Sunday, June 29, 2014

It's a Slippery Slope to Tree Hugger

I have a new fixation. - And I blame Clorox Greenworks.  I've used Greenworks products before, but I started using their toilet bowl cleaner on a regular basis not too long ago, which eventually led me to where I am now.  Wow, I'm opening with toilet cleaner?  I'm slippin'.  My point is that I've become slightly fixated on the seemingly endless ways to use essential oils.  So of course that begs the question, how did I get from toilet bowl cleaner to essential oils?  Good question.

I've been leaning towards finding other options for cleaning products for a while, since the bulk of the traditional cleaners most of us use to clean are chock full of harsh, and sometimes toxic chemicals.  I know I've had my share of times where I was cleaning in a tiny bathroom space and had to open a window to get some air from the fumes. Once I started using Greenworks products regularly, it planted a little seed in my mind about getting more serious about finding alternatives to harsh cleaning chemicals.

I had already started using white vinegar in the washing machine as a brightener & fabric softener, so it didn't take much to go a step further and start cleaning with vinegar, too.  It's my new go-to all purpose cleaner and I use it all the time.  It's completely replaced the 409s and Windexes that used to clutter under my sink.  It's funny, the smell of vinegar used to remind me of decorating Easter eggs when I was little, but now I have a totally new scent association - it means clean!

I was researching different "recipes" for using white vinegar to clean, and that's when I inadvertently discovered all the ways essential oils can be used.
The gist of the vinegar cleaner recipe I use is here, but I kind of wing it with the amounts, and I use a 32 oz bottle that I re-purposed after finishing the cleaner that used to be in it. I go with essential lemon oil because it smells great and is antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral.

It smells so bright, and it's not nearly as harsh and full of chemicals as the standard spray cleaner.  I use it for about everything.  Wiping down the counters and stove, cleaning the sink and faucet, basically everything I would use 409 or Lysol spray for before.  I even clean the bathtub with it and a Magic Eraser.  I love that it's all natural, and I've never used a better window and glass cleaner than this simple little concoction.

That's basically all it took for me to dive head first into researching what else I could do with essential oils.  Turns out...a lot!  Did you know peppermint oil wiped around the outside of window and door frames will keep spiders away?  Me neither.  Handy knowledge considering the size of some of the spiders I've seen crawling across the floor!  If I can discourage them from even coming inside...well, YES.  Jury's still out on that one. - We'll see if it works.

How about that oregano oil is both antibacterial and an anti-inflammatory, so you can use it for cold sores, muscle aches, and a ton of other things?  Also news to me.  Another good one - if you put several drops of essential lemon oil on a cotton ball and vacuum it up, that dusty vacuum smell will be replaced by the lovely scent of lemons.  (at least for a few vacuuming sessions, eventually it fades and needs to be replaced)  How's that for channeling household tips a la the Ladies Home Journal?

After reading all about how to use essential oils, I've got a few projects I'm experimenting with. - Pillow/linen spray, homemade room diffusers, and I'm sure I'll find other DIY schemes to try out with my fancy new oils.  It's a slippery slope to full on tree hugger.

Ta-ta for now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

These Ain't No Fozzies...

Early morning with the sea planes - I love this shot
It's hard to even explain what an unbelievable day we had last weekend.  It was National Geographic live, right in front of our faces.  We booked a tour on a seaplane to go check out the Brown Bears we live in such close proximity to, but somehow still haven't seen in person yet.

I asked for some recommendations from  local friends, and Sea Hawk Air was the suggested company to go with, so we paid our arm and a leg, booked our day & off we went.

What an experience.  Well worth the scratch!  We ended up flying over to Katmai National Park & Preserve, which is about an hour flight across the Shelikof Strait to mainland Alaska.

 We flew over Kodiak, past the village of Port Lions, & over the notoriously treacherous Shelikof to Katmai National Park
 Photo credit: Karl Musser [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons 

Our flight was smooth, and the weather was perfect. - Clear, sunny, and about sixty degrees.  The scenery was absolutely stunning.  You'll have to forgive my picture overload in this post.  There was just so much beauty and I'm compelled to share.  Case in point...

June is the greenest month, so there was no shortage of vibrant, emerald mountains to gawk at as we cruised along at about 1,500 feet.  We zipped around at a pretty low altitude on the trip over, so the terrain and wildlife were easy to check out.

Gotta love Pilot Willie
I'd never flown on a sea plane before - what a big difference from a regular plane!  The take offs and landings were so smooth, you hardly even knew it was happening.  I'm sure the calm water and clear weather helped there.  That and our fabulous pilot, Willie.

Willie was great - personable and very knowledgeable about the geography we flew over, history of the area, and animals we saw.  And how can you not like a guy who essentially lives off the land in the remote Alaskan bush AND has a walrus mustache?  Classic, crusty old Alaskan dude.

On the flight over, we flew really close to the mountains. I'll just say I was only a teensy bit aware of how damn close we were to them.  And by teensy bit I mean slightly freaked out as I watched the wing seemingly skim by each ridge we passed.  The mountain goats we saw teetering along the edges of the cliffs helped distract me from how near we were to them.

Hubby had the front
I don't know how they don't fall - they stand so casually on the steepest ledges.  I'm thinking clumsy and mountain goat don't go together very well.

We had four other folks on the flight with us. - A couple from Nome and their parents/in-laws who were from Vancouver, Washington.  They were all taking a vacation in Kodiak for the week.

The plane was a de Havilland Beaver, and fit all 7 of us pretty snugly. It's known as a bush plane, used pretty often up here in the sticks. 

The de Havilland and our trusty pilot, Willie

We tooled around looking for bears from the air & landed in our first cove, called Geographic Harbor, once we spotted a few.  It was surreal to be as close as we were to these enormous beasts.  We're talking only 50 feet away at some points.  It was freaking cool.

Pooh bear?!

We motored around within the coves and took off and landed a few times around the area, too.  At the end of the day, we saw somewhere around 25 bears both from the air and when we were down on the ground walking around in our sexy hip waders.  We rocked the hip waders.

My handsome hubby.  He makes redneck look good.  ;)

At one point, one of the seven or so bears we were watching wandered so close to us, I was able to get some pretty remarkable close up shots.  It was both exhilarating and unnerving to be right there with him.  How about this mother:

This is my favorite shot from the almost 200 pictures I took. - I love that he's looking at me

We were so close to him, we could hear his teeth crunching on
the clam shells he was digging up & eating. - It was remarkable & again a little unnerving.

We also had the opportunity to check out a momma and her cub running along the beach & digging for clams.  The cub was adorable, and kept standing on his hind legs and falling over onto his back.  We couldn't get that close to them, but I was able to grab a few shots with my soon to be replaced, not powerful enough for Alaska zoom lense:

I love the one on the left where he's sitting up watching his momma dig for clams

It's not easy to get across what an incredible experience it was to be in such close proximity to these wild, massive animals in their own habitat.   Instead of fumbling around trying to describe it, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

She was a pretty one

Check out that claw

Taking a drink

This is one that will go down in the lifetime memory book...and if any of you ever make it up to Alaska - cough up the dough for this one.  It's way worth it.

Ta-ta for now.

It was so pristine and peaceful.  Sweet ride - Could be an ad for de Havilland!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hands Down BEST so far...

Best what, you ask?  Hands down best green smoothie concoction I've come up with so far, that's what.  One of the recipe books I ordered along with the NutriBullet a month or so ago is called The Green Smoothie Bible.  The book itself is eh. - The bulk of it is way more detail about nutrition, antioxidants, blah, blah, blah than what I was looking for, but there are some decent recipes in it. 

I used one of the orange smoothie recipes in her book, but totally took liberties and added a bunch of other ingredients to make it my own.  So, I'm officially claiming this as an original Peg recipe. It's a personal favorite so far.  Stay with me now... 

Here's the gist:  1 peeled orange, 1/2 of a banana, 1 cup or so of frozen mango, 1-2 teaspoons of plain or vanilla Greek yogurt, 1/2 inch of peeled fresh ginger, 1 large leaf of kale, torn from the stem, skim milk to desired thickness, and 1/2 tablespoon of chia seeds.  Blend it altogether and you've got yourself one hell of a smoothie.

The Bomb Pop!
It's such a tasty combination of creamy and orange flavors.  It has a little bit of a Creamsicle quality to it.  Remember the Orange Creamsicle Pop from the ice cream man when you were little?  How about the Bomb Pop?  (You could always tell who went for the Bomb Pop by their tell-tale bright red and blue lips.)  I was never a Bomb Pop aficionado, I always opted for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich or the Creamsicle Pop when we were treated to the ice cream man! But again, I digress.  I'll think of this smoothie as my healthy, grown up version of a Creamsicle Pop.  I suppose if I was feeling ambitious I could make it into an ice pop, too.  Hmmmm.

The magic ingredient is most definitely that little zip of ginger.  What a happy little medley of flavors.  (So, if you're not a fan of ginger, it's safe to say you won't like this smoothie.)  I also recommend adding a little bit of vanilla extract or honey if you're not already using vanilla Greek yogurt or a vanilla soy or almond milk.  It adds a necessary sweetness if you're not already getting the vanilla flavor in one of the other ingredients.

The chia seeds make it on the hearty side too, since they thicken it.  So, it's a breakfast or snack that will fill you up for a while.  Now I know all of about two of you will actually give this a shot.  Let's be honest, most people aren't into green smoothies.  But, if you have even a tiny inkling of curiosity about trying them out & you like all of the ingredients - give this recipe a shot.  It's a keeper. And on some level, in my mind it makes up for the Bruin Burger!

Ta-ta for now.

Photo Credits
Orange - By Figiu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Bomb Pop - By Geoff (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Not it

I thought I'd start sharing some of the short stories I've written over the years because - well why not, right?  Shake the blog up a little.  Most of the stories I've written are basically lifted straight from my life - Sometimes with the names changed, sometimes not. They usually stem from a minor (or sometimes major) experience I've had that I build on with fictional details.

The one I'm going to share today is one of those.  It's called Not It.  I'd like to think it captures some of the bright, carefree feelings that grow from those enduring childhood memories we all have.  Hope you like!


Not It

"Tap, tap, tap...I see Elaine behind the Monohan's tree!"  The melodic voice wafted through the air
and took my mind off the tiny rocks that were slowly digging in to my knees as I half knelt and half crouched between two scratchy shrubs in my mother's front yard.  It was early summer, and we were involved in an intense game of Kick the Can with all the neighborhood kids.  Somehow, my older brother had managed to transport a game he used to play on the crumbling, vibrant streets of Brooklyn to the tree lined suburban existence that was Long Island in the 1980's.  Massapequa Park, to be exact.  The cookie cutter towns that dotted the south shore of Long Island were hard to tell apart.  Rows and rows of split level homes and gabled roof lines, all hiding one form of dysfunction or another.

 My thoughts were interrupted as a I heard a boisterous cheer erupt from my captured teammates.  The unlucky kid who was chosen at the start of our game would be facing another round in the dreaded role of "it."  Pat had managed to stealthily creep his way through bushes and behind fences toward the infamous can without being detected, and kick it as far as his scrawny nine year old legs could.

Our "playground"
Photo Credit:  Google Maps Streetview
As I watched the dented, rusty Chock Full o' Nuts coffee can sail through the air, I bounded out of my hiding spot, knowing that Pat's victory of kicking the can meant that everyone who had been captured could run free again to search for a spot to hide.  Round two!  Kids streamed joyfully away from the imaginary jail around the can, leaping and whooping at the second chance to camouflage themselves among the tree-lined corridor that was our playground.

It was always an issue at the start of the game.  Who would be "it?"  Of course, our method of choosing "it" wasn't exactly a champion of efficiency.  Usually, a group of kids would stand in a circle and repeatedly chant "not it" in unison until the inevitable organizational break down.  Evident in the shouting and arguing over who shrieked "not it" first, and who was unfortunate enough to have yelled "not it" last.  Not shockingly, this method was wildly unsuccessful, so we had to use the next best strategy that our collective adolescent brains could come up with.  The song went like this:

"Eeenie Meenie Miney Moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe,
If he hollers let him go,
My mother says that you are NOT IT!"

I anxiously watched Danielle as she deliberately pointed at each person as she sang the words.  Anticipating who would be chosen as "it" was like waiting for the ice cream truck to creep down the street on a ninety degree summer day.  After singing several versions of Eenie Meenie, eventually one person was left over and the thankless task of "it" was assigned.

"Boundaries!" Mickey shouted to get the game started.  "Lakeshore Drive to the edge of the fence at the Kempton's house are boundaries," he would direct with the confidence and authority older brothers naturally exude.  It formed a spacious alley of houses, complete with hidden yards, towering trees, and uniform black top driveways.  Finding a place to hide was never a challenge.

Early 80's with mom.  Gotta
love the rotary phone.
Sean grumpily resigned himself to being "it" again, and began the measured, emphatic count to ten so everyone could hide.  I gleefully sprinted toward his mother's backyard to get out of sight as quickly as possible, and gradually inched my way to a neighbor's parked car.  And then I heard it.  That triumphant voice shouting out for all to hear, "Tap, tap ,tap...I see Peggy crouching behind Mr. Mifsud's car!"

The paint chipped coffee can made a distinct thwacking sound as Sean tapped it vigorously on the street, disclosing my ill-chosen hiding spot and forcing me to reveal myself.  As I dejectedly wandered over to "jail," I could only hope that one of my teammates would prowl their way to the can undiscovered and kick it to free me and my fellow prisoners.

As the day gradually faded and the sun began to slip out of the sky, my anticipation for dinner grew with the fading evening light.  I knew that if my butt was not in a kitchen chair and sitting at the table by 6:01PM, I'd have a problem.  At that moment, I heard the unmistakable clanging that arose from our yard almost every night at six o'clock.  The rusty cowbell that hung outside the back door was a gift from my uncle, who lives in Colorado.  In the 1980's, my mom used it almost religiously to gather five kids from all over the neighborhood for dinner time. I can still hear that distinctive cow bell clang.

I bolted toward the house, and spied my sisters and brother racing toward the front door in response to our Pavlovian dinner bell.  As we hustled inside, I heard the faint voices of the neighborhood kids..."Eenie, meenie, miney moe..."


I actually wrote the first version of this story about 13 years ago for a writing assignment in college.  I used the original first draft as a framework and heavily, heavily edited it before sharing it here.  The first draft was exactly that - and needed some substantial tweaking.  Plus, I'd like to think my writing skills have improved a little bit since I first wrote this one! 

While I was editing the story, I found myself smiling as I remembered all these silly little kid things we used to do when we were younger.  As I sat and focused, and really reached back into my memory of those childhood times, it's surprising how much I'm able to recall.  And how vivid, and universal some of the details are of those memorable times from growing up.  It feels like a very long time ago.

Ta-ta for now.