It’s Footbath Friday

Posted by Maria on February 10, 2012 under Aromatherapy, Ayurveda & Elemental Nature, Books, Magazines, Music, Esthetics School, Feet, Fitness, Home spa, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Pop-Psychology, Recipes, Self-Care, Sleep, Spa and Sleep Dictionary, Spirituality, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Weight Management, Wellness, Yoga | 5 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Have you ever had a job that wasn’t working out and you knew your days were numbered? I’ve been in that situation many, many times and the last time was back in 2009 when I was working for the provincial government. It was a good job in some respects but it was a hostile work environment also. I won’t go into the why’s and the who’s but I’d often come home quite upset and would waste my evenings and weekends rehashing the drama of the week in my mind. It’s one thing to think about work while you’re at work. It’s another thing to bring it home with you and think about it while you’re not working and not getting paid for it. Am I right?

Because of all of the unpleasantness in the office, I was trying to figure out a way to leave my job gracefully. I kept on going online to check out some schools and courses to upgrade my skills to help me launch a new career. It was my way of escaping reality ever so briefly. I knew there was something more for me but I didn’t know what that was. I had my eye on a massage school that I almost applied to many years before and kept on going back to the website on my lunch hours.

Then on one inspired weekend in August, I got an idea. Why not look at the textbooks of the programs I was interested in to see which subjects appealed to me most? Textbooks are notoriously boring — *hello insomniacs :) — and if you can read one subject with enthusiasm and pour over the pages as if they were the Legend of the Holy Grail, you know you’re on the right track. So I went to the University bookstore just as classes were starting for the year and found my section: HEALTH.

Spa Bodywork A Guide for Massage Therapist by Anne Williams.Among the dozen or so titles on the shelves, one book in particular jumped into my hands: Spa Bodywork A Guide for Message Therapists by Anne Williams. I loved the green clay masque on the woman’s back on the cover and thought, “I want to know how to do that!” I quickly flipped through the pages and decided to buy the book on the spot even though I wasn’t enrolled in any school. (I still feel a little bit guilty for buying a textbook from another student and I hope there were enough copies for everyone who needed one).

As it turned out, I got layed off from the government job a few short weeks later. But I didn’t end up going to massage school; I went to esthetics school instead. Funny how things work out. But my Spa Bodywork textbook still gets to live on the top shelf and I still give it credit for helping me turn the page and start a new chapter in my life.

Anyway, back to my old job that wasn’t a good fit for me. At that time, I wasn’t in the habit of doing any nurturing or pampering home spa treatments on myself even though I knew a thing or two about the subject. I wish I had been more kind to myself during that stressful time and that’s why I’m writing this post called, “It’s Footbath Friday.”

I’d like to encourage all of the people out there who are working hard at their jobs — especially if they’re not living the dream — to soak their weary feet in a footbath every Friday night. Start tonight. Pour yourself a glass of wine or make yourself a pot of tea and pop some popcorn. Then dip your feet in a lovely, warm and aromatic foot bath and you’ll be well on your way to a better mood. Footbaths are a perfect way to release the negativity from the past week. And then you won’t drag all of that B.S. into your weekend and you’ll be able to start work on the following Monday on a better foot, so to speak. Just relax and pour that tension down the drain and forget about it. Start the weekend fresh.

These days, I’m writing my own ebook and I plan on publishing it in a few months. For my research, I read the chapter on Ayurveda (a subject I became familiar with in esthetics school) in the Spa Bodywork textbook and I found some useful recipes for footbaths that were inspired by the Ayurvedic tradition that I’d like to pass on to you.

Ayurveda is a 5000-year-old, traditional medicine system and philosophy from India that offers keys for creating harmony and balance in life. Many Western spas have adopted elements of Ayurveda into their spa treatments because of the focus on positive life choices, relaxation, exercise, detoxification and spirituality. In a nutshell, Ayurveda is based on the belief that everything in the universe is composed of 5 elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. Specific combinations of the 5 elements form the 3 doshas which are: vata, pitta and kapha. Each individual is made up of a combination of all 5 elements and all 3 doshas and that formula or recipe, for lack of better words, will show up in their body type, mental and emotional disposition, and personality.

You can find out which dosha you favour the most by answering the questions on my Ayurvedic Questionnaire page on my website or Googling Ayurvedic quiz. I recommend Dr. Deepak Chopra’s website and Dosha Quiz for a quick response. Then you’ll know which footbath recipe below will be the most balancing and beneficial for you. Recognizing when you are out of balance and making choices to correct the imbalances will keep you healthy and will keep stress and disease at bay.

Vata Foot Bath (Spa Bodywork page 217) (Infinity and Air elements)

“(Using herbs recognizable to Western therapists). Fill a muslin bag with ½ cup of mixed herbs that include ground ginger, sandalwood, eucalyptus leaf, calamus [a.k.a myrtle grass or sweet grass] and basil. Cover this bag with boiling water and allow it to steep for 20 minutes while it cools. Add cool or hot water as needed to adjust the temperature for the foot soak.”

Pitta Foot Bath (Spa Bodywork page 218) (Fire element)

“Fill a muslin bag with ½ cup of mixed herbs that include chamomile flowers, lavender flowers, peppermint and lemongrass. Cover this bag with boiling water and allow it to steep for 20 minutes while it cools. Add cool or hot water as needed to adjust the temperature for the foot soak.”

Kapha Foot Bath (Spa Bodywork page 220) (Water and Earth elements)

“Fill a muslin bag with ½ cup of mixed herbs that include basil, ground ginger, eucalyptus leaf, and common sage leaf. Cover this bag with boiling water and allow it to steep for 20 minutes while it cools. Add cool or hot water as needed to adjust the temperature for the foot soak.”

Thank you Anne Williams for sharing your wisdom in your Spa Bodywork A Guide for Message Therapists textbook and for inspiring me to follow my bliss. I hope this blog post inspires people to enjoy a Friday night foot bath and to change their circumstances if they don’t match the dream.

Orange, Coconut & Cinnamon Cookie Recipe

Posted by Maria on January 14, 2011 under Aromatherapy, Books, Magazines, Music, Home spa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Nutrition, Photo gallery, Recipes, Uncategorized | 7 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Last week, I was asked to bake some cookies and after leafing through several cookbooks, I chose this recipe from a 1988 version of Company’s Coming Cookies by Jean Paré. I was limited by the ingredients I had to work with (no chocolate chips!) and was happy to be able to include 3/4 of an orange that was already waiting in the fridge. The cookies went over so well, I thought I’d include the recipe on my Homespunspa blog. I’ve made a few adaptations to the original recipe and have re-written the instructions for clarity, otherwise you’ll find the recipe of page 11 of Company’s Coming.

Before you say, “But Maria, it’s January and we can’t have anymore cookies,” I think this one is a fairly healthy recipe as far as cookies go. It has a lot of fibre (with the oats, coconut and orange zest) and cinnamon, which helps curb the appetite, among other things, is really good for you. Just have one or two cookies a day and enjoy every mouthful.

I think these cookies would make a really good spa snack and I plan on baking them often for my customers when I open my new spa sometime in the future. The orange is very aromatic on its own and the combination of orange, coconut, cinnamon and vanilla reminds me of Mexico. So, if you’re aching to get some sunshine into your midwinter, bake a batch of these — it’s like aromatherapy for your taste buds.

Orange and coconut cookies on a plate.

Orange, Coconut & Cinnamon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, softened — Have you ever tried sculpting out of butter? You might find it fun and relaxing.
  • 2 TB grated orange zest (about 3/4 of an orange) — Orange peels enhance a room’s atmosphere when tossed into a fireplace.
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar — To achieve glowing skin, add sugar crystals to your home spa exfoliating scrubs.
  • 2 eggs — Are nourishing to skin and make hair smooth and shiny in home spa recipes.
  • 1/4 cup of 0%, 1% or 2% milk — Cleopatra’s legacy — home spa milk baths moisturize, nourish and soften skin.
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract — Not only is vanilla relaxing, it’s comforting, and calming and is known as a popular aphrodisiac.
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour — You can make homemade play dough from flour to bump up creativity and relaxation in your life.
  • 2- 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder — Helps with leavening.
  • 3/4 teaspoons of cinnamon — Astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and aah…fragrant. Cinnamon adds a cozy nuance to spicy home spa bath recipes and has documented antioxidant properties.
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt — Adding sea salt to a home spa bath is an effective way to quiet the mind and relax aching muscles.
  • 1 cup rolled oats — As a home spa ingredient, oatmeal nourishes, softens and cleanses skin. It’s an excellent exfoliator but mild enough for sensitive faces.
  • 3/4 shredded coconut — The scent of coconut can whisk you off to a faraway beach.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Grease 2 cookie trays with Pam cooking spray or (as my mother does) with the wrapping paper or foil from the butter or margarine.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter (or margarine), orange zest and sugar with an electric beater or mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the milk.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder and sea salt until everything is evenly distributed. Add the dry flour mixture to the butter mixture a little at a time and blend. With a large spoon, stir in the oats and the flakes of coconut.
  4. Drop the dough by the healthy spoonful onto the greased cookie sheets, evenly spaced, one to two inches apart.
  5. Bake on the middle wrack for 8 to 10 minutes. Give the cookies an extra 2 minutes in the oven if they’re big. They’re ready when you can see a golden edge around the bottom of the cookies and when the top of the cookies are firmish to the touch.

If you end up baking these cookies, let me know how they turned out. Also, you can find more recipes like this one in my book, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way, available for purchase through this website.

Ambergris: Golden Nuggets from the Sea

Posted by Maria on December 14, 2010 under Aromatherapy, Gift Ideas, Home spa, Ingredients, Stress Management and Relaxation, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized | 11 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Whale and Ambergris.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.

Historical Usage

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.

Sage: A Scent for the Season

Posted by Maria on November 25, 2010 under Aromatherapy, Books, Magazines, Music, Gift Ideas, Home spa, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Recipes, Skin Care, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | 5 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Christmas is just a short month away and that means we’re officially in the season. As my American friends sit down with their families at their Thanksgiving tables today, I’m thinking about how much I like the taste of a little sage in my turkey stuffing. Sage makes me feel all comfy and cozy and that’s why I’ve chosen it as today’s blog topic.

Sage and cranberries on a plate.

The Latin name for sage, Salvia, comes from salvere, which means “to save or heal” and true to its name, sage has a long list of healing properties. There are lots of varieties of sages out there in the world, like purple sage and pineapple sage, and they each have their own share of medicinal, culinary, aromatic and cosmetic uses.

For home spa recipes, I recommend using either the fresh or dried culinary herb version of sage or using clary sage essential oil, depending on the type of treatment you’re making.

Sage Herb in the Home Spa

Common Sage can be mixed with other herbs like lavender, rosemary and catnip in a sleep pillow. It’s also good for hair as it adds shine to normal or damaged hair and covers gray strands. Here are some more suggestions:

  1. Blend sage in relaxing tea for sleeplessness, night sweats, nightmares, depression, nervous exhaustion, anxiety, whiter teeth, sore throats, colds-flu, detoxification, female issues, flavour.
  2. Infuse astringent and antiseptic sage into facials to clean pores, visually shrink pore size, add scent.
  3. Infuse sage into your hair rinse to treat normal, dry or damaged hair, add shine, curb dandruff, encourage hair growth, add fragrance, and cover grey.
  4. Mix dried sage in baths, sleep pillows, pot pourri, or sachets for fragrance.

Clary Sage Essential Oil in the Home Spa

Affectionately known as “clear eye,” clary sage was used in medieval times to flush out debris from eyes. It was also added to wine and beer to bump up the flavour and the fun factor. And speaking of fun, in her book Aromatherapy, author Glenda Taylor writes, “PARTY — Clary sage is supposed to make you feel irresistible. If you’re getting ready to go out, [like to a holiday party perhaps?], use a few drops in your bathwater or add it to a hair rinse.” You can also use clary sage essential oil in the following ways:

  1. Clary Sage is considered a middle note fixative in perfumery and aromatherapy. It’s nutty, smoky fragrance with sweet herbaceous undertones blends well with: basil, bergamot, cardamon, cedarwood, chamomile, coriander, cypress, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lime, mandarin, patchouli, petitgrain, rose, sandalwood, tea tree, vetiver, and ylang ylang.
  2. Add clary sage essential oil to a massage oil blend to relax, get a good night’s sleep, enhance dreams, lift depression, inspire romance, soothe muscle pain and address female issues.
  3. Use clary sage essential oil in your skincare routine if you have an oily skin type.
  4. Pour drops of clary sage essential oil into an atomizer to scent linen.
  5. Heat clary sage essential oil in a burner to brighten a room, treat coughs and aid concentration.
  6. CAUTION: Avoid during pregnancy and while drinking alcohol.

Clary Sage Massage Oil Recipe

To relax and soothe sore muscles and to get a good night’s sleep, you can use this recipe as a massage oil or as an additive to bathsalts or bathwater. Has anyone else noticed that the word “sage” is built into the word, “massage?”

  • 1 cup Jojoba Oil — is an excellent choice to use as a carrier oil because it’s closest to our skin’s natural oil and therefore our skin readily absorbs it.
  • 20 drops Clary Sage Essential Oil — is a powerful relaxant. This middle note relieves anxiety, nervous exhaustion, irritability and insomnia. It’s also used in skin care for its anti-inflammatory, soothing and astringent properties.
  • 20 drops Rosemary Essential Oil — This fresh middle note lifts depression and erases feelings of lethargy and fatigue. It eases stiff muscles in massage and is also an effective hair and scalp tonic.
  • 20 drops Lavender Essential Oil — This soporific top note is used to treat anxiety, depression and headaches. In massage, it relieves muscular aches and stiffness and is also a popular ingredient in skincare.
  • 20 drops Spearmint Essential Oil — As a top note scent, it delivers cheerfulness and optimism during periods of sluggishness and lethargy.

Method: Starting with the middle note essential oils and working toward the top notes, carefully pour drops of the clary sage essential oil into a sterilized glass bottle. Then count in 20 drops of the rosemary essential oil. Roll the bottle in your hands to blend the essential oils or use an orangewood stick to stir. Then add 20 drops of the lavender and blend the oils again. Then add 20 drops of the spearmint essential oil. Blend the aromas and smell the result. You now have an equal blend of all four essential oils. If you are satisfied, then keep the blend as is. If not, go ahead and add 5 drops at a time of any of the essential oils that you feel need more strength. Keep some coffee beans handy to clear your nasal palette. Once satisfied, add jojoba oil to the shoulder of the bottle. Make a label and let the recipe cure for 2 weeks.

Manner: Pour a tablespoon of oil onto your hands and then apply to skin using effleurage movements. Then proceed with your massage. Alternatively, pour a tablespoon of oil into your bathwater. You can also use the essential oil blend as a base for bathsalts.

Storage / Shelf Life: Mixture will mature in 4 to 8 weeks. Store out of sunlight in a cool dark place. Keep lid fastened. Will last for 3 to 12 months.

If you like this recipe, let me know. And consider making a big batch and give this massage oil as a gift for your friends. Happy Holidays!

World Water Week — Wednesday’s Wake-Up

Posted by Maria on March 24, 2010 under Esthetics School, Fitness, Green Living, Home spa, Ingredients, Newspapers and Newsworthy, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized, Wellness | 2 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Did you know that in 1993, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 22 as the World Day for Water? I didn’t. I just found out from Dr. Phil that March 21st to 27th, 2010 is World Water Week and the funny thing is, I was already going to write about water on this post anyway. There must be something in the air.

Everyone knows that water is the universal spa ingredient. It works on the inside of your body as something you can drink and it works on the outside as something you can bathe or swim in.

But today I want to write about bottled water and how I don’t recommend it for your home spa or your home gym. I must admit though that I am guilty of buying bottled water on a regular basis. I buy it mostly for my dance classes because it’s a convenient way for me to hydrate myself while I’m exercising and I also like to have some on hand for my earthquake emergency kit.

But last year, one of my co-workers forwarded this PowerPoint presentation to all staff in my office and it really opened my eyes: water-disaster1. What a wake up call. From watching this slideshow, I was shocked to learn the financial, health and environmental costs associated with bottled water:

  1. Financial: Apparently, the average U.S. citizen spends over $400 a year on bottled water. As someone who is about to become a student again, I need to save money wherever I can.
  2. Health: Because of temperature changes (which can be extreme) during shipment from the warehouse to the store to you, toxic chemicals from the plastic bottles can leach into the water and therefore into your body once you drink it which can cause serious damage to your health.
  3. Environmental: Producing cases of bottled water and transporting them by the truck load and then disposing the empties all have a significant (and often unnecessary) impact on the environment.

What really got me was the part about keeping the bottles of water in your car. I’m not doing that anymore.

The case for tap water

What happened to good ol’ tap water? Somewhere along the line we stopped trusting it. But as someone who lives on the west coast of Canada surrounded by majestic mountains, flowing rivers, vibrant lakes and the Pacific Ocean, I am blessed to have lovely, wholesome water delivered straight to my home whenever I want at the twist of my tap. So why am I buying water from France? It’s ridiculous if you think about it and one more point for the 100 mile diet.

You’ll be happy to know that ever since I saw the above presentation on water bottles, I have started bringing a refillable metal container full of tap water to class.

Access to fresh, clean water is a big deal for our planet but we take it for granite :) (as it’s often pronounced). But I think the tide is turning and people are becoming more and more appreciative of this resource every day. Even my esthetics school has a policy of not allowing bottled water in the classrooms.

If you want to learn more about World Water Day and related events and how you can contribute, check out the UNICEF Tap Project.

And from now on, I pledge to drink tap water instead of bottled water. Right here, right now, I’m going to take a page from Oprah’s handbook and start my own pledge drive.

Homespunspa’s No Bottled Water Pledge

I, ____________, when given the choice between tap water from a healthy source and bottled water, pledge to choose to drink tap water.  And, if I happen to buy and drink a commercially-made bottle of water, I will return the bottle for recycling and will get the deposit back. Every lit bit helps. Cheers!

If you would like to sign this pledge with me, please fill in this form below. THANKS!

Name:

City:

Email:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day the Homespunspa Way

Posted by Maria on March 17, 2010 under Aromatherapy, Green Living, Hair, Home spa, Homespunspa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Humour, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Pop-Psychology, Recipes, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized | 7 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

As it tis St. Patrick’s Day today, I thought it would be fun to talk about beer as a home spa ingredient.

Body on Tap Shampoo plus Irish Spring Soap equals Magically Delicious

Body on Tap Shampoo plus Irish Spring Soap equals Magically Delicious

Before you go out on the town tonight to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, why not get into the spirit with some home brewed spa treatments. If only they still sold Body on Tap Shampoo. It was made with real Budweiser beer! Personally, I’ve never actually used this particular brand because I was underage at the time. :) I remember the ads from a lot of the shampoos from the 1970’s that don’t exist anymore like, Breck (“and they told two friends and so on and so on…”) and Gee your Hair Smells Terrific and “Squeeze and go from flat to fluffy, squeeze, with Prell Concentrate.” Good times. Good times. Hey, another 1970’s throwback!

With ingredients like green tea and silk amino acids, shampoo has come a long way in 30 years, (how much do you pay for a bottle these days?) but the idea of putting real beer in shampoo isn’t complete flimflam. What may seem like marketing shenanigans to us in 2010 actually has some validity. Not only does beer bring out hair’s natural shine and highlights, it also adds body and volume too. And some people may consider beer’s unmistakable scent as aromatherapy at its finest. So, if you’d like to make your own beer shampoo, here is a recipe.

St. Patrick’s Day Beer Shampoo

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles of Guinness beer — adds shine, body, volume and fragrance to hair
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar — astringent vinegar restores the natural pH balance of skin and hair
  • 2 TB honey — has moisturizing and antiseptic qualities
  • 1/4 cup regular, as unscented as possible, shampoo (optional)

Method:

  1. Pour the beer from one bottle into a glass mug and take a swig.
  2. Pour the other beer, apple cider vinegar and honey into a saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat to a half cup in volume. Keep your eye on the pan and stir occasionally. Adjust the temperature if necessary. Within 20 minutes, the mixture should start looking like thick syrup.
  3. Once the liquid reaches the desired consistency, take the pan off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  4. If you want, you can keep this recipe as it is (as a hair rinse) without adding extra soap. You can also combine the beer mixture with pre-made, unscented shampoo and pour the mixture into a recycled shampoo bottle. Make sure to label it so you don’t forget.

Manner:

  1. Massage the beer shampoo into wet hair. Lather, rinse and repeat. Follow with a conditioner.
  2. Tell two friends about this recipe :)

Storage:

  1. The alcohol, honey and shampoo base should act to preserve this recipe without refrigeration for at least a couple of weeks, but you’ll use it up by then, anyhow, right?

Cheers and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Spring Cleaning the Ol’ Home Spa Homestead

Posted by Maria on March 11, 2010 under Green Living, Home spa, Stress Management and Relaxation, TV Shows & Movies, Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

As you may already know, my Homespunspa Ewesletter blog is all about living a home spa lifestyle. To me, “home Spa” is an umbrella term that covers everything from making homemade spa treatments for sleep and beauty to topics like wellness, nutrition, fitness, stress management and green living to name just a few.

Design is another branch of the spa world and designing and decorating a space that encourages people to feel calm and relaxed is one of the pillars of a successful spa. Some spa spaces just have a way of melting stress from a person even before they receive their first spa treatment! With this in mind, I want my home to be my sanctuary, a quiet haven where I can rest and relax and I want it to feel and look more like a spa. I’m doing everything short of installing a water feature — because that would be over the top. :) Maybe next year.

So, I’m in the throws of a massive spring cleaning campaign. At first I was just going to paint many of my mismatched pieces of furniture a shade of white that most closely resembles cream cheese but now that I’ve pulled that thread, I’m also in the process of cleaning all of the nooks and crannies that I normally gloss over in my regular housekeeping routine. I’m also de-cluttering stuff from my junk drawers. Why I keep half of the trinkets and t-shirts I do, I don’t know.

There’s No Clutter In Spa Land

Every now and then, I watch an episode of Hoarders — to let’s face it — light a fire under my butt to clean up my act — before things get out of hand. While I don’t have “mountain of things” like in the Tracy Chapman song, there is an ever so slight tendency towards pack-ratiness in my family and I must admit I do collect a few odd things. Like when I went through all of my cosmetics, toiletries and medicine cabinet while I was painting my vanity, I found 3 brand new Secrets. Not that kind of secret — I’m hoarding antiperspirant. I can understand having a spare — but three? I also have at least 10 mini shampoos and soaps from hotels that I never plan on using, but like to have, and tons of expired cough, cold and flu medicine, just in case.

I can understand how hoarders, when confronted with the questions, “stay or go” and “keep or toss” freeze at seemingly useless items. I picked up a broken key chain while I was sorting my things into “like with like” piles and I shutter to say that even after holding it in my hand and recognizing it’s flaws and thinking about it for a minute or two, I kept it. I like to scrapbook and I have a box filled to the brim with things that might eventually look good in a collage. So that’s where it went, probably never to be heard from again, because, surprise, surprise, I don’t scrapbook much these days.

Like Watching Paint Dry

How is the painting going, you ask? Painting furniture is posing it’s own challenges for me. Picking paint colour is one thing. Picking the type of paint is another. (I went with a greener solution — a special primer and acrylic-based paint combo because I didn’t want to fuss with oil-based paint, which is going to be outlawed in 2012, anyway). And then there’s a little thing called patience. I’m discovering I’m not as patient as I think I am. I have to remember that patience is a virtue and painting anything, whether it’s a piece of art or a wall in my basement, can be quite a meditative and zen-like experience. I’m learning I end up doing a better job if I take my time with all of the steps and don’t rush the brush strokes. So far, I’m really happy with the results I’m getting and I think this huge project will be well-worth the effort.

Over to you. Are you in the midst of spring cleaning your homestead? Are you having trouble getting rid of clutter or picking a paint colour? While you’re on a break waiting for the paint to dry, write a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Make a Sand and Candle Centerpiece For Your Home Spa

Posted by Maria on March 2, 2010 under Gift Ideas, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Spa Party, Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

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  :) .

Sand and candle centerpiece craft project.

Use this sand and candle centerpiece in your next home spa party.

Sand and candle centerpiece home spa project.

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.

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.

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.

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