Monthly Archives: August 2011

soap scraps awaiting re-purposing

Soapy Rabbit: Recipe and Tips

I love, love, love gorgeous wonderful smelling soap

This blog entry is about my handy-dandy repurposing of one of my favorite little things. Really luxe soap. I come from a long line of thrifty Scots and I know I’m thrifty as opposed to cheap, because I’ll  spend around 8 bucks on a bar of amazing French soap. That’s not much of an outlay to feel like you are taking really good care of yourself in my book, and good soap really lasts too, there’s that thrifty chick again.

In pursuit of saving money in the current economy and still giving into my soap love, I have discovered Marshalls and TJ Maxx carry fabulous soaps at clearance prices. Nobody paid me to say that, it was my own happy find. And when the fantastic smelling soap becomes a scrap I take it out of the shower and lay it on the shelf to dry out completely, freeing me to open a new bar of sensational smelling soap.

soap scraps awaiting re-purposing

I have a jar where I save soap bits. I travel a lot so I always have a ton of guest soaps gleaned from hotel rooms. They are the perfect size for my funky antique porcelain English soap dish, but I hate the way they look when they have been used for a while so those get replaced too. Trust me, I can put out new guest soap for years and still have leftovers from my stash. Rinsed off, dried thoroughly, and into the jar they go.

My own funny soap dispenser and my old ironstone guest soap dish

I am a liquid hand soap devotee so around here guest soaps can linger in pristine shape a long time while we pump gallons of soap to wash our own grubby paws. Dogs, gardens, motorcyles and artists. Need I say more about the amount of soap we go through?

Cleaning Tip Alert: I drive my husband crazy with my insistence on his not using dish cloths to mop the floor and then putting them back in the dish water, same with sponges. EWWW. He says he washes all the germs out which is complete B.S., in capital letters. My secret weapon is the microwave. I trust him with my life but not my sponges.

In the study from 2007, published in the Journal of Environmental Health, discovered they could effectively clean sponges and dishcloths using the power of the microwave.

The test sponges and scrubbing pads were soaked in wastewater containing a dangerous mix of fecal bacteria, E. coli, and bacterial spores. Bacterial spores are more difficult to kill. Eww again.Test results showed that two minutes in the microwave at full power killed or inactivated more than 99% of all the living germs and the bacterial spores in the sponges, scrubbers and cloths including E. coli.

Two minutes of overkill– a total of four — none of the bacterial spores survived. Two minutes that gets 99% works for me. Before you zap your sponges, pads and dishcloths in the microwave, researchers offer the following common sense advice:

  • Microwave only sponges or plastic scrubbers that do not contain steel or other metals.
  • Make sure the sponge or scrubber is wet, not dry.
  • Two minutes should be enough to kill most disease-causing germs.
  • Be careful in removing the sponge from the microwave because it will be hot and should not be handled immediately after zapping.

The article recommends that you microwave your cleaning thingies according to how often you cook, with every other day being a good rule of thumb.If you stick them in wet they’ll even steam up the microwave interior– fish them out with tongs, hot remember? Cool them so you can wring them out and not burn your fingers, then wipe out the steamy microwave too, killing two dirty birds with one sponge.

Back to Soap: I save all my scraps in a jar until I need handsoap. Take out about 3/4 of a cup of scraps and chop them as finely as possible. Scrub off the chopping surface to avoid soap flavoring whatever you work on next.

Soap scrap chooping time

Chuck the scraps in a big microwaveable bowl. I like my monster Pyrex measuring cup. I cover them with water, about 1.5 inches  or so above scrap level. I nuke the soap/water mixture for three minutes. My goal is two-fold, I want to help the soap to break down and combine with the hot water starting the liquefying process AND I want to use the two or more  minute 99% of germs dead rule to make sure my soap mixture is nice and germ free.

Add water about 2 inches above the soap level, inexact is okay, just make sure your soap scraps are under water and well covered.

After it is cooled off pour your batch into the food processor.Whirl until its creamy and looks good enough to eat. Scrape it into a bowl to blend scent and add water, the last steps. At this point its so pretty and fluffy, I’m tempted to leave it on the counter and tell the kids, “don’t touch it.” Thinking its whipped cream they will wait until my back is turned and learn a valuable lesson after popping a laden finger into their mouths, while providing me with several moments of hilarity.

Before whirling in the processor, the soapy mix is still gluey and chunky.

I save squeeze bottles. Artists use them for all kinds of interesting art stuff, but they make excellent soap containers too. Take your cooled soap and add really hot water to it, stirring it in with a whisk until its the right consistency, you want it to pour but you don’t want it runny and thin.

 

Before you bottle it stir in several drops of your favorite essential oil. Just enough, not too much. Remember, I’m using really expensive soap so it already smells great and does nice things for skin, but I still loving adding that pop of scent. This time I used peppermint oil. You want to put it in at this point because if you heat it you will vaporize the lovely oil and lose the smell you are pursuing.

fill the bottles, a few tiny lumps are fine, you aren't drinking it, just washing up.

In this economy thrift doesn’t hurt and when I can create something that repurposes something as lovely as imported soaps, I’m a happy green rabbit! I also feel pretty good when I go into the shop in the mall that sells expensive liquid hand soap because I made my own for basically free. I’d much rather use the money I saved on a wonderful lotion for my really clean hands.

Yummy, great smelling soap, ready to use!

 

hed

It’s Not About Escape

It’s Not About Escape

This poem is not about my parents
creaking, fighting, beating the actuarial tables
at ninety years each.
It’s not about how much I love them or hate them
or how I can’t rise above the pain handed out on platters
so heavy I finally had to let go and slouch away.
It’s not about my brother and sister,
two broken puzzles scrambled in tatty cardboard boxes,
both still echoing red leftovers of parental fear fifty years on.
My trajectory was always up, away from sizzling light bulb love,
the kind that burns off wings and drops you crawling.
No, this is not about how I cannot save them
flightless and scarred, still looking for that toxic molasses high.
I can’t deny the pull, I listen to them all,
an endless buzzing loop of tears and repercussions.
This poem is not about how I got to be the family archangel
when all I want to do with this flaming sword
is cut a hole in the sky, spread white wings
and fly forever into the quiet blue
just me, the sun and the wind.

A note of explanation: My brother called this week, out of the blue. I no longer speak to my family of origin if I can help it. The cycle of insanity they live in is one I choose to leave behind. It makes me sad but it makes me healthy. It reminded me of this piece I wrote two years ago about my family. Sometimes, things really don’t change…

 

Rabbit Shares THAT Salad Dressing

I love salads. My favorite thing in the summer is green food. Simple green food, as in salads.  I grew up with a mom who was a fabulous cook, she’s 91 now and everything she makes is way too salty but she’s still in there plugging along so have to give her props for that. I don’t buy bottled “Italian” dressing because I grew up with “California” dressing and everyone I know wants to know how I make it after they taste it.

Once I was in the grocery store buying lemons and an older gentleman asked me what I was making with them. I told him, and I had to repeat the recipe about three times so he could memorize it. Therefore, due to popular demand, I share the recipe.

Weightwatchers tip: make sure you measure your oil for portions and the cheese too. Serve your dressing on the side and dip your fork in it before you hit the green stuff. Save a ton of calories and still get a good taste of yummy dressing.

Tip: If you have a Trader Joe’s handy they have the best deal on anchovies on the planet. I buy ten tins at a time so I have them handy.

You will need: a tin of anchovies, trust me, you cannot taste them in the dressing but they make it so rich and flavorful it is amazing.

Garlic, how much is up to you. I use about four fat cloves and squish them in my amazing Garlic Press. Old school, metal. Good Will, 99 cents. If you haven’t investigated the cool cooking tools abandoned at Good Will you are missing a big boat kids.

Mouli graters, best I have ever found. I own about ten graters but always go back to Mouli

I’m on the look out for a Mouli grater at the moment. Moulinex, the manufacturer, apparently doesn’t sell them in the USA now, so I keep looking at thrift stores.Those plastic ones break way too fast.  I think my next entry should be a list of my cool tools acquired that way, with photographs to entice you to go shopping too.

This is a citrus reamer. Cool tool!

Olive oil. The juices of two fat lemons or four baby ones. I use a citrus reamer to get the juice out. Amazingly useful thing. If you have a garbage disposal, run the lemon skins through it with hot water to clean the disposal and make the kitchen smell great. Lemon peels sprinkled with baking powder and salt will clean chrome and stainless steel too. So save the peels and scrub the sink before tossing.

Capers if you have them, don’t worry if you don’t. They just add a nice Piquant tang.

I have an itty bitty food processor, love it more than the great big one.  Put the ingredients in the processor. Garlic, anchovies, lemon juice and start with about a 1/3 cup of oil.Push the button and blend the whole shooting match. Blending emulsifies it all and makes it wonderfully creamy. Take off the lid and taste. Too lemony? A little more oil, too oily? A little more lemon.  This is so easy and so amazingly tasty I could probably eat just salad for every meal.

Get your salad ready. I love romaine for salads, its bears up well under the weight of dressings and has a great flavor too. Iceberg lettuce is useless, has no real food value and should be banned from anything but tacos where it is the traditional lettuce of choice.

I make my own croutons, generally a batch big enough for two or three meals. Get a baguette or other Italian style bread. Not soft white bread please. Cut it into cubes, big cubes about an 1 and 1/2 inches across. Heat about 1/2 cup olive oil and garlic in a big skillet or wok. Toss in the bread and use a spatula to toss it and get the olive oil on all the cubes. Toast the bread in the skillet, watch it because burnt garlic is heinous tasting. Salt the croutons, a nice flavor note is added with a little salt.

Yesterday I found a bag of tiny bread slices for $1.29 on the dead bread rack at the grocery store. Perfect. On its way to stale and fantastic for croutons. I kind of like the little slices too. I used mine to pile chicken on and had a salad sandwich in my bowl.

If you are on Weightwatchers, no croutons for you. Okay, you can have two. Dress your salad with enough of the dressing to coat the leaves lightly. Too much, soggy. Too little, dry salad. Leftover dressing can be refrigerated and used later.

the good stuff, real parmesan

Parmesan cheese, grate some fresh or use the deli case pre-grated kind. If you use dried parmesan in a bottle I will never speak to you again. My kids used to call that stinky foot cheese and put it on their canned ravioli as small kids. Ecch. Luckily, they have grown up to have grown up palates and reject cheese that comes in plastic bottles. Weightwatchers: leave out the cheese please or measure a small portion you can control.

Chuck in the cheese and croutons and toss. For dinner, we might have some gorgeous shrimp on top or a grilled chicken breast sliced up, (hint: wrap your chicken breasts in plastic and pound them flat so they’ll cook fast and evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pound it right it in to the meat.) or add a grilled salmon fillet. My vegetarian friends put in every raw vegie on the planet.  A giant salad is my favorite meal in the world  for a summer supper. I think I just made myself hungry….

 

 

skates

Rabbit Goes the Long Way Home

Strange view of the Space Needle in Seattle, buried behind buildings, get us outta here!

In Western Washington we have ONE north-south freeway, Interstate 5. As more and more people discover Washington is wonderful and most of them decide to travel one human to a car, the freeway is more and more like something Hieronymous Bosch would dream up. In other words a grotesque trip to hell and back any time of day or night.

Terry behind the wheel looking for the exit to the big city.

My son Tor lives and works in Seattle so occaisonally I am forced to partake of the nightmare and scurry north if I want to see him. July 31st, a Sunday, we had another reason to go north,  celebrating our friends’ recent wedding. Jamie and Brian own the amazing Hunger Restaurant in the Fremont district and that is also where Tor works, a twofer: party and see the kid.

You would think leaving at 2:45 p.m. to be someplace an hour away on a Sunday would have been enough time. Nope. We got there at 5:30 after another Bosch debacle on the freeway. Stop and go all the way, mostly stop.

Under a freeway bridge on the way out of town.

I was happy to arrive in one piece and grab a glass of ice cold Sauvignon Blanc wine and slug it down, at which point I gave Terry the keys to the Mini. We enjoyed the party for and hour or so, and knowing the traffic would be heinous going home, made our farewells and headed back south. Ugh.

 

 

The bridge was up which slowed us down, time to decide to do it differently!

We started home by heading across the Fremont bridge which was up to let a boat pass. How cool was that?  We had to turn off the engine and wait at which point we decided it was a beautiful drop top evening and we weren’t going to waste it. We got our  jackets and hats out of the trunk and togged up, dropped the top and prepared to go home the backest way possible.

Struggling up and down the freeway its easy to forget we are bordered to the West by water from Seattle to Olympia. If you are married to a biker who has explored every back road in the state, count your blessings. This means you can wend your way along the water and enjoy the drive instead of wanting to get out of the car and smack some idiot upside the head with a bowling pin. I-phones are wonderful things and they take some strange pix from a moving car but I think these pretty much capture the spirit of the evening drive.

Down the hill to Redondo, Washington Redondo Beach, strange. I grew up the Cali version.

 

We nipped off  the interstate in Burien, a little ways south of the big city and headed for a more leisurely waterside drive through Redondo, which looks like a Southern Cali beach town with houses on the hills and people strolling on the boardwalk. The water is so close a wave splashed two girls as they walked in the sunshine.

Redondo Beach as we flew past in the car

 

 

 

We left Redondo and drove through Brown’s Point and then headed over to Commencement Bay as it runs through Tacoma and on to Dupont and Steilacoom.

 

 

The new Tacoma Narrows Bridges full of folks coming home from the weekend. Nice to see it in the distance only.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIG SHIPS at the Port of Tacoma. So odd to see them docked in what feels like downtown.

The USS Norwalk and a bunch of boxcars in Tacoma

This looks so strange, just bobbing in the water next to the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took two hours to get home but we were sooo relaxed when we got here after a gorgeous drive. I love Washington. We have English weather and August sunshine, which means we can have drives like this one and lots more because summer finally got here!

I phone self portrait, love my hands show on my glasses holding the camera, sort of full circle oddness.

Lost Childhoods Series: King Neptune’s Lost Childhood

The latest in the Lost Childhood series is finally finished. This is the first piece in this series that didn’t practically make itself, but I am really pleased with the final result of weeks of hunting bits and pieces and figuring it all out.

This series  of “doll boxes” examines anthropomorphic icons we all recognize, Uncle Sam, Father Time, Mother Nature, the Man in the Moon, Betty Crocker, Death, Lady Luck, etc.

I wanted to take a look at something no one thinks of regarding these icons: their childhoods. What if? The pieces are all meant to be touched, turned, looked at, opened and shut. They are mystery boxes that define what I imagine them to be, I love these pieces because they reflect that we are each our own mystery boxes and paradoxes.

The back of the piece with collaged and painted kelp seahorses and a mermaid, primarily found objects

Side view, that's a little cigarette case that now holds a Jimi Hendrix quote, "Even castles made of sand fall into the sea eventually."

Cabinet side with a photo of Neptune's sister and brother (in mythology he did have a few of these)

Detail of the drawer fronts

The first drawer has an image of Neptune as a baby in the classic naked baby pose. A rattle made of a glass starfish and the words his crib was the fragile sea complete the drawer.

This drawer has hotel key with the words, key to the sea on it, and a key that says unlock the sea's secrets and some spending money in the shape of a sand dollar.

Every kid loves stories, the one in the scroll is "How the sea became salt." The drawer is finished with a shell, sand and a salt shaker.

 

side view of Neptune's head and his crown, shell epaulets and jeweled ears.

On one side he holds a fish on the other fish bones, the circle of life. Shells hold family photos.

He wears a crown of fish and crystals and handmade strung necklaces in sea colors with a sunset medallion in the front and a blue starburst on his forehead. The top of his crown is a giant fish.

A final shot of the whole front.