Home Spa Recipes for Bananas

Posted by Maria on October 27, 2011 under Books, Magazines, Music, Gift Ideas, Home spa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Nutrition, Photo gallery, Recipes, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Weight Management | 8 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

When my family was living in Hawaii, we had the luxury of having real bananas growing in our yard right outside the kitchen door. At the time, I didn’t think I liked bananas at all (hard to believe, I know) until my father coaxed me into trying one. I remember how we chose a small, greenish-yellow banana together and then we sat down and peeled it ribbon by ribbon and then I tasted it and it was good. Now I think bananas are really awesome.

Here are 10 excuses to eat more bananas:

  1. Quick energy boost: the sugar and fiber in bananas will boost your energy for your high-intensity workout.
  2. Help digestion: the fiber in bananas will help with digestion and constipation and over time will help manage your weight.
  3. Improve your mood: eating a banana will simultaneously help calm your nerves and lift your spirits.
  4. Relax: bananas contain tryptophan which your brain converts to serotonin which in turn will help you relax.
  5. Brighten Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): As we head into the gray, winter months, the tryptophan in bananas will help prevent SAD symptoms from emerging.
  6. Reduce PMS: The high levels of Vitamin B6 in bananas will help manage your monthly PMS symptoms.
  7. Reduce restless leg syndrome (RLS) and sleep better: If you have RLS and involuntary muscle twitching, it could mean that you have a definciency in Vitamin B6. If that’s the case, eat more bananas for their Vitamin B6 and see if your sleep improves.
  8. Increase your iron intake: Bananas are a good, vegetarian source of iron. Get more iron in your diet to prevent anemia.
  9. Lower your blood pressure and risk of stroke: Bananas are high in potassium and low in sodium, so they are great to add to your daily diet to manage stress and lower your blood pressure which will reduce your risk of having a stroke.
  10. Quit smoking cigarettes: If you’re trying to quit smoking, the Vitamins B6, B12 & C, plus the potassium and magnesium in bananas will help your body deal with nicotine withdrawal.

Today, I’ve decided to profile bananas in my blog and offer two home spa recipes. The first recipe is for a banana bread. When I made this recipe for a breakfast starter at the Beacon Inn, one gentleman said, “Your banana bread is outstanding” and another gentleman from Denmark said, “this is excellent and I should know because I bake for a living — when I come back, I hope you’ll give me the recipe.” Well, here it is. It’s from Company’s Coming, Muffins and More, by Jean Paré, published in 1983, page 40.

Banana Bread

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (3 medium) mashed, very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Method: In one mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add mashed bananas (if they’re frozen, defrost them in the microwave first to make things easier). Add vanilla. In a second bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and walnuts, making sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add this dry mix to the banana mixture and stir only to moisten. Transfer the batter to a greased 9×5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about an hour. Test with a toothpick or skewer and if it comes out clean, the banana bread is ready. Let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and place it on a cake rack to cool.

The second recipe is for Peanut butter and Banana Lip Balm. It’s one of my original recipes. Peanut butter and bananas are a classic flavour combination and this lip balm really feels good on the lips.

Peanut Butter and Banana Lip Balm

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa

Try making some peanut butter and banana lip balm today.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 banana, chopped in 3-4 chunks — moisturizing for all skin types.
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar — to achieve glowing skin, add sugar crystals to exfoliating scrubs.
  • 1/3 cup water — extends recipe volume and provides a base to blend ingredients.
  • 1 TB smooth peanut butter — provides a creamy yet solid base for cosmetics and is loaded with skin-loving Vitamin E and other antioxidants.
  • 1 TB beeswax — mostly used for its scent and to thicken cosmetics.
  • 1 TB almond oil — good for normal, dry and mature skin. Has cleansing, moisturizing and conditioning properties.
  • 1/4 tsp honey — antiseptic, cleansing and ideal for treating chapped lips and wrinkles.
  • 1 Vitamin E capsule — good for skin and acts as a preservative.

Method:

  1. Wash your containers in hot soapy water and dry thoroughly. If you’d like to buy some containers for lip balm, please go to the containers page on Homespunspa.com.
  2. To make a simple syrup with sugar, water and bananas, melt equal parts of sugar and water over low heat on a stove top. Add large pieces of banana and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Let the syrup simmer over low heat to infuse the banana flavour into the syrup.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, melt the smooth peanut butter, beeswax, almond oil (or peanut oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil, etc. — almond oil is what I had on hand today) and honey over low heat. Stir until smooth.
  4. Strain out the bananas from the liquid sugar and set them aside. Add 1 TB of the banana-flavoured syrup into the peanut butter mixture. Turn the heat off but keep the pan on the heated element. Keep stirring. Add the contents of the Vitamin E capsule.
  5. Pour the mixture into your containers. The lip balm will harden within a few minutes.

Manner: Apply the peanut butter and banana lip balm to your lips as needed.

Storage: Your lip balm should last up to 6 months.

Warning: Do not make or wear this recipe if you or someone you know has peanut allergies. Discard your batch if it starts getting sticky or tasting rancid.

As always, let me know what you think. I would love to post your comments on my blog.

P.S. Pour the left over bananas and sugar syrup over ice cream and use the syrup in cocktails to add another layer of flavour. And I just thought of something else: use the banana flavoured syrup in a lip gloss!

Are you a walking coat hanger? (part 2)

Posted by Maria on October 7, 2011 under Feet, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Nutrition, Pedicures, Photo gallery, Pop-Psychology, Sleep, Spa and Sleep Dictionary, Spirituality, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Weight Management, Wellness | 2 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

“What a pain in the neck!” I’ve never thought about that expression literally before until I started writing these posts about muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.

As you may recall from “Are you a walking coat hanger, (part 1),” I decided to write this post to help my friend, Angelina. She has been having problems with tension in her neck even though she exercises regularly, sits at an ergonomically-designed workstation and has visited a chiropractor. What else can she do to alleviate the tension and the pain?

5 More Ways to Relax Your Neck and Shoulders

1) Pillows: Since how well you sleep directly influences the quality of your life, I think it’s important to know a thing or two about pillows. How many pillows you use, what they’re made of, how soft or hard they are, the position of your body while you’re sleeping and how your head rests on your pillow(s) make a huge difference to your sleep. Muscle tension in the neck during the day may actually be triggered by an uncomfortable sleep from the night before. Your pillow should keep your head and neck aligned with your spine, so make sure your neck is resting at a comfortable angle. You can also place pillows between your knees to take the strain and pressure off your back, if you sleep on your side, or you can place a pillow under your knees, if you sleep on your back.

2) Reiki: I had my first Reiki session in June and I was fascinated by the technique. Reiki is a method that heals the body, mind and spirit using gentle, non-intrusive hand placements along the body, starting from the head. Reiki practitioners simply transfer universal healing energy from their hands to consenting individuals to encourage feelings of relaxation and well-being.  Although their hands don’t actually touch your body (as in massage), it feels like they are and you can certainly feel the heat that is being generated — and that’s a really cool sensation. Your stress will evaporate into thin air.  If you’d like the name of a talented and intuitive Reiki practitioner, please email me and I’ll forward her contact info to you.

3) Reflexology: With over 7,000 nerves connecting the feet to the rest of the body, it’s a no brainer why we look to the feet when we need to de-stress. Most people love to have their feet massaged, pampered and touched. According to the Reflexology Association of Canada, “Reflexology is a natural healing art, based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet and hands which correspond to every part of the body.” Reflexology maps the neurological relationships between zones on the soles of the feet to organs in the rest of the body and if you touch a specific area in the foot, it will point to a corresponding organ and that area of the body will feel relief. In Reflexology, if someone touches the “neck” on your big toe than they are also in a sense massaging your traditional neck. Also the area along the outside edge of your foot, below the pinky toe, corresponds to your shoulders.

4) Tense and release every part of your body: Being tense is a very common affliction in our stress-filled culture. Tension is caused by muscles that stiffen up when we feel the need to protect ourselves or defend ourselves from a perceived, potential threat. We’re getting ready to fight or freeze or flee. Holding the muscles over many hours is terribly painful and uncomfortable and doing that will lead to headaches, gastrointestinal disorders and back problems.

To remedy tense muscles, lie on your back in a quiet room and let your legs and arms fall away from your body. Make a mental note of how your body is feeling before you start this exercise so you have a reference point for later. In your mind, you are going to take a tour of your body, tensing and then releasing every part of it along the way. Starting with your feet, curl your toes under and hold the contraction for a few seconds. Meanwhile, hold your breath as well. Then release the contraction and exhale. Breathe. Then go to the arches of your feet. Hold the contraction. Hold your breath. Let go. Breathe again. From your feet, move on to the calves and repeat the steps. Travel to your knees, thighs, hips, buttocks, lower back, middle back, upper back, shoulders, neck, scalp, forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, face, shoulders (again), lungs, waist, tummy, upper arms, elbows, forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers, remembering to consciously tense each of the muscles and joints, holding your breath and letting it all go. Finish by tensing the entire body at once. Hold your breath and than instantly release the tension. Are you feeling more relaxed now?

5) Nutrition: Eating a balanced diet will help your body cope better with stress so aim to eat healthy food 90% of the time.  Are you getting enough vitamins, minerals and antioxidants on a daily basis? If not, consider adding supplements to your routine.

  • The B vitamins, in particular, have long been used to help people who suffer from stress.
  • Put Vitamin C on your shopping list, too.
  • In terms of minerals, magnesium and iron are known to help with sleep.
  • Antioxidants will act as the “clean up crew” in your body and will reduce the amount of harmful free radicals in your system.

As I’m doing the research on this topic, I’m learning that eating oats regularly, will help keep you calm, prevent depression and will lower cholesterol. Also, pumpkin seeds will help you deal with stress because they contain high levels of zinc, iron, calcium and B vitamins. Other foods that are high in B vitamins include: whole grains, brown rice, lean meat, brewer’s yeast, royal jelly, wheatgerm, bananas, liver, peanuts, black-eyed beans. Adding these foods to your meals will help you manage your stress which will, in turn, minimize your neck and shoulder tension.

I hope these tips will help you in your quest to manage stress.

Are you a walking coat hanger? (part 1)

Posted by Maria on October 5, 2011 under Aromatherapy, Books, Magazines, Music, Facials, Homespunspa, Massages, Photo gallery, Self-Care, Skin Care, Sleep, Spa and Sleep Dictionary, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Weight Management, Wellness, Yoga | 4 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Man with neck and shoulder tension.My friend at Jazzercise, let’s call her Angelina, has been carrying some serious tension in neck and shoulders lately. She’s trying everything she can think of to relieve the tension, which she thinks is happening as a result of sitting at her desk all day, staring at her computer screen, crunching numbers on her detailed spreadsheets (she’s an accountant) and moving the mouse back and forth, but isn’t having any luck. Raise your hand if you can relate.

She has visited a reputable chiropractor, who is known for getting results, and this chiropractor said to her, “You’re what we call a walking coat hanger.” Unfortunately, after her painful appointments, (it sounds like she has a very high pain tolerance), Angelina is left with terrible bruises on her arms with no significant relief to her muscle tension and everyone, including her family doctor, is telling her that this chiropractor is not doing her a good service. (Disclaimer: I’ve personally never visited a chiropractor and don’t know what’s involved but I know a lot of people swear by them and please don’t think I’m insulting chiropractors at all with these observations. I’m sure chiropractors do a lot of good work for a lot of people).

When my friend talks about her neck and shoulder tension, my ears perk up. I’m all about relaxation and I’ve put my thinking cap on to figure out ways to help my friend feel better and to also help others with similar problems get some relief, too.

First, I asked Angelina if her workstation — she works from home in a lovely, organized and spacious office — is what they call, “ergonomic,” a term coined in 1950 from the Greek word “ergon” which means “work.” Ergonomics is an applied science which is concerned with how well things are designed and arranged for human use to reduce fatigue and discomfort and to maximize productivity, efficiency and safety. She said, “Yes, yes, I had an assessment a couple of years ago and my chair is at the right height and my computer screen is right at eye level, where it’s supposed to be, and everything else.”

Well then, that answers that. With the ergonomic question out of the way, Angelina’s tension must be caused by too much stress and not enough relaxation. Since we’re all in the same boat, here’s a list of ways all of us can do to reduce and manage our stress levels.

5 Ways to Relax Your Neck and Shoulders

1) Get a facial: Facials are really, really relaxing. Not only do you get to listen to some healing and calming spa music for an hour or so — my Homespunspa playlist rocks (you to sleep) if I do say so myself — you also get the relaxing benefits from aromatherapy and of course some age-reversing skin care (stress will certainly take its toll on your complexion in more ways than one). And for the people with neck and shoulder issues, there’s usually a 10 to 20 minute, thoroughly relaxing massage that focuses on your decollete, shoulders, neck and face included with every facial. You’ll love it!

2) Take breaks: Do you come to work and sit down at your desk and not get out of your seat all day until it’s time to go home? And please don’t tell me you skip your lunch, too. If you ask me, I think that’s a counter-productive habit. Our bodies were designed to move and not sit around all day. If you take regular breaks and move your body throughout the day, you’ll actually be more productive and you’ll get more work done in the long run. I recommend setting a gentle alarm to go off once an hour or so to remind you to physically get up out of your chair and take a break. (I have a chi gong chime on my phone which is very unobtrusive but helpful). Go and grab yourself a cup of tea or a glass of water, go to the washroom, take a walk outside, climb up and down the stairs, introduce yourself to the new hire, etc., etc. The breaks will help clear your head and will help you focus better. Speaking of breaks, I have to take one right now.


3) Shoulder rub conga line:
Stuck in a meeting all day? Even better. If there’s more than one of you on a break at the same time, do the old shoulder rub conga line thing where you stand in a line or in a circle, one person in front of the other, everybody facing the same direction. Ideally, you’ll rub the shoulders of the person in front of you and at the same time, the person behind you is rubbing your shoulders and then after a couple of minutes, everybody turns around and returns the favour the other way. Expect some giggles.

4) Stretch: Stand up and drop your arms to your side.  Slowly roll your shoulders 3 times backwards and 3 times forwards. Then extend your arms out in front of you and slowly bend your elbows and bring your hands up to shoulder level. Then bring your shoulder blades together as close as you can to each other. This move is called “Angel wings.” Release. Roll your shoulders again. Then shake out your arms. How does that feel?

5) Yoga: Sign up for a yoga class. When I was taking a yoga class once a week, I found an improvement in my attitude and a reduction in my stress levels. I also noticed that yoga really complimented and enhanced the work I was doing with my personal trainer and made my workouts that much more effective. It’s definitely something to add to the mix.

That’s it for now. I’ll add an “Are you a walking coat hanger (part 2)” with more tips on neck and shoulder tension in a couple of days. And, as always, if you have any tips to share, by all means, leave a comment and I’ll make sure your words get added to the conversation. Till then, breathe, smile and relax.

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