Knitting, and painting, and writing …

June 30, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Posted in art, country life, faith, family, gardening, gifts, health, inspiration, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, summer, travel, women | 9 Comments
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Good morning … I hope you are having an enjoyable summer so far.

I give mine mixed reviews.

I spent the first part of June in Denver visiting with my parents, which was wonderful of course but not without some bittersweet feelings as well. I love living here on the farm in New York, an I would not trade my life here with my dear husband for anything. We enjoyed our sixth wedding anniversary this past April and continue to feel amazed and blessed that our 3-month online courtship and subsequent marriage worked out so very, very well.

It is, however, not fun at all to be 1,500 miles away from my parents. They have always been two of my very best, dearest friends as well as parents who I cherish, respect, and love. I wish circumstances were such that we could all live close together so that I could help them more. Dad continues to give prostate cancer a run for its money, and Mom does an incredible job taking care of him through that battle. When we all lived in California, very close to each other, my kids and I were on hand to help them if needed … and of course during all of the years when I was raising my kids my parents were very nearby and always on hand to lend a hand, a hug, or a listen whenever it was needed by us.

We have a dream that by some miracle the universe aligns and Dad and Mom are able to come and live here with us. Miracles can happen, and we will continue to pose that dream to the universe and see what we along with the universe can make happen.

Meanwhile, there is love and there is a wealth of technology for staying in touch at least.

I came back from Denver with bronchitis and then had the fun of that segueing to a sinus infection back in New York. I am much better now, but much of June was devoted to the trip and the recovery.

I did manage to take a brief little vacation, right in our own backyard, with my husband last weekend. I shot a number of photos during the vacation using the Instagram app on my Android phone and shared those on Facebook and Twitter. That little app is so amazing, and quite fun to use. I am planning on creating an Instagram chronicle over the course of this summer as a photo journal of a summer living in vacation.

Every year I am stunned all over again at the complete, innocent and rustic beauty of this place and the environment around it.

Creatively, I am enjoying a very productive time these days. I created two small oil paintings while on the mini-vacation, am almost complete with my watercolor of the swans, and have started writing my first novel. I am determined to write at least 500 words each day for the next several months until my first novel is complete. I realize 500 words per day is a tiny little writing target, but making sure I do at least that much work on the novel will ensure I do produce a full-length book over the next year. I have also been knitting: I completed a Biscuit Blanket as a mystery gift to someone I have not met as of yet, am making another attempt at a summertime blanket for myself, and am working on a new design for something I am calling a Friendship Square … more on that later.

Oh, yes … I also managed to make a triple batch of strawberry-rhubarb-cranberry preserves that resulted in a 26 jars of some very delicious jam. The strawberries and rhubarb were locally grown, and the cranberries were from a stock of frozen cranberries I always have on hand. Oops, I just remembered another thing … my husband and I got this year’s Sincere Pumpkin patch going.

I also have been creating some new art prints for knitters … I posted two of my new designs this morning in my Etsy store. They are philosophical, and slightly humorous. I hope you will enjoy at least taking a look at them and enjoying the sentiment as well as the pretty colors I am using.

That is about it for me for now. I want to work on some more paintings today, because I have the August Art Trail to prepare for and a beautiful day to thoroughly enjoy.

Warmest wishes to you and yours.

~firefly

Recipe: Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan

August 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Posted in country living, family, food, gardening, recipes, weight loss, Weight Watchers | 5 Comments
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New! Get my blog on Kindle.

And, too good not to mention … Flying Junction is having a Buy Two, Get One Free sale on all paper prints in his online store.  Plus, free shipping.  Gotta love that!

This is my Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan recipe … shared with love.  I hope you give it a try.  It is especially good if you can get your hands on eggplant from a local farm market rather than at the grocery store.  I have noticed the eggplants we buy at the farm stand are more tender and have less seeds than those I can find in a grocery store.

This recipe serves two. It is quick and simple to prepare, Weight Watcher friendly, and a tasty way to enjoy fresh eggplant. The recipe calls for breadcrumbs; if you are using this as a Weight-Watcher recipe be mindful what you use for bread crumbs. I have made this recipe using homemade bread crumbs tossed in olive oil and Italian herbs, baked in the oven until browned. However, while dieting I bake the bread crumbs without tossing them in oil. Or, try buying store-bought bread crumbs that are only toasted bread (read the ingredients and pick a brand that just has “wheat bread” or something like that for the ingredients).

Ingredients

One medium-sized eggplant
4 tsp olive oil
1 to 1-1/2 cups any marinara sauce*
1/2 to 2/3 cups prepared bread crumbs*
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese*
Thick-sliced mushrooms, any amount you choose to use

(For items marked with *, if you are following Weight Watchers, decide on amount to use based on the PointsPlus values you can allow for this meal.)

Preparation

Grill mushrooms until lightly browned on indoor grill.

Cut eggplant into 1/2″ diagonal slices. Rub olive oil on both sides of eggplant slices. When the mushrooms come off the grill, set them aside and get the eggplants grilling. Grill eggplants until tender but not mushy — this will not take very long, so watch them closely.

While eggplant is grilling, heat up marinara sauce on stove top.

Once eggplants come off the grill, arrange them on two plates. Spoon marinara sauce over the eggplants; sprinkle grated Parmesan over marinara sauce and top that with bread crumbs, followed by mushrooms.

That’s it — simple, and quite delicious. Healthy, low-calorie, satisfying!

~firefly

Corn and pumpkins

July 27, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Posted in art, country life, family, flowers, food, gardening, knitting, Life, love, marriage, recipes, shopping, summer | 6 Comments
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The farmer who works our fields planted corn this year; it has been four years I think since there was corn growing out there. By this time corn around here (and lots of people grow corn around here) is usually taller than I am. This year, however, we had such a wet spring that many of the crops are behind schedule. Our farmer planted the corn late, which he pretty much had to do because there had been standing water out in the fields.

At first, it just looked sort of sad to see little struggling corn stalks coming up — tiny little things compared to what we were seeing in other fields. Now those tiny little stalks are a good three to four feet tall, and growing taller quickly. I love the look of corn growing in a field — it is a very hearty, healthy looking plant with the tall stalks and broad blue-green leaves. I also love the look of those big heavy leaves flopping over the way they do. I am excited to know there will be beautiful, healthy tall corn growing in our fields when the Artist Road Show art trail happens on August 27th. As I have said in an earlier post, we will have several artists here at our place set up in plein air tent studios. Some will be painting, others will be hanging out and meeting with the public. And the corn in the fields will be a beautiful backdrop for all of the activities.

The past few days I have been very busy writing a press release and other materials to put together a professional electronic press kit to help promote the event and our artist group, Artists of The Oak. It was a of work, and I have to say I am happy to have it behind me now–only because it was a lot of work outside of my normal responsibilities in life, and had to be squeezed in between other things that already keep me plenty occupied. I am at a point where the only way I can add more to my load is to stay up even later at night or get up even earlier in the morning. Not complaining, just saying …

Speaking of knitting, several optometrists who happen to be knitters have purchased our Knitter’s Eyecharts — I think that is so cool. When my son and I first collaborated on them, we didn’t even think about the optometrist/knitter demographic — but, they exist! I’m sure they won’t be using them for actual eye exams, but they will be awesome as office decorations. Here is a cool someone made when leaving feedback about the eyecharts recently,

“LOVE THESE!!! And for my non-knitting co-workers, they are very confusing which makes for interesting conversation.”

“This is too fun – hangs on my office door and get many fun giggles and comments – great idea!! Thanks!!”

“Love these — bought two sets — one for me and one to divvy up as presents.”

“The Eye Chart is just great…printed on heavy paper and shipped in a very hard tube that protected it perfectly. Just thrilled with this transaction.”

I am sorry to say I have not written the pattern yet for the toddler slouchy socks I have shown photos of recently, because I have been busy creating the PR materials for the Artist Road Show. I should be able to get started writing the pattern this weekend, and if that does occur I will be able to publish it late next week.

Here is what is happening with my weight loss this week. I have lost a total of nine pounds, and am losing an average of 1.3 pounds per week. I am very happy with that rate of weight loss. It feels great to have lost nine pounds, and I reached my first “milestone” (for those who didn’t read last week’s post, I am doing Weight Watchers online). Now I have a second goal, which will be another six pounds. I like it that they recommend breaking your overall goal down into smaller more attainable goals. My ultimate goal is to lost a total of twenty-five pounds, so you can see I am well on my way. Taking it several pounds at a time makes it much more likely that I will continue to feel motivated, looking forward to celebrating small victories along the way.

It sort of reminds me of knitting, really.

I put together a salad recently that is the most delicious salad I have ever tasted … ever, really. I don’t have a photograph of it, but trust me and give this recipe a try. If you are on Weight Watchers, this salad is 6 PointsPlus values and is very filling. I usually have this about mid-afternoon or for an early dinner and it is very satisfying.

Firefly’s Tasty Arugula Cilantro Salad

1 MorningStar Farms Grillers Prime pattie, grilled and cut into small chunks
2 small handfuls of thick sliced mushrooms, grilled and chopped into medium size pieces
2 big handfuls of any salad greens
1 handful of baby arugula, chopped
1 small handful loosely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup mandarin oranges (packed in juice, drained)
1/4 cup elbow macaroni pasta cooked al dente
2 Tbsp sliced and chopped radish (optional)
1 Tbsp Newman’s Own Ginger Sesame Salad Dressing
2 tsp olive oil
salt to taste

Though I like croutons on salad, they tend to be pricey in terms of point values on Weight Watchers because of the combination of carbs and fat. Something I do when on Weight Watchers is use less “expensive” carbs otherwise you will get way too hungry. Plus, the less expensive carbs are foods that will help speed up your metabolism, so you’ll loose weight more reliably making those choices as often as possible. I have come up with an alternative to croutons that adds texture to my salad — elbow macaroni cooked “al dente” (pasta cooked to be firm but not hard). I cook a batch once a week and keep it in the fridge, then when I am making a salad I measure out 1/4 cup and sprinkle that over the salad. It only adds one PointsPlus value to the salad, but it is a very nice taste and texture to have in the mix.

To make the salad, I get the Griller Prime grilling, and when it is done I put the mushrooms on my Griddler and let them grill until browned. While the Griller Prime is cooling and the mushrooms are grilling, I put the salad greens, arugula, cilantro, pasta, mandarin oranges and radishes into a good sized bowl. When the mushrooms come off the grill I chop them and then toss them and the Griller Prime cut into chunks on top of all the salad stuff. I sprinkle with a little sea salt, then drizzle the tablespoon of Ginger Sesame dressing around on top of everything, and then I drizzle the olive oil.

That’s about it. I stir it up and sit down and enjoy my incredibly tasty salad, thinking about how healthy it is. My husband loves this salad too, just so you know. I like it so much, I could literally eat it every day and not get tired of it.

Remind me to tell you all about cilantro sometime … cilantro is a big part of why I write my blog, but that is a story for another day.

And, speaking of my blog. Today’s title is “Corn and pumpkins.” I told you about corn, but there isn’t anything in here about pumpkins. Oops.

We failed to get our little pumpkin crop in last year for the second annual Sincere Pumpkin Patch, so this year we were determined not to miss doing that again. We started a whole bunch of pumpkin seeds indoors on our sun porch, but alas only a few sprouted and even those did not survive. My friend Lora Partyka started a few more for me, and now we do have six pumpkin plants growing out in the field, right beside of our farmer’s corn. Most of the pumpkin plants have blossoms on them, and we are hoping pumpkins will not be far behind.

Next time I blog, I’ll share a recipe for black bean hummus with lime … a tasty treat indeed!

Until then, I am your … firefly

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