Friday, March 27, 2015

It's Spring...

Break!  I'm so happy!  Here are the Friday Fave Fives from Willow's Week.

1.  Obviously, two weeks off for Spring Break has to be #1!

2.  As a run up to Spring Break, our weather has been hotter than I like warm and sunny.  Every day I have spent at least a bit of time outside messing about in my garden.  Playing in dirt has been one of my favorite activities since I was a tiny girl.  I think I may be a bit of a garden geek.  I have prepped the soil and planted four tomatoes and two parsley so far in my tiny garden.  I've already used some of the parsley for soup, and look--the tomatoes are popping out flowers which will soon become tiny cherry tomatoes!

3.  If you live around here, in the spring you will immediately identify the aroma of these white flowers.  They are orange blossoms; these are specifically mandarin oranges.  Can you spot the itty bitty tiny oranges growing on the left and the right?  Come December, they will be ripe and I will relish eating them.

4.  These guys have been keeping me company while I putter in the garden.  This year there are several of these lizards in all different sizes.  They skitter around and pop out from under stones and leaves and surprise me.

The Sunbather

Mr. Body Builder doing his push ups

5.  The past few weeks I have had the tendency to almost finish a knitting project and then drop it to begin something new.  There were five six (I recounted) UFOs languishing on horizontal surfaces. (This does not count the high stack of hats which are finished but need the ends woven in.) Hence, no knitting posts lately.  So this week I declared a 'finish my projects' moratorium on casting on for new projects.  I finished these two almost identical cowls and have a third still on the needles.  These cowls are part of the Use Up My Stash Program.

Particulars for the cowls
Yarn:  Red Heart's Micro Spun 100% acrylic, Lily White, 1 skein (168 yds)
Needles:  size 10 circular
Pattern:  k1, p1 seed stitch.
Gauge: 7 stitches = 2 inches
Cast on an uneven number of stitches to make the cowl the length you want. Follow pattern of k1, p1 around and around until you reach the desired width, then cast off loosely.  My cowls are about 4.5 inches by 60 inches so they can be worn doubled or tripled around the neck.  As you can tell, the measurements do not need to be exact.

So that was Willow's Week of Thankfulness.  Do leave a comment and let me know what blessings you have noticed in your days this week.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's My Party

Spring!  It's here!  After a few really really hot days (we broke local records kind of hot), the weather has settled into 70s and sunny.  Just in time for St. Patrick's Day and Spring.  And my birthday.  So Friday Fave Fives are all about celebrating my birthday.

1.  I hit a milestone birthday this year.  My Medicare birthday.  The Medicare part isn't the fave; it's that I am thankful (and a bit amazed) that I am that old.  Thanks be to God for giving me these years!

2.  The partying started on Saturday when the texts began binging.  "We're on our way."  "We crossed the state border."  "We're here!"  Our little Princess PAL arrived with her parents entourage for a four day visit.

3.  This is The Professor's Spring Break, so we took advantage of Monday did some sightseeing in Santa Barbara and Ventura.  PAL's mom's BFF and her family joined us from Orange County.  Their girl Faith was an instant friend for me.  We walked all over Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens holding hands.  Answering questions a mile a minute, I was enchanted by her curiosity and enthusiasm.

4.  Princess PAL attained her own milestone while visiting us.  She underwent a rite of passage, Dipping Your Feet in the Ocean for the First Time.  We were honored to attend such an important and solemn ceremony.

5.  I really am a St. Patrick's Day baby.  Born on that lucky day, I love the funny cards I receive. Like this one:  "Your birthday's on St. Patrick's Day?! [insert amusing green turtle looking surprised].  Inside, the message read, "You and a saint.  Go figure."  I think my sister/cousin watches all year to find the perfect card to send me.  My day was made complete with loves and cuddles from my little PAL and phone calls from every child and grandchild.  One grandson sent me a video message wishing me a Happy Birthday.  That's really all I want--love from my family.  Well, a birthday coffee and bookstore visit were nice, too.

Oxalis Oregana
(Did you know that there is an oxalis [shamrock/clover] which is native to the Pacific Northwest/Oegon?  How appropriate that is since I am an Oregon native and very much Irish/British AND born on St. Patrick's Day.)

So, that was Willow's Week in five birthday blessings--welcome to my party!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Almost Spring

Deep breath.  It's Friday.  Made it through the week.  I wonder if it's just the season.  Since there have been no breaks since the New Year, the long string of teaching weeks seem to get longer and busier as we approach Spring Break.  The Professor has next week off, as does our son the Chaplain's wife (more on that in a minute), but I have two more weeks until my break.  For whatever reason, the week just seems longer.  And busier. (I just said that, didn't I?) I didn't even get around to read others' FFFs and I really missed that.  [insert large sad face]  Due to a suspected cold coming on, I am taking today as a rest day.  I need it to catch my breath.  And I need to look back and remind myself of the blessings of the week.  Here are my chosen focuses for Friday Fave Fives.

1.  Sometimes I just have to stop and smell the roses.  These are the first two blooms in my garden.

2.  I have a new addition to my garden which came with a new visitor.  The monarch butterfly consumes only one plant--the lowly milkweed.  My arts group friend gifted me a small milkweed plant.  I have been carefully tending it, faithfully watering it.  It just wasn't thriving.  I couldn't understand why.  Oh.  Look!

 A caterpillar larva!  Evidently, the milkweed arrived complete with an egg.  I had been told by someone that it may look like the milkweed plant is dead, but it's not.  It's just being eaten down to its nubbins and will grow back its leaves as soon as the monarch larva enters the chrysalis stage.  I hope it's soon.  There's not much left of my milkweed plant.  That one little larva has a voracious appetite.

3.  One reason the week may have seemed so busy is that we started out busy on the weekend.  The Professor and I joined several hundred people at a local conference where Kay Arthur of Precepts Bible Studies was the speaker.  I've been a student of Kay's through her Bible studies since 1994, but this is the first time I had heard her speak in person.  It was amazing.  And I shared it with many friends.

4.  Then, to top off the weekend, on Sunday evening, we attended a choral concert by Los Robles Childrens Choir.  At first, I figured it would just be the normal kids' choir. But.  W.O.W.  I was impressed.  (It's a bit hard to impress me with children singing because I began singing in choirs when I was seven and continued until I graduated from college.)  They sang "An American Patchwork" and tenor Ross Hauck sang with them as a guest performer.  Added bonus:  some present and former students were in the choir and audience.  That's another fun part of teaching homeschool kids!

5.  Remember that I mentioned spring break?  We are anticipating the arrival our Princess from Phoenix!  She will be accompanied by The Chaplain and his wife, her parents.  Four days of loving on our grandgirl!

So that was Willow's Week.  We're heading in to hot and windy weather this almost spring weekend.  Is it warming up or cooling down for you?

Thursday, March 05, 2015

March: Spring is in Sight

It's been a busy, busy week here at Willow's Cottage.  Another week has slipped past and I didn't post a single picture or write a single sentence.  However, I must hit pause and post my blessings.  It's a tradition which I think is important for me--focusing on what I am thankful for.  The link up for Friday Fave Fives is at Living to Tell the Story.

1.  So, how many times and how many ways can I say that I love my TA?  Today--hand delivered Americano with soy milk and a maple scone.  And she taught half of one class as she is 'interning' under me.

2.  I am thankful for notepads.  Let me explain.  I write myself notes All. The. Time.  If I write it, I won't forget it, right?  I make notes about meetings and appointments.  Two doctor appointments this week.  One meet up for lunch.  One meet up at 'big box yarn and craft store' to choose yarn for a prayer shawl project.  I know it's a small and somewhat silly thing, but notepads make my life easier and I'm thankful for that.

3.  I have a special small notebook for class reminders.  I call it "My Brains".  The class helpers/TAs know if I say, "Put that in my brains, please", they should make a notation so I will remember to do something.  "Send MO vocabulary words because he lost his."  Check.  "Post information sheet about a special writing technique the students learned, so the parents will know what their kids are talking about."  [What's a 3SSS???]  Check.  "Send quiz to SB since she missed taking it when she was in Hawaii!" Check.  I love that little notebook--it came in a clear plastic zippered case AND it has a matching pencil.

4.  You know those days when you just don't feel like cooking?  What's your go to place to grab some food?  We like Sharky's!  This Mexican Grill has the Best Food!  We buy a burrito each and get four meals.  My favorite?  AJ Burrito--black beans, brown rice, avocado, and broccoli all wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.  Add cilantro, salsa verde, and lime.  Yum!

5.  Monday afternoons are often reserved for spending a few hours with my artists group.  We're a tiny group, but we're passionate about expressing ourselves in our respective art forms.  I'm not a painter.  I don't do watercolors.  But in watching my friends and listening to them discuss forms and techniques, etc etc etc, I am slowing learning a little.  Happily and contentedly I sit and knit, and we drink tea and love each moment.  I treasure those Monday afternoon hours.  I'd show you a photo of the other shawl I'm working on (not the prayer shawl), but at this point, it's still a boring, crumpled ball of silk and llama.  Once it's finished and blocked it will be fun to photograph.

And, here's a bit of color for friends in snow bound lands.  Take heart.  Spring is coming!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Bye, February!

Wow. The second month of 2015 is done.  I don't think I'm keeping up very well.  I'm even late with my Friday Fave Fives.  Here are my 'stop and breathe and be thankful' moments from this week.

1.  Fave!  A hike with my hubby!  Between the three or four grey days this week, we have had beautiful, brilliant, sunny days.  One of those sunshiny days we decided to hike in Hill Canyon (again).  Before, we have always walked in the canyon, but this time we trekked up the side, navigating the switchbacks to get up to the top.  It was worth the walk!

2.  Fave!  Did you notice the yellow dots?  Those are correopsis flowers, a California native spring blooming bush.  Evidently you can't take too many photos of blooming correopsis.  I had to cull through and only choose a couple pictures.  Love these flowers!

3.  Fave!  Did you see the musical video of the llamas on the loose in Sun City, Arizona?  I laughed out loud the whole way through!  Love those llamas!

4.  Fave!  Some new reading and dreaming material.  A lady in my Tuesday Bible Study group gifted me some knitting books and patterns.  Since she no longer knits, she wanted me to have them.  Ones I won't use I will pass on to other knitters.  Yay for new knitting ideas!

5.  Fave! Another walk, this time by myself in the hills above my neighborhood.  Lured onto the trail by the sight of more correopsis, I followed the trail above the dry creek bed to capture more pictures. 

No, you can't take too many photos of these wonderful spring blooms.  They will be gone in a week or two so I enjoy them while I can.

A little bonus bloom:  lupine

Thursday, February 19, 2015

More February Fave Fives

How was your week?  Can you even watch the news any more?  I take a deep breath and focus and CHOOSE to be thankful, to not take life and beauty for granted.  Friday Fave Fives helps me do that.  Thanks to Susanne at Living to Tell the Story for providing this venue each week.

1.  After almost completely ignoring my garden for the past several months, this week I have been able to spend a bit of time out there.  This is what I found.  The first California Poppy is blooming in my garden!

The lavender and Point Sal sage are growing chummy and attracting the honeybees.

2.  I have been knitting through several skeins of wool yarn.  Around here in SoCal, people don't wear wool.  It's too hot.  So this yarn is being made into hats to give away.  I'm almost done.  Eleven more hats finished.  The fave is really double--I use up my stash and I can bless other people.

3.  Lent began this week.  It had kind of sneaked up on me, and I wasn't prepared.  Usually I choose something to 'give up', to focus my attention somewhere.  On Thursday, I was still pondering it when I had an interaction that brought everything together.  A young man who lives on the other side of the world and who I have never met in person has been part of our lives for more than ten years because we sponsored him through secondary and technical school in his home country.  Now he lives a long way away and keeps in contact with people through our amazing world wide access to social media and other internet venues.  My communication with him deeply touched my 'mother's heart' and I immediately realized that my Lenten focus is supposed to be increasing my prayer times for my children and grandchildren, including this grown up orphan who is making his own way in the world.  Having found an unused notebook, I decided to write the Bible verses which I am praying for them.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I can do this small thing for the children of my heart.

4.  I know that I have mentioned my TA and how much I enjoy her.  But she just keeps on blessing me each week with her attitude, her conversations, her talent in helping in class.  How can you not love a coworker who enters the room and exclaims, "I'm so happy to be here this morning!"  And she brought me a scone and an Americano.

5.  A little love from Phoenix showed up in my messages.

So that was Willow's Week!  So full of blessings!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I *heart*

Last week was just one of those weeks when there was simply too. much. to. do. Writing lesson plans exhausts my brain, so there was not much bandwidth up there to spare for blog writing.  Fortunately, my work load was much lighter this week--maybe there is a little itty bit of spare brain to use on documenting the blessings of the past two week with my  Friday Fave Fives.

1.  First and most endearing is this story.  At least a month ago, I was wearing my favorite turquoise earrings and LOST ONE of them.  I know it was just an earring.  But I really liked this pair and I had made them myself.  I knew I had been in three stores that day so after arguing with myself about the silliness of it all, I finally went back to each place and asked if anyone had found an earring.  No luck.  I resigned myself to it.  I was still disappointed.  I was sad.  Here's the amazing part:  on Sunday morning, we stopped by our local Starbuck's and grabbed a cup of coffee on the way to church.  One of the barristas, Ashley, called to me and said that she had been looking for me for awhile.  She handed me my earring!  She had found it, remembered I had asked about it, and saved it to give me.  Ashley's dedication to service blessed me so much!  It made my whole week!

2.  We're having a heat wave.  The temperatures have been in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit which has made pushing myself out the door for a walk so much easier.

3.  Spring is truly here in Southern California.  We had rain last week so the hills are green and the flowers are popping up!  The yellow coreopsis and  the poppies and the lupine are blooming!  I know it's hard to see the small patches of poppies and lupine in these photos but they're there, gracing our parched and stony mountainsides.  I had to zoom in quite a lot to catch the poppy patch.

Closer in, the poinsettias and bird of paradise are easier to photograph.

4.  I am making more progress on knitting through my yarn stash.  Last week I posted an update on the hats I made in January.  Since then I've added another eight hats to the pile.

5.  Those magical words---"I'm heading down for a visit.  Can you pick me up at the train station?"  Son #2 is coming!  Can't wait!

Bonus:  It's my daughter in law's birthday!  She was born on Valentine's Day, and we *heart* her and the joy and love she has brought to our son.