by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
I’ve come up with a genius (if I do say so myself) idea on how to manage stress and I really want to share it with as many people as I can. I call it “stone throwing on the beach” and I highly recommend it to anyone who is feeling down and stressed and needs a pick-me-up.
So yesterday, I was feeling irritable and annoyed and in a moment of frustration, I threw a plastic dish scrubber down the stairs. That felt pretty good so I thought I’d throw a box of SOS pads down the stairs, also. It occurred to me that I should go and play some tennis or something to release more of my pent up negativity but I couldn’t think of anybody who would be available to play with me on short notice.
And then the light bulb above my head switched on and I thought of going to the beach just to throw stones into the ocean. Then I noticed (just from that insight) that my energy shifted and I started feeling better. I knew this was a good idea and I couldn’t wait to try my little experiment.
Lucky for me, I live on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so there are several beaches around here for me to choose from. I wanted a beach that was more rocky than sandy (for once) so I picked one in Sidney, BC. (If you don’t leave near the ocean, maybe you can go to a lake instead and try to count how many skips your flat stones make across the placid water).
The Stone Throwing Experiment
I arrived in the beach parking lot around 12:50pm. Except for the odd jogger, dog walker, crow and seagull passing by, I basically had the beach all to myself on this really bright and sunny summer afternoon. I went close to the ocean and said I prayer to get myself into a positive frame of mind and then started picking up stones that I thought had a nice shape and size.
My goal was to release and let go of any and all negative emotional blocks that were weighing me down and keeping me from getting ahead in life and living the life of my dreams. Yeah, I know, pretty heavy stuff.
I consider stone throwing a spiritual, emotional and physical exercise and I figured on a symbolic level, that the mighty ocean could absorb and dissolve my burdens.
Every time I bent down and picked up another rock (there were so many to choose from), I thought about a specific limitation that I wanted to get rid of (like the fear of trying new things, or expressing my true feelings, or losing 5 pounds of extra body fat) and then with my left hand (because I’m left handed), I hurled that stone as far as I could into the sea.
Some of my throws dropped into the ocean with a heavy plunk and some hooked far to the right. One of my throws didn’t even make it into the water and shattered into several pieces on the beach instead. I threw that one with my right hand and realized that the belief that I was thinking about at the time needed a few more rock throws to clear and a little more work.
Some of my throws were just beautiful and I could see the stone spinning like a flying saucer as it arced into the waves. In that case, I said to myself, “That was a good one.”
I had the song, “Walk on the Ocean” by Toad the Wet Sprocket replaying in my mind. I felt all kinds of emotions that I wasn’t expecting as I launched more and more rocks into the sea. There were a few moments of sadness in the mix but they didn’t last. Most of the time, I felt really joyful. I was having fun and I didn’t care who saw me. I’m sure they were wondering, “What is she doing?”
I don’t know how many rocks I ended up throwing into the ocean — maybe 50, maybe 100, I’ll never know because I lost count after 4, but eventually, I looked at my watch and to my surprise it was 1:50pm. I had been stone throwing for an hour! I knew at that point, it was time to go home.
Did my stone throwing experiment work?
Yes, I think so. I felt really good and dare I say, lighter than I had before. I didn’t have the energy to do much else later that day but I didn’t really care. I just relaxed. And that night, I slept like a rock.
Today, my arms and shoulders feel a little stiff. Earlier this morning, I had a chat with my personal trainer on Skype and the first thing she said to me was, “You’re looking really good today” (which she has never said to me in that particular tone before as far as I can recall) and she noticed that I had more confidence than usual. I told her about how I went to the beach to throw stones into the ocean and she thought my idea was “brilliant” and she had never heard of anyone doing that before. She said she’ll certainly recommend the idea to her other clients because it’s a physical activity and it lets you get back to nature. She also said, it was exactly what my body needed to do that day and she was glad I listened to it. I genuinely think she saw a positive difference in me and because of her feedback, I do believe this little idea has some therapeutic value. And it’s free so why not try it for yourself. It’s time to let go of your blocks and get on with your life.
Please leave a comment and let me know your experience with throwing stones into the sea. Here’s to letting go.
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
My mom recently returned from a trip to Dubai, the land of luxury and opulence. I asked her to bring me back some sand as a souvenir because I’m not likely to go there any time soon. Well, she came through with flying colours and brought back two different kinds of sand for me. One was a silky, fine, pale tan sand from the beach and the other was a lovely peppery bronze sand from the desert. (I wish I still had the Bermuda pink sand my late father brought home from one of his navy expeditions in the late 1970’s in my collection, but that stash is long, long gone).
The question is, now what do I do with this new sand? I wanted to put the sand in some sort of container, like a wine bottle, or picture frame or an acrylic box so I could display my exotic treasure. I also wanted the presentation to be somewhat artistic.
Sand is such an interesting subject to contemplate. Sand is timeless and is found on shorelines all over the world and the granules are infinitely unquantifiable. Comedian Steven Wright’s quote comes to mind, “I have the world’s largest seashell collection. You may have seen it, I keep it spread out on beaches all over the world.”
From a spa point of view, dry sand is like the antithesis of wet water, the primary foundation of all spas around the world. Any spa worth its salt is based on the healing powers of water in some way, either historically or geographically. Still, somehow, the powdery and gritty texture of sand belongs in the spa also. Sand and sea are neighbours and they meet each other half way. What’s a breaking wave without a sandy beach?
So, in the spirit of wanting to bring the beach feeling home, I went to Michael’s Crafts to see if I could find a vessel for my sand. After an hour of walking up and down the aisles, I decided I was going to look for something that could serve as a centerpiece on my dinner table for my next home spa party. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for and then I spotted the answer on the bottom shelf: A 5.9-inch/15-cm glass cylinder with an insert for a candle by a company called Ashland for #13.49 CAD. The vanilla pillar candle was only $3.49 so the whole craft project cost me less than $20. (Of course, that’s not counting the airfare to Dubai to get the sand, but I’m sure you can find some near your house or buy it in a store, if you’re landlocked, for a lot less .
Use this sand and candle centerpiece in your next home spa party.
Notice the contrasting red and tan sands in this home spa craft project.
All you have to do is get some sand and pour it into the big cylinder. If you want, you can get fancy and use different coloured sands and layer them in some sort of pattern. If you stick a toothpick and a removable piece of paper into the sand along the container, you can fill the tunnel with contrasting sand for finer details. The problem is, as I discovered, once you join the sands, it’s difficult, if not impossible to separate them again, so make sure you’re OK with whatever pattern emerges and don’t try to fix it afterward. You can also include rocks and seaweed and shells in your composition.
For added effect, you can float your candle in some water in the smaller insert. Unfortunately, that didn’t work for me this time because the candle kept on capsizing. (A different size and shape would have probably worked better).
Remember, you can also give this quick and easy centerpiece as a hostess gift or you can put it next to your bathtub the next time you take a bath. In my mind, the sand, the water and the candlelight are poetry. It’s like having a mini beach at home (complete with high noon sunshine) and it will definitely add to the ambiance and mystique of your home spa.
Let me know what you think of this home spa craft project. Do you have a favourite beach that you’d like to bring home? Please leave a comment.