The beginning of autumn

September 20, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Posted in art, baby, Christmas, country life, country living, faith, family, gifts, Holidays, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, socks, yarn | 2 Comments
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Cool, breezy, crisp, and clear.  There is an excitement each year as I anticipate the arrival of fall.  The lighting is very particular in autumn, shadows are long and lean, sun light is heavily speckled as it cuts its way through thinning leaves and elegant branches.

When I was getting to know my husband via email, back in early 2006, in describing the area where his farm was located, told me that more than a few days in autumn here “look like some Disney idea in technicolor of what ‘harvest season’ should look like” (please forgive the direct quote honey, but it was too perfect).  His description was very accurate, yesterday was such a day.

We have had regular rain showers over the past few weeks with sunny days of deep blue skies full of white fluffy clouds in between.  The rainfall has left our three acres of lawn a vibrant, glowing green.  The contrast of deep blue sky with vibrant green lawn is a deeply satisfying aesthethic sensation to behold.  When I see the environment shaping up into a technicolor autumn display, I cannot help but remember my husband’s description … one of many things that lured me into the leap of faith that brought me from Los Angeles to upstate New York.

As autumn has approached this year, my daughter and I have taken up our knitting needles and begun to knit with each other a daily basis.  This is truly the first time I have been able to knit this entire year.  Sweet Pea has kept us all busy as she has grown through the many stages of development between an almost one-year old and a now 18-month-old baby.  I realized recently that in a year or two it will probably be all three of us sitting together having a knit on an early autumn morning.  My, oh my … what a delight that will be!

We take daily walks about in the yard to visit the barn, the willow tree, the Sincere Pumpkin Patch …

Side Bar: The Sincere Pumpkin Patch is empty this year, but we will be “importing” pumpkins from a local farm market to populate our patch as a surprise for Sweet Pea’s before Halloween comes around this year.  Next year we will get back to growing our own again.

So, we take our daily walks about in the yard and lately we have been able to show Sweet Pea some of the beautiful treasures that make such lovely dried decoration elements each fall: milk weed pods, the luminous money/silver dollar plant (Lunaria annua), grape vine tendrils, and willow whips; I made her a little willow whip wreath which she has studied in detail a few times since.

This year has been full of many time-consuming activities including many completed oil paintings for my show that ran this summer, home improvement and repair projects (still on-going with much work ahead for all of us), and projects for our church and community. Mostly though it has been a year devoted to family, and continues to be so. That is the way with children and grandchildren –joyful moments and times but much hard work.

Over the weekend my husband and our dear friend Roger began putting a new roof on the house here at the farm. It is a metal roof and they are doing an excellent job, in my humble opinion. I am impressed with how crisp and new and professional it looks. They have only completed one section so far–perhaps one sixth of all of the roof that must be covered–but already I feel that our home is more secure from the elements. You see, over the past few years there have been a number of leaks showing up and it will be quite a relief to know that those leaks are behind us.

My daughter and I have been working on clearing, cleaning, painting, and decorating our enclosed sun porch. This the first room in the house that I am tackling, and it was a good starting point. We are already beginning to spend time out there playing and relaxing and I just set up some of my materials for working on small oil paintings on the sun porch as well. I chose a old-fashioned looking blue for the walls and a color called “horseradish” for the trim. Everything was painted white before so the new colors are a bit warmer and more inviting.

We retrieved three wonderful, chunky old benches from storage that were built by my husband’s father many years ago from floor boards he rescued from the General Electric plant where he worked at the time. They are simple, almost like something that might have been made in a woodshop class, but I love the simplicity of their design and the fact that they were made by someone who I have come to love and respect, even though I never had a chance to meet him.

I am painting two of the benches in the horseradish color and the other, a smaller one, in the blue of the sun porch. These benches are handy to have around on the porch, easy to take out onto the lawn and, as it turns out, perfect to straddle in front of a propped up easel and sit on while working on a smaller painting.

Our little corner of the world is even quieter than usual today, and will be for the next several weeks because the bridge over our river has been torn down and a new one is being built. As of today they have completely closed the intersection at our place and so I hear … absolutely nothing in the way of traffic coming from any direction at all. It is a pleasant new quiet added to an already fairly quiet and very peaceful world. I almost wish they would never restore that bridge to service. Oh well, sigh … life goes on.

By the way, my apologies for failing to conduct an August Sock Yarn giveaway. It became an impossibility. However, September is different. We are definitely doing one this month. This month’s give away will be based on participation in a simple survey. I will launch the survey via my blog and Facebook page by the end of this week. If you are on my email mailing list I will be sending out a notification about the survey via email at that time as well. Otherwise, just come back here or check the Facebook page.

I am currently working on a new pattern to release for the Teddy Bear Tea Party blanket you see featured in photos today. This is a soft and cuddly little blanket featuring an easy to work cable design with a modified bauble border. Use the finished item as a security blanket for a baby or as a doll or teddy bear blanket. I think it would make a lovely little Christmas or other holiday gift for a baby or child, and the pattern should be available by the end of this week (if all goes well and somewhat on schedule). Meanwhile, if you are looking for knitting patterns for holiday projects be sure to visit my website or Etsy store for printed versions and online downloads.

As for upcoming patterns to look for, I have started on my Rhoda socks and a luxurious wrap … also featured in photos here today. More info is available on my Ravelry pages and Facebook if you are interested.

I hope you have a productive week as autumn begins to show itself here and there in your life.

~firefly

Copyright © 2010 J. L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Little Cindy Lou Who Would Love it Too

December 15, 2009 at 7:28 pm | Posted in baby, Christmas, country life, country living, faith, family, gifts, Holidays, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, Santa Claus, socks, stockings, yarn | 12 Comments
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I just completed this Christmas Stocking for our dear little Sweet Pea. This will be her official Christmas Stocking that will stay on the farm with Grandma and Grandpa. When I first showed it to her, she let out a happy squeal and leaned forward to look more closely with a big grin on her face … at 9 months old she already appreciates knitting projects!

I used some beautiful, soft sock yarn for this Christmas Stocking that I purchased online from Kimber at Fiber Optic. I love Kimber’s taste and artistry in creating colors for her yarns, and especially loved that I could find sock yarn in low-contrast colorways like the Pale Violet and Watercress I used in this design. I believe I will be using plenty more beautiful, artisan dyed yarns from Fiber Optic during the coming year! I named this pattern “Little Violet Who Christmas Stocking” because of the pretty pale violet yarn I used for the main color.

We have also been having fun introducing her to Christmas lights, Santa Claus, the tree, pine cones, snow … so many iconic symbols of holiday joy. She shows excitement over each new discovery!

You can find this pattern as a download in my Etsy store and at Ravelry. Within a couple of days I will add it to my website pattern catalog and will add a printed version of it. If you want a printed version, let me know and I will let you know once I have added it to the store.

Happy holidays!

~firefly

Wrapped in scrumptious

October 27, 2008 at 5:53 pm | Posted in art, baby, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, gifts, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, travel | 12 Comments
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The trees in Western New York continue to be wrapped in the scrumptious colors of fall. Although it is nearly the end of October some of the maples are still glowing with deep red leaves on the outside powered by golden leaves beneath, enriched by green leaves deeper in toward the trunk. The visual effect is stunning, and we are blessed to have one such tree just across the road north of our place on our neighbor’s property. I see it each morning outside the living room window as I knit with my morning coffee and Blu in my lap.

Last evening we had a beautiful storm come through with gusting winds blowing swirling leaves past our windows dramatically as rain and a bit of hail pounded the windows, lighting struck nearby and thunder rumbled all around us. It was just a bit before dark, so we were able to fully see the storm in the many windows of our farm house … a perfect mood for the last week of October.

You may have noticed I have not posted an entry since the 13th of October–if you came looking and I was not here, I apologize. This month has been especially busy for us, as my husband and I were organizing a very special evening event for our church, which just occurred this past Saturday (the 25th). Oh, what a time we all had.

When my husband and I met online back at the beginning of 2006, we both mentioned Mark Twain as being a favorite author. I was intrigued to learn that he had kept a Mark Twain anthology on his bedside table for years, because I too had kept at least one book of Mark Twain’s short stories on my bedside table for years. That was one of many little and sometimes strange things we discovered to have in common … little things that were like bread crumbs leading us each through the forest of life until finally our paths joined and became one.

Soon after we were married his brother-in-law (now my treasured brother-in-law as well) asked if we would like to attend a showing of Mark Twain Live! performed by a gentleman by the name of Mike Randall. Unfortunately, we were not able to get tickets to any show of his in 2006. However, last December we were able to attend a performance by Mr. Randall of a Charles Dickens reading of “A Christmas Carol”. It was fantastic; he seemed to be Charles Dickens himself as he performed the monologue in full make-up and costume, fashioned after an actual tour Dickens made in America in the late 1800’s.

Earlier this year the thought came into my mind that I wished Mr. Randall would come to one of our local villages to perform Mark Twain Live!, and my husband and I started coming up with all kinds of ideas of how that might be possible and what we might be able to do in order to instigate such an event. Realistically though, every idea we came up with seemed to require quite a bit of time-consuming work and coordination which we knew would be very difficult to fit into our lives because of all of our other responsibilities and commitments.

One day as I was knitting and letting my mind and imagination wander (something I am quite apt to do) a thought suddenly occurred to me: why not have him perform at our church as a fund raising event. The church is accustomed to putting on fund raising events routinely, we have the space and facilities, my husband is most often in charge of the fund raising dinners anyway, and we could replace a dinner event with an entertainment event so it would actually fit with our current responsibilities and commitments. The idea seemed so good it sort of hurt my head to think of it and not be able to utter it instantaneously … do you know that feeling?

The first chance I had, I ran it by my husband and he liked it. So, he ran it by whichever appropriate board at the church, and they all liked it. We got in touch with Mr. Randall, set a date, got a contract, signed it and got to work.

The past couple of weeks I had quite a lot of work to do personally to make sure we had all of the collateral materials needed to make the event extra special. I designed a large lobby playbill, a program, bookmarks with Mark Twain quotes, bake sale menus, tickets, posters, and flyers. The tickets, posters, and flyers were actually done back in the summer and all of then I designed and we printed the remaining materials over the past couple of weeks. For the bookmarks, I used 12 different quotes from Mark Twain. At each place setting, guests found the bookmark as a take-home favor and each guest at each table had a different quote. I imagined they might read the quotes to each other, much like sharing fortune cookie quotes with one another–and they did.

We also packaged all of our bake sale items professionally in clear boxes, with labels matching the graphics of the other event-specific items.

The tables in our fellowship hall were decorated with pumpkins, apples, leaves, milk weed pods, nuts, holly cuttings, teasels, dried flowers and candles. Our tables looked wonderful, and the cool thing was that the only item in our centerpieces that we had to pay for was the votive candles. The pumpkins and apples were donated by local farmers, my husband and I gathered the milk weed pods, nuts, and teasels which I then cleaned and dried. Our friend Dorothy gathered the leaves from her own yard, and trimmed the holy cuttings from the church grounds.

The performance was outstanding, professional and quite funny. Afterwards we served a gourmet dessert bar with items such as carrot cake, raisin spice cake, cream puffs, fruit salads, and more all prepared by one man from our congregation.

You can gauge the true success of an event like this from the energy in the room and the kind of smiles you see as you make your way around amongst the guests. Everywhere I looked I felt tremendous energy and saw broad, engaging, genuine smiles of happiness and fellowship. There were people from our congregation there, but we also had many people who had never been to our church before. Everyone was positive and happy — it was all so wonderful. There has not ever been this kind of high quality evening of entertainment offered out here in these farming communities (well, not in the memory of the folks who attended this event). Those who expressed gratitude for the event were not only happy about the event itself, but were genuinely grateful for that such an event was brought right here to their own backyard, so to speak.

In the midst of preparing for and pulling of our wonderful Mark Twain event, I have completed a baby blanket and a matching “block”. I’m not sure when I will be able to release this pattern, because it is going to include some baby washcloths as well as the knitted building block, and the washcloths are yet to be designed and worked up. I love the blanket though; it was fun to knit and just looks so precious with the purple border and decorative flowers I added. It is soft and ready to wrap some sweet baby up in scrumptious love.

At the end of September I was completing two new oil paintings for the art trail event I participated in on October 5th. You see here a photo of the 20″ x 24″ sunflower I painted in oil on wood. I must say, it is striking. If you would like to see the other new painting, I have posted it along with the sunflower on my painting blog.

In closing today, I would like to mention one more thing. I love America. I don’t love America exclusively, because I am a loving person and do love my fellow man and the many and varied countries and communities around the world that we all hail from. Being an American, I have a special love for my own country which is a positive and beautiful way to feel. No matter what is going on “out there” — no matter what images and thoughts and negative energy is being directed at us all via the whatever sources — no matter all of that, here we are. You and I, two people connecting up via this new publishing medium called a blog. You might also be an American, or perhaps you are Australian, German, Chinese, Swedish, South African, Estonian or from some other place on Earth.

Here we are, you and I. Two people connecting up sharing thoughts, goodwill, beauty, future plans, love, life, spirituality, hope, dreams.

I love that we have the freedom to do so–isn’t that freedom something.

God Bless America, and God bless your country as well, whichever country it might be.

God Bless us all, the everyday average people of Earth. We are the footsteps and the beauty and the light of tomorrow. We are of such power, grace, love, and brotherhood that we can create a tomorrow worth dreaming of. I want to be officially on the record as stating that I have tremendous, unwavering faith in you and I.

~firefly

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