Spa Indulgences Using Natural High Country Elements

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Urban flatlanders pay high dollar for it, Hollywood stars seek it out, we high country residents are surrounded by it. It is the peace, healthful benefits, and refreshing serenity that spa treatments try to provide.

Usually these treatments emulate many of the elements that we live with every day up in the Rim Country -- fresh spring water, clean air, stimulating herbal and botanical treatments, hot springs, invigorating exercise and healthy food.

After our recent stretch of cooling rain, I wondered at the beautiful herbaceous scent in the air afterward, much different from the creosote smell of the desert rain that I grew up with, and finally realized it was the juniper trees emitting their essential oils in the cool humidity.

The blueberry-like cones have been used to flavor gin, for their medicinal, antiseptic and diuretic attributes, and to flavor wild game for centuries, and are now also being used for aromatherapy and other spa treatments for their stress-relieving qualities.

Like most hard-working folk, when life gets too hectic and stressful, I sometimes need a reminder of just how lucky I am to live up in a high country paradise, stock full of Mother Nature's natural stress relievers. This weekend, after a long week of work, I took a moment to enjoy the unexpected rain and cool weather, took a long walk, and decided to make a bathroom centerpiece that would remind me to take the moments, and to pamper myself just a bit, even if it is just in those quick five minutes that it takes to shower.

Here are a couple quick and easy projects that make terrific gifts, home accents, or just simple bath accoutrements for those rare occasions when you remember to spoil yourself.

Bring nature inside with a eye-opening shower bouquet

This project is a Rim Country adaptation of one of Martha Stewart's going green Good Things. Gather a few small branches of juniper with its ripening berries, a sprig or two of herbs from your garden, such as lavender flowers and rosemary, and a couple of branches of dried eucalyptus branches from the craft store (Wal-Mart stocks these menthol packed branches in their craft/floral department).

Bundle together with raffia or twine, and hang in your shower or bath, away from the stream of water. The hot steam will awaken the essential oils in the plants (much like after the rain), and will wake you up with a natural, chemical-free aroma therapy treatment.

Replace the bouquet after two weeks, and I recommend experimenting with various herbal and foliage combinations. Try mint sprigs (it grows wild near my folks' home on the East Verde), pine needles, fragrant rose buds, sage, thyme, cinnamon sticks, jasmine flowers, whatever may strike your fancy. The bouquets can be augmented with a couple of drops of essential oil, available in the home candle and fragrance section of many stores.

Doctor up affordable spa products with the real thing for sophisticated display

I purchased some very affordable small glass containers (for more character, you can also reuse vintage glass bottles readily available in our local antique shops), and filled them with Village Natural's Stress and Tension Therapy products, mineral bath salts, bath gel, and bath oil, dropped in a small cutting of juniper with the berries in each bottle, and tied raffia around each bottle for a little flourish.

I topped each bottle with river rocks or natural corks. This collection of spa products uses juniper essential oil as its main ingredient for stress relief, and it's refreshing blue color reminds me of the fresh water so abundant in our streams and rivers and clear blue skies that we so often enjoy.

The floating juniper sprig just adds an extra organic dimension of beauty to your bath d├ęcor.

For a beautiful candle centerpiece, I layered from the bottom up: small river rocks, juniper cuttings and eucalyptus leaves, juniper berries, larger river rocks, and Dead Sea Salt mixed with blue mineral bath salts layered at the very top into a large glass candle hurricane container.

I then set in three to four green herb-scented tea lights into the salt layer, being sure to level the top of the tea light cup with the layer of salt.

I then tied a raffia bow around the hurricane and set it on a large glass platter, surrounded the hurricane with more river rocks, my shower bouquet, and a couple of awesome handmade herb soaps purchased from Pine's Honey Stand around the platter.

The centerpiece brings the outdoors in, emulating one of our natural stream beds, with the earth (river rock), water (emulated in the blue salt layer), and foliage (herb cuttings), along with the natural element of fire, for an invigorating, fragrant, beautiful arrangement for your bathroom. Be cautious when using flame, be sure that the flammable herb cuttings are set well below and away from the flame of the tea lights in the arrangement.

Just be sure to actually take a few moments, light the candles, hang your shower bouquet, and take the time to indulge once you've created your natural spa treatments, and remember how lucky we are to live up here.

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