Monday, August 25, 2014

Calendula Heals All, or At Least a Few Things

Resina Calendulas

The local, as in very local, pharmacy has been playing around with remedies for the type of super-dry skin that comes from playing in the dirt. Happily, the experiments have led to success. Success, by the way, which didn't require a lot of work or money.

Neal's Yard Remedies used to have this wonderful Elderflower Hand Softener which turned my lobster claws into tender baby toes overnight. But like so many other great products, it's no longer available.

I don't have space for an elderberry shrub, but I can easily grow calendulas. They are pretty, colorful, help keep the bad bugs away and make the bees happy, too. Historically, calendula flowers have been used to ease an impressive line-up of complaints. These days, its healing powers seem to be limited to external uses - even the medical profession gives calendula credit for skin healing properties.

I looked at various recipes for calendula creams, lotions, tinctures and finally settled on this one from NZ Eco Chick.* Except I'm really lousy at following instructions, so I do a few things differently:
  • Use fresh calendula flowers. Pick the flowers during the day and let them dry out overnight. That way, the oil is less likely to become rancid. 
  • Do not bother with that muslin cloth idea. Just pour the oil through a sieve and press down on the flowers with the back of a spoon. Way less mess.

And it was a nice thing to be able to re-use that old Neal's Yard jar.

* Around here, organic virgin coconut oil may be found at Trader Joe's.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Peace Lantern Ceremony

It was a lovely gathering last Saturday at Aquatic Park. All the expected "Berkeley types" were there, as well as everyone else you could imagine, human or otherwise. The music was perfect, even if the weather wasn't, and everyone did an excellent job of sharing the crayons.

The lanterns were all hand decorated by the people who came. Then they were gathered up and readied for launching.
Which proved to be a little harder than I would have guessed. The wind was not our friend that evening. But the organizers had it all under control -  adept helpers were ready to ensure that the lanterns made it safely into the water.
A few of the lanterns didn't mind going in alone, or only with a buddy or two. 
And most all made it to the other side. 

In Japan, lighted lanterns are part of the Buddhist Obon festival which traditionally takes place in August (July in eastern Japan, but that is a long story). The Obon festival honors the souls of one's ancestors who come and stay for three days. On the final day of the festival, paper lanterns are floated on waterways to help guide the spirits back to the world of the dead. 

Since the world's first atomic bombings in Japan in 1945, this Buddhist custom has gathered additional meaning. This was the thirteenth Peace Lantern Ceremony in Berkeley. Plan on attending next year - I am.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Oakland Tool Lending Library

Ever since the painter in the family moved his studio back home, we have been engaged in a Battle Against Too Much Stuff. 

On our side, we have craigslist, thrift stores, young friends starting new homes, the recycling bin and as a last resort, the little blue garbage can. Stuff has inertia - the resistance of a physical object to any change in its state of motion. As well, Stuff controls a small, well-equipped and coordinated roving herd of dust rhinos.

Clearly, we don't stand a chance. Stuff alwaaays wins.

One of my favorite Get Rid of Stuff sites is the Tool Lending Library (TLL) of the Oakland Public Library.  Not only can you donate usable tools there (I mean seriously, how did we end up with 26 screwdrivers, anyway?), but if you ever find that you need that exact tool again, you can just go borrow it back.

In May, 2012, Judith Doner Berne wrote all about the TLL for the Rockridge News (scroll down to page 8). More recently, plans are alive to make the TLL an even better space for us chimp-like tool users.