©istockphoto/monkeybusinessimages Image by: ©istockphoto/monkeybusinessimages
©istockphoto/monkeybusinessimages Image by: ©istockphoto/monkeybusinessimages
Here's how to make your own shower bomb with essential oils for a whole new level of relaxation.
If you enjoy a hot shower or bath to help you relax at the end of a stress-filled day, you'll love these quick DIY shower bombs that allow you to add a soothing essential oil blend to your shower's steam. Essential oils have long been used to aid everything from sleep to energy.
Now Solutions created this recipe to help you get the benefits of essential oils through inhaling the scented steam of your shower—it's like your own home spa treatment. When these scents are diffused through steam, they reach the nerves in the olfactory cavity, which go right to the brain, so you're likely to feel the calming effects right away.
How to make your own shower bomb
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a mini-muffin tin with foil liners. Mix 1 cup of baking soda with 1/3 cup of water to form a thick paste. Pour by tablespoon into the mini-muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Top with several drops of essential oils.
For a shower bomb that will help you relax and unwind, Now recommends a blend of one drop of chamomile oil, two drops of lavender oil and two drops of sandalwood blend oil. But you can make your own blend, too. Clove essential oil is also soothing and comforting, as is ylang ylang. Or, if you're looking for a pick-me-up to start your day with, basil essential oil is known to be energizing, and bergamot and lemon are both uplifting scents.
When your shower bomb is ready, place it on your shower floor and enjoy the relaxing vapours.
Want more ways to destress? Check out these eight stress-busting habits.
As their housing needs change with age, a group of Toronto women are turning to co-living, a community-focused housing option.
Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg was thinking about aging. It was 2012, and her son had just called to tell her there was a documentary on CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition about La Maison des babayagas, or The Babayagas' House.
A new-build apartment building in Montreuil, one of Paris's eastern suburbs, it looks like any other complex from the outside: six storeys with a modular façade and 24 private studio units, plus ample shared spaces, including a gym, a library, a meeting room and a garden. But inside, the documentary revealed, its differences were clear. For starters, everyone who lives there is elderly and female. Like a mature activist sorority, it has overflowing bookshelves, community engagement, collective meals and regular workshops on topics ranging from nutrition to memoir writing.
The residence is characterized by a playful but radical joie de vivre; even the term "baba yaga," which means witch or crone in Slavic mythology, is a tongue-in- cheek tribute to society's enduring negative perceptions of unattached women, the "cat ladies" of yesteryear.
Purpose-built for single senior women to age in dignity and companionship, the entire project is a state-funded and self-administered intentional community— a residential option designed to emphasize social connections and to serve members who share a common lifestyle. "Women who live alone are often lonely, especially once most of their friends have died," says Dorothy, now 79. "It's the caring that appeals to me and to a lot of us."
A call to action
That's why, for women across Canada who tuned in to the documentary, or heard about it from friends or family, learning about La Maison des babayagas felt like a call to action. In fact, soon after the airing, a group of about a dozen women, most previously unacquainted, began meeting to discuss a potential Toronto project. Dorothy was one of them, of course. All of the women in the group were worried about their own prospects for aging, and it didn't take long for them to come to the same conclusion: This could be the perfect alternative to the lonely future often experienced by single senior women. A small steering committee formed and has now been working for nearly four years to gather the necessary funding and community partnerships to open its own version of the French residence, Baba Yaga Place. (Though there is one major difference: While the Toronto project will be primarily for women, since their need is greater, it will reserve a small number of units for men or married couples who believe in their philosophy.) There's still a long road ahead, but plans are certainly in the works.
Senior co-living has long been a compelling, if under-the-radar, option, both in Canada and abroad. Models vary significantly, from mixed-generation co-ownership models to more classic roommate arrangements. The first Canadian versions were technically cooperative housing projects that prioritized older women's housing needs without excluding other groups. Vancouver's Mature Women's Housing Co-op launched in the 1980s, followed by a 142-unit building in downtown Toronto that officially opened its doors in 1997, an initiative spearheaded by the Older Women's Network Ontario. Wolf Willow Cohousing, a 21-unit condominium that opened in Saskatoon in 2012, was the first official co-living project. Then, in 2014, 68-year-old Beverly Suek transformed her three-storey Winnipeg home into an "intentional community for senior women." (As you might expect, comparisons to The Golden Girls have been irrepressible.) "Everyone has her own life, but if you want to watch a movie or do some gardening, there's someone to do it with," says Beverly.
Demographics are partially responsible for driving interest among women. As in most of the world, many women in Canada outlive their male counterparts, with an average life expectancy of 84 years versus 80. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, 30 percent of senior women who reside alone live below the poverty line—twice the rate of senior men—so pooling resources makes sense.
"For women of my generation, we're finding that our situations aren't what we expected," says Beth Komito-Gottlieb, 61, who spent much of her professional life supporting those on the autism spectrum. "Our money's not going as far as we expected, our pensions aren't what we hoped and, often, our marriages have broken down."
Baba Yaga Place philosophy
The core pillars of Toronto's Baba Yaga Place project closely mirror those of the French model: self-management, feminism, interdependence, community engagement and environmental responsibility. In the CBC documentary, the women of La Maison des babayagas speak passionately about integrating their planned community into the broader neighbourhood and teaching the French language to new immigrants; their social-justice narratives spill beyond the gates.
Dorothy, who has worked with the National Film Board of Canada and lectured at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, still rides her bicycle around the city. She can excitedly discuss a wide variety of interests, including but not limited to her granddaughters, her exercise schedule and that time she marched against the Vietnam War, shoulder to shoulder with legendary pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock. Mostly, though, she speaks of her lifelong activism and dedication to community—a commitment shared by Dorothy's cohorts, whose biographies highlight advocacy work of all stripes, as well as volunteering at libraries, singing in choirs and caring for rescued pets. "We're not just a bunch of old ladies," says Dorothy. "We have a lot of history, and the idea of social responsibility follows us."
The baba yaga vision is a stark contrast to aging alone, with or without the grim institutional norms of hushed dining rooms and social isolation. Ellen Passmore, 66, works for Ve'ahavta, a charitable organization that addresses homelessness and poverty, and was drawn to the baba yaga idea after dealing with the private assisted-living facility where her 92-year-old mother lives. "With traditional seniors' facilities, there's a lot of isolation from the day-to-day life of the community," she says. "It's all about loss of independence, loss of autonomy, loss of decision-making, and it's a very medical model. It's very clear to me that I don't want to go down that route."
In fact, several of those on Toronto's Baba Yaga Place committee can cite a moment—a car accident or a medical issue—when they started to more seriously consider the increasingly practical need for close community. Two years ago, when Dorothy, who has a son in Montreal and a daughter in France, needed hip-replacement surgery, her children were concerned about her ability to cope on her own. They were each able to stay with her for a week, but then the baba yagas took over, drawing up a care schedule to ensure that all of her needs were met.
The baba yaga emphasis on co-care comes with the promise that the women will be living independently, but in a supportive community—they will have the option to eat meals together in communal areas, and they can feel at ease knowing that neighbours are on hand if, like Dorothy, they need help. "I'm most looking forward to having people I can count on," says Ellen, who currently lives in a co-op.
Andrew Moore, the president of the Canadian Senior Cohousing Society, says co-living options build on the idea of extended families looking after each other, and they support a whole range of communities who want to live in a similar way, including faith-based groups, condo dwellers and seniors helping seniors. "It's about being able to flourish until the end of your days," he says.
The challenges ahead
The Paris project took 13 years to come to fruition, from the moment it was conceived by founder Thérèse Clerc in 1999 until the day the doors opened in 2012. Baba Yaga Place is hoping to get the Toronto project off the ground in a much shorter period, but the logistical issues involved are myriad and will require both political advocates and financial support to subsidize the development of a potential property. The four million euros in funding for La Maison des babayagas came from multiple public sources and was a pet project of the then-ruling Green Party.
As a group, the baba yagas here at home don't have sufficient personal means to buy land in downtown Toronto and build a community from scratch. And they don't want this project to be exclusive to those with big bank accounts. Instead, they're looking at rental options—anywhere from 20 to 60 units in a retrofitted disused church or school to a couple of floors in a new building (such as the massive complex destined for Toronto's Mirvish Village). Affordable housing is a major obstacle, but the baba yagas would like to remain in the downtown core. "We don't want to move to some beautiful spot in the country where no one's ever going to see us again," says Beth.
Despite these challenges, the women, like the various founders of senior co-living projects before them, have tapped into the need for a compassionate alternative to our present models for aging, one in which vibrant and supportive community looms large. Interest is likely to grow as the population ages; that's why, though there's no timeline for the Toronto baba yaga house, there's also no doubt about the demand for one. "If we started accepting applications, we would be flooded," says Beth.
©iStockphoto.com/annedala Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/annedala
What to know about melanoma
54-year-old Susan Cox is a three-time survivor of advanced melanoma. She spoke to us about her approach to sun safety before getting diagnosed, not losing hope and what she’s learned.
One morning in 2007, Susan Cox woke up to a blueberry-sized mole on her back that was, suddenly, bleeding. She hadn’t paid much attention to the mole before, but now it was making itself known—and she immediately knew that something was wrong.
“It sounds ridiculous to think that my life could be in jeopardy from a mole,” she says. But it was. After a three-month wait to see a dermatologist, Cox was diagnosed with stage three skin cancer and a 10-inch strip of skin was removed from her back.
The 54-year-old, whose cancer has recurred three times, is among the one in 73 Canadian women who will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime. The deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma accounts for 3% of all new cancer cases in Canada. It’s very treatable if caught early, but over the past 25 years, the incidence rate has increased significantly. The numbers are staggering—which is why, at five years cancer-free, Cox is still fighting the disease head on. But this time, she’s focusing on public awareness. “My mole was itchy for a couple of years before [I was diagnosed]. I should have recognized there was something different about it then, but I didn’t,” she says.
That’s why she has contributed to an e-book of photo essays by melanoma survivors published by the Save Your Skin Foundation and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. (See a selection of her photos throughout this story.) Many people think it’s “just skin cancer,” but Cox’s mission is to convey just how serious a diagnosis melanoma is, how much it changes your life—and how easy it is to prevent.
What was getting diagnosed like?
I had a mole on my back that popped. I thought it was just a pimple, so I called a dermatologist and ended up waiting three months to get an appointment. I didn’t realize it was serious—and then I was diagnosed stage three melanoma right out of the gate. So, that means, you are already pretty much in trouble before you’ve even known what has hit you.
“While time goes on, the physical and emotional impact of melanoma can fade, but it never really disappears. It’s something I’ll never be free of, but I can live with the scar and I can try to move on.”
When it did hit you, how did it feel?
At first, I went to the internet, which was the wrong thing to do. It freaked me out. I cried into a towel in my bathroom with the door locked. I was frozen, I actually didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. When you’re told you have this disease and it’s going to keep coming back and keep coming back… I wanted to run away, frankly. It sounds silly, but I just wanted to go somewhere… but how do you run from your own body?
Were you cautious about sun safety before you were diagnosed?
No. Not at all. As a matter of fact, I used tanning beds, religiously. I encouraged others to use them. I took my daughter. I read the literature and it sounded safe enough, but I didn’t understand what I was doing. I didn’t understand they were carcinogenic, as a whole. And I didn’t use any sun safety product.
How did having melanoma change you?
I was so scared. I wasn’t really living. I was only living between my doctor’s appointments, truthfully. If you are told your appointment is in two months, you put everything on hold for two months. You don’t make holiday plans, you don’t buy a ticket on an airplane, you don’t book a hotel—it’s almost like you’re expecting to be told you’re dying. But after a couple of surgeries, I decided I wasn’t going to be afraid to try things anymore. Once I had survived cancer twice, I felt as though I better start getting my bucket list double-checked and so I did.
What kinds of things did you check off your bucket list?
I’m a designer and I always wanted someone to hire me to design a beach house, or decorate a beach house, and nobody ever did—so I bought one. I did it myself. I wanted to know I could do it myself, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. I had a magazine come shoot it, I took some design risks that I wouldn’t have taken before. I wasn’t afraid anymore.
“When I was diagnosed with advanced melanoma, I was in tears. It absolutely demolished me.
The stormy times and fear kept me from living my life vibrantly. I decided I needed to build my beach house and it’s now a reality. It’s a place I can go to relax and regroup, and express my passion for design. I may have never taken this risk before I fell sick.”
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and the incidence rate has increased significantly over the past 25 years. So why don’t we talk about it?
It’s the mentality that it won’t happen to me. People don’t want to hear about melanoma because they want to be outside in the sun. Since the ‘60s and ‘70s, we’ve had a culture of tanning the skin. We see tanned skin as attractive, sporty, athletic. I was absolutely drunk with the idea of having brown skin and looking Mediterranean. But guess what? I’m not. I’m fair-skinned, I had white hair as a kid, I should never have been in the sun, ever. But it’s a cultural thing. I get it. I feel like I look better with a tan. I wear less makeup when I’m tanned. But it’s okay to look pale and be in the skin you’re in. I wear pale skin as a badge of honour. Tanned skin is damaged skin. You might see a tan, but a dermatologist sees damaged skin at a cellular level. When you come out of the shower in January and you can still see your tan lines, that’s damage. I still have tan lines and I haven’t been in the sun in 10 years. I’m rarely in the sun in a bathing suit, but I still have my tan lines. That tells you how badly I damaged my skin.
What was treatment been like for you?
I took a targeted therapy because I had a mutation (which means the cancer mutates), and they’ve been able to look at that mutation and bind a protein to that mutation, therefore choking it out so it doesn’t multiply and doesn’t continue to grow. It’s available through an oncologist and it’s a pill. I took it twice a day. So for me, it was taking a pill twice a day and my tumours shrank immediately and completely away.
How did you keep yourself from losing hope?
It would be very easy to lose hope, [but] it would be almost impossible not to lose hope. I refuse to give up. I absolutely refuse. I refuse to lose. I don’t like to lose and if I’m going to lose this battle sooner than I should, I’m going to go out on my terms. I’m not going to go out on my knees.
After being educated about sun and skin care, what have you learned about the importance to take sun safety precautions all year round?
There was a famous skier in Whistler, Dave Murray, who died of melanoma. You actually get more sun exposure in the winter than you do in the summer because snow and ice reflect the sun.
What advice do you have with individuals with concerns about the disease?
Get educated. But not on the internet! Do not look at pictures of melanoma in the images of your Google search. I don’t know anybody’s melanoma that looks like those pictures I have seen on Google. Don’t be afraid to have something looked at. If in doubt, cut it out.
Why did you get involved with the Save Your Skin “Melanoma Through My Lens” campaign?
One word: Hope. I want patients to not be afraid to help themselves and I know it’s hard because you want to run away, but there’s no running away from it. It goes with you, where you go. You have to stay and fight. It’s not a death sentence anymore. There’s hope.
“Being honest with my family about what I was dealing with made a difference in my journey. Everyone helped me get through this. My son is a very caring boy. My daughter always shows me she cares. My husband is always by my side. What could be more hopeful than more time with my loved ones?”
Image courtesy: Susan Cox
What are three words you use to describe yourself with this disease?
Loud. Numb. Scared.
What are three words do you use to describe yourself without this disease?
Loud. Educated. Empowered.
Check out the Save Your Skin Foundation to find the Melanoma Through My Lens e-book.