Thursday, April 19, 2012

To Mourn or To Rejoice?

My mom died on April 12th.  We'd had over a year to prepare, as she'd been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia just after Thanksgiving in 2010.  As a final indignity, we will not be able to bury her until April 30th.  This could also be looked upon as a measure of her importance, as we have striven to coordinate church services, with availability in the military cemetery where she and my dad are entitled to be buried.  One might even compare our trials to arranging for the burial of a great dignitary.  No three days of mourning and then rest in peace, here.  In truth, it is just another case of hurry up and wait on the government.  The mortuary sent the wrong paperwork to Army Records.  When we finally got a date from the cemetery, the church was booked.  The next available date at the church was the day of my oldest son's confirmation.  So we took the following two days for the Rosary and Funeral.  The day of the funeral, Friday, which is also my youngest son's birthday, was not available at the cemetery, so we will have to wait out the weekend until Monday to bury mom.  This has made for absolute chaos.

My daughter-in-law was baptized and confirmed at the Easter vigil on the 7th.  Her husband is receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation next Wednesday.  Mom's Rosary and Funeral are the following two days.  My youngest son's birthday, the same day as the funeral.  Mom's interment the following Monday.  In trying to make sense of all this, we could easily choose to let mom's death overshadow all the joyful celebrations which have surrounded it this month.  I think mom would want it otherwise.  She gave us plenty of time to prepare.  I have grieved much over the past year.  Now her suffering is done.

As I meditated upon the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary the other day, I was struck by how Jesus, after his night of Agony in the Garden, went willingly to His death.  I was indeed questioning "what if this is it"?  I think He knew we needed assurance that "this" is NOT "it".  That He has truly gone to prepare a place for us, so that we may live this life fearlessly and fully.  That we will, indeed, rise with Him to enjoy eternal life.  Mom is already there.

Our celebrations this month, are an answer to years of fierce and determined prayer by her.  I think she would want us to celebrate and not let the agony and frustration of the burial preparations get us down.

I love you, Mom.  You are always in my heart.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cleaning With Grapefruit

My parents have a grapefruit tree and a lemon tree.  I get lots of lemons and grapefruit.  Over the years I have investigated innumerable ways of using and preserving this bounty.  I can lemon juice for year-round use.  I eat and give away as much grapefruit as possible, then can the rest.  This leaves me with a mountain of grapefruit peels.  It seems a waste to throw them out, and they don't compost well.  So one year I started experimenting with using them to make a cleaner.  It didn't take long to hit on a simple formula that is also very simple to prepare.

I get out my biggest stockpot, fill it with grapefruit peels, and cover them with water.  I bring the whole shootin' match to a vigorous boil, then turn it down and let it simmer for a day, topping up the water level as needed.  After several hours, or all day, I turn off the heat and let the mixture cool off overnight.  The next morning, I get up and start straining the mixture into gallon size glass jugs.  Do not use plastic, as this concentrate, though not really rough on the skin, will eat through plastic jugs within a few days and leave you with a leaky mess.  It is also a good idea to vacuum seal or water bath can (in quart-size jars) any concentrate you will not be using right away, as it will ferment and grow yeast.  This fermentation does not make the cleaner lose any effectiveness, it just replaces the pleasant, citrusy scent with an unpleasant odor.

Be sure to label the concentrate so no one drinks it.  I don't know how harmful it would be, but I certainly don't recommend it.

A note on straining.  I put a funnel on top of the glass jug I am straining into and line it with a piece of old t-shirt, sheet or dishtowel to filter out the solids.  The liquid is too thick for coffee filters, it takes forever, and does not need to be strained as much as that.  I then ladle the liquid into the filter, scraping solids off as they build up.  When I get down to where it's mostly peels and other solids, I squeeze them real good, filter the remaining liquid, and put the now softened peels into the compost bin, where they compost much more readily.

How to use your fantastical new cleaner.  For general cleaning, I dilute 1 part cleaner to 4 parts water in a plastic spray bottle.  At this dilution it has not eaten through any of my bottles yet.  This works well for light cleaning of counters, glass, mirrors, sinks, toilets, floors and all such general light jobs.  For laundry, I use 1/2 to 1 cup undiluted, pour in with the soap instead of bleach, and enjoy softer, whiter, more pleasant smelling clothes.  For tough, greasy jobs, like my stovetop, I pour the undiluted concentrate right on the greasy spots, let soak at least 20 minutes, then use a hard plastic scraper to loosen most of the cooked on grease.  This does sometimes leave a few small areas to scrub with steel wool or a copper scrubber, but takes most of the work out of it.

I have used this same formula with orange peels, lemon peels and combinations of different citrus peels, in smaller and larger batches.  The basic idea is just cover with water, cook several hours, strain and enjoy using your own homemade, all natural citrus cleaner.