Vintage flowers

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You call this spring?

Can we just talk about the fact that spring is SO not coming here yet? Ellen Dugan blogged this week about how her perennials are sprouting in her garden and buds are swelling on the trees....not so here! It's been about -15 every morning this week, and it was so cold when I was skiing on Sunday that I actually got a bit of frostbite on my cheeks. Spring is coming my ass! It's still February (by a margin of a couple of hours), and Mother Nature hasn't forgotten.

I suppose I'll quit my complaining - at least I finally got out on the slopes!

Things have been really busy lately with work and some very weird stuff happening in my personal life, so I'm mostly just popping in to say "hi." Hope you all are keeping warm and enjoying the longer daylight hours - it's now light when I go to work AND when I get home! Miracles will never cease :P

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In Which I Make Laundry Jello

I consider myself a fairly green cleaner. Not like some weird version of Molly Maid that only dresses in shades of emerald (that'd be weird), but I do my bit. The floors are washed with vinegar and hot water (thanks Mom!), and the BF even scrubs the bathtub with baking soda on a regular basis. I'm phasing known toxins out of my personal care routine, too for an added bonus. But, it wasn't enough. I needed a bigger challenge. Something to really let me earn my patchouli-scented hippie stripes. And, since I haven't heard the BF comment on how cleaning the house with vinegar makes him crave chips in a while (salt and vinegar, om-nom-nom!), I figured the time was ripe to green my laundry...or at least my laundry detergent.

I've seen a couple recipes floating around, many of which involve ingredients I've never heard of or have know idea where to find (or both). NotHannah, over on her wonderful blog I'm Not Hannah wrote a great post about her forays into home-made laundry detergent, but it involves Fels Naptha soap which I a) had never heard of previously and b) consequently found out may be a bit toxic in it's own right, and most importantly c) couldn't be bothered to go looking for it. Anything slightly odd-sounding is generally difficult to find out here unless you want to drive 2 hours into the city.

Anyways, I found a series of recipes on the David Suzuki Queen of Green blog and I was all like "Sweet! I know what these are won't have to drive to Calgary to get them!" There's a whole PDF of various cleaning methods (which you can find here) which say they have all been tested by the Queen of Green herself. Lovely. So we know this will turn out. (Ha!)

I decided to follow the instructions for the first one, the liquid laundry detergent. For those of you who didn't open the PDF, it goes as follows:
7L of water
1c of soap granules
1/2 c washing soda
1/2 c borax
20 drops essential oil (optional)

It seems a little weird to add that much water when it's all going to go into a washing machine full of water, but whatever. I dutifully measure out my one liter of water into a saucepan and heat it up, while dissolving my soap granules and making sure the whole darn thing doesn't bubble all over the stove. I fill up my mop bucket with the remaining 6L of water, measuring exactly, and mixing in the remaining elements. I pour the hot soapy water in the bucket, give it a stir and feel very pleased with myself and my laundry-detergent-making abilities. Lookit me! I'm so awesome and independent! I don't need mass-produced toxic laundry detergent, I'll make it myself! 7 liters at a time!

7 liters at a time? uh-oh. My brain slowly starts churning and putting 2 and 2 together. Somehow in this VERY simple process, I failed to realize that 7 liters of water on the ingredients list would make this batch at least as large. My plan was to re-purpose my old laundry detergent bottle (Reduce! Reuse! Go me!) which is only 2.4 L. Balls. Well, at least I can pour some of it in there for now until I can find containers for the rest. A pickle jar and yogurt container are rescued from the recycling bin and I begin to pour... well, "pour" is not the exact word. See that bit on the instructions where it says "Soap will gel as it cools?" Apparently it cools rather quickly.  And "liquid" laundry detergent is a bit of a misnomer - my super awesome green cleaning power detergent has now reached the consistency of very thick hair conditioner. I can coax it into the wide-mouthed pickle jar and yogurt containers, but there ain't no way it's fitting in that teensy-tiny opening on the detergent bottle. Double Balls.

So here I am with a bottle of Straub's Kosher Dills and Strawberry Activia detergent, and a whole other 6 liters of lavender-scented goop sitting in my mop bucket. This bucket which I now need to wash the floors after my kitchen chemistry experiment (soap flakes go EVERYWHERE). I called up a friend that I was going to meet for dinner, and all she could offer me was an empty wine bottle. I would have been better off with a full one, I think. Preferable a nice white from New Zealand. But then, in a stroke of genius, I thought of the person who introduced me to white wine from New Zealand! The BF! an honourary Kiwi himself! Who conveniently works at a hotel with many MANY restaurants that would totally have large leftover food buckets from the kitchens!

By the time he brought a bucket home from work many hours later, my laundry detergent had become laundry jello. Very, very thick laundry jello. We precariously shook it out of one bucket and into the other and somehow managed to get the near-solid all in without making a gigantic mess. I tried it out the next day, and it seems to work just dandy, although you really do have to put it in the washer first and let the water run for a bit to dissolve it before putting the laundry in.

Here's the kicker though. After going through this entire process, I happened to take a look at the powdered laundry soap recipe on the other side of the page as it was stuck to my fridge. It's the exact same, minus those stupid 7 liters of water.

That which works

I read on someone's blog somewhere a quote that goes something like this: "Don't change religions. Just pick what works from the one you were brought up with, and borrow from other ones." It's not the exact quote, and I don't know who said it but it's stuck with me over the past few weeks since I read it.

Thus, I present to you, in no particular order, what worked/works for me about Catholicism, the religion I grew up with.

1. Chastity. This seems like a weird one for most, I suppose, but it really was integral for me during my teenage years. For the majority of my life, I believed I'd wait for marriage. While pragmatism and raging hormones certainly counteracted that, I'm still grateful for that value being taught to me. As a result, I waited until I was sure I had found the right person and avoided much heart-ache and teen angst. I was also at an age when I was adult enough to understand the emotional and physical ramifications and take the appropriate precautions.

2. Regular Practice. Spirituality was a regular part of my life growing up. We said Grace Before Meals at dinner, prayed every night before going to sleep, and of course went to mass every Sunday (as we kids grew older it became Saturday night instead, but same difference). There was never any question about why we did those things, that was the way things were. My siblings and I were surprised when we learned that we were one of the few families amongst our friends that did! I'm grateful for being raised with regular and integrated spiritual practice as it's a difficult discipline to adopt later in life.

3. Community. The Catholic Church has (deservedly) earned a bad rap in many respects, but our church did one thing really well - we had a great sense of community and involvement. Parish breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, car washes -- I think my family volunteered for each parish activity at least once. My dad is in the Knights of Columbus (a bit of a macho "men only" sort of organization) and my mom somehow always ended up in the kitchen on their parish breakfast days sorting the men out and making sure the food turned out and that it made it to the tables hot. Some of them grumbled but most were relieved, lol. I, on the other hand, always seemed to end up bussing tables along with my sisters and the other kids our age.We had a community - still do. Even now when I go back to the parish church on holidays with my family there are always people to chat to after Mass, wanting to know where I am and what I'm doing, and my haven't I grown! Why they remember me when I was just a little thing!

My sisters and I were always involved as well. We went to Jr. Liturgy during mass, when we got too old for that we became altar servers, and after that I even became a Lector for a while.  My sisters, being less blessed with performative leanings, declined to follow in those particular footsteps. And of course, we were pressed into volunteer service whenever my parents were helping run an event. This is the element I miss most about Catholicism - you don't get that same sense of community as a solitary semi-pagan practitioner.

So that's it, 3 things that really worked for me about Catholicism. I could make the list go longer, but I've been working on this post for over a week now and really just want to get it finished, lol. Hopefully one day soon I'll get a list of about what appeals to me from the pagan side of things. That is, if I can tear myself away from the Downton Abbey marathon I recorded on the weekend....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Hobbit Hole of Your Very Own

For all LOTR nerds, Tolkien geeks, and eco-home enthusiasts, you need to check out this house.

Photo Credit:

It's a real live hobbit hole! I want one. Seriously. I want one.

The Dale family has built an amazing low-impact eco-home that reminds me of a the very cozy home of a certain variety of haflings. True, the resemblance is more on the outside than the in, but it's still very cool :) You can check out their website here.

The hills around here are all very tall and made of you think the BF will move to Wales with me so we can build our own?