Thursday, May 26, 2011


As in that's what the past week has done.  It has flown by so very quickly.  Was it really a whole week since I wrote a blog post?

Where did my week go?

1. On Sunday, The Professor and I drove to Long Beach (second largest city in Los Angeles County) to a church we were part of when we lived in LA.  There was a special informational meeting after the service which we particularly wanted to attend, hosted by the group Ugandan Lambs through which we have sponsored a boy from Uganda for the past seven years.  The meeting was wonderful on so many levels--seeing old friends, learning what has been acoomplished in Uganda in the past year, hearing the vision for the future of the these precious orphans, even receiving a letter and photo from 'our boy'.  We connected with a very special friend for lunch--she even found a great restaurant, The Veggie Grill, where we could all find something tasty and yummy to eat.

2. Our week has ended with a house guest brightening up our lives.  Our daugther in law (she who we call The Princess) drove over to spend a few days with us.  Already, we have laughed and laughed, watched The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (with Ingrid Bergen), sat around and shared our favorite new books, and enjoyed a couple of special meals.

3. This morning we were here:

picking these:

4. On a whim, we decided to drive to Ventura this afternoon.  Our original goal was to cruise through a few thrift stores.  None of us are shoppers, but we do love to poke around in the used books sections of these shops.  We walked in to ONE book shop on the way to the thrift store and never left until we had found a total of (ahem) eight books.  In my defense, I will state that this amazing little shop had a treasure trove of Newbery Award Books.  Because I am always looking for the award books to fill out my collection and achieve a life goal to own and read every Newbery Award Book, I was delighted to find THREE more volumes.  These books were especially exciting because two of them were hard copies, and if they weren't first editions, they were certainly orginally purchased the year they won the Medal.  Inside the covers, the original owner had written "Newbery Award Book-- and then the year (1955, 1947)".  I just had to have those books because I felt a close kinship to the owner since she obviously also collected all the winners through the years.  I am now within SEVENTEEN books of having them all!  I'm so pleased that we gave in to our whim and then serendipitously strolled in to that little book shop.

5. Speaking of books,  I read about a new (to me) author on another blog and then found some copies of his books at our local library.  I enjoy novels placed in historical settings, so I am looking forward to reading Sarum, the Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd.  With just one week of classes left, I am looking forward to a wonderful summer of reading!

This week passed so quickly and happily, filled with little moments of gratitude and pleasure.  I'm sharing these Five Faves for Friday's Fave Five and linking to Susanne's blog. Thanks, Susanne, for hosting us each week and offering us the chance to focus on our fleeting moments of thankfulness.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Week in May

This has been a crazy weather week here at Willow's Cottage.  Rain?  In Southern Calfornia?  In May?  Finally, the sky is clear of rain clouds although the wind has still been whipping things around.  Wild weather or mild, I find things to be thankful for every week.

1. Can I ever say too much about my local farmers market?  I don't think so!  The Professor and I shop there every Saturday morning we are in town.  Each week, the vendors greet us, ask us if we want 'the usual' (usually we do), and then as they hand us the produce, they thank us and drop an extra little something in, a cucumber or apple or carrot.  Nothing tastes better than organic, fresh, in season, locally grown produce!

2. Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival was great! On Sunday, I attended with The Professor.  Actually, I spent the entire day NOT listening to bluegrass music.  My spinners/weavers guild volunteered to demonstrate--spinning and weaving--so I took my spinning wheel and--spun--fiber while he wandered around and enjoyed some truly fun music. I spun and spun all day while groups and herds and gaggles of people strolled past, stopped and watched and said, "That's so cool!" (or other words to that effect).  Watching demonstrations of a 'lost art' evidently fascinates people. The muscial atmosphere was joyful.  There's something about bango and fiddle music which makes everyone want to dance.

3. Sometimes, spectators spy an item in my basket of handspun samples that they particularly like.  Sometimes, they ask if it's for sale.  Sometimes, it is.  Sometimes, I am willing to sell it.  Always, I assure them that all profits will be sent to a non-profit organization. I will be sending a check to Generate Hope this weekend.

4. The school year is winding down to a close.  Yesterday was the last day for two writing groups.  Who was more sad, the teacher or the students?  I'm not sure.  We've had a fantastic year.  Evidently, my students have other talents besides writing.

5. Spending hours in my garden is theraputic for me.  Even when the time is invested in pulling weeds, I find my mind relaxing and resting.  Birds sing. Lizards bask.  Ants race.  My body finds its rhythm in reaching, grabbing and pulling.

Have you experienced any favorite activities or received sweet gifts and notes this week?  You can share your Fave Five at Susanne's blog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Musings about Yarn

I spent all day Sunday spinning.  Spinning yarn, that is, not bike wheels.  When my spinners/weavers guild sent a sign-up for demonstrating at Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest and Festival, I knew I HAD to volunteer.  Held at the old movie set spot, Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, it was the perfect place to spend a spring Sunday.  Of course, The Professor offered to tag along and help carry my spinning wheel and provide nutrition (read: hot chocolate) when I needed it.  With my hands and mind deep in to fiber, I spun and spun, showed boys, girls, teenagers, men and women how yarn is created.  Other demonstrators were weaving, spinnning and making bobbin lace.  Perhaps it was just the crowd, those who love bluegrass music also love hand made anything, but we were busy all day long.

Now that I'm back home and settled in to teaching, correcting, and planning for the last weeks of classes, part of my brain is still focused on yarn.  It's hard not to be thinking about fiber when it's everywhere around me at home.  Currently, I have a nearly finished cap lying on the ottoman in the living room.  Made from variegated blues and grays handspun super wash wool, it's a feast for my senses--touch and sight.  In the family room the cap's matching fingerless gloves are waiting for me to make a change in one--I miscounted rows early in the pattern and one glove is longer than the other.  And you know, usually, hands are the same size, so I need to change one.  There is also a skein of yarn snuggled up next to the gloves.  It's waiting for me to cast on and make it in to a sweater for one of my niece's twins who are scheduled to make an appearance in a couple of months (or less, knowing twins).  But that's not all the yarn that's around Willow's Cottage.

There is, among many other yarns and projects, a sweater languishing in a paper gift bag. I spun the undyed brown Cowichan wool into a fine yarn a few years ago.  It sat there waiting for the perfect pattern to appear magically.  Finally, I decided to design a pattern myself.  I used the Charmed Knits pattern for the Weasley Sweater as my inspiration.  Instead of a plain stockinette stitch I worked the whole thing in ribs with occasional simple cables.

The sweater is nearly finished, and guess what.  I don't like it.  The neckline is too wide--I wanted a wider neckline so the wool wouldn't sit up against my sensitive skin and make me itch, but I over did the wideness.  I've tried all kinds of fixes but it's just not working.  Also, I have to ask myself why I keep knitting wool sweaters when most of the year it's just too warm in my climate to wear it.  I already have the wool, and I want to be a good steward of my resources, so I endeavor to use up what I have.  I think, finally, I've admitted to myself (and now to the world) that I need to unravel this thing and start over.  Maybe it won't be a sweater again.  Maybe it will become hats, scarves or socks, or even an afghan.  I certainly have enough of the stuff to make an afghan. 

It gets dangerous around here when I begin overthinking my yarn projects.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Short Trips

Blogger's problems have kept me from posting Friday Fave Five in a timely manner.  However, I have finally been allowed back online and am posting FFF and linking up to Susanne (if she is back online now too).  Gratitude and thankfulness are the focus of this weekly post.  Here is what has made me grateful and thankful and just plain smiling-happy this week.

I've never kept secret the fact that I love to travel.  This wanderlust of mine is shared by my husband (and children--we taught them well by example and participation).  While I do love simply being at home, I also enjoy short trips to keep the travel bug in balance.

1. On Friday late in the afternoon, we gave in to the urge to wander.  Packing a quick picnic supper and grabbing our jackets (a wise move it turns out), we jumped in our Honda and headed up the highway to the nearby beach town.  It was a gray and misty evening; sometimes you couldn't tell where the ocean ended and the sky began out at the horizon.  Most of the beach goers had given up and gone.  But the pelicans!  The pelicans were patrolling the coastline in formations of three, four, five and six member squadrons.

They were dive bombing, searching the area for unwary schools of tasty fish.  (Do you see that kamikaze pelican in the right background zeroing in on its target?)

Occasionally, a single pelican would break formation to inspect a suspicious intruder.  This bird was keeping pace with the human matching stroke with flap as he scrutinized the black wet-suited surfer.

2. Mother's Day was spent quietly.  The children duitfully called to wish me a happy day.  Whenever they call, it's a happy day for me.  In the evening, we decided to escape again for a couple of hours.  Another picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, veggies and coffee was packed and we headed back to the beach, this time to the closest sandy spot near our house.  The wind was nasty, so we opted to stay in the car and just enjoy the view of Mugu Rock and the coastline, sunny this time.  We searched for pelicans (I could gaze at pelicans by the hour!)  but the only birds around were the seagulls which I also find amusing and interesting.  But there was ONE whale cavorting in the sea just off shore and we watched it for a long time as it breached, blew water from its breath hole and submerged again and again.  A beach sunset is a wonderful way to end Mother's Day.

3. As if that wasn't enough traveling for a week, I hopped a commuter train on Tuesday morning and rode to Los Angeles Union Station.  A friend and I had arranged to meet up there and spend the day walking around LA.  After a short stroll through Olvera Street (the birthplace of Los Angeles, located across the street from Union Station), we headed toward downtown.  After all these years of living in and around LA, I had never noticed the Los Angeles Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.  So we walked into the courtyard.  I was mesmerized by the bells (and the jacaranda trees blooming out their lovely lavender flowers in the background across the street).

Then we strolled past the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  I do wonder though why there was a car parked by the front doors.

This building baffled us.  Was it an office building, apartments or condos?  A storage facility?  My best guess is that it's a movie prop left over from one of the Terminator movies.

My friend left to return home and I had over an hour to wait for my commuter, so I discovered a coffee place right in Union Station (!), ordered a soy hot chocolate, walked through the waiting room, sat down in this elegant courtyard, pulled out my knitting and pretended that I was in an exotic far away place on a grand adventure.  Which, you know, I really was. Los Angeles is truly an amazing city!

4. The rest of the week I've been happily returning home after teaching my classes and picking up a fun new book to read.  My son knows me well and shares a love of fantasy with me, so of course he knew that this book would please me greatly as a Mother's Day gift.  Book One of The Kane Chronicles, The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan.  It's a kids' book, but I'm loving it, especially after reading the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series.

5.  Other reading material I'm enjoying this week is the British edition of Country Living.  A student's mom receives a subscription to the magazine and when she's finished with it, she passes it on to me.  I read it and then give it to Donna, the lady who owns the local tea shop.  Currently, I'm four months behind, so I'm reading a little each day this week.  Country Living British style is a beautiful magazine, a feast for my eyes and satisfaction for my wanderlust soul.

That's what I've been wandering around doing this week.  Have you had any adventures?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Three Fun and Fantastic Links From My Meanderings on the Web

This free e-book is the best single source I've found that explains the changes I've made in my diet and my reasons for doing so.  Healthy Eating Rules by Christianna Pierce.

Miss minimalist recently published this post concerning the aftermath of the tragedy in Japan.  I wish everyone in the entire world would read it!

My husband pointed out this story in our local newspaper, commenting that it's ONE way to declutter your belongings.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

It's MAY!

1.  Yes, Disneyland and California Adventure are certainly happy places.  At least, we were very happy while we were there.  Mickey looked down benevolently at us from many vantage points.

These swings reminded me of my childhood summer days spent swinging, pumping as hard as I could and flying as high as possible.

Undoubtedly, my favorite California Adventure ride was Soarin' Over California.  What an exhilirating way to view the beauty of my adopted state~in a simulated hang glider.  No photos of that since, you know, I was holding on to the safety bar on my seat.  All the usual rides were still great: Space Mountain, Grizzly Rapids, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Jungle Cruise...
The best part was still being with my boy and his lovely wife.  Whatever they did, we wanted to do it, too.

2.  Another activity we shared with them was the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books which was held this year at USC. That's University of Southern California, not University of South Carolina.  When my parents were living in Columbia, SC, I visited them, saw all those USC shirts and marveled at the number of University of Southern California fans there were on the East Coast until my father smirkingly pointed out that SC meant South Carolina.  Anyway. We reveled in the piles and piles of books on any and every subject we could imagine.  All of those books! 

3. But that's not all, no, that's not all!  Our Grad Student son happened to be in LA for the weekend and joined us for the day and for dinner at a local Indonesian restaurant in Culver City.  There is no better cuisine in the whole world than Indonesian!

4.  All wonderful Spring Breaks must come to an end, and so it was back to classes this week; but that's OK because I love my job!  I love it when the students waltz in saying, "Hi, Mrs. Willow! We missed coming to class!"

4. Spring gardening is underway.  We've been eating our homegrown lettuce for two weeks now.  The lavender is outdoing itself in bloom production.  I. Love. Lavender.  Sadly, lavender doesn't love The Professor.  So all the lavender lives outside.  But it's beautiful, isn't it?

Well, that was Willow's Week this frist week of May, another edition of Friday Fave Five.  These five expressions of gratitude are just the highlights of my week; it's how I choose to focus my memories--on being thankful.  If you want, you can join Friday Fave Five at Susanne's blog.