Friday, February 26, 2016

Last One in February

Fourth and Last February Friday Fave Fives list.
How is it possible that we are one-sixth of the way through 2016?
Friday Fave Fives is a way to remember the best blessings.
Remember--it's always a good day when no one has shot at you, and you were able to get out of bed and drink your coffee.

1.  Spring is really and truly here.
At the farmers market last weekend, we found the first asparagus of the season.
We ate it at dinner that evening and as we were savoring each bite, The Professor stated, "You need to make this one of your Fave Fives for next Friday!'

2.  On Sunday The Professor and I attended a healthy living conference.  I've gone before, but this year he elected to join me.  It's an all day affair and includes a super healthy breakfast and lunch. Excellent speakers and excellent information.

3.  I love my garden. It's spring!  It's a perfect combination.
My garden has begun sprouting!
So far, I've planted snap peas and carrots.
I think my garden could make my Five Faves list every week.

4.  I love the small beasts which are around greeting me as I water or weed.  Mr. Lizard has a very long tail.

I don't know much about birds, but I do recognize the tiny hummingbirds.  Here is one perched on the aloe vera spike.  He sat there and scolded me the whole time I was outside photographing him.

5.  Remember this yarn?
I handspun it last summer and didn't have a plan for it.
But my friend who has conscripted me to be her indentured knitting worker loves it, so I made a shawl for her.  It's done and delivered to her, but of course I forgot to take a photo.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!
Enjoy the outdoors.
Take time to rest and relax.
Declutter something and simplify your life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Memories of Ft. Bragg

This week I have been somewhat nostalgic for my northern roots in the Pacific Northwest.  When we visited Mendocino County in Northern California this past summer, we stayed for a day in Ft. Bragg.  There is a botanical garden there (appropriately named Garden By the Sea), so of course we had to spend a couple of hours there.  Today I remembered that I had taken photos in the garden and they reminded me so much of my verdant roots.  So I went back to the pictures in my files for a visit.

Who wouldn't want to live here, even if it's often foggy?

Friday, February 19, 2016

TFFFF [Third February Friday Fave Five]

It seems like every week is a busy one these days.  If I'm not teaching, I'm studying, planning or reading papers.  I enjoy keeping busy but sometimes, I like to just rest.  I did that a bit this week, intentionally.  It helps me too to stop at the end of the week and remind myself what the highlights were.  I think that's why I enjoy Friday Fave Fives--it helps me focus on the positive events so I don't simply plod thoughtlessly through the days and weeks.  Here are my Fave Fives from Willow's Week.

1.  After the crazy hot days at the beginning of the week (87F), it cooled off and rained.  Here in drought land, rain is always a fave.  All these white blossoms are on the ground now, knocked down by wind and rain. I'm glad I took a few photos last week before the wind and rain swept through.

2.  I successfully signed myself up for a couple of official appointments online.  This is a fave because it didn't take as long as I feared.  And it was much easier than I expected.  Whew.

3.  My sweet students!  One young man brought me a lovely pink orchid plant.  Happy Valentine's Day to me!

4.  Wanna hear a joke?  My students love to share them---  "Why did the boy invite the mushroom to his birthday party?"   (Answer--see below*)

5.  The fruit guy at the farmers market often gives us the apples or grapes he can't sell because they're bruised or 'on the edge'.  He know what I do with them--dry them in my dehydrator and then I gift back to him some of the finished product.  This week we've been drying a huge box of apples.   Yummy!  These will last us for snacks for a long time!

I hope your week has warmth and flowers and jokes and kindness!

*because he was a fun guy.

Friday, February 12, 2016

SFFFF--Second February Friday Fave Fives

What a Week.  Willow's Week was-- simply put-- a whirlwind.  I did try to stop and focus so I would remember what took all my time and attention and how I was blessed in the activities of the week.  I know I'm a bit late to the Friday Fave Fives party, but at least I made it...

1.  It was hot.  We broke heat records.  One afternoon, I checked the temperature at my car as I drove from class and it was 89F.  In February.  I love this time of year when (if it's not raining) the weather is exceptionally pleasant.

2.  All the flowers have decided to bloom.

It's the very end of camellia season.

But, I spied the first California poppy by the side of the road.

3.  I marked three books off my 2016 book list!
Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James (and I passed it on to a friend to read!)
Mini Farming by Brett L. Markham
Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole by Pulde and Lederman

4.  Driving in to my neighborhood this afternoon, I pulled off to the side of the road, hopped out, and snapped this photo of the ornamental plum tree blossoms in the foreground of the Santa Monica Mountains.   I think the plum trees are blooming a bit early this year.  Do you notice the rock formation which looks like a castle along the skyline?  That's completely natural--just rocks. I am truly thankful for the place I live.

5.  My artists group is back meeting again!  We are reading a thoughtful, inspirational book together and meeting during Lent--sort of our Lenten study.  Oh it was wonderful to sit around a table and share and chat.  We may have stayed an extra hour and we may have rambled down a few side trails.  Just so happy to be with each other.  Do you have such people in your life?

Friday, February 05, 2016

FFFFF--First February Friday Fave Fives

It's a beautiful beautiful day at Willow's Cottage, this First Friday in February.  I have Five Faves to share with you from my week.  Susanne hosts Friday Fave Fives.  Go HERE to join us!

1.  I have a new-to-me desk!  When my friend was in the process of making changes in her studio, she remembered that I have been looking for a desk for years.  This one is exactly perfect for me.  Low enough for me to sit at and use my computer.  Four drawers.  Roll down top.  And best of all, it's TEAK and matches the rest of our Danish teak furniture!  So she made me an offer.  Let's trade!

2.  The trade we made is perfect for both of us.  I knit.  She loves knitted stuff.  So I have 'indentured' myself to her for xx number of knitted items over the next year.  So far, I've made a man's watch cap type hat, a toddler's hat and a headband.  Now I'm in the process of knitting a shawl from some handspun (by me) wool in all her favorite colors.

3.  The best sign.  Ever.

4.  I finished the New Boy's sweater adjustments.  If you care, you can read about how to lengthen a knitted sweater in this post I wrote earlier this week.  The best part is that I finished it and it's ready to be mailed off to him this weekend.  And I didn't just cut it up and throw it away and start over.  I worked through the process and figured it out.

5.  The-World's-Best-Neighbor borrowed something culinary from me last week and when she returned a NEW bottle of what she borrowed, she also brought me a lovely camellia blossom.  Yes, the camellias are blooming their little hearts out here in Southern California this month.

That's it from Willow's Cottage!  How was your week?  I hope you've had a great week and TOOK NOTE of the blessings.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Granola--What's Good for you

I love oats.  Oats are my breakfast.  I eat oats every. single. day.   I love oats in almost any form of culinary delight.  Oatmeal, both rolled and steel cut.  Muesli.  Granola.

This week I ran out of granola and didn't feel like jumping in the car and zooming off to the grocery store just to buy granola.  So, I decided to make some.   Because of my dietary restriction of no added salt, sugar or oil, all of which most granola recipes include, I had to adapt.  I've seen granola recipes which do not have oil, but they are few and far between.  So.  Here is my Willow's Made Up Granola recipe from yesterday.

Willow's Mix for Basic Granola
Preheat oven to 300F.

3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (you can add, change, whatever spice you like--I've seen cardamon, ginger, nutmeg...)
Here is where you'd add salt, if you wanted to, maybe 1/4 teaspoon

1/3 cup maple syrup*
1/4 cup water (you can use oil, but you don't need to)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*the recipes usually call for brown or white sugar (1/3-1/2 cup) PLUS 1/3 cup of honey or other sweetener.  That's waaayyy too sweet for me.  I had real maple syrup (thanks, Trader Joe's!) and honey, but I choose maple syrup for this batch, just because.

Put the oats and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir it around.  Pour the maple syrup, water and vanilla into another bowl and then pour on to the oats mixture.  Stir together.  I used my (clean and washed) hands to make sure all the ingredients were evenly mixed.  Do this quickly so the oats don't get mushy and soggy.
Scoop the granola on to a large baking tray which has sides (not flat), making sure it's spread evenly around the pan and place in oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, stirring at least once to check that it's not burning.  Continue for another 15 minutes or until the oats are toasty brown.

Take out and let cool.  Add whatever fruits and nuts you want.  I happened to have some pecans and raisins, so that's what's in this batch.  Enjoy!  Or as we say in Bahasa Indonesia, "Selamat makan!"

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Grafting and Raining

At Christmas, I discovered that the sweater I had knitted for New Boy didn't fit.  The arms were too long and the body was too short.  What to do?  Since the arms were knitted shoulder down, it was easy to simply unravel a couple of inches and resew the seams.  But.  The body was knit bottom up.  Not so easy.  I knew the fix but I didn't want to do it.  However, there was no other way.   It involved cutting.

Here is how you add rows to an already knit garment.  Just saying here--don't try this the first time on an item you care about.  It's too scary.

First, pick up stitches on needles below and above the place where you will be adding rows.  I placed the lower needle two rows above the ribbing.  The other needle I placed two rows above the bottom needle so I would have adequate room to make the separation.

I think it is easier to manage the stitches if a circular needle is used.

Here's the creepy part.  Take a deep breath.  Pick up the scissors.  Take another deep breath.  Put down the scissors.  Think about just starting the whole sweater over.  Pick up the scissors again.  Carefully cut a strand of yarn in one of the stitches in one of the rows between the two needles.

Pull out the stitches between the two needles until you have two separate pieces of the sweater.  I have no photos of that.  I just couldn't bring myself to take a picture.  It was too sad.

But, here is the happy part!  You can take that lower half and begin knitting up on it!  It's not noticeable.  You just knit.  I added about three inches of stockinette stitch to that section. (He'd better not have grown much since Christmas!  I'm not doing this again!)

Now.  How do you put the whole thing back together?  You've increased the rows at the bottom but you still have to reattach that upper part of the sweater to the lower part.  This sewing together process is called grafting.  You can look it up on the internet or if you have a book of knitting techniques, read the instructions. (I recommend Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti.)  Sometimes this technique is called Kitchner Stitch after the brilliant person who figured out the easiest way to graft stitches together.  The best explanation I've found online is at the PurlSoho site.  Anyway, you just take that long tail of yarn you left on the lower section and thread a tapestry needles with it and begin sewing.  Follow the directions carefully.  If you mess up, just take out the seam back to the spot where you got off track and start again.

It works!  It really works!   You can tell where I grafted the two sections--about twenty rows up from the top of the ribbing.  But it will even out once it's all washed.

Now I just have to do the front of the sweater...

In happier news, it rained on Sunday!  Yes, there were horrible high winds that caused damaged in the area and it did flood a bit on PCH between here and Santa Barbara.  But it could have been much worse.  And we so need this rain.

This was at 8:00 am
dark, windy, rainy

More happiness!  The rain brought a little bit of green to our parched hills.  Please tell me you can see the green.