Ear Candy: week 2

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Awwwwww yeah. More tunes for younes! I’ve been building these songlists in my head for years now, and it feels so good to be finally culling them in a shareable location. Even if it is only a song at a time.

If you have any suggestions for the lists, I’m happy to hear them! Who knows, maybe they’ll make an Ear Candy appearance in the weeks to come!

And in the meantime, rock on, my friends.

Music for Kicking Ass | LaRueblog

Music for Sexy Times | LaRueblog


Homemade laundry detergent, aka Laundry Lube!

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My inner domestic goddess (a much nicer, more elegant way to name my “inner hippie”) is taking over, y’all. After a long, hidden hibernation, she re-appeared quite without warning last year, and has been dancing barefoot around my house ever since.

Around the same time I started taking a more active role in my health care, I also enrolled in a series of classes at The Institute of Domestic Technology to learn various and sundry food preservation techniques – from cheese making, to jam making, bread baking, and beyond. And as if by magic, some kind of past-life spirit was ignited inside me that has a fervent need to make things. Like, from scratch. And grow things that we can eat, and know the sources of the food I buy. To eliminate as many unnecessary chemicals from our home as possible, and embrace a more natural, wholesome lifestyle. My teachers dealt in the alchemical arts of home economics, and I was hooked.

If you knew me before, this is when you’d laugh uncontrollably and fall out of your chair. But it’s true! And it’s a rabbit hole of endless possibilities that are actually fun to play with, as well as eco-conscious and health-conscious… but most of them are insanely cost-conscious, too. Me likey.

I’ve already shared my recipe for homemade, natural deodorant. And today, I’m happy to pass along my latest endeavor…

Homemade Laundry Soap (aka: Laundry Lube)!

(because, don’t get it twisted, living a cleaner lifestyle doesn’t put an end to my filthy mind.)
homemade diy laundry soap

You’ll need:
1 bar Fels Naptha (5.5 ounces)
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
plenty of hot water
2 one-quart Mason Jars (or 1 half-gallon mason jar)

make your own laundry detergent

Fels Naptha (aside from being incredibly fun to say) has been around for over 100 years, and is by far, the most efficient, affordable and versatile laundry soap on the market. It’s also one of the least chemically-laden. It’s widely known as a great stain-fighter, and can stop the spread of poison ivy in clothes that have been exposed. For this recipe, you can either hand-grate it, or do like I did, and cube it before sticking it in ye ole Cuisinart for some hot pulsing action until it resembles chopped nuts. Bonus: your food processor bowl will be polished beautifully once you wash it out!

Divide the gratings equally between each of your quart-sized mason jars, and add 1.5 cups of near-boiling water to that (between 180-212°). Hint: if you have a keurig, just run water through that to heat it up. It’ll do ya just fine. No need to mix or jostle it around too much. Just put the lids on the jars and let it cool for about 12-24 hours. Or longer, if you’re busy. I actually waited around 3 days, cuz life got busy.

When you come back to it, the Fels Naptha will have sort of jelled up at the base of the jar. Take a butter knife to it and slice around until you can stir it into a consistency like a mucous-y, lumpy, gooey vanilla pudding. It really doesn’t have to be exact. You can’t do this wrong. Just mush it around.

Then add your 1/2 cup each of Borax and Washing Soda, to each jar. Note: this isn’t the same thing as Baking Soda. It’s just not.

borax and washing soda

Now add enough hot water to reach just where the curve of the mason jar starts to narrow, an inch and a half below the lippy top of the jar.

If you have an immersion hand blender, great! You can stick that baby right down into the jar and turn it into a lovely mayonnaise of laundry cleaning power! No immersion blender, you say? Well, do you have a regular blender? Because you can use this amazing hack to screw your mason jar directly into your blender blade housing and mix it that way! Don’t have a blender, either? Well, you might be amish. But that’s ok! Break out a whisk, and some elbow grease, and make like you’re going for a stiff meringue.

The photo on the left, below, is what the gelled Fels Naptha looks like when after it soaks up all the hot water and you come back to it (top), and after you stir it up a bit (bottom). The photo on the right is what it looks like after the Borax and Soda are blended in. Looks pretty delicious, actually! But don’t eat it, yo. Basically, when you’ve got something between a mayonnaise and a smooth silky pudding, you’re done!

diy laundry soap step

The end result is a highly-concentrated laundry lube that will leave your clothes bright and clean and fresh, without all the creepy chemicals and high price tags of store-bought products.

(Now, I think that it smells pretty darn lovely all on it’s own. The Fels Naptha gives it a slightly lemony freshness that is particularly well-suited to laundering. But, in theory, you could add 10-20 drops of your preferred essential oils to the washing soda before mixing it in, to personalize your scent. I might try this later, and will update with results then. If you try it before then, just be sure to choose a scent or blend that will play nice with the lemony scent that it naturally carries.)

To use it: just plop 1 Tablespoon on top of your clothes before starting the load. I find it simplest to use a cookie dough scoop, which is exactly 1 Tbs and has a handy release lever built-in. For super duper dirty loads, you can add another 1/2 or full Tablespoon. But here’s the catch: don’t put it into your soap tray. Just plop in directly into your washing tub with all your dirty duds.

I know what you’re thinking – can it possibly work in High Efficiency (HE) washers? YES! It does! That’s what we have. It works in both, regular or HE washers, whether they load from the top or front. Does it really clean your laundry – like really clean it? YES! It does! Believe you me, my hippie aspirations will never stand between me and a well-cleaned load of clothes. This stuff works. And, according to the general consensus of people who’ve used it for a while, it won’t fade your colors, either.

But how much does it make, and what does it cost? Well, let me break it down for ya:

The most amazing part? This recipe makes enough laundry soap for 128 loads. That’s, like, a year’s worth of laundry! And the cost breakdown comes out to about $7 for a YEAR OF LAUNDRY. But, guess what? You can make it even cheaper. I shopped at Amazon for these prices (because I’m lazy), but word on the street is there are lower prices out there that can reduce this whole shebang to as low as $2 for the whole recipe if you shop super smart.

My price breakdown – through Amazon
Fels Naptha Bar: $4.40
Borax (76oz box) contains 9.5 cups. At $11.74 box, it costs $1.23 per cup
Washing Soda (55oz box) contains 6 7/8 cups. At $9.68 box, it costs $1.40 per cup
Total Cost for 128 loads of soap: $7.03

So there you have it! My homemade laundry lube. Saving the world, and my wallet, and making my inner domestic goddess do a happy dance… one load at a time.

Go forth, friends… and be clean!


Ad astra per aspera.

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Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 was my 36th birthday.

A year previous, I was just coming off of a nervous breakdown. Which is a phrase usually relegated to hyperbole, except this time, it was true.

In early December 2012, my already fragile enough mid-divorce-living-at-a-friend’s-place, trying-to-write-a-book-about-wedding-planning-on-deadline-while-dying-of-heartbreak, scared-to-death-of-what-comes-next world got rocked when I found out I needed emergency surgery on my eye (bringing the total count to 14 at the time), and also found out that my fertility was questionable, at best. I was collapsing under the stress, so right around Christmas, my psychiatrist suggested changing up my depression medication, to try and help lift me from the deafening numbness that encompassed me, and thus began weaning me off of the Pristiq that was only tenuously holding me together, and introduced Viibryd.

Within a week or so, I felt noticeably different. But… not better. I was painfully exhausted, and was beset with terrible headaches. Even worse that that… rather than numb, I began to feel empty. Desolate. Hopeless. And gradually, day by day, I became increasingly aware of a new feeling: a fear. Unlike I had ever felt before.

I was afraid of myself.

Afraid of what I might do to myself.

If left alone with myself.

And here’s the confusing part: I didn’t want to hurt myself. I didn’t wish I were dead. No. I wanted to live. I wanted desperately to believe that I could, once again, experience happiness and stability. I know that depression lies. I know better than to believe its insidious, manipulative whispers. My logical mind knows this very well.

But, almost as though my self were split in two, like some terrible after-school movie about a girl with split personalities, my emotional mind couldn’t trust myself not to do something stupid. I felt involuntarily pulled toward dangerous behaviors. Like I might inadvertently toss myself off the balcony. Or slice my skin open. Or begin walking into the distance and never stop. Or swallow all the pills in the house. Or drive off a cliff. Like a woman possessed, I felt as though I were being pulled against my own will towards self-harm.

And I couldn’t stop crying.

Luckily, I had enough sense of my logical mind to recognize that no good could come of this feeling. So I immediately alerted my psychiatrist, who agreed it was wise to discontinue the Viibryd, and ease myself back onto the Pristiq. And I mustered the strength to tell the friend I was staying with that, in no uncertain terms, I didn’t feel safe to be left alone. And thank god for him, because he had been in a similar place once, and he held me while I sobbed. He canceled plans to stay in and babysit me. Without judgment, he saved me.

And when he couldn’t be there, I called someone else. Which is no easy feat. Not many people knew how lost I had been to begin with. And finding a way to communicate that I was having terrifying urges, and inviting someone to just come sit on the couch and marathon Law & Order with me so I don’t end up accidentally taking a swan dive off the 2nd floor balcony was not the easiest call to make. I think Allie of Hyperbole & a Half said it best, in her incredibly spot-on depiction of what depression can be like:

“I discovered that there’s no tactful or comfortable way to inform other people that you might be suicidal. And there’s definitely no way to ask for help casually.

how to tell someone you might be suicidal

I didn’t want it to be a big deal. However, it’s an alarming subject. Trying to be nonchalant about it just makes it weird for everyone.”

But, surprisingly, my friends were really awesome about it. They came, without question, and sat with me. There was no excessive comforting, no uncomfortable attempts to “lighten the mood” or play therapist… just acceptance and understanding and loving concern. I’m so grateful, because if I had no one to call, I absolutely would have committed myself for my own safety.

And in the brief moments that I was left alone, or the periodic moments when, even with my roommate beside me, I felt so inconsolably anxious and bereft that I could no longer bear it… I remembered that Jenny once suggested that squeezing ice cubes in your hands can help quench those feelings a bit. And it did. (Thank you, Jenny.)

After a couple of weeks, the Viibryd eased it’s way out of my system, and my familiar friend Pristiq oozed back in. I started to feel, bit by bit, more myself again. Less at risk again. There was light at the end of the tunnel. I could see it. And for the first time in a while, I believed that I’d soon reach the end of that dark and lonely tunnel, and feel the sunlight on my face again.

By the time my birthday rolled around, I was almost there. And, as terrifying as those weeks previous had been, I always wanted to remember them, so that I’d always know that no matter how dark and hopeless things get, I can make it through. To remember my past, and look forward to my future – honoring my worst moments as essential parts of the journey leading to my best moments, and recognizing them for their beauty. Serendipitously, I was given the chance to share my story with an anonymous audience through The Listserve, which provided a great outlet, perspective and support in my healing process. And as a 35th birthday gift to myself, I got this tattoo:

Ad astra per aspera. Latin for “Through struggles to the stars.”

ad astra per aspera tattoo

Also, notably, the tagline for this blog 🙂

 


Ear Candy: Sexy Times & Kicking Ass

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Guys. When I need to set a mood, the first thing I turn to is music.

And the two things I find myself needing to set moods for, most often, are either “Kicking Ass” or “Getting Freaky.”

I know I’m not alone in either jamming my face off to get myself motivated and confident before an important meeting or during a bad-ass workout, or letting some seductive tunes slide over me like silk as I prepare to have my world rocked by a special someone. So, I’ll be sharing those tunes with y’all, from time to time, via my carefully curated Spotify playlists.

PS: can we take a moment to mourn how abysmally overused the word “curated” has become? It’s like the handlebar mustache of verbs.

Anyway.

Here are the first tracks on each, for your aural pleasure! (hehe, I said aural. It sounds like oral. I’m twelve.) I’ll be adding new tracks each week, so stay tuned!

Music for Kicking Ass | LaRueblog

Music for Sexy Times | LaRueblog


Supplementally Speaking…

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For most of my life, you couldn’t pay me to take vitamins on a regular basis. My aversion to their size and taste had me reaching for Flintstone’s chewables or Emergen-C in the rare instances that I actually would cave in and allow them past my lips. And oh, how times have changed.

In the past year, I’ve made my health much more of a priority… partly because I know I’m headed toward motherhood, partly because my adulthood has been wrought with unfriendly wake up calls about my health and habits, and partly because I met Paul – who already had a strong vitamin routine of his own and could help educate me about what I might consider taking.

My supplemental needs break down into a few categories:

1. To offset our insane dining habits (aka we eat way too much, y’all), Paul and I have an equally insane workout schedule, that keeps us strong underneath the extra cushion that our many meals have provided. So, supplements to support my metabolism, my endurance in my workouts, and the strain they put on my muscles, was definitely an essential.

2. My immune system is… unreliable, at best. It has a mind of it’s own, but I’d like to “brainwash” it and bend it to my will. So, strengthening immunity was definitely a must.

3. Balance. My system had none. I needed lots. Supplementing my diet and hormonal structure provides balance, and I likes it. Also, my mental health is rickety at times, and while I’m on an anti-depressant to manage my illness, supplementing with natural boosters can only help keep my blues at bay.

4. Vanity. I’m getting older every day. Anything that can help my skin and hair stay youthful, I want. I especially want things that will not just help me stay youthful, but even improve the situation. Vitamins can do that, yo. SCIENCE!

5. Fertility. I need all the help I can get in strengthening my reserves in the ladybits department, so I’m taking anything I can to support my hormones and fertility through supplements and diet. My future babies will thank me, I’m sure.

Now, witness the daily insanity!

Daily Supplements copy

Aooooga, am I right? Dudes, I know this looks excessive. But taking them has left me stronger, healthier, more consistently energized, and vibrant than I ever was before I made them part of my daily routine. It takes some time (around 21 days) of regular use for your system to adjust to any new supplement, so don’t expect immediate results. But, they’ve changed my quality of life for the better, so I wanted to share them here.

Now, here’s what they are, and why I take them:

Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women Women’s Multivitamin
Just your every day multi for us ladies. I love Optimum Nutrition, because they come in tidy capsules that are pleasantly sized, easy to swallow, and don’t have the vile vitamin-y smell or taste that have kept me away from most multi-vitamins until now.

Turmeric w/ Bioperine
Turmeric is credited with helping prevent cancer, improve digestion, boost immunity, among other things. But it’s most notably known as a powerful natural anti-inflammatory, which is my primary reason for taking it. And it works! I no longer require prescription-strength Aleve to manage my arthritis pain! I never thought that would be possible. It’s kind of a miracle drug.

Nutrigold CoQ10
This is an enyzme that supports heart function and promotes energy production in cells. It is also said to boost energy and speed recovery from exercise, improve gum health, and have anti-aging properties. All good things, yes?

Natrol DHEA 25mg
DHEA is a naturally occurring hormone that the female body converts into androgens (mainly testosterone). I take it because science suggests that it can be very beneficial for women with low ovarian reserves and increase the likelihood of pregnancy through IVF. Yes please!

Viviscal Extra Strength Hair Renewal System
I met the Viviscal folks at Blogher last year, and was thrilled when they offered me a six-month trial. It features a deep sea vitamin complex that helps nourish thinning hair and promotes existing hair growth, resulting in thicker, fuller hair. Paul and I been taking it for 3 months now and can absolutely tell a difference. I have tons of new hair growth and more volume than ever, and Paul’s hair is noticeable thicker too. I’ve always struggled with my fine hair, and I’m so thrilled to have found something natural that helps! It’s brilliant.

Macro Greens Nutrient-Rich Super Food Supplement
Paul and I start every day with a protein shake containing the next 3 products. The Macro Greens contain 38 nutrient-rich superfoods and 18 billion probiotics, along with some herbal anti-oxidants. It supports immunity, provides part of our daily servings of fruits/veggies, and fills our bodies with lots of good stuff in one little scoopful. And it doesn’t taste bad, either! Especially when mixed with…

Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard Natural Whey (Chocolate)
Now, I’ve always given protein powders the side-eye because they’re often so gritty or thick I can’t stand the texture. This one dissolves beautifully without barely augmenting the texture of the water you blend it with, and has a really nice, light, clean chocolate flavor that reminds me of old school Carnation Instant Breakfast. (Does anyone remember that stuff?) It has no artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors, either, which I love.

Miracle Reds Nutrient-Rich Super Food Supplement
This tasty powder features 19 anti-oxidant rich fruits and berries, and a ton of plant sterols, which help keep cholesterol low. It boosts immunity, combats aging, and is a great workout recovery complex. Together with the greens and protein powder, it lends a slightly fruity flavor to the shake, which is super yummy.

20oz Sundesa Blender Bottle
These little babies are what we use to mix up our morning shakes. Super easy to use, easy to wash, and inexpensive. I love ’em.

Natrol Melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally-occurring that helps regulate your sleeping and waking hours. Taking it as a supplement helps me get to sleep, when my mind is churning. Fair warning: it can cause super vivid dreams if taken in too high a dosage, so if you try it, stick to 2mg each night and no more. I learned that the hard way!

Optimum Nutrition ZMA
Zinc, Magnesium, and B6, in the right dosage, are shown to increase speed of muscle recovery, as well as boost their growth, in people who are athletic or who do weight training. It’s also shown to increase the quality of REM sleep, so I take it at night to help my body recover from the day’s workout and help me sleep a little deeper.

WHEW! That’s a LOT right?

And that doesn’t even take into account the foods I’ve also incorporated into my daily diet, or the herbs my acupuncturist recommends!

Do you have a supplement regimen? Or am I alone in my crazy, pill-filled world?