Monday, August 13, 2018

Traveling On Your Own

People often ask me about traveling solo. I usually will  schedule the itinerary from home,  and meet up with friends once I arrive. On the last one,  I had arranged to take the train with a talented Fosse dancer that I worked with when I was seventeen. We discussed  meeting at Union Station, which is a convenient midway point for us.  Unfortunately, she wasn't able to get away from work, so I went solo.

I enjoy traveling alone because I always meet interesting people. I also like the freedom of it. On the first train, a young man who looked to be about eighteen asked me if he could sit in the seat next to me. "Sure," I answered. He settled in with his cell phone. I found it amusing to hear his nonstop conversations with his friends. Most of them were about meeting girls and his car breaking down at the beach. It made me chuckle.

I did some work on the shawl that I'm knitting. It was a little tricky, with the movement of the car, but I managed. It's relaxing to gaze out the window from upstairs and to soak in  the ocean view. I loved the magnificence of it.  Having someone else do the driving means that  you can read, write, text, or take a nap. It's a very leisurely journey.

When I went to see the show, I was seated with a group of women who were close friends. They had been drinking at the bar. They were instantly very friendly with me, and we felt like we already knew one another. I had a great time laughing and talking with them. I had already enjoyed an animated conversation with a couple at the table across from me, over dinner. They were eager to see Ben Vereen in the show, and I told them that I knew they would love it. They invited me to sit with them, but I was content with my seat. I elected to stay there, after thanking them for the offer.

On the last part of the trip home, a student from LA asked if she could sit in the vacant seat next to me. I smiled and nodded. We had an interesting conversation about train travel. She has been saving money for college. She takes the Metro or Amtrak to visit her boyfriend on the weekends. He lives in San Diego. "I hate driving," she confessed. She explained to me that it's cheaper to take the Metro than Amtrak. We had a nice discussion about technology, and why she prefers having a Smartphone, (the gps,) being car free, and  other matters. She was such a sweet, bright, and polite girl. I really enjoyed her energy.

The trains are quite full this time of year. On the first leg of my return trip there was a three year old little boy traveling with his grandparents. It was amusing to listen to him. As we neared San Clemente station, he kept bellowing, "Whoa! Whoa!" I think the rocking motion was intense to his little body. He had  his legs dangling from the seat. His grandpa escorted him to the cafe car, which was probably very exciting for a child. They returned with boxed sandwiches and coffee for grandma. "That's not fair!" he kept insisting. I wasn't sure what he meant, but it was funny. If you want a perfectly quiet ride, I recommend earbuds. They sell them in the Cafe Car for $5.00.  I flipped through my email messages and Facebook as the coast rolled by on our left. I have always loved train travel. You meet the most interesting people. I was glad that I had brought my shawl. It came in handy for warmth and comfort, with the air conditioning. Once I arrived home, I sighed, picked a couple of very large zucchini, made dinner, and unpacked my belongings. "It's good to be home," I thought to myself.

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Eating Out In San Diego

After getting settled in my room at The Sophia, I decided to have lunch downstairs  at the Brasserie. I sat outside in the courtyard lined with flowers. It was perfect for people watching.  I ordered the risotto with vegetables, which was delicious. Next time I go to San Diego I will eat all of my meals there. The quality was excellent, and reasonably priced at $12.00.  I had made arrangements to meet with my friend Anita at 2:30 p.m. to knit in the lobby.

When I went inside, Anita was already there. We sat in the lovely antique chairs for a couple of hours and chatted. She was working on a sock, and I was knitting my shawl. This was the first time we've met in person, but we felt like old friends. Her husband stopped by and I got to talk with him, as well.

I went back upstairs to my room, took a shower, and got ready to see Ben Vereen's show. I had my eticket  printed out, and had carefully written down directions to Martinis Above Fourth.  I boarded the #11 bus around the corner from the hotel, and headed up to Hillcrest. I was glad that I had validated my bus pass at the kiosk when I arrived at the train station.

We passed some beautiful older homes on the way. I was concerned that the area might be unsafe, but it was artsy and  fabulous! There were lots of cafes, restaurants, and shops. Ben was terrific, as always. He brings such an emotional depth to his work. My favorites were his medley of hits from Pippin', Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, and some of his other shows. (He's done so many!) His rendition of I Dreamed a Dream made us cry. His eyes sparkle with talent, and his hands are beautiful and expressive.

When he performed the Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis songs, the audience went wild. That kind of music always makes me feel happy and alive. His musicians were excellent, and so tight! David Loeb, his arranger and musical director, was fantastic. The showroom is intimate and cozy. It reminded us of a New York Supper Club.   

My waiter, Zach, was a doll! He was so sweet and handsome. The women who joined me at the table acted like they were going through a break-up when they found out that their favorite waiter was no longer working there. They looked to be about in their mid fifties. The waiters were young, cute, and probably in their twenties, I would say. Zach made a fresh pot of coffee for me, and it was delicious. I gave him a 25% tip.

I zipped out of the showroom in time to catch the bus back to the hotel. It let me off a half a block from the front entrance. Everything had gone like clockwork, in spite of my nervousness about being in a new place.  It was a thrilling night.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Staying At The Sophia Hotel In San Diego

Santa Fe Station in San Diego is beautifully designed. It's like taking a step back in time. Anita, (who comments here regularly,) happens to live in San Diego. She told me that the city was planning to tear it down; I'm so glad that they didn't. It's just glorious. I walked  around, soaking in the ambiance and snapping photos. What a special and scenic place it is.

The tiles and the decor in the cafe were so artistic and distinct. I didn't have a cup of coffee while I was there. Next time I will. I loved the energy in the waiting room. The windows and the floors were so pretty. The archways were grand and impressive, too. The wooden benches  reminded me of the rich past. I love the quality. They are so much nicer than those made of plastic. 

I knew I'd be walking away from the ocean, up Broadway. I glanced at my notes to check the address of  The Sophia Hotel. Broadway was clearly marked at the station, so I just followed the signs. There is a vintage trolley that you can take, as well. I figured after all of that sitting on the train, I'd rather get some exercise. I had my Burley Travoy Bike Trailer with me,  which doubles as a luggage cart.

Shortly after I started walking, I was there! I saw the front of the hotel. It's a  grand entrance. "There it is!" I thought to myself, excitedly.  When I was researching where to stay, I felt like my mom was whispering to me, "Stay at The Sofia!" This nudging  happened a couple of times, as I was comparing prices. After reading the reviews, I knew that it sounded like the kind of style that I like, so I booked a room. It is a very classy and posh hotel. Since I was only in town for one night, I decided to splurge. It was definitely worth it.

I had arranged for early check in, and my room was ready to go. The desk staff was very polite and helpful. I took the elevator up to the seventh floor, and let myself in with my key card. The room had a fridge, microwave, flat screen television, wifi, and toiletries. It was all very luxurious. There was even a personal coffeemaker, which I love. They offer free bicycles and yoga classes.  I unpacked my bags and carefully researched the bus schedule. 

More on this trip over the next several days....Thanks for visiting. 

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Taking The Train Along The Coast To San Diego

Tuesday morning I got up early and prepared for my trip to San Diego. First I drove up the mountain, and dropped Lula off at the kennel. She stays at a gorgeous place five miles from here. The location looks like a campground; she absolutely loves it.  As I was packing her things in the trunk, she zipped in front of me and jumped into the back seat of my Beetle. It was as if she didn't want me to forget her. She's so funny. For the past few days I had been telling her that she was going to "dog camp". She seems to really enjoy being with all of the other dogs. It's a very popular place.

After dropping off Lula, I returned home. My neighbor dropped me off at the train station, and I took the commuter train to Union Station, which is an old, classic landmark. I love the style of the decor. They've kept the charm and historical feel. I sat outside in the courtyard and read my kindle. The shady trees and fountains create a peaceful atmosphere.  The waiting room there is absolutely gorgeous. I was so impressed. The other times that I've used Amtrak, I have waited upstairs in the VIP Lounge, because I had a sleeper car. It's completely modern.  I was just as happy with a coach ticket, sitting in the regular waiting room. It really has a feel of old California, back in the day...I munched on the homemade parmesan popcorn that I had packed in my backpack.

The view on the three hour trip was spectacular. The ocean was so inviting. It made me long to live in a house on the beach.  The cliffs and hillsides were breathtaking. The views took my breath away. It made me feel so fortunate to live in California. We stopped in Fullerton, where my mother was born and raised. I said a mental hello to her.  The stations all had so much charm and character. I had a smoked turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch that I had brought with me. This train doesn't have a dining car, but it does have a cafe car. I went there and bought a day pass for the buses and trolleys in San Diego. It cost $5.00, and came in very handy. They also sell sandwiches, chips, nuts, and snacks. You can buy a cocktail or a cup of coffee, as well.  

Once I arrived in San Diego, I found the entrance to Broadway, and walked up the street to The Sophia Hotel. There were bicycles and scooters parked near the businesses and court houses. It felt exciting to be in a city near the beach. You can also walk to the cruise ships from Santa Fe station, which was my stop. There are all kinds of travel possibilities! More about the trip tomorrow...

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Monday, August 6, 2018

My Mom's Kindle

It's been over three years since my mother died. When I returned home to sort through her things, my father gave me her kindle. His voice broke as he explained to me, "She read this thing all the time. She had over two hundred books loaded onto it. Maybe you would like to read them." I thanked him, and agreed. She had been an invalid for several years, and every time I went to visit her, she was reading her kindle. It was like her companion.

At first I had trouble understanding how to use it. I played around with the buttons, and  started reading one of her books. It was one of the most depressing things I had ever read. It took place in Chile, and was very political.  I would force myself to read it, and then feel terrible. I eventually put the kindle in a drawer and forgot about it. I decided we must have very different tastes in reading material.

Last night I was chatting on the phone with a neighbor. She had seen me reading a library book on my porch, and mentioned that she really liked her kindle. I confessed that I had one, but didn't really know how to work it. I didn't understand what the symbols meant. She offered to help me, and gave me the phone  number of I didn't realize that it was through Amazon.

This morning I decided to call them and see if I could get it transferred into my name. The man on the other end of the line talked me through it, and it was fairly fast and easy. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to grasp how it worked. He was a patient and helpful teacher. I started reading another book that my mother had bought. This  one is about dogs, and I absolutely love it. Everyone in my family loves dogs.

I see now why my mom and my neighbor were (and are) so enthusiastic about their kindles. I remember that Oprah Winfrey used to rave about hers, too. I think it will be great to take traveling. It's light, and it will save me storage space in my home. I just ordered a new book from and had it delivered. It feels exciting to have a new toy. (Especially now that I know how to work it.) How about you? Do you have a kindle?

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Friday, August 3, 2018

Saving Money By Growing Food

When I first bought my cottage, I wanted to make use of the land. I knew that it would be ideal for growing fruits and vegetables. We get a tremendous amount of sun in Southern California. It provides the plants with the light that they need. Sometimes I struggle with the unpleasantness of the heat, but I know that our hot summers are what's needed in order to grow food, (Especially year round.)

I picked another zucchini this morning. Rather than cooking it in butter and garlic,  I decided to eat it raw. I cut it into matchsticks. To my surprise, it was delicious! Sometimes the home grown vegetables taste best with very little preparation. The young ones are so tender.

The hummingbirds have been visiting the Four O'Clocks. They are tubular flowers, that are excellent pollinators. I save the seeds each year, and scatter them. Some people consider them as weeds, but I like them. My neighbor gave me the initial seeds twenty years ago. I always think of her when they bloom.

Each morning I check for male and female blossoms on the zucchini. I pollinate them by hand. That's a male flower above, and a wilted female flower at the end of the zucchini next to it.  It's easy to transfer the pollen. The sunflowers are buzzing with active bees. I love sitting on the porch and watching the birds, butterflies, bees, and lizards. It makes me feel happy and connected with nature.

Although I don't grow as much food as I used to, it still is a big help, financially. The routine of farming  feels healthy and earthy. I enjoy drinking  fresh orange juice for many months of the year. The lemons and limes are delicious in cooking and baking. I eat the fresh vegetables daily, and use them in salads.  It's convenient to go "shopping" for food just outside your doorstep  in your own garden. Do you grow your own food?

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

A Heavenly Gift of Lavender

I received a large envelope filled with lavender sachets yesterday. Anita, (who comments here regularly,) mailed me a generous amount from her garden. I have them in all of my drawers now. The mailbox was filled with the scent. It is divine and intoxicating!

I finished the picot hem on the Baby Eyelet Cardi today. The little details make such a difference. This one has kind of a scalloped look to the edging.  Tomorrow I will start working on the sleeves. I plan to do them on dpn's.

I've been planning and researching an upcoming trip. I've really got the travel bug, I think it's my age.  I enjoy thinking about and taking short jaunts around California. There are so many places that I still want to see: Yosemite, San Diego, Mammoth...

Making travel arrangements from home is so convenient now. You can arrange for your flight or train, print out your boarding pass, and reserve your hotel room online. It's like being your own travel agent. My latest journeys  have been to see friends. (and shows with people that I knew when I was performing.) It's always a treat to get together and reconnect. . Some of these relationships go back thirty years.  The memories warm my heart.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Little White Baby Sweater With Eyelets

A few days ago I started working on another newborn sweater. It's very sweet. It has a v-neck, and several rows of eyelets. It's another  free pattern. Here is the link to the blog. It's called the Baby Eyelet Cardi. I've been enjoying the pattern. It's pleasant and meditative.

I love making baby clothes, because they knit up so quickly. It's exciting to see things get finished in such a short time. I plan to make some booties to match this, since I will have plenty of leftover yarn. It was given to me by a lady in my knitting group. There is something so fresh and innocent about white. It will suit either a baby boy or girl.

Yesterday  I picked from my stash  this lovely skein  that I bought myself for my birthday last October. I had planned to make another Lost In Time shawl with it. It's perfect for the hot weather. I think I will knit a shawl instead of crocheting one. I love the colors. It's a mixture of cotton and acrylic. I find that I wear shawls over sundresses for several months of the year. Now that it's getting to be so hot, I will switch over to a cotton blend. Most of the shawls that I have made are  a combination of wool and silk. One is alpaca. I'm becoming one of those shawl ladies. They are really fabulous as you get older. They cover all the right places...

 Sheepjies Whirl looks like a lot of fun to use. I am looking forward to watching the colors change as I knit. This shade is called Slice O' Cherry Pie.  It's a tough decision sometimes, whether to knit or crochet... 

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Keeping Up On The Garden Chores

This morning I got outside early, trimmed off the dead sunflowers, and cut some for a small porch bouquet. I  also  cut  back the periwinkle. It had gotten out of control. It's an invasive plant, but has pretty flowers, and it does well in the drought. I may pull it out and replace it with oleander, which needs very little water.

The navel oranges are doing very well. They are still my favorite variety. They are so juicy and delicious. They will be ripe in about six or seven months. I've been keeping the soil cool with a layer of straw mulch.

The pomegranates are already splitting. I'm not sure why, it could be the lack of rain. I will have to strip the tree, and feed the fruit  to the chickens. Otherwise, the rats will come and hollow out the fruit.  I think I will buy a Wonderful Pomegranate. They seem to do well here. Several of my neighbors have them, and their fruit doesn't split. Mine looks gorgeous when it's in bloom, though. Each Spring it is covered with bright red, tubular flowers.

The tiny blood oranges on the branches turned black, shriveled up,  and dried up on the tree. This variety usually produces oranges every other year, so I guess that's Mother Nature's way of helping the plant to conserve its energy. I will keep it fed, mulched, and watered. It gave me a large crop of delicious oranges this year. Patience...

The hummingbirds love this gopher plant. It does seem to do the job of keeping the gophers out of the front potager garden,  thank goodness!  I think the hawks have greatly reduced their numbers, too. We have several nesting nearby. It's a very healthy ecosystem here. The vibration and sounds are calming.

I've been meaning to post a photo of the finished set from The Five Hour Baby Sweater. I think it's so sweet. I am looking forward to showing it to my knitting friends next week. It's so old fashioned. I am working on a new white  baby sweater now. It's fun to use the baby yarn in my stash that was given to me. I feel fortunate to have inexpensive hobbies. Library books, gardening,  bike riding, walking the dog, and knitting all keep me feeling balanced and happy. How was your weekend?

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Saving Money, And The Security It Brings

As I've gotten older, I have gotten better at saving money. Working from home really helps. I used to spend gobs of money on gas, car repair, music for teaching, training, and dance clothes. Now that I write from home, I don't need any of those things. My clothes last a long time, and I don't get tired of them. I wash them on the delicate cycle, and hang them on the clothesline to dry. I buy and make clothes that I really love, and keep them for as long as possible. I have always appreciated and respected quality clothing.

Since my cottage is tiny, I very rarely buy  "things". I prefer to spend money on experiences and travel. Since I was a young girl,  I had always dreamed of traveling in my fifties, like my Aunt Mary.  It feels like the perfect time. She planned a couple of trips per year, and always looked forward to them.  I really appreciate the cruising lifestyle. It's so convenient to have everything you need on the ship, and to not have to lug your bags everywhere. I am already researching my next voyage. There's a cruise to Australia that sounds amazing!

The hens have been laying eggs nearly every day. They share the nest box; it's so sweet. Having them saves me money on groceries. I find that I eat less meat and poultry, now that I have a steady supply of fresh eggs. I love the ritual of gathering them in the early morning light.

I have cut out certain things in order to save money. I don't have t.v., and  drive very short distances. I combine my errands into one trip, and I don't eat out at restaurants. I would rather spend that money at the end of the year on a trip. That's when I will  splurge on  restaurants, which I really enjoy and appreciate. I do order a cup of tea or a muffin at one of my weekly knitting groups, but I don't have a full meal. I cook and prepare everything at home. It's been part of my routine for years, since I bought my cottage.

I try to keep six months of living expenses in savings. I actually  feel best with $20,000. in savings, but  am working my way back up to that amount. It's a safe feeling to know that if something in the house breaks, or if the car needs a repair, I have the cash. I budget $3,000. a year for home repair and maintenance, so I generally don't have many unexpected problems. This year I spent a lot of money on tree trimming, adding a redwood fence, and draining my septic tank. It was a rewarding feeling, though. These are things that have to be done, just not that often. I am planning to retouch the exterior paint soon, too. I think the heat is very hard on it. The sun beating down seems to cause the paint  to crack and peel.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

More Baby Booties

I finished another pair of baby booties yesterday. This was my first attempt at knitting them. They match the Five Hour Baby Sweater. Today I worked on the bonnet. It's almost done. I love knitting these small baby projects. They are challenging for my mind, yet still entertaining and easy. The end result is very rewarding. I sent a photograph to the woman who gave me the yarn. She was pleased, and thanked me for sharing.

For the past few days, my back has been threatening to spasm. I'm not sure why. It's been years since I've had this sensation. It must have been the three hundred and eighteen spinal flexes that I did the other night while practicing Kundalini Yoga. Fortunately, it hasn't shifted into a full blown spasm. Hopefully  it will release and relax.

The garden is looking lovely. Sitting near the flowers always relaxes me. I had a neighbor over for coffee this morning. We enjoyed the birds and cottage garden atmosphere. The zucchini plants should be producing well very soon. It's been extremely hot here, but we are still comfortable. I just love our shady porch. Walking Lula after the sun goes down has been  enjoyable, too. How are your flowers doing?
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Another Article in Dance Magazine

This article is now live at www.Dance Here is the link  It's a piece I wrote for dancers about the importance of knowing your type. Although it was written with  performers in mind, it also applies to those in other fields. Sometimes it helps to see things from the perspective of the person behind the table.

Last night I picked the first zucchini. It was tender and delicious. It's so rewarding to grown and cook food from your own garden. Whenever I have skipped growing zucchini for a season, I have always missed it. It's so delicious and reliable. I love how green and nutritious it is.

This morning I worked on the finishing of The Five Hour Baby Sweater. I just need to block it. I'm so pleased with how it turned out! The detail and colors make me smile. Now I just need to find a newborn baby girl who lives somewhere that is cold while she is still tiny! 

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