Tag Archives: wellness

Quiet Time

Via Vladimir de Thezier

This week I came across this in my Facebook feed: Stop the glorification of busy. I don’t know where or who it came from — it’s one of those things that have spread virally. But the post that I saw came with a link to this NY Times column by Tim Kreider on the perils of perpetual busyness and the human person’s need for idle time. It resonated so much with me. I admittedly am naturally inclined toward indolence, and I don’t like it when I get too busy to do the things I like to do — like indulge in my hobbies, spend time with people I love, and especially, stare into space and do absolutely nothing. And a statement from the article put so succinctly why these do-nothing periods ought to be prized and protected:

“The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration…”

Idle time provides the necessary incubation period for random nebulous thoughts and experiences to fly around freely and ultimately come together in those breakthrough “Eureka!” moments that spur inventions, discoveries, and other movements that change the world. Kreider further wrote that ironically, we need idle time to get things done.

This week happens to be one for “idle” time — as in time of prayer and no work. It’s Passover week in Judaism, and in many Christian cultures, it’s Holy Week. Here in the Philippines, Holy Thursday and Good Friday are non-working holidays, and most commercial and leisure establishments are closed, and all other activity in the city seems rather muted. Well this could be because a lot of folks have fled to the beaches for the long weekend. But for many others, it’s time for spending time with family, doing visita iglesia, and/or retreating into reflection and prayer.

Midori posted some ideas some time ago on Carving Out Quiet Space, and it’s a great read. For today’s post I thought I’d share with you some more inspiration for your own quiet nook in which to spend your quiet time.

Via Homedit

An enclosed space would be ideal, if only to minimize the outside world intruding into your sanctum. The image above is of the interior of the beautiful Tree of Life Chapel in Portugal. While it may not be practical or feasible to construct an entirely new building, the warm, welcoming wood and the graphic lines may be something that you want to apply to your room.

From Designation: Unknown and Embracing my Inner Wonder Woman Along the Way

But you don’t need to occupy an entire room, a corner will do, as in this space which only includes a chair, a side table, and a few visual pieces.

By Tom Spencer via Soul of the Garden

It doesn’t even have to be a corner! This window sill does beautifully.

All that silence and nothingness can seem intimidating for the perennially busy. An element that facilitates some sort of activity that goes hand-in-hand with the introspection could be just the thing.

Via 24-7 Prayer

This here is a “prayer tree” which you can look at or stick with prayers and names of family members you want to pray for. Click on the image for more ideas like it.

Via Fine Art America

Gardens make awesome prayer spaces. Nothing recharges and gets you in touch with your life than life itself springing forth from the earth.

Via My Walworth County

Here’s a novel idea, at least for me — labyrinths. These are not meant to confuse or make one lost, but rather serve as paths for quiet walks. These walks are said to quiet the mind, restore balance and relieve stress. They can be indoors or outdoors, and as big or as small as space allows.

Via UUWorld.org

Via Tribe

So here’s to some quiet alone time! May the concerns of work and chores not encroach on yours!

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged , ,

Scrub-a-Dub: DIY Body Scrub

Spa scrub treatment

Image via Saffron Las Vegas

I love that glowing, tingling feeling I get after some me time in those havens of hedonism also known as day spas? It’s addictive bliss, I tell you. But it’s pricey bliss — which is probably what prevents me from indulging in a massage or body scrub treatment everyday.

There are actually not a lot of things that would stop me or you from getting some of that gorgeous pampering at home. Of course it’s not quite the same level of decadence as getting it in your favorite haven of hedonism, but it should tide you over until your next spa splurge. I’m all for the DIY spa experience, whether it’s creating a spa-like ambiance, learning about massage, or — as I’ll discuss today — making your own body scrubs out of pantry items.

Bali Spa Scrub Components. Via Alam Jimbaran.

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. All it took was a bout of serious scrub craving, some research, and an inventory of the kitchen, and boom! — homemade scrubs! They’re all just combination of three elements:

1. A gently abrasive exfoliating element. This will provide the scrubbing action, such as salt or sugar. This is what will slough of the dead skin cells and boost circulation, which are what create that tingly afterglow. Look around the kitchen and see the possibilities in the things you find there. Test some on the back of your hand to check if it’s not too rough.

Here are some suggested ingredients:

  • Sugar. White sugar will do, but brown sugar has an awesome, subtle fragrance to boot, plus some additional nutrients.
  • Salt. This has the added benefit of being a natural antiseptic and detoxifier, so it kills germs and draws out impurities from your skin.
  • Coffee grounds. Coffee is an antioxidant and the skin can absorb some of that magic. I also hear that the caffeine does other wonders too, like increases blood flow, improve skin texture and minimize the appearance of cellulite.
  • Oatmeal. This one is very gentle and is great for sensitive skin.
  • Ground rice or beans
  • Ground nuts. This seems like such a waste – I would rather use the almonds and walnuts for actual eating. But if nuts are cheap and plentiful where you are, then go for it.

Brown sugar makes a good scrub. Image via Rent the Runway on Campus.

2. A moisturizing element. This provides nourishment for the skin and aids in keeping it soft and supple. Look for liquids or soft, creamy items.

  • Olive oil. A lot of skin care products use olive oil as their main ingredient. It has vitamin E which is a wonderful antioxidant. You don’t need to add too much, a couple of tablespoons to every cup of exfoliant will do the trick.
  • Coconut Oil. This one’s another one of those wonder oils which have tons of nourishing and healing properties.
  • Avocado. It’s a creamy, buttery fruit, and rich it all sorts of nutrients. So if you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself by not using it in a salad or some other dish, feel free to throw it in your scrub mix.
  • Honey. This gives you very light moisturization. This is perfect if you want to avoid feeling too greasy.
  • Milk. This is said to be Cleopatra’s beauty secret — she bathed in it. Charlize Theron as Snow White’s evil stepmother did it too in this scene from Snow White and the Huntsman. The only downside to using milk is that it doesn’t keep, so any scrub you make with it will have to be good for a single use only.

3. Scent. Olfactory pleasure is a key element in the spa experience. This may be unnecessary if your scrub or moisture elements, such as the coffee or honey, already have great fragrances. It is also said that certain scents evoke certain moods — lavender, for example, relaxes you and contributes to a good night’s rest. You can use essential oils to add this element to your scrub, but I like to stick to the readily available, garden (or kitchen) variety scents.

  • Cocoa. Who doesn’t love chocolate? A teeny pinch goes a long way in releasing those feel-good endorphins into your system.
  • Citrus zests. Your skin would thank you too for the Vitamin C, phytonutrients and antioxidants.
  • Herbs. If you’ve got rosemary, lavender, or lemongrass growing in your garden, add them to your scrub.
  • Spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves — raid your spice rack! These would add a dash of the heady and exotic.

Image via Occupy Monsanto

So here’s the basic equation again:
Body scrub = gentle abrasive + moisturizer + scent.

Mix or shake together in a jar. If your using oils, you’re looking for a clumpy, semi-moist. If using any other moisturizer, then it can be more saturated. It’s not rocket science. Winging it is the way to go. It’s all about finding what feels good for you. Just combine 1 or 2 ingredients from each category, put them in a jar, and keep in the bathroom for lovely after-shower body treats. Needless to say, if you’re allergic to any of these foods, then don’t use them as scrub ingredients.

Here are some yummy scrub ideas.

Orange dreamsicle sugar scrub. Via In Between Laundry.

Lemon Sugar Body Scrub. Via The Sweetest Occasion.

Lavander and Coffee Scrub. Via Flickr user Marju Randmer.

Body scrub made with salt, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and olive oil. Via Farmers Market Online.

Spiced Chai Sugar Scrub. Via In Between Laundry.

Posted in Kitchen & Bath | Tagged , ,

Giving Your Home the Spa Treatment

Image via Contemplations of My Notions

No matter what your profession is, whether you work from home or in an office downtown, it is a challenge to keep the job away from your home life. Here are some touches you can easily add to your home that can create a spa-like atmosphere that is radically different from the daily drudgery, you can’t help but leave the work where it belongs, which is anywhere but home.


Nothing creates ambiance like sound. Do we not use music to set up the mood for a party, for a long drive, or for a romantic dinner? So for your relaxing little nook you can have a fountain that gurgles softly or little wind chime to tinkle gently (i think clay and bamboo chimes make the best sounds).

Dharma chime

Terracotta chimes via India Mike

Even if you are nowhere near the woods or the ocean, you still listen to nature’s soothing sounds — albeit on your music player! Note: Keep the volume low.


There’s something so quiet about diffused brightness of dawn and the soft dim twilight that conditions you for happy thoughts and an easy mood. You can achieve the same effect with muted lighting and candles.

Image from The Spa at Millbrook

Bamboo-inspired garden lights


Light up a stick of incense, or if that’s not your thing, you can use scented candles or aromatherapy pots. Lemongrass and eucalyptus are popular scents.

Image by Declan McCullagh Photography

Lounging furniture

Atmosphere is one thing, actual kicking back and lying down is another. I absolutely love Kenneth Cobonpue’s Mermaid Chair and its two ultra-relaxing configurations.

And I found these beautiful wooden bathtubs by Alegna over at Dornob. My jaw just dropped when I saw these!

Image via Dornob

Scrubs and Soaks

And how about actual spa treatments? Massages would be awesome! Call a masseuse or have your partner give you a backrub. You can also raid the kitchen for some pampering goodies feel really good, and may even make your skin look better.

Make a body scrub out of salt, sugar, and a little olive oil. Mix them in a jar and rub a handful into your skin after a shower. Or try this foot soak from Martha Stewart and give your tired achy feet a well-deserved break.

Image from Bubble Goddess

Unplug Your Psyche

All these are just external ways to help you relax and get your mind off work, but you have to do the mental unplug yourself. There was a great article on Apartment Therapy a couple of weeks ago that was just for this very thing.

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged ,

A Perfect Nook

Photograph by Douglas Friedman for House Beautiful via The Southern Eclectic

Many of us have areas in our home that we just don’t know what to do with. Maybe it’s a narrow alcove at the top of the stairs or an attic with an impractically low ceiling. With a little imagination these architectural oddities can be turned into the perfect cozy little nook. Here are a few ideas that might show you how to turn that awkward spot in your house into your new favourite place to enjoy a book or have your morning coffee.

The above window seat shows how built-ins can be used to create a charming conversation or bird watching nook. Using reclaimed wood to frame the space is a genius idea, it really defines the space.

Re-Nest via Ohdeedoh

What kid wouldn’t go absolutely crazy for a play kitchen like this? I think I want one for myself, only full-size. The molding and window box are adorable touches. The little girl who owns this should consider herself one lucky kid indeed.

Abode Love via Made by Girl

This lovely little office is in the home of the design savvy Laurel of Abode Love. If you haven’t been to her blog before it’s well worth checking out. The pictures of her home are stunning, but I was especially taken by the mini office she created. The broad striped walls draw your eye in, and the transparent chair, fabulous yellow curtains and personalized touches keep this office with a view feeling airy and cheerful.

via bookshelf porn

This has to be the perfect place to snuggle up with a book. I love how this little hideaway has its own bookshelf and light fixture. This would be a really sweet idea to integrate into a kid’s bedroom too.

via Lonny Magazine

This gorgeous custom banquette creates a stylish but relaxed dining area. I love how architectural this space looks and the exquisite symmetry of the light fixtures and styling.  What a wonderful place to enjoy breakfast and some family time.

via Design Sponge

A guest bedroom in the attic is by no means a new idea, but I really love what interior designer Jessica Helgerson has done with this attic. Simplicity and warmth fill this room and the white bedding paired with a shell chandelier give this bedroom the relaxed feeling of a retreat, which is just the atmosphere we’d all love to give our guests when they come to stay.

Lessons from Yogurt

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Cacik, a Turkish dish similar to the Greek tzatziki, made of yogurt and cucumbers.

There came a time when my love for yogurt demanded more than casual supermarket encounters. A friend told me that I could make yogurt at home, and of course I had to try it.

There are only 2 ingredients required: milk and yogurt culture. Yogurt culture is just a nerdy way of saying regular unsweetened unflavored store-bought yogurt (I really wish someone had told me that when I was just starting). And there are only 4 steps:

  1. Heat the milk to kill any unwanted bacteria.
    I like to boil mine.
  2. Cool it to a temperature that’s conducive to bacteria growth,
    which is about the temp in which babies take their milk. Which means you can test a few drops on the inside of your elbow to see that it’s bearable.
  3. Add a couple of tablespoons of yogurt.
  4. Maintain the temp for 8 hours and let the bacteria make the yogurt.
    I use a thermos-type gadget like this. Others just use a picnic cooler.

And that’s it! Just freeze a couple of tablespoons from this batch to make your next one.

After doing this successfully a number of times, this magical milk to yogurt transformation, has become familiar and intimate, which brings with it a lot of opportunities for reflection on the profundities inherent in yogurt-making.

It’s All Based on Life

Yogurt has all the nutritional benefits of milk–calcium, protein, plus a bunch of other vitamins–but the live microorganisms in it bring the added benefits of improved digestion and stronger immune system. It is life that make yogurt happen, specifically, the life that’s in the lactobacilli bacteria. Without the live bacteria that reproduce in millions and gazillions, all the while eating and breaking down the milk, the milk will remain as milk.

I can’t even really claim that I made the yogurt. All I do is provide an ideal environment of the good bacteria to prosper and multiply.

Culture is Viral, er, Bacterial

Two measly tablespoons. That’s all the yogurt it takes to make yogurt out of a liter of milk. This to me is magical, how quickly and efficiently regular milk becomes yogurt. Just like with new buzzwords, inventions, Youtube videos and philosophies, it only takes a few innovators and influencers to irrevocably change the psyche and behavior of a whole culture. But certain conditions have to be met, otherwise, it’s a no-go. Make the milk too hot and you kill the bacteria; too tepid and you bore them to oblivion.

Tradition is the Future

Save two measly tablespoons from every batch of yogurt in order to start the next batch. I’ve written a theological reflection about this, because it really is the stuff of parables. To keep a culture going, a bit of bacteria needs to be kept and passed on. And the same two tablespoons can transform any kind of milk–whole or low fat, cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk, even soy milk–into beautiful, delicious yogurt. The flavors, textures and nutrition may be subtly–or even radically–different, but it’s the same bacteria that gives life to it, and it’ll be the same life force that will create all the tart creamy goodness in next month’s, or even next year’s yogurt. And that, is most curious, mysterious, and amazing.

The spoon on the left is regular dairy yogurt, the one on the right is yogurt from soy milk.

I’m going to stop right here and just let you unearth some treasures and wisdom yourself. For simple, basic directions on how to make yogurt, let me direct you to Wikipedia’s entry on yogurt.

For a more detailed and a tad-O.C. how-to, check out Lori Bautista’s yogurt tutorial.

Lassi, an Indian yogurt drink that is almost like a smoothie, made by zapping yogurt with sugar and ice. Try it with fruits.

All images from Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Culture, Food | Tagged , , ,