Friday, June 29, 2018

Big Bear, California

I had lunch my brother yesterday in Big Bear, California. He had traveled to  Palm Springs on a business trip, and offered to meet me halfway. We met for lunch. I brought Lula along for the journey. Big Bear is a very dog friendly town. It's a lot like Austria. Californians go there to ski.    

After my brother headed back to his hotel,  I had dinner at The Pines Lakefront. It's right on the water. The view was spectacular. I enjoyed the sunset from my table, while Lula slept peacefully in the car.

I found a last minute reservation at Motel 6. The rate was $52.00 a night. They don't charge for pets, and you can bring your large dog with you. Many of the other hotels only allow small dogs, and it costs an extra $30.00 a night for the pet. I packed some fresh fruit, nuts, and  my own personal coffeemaker. If you look carefully, you can see the lake beyond the trees. Being in the mountains is so healing and rejuvenating.

This is where we had lunch. They allow dogs on the patio. Our waiter brought Lula a bowl of ice water, which she lapped up eagerly. There was no traffic on the drive  there, or on the way home. The scenery was breathtaking! It's just two and a half hours from my cottage. It was a treat to see my youngest brother. It's also a gift to be back  home again.  Have you done any traveling this summer?

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Monday, June 25, 2018

A Wonderful Reunion at MGM in Reno

Over the weekend I attended a thrilling reunion at The Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. I reconnected with many old friends from my first professional show, "Hello Hollywood, Hello!" The cast members and I all have heartwarming memories of working together when we were in our twenties. It was such a special and happy time. They hosted famous headliners like Carol Channing, Suzanne Somers, The McGuire Sisters, and Charo. It was so exciting to perform with them.

I drove up from Los Angeles on Friday morning. It took me eight hours to get there. I stopped in beautiful Bishop, California, and had a glass of lemonade. I had packed sandwiches and coffee. It saved me money to eat  in the car.   The cafe was very sweet and charming. I browsed in a few of the shops, which were very quaint. It was like going back in time. Where I live, we have Starbucks, gas stations, and chains stores everywhere.

Once I arrived at the hotel, I started spotting the showgirls everywhere. You couldn't miss them. They stood out, like statues or mannequins. They were all so glamorous. Someone was overheard asking, "What is happening in the hotel where there are all of these tall, beautiful women?" That made us chuckle. Three hundred people attended. They flew in from all over the world. It was very grand.

This was the first time that I have stayed at the Grand Sierra Resort. It was such a treat! I was upgraded to a suite, after they had accidentally given my room to another man. After sliding my key into the slot,  I walked in on him!  The room was spacious, comfortable, and clean. I did yoga and pilates. knit several rows on my sock while lounging on the sofa, and wrote in my journal at the desk. They even had coffee makers in the room, which is one of my favorite amenities. There is something so nice about not having to go anywhere to have your morning caffeine fix.

Dinner was delightful. I sat with "the girls" from my old row in the dressing room. It was just like old times. It was so comforting to hear their voices and accents again. One is from  South Africa, another from Scotland, a third from England, and I'm from California. It was a real international cast. We all still get along so well. I was sad to see them go. There's something very special about spending time with people you've known for so many years. We have such a deep connection. How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Inspiring Footage From Broadway Musicals

I just caught up with the new articles in Dance Magazine. Yesterday I sent in my latest to the editor. Once the changes and rewrites are finished, it will be posted online. I will share the link here. I read this article this afternoon, and had to share it with you. It  has some fabulous Broadway numbers from some of my favorite musicals. I could watch these clips over and over again. They are packed with talent, passion, emotion, and inspiration.

When I worked with Juliet Prowse, she brought in all of her old tapes from her nightclub act and television specials. After the show, we sat and watched them as a cast. She ordered everyone beer and pizza. It was an incredible night. After the last tape had ended, she told us, "That is an era that's gone now."  She shook her head. I felt very sad. That's the way I feel when I watch this material. It was such a special time on Broadway. I guess it means that I'm getting older. I'm not as thrilled with some of the new shows. A friend of mine told me that at an Equity safety meeting they were told, "Broadway's changing, and we have to change with it." I long for the days when things were based on talent, and not on special effects, technology, and dangerous stunts. There are new and different trends. The one constant in life is change.

I don't mean to sound negative. I love Broadway, and always will. Theater will continue to evolve. I am so grateful that we have Youtube.  It's filled with genius work. I hope that you enjoy watching these videos. Sylviane did a wonderful job. I feel so lucky to be writing for Dance Magazine. It's exciting to be part of something that's bigger and better than you are.  

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day 2018

Today is Father's Day in the US. I called my dad this morning and we had a nice chat. I have always felt like I was very fortunate to have my dad as a father.  He didn't marry until he was thirty-two, and to me he always seemed to be more mature and responsible  than the other fathers. He really enjoyed raising children, and was very dependable and reliable. It gave me a good foundation and a sense of security.

Yesterday I took my dog Lula to Piru Lake, and  rented a kayak. I wasn't sure how she would do. She sat in the front, and was just fine. At times she seemed a bit anxious, whining and shifting, and causing the kayak to tip. I was afraid that we might capsize, but then I was able to get her centered again. It wasn't exactly relaxing, but we still had fun. The kids who were fishing on the bank really responded to her. "Aw..." they would call out as we paddled by them and waved.

Afterwards, I drove around the area, looking at the campgrounds. We saw this beautiful scene on the way home. It reminds me of the old wild, wild West. The new hens have been laying eggs regularly. I am really pleased. They take turns using the nest box, and have really responded well to the extra protein that I give them. The hard boiled eggs seem to have an immediate effect. I think the bugs in the compost are giving them extra nutrition, too. Oh, and I finished knitting this dishcloth for a friend the other day. How has your weekend been? 

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Everything Was Beautiful At The Ballet

A friend from my first show just posted this photo of us on Facebook.  It was taken thirty- three years ago. We were doing the musical "A Chorus Line." She played Beebe, and I played Maggie. It was an incredible experience.

I had loved the show " A Chorus Line" since I was nine years old. My mother and aunt took me to see the touring company in San Francisco. I knew from that point that I wanted to perform in musical theater. It just grabbed me. The music, the stories, the honesty, and the pain all resonated with me. The show was all about the life of a dancer. They told about their life experience, from the heart. I was amazed and enthralled.

Ten years later, I would be hired to do "A Chorus Line" at the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, Nevada. Joe Morris directed, and Phil Riccobuono set the original choreography, which was by Michael Bennett.  I was on cloud nine.  I just loved rehearsing those numbers. It was one of the happiest times in my life.

Carol Channing and Maggie Banks came to see the show. Carol was our headliner at MGM in "Hello Hollywood, Hello!" and Maggie had assisted Gene Kelly, Hermes Pan, and Jerome Robbins. She was also my ballet teacher in Reno. They both took me aside and talked with me afterwards. Maggie said that I stuck out like a sore thumb, and that I should go to New York. I completely trusted her, because she had been so successful. She had accomplished what I wanted to do. I was elated by her advice, but also terrified. I had this very scary image of New York in my mind. I was certain that I would be mugged and raped. All I really knew about New York was what I had seen in the Charles Bronson Deathwish movies. My brother and I had watched the whole series.      

Carol Channing told me that she loved  the show, and that she planned to come see me in "42nd Street". At that time, the dance captain was trying to get me into the show on Broadway. I eventually landed a spot in the European Tour, and opened in Vienna. It blew my mind that Carol Channing always talked to me in a way that made me feel like I was the star, and she was the chorus girl. She knows how to make people feel fantastic. It's a gift that she has. Anyway, I was so fortunate to have these two ladies encourage and guide my career. I sure miss them.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Garden Flowers and Another Egg!

I took some photos out in the garden this morning. Yesterday my neighbor let me have as much composted horse manure as I wanted, so  I brought home four wheelbarrows full. In return, I gave her a couple bars of  homemade shea butter goat's milk soap. It's her favorite. Both of us were happy.

This morning the chickens were singing like a chorus, (at the top of their lungs,) which usually means that someone has laid an egg. I went out and checked. (several times.) Midnight deposited  her fist egg in the nest box. I was very proud of her. It's oval shaped. I'd forgotten that each hen's eggs look different. Hers are long and narrow. It was very exciting. Of course I made a huge fuss and praised her. I find they thrive on the encouragement.

I'm so pleased that their new diet is working. They really gobble up the hard boiled eggs. I'm amazed at how much lettuce and spinach they eat. It makes the yolks bright orange. I picked up another nest box at the store today. This way maybe they won't squabble over the one that they have.  They were lined up to use it today. The whole process is fascinating. It amazes me how much protein they provide for us. It really inspires me to garden and grow food.

Here are  some photos of the flowers and zucchini in the garden. The tiny white ones are feverfew. I love the hollyhocks, and will miss them once they're gone. They add so much beauty and light to the cottage garden. The zucchini plants have perked up; I gave them some composted manure and straw mulch. They are much happier.  Soon there will be bright yellow squash flowers to hand pollinate.  I'm hoping to have lots of zucchini to eat, share, and  feed to the chickens. How is your garden doing?

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The First Egg

Yesterday afternoon Snow White laid an egg. I could see her trying to push it out, so I quietly crept inside to give her some privacy. As I peered through the glass, Midnight stretched out her feathers and glared at me, as if to say, "Scram! Can't you see she's trying to concentrate?"

I drove over to Fox Feed and bought a nest box. One will be enough for the three of them to share. They will take turns. I have a couple homemade boxes that are placed fairly high, but Silkies can't fly. They tend to sleep on the floor, or close to it. I figured I could just rest this one on the straw. For those who don't know, you provide nest boxes so that the chickens will have a safe place to lay their eggs. 

I went back in to check, and there was an tiny egg on the floor, near the door. I made a huge fuss and thanked her profusely. I always did that with my other chickens, and they seemed to enjoy it. She didn't use the nest box, but that's okay. I hope that in time she will get the idea. I placed a golf ball in it to encourage her.

Last night, as the sun went down, all three hens decided to pile into the nest box to sleep. I guess I will have to give them a lower perch. Normally, hens "go home to roost" at night, and they sleep standing up, on a branch. Mine acted more like rabbits. They all curled up in the new nest box, using it like a bed. The two black ones pushed Snow White out, because it was too crowded.  She decided to perch on the edge of the  box. Her silhouette looked absolutely beautiful in the dark. She glows like the moon. I was so proud of her for learning the ropes so quickly. There she was, standing on her own perch, after laying a beautiful tiny egg. It was a very productive day! 

All of the chickens were squawking loudly this morning. I was sure that I was going to have at least two more eggs today. Nothing yet, but I am hopeful for tomorrow. I caught a grasshopper and fed it to Midnight. She gobbled it up, eagerly. Chickens sure are fun. I love watching them.  This is how small the Silkie eggs are, compared to a large egg. 

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Is It A Lot Of Work To Keep Chickens?

This morning I received a comment that I thought would make a helpful blog post. Courtney wrote,  "I would LOVE to get laying hens someday. The kids and I eat eggs every morning, plus we live in the country, so it would be perfect for us. Is it a lot of work? Is it something kids could take charge of and do?

I would definitely have an adult taking care of the chickens, with children helping and learning. In my opinion, it's just too easy for the dog to squeeze into the coop, for someone to forget to lock them in at night, or for a predator to swoop down and take your chickens.

Where I live we have coyotes, owls, hawks, raccoons, snakes, and loose dogs. I experienced a couple of close calls with my last chicken, Jillian. Fortunately, she ran for cover under the lemon tree and survived a near attack from a hawk.  Because of all the thorns, she was safe. She did lose some feathers, though.

I wouldn't say it's a lot of work, but caring for chickens is a big responsibility. They need daily time and care. You have to regularly sweep out the litter from the coop and empty the nest boxes. I give mine fresh water each day, and wash out their food bowl nightly.  They need fresh bedding in the nest boxes. I use pine needles or straw. If you leave their food out overnight, it will probably attract rats.

I had a beautiful chicken coop already on the property when I bought my cottage. You can find something  at a feed store, but they are pretty pricey. Many people make their own with recycled materials. Mine  has a brick floor, French windows and doors, and chicken wire along the bottom for ventilation. There are a couple of nest boxes and two perches. It meets their needs.

I feed my hens twice a day. I give them scratch, fruit and vegetable trimmings, fresh greens, and compost. A scoop of compost from my backyard pile is filled with red wiggler worms, mealy bugs, earwigs, and other insects. The chickens gobble up every bit of it. The protein is very good for them. They love it, especially the red wiggler worms. Whenever I see a grasshopper, I trap it in a jar and feed it to them.

In the late afternoon I give them laying mash, more fresh produce, and I sprinkle some oyster shells into their food. This helps make their egg shells hard. The chickens in the photo above belong to my neighbor. I took care of her flock over the weekend, while she was out of town. I went over there three times a day. Hers are terrific layers. She gives them a plentiful supply of fresh fruits and vegetables that she gets from the food pantry. They let her take what they would throw away; she collects it once a week.

It's very important to keep the chicken coop secure. One time I was washing my dishes, I glanced out the window saw my German Shepherd's hind quarters sticking out of the chicken coop. She had worked the chicken wire loose over about a week. Fortunately, I caught her just in time, and saved the chicken. Carlie had pulled some feathers and flesh from her neck. The hen looked dead, but she wriggled back to life when I picked her up and comforted her. Chickens can die of fright. I cleaned her wound and it healed. From then on, her feathers always grew in that spot last, after she molted.  I have friends who have lost their whole flock to raccoons or coyotes. If you ever hear a ruckus, always run outside and check on them.     

They are wonderful pets, and the eggs are delicious, but they are a commitment. Mine usually don't lay during the hottest part of  the year, and resume again in February. It's a chore I enjoy. I'm sure some of the readers will be along to comment and let you know their thoughts. Many of them also keep chickens.

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Hens Are Settled In Their Coop

Today I spent some time fixing up the chicken coop. I needed to remove the cobwebs, wash the French windows, and have some of the chicken wire repaired. My neighbors came over and helped me. They reattached the chicken wire to the side of the coop, where it had come loose in a few places.

The chickens slept in Lana's old dog crate last night. I lined it with straw.  They were huddled together for safety. This morning they started to venture out, so I removed the dog crate and let them transition to the hen house. I just love this chicken coop. It is beautifully designed, using recycled French windows and doors. Because of the windows, they can see the orchard.  You can also hear the neighbor's chickens and rooster. It's such a natural environment for them. It feels good to be using the coop again.

After they've been in here for a week, I will open the door, and let them start free ranging. It's a large yard, so they will get lots of exercise and sunshine. They will be able to scratch in the dirt,  and take dust baths. They gobbled up the spinach, red wiggler worms, and mealy bugs from the compost pile that I gave them. I am hoping that they will start laying soon. I cooked up some hard boiled eggs and fed them those, too. The protein seems to help them lay. We'll see...

I finished these socks a few days ago. I just blocked them, and will deliver them to my friend next week. I think this yarn will go very well with blue jeans.     

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Three New Chickens

My neighbor decided to give me her three chickens. Two are completely black, and the third is totally white. They are downy and silky. I don't know the name of the variety. I will ask her. They are very petite, and absolutely gorgeous!

I spent some time this afternoon preparing the coop for them. I put down straw bedding, filled their nest boxes with pine needles, and washed out the food and water bowls that were still in the coop from my last chicken. She was a sweetheart and she lived to be almost twenty!

They are tucked in bed now, sleeping. I felt so maternal as I was checking in on them. They look absolutely peaceful and serene, and really make me feel connected with nature. I have missed having chickens. I can't wait to see them in the morning. I will take some photos and post them. Do you have chickens?

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Lovely Gift In The Mail

Last week I received a lovely gift in the mail from fellow blogger Lady Locust. She sent some aromatic cedar oil that she had made. The scent is divine! It's in a pretty little jar, and she enclosed a sweet little handwritten card with it. What a treat.

I spent some time this morning out on the porch, knitting, and relaxing in the new glider. I enjoyed some freshly brewed fruit tea, and worked a few hours on the second sock that I'm making for my friend. The birds were chirping happily, and  my dog was laying at my side. The presence of  the flowers and trees was comforting and healing.

I made a batch of Nestle's Toll House Cookies this afternoon. I used to bake regularly when I was young. Now that I'm 53, I don't eat as many breads or desserts with white flour. However, I do love these cookies. I decided to make a batch and just bake a dozen at a time. I will give some to the little girls in my neighborhood. Children usually love chocolate chip cookies. Lula always enjoys visiting her family.How are you today?

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How Do You Follow A Pattern?

The most common questions I receive from  new knitters is, "How do you follow a pattern?" I recommend that they start knitting dishcloths, and use a pattern that is labeled "Easy". You need to be able to cast on, knit, purl, and bind off. It helps to do several patterns at this level without adding anything complicated. This way you can read and complete a project on your own, without help. You develop confidence, technique, and independence.

I copy the pattern I'm working on  by hand. This really helped me as a beginner. When you've written what you are going to do on paper, you are memorizing it. You are getting familiar with the design, and how patterns are written. You learn the rhythm, which is very important. It's critical to use the correct size needles. It is very difficult for beginning knitters to use needles that are too large for the weight of yarn. When I first started knitting, I bought a skein of Cascade Ultra Pima yarn, and tried to knit a dishcloth on size 7 needles. I struggled and gave up, because the yarn was dk weight. I didn't know why I was having such a hard time, and my stitches kept slipping off of the slippery knitting needles.  I went back to my kitchen cotton, which was worsted weight. The thickness and cotton made all of the difference, and I was able to complete the pattern.   It takes time to develop the coordination in knitting. Later on you can add yarn overs, decreases, and lace work on larger sized needles. First you need to build a foundation of technique, and learn the basics.

Patterns with seed stitch, stockinette, basket weave, and diamonds are great starter projects  for new knitters.  They usually have a garter stitch border. Dishcloths are quick, easy, and fun. Even if you make a mistake, it's just a dishcloth, so you can still use it. It's rewarding to use things that you've made by hand in the kitchen.

Yesterday I sold a few balls of Tofutsies yarn. A couple of people admired the socks that I was making, and wanted to use the same yarn. I happened to have a huge bag of it in the trunk of my car.  I'm going to list some at my Etsy shop today. It's great for the warm weather. The socks are cool and light.  I have been working on a pair of simple blue socks for a friend who crochets. I figured this yarn would go well with jeans. I finished the first sock this morning. I took it in for her to try on, and it fit perfectly. We were so pleased. Fantastic! It's  always a relief when what you are making fits the recipient.  What's on your needles  these days? 

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Flower Power

As I pulled into my driveway after the cruise last weekend, I was greeted by a riot of color in front of my cottage. I love it when the hollyhocks are in bloom. They are so tall, vibrant, and healthy. The energetic effect is spectacular.

While on the cruise, I found it healing  to gaze at the water from the balcony. The color of the ocean, the feel of the fresh air, and the outline of the mountains  were like works art. It felt wonderful to soak it all in, and to bask in the sunshine.

Now that I'm back at home, I sit out on the porch and drink in the essence of the flowers. My garden is grown organically, and the soil is teeming with life. There are scurrying lizards, a variety of birds, and several different varieties of  bees  pollinating the centers of the flowers. Everything buzzes with life force energy.

I gaze up on the hillside and observe the alpacas slowly meandering. They are calm, complacent, and grounded. Watching them eat, rest, and walk brings me comfort and peace. It is good to be home.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Auditioning For Jersey Boys: Why I Couldn't Stop Going

One of the readers of this blog asked me to write about the show Jersey Boys. It's the story of The Four Seasons, and was a smash hit on Broadway. It is told with explicit truth, and happens to be my favorite show of all time. If you google Jersey Boys Youtube, you can see all kinds of incredible footage of the show.  The photo above is from my performing days at MGM. At that time I would have been the right age to audition. However, that didn't stop me from going. I first attended one of their open calls five years ago, when I was forty-seven. I had seen the Youtube videos of the show's highlights, and was instantly drawn to the Lorraine role. I found her vulnerability and sensitivity riveting, especially in the breakup scene with Frankie Valli.  I was absolutely magnetized to the production. I could see the brilliance in the music, choreography, and timing.

I have attended many auditions in my career, and Jersey Boys stands out as being the most memorable and exciting. The energy of the creative team crackles and sizzles. Even though the show had been running for several years, they still auditioned us with  passion and enthusiasm. As you entered the room, you could feel the vibration of master energy and power from behind the table.  I went to five different calls. Most were in LA and one was in Las Vegas. I always got the impression that they were definitely looking for people. These roles take an incredible amount of talent, and the types they need are very specific.

Their musical directors are outstanding, and they play your sheet music with relaxed confidence. It was such a gift to hear such  trained musicianship coming out of the piano. Bob Gaudio wrote the songs,  and my own sense is that his genius is the foundation of the show. The music is thrilling, and it makes the audience want to sing along. It's  alive, pulsating, sexy, and at the same time, uplifting. The arrangements and adaptions, in my opinion, have made the original sound even better. Sergio Trujillo's choreography is seamless and pure. It makes you want to dance, yet it appears effortless, classy, and clean. He doesn't do to much or too little: The steps and movement are just enough, which is an art.

Associate choreographer Danny Austin runs the dance part of the call, and maintains the show.  He really takes the time to work with the dancers, showing them exactly what he wants. He has beautiful lines. He gives you a story to use behind the movement.  I was elated by his presence. Richard Hester, who alongside Danny directs the tours and Norwegian Bliss cast, is an intelligent, quiet observer. He is very truthful. A compliment from him made my heart sing. Merri Sugarman, the casting director, was organized, quietly encouraging, and calm.

The whole team really noticed if you had worked on the material and improved. I was so obsessed that I practiced the steps and songs every single day into my early fifties. I knew that I was WAY too old for that show, but I could not shake the desire to audition. It has that effect on people. In a recent interview, Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio mentioned that some audience members had returned to see the show over 600 times! I feel the same way. I never tire of the songs, and to me the show is a a work of art. A theatrical experience like this comes along once in a lifetime. I hope you can see it.     

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