Friday, October 20, 2017

Hiking Through Vasquez Rocks

This morning after running the dogs alongside my bike, I decided to take them hiking. Lula immediately became very well behaved, sitting and waiting at the gate as I got ready to put them in the car. Dogs can really read our intentions. I praised her for being such a good girl, and popped my backpack in the trunk.

I decided to take them to Vasquez Rocks, in Agua Dulce. I thought it would be a nice change.  It's a gorgeous setting, with jagged rocks, blue skies, and a portion of my favorite hiking trail, The Pacific Crest Trail. This path goes all the way from Mexico to Canada. It's a very special hike. The dogs loved it, (even though we just did a small portion of it.)

Lana looks so healthy and happy these days. She really responds well to all of the exercise and training that she's getting. I thought that at ten years of age,  it would be too much for her. I was wrong. She is thriving. Having Lula at her side seems to make her feel more enthusiastic and motivated. They both seem to enjoy being part of a pack. I appreciate the benefits of the outdoor exercise, too. It really helps your mental outlook and physical stamina.

I did some off leash training with them. I made sure that they let me go first, instead of running down the trail ahead of me. I had them stop quickly, sit, wait, and then start again. They were very responsive and enthusiastic. It was nice to feel like they were in control, in case we ran into another dog. This way I can get their leashes on quickly, and they won't run away from me.

On the way home, they were both curled up in the back seat of my car, sleeping. They looked so content and relaxed, side by side and exhausted. It was a great workout for me, too. This trail is just ten minutes from my home, and it feels like we have driven out of town. The weather was perfect. I heated up some leftover chicken barley soup for lunch, and plan to work on my shawl this afternoon. How are you doing?      

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Apple Crisp Recipe

I first tasted this delicious vintage dessert when I was nine years old. I was visiting my neighbor, Mrs. Hutchinson, who lived up the street from us on Barneson Avenue.  She was a marvelous cook, gardener, and baker. She helped me write out the recipe on a recipe card. After that, she sent me home with a bag of frozen, peeled, and sliced Pippin apples. She was so nice that way. I have been making it for forty-four years. It's simple, delicious, and quick. Often I will throw this together, instead of baking an apple pie. I hope you enjoy it.

Apple Crisp


4-6 Granny Smith or Pippin apples
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup of water


1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter ( 1 cube)

Sprinkle spices over and through the apples. Cream together topping ingredients. Cover with topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 mins.

Mrs. Hutchinson always served this with frozen Cool Whip. That was very popular in those days. I loved it as a child. It's also terrific with a side of vanilla ice cream or gelato, and a steaming  hot cup of coffee.

Good news. I finished the socks. They are on their way to Nil's house. I had trouble with them yesterday. I had to rip back about twenty rows. A small piece of the yarn wasn't spun, and it looked horrible. I hadn't really examined it closely, because I was chatting at a knitting group. Yesterday my count got off while working on the toe at another group.  I just can't seem to knit well when doing decreases on double pointed needles in a group setting. I finished them today, while sitting out on the porch. The sparrows were splashing happily in the birdbath. Lula has been visiting. She is such a positive force! This is how she looks after a run alongside my bicycle. She likes to stop by the cottage after our exercise session each morning. She gulps down some water and a peanut butter dog biscuit. See you tomorrow...


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Home Grown Lettuce in Salads

I've been making salads each day with the fresh lettuce from the garden. It's really delicious. The tender, baby greens  taste completely different than the large heads of Romaine that I normally buy at Sprouts. I probably will need to purchase some more plants, because I'm starting to pick too many of the outer leaves. They need a rest period, so that they can fill out again.  Each year this usually happens. I need about five six packs of the starter plants to provide enough for daily salads. It's worth it. For me, lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. It's so much more pleasant to be outside gardening now, because the temperature is perfect. It's ideal weather for bike riding, walking, and hiking, too.

I made an apple crisp over the weekend, and am still enjoying the leftovers. It's a wonderful dessert to pair with a cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea. I love the spices,  and their flavors and aromas. The cinnamon, allspice, and apples are such a treat with the buttery topping. This recipe reminds me of my childhood. My neighbor, Mrs. Hutchinson, taught me how to make it.

I have been taking care of the potager garden. I've got flowers, fruit trees, cauliflower, broccoli, citrus trees, strawberries, and chokeberries in this small front plot. It's fun to see and feel the difference in the area. I mulched it with straw, and the plants are all doing well. I have to make sure to keeps the dogs on the porch, now, and not let them frolic through the young plants. Lula came to visit today, and spent most of the time on my lap. She is just bursting with enthusiasm and affection. I adore her. She loves our bike rides together. The running  seems to calm her down and fill her with happiness.

Now that the weather is cooler, this little peppermint plant is much more comfortable and healthy. I plan to use it to make some fresh tea with honey. I love the taste of it. I am making an effort to grow and use more herbs. They have such wonderful benefits. They adapt very easily to our soil and climate here in California, too. How is your garden doing?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tommy Tune & Ann Reinking

Tommy Tune & Ann Reinking

I found this fabulous piece of choreography on Youtube, and wanted to share it with you. I just love the style. It's so Broadway. The music and showmanship is absolutely wonderful. I wish I knew who did the choreography. It looks like Alan Johnson's work to me, but I'm not sure.

Tommy Tune hired me for the National Touring Company of My One and Only when I was a young dancer. I think I was twenty one. This led to a long and fulfilling working relationship with him. I got to do a couple of tours and the Broadway Workshop of Easter Parade with him. I also wrote a cover story on him for the magazine Dancer. He is a fantastic director and performer. It was one of the happiest times of my life. Tommy always hires excellent talent, I am still in touch with many of the dancers, singers, and actors that I met while working in his shows. They all have huge hearts.

Tommy is currently on tour with Chita Rivera in a show called Chita and Tune, Just In Time. I have my tickets, and can't wait to go see them. A friend and I plan to see it together. We are so excited! I really miss these types of shows. The music was inspiring and memorable. You left the theater singing, dancing, and feeling happy. You can't put a price on making the audience feel this way.

I hope you enjoy this clip. Let me know what you think. I just love Ann's Fosse style, and joy of movement. She is impeccably trained. She started out as a ballet dancer, and it really shows...

For some reason, the clip vanished after editing the post, so I will post it again, separately. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Picking the First Strawberry

This morning, as I was watering my new plants, I noticed the first red strawberry peeking out at me. I caught my breath. This is the first time I have had success with strawberries. I think the last time I planted them, it was too hot. I remember putting them into two hanging baskets, and they  fried to a crisp within a few days. It was a sad and expensive purchase and experiment. These I planted in heavy compost and mulch. They look very happy and healthy. The leaves are a beautiful shade of green. The winter garden is off to a promising start!

  The heirloom lettuce plants are doing well. It's a bit hot here to be growing salad greens, but fortunately, they haven't bolted. They seem to enjoy the cool nights. The geraniums are blooming beautifully, as are the begonias. The amaranth is still reaching upward, so tall and colorful, and the artichoke plants seem happy in their new sunny spots. I am hoping that they will explode with growth in the next few months. I love fresh, home grown artichokes. Their taste is divine.

I refilled the hummingbird feeder yesterday. This little juvenile has been visiting regularly, and drinking the nectar. He is so sweet. This is my view of him from my desk, where I blog. The ant guard is working well. It's fun to see the hummers perch on the feeder and enjoy a drink. It makes me feel in tune with nature. They pollinate many of the flowers that I grow, too. There are still some four o'clocks in bloom, which they frequent. I also saw a lovely monarch butterfly perched on a sunflower. It was so peaceful to watch it slowly drinking the nectar. I gazed at him for a while, and time seemed to stand still. It's amazing how much our gardening attracts the bees, butterflies, and songbirds. It's a rewarding feeling to provide food, water, and protective cover for them.

I spent several hours knitting the purple socks over the weekend. They are growing nicely. I will finish them in my knitting groups. I plan to do some work on the shawl today. I am itching to make more socks. I balled up another skein of the Viking of Norway Nordlys sock yarn. It has some natural earth tones. It feels so good to be knitting up the yarn that has been sitting patiently in my stash. I am also eager to start using some of the lovely baby yarn that I have waiting in my closet. So much knitting to do, but I've also got to stay on top of the other chores, as well. I got the baking and laundry finished over the weekend. Today I will mop the floors and total up my receipts. What are you up to today?      

Friday, October 13, 2017

Purple Socks Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the Purple Socks Giveaway. The winner is Nil@ Little House By the Lake. Congratulations Nil! I am making the socks in a size 6 to fit your foot.  Please send me a comment with your  address. I won't publish it, but then I can mail these to you. I will have then finished in a week.

I have more sock yarn in my stash, and am planning more give aways of hand knit socks in the future. I really appreciate all of your interest. I wish I could have given a pair to each person who entered. I had been racking my brain,  trying to think of who to give those socks to, and this solution felt ideal.

The Lost In Time Shawl is coming along nicely. I will crochet a couple more rows on it today. Yesterday I fixed the error; now both sides match.  I think I will skip the final border, and end with the scalloped edging. I love that look. Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hand Knit Socks Giveaway

I have really been enjoying knitting socks again. I had forgotten how addictive socks are! It's hard to put them down; I want to continue. Thank you for your comments yesterday. If you leave a comment today, you will automatically be entered in the drawing. Please let me know your shoe size. I will adjust the number of rows in the socks to fit your foot. If you know your American shoe size, that makes it even easier. If not, I will convert the measurement.

I got up at 4:15 a.m. this morning, made a small pot of espresso coffee, and enjoyed a cafe au lait as I knit in the dark. I was eager to get going on the heel of the first purple sock. I felt a little rusty, and had to stop a couple of times, to fix my errors. Turning a heel takes a lot of concentration. I found my mind was wandering. This yarn is very pretty. It's got soft, muted stripes in different hues of purple. It feels so good to knit up another ball of yarn from my stash. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to make something in a new, vibrant color.

I organized my yarn last week, and most of what I have now is sock yarn and baby yarn. I received a gift card to Amazon from my brother and sister in law last Christmas, and I bought several balls of sock yarn with it. I plan to start knitting them regularly again. They are so much fun. It's nice to do something that is comfortable and familiar. I've made this pattern for several friends and family members, and everyone has been happy with the fit. It's by my knitting teacher, Yuko Frederick, and is available on Ravelry. It's her basic sock pattern.

Now it's time to rip out the last row of my shawl. I have 54 double crochets on one side, and 55 on the other. That will keep me busy. I found where the problem is. So much of knitting and crocheting is being able to read your work, and to spot the errors. The dark grey yarn that I'm using  is a challenge for me. It's harder to see, especially at my age. I'll work on it in the daylight, which will help. How are things with you?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Appreciating The Little Things

Recently I have been making an effort to appreciate the small details that make each day enjoyable. I planted these little begonias  in a window box for color and pleasure. I love the shade of pink that they are, and the feeling they give me when I'm sitting in my living room. Instead of buying fresh flowers, I pull up my balloon curtains, and enjoy gazing at these petite fairy flowers each day. Here in California, they usually stay in bloom all year.

I bought  a new hummingbird feeder over the weekend. I wasn't sure how long it would take the hummers to find it. This morning I saw the first one come to visit it and drink the nectar. They are such special little birds. I love the distinctive sound that their wings make, and how dainty they are. I will keep this feeder full of fresh sugar water for them. They really appreciate it, and many of them visit several times a day.

My knitting and crocheting is coming along well. I've started working through my worsted weight stash yarn to finish the Lost In Time shawl. I love how the Noro Silk Garden yarn worked out with the colors. It feels so good to use up the leftover small balls of quality yarn. Most are remnants of sweaters that I have knit.  Right now I'm using some grey tweed Cascade Rustic yarn that I bought at Creative Ewe several years ago. It's blending in nicely with the earth tones. People really love these colors, and I wouldn't have thought to put them together myself.  Thank you Mr. Noro. What an artist he is!

Yesterday morning I cast on a new pair of socks. I don't normally work on more than two projects at a time, but I needed something repetitive to do at my knitting groups. The other two items require a lot of counting and concentration.  I finished the cuff today. and will do the heel tomorrow. I plan to use these for a blog giveaway. I will take the names of people leaving comments, and pick one as the recipient. You can let me know your size, and I will make them to fit your foot. I will post anywhere. I hope you like purple!     

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Lemon Jello Cake Recipe

This is a favorite family recipe that my mom used to make for us on our birthdays. The photo above was taken on my seventh birthday, with my two younger brothers. I remember asking the one on the left, "Do you want to help me blow out the candles?" I love their expressions.

Lemon Jello Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup cold water
1 small package of lemon jello
3 eggs
1 tsp. lemon extract

Combine jello and cold water. Add to cake mix: oil, eggs, and extract. Beat according to directions on package. Bake at 350 degrees in angel food pan for 55 minutes. Take from oven and pierce with fork. Top with homemade lemon glaze.

Glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar and the juice and grated rind of one lemon.

As we got older, my mom started buying cakes at the bakery, and ordering us ice cream cakes at 31 Flavors. I still love her Lemon Jello Cake the best. It's a vintage recipe, so the sizes of the cake mixes and jello may have changed.    

Monday, October 9, 2017

Growing Fruits and Vegetables in the Winter

When I first bought my cottage, I planted zucchini, pumpkins, and tomatoes during the warm season.  I haven't done that in several years. I think I stopped around the time  my hips  had deteriorated. Now that they have been replaced, and the muscles are strong and healthy, I am ready  to get back in the game. I love growing the cold weather veggies, because they take less water and care. We have such hot weather in June, July, and August, that I just don't enjoy working outside. It takes hours to  feed, water, and care for a vegetable garden. I have good intentions when I start, but once the dog days of summer arrive, I find that I lose my enthusiasm.

Yesterday I planted artichokes, heirloom lettuces, spinach, and strawberries. I was pleased to see that my soil is still looking healthy and vibrant. I added a lot of homemade compost to each planting hole, and filled the cavities with water. I mulched the entire garden with fresh straw. It really works its magic over time. I lifted  the blanket of mulch from an area along the side garden, and the soil underneath it was black and rich. The homemade compost that I use was filled with tiny red wiggler worms. They arrived on their own; I didn't have to buy them. I think they were attracted to the horse manure that I had collected and deposited in the pile after one of my hikes. There is no trace of it remaining in the mountain of yard and produce trimmings anymore, it has transformed into rich, black, alive, organic matter.

Last night I made a salad with the tender greens from the heirloom lettuces that I had just transplanted. It was simple and delicious. I had forgotten how much better salads taste with the young, fresh, homegrown baby greens. The ones that I buy at the store are larger, and more mature. They have a completely different flavor than these delicate leaves. It will be nice to make fresh garden salads for the next several months.

I plan to make a bucket full of compost tea today, and let it sit in the sunshine. It makes such a wonderful plant food. I fed it to my pink geraniums, and they are blooming nicely.  They are so hardy and dependable.


Friday, October 6, 2017


As I get older, I think about where I live now, and envision where I want to be in five, ten, or twenty years.  My current home has a very convenient location. I can walk to the bus stop in five minutes, and be in town in another five minutes. There are several grocery stores, pharmacies, a library, post office, and bike paths within a few miles of my home. It's nice not to have to drive a long distance to run errands or to meet with friends. There are also parks, restaurants, and cafes nearby. I can attend two or three knitting groups a week, all within eleven miles of my home.

I don't go to the theater often, but if I want to see a Broadway show or concert performance, I am just thirty miles from The Pantages Theater, The Ahmanson, and The Hollywood Bowl. I am also located a few miles from the train station, which is very convenient. I love to travel by Amtrak. I can take the local Metro train to Union Station. From there, you can travel to all sorts of places.

When I bought my little house in 1998, I felt like I was moving out into the country. At that time, this area was considered to be on the outskirts of town. In the last twenty years, there has been a lot of development, and there are new homes that have been built above the main highway.  There is also a a new college just a few blocks from here.

My cottage is situated on a third acre lot, which gives me plenty of space to garden. I planted fruit trees in the backyard, and a potager garden in the front. The small garden in front of my house and along the driveway is where I keep the flowers, a few citrus trees, and  hanging baskets of pink geraniums.

One thing that I really like about my living space is that is has a large, vintage style  kitchen. There is plenty of space for me to cook, bake, and to make soap. I have a smaller than average refrigerator, the studio size from Big Chill. It works for me, since I don't have a family to feed.

I also adore having an old fashioned porch. I spend a lot of time outside on mine, reading, knitting crocheting, and writing. I love being surrounded by the greenery, listening to the birds and chickens, and watching the world go about you? Do you like your location?