Baby’s got skills

May 27, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, cats, country life, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, free knitting patterns, gifts, hat patterns, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, stockings, yarn | 12 Comments

Dear little Yang KittenA couple weeks ago a friend phoned to ask me if I could use some of her barn wood. She and her husband were refurbishing some of the buildings on their farm and there was a stack of lumber from a section of barn that had to be rebuilt. She said they were going to burn it, but recalled that I had said I could use some old barn wood for making picture frames.

Two days later I pulled in at her place, meeting up with her and her husband to take a look at the pile of wood. It was a chilly spring day with gray clouds and a still-wet ground from an early morning shower of cold rain. As we stood there chatting, all three of us looking down at the pile of lumber I recalled the second email I ever received from my husband, back when we were first getting to know each other.

It was a Sunday afternoon toward the end of January, and he related to me the morning’s events including his having gone to a friends house who needed him to rebuild some piece of equipment (my husband is a mechanical engineer). He told me about spending a couple of hours in the drizzling rain, looking at a poking through an old pile of junk at his friend’s house to see what odds and ends might be there that could be used in the rebuild.

That was one of the very first clues I had that this would be the man I would marry.

You see, from my own childhood memories and life time of living a life influenced quietly by my country roots, there has always been this thing with my father, my brothers, my sister, me … you set things aside that you might be able to make use of later. Not as pack rats. No, this is a different thing. This is resourcefulness.

You put things aside and at some later time when you want to make something or repair something you go to your “store”. What do I have on hand I could use to make that with, or fix that with?

Sweet little Yin kittenI am not a person who has trouble letting go of things I no longer need, I am not a pack rat by any means. I am, however, a person who loves to make things and so when I look at piles of wood or “junk”, twigs in the yard, dried thistles growing in a field, scraps of wood siding that have been blown off our old barn, etc. I think to myself, “Hmm … I think I could make something with this,” and so I put it aside.

I have had the experience of both living in the country where you don’t just up and run off to the store every time you need something, and I have lived in the city where you did do just that. I do know what it is to be both ways.

One of the reasons I wanted to return to the country was that I wanted to live that simpler life again where you didn’t just up and run off to the store. Where you make do with what you have on hand, you let things in the environment stir your imagination rather than being entertained by bright lights and movie theaters and so forth.

When my husband told me about standing around in the drizzle for two hours on a cold January morning looking through and gazing at a junk pile, getting ideas of how to solve a problem by using whatever was on hand, I knew he was someone I wanted to know. As I learned more about him I found out that when he needs something he is more likely to create an invention, a work-around, a gadget, etc. to serve the purpose at hand.

Blu is wondering why there are little fuzzy balls of kitten running around the houseI loved that, because that is how my father has always been. You know, for all of the years I lived with my parents from childhood to adulthood, they always had the same washing machine. Anytime anything happened to it, Dad would fix it. Dad could fix it. He had skills along with the wit and imagination people who grow up on farms must have in order to survive. Mom is like that too. If she wasn’t, and if they weren’t, I don’t know how they would have raised five kids the way they did.

I once knew someone a little too well whose mantra was, “We’ll just buy a new one.” That’s an expensive way to live, and the expense is in a lot more than just the actual dollars you spend.

So, gas prices have gone up and other things have become more expensive as a result. All true. For me though, the changing economy is not something that I look at negatively, even though I know I could. My wish for us all is that we take this as an opportunity to learn new skills of resourcefulness, to pass along a love of resourcefulness to our children and their children.

Something is broken, how I could I learn to fix it myself? I need a new this, that, or the other thing … how could I make that or something like it myself? Someone needs a gift, what could I make that would give that person an “Ah, ha” moment? I’m bored.

Emily Knitted Hat for a Baby Girl Side ViewWell, we have a new pile of lumber from someone else’s old barn stacked up in the back of our barn. The time will come when we will use some of it to make some picture frames, maybe a bench, or … who knows. It will be fun figuring it out.

My husband has very cool skills, skills that I appreciate profoundly. When I need something, he is likely to come up with a clever way of building or rigging something to suit my needs. We want to go bicycling on the Erie Canal bike path, but we need to be able to take Blu with us. So my husband came up with a cool solution. We won a toddler stroller/trailer on eBay and this weekend my husband put his ingenuity and skills to work transforming it into a trailer with a special cage top to accommodate Blu (I’ll photograph it someone soon with Blu in it so you can see how cool it is).

I loved the fact that we needed something that wasn’t really available and he came up with a way to take something that did exist and turn it into the thing we needed.

When I needed a solution for hanging my paintings at Zambistro Restuarant in a way that would not damage their walls, he invented a system for hanging them that is completely unobtrusive and does not require any holes whatsoever in their walls, mouldings, or ceilings. How cool is that? Very cool, honey.

Thus the title of today’s blog: Baby’s got skills.

Tomorrow is his birthday, so today and this week I especially celebrate him.

Emily Knitted Hat for a Baby Girl Top ViewBefore I end off, I just wanted to let you know I have published the Emily Sweater Pattern, along with the pattern for a hat to match. I am sharing the hat pattern for free; the sweater with matching hat pattern together are for sale in both a print version and online download at my website or in my Etsy Store. The pattern is twelve pages with detailed tips, instructions, and closeup shots of stitches, etc. It also includes a full-color cover and two personal journal pages for recording your own project details and photos.

By mid-June I will be publishing at least three Christmas Stocking patterns, so be on the look out for those.

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Best wishes,

The Yin Yang of Spring

May 15, 2008 at 5:49 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, cats, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, free knitting patterns, gardening, gifts, hat patterns, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, summer, yarn | 21 Comments

Sweet little Yin the kitten on Fireflys farmYin Yang. That’s what we named Cat Cat’s two kittens because there are just the two of them and they cuddle together in a perfect yin yang. Yin is the darker kitten, Yang the one with more white on his/her body.

They are still very young but have just this week begun to take tiny wobbling little steps. They recognize me and Yin in particular seems to quite enjoy being up on my shoulder, nuzzled in my long hair.

Mostly they spend their time sleeping or nursing and almost always cuddling with each other and their sweet mother, Cat Cat. They get all of Cat Cat’s milk to themselves, so they are the fattest little kittens you can imagine. Yang’s tiny little tubby tummy nearly touches the floor when he shakily “walks” along.

Oh, they are just too cute, too scrumptious almost for words.

Dear little Yang kitten on Fireflys farmWhen we first realized Cat Cat was going to have a litter of kittens, we started telling friends and neighbors (anyone who would listen) that we would have kittens come spring and would be looking for good homes for them. Now that we see there are only the two of them, and with Cat Cat being such an outstandingly good natured kitty, we have decided both Yin and Yang should stay here on our farm with their mother. They will all three be our “magic” cats. How fun is that?

I love watching them as they have first begun to be aware of an environment just a wee bit larger than that created by their own bodies and that of their mother. When they first began to lift up their little itty heads looking around in fits and starts, heads tilted ever so slightly to denote a sense of curiosity, I felt a wonderful thrill of “life” rushing through me.

I find it interesting how just the tiniest little tilt of the head creates the definitive body language that communicates to an observer … curiosity. Interest. Awareness.

Pink tulips from fireflys cottageTheir growing sense of awareness born of kitten curiosity reminds me of the evolution of spring itself. Just this morning as I looked out the living room windows toward the river I felt almost as if I were in a lush jungle, the growth out there is so full and varied by now, but still the tender, pale green of early growth.

Wow. Much as I love winter, and I do love winter, this thing of springtime with everything waking up and living and breathing and growing in a progression that is both thunderous and subtle simultaneously, well it is a thing I would never want to miss. I do cherish each season in and of itself, just as I cherish the stages of life — each one separately wondrous in its own right.

Of course, flowers play a big part in that which I particularly cherish about spring. A couple of weeks ago I spotted some pale purple tulips growing on the property by our cottage, five miles down the road from the farm. Although it is only those few five miles away, we don’t get over that way very often so I cut the tulips (there were about a dozen) and brought them home to enjoy inside, in a vase by a sunny window.

Emily sweater a hand knit sweater designed by fireflyI was going to photograph them, but became busy and missed doing it in time. The morning I believed to be my last chance to photograph them, I found all of their petals laying on the table. So sad. I gathered the petals and put them in a box to dry in a cupboard. Then I went back over the cottage where I found pink tulips beginning to bloom, so I cut those and brought them home.

The pink tulips I did photograph in time, and I plan to use them as models for at least two paintings. Both the purple and the pink tulips were planted years ago by my mother-in-law at the cottage, which she refers to as “the place in the country”. It amuses me, because she lived in a small town, but always referred to the cottage as “the place in the country”. I can see why it would have been that to her, after all, she grew up in Buffalo and moved to a small town when she got married. To her, the cottage by the river, a good hour away from the small town where she and her husband raised my husband and his sister, was definitely out in the country.

By Los Angeles standards, the small town she lived in would be a place in the country, but her persepective was quite different.

Emily sweater stitch pattern detailNow she is nearly 93 years old, confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home and has no short term memory. She does speak from time to time about “the place in the country” and how close she felt to God whenever she was there. Occasionally she reminisces about planting flowers there, and I know she is recalling the tulips or daffodils or peonies she planted that grow there to this day. And here I am, a newcomer to a world she was long ago deeply familiar with and I get to see and enjoy some of the beauty she left behind, flowers which symbolize the love she had for the place and the time she spent there.

I will memorialize her flowers with my paintings and photography, and we are going to move them from the cottage over here to the farm. We have to do that, because they grow beside of an old dilapidated farm house by the cottage, and the farm house is going to be demolished. We want to move her flowers here to the farm to preserve them and ensure they continue to be enjoyed for years to come.

In other news … just this morning I completed the sweater I was knitting for our pastor’s little baby girl. I loved this project for a number of reasons. First of all, the baby girl who will wear it is very, very sweet natured. I have held her during church services a couple of times and she just smiles and winks and sleeps and squeezes my finger in her tiny little hand. So, of course I thought of her as I knitted this sweater for her.

Buttons and stitches detail on the Emily hand knit sweater by fireflyAnother reason I love the project is because of the stitch pattern I chose, “Ears of Corn”. That seemed appropriate for a baby born in a farming community where corn is such a prevalent crop. I love how the white cotton yarn showed off the stitch pattern so well.

I look forward to publishing the pattern in the next few days because it will be a very economical project for those who need to be economical in their knitting choices these days. I bought a two pound cone of high quality, beautiful white cotton yarn for just under $7. It was plenty of yarn for the sweater and will also be enough to make a matching hat and booties. I’m sure there will be more left after that as well.

[27 May 08 Update: The Emily Sweater and Matching Hat pattern are now available in my Etsy Store. A simplified version of the hat pattern is also available for free at]

For practical as well as decorative purposes, I used half a dozen bright pink buttons from the “stash” given to me by my friend Dorothy and the lady I lovingly call “Winny of the Buttons”, a stash I have immortalized by referring to it so many times in my blog. (Five-hundred years from now, will this blog still exist on the Internet?)

There were a total of eight of those buttons, so I saved two to use as a decoration on the matching hat whenever I get that made.

Dear little Yin the kitten on fireflys farmI recommend the “Ears of Corn” stitch pattern, because it is a very enjoyable and lovely little pattern to knit. Hope you enjoy my photos of the finished sweater and details.

Last week I mentioned my having opened an Etsy store; I have knitting patterns there as well as note cards and original oil paintings. I would like to share a few nice comments I received from recent customers (notecards and patterns):

“More than I expected the photos are simply gorgeous and delivery was quick!! Thank you!!” ~ dogquilter

“I am SO happy with the note cards. The pictures on your site don’t do them justice. You are an excellent photographer, along with your many other talents.” ~ Beverly K.

“I’ve been looking for a pattern like this for a long time. It is a hat I know my husband will wear! The hat and scarf are very classic. The extra pages are a nice touch!” ~ bonvino

“I loved these little prints on your blog. The cards are fantastic. I’ll be keeping one of each for me and sharing your art with my friends with the others … a gorgeous product!” ~ radarkaty

“I just received the Biscuit Blanket pattern and wanted to let you know how tickled I am! The presentation is beautiful and the extra pattern, recipe and project note pages are incredibly thoughtful! I can’t wait to get several of these made and on hold for Christmas gifts!!” ~ Filyaw

On that note, I will end off here and head for my studio where I intend to draw those pink tulips as well as some other flowers I will be painting over the next few weeks.

Wherever you are headed, I wish you well on the journey and the season.


Life abundant and beautiful

May 7, 2008 at 3:17 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, country living, dating, faith, family, gifts, Holidays, knitting, Life, love, marriage, Mother's Day, photography, relationships, romance, travel | 20 Comments

The barn and yard at fireflys farmWhen my husband and I married two years ago, he flew to Los Angeles to pick me up. We stuffed my Ford Explorer full of as many of my belongings and as much of my clothing as we could possibly get it to hold, secured everything else in my storage unit and headed off toward New York on a nine-day cross-country honeymoon drive.

We arrived at the farm in Western New York in the evening on May sixth, where our new life together began with a relaxing night of sleep with the sound of peepers in the background as I drifted off, and song birds in the morning as I woke.

Though we were tired from the cross-country trip, my husband hoped I would go with him to church because, as he said, he wanted to show me off. Mind you, he had not told anyone other than his sister and other immediate family members, that he was getting married. No one where he worked knew what he was up to on his “vacation”, nor did anyone at his church.

His church, our church now, is a small tight-knit congregation of the most loving people you could ever hope to know. He has known them since he first started going to church many years ago and they are like family to me (to me now as well). The congregation is predominately older than we are, and the ladies there all loved him as if each one and all of them together were his mother.

Flowering crab apple tree on fireflys farmWhen we arrived at church that morning, we began mingling around in the fellowship hall and I came to know something about my husband … he doesn’t introduce me to people. He has very good manners, but he is a quite and private man and is not accustomed to introducing people to one another. So, I started introducing myself as people came up to welcome me … “Hello,” I would say and then I would give my first name and my new last name. One lady in particular, Grace, said, “Hello …” and then her mouth dropped open and her eyes became about as large as Florida oranges as she said, “You mean … ????” “Yes, yes … I am his wife. We were just married a few days ago.”

Well, that started quite a hub bub. Private man though he is, he was smiling and chuckling at the effect he had created on his church family by lobbing a surprise wife right into the middle of them all. I fell in love that dear group of lovely country people that morning and now, some two years later, it feels as if we have been good friends for years and years.

A full view of the flowering crab apple tree at fireflys farmBack at the farm, later in the morning, I started the long process of getting to know my new home both inside and out. Outside of course there was the barn, and then I came to realize the grandeur of our huge willow tree out toward the north east end of the lawn. My husband pointed out the various trees on the property and told me the names of the varieties and gave a bit of a rundown on when any flowering trees would be displaying their wares.

Centered in the midst of everything between the barn and the outlaying trees was a scrumptious delight … a flowering crab apple tree. Tall, full, and lush it was the epitome of life abundant and beautiful. The flowers don’t last very long–only a week or two–but my, oh my what beauties they are.

The petals are a deep pink-red, with a richly divine texture that makes me want to eat them. I fell in love with all of the trees around the farm, but I have to say the flowering crab apple won an especially dear place with me.

Last year, just as the crab apple began to show opening buds we suffered a hard frost and the tree made almost no showing of flowers at all. It was sad, and an unfamiliar experience for me because in the Los Angeles area you can pretty much depend on a flowering tree to flower each year.

Fireflys crab apple tree in golden morning lightThis year I hoped and prayed each day of spring as I saw the crab apple begin to show her buds. The tree was literally covered in wall to wall buds and I hoped, hoped, hoped and dreamed that this year a frost or freeze would not come take them all away. Please, please, please …

My prayers were answered and the crab apple, as you can see from my photos, is lush and deliciously covered with scrumptious blossoms throughout her abundant canopy.

I have actually noticed that all of the flowering plants this year have many more buds and blossoms than last year. Rhoda, the tree peony, has close to thirty buds this year (I might have already told you that in another post).

Our lilac tree out behind our barn is also showing signs of being heavy with blossoms. Everywhere around the area lilacs are beginning to show in wanton abundance.

I even have an abundance of flowers inside. My husband brought home the most wonderful bouquet of flowers I have ever received. A while back I gave him a list of flowers I like, and some notes about flowers for me indicating that I most love wild flowers. He took the list to the one florist shop in the village where he works and this past Valentine’s Day the girls at that shop did a fantastic job of creating a bouquet just for me that matched me to a “T”.

For our anniversary he went back to the same florist and said, “It is very important that there are daffodils in it … and, add some other stuff too.”

Closeup of crab apple blossom on fireflys treeThe result was a magnificent bouquet that was even better than the Valentine’s Day bouquet, and it could not have been more perfect for me. Delightful bonus of all — the bouquet stayed fresh and beautiful more than a week. Though some flowers have of course faded there are still many in there that look as fresh as the day he brought them home, almost two weeks ago. Sometime I have to stop in at that florist shop and thank the ladies for their craftsmanship.

Yesterday we hung the two new paintings I completed at Zambistro Restaurant. The chef loved them, and they do love very nice on his walls. I also completed a smaller painting (10″ x 10″) which I am calling “Corner Bistro”. I’ll post it on my painting blog later. For your info, I recently started an Esty shop as an experiment in yet another venue for selling my art and related products. I listed the “Corner Bistro” painting there this morning as well as some note card sets I put together featuring some of my artwork. You will see note card sets with paintings from the “Beginning with Barnum” paintings, some of my newer pieces and even a set featuring the monochromatic painting from last year of beautiful “Rhoda”.

Speaking of flowers, I am now going to shift gears and paint two large paintings of sunflowers for the restaurant. I also plan to do some watercolors as well as oils of some of the flowers around here on our place. It should be a beautiful adventure.

Hope you have a beautiful adventure this weekend, coming up.

Most importantly, happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers who read my blog. May you always be treasured as the beautiful flower that you are. I dedicate today’s blog to my dear, sweet mother … she is the loveliest rose I have ever known.


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