Painting in a boat on the river

August 30, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, country living, faith, family, knitting, Life, love, marriage, relationships, romance, shopping, summer, travel, volunteerism | 5 Comments
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I have lived here just over five years, started writing my blog five years ago in early August.  It is circumstantially strange, but the blog inevitably became an integral part of marriage.  I suppose it is conceivable it will always be that way.  None of us know how long this blog relationship may last, it is brand new territory for us all after all.

It’s funny, because I can go back and see what we were up to on or about this date back at the beginning of our marriage, and see more clearly how our lives and activities have evolved over this little bit of time.  In 2006 on this date I was writing about the ice cream social fund raiser we had at our church the night before.  Today I am writing about a little time we spent on the river last night and the Artists of The Oak Art Trail event of this past Saturday.   Beautiful times, beautiful experiences, beautiful home.

Yesterday afternoon when my husband got home from work, on a spur of the moment we headed over our cottage and went out on the river.  I grabbed a few tubes of oil paint, some brushes and palette knives, and a few gesso-prepped boards invarious sizes.  He grabbed his tackle box and rods, and we rowed a little ways out into the river before he left the boat to slowly drift.  I am not a plein aire painter particularly, although I do love painting outdoors.  I am usually meticulous in my drawings and painting techniques, working in my studio where I can focus and study and paint with an eye toward fine details at times.  But I have longed to be sitting in one end of a boat painting with my husband fishing in the other end.  So many things have happened over the past five years that we never once, until yesterday, fulfilled that particular longing in our hearts.

The river was beautiful and peaceful.  We drifted downstream slowly, toward a center island in the river.  The shadow and light was perfect, with dapples of sunshine in the trees, on the grasses, and flowers.  As we drifted toward the little island, a swan came out from behind it and was not at all disturbed by our presence.  I created a tiny little painting — it is probably only about 2 1/2″ by 3″ or something.  But, I had to mix paints quickly while sitting sideways in the boat, just a field paintbox propped against the side of the boat holding an impromptu palette, a small assortment of brushes and knives, a rag, etc.  And the scenery was changing as we drifted, so I had to paint quickly.

This was the first painting I think I have ever done where I didn’t fret as I worked on it.   I just mixed the paints and got to painting without a drawing or anything planned out … no opportunity to be meticulous in the least bit.  It is a sweet little painting, a little token to commemorate the first of our little adventures in the boat doing somethings we both love — fishing for him, painting for me, and being together in the tranquility of our mostly private little piece of the world.   Heaven.

I am into my fourth blissful day in a row this morning.   We have plenty of good days in life, but they don’t always come one right after another like this.  I write about the good and the best days, but there is no need to mention the lesser days of struggle, heartbreak, strife, or loss.  Those are the days and times that give us strength and contrast.  We all have them — you have them as well, I am certain.  If you didn’t, your life would be stagnant and we all know stagnant waters are … well, they’re stagnant.

This river of life — my river, your river, the rivers of life and living that flow through and around us all — this river is best when it is moving.  It can move slow or fast, but the transitions and bubbles, the white water, and the ripples all work together to create the stuff of life.

On Saturday our Art Trail event came off beautifully.  I wish you could have been here … actually, some of you were.  This was the fourth or fifth year of the art trail, but only the second year of the “loop” created by the art group I am a part of, Artists of The Oak.   In the first couple of years of the trail, there were only three to six visitors total.  Can you imagine how discouraging that was to any artists involved in it. You prepare works of art, get all set up and ready to greet the public, and believe it might be possible someone will see something you have created and actually want to pay some money and take it home with them.  Then, to have three or four people show up over the course of several hours.  Well, it is a heart breaking experience really.

Then last year at our urging the event was moved to the last Saturday in August (as opposed to early October) when there are plenty of vacationers around.  We volunteered to have several artists come to our place and set up tents on our lawn so that the public could see more art and artists with less driving.  Plus, there seems to be something very inherently lovely and inviting about this little piece of Earth.  With our grand old willow tree and the fields bordering our lawn on two sides, and the river right across the road the setting is quite beautiful.  The end of August is the best weather you could hope for an outdoor event of this kind, and with a few artists all together at once place we figured that even if no public showed up for the event at least we would all be together enjoying a beautiful summer day.

So, last year’s event saw an increase from three or four people to thirty-five to forty visitors … very encouraging.

This year we all pitched in on the costs for printing 2,000 full-color flyers about our “loop” in the Trail as well as 1,000 oversized postcards about our group.  We started getting the flyers and postcards out three months in advance and all of the artists helped get those flyers distributed around the county.  I wrote a press release that really told our story, and some of the papers in Western New York gave us some great coverage.

I think I mentioned last week that our regional arts council had dropped the ball on this event, leaving us and me in particular, with quite a lot of work to shoulder in making sure the event was executed well and continued to move upward rather than becoming stagnant.  For me, there was a quite a lot of frustration in the process because I kept thinking there was going to be interest and activity and action and accomplishment on the part of the arts council … some care.  However, that was not the case and as the date was coming into view the realization that we were pretty much on our own dawned more and more clearly.

Regardless of that frustration, the day of the event everything was in place and beautiful.  The weather was perfect and the tents on the lawn looks inviting and festive.  The accordion player who had generously agreed to come and play for an hour or so stayed on for most of the day.  His electronic accordion is now cordless, so he was able to wander around playing as he strolled by the tents along with visitors.

We had a potter and four painters here at our place, two of the painters worked on on paintings live as the day progressed; the potter brought her wheel and threw some pottery as she had time to.  We even had enjoyed a fly-by visit from two bald eagles, one flying so low in great big circles that we were able to clearly see his bald head.   Our dear friend Roger helped my husband with set up the night before the event, and came back Saturday to continue pitching in and helping out wherever he could … he is that kind of guy.  He manned the free helium balloon tent, blowing up balloons all day and giving them out to adults and children alike.

Our other dear friend, Larry, baked give different types of cookies and made several large air-pots filled with coffee (French Vanilla and Hazelnut), along with a big old jug of iced tea and another big old jug of lemonade.  He brought his big baker’s display case and had a set up under one of the tents (which he brought), right beside of another tent (which he brought) that was set up with chairs borrowed from our church so that people could sit and enjoy the live music.

Larry gave away free cookies, coffee, iced tea and lemonade all day long to anyone who wanted something.  He chatted with people and made them feel very warm and welcome.  This was all done at his own personal expense and effort because he wanted to do something helpful and fun for the community.  This is not a man with many extra pennies to rub together, but he gave of himself freely and generously with a heart full of love.

There was a young girl who came by and played classical, acoustic guitar for a while.  We gave her gas money so she could afford the drive over, but other than that she played out of the goodness of her own heart.  Larry sent her home with a gallon size ziploc bag stuffed full of cookies … good ol’ Larry.

Ours was only one of four locations staged by members of our group.  There was another stop, Marti’s on Main in Albion, an art gallery started by Kim Martillotta-Muscarella–a member of our group.  She hosted several artists at her place, plus the public was able to walk through the gallery and see many works of art on display by various members of our group.  Arthur Barnes was on hand at his historic cobblestone building, and another artist was nearby at another historic building demonstrating his painting techniques.

Concurrent with our “loop” of the Art Trail was the portion of the trail that was organized and promoted by the arts council.  On our loop, we had an estimated 150 to 200 visitors who came through.  That was a tremendous increase from the three or four visitors in the first two years and that is because of our efforts, our organization, and the fact that we put quite a lot of care into what we were creating — we, the artists in Artists of The Oak.  In speaking with a fellow who was on the other portion of the trail organized by the arts council … he had five visitors.  So, that disparity clearly demonstrates the contrast in the effectiveness of our efforts as compared to those of the arts council.

The only reason I am pointing this out is that it is really important for people to realize that you can create a big difference by investing yourself in an activity and taking care of it yourself rather than waiting for someone else to do it.  I think the biggest difference between what we did and what the arts council did was that we cared and put ourselves into what we were doing, we truly cared about the end results.  We didn’t just want to be able to say that we did it, we wanted the results of what we did to count for something and we wanted the event to be memorable for everyone concerned — memorable as a good thing, not memorable as a failure.

Next year we will do our Art Trail again but it is going to be our Art Trail, a distinctly separate event from the one that is put on by the arts council.  They should continue to do their event and invest themselves into in what ever way and to whatever extent their mission statement dictates they should.  I wish them success and good times.

As for Artists of The Oak … as wonderful as this year’s event was, next year’s will be even better and we will all invest ourselves in it even more than we did this year.  I hope to see more of you as well!

~firefly

Summer in New York, I love you

August 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Posted in art, blogging, country life, family, food, knitting, Life, love, marriage, recipes, relationships, shopping, summer, travel | 1 Comment
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Dear Summer,

I must apologize to you, for I have failed to appreciate your beauty and sweet virtues in times past. Is there an explanation for my less than enthusiastic greeting when I saw you approaching, all too often, in the deserts of Southern California? Was the fault all mine, or were you part to blame? Little does it matter now, for I am delighted by my reformed attitude.

Now, as you approach, my heart races as you beckon me to join you outside for a barefoot walk across the soft, green lawn freshly washed in rain. You, oh summer, are a tender treasure anticipated by all … here, in a wondrous land known as upstate New York. The brevity of your landing, the thrill of your warmth, the abundance of your crops. Oh, we long for you the many months of winter and early spring and mourn the loss of you when you are but half spent.

Oh summer in New York, I love thee as I have never loved another (summer). I know I can endure our parting, confident you will one day return.

Yours faithfully,
firefly

Sorry, about that, I just had to get it off my chest. Most of my readers know that I did not enjoy the near-constant summery climate of Southern California. Many people living in Los Angeles thrive on that constant blue-skied heat, but not me. Perhaps if I had been born in Los Angeles the climate would have been a part of me, but beginning my life in North Carolina with four distinct seasons I never acclimated to Los Angeles and its lack thereof.

The first year (five years ago) in upstate New York I continued to resist and fail to appreciate summer. My heart yearned for autumn and winter and I was delighted with both. It was wonderful to be able to bundle up in coats and boots and other trappings of winter. When temperatures went below zero in January, I thought it was awesome. I love the snow, I enjoy storms and wind and all things “weather”. When summer returned my second year, I enjoyed the feeling of warmth on my skin, but I also had to have air-conditioning to be able to work from home, sleep at night, and survive the humidity of the very hottest days of summer.

This year I finally have a healthy frame of mind about summer. Summer in New York, at least here in upstate New York, is a treasure. She is anticipated eagerly as spring wears on. Before she quite arrives people jump on every chance bit of sunshine to run outside and do something, anything out under a blue sky with a glint of sun. When she arrives in earnest, people are already regretting her inevitable demise and doing everything they can possibly think of to take advantage of the little window of opportunity to get something done out of doors. By the time summer is half gone, though people are still enjoying the beauty and the warmth, a sense of melancholy does begin to wash over us, ever so gradually. It is a sweet melancholy though, because we know she will be back for another round of romping and growth as the circles of life and living continue.

The last couple of days have almost seemed like early autumn; at this moment it is nearly 11:00 a.m. and it is only sixty-seven degrees outside. We have big fluffy clouds with blue skies and a lovely breeze. It reminds me of the weather we had for last year’s Artist of The Oak Art Trail, and I know we have a shot at such a lovely day again for this year’s event.

I am newly born to summer, and happy to be loving it again. I loved summer as a child, and I love it today in New York.

Thank you, New York.

Speaking of New York, my son is sending me something special for my birthday (it was this past Monday) that will commemorate my life’s journey that led me to my little piece of heaven. I can hardly wait to see it, and will photograph whatever it is and share it with you all. It will probably arrive today, after my blog is posted, so I will have to post it next week.

By the way, this week he (FlyingJunction) released a great new collection of NYC Subway Roll Signs. The one pictured here is my favorite, but there are five new signs which you can see on his all-new website.

While you are there, be sure to sign up on his email list if you like his work. He won’t spam you, he won’t send you lengthy or cheesy emails, and he’ll never share your info. Plus, I think I’ll sponsor a giveaway right here and now. Go to his website, check out his posts (they are pretty cool sneak peeks into his studio an design process), and join his mailing list. I’ll ask him to hold a drawing from any new email subscribers over the next few days and the winner will receive their choice of any one of my fine art photographs of peonies or day lilies from my fine art Etsy store. Entries for this drawing will end midnight August 14, 2011.

I’m so happy he started a blog, and I think you will enjoy it too … so please do give it a try.

Speaking of blogs, many of you have participated in some surveys over the past several months that I was holding for a client of mine. I have been writing and designing for him for six years now and over this time we have become friends as well. We speak on the phone once a week, and I always love our conversations. His name is John Antonini, and he and his brother Orlando are financial advisors with a pretty incredible background in business. They have started 26 businesses, including a couple of banks — one of the banks went public. They know things that I just wouldn’t have ever thought of when it comes to handling financial decisions — whether personal or business related. I get this wonderful side benefit of working for John of learning quite a lot from him.

I’ve been telling him for quite some time that he should write a blog because I know people would want to learn from his experience and would benefit from his particular perspective. I was telling my husband recently that there are things John thinks of about how to structure your life financially that most people just wouldn’t have any reason to know about on their own. They are also CPAs, so they help with taxes but as I have pointed out to John — tax preparation is something they do, it is not at all who they are. In their area of expertise, John and Orlando are seriously smart guys, but with a great sense of humor.

Well, the good news is that John has started his blog — he’ll be posting once a week for now. I’ve even got him using Twitter and Facebook now and he’s is starting to gather email addresses so he can let people know when a new blog is out or when there is something timely and important regarding finances or taxes that we should know about.

I recommend John’s blog to you, not because he is my client, but because I very honestly respect his knowledge and strategic way of thinking about things, backed by a great foundation of knowledge from real life experience, not facts he learned in books. As a matter of fact, I suggested he call his blog “Real.Life.Experience.” –which he did.

And just one more thing about other people’s blogs … I was tickled to come across “Farmer Julie” at her blog, which I found via BlogHer.com. There is a little bit of similarity in our stories, and I thought you might enjoy her as well. So, here’s to Farmer Julie and what I hope is a good read for you.

Oh, and how about my knitting? Lame though it may seem, I am still working on that second sock for little Sweet Pea.

Recipes? Here is something to try whether you are on Weight Watchers or not: Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesean … I will publish it over the weekend in an email campaign. so pick up some eggplant, marinara sauce, and fresh grated parmesean cheese and be sure you are on my list.

Thank you for taking the time to read with me today, and I hope you have a great week and weekend.

~firefly

Corn and pumpkins

July 27, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Posted in art, country life, family, flowers, food, gardening, knitting, Life, love, marriage, recipes, shopping, summer | 6 Comments
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The farmer who works our fields planted corn this year; it has been four years I think since there was corn growing out there. By this time corn around here (and lots of people grow corn around here) is usually taller than I am. This year, however, we had such a wet spring that many of the crops are behind schedule. Our farmer planted the corn late, which he pretty much had to do because there had been standing water out in the fields.

At first, it just looked sort of sad to see little struggling corn stalks coming up — tiny little things compared to what we were seeing in other fields. Now those tiny little stalks are a good three to four feet tall, and growing taller quickly. I love the look of corn growing in a field — it is a very hearty, healthy looking plant with the tall stalks and broad blue-green leaves. I also love the look of those big heavy leaves flopping over the way they do. I am excited to know there will be beautiful, healthy tall corn growing in our fields when the Artist Road Show art trail happens on August 27th. As I have said in an earlier post, we will have several artists here at our place set up in plein air tent studios. Some will be painting, others will be hanging out and meeting with the public. And the corn in the fields will be a beautiful backdrop for all of the activities.

The past few days I have been very busy writing a press release and other materials to put together a professional electronic press kit to help promote the event and our artist group, Artists of The Oak. It was a of work, and I have to say I am happy to have it behind me now–only because it was a lot of work outside of my normal responsibilities in life, and had to be squeezed in between other things that already keep me plenty occupied. I am at a point where the only way I can add more to my load is to stay up even later at night or get up even earlier in the morning. Not complaining, just saying …

Speaking of knitting, several optometrists who happen to be knitters have purchased our Knitter’s Eyecharts — I think that is so cool. When my son and I first collaborated on them, we didn’t even think about the optometrist/knitter demographic — but, they exist! I’m sure they won’t be using them for actual eye exams, but they will be awesome as office decorations. Here is a cool someone made when leaving feedback about the eyecharts recently,

“LOVE THESE!!! And for my non-knitting co-workers, they are very confusing which makes for interesting conversation.”

“This is too fun – hangs on my office door and get many fun giggles and comments – great idea!! Thanks!!”

“Love these — bought two sets — one for me and one to divvy up as presents.”

“The Eye Chart is just great…printed on heavy paper and shipped in a very hard tube that protected it perfectly. Just thrilled with this transaction.”

I am sorry to say I have not written the pattern yet for the toddler slouchy socks I have shown photos of recently, because I have been busy creating the PR materials for the Artist Road Show. I should be able to get started writing the pattern this weekend, and if that does occur I will be able to publish it late next week.

Here is what is happening with my weight loss this week. I have lost a total of nine pounds, and am losing an average of 1.3 pounds per week. I am very happy with that rate of weight loss. It feels great to have lost nine pounds, and I reached my first “milestone” (for those who didn’t read last week’s post, I am doing Weight Watchers online). Now I have a second goal, which will be another six pounds. I like it that they recommend breaking your overall goal down into smaller more attainable goals. My ultimate goal is to lost a total of twenty-five pounds, so you can see I am well on my way. Taking it several pounds at a time makes it much more likely that I will continue to feel motivated, looking forward to celebrating small victories along the way.

It sort of reminds me of knitting, really.

I put together a salad recently that is the most delicious salad I have ever tasted … ever, really. I don’t have a photograph of it, but trust me and give this recipe a try. If you are on Weight Watchers, this salad is 6 PointsPlus values and is very filling. I usually have this about mid-afternoon or for an early dinner and it is very satisfying.

Firefly’s Tasty Arugula Cilantro Salad

1 MorningStar Farms Grillers Prime pattie, grilled and cut into small chunks
2 small handfuls of thick sliced mushrooms, grilled and chopped into medium size pieces
2 big handfuls of any salad greens
1 handful of baby arugula, chopped
1 small handful loosely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup mandarin oranges (packed in juice, drained)
1/4 cup elbow macaroni pasta cooked al dente
2 Tbsp sliced and chopped radish (optional)
1 Tbsp Newman’s Own Ginger Sesame Salad Dressing
2 tsp olive oil
salt to taste

Though I like croutons on salad, they tend to be pricey in terms of point values on Weight Watchers because of the combination of carbs and fat. Something I do when on Weight Watchers is use less “expensive” carbs otherwise you will get way too hungry. Plus, the less expensive carbs are foods that will help speed up your metabolism, so you’ll loose weight more reliably making those choices as often as possible. I have come up with an alternative to croutons that adds texture to my salad — elbow macaroni cooked “al dente” (pasta cooked to be firm but not hard). I cook a batch once a week and keep it in the fridge, then when I am making a salad I measure out 1/4 cup and sprinkle that over the salad. It only adds one PointsPlus value to the salad, but it is a very nice taste and texture to have in the mix.

To make the salad, I get the Griller Prime grilling, and when it is done I put the mushrooms on my Griddler and let them grill until browned. While the Griller Prime is cooling and the mushrooms are grilling, I put the salad greens, arugula, cilantro, pasta, mandarin oranges and radishes into a good sized bowl. When the mushrooms come off the grill I chop them and then toss them and the Griller Prime cut into chunks on top of all the salad stuff. I sprinkle with a little sea salt, then drizzle the tablespoon of Ginger Sesame dressing around on top of everything, and then I drizzle the olive oil.

That’s about it. I stir it up and sit down and enjoy my incredibly tasty salad, thinking about how healthy it is. My husband loves this salad too, just so you know. I like it so much, I could literally eat it every day and not get tired of it.

Remind me to tell you all about cilantro sometime … cilantro is a big part of why I write my blog, but that is a story for another day.

And, speaking of my blog. Today’s title is “Corn and pumpkins.” I told you about corn, but there isn’t anything in here about pumpkins. Oops.

We failed to get our little pumpkin crop in last year for the second annual Sincere Pumpkin Patch, so this year we were determined not to miss doing that again. We started a whole bunch of pumpkin seeds indoors on our sun porch, but alas only a few sprouted and even those did not survive. My friend Lora Partyka started a few more for me, and now we do have six pumpkin plants growing out in the field, right beside of our farmer’s corn. Most of the pumpkin plants have blossoms on them, and we are hoping pumpkins will not be far behind.

Next time I blog, I’ll share a recipe for black bean hummus with lime … a tasty treat indeed!

Until then, I am your … firefly

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