Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap

A while ago, I wondered if Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap was all that it was reported to be. From travel websites to camping websites, it is spoken of in the hushed tones reserved for holy relics.  I wanted to see how it stacked up as a travel product, and how it worked with my finicky hair and skin.

My hair is super fine and super straight.  We are talking so straight and flat that when I have tried to get perms in the past, they fell out by the end of the day.  It used to be that my usual hairstyle was waist length hair, twisted into a knot on the top of my head, easy and it doesn’t matter how thin it is.  (But people were always amazed when I took my hair down because it looks like it would be shoulder length when it is in a bun.)

My skin is red head fair (though my hair hasn’t been red since I was a baby), sensitive and freckled.  For some reason, my body has decided that my 30’s would be the perfect time to have major acne breakouts, instead of my teens.

20140614-082913-30553858.jpgI got a 2 oz. bottle of lavender to take on our trip to San Antonio in June, to see how I liked using just it in a hotel room.  I also wanted to see how much I used.  As you can see, using nothing but this soap for my hair, my body, and some light laundry duty for five days (showering everyday)  I used about half the bottle.  I enjoyed the very herby scent of the lavender, but it may not be for everyone – this is not sweet, but a true lavender smell.  San Antonio has hard water, similar to Houston; so the soap took some coaxing to lather up nicely, but it washed away very quickly and cleanly.  As suggested by several websites, I also used a conditioner to keep my hair my from getting completely dried out.

I also got an 8 oz. bottle of the peppermint scent, to use at home in a controlled environment.  I have to admit, I was curious about the peppermint zing I read about, too.  Well, yeah, it zings, allright!  Once you figure out how to lather up correctly, the longer you let the peppermint soap sit on your body, the more it feels cool and tingly. Especially anywhere you might have a cut or scratch.

I did not try it out as toothpaste.  I just couldn’t bring myself to put soap in my mouth.

My son also used the peppermint, and loves it – but he has a serious thing for peppermint in all forms.

So, my reactions?

  • Out of the bottle, in the shower, the scents are kind of intense, but they quickly fade as the soap gets washed down the drain.
  • I’m not sure I would recommend these as shampoo for people with already dry hair – they seriously strip all the oils off your hair!  And if you have normal hair, I definitely agree with using a conditioner every time.
  • But, that being said, it was amazing for my hair!  My hair dried very quickly without a blowdryer, and fluffed out as it dried – something which doesn’t normally happen, even with “volumizing” shampoos.  I got a pretty style without the need for gel, mousse, or hairspray – which all weigh my hair down and make me sweat when I go outside in the heat and humidity.
  • As a soap it worked as well as other soaps (I tend to use handmade goats milk soaps, or Ivory).  It didn’t make my skin crawl with dryness like Ivory, but it didn’t moisturize as well as the goats milk soap.
  • It didn’t make me break out any worse than I normally do, but I would not recommend using the peppermint for your face.  The fumes get very intense, and the peppermint oil in the soap is not fun to have that close to your eye area (I did not get any IN my eyes, but the delicate skin around them sure reacted!).  Look into “beezin” for info on why peppermint oil near the eyes is bad.

I am worried about taking it to the desert, though.  It worked well in a humid area, and I didn’t notice too much dryness with my skin or hair – but Utah will be a different story.  I remember that the way that first rush of desert air feels when you leave the airport – my gills hurt just thinking about it! 🙂

Does anyone have any experience with using Dr. Bronner’s while traveling to the desert?  Preferably from a highly humid region. *grins* Thanks!

 

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Webinars

{psst . . . sorry for the delay in posting.  it’s summer, you know.  kids . . . }

 

My puppy likes webinars.

My puppy likes webinars.

So, I just finished participating in the first National Delegate webinar.  I’m not sure what to say.  I love that GSUSA and GSSJC are both using webinars more and more for presentations and trainings.  Let me count the ways that I love this:

  1. Training in pajamas.  Sold.
  2. I don’t have to drive into downtown Houston or find someone to watch my kids.
  3. I can pet my dogs while I get the information I need.
  4. For this delegate thing, I’m not sure HOW they handled this without webinars.  Conference calls? (ouch, holding a phone to my ear for an hour) Cutting down a forest for the documentation? (and then having to read language devised by attorneys and marketers, sheesh)
  5. Did I mention I can do this while wearing pajamas? )

I’ve participated in quite a few from my local Council, and always found them an enjoyable alternative to a half hour to 3 hour drive for a training or meeting.

For a local webinar, we usually have one person handling all the technical support part of running the software and fishing technical issues.  Then two to eight people presenting information depending on the webinar.  And at least a couple of people who never speak but are just typing away in the background answering participant questions and passing those that seem like they would be of interest to everyone to the speaker/techie.

Now the important thing to realize is that as a Facilitator, and as a rampant extrovert, I know all these people.  While I may not necessarily know which person is behind the screen fielding my questions at any particular time, I’m pretty sure it’s someone I’ve met, who knows me well enough to put a name to a face.  So, the snark begins to fly.  I can’t help it.  I have a perverse sense of humor I inherited from my father, I giggle at funerals and make snarky comments to people who are trying to run training sessions.  And then the person who was behind the keyboard finds me at the next big Council event and we giggle some more . . .

But this one was . . . different.

Yeah, this Delegate one was not like that.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never met a single person involved in that webinar (yet), and I’m pretty sure they would view my sarcasm and humor as a lack of focus.

Which in a way, it’s the exact opposite of.  I noticed that this time, unable to make gentle fun of what was being said, I was way more likely to tune out.  I heard people asking questions that were so far afield of the proposal being discussed that it was eyerollingly funny.  And that’s about the time I started surfing the web . . .

Oh, well.  One Delegate webinar down, two to go.  And one more webinar to do this week (local though, this time).

How do you focus during webinars?  Do pajamas help?  I bet they help . . .

 

Hotel Cooking, the Reality and Resources

Usually, my plans work out great.  Not this time.

The shopping trip got postponed, and then we decided to stay at Sea World all day (which makes the ALL Day Dining Plan a good deal), and basically we ended up splurging on the most expensive (food wise) vacation we’ve ever taken.  I should point out our son is only 8 at this point, so I am looking forward to even more expensive vacations once he’s a teenager.

And the one splurge we were planning on? Dine with Shamu?  It got rained out. >.<

I still think the plan would have worked, which is why I am sharing it, but sometimes you have to realize that “All the plans of mice and men . . .” You tell ’em, Robbie Burns.  The kids were excited, we don’t eat out that often at home, so this felt very vacation-y to them. And it gave us the opportunity to sample the local eats, which is something we love doing at home.  Barbecue at a place so good, it was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (we thought the brisket that Guy raved about was okay, but the RIBS were AMAZEBALLS).  Tex-Mex from a restaurant owned by a family well known in San Antonio for their South of the Border fare (tacos with nothing but shredded chicken and guacamole? SIGN ME UP).

See what I did there?  I released my plan, and looked at the bright side of it’s failure.  My family didn’t hear me moan about how much money we were “wasting” going out to eat all day.  They didn’t hear me complain about how unhealthy all the food was (it did help that we were walking miles and miles at the park).  They just heard about the adventure.

I did good this trip.

Here’s some resources for you in case you want to try the adventure of hotel cooking for yourself:

  • Cooking With Your Coffeemaker – seriously, go read this site.  Read the story, marvel at the ingenuity.
  • Even NPR is talking about it
  • From the Kitchn
  • Really great post from The Traveling Praters, which got me thinking about packing a travel kitchen of my own – kind of a “duh” moment worth pinning 🙂
  • Freezer Bag Cooking info – If you have a ziptop freezer bag and access to hot water (not boiling), this site will show you how to make awesome meals that taste great, meals that fit any diet restrictions, and meals that are much less expensive than eating out or buying standard cook in the bag  camping fare.

Hotel Cooking, the Grocery List and Traveling Kitchen

My menu was made to try to not have the same meal over and over again, but to use the same items over and over again so they get completely consumed.  Kind of like a capsule wardrobe, only for food. 🙂  Here’s my grocery list, in case you want to replicate this menu:

  • 1 loaf of sliced bread
  • 4 muffins
  • 1 pack pita breads
  • 1 box granola cereal
  • 1 box couscous
  • 1 quart of milk
  • 1 quart of vanilla yoghurt
  • 1 stick butter (or whatever the smallest amount you can buy)
  • Salad dressing
  • 1 pound sliced turkey
  • 4 slices muenster cheese (or whatever you think would go well with turkey)
  • 6 oz. hummus
  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 single serving cup of applesauce (you only need about 2 T. per sandwich)
  • 4 bananas
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • container pre peeled and cut carrot and celery sticks (or baby carrots)
  • 1 cucumber
  • bag of mixed greens
  • 2 tomatoes

Things I packed in my “kitchen”:

  • aluminum foil
  • paper plates
  • paper bowls
  • paper towels
  • spoons, forks, knives
  • serving spoon
  • large bowl for making salad and couscous
  • knife
  • small cutting board
  • ziptop bags for leftovers
  • a couple of plastic grocery bags to use as garbage bags
  • soap for dishes

I don’t think the housekeeping staff should have to clean up after we use the room not quite as the hotel intended, so I intend to make sure everything gets cleaned up by us.  Which is why all the disposables – again, I would rather spend my time with my family than washing dishes, and I definitely DON’T want to be trying to fish couscous out of the drain because my 7 year old forgot to wipe his plate clean.  The disposables all come from my stash of old birthday party tableware and take out utensils, though, so I’m not being completely wasteful.

Hotel Cooking, the Menu

Whether you are traveling by yourself, with your family, or with your troop – you have to eat!  And sometimes the best room for the trip is the one that doesn’t come with a kitchenette.  Or a microwave.   Or a refrigerator.  By Mercury’s winged sandals, there had better be a coffee maker!!

Ahem.  Moving on.

Cooking in your hotel is one of the best ways to save money on a trip.  Eating out 3 or more times a day, especially at a hotel restaurant, can get super expensive super fast.  And cooking can cut those costs dramatically (just like it does at home).  But you have to have some equipment.  In my experience, the hotel room without a fridge is becoming scarce, and the room without a coffeemaker almost non-existent.  But as far as actual cooking?  Well, sometimes you have a full kitchenette in your suite, sometimes you have a microwave in your room (or down in the lobby), sometimes all you have is a coffeemaker.

There are several good resources online already for showing you how to cook using what is commonly available in a hotel room (and I’ll link to some at the end of this series of posts).  This is my menu plan when faced with a lovely room that only had a fridge and a coffee maker.

Day 1

  • Breakfast – coffee in the coffee maker; strawberries, yoghurt and granola
  • Lunch – turkey paninis made with the iron, salad
  • Dinner at Sea World, no point in leaving before the fireworks! 🙂

Day 2

  • Breakfast – coffee in coffee maker; rest of the granola, milk, banana slices
  • Lunch – rotisserie chicken, couscous made with the coffee maker, salad or veggies (I used the FBC method, rather than the Gizmodo method for the couscous)
  • Dinner out

Day 3

  • Breakfast – coffee in the coffee maker; muffins, all the leftover fruit
  • Lunch – a DIY assortment of pita bread, hummus, leftover chicken and turkey, carrots, celery, and cucumber slices
  • Dinner with Shamu (one of the splurges we were saving for)

Day 4

  • Breakfast – coffee in the coffeemaker; applesauce sandwiches grilled with the iron (to use the last of the bread)
  • Lunch – on the road!

So, if you’ll notice, I don’t really trust the coffeemaker to do my cooking.  Also, it takes soooooooo loooooong to cook things using a coffeemaker, even using techniques that make me trust the idea a bit more (like double heating the water by running it through twice and insulating the carafe with foil to raise the temperature.  I would rather be enjoying time with my family than babysitting a coffeepot.  Also, I will now be thoroughly cleaning every hotel room coffee maker and running an empty cycle through as soon as I get there based on what I now know people are doing in there.  I think it might be worth it to go buy a small bottle of white vinegar, just to be sure.

But when we got to the hotel room, I was struck kind of dumbfounded when I saw this:

20140607-080345-29025731.jpg

Yeah, kinda like a Keurig machine, only not.  I didn’t feel the need to immediately scrub the thing to get hot dog germs out of it, but I also was glad I didn’t plan anything that NEEDED to use a carafe to cook in.  I still could have done the couscous, though.  I just would have had to make it in individual servings, freezer bag cooking style instead of in one big batch.

Traveling in a Carryon

One of the rules I have made for myself when planning for this trip to Utah is not to check luggage. Even though I will probably be flying Southwest (since I will be flying out of its hub, Houston, and it is one of the cheapest airlines around) which allows you to check two bags free, I just don’t want to have to deal with the possibility of lost luggage if I can avoid it.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of resources for traveling light in a carry-on (some of the ones I like best are listed to the side). Here are some of the thoughts I had that weren’t covered by those sites:

  1. As with most conferences/conventions, you are going to get stuff. Some of it will be good stuff (pamphlets helping you plan your troop’s trip to Our Cabana, for instance). Some of it will be edible stuff (samples from Little Brownie and ABC and Ashdon Farms and the other nut company) which will be useful for snacking between sessions or the flight home. And some of it will be things you may decide you don’t need to bring home (another metal water bottle). When I went to the 52nd Convention, I got a free tote bag filled with free goodies, including a windup flashlight and a metal water bottle – not the easiest things to pack home on a flight – along with my visitor day pass (not the Hall of Experiences pass, the volunteers got the good tickets).  I will need to remember to pack in such a way as to be able to bring home the goodies I want, and have the strength to say no to the goodies I don’t really want.
  2. Can I really fit all those clothes in one bag? PLUS SIZE clothes? We’ll see.
  3. Really? No navy based business travel capsules???? (Yep, still stewing about it)
  4. Is Dr. Bronner’s really all that?
  5. What is the best way to pack a suit into a carry-on?
  6. By all that is holy, I am going to the desert.  How the heck do I look professional when I can’t breathe due to altitude and lack of humidity?!?!?

Ahem.

So, with #2 on the list in mind, now that I have my capsule sorted out for the trip, I did a test run to see if I could get all those plus sized clothes in my undersized carry-on.  I made a big old sloppy bundle, and popped it in my suitcase along with some navy flats I found in the back of my closet (which I am NOT wearing, because the soles are floppy-broke and they are scuffed to heck, but they work for simulating the pair of shoes I will need to bring.

20140603-181239-65559100.jpg

Packed in the bundle is my suit jacket, suit pants, a pair of leggings to simulate the khakis I haven’t gotten yet, my white dress shirt, my beautiful overtunic, both tanks, my first aid kit and my hygiene kit to hold the place of my core, and the flats.  There is still plenty of room for all the stuff I might get at the convention (as long as I don’t go overboard and get a giant stuffed animal or a sleeping bag or something crazy like that), my pajamas, and my underthings.  But I need to do something about a core.  I can’t use my hygiene bag, since I will need to get at it in security.  And now I know that an Eagle Creek Quarter Cube will be way too small (that is what my hygiene kit is packed in).  So I am thinking I will get full sized Packing Cube to hold my underthings and pajamas and be my core.  So, I guess that takes care of #5, too, huh?

I’m currently testing #4, review to come later.

I need to do more research for #6, but I think I can safely say that I don’t have to worry about my makeup melting off (unlike here at home).  But I am testing minimal makeup ideas, anyways, because I want to look good, but I don’t want to have to fuss for an hour each morning.  I would much prefer sitting outside with a cup of coffee looking at scenery I don’t have at home.

Show off your pedicure!

School is out (I hate flip flops)!  Summer is here (I hate my fat feet)! Time to hit the pool (my toenails are actually cute, but no one gets to see them)!

Okay, so yeah, I have a love/hate relationship going on with summer.  I love not having to wear real shoes, or socks.  I’m a barefoot kind of gal – but that’s not allowed in stores, and kind of dangerous at pools.  So every year I start The Search.  The Search For Shoes That Will Fit.  I have extremely wide feet (WW if I can get it), fairly tall feet, but actually normal length feet (size 9ish).    Because of this, I have worn a lot of size 10s, a lot of men’s shoes, and a lot of whatever-will-fit-me instead of what-I-want.  My go-to shoe in the summer has been cheap Birkenstock knock-offs ($10 or less), which last a year, look like crap, but I can wear them long enough for the sole to wear down to fit my feet.

This year, I found AMAZING shoes, which I love – TOMS knockoffs (because women with fat feet aren’t allowed to wear TOMS).  I tried some from Avenue last year, was amazed at how comfortable they were, and nearly broke down in tears when they were falling apart after less than a week of wearing.  The Woman Within ones have been worn almost daily for the past 5 months, and are just now starting to get some holes.  But amazing as these shoes are – they don’t show off the cute pedicure I splurged on.

And what is the point of having a cute pedicure that only your family gets to see???

After several unproductive shopping trips (including one to Avenue, where the sweet saleswoman was personally mortified that she couldn’t get my feet into anything that would show off my toes), I sighed deeply and began searching the internet.  And I found THIS.  Kristen is RIGHT, these are Outrageously Comfortable AND Ridiculously Simple!    I grabbed a  pair of cheap flip flops from Joanns, a quarter of a yard of swimsuit fabric, and went to town with my mom’s help (I wanted to get the fit right, and my plus sized legs don’t fold as neatly and easily as Kristen’s do). TAH-DAH!!!

20140602-132933-48573166.jpgMy super cute new flip flops that fit!  Of course, they’re blue.  You have been here before, right?  Blue is my color. 🙂

20140602-132935-48575082.jpgLook – cute pedicure!  I know, fat feet, but cute toenails. 🙂  Look, no shoe is ever going to make my feet look like they should be in a shoe ad, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask that I can have sandals that don’t look like orthopedics.

I did make a couple of changes to Kristen’s original tutorial (watch the video, btw, makes it super clear to understand what she is doing).

  1. The swimsuit material is fairly thick and . . . um, not squishable (if that makes sense), so the knot in the front of the shoes (between the toes, and through the hole) would be too big to walk on comfortably.  Solution: taper the ends of the two sections of fabric until they are half the width, and the knot will easily slip up into the hole in the bottom of the sole.
  2. Also, my mom is a bit of a worrier, so she suggested I fill the holes with glue to add a layer of security .  But be careful what glue you use!  There is no point in filling the holes with a water soluble glue (presumably, you will wear flip slops around water – like at a pool).  Most of the shoe making resources online say that if you can’t get your hands on Shoe Goo, then Gorilla Glue will work.  Again, be careful though – Gorilla glue expands 3x, so do a sample first.  You won’t need to fill the hole with liquid Gorilla Glue!

Now I am ready for my next big adventure – our family’s summer vacation in San Antonio.  We’ll be getting the final bang out of our Annual Pass buck at Sea World and staying at a resort, where I am already booked for a new pedicure (I’m thinking blue nails this time, what d’you think?? *grins*).  And these are WAY better than the disposable foam flip flops spas give you so you don’t mess up your polish.