A few of my favorite things

August 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, country life, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, fingerless gloves, gifts, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, pets, romance, scarf patterns | 9 Comments
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When I was a little girl in school I joined the Glee Club and one fall season we learned some of the songs from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. One of my favorites was the “My Favorite Things” song, which we performed during the Christmas show when I was in sixth grade, before my family moved from North Carolina to Los Angeles. Today that song, those lyrics, are on my mind …

Last Friday my husband and I drove down to Bath, New York for the annual pig roast at his nephew’s place. His nephew bought a 100 acre farm property ten years ago or so in a beautiful setting in the hills, surrounded by hilly farmlands, woods, mountains, and plenty of beauty. The nephew is not a farmer, but his wife keeps a small garden and he plants a field of corn every year to attract deer and geese. They hunt, and some of their friends hunt, so you can imagine why they would want to attract game.

I am a vegetarian. I understand some people like to hunt, and I do my best to accept that fact graciously, without judgment. I go to the pig roast because I love my husband and want to be supportive of his desire to spend some quality time with his family (he is not a hunter either, just so ya know). The setting is gorgeous, and the camping is fun. I try to tune out the parts that are just so completely 180 degrees away from who and what I am and focus instead on the positive.

We take a tent, as do several other families, and camp out for a couple of days there on his lawn. This time we also took Blu with us, which was a wonderful experience for all three of us.

My husband borrows a big party tent from our church along with some tables and chairs and we go the day before the “event” to set up the tent and help out with whatever else might need to be done. My sister-in-law and her husband also go the day before, and we enjoy that first quiet evening camping out with just them.

On the big day there are plenty of other things that have to be done to prepare for the feast and party, so we stay busy most of the day. My husband cooks his famous salt potatoes — fifty pounds of them. This year his salt potatoes were the best I have had so far, and there were plenty of left overs so we could bring some home. They make the best home fries, yum yum yum. A favorite thing.

It was an interesting experience for Blu because he has never spent a night away from home since we first brought him to live with us. He got to camp out in a real tent with his two favorite humans and he got to socialize with half a dozen other dogs of varying personalities and ages over the course of the weekend. My husband pointed out that by Sunday Blu had noticeably matured; I agree with that assessment.

One of Blu’s new experiences was getting bit by another dog. That was not fun. Evidently this particular dog bites pretty much every dog she meets and it seems to be a somewhat accepted reality. I did not accept it however, so I spent a good deal of time observing the dogs and how they were responding to each other. I struck up an agreement with that one dog: she would not bite Blu any more, and I would maintain better control of his nervous energy. We both held up our end of the bargain and there was no more biting, lucky for Blu. Blu did have a great time all in all.

On the drive down along an old country road we saw the amazing carriage house you see in the photos. It is aged with a lovely patina just like a beautiful old barn, yet the design and details are incredibly lovely. Neither of us had ever seen a building like this before.

As pretty as the setting was, as much as we enjoyed getting out on a mini-vacation, there isn’t quite anything like arriving back home, putting everything away, and going on with our kind of normal. You know I love and appreciate my home, this farm, the river … all of it. Coming back after being away for a little bit I want to run all over the yard hugging the barn, the willow, the cats, the hostas, the porch, the river. Hug it all close to me, hold on tight, take a deep deep breath.

Two nights ago we had a windy rain storm that came through here, and the rain must have come in horizontally because our air conditioner filled up with water and we had to turn it off. Yesterday when my husband came home from work he asked me if I had noticed we lost some limbs on the willow tree. I was so busy inside yesterday I had not seen any downed limbs. We took a walk out there together to get a better view, and it was so sad. Three of the largest limbs had broken off, and one good sized but smaller limb. Four limbs in all, on the side of the willow that faces the house.

It looks like one very heavy limb fell and when it did it brought down the other three limbs with it. By the time my husband gets it all cleared away, I fear the silhouette of our lovely willow will be greatly changed. So sad. I suppose I need to be grateful that I have been able to enjoy the grace of that gentle giant for three summers now and focus on that gratitude rather than the sad loss of the mighty limbs.

I plan to gather as many of the whips as I can and get them wound and woven into wreathes and other pretty shapes so that at least there are tangible pieces of our lovely, grand willow gracing the world in spite of death of some of her best limbs.

You know what I just heard? Canadian geese flying over head. It is mid-August and we already have signs of autumn. Leaves are already changing on maples trees throughout the area, geese are already beginning to arrive. The breezes, winds and weather have changed to very cool for the most part (although we still have an occasional warm and humid day).

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The feeling of change from summer to autumn is most poignant of all season changes, for me. Perhaps it is all tied up in childhood memories of school starting (which I loved), the weather cooling down and refreshing my soul, the raking and piling of leaves to be jumped into, tasty persimmons ripening, pumpkins, hay rides, the march of holidays, closeness of family and friends.

These are a few of my favorite things …

Here it comes again, and those wonderful feelings of excitement and wonder get all stirred up inside of me again.

In preparation for cool and cold mornings ahead, I designed and knit myself a scarflette I am calling “Cuppa Joe”. The yarn I used is a dainty, soft wool blend that is the color of a cuppa black coffee — one of my favorite things. I am designing a pair of fingerless gloves to match and I will use this set to keep my neck and hands warm as I sip my morning cuppa Joe this autumn. I used a lightweight yarn in a loose knit because I want a bit of warmth, not confining heat because these items are for indoor use. Soon as I finish the fingerless gloves I will put together a pattern for the set so others may follow suit if they so choose.

I am knitting up a baby blanket using that same quilt stitch pattern I used for my Biscuit Blanket. This is going to be a cuddly, scrumptious baby blanket keeping someone much more precious than a biscuit warm. Babies … another of my favorite things. A pattern for this baby blanket will be available soon.

I do have another Christmas Stocking pattern available. I shared a photo of this one a couple of weeks ago, but this is a much better photo so here it is again. The printed version and the online download are both available in my Etsy store if you are interested.

You know what else is on my list of “a few of my favorite things”? You. The comments readers leave on my blog, the emails I receive, the customers I have the pleasure of serving … you are all so warm and wonderful. I am so completely grateful for you, for the friends I have gotten to know a bit about, the other blogs and creative things I have been exposed to because of this connection. It is all so beautiful and rich.

(Psst: Where would we all be if AlGore had not invented the Internet?)

This week I want to share a connection with you that I have found to be very dear. There is a lady who reads my blog — one of many very special readers. I am singling her out today because autumn is on the way and autumn represents all things beautiful to me. This lady’s name is Beverly, her blog is Tea Time and Roses. I love her sense of aesthetics and her ladylike view of life. She even has an Etsy Shop of her own where she sells paper products (cards, tags, etc.) reflecting that pretty sense of aesthetics and style that is all her own. Beverly lost her beloved mother this year, and it broke my heart to read about her loss and grief, but life does go on and Beverly demonstrates that in the continued loveliness of her own creativity and spirit.

As time goes on, I plan on giving shout outs to other bloggers and online shop owners whose words and creativity I admire … a few of my favorite things.

Oh, and another favorite of mine is that client I have been doing surveys for over the course of the summer. He is in the Bay Area in California, and tells me that when he and his wife were walking around their yard last weekend he also noticed some leaves already beginning to turn. So, I suppose autumn is coming early in California as well.

He, by the way, is a very good and interesting man. I love working with him because he is smart and decent, and truly cares about helping people. If you haven’t already participated in the survey, I invite you to give it a go if you would. And, please see if you can get the man/men in your life to participate as well — we need more male voices involved in the subject. This month one lucky participant will get to choose between a $50 gift card to Home Depot or Lowe’s, or $50 worth of patterns in my Etsy Store, or a signed and numbered print of my “Bosc Pears From Local Farm Market” oil painting. So, if you already participated but your husband, father, brother, male-friend, etc. hasn’t, ask him to and maybe if he wins he’ll share the prize with you. (You do have to be a U.S. resident to participate in the drawing-sorry.)

And of course, my husband is one of my very most favorite things. No matter where we are or what is happening around us, we are most happy when we are together. It is phenomenal to find that, even (or especially) a little bit later in life. 🙂

When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel, so bad.


August 8, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Posted in art, country life, faith, family, flowers, gifts, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, snow | 26 Comments
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Eight is my lucky number.

Some number of years ago I rolled a lucky double eight and out I popped … born to two very sweet dear people who I have come to know as “Dad and Mom”. Lucky me, for many reasons but most especially because that Dad and Mom are my Dad and Mom. They are my lucky double eights.

Today is my birthday, and I have looked forward to this birthday in particular for quite a long time. I have patiently circled the sun some 51 times looking forward to the arrival of this, my luckiest day of them all. August 8, 2008 … 080808. Oh, 8.

And today my thoughts are mostly on my parents. I told them once they are national treasures in my mind and heart. In my life, I have tried to honor and love and treasure my parents. Sometimes I have goofed up, but being parents I doubt they remember my goofs anywhere near as much as they remember my glories. That’s how it is with parents when they look at their children.

The way we have lived life, my parents and my children and I are the very best of friends and teammates. We came to call ourselves “The A Team” because of the special quality of our bond and how together we can overcome anything, mutually protect and support one another, and create a beautiful future together no matter the odds.

When I was 16 years old (a while back now) I made the Daisy Afghan you see in these photos for Dad and Mom for their wedding anniversary (their anniversary is August 16, by the way). Mom took such great care of that afghan that now, all of these years later, it looks just as good as new. She passed it along to my daughter a few years ago, and my daughter is so tender hearted she treasures it dearly.

The gratitude I feel for my parents and my children, for the love and experiences we have enjoyed and will enjoy as future days come and go, is so large and full there is no adequate means of expressing it. Somehow the universe blessed me with icing on my cake of life … a dearer husband than I could have imagined (and I have a very big imagination). With so much to be grateful for, I am speechless to tell you the truth.

A few photos, and this sweet poem my father wrote for me when I was eighteen years old … that is what I give to you today, my friend.

Little Dreamer
a poem by Herb S.

Go little dreamer dream your dreams.
Just remember: they’re life.
Find your times of happiness.
Heal your wounds from strife.

Dreams are for those who need and seek
balms for wounds and woes.
Remember little dreamer, life’s dilemmas
are not to you unique.

So dream your dreams little dreamer.
In them your happiness find.
For they can become more solid and real
than lurking shadows of your mind.

In this mood of reflective gratitude, I will attempt to point out a few highlights …

Dad, thank you for helping me with that nail I jumped on at the lake so many years ago. Mom, thank you for the hot chocolate, chicken soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches that made snow days magically special and cozy. Dad, thank you for all of the things you could fix … my gosh, where did you get all those skills from? Mom, thank you demonstrating in your daily life grace of patience and a gentle touch. Dad, thank you for letting me drive the family car when I was first learning how to drive. Mom, thank you for all of those sweet dresses you sewed for me when I was growing up. Dad, thank you for sharing your writing with me and others so openly and freely — and thank you for the thoughts they contain. Mom, thank you for teaching me how to cook.

Thank you both for always finding a way to soothe my owies. Thank you both for my brothers and my sisters, they are precious to me even now. Thank you both for always making a warm, loving, and safe home for us all. Thank you both for endless, countless, too-numerous-to-mention help and supportive acts of kindness during all of my years of single parenting. Thank you both for being such wonderful grandparents and making my own children feel as loved and special as you do.

Dear Dad and Mom … thank you from the depths of my heart and the spirit that I am for life.


Copyright (c) 1975, 1992, 2008 J. L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Let the wild things flourish

August 1, 2008 at 4:12 pm | Posted in biscuit recipes, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, food, gardening, knitting, Life, love, photography, Quilt Trail, recipes, travel | 10 Comments
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Unpredictable, lush, and abundant. That is how my garden grows.

When I look out at our barn these days I sometimes catch my breath at the wild, vibrant sprays of color from the many of wild flowers growing there underneath our quilt block. This accidental farming business is a pretty good deal that gets better and better as summer evolves.

The other day I was out picking a few more raspberries when I noticed a huge thistle shrub growing out beside of an old garage foundation behind the house. Purple top hats nestled on the tops of hundreds of thistle blossoms were being nibbled by a wide variety of bees. I grabbed the camera and shot some photos of the thistles as well as the flowers by the barn.

While I was shooting the flowers in front of the barn, I noticed what I thought was a hummingbird darting around, so aimed my camera toward her in an effort to capture a clear image. This was a fast little creature that never stayed still long enough for me to get a good look at it with my eyes. It did give me the distinct impression of a hummingbird, but a very small hummingbird only a little over an inch tall.

I shot as many photos as quickly as I could in hopes there might be a jewel of a shot. Alas, my lens was not quick enough that day; I did get some fairly good shots though. They were clear enough to confirm that it did resemble a hummingbird but there were some other things I was certain a standard issue hummingbird would not have. For instance, notice the long antenna … not very bird-like, I’d say.

And check out the furry looking “coat” on this critter … also not very bird-like IMHO. I also noticed the creature had some sort of arm looking things it would use to balance itself with as it drank the nectar of the pretty wild flowers. Well, I have never seen a bird with arms before, have you?

So, I sent several of my photos off to my husband at work for his help in identifying the strange creature. He told me it was a hummingbird moth. Wow, that is something I did not know existed. It was wild how similar this little guy was to a hummingbird. He moved so quickly that it was hard to figure out that he wasn’t a hummingbird.

I had quite a bit of fun with the little mothman. He either didn’t notice me standing there shooting photos from three feet away or he just didn’t care. Perhaps he is accustomed to the paparazzi, being such a rare and beautiful creature as he is. I could hardly wait to share these photos with you today.

Last week my husband and I set out for Partyka Farms again, but to pick blueberries rather than strawberries. My friend Lora was kind enough to let us pick our own berries even though they don’t offer “You-Pick” on their blueberries. It was a beautiful summer day, not too awfully hot. We were way off in the blueberry bushes chatting and enjoying both sunshine and shade as we picked four quarts of gorgeous blue berries.

We gave one quart to Dave’s widow down the road and I made several jars of blueberry preserves with most of the rest of them. We had some berries left and last Saturday we enjoyed a late lunch of scrambled eggs and corncakes (like pancakes but made with cornbread batter instead of pancake batter) which I mixed a bunch of fresh blueberries into. That proved to be a delicious combination and a nice surprise.

The blueberry corncakes were so good, I decided to use up more of the berries in some homemade biscuits the next morning. If you haven’t used my Blue Ribbon Biscuit Recipe yet (or even if you have) you should go out and get some fresh blueberries and make yourself some Blueberry Biscuits. Just add a handful or so of washed blueberries into the biscuit dough after you have cut in the butter but before you add in the buttermilk.

Now those were some good biscuits, topped with some of the blueberry preserves I had just made.

Tomorrow, Saturday August 2nd, I will be displaying some of my art at The Cobblestone Society Museum in Childs, NY as a part of their annual Old Tyme Day event. Should you happen to be one of my western New York readers, perhaps you would like to come by. The event runs from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday only. I will displaying a few examples of my portraits in watercolor and will have a few of my small oil paintings, prints, and notecards there as well. The Cobblestone Society Museum is 100% volunteer run and operated and is a good group to support if you can in some way.

For my knitting readers, I wanted to let you know I have been getting myself set up at Ravelry.com as a designer and now have a store there where most of my patterns are available for download. Of course, the full range of my available patterns can be found in my Etsy shop, but in case you are a part of the Ravelry crowd, I wanted you to know you can find me there either as firefly8868 or as the designer J. L. Fleckenstein. If you have knitted any items from my offering of free or retail patterns and would like to post your finished or in progress items there and link them to my patterns … feel free. It would be fun to connect up over there as well as there on my blog.

I have to run now, because there are things to do in order to get ready for that show tomorrow.

Have a beautiful day and a lovely weekend!


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