Prime Meridian

Author: Kirsten K., Wellness

I recently wrote about my experience with grapheme → color synesthesia. A couple of years ago, my friend Mika and I were discussing the condition and she told me about an odd sensory phenomenon (which she dubbed “little fingers, big tongue”) that she had experienced since childhood. She asked if I’d ever felt unusual physical sensations that might fall under the heading of synesthesia. I replied, somewhat sheepishly, that I had.

For as long as I can remember, whenever I observe a person deeply involved in something (e.g. playing an instrument, doing a routine task, demonstrating an activity) or hear the sound of certain voices, I feel a kind of pleasurable, tingling sensation in the back of my neck. It seems to originate from deep within my brain stem and radiates outward to the rest of my body, putting me in a somnolent, blissed-out state.

Prime Meridian 1

Maria from GentleWhispering describes ASMR and demonstrates some common triggers in this welcome video on her YouTube channel.

Last year, I happened to be watching an episode of Nightline that featured a woman whose YouTube videos were designed to trigger this exact sensation in her viewers. Once again, a news program had given me the name for my condition: ASMR—Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. The term was coined in 2010 to describe the euphoric sensation that many individuals experience in response to encountering particular stimuli.

Maria from GentleWhispering has achieved a large following on YouTube by filming herself engaged in role playing and making certain sounds—notably, whispering—that have been found to trigger ASMR. From the moment I heard her speak on TV, I began to feel the tingles in the back of my neck. I started watching her videos and discovered ASMR triggers that I never knew I had, such as tapping and various types of hand movements.

Prime Meridian 2

Viewers flock to Heather Feather for her large library of ASMR videos. Her Ultimate Head and Scalp Massage has me floating on air.

In those first few weeks, I spent hours on YouTube going from one video to the next. I was like a teenage boy discovering porn for the first time, but—though Kirsti accused me of having a fetish—there is nothing sexual about the sensations produced by ASMR. They have been referred to as “braingasms,” but the closest comparison I can make is the feeling you get when someone lightly tickles your back or plays with your hair.

Many self-described ASMRtists use a 3Dio binaural microphone, which provides crystal clear, ear-to-ear sound that can lead to major tingles. A large percentage of the videos are designed to help people go to sleep, but I have no trouble falling and staying asleep. In fact, I try to avoid watching ASMR videos before bed, because I’m unconscious within minutes and can miss out on some choice endorphins.

Prime Meridian 3

Cutebunny992 pulled a rabbit out of her hat with this magical role playing video that causes tingles to materialize and stress to disappear.

GentleWhispering may be the grande dame of ASMRtists, but there are several up-and-comers who are making waves—and tingles—with their innovative videos. To an outsider, though, some of these videos can seem either mind-numbingly boring or totally bizarre. Even as I’m riveted by watching someone stroke stacks of fabric or pretend to examine my ears, I’ll occasionally think to myself, “This is deeply weird…and so are you.” But then I return to my regularly scheduled programming. When people ask me if I’ve seen the latest season of The Walking Dead or Orange Is the New Black, I respond, “No, but I just binged-watched all the episodes of Heather Feather, Cutebunny992, and Fairy Char.”

Unlike synesthesia, it is believed that anyone can experience ASMR, which may explain why these videos have exploded in popularity over the past couple of years. (Proof that ASMR has gone mainstream is this hilarious spoof that Daniel Tosh made for a recent episode of Tosh.0.) If you haven’t experienced ASMR for yourself, give it some time and view different types of videos to discover if there are triggers that work for you. I often get my best tingles after watching for 20 minutes or more, and a video that works one day can be less effective on another, so I like to skip around.

Prime Meridian 4

A sprinkle of pixie dust from Fairy Char casts a spell as she uses a binaural microphone to give viewers a virtual “braincase” massage.

While I no longer watch for hours on end, I try to indulge on a regular basis to keep myself sane and stress-free. I now consider ASMR videos to be an essential part of my wellness regimen. With thousands of videos online and more being posted every day, you’ll often find me staring raptly at my computer screen—but if you want to get my attention, remember to whisper.

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To learn more about 3Dio binaural microphones, click here.


Dream On

Author: Kirsten K., Wellness

Dream On 1There are few things in life more swoon-worthy—literally—than a full night of delicious sleep. Waking up naturally before my alarm goes off or on a weekend morning with no agenda gives me a deep sense of well-being. One of my least favorite sayings is: “You can sleep when you’re dead.” No, I can sleep when I’m tired, thank you very much. I’ve always thought it was counterintuitive to ignore your body when it’s asking for rest, and now there’s abundant evidence to back me up.

For a documentary on sleep, the film Sleepless in America from National Geographic Channel is a real eye-opener. Made in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, the movie lays out the alarming facts: lack of sleep is the primary contributing factor in many automobile and occupational accidents and can dramatically increase a person’s risk of developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. People seem to view sleep as a luxury, rather than a necessity, and even take pride in their ability to burn the candle at both ends, but the consequences of sleep deprivation to our health and safety—and the safety of others—are dire.

Dream On 2However, I’ll leave it to the film to scare the pajamas off you. We Society members like to write about things that make us swoon, so let’s flip the script. Getting the proper amount of sleep each night is worthy of our notice because it:*

  • helps you to stay alert during the day so that work is more fulfilling and fun, leading to that coveted promotion.
  • improves memory and the ability to process and retain new information, making you a more interesting person.
  • strengthens your immune system, so you can turn sick days into play days and potentially add years to your life.
  • allows your body to restore, repair, and rejuvenate, transforming you into a sleeping beauty (or a handsome hibernator).
  • makes you more pleasant to be around, attracting friends and lovers.
  • feels wonderful—do you need another reason?
Dream On 3

Many historians believe that, before electric lighting, people used to sleep in two phases of 4-5 hours (first sleep and second sleep) separated by a short interval of wakefulness (the watch).

Of course, I know that there are people who work multiple jobs or have life circumstances that prevent them from getting the sleep they need, but they are probably not reading this blog (and if they are—stop and go to bed!). Those people should check out this short TED talk by Kirk Parsley, a doctor, former Navy SEAL, and father of three who discusses the importance of sleep and how to make it a priority in your life.

There are also people who want to sleep, but have trouble falling or staying asleep. Sleepless in America states that 70 million Americans suffer from some form of insomnia. According to the film, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) involves four basic steps:

  1. Reduce your time in bed.
  2. Get up at the same time every day (no matter how much you slept the night before).
  3. Don’t get in bed unless you’re sleepy.
  4. Don’t stay in bed unless you’re asleep.

By following these steps (in conjunction with medication, when necessary), many insomnia sufferers are able to fall and stay asleep on a regular basis, allowing them to get the rest they need.** Given the claim by some fitness and nutrition experts that proper sleep is more important than food and exercise to a person’s overall health and well-being, insomnia isn’t something that can be ignored.

If time is money, you can’t afford to miss this movie, because you can shortchange sleep, but you’ll pay one way or another in loss of productivity, health, and quality of life. Sleep is free, but it yields both short- and long-term dividends, so write yourself a check for eight hours a night—EVERY night—and dream on.

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Sleepless in America


You can purchase the DVD of Sleepless in America in the National Geographic store or watch the full-length documentary online at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. If you’re short on time, have a look at this “cheat sheet.”

*These claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, but they have been validated by the Fabulous Day Association (aka “me”).

**For more Sleep Tips for Insomnia Sufferers, visit the National Sleep Foundation.

A Sup-herb Tea

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Tea, Wellness

A Sup-herb TeaEver on the lookout for all things elderflower, I spotted a familiar cluster of creamy white blossoms in the tea aisle of Whole Foods the other day. This organic blend from The Republic of Tea contains elderflowers, green rooibos, and natural elderberry flavor. It has the bright, floral essence of elderflower that I love with just a hint of sweet elderberry. The astringent properties of the flower make this an herbal brew that is best enjoyed on its own or with a little sweetener.

Elderflower is one of five blends in The Republic of Tea’s line of SuperHerb® teas. Apparently, elderflowers have long been used as a folk remedy to promote easy breathing. Who knew? As we prepare to leave summer behind and head into cold and flu season, this is good information to have. And for those avoiding stimulants, the blend is naturally caffeine-free, so stock up on canisters of this “super” herb and you can breathe easy this fall and winter.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Republic of Tea Organic Elderflower SuperHerb® Tea


In addition to Whole Foods, The Republic of Tea can be found at World Market and many supermarkets and health food stores.


Find Your ZZZen

Author: Kirsten K., Wellness
Find Your ZZZen 1

Zen Alarm Clock® in Burgundy

The weekend is almost here, and for most people this means the chance to sleep in without being rudely awakened by an alarm clock. I have written before about the fact that I’m not a morning person. Rising to wakefulness—even after a full night of sleep—can often feel like clawing my way up from the abyss, so the blare of an alarm in the midst of deep slumber is particularly jarring. In a case of Pavlovian conditioning, any time I hear a sound resembling that of an alarm clock, my heart begins to race and I feel a sense of panic. Just this week, I heard about a woman who wore her Fitbit to bed and found that her resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute leapt to 102 when she was jolted awake by her alarm. That’s no way to greet the day!

I pride myself on being punctual, but I’ve slept through my share of alarms. In high school, it was my father’s duty to be my second line of defense. He would come in my room to get me up after my alarm had either stopped on its own or I’d turned it off and promptly fallen back to sleep. Then he’d softly call to me and I’d assure him that I was awake…until I’d actually wake up five minutes before it was time to leave the house with no memory of our conversation, yelling at him as I ran out the door for falling down on the job.

Find Your ZZZen 2

Zen Timepiece® in New Bamboo

As a night owl who comes alive when the sun goes to sleep, I’ve managed to find employment at a number of jobs over the years where my workday begins in the late morning or early afternoon and ends in prime time, but I still need a gentle “reminder” to get up most days. Fortunately, I discovered a clock that allows me to arrive at work on time while maintaining my Zen.

Now & Zen started producing their miraculous alarm clocks and timers 20 years ago “to make a real difference in people’s lives.” Judging by my personal experience, they have succeeded. Their clocks feature either a brass bowl on a wooden base or an acoustic chime set within a hinged or triangular case. When the alarm is triggered, a gong gently strikes the bowl or chime, causing a soothing tone to resonate. Over the course of 10 minutes, the gong strikes with increasing frequency until it reaches an interval of five seconds—the terminal cycle—when it will chime continuously until the alarm is turned off.

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Digital Zen Alarm Clock® in Walnut

I have owned Now & Zen clocks since the late 1990s and I don’t know how I could have survived all these years without them. My first was the original Zen Alarm Clock®, but I eventually upgraded to the digital version for its compact form and added features. It is available in a 7-inch case with a B tone chime, but I sprang for the slightly larger 9-inch version that emits an E tone. Both offer the same progressive awakening feature, where the chiming advances according to the golden ratio*. An aspect of sacred geometry, this ratio is reflected in nature as a logarithmic spiral, such as that found in a chambered nautilus. Now & Zen uses an image of a nautilus shell on its clocks to illustrate this relationship.

Find Your ZZZen 4Even with a peaceful summons to waking life, I still hedge my bets by placing the clock across the room so that I have to get out of bed to turn it off—there is no snooze button, so the danger exists of shutting the alarm off only to fall back asleep. I usually set the clock to strike three minutes before I want to get up. The first chime tickles my consciousness, so I’m already starting to awaken by the time the second chime sounds 3 ½ minutes later. On occasion, I’ve slept through the first two or three chimes, but I’m always up and out of bed before it reaches the five-second interval. Since using these clocks, the only times I’ve overslept were during a power outage or when I’ve forgotten to set the alarm (it happens).

Through the years, people have suggested I try other alarm clocks with gradual awakening features, such as a lamp that gets increasingly brighter to simulate the sunrise, but I’ve never found a reason to switch. In addition to a progressive alarm, Now & Zen clocks have interval, countdown, and meditation timers (demonstrated in these product videos) and can run on batteries or plug into an AC jack. They also come in a variety of styles, woods, and finishes. With all these choices, it’s easy to find your ZZZen.

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Now & Zen


*The progression of chime strikes is explained in detail on the company’s website and in their instructional booklets.

Throw In the Towel

Author: Kirsten K., Wellness
Throw in the Towel 1

This little black towel is the must-have accessory of the season.

A few months ago, I was purchasing a table from Brookstone online when I saw that I could get free shipping by adding a small item to my order. I searched the site for items under $20 and came across the Mission EnduraCool™ Instant Cooling Towel. Since I am partial to the chill temps of fall and winter (SoCal-style) and suffer through the heat of summer, I threw this towel in the cart. It was almost an afterthought, but in the months since I received my order, I have used the table exactly twice, while this towel has become an indispensable accessory.

There are no chemicals, cooling packs, or technological gadgetry involved. The towel is made from polyester and nylon using a proprietary process that allows the fabric to absorb and trap moisture. When you soak it in water, wring it out, then snap it between your hands, air circulates through the fabric, cooling the towel to 30 degrees below body temperature. You can drape it around the neck, wrap it about the head, or put it on any overheated area of the body for instant relief. After using it for the first time, I informed my friends and family that they should expect to see this towel hanging around my neck until November.

Throw in the Towel 2The company’s website states that the fabric will stay cool for up to two hours when wet, but I’ve used the towel on my nightly walk and found the next morning that it’s still cool and slightly damp. My sister recently took one with her on a trip to the desert and said that it dried out fairly quickly in the arid climate, so its staying power will depend on the environment. If the towel starts to lose its cooling properties, simply wet it again and snap it to reactivate. It’s reusable and machine washable, so I predict that this towel will see me through several summers—and workouts.

If the summer heat literally makes you swoon, chill out! The next time you’re loading up your shopping cart, make sure to throw in the towel and you’ll play it cool all season long.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Mission EnduraCool™ Instant Cooling Towel


The Mission EnduraCool™ Instant Cooling Towel comes in a range of colors and can be purchased at Brookstone, most sporting goods stores, and a variety of retailers.

Margie’s Quinoa – This Recipe Will Change Your Life!

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dinner, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Savories, Wellness

Margie's Quinoa 1I’ve never been a huge quinoa fan. Let’s just get that out on the table now. I don’t hate it, but I don’t crave it, I don’t order it, and I don’t cook with it. I like lots of other healthy grains like farro, lentils, and bulgur, but quinoa has a funky texture and, like tofu (which I am also not a big fan of), you need to add a lot of flavor to make it taste good. So when my friend Margie told me that she and her husband ate quinoa every week, Monday through Thursday, I was shocked. But also fascinated (and a little obsessed).

I know this is a blog about stuff to swoon over—don’t be fooled, this story has a fairytale ending—but before quinoa had me in her thrall, I was a disbeliever.

When Margie first told me about her quinoa regimen, I thought she made a different recipe every week. I even started sending her quinoa recipes I came across, but she makes the same one. Every week. Being the kind of person who loves variety so much I don’t even like leftovers, I was curious about why she and her husband Michael committed to this way of eating. I interviewed Margie exclusively for The Swoon Society:

What made you decide to be so structured with your weekday eating?
We structured our weekly meals mainly because my husband had gained 20+ lbs from our cooking and wine drinking every night of the week. He decided the way to combat this problem was to rely on the Catholic method of living…sin and repent!

He thought if he could eat moderately during the week, he could indulge himself on the weekends, and it should all balance out. He also gave up drinking alcohol Mon-Thurs. Once I saw how much easier it was to eat the same thing every night and not have to worry about what I was going to make for dinner every night or make daily trips to the market, I got on board with the process.

Do you ever get sick of eating the same thing 4 days a week?
We eat this dish Mon-Thurs, and have been doing so for several years. Of course we get tired of eating it sometimes. We take a break if our schedule is such that we won’t be home to eat the dish at least three days during the week. When we go on vacation, we don’t watch what we eat. By the end of every trip, we always say we can’t wait to get back to eating quinoa! We never feel overly full when we eat it or go to bed on a full stomach.

Do you ever vary the recipe?
The recipe has evolved over the years, mostly in terms of which vegetables we use. We switch off between the three Trader Joe’s simmer sauces from time to time.

Do you think it has had an impact on weight loss?
For my husband, who has a tendency to overeat, it has been very impactful to structure our diet this way. It’s very easy to see where you are overeating or where to cut calories when your diet is so structured. This method of eating also has a huge impact on time. It’s shocking how much time you have for yourself when you don’t have to cook dinner and clean up afterwards. Evenings become a time to relax or a productive time doing other things. It might even get you to bed earlier, which will have a positive impact on how much sleep you get. Nothing bad comes to those who eat the same thing for dinner every night!

Where did you get the recipe?
The original dish was a brown rice and black bean base. Once quinoa started to become popular, I switched to it and began messing around with the recipe. My goal was to keep it as simple as possible and to have all the ingredients come from Trader Joe’s. Their pre-cut veggie options are convenient and plentiful. But, of course, you can use any veggies you like.

I started telling other friends about Margie’s diet and, invariably, they would become intrigued and ask for the recipe. I thought all the reasons Margie ate this way were valid and, if I was going to write about it for the blog, I should try it myself. My husband was game. I went to Trader Joe’s with my list and made my first batch.

Margie's Quinoa 2There are many great things about this recipe. One is that everything IS available from Trader Joe’s. I’m used to going to about three different stores to get ingredients I need for the week, so already I was pretty excited. The second great thing is that it’s very quick and easy to prepare. I don’t have a Crock-Pot, so I just put everything in a big pot and cooked it until the veggies were done. The third, and most remarkable thing about this dish, is that it is delicious! My husband and I were both surprised. It does not feel like we are compromising, especially with the addition of avocado, a splash of Tabasco, and occasionally some light sour cream. I actually look forward to eating it each night. And, it has practically no fat! Of course, the avocado adds fat, but as we know, it’s the GOOD fat, so it doesn’t count. This, on top of no cooking and no clean up, makes Margie’s recipe something to definitely swoon over!

We have tried this for two weeks and are going into our third. We talked about adding some grilled shrimp this week. Also, I added garbanzo beans and fresh corn to the mix – it’s wonderfully customizable to what’s fresh at the farmer’s market or easily available at good old Trader Joe’s. Last week I was in Vegas for a convention and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t looking forward to getting back on the quinoa wagon.

I might not give up wine, but I’m definitely incorporating this way of eating into my life on the regular. Both my husband and I feel better and maybe we will also lose some weight. As far as having all that extra time…perfect for blog writing.


Add ingredients into the Crock-Pot in this order (or put into a big pot):
1 cup rinsed quinoa, any color of your choice
2 cups of the broth of your choice
1 28 oz. can organic diced tomatoes, no salt added (I fill the can about half way full with water to rinse it and add that to the pot)
1/2 jar Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer Sauce (refrigerate and save the other half for next week – Trader Joe’s has 2 other flavors of simmer sauce you can try as well.)
1 bag cut butternut squash (I cut the larger pieces in half or quarters so they will cook through)
2 – 3 zucchini squash, slice the long way, then cut in 1/2” slices
1 bag sliced cremini mushrooms
2 handfuls of any leafy green (I like spinach)
1 generous handful of shredded carrots

Cover pot and cook on high for 3.5 hours. You can stir once towards the end, but you don’t have to. (If you are using a regular pot, simmer, covered, until the veggies are cooked through – about 45 minutes.)

When it is finished, add 1 can of drained black beans and a cup of frozen peas for color.

This will feed 2 people, 4 meals. We add a small amount of protein like cooked ground turkey or roasted chicken, sour cream or hummus on top, and avocado.


The Brush-Off

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Wellness

The Brush-Off 1Want skin that’s so soft and smooth it would make a baby swoon? Then give it the brush-off! Dry skin brushing has probably been around since the invention of the brush, but it’s gained in popularity over the past several years as people have discovered its multitude of benefits.

I got caught up in the raw foods movement as it was starting to become trendy in the early 2000s. Like most of those who jumped on the bandwagon, I quickly fell back off, but there were a few practices I adopted then that I continue to this day. One of those is dry skin brushing. Many raw foodists recommend dry brushing as a way to assist the body with detoxification and ease any “healing crisis” symptoms as it adjusts to a cleaner diet. I never experienced a healing crisis (although I did fantasize about bread for several hours a day), but the idea of dry brushing appealed to me. It’s natural and economical and only requires a few minutes each day. Plus, here in drought-parched Southern California, doing your exfoliating before you get in the shower makes good sense. So I bought a wooden brush with natural bristles and got down to the business of scrubbing. Ouch—that hurt!

The Brush-Off 2I like to dive into things feet first and had purchased a brush with stiff bristles, but I’ve learned with dry brushing that it’s best to start off gently and slowly. I’ve also found that certain brushes work better on different body parts, so I’ve amassed a collection over the years that covers all the bases.

My first brush was the CRT (Cellulite Removal Techniques) Skin Tightening Body Brush from T-Tapp, which has bristles made of stiff plant fibers. I only used it on my legs for the first week as I broke in the bristles and got into a routine, then I started using it all over my body. In a short amount of time, I was brushing like a pro and wondered how it could have hurt at first. This felt great! My skin would tingle all over afterwards, and it woke me up more effectively than a morning shower.

The Brush-Off 3When a friend offered to give me her long-handled back brush from Bass because it was too rough for her, I eagerly took it…only to find that it was also too rough for me. Undaunted, I did as before, starting off slowly and building up a tolerance until I was scrubbing with gusto. People had said that dry brushing would strengthen the skin, and they were right!

However, neither of these brushes was suitable for the more sensitive skin of my face. I tried out a few face brushes, but found them to be either too soft or too rough, so when I came across the Facial Brush from Beautiful On Raw, I had a Goldilocks moment as I discovered that it was just right. Some people say that you should only brush the face once or twice a week, but I do it every day—sometimes twice—and have seen and felt only positive effects.

The Brush-Off 4When the company came out with a body brush made of natural Tampico fibers, I quickly bought it, but I scratched myself up the first time I used it. I’d gotten so accustomed to brushing with a certain amount of force that I’d forgotten my rule to start off slowly. This brush requires a gentler touch, so I backed off a bit and have begun to make friends with it.

Now I’ve developed a routine where I use the Beautiful On Raw Body Brush on my legs (up to my hips), the T-Tapp brush on my abdomen, lower back, arms, and chest, the long-handled brush on my upper and middle back, and the Facial Brush on my face and throat. I recently added to my collection with a Bass natural bristle nail brush, which has short, stiff bristles that I like to use on my nails and the backs of my hands.

The Brush-Off 5But you don’t need an army of brushes to get the job done. One good body brush and one facial brush should do the trick. Tonya Zavasta from Beautiful On Raw recommends that you NOT use a long-handled back brush, but try to increase your flexibility by reaching over your shoulders and around your sides with a regular body brush in order to scrub the back. I haven’t quite mastered this yet.

Whatever you do, make sure to clean your brushes regularly by washing them with gentle soap and water, patting the bristles with a towel, and either laying them in the sun to dry or resting them with the bristles facing down on an absorbent towel to prevent mildew.

Beautiful On Raw has a wealth of information about the history and benefits of dry brushing, along with tips and recommendations. Check it out, then start scrubbing! Once you’ve given your skin the brush-off, you’ll rebuff any other method.

Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Beautiful On Raw Body Brush
Beautiful On Raw Facial Brush
T-Tapp CRT Skin Tightening Body Brush
Bass 100% Vegetable Bristle Extra Firm Back Brush
Bass 100% Natural Bristle Extra Firm Nail Cleansing Brush


Bass brushes are available at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and many natural foods stores.