Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Village of the Welcomes"

As promised to calendar holders. I am writing the story behind each month's calendar photo this year.
It started I suppose with a note on my travel papers, clipped from my on-line research prior to the trip:
"Drive through Adare (just south of Ennis in Co. Limerick), one of Ireland's prettiest villages."
And another note, the tentative itinerary for that leg of the journey:
My route could be Killarney, Adare, Ennis, Lisdoonvarna? (but a tough ride back to Dublin...)
This trip, as was my overarching intention, would take on a life of its own, though.  I would travel where the road led me.  And as I followed those pulls along the way, I would find myself, often before I even realized it, in particular places I had read of, noted in advance. 

As it happened, I did take the proposed route in the West, except in reverse.  So by the time I reached Adare, it was onward to Co. Kerry.  I had but two nights left in the West, and I knew I would need them there in Killarney, for time in the forests that had distinctly called to me, beckoned for my return to these parts, some four years earlier. 
I challenge you to pass through Adare without stopping, though.  There's good reason for its "tidiest" and "prettiest" awards and accolades. Who wouldn't be charmed by the pristine yet centuries old thatched cottages along the broad main road through town, and the distinctive Tudor-style Village Hall at the Y of its crossing?  Throw in a most welcoming Heritage Center (with facilities!), a distinctly non-touristy crafts shop or two, an intriguing and architecturally striking Augustinian Priory, a medieval Abbey-church open and welcoming to visitors, as well as a sprawling tranquil park, and there you have it:  the makings of a lovely day and then some.

I did not have the day to spend, but I walked from place to place as if I did.  I took my time, to be there.  And I did, be there, at the pace of staying not of going.  I felt inexplicably welcomed by this place.  Surely that had everything to do with the shop keeper's declaring me her "most elegant" customer that day.  In my skinny jeans, wool v-neck sweater and scarf?  Surely I was wearing the ease I felt in this place.  For an hour or so, I was home.

I strolled the park.  I took some photographs.  In the Abbey at Mary's feet I lit a candle for my brother and prayed for his family in crisis.  I bought a little book of Wilde quotations like the one I had regretted not buying four years before. And then I carried on--destination Killarney, by night fall--utterly refreshed and renewed, with a light and happy heart.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Back to Basics

It seems some bug bit me because all of a sudden I'm on a mission to get back to basics anywhere ingredients are concerned.  Maybe it's the fright that is G.M.O.'s that has me wanting more than ever to know what's in things, where they come from, and how close they are to pure and natural. It's getting so I'm suspicious of even the "good" ingredients.  How was this wheat processed?  Is this GMO corn?  Whatever the cause, I find myself leaning DIY these days.  I know exactly what's in it if I've made it myself.

It might well be the "Life Changing Loaf of Bread" that set all this in motion.  This flourless, eggless, leaven-free marvel that crossed my path about a month ago was frankly love at first bite.  It surprised me how wildly empowering and inspiring it was to take control of the wholesome (fresh, pure, organic, raw, etc.) quotient of My Daily Bread.  The next thing I knew I was Googling "lemon curd recipe" with a passion, intent to invent a comparatively healthier version (than the one I've enjoyed for years from Trader Joe's) fit to spread on my wondrous bread.  Which I did:  I found a basic recipe and adapted it with smashing results.  Organic lemons, Irish butter, extra virgin organic coconut oil, organic free-range eggs, 100% pure maple syrup or raw sugar in place of refined white (plus a little chia seed I threw in for thickening before I realized the cooking part would take care of that--hey, a little power-packed antioxidant boost never hurt anybody) all spelled heaven to my palate.  It's a winner.

Maybe this was all inevitable from day one, the day my father invented "mute" by attaching a switch to a wire and hooking that up to our TV set.  That was the end of the "commercial" part of commercial TV for us.  Then years later, I stopped watching TV pretty much altogether--stopped reading newspapers, too.  Which is all to say it's hard to be swayed by advertising when you don't see or hear it!  No, I have no allegiance to brands.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  Did mothers really choose Jif peanut butter or Wonder Bread on some paid actor's say so?  

I've shopped the bulk bins for a long time both for ecological and economical reasons, but this "make your own" adventure of late has blasted me into other departments as well.  Liquid cleansers, air fresheners, germ killers, face creams, hair conditioners--what a kick it is to mix these up, easily and from the same handful of simple ingredients no less.

I realize Draino and Liquid Plumber and such were someone's invented solution to a common household problem.  But then as soon as there's money to be made by such a solution, well it's off to the races, isn't it?  Advertising is costly.  They need to sell sell sell to foot the bill.  So it's inevitable, I think:  sales becomes less about meeting our needs and more about making money.  This is a gross simplification of the loop, but you get idea.  Meanwhile, these "liquid plumbers" are toxic.   Have you ever used one of these harsh drain cleaners?  Probably yes.  I know I have.  Despite the fact that we'd never deliberately pour poisons into our oceans. 

Not too long ago, the average household cleaning supplies cabinet contained about 4 or 5 items:  vinegar, baking soda, washing soap, maybe borax or washing soda, and ammonia.   Add lemon juice, salt, and an herb or two, and you had all your cleaning, mold killing, and disinfectant needs met.   

We had this all figured out before our shelves full of products came along.  The basic five worked.  They still work.  But marketing and advertising came along to tell us we needed something else, something "new and improved," and we needed to go buy it--in a bottle (or box or jar or bag)--at the store.  Yes, to make matters worse, buying commercial products--even generic ones--unavoidably means packaging.  Packaging requires extra resources:  to make the packaging, to ship the packaging, to dispose of the packaging.  (See "The Story of Stuff" for a more complete picture of all this.)  Meanwhile, our innovations, in a mere hundred or so years, have caused a lot of damage to our Mother Earth.  I want to help reverse that.

Today I grabbed a just-finished dish washing liquid dispenser and proceeded to whip up my first batch of home-brew toilet bowl cleaner:  very exciting!
Works like a charm!  Fresh, clean, shiny--and no harsh, harmful chemicals required!  NOTE:  this recipe card reads 1 tsp. of essential oils, whereas the webpage (link) indicates 8-10 drops.  You be the judge.

Here's another option, a DIY "soft scrub:"

2 parts baking soda
1 part olive oil
essential oil  (approx 1/8 tsp per cup)

Many essential oils, such as lavender, clove, and tea tree oil are excellent natural fungicides and germicides,  with antiseptic properties.  Plus, they smell great!  There's nothing like a little aromatherapy to sweeten our chores. 

How about this for a quick-and-easy all-purpose cleaner to wipe down surfaces and such:

    1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
    1/2 cup water
    12-24 drops of lavender essential oil

Preparation instructions and variations can be found at Green Cleaning.

As for an easy eco-friendly alternative to commercial "liquid plumber."  When your drain starts to get slow, put the kettle on.  Most times a good flushing with boiling water is all that's needed to open the flow.  If you've waited too long, you'll need to get out the baking soda and vinegar:

  • Pour a pot of boiling hot water down your drain.
  • Dump in about 1/2 c. baking soda. Let that sit for a few minutes.
  • Then, pour a mixture of 1 c. vinegar and 1. c very hot water down on top of the baking soda.
  • Cover with a drain plug (to keep the reaction down below the drain surface) if you have one and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Flush one more time with a pot of boiling water.
Bye bye Draino!  Not bad, huh? 

You'll find plenty of make-your-own recipes and tips all over the net.  Here are a few resources to start you off:

Care to Make a Difference
Crunch Betty
Sew Creative

All these recipes are easy (I like easy) and quick.  They're good for us and good for the Planet.  They cost less than store bought, and require less space in your cupboards.  My goodness:  what's not to love about that?  Maybe you are three steps ahead of me, and I have come late to this party.  Well if so, better late than never!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Pisces Pisces All the Way

Sending hearty Happy Birthday wishes and appreciation out to Pauline, David and Sylvie.  I am grateful for the Light that you give, that you are:  bold, unstinting, passionate, purposeful.  Bless you, Bless Love:  shine on, shine on.