Monthly Archive:: May 2012

Gave Blood!

I’ve tried a couple times before.  It didn’t go so well.  Back in college, they couldn’t find the vein after numerous punctures and moving the needle around.  I ended up with a sore, bruised arm for a week.  I tried again maybe 5-10 years ago.  I warned them what had happened the previous time.  No problem, they assured me, they’ve never had the same thing happen and my veins look fine.  Of course, a similar thing happened.  Ultimately, they did find a vein, but they only got a half a bag, so it had to be discarded.

Today, my wife helped organize a community giving day at her place of worship.  My kids helped prepare meals for a local food pantry.  There were various other opportunities to make a donation of time or supplies as well.  One of the opportunities was the local blood bank mobile giving center.    While my main job was actually to shuttle our kids around this morning so my wife could attend the event, I did sign up to give blood at the last minute because the sign up sheet was mostly empty.  Turns out, it was fairly crowded from people who had signed up in advance.  I gave the phlebotomist the same warning.  Of course, she also said she would have no problem because the vein was easy to find.

This time, she was right!  One painless prick and I was done in a hair over 6 minutes.  Supposedly a record for the day.  Thank you to Linda at the Aurora, IL Heartland Blood Center for making it so easy!

We all know motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of  many age groups of children and young adults and among the top killers for most others.  According to blood donation fact sheets, an automobile crash victim might need 50 units of blood or more.  For all those kids who aren’t properly restrained in the back seat or are riding with an impaired or distracted driver, please consider donating blood.  Even if you’ve had a bad experience in the past!

I make styrofoam. What’s your superpower?

A few months ago, I wrote about Ecovative, a company that uses mushroom roots and plant waste to make a styrofoam-like material that is 100% biodegradable. (I won’t rehash all the cool properties and benefits of the products here, but go read my original post if you haven’t already–it’s really a fascinating concept.)

Since then, I have been following Ecovative, and I recently learned that they were beta-testing a “grow it yourself” kit so you can make your own mushroom-foam-like objects. I, of course, jumped at the chance to try out the product.

When I ordered the kit, I was instructed to start thinking about what I wanted to make. Because the mushroom product arrives “alive,” you need to use it within a couple days or refrigerate it. We don’t have a lot of extra fridge space, plus I’m really impatient as it is, so I tried thinking up some easily-implemented ideas. As it turns out, it’s really hard to come up with styrofoam-type things to make. Finally I decided on a small bowl and a couple Christmas ornaments. Then I waited impatiently for my mushroom kit to arrive.

On the day my package came in the mail, I was giddy. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t share my enthusiasm. “Remind me again why I should be excited about this,” he grumbled.

I explained that the whole thing was amazing. You could make useful or, at the very least, decorative, objects out of stuff that would ordinarily be thrown away. I could, with my very two hands and some stuff that looks like small wet wood chips, create something that is ordinarily created with petroleum and specialized machinery. It was like having a superpower. (Call me Super FunGal!)

I brushed aside my husband’s ambivalence, grabbed my 7-year-old, and got to work.

I was amazed by how much of the live mushroom product we received. I thought we’d get enough to make a couple tiny objects, but the kit arrived with enough matter to line a Regent in EPS-like foam. Sadly, I had no Regent shells or else I might have tried it.

As I said, the mushroom material looked and felt like tiny moist wood chips…and that’s probably what it was. There are no actual mushrooms in the mix, just the mycelia, which are like the roots of a mushroom. No spores or anything either, so people with allergies don’t need to worry. The material had a bit of an earthy odor to it, but not unpleasant.

I’ll admit that I was a bit hesitant about sinking my hands into the stuff at first, and the hypochondriac in me was certain that I was inhaling toxic spores into my lungs. But I survived with no ill effects, and the mixture was kinda fun to play with.

The instructions said you could press the material into molds as-is, or you could mix it with some of the included plant-based powder and water to make a pliable product (think chunky-style Play-Doh) that could be shaped into whatever you like. We wound up using it both ways.

My son and I molded some Christmas ornaments using cookie cutters. Then we rolled some balls. Then we used the teddy-bear mold that came with the kit. Then I pulled out various containers from the kitchen to make some bowls. Then I sculpted a little mushroom. Then I still had some material left over, but I was running out of vessels and counter space, so I composted the rest.

Once you’re done creating stuff, you place the objects in the included “incubation bags,” seal the bags with clothespins (also included), cut some holes for ventilation, and let the objects sit for a few days. I had to wipe up some condensation and air the bag out a couple times, but the products came along nicely.

Eventually they turn white, and after that happens, you let them keep sitting for a few days. At first I thought I had done something wrong because at the end of the week, my objects didn’t feel like foam. They felt much heavier and rather rubbery. No need to worry, though. The next step, baking the items to stop the growth process, would take care of that.

We were instructed to use the lowest oven setting and bake for 45 minutes, then let them sit in the turned-off oven a while longer. The instructions said we might smell a mushroom-odor while they cooked. As someone who is vehemently repulsed by the taste of mushrooms, I worried about that, but the aroma was actually quite pleasant. It smelled like a combination of baking mushrooms and baking dough–sort of like pizza!

Finally, the objects were finished. After they emerged from the oven, we discovered they did indeed have a feel and consistency very similar to styrofoam. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that’s what they were, other than a few little brown seed-like orbs here and there. (I’m not exactly sure what those are. I’m guessing some of the plant matter. A company representative assured me it was fine, though, so I don’t think anything will sprout from them.)

We did have a couple casualties. The ornaments we crafted in the cookie cutters didn’t turn white as nicely as the others. They turned white on the top and bottom, but the sides stayed brown. I suspect that if I had removed them from the molds sooner, they probably would have whitened up nicely. Alas, no one will be receiving mushroom-foam Christmas ornaments this year. I’m sure friends and family are devastated.

Anyway, this project was a lot of fun, and also educational. If you’re looking for a neat science project, or you want your kid to be the first in school to use mushroom-foam in an egg-dropping competition, or you need to create custom packing material for some reason, definitely look into getting your own kit if/when they make them available for purchase through their online store.

I’m still hoping to see this technology in car seats someday. In the meantime, I’ll have to be satisfied playing catch with our mushroom balls. I just have to make sure the dog doesn’t slobber on them too much, lest they start biodegrading.

Summer Summer Summer!

Yep, it’s that time of year again! My favorite time of year! Summer! Yippee! Jump for joy! The hot weather is here, or at least where I live it is. We’re in the 90s already, the air conditioning has been on for a couple of weeks and I’m predicting a HOT summer this year compared to last year’s mild one. Oh well, I’d rather have a hot summer than a brrrrrrr freezing winter. But that’s why I live in the desert, right?

With the mild weather comes hot kids in hot cars. We warn about this every year and every year someone leaves a kid to bake in the car like a chicken in an oven. We’ve had 2 deaths so far this year in the U.S.

It’s not always on purpose; in fact, most of the time it’s because a child is forgotten. And I feel so bad for the parents who have forgotten their children in their cars because they have to live with that for the rest of their lives. It’s the break in routine, the one day they have to take Sophie to daycare instead of their dh or the one day they’re tasked to bring the donuts to work for the going-away party. So let’s brainstorm and come up with some ideas so we don’t forget our little ones in the backseat when they fall asleep and quiet their non-stop chattering for a bit. We also don’t want to forget about elderly folks either. Sometimes grandma or grandpa want to run errands with us, but want to sit in the car and wait while we’re in the store. Heatstroke is insidious and sneaks up, even when the windows are rolled down.

So for the young-uns, I suggest tossing the cellphone in the backseat next to the carseat. You know you won’t go very far without the cellphone ;). And how about demanding that the daycare call the parents of absent kids? It wouldn’t take long for them to make a quick call each morning and could catch a forgetful parent before it’s too late. What other ideas do you have?


NOTE: Less than 15 minutes after I wrote this blog, I turned on the 10pm news and saw that a woman had left her 5 and 6 year old children in the SUV with rolled up windows on an 86° day while she went into a casino. The girls were OK, but very hot; however, mom was arrested on the spot. Wow. Just wow.

The UN-Minivan: 2012 Dodge Durango Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

Looking to drop the minivan mom (or dad) image?  This is your baby.  It’s the 2012 Dodge Durango R/T AWD.  Sure, it’s nicely styled looking from the back or side, especially with the 20-inch Aluminum wheels standard on R/T trim, but one look from the front lets you know that this is no glorified station wagon.  A look under the hood at the 360 horsepower, 5.7 liter HEMI V8 confirms it. There’s icing on this cake, too.  It’s got enough room to make the third row usable and leave some cargo space behind it as well. Plus, it’s a superb highway cruiser, as I learned on a last-minute road trip.

Living an Authentic Life – with a Hybrid

There is a saying that “how you do anything is how you do everything.” Actually, it’s a nice book you can buy here.  I mentioned that here in this blog last September. Back then, I was in a writing frenzy, and actually penned a second piece – but alas, it wasn’t published by the overlording editors who run this site.   Perhaps I was too critical of a certain webmaster that I happen to be married to…

But redemption has come, and I’ve been invited back.

The premise of the book is that the essence of your unique individual soul can’t help but show up in absolutely everything you do. It will always bleed through.  So, just in the first 113 words of this essay, you might guess that I mildly enjoy challenging the status quo, sharing my insights to inspire others, and often relish in borderline exhibitionist “look at me, I’m the good one” – or as some prefer to  call it, self-righteousness. And honestly, you wouldn’t be wrong. I do my best to contain it, but there is so much vitality and juiciness there, it is lifegiving and fun to play with it on occasion.  Living an authentic life and loving (or simply un-exiling) your authentic self has a habit of doing that.

How many of you pretend to be other? How much fun are you having being that?  How many shades of grey would you trade for a single burst of color? Serious questions to ponder. When you are done with this blog, take a 6 minute soul break and watch this video –  http://soulbiographies.com/an-uncontained-life/ . I subscribe to this series and get an inspiring short film in my inbox every Monday morning. It helps start the week in a nice way.

And now for the segue – what in the world does that have to do with cars, namely hybrids?