Saturday, July 31, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent

On our move towards more green, more healthful, more simple living, we decided to start making stuff.  Lots of stuff.  From beauty products, to cleaners, to food preservation, we're trying to do our part little by little.  What I've been amazed about in my research into natural products is how a few key staples--vinegar, honey, olive oil, baking soda, borax, glycerin, castille soap (like Dr. Bronner's)--can provide so much of what we need and use everyday.  And the best part--if you make it, you know what goes into it.  As I make new batches, I'll post the products along with their recipes. 

I started making homemade laundry detergent last year.  Even Jake can't say that it doesn't get the clothes as clean as any commercial cleaners!  Occasionally I've gone back to Trader Joe's for some of their laundry detergent (phosphate-free, of course; phosphates are very harsh on the water supply), but what I love about this recipe is the sheer simpleness of it.

  • 1 bar of Ivory soap (or Fels Napatha soap), finely grated
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Washing Soda

Mix all together. 

 And done.  2 Tbs. to a warm or hot wash.   Stir it up in the water a bit to break up soap clumps before adding clothes. 

Frequently asked questions:

But why make your own laundry detergent?
1. Better for the environment.  Not only are you not using harsh petrochemicals, but you actually don't need as much as the commercial detergents call for (unless you have a very soiled or very large load).  So a little does in fact go a long way!
2. Cheaper--I haven't done the math precisely, but estimates on the internet are anywhere from $.05 to $.10 per load.  The average commercial detergent is approximately $.20 per load.  Not bad. 
3.  Time--It takes 5 minutes.  Think of all the time you can save by not figuring out what detergent is on sale, what detergent has the new hot scent, etc! 

What about the information that says that Borax and Washing Soda are toxic?
Well, yes--don't eat it.  You will get sick.  But they are certainly far better for you than the other chemicals in commercial detergents.  Some people have experienced skin irritation if it comes in contact with the skin.  Wear gloves if you'd like extra protection, otherwise just use a spoon to stir it up.

What about fabric softener? 
Guess what??  The answer is another staple--vinegar.  It does the trick.  Add a half cup per load during the rinse cycle and dry on the line or in the dryer as normal.  If it doesn't get soft enough, add 1/3 of a fabric dryer sheet to the dryer.  You don't need any more than that!

Where do I buy Borax and Washing Soda?
Borax can be found in most supermarkets, Target, Walmart, etc.  Washing Soda is a bit more difficult.  I can't find it anywhere in Pittsburgh except a very small chain, Kuhn's.  So check out at the smaller chains or independent grocers in your area.  If you can't find it there, though, washing soda is also called "soda ash," a chemical used in the pool business. 

Can I make liquid laundry detergent?
Absolutely.  I just personally the powder is easier to do.  But if you'd like more information, check out the following websites:


Today I ended my year of service with AmeriCorps.  It was a whirlwind year, mainly because I quite typically had to make things very very hard on myself by getting married and having a second (and third and fourth) job.  I gained so much experience in knowledge about working with young kids, working with difficult people, among others.

But most importantly, my year got me thinking about what this whole idea of "service" is.  I love the idea of volunteering and serving other people.  I am fully in support of anything that will help another human being, a community, or the planet.  But, sadly, there also seems to be some hidden assumptions to the idea of service that make me uneasy sometimes.  Service implies an already preexisting power structure, but one that can work both ways.  On the one end you have the lower serving the higher--a waiter serves his customers food, a butler serves the master of the house, etc.  On the other end you have the higher serving the lower--non-community volunteers taking trash out of rundown neighborhoods, volunteers bagging food at the food pantry, etc.  Most of the service from this past year could be classified under the second type, albeit without most of the sinister overtone of the "lower/higher" distinction.  I say "without most" because there were definitely times that, when not perhaps sinister, the intentions behind our service to a particular community with ignorant and ill-informed.  Certainly, intentions are good, but what of the results of said service?  What if (as I believe will happen with a few of our projects) the long-last effects are few or even non-existent? 

Another assumption seems to be that all service is created equal and all service is necessarily beneficial.   But that was simply not the case.  At times it was painfully evident--sitting around a project with nothing to do because the coordinators hadn't planned well enough or there were too many of us for the job, thus wasting precious wo/man power (not to mention time).  At other times, the disparity between the quality of service was not seen but felt.  Leaving one service project you might feel bored and apathetic about it all, others you left feeling rejuvenated about the prospect of the service you have put into action. 

I don't mean to sound so cynical about the whole thing.  The whole endeavor of service is absolutely worthwhile, but I at least in the future will be thinking a little more about what this means and the kind of service that I value performing, for whom, and to what end.  Perhaps this makes me even more of a service erudite with nothing better to do than think about how I can best change the world and further reinforces the very notion of "higher/lower" that I seek to dispel.  Yet maybe it will make my future service more meaningful, both to me and the areas I serve, to have some answers to these questions.  Without asking them, we seem to run the risk of alienating the motivation from the action of service, and in this day, with resources running thin, it's something that we just can't afford.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We are Granola

If you are what you eat, we are granola.  We only recently began to eat a lot of it once we started making it ourselves.  And I think the only reason we started making it is because people were calling us "granola" and "modern day hippies" and the like and it seemed weird that while in many ways we aptly fit these descriptions, we did not in fact consume granola.  I had also been under the mistaken assumption that granola was somehow "bad" for you.  While being a high-calorie food, thanks to complex carbohydrates, honey, and nut fats, it's also chalk full of nutrients, protein, and fiber.  So the lesson here: moderation is key.

Well that's all been changed thanks to a wonderful foundation recipe that came in one of the Penzey Spice Catalogs.  The recipe has been used so many times there's oil blots on it.  It's very well loved.  And let me tell you: moderation is hard.  It's our morning staple cereal, and we top it off with yogurt and fresh berries if they're in a season.  Delicious.  But we also have a handful during the day if we need a pick me up.  Delicious.  Or as a little bedtime snack.  Delicious.  Frankly, it's hard not to eat it all the time.

This recipe is for a double batch.  Store half in the freezer.  Trust me--you'll need to make a double batch.  It goes that quickly.

  • 6 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick oats)
  • 2 cups oat bran
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 2 cups nuts (almonds, sunflower seeds, pecans, cashews, etc.
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups dried fruit (raisins, craisins, pineapple, apple, etc.)
First, mix together the oats, oat bran, flaxseed, wheat germ, and nuts in a large bowl.

Next, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Then take a small saucepan and combine the honey, water, sugar, vanilla, and oil.  Cook over low heat until it just begins to bubble.

Pour the honey over the oats and mix thoroughly, scraping up the bits and pieces from the bottom of the bowl.

Divide the mixture between two large jelly rolls pans and spread out evenly.  Baking for approximately 20-30 minutes (depending on how well you like it done--I like mine crunchy!).  Stir every 8-10 minutes while baking.

Let the oat mixture cool completely.  Once cooled, add in your dried fruit and store in refrigerator or freeze. 

I've adapted this recipe to suit whatever I have on hand.  I love to add cinnamon to it.  I added steel cut oats (about 2 of the 6 cups) when I mistakenly bought them one time and then had no idea what to do with them.  And I even have put in quick oats on occasion when I'm just a bit short (gasp!).  And that's what I love about this recipe--it's versatility.  And if it means that we--like the granola that we eat--are versatile, I'm flattered.

My Return to Cooking

Cooking is in my genes.  I was predestined to want to cook.  I took every advantage when I was younger to help my mother in the kitchen, to be inspired by my dad's magic hand, and to try every recipe I could manage from the Kraft Kids cookbook.

Admittedly, however, I have been long stuck to the recipe on the page.  Only recently have I begun to feel confident enough to go by instinct, by feel, by smell, and by taste.  This is in large part thanks to Jake.  Part of the reason I fell madly in love with him--and what keeps me happy to this day--is that he can cook even better than I can.  When I found out he made homemade chicken wild rice soup from scratch, I was S-O-L-D.  Throughout the first few years of our relationship, we cooked many a meal together.  It was something we both enjoyed doing, and we'd try new things out on each other all the time.  But more often than not--and more often from my own choosing--I would do the "prep work" while he'd do the rest.  I was more than okay to watch him work his magic over the stove.

And the fact that he know show to cook has served our little family particularly well over the past year when my work schedule meant I didn't get home until 7 pm.  He really stepped up to the plate and made more dinners than I can even recall, especially after I started making him a "menu" so he didn't have to answer that eternal question "What's for dinner?" all by himself.

But now that my schedule has shifted and I'm home by the shockingly early hour of 4:30, I now can cook dinner.  And not just the prep work because as soon as we get home Jake usually bolts for the garden to work out there.  We're talking about me cooking the entire thing.

It's been glorious.  Apron on, hands washed, I feel I'm on a culinary adventure nowadays.  The constant influx of things from the garden presents an intellectual challenge.  How can I make zucchini different again??  I look forward to seeing what I can come up with, and it feels really good to be able to produce something not only from scratch, but using produce and herbs you've grown.  Satisfying in the stomach, satisfying in the soul.

So what was for dinner last night?  Warm weather Couscous.  The title sold me given how awfully hot it's been recently, but when I saw all the garden veggies in it, my heart pitterpattered.  I had found the recipe to use up the glut and make it all come together in a tasty creation.  And even though I didn't have everything on the list, I improvised.  I made it work.  Substituted roasted cumin for cumin, coriander powder for coriander seeds, added some carrot and garbanzo benas--you know, the standard ;-)  Here's the link to the recipe, but here's the basic idea:

1. Cook couscous by pouring boil water over and steaming it for 10+ minutes (or whenever the other stuff gets done)
2. Chop lots of vegetables (onions, peppers, zucchini, green beans, carrots, etc.) and saute in olive oil.
3. Add spices, including tumeric which instantaneously turns the dish a vibrant yellow, and some broth and simmer til vegetables are done (5-10 minutes).
4. Top with fresh cut parsley and raisins.  Voila!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


How fortuitous that on the same day I have my exit interview for my year of AmeriCorps service, I have a staff meeting with my other job, Prime Stage Theatre, that blows my mind with all the exciting things that are to come for the company. 

I'm in a point of transition at a very unlikely time for transitions.  I closely follow and observe the changing of the seasons, so now--in the dead middle of summer--is not when I would normally have expected such a transition to be made.  But I'll take it.

Last year at this time, I remember being much more worried about the future than I am now.  I worried so much about not being able to do the freelance teaching artists thing that I snatched up the opportunity with AmeriCorps as a saving grace.  But then I worried what AmeriCorps would be like, and then, when I was offered the gig with Prime Stage, how in the world I would manage to do 1 1/2 full time jobs. I was worried about what everyone worries about--money.

Now, the future is looking bright.  Even though the freelance side of things makes me nervous, I realize more than anything what a gift it is and will be for me to be doing what I love to do--theatre--with people I love to work with--kids. And I can't put a price tag on that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Attack of the Zucchini, pt. 2--freezing

Last year we froze grated zucchini for zucchini bread and muffins.  This year, we decided to freeze slices. 

We started by washing the zucchini and slicing it into 1/4''-1/2'' slices.

Then we steam blanched them for 3 minutes.  Put the cover on the pot and let it boil away.  I prefer this method over the traditional water bath blanching method only because getting them out is super easy--just pull up the steam tray!

Next, we plopped the zucchini into an ice bath.  If you really get going at a good pace and you have enough ice to keep the water cool enough, you can start a little processing line!

After that, we had to try and remove as much moisture from the zucchini as possible.  Moisture on frozen foods = freezer burn and even mushier vegetables = yuck!  We did this in a two phases--one, draining in a sieve, and second, patting them dry with a towel.  Low tech, and we love it that way.

Last but not least, it was time to package those little zucchini slices up for good.  First, before there's anything in them, we labeled the heavy-duty freezer bags!  I can't tell you how many things I've pulled from our freezer with no identification on them...I've learned my lesson for good now!

Then we put them all in the bags.  I typically just shove them in, but my husband went for the aesthetic approach.  Lovely job dear!

Some 10 bags later, we called it a day.  That, and we didn't have any more ice.  Perhaps it was better that way.

The Attack of the Zucchini

How many different ways can you cook a zucchini?  How many different ways can you cook a zucchini?  My fearless husband and I set out today to answer that question after we were robustly and offhandedly caught in "The Attack of the Zucchini!"
(moonlight, mist over the garden on a humid summer night)

Zuke 1: Ha!  They'll never know what hit them!

Zuke 2: That's right!  They'll have no choice but to pick us now!  How much did you grow today?

Zuke 1: 4 inches.  How bout yourself?

Zuke 2: Like always, I beat you--I'm 5 inches longer today.

(cut to kitchen where Jake is doing...inappropriate gestures...with zucchini)

Alyssa: Jake, cut it out. Please stop that!

Jake: Just comparing, that's all!

Zuke 1 (voiceover): This was not exactly the kind of afterlife I had in mind.

Alyssa: What are we going to do with all of this zucchini?

Jake: (in song) We could chop it, fry it, dry it, freeze it, pickle it!  We could shred it, bake it, sautee it, but most of all EAT IT!!!!

Zuke 1 (voiceover): Yeah, they definitely didn't warn us about this in school!  Run!  Oh, wait.  That won't work.  Hhmm....What to do now? I know!  I'll send a secret telepathic message to all my friends to tell them to grow, grow, grow!  These schmucks will never know what hit them in a few days.  Muhahaa ha ha!!

Well, Zuccini, we're giving you a run for your money.  First up yesterday--a lovely Vegetable Frittata.  I've never made a frittata before because I've been afraid the egg would stick the the cast-iron pan, but lo and behold with enough butter and oil, it just slid right out!  Here the general recipe (and what's great--you can swap out veggies as you have them on hand!)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 3/4 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 handful of swiss chard or spinach, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini (5-7'' long), chopped in half-moons
  • 1 Tbs. each of fresh basil, rosemary, and chives, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbs. each of fresh oregano and thyme, chopped
  • 5 large eggs, well beaten
  • 4 roma tomatoes, sliced in half
  • cheese for topping (we used cheddar and parmesan)
  • salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste (we ran out of onion, so we pinch hit!)
  • fresh chopped parsley (optional, for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat oil in cast-iron or oven-safe fry pan.  Saute green pepper and garlic over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.  Add zucchini--saute another 4 minutes.  Add swiss chard and fresh herbs.  Saute just until the greens are wilted.  Turn heat up on veggies to medium-high heat for one minute. Add eggs, lifting edges to allow runny egg to run to the pan.  Keep doing this until the egg does not run any more.  Quickly top with sliced tomatoes and cheese.  Pop into the oven for 10-15 minutes, or whenever the egg is set and the cheese begins to brown.  Slice and serve hot or cold.

Final product?  Deliciousness...

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Anyone see a theme??  Still physically ill, so it should come to know surprise that my spirits are also feeling a bit dampened these days, brought on by my equally unwise decision to accompany my summer camp kids on their field trip to Moraine State Park yesterday.  3 hours outside in 90 degree heat left me feeling exhausted and slightly more tan, which is to say it did nothing to help my cough.  But it wasn't just that.  It's that the ride there, while we were there, and especially on the sad tired trip back into the city--it just all reminded me of home, Minnesota.  From the trees to corn to the pastures to the farms that we saw, from the disproportionate number of vehicles heading out of Pittsburgh with campers and rooftop carriers attached who were headed on vacation "up north" to the way the air tasted crisper and fresher, besides the hills, it all felt like home.

I miss Minnesota for many reasons.  Number one being family, two being friends, and three being the scenery.  When I was at Arts High (Perpich Center for Arts Education), my chemistry teacher gave me a book about Minnesota's ecological systems and history.  A dry read, I'll admit, yet I devoured it.  What other state could you find such a diversity of ecosystems, from prairie to wetlands to lakes to forests and with three different watersheds?  I was amazed.  And still am.

I count myself lucky that I now have family living in three different areas: my mom in south-southeastern MN, my dad "up north" in lake country, and my husband's family in southwestern MN.  While driving in between all three places--a triangulation of 3 hours to each place--is a nightmare, I love seeing how quickly the earth changes in those three small hours.

We're going home in four weeks, and I can't even begin to tell people how excited I am.  While we've been home for the holidays, this will be our first time back in MN during the summer since 2007.  I have some favorite spots that I can't wait to visit.  There's this gravel country road less than a half-mile from my mom's house that I love to go walking on.  It has a small hill that when you reach the top you can see all around you.  Some of it is corn, some of it is grassland, blowing in the wind, and when you reach the bottom of the hill, there's this cool little wetland amidst one of the pastures.  If I'm lucky enough to borrow my mom's bike during the trip, I might take it down this road and even further past Richter's Woods, a county park.  I remember how the temperature immediately drops 5 degrees once you reach the tree cover and can still see the sign for maple syrup sold by my childhood friend Andy's grandparents who live on that road.

And my other favorite spot?  The Melby Farm.  I never grew up on a farm, but I fell in love with my husband's farm when I first visited.  I can't wait to see all that Mary has done with her rock gardens...
Picture taken before we moved to PA in the summer 2007
to take a walk out in the pastures and see what treasures can be found...
Picture taken Summer 2007
to take the pontoon out on the lake (and oh how we miss the lakes! You can't throw a stone without hitting a lake in MN), and to enjoy the gusting wind off of Buffalo Ridge.  

Then when we get to New Ulm for my cousin's wedding, I can't wait to take our dog for a walk and look at all the beautiful old homes on Minnesota St. and Broadway.  I can't wait to sit in my Auntie Barb's amazing garden (something I hope to aspire to someday).  I can't wait to visit my grandparents in their home, a home that has always made me feel at peace and safe.  

My friend Chelsea recently posted a wonderfully poetic post on her blog about the small things making a home.  And she's right.  Not just about the home in which you lay your head each night, the home whose numbers and street are listed on your driver's license.  But home in the larger sense, too.  I can't wait!
Picture taken Summer 2007

Thursday, July 22, 2010


It hasn't left.  This thing.  Whatever it is that has possessed my chest.  I slept for 13 hours last night.  Who does that??  Then I stayed home today from work and rested and tried different remedies.  I'm hoping that this did the trick.  I'd really like to accompany my classroom on their field trip tomorrow.  I'm like a child--"I don't want to miss the field trip!!!  I don't care if I'm sick!"

Here's a bit more about the remedies I tried:
1. Unsure of the eucalyptus steam bath (see previous post), I decided to do a chest rub instead. 
  • 30 drops jojoba oil
  • 5-10 drops eucalyptus
  • Mix thoroughly.  Apply liberally to chest.  Cover with cotton towel or flannel.  Top with heating pad.  Snuggle up under the blankets (or sheet as the case may be for me as it's the middle of summer) and rest.

The eucalyptus is supposed to be an expectorant to get the gunk out (as opposed to what's in most cough medicines--a suppressant--which limits or suppresses the cough), but also is said to help thin out the mucus as well.  I must say, after using both last night and tonight, it worked on both accounts!

2. Chicken noodle soup--my husband looked at me like I was crazy last night when, after he'd been out in the garden til 8:30 pm, I told him I wanted chicken noodle soup.  I knew we didn't have any chicken noodle soup in our pantry.  But I didn't care.  I wanted chicken noodle soup. Even if it meant that he might have to run to the store to buy his poor ailing wife some chicken noodle soup.  I wanted chicken noodle soup.  Lo and behold, though, the man manages to pull chicken noodle soup out of the pantry using:
  • one can low sodium Campbell's chicken gumbo soup
  • one can cream of chicken soup
  • can of white chicken breast chunks
  • a handful of broken linguine noodles
  • a carrot
  • two celery stalks
What would I do without him??  It tasted great and exactly what the doctor (or me) ordered, especially served with yummy whole wheat bread from a local bakery all slathered in butter.  I proceeded to replicate this meal for both lunch and dinner today. 

But there absolutely must be something to chicken noodle soup (or soup in general) being good for illness. I swear, I was running a low-grade fever before last night's soup feast, but after--gone.  My shirt was soaked after eating lunch today, just drenched.  Sure, perhaps this was also because, as aforementioned, it's the middle of summer and hot outside anyway, but I'm just going to imagine that it helped cleanse my body of toxins through the old fashioned way--sweating them out. 

3. Tea--and lots of it.  I'm not kidding--I was trying to hit this thing from every angle.  Lemon balm tea (from our very thriving plant; this calming herb, when steeped for long enough, is said to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties), chamomille tea (helps to calm and relax muscles), echinacea tea with fresh ginger (helps to boost the immune system), and green tea with honey (provides general antioxidants).  Next up: I'm thinking of trying thyme before I go to bed.  It's known to clear up coughs. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gardens gardens everywhere...

We have three gardens.  Yes, three.  While this may seem a bit excessive, let me explain.

Last year, we wanted a garden.  We wanted to get our hands dirty, grow our own food, and enjoy life's bounty.  The only problem is, in our city as in our backyard, green space is at a premium.  We are very fortunate to live directly across from a stretch of community gardens.  The name is a bit of a misnomer as many gardens are in fact no longer residents of the community and last year about 1/3 of the "gardens" were "weed gardens."  We tried to get a plot through the correct channels of communication.  We scouted, we looked, and through the process, was told by one of the gardeners that there were some smaller, unmarked plots at the back which were not monitored by the city.  Bingo!  Let "rogue gardening" commence.  So, that was our first plot, seen below in its glory of swiss chard, eggplant, tomatoes and leaves.

But why stop at one?  There was other land not being used last year, so we also usurped what is now garden plot #2.  This year, we have 6 feet+ tall tomato plants growing in them (no joke) and a few well-producing pepper plants that simply look dwarfed in comparison.  

But wait, you might be asking.  Aren't there three?  Fast forward to early May 2010.  We had already started planting in Plots #1 and #2.  But then (enter dramatic music), my husband receives notice he has a letter from the city awaiting his signature at the post office.  While scared it was some sort of tax letter, he nonetheless conquered his fears and was astonished to find out that we had been granted one of the larger plots.  All we had to do was pick it out.  Mid-May 2010--we pick out our plot and begin the clearing/excavation of the weeds.  And here is what it looks like now, a mere 2 months later:

We have tomatoes in front, two sections of peppers, some carrots, cucumbers, yellow summer squash, zucchini, acorn squash, butternut squash, and pumpkin squash just because we thought it might be fun to try.  Oh, and there was a raspberry bush and grapevine already in there.  Jake also did a superb job in building a water collection system using items he found littered on the back hillside.

Questions you may have:
1. Are we gardening organically? As much as we can.  We are trying to only use chemical pesticides when absolutely necessary to save the plant.  Otherwise, we're making homemade stuff, like tomato leaf tea to ward off the aphids, to deal with pests and problems as they arise.

2. Will you get rid of any garden space?  Yes, thank goodness.  This is fun (and frankly, my dear husband does the majority of the work, from seed to finish--only proper to give credit where credit is due), but a lot of work.  We'll be handing over care of Plot #1 to a neighbor at the end of this growing season.

3. Do you like weeding?  Yes.  It's cathartic. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Herbal steam bath for cough

So for my facebook friends, this is old news, but I started the blog while under a bit of duress from a nasty chest infection.  As my husband says, "You sound SO attractive when you cough like that."  I'm sure your mental picture is well-formed by that simple statement alone. 

I've long been a fan of Ricola's natural herbal cough drops, but this time decided to try the herbal steam bath.  I've read a lot about it, but never have given it a go myself.

I tried it when I came home from work early yesterday.  I put about 15 drops of Eucalyptus oil (a natural expectorant) into a bowl of freshly boiled water.  Put a white towel over my head and sat hunched over for 15 minutes.

Three things of note happened:
1. I opened my eyes to peer into the bowl to see what the oil looked like after I dropped it in.  Heed the warnings.  It burned like mad.
2. I immediately could not breathe in much.  It also kind of burned my nostrils and air passageways.  I did, however, begin to cough up gunk.  Mission accomplished momentarily.
3. The burn went away and the smell mellowed as time went on.  So did it's effects.  While I did remain relatively cough-less for the next few hours, did it make my cough and the gunk go away?  No.  But it helped.

Then I tried it again this morning before work to test again it's efficacy, this time adding slightly fewer drops (10).  This time:
1. I did not open my eyes.  Success! 
2. I did not cough right away.  Success in that I was able to breathe in more of the fumes, but less gunk came out.
3. I still had a cough when I was done, but I didn't feel like death warmed over today as I was headed out to work.  I had pep in my step, zip in my hip.  I'll take any day.

Conclusion: will definitely use again in the future.  May add additional oils, such as camphor (Vick's Vapor Rub, anyone?) and peppermint.  Also very refreshing for your face.  Splash on cold water when done and "voila!" Revived!

Monday, July 19, 2010 new again!

I have always been a lover of old things, my grandmother notwithstanding (and especially her cinnamon rolls).  I was given my first cup and saucer of the depression glass collection, "Cameo, or Ballerina Girl," when I was 8 years old by my Auntie Barb.  I was hooked.  I visited antique stores with a zeal and relish that made store owners leery until they discovered I wasn't in the store just to wreak havoc and break something.  I read all the "American Girl" books, particularly Felicity and Kirsten, and you got it: Laura Ingalls Wilder topped my list to.  I became entranced by the PBS series, Frontier House, Colonial House, and Manor House. I insisted on learning my genealogical past from the ripe young age of 9, dragging my bewildered parents to the Brown County Historical Society in New Ulm, MN.  I now have two 3'' binders filled with old family photos, letters, and of course the family trees.  I have both of my grandmother's wedding dresses and was just recently given at my wedding shower a vest that was worn by my great-great grandmother on the boat from Germany. I was a sobbing mess.

And the list could go on and on and on about my fascination with "old things."  But in particular, what has perhaps fascinated me most, was simply how they did it.  How did they churn butter in those things?  What did they do when they had a raging headache and couldn't pop an ibuprofen from a plastic bottle?  You mean they had to wash laundry BY HAND?  Then there's everything that I can't even begin to pronounce on the back of a commercial shampoo bottle that has often left me standing in a pool of water in my bathtub as I struggle to pronounce the number-number-polysyllabic-number word.  What did they do before the advent of petrochemicals, I ask myself?  Not to mention what is in our food and water supply.  Frankly, I don't trust the FDA.  I remember when the campaign was all for margarine, but now they're saying the trans-fats are oh so bad.  Get your story straight, please.  I'm sticking with food I know hasn't been tampered with and has been grown/developed/processed in a way that would make our forefathers happy, like the vegetables from our garden.

So  it's most definitely the independent person in me who says, "Well if they can do it, so can I!" I'm giving it a shot, this whole "what is old is new again" thing.

The mere fact that I proceed to document my journey towards a simpler life via a blog seems an instantaneous oxymoron.  Yet with all the other "simple life" blogs out there, and with my mother more likely to be able to check the blog at work and thus stay more informed of our activities, I figured why not?  Plus, let's face it: friends have been urging me for a while now to do it, so to you dear ones--your wish has been granted.

It'll take every ounce of power not to post a gazillion things right away.  One bit at a time...

But if anyone has something they'd like to know about right away, let me know!