Why Santa dropped by my place today

November 30, 2010 at 2:32 am | Posted in art, biscuit recipes, Christmas, country life, country living, family, food, hand knit dishcloths, knitted washrags, knitting, Life, love, recipes, yarn | Leave a comment
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I have been working on creating a new deluxe limited edition version of my Biscuit Blanket Kit.

Some time ago I came across these gorgeous Espresso colored gift boxes that are 6″ x 6″ x 4″ and I knew that all of the goodies I put into a Biscuit Blanket kit would fit perfectly inside of one. I also knew that the yarn, the note card and the recipe cards would look scrumptious inside a box that color.

So, I ordered 100 of the gift boxes and have put together 50 of the kits in five different color combinations.

They are all available in my Etsy store and on my website.

The kit includes a download of the original Biscuit Blanket pattern. However, if you already have that pattern you can buy the kit and then email me with a different pattern you would like a download for, and I will substitute for you.

While packaging them up I discovered that a knitted Biscuit Blanket folded in quarters fits perfectly inside the gift box, which makes it even more perfect as a choice.

The other thing is that at 4″ tall, the box will accomodate one (or more) 8-oz jars of homemade preserves or jelly perfectly … another wonderful bonus.

When I put together the first sample kit and saw the rich combination of colors I just knew I had hit on something would delight my readers.

This Deluxe, Limited Edition kit comes with:

  • Online download for the original Biscuit Blanket knitting pattern
  • Two balls of my private label 100% super soft cotton yarn
  • One hand-wound mini-ball of cotton yarn in an accent color
  • One beautiful “Espresso” colored gift box perfectly sized for a completed Biscuit Blanket
  • Two pieces of tissue paper in Vanilla Cream for gift wrapping
  • One piece of coordinating ribbon or tulle (varies) for tying the gift box
  • One notecard featuring a print of one of my (J. L. Fleckenstein) original oil paintings (notecards vary)
  • Two beautiful recipe cards featuring my Biscuit Recipe that I won a Blue Ribbon for (one for you, one for your gift recipient; the recipe is set against a background featuring a beautiful color photograph from my blog

This is a perfect last-minute gift for a knitter on your shopping list also!

Supplies are limited, color choices are limited, and will be shipped on a first come, first served basis until sold out.

Best wishes to all,

Dandelion farming

May 7, 2007 at 3:13 pm | Posted in baby, charity knitting, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, free knitting patterns, Habitat for Humanity, hand knit dishcloths, knitted washrags, knitting, knitting for babies, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, volunteerism, yarn | 17 Comments

Fireflys Dandelion FarmWe live on a farm, but as I have said before … we are not farmers. We have (or had) corn out in our fields, but we didn’t put it there. We dream of a vineyard and fruit orchard on our acres one day, but there will be much to learn in order to get there.

When I lived in the high desert north of Los Angeles for a couple of years with my children, we tried planting some raised gardens. We enriched the soil, and put up wooden planks to build up areas to grow our vegetables and watermelons and flowers. We covered the planted area with plastic to help keep the ground warm inspite of plunging temperatures in the evenings. We watered, we waited, we watched.

When the time was right we removed the plastic covering and continued watering and watching and waiting.

Fireflys Borrowed Farmers Combine TractorThen one morning we pressed our noses against the window and to our delight saw rows and rows of green plants poking their little heads up in our gardens. The feeling of excitement was electric; we dressed quickly and rushed out to inspect our little green babies.

Arriving on the scene, we looked down with proud faces and saw … tumbleweeds. Rows and rows of the healthiest little baby tumbleweeds we had ever seen.

No carrots, no marigolds, no watermelon vines. Tumbleweeds.

We were tumbleweed farmers.

Cherry Blossoms at Fireflys CottageAt least they were healthy, sturdy, and vibrant. We had done well by our tumbleweeds.

I warned my husband before we married about my “farming” experience, but he wanted me anyway. So, here I am.

Friday evening at dinner I told my husband that it was becoming embarrassing that we still had much of last year’s corn standing in our fields. The farmer who rents our land and works it comes from a family of skilled, knowledgeable, and respectable farmers but he lacks the enthusiasm and love of the work to do it with the prudent order that I tend to associate with the concept of professional farming.

As I told my husband, I wondered what our Amish neighbors must think of us when they go by and see the dead corn stalks standing in the fields bearing cobs of corn never reaped. I wondered if we should put up a large sign on the side of our barn declaring to the world that we do not farm our own land.

Our borrowed farmer did show up late Saturday afternoon with a big ol’ combine. He was out there working in the fields with lights on the combine late into the evening. We heard the drone of his efforts as we drifted off to sleep.

More Cherry Blossoms at Fireflys CottageBy yesterday afternoon most of the corn was finally cut and I believe this morning it is all gone.

As for my husband and I, we actually are farmers–of a sort.

We are dandelion farmers.

The crop comes in strong; we cut it weekly and the next day it is back in full force.

This kind of farming suits us well and we find that we are quite adept at it. We plan to continue on with our dandelion fields for many years to come. Blu enjoys sampling them when he is out in the yard, and judging from his “business” report, he can’t get enough of them.

Side Bar: Blu is sleeping on a comforter beside my desk as I write. I enjoy hearing his breathing and looking over at his sweet face resting on one of his front paws. Interesting to note, Blu uses his front paws very much like hands. We haven’t ever seen another dog that uses its front paws quite so much like hands.

Back to the blog …

Frost in Early May on Fireflys FarmIn Southern California, dandelions were regarded only as lawn pests and “weeds”, but here in the countryside of Western New York they are lovely and loved.

I am amazed to see their fresh, bright faces the next morning after the lawn has been mowed. They are full-grown, sturdy, and have a look about them as if nothing has happened even though just the evening before a tractor rolled over the lawn whacking off everything in its path.

As we drove around this weekend on various errands, to church, to the cottage, etc. I saw dandelion carpets gracing apple orchards whose trees were in full pink and white bloom.

Yes, I have come to love dandelions and will never begrudge their return or their longevity again.

Fireflys Hand Knit Teddy Bear Cardigan ProjectI have a few projects I am working on in present time. First of all, I do still knit–just so you know.

I have enough green wool yarn to knit a cardigan for myself, and I want to design my own pattern for it. However, I was having some trouble deciding exactly what I wanted to do, so I thought it would be a good idea to start with a teddy bear cardigan of my own design.

The problem is that I don’t have much experience knitting adult sized sweaters. I’ve made many baby sweaters in my time, but only one adult sized one. My plan is to freshen up my hands-on experience with knitted sweaters by first designing and knitting a teddy bear cardigan, then I’ll design and knit one for a baby, and then I’ll move on to the cardigan I will design and knit for myself.

The teddy bear cardigan is coming along well, and I hope to finish it this week or by the weekend.

I haven’t started the second hand knit wash/dish cloth in lavender cotton yarn to match the green one, but I might be able to get to that next week sometime. However, I have the Gracious Parcels blankets to sew together, and that will take some doing plus, it takes priority over designing and knitting the second dish cloth.

Speaking of Gracious Parcels, I have started a community blog for Gracious Parcels. The idea with the Gracious Parcels blog is to create an open blogging community for anyone who has contributed at least one 7″ square to a Gracious Parcels blanket. Anyone can view and read the blog, but those who are contributing members may post blogs, photos, share patterns, etc.

Please check out the blog sometime, and if you would like to be a contributing member, leave a comment in any post there expressing your interest and I will contact you via email.

We have had frost twice within the past week, this morning included. After Blu’s morning business report, I walked around with my camera to capture some of the sights for you. I have a terrible problem though: there are so many interesting things I find that it is difficult to narrow down the selection of photos. I used to try to limit my photos to only three per blog, but sometimes three just isn’t enough. This is one of those days.

In closing, I will leave you with several photos from the morning’s walk about the farm, plus a few I shot over the weekend here on the farm and over at our cottage. The white blossoms you will see are wild cherry trees–so beautiful.

Please have a cup of tea, coffee, or what-have-you with me and enjoy the view.

Have a wonderful day, my friend.


While Cherries in Bloom at Fireflys Cottage

Wild Cherries in Bloom at Fireflys Cottage

Pretty Things at Fireflys Cottage

Pretty Flowers at Fireflys Cottage

A Bird in Fireflys Willow

A Pretty Branch at Fireflys Farm

A Chipmunk in Fireflys Willow

Fireflys River on a Frosty Morning

Even the Moon is Out on a Frosty Morning at Fireflys Farm

The Sweetest Thing on Frieflys Farm

A Wild Goose Goes Walking By


A most perfect day

April 24, 2007 at 3:32 pm | Posted in country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, Habitat for Humanity, hand knit dishcloths, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, recipes, relationships, romance, yarn | 16 Comments

Trees at Fireflys Place Coming into BudI recall vividly, growing up in North Carolina, the wonderful feelings invoked by the environment all around me just after a summer rainfall. It is one of the richest memories of childhood I possess.

I used to long for that feeling in California, the many years I lived there. It rarely rains in Southern California in the summer, and though I knew it was futile to wish for a summer rain shower, I continued wishing nonetheless.

If you have not ever experienced the feeling, let me share it with you here:

You are outside playing on a hot summer day. The sky is blue, bright, clear. The skin on your bare arms and legs is tight from the heat of the sun, your neck is damp where your hair lies on it, making you too warm but you don’t care because you are a child and play engrosses you. The sounds of nature are all around you as you play without a care in the world.

Suddenly you feel a bit of wind, the sky grows dark in the blink of an eye and you hear your mother calling you to come inside. Rain begins tapping you gently at first, but then hard and fast. Your mother implores you come in immediately because thunder and lightening are on the way.

Pretty Blue Flowers at Fireflys FarmAll of the children scatter to the safety of their homes, and you feel a rush of terrible excitement coursing through your body and senses. Up the stairs you run as fast as you can and your mother is there at the door to usher you and your brothers and sisters inside … one, two, three, four, five. All are present and accounted for.

Thunder and lighting, pelting rain, rattling windows. The power goes out, and thrills you are having, all wide eyed and quiet, expand as a big balloon of living within your very being. Your mother gets out candles and lights them, and everyone waits for the storm to pass.

Sometime later, the skies are clearing and you get to return to the outside world. That world is more magical than it had been a few hours earlier. Perhaps you see a rainbow. Big fat drops of water cover everything, and you see steam rising up from the hot driveway as rain evaporates into the summer air.

The air is moist and cooler than it was, and birds begin chirping here and there. Throughout the neighborhood, children begin venturing back outdoors. There is a smell, a beautiful smell of wet grasses, tree bark, leaves, flowers … a dear beautiful after-rain smell you will treasure the rest of your life and long for if you are pulled away from it.

Fireflys Husband Doing Man WorkSaturday we woke to warmth for the first time in quite a while. My husband and I left at about 8:30 in the morning to deliver paint to the Habitat build site, because volunteers would be showing up to paint the interior walls of the new home at 9:00 that morning. We noticed as we drove through the village that everything was peculiarly quiet. With the sudden warmth and sunshine we expected to see people out everywhere, doing things, taking it all in.

Saturday afternoon my husband removed the snow blowing equipment from his tractor, and reconfigured it for heavy lifting. He spent several hours cutting up the fallen trunk and large limbs of our old, dead elm tree out by the willow. He would load up a pile of trunk and branch sections on the tractor and drive them over, across the road to a piece of land we own above the river. That’s where he will store the wood for now, and later he will cut it up for firewood.

I spent some time walking around the yard and surroundings taking photographs of flowers and green buds on tree limbs and branches. I want to keep an accurate photo journal of each and every flower as they come to life this spring and summer. Every week there are new arrivals, and it continues throughout the spring, summer, and into fall. I am going to attempt to catch them all. My husband will help me look them up and identify each by name, to assist me with my journal.

The sound of the birds out in the trees by the willow is tantalizing. Their calls and songs, combined with the chirping of the peepers, and the now occasional ribbiting of the more mature frogs creates an impression that we are living in a bayou. I relished that time in the yard hearing the sounds of our personal bayou, the sound of my husband’s work with the chain saw and the tractor. All of it mixed together with the wonderful warm air and sunshine made for a perfect day and many perfect moments.

Fireflys Rhododendron Coming into BloomThe third Sunday of every month we have a potluck lunch at church, after the service. This week I wanted to make something fresh and cool for the warm spring weekend. We decided on an idea I had to make a couscous salad with pesto, mozzarella, and tomatoes. It hit the mark, so this morning I posted the recipe on the I Live on a Farm website for you. Hmm, hmm, good.

Yesterday was another warm day, but with a wind portending of rain showers to come. Most delicious. Each time I took Blu out for some time in the yard I got to experience the wonderful feel of that warm wind and the darkening of the skies creating the excitement I used to experience as a child. Oh yes, I have my weather back again and I soak up every moment of it.

By 2:30 in the afternoon we got a pretty good drenching, and I had to run around the house closing windows as heavy rain was blowing in. The showers came and went, and came again. At 5:00 out power went out, and shortly after we headed out for a brief walk up the road with Blu. As we walked, a light rain breezed along from time to time. I gathered some materials for Thistleonians, and Blu found a deer antler just recently shed. Oh, how he loved that antler. It was slippery from the rain, so it took him some time to work out how to carry it. Once he got it balanced properly and could hold on it, he pranced proudly in front of us, heading back home with his trophy. The pride that showed in his posture and gait was unmistakable.

We let him take the prize into the house with him, and then we headed back out for more of an exercise walk together. When we started down the road it looked as if the rain had mostly passed and was moving on beyond us toward the north. As it turned out, that first rain had moved on, but there was another larger storm cell moving down from the north. When we were up the road a little less than half a mile, it started raining pretty hard. As we headed back it started pelting us pretty good.

Fireflys Pesto Couscous SaladBy the time we reached home we were drenched through every layer of clothing, hair dripping wet; even our socks were wet inside our shoes. When I was a little girl, that was what I always wished I could do during a storm–stay out in it and get good and drenched. Mama was right to bring us all in–we were children afterall, but I have to say that as an adult it was wonderful to be out on that walk getting a good drenching, holding hands with my husband and walking along pretty much as normal despite the heavy storm.

Back at home we changed into dry clothes and snuggled into warm positions in the living room to enjoy a quiet evening with Blu and each other as we waited for the power to come back on.

Power was restored just before we were ready to turn in for bed.

All in all, it had been a most perfect day.

I hope yours was too.

And by the way, I wanted to say how much I have appreciated the interest many of you have shown in my paintings and Thistleonians. The auctions have been going well, and it is exciting to be shipping my creations off to some of my wonderful readers and friends. I almost get the sense of being out there with some of you now, because these treasured things I have created as an artist are now in your homes. 🙂


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