Thursday, January 31, 2013

Meds and homemade laundry soap

YEEHAA! Or however you write that exclamation of joy! In Afrikaans, it would be "JIPPEEEEE!" which is not to be confused with the sound a teacup dog makes. (big smile)

Joyful - joy - gives synonyms as "joyous, happy, blithe; buoyant, elated, jubilant." I agree with all those.

Reason? Just got off the phone for my 3-month telephone consult with the Lyme specialist in the USA. We were discussing how I was feeling and then I asked if I could please take a break from all the meds, for a month or two. She was happy to let me go on herbals for three months, to see how it goes. I've been doing a lot better on the whole, and think the problems the last few weeks were more about meds.

I'll be using mainly Bab-2 drops twice a day before meals and try to go up to as many drops as possible. Last time I could only get up to 9 drops at a time before feeling sick all the time.

Happy? You bet! Not having to swallow all those pills for a few weeks - that's major! Poor hubby had to spend at least half an hour every week or so to sort them all out. And then the cost, the hundreds of dollars spent every month to pay for all these things out of pocket. It is now hubby's turn to have his health looked at, some tests to be run, and getting him back up to speed and good health, especially better hearing, which is a problem in his family.

I'm also still working on getting arrangements for the May Lyme Disease awareness day in Brampton and elsewhere, while talking to people in other towns across Canada who would like to set up events as well.

Now about something else -- I wrote the piece below for a friend in Sweden who was curious about my making laundry soap. She thought it should be put on the blog as well, so here goes!


Why? I've been annoyed with all the cleaning stuff we have to buy, and have gradually moved over to natural cleaning agents like fresh lemon, vinegar, baking soda, and boiling water. The steamer is wonderful, using only really hot water, getting rid of bacteria, dust, stains -- you name it. I should use it more often, though! Pity it can’t drive itself.

My grandmother always made her own soap in a black pot on a fire outside, using fat from one of the animals slaughtered. I was really small when I started helping her. She used a large, long stick to stir the mixture and we would use the bar soap to get the stains out of Dad’s overalls or my brother’s play clothes. It was wonderful on the collars of school shirts!

Supplies for doing laundry
For a long time, I've been wondering about making my own laundry soap and knowing exactly what is in there. I don’t like perfumes, but do like the smell of lavender and have been using homemade soaps for almost a decade. A friend’s daughter started making soap and I bought the first ones just to support her, but it became the only soap I've been using.

Back to laundry soap and making my own. Plowing through internet sites, blogs, people’s comments and more, I decided to try a combination of them to see how things would work. The first batch of laundry soap was made and we've done a few loads. So far, so good! I might have to tweak the recipe a little, though. Using white vinegar as softener, helps too. I've always had Borax in the house to add to laundry now and then anyway. Borax is also good to lay a line over doorways if you have trouble with insects like ants or cockroaches, as very often happens in towns near oceans, but ONLY if you don't have small kids or pets in the house. 

WARNING: Just remember, as with all cleaning agents, to keep out of reach of pets or kids! As an alternative, you can dust the Borax into places like behind the fridge or stove or inside the covers for electrical outlets or lights and screw them back on. You might have to do this a few times if you have a problem with roaches. Like the ticks, cockroaches can survive anything .... And roaches will come in if they are around, no matter how clean you are!

Back to the laundry ... 

The recipe, with pictures as I took some while making, is simple:
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda
1 Bar of Ivory Soap
7.5 litres hot tap water

Bar of soap before microwave
Since a few sites said that baking soda could be used to add a boost to whites, I figured I might as well add some to the mix. Maybe it makes the mix a little coarse, I don’t know. Might not do it with the next batch. Also, I couldn't find washing soda, no matter how I searched. A few sites mentioned that you could make your own, by changing the chemical structure of baking soda. So, I did --- turned the oven to 200 C / 400 F and bake the soda for at least 30 minutes. I spread it out onto a cookie sheet so that as much as possible would be exposed to the heat.

Soap after microwave, on wax paper
To start, the bar of soap has to be grated, but I found several sites that said it could be put in the microwave oven for 90 seconds, let sit for 30 minutes and then crumble into a large pot.  The blob on the right is what the soap looked like, sitting on a piece of wax paper in the microwave. When it crumbles, the flakes are very light and might make you sneeze!

Add about 2 litres of hot water and heat gently to melt. Stir all the time so that everything is dissolved in the water.

Take off the heat and add the washing soda and Borax with another litre of water. Stir very well.
Add the rest of the water.

Let sit for 24 hours. (I left mine for two days). When you stir again, there will be a thick layer on top. Break that up. I just used my immersion blender (wand) to mix everything.
Now I added about 40 drops or so of lavender essential oil, just because! Some people add the essential oil to a piece of cloth and toss into the dryer, or add to the vinegar in the compartment for softener. 

Pour the detergent into clean milk jugs or empty detergent bottles. Mark as needed. Shake well before every use.

Experiment with your machine and how much to use per load. We have a top loader and I found that using two caps full (about 3/4 cup) will do the trick. I also used the mix to rub into a collar to get it clean before adding to the machine.

Adding white vinegar to the compartment for softener helps to cut static cling and also removes any soap deposit that might be left in your machine, I read somewhere. Last night I forgot to add the vinegar to a laundry load and there was definitely more static cling when things came out of the dryer.

Lemon and salt air freshener
I also found a recipe for air freshener, using lemon and coarse salt. Placed it in a clean, empty cat food container at the cat litter boxes, and it really helps. I put the date on to see how long it works. 

Just squeeze the juice out of a lemon (and drink in water - it is good for you!), then stuff rock or coarse salt into the empty shell. Put out in various spots to be a natural air freshener. 

The other one I want to make again, is just an orange and whole cloves. Push the cloves through the orange skin to stand out like studs and hang the orange with a ribbon or twine in an airy closet or space. 

Have fun, fighting the Lyme bugs or real bugs in your life! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Experience at Timmies (funny!)

My Timmies buddies: Carolyn and Sue
My dear friend Carolyn who traipses the world with a group of friends, some of them having known the others for decades, emailed me the story below which I felt should be shared with a larger audience. She writes: "This morning the CHFI Blog said Monday mornings are so depressing that the average person doesn't smile until 11:29. But we are mainly retired so Monday mornings shouldn't be worse than any other morning! At any rate this Timmies story is funny and I think worth a read. It made me laugh out loud several times. I guess although I don't drive a truck I could see myself!" 

 Little background before you read: Those of you who live in Canada, or have been talking or visiting us here over the years, would be familiar with my beloved "Timmies" or Tim Hortons - a favourite place to meet friends and share a coffee, soup, doughnut, cookie or some other items. Yes, yes, I know there are more chains and other names, but we like the Timmies coffee.

If you watch the show "How I met your mother", you would know that one of the main characters had an experience in a Timmies when he insulted the mild-mannered Canadians. My son showed me that clip, knowing I don't follow the show.

To me, Timmies is as much a part of our life here in Canada as the snow and the lakes. To those who don't know, here's the link if you need to know more! (And when you visit here, meet me at Timmies ....)

The story:

“$5.37!” That's what the kid behind the counter at Tim Horton's said to me. I dug into my pocket and pulled out some lint and two dimes and something that used to be a Lifesaver. Having already handed the kid a five-spot, I started to head back out to the truck to grab some change when the kid with the Elmo hairdo said the worst thing anyone has ever said to me. He said, "It's OK. I'll just give you the senior citizen discount."

I turned to see who he was talking to and then heard the sound of change hitting the counter in front of me. "Only $4.68," he said cheerfully.

I stood there stupefied. I am 56, not even 60 yet. A mere child! Senior citizen?

I took my food and walked out to the truck wondering what was wrong with Elmo. Was he blind? As I sat in the truck, my blood began to boil. Old? Me?

I'll show him, I thought. I opened the door and headed back inside. I strode to the counter, and there he was waiting with a smile.

Before I could say a word, he held up something and jingled it in front of me, like I could be that easily distracted! What am I now? A toddler?

"Dude! Can't get too far without your car keys, eh?" I stared with utter disdain at the keys. I began to rationalize in my mind.

"Leaving keys behind hardly makes a man elderly! It could happen to anyone!"

I turned and headed back to the truck. I slipped the key into the ignition, but it wouldn't turn. What now? I checked my keys and tried another. Still nothing.

That's when I noticed the purple beads hanging from my rear view mirror. I had no purple beads hanging from my rear view mirror.

Then, a few other objects came into focus. The car seat in the back seat.. Happy Meal toys spread all over the floorboard. A partially eaten doughnut on the dashboard.

Faster than you can say Ginkgo biloba, I flew out of the alien vehicle.

Moments later I was speeding out of the parking lot, relieved to finally be leaving this nightmarish stop in my life. That is when I felt it, deep in the bowels of my stomach: hunger! My stomach growled and churned, and I reached to grab my coffee, only it was nowhere to be found.

I swung the truck around, gathered my courage, and strode back into the restaurant one final time. There Elmo stood, draped in youth and black nail polish. All I could think was, "What is the world coming to?"

All I could say was, "Did I leave my food and drink in here?” At this point I was ready to ask a Boy Scout to help me back to my vehicle, and then go straight home and apply for Social Assistance benefits.

Elmo had no clue. I walked back out to the truck, and suddenly a young lad came up and tugged on my jeans to get my attention. He was holding up a drink and a bag. His mother explained, "I think you left this in my truck by mistake."

I took the food and drink from the little boy and sheepishly apologized.

She offered these kind words: "It's OK. My grandfather does stuff like this all the time."

All of this is to explain how I got a ticket doing 85 in a 40. Yes, I was racing some punk kid in a Prius. And no, I told the officer, I'm not too old to be driving this fast.

As I walked in the front door, my wife met me halfway down the hall. I handed her a bag of cold food and a $300 speeding ticket. I promptly sat in my rocking chair and covered up my legs with a blanket.

The good news was I had successfully found my way home.

Pass this on to the other old fogies on your list.
Notice the larger type? That's for those of us who have trouble reading.
P.S. Save the earth....... It's the only planet with seniors’ discount!!!!

Lyme Disease update:
Ok, now for those who might actually visit this blog to follow my journey through the maze of Lyme Disease: Last week was a difficult one. Starting with the upheaval of stomach on Sunday, it must have taken more out of the old bod than I thought. Couldn't get rested, couldn't get warm, just felt totally without energy. Bleh. Such a drag to find the body is in control when I want to be!

Arno added me back on a pulse of some of the meds which made me sick before. He sorts out my pills and follows the instructions from the doctor. On Friday, he lamented, "I never wanted to be a doctor. Why do I have to be a doctor?" But I am forever grateful to him for being so caring, and taking the treatment so seriously. There's no way I would have done as well if he wasn't there to support and help. 

On Saturday, we went to the Toronto Boat Show, which is usually one of our fun things to do. We don't boat, we don't buy, but we just marvel at the size of the show, and the organization behind putting it all together, fitting everything in, carpeting the halls, hanging the banners - an amazing event! Usually I can walk through for a few hours, but on Saturday I had to tell dear, patient hubby several times that his old decrepit wife had to sit down and rest a while. Such a bummer! The spirit is willing but the flesh wants to si-i-i-i-i-t and re-e-e-e-e-e-st ..... It is embarrassing. Not having been able to sleep for two nights straight didn't help, haha! 

But it means I get to catch up on my reading, using a tablet which helps me remember my place. If you are a reader, you can look at the sidebar on the right, to Goodreads, which is how I keep my books straight. Neat to be able to log what you read, to go back later, to compare with friends or recommend something to someone else. 
  • The best news is that I've started conversation with the city of Brampton about the Lyme Disease Awareness day in May. The date for the Brampton event so far is May 18 - the Saturday of the long weekend. Details will be made public as they are finalized. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Decluttering, Gratitude and Cards

 Quick Lyme update: Things were really going well lately and I'm trying to get off the medication. However, on Sunday there was a reminder by getting the tummy to rebel and chase me to my knees just as we were ready to leave the house! Spent some time there; not even water would stay down. Body went into shock, chills and shivers and the whole lot, so back to huddle under the soft blanket second-born son gave me for Christmas. We were planning all sorts of fun things for Sunday, which of course didn't happen. Bleh!

Tonight Jess and I will be doing a presentation in Vaughan to a group of women. Usually after such an event, we walk away with contacts, future helpers and others to carry out the message and the information to warn their own loved ones about this disease.


How are you doing with decluttering and maybe trying the 40 Bag Challenge as posted before? I've done several sections in the home; maybe recycled or threw out about 7 or 8 bags out so far, plus various items like a wheeled chair, set of 12 cups and saucers, and so on. Oh and my cleaning cabinet looks a whole lot better after sorting all those bottles and containers, combining some that were the same, or disposing of some that were not used completely. I much prefer to use natural cleaners and fresheners and have found several hints all over the web!

A lemon and rock salt freshener has been put to use already and seems to take on the cat litter boxes with gusto. I've used an empty cat food container, washed off the label and stuck on a note about what it now contains plus the date. A tissue or two keeps the lemon upright in the container. The freshener is supposed to be effective for about two months. Of course it is affordable enough to make more, even if it only lasts a month or so!

The original idea comes from Abundance on a Dime: Six Natural & Cheap Ways to Freshen Up Your Home

As for cleaning up and throwing out, this is what the cleaning cabinet now looks like after a whole bunch of things went out of there! 
Several empty spray bottles will find a new home with someone else and first-born son is still using Febreze for his car, after the previous owner's dogs had a stinky mishap on the carpeting .... The empty plastic container in the foreground contains cleaning rags which were created by pulling an old sheet into squares. Wonderful for all sorts of jobs and just to toss into the washing machine!


One of the things that I've been trying to do better, is to send out cards to friends. Christmas cards go out every year, but I meant other cards - thank you or gratitude cards, birthday cards, sympathy cards, friendship cards --- Work always seemed to get in the way and I'd be too tired to go to the store or forget to create and mail one in time. Then, in September 2012, I discovered an online gem! I've been using them since then. Yes, it can be a pyramid scheme but I'm not interested in that - only in the ease of creating and sending out cards. Even at midnight if I remember that so-and-so would need a card, I can pull up the laptop, create the card, tell when it should be sent, and be done with it. Voila!

The cards are great quality and everyone who received one, commented on the fact that it was personalized with their name printed right inside. I guess I've sent out over 150 folded cards and postcards since September, to locations all over the world. It is so easy and I think it is cheaper than driving to a store, picking out a card and sending it off. Using your own pictures or graphics make the card a little more expensive, but still not that much, and it is so much fun! Creating campaigns to group friends or family together, make it a cinch to add another recipient to an already created card. And no, I don't get anything for passing on this information!

World Wide Lyme Disease awareness, May 2013

We're still busy with the plans for WorldWideLyme (Canada) protest in May.  The specific plans will be announced according to availability of volunteers and the like, but you can look on Facebook (even if you're not a member) to see which countries are already part of the movement. Here is the original page: WorldWideLymeProtest  
If you would like to do something in your area, or be part of a group planning some awareness event, please post to the Facegroup page if you're a member, or a comment at the bottom of this post in the "Comments" link, please! 

Be well, be happy, be strong. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

Sorting and 40 bag challenge

Already a week into 2013 and it seems I'm still trying to catch my breath and trying to catch up with emails, tasks, chores and promises! I'm sure there are some forgotten ... please remind me if you're waiting for something from me!

If you have read around this blog a few times, you will be aware that I've been struggling with Lyme Disease for over 5 years now. Three years went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, then the doctor who was treating me had to stop after he was being reported for "treating a disease which doesn't exist in Canada". I was infected in Ontario, Canada, for heavens' sakes! Treatment has been long and intense and I would really, really like to get rid of some of all these pills. Soon ---- hopefully!

During the 5 years of various visits to doctors, hospitals, specialists, emergency rooms and trying to face the fact that I was going to die without knowing what was going on, the house went to pot. There was just never any energy to do more than what was absolutely needed. Closets and cupboards became dumping grounds or catch-alls; items became misplaced in different areas after being put somewhere for temporary storage and others were heaping up because they were not sorted before packed away.

So, sometime in December I stumbled upon the "40 bags in 40 days" challenge. Links will be below if you want to know more. It seems to have been more of a challenge around Lent, but any time is good to start decluttering! I started in December. Slowly, and not keeping to any specific schedule. I put a goal for myself to be done by end February 2013, with at least major sorting and throwing out.

The idea is simple:
  1. Decide what size of bag you want to use as a measure of your cleaning out; big or small. 
  2. Mentally or physically choose the trouble spots in your office or home. 
  3. Write down your list to keep track of your plans.
  4. Get rid of 40 bags of "stuff" from these spots. {clutter, junk, excess, and anything else that is no longer used or needed.}
  5. Regularly visit the clean spots; I find it gives me such a boost to clean the next part. 
The pantry all tidied up
Items like old TVs and printers (look for electronic recyclers in your area; you can drop off for free) count as a bag or more, for sure!
Your local pet shelter will appreciate old linens or towels, and that can count for another bag or two.
How about old magazines dropped off at a hospital or children's home for cutting out pictures?

Clean out the spaces before repacking. I dislike chemicals and have been using the steam cleaner so much for all sorts of jobs! Baking soda is a wonderful scrubber, and lemon is a degreaser. Just stumbled upon another hint today somewhere, to use the empty shell of half a lemon to fill with rock salt and leave to smell nice in certain spots like kitty litter box area. And to use baking soda mixed with salt to scrub a kitchen sink.

What happens with the stuff you clear out from the various spaces? In order of importance (to me): Recycle - Compost - Freecycle - Sell - Trash
I'm big on recycling for paper, cardboard, containers, glass and the like. Fortunately our area also does curb pickup for organic recycling, which is wonderful when you clean out stale something-or-other or a piece of fruit that might have started growing hair. I line my organics bin with newspaper layers and roll up packages in more newspaper to put inside the bigger green bin. That way, the newspapers that are delivered, get used and money is saved by not buying compostable bags.

Yesterday we found a whole bunch of forgotten half-baggies with a few chocolate chips, or salad dressing mixes that have expired, and other things. They were all opened and disposed off in the organics bin.

My absolute favourite way of getting rid of stuff, however, is Freecycle. This is a world-wide, grassroots movement where you arrange to give something away when you don't need it, to someone who might have a use for it. People generally collect the items you offer for free, anything from books to clothes to kitchenware and furniture. Here is their site; find your town or city, or start one!

Now -- it is easier to do a challenge like this if you have people to chat with, to support, to share progress, to encourage and to keep going.
Who wants to join in? Please post a comment! 
I suppose five or six people would be a nice group. And yes, I've started already, but you'll quickly catch up if you plan to do some every day! One woman said she made herself go through the house every day to get rid of 10 things - anything, from any space. However we get it done, lets just do it.

Some sites offer lists you can download and fill in with your own items. Others share pictures of their handwritten lists. I've got my growing list on Google Docs.

Also check out some of these blog posts for inspiration about the challenge:
Right, this post took such a while to write in between other things! Now to post to Freecycle: A dinnerware set, various empty decorative tins, half a baggie of coloured gravel for a fish tank. Two bags of clothes were already posted and gone. Two suitcases are gone. An office chair will be gone tonight. A TV was removed in December and a garden gazebo sold for a very small price yesterday. There's still a heap to get through, though!

Other stories to read:

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