Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Week Begins

We are entering Thanksgiving Week.  One week from today, Americans will be recovering from a huge feast, still sleepy from all that tryptophan consumed in the form of roast turkey, satiated with an overdose of sugar and fat bombs, also called desserts, pies or cookies.  But that's not the real reason for Thanksgiving.  In 1789, the first US President, George Washington, proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November to be a National Day of Thanksgiving.  Usually, we think of this day as a Family Celebration Day.  I like to think of Thanksgiving as a season to focus on the abundant blessings I have.  Of course, I do this weekly here at Willow's Cottage with others via Susanne's Friday Fave Fives at Living to Tell the Story, but in November it's a bigger deal.

As I concentrate on my week's blessings, I keep being reminded of my Fave Five from a few weeks ago when I focused on the basics.  I just have to do that again.

1.  Abundance of Nourishing Food.

2.  Warm clothes.  This includes shoes and socks, slacks, sweaters, shirts, jackets and gloves.  I love my gloves.  Because my hands are unusually sensitive to cold, I wear those gloves in the mornings as I drive to work.  Even when it's only 50F, I'm wearing those gloves.

3.  Shelter.  One of the paragraphs I model for my students during Thanksgiving week is my appreciation of safe and secure shelter.  I've lived in many types of homes from vacation tents and bush houses constructed from native materials to large four bedroom homes.  I cannot count all the places I've called 'home'--just too many.  Basic shelter is truly a blessing.

4.  Clean Water.  I don't have to boil it before I drink it.  I turn this little knob  at the end of pipe and presto! the water flows out and into my pan or cup.

5.  Transportation.  I have a great, economical car which is in good repair.  And money enough to buy gas.

As of today, I am on Thanksgiving Break!  It looks like our housing situation is going to return to normal within the next week.  I am looking forward to reduction of  the stress--oh how I am looking forward to that!  (I may even pull my camera back out again.)

SO MUCH to be thankful for!  If you leave a comment here, I hope you will share ONE thing for which you are thankful.  I will rejoice with you!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Absent With Leave.  That's what I was last week.  I was given an opportunity to travel.    I flew to the rescue of my grandson who needed a nanny for a few days while his mama was busy in meetings for work.   Who wouldn't happily take that option?  I had a few weeks' notice, so I arranged my schedule.

Here's how it all played out with wonderful blessings along the way.  I'm linking this to Susanne's Living to Tell the Story Friday Fave Fives.

1.  A great substitute teacher.  It's not easy to get a sub for my job.  You have to have had training as an IEW teacher.  Last summer I spent a few days working and helping to train four women who are now teaching the curriculum alongside my boss and me.  Finally--I can confidently take a week away from classes and know my students will smoothly move on through the program.

2.  Time with that New Boy who has grown up so much.  In the mornings, I monitored his schoolwork.  Easy peasy.  He just sat down and did it.

It turns out that the heated swimming pool was the best attraction of the days we were in a city in the northern climes (read:  colder than California!)  It was beautiful, though.

On the last day, we finally persuaded him that a trip to the park would be OK.

3.  One of the best parts of the trip was meeting many of my daughter's colleagues who obviously respect her abilities and expertise in her field of work.  Of course it was fun to listen to the interaction of the brainiacs around the dining table.  I am incredibly proud of this amazing woman--my daughter!

4.  To sweeten the deal, my daughter added three days in Phoenix with our new little PAL to the offer!

The cousins meet for the first time.

New Boy definitely had fun with his uncle!  Who had the most fun??

5.  The Professor had a hand surgery already scheduled for the time while I was gone.  Although it was a simple surgical procedure, he needed 'supervision' for a day.  Son #2 to the rescue!  How I appreciate my son who just rearranged his grad school academic schedule and came from the San Francisco Bay area to hang out with his dad for three days, drive him around, and watch football with him.

So that was my little adventure to Utah and Arizona.  Now it's back to the routine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Travel Light

Last week I spent three nights in Utah and three night in Arizona.  Because I flew, I decided as usual to travel with only carry-on luggage.  For me, it's a fun challenge to work out a system where I can carry everything I need in one nineteen inch rolling suitcase and one computer bag.  People often ask how I can travel without checking a bag, so I thought I'd write a bit about how I pack.  My basic reminder of what to pack is advice from Rick Steves:  if you're not going to wear it three times, don't take it.

Layering was the most important part of my wardrobe planning because I was going to be in two very different climates.  I took a navy fleece jacket and a black fleece vest.  I also threw in a red hoodie which it turned out I only wore once.  My reasoning for taking it was two-fold.  It was a possible gift for my grandson, but it didn't fit him.  And if it was really really cold in Utah, I would have a third layer to keep me warm.  Accessories included a light turquoise cowl, a long turquoise silk scarf, a dark teal pashmina shawl (for the plane), a thin black fleece cap and a pair of black gloves.  I wore everything except the hat.

Here is a list of the other clothes.  I needed enough for the whole seven days I was gone because I didn't want to do any laundry.
2 pair of black slacks (probably could have limited myself to 1 pair)
1 pair jeans
1 short sleeved t-shirt (dark grey for casual times in Arizona)
2 long sleeved t-shirts (1 white, 1 light aqua)
3 light weight sweaters (lavender with white and black argyle, purple also with argyle, aqua with cables)
2 white camisoles (to wear under the sweaters)
1 white sleeveless top (for Arizona)
1 3/4 length sleeve white cardigan (again, for Arizona)
small purse to use while not in transit

I took 2 pairs of shoes, but it turns out I only wore the slip on flats a couple of times.  I could have taken only the other pair of black tie shoes and been fine.  Add 4 pairs black socks.

Because everything was color coordinated to match the black slacks or jeans, it was easy to layer the black vest with a long sleeved shirt, add a cowl or scarf and be toasty warm and still look dressy casual.

The hardest part of carrying those layers was packing up the two fleece pieces in the suitcase on the last leg of the journey from Arizona back to Los Angeles.  It was just too warm to wear them, so I stuffed them in the suitcase.

The other trick to not checking a bag is to have only small amounts of liquid items.  Through the years, I've collected little bottles to use for air travel.  Lotion, make up remover, mouthwash and shampoo all go in travel size bottles.  Often I wrap them in their own sandwich baggies and then put them in the quart sized bag.  When I'm in transit, I keep the baggie in my computer bag for easier access.  Soap, toothpaste and non liquid make up go in a separate bag with cotton balls and q-tips.

Clothes and personal items have become easy for me to downsize and limit myself during a trip.  Where I still struggle is in taking too many books and too many knitting projects!  Why am I always so optimistic about how many books I will read and how many hats or scarves I'll knit?  I thought I had done well to choose 'only' three books and three projects!  I did read two of the books and I would have finished all the knitting projects except I ended up BUYING two skeins of yarn to make a hat for grandson's friend.  It was one of those balls of yarn that fell out of my computer bag in the security line and made a run down the aisle.

When you travel, do you check a bag?  Do you take only carry-on bags?  What's your best tip for easy travel?

Friday, October 31, 2014

A List of Little Loves

In the midst of another whirlwind week, I am pausing to give thanks for the little blessings.  Friday Fave Fives with Susanne, as usual.

1.  Happiness is sitting quietly watching the glowing pink and turquoise sunset.

2.  Happiness is also sitting quietly with a morning cup of warm coffee and watching the sunrise.

3.  Happiness is rain in the weekend weather forecast.  Here's hoping!  (I NEVER thought I'd EVER write that!)

4.  Happiness is proficient and careful workers: dry waller, plumber, electrician, cement pourer and brick layer.

5.  Happiness is anticipation of a week to spend with my grandson The New Boy.

A bit of knitting therapy.  Gryffindor House scarf.

And tea with a friend.

Happy Weekend.  I hope you can find a list of little loves, too.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Unlnteresting Can Be Good

Hello, it's Friday Fave Five time.  Lately, I've been so overwhelmed with life and responsibilities that I have hardly had time to write here at Willow's Cottage more than once a week.  Hopefully, soon, I'll be back on track.  But I am committed to focusing on Fridays and being thankful for the blessings from the week.  Thanks, Susanne, for leading Friday Fave Fives.

1.  I can tell it's autumn.  It's a little tiny bit cooler at night.  There have been a few foggy mornings. No leaves are shimmering gold or glowing burnt orange.  This is as autumnal as it gets here.  Yeah, it's not much...but it's a sign.  What a re-leaf.

2.  I am enjoying the birds which gather at my neighbor's bird bath daily.  Although I have no idea what kind of birds are playing there, I am amused by them.

3.  I do love my job.  Teaching late elementary school students means I get the best of all worlds.  They're still children.  But they're old enough to interact and contribute to discussions.  Why is it that the GIRLS write stories with sad and brutal endings more often than BOYS do?

4.  Last weekend we were in the land of dry deserts and palo verde trees and saguaro cacti.  The more than fourteen hours in the car was a small price to pay to see our new grandgirl.  Her parents asked me to bring the baby sling/wrap I used to carry my babies, but it is temporarily packed up with the rest of our belongings, so I made a new one.  Gotta love facebook!  I put out a request to my Papua friends to measure the dimensions for an Indonesian selendang, and within just a few minutes, I had the information I needed.  A quick trip to the fabric store for batik material and a spool of thread, an even quicker cut and sew session, and we had a perfect fit.

5.  My husband knows me so well. I asked him if he had a suggestion for a fave.  His immediate thought was, "Sharky's burritos".  Oh yeah!  We do love Sharky's!  I dropped by this afternoon and picked up two burritos to go for dinner--they're generous enough that they fill us up for two meals.  Sharky's = nom noms.

My week wasn't exciting, but it was one of those quiet work-a-day weeks which most often fill our months and years.  And that's ok.  I've been blessed with an uninteresting week.

Friday, October 17, 2014


I have the best reason in the world for showing up late for Friday Fave Fives.  How could I say anything about my week without making THIS my best, first fave?

Introducing my new little PAL.
Born on Monday evening.

We drove out to Phoenix Thursday afternoon and immediately ran upstairs to see her and hold her.  Oh, she is adorable!  Everything else about our week dims into insignificance.

However, in accordance with finding five faves in my week, I will add four more...

2.  Music.  On my way to work, I get a little bored in the car.  My brain tends to subconsciously move to singing.  I never know what song is going to pop up.  This week it was How Great Thou Art.  I felt like I was channeling George Beverly Shea.  Surprised that I remembered all the words to at least two verses, I sang all the way to work.

3.  More songs.  Saturday and Sunday, I spent many hours demonstrating my spinning craft at Reyes Adobe Days in Agoura Hills. Across the courtyard under the grape vines, the fiddler was singing and fiddling.  One favorite of the audiences gathered around was The Streets of Laredo.  Okay, I used to sing that song when I was a kid.  But I just realized that I originally learned the lyrics from The Smothers Brothers.  I never knew these weren't the real words.

I can see by your outfit that you are a cowboy;
You can see by my outfit that I'm a cowboy, too;
You can see by our outfits that we are both cowboys;
So get yourself an outfit,
And be a cowboy, too.

So now this song is alternating in my brain with the much more lofty hymn in #2.  Thanks to my posting these lyrics, you can join me in the endless Smothers Brothers Streets of Laredo song loop.  You're welcome.  

4.  Whenever I can, I offer my hand knitted hats for sale.  This weekend exceeded my expectations.  I sold all but ten hats!  Generate Hope is going to get a substantial donation.

5.  More PAL LOVE

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, October 10, 2014

My First World

As I sit at my computer and ponder what are the five best things of my week, I'm hard pressed to decide what to write.  Today I am having deeper thoughts than normal.

Do you know that term people bandy about--"First World Problems"?  I live in a First World country although I haven't always lived here.  I've been considering First World privileges which I don't always value.  I am reminded this week as I write my Friday Fave Fives to be thankful for my First World privileges.

1.  No one shot at me this week.  Now, I've been around 'hostile guns' before, particularly when I was living in Los Angeles.  So that's not just a 'Third World' problem.  But sometimes people will ask me about my day, and I simply say, "No one shot at me today.  It's been a good day."  They look a little startled ,and then they laugh but with an understanding that, 'Yes, we live in a safe and secure spot in the world'.

2.  This week, I took showers with HOT running water.  The water was clean and warm.  Truly, it's a luxury.

3.  My clothes are new(ish) and clean.  The washing machine and dryer did their jobs, and they weren't squatting at the side of the stream scrubbing the shirts and slacks.

4.  I ate my fill of fresh fruits and vegetables.  In fact, I ate my fill of all the food I desired.

5.  Oh yeah, about that clean water.  I drank lots of it.  No need to boil it before I drank it or used it to brush my teeth.

Also, I have the amazing privilege to own a camera and take photos whenever and wherever I want.  Here are three for your enjoyment--just random pictures from my files.