Thursday, March 24, 2011

Plan to Survive

Recent disasters in Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan really drive home the need for individual preparedness. While Japan's earthquake was extraordinary, catastrophes come in many forms, and few places in the world are exempt from such tragedy. The Japanese people proved that individual, home, and community preparations are prudent precautions which not only provide a greater sense of security, they can ultimately mean survival for you and yours during a crisis.

First, if you don't already know, find out your area's risk of experiencing: blizzards, droughts, earthquakes, volcanic activity, wild fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides, avalanches, tsunamis and/or storm surges. Establish household safe-places, draw floor plans, prepare exit ways, and find safe locations to meet outdoors. Learn about community emergency programs, meeting places, and all potential shelters and evacuation routes. Encourage your work-place, if they haven't already done so, to create their own emergency plans. Familiarize yourself with measures in-place at your children's school(s). Get trained in first-aid and encourage other family members to learn also. Prior to an emergency, assign roles to household members to first ensure family safety and then secure the home post-emergency. British Columbia's Provincial Emergency Program website has a handy 26-week guide and a all-hazard preparedness checklist (Section 6) to help you prepare. 

Next, gather essentials like water, food, first aid, clothing, bedding, flashlights, etc. Fuels for cooking or power equipment like generators and pumps should be stored outdoors or in a well ventilated shed. Store emergency kits where they'll be quickly and easily accessible, near exit ways, and don't forget to add one to each vehicle. Not all things can be stocked for extended periods, though. Certain foods and most medicines will deteriorate in storage so you'll need to keep larger quantities on-hand, at all times, and rotate supplies regularly. This is when sensible bulk shopping practices are of real benefit. To quote Aesop, "It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow." For help collecting necessary items, here's another handy checklist. Even if only homebound during an extended power outage, illness or injury, you'll have the advantage of these preparations. Just make sure to replace anything you use, as soon as possible.

Along with the basics, you'll also need to collect important documents, personal data, contacts' information, medical records and prescriptions. Keep these together, ideally in water-proof packaging, and ready for easy retrieval. If an emergency involves hazardous materials, you may need to shelter in-home. These guidelines can be printed and kept with other critical documents you might need during an emergency.

With all the natural crises shaking the world, there's one promising augury: heightened awareness. Like a few other places, British Columbia is overdue for its own seismic event, so Japan's extraordinary destruction served as a chilling prompt to prepare, as best we can. It certainly won't prevent catastrophe, but preparedness makes it more survivable. There's empowerment in taking proactive measures.


Friday, March 11, 2011

A Dreamy Cream

I should've known better than to mention the s-word. No sooner had I posted the last blog about spring-cleaning and winter returned with a vengeance. Despite white-out squalls, though, I began the cleaning, telling myself its optimism, not obstinacy, keeping alive my foraging plans.

Whatever delusions I hold, of one thing I'm certain: my hands are in distress! Low humidity, caused by the extreme winter weather, is brutal to my dry, sensitive skin. Add to that wearing rubber gloves and using various cleaners and my hands look like snapper – red and scaly.

What better time to test a new cream? With sensitive skin, I've long sought a moisturizer that both quenches dryness but won't irritate. Sounds simple, but it's proved a challenging quest. Dry skin is hard to conquer, and I've yet to find applications that don't cause blemishes or other irritations. I've tried lotions for sensitive skin, fragrance free, some with aloe, and some with vitamins or other miraculous nutrients considered beneficial. All caused problems for me. However, without some moisturizing, winter feels like a death-by-a-thousand-cuts torment.

Surely there were creams without all the special ingredients. My research said otherwise. Product labels, if they provided the information, listed chem.-lab concoctions, most ingredients unpronounceable and mysterious. At this point in life, I've no interest in learning chemistry just to work out which ingredient (or combination of ingredients) might be irritating my skin.

Instead, I decided to make my own and soon found a simple recipe using only four ingredients: almond oil, rose water, beeswax, and an essential oil. Preparation takes mere minutes, and none of the ingredients cause me irritation. In fact, all are natural and could be ingested without harm. Not that I'm tempted to eat the lavender cream I prepared, but it's good to know the ingredients won't cause illness if any residue were to remain on the kitchen equipment.

I made my first batch on February 9th, reducing the recipe to one-third its volume. The resulting quantity was approximately 4.9 ounces, which lasted a month with both of us using the lotion several times daily on hands, body, and face. (Note: The original article does NOT recommend facial use.) Though it wasn't the impetus for my search, I was pleased when I calculated the cost of each third-recipe batch at only $4.57 – less than a dollar an ounce! That's a minor saving over most body ointments, but a considerable saving over facial creams I've bought.

Most important are the results and, given the tough test this cream underwent over the last month, I think it's as effective an emulsion as most commercial brands we've used. It smells absolutely dreamy, too! Though it's a little oily when first applied, the cream absorbs quickly and leaves skin feeling soft and supple. Hubby tells me it soothes his eczema without the burning or itchiness commercial brands caused. My dividend is, when used sparingly as a facial balm, it hasn't yet caused blemishes.

Dry skin and eczema remain our daily battles, particularly during these final blasts of winter while spring-cleaning rages on, so it's nice having this new cream available. Liberal and recurrent applications are much more pleasant and a little more affordable. Given its harmless ingredients, it's probably healthier for such frequent use, too.