I wore a wool hat

September 20, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Posted in art, country life, country living, faith, family, free knitting patterns, health, inspiration, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, shopping, summer, Vintage, yarn | 6 Comments
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It has already been chilly enough recently, I wore a wool hat a couple of times last week. AndiIt is just now the last day of summer.  I remember the first year I was in New York, we went to my husband’s nephew’s farm–a couple of hours south of us– for a pig roast in mid-August and camped out a couple of nights.  It got down into the 40’s both nights and we were freezing all night long; mid-August.

That funny little hand knit skirt I was making last week for Sweet Pea is finished now, but she didn’t want to model it today. I’ll have to catch her in a modelling mood later this week so I can share that with you all. I will also share the pattern with you for free — it is very simple and a quick knit. She looks so adorable in it, you just have to see it! I’ll be sure to include directions for making it as a little girl’s skirt, not just a toddler’s skirt. I was going to call it Sassafras, but now that I have seen it on her, it makes me think of it more as a Flintstone skirt. Anyway, soon as I can get her to wear it for a photo shoot, I’ll share the photos and the pattern.

Have you heard about the HBO show, Boardwalk Empire? It is going into its second season in a week or so, and HBO did a very cool promotion in NYC using vintage subways they ran in certain neighborhoods. The story line (which takes place during prohibition era Atlantic City) and the promotion in NYC were of particular interest to my family because of my son’s vintage-look subway sign business. I guess he knew about it for a while, because he designed a very cool set of Atlantic City subway roll signs, paying homage not only to Atlantic City but giving a nod to HBO’s excellent production as well.

Today is beautiful; I am looking out the dining room windows as I type and I see blue skys with huge puffy white clouds dancing along.  We had gentle rain over night, but now it has cleared out leaving the trees and lawn looking rich and dazzling against that beautiful blue sky.  Summer is already a thing of the past for us this year, but we are looking forward to a couple of months of beautiful autumn.  One sugar maple tree on the bank of the river has started turning colors, but otherwise the trees are still green for the most part.

Our pumpkins never did take hold this year, which is sort of sad.  However, our favorite local farm stand already has a beautiful assortment of pumpkins out for sale and we bought a couple of huge ones the other day.  They look like standard field pumpkins, but are the size of a big moon over-sized pumpkin.  Very nice, and they have gorgeous huge stems on top.

For Sweet Pea’s Sincere Pumpkin Patch, my daughter and husband and I will buy a number of pumpkins from the farm stand and scatter them around where ours should have grown.  We will do that the night before Halloween, and hang a few ghosts in the branches of the old dead pine tree who stands guard over the patch.  It will be so fun to see how she responds to it all now that she’s older.

That pumpkin patch has been on my mind quite a lot recently, not only because fall is here but also because of a book project I have been working on with my Dad.  We created a book (hardback, eBook, and Kindle editions) combining some of his inspirational poetry and my photography of our farm.

Shortly after I married and moved to this beautiful farm, my parents came for a Christmas visit along with my son and daughter (they are young adults). My father brought a folder with his poetry, and we read through some of his poems while they were here. He and I talked about how lovely it would be to publish a book sometime with his poems and my photography, and so the concept of this book took root.

A couple of years alter they all came here again for a vacation in June, and we all spent a very magical week together with the most perfect, spectacular weather you could hope for.

At that time, my father was undergoing chemotherapy; he was diagnosed with prostate cancer about eleven years ago. When he came for that visit, none of us knew how the chemotherapy was going to turn out, and we all wanted to make sure that we lived that one magical week to the fullest while we all had the opportunity to be together.

My father got to drive my husband’s tractor and help tend to our large lawn — my son also had a hand at driving the tractor during that visit. My father had not been on a tractor since he was a young man living on a farm in North Carolina, so it was wonderful for him to have that opportunity.

While they all were here we worked together to plant our first-ever pumpkin patch, with six varieties of pumpkins. We also built a crude but artistic signpost, which we put up over the pumpkin patch. My son and daughter and I hand painted, “Sincere Pumpkin Patch” on the sign in a childish hand, to make the signpost look like it was put together by children.

The pumpkin harvest from the Sincere Pumpkin Patch that year was gorgeous, and we all felt it was a great reflection of those magic days we shared in June.

I am determined to make certain that my father has an opportunity to be a published author while he is still living, and that he will experience the joy of knowing that people are reading and enjoying his creative works, and feeling inspired and uplifted by his lovely words.  The book contains thirteen of his poems and fourteen of my specially selected photographs.

You can order the eBook directly from my website here, you can find the Kindle version in the Kindle Store by searching “J. L. Fleckenstein” — the title of the book is “The Measure of a Man”.  Or,  if you would like a beautiful, full-cover hardback version of this book you may purchase one for $26 by contacting me (email editor101 @ ILiveonaFarm.com).

The hardback book is small (6″ x 9″) and rather slim, but expensive to print. There is very little profit on the hardback book, but is is so lovely I want people to have it in their hands and on their coffee tables or desks — so I am making it available that way by special request. I have to special order them one at a time for now, so there is about a two week lead time between when you order one and when it can be shipped. Worth the wait, in my humble opinion.

My father is doing very , by the way … turns out he is much, much more durable than cancer is.

I put together a reader survey this morning to get some feedback from my readers. It would be great to hear from some of you … would you be willing to take a couple of minutes to help? If so, click here.

I hope you have a beautiful, almost autumn day.

~firefly

And here, I confess

July 20, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Posted in art, country life, faith, family, flowers, food, gardening, gifts, health, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, marriage, photography, recipes, relationships, shopping, socks, summer, travel, weight loss, yarn | 14 Comments
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I had determined not to talk about this, but I changed my mind because telling you what I am about to tell you might help someone who reads my blog.  So, here goes.

I am doing Weight Watchers, the online program.  I am not particularly into diets, and favor instead lifestyle changes as being the only really viable means of addressing weight and health related issues.   I was nice and trim when we got married five years ago, but each year since I have put on an average of five pounds which usually happens over the winter months (big surprise).  Don’t want to talk about it, but I’m doing so out of consideration for any of my readers who may be experiencing something similar and who, like me, might want to turn that boat around.

In the spring of 2010, dissatisfied with my new weight at that time,  I somewhat confronted the issue and started eating better and I cut off about six pounds by the beginning of summer.  It wasn’t great weight loss, but it felt good.  Unfortunately, I was a little to happy with the results and did not lose anything else.  This winter the six pounds I lost in the spring returned and brought a few of their friends with them.  About a month ago I knew I needed to return to something that had, in the past, yielded better and long lasting results so, I typed in “www.weightwatchers.com” into my browser address bar.

I am very happy I did so, because their latest version of their program is very easy to follow and easy to live with.  It is also structured in a way to promotes workable lifestyle changes rather than anything drastically different.  The only issue I have with their program is that I disagree with limiting people to two servings of protein per day.  From my own personal experience, two servings of protein a day does not promote healthy metabolism.  The cool thing, however, is that with the way their program works now if you want to eat more protein you can do so and still stay within their point system — you just have to figure things out correctly and try to use less “expensive” carbohydrates in your meal and snack planning to make room for the points that protein selections will take up.

Back in 2003, while still living in Los Angeles, I did Weight Watchers online and it worked pretty well.  I lost about two pounds per week steadily until I had lost twenty pounds total.  Then I stalled, and I had trouble feeling motivated to go further.  A month or two after my stall, my daugther asked me to do the Zone diet with her.  She needed to do it for her metabolism, not to lose weight.  I decided to do it to be supportive of her and I was really happy I did.  That’s when I found out how much better I felt if I had protein with each and every meal and snack, and I learned to have three medium sized meals and two snack sized meals per day to help keep my metabolism on an even keel.   Doing the Zone diet and going on walks with my mother in the evenings, I lost another 24.5 pounds and I also felt wonderful.  I stopped eating dairy products and all refined grains and sugars and I increased my protein intake (which had always been a challenge before, as I am vegetarian) by using some of the great new (at the time) soy-based products that had become available.

Until I moved to Upstate New York, to the farm, I kept that weight off.  However, being in a colder climate, writing a blog that includes sharing recipes and photos of baked goods (I love to bake), and attending a church where people do love their pot-luck dinners and coffee hours all added up to my weight going back up again.

I’m not having it anymore, I’ll tell you that right now.  Enough is enough, and 25 pounds is too much.

I am enjoying doing Weight Watcher’s online, and have lost eight pounds so far.  My husband and I have started taking walks together, which is a wonderful bonus.  I am already feeling much, much better physically and emotionally.  My spirits are lifted, and I believe I can get this new lifestyle on a farm in upstate New York under control to where I no longer have those winters of gaining a few pounds in cuddly comfort.

And, I will share my weight loss wins with you here in case anyone out there wants to do something similar and would like the moral support.  We are, all of us, beautiful and divine creatures and our physical form can be reflective of that fact.  I will also continue to share recipes and photos of pretty foods but they are likely to be more on the healthy side and designed to inspire others to celebrate good health more than they celebrate beautiful foods.

Something delicious I discovered a few days ago was that I could cover my Cuisinart Griddler with sliced mushrooms, close the cover, and in a few minutes have grilled mushrooms that are very flavorful and beautiful to behold — but lack the olive oil (and calories) I would have used to saute them previously.  I toss them on a salad along with chunks of grilled extra-firm tofu I marinated in soy sauce and rubbed lightly with olive oil.  The mushrooms and tofu add a delicious layer of flavor as well as protein to make a filling, healthy meal that sets me up for a nice energetic walk a little later.

I hope my honesty and willingness to share on this subject is helpful to you, my friends.

As for knitting, I completed one of the slouchy toddler socks I designed for Sweet Pea, and am on my way knitting the second one.  I will be writing up the pattern for publishing within the next week or so.  These look so cute on her, because the legs are made a little wide so that they are chunky and do a little bit of slouching.  They’ll be great for the fall and winter, keeping her feet and legs warm when cold drafts are in the air.  I am making these from yarn left over from her Christmas stocking, which I made … wow, almost two years ago.  This is FootNotes sock yarn from my favorite yarn artist, Kimber Baldwin of Fiber Optic Yarns.  She does these low-contrast colorways in hues that I just tend to love, love, love.  The sock pattern will be available soon as its done in my knitting-related Etsy store or directly from my website.

By the way, in the sock photo, there is a little bear I needle felted some time ago.  Some years ago while sketching I created some pretty little characters — teddy bears with little costumes, wings, and then a little beaded headband that was supposed to serve as a halo of sorts.  I called them Wish Bears at the time, and later called them Moon Bears so as not to intrude on the Care Bear trademark (there is a Wish Bear in the Care Bear series of characters).  Recently my grand daughter saw some little cards I had made with a variety of my characters printed on them and she fell in love with the little bears.  She dubbed them “Princess Fairy Bears”, and it revitalized my interest in doing something with them some time.

It will be fun, when she is older, to create a cast of the characters as needle felted sculptures, much like the one photographed here.  She is too young for them now, because at two and half years old, she handles them a little too roughly and they can’t hold up to that kind of play.  What fun it will be though to create some more drawings and paintings of the little sweet characters, write more stories featuring them, and do the needle felted sculptures for her as well.  I don’t have any of the images of the drawings and paintings on my current computer, but at some point I will find some of those images and share them so you all can see how much the needle felted sculpture favors the actual drawing of one of the bears.

Such fun.

News of what is happening with my son’s Etsy store, Flying Junction He is featured for the next few weeks in the very cool, very stylish online curated handmade market, Poppy Talk Handmade.  The theme of this exhibit is “On The Road”; his vintage-inspired NYC (and other cities) subway roll signs and bus scroll prints were chosen because they represent the places people travel to and through while on the road.  His custom signs are also a beautiful and classy way to commemorate life’s markers — places where special events took place, landmarks that create a particular feeling of nostalgia, and neighborhoods you  grew up in, worked in, visited or dreamed of visiting.  The custom signs are made using his unique, careful reproductions of hand lettering from original NYC subway roll signs and include the wonderful distressed-look finishing touch that is a trademark of his beautiful work.

And now on to my “garden”.  Two or three years ago a friend of my husband’s from work gave him three unknown plants she bought at a plant sale.  He brought them home and planted them out along the west wall of our old garage foundation, which seems to be the chosen spot for orphaned and adopted random plants and trees people give us.  The following year, one of the mystery plants turned out to be a lily of some kind and gave us one or two pretty blossoms.  The next year, we got a few more blossoms.  Well, this year we have two four-foot tall lily plants that were loaded with buds.  They finally blossomed recently and the blossoms were so healthy and beautiful it caught my breath when my husband cut one to bring in the house for little Sweet Pea.  She danced with joy, and I gasped in delight.  A day or so later I got out there with my camera on a somewhat overcast day and did some photography that I was very pleased with.  I have posted prints of one of the best photos for sale in my fine art Etsy store, and will add a couple more shortly.

I suppose this will conclude today’s blog post.  If you didn’t read the post from earlier this week, it is brief and you will find it directly under this post.

Our place

February 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Posted in country life, country living, family, food, health, knitting, Life, love, photography, recipes, shopping, snow, soup recipes, travel, yarn | Leave a comment
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Saturday evening there was an unexpected show fall that brought us several inches of dry, powdery snow overnight. There was no wind during the night, so the snow was still blanketing the branches of the trees in the morning. I love waking up when it is still dark in the winter time and being surprised visually once the sun comes up with whatever might have happened overnight.

Soon after day break the cloudy cover started clearing away, with golden sunshine breaking through here and there lighting up the trees, fields, river, and our barn most beautifully.

It has been quite some time since I was able to take a morning walk about the place, shooting photography at my leisure; yesterday morning I took advantage of an opportunity to do just that.

It is a good thing I did, because today our temperatures are well above freezing, we woke up to rain and all of the beautiful white stuff is melting, melting … melting away.

I started knitting a blanket for myself last night with cotton worsted weight yarn in that pretty Misty Morning color I was going to carry, before I found out my manufacturer has gone out of business. With today’s misty morning, working on this blanket is particularly enjoyable. The yarn is so soft, and I am knitting on size U.S. 10 circular needles, so it is easy and comfortable knitting … very relaxing and perfect for my mood.

Remember, tomorrow is Split Pea Soup Tuesday, my son and I will be sharing our delicious recipe for Split Pea Soup plus our menu for how we make it into a complete meal — great for the farm or the city. Meet up with us here at the blog, and we’ll make it all together. I posted the ingredients in Friday’s blog (just previous to this post). You might want to also have some small potatoes on hand to make roasted potatoes as a side dish.

As a side note, this morning he’s in North Hollywood, and of course I am here in NY on the farm. I just checked weather.com at it is 37 degrees here, and 37 degrees there — that was a surprise!

“See” you tomorrow!

~firefly

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