Scrub Your Dishes With Wool

After several months of using my modified Wooltangle, I’m ready to report back. Back in August, I posted about some items I’m using to reduce the presence of plastic in my life.

At the top you can see the brand new wool scrubby, and just underneath is the same scrubby a few weeks old, with the hemp thread I added for extra scrubbing power. To the far right is the 6 month old scrubby, after many trips through the microwave for disinfection, and lots of dish scrubbing. It held up fantastically! A few days after this last photo, a hole finally wore through. The effectiveness did diminish in the last month or so, as the wool and hemp degraded. A full busy household might want to replace theirs more frequently. A soft pressure is gentle enough for no-stick cookware, and firmer pressure for less delicate pots and pans.

There are some tips I discovered to make it work better:

  1. I think most people’s instinct would be to bear down when scrubbing. Counter-intuitively, I find that a firm side-to-side pressure works best. Focus on sliding the scrubber back and forth, rather than pressing down, rinsing off the bits that release easily so you can see what’s left.
  2. Barkeeper’s Friend is…well…your best friend. The main ingredient is oxalic acid, and it will help release stuck-on particles of food. Sprinkle and scrub, or for really stubborn jobs, sprinkle, moisten with water to make a paste, and let it sit for a while, then scrub.
  3. Be patient. With the rice cooker, I’ll usually soak it in some soapy water first, and then loosen the heavy particles with my dishgloved hands. Next I scrub with my wool and add Barkeeper’s Friend to any stubborn spots. Sometimes there’s still some diehard bits left. Those get a Barkeeper’s Friend paste layer, and I just clean it off an hour or so later. Sparkly.

These wool scrubbers will definitely be a permanent addition to our household. My next step will be to try making my own from some wool batting. I found the rectangle shape a bit too floppy, and I’d like to try a round shape instead. These scrubbers have replaced the synthetic kitchen sponges we used to buy and greatly reduced our steel wool usage, too.


The Plastic Challenge

This past July I participated in the Story of Stuff’s plastic challenge. Although one of their aims is to make plastic a “thing of the past,” I think it’s more realistic (and desirable) to both reduce our use, and support efforts to create systems that break plastic down into harmless components. There is research with mushrooms that makes plastic breakdown a real possibility.

For this post, I just want to share a list of plastic substitutes I came up with, and a bit about my experience. A couple of these may get their own, longer, blogpost in the future.

  1. Started using a Green Panda toothbrush with bamboo handle & bristles. This already has its own blogpost.
  2. My Oxo plastic watering can was disintegrating after several years, and I replaced it with a galvanized metal one from Ace hardware, complete with a rosette-style spout. It works quite well, with a smooth thick handle that doesn’t cut into my palm. As much as I liked my OXO, I like this better.
  3. I started using undyed wool yarn to tie up large plants/small shrubs such as my tomato plants, so I can phase out that green plastic ribbon they sell you at the gardening center. The yarn is softer & kinder to the plant stems than the natural fiber twine they also sell at the gardening center.
  4. I am currently experimenting with using different types of rubber tubes & straps for large shrubs/small trees.
  5. I bought a set of beeswax wrappers to cover food bowls. It’s still an experiment-in-process. They’re pricey when compared to a roll of plastic wrap, but they can be gently washed in cool water. These have been useful to cover up pans of baked goods, and the like. Not recommended for meat.
  6. I’m most excited about eliminating synthetic sponge purchases from my shopping list. I’m not even using steel wool scrubbers as much. These 2 items have been replaced by my Wooltangles! These come in a pack of 3, and definitely deserve their own blogpost. I took a few minutes to sew a hemp cord border around mine for extra scrubbing power. This gives me a scrubber soft enough for non-stick cookware, and strong enough for my big roasting pan, when combined with a pre-soak & some Barkeeper’s Friend. The history of these Wooltangles is right in the phrase “steel wool.” That differentiates steel wool from regular wool, which is what folks used to scrub up with, back in the day. I had no idea!
  7. My mom was telling me about a guy who makes all kinds of different plant starter pots from natural materials, so I cleaned out half a grapefruit rind, poked some holes in the bottom, and dried it outside over the course of a few dry hot days. It’s now wrapped up & waiting to be used in the spring. I’ll have to update you all on that. 🙂 I’m interested to see how the seedlings respond, and how the container itself breaks down when planted in the soil.

As a final note to the July challenge, I want to give a lot of credit to Story of Stuff for helping provide a framework for community-wide and global change in the realm of plastic disposal. Although our homes are where we feel we have the most control, our local & global community networks are what will effect the best, most long-lasting change. I wrote a letter to one of our local restaurants asking them to consider offering plastic beverage straws on request, rather than including one automatically with each beverage served. One of the founding partners responded to my email with firm agreement, and promised to bring it up at their management meeting later that week. Each and every effort counts. Together we can reach the tipping point.

A Greener Toothbrush

Every so often I re-visit a search for the best eco-friendly XYZ that I can find. For certain items I give up, and settle for the mainstream version again because the product isn’t as eco-friendly as I thought, or it doesn’t perform effectively enough, or it’s just not going to fit into my budget. After a while the bee starts buzzing around in my bonnet again, and enough time has passed that I renew my search, looking for recent innovations and introductions to the marketplace. Such is the case with toothbrushes!

I really dislike using that hunk of plastic & nylon for a few months, then tossing it away to sit in our landfill, while I unwrap a new stick of plastic & nylon to use. About 6 weeks ago I found something new to try: the Green Panda bamboo toothbrush. I really like it! The owners of Green Panda have done their best to create a biodegradable toothbrush that is a pleasure to use. The bristles are soft, which is a big plus for me, and the handle is sturdy & comfortable. You can buy a pack of 4 online, and with the shipping cost it works out to $3 per brush, which is only about 50 cents more than a basic toothbrush from Walgreen’s.

You can read more about them here:

Although it may seem like a small, silly thing, finding a better earth alternative for the commonly used items in my everyday life makes me a happier person. I feel that much more aligned & connected with how I want to be in the world.


Massage As The Embodiment of Love

When thinking about massage as the embodiment of love, my 2 favorite definitions for ’embodiment’ were: “to make concrete & perceptible” and “to bring together as a whole.” At its best, massage is love made tangible, bringing an experience of wholeness to both giver & receiver. It can be a gift of love for oneself, as well as a gift that is given to another. When you book an appointment like this for yourself, you are embracing yourself with love. Did you feel that? That warm hug you just imagined giving yourself?   🙂

As a person who is usually giving the massage, I can say that there is plenty of wholeness & gratitude in my experience, too. When I come to the end of a massage or facial, I am in the habit of saying “thank you” to my client. That “thank you” can mean many things. Most often, it means, thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable with me, and for trusting me to take good care of you. Thank you for sharing this time with me, where I, too, can slow down, breathe more consciously, use my senses, get comfortable in my body, and listen to its messages.

Wishing you true, deep, abiding love,


Be A Juicy Fruit: Exercise & Skin

Exercise may actually be able to reverse some signs of aging. Yes, I said “reverse!”

There have been a couple of studies done in Canada at McMaster University which suggest that exercise cannot only keep you younger looking, but may be able to reverse some of the sagging and thinning of skin that happens with aging.

Dr. Tarnopolsky is one of the scientists involved in these studies, and was recently quoted in a Time magazine article on the benefits of exercise. In one particular study, people 65 years and older rode a stationary bike, 30 minutes, 3 times a week. That’s thirty minutes, 3 times a week! That’s completely doable for most of us. After 3 months, skin samples examined under a microscope appeared 20-30 years younger. Tarnopolsky says the exercise prevents the deeper layers of the dermis from thinning, and keeps superficial layers (the stratum corneum) from thickening, something that commonly happens in the aging process.

In other words, think of that orange you left sitting on the counter too long. The outer peel became dry, thin, less pliable; that’s the outermost layer of your epidermis. The fruit on the inside gets soft and saggy; that’s your dermis. Exercise can keep your skin juicy, plump, and pliable, like a good looking orange!

So far, it seems the effect is tied to cardiovascular exercise. This will not protect your skin from other factors that lead to wrinkling, such as lacking good quality sleep, or overdoing your sun exposure, so keep up all that good work you’re doing in other areas.

To be even more inspired  with the many benefits of of exercise,  I highly recommend you read the Time article listed below.

Vitamin D: One Size Does Not Fit All

How To Customize Your Vitamin D Production 

Do you want more information about making vitamin D from the sun, and how to do that more effectively and safely? As part of this process, I highly recommend getting tested to see where your vitamin D levels are currently.

Did you know that you need UVB rays in order for your body to manufacture its’ own vitamin D? How close to the equator you live will tell you whether you have enough exposure to UVB rays, and at what times of the year. For instance, in Santa Rosa, California in June we can take advantage of UVB radiation from 10:30 am until about 4pm, but in December there isn’t enough UVB to make our vitamin D even though it may be sunny outside. To calculate the UVB exposure in different places at different times of year, see the end of this post.

There are many, many factors that influence the levels of D in your body. How dark or light your natural skin color is, how much cloud cover there is, your age, whether your body is able to metabolize vitamin D supplements effectively, and whether you have enough cholesterol to make your own vitamin D; these are all considerations. As we get older, for example, our bodies don’t manufacture vitamin D as well, so more frequent short exposure times (bare skin, without sunscreen) may be most effective for minimizing sun damage while maximizing vitamin D production. I’m going to repeat that part: You want to minimize any potential for sun damage.

There is a range in the guidelines given for sun exposure for vitamin D purposes, anywhere from half the amount of time it takes for your skin to begin to burn, to a quarter of the time. So someone with dark skin might be able to stay out in the summertime midday sun for 80 min. before their skin starts to feel the beginning of sunburn. Their vitamin D target time would be somewhere between 20-40 min. 3-4x/week with arms & legs exposed, some torso, too, if possible. Someone with very light skin might only need 4-8 minutes! There is still so much that is unknown, so remember that these guidelines are very theoretical. Get tested to see what’s working best for you. Most people will find that a combination of safe sun exposure with some supplementation works well. Use protective clothing, shade, broad-spectrum sunscreen, etc. to take care of your skin the rest of the time. If your skin is photosensitive due to medication, genetics, or certain skin care products, staying out of the sun & supplementing your vitamin D may be your best option.

Your body can only make so much vitamin D in one day, so keep in mind that moderate, consistent exposure is best. Short term over-exposure and excessive exposure over time is where problems develop.

Health professionals are seeing vitamin D deficiency even in people who spend a lot of time outdoors with the sun on their skin. It has been suggested that we may be washing away our vitamin D with soapy showers after sun exposure. There is a study showing that we convert about 50% of our previtamin D to vitamin D within 2 hrs., and another which demonstrated vitamin D levels peak at about  24 hrs. Current knowledge says that we produce our vitamin D in the layers of our epidermis, but our knowledge is always changing. If it turns out to be true that we produce large amounts of our vitamin D on the surface of our skin, that will make a huge change in post-sun skin care recommendations.

UVB Radiation Calculator

1) Set the month

2) Pick your state

3) Insert City Name

4) Click on ‘Compute Table’

When the results come up, look in the Altitude column. Check the times of day when the altitude is at 50 degrees or greater. This is the span of time in which your body can make vitamin D from the sun’s rays.



How do I get the vitamin D my body needs?

Washing away vitamin D

(See comments after article above: Comment #5, with 2 study citations.)

My Xero Sandals

Without going into the long saga of how ridiculousy picky my feet have become about shoes (it could definitely be a future post,) I wanted to share with you how I tie the Xero sandals I bought last year, just in time for my Hawaii vacation. Xero sandals are a very fun project for the person who loves a DIY challenge. DIY also brings the pleasure of customizing your creation, making it uniquely your own.