Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Long Weekend Getaway

You know you've planned a trip of the perfect length when you are sad to leave but happy to be home. At least that's how I know. It was a melancholy feeling when I said goodbye to my friend Sue, the palm trees and warm weather of Phoenix, but the familiar lights of the skyline and the first inhalation of cold, crisp air in Boston felt good. Granted, it IS late February 40-ish air and not the frigid, deep-freeze air of January.... Nonetheless, it felt good to be home, despite the dirty gray piles of snow, drab skies and impending snowstorm of the next day.

While in Arizona I usually like to take a hike in the Sonoran Desert, but unfortunately the tail end of a cold and some shortness of breath prevented it this year. We had to console ourselves with shopping and lunch out at Lon's, a lovely outdoor restaurant surrounded by colorful gardens. We visited the Cave Creek Olive company, where olives are grown and pressed; you can tour the facility and sample the various oils they sell. I selected a chili olive oil and an EVOO for dipping, both were yummy when I sampled them.

It's a huge treat to be able to wake up in the morning
and walk 20 feet out back tothe grapefruit tree, pick one of the dozens of dangling fruit and then eat it-- without sugar! No matter how sweet and juicy a store-bought grapefruit is at home, it can't compare the the freshness of these citrons. Last year I greedily stuffed as many as I could into my suitcase, only to have to pay extra because it was so heavy. Epic fail!

The best part of the trip was spending time with my best friend, something I never tire of, even after 25 years. We never run out of things to say to each other or laugh at. It was fun to be able to bond with Oscar, her dog of 2 1/2 years. He's such a sweetie. Going away is great, but in the words of John Denver (cringe!) "Hey, it's good to be back home again".

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Life is made up of circles, cycles; some big, some small. Every so often we end up back where we started from. Each day is a starts and ends the same way, there are always 24 hours, but naturally there are never 2 that are exactly alike.

Some cycles are reassuring. It's nice to know that spring always follows winter and fall comes after summer. Others are frustrating- for example the never ending supply of laundry.

The worst one for me is the health cycle. Yes, everyone experiences ups and downs in their health but it's the intense effort required on my part to keep myself stable and healthy only to be undone by a little cold virus that frustrates me. Several months of hard work set back in a matter of a few days.

Buddhists have a saying that when you get a new cup you should picture it already broken, so that when it happens, as it eventually will, you will be prepared for it. Everything, in the end, must fall apart, and so too must my health. I can't change that fact but I can try to alter the way I look at it. Instead of being frustrated by the loss of function I should try to view it as part of the circle; something that is expected. Not welcome, certainly, but not a surprise.

Therein lies the trick!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bag Lady

Oh sure, like you've never fallen asleep in a shopping bag?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Second Time's a Charm

Happiness is getting it right.

The jar on the left is the second batch of liquid soap, compared to the cloudy first batch on the right. Although the smaller jar is only 3 days old, it's already much clearer (at the bottom anyway) than the other. Now I just have to be patient and let it sit for 2 weeks, hopefully in that time it will completely clarify. Patience has never been my strong suit!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cloudy Imperfection

This is my first attempt at a liquid soap, made one week ago. Technically, it's supposed to "sequester" (fancy word for "sit undisturbed") for two weeks, but I'm nothing if not impatient. I've used the stuff and it works well, it feels gentle, makes nice lather and cleans things: hands, dishes and counter tops. I'll give it another week, because that's what you're supposed to do, but I don't think it's going to change much at this point.

Although it's really just an aesthetic issue, home made liquid soap is supposed to be clear. My first batch is definitely on the cloudy side, not transparent at all-- which is fine-- but being a perfectionist I want it to be transparent. I'm assuming it's because I measured something incorrectly in this initial batch. I will admit to putting an extra dollop of coconut oil in, hoping for extra suds. What I got was cloudiness instead. Lesson learned.

So my second batch was measured much more carefully, down to a hundredth of an ounce. I cooked it extra long, tested a small batch for clarity and have my fingers crossed that this batch will be a lovely clear one.

Here it is so far: it looks like some kind of nasty porridge. It will take most of the day to get the paste diluted so that it is a uniform thickness without lumps. Once this stage is reached, I'll bottle it up and sequester it for 2 weeks, fingers crossed that it will turn out as it is supposed to!

Why go to so much trouble, when there are all kinds of different liquid soaps, something for each specific need? Shampoo, dish soap, hand soap, shower gel.... Aside from the fact that I simply enjoy it, the one thing all these liquid forms of soap have is that they are made with synthetic detergents. Homemade liquid soap contains only coconut oil, sunflower oil, water and potassium hydroxide (lye, which is not found in the final product, since it combines with the oils to make soap) I'm so intrigued by this process, it seems like magic to me, but it's really just simple chemistry.

Hopefully the next time I take photos I'll have a proper, clear batch.