A Time to Indulge
A rejuvenating alternative to home shopping parties is a home spa party for moms to celebrate their special day in May.
Gather a few friends for an afternoon away from stresses and interruptions. All you need to do is assemble a few treatment ingredients you probably have around the house anyway, and, voila! Your living room has transformed into a delightful spa complete with naturally pampering treatments and relaxing conversation.
Two key elements to enjoying the party along with your guests is to prepare ahead of time and to delegate.
Keep things simple: Don’t go overboard with either your spa treatments or your menu. By offering a couple of facial treatments (Maize Exfoliant and Soothing Oat and Honey Facial Mask) and two foot treatments (Lavender Foot Soak and Smoothing Sugar Scrub), you will create two separate “stations” of facial care and foot care. Guests can move from one to the other in pairs or groups of three. Choose menu items that incorporate foods that are currently in season; they will be fresher, tastier and less expensive.
For my spa party, I invited about eight friends and quickly received responses from four of them, Cynthia Mannino, Connie Huang, and Maureen Fox, who live in Hamilton, and Candace Bemont who lives in Eaton. I recognized that although my friends’ children were different ages, and some had jobs outside the home and some didn’t, each woman had this in common: She did not take time out of her busy day to pamper and treat herself to relaxation and self-care.
Hostess’ DiaryI admit I was a little nervous about how things would turn out at my spa party. Would I have enough treatments to go around? (Plenty!) Would my guests enjoy their spa time? (They loved it!) Would I be able to relax and enjoy it myself? (Absolutely!)
We started by filling plastic wash basins with warm water and sprinkling in a half cup of the Lavender Foot Soak. Candace and Maureen went first, placing their feet into water to relax for 15 or 20 minutes. This allowed time for skin to soften, for dead cells to loosen and to inhale the aromas of the natural lavender scent.
Candace, a stay-home-mom, said she had often heard about make-at-home spa treatments but had never tried them. “My mother always had books around the house with similar remedies,” she said, “but to be honest, I never saw her using any of them, or taking the time to pamper herself.”
She said she will reserve some treatments for alone time, but plans to try some with her three children, ages 9, 4 and almost 2, at their bath time. “I think it is very important for my kids to see me doing things for myself,” she said.
While they were soaking their feet, Connie and Cynthia cleansed their faces and then applied the Maize Exfoliant. After a few minutes, they removed the exfoliant with splashes of warm water and applied the Oat and Honey Mask. Meanwhile, the foot soakers were ready to use the Sugar Scrub, rubbing it on luxuriously. After they rinsed their feet and legs, they emptied and washed out the basins for the next set.
Connie is an industrial designer and instructor with a 10-month-old son. She works part time but still feels that there is little time in her day for treating herself.
“After I had my son, I never ever have any time to do facials. The only thing I do in my spare time is get more sleep. So this party was really nice. I didn’t know that you could use cornmeal to exfoliate your skin. My skin is now so smooth!” She knew some of the remedies already, and remembers her grandmother in Taiwan using things from the kitchen to apply to skin as healing treatment.
“Now that my baby is growing up,” Connie said, “things are getting better, and I have a little more time.”
I didn’t want to miss any of the fun so I applied my own exfoliant and mask while Candace and Maureen were applying theirs.
“I have no excuse for not taking more time for myself,” said Maureen, who is a program supervisor with Community Action Partnership and has two grown sons and grandchildren. “I have never been to a spa, and I don’t really like people touching my feet, but this was do-it-yourself. It was awesome.”
She once considered going to a spa, but was deterred by the expense. “Now that I see the kinds of things you put together, it is probably similar to what a professional spa uses,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing that you can feel like you feel.”
By the time the second set of foot soakers were finished, I was ready to sink my own feet into a soothing basin.
Cynthia has two children, ages 8 and 11, and cares for them and volunteers in the community.
“I’ve never been to a spa,” she admitted. “It seems too pampered for me. But this was nice and fun. I was thinking this might be a great activity to do with our Girl Scout troop.”
Candace said many of the at-home spa treatments she’s seen involve complicated concoctions, time-consuming processes or expensive ingredients. “I’m sorry, but if I’m spending $2 for an avocado, I’m going to eat it not put it on my skin,” she said, laughing.
Conversations ranged from books we’d recently read to our personal feelings on social justice topics and even to our own family traditions—like them or not.
All four women said that they appreciated that this party did not involve my “selling” them anything and there was no pressure to spend. I did not prepare a time schedule for this party; I let guests share and coordinate their applications, and guided them gently if someone lingered too long at one station or had questions. A group of friends or neighbors getting together for this gathering could each contribute the separate ingredients or prepared mixtures and even share the recipe for a treatment they brought.
What would they be doing if they were home right now? Probably laundry, one said with a laugh.
“Usually women are caregivers so they feel like if they do things for themselves, they are sacrificing doing for others,” Connie said. “Meanwhile, there’s your husband sitting on the couch reading a magazine or watching TV.”
“Nobody is telling us not to,” said Cynthia. “But we moms don’t often do things for ourselves.”
Maureen is planning to get together with her family in a few months. “We have a couple of hours to do something with just the women,” she said. “So maybe we’ll do something like this!”
I gave each of my friends a small gift pack containing a washcloth, a card with recipes and instructions I created on my printer, a half-cup sample of the lavender foot soak, an emery board, and an elastic hair band, all tied with raffia.
Three weeks before event date
- Send out invitations by e-mail or U.S. mail with date, time (allow about three hours), location, RSVP date, and a general description of what you'll be doing
Two weeks before
Plan menu for snack foods (keeping it light, fresh and healthy).
Research online or in natural health magazines for treatments or use the ones provided here.
One week before
Shop for ingredients you'll need for treatments and snacks.
Send an e-mail reminder to those who said they can make it or place a phone call to remind about the event.
Remind guests not to shave their legs the day of the spa party--shaving irritates skin and may make it too sensitive for a leg scrub.
Buy enough foot basins so that at least two people can soak at a time.
A few days before
Wash, dry and fold towels you will provide to guests (allow one bath towel, one hand towel and one washcloth per person). Store in a clean laundry basket.
Decide which serving dishes and containers you will use for snacks, and how you plan to present the treatments.
Measure ingredients for exfoliant and mask, keeping dry ingredients separate from liquid ones until guests arrive.
The day before
Prepare snacks that can be made in advance.
Mix sugar scrub and store in plastic container or decorative wide-mouth jar.
One hour before
Set table for snacks.
Wash and drain fruit, cut into bite-size pieces, store in refrigerator.
15 minutes before
Mix spritzer and put out snacks.
Sip a glass of water and relax until guests arrive.
When guests arrive
Ask them to help themselves to a glass of spritzer.
Assign mixing the exfoliant to one guest, mixing the mask to another, and ask another to pass out the towel sets.
Layer one or two towels under foot basins and place in front of a comfortable chair or sofa.
Asparagus-topped baguette sandwiches. Rinse asparagus stalks and remove fibrous ends. Cut into 3- to 4-inch lengths and then cut in half lengthwise to make half sticks. Toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Transfer to baking sheet and roast in oven until asparagus sticks begin to brown slightly and turn bright green. Slice fresh French baguette in a thin diagonal, spread generously with softened cream cheese mixed with dried herbs or fresh minced green onion tops. Place 2 to 3 pieces of asparagus on top of bread slice, serve chilled or at room temperature.
Humus with basil pesto. Drain a can of garbanzo beans and place beans in food processor or blender. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste) and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Pulse until beans begin to puree, adding more oil to achieve smooth creamy consistency. Add tablespoon or more of prepared basil pesto. (Make by processing fresh basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts or walnuts until a paste forms. Excess can be stored in freezer.) Or use a few slices of roasted red pepper, or simply garlic and some fresh herbs. Serve with pita chips or corn chips for dipping i
Juice spritzer. Combine a two-liter bottle of cranberry-flavored ginger ale, another liter of plain seltzer and a small can of frozen limeade for a light drink with a sparkle. Add sliced limes for color and zest. Not too much sweetness makes the drink refreshing and tasty. You can also fill glasses halfway with white wine and top with spritzer. Just about any juice you have on hand will work when combined with plain seltzer and a bit of clear soda.
Fruit. Fresh fruit is not only refreshing but pleasing to the eye. Cut up any fruit in season into bite-sized pieces or have it washed and ready to eat.
Sweets. Serve a simple sweet that is easy to eat without having to do a lot of cutting or serving. Fancy cookies or indulgent chocolates that moms appreciate will do the trick. Try serving organic dark chocolates since they have beneficial antioxidants and other healthful nutrients.
Keep nail clippers, cuticle shapers and trimmers immersed in a small glass of 50 percent rubbing alcohol to keep them clean and disinfected between uses. Offer inexpensive emery boards that can be taken home after use. Use Smoothing Sugar Scrub to carefully rub in circular motion along arms and elbows to remove dead skin and restore moisture while inhaling the aroma of essential oils. Naturally occurring alpha-hydroxy acids in cane sugar help to loosen old skin and leave the skin feeling rejuvenated. Clip, then buff nails using emery board, and apply a drop or two of light olive oil scented lightly with essential oil of lavender for an easy and effective nail and cuticle oil. Massage into nails and cuticle after manicuring.
Soak feet in the Lavender Foot Soak for about 15 minutes, then use a callus remover to carefully rub down rough spots with a gentle, circular motion. Scoop out a handful of Smoothing Sugar Scrub and apply to rinsed legs and feet. Scrub for a few minutes in a circular motion, giving rough spots extra attention. Rinse in foot tub with warm water. Blot dry gently with a towel. Skin will feel moisturized and smoothly polished. Can use Sugar Scrub on arms, shoulders, elbows, and any other dry or scaly skin to achieve a polished and supple feel. Do not use on freshly shaved legs or irritated skin.
Start by washing your face to remove makeup. Apply a small amount of Maize Exfoliant to skin, rubbing very gently in a circular motion, staying away from sensitive eye area. Continue to rub to loosen dead skin cells and remove all traces of dirt and impurities. Allow to dry for a few minutes so that the drying corn meal will extract dirt from pores. Rinse with warm, not hot, water and blot dry with a clean towel.
Immediately apply the Oatmeal and Yogurt mask to soothe and moisturize skin while the honey heals and repairs skin. Apply generously and relax while the yogurt begins to dry. Once you begin to feel a bit of tightness in your face, rinse the mixture gently by splashing warm water.
Blot dry and use a facial moisturizer if desired.
Orange Cuticle Oil. Blend 1 tablespoon of light olive oil with 4 to 5 drops of orange essential oil and dab on nails then massage to moisturize. Adds a natural luster to nails and scents hands.
Maize Exfoliant. Combine ½ cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup milk, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon light olive oil, and 5 drops of tea tree oil (optional). Apply a small amount to wet skin and rub in a circular motion to gently lift away dirt and old skin cells. Rinse with warm water and blot dry with towel.
Soothing Oat and Honey Facial Mask. Mix 1 cup plain natural yogurt, ½ cup plain instant oatmeal (cut oats work better than rolled oats), and 1 tablespoon honey. Apply generously to freshly cleansed/exfoliated and dried skin. Leave on for 15 minutes then rinse with warm water. Blot dry and follow with a light facial moisturizer.
Smoothing Sugar Scrub. Stir together 1 cup cane sugar, 1 cup light olive or other oil, 5 drops essential oil (such as lavender, rose or orange). Apply handful of scrub to wet skin on feet, arms, legs, elbows or anywhere you want smooth, glowing skin. Rinse with warm water and blot dry.
Lavender Foot Soak. Combine ½ cup Epsom salt, 4 to 5 drops lavender essential oil (or any other essential oil) and store in airtight container. Use by mixing into a tub of warm, not hot, water and soak feet for about 15 minutes. Follow with Sugar Scrub to loosen dead skin cells.
Photos by Sami Arseculeratne Martinez