Take your iPod to the Spa

Posted by Maria on February 26, 2010 under Aromatherapy, Books, Magazines, Music, Gift Ideas, Meditation, Photo gallery, Pop-Psychology, Sleep, Sponsors, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Wellness | Read the First Comment

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

I love my iPod. Admittedly, when I found out my new car had an iPod jack on the dash, I was sold. I have access to 14.2 days of music and a playlist for every mood.

According to Spa Finder, the Global Spa & Wellness Directory, “high tech” is one of the top spa trends in 2010. Apparently, some people are gravitating to spas that allow them to listen to their iPod while getting a massage.

At first blush, the idea of using techno gadgets in a natural spa setting sounded a little counter-intuitive to me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized technology and gadgets may have a place in spa land.

Originally, I was concerned that the relationship between the customer and the massage therapist, would be compromised because a big part of going to a spa and getting a spa treatment is interacting with the people who work there and not tuning them out. But some people aren’t chatty and don’t want to engage in small talk. Personally, I never want to chit chat during a massage and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I always close my eyes and listen to the music when I get my hair washed at the hair salon. For those five minutes, I just want to relax and soak it all in.

I guess it all depends on the treatment you’re getting. Like if you’re getting a face-to-face, hands on manicure or pedicure then maybe leave your iPod at home. And by all means, don’t even think about your Blackberry or cell phone. Texting is a sure fire way to wreck a fresh manicure. And this is your time to relax. The outside world can wait.

I probably wouldn’t bring my iPod to a massage simply because it’s one more thing to drag around and one more thing to accidentally forget and leave behind. Hello, high tipper. And where are you going to put it while you’re receiving your treatment?

On the other hand, if I were to bring my iPod to the spa, I have a few ideas on what the soundtrack would be. For a spa-like ambiance, I’d pick my aromatherapy playlist, with titles like “Awaken the Senses,” “Eternal Wave,” and “Lavender Mist.” Over the years, I have collected several spa-themed cd’s to help me relax and fall asleep. The (often instrumental) music is gentle and soothing and may have overlapping layers of nature sounds like waves rolling onshore or birds chirping in the trees, for added comfort. I’m actually listening to “Natural Sleep Inducement” right now as I write. Yawn and stretch.

Of course you can’t go wrong with Enya. Her music will whisk you off to the Caribbean in no time.

If, however, world music isn’t your cup of tea, and you prefer white noise or selections that have been specifically designed to help you reach a deep, meditative state, then I recommend Holosync from Centerpointe. I have been listening to their cd’s for years and really enjoy them. Check out Holosync through my banner “Meditate like a Zen Monk at the push of a button” in the sidebar to get your free demo. I think listening to Holosync while getting a massage would be a stellar combination.

More and more, people are bringing their iPods to the spa.

More and more, people are bringing their iPods to the spa. Photo by Maria Koropecky.

What do you think? If given the choice, would you prefer to listen to your iPod while receiving a spa treatment like a massage? Do you think your iPod would enhance your spa experience or would it get in the way? Would you pick a spa that said “thumbs up” to iPods over one that didn’t? Please leave a comment, I’m curious to know your thoughts on this topic. And if you’re a spa tech or massage therapist or an esthetician, I’d like to hear your opinions too.

My Report on Colbert

Posted by Maria on February 18, 2010 under Books, Magazines, Music, Humour, Newspapers and Newsworthy, Photo gallery, Stress Management and Relaxation, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized, Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games | 3 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Steven Colbert in Vancouver

I know it's blurry but there's Steven Colbert. Photo by Maria Koropecky


Laughter is the best medicine and on my lifelong quest to beat stress, I took advantage of an open invitation to participate in a live taping of the comedy tv show, the Colbert Report, during the Vancouver 2010 Winter (more like Spring) Olympic Games.

Add a song to a laugh and you’ve got a recipe for a golden day.

I’m so glad I went even though I was in pretty rough shape from the night before. I had spent the evening with some Ukrainian musicians and we sang and talked and I drank way too much red wine. Still I persevered the next morning and after a bus ride and a walk in the park in uncomfortable shoes, I was thrilled when I learned the special guest on the show was Michael Buble.

Michael Buble is one of my faves. When I first heard his new song, “I just haven’t met you yet,” I thought he was talking to me. I still haven’t met him yet but I got closer.

The taping was supposed to start at 9:15 am and I got to Creekside Park next to the Telus World of Science, the temporary home of the Sochi House, just before 8:00. It was a beautiful blue-skied sunny morning. There were already what seemed like thousands of people there by then — some had even camped overnight.

In true Canadian fashion, we lined up along the cement bike path to get into the park. We’re so polite and well-behaved. But that step was unnecessary. Who lines up to get into an open space? Eventually and all of a sudden, the line broke and everybody ran up the muddy hill to get as close to the stage as possible. Refusing to stand for hours on muddy grass, I ended up right behind the speakers on cement.

As we were listening to the sound checks, an eagle glided by. That was poetry in motion if you ask me because I think it was Stephen Jr. saying hello to his old friend. The message, unfortunately, went over Mr. Colbert’s head but the audience noticed and cheered.

My first spot was a good spot but my patience and the chill in the air got the better of me and I had to go to MacDonald’s to grab a cup of tea. When I came back a half hour later, I still managed to stay on the bike path but was much farther away from the stage and couldn’t see squat. All of these heads were in my way. I had to take my photos blindly and in spite of that, I still managed to get some good shots.

Steven Colbert interviews Michael Buble in Vancouver.

Stephen Colbert interviews Michael Buble in Vancouver. Photo by Maria Koropecky

The actual taping didn’t start until well after 10:15 am. Even though I couldn’t see anything, I still enjoyed being part of the audience. We opened the show by singing O Canada, an Olympic moment for sure. It took Mr. Colbert three or four tries to deliver the opening jokes of the show and for one of the takes, he “borrowed” an Olympic torch from somebody in the audience and threatened to not give it back. I love behind-the-scenes stuff. Someone from the audience yelled out “We love you, Stephen” and he said, “I love me too.”

I like how Stephen Colbert pronounces his last name the French way (unlike Ellen Degeneres who in my opinion pronounces her name incorrectly) and I think he secretly wants to be Canadian.

Steven Colbert Interviews Michael Buble in Vancouver.

The intensity builds as Stephen Colbert volleys questions at Michael Buble. Photo by Maria Koropecky.

Instead of doing his regular bit, “Better know a District,” he Canadianized it to “Better know a Riding” and interviewed Ujjal Dosanjh, MP for Vancouver South via satellite. Although the interview started off light and breezy, I think Mr. Colbert pushed it a bit too far and the interview will be severely edited for broadcast. But pushing buttons is part of his job, so we’ll see.

Steven Colbert sings O Canada with Michael Buble

Stephen Colbert sings O Canada with Michael Buble. Photo by Maria Koropecky.

Finally Michael Buble (another guy who pronounces his name the French way) came on stage but he wasn’t formally introduced to us and the interview didn’t start for quite a few minutes because Stephen Colbert wasn’t there. Michael Buble just sat there on his chair twiddling his thumbs. I guess he started feeling a bit silly up there in the fake living room, all eyes on him, so like the true showman he is, he sang, “Good ol’ hockey game.” And we sang along. And now I can say I’ve sung with my favourite crooner.

Stephen asked Michael, “Why does the United States need Canada?” and off the cuff he answered, “You need our flag to stick on your suitcase when you travel.” Good one, Michael.

The interview ended with a song. For all of you improvisers out there, this is a great exercise. Stephen challenged Michael Olympic style to sing a duet with him. He said, “Let’s sing O Canada to the Star Spangled Banner tune.” Can it be done? As Stephen said, “This has never been attempted before” and sure enough, with the help of the lyrics on cue cards, they made it work. Fun, fun, fun. I think they should each get gold medals for their impromptu performance.

I have no idea when this episode will air on the Canadian Comedy Network or what happened on the show after that because I had to leave to catch my ferry back home. I’m so happy I went and I have a new appreciation for the city of Vancouver.

Michale Buble and Steven Colbert sing O Canada.

Michael Buble and Stephen Colbert sing O Canada with a twist. Photo by Maria Koropecky.

Add a Home Gym to your Home Spa

Posted by Maria on February 12, 2010 under Books, Magazines, Music, Fitness, Gift Ideas, Home spa, Pets, Photo gallery, Pop-Psychology, Sleep, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized, Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, Weight Management, Wellness, Yoga | 6 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

The Olympics are here! The Olympics are here!

Yesterday, while I was in the midst of running on the treadmill (24 minutes non-stop — a new record for me), I was chatting with my personal trainer and she was telling me her plans for re-decorating her studio. I was surprised to hear that she has been planning to install a tv near the treadmill for quite some time.

I suggested now is the perfect time to set up her tv because in the past, I’ve found watching the Olympics while exercising myself to be a lot of fun. It just gives you an extra boost of energy and somehow you end up increasing your speed and your enthusiasm. She agreed wholeheartedly and said “It’s a great motivator” and “thanks for the reminder!”

Home Gym

Here I am after one of my workouts with my trainer.

If you’d like to add a home gym to your home spa, here are my suggestions. Start small and build as you can. And don’t just admire it, use it!

  • Dedicate Space: Where will you workout? Do you have access to a spare room or is your living room multi-purpose like mine is? If you’re going to be setting up shop in your living room (I don’t recommend your bedroom because the equipment and the activity will interfere with your sleeping environment), then you’ll want to choose equipment that you can store and access easily. I have a treadmill that folds and stands upright against a wall and that works for me. I keep it next to the tv so when it’s time for a walk/run, I just move the coffee table and extend the platform and I’m off to the races.
  • Big Equipment: I’ve already mentioned a treadmill because that’s what I use. I highly recommend getting one. They can be quite expensive and keep in mind that the cheaper ones will be noisy (which will annoy the rest of your household) and will not have a lot of extra bells and whistles, like built in heart-rate monitors or a cushy running base, but even a cheap one is good to have. If you prefer some other equipment or have a lot of extra room, you can look into buying an elliptical trainer, a stairmaster, a stationary bike, a rowing machine or a strength-training machine. You might even consider installing a pole which will work your abs like nothing else once you get past the hanging upsidedown part. Your home gym will be really high end if you also have access tennis courts and swimming pools and saunas. I have a friend you had a squash/basketball court in his house which was really cool, I always thought.
  • Handy Equipment: There’s a ton of great equipment that you can use in your home gym. Start with a yoga mat for your stretches. Hand-held weights are useful to have — start with low weights (two each of 1-, 2-, 3- & 5-pounders) and work your way up to 7’s, 8’s, 10’s, 12’s, 15’s, and 20-pluses. There are also adjustable weights you can strap on to your legs. For more resistance, get some tubes or bands that come in green, red, pink and purple depending on their strength. Suzanne Summers’ Thigh Master is still a winner. There are also inflatable pilates balls that are very versatile but only buy the ones that say “anti-burst.” You can also buy a mini trampoline or a low-tech jump rope that will really save space. I also have a plastic step from the 90’s which I’m planning to use again one of these days. Remember to use the built-in stairs in your house, too. My trainer has a Bosu (that half-ball in the picture) and last week on the Biggest Loser, I saw an Olympic athlete balance on one foot while doing the hoola-hoop on one. It looked fun and hard to do at the same time. I wonder if you can buy those speed skating gliding strips that they also used on the Biggest Loser for home use? My trainer told me that those are way harder than they look and are great for building endurance.
  • Extra Features: To make your home gym more enjoyable, design it with care. If it’s a dark and dingy room in your basement, you won’t use it. To brighten things up, install a large, full-length mirror so you can see your form while you’re working out. Also, having a tv within sight that plays your favourite workout videos will add variety to your exercise routine. A stereo is also good to have. I have a few playlists on my iPod that I listen to while running. Also hanging posters with inspiring quotes and photos of fit people also help with motivation. And have a place for your bottle of water. Remember also to plug in some fans to circulate air. Even though I always seem to forget this, have a clean towel handy. You might also like to buy tools like heart-rate monitors and pedometres to track your progress.
  • A note on safety: Make sure your home gym will give you an effective workout and will also be a safe environment for you. I advise getting pets and small children out of the room while you’re exercising. Also, make sure the room is clean and uncluttered and there aren’t any tripping hazards or electrical overload concerns with your equipment. Read the safety manuals and use the equipment as intended. Clean your equipment regularly with disinfectant wipes, especially if many people are using the facilities.

I hope you use your home gym for many years to come. Invite your friends and workout buddies over from time to time so they can enjoy your gym too. Leave a comment and tell us about your home gym. And have fun working out while watching the Olympics — that’s what I’ll be doing for sure.

Eat Salmon to Sleep Better

Posted by Maria on February 2, 2010 under Fitness, Ingredients, Nutrition, Photo gallery, Pop-Psychology, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized, Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, Weight Management | 6 Comments to Read

Dear Olympic Athletes:

If you’re angling to win a medal in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games — which are starting with or without snow in Vancouver/Whistler British Columbia in just 10 short days (gasp) — listen up for some homespun advice: Eat salmon the night before your competition to get a better night’s sleep.

The meal you choose the night before your event(s) could make the difference between hearing your national anthem or someone else’s. After all of your months and years of intense training, getting a good night’s sleep and fueling your body with optimum food, will give you a winning advantage. I suggest eating wild salmon while you’re here in BC.

Why Salmon?

  • Wild salmon is a golden source of omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce pain and inflammation, improve memory and focus and contribute to cardiovascular health — all vital priorities for high-caliber athletes;
  • DHA, a healthy fat in salmon, may fast-track levels of melatonin, a key sleep-regulating hormone;
  • Salmon contains magnesium which helps us sleep. Low magnesium, on the other hand, is associated with things like muscle-cramping, anxiety and fatigue;
  • Wild salmon is also fresh and local in these parts — or as they say, well-within our 100-Mile diet; and
  • Salmon’s tenacious spirit has “Olympics” written all over it.
A piece of salmon on the grill.

A fresh salmon fillet on the grill.

Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to your success. Shoot for at least seven hours of solid sleep every night. Remember to give yourself enough days to get over your jet lag and to adjust to Vancouver time. Also, keep your body temperature on the cool side while you’re sleeping and keep your room dark — thank goodness these are the winter games!

If you don’t sleep well, the resulting fatigue can affect your judgment and increase your risk for accidents. Does anyone out there remember the vintage “agony of defeat” ad for ABC’s, the Wide World of Sports? I think I’ve made my point.

Sushi anyone?


Maria Koropecky
Homespunspa, Recipes for Sleep and Beauty

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