Thursday, May 23, 2013

DIY-land: Getting rid of dryer sheets

I grew up in a house that faithfully relied on Bounce dryer sheets when washing clothes.  I never really questioned the habit as I was taught load the clothes, add the detergent, put in a dryer sheet, put the clothes in, start the dryer.  At various times, the laundry detergent we used varied, but it always Bounce dryer sheets... always!  As I aged and started buying my own laundry stuff, I had to switch to the cheaper sheets.  The clothes didn't smell Bounce awesome, but they were static free-- well mostly.

In fact, the Bounce sheets and smell are such a part of my parent's house that my dad washed and returned to us a blanket we left at his house that still smelled like Bounce months later.  Although I'd had to switch the cheaper, not-so-long lasting sheets that usually reduced static, getting that awesome smelling blanket back reminded me of the house I grew up in, the warm, nice smelling clothes fresh out the dryer.

So, as I've shifted to DIY-ing, I've been trying to replace soaps and whatnot that have bad chemicals and provide cheaper yet efficient alternatives.  My DIY missions are typically at least three-fold: ease, reduce chemicals, and save money.  So, what to do about having softer clothes, reducing static clean, AND possibly having a nice smell?

Enter vinegar, aluminum foil, and essential oils.

After washing with my homemade liquid detergent, I set out to use the next three ingredients to make my clothes softer, static-free, and smell nice.

Vinegar as softener: I've added 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the last few loads of clothes I've washed. I put it in the fabric softener cup that sits atop the agitator after loading the clothes--while the water is still filling the machine.  It could also be added to those Downy balls and tossed in with the clothes.  

Outcome: The clothes are soft.  And NO they do NOT smell like vinegar.
You should, however, be cautious not to add too much because vinegar is a form of acid.
I've read other websites that suggest adding the vinegar to machine during the rinse cycle.  Since I grew up using dryer sheets only and have never added liquid softener to the wash during the rinse cycle and have NO desire to watch the machine and wait for the rinse cycle (aren't washing machines the ultimate set it and forget its?), I'll stick to adding it in the beginning. ;-)

Aluminum foil to reduce static: Take 1 sheet of clean aluminum foil, ball it up to create a ball between 2 and 3 inches big and toss in dryer with wet clothes.  You can use 2 to 3 balls depending on the size of the load you're drying.  These balls can be used for up to 6 months OR until they start tearing.
Outcome: No static cling! 
If you're like me, when you first read that you thought, "HUH?  Won't it catch fire?" 
Trust me, I've read pages and pages and pages about this and researched it for weeks and weeks, and the only negative thing I've read is that the balls didn't really reduce the static cling as much as the person wanted.  After drying my own towels and testing it for myself, I can say I'm happy with the lack of static and no, there wasn't a fire.  The balls weren't even warm when I took them out of the dryer. 
And as one commenter on this page stated, "foil is non-combustible" and "dryers use indirect heat."  So, when I thought about the indirect heat, I thought about foil going in ovens and on grills.  I'm not a science whiz in any way, but that's what I considered.

Essential oil for smell: Put 6 to 7 drops of essential oil (I used lavender) on a damp rag and toss into dryer with wet clothes.  If you're washing towels, just drip the oil onto one of the wash cloths.  If you're NOT washing towels, keep one or two go-to rags in the laundry area to dampen and drip essential oil on.
Outcome: With only 6 to 7 drops of the essential oil, the clothes have a very mild nice smell.  I suppose if I want a stronger smell, I'll just increase the number of drops.  
My first foray with using the essential oil to make my clothes smell good was with towels, so I just dripped the lavender oil onto one of the damp wash cloths.  However, my plans are to cut up old towels and use these regularly.

So, yeah, I now have to do three things to have softer, static-free, great smelling clothes, but 1) I had all these things at home anyway, so it wasn't like I had to go out and buy new stuff; 2) vinegar and foil are staples that everyone keeps in the house and are relatively cheap even if I had to buy them; and 3) my quest to get the chemicals out of my laundrying might just be conquered.  

Number 3 alone is worth the few extra steps.

Happy DIY-ing. :-)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Apple's Tax Avoidance

Upon seeing a poll in The, I started thinking deeper about Apple's tax mess (that has recently come to light despite going on for years): 
                if it wasn't Ireland, it would've been some place else.  

It's possible Apple chose Ireland to avoid the typical tax-havens (Cayman Islands, Switzerland, etc.), and therefore, "legally" get away with not paying taxes here.  Apple has seriously been on the cutting edge of things lately, so why not be on the cutting edge of tax evading?
It annoys me to no end that what Apple did is technically legal, and therefore, they very likely won't be punished in any way.  And what would their punishment be--pay a fine?  Big damn whoop!  Just like that hefty fine the banks had to pay for their part in the foreclosure nightmare (and ultimately, global financial meltdown).  Never mind that many states used that money to plug budgetary holes, which meant people actually hurt by the foreclosure nightmare won't see the money or at least, not much of it AND never mind that a total of several billion taken from banks, who can make billions in the blink of an eye, won't make a bit of difference, so that the "fine" is more like plucking a grain of sand from a beach.  But I digress...

As much as I LOVE Apple's laptops and desktops (not a fan of the phone or tablet that have taken over the world), should we really be surprised? I mean, hell, the computers weren't even made here until a Dec. 2012 promise to bring jobs back to U.S.--and notice that that promise says "some computers"--not all.  And they were applauded for that.  

And as often as we've seen and read stories about companies in this country not paying any taxes (GE and Verizon to name just two), should we really be surprised anymore?  I mean, isn't it obvious by now that once you get so large, you don't really have to pay taxes because you find every loophole, tax shelter, minimally-taxing country to stash your money meanwhile, regular folks MUST pay taxes or they'll lock our asses up.  Hell, even celebrities, who are often millionaires, aren't immuned from being locked up--just ask Wesley Snipes and Lauryn Hill or any of a number of other celebs.  I guess they had money, but they weren't a corporation or didn't have the right accountants or something.
And once you get so big that the fucking Supreme Court says "you're a person" and can affect elections just like regular people can, who can stop you?  You'll simply buy a politician who will propose a bill that benefits corporations, lobby for it, and get it.

So, when will we stopped being surprised by this shyte and start fighting back and demanding change? 

It is NOT acceptable that a company as large as Apple can stash their money elsewhere for years to avoid paying taxes here and then have the audacity to say, "well, if you lower the corporate tax rate, we'll bring the money home."  Excuse you!  Your company is hear; you owe taxes here.  Pay them.  It's non-negotiable... or should be.
 How about if we're really going to commit to this "globalization" nightmare dream, companies shouldn't be able to pick and choose when and where they will pay taxes?  How about if a company is in a country, they must pay taxes in that country or those countries if they have offices everywhere?  

Can you imagine the revenues this country would have if all companies located here paid their taxes?  Hell, we're not even talking about increasing any taxes.  Just if they paid what they should, at their actual tax rate instead of using all sorts of loopholes, shifting money, moving it out the country, etc.  What kind of budgetary holes would that plug for the country?  Would we even be in a sequester right now?

We likely wouldn't even need to increase tax rates on the wealthiest citizens if companies simply paid what they owe.  And we need to cut off corporate welfare.  Tax breaks and incentives for simply existing?  Seriously?!  You station your company here, you pay taxes here.  Simple.

I know I'm oversimplifying shyte, but geezalou.  Citizens must pay; why can't they?

Ok.  Off my soapbox.

Be well.

Be informed.


Monday, May 13, 2013

DIY-land: The Wonders of a Foam Pump

My most recent lesson in DIY-ing... soap may not always thicken as the recipe says it should.

After trying for TWO days to get my homemade liquid soap to thicken, I finally had success today by simply putting it in a foam pump dispenser.

Two days ago, I set out to make a liquid soap from this easy recipe: grated bar of castile soap and heated water.  As you can see on the linked page, the recipe calls for two 5 oz bars of castile soap and 1 gallon of water.  Well, since my bars of soap were 4 ounces each and I didn't have a container to hold a gallon of soap once it was made, I winged it a bit.  I used one 4 ounce bar and 56 ounces of water.  (My empty old liquid soap container was 56 ounces, so why not?!)  This did NOT turn out as I hoped it would.

Beyond those adjustments, I followed the directions from the page I found to a tee:  heating the water, grating the soap, combining the grated soap and heated water, and letting it sit for 24 hours.  
Twenty-four hours later and my soap was still quite liquidy.  So, I grated about 1 more ounce of bar soap, reheated the liquid soap, and added the new soap gratings. 

Another 12 hours later and the soap was just barely thicker, so I added glycerin (1 Tbsp) although I knew my castile soap had glycerin in it.  (I got the idea for adding glycerin from here.)

Another 12 hours later... just barely thicker.

So I whipped it with my handmixer, as suggested on this page and this page.  Great foam on top.  Not really any thicker.  UGH!  By then, I was frustrated, but I refused to toss out the batch.  It still functioned as soap and cleaned my hands properly, but it wasn't much thicker than water, and I knew my toddler would say "momma, it's water" just as he did the first time I tried the soap and it ended up quite liquidy.

So, then I googled "what to add to liquid soap to thicken it?" and found this page that suggested that using a foam dispenser would dispense the soap in a better, less liquidy way and voila!  Problem solved!

Thank goodness I had a foaming hand sanitizer bottle that was nearly empty; I was almost out the door to go buy a foam dispenser until I remembered that bottle.

So, woohoo!  I don't have to go out of my way to thicken my handsoap; however, I'll still keep tweaking my recipe and methods to get the soap the consistency I want it without fighting with the soap and getting frustrated because it isn't doing what I want it to do for two whole days.

So, there's my recent lesson in DIY-land.  Over these few days, I've learned that the projects won't always turn out how you want them, but the end result is worth it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is a day I approach with trepidation each year because I never know what my emotional state will be.

I'm thankful to say that I awoke this afternoon (yes, afternoon!) to find my phone FILLED with messages of cheer from many friends.  

I went to bed last night with the thoughts of the awesome Mother's Day card my hubs sent to me.

I was greeted by my precious son with a cheerful Mother's Day wish.

I miss my mother daily, but I know that she's proud of who I am today. 

So, to all of the mothers, surrogate mothers, aunt-mothers, godmothers, father-mothers and everyone in between, I pray you have a fantabulously blessed day.  And I want to remind everyone to cherish the people in your lives right now rather than waiting until they've passed on to heap tons of praise onto their memory.  Love them while their here and make sure they know it.

That is all! :-)

Be well and blessed.