Thursday, October 21, 2010

Garden update

In gardening news, I managed to get my hands on a free strawberry plant a couple months ago and have since transplanted it into a terracotta strawberry pot.  Its still new so it probably won't fruit for a while.  My new Russian tarragon plant looks awful.  It has several stems all coming up from the same spot.  I may move it to a new container where it has more room for its roots to spread.  Tarragon normally thrives from benign neglect, this one does not seem to be doing so.  The oregano I received my boyfriends mother is doing much better.  Its spilling out, draping nicely over the edge of the container.  My Sweet Peas started out a bit leggy, but are crawling up their stakes.  The moon flower grows a little more every day.  I can't wait for it to really bloom! 
I have moved all of the plants to the back porch where the direct sunlight they get is in the morning hours.  They don't burn, they don't dry out to quickly, etc.  I'm still adjusting to the "except in Florida" adendum I have to make, "Tarragon enjoys poor soils and thrives in drought...except in Florida." 

Everyday I learn a little more.


I am an avid knitter and always have something in the works.  Lately it is socks!  A few months back a dear friend bought me some of the most beautiful sock yarn, it is aptly named "Chocolate-covered fruit."  I had sock needles, now I have sock yarn.  While there are many, many patterns for socks, since I am teaching myself I picked a basic ribbed version, one with out a lot of fancy stitches that will only get lost in the colours of the yarn. 

Unfortunately I can't find the camera, and my phone simply does not do the yarn justice so pictures will have to come later. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

When substituting honey in place of sugar

Honey can easily be substituted for sugar in almost any recipe.  Because honey retains water, recipes made with honey tend to remain moister longer than similar products made with sugar or other sweeteners.
Some minor adjustments may need to be made to a recipe when substituting honey for sugar:
1. Use equal amounts of honey for sugar up to one cup.  More than one cup, replace each cup of sugar with 2/3 to 3/4 cup over honey depending upon the amount of sweetness you want to achieve. 
2. Lower the baking temperature 25 degrees and watch your time carefully since recipes with honey get brown faster.
3. In recipes using more than one cup honey for sugar, you may need to reduce the amount of other liquid by 1/4 cup per cup of honey.
4. In baked goods, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of honey if baking soda is not already included in the recipe. This will reduce the acidity of the honey, as well as increase the volume of your product.
Honey is a little sweeter than sugar, but is a sugar that your body processes better than sugar.  Its less likely to make spike your blood sugar which results in you crashing a little while later.  Sugar can be used to preserve other things.  Tombs in ancient Egypt have been opened with jars of honey that weren't spoiled!


Whenever there is a buy-one-get-one kind of deal at the grocery store, I try to take advantage of it within reason.  A couple months ago blueberries were on sale so I bought a couple pints and threw them in the freezer.  Last night I decided they had been in there long enough and made a pie with half of them.  I'm not ecstatic over the results, but it was still good.  Here is the recipe I used, based off of The Backyard Homestead book (which I love and highly recommend!):
1/2 c honey
1 t baking soda (a must when you use honey to balance out the pH)
1/4 c sugar (because I didn't have 3/4 c of honey)
3 T corn starch
1 pint (2 c) blueberries
1/4 c water
Toss everything in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until it thickens and clears.  Then pour in a prebaked pie crust (thrown in a 350F oven for 15-20 minutes before hand) and bake an additional 12-15 minutes.

Here's what I will do next time:
add: 1 T lemon juice and maybe a 1 T butter.
Remove: 1 T cornstarch and maybe 1/4 c sugar.

It was a little too sweet, it definitely needed the lemon juice and could pry still stand to lose some of the sugar.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

BP, bringing oil to American shores...

NPR recently ran a story about using hair to make big absorbent booms to help with the oil now spread in an area larger than Rhode Island over the Gulf of Mexico.  I wish they would do a follow up story later.  I'm curious how well these work.  I know of at least one hair salon owner in my area that is participating.

Sopping Up An Oil Slick With Castaway Hair

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vinegar and baking soda

To make your own vinegar herbal hair rinse:
  1. Place 2 tablespoons of the dried herb (or herb mixture) into a muslin bag or tea ball and put in a warmed tea pot.
  2. Pour 1 pint (500 ml) of boiling water over the herbs and infuse for 2 hours.
  3. Allow the liquid to cool then pour it into a quart (1 liter) jar.
  4. Add 1 pint (500 ml) of apple cider vinegar and mix well.
Pour this over your hair (I like to pour it through it my hair over a large bowl so that I can reuse and use less) and comb through.  Use once a week or as needed.  Store bought shampoos and conditioners leave residues behind and this is a great way to make sure your hair is actually getting clean. 

Vinegar is also a great lice remedy and it is far cheaper than any of the shampoos on the market, for the moms with kids in school. 

Baking soda is also fantastic and safe to use around the house.  I like to use natural and hand-made soaps in the shower, but because the soap mixes with minerals from my tap water, I get soap scum in my tub.  Take a small dish of baking soda and a damp cloth.  Dip the cloth in the baking soda and scrub the surface of the tub.  I don't think my tub was as clean when we moved in as it was after I scrubbed it with baking soda.  Afterwards rinse it all away knowing that you are not adding harsh and most likely toxic chemicals into your water table!  I found a great article on about cleaning your home with green cleaners.

Will Twitter one day become a primary resource on life in the 21st century?

The Wall Street Journal has published an article in which the author likens Twitter to diary entries from the 18th and 19th century.  It is an interesting idea.  Will the tweets of today be a resource on everyday life for the people of tomorrow?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy Star Wars Day

May the fourth be with you!
In honour of this festive day, I am going to share a knitting patter that I found.  Its on my list of stuff to do (which is really, really long).  Enjoy!  (This is not my pattern, I had nothing to do with the genius.  It is available for free online and through Ravelry.)

Want a handmade Halloween costume this year? Have a geeky friend whose birthday is right around the corner? Or perhaps you are that geeky friend. That's okay. Be proud of who you are. Shout it out loud without saying a word. Knit this hat and wear it everyday, everywhere.

Queue this on Ravelry!

Caron Simply Soft (100% acrylic, 3oz/85g, 165yds/151m) one skein each in Royale and Grey Heather
Small amount of worsted black acrylic yarn
Small amount of loose stuffing for projecting bits, if desired
US7 (4.5mm) 16in (41cm) circular needle

US7 (4.5mm) double-pointed needles
Tapestry Needle

18sts x 24rows = 4in (10cm) in stst on US7 (4.5mm)

Finished Size:
Child (Adult S, Adult L) = 19 (21, 24)in [48 (54, 61)cm] circumference

Note: This pattern is written such that a basic striped hat is created first, and then details are added with duplicate stitch afterward. If you prefer, you can use the appropriate chart and stranded knitting for rounds 8-12 (9-14, 10-15) and rounds 25-30 (28-33, 30-35), leaving less duplicate stitching to be done in the end.

With grey yarn and circular needles, CO 84 (96, 108) sts. Join to work in the rnd, being careful not to twist. Work 4 (5, 5) rnds in k2, p2 ribbing. Join blue, but do not cut grey. With blue, knit 2 (2, 3) rnds in stst. Twist blue and grey strands once to prevent a hole. Knit 1 (1, 1) rnd in grey. Twist strands and knit 5 (6, 6) rnds in blue. Twist strands and knit 8 (9, 10) rnds in grey, twisting strands every 4 (5, 5) rnds to carry blue strand along, but still working with grey.
Crown Shaping:
Switch to dpns with 28 (32, 36) sts on each of 3 needles.
Rnd 1: With grey, [k6 (7, 8), k2tog, k6 (7, 8)] around - 78 (90, 102) sts.
Rnd 2 and all even rnds: knit even with same color as previous rnd.
Rnd 3: With grey, [k6 (7, 8), ssk, k5 (6, 7)] around - 72 (84, 96) sts.
Rnd 5: With blue, [k5 (6, 7), k2tog, k5 (6, 7)] around - 66 (78, 90) sts.
Rnd 7: With blue, [k5 (6, 7), ssk, k4 (5, 6)] around - 60 (72, 84) sts.
Rnd 9: With blue, [k4 (5, 6), k2tog, k4 (5, 6)] around - 54 (66, 78) sts.
Rnd 11: With grey, [k4 (5, 6), ssk, k3 (4, 5)] around - 48 (60, 72) sts.
Rnd 13: With blue, [k3 (4, 5), k2tog, k3 (4, 5)] around - 42 (54, 66) sts.
Rnd 15: With grey, [k3 (4, 5), ssk, k2 (3, 4)] around - 36 (48, 60) sts.
Rnd 17: With grey, [k2 (3, 4), k2tog, k2 (3, 4)] around - 30 (42, 54) sts.
Rnd 19: With grey, [k2 (3, 4), ssk, k1 (2, 3) around - 24 (36, 48) sts.
Child Size Only:
Rnd 21: With grey, [k2tog] around - 12 sts.
Rnd 22: With grey, knit even.
Adult Small Size Only:
Rnd 21: With grey, [k2, k2tog, k2] around - 30 sts.
Rnd 23: With grey, [k2, ssk, k1] around - 24 sts.
Rnd 25: With grey, [k2tog] around - 12 sts.
Rnd 26: With grey, knit even.
Adult Large Size Only:
Rnd 21: With grey, [k3, k2tog, k3] around - 42 sts.
Rnd 23: With grey, [k3, ssk, k2] around - 36
Rnd 25: With grey, [k2, k2tog, k2] around - 30 sts.
Rnd 27: With grey, [k2, ssk, k1] around - 24 sts.
Rnd 29: With grey, [k2tog] around - 12 sts.
Rnd 30: With grey, knit even.
All Sizes: Cut yarn and thread tail through rem sts using tapestry needle. Pull tight and tie off. Weave in ends. Using tapestry needle and duplicate stitch method, add details to match appropriate chart below.

Child Size:

Adult Small Size:

Adult Large Size:

Projecting Bits, make 2 (if desired):
With grey, CO 12 sts leaving a long tail. Dist sts to 3 dpns - 4 sts on each needle. Knit 7 rnds in stst. Join black and cut grey. Next rnd, [k2tog] around – 6 sts. Next rnd, [k2tog] around – 3 sts. Cut yarn and thread through rem sts using tapestry needle. Stuff with batting and use tapestry needle and CO tail to sew to hat along dashed lines from chart. Weave in ends.

Put on hat and make beeping noises.

Feel free to comment here with questions.

This pattern is intended for personal use only. Please do not try to sell it or any product made from it. Thank you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sore throat remedy

I usually eyeball everything.  I've been making this for a while now and it works wonders on a sore throat.
Add to a mug a good sized pinch of powdered cinnamon (or a half inch to an inch long piece of a cinnamon stick) a good dash of cayenne powder and enough vinegar (I usually use apple cider) to cover the bottom of the mug, about a centimeter.  Add to it 6 to 8 oz boiling water and let steep covered for 5-10 minutes.  You can add honey, which is also really good for a sore throat.  Sip while hot.

Sore throat remedy 2
Pour 8 to 10 oz boiling water over 1 to 2 slices of lemon, a few small chunks of ginger and some honey. Let steep covered 5 to 10 minutes.  Sip while hot.

I've been suffering from sinus drainage, something's probably pollinating.  Its not bad enough to warrant going to a clinic, just enough to make me feel crappy.  I've been trying to drink a lot of water too, hoping to flush out whatever is bothering me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cider and Jam

I found a recipe for taking unfiltered apple juice and making hard cider out of it! I decided to try it, if it works maybe I'll post how I did it.

I also found a Loquat tree in my apartment complex while biking home from campus. On my way to check the mail later, I stopped by and shook a bunch free. I'm going to eat a few, and turn the rest into jam!

Loquat Jam Instructions
WASH YOUR HANDS! Wash fruit, remove seeds (save and give to friends!), and blossom ends from whole ripe fruit. Chop fruit and place in deep pot. Cover, but just barely, with cold water. Cook until tender and deep red.

Add 3/4 cup organic Demerara sugar (or honey) to 1 cup of loquat pulp. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal with sterilized lids. It is best to cook small batches of no more than 5 cups of fruit pulp in one kettle.

Because I don't have actual canning equipment, I will be freezing mine as soon as the jars cool.

How can something deemed a "beauty product" be so harmful?

Here's some things to look out for the next time I go shopping for anything skin or hair related. This list comes from the "Most UN-Wanted List", via Kaia House.

1. Petrochemicals
These are chemicals derived from Petroleum and Natural Gas and are used for their foaming and emulsifying qualities in Hair Products, Body Creams and Facial Cleansers. Most common forms are Cocomidopropyl Betaine or Coco Betaine (derived from coconut oil, this is processed using petrochemicals), PVP/VA Copolymer, and Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). These petrochemicals can cause eye impairment, intestinal damage, kidney and liver problems, breathing problems, cysts, skin spots, rashes and hair loss.

2. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG/ PPG)
A family of synthetic chemical compounds, PEG can be found in Creams, Skin Conditioners and Face and Body Cleansers. Common forms are PEG-8, PEG-80 Glyceryl, Cocoate, Peroleate and PEG 15 Soyamide/IPDI Copolymer. The most troubling aspect of PEG is that the compounds often contain Ethylene Oxide, known to increase the likelihood of leukemia, uterine, breast, and brain cancer, and 1,4-Dioxane, that has been found to increase the incidence of liver, lung and skin tumors.

3. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)
Common forms of PAHs are Benzene, Benz-(a)-Pyrene, DMBA, and 1-Nitropyrene. They are also found in PEG compounds. These chemicals have been known to cause breast cancer since the 1960s.

4. Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazoline
These are preservatives that are known to have mutagenic and cancer causing properties.

5. Diethanolamine (DEA)
DEA and the closely related Triethanolamine (TEA) are used as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents in most Skin Care and Hair Care products. These 'amines' are ammonia compounds that have been known to cause eye and skin irritations, and are strongly linked to cancer when exposed to nitrates. Other forms of DEA and TEA are Lauramide DEA, Cocamide DEA, Cocamide MEA, DEA- Cetyl Phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate, Linoleamide MEA, Myristamide DEA, Stearamide MEA, and TEA-Lauryl Sulfate.

6. Phthalates (DBP, DMP, DEP)
Found in Perfumes, Hair Spray, and Deodorants, and used as plasticizers and fixatives, most common forms of Phthalates are Dimethylphthalate, Diethylphthalate, and Dibutylphthalate, and are often times undisclosed on mainstream product labels. Phthalates have been found to cause birth defects in male reproductive systems, pre-mature sexual development in girls and increased child asthma rates. Exposure to phthalates has also caused malformations of male reproductive organs and damage to the prostate glands in animal laboratory tests. They have been linked to breast cancer since 1997.

7. Parabens
These are petroleum-based preservatives that allow plant and food based products to have a longer shelf life. They are found in many consumer products from Facial Products to Cleaning Detergents and Soap. Most common forms of parabens are Methylparaben, Ethylparaben Propylparaben and Butylparaben. An excessive amount of parabens in the body have been found to cause liver problems and have weak estrogen-like effects that may cause breast cancer and reproductive abnormalities in young boys and girls exposed to the chemical either prior to puberty or during the mother's pregnancy.

8. Formaldehyde
Also used as a preservative, Formaldehyde can irritate the skin, damages the nervous system and cause cancer. 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1, 3-Diol, Diazolidinyl Urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl Urea, and Quaternium 15 all either contain, may release, or may break down into formaldehyde.

9. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Used as an anti-oxidant preservative, BHA is found in most Foundations and Cosmetic Make-up. It has been known to cause breast cancer tumors to multiply.

10. Artificial Colors and Fragrances
Artificial colors and fragrances found in Lipsticks, Shampoos, and Facial products have been known to cause skin irritations and allergic reactions. Many artificial fragrances contain hazardous chemicals including Toluene, Methylene Chloride, and Benzyl Chloride and may cause nausea, depression, anger and memory lapses. Artificial colors such as Red 3 have also been linked to cancer. Amongst children, certain artificial colors have been linked with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Smells like rain

There's something so sensuous about a rain storm. The sound of rain pittering on the roof, slowly growing in strength until the deafening roar of the storm's full force. If you listen carefully, you can hear each individual drop hitting dirt, the pavement, the roof, the windows. Thunder rolls in slowly, a deep rumble felt in the depths of your chest. As the storm advances, the thunder is sharper, a whip snapping over your head. I love watching the lightening spread across the sky, webbing out lasting for mere seconds. The heavens light up as bright as day, only for the light to be extinguished so immediately. I love the smell right before a storm, the air is heavy, saturated with the smell of the oncoming moisture. It smells fertile.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Musings on the power of silence.

I had to read this article for a class I am taking really felt that the author's message was important.

At first the article "Language in Silence" by Stephanie M. Wildman upset me because I was not paying attention to the title. I'm tired of being told that because I'm white that I am privileged and therefore must overcome this seemingly innate racism, but I digress.

"Apathy is just as bad as non-action." It kind of follows along the lines of "If you aren't with me you're against me." For all of these people who say "I don't care either way" or "its none of my business" instead of doing the PC thing, they are taking power, validation, etc. from someone else. I understand not wanting to get embroiled in an argument, however there are instances when having an opinion or taking action is important. That I believe, is more what the article was getting at. The author wasn't so much delivering an anecdote (specifically of a homosexual man's family portrait being ignored) as she was showing how an action--or lack of action here--means so much more than one would think. Human beings are social creatures and therefore need some kind of reinforcement or validation for their actions (even if they say they don't), especially if said actions fall outside of the sphere of what is deemed "normal behaviour." So before we pass judgment and say that someone is too easily offended, for example, perhaps looking at the issue from all sides would allow for some empathy without the feeling like we have to tread on eggshells.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bearberry remedy

Found this home remedy for UTIs, kidney infections, etc... using BearBerry. I purchased some of the dried leaves after I came back from Guatemala last summer having had a kidney infection, but never got around to using it. Seeing as how doctors and antibiotics cost money, something rarely seen enough lately, anything I can alleviate or fix naturally with stuff I already have is a plus in my book.

Please be smart when using home remedies--if you are pregnant, lactating, have issues with blood sugar or blood pressure think twice, then consult someone who knows more than you on the subject! I am not responsible for anyone who uses this and is not pleased with the results, etc.

Now, on to the cure!


  • 3 oz (l0 g) bearberry leaves
  • 4 cups (1 liter) water
  • 1 t (5 g) sodium bicarbonate
Lightly chop the bearberry leaves and soak for 12 hours in a large bowl of cold water. Then boil the leaves in a saucepan for 3 minutes. Pour this mixture into the bowl and infuse until the liquid is drinkable. Add the sodium bicarbonate and shake. Drink 1 cup (250 ml) at a time, warm or cold, several times during the day. Repeat over 10 consecutive days. This bitter herbal tea has a powerful effect on small kidney stones, purulent cystitis, gout, hypotrophy of the prostate and bacterial venereal infections such as blennorrhagia.
Note: Bearberry is the color of greenish urine because of the concentrated tannins.


The bearberry has been known to induce side effects such as mild nausea in some individuals. The possibility of the deleterious effects from excessive accumulation of the compound hydroquinone exists and for this reason, the continuous and long term use of bearberry is not advised.
The effectiveness of the antiseptic action displayed by the compound arbutin - or more correctly its derivative hydroquinone - over the urinary system is confirmed in many studies, however, this action seems to be effective only when the urine produced is alkaline and then only when the plant based remedy is taken at high doses throughout the treatment period. Foods such as sauerkraut, the vitamin C, and fruits or fruit juices and all similar products are rich in acids - these have to be carefully avoided during the treatment process in order to maintain the effectiveness of the bearberry remedy. The compound hydroquinone is moreover toxic when taken repeatedly in large doses, consumers need to be careful about using the bearberry remedy for too long, as the toxic side effects can include uncomfortable tinnitus or ringing in the ears, sudden convulsion and physical collapse as well as bouts of vomiting. At the same time, the safety record of the herbal remedy is good and moreover, the bearberry is usually taken at recommended dosages of a gram of extract, three to six times every day, for an average dosage of about 400 to 800 mg of the compound arbutin daily, and side effects have not been reported in healthy individuals even when the doses were as high as 20 grams - thus the plant seems to be quite safe compared to other herbal remedies. Lactating women, women in a term of pregnancy and children must not be given the bearberry for any reason, as in these individuals, the chances of side effects are higher than average. Whenever the side effects appear in a patient, medical advise must be sought if the physical symptoms last longer then two weeks, or if the intensity of the symptoms worsen during the treatment process.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What weather! Here in South Florida, we have gone from freezing (literally!) to hot to sun that deceives you into thinking its lovely outside...and its still rather chilly. I'm sure my garden is confused.

I have been thinking a lot about self-sustainability. When you go to a supermarket and everything is shrink wrapped and pre-parceled, it removes you from all of the work that goes into producing food. You don't think about how many hours of work are devoted to making sure the soil is the correct pH, propagating plants from seed or cuttings, protecting the young plants from the elements, fertilizing, watering, harvesting... Its harder to appreciate what you are purchasing when you simply grab a package that tells that what's inside is edible.

Last year, my mom started a "Victory Garden;" it was nowhere near enough to sustain a family, but it did supplement the families diet. Now that I am moved out (again) I have my own garden. My front porch is littered with containers, holding the juvenile version of what will soon be a salad, or a pesto sauce, or a pineapple smoothie... I'm so excited! And I have so much more planned!

I also need to find the farmer's markets in my area--my hometown had a market every Wednesday afternoon.