Monday, April 22, 2019

Snakes in the Neighborhood



This morning I heard my neighbor frantically trying to discipline her dog. I glanced over the fence and saw that the young husky had a huge king snake in her mouth. I was shocked at the circumference of it. The puppy  was tossing it around joyfully. There was blood dripping down from its body. I asked the woman  if she needed help, and offered to get a shovel. She thanked me, but declined.  The snake died. The dog had already chewed its tail and pierced its body, and she didn't get there in time.

I don't know why my first instinct was to kill it.  My mind flashed back to a scene of my uncle "protecting us" when I was a child. They had found a huge snake coiled in a corner of  in their Southern California backyard. He cut off its head with a shovel. In retrospect, I realize that we should have just left it. Snakes kill numerous rodents. They keep the population of rats, mice, gophers, and other burrowers under control.  We can really use their help, as  gardeners. For some reason, many people are petrified of snakes. We treat them like wild animals that will attack and kill us.  This is a false belief, although rattlers can be dangerous.  I have gone by one on horseback, and it didn't react to our group. We stayed  calm and quiet.  

While walking Lula this afternoon, another neighbor told me that his wife had seen three rattlesnakes in their backyard in the past two days! They need to bask in the sun as they digest their food. He has two small children, so he has been catching the rattlesnakes with a noose, and taking them to the Placerita Nature Center.

So far, I haven't see any around here. I am glad that I have been religiously digging up all of the weeds in my backyard. Snakes like to hide in the tall grass, and we've had a tremendous amount of rain this season.  They are generally beneficial, and I need to remember that in the future. Do you have any where you live?

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Happy Easter Happy Passover



I have still been digging up weeds in the backyard for an hour each day. I use a large shovel.  The ground is soft, so it's easy. I have seen four ladybugs.  They always open my heart and make me smile. I am pleased that they are attracted to the orchard. I love the bright red color of their bodies and their tiny black spots. They are just adorable. They have so much style: like penguins and woodpeckers.

The sweater is coming along nicely. At this point the knitting is very meditative and relaxing.  I learned how to do the Italian Bind Off on Youtube. It's a really beautiful finish. I've always loved hand sewing. I had to concentrate hard to remember the sequence, but memorized it after a few times. It reminds me a little bit of kitchener stitch, with a variation.

I hope you have a wonderful Easter or Passover. What are your plans?

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Progress on the Stockholm Sweater



I've been making headway on the Stockholm Sweater. The body is finished, and the short row shaping on the first sleeve is completed. Now I can zoom through stockinette down to the wrist with  some decreases. The fabric is  really light, because of the fingering weight yarn. I am hoping to have it finished in a few weeks.


Lula was in the dog house yesterday. I'm not sure why, but she made a couple of small wet spots on my bed. It was  covered with a dog sheet, because she likes to lounge, Still...I can't have that happening. Maybe because it's Springtime. I seem to remember this same situation with another on of my dogs at this time of year. I got out Carlie's old crate and set it up in the bedroom. Instead of driving to knitting, I stayed home and washed the duvet cover and my down comforter. It dried well in the afternoon sun.  Oh well. Pets can cause us some extra work at times. I'm glad that I saved this kennel.  She really seems to like it.


The sun has been shining, and it does a fantastic job of line drying the clothes. I love how clean and fresh the nightgowns and bedding smell.  It really saves on energy costs, too. I placed the pineapple in the windowsill for a couple of days.  I had some earlier, and it was fantastic! The flavor was so sweet and tangy. What a treat! I am looking forward to all of the fresh summer fruits that we have  in store. They are so delicious.  Are you enjoying this weather?

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Inexpensive Haircuts

view from my computer


I have been going to the same place to have my hair trimmed for the past twenty years. It's  a small shop with a sign in the window that reads, "Haircut $10.00." The owner is a little lady from Korea, and she has a steady stream of loyal customers.

I stopped by there today on my way home from the store. I had an Etsy order on my dashboard this morning, so I wrapped and packaged the soap at the kitchen table, and then drove to the library. After printing out the packing slip and shipping label, I dropped it off at the post office. I had them scan it for me and give me a receipt. Etsy sent the customer a shipping notice.


I love seeing the woodpeckers here this time of year

I found some great bargains at Food For Less. I bought four large round steaks for five dollars. Pineapples were on sale for $2.00, and they had marked down the berries. I bought a large carton of strawberries, and a couple of small boxes of raspberries. I splurged on a pint of whipping cream, too. It's so delicious sweetened with sugar and a splash of vanilla extract.

I like to combine my errands, so I stopped off at the hair salon and got my hair trimmed.  I think it's a pretty amazing price for a good haircut. The owner works alone. She's fast, but talented. I always get compliments on my hair after seeing her. I gave her $15.00, cash. She smiled and thanked me. I came home, tenderized the meat, dipped it in flour, and pan fried it in olive oil. It was delicious seasoned with salt and pepper, alongside a buttered baked potato. For dessert, I whipped up the cream and enjoyed it with the fresh, bright red strawberries. I was glad that I decided not to buy the tempting Easter candy that I saw at the store. I also found a pair of tennis shoes on sale for $20.00 at Ross. They fit me perfectly! I have needed a new pair of walking shoes, but didn't want to pay full price. It's such a rewarding feeling to find bargains on what you need. How are you doing?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Appreciating Your Yard

beeswax, shea butter, and olive oil lotion bars


After visiting some homes in Ojai last week, it made me look at my own house and garden with new eyes. This is the view of my backyard from the kitchen window. I planted all of the fruit trees when I bought the house, in 1998. They have grown and matured. I love the canopy of greenery that they provide.


view from my writing desk

This afternoon I sunbathed out in the backyard for an hour. It felt so healing to feel my body against the earth, and to soak in the rays of sunshine. It reminded me of when I was a little girl, and my mother would always take us to the Elk's Club.  My brothers and I used to swim at the pool each day. We loved it. Soaking in the sun always makes me feel healthy, sensual,  and vibrant.



Yesterday I made another loaf of The New York Times No Knead Bread. It's such a delicious recipe. I add 1/4 teaspoon of red wine vinegar to mine. It gives the bread a mild sourdough flavor. I just love having homemade bread at home. It's such a luxury, and is so inexpensive to make. All you need is the time and a few simple ingredients. This recipe uses flour, salt, yeast, and water.  

I have been digging up weeds in the yard for an hour each day. I find that using a shovel makes it easier. I have 1/3 acre lot, so each year it's a big job. I'm making headway, though. I like to visualize having a pool in the center, flanked by the fruit trees. I think that would be a wonderful addition, and there's plenty of space. Maybe someday...How's the weather where you live?

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Overpriced Homes

my little cottage


Yesterday I went with a realtor to look at four houses in Ojai. I found them on Zillow, and asked her if I could see them. Boy, was it a shock. Things have really changed. I am so thankful that I bought my house when I did, in a down market. It sure was eye opening to see what people are paying to live up in that area  now.  The prices are astronomical.

One thing that I didn't expect was for some of the  homes to have such dark interiors.  I had this vision of how they were going to be inside, and it  was completely wrong.  I expected jewels, but they were decorated with a lot of black. Mine has windows everywhere, and the sunlight streams in all day. This used to be a beach house. In the homes that I toured  some of the bedrooms felt like it was  the middle of the night at 1:00 in the afternoon. It was an odd sensation. I didn't like it, and wanted to leave.

There was one blue cottage that I really loved. It had a colorful garden, a modest vintage pool, and lovely fruit trees and berry bushes.  It was a very well cared for, but much too big for me. It had four bedrooms upstairs, and a pool house.  I loved the fragrant pink jasmine and the ranunculus in bloom in the front flower bed. 

There was also a tiny home built in the 1920's on half of an acre. The location was amazing. It had an odd layout, though, and  felt very cramped. The floor seemed uneven, and the ceilings were extremely low. There was an odd sleeping porch adjacent to the kitchen. The bathroom was tiny, and it didn't have a tub. I have to have a bathtub! Dancers love to soak.

I was also shocked at how some of the yards looked. I couldn't imagine spending several hundred thousand dollars on a home when there were yards next door with junk piled high in the front yards. Some of the places looked like the owners didn't water their yards. There were dead branches, weeds, and leaves everywhere. It really makes a place feel depressing when there is a lot of debris and dead matter on the ground.

When I got home, I felt so grateful and appreciative of my house and yard. For some reason, it feels so much bigger than the homes that I saw. I think it might be because I live alone, and  it has less clutter. I also have had the trees trimmed, and have been busy  feeding the plants and  pulling the weeds.

Every time I go to look at houses, I realize that I love what I have far more than anything.  It makes me aware that the small details and love that we give to our homes make all of the difference. There is nothing like "a woman's touch."   Doing all of the daily housework  gives our home an energy of being cared for, and cherished. The fresh air and sunshine brighten it up, too. Do you love your home? 

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Artichokes From The Garden For Dinner



This morning I harvested the first artichokes of the season. I love growing these plants; they get large so quickly. They remind me of pumpkins.  You can almost watch them grow. I made a pot of beef stew this afternoon, and enjoyed a big ceramic bowl of it for lunch and dinner.  I started by dipping the pieces of meat in flour, then browned them in olive oil, and seasoned the  beef with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.


I added carrots, onion, celery, potatoes, a turnip, a parsnip, and several minced cloves of garlic. After letting it  simmer on the vintage stove for a couple of hours, the flavors blended. It made a very tasty, hearty beef stew.


Yesterday I went over to a friend's house for lunch. She made us a delicious spinach salad, and we had fresh strawberries and cafe au lait for dessert. After visiting with her, I went to the market and bought the produce for the week. 

Today Lula and I went to visit her family. She was so excited to see the children. She was running and jumping for joy. It was really sweet. How is you day going?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Driving An Older Car

green hills in Ojai


Having a reliable,  older car can save you a tremendous amount of money. I drive mine roughly once a week, combing my errands. By doing this, I keep the mileage low. That keeps my car repair and maintenance costs down, too. Most of the newer cars run for over 200,000 miles. A Honda can go way beyond that, but I plan to keep my VW Beetle. I think it will last me through  retirement. Right now it has 50,000 miles on it. 

As you get older, you realize that it's all of the little habits that really add up when saving money. When I first moved to LA,  I drove all over creation. I commuted from Torrance to Santa Monica each morning, for dance classes. I returned in the heavy 405 traffic at night. I picked up friends and gave them rides, and often drove them home. It never occurred to me how far out of the way I was going.  I just liked their company, and was happy to spend time with them.   That's how teenagers are, very social.


purple iris in my cottage garden

I would volunteer to take car loads of friends to the beach,  the mall, and to Hollywood. We loved shopping in Venice and on Melrose. As I got older, I traveled long distances to auditions, to relocate to perform in shows, and to visit my family.


flowers on the fence in Ojai
Now that I'm in my fifties, and more mature, I calculate the cost of everything that I'm doing. I plan ahead for oil changes, new tires, gas, car washes, and repairs. I had no concept of these things when I was  young.  I enjoy taking the train, the bus, and traveling by boat. In order to indulge in a vacation, I need to really watch what I purchase, on  a daily basis. Jean Chatzky says  that the average person spends $3,000. a year on eating out and buying coffees.  Now that I rarely do those things, I can save that money for travel. That's when I splurge. When on a ship, I eat in the places that are included in the fare. I skip the drink package, and make coffee in the room. I fill up my water bottle at the stations, rather than buying bottled water. I attend the shows that are included, and budget for a visit to the spa or something special. It makes such a difference in the final bill. What small things do you do to save money?

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Friday, April 5, 2019

Out For Mexican Food



Today I drove out to Ojai again with Lula. We found a Mexican restaurant with  a lovely outside patio.  The tiles were hand painted. As I was reading the menu,  I noticed a couple leaving with their shaggy grey dog. I asked them if dogs were allowed, and they answered in the affirmative. Once I found out that Lula could join me, I decided to sit down and order a small meal.

I had a chicken taco a la carte, with a side order of guacamole. They brought chips and salsa. I packed up the leftovers to take home. Several customers stopped by our table to pet Lula. She seemed surprised that they didn't give her treats, like they did at the bank. She was still very happy and affectionate with everyone, though. She wrapped leash around the leg of the table, so I had to climb underneath it and untangle her.


The views were spectacular. We took a scenic walk down the bike path. It's really gorgeous. There were some families with kids on small bikes, and little ones in Burley Travoy bike trailers. It looked like so much fun. I love visiting that area. I stopped off at the knitting shop and chatted with the women who were working. They are so sweet.  I got the days mixed up for the knitting group. Next time...



It was a gorgeous ride home. The hills are all so green from the rain. They were parched and dry for so many years. Seeing this transformation makes my heart sing. There were clusters  of purple lupines in bloom on the hillside, too.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Plants Are Springing To Life

my front potager garden with herbs, flowers, fruit, and vegetables




The garden is transforming.  You can see and feel the energy pulsating through the plants. The artichokes are getting huge! This one came back from last year. I love their size and power. The live Christmas trees that I planted are now a lovely shade of yellowish green, and they are developing berries. The birds will love them. The sparrows have been sharing the water in the birdbath, splashing around happily.  You can hear all sorts of bird songs, all day and night. My favorite is the call of the owl while I sleep.  


there's a little hummingbird at the feeder

I hung up the Easter wreath the other day. I have always wanted one that was covered with pastel colored eggs. I finally found this at T.J. Maxx.  I love the colors.

I spent several hours weeding the garden yesterday. It was exhausting, but also felt satisfying. It's so important to take care of the yard and soil. Soon I will plant more asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, and zinnias. I have everything sitting by the door, ready to place  into the fertile ground. I will tuck a handful of homemade compost into each planting hole The rain we've had all winter has been wonderful. It makes such a difference. How is you garden?

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Monday, April 1, 2019

First Sweater Fitting

red lettuce from the garden


I've been focusing on eating well and am still working on my Stockholm Sweater. The lettuce in the garden is starting to bolt. Spring is definitely here. I have been making lots of bone broths and incorporating them into my daily diet. I've also been doing the Bikram Yoga series regularly. I like the way it tones the muscles. It makes me feel stronger physically, which translates into more strength, mentally and emotionally.


fitness and knitting at 54

I finally worked out the short row shaping on this sweater. I had to redo each side twice. It turns out I didn't need to work with four balls of yarn, either.  Had I known, I would have cut the yarn after putting the stitches on the holding needle. It would have been so much easier!  No more tangles. I made a note on the pattern.

Now I have joined the back and front and am just knitting like mad and decreasing every fifteenth row. The sleeves have the same short row shaping, but I think I understand it pretty well now. It just took some time and practice.

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Friday, March 29, 2019

Cold Brewed Coffee Experiment



This afternoon I decided to try making cold brewed coffee. I googled it, and wrote down a few recipes. I decided to start with one that would fit easily in my French press coffee pot. It calls for 2/3 cup of coarsely ground coffee, and three cups of water.

That sounded like an awful lot of coffee to me, but I decided to try it. With some of these recipes, you dilute the coffee with water. You can store it in the fridge. In that case, it would work for me, financially. I generally use half as much coffee as this each morning for my three cups of hot coffee made in the French press.

If this is diluted to one part coffee, one part water, it will work for my budget. I like the idea of having my coffee already made in the morning. The older I get, the more foods and beverages I like to make in advance. I buy  French Roast coffee beans at Costco, because they are available in bulk at a competitive price.

The brew is sitting on the counter right now. It will be ready at 6:00 tomorrow morning. I am excited to try it. It's kind of like making sun tea, without the sunshine. People online are raving about the taste, so I'm interested to see how I like it. Many people buy it premade at Trader Joe's. Have you ever tried cold brewed coffee? What did you think?

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

When A Pension Isn't Worth It



In the recent comments, some of you asked about the outcome with my pension. After running the numbers, I realized that it wasn't worth it. The documentation that I had for work in 1985 didn't count, due to the rules and requirements at that time. Back then, you needed ten years of union employment with Actors' Equity Association.

I was considering looking into stage management  to provide the needed one hour of work, which I was told would qualify me for my five year pension. Some older dancers have been running lunch for the creative team.

The thing is, I would have to rejoin the union, which would cost $1,600. I'm not sure what the dues are now, but I remember them costing over a hundred dollars a year when I was in my early thirties. I dropped out of the union when I bought my house. The money I would receive  would get eaten up by those expenses, so I plan to focus on my writing.

I am happy with the amount of social security that I have earned.  Fortunately, my expenses are very low. That makes all the difference. A modest home and an older car can make life much more affordable.  Using public transportation regularly helps me to stay within my gasoline budget.  Prices here have risen; I paid $42.00 yesterday for ten gallons of gas! That's a significant increase. I normally pay $35.00. I will be driving less, and biking and taking the bus.  Thank goodness there is a stop a couple of blocks from my house.

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