Monday, August 30, 2010

Schlitterbahn Birthday

For the third year in a row, I invited people to go to Schlitterbahn with me to celebrate my birthday. This year in addition to my husband and DA who had come with me the previous two years, our friend FuzzyPony, my sister-in-law Auddie and her fiance Mac also came with us. Sadly, SH, who had come the previous two years was unable to come this year. DA also suggested that instead of buying park food for lunch that we should bring our own. Schlitterbahn, unlike most amusement parks, actually encourages you to bring your own picnic lunch (as long as there is no glass of any kind).

Everyone arrived at our house bright and early Sunday morning. We loaded everyone and everything into to two cars and drove down to New Braunfels. It was an absolutely lovely day. It wasn't too hot or too cold. The park was not crowded at all. There were almost no lines for most rides and even the lines for the really popular rides weren't that bad.

Just after noon, while the rest of us were riding our last ride before lunch, FuzzyPony went back to the table where we had left our food and set everything up very prettily with a batik tablecloth. DA brought out her home made gourmet quality chicken salad and everyone made themselves sandwiches. The chicken salad was absolutely delicious with pecans and dried cherries mixed in. FuzzyPony had brought enough fresh fruit to feed a small army, Auddie and Mac had provided water and soft drinks, and Foxfire and I had brought several kinds of chips. It was so much better than eating park food. Many thanks to DA for suggesting such a lovely picnic.

After lunch, we took the shuttle to the other areas of the park and rode more rides. We had just enough time to hit all of my favorite rides before they closed the park. We were all pretty tired, but not sunburned thanks to judicious application of sunscreen. We left the park and headed to dinner.

DA, who is the most food oriented of us, had looked up local restaurants online and suggested we all go to Friesenhaus German Restaurant. Everyone's food was good and they had a very nice wine (and tea) list. I had the Von Hovel Balduin Riesling which I liked very much. It had a moderately complex flavor and was neither too dry, nor too sweet. Very refreshing with my Reibekuchen (potato pancakes).

We drove back home and DA gave me a very pretty gift bag. Inside was a copy of Finding My Distance, an autobiography written by a three day eventer. She also gave me a copy of Princess Alyss of Wonderland which I am really looking forward to reading since Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite books. DA knows me very well.

Foxfire told me that his birthday present to me wouldn't arrive until Tuesday. Jennifer Crusie, one of my favorite authors, has a new book, Maybe This Time, that is being released August 31, and he had pre-ordered a copy for me. Yay!!! It is her first solo book in several years (she's been co-authoring books) and I am thrilled to get a chance to read it as soon as it comes out.

All in all, I had a fabulous day. I enjoyed sharing Schlitterbahn with my friends and loved having the chance to just chat with everyone in a relaxed setting. Foxfire tells me that he is already looking forward to doing it again next year. I am so lucky to have such good friends and family.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Healthy Hair Care -- Detangling and Conditioning with Coconut Oil

Not long after I got Shadowfax with his nice mane and his long thick curly tail, I started doing research on the best way to care for horses' manes and tails. I already knew that horses, unlike most animals, have hair like humans, not fur like cats and dogs. So I figured that any information I found out about hair care for my horse would also be beneficial for my own hair care. I learned a lot about why sulfates and silicones are bad in shampoos and conditioners, but one of the most immediately useful things that I found out was that pure virgin coconut oil makes a great detangler/leave-in conditioner for manes and tails. I used it several times on Shadowfax's mane to get out elf-knots and it did indeed work very well. So I decided to try it on my own hair.

My hair is moderately long and somewhat curly and though I've always tried to keep it healthy and grow it even longer, I would always get dry split ends and it just wouldn't grow past bra-strap length. Thinking that coconut oil might help me get the hair that I always wanted, I did some more research on coconut oil and human hair. I found out that even scientists agree that coconut oil is good for your hair. Unlike most oils which have bulky, oddly shaped molecules, coconut oil has short straight molecules (medium chain triglycerides) that actually penetrate into the cortex of your hair bringing moisture and protein to where it is needed the most. Because the proteins in coconut oil are similar to the proteins in hair, they are attracted to the hair proteins and easily bond with them making hair stronger and healthier. Coconut oil also helps reduce how much the hair expands and contracts when it gets wet then dries out, thus reducing the stress and damage that expansion and contraction causes. In summary, research has shown that coconut oil makes hair moister, stronger and more resistant to damage. I also found numerous personal accounts in forums, blog posts and various other online sites discussing how coconut oil helped make hair softer, shinier and generally healthier.

I should mention that all of this research and all of these claims are for unrefined virgin coconut oil. Heating and/or hydrogenating coconut oil changes its chemical structure and it will no longer have the same beneficial effects. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to find virgin coconut oil in the dietary supplements area of various stores. (Apparently, coconut oil is as good for your insides as it is for your outside.) You can also order it from numerous online retailers. I currently use Spring Valley Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil which I bought at my local Wal-mart for about $10. (Sadly, it seems that Wal-mart has discontinued making this brand. However, I called my local HEB grocery store and they apparently carry several varieties of unrefined virgin coconut oil in their dietary supplement aisle.) Anyway...

After I shampooed and conditioned in my usual way, I experimented with a little bit of coconut oil. I started by simply dipping my finger in the coconut oil which is semi-solid at room temperature. (It's melting point is 78 degrees F.) Using only the amount of oil that stuck to my finger, I rubbed it between my palms and fingers where it immediately melted into a liquid, then ran my hands through the ends of my still damp hair. I then combed my hair out and let it air dry. My hair was somewhat easier to comb out, and once my hair was dry, it did seem softer and the ends less dry than usual. As I continued to use coconut oil in this way, I noticed even more improvement in the combability and general health of my hair. The only problem with this method of applying coconut oil is that you do have to be somewhat careful about how much coconut oil you use. It is easy to use too much which will leave your hair looking greasy for a while. However, this method does have the added benefit of leaving your hands very soft and smooth. The same things that make coconut oil a great hair conditioner also make it very good for your skin. I've also noticed that my nails seem to be stronger, and I swear that they are growing faster than they used to. (I'm not sure that's a benefit since I have to trim them more often.)

After the success of just using a little coconut oil as a leave in conditioner, I decided to try it out as a deep conditioner. So one day when I didn't have to be anywhere I rubbed coconut oil into my hair a little at a time until my hair was completely coated in oil. I then put my hair up in a loose bun on the top of my head to keep it out of my way, and went about my usual business for about two hours. (I've read that some people leave it in for as little as half an hour and others wrap their heads in towels, shower caps or even plastic wrap and leave it in as long as overnight.) I then shampooed the oil out, which was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I think all of the oil actually came out in the first shampoo, though I did shampoo twice just to be sure. Then I used my regular conditioner and followed the rest of my usual hair routine. When my hair dried, it was incredibly SOFT, and my ends looked much, MUCH healthier.

I've continued to use coconut oil as a detangler/leave in conditioner for several months now, and I've used it as a deep conditioner several times and my hair has continued to improve in terms of softness, manageability and general healthiness.

Also, due to the research that I am continuing to do on healthy hair care (and also due to the fact that the shampoo and conditioner that I used to use has been discontinued), I've decided to try and find sulfate and silicone free shampoos and conditioners that will hopefully help my hair to be healthier and to grow longer. I'll post more about my quest for healthy hair in future entries.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sarcoid on Marie's face

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a small bump on Marie's face. I thought it was just a welt from a bug bite and didn't pay it much attention. But this past weekend, I took a closer look and realized that instead of getting smaller, it had almost doubled in size. So on Monday, I called Dr. A and asked her about it. She said it could be several different things and that she would need to come and look at.

Today, she came, looked at it and said that it was a sarcoid, a type of benign tumor. She injected a tumor inhibiting serum underneath the tumor and said that it should be noticeably smaller in a week or two, but that she might need to come out and give another injection or two before it completely goes away.

Marie behaved very well overall. She was a little nervous about Dr. A and her two assistants and wouldn't willingly walk towards them, but she didn't make a fuss when they came towards her. When Dr. A was fixing to inject her face I held a carrot stick in front of her mouth and let her bite the end of it. Then, while Marie was distracted with carrot, Dr. A slid the needle in. I thought for sure that Marie would pull back when she felt the needle, but aside from a slight twitch, she stood quietly sucking the rest of the carrot stick into her mouth. Even when Dr. A had to move the needle around to make sure she injected the whole area of the sarcoid, Marie just stood there. I was very proud of her. She's come a very long way from the semi-feral donkey that you couldn't get within 10 feet of that I first brought home.

The sarcoid on Marie's face after Dr. A left.

Closeup of the sarcoid after Dr. A left.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Glare Power

Today when our hay guy was delivering a new round bale, he happened to arrive when Shadowfax and Ziggy were still in their stalls finishing their morning grain. Due to rain and mud and such, we had been several days without a round bale. Although we had been throwing flakes from square bales into the pasture several times a day. It's just not as satisfying for the critters as standing around the round bale and munching down. So all the critters were very excited to see a new round bale arriving. The donkeys and goats gathered around the truck anxiously awaiting their first bites from the new bale. They all very obediently backed off when I shoo-ed them away so the bale could be rolled off the truck. But as soon as the bale hit the ground, they descended upon it like four legged locusts.

This was too much for Shadowfax to bear locked in his stall. He started pawing at the gate. As soon as I heard that unmistakable clang, I turned and yelled, "NO! Stop that!" Shadowfax was standing there with one foot raised and about to paw at the gate again. From about 50 feet away, I just glared at him and he slowly lowered his foot and stepped back from the gate. I said, "Good boy." and turned back to help get the wrapping off of the round bale and put the bale ring around it. I kept expecting to hear him start pawing again. He doesn't paw that often anymore, thanks to Foxfire and I consistently yelling at him whenever he does it. But when food is involved he sometimes forgets his manners. However, he never pawed again, and when I would glance back at him, he was always standing quietly looking longingly towards the round bale but showing no signs of incipient pawing. Apparently, even from 50 feet away, my glare has enough strength to make him behave. Glare power!