If you’re out this Spring to trim back new growth around the edges of your property before wildness takes over, you might just run into Poison Ivy and not even know it until too late.
In the Spring Poison Ivy has no tell-tale leaves yet, but (as I once found out the hard way), both the bare vines and new shoots can irritate your skin in the Spring just as badly as the leaves can during Summer.
One easy and free way to protect yourself from this “invisible” danger, is to cover your skin with long pants, long sleeves, gloves, and even goggles if plant material might strike your face. If you need to cover a gap between sleeves and gloves, cut the toes out of an old pair of socks and wear them on your wrists. Be sure when you’re done working around the yard to put all your clothing in the washer and then wash your hands.
BUT sometimes no matter how careful one is, that’s not enough. Maybe a branch got up your pant-cuff, or poison ivy cropped up where you never thought it would be and you weren’t protected. We don’t want to live in fear of the outdoors! So…
Thankfully there is one natural thing which really helps me whenever I get my skin poisoned by Poison Ivy: Jewelweed.
While you can buy Jewelweed products online, I have no personal experience to be able to recommend which version is best (although while searching for photos I found this interesting product testimonial http://beautyinfozone.com/skin-care/secret-weapon-alert-creation-pharm-jewelweed-topical-mist/ ).
What I can tell you is that if you can find it growing wild, it’s easy to make your own treatment. Jewelweed “tea” won’t instantly cure Poison Ivy, but it will (at least for many people) remove the painful itching for hours at a time, and it’s safe to reapply as often as one wishes!
How To Make Jewelweed “Tea”. . . NOT for drinking, but for wearing!
You will have to locate and harvest Jewelweed during its short Summer growing season, and freeze the “tea” for use throughout the rest of Summer and into Spring. So use the links below to see what the plant looks like, and then go Jewelweed hunting. You may want to print a few pics to take with you on your search, so you can avoid simular-looking plants which will be of no help. It grows in semi-open shady, dampish places, like in a very young wood—the type you might find in urban areas, behind city parks or apartment buildings, and on undeveloped treed lots. In one person’s YouTube video, Jewelweed was found along a roadside (I’m guessing at the edge of some trees for partial shade).
Once you find the right plant, and you feel sure it’s the right plant, gather a big handful. When I did this, there were plenty so I plucked entire plants. However if you don’t find very many plants, I’m guessing there’s enough Jewelweed juice in the leaves alone, so you could try letting the plants continue growing by very gently picking just a couple of leaves from each plant until you have a big handful of leaves.
If you’ve picked entire plants, be sure to cut off and discard the roots, so as to not get dirt in your “tea.” Then, boil some water (just about enough to cover your leaves), turn off the heat and stir the leaves or plants down into the water. Let them soak until cool, remove the plants/leaves, and freeze the amber-colored water in ice cube trays. These are your “Jewelweed tea cubes.” Once frozen, seal the cubes in plastic to prevent evaporation inside the freezer. Whenever you have an itch you suspect is Poison Ivy, rub a Jewelweed tea cube on the effected skin, and return the cube to the freezer for later when the itch starts to bother you again.
- http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/JPEG%27S/Plant%20Web%20Images/Jewelweed.Juvenile.jpg –>from http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Jewelweed.html
- Identify Jewelweed plants.
- Gather a handful.
- Trim off dirty roots.
- Boil water (in non-aluminum pot*).
- Steep (soak) plants/leaves in the hot water till cool.
- Freeze & seal for later use.
- Rub on irritated skin for itch relief.
*Side note: boiling water in aluminum releases aluminum into the water which is not a good habit, as too much aluminum entering your body can cause severe health problems.
March 13, 2014
Whether you are one who cleans all the time, one who never thinks about it until visitors are coming, or someone who hates dirt but dreads selecting cleaning chemicals and investing time in scrubbing, here’s a delightful solution. No chemicals, no scrubbing, no block of time needed.
The ideal time for easy, chemical-free bathroom cleaning is right after someone’s hot bath (or long hot shower). The advantage of this timing is that the steam will have loosened the dirt, dust, and scum. Wiping down steamy walls, door knobs and moulding, tub, sink, mirror, toilet tank, or anything else in the room, will easily remove at least one layer of dirt. If you haven’t cleaned in a long time, you might have to repeat the steam-cleaning process (wiping things after the next hot bath) before all of the dirt comes off, but it’s a quick and easy task.
You might not even realize how dirty the walls and door are until you start wiping them down while they are steamy. Even if you’re used to frequent cleaning, this method will save you time and money.
TIP (for cool seasons): If company is on the way, and you don’t have time for a long hot bath, you can fill the tub and let the room steam all by itself while you are straightening another room. After you’ve wiped down the steamy bathroom, leave the door open to release the heat into the rest of the house. This may only save a tiny bit on your heating bill, but the water was already hot, sitting in the water heater doing nothing; it may as well be working for you!
February 12, 2014
“I bought a wooden whistle and it woodn’ whistle.
So I bought a steel whistle, and it steel woodn’ whistle!
So I bought a tin whistle. Now I tin whistle.”
That’s from a very good scene in the four-time award-winning wonderful movie, Sweet Land. http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Land-Story-Elizabeth-Reaser/dp/B000P5FH26/
The movie is billed as a love story, but it’s not a simple chick-flick. It’s more about life, work, prejudice, respect, and choosing to love.
I have a favorite line from the movie, but if you haven’t seen it yet, I don’t want to tell you the line because it’s best heard in the movie’s timing. I will warn you though, that you have to listen close to this movie or you’ll miss a lot of value. This is a movie which while slow at times, takes all of your attention—and maybe a second watching.
I hope you get to see the film if you haven’t already, but in any case, you can make people smile and chuckle with the above rhyme 🙂
February 11, 2014
Aside from the people buying billions of bottles of water for convenience, huge numbers of people don’t trust their sources of drinking water. They either buy filters for their faucets and fridge dispensers, or buy filtered water from the store. Even if you don’t think you buy your water, what about the electricity to pump it out of the well? Or, depending on where you live, there could be a charge per gallon on your water and sewer bill? So to me, throwing out perfectly good liquid and paying (one way or another) for more water to cook with looks like a waste.
Whenever I cook pasta or beans I save the “broth” for making another batch, or for soup stock. But there’s another liquid I used to throw down the drain, simply for lack of a better idea. That is, until now.
My family goes through a LOT of dill pickles. Pickles on lentil burgers. Pickles on tofu sub sandwiches. Pickles on peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. I even like pickles in tossed salads. So I was thinking about all the pickle juice I’ve thrown out over time.
Pickle juice is mostly salty watery vinegar (with some garlic and or herbs, and if it’s from sweet pickles it would contain some sugar). All breads include water or some kind of liquid in the ingredients. Bread also tastes best made with some salt, which I read somewhere is chemically important in the rising process. Sugar (or honey) is also good for softening the flavor of whole wheat flour, and for making yeast grow. (As a side note, adding a sugar crystal to a droplet of water containing yeast particles has so far been the most interesting thing my son and I found to watch under his microscope.) Biscuits and soda breads benefit from some vinegar mixed into the liquid ingredients, as it reacts with the soda to add puffiness. I even use vinegar in my pancake batter to help them rise. So, it almost sounds like pickle juice was made for making breads, doesn’t it?
This week I finally tried using a whole quart of dill pickle juice in making regular yeast-raised whole wheat dough for four loaves of bread. Also, instead of sugar, I added the syrup from a can of peaches, and I threw in the liquid from a can of black olives. When the bread came out of the oven, everyone devoured a loaf as usual, spread with butter and honey. My son agreed that this batch of yeast bread came out very well. No one could guess from the great flavor of the bread that I had done anything odd. It certainly did not taste like pickle bread.
I’ll admit that since I only had one quart of pickle juice on hand, I had to increase the volume of liquid by adding water. (Don’t ask how much–I rarely measure when cooking.) But the important fact here is that a whole cup of pickle juice per loaf of bread did not at all harm the bread’s flavor.
Vinegar is believed to have health benefits, so the juice probably improved the nutrition of our bread—even though store-bought pickles are obviously made with white vinegar. Some sources say apple cider vinegar is recommended for the most health effects, which makes sense because it still contains more of the original food material not present in distilled (white) vinegar. But other sources explain the health value of the acid content of white vinegar. Apparently, any vinegar is good for you, even though some kinds may be even better. So, if you make your own pickles using apple cider vinegar, and then put that juice in your bread, you might reap even more benefits than I did.
Here are two handy articles about the nutritional values of vinegar. Normally I don’t like the quality of eHow articles, but it really depends on the particular article’s author, and I’ve read similar information as this in numerous other places including books.
Even WebMD can’t argue that there clearly seem to be benefits to consuming vinegar:
There are multiple books on the market dedicated to the health benefits of vinegar, which include helping with such things as cholesterol, diabetes, weight-loss, allergies, skin care, and more.
Whether or not you believe the findings on vinegar’s benefits, the absolute least that I did was conserve money and water, by reusing three liquids which were already processed for human consumption and which otherwise would have gone down the drain.
Do you have other uses for pickle juice? Have you tried cleaning with it, giving your mirrors and counters that “fresh pickle scent”? How about using it in place of vinegar in that old method of clearing sink drains? I have yet to try these uses myself, but I’m thinking about it—if I have any left after bread-baking 🙂
February 2, 2014
Why were (or are) aprons seen as negative symbols?
Women once lived in aprons on farms, where they worked morning to night—cooking, washing, gardening, making soap, butter, and everything else the family needed. Aprons were easier to wash and cheaper to replace than whole dresses. Easy to remove a messy apron upon the surprise arrival of a visitor.
It’s understandable that women wanting freedom from their ancestor’s place in the kitchen might shun the apron.
It’s also understandable that men did not want to be caught in an apron at home, in order to avoid appearing either effeminate or too spineless to make their wives do the “woman’s work.”
Somewhat hypocritically, for ages men have had no problem wearing an apron as a chef, dishwasher, butcher, cheese maker or baker in the village or town. So it wasn’t the cooking or cleaning that was unmanly, it was the working in the home rather than outside of it. Even today, some men would be fine wearing an apron for barbequing at a backyard party, but not wearing an apron in the kitchen on the other side of the house wall. . . . But that’s a side point.
So how can an apron be accepted by women as a tool, and seen as a positive symbol?
The apron is a protector of our clothing. We don’t have to be stuck in stained and depressing casual wear. We can dress up or dress professionally, then don the apron as we enter the kitchen and remove it when we leave for the outside world—or for the home office.
Dressing well and using an apron part of the day can:
- Help us remember not to let the household chores pull us down or completely fill our days.
- Boost our sense of self by reminding us that we are more than household workers.
- Remind us that we choose to serve both the world at large, and our families at home.
When my son was a baby, an apron would not protect my sleeves or my back from his drool, slobbery hands, and unexpected vomit. It was more practical to accept that I should stay in cheap clothes that would all be stained. What difference would it make if the boiling spaghetti sauce splattered my sweatshirt, when my son had already stained it? An apron would have been a pointless bother.
But after years of being a stay-at-home mom, I am ready to move into broader work—even broader and more outgoing work than what I can do in my spare time from a home office. My son is a young man, not a messy tot. It’s time for new things.
While I refuse to remove the benefits of home-cooking from my family, I must squeeze housework into a smaller section of my day. Part of the process is planning and disciplining myself, but part of it is also pulling my mind out of the old rut. I have to transform my thinking from being a mom who wishes for more, to being a professional with a family. How I see myself–literally see myself in the mirror–affects my thinking patterns.
So upgrading my clothes is a necessary step, not only for my self-image, but also in order to be prepared for professional meetings. However, buying aprons was my first step, to be able to keep those new clothes in good condition while caring for my family.
Those aprons are exciting symbols of a transforming life. Symbols of being capable and active in the home and outside the home.
January 21, 2014
Being natural bodies, we fall under the power of inertia.
When we’re working, really working, we’re often energized and propelled by seeing progress, making small accomplishments, checking items off our to-do list, knowing that we’re finally moving in the right direction. We want to keep going to see bigger victories and reach the end of a project or mission. At least we want to finish something, some stage of work, so we can move on and not have to come back to it later.
If you were writing a report or email when someone yelled “quitting time,” would you stop in the middle of a word, or say “okay, just let me finish this sentence”? (And you’d probably keep going at least to the end of the paragraph!) If you were wiping a counter and saw food dribbled down the cabinet front, you’d wipe that too, and then seeing some on the floor you would clean that up too, which would lead you to see the pet’s empty water bowl which happens to be in need of washing before filling. While you might be thinking “when will I ever be done!?!” you would keep going because you are in motion and one thing leads to another.
When we’re at rest, we feel like staying at rest, either because we’ve worn ourselves way down with our overly long work sessions, and/or because it’s easier to dream than to act. It’s easier to worry and procrastinate than to get the blood flowing through our muscles and brains. Just thinking of all the work we have to do makes us feel tired and lost. We want another hour of rest before facing what feels like a loosing battle with life. (Hint: when we have a schedule, we don’t always have to think about all of our work—usually only the next thing on the schedule.)
When we are working there are always more things to do. When we are resting there are always other positions to roll into, limbs to stretch or retract, dreams to be watched.
But we are not only natural bodies. We are also spiritual beings inhabiting our bodies like exosuits. And it is supposed to be our spirits in control of our bodies. We are supposed to choose what’s wise and make ourselves enact wisdom. Wisdom doesn’t rely solely on willpower—it adds strategic management.
One of the delights in being self-employed is supposed to be the freedom to work when we want to, and not when we don’t want to. But that is only viable once we learn to value work and know how to motivate and schedule ourselves.
If left to my own tendencies I would probably have a 34 hour day/night cycle, but God only designed a 24 hour cycle for us. I believe He had reasons.
I’ve discovered that working to the end of one project, while other things pile up, collapsing in exhaustion and resting until bed-ache or an outside force (or family member) demands wakefulness, and then tackling another mountain of work of one sort other until that pile’s cleared away, is NOT efficient—or healthy.
You might think for instance, washing dishes only once per week would be more efficient than washing after every meal. That not thinking about laundry until you had a washer-worth of each type (lights, darks, reds, whites) would let you focus on other things for a week or two. That piling up unsorted receipts, and sorting out accounting and taxes all at once annually would be most efficient. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
While there are sometimes real advantages to grouping work into batches, cutting down on time required to get things in and out and switch mental gears from one task to another, this definition of efficiency has to be kept in check. There can also be a disadvantage we should examine—the ripple effect on life flow.
Cooking and serving in the second half of the week may take longer and be far more frustrating when the most appropriate dishes are in the dirty pile from three days before, and are filling up half of the available counter space. Picking out an appropriate outfit for your day may also take longer and be less satisfactory when most of your clothes are dirty and waiting for that one big laundry day. Finding time for several days of sorting, categorizing, and adding up income and expenses can not only be hard, but it also means pushing a week’s worth of everything else off track every Spring.
You’ll also find that you work smarter, think clearer and faster, and feel more cheerful and creative when you go to sleep before you’re on the verge of illness, and get a sensible amount of sleep at least several nights per week.
So we need a schedule where everything gets done when it’s best for the flow of everything else. A little of this and a little of that, to keep every department of our lives running well. If you don’t believe me, try imagining the only grocery store in town saying that it’s more efficient to restock everything at once. What if they didn’t care that half of the shelves were empty and you couldn’t buy what you wanted, because there was still half a store’s worth of something for sale? And then what if everyone had to wait outside in line for three days while the whole store was restocked at once? This is an example of the ripple effect “efficiency” can have on the rest of life flow. It can be very inefficient for everything it touches.
The surprising part is that we will find that we seem to have more time–enough time–when we both have a good plan, and stick to it. That’s because we won’t be wasting time in confusion, frustration, and depression. You probably don’t know how much time those negatives take until you free yourself from them.
If your life is complex or you have many responsibilities, you may find it hard to make a plan or schedule which you can stick to. It takes thought over a period of time, and trial and error. Be willing to adjust when you find what won’t work.
I think my biggest problems with scheduling were being unrealistic with how fast I could work, not planning bumper time (for interruptions, bathroom trips, switching between tasks, etc), no allotment for the unexpected, and leaving no time for catching up when a project or chore didn’t fit it’s time slot. For years I refused to make a realistic schedule because I refused to accept it might take years to do as much as I wanted to accomplish in months. But I’ve found a time saver—a magic way to get more out of each day.
What’s important is to accept when you’ve found a workable schedule or plan, and then “just do it!” Know when to stop thinking thoughts like, “I wish I had a plan,” “I just don’t know how to get it all done,” “I’ll have to give up some sleep.”
“Just do it” saves time. I’ll explain.
When you hear “stick to the plan” I’m sure that triggers the protest that our plans can’t take into consideration the unknown future, so we’re bound to have to go with the flow and that means we’ll get behind again, so no schedule is going to work. That’s what I used to think. However I’ve learned that the best defense here is to swap. For example, if you’ve scheduled an afternoon at the computer and your spouse invites you out on a date or your kid gets sick, tend to the family today but make sure you reschedule (and accomplish) that afternoon worth of computer work on the next day where you had intended family time. But only swap when it’s wise to, not when your whim dictates.
So I’ll say it again: once you have a workable schedule, just do it! Whether you feel like it or not, you can just do it. Do what your plan calls for, when it calls for it. If you’re scheduled to load the washer tonight, do it. Don’t say to yourself, “oh I know I’m supposed to wash laundry, but I have clothes for tomorrow and I just want to go to bed. It will be okay.” You could have done it in the same time it took you to debate and excuse yourself. Stay on track and you’ll feel incredibly energized! Telling yourself “Just do it!” is like revving your own engine—you’ll go farther faster. You’ll rest better knowing you’re on track, and wake up happier knowing your not starting the day behind on your chores.
Once you have a good schedule, you won’t have to constantly waste time thinking about what you’re forgetting to do, trying to figure out where to start, calculating what will happen if you put something off, and wallowing in negative thoughts.
Every time you “just do it” you find out you can do it, which makes you feel like you can do anything. And you can. Without wasting energy and time thinking and rethinking the routine and mundane, you’ll have more time and energy for bigger and better things. After a while your schedule will become habitual, and that will free up even more time and energy for whatever you choose.
ANOTHER TIP: Once you have scheduled time periods for each type of work, be thoughtful to choose the most important or forward-moving activity for that category. For instance, if you’ve allotted one hour with your child, which adds most to the quality of your relationship: passively watching a TV show together, or interacting imaginatively with action figures? If you only have an hour per week for social media, decide which will move you closer to your goal: to write a blog post, browse other people’s FaceBook pages, Tweet encouraging responses to other people, search for an ezine which might publish your article, or what? Accept the length of time you have for a type of work, and focus on using that time slot wisely.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3). It’s our job to discipline ourselves to do the right things at the right times.
January 27, 2013
Life is a beautiful forest, and I see that most of the time. But when I’ve bumped my nose on a tree trunk, it’s easy to get wrapped up in thinking about “that stupid tree that’s always in my way.”
It goes like this:
Angry. Short of patience even though I don’t want to be. Frustrated. Tired. Very tired of the same things over and over. “Why does life have to be so hard!?!?” I think.
I know why life is hard in general: so we’ll learn—learn patience, self-control, love, endurance, humility, cooperation (with each other and with God), appreciation for better times, etc.
But why SO hard? Why so hard that I can’t seem to manage what I think I ought to be accomplishing?
Still the wrong question.
Would I really be content with life as it is if I had any clearer understanding of WHY life is as it is? No!
If life is hard so that we learn and grow, then we aren’t even supposed to be content exactly as is—we’re supposed to be growing and moving on, changing our thinking and our approach and our outcome to something better than what comes naturally.
Looking backwards at how we got to the state we are in is helpful, to see consequences of actions so we can make better choices as we go on. Looking backwards can also be helpful in seeing what all we’ve forgotten that we should be thankful for, so we realize that life isn’t as bad as it might seem when only focused on a small part.
But when one is angry and frustrated, then asking “why” life is as it is, is actually mostly looking to blame. Why did God put me in this lousy life? Why don’t other people make my life easier? Why am I so stupid I don’t do something completely different?
Blame breads bitterness, loneliness, and depression. When vented, angry blame only make a problem bigger.
Life is what it is—so far as the present moment. The future depends on our choices.
The right question is “What am I going to do to make things BETTER?”
As long as there’s a plan or an idea to move forward positively, there’s hope for goodness. And where there’s hope and action, there’s joy, and love, and progress toward all good things.
When positivity is radiated, improvement can grow and multiply.
So what are you going to do to make things better?
NOT “What are you going to do for revenge?” NOT “What are you going to do to get free of miserable responsibilities?”
What are YOU going to do to make things TRULY BETTER?
That is the right question. And the answer will make you joyful.
(Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, dan, & Stuart Miles, at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/ )
January 14, 2013
Is there a bit too much of you after all those holiday dinners?
You can give “yourself” away on EVERY ordinary day.
Giving away your food, or the time you would spend preparing food and eating, reduces your intake which over time will reduce your size. This can be done within your ordinary routine—there’s no need to join a club or charity or diet. You can even give to yourself!
When you give something up, you won’t feel deprived if you focus on the joy of sharing and seeing someone else enjoy what you’ve just given (or the joy of giving yourself something unusual and fun).
Your kind act should give you an emotional boost to counter any lingering hunger. If you need extra help, take a deep breath stretching yourself tall while pulling your tommy in, and tell yourself, “I’m getting thinner.” Then go on to your next chore with a cheerful mood.
Here are some examples:
- If you are making yourself a snack when your spouse or friend walks in the room, give your food to him/her, or at least half of it. (This may or may not work with kids, as they might not like the kind of food you fixed for yourself.)
- When making breakfast or lunch for your kids, don’t make any for yourself–just eat the scraps or their left-overs. Give the extra time saved to your kids instead, in the form of your attention while they’re eating.
- When you usually eat with family, but find yourself alone for dinner, either skip dinner alltogether or have something quick and light like popcorn or a piece of toast, and give yourself the meal time for something special instead (like a long bath, or reading a book you’ve been wanting to get to, or cleaning the closet, calling a relative or far-away friend, writing that book you’ve been dreaming about, or any other thing you don’t usually have time for).
- Taking lunch to work? Watch for a homeless person and if you see one, then give away your lunch and go without that day. (You’re more likely to see a hungry person if you are looking for one.)
- Taking lunch to work, idea #2: Share it with someone who has less quantity or less quality in their lunch bag.
- At home OR at work, when you’re thinking of getting something for yourself to eat, look around on your way to the food for little chores that need doing, and do them (an hour or two may pass before you get to the fridge, and by then it might actually be meal time). You’ll feel happier because you were productive rather than wasteful/waist-full.
- When you’re thinking of getting something for yourself to eat, idea #2: Ask someone nearby if there is anything you can do to help them right now. (This gives you a break from your own activities, and gives you an energy boost from being surprisingly & kindly helpful, while keeping you too busy to eat.)
- Planning on buying your lunch? Give that money to something later by putting it in another pocket, telling yourself it will buy XYZ (or it will go with tomorrow’s lunch money for XYZ if XYZ costs more). Make sure XYZ is something you’ll feel good about, like a present for a child or spouse, lunch out with your mom, or something you could really use that you’ve been putting off buying.
You can probably find more ways to give yourself thin, if you get started and keep looking. You’ll become happier, and so will those around you!