Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sending Out Soaps For Christmas

Yesterday I received an order in my Etsy shop. It was from a dancer  friend who now lives in Pennsylvania. She wanted ten soaps; she plans to give them as Christmas gifts. This morning I wrapped each of them  in bubble wrap. taped it carefully, and then stuffed them inside small muslin drawstring bags. I wrote out the vintage Santa labels by hand , and wrapped and secured them around the soaps. After that, I printed out the packing slip and shipping label. I really enjoy getting holiday packages ready to ship.

Knowing which size to use for sending boxes can be tricky. In this case, the medium size flat rate box was the best deal. Sometimes I also use the Regional Box A size.  Small business owners in America can order special Priority Mail boxes in different sizes online through the US Postal Service. They are free of charge, and can be delivered to your business or home. I keep a stash with my packing supplies. I also recycle bubble wrap, newspaper, and popcorn, as long as it's clean.

After sending off that order, I had another waiting for me when I got home. This one is for six bars of soap. The customer is  a lady who plays bridge with my father. She gives them as gifts to her friends at the bridge club.  She's a very kind and friendly person. It's fun to connect with people annually and be part of their traditions. Each December, I always wish that I had made more soap. I plan to whip up a few batches this week to store for the future.

At this time of year, the hard work that I've done over the summer starts to pay off handsomely. There are oranges to pick, pumpkins and squash to harvest, and soaps to mail to customers, family,  and friends. It inspires me to continue to sow seeds for the future.  Do you plan to mail many packages this year?

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Knitting Teeny Tiny Socks From Winwick Mum

I have always wanted to knit these adorable miniature socks. They look difficult, so I was a bit intimidated. I decided to try Winwick Mum's pattern. It's listed under her patterns and printables.  She has fabulous tutorials, and explains everything so clearly.

I was pleased to discover that they are a quick and fairly easy knit! I was thrilled with how my leftover sock yarn turned out with this pattern. The little stripes are just adorable. They work perfectly for the size. I bought this yarn years ago and made a pair of alpaca gloves with it. I also knit a pair of small socks for one of my adult ballet students. She used to take care of my chicken for me, when I was out of town.

I'm also working on another pair of adult size socks. This is Winwick Mum's pattern for Easy Lace Socks.  The cable cast on give it a nice, stretchy edge.  I had the yarn in my stash. It was part of a grab bag of unknown colors by Austermann that I bought several years ago, online. I love it! I should be finishing up my sweater, but  have been distracted by socks. They are so addictive. It's fun to make the Christmas items now, too. It's really gotten me in the mood.

How is your knitting or crocheting going? Are you making any gifts this year? 

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Pink Cottage Is Decorated For Christmas!

Today I decided to do some Christmas decorating. I had planned to do it in stages, so that I wouldn't get too overwhelmed. I started with the indoor decorations. I hung up a beautiful garland that a friend in Europe made for me. It's so sweet. It has little hand stitched felt ornaments, and they smell like cloves.  It gives such a homespun European feel to my home. I love it.

I put out my favorite Christmas card from my friend Mark, in New York. It looks like a vintage stove, and has a tiny gingerbread man baking in the oven. I treasure it. It's so sweet and cozy looking.

I decided to hand the icicle lights around my porch. They were all still working, and it was quick and easy to do. I figured that I would finish doing the Christmas tree lights tomorrow. That involves using four strands of colored LED's, and climbing up on a ladder.

Surprise! I was on a roll. I went ahead and finished with all of the outdoor lights. I brought out the ladder and carefully hung two strands on each tree. I connected them to their extension cords, and the house is now fully decorated! It's so exciting. Have you started your decorating?  It's time to sing along with Christmas carols and eat some peppermint bark. (my favorite holiday treat.)  What's yours?

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

delicate feverfew flowers in bloom right now

I hope that you had a Happy Thanksgiving. I stuffed a chicken with Mrs. Cubbinson's stuffing, just like my mom and I used to do. It was delicious. I prepared a simple version of the traditional meal: chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and orange cranberry sauce. It was delicious.  The homemade apple cranberry cobbler made a delightful dessert. I baked it a few days in advance. I roasted the stuffed chicken last night. I find it easier to do everything in stages. That way there is not an overwhelming amount of work to do on the big day.  The leftovers are divine!  I gave Lula the liver, onions, and neck meat from the giblets. That was her doggie treat for Thanksgiving.

today's freshly harvested zucchini and a pumpkin on the vine

I used fresh oranges in the cranberry sauce  from the Navel Orange tree in my backyard. We finally had some rain last night. It was such a relief. The garden looks so green and healthy today. I picked a couple of zucchinis this morning, and noted the progress of my pumpkins. They are small, but are steadily growing. Their color is still yellow. I hope that they make it to orange. They grow a lot faster when planted during the hot weather. They don't need as much water this time of year, though. It's been an interesting experiment. It's so exciting to grow vegetables from seed. Their transformation is like magic!

my Carbeth sweater

Yesterday I went to our  knitting group and worked on my sweater. I thought that I was almost finished, but then  realized that I had made another mistake. I should have done decreases before and after each sleeve. So, now I have to rip it back to the underarm join again. (sigh) Oh well. "Win a few, lose a few," as my Aunt Mary  used to say. It's going to be a fabulous sweater, though. I tried it on to check the fit.  It will be better once it has twice as many decreases, like it's supposed to have.  I am eager to get it done. How was your Thanksgiving?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Kate Vanderliet's Obituary

Kate Vanderliet performing at The Lido in Paris

Here is the link to Kate Vanderliet's obituary in Dance Magazine. My editor said that the photos that I included were too small to use, unfortunately. I have posted them here. She was magnificent.

After she retired from The Lido, Kate taught Pilates. Many of her students remember how funny and outgoing she was. She gave so much of herself to others.

Kate had a smile that would light up a room. Her many friends all appreciated what a great listener she was.  She really made you feel important and understood. Au revoir Kate. Till we meet again...

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Christmas Crafts

I finished a couple sets of the Christmas pot holders. They still need to be blocked and listed on Etsy. They are so easy to crochet. I plan to use the leftover yarn to make a few simple drawstring soap bags that double as washcloths. I like having something easy to work on when I'm in a group.  The bag below is a yarn holder for a center pull ball of yarn. The pattern is called Handy Dandy Sock Yarn Bags. It's listed under with her free patterns, under Crochet. 

I have been busy filling Etsy orders. I need to print up some more Christmas labels for my soaps.

The mauve lace curtains arrived! I am very pleased with them. They look so old fashioned, and fit in beautifully with the vintage furniture and antiques. My mom would approve. They let the sunlight stream in, yet provide privacy during the day.  I will need to find something to put over them in the evenings. For now, I'm using the old balloon shades. They are a bit tattered, but I mended them. My German Shepherd, Carlie, had ripped through them during an anxiety attack. She used to be so frightened of storms. She would literally climb the walls. (and try to jump out of windows.) She finally settled on crouching in the bathtub. I miss her.

After hearing the news of my friend Kate's death, I felt like I was moving through mud.  I've been making an effort to cook quick, healthy meals. Last night that was pan fried filet mignon, (bought on sale,) brussells sprouts, and baked potatoes. Because of the grief,  the smallest tasks seemed to take so much effort. Today is much easier.  I have been writing about her, and that is helping. I even sat and watched a few psychic and medium shows on Youtube. It sounds funny, but it was comforting. I hope you are doing well. 

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

I Lost A Dear Friend Last Night

I found out today that my sweet friend Kate Vanderliet passed away last night. She had ovarian cancer. She was so young...still in her fifties, I believe. We met in the show Hello Hollywood, Hello! starring Carol Channing. Kate was a principal dancer at MGM, and she especially shined in the number Top Hat.

We were roommates after we both returned to Reno for a second stint,  and also performed there in the show A Chorus Line together. She was a fantastic Val, belting out her song with confidence and gusto.  She loved to ski, and would often get up early and drive up to Lake Tahoe with our friend John Paul Reeves to spend the day skiing. They would make the two and a half hour trek back to Reno, and then perform two shows that night. She seemed to have unlimited energy and enthusiasm.

I am working on an obituary on her for Dance Magazine. This is the hardest one I have ever done, because  she was such a close friend.  I think the more we love a person, the deeper the grief cuts into our heart.

When I got the news I thought, "First the fires, and now Kate." Both were such a shock. She had mentioned to me in a message that she was dealing with a health issue, but didn't elaborate. When I answered back and asked her about it, she didn't answer. In show business, admitting to something like cancer usually means you will never work again. I still wish I had known, and could have done something. I am relieved that she is no longer suffering.

We both grew up in Northern California. She elected to stay in Paris until the end. She had become a big star at The Lido, and she had full medical coverage there. We are all grieving her loss.    

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Monday, November 12, 2018

California Wildfires

vegetables and barley cooked in beef bone broth

As many of you know, California is experiencing some horrific wildfires. It's very sad to see the devastation that they have done, and to hear the personal stories of  loss and heartbreak.  I think what makes it really frightening is the gridlock. To know that if there is a fire in your area  that you can't get out quickly and  safely is terrifying. The thought of being in bumper to bumper traffic in that situation makes my heart drop.  You feel trapped.

Fifteen years ago we had a huge fire in this area.  What I did was to flee in five minutes. My intuition told me not to wait. I grabbed my dogs, important papers, a backpack with  a few clothing changes, and drove six hours to my parents' house.

I remember seeing the crawling traffic headed south on Interstate 5. I was headed north, and it was fine. Even back then, I realized that the people who were waiting to be evacuated would be in the greatest danger, because of all the cars.  I thought about how congested the freeways here become. I couldn't imagine jumping out of the car and running to escape the flames. They were moving so fast. We have twice as many people as we used to in LA.   You really need to plan where and when you drive.

Another thing that has made the fires worse is how dry and parched the land has become.  Because of the drought,  many people stopped watering their yards completely. I don't grow as much as I used to, but I keep everything around my house green. We are allowed to water fruits and vegetables, so that's what I have.  I mulch heavily, and the soil is healthy. If I didn't, it would be like a desert.  We get very intense Santa Ana winds and they just suck the moisture out  from the earth and soil. Your face feels parched this time of year.

I feel deeply for the people who have lost their homes, their lives,  and their  loved ones. I have been staying snug in my cottage  most of the time, just in case. I want to keep an eye on things, and be aware of what is happening. I'm glad that I bought an overabundance of groceries last week. My intuition was nudging me to buy extra produce and staples on sale,  so I did. Now I don't need to shop, and  don't really feel like it. I forgot to do my laundry today. Monday is washing day. I was kind of numbed by the news of how many had died in their automobiles, trying to escape to a safe place. Those images of the burned out cars and houses  really hits you. Then again, the beauty of the fire and sky is also compelling. It reminded me of the television footage of the fires in San Francisco, after the big earthquake. The whole city was lit up with flames.    

On a practical note, it's important to keep the gas tank filled, and to have plenty of cash on hand. I cooked some fresh zucchini from the garden, made a salad with greens from the lettuce patch, and worked on finishing my shawl. I took Lula for a walk, and brushed  out her glorious coat. I feel very thankful for the little things today. It could have been any of us here that had our homes burn to the ground. Unfortunately, that is one of the dangers of living in this area.     

Friday, November 9, 2018

Mending the Curtains Until the New Ones Arrive

I am spending all day today mending my living room  balloon curtains. I bought them at Target twenty years ago. They are starting to shred. They have been really wonderful, though. I wish I could find the same ones, but I don't see much in our local Target's  Shabby Chic line anymore. Instead, I ordered a hand made balloon shade from a seller on Etsy. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me. I had trouble lifting it with the cords. The fabric was very heavy, and it was lined. When I put it up, it made my living room very dark. Mail order can be tricky.  It is beautifully made, though, and the seller was very kind and talented.  I will find a use for it. I love toile.

I searched online for lightweight curtains and exactly what I wanted at JC Penny. I was eligible for free shipping, and they were 50% off! I snatched up seven of them in pink right away. They are the balloon style that I love, and look sheer and breezy. I will save the fancy shade to use in my bedroom if I ever want to block out the light from the street lamp. I really like having the sunlight streaming in through the windows. We get sunshine year round here in California, and I enjoy the view from my windows of the garden, the alpacas, and the  towering pine trees. Bringing the outdoors in makes me feel happy. (especially in such a small cottage.)

In the meantime, I have been sewing up all of holes and rips in my curtains. I found a couple of vintage print pieces of fabric to hang in the bathroom and kitchen for now. They are simple, but they work. At least it gives me some privacy. I may sew these into simple shades and leave them.  I love the delicate prints on the fabric. I found them at a thrift shop, twenty years ago. The tiny flowers are so sweet. The vintage details really make a difference in an older home.  What do you have on your windows?

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Importance of Preparing for Retiremement

The La La Simple Shawl in rose is almost finished
I have been hearing recently from dancer friends who are in dire straights in their old age. It is sad and unfortunate. The older we get, the faster time passes. It's so important that we plan for our "golden years" and have our ducks in a row. Professional dancers are particularly vulnerable in retirement if they don't have adequate income, savings, investments, and real estate. Many don't realize that our joints give out after a certain amount of time. Surgery and medical bills can send people into a financial tailspin. Living in an expensive city can also cause stress and worry.

Where you live has a huge effect on how much money you are able to save. I bought the smallest house on my California street, in a working class neighborhood. I canvassed the immediate area, keeping a log of the asking prices of homes,  what they sold for, and how long they were on the market.  When I found mine, I had a good idea what it should cost. I bought it in 1998 for $89.500, without an agent.  That  was one of the best financial decisions that I have ever made. My neighbor just sold her little house for $400,000. It's a two bedroom, but mine has more land. She waited a year for the right buyer to meet her asking price. I plan to stay in mine, because I feel it is the perfect retirement home. It's small, comfortable, one story, and close to public transportation.

I started "practicing for retirement" a few years ago. I stick to a budget for the year.  I save the flyers and buy the groceries that are on sale. This week that will be pineapples for $2.00, 10 lbs. of potatoes for $1.78, turkey for .35 a lb, navel oranges for .50 a lb, and gelato that is buy one, get one free. Sugar is also on sale very cheaply at our local Mexican market. I make my coffee and tea and home, and I don't eat out at restaurants. I save that money for travel. I also don't have t.v. I use a Jitterbug flip phone. It's $35.00 a month.

Taking the bus and riding my bicycle has helped me to reduce wear and tear on my car, lower my car insurance premiums, and to save money on gasoline. I also combine errands when I drive my car across town once a week. I like to use the car for scenic day trips and to visit my dad. By limiting how often I drive to the grocery store, for errands, etc. I have the miles I need budgeted for my trips. I used to cruise around LA kind of mindlessly when I was young, needing to refill my gas tank twice a week. Now I fill it up once a month. That ten gallons has to last me. Working from home really helps. Are you ready for retirement? How are you preparing?        

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Still Harvesting Zucchini

zucchini in November

This afternoon I found a large, green zucchini that I had missed. It's very satisfying to still be harvesting squash in November. I cooked it up with some cube steak for lunch. For dinner I had a large salad. The lettuce patch is producing really well. I'm thrilled. The chickens are enjoying it, too. It is a wonderful feeling to grow some of your own food, organically. The temperatures are perfect for gardening right now.

I read a frightening article today about a man in Australia who ate a slug on a dare, and then died. He was paralyzed for eight years. I found my first slug ever on the lettuce that I picked for my salad this evening. It was an eerie coincidence. I carefully removed it and threw it in the green waste bin, and then washed my hands. I'll never look at a slug the same way again. 

painted sky last night

I spent a few hours this afternoon trying to unravel some knots in the yarn that I'm using for my shawl. It was frustrating not to get any knitting done.  I am almost through all of the knots, though, This was a center pull ball of yarn. When will I learn that I should just work from the outside of the ball? I always have this problem when I work from the inside and the yarn starts to collapse. Invariably, I run into a huge mass of knots and tangles. It makes me so frustrated and depressed.  I shouldn't get that way, but struggling with  problems with  knitting can make you feel very negative, emotionally.  I think that's why I hated sewing as a teenager. I didn't have the patience or technique. Oh, well, I almost have the problem section all unraveled, and I didn't have to cut the yarn, thank goodness!  Hopefully I will be able to move forward with it tomorrow.

headed home on our walk

Last night after walking Lula, I did Pilates, the physical therapy hip exercises, and a short set of Kundalini Yoga. I really want to continue to stay in shape as I age. My body feels so much different now, since I'm not dancing professionally. I miss being in tip top condition. I feel very fortunate to be healthy and pain free, though. I am so thankful that I had that hip replacement surgery.  How are you doing?

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Saturday, November 3, 2018

I Prefer Real Books

Daylily and fresh Basil in bloom

I have been reading another book on Laura Ingalls Wilder. This one is titled Prairie Fires, by Caroline Fraser. It was recommended by me to Anita in San Diego. She regularly comments on this blog. Thank you, Anita, I am really enjoying the book. At first, I didn't care for the tone of the author, but I plowed forward, and have been finding the  information fascinating. It's filled with interesting facts and details.

Initially I ordered it on OverReader, through my library. I love that option, because it is instantly available to you on your desktop. I have an expensive tendency to forget to return library books on time.  My neighbor suggested switching to reading them online, thus avoiding  library fines.

Cinderella Pumpkin vine and Amaranth

Although I was excited to read it on my screen at first, I found that I really missed holding the book in my hands. I went back online, and saw that they had a copy at my local branch. I drove over this morning and picked it up, in hardback.  I brought it home and enjoyed reading a few chapters outside, on my porch. Enjoying the view of the garden, I sat comfortably rocking  in one of the teak wood gliders.

It is a compelling story. I think I must have read it about ten years ago, because it is starting to sound familiar. I also remember the photos. They are striking, showing the truth and reality of the pioneers' situation. Many of those farmers starved. They had a terribly sad fate.  It really makes me appreciate all of the modern conveniences that we have now, like running water and electricity. I feel so fortunate to have a warm, comfortable bed, plenty of food, and clean clothing. 

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Finished Everything On My List

These zinnias are still in bloom in November. I planted them from seed.

Yesterday was a busy day, and by the end of it, I was too tired to post. I felt satisfied, though, because I accomplished everything on my list. I find I do much better if I write things down that need to be done. Crossing each one off keeps me feeling  focused and productive.

After feeding  my squash and pumpkin plants their weekly dose of compost tea, I ran Lula along the bicycle. We do this every morning. I fed the hens their scratch, lettuce, and a hard boiled egg that I had cooked them. They haven't been laying as much; I think it's because the days are getting shorter. They need a certain number of hours of sunlight to lay. Protein helps, sometimes, too.

I deposited a check by mobile deposit. I love that feature. It saves me gas and time. I had a little trouble remembering how to do it, but after a few attempts, I was successful. I don't have a smartphone, so I use my mini ipad. I had forgotten that you have to log in when you get to the app.  There is so much to remember with technology. I am finally getting it, though.  Sometimes it just takes me a while.

The beeswax candle is getting a lot of use.  It smells divine!

I took my car in to be smogged. I had a $25.00 coupon that I used. After that, I stopped at Costco and picked up some milk, soy milk, and sea salt caramels.  I came home, and applied online for a new travel card through the DMV. They will be requiring these in California for domestic travel soon. I have an appointment for the end of the month. I organized the paperwork that I will need to show them: my social security card, passport, and proof of residence. It feels good to get this out of the way. I paid the fee online.  It was $35.00.

This morning I bought some straw and scratch for the chickens, and cleaned out the hen house. I paid my auto registration for the year. I bailed out the tub of bath water from last night and used it to water the front garden. It was a lot of work, and the watering can was heavy. It felt good to use the grey water, though.  Phew! I am very  tired now, and plan to take a rest.  How are you doing?  

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