Last Swim of the Summer

Happenin’ right now. At least, it’s the last day of swimming for this community pool for this year. It was a mild summer, but this past week actually felt like summer. Hot & humid. So the swim feels good.

Work? Optional!

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for today, Thursday, August 21, is Work? Optional!

If money were out of the equation, would you still work? If yes, why, and how much? If not, what would you do with your free time?

How on earth did it get to be August 21 already? I want more summer! With this attitude you might think that if money were out of the equation, I’d stop working. But that wouldn’t be the case. Not exactly anyway. I’d still want to work, but I’d work less.

I want to have more time with my daughter and do fun things with her. Just be there more often even if we’re not specifically doing anything. See more movies. Make more cookies. Craft more crafty projects. Just hang out.

Believe it or not, I want more time to clean and organize my home. While it is mostly windowless STILL, as repairs continue, I continue to be in need of organizing and purging in a dramatic way. I do not enjoy going through and getting rid of things. It always takes me too long, so I don’t get nearly as much done as I should. When I didn’t work full time, I was better at it. Not great, mind you, but better.

But I need my brain to keep moving. I need to get out and do something. Not just a bunch of fun things, but a job with a purpose. So I’d keep working at something even if money were no object. I feel like work keeps people young. Not overwork, but just getting out and doing. Having a goal and purpose.

Horse Sense? Extreme Maneuvers, A Short Story

Please check out my latest story, Extreme Maneuvers, on Enchanted Spark.

This was written for Enchanted Spark’s last Photo Flare Contest. It’s a flash fiction piece based on two lovely photos which you can see on that site along with the story. While there, check out some if the other awesome stories, photos that inspired them, and blog posts.

At the time I wrote the story, I did not know if the horse photo was of actual Chincoteague Ponies. The photos are posted without captions.

Also known as Assateague horses, Chincoteague Ponies are a feral breed that live wild on Assateague Island. Residing on the East Coast, a few hours drive from that area, I have seen them before but not as often as I’d like.

They’re a relatively short horse and have round bellies due to the high salt content of their diet of salt marsh grasses. To offset the salt, they drink twice as much water as other breeds.

The story was inspired largely by the photo of the two ponies, but also by a water fall image that was one of several from which we could choose. It looks a lot like sections of Great Falls. I’ll have to ask where that was taken. In my story it features prominently in Wilber’s mind.

I’ve really enjoyed Enchanted Spark contests. It’s been great for me to have a goal and object of focus to help move things along – to help me propel a story into being. Thanks, Melinda and Julie and Enchanted Spark!

The Name’s The Thing, Sparky

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for Thursday, August 14 is The Name’s The Thing. It asks:

Have you ever named an inanimate object? (Your car? Your laptop? The volleyball that kept you company while you were stranded in the ocean?) Share the story of at least one object with which you’re on a first-name basis.

Oh looky here! I found a blog post. How’d that get here? Finally.

My blog has a name does that count? I don’t really talk to it or anything, though. I guess I write to it, sort of. If it has a name, but I don’t talk to it is that OK? Somehow I feel like if it has a name I should talk to it … at least sometimes.

My first car had a name. I called it Sparky. I know it’s probably not a very original name for a car. Sparks. Spark plugs. I wanted it to keep working. Keep having a spark. So it was Sparky. It was a maroon, four-door sedan. Previously owned by a traveling salesman. Nice, but a lot of miles.

I usually didn’t talk to Sparky unless I was alone with it. What I crummy friend I was to my car! I was one of those friends. I’ll only talk to you when my other friends aren’t around. Sorry about that, Sparky.

I don’t talk to my current car very often. It doesn’t exactly have a name except maybe, “Car.” I’ve said, “Sorry about that, Car,” if I let the oil get a little low. Or “I really wish people would stop crashing into you, Car.”

Because for a while it seemed like it was a magnet for other drivers to crash into it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s fairly low to the ground or if because other people weren’t paying attention to what they were doing. I threatened to tape bicycle flags to all four corners to increase my visibility. I was stopped at a red light one time and bam! A woman rear-ended me.

A giant forklift was the last to crash into it. Just the tire hit it. I was driving at the time, so it startled me. Car handled it well. I’ve been warned not to drive too close to the airport. I aim to follow that advice. Car and I need all the help we can get.

Dirty Laundry Come Clean: A Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

Several weeks ago I blogged a comparison of Fels Naptha and Zote laundry bar soaps. That’s here:

BAR FIGHT: Fels Naptha vs Zote Laundry Bar Soap.

Since then I’ve experimented with small batches of homemade laundry detergent. I’m really impressed with how well it cleans! And it doesn’t make my skin itch.

I’ve seen a lot of recipes for both powder and liquid versions. From my little batches I’ve found a couple of things that work well for me.

Powder Laundry Soap or Detergent is much easier and quicker to make than liquid since it requires no cooking or pre-dissolving. It’s also easier to store. Though keeping a small amount of liquid on hand can make a great spot treatment (recipe to come).

Homemade Powder Laundry Detergent:

1 Cup of grated Laundry Bar Soap lightly packed (I like Pink Zote*.)

2 Cups of Washing Soda

1 Cup of Borax

I use about 3 Tablespoons** of the mixture per load. Folks with HE machines may want to start with 1T or 2T. My washing machine is anything but high efficiency!

Grate the bar soap, measure ingredients, mix, and use. I can make a double batch with a hand cheese grater in less than 15 minutes (larger quantities will require more time). It dissolves best in hot or warm water. If you need to wash in cold water see below.

The small batches are quick & easy to make. You can double the recipe and put the ingredients in a gallon-size Ziplock-type baggie and mix by stirring and kneading it in the bag. The baggie isn’t nearly as attractive as the vintage glass I’ve seen others use, but it has some advantages. It’s super easy to mix the ingredients. If clumps start to form you can easily break them up. I keep a measuring spoon right inside and close it tightly between use, squeezing out extra air. It takes up very little space. And I reuse the same bag several times.

I found Zote and Fels Naptha at Walmart for 97 cents each. I can find Zote at my local hardware store and international market too. Check in the laundry section or with other bar soaps. Washing Soda ($3.99/box) and Borax ($3.99/box) are carried in the laundry section of many of the same stores and at many grocery stores too.

*I like Zote because it’s so economical and has a few simple ingredients. I like the Pink variety because I can see how well I’m mixing the soap with the other ingredients. Is there a bunch of pink on one side and hardly any on the other? Then I need to mix it up more. Because grated soap can be kind of “fluffy” you’ll want to pack lightly as if measuring brown sugar. Don’t pack too firmly or you’ll end up with a whole new bar of soap.

**I see a lot of Laundry Detergent recipes calling for much less laundry soap per load. If your clothing is getting clean with that, great! Use less. But if you think about it, the box of Washing Soda itself tells you to use 2 Tablespoons a 1/2 Cup per load. I guarantee if you mix it and use only 1T of total mix, you’re getting a lot less than 2T of Washing Soda in your laundry. High Efficiency washers may very well be fine with 1T since those use less water, but anybody with a regular washing machine is probably not getting very much active ingredient. Even plain water can clean out some dirt, so you should probably do some experimenting to see what works best for you. I found that to get our clothing clean in our machine I need 3T. The mix is low sudsing, and it’s still very economical.

Our machine kind of sucks (pardon my language), so it needs all the help it can get!

I like to start the machine on the Hot water setting no matter what fabric I’ll be washing. (I can switch later.) This helps it dissolve more quickly. I set the load size to Small and let the hot water start flowing, then I add the homemade laundry detergent. After the homemade laundry detergent has been in the hot water for a few minutes, I can switch the water setting to warm or cold as needed for the fabric. Then I switch the load setting to Medium or Large as needed to fill the machine the rest of the way. The detergent doesn’t have to be totally dissolved before adding clothing. As the machine agitates the mixture will dissolve even more. But the more the detergent dissolves before I start the load, the more the active ingredients have a chance to do their job.

I should mention that my washing machine lives in my kitchen. Not sitting in the middle of the kitchen next to the fridge, but it’s a stackable in a closet/pantry. So it’s not exactly the “large” size it claims to be, and it doesn’t wash as well as I’d like. But I don’t have to go far to switch a setting. If I am going to walk away I can leave the lid open so the wash cycle won’t start until I’m ready. More on that soon.

I haven’t had a problem dissolving homemade laundry soap with any temperature water — my clothes still rinse cleanly. But you can try putting the ingredients in a blender to make finer particles that will dissolve more quickly. Let the dust settle before you take the lid off the blender. Keep it dry to help prevent clumps.

If you tried the above suggestions for cold water and still have a problem with powder dissolving enough then you might try a liquid. Water in some areas may respond differently. I’ll post a recipe for that soon. Liquids also make good spot removers and may be necessary for some HE machines.

Catch Up, It’s Not Just A Condiment

Well, we all have those moments when plans go out the window, right? Right? I felt like my brain is moving at half speed which means everything around me seems to be going twice as fast. Summers always seem to do that!

We still have a couple if weeks before school starts again, but I already can’t believe how fast the summer has gone by. There’s so much I want to do! I’ll never get to all of it. It’s a bit like my blog entries for the past couple of weeks. Still not done. I am trying to write regularly, but a few days were missed and others strictly ten-minute writing. Though there were a few spurts of productivity in there.

My daughter has an evening camp this week called, Zombie Ranger Camp. I’ll drive her after work. Because it’s a bit of a drive, I’m planning to stay near the camp for a couple of days and find a spot to write. There’s an excellent burger joint near the camp. Super juicy burgers! Add ketchup and maybe I’ll be able to do some catch up writing. If the burgers are too juicy perhaps I’ll have to try for a Starbucks. They have condiments too, right. And I hear a lot of people write and bring computers and such to Starbucks.

Back to Life: Return of the Blob

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for July 29, 2014, is Back to Life. It asks:

After an especially long and exhausting drive or flight, a grueling week at work, or a mind-numbing exam period — what’s the one thing you do to feel human again?

After especially long and exhausting activities, the one thing I do to feel alive again is to be a blob. Ironic that being so unhuman can make me feel human again. I wish I could say it was jogging, yoga, a long walk outside, or some other healthy thing. Exercise is a good thing, but I would say regular exercise is better to help prevent me from feeling totally drained than to help me bounce back once there.

When I need to recharge I just plain need down time. I like to stretch too, though, especially after physical challenges like a long car ride. So maybe that makes me a stretchy blob. Kind of like slime! Stretch and bend. I might even stick to something like the couch. But otherwise I do not want to do much of anything. I don’t have to be blobby for that long, but how long partly depends on how drained I am in the first place. Likewise if I have a little charge left in me, I may add a bit of reading, writing, drawing, playing a game, or watching a movie. Is there a movie called Return of the Blob? Blobby-ness helps me to return. I just have to make sure I avoid the quicksand and get moving again before long …

Seriously Sunday

I don’t know how you got here so quickly, Sunday!

I had Friday off so I could see my daughter in a summer-camp rendition of Annie. It was a lot of fun. They did it in only three weeks so it was very impressive. Each child had a number of different parts except Annie.

My daughter played an orphan, the apple seller, and a member of the Warbucks household staff. Plus she was super fun as Rooster, the conman brother of Mrs. Hannigan. A friend of hers was an excellent Daddy Warbucks.

How did I not realize until this moment that Daddy Warbucks name is ‘war’ and ‘bucks.’ Like war money? What’s up with that? I may have to look up more info on why they gave him that name. I guess it may just be the time period with World Wars and some companies doing very well as a result. But still.

Also on Friday we went out to lunch and saw a movie. So it was a pretty full day of things that we don’t get to do very often. I’ll take it! I even got a few shopping list items scratched off my list.

Saturday we did a little something fun along with some more shopping and a bit of the usual laundry dance.

Sunday is here already. It’s the last day of the weekend. Monday will be here bright and early tomorrow. Weren’t you JUST here, Monday?

I’m trying to get in my ten minutes of writing by just sitting here and plopping down some words because I don’t know if I’ll get it done any other way today. I’d like to work on a story and some Daily Prompts, but even more so I just want to manage ten uninterrupted minutes, right now, if I can. Then I’ve got more household stuff to take care of. Need to purge and organize at least some parts of our wee, dark home. Hopefully I’ll get more writing done later.

I’d really really really like to get a story done for the last Enchanted Spark Writing Contest. The end of July is coming at me at break-neck speed. Seriously, July! Slow down a bit would ya?

Adult Visions, Dirty Laundry

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for July 23 is Adult Visions.

The day’s prompt asks:

As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

When I was about six years old I remember thinking that one day I would be eight years old. Eight seemed so old. So grown up. So far away.

I didn’t especially like the number eight at the time. I much preferred seven. Eight seemed sinister. Perhaps because it rhymes with “hate.” I’m not really sure, but that’s what my pre-eight-year-old mind thought about it.

Then one day, I turned eight years old. It was fine. I didn’t feel very old, but now all the six year olds looked really young.

Becoming an adult has been somewhat similar. I have a few aches and pains, but I don’t especially feel forty-something. I certainly don’t feel old or even that mature. I just kind of feel like me. But now when I see people who’re in their twenties they look so young. Practically babies!

Aside from not feeling especially “grown up” there are several things I didn’t expect about achieving adulthood.

One of the biggies is how busy I would be. It’s hard to manage my time and all the activities. Work. Mom stuff. Food. Cleaning. Once in a while down time is needed to reboot, but you end up having to steal it from somewhere because it doesn’t usually happen on its own.

You have to plan for your plans to change. No matter how much planning I do, events always seem to turn out different than I expected. Childbirth. Dinners. Picnics. Christmas. Travels. It’s like the line in “Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows” when Harry ask when it was that one of their plans ever worked out as they expected. (I’ll add a link to a video if I can find it.)

You still need to plan, but then you have to accept the situation when it turns out differently. That’s going to happen a lot more than you think it will when you’re younger.

The biggest thing I didn’t expect about adulthood is how much laundry there would be. It’s one of the great myths of being grown up. You think you’ll be free when you’re of age, but in reality there’s a never-ending stream of dirty clothes following you wherever you go. You’ll need to wash those.

Oh sure, you can fold the clothes and put mount laundry away. You’ll be mostly done. Maybe you can even skip a day. But unless you’re doing laundry in the buff, while your family is likewise in the buff, you will never ever be completely done with laundry. You can get the family to help, and I suppose you could hire other people. But the fact remains that you must still deal with it. Not even our cats have to deal with laundry. This is strictly a human thing.

They don’t tell you that part about growing up.

I’ll try to clue in my daughter. Perhaps her goal, as an adult, can be to someday hire somebody to do the laundry. I can help her learn how to handle the laundry situation efficiently and effectively, so that it doesn’t become a thing. I’ll plan that. We’ll go from there.

(By the way, I edited this as I thought of more things. But the laundry, it’s always a thing.)

Can’t Watch This, Under & Between My Fingers

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for July 21 is The Daily Prompt, Can’t Watch This.

When was the last time you watched something so scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky — in a movie, on TV, or in real life — you had to cover your eyes?

Short answer, Under the Dome, the miniseries based on Stephen King’s book of the same name.

I covered my eyes for several sections, at the beginning, where the dome comes down and people or animals are caught in the unfortunate position of being not quite all the way in- or outside the dome. Perhaps that’s the punishment, in King’s world of Chester’s Mill, for being a little wishy-washy about ones stance on things. Are you in or are you out?! Too bad for those in the middle.

Regardless, it was grody. I don’t like gore even in a broadcast-safe show which is probably what Under the Dome is considered. I only recently started streaming it on Amazon. I peeked from between my fingers, but I really didn’t need to do that.

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