Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lots of Lavendar

So, I thought I'd try my hand at making lavender essential oil without special equipment.
I have a few very very good reasons for even considering this endeavor: 

1. I'm lazy don't have time for special equipment. 

2. I need a little better smelling change periodically of something natural that I have on hand that is also 
   antiseptic for bathrooms and kitchen counters besides white vinegar. 

3. I have a shit load of french lavender because I cook and bake all the time, but I don't really care for 
    having dried lavender sachets hanging around in my closets.   

4. I figured that I could find a decent set of instructions with minimal equipment but that I could make 
    without needing to pay constant attention to it. 

5. I make limoncello and limonbuddhacello and I needed a way to finish off the everclear without 
    having to dump it.  I can't drink, so much for that idea. 
6. I'm too busy to go to the store to buy expensive cleaners that give me migraines from being in the  
    same room with the fumes even with plenty of ventilation.  Okay, I'm not too busy, but I prefer to 
    focus on buying food stuffs. 

7. I want get my little slaves wonderful children to help me clean while they still think it's fun. 
8. I'm lazy.

  I was hunting around online and read a lot of different instructions but they were just too annoying.  I finally managed to find a couple that used grain alcohol or vodka, fresh lavender, and five items that I have around the kitchen already.  You can't use rubbing alcohol because that has a strong aroma and won't evaporate as well as the grain alcohol does.  And after making limoncello and limonbuddhacello, I can tell you that grain alcohol evaporates super fast.

Easy Lavender Essential Oil: 

Things you'll need:
  • 1 weekend +1 week. 
  • 2 small dark jars, 1with tight fitting lids (like a repurposed yeast jar) so the oil stays protected from sunlight.
  • coffee filters 
  • thin soft cloth 
  • vodka or some other clear high proof grain alcohol
  • mortar and pestle or spoon and bowl
  • lavender buds
  1. You don't have to remove the buds from the stalk because the stalk also provides oil. 
  1. Put the lavender into the bowl/mortar and use the back of a spoon/pestle to crush the buds. Do not over do it or they'll end up mushy and you'll lose the oil that you're after.
    3.  Add the crushed lavender buds to the jar with the tight fitting lid and cover the peels in grain 
         alcohol or vodka. 

    4.  Shake the jar to release the oil several times a day for several days. The longer you let the 
         lavender flowers steep the more lavender oil you will extract. I let mine sit in a sunny spot on my     
         kitchen counter for a weekend. 

    5.  Use a coffee filter to strain the liquid into the second jar. From making infused liquor before, I 
          would strain two times on this step and one more time on the last to make sure you get rid of all  
          the sediment.  Viola! You made lavender infused vodka OR lavender infused ever clear.  
          Yippee!  You could use it to make lavender lemon drops.  Yum! 

    6.  Shake the jar to release the oil several times a day for several days. I will probably just do this 
          when I am making coffee, when I get my nightly tea and again before I hit the sack.  The longer 
          you let the lavender flowers steep the more lavender oil you will extract. You don't have to hide  
          it in pantry or closet.  Just set it in a sunny spot where you'll remember to shake it. 

    7.  Put the cloth you have from gathering up the materials to make all of this business on top of the 
         jar so the alcohol can evaporate all the way.  Strain one more time into the second dark jar.  Label 
         it and don't forget to put an expiration date for 1year from the date when you finished making it. 

You now have your own lavender essential oil to use for cleaning or adding to your bath or foot soak for you home mani/pedi!  Good job y'all.

Peace, Love and Chicken Grease

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mostly Laundry

Good afternoon/morning/evening to whoever you are.  

1) I love slow cookers, cooking and baking.  I bake my own bread; I'm working my way through The Cake Book by Tish Boyle and have actually managed to make my own notes.  Amazing because I never write my notes for any recipe I try out, relying instead on my completely reliable long term memory.  This is fine when I've made the recipe a million times, but not so fine when it's my completely unreliable short term memory. 

2) I do A LOT of laundry and I have a sister who is occasionally more knowledgable about certain things than I am.  Usually, I am but in this case my sister actually found something that I'd never even considered for some reason, especially because this particular thing is right up my alley.  

My ideas on #1 can fill several posts on their own so I won't address that here except to say that I just made slow cooker lasagna.  It was just the same as making oven lasagna down to layering and the order things are layered.  The only difference was how to cook it.  I used the slow cooker because I have shit to do and I don't have time to get it all ready to go and then stand there and have to deal with the oven. I have to make recipes that require more than 40 min total (prep and cook time) bkc (before kid craziness) or akb (after kids bedtime).  I will, if it works out, prep things ahead of time, etc.  But the thing that works for me, that I will remember to do, is to make double for the meal and freeze half for another day.  Everyone knows that lasagna and many sauces taste better a day or two later anyway.  

My thoughts about #2  are that this idea is SUPER AWESOME.  First of all, it's not my idea.  It's floating around on the internet and if you search for "make a year's worth of laundry detergent" you will find two different but essentially the same methods for making your own 1 year worth of laundry detergent.  You will find instructions for to make 1 year of liquid laundry detergent and 1 year of powder detergent.  The one I looked at was the powder because it's better for the drum of your washer to use powder.  You can use either recipe for HE washers.  

 1 Year Worth of Powder Detergent

1 Year Worth of Liquid Detergent that I haven't attempted yet and will be in a separate blog post.  

Notes about the powder instructions: 
  It only says that it's for a family of four and the post is about a year old.  I figured the instructions are for a single load for about 10 loads per week (about average for a family of 4 that have 1 or none small children) using current prices.  Prices might vary depending on where and when you will get the items to make it and how diligent you are at bargain hunting.  I'm pretty lazy but I don't mind a little leg work.  
Using vinegar instead of "normal" fabric softeners is easy for me because I already have a ton of it in the house because I use it for almost everything.  With washers, it's good for cleaning the washer and the hoses.  It's also better because it actually removes the odors from clothing, including odors from smoking.  The other fabric softeners along with regular detergents just cover all that up with their own fragrance.  

Ok, so I spent a little time doing the pricing.  This price list is for the average family of 4 that includes linens and sports laundry.  We are a family of 5, 3 of whom are kids 4 and under so we have many extra loads due to anything you can think of.   These calculations also assume that every load is 1 regular load using the exact amount recommended per the instructions for each item for the current method of laundry that I use.  The instructions for the DIY laundry detergent is what is made ignoring the manufacturer's load recommendations per item.  

These prices are using current  January 2013 pricing from Amazon, Costco, dollar stores, and Safeway: 

This is what I would normally buy for 520 loads.  I try not to think about the fact that I do more than an average of 520 loads per year because the price for 520 loads per year already stresses me out a little.  

My way: 
ALL fragrance/dye free detergent 96 loads  15.50 = 83.9 
Tide Boost fragrance/dye free 20 pack  11$ = 286 
Oxiclean chlorine free/fragrance free 220 loads  27.33= 64.6 
                        576$ per year for 520 loads 

Ok, I don't like that amount in the slightest. If we used the regular old fragranced dyed stuff, it would be less expensive, but not by much.   Just imagine if you add in dry cleaning costs if you regularly take things to the dry cleaner and brand name dryer sheets if you use them... etc.  

Below is the amount using the instructions and items minus the Purex because I don't use fabric softener and when I do I use white vinegar: 

76 oz borax  9loads    6.10$ 
5.5 oz laundry bar 1.5 loads 7.56$ 
55oz washing soda  13 loads 9.97$ 
13.5lb bag baking soda 27 loads 16.79$
22 oz  oxygen cleaner from dollar store 4$ 

$186 (with the vinegar) dollars for 520 loads of laundry vs. about $576 (using vinegar)per year for 520 loads 

A   $390 difference! 

about $49 (with the purex) dollars for 520 loads of laundry vs. about $722 (with purex) to per year for 520 loads 

A GINORMOUS difference! 

So, it's more expensive to use the vinegar vs. the purex to make the powder detergent and then use the vinegar every load. In my experience, purex doesn't work very well.  Like all the other brands of laundry detergents and branded fabric softeners, it just makes your clothes odiferous.  Also most people still use dryer sheets as static removers and fabric softener.  I have found using softeners (including dryer sheets) just seem to break the clothing down more so they wear out faster, and in some cases, adds more lint instead of less.  Obviously, adjust the price per load more or less depending on dryer sheet vs. fabric softener in the wash.  

My sister would like to add:  Wear a dust mask and some gloves.  Microwave the soap (chop it up and zap it for 3 min) and rub it in your hands to turn it to powder.  The dust mask is because the whole process of handling and mixing all that powder creates a lot of dust.  She also says, "I have found, so far, that there is no scent.  I'm sure if you use more of the Pyrex crystals you would get more scent or possibly if you don't microwave the soap.  The comments in the blog talk about it 'smelling so good' but those are people who used a food processor or grater." 

I don't know, I think if you have a sensitive nose or have migraines or both that you would notice because I know I would.  

As to how well the actual DIY powder detergent is going to work? I'll have to get back to you on that one.  

Peace, Love and Chicken Grease.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wonder Twins! Activate!

My 3 kids all share a bedroom because we have a three bedroom house with 5 humans living in it.  They have been sharing a room since the twins were 5 months old.  And, because they share a room they can all pretty much sleep through anything anywhere.  1) they all sleep better because of it and 2) the 3rd bedroom gets to be their playroom so I can shut the door to the giant mess they make when they play.

The sleeping arrangement of the kids allows my oldest to sleep with someone else because she's scared of the dark.  The twins don't like sleeping apart from each other.  After all, they were together before they were born.  In fact, they have always wanted to sleep where they can put their hand out and know the other one is there.  When they were babies we had to put them in separate cribs because they would roll around and wake each other up and the only to get them to calm down and go the eff to sleep was if I put their cribs right smack together so they could see each other without one waking the other by bumping into one another.  Once everyone was old enough, we put two Ikea little kids' twin size loft beds in the kids' bedroom.  This way one is in the loft position and has a tent cover and a twin mattress underneath so it's effectively used as a bunk bed.  The other is flipped over so it's a twin bed with a canopy.   

The twins -always- sleep in the same bed.  The third bed is never used except for a quiet place and reading space.  The play room and the rest of the house is for being rowdy but the 2 actual bedrooms are quiet spaces.  Even friends are not allowed in bedrooms, nor do the kids want to let their friends play in their bedroom most of the time these days.  I also don't want the pets in their room when they're not in there, so I put up a baby gate.  It's one of those gates that that you have to step on a pedal while simultaneously pushing the door with a little force to open. So, the twins have figured out how to open it if they stand on the pedal together while one of them pushes the gate with both hands so the gate can stay latched so the pets don't shove their way in.  Killer noticed their joint efforts and has taught them to yell "Wonder Twins Activate!" when they do this.   They have started to do this anytime they're getting into something together.  It's super handy because now I know what they're doing when I'm not there to see them doing it.  

May the Peace be with You. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turkey Lurkey

I will just list what I'm making for dinner Thursday after we get back from doing the local Turkey Trot.  
In the crockpot:  blue corn cornbread with sausage, deseeded jalapeƱos and butternut squash. 
In the oven: the 1 hour 1 bowl dinner rolls that have no milk and the pumpkin pie. 
On the grill:  turkey legs and thighs that were brined and rubbed. 
On the stove:  lightly stir fried bok choy, broccoli, and radishes
                      and mashed maple yams
                      and orange cranberry sauce
Dessert: chiffon cake drizzled with lavender honey and the pumpkin pie.  

Enough said. 


Sunday, November 18, 2012

I, Leah or Am I a Broken Cylon?

I'm curled up in a corner of the couch typing this and my dog won't let me out of my spot.  He has laid down on my feet and sprawled across the only direct way out.  He's usually pretty content to lay next to me but he doesn't make it so I can't move unless he knows I'm feeling a bit off and short circuited which I am.    

November is more than NaBloPoMo or NaNoWriMo or even Thanksgiving; although, I am thankful.  Apparently, this month is also Epilepsy Awareness month.  I didn't know such a thing existed;  my very good friend told me about it because she's awesome and loves me.


1 in 3 people know someone with epilepsy. 
You can educate yourself about epilepsy from these links.  

I, Leah.  

I have left-side TLE epilepsy with complex partial and myoclonic seizures I've pinpointed to beginning when I was 16.  TLE means is that I have seizures that originate in the left side of my temporal lobe also affecting the hippocampus.  For me, the seizures affect my short term memory, spatial navigation, ability to speak, sometimes my ability to process auditory information from my right ear, and the sight in my right eye.  The myoclonic seizures are just quick jerks that feel like muscle spasms, usually thought of as clumsiness.  Just about everyone has experienced myoclonic jerks in the form of hiccups or the jerk you get when you fall asleep. Both seizures are small and can last from a few seconds to 2 minutes.  Mine only last for about 20 to 30 seconds.  I never lose consciousness while I'm having a seizure.   Apparently, I cry, can't respond during it and I don't always remember that I've had one.  I can be confused afterward, I'm always extremely tired and have trouble getting my words out or finding the right words.  If it happens in the evening, I just go to bed.  When I have trouble speaking, I just mime stuff to my hubby or he finishes the sentence for me.  Even my friends have finished sentences for me.

 The seizures rarely happen now that I'm on medication to control the epilepsy.  The original dose controlled about 75% the seizures.  One of many upsides is now I recognize how it feels before I have a seizure (aura); and, I know my triggers now.  In particular, big allergic reactions, alcohol, too little sleep, and too much caffeine, especially those last three combined, and rapidly flashing lights.  It's actually really great that three of those are easy to avoid.  Although, quitting all alcohol and most caffeine almost made me cry.  I grieved them for a couple of weeks.  But, I've been through much worse things than this while dealing with unknown uncontrolled epilepsy, and honestly, I've quit worse things than caffeine and alcohol. An idea that has really put this entire last year into perspective.

I feel like I'd come out of a 20 year fog I didn't realize I was in. I could never remember things I'd said and schedules I'd made.  I have lost friends because of how I am post seizure without realizing that's what it was.  I always assumed I was a crappy friend and didn't know how to fix that.  I always thought my trouble speaking was what happened after I had a migraine.  The littlest things turned out to be the biggest thing for me.  I quit having random vertigo and light isn't randomly dimming (for instance, the sun on a cloudless day). Things you don't want to tell anyone about because they might think you're crazy.  I am not nearly as clumsy-- I don't run into everything when I am tired at all, no doors, door frames, corners and furniture.  I quit hitting my head on EVERYTHING-- no more braining myself on the cabinets, the refrigerator door, the kids' play structure, the car getting in and out. I am not dropping anything anymore; there are a lot less messes and broken things to clean up.  I might even be able to keep my iPhone and laptop in decent shape (maybe).  And HOLY CRAP, I can remember things!  It's such an extreme difference even my friends have noticed-- it's really that big a deal.  My migraines subsided by about 85%, also very exciting. And interestingly, my dog seems to know that I'm going to have a seizure before I do.  He already bothers me all the time, but about 5 to 6 hours before I have a seizure or feel like I might have one, he won't get the hell out of my face, literally.  I used to be extremely annoyed, but now I'm extremely thankful.

However, because the medication was only controlling about 75% of the seizures, my doctor doubled the dosage about 3 weeks ago.  It's a slow increase taken over the course of 6 weeks until I am on the intended dosage.   It makes me extremely tired (which will go away) which I'm all too familiar with anyway.  Then two weeks ago a virus hit everyone in the house, taking us down one by one during which I had a couple of seizures making things just that much harder.  The better part of last week was spent catching up on everything that had been put on hold.

The Fresh Beat Band as broken robots.
Last night, I took my oldest daughter to a Fresh Beat Band concert.  It was early in the evening and blissfully short with a break in the middle.  However, it was dark and about 1/3 of the crowd had these rapidly flashing lights that were being sold at a stand with all the usual concert merch.  I had to remain focused on the stage and tell my daughter to keep it on the just the glow setting that changed color and not the flashing setting.  I was able to avoid a seizure as long as I didn't look into the crowd and didn't have it near my face.

The end result is my 4 year old and I had to talk about how mommy has epilepsy and seizures.  Then we talked about what that means.  We'll work on what to do in all kinds of emergencies including the event if mommy has an allergic reaction or seizure that is a big one or one that goes on too long.  I have been pressed by family and friends to get a medic alert bracelet because of the epilepsy, the rice allergy and penicillin allergies.  I already have ICE numbers in my wallet and on my phone.  I really don't know why I was resisting so hard about getting a medic alert bracelet.  I always thought of the bracelets as these big ugly clunky things or like those buttons that geriatrics in assisted living wear.  You know the commercial, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!"  But those are honestly really stupid reasons not to get one.  I looked them up, there are some very fashionable bracelets, wallet cards and necklaces these days.  People even get medic alert tattoos now.  I did a survey of EMTs and what kind of medic alert items they look for (they do actually look).  Unsurprisingly, it's the obvious ones, the big clunky bracelets.  They don't have time to look in your wallet; and, the more the item looks like regular jewelry, the less they think to look at it.   In light of the survey, I settled for one of the unfashionable sort of clunky kind.

I am incredibly thankful for my family, friends, church family and the incredible doctors that helped figure all of this out.  All of whom provided support and continue to do so in nothing but positive ways.  

If you read all the way to the end of this post, good for you! That's kind of persistence I like to see.  I hope my story hasn't been too horribly boring and even if it was, I don't want to know about it.

Peace Out.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Kill Zone

In my kitchen, I have what I call the "Kill Zone".  I have taught the kids this term.  Killer already knew about it.

Me: Ok everybody front and center! I want you to repeat after me, "Kill Zone."
Wild Monkeys:  Kill Zone!
Me: This is the Kill Zone.  Stay out of the Kill Zone.  Ok, say it with me,  "I will stay out of the Kill Zone."
WMs:  I will stay out of the Kill  Zone!
Me:  Do we go in the Kill Zone?
WMs: NO!
Me:  You may go now.
WMs: Yeah!
Then they all 3 proceeded to run circles around the island, including running in the Kill Zone.

My kitchen has the fridge, the stove/oven with some counter on either side of the stove all in a line.  The sink with the trashcan underneath is perpendicular to the line of the fridge and stove.  Exactly opposite from the stove is one edge of my wood block island.  This is the Kill Zone.   If I am cooking, do not stand in the Kill Zone.  Do not enter the Kill Zone.  It's a fast moving area and I don't like slowing down making it a dangerous area to be in if you're not the one prepping and cooking.  Even the dog knows not to enter the Kill Zone, having been stepped on several times while attempting to lay down directly behind my feet.   The kids have all been bumped on the head with the refrigerator door at least once.  Killer has been close to the pointy end of a large knife because he entered the Kill Zone while I was about to put it in the sink and didn't see him. At the time, I was watching something on the stove while stirring with my other hand.  Now, they all know to say something before entering the Kill Zone so I can slow down.  I should put motion sensors to a door bell whenever anyone enters the kitchen at all, whether they're close to the Kill Zone or not.  I'd put up gates but all the humans in the house know how to operate them.

Now, normally I'd be at church right now, but Chuckles (one of the WMs) has a yuck cold.  We thought we'd spare everyone our germs and stay home.   Instead of sitting around doing nothing (I am a hyper person with a slacker's heart), I am going to start baking and roasting butternut squash, delicata squash, tomatillos, and tomatoes.  Today I'll go ahead and make apple sauce, apple butter (starts with good apple sauce), butternut squash soup, and tomatillo sauce.  Tomorrow I'll do a double batch of black bean and butternut squash chili, marinara, pizza sauce, and tomato soup, unless I'm feeling incredibly industrious which I might since I don't really want to do it tomorrow.  Tuesday I'll make some stuffed delicata squash.

It sounds like it'll take all day and it will.  But I have a 7 qrt. slow cooker and a smaller 4qrt slow cooker that will do all the cooking for me.  The butternut squash soup doesn't take long so I can just do that on the stove.  I have an oven with what I like to call the "pie drawer" because it is just exactly the right size to put two pies in it side by side.   For many ovens, it's just a warming drawer but mine is an actual oven.  It's super handy when you're doing a lot of baking and roasting.  This way it I don't have to stand there watching everything (impossible with 3 wild monkeys in the house).  The oven with the drawer at the bottom is just big enough to roast the butternut, the delicata, tomatillos and tomatoes all at once.

Now, I could just do all the steps in the slow cookers and just skip the oven altogether but that actually take more time unless you have 6 slow cookers in your kitchen; and especially in the case of the tomatoes and tomatillos, roasting makes the flavor just that much better.

Have yummy and blessed Sunday Y,all.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Midnight Visitors

As those of you with children know, sometimes they are unable to sleep in their own beds.   It's as if their beds are hot lava.  Usually, my kids will wake up at 5:30AM every. damn. day.  Sigh...  Then they come in to our room and harass us to get up at which point I smack Killer in the head until he gets up with them.  We have tried to get them to read numbers on a digital clock and tell them that they are not allowed to wake us up until six zero zero.  This has led our oldest daughter to whine and cry until six zero zero, thus thoroughly pissing us off every. damn. morning.  We love 'em, God bless 'em.  But to be honest, we are a little bit excited for the day when they are teenagers and don't want to get up at 5:30 AM anymore.  Thinking about having kids my childless pals?  Think again.  They're like a party you can never leave. 

Of the two of us, Killer is much better at functioning in the morning.  I can't form coherent sentences with my face.  All I can I can do is grunt and growl.  I run into things, the doorways, the tables, the animals, the toys, the counters, the furniture, etc. just trying to make to the kitchen.  Then I will open a cabinet door into my face or head.  It is especially bad if I had a seizure the day before or that night.  Leah Smash!  I'll admit it's comical.  The kids don't even try to get me up anymore because I just growl at them, roll over and go back to sleep.  I'm like a really clumsy hibernating bear.   Killer and I have given up on trying to find me an alarm clock I can't break.  Although, who needs an alarm clock when you're kids are getting you up every morning at 5:30am? I know, I know. You're thinking, "But Leah, how are you writing this in the morning?  You just told us in a lot of words that you're not a morning person."  So how am I writing this in the morning? Well 1) I don't have to speak using my face and 2) It is after 7 am.   

So this morning, as with many mornings, we had three midnight visitors.  It's been pretty chilly at night, although the kids' room is cozy and warm.  The twins always sleep together so they're always warm and my oldest sleeps on a top bunk where it's warmer.  But, for some reason they ALL 3 came into our room around 3 or 4 in the morning, and, (wait for it) ACTUALLY WENT TO SLEEP!  Holy crap, it was amazing!  Except for the part where Sean and I were at the very edges of the bed and our feet were covered by our 2 cats and the big husky-- ever the opportunist, he didn't get into bed until the kids where there -- basically we couldn't move, it was pretty nice.  They got in our bed, crammed themselves between us and then snuggled in and went to sleep.  It was awesome.  Nobody woke up until 7; everyone was in a good mood.  It was amazing.  Here, I'll say it again.  It was amazing!  

We have a king size bed, but it's possible we need a bigger one.   

Peace out.