The finer points of fellowship

February 26, 2007 at 3:25 pm | Posted in biscuit recipes, charity knitting, country living, dating, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, Habitat for Humanity, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, volunteerism, yarn | 24 Comments

Fireflys Winter View of Lake OntarioYesterday my husband and I went out on a drive in the afternoon to visit with some friends, Andy and Mabel, an older couple from our church. They just adopted a thirteen year old dog named Jenny from a local non-profit group dedicated to finding homes for pets in need.

The non-profit was founded by a woman who won one million dollars in the New York lottery. She was a waitress at the time, driving a beat up old Chevy or something. To this day she is still a waitress driving that same old beat up car. She uses income derived from her lottery money to fund her non-profit organization. They take in pets in crises, in need, or abandoned and nurture them back to health physically as well as emotionally. Once the pet is ready for adoption, they match the pet with a family who will provide just the right home for that particular pet.

On Saturday we held the annual Chicken and Biscuit fundraising dinner at our church. It is one of four dinner related fundraisers the church holds each year. My husband has been one of the key players in developing and running these fund raisers for over twenty years. Now that I am here with him, I do what I can to help with purchasing supplies ahead of time, setting up the kitchen and dinning room the night before, and preparing the food the day of the event.

I enjoy sharing in the activity with him, and lightening the load on his shoulders. For him I think it is the sharing of the activity and not being alone that is the biggest change for him. Last year, the weekend of the Chicken and Biscuit dinner was the weekend when he and I truly became a couple, even though we had not met face-t0-face. It was a significant weekend then, and even more significant this year because I am actually here, by his side, and we worked together and enjoyed a fine day and a worthwhile event together.

Fireflys Winter View of Lake OntarioAnother man from the church spent the entire week baking large sheet cakes, brownies, and cookies in preparation for a dessert bar for the dinner. The day of the event he also made three large cobblers: two peach, and one blueberry.

Now that I am a part of the crew, I have taken on the responsibility of icing and cutting the cakes, as well as setting up the dessert bar. As I worked in the dinning room on the cakes and other desserts, the men (my husband, the baker man, and one other good friend who always shows up to help) worked together in the kitchen. The radio was playing a variety of 80’s songs, not because that music was anyone’s taste, but because that was the first station found when the radio was turned on.

I enjoyed listening to the sound of their voices as they told stories and jokes with one another, accompanied by the soft sounds of the songs playing on the radio.

Days and moments like that are precious.

Later in the afternoon more members of the church showed up to be on hand to help serve, bus tables, and handle cleanup in the kitchen. The fundraiser dinners do raise funds for the church, but real benefit is the opportunity for fellowship with one another and with members of the community.

Fireflys Winter View of Lake OntarioI love the experience of working side by side with other members of the church who I normally would only see on Sunday mornings. Standing in the food service line we get to know each other in new ways, and learn to appreciate each other as we interact not only with one another but also with the guests whose plates we fill with good old homecooked meals.

Andy and Mabel are two of the dependable volunteers who you know will be there, no matter what else is going on in their lives. Andy enjoys washing dishes, and though he is one of the oldest members of our church, he is always there washing the dishes after fundraisers and potlucks, staying as late as anyone, washing huge numbers of dishes and pots and pans with a smile on his dear, sweet face.

Saturday morning they brought Jenny home from the pet adoption service, so Mabel left early from the dinner to go be with the new family member at home. I noticed Andy got an early start on washing the dishes and seemed to working extra fast and hard, with quite a determined look on his face.

I joined him in the kitchen to lend a hand, and told me about Jenny the dog and that he hoped to be able to leave a little early because he was excited to go home and spend some time with her. It was beautiful to me that his excitement was just as sweet as a child going home to a new puppy. I asked if we could stop by on Sunday afternoon to meet her, and he was delighted at the prospect.

Another Barn Near Fireflys FarmHe finished what dishes were available for washing, and we all encouraged him to leave the rest to us so he could go home to be with Mabel and Jenny.

What a dear man. He and Mabel are both extraordinarily loving, beautiful people. One day at church Mabel gave me a hug and she pulled back, looked at me and said, “I just think I love you!” Then we hugged again and I told her I loved her as well. She smells of roses every time we hug.

They live about ten minutes north of us, up closer to Lake Ontario. After stopping by their house we drove closer to the lake to have a look at it in deep winter mode. I found it so interesting to see the band of chunky ice toward the shore, a band of churned up slate gray further out, and then the deep blue of the lake in the distance.

We also spotted a small, old barn along the way. It will be one I feature in a painting; something about it caught my eye in a very special way.

Fireflys Mystery ProjectFor some reason, being out on a drive in the cold winter environment makes me want to find someplace to have an ice cream cone with my husband. Oh well, I’ll have to wait until summer for that treat.

Progress continues on the mystery project … this photo gives you a glimpse.

As for fellowship, the fellowship experience at church on Saturday brought to mind the fellowship experience we are all having with my blog. You come here regularly and read, comment, have a cup of whatever. We participate in creating blankets for Habitat for Humanity together. This is a community. It has surprised me, because I couldn’t have known when I started my blog last August that such a wonderful group of friends would assemble here within my words, patterns, recipes, and photographs. But here we are.

And I appreciate your friendship, this opportunity for fellowship with you all, very much.

Have a wonderful day.


Gracious Parcels in the News

February 22, 2007 at 1:52 pm | Posted in charity knitting, country living, faith, family, free knitting patterns, Habitat for Humanity, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, volunteerism, yarn | 20 Comments

Fireflys Gracious Parcels Project Makes the NewsYesterday afternoon a neighbor phoned, asking me if I had read the local paper for the day. I had not read or seen it, but I knew why he was phoning.

Recently the Habitat for Humanity board I am a member of decided to send out press releases to local and regional newspapers, telling them about Project Gracious Parcels, a charity knitting project I started via my blog last fall. If you aren’t familiar with Gracious Parcels, it is a project inviting knitters who read my blog to knit and donate seven-inch squares as pieces of blankets I put together for local Habitat homeowner families; forty-nine squares are joined together to make each blanket.

Earlier this week the president of the Habitat board phoned me, because a reporter from the local paper wanted to interview me about the project. The day after the telephone interview a newspaper photographer came out to our farm to shoot some photos of the Gracious Parcels squares that have been coming in through the mail recently and which are destined to become four blankets for a new Habitat family moving into their new home this spring.

Fireflys Gracious Parcels Project A Pile of SquaresThe newspaper article came out yesterday, and was on the front page of the paper. It was more than I expected, executed more swiftly than I would have imagined. The reporter is a lovely sounding young woman who comes from a family of knitters and quilters. I enjoyed sharing the joy and details of Gracious Parcels with her, and also enjoyed hearing a bit about her own experineces and thoughts regarding knitting and needle work. In my opinion, she wrote a wonderful article that accurately captured the spirit and intention of the project and the knitters who are participating in it.

Gracious Parcels is a heartwarming and soul-warming project. You readers who have been participating and spreading the word via your own blogs, emails, and knitting groups are a wonderfully generous and beautiful lot of spirits. Beyond the active participants, there are also countless others who have encouraged me through kind comments left on my blogs and pleasant emails sent my way.

I currently have enough squares on hand to make two blankets and many more squares are on their way. I am certain we will make the target of creating four blankets in time for the spring housewarming of the single mom and her three children who will move into the house currently under construction.

The squares are quite beautiful and thoughtful in and of themselves, but I invite you in for a closer look at some of the tags the contributors have made to include on their squares. Some are humble handwritten notes on bits of of lined paper, saftey pinned to a knitted square. Others are printed cards and notes created with a flourish and tied on with pretty little ribbons and strings. Each tag is extraordinary and dear. The tags include the name of the knitter, the state she knitted from, fiber content of the yarn, and in some cases little prayers, wishes, or other kind words for the blanket recipient.

Fireflys Gracious Parcels Project Closeup of LabelsI imagine what it would be like to receive a blanket such as this, knitted in kindness from strangers all over the country and even from foreign lands. What a treasure to read each tag and find yourself enveloped in a living scrapbook of love and kinship from near and far.

This is what you have done, you readers and knitters, and those who have encouraged the entire process.

Your generosity and creativity is grace in living color. You are dear.

Some readers have asked whether or not Gracious Parcels will continue after the four blankets are made this spring, and yes indeed it will continue. The next objective after the spring blankets will be to create as fifteen or twenty blankets for the 2007 holiday season.

Fireflys Hand Knit Spring Gift BagUltimately, I would like to continue expanding the project so that our Habitat for Humanity affiliate will be able to distribute many, many blankets to others in need in western New York especially each holiday season. The winters here can be quite cold, and there are many families in need of warmth as well as hope.

Included in today’s photos is a shot of the mystery object I was working on earlier in the week: it is a special knitted gift bag in a beautiful, sunny yellow cotton yarn. This part of the mystery is now exposed. Next I will knit and then reveal to you what is going inside of the gift bag.

The stitch I used on the bag is an open mesh. It was enjoyable and quick to knit. I chose an open mesh because I want the contents of the bag to be somewhat visible once they are in there. For the time being, for the purposes of the photograph, the bag is lightly stuffed with tissue.

In a few days I will be able to show you the contents … after I complete them. I will also share the pattern with you.

Thank you again for your participation, at whatever level, in Gracious Parcles. Thank you also for reading my blog and for encouraging me over the past several months to continue on. I am sincerely grateful.

I wish you the finest of days today.


Copyright © 2006 J.L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Life is full of tradeoffs

February 19, 2007 at 1:29 pm | Posted in country living, dating, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, health, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, weight loss, yarn | 25 Comments

Fireflys Valentines Day FlowersI’m off caffeine.

I’ll just let that sink in for a minute …

I love coffee. I love English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and green teas. Along with loving the beverages, I love the fact and the act of having a cup of coffee with someone I love or with a good friend. Saturday and Sunday mornings, sipping coffee while chatting with my husband … sweet. Late weekday mornings sipping coffee or tea with the readers of my blog … very nice.

However, for health and energy reasons I am off caffeine. The truth of the matter is, I feel much better, when I am not consuming any caffeine; I have more energy, I wake up earlier in the morning, accomplish more during my days, and even lose weight more easily when I am off caffeine. For those and other reasons I am off caffeine entirely now.

Thank goodness for Celestial Seasonings. Although I have not found a place anywhere near our farm with a satisfying assortment of Celestial Seasonings teas, and I cannot find my most favorite varieties, I can find some of their tea and it is a good sip.

My favorite variety of all time was RoastAroma, but that was even difficult to find in Los Angeles (I know not why). Their various fruit teas are quite tasty, and today I will have the last bag out of a box of Madagascar Vanilla Red (I think that was the name).

Fireflys Valentines Day FlowersRecently my mother mailed a couple of bags of their Bengal Spice tea my way, so that we could have a cup of tea together via phone, as we are about fifteen hundred miles separated. Friday we had our tea. There isn’t anything quite like a nice quiet chat over a cup of tea between mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends. It is a sweet, quiet affair providing comfort and charm to a sparkling little corner of a world needing more of both. Our world needs more of such moments, shared, contemplated, and spread out into the void of human consciousness.

During our chat, she told me about a high tea she attended in downtown Denver with two of her daughter-in-laws and one granddaughter. It brought to mind the days just before my now-husband came to Los Angeles last year to fetch me for our wedding and trip across the country to the farm here in New York.

I had returned to Los Angeles, after meeting him face-to-face in New York, on April 5th. I had just over three weeks to prepare myself, my family and friends, and my life for a wedding and a move across the country. He would be flying to Los Angeles on the 28th and we would leave the next day for our wedding and the road trip that was our honeymoon.

It was a happy and sweet thrill ride, the twenty-three days I had to both get ready and say goodbye to California. My rib injury slowed the process down and made it more interesting. Somewhere in the midst of it all I needed to drive up to the California Bay Area for Easter weekend at the beach house with my in-laws from my previous marriage. Although that marriage was brief and had ended twenty years earlier, my in-laws and I had remained friends over the years and I wanted to spend one last beach house vacation with them before the opportunity to do so was more difficult to act on.

The first night I arrived at the beach house, the three of us stayed up late talking about the excitement of what was happening in my life. They were genuinely interested in our love story and wanted as many details as I was willing to share. It was a beautiful evening, and a lovely weekend away … although the drive up and back was a bit hard on my aching rib.

Fireflys Valentines Day FlowersOnce I was back in LA, I had to plan which of my clothing and belongings I absolutely had to have and which I could leave behind in storage. I also had to arrange for a pretty dress for the wedding, shop for a ring for him, help plan our honeymoon road trip, get my hair cut, etc.

Most importantly, however, there was my son, my sister and her family, and my closest friends and associates to spend time with on the west coast while there was still time to do so. And time was whizzing by at a dizzying rate.

The week before he came to get me was filled with lunches, coffees, and teas with dear friends thrilled at my happiness and stunned by my adventure. I had high tea twice that week, plus my sister put on a shower for me that was a tea as well. I had more cucumber sandwiches and scones that week than I will most likely have again in my entire life.

Each get together was sweet and dear in its own way, and treasured as a memory. I had never felt as girly as I did that week, all at once.

Hmm, it’s snowing again. We are dusted yet again and made to look pretty as a dessert.

1I do miss my sweet friends, and being able to just put out a call and say to my sister, “Hey, thought I’d drop by for a few minutes to celebrate the moments of our life.” Or, to my dear friend Christine, “Can you meet me at Penelope’s for tea about ten?” Or, when my friend J.J. who I was renting a room for the few months before leaving, “Want to meet down by he fireplace for a coffee in a couple of minutes?” The warmth, the laughter, the companionship, and the spontaneity … I do miss all of that.

Fireflys Un-Identified Knitted ObjectI look outside at the beautiful snow, the barn, the trees dusted white. I think of my dear husband.

Life is full of tradeoffs. Fruit tea for coffee. Happiness, love, and fulfillment in marriage on a farm in western New York for friends and family in familiar surroundings in Southern California. Though there are many things I miss, I wouldn’t miss this experience for anything.

The beauty of today’s world is that you can be 3,000 miles away, or 1,500 miles away from a friend of loved one and still manage spontaneous contact, a cup of tea, and the sweetness of chatting with a friend.

So, let’s have a cup of whatever together this morning … my friend.

Yarn for Fireflys New Spring HatThe photographs today feature roses sent by my son for Valentine’s day. Lush and healthy and beautiful … three are green. Green roses, beautiful.

The UKO (un-identified knitted object) is just that … un-identified. I’m working on a gift idea, and will share more when I have made more progress.

The yarn, I bought this weekend for a spring time hat I plan to knit for myself.

Thanks for taking the time with me. I wish you a fine and beautiful day.


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