Wednesday, November 14, 2018

I Lost A Dear Friend Last Night

I found out today that my sweet friend Kate Vanderliet passed away last night. She had ovarian cancer. She was so young...still in her fifties, I believe. We met in the show Hello Hollywood, Hello! starring Carol Channing. Kate was a principal dancer at MGM, and she especially shined in the number Top Hat

We were roommates after we both returned to Reno for a second stint,  and also performed there in the show A Chorus Line together. She was a fantastic Val, belting out her song with confidence and gusto.  She loved to ski, and would often get up early and drive up to Lake Tahoe with our friend John Paul Reeves to spend the day skiing. They would make the two and a half hour trek back to Reno, and then perform two shows that night. She seemed to have unlimited energy and enthusiasm.

I am working on an obituary on her for Dance Magazine. This is the hardest one I have ever done, because  she was such a close friend.  I think the more we love a person, the deeper the grief cuts into our heart.

When I got the news I thought, "First the fires, and now Kate." Both were such a shock. She had mentioned to me in a message that she was dealing with a health issue, but didn't elaborate. When I answered back and asked her about it, she didn't answer. In show business, admitting to something like cancer usually means you will never work again. I still wish I had known, and could have done something. I am relieved that she is no longer suffering.

We both grew up in Northern California. She elected to stay in Paris until the end. She had become a big star at The Lido, and she had full medical coverage there. We are all grieving her loss.    

Monday, November 12, 2018

California Wildfires

vegetables and barley cooked in beef bone broth

As many of you know, California is experiencing some horrific wildfires. It's very sad to see the devastation that they have done, and to hear the personal stories of  loss and heartbreak.  I think what makes it really frightening is the gridlock. To know that if there is a fire in your area  that you can't get out quickly and  safely is terrifying. The thought of being in bumper to bumper traffic in that situation makes my heart drop.  You feel trapped.

Fifteen years ago we had a huge fire in this area.  What I did was to flee in five minutes. My intuition told me not to wait. I grabbed my dogs, important papers, a backpack with  a few clothing changes, and drove six hours to my parents' house.

I remember seeing the crawling traffic headed south on Interstate 5. I was headed north, and it was fine. Even back then, I realized that the people who were waiting to be evacuated would be in the greatest danger, because of all the cars.  I thought about how congested the freeways here become. I couldn't imagine jumping out of the car and running to escape the flames. They were moving so fast. We have twice as many people as we used to in LA.   You really need to plan where and when you drive.

Another thing that has made the fires worse is how dry and parched the land has become.  Because of the drought,  many people stopped watering their yards completely. I don't grow as much as I used to, but I keep everything around my house green. We are allowed to water fruits and vegetables, so that's what I have.  I mulch heavily, and the soil is healthy. If I didn't, it would be like a desert.  We get very intense Santa Ana winds and they just suck the moisture out  from the earth and soil. Your face feels parched this time of year.

I feel deeply for the people who have lost their homes, their lives,  and their  loved ones. I have been staying snug in my cottage  most of the time, just in case. I want to keep an eye on things, and be aware of what is happening. I'm glad that I bought an overabundance of groceries last week. My intuition was nudging me to buy extra produce and staples on sale,  so I did. Now I don't need to shop, and  don't really feel like it. I forgot to do my laundry today. Monday is washing day. I was kind of numbed by the news of how many had died in their automobiles, trying to escape to a safe place. Those images of the burned out cars and houses  really hits you. Then again, the beauty of the fire and sky is also compelling. It reminded me of the television footage of the fires in San Francisco, after the big earthquake. The whole city was lit up with flames.    

On a practical note, it's important to keep the gas tank filled, and to have plenty of cash on hand. I cooked some fresh zucchini from the garden, made a salad with greens from the lettuce patch, and worked on finishing my shawl. I took Lula for a walk, and brushed  out her glorious coat. I feel very thankful for the little things today. It could have been any of us here that had our homes burn to the ground. Unfortunately, that is one of the dangers of living in this area.     

Friday, November 9, 2018

Mending the Curtains Until the New Ones Arrive

I am spending all day today mending my living room  balloon curtains. I bought them at Target twenty years ago. They are starting to shred. They have been really wonderful, though. I wish I could find the same ones, but I don't see much in our local Target's  Shabby Chic line anymore. Instead, I ordered a hand made balloon shade from a seller on Etsy. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me. I had trouble lifting it with the cords. The fabric was very heavy, and it was lined. When I put it up, it made my living room very dark. Mail order can be tricky.  It is beautifully made, though, and the seller was very kind and talented.  I will find a use for it. I love toile.

I searched online for lightweight curtains and exactly what I wanted at JC Penny. I was eligible for free shipping, and they were 50% off! I snatched up seven of them in pink right away. They are the balloon style that I love, and look sheer and breezy. I will save the fancy shade to use in my bedroom if I ever want to block out the light from the street lamp. I really like having the sunlight streaming in through the windows. We get sunshine year round here in California, and I enjoy the view from my windows of the garden, the alpacas, and the  towering pine trees. Bringing the outdoors in makes me feel happy. (especially in such a small cottage.)

In the meantime, I have been sewing up all of holes and rips in my curtains. I found a couple of vintage print pieces of fabric to hang in the bathroom and kitchen for now. They are simple, but they work. At least it gives me some privacy. I may sew these into simple shades and leave them.  I love the delicate prints on the fabric. I found them at a thrift shop, twenty years ago. The tiny flowers are so sweet. The vintage details really make a difference in an older home.  What do you have on your windows?

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Importance of Preparing for Retiremement

The La La Simple Shawl in rose is almost finished
I have been hearing recently from dancer friends who are in dire straights in their old age. It is sad and unfortunate. The older we get, the faster time passes. It's so important that we plan for our "golden years" and have our ducks in a row. Professional dancers are particularly vulnerable in retirement if they don't have adequate income, savings, investments, and real estate. Many don't realize that our joints give out after a certain amount of time. Surgery and medical bills can send people into a financial tailspin. Living in an expensive city can also cause stress and worry.

Where you live has a huge effect on how much money you are able to save. I bought the smallest house on my California street, in a working class neighborhood. I canvassed the immediate area, keeping a log of the asking prices of homes,  what they sold for, and how long they were on the market.  When I found mine, I had a good idea what it should cost. I bought it in 1998 for $89.500, without an agent.  That  was one of the best financial decisions that I have ever made. My neighbor just sold her little house for $400,000. It's a two bedroom, but mine has more land. She waited a year for the right buyer to meet her asking price. I plan to stay in mine, because I feel it is the perfect retirement home. It's small, comfortable, one story, and close to public transportation.

I started "practicing for retirement" a few years ago. I stick to a budget for the year.  I save the flyers and buy the groceries that are on sale. This week that will be pineapples for $2.00, 10 lbs. of potatoes for $1.78, turkey for .35 a lb, navel oranges for .50 a lb, and gelato that is buy one, get one free. Sugar is also on sale very cheaply at our local Mexican market. I make my coffee and tea and home, and I don't eat out at restaurants. I save that money for travel. I also don't have t.v. I use a Jitterbug flip phone. It's $35.00 a month.

Taking the bus and riding my bicycle has helped me to reduce wear and tear on my car, lower my car insurance premiums, and to save money on gasoline. I also combine errands when I drive my car across town once a week. I like to use the car for scenic day trips and to visit my dad. By limiting how often I drive to the grocery store, for errands, etc. I have the miles I need budgeted for my trips. I used to cruise around LA kind of mindlessly when I was young, needing to refill my gas tank twice a week. Now I fill it up once a month. That ten gallons has to last me. Working from home really helps. Are you ready for retirement? How are you preparing?        

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Still Harvesting Zucchini

zucchini in November

This afternoon I found a large, green zucchini that I had missed. It's very satisfying to still be harvesting squash in November. I cooked it up with some cube steak for lunch. For dinner I had a large salad. The lettuce patch is producing really well. I'm thrilled. The chickens are enjoying it, too. It is a wonderful feeling to grow some of your own food, organically. The temperatures are perfect for gardening right now.

I read a frightening article today about a man in Australia who ate a slug on a dare, and then died. He was paralyzed for eight years. I found my first slug ever on the lettuce that I picked for my salad this evening. It was an eerie coincidence. I carefully removed it and threw it in the green waste bin, and then washed my hands. I'll never look at a slug the same way again. 

painted sky last night

I spent a few hours this afternoon trying to unravel some knots in the yarn that I'm using for my shawl. It was frustrating not to get any knitting done.  I am almost through all of the knots, though, This was a center pull ball of yarn. When will I learn that I should just work from the outside of the ball? I always have this problem when I work from the inside and the yarn starts to collapse. Invariably, I run into a huge mass of knots and tangles. It makes me so frustrated and depressed.  I shouldn't get that way, but struggling with  problems with  knitting can make you feel very negative, emotionally.  I think that's why I hated sewing as a teenager. I didn't have the patience or technique. Oh, well, I almost have the problem section all unraveled, and I didn't have to cut the yarn, thank goodness!  Hopefully I will be able to move forward with it tomorrow.

headed home on our walk

Last night after walking Lula, I did Pilates, the physical therapy hip exercises, and a short set of Kundalini Yoga. I really want to continue to stay in shape as I age. My body feels so much different now, since I'm not dancing professionally. I miss being in tip top condition. I feel very fortunate to be healthy and pain free, though. I am so thankful that I had that hip replacement surgery.  How are you doing?

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Saturday, November 3, 2018

I Prefer Real Books

Daylily and fresh Basil in bloom

I have been reading another book on Laura Ingalls Wilder. This one is titled Prairie Fires, by Caroline Fraser. It was recommended by me to Anita in San Diego. She regularly comments on this blog. Thank you, Anita, I am really enjoying the book. At first, I didn't care for the tone of the author, but I plowed forward, and have been finding the  information fascinating. It's filled with interesting facts and details.

Initially I ordered it on OverReader, through my library. I love that option, because it is instantly available to you on your desktop. I have an expensive tendency to forget to return library books on time.  My neighbor suggested switching to reading them online, thus avoiding  library fines.

Cinderella Pumpkin vine and Amaranth

Although I was excited to read it on my screen at first, I found that I really missed holding the book in my hands. I went back online, and saw that they had a copy at my local branch. I drove over this morning and picked it up, in hardback.  I brought it home and enjoyed reading a few chapters outside, on my porch. Enjoying the view of the garden, I sat comfortably rocking  in one of the teak wood gliders.

It is a compelling story. I think I must have read it about ten years ago, because it is starting to sound familiar. I also remember the photos. They are striking, showing the truth and reality of the pioneers' situation. Many of those farmers starved. They had a terribly sad fate.  It really makes me appreciate all of the modern conveniences that we have now, like running water and electricity. I feel so fortunate to have a warm, comfortable bed, plenty of food, and clean clothing. 

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Finished Everything On My List

These zinnias are still in bloom in November. I planted them from seed.

Yesterday was a busy day, and by the end of it, I was too tired to post. I felt satisfied, though, because I accomplished everything on my list. I find I do much better if I write things down that need to be done. Crossing each one off keeps me feeling  focused and productive.

After feeding  my squash and pumpkin plants their weekly dose of compost tea, I ran Lula along the bicycle. We do this every morning. I fed the hens their scratch, lettuce, and a hard boiled egg that I had cooked them. They haven't been laying as much; I think it's because the days are getting shorter. They need a certain number of hours of sunlight to lay. Protein helps, sometimes, too.

I deposited a check by mobile deposit. I love that feature. It saves me gas and time. I had a little trouble remembering how to do it, but after a few attempts, I was successful. I don't have a smartphone, so I use my mini ipad. I had forgotten that you have to log in when you get to the app.  There is so much to remember with technology. I am finally getting it, though.  Sometimes it just takes me a while.

The beeswax candle is getting a lot of use.  It smells divine!

I took my car in to be smogged. I had a $25.00 coupon that I used. After that, I stopped at Costco and picked up some milk, soy milk, and sea salt caramels.  I came home, and applied online for a new travel card through the DMV. They will be requiring these in California for domestic travel soon. I have an appointment for the end of the month. I organized the paperwork that I will need to show them: my social security card, passport, and proof of residence. It feels good to get this out of the way. I paid the fee online.  It was $35.00.

This morning I bought some straw and scratch for the chickens, and cleaned out the hen house. I paid my auto registration for the year. I bailed out the tub of bath water from last night and used it to water the front garden. It was a lot of work, and the watering can was heavy. It felt good to use the grey water, though.  Phew! I am very  tired now, and plan to take a rest.  How are you doing?  

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mexican Rice Recipe

Mexican rice topped with cheese and chicken 

Mexican Rice

2 T vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
1 T ground cumin
1 cup uncooked short grain white rice
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato paste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until onion is translucent. Stir in chili powder and cumin, and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the rice, chicken broth, and tomato paste, and bring to a boil. Transfer to a 1 quart casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil or a lid. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. Let rest for 3-5 mins. before serving.   

This rice is delicious, and can be served in  many different ways. Lately I have been having it with a small amount of  tri tip roast, chopped into small cubes. The spices and chicken broth in the rice make it flavorful and exciting. It's a wonderful basic to have in the refrigerator. I was not a fan of white rice as a child, but am very enthusiastic about it now. Rice is inexpensive, especially if you buy it in bulk. It has become one of my staples. It's also delicious with vegetables or a salad. I hope you enjoy it.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Living Like Little House On The Praire

As a child, my favorite series of books were The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In them, she details her life as a young girl and woman traveling by covered wagon with her family. She grew up in different parts of the USA, and worked  as a schoolteacher when she was a teenager. She and  her husband, Almanzo, eventually settled  in Missouri. There she was at last able to garden, raise Leghorns, grow apples, and enjoy a grounded life. Although her husband still desired to go West, she refused to move. He built them a beautiful home there, and they lived a happy and peaceful life in the country.  The house is now a popular museum. 

I am currently reading a (new to me) book by her called Writings To Young Women From Laura Ingalls Wilder. This one is on wisdom and virtues. It is a series of articles that she wrote around 1920 for newspapers and periodicals, and was edited by Stephen W Hines. There are three books in the collection, and I have all of them. I gave them to my mother before she died. She kept them on display in my old bedroom. They fit in perfectly with her decor.

When I read Laura's words, it inspires me to live like they did in those old times. I am eager to observe and care for  my pumpkins, artichokes, beets, and other vegetables. I gather fresh green leaves from the lettuce patch, and soak them in filtered water to make a daily salad. I season the meat for dinner and tuck a few potatoes in with it to make dual use of the gas for cooking. Nothing is wasted, including time. It's amazing how time consuming social networking can be. When I pretend that I'm living a hundred years ago, it helps me to stay in the moment and to not check my ipad constantly.  I feel more focused and relaxed, and it's easier to get the things on my list accomplished. 

I pick a fresh orange off of my Navel Orange tree and slice it into quarters. The juice is flavorful and delicious. The peels are either used to flavor white vinegar for a cleaning solution or they will be dried for a winter fruit tea.

Instead of getting caught up in technology and pressure to communicate, I sit out on the porch in the fresh air and sunshine, reading or knitting. This time of year I am having that third cup of coffee per day again.  

Laura stresses the importance of being calm, practicing self control, and not reacting to those who are antagonistic. People had many of the same struggles in their relationships in those days as they do now. She came from a loving home, and had an excellent example of kind and patient behavior.  I just love reading her books. Her spirit lives through them forever.  

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Chicken Fried Steak and Mashed Potatoes

This afternoon I made one of my favorite meals: chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes. I bought the grass fed beef on special at Sprouts. Round steak is one of the tougher cuts of meat, so I tenderized it  using a wooden mallet. I hammered at the meat on both sides to flatten the pieces. After that, I soaked them in citrus juice for an hour and fifteen minutes. I used lime juice, since I had bought fourteen limes for a dollar last week at Valley Produce. I made a glass of limeade to have with lunch using the leftover juice.

After letting the meat soak, I pan fried it in olive oil. First you dip the pieces into the flour, and then season them  with salt and pepper. They fried up quickly,  needing just  five minutes on each side.

I served them with whipped potatoes. To make them, just boil  some russet potatoes in water with an onion cut into quarters. After draining them in a colander, add  some milk, and beat them on high with an electric mixer. Add butter, salt, and pepper to taste  My mom always used white pepper, but I was out of it, so I substituted black pepper. This is a delicious, tasty, satisfying, and frugal meal. It's amazing how citrus changes the consistency of the meat. It was tender and easy to chew. You can also use apple cider vinegar. I am a huge meat and potatoes fan. The leftover drippings make an excellent country gravy.

I have been working on my knitted shawl each day. This is another La La Simple Shawl, designed by Laura Linneman.  It is a free pattern on Ravelry.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Enjoying Beeswax and Honey

roses and salvia

As I'm writing this post, I'm enjoying a fragrant cup of fruit tea sweetened with raw, wild, organic honey. What is it about honey that is so compelling? I adore it. I have my new beeswax candle burning. It gives a soft, warm glow to my little cottage. The color is so natural and soothing. It reminds me of the different shades of brown and tan that my homemade goat's milk soaps are. They don't need any artificial colors, The temperature of the milk predicts what shade they will be. Sometimes it gives them a carmelized, marbled effect. I have a preference for the natural yarns, as well. Something about the colors of nature is so appealing. Black from a llama or alpaca is different that the look of black dye. It's all there, if we observe and absorb.

white geraniums

I have been using a cream that I bought at Costco a few years ago. It's called Egyptian Magic. It had been sitting in my medicine cabinet, unused. Something made me want to try it again, and to read the label. "How interesting," I thought, the ingredients are almost all from bees! They are: olive oil, beeswax, honey, bee pollen, royal jelly extract, and bee propolus. It's a thick salve that feels a bit oily. It absorbs well into the skin, though. I use it on my face, hands, and fee.  It complements the homemade soaps that I shower with nicely.

the artistically landscaped parking lot at Bennett Honey Farm

It's funny that after being stung by two bees recently I am suddenly becoming very interested in using products made with beeswax and honey.  I find it interesting. A couple of weeks ago I felt the pain of the stingers, and now I am reaping the benefits of what bees can produce. The dark and light of it is very spiritual. I always loved the make-up and lotions made by Burt's Bees. I still use his lipsticks and lip crayons. Everything with these ingredients feels so nourishing on the skin.

shea butter goat's milk soap

I added some more photos from my trip to the honey farm yesterday. Someone put a lot of thought and care into their garden. It's so healthy and welcoming. 

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Monday, October 22, 2018

A Sunday Drive To A Honey Farm

Yesterday afternoon  I drove out to a honey farm that is between Piru and Fillmore, in Southern California. I have been making an effort to use the new freeways and connectors in our area. I soaked in the beautiful scenery, and it didn't take me long to get there. I watched for the signs. You make a right turn about a mile after the Arco station, near the palm trees.  

I loved all of the flowers that they were growing. It was inspiring to see so much in bloom in late October.

I bought a large beeswax candle, some strawberry lemonade honey taffy, and a bag of mint chocolate truffles.They are made with just honey, chocolate, and mint. They gave me some samples, which I used in my hibiscus tea last night. The quality is excellent.

There is an area where you can sit and relax outside. It's peaceful and shaded.  I headed back home and stopped at an antique store on the way. It was such a pretty drive, and the sky and mountains were gorgeous! 

It's amazing how getting out in a new environment can lift your spirits. It really makes me appreciate how beautiful California is. I feel so fortunate to have settled here. I adore the mountains and the ocean.

If you stay on this road, it takes you to Santa Barbara. I think that's where I will visit next time. How was your weekend? 

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Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Visit To A Yarn Shop

While visiting  the Bay Area over my birthday, I decided to take a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I continued driving north on the 101 freeway, and exited in Healdsburg. I had been there a couple of times to visit my friend who has a home on Russian River. I was enchanted with how the downtown area had changed. When we were kids, it used to be just a grocery store and a gas station. Now it is an artsy, hip, upscale area. There are all kinds of quaint shops and restaurants.

I had taken Lula with me in the car. She's an excellent traveler. We walked around the square, and stopped at a bakery. They had a beautiful outdoor patio with a heater, and they allowed dogs. I ordered some French onion soup and bread. The waiter brought Lula a  bowl of water in a stainless steel bowl, on a tray. It was so sweet. He also gave her some homemade bacon dog treats from the bakery. They were shaped in small ovals, like cookies. Lula gobbled them up, eagerly. I was so impressed that I bought a bag of them. I also picked out a small lemon tart to take home and share with my dad. 

As I was heading back to my car, I thought to myself, "I wonder where the yarn shop is?" My friend had told me that they had one, and that the ladies there sit and knit. It turns out that I had parked right in front of it when I pulled into the parking spot! I didn't notice, because I had my focus on Lula, and was busy getting her on her leash.

I stopped in and chatted with the ladies who work there. They complimented me on the vest that I was wearing. It's the sweater vest that I knit for my mom. I bought a birch shawl pin for it. They encouraged me to come back again and to bring my knitting. I'm sure I will!

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