stems by twisting and pulling or with a knife. Finely dice the stems and set aside the caps.
  6. Using the residual garlic oil from the spinach, pan fry the diced mushroom stems separately, about 1-2 minutes, to release some flavour. Now is a good time to add some freshly cracked black pepper because mushrooms and pepper really get along well with each other.
  7. In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, mushroom stems and cottage cheese. Spoon the mixture into each mushroom cap.
  8. (Note: If you’re planning to serve these right away, you can skip this step and go to step #8). Put the finished mushrooms in a re-sealable container. If your container is really big like mine is, I suggest putting something in between your stuffed mushroom caps and the lid so they don’t bounce around during transport. As a last minute burst of genius, if I do say so myself, I placed a small ceramic cooking dish over my stuffed mushrooms and not only did my mushrooms arrive in tact, I had a convenient cooking vessel at the party.
  9. Once you’re at the party, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the mushrooms on the baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes and voila! Serve while hot.

Please pack your knives and go?

I bet you’re curious to know what happened. How did the mushrooms turn out? “Did I pack my knives and go?” “Was I chopped?” “Did my cuisine reign supreme?” The jury is mixed on the results of my own Top Chef challenge. On the one hand, everyone who tasted them, loved them! They raved and raved. And there were no leftovers to take home. On the other hand, mushrooms, are a no-no on my trainer’s list, so she couldn’t eat any after all. It didn’t matter if they were organic and fresh and not canned. It didn’t matter how much love and thought I put into them. She just plain can’t eat mushrooms. Another one of those wild card ingredients. I was so bummed to hear that. I guess it’s back to the drawing board for me.

You be the judge

If you decide to try this recipe, let me know how it worked out for you. I would love to hear your comments and your feedback.

A bright gift idea — Candles

Posted by Maria on December 4, 2009 under Aromatherapy, Gift Ideas, Photo gallery, Spirituality, Uncategorized | 4 Comments to Read

By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Have you been invited to some holiday parties this month and are stuck for cheap and cheerful hostess gifts? Here is a Homespunspa-style craft project that will be sure light up any party — Votive Candles.

These candles work beautifully at any table setting or around a bathtub.

These candles work beautifully on any table setting or around a bathtub.

I came up with this craft project many years ago to enhance the table setting for my family’s Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner. And everyone got to take one home afterwards. I spent many hours walking up and down the aisles at my local Michael’s store trying to figure out how this would all come together and I was really pleased with the result.

When I first conceived this idea, I wasn’t expecting the candlelight to flicker through the coloured glass gems. As the 12-course meal progressed, a lovely pattern appeared around each candle on the white table cloth. It was like the light was dancing.

Dancing Light Votive Candles – A Home Spa Craft Project

To make 12 candles, you will need the following supplies that are all available at Michael’s Arts & Crafts store:

  • 1 to 3+ value pack bags of glass gems in any translucent colour (clear, red, green, purple, blue, etc.) (most likely found in the floral department).
  • 12 glass votive cups (you can get bigger quantities by the box).
  • 1 value pack of votive candles, scented or unscented (I like vanilla for the aromatherapy and because of the off-white colour but the scent might compete with your menus).
  • 1 bottle of Crafter’s Pick, The Ultimate Glue (it’s a non-toxic water-based glue that sticks to glass and dries clear).
  • 1 towel-lined baking sheet (for drying).
  1. Decide on a bead pattern you would like to glue on to your votive cups — either flowers, diamonds, crosses, rings, squares, abstract polka dots, etc. — these ideas are totally customizable and free form.
  2. Make sure the glass is at room temperature, otherwise the beads will slide off before they set. (I figured that out that hard way).
  3. You can only work on one side of the round candle at a time and can’t turn the candle even slightly until after the glue dries (at least 15 minutes). It is best to set up a production station and work on several candles at once while you wait for the glue to dry.
  4. To make a flower pattern like in the above photo for example, prop a glass votive on a towel so it doesn’t roll. To make your first flower petal, apply a dab of glue on a glass gem and stick it approximately 1 centimeter or 1/2 inch down from the top ridge of the cup and press the bead with your thumb for a few seconds to secure. Then, stick another gem (using the same colour or not) underneath the first petal. You should have some space between the bottom edge of the gem and the bottom edge of the cup. Now you’ve got your first column. Set aside face up on a towel-lined baking sheet to dry. Meanwhile, you can repeat this step on the other candles you are making.
  5. Once the first column is set, take another gem (maybe a second or third colour?) and place it half-way in between and next to your first two gems in the middle of the glass votive. This is the flower’s center. Then using two more gems that are roughly the same size as the others, stick one gem above the center and one gem below. Now you’ve got 2/3rds of your flower glued. Place on the baking sheet again to dry and move on to the other candles.
  6. Once these gems have dried, you are ready to glue on the last two petals of your flower. Keep them lined up with the first two and there you have it.
  7. Once all of the glass beads have completely dried, pop in a candle. That’s all there is to it. You can either light the candle now or wrap it in tissue for a gift.

This project is more time-consuming than difficult. The finished product will last years and years and the gems won’t come off from the candle’s heat. The only problem is they’re hard to clean once the wax has melted into the cups.

I hope you enjoy making these candles. Let me know what you think of this idea and whether or not you would like to see more craft project instructions on my blog.

Christmas Carols are Lullabies to My Ears

Posted by Maria on December 2, 2009 under Books, Magazines, Music, Pop-Psychology, Self-Care, Sleep, Spa and Sleep Dictionary, Spirituality, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Wellness | Be the First to Comment

By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Sometimes I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and other nights it’s a bit of a struggle. Last night, even though I was tired, I was having trouble with the drifting off phase — until I had an idea.

I selected my “Christmas” playlist on my iPod, and lo and behold, it did the trick. I was asleep in no time. I liked listening to the songs because they embody hope and optimism and after not hearing them for a year, they were fresh to my ears. I’m listening to more carols now while I write this post.

You are never too old to enjoy a lullaby

Lullabies are soothing songs that are sung to send children of all ages to the land of nod. They have been around since the days of yore and before and can be found in every corner of the earth, from ancient times to modern. The tunes are simple, melodious and comforting.

It’s in the science

Studies show that listening to music that you like can help you fall asleep faster. Not only does the music lower your heart rate — which can be escalating during this hectic season — it can improve your mood and reduce your stress levels. It has been shown that once your brain registers pleasing sounds, it responds by sending out instructions to the rest of your body to calm down. As a result, your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure become more even and your muscles relax. Meanwhile, your brain waves will gradually shift to slower, more sleep-inducing rhythms. And you get a little endorphin boost in the process.

‘Tis the season for Christmas carols

Because of their tone, lyrics and melody, some Christmas carols can be considered lullabies. Have you ever noticed that Christmas carols often talk about “night,” “rest,” and “peace?” Christmas is about the birth of the baby Jesus after all.

Here are the lyrics from some of my favourite, classic Christmas carols.

Away in a Manger

First published in 1885.

Away in a manger,
No crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing,
The poor Baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky,
And stay by my side,
Until morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray.

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care,
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

This carol was written by American, Edmund Sears and first published in 1849.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold.
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heavens all gracious King!”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

O Holy Night

A carol composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem Minuit, chrétiens, or Midnight, Christians, written by Placide Cappeau.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night , O Holy Night, O night divine
O night , O Holy Night, O night divine.

Silent Night

The original German lyrics for Stille Nacht were written by Austrian priest, Father Josef Mohr with the melody composed by Franz Haver Gruber. The English translation was published by John Freeman Young in 1859.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born!
Christ, the Saviour is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

I hope everybody has a wonderful month of December and Christmas season this year. And if you’re having trouble sleeping, try listening to some Christmas lullabies.

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