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Monday, July 31, 2017
Yesterday I realized that I really need a day of rest each week. I forget to do that, since I'm not driving to teach anymore. I go nonstop with my blogging and Etsy shop, and often forget what day it is. When I was a professional dancer, we always had Mondays off each week. We really looked forward to the "dark nights" at the theater, and so did our tired bodies. As a dance and yoga teacher, I scheduled my classes five days a week. I had my two off days split up, which I really liked. It was a relief to just cook, rest, read, and relax. The body needs down time, so does the mind.
I realized after my last post that I was getting bogged down by having too many knitting and crocheting projects. I looked over the pattern of the knitted knockers, and noticed that I had made an error. I repeated the second row, and you are supposed to alternate the first and second row. So, I ripped it out, and balled the yarn. That's one less project for now. I can start it again, correctly, later in the week. I really breathed a sigh of relief, subtracting that project. I didn't realize how those unfinished items were affecting me. It's kind of like having too many pets. I read an article once that said one of the characteristics of bipolar people is that they have lots of unfinished projects. Now I can see why. It's so stressful.
I blocked the pieces to the cotton sweater, and started working on the hand seaming. It's a clever design, with a neck band that you graft with kitchener stitch in the back. I use this technique to seam the toes of my socks, so I'm familiar with it. I listened to a podcast yesterday while sewing in one of the armholes. That was a mistake. I went on automatic and accidentally did the backstitch on the right side. When I realized it, I felt very disoriented. It surprised me, because I have knit numerous sweaters. I really need to focus on what I'm doing, though. I also misunderstood the pattern, and sewed the front pieces on the wrong sides. It looked correct, but it wasn't. So, I spent a lot of time yesterday backtracking. Ripping out backstitch with this thick and thin yarn is a little tricky, but I did it. I'm not going to do any more knitting until I finish this sweater. I have sneaked in some time on the powder blue crocheted baby blanket, though. It's really coming along nicely. I am excited to list it in my Etsy shop. I love the pale blue yarn and the clusters in the pattern. The yarn was given to me by a knitter who said that she didn't need it. It feels good to make use of it and create something beautiful.
Yesterday I mopped the floors with my homemade liquid soap, and then did a rinse with hot vinegar water. The whole cottage has a different vibration when the floors are clean. It feels nice. How about you? What have you been up to lately?
Friday, July 28, 2017
Yesterday I avoided working on my cotton sweater. I had noticed that some of the stitches that I had placed on a stitch holder had fallen off. I was afraid to see the damage. I was hoping I could just put them back on with a crochet hook, yet I couldn't seem to face looking at it. I imagined a big mess, and worried that it would be difficult to fix and understand. Instead, I calmly crocheted the baby blanket. It's simple, familiar, and comforting. I felt guilty about slipping into procrastination and avoidance on the sweater. This is why I only usually have one or two projects. Now I have three, (well actually, four,) which I'll explain later.
At about 7:45 this morning I drove down to the mechanic to drop off my car. He's just a mile from my cottage. He told me to leave the car in the morning, so I showed up a little before 8:00 a.m. They weren't open yet, which surprised me. I drove a little further to the grocery store and picked up some cantaloupe, limes, and pineapple. I went back, and they were still closed. Fortunately, they have a drop box where you can leave your key and fill in the information on the envelope for your car. I used that and then crossed the street to wait at the bus stop. The bus showed up about five minutes later. There was a big truck blocking the sign, so I walked out on to the highway and waved at the driver. He thanked me when he pulled over to the side of the road. The bus drivers all know me, because I usually have my bicycle. There aren't many 52 year old women in Los Angeles who ride around town on a bicycle and take the bus! Ours have racks on the front that fit two or three bikes.
Once I got home, I took a closer look at the sweater. I was easily able to fix the dropped stitches, and put them securely on a cable with stoppers. One of my Knitpicks circular needles had come apart, so I reattached it with some Elmer's Wood Glue. I am going to work on that sleeve again this afternoon. I ran out of yarn yesterday, and tried to cheat by cutting off the long ends I had intended to use for seaming. I tried using them to finish the last four or five rows, but it didn't work. Instead, yesterday afternoon I went to the yarn shop and bought one more skein of yarn. I met with a group called Knitted Knockers and learned how to do Magic Loop technique. We are making hand knit prosthetics for local breast cancer survivors. They are quite beautiful. I'll write more about that on Monday. How are your creative projects coming along?
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Today I started crocheting a baby blanket for my Etsy shop. I was given the yarn by a knitter who said that she wasn't going to use it. It's powder blue, and it's a huge ball. I wound it by hand this afternoon. It took me quite a while. I was glad I did, because towards the end of the skein, the yarn was tangled. I had to carefully weave in and out repeatedly to keep from cutting the yarn. It's nice to know that I won't run into problems while using it. This is why I never work from an unwound skein or hank.
I'm using a pattern that I found on a simple living forum with a link to a blog. It's a real nice one. It's easy to memorize, and has a nice rhythm. It has single crochets, half double crochets, and double crochets. I like the look and feel of it. Crocheting has always relaxed me. I feel like it's looser, and easier, than knitting. It brings out a different side of my personality. It makes me feel calm and laid back, (which I'm generally not.)
I watered the plants this morning, washed my sheets, and made an appointment to have my car window fixed. This is my first car with electric windows, and this is the second time I've had to replace one. It gets expensive. It will feel good to get it done, though. I don't like having things broken or in need of repair. It's depressing.
I almost finished knitting my cotton sweater yesterday, and then ran out of yarn. I only have about seven rows left, but will have to buy an extra skein. At least the yarn shop is near my cottage, and they have the same dye lot in stock. I guess that's why knitters advise buying an extra skein of yarn when you knit a sweater. Once I finish the pieces, I can block them, and then sew the sweater together. How is your knitting coming along?
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
After spinning out the excess water in my Nina Spinner, I laid it out to dry on my bed. Alpaca dries very quickly. That's one of the things I love about it. I wrapped both items in tissue paper and taped them with colorful washi tape. I have some that's pink with little flowers on it. It's so cute.
This morning I drove over to the library and printed out the packing slip and shipping label. I included a hand written note of thanks, and headed over to the post office. It's right down the street. I'm lucky that I live just a few miles from both places. I stood in line so that I could get a tracking number. I like to see the item get put in the box. It's such a good feeling to have all of my current Etsy orders completed early and shipped. I got home and had an email from another customer, with a few requests. It looks like my next project will be a crocheted baby blanket! I love making those; they are so sweet. I have plenty of soaps cured and bagged, so that part of the order will be easy to fill.
What are you doing today? Do any of you work from home or have an Etsy shop?
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
I really enjoyed the tap classes that Maurice Hines taught on Saturday and Sunday. He worked us hard! It was two straight hours of nonstop dancing. His assistant, Shaun Baker, taught the warm up. It was thorough and clear. I found it easy to follow, but it was not easy. You needed to have a strong tap base to know the vocabulary. His sounds were crisp and clean.
Maurice led us across the floor. We danced two by two. It was really fun. He used a lot of Janet Jackson music and other great songs from that era. Maurice breaks things down well, and he demonstrates so beautifully. He is such an excellent dancer. I like the way he builds the class. Some of the steps Shaun taught us in the warm up, then we did them again across the floor, and then a third time in the combination. That's a great way to teach, because it builds confidence, technique, and understanding.
Many of the tap steps were combined with Jazz and Latin. There were a lot of fast rhythms. Some of it I wasn't sure I could still do, but somehow my body went on automatic, and I could. I just focused hard on hearing the sounds in my head. I'm not sure if it was wise to do all of the wings and other more advanced steps on my replaced hips, but they felt fine. I wasn't in any pain afterwards, just exhausted and thirsty.
I was totally wiped out after the second day of class. I felt more relaxed and comfortable with the learning process, though. I kind of knew what to expect, and told myself to go with the flow. If you panic, your mind freezes, and it's hard to pick up. The second combination was also really fun and enjoyable. It was a fantastic weekend of excellent classes. I'm glad I hung on to my tap shoes, and didn't give them to the Goodwill!
Monday, July 24, 2017
This is a post I started writing a few days ago. Tomorrow I'll write about how the classes went, and what I learned. Boy did I step out of my comfort zone! This photo is from the European Tour of "42nd Street", and was taken many years ago when we were with the show in Germany.
Saturday morning I woke up, excited about a workshop I had signed up for with Maurice Hines. He is in town teaching two classes at Debbie Allen's dance studio in Los Angeles. I registered on line, and started researching Maurice through Google. I already had heard a lot about him, since some of my close friends had danced in the shows that he had choreographed. I found some wonderful interviews and excerpts from his nightclub act on line. In addition to being an exceptional dancer, he is also quite an entertainer, singer, and storyteller. It was fun to hear him talk about the early days when he was a young boy, tapping with his brother, Gregory Hines. They studied with the famous tap master, Henry Le Tang.
I used to take classes regularly from Henry Le Tang when I was dancing in shows in Las Vegas. The first time was when I was working at the Stardust. The second time was when I did Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney and Juliet Prowse and the Desert Inn. I really looked forward to those classes. They were the highlight of my day. Henry choreographed the movie The Cotton Club, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The lighting is exquisite. Gregory and Maurice are so impressive in their dances and scenes. I still watch their dancing in that film over and over. It's remarkable. The costumes, sets, and details are magnificent. It's a real period piece. Every detail is so authentic...it's just pure art. You can really see Henry's stamp of individuality on the work, since he directly experienced the Cotton Club. It shows. You can hear it in the music, the sounds of the taps, and in the tempos. Henry is the real thing.
When I used to take his class, Maurice Sr. (Gregory and Maurice's father,) was always there, sitting on the bench by the window. He was very kind, warm, and encouraging. He had a very rich, deep voice. I always chatted with him before heading in to the dance studio to tap with Henry. In those days, classes were tiny. I was often the only person in the class. Henry's work was very intricate, and there weren't many trained tap dancers who took Henry's tap class in Las Vegas. I think it's because it was so advanced. You needed to have a very solid tap base. Most of them were showgirls, and specialized in ballet and jazz. Henry rented out the studio space for auditions and for rehearsals. I took advantage of training with him. I soaked up as much as I could, and practiced like crazy. I would drill all of his routines between numbers and costume changes while I was at work. When he went to Paris to set Black and Blue, Henry had me teach all of his classes. Training always pays off in some way. It was such an honor.
I've been watching interviews and clips on Maurice and his brother Gregory on Youtube. I can't wait to meet Maurice. I know I'm going to like him. He's got great charisma, and is so elegant and charming. I hope I will be able to pick up the choreography. I'm a little nervous, since I'm not sure how much I can do since having the hip replacement surgery. The other night, I watched some videos of Gregory teaching master classes, to practice. I was having trouble seeing what he was doing, and everything seemed so fast! When I was a young dancer, I picked up so quickly. Gregory and Henry hired me for the movie Tap, which Henry choreographed. At this age it's more challenging. I'll just try to stay relaxed and focused.
Friday, July 21, 2017
I've noticed recently that many people don't take the time to cook for themselves anymore. Convenience foods are everywhere. The grocery stores are filled with prepared meals. Many people prefer them. I still really enjoy making what I eat from scratch. It costs a lot less money, and it's healthy and fresh.
People often ask me if I'm naturally thin. They assume that I can eat whatever I want. Often, these people don't realize that I have always exercised for at least an hour a day, for most of my life. When I was dancing professionally, teaching, and training, I worked out for several hours each day and night. With the exception of when I was on tour, I have always eaten home cooked meals. If I eat junk and fast food, I gain weight. Most people do. So, I rarely eat those things.
I used to be addicted to potato chips and Nacho Cheese Doritos. I would buy a large bag of one or the other Costco, and think it would last me for a month. It usually didn't. I rationalized that because it was so cheap, (only five or six dollars,) it was okay to eat. I started buying gummy bears there in bulk, too. I sent some to my mother, who also loved them. We both felt guilty. Eventually, I stopped buying all three items. I just knew eating all of those chemicals wasn't good for me. At that time I had osteoarthritis in my hips, and I noticed that type of eating made the pain flare. So, I stopped buying most packaged foods. Now, if I want a snack, I'll choose something more natural. I like to have peanut butter on celery, a piece of fruit, or a handful of pumpkin seeds. These seem like much wiser choices. I still enjoy treats, like sorbet and gelato, but I eat them in moderation. I try to keep the bulk of what I put into my body real food. My ballet teacher, Rosemary Valaire, called it "eating sensibly". How about you? Do you prepare your own meals?
Thursday, July 20, 2017
In the olden days, one person would hold a skein of yarn between their hands, while the other person would wrap it into a ball. Since I live on my own, I utilize a vintage chair that I bought at the Salvation Army. It works very well. First I cut the pieces of yarn that hold the skein together. It always makes me nervous that I'm going to cut the wrong section, but I just study the yarn carefully. I find the segments that have knots in them. I carefully clip those, and then start to make the ball.
Once I have completed the ball of yarn, I start knitting. I like this ritual. You can make sure there aren't any knots of problems before starting your new project. It feels like an ancient practice to me. This is the way people used to prepare to knit. Nowadays, many knitters have their yarn wound for them into beautiful cakes at the yarn shops. Some crafters even have their own swifters at home. Maybe someday I will buy one, but for now I like doing it Mrs. Hutchinson's way. I think she would be pleased that I am still knitting.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Tasty Hamburger Pie
1 lb. canned tomatoes (reserve 1/2 cup of juice)
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. parsley
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
Drain tomatoes, reserving 1/2 cup of the juice. Combine ground beef, salt, pepper, garlic, chopped onion, breadcrumbs, and tomato juice. Press into 9" pie pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Add chopped tomatos. Sprinkle with parsley, oregano, and cheese. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes longer.
My mom told me once, "You cook for yourself like you're cooking for a family." It's true. I love to make all of my favorite recipes that she made for us when we were growing up. I store the leftovers, and heat them up on my vintage stove. That gives me several more meals. This way I don't have to cook every night. It's nice to enjoy a dish that's delicious, healthy, and nutritious. Often I will eat leftovers all week. I love having personally prepared meals that are ready to eat. It makes my life simple, easy, and comfortable.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
24 oz. coconut oil (680.389 grams)
3.5 oz. lye (99.223 grams)
9 oz. distilled water (255.146 grams)
.8 oz. fragrance oil (22.68 grams)
Melt coconut oil. Let it sit and cool while mixing the lye into the water. Leave lye/water mixture to cool down for twenty minutes. Mix lye/water mixture into coconut oil. Blend with your stick blender. It will come to trace quickly. If using any fragrance oil and/or color, add it now. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for adding the color. I use I use 1/2 tsp. of Brazilian rose clay for this recipe. (for swirling or two layers, as shown above) For a solid color, I would add more, depending on the shade that you want..
Pour into your molds. This recipe makes a small batch, and it hardens very quickly. You can usually unmold it after about six hours. Some people leave it overnight. It still needs to cure for four to six weeks. Three months is ideal for a mild, soothing bar.
You always want to follow all the safety precautions soap makers use when working with lye. I wear long sleeves and pants, leather shoes, rubber gloves, an apron, and goggles. Good ventilation in the kitchen is important. I open the windows, doors, and put on the ceiling fans. The dogs stay outside, or in the bedroom. You need to be able to focus and concentrate, without any interruptions.
For cleaning up, I turn my water heater up to the high setting and wash my tools with soapy water. This way everything is sterilized. It works very well. I wash all the dishes right after I finish making the soap. Be sure to keep your gloves on, and put any dish rags in the washing machine after use. You don't want to get any raw soap on your hands or skin. It's caustic, and it burns.
This recipe has a 20% superfat. That's why it doesn't dry out the skin. Normally, you don't want to use too much coconut oil when making soap, for that reason. Most of the soaps that I make have a superfat of 5%. This one breaks the rules. It's fabulous! It has a very white color, like a candle. Please let me know how you like it.
Monday, July 17, 2017
This morning I washed my white sheets and hung them on the clothesline to dry. I noticed there was a small stain on the upper left hand corner. I went inside and brought out my homemade coconut soap and rubbed the stain away; it took just a few minutes. I put some fresh, clean water on the sheet to rinse away the soap residue, and then left it out in the sun to dry. The sun is wonderful for bleaching and disinfecting things naturally. It does an excellent job of whitening my laundry.
I sell a bar called Coconut Dream in my Etsy shop. It is a very creamy soap with a rich lather. It only has four ingredients: coconut oil, distilled water, sodium hydroxide, and fragrance oil. It is excellent for using in the laundry, and also for household cleaning. I love that it's non toxic. It's very gentle and mild on the skin.
Tomorrow I will post my recipe for making coconut soap. It's a nice hard, long lasting bar, and is
Saturday, July 15, 2017
The pomegranates are forming well. They look like they will be a bit bigger this year. I hope so. Usually they are sweet, but fairly small. I'm not sure why. Maybe I should thin the fruit. It's an enormous bush. I planted it twenty years ago, after buying it as a small plant from the nursery. I love how majestic it has become. It loves the expansive space. The red blossoms attract hummingbirds and monarch butterflies.
This little lime tree is finally bearing fruit. I'm so excited. This is the first year that the fruit hasn't been eaten by grasshoppers. They used to devour the tiny balls each Spring. It's still a very small tree, but in time it will grow and spread. Citrus make just beautiful privacy plants. I love the year round greenery that they provide. Orioles, with their bright yellow and orange breasts, love them, too.
This blood orange tree was given to me two decades ago for Easter, by a friend. It's really come a long way. It took many years for it to look healthy and strong. I mulch it heavily with leaves and straw, which it seems to like. These oranges have a beautiful color once they are ripe. They are red inside; with a marbled orange/crimson color. They are part grapefruit, and make a delicious gourmet sorbet.
The navel orange tree has some fruit, too. I think this one must be a dwarf. It's smaller than the other trees, but the oranges that it produces are to die for! They are the sweetest and most delicious ones that I have ever tasted. I love snacking on them, fresh off of the tree. The peels make a wonderful and non toxic citrus cleanser.
Carlie is taking a nice snooze on the shady front porch while I am blogging. The animals really seem to appreciate and take advantage of the garden. It seems like they feel the healing energy from being outside in nature, just like we do. What do you think?
Friday, July 14, 2017
Yesterday I received an order in my Etsy shop for an alpaca throw and a pair of cotton crocheted pot holders. I always feel excited when I get an Etsy order. July is a hot month, so the last thing I expected was to sell an alpaca blanket! It's been over one hundred degrees here! I am thrilled, though. Years ago, I made each of my parents one of these, and they were very well received. They are so soft and warm. I wish every person over fifty could have one. They are so cozy in the cold weather. I even took mine with me on the train and used it in the sleeper car when I traveled from Los Angeles to Oregon. They are light weight and easy to pack.
Once I saw the order, I went on line to see if I could find a good price on the yarn. Alpaca is normally very expensive. Retail price is usually $20.00 a skein. I did some research, and found what I needed on clearance at Webs. They had four skeins left of the dark green. I needed three. Perfect! I emailed the customer to check on the shade of the color, and she was happy with it. It's amazing what we can do on line these days. I went ahead and placed my order.
I didn't have any more of the kitchen cotton yarn that she chose. I had used up the last bits. So, I drove down to Beverly's and tried to find it there. Our store is going out of business, and they only had one lone skein remaining on the shelves. I needed two. I drove a bit further to Walmart, and bought a large cone of it for $7.97. Every dollar counts when you are selling hand knits. I also make the pot holders in pastels and other colors, but my customers seem to like the oatmeal with the little flecks of color. That's something I didn't expect. Now I have plenty.
I'm excited to get started on the throw. I knit this pattern on very large needles, and the work goes quickly. It's a joy to knit with alpaca yarn. It's so luxurious. I am almost finished with the pot holders, and will work on my cotton cardigan later this afternoon. I'm doing the first sleeve now, and am a little concerned that I may run out of yarn. There is a little over one skein left, and one and a half sleeves still to do. I'm crossing my fingers. I know you are supposed to buy and extra skein for good measure when you make a sweater, but I didn't.Fortunately our local yarn shop still has the yarn if I need it.
As my dad has told me, "It's always a good feeling to make a sale." It's true. I was flying high when I clicked over to my Etsy shop, and saw that little flag up on Shop Manager. This was almost a $200.00 order, so it's an exciting day here at Pink Cottage Soaps! How is your day going?
Thursday, July 13, 2017
This morning I just didn't have the gumption to get up at 4:00 a.m. and charge out the door for my 6:00 a.m. bike ride, so I didn't. I stayed home. It was kind of nice just to relax on my couch, write in my journal, and enjoy a couple of cups of French Roast coffee. I didn't feel so rushed and pressured to hurry out and catch that bus. After watering the flowers, I made a batch of guacamole It tasted delicious on a homemade quesadilla that I cooked in my vintage toaster oven. I love the flavors of the fresh onion, garlic, cilantro, lime, and salt. They mix so well with the fresh avocado.
I finished my socks. A fellow blogger had written a post about knitting the kitchener stitch, so I watched the Youtube video for that, and digested it. It looks interesting, and very effective. Many people have trouble with the kitchener stitch, but I don't. I like it. I love hand sewing, though. A lot of knitters don't. I'm not sure why. In fact, a lot of knitters seem to actually hate hand sewing, so much so that they won't sew the squares of a blanket or the pieces of a sweater together, for years. Knitters are a passionate and opinionated bunch. I used to have trouble remembering kitchener stitch, so I wrote out a cheat sheet on the bottom corner of my sock pattern. All I have to do is glance at it, and the technique comes back to my memory. I'm the kind of person who has to write things down in order to learn them. That's how I memorize. If I don't put it on paper, what I've seen just evaporates from my mind.
I sewed in the ends on the socks, and blocked them. My tension has gotten really loose. I think it's because I've been working on the tiny circular needles. I may have to go down to a size 0, or switch back to dpn's. Oh well. They fit. I'll have to find someone who wears a size 9 shoe to gift them to for Christmas. I don't know who on Earth is going to like these colors, but that's what I thought about the bright orange ones, and I found a taker. I don't think I'll buy any more grab bags of yarn. It's not a bargain if you don't like the colors, and I never would have chosen these two.
I realized today that I feel like I am getting a bit overwhelmed with technology. It's like I'm trying to keep in touch with way too many people. I always used to feel like I was very neat and organized. Now I don't. I seem to be getting messier as I'm getting older. I don't like it. My mother always kept her house in a perfect state. She was so good at it. I think if I spent less time on line, I would have more time and energy to do the mundane tasks in the home, like mopping the floors. Oh well. The laundry is done, the sheets are clean, and the daily broth and vegetables are made.I just received a big Etsy order, which I am excited about knitting. I made a quick run out to the store to pick up some more kitchen cotton yarn.
This is a photo of my mom. Her house was always spotless, and she almost never misplaced anything. My goal is to be more like her.