The holidays are almost here and despite the joy that they bring to us and to our friends and family, it’s hard not to feel harried. There’s prepping, cooking, baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, and driving to worry about, not to mention the part-time job—at least for some of us—of attending multiple school celebrations.
Rewarding? Yes. Overwhelming? Not necessarily. Especially if you indulge yourself with these local—and affordable—de-stressors.
Bonus: Further reduce stress by shopping as you relax! Check out our suggestions for party prep and great, gender-neutral gifts at the establishments listed below.
The Spa Less Traveled
Stuffing turkeys and toting Xmas trees can leave your back as bent as a candy cane. And yet, this isn’t the time of year to break the bank on a big-ticket treat.
Luckily, Gail Herndon and Brenda Goldstein’s "The Spa Less Traveled" guide to L.A.’s ethnic spas offers adventurous and affordable alternatives—think Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Hawaiian, and Russian—which are rated on cleanliness, price, and the authenticity of the ethnic massage.
The authors not only explain what to expect from the various treatments but have personally visited every spa in the book, including and Thai Hands Emporium Salon in Eagle Rock.
Both Eagle Rock spas offer deep-tissue massage as well as Swedish and Thai massage (prices range from $40 to $55). But as Goldstein explains: “Traditional Thai massage is extremely relaxing. Thai massage combines gentle stretching movements with whole body massage. During the massage, the therapist applies pressure along energy lines (called sen in Thai). This activates the body’s pressure points and energy lines, allowing tension to be released.”
Additionally, says Goldstein, “Thai massage is sometimes called ‘lazy yoga,’ as the therapist puts you into the various yoga-like positions. There is something nice about doing yoga without having to think about it.”
Accordingly, advises the author, you’ll want to wear loose clothing that you can stretch in. And “if you want to bring aromatic oils or a candle that you like,” says Goldstein, “the Thai people are so nice that they would probably accommodate your wish.”
Gift suggestion: Who wouldn’t love a copy of The Spa Less Traveled—with or without a Thai spa gift certificate tucked inside?
Pollen Botanical Design
For a candle/aromatic oil combo to bring to your next spa treatment, look no further than , which offers body lotion soya candles ($27 each or three for $70), made from soy bean-extracted Vitamin E and Lecithin oil. When melted, this paraffin-free candle can be applied to soften and nourish your skin.
Pollen owner/floral designer Craig Powell is also excited about the store’s new lamp burner ($21.99), which melts lotion-quality soya “tarts” (5 for $9 or $2 each) without a flame. The tarts last for 20 hours of relaxation, and can be used over and over—whenever you need to unwind during the holidays or beyond. Scents range from feminine “Ginger/Rose” to the unisex “Wood scent featuring cedar, birch, sage, and rosemary.”
Smell is one of our most primal senses—and scented flowers, greens, fruit, and herbs can foster relaxation through triggered memories. Powell notes that scents associated with the season include the “clean, fresh scents of pine and bayberry, the [warm] relaxing scents of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom, and the floral scents of paper whites and gardenia.” These can “remind us of what is near and dear [and] help make joyful memories to last a lifetime,” he says.
Gift Suggestion: Remind your loved ones how dear they are to you with a soya candle and Thai spa gift certificate, or a table burner with multiple soya tarts for a variety of moods.
Or set the mood and create memories at your holiday gatherings with candles and soya tarts in scents of the season.
One of spa author Brenda Goldstein’s final suggestions regarding a massage is to schedule the appointment and avoid “plugging the massage in between running to and fro.” More precisely: “Try to make your massage appointment at the end of the day when you can go home and relax and stretch out the wonderful feeling.”
Here’s another suggestion to stretch out that wonderful feeling. Schedule a Sunday brunch-time massage, and then go to ’s “Lazy Sunday Tastings” from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Recent flights have included a “super limited” 97 point Brunello di Montalcino, plus two other great wines and a beer, plus Ken Forrester Sauvignon Blanc, Jules Taylor Pinot Gris, the Alto Moncayo Garnacha, and an award-winning, 10-year-old Tawny Port from Australia called Yalumba.
A tasting flight of four wines and artisanal cheeses from Auntie Em’s? $12. The ability to relax and forget about your holiday “To Do” list? Priceless.
Gift suggestion: A bottle of your favorite wine from the tasting is always a much-appreciated present, but consider a gift certificate for a month (or more!) of Sundays—and keep the buzz of relaxation going well into the coming year. Or combine a tasting with picking up a case of wine for your holiday parties.
CORRECTION: We misstated the price of body lotion soya candles at Pollen Botanical Design in our initial version of this article as $25 each or three for $65. The correct price is $27 each or three for $70. Because the earlier price was based on outdated information available on the Pollen Botanical Design website, the store's owner, Craig Pollen, has pledged to "honor anyone who comes in and mentions Patch and give them the old pricing."