Monday, December 31, 2007

Best of 2007--Air, Earth, and Fire


In the Breeze

Hermosa Pier, Hermosa Beach, California

31 July 2007


The Golden State

The Grapevine, Highway 5, California

November 2007


After the Fire

Malibu, California

31 December 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best of 2007--Water

Somewhere I read a blog (I think I remember where, but I don't have time to make sure and put the link up cuz we're on the way out the door to attend a wedding, and I will do that as soon as I have time) about posting your favorite or best photo for 2007. UPDATE: the meme about posting your favorite photo of 2007 originated here: . The blog is written in Finnish. I saw the reference to the meme here: . I have thought about it and looked through all my photos, but I could not choose just one. So, I am going to post, over the next few days, the Best of 2007: Water, Earth, Air and Fire. I am supposed to tell when, where, what and which camera. All the photos were taken with my sweet little Canon Power Shot SD 600.

Woman Against the Sea

Manhattan Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach, California

31 July 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Green Year

Sometimes, some years, someone finds just the right present for me for Christmas. This year, my brother and my sister in law who was also my best friend in high school hit the jack pot. They mailed me a book from their Christmas tree farm in Oregon.

SIL Flower and I have a penchant for reading nature books. More than ten years ago she found a book in her small town library, checked it out and read it, called me and said, "You've got to read this book!" My library in a small town on the other side of metropolitan Portland didn't have the book, so Flower checked out her library's copy again and loaned it to me. I read it and called her and said, "I want to own this book so I can reread it whenever I want!"
But, alas, as these stories often go, we couldn't find another copy of the book anywhere. Not even at Powell's. So Flower asked the librarian if she could buy the book from the library.
The library lady pulled up the check out history on the book and told her, "We can't sell the book because it has been checked out within the past seven years."
"But, I'm the only person who has ever checked it out, and I'm the only one who wants it!"
"No, sorry," was the answer.
Flower and I talked about the book occasionally and looked in used bookstores when and where ever we traveled. No book.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from Flower.
"You're going to love your present!" she wrote. "What's your new address?"
The package came on the 23rd. I put it intact by the other gifts, didn't even take the gifts out of the mailing envelope. I knew if I once started the opening process, I wouldn't stop and wait for Christmas morning.
9:00am December 25th: The phone rings. It's the Brother and Flower calling to wish us Merry Christmas.
"Do you like your present?"
"I haven't opened it yet. We're waiting for the Boy to wake up."
"Open it NOW!"
So I handed the phone to The Professor and he reported my reaction to them.
"She's jumping up and down, clutching the book and hugging it."
The perfect gift.
The Green Year by Barbara Webster. 1956. First edition.
The story of Barbara and her husband Ed's green year, the year they 'took off' to be home, to just BE.
How vainly men themselves amaze
To win the palm, the oak, or bays,
While all the flowers and trees do close
To weave the garlands of repose!
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade.
Andrew Marvell

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Wishing All a Very Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year

Willow and The Professor
Willow's Cottage

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Bandung Christmas

Bandung is a large city on the western end of the island of Java, in Indonesia. It is up in the mountains northeast of Jakarta, about three hours' train ride away from the national capital. Bandung is a university city. In 1979, when we went there to study Bahasa Indonesia (the Indonesian language) there were five universities in Bandung.

We lived in Bandung for ten months. Our main responsibility was to become fluent in Indonesian, which we did. At the time we had two children, aged four and two. In fact, they had their fourth and second birthdays within weeks after we arrived in Bandung. When we left Los Angeles in July, we were allotted six suitcases for the four of us because the little one wasn't yet two and didn't get luggage allowance. We had to take our own bedding, clothes and personal items for our ten month stay because all the rest of our possessions were being shipped (literally) to Irian Jaya (now Papua). Christmas decorations weren't high on the list of items to pack in the suitcases.

I wanted our first Christmas in our new country to be remembered. So I went to the fabric bazaar (the one where foreign women got pinched walking through the aisles, but that's another story) and found some aida cloth and embroidery floss. You may know that Indonesia was for four hundred years a colony of The Netherlands, so the concept of cross stitch was not unfamiliar. I bought red fabric and some ribbons, and I cross stitched and sewed Christmas stockings for our pre schoolers.

I also stitched four little tree decorations. We didn't have a tree, but I hung them on a string in the living room. The tree was The Professor's, the nutcracker, Chaplain Dan's, and the candles were mine. Kiti's angel has gone to Phoenix to live on her tree.

One little known fact about living in the tropics that we learned early on is that metal WILL rust in the damp and humid climate. Evidently I left a metal hanger in the Christmas box one year.

Every year when I pull out the Christmas decorations and see 'Bandung Christmas 1979', I am transported back to that land of bananas, coconuts, terraced rice fields, active volcanoes, and rambutan fruit. The first time we ate rambutan in Bandung was that Christmas because rambutan season lasts only three weeks in December. We bought a stalk of the red spidery looking round balls, split open the peel with our thumb nails and tasted the sweetest sweetest fruit in the world. A Bandung Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Another Thing About Teaching Kindergarten

I have another cold. I am sure that one of the kindergarteners gave it to me. They've all been sneezing, snuffling and sniffing and they also do things like chew on pencils and snack bags that I have to touch. I use hand sanitizer, but some times the little germs get past my defenses.
I realized last night that the sneezes did not have anything to do with an allergy. By the time I went to bed, I had all the classic cold symptoms. I did make it to church this morning but after that I came home and sat on the family room sofa. Actually I reclined, lay down, rested in a supine position. I haven't much energy.
Nevertheless, I'll be up and at school in the morning. Only four more days of school until break. I wonder how many children will be absent either because they are already gone on vacation or because they have colds too.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Traditions, Continued

A Christmas tradition that my mother, her mother, and probably HER mother's mother, passed down to me, and that I have passed on to my children, is baking Christmas cookies. Not just any Christmas cookies, but Grandma Graf''s Sugar Cookies.

The recipe for these not-too-sweet-even-when-frosted sugar cookies has been a family favorite for possibly 100 years. I bake some of these every year. This involves buying shortening, eggs, real vanilla, and buttermilk and, most importantly, choosing which cookie cutters to use. My grandmother and mother collected cookie cutters and their collections were eventually handed down to me. There were old, old ones that I remember using to cut out the sugar cookie dough at Grandma's house on the hillside when I was a little girl. Bells, rabbits, stars, flowers, crescent moons, trees, scotty dogs.

You can see that the cutters are well used and well loved. They're smashed, scratched and dented. But they still work just fine.

Through the years, Mom and Grandma branched out from the usual trees, bells and gingerbread men and acquired all kinds of non-Christmas cutters like cats, horses, cars, hearts, and teapots.

Last summer, I decided to share my collection with my children. They all chose their favorites and carried them back to their homes to start their own cookie cutter collections and their own baking traditions.

I shared the family recipe with my sister in law and she makes them at their house on the Christmas tree farm in Oregon. My brother prefers his cookies unfrosted, although I have never figured out why. The more confectioner's sugar and vanilla flavoring, the better, in my estimation.

Come on over to Willow's Cottage and enjoy some Christmas cookies with me!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Teaching Kindergarten

A job is a job, most of the time. You can hate your job or love it. My job is okay and I'm okay at it. But some days, I've just gotta laugh at kindergarteners!
One of my duties is to correct the homework. Each week we focus on a letter and the students draw or cut out pictures of objects that begin with that letter. For example, M. Moose, Mom. Or T. Truck, Turkey.
This week's letter was V. So we looked at pictures of Vases, Vacuums, Vests, Vultures, Volcanoes. The homework pages reflected what we had learned about the letter V during class. Except for one little guy. He chose to cut out pictures of Variety Pack (cereal) and
Sometimes my job makes me laugh.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


All over Blogland, people are posting photos of Christmas decorations and writing about their traditions. I have been reading and imagining having those traditions in our family. I have realized through the years since returning to the US and living here that, during those years when we lived in Papua, we didn't have a lot of traditions other than just being together during Christmastime. Of course we had Christmas stockings on Christmas mornings and we six had presents we gave each other and goodies that our families would send us by slow slow mail. Our moms would go to the post office in September and send off the presents for their grandchildren and would hope the boxes wouldn't be lost, stolen, damaged or late. There wasn't much one could purchase in the stores in Manokwari in those years in the early 1980s. And if we were interior in one of the villages, there was nothing at all because there were no stores.
Christmas in Papua, Indonesia was mostly about going to church on Christmas Day and visiting people on December 26th, which was Second Day Christmas (Hari Natal Kedua). But it was wonderful because the older children were home from boarding school and we could all be together. We played Scrabble, Uno, Oh No Ninety-nine, and Hearts. We put together puzzles. We read "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" every year, and then we would choose a book for The Professor to read to us--a nice long chapter-after-chapter book. We'd read after lunch while everyone in the whole country rested, we'd read after dinnner, The Professor sitting by the kerosene lamp so he could see the print--there was no electricity in the village, and in town at the Bible School, the generators were turned off at 10pm, so if we wanted to finish that last chapter we had to fire up the kerosene pressure lamp.
When we left Papua and moved to Oregon, we each were allotted three suitcases by the airline to carry our worldly possessions. We sold almost everything-- toys, pots, pans, dishes, decorations, and we shipped our boxes of books home by slow slow boat.
There wasn't much in the way of Christmas that made the cut in those suitcases. So we started over making traditions and gathering Christms memories. I'd like to share three of them.
Many years ago, maybe 35 years ago, before my brother married my sister in law, she gave our grandma a hand blown glass Christmas tree. Grandma put it out every year and I remember seeing it on her piano when I was home one Christmas to visit. When Grandma passed away, my mom took it and put it out on her piano. After my mom was gone and my dad moved into a nursing home, I brought the little glass tree to my house and I have put it out every year in Willow's Cottage. It's only 6 or 7 inches high.

Even longer ago, before I met The Professor, my mom made a ceramic candle lamp. You can see that at one point, the flame was broken and reglued. I put it up every year, not because I think it's beautiful, but because my mom made it.

In the 1980s we lived near Chicago for two winters while The Professor was working at the hq of the mission we were working with. We stayed in a 3 bedroom furnished apartment and again had brought only our clothing with us from Papua. I found this nutcracker the first December we lived there, and took it back to Papua, and eventually to Oregon, and now to California.

Wherever we have lived, we've enjoyed an Advent wreath with candles. This year I chose an evergreen and pine cone wreath and white pillar candles.

What are our favorite traditions? Drinking eggnog. Singing Christmas carols and listening to Boney M's Christmas, Handel's Messiah, Nat King Cole's Christmas carols. Sending Christmas cards. Spending time with our family. Putting up Christmas lights and decorating our Christmas tree.

What are your traditions?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday, Monday

This is how I am spending my Monday afternoon. I am drinking Earl Grey tea from a Christmas mug. It somehow seems better to use a mug instead of a tea cup for tea during the Christmas season. There's something about a festive mug that is just right. My mother gave me this mug in the early 1990s. After we returned to the US and moved to Oregon, we celebrated only four Christmases with her before she passed away of cancer. She gave each of the six of us a mug. I got the church mug, The Professor got a stocking mug, Kiti and MamaMia had candycanes and the boys had snowmen. We use them every year for coffee, tea or eggnog, and when the children have gotten married and started their own Christmas traditions, I've sent the mugs along with them to their homes.

I enjoy sending Christmas cards. This year I've gotten a late start, so my goal is to address twenty cards a day until I am finished. Every year in the week after Christmas, I shop at the stationery store and choose the next year's cards and pay 25% of the original cost.

This is what we are having for dinner.

16 oz can cranberry sauce
1/3 c French dressing
1 sliced onion
3 lbs beef roast

Place all ingredients in crockpot, cover and cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 8 hours.
I think I'll serve the beef roast with mashed potatoes, green beans and salad.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ready For The Week

It's Sunday night, and here at Willow's Cottage, The Professor and I are relaxing a little before I pull out the math and language arts teacher manuals and do some prep for the coming week.
Thank you so very much for your thoughts and prayers for my tests yesterday. I was surprisingly calm and cool and collected. I won't know the results of the tests until mid January, which is fine with me. It's out of my mind now, and I can't do anything about it, anyway.
I can focus on the remaining nine days of kindergarten before we have time off for Christmas break. I can also start thinking about Christmas! I pulled my decorations and Christmas mugs out of the closet and we are going to have some eggnog in our favorite mugs. I found my Christmas cards and began writing my list. I really do enjoy sending Christmas cards and receiving them, too.
It's a start. No more Bah Humbug.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My December Garden

When The Professor and I moved Willow's Cottage out of Los Angeles and to Camarillo last summer, we found our garden adorned with nine (9!) camellia bushes, two in front and seven along the side of the house. Camellias are not my favorite bush flowers mainly because of the mess that the blooms make when they fade and fall off the bushes. My only experience with camellias is from my grandmother's Portland garden. She had camellias all across the front of her large hillside porch. I mentioned to one of my new neighbors that I intended to pull some of them out after they bloomed in the spring. She gazed at me a moment and quietly stated, "Those camellias bloom at different times throughout the year." I have discovered her statement to be true. This bush with its variegated pink and white blossoms is in its last stages of bloom.

This bush is just starting to bloom

as is this one.

I may change my mind about the camellias. They really are quite pretty and I find I like the idea of different bushes blooming all year long.

Yesterday I went out and walked around and watered the back garden, which basically starts beyond the walkway behind the house and extends up one terraced section and the hillside for about twenty or thirty feet. I decided to take snapshots of what is blooming back there, mostly so I will know what I have and can make informed decisions about what to pull out and what to keep once planting season starts.

Honeysuckle (I think)

Brilliant purple ground cover. The plant is brittle and its gray color does nothing to endear itself to me.

Two more ground cover bushes, lavender and white. Ground covers are important components to a hillside garden. They keep the neighbor's house where it belongs, on the street above me.

Bright red berries on a bush that looks like it was slashed with a machete. It stands alone in the middle of the ground cover and on its left maybe five feet away is an oleander bush almost completely engulfed in cape honeysuckle vines that have sneaked over uninvited from the next door neighbor's garden. I have my work cut out for me up there in the spring.

I brought a pot with me from Los Angeles filled with the ubiquitous lobelia and impatients. It's living quite happily on the terraced section next to the pots of rosemary, catnip and mint.

I am still considering putting the white iceberg roses just above the terrace in the back, sort of like a second tier. I'd like to plant them with other white flowers like cosmos and allysium. One concern we have is water conservation, so I will have to balance using plants I am familiar with from Oregon where water usually isn't a great concern and branching out with new plants that are used in water wise and native gardens.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It's A Small World After All

Have you ever been to Disneyland in California and gone on the ride It's A Small World? Or have you ever sung the little song with the same name that plays over and over while you are on the ride?

It's a small world after all,

It's a small world after all,

It's a small world after all,

It's a small, small world!

There are many connections around the world especially now with email, cell phones and blogs.

Several months ago I stumbled, and who remembers how, across a blog titled, Ramblings From an English Garden. I love anything English and I love gardens, so I clicked on it, and found my way to Barbara's blog.

Do you do this? Do you look at the side bar links and randomly click on interesting sounding blogs? Who could resist a blog named Much Ado About Something? It's right out of Shakespeare. So I began regularly reading Sara's blog.

One day, Sara happened to mention a place in her home town and I realized she lived in the town where I attended church until we moved to Camarillo. It turns out that we had actually attended the same church for over four years and normally sat about twenty feet away from each other. But we had never met. This may sound strange to people who attend churches with small congregations, but our church is quite large.

The Professor and I were back in the Los Angeles area over the weekend and attended the morning service at our old church. I had let Sara know and we arranged to meet after church. It was just like seeing an old friend who I hadn't seen for a long time. And we were able to meet CT, Sara's husband, as well.

What a Small World!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Knitting Helps

Knitting helps me get through my hundreds of pages of reading about culture, literacy, and assessments. I pulled out my moss stitch scarf to work on while I read through tens of pages about culture, the intercultural educator, and culturally responsive schooling.
I have to admit that the chapter on assessments was so dense and information intensive that I couldn't knit and read at the same time as my yellow high lighter holding hand was too busy marking important phrases.

This lovely yarn is 80% alpaca, 20% silk and because it is light blue, I think I will keep this scarf to wear myself. It will be my reward when I finish studying and testing on Saturday.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Additional Note about the Green Sweater

I want to mention one more thing about the sweater I knitted for Kiti and mailed off to her yesterday.
The pattern for the green sweater is from Interweave Knits Summer 2006 edition. I had been looking around on the internet for an appropriate pattern for her and this was the only one I found that would be suitable.
The ribbing pattern used throughout makes a very stretchy knit. The buttons on the sides can be undone if the sweater is tight.
The name of the pattern is the Mommy Snug.

Yes! Did you get it?
I'm going to be a GRANDMA!
I am going to get to know that road between Camarillo and Phoenix, Arizona really well. And my grandbaby is going to have a handknitted sweater for every season.