Getting to Puerto Rico

This is going to be the worst blog post ever. Because who really wants to know the mechanics of our flights?

You are still reading. Wow. Our airline, United, strongly suggested that we postpone our travel for a day because of the bad weather in Chicago. We did and I added a day to our itinerary. The next day our flight was cancelled because of the bad weather in Chicago. We re-booked our flights again. The United website and app were equally unhelpful in these changes. For example, I re-booked part of our trip through Madison without realizing the process was complete because the app just stopped working. While I was on hold for one-half of eternity, speaking directly with an airline representative was the most useful.

There were lots of phone calls because I had scheduled parking at the airport, a rental car, places to stay, and volunteer work. Each change required a call to each vendor, in part because we were so close to our planned travels.

We traveled from Milwaukee to Houston to San Juan. We arrived at the Milwaukee airport very early because of the weather and federal government shutdown. The shutdown required that TSA employees were required to work, but would not be paid until an unknown date. We didn’t know if this would result in long lines or not. In this case it did not. I very much appreciated TSA employees that came to work. The news was noting that passengers were more patient and kinder, knowing the struggles of the security staff. I think this is awesome. I also think that we can be more patient and kind every day.

I used credit card “points” to pay for the car rental. This was great! Extending the car rental for a day (even though I was giving up a day at the time of the change) required actual money. It still was a good value.

Our volunteer site was in the center of Puerto Rico, about 50 miles and 1.5 hours from San Juan. Because of our early arrival in Milwaukee and long layover in Houston, it took us 24 hours to go from home to the worksite.

Our trip home was more compact, but longer than planned because of several delays in the flight from Chicago to Milwaukee, again attributed to the weather. (Our route was San Juan to Chicago to Milwaukee). We arrived in Milwaukee late at night and thankfully spent the night with family before driving home.

Oh, are you still here? My goodness. Find something good to read now.

Random places

First-grader Nola Mae was clearing toys, games, pencils and more off the coffee table to make room for block building yesterday. “I don’t know where these things belong, so I am just putting them in random places” she declared as she put stuff in boxes and pushed things off the table.

Photo of desk covered with stationary, a stapler, bird house, magazine, books, and other random items.
One of my many random places

Is it nature or nurture that forms our behaviors?

Planning for Puerto Rico

I love to travel. George loves his dog, his farm animals, the farm and the garden. We’ve taken road trips together and try to get to southwestern North Dakota once a year for about a week. The North Dakota trips are great and take 14 hours of travel time one way. We’ve taken other road trips too. George likes to drive and doesn’t think twice about driving from Wisconsin to Atlanta, Georgia straight through, staying for a night, and turning around and coming home. Unfortunately this has left me feeling like our vacations were mostly driving with only a little exploring or visiting. George seems antsy too, with his mind on the farm.

Day 1 “I wonder how the dog is.”
Day 2 Perhaps arrive at destination late in the day. “I hope the cattle and sheep are liking the hay I left for them.”
Day 3 Explore and/or visit. Start to head home. “I hope the [whatever] is working for [the super kind neighbor who is taking care of the farm].”
Day 4 [more specific concern about home/animals/farm] continued until home.

Old farm buildings on a winter day with snow and geese
Farm scene December 29, 2018

I heavily encouraged George to get a passport when one was required to enter Canada. I want to be prepared for travel when the opportunity knocks, not when the process of getting a passport is complete. George eventually decided it was in his best interest to get a passport rather than listen to my pleas.

The next step was to decide on a destination. George had an answer, “the jungle.” No further details were provided. Anywhere with a jungle would work.

We decided that we needed a vacation with some sort of project. George needs to keep busy. I’ve traveled to work with Habitat for Humanity and volunteered for Caretta Research Project and loved the experiences.

Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge August 12, 2015

The trip had to be fairly short. At least short enough that we would still be married even if our plans flopped.

About a month before Hurricane Maria in September 2017, I tried to contact a farmer about working on his farm in exchange for housing. Hurricane Maria then decimated Puerto Rico. Wanting to be a help rather than a hindrance, we set the plans aside.

This winter I we were ready to go! With help from Rotary connections, we were able to plan to volunteer with HEART 9/11 in their Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico Response Project.

In summary, our travel plans included 1) the jungle 2) a short time span and 3) a project. Look out word!

The best time in a long time

George cheerfully came into the house with a huge smile and exclaimed “That is the best time I’ve had in a long time!”

I’m for taking joy anytime and anywhere you can find it, but we were just in Puerto Rico last week. Yes, the travel was hard. Yes, we worked on replacing a roof. Yes, it was hot and humid, one of my least favorite combinations. But it was a really, really good time for both of us. So I had to question him on his claim.

“Yeah but this was even better! I drove [the neighbor’s] tractor and it was great!”

A little background on the tractor situation. None of our tractors is running. George has been trying to repair one in very cool temperatures the past few days. Yesterday’s low temperature was -26F and the high was -5F. Wind gusts were measured up to 20 mph. [As reported at http://www.weather.gov for Green Bay, Wisconsin.] This can equate to a windchill as low as -56F. The repair has not worked. The cattle and sheep need to be fed round bales weighing about 900 lbs each, requiring a tractor.

Photograph of tractor radiator sitting on the recycling bins
The old radiator that apparently needs to live on our recycling bins until it is repaired

“The heater in the cab was too hot and I had to turn it down! The hydraulics work great!”

May you take joy anytime and anywhere you can find it.

The battery charger and battery in the entry way. When the house is the only warm location they need to come indoors.

Saving soap scum

Do you reuse the soap scum from your shower or bathtub? Great! Neither do I.

For some time now I have been keeping those slim bars of soap that are almost ready to turn into scum. You know the ones, the kind you set down into the soap tray that turn into a sloppy mess by the time you pick up your washcloth. I’ve been keeping the soap slivers in a container in the back of drawer that holds the new bars of soap. My thought was that I could turn them back into a bar and prevent soap scum (at least some of it).

This all stayed in the theoretical project stage until my favorite brand of bar soap has refused to go on sale. For quite some time too, since I have a whole drawer for hoarding soap in.

It was time to get serious and chop up those slivers of soap and make them useful!

After chopping, I got my hands wet and packed the soap together to form a ball. I needed to wet my hands after each layer and found that packing the soap too loosely would create a crumbling soap-scum-super-starter.

Ball of packed soap flakes

If you have any small plastic toys laying around, they can be covered with soap flakes for a shower surprise at a later date. I am fortunate enough that I can surprise myself these days.

Plastic snake waiting for a soap shell

Laundry Soap

You could come to the conclusion that “sampling it all” means “sampling all the food.” Which it does, but I do sample a few other things too.

IMG_6784 (2)

Laundry soap

1 c (or 2/3 of a bar) Fels Naptha soap
1 c washing soda
1 c borax powder
1-2 T essential oil (optional)
16 quarts of water
5 gallon pail with a cover

Chop or grate Fels Naptha and add to 3 quarts of water. Heat and stir until the soap has melted. Pour 2 quarts of hot water into your pail. To the Fels Naptha and water add washing soda, stir, and add borax powder, and stir. When all ingredients have dissolved, add to pail with hot water and stir. Add an additional 11 quarts of water and stir. This will likely look like soapy water with a few bubbles and possibly some globs of gel. Add essential oil if desired and stir. This is laundry soap! The laundry soap may gel more as the solution cools off.

Use 1/2 cup of laundry soap per load. It works in both vertical and horizontal (HE) washing machines.

I’ve used a mix of soaps in place of Fels Naptha with good success. It is especially pleasing to chop up marine-animal-shaped or heart-shaped decorative soap and use it. The little bits of bar soap that are hard to use work great. Homemade soap works. For chopping, it works best if the soap is dried out. The smaller the soap pieces are, the less time and energy it will take to melt them.

I don’t bother to stir the soap once I’ve made it. Some soap has more gel, some has less. I haven’t noticed a difference in the cleaning.

Some people, such as my mom, will find that using this soap makes them itchy.

Keep the soap covered and away from children and pets to avoid everything from drowning to messes.

My box of washing soda has become a hard mass, perhaps because it is stored above the washing machine. I should try put it in a moisture proof container next time.

You can find safety information for Fels Naptha, Borax, and washing soda from the US Dept of Health and Human Services.