Thursday, December 30, 2010

What Did You Get for Christmas?

Christmas did come and go, and it was wonderful!  All the children were here except one who is deployed as an Army Chaplain outside the US right now.  (We did have the privilege of talking with him on Christmas Day.)  And of course the New Boy charmed us all with his infectious laughter and funny speeches. 

Since it is Friday, it's Fave Five time.  The last FFF of 2010.  Susanne is hosting, as usual, at her blog.

1. Airport Runs.The anticipation of meeting loved ones in front of the Burbank Airport made the drives back and forth worth it!  Sometimes we drove in the sunshine

and sometimes in the rain. 
(If you are an Anamaniacs fan, you might recognize the Warner Bros. tower in the background of this photo.  There really is a real tower.)

2. The New Boy is currently obsessed with cars, busses, trucks and trains.  Nothing is better in his opinion than a Thomas the Tank Engine book, shirt, or dvd.  His Bapa and Meema gave him this train book

3. and the promise of a real live train ride, which he received on Tuesday.

4.  Reading books with The New Boy.  Ginger.  Where the Wild Things Are.  Ookie-Spooky.  In the Forest.  Tikki Tikki Tembo.  The Mitten.

5.  Lunch with my daughter, a friend and her daughter.  so. much. fun.

Tonight is New Year's Eve.  I think we're staying home and recovering quietly from a very busy and happy Christmas Week.  What are you doing?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Let There Be Sunshine

After nine days of constant rain, Southern California is finally seeing the sun again.

Sunshine and clouds.
Reflecting life.

Today I am cooking and baking and waiting.
Waiting for packages and people to arrive.
Waiting for phone calls that state, "We're almost here!"
Waiting for the festivies to begin.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Heroes and Friends

This edition of Friday Fave Five is brought to you by the Heroes and Friends Division of Willow's Cottage.  You can find other editions of FFF at Susannes' blog, Living to Tell the Story.

1.  My husband.  Hero!  Not only does he share the laundry, cleaning, shopping, and dishwashing chores, he cooks too.  And he rescues me from horrible monsters and scary laptop messages from the cyber sphere. One evening this week as I was attempting to organize my digital photos, he sat patiently next to me, figuratively holding my hand, while I learned what for me are new technical tricks and for him is 'old hat' stuff that he probably teaches his students the first week of class.  Suddenly, a message popped up which warned of the imminent destruction of the universe!  Even he, the laptop hero, had not seen this before.  He took command of the computer, pushed a few buttons, spoke a magic incantation, and suddenly all was well again.  Hero indeed!

2.  I am doubly blessed to have a longtime (read: high school) best friend who is also a relative- my brother's wife.  Committed to each other for so many years, we chat regularly from neighboring West Coast states, sharing our laughter, tears, hopes, dreams, memories.  When we're old women, together we will wear purple, sit next to each other in our rocking chairs, and still be s-i-ls and best friends.

3.  I met a new friend this week at the monthly meeting of the local spinners and weavers guild.  She's a recent transplant from the North East part of the US.  Because we have both moved many times in our lives and we both have interests in fiber arts, we already had much in common.  I invited her to have coffee and we're already planning to meet again in January before our next guild meeting.

4.  Recently, we reconnected with friends we knew when we lived in Indonesia.  Finding out that they are visiting in Orange County right now, we are planning to drive down to see them.

5.  Today is a friend's birthday!  You know what that means!  Coffee, goodies, hugs, best wishes for another wonderful year!  I found the perfect photo for her in my digital archives and printed it on a 'birthday' card for her.

As the old proverb states,
 "Make new friends, but keep the old.
The new are silver, the others gold.

Do you have friends and heroes in your life who make every day better?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Small View

Friday again.
Friday Fave Fives.
Living Small this week.

1. Loving the unexpected beauty of small flowers.

2. A small batch of cinnamon rolls made with soy cream cheese and whole wheat flower and filled with cinnamon and maple syrup.  Surprisingly delicious while also being surpassingly healthy.

3. A small episode of procrastination yielded a large amount of baked goods.  Swedish rye bread

and six dozen cut out sugar cookies.

4. Doesn't the New Boy's Weasley Sweater look a bit small?
Time to knit another one.

5.  Some days, even a small glimpse of the sea is enough.

Thanks to Susanne for hosting Friday Fave Five at Living to Tell the Story.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Gratitude is Always in Season

It's back to real life and real time after a wonderful Thanksgiving week.  It's important to remember to give thanks every day, every week not just one occasion in November (if you're American) or October (if you're Canadian).  That's why I love Friday Fave Five which is hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story.  You can participate too if you want.  Just add your post to her link  HERE.

1. The roads were busy but open and running at optimum speeds all the way from San Diego to Ventura County when I drove home on Sunday morning.  Even the usual slowdown places like Camp Pendleton, Orange County, and LAX were clear!  

2. My usual tactic to avoid a freeway interchange I really don't like is to cut over to the beach in Santa Monica and drive up Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu.  If the freeways are backed up, it takes the same amount of time to drive a scenic route as it does to brave the pass between the LA Basin and San Fernando Valley.  On Sunday, the views of the beach, ocean and offshore islands did not disappoint.

3. On Monday night, I drove to LAX and picked up The Professor.  I'm glad to have him home again.

4. Do you all get bored when I mention my students? They're so much fun!  I regularly get hilarious emails and questions--"Mrs. Willow, Is it OK to have 15 sentences in my paragraph?"  "Please answer me quickly." (This one written late in the evening.)  And my favorite:  "I can't wait to see you!  I really missed classes last week."

5. The weather was quite cool this week and I snuggled up under my warm blankets and cozy afghans in the evenings.  Well, it was cold for Southern California...

6. BONUS!  Christmas music!  In my car, on my computer, at home.  What's your favorite Christmas Carol?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Stats

According to,
"By the end of 2009, the epidemic had left behind 16.6 million AIDS orphans, defined as those aged under 18 who have lost one or both parents to AIDS."

It sounds hopeless, doesn't it? 

But as Mother Theresa stated, "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

One small thing we can all do is support an AIDS orphan.  You can sponsor a child through these organizations:

One of the children seen on this website is 'our boy'.  We've sponsored him since the founding of this organization.

With great love, we, each one of us, can change one child's life, one story.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Close to Home

That's where I spent my day.  The morning was invested in doing laundry and reading student compositions.  Afternoon was focused on more laundry and Christmas cards.  Until 4:30 I had made it only as far as the mailbox.  But when I noticed the beautiful turquoise and gold sunset sky, I decided I had to grab my shoes and jacket and head out for a short walk.

This evening, I will continue with the Christmas cards with short knitting breaks.

Today ends November 2010 NaBloPoMo.  I made it!

Tomorrow:  December 1st:  World AIDS Day.  Do you know how many AIDS ORPHANS there are in Africa and Asia?

Monday, November 29, 2010


I am an old fashioned sort of woman.  I like to send Christmas cards.  I sign them. I stamp them. I mail them.  Usually, I include a little typed letter with family news for my relatives and long time friends.  Because I'm normally a frugal, thrifty person, I purchase cards when they are on sale after Christmas and then store them during the year in a special little box with the other Christmas stuff.

But this year!  I discovered that I am short on cards!  How did this happen?

This afternoon, I trolled the stationery stores' websites hoping to find a deal on cards and desperately wishing I could just order online and have them delivered to my front door and thus avoid the mall.  Every time I clicked on 'Add to cart' the store informed me, "Oops, sorry.  We're out of stock on that one."  No cards, no sale.  So I called the local shop and put cards on hold there and told the clerk I'd pop in this evening on my way to the airport to pick up The Professor.  By tomorrow afternoon, I hope to have all the cards in hand, signed, and addressed.  Wish me Godspeed.

I am thankful that the shop had enough of my first choice.  I am also thankful that the store is basically on the way to the airport.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Answers to the Pandora Dilemma

The Professor's comment on my previous post should provide illumination and instruction for the people who live in my universe.

Go to ' and register using your email address. Once you are registered, you will be asked to, "Enter an artist, song or composer. We'll create a radio station featuring that music and more like it." The songs will play on your computer.

I've been listening to "Classical Christmas" and "Celtic Christmas" music this afternoon.

This evening, I am thankful for another safe, speedy and uneventful road trip through four Southern California counties.

And tonight I will light the first Advent candle.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pandora's Juke Box

Am I the only person in the universe who didn't know about listening to music on Pandora Radio?  I'm so excited!  Christmas music.  All. Month. Long.

Have You Started Shopping for Christmas?

This is one of the best Christmas lists I've ever seen.

Which presents on this list are you giving to your friends and family this year?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Post Thanksgiving Thanks

Because my computer simply will not speak with the internet connection at my daughter's house, I am unable to post any pictures.  A thousand words will not suffice to express the blessings of this week.  As usual, I have linked up to Susanne's Friday Fave Five at her blog Living To Tell The Story.

1. Visiting with long time friends who had traveled this week to the Los Angeles area to attend a wedding, catching up on what's happening with their kids and family.

2.  A quick and safe trip from Los Angeles to San Diego.  An added bonus to that was driving along the beach and seeing the beautiful blue sky and bluer ocean.

3.  Father Joe's Thanksgiving Day 5K Run/Walk at Balboa Park.  8a.m. on Thanksgiving morning?  It was  a great run (I walked) with 10,000 people, all of us enjoying the morning sun, crisp air and casual camaraderie.

4.  Hanging out with my kids' friends. We barely made a dent in an awesome authentic Southern Thanksgiving Dinner created by an accomplished Southern cook.  We chose our blessings to share. We played Speed Scrabble.  We laughed.  And laughed.

5.  Calls and communications from all my children (and my Professor). That was the best blessing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful I live in the US and can celebrate this official holiday that focuses on Being Thankful!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving with Family

I am spending Thanksgiving break with my youngest daughter and her husband in San Diego.  When I say "I", I mean "I" because my wonderful husband is not with me.  He is doing what he terms "the daddy track", caring for our older daughter who had oral surgery today and watching over The New Boy while she recovers.  I'm thankful that he is able to be there, caring for them both, even though we are not together on one of our favorite holidays.  This year our family is scattered all around the world, but I am nevertheless thankful for each one of them.

Today on the day before Thanksgiving, we spent a quiet day, enjoying our small tasks, visiting friends, walking the dogs.  Tomorrow after a 5K run at Balboa Park, we'll be joining several friends for an afternoon of fun, food, and pumpkin pie.

Day Five

When I wrote earlier that I had been thinking of my friends, it was in anticipation of seeing two very special BFFs, one a dear 'sister' from my years living in Oregon and the other from my Los Angeles period.  My Oregon buddy is here in SoCal for a wedding, and we arranged to meet up and catch up.  There are never enough hours to say all we want, tell our stories and relate news of our children who used to play and homeschool together.  An overnight visit, early breakfast and a beach walk afforded a bit more time with my 'little sister'. Walking, chatting, laughing, sharing, coffee drinking bliss.  I love my friends!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day Four For Reading

Browsing in a book store this evening, I thought, "I am so thankful that I know how to read!"  Even in the Twenty-first Century, there are places on earth where little girls, big girls and women do not know how to read, are not encouraged to learn and are in fact discouraged from learning to read.  I love to read. And I'm thankful that I live in a place where and at a time when I can read what I want without fear of reprisal.

Because my mother loved to read books, I learned early to value reading.  I remember learning my words and simple sentences.  Isn't it funny how you never forget the words that did not come easily to your learning?  "Cookie" is the word I remember struggling to read.  By the time I was seven, I was a regular at the public library and carried home stacks of books to read every week.

Perhaps it is because of my love of reading that I eventually became a reading teacher, working with students who desperately wanted to read but were having difficulty reading even basic one or two syllable words.  I'm sure it was my love of words and books that brought me to my current position of teaching children to write- write stories for others to read.

Reading is a gift for which I am thankful every day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day Three

Today I have been thinking of my friends.  I have friends all over the world.  Although I don't communicate with all of them regularly, I value them and love hearing from them via snail mail, email, facebook and phone.  I'm thankful that I have so many friends and that they make an effort to stay in communication with me, too.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Second Day

I am thankful for my husband.  We have been married for a rather long time, more than half our lives. Sometimes people claim that marriage is boring.  I would disagree.  Living with my husband is seldom boring.  Secure, quiet, contented, yes.  Boring, no.  I am thankful that my husband works hard at helping me.  This evening, he cooked dinner.  He often does the grocery shopping.  When I married him, I didn't realize I was getting my very own barrista.  He puts gas in my car for me.  He seldom laughs at my crazy ideas and dreams.  Yes, I am truly grateful that he shares my dreams, and through our years together we have made so many of those dreams come true.  And he's cute, too.

A Growing List

It's Thanksgiving Week.  Every day this week I would like to focus on posting my thanksgiving list.  In one of my classes, I asked my students to write a paragraph about what they are thankful for.  Starting with an outline, I modeled writing the paragraph for them.

        This Thanksgiving season, I am thankful that I am fortunate to live in a comfortable home.    My shelter is warm, inviting and large enough to accomodate guests who I invited to stay with me.  Living in a safe neighborhood, I feel secure when I am home in my sweet little cottage.  When I look around my house, I remember the people in Haiti and Central Java who have no homes because their abodes have been completely destroyed by earthquakes and volcano eruptions.  In my safe, secure shelter, I have hot water and heat all the time.  Certainly, I am blessed!  Every day of the year, I thank God for my safe and pleasant home.

Yes, I am thankful for my home!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Truly Thankful

Friday.  The week before Thanksgiving.  Faves.  Five of them.

As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, everyone in the United States and every American living outside the United States, is thinking about turkey and dressing, family and friends, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.  We are also focused on being thankful.  I like the idea of being thankful and grateful all year, every day, every week.  That's why I post my Fave Five every Friday along with many other people at Living to Tell the Story which is Susanne's blog.

1. A three day visit with our daughter-in-law. Three days full of love, laughter, walks, talks.  I am so very thankful that my son married a wonderful woman who loves us and makes an effort to stay connected with us even when our boy is far away serving God and country as a military chaplain.

2. The opportunity to talk by phone with our son.

3.  Will I sound like a broken record if I state again that I am thankful that we have a fantastic local farmers market open 51 weeks a year?  I know that it is unusual to have an outdoor market selling fresh and local fruits and veggies open all year long.  We are so very fortunate!  We love shopping there every Saturday morning and supporting our local farmers.

4.  Email.  I love the almost instant access I have to students, family and friends.  This week, I've written back and forth several times with one student who ended her last email with "I can't wait for class!" and I've corresponded with friends in the Pacific Northwest and on the East Coast of the US and blogging buddies in the US and Europe.  The internet has truly changed our lives and made our world so much smaller.

5.  I love my knitting needles.  I love to knit.  I love yarn.  One knitting project accompanies me everywhere I go-in the house, in the car, to the store. I might have a few minutes to add a row or two to one of the hats, scarves or baby sweaters I'm always knitting.

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taming the Longest, Thinnest, Meanest, Most Dangerous Hyperbole

Last week in class, when the fourth graders were reading the tall tale of Pecos Bill and planning how to rewrite the story, I explained what a hyperbole is--that over the top, out of this world exaggeration.  I encouraged them to try including one hyperbole in their stories.  This is the result:

If he were to run around the world, he would be running faster than the world was spinning!
He was as strong and skilled as a giant.
His favorite lasso, which he used on the tornado, was so long it took weeks to reach the end of it.
Pecos Bill went soaring through the air like a plane.
Texas was such a dry place that you would die of thirst just by crossing its borders.
It was so hot it could kill a fellow!

And my favorite:
When such a tornado happened to pass by, he looped his rope around it, but not just any rope--he used the longest, thinnest, meanest, most dangerous rattler he happened to have in his back pocket to lasso that tornado.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers

Try saying that five times really fast!

Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers
Rubber Baby Bunky Bubbers
Rubber Baby Buggy Buggers
Bubber Baby Buggy Bunkers
Rubber Baby Bubby Gumpers

Because life doesn't have to be serious all the time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sittin' By the Sea

Balmy autumn days
best spent sitting by the sea
sun drenched shells and sand

Two seagulls standing
guarding their spots on the shore
searching for dropped crumbs

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Surfin' USA

Ventura Beach style.
Surfers Point in Ventura is a popular surfing site.

But this guy seems to be unclear on the concept.

So is he:

And on a totally unrelated point, I have a question to ask all of you, my readers.  I have noticed through the years that some bloggers always respond to readers' comments in their own comments section.  Do you ever go back and read the comments and responses?  Would you like it if I were to do write responses to your comments?  Please let me know your thoughts on this in my comments section.  Thanks!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Intarsia Knitting

Every little boy needs a warm sweater knitted by his meema.  My New Boy has sensitive skin so he prefers to wear cotton or cotton blends.  And every little boy ought to have a Weasley Sweater with his initial knitted in to the front.

Working an initial involves using several balls of yarn at a time in the same row.  In his sweater, I juggled seven strands at a time, three neon green and four blue like his eyes.  While this technique looks horribly complicated, it really isn't.  It's the same technique that is used to knit argyle socks and various plaid patterns.  Called intarsia, this way of working several colors into one row of knitting does not involve 'stranding', carrying the extra yarn along the back of the garment.  You just pick up the new strand of yarn, twist it around the old one and keep on knitting.  The only difficult parts are remembering to always twist in the same direction and making sure the seven balls of yarn do not become hopelessly tangled.

Details and Requirements
Weasley Sweater from Charmed Knits
Sugar'n Cream cotton yarn, 3 skeins blue, 200 yds each; 1 skein bright green for initial
Size 8 needles
One adorable grandson as recipient
Enough courage to try the Intarsia Technique

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kindness - FFF

Did you know that there is a World Kindness Day in November?  I wish we had a World Kindness Day every month, every week, and every day.  It has to start with us, you and me, if that's ever going to happen.

1. An every-week-kindness comes from Susanne who hosts Friday Fave Five.  I think that the blog world is a better place because so many people either participate in FFF or read Fave Five posts every Friday.  Thank you, Susanne, for your kindness!

2. When you make friends with the sellers at the farmers market and become one of their 'regulars', they show their kindness and appreciation by sometimes slipping a little extra produce in to your bag which is an occasional-kindness.  We have an abundance of carrots this week.

3. My husband's excellent lattes which are placed piping hot into my hands are an every-day-kindness and sometimes even a couple-times-a-day-kindness.  When I switched over to soy and almond milk, he didn't slow down at all; he just started making soy lattes. (I tell him that if he ever loses his job, he could step right in to a postion as a barrista since he is already experienced.)

4. I receive every-time-I-go-to-the-store kindness from the employees at my local Trader Joe's.  Do the managers slip little happy pills in to the staff lounge coffee or do the people just enjoy working there?  I'm not sure.  But I never encounter a grumpy or unpleasant clerk in that store.

5. My students are delightful.  Their weekly-kindness of always saying, "Thank you, Mrs. Willow!" makes me smile.  I thank them for working so hard, finishing their homework, and making me laugh over their amazing stories.

Let's not limit Kindness to only one day of the year!

Have you thought about making an extra effort to show kindness to a loved one or a stranger?  Even a simple smile can encourage someone around you. Who has impressed you this week with their kindness? 
Share something in your comments or click over to Susanne's blog (link above) and post your fave five there.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Flags Flying

Veteran's Day 2010
Ventura Pier's knobby knees were modestly covered by a higher tide to honor America's veterans.

Flags were flapping wildly in the high winds along the beach walk to celebrate their service and sacrifice.

Thank you for serving.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Shining Star

This Sweet Eleanor cap is one of my current favorite hats to knit.  Working up quickly, this hat still provides interest for me as a knitter and for the wearer, too, with its two cables alternating, one large wide cable and one small four stitch cable, around the cap.

I have made three hats in this oatmeal yarn.  Encore.  75% acrylic, 25% wool.  Machine washable.  Two skeins = 3 hats.

Every time I finish one of these hats and see how the ingenious pattern produces a six pointed star on the top I'm thrilled with the beauty of the hat and the pattern and the brilliance of its designer.

You can purchase the Sweet Eleanor pattern on ravelry here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


An update on the Drawer and Shelf Attack.

1. Counters cleaned off.  Check.
2.  Papers recycled.  Check.

It looks so much better.

3.  One medium box of photos and negatives organized.  Check.  I had a quick look at all the photos in the box which was being stored in the closet and eliminated all the duplicates.  Why do school picture companies give out multiple photos to teachers?  I recycled several years of school pictures of Mrs. Willow and kept only one copy from each year.  Then I gathered the negatives from that box and put them all in a small photo box, so I was able to break down and recycle the larger box.  Then I filed children's pictures in their own sections in a second photo box. I've been dreading even starting again on the photo project because it seems so overwhelming, but now I see that just 45 minutes can make a huge difference, a major dent in the picture mountain.  Next step will be to decide which photos are destined for the scanner.

4.  Two minutes to look through jewelry.  Check.  Why did I keep that necklace?  Out it moved, into the donation bag.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Attack

I get tired of having too much stuff around the house.  I am constantly annoyed with losing something I know I saw yesterday but I can't find today.  It's not that I dislike cleaning, it's that I don't like cleaning around stuff.

If you're like me, or if you do not like to clean, sort or fool with stuff, have less of it.

Here's how I get rid of clutter in my house.

I engage in what I call Drawer and Shelf Attacks.  I can go along for a few days or weeks and be comfortable with the level of possessions in a particular room or area of my home.  Then it hits me.  I need to clean it up and sweep the counter, shelf or drawer of extra stuff.  The first step is to dump the easy stuff.  In my first run through of an area, I grab the obvious clutter which in my house is usually papers-newspapers, receipts, mail. I try to keep up with it on a daily basis but when I get lazy it's amazing how quickly the mess will spread. 

Secondly, I open a drawer or cupboard and take a critical look at the contents.  Do I care?  Do I love it?  Is it useful to my life right now?  If I love it and it's useful, I find a home for it.  If I'm not sure, I set it aside for a later decision.  For example, if I haven't worn that shirt in a year, I'm probably not ever going to wear it.  Even if I think I love it.  I put the hanger around backward and watch to see if in the next month or so I pull it out and put it on.  If not, then I know I'm ready to let it go.  If I don't love it or use/wear it, out it goes into the bag I reserve for discarded items that will make its way to the car and then the thrift store donation site.

A third way I attack the shelves and drawers is by applying the Equilibrium Rule:  get a new item; get rid of one.

I realized this weekend that I have been picking away at the little things which have been piling up on the shelf between our kitchen and family room.  Obviously, it was beginning to annoy me.  I feel an attack coming on.  Tomorrow, I'll be doing another Drawer and Shelf Attack.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A Thought About Shopping

This afternoon I walked into the craft store clutching my two 50% off coupons.  I wanted to purchase yarn.  I had a plan, a pattern, and a purpose for buying some non-wool yarn.  Noticing the large increase in bins of all weights, fibers and colors, I quickly zeroed in on one of my favorites--a bamboo blend.  Even better, it was on sale!  Then I looked at my coupons.

Stated in large print, both coupons said, "Any One REGULAR Price Item".   Huh. Nearly every skein of yarn on both sides of the aisle was on sale.  My coupons were useless.

I actually walked around the corner to the next aisle and perused the needles.  What could I buy with my coupons?  I couldn't waste those 50% discounts!  Then I stopped in my tracks.  What was I thinking?  Blindly grasping at the idea of a 'bargain', I was ready to grab a product I didn't even need just for the thrill of using the 50% coupons.  Fortunately I caught myself in time.  I turned around and purposefully walked out of the store.

How many times do I (and you) spend $$$ in order to save $$$?  The consumer mentality is strong, and it's hard to break.  Often, we buy something without really consdering whether we need it, want it or just like the idea of getting a bargain.  Spending in order to save isn't. Fortunately, today I didn't.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Beach Walk

At low tide, Ventura Pier's knobby knees are uncovered.

Seagulls gather at a tide pool to sift through the sand and wade in the shallow water to search through the debris for morsels that only a seagull would find appetizing.

Since summer season has passed, the lifeguard shacks have been pulled back behind the sand dunes.

Friday, November 05, 2010

I Know Christmas is Coming


Starbucks breaks out the red cups.

 Beach walk. Sunshine. Coffee.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Month Beginning

As we begin the month of Giving Thanks, it is appropriate to focus on a weekly event called Friday Fave Five.  Every Friday all year long, I post my list of five reasons I am thankful, five events that remind me to be grateful.  During November, Americans set aside one day, which turns in to a four day weekend, to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy.  Some people are posting on facebook or their blogs every day in November stating what they're thankful for.  You can join Friday Fave Five just by clicking over to Susanne's blog and linking up.  I hope you will.
1.  The weather in my area has been interesting to say the least.  We have gone from rainstorms and 50 degree days last week to hot hot mid 90s temperatures this week.  The roses think it's summer again.  Normally, I don't cut my roses and keep them in vases inside, but I just couldn't resist these beauties because it's so unusual for them to bloom so profusely in November.

2. For several months, I've been following a blog written by Colleen who lives in Australia.  I've enjoyed reading about Colleen's adventures in decluttering her home one (or more) items each day for a year.  Recently, even though she has been dealing with a serious accident involving her son (prayers appreciated!), she has continued to post daily and has added a section where she lists five things for which she is thankful.  Reading her blog post makes my day better.

3. This week I've been reminded how much I appreciate my husband.  Since I have been slowly moving my diet over to one that excludes meat, dairy, eggs, oil and sugar, he has been completely supportive and willing to eat whatever I cook.  Thanks, honey!

4. The internet has been a fantastic resource for my research in to eating a plant-based diet.  I can easily find answers, information, and recipes by simply typing a few key words for my search and clicking a couple of keys.

5. November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).  I've decided to try writing a post on my blog every day in November!  Will I stick with it and complete all thirty days of posts?  Check back to find out!

So that has been Willow's Week. How was yours?  Have you found any fun and interesting new blogs to read?  Have you been challenged or encouraged by someone or something?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Teaching writing can be a tricky profession.  Just because people can talk properly, it doesn't mean that they can write clearly and creatively.  Writing is a learned skill.  Generally, any person can write a stream of consciousness essay in the manner of James Joyce. But to write an organized paragraph or story takes thought and training.  It also helps if you know a few tricks.

I love it when my students follow instructions and end up with a clever, creative essay! I taught them to add a clause which began with who and include somewhere in each paragraph an interesting adverb to describe a verb.  Here's what three of them came up with:

 An exerpt:

The pig and mule were ready to fight.  Because the mule was so old, the pig, who was arrogant, thought the mule was completely weak and knew that he could kick the mule's butt.

The pig, who was avoiding the mule's long teeth, ran for the mule's rear end.  He should have thought twice because the mule kicked the pig right in the face.  The pig flew off the bridge and landed loudly onto some grass.  The pig, who realized that he couldn't win, ran away.  "If I have to fight an old mule again," he thought, "I will have to worry about the bite and the kick."  The mule, who was barely bothered, slowly crossed the bridge and went on his way.

Another one:

On the 18th of April in 6200 B.C. there was a daring and arrogant wild pig.  There was also a wise old mule who did not like fighting.  On that sunny date 8210 1/2 years and 10 days ago both animals were standing on the same bridge, which was somewhere in southern Brazil.  But it wasn't known as Brazil back then.  And all was not peaceful, because the animals were not on good terms with each other.  They were tussling, furiously biting and kicking with tooth and hoof.

Here's a third example:

It quickly became a chaotic encounter.

The pig wanted to have a brutal fight with the old mule.  He viciously started teasing the mule, who became visibly mad.  Because he thought the mule was weak, he gloated excitedly.  The pig decided to attack from behind to avoid the mule's razor sharp teeth.  So he immediately charged.

The clever mule threw his heel back.  The mule savagely kicked him in the face.  The pig who soared in the air, landed in the grass.  The pig ran like a coward. 
 (This student really likes adding adverbs!)

Didn't they do a great job?  These kids are only ten and eleven years old!  They used two little tricks to add so much interest to a simple folk tale.  Reading these stories gives me so much satisfaction!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Because I reacted with intense itching and swelling to stings when I was a child, I have an uneasy relationship with bees.  I find them to be very interesting insects.  According to all reports and my observations, they are industrious little things, always winging to and from their hives, delving into blossoms to search for a little more pollen.  When they return home to their hives, they turn that dusty pollen into creamy honey.

Although I have stopped eating sugar (white or brown) in my diet, I occasionally indulge in consuming a little honey.  I am thankful that bees make honey.

As long as they buzz loudly around the flowers in my garden so I can hear them and avoid their stingers, honeybees will continue to be my friends.  If one of their less wise members decides to sting me, all negotiations will cease.  Then there will be war.

Monday, November 01, 2010

On a Whim

When I read my daughter's post this evening about NaBloPoMo*, I decided without giving it much thought to try to write and post something here on the Willow's Cottage blog every day this month.  I wonder if I can keep up the momentum.  Because I'm a writing teacher, I feel a bit obligated to write well and sometimes that keeps me from writing at all.  Silly, huh?

The following is a two paragraph descriptive essay I recently wrote about a homeless man I saw at the local library.    

      Dejected and downhearted, the bareheaded young man sat slumped against the library building wall, slowly sucking on a discarded cigarette butt because it was all he had.  He focused on each puff, the smoke as gray as the foggy day.  After the butt was extinguished, he continued to sit, head bowed, hand over face, his head pounding with the overpowering pain of what felt like a migraine.  Tom had a hangover. 

     Library patrons passed him where he squatted near the front entrance, some ignoring him altogether, the proverbial elephant in that outdoor courtyard room, others glancing furtively and quickly in his direction, careful to never make eye contact.  He, in turn, ignored them all focusing his gaze inward on his own self-imposed misery.  Clad in faded blue jeans, once white sneakers and a gray fleece jacket with empty pockets, he stood slowly, stretched clumsily, and shuffled off noisily, searching for water, warmth and welcome.

*National Blog Posting Month

Friday, October 29, 2010


Friday Fave Five makes Friday a favorite day of the week.  Susanne hosts FFF and faithfully puts up Mr. Linky so whoever wishes to can participate in sharing the gratitude and blessings of their week.  Thanks, Susanne!

Nothing makes me happier than spending time with people I love.  When conversations turn to love languages and how people express love, I am always confident knowing that mine is spending quality time.  This week, I've been smiling quietly remembering my wonderful weekend with my daughter-in-law. 

1.  Hiking at South Mountain
 You can see how steep our trail was.
  If you look carefully, you'll see that I added a little note to the photo below showing where we parked our car and how far away it was.

2. The Cafe at The Farm

Eating lunch among the blooming flowers.

3. Walking through the organic gardens, we found this:

4.  In the back corner of The Farm's property is an artists' studio.  If I lived in Phoenix, I'd beg to be part of this studio!

5.  On Sunday morning, my daughter-in-law was kind enough to drive me to a suburb of Phoenix to hear Joshua Becker speak.  He is a blogger and writer at  If you are interested in simplifying your life, your possessions and your commitments, I recommend that you read his blog and his books Simplify and Inside Out Simplicity.  He's an inspirational speaker, just a guy with a family and a house in the suburbs who wants to help people find their passion and the space and time to pursue it.

My passion is my family and spending time nurturing my relationships with them.  My weekend spent with my precious daughter-in-law was the best gift!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Project 333

Project 333 is the brainchild of Courtney who blogs at  She writes inspiring posts about simplifying everything from your kitchen to your sentimental items.  In September, she introduced the idea of wearing only 33 items of clothing for a 3 month period, October 1st through December 31st.  After reading the post, I knew right away that I wanted to participate, but knowing myself well enough, I wondered if I could sustain that  much fashion 'boredom' for that long.  I mulled it over for a couple of weeks, spent an hour one afternoon writing out a list of all the clothing I own, and finally on October 1st decided, Okay, I'll give it a try.

When I worked through my closet on the day I wrote down my clothes list, I discovered two things. First, I found out that I have fewer clothes than I feared.  Through the years, I've learned what I like to wear, what looks best on me, and how to avoid impluse buying of clothes (most of the time).  Second, I realized that I have more clothes than I thought!  In my mind I thought, "I only have four or five pairs of pants."  Reality check: double that number.  But I wasn't wearing the other pants!  I was cycling through the same five pants and leaving the others in the closet, sad, alone and unworn.  That was lesson number one.

Lesson number two was the realization that I really like the clothes that I wear. They're comfortable and colorful.  They're casual and classic.  They're mostly washable.  I tend to find a pair of pants I like and buy two in different colors and wear them until they fall apart.  I do the same thing with t shirts, but with those I buy them four or five at a time.  Last winter I even did that with a cashmere sweater I found at a great price. I have never owned a classic cashmere sweater, and I have heard people say that they wear their cashmere sweater all winter the way other people wear a favorite sweatshirt.  I loved the teal sweater but my husband preferred the purple one, so I bought both. And I started wearing them instead of my sweatshirt, at home, on errands, to work.  Yes, if I like something, I wear it to death.

When I mentioned Project 333 to The Professor, he thought a minute and said, "I don't think I own much more than 33 pieces of clothing."  He was right; he had a better estimate of what's in his closet than I did.

This link will take you to the first post Courtney wrote about Project 333.

Here is the original post I wrote about Project 333 at the blog I share with my two daughters.

I quietly joined Minimalist Fashion Project 333 on October 1st. When I first read about the project on Courtney's blog BeMoreWithLess, I thought, "Hey, I could do that. No sweat. I don't have that many clothes, anyway." Then I walked back to my closet and took an honest look. I certainly had more than thirty-three items hanging there. So I began to glean and declutter the clothes I obviously would never wear again and dropped them in to a big black trash bag to take to the thrift store.

Here are the original rules for Project 333:

•When: October 1 – December 31 (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)

•What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.

•What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring, underwear, sleep, in-home lounge wear, and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)

•How: over the next two months, outline your 33 items, by the 1st of October, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of site.

•What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. If you purchase items for project 333, stick with the one in, two out approach. Consider the essentials and stick to 33.

Now it is October 5th.
I'm posting my list:

1. black dress slacks
2. black capris
3. grey jeans
4. tan jeans
5. navy fleece jacket
6. long sleeved black knit top
7. long-sleeved white knit top
8. navy skirt
9. navy short-sleeved knit top
10. teal cashmere sweater
11. purple cashmere sweater
12. turquoise cardigan
13. print blouse
14. black camisole
15. white camisole
16.-22. various colored t shirts
23. black shoes
24. black flipflops
25. sterling silver earrings
26. watch
27.-28. two necklaces
29. gloves
30. lavender 3/4 sleeve sweater
These last three slots I am reserving for scarves and a sweater that I've nearly finished knitting. Or maybe another pair of earrings (I do love my earrings).
Five days in to this and I'm thinking that because I made my final list last week and started the project when the weather was presenting us with triple digit temperatures I may have over estimated the t shirts and under estimated the sweaters. This week we are having rain, clouds, fog, and temperatures in the 60s. We shall see.

I did add a turquoise fleece pullover within a few days, and I realized that I had not added my tennis shoes to the the list. Even though I wear them for work outs, I also wear them with my jeans several times a week. So, I have 32 pieces of clothing on my list and I'm still holding out for a handmade scarf or sweater.

We are almost 1/3 of the way through the minimalist fashion project, but you can join at any time!  Choose your 33 items and join us!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Fave Five from Phoenix

Yes I know I've been MIA from Friday Fave Five for a couple of weeks.  But I have an excuse, a really good excuse.  Really I have.  I'm traveling this weekend. (And last weekend, I wanted people to continue to read my post about 'Not For Sale', so I decided not to post anything for a few days.)

1.  As you can tell from my title, yes, I'm in Phoenix, Arizona. My daughter in law invited me to visit this weekend and we've already been having great memory making adventures. That is actually two blessings--a little vacation and a precious daughter in law.

2.  Because I am participating in Project 333 (wearing only 33 items of clothing for 3 months), packing was a breeze. I love traveling light and it was so simple to pack my few clothes in my backpack. I'm only going to be gone for three days, so I don't need much--a couple of changes of clothes and two knitting projects.

3.  Flying out of Burbank's Bob Hope Airport is a much less stressful experience than going through long lines of security at LAX.  Because it's a much smaller airport, it's easier to navigate through the terminals and gates to get where you need to be.

4. This morning we hiked up South Mountain. The weather was unseasonably cool (in Phoenix that means mid 70s) and cloudy, but it made for great hiking weather.  Photos to follow*.

5.  Fantastic food at The Farm for lunch.  The Farm is a local organic farm in southern Phoenix.  Soup and sandwich at the cafe was superb.  An added bonus was meeting an acquaintance from my hometown who is now on the farm staff there.  What a coincidence!

*I didn't bring my computer with me so I won't be able to upload photos until I return home on Sunday afternoon.  But trust me; the desert is beautiful!

So that's what I have been doing.  How about you?  Check out Susanne's blog and join Friday Fave Five to share adventures, blessings, gratitude for your week.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For My Brother

Memories for my brother
(but others can read this, too)
Do you remember our yearly camping trips, every summer, always the same route, south to Coos Bay, Coquille, Myrtle Point, over to the coast at Bandon, and on to Port Orford and Gold Beach, past Brookings, Eureka, Ferndale, all the way to the Redwood Forests?

Do you remember riding in the back seat peering out the windows stretching our necks to see up, up to the tops of those unbelievably tall, high, straight Redwood trees?

Do you remember stopping, every summer, at the Trees of Mystery and never going beyond the parking lot?

Do you remember driving down the two lane highway, passing logging trucks, pulling the camping trailer, waiting, waiting impatiently until we knew we were almost there, almost to the campground, planning how we could get out of chores or setting up the tent, so we could run down to the river?

Do you remember how carefully Dad and Mom would choose just the right campsite?  There had to be room for both the trailer and our tent.

Do you remember the campfires, the smores, the night Dad made fried chicken and everyone else in the whole camp were drawn in by the smell, sniffing the air, wishing they had fried chicken for dinner too?

Just the four of us, every summer, camping along the Pacific Coast, fishing in the creeks, playing in the sand, splashing in the water.

And finally, every year, every summer, ending up in San Francisco where we'd ride the cable cars to Fisherman's Wharf and drive through Golden Gate Park and the Presidio.

Do you remember?