That Time I Proved I was Inefficient and a Weenie

It’s possible to love someone to the ends of the earth but to also realize that you could never work with them. Sula spends three months of the year living in the Arctic without running water, electricity, and heat. In my heart, I knew that not only am I neither tough enough, nor brave enough to do this, but that I possess nowhere near the amount of common sense to make a field season happen. I proved this fact repeatedly the last time Sula came to visit and we hiked into the back country to camp.

After returning from the Arctic, not only did Sula have the best pack, she was also the heartiest, having carried guns, science equipment and everything needed to survive on her back all day, every day for the previous three months, thus she was given the heaviest load. (Did I mention she returned with a six pack? And not the alcoholic kind.) By contrast, at almost five months pregnant and carrying a pack that Tex bought for five dollars that proceeded to fall apart over our eight kilometer hike in and out of the back country, I was given the smallest load. Also Maddie, who functioned as a kind of a doggie tow rope for my exhausted self.

Everything was going fine, we arrived at the camp and Sula was tasked with setting up the tent. Given that she can set up equipment that she’s never seen in complete darkness, in the middle of a howling blizzard with no instructions and both eyes closed, it was a cinch.


This would take Sula all of ten minutes, And thats with a coffee break. (Photo Credit :

I was asked to get water, an errand normally completed by Tex when he and I camp together.

Even though it was summer, Tex and I live in the very, very, very far North, which is to say that there are approximately two days a year when one would want to swim outside, and both of those days occur in July. Sula and I went camping at the end of August so the water was exceptionally cold. Prior to filling the collapsible camping bucket, I removed my shoes and waded out, my knee may have bumped an iceberg or two in the process and I shrieked in pain and surprise.

Always the leader, in hearing the most vulnerable member of her crew scream, Sula ran from the tent, down to the beach to make sure I was ok. “I’m fine” I called to her, “Just getting water. See?” Emerging from the chilly lake, I proudly showed Sula the fruits of my labour- a bucket of water so murky with sand and “seaweed bitties” that one would never be able to drink it. If I’m being honest, there may have been a small fish or two in my gathered water as well. Sula nicely explained that it wasn’t potable even if we did strain the bucket, that would leave approximately two teaspoons of clean water.


What do you mean we can’t drink the beach? (Photo Credit

She then pointed to a more appropriate location to gather clean seaweed and crayfish free water.

Aside from spilling the first bucket of clean, “bitty-free” water I gathered on the beach, things started looking up from there. That is until I set my socks on fire twenty minutes later. Thankfully they weren’t on my feet at the time, they were only drying next to the fire. The night continued to go downhill when I revealed that Sula had packed in two litres of milk and a giant container of potato salad for dinner. Jokes were made about how I will be made to carry a lasagna in a Pyrex dish into the back country when Sula is pregnant.

Between my dismal packing abilities, dramatic over reactions to water and partial lack of common sense, as we were hiking slowly back to civilization I turned to Sula and asked “I could never come to the Arctic with you, could I?”

“You could,” Sula answered kindly, “I’d just have to send you back in the twin otter airplane before you ever touched the tundra.”

The neat part about close friends is that even if you can’t ever work with them, you can still have all kinds of fun.


(Photo Credit : Sula)

A Use For Small Talk Part Two: The Stalker Edition

A while ago, my mother gave me the number for her friend who is a contractor. Or at least she gave me a collection of numbers that if ordered properly would have been the contractor’s phone number. What followed was an awkward conversation with a stranger in which I talked about my desire to raise frogs in the rapidly growing puddle in my basement.

Because it’s not enough to randomly harass strangers with wrong number phone calls, I sent him the following texts after I wrote the post.

The Great Unwashed to Random Understanding Guy: Hi, I randomly called you earlier this week?

Random and Understanding Guy Who Isn’t A Contractor : Silence

The Great Unwashed : There shouldn’t have been a question mark there, I am certain that I called you; however I wasn’t sure whether you remembered me.

Random Guy : Still no texts

The Great Unwashed : Anyway I’m Unwashed. Online I’m known as The Great Unwashed.

Understanding Guy : No texts. Is obviously digesting the fact that I’m great because I imagine he thought I was the Crazy Unwashed.

The Great Unwashed : I just thought you should know you’re famous.

Wrong Number Guy : Crickets

The Great Unwashed : Well not famous like Kim Kardashian famous, more like, my friends and family including my great aunts know about you famous.

Random Guy : The silence continues. Probably I should have held off a while before introducing my family to a wrong number .

The Great Unwashed:  I featured you on my blog. Ok, not so much you as our conversation. Thanks for being so helpful by the way.

And because that wasn’t a long enough series of answered text messages, I sent this one off too.

The Great Unwashed : Oh! I almost forgot the link!

Death By Baby Oil

It’s grievous bodily injury week here at The Great Unwashed and we’re celebrating with vigor. Remember the story of the old lady who swallowed a fly?  I’ve always thought that woman was crazy after reading that she swallowed a spider, a cat, a dog and so on. However after what happened the other day I can now empathize with the old lady. Sometimes when things go bad the only option is to make them worse.

I’m attempting to stain a fifty year old dining set. I say attempting because currently I’m on my third try after two failed coats of varnish. My grandmother was upset with me when she heard that I had been attempting to spread the finish with a rag “Use a brush otherwise it’s a waste of stain and rags- Grandpa’s underwear doesn’t grow on trees you know.”

That's a horrible mental image. Almost as bad as the day I spent holding onto Grampa's underpants.

Grandpa’s underwear tree. That’s a horrible mental image. (Photo Credit :

Ok she may not have said the last part, but it was implied by her incredulous tone of voice upon hearing how I had been attempting to refinish the table.

Armed with Grandma’s advice, the refinishing job was going splendidly until I needed to wash the brush.

Now as a former lifeguard and a self confessed safety aficionado I am normally all decked out in personal protective equipment; goggles, masks, ear protection, gloves, the whole nine yards. However using a brush meant that my hands were not touching the stain, hence I didn’t wear gloves. So when I went to wash the stain out of the brush I thought to myself “Water washes things, why would I need gloves to wash things?”

Which was how I ended up with stain coated hands. A veteran of being covered in gook  I went immediately to my supply of baby oil gel* and smeared it all over my hands.

It's also useful when you're stuck in a tube slide. (Photo credit :

It’s also useful when you’re stuck in a tube slide. (Photo credit :

Baby oil gel will remove most dyes, all temporary tattoos and wax. Unfortunately I discovered what baby oil gel will not remove is varnish. Now my hands were stained brown with a top coat of baby oil. The tub was rapidly being coated in stain as well at this point.

That’s when I decided to get the borax. Tragically I store borax in the cupboard with a glass doorknob, which would not turn because my hands were coated in grease. So I grabbed a glove that I should have been wearing at the beginning of all of this and put it on to open the door.

Sprinkling the borax liberally I began to scrub the now “Mission Oak” brown bathtub with a gloved hand. Suddenly the latex started to get very warm and I realized that a chemical reaction was occurring between the stain and the borax. Remembering the slew of detergent suicides in the media, I threw open our front door and the window hoping to air out the room. The borax worked a little bit but kept heating up so I tried regular soap.

Unfortunately following an afternoon of unsupervised science experiments all of the soap in our house looked like this.


 Soap is prone to exploding when exposed to science because science is great. Not quite so great when you need it to clean things though. (Photo Credit :

Soap is prone to exploding when exposed to science because science is great. Not quite so great when you need it to clean things though. (Photo Credit :

So it didn’t work very well. And now the wonky shaped soap had a coat of “Mission Oak” stain too.

After all of that the tub was clean. As long as the lights were off and you squinted it looked almost white. I was on the verge of being late to meet a friend so I hopped in to shampoo my hair and shower.

The ensuing shriek as I slid down and sideways out of the tub could be heard four houses away because the front door was still open. The tub was white (ish) but the borax and science experiment soap had not cut through the layer of baby oil.

The only way I could shower was by crouching, which didn’t work well as the drain was clogged with a mixture of stain, borax and oil. While I shampooed my hair, the tub gradually filled with water and there was a grimy layer on the top.

So I had to walk the fine line of staying crouched enough so I wouldn’t slip on the baby oil but not so crouched that my lower half got coated in the varnish and borax combination floating on the surface. Although the words “I preserved it just for you” are very sweet I don’t think shellacking my kootch and bum would go over well with my husband.

I realized that I was going to be late when I emerged from the shower dirtier than when I went in. Texting my friend  “Late. Have story.” I grabbed a bottle of dish detergent from the kitchen and took another swipe at cleaning the tub. The Palmolive cut through the baby oil and I was able to shower standing up this time to get rid of the film that had formed on my legs.

In the future I’m going to ask my grandmother what to do after completing a staining job. I have a feeling it will involve gloves and more underpants.

*My friend upon hearing this story said “Why do you have so much baby oil gel?” which I thought was a silly question given how often I end up covered in some sort of dye thus it seems obvious why  we would have bottles and bottles of it lying around. But there is one other purpose for baby oil gel which I will cover in another post.