Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ah, Back to Knitting!

I started working on this windowpane baby blanket this morning. I worked out the stitch count so that it will be  stroller size. It's so much fun; I just love the pattern. It's easy and relaxing. Knitting this texture and design makes  me feel so happy. If she likes it, I think I will give it to my neighbor. She has a beautiful little girl.

I finished this tea cozy last week. I used up some worsted weight scrap yarn that was in my stash. I don't really care for the grey on top, but I ran out of pink and purple yarn. The wool is Noro Silk Garden, from Creative Ewe in Canyon Country, California. Tea cozies are quick and pleasing projects to knit. They are also excellent stash busters. I love the way this second hand vintage teapot looks with it on top. It reminds me of a miniature sweater.

I went to the library yesterday and downloaded this free pattern from Ravelry. I still have lots of sock yarn left from the gift card I received from my brother last Christmas. I think this pattern will be fun and challenging. I've never done a  toe up sock pattern. This one also uses the fish lips kiss heel. I've heard good things about it. It will be stimulating to try some new techniques. I hope they fit!

It feels so rewarding to be completing knitting projects and starting some new ones. I am happy to be making a dent in that large bag of baby yarn that was given to me by the local knitters. I plan to make lots of gifts and items for my Etsy shop, Pink Cottage Soaps. I plan to donate a few things to charity, too. What are you knitting or crocheting these days?

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Friday, December 29, 2017

The Power of Home

For the past week I've been reading the articles that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote for publications in the early 1900's. The recurring theme in her words and memories  is the importance of home. She really emphasizes how much it means to have a happy, content, and healthy living space. She believes that it is the key to well being. I agree with her.

My mother spent most of her days cooking delicious meals, and creating a clean and beautiful space for us in which to live. We always had scrumptious home cooked dinners. clean clothes, freshly washed bedding and towels, and plenty of fresh air circulating through the house. Our house radiated care. She was so dedicated and busy.

Now that I'm older I realize that we took all of her hard work for granted. I had never seen a dirty toilet or sink until I left home. My mother was so on schedule with her housework that she kept everything immaculate. When I would do my chores as a young girl, everything already seemed clean. She really kept up on it, and never let things go.

I agree with Laura about the home. I know that when things are tidy, well cared for, and organized in my cottage, I feel happy. Our surroundings are directly related to our self esteem. It's nice to have a snug and cozy place to relax and recharge. Staying in a routine with the duties of a home keeps us grounded and centered. If I don't stay up on my housework, I get down on myself and negative.

My house is also my place of work. I do my writing here, run the Etsy shop, make soap, and submit queries for magazine articles. It's a place to do yoga, practice songs, journal, and meditate. The birds are visible through the old fashioned windows, and the flowers in the window boxes are bright and cheerful.

The photographs I'm posting on the blog today are of the old ranch house that my dad's family used to own. It was built in 1860. It was glorious. It needed a lot of work, yet it still radiated  character, mystery, and charm. We spent many happy weekends there. It reminds me of the time that Laura was growing up in Minnesota, and on the prairie. I just love older homes. They are so special and unique. How about you?

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

How Was Your Christmas?

Gosh, I haven't blogged in a while. I have been busy working out some personal issues in my life. I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas, or whatever holiday it is that you celebrate. I went home to visit my dad and a close childhood friend. While I was there I went through a lot of the old photo albums that my mom had  created. She put so much time and care into them. It was really enjoyable to look at these old pictures and to relive the memories with my dad.

I I  also brought home some wonderful books on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. I had purchased them for my parents as a gift when my mom was still alive. As a child,  I always enjoyed the Little House series of books.  The books I'm rereading now are a series that show the articles that Laura wrote for magazine publications. There are also interesting interviews with people who knew her well: her neighbors, friends, and handymen. It's such a pleasure to get lost in these stories!  She didn't write her books until she was 65 years old. What an inspiration! It's never too late to use your talent.

I brought home several photographs from the ranch, where my family and I used to spend the weekends. It was a beautiful old stone house built in 1860. We loved playing in the creek, riding in the truck to feed the cattle, and enjoying the beautiful countryside of Napa Valley, California. I am excited to share them with you in upcoming posts.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

A Colorful Winter Beanie

I finished the hat that I made for my friend in New York. He told me to take my time with it, and to just mail it after the holidays. I love his laid back, easy going  attitude. Now I don't have to worry about standing in a long line at the post office, rushing, or stressing.

I'm really pleased with how this came out; it's so cute! I just love the colors. I was working on it today at the bus stop, and on the bus. I had just finished my grocery shopping at Sprouts. Hats are ideal knitting projects for when you are traveling or commuting, because they are so easy. On the way home, I sat with some of the women today who are regulars. They were so enthusiastic when they saw what I was making. They loved the yarn, the color combinations, and the design. They are so sweet.

I found this pattern on Ravelry. It's called Regular Guy Beanie by Chuck Wright, and it's free! For more information see yarnmanknits. He has some really special patterns. I am so pleased with how this hat turned out; the simplicity of the pattern combined with luxury yarn is a winning combination. It has nice lines, too. You decrease every row at the end, to make the top more rounded.

I fell in love with this hat, so I knit one for myself, too. I couldn't resist. It goes well with so many things. I wore it to Open Mic night last weekend. I sang a few songs, and ended with a Christmas tap dance to Glenn Miller. It was a very fun and creative evening. How was your weekend? 

Thank you for your comments. I enjoy reading them, and appreciate you taking the time to respond to my blog. Happy Holidays! If you like this post, please share it.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

More Knitting and a New Article In the Works!

I've been working on this hat, to give to a friend of mine in New York. I started it yesterday morning. It's made with the leftover alpaca/merino/bamboo yarn that I used on his birthday scarf. I just love it. The colors are fabulous. They're so bright and cheerful. There may be enough yarn to make myself a hat like this, too. It goes so well with everything, especially jeans.

Hats are a pleasure to knit, because they are so quick and easy. I started this one on circular needles. I had to do four gauge swatches to get close to what the pattern required. It's thick and thin yarn, so it's a little confusing to count. I was still off by four stitches, but the hat fits. It's very soft and comfortable. I think a little big is far better than one  that's too tight and feels uncomfortable. Now that I'm at the decreases I'm working on long, double pointed needles.

Yesterday I sold a couple of soaps at knitting. When I arrived home, I had received another order on Etsy. This one was a Christmas gift, the soap of the month club. A very nice woman ordered six months of specialty soaps for her sister. For the ad I had used a photograph of some of my friends and I from "42nd Street" in Europe. She said that the picture is what drew her in to my shop. That was sweet of her to mention in her note. It always helps to know how people found you when you are in sales.

I submitted a query to DanceMagazine a few days ago, and they made me an offer. I will be writing an on line story on Tommy Tune and Chita Rivera. It will describe what it's like to be on tour with them. I think it's right up my alley, since I spent many months on tour with Tommy.  I have always loved Chita's work, as well. I am so excited to see them perform when they are here. I will get to interview them in their dressing rooms backstage, and also plan to watch rehearsal. What a treat!  After dinner, my friend and I will go back and see the show.  It's going to be just wonderful.    

How are things going with you? 

Thank you for your comments. I read them all, and greatly appreciate them. Please share any of the articles that you enjoy.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Fixing Things and Cleaning House

Over the weekend I had the fence replaced. It was costly, but it really needed to be done. This time it won't get blown down by the force of those Santa Ana winds. They were so turbulent last week. The old fence had been here for at least twenty-five years. It had started to lean after the heavy rains that we had last season. The posts weren't cemented, so it was flattened during  last week's storm. I love the new redwood one. Isn't it pretty? It smells so good. My neighbor did the work. I think he did a terrific job.

Yesterday I did some intense decluttering and housekeeping. I picked up a couple of books at the library for inspiration. My favorite one is called Housekeeping Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me, by Joni Hilton. It's a fun read. She has an engaging style. I love hearing her take on homes and how to care for them.

Friday night I attended a fantastic Christmas show at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita. I was so impressed with this production! My neighbor was performing in the children's choir. They had a full orchestra, a large adult choir, and a children's choir. They sounded incredible. We got to sing along with them, and it was very uplifting. I just love singing Christmas carols. It was a wonderful surprise. I was expecting a very small show, and this was the exact  opposite. It was very professional, and they were so well rehearsed.

I finished knitting these socks last week; they fit perfectly! I also completed another tea cozy, and am sewing in the ends today. This one is with some small balls of pink and purple Noro Silk Garden yarn that I had in my stash. Next I plan to knit a hat for my friend in New York. I will use the leftover yarn from his alpaca,merino, and bamboo  scarf.

The fire situation here is much better than it was. There is still a furious fire raging in the Ventura and Santa Barbara area right now. I feel for those residents. I hope that the firefighters are able to handle it. It's just mammoth. Some of my friends are without power or water. This really reinforces in me the need to be prepared in an emergency..

I am thankful that I have a stockpile of food and water, and an emergency backpack in the car. It's such a relief not to be worried about evacuating and finding a safe route to drive. I plan to do some dusting today and enjoy some more knitting and reading. Lately I've been relaxing with a cup of coffee with whipped cream in the evenings.  I probably shouldn't, but if I don't, I feel like falling into bed at 7:00 p.m.! Seriously, I start dozing off.  Something about wintertime  makes me so sleepy at night. I guess it's because it gets dark so early. How are you doing?      

Thank you for your comments. I read them all, and really appreciate them. They make the blogging much more fun..

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fires and Fear

Many people have contacted me, asking about the Los Angeles fires. I live near some of them, but so far we have been okay. It is still frightening. The winds have been very strong. I have family and friends in Northern California, if I need to evacuate. I went there last time, when my house was surrounded by flames on three sides. I had to leave my pot bellied pig and chicken. We all survived. I drove to my parents' house and  ate and ate and ate. Somehow it calmed me down; that ravenous hunger  was a strange reaction. 

I watched a video of the fire on Facebook and  couldn't believe my eyes. The footage showed the 405 freeway, near the Getty Center. I thought about how many times I had driven down that stretch. I used to take it to Santa Monica when I taught at Westside Ballet. I took ballet classes there almost every morning. I thought about how crowded and congested it would be if everyone were fleeing the area at once. As it it, it takes an hour to drive fourteen miles on that pass during rush hour. Thinking about people trying to get out in a hurry made me ill.

I made an appointment with our neighbor to fix the fence that was flattened by the wind. The force of it reminded me of the tornado scene in The Wizard of Oz. Something about these winds is menacing and dark. You can feel the potential of destruction. The whistling sound they make is eerie and  threatening.

Yesterday my dog went outside and laid on the ground, looking vulnerable and worried. She didn't want to come inside. That's unlike her. She always wants to come inside. I listen to my animals. They know. I thought about the movie Bambi. That fire scene with the animals terrified me as a child.

I went to the drug store and bought some mouthwash and foundation. I scanned the blue mountains. No fire anywhere. It didn't look anything like the news. "Well, it's still LA," I said to myself. "Cars everywhere." Before leaving, I had talked to the plumber who was working on the main line, out in front of my cottage. "Aren't you afraid to work during these fires?" I asked him. "No," he answered. "The wind is blowing in the opposite direction," he added. "They closed the 5 freeway," I told him. "It's open now," he responded. He seemed so happy and calm. I wondered if it was because he was young. I felt a sense of relief upon hearing that the freeway to where I grew up was no longer blocked.

I cooked two meals. Cooking grounds me. I made spaghetti, homemade tomato sauce with a cube of butter and a halved onion, and a tuna casserole. That made me feel better. Now there is plenty of food in the fridge. I went to the atm and withdrew a large amount of cash. I'll need it to pay the guy replacing the fence this weekend. If the fire comes this way, I'll need it in my purse, just in case.

I didn't want to blog today, or do yoga, or practice my songs. I will do all three. I finished knitting a pair of socks, and I mailed out my last open soap order to Reno. I sent my brother his Christmas present, and forgot to mail my Christmas cards while I was there.

The towels are knocking around in the dryer, almost dry. Soon I will take a bath. Hopefully that will relax me. I am still shocked by those images on the news of the freeway and those hillsides. I never thought I'd see the day. The older I get, the more I realize how unpredictable life is.  Today Lana wanted to play frisbee, and now she is sleeping in her bed. Things will probably be okay.

Thank you for your comments. If you enjoy the posts here, please share them.          

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Setting Boundaries and Saying No

Lately I have been realizing that I need to scale back on how much that I give to others, and prioritize things that need to be done in my home and business. I have been getting behind in my personal bookkeeping, home repairs, and vocal practice. Sometimes is just gets too late, or I feel like I have run out of time.

I started thinking about it, and realized that too much of my energy is going outward. For example,  I have many people who expect me to help them with their knitting. It takes a lot of time and energy. I have realized that since teaching was my profession for forty years, I need to charge for my time. When I work with people, they understand their mistakes, and they can grasp the techniques. From now on, I will charge the going rate for knitting lessons. I have spent a significant amount of money on my own training in the arts, and have studied with the masters. I can draw on that energy as a teacher. 

I also have realized that I can no longer drive people around who need rides. Recently people have been asking me to drive them very long distances, and I can't afford it. It takes a lot of time, energy, and gas, and it causes wear and tear on my car. I have learned to say no, and to explain that I am busy working. Sometimes when you are self employed and work from home, people assume that you are always available. Just because my light is on at 5:30 a.m. does not mean that I will answer my phone. My mother used to tell us, "No phone calls until 9:00 a.m." Now I see why she made that rule. 

The other day a neighbor said to me, "You should run my next door neighbor's dog. He never gets a walk." I explained to her that I'm not running a free dog walking service. She laughed.  For whatever reason, this has always been a challenge for me. My mom used to tell me that I always felt like people were taking advantage of me.  I guess it's one of my life lessons. I'm getting clear about what is and isn't my responsibility.

There's an old saying, "Give him an inch, and he'll take a mile." It has flashed into my mind often lately. Often I think, "Well, I'll just do this one thing, and then the person will do it themself." Quite often the reverse happens, and the next time they expect twice as much help.  I've got to scale back on areas in life where I'm giving but not receiving. It's time to make lists, prioritize, and set goals.

We have had some frightening fires in our area recently. It has been very, very windy. A section of my fence blew down to the ground the other night. I will be having it repaired this weekend. That's another reason I need to charge the going rate for my services. How are things going with you?     

Monday, December 4, 2017

In the Flow...

This morning I woke up at quarter to four, jumped out of bed, padded to the back door, and let out Lana. I made a small pot of espresso coffee, then heated it up with hot goat's milk and coconut milk on the stove. I sat on the couch with the Christmas lights on outside. I have done this since I was a little girl. I love it when the house is dark, and the Christmas trees are lit.  I felt very motivated to do some housework, so I got an early start.

After sweeping the floors, I mopped them with hot, soapy water. I used some of my homemade liquid soap and a tablespoon of baking soda in the water. I went over the floors a  second time with hot vinegar water. I am determined to clean my floors once a week, since that has been a weak area for me. I always used to procrastinate.

From there, I emptied my dresser drawers, and organized them. I was shocked to find about twenty bars of soap in bags that I had stored in the very back corner. Shame on me. I am basically up to my ears in soap at this time of year. I want to be able to fill every order. I can't always anticipate what people will want, so I make a variety.

I received a call from a friend a few hours later. She asked me if I had any goat's milk soap or lavender soap left for Christmas. I was amazed. That was exactly what I had discovered in the back of that sweater drawer. She ordered fourteen soaps, which was a wonderful surprise. I just finished writing out all of the labels and boxing up her package. I will deliver it tomorrow. We are meeting at a cafe to knit.

It was such an important lesson for me. I always have good things happen when I get organized. I now plan to do my cleaning early in the morning. It's when I have the most energy. The days are shorter now, and I feel tired by 6:30 or 7:00 p.m.! In the evenings it's nice to wind down, read, relax, and do yoga.

When do you do your housework? Do you have a set routine?

Thank you for your comments. They are a pleasure to read. I appreciate you taking the time to contribute to the blog. If you enjoy the articles here, please share them.

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Gorgeous Woodpecker at the Hummingbird Feeder

Yesterday I heard some chattering outside of my window as I was blogging. I glanced up, and saw this beautiful bird perched on the hummer's feeder. He was gulping down the sugar water. I gasped at his brilliance. His markings are just spectacular. I love how he's speckled with black and white dots, and how the pattern reverses on his belly.

This morning I cut up some green apples, and left them for him on the tray of the hummingbird feeder. He's returned twice today. So far he hasn't been interested in the fruit. He drinks the nectar enthusiastically. I'm just on the other side of this window, and my presence doesn't seem to bother him. His beauty just takes my breath away.

When my mom was alive, she used to watch the woodpecker as he tapped his beak on the poplar tree on the other side of the house. He gobbled up ants and bugs, and enjoyed the sap from the tree. I have a large pine tree in the backyard, and they love those, too. I can hear owls at night, as I lay in bed. Their sound is so soothing.

The hummingbirds are still visiting the feeder regularly. They are so petite and speedy. The woodpecker is much bigger than they are. He comes across as friendly and comfortable with people. There are Youtube videos on line with people feeding them suet out of their hand.

The artichoke plants are growing nicely. They were tiny starters that I bought in a six pack a couple of months ago. Soon they will be huge! I'm looking forward to the harvest.

I have seen sparrows, gold finches, scrub jays, robins, mourning doves, and a titmouse in the last week. The flowers, herbs, and fruit trees really seem to attract them.  What kinds of birds visit your garden?        

Thank you for your comments. I read them all, and greatly appreciate your input.