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Serenity, Now!

Central New Yorkers often pick the dead of winter to get away to sunnier climes. But what if you’re a busy mom with barely enough time to take a shower, let alone a vacation?

Well, with some effort you can carve out a few hours for you alone, or you and your friends, to enjoy a spa getaway—at home.
There are three steps to enjoying your home spa: 1. Send the family out to a movie or hire a sitter. 2. Make a few simple beauty treatments with ingredients you probably have at home. 3. Slip into a robe, breathe deeply and relax.

Some say the modern idea of a “spa” dates back to the early civilizations of Babylon and Greece, when the wealthy “took the waters” to restore health. Others attribute the idea of rejuvenation and pampering to the Belgian town of Spa, revered since Roman times for its baths. Today the word is synonymous with spending time relaxing and paying close attention to the health of mind and body. But you don’t have to spend much time or pay a lot of money to focus on your well-being and create a sense of peace and indulgence.

The key to making the spa experience pleasurable is preparing the essentials in advance and putting them nearby. Don’t wait until after you’ve slipped into your nice, hot bath to discover your exfoliant is out of reach.

A spa adventure can be a memorable gathering of good friends or a chance to reconnect with your No. 1 pal: you! Pampering yourself with a relaxing and rejuvenating health treatment need not be expensive or take you far from home. After all, feelings of inner peace, satisfaction and even happiness are products of the mind and are not limited to particular places. Breathe. . .

Treating Yourself

Here’s how to prepare a luxurious afternoon of body care and relaxation that will pay off in a milder mood, enhanced health and natural beauty.

1. Fix an easy lunch or snack (see simple recipe ideas or use your favorites) to enjoy after your spa treatment.

2. Prepare all skin treatments; keep them within easy reach of your spa bath.

3. Lay out needed supplies like toiletries and towels.

4. Place bottles of chilled water nearby and drink frequently. Keeping hydrated is important to health and well-being.

5. Light candles; choose natural scents that appeal to you, but avoid heavy perfumes.

6. Shower with aromatherapy body wash, such as St. Ives Renewing Aroma Steam Body Wash, then shave legs and underarms if desired, and wash hair.

7. Wrap yourself in a warm robe or towel.

8. Cleanse face with plain lukewarm water and gently exfoliate skin with Maize Exfoliant (see recipes on page 20).

9. Blot skin dry and apply Oat and Honey Facial Mask.

10. Relax while mask dries and clip, shape and buff toenails.

11. Fill tub with warm water and add one capful of gentle shampoo or a squirt of bath oil. Avoid very hot water as it dries the skin excessively.

12. Sink into the tub and relax, breathing deeply for several minutes.

13. Exfoliate skin on arms, legs and body with Maize Exfoliant; rinse.

14. Scrub feet, rub calluses and rough heels with Sugar Scrub. (You can also use it on rough elbows and knees.)

15. Rinse body and emerge from tub to a soft robe or other comfortable clothing.

16. Apply medium-weight moisturizer for the body (for example, Lubriderm or Curel) and apply lotion to feet and hands (try Sally Hansen Radiant Hands Creme).

17. Enjoy a light lunch or snack.

18. Polish toenails with clear polish or massage nails with a few drops of olive oil.

19. Lie down or sit still, listening to calming music and breathing deeply.

20. Conclude your spa afternoon with a meditation walk if desired, to return energy levels.

Throw a Spa Party

The party version of the home spa magnifies the work—and the fun. Start by preparing an easy lunch or snack to enjoy after your spa treatment and asking friends to contribute one snack item and a beverage. A decent amount of space in your home, a sense of humor and a do-it-yourself spirit help when planning this kind of party. Having a house with several bathrooms doesn’t hurt either.

Assemble one set of the following for each friend, or ask each to bring the necessary supplies for herself: nail clippers, emery board, buffing board, hand and foot moisturizer, clear nail polish or nail cream, large towel and washcloth, mat or thick blanket for sitting or lying, robe or other comfortable lounging clothing. You’ll also need a rough schedule for your guests to use the tub—or enough basins and chairs for each to have her own footbath. Keep some extra towels on hand for a bit of sloshing water.

Concoct Oat and Honey Facial Mask, Maize Exfoliant and Sugar Scrub (see recipes on page 20). Make copies of recipes to give to each friend to take home. Have your husband take the kids out for a few hours or ask Grandma to baby-sit, and put the pets in a separate room. Slip on your best lounging outfit, sip some spa seltzer and wait for the doorbell.

Once your guests are assembled, have each:

1. Remove all traces of makeup and other impurities. Wash face with water and a steamy warm washcloth.

2. Apply Maize Exfoliant gently in a circular motion; rinse away with warm water and washcloth.

3. Blot skin dry and apply Oat and Honey Facial Mask and relax while mask dries.

4. Clip, shape and buff toenails; sit on yoga mats or heavy blankets on the floor to reach feet more comfortably.

5. Wash away Oat and Honey Facial Mask with water and washcloth.

6. Scrub legs, feet and rough heels with Sugar Scrub; rinse in tub or foot bath basins.

7. Apply a good quality lotion to feet and hands.

8. Enjoy a light lunch or snack.

9. Polish toenails with clear polish or massage nails with a few drops of olive oil.

10. Lie down or sit still, listen to music, breathe deeply.

Gentle Maize Exfoliant

½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup milk
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 drops tea tree oil*

Mix the above in a bowl and apply to skin with fingertips, massaging gently in a circular motion. Rinse by splashing warm water and use washcloth if desired. Avoid using any exfoliant immediately before a big event as skin may appear blotchy as impurities are lifted away.

*Tea tree oil is an essential for your medicine cabinet. It is an antimicrobial that can be applied to skin irritations, insect bites and athlete’s foot infections. A few drops can even be mixed with a half cup of water for a mouthwash.

Soothing Oat and Honey Facial Mask
1 cup natural plain yogurt
½ cup standard oatmeal (cut oats work better than whole rolled oats)
2 tablespoons honey

Mix together and apply to skin for 15 minutes. Wash mask off gently with washcloth. For oily skin, substitute a few drops of lime juice for honey. This mask works great for the face but the rest of your skin may be envious, so be prepared!

Smoothing Sugar Scrub (great for legs and feet)
1 cup white cane sugar
1 cup light olive or other vegetable oil
1 or 2 drops essential oil of lavender or orange
If desired, add small amount of pure aloe vera gel for healing.

Mix ingredients well, apply to skin in circular motion. Leave on skin for 3 to 4 minutes, then rinse. Apply moisturizer. Store remaining scrub in glass jar for a midweek pick-me-up. This scrub will leave your skin with a rosy glow. The cane sugar has natural acids that will help flake away dead skin cells.

Spa Snacks

Pita Sandwiches: They’re easy to prepare in advance, assemble in a snap and can be eaten without fuss or utensils. Buy whole wheat pita pocket bread, cut in half and fill with your choice of ingredients.

For a cream cheese veggie, combine softened low-fat cream cheese with shredded carrot, sliced green onion, chopped broccoli, and black olives; or with a couple cloves of roasted garlic, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and a pinch of Italian herbs. Top with alfalfa sprouts.

For meatier tastes, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise or mustard inside a pita, then layer with thinly sliced turkey, roast beef or ham and a flavorful cheese. Top with shredded lettuce and tomato or alfalfa sprouts.

Your favorite tuna or chicken salad can be dressed up as spa fare by spooning it onto a cantaloupe wedge and serving with a smattering of whole grain crackers, or sliding it into a pita half.

Spa Spritzer: Combine plain seltzer water or still mineral water with the juice of one lime and garnish with additional slices of lemon or lime. Infuse with herbs like rosemary or mint by crushing herbs, adding to water and storing in refrigerator for a few hours. Stir, strain and serve in a tall glass with a straw.

Wine Spritzer:
Mix equal parts of white wine and plain seltzer, garnish with a frozen strawberry or a few frozen raspberries.

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York