a birthday treat

Happy Birthday Jackie!

Yesterday Jackie and I went to a day spa for her birthday present from me. Since her mom didn’t want her driving in San Francisco, her dad drove us both. Traffic was terrible between Berkeley and the Bay Bridge, so we were a little bit late, but the people at the spa were nice about it. When we walked in and told them who we were they brought us bright colored plastic sandals (magenta for Jackie, orange for me) and showed us to our lockers, where we found towels, white waffle-weave cotton robes, and a place to put our things. I didn’t like the slippers since they were very narrow, but the robes were surprisingly warm and comfortable. The bathroom (where the lockers were) was really cute, or rather the sink was adorable. Instead of being a basin cut into the counter, it looked like a huge pink-and-white-swirl glass bowl set atop a table. I’ve never seen a sink like that before. The “faucet” was a tall, slender chrome cylinder with an equally elegant pump-type handle, which you lifted to allow a gentle flow of warm water into the bowl. I used a sink that had olive-lavender soap and hand lotion and Jackie chose one with orange-scented products.

Jackie went in to her facial right away, but I had some time before my massage, so I relaxed in their waiting area. There’s a sofa in the entry area but if you’re waiting for a treatment they have a separate place inside for you to wait, since you’re in a robe and slippers after all, and this area is much cushier. They have big fluffy bright-colored couches and cushions, lots of magazines, and hot tea and lemon water with cute cups and glasses. I had brought my history reading but I would have felt like an idiot reading Orientalism in that setting, so instead I sipped some tea and read about Trista Rehn (aka ‘The Bachelorette’) and Ryan Sutter’s wedding in InStyle. I think their story is ridiculous, but I must say that Trista and Ryan do actually look and sound happier than a lot of other celebrity couples I’ve seen married in the pages of InStyle. Best of luck to them. Later another woman came in and sat down and started talking to me after I smiled at her. She had nothing but great things to say about her facialist. Her skin did look pretty glowing.

When Christina, my massage therapist, found me and shook my hand to introduce herself, the first thing I noticed was that hers were both the softest and the strongest hands I’ve ever touched. She took me upstairs to a small room with green walls and left the room as I removed my robe and got into the massage bed. When she heard this was my first massage, she said she would apply gentler pressure than usual. I hadn’t realized a professional massage involved such intense pressure–I’d always wondered why they say you have to be careful when giving a massage to not apply pressure in the wrong areas. Yeah, I can definitely see now that this kind of pressure (and she was being gentle) could do injury if applied incorrectly. Despite the intense pressure, though, the massage didn’t actually hurt, except where my muscles were tight. Christina explained that it is necessary for me to feel these areas to help release the knots. I don’t quite understand how that works, but the knots are definitely gone. Anyway, she worked on my back, shoulders, and neck, so those areas feel pretty good. She said that I was great for a first timer; most people cringe or ask for less pressure. I said that my muscles tend to be really tense, but I’m pretty good at relaxing my mind and body at will, and she agreed and said she’d noticed both. She told me to keep doing yoga, and to not lift any weights that day. I guess lifting weights on such relaxed muscles is just asking for injury.

When I changed back into my clothes and went back into the entry area, Jackie was waiting for me. I paid the bill and left tips for both Jackie’s facialist and Christina and then we left to window-shop the neighborhood before her dad picked us up. We looked at Shabby Chic, which I thought was disappointing, then sampled the products at Oliviers & Co. That was a fun shop. I tried a Greek olive oil with a surprising almost piney flavor, Jackie and I both had an orange olive oil which we thought would be great on a baby spinach salad, and then we tried a black olive and candied lemon tapenade which was too strong for us both. I wanted to get the adorable oil and vinegar kit but it was too expensive, so I bought nothing. I suggested to Jackie that she get the small orange oil because it was only $8, but she said she’d spent all her money on the tip for her facialist. That’s when we realized we’d both left a $20 tip for her. Nuts. Shortly thereafter her dad came to pick us up and take me home.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience, but I think Jackie got more out of it than I did, which is fine with me since it was all for her birthday. She’s always wanted a facial and she really enjoyed hers. My massage was nice, but very short, only twenty minutes, so I don’t really think it was worth $45 plus tip. I realize I’m paying for the atmosphere and the rental of the robe and the hot tea and everything, but I’ve also realized since I got home that the atmosphere wasn’t really my thing. The spa is small and there are no windows in the treatment area, probably for privacy, and all the staff are equally discreet, but I’m not an overly private person when it comes to my physical self, and all the privacy made me feel a little cramped and not like myself. It’s funny, because earlier that morning I’d been at the farmer’s market with Erik, and it was my first time at the market in months and there were tons of musicians and incredible flowers and fruit and amidst the music and sunshine and nature’s bounty it felt like the beginning of spring. I looked at the massage people who are always at the market and remarked happily to Erik that I was going to have a massage later. Then I went across the bay to that small indoor space with an artificially created atmosphere of bright paint and scented oils to pay more than $50 for a massage. I just feel like I would really have preferred to lie on the massage tables at the farmer’s market and enjoy the natural warmth and the sounds of small children and local musicians and pay far less for what seems to me a more appealing environment. Then again, I realize that I would not be able to take off my clothes for a massage at the market. That seems like a bit of a sacrifice, though I’ve had a massage through my clothes and it’s still nice. But maybe next time I’ll just go there. I believe their massages are $20 for 15 minutes, so that’s just about half the price of the other one, plus I would get to wander around and eat delicious food afterward. But I am so glad Jackie liked it.

Oh yes and I called Relax.Now after I got home and explained to them about the double tip, and they sounded properly shocked and promised to return the money to me. So at least that isn’t leaving a bad taste in my mouth anymore.

In the evening, Erik and I made our first attempt to bake French bread. I really need a new mixer. Mine sprayed flour everywhere and got dough all over itself, and I had to finish mixing it by hand. But I used Marion Cunningham’s kneading directions and now I finally know how to knead. Too bad my counter was dirty so I had to use a cutting board, which was much less satisfying, and which led to my getting more flour all over the place. Then I went and fell asleep on my bed, and when I woke up Erik had punched down the dough after the first rising, let it rise again, shaped it into loaves for the second rising, and had put two of the unbaked loaves into the freezer and two of them into the oven and brushed them with egg white and water wash and they were baking and smelling great. We’ll make a baker of Erik yet. “Nothing is sexier than a competent man,” indeed. The bread turned out well, not quite like French bread but with a really, really wonderful crust. We ate the first loaf cut up and dipped into olive oil or pizza oil with powdered red chili pepper, and had the next loaf this afternoon made into sandwiches.

currently: thinking happy bread thoughts, but going to call my mommy

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]