November 22, 2008

Surgery, Detergent and Puppy Mills

Sadie, an 8-year-old beagle who was used as a breeder dog in a puppy mill

The last few days have been busy around here, and now that I'm connected to the Internet via lightning speed thanks to Comcast, I can share some things with you.

Neal had sinus surgery on Thursday. His surgery went well and he is recovering nicely, aside from a nagging headache and some dull pain in and around his nose. It was discovered that he has a narrow trachea and using the regular tubing for anesthesia was not possible. It took three anesthesiologists to finally get him intubated. Needless to say, he had a pretty sore throat the first 24 hours! The sinus surgery was done because a CAT scan revealed he has chronic sinus infections and it was thought that doing a complete roter-rooter of his sinus cavity would help alleviate this, plus allow him to breathe through both nostrils simultaneously - something he hasn't been able to do in a long time. He said he could actually breathe out of his nose not long after surgery, so we hope this does the trick!

I find myself more and more intrigued with being self sufficient, from growing my own veggies to making my own cleaning products. I read a lot of blogs about people who have gone back to the simple way of life, and the more I read, the more I like. It is our intent to one day build a modest home on or property, live off grid and enjoy the simple pleasures of life - minus all the sensationalism and commercialism. So as practice for our one-day rural, simple, frugal life in the country, I have been trying my hand at some new things right here in the middle of suburbia.

Last night after work, I made a veggie quiche and flaky cheddar thyme biscuits....yum! Neal found the cheddar biscuit recipe here and we have already made them three times in a week! This morning, I made a batch of homemade laundry detergent which consists of nothing more than grated bar soap (castille, Fels Naptha or Ivory), washing powder and borax. The washing powder and borax used to be carried in just about all supermarkets, but these days they can be difficult to least for me they were. After four trips to supermarkets and drug stores, I finally found both products at King Soopers (a grocery chain). There are many homemade laundry recipes floating around out there, some quite fancy and complicated. Since I am aiming for simple, frugal and easy here, I chose to go with this one posted by Wretha which calls for equal amounts of the above three ingredients. That's it. Three ingredients. So, after mixing up my batch of detergent, I immediately began washing clothes and was quite pleased with the results. No flowery, fru-fru or chemical laden smells to our clothes, just a nice, fresh smell of clean. And I only used 2-3 tablespoons per full load. If you prefer a liquid laundry detergent instead of powder, all you do is stir the soap in hot water to dissolve, then add your borax and washing soda. You would need to use 1/4 - 1/2 cup per load if you use the liquid type, but that's it. Couldn't be simpler.

After making my detergent and washing some clothes, I soaked in a nice warm bath and shaved my arms and legs with my new Preserve razor, which is environmentally friendly. I have always been bothered by using disposable razors, but other than using the heavy, metal types, which I don't like, I hadn't found a solution...until now. Preserve razors are made from 100% recycled plastic and are designed for recycling. According to their website, all you do is just squeeze in the arms, pop off the blade and recycle the handle. And, if your community doesn't offer recycling for #5 plastics, they will mail you a postage paid envelope to mail your razor handle back to them. How cool is that? I ordered mine online at, but I noticed Whole Foods carries them as well.

After my bath, I went to get a massage. Dang, I love massages! OK, probably not so frugal since I paid for it instead of insisting that my husband do the honors for free, but I am beginning to learn that massages are not just a luxury, they are good for your health and well-being. And I would be hard-pressed to convince Neal to give me a massage for an hour! The massage therapist I saw normally charges $45 for a one hour, full body massage - not a bad deal when some spas charge twice that - but she was running a special package of four massages for $140. Not to insult your intelligence, but that's $35 each. Dang, I love massages, AND discounts!

After my massage, I headed out to an open house for National Mill Dog Rescue Network. They are an incredible local group that rescues dogs from the horrors of puppy mills. In less than two years, they have rescued approximately 1000 dogs and placed them in new homes. They now have a fabulous facility, with indoor/outdoor dog kennels and comfy cots and a dedicated group of volunteers that the founder calls "a family". Having been around a lot of rescue groups and shelters in my time, I can honestly say there is something very special about this group. I have hesitated offering to volunteer with them because we don't need any more dogs and I have a tendency for caving in, but they are doing so much good -nationwide -and I would like to be a part of that. For them, it's all about educating the public about puppy mills and saving the dogs that come into their care. Period. No popularity contests, no politics, no BS. Sounds like my philosophy on life. I intend to fill out the volunteer application I brought home and see where they could use my help.

Happy campers at National Mill Dog Rescue Network

My last stop was at Whole Foods, in search of liquid glycerin to use in my soon-to-be-made homemade dishwashing liquid. I found the glycerin, but not before sampling all the tasty snacks and picking up more items than would fit in my two hands, thereby causing me to get a basket. Why does that always happen? Speaking of Whole Foods, I had forgotten how much variety they have and how much I like that place. And actually, their prices are not that bad on some things.

My next mission is to find lye, or caustic soda, to make my own homemade bar soap. The whole "caustic" thing has made me hesitate in that endeavor, but as I understand it, the lye is neutralized when mixed with the proper ingredients in the soap-making process, and soap simply cannot be made without it. I'm finding it a bit difficult to find this needed ingredient (of course, why should it be easy?), but find it I will....if I have to order it and have it shipped to me! For now, I'm off to the kitchen to mix up my dishwashing liquid and nibble on some of that cranberry cheddar cheese from Whole Foods.

Good weekend to all...

Happy to be free!


Rogue said...

hey, great site.. newcomer, and now a avid reader.
I make natural bath products and actually, all my soaps are LYE free, and they work really, really well.
I refuse to use lye because it is caustic and my products are safe enough to eat. If you would like to try a sample, I'd be glad to let you, so you can know how they feel and work.
Let me know. I'll also be happy to help in any other way I can on your journey to self sufficiency.

Lilla said...

Hey Rogue, welcome and thanks for the compliment. Absolutely, I would be interested in hearing more about your lye-free soaps and trying a sample. I've been searching for an alternative to lye and everything I've read states there is no such thing when it comes to bar soap. Please do share your secrets!

suzan said...

How fantastic is that? I haven't made soap yet - laundry or otherwise- but have collected the ingredients for the laundry soap. It's hard to find washing soda isn't it? I finally bought a large jug of it in the "spa" section of the hardware. I'm glad to hear that you like it, Nilla. What a different journey for all of us.

Susie Hoot McCoy said...

Do you remember that substitute with the mustache (Mrs. Jackson I think)?? She made soap in science class in the 8th grade. If I remember correctly she used lye as well.

I am so glad I reconnected with you again. You are awesome.

Lilla said...

Suzan, yes washing soda was hard to find. I never thought of the spa section in a hardware store! I'm loving this journey, but will love it even more when I'm able to experience the Wet Mountain Valley every day like you do!

Lilla said...

Susie Hoot, yes I do remember Ms. Jackson (who could forget her?), but I don't remember making soap with her. It's been wonderful reconnecting with you as well. I must say, dear Susie, I don't think anyone has ever called me awesome. You made my day!

Anonymous said...

A low cost, green eco friendly, healthy natural way to make a general purpose cleaner, laundry detergent, etc is from soapberry which grows on the Chinaberry tree and has been used for thousands of years. It works very effectively.

Lilla said...

Thanks for the info on the soapberry product, Ira. I'll have to check into that.

Lynda said...

Lilla thanks so much for visiting my blog & for your comment. I see you are a fellow animal lover & I commend you for the wonderful volunteer work you do. How fantastic to read about the wonderful work these people are doing to stamp out these awful, awful puppy mills. If everyone could just do one small thing to help save an animal, imagine what a better place this world would be ! I'll be back to visit some more soon ....
Bye for now
Kilimanjaro, East Africa

Lilla said...

Lynda, thanks for stopping by! Yes, puppy mills are atrocious and I hope to live long enough to see them disappear. Anything can happen, you know? We did just elect our first black President!!!

And I commend you for the work you do rescuing animals in your own country. We kindred souls have to stick together!