The Lava Lake

You might know that I have been vacationing in Hawaii – the Big Island – for the past several winters.  And I plan to continue doing so until I run out of miles, points, and money.  With each trip, I stay on the Kona side and take a day trip to Volcanoes National Park.  Because it is a volcano.  And it is active.  And that is cool.  This is the view from one of my favorite lookout points:

View 1

When you walk up to that ledge, and look down, you can see a great big, flat surface of lava rock.  And depending on the weather, there are hikers down there.  The first time I saw it, I went right back to the car to look at the map and try to figure out how to drive down.  I couldn’t figure it out.  It took two more trips (there’s other stuff to see!) before I realized that the only way down there is to hike it – the Kilauea Iki Trail.  And of course, if you hike down there, you have to hike all the way back up.

This year, I looked at the map and read the stats:  four miles and 400 feet – which doesn’t sound bad at all.  The catch was “moderate to challenging”.  The estimated time to hike the loop is two to three hours.  I had one bottle of water and one package of trail mix.  It was 10am, the sun was shining and I had stopped to pee a half hour before.

I went for it.

Obviously, the climb back up is physically more difficult.  But mentally, when one might still change one’s mind…the entire climb down, there was an argument in my head:

Voice 1:  It’s not too late to turn back.

Voice 2:  Shut up.

Voice 1:  You’re old, you’re fat, you’re out of shape.  You think one yoga class a week makes you a hiker?

Voice 2:  …..

Voice 1:  Look at this pre-Columbian staircase!  If your mother could see this…

Voice 2:  (starts taking steps two at a time)… (Not really)

Voice 1:  You’re going to pass out!  In public!

Voice 2:  It wouldn’t be the first time!  Wouldn’t even be the first time in a National Park!

Strictly speaking, that second part isn’t true, either.  But you get the idea.

And then, I was at the bottom of the lava lake.

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The trail is not difficult to follow, once you figure out which “stacked rocks” you are supposed to follow.  And once you’re at the bottom, there is nothing to do but keep going.  I did see a couple of fools hiking around in flip-flops, though.  And you know what?  The climb back up was not a problem.  I turned back for a last look before leaving the rock and getting back on the dirt trail, and I realized that I’d already been climbing.  I was all, “That must have been 100 feet!  Only 300 more!”  It was probably less than half that, but whatever.  The steepest part of the climb was more of a natural ramp than stairs, so I picked the right direction for my loop.

This was easily in the Top 10 Best Things I Have Ever Done on Vacation.  For 1.4 seconds, I considered taking a selfie.  I’m totally doing it again next year.

(Note to self:  Parked at the first lot, as opposed to the Lava Tube lot.  And turned right, away from the Lava Tube.)

Sugar Scrub

In my continuing mission (or little project) to determine which bath products can be efficiently made at home, I decided to take a shot at the exfoliators.  After making hand soap, it seemed like it would be simple enough to find a decent formula and my aesthetician says it will help with leg waxes if I exfoliate more often.

The ones I have used are generally based in some kind of oil and use either sugar or salt in various concentrations to slough off dead skin in the shower.  After spending some time on Pinterest, I found that it really is that I already have all of the ingredients for a basic formula in the house:

Coconut Oil

Sugar – Plain white granulated

Essential Oils

Obviously, there are plenty of fancier ones, with Vitamin E and other types of oil, or raw sugar, but this was good enough for a first try.  I’m sorry I can’t tell you exactly how much oil I used with the sugar, because it was a bit of a “whatever is left in the jar” experiment.  But since I like my scrubs more grainy and less oily, I’m sure it was more that 50/50 in favor of the sugar.

So I stirred the sugar into a bunch of coconut oil..  The biggest trick was to break up the clumps of coconut oil without touching, and therefore melting it.  When it was good and blended, I dropped in some scented oils.  Two parts lemongrass, one part orange, if I remember correctly – citrusy goodness.  Gently stirred it a bit longer and then spooned the mixture into my containers.  I had a small mason jar handy and also washed out an old travel sized scrub container from The Body Shop.

Result:  my mother loved it, but suggested that if we used a bit of Castile Soap in the mixture, it would feel less greasy.  Yeah.  Danger of slipping if used in the shower straight up.

Other recipes I have seen use honey, or lemon/lime/orange zest in the mix.  Some have even used coarsely ground coffee beans.  But this was a good enough start that I don’t think I need to buy this stuff commercially anymore.  Win.

The Hand Soap Thing

For many years, we have been shameless consumers of Bath & Body Works Foaming Hand Soap.  It is so easy!  It smells so pretty!  You can always get a double discount!

Then last week, out of complete nowhere, all three of the sinks in my house were on their last bottles and there was no phone app discount to be found.  I started muttering to myself about how much plastic we waste buying that stuff and anti-bacterial blahblahblah is supposed to be bad for you anyway and I don’t really have to have the instant foaming soap…

I wonder if I can just make my own?

Last winter, I had a similar mini-tantrum about the mass consumption of body butter in my house.   I found a recipe and made my own.  In the end, I decided:

  1. It was not a small project.
  2. Shea butter isn’t exactly cheap in retail quantities, hence
  3. The dollars saved were not worth the trouble.

(And then I discovered massage bars at Lush, but that’s another story.)

I kinda figured that I would land in a similar spot with the hand soap, but I looked online and found a ridiculously simple formula without even trying.  Then I took a look in that section of Whole Foods.  A great big bottle of Castile soap was.. $12 or $13.  I still had that bottle of essential oil from last winter and I liked it a lot, but while I was on this kick I bought a bottle of peppermint.  Incidentally, Castile soap has its own scents, but since I was buying the big bottle I went with Unscented.

But what about the container?  Whole Foods only had one tiny bottle with a soap dispenser.  I figured I could just reuse an old one in my house.  So the total cost of this experiment was in the neighborhood of $20.

I rinsed out the old dispenser and put in a bit of the Castile soap.  Then I shook in some essential oil and filled the bottle almost to the top with water.  It didn’t take much to mix the liquids.  The post said the soap would be much thinner than we are used to, which was true.  Then I wondered..could I just use this formula in a foaming dispenser?

Why yes, I can!

Hand Soap2

 

The foam isn’t quite as..fluffy as the commercial brands I’ve tried, and I use a bit more each time I wash my hands.  Three pumps instead of one or two.  Still waaaaaaayy less expensive than buying bottles of the stuff.  I made four bottles of this mixture and barely put a dent into the big container of Castile Soap.

Hand Soap

Further online “research” suggested a few things:

  1. Distilled water instead of tap.  One site said that distilled should be used if you don’t think you will use up an entire bottle within a couple of weeks.  Distilled water isn’t all that expensive and of course, one can always boil water.  I’m thinking I might use distilled if I were gifting it, but my filtered tap will do for my house.
  2. The mixture settles and separates a bit.  I just turn the bottle upside down every once in awhile.
  3. I feel squeaky clean after washing my hands..and dry.  Some posts suggest putting olive/almond/choose your own oil in there.  One even suggested that would be better for the dispenser in the longer term.  I haven’t tried that yet.

Overall, I am very pleased.  My mother was thinking “stocking stuffers” and went to Amazon and found some foaming dispensers.  For gifting, I think that’s the way to go.  But I will be re-using for as long as I can.

Now I am wondering if I can do my own hand cream…

Perspective

Part of my short term treatment is self-administered shots.  Not pleasant.  They are the same shots, actually, that I gave my mother a couple of years ago after she had surgery.  To prevent the condition that I have now, incidentally.  I remember having a hard time believing that she couldn’t manage to give them to herself.  She reminded me that I was squeamish about giving Vitamin B shots to the dog.  Point.

Tangent – I did a whole bunch of anecdotal research on this phenomenon and found that everyone has a different combination of self/other people/pets where they they thought they could or could not manage to give injections of medication.  I felt much better.  Anyway.

I remember whining on Facebook about having to give these shots to my mother.  And demanding sympathy.  My Facebook friends came through with all kinds of sympathy.  In fact, the first two responders were:

B, whose mother had recently been diagnosed with early onset dementia.  And whose father had been diagnosed with lung cancer.  And:

A, who is a cancer survivor and has been giving himself injections ever since.

Woohoo!

So tonight, as I was breaking out the syringe and alcohol wipes, I told myself that this is temporary.  And I am grateful.

Peace Marathon – April 29 to May 31, 2013

Through Project Linus, I learned about a fabulous fundraiser to honor the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  Chicago running coach Jenny Hadfield established a virtual marathon where each participant runs or walks 26.2 miles over the course of the next month.  So if you simply walk one mile a day, you will more than reach the goal.  The registration fee is $15 and the proceeds will go to the One Step Ahead Foundation.  One Step Ahead is generally in the business of helping disabled children to thrive through athletics, and they specialize in kids with lost limbs.  So right now they are coordinating  efforts to provide prosthetic limbs and other aid to people affected in Boston.

I immediately decided to participate, and then I went all HR about it and thought..charitable contribution…wellness initiative…Employer Sponsor!  So I pitched it to my boss and now my office is building a team.  I have already had one employee ask if she might put together a running group and our social committee is also making plans.  I had 20 people asking to sign up when I left the office today.

You can find the details and register here.  But hurry up – the action starts on Monday!

2012 Year in Review

In the past year, I read lots of books, did lots of volunteering, adopted two pets and joined a  gym.  I also had a really good year at work.  Outside of the office, here is how I want to step it up:

Reading

I have passed 60 books two years in a row, so I think I will make that the new benchmark.  60 Book Challenge!  But the real goal is one I discussed with my friend Nyla last night.  My TBR pile is out of control.  I am not going to try to make myself read certain types of books or read only things that I already have.  But I am going to make a concerted effort to buy fewer books.  A serious thing since I still volunteer at a used book store.  But I have made some progress in the last couple of months by recognizing that the popular mysteries are not likely re-reads, so I checked them out from the library.    Also, Christmas netted me an ipad mini and the library app is already more appealing to me that paying $10 from a retailer for a download.

Volunteering

Doing pro bono work through Taproot has been a fabulous experience, but it takes an awful lot of time.  While my employer has been very supportive in allowing me work-time to pursue it, I just don’t think I can fit it in to my schedule.

I continue to volunteer with a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, the parrot rescue, through weekly work onsite (feeding, cleaning, interacting with the birds) as well as maintaining the Facebook page.  I expect to be helping out with the main website next year, also.

I have also picked up responsibility for the Facebook page of my chapter of Project Linus.  The Facebook audience isn’t very big compared to the number of active participants in the chapter, but it is slowly growing and I am working on sharing more stuff from other groups to differentiate a bit from the main website.  Also, I attended most of the Saturday events, most of the Starbucks gatherings and made 91 blankets this year.  I expect to keep it up.

With the library, also, I am maintaining my once a week onsite work.  We have settled into a much more consistent routine in the past year and our sales have improved tremendously in the new building.  Online sales are still troublesome, but I don’t know what the answer is there.  I continue to hope for better communication between volunteers.

Finally, Fiona and I had a great time at the five charity dog walks that we did.  I expect to attend at least as many next year.

Health and Wellness

I joined my local YMCA a couple of months ago and have tried out different classes.  Oh, how awesome it would be if I didn’t have to work during the day.  But I am pursuing yoga and a couple of other things during the week.  The goal, which will start after I return from our annual meeting in Nashville, is to complete the Marython.  It is a 26-week program developed by one of the leaders at Project Linus designed to help people get moving.  Her name is Mary.  A full Marython is 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week for 26 of the 52 weeks in 2013.  I imagine that for 26 weeks out of the year, (particularly with the flexibility of the rules) I can manage that, but because I am lazy about tracking things, I will primarily be counting things I do at the actual gym and will commit to the Half Marython.  Three days a week for at least 26 weeks out of the year.

The Pets

We adopted Sigmund the Grey in February and Fiona the Border Collie in March.   In 100 ways Fiona is a great dog, but her herding instincts are unbelievable and we are not able to have her on the same floor of my house when the birds are out of their cages.  I expect to be contacting the trainer sometime soon.  Also, the tummy troubles continue for both dogs.  On Boxing Day, I took a stool sample to the vet out of sheer frustration and found that Gibbs has parasites again (or still).  So both dogs are on the serious meds (again).  And basically, all of the data I had about different diets we had tried is totally invalid.  I must get this under control because it is making me insane.

That ought to do it.  Happy New Year!

About Exercise

While I have been eating better in the last year, my exercise has crashed and burned.  Turns out that having two high energy dogs doesn’t help the program if you can’t keep up with them.  So I needed a jump start and I started to do some research.  I spent my day off last Monday touring some options.

My friend Kris swears by Jazzercise.  So much so that she teaches.  Too bad she lives in the city.  There are were two studios in my town.   The one closest to my house closed down.   I visited the next closest, and it was fine, but the cost didn’t impress me.  The best deal is $48 a month – if you commit to 12 months.  Kinda pricey for so little variety.

Then I went to Dahn Yoga.  The studio also offer Taiji classes, which my friend Stefan loves so much that he teaches.  Too bad he lives in Roselle.  I talked with a great guy at my local studio who asked about my goals and experience and stuff and said they would do a private lesson/assessment before I committed to join.  I was all ready to sign up, then I went online and saw the fees.  The best deal was $1,350 for a full year.

My town has a great park center with fitness facilities – pool, gym, indoor track and fitness classes.  $42 a month seemed much more reasonable, except than no fitness classes are included.  The package would be an extra $30 per month.

My local YMCA is newly renovated – Grand Re-Opening is today, in fact.  Pool, gym and classes available so I took a quick tour on Monday.  The indoor track is lame compared to the park center, but secret is that you don’t need to be a member to use the one at the park center.  The cost was higher – $55 per month – but the only thing that will cost extra is yoga classes.  A bit disappointing, since that is something I really want to do.  But I wanted to try it out so I went to a yoga class this morning.

Good sign – a teacher from a different class was attending the class this morning.  She was very nice and gave me the rundown on the different teachers that work on other days.  And apparently, the 10:15 class is easier than the 8:45, so I will remember that next weekend.  The class was 75 minutes and it felt that long.  I confirmed what I already knew – my flexibility is good, my balance is decent and I have zero muscle strength.

I tried to enroll this morning, but found the membership specials advertised for the Grand Re-Opening were not available until the party actually started at 2pm.  So I had to go back.  I think we can tag that an administrative fail.   I bought a series of passes to yoga classes that I expect will give me a jump start.  And if I decide to commit to an 8-week series of a specific class, the cost goes down a bunch.  I am satisfied that when the novelty of yoga wears off, the variety of other options will keep me going for awhile.

And then we will know the truth – am I easily bored or easily lazy?