Shower planter

We had to trim our pothos plant. Rather than compost the trimmings, Carol decided to make a home for them in the shower. She got me to cut a big round hole in the side of a plastic soda water bottle using my pocket knife; then she got me to drill two holes at the top of the bottle so we could hang it; I drilled those two holes using the awl in my pocket knife. She attached the bottle to the shower rod using a big twist tie left over from something, added some water, and put the pothos cuttings through the big round hole.

Over the next few days, the pothos cuttings twisted towards the light, and their butt ends pulled out of the water. So I drilled two small holes about an inch back of the big round hole on either side, above the water level, and threaded a piece of straight brass wire through; the wire keeps the pothos cuttings aimed down at the water.

Our shower planter has been up for a month now. Here’s what it looks like:

Easy bubble juice

I’m going to be leading a workshop tomorrow at the “Pot of Gold” religious education conference. For the workshop, I’ll be demonstrating bubble juice that makes medium (9-12 in.) soap bubbles. Below is a recipe, and instructions for making a bubble wand.

Easy bubble juice for 9-12″ bubbles


4 oz. very hot (not boiling) water

3 oz. Dawn brand Ultra Concentrated dishwashing detergent

3 oz. personal lubricating jelly (K-Y Jelly or any generic brand)

water to make up approx. 1 quart, about 22 oz.

Continue reading “Easy bubble juice”

The DIY chronicles: Fortified Altoids

Once upon a time, Altoids brand peppermints were strong. That ended when the brand was bought by Wrigley. In 2006, Wrigley closed the old Altoid manufacturing plant in Wales, and began producing the candy in the United States. They first adulterated it with artificial flavor; when they removed the artificial flavor, they reduced the amount of peppermint oil until Altoids tasted bland and boring. So I stopped buying Altoids.

But I still miss the old Altoids: when you were preaching (or singing) for an extended period and needed to soothe your throat, the old Altoids had enough peppermint to do the trick. So I decided to try an experiment: I would buy some Altoids and add peppermint extract to them to try to recreate the old strong peppermint flavor.

I purchased a tin of Altoids for 2.99, and a one ounce bottle of peppermint extract (alcohol 89%, peppermint oil, and water) for 5.99. Altoids have a rough side and a smooth side, and I found the rough side absorbs peppermint extract more easily, so I laid out the Altoids rough side up on a dinner plate. I then dropped peppermint extract on them one drop at a time, starting at one side of the plate and working across to the other side, allowing each drop to soak in before starting the process again. After about seven or eight drops, each mint looked like it had absorbed about all it could hold. I turned them over, and added additional drops to those mints which still looked dry. Then I let them dry.

When I was done, Carol and I each tried one. Carol said: “Not as strong as the old Altoids.” I agreed. She crunched hers up, and then said, “But you can feel it in the back of your throat.” And she was right.

Verdict: The fortified Altoids were much better than un-fortified Altoids, but still not as good as the old ones.
Total cost: 2.99 + 1.50 (a quarter of a bottle or peppermint extract) = $4.49; plus 15 minutes. Probably not worth it.
Next steps: Try essential oil of peppermint instead of peppermint extract.

Reasons for decline

In yesterday’s post, I talked about the numerical decline of Unitarian Universalism, and asked why we are declining. Readers left thoughtful and interesting comments giving their ideas of why we’re declining. In tomorrow’s post, In Thursday’s post, I’ll suggest some ways we might reverse our numerical decline. Now are some of my thoughts about why the numbers of certified members of Unitarian Universalist congregations are declining:

(1) During the Great Recession, congregations have been facing budget shortfalls, and one obvious way to cut costs is to reduce the number of certified members. Congregations pay dues to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and to their local district for each certified member; fewer members means less dues to pay.

(2) UUA salary guidelines are pegged to congregation size, so a congregation that is hiring a new staffer may have motivation to have fewer certified members in order to drop down to a lower salary range in the guidelines.

(3) People who come from no previous religious background may see no benefit in becoming members of a congregation, or may not understand membership.

(4) Membership is declining because there are fewer people in our congregations — more on this in this next set of comments. Continue reading “Reasons for decline”