Something on your mind? ? ? :-)

If you would like to leave a comment to tell me what you like or if you would like to share an experience you have had, have suggestions for new adventures, or would just like to share what's on your mind, please feel free to do so! I would really, really love to hear any feedback you would care to offer!

When you click on the comments link at the bottom of the post, you will be presented with choices for logins, if you do not already have one of the accounts listed, or you do not choose to login with that account, you can always choose the anonymous option, in which case your name would come up as Anonymous! If you choose to use one of the other log in options, your name would appear as the public name you list for that account. For example, mine would appear as Willow's Quiet Corner, and, of course, your email would not show!

Thanks! And, again, thanks for stopping by! I really hope to hear from you and to see you again soon! Let me know how you think I am doing! :-)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Homemade Laundry Powder

One day, whilst searching online for homemade cleaning product recipes, I came across several sites for homemade laundry soap.  Most were for liquid gooey looking messes in 5 or 10 gallon buckets and I was looking for a soap powder.  Those I found were all pretty much the same recipe with only slight differences to them.

I was curious to try them as I would like to be using things that are less harmful to the planet and might save a few dollars.  So, I finally decided to give it a try.

Yes, I inherited blue counter tops when I moved in here . . . don't judge!  ;)

I picked up some Zote laundry soap.  I had to go to one of the local ethnic supermarkets to find it.  But, they are close, so I didn't have to drive way out of my way to find it.  Many of the recipes indicated you could also use Fels Naptha or even Ivory.  But, Fels and Zote are labeled as specifically for laundry.  The Zote is a pretty pink and has a nice clean smell.  That was the first thing I noticed when I opened the package.

Unfortunately, I was so excited to finally start on this project, I forgot to get photos of the packaging on the Zote or a pic of the unwrapped full bar.  I remembered about half way through the second bar!  Whooops!  :)  I tried just using a cheese grater on the soap, but it didn't get as fine a powder as I was looking for.  So, after I ran it through the grater, I plopped it into my mini food processor.  It is a breeze to clean compared to my full size one!  Better!  I tried just running chunks of the soap through the processor, but it was still a little large for me, knowing I may have problems with getting it to dissolve, so I used the cheese grater and the processor on all the rest.  I figure, I wash those items in soap anyway, so it should be safe to use them for this as long as I wash them right afterwards and don't let them sit around in the soap too long to absorb the scent.

Right now, I am just using a portable washer that my mom gave me to bail me out until I get a new washer.  (It's a long story!)  Thanks, mom! ! !  **waiving at mom**  I am limited to using cold water, so I plan on dissolving the soap in a little hot water first a few minutes before I add it to the machine.  I'll put a load in in a few minutes so I can report back how this works for me by the end of this post!

So, the details:

     2 bars grated soap (Zote, Fels Naptha, Ivory or similar)
     2 Cups Borax
     2 Cups Washing Soda (not the same as baking soda, but there were recipes    that used the baking soda as well)

Use 2 tablespoons per wash.  Since this doesn't create suds, it is claimed to be safe for front as well as top loading machines.  I can't vouch for the front loader, so don't hold me to this!  If you want to try it, you might want to do your research first!  I ended up with probably about 8 cups of laundry powder.  I did not actually measure it, I am just eyeballing it for an estimate!

I put the scoop in just because I thought it would
look better than a puny little measuring spoon!  ;)
And the results:

     ** Note:  I put 4 tablespoons in a cup and added hot water and stirred it up, and stirred and stirred.  It didn't quite fully dissolve, but close . . .  so I poured some into the washer while it was filling with water and then added the clothes just a bit later, but before it was filled with water.  I did the first load and then during the time it took to do the first load, the soap that was left in the cup had turned into a thick gel-like substance.  But, it turned more liquid as I stirred it up again.

     1st load - 1 small light blue blanket
          came out clean, smelling fresh - no visible soap residue
     2nd load - 3 black pants
          came out clean, smelling fresh - no visible soap residue
     3rd load - 2 bath rugs
          also came out clean, smelling fresh with no visible soap residue

     **Note: It seems that even though the soap did not fully dissolve, I did not see any traces of it left in my clothes or inside the washer.  I don't know if there might be any build up inside in places that are not easily visible, but I feel like it pretty much either did get dissolved in the wash or got drained out during the drain cycles.

Anyway, so, there you have it!  I think it works for me!  If you try it, I hope it works for you as well!

BTW . . .  Happy Leap Year Day!  ;)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Don't Drive the E-470 in Denver, CO: The Toll Road Rip Off

Rant warning! ! !     

(Added note:  Be sure to check my update to this nightmare here.)

Something has been plaguing me since October.  Remember my trip back to my nephew's wedding?  Well, it was a beautiful drive, great to see the family, nice trip, etc.  What I didn't tell you about was that there was a dark side to that trip.  A nightmare that doesn't seem like it will have any end to it.

It started innocently enough, I was traveling down I-76 towards Denver.  Looking at the map, there was a scenic drive indicated for going up through Rocky Mountain National Park, which was one of the places I wanted to revisit on the trip.  I have been through there a few times, but it had been many years since my last visit.  It looked like taking the E-470 over to the 72 was the way to go.

The first omen that this was a bad idea should have been when I tried to make the transition from the 76 to the E-470.  I ended up having to take quite a drive on side streets to finally find a way to get on it.  It was marked on my map as a toll road, but I thought the small amount I probably would have to pay would be worth the most direct way to get there.

The second omen should have been the fact that although it was a weekday, in a fairly major metropolitan area, there was hardly any traffic on the road once I got on it.

The third omen should have been that there didn't seem to be any way to pay the toll.  I kept expecting to find a tollbooth somewhere along the way, but  . . . . none appeared.  It sure didn't seem like they wanted to collect any money.  There wasn't anything that indicated how the darn thing would be collected. No signage, nothing.  I mean, I wasn't from the area, so . . . who knows?  I thought maybe the map had been wrong, or they decided to end it being a tollroad or something.

The nightmare began just a few weeks after I got back home.  I got a bill in the mail, but it looked like junk mail, so I didn't open it right away.  Then a couple of weeks later, I got another one, so I finally decided to open it and see what in the world it was.  Not only did I get a bill for the toll, they charged to send the bill.  Then, because they sent another one just a couple of weeks later, they charged an additional amount to send it that time, too.

So, I sent them the money, with the late fees added on . . . a total of $4.20 as billed.  End of story, right?   . . . WRONG!  I got another bill, with even more added on to it.  I thought maybe my payment had just crossed in the mail with it, so I just set it aside.  Then a couple of weeks later, I got another bill, this time, with an additional $5 late fee added on.  Just between October and January, the original $3.70 (plus a 60 cent fee each time they mailed) bill was now over $10.  AND, I had paid the darn bill and they were still sending me a bill with additional late fees, etc.

So, I sent a copy of my cancelled check, showing that they had in deed received and processed my payment with a little note and thought that would be the end of it.

WRONG, again ! ! ! !  A couple of weeks later I received another bill, with an additional $25 fee.  Just 2 1/2 months after I took the road, the bill is now over ten times the original bill.  They must be run by the mafia.  I don't think even loan sharks make that kind of interest.  Now, I am fuming.  And apparently, according to the online search I did after I got slapped with that additional fee I wasn't alone.  I googled "toll road rip off", and guess what showed up right at the top of the list . . . yep . . . the E-470 in Denver.

Wow, I was surprised and shocked at the horror stories I read.  I couldn't believe the good people of Colorado put up with this "highway robbery".  Apparently, the news stations and newspapers in the Denver area have been exposing quite a few issues with the E-470 and the management (or lack there of) of said toll road.  It was sickening and I just felt like the latest victim.  I was picturing myself being added to the list of people who were being billed hundreds or in some cases, thousands of dollars over a stinking $3  and change toll bill.  And, an attitude by the toll employees that you were some low-life criminal who was just trying to ditch the bill and should now be punished severely and forever for the sin of taking their precious toll road.  And, if you don't pay . . . they will mess with your credit and the registration for your vehicle.

Anyway, I finally got a response to my letter and they said they would waive the $5 fee, just this once, and I shouldn't ever do it again.  They made it sound like they thought I was just trying to skip out on the toll, but they would let me slide, just this once.  And, I HAD paid the bill! ! ! ! ! !  And, I would have preferred to just pay it when I was on the road, right at the time I was there and be done with it.  But, their response didn't say anything about the additional $25 or all the additional 60 cent charges for mailing me all those bills even though I had already paid it.

So, I got mad.  I sent a letter to the governor pointing out all the stuff I found online about their toll road, let him know that at this point, I had had such a bad experience with them, that not only did I never want to take their toll road again, I wanted to avoid Colorado at all costs, and copied in a whole list of news agencies, etc, as well as the toll company.  I wanted them to stop harassing me to pay a bill that was already paid.  I wanted the whole thing to be considered as paid in full and didn't want to receive any further requests to pay any of the additional fees they piled on.  I also mentioned that it was amazing to me how they treat the tourists coming through when they depend so heavily on tourism.  There were literally only a half dozen cars on that road the whole time I was on it.  Obviously, the locals know better than to get on that road.  AND, I saw they even raised the tolls effective this January.  OMG! ! ! !

It has been nearly a month now and I haven't received any other bills . . . . YET.  I haven't heard a thing yet.  I am hoping that means I have heard the last of them, but, based on all the things I read online, I'm not holding my breath.  I'll keep you posted!

**UPDATE**  While still composing this post, I got ANOTHER bill.  This time from a collection agency . . . for $50.75.  The balance is rising exponentially.   $3.70 toll on Oct 4, to $50.75 just 4 months later.  I am in the wrong business! ! !  On a bill that had been already paid!  Incredible! ! !   I will NOT pay these additional charges!  I PAID the bill back in December! ! ! ! ! ! ! !      They have a statement on it that is bolded:  "If this matter is not resolved, Northwest Parkway may add civil penalties of up to $250 per violation, plus court costs, pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute 43-4-506.5.  Pursuant to the statute, Northwest Parkway may subject you to additional fines, fees and non-renewal of your vehicle registration."  I consider this to be extortion at this point and I refuse to pay these illegal charges.  How on earth can they keep tacking on additional fees to a bill that had been paid? ? ? ?  It is like you can never get out of this vicious circle even when you pay.  So, what, I pay this $50 bill and then they bill me an additional $300? ? ? ?  On a $3.70 toll? ? ? ? ?  I have additional letters to write now . . .

It would seem that there are some issues with toll roads in Texas, Illinois and Florida as well.  It has to do with toll roads where you are not given an option to pay at the booth, because there aren't any booths.  I can't speak for the other states, but the E-470 in Denver does NOT clearly state what you will be up against if you take their toll road.  There is nothing that indicates you will be billed or that there are any other options, such as: that you should go online to find out how to pay.  (This is what the news agencies reported the toll reps said people should do . . . as if we are born knowing that!  There sure weren't any signs on the road advising that is what you should do.  I, for one, would NOT want to give these crooks access to my credit card to bill at will whatever and whenever they like.)

Most of us are used to paying at a booth when we get on a toll road.  Since most toll roads throughout the the US have the same way of operation, it would seem only right and fair that if one is going to be operated differently, there should be some very large and visible signs letting you know what to do and to expect.

Anyway, I have learned a very big lesson.  AVOID all toll roads, you never know when you will be caught in this horrible vortex. 

Here are some links you might find interesting:

One of the travelers on this road had a 40 cent CREDIT with the toll road and they CHARGED her huge late fees on the money THEY OWED HER!  It is truly UNBELIEVABLE!  I would have liked to post comments on some of the sites, but they all require a login to leave one, and since I don't plan on making regular comments, I didn't create a bunch of new logins just to leave my 2 cents worth.  So, I am adding my voice here.

For now, I think I can cross Colorado off my places of places I want to go.  If I want to ski, I have Mammoth, CA or Park City, UT.  If I want mountains, I have the Sierras.  I can't think of anything Colorado has that I can't find elsewhere.  And, if I need to travel back to family again, there are other routes.  Routes that don't go through Colorado.  Those will be the ones I take!   I'll spend my tourist dollars on states that don't go to such lengths to screw the people traveling through.

I strongly suggest you avoid the E-470 in Denver!  It's the only way to keep from being victimized by this unscrupulous agency!  Who knows when they will stop sending me higher and higher bills.

In fact, since Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and the good citizens of Colorado are doing nothing to stop this type of harassment, I'd even go so far as to say; BOYCOT COLORADO!  Maybe that will finally get their attention.

If you have had a problem with them, I'd be interested in hearing your experience as well!  If you know of anyone planning a trip to Colorado, do them a favor and WARN THEM! ! ! !

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day, Everyone! ! !  :)

I hope everyone spends their days feeling the love of family and friends always, but especially so today!

Make someone you love feel special today!