Friday, November 24, 2017

Better Cleaners

One of the highest profit centers at any supermarket is the cleaning-supplies isle. Unfortunately, many of the products available in the market today are expensive and harmful to the environment (and sometimes also dangerous to humans and pets).

For quite sometime I have been using vinegar and baking soda as my only cleaning supplies, inspired by my friend Janet who is very wise in terms of cleaners and cosmetics.

Here are a few of the cleaning products we use at home:

Dish Washing Detergent

We wash dishes by hand because our dishwasher began to malfunction years ago and I refused to repair it or replace it. For a small family of three, washing a few dishes per day is not a big deal. This is a formula I came up based on things I learned from Janet:

  • 1 part inexpensive dish detergent (I buy the 26 or 32 Oz  $1 product at Dollar Tree)
  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 2 parts water

Tip: using a large measuring cup, pour 2 cups of water, then 1 cup of vinegar and then 1 cup of detergent. This minimizes foaming. Stir gently and then pour slowly into a squirt bottle.

We use a little of the above mixture with a little baking soda and dishes come out clean every time.

Laundry Detergent

This one does not use vinegar, but here is my formula for a great laundry detergent:

  • 1 part Wash Soda (Arm & Hammer)
  • 1 part Borax (Twenty Mule brand)
  • 1 part Zote laundry flakes (or you can grate a bar of your favorite soap, but that is a lot of work and the Zote product works great and is very inexpensive; we find it at Walmart in the laundry aisle).

Use a small (1/3-cup) scoop per load. This is so inexpensive, gentle on your clothes and skin, and kind to the environment.

A side note: when you forget to dry a load of laundry and it sits in the wash for a day or more, the smell of mold can develop quickly. Re-wash your load adding 1/2 to 1 small bottle of ammonia. The bad odor will be gone. This is a very simple and inexpensive way to deal with this problem.

Dryer Static & Freshener

In the dryer, we use dryer balls to combat static and to infuse a nice fragrance to our clothes. You can search for "wool dryer balls" for a great pick of suppliers. Currently, Walmart has six of them for less than $10.

We put three balls in the dryer with every load and that takes care of all static build up. We often place a few drops of essential oils on the balls to also give our clothes a nice fragrance. For sheets I use lavender essential oil to assist with good sleep; other clothes I use peppermint oil to have a fresh smell.

Three of the wool balls will last several years before showing any sign of wear.

Wrinkle-release Spray

For many years I have depended on a commercial wrinkle-release spray for the rare times that a garment comes out wrinkled from the drier and I do not feel like iron it. I recently found a great homemade formula:

  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 1 part water (distilled is preferred)
  • 14-20 drops of your favorite essential oil

Pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Shake mixture gently and use like any commercial product. Spray lightly on the garment and smooth out the wrinkles. No more ironing!

Bathtub / Shower / Sink Spray

One of the most-neglected jobs around our home is cleaning the shower/bathtub. Here is a "miracle" spray that makes cleaning the tub a breeze:

  • 1 part white vinegar (warm slightly in microwave to help with mixing)
  • 1 part dish washing soap 

Pour the above mixture into a spray or squirt bottle. Spray the mixture and allow it to soak on the tub/shower walls for 30-60 minutes, then rinse thoroughly, wiping any stubborn spots as needed. I use this once per week to prevent the tub from getting dirty. It also works great on sinks and any other surface.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

We spray white vinegar inside the toilet and then sprinkle a little baking soda all over the bowl surface. After a few minutes of soaking, a gentle brushing will leave the toilet completely clean.

Bleach Alternative

We all know that bleach is bad for the environment. Here is an alternative using natural products:

  • 12 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide

Mix the ingredients well and pour into a spray bottle to use as a household cleaner, or use two cups of the mixture per load of laundry.

Window/Mirror Cleaner

The following is an inexpensive solution for cleaning windows and mirrors:

  • 1/2 gallon of water
  • 1/2 cup of ammonia
  • 1 teaspoon of dish soap

Mix ingredients well and use in a spray bottle as you would any commercial product.

What do you use?

Do you have any homemade cleaning products you would like to share? Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Daily: August 15, 2017

Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 88 today. Her name was Leslie and, interestingly, she passed away just months after Tracey died.

Mom and Tracey were very similar in character; they exemplified the typical strong British women, but the usual side effect of strong stubbornness. Almost from day one they did not get along no matter how hard they tried. Holidays were especially interesting at our house. :-)

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Daily: August 14, 2017

On Health

Today I started the Couch-to-5K program one more time. It is an awesome way to get back into running consistently. I run to the music of DJ Steve Boyett. You can find his 5K (and other) programs at the website.

On Impermanence

We had our annual bowling league meeting today. Only seven bowlers showed up and we were not able to conduct business. The league, like many others in the area, has been shrinking year after year. Unless we can get more bowlers, this may be the end of a long standing league. I have been bowling with NDPP since 1999, and I have been its Secretary/Treasurer since about 2007. The current state of the league served to remind me of the Buddhist concept of impermanence: nothing lasts forever.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Daily: August 13, 2017

I am challenging myself to write something every day. I love writing; so here it goes.

A UU Call

For the last few months I have been attending service at the local Unitarian Universalist church. This does not mean I have become religious nor that I have abandoned my Buddhist precepts. On the contrary, the more things develop in the world (and to no fault of the UU or Buddhist faiths) the more convinced I am that religion, as an institution, is one of the core reasons for many of the evil acts we witness daily.

Today was the first day for our new settled minister to officiate. The Rev. Jeff Liebmann made a brave and powerful call from the pulpit: it is time to ban the production and distribution of hand guns except as needed for law enforcement and the military. He called for a transition period in which people would voluntarily trade their weapons for cash. After that, weapons would be confiscated and destroyed.

It was obvious that his call for action was not well received by the congregation; only a few of us applauded at the end of the sermon. I over heard people around me and their comments were not positive; Americans love their guns.

Here is a little song about guns.

I so agree with a call for sanity, for a cease to violence, for all of us to take the first step toward peace in our communities.

It is time.

Health Notes — Do not wait, do it soon

My wife died ten years ago, on July 18, 2007. Her name was Tracey and she fought a valiant battle against breast cancer from April 2004 until she passed. In October of 2008 I participated in the last full-scale health screening offered by my employer; my numbers were not good and I took action. Between January and July 2009 I lost a total of 90 pounds and got in the best shape since my teens. And then the worst disease overcame me: complacency. Perhaps I became over-confident, or perhaps it was the stress, or perhaps it was turning 50 … the weight began to creep up, the energy decreased, and then came a bunch of weird events that left me with what looked like an auto-immune disease.

Fast forward to August 2017. I finally looked for and engaged a new family doctor. There were many good results in the tests we ran: EKG was clean, white blood cell counts are all OK (no cancer), no anemia, etc. The not so good news: I have high blood pressure and I am borderline diabetic. Darn it! I waited too long to make the needed changes to stay healthy. So I have begun to take medications to control these problems, and I am also beginning the lifestyle modifications that will allow me to regain my health and fitness naturally. My goal is to be medication free in less than six months. This sounds easier than it will be, but it is going to be so worth it! I am looking forward to having fun in the process of re-balancing my nutrition, my fitness, and my rest.

If you have not had a check-up for a while, please do not wait, do it soon. You may catch things before they get out of hand. I may have caught my conditions in time to do something about it and prevent some serious damage. We owe it to ourselves and to all those that love us.

The Charlottesville Tragedy

What a sad note in the history of our country. What a terrible tragedy for all those that lost their lives and their families. We are better than this. But there are those that like to keep us divided. With us divided and fragmented in so many hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pieces, they win, they continue their reign of hate and fear, and we, the people, suffer. The sooner we realize that we are being divided, by design, so that we cannot improve our situation by uniting, the sooner we can take the steps needed to stop the madness. We get divided by religions. We get divided by political party. We get divided by race and nationality; by gender and sexuality; by income or lack thereof; by profession and trade. We get divided by sport, by team, by city and by region. The system has been designed masterfully to avoid unity at all costs. We need to wake up and unite for the common good of all. That means dialogue, compromise, and honest negotiation. That means the hard work of finding a win-win situation for all. That means being mindful of our biases and of all the biases we are being encouraged to have through division and separation. Together we can do so much; divided we will continue to suffer while an elite class benefits from our pain, our sickness, our poverty, and our ignorance. Perhaps we would benefit by embracing the philosophy of "ubuntu," the belief that there is an universal bond that connects all humanity. Let's find what connects us to others; in doing so, we will begin to erase the divisions, bridge over the separations, and heal together for the common good.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hey CiCi's! You are terrible! Never again!

For the second, and last, time in a row, I have tried to place an order with CiCi's at Village of Sandhills in Columbia, only to experience problems with their ordering process; this last time it was a a complete order failure.

For many years my family and I have enjoyed CiCi's pizza, and we really love their chicken wings. Once in a while I will call them on my way home and place an order so that I can pick it up for dinner. A few weeks ago I called them while I was on the highway and they demanded that I give them a credit card; I was not about to risk an accident while traveling on the highway at 60+ miles per hour, so I canceled the order.

This evening we were having a birthday party for my daughter and I ordered pizzas and wings for our guests. I was not asked for a credit card (which I was ready to provide) and was told it would take 30 minutes for the order to be ready). I arrived at the restaurant 45 minutes later and was told that they had not placed the order in yet. I was furious as I have hungry teens at the house waiting for dinner.

So, CiCi's … you have lost my business. If you cannot trust me or get your stuff together, then you do not deserve my money. Not only will you lose the $40+ dollars per order, you have lost the $400 orders I used to place for my bowling league's parties. So long. I wish you well. Your service has disappointed me for the last time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Coughing? You may want to try natural Thyme tea

For the last few years I have noticed that often the cough associated with the average cold or flu lasts for several weeks. I recently learned that Thyme tea is a wonderful, natural remedy to heal from persistent coughs. You can look it up in reliable places such as the People’s Pharmacy:

Here is one recipe that has worked well for many:

You can vary the ingredients (except for Thyme, of course) to adjust to your taste. For example, some folks can tolerate the spiciness of Cayenne a lot better than others.

I hope this helps you or someone you know that is suffering from persistent cough.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

2017 - Week #1

Here is  summary for the week.


On Day 2 of the new year, I ran 2.36 miles and walked 1.35 miles in the evening. I did great nutritionally. No strength training today. Mondays are normally the days I go bowling, so they will be my "rest" days for running and weights. Started the day at 253 pounds which was a disappointment because my weight last weeks was down to 250. I suspect I am not drinking enough water; need to work on that. I also may not be eating enough. Need to keep an eye on that too. It is a big balancing act. Another big bummer: I came down with a cold. I had originally thought about doing another 2 mile jog this evening, but opted out of that so that my body can deal with the cold.


Today saw an unintended change in routines, but it may be a very good change. I normally run in the morning with my dog Tara but this morning she refused to go with me because there was bad weather in a nearby state (she is ultra sensitive to thunderstorm activity). So I left to jog on my own. I used Podrunner's Gateway to 8K - Week 1. It was the perfect workout!

I must note that my right knee has been bothering for several days now. I am pushing through the discomfort and working on stretching exercises. I believe this pain is related to very tight leg muscles.

Today I also went to the fitness center at work for the first time since August. I did a light workout and also did 20 minutes of stationary bike, and that helped release some of my knee tension some. I remember that being the case back in 2009 when I also suffered from knee pain.

Very moderate nutrition day, although it was a rough start because someone brought cookies to the office and I indulged. Sadly, they did not even taste good. :-(  But the rest of the day was good and I was under the calorie intake goal set by SparkPeople as a guideline.

All in all, a great fitness day.


Started the morning with a nice jog on my own (still using Podrunner's Gateway to 8K - Week 1). I followed it with a nice walk with both dogs. The plan for today: go to the fitness center (lower body workout), and then join a Yoga class. I followed my plan fairly closely. Going to Yoga was a big relief to my knee. I did not do lower body, but repeated my upped body workout from Tuesday, with additional weight and reps.


Today was one of those days that anybody wanting to improve fitness simply dreads. I woke up with back pain in addition to the knee pain. I could not run in the morning. I could barely walk all day, so I decided to give my body some rest. I got home and did two TENS treatments and some Tiger Balm on my back. Heading to the Chiropractor tomorrow.


Still not doing well. lower back spasms were the norm this morning, so no running or even walking around the neighborhood. Went to the Chiropractor for an adjustment. He thinks I may have another ruptured disc and told me to quit running; I am taking it under advisement. back to see him on Monday. I feel bad for my poor dogs that have not gone out for a walk since yesterday morning (they did go out to the back yard, of course, but it is not the same for them). And with this nasty weather we are having, tomorrow looks like another day without a walk (we are supposed to have rain, sleet, and snow -- which for here means nasty ice).


I managed to walk today despite the cold weather. No jogging yet. My back is still tender; at least no spasms today. I am giving myself one more day of rest before restarting my activities. I may just walk tomorrow and do some Yoga at home (unless I can find a studio with a good Yoga class).


My back feels quite a bit better. Not quite normal, but not too bad. My right knee continues to give me trouble, but it is far more manageable. I did some light walking with the dogs and not much more. I think tomorrow will be a good test for starting my exercise routine again.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy 2017!

As it is often the case for many, I start he year with the clear intention of working on my health. I have several goals that should all result in better health (including lower weight). My primary objectives are:
  • Increased physical activity (cardio and strength training). Although I have been jogging regularly in the past, I am going to push myself a bit more on the cardio end and a lot more on the strength training end.
  • Better nutrition, especially concerning tracking everything I eat. I will focus on eating more fruits and vegetables, and avoid all processed food.
  • I will do more meditation and more Yoga on a weekly basis.
Today I started the year with an eight-mile jog — the longest I have jogged in quite a while. I used a couple of Podrunner's mixes to help keep me going for 2.5 hours. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

I am also back active with SparkPeople.

  • Podrunner: look for the Mixes link. Today I used "Varied Tempo" tracks: 
    • 140-160 BPM Bass Camp
    • 140-160 BPM Bottom Five
  • SparkPeople: