Soap Report

After 3 days, we gently took the bars out of their molds. One set of molds had an image of a tree as part of the mold. The other set required a soap stamp and a careful use of a rubber mallet – which produced a very awesome image.

Now the bars need to continue curing for 4 to 6 weeks and rotating the bars every few days before using. However, the book also recommends not using for 10 months!

This was a lot of fun. I am going get some new ingredients and make another type in a week or so. I highly recommend making your own soap.


When my father died two months ago, I found myself with an inexplainable need to order some craft books; I ordered three of them in fact: leather crafting, candle making, and soap making. I decided to start with soap making and I got on Amazon to order the supplies I needed. Then I suddenly lost my enthusiasm, feeling tired when getting home from work. Everything sat in a box.

Today, I decided it was time to get into that box and I really enjoyed it too…way more than I anticipated I would. Why? What is that enjoyable about making soap and what did those three crafts have in common? Well, for one thing the essential orange oil did smell very nice. It also felt good to know the ingredients of the cleansers that will eventually be on my skin and the skin of those I love. But, it was something more than those things. I think it was all about transformation and I think it is no coincidence that it was timed with my father’s passing.

Soap making is all about transformation. The lye interacts chemically with distilled water, and that mixture is added to olive oil which turns all of it from liquid to the beginnings of a solid state. While I was doing all this, I kept thinking about the process of transformation and how much I enjoy it. My songwriting hobby is all about transformation, usually starting with one chord and a sense of some kind of rhythm into, eventually, a complete song. Gardening gives me the same joy of transformation…So did making my own batch of beer, which I labeled Jackass before there really was a Jackass label.

Was this need to become more active in transformative hobbies tied to my father? I think so. You see, I have come to believe that the entire message of Jesus’ life was all about transformation- transforming from a physical awareness to a spiritual awareness and existence. It is complicated, but it makes perfect sense in my mind along with eliminating much of the negativity of my religion.

Living almost exactly on the imaginary 40 degree North Latitude line, we experience four distinct seasons every year. Surrounded by rivers, I can watch the salmon come back from their ocean journeys to lay their eggs and start a new transformation cycle. Evidence of transformation surrounds us when we bake a cake, raise children, or even make soap.

I know, I know, who thinks about these things because of making soap? That is what makes me weird, or wise…your choice!

Whoops…Me a Bit of a Hypocrite

Just a short post here to acknowledge all the enlightened things I said in the Simply Beautiful post (the one before this one) came from a hypocrite.

I was driving around Chico, California today, going from crowded store to crowded store, which were full of self-focused, stressed out people. Right from the start, I got cut in front of at a McDonald’s drive thru lane – but I stayed cool and calm.

Later though, some goofy (dang, did it again) some person on a bicycle almost rode right into our car in a crowded parking lot and I made a terrible comment about their appearance. Immediately, I thought about the Simply Beautiful posting.

So I am fessing up, sometimes I can still be Simply Stupid.

But you should have seen this person…

Simply Beautiful

As I have grown older, my appreciation of Simply Beautiful has grown deeper. I suppose it is somewhat related to my own physical appearance. Never having the classic physical attributes of, say, a movie star or male model, I had a more “swarthy” appearance. In the end, I think this was a blessing because as someone once told me their mother once told them, “There is always someone more beautiful than you, more smarter than you.” In other words, it is a game not worth playing.

As I slowly came to accept myself as is and to appreciate my sight, hearing, ability to walk, although with a limp, taste food, smell fresh air and fresh flowers, I also started seeing people differently – their physical appearance was no longer their defining attribute. And, all this took place while I worked in an environment, university, that appears somewhat like the mythical Fountain of Youth – every year a new cohort of 17 and 18 year olds take the place of those ‘old’ 23 and 24 year olds. Also, I am surrounded by human and cultural diversity. It all leads to finally recognizing the eyes really are the light of the soul. I used to have a hard time looking into people’s eyes when talking with them. Now I realize that is about all that matters, not because of color or shape, but because it is a doorway into who they really are. Yes, it is a form of Simply Beautiful.

Simply Beautiful surrounds our lives, through music, acts of kindness and love, poetry, puppies, and in our environment to name just a few things. The color of just one autumn leaf can grab your entire attention, even in the midst of urban chaos. A flower can stop you in your tracks, stop all the endless internal chatter of your mind. And a sunset? Oh my goodness. How its beauty is constantly changing and how just Simply Beautiful.

My wife sent me these two photos of yesterday’s sunset from our front porch. Simply Beautiful, … just like you.

Weird Dream

Aren’t they all weird?

Jason Mraz, the singer/songwriter fella, had come to do a fundraising concert that I was putting together-but he wasn’t happy about it.  I picked him up at a some kind of transportation terminal and said, “Are you hungry?” He went off on a little rant about how there are two kinds of parents – those who feed their children the right kind of food and those that don’t. Then he looked at me with disdain as someone in the latter category.

Next scene: we are at a rundown looking restaurant and Jason is not happy with the place and I had had enough of his bad attitude, so I ordered a ton of pastries and then told four kind of rough looking characters sitting next to us, “Hey, this is Jason Mraz and he would like a selfie with you guys.” Jason shakes his head at me, but reluctantly takes the photo as the group says, “Who is he?” The pastries come, Jason looks down at them, shakes his head in defeat and begins to nibble around the edges of the pastries. He then asks, “How many people are coming to the show tonight?” I say, “Beats me, I haven’t told anyone about it yet.” He shakes his head once again.

Next scene: We are outdoors and a little four piece bluegrass band  is setting up outside an antique shop. I said to them, “Hey, this guy would like to sing with you.” Jason was not happy, but made me sing with them too. We didn’t know the words so we both filled in with some la, la, la, la’s and some ooh, ooh, ooh, oohs. We sounded pretty good too until I ran off a scale of notes that just rambled with apparent place to end.

Last scene: Still kind of embarrassed about my background singing fiasco, Jason and I come across a group of young adults who are dancing in a hip-hop kind of style. Jason’s cool and immediately starts dancing  in the same manner. I thought, “Ok, I can do this,” and I begin dancing in the same way. I am actually pulling it off too, doing pretty well, although full of self-doubt. One of the dancers pairs up across from me, and I am feeling the pressure of the spotlight and fearing I am about to show I really can’t dance. At that moment, I get a calf cramp and I stop dancing, I pull up lame and acting very old….which is exactly when I woke up with a real life calf cramp in my real life leg in my real life bed, as I tried to stretch it out with my real life foot. 

I thought to myself in the middle of the night, “Don’t piss off Jason Mraz, even  in  your dreams.”

This is my favorite Jason Mraz song: Life is Wonderful.




A Christmas Robin.

A very nice blog about a special bird. Alison’s posts are always insightful .

Through rose tinted glasses


I couldn’t help but feel pleased and a little camera happy when this little chap made a come back to my garden the other day.   I’m not totally sure that it’s the same Robin who sang at the top of his voice, at the top of the tallest tree, first thing in the morning and last thing at night throughout the spring and summer months, staking his territory by showing off his fine red breast, but I guess it could be.  Although some robins migrate the majority will stay within a short distance.


There is something comforting and friendly about this quintessentially English bird.   One of my earliest childhood memories is of a Robin that used to happily hop around in the garden whenever my mum started digging, eagerly awaiting a juicy worm as she turned over the soil.  In fact,  when I saw my Robin in the garden…

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Oh, I loved Fiddler on the Roof. This clip is from the opening of the movie and I can relate to it.

I have my own traditions, take Christmas for example. Every weekend right after the American Thanksgiving holiday, I begin my once a year jigsaw puzzle – and can’t sleep very well until it is completed!

Another tradition started with the purchase of a single little house and has now created urban sprawl in our living room – my Christmas village. As the grandchildren have grown, there is a tradition of them asking me about every building and, “What is this one? What is this one?” Usually around the ages of 4 or 5, their imagination is most involved with the village.

And then the Christmas Tree goes up in the living room and we just can’t seem to be satisfied with a normal tree. This year we have two again, but they take up quite a bit of space.

Tomorrow the decorating begins, but I have to finish the jigsaw puzzle too!

Oh yes, one more tradition- hot cocoa, popcorn, and an old movie on tv.


Why, Hello There

If you occasionally follow my blog, you know by now, you’re never sure what I might write about. Neither do I. I’ve written about loss, spiritual journeys, food, diets, vacations, shoes, music, storytelling, education, dogs, and chickens…and much more.

Why? Well because I started blogging as an experiment to see if I enjoyed writing, but I was faced with one very big problem – caring too much about the opinions of others. So to overcome that, I knew I must write authentically…and that is risky, but I had no choice if I was going to defeat my inner critic.

So with that in mind, here is a little story for you.

I believe in unseen spiritual energy that often represents a former physical presence. Ghosts? Maybe, but different too. Why do I believe in this? Because I have had multiple experiences with this feeling. Get to the point, right? Ok, it just happened again. (And, yes, every time something weird happens, I know there is a rational possibility behind it.)

I was sitting out in the living room, by myself, and I was deep in concentration as I was reading the latest version of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” (In fact, this deep engagement in thought is often a common element when I experience weird moments)

I was not really aware of anything except thinking deeply about the author’s comments. Suddenly a music box-like knick-knack across from me on a small table and in the form of an angel with a trumpet, begins to spin and play its melody. I look up from book, immediately get chills – chills usually occur during these moments- and I just watched it slowly wind down its tune. At the same time, I felt that unseeable presence of something.

My sister-in-law is visiting this weekend (Happy Birthday dear one) and she just gave us the musical angel this evening as she acquired it with a large box of used Christmas decor she recently bought. We wound it up, about 6 hours ago, and it ran its musical course.

I know music boxes do these things with changes in temperature etc., but this came with that sense of presence and chills up and down my arms. I just said, “Everything is ok, you can go home now.” The chills left. The feeling left.

It was about 2 years ago, in the same area, when I again was focused on just one thing and a loud crash – like something had just fallen off the wall- just a few feet from me. I was alone, hurrying for work, looking for something. I thought “Aw, shit I will have clean that up after I retrieve my lost item.” When I came back to the crash area, there was nothing broken. I looked all around. I went downstairs, out on the balcony. I couldn’t believe it. Nothing was out of place. Sometime later, I read where Carl Jung, the psychologist, described a similar incident in his life.

So I will add the restless angel to other moments, like my mattress sinking as if someone had just got in bed with me – but no one physically did. This happened twice. Or, the lamp by the bed,with the three position switch, getting turned to the 2nd position after we had turned it off to go to sleep.

Why, hello there.

I was going to take a photo of the angel and post it, but decided…ah, maybe not.