Thursday, May 30, 2013

Today I'm wearing my recently-ish short-cut hair in a low ponytail secured by a single large barette. It's my shortest haircut and first wearing of a single-large-barette-ponytail since...hmm...freshman year of college?


The ponytail, it is a-ticklin' my neck unmercifully. Might have to go shorter. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Affirmation. From Emma. I am bemused and proud and astonished and almost a little weepy. 

Yesterday, after I finished resetting the latch plate on the loom room door, I turned around to see Emma looking at me oddly. Wondering what was up, I asked if everything was ok. 

She looked at me and said "Mom, you're good at fixing things. You're a strong, independent woman, and I'm learning to be one too."

I didn't really know what to say. I wasn't even sure if she was just quoting a book or something. I was afraid I was going to burst into tears.

I settled for an arms-waving-in-the-air shout of YAY US!!! and a big hug. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

I seem to be on a roll with the house repairs this week.

In addition to the unclogged sink triumph of last weekend,

I also completely disassembled the front end of my vacuum cleaner and extracted the Lego that was rendering it inoperable,

I discovered a second breaker box on the outside back corner of my house and was successful in restoring electrical power to the outlets in my bathrooms, which have never worked since I've lived here,

and last but not least, I used a chisel to enlarge the recess and reset the latch plate that has never allowed the door to the loom room to close completely and latch.  It does now.

The discovery of the second breaker box completely floored me.  I have lived in this house for almost five years, and thought the breaker box in the garage was the only one.  Apparently not.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Last weekend, I conquered a plumbing project.

For YEARS the sink in my bathroom has drained slowly.  Years.  Since we moved into the house.  It started off just sluggish, but got progressively worse.

I can claim some of the responsibility for this since I have long hair, and the shedding cats can claim some part as well, since water from the faucet is indescribably delicious and is in fact almost the only place they would drink.  Anybody's unguarded water glass will work as well.  Naia taught this to Coco, and it continues to this day.  A water dish?  Pffft.

Anyway, slow drain.  I've tried vinegar and baking soda, boiling water, bleach, plunging, and even resorted to using dangerous lye drain cleaner.  All would help for a little while, then it would gradually clog up again.  So frustrating, made even more frustrating by my inability to get the drain plug thingy out of the drain.  Every other house I've lived in had plugs that came out by twisting to unhook a little piece and then pulling up.  That didn't work in my sinks here, so I was left with trying to shove the baking soda through the gap under the plug and into the drain, which needless to say was not optimal.

Finally fed up this weekend, I bought a drain-unclogging kit that came with a bottle of lye compound and a cheap plastic barbed snake.  I also emptied everything out from under the sink and got down under there to see what the plumbing actually looked like. I was ready to completely disassemble everything in sight, if necessary, in my pursuit of a free-draining sink.

Before taking the drastic step of removing the U-bend, I decided to try unscrewing the only other movable part I saw: the lever that connects the top-of-sink plunger handle thingy to the pipe and raises and lowers the drain plug thingy.

I am all about the technical terms.

I unscrewed the random connector and pulled out the connecting rod, and voila! That was what was holding the drain plug in!  Oh hooray!  Now at least I can get the lye directly into the drain!

But wait, when I pulled out the drain plug, a nasty glob of nastiness came up with it.  I cleaned that off in my bucket, and used the barbed snake from my kit to extract another very small glob from the pipe.  Lo and behold, I can now see all the way down the pipe to the bottom of the U-bend!

I put the plug back in, reattached the piece I unscrewed, and tried the sink.  It drained!!!  And no need to use the toxic chemicals!

Hallelujah and let the pleasant tooth brushing begin.

So that's more than you ever needed to know about the state of my sink.  Be glad I didn't take pictures, because it was gross.  The point is that I DID IT.  Myself.  I figured it out, it only took 10 minutes, only cost $5, and my sink has been draining perfectly for five days. 

I am invincible.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This weekend is the 8th Annual Ladd Marsh Bird Festival (formerly the Birdathon).  One of my favorite weekends of the year.

A lecture on Friday night on a bird topic, a day outside in the marsh on Saturday, and a field trip with other birdy folk on Sunday.

Ladd Marsh Bird Festival

Life is good.

Ladd Marsh Bird Festival

Sunday, May 05, 2013

So...  let's talk laundry soap.

There are lots of recipes for making your own floating around the web and pinned on Pinterest, and I pinned one myself, intending to try it out.  It was one of the "cooked" ones, where you melt grated bar soap and combine it with the other ingredients and water into a liquid laundry soap.

I've been using commercial liquid laundry detergent for the past 18ish years, because that's what Shaun liked and wanted me to buy. (Which makes no sense, since I was always the one doing the laundry...)  Before that, in college and grad school when I lived alone, I preferred to buy powdered laundry detergent so I wasn't paying for water in the jug or dealing with a drippy measuring cup.  But I digress.

I pinned the recipe, bought the ingredients, and then they sat in the pantry for months because I'm lazy and didn't want to go to all that trouble of cooking up a batch of soap.  It seemed to have a high potential for being messy, and plus where the heck am I going to store five gallons of laundry soap?

I finally realized yesterday that I can go back to powdered laundry soap, because the liquid variety is no longer a requirement in my house!   The ingredients for the DIY powder are the same as for the DIY liquid.  It should work the same, provided it dissolves completely in the washer.

So yesterday, I made a small batch of powdered laundry soap.

DIY laundry soap

Ta Daaaaaa!

Recipes on the web are mostly variations on a theme.  Local water chemistry plays a role in how much of each ingredient you need, but in general it's washing soda, borax, and bar soap, sometimes with baking soda added as well.  All the ingredients were available in my local grocery store.

DIY laundry soap

The recipe I used was:

3 cups washing soda (sodium carbonate)
3 cups borax (sodium borate)
1.5 cups baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1 bar Fels-Naptha laundry soap

I grated the soap with the finest disk of my food processor, but it was still more like long curls than powder, so I took off the grating disk and pulverized it further with the regular blade attachment.  My goal was to get it as powdery as possible so it would dissolve faster in the washer (I have a high efficiency (HE) front-loader).  Then I mixed everything together in a jar.  Done.

This took approximately 10 minutes start to finish.  Easy peasy.  The small batch I made yesterday yielded about 9 cups of laundry soap, with a total cost of $8.84.  Unless the clothes are really dirty each load only requires 1 tablespoon (really!), so that amount will wash 144 loads of laundry, for a cost per load of about $0.06.

For comparison, the All Free and Clear liquid I was buying before cost about $0.19 per load.  Mixing up my own is a third of the cost.  Significant savings.

I've done six loads of wash with it so far, and I'm convinced.  It's cheap, it's quick and easy to make, it's phosphate-free, and it works really well.  The only things I may change are to leave out the baking soda since I'm not sure it's really necessary, and to find a bar soap that doesn't have coloring or fragrance. I know I've seen Kirk's unscented castile soap bars here in town, and people have reported good results with that.  The Fels-Naptha has a pleasant but strong fragrance, and though it nearly completely dissipates during line-drying, I'd rather have unscented laundry.  On the other hand, the Fels-Naptha gets out dirt and grease stains really well.  In any case, I'm not going to buy commercial laundry detergent again.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

I've spent the past couple evenings immersed in the Birds-of-Paradise Project website, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


Two scientists, Ed Scholes, an evolutionary biologist, and Tim Laman, a biologist/photographer, spent eight years finding, studying, and photographing all 39 species of birds-of-paradise in New Guinea, Australia, and the nearby islands.

The website has a series of videos that illustrate various aspects of the appearance, behavior, and evolution of these birds, as well as the field effort that this project required.  It was fascinating.

I am so glad that there are people in this wide world of ours that are going to these places and filming these things so I can watch and learn.  I will probably never get to see these birds in the wild (but never say never!), so to even see them on video is fantastic.

The videos don't show every species in-depth, but there are photos of each and incredible footage of many.  There's a lot of information on the site, but it's well worth the time it takes to explore everything.

I originally just pinned this website on Pinterest, but enjoyed it so much that I had to rave about it more!  Go!  Be amazed!

Note: All pictures in this post are snipped from the Birds-of-Paradise Project website, and are copyrighted and owned/licensed  by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  The images are posted here as an educational teaser to get people to go to the website for themselves!

Edited to add:  If you want to see more, there's a PBS Nature episode about birds of paradise, called Birds of the Gods.  The blue bird-of-paradise (shown above in the first picture of this post) has been my all-time favorite bird-of-paradise ever since I saw it on some other PBS program ages ago.  Birds of the Gods is also available to watch instantly on Netflix, if you have that service.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

I'm working on a Biological Assessment for endangered and threatened fish for an irrigation canal project, and I keep typing "bull trouty" instead of "bull trout."

It's just so funny, thinking about the cute widdle trouty fishies, swimming in the Hood River. I've typed this accidentally about ten times so far, and every time it makes me giggle.

It's the little things.