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Friday, August 18, 2017
Today it has been exactly two years since I had both of my hips replaced. They were done at the same time, during a three hour operation. The anterior method, which I had, is described as the ship in the bottle technique. I am still in awe of the results. The pain is completely gone. I can do most of the activities that I loved, but had to give up doing when I had osteoarthritis. It is such a pleasure to be riding my bike each morning, walking the dogs, going hiking, kayaking with friends, and doing yoga and pilates. People told me that I would get my life back if I did the surgery. It didn't seem possible back then, but they were right.
Most of the time, I don't even feel the new hips. They do such an excellent job. It probably sounds weird, but I really appreciate being able to do all of my chores again. The simplest things, (like gardening and picking up the dog poop,) used to be a struggle. This morning I drove to the carwash, and sat and knit while waiting for my car. I chatted with a man there who was using a walker. He had taken a fall, and now he has a bar in his femur. It made me see how fortunate I am that what I had was treatable. My legs are exactly the same length, (thanks to my surgeon, and having them done together,) and my gait is now perfect. People tell me I look like a completely different person.
After tipping the man who polished my car, I stopped at Costco and picked up a few items. I filled my gas tank with gas, and then bought a couple of other things from the drug store. I remember how painful it used to be to sit in a car, whether I was a passenger or a driver. Now that aching is completely gone. Both of my grandmothers had their hips replaced, too. They didn't fare so well. I am very fortunate. My thanks go to Dr. Matta, who is a master surgeon. What an artist. I couldn't have imagined such an excellent outcome. How are you doing today?
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Yesterday I completed the second knitted knocker. Today I will block them. I'm very pleased with the finished product. I think whoever receives these will enjoy them. They're practical, soft, and the colors are pleasant. I love pastels. There is enough yarn leftover to make another pair. I watched the Knitted Knockers video on line, and the woman in charge said that they are distributing a thousand sets of these per month! It's nice to know that they are being used and appreciated. I think they make a really nice gift for the breast cancer patients, too. (Especially if they don't knit.) I remember how much I appreciated the cards and gifts I received after having my hips replaced. It feels like an excellent cause to me.
Today I started working on a ribbed scarf. It's a birthday present for a close friend of mine in New York. He picked out the yarn, which is very bright and colorful. I decided to include the pattern in today's blog post. It's simple, but beautiful. I like uncomplicated patterns on high end yarn. To stay in budget, I have to find the wool on clearance.
Simple Ribbed Scarf
2 to 3 100 gram skeins of worsted weight yarn (I'm using Wildwood Yarns Baby Alpaca Merino Bamboo)
1 pair of size 11 needles ( I use vintage straight needles. Circulars would also work. You would still knit flat.)
I didn't set a gauge, because this yarn is thick and thin. You can make the width to your taste. I used larger needles than the sleeve of the yarn suggested. This way the scarf will be looser, softer, and have bigger stitches. It's a different look. I think it's kind of Vogue.
Cast on 44 stitches with a long tail cast on. Knit two and purl two all the way down the row. Turn and continue to knit in pattern until the scarf reaches your desired length. Note: If you want a border, you can knit a few rows in garter stitch. You would need to mirror that for two rows before binding off. I like the look of just ribbing, and this scarf is for a man, so I left it plain.
Bind off in pattern. Weave in the ends. Block and enjoy!
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Hungarian Plum Cake
1/2 cup butter 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/2 cup sugar 10 to 12 fresh or frozen plum halves (or more)
2 eggs 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
Cream butter and sugar. Beat eggs in well. Mix in dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. (except last 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon.) Spread in greased 7" x 11" pan. Press the plum halves into the batter slightly, skin side down, leaving 1/4" or so between them. Mix last 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
I had forgotten how much I love baking until I made this at lunch today. The cottage smelled delicious, and it really felt like home. This simple dessert tastes heavenly. The color from the plums is exquisite! I hope that you try it and enjoy it. Please share the post with your friends if you would like...
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Last night when I went to turn on the shower, the water pressure dribbled. I had been having trouble with it for the last few days. I sighed, and called a plumber. After making an appointment for this morning, (to avoid paying overtime for a late call yesterday,) I googled the problem. Thank God for Google! From what I read, it sounded like it could be an easy fix. We live in an area with very hard water. The mineral deposits can cause problems with the plumbing, and also clog your shower head. It sounded like I could just clean it or replace it, and screw it back on to the pipe.
I removed it, filled a bowl with white vinegar, and let it sit there overnight. I had just come in from playing frisbee with the dogs in the backyard. I was hot, tired, and sweaty, and had been looking forward to cleaning myself up and soaking in the tub. I decided to try just using the bare pipe like a tap; it worked. I was thrilled. It felt so good to take a relaxing bath, especially after thinking that I wasn't going to have any water. It really made me appreciate it. I took a sewing needle and poked it into all of the holes in the shower head. Some of them were blocked with a white substance that looked like salt.
This morning was the moment of truth. I screwed the shower head back into place, turned on the water, and voila! It worked perfectly. I was thrilled. What a relief. A house call from the plumber is very expensive. I had asked the woman last night if I could call her back and cancel if cleaning the head worked. She was very understanding, and added that they could come by and tell me if I needed a new shower head in the morning, free of charge. I thought that was very nice. It turns out that I don't! I called her this morning and canceled the appointment. I was elated. What a great feeling. That money can stay in the emergency fund.
Later this morning I worked on my knitted knocker for the breast cancer charity. I had a terrible time with it, and got very frustrated, but I persevered. I was dropping stitches off of the double pointed needles. Because the last two were knit two togethers, it was throwing off my stitch count. I backtracked and fixed my mistakes. Bunching up the stitches in the center of the needles did the trick. After a couple of exasperating hours, I finally finished the first knocker. Now I'm ready to knit the second one, and donate them. Phew! I guess today's theme was perseverance. It's time to enjoy some beef stew and relax. I love having meals all prepared in advance. All I have to do is heat it up on the stove. Later on I'm going to bake a Hungarian plum cake. I'm so happy that the weather is changing and that I can cook and bake again. How is your day going?
Monday, August 14, 2017
This morning I met with a fellow knitter for breakfast. I wanted to learn a new knitting stitch for a baby blanket. I'm really enjoying the baby items that I've been crocheting. She's a knitting teacher, so I paid her for a short private lesson. I admired this stitch on a sample blanket that she had made a couple of years ago. It turns out that it's really easy. It looks so delicate and sweet. I don't have time to make one right now, first I need to finish the sweater that I'm knitting. I will knit up the alpaca blanket for my Etsy customer and friend as soon as the yarn arrives. It should be here any day.
I spent most of the weekend gardening. That's becoming my weekly routine. The days are getting shorter, so the nights are cool and relaxing. The citrus fruits are all getting larger. Soon they will start to change color. It's the colder temperatures at night that cause them to shift from green to yellow or orange. A few of the pomegranates are starting to blush. Their skin will change from green, to yellow, and sometimes red. (as long as I don't have to strip the tree.) I decided to eat a few of the small ones that had split. Even thought the seeds are small, they are still rose colored and sweet. I gave most of them to neighbors who have chickens and birds. They love them.
After breakfast, I stopped at a couple of grocery stores, and bought some produce on sale. I watch the flyers, and just buy what is $1.00 a pound, or less. I also picked up a package of grass fed beef stew meat. I have all of the other ingredients, and I love beef stew! I try to only buy chicken and meat when they are on sale, and then freeze the extra packages to use later in the month. I've also started eating more eggs. They are inexpensive, healthy, and my hair looks much better when I eat them. I don't quite understand it, but it gives it a much softer texture. It makes it shinier, too. It's funny how our diet really does affect our skin and hair, especially as we age.
Last night, as the sun went down, I raked up some leaves and spread them under my citrus trees. It really makes a difference in this heat. That way the soil isn't so bare and exposed. Where we live, the ground can become rock hard at this time of year. The leaves or straw provide a layer of protection, and they also hold in moisture. It seems like the trees are much healthier when I continue to replace the mulch. How are things going in your neck of the woods?
Friday, August 11, 2017
Before beginning a new knitting project, I always write out my pattern by hand. After that, I read through it carefully. I was a little worried about the short row shaping on this one. I've done a different type of short rows on the heels of my socks. They were also in the Old Hollywood Shawl Vest that I made years ago. These are actually easier. There is no wrap and turn. You just pearl a certain number of stitches to the end, turn the work, slip the first stitch on the knit side, and then continue knitting. You skip four stitches each time. It's an interesting effect. I love the line. It creates a beautiful curve. I can't wait to get started on the other side!
The woodpecker hasn't returned yet. This is the tree where he likes to pound his beak. He's so cute. I love watching him! There have been several sparrows at the birdbath each day. They really enjoy splashing around it in this hot weather. I watch them as I sit out on the porch, knitting. The cool shade of the trees is so relaxing.
I bought a new tea at the grocery store this week. It's blackberry hibiscus, and is absolutely divine! It's amazing to me how adding honey to a pot of tea brings out all of the flavors of the herbs. This one is by Choice Organic Teas in Seattle, Washington. It's a delicious blend of hibiscus, rosehips, blackberry leaves, lemongrass, licorice root, spearmint, and blackberry flavor. I think I'm going to drink more herbal teas in the hot water, and less juice. This would be excellent chilled, too.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
The splitting can be caused by a few different things. Infrequent watering is one. I water on our drought schedule here, which is every Tuesday and Thursday. We are allowed to use extra water for our fruits and vegetables. Sometimes what occurs is that the cells of the fruit develop before the cells of the skin, and then they sort of explode. That's what it seems like is happening these, in the above photograph.
I got out the ladder and picked all of the pomegranates that were cracked or split open. The larger ones are fine. My sense is that I needed to thin the fruit, anyway. I gave some to my neighbor for her chickens. I'll give the rest to my other neighbors around the corner who have birds.
My tree is pollinated primarily by hummingbirds. I plant a lot of wildflowers, which attract birds, bees, and beneficial insects. Hummingbirds love tubular shaped flowers, and the pomegranate blossoms are perfect for them. I also trimmed out a lot of dead wood from the inside of the bush. It feels much healthier and alive in there now. It reminds me of a cave. I'm going to spread some unfinished compost underneath it as mulch. I'm hoping that from here on, the tree will have more energy available to nourish the larger fruits, and that they will grow and develop. We'll see if this theory works.
I have been working on a new vintage sweater. A woman from one of our local knitting groups gave me the yarn. It's silk and wool. I absolutely love it! This pattern has short rows, which I use when I make socks. It's a lot of stockinette stitch, which I find relaxing and meditative.
Here's a photo of the cotton sweater that I knit last month. I didn't check in the mirror before taking this picture, so it's not really hanging correctly. It's very comfortable and fun to wear. It reminds me of a 1930's chenille bed jacket. I also received a photo from my friend of her grandchildren taking a nap with the baby blanket I made. It warms my heart to see them. How is everything going with you?
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
The pomegranates are getting bigger. I'm a bit concerned, because many of the small ones are starting to split. I wonder if it's because I didn't thin the fruit? Maybe it's nature's way of reducing the number of pomegranates on the tree, so that the ones that survive will grow larger. I'm not sure. It could also be my watering schedule. I'm keeping an eye on them. The tree itself looks healthy, and I love the size of it. It's just magnificent!
I'm harvesting rosemary today to dry for cooking. It's also nice in an herbal tea to mop the floors. I use it all the time is soups, for grilling lamb, and to season baked chicken. I may even make a batch of soap with it! It looks so pretty and natural in homemade soaps. I like the texture and fragrance that it adds.
This is the first year that I have had a couple of limes develop. They are so pretty. It's taken the tree a few years to produce fruit. Gardening and fruit growing requires a lot of patience. The tree is only three years old. I bought it at Costco a few summers ago. I also purchased a grapefruit tree and planted it next to the rosemary bush, in my driveway. I love seeing things growing as I pull my car or bicycle into the cottage driveway when I arrive home.
I've had all kinds of wonderful birds visiting. Yesterday my favorite woodpecker returned to his giant poplar tree. He is just gorgeous! He used to stop at the hummingbird feeder, and hang upside down. Maybe I should get him a new one. I had an ant problem with the last one, and got rid of it. For now, he seems to be munching on insects on the trunk of his favorite tree. There are also happy sparrows splashing in the birdbath, shy mourning doves stopping by for a drink of water, and colorful gold finches snacking on the sunflowers that have gone to seed. They are such a pretty bright yellow, just like the flowers themselves.
Carlie has been helping herself to a drink of water each time I refill the birdbath. She's funny. She acts like it's her own personal water dish. I have found some volunteer plants, as well. There's a watermelon that came up from a seed in the back orchard, this mystery plant in my window box, and a pumpkin sprout in the front potager garden. I'm excited to see what blooms and develops! How is your garden doing?
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Since then, I have learned how to knit socks, which has really changed everything. It takes me about a week to make a pair. If I focus on knitting exclusively, then I can finish them in a few days. I don't though, because it's too much pressure and intensity. I buy top quality yarn, and purchase the types that have nylon in them. I find that it really helps make the socks last longer. I save what's leftover to use for darning, making baby booties, and knitting lightweight lace scarves.
The socks in these photos are several years old. Each year I check them for any small holes, and reinforce those areas. I thread my darning needle, and stitch over and under the threads or bare stitches. It's much easier to do this if you catch it early, rather than waiting until you have a gaping hole. I like using the matching sock yarn, because it is soft, it looks nice, and it blends well. You don't tie any knots, those would feel uncomfortable in your shoe. It's kind of relaxing to stitch up the tiny holes. You're basically weaving. The darning egg holds the shape inside of the sock for you. Some people use a light bulb. I no longer have the brown wooden darning egg that Mrs. Hutchinson gave me, I now use this antique pink one. It was given to me by a knitter who used to attend a knitting group at our local library. It belonged to her grandmother. I think it is so charming and feminine. It's a joy to use; I just love it.
Darning is quick and easy, and it's also very satisfying. After sitting out on the porch and finishing this pile of socks, I will be able to wear them all comfortably for another season. I'm amazed at how long hand knit socks last. They are worth the price, in time and money. I will continue to buy the beautiful, high quality sock yarns. I'm still wearing some of the socks that I made for my mother before she passed away. They are such a luxury. I'm so glad that I learned how to make and take care of them.
Monday, August 7, 2017
I ordered some gorgeous hand dyed alpaca yarn for a new Etsy order. It's actually for my friend that called. His mom had ordered that dark green throw that I knit recently. He was visiting her when she received it in the mail. He described to me how happy she was to open her package. "I want one," he confided. How exciting! He found some gorgeous colors from my supplier that will go beautifully in his New York apartment.
I got the laundry done and hung it out on the clothesline in the backyard. I love how the hot sun whitens the sheets and bleaches out the hand knit dish cloths. I made a batch of liquid soap with the leftover soap slivers that I had collected over the past month.. I learned this from Rhonda Hetzel's blog, Down To Earth. As most of you know, I'm a soapmaker. I save the scraps from the bath soaps I use. I store them in a recycled cottage cheese container. I also crochet little bags for the tiny pieces of soap. They double as washcloths.
Once I have enough to weigh three or four ounces, I add that to eight cups of water, in a large pot on the stove. I simmer and stir it until the pieces of soap have dissolved. You can also grate a bar of soap and do it that way. It will melt faster. I like saving the slivers, it's less work. Plus, it feels good to recycle them. I also collect the bits that I trim off of my soaps that are cut into slices.
After the soap has turned to liquid, let it cool for a few hours. You can store your liquid soap in a recycled milk jug. It's great in laundry, for general cleaning, and to mop your floors. I use this combined with baking soda, washing soda, and Borax to wash my clothes.
How was your weekend? I hope it was enjoyable and relaxing.
Friday, August 4, 2017
This morning I decided to spend the day as if the Internet hadn't yet been invented. I felt an instant sense of relief. My shoulders relaxed, and I immediately felt more in the moment. After preparing some chicken enchiladas for lunch, I did the dishes and then had a nice chat on the phone with a lovely dancer friend of mine. We worked together at the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, 33 years ago. It was a treat to catch up with her. The blue baby blanket that I crocheted is for her new grandson.
It was nice not to feel the lure of Facebook or forums for a day. I reminded me of how life used to be. I decided I would still post on my blog, since I'm committed to writing on it five days per week. I wrapped up the baby blanket, and sent it and a couple of bars of homemade soap to my friend's daughter. It was supposed to be a gift, but she went on line and paid me for it. She's very generous and supportive of my knitting. So, I thanked her and told her that the soaps were on the house. I sent her a creme soap colored with pink clay, and a shea butter goat's milk soap.
Once I wasn't so distracted by the pull of my computer, my priorities fell into place. I sent out the package Priority Mail, and sealed the padded envelope with my Pink Cottage Soap stickers. I love that part. It makes it much more personal. I still had some of the cottage stationery that I printed out for free at the library, so I wrote a note of congratulations on that, and tucked it inside the package. I wrapped the soaps in bubble wrap before putting them inside their muslin bags. After writing out the ingredients on the soap labels by hand, I sealed them in the back with tape. I always feel so happy when one of the packages from my Etsy shop is on its way to a new home. Babies are especially fun. They are so pure and magical. How is your day going today?
Thursday, August 3, 2017
When I was a little girl, my dream was to be a professional dancer. I longed to perform on stage and in television and movies. I loved the Rockettes, and would eagerly watch them whenever they were on television. I imagined how exciting it would be to join their kick line. I wanted it so badly, I could taste it. I put my total and complete focus on achieving that goal.
As I spent my life training in the dance studio, I visualized my vision of being a professional dancer every night. I had a poster above my bed that read, "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it." I would repeat those words to myself, consistently, before I went to sleep. It gave me the strength and creativity to overcome any obstacles. When I needed money to pay for all of the classes that were required to become an advanced dancer, I got work. Whether it was assisting my dance teachers, babysitting, and working as a mother's helper, I offered. I would do anything: wash windows, walk dogs, clean ovens, fold laundry, you name it. I found lots of jobs that I could do right in our own neighborhood.
When my mom couldn't drive me to the studio anymore, I saved up my money from working and bought myself a Yamahopper. Because it was technically a motorcycle, I had to get a motorcycle license, at age fifteen. I did well on the driving part of the test, but I failed the written section. (Three times.) I was mortified. I just couldn't visualize the situations that they described on paper, probably because I was so young. I had no driving experience. My need was to get from home to the dance studio, which was just several blocks. The fourth time I retook the test, I scored 100%. I was elated. The real reason I finally passed was that there were only three tests. I had memorized my mistakes on all of them. Thankfully, I could now drive legally.. .my transportation problem was solved. I also no longer had to walk to school. I was the only girl in high school who carried around a bright yellow motorcycle helmet, and rode a moped.
I believe that determination is the main factor in realizing your dreams. Now, when I want to achieve something, I always visualize the end result. "Press on, Baby, press on," my dance partner Fred Boothe used to tell me. I always went after what I wanted, career wise. I felt something inside of me that I couldn't deny. I loved the people that I met in dance class. I felt such a strong connection to them. We had the same passion, and it gave us the same joy. I admired the stars, the directors, and the choreographers. They were doing what I wanted to do, and I never lost sight of that vision.
I was watching a show with Oprah Winfrey and Gary Zukov on Youtube recently. They were explaining that when the personality aligns with the soul, you become unstoppable. We all see this when people's careers seem to take off, and they achieve enormous success. What we don't see is the years of training, discipline, and preparation that led up to it.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
This morning I finished the baby blanket. Ah...such a great feeling. For the border, I used some pale pink yarn that I had left over from a baby hat that I made years ago. I wasn't sure how it would look. I like the contrast of the pale pink on the powder blue. It's nice, because all of the yarn that I used was just sitting in my stash. I still have have enough baby yarn to make another one! This one is going to a friend of mine's new baby grandson. She is from a family of knitters.
This morning I took an early morning hike to beat the heat. Later on, I sat out on the porch with a cup of coffee, my crocheting, and the dogs. I love the shell stitch. It looks so pretty, yet it's very easy and repetitive. The shape of it is so soft against the clustered crocheted pattern. After weaving in the ends with a tapestry needle, I filled my bathroom sink with water, and plunged the baby blanket into it. I let it soak for about twenty minutes.
Once I had squeezed out the excess water, I put it into my Nina Spin Dryer. I love this tool. It saves me so much time. It really sucks out a tremendous amount of moisture from your hand knit and crocheted items. Look at all of that water in the bowl! It always amazes me. I feel like having this spinner has really made me able to produce like a professional knitter. Things dry so much faster, and I don't have to leave them laying out in my cottage for days. I can get things mailed off to my customers so quickly.
I shaped the blanket and laid it flat to dry on an old towel. The dampness evaporated very quickly, in an hour or so. I always wonder if it's necessary to block acrylic. I do it, anyway. I smoothed my hands over the top, and adjusted the corners. I'm really pleased with how it turned out; the colors work well together. This can be given to a baby boy or baby girl. What do you think?