Titles elude me at this moment

January 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Posted in art, Christmas, country life, country living, dogs, faith, family, fingerless gloves, free knitting patterns, hat patterns, knitting, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, scarf patterns, shopping, snow, socks, travel, yarn | 11 Comments
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Happy New Year, dear reader. My year started out with both beauty and, unfortunately, a bit of pain. Somehow I managed to hurt my back or shoulder or something between Christmas and New Year’s. For about two weeks I have been in and out of some very unpleasant pain, unable to write … or knit … or paint. Sigh.

However, I am back now and feeling good again. We are enjoying a most lovely day of snow today, as are many people in the country. It started snowing late yesterday and has not stopped since. I was out early this morning with The Duke (my son’s English Bull Dog) and we both enjoyed the cold stinging snow blowing in our faces and the beautiful scene of snow blankets on everything in the outdoor world.

This photograph was actually shot on the weekend by my dear husband — so, please use your imagination to add in deeper snow on the ground, flamboyant drifts round the bottoms of the trees, and heavy, thick snow falling. Oh, and the snow is up higher than The Duke’s belly, and I have my Lavender Scarf wrapped round my Mad Bomber hat (I love my Mad Bomber hat), and very warm mittens on my hands. There, you see … you have a great imagination!

While I was still enjoying my back pain a couple of dear friends invited us to go with them to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens for their annual poinsettia show.

The building that houses the gardens is a historical masterpiece and well worth reading up on. It was striking to see it in the snow, with a gray-sky backdrop, bedecked in huge evergreen wreaths for the holidays.

While the poinsettia display was lush and spectacular, I was even more impressed by their bountiful collection of orchids. I focused my camera lens on the orchids much more than on poinsettias, and will share a few of those shots today and more next time I blog.

In fact, I will be using some of these photographs for drawings and paintings in colored pencil, watercolor, and oils over time.

Equally impressive to me was the succulent collection … oh my goodness. There were a great many varieties of healthy, thriving, large and sometimes humorously shaped and named species. It reminded me of my many years living in the Southwest, traveling through the deserts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada.

If you entered my great big, end of the year giveaway, the drawing was held on Friday, January 7, 2011 and the winners were all alerted via email. The winners were Rita T. (Grand Prize), Margaret F. (First Prize) Joan C. (Second Prize), Patti B. (Third Prize).

I had a wonderful time giving away patterns, prints, etc. this holiday season. I wish I could afford to give prizes away to each and every one of you, and make each reader a winner, because I know it makes the receiver of the winnings feel very special to be one of the lucky ones. With all of the goodies I sent to Wendy at WendyKnits for her giveaway, and the three giveaways I held on my blog this year I was at least able to add to the happiness of a good number of people.

For those of you who viewed my son’s new Etsy store last month and left comments, thank you so much. Your feedback was very encouraging to him and helpful as well. His first month in business has gone well, and he has already released quite a number of new posters and signs. If you aren’t familiar with him yet, his store is Flying Junction and he makes and sells subway signs and bus scrolls that he hand letters with meticulous detail and prints on archival paper and canvas in a variety of sizes.

This week he released a set of three vintage-look NY subway signs in the 11″ x 17″ size at an attractive package price. You can also order custom subway signs, bus scrolls and tram scrolls from a variety of cities in the U.S. and abroad. The largest size, I think, is 20″ x 60″ (on canvas). I love his custom destination posters because you can have him create a poster that represents the places you have been, or hope to go to one day. I’m planning on having him create one for me featuring the most meaningful places I have lived and worked, with our farm here as the “End of the Line”. Hopefully 60″ long will be tall enough!

It would also be a cool gift idea for someone you love who has plans to travel, especially a young person who has the world and their whole life ahead of them. Maybe someone just setting out for college or out into the work force, with dreams and goals, places to go and people to meet.

If you haven’t been to his Etsy shop yet, grab a cuppa something tasty and go have a look …

In knitting news, I have this little sample to show of a pair of two-toned fingerless gloves I am designing and knitting for someone very special in my life. Now that I am feeling better, I will be working on them again and finishing them up in the next few days.

For Christmas my daughter and I gave our two dear friends, Anita and Debbie T., each one of my Biscuit Blanket kits as well as a promise to spend two evenings in early winter knitting with them. Debbie has been wanting to expand her knitting skills and Anita has wanted to get together and knit for quite some time, we just haven’t ever made it happen until now. Tomorrow night will be our first knitting evening, and we are all looking forward to it so much.

Another friend of mine from church told me she received a pair of handknit socks from a cousin this Christmas, and as a result made a new year’s resolution to learn to knit this year. She said the most precious thing, that she treasures that pair of socks so much that she cannot bear to wear them. Instead, she carries them around in her purse showing them to everyone she knows.

When she was telling me about this, her eyes were aglow with admiration and joy and I just had to think about all of the knitters out there and the fact that generosity and giving is a hallmark of our craft.

Take a minute, if you are a knitter, and think about how many knitters there are around the world and then multiply that by some number that seems reasonable to predict how many hand knit gifts will be made this year, and then think about the people who receive those gifts and their happiness. It is a beautiful thought, isn’t it?

Here’s to a year of beautiful knitting that knocks the socks off of the recipients of the millions of hand knit gifts that will be presented throughout the world over the course of the next twelve months!

Have a beautiful day, wherever you are!

~firefly

The Advent of Santa: Day 2

December 2, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Posted in baby, Christmas, country life, country living, dogs, family, gifts, Holidays, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, pets, photography, snow, socks, stockings, yarn | 3 Comments
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It snowed heavily for much of the day yesterday; after about the first hour or so it started sticking to the ground.  We got several inches of snow, and the dogs had a particularly good time romping in it.

In today’s Advent of Santa you see a second Santa Claus from my collection.  This one my son bought for me in Colorado when he was about eleven years old.  He was visiting with his father before Christmas, and saw this Santa in a shop window.  I love how whispy and ethereal this particular Santa is, plus he has great sentimental value to me because of the connection with my son.

Speaking of my son, his English Bulldog is boarding with us on the farm for a while and, being a Los Angeles-raised Bulldog who was born in Texas, yesterday was his first time in the snow.  The first moment I took him outside he instantly looked all around excitedly and started snapping at falling snowflakes, trying to catch them in his mouth.

He ran around, jumping belly first into the snow and then twirling around, making his own version of snow angels.  I had never seen a dog making snow angels before, and I couldn’t help but laugh heartily.

He isn’t trained on the electric boundary fence yet, so I have to take him out on a leash, and he was running this way and that pulling me along, joyously jumping into the air (quite a sight to see a chubby, short-legged bulldog doing that) to try to catch the snowflakes. He is definitely a snow-loving dog.

This morning did his first ice-skating on the frozen autumnal pond that has filled in out by our grand old willow tree.  He took one step onto it and started skating around before breaking through.  Such a cute little guy, and so much fun to see him discovering an entirely different world.

I just finished this long, long, long hand knit Christmas Stocking for my daughter.  I will release a pattern for it next week sometime, but wanted to show a photo of it today because it is long and skinny like the Santa Claus in the top photo.

This is knit from two hansk of Foot Notes Sock Yarn I purchased from Fiber Optic Yarns (Kimber Baldwin Designs) last winter.  The two colorways I chose were her low contrast Batiks, Tomato and Pale Watercress. Amazingly, because her hanks of yarn are so generous in yardage, I still have plenty of left over yarn. I even knit a miniature version of this stocking for the Christmas tree, and still have plenty left over. I think will knit a pair of real socks for my baby grand-daughter from the remaining yarn … and even then will probably have some left over!

It is snowing again, the Nutcracker ballet is playing on the television in the background, and I am feeling rather Christmas-ie all up and down and inside and out.

I hope your advent of the season, whatever it is, is going well.

Until tomorrow …
~firefly

Copyright © 2010 J. L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Isn’t that something …

August 19, 2009 at 10:39 am | Posted in art, blogging, country life, dating, dogs, faith, family, gardening, health, knitting, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, pumpkin recipes, relationships, romance, summer | 25 Comments
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fieldofdreamsI started writing this blog on August 6, 2006. That was just a little over three years ago and I had just recently married my husband, driven across the country with him from Los Angeles to upstate western New York and joined him to live on the farm. It was all so fresh and new to me then, and still is in so many ways. But man, how things have changed and evolved in just three short years.

Moving from Los Angeles to a farm in New York was, needless to say, a mind-boggling change in life. Getting married after almost twenty years of being a very self-sufficient, independent single/divorced woman was an enormous change. I remember so crisply the moment when I was sitting out back on the stoop the day after we arrived “home” following our cross-country honeymoon drive and watched as my new husband circled the barn on his tractor and saying in somewhat stupefied* wonder, “I live on a farm. I live on a farm, and my husband drives a tractor.”

*stupefy: verb: “2. to stun, as with a narcotic, a shock, or a strong emotion., 3. to overwhelm with amazement; astound; astonish.” (Dictionary.com)

haybales2When I started writing my blog, I had no idea where it would lead me much less where it would lead you as a reader. I just intended to write a blog about whatever knitting projects I was working on and participate in that online community a bit. It was an experiment to find out what blogging was about and to learn what I could about the process. I chose knitting as my subject because knitting is something I know a thing or two about and so felt I could say something sensible on the subject.

What happened though, is that the blog became an outlet for the process of discovery that I was involved in. As I got to know my new environment here I shared my discoveries in my blog and my readers enjoyed coming along with me on that journey. So, off I went discovering more and more about where I am now and what my new life is all about.

oldcornYou know how it is when you are watching a movie or you see something in life that is amazing or amusing and you want to have someone right there who you can say, “Wow, wasn’t that something?!” to. It is more satisfying and electrifying if you have someone to share that moment with. I think you get more out of the moment or the joke or whatever if you have someone to share it with. Well, so it is with what has happened in my life. This blog, and you the reader, have worked together to expand and enrich the experiences I am having here. It is as if all of you readers as a whole are this great big combined person I have to share a beautiful childlike sense of wonder with as I go about exploring and discovering my new life.

Whenever I am out and about in the yard, or at the river, on a nearby farm, etc. I see interesting or beautiful things and I think of you and I want to say, “Hey take a look at this … isn’t that something!” The funny thing is, I feel you right there beside me in this universe. I grab the camera and shoot a photo to capture whatever it is, and I have you my reader in my mind as I do it and I can feel the moment in the future when I share that photo with you and you get it. You are my companion and my friend, and I know you are there.

Now, isn’t that something.

I know my posts have become fewer and farther between lately, but that is because there is a baby in the house and I have this momentary opportunity to experience first-hand my granddaughter’s development and growth as she begins her journey into a new life with all of the discoveries that go along with it. My blogging will return to a weekly routine before too long, and I will have even more to share with my readers. I promise I am not giving up on this adventure.

cinderellaMeanwhile, what a summer we are having. Three years ago I was a woman freshly arrived from Los Angeles who had tried to grow a garden in the desert and only created more tumbleweeds. Now I am partly responsible for a thriving pumpkin patch on a piece of earth measuring 36′ x 36′ … a trinket sized garden on a fifty-acre farm in Western New York. Not only do we have many pumpkins growing out there, we have big pumpkins growing out there. For me, this is a huge and happy win because I have not had success before this growing plants in or out of the home. Now I can go out back and pick my way among huge happy pumpkin vines with big ol’ cheerful leaves and find white, green, yellow, and orange pumpkins in various sizes, shapes, and stages of development. None of those pumpkins would be there if I hadn’t dreamed up this Sincere Pumpkin Patch, ordered seeds, helped get them started indoors, organized a work party to plant them outdoors, and participated in the activity of planting and christening them.

Of course, there has been some prayer involved and I know it has helped our pumpkins along. If you have prayed for our pumpkins, thank you so much for lending your support as well.

Three years ago I was also a woman who had made one small batch of somewhat runny strawberry preserves in Los Angeles. Now I regularly make preserves that set up right properly to a fine, even perfect consistency. Last year I made more than 100 jars of various preserves including sour cherry, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and peach. This year I have made wild raspberry preserves, rhubarb, rhubarb-cranberry, and ginger-peach so far. The rhubarb-cranberry and the ginger-peach are special recipes I have developed and they are quite tasty, I must say. I will be making even more peach preserves, and this fall I will make some more of the apple preserves I started developing that first year I came to the farm. I am producing so many jars of preserves that I actually am in need of a jelly cabinet.

cottoncandyNow, isn’t that something.

Last year I even canned four jars of sour cherries, and four jars of peaches. That might not sound like much, but for a first-time canner it was a pretty big deal to me. This year, I have signed up for two canning classes at the local 4-H club, one for peaches and one for apples. Next summer I intend to can more cherries and peaches, and I also want to do something with some tomatoes (which my husband seems to be good at growing).

Another recent development is that we are attending obedience classes with Blu. Blu is a dear dog, and we love him almost desparately. However, he has tended to be an unstable dog who is capable of misbehaving, stealing (and eating) entire bricks of butter, barking inappropriately, and running away in the opposite direction when I say, “Come.”

Last night we attended our third class and he is doing great. I can tell he appreciates the training, because he has become even more affectionate and has become more relaxed as well. I enjoy the one-on-one time we spend together out in the yard each day reviewing his lessons. It is great to be able to walk with him now without having him constantly going in circles around me. He actually walks by my side and trucks along with me. If all we accomplished from the class was just that one thing, that would be plenty right there. Blu, you old silly dog. I do love you so much.

webeelittleBlogging, knitting, and painting have all slipped a bit by the wayside over the past few months because life has been demanding my time and attention in other areas. Now I am gearing up again for quite a bit of painting production for two reasons. One is that five of the paintings I hanging at Zambistro Restaurant have sold over the past year and their walls are begging me for more. On top of that, a lady phoned me recently who is opening an art gallery across the street from the restaurant and she wants to put on a show of my work this coming January, shortly after she opens. I am also supposed to display again at the Cobblestone Society Museum for their Olde Tyme Days event on September 12, coming up here shortly.

I have hardboard panels laying all over the place now being prepped for many paintings to come and I’ve been pouring over photographs choosing my subjects and getting my thoughts all organized. I am up for the challenge and life seems to be arranging itself more harmoniously for the kind of production I need to get into. Somehow I will make it all go right and get everything back on track.

Life, as it turns out, is a great big glorious moving river. Sometimes it slows down a bit, sometimes it gets all muddy and roars right past as it hurries you along. Sometimes it absolutely sparkles with jewels on a perfect summer day, inviting you to jump in and have a swim. Other times it glows under the sublime light of a full golden moon, giving you a few minutes to contemplate the joys and loves and smiles you have been blessed with in life.

sincereAs always, I am grateful for it all. Even the muddy waters that move too quickly and leave me feeling temporarily dazed. They too serve a purpose and I embrace them fully, now that I understand the way life works. It is all good. There are jewels hidden in any and every experience, and it is up to me whether I discover those jewels or not. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t … but I am certain they are always there somewhere.

~firefly

P.S. Today my mother begins chemotherapy. Please pray for her, and for my father. My father is on his fourth round of chemotherapy. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for them to be going through this at the same time. They are the kindest, most loving and gentle people you could ever hope to know and quite strong. I know they will get through this, but I also know that extra love, thoughts, and prayers headed their way will help. Thank you.

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