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 experienced 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 Laundry Bar Soap grated and 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.

Sudden Shifts – Would You Like Ice With That?

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for today is Sudden Shifts.

You’re at the beach with some friends and/or family, enjoying the sun, nibbling on some watermelon. All of a sudden, within seconds, the weather shifts and hale starts descending from the sky. Write a post about what happens next.
If you need visual inspiration, this happened last week in Russia:

The first time I ever saw hail I thought pumpkin seeds were launching themselves out of the ground. Hail bounces when it hits, and it was the size and shape of pumpkin seeds. Never having seen this icy form of precipitation before, pumpkin seeds were my closest visual reference. Why they were popping out of our neighbor’s lawn was beyond me. But bits of ice falling from the sky and bouncing several inches from the grass didn’t seem any more logical at the time. It wasn’t even cold out! Context is important.

Changing from a lovely, sun-shiny day at the beach to clouds, rain, and hail can be jarring to say the least. Swimwear offers little protection against the sting of ice balls at terminal velocity. When this kind of change happens in the span of a few seconds you might scratch your head and wonder if the earth is coming to an end. If not the earth, then surely your sunny day at the beach is doomed and you better grab your watermelon and towel and take shelter stat.

That’s when you get out your cell phone or video camera and record this little atmospheric surprise party because you’re still not entirely sure you aren’t imagining this. Maybe you fell asleep on your beach towel after you ate that second slice of pepperoni pizza and your un-quenchable thirst is driving some strange dreams. So even with all the witnesses, you want evidence. Because, really? Hail. Wasn’t it sunny just a minute ago?

Change can be like that – one minute it’s sunshine and watermelon, the next, the world is flinging ice pellets at your head. The trick is to escape serious injury and get through it. Maybe you gather evidence. Maybe you now have fresh ice for your Diet Coke. Enjoy.

Video

Pink Fluffy Walls, From the Top

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for July 19, 2014 is From the Top. It beckons:

Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.

We are still living behind the fluffy, pink walls. It almost sounds like fun, but these odd, temporary structures were built to facilitate repairs on our building. The crew can work on the outside while residents remain living inside.

I’m not sure how much I feel like writing about our cotton candy walls, but I’m hoping we can look back on this someday and say, “whew, we made it through!” There’s a lot of tragedy in the world right now. Our stuff seems pretty minor. But it’s our stuff.

These repairs are needed to fix faulty construction and the resulting conditions. Previous attempts did virtually nothing. Now that our buildings have practically turned into oatmeal, this is what’s necessary to really truly make our buildings sound. Put simply, the outside 25% of our home is being demolished and rebuilt. Some neighbors have not taken well to the repairs. They add angry, sometimes even comical, notes to public message boards.

It has been a long, drawn-out process. This mess shouldn’t ‘t happen in modern days of county building inspectors. But it did.

When the temporary “security walls” went up in early April, folks asked us how long it would take. The standard notification put the rough estimate at 2-5 weeks. I said I wouldn’t be surprised if it took two months.

And here we are. It has been over three and a half months. We are still living behind the fluffy, pink walls. The smell of freshly sawn wood has subsided, but it’s still pretty strange.

There’s near total darkness in our living room no matter what time of day. Is it 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning? We check a clock and turn on lamps.

Our “walls” are made of 2x4s, clear plastic sheeting, and pink household insulation. They have become like a fourth resident – a guest who has overstayed a visit.

Repairs are getting done. That’s good!

And an unexpected bright spot in all of this has been the workers. They sometimes sing and yell in Spanish or even play music. If I’m home I can hear them as if they’re in the same room. They kind of are in the same room. It’s quite surreal and usually makes me smile amid the chaos.

But I miss the windows. The natural light. I’ll think I’m fine and then one morning the darkness will feel heavy again like a blob from outer space.

We try to get out when we can. We need our sunlight and vitamin D. And we try to keep suitably occupied while indoors using a few of our light-emitting window-shaped devices.

A recent Daily Prompt, suggested we name our favorite procrastination destination. We have a new one. We started watching, Under the Dome.

Under the Dome is a TV miniseries based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. I’m not normally much of a Stephen King fan, and don’t normally watch much television.

It was the middle of the night. I was awake and too tired to do much else, so I thought I might stream some Firefly on Amazon. That’s when I saw the gleaming bubble on the artwork for Under the Dome.

I got hooked. King is certainly good at that.

I watched a little during the day, and then my daughter saw a bit of it. “What’s that, Mom?” I wondered if it was age appropriate for her, but I let her watch some.

She thought it was creepy. She’s right. Then, a couple of days later she wanted to watch more. So did I.

We had just watched another episode when I looked up at our pink, fluffy walls and said, “I kind of feel like we’re living under a dome with these walls.”

My daughter replied, “Yeah, I was just thinking that same thing!”

At least the dome let’s the light in. And well, we’re not trapped inside to the point that we can’t get out, so that’s good. Really good even.

But there is a strange fluffy presence looming over us from floor to ceiling. Much like the residents of Chester’s Mill, we don’t know when this barrier will go away. We are still living behind the fluffy, pink walls. It’s a process and maybe a strange little adventure.

Now? Later! — Not Just Candy from the 70s.

The prompt for July 14 was: Now? Later! It asks:

We all procrastinate. Website, magazine, knitting project, TV show, something else — what’s your favorite procrastination destination?

In a way, everything I do feels like a form of procrastination. If I’m doing the laundry, it means I’m not doing something else like cleaning the sink in the bathroom. So I’m thinking there’s a very fine line between procrastination and prioritization.

There is, perhaps, a two-stage litmus tests for this difference. First, does the object of my attention actually need to get done? And second, does it need to get done now?

If I’m doing something that needs to get done, then it’s probably more an issue of prioritization. Laundry needs to get done. But if I should really be doing something else at this very moment, then it also becomes a form of procrastination. Doing the laundry but there are dishes I should get done before I make my daughter’s lunch which needs to happen now. So basically I procrastinate all the time and call it prioritization. I seem to get more stuff done this way.

Pretty much any time I’m writing, I’m procrastinating on some level, because there’s always something else that needs to get done. That’s both procrastination and prioritization. If I make writing a priority, then am I still procrastinating?

Maybe procrastination becomes a matter of degrees. How badly am I procrastinating? Laundry is a sort of single-level procrastination. It needs to get done, but probably not five minutes before we’re supposed to leave the house.

Then there’s double-level procrastination. That’s stuff that I don’t need to do, and I definitely don’t need to be doing it now. Because all it does is steal time from all the other things that need to get done.

For me, the two things that I name as my biggest vices are Carcassonne and Candy Crush (it’s not just candy from the 70s). Neither one of these needs to get done, but they happen. Oh, I try to multitask to minimize the amount of precious time it’s sucking from my life. Play a little Candy Crush in the bathroom anybody? (Sorry if that’s too much information.) Bathroom time needs to happen. Why not multitask? Sometimes my brain really does need a break from all the “must do” things and Carcassonne and Candy Crush offer that in a colorful, satisfying, calorie-free way. I can’t do laundry or dishes in the bathroom. I might as well play a game. So wait, isn’t that a form of single-level procrastination? It doesn’t really need to get done, but if I’m going to do it, that’s a good time. It all seems logical to me until the family yells, “hay, are you playing Carcassonne in there?”

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