Sunday, September 30, 2018

Deep Cleaning In The Home

Today I did some intense cleaning in my kitchen. I pulled out the drain pans on my vintage stove and scoured them with baking soda. (bicarb) Some of the grease was baked on, so I heated up some white vinegar on the stove, poured it into the pans,  and used a knife to scrape off the stickiness. Phew! It's a satisfying feeling to take care of what you own.

The sides of my appliances were also splattered with grease, so I scrubbed those clean with a rag dipped in baking soda and hot water. I also cleaned off the top of the refrigerator. It was caked with a layer of  dust. I really should do these chores more often, and then it wouldn't feel like such a big job. I tend to avoid them. It's always easier than I think it will be, once I tackle the task. Oh well, it's done, and I feel very relieved.

Yesterday I bought a new set of sheets for the bed. My old fitted bottom sheet had started to rip. My foot was sliding into it. The threads  had worn from daily use. The new ones are 100% cotton. I had to check the labels carefully, because so many of the sheets at T.J. Maxx were 100% polyester. I prefer natural fibers. I was trying to remember if the sheets my mom bought us when we were growing up were cotton and polyester, or all cotton. I think they were a blend. I did a load of laundry today, and hung everything out on the the clothesline to dry. We have sunshine here year round, so I enjoy taking advantage of it to dry my towels, clothing, and bedding. I also washed a few of my sun dresses by hand, wrung out the excess water in my Nina Spin Dryer, and hung those out on the clothesline to dry, as well.

The soaps came out just as I had hoped. I unmolded (unmoulded) them this morning. I'm very pleased with the shade of green that I got from using just a half teaspoon of the green mica powder from Brambleberry. When mixed into  the milk soap batter, it makes such a muted, soft pastel shade. Goat's milk soap can be tricky, because of temperature. It turns brown and tan, depending on how hot your oils and lye/milk mixture are. I let my oils cools for a couple of hours before  mixing the lye with the frozen goat's milk ice cubes.

There were some excellent bargains at the grocery stores the other day. I found Jazz apples and a late variety of peaches for .50 a pound. I bought  this large watermelon at Sprouts for $3.99. I shared it with my neighbor. It's huge! I set it out in the sun for a couple of days, for maximum sweetness.  That's a trick I learned from another one of my neighbors. This is the old fashioned type watermelon, with black seeds. It's my favorite.  What's happening in your home?

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Made Some Green Christmas Soaps Today

soap batter

I made a batch of Shea Butter Goat's Milk Soap this afternoon.  I used green mica to color it; I'm really pleased with the result. It will be exciting to cut and unmold (unmould) these soaps in a few days.  This was my first time using the mica for coloring. I normally use Brazilian clays for swirls and accents. I like how the milk soaps turn out with color. They have a pastel hue. It's subtle and  pretty.

fir tree soaps

My Etsy shop  usually gets pretty active this time of year, so I am busy making soaps for the holiday season. I plan to make several more batches this month. I need to start printing out extra labels, too. I've got a huge box full of small muslin drawstring bags that I ordered last year. I also have several blocks of shea butter in the fridge. It's nice to have plenty of supplies. I'm glad that I invested in all that I needed last year.  

I have been making an effort to try new things and vary my diet lately. If I watch the news or read about people who are arguing, it makes me feel depressed. Even the dance publications have gotten very political. I decided to get grounded in the home, for peace of mind.  I tend to gravitate toward the familiar. I made hash browns for lunch, which I hadn't done in ages. I'd forgotten how delicious they are. Now that the weather is getting cooler I can start cooking and baking some traditional favorites. It's funny how just a small change in what we are doing, creatively, can lift our spirits.  Can't wait to see how these soaps turn out! It's funny how just a bit of color changes the whole vibe. I used Energy fragrance on this batch. It's a fresh, fruity,  jasmine scent. Everyone seems to love it.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Improving Where You Are, And What You Have

Yesterday I went to Green Thumb to buy some cold weather vegetables and flowers. It is still warm here during the day, but the days are getting shorter, and the plants are reacting. The brutal heat of the summer is over, I hope. A couple of my artichoke plants from last year have returned. I bought another six pack of them, just in case. They were so successful last year. Artichokes are expensive to buy in the grocery stores, so I will put a lot of time and energy into nurturing them and providing healthy soil.

I planted some colorful pansies in the window boxes. They add so much cheer and personality to the home. I can see them from my desk as I sit and write. I also bought a variety of lettuces. They are so easy to grow, and they make the most delicious salads. The chickens love lettuce, too. They have been laying eggs like crazy, thanks to all of the worms and bugs in the compost. They get so excited when I fill their little pail each morning. 

One of the things I love the most about the West Coast  is the pleasant weather. I am able to eat my meals outdoors all year. Sitting out on the porch, listening to the birds singing their beautiful songs, and gazing at the flowers and greenery relaxes me. Lula snoozes happily on the porch or in the sunny driveway, and many of us in the area  ride our bikes and walk daily. 

Having been fortunate enough to travel, I always feel relieved when I arrive home. It's exciting and exhilarating to visit foreign lands and seas, but I always am happy to walk in my front door and get back to a daily routine. Being away from home makes me appreciate how cute my little cottage is, and when I return I see it with appreciative eyes. So much of happiness is how we see things. Our perspective is extremely powerful. I have been reading posts by some of my friends in New York, and they complain about the smell, the pollution, and the trash. Our environment really affects us, emotionally and mentally. What are you doing in your home today?

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Front Garden in Fall

I have had a few pink hollyhocks bloom this month. It's a nice surprise to see the flowers peeking through the leaves. Usually they are very tall and vibrant in March. These are shorter and mellower. The zucchini plants are still producing. They aren't as vigorous, but they still provide. I just love the taste of fresh zucchini after it has been cooking. I mash it with butter, salt, and pepper. It's so tender and fresh. I'm so glad that I planted it. The years that I have skipped growing it, I really missed it. It's not the same from the store.

The artichoke plants are coming back; I hope they produce well again this year. I let them flower last season, so I don't know if they will have enough energy to develop lots of artichokes. I have been feeding them compost and compost tea. It seems to be revitalizing them. The straw mulch appears to be helping the soil, too. It all works together.

I planted a packet of zinnias in this large pot in my driveway. They are just starting to bloom. It's so nice to have some bright, colorful annuals at this time of year. Zinnias are one of my favorite old fashioned flowers. The bees and butterflies are attracted to them, too.

I made an apple crisp the other day. Apples have been on sale at Valley Produce, where I shop. They were only .69 a pound. I basically buy what's on sale each week, and work my menus around those ingredients. Last night I was enjoying the night sky and cool air while relaxing out on my porch. I decided to splurge, and let myself have a cafe au lait after dinner. Normally I just have two per day, and I drink them in the morning. After brewing the espresso and heating up the milk,  I felt like I was out on the balcony of a cruise ship. It was so relaxing and decadent. It's funny how the little pleasures in life can add so much quality and joy.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

La La Simple Shawl Photos and New Development

Some of you asked to see the shawl after blocking, so I took a couple of photos today. It looks much better on, (I think,) but I forgot to have someone take a photo today at my knitting group. I don't like the burgundy background clashing with the pink, but oh well. It's a definitely a new favorite in my wardrobe. It goes with so many of my sun dresses. I think that shawls are the perfect accessory. I love their versatility. This one looks nice hanging low in back, or wrapped with the pattern in front, as it is in the photo. I'm going to use the leftover yarn to make another one for my little neighbor. Hers will be pink and wine. It's not that shade of the couch; don't worry. 

While I was working on my sweater today, I realized that I had accidentally used size 11 needles after joining the sleeves to the body, instead of the 10.5's. I noticed that the stitches felt super tight when I switched from the double pointed needles to the circulars. I should have double checked the size  when I felt that strange tightness. It didn't occur to me. Oh well. I'm just glad that I caught it. I had screwed on the stoppers so that I could try on the sweater. I LOVE how it's looking on the body. The yarn  hangs so beautifully. Anyway, I didn't realize what happened until I forgot to bring the needles with me to my knitting group. I left them on my coffee table. There's so much to remember in knitting. All of the details can make you a little nutty.  It will be an easy fix, though. I don't mind. It's a fun pattern, and it will give me more time to enjoy it.
I recently found out that there are immediate plans to develop the land near my house.  I am so excited about it! They are planning on adding a train and bus station, four high end restaurants, cafes, a lake, a fancy hotel, and much more. I have always hoped that one day the city would put some money into this side of town. They do beautiful work, and have hired Los Angeles's best architects.  The plans look gorgeous. It will be so nice to have walking paths, bike paths, and sidewalks. I have been walking my dogs down the shoulder of the  highway for the past twenty years, and this will be a huge improvement. It was always so industrial, and kind of depressing. But, it was what I could afford, so I tried to look on the bright side.  I had always imagined having quaint little shops and restaurants, and now it's coming true! What they have envisioned is far beyond what I dreamed of seeing. It will still have the feel of the country in my neighborhood, but the convenience of the city will be just a few blocks from home. They are hoping that people will give up their cars. I think this is a great direction. I have already been using public transportation regularly, and just driving across town once a week. Can you use the bus or train where you live?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Working Through Discouragement and Finding the Light

Today I finally  finished the LaLa Simple Shawl. It was a jubilant feeling. As I bound off the last few stitches, I felt so happy and free. I had almost given up on it, because I was having so much trouble counting all of those stitches. The finer the yarn, the more stitches you have. This one gradually increased to over three hundred stitches. But, it was worth all of the frustration and  backtracking.   I blocked it this afternoon, and have been wearing it this evening. It is so light and airy; I love the feathery feel of the yarn. My other shawls are all knit from worsted weight wool or llama. This one is perfect for the months and  months of warm weather that we have here in Los Angeles.

After that, I decided to tackle the Carbeth sweater that I started months ago. I had put it aside during the heat, and have been feeling guilty for neglecting it.  I just couldn't sit with a pile of hot wool on my lap in this weather. I pulled it out of my knitting bag, and it was a huge mess. I untangled the yarn, straightened everything out, and measured the sleeves. To my surprise everything actually looked very good. I sat with the pattern and studied what needed to be done. Things are always worse in my mind.

I was a little confused with the instructions. I didn't understand what I was supposed to do with the underarm stitches that I had on scrap yarn. I read through the finishing section, and discovered that  you graft those stitches together. Ahh! That was like a revelation. I use the same technique on the toes of my socks.

Sitting comfortably on the couch, I began the round where you connect the sleeves to the body. It went very well. This pattern is a breeze, after doing all of that tedious work on the shawl. If all goes well, (and that's a very big if,) I should have it finished tomorrow. It's done on size 10.5 needles, so it moves quickly. I'm so excited about it. Once again, I am very glad that I came back to what I started and recommitted. Part of me wanted to give up, because I didn't feel connected to the project anymore.   It's absolutely beautiful yarn, (that was given to me by a fellow knitter,) and I know it will become one of my favorite sweaters.   How are your crafts going? 

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Feeding Compost To Chickens Helps Them Lay Eggs

I have been experimenting with adding homemade compost to my hens' diet. Each morning I give them a third cup of scratch, and a couple of large romaine lettuce leaves. I make sure that they have grit so that their eggshells stay strong. After greeting and feeding them, I remove their water dish and a small pail of compost from the previous day. I dump the leftover compost back into the pile, and dig  towards the center, where it's cooking. That's where I find the red wiggler worms, potato bugs, and other live insects. I refill the pail, change their water, and replace both of these in their coop.

It seems like they are laying more regularly since adding the compost. Maybe it's the protein from the bugs. Little Blackie picks out the worms immediately. She's so smart. They take turns pecking at the compost, eagerly gobbling up the grubs and worms. Since I don't let them free range, (due to all of the hawks and predators,) this is my way of supplementing their diet. They can actually survive on compost alone, but mine seem to love their scratch, afternoon helping of laying pellets, and fresh lettuce. Do you feed your chickens compost? It has a magical effect on the vegetables, as well.

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trying To Keep In Touch With Too Many People

Yesterday I had a revelation. I was trying to keep in touch with too many people! Last week I  received: a request for a biography for a Facebook group, two photos, a recipe, a ride, a visit with someone I hadn't seen in thirty-five years, advice for a woman I worked with as a teenager, and money for the neighbor, (who I don't know,) of  a dancer I used to perform with in shows. I realized that it was all becoming too much for me. I don't want to hurt any of these people's feelings, but their needs and wants are crowding out my daily responsibilities in life.

I think that many of us feel this way. We can't do everything. We have to prioritize our time and energy. With social networking, it can be hard to keep up with all of the messages.  I've had to tell some people that I'm just not available. It's too difficult and time consuming to try to keep up with everybody all the time. I don't think it's healthy. A little of it is nice, but too much can be overwhelming. I also don't want to reconnect with old boyfriends. It totally stresses me out. I wish them well, but am interested in moving forward.  Some things and people are best left in the past.

Yesterday I tried on the shawl, and to my surprise discovered that  it's almost done! What a thrill. I just need to do the pattern repeat one more time. I am halfway there. There is enough yarn left over to make at least one or two more shawls. Instead of being upset and frustrated with this project, I am now elated. It's looking so pretty. I'm so glad that I didn't give up and rip out all of that work. It took ages. Everything seems easier now. It's amazing how finishing projects can make our confidence soar.  Oh, and someone casually mentioned to me that I could give them the shawl if I wanted...

A friend of mine in New York said to me during our last conversation, "That's my other phone. I don't answer it. It's always someone from my family asking me for money."

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Knitting Through Frustration and Regaining Confidence

Newborn Baby Sweater on Lost In Time Shawl

Yesterday as I was working on my shawl, I felt the urge to frog the whole project. I was consistently having trouble with the stitch count, and realized that it was just going to get worse. With a triangular shawl, it  keeps growing and growing. The further you go, the more stitches you have.  I had just backtracked six rows to fix a loop near a stitch marker. It took me hours.

I realized that the stitch markers that I was using were causing me trouble. They had little charms dangling from them. Although they were adorable, they were getting caught on the yarn overs. The locking stitch markers had a tendency to stretch the cotton/acrylic yarn. This created more loops. I replaced them with some tiny, simple markers that I had in my notions. They were given to me with a bag of baby yarn. They work perfectly. Another Godsend. I have been so fortunate with all the knitting supplies that have flown into my life. This tote bag used to belong to my mom. She loved her Yorkies. I knit her all kinds of things when she was alive.

I had a revelation as I was putting back all 280 stitches on the needles. I should have used life lines! I had forgotten all about them. They really save a lot of time and heartache when knitting lace. Although this is a fairly simple pattern, I find that anything with yarn overs can cause me to get upset if I have to rip out a row or two. I threaded a lifeline through a row of stockinette stitch, and feel much better now.

I got several rows done today, and am feeling much more positive about completing this project. I discovered  that I also need to count out loud, or to myself. I can't work on this one with company or in a knitting group. I invariably make a tiny mistake, and get mixed up when I try to recount. If I do it in solitude, I'm fine.

I found a simple project on Martha Stewart's website that I plan to start tomorrow. It's a knit bag that looks perfect for some dark grey alpaca yarn that I have. It was given to me by my ballet teacher from childhood. I expected it to be ultra soft, but it feels more like scratchy wool. It's beautiful, and hand spun. She made a shrug with it, but it didn't fit. She packed it up for me and suggested that  I make something with it for myself. It's from her sister's alpacas. I was trying to find the perfect project for it, and I think this might be it. I knitted three swatches to make it work. It turns out I can use my size 11 needles and use more stitches to make the measurements work. Since it's just two rectangles, it won't matter that my calculations are different. This yarn is hand spun, and it looked too lacey on the size 15 needles that Martha's pattern suggested. Actually, I only have size 13 needles, but it looked way too big on those. I think they must mean ultra bulky yarn, rather than bulky. I have size 11 needles already, and I really don't want to have to buy any more knitting needles.

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Back to Soapmaking

Yesterday I made a batch of coconut oil soap with a 20% superfat. I love this recipe; it creates a wonderful, creamy soap. The color is a snowy white. It has a terrific lather, and works very well in hard water. I unmolded the soaps this morning. I popped them into the freezer for a few hours after making my morning coffee. When I turned them upside down, they fell out of the molds.  It's always a great relief when the soaps don't stick.  Now they are on the racks, curing.

I also baked a loaf of banana bread yesterday. It felt good to use up the ripe bananas that were in the fruit bowl. This recipe called for two large eggs, so I used three of my tiny Silkie eggs. It's rewarding to have them from your own backyard hens. They're so fresh, and the yolks are bright orange.  The bread came out very nicely. It was soft, moist, and flavorful.

I don't bake very often anymore. I have noticed that I don't have any aches or pains if I avoid eating baked desserts and bread. Yesterday I pigged out on the fresh banana bread and ate THREE pieces! That was a mistake. My legs ached a tiny bit during the night, which they never do anymore. (since having hip replacement surgery.) If I'm going to bake, I'll have to practice more self control. Today I've been much better; I just had one piece. It's funny how your tolerance for certain foods changes as you get older. Have you been doing any baking these days?

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Choosing Your Thoughts Carefully

Lately I have been rereading some of Napolean Hill's books. They coincide with the Louise Hay tapes that I listen to on Youtube, and the Esther Hicks'  Law of Attraction lectures. These are my daily lessons. I soak them in, and  let them permeate my consciousness. This way of thinking is how I manifested my career as a professional dancer. I apply the same principals now,  as a writer. 

Basically, what these people  all teach is that what we focus on, we attract. If we write down our goals, take action, and are persistent, atoms and molecules will shift, and our circumstances change. It's so important to focus on what you want to create. Many of us slip into doubt and fear, and then we attract those very negative situations and circumstances.

As a magazine writer, I see how much the world of  writing has changed. Periodical  and the news have taken on a very different tone than the hopeful optimism that I remember from my youth. I make a concerted effort not to get swept up into the negative news. Habits like complaining, criticizing, and judging lower our vibration, and they become a vicious cycle. I know that if I fall into these traps, more of the same energy zooms toward me. Because of that, I choose what I ingest very carefully.

As a dancer, I was taught an extreme level of self discipline.  It serves me to this day.  Something about the classical music, the talented teachers, and the vigilant focus on technique brought us to a very high level.  The group energy was exciting and inspiring. We were joined, energetically, through our higher aspirations.  We were always striving.

If we study and discuss the current scandals and violence in the news, we lower ourselves to that level. It is so important to stay uplifted and engaged in positive action. I call it "vibrating high". My aunt used to tell me, "Rise above it." I didn't understand what she meant at the time, but now I do. We have the power to focus our mind and to set our intention. It is the greatest predictor of our success or failure. The mind is like a magnet. It doesn't discriminate. How do you hold your focus?  

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Peter Frame of NewYork City Ballet and School of American Ballet

Peter Frame died last week. He was a  passionate and dedicated ballet dancer with The New York City Ballet. His twin brother also danced with the company.

These photos show the company's beauty,  buoyancy, and love for dance. What a magnificent group! The link to the obituary I wrote on him for Dance Magazine is here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

In The Pink

I have finally reached the pink section on the LaLa's Simple Shawl. I spent three hours today picking back eight long rows. I made the mistake of not counting while socializing at a knitting group. When I got home, I had 149 stitches on one side of the marker, and 151 stitches on the other side. Because of the yarn overs, I slowly backtracked row by row. Sigh...

I have been riding bikes with my young neighbor. She is so sweet. She likes to hang out on the porch with me while I knit. The gliders are comfortable. After playing ball with Lula she suggested, "Let's go back out on the front porch and do some more stitching." I thought that was so cute, since she was just watching. She likes to be around the fiber arts. She has such a keen eye, especially for color.

 I wrote an obituary today for another dancer. He was only 61. Even though I didn't know him, I was deeply saddened by his death. I will post the piece here, once Dance Magazine has published it online.

The Cinderella pumpkin seeds that I planted are growing rapidly. I fed them some homemade compost today. I started them a bit late, but  am hoping to get a few orange pumpkins in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving. This weather is much easier on them. The artichokes are coming back, too. Vegetables grow so rapidly. It's fascinating to see what can happen overnight.

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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Cooler Weather: Perfect For Sitting on The Porch

The temperature here has dropped, and it's been wonderful  spending time outside. Yesterday I drove Lula to Towsley Canyon. She loves to go in the car. We did a long, strenuous, seven mile hike. There were a lot of steep switchbacks, and Lula needed to stop several times to lay down and  rest. She drank all of the water in her bottle, and part of the water in mine.

There were several families, couples, and dog owners hiking the trail in the reverse direction. It was enjoyable to be out in the sunshine, feeling the healthy benefits of nature.

Today I am extremely sore. My legs muscles haven't felt  this overworked since I was a professional dancer. The lactic acid is intense. Even though I walk Lula for a couple of miles daily, hiking uphill uses totally different muscles. I plan to soak in a tub with epsom salts and lavender tea.

The front garden has been soothing and comforting. I've been knitting my shawl out there each day.  The greenery emanates a healing and gentle energy. It's such good therapy. I refilled the hummingbird feeder for the woodpecker and hummers. They visit it regularly. The sparrows have been splashing in the birdbath, and the finches feed on the sunflowers. It feels good to be in tune with nature. How is your garden doing?

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