Three Wise Home Spa Gifts: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

Posted by Maria on December 21, 2009 under Aromatherapy, Bath and Body, Books, Magazines, Music, Gift Ideas, Hands and Nails, Home spa, Homespunspa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Recipes, Self-Care, Sleep, Spirituality, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | 5 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Winter Solstice is here. Today, December 21st, is the shortest day in terms of day light hours of the year. The sun will set in these parts at 4:17 pm and the day is already gray and overcast to begin with. On the bright side, the days are going to start getting longer again for the next six months starting tomorrow.

It seems like only yesterday I was writing about Summer Solstice and talking with my Swedish friends about how they sleep in broad daylight. I suspect they’re not having too much trouble in that regard these days.

My version of the star of wonder -- it's actually a photo I took of a lunar eclipse in March 2007.

My version of the star of wonder -- it's actually a photo I took of a lunar eclipse in March 2007.

All of this talk about astronomy is leading me to think about the night sky and how the three Wise Men followed the brightest star that would eventually lead them to the baby Jesus so they could deliver their gifts. If you want a refresher on the story, here are the words to the Christmas carol, We Three Kings of Orient Are, words and music by John H. Hopkins.

We Three Kings of Orient Are

(1) We Three Kings of Orient Are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.


O, star of wonder
star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading still proceeding,
Guide us to Thy perfect light.

(2) Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.

(3) Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him, God most high.

(4) Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

(5) Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and sacrifice.
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Earth to heav’n replies.

Back in the days of yore, gold, frankincense and myrrh were considered the creme de la creme of gifts — if you had to shop for a king or queen or royalty of any kind, these presents would have been the way to go. These days, you don’t hear much about frankincense and myrrh, but of course, you still can’t go wrong by giving someone gold, (hint, hint:>).

Have you ever thought about adding gold, frankincense and myrrh to your home spa?

If you want to use frankincense, here is a lovely recipe for a Shower Sachet. Hanging this herbal sachet from your shower head as the water runs will generate a steamy aroma to take care of your mood, skin, hair and breathing passages all at the same time.

Shower Sachet

from the book, How to Throw a Home Spa Pajama Party the Homespunspa Way, by Maria Koropecky, page 78.


  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds — Helpful in the home spa as a tension reliever, digestive aid and skin conditioner.
  • 1 tsp thyme — Good for sleep. Adds shine and strength to dark hair.
  • 1 tsp spearmint — Makes a refreshing, aromatic tea which chases away feverish colds, aids digestion, freshens breath and cools skin.
  • 1 tsp sage — Combines with other herbs to induce sleep. Treats normal or damaged hair, giving it extra shine and covers gray stands.
  • 1 tsp Frankincense crystals — Enhance deep breathing and meditation.
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds — Used to tone the scalp and to wash normal hair.
  • 1 tsp yarrow — Used for insomnia, headaches. Improves hair’s manageability. Excellent for oily or problem skin.
  • 1 tsp lemon peel — Can be massaged into temples for headaches or added to bath products for zesty aroma.

Method:  The easiest thing to use for the shower sachet is a pre-made (drawstring included) organza gift bag that you can find in a craft store. Or you can make your own pouch with cheesecloth and some ribbon. Place the herbs in the small bag and secure the opening.

Manner:  Squeeze the bag with your fingers to release the aroma and tie it to the shower head so the water hits it as it runs. Turn on the shower and step inside. The steam from the shower should intensify the aroma of the herbs and your tension will evaporate. Your hair and skin will also benefit from the herbs.

Storage / Shelf-Life:  Shelf-life will last at least 3 months, depending on the freshness of the original ingredients.

And if you want to use myrrh, here is a recipe for an exfoliating scrub. Ground rosehips add delightful red flecks to this purely luxurious recipe and you’ll be surprised by the depth of fragrance coming from the myrrh.

Sugar & Myrrh Massage Scrub for Hands

from the book, How to Throw a Home Spa Pajama Party the Homespunspa Way, by Maria Koropecky, page 56.

  • 1 cup sugar — Granules are abrasive and make sweet alternatives to salt in exfoliating scrubs.
  • 1 TB myrrh gum powder — Rich, exotic, velvety and smoky. It is known to treat dry skin and gum problems.
  • 1 tsp rosehips, ground — Antidepressant and sedative. Add to beauty recipes for scent, colour and for their astringent, anti-inflammatory and wrinkle-reducing properties.
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil — Ideal for massage because it is light, non-greasy, odourless and leaves a satin-smooth finish on skin.

Method:  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly.

Manner:  Massage mixture on your hands for a minute. Rinse off with warm water.

Storage / Shelf-Life:  Keep leftovers in a sterilized jar in the fridge. Use within 3 months.

So I’ve got the frankincense and myrrh covered, but gold in a home spa treatment, you ask? Yes, it’s possible. Nowadays, you can find edible (food grade) gold leaf to add to your home spa recipes. And gold is not just a pretty face. Gold smooths out wrinkles, draws out impurities, softens skin and reduces puffiness. Gold gets glowing reviews all around. Apparently, Cleopatra, the mother of all home spa beauty secrets, slept with a gold mask on her face every night.

The thing is, I haven’t developed or tested a home spa recipe using gold yet. That’s on my to do list over the holidays. But here’s your chance to contribute a recipe to this blog. If you have a recipe using gold, by all means, post it here. You can leave your golden home spa recipe in a comment and I’ll make sure it appears online. I would really appreciate it. And as always, if you don’t know where you can find any of these ingredients or supplies, ask me and I’ll shed some light on the path for you.

Pumpkin goes to the Spa – A Home Spa Pumpkin Facial Recipe

Posted by Maria on November 3, 2009 under Aromatherapy, Face, Facials, Green Living, Home spa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Nutrition, Photo gallery, Recipes, Self-Care, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | 5 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Wanna look this relaxed? Photo by Maria Koropecky

Wanna look this relaxed? Photo by Maria Koropecky

Are you wondering what to do with your leftover jack-o-lantern now that Halloween has past?

Last Friday, the 30th, I was invited to a “Carve it Up” pumpkin carving potluck Halloween party and this photo shows my handiwork. (Thank goodness he didn’t end up like some of his buddies cracked open on the pavement). I can’t remember the last time before this that I dabbled with pumpkins — it may have been 20 years ago for all I know — but it all came back to me quickly — just like riding a bike.

It’s a cheap thrill

There’s something to be said about the cool sensation of plunging into a fresh pumpkin and hauling out all of the stringy fibers, seeds and goop with your bare hands. And of course the smell will unlock distant childhood memories too. My inner artist was very content and it was quite a therapeutic experience for me.

Pumpkin’s Fringe Benefits

Pumpkins are an excellent spa ingredient for all kinds of reasons. Pumpkins are a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, as well as Zinc, Alpha and Beta Carotene, Potassium, Magnesium and Iron.

Pump-skins can be used in all kinds of spa treatments including: shampoos, shower gels, bubblebaths, soaps, massage, salt and sugar scrubs, manicures, pedicures, enzyme peels and facials. Although mild and gentle, pumpkins are excellent exfoliators and leave your skin feeling pillow soft.

The pumpkin flavour goes well with apples, brown sugar, coconut, cream, ginger, honey, mint, vanilla and yogurt.

Here is a quick and easy home spa pumpkin facial recipe that I developed and tested yesterday. And today my skin feels extra soft and smooth:

Pumpkin Facial

  • 3 TB pumpkin puree (plain and unseasoned) — Loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals, pumpkins exfoliate and soften skin.
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil — Pressed from juicy olives, this lovely fragrant, heavy oil calms, soothes, nourishes, cleans, softens and moisturizes skin.
  • 1 TB maple syrup — helps Maple trees survive Canadian winters and has made its way into the spa world as a skin conditioning treatment.
  • 1 TB plus 1 tsp witch hazel distillate — makes a popular pore-tightening liquid toner for oily and blemished skin because of its astringent, anti-inflammatory, cooling and cleansing properties.
  • 2 tsps cornstarch — lends a silky and luxurious feel to recipes, making skin feel smooth and soft.

To make the boiled pumpkin puree:

  1. Hollow out your pumpkin if you haven’t already. Reserve the seeds for roasting.
  2. Cut the pumpkin into large (1 and a half to 2 or so inches) cubes. (I only ended up using half of my small/medium sized pumpkin which yielded 6 cups of puree).
  3. Throw the chunks into your biggest cooking pot and cover with water like you would potatoes. For a spa recipe, you don’t need to add any seasonings like salt — in this case, the plainer the better. And please don’t add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to boost the aromatherapy because those spices can really irritate the skin.
  4. Boil, covered, for at least an hour but check at the 30 minute mark. You want the pumpkin pieces to be fork-tender.
  5. Once cooked, remove the pieces from the pot. Cut off the skin and discard. Drop a few pieces at a time in a blender. Add some water from the pot for extra liquid. Blend to an even consistency. Let the orangey puree cool to room temperature before applying it to your skin.

To make the facial:

  1. Mix the pumpkin puree with the olive oil, witch hazel and cornstarch in a small bowl. It should be the consistency of apple sauce. You can substitute another oil, like corn oil, sweet almond oil or sunflower oil for the olive oil if you prefer. You can also add a few drops of your choice of skin-friendly essential oils, like carrot seed essential oil, to this recipe to further customize it to your skin type. The possibilities and combinations are endless.
  1. Drape a towel over a pillow and create a space to put your feet up and relax.
  2. Apply the pumpkin mash to your freshly cleaned face with your fingers, covering everything to the hairline and down your neck, except your eyes and lips. (You can also apply this recipe to your hands, feet, hair and back at another time if you’d like).
  3. Lie down, close your eyes and relax for 10 to 20 minutes. (Note: although this is unlikely, if your skin feels irritated and if you feel uncomfortable soon after applying the recipe, discontinue the treatment early and rinse of the pumpkin from your face. I felt a little mild tingling but I wasn’t concerned).
  4. Rinse the pumpkin from your face with warm water and towel off. It’s a very thin recipe so it shouldn’t clog your plumbing.
  5. Finish your treatment with more Witch Hazel. Apply Witch Hazel with a cotton ball to tone the skin and to remove any excess residue left behind from the treatment.
Storage / Shelf Life

You will have lots of pumpkin puree leftovers. The good news is you can freeze the bounty for another treatment down the road or you can use the puree in baking recipes, like pumpkin loaf.

You can refrigerate the leftover spa treatment mixture and use it within the next 3 days.

Your Turn

What did you do with your Halloween pumpkin? Write a comment and pass on your ideas.

And let me know if you like this recipe. I would love to hear your feedback. And for more recipes like this one, buy a copy of my book, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way available through

Stay Cool as a Cucumber this Summer

Posted by Maria on August 2, 2009 under Bath and Body, Home spa, Homespunspa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Pets, Recipes, Self-Care, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Is it hot enough for ya?

Somehow I’ve managed to stay pretty cool during this past week’s record-breaking heatwave on the West coast.

Sleeping through the night hasn’t been much of an issue for me. For once I’m grateful for living in a basement apartment. It stays pretty cool without air conditioning.

Water on the Inside

I’ve also increased my water intake during the day. Staying hydrated is key.

And the same goes for your pets. You can tell if your animals aren’t getting enough fluids if they’re panting or if their muscles are twitching. Of course, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make ‘em drink. At least have some bowls of cool water available to them in case they do get thirsty.

A few weeks ago, I asked my personal trainer why I was feeling so tired when I woke up in the morning even though I went to bed early and thought the quality of my sleep was pretty good. She said I wasn’t drinking enough water and recommended drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning and sipping water throughout the day, especially since I’m exercising more.

Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. I don’t recommend drinking beverages that have extra sugar, sodium, caffeine or alcohol, however. These ingredients will dehydrate you and will get you back to square one – that is, being uncomfortable in the heat. Being dehydrated makes you sluggish, tired and fatigued – which isn’t fun at all.

On the other hand, keeping yourself well-hydrated during the day will help you regulate your body temperature at night, which in turn will help you sleep better, which will make your days brighter.

Take a page from the book of cucumber

Cucumbers are mostly composed of water. The expression “cool as a cucumber” stems from the fact that the inner core of a cucumber is known to be significantly cooler than the outer skin, in spite of the external room temperature.

According to folklore, cucumbers are said to be “ruled by the moon” and everyone onhealthy knows that the moon influences the tides and our moods and affects our sleep.

Cucumber Water

1/4 English Cucumber, thinly sliced in rounds – is widely known as a remedy for puffy eyes. Its soothing, cooling and toning properties also work on general skin problems including wrinkles.
1 Litre of fresh water – Drinking water hydrates skin, lubricates joints and muscles and helps the body flush out toxins.

Wash the cucumber and cut into slices. Place the cucumber slices in a glass pitcher. Fill the pitcher with cold water. The taste of cucumber will infuse the water over time, making a refreshing drink.

Keep chilled in the fridge. Pour over ice in a nice, tall glass. Alternatively, you can freeze the cucumber water as ice cubes and then add them to your favourite drinks like tomato juice.

Water on the Outside

And don’t forget, water and cucumbers work well on the outside of your body, too. Taking a cool bath or shower before bed could make all of the difference for you when 2:00am rolls around.

Cucumber Bath for Hot Summer Nights

Soaking in a bath cleans the body and relaxes the mind.

1 cucumber, pureed – Matches the pH level of skin and is good for all skin types. Contains potassium and Vitamin C. Helps relieve the pain from sunburned skin.
1 12″x12″ piece of cheesecloth or sieve.

Wash the cucumber and cut into chunks. Place the cucumber in a blender or food processor and puree to an even consistency. Put the pulp in a sieve and strain out the water or achieve the same result with a cheesecloth. Reserve the cucumber water for your bath. If you want, you can add the pulp to a salad or apply it to your face as a face mask.

Draw a cool/warm bath before bedtime. Add the reserved cucumber water to the bathwater. Sit, soak and cool off.

I hope these tips help you enjoy your summer more. If you have any comments about this post or have any sleep-related questions, please let me know.

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