Thursday, February 28, 2008

Yarn Stash

This year, 2008, one of my 'hopes, goals and intentions' is to use up my yarn stash and not buy new yarn. (Oh, how hard it is to focus on this goal when I see the delectable yarns on blogs and in the daily emails from Knitting Daily.) The Professor has been making noises about the size of my stash, commenting that I have enough yarn and unspun fiber here in Willow's Cottage that I could not possibly ever run out of yarn, enough if I never bought another ball of acrylic, silk, wool or cotton yarn the rest of my life. He has a point.

There is a modest wooden five drawer dresser in the guest room closet that is filled with yarn. One drawer contains the acrylics, another the wool blends, yet another the wool yarns in all weights from sock to bulky. Some of it is unused, new skeins, although there is plenty of leftovers from finished products. I estimate it will take several years of constant eight hour a day knitting to use up the dresser drawer yarn stash.

I also admit to owning three large plastic boxes stuffed to overflowing with unspun wool and llama fiber. I cannot deny that I have already spun a lot yarn from other large plastic boxes stuffed to overflowing with fiber.

I must be honest and tell you about the baskets of natural, undyed, handspun softness that I have placed in strategic spots around the cottage so I can walk by and run my hands over the skeins and think about the llamas named Black Beauty and Ebony who gave me their fiber to turn into yarn. I can push my fingers in between the strands and remember what it felt like when the llama and silk blend was slipping through my fingers, twisting onto the bobbins, and then was being plied into a wondrous creamy two ply sport weight yarn. It feels so good to just touch this yarn that I may never knit it into anything--it is already perfect the way it is.

Then there is the Cowichan wool from Vancouver Island, Canada, that I bought in Victoria in 2003 when The Professor and I were evening guests of my Cherokee friend Singing Bird and her husband and, before we drove out to Butchart Gardens, we visited the 'back room' of a trading post and I chose a large (huge, actually) bag of luminescent silvery grey wool from the shelves of undyed genuine Cowichan wool rovings. It will take many, many evenings of spinning before I run out of roving. And how many hours of knitting will be needed to turn the Cowichan yarn into sweaters, socks or afghans?

It may be between 2011 and 2020 before I NEED to buy another ball of yarn.


Photo Challenge: Travel

Cold Springs Creek Bridge
in the mountains above Santa Barbara, California

You can see other photos here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Beach Walk

Some days, after teaching, our spirits and minds need refreshing and renewing. Our cure for that kind of weariness is a walk at the beach.

We watch the shore birds and are amused by their antics as they chase waves, dig for food and watch the human intruders on their turf.

The afternoon skies are sometimes clear enough that we can see the Channel Islands on the horizon.

These February days amaze us with their beauty and we return home reinvigorated, ready for another day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February Flowers

I see bright February flowers on my daily walks.
A flowering tree...

sidewalk groundcovers...

low growing landscape bushes...

all adding brilliant colors to sunny or cloudy February skies.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Camarillo Regional Park

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ventura Beach

Yesterday the rain came down in bursts, off and on, but mostly on, so I abandoned the daily walk in favor of taking an afternoon field trip with The Professor to Ventura to check out some used book stores.

On the way, we stopped at an anonymous home and garden supply store to choose faucet handles to finish up a shower project that successfully stopped the leaking of both hot and cold water. (Isn't it great that The Professor is a handyman, too?) I wandered over to the plants department, not being particularly enthralled with the idea of looking at all the faucet handle choices. I found a lovely one gallon French lavender because, you know, you can never have too much lavender. We looked for another rosemary plant, but evidently it's a little too early in the herbs season for rosemary.

The Happy Wonderer had kindly given me the addresses for the book stores so we dragged up Ventura's Main Street toward Old Town and the (Buenaventura) Mission district and visited two of the three shops. Abendego Books and Bank of Books reminded me of Powell's Book Store in Portland--immense, stuffed with used and well loved books. The two stores are owned by the same people, as is the third one, The Cookbook Store. Bank of Books has a large basement book room that extends under Main Street and also under the shop next door. I am very proud of myself as I resisted bringing home a number of books I discovered on the shelves and limited myself to only one hard back book, "Gentian Hill" by Elizabeth Goudge (a new author to me) and two more copies of National Geographic Magazine, January 1989.

You may well wonder why I have an obsession with that particular edition of NG--we now own six copies. Why? Because we are mentioned in the article called "Two Worlds of Indonesia". A National Geographic writer came to our village of Mouyeba in 1987, looking for 'the end of the world', the most primitive place in Papua, to interview the people and see for himself how different the worlds of the Papuan interior and the Jakarta urban center were. At that time, the only way in and out of Mouyeba was by helicopter. We often stated that we didn't live at the end of the world but we could see it out the back window of our house.

Then it was time for an early dinner. In my excitement to have an outing with The Professor, I hadn't bothered to eat much lunch and I was hungry. We settled on having fish and chips at a funky little shop on Seaward Avenue, just a block from Ventura Beach. After enjoying the atmosphere of the shop, eating surprisingly excellent coleslaw, chips, fish, and onion rings, and licking our fingers, we went across the street to Full of Beans Coffee Shop. Do you remember that I mentioned that it was raining yesterday? The rain had stopped, blown out to the east by a very strong off shore wind. It was getting colder all the time, mainly because of the chill wind. Our poor Southern California bodies are used to warmth and by the time we got across the street I was shivering. We blew into the shop, the barista took one look at me and asked, "Hot chocolate?"

How did she KNOW?

We took my hot chocolate, picked up a jacket for The Professor and a fleece blanket for me from the car and strolled onto the beach.

It was a short walk. The wind was just too strong, although the sea gulls loved it.

Is there anything more beautiful than a Pacific Ocean sunset?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Letter

Dear Granma,

How are you? We are fine. We miss you. Well, really, Granma, we really aren't so very fine right now. Something is going on here at home that we want you to know about because we are really upset about it. Mama has brought this THING home.

This THING, whatever it is, makes a lot of noise and mess, and all Mama and Daddy do is pay attention to IT. They hold it and look at it and take pictures of it. Of course, we don't mind if they are interested in their 'puters which we like because the 'puters are interesting and they are warm to sit on. But this THING is taking ALL Mama's attention and time. And it moves and yells and it scares us.

Please tell us what to do. We've tried everything to get Mama to put that THING down and come play with us.

Touchy thought that if we did all our usual cute tricks, Mama would hold us and play with us, so he got up on the piano and posed his cutest, bestest innocent kitty pose. Mama laughed and thought he was funny, but she didn't put that THING away.

So I tried it, too. I sat in the bean bag chair and made my eyes big and sweet and tried to look so calm and sophisticated. But Mama didn't even notice!

Then I tried the look-how-sweet-Hobbes-is-when-he-is-playing-with-the-paper-and-the-bag ploy.

Granma, please tell us what to do to get Mama and Daddy to notice us again! We want our calm, quiet lives back. We want Mama and Daddy to go away every day again and leave us to play find the-milk-powder-box in-the-cupboard and dump-the-plant and shred-the-papers games and then when they get home we can snuggle with Mama and sleep on her side of the bed.
If you could come back to our house and hold the THING for Mama, then maybe she'd play string and ribbon with us again. Oh, and if you come, will you please bring some of that yummy smelling green stuff with you? We love that stuff! It makes us feel so happy! And we really need to feel happy again.

With love and purrs from your grand-kitties,
Hobbes and Touchy

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Afternoon in the Garden

We had a full day in and around Willow's Cottage.

At kindergarten recess today, there was this conversation:

Him: "May I pretend to be a vampire? GRRRRR!", making vampire faces.

Me: "No."

Two minutes later, Him: "How about if I pretend to be a cowboy? Without guns."

Me: "O.K. Make sure you don't shoot a gun!"

Him: "GRRRRRR!", riding off into the sunset.

After a nice long walk with my bloggy walking buddy (Hi, Happy Wonderer!), I decided to spend some time pruning and cleaning up my little garden.

This calla lily came with me from Los Angeles. When we moved to LA five years ago, I was gifted several tubers by a friend in Camarillo. I planted them and they prospered in the smoggy, grimey inner city dirt and air. When we moved to the little house by the freeway, I pulled out some of the tubers and plopped them in a container, and they seemed happy to produce lilies in the confines of a one gallon black pot. This winter I planted the lilies back in their native Camarillo soil, and a bloom has already appeared!

When one inherits a garden from a former owner, one has to wait a year's cycle to find out what is in the garden. After watching for little green sprouts in December and January, I have decided that there are no bulbs for spring flowers in my garden. No tulips or daffodils. So, I stepped over to my next door neighbor's back garden and enjoyed one of her daffodils. I do like daffies! I wanted to be married in April, so I could have daffodils at my wedding. (It didn't happen; The Professor and I were married in July. And I really don't want to get married again.)
I have been clipping and pruning the nine camellia bushes as they go through their blooming cycles. Each bush is different in color, form, and time of bloom. Isn't this pink beauty wonderful in its symmetrical form with its delicate round petals?

Another plant I rescued from inner city living was this geranium. Actually, the week we moved, I went out by the school yard fence and clipped a couple of stems from the very large and sturdy geranium that had engulfed the chain link fence. I kept the stems in water until they grew some roots and then I stuck them in a pot. You really can't kill a geranium, even with careless neglect.

It was a restful afternoon of puttering around the cottage garden. Just what I needed.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Day Off

Since it is President's Day, I have the day off from kindergarten. This is a good thing because we had overnight company last night. Long time friends, two adults and four children from Oregon. A wonderful time was had by all. In fact, it was so good, I didn't take a single photograph. We've known this family for 17 years and watched them add five children to their family, take a major step of faith and leave their home, family and friends and make a journey similar to ours, but their journey was to Central Asia. I always feel like they are us, only a half generation later--our families are so much alike. Anyway, we took a walk to let the kids run off a bit of energy, fed the crew bbqed hamburgers, salad, mac cheese and ice cream, and then we settled in to talking for hours, playing Set, letting the older girls watch "Pride and Prejudice", looking at lots of photos of their travels in the -istan countries. We sent them on their way this morning with hugs, waves and a good breakfast. A little bit of our hearts always go with them!

My day off was spent doing laundry, walking with my buddy, puttering around. I poked around in my photos and just wasn't inspired by any of my pictures. Do you ever have days like this?

Maybe I just need to go take another walk here

or here

to clear my brain.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I have reached another milestone. No, it's not my birthday. I have accomplished one of my life goals.

I received news yesterday that I passed the third level of The Knitting Guild Association Master Hand Knitting Program!

This is what the reviewer said in her letter:

"The swatches are all well done, and I am impressed by the improvements in the entrelac and intarsia swatches in particular. They are two of the nicest examples I have seen, and the tail weaves in the intarsia swatch are excellent."

"Congratulations! You have successfully completed all of the requirements for the Master Hand Knitting Program. You are now a fully qualified Master Knitter...."

Willow is now a Master Knitter!
[Willow is also really frustrated with blogger because bad blogger won't show her spaces/rows between paragraphs. Does anyone else have this problem with blogger?]
This is the entrelac swatch the reviewer referred to. Entrelac used to be called the basket weave stitch, for obvious reasons.

Intarsia patterns require the knitter to switch out different colors (balls) of yarn for stitches without carrying the second strand of yarn behind the knitting. The most common way intarsia is used is in argyle socks.

You can imagine that with all the colors being switched around that there are a lot of yarn ends to be woven into the back of the knitted piece. The best way to do the weaving is to use the duplicate stitch. If the weaving is done carefully you can't even see where the ends are woven in.

Needless to say, I'm really excited! I have been working on this program for nearly eight years. It's true that I have lost my father, moved three times, married off three children, and gained a grandson during the eight years, so some years I haven't worked all that hard on it. It feels so very good to have finally finished what I started.

What's next?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book Meme

Barbara at Ramblings From An English Garden tagged me for a Book Meme last week. I've been thinking about the answers and have even gone to sleep pondering about the books I would put in various categories in the meme.

I'd like to tag a couple of people for this meme because I'm curious to know how they will respond. Bethany at Red Yarn, Heather from artgirlATL, and Ellen at Happy Wonderer. And of course, if anyone reading this post wants to jump in and do it, please feel free to do so, and let me know. I'm always looking for book suggestions.

1. A Book that Changed your Life: "Dick and Jane", my first grade reader. This is the first book I remember reading to myself. Learning to read (this book) changed my life.

2. A Book you read More than Once: I have read many books more than once. I can think of two in particular. I read "Dr. Seuss's ABC Book" so many times to my four children that I can still quote the whole book from memory. I have also read all the books in the Little House series more than once (Little House in The Big Woods and The First Four Years and all the others in between).

3. A book you would take to a Desert Island: Besides the Bible. "The TMF Cookbook" which has information on how to cook anything a deserted island's flora and fauna could offer me for food.

4. A book that made you laugh: James Herriot's books make me laugh every time I read them. "All Creatures Great and Small", "All Things Bright and Beautiful", "All Things Wise and Wonderful", "The Lord God Made Them All". I laugh out loud, belly laugh, hysterically howling until I can hardly breathe when I read Herriot's accounts of a country vet's life in Yorkshire.

5. A book that made you cry: I honestly can't think of one right now, although I know I have cried reading books.

6. A book you wish you had written: I wish I, instead of Barbara Walker, had written "A Treasury of Knitting Patterns" because if I had written it that would mean 1. that I had been able to sit around all those hours and KNIT and 2. that I would have a lot of money from the sales of the book. I asked The Professor this question and he said he wished he had written "The Godfather" because the author made a whole lot of money from the book.

7. A book you wish had not been written: I am having a hard time thinking of a book I wish hadn't been written. The only book I can think of might be the psychology book I was supposed to read for my Psych.101 class in college. It was so boring that I, even I who was a good, obedient student and always read all my texts, I did not read it and ended up getting a 'C' in the class, the only 'C' I had in my whole college career.

8. Two books that you are at present reading: "The Green Year" by Barbara Webster, which is the book, the perfect gift, I received from my brother and sister in law for Christmas, and Elizabeth Wayland Barber's "Women's Work, the First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times".

9. A book you are going to read: One of the books on my to read list is the book my friend MS2 (Margaret Stringer) wrote about her experiences as a missionary in Papua, Indonesia: "From Cannibalism to Christianity". I'm going to sneak a second book in here because it is related to this first book: "Hostage 22 Years in the Jungles of W. Papua, Indonesia" by Yohana Mayor and (her father) Mr. Dominggus Mayor, translated into English by Margaret Stringer.

10. A book you read and never figured out: Mike loaned me a book that I started reading, got totally confused and bored with and never finished it. "The Years of Rice and Salt". I don't remember the author. The premise, sort of, was an alternate history of the world if everyone in Europe had died from The Plague; at least, I think that was the premise.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Presenting: The New Boy

Here is our new boy!

He is going to be tall. See how long his legs already are?

Sleep in peace.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thursday Photo Challenge: Emotion

Proud To Serve

U.S. Army Chaplaincy

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Over The Top

Just when I was sure that I had been given the most wonderful blessing I could imagine, the gift of my grandson, and my 'cup' was overflowing with gladness, I received another blessing today. (And thank you all so much for your felicitations on the birth of 'our boy'.)
No, not the coffee. Although I did enjoy a great Americano at my favorite local coffee shop.
I received the blessing of meeting one of my blog friends. Ellen from The Happy Wonderer met me at Palermo this afternoon and joined me for a walk around the town that we both live in. Yes, I am so excited. We both live in Camarillo, and we both are committed to walking our way to fitness. We totaled around 3,500 steps together while we sipped our coffee, chatted and learned that we have much in common. I have prayed for seven months for a walking buddy, and God provided one through the blogging world!

Happy Happy Happy!

It Just Keeps Getting Better!

It's A Boy!
February 6, 2008
7 lb. 9 oz.
21 inches
Willow is a GRANDMA!
Everyone is doing well. No photos yet.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Potpourri Post

Every so often I find myself overwhelmed with the ideas I have for posting on my blog. I love to photograph my knitting and spinning activities and my flowers. I love to travel to interesting places (and to me almost any place in the world is interesting) and take pictures when I am there, wherever there is at the moment. I love to read and share my thoughts about the books on my reading list.

People write lists on their blogs and invite me to participate in telling the blog world what makes me happy or what I want to do before I die. And I think about my answers, about where I want to go, what makes me happy.

Sometimes people send me awards and that makes me so happy that I smile inside and outside all day and into the evening and when I show The Professor, he smiles back at me indulgently.

Last week Mary at The Writing Nook gave me this Excellent Blogger Award. I smiled and smiled and thought about what I could say about it. You may not believe this, but I really am a little shy about receiving awards like this. There are so many, many blogs out in cyperspace and it amazes me that people ever click on the name Willow's Cottage and come over and visit me and read what I write and they actually come back a second time and read and comment. Wow! It makes me so happy!

Mostly I write and post photos about what interests me (see above). So I am truly pleased that others find my blog interesting, too. Thank you, Mary!

Today Anne at nikkipolani gave me a blog award, too. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! She said she likes to read my posts about places I visit and photograph. Thank you, Anne! I suppose I have just assumed that people like to know about the history of California because I am interested in it. It's normal for me to want to know everything about where I live, like I think it's normal to talk about roads, directions and maps. This is not just environment and heredity. It's my personality: a few years ago at World Impact, our staff read the book Now Consider Your Strengths and took the accompanying test as part of our training in understanding each other and in learning to maximize our strengths in our particular positions. Not surprisingly, one of my top five strengths is Context--I enjoy thinking about the past to understand the present by researching its history--and another one is Input--the craving to know more, to collect and archive all kinds of information (important or unimportant, it's all interesting to me!).
This afternoon when I went to the mailbox on my way into the house after working later than usual at school, I found a hand written envelope postmarked from Georgia! I received a lovely note and card from artgirlATL! I brought the letter in and looked at it and smiled. I laid it on the counter, but I didn't open it. I wanted to cherish the moment and prolong the anticipation as long as possible. Finally, after The Professor came home and looked through the mail, I opened the envelope, carefully using a knife to slit the top and not mess up any part of the sweet drawing on the back. Thank you, Heather!

So. What makes me happy today? A blog award, a letter from a friend! A phone call from MamaMia, an IM message from Kiti. A total of 10,000 steps on my pedometer because I walked more at school, walked to vote, walked through the nature park. Happy, happy, happy. I hope you have had a happy day, too.