Thursday, January 31, 2008

Liquidambar Trees

Some people have asked what it was that I photographed for the Thursday Photo Challenge. (This is very exciting to me. People read my blog, leave me comments! Thank you, thank you!)

A Liquidambar Tree.

Just as we were getting into the car in Solvang a couple of weeks ago, I spied the three gumballs hanging from the sweetgum or liquidambar tree in the parking lot. I just had to grab a photo of it. The couple sitting in the car near the tree looked a bit apprehensive; they seemed to think I was an odd specimen running around photographing people sitting in their autos. I was actually pointing my camera above their car.

I think there are (at least) two varieties of this tree. A quick internet search gave me information about the tree. I knew it in Oregon as a sweetgum tree, the nasty, deciduous, fast growing tree that littered my yard every fall and winter with prickly balls and large five pointed leaves. We did not have one on our property but most of my neighbors owned at least one. It seemed like all the leaves from all the trees in the entire neighborhood ended up in my yard for me to rake and dispose of. (This was almost true, due mostly to the wind patterns in our cul de sac.) I thought when we moved to Southern California that I had escaped its messy ways.

Not so. There are sweet gum trees everywhere in our neighborhood. Recently, when we were walking along the path in the nature park, a friend asked me the name of the tree, and I told her it was a sweet gum. But evidently, here in SoCal, the tree is called Liquidambar. Whatever its name, it still drops its balls and leaves and they pile up in the gutters and clog the creek, blow into people's yards and litter the streets.

It is true that they are lovely trees to look at. The seed pods remind me of Christmas balls hanging on the branches.

The trees are noted for their interesting, deeply grooved bark.

The leaves turn crimson, purple or yellow in the autumn.

The balls can be sprayed with gold or silver paint and used in Christmas wreaths.

They are lovely to photograph. But I'll never own one because they grow too fast, get too tall, spread their roots too wide, die too soon, and throw their stuff on the ground for others to pick up.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Moss Stitch Urban Scarf

I have always considered the moss stitch to be a 'country style' stitch, a stitch used for homey comforts such as snuggly afghans, one featured in casual sweaters or scarves. The aran sweater I knitted for the knitting guild submission has liberal amounts of moss stitch, and we all know that aran sweaters seldom look 'urban'.

When I cast on a charcoal alpaca/acrylic blend yarn with a second strand of black wool for a scarf for Son #2, I experimented with mistake rib in different widths. I wanted an urban look, something to match his black leather jacket or his London Fog trench coat. I knitted and tinked, changed needle size, knitted and tinked. It just wasn't working.

I had made a blue moss stitch scarf for myself in December and have been very happy with it, so I decided to just check out a moss stitch with the yarn combination.

I like it.

I think Mike will like it, too.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Yesterday on our walk, The Professor and I noticed the snowy mountains to the north of us. Yes, snowy mountains in Southern California! All the rain we have had here falls as snow above 5,000 feet and provides a wonderful, spectacular backdrop for the lower hills and the palm trees, with the blue, blue sky above the layer of clouds.

Imagine our delight when we found these blossoms on a tree by the road.

These blooms were blowing hard in the wind. And this afternoon the rains returned.

Perhaps there will be more snow on the mountains tomorrow.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Fuzzy Blanket, He Is Done

Yeah, yeah, don't blog me and tell me that my grammar is bad. I know. But that phrase is exactly what I thought when I finished weaving in all those wiggly ends on the back side of the Fuzzy Blanket last night.

All of this blanket's lovely cottony softness, knitted with all my hopeful , prayerful love for this baby, is just waiting for him, to wrap him up and keep him warm.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday Photo Challenge--Nature

Seagull Sand Prints

To see more Thursday Photo Challenge photos--

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Seagulls of Thornhill Broome Beach

Seagulls of Thornhill Broome Beach

Seagulls are interesting beach birds. They gather in flocks, hanging out at the water's edge, eating leftovers snacks, gossiping about the beachcombers, the terns, and those odd solitary birds-those pelicans,

playing catch-me-if-you-can with the waves,

whiling away the afternoon,

until evening comes and the westerly sun turns the horizon pink-orange-red,

and they fly off into the sunset.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Back To History Challenge

I came across a reading challenge blog in December and was intrigued by the concept. Basically you commit to reading 12 books in 2008, one a month, either historical fiction or historical nonfiction. I enjoy reading and I enjoy history, and since I was once a US History teacher, I decided to get myself back into the habit of 'bettering my mind' by reading in an academic area.

So I've joined. As usual, I'm a month behind in signing up and in choosing my books. I have made a List on the side bar here on my blog and have listed six books so far. I must confess that I have in the past year or two started reading four of the six books and have gotten distracted. This is my effort to encourage myself to FINISH reading the books I have started.

So far, this is my list:

A Distant Mirror, Barbara W. Tuchman
Europe in the Fourteenth Century

Faith and Treason, Antonia Fraser
Story of the Gunpowder Plot (Guy Fawkes)

Pat Nixon, The Untold Story, by Julie Eisenhower
Biography by Pat's daughter Julie

The Bounty, Caroline Alexander
The true story of the Mutiny on The Bounty

Turning Points, Mark A. Noll
Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity

Women's Work: The First Twenty Thousand Years, Elizabeth Wayland Barber
Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times

I will be adding six more books to the list as I decide which ones I want to read. I think I'll be adding some children's books because I have a rather large collection of children's books, many of them history, and many of them that I haven't read yet.

If anyone has suggestions for good historical children's book (both fiction and nonfiction), please let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Michael

Twenty-seven years ago today, in a little mission hospital a long long way away from California, in the middle of a jungle swamp, a little boy was born. Too early, too little, but oh-so-alive.

Happy Birthday, Michael! For twenty seven years you've been a source of great joy, laughter, wonder, and friendship to your brothers and sisters and your parents. Wishing you many more years of exploring and learning, of playing volleyball and going for night runs.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Announcements, Announcements, Announcements!

Do you remember the tests for which I was madly studying and cramming in November and early December? I had to take all three sections of the CTEL (Certificiation for Teaching English Learners) for the State of California in one day. It cost me big bucks to register and take the tests. If I didn't pass the tests, I'd have to 1) retake them in June 2008 and pay the big bucks again, and 2) possibly lose my position because I did not have the required certifications for the job.

I knew the unofficial scores would be posted today and I had not decided whether I would even go to the internet site and look. I was not real confident about at least one of the tests. Finally, this afternoon I took myself firmly in hand and reminded myself that it is better to know the worst than keep wondering. So I opened my email to scroll down and find the email that had my registration number and there in my inbox were three emails telling me my scores were unofficially published.

I opened the first one: pass.

I opened the second one: pass!

I opened the third one: PASS!!

People, I passed ALL THREE of the tests! I am so relieved!

So, tonight, The Professor is bringing home a pizza! In our family, we have traditionally celebrated milestones with pizza or a congratulatory meal provided by the person who achieved the milestone.

Tonight the pizza's on me!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Yes, There Is Knitting

While I haven't written much about knitting lately, I have been knitting almost constantly. I knit nearly every day. Right now I am on the last stitches of a baby blanket, a very special one.

Presenting the Fuzzy Organic Cotton M.C. Escher Blanket:

Fuzzy--my soon to be born grandson's nickname

Organic Cotton--Blue Sky Alpacas, 100% organic cotton yarn in Periwinkle and Sky

M.C. Escher--the mitered diamonds are knitted in a changing pattern reminiscent of that amazing artist M.C. Escher

The pattern, originally shared with me by Roxie at Sanna's Bag, is deceptively easy. It is worked in garter stitch and all you really need to know to make this is 1. how to make a knit stitch, 2. how to k2tog, or knit two stitches together, and 3. how to pick up stitches along the edge of already knitted material.

I cast on 16 stitches, placed a marker, cast on 16 more stitches. I knitted every row, knitting two stitches together (k2tog) just before the marker, until there were 2 stitches left and I then passed the first stitch over the second stitch, cut the yarn and pulled it taut. OK, so, there is a fourth thing you need to know--4. how to pass that first stitch over the second one.

I made 6 diamonds, placed them in a row, picked up 16 stitches along the top diagonal edge of one, placed a marker, picked up 16 stitches along the facing diagonal edge of a second diamond and worked the same pattern as above. I attached all six diamond together the same way and then kept adding diamonds until I had 14 rows of diamonds. I switched out the two colors to make an interesting pattern. Every other row, along the edges I had to make 'half diamonds' and for those I simply picked up 16 stitches and decreased every other row along the outer edge of the blanket.

The yarn is so so soft and cuddly. A perfect gift of love for my first grandchild.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Solvang, California is a Danish replica village located in the Santa Inez Valley north of Santa Barbara. You can get there via Highway 154 to the east of Santa Inez or by Highwy 101 that takes you through Buellton.

According to sites on the internet Solvang was established in 1911 by Danish settlers who had come to the US but relocated to California to avoid harsh midwest winters (smart move).

You can see the Danish influence in the buildings and decorative accents.

The first time I visited Solvang was when I was in college. My memories from that visit are of 'gooies', wonderful Danish pastries, and of Thumbelina, the historic Danish needlework shop.
The first year we were married, The Professor went to Solvang a couple of times. And through the years, every time we visited Southern California, we would make sure we ran up to Solvang for the day, just to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere (and the pastries).

Our friends MS1 and MS2 noticed the thatch roofs, but the focus of the conversation was not on thatch roofed houses in Europe but on the similarities between the Danish roofs and the palm frond covered roofs we were familiar with in Papua.

We ate lunch at a restaurant that featured a buffet complete with danish meatballs, mashed potatoes, red cabbage, and various American and Danish foods. I would happily recommend the restaurant if I could only remember the name of it.
I had to drop by my favorite yarn shop in the world:

If you ever visit Solvang you really must go to Village Spinning and Weaving. The owners are truly the nicest people and always very helpful. They sell Lendrum spinning wheels and since I own one and needed a new drive belt, they were able to explain which one was best and how to put it on, so now I have a working wheel again (thanks to The Professor, too, who actually fixed the wheel).
There is also a historic mission in Solvang. Old Mission Santa Ines. We didn't have time to visit the mission. That just gives us a reason to return!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Spur of The Moment

In the middle of the week, The Professor answered our ringing phone. (We generally have a contest at Willow's Cottage to see who can outwait the other to be the person who has to answer the phone--but that's another story) Our longtime friend up in Santa Barbara was calling to tell us another old friend was in Santa Barbara for a few days. Would we like to get together? Of course!

The Professor and I have deep connections to the people with whom we lived and worked in Papua. I would describe our relationships with them as similar to what soldiers experience with 'battle buddies'. These two women have long been my heroes, single ladies who 'answered the call' to minister by themselves in a wild and sometimes dangerous place. MS1 was a teacher in California and went to Papua to teach national teachers to be better teachers. MS2 was a linguist who developed a writing system for the Citak language and translated the New Testament into Citak. She also pioneered a visiting ministry to the Vakabuis people who, like the Moskona among whom we lived, were traditionally cannibals. MS1 and MS2 are both retired now and still in demand as speakers and writers.

We drove up to Santa Barbara on Friday to have lunch with MS1 and MS2. Oh, the laughter, the stories, the reminiscences!

We decided that it wouldn't take so long to drive up Hwy 154 past Cold Springs Tavern and Lake Cachuma to Solvang for lunch. MS2 is a Southern Girl from South Carolina and had never seen this part of Southern California. So we did.

Highway 154 is the old Stagecoach route that leaves Santa Barbara and climbs up into the mountains behind the city, turns north and winds along the edges of the hills and past Lake Cachuma and Bradbury Dam.

Cold Springs Tavern was a stagecoach stop. The restaurant is still open and famous as a 'destination' for lunch or dinner.

Until the Cold Springs Arches Bridge was built in 1963, all traffic passed by the tavern, but now most cars and trucks whiz by 400 feet above the tavern on the 1,218 foot bridge. If you watch many tv car commercials, you will eventually see this bridge in one of the commercials. It's a favorite of car commercial photographers. You can see why.

Lake Cachuma is actually a reservoir that was formed when Bradbury Dam was built. The water level in Lake Cachuma is quite low right now due to the severe lack of rain Southern California has had for the past several years.

Most people think that Southern California is all smog, freeways and cities. But there are large areas of undeveloped ranch land and vineyards, undevelopable terrain and steep mountains.

It takes only 45 minutes to drive from Santa Barbara to Santa Inez, about the same amount of time you'd spend on an LA freeway to go 15 miles in rush hour traffic. But the view from the car window is oh-so-different.

Lunch in Solvang--tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

You Make My Day

Some people don't understand why I enjoy blogging. Obviously, they just don't get it. I meet new people, read interesting stuff, see photos of amazing places. I learn so much!

Bethany at Red Yarn is someone I met through blogging. I'm getting to know her life and family and she, mine. She gave me this award:

Thanks, Bethany! You make my day, too.

I'm not so good at passing on awards. I don't know how I can choose just ten people. The award rules say: "Give the award to 10 people whose blogs bring you happiness and inspiration and make you feel happy about blogland. Let them know by posting a comment on their blog so they can pass it on. Beware you may get the award several times."

I check these blogs every day because the writers inspire me, make me laugh, and make me think. Roxie, Sara, Kate, Monica, Barbara. I've started checking in with Neulekirppu, Elizabeth, Tyra and Rima. So many other people inspire, amuse me, and challenge me. If you read my blog and I read yours, I want you to know I enjoy each and every encounter.

Have a great day in blogland! Leave me a comment and Make My Day!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Warming Up

I have to leave in a few minutes for a meeting, but I just must post some warmer photos. I get the chills and shivers looking at my last post! I hope these pictures will warm you (and me) with memories of summer and blue skies.

Memories of lazy summer days at the beach.

Tangerines on my tree.

Be warm today!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Potpourri Post

Willow and The Professor are home from another adventure. We are, as always, excited to go and happy to come home again. We flew Long Beach, CA to Phoenix, Arizona to Detroit, Michigan. Then we flew back again the same route. Going both directions we were delayed, mostly by weather which often happens when one travels in the winter. When we arrived in Detroit at our hotel, it was 5am. We had missed the whole night's sleep. Maybe that's the best way to quickly adjust to the three hour time change. When we returned we were late leaving Phoenix because, while the plane was there, the crew was not. And you can't fly a plane without a pilot.

Normally we fly in and out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This trip we drove a little farther south and flew out of Long Beach Airport. This airport looks just like airports did in the 1950s. In fact, if you watch a movie made to look like it was set in the Fifties or Sixties, and there is an airport, you will most likely see Long Beach Airport. There is one small waiting room on only one level, outdoor-only baggage claim. The staff is friendly and helpful and the atmosphere is a little more low key, more laid back, sleepy town. High powered flyers don't fly out of Long Beach.

Detroit was cold! The Professor and I lived in Illinois for four winters so we do know about cold and snow. But we are Southern Californians now and our bodies just aren't used to freezing temperatures. The Princess is a Southwest girl and she had never seen it snow before. We felt so sorry for Big Boy! Snow on his head and icicles on his ears!

There had been a storm on New Year's Eve that dropped twelve inches of snow on Detroit. I had forgotten about how the snow plows remove the snow from the roads and parking lots, but the stuff has to go somewhere until the temperatures rise enough so it will melt. I remember the winter of 1985 in Illinois when the city of Chicago simply gave up plowing most city streets and kept only the main roads plowed because there was so much snow.

I had also forgotten that midwest houses are mostly made of brick. I tried to take photos, but it's not easy when you are in a rental car driving along unfamiliar roads and peering through the snow. There were lovely brick houses, covered with snow, looking like they were waiting to be featured on next year's Christmas cards. I even caught a glimpse of a picturesque red barn, perched on the hillside, a brilliant cardinal sitting in its nest of white fields, but I didn't have time to even point and shoot as we whizzed by. Another thing I had forgotten was the stark black and white landscape of a midwest winter. Black, white, gray, brown. Especially when it's cloudy and there is no blue sky to add a punch of color.

No green lawns or green leaves. No green palms waving in the breeze.

Just ice, snow and brittle branches.

The reason we went to Detroit in January was Chaplain Dan. Sending him off at the airport helped prepare our hearts for this separation. It was something we could do for him, for The Princess and for ourselves.

Godspeed, Dan.