Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Cyclists on the road - a rant

A month or so ago I was driving my boys to school (they usually walk or ride bikes but if one has cooking I occasionally drive them) - the high school is on a major road - 2 lanes each way, transit lane, buses, trucks and a very busy main road. So what do we see as we are driving a long in peak hour traffic - this d*ckhead father with his very young daughter (probably no more than 8 years old) riding on the road to the primary school. The kid was obviously not very good on the bike as she was wobbling around like crazy - Dad was riding next to her on the road (taking up a whole car space wide!!) - as we passed we all looked in amazement at this sight - around here - NONE of the kids ride to school on the road - I MEAN NONE! Even the high school kids ride on the footpaths (which are all paved and safe) and they are up to 17-18 years old. So what the hell was this dad thinking to get his very small primary school child to ride her bike on a major road in peak hour? I wonder if mum knows he does this? I would have an absolute fit if I found my kids that age riding on the road. When mine went to primary school they rode their bikes to school - which was close and no really busy roads to worry about - but they rode on the footpath and knew to give way to people walking and to get off the bike to cross at the school crossing. What is this dad thinking to instil in this young girl that riding on the road is ok for someone her age. What if she decides to visit a friend one weekend by herself on her bike and rides on the road? What if she hits a hole in the road and falls under a car driving past?
Anyway this day as we passed this kid on the bike with mr d*ckhead father of the year we commented that she didnt look too good on the bike and as we were waiting for the lights at the intersection down the road a bit the bikes caught up to us - I watched as wobbly and d*ckhead dad approached - they went to go on to the footpath (yay at last) at the service station and what does wobbly daughter do? Yes she overbalances and falls over on the driveway of the service station.
Months later and we are waiting to pull out of our street onto the main road this morning (cooking at school and exams too) and who comes past - older primary school girl (maybe 11 or 12) and wobbly and d*ckhead dad again! Wobbly is a bit better but dad is still a d*ckhead - riding next to not quite wobbly again and taking up a whole car space again! All these cars are held up by the d*ckhead and everytime a parked car is in the way - does he look? does he tell daughter to check if its safe to go into the middle of the road and go around the car? NO of course not cause he is a d*ckhead and he just pulls out and goes around the parked car - causing cars to swerve around him over the middle line - luckily no buses or trucks coming the opposite way but if there was, the cars had to stop and wait for dd to go past with wobbly.
Here's the thing - cyclists (ok maybe not ALL but most) are selfish stupid d*ckheads. "Oh look at me, I ride a bike to help the environment and to exercise my mind and body! Im healthy and doing my bit for the planet" Well mr d*ckhead - if I was to drive an unregistered car on the road at 20kph and hold up all the cars and make people overtake dangerously because they were sick of being held up - then the police would be called and I would get numerous fines. If I was to ride my skateboard (yeah -just pretend ok?) on the major road and pull out around parked cars causing cars on the road to stop to give way to me - well yeah the police would be called and fines would be handed out. If I got an electric scooter (of any type) and rode that down the major road - do you think the cops would like that either? No - but cyclists get away with exactly the same sh*t and no one complains?
How about at night? "I have my red 2 LED light on the back and my white lamp on my helmet - I can see well because of the streetlights" Well mr cyclist I CANT SEE YOU - wearing black clothes and having a red light the size of a coin on the back of your bike is not visible in the dark when I am doing 60kph and you are doing 20kph - Unless you are wearing a reflective vest or backpack and have a red light the size of my car lights then you are NOT visible and I cannot avoid someone if I cant see them, Dont assume you can be seen because you can see the cars.
If you want to be healthy then fine - but dont ride on the road so I have to do a dangerous manoeuvre to overtake, dont hold up buses who also have to use the transit lane, go on the footpath when there is no one walking on it, wear reflective clothing or dont travel at night and if you cant afford to drive take the bus!
 Rant over

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Im not a hippy (really!)

Its true - Im not a hippy, I dont buy organic food or let my underarm hair grow long (though in winter...) but I am becoming more conscious of the amount of chemicals in the the things I use on my body. 
It all started when I first made some melt and pour soap just to save money. Then when my hubby wanted a more lathery soap I made some cold process soap from scratch. Lovely soap - just oils that I chose to put in it and no nasty additives, chemicals or preservatives. 
Then I made a shampoo bar and used a cider vinegar rinse instead of commercial conditioner and my headaches disappeared. I checked the ingredients of my "natural vit E face cream" and was shocked a the amount of additives in that and so sourced a proper natural cream with only items I could understand on the label. Next was soap nuts for the laundry to save money and again no chemicals in them and they wash the clothes just as well. 

Toothpaste is the latest conversion - have you checked the label on your toothpaste at all? Mmmm quite a few nasties in there too including SLS and some other unpronounceable items. You can use just baking soda or bi carb but it doesnt have a nice taste (I used salt once when I was a child as we had run out of toothpaste and it made me vomit so that is not an option). 
I looked online and found a few recipes for natural toothpaste and the first one I tried (as I had the ingredients already) was bicarb soda, vegetable glycerine and a few drops of spearmint essential oil. I mixed a small amount of bicarb with some glycerine to make a paste and a tiny bit of the spearmint oil to get rid of the salty taste of the soda and dipped the toothbrush in it and cleaned my teeth. No foam but it cleaned my teeth great and they felt clean and smooth for a very long time. Next I got some bentonite clay and mixed that with some bicarb soda, a bit of cinnamon and some glycerine to make a paste and a few drops of spearmint for flavour. Ok so its a bit off putting putting mud on your toothbrush and you look like you have been eating dirt when you are brushing with it but once rinsed away you are left with clean smooth feeling teeth and they look shiny and white. I will continue to try these and make sure the grittiness doesnt make my teeth sensitive to hot and cold - when I used a baking soda toothpaste years ago my teeth became so sensitive I had to stop using it (but it could have been other things in the toothpaste and not just the soda causing that).

As with anything I make - I test it on myself first - then convince the family (a husband and 2 teenage sons - not an easy conversion!) to try the item and then once they sort of get used to it I stop buying the commercial item and they dont miss it. My youngest son just rolled his eyes when he heard I had made toothpaste and said "no way!!!"
So that is hair, body, face, teeth and clothes all pretty much chemical free - I guess food is the next thing? But Im not a hippy - really!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Misconceptions about soapmaking

You know what really annoys me? People who have no idea about how real soap is made, who have an absolute hissy fit when they hear that to make soap you have to use sodium hydroxide (caustic soda). If you don't use caustic soda you don't have soap - if the thing you use to clean your body doesn't have caustic soda in it (listed sometimes as saponified ...oil) then you are washing with a synthetic detergent - you know the type of stuff you wash your dishes and your car with! When you mix oil and caustic soda/water (lye) together it causes a chemical reaction called saponification and changes to a safe item called soap - there is no mystery in it - it is a very basic chemical reaction and once the saponification is complete - usually about 24 hours with cold process soap and a couple of hours with hot process soap then what you have has no sodium hydroxide/caustic soda/lye in it. If it did it would burn your skin! Handmade soap got a bit of a bad name in the good old days of "make it yourself or go without" they didn't have access to sodium hydroxide from the hardware store or supermarket like we do - they used soda ash - this is the ash left after burning wood. Sounds safe doesn't it? Well no, because you mixed the ash with water to make the lye but you never knew how much to put in and whether you were making a mild soap or a very harsh burn-your-skin-off soap. It was pretty much guess work. So the old soaps sometimes were not the best for the skin even though they were completely natural. These days we have access to soap calculators online that tell you exactly how much sodium hydroxide you need, how much water and you put into the calculator the oils you are using and it works it all out for you. No guesswork and a completely safe soap in the end. 
People seem to think that the caustic soda is still in the finished soap - well it isn't! You MAKE soap with caustic soda but it is NOT in the the finished soap due to saponification.
So if you see sodium hydroxide, or lye, or saponified on your soap ingredient list don't worry - you will probably find the only other ingredients are very natural, like oils and a bit of colour and fragrance - compare that to the chemical list on the back of your shampoo and conditioner bottles, the wrapping on your soap free shower gel and other items you put on your skin.  
Another thing that people get confused about is the curing time for cold process soaps. They think that this has something to do with making the soap safe to use - well it isn't - the soap is safe after it is completely saponified which is around 24 hours if you made it correctly. The cure time is for the soap to harden. When you first make the soap it is pretty soft, safe to use but soft - so you would use it up very quickly. When the soap sits on a drying rack for 4 weeks the moisture in the soap evaporates and you end up with a nice hard bar that will last well. Soaps also get milder as they age too. Some soaps that are made with a high amount of olive oil need over 6 weeks to harden enough for use, some need even longer (months). But the soap is safe to use even if its soft. Most soap makers test their soaps the next day to see what its like - they wouldn't do that if they thought it was going to burn their skin off. 
Not sure I have allayed all your fears about soap but perhaps if you check the labels on your shower items and compare to a handmade soap you might see what I am on about. You can always look up those ingredients online to see what they are (but be prepared to be shocked).
Check out how I make my soaps here  

Thursday, 10 May 2012

My soapmaking adventure

Oh dear - I had forgotten about this page really - its been about a year (!!!!) since I actually wrote anything here and that is not good - not that anyone reads this blog and I do get a bit caught up with Facebook and waste most of my time there!
So what have I been up to - well since I discovered melt and pour soaping that has become a bit of an obsession for me - love it. Eventually I got up the courage to try making soap from scratch too - cold process soap its called. Love it too!!! I have complete control over what goes into the soaps from start to finish, my hubby wanted a really lathery soap and felt the M&P soaps weren't bubbly enough for him. He loves the cold process ones though - then I thought I would make a shampoo soap when I realised how many chemicals I was putting on my head! So I did quite a bit of research into this and took lots of notes, read everything I could and came up with a recipe of my own using oils that were good for the hair and scalp. I loved it, my hubby actually thought it was great (and usually he is a hard sell) then I gave some to my Mum and Sister and they loved it too. Word got out and people started asking to buy my shampoo bar - everyone seemed to like it and it was suitable for all sorts of hair types.

You may think its weird to use soap on your hair but it contains only oils that are good for your hair and if you use it with a cider vinegar rinse your hair is left shiny and lovely. I have been using nothing but this since November 2011 and my hair is the best it has ever been. You see the soap is slightly alkaline and the rinse is slightly acidic so one counteracts the other and your hair is left pretty much pH neutral and in the best condition it can be - no chemicals, preservatives, no SLS or other nasties. In fact I used to get a LOT of headaches for no reason - when I stopped using commercial shampoo and conditioner I noticed I hardly ever get headaches now and if I do I rarely need to take anything as they just go by themselves. I used to have to take strong pain killers for them and now Im lucky to even need a panadol. I think by getting rid of most of the chemicals I was putting on my body in soaps and shampoo etc I have detoxified myself. The next step was to find a moisturiser that had less chemicals and unpronounceable things in it. A bit of searching on the net and I found one with mainly natural things in it and I love that. Then I thought - what about the laundry? Perhaps I could make a laundry soap - sort of looked at that but then found Soapnuts from Pure Revolution
Again I love these - no chemicals, my wash is clean and Im saving money - what more could you want?
Dont get me wrong - Im not a hippy and out to rid the world of chemicals - I just want to see what I can do for myself and perhaps get a few others to change for the better too. I still dye my hair on the occasions that the grey just gets too obvious and Im not too bothered if there are colours and preservatives in my food but little by little Im changing and I think its for the best.
Anyway check out my soaps on Facebook at VivianneK Soaps