Can you believe it's already August? Arlo has been suffering the heat a little worse than me lately. Dry itchy skin, rashes. I tried spritzing him down with apple cider vinegar, and it seemed to help alleviate his conditions somewhat, but I wanted to try something different and, frankly, a little more pleasant smelling.
Plenty of skin products advertise colloidal oatmeal. It soothes skin by bringing the high pH of itchy skin down to normal levels. And here I thought "colloidal" indicated some special scientific process, but apparently it's just another term for "finely powdered"—which makes preparing it a snap.
Just grind a cup of oatmeal in a coffee or spice grinder until it's the consistency of a fine dusting powder. You can sprinkle this in a bath (for people or animals). But I wanted something a little more concentrated and having Arlo lie in a bath just didn't seem practical (or water-efficient). So I added just enough water to the powder to make it into a thick paste (think cake batter) then massaged it into his coat. Let it set for at least 15 minutes and then just towel dry afterward if necessary.
There were still some chunky bits left (I knew I should have ground it longer), so I used a flea comb to gently comb them out. What we were left with was the silkiest coat Arlo has had since he was a puppy. Hurray! I'm thinking of a weekly regimen of oatmeal rinses until his rash clears up. I'll let you know how it goes.
I was craving fish. And I'm trying to (literally) downsize the fish I consume by eating fish lower on the food chain (and giving large fish a chance to recover their populations). So I got sardines from that fish market on Metropolitan and Leonard which I hadn't been to in several years because I once got some bad salmon there. (The sardines were fine, fresh and wild caught.) And I had all my CSA ingredients.
So this is Grilled Sardines with a Corn Peach Papalo "Salsa." Better I think side-by-side, not together.
"Salsa" fresh-off-the-cob raw corn ripe peaches and/or nectarines, cubed papolo (or cilantro or mint), finely sliced juice of one lime or apple cider vinegar olive oil salt
Toss all ingredients together.
Sardines Brush butter on whole cleaned sardines. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on hot grill. This is one fish that tastes better when it's actually cooked through so test for doneness after about 3 minutes on each side. But keep cooking until fish is flaky.
Environmental Side Note I bet some folks are thinking I could possibly serve the fish population even more by skipping out on fish altogether. But fish are essential for a healthy brain and reduce risk of death due to coronary disease—outweighing even the risks of mercury and PCBs.
According to a study published by the Harvard School of Health "For infants and young children, the authors found that omega-3 fatty acids from seafood likely improve early brain development; children could obtain that benefit from pregnant or nursing mothers who consumed fish." And implies that it could offset depression or other behavioral problems.
So all my cranky friends, may I suggest more fish? Especially sardines, anchovies, catfish, lobster, mussels, and oysters—all of which are the least endangered and have the lowest environmental impact.
Ahhh, just finally harvested my first batch of vermipost. This tub was almost spilling over, but look how much room we have now! (With a good 3~5 lbs of fresh compost left over waiting to feed my plants.)
I started this bin about 4 months ago. And these guys (about one pound of red wigglers and their friends) have been steadily monching through all my veggie and coffee waste since—I'd estimate it to be about 3 lbs. a week. I haven't had any trouble with odor, a bit with flying insects...but mostly localized. And have kept it under my kitchen table just fine, even with my normally overly curious dog. Want to start your own? It's easy.
Materials plastic bin (mine measures 12" x 16" x 9" deep) 1 lb red wigglers (available at these places) old B/W newspapers, torn in strips (color inks are more toxic) vegetable scraps, used coffee grounds, tea bags, etc. (avoid any fats, dairy, or meat) soil
Instructions Drill enough air holes all around the top and through the lid so the worms can breathe but can't crawl out (click on the second photo above to get a better view).
Toss in a couple handfuls of soil (just get some from your local park or backyard), then the worms. Cover with about 4 pages worth of newspaper strips. Dampen paper unless the soil is especially muddy.
Now whenever you have extra veg scraps, uncover the newspaper, throw in the scraps, then cover back with the newspaper. Even better, age the scraps for a week before adding to make it more readily digestible by the worms (instead of the flies).
Other species After a while you may notice some other critters crawling around. Tiny (less than 1/8 inch long) white pot worms, little hard shiny brown mites, roly polies, fruit flies, and soldier flies. They all prove beneficial, feeding on different stages of the plant decay. You can use common remedies to catch the flies if they're a nuisance, but if not, they'll help speed up the composting.
You should also start to notice tiny yellowish, translucent pods. These are the worm babies, so yay, they're reproducing! A healthy colony of worms can double their population every two weeks.
Some common problems and remedies
Mold/mildew: feed less
Too liquid: drain, add more newspaper, air out by leaving lid ajar, or drill more holes to increase aeration
Ants: Set bin on a tray of water to prevent access
The NYT just printed a piece on cool roofs. White reflects light. And white roofs can too—as much as 90% of the sun's heat energy, thereby significantly lowering cooling costs. Great for Florida, say detractors, but not so much for, say Michigan where a dark roof can boost warmth in winter.
Two-faced Is it not obvious to anyone else, they should make shingles that are peaked or curved and painted two different shades. Light where it angles toward the hot summer sun, and dark where it faces the low winter sun. Case closed, next!
I can be kind of a buzz kill. I'm the girl at the party I who can turn even the most mundane discussion or activity into a political issue:
Oh, you're using that lip balm, don't you know it can give you cancer? Yeah, that engagement ring is rather big and shiny, but was that diamond ethically sourced? You're still drinking water out of plastic, et el ad nauseum. So henceforth, I'm going to make it even MORE political and start keeping track of all the evil perpetrators I feel are unfit to deserve our patronage.
Buzzkillers Richard Hayne-owned stores: Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie. (Supported Prop 8 which discriminates against same-sex marriage.)
Petrolatum: Banned by the UK in 2004 because linked to breast cancer, still used in American-made beauty products, especially lip balm. (Burt's, btw, still uses only seed oils and wax.) Damn you Kiehl's!
Excerpt: A young woman and man peered into the chain-link fence to catch a glimpse of the arboreal mystery. The army of guards and researchers made it very well impossible, but every once in a while, inside the compound, one—if one were patient and lucky enough—could catch said glimpse of a dwarf and wrinkled tree bearing dull green grey fruit of a most peculiar shape—round with several banana-shaped nodules, not unlike a human hand. One bite of this strange fruit, it was rumoured, and the aging process would screech back to a death-defying crawl, or “creep.” That was the rumour anyway.
Once during college, some Christian yokel managed to cram a skinny pamphlet into my palm. Skimming over it later, I realized it was entirely useful. A how-to-guide for removing every stain imaginable. Unfortunately, I only recall one, how to get out blood stains, but to that, I add my list of non-toxic and vastly cheaper alternatives to packaged “green” cleaning products. Great if you have a dog that likes to lick every crumb and spilt drop off the floor….
Oh, and the punchline for this pamphlet was, How to remove the stain of sin. Of course, the only one who can remove that stain is—you guessed it—Jesus Christ our Savior.
Vinegar: cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up. Dilute with equal part water and use to clean countertops, floors, sinks and tiling. Use full strength for toilet.
Lemons: cuts grease, pleasant smelling.
Baking soda: scours, deodorizes, softens water. Gets stains out of copper. Use with vinegar for tougher stains.
Kosher salt: scours, tougher on stubborn stains. Pour some on a lemon (I like to save the lemon rinds from juiced lemons specifically for this purpose) and cut right through tough stuck-on grease stains on pots, pans and stovetops. Also great for scorched coffee pots.
Remove fresh blood stains with full-strength hydrogen peroxide.
Extensive list of tips for a lot more stains here.
December 31 gets all the hype. And all the anti-climatism. While drunken revelers stumbled into the new year, I'd already celebrated the underdog of holidays—the subtle sleeper of winter solstice. What once was only a minor blip on my radar now radiates a much keener hope that never fails to deliver. The hope of longer days, cold though they are. The hope of winter finally come and only spring to look forward to.
It's easier to stand the cold water if you're already in it. Not so, the dread.