Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Geranium Eucalyptus Tea Tree Oil Deodorant

First attempt at Homemade Deodorant

As I had a visitor to the school staying this week who makes her own deodorant, and as she made it seem so easy, I had to try it.  Basically a homemade deodorant can just have baking soda, coconut oil, shea butter, corn starch, vitamin E oil (which for some reason I have around, but you can just open up those gel capsules too), and essential oils.  Some recipes call for cocoa butter instead of coconut oil, but hey, I had coconut oil.

In this land of perpetual summer I've been having two problems with my natural deodorant:

  1. It tends to crumble a lot because it's not really a true solid at 80 degrees.
  2. One needs a ton of deodorant because it's so hot here (which is hard to accomplish with a deodorant that crumbles).
I decided to leave mine as a thick lotion.  I thought if I added enough cornstarch to make it a solid, I'd be watering down the components that actually work.  Plus, it's easier to use a lot if it's in lotion form.  Today was my first attempt, and it worked great all day.  I'm so excited!  It's pricey to ship Pitt Putty here.  If I can make deodorant myself, and if it stays on longer as a lotion, so much the better!  :)  And the combination of the geranium oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil smells amazing.

I'm just glad I discovered this before it gets really hot again.


Someone recently asked me what I was doing about the hormones in eggs here.  And I was like, Great, another thing to worry about, I thought all those chickens running around everywhere meant that they were being raised naturally.  But I found out that almost everyone raising chickens here is giving them "crecimientos," or hormones, to plump them up (can't let the U.S. have all the fun, I guess) and to get more eggs.

So I went to the Hospedaje (the open market here) to search out some hormone-free hens and eggs.  But I was stumped for a while on how to find out who was legitimately raising poultry without hormones, because here, let me tell you, what you're looking for is what I'm selling.  When some gringa starts asking chicken farmers which eggs and chickens are hormone-free, we're looking at a hormone-free market.

But then I had an Aha! moment.  I went to a man I've bought from and talked to in the past who sells spices, who doesn't even work near the poultry area of the Hospedaje, and I asked him how I could find them, and he said he'd go with me.

He pointed out some little chickens that looked like distant relatives of the large plump ones I'm used to seeing running around everywhere.  He called them "criollos," which based on all of the contexts in which I've heard that word used means something like "traditional."  He told me those little guys never saw a growth hormone.  And since two of them together only weighed 3 and 1/2 pounds, I think I believe him.

Later at the slaughterhouse . . . I must interrupt here to clarify that this was after I myself carried the chickens to the slaughterhouse.  I tried looking squeamish and helpless and asked if there wasn't someone who'd like to carry them over for me (like they did my turkey at Thanksgiving), but they just stood there waiting with their arms extended.  I even had to fish out my money while holding the string by which the chickens dangled by their cinched legs.  The picture is terrible, taken on my Nokia, but I include it as proof--those really are chicken feet I've got there.

So, now, later at the slaughterhouse, I asked the man there where I could by hormone-free eggs.  He told me that those are "criollos" and told me three people at the market sell them, one right outside his door.  So I bought 2 dozen of those as well.  And since no one who gave me information profited as a direct result, I trust my information.  Next time it will be so much easier.

And next time I'll buy four chickens, the two I bought were so tiny they didn't come close to filling my soup pot.  I could probably fit six.  Owen says my chickens are very pigeon-sized.

Monday, February 17, 2014


Owen was going to the grocery store the other day and Jesse was playing with Abigail and Micah out front.  As Owen was leaving, Jesse shouted out and asked if he could go with him.

Owen said, "No, you guys are having fun.  I'll see you in a little while.  Stay with your brother and sister, it's good to have some time to play outside."

When Owen got to the grocery store, there was really loud music playing.  Someone dressed like a demon ran at him while he was in an aisle.  He realized it was Carnival here for the month of February (after being charged by a demon), so wasn't too thrown off.  But he said it was insane at the grocery store.

Can you imagine?  Owen was sent to get (among other things) the melons in the bottom left of the picture.  It's a little creepy to thread your way between those guys.  A thoroughly Dominican experience.  :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Living Loud

On the drive back down the mountains this weekend I was struck with how much I've gotten used to things here, how I've come to adapt to the vividness of life here--what was initially just sensory overload I've come to be able to process more and even appreciate (with the definite exception of loud noises or music at night).

There are stark contrasts here: wide open spaces like rice paddies and long coastal beaches near crowded barrios and trash-littered streets packed with cars, motos, and pedestrians; the sounds of ocean waves with loud music from neighborhood corner-stores;  beautiful orange and red flowering trees, frilly palm trees and tall-reaching ferns growing next to poor and dilapidated houses (perched, at times, precariously on cliffs overlooking breath-taking views).

Paint and clothing colors are bright.  The sun is harsh.  It is a land of extremes.

Crazy driving, motos toting huge gas tanks, spontaneous dumps near fruit trees and a creek.  Friendly smiles and extreme kindness, impatient honking, neighbors stopping by with herb tea creations for a child sick with stomach flu.

And the more I get used to it the more I wonder how I'll adjust again to a calmer, quieter, more sanitized--muted--life.  I think it may be harder than I'd anticipated.

Cow in Distress

Occasionally we get cows grazing in the empty lot near our house.  We hear mooing sometimes.  Cows wander into the cul-de-sac, but we've never had any problems with them.  I mean, cows can be annoying when they're in the middle of the street, but they move.

So today mid-morning I was struck, though, by some insistent mooing.  The cow I heard out there seemed pretty discontented.  I can't say I was really tuned in too much, Micah was home with a stomach flu and I had bigger fish to fry.  But when Owen brought Abigail home from pre-K and I went with him to drop him back at the office, I pointed to the cow and told him how loud it had been through the morning.  Then as we were pulling away I noticed that it was tied to a rope (not a typical precaution here) and that the rope had gotten tangled and it could barely move.  I felt compelled to try to untangle it and got Owen to pull the car over.  Owen, to his credit, said something to the effect that it was probably best to leave it alone, but I was already out the door. I was more than a little intimidated--I really have become quite the city girl.  I do not normally interact with large animals.

I started out by talking in what I was sure was quite soothing and confident Spanish, though likely cows aren't smart enough to care about languages--but hey, you never know.  I thought I'd look at the rope to see if it was actually tied to something or if the cow was just trailing one behind it and saw that, indeed, someone had actually tied it up. The cow had zigzagged around the space, hooking the rope on stiff weeds as it went, and basically come to a standstill when it used up its last bit of rope to get around a particularly thick and tall clump of weeds.  It must have walked a full circle around it at least once, so it wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.

I figured no one would be back to get it until nightfall (and then only so that no one else would steal it, not out of any concern for the animal's well-being), so I thought I'd have a go at untangling it.  I started with the tangled rope farthest from the cow, but eventually I had to get pretty close to its head.  I managed to pull the rope over the top of the weeds without getting the cow (or myself) too stressed, and left it in pretty good shape.  I was pretty proud of myself, and it seemed to me that the bull looked very thankful.

When I went out later in the afternoon and returned from my second school pick-up, I saw that the cow had gotten all tangled up again.  This time I was a little more confident and actually pulled on the rope firmly to try to get the cow back in the grass and out of the cul-de-sac so it would have more room to move around.  I must have looked pretty good at it because Jesse said, "Nice cow moves, Mom!"

Later, while I was washing dishes I heard some pretty plaintive mooing again and hung up the phone to investigate my cow's latest plight.  This time the rope was wrapped around its neck several times, which was both more compelling and more intimidating.  It looked like this job might require more cow contact than I felt comfortable with.  I mean, it would know I was afraid of it.  Horses do, they don't like me.  Nor do big dogs either, really, especially since I lived next to a pit bull that bit people and growled at me savagely every time I went near the fence.

My neighbor was outside, so I decided to enlist some aid.  I asked him to help me with the cow.  He told me he thought it was okay.  I pointed out that the rope was wrapped around its neck and that it definitely wasn't happy.  He said (in Spanish, of course), "It's not tight, it's okay, the boy will come for it ahorita."  (On a side note, ahorita is a tricky little term.  It technically translates to "a little now" and most countries use if for "in a little while."  But here in the D.R. my contact with the word has caused me to understand it as more like "sometime before tomorrow."  In fact, that's the most technical definition I've been able to get out of anyone.)  So I thought, "Fine, I'll help this cow myself.  But it's strange, I almost feel like my neighbor is scared to come out here."

This led me to double-check on this cow.  I mean, it wasn't so big (bigger than me, certainly, but not huge), and its horns were short.  But when I looked the cow over to see what my neighbor saw, it struck me that this cow was definitely male.  Hmm, so a male cow is a bull.  Bulls are dangerous, right?  I said, "Es toro?  No es vaca?"  "Si," he told me, "Es toro."  I told him I helped it before, hoping he'd feel more inclined to come out with me, and he told me I was a cowboy.  That sounded to my brain's self-preservation instincts suspiciously like, "You are in way over your head as usual," and I decided I needed to walk away.  The moos did haunt me, and I felt sure that the bull felt betrayed while I walked away.  Thankfully, it was gone when I checked on it an hour later, so it wasn't stuck there too long.

But I thought the story was too funny to not pass on to you.  :)