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.

Tree Peonies of 2011

June 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, food, free knitting patterns, gardening, gifts, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, recipes, relationships, romance, shopping, travel | 9 Comments
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You may have wondered where I have been.  After fighting off a flu back in April that lingered for several weeks, I took a bit of extra time off to recuperate and do some long needed planning regarding my blog, my website, the knitting patterns, my writing in general, my fine art paintings and photography … to mention a few items on my mind.  I have also had some on again, off again computer problems over the past two years that have been quite annoying at times and during my recuperation I had to deal with that.

With a very reliable, brand new computer securely on my lap I am ready to begin writing to you, my reader, once again.  Doing so, I feel at once as if I have returned home after a long time away.

I always have the feeling when I begin a blog that I am genuinely sitting down with a good friend, having a cuppa joe, perhaps a cookie or something tasty, and enjoying a pleasant chat.  As I begin to write I feel my shoulders relax just as they do when a good friend drops by and we sit down to visit for a while.  Sigh.  It is so sweet.

As I write this blog, I will share recent photos I shot of my wonderful antique Tree Peony — I just shot these photos three or four days ago when her blooms were at their most delicate moment of perfection.  There are also some shots of other varieties of Tree Peonies I shot at Linwood Gardens this past Saturday during their annual Tree Peony Festival.  At one point, while I was photographing the peonies at Linwood Gardens, I told my husband there was so much beauty I felt I was going to pass out.  A lady nearby heard me say it and said, “Yes!”

Another lady nearby was also photographing the blooms and I heard her gasp, just as I gasp over and over gain when I am focusing my lens on the spectacular blossoms.  As we made out way through the gardens I heard more and more people gasping in just the same way as they focused their cameras.  Oh dear me, their beauty just takes your breath away and it is so very, very fleeting it makes everything within me ache.

I am so thrilled with the photographs I have shot of my peony over the past five years, and now of the peonies at Linwood Gardens, that I have decided to work quickly and diligently to make professional quality fine art prints of the best I have selected out of hundreds and hundreds of photos I have shot.  I went through them in meticulous detail over the past few days and selected twenty four or so of my very favorite shots, and I have ordered samples of half of them for my review before I put them up for sale at Etsy.

Hopefully I will have the samples within three or four days — they will be printed at a professional lab on Kodak Endura Metallic paper and hopefully will be quite amazing.  I will let you know how that goes as soon as I can.  Hopefully, anyone who does buy one will gasp when they see look at their own print for the first time.  I want so much to share the astounding beauty I have had the pleasure of beholding, and if I can make others gasp when they see the photographs I know I will have accomplished just that.

Now on to news related specifically to my blog and all of the other items I listed in that first paragraph above.

My husband and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary at the end of April, which means this August will be the fifth anniversary of my blog.  Isn’t that something, that I have known you for so long.  When I wrote my first blog post on August 2, 2006 I had no idea where it would lead me.  It is funny how things come full circle though, because I started my blog on a suggestion from my son.  And now, five years later, he has started his new business which has an overlap with my business that grew out of my blog.  Neither one of us planned it that way, but it is interesting how it has all worked out.

Something I have decided to do, and I think the five year anniversary is a good time to do it, is I am going to consolidate my blog and my website into one online destination.  The url will be www.ILiveonaFarm.com, which of course already exists.  But, sometime in August I will release the brand new look, feel, and functionality of ILiveonaFarm.com with the blog incorporated into it.

This blog, the first five years, will remain right where it is.  I had thought of transferring it all off of WordPress and over to ILiveonaFarm.com, but I think that would be a mistake.  All of this content, located here on WordPress for people to find, is important.  It is the history of what  has happened in our lives and  with our evolving publishing business.  I don’t want to disturb it or move it and possibly lose contact with some people who might come back and wonder where it all went.

Once the new website is launched, you will go there to follow new blog posts but you can always refer back to this one for earlier content, knitting patterns, recipes, etc.

The new website is going to solve a problem for me and that is the fact that as things have evolved and meandered along here, I have ended up with a cumbersome assortment of websites, Etsy stores, and blogs to manage featuring my several different ventures — the blog, my fine art paintings and photography, my knitting patterns, my two Etsy stores (one for knitting patterns, the other for art).  And then there is Facebook and Twitter, which any serious online business person seems to need to involve themselves with these days.  It is quite a bit to manage, all very time consuming–especially considering that I am on a satellite connection which is not as fast as high speed Internet, no matter what the commercials say.

The new website will bring all of these elements together under one roof, so to speak.  Plus, it will be easy to tie in my son’s designs and Etsy store as well as photography and publishing from other members of the family.  It will all be cohesive and, I hope, even more inspiring than what we have been done so far.  By bringing everything together the way we plan to, I should be able to devote more time to writing, painting, photography, designing/knitting, and cooking … which will of course make you much happier and keep you much more satisfied and engaged.

That is my hope.  These are my dreams.

There are some very cool things coming up the pike. I hope you will enjoy them all!

Best wishes to you and yours, from me and mine.

~firefly

Things I look forward to

April 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Posted in country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, food, gardening, gifts, Holidays, Knit Alongs, knit-a-long, knitting, Life, love, marriage, Mother's Day, photography, recipes, relationships, shopping, yarn | 6 Comments
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Our lawn is beginning to show signs of the gorgeous, lush green glow that spring and summer bring to us.  As much as I love winter and the magical beauty of snow in a mostly monochromatic world, the anticipation of color returning to the world is very awesome.  I am sitting in an old fashioned, high-back chair by the window in our sitting area that faces the barn.  I hear birds calling, and see that glow from the lawn that promises much green to come, thinking of things I look forward to.

I look forward to green, orange, pink, purple, yellow, blue, and many other colors as they open up and paint themselves all over the countryside.  Wild flowers growing along the roadsides, the our farm fields waking up and coming to life, the Sincere Pumpkin Patch we will grow this year, the sunflowers I intend to plant all around the perimeter of our yard, between the yard and the crop acerage.

I look forward to Easter Sunday and an egg hunt out by the between the barn and the willow.  I look forward to opening up the cottage and bringing it back into service for the warmer seasons.  I look forward to my son and parents being here at the farm at various times during the coming colorful months.  I look forward to knitting by open windows, with a gentle breeze rustling through and the beautiful voices of the birds calling, singing, squealing, honking, tweeting … all of their various sounds.

I am looking forward to that first moment in this year when I step outside and feel actual warmth from the sun touching me lightly on the shoulder.

Trips on the river in the canoe, camping out in the backyard, picnicking there too.  Painting inside late into the day because of abundant light, painting outside because of the nice warm air, rain showers, thunderstorms, mud puddles, and blue skies.  I am looking forward to it all.

I am a couple of days late in sharing two recipes with you all, and several days late on issuing the next set of instructions for the Summer in the Country cotton blanket knit along.  My flu went away, and then it came back and felt a bit worse the second time around. Makes me want to talk like a pirate, but it isn’t September 19th yet so I might restrain myself.  Today I am feeling 98% well again but it has been a bit rough getting here.

For the recipes, they will follow below.  For the knit along, click here for that update.

Just a quick note about my son’s Etsy store before we get on to the recipes.  He has some new releases recently that you might enjoy checking.  First off, he has this new collection of three Los Angeles Subway Sign Prints, and of course I love the vintage look Keep Calm and Carry On signs (great story of the history behind that sign).  You can also follow his business now on Twitter and Facebook — I know he would really appreciate the support.

As I said last week, my son and I would like to share two recipes with you this week.  Both are for Pimento Cheese spread for sandwiches.    When I was a little girl and my family was still living in North Carolina, my mother used to make a pimento cheese spread from time to time and we would have delicious, refreshing pimento cheese sandwiches.  She continued making that treat for us at times when we were in California, and it was a special treat.

What I didn’t know at the time was that pimento cheese spread is — or was — a southern thing.  I found that out from an article in the Food section of the Los Angeles times where several pimento cheese recipes were shared.

Recently I mentioned pimento cheese to my son and found out he has been making it too, but his take on it is completely different from my mother’s.  We thought it would be a good idea to share the two recipes, side-by-side.  My mother has graciously given me her permission to tell you her recipe, one she invented to come up with a more economical way of providing pimento cheese sandwiches to a large family of seven (Mom, you rock).

First up …

Mom’s Downhome Pimento Cheese Spread

1 8-oz loaf Velveta cheese
1 5-oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup Miracle Whip or other sandwich spread
1 small jar chopped pimentos

Gently heat Velveta cheese and evaporated milk in a medium sized saucepan on low to medium heat until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Stir in Miracle Whip until thoroughly mixed. Drain pimentos and fold into the cheese mixture. While warm and soft, place in a glass container to cool.

Make sandwiches with this spread by, well … spreading it on your bread and then you’re done.

And now …

Flying Junction’s Favorite Pimento Cheese Spread

8-oz grated cheddar cheese
4-oz grated Ppepper jack cheese
1/3-cup mayonnaise
2 ounces canned diced pimentos
1/4-tsp granulated garlic
1/4-tsp granulated onion
1/4-tsp black pepper
pinch of cayenne (optional)
two drops green pepper sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before spreading on sandwich bread. Our favorite thing is to use this to make a grilled cheese sandwich on a couple of slabs of hand-cut sourdough bread.

We hope you will give pimento cheese spread a try, if you haven’t ever had it before. Personally, I think it makes a wonderful springtime sandwich — so refreshing and bright!

Here is another bright thought for you … need a unique idea for a Mother’s Day gift? Our top three suggestions for unique gift ideas for Mom:

1) Send your Mom to Paris with a collection of three Paris Metro Line 1 signs from Flying Junction
2) Knit her a biscuit blanket using our beautiful Deluxe Biscuit Blanket Kit (includes fine art gift card and beautiful gift box) — not many left in stock
3) Give her a Knitter’s or Crocheter’s Eye Chart art print

Off to enjoy a pretty spring day … hope you have a great one!

~firefly

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