Thursday, January 31, 2019

Fixing The Roof

When I returned home from my trip to Palm Springs a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that I had a leak in the bathroom. The overhead lighting fixture was full of water. I have lived in this cottage for twenty years, and the roof has always been excellent. I have never had a single leak until now. Well, there's a first time for everything.

I had the owner of a local roofing company come over today and take a look at it. He walked around on the roof for a while, and had trouble finding it. "Wow!" he told me. "This roof is in excellent condition. It can't be very old." "How old do you think it is?" I asked him." He answered that it couldn't have been here  more than ten years.  I told him that I have lived here for twenty years. When I bought the house,  the previous owner told me that it was a fifty year roof, and that it was fifteen years old at that time. He couldn't believe it. I've always had a good feeling about this roof. It's simple, but effective.

He gave me an estimate to repair the seals.  A couple of them are cracked.  It will cost $275.00. Some water  leaked into the one above the gas heater and traveled down to the bathroom. I am very relieved. I was afraid that I might need a new roof, and started feeling nervous about the cruise that I have planned. I have always felt that the material for this roof is ideal for our climate. None of the other houses have it.  Theirs are all shingles.  The roofer told me that they usually use this material  for sheds or porches. It's light colored, and it reflects the heat very well. I have gone up there once a year and swept off the debris and branches. I also nailed some of the nails back in that were starting to pop out of the material. The Poplar  has kept it shaded and protected during the hot summer months.

It is always rewarding to take care of your home. I asked him how much it would cost to eventually replace this roof, and he said that it would be between $2,000. and $3,000. My father paid $25,000. to replace his roof thirty years ago. It pays to have a smaller home. The type of roofing that I have is called mineral surface cap sheet. It's popular in the Southwest. I have been extremely happy with it. It is reasonably priced, and easy to install. You can see it in the cover photo of my blog. How is your roof? 

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Blue Carbeth Sweater Knit With Icelandic Wool

I heard from my friend today who wants me to knit her a turtleneck sweater. We are choosing the yarn. She loves cashmere, but it is very expensive. She wants a very soft yarn, so I suggested alpaca or an alpaca/merino blend.

I decided I better hurry up and finish my Carbeth sweater. Today I joined the arms to the body, and am working on the yoke.

I'm very pleased with the color. This is my first time knitting with Icelandic wool, and it really holds the shape of the design well. It's going to be a  closer fit than the first one I made, I think. Using a different yarn gives the sweater an entirely different look. I'm sure I will get a lot of use out of it. It feels like it will last forever.

I baked a batch of lemon bars today with some delicious Meyer lemons that my neighbor gave me. They are so tangy and flavorful. I used extra lemon zest in the recipe.  I rarely bake anymore, because I am so paranoid about triggering arthritis. It's such a relief to be pain free again. I can always share them with my neighbors down the street. Yesterday one of the little boys I visit asked me about the present that I had promised  him. I explained that he had already opened it at Christmas. I will try just having a small amount of these lemon bars each day. They are already calling to me... no more sugar today.  How are you?

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Thinking For Yourself

I had an interesting conversation with my neighbor this afternoon. We discussed the importance of developing qualities in children: things like being self motivated, desiring to improve, and wanting to be the best that you can be. As a child, I was enthusiastic about learning and  doing well in school. I usually won the spelling bee each Friday in 5th grade. I didn't really understand why, but almost 100% of the time I was the last person standing at the front of the room, spelling out the final word. I used to wonder if it was an inherited ability.  I thrived on  the challenge and recognition. If that happened today, the parents would probably complain. I'm afraid we are losing the drive for excellence. 

In those days, the teachers put up partitions at our desks. We were not allowed to copy the answers from our neighbors. We had to know them ourselves. If we hadn't studied, our test score would reflect it. You couldn't depend on someone else to do the work for you. It was your responsibility. When people don't learn this way, they expect others to "help" them. They want to ride on your coattails, and to take the easy route. It's a very passive existence, and people who think this way don't develop to their potential. 

My parents and aunt were avid readers, so I followed suit. I think that reading is a habit that is greatly underrated and underused. When I was in elementary school, we were sometimes allowed to read library during class, as a treat. I so looked forward to it. Reading  teaches you rhythm, sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. Just by becoming absorbed in a book, your brain and memory is exposed to what it needs to write and speak well. Children need to soak in material with proper grammar. If you aren't hearing the language being spoken correctly at home, reading well written books will uplift and educate you. It has a simple but profound effect on the ear. 

I am so saddened to hear how the California schools are no longer supporting the work of Helen Keller, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Rose Wilder Lane. These are authors who really wrote from the heart, and with honesty and purity. Their childhood perspective doesn't fit in with today's "politically correct" society. These books opened up a whole new world for me. They were vivid, expressive, and eloquent.  I hope that parents will continue to give these inspiring classics  to their children.

I mentioned to my dad the other day that I had read that some of the younger people today have no desire buy a car, or to own a house. "They don't want a job, either," he added. I laughed at his honesty. To be fair, I see many bright and talented people in their twenties working diligently at Barnes and Noble, Sprouts, and even in the Broadway shows that I see on tour.  They seem excited to be working, and it warms my heart.  I think much of it has to do with what we have observed in our parents. Perhaps those that don't want these responsibilities are people whose parents were struggling with debt.  My guess is that they don't want that stress.     

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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Travel Insurance Has Already Come In Handy

I recently received a phone call from my travel agent, and she sounded stressed.  She asked me if I had seen on the news that the airline I have my vacation booked with may be going bankrupt. I told her that I had no idea. I assumed that since I had purchased my ticket through her travel agency, their  insurance would cover any problems. She called her supervisor, and he answered that  they were not responsible.  I began to get nervous.

Fortunately, I had purchased travel insurance from I bought it right after booking the cruise. I called the agent, and he explained that  the policy I selected with Nationwide does cover an incident like this one. Phew! I had found an excellent fare on a nonrefundable airline ticket a year before my departure.

The man I spoke with told me, "If the airline provides alternate transportation, we'd like you to use it. If not, we will pay for changes to your ticket." I was so relieved. I don't use credit cards, so I didn't have the travel insurance that some of them provide. Not all of the policies have this clause, but mine did, thankfully.

The insurance I selected is designed for cruises. The rates are reasonable, and it is so worth the peace of mind. I will keep an eye on this airline, and see what happens with them in the future. It also made me feel relieved that I had booked a hotel room for the first night, electing to arrive the day before the ship leaves. You just never know what kind of delays you might encounter.  As a professional dancer, certain days were designated as "travel days". I still think that way. The company manager always had us leave several hours early, in case there were any unexpected problems.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Organizing Documents For An Emergency Evacuation

Today I spent some time filing my papers into a kit that I bought on Suze Orman's website. It keeps your financial documents beautifully organized. There are separate folders for copies of your passport, birth certificate, deed to your house, title to your car, etc. I also have my estate planning paperwork in there.

The box is waterproof and fire proof. I bought mine a year ago, and am embarrassed to say that I avoided filling  it for all of this time. Finally, I have put all of the required paperwork into it. It also has compartments for valuables, cash, and a spare set of keys. She knows everything that people need to have in a flood, fire, earthquake, or other unexpected event.

Last week I received an order of some emergency food from 4Patriots. I chose a 72 hour supply of food. It will stay fresh for twenty-five years. I think it's wise to have something that you can quickly grab if you need to leave your home immediately. I am probably going to order one of those earthquake backpacks, as well. It's so important to be prepared.

I feel so much better now. Everything is in one place, instead of scattered around the cottage in different folders. I plan to make copies of my passwords, as well. I will store some extra dog food and water for Lula in the trunk of my car, too.

 I was always raised to be as self sufficient as possible. You just never know the challenges that life will bring your way. I also stock up on extra groceries regularly. It feels good to know that you have plenty of food and water, should something go wrong. How about you? Are you prepared for an emergency?  

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Repairing the Upholstery on a 1930's Chair

The other day I decided to fix the fraying edge on this lovely pink chair that I bought from my neighbor. I purchased some blanket binding and fabric tape at Joannne's. I had scissors in my sewing kit. That's all I needed. It was an easy fix. I just cut a piece of blanket binding the size of the affected area, and spread the adhesive on the back side of the fabric. I carefully pressed it into place, and smoothed it over with my fingers. It was definitely cheaper than paying someone else to fix it for me. Thank you for your comments. They add so much talent and energy to the blog. Please comment in English. I'm sorry, but comments with links will not be published. If you enjoy the posts here, please share them.

Friday, January 18, 2019

A Quick Trip To Palm Springs

On Wednesday, I decided to go see Jersey Boys again. I messaged my friend Danny, (the associate choreographer,) that I was coming. It was a last minute decision, and I had found one seat online. It was on the end,  in the very back row of the balcony. Danny suggested that we meet him in the lobby before the show. "I have a house seat and I'll switch with you," he told me. "I need to watch the show from the back, anyway." I thanked him and felt a rush of gratitude.  I'm on a budget, so I usually buy the cheapest seat available.  House seats are the most expensive in the theater.  They reserve a section of them  for the performers and creative team.  

The parking lot was packed. I couldn't find a spot, so they let me valet park. Since I had Lula with me, I parked myself. She slept in the car while I watched the show. She loves to travel. She just snoozes in the backseat. It only cost $20.00 to have her stay with me at the Best Western. They have special rooms for dog owners. Ours had a lovely balcony overlooking the garden.  You could sit out on the patio and have a cup of coffee. They have coffemakers in the room with delicious coffee. 

I really enjoyed the show. I always do. It was an exciting night. The actor playing Frankie Valli was out.  His understudy was on, and he did so well. They all did. When one of the understudies is on in a show, it has a domino effect. Several other people will have to cover multiple parts, and it's a huge opportunity as a performer. Everyone was so well prepared and rehearsed. I was very impressed.

My job as the dance captain for Anything Goes in Berlin was to swing all of the parts and to teach everyone the show. It's a big responsibility and can be very stressful.  I really appreciate what it takes to keep a show running smoothly. You just never know who is going to get sick or injured, and you have to be prepared for anything.

After the curtain came down,  Danny brought me backstage.  I got to meet several of the people involved in the show. It brought back so many memories. I gazed at all of the costumes preset on the chairs, the scenery, and the special floor. We looked out at the audience from the performers' point of view.  The seats that had been full earlier were now empty. The house lights were up, and it looked completely different from the way it had when we were out there sitting  in the dark, watching the show.

By the time we left, the performers had gone home. They had rehearsed that day, and had completed  a successful performance.  Danny told me that they had another rehearsal tomorrow. It's a hard life, being in show business.  You push your voice and your body to extremes.  It's also very thrilling and rewarding, though.

I drove back to the motel, spent the night, and then checked out the next morning. I was thinking that I needed to stop and buy more water, then remembered that Danny had given me a bottle. He handed it to me  when we met in the lobby. It was so thoughtful of him. It's the little details that make you comfortable on the road.  I had saved it in the car. I breathed a sigh of relief, took a sip,  and drove home in the pouring rain.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Carol Channing Obituary: Part One

Carol Channing died today. She was 97 years old, and lived a very full and vibrant life. I first met Carol when I was a Bluebell dancer in the Show "Hello Hollywood, Hello!" at the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, Nevada. She came in as the first headliner, and boy was she spectacular! I fell in love with her: her vivacity, charm, humor, and stage presence. She was electric and youthful. I would stand in the bathroom during her act, listening to her on the speaker. I studied her vocal inflections, her timing on the laughs, and the rhythm of her skits. She was hysterical. One of my favorite numbers was when she did "Tap Your Troubles Away."  She performed it in flat Mary Jane style tap shoes with huge bows on the feet, like a little girl would wear.  It was so funny, and  never failed to get a laugh. She made her costume changes behind a flimsy partition on stage, while chatting enthusiastically to the audience as she changed her clothes. She was so amusing and entertaining, all of the time.

I used to see her poised on her float before she made her entrance. She always got there about twenty minutes before her cue. It had a staircase, and after someone helped her up at the top, she would stand there, wide eyed, looking around and listening. It was as if she was talking to someone. There was energy streaming out of her body; she must have been rehearsing. I used to wave at her from my Robot costume as she made her exit. One day she came up to me and asked, "What is your name?" "Stephenie," I replied. "Stephenie!" she practically shouted, enthusiastically. From then on, she would always stop on her way to the dressing room and say "Hi Stephenie," in that imitable voice of hers. She was so kind and friendly.  More about Carol Channing tomorrow.

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

When You Don't Drink

I read an article today in The Guardian about how many of today's young people today are making the decision not to drink. It's called, "Time, please: is drinking becoming as socially unacceptable as smoking?" I perked up, as my lifestyle choice not to drink has made several people angry and defensive. Even at age 54, there can be a lot of pressure at social functions to have a glass of wine or a cocktail.

On a recent cruise, I ordered a virgin strawberry daiquiri while others were getting margaritas to enjoy with our Mexican dinner. One of the men I had just met, and really liked, made fun of me for it. "Shirley Temple?" he mocked. I told him enthusiastically after a swallow how delicious it was. It was served in a huge glass, was a gorgeous shade of red, and topped with a generous helping of whipped cream. I ate and drank so many things on that cruise that I normally don't. It was a decadent time, and a  fun and exciting experience. Still, it bothered me that he had to make a crack about the fact that I don't drink. Having someone point it out in public makes you feel uncomfortable and bullied. I smiled and gulped down my fruity concoction.

While attending a reunion for one of the shows I did, one of the men asked me what I was drinking. "Oh, I don't drink," I answered, without thinking. I didn't mean it in a rude way, I just didn't know what to order. "She doesn't drink," he repeated to his friend, angrily.  His voice was rising. He said it to a man that I used to date. It was very uncomfortable, and I felt put on the spot. "Well I could have a coffee..." I suggested, trying to keep the conversation light and pleasant. These were two guys that I really like, and spent a lot of time with when I was young, but the tension was instantly intense. I thought it was strange, because just a few minutes earlier we had been having such a great time together.

A couple of women I know from a craft group looked at me recently and announced, "We like to party." When I saw the hatred and malice in their eyes, I immediately fled. It was a challenge.  I didn't expect it; I was just knitting. "Here we go again," I thought.  They are in their seventies and eighties. I have never been a partier. I love to see my friends, and enjoy going out to a nice dinner, but am not one to stay up all night, making noise, getting drunk, stoned, or wasted. I've never understood that behavior. I love a scrumptious meal, dessert, and great company, but I have always stayed sober. For whatever reason,  this seems to enrage certain people. These two women, in particular, were applying pressure.  I guess it's a choice that threatens some people. Have you ever been ostracized by your decision not to drink or do drugs?

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

An Excellent Book

Yesterday I downloaded an incredible story on  my Kindle. It's called, Nine Years Among The Indians 1870-1979, by Herman Lehmann. This is a gripping tale about a man who was captured by Native Americans as a young boy.  His parents had come to America from Germany.

It is difficult to read, due to the violence, cruelty, and abuse that he suffered. He became a respected warrior with the tribe, but it was a grueling process. I had always romanticized the lifestyle of the native people, being fascinated by their beauty, dress, culture, and spirituality. I even lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for three years, being drawn to the history, landscape,  and blue skies.  I visited historical areas, and attended a couple of pow wows. They were nothing like the tales in this book. It gave me quite an education.

Reading Herman's detailed account opened up an entirely different reality than what I had ever known. The lifestyle of daily murder, theft, and brutality  was pretty horrifying to digest, but also very educational. What I didn't realize was how much the tribes fought against each other. The antagonism and feuding was constant.  I saw many parallels between the behavior of these  people and the problems that we still have today.  He developed an intense hatred of whites, even though he was white. It was fascinating. He had to completely change his ways, in order to survive.

He was returned to his family as an adult, and later married and had children. It is a remarkable life story. I took a long hike today, imagining those times, when all of those pioneers and Indians were intent upon heading West, and felt thankful for my blessings. 

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Making Gauge On Your Hand Knit Sweater

How important is it to match the gauge of the designer when knitting a sweater? Very. A woman in one of the knitting groups I attend asked the ladies why the hat she had crocheted didn't fit. She had made two of them, designing as she went, and was disappointed in the result. "It's too small," she explained.

One of the women asked me what I thought. I answered that I always use a pattern, and make a gauge swatch before  starting to  knit the item. Each yarn will knit up differently. For Carbeth, for example, I made gauge on my first swatch. I used some dk weight yarn that I had in my stash, held double. The pattern is designed that way. The needles worked, the yarn worked, and I could get started immediately.

I loved the sweater so much that I decided to make another one with some bulky weight yarn from Iceland. I needed fourteen stitches in four inches. The first swatch I did on size 10.5 needles, which the pattern suggests. I got 12 stitches. I was two stitches short, so I tried a second swatch on size 10 needles. I ended up with 13 stitches. I switched to size 9 needles, and hit 14 stitches exactly. Phew! It took three tries, but was worth it.

When you are within the parameters of the pattern and its measurements, you will be much happier with the end result. Your sweater will look like the photo, it will fit you, and you will have enough yarn. (It helps to buy a skein of extra yarn, just in case.)

Although some knitters don't like to swatch, it really is worth the time and energy. You are not going to feel stressed and worried about the size of your sweater. You can just relax and knit. Following rules and guidelines in the beginning gives you freedom and confidence in the end.

I have known knitters who refuse to swatch. Some have exploded  into rage if I mention that I do it. I have never seen any of them wearing a hand knit item. It just makes all the difference. It's like laying your clothing on a piece of graph paper.  It insures that your garment will match the pattern. 

This morning I received a message from a gorgeous dancer who I worked with thirty years ago. She had seen a photo on Facebook and  wants to order one of my turtleneck sweaters. Fantastic! This is where swatching is super important- when you don't have the person in front of you to try on what you are making.  She is built like a Ford model, and will look fabulous in it. Still, I am getting her measurements. The length of the sleeves, body, and neck are so important. Everyone has a different shape.  It's more than just being a small, medium, or large. The details make it art. With careful planning, you will end up with a sweater with sleeves that come right to the ends of the wrists, your desired length, and a comfortable fit in the neck.

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Alafosslopi Icelandic Wool Arrived Today

As I sauntered  home from walking Lula this afternoon, I ran into my mail lady. She told me that she had left a package for me. I instantly knew what it was: my denim blue Alafosslopi yarn.  I had just ordered it online from Webs! I was thrilled. I tore open the envelope, and fell in love with the shade of blue.  This wool is just gorgeous! I quickly took a photo and sent it to my brother with a thank you. He bought me the gift certificate for Christmas.

I finished the first cabled green sock. I am over the moon  with the fit. You never know with a new sock pattern how it will feel. The softness is heavenly.  Here are a few photos of it as a work in progress. 

This  is a closeup of the heel. It's so much easier to knit socks on larger needles. I really enjoy it. I will probably just use these as bed socks, though. The yarn doesn't have any nylon in it, so it will wear through very quickly if I'm not careful. I may have to look into ordering some Icelandic sock wool. I am eager to learn stranded knitting.

Here is how it looks on; I haven't worn a knee sock in so many years! It has gotten chilly here in California. I am so happy and grateful to have so many warm, cozy, quality hand knits. They are very comforting and practical. I should have cleaned up my mess before taking this photograph. I have become the mad knitter again. I am in ecstacy with all of this knitting. Tomorrow I really must mop my floors, shop at Costco,  and do laundry.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Did You Start A Diet Today?

My hips were really out of whack in this photo. It was before my bilateral hip replacement surgery.

I didn't. Well, I did do a huge shop yesterday, and bought all kinds of wonderful fruits and vegetables. Sprouts had blueberries and blackberries on sale, so I splurged on four packages of them. I almost never buy berries, because of the cost, but have decided that they are worth it. They are so full of nutrients, and they taste incredible!  Maybe I can grow them...

My intuition has been steering me towards cilantro for the past few months. I have started adding about a half a cup of it to my salads. I learned that from the Medical Medium. It really is a wonderful aromatic herb. I plan to grow it in my windowsill this winter.

This afternoon I picked some rosemary, sage, and thyme from the potager garden. I added them to my bone broth that was simmering on the stove. I grow all kinds of herbs out front, but sometimes I forget to use them. I have also added celery and cucumbers to my daily salads, and it feels like a healthy and beneficial choice.

Are you making any changes to what you eat for the New Year? My plan is to enjoy much more fresh fruit, in place of baked goods. I love them both, but am just as happy with the fruit. My joints do much better this way, and I want to keep my original knees, if possible.  I'll just have breads and pies once in a while,  for a treat.    

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