Santa is my kind of guy

December 7, 2007 at 8:10 pm | Posted in art, blogging, Christmas, country life, country living, domestic violence, faith, family, free knitting patterns, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, Santa Claus, scarf patterns, yarn | 26 Comments

One of Fireflys Santas from her collectionI began my Santa Claus collection when my children were little, and as the children became teenagers they started buying a new Santa for me each year. Last year my Santa collection was 3,000 miles away in storage in Los Angeles while I enjoyed my first Christmas on the farm in Western New York.

This past weekend I unpacked my many Santas, refreshing my sweet memories of Christmases past as I looked at each one. My favorites are those the children gave me … I will try to share them with you as the month progresses. Pictured here is the Santa I bought for myself the last year I lived in L.A. I bought him in Santa Barbara that fall, took him back to L.A., and now he is living on a farm in New York … imagine that.

See the little boxes in the photo? My mother made those out of greeting cards. She makes these perfect, lovely little Christmas boxes from greeting cards and wrapping paper folded very carefully from a pattern she inherited from her older sister. She used to keep a big bowl full of her perfect, magic little boxes and we loved looking through them with an “Oooh!” and an “Aahhh!” at her choices of cards and placements of key design elements such as trees, snowflakes, birds, Santas, and so on.

Fireflys Snowglobe and some pretty little ornamentsIt has snowed here every day for the past several days, with strong winds blowing much of the time. Today there is neither snow, nor wind but it is cold and white outside. I am listening to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on iTunes at my computer as I write to you, and am enjoying the relaxing warmth I feel at the anticipation of holiday cheer.

Early on in my blogging days I wrote of my daughter giving me a necklace of pearls for my birthday (She Gave Me Pearls, August 24, 2006):

“My birthday was earlier this month, and she brought with her a beautiful pearl necklace and matching earrings she made for me. She designs and handcrafts exquisite gemstone and pearl jewelry. All of her findings are handmade, each piece is worked long and patiently with fine details which are her own trademarks.“I am not much for jewelry, but I must say I cherish each piece she has made for me … and I am fortunate enough to have quite a few. There is something about her jewelry that makes the person wearing it feel very fine and good.”

My daughter is in her late 20’s; she was my first of two children. I still remember her first Christmas, those memories are crystal clear and always will be, I am certain. So much of that first year of motherhood is crystal clear in my mind, poignantly etched indelibly in the deepest places where my love resides.

Out of respect for her privacy, I have withheld something from my readers for quite some time. The truth is, she lives here with us and has for much of the time we have been married. She is temporarily disabled, unable to work due to injuries she suffered from domestic violence. Harsh though that is to put into words, it is the truth and it is healthy not only for the individual, but also for society, for people to speak up and speak out where it has occurred.

She has chronic pain in her neck and lower back from her injuries, and unfortunately her condition worsens when she tries to work on her jewelry, or knit, or do much of anything productive. The past several months have been particularly difficult for her; I have lost count of the number of times we have been to the emergency room for horrific pain she is experiencing that no pain killers will abate. How many doctors have we visited, on how many occasions, how many tears have been shed, and momentary hopes dashed as a new episode of pain descends. Several months ago she was sent to physical therapy, and the physical therapist was very rough on her long slender, tender neck and only made matters far worse. Late in the summer she tried a chriopractor who at times was able to help, but at times the adjustments only seemed to exacerbate her problems.

Recently she has been going to a different physical therapist three times a week getting primarily massage therapy, which has helped at times. But still, the pain continues.

Honestly, it is tragic. It is tragic to see someone going through something like this at all, but when you witness your own loved one suffering and there is little you can do to be helpful, it rips through you like a tidal wave over, and over, and over again.

Yesterday we finally made out way to a pain center, a place that specializes in the kind of pain she suffers from. The information she was given, the diagnosis, the treatment suggestions made a whole new kind of sense … and we drove the one hour drive home feeling light of heart for the first time in a long time. She smiled and told me some very funny stories (she is a great story teller; comes from a long line of them).

When we got home, I felt swept over with a sense of starting over again, newly. I think perhaps this time she found a doctor who could actually say definitely what is going on with her body, what needs to be done to fix it, how much time it might take, and what to expect … what to do. Rather than the mystery of not knowing what was happening and not having any confidence that anyone knew what to truly do to create improvement … today there is hope.

A pretty red ornament at Fireflys placeHope. Hope is one of the most valuable assets of life.

Hope, faith, love, gratitude. They are the jewels that make life sparkle.

She makes life sparkle with her beautiful jewels, now maybe she has a shot at enjoying some sparkle in her own life again.

I added the pattern for her hand knit scarf this week, and a few auctions of some of the jewelry she made before the pain began.

Have a warm, beautiful pre-holiday weekend. We will.


Bronchitis Friday

November 30, 2007 at 4:16 pm | Posted in art, Christmas, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, food, free knitting patterns, gifts, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, scarf patterns, Thanksgiving, yarn | 15 Comments

Tiny WreathYes, my cold turned ugly. Monday my doctor told me I had bronchitis and he put me on antibiotics. I am feeling better now, but not completely out of the woods as yet. The Cold of ’07 has been quite a bugger for my husband and I both; he is still coughing now and then, although fortunately his did not go the bronchitis route.

Of course, I can be optimistic and look on the bright side … at least The Cold struck mid-November rather than mid-December. Somehow it seems more favorable to be ill over Thanksgiving than Christmas. It gives you this rather odd thing to be thankful for, the the cloud and fog of a muddled, cold besmitten mind.

The Thanksgiving Scene for the ThistleoniansFor those of you who enjoyed the Thanksgiving card I posted last week, I offer a bit more information. My daughter is the creator of the table and bench, and the overall concept of Thistleonians working together on a wreath at a table. She was keeping me company one afternoon as I worked on Thistleonians and mini willow wreaths, and was inspired to create the scene you see in that photo.

She made the table and bench tops from a couple of the antique barn wood scraps I gathered in our yard over the course of the past year. The legs for both were made from the stems of dried grasses we had on hand; she glued a tiny willow wreath and some dried flowers on the tabletop. My husband had the idea of filling acorn top “bowls” with seeds and berries and she incorporated that idea beautifully. I contributed the two Thistleonian artists to the scene.

Detail shot of Thistleonian Thanksgiving sceneWe used this heartwarming setting in our Thanksgiving centerpiece, lit by nearby tea candles. Now I want to create a Thistleonian Christmas village with her help. Oh, what fun.

In spite of being ill, I have worked out a deal with our favorite local restaurant to create a series of paintings that will be on display there. These paintings will range in size from 18″ x 24″ to a very large one that will be 19″ x 50″. The large painting will be a permanent fixture at the restaurant, whereas the others will be available for purchase by patrons.

I will tell more as the project goes along, and will share photos as well as the details of the restaurant name and location. If you are anywhere in the Western New York area, you will want to eat at this particular restaurant because the chef is this amazing, talented young man who grew up in these parts but studied and worked as a chef in New York City. His restaurant is beautiful, the food is fantastic, and we feel incredibly fortunate to have such a dining choice in one of our nearby villages. The fact that I will have paintings hanging there delights me no end and I look forward to telling you more as things progress.

More on Monday …


Suffering through “The Cold”

November 14, 2007 at 7:26 pm | Posted in art, blogging, Christmas, country life, country living, faith, family, flowers, free knitting patterns, gardening, gifts, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, scarf patterns, yarn | 23 Comments

A carpet of beautiful autumn leaves under Fireflys mulberry treeThis is one of those days when we really should sit and have a cup o’ tea or coffee together … or perhaps, a hot cocoa? Outside the sky is dark and stormy, wind is blowing and leaves are tossing about past my window as I write. I expect the rain will begin to fall at any moment and I welcome the excitement of receiving an autumn storm.

I’m having a cup of half and half coffee and hot cocoa, what about you? Let’s enjoy the coziness of being inside on a stormy day, sharing ideas about creativity, holiday plans, thoughts on the season, and so forth.

Okay … me first.

Close up of the thick carpet of lovely autumn leaves under Fireflys mulberry treeBoth my husband and I are in good health, and rarely catch any type of illness. However, we have had very unpleasant colds over the past week. It is rather remarkable, to me anyway, that we are tracking together neck and neck on this cold. We seem to have contracted it at the same moment, and are enduring the entire evolution of it nearly identically. I have not ever shared an illness quite so intimately with anyone before; it creates yet another bond between us that we probably could have done without but find noteworthy nonetheless. My thought is that normally when I am ill, no matter how much company or comfort I get from loved ones, I am inevitably isolated because I am experiencing my own private hell of sorts.

In this case, however, my misery is being shared by someone I love deeply. We are not isolated from one another. We traverse this strange territory of “The Cold” with each other. It is quite different from the usual happy and content life we share. Certainly neither of us would wish the coughing, sneezing, sleeplessness, or aching on the other but somehow it is comforting not to be alone.

More of the mini willow wreaths Firefly is makingWe are getting on toward the end of it though, and somehow have managed to remain productive at times in spite of The Cold. This past Sunday morning we woke up to a hard frost in the wee hours before the sun came up. As we sat together in the living room, reading (him) and knitting (me), we enjoyed the beautiful golden light of the sun as it came up over the river and the trees across the road from our place. As soon as the sun began warming the leaves, they started falling like snow from the trees. I had not seen that before, the way leaves will fall rapidly in the morning sun after a hard frost.

Later, in spite of “The Cold”, he had to get out on the tractor and mow our three acres of lawn. Before he got going, I went out gathering cones, cedar “flowers”, bits of bark, etc. for my Thistleonians and mini-wreaths. As I walked around the yard looking for my wild treasures, I came to our mulberry tree and found a thick carpet of green and golden leaves in a huge circle beneath it. The hard frost-early sunshine phenomenon had caused the tree to drop a large number of leaves quite suddenly that morning, regardless of whether they were green, gold, or brown. It was a rich, thick carpet of loveliness so I ran (okay, so I actually walked briskly) to the house for the camera so I could capture the sight before the tractor ground everything up.

And still more of the mini willow wreaths Firefly is makingLast week I wrote about getting all of my dried wild “ingredients” organized all over our dining room table so that I could get started on making my mini willow wreaths, Thistleonians, and other dried arrangements for the holidays. Over the course of the past several days I have made quite a few of the mini wreaths, several Thistleonians, one large wreath, and a table arrangement. My goal is to make enough mini wreaths and Thistleonians for our Christmas tree, and to make enough extra that I can put some up for auction so that some of the readers of my blog who are interested will have a chance at owning some.

Additionally, we are planning on opening up a little cottage-industry shop in our enclosed sun porch come spring, and I need to have items on hand for that as well. Working on these creative projects has been very soothing to my coughing, aching body and soul. My husband asked me on Sunday if it was difficult to feel inspired and creative through the fog of The Cold, but I told him that I actually found the creativity to be quite therapeutic.

A dried arrangement Firefly madeA surprise benefit I am experiencing as a result of the projects involving dried “ingredients” from the environment is that I am getting to know the smaller, finer details of my outdoor environment better than I would have without these projects. Gathering the wild things, drying them, sorting them, and working with the various items results in an ever increasing and evolving awareness of the plants and trees growing all around us. I come to love my little wild dried treasures as I handle them and place them together this way and that, allowing their textures and colors to play off of one another.

I was aware of pine cones of course, who isn’t? What I had not realized before is how many variations there are in pine cones including shape, color, form, and texture.

One of the Thistleonians Firefly made the other dayMilkweed was a plant I was completely unfamiliar with, as were teasels. Perhaps they grow in California, but if they do I had not gotten up close and personal enough with the fields and pastures along Interstate 5 to know those plants were there. Here in Western New York, they abound in the fields and pastures and along roadsides. Last year I began to get to know them, but this year I have followed their evolution from spring through fall. Now I know when to gather them, how to handle them, and what I can do to bring out the most beauty they have to offer.

I have posted three of the mini willow wreaths and three of the Thistleonians I just made up for auction … if you would like to check them out, click here.

The scarf designed and hand knit by Fireflys daughterAnd as for knitting … take a look at this cool scarf. This one is designed and made by my daughter, and I will be sharing the pattern for it within a few days (with her permission). This scarf is made with two skeins (one of each color) of Miracle by Classic Elite, a beautiful 50% alpaca / 50% tencel, which is one of the yarns I carry in my yarn shop at I Live on a Farm dot com.

She decorated the scarf with some of the vintage buttons I was gifted by Winnie of the Buttons last year. I love this scarf, and am very happy she is willing to let me share it with my readers.

Blu seems to be needing to go outside, so I must end off for the day. Before I take him out … what was it you wanted to share with me today, over this cuppa whatever it is you are drinking?

~ firefly

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