Thursday, 27 October 2016

Rosemary for Remembrance (and other things)-Part 2

I go back and forth about deodorant.

I don't mean I go back and forth about wearing it.

I mean, I go back and forth about making it.
Image result for simple deodorant
Many times over the years i have become fed up with commercial deodorants that contain  harsh chemicals and ingredients that may contribute to illness like breast cancer or Alzheimer's. I get worried that it has been tested on animals because they are owned by a company like Unilever.
Image result for toms deodorant
So I start to buy the sort you can only buy in a health food shop that aren't tested on animals and have slightly less bad ingredients, but cost an arm and a leg. But they don't really work.
Image result for superdrug own brand deodorant
So i go back to buying cheaper commercially made deodorant that has the leaping bunny symbol, but stinks like a French Whorehouse. I wasn't too cut up that they discontinued it.

So i try my hand at make something.
Image result for holland barrett aloe vera
Some were successes. The aloe vera gel, witch hazel and lavender oil one worked alright, but was really sloppy and difficult to put on. The gooey-ness seemed to cling in my pits for ages.
Image result for deodorant baking soda cornstarch coconut oil
The coconut oil, baking soda and cornstarch one made my pits turn red like they were on fire after about a week.

So the cycle goes around again and I start to use a commercial one full of chemicals and I am unhappy.

So....when i was making up the rosemary vinegar for cleaning I wondered if you could infuse rosemary into something else and make deodorant?

I saw several testimonials from people who used half a lemon or lime rubbed into their pit and the acid killed the germs. But I don't have money to throw away by using half a fruit every single day.

I found lots of recipes that just used neat vodka as the alcohol killed germs. I thought about buying the cheapest vodka I could get and infusing the rosemary in that, but then i had a thought.

What if I just used the rosemary vinegar? 

If it didn't work, I haven't wasted anything because I already have it made and if I don't like it, it can go for cleaning.

I needed something to put it in and I wasn't sure if I wanted to use essential oils or not to give it a boost. If I did want to use essential oils then i would need a dark glass container as essentials oils degrade in plastic as well as in light.
Image result for blue glass bottle
I priced a bottle like this and found it out of my range.

Classic Vinegar Shaker
So i bought one of these at Wilkinsons for 60p. You are meant to put vinegar in it as vinegar is a table condiment here in the UK like salt and pepper. Salt and vinegar chips....mmmmmm....

Then I covered it with layers of a purple-y blue tissue paper and lots of watered down white PVA glue to seal it and hot glued a bead over the little hole in the lid.

I used 1/3 cup rosemary vinegar and 1 Tablespoon witch hazel which is a pore tightener and helps reduce sweating. I might up it to 2 Tablespoons in the summer if I need it.

But so works. I use the same cotton ball I use to apply toner to my face since the toner is just watered down apple cider vinegar. I just rub a bit under my arms and let it dry while I finish getting ready and then swipe on a second layer to dry before I leave the bathroom. Yes, i am sure if you shave your pits then it might sting, but since I don't shave this is not a problem for me.

It smells good. I ended up not adding any essential oils as I liked the rosemary smell and I haven't needed any extra oomph. Maybe I will in the summer. Who knows.

It passes the sniff test. Spiderman has been kind enough to be the chief sniffer and has detected zero offensive smells or any smells at all. I smell completely neutral.

Not like a French whorehouse.
Not like a chemistry class.
Not even like rosemary vinegar as the smell evaporates.

I just smell clean.

Is this too weird? Maybe. But it works and I am not being poisoned or spending all our money either.

Would you try it?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Rosemary for Remembrance (and other things)

I have always loved the smell of rosemary--it's a clean and forest-y smell.
Image result for rosemary
Clearly, people throughout history have also loved its stimulating smell, too.

Students in ancient Greece supposedly wore garlands of rosemary around their necks or braided into their hair to help improve their memory during exams.

It is one of the main ingredients in the (Queen of) Hungary Water--the first European alcohol based perfume from around the 14th century. It was made by distilling fresh rosemary in strong brandy with lavender, sage, mint, lemon and orange blossom.
Rosemary is mentioned in Hamlet by Ophelia--it's one of the flowers she carries in her grief and madness after her father's death. She says:
 There's rosemary. that's for remembrance. 
Pray you, love, remember. 

It is mentioned in one of my favourite songs, the English ballad Scarborough Fair.
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine. 

A few months ago I was reading an interesting library book (whose name I sadly cannot recall) that was all about herbal medicine that has gradually been replaced by "modern" medicine, but was as effective or more effective that "modern" medicine. You think about how we went germ phobic in the extreme and filled everything we could from hand sanitiser to liquid soap to toothpaste with triclosan which is now known to be a hormone disrupter and the cause of antimicrobial resistance. You know all those super bug strains  that are resistant to antibiotics? That's from the overuse of stuff like triclosan, folks. 

 But the book talked about how French hospitals in WWII use rosemary as a disinfectant. 

I was intrigued. They burned it in sick chambers to purify the air as well as boiled it in water to make a cleaner to wipe down surfaces.

This really had me interested. 

I have always used vinegar for cleaning because vinegar is cheap (although not as cheap as in America) non-toxic and biodegradable, but also because it really does kill germs. It won't kill stuff like salmonella on your cutting board from raw meat juices--but since we don't eat meat that is not an issue for us. 

So i decided to infuse some rosemary into vinegar. If I had a rosemary plant I would have used fresh but instead I used some dried and it came out fine.  

I just took an old jar and put in about 30g dried rosemary and topped it up with vinegar. I put it under my kitchen sink and left it there for 2 weeks, shaking every day.

After 2 weeks the liquid was greenish brown and had a lovely resin-y fresh smell. 

Then I strained out the bits and put it back in the jar. Presto! Instant cleaner!

I put it in a spray bottle with a tablespoon of eco washing up liquid (we use Bio-D because it is not petroleum based) and it make a great cleaner.
Image result for lemon myrtle essential oil
I am also a huge fan of lemon myrtle essential oil which smells like a grove of sun warmed lemons and has more antiseptic/antiviral properties than tea tree oil (which smells like medicine). 

My personal thought is putting it in something can sometimes change the lovely smell and make it seem sour so i tend to drop a few drops on the surface to be cleaned and then spray with my rosemary spray and you get this lovely woodsy lemon hit and your home is really clean and disinfected. 

But then i thought about what *else* i could do with the rosemary vinegar. 

Stay tuned for part 2 of Rosemary for Remembrance! 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Neck and Neck

Image result for polar bear cartoon i don't care what you say I'm cold
This is me.
My neck is cold therefore I am.

It is what Rene Descartes *really* wanted to say. 

However, I have a solution. 

The neck warmer. A  tube of polar fleece.

It is small and can roll up to fit in your pocket if you go in a building that is warm, but can pop out at a moment's notice when you venture back outside. It's stretchy so it slides on easily without mussing your hair (if you care about stuff like that) and is less faff than a scarf. When you wear it you are as warm as toast in no time as Jack Frost cannot blow his icy breath down the back of your neck. You can even wear it as an ear warmer if you swing that way. 
This has literally been a lifesaver to me since we moved to chilly, damp Wales from chilly, damp England.

I wear mine every day for three seasons of the year. 

When my Mum and Carl came for a visit recently, I made them some.

Nobody likes to be cold.

Not even animals.

Recently, when the Carmarthen Vegans went to Cilgerran Wildlife Centre we had two lovely rescued greyhounds with us named Rufus and Eddie. 

Eddie takes after his Auntie Spider. He doesn't like being cold. So i started brainstorming with his "people"  our friends Nigel and Cheryl (hereafter known as the Haboobys) about ways we could fix that.

I went out and bought a half a metre brightly coloured polar fleece--candy floss pink with white spots--and using Eddie's measurements sewed him an extra long fleece neck warmer. I even managed to leave a gap where his collar would be so they can attach his lead for walkies. A half a metre makes 2 doggie ones and two people ones so everyone could have one! 

Modelled by the Haboobys and Rufus and Eddie

Here's another shot of Nigel and the doggies outside where you can see the colour a lot better. Eddie is also wearing his blue onesie with peek-a-boo bottom. 

But it really got me thinking how animals are so much like us.

They feel hot and cold.

They feel love and affection.

They feel fear and pain.

They feel joy and curiosity.

They feel hunger and thirst. 

And I would want for myself to have my physical needs taken care of--to have enough food and water, to be free from pain and to be warm and comfortable.

I would want for myself to have my emotional needs met--to be loved and give and receive affection, to be able to express joy and learn about the world around me through exploration and curiosity. 

Why would I not want that for other living beings? 

Being a vegan, for me, is all about treating ALL living beings with the same courtesy I would treat myself. To believe that everything from the smallest that creep on the ground to the those that swim in the sea and fly in the sky and every one that moves across the surface of this planet deserves to be safe, happy and at peace. 

Every human and every animal. We are all Earthlings. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Tale of Two Readers

Image result for stack books
Spiderman and I are both big readers. I tend to read more for pleasure because I have more time on my hands and read quicker, but we both love books and love to share books.
Image result for wild's end
Currently we are reading a cracking graphic novel series called Wild's End by Dan Abnett and illustrated by INJ Culbard.

This is amazing--like HG Wells meets Wind in the Willows.

It is set in the 1930's in a rural village in England. It is out in the countryside where you still have "gentleman farmers" and poachers and the old ways of farming are making way for the new ways of mechanisation.

Image result for wild's end
the (mostly) good guys
Did I mention that all the characters are anthropomorphic animals?
Image result for wild's end
the (mostly) bad guys
Heh heh, that deer is a "brigadier."

Image result for wild's end crop circle

Did I also mention that it is about an alien invasion? The creatures are some sort of luminescent gas that travel in what appears to be small spider like creatures and full fledged streetlamps. They can shoot a type of death ray that incinerates you. And the good guys die too--which is makes it more realistic, but scarier to read.
Image result for wild's end enemy within

It is also an epistolary novel with maps, newspaper articles, badly written science fiction, journal entries etc.

So this is what me reading Wild's End sounds like:
Oh No!

What does that mean?

Oh wait, he said that before, it must be important .


Oh No!

Don't go there! It's not safe!


heh heh, she does get the best lines.

Look out! 

What does the pocket watch mean?

No! Get out of the way!

No! Not him!


Oh my God!

Oh my God!


Bloody hell! 

This is what it sounds like when Spiderman is reading Wild's End:

(sound of page turning)

(sound of page turning) get the idea.

So he read it FIRST and not a sound did he utter. Not a peep. Nothing. Nada. Nix. Nein. Dim. Zero. 

But at the end he said, "Bloody hell. That was good. You will really love it."

So I proceeded to read as described above as well as:

Nearly fall off the sofa from being overly involved in the story

Have to run for an emergency wee at a critical moment

Flap the book to my chest uttering a gasp because what is happening is so shocking
 I cannot bear to look  and see how it ends

Run around in a circle at an exciting moment

In the end I said, "How can you read without saying anything at all???" 

To which he replied, Quite easily."

But what I am *sure* he was thinking was "Why can't you?" but he is much to polite to say it aloud. 

If you like adventure, sci-fi, historical settings and anthropomorphic animals then Wild's End is *definitely* for you.  

You might just want to read it when you are alone. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Cilgerran Wildlife Centre

On Sunday we had our last Carmarthen and PembrokeshireVegans outdoor gathering for the season as it is getting colder and wetter and not as easy to be outdoors anymore. We have had a few hikes over the summer that we persisted with despite heavy rains because we are all stubborn, but I think everyone was hoping this one would not result in us all huddling under a tree in a downpour. AGAIN.

There was a bit of rain (this is Wales after all!), but there were also plenty of shelters and the rain never lasted long. Hoorah!

If you look carefully you can see Spiderman  doing his Benedict Cumberbatch style photobomb in the back.
Image result for benedict cumberbatch u2

Being a Wildlife Centre there were lots of interesting animal related things.
Here's a lovely insect hotel with a variety of cubbyholes and spaces for wee beasties to hide in.

Notice the wasp sculpture on top
There was also this amazing giant willow sculpture of a badger.

me and Rosie Mai
this made us all fall about laughing

More hiking stuff:

This last sculpture was so real that both the greyhounds Eddie and Rufus had to go sniff its butt. 

It was a lovely day but as it was getting colder in the late afternoon we all went to the cafe to get a hot drink. We had to sit outside as we had the dogs, but at least the hot drinks warmed us up!

Overall, it was a great day with (reasonably) good weather and (definitely) good friends. It is great to have a social group to hang out with. In total we walked seven miles that day--not too bad. 

Happy autumn!

Saturday, 15 October 2016


I had another one of my funky dreams last night.

"No you didn't," Spiderman replied as I was telling him this morning in bed.

But I did.

It was a weird half American/half British dream where it seemed perfectly normal for things to be mixed. It was only on waking and thinking about it that I thought, "That could never happen!"

So the dream:

We were in the car park of a large Tesco Superstore (British) on Highway 28 east, Pineville Louisiana (American).

We had a huge amount of groceries and some small tables and chairs that we had bought and we thought "How will we ever get this home? It is too heavy to carry."

I remember saying to Spiderman, "Why are towns set up so you can't walk everywhere like you can in the UK?" (So I must have known I was in America) and then Spiderman went off to find the freephone that  all British supermarkets have to be able to call a taxi. So we must have been in Britain.

A few minutes later he drove up in a maroon four door car. It was definitely  a right hand drive car so the car was British. I was confused as we haven't driven in over a decade and neither of us have a valid drivers licence, but we did in America so this must be America. I asked where the car came from and Spiderman said:

"I went to the freephone and it was out of order and this bloke asked me if i needed a car. He said he could get me one. Tesco must have a car hire service now. Anyway, I paid him £10 and he came back with a car." The use of the word bloke, the term car hire instead of rent-a-car and the £10 made me think this was now Britain.

I recall thinking, that I had never heard about Tesco's new hire car service before. As we were driving down Highway 28 east, I started to look around and notice that the car seemed strangely lived in. There was a scrunched up McDonald's bag on the floor and a car seat in the back.

I also noticed that there was no key.

"Where's the key? How did you start the car without a key?"

His reply:

"There was no key when the bloke brought it over to me. He told me to be careful and not let it stall out or I wouldn't be able to get it started again."

That seemed perfectly reasonable to me. But suddenly I had a thought:

"Once we get it home, how are you supposed to return the car? Do you have to drive it back to Pineville to return it? How will you get back home again if you can't call a taxi?"

His reply:

"No, don't worry. The bloke said I could just abandon the car anywhere and someone would be round to pick it up."

Something was niggling me, but I just couldn't put my finger on it.

It was at this point in my retelling that Spiderman began to sing Punk Rock Girl by the Dead Milkmen.
You know, the line that goes:
We hopped into a car
Away we started rolling.
I said 'how much you pay for this',
she said 'nothing man it's stolen.'

Then we were pissing ourselves laughing (not literally--we were still in bed) and I never did discover if the dream-me ever figured out that we had just unwittingly stolen a car to take all of our stuff home from the Tesco in Pineville. 

So that was my dream. Spread over two countries, undoubtedly triggered by my Mum and Carl's recent visit. 

Sweet dreams. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Keeping Mum

Hello my lovelies! It has been simply ages since i wrote for the blog. This was due to the fact that we have had company for the last 2 weeks.

There's nothing like company coming  to make you spring clean your house.

 In autumn.

I guess I missed doing it in spring. But company is always the incentive to put away all the stacks of papers and books and dust in places I don't dust very often.

As evidenced by the helpful little clean spots i found when I picked up knickknacks to dust them that shows they have sat there so long dust has formed AROUND them.

Yeah, we have *way* too many knickknacks.

But the house was tidy and then....drum-roll please (rat a tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat tat)

My mum Becky and my soon-to-be step-dad Carl came over from Louisiana for a visit. They flew into Bristol (remember our lovely trip to Blissful Bristol?) and had a few days there and then took the train to Carmarthen. 

They took the wrong train, not the one they told me they were taking, and so we had a bit of Comedy of Errors looking for each other for several hours. 

I can laugh about it now. 

But we had a most excellent week. The perfect balance of staying in and hanging out to going out and doing stuff. 

I am afraid i have no pictures to show you at this point because *someone* not saying who (coughcoughMum) forgot to load all the photos from her Smartphone onto my laptop before they departed. 

Yeah, both my folks have a Smartphone. In their 70's. We've only just gotten around to getting our first mobile phone two years ago and it definitely NOT a Smartphone. 

It's sad when your parents are cooler and more hip than you are. 

But, in my defence, Smartphones need a whole lotta charging. My little crap Nokia lasts for a week before it needs a charge so i guess there are some advantages to having a Dumbphone. 

Stuff we did:
We went to the monthly vegan lunch at the Waverley cafe. 
Image result for waverley cafe carmarthen

We had a nice meal --a sort of continuous feast--with our friend Priya out at the home of our friends Kathryn and Peter. We ate and laughed and talked about our favourite John Wayne films and got home that evening and were too full for dinner. 

We did manage a wafer thin mint (for all my Python fans out there) in the form of homemade chocolate pudding.

There's *always* room for pudding. 

We also spent a day at the Botanic Garden of Wales. 
Image result for botanic garden wales

Have I ever mentioned that an episode of Doctor Who was filmed there????

We pottered around the shops and the indoor market near the historic clocktower.
Image result for indoor market carmarthen

We went to a concert at the Lyric Theatre  to hear a Celtic Bluegrass band called We Banjo 3. 
Image result for we banjo 3
Despite the fact that they actually only have 2 banjos and 4 band members (where does that 3 come from???) a good time was had by all. The music was toe-tapping, hand-clapping good and that fiddle player plays so fast that it looks like his hands might burst into flames. Here they are singing a song where he exchanges the fiddle for the bodhran drum and also sets it on fire.

In case you didn't know my Mum and Carl are soon to be married so we spent some time altering her wedding clothes (at the last minute) and finding a pair of earrings that my grandmother gave to me that I wore at our wedding to give to her so she could wear them at her wedding. Like passing it down through generations (only slightly out of order).

We had a lovely time and they thoughtfully brought us several boxes of that American manna from Heaven (or perhaps manna from the South)  Instant Grits which you cannot get here.
Image result for grits instant
British folks, you don't know what you are missing. It's basically hominy (field corn not grown for human consumption)  soaked in lye and wood ash. Actually, that sounds really disgusting.  Don't think about it too hard. Just eat it.

Lastly, they kindly brought me something I have longed for from my Mum's collection of knicknacks. It is something that I associate with her because it represents history and when she was my teacher for American History she did a cracking unit on President Andrew Jackson. I think she bought this in The Hermitage which was his home. It is a cast iron frog that weighs 5lbs (so bless Carl for carrying it all the way as he is the designated heavy bag carrier) and it says I croak for the Jackson wagon. 
Vintage ~ Advertising Cast Iron Frog Door Stop ~ I CROAK FOR THE JACKSON WAGON
For a long time it was believed to be something used as advertising for Jackson's 19th century presidential campaign, but the Smithsonian now believes it was part of an advertising campaign in the 1880's for a wagon company in Jackson, Michigan.

Well no matter. To me it will always represent my Mum and the way she brought history alive as a teacher.

So thanks.

Thank you for a lovely visit. May you and Carl have a long and happy life together.

 Thank you Brexit (I never thought I would say that) so that the pound fell in value again while they were here so she was able to leave us a bit of pocket money to put towards our 25th wedding anniversary in 2017 where we have big, exciting plans.

Just thankful.