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.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fave Fives, January, Take #4

Happy Friday!  It's time to reflect back this past week and remember with gratitude the blessings.  Usually, it's the little things that matter most.  Flowers. Moons. Books. Jokes.  Here are Friday Five Faves from Willow's Week.

1.  Look what I found in my garden!

2.  Usually we take our daily walk later in the evening, but the evening before the full moon we were out earlier and I caught this snap shot of the moon rise.  I love photography!

3.  When you have a cold, take Airborne.  It helps.

4.  I have listed the books I am planning to read this year.  The current count is thirteen.  These are the books I had already started reading or chose to put on my reading table last year.  I had noble ideas of choosing a book and reading it through to go through my list in a tidy and organized manner.  That didn't last long.  I am almost finished with Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole, but then I picked up Louis L'Amour's Education of a Wandering Man and begin reading it because I have the beginnings of a cold and wanted something light.  I thought I was going to be reading a casual autobiography which is just right for a fuzzy cold brain. But it's not quite like that.  However, I found a wonderful quote by L'Amour:

"It is often said that one has but one life to live, but that is nonsense.  For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time."

5.  For your amusement:  One of my students told me a joke this week.  When he heard it, he memorized so he could tell me in class:

What is the difference between a cat and a comma?
A cat has  a paw with claws.
A comma has a clause with a pause.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book List for 2016, Episode One

As promised, I am posting a list of the books which I have determined to finish reading in 2016. Of course, these represent only a minuscule portion of the books on my shelves.  For various reasons, these books have made their way onto my reading book stand.  Some have been there a while.  Others have moved in to the house in the past month.  It's time to read these!

As you can easily see, I have very diverse reading interests.  My plan is to choose one book and just read it through and FINISH it.  Currently I am reading Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole, Alona Pulde & Matthew Lederman and am nearly finished with it.  I think my next book will have to be Mini Farming, Brett L. Markham mainly because it is a LIBRARY BOOK and I have had it checked out over and over and over way too many times.

Gardening books:
5 Acres and a Dream, Leigh Tate
Mini Farming, Brett L. Markham LIBRARY BOOK

Gifted Hands, Ben Carson
Education of a Wandering Man, Louis L’Amour
Vet in Harness, James Herriot (British edition)   borrowed from neighbor

Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas LIBRARY BOOK
The Life of St. Francis of Assisi, Saint Bonaventure

Christian History and Encouragement
Turning Points, Mark A. Noll
What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew about Judaism, Robert Schoen   borrowed from friend
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Timothy Keller

Finance and Simplicity
Your Money or Your Life, Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin (reread)
Simplify Your Life, Elaine St. James (reread)

Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole, Alona Pulde & Matthew Lederman

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Quiet Weeks Can Be Good

Friday's Fave Fives from Willow's Week.  Some weeks are just...there.  Some weeks have no exciting, defining events to mark their passing.  This was one of those weeks.  That's ok.  In fact, I appreciate such weeks.  As I pondered what this week's blessings have been, I realized this was a quiet week of quiet gratitude.

1.  This week marks the half way point of the school year!  I'm half done!  I enjoy teaching, but it's still 'a job'.  I love knowing I've accomplished half my goal.

2.  Do you have a pile of books lying around waiting to be read?  If you do, you're like me.  The fave part of this is that I have decided that this is the year I am going to focus on reading those semi-abandoned sadly ignored books.  I'm making a list (and checking it twice) and prioritizing the order in which I will read them.  Once I am sure I have located all the books, I'll post my list.

3.  Got my camera back!  Here's proof.  Photos of us practicing (yes, we are that old).

The three original members of the group with our director

4.  Happy Birthday, Dr. Mike!  It was Son #2's birthday this week.  Although he is a long, long way away, we talked on the phone and were able to wish him a happy birthday and promise him that his gift would be waiting for him next time he comes to visit-- dinner at his fave pizza place.

5.  This week our small group from church started again.  The format is nine weeks with a short break--this time, we didn't meet during the busy Christmas season.  It's great to be back with our group of thirteen.

Bonus:  Rain!  Not wild, torrential rain like we usually get, but soft, misty rain like Oregon and Washington. [remember that song's lyrics---It never rains in California, but girl, don't they warn ya, it pours, man, it pours].  And then we had a couple of warm sunny no coats no gloves no hats days.  As we were walking one evening, I commented on how 'cold' it was after sunset.  The Professor's response was, "If you say that to your three kids who live on the East Coast, we will be able to see the explosion all over the Eastern sky."  Take care, all of you in the snow covered places.  Be safe.  Be warm.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Healthy Dose of the Beach

Some days you just need a visit to the beach.

There were high tide warnings.  The birds were cautious, perching on the rocks above the waves.

Looking away, we saw the cliff looming above us on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway.

But nothing soothes the soul like a sunset at the beach.