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Indulge your senses

Our perception of the world around us is processed through our senses and everyday we are bombarded by thousands of stimuli that activate those senses. Those sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches all influence our emotional health and well-being. It all happens so rapidly and seamlessly that we often take our senses for granted and rarely think about the process, much less the idea of focusing in on those senses. This year make it a priority to indulge those senses. Luckily, you don’t have to travel out of the 209 to do it. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. 



The first thing a person should do upon entering Seven Sisters Candle and Soap Company in Columbia is breathe deeply and take in all the aromas from the handmade soaps and candles.

The sense of smell is closely linked to our memories, with just one whiff triggering a long-lost experience. As such, it is also a trigger for our emotional responses and why we have certain preferences for one smell over another.

A 2015 study “Proustian Products are Preferred: The Relationship Between Odor-Evoked Memory and Product Evaluation,” found that people preferred products that contained scents that had been linked to a positive experience in childhood.

“There is a huge link between what you smell and how it registers on your brain and you actually store that information away,” said Glinda Wolverton, owner of the Seven Sisters Candle and Soap Company. “Say you got a candle from your boyfriend and it was rose scented. Forever after when you smelled rose you are going to connect it to him and that memory. 

Wolverton got into making soaps on a whim. For years she had raised goats, but made her living as an emergency room nurse. On a suggestion from a colleague she decided to try making a batch of soap from some of the goat’s milk and the process and result thrilled her.

“It turned out awesome and I was hooked from there,” Wolverton said.

Wolverton began selling the soaps at farmers markets and when the opportunity came to her to take over the ownership of the candle and soap shop in historic Columbia she jumped at the chance. 

“It was something totally new and out of my comfort zone, but it all just fell into place,” Wolverton said.

Seven years later, Wolverton and her daughter make almost all of the soap, candles and pottery found in the store. They also offer classes by reservation for groups of at least six that want to learn how to make their own soaps and candles.

For her soaps, Wolverton uses essential oils for fragrance, which keeps the products all natural. In the candles the company uses fragrance oils for scent, which holds up better during the heating process.

Everyday Wolverton sees the power scent can have on individuals as they peruse the offerings and stop on one that evokes some memory or emotion.

“Scent embeds in your brain for your whole life. It’s a powerful thing,” she said.

Seven Sisters Candle and Soap Company is located at 22719 Broadway St. in Columbia. For more information visit or call (209) 536-9047.


Walk into Costa Livos in Mariposa and you might think you’re there to indulge your sense of smell because the aroma of cooking coming from the kitchen is intoxicating. But this place is about indulging your taste buds and starts with the olive oil used in the cooking.

Taste is the sense that registers the most pleasure for most people. Thousands of taste buds are stimulated from a myriad of flavors and combine with our scent receptors to give us the sensation of taste — from savory to sweet.

The link between smell and taste means the sense of taste also is tied to memories and our ability to recall them.

The five tastes — sweet, salty, sour, butter and umami (savory) are sensed by all parts of the mouth with certain areas having stronger reactions than others, according to the National Library of Medicine. A flavor is fully experienced only when all the taste buds have relayed the information to the brain. 

Olive oils, especially those enhanced with a flavor, are particularly good at stimulating the taste buds because of its full-bodied nature and the different tastes embodied in it.

“Olive is a fruit and like a fruit it captures a lot of the different senses in your mouth,” said Don Costa, who with his wife Kim Costa, own and operate Costa Livos.

Don and Kim Costa got into the olive oil business in 2012 as Don was preparing to retire from his job in Los Angeles. Kim came across the seven-acre property in Mariposa that they both fell in love with and they resettled in the foothill town.

“She asked me what are we going to do with all this space and I said ‘let’s plant olive trees,’” Don said.

Farming and Italian cooking are both part of Don’s lineage. It wasn’t long before they started taking their olive oils to farmers markets and tasting events around the region. Soon a spot opened up in downtown Mariposa with a kitchen, so the couple decided to take a chance on their new enterprise.

The harvesting of the olives is a family event for the Costas come November. The olives are hand-picked, hand-washed and cold-pressed within 24 hours. Pure extra virgin olive oil is made without hear. The flavors, like lemon, basil, blood orange and jalapeno, are all made using the real ingredients.

“We don’t use any syrups,” Don said. “Using the real ingredients enhances the taste and holds up better in cooking.”

To compliment the olive oils, Kim found balsamic vinegars made in Italy that are 100 percent natural, with no added sugars and aged in casks.

To properly taste olive oil guests are encouraged to follow the four S’s: Swirl to release the aromas; smell the notes in the olive oil; slurp the olive oil around in your mouth to release all the flavors; and finally swallow.

The Costas tempt the taste buds with the olive oils and fully reward it with an entrée from their kitchen, where Don recreates and reimagines some of his grandmother’s recipes.

The notion that taste and memories go hand-in hand is something Kim has witnessed firsthand.

“There was a little old man who came in one night for dinner,” Kim said. “He was maybe in his 80s or 90s and was sitting in a table up front. We went through the whole experience of the olive oil and then he started remembering how his grandmother used olive oil in all her cooking. He started eating and I noticed his head was down and that he was actually crying. I went over to ask if everything was okay and he said ‘you brought me back to my childhood and Sundays at my grandma’s house.’”

Costa Livos is located at 5029 Highway 140 in Mariposa. For more information visit or call (209) 742-6198.


If you’ve ever found yourself shedding some tears during a movie scene and wondered what exactly moved you to such emotion, it was probably the music score.

Of the five senses, sound has the strongest link to how we perceive something and our emotions. The sound of an alarm helps us perceive a threat, while the sound of falling rain might make us feel at ease.

The power of sound is just beginning to be explored as a healing property. The Sound Healers Association in Colorado have used tuning forks to treat headaches and other ailments. The healing possibility of sound is amplified when it comes in the form of music. A study in Prevention magazine found that 82 percent of respondents said listening to music eased their stress. Classical music especially has been shown to spur creativity and lower blood pressure. 

“When music becomes foreground instead of background it has the ability to allow us to let go of everything else,” said Stockton Symphony CEO Philip West.

The Stockton Symphony performed their first concert in 1926 and was conducted by Manilo Silva, who worked as a pharmacist during the day and an orchestra conductor at night. Over the decades it has grown into a renowned orchestra offering a selection of themed concerts each season.

The Stockton Symphony is currently under the guidance of Maestro Peter Jaffe, who has been enamored with the sense of sound from his days as a budding musician.  

“The thing that is incredible about music is that the emotions are not simple,” Jaffe said. “Usually you have a blend of emotions that can make you cry and laugh at the same time.

“If you take finger paint and you take the red and the yellow and smush it all together you get orange and you can no longer see the red or the yellow, just the orange,” Jaffe said. “When you have an entire orchestra playing a chord all at once you can choose to hear that it is a G Major chord or whatever chord it happens to be. The ear is so fantastic that it can pick out the discreet elements of what each person is doing at the same time. At the same time, you can hear orange, but you can also hear the red plus the yellow. That is the cognitive difference between sight and sound that is amazing and enables music to be so deep.”

Jaffe and the Stockton Symphony will be joined by guest artist Caitlyn Smith Franklin on March 21 for the “Timeless Treasures” concert.

To learn more about the Stockton Symphony and their upcoming line-up of concerts, visit or call (209) 951-0196.


Touch is the most used sense, but also the most underrated. Everyday receptors in our skin are responding to a multitude of stimuli that we process as pleasure, pain, hot, cold, heavy, light, hard, soft, smooth, rough and so forth.

Touch is the first sense we develop and is key to our understanding and connections with each other. DePauw University psychologist Dr. Matthew Hertenstein, the director of the university’s Touch and Emotion lab, conducted a study in 2009, sought to explore the theory that we can convey emotions just through touch. Hertenstein used volunteers and asked them to convey emotions — anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, happiness, sympathy and sadness — to a blindfolded stranger simply through a touch. The study had an accuracy of conveyance at 78 percent.

The power of touch as a conveyor of emotions is something Andrea Stein comes across on a regular basis as her Modesto spa — Andrea’s Skin Care and Body Therapy.

“People in society today have a need to be touched, but at the same time have almost a fear of being touched,” Stein said. “But touch is underrated. We should all be hugged. Touch is one of those things that takes us right back to the womb. It connects us to one another.”

In a massage, Stein explains she is using that sense of touch to help people connect with their inner-self.

“That touch communicates that it’s okay to relax and unwind and get back to who you are,” Stein said. “At least for an hour, it’s a chance to dump all the garbage that can weigh us down.”

A self-described hugger, Stein took her skills at nurturing and funneled them into a business built on making people feel better. She is a licensed aesthetician and massage therapist and her spa offers a variety of services, including organic facials, body wraps and scrubs, waxing and far infrared sauna. One of her more innovative offerings is her salt therapy room, which offers clients a new avenue toward rest and relaxation.

Stein’s salt room uses pink Himalayan salt, which is found in the Punjab region of Pakistan, near the base of the Himalayas. Chemically, it is close to table salt, but also has 81 trace minerals, like potassium, magnesium and calcium that have various health benefits, particularly for respiratory issues.

“Say for example, you are walking on the beach and it’s a sunny day and you feel good and you think it’s because you’re not at work,” Stein said. “But really it’s because you’re grounding yourself. Your feet are in that sand and salt water and those minerals are working on the body on an electrical and chemical level and that helps balance your adrenals and your thyroid. And that’s just from a few minerals.”

Stein has taken the therapeutically benefits of pink Himalayan salt and put them to use in her massages. Her guests have the option of having a massage in the salt room and/or using some of the salt stones in the massage.

Andrea’s Skin Care and Body Therapy is located at 4101 Tully Road, Ste. 302 in Modesto. For more information visit or call (209) 765-4967.


The sense of sight has the strongest connection to our general state of mind. What we see has an impact on everything from creativity to our situational awareness.

Perhaps one of the best ways to indulge your sense of sight is viewing art. A 2014 study from the University of Arkansas found that students taking a field trip to an art museum felt better emotionally after the visit. A Norwegian study found that creating or consuming arts had positive benefits on physical health, personal satisfaction and lower rates of depression and anxiety.

“The experience with some works of art may be enjoying peacefulness or beauty; this might be the kind of art we want to live with at home,” said Carnegie Arts Center Director Lisa McDermott. “In a museum setting, the art we see might provoke feelings of agitation, anger or confusion. It might not be art that we want to take home and hang over the sofa, but it can stimulate our thinking processes. Seeing art like this in a museum or gallery can help ‘keep us on our toes.’ Encouraging conversations, taking our thoughts to deeper levels, helping us see a new point of view — these are ways that art can work some magic on us emotionally and cognitively. I love that there are artists who strive to give us works that increase our empathy and expand the scope of our world view.”

The Carnegie Arts Center reopened in Turlock in 2011 and showcases both regional and global exhibits each year. Currently, the Carnegie is showing an exhibit by Jamey Brzezinski called “Retrospection.” Brzezinski is a faculty member in Merced College’s art department.

“The current Carnegie exhibition of paintings by Jamey Brzezinski touches both sides of the coin — the work is beautiful, much of it calming and meditative, but it also can be viewed as an abstract puzzle that makes you reconsider your expectations and point of view,” McDermott said. “I don’t think anybody can walk through this exhibition without talking and thinking about the nature of art and perception.”

The Carnegie Arts Center is located at 250 N. Broadway in Turlock. To learn more about the Carnegie Arts Center visit or call (209) 632-5761.