Monthly Archives: September 2015

A work in progress that is progressing!



Exterior house painting is hard work. Scrapping old paint with a scrapper, then using a wire brush to get the little flakes, then a coat of primer over bare wood, a second coat of primer where stains showed through and then two coats of paint over the primer. Hours and hours of work. It is also a good workout. I have been going to be each night sore and tired. Who needs a gym?

This picture is so encouraging! You can actually see the two main yellow shades I picked coming together. I am very very pleased with the results! I started using this to visualize and it is working!

Thank you Benjamin Moore for a great website.

Color Scheme


Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap – Easy cheap and it works.

I suffer from a host of allergies and my lungs respond to irritants that most people are blissfully unaware of, lucky creatures. A while back I got onto the kick of making homemade cleaners as a way to both save money and reduce the irritants in my life. For years I assumed that I wheezed when I cleaned because cleaning stirred up dust and allergens. I have since discovered that if I use my own liquid cleaner scented with stuff that doesn’t bother me (my own pure orange distillation I make from orange peels), I can clean wheeze-free. It was the cleaner I used for years and years, regular Mr. Clean, that was causing my allergic reaction not the dust! Most likely it was that pleasant clean lemon fresh scent I love so much. It was in that vein that I started looking for a do-it-yourself replacement for laundry detergent.

I got this recipe for liquid laundry soap from the Wellness Mama. I decided I would wait until we had actually used the stuff for a while before reporting upon how it worked. I used to use Tide Free and Gentle, the one they made for people with allergies and skin sensitivities. It is not completely wheeze free for me but it is pretty close. I am also fussy about the laundry getting clean so I have kept using Tide even though it is higher cost because with cheaper store brands the clothing tended to get dull and stains accumulated, especially on my white socks and grease spots from cooking on my white T-shirts. I like the soles of my white socks to be white when I put them on and I throw away T shirts with grease stains. I have to avoid almost every other brand of laundry detergent out there in any case because of the heavy scent load. I can’t use regular Tide for example. For me personally, Gain, which is very heavily scented, is an absolute nightmare. I can’t even stand to stay in a laundromat if someone else is pouring Gain (which is how Hubby Dearest ended up doing most of the laundry) and I can have trouble with my allergies if a coworker has Gain scent on their clothing.

We have now been using our DIY laundry soap for three months. I am pleased to report the following. My white socks are clean and bright. I have seen no accumulations of stains on my T Shirts nor any laundry dullness. The product is as easy to use as any liquid detergent. We do not normally add any form of pretreatment or bleach. It seems to get the grease stains out as well as or maybe even better than Tide. I can now recommend this recipe to all do-it-yourselfers and people who wish to save money, or those who have scent allergies. The cost is a teeny tiny fraction of using Tide Free and Clean, mere pennies per load. Thank you Wellness Mama!

Disclaimer: My personal issues with scented products and cleaners should not be taken as me saying I think they cause health problems for other people. Most people are not cursed with my allergic hypersensitivity. If you are using these commercial products I have named and you like them, then please continue to do so with my full blessings. Since my standard in homemade cleaners is high because of the effectiveness of the named products then you can consider this an endorsement of them if you don’t have scent allergies and you prefer to buy your cleaning products.

To make Liquid Laundry Soap:

  1. Grate one bar of soap (I used Kirk’s Castille) with a cheese grater (I used the cheese grater) or food processor.
  2. Put grated soap in pan with 2 quarts water and gradually heat, stirring constantly until soap is completely dissolved.
  3. Put 4.5 gallons of really hot tap water in a 5-gallon bucket (available for free in bakeries at grocery stores, just ask them) and stir in 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of Washing Soda until completely dissolved. (It is easy and cheaper to make your own washing soda by baking regular baking soda in the oven at 400F until it changes consistency. I did not find any one site I liked that described this so I suggest Googling it until you find one or figure it out for yourself by checking several.)
  4. Pour soap mixture from pan into 5-gallon bucket. Stir well.
  5. Cover and leave overnight.
  6. Shake or stir until smooth and pour into gallon jugs or other containers.
  7. Use 1/2 to 1 cup per load.

I used half the water in the last step and we add only 1/4 cup for each load not 1/2. My slightly altered version gives us a gel. Hubby dearest reports he shakes the milk jug before pouring to break up the gel into a pourable liquid slightly less thick that liquid laundry soap.

Rant – The Whole Dogs Left in Cars Thing


Fred and Trusty in the truck at Narcisse Manitoba May 2012

I have two dogs. Fred is a big blue merle Humane Society special weighing 72 pounds. Trusty is a small English Bull Terrier. When I bought my truck back in 2009 I made certain to pick one with a back seat. When I travel, the dogs travel with me. Having my dogs with me in the truck is pleasant and fun for both of us. Fred likes to stand up, lean his head on my shoulder and I will open the window so he can stick his head out and sniff the air. He kind of checks things and then usually goes back to sleep. He has a particular whine noise to let me know it’s time for a break. When he gives this signal I stop at the next likely spot and we take a break and the dogs get a walk. These walks have resulted in more than one wonderful nature encounter or fascinating stop I would otherwise never have enjoyed. The dogs love being with us in the truck. I say “Truck ride” and they have a happy doggy fit. And they have acted as a deterrent to crime. For example, I once had a man approach the truck on the passenger side door which was open, and Fred leaped over the seat to the front, put himself between the stranger at the door and me, and then he did his impression of a savage attack dog. The man changed whatever he had made his mind up to, did a quick 180 turn, and ran off. Who knows what could have happened if Fred had not responded the way he did.

Lately we have been having a specific problem which is driving me nuts. We all know, or should know, that leaving your dogs in a hot car is a very bad idea. The car gets hot very fast and the dog can die. We are always very careful about this. If we leave the dogs, we only do so if weather conditions are right. Right means the outside temperature is low, there is a stiff breeze and the windows are open enough to carry off any accumulating heat. There is no direct sun beating on the windshield or on the dogs. If there is a situation where the heat might be a problem, one of us will stay in the car with the dogs.

Because of an extensive advertising campaign by the Humane Society and other groups, it has now become a sign of dog neglect in many peoples’ minds to leave your dog alone in the car for even a minute and even on days when it is cold and cloudy and the dog is more likely to suffer hypothermia than heat exhaustion. The advertisement campaign has resulted in what I can only think of as vigilantes who now feel they have the right to patrol parking lots and accost any dog owner who leaves a dog alone in any vehicle under any circumstances. For example, my husband and I stopped for something to eat at a Subway. It was 16C outside and cloudy. We parked the vehicle where I could see it. I left the windows open 4 inches on all sides. There was a stiff breeze. I also have a temperature sensor in my truck that registers the temperature. Anyway, I looked up from my sandwich and saw a man standing beside my truck talking on his cell phone. I went outside to investigate.

This man was on the telephone to 911 frantically demanding police be dispatched immediately to rescue my dogs! I checked the internal temperature sensor and it was 23C in the truck. A brief shouting match ensued including me telling the 911 operator to cancel sending the police because the temperature was 23C. I drove off with this self righteous vigilante calling me names. It was 16C outside and cloudy. It was 23C in the truck! The dogs were sleeping peacefully in the back. The dogs were in no danger whatsoever. This is very similar to a recent situation where a Jennifer Beals got attacked for her decision to leave her dog in the car. Her dog was also in no danger but she was subjected to a social media campaign of acute harassment by what I can only describe as screechy morons.

What has happened to common sense in our society? I know the answer I will get back from the car vigilantes. Even if I am responsible, others are not. Therefore, my dogs should never be left alone in a car for any length of time, for any reason, ever. I should just leave them at home. Well I live a 2 1/2 drive from the city. When I go into the city to shop, I am gone for 12-14 hours. My trips to the city are something my dogs enjoy a lot. They love seeing the grandkids. They love the stops at little parks for pee breaks. They love being with us. Why would anyone think they are better off alone at home for 12-14 hours? I know what is best for my dogs and traveling with me, even if they have to spend a little time sitting and waiting, is far better for them than staying at home alone. Should my dogs and I be punished just because of the small minority of dog owners out there who do the horrible thing of leaving their dogs in a closed up hot car?

Now don’t get me wrong. If I ever saw a dog in a hot car in distress I would break a window and call 911 myself. In fact, I even have a hammer designed for just that purpose in my truck. But in this latest incident, my dogs were in no danger whatsoever. I am very responsible about being certain they will not get overheated in the truck. The dogs were sleeping comfortably in the back. They woke up when I got back and they were acting bewildered by all fuss and yelling. Why did this person not use his brain and check to see if the dogs were actually overheated before going into self righteous overdrive?

I’m not sure why our society has become a collection of self appointed vigilantes lacking in even the most basic common sense. We certainly do social media shaming far too easily. We make assumptions about people that are not true and we leap to conclusions based on incorrect facts. We become a mob. I have also noticed an attitude on the left of the political spectrum that cars themselves are some kind of carbon dioxide spewing evil demons that must be fought and eventually be driven right out of our society. Part of this attack on dog owners with cars is probably because it is just one more excuse to deny selfish people the use of our evil cars. I was not surprised to note the vigilante’s T shirt had a “Change Politics, Save the Planet!” logo. He was also on a bike.

Life is not perfect, Life is a series of tradeoffs. Life is about balancing risks. Leaving a dog alone in a car has a very small risk when done responsibly. The risk is not zero but, it is close to zero. I should have a right to make that kind of assessment of risk for myself and my dogs. I should not be required to leave my dog at home because of the actions of a tiny minority of irresponsible dog owners. I suppose the next step in the car/dog vigilantism is that we dog owners will all be forbidden to ever have our dogs in a car with us anywhere at anytime because it is always possible to have a car accident where the dog might be hurt. We will also be forbidden to walk them on public streets because of the risk of an evil car leaping off the road and striking a hapless dog on the sidewalk. Crossing streets with a dog on a leash will also be forbidden since a careless driver might go through the cross walk and injure the dog. Dogs will have to carefully wrapped in cotton batting and stored in kennels 24/7 just to make sure they are completely safe.

So yes, do educate the public about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car. Do be prepared to break a window to save a dog in distress. Do carry a window hammer to do the breaking and do call 911. But if the dog is in no distress, don’t go into a blind panic and call 911. Engage brain and common sense before swinging that hammer.

End of rant.

Giant Russian Sunflowers – No reason but beauty


I love giant Russian sunflowers. I plant them every chance I get. I’ve dropped seeds into tiny places in small corner gardens. I’ve never gotten anything out them. I have never collected the seeds and roasted them or done anything ambitious like that. I leave them standing and over the winter the birds pick at the seeds. I just love these oversized, big, beautiful, in your face, plus sized flowers. If I am in need of a good cheer or a pick me up, I just go admire my sunflowers.Just looking at them makes me happy.

Our Next Life – (should be Our Life Now)


One of my blogger friends write a blog about planning for retirement, the earlier the better. They are trying to get a series going. They passed along a set of questions. We are already retired so it doesn’t really apply but I thought it would be fun to do this anyway. So…here it is….

some questions you may wish to answer in your post:

  • what will your transition be like? will you be quitting a job? making a move? how will all of that go down?

Our transition was harsh. I did a late in life PhD part time while raising kids and earning my living as a research assistant, which promptly made me unemployable on graduation. (Note to self, next life get a professional degree, not a PhD.) I had one postdoc for three years and then that was it. I had three years of unemployment during which I attempted to start my own business which failed miserably. I then got a two year contract position as a research associate which was a lot fun with great people but had some issues with poor definition of what my job was. I had just really got going when the contract ended. When the contact ran out, it was not renewed because the funding was not renewed for reasons unrelated to my work. (Such is university life on grant money.) At this point I decided, since hubby dearest was retired, to just quit trying and declare myself retired with him. Hubby dearest had a tenured university professorial job that required he retire at age 69. He could have kept working half time beyond that if ‘the powers that be’ agreed. However a new dean, in a very obvious bid to get rid of what he thought of as dead wood, sent my husband a formal letter on official university letterhead telling my husband he was now on permanent 20 minute “on call” status 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year to be available for emergency consultation by students needing assistance or for urgent unspecified committee work. Since my husband worked in a medical department the dean had a technical right to do this but being put on call is normally reserved for medical doctors during times of crisis like three days blizzards. I have never heard of putting a professor on call. In fact, they told all the professors to prepare get out of the way, and leave town if the place flooded, during the great flood of ’97. (They told me my job, if the city flooded, was to report to the maternity hospital and help normal moms with normal babies.) The 20 minutes ‘on call’ meant he had to be able to be back at the hospital within 20 minutes at any time or risk being fired. We could have fought it, but our union said it would take months to fight and meantime we would be tied to the city. He decided to just give up and retire like they so obviously wanted him to. Some fights are just not worth the fighting. He declined to take the emeritus. Emeritus means you work for the university for free, doing stuff they need done, for the prestige and you get to keep your office space which he was not using anyway. Screw that. The retirement agreement required six months notice and the union negotiated stuff like “no being on call, no extra duties, for those six months” and allowing him to keep some of his microscopes and lab equipment. It was actually a really big relief to finally walk away but the ugliness of it all will never leave either one of us. They send us these requests for money as alumni and staff on glossy paper. We laugh and toss those in the garbage. Take home lesson, universities have no heart and no memory. Individuals are nothings, numbers, its. You matter less than the floor tiles and your contributions count for nothing. You are disposable. You can expect no reward but a paycheque and a pension, and you better be grateful for it. You wouldn’t get that if they didn’t have to pay it. My only regret is we both hung on thinking we were valued for our contributions by the institution. It would have been a lot better for our dignity and self esteem to have walked away and left them in a lurch than to have hung on until we had to be forced out as ‘dead wood’. We gave them too much of ourselves. Next time any of you working folks feel guilty about abandoning your jobs in order to retire, remember that.

  • what are the big goals you have for your next life, or just the goals for the first five years or so?

We have just about finished writing a book called Embryogenesis Explained. We began this book a number of years ago and we finally have time to work on it and all of it is written with only polish and editing to go. You can read about it here:

We also bought this little house in the country. We have other publications going. Hubby dearest has whole series he is editing with several more books planned, some he is editing and some he is actually writing. I am writing a fiction book that is about 70,000 words now and I have a science fiction book I have written about 25,000 words on but it is currently on hold until the joint EE book is done. I have a big garden. We have a beach nearby to walk on. We are still going south winters. Hubby dearest, being an American citizen is now a volunteer working for Gulf Specimen Marine Lab and they have his official emeritus position. They actually act like they appreciate us and value us. We joined the local senior’s group for local contact. Hubby dearest plays pool with the guys every other Tuesday evening. We take long walks almost every day. I’m so busy now I have to remember to schedule time for lying in my hammock.

  • what are the little day-to-day goals you have for yourself?

I try to get in one hour each on 1) house upgrading (today’s goal start scraping paint on side number two of the house), 2) one yucky job of life maintenance (today’s goal is to empty the tanks on the RV we used a couple of weeks ago), 3) gardening 4) write a blog 5) work on one of the books at least one page 6) get caught up on social media 7) learn one new skill on line (today I signed up Flikr) 8) each day get dishes done, floors vacuumed and plan a nice supper. Some days don’t work out. Yesterday, I spent three hours painting the exterior of the house and did no gardening or writing for the books and we had hot dogs for supper.

  • will you quit working, change what you do for work, or stay the course?

not applicable

  • what will a day in the life look like?

see above

  • how will you manage your finances in the next stage?

For now, our costs are still less than our income so we are saving a bit each month. The house has set us back financially since it needs a fair amount of work and we needed to furnish it. However it is an investment for our future in addition to being a home for us. I worry a bit about the future because our major source of income, Dick’s university pension has no index for inflation so inflation will eat it away. We have some savings for that future point where cost of living as eaten it up and we find we are running short each month. We really like the ability to travel south in the RV for the winter but that depends on our health staying good and the Canadian dollar not going down much lower. I can see us being forced to modify that to trips to Victoria Island in future and then to staying here winters. This is why we are investing in becoming part of the community here and fixing up the little house. The hardest part is trying to balance the idea that we are now retired and that is what the savings are for so maybe we should spend some of it now while we are healthy and happy and not be so frugal. That is part of what buying our little house was all about. We spent some savings and created a nice home base for ourselves for the six months each year that we need to be in Canada. I do love this little house and peace and quiet of this lovely little community.

  • what will excite you about getting out of bed every day?

Some days I wake up and think, “I am retired. I am lying in bed twenty more minutes just because I feel like it.” And I do. Most days I can’t wait to get going and get busy. I fall asleep almost immediately at night most nights, tired in body and mind from a full productive day.

In a lot of ways, retirement is busier than working because when you work, you do what you need to do to get the job done. When you retire and do work, you do only what you want to do. You choose your work. So that work is much more rewarding and satisfying. I am never just putting in time or watching the clock or worrying about a boss.

Sunshine in a can.

 Color Scheme

Computers are so useful. Many years ago, I bought a small house out in the country and we picked a pretty colour, a vibrant lovely blue. After it was on the walls I HATED it. I was pregnant when I picked it and I figured I must have had placenta brain or my judgement was affected by hormones. I got home from the hospital to find the welcome home surprise of exterior house painting accomplished and I spent the next three years trying not to look at my house. We moved. The brilliant azure blue so lovely in the tabs from the paint store, so ghastly on my house, became someone else’s problem.

Today computers can generate very cool “try as you go”. You can change the colours on the picture of the idealized house any way you like. The computer also gives you “suggestions” from the palette. I had a lot of fun with it. First thing I discovered is my taste in paint colours back then may not have been affected by hormones after all. I started out plugging in selections of purples, then rusts, then reds. I showed the various selections to the neighbours and one commented I needed to keep trying. The other said she was thinking of getting new opaque blinds anyway. Maybe brown? Couldn’t be worse. Might be better.

I was looking at some browns when I stumbled over “Golden Bounty”. That was how I got to yellow. And then I tried yellow. Normally, I don’t like yellow indoors because it is dingy inside a house. I actually hadn’t even considered yellows for outdoors. But with the handy-dander freshly-painted-house picture maker, I could try all kinds of bright lovely yellow combinations. I finally settled for what seems to me to be lovely. I took my picture to the neighbours and they loved it. Sunshine in a can, one said. That would just be such a nice pick me up in the dead of winter. I could open my blinds and just feel like maybe summer will return after all, said the other. And so it was a go. And here you can see the old colour on the front of house. The old colour is actually not bad but it’s peeling so it must be redone and why not add some sunshine to my life and the lives of my neighbours? So on my deck side you can see my lovely new “Wildflower” yellow.

We will continue to work away around the house until all the bare peeling paint in soft apricot is covered with lovely “Wildflower” yellow. This will take some time because it has to be scrapped clean, washed to remove lichens and mildew, and then primed with the sealer. (Okay I know they say the house paint is self priming, but I still think I need primer.) Later, we can add “Sunbeam” yellow where the teal is now and “Lightning” for the trim. For the doors, we will use “Golden Bounty” the colour that started it all. We hope to have it all done before we head south. At minimum we need to get all the “Wildflower” yellow done because that is what is peeling and showing bare wood that is hinting at rot in a few places. I was pleasantly surprised to see the old teal doesn’t look half bad with the yellow so if we can’t get to the teal until next spring, it won’t be a tragedy. Tomorrow back to scraping.


Fall is here.


The forecast for tonight is 2C (35.6) with a risk of frost. And so it’s time to harvest my herbs. On the table is my summer savoury and a mix of cilantro and carrots. The summer savoury is something I don’t use a lot in cooking. However, I read an interesting blog about extracting essential oils from this herb and I thought I would try it. So after picking I set some aside in a bundle to dry but most of it is currently in, or waiting to go into my crock pot. After it’s been properly stewed I’ll distill the mix. The resulting essential oil should work well for cleaning.

The cilantro I am handling a bit differently. I chopped the finer leaves up into small bits and spread it on a cookie sheet. That is in the freezer and once it is frozen I’ll just break it up and put the bits in a plastic jar in the freezer. I only really use cilantro in cooked dishes so I can just grab the jar sprinkle a bit in at needs and it’s as nice as fresh.

Fall is kind of sad time for the garden. I have been busy cleaning the garden out. I pulled up all the corn stacks and I have picked most of the tomatoes. If it frosts they will be first to go. The cucumbers are still producing but I have enough pickles now so I am not going to try to keep it going by covering the plants. If it frosts it frosts and if it doesn’t, well bonus.

I also noticed that white mildew has hit as it so often does in the fall. My spaghetti squash only produced two little apple sized squash. If we don’t get frost and the mildew doesn’t spread they might produce something but its unlikely. Note to self: next year don’t start spaghetti squash from seed. The season up on the 51st parallel is just too short.

And so I am kind of hoping the frost arrives tonight because then the garden is finished and the work is done. I am mostly hoping the frost will pass us by and I can get a few more weeks of produce. We shall see what the night brings.

One of the nicer aspect of fall is that the sun is now setting and it’s dark by about 8:30pm. The last few nights the northern lights have been absolutely spectacular and it’s been dark enough to watch them before bed. And so life on the 51st parallel is a series of tradeoffs. Down south they are still in summer heat but I’ll bet they don’t see a lot of northern lights like we do. Even in the bright city lights of Winnipeg the aurora was spectacular. We got an even better show.

View from Winnipeg

Embryogenesis Explained


My husband and I are working on a book, The book is finally nearing completion and, I will shameless admit, we need to promote it. With that in mind I have begun a new blog. I intend to keep right on blogging here as I have been but, if you like my writing you might also like my new science blog. Please feel free to pop over and have a look. And if its just too nerdy to follow over there, I won’t be offended.

Simple Pleasures Are the Best


What could be simpler than a plain roasted chicken, some boiled corn on the cob and potatoes? What could be more delicious than your very own corn picked from your garden and baby potatoes you dug up just before throwing them in the pot?

The corn was small and stunted and so the cobs were half the size of a store bought one but what they lacked in size, they more than made up for in taste. And potatoes, heavenly. I noticed the garden turnips are ready too. I’m not a big turnip fan but Hubby Dearest loves them. We’ll start eating those soon.

I am also still drying seeds for next year. We will have a chance to try out the community garden and greenhouse next year with our own seeds. It’s raining outside and the cool nip of fall is in the air. The days are shortening so half the evening is dark now. I had to rake leaves yesterday. We are planning our trip south for the winter. But today, for our dinner, we enjoyed the simply sweet pleasure of plain chicken, and our own corn and potatoes. Life is sweet.