Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Simple List

It is Thanksgiving Day and it's time to write up Friday's Fave Five.  I have a simple list.

1.  I am thankful for my husband, he who carries the wallet, who drives so I don't have to, who trails after me into knit shops all over the world.  We sit quietly together in the evenings.  After all these years, we still talk and laugh daily.

2.  I am thankful for my children--four of them with a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law.   And a precious grandson.  Simply, I love them.

3.  Because I've lived in places where they were not available, I am thankful for clean water, secure shelter, and abundant food.  I hope I never take these things for granted.

4.  I am thankful for friends.  I am truly blessed with many old and new friends.

5.  I am thankful for the ability to read, access to a seemingly endless and infinite supply of reading material.

This is by no means an exhaustable list of thanksiving, just a quick and simple list.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Please visit Susanne to link up for Friday Fave Five.

The Marines Came

The Marines know how to bake pies--fruit, apple, and pumpkin.Who knew?

They also know how to carve the turkey.  And wash dishes.  They are awesome help in the kitchen.  They can repair planes, shoot guns and secure unsafe places, too.

The Army and Navy were also well represented.

Now they're all playing chess and slapjack.  I'm knitting.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I had not intended to fall off the 'post-every-day' regimen.  But I seriously underestimated the amount of time I would have during my Thanksgiving break.  Since arriving by train in San Diego, I have been trailing behind my daughter and have realized how busy her life is.  I can't keep up.  However, I have finished my main part of the Thanksgiving Day dinner (homemade cranberry sauce) and am now sitting resting before returning to the kitchen to start on the family famous Grandma Rylander Rolls.  Obviously, there hasn't been much time to post on my blog or read other blogs since last Thursday night.

All the children but one (along with the New Boy) are here in San Diego.  The girls took off to buy a meat thermometer, the boys are playing a game, the dog is wagging her tail incessantly, and the cat is huddled into her hidey-hole.  The Professor and I are sitting and smiling.  We are happy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

fff nov XI 2 XVIII

Friday Fave Five happens every week.  Choose five events from your week which you are thankful for, post them on your blog and then link them up to Susanne's blog.  Thank you, Susanne, for hosting this every week.  Here are mine:

1.  expectation.  The anticipation of our Thanksgiving visit with our family in San Diego.  Most of the fam will be together.

2.  flexibility.  I'm thankful that my schedule is flexible enough this weekend and next week, so I can hop a train to San Diego today (Friday) and help my daughter MamaMia with some stuff in preparation for Thanksgiving (see #1).

3.  transportation.  I love taking the train and Amtrak's Surfliner is special.  The views are world class!

4.  yumminess at Minimalist Woman.  My friend Meg has just published an e-cookbook.  I have been reading the introduction and browsing the recipes.  What I truly appreciate about this cookbook is the simplicity of the recipes.  I'm not a fancy cook and I *heart* one pot recipes which is what Meg's book focuses on.  I am definitely going to be trying the Pacific Soup (think sweet potatoes, coconut, and pineapple) and the Cranberry Orange Muffins.

5.  a purchase.  This week I bought -- wait for it-- railroad ties.  We are in the process of doing a bit of stabilization on the steep bank behind the house here at Willow's Cottage.  We'll be planting some California natives and are using those massive blocks of wood to keep the dirt from sliding down the slope.  Having the railroad ties means that the work will soon be completed.

Before next week's Fave Five, we will have celebrated Thanksgiving in the US.  So I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cap Recap

I promised to knit twenty hats for a Chicago area food bank's children's Christmas party the first week in December.  My goal has been to make twenty hats.  Currently, I am knitting Hat #19.

A friend handed me four hats last Friday.  So as of Wednesday evening, November 16, I have twenty-three hats to send (as soon as I finish the hat which is now on my needles).

Shall I go for twenty-five hats total?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November Flowers and Leaves

I am fascinated by the camelia blossoms.

They bloom at the same time the sycamore leaves turn red and orange and then drop to the ground.

The iceberg roses are still blooming and the bumblebees are still bumbling.

This is November in Southern California.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleven Eleven Eleven

Willow's Fave Fives--a little late this week.  But here they are--

1. When our espresso machine broke a few weeks ago, The Professor looked for a replacement part online to fix it.  Unfortunately, the part could not be ordered.  In typical Professor fashion, he attempted a couple of fixes and found that using a 3/8" socket drive would turn the broken handle.  Then he realized that if he had a piece of 1/4" steel stock, he could cut it to fit and repair the broken 'turn thingie' himself.  Where to find such an item?  I emailed my friend Roxie and her amazing husband posted a 6 inch long cylinder of 1/4" steel stock to us.  We're back in production thanks to The Professor's ingenuity and Roxie's hubby's generosity.

2.  I wrote earlier this week about my fun adventure in teaching some girls to knit.  This afternoon, I'll be doing a return gig to instruct them in increasing and decreasing.

3.  Today is 11-11-11.  On this day, we celebrate and thank the men and women who have served the United States in the military.  As the daughter, niece, and wife of veterans, and as the mother and mother-in-law of active duty military personnel, I have much invested in this day of thanks and remembrance.  THANK YOU TO ALL THOSE WHO HAVE SERVED MY COUNTRY.

4.  In addition to this day being a federal holiday, it is also the wedding anniversary of my son and daughter-in-law.  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

5.  Weather.  I just like weather.  I've been noticing that the quality of the light during day hours is changing.  I'm not sure why or how, but it just seems like winter and it's the LIGHT which makes me realize that we are moving nearer to the winter solstice.  This week we have experienced some warm, sunny, windy days and also some rainy days, like today.  Unexpectedly, the leaves turned from rich magenta and vibrant tangerine to sodden, drab washed out versions of the purples and oranges.  Perhaps tomorrow while they are still hanging from the branches, the leaves will brighten back up again in the sunshine.  Even in Southern California weather can be (a little) interesting.

This has been Willow's Weekly Fave Fives.  If you want to join in focusing a weekely post on thanksgiving and gratitude, you can link up at Susanne's blog Living to Tell the Story.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


I did not post here on the blog yesterday although I did write many many words on student papers.  Mostly, I scribbled 'Excellent!', 'Very creative epilogue!', and 'Wow!  You really understand alliteration now!'  A couple of times I penned, 'Fragment' or 'Watch your punctuation and quotations' or 'Oops! Banned Word!' 

In my class, students are not allowed to use say/said, get/got, come/came, go/went, or see/saw/look (this list is representative but not complete) because those verbs are overused and have become meaningless and boring.  Students are required to use their thesaurus (gasp! yes, really) to discover stronger, more vibrant verbs to substitute in their stories.  I also have banned the use of very and really as adverbs.  Pretty and ugly can easily be replaced with more descriptive adjectives.  How many times have you heard someone or something described as 'pretty ugly'?  Banning boring words increases my correcting times but at the same time increases my enjoyment quotient while reading stories.  How fun it is to read a nine year old's paper where the characters 'admonishingly stated', 'replied smugly', 'demanded', 'shouted' and 'exclaimed'.  Another child (also nine) wrote that his characters 'fumed' and 'inquired'.  However, my favorite substitution for said this week was 'whined woefully'.

Now it is time for me to depart for my class where I will enthusiastically teach my students to exchange 'gallop, run, trot, race, proceed, saunter, and stroll' for that boring banned verb 'go'.  Gotta go leave now!

Monday, November 07, 2011

My Legacy

Having missed yesterday, which was Sunday, I think I should declare Sunday to be a sabbath rest day from posting on my blog.  That's my excuse.

On Friday afternoon, I spent two hours teaching several ten to twelve year old girls how to knit and purl.  The feedback has been wonderful.  Three parents (including a dad) have seen me at church, on the street, in Starbuck's, and informed me that their daughters are so excited about knitting.  The dad told me that he has to insist that the girls observe their usual bedtime, and his daughters have replied, "Just a minute.  I have to finish my row!"  I assured Dad that The Professor has heard those words literally thousands of times as I've raced through the last ten stitches before turning out the bed lamp light, opened the car door, or started cooking dinner.  Evidently I'm teaching these young ladies well to understand what's important!

I choose to use my leisure time passing on my fiber art skills.  I consider it part of my legacy to the next generation.  Who will knit charity hats, cozy scarves and sweet baby sweaters after my hands are cold and stiff if I don't show these girls now how to work the purls and knits, the increases and decreases, the pick ups and bind offs?  Hanging out with enthusiastic tweens keeps me young.  They make me laugh.  They make me proud.  I'm lovin' it.

Because I'm a left handed knitter, I have enlisted the help of a brilliant and creative seventeen year old young lady who is the TA in four of my writing classes.  Pen can learn a technique on Thursday and teach it on Friday.  I do not want to confuse anyone with my "Hold the empty needle in your left hand, no, your right hand. Umm, wait a sec... yes, your right hand, no, your left hand..." mumbling as my brain works to translate left handed to right handed knitting.  Pen's young and agile brain can make those transfers so much faster than I can.

I'm looking forward to this Friday!  The girls will learn to decrease and increase and then they will be able to make this scarf--

The instructions for knitting this scarf are free online here.

Details for my scarf:  Willow's handspun superwash wool, leftover from a spinning project done for someone else.  Size 9US needles.  3 1/2 inches wide, 78 inches long.  Usually, I wear it doubled and then looped around my neck because I like the warmth.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

One Day

One day's knitting.
Plain vest by

I've knitted this little size 1 vest before, also in pink.
But this time, I used a much lighter shade.
The button choice brightens the plainness.

If you need a quick knit for a baby shower gift for a new little girl, try the Plain Vest.
Details here.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Because It's Nine PM

Because I am hoping to post something here on my blog every day this month, because I was lazy and preferred to sit in a coffee shop with my husband and contentedly sip a decaf soy mocha (no whip) this afternoon, and because I spent two hours with seven sweet pretween girls helping them improve their knitting skills, I have not prepared a fascinating paragraph for publication.

All I can say here is, "This evening I walked two miles,"  which is exciting to me since that is farther than I have walked in the past nine weeks.  My severely sprained ankle is finally healing!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Slow and Simple

Slow and simple.  That best describes this past week. 

1. Logging slow miles.  Actually, to be precise, I logged a mile.  Each day this week, I've walked a little farther, and on Wednesday, I walked ONE mile.

2. Last week, I mentioned that I have been knitting hats.  I posted about the Chicago food bank which will be giving away 1,000 or more hats to children who attend the Christmas party the first week of December.  I just cast on stitches for Hat #10.  My goal is to send twenty hats.  If you are interested in helping by knitting or crocheting hats, check out my post HERE.  Simple knitting can reap wonderful warm benefits.

3. Santa Ana Winds would not normally be on my faves lists because, well, it's windy.  On Wednesday the Santa Anas blew gusts up to 40 miles per hour from the desert to the ocean.  What I enjoyed was the aftermath, not the blown leaves, the downed power lines at The Professor's university, or the small fire that burned at the side of the freeway, but the crystal clear air that resulted from everything dusty and hazy being blown away.  A simple thing like a beautiful day makes me happy.

4. A simple lullaby.  My older daughter, mama of my New Boy, wrote this post yesterday about her singing a song to him as she tucks him in at night.  I loved it.  Made me cry.  And miss him.  He's growing so fast.  It is probably time to knit him another new sweater.

Gratuitous photo of him modeling the sweater I gave him in July.

5. Simple meals.  Warning: if you are an enthusiastic cook, maybe you should skip this one.  Because I've been fighting a cold (and mostly losing the battle), my interest in preparing exciting dinners has been at a low low low ebb.  This was dinner one evening this week:  leftover brown rice with canned organic black beans dumped on the top.  The Professor steamed some broccoli to accompany his meal and added barbeque sauce and green salsa.  I went the minimalist route--before I microwaved my bowl of rice and beans, I threw fresh spinach on top and heated everything together then topped it with the green salsa.  It was a very simple yet tasty and delicious dinner.  (Ellen, I warned you!)  But we followed it with chocolate so perhaps the lack of forethought and preparation can be forgiven.

There you have it.  Willow's very quiet and simple Week in Five Faves.  I've linked up with Susanne's Friday Fave Five as usual.

How about you? Was your week complicated or simple?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Writing Teacher's Challenge

This is National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short.  I'm feeling uncomfortable. I don't write. I teach writing.  Instead of simply correcting student papers every day, I should be writing more myself.  Although I'm not even remotely interested in writing a novel, I decided to challenge myself to write a daily blog post this month.  We'll see how long this lasts.

Today's story is a simple retelling of the traditional tale of The Hare and the Tortoise.

Slow and Steady
by Willow
      In a pleasant evergreen forest there lived a community of woodland animals. A tortoise, who had escaped from a nearby farmhouse many years before, lived among the rugged gray rocks on the edge of the meadow. Under a large fir tree, a loud, lively hare had dug a den for himself. Hare loved to boast about his ability to outrun any forest animal even the red fox. Because Hare was a bragging boaster, he did not have many friends. Obviously, most of the other animals preferred to avoid him.

      One day Hare and Tortoise met by chance near the brook which bubbled through the clearing in the middle of the forest. As Tortoise trudged along the path, Hare viciously taunted him. "Out of my way, Tortoise! You are so slow you may not make it across the clearing before dark, and then the night owls will swoop down and grab you for their breakfast!" "I am fine, Master Hare. If I keep walking steadily, I will be safely back under my rock home in time for dinner. In fact, I could beat you," replied Tortoise mildly. "Ha! I'll race you across the clearing and we'll see who's the fastest creature in the forest," challenged Hare. The other animals heard the loud voices and curiously hopped over to listen. Hare yelled, "Hey, Red Fox, will you mark our beginning and finish lines? I'll prove to this old reptilian slow-poke that he should never question the fleetest runner in the forest!" Red Fox agreed. Carefully, he mapped out the route along the creek, through the farmer's garden and up the slope to the fallen log on the other side of the meadow and then indicated to the two contestants the start and finish lines. "Ready, set, go!" Tortoise placed one leathery claw in front of the other and slowly made his way past the crowd of animals which lined the trail. Hare sped off. Soon he was out of sight. When he approached the farmer's garden, he slowed down a bit and noticed that the carrot tops were poking through the moist soil. He decided that he needed a sweet snack and stopped to nibble a few green shoots. Then he spied the lettuces. After eating his second helping of carrot tops, he became sleepy. Having forgotten all about the race, he curled up under an apple tree by the edge of the path and fell fast asleep. Meanwhile, Tortoise reached the end of the path along the creek and hurried as quickly as his short stumpy legs could move past the farmer's garden. He noticed Hare. He did not waken him.

      Eventually, Hare awoke and leisurely sat up. He observed Tortoise near the top of the meadow and suddenly remembered the race. Although he hopped twice as quickly as he usually did, Hare crossed the finish line twenty seconds after Tortoise. All the forest animals excitedly cheered for Tortoise as Hare stood there in humiliation and disbelief while Fox placed the winner's garland of springtime flowers on Tortoise's head. Fox turned to Hare and remarked, "Slow and steady wins the race."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Calling All Hat Knitters!

Do you have yarn lying around in your stash waiting to be knit up?  Do you have little balls of fun colors which were left over from various projects?  If you do, you can knit them into HATS!  I imagine you are thinking, "Once they're knitted up, what can I do with them? All my family members and friends already have been gifted with my marvelous fibery prowess."  Well, do I have the perfect opportunity for you!  This month, you can pull out those partial skeins and knit (or crochet) them up in to hats to keep little heads in the Chicago area warm this winter!

I noticed a post on Robyn the minimalist knitter's blog about making hats for all the children who attend a Christmas party at a food pantry in the Chicago area.  Since I have an abundance of those little leftovers and I have been steadily knitting down my yarn stash, I thought this would be a great way to use my yarn and talents and also bless those cold ears from wind and snow.  I contacted Robyn who put me in touch with Kathie.

Here is Kathie's response and explanation:

"When I first started knitting the ladies in our church were very supportive. One lady volunteered in a food pantry and she thought some hats would be great for the children who come to a holiday party in early December each year. Last year I knit 60 hats and she said they went fast. When I asked her how many children came to the party, she said over 1,000 children. I just couldn’t believe it.

The food pantry is in a middle class neighborhood on Irving Park Rd. in Chicago. Last year they gave bags of food to over 30,000 people. This is a very small location that is only open 2 days per week. The most wonderful group of volunteers work there and they think there will be an even larger group of children coming to the party this year. So I’m looking for people to help crochet or knit hats. I’ve knit over 100 hats this year and have received 130 hats from people on Ravelry so there is over 230 hats ready to donate.

I’ve been putting descriptive labels on them that say the name and state of the person that made them. “Handmade for you by Mary in Georgia”. I want to show the kids that people from all over the country have thought of them and volunteered to help. My hope is that they will see this and feel special. Hopefully some day they will think of others and pass on their talents.


Kathie needs to turn in all the hats by the end of November so we have only a few weeks to knit and crochet and drop those boxes in the mail.  So far, I've knitted seven hats and have cast on for my eighth!  According to Kathie, any size is welcome although women's small or medium caps are a good general size.

You can contact Kathie through ravelry (her Rav name is kathied5732) or you can e-mail me at for her address.

Don't leave all that yarn in a bag in the back of your cupboard when it could keep a child warm this winter!