by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
I don’t know about you but I always feel naked if I go to a formal party and my nails aren’t done. New Year’s Eve is coming up quickly but there’s still time to polish up your look and paint your nails. May I suggest something in the purple family? It’s one of the hottest colour trends in fashion these days and it also happens to be my favourite colour, too.
And why not pair purple with the one of the other hot trends of 2010? How about glam-gliding your way into 2011 with shiny and glittery metallics or rich and luxy gem stones? From pinky to thumb on the above graphic, here are my colour choices from OPI.
- Rumple’s Wiggin’ — For some odd reason, neutrals — and particularly grays — are hugely popular this season. Wear big fat rings with this one.
- Funky Dunky — This lovely colour was inspired by the Shrek movie.
- Show It & Glow It — Glam it up with glitter. Who cares if the speckled polish doesn’t come off easily. Worry about that next year.
- Royal Rajah Ruby — This jewel tone will make you feel like a dancing queen as you ring in the new year.
- Siberian Nights — At first glance, you might think this polish is black, but it’s actually a very, very, deep, deep purple. Next to candle light, this colour really rocks.
When I was in school, we used OPI for all of our manicures and pedicures and that’s why I’m recommending this brand in my blog today. Everybody always laughs out loud when they hear the names of the colours they choose.
Helping someone decide on a nail colour reminds me of one of my appointments last summer when I was learning how to do pedicures in school. The woman, let’s call her Wanda, was going to a wedding on the weekend and wanted a colour that would work at a formal party and would go with her dress. As we looked through the basket of polishes, I suggested a lovely black one with shiny, silver specks. I had seen the celebrities wear black nail polish and I thought it would be perfect. Wanda agreed. I was so proud and I think she went home happy. My teacher gave me a good mark but asked, “Why on earth did she pick that colour? It’s like the hottest day of the year and this one, how it got back into the basket I’ll never know, was a part of a special holiday collection from last Christmas.”
Oh. Nail polish colours are seasonal. Lesson learned.
Happy New Year Everybody!
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Have you ever heard of ambergris? Did you know this little golden nugget could be worth thousands of dollars in the global perfumery market?
A couple of nights ago, I was watching Chef Heston Blumenthal’s Heston’s Christmas Feast and he wanted to make the most epic holiday banquet of all time. He made his first course, a hot chocolate, with ambergris, an ingredient I had never heard of before. First, I loved the oxymoronic name of joining yellow and grey together in one word. And then I was intrigued by ambergris’ paradoxical status of being highly coveted on the one hand and coming from humble beginnings (ahem) on the other hand. The more I learned, the more I thought it would make a lovely, albeit over-the-top, home spa ingredient and gift, especially during the festive holiday season.
Ambergris is a rare and valuable treasure from the sea. Surprisingly, it comes from the bellies of Sperm Whales. Like many people, Chef Heston referred to ambergris as “whale vomit” but that’s not entirely accurate. Scientists think the whales produce fatty, waxy ambergris to coat sharp objects like squid beaks, to help them pass through the whale’s digestive system. Lumps and clumps of varying shapes and sizes, weighing 100 pounds or more, are the result.
At first, the lumps smell like low tide on a bad day. However, once the ambergris nuggets bob in the ocean for a few years and age and oxidize in the hot sun and salt water, they develop a sweet, earthy aroma, reminiscent of tobacco or musk.
Ambergris has been prized since the days of yore for its pungent flavour and fragrance. Ancient Egyptians burned ambergris as incense and the ancient Chinese called the substance “dragon’s spittle fragrance.” In Europe, between the years 1348 and 1350, people carried ambergris with them because they believed it would keep them from catching the plague. Also during the Middle Ages, Europeans used ambergris to treat headaches and colds. People from the Middle East have historically added ambergris powder to their food for an extra kick. It is also known as an aphrodisiac.
Home Spa Activity
Have you ever thought about scavenging for ambergris on the beach? The next time you go on a beach vacation to the Bahamas, the East Indies, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, China, Japan, India or Madagascar, why not keep your eyes peeled for ambergris? It will either be sitting on the sand among the pebbles or floating on the water like a cork. You might hit the jackpot, a nugget of gold that you may have overlooked before and the value could be worth thousands of dollars depending on its age. If nothing else, you’ll get to walk along the lovely beach and relax and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine and the salty sea. But if you do score, write me and tell me about it.
The next time you stumble upon some ambergris in your travels, consider infusing it in your home spa. It melts at 62 degrees Celsius and turns into a yellow, resinous sap which is a good aroma enhancer and fixative in your perfume. Just a drop will do ya.
Makes a great Christmas gift
A lump of ambergris, although not all that visually appealing to most, would also make a lovely Christmas present. It could be worth more than a diamond ring but your sweetheart won’t know what to say. “Whale vomit? You gave me whale vomit?” “No, honey, I gave you ambergris.” “Oh, well, that’s different.”
But if you don’t have immediate access to some ambergris, try giving a bottle of the classic Chanel No. 5 perfume instead. That might work just as well.
by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
On Thursday night, I went to my first Spa Warming Party. What a treat. My classmate, Mariko, just started working at Nurture Thyself Day Spa here in Victoria. She calls this her “dream job” and I can see why she loves this spa so much.
As part of the festivities, each of the invited guests were allowed to sign up for two complimentary spa services. I quickly wrote my name down for a make up application because I was curious to learn more about the Jane Iredale line. I also signed up, without thinking twice, for the chi machine, even though I had never heard of anything like that before.
What’s a chi machine? Is it like a time machine? I didn’t know what to expect. When my turn came for the chi machine, I was taken to a small, dimly lit room that had a bed and an infrared sauna. I remember the scent of lemongrass as I entered the spa. I took my boots off and was told to lay down on my back on the bed and rest my ankles in the cradles. My feet were slightly elevated and once the chi machine was turned on, my feet and legs started rocking from side to side, left to right. I closed my eyes and began to relax.
The jiggling reminded me of a body balancing routine we learned in esthetics school where we rolled the legs from the ankles which caused a slight rippling effect through the hips. Until now, I didn’t know the purpose of this step but this gentle leg rocking motion has some significance. It’s known as the “Goldfish Exercise” or “kingyo undo” in Japanese and is often included in Shiatsu massage. As it turns out, doing the goldfish stimulates your chi, or life force energy.
On top of all of that, (or more accurately, beneath all of that), I was lying on a warm and comfortable Amethyst Healing Crystal mat. Amethyst crystals, which come in shades of purple and mauve, are known for their healing and calming properties. Amethyst can help with insomnia and you can put it under your pillow to encourage pleasant dreams. You can also use amethyst during meditation and to increase your spiritual awareness.
As I was lying in my own little spa world, I was thinking to myself that this is a really soothing and relaxing experience. I could feel the heat from the amethyst on my back. The heat was like sitting with your back to a fire place in a cozy log cabin. It occurred to me that I was heading toward a meditative state and I thought I’d take advantage by saying a few affirmations. That was a good idea.
After 15 minutes or so, the machine stopped by itself. In the next few quiet moments, I felt the sensation of effervescence. I felt as if I was a glass of champagne and bubbles were floating through my body.
After my chi machine treatment, I noticed I felt more relaxed. Somehow, I felt better. There was a slight yet perceptible shift in my mood. I felt a more positive outlook and a more confident vibe and all of a sudden I found myself volunteering to do foot massages to help out at the spa warming. Another good idea.
If you ever get a chance to try a chi machine session, I highly recommend it. Regular naps on the chi machine can help with an arm’s length of health concerns including sleep disorders, skin irritations and stress. And when you combine amethyst crystals with the chi machine, you’ve got a winning prescription for wellness. Give Mariko a call at Nurture Thyself Day Spa when you’re in Victoria and ask for the Purification Ritual which includes Infrared Sauna, Chi Machine on the Amethyst Crystal Mat and Ionic Foot Bath (1.5 hours for $85). Tell her I sent ya.