Monday, December 11, 2017

Fixing Things and Cleaning House



Over the weekend I had the fence replaced. It was costly, but it really needed to be done. This time it won't get blown down by the force of those Santa Ana winds. They were so turbulent last week. The old fence had been here for at least twenty-five years. It had started to lean after the heavy rains that we had last season. The posts weren't cemented, so it was flattened during  last week's storm. I love the new redwood one. Isn't it pretty? It smells so good. My neighbor did the work. I think he did a terrific job.



Yesterday I did some intense decluttering and housekeeping. I picked up a couple of books at the library for inspiration. My favorite one is called Housekeeping Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me, by Joni Hilton. It's a fun read. She has an engaging style. I love hearing her take on homes and how to care for them.

Friday night I attended a fantastic Christmas show at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita. I was so impressed with this production! My neighbor was performing in the children's choir. They had a full orchestra, a large adult choir, and a children's choir. They sounded incredible. We got to sing along with them, and it was very uplifting. I just love singing Christmas carols. It was a wonderful surprise. I was expecting a very small show, and this was the exact  opposite. It was very professional, and they were so well rehearsed.


I finished knitting these socks last week; they fit perfectly! I also completed another tea cozy, and am sewing in the ends today. This one is with some small balls of pink and purple Noro Silk Garden yarn that I had in my stash. Next I plan to knit a hat for my friend in New York. I will use the leftover yarn from his alpaca,merino, and bamboo  scarf.

The fire situation here is much better than it was. There is still a furious fire raging in the Ventura and Santa Barbara area right now. I feel for those residents. I hope that the firefighters are able to handle it. It's just mammoth. Some of my friends are without power or water. This really reinforces in me the need to be prepared in an emergency..


I am thankful that I have a stockpile of food and water, and an emergency backpack in the car. It's such a relief not to be worried about evacuating and finding a safe route to drive. I plan to do some dusting today and enjoy some more knitting and reading. Lately I've been relaxing with a cup of coffee with whipped cream in the evenings.  I probably shouldn't, but if I don't, I feel like falling into bed at 7:00 p.m.! Seriously, I start dozing off.  Something about wintertime  makes me so sleepy at night. I guess it's because it gets dark so early. How are you doing?      

Thank you for your comments. I read them all, and really appreciate them. They make the blogging much more fun..

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fires and Fear



Many people have contacted me, asking about the Los Angeles fires. I live near some of them, but so far we have been okay. It is still frightening. The winds have been very strong. I have family and friends in Northern California, if I need to evacuate. I went there last time, when my house was surrounded by flames on three sides. I had to leave my pot bellied pig and chicken. We all survived. I drove to my parents' house and  ate and ate and ate. Somehow it calmed me down; that ravenous hunger  was a strange reaction. 

I watched a video of the fire on Facebook and  couldn't believe my eyes. The footage showed the 405 freeway, near the Getty Center. I thought about how many times I had driven down that stretch. I used to take it to Santa Monica when I taught at Westside Ballet. I took ballet classes there almost every morning. I thought about how crowded and congested it would be if everyone were fleeing the area at once. As it it, it takes an hour to drive fourteen miles on that pass during rush hour. Thinking about people trying to get out in a hurry made me ill.

I made an appointment with our neighbor to fix the fence that was flattened by the wind. The force of it reminded me of the tornado scene in The Wizard of Oz. Something about these winds is menacing and dark. You can feel the potential of destruction. The whistling sound they make is eerie and  threatening.

Yesterday my dog went outside and laid on the ground, looking vulnerable and worried. She didn't want to come inside. That's unlike her. She always wants to come inside. I listen to my animals. They know. I thought about the movie Bambi. That fire scene with the animals terrified me as a child.

I went to the drug store and bought some mouthwash and foundation. I scanned the blue mountains. No fire anywhere. It didn't look anything like the news. "Well, it's still LA," I said to myself. "Cars everywhere." Before leaving, I had talked to the plumber who was working on the main line, out in front of my cottage. "Aren't you afraid to work during these fires?" I asked him. "No," he answered. "The wind is blowing in the opposite direction," he added. "They closed the 5 freeway," I told him. "It's open now," he responded. He seemed so happy and calm. I wondered if it was because he was young. I felt a sense of relief upon hearing that the freeway to where I grew up was no longer blocked.

I cooked two meals. Cooking grounds me. I made spaghetti, homemade tomato sauce with a cube of butter and a halved onion, and a tuna casserole. That made me feel better. Now there is plenty of food in the fridge. I went to the atm and withdrew a large amount of cash. I'll need it to pay the guy replacing the fence this weekend. If the fire comes this way, I'll need it in my purse, just in case.

I didn't want to blog today, or do yoga, or practice my songs. I will do all three. I finished knitting a pair of socks, and I mailed out my last open soap order to Reno. I sent my brother his Christmas present, and forgot to mail my Christmas cards while I was there.

The towels are knocking around in the dryer, almost dry. Soon I will take a bath. Hopefully that will relax me. I am still shocked by those images on the news of the freeway and those hillsides. I never thought I'd see the day. The older I get, the more I realize how unpredictable life is.  Today Lana wanted to play frisbee, and now she is sleeping in her bed. Things will probably be okay.

Thank you for your comments. If you enjoy the posts here, please share them.          

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Setting Boundaries and Saying No



Lately I have been realizing that I need to scale back on how much that I give to others, and prioritize things that need to be done in my home and business. I have been getting behind in my personal bookkeeping, home repairs, and vocal practice. Sometimes is just gets too late, or I feel like I have run out of time.

I started thinking about it, and realized that too much of my energy is going outward. For example,  I have many people who expect me to help them with their knitting. It takes a lot of time and energy. I have realized that since teaching was my profession for forty years, I need to charge for my time. When I work with people, they understand their mistakes, and they can grasp the techniques. From now on, I will charge the going rate for knitting lessons. I have spent a significant amount of money on my own training in the arts, and have studied with the masters. I can draw on that energy as a teacher. 

I also have realized that I can no longer drive people around who need rides. Recently people have been asking me to drive them very long distances, and I can't afford it. It takes a lot of time, energy, and gas, and it causes wear and tear on my car. I have learned to say no, and to explain that I am busy working. Sometimes when you are self employed and work from home, people assume that you are always available. Just because my light is on at 5:30 a.m. does not mean that I will answer my phone. My mother used to tell us, "No phone calls until 9:00 a.m." Now I see why she made that rule. 

The other day a neighbor said to me, "You should run my next door neighbor's dog. He never gets a walk." I explained to her that I'm not running a free dog walking service. She laughed.  For whatever reason, this has always been a challenge for me. My mom used to tell me that I always felt like people were taking advantage of me.  I guess it's one of my life lessons. I'm getting clear about what is and isn't my responsibility.

There's an old saying, "Give him an inch, and he'll take a mile." It has flashed into my mind often lately. Often I think, "Well, I'll just do this one thing, and then the person will do it themself." Quite often the reverse happens, and the next time they expect twice as much help.  I've got to scale back on areas in life where I'm giving but not receiving. It's time to make lists, prioritize, and set goals.

We have had some frightening fires in our area recently. It has been very, very windy. A section of my fence blew down to the ground the other night. I will be having it repaired this weekend. That's another reason I need to charge the going rate for my services. How are things going with you?     

Monday, December 4, 2017

In the Flow...



This morning I woke up at quarter to four, jumped out of bed, padded to the back door, and let out Lana. I made a small pot of espresso coffee, then heated it up with hot goat's milk and coconut milk on the stove. I sat on the couch with the Christmas lights on outside. I have done this since I was a little girl. I love it when the house is dark, and the Christmas trees are lit.  I felt very motivated to do some housework, so I got an early start.

After sweeping the floors, I mopped them with hot, soapy water. I used some of my homemade liquid soap and a tablespoon of baking soda in the water. I went over the floors a  second time with hot vinegar water. I am determined to clean my floors once a week, since that has been a weak area for me. I always used to procrastinate.

From there, I emptied my dresser drawers, and organized them. I was shocked to find about twenty bars of soap in bags that I had stored in the very back corner. Shame on me. I am basically up to my ears in soap at this time of year. I want to be able to fill every order. I can't always anticipate what people will want, so I make a variety.



I received a call from a friend a few hours later. She asked me if I had any goat's milk soap or lavender soap left for Christmas. I was amazed. That was exactly what I had discovered in the back of that sweater drawer. She ordered fourteen soaps, which was a wonderful surprise. I just finished writing out all of the labels and boxing up her package. I will deliver it tomorrow. We are meeting at a cafe to knit.


It was such an important lesson for me. I always have good things happen when I get organized. I now plan to do my cleaning early in the morning. It's when I have the most energy. The days are shorter now, and I feel tired by 6:30 or 7:00 p.m.! In the evenings it's nice to wind down, read, relax, and do yoga.

When do you do your housework? Do you have a set routine?

Thank you for your comments. They are a pleasure to read. I appreciate you taking the time to contribute to the blog. If you enjoy the articles here, please share them.

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Gorgeous Woodpecker at the Hummingbird Feeder


Yesterday I heard some chattering outside of my window as I was blogging. I glanced up, and saw this beautiful bird perched on the hummer's feeder. He was gulping down the sugar water. I gasped at his brilliance. His markings are just spectacular. I love how he's speckled with black and white dots, and how the pattern reverses on his belly.

This morning I cut up some green apples, and left them for him on the tray of the hummingbird feeder. He's returned twice today. So far he hasn't been interested in the fruit. He drinks the nectar enthusiastically. I'm just on the other side of this window, and my presence doesn't seem to bother him. His beauty just takes my breath away.


When my mom was alive, she used to watch the woodpecker as he tapped his beak on the poplar tree on the other side of the house. He gobbled up ants and bugs, and enjoyed the sap from the tree. I have a large pine tree in the backyard, and they love those, too. I can hear owls at night, as I lay in bed. Their sound is so soothing.

The hummingbirds are still visiting the feeder regularly. They are so petite and speedy. The woodpecker is much bigger than they are. He comes across as friendly and comfortable with people. There are Youtube videos on line with people feeding them suet out of their hand.


The artichoke plants are growing nicely. They were tiny starters that I bought in a six pack a couple of months ago. Soon they will be huge! I'm looking forward to the harvest.

I have seen sparrows, gold finches, scrub jays, robins, mourning doves, and a titmouse in the last week. The flowers, herbs, and fruit trees really seem to attract them.  What kinds of birds visit your garden?        

Thank you for your comments. I read them all, and greatly appreciate your input.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Gingerbread Cake Recipe



Gingerbread Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup light molasses

1. Grease a 9x11/2-inch round baking pan; set pan aside. In a bowl combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat till fluffy. Add egg and molasses; beat 1 minute. Add dry mixture and 1/2 cup water alternately to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition till combined. Pour batter into pan.
3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or till a wooden toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 30 minutes in pan on wire rack. Serve warm. Makes 9 servings.


This is one of my favorite recipes. I serve it with sweetened whipped cream. It's so simple and delicious. I hope you enjoy it. 
 
Thank you for your comments. They keep the blog interesting and enjoyable. Please share your favorite posts. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Simplifying Christmas


I've always lived fairly simply. As a professional dancer, my focus was on training and performing. We were gypsies, and traveled much of the time. I resided in a different city for fifteen years in a row. I loved staying in hotels, seeing the world, and eating out in restaurants. We were so spoiled.

Once I bought my cottage, my lifestyle changed. For the first time since I was a teenager, I  had a dog. I decorated my home for Christmas. I bought vintage and antique furniture. I began to flourish in my nest. It was grounding to garden, grow food, cook, bake, and clean.


At Christmastime, I keep decorating simple. I have a few decorations that I put up each year. Most of them my mom gave to me. I hang a red wreath on the front door each year, and string brightly colored lights on the two live Christmas trees that flank the front door. I planted them twenty years ago. They were tiny at that time, and now they are large and majestic. I love the fact that they present the house for the holidays each year. I get so many compliments on them. They are easy to maintain, as well. I just water them, keep them well mulched, and feed them a few doses of compost tea.

My mother used to get very overwhelmed by Christmas. She put so much pressure on herself. She spent hours and hours decorating, until our home looked like Saks Fifth Avenue. She was incredibly talented, but it took her all day to put up those expensive decorations. She dreaded putting everything away after Christmas. Eventually she stopped decorating for the holidays at all. It was just too much work. Everything sat in boxes in the dark, damp basement. She was a very all or nothing personality. I've learned that less is more, as the saying goes.


I decided to make things easy on myself, and  just have one box of decorations to pull out each year. Everything  inside the house is done in about thirty minutes.  I hang the outside lights separately, the next day. My routine is to start putting things up the day after Thanksgiving. It gives the house a cozy feeling, and is very doable. It's nice not to feel upset, anxious, or pressured.

I take the same approach with the cooking, baking, and gifts. I will write more about this in upcoming posts. It is enjoyable and fun to have a simple holiday without stress and overwork. How about you?

Thank you for your comments. They are such a gift. If the articles here help you, please share them. 

  

Monday, November 27, 2017

Do Dogs Grieve?


After Carlie died, I became very worried about Lana. She appeared listless and depressed. Apathetic, and uninterested in food, she seemed to be at death's door. A couple of friends pointed out to me that she was probably grieving. I was afraid that I was going to lose her, too. I even said good bye to her, and thanked her for all that she had done for me. 


Once we started having Lula over each day, Lana perked up and seemed rejuvenated. Lula is only a year old, and she is very playful and happy. This energy immediately rubbed off on Lana. They got used to a morning routine of having a run on the Walkydog, playing frisbee in the backyard, and taking a weekly hike.



Each morning, after all of that running around, I bring Lula and Lana  inside, while I made a pot of tea. Lula laps up the water enthusiastically, and then plops herself on the floor. Both dogs seem to thrive on the exercise and physical exertion. It has the same effect on me. Movement is so important for mental and emotional health.



Lana's skin infection has finally healed. I finally took her for a second opinion,  and the new vet shaved the areas around her sores.  He also gave  her a steroid shot, and some medication. The new medicine and medicated shampoo have worked wonders. She has put back on weight, and no longer looks so skinny and afflicted. She's become playful and impish. It's so nice to see a senior dog so joyful and silly. She's enjoying her new Christmas toy. I saved it. My mom used to give me lots of dog toys as gifts when she was alive. I have stored them in with my Christmas decorations.  It's funny how the dogs notice when it's a new toy. This one has a terrific squeaker. How are your dogs doing?

Thank you for your comments. They really the blog more interesting. If you enjoyed this post, please share it.
 


Friday, November 24, 2017

Enjoying Thanksgiving Leftovers



I hope those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a peaceful and relaxing holiday. Most of us here in America  have been eating the leftovers today, and they are so delicious! I think that's my favorite part, reheating all of that delicious food, and enjoying a well anticipated plate for lunch and dinner. It brings back great memories with my Aunt Mary. She was such a kind and fun woman. She made holidays really special.


My mom and dad and I used to prepare the meal when I was a child and teenager. It was a huge feast. As I got older, I simplified it and pared it down to what I call "the greatest hits". I stuff a chicken with Mrs. Cubbinson's stuffing. My grandma used to bring it with her to us in San Mateo, all the way from Los Angeles. She would pack it in her suitcase. You couldn't find Mrs. Cubbinson's dressing in the Bay Area. We always added cubes of butter, sauteed onion and celery, chicken broth, and sage. When I make the stuffing now, I always think of my mother. She was such an excellent cook. I miss her.


I tried a new recipe for cranberry sauce this year. It has orange juice and orange rind. I picked an orange from my navel tree. It turned out really nicely. I love those two flavors together. I baked an apple cranberry cobbler, and plan to make some orange cranberry bread in the next week or two.

Some of you asked about the open mike night that I performed in last Friday. It was so much fun! We have a wonderful book store in town called The Open Book. It is very close to my cottage. Once a month, they have an evening where live performers can take the stage.  I did some songs and a short tap dance. I was so energized by the experience. I plan to return again next month, as well. I loved that it was just a short drive from my home. Normally I would have to drive much further participate in something like this. There are also opportunities in Hollywood and Burbank, as well. This one is just a few miles from my house. They served freshly brewed coffee and Pepperidge Farm cookies, too. It was really enjoyable.   

Thank you for your comments. I greatly appreciate them. They add so much to the blog.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Making Hot Processed Soap on Your Stove



This morning I made another batch of hot processed soap. This was the first time that I've used a recipe that wasn't a goat's milk soap using this method. When heated on the stove, the goat's milk soaps turn a caramel color. They are really pretty and natural looking. My dad always requests this variety. "Send me some of the brown ones," he'll say.

Hot processed soap has a special quality. Many people describe it as rustic. I like the mildness of it. I find that  it also has a distinctive lather. I love using it on my face. My sense is that the fragrances smell slightly sweeter when using this technique, too.


This morning the soap I made contained: olive oil, coconut oil, lye, and distilled water. It took about an hour to go through the stages that you need to see. I added some coconut milk, which gave it a nice creamy quality.

After observing it shift into applesauce stage, and then gel, I added yogurt, a small amount of sugar water, sea salt, and fragrance oil. These ingredients made the batter more elastic. It was easier to transfer into the loaf pan, thanks to the additives.. I learned this technique on line from Valerie Mosher. She makes soap in Nova Scotia. She is a wonderful teacher, and has numerous Youtube videos.


I colored a cup of the mixture with some Brazilian rose clay. I plopped it into three different places, and did some swirling. I used a piece of tie wire that I had in my toolbox. With the end of a wooden spoon, I outlined  some small figure eights and circles along the top of the loaf.


Once the loaf  had come to room temperature, I carefully placed the silicone mold in the freezer. When I got home from running my errands, the colors looked paler, which I really like. They have a milky, flexible quality, which is really pretty. I made these less than twelve hours ago, and just cut them. It's exciting to see how the colors turned out in the swirls. These will be ready to ship in a couple of weeks. A four week cure will make them nice and hard. I love this method. Thank you Valerie.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My Favorite Meatloaf Recipe



I improvised a meatloaf this afternoon. I used to love the version on the back of the Quaker Oats package when I was a child. It called for tomato juice. I didn't have any, so I used milk. I added cheese and spices to this version. Here is what I developed. It was delicious, (if I do say so myself.) I hope you enjoy it.

My Favorite Meatloaf Recipe

1 lb. ground beef or mince (I use grass fed, 85% lean)
1/2 medium sized onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2-1 tsp. sea salt (depending on taste)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
dash of chili powder
1 egg
1/2 cup of oats (soak  them in the milk)
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, grated

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Spoon into a loaf pan, and make an indentation along the top. Fill the cavity with ketchup. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.