Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How my garden grows - Coffee. Garden. Coffee. Does a good morning need anything else?

Even at my age I find nature amazing.  I planted seeds for our garden and I’m astounded at how fast they germinate.  Just a few short days from seed to sprout; they take root so fast you can almost see them growing.  It’s pretty cool, even for an old lady like me.

I’ve never started seeds inside.  Last year was my first vegetable garden ever and we bought all the plants ready to go in the garden. 

I’m no expert on the subject, but I know that seeds should be started so that plants have time to establish roots and become hardy enough to go in the ground after the last frost. 

New England is iffy as far as weather is concerned.  We can get frost late into May . . . it’s unlikely but possible.  We decided to plant on Memorial Day weekend just to be on the safe side. 

I started some of the vegetable seeds a couple weeks in advance . . . using the newspaper seed pots that I made in this blog post, I started lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, peas and marigolds.  I will be purchasing some plants from the local garden store, as well.

I’ve kept them inside except on the warmest days and I think it’s so cool how fast they grow.  Except my cucumbers.  I was concerned that since I was using seeds left over from last year that maybe they were no good since they were taking so long to pop.  I was commenting to hubby that I was going to plant some fresh seeds.  

They must have overheard me because the next morning they hadn’t just popped but they were practically busting out of the soil.  Awesomeness!

I made a log of the seeds I started and will update it as they grown and make fruit.  I'll do the same for the plants I buy.

So now, all of my little seedlings . . . I named them all Sprout  . . . are happily growing and almost ready to go in the garden. 

It’s all so exciting!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ok, that's it. Talking poo is where I draw the line

Day 1 no-pooing - clean and shiny
I embarked on an epic adventure.  I am experimenting with something shocking and controversial.

No . . . not heroine or meth . . . no-poo.  That is . . . no shampoo.

I was out with a girlfriend and the topic turned to hair care.  She told me she doesn’t wash her hair everyday . . . and I have to say I’ve never seen her hair looking gross or dingy.  She told me about no-poo-ing.  I’d never heard of such a thing, but I found it intriguing and decided to do some research.  What I found convinced me to give it a go.  So I took some baking soda and apple cider vinegar with me into the shower and I’m off to become a new no-poo me.  

The idea of not lathering up your hair with perfumed detergent . . . that IS what shampoo is . . . will make most people cringe.   IMy husband is not so keen on the the idea and, honestly, I was skeptical.  I know what my hair is like if I skip even one day of shampooing . . . yuck. 

But shampooing hair every day is actually fairly recent.  It only became a popular thing in the 1970’s.  Now it’s so common that people think it’s gross not to wash your hair every single day.  

Modern shampoo has been around since the 1930s . . . but even then they only shampooed their hair once a month.  Look at photos of women from that era.  Their hair is thick, shiny and beautiful.  It wasn't shampoo and conditioner making their hair so hot!

It wasn’t until the 1950’s that women began shampooing their hair more regularly . . . once a week . . . hence the statement, ‘”I can't go out tonight. I have to wash my hair.”

But as formulas got gentler in the 70s and 80s, daily shampooing became the norm.  Why?  Not because women had greasy, stinky hair but because of commercialism.  We’re constantly inundated with advertisements that say we can’t be beautiful unless we by this product or that. 

Many of the ingredients found in shampoo aren’t particularly healthy for you or your hair.   They are drying and irritating and actually strip your hair and skin of their natural oils.   Which is why you have to use goopy conditioners to make your hair feel soft and smooth.

Day 2 no-pooing
Isnt the purpose of shampooing hair to remove dirt and oil from your hair?  That’s why you wash it every day, right?  If you don’t you end up with a nasty, greasy looking mess, yes?

True, but everyday cleansing may in fact trigger a vicious cycle.  By stripping hair of its natural and necessary oils it causes the scalp to produce more oil in response; which is what makes it nearly impossible for some people to go without shampooing for even one day.

Day 3  no-pooing
The scalp must learn to scale back production of those oils.  The more the natural oils are stripped away, the more oils our bodies will make. So if you stop using detergents, your body will still be overproducing oil.  It may take a few days or even a few weeks until your body reaches a balance again.  Once it does, though, your hair will begin to have more body and shine than it probably ever had.

Some no-pooers use only hot water to wash their hair.  Maybe I will get to that point but right now that seems a bit too much . . . or too little . . . for me.  Maybe once I get past my dependency on shampoo I’ll be able to do that, but I suspect that may be a ways down the road.

For now I’m using the baking soda / apple cider method.

Baking soda is gentle on your hair.  It is the weakest alkaline, and it very gently clarifies hair from chemical buildup. 

Apple cider vinegar is a mild acidic, which counteracts the drying effects of baking soda.  It detangles the hair follicles, seals the cuticle, and balances the hair’s pH balance.

To wash – add 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda into a 16oz cup. Once in the shower, fill the rest of the cup with water and stir until the baking soda is dissolved. It will be cloudy but not gritty, if the mixture feels gritty or pasty, either add more water or use less baking soda. Now apply the mixture to your hair, starting at the roots and then working it through the rest of your hair with your fingers.  It won't lather like shampoo.   Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then rinse.  You also won’t get that squeaky clean feel  but it does give your hair a distinct "smooth" feeling.   It feels nice. 

To condition - add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water. When you've mixed up your conditioner, pour it on and work it in just like you did the baking soda.  You can rinse it if you want to, or you can leave it in.  Belive it or not, your hair won’t smell like vinegar. 

This is not a perfect formula for every person.  It depends on how oily or dry your hair and scalp tend to be.  You may have to tweak it. 

If your hair feels too dry, use less baking soda.   If you find that your hair is too oily try using less vinegar or none at all.  You can also use lemon or tea as a clarifier.  You can even use honey as a conditioner!

Day 4 no-pooing

In the early days of my no-poo experiment I was working as a bartender in a private club . . . which in Connecticut means that smoking is allowed.  I don't smoke, but I appreciate that they have freedom to do so.  That day was a particularly smoky day at the club . . . cigar and cigarette smoke was heavy despite the air cleaner.  

Day 5 no-pooing

When I got home from work, the first thing I wanted to do was take a shower.  I had an internal debate as to whether or not to no-poo because my hair was really stinky.  I decided to continue with my planned course of action.  I washed with baking soda/water and rinsed with the apple cider rinse.  I was truly surprised.  My hair was clean and smelled fresh . . . not a hint of smoke.  

By day four I thought I would have had some issues with oiliness in response to not having used commercial shampoo.  Another surprise . . . my hair was only slightly . . . very slightly, oilier than usual.   

Day 10 no-pooing
Into the second week of no-pooing I am pleased with the way my hair looks and feels.  It's healthy, feels good and it's manageable.  My hair smells clean, too!  Although, I can't say "Gee, my hair smells terrific!" but that's because I'm not dousing it with perfumes.  

Day 20 no-pooing

Day 30 no-pooing

More than 30 days have passed since I last shampooed my hair.  There is no doubt in my mind that I can go the rest of my lifetime without using the stuff.  I am very satisfied with my hair using the baking soda wash / apple cider vinegar rinse method.  My hair is clean and fresh.  It's full, soft and healthy.  It feels good, it looks good.  What you see is what you get . . . decide for yourself.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Firewater Friday - Chalk and Cheese

‘As different as chalk and cheese’, a saying as distinctly British as bad teeth and Benny Hill. 


It’s a common phrase across the pond . . . but what does it mean to us Yanks?  It’s the same as saying ‘as different as night and day’ and ‘like apples and oranges’ . . . which is to say, two things couldn’t be more different.

There’s no arguing that the phrase is English in origin.  What is in question is the how the expression began.  I’ve tracked down the three most common supposed sources. 

The first dates from the 14th century.  According to this explanation, there was a dishonest merchant trying to pass off chalk for cheese.  At the outset, it would seem incredible that someone could actually mistake the two undoubtedly different products.  That is until you take into account that many unaged cheeses are chalk-like in appearance.  So it is possible that a gullible customer may accept the substitution.  However, one would think that there is no way they could be so naïve as to not be able to tell the difference when they sampled it.  

The first explanation is the oldest but it is believe that the origins of the phrase can be traced back to Wiltshire, England.  

Much of the farmland around Salisbury Plain is chalky in nature and suitable for sheep grazing.  

While other areas nearby have lush green pastures are the cattle are raised and cheeses are made.  When the farmers came to market to sell their goods they never mixed . . . they were like chalk and cheese.

It’s noteworthy to mention that Salisbury Plain is the location of Stonehenge.

Frozen Mudslide

4 Cups Crushed Ice
2 Jiggers Vodka
2 Jiggers Coffee Flavored Liqueur
2 Jiggers Irish Cream Liqueur
2 Tablespoons Chocolate Syrup
1/2 Cup Whipped Cream

In a blender, combine crushed ice, vodka, coffee liqueur and Irish cream liqueur. Drizzle in Chocolate syrup. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and garnish with whipped cream.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How my garden grows - You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt

We wanted to install fencing that was a deterrent to fur bearing beasties and also cost effective.  Because our plot is at a community garden and not on our own property, we didn't want to put in fencing that cost so much that it out weighed what we were saving by growing our own produce.  So, we decided to used 60" Metal T-Bend posts and 40" tall, 1" plastic mesh garden fencing secured with UV protected zip-ties.  In total we spent $100 for the materials - that's not including the gate that has not yet been built.   

The fencing is high enough that a deer can't walk over it and the holes are small enough that a bunny can't fit through.  To prevent Mr. Bun Bun from wriggling under we folded about 3" of the fence up at the bottom and then secured it at intervals with sod staples.  I don't think it's impossible to prevent a motivated creature from invading our garden, but it's something.  

Oh yes, I know it looks like hubby did all of the work . . . and I'm not saying he didn't do more than his fair share . . . but I did help by humping materials, acting as his assistant and whatnot.   Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Maintaining our standard; that's our challenge day-in and day-out.

The etymology of words and phrases fascinates me.  I hear an expression and I like to find out what the root of it is.  It’s kind of like a puzzle that I try to piece together. 

'Cut the Mustard' is one of those terms that I heard recently.    Of course I know what it means and how to use it but how did it come to be?

The phrase dates back to the mid 17th century.  At that time ‘mustard’ was associated with people and things.  But it didn’t mean they were just like mustard, it meant that they were mustard.   This is in relation to the heat and kick of the spice associated with the enthusiasm and energy of a person’s actions.  Along those same lines, ‘cutting’ has long been interchangeable with ‘exhibiting’.  Therefore, 'cutting the mustard' could be just another way of saying 'exhibiting one's high standards'.

As you know, Colonel Mustard was a military man . . . and a fine one at that.  Another line of thought is that ‘cut the mustard’ is a corrupted version of the military expression 'cut the muster'.  This explanation cannot possibly be plausible.  The mustering of troops is to assemble and present them for inspection.  Cutting the muster . . . failing to show . . .  would be disobeying an order and therefore a breach of discipline.  Hardly fitting in with the meaning of ‘cut the mustard’.  However, along those same lines ‘pass muster’ . . . passing inspection . . . fits but it’s unlikely that this is the origin of the phrase.

And, by the way, he did it in the kitchen with a knife.

Cher’s Rustic Mustard

1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Hot Pepper Flakes

Cover the mustard seeds in the vinegar and water, making sure the seeds are covered by the liquid.

Add the sugar and spices to the seeds mixture. Begin with about 1 tsp. of each spice. 

Let soak for 2 days.  Blend mixture until it reaches desired consistency, adding water if needed.

The mustard will at first seem extremely spicy, but will mellow out after a day or two in the fridge. 

Try putting a teaspoon with some olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings for a homemade vinaigrette.