Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Challenging Yourself

A few weeks ago I found a wonderful hat pattern. It's perfect for some neutral colored recycled cashmere yarn that  I bought it on sale last week at Creative Ewe. I needed a pattern that used dk weight yarn. I found a gorgeous one with lots of cables at It's called The Ruby Cashmere Cable Touque. She has some other beautiful patterns, as well. There's a cabled scarf that I'm dying to make! What a talented artist she is.

After printing the pattern out at the library, I tried getting started on it. I immediately had trouble with the first row. I attempted it  a couple of times, but kept ending up confused and with an off stitch count. I put it away for a while, and worked on my shawl. I also relaxed with some some fun and easy charity knitting.

This morning I decided to tackle the pattern again. I figured out why I was having trouble. I inserted locking stitch markers every eight stitches, so that I could check my work after each pattern repeat. I haven't done much cabling, so I got reacquainted with the technique. It takes some coordination.

I made this shawl about five years ago. It's how I learned to do cables. It's called The Favorite Hollywood Shawl Vest. It's designed by Vera Sanon. She's on Ravelry. I absolutely love it. I made one for my mom, too.

Sometimes we need to absorb information in order to learn it. I reread the pattern, and realized that the first two rows were the most complicated. After that, it gets much easier. The more I worked on it, the more natural  the movements became. I started to get into a rhythm, and my confidence returned. The body needs repetition to memorize a new movement. As a dancer, I've always known this to be true.

I was initially intimidated by the charts. Now that I understand them, I am enjoying using them. I see how convenient they make things, once you have learned the language. Often in dance, when you first are taught something, it feels very difficult, maybe even impossible. As you practice and break it down, you relax, get comfortable, and eventually it becomes second nature.

I find the same with most things. Spending time each day working on your technique helps you to improve. This works in all areas of life. Sometimes we avoid the things that we fear. If we just do a little bit at a time, and put in the regular hours, we may surprise ourselves with the progress that we make.  

Thank you for your comments. I appreciate all of them. If you enjoy the articles here, please share them. All comments in English, please. Thank you.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Letting Go of Perfectionism

Trying to do things perfectly can really rob us of joy and energy. Attempting to please people who demand perfection can be just as frustrating. My father always taught me, "Nobody's perfect." It's so true. We all have faults and failings. In order to find pleasure and inspiration in our activities, we need to enjoy the process, and to accept the fact that we will make mistakes.

I've found the same principal applies to knitting. I recently finished my shawl, after working on it for almost a month. At times I felt frustrated, discouraged, and upset, because I had miscounted my stitches, or dropped a yarn over. I told myself to learn from the errors, and to not become negative about it. The rows at the end were very long, so I just decided to rip back one row a day, and then put the shawl back in my knitting bag. I didn't force myself to work on it for hours at a time. Lace work can be tricky. Sometimes what seems like a simple row will come out a stitch short, and have to be redone. As my knitting teacher says, "It happens."

I am learning also  not to work for or knit for perfectionists. It is too upsetting to spend so much time on something you love, and then be greeted with a list of faults or perceived failings in the project. There's an expression in knitting. The receiver has to be "knit worthy". It's true. It makes such a difference to give a hand knit item to someone who appreciates all of the time, care, and talent that it has taken to make.

I recently sent hand knit socks as gifts to two friends of mine who live on the East Coast. They are both former professional dancers, and they love hand knits. They raved about the quality and took photos to share on Facebook. It was so sweet of them. It really made me feel happy and uplifted.

On the other hand, one time  I happily turned in some hand knits to a local charity for distribution. I had followed the pattern exactly, and spent hours on the finished items. The leader picked apart my work, made a few unkind comments, and then said that she could redo the part that she had criticized. I had followed the instructions from the woman who runs the organization to the letter. Her video online was very clear.

I realized that this was the wrong kind of management style for me, so I made other arrangements for my charity knitting. Some people you just can't please. They will find fault with everything, even excellence. I decided not to let this situation upset me or drain any more of my energy. Making healthier choices, and being aware of who I knit for and with has made me much happier and calmer.  

Thank you for your comments. I greatly appreciate them. If you enjoy the posts here, please share them. All comments in English, please. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Exciting News!

Some of you who follow my blog know that I have a soft spot for a very sweet Labradoodle named Lula. Over the summer I had been giving her a run each morning alongside my bike on the Walkydog. It gave me and the dog an excellent  cardiovascular workout, and it helped  my neighbor. They have moved recently, and they no longer have a fenced yard for Lula. She would have had to be tied, which wouldn't work. I just made arrangements with her "aunt" to pick her up on Saturday. She will be moving into our pink cottage with all of her things. I am thrilled.

She is a very intelligent and sensitive dog. I noticed that when I would tell my friend about things that Lula had done, (that she shouldn't have,) she would listen very intently, like a person. She was really processing the information. It was just wild. Such a mind she has! She really cares what you think. I'm a huge dog lover, but I've never encountered a dog who listens to my conversations with others with the level of perception that she has. She reminds me of a Broadway conductor. Really. It's uncanny.

Dogs certainly make life more fun and exciting, especially when you are single. Lana has been as sweet as ever, but it is a challenge for us with her dermatitis. I have been bathing her with the medicated shampoo every other day, and may switch to doing it every day. It's very sad when dogs get older. It hurts her for me to lift her, and she yelps in pain. I am teaching her to put her paws on the edge of the tub, so that I can give her a boost from her back legs. That way she has control. She is on prednisone, which seems to have really helped her. Her appetite has increased, and she's eating well. She even put on some weight, which she really needed to do. I think having a young dog as a sidekick will really give her a boost. They get along well, so it will be an easy transition. (I hope!) We'll see. Lulu has spent a lot of time here, so that will help.

I am nearly done with knitting the shawl. I just have ten more rows to go. The border is a very pretty lace pattern. This afternoon I realized that I probably don't have enough yarn in the contrasting color, so I picked up one more skein  at Creative Ewe. It's really soft and warm. I am so pleased with how the colors look together. I'm learning that less is more in knitting. I love the simpler patterns with just a bit of an accent. I don't want too much going on at once. This pattern has been a very enjoyable knit. It's listed as easy, but I had to rip it back a few times. It was worth it to keep the details exact. It makes a glamorous wrap, too. Shawls are so versatile.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

A Cozy Day at Home

It's gotten colder here. Well, colder for California. I am bundled up in two sweaters, a hat, fingerless mitts, and a crocheted shawl. I don't need to turn on the heat, since I'm wearing all of my favorite woolens! I try to keep my gas and electric bill down, without making things uncomfortable.  I've been wearing  a mix of cashmere, alpaca, and wool. The alpaca throws are really nice, too. I even made a small one for Lana. She's snuggled up underneath it right now. She's been sneaking up on to my bed, and I pretend like I don't notice. Since she's old and frail, I have been letting her break the rules.

Creative Ewe, our local yarn shop, has been having an amazing sale. Yesterday I bought enough Llama Una worsted weight yarn to make two cardigan sweaters. At $5.00 a skein, I just couldn't resist! $20.00 for a quality sweater is an excellent deal! I found enough skeins  for a chocolate brown one, and a forest green one. I've noticed  that I reach for my solid colored cardigans whenever I need to throw on a sweater. If I'm going outside to get the mail, or walking the dog, those are the basics that I repeatedly pull from my drawers. Since these are what I use the most, I've learned to keep my knits more simple. This vintage pattern is a very quick knit, too. I love stockinette. I've always seen a beauty in it. Some knitters  find it boring, or too plain, but I don't. To me, it's pure and classic.

I've been working on my purple and navy blue Oaklet shawl. It's coming along well. I'm excited to get started on the lace border. I thought that this pattern would knit up really fast and  easy, since it's mostly stockinette. I was wrong I  have had to rip it back a few times. My stitch count got off when I got lazy about counting  each row. Now I am religious about it. I also put in  lifelines, which is new for me. It's a relief to have them with these yarn overs, though. They are worth the effort. This yarn is extremely soft and warm. It feels comforting to have it laying in my lap as I knit.

I finished the Scatterby socks, and will be mailing them to a friend in PA tomorrow. I'm also sending another pair of ribbed socks that I had in my stash to a friend in New York. People really seem to love and wear  hand knit socks. Well, most people that I know do. These are both former professional  dancers who will take very good care of them, so I feel comfortable gifting them. They are made of Superwash wool and nylon, so they can be machine washed. I wear my own  hand knit socks every day. They are one of my favorite luxuries in life. I've got them on now, under my Minnetonka slippers. The yarn is pink and grey, and made by Austermann yarns. They are my very favorite company for sock yarn.  

Thank you to those of you who have been sharing my posts. I really appreciate it. Yesterday I watched another podcast from  The Gentle Knitter. She is such a divine talent. I really enjoy making a cup of tea or coffee, turning on her Youtube channel, and knitting. She has a very sweet and comforting presence. My neighbor came over this morning to borrow some baking soda. She was making cookies, and had run out of it. She pulled up a chair and we had a nice chat. The fruit tea was piping hot in the wedgewood china teapot, and covered with a colorful woolen Noro tea cozy.  It feels good to be home. How are you doing?

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Friday, February 16, 2018

The Grounding Effect of Home Cooked Meals

Today I felt a little sad as I was missing my mom. One of my brothers just had a birthday, and I was looking at old photographs of us as kids. As an adult, I see things so differently. I notice how carefully my mother chose our outfits, laundered them, and kept us looking our best. The house is always neat and tidy in the background. The furniture looks pretty, and there is plenty of space in the home. Things were so different in those days. People didn't have so much stuff. My mother was a master when it came to  the art of homemaking.

She was also an excellent cook. I always remember her busily preparing dinner each afternoon. She cooked such delicious meals! Each day I looked forward to devouring whatever  favorite recipe she was making. The house always was filled with delightful aromas. "Something sure smells good!" my father would always say, as  he walked in the door. She really took pride in making those meals.  It took a lot of time and energy.

Because I live on my own, I  don't always make a large meal for dinner. Often I will just have a salad or vegetables. I find that if I prepare a hot meal, especially something that my mom used to make, I feel more satisfied. There's something emotionally grounding about eating healthy, delicious food. Taking the time to prepare it yourself makes such a difference. Cooking helps us to slow down, to relax, and to become balanced, spiritually. We appreciate and relish our food, as it was meant to be. Good things take time.

I always helped my mom in the kitchen. I would stir the white sauce, chop the onions, and generally assist her. She taught me to make everything that she did, and I really enjoyed it. I found cooking and baking very therapeutic. After I moved out, and as she got older, my  mom didn't really enjoy cooking anymore. I think she got burned out by preparing so many meals for a family of six. She had been cooking and cleaning nonstop for years.My dad used to take her out to dinner on Friday nights, to give her a break. She really looked forward to that break. By then she was also battling health issues. That can really zap your energy.

Sometimes I find myself skipping over making more time consuming recipes. Because it's just me, often I will just put a few potatoes in the toaster oven for Lana and I. It really is worth it to make the recipes that are tasty, though. Scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, casseroles, and roasted meats and poultry are all a treat. It gives you something to look forward to eating when you know there are delicious leftovers in the fridge. How about you? Do you enjoy cooking?

Thank you for your comments. They make blogging very enjoyable. Please share your favorite posts. Comments in English only, please. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Appreciating Where You Live

As I've been sorting through my old photos, I found these hiking shots from a few years ago. They were taken by my ex boyfriend, when we were  up in Wrightwood, California. The views at Inspiration Point were absolutely spectacular! To me it was like a slice of heaven. It was such a memorable feeling to stand above the clouds.

Gazing at these shots has made me realize how fortunate I am to own a cottage in California. When I read about the snow and ice in the rest of the world, it makes me greatly appreciate all that  I have. Since both of my hips have been replaced, I am very thankful that I don't have to worry about slipping on the ice during the cold weather. I did that once when I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although I was only in my thirties, it was a challenging recovery to heal the the torn ligaments in both of my knees. Fortunately, with Bikram yoga, they got back to 100 percent. I was able to land an audition in Las Vegas at MGM about four weeks after the fall. That still amazes me.

The hiking trails in this area are some of the most beautiful in Los Angeles. It takes about an hour and a half  to get to this location. It is so worth it! I always felt like we were on vacation when we visited. We would hike through the mountains, and then stop at a rustic restaurant for a leisurely lunch. The shops and mountain homes were cheerful and charming. Food always tasted so delicious after walking those trails.  The air was so crisp and fresh!

The mountains have always had a magical effect on my psyche. There is something so uplifting and spiritual about them. I have always dreamed of living in a cabin in the woods, in an area like this one. All of those pine trees in a group possess  a collective spiritual energy. I can't wait to return to this place. There should be snow up there now. When I return I will take more photos.

Thank you for your comments. I read each one of them, and appreciate your time. If you enjoy the articles here, please share them. Please leave comments in English.    

Sunday, February 11, 2018

New Knitting Projects in the Works

I've been busy working on a couple of new knitting pieces. I finished the first of the Scatterby Sock pattern. I just love it! It fits perfectly. I did mine on a US size 1 needle, using dpn's. It's a snug fitting sock, and I love the look and feel of the texture. This is the first time I have attempted a patterned sock. There's no stopping me now! I plan to do more in the future. Soon I will try a cabled pair of socks.

I also started working on a new shawl. I'm doing  a variation on the The Oaklet Shawl. It will have a wide lace border in blue. I added some thin stripes and a second color. The yarn in Llams Luna. It's absolutely gorgeous, and so soft! I am so excited to get it finished.

When examining what I wear the most regularly, I find I prefer the simple knits.  I choose patterns that have a lot of stockinette stitch, because that's what I find is the most flattering, on my body. I look more at the whole picture, head to toe. I think  like a non knitter when it comes to choosing patterns. I like elegant, high quality knits, without a lot of zig zagging going on. Less is more, in my opinion. I like to see the shape of the body underneath the wool.

Lana and I took a gorgeous hike through the oak trees this morning. We are so lucky to live in an area where we have sunshine nearly every day of the year. I love sitting out on the porch and being close to nature. It's so pleasant to knit, enjoy chatting with my neighbors, and catch up on knitting. It was a little colder today, so I wore my favorite hats and sweaters. I got the floors mopped, and the dusting done. I am continuing to declutter, and I love the feeling the cottage has when it is clean and not overly stuffed with things. You can't put a price on space.   

I am still trying to work out why my downloaded photos are disappearing. It's so strange. I wanted you to see the new projects, but they are now showing up in my downloads file.  I will ask a friend of mine who know Windows. I'm sure it's something simple. It always is...

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Doing What Needs To Be Done

Today I accomplished some mending that I had been putting off for a few weeks. It's such a satisfying feeling to have your clothes clean, and in good repair. I have a red cashmere bathrobe that I bought ten years ago. (It was a splurge after receiving a Christmas bonus as a writer for Dancer Magazine.)  I debated on whether or not to spend the money,  and am so glad that I did. I still remember finding that super soft robe. It was half price. It's something that I wear every day in the cold season. It will last forever.  Recently it had developed a narrow run up the back, so I darned it with some cranberry red embroidery floss. I held the material  in position using my pink vintage darning egg.  I wish now that I had caught it earlier. As the saying goes, "A stitch in time saves nine." As I was fixing the hole, I thought about my childhood neighbor, Mrs. Hutchinson.  She taught me how to sew on a button, how to darn socks, how to knit, and how to do embroidery. I was nine years old at the time.  She was such a kind and generous neighbor. I really use those skills today. They are so important. She knew that I needed to learn them, and she trained me thoroughly.

I had a few small holes in two of the sweaters that I had knit five years ago. I was a very new knitter at the time.  I wasn't sure how to fix them correctly, so I paid my knitting teacher, Yuko Frederick, to do it. I stood off of her shoulder,  and watched her carefully. She patiently explained to me what she was doing.  It reminded me of sewing a shoulder seam. Yuko  is a talented designer on Ravelry. She teaches at our local knitting shop, Creative Ewe. It was interesting to see how she recreated the stitches, using duplicate stitch.  I was so glad that I had saved the leftover yarn. The details in any art form make all the difference.

My silk and llama pink cardigan sweater had started to fray at the edge of one of the sleeves. Yuko undid the cast on edge, and rebound off in that section, using the leftover yarn. I never would have thought about doing it that way. It looks terrific. I washed the sweaters by hand last week, and let them dry on a towel. Because I have a Nina Spinner, it only took a few hours for them to dry. I am wearing the rose colored one now, and it feels like new. The green one is the very first sweater I ever knit. I redesigned the pattern to fit like a costume. Hand knit sweaters are like old friends.

This morning I figured out how to delete photos from Windows Gallery. It's probably a simple thing for most people, but I wasn't sure how to do it. I googled my question, and got the answer. All you have to do is right click on the photograph. I am deleting as many old emails and non essential photos as possible. It will help to clear up space on my hard drive. I am hoping after doing this I will be able to upload photos from my mini ipad again.  

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Dressing Up To Go To The Theater

Well, I'm finally back to blogging! It's been a while. I've been catching up on some other areas of life. Lana now needs several baths a week to treat her skin condition. I use a medicated shampoo that makes  huge difference. She doesn't like laying on her bed while she's wet, so she's switched to sneaking up on to my bed! Luckily it's a double, and I have it covered with an old sheet and a towel. Dogs are so clever...

I had my taxes done last week, and received the unexpected news that I will be getting a large refund: $2,700.00! I was thrilled. That money will go right into my emergency fund. It was such a satisfying  feeling. I had put many daily hours into my Etsy shop and blog last year. The net profit was not what I had hoped for, but this refund on my health insurance has made all the difference. In the old days I spent my tax refunds and windfalls. Now I save them. 

I made two new batches of soap recently. One was a Pink Olive Oil Soap, and the other was a batch of Shea Butter Goat's Milk Soap. I had a recent batch of hot processed soap turn out crumbly, so I was a bit hesitant to try again. I'm so glad that I returned to working on the basics. Cold processed soap is easier, in my opinion. It just takes longer to cure.

About a week ago I traveled with a friend to Palm Springs to see Chita and Tune, Just in Time. They were playing at the Mc Callum Theater. We spent the night at a motel, and Lana got to come, too. It had a charming landscaped patio that was perfect for knitting. My friend and I  dressed up for the show, and had a wonderful time. It's so nice to wear your best clothes out to dinner or to the theater. We were invited to attend the cast party afterwards, which was very enjoyable. It brought back memories of being on tour when I was on the road with Broadway shows. We always dressed up for the opening night parties, which were every week.

My mom taught me that dressing well shows respect. I always remember her words when I am going somewhere important. She was always very talented in that area. When I look back at the clothes that she picked for us as children, I really appreciate the eye that she had. You can see the care that she put into choosing the right outfits. She absolutely loved clothes. I do, too. I still wear many of the sweaters that belonged to her when she was alive. She took such excellent care of her things.

 I just found a gorgeous Bob Mackie gown on EBay for a terrific price. I am having the straps shortened, so that it fits perfectly. I will wear it to a reunion that I have coming up for the MGM Grand Hello Hollywood Hello! cast. The gown in the top photo is one that I bought at the Salvation Army for $5.00! What a steal. I was fortunate that it fit like a glove at the time. It no longer does, but maybe I can alter it with some wide elastic and a knit shawl. How are you doing?          

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