Titles elude me at this moment

January 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Posted in art, Christmas, country life, country living, dogs, faith, family, fingerless gloves, free knitting patterns, hat patterns, knitting, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, scarf patterns, shopping, snow, socks, travel, yarn | 11 Comments
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Happy New Year, dear reader. My year started out with both beauty and, unfortunately, a bit of pain. Somehow I managed to hurt my back or shoulder or something between Christmas and New Year’s. For about two weeks I have been in and out of some very unpleasant pain, unable to write … or knit … or paint. Sigh.

However, I am back now and feeling good again. We are enjoying a most lovely day of snow today, as are many people in the country. It started snowing late yesterday and has not stopped since. I was out early this morning with The Duke (my son’s English Bull Dog) and we both enjoyed the cold stinging snow blowing in our faces and the beautiful scene of snow blankets on everything in the outdoor world.

This photograph was actually shot on the weekend by my dear husband — so, please use your imagination to add in deeper snow on the ground, flamboyant drifts round the bottoms of the trees, and heavy, thick snow falling. Oh, and the snow is up higher than The Duke’s belly, and I have my Lavender Scarf wrapped round my Mad Bomber hat (I love my Mad Bomber hat), and very warm mittens on my hands. There, you see … you have a great imagination!

While I was still enjoying my back pain a couple of dear friends invited us to go with them to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens for their annual poinsettia show.

The building that houses the gardens is a historical masterpiece and well worth reading up on. It was striking to see it in the snow, with a gray-sky backdrop, bedecked in huge evergreen wreaths for the holidays.

While the poinsettia display was lush and spectacular, I was even more impressed by their bountiful collection of orchids. I focused my camera lens on the orchids much more than on poinsettias, and will share a few of those shots today and more next time I blog.

In fact, I will be using some of these photographs for drawings and paintings in colored pencil, watercolor, and oils over time.

Equally impressive to me was the succulent collection … oh my goodness. There were a great many varieties of healthy, thriving, large and sometimes humorously shaped and named species. It reminded me of my many years living in the Southwest, traveling through the deserts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada.

If you entered my great big, end of the year giveaway, the drawing was held on Friday, January 7, 2011 and the winners were all alerted via email. The winners were Rita T. (Grand Prize), Margaret F. (First Prize) Joan C. (Second Prize), Patti B. (Third Prize).

I had a wonderful time giving away patterns, prints, etc. this holiday season. I wish I could afford to give prizes away to each and every one of you, and make each reader a winner, because I know it makes the receiver of the winnings feel very special to be one of the lucky ones. With all of the goodies I sent to Wendy at WendyKnits for her giveaway, and the three giveaways I held on my blog this year I was at least able to add to the happiness of a good number of people.

For those of you who viewed my son’s new Etsy store last month and left comments, thank you so much. Your feedback was very encouraging to him and helpful as well. His first month in business has gone well, and he has already released quite a number of new posters and signs. If you aren’t familiar with him yet, his store is Flying Junction and he makes and sells subway signs and bus scrolls that he hand letters with meticulous detail and prints on archival paper and canvas in a variety of sizes.

This week he released a set of three vintage-look NY subway signs in the 11″ x 17″ size at an attractive package price. You can also order custom subway signs, bus scrolls and tram scrolls from a variety of cities in the U.S. and abroad. The largest size, I think, is 20″ x 60″ (on canvas). I love his custom destination posters because you can have him create a poster that represents the places you have been, or hope to go to one day. I’m planning on having him create one for me featuring the most meaningful places I have lived and worked, with our farm here as the “End of the Line”. Hopefully 60″ long will be tall enough!

It would also be a cool gift idea for someone you love who has plans to travel, especially a young person who has the world and their whole life ahead of them. Maybe someone just setting out for college or out into the work force, with dreams and goals, places to go and people to meet.

If you haven’t been to his Etsy shop yet, grab a cuppa something tasty and go have a look …

In knitting news, I have this little sample to show of a pair of two-toned fingerless gloves I am designing and knitting for someone very special in my life. Now that I am feeling better, I will be working on them again and finishing them up in the next few days.

For Christmas my daughter and I gave our two dear friends, Anita and Debbie T., each one of my Biscuit Blanket kits as well as a promise to spend two evenings in early winter knitting with them. Debbie has been wanting to expand her knitting skills and Anita has wanted to get together and knit for quite some time, we just haven’t ever made it happen until now. Tomorrow night will be our first knitting evening, and we are all looking forward to it so much.

Another friend of mine from church told me she received a pair of handknit socks from a cousin this Christmas, and as a result made a new year’s resolution to learn to knit this year. She said the most precious thing, that she treasures that pair of socks so much that she cannot bear to wear them. Instead, she carries them around in her purse showing them to everyone she knows.

When she was telling me about this, her eyes were aglow with admiration and joy and I just had to think about all of the knitters out there and the fact that generosity and giving is a hallmark of our craft.

Take a minute, if you are a knitter, and think about how many knitters there are around the world and then multiply that by some number that seems reasonable to predict how many hand knit gifts will be made this year, and then think about the people who receive those gifts and their happiness. It is a beautiful thought, isn’t it?

Here’s to a year of beautiful knitting that knocks the socks off of the recipients of the millions of hand knit gifts that will be presented throughout the world over the course of the next twelve months!

Have a beautiful day, wherever you are!

~firefly

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A few of my favorite things

August 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, country life, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, fingerless gloves, gifts, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, pets, romance, scarf patterns | 9 Comments
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When I was a little girl in school I joined the Glee Club and one fall season we learned some of the songs from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. One of my favorites was the “My Favorite Things” song, which we performed during the Christmas show when I was in sixth grade, before my family moved from North Carolina to Los Angeles. Today that song, those lyrics, are on my mind …

Last Friday my husband and I drove down to Bath, New York for the annual pig roast at his nephew’s place. His nephew bought a 100 acre farm property ten years ago or so in a beautiful setting in the hills, surrounded by hilly farmlands, woods, mountains, and plenty of beauty. The nephew is not a farmer, but his wife keeps a small garden and he plants a field of corn every year to attract deer and geese. They hunt, and some of their friends hunt, so you can imagine why they would want to attract game.

I am a vegetarian. I understand some people like to hunt, and I do my best to accept that fact graciously, without judgment. I go to the pig roast because I love my husband and want to be supportive of his desire to spend some quality time with his family (he is not a hunter either, just so ya know). The setting is gorgeous, and the camping is fun. I try to tune out the parts that are just so completely 180 degrees away from who and what I am and focus instead on the positive.

We take a tent, as do several other families, and camp out for a couple of days there on his lawn. This time we also took Blu with us, which was a wonderful experience for all three of us.

My husband borrows a big party tent from our church along with some tables and chairs and we go the day before the “event” to set up the tent and help out with whatever else might need to be done. My sister-in-law and her husband also go the day before, and we enjoy that first quiet evening camping out with just them.

On the big day there are plenty of other things that have to be done to prepare for the feast and party, so we stay busy most of the day. My husband cooks his famous salt potatoes — fifty pounds of them. This year his salt potatoes were the best I have had so far, and there were plenty of left overs so we could bring some home. They make the best home fries, yum yum yum. A favorite thing.

It was an interesting experience for Blu because he has never spent a night away from home since we first brought him to live with us. He got to camp out in a real tent with his two favorite humans and he got to socialize with half a dozen other dogs of varying personalities and ages over the course of the weekend. My husband pointed out that by Sunday Blu had noticeably matured; I agree with that assessment.

One of Blu’s new experiences was getting bit by another dog. That was not fun. Evidently this particular dog bites pretty much every dog she meets and it seems to be a somewhat accepted reality. I did not accept it however, so I spent a good deal of time observing the dogs and how they were responding to each other. I struck up an agreement with that one dog: she would not bite Blu any more, and I would maintain better control of his nervous energy. We both held up our end of the bargain and there was no more biting, lucky for Blu. Blu did have a great time all in all.

On the drive down along an old country road we saw the amazing carriage house you see in the photos. It is aged with a lovely patina just like a beautiful old barn, yet the design and details are incredibly lovely. Neither of us had ever seen a building like this before.

As pretty as the setting was, as much as we enjoyed getting out on a mini-vacation, there isn’t quite anything like arriving back home, putting everything away, and going on with our kind of normal. You know I love and appreciate my home, this farm, the river … all of it. Coming back after being away for a little bit I want to run all over the yard hugging the barn, the willow, the cats, the hostas, the porch, the river. Hug it all close to me, hold on tight, take a deep deep breath.

Two nights ago we had a windy rain storm that came through here, and the rain must have come in horizontally because our air conditioner filled up with water and we had to turn it off. Yesterday when my husband came home from work he asked me if I had noticed we lost some limbs on the willow tree. I was so busy inside yesterday I had not seen any downed limbs. We took a walk out there together to get a better view, and it was so sad. Three of the largest limbs had broken off, and one good sized but smaller limb. Four limbs in all, on the side of the willow that faces the house.

It looks like one very heavy limb fell and when it did it brought down the other three limbs with it. By the time my husband gets it all cleared away, I fear the silhouette of our lovely willow will be greatly changed. So sad. I suppose I need to be grateful that I have been able to enjoy the grace of that gentle giant for three summers now and focus on that gratitude rather than the sad loss of the mighty limbs.

I plan to gather as many of the whips as I can and get them wound and woven into wreathes and other pretty shapes so that at least there are tangible pieces of our lovely, grand willow gracing the world in spite of death of some of her best limbs.

You know what I just heard? Canadian geese flying over head. It is mid-August and we already have signs of autumn. Leaves are already changing on maples trees throughout the area, geese are already beginning to arrive. The breezes, winds and weather have changed to very cool for the most part (although we still have an occasional warm and humid day).

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The feeling of change from summer to autumn is most poignant of all season changes, for me. Perhaps it is all tied up in childhood memories of school starting (which I loved), the weather cooling down and refreshing my soul, the raking and piling of leaves to be jumped into, tasty persimmons ripening, pumpkins, hay rides, the march of holidays, closeness of family and friends.

These are a few of my favorite things …

Here it comes again, and those wonderful feelings of excitement and wonder get all stirred up inside of me again.

In preparation for cool and cold mornings ahead, I designed and knit myself a scarflette I am calling “Cuppa Joe”. The yarn I used is a dainty, soft wool blend that is the color of a cuppa black coffee — one of my favorite things. I am designing a pair of fingerless gloves to match and I will use this set to keep my neck and hands warm as I sip my morning cuppa Joe this autumn. I used a lightweight yarn in a loose knit because I want a bit of warmth, not confining heat because these items are for indoor use. Soon as I finish the fingerless gloves I will put together a pattern for the set so others may follow suit if they so choose.

I am knitting up a baby blanket using that same quilt stitch pattern I used for my Biscuit Blanket. This is going to be a cuddly, scrumptious baby blanket keeping someone much more precious than a biscuit warm. Babies … another of my favorite things. A pattern for this baby blanket will be available soon.

I do have another Christmas Stocking pattern available. I shared a photo of this one a couple of weeks ago, but this is a much better photo so here it is again. The printed version and the online download are both available in my Etsy store if you are interested.

You know what else is on my list of “a few of my favorite things”? You. The comments readers leave on my blog, the emails I receive, the customers I have the pleasure of serving … you are all so warm and wonderful. I am so completely grateful for you, for the friends I have gotten to know a bit about, the other blogs and creative things I have been exposed to because of this connection. It is all so beautiful and rich.

(Psst: Where would we all be if AlGore had not invented the Internet?)

This week I want to share a connection with you that I have found to be very dear. There is a lady who reads my blog — one of many very special readers. I am singling her out today because autumn is on the way and autumn represents all things beautiful to me. This lady’s name is Beverly, her blog is Tea Time and Roses. I love her sense of aesthetics and her ladylike view of life. She even has an Etsy Shop of her own where she sells paper products (cards, tags, etc.) reflecting that pretty sense of aesthetics and style that is all her own. Beverly lost her beloved mother this year, and it broke my heart to read about her loss and grief, but life does go on and Beverly demonstrates that in the continued loveliness of her own creativity and spirit.

As time goes on, I plan on giving shout outs to other bloggers and online shop owners whose words and creativity I admire … a few of my favorite things.

Oh, and another favorite of mine is that client I have been doing surveys for over the course of the summer. He is in the Bay Area in California, and tells me that when he and his wife were walking around their yard last weekend he also noticed some leaves already beginning to turn. So, I suppose autumn is coming early in California as well.

He, by the way, is a very good and interesting man. I love working with him because he is smart and decent, and truly cares about helping people. If you haven’t already participated in the survey, I invite you to give it a go if you would. And, please see if you can get the man/men in your life to participate as well — we need more male voices involved in the subject. This month one lucky participant will get to choose between a $50 gift card to Home Depot or Lowe’s, or $50 worth of patterns in my Etsy Store, or a signed and numbered print of my “Bosc Pears From Local Farm Market” oil painting. So, if you already participated but your husband, father, brother, male-friend, etc. hasn’t, ask him to and maybe if he wins he’ll share the prize with you. (You do have to be a U.S. resident to participate in the drawing-sorry.)

And of course, my husband is one of my very most favorite things. No matter where we are or what is happening around us, we are most happy when we are together. It is phenomenal to find that, even (or especially) a little bit later in life. 🙂

When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel, so bad.

Starting the New Year right

January 15, 2008 at 4:58 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, country living, dogs, faith, family, free knitting patterns, hat patterns, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, scarf patterns, socks, yarn | 22 Comments

Fireflys little angelThe beginning to the new year has been a bit mixed … but the entire year is bound to be mixed no matter whether the overall picture after the fact turns out to be success and joy or struggle and disappointment, there will be a mixture of everything if this year is anything like other years in my life.

I hope it is like other years, because all of the years of the river of my life have carried along in their currents a mixture of experiences which all together form the status of my life at this time and I do so love my life. There have been poignantly painful experiences along with the way, uplifting joyful awakenings, seemingly bitter disappointments, powerful realizations and connections, and happy little surprises and mistakes.

For me, there has been one powerful lesson I have learned over and over again. This particular lesson I have resisted with every fiber of my being at times, I have fought against it tooth and claw, snarled at it, spit in its face, defied its inevitable approach, and grudgingly bowed to its command so many times I can hardly count. Evidently this lesson is so valuable I enjoy learning it over and over and over again.

The thing is, I am stubborn — or so I am told (though I don’t always agree with that particular adjective).

Buttons on Fireflys Hand Knit Baby Cable Switchback HatIn the case of this most valuable of life’s lessons, I believe I am truly stubborn but I also believe that must be a part of the game and I’m cool with that.

What is the lesson? Are you sure you want to know? Afterall, you just might be stubborn as well.

Here it is:

Sometimes those things I think I want are not actually good for me. Conversely, sometimes those things I think I don’t want are actually something I need dearly. An example would be two to three years ago in California when everything in my life seemed to be coming to a strange, unavoidable halt. My business, some aspects of my family life, my financial situation, my dreams. It all seemed so tragic, so horrible, so painful.

I fought those changes harder than I have fought anything in my life. I staunchly set my heels into the ground of what seemed my grounded life and I said, “NO!”.

No.

My counter assault against the inevitable movement of my life was noble, magnificent, brave, and perhaps stubborn. At the time, I wasn’t trying to be stubborn, but I was being dense. I temporarily forgot the LESSON, which I had learned a number of times already. Really, honestly … I was sure I was finished learning that lesson, so when it whomped down on me again I didn’t recognize it for what it was. So, perhaps I wasn’t stubborn after but was, instead, unsuspecting.

That is a much better, more amenable adjective. I was unsuspecting.

Thank goodness, thank God, and thank anything else in the universe worthy of being thanked that all of the efforts I pulled out and all of the contortions I put myself through emotionally and otherwise were of no avail. Of course, it was the powerful current of the river me that was exerting itself anyway I just didn’t realize it at first.

At some point, however, it did finally occur to me … “Oh, it’s the lesson again.” Stop fighting it, listen, learn, go with the flow.

Go with the flow. It is along the lines of, “Go with the Force, Luke!” from Star Wars.

Last year, even here in my beautiful new life in Western New York on a farm by a river with my husband … even here and now, I still had instances of learning that lesson anew. It was a wonderful year in many ways, but there were definitely challenges I had not anticipated. Challenges in helping my daughter find relief from her pain, challenges in maintaining professional productivity while running a home, loving and supporting a husband, raising a puppy, evolving my blog and website, establishing myself in New York as an artist, staying in communication with my many readers, getting enough sleep, figuring out my schedule, trying not to gain weight in a rural setting (man, that’s a tough one), and on and on.

Fireflys Hand Knit Baby Cable Switchback HatToward the end of the year it all came to a standstill when I, yet again, slipped and fell on our narrow staircase. Bump, bump, bump … six times in all, square on my tail bone.

Ouch.

This time it was worse than last Christmas when a similar thing happened, and I have not been able to spend much time sitting at my computer.

The nice thing about it is that I can paint standing up, and I can take Blu for walks without discomfort, I can knit comfortably from a reclining sofa or chair. Laying down and resting is great too. So, I had a forced but refreshing break from the computer and the Internet and the chair. I would not have willingly afforded myself that break even though it was just what I needed. No, I had to go the round-about-way of slipping and falling, hurting my tail bone, and having no choice but to take a break right here at home.

Although injury was involved, even in this instance, there are things to be grateful for. That is always the case. You can always find a myriad of things to be grateful for no matter the situation you find yourself in, if only you apply your mind in that direction. That is the trick to freeing yourself from the apparent struggle of the LESSON. Relax, embrace, find gratitude and then find some more gratitude and then some more, and some more. Ah, fresh air.

Oh, hello again farm. Hello environment. Hello river, and weather, and wind. Hello old barn out there in the back yard. Hello paint and easel and brushes. Hello snow. Hello life. Hello me. I am taking it all in, newly in the moment as if I had just arrived.

Pears in Monochrome an Oil Painting by J L FleckensteinDuring this time, I have finished the large painting that will hang in a local restaurant … 50″ wide, 19″ tall. It is oil on hardwood, pears in monochrome.

I also finished that cute hand knit hat I mentioned before plus I also designed and knit a warm, cozy stole (noun: a wide scarf worn about their shoulders by women) and am starting on a pair of hand knit warm and wooly house socks. This year I plan to start selling some of my knitting patterns online and in yarn shops in addition to continuing to release some for free online. The hat and stole will be the first two patterns I publish for a fee and I am thankful for the inspiration I am experiencing toward that end.

My tailbone is on the mend, and so this morning I have been able to write a blog post in relative comfort. I always try to respond to every comment I receive on the blog, as well as any emails from readers. Please understand that if I have not answered your communication recently, it is only because of my injury. I hope you will be patient and understanding with me.

Have a beautiful day and week … and welcome to Your Life, 2008!

Warmest wishes,
firefly

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