Celebrate International Women's Day in Canada

Even a Non-Activist Can Celebrate International Women’s Day

I always remember International Women’s Day because it falls on my son’s birthday, March 8th. But, I’ve never taken the time to understand the history and purpose of an event created just to celebrate our fair gender.

Until 2017, my year of outreach and focus.

Am I a Feminist?

Do I label myself a feminist?  Not really.   Am I of a generation that had certain expectations of boys and girls/men and women?  Yep.  Can I shake off those preconceived ideas?  Some yes, some no.

At the end of the day, I am a firm believer that people should be judged on their merits and their character, not on their gender, race, or any other external element.  We can be so superficial, so quick to judge others.

So while I do not label myself as a feminist, I believe women need to support and encourage each other. And we proceed as only women can. We can excel as ourselves, we don’t need to act like men.

Why Women Should Support Women

There are far too many women-haters out there.  I, for one, cannot understand how and why some men think they are superior to women.

Look at the many who resort to cheap misogynist insults on social media.  Some of these anonymous wackos make comments that are deeply disturbing.

Then, there are men like that Polish politician who recently claimed that women should make less money because they are “weaker, smaller and less intelligent”.  If a woman is applying to be a lumberjack, I get that being physically weaker or smaller is a disadvantage. But less intelligent? Ridiculous!  This is the type of man who would suppress educational opportunities for women to ensure that they stayed “less intelligent”.

And of course, the abusive and sometimes fatal situations perpetrated by men.  Not going to list them here.  You all have heard about them.  Not just cultural ones in far away lands, but the ones in our own backyards.  How about that current President who thinks it’s ok to grab women by the crotch?

So this year, even though I am not an activist, I want to celebrate International Women’s day.

History of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is over 100 years old.  The day was first observed in 1909 in NYC to celebrate a garment worker’s strike where women protested for better pay and work hours.  In 1911, it became an internationally recognized event in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland where 1 million men and women demanded the right to vote, hold public office, work and to end discrimination.  Over time, it has become a global event and in 1975, the United Nations declared March 8th as International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day in 2017

The U.N. 2017 theme is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.   The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186 – 169 years from now.

International Women’s Day marks a call to action to individuals as well as organizations.  There are formal events planned all over the world.  You can see if there is anything in your local community by going here:  https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Events.

The International Women’s Day website tagline is #BeBoldForChange.  They encourage every person to celebrate the achievements of women to drive positive change.  And, they also suggest ways of taking bold actions that will accelerate gender parity not just on March 8th but every day. They include:

  • I’ll challenge bias and inequality
  • I’ll campaign against violence
  • I’ll forget women’s advancement
  • I’ll celebrate women’s achievement
  • I’ll champion women’s education

The US is taking this occasion to participate in A Day Without a Woman.  Participants are being encouraged to take the day off paid and unpaid work and refrain from shopping, to draw attention to the contribution of women in the workplace as well as the inequalities that they face.

In Canada, the 2017 theme is #EqualityMatters. The Canadian government has enshrined equality in the Charter of Rights (which I didn’t know) and is thus, committed to upholding gender equality in Canadian society.  I’m proud of this!  But, in practice, this not the case.  Women continue to be under-represented in politics and senior leadership roles.  They still earn less but are responsible for more.  And, they still often fall victim to gender-based violence.

How I will celebrate

Let me say again that I have never been an activist, nor am I even particularly political.  If anything, I am sadly apathetic.  But, I’m feeling a real need to make a difference in some way, but in a way that is genuine for me.

  1. I will champion Women’s Education in my new volunteer role as Global Program Coordinator (more on this at a later date)
  2. I will attend women’s networking events in my community
  3. I will find at least 2 other ways to personally help women in need

It’s only a start.  I will continue to celebrate women all year.

 

 

Woman indulging in retail therapy

I’ve Lost My Shopping Mojo. Retail Therapy Won’t Help.

The Oxford and Urban dictionaries define Retail Therapy as:

The practice of shopping in order to make oneself feel more cheerful.
The act of shopping as an outlet for frustration and a reliever of stress.

Not so long ago, shopping was one of my favourite leisure activities.  I would go shopping for any reason but particularly enjoyed bargain hunting for clothes, shoes, personal and household items. While I could happily spend hours going from store-to-store, I especially enjoyed making the 90-minute trek to the mecca of discount shopping, the Lewiston, New York factory outlet mall just across the border. It was irresistible.  It offered many possibilities of finding treasures at 50%, 60%, 70%+ off.  Even now, I feel a bit of a thrill thinking about it.

I had an epiphany after I retired.  I did an initial purge and quickly lined up eight garbage bags full of “stuff” including kiddie toys, books, household items, clothes, and shoes.  What was particularly horrifying was the fact that many of these things were barely used.  A few still had their price tags.  I tried to tally the $$ that had been spent on all these things; it had to be at least a couple of thousand.  I was appalled.  I had worked so hard during my career, stressed myself silly, sacrificed time with my family.  For what?   To buy stuff that I would barely use?  And this was only my first go at purging, there was lots more to go

Why We Shop

There is an obvious “need” to shop.  I have to buy groceries and other household basics.  I am talking about the “want” element of shopping.  Retail therapy and buying items, especially on sale, always made me feel good. At least temporarily.  I guess it satisfied some sort of “hunter/gatherer” instinct in me. The bigger the discount, the better I felt.

It’s no surprise that I’m not alone.

Do you know what “neuromarketing” is?    It is the scientific research of the effectiveness of product marketing on the brain.  Large marketing firms have spent over USD $117 billion to find out the best ways of influencing our shopping behaviours.  They examine what advertising characteristics are most effective at maximizing the emotional and reward areas of the brain that trigger excitement and impulsive buying decisions.

For many people, retail therapy offers short-term gratification especially when they are stressed, bored or procrastinating.  It releases dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter.  But the effects of dopamine are short-lived and are often replaced by guilt or shame.

In a Consumer Reports survey of 1021 women, 83% of the respondents identified themselves as bargain-hunters.  Some of the responses to the survey questions are below.

  • 23% buy things they don’t need just because they’re on sale
  • 36% feel guilty when they pay full price.
  • 47% tell their family and close friends and 35 percent tell anyone who will listen
  • 59% wait for sales
  • 80 % say they’d look for a sale even if money were no object.

I say “yes” to all of these bullets.  And I loved bragging when I scored incredible deals.  It made me feel special.

Breaking the Retail Therapy Trap

I stopped shopping as frequently once I retired. I didn’t need to buy work clothes anymore.  And I was more relaxed.  Plus, with less disposable income, I had to be more careful. But it was really the purging of thousand of dollars of barely used “stuff” that broke the camels back for me.  That’s when I really lost my shopping mojo.

Some ways that I cope with impulse when I do shop:

  1. Make a list.  Making a list requires examination of what we already have whether it’s groceries, clothes or anything else.
  2. Be intentional. Shopping is no longer a leisure activity in itself.  When I go shopping, I intend to buy what is on my list.  Not to say that I only buy what’s on the list because sometimes I do.  But I tend to be less impulsive when I have objectives.
  3. Walk Away.  If I want to buy something I know I don’t need, I will often carry that item around.  If I am still undecided by the end of my trip, I put the item back.  After 3-4 days, I will go back and buy it if I still want it.  But often as not, the desire to buy that item has gone away.  This method cuts down on impulse buys.
  4. Monthly Credit Card Threshold.  I don’t have a budget per se but I do have a monthly spending target.  Because I collect points, I put groceries, gas, clothes, car service, dentist, etc. on one credit card and pay it off in full every month.  I always have a rough tally in my head of where I stand on a monthly basis.  I target a certain $$ threshold for regular and incidental purchases.  And, when I come under that number, I get that familiar happy rush.
    I also like the fact that I can download the credit card data and examine where I have spent money.
  5. Purge Away.  There is nothing like seeing what you are not using anymore to stop you from buying anything new. Your pantry, your closet, your basement.  Sell what you can.  Give the rest away to good causes.
  6. Create Buying Goals.  Maybe it’s a new purse.  Or, a fitness membership. Or, a family vacation.  I tally what I don’t spend impulsively and add it to the budget for a bigger ticket item.

So while I do indulge in retail therapy from time-to-time, the intense desire to shop is no longer there.  I have so much already, I don’t need more.

 

 

 

Buddha with Menopot

Menopot Buddha Belly and Stretchy Pants

As a young woman, I swore I would never succumb to wearing stretchy pants.   You know, the kind older ladies wear that are made of 100% polyester stretch with an elastic waistband that makes them easy to pull up or down.  They are wide-legged and come in many different colours ranging from basic black to pastel purple.

Fast-forward a few decades.  I find myself almost exclusively wearing pull on, stretchy pants.
Why?  Weight gain and belly fat.

I am 5’3″ and small-framed.  Up to recent times, I have been fortunate enough to have a fast metabolism.  And, only a weak emotional connection with food.

After menopause, I gained 5-6 permanent pounds.  But last year, I “kicked” a habit that I had indulged in for decades (you know which one…) and gained 12 pounds which now sit in my belly and rear end. My clothes fit badly.  I have a muffin-top aka Buddha belly aka menopot.  I often feel bloated and cannot bear to have anything tight around my waist.

It took my body 8-9 months to get used to the new norm of reduced hormones and stimulants.  I believe that I am taking in the same amount of daily calories and if anything, I am eating healthier since I mainly cook from scratch.  And while I am not working out of the home anymore, I play Tai Chi or walk over 10K steps at least 5 of the 7 days in a week.

Why does the menopot happen?

Women store fat in their lower body mainly due to the presence of estrogen receptors in the hips, thighs, and buttocks.  After menopause, when estrogen level decline, the fat storage moves up into the subcutaneous area of waist resulting in the dreaded menopot.  To make matters worse, a weight gain of more than 2-5 pounds means that these fat deposits are laid deeper under the abdominal muscles as visceral fat.  This is the type of fat that can lead to serious diseases like diabetes.

Yikes! How to get rid of it?

Diet

So if I am not eating more than before, then I must be burning fewer daily calories. Based on Livestrong.com, women in their 50s should be eating at least 200 fewer calories per day.  I don’t know what my daily caloric intake is and may never know. But, I do know that the sneaking of salty snacks and the occasional Belgian chocolate has got to stop.  Weight loss will be key in getting rid of this menopot.  Good news is, I do drink a ton of fluids in the form of water and herbal tea.
Action:  What modifications can be made to my diet to include more polyunsaturated fats, calcium-rich food, and veggies while reducing meat and grains?  Figure out how to count calories.  And look into organic apple cider which I hear might kickstart my metabolism.

Cardio

Tai Chi done correctly incorporates a lot of squats, leg raises and muscle resistance. You work up a sweat.  I’ve checked my Fitbit, my heart rate goes up to a fat-burning 85 beats-per-minute; even higher after a brisk walk of 60 minutes.  But maybe I need more strenuous cardio, even interval training.  Livestrong says at least 250 minutes of intensive cardio every week is enough to lose weight.  That’s roughly 35 minutes per day or 70 minutes every other day.
Action: I get a great discount at Goodlife Fitness.  Maybe it’s time make the gym part of my weekly routine again.  But this requires commitment.

Weight Training

As I mention above, Tai Chi is great for muscle resistance.  So are the planks and crunches I do.  I guess I just need to do more of them. I know that weight training will build muscle which in turn, burns more calories.  It will also help maintain bone density and might reduce the severity of the osteoporosis I am likely to suffer later on (my mother has severe osteoporosis and I already have arthritis in my knuckles).  Plus, I wouldn’t mind arms like Michelle Obama either!
Action: More reason to join the gym.  But if I don’t, what can I do at home?

If All Else Fails

Wear stretchy pants that rock.  Lululemon is my choice. While their demographic skews toward millennials, they also offer pieces in their “To & From” category that work for all ages.  My favourites are similar to the Jet Pants (I own black Jet Crop Slims but they aren’t available right now)  and the Street to Studio Pants (I own 4 pairs in different colours).  Stretchy waists, perfect lengths, great quality and detailing that mimics dress pants.  Their clothing is pricey but worth every penny to me.

I have been obsessing over my menopot for a while.  It’s one of those things that I cannot accept without a fight.  I need to find the self-discipline (sigh…) to be successful. I’m sure I will.  But in the meantime, I finally have come to understand the appeal of stretchy pants.  And, I am grateful that I can find stylish ones that rock.

Cocktails at a Bar

You Get Asked This Question, Your Response Is…

You’re at a cocktail party full of people you don’t know.  This is not the most comfortable position for you to be in, but you are determined to make an effort.  This is a “make it work moment”.

You look around to see if there is anyone as miserable, I mean as squirmy as you are.   Across the room, you spot a couple of people chatting who are clearly not together.  Slowly, you inch your way over and nonchalantly, join their group.  Eye contact is made, success!   You introduce yourselves and give each other your first names.

The next question is:

What do you do?

Of course it is.  This is always the second question after “what is your name”.

The person in this story is me and probably a lot of other folks.  When I took my early retirement, I gave the following long-winded answer:

I took an early retirement because we lost a huge public sector contract that I was managing.  Of course, this would result in layoffs.  I put my hand up because I knew I was done with the rat race.  Plus, I was old enough to take an early retirement.  I was lucky, they let me go.

But I think I was really saying…

I left willingly. I was NOT laid off.  

Why do we ask?

Why do people ask what you do for a living anyway?  This happens all the time at any event or gathering where there are people who don’t know each other.  What are they really asking:

  • What is your socio-economic status?
  • Are you worth talking to?
  • What is your identity tribe?
  • Who are you?

Or, maybe they are just indulging in a lazy and harmless habit that helps us find common ground. In today’s society, especially in North America, so much of our time is spent at work that “what we do” goes beyond being just employment.  It starts to define who we are.

For many years, I’m sure that my role as a Sales Account Manager for a major corporation did impact my identity. But I always knew that it was just a role I played, it wasn’t who I was.  In fact, at the end, playing that the role had become exhausting and I didn’t like who I was.  So I was happy to go; I’ve not looked back since.

The Reaction

When I tell others that I have taken an early retirement, most people react positively and wish me well.  But I’ve also had some rather rude and negative reactions, as in “It must be nice!” in a “how dare you” voice.   I look younger than 56, so sometimes I see a narrowing of the eyes that means they disapprove of my choice.  Or sometimes it’s a look of sympathy that means they assume I’ve been laid off.

I don’t know why this bothers me, but it does.  And, it has happened enough times that I am now  reluctant to tell strangers.

A Better Response

I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  I’ve done some searching on the Internet for input.

Clearly, a lot of other people don’t like this question either.  Doesn’t matter how old they are or what they do.  Well, my favourite piece of advice so far comes from www.lifehacker.com.   The writer suggests that you answer this question by telling people how you solve problems.

This example by a mens’ fashion stylist would break the ice with humour while providing fodder for small talk.

When people ask what I do, I usually flip the question and say, “You know how most guys don’t dress very well?” This usually gets the person nodding along. Then I talk about how I solve that problem. I might mention that I have a 9-year-old, and let’s say I go to take him to the doctor. Now imagine a guy comes in who is wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. Am I going to give my kid to this person? Probably not. Now imagine a guy wearing a white lab coat walks in. Everyone can relate to how clothing can make a huge difference.”

If I were to use this method, I just might say:

I write about my personal experience of aging gracefully and try to provide practical tips and tools to help women in my demographic feel inspired and optimistic.  And, I enjoy sharing these stories on social media with a like-minded community.  A long time ago women over 50 were considered “old”.  Not any more, 50 has become the new 40.  Would you not agree?”

This response needs some more work but I think it’s more interesting than just saying that I have become a blogger and am doing some work in social media.

What do you say?  Any other alternative ideas?

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Typewriter keys to blog

Why Do Bloggers Blog? This is Why I Do.

Even though I started to blog 10 months ago, I didn’t actually tell anyone until the end of October.  I started “The Juvenile Retiree” to practice my writing and to acquire a new skill set.   I was very quiet about it because I didn’t want people to see my awkwardness while I was “practicing”.  And honestly, I felt a little embarrassed about putting myself out there on the Internet.  Not having any real skills (I consider myself a master generalist), I chose to blog about being a midlife, “senior-in-training” retired woman.

At the same time, I decided to pursue a certificate in Social Media.  While looking for part-time work, I had noticed a lot of short term, contract jobs that offered the flexibility I was looking for.  At the time, all I knew about social media was how to read and post pictures on Facebook.

So last spring, I started the blog and the Social Media certificate simultaneously.  Were there other reasons why?

  • First of all, I’m way too young to actually retire.  I need to find other purposeful things to do.  Generating income would also be useful!
  • Secondly, #1 on my bucket list  is to travel the world.  I will have to finance this somehow.  It made sense to pursue jobs that could be done virtually.  A travel blog was also a viable option but I had to learn the ins and outs of blogging first.

The Real 3 Top Reasons Why Bloggers Blog

  1. To Share your Knowledge and/or Passion.  Maybe it’s fashion, cooking or photography. Or a personal or political cause.  Or a synopsis of the latest episode of The Bachelor or Keeping Up With the Kardashians.  Maybe you are building awareness, or just sharing your expertise or opinion.   Or all of the above.
  2. To Build a Personal Network and Community.  Blogging allows you to share your content and  connect with like-minded individuals who are interested in learning more about you and your topics.  Your potential online network is massive.
  3. To Make Money.  While this is obviously true of a business marketing products and/or services, it can also apply to an individual blogger.   Blogging can drive more traffic to your site.  It also allows you to hone your brand and establish your authority as a subject matter expert.

The stats on blogging

I can only describe them as mind-boggling

So Why Do YOU Blog?

I find these stats over-whelming and even a little discouraging.  Am I going to experience any success with so many blogs out there on the Internet?   Not gonna lie, I struggle with my identity as a blogger, finding compelling topics and networking.  But I am determined to keep at it.

However, I am curious about how other bloggers feel.

  1. What made you start to blog?
  2. Do you have objectives?
  3. What do you do to stand out from the crowd (if anything)?

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Don’t Judge a Veggie by Its Skin…

Grocery shopping is a chore for me, especially when it’s cold and dark outside.  But on Monday night, we were expecting freezing rain and there was nothing in the fridge.  So I grumbled a bit, bundled up and headed out to my local discount grocer, Fresh Co.  This a no frills store with a limited selection of goods. It’s an industrial looking shop with harsh overhead lighting and no ambience.

Fresh Co. is located between 2 very different neighbourhoods.  To the south, there are mainly single family homes worth a minimum of $800K.  To the north, there are several clusters of low rent high rise apartments, many of which are subsidized by the government.   Therefore, at any given time, you bump into new immigrants as well as well-dressed moms and dads rushing to grab dinner.

Anyway, I digress.

It was busy, others had heard about the freezing rain. So all the cashiers were busy with long lines. And people are buying full buggiesGrocery checkout worth of groceries. Odd for a Monday night, but maybe the threat of freezing rain makes you want to stock up.   Anyway, the man in front of me was in his 30s, longish hair, scruffy beard and wearing earbuds. Someone quite average.  Except that his grocery cart was filled with vegetables and fruit!  Maybe I judge, but I was surprised to see a man buying eggplant, spinach, apples, carrots, mushrooms, leeks, peppers, along with one lonely pack of boneless chicken.  The cashier, an older woman, was also clearly impressed and said:

Let me guess.  Your wife is travelling and is about to return so you’re stocking the fridge before she comes back.  She’s a vegetarian and you are not.  So you’re having a final chicken dinner before she gets back.

He laughed and said that she was almost right except that she was not travelling and didn’t have a problem with him adding chicken to his meals.  I could not help but eavesdrop and I told him that I had also been very impressed by his grocery selection; it was unexpected for a man.  He said that he works at home so does a lot of cooking.

The man waiting behind me was an older, rather “grizzled” guy who looked like he smoked a couple of packs a day.  He also piped up and told us that he was taking the night off cooking so was buying something already prepared.  I proceeded to tell him that I was planning homemade mushroom soup and a lentil dish mixed with brown rice.  He nodded approvingly.

Don't judge a pizza crust made from cauliflower and steel oats!Meanwhile, the cashier rang through my items and while I packed them in a bag, the young man started to describe his latest vegetarian pizza recipe using a grated cauliflower and steel oats crust.  I made a face; he assured me that it was just like a regular pizza crust only better.  The older gentleman praised his creativity and proceeded to say that cooking was like painting, you never quite know what you are going to end up with.  And then he revealed that he was a chef.  We all laughed and I bid them goodnight.

I live in a big city of 2.8 million people.   As city folk, our heads are often down looking at technology when in a crowd.  Or we stare out at nothing, oblivious of the people around us.  If we do see them, sometimes we jPeople waiting in line to pay for groceriesudge them.  We may or may not wish to engage because they look or dress a certain way.  Yet, this 5 minute exchange with 3 strangers was enjoyable and surprisingly memorable.  I left the store smiling and thinking about what I would have missed if I hadn’t gone to the grocery store that night.  Proved yet again, why you shouldn’t judge a veggie by its skin..

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Computer, pen, paper, organized

Stop the Procrastination. Focus and Get S*** Done

Procrastination.  It is one of my most annoying characteristics.  I find all sorts of ways of wasting time or delaying doing something that I don’t really want to do.  Therefore, I have become lazy.  But I am sure that I am not alone.

I have promised myself that I will become more focused in 2017.   When I was in Sales, January was always a time to exhale, review the prior year and plan for future success.   Fresh start.   I need to do this in my personal life.

How?

  1. Make Decisions.  Sounds simple doesn’t it.  My perfectionist soul inhibits my decision-making ability.   Why?  Because I always think that “something better might come along”. It can be anything:  job, trip, an app for this blog, kitchen appliance, etc.   I’m afraid that I will make a poor choice so I stall and do nothing.  So nothing get accomplished.  Procrastination at its finest. I am driving myself crazy.  It has to stop.
  2. Women planning on IphoneGet Organized.  But the only way to do this (for me) is to set goals and log them in a calendar.  I am a scatterbrain.  Not a dumb person, just a distracted one.  I allow myself to wander too much.  Yet since I am actually a goal-oriented person, I should become more focused and be able to increase my productivity if I create daily/weekly objectives.   As a result, I would expect increased satisfaction.
  3. LIMIT screen time.  Playing Ipad games is my dirty little secret.   In the past, this was a way to rest my over-active and exhausted brain.  But now, it’s a procrastination technique.   The one that I play most isHayday Farm Procrastination Hayday.  It’s a game that hooks you in by continually putting forth new objectives.  But the main reason I still play, is that I belong to a community where I can chat with friends and compete in a team “derby” where we complete tasks and win virtual prizes. And I am compelled to feed my virtual animals with virtual feed and harvest my virtual plants.  Plus I am proud of my how pretty my virtual farm is with its virtual decorations.   Weird, I know.
  4. Continue Personal Learning and Development.  I have been taking a social media certificate at a local college which has armed me with basic knowledge and skills.  Taking it to another level requires practice and the acquisition of complementary skills like photography.  One might call these “hobbies” but I see these skills as a means to an end.

My Challenge Words

I am motivated by some of the posts and blogs I am reading.  A key one was posted on BlogShareLearn https://elenaopeters.com/2016/12/29/word-for-2017-simplify-whats-yours/.  Laura E. Paul talks about selecting a challenge along with a word that represents it.   For me, I’m choosing the word  FOCUS and I am borrowing Nike’s motto “JUST DO IT“.

Don’t overthink, don’t over-analyze, don’t worry, stop the procrastination.  Just focus and get “s***” done.

Will I Stop the procrastination?

I have been scouting some tools that can help me move the ball forward.  This is something that I will complete in the next couple of weeks.  In March, I will revisit this post to see if I have made progress.

See, it’s in my calendar.

Love DIY and It’s Not ‘Cause I’m Frugal

Now that the cold weather has settled in, I am taking baths again and have discovered something luxurious:  pretty and fragrant bath bombs!  The kind that are sold at Lush for $8 a pop.   While this post is late (better late than never), I made DIY Bath Bombs as Christmas “thank you’s” for the staff at my mother’s nursing home.  It was nice to do something over-and-above chocolates and cookies.  And they ended up being a big hit!

DIY Simple Bath Bombs

These are simple to make and require everyday ingredients.  Ok, the citric acid is a little tough to find but I ended up sourcing it at bulk stores and Amazon.  If you don’t take baths, you can use these pucks as “freshies” to keep your toilet smelling fresh*.

Recipe for DIY Bath Bombs *

  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salt
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 20-30 drops essential oils of your choice
  • Food colouring (if desired)
  • Hydrogen peroxide spray (as required)
  • Moulds

Instructions

  1.  Add the baking soda, citric acid and epsom salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk the mixture very well to break up anDIY Bath Bombs expand in the mouldsy lumps.

2.  Add water, oil and food colouring to a glass measuring cup and mix well.  I added different essential oils at this point.  Lemon to yellow, vanilla to blue and rose to red.  While I kept it simple, you can add mixtures of different scents.  It’s really up to you.

3.  Slowly add the liquid to the dry mixture.  I poured very slowly with my left hand while I whisked briskly with my right.

4.  The mixture should be damp enough to stick together when squeezed.  If it is too dry, spray lightly with hydrogen peroxide.

After 48 hours, DIY Bath Bombs are Dry5.  I used different moulds but the best were the ones from Ikea because they were stiffer.  I pressed the mixture firmly into each mould.  There was some minor expansion that occurred.

6. I let them sit in my cold, dry oven for 48 hours.  At this point, they were very dry and hard so popping them out of the moulds was easy.

7. To keep them moisture-free, I wrapped them first in cellophane and then inserted them into small Christmas “food cartons” that close at the top with handles.  Since I was giving them away to strangers, I printed a label with instructions and a list of the ingredients.

DIY Bath Bombs Make a Great Gift

In Summary

I am a novice when it comes to DIY products but it doesn’t matter.  They are many recipes on the web and most items are very easy to make.  Once you get your “pantry” of basic items together, these things cost pennies to make.  For example, I made 60 small bath bombs which cost about $7.15 total.  Not only did the recipients enjoy my DIY bath bombs, I also really enjoyed the process of making them.  And as equally important,  I know that they are natural and good for the environment.   What a win-win!

 

* If you only want to use these as “freshies”, eliminate the oil and Epsom salt.   Instead use 1 1/3 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of citric acid with 1 tsp of water. Recipes inspired by Jillee at  (http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/fizzy-cleaning-toilet-bombs)

 

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mhx/16419218393

Are We Still Cranky in Midlife?

I always thought that when I got older, I would mellow out.  Especially when the day-to-day pressure of being an everyday superwoman subsided once I got off the hamster wheel.  While I do think that I am more patient overall, I am sometimes shocked at how certain situations make me really, really cranky.

  1. Slowpoke drivers who insist on staying in the left lane.  This happens ALL the time in my city of over 4 million people.  It makes me unreasonably cranky; my blood pressure skyrockets.  Why?  Our roads are congested, full of cars and trucks.  Slowpokes in the left lane slow down traffic for many kilometres behind them. The left lane is for passing!  If you cannot drive as fast if not faster than the speed limit, stay out!  If you feel fear every time you get on the highway, take alternate routes.  The combination of aggressive speed and slow/fearful drivers on the highway is a lethal mix.

2. The word “like”.  It is a very useful, multi-functional word that can be a verb, preposition, conjunction, noun, adjective and adverb.   But I have noticed that an extraordinary number of young people use it as filler.  For example, “She was like where did you go?  And I was like, I had to go to a doctor’s appointment like at 4 o’clock”.   I swear some people use it in almost every sentence, sometimes multiple times. I grew up across the street from a professor who gently advised me to stop using filler words (I think it was “you know”).  At the time, I was embarrassed but his lesson has served me well as an adult.

3. Bad grocery cart etiquette.  I have a regular shopping list of things I buy at Costco.  It is not a place to dawdle, it is always insanely busy.  Even though I shop on weekdays, I am amazed at the number of people who leave their cart in the middle of the aisle and walk away.  Sometimes they leave their kids in the cart too,  or worse, let their kids run around unsupervised.  The pile-up around the sample stations makes me want to ram other carts or say rude things.  But I don’t.  I grit my teeth, pick up my things and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

4. Web ads that know what I’ve been looking at.  Even though I have learned that web developers load “pixels” and “cookies” to follow your online activity, I really find it creepy. Companies track your online behaviour and know a lot about you.  For example, if you look at a pair of shoes online, you may see ads for those same shoes on many sites you visit afterwards. Facebook and Google know the most and have the ability to share that data with other companies.   It’s a little frightening.  Do yourself a favour and watch the movie “Snowden”.  It’ll make you think about how little online privacy you actually have.

5. Over-blown holidays.  Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love Christmas time with the family?  I’m talking about the unnaturally BIG events that most companies and retailers blow out of proportion.  For example, Valentine’s day.  While it’s lovely to celebrate your love for another, it has become a pressure-filled event with rampant commercialization that starts right after New Years.   The advertising makes you feel like you’re a loser unless you buy the the biggest present, a dozen roses, fine chocolates, expensive jewelry, and a fabulous dinner out.  Spend spend spend! This scenario repeats itself for other events like Mothers’ and Fathers’ days, Easter and Hallowe’en amongst others.  Bah humbug!

So the answer for me, is that I can still get pretty cranky and impatient but I think I hold it in better than I used to.   And some things have actually stopped bothering me (like streetcar travel).  I wonder what it’s like for others?

Tracing the Ancestors, Exploring the Past

I know very little about my family’s past. I do know that my parents came to Canada in 1947 as part of the Chinese diplomatic service.  They never expected to stay permanently but history intervened and they were forced to become refugees.  Like so many other immigrants, they worked long and hard to provide a good life for their 4 children.  Unfortunately, they did not force us to speak Mandarin, they were busy and the community was small.  Regretfully, none of us grew up speaking the mother tongue. Although there was prejudice, we were somewhat sheltered by a community full of immigrants including Greeks, Italians, Latvians, Germans and even open minded multi-generational Canadians.  We grew up Canadian first, we were assimilated. This was especially true when I, the last child, rolled out of the womb.  I was never interested in my heritage, something that I regret today.

Souvenir with Name

Last year, my sister and I took a trip to China, my first time.  Over the course of 2 weeks, we saw many sites in Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu and Shanghai.  At one tourist shop, we picked up a souvenir pamphlet that talked to the history of our name  ““.  Of course, neither of us could read it but we would get it translated.  Fast forward several months.  I asked an elderly Chinese man to translate it for me.  He politely declined but found the same document online.  That’s where it started, I spent a month obsessed by the pursuit of my family history.

My siblings had some snippets of documents that my father had written.  On one, I found crucial information: my father and grandfather’s names written in Chinese characters along with their ancestral hometown, Yixing in the province of Jiangsu.  My elderly friend provided the digital characters that allowed me to do Google searches. Not reading Chinese is an enormous handicap when you are researching your genealogy. I had to use several online translators to gain even a nugget of understanding.  Translators are literal, they cannot grasp the context of characters that have different meanings when placed in different sequences.

Yellow Emperor, Huang Di
Yixing, 200 KM west of Shanghai

What I have found is fascinating.  It also makes me proud of where I come from.  My family is old, very old. The name”任” harkens back to 2500 B.C.  Yes, that’s 2500 years before Christ.  The Yellow Emperor bestowed a Dukedom of “” upon the youngest of his 25 sons. His descendants took this surname.  The branch I come from can trace roots back to the 5th century.  This current cycle split off in the 13th century when my ancestors fled south from the invading Mongols lead by Kublai Khan.  They settled in Yixing where my father (任以宏)was born in 1912, almost 7 centuries later.

My father’s father

My father was very proud of his own father (任锡周). Born in 1873, our grandfather was awarded the title of “Juren”, a designation bestowed upon the few who successfully passed the grueling imperial exams. This was the entry to higher level positions within the public service. We know that he was a secretary in the Governor of the Province of Jiangsu’s office and for 5 years, he had a similar role in the office of the President of the Republic himself. We also know that he was honourable and patriotic. He was deeply disturbed by the corruption manifested by powerful warloads that was rampant in the government.  During the Sino-Japanese war, he refused to be bribed and as a result, he eventually lost his wealth, his health and his life shortly after this period.

Renfamily.cn google-translated to English

During my search, I stumbled upon a Chinese language website that was set up in 2014 to celebrate the”” family heritage but also to find overseas members.  I sent an e-mail in English and 5 days later, I was rewarded with an e-mail from Mary in Sydney, Australia.  She gave me so much information including the digital version of the last update of the family book, a customized spreadsheet showing our lineage back to the 13th century and even poems by family members.  Unfortunately, many of these documents sit in my Dropbox, still unread.

My last name “任” means “a person doing his duty”. It is listed as the #58th most popular Chinese name with 4.2 million people sharing it.   In English, it was translated to “Jen” (although more recently, the new Pinyin translation is “Ren”).  My siblings and I have always thought that we alone had this last name, we had never ever met any other Jen’s.  But this past summer, much to my surprise, I saw someone in a Facebook group with the same last name. I sent her a private message with some information and lo and behold,  she  confirmed that her family also came from the same town.  And then we discovered that we live 1 kilometre apart!.    I have also become aware of an American writer named Gish Jen who I now follow on Facebook.  I bought her book, Tiger Writing, which was inspired by her father’s memoirs.  I’ve done a search and found other people in the US and Canada named “Jen” and “Ren”.  I have not reached out, I am not sure what I would say so maybe it is a project for the future.

Mother & Father (1946?)

The Internet has made the search for my family roots much easier.  My only regret is that I did not take the time to gather information from the master of story telling himself, my father.  He was a also scholar and a very prolific communicator until he went blind in his 80s.  Much of our immediate ancestral history died with him in 1999.  But I have to think that he is looking down upon us, happy that we are finally looking back to the past to help define who we are today.