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

The foods that bind us

February 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Posted in blogging, cookie recipes, country life, country living, faith, family, food, gifts, Holidays, knitting, Life, love, marriage, recipes, relationships, shopping, yarn | 10 Comments
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I made twenty dozen of these scrumptious cookies to send off to loved ones this Valentine’s Day.  A chocolate-based cookie, I used premium bittersweet cocoa powder, doubling the amount the recipe called for.  In addition to a standard dose of semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, I added one bag of large Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate morsels so that each cookie would have one or two extra chunks of premium bittersweet chocolate. With other interesting ingredients like whiskey and coffee, these cookies seemed the perfect choice for a Valentine confection. Everyone who received them seemed to agree.

I gave my husband his own private stash, and I sent dozens out in various directions via U.S. Mail.  For my son, I sent a couple of dozen cookies plus a dozen dark chocolate brownies baked as shallow cupcakes. 

Knitting Related Side Bar: I posted all of my remaining Country Cotton (nine different colors) at Etsy yesterday. Everyone who placed a special order, your yarn is in and I will have it ready for shipment shortly. After I sell the yarn that is posted at Etsy, I won’t be carrying yarn any longer–I just found out my supplier has gone out of business. I still have some of the Deluxe Limited Edition Blanket Kits, which I will continue to sell until they are all gone, and then that will be the end of Biscuit Blanket kits as well. Sorry for such sad news.

Back to the Blog: I love sending out care packages stuffed with homemade goodies to family and friends, especially as an unexpected treat.  The first Christmas on the farm I sent homemade apple preserves and dehydrated apple slices to my family out West.  We are surrounded by apple orchards and I wanted my family in California and Colorado to have a taste of the beautiful New York apple crop so bountiful here.  Two years later my younger brother told me he and his sons were down to their last serving of those apple preserves.  He treasured the preserves so much he only served them every other Sunday morning on biscuits he baked — one teaspoon for each person.

When you learn that something you baked, or made by hand, means so much to someone else, it is rewarding and heartwarming to the nth degree.  My brother of course has won a lifetime supply of homemade preserves from my kitchen for treasuring my creation so dearly.

I started baking when  I was eight years old, the year Santa brought me an Easy Bake Oven–I think it may have been the first year Easy Bake Ovens came on the market. (Note: This is not a photograph of me and my father. I found this photo at Wikipedia when I searched for more info about the year the Easy Bake Oven became available.)

I have told parts of this story before, but it has been a while and I figure I will tell it a bit differently this time and different people will be here on the blog reading my tale. Besides, any truly dedicated story teller will tell their tales many times over to many different audiences, or anyone they can get to sit still long enough.

Oh, how I loved my Easy Bake Oven. It opened up a world of creativity and responsibility to my chubby little hands, heart, and soul. I loved the little pans and the little packets of mix. Mix it up, put it in the pan, slip it in through the little slot and let the goodies bake under an ordinary light bulb. If that wasn’t magic, I couldn’t have imagined what was.

I vividly recall the sights of my little oven and my first experiences with baking. In my recollection, I can still smell the baking mixes and finished products.  But, the Easy Bake Oven was merely a start for me.  Soon I graduated to Jiffy brand biscuit and cake mix along with use of my mother’s oven. Each week I would save my allowance and go to the A&P Grocery store with Mama to buy a box of Jiffy mix, my favorite was biscuit mix. At home I would mix up my biscuits, cut them out with a little round cutter and bake them in Mama’s oven. The biscuits I was making were cute little things about an inch and half in diameter and very tall and fluffy.

After baking them to a perfect golden brown and removing them from the oven I would toss them into a brown paper lunch bag and run all over the neighborhood sharing them with my friends. The kids gobbled them up graciously and proclaimed me the best baker in the neighborhood.

When I was about ten or eleven years old I started holding bake sales during the summer months. Mama would take me to the grocery store  to buy my ingredients — usually some biscuit mix, cake mix and icing, and CoolAid to serve for drinks. The next  morning I would get up early and do my baking, then set up a table out front under a tree with an assortment of my offerings laid out very nice and pretty.

Though we lived outside of the city and on a dead-end street, I always sold out early in the day. I could depend on it that by investing $5 in ingredients I would bring in $25 in sales. It was a nice little business that satisfied my creative nature as well as the early manifestations of my entrepreneurial spirit.  My baking satisfied the tummies of many of the boys in the neighborhood — they were my best customers.

I started experimenting with more items to bake including large sheet cakes with icing, cupcakes, brownies, and so forth. I even taught myself how to make popovers, stuffed with a cream filling — they seemed especially magical (if you have never made popovers, you really should try it sometime for the novelty of it).

As a teenager I used to make all sorts of cookies and holiday fruit breads to give to people as gifts at Christmas, and I remember learning how to make a truly delicious, moist carrot cake in teen years as well. A friend of the family’s introduced me to the notion of making yeast bread and gave me a little booklet from Fleischmann’s Yeast with all of the basics of making proper yeast bread from scratch and a bunch of great recipes. I studied the booklet thoroughly and became quite skilled at making a wide variety of yeast breads, much to the delight of my family.

My son took a very early interest in cooking and baking, beginning when he was about two years old. He would drag a chair over to the stove and climb up and look at the pans and so forth. We tried to discourage him from getting near the stove because of the potential danger, but honestly there just wasn’t any stopping him from his many attempts. It seemed more practical to teach him how cook a little something safely.  By the time he was three years old he could crack eggs into a bowl, beat them up like a pro, turn on the burner under a pan and make scrambled eggs all by himself. He was very careful about it and never once burned himself or anything else.

All through his childhood he continued to cook and bake, much as I did but with a twist. His “twist” was always in the direction of an interest in gourmet cooking. Even as a young teenager he could watch a cooking show on television and go in the kitchen and use whatever techniques he had just seen demonstrated to put together a delicious and tantalizing meal.

Naturally, he and I began cooking and baking together, always sharing interest in each other’s creations. I loved baking cookies and cake and homemade bread for him, and he loved making a gourmet meal to share with me. At the holidays, he always contributed to the meal and gave me ideas of creative twists and turns I could apply to dishes I was preparing.  This subject–cooking and baking–has always been one of the special bonds between us.

Moving to New York five years ago was a wonderful adventure, living here is divine and I have the wonderful fortune of being married to the best husband in the world, for me. However, moving away from my son was a very difficult  thing to do and as the years have progressed the separation has become more and more poignantly disturbing to my heart.

Several months ago some circumstances changed and he has been able to spend more time in New York on the farm, we have set up a room for him that his room–as opposed to a “guest” room for him to stay in occasionally. With his baby, The Duke, boarding with us and his more frequent visits, now the farm is a second home of his and he has become a part of the place just like the rest of us.

Of course, when he comes here we always cook together. Sometime in the future I would like to collaborate with him in writing a cookbook because we both contribute different dishes, styles, and flavors to a complete and delicious meal. My style is down-home while his is urban-gourmet and we make the two go very, very well together in my humble opinion.

Now that he has become an Etsy seller (he is the designer FlyingJunction at Etsy), I love the interaction we have together as two shop owners who happen to be family. His store has gotten off to a great start over the past three months, with many of my readers giving some very helpful feedback and encouragement to him.

He and I were talking recently about what he might do to in order to give back a little something to my readership to show his gratitude for their welcoming words.  What we decided is that we would both like to share more recipes and techniques with you all to give you a taste of what we cook up together.  He will send recipes along with photographs of dishes he has prepared and I will post them on the blog.  I will also send him recipes, but share them with you as well.

You can ask questions, make suggestions and special requests and we will see what we can do to accomodate you.  It should be fun and … tasty.  Each time we post a recipe, I will alert those readers who are on my mailing list.  Or, you can subscribe to the blog to receive alerts via RSS feed (see upper right hand area of page).

For today, I have to go. I have a ton of Country Cotton yarn that still needs sorting and labeling in preparation for shipment.

Have a beautiful day!

~firefly

The year of faith

January 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Posted in country life, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, knitting, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, snow, travel | 5 Comments
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Recently I was out and about the farm watching The Duke (my son’s English Bull Dog) frolicking in the snow.  I thought back to January 2006–I was single, living in the foothills just north of Los Angeles in a 15 x 15 square foot room I was renting from a very nice Australian lady.  My children, who I had raised as a single parent, were all grown up and living on their own.

Everything about my life had been turned upside down and inside out.  Making things worse,  it was over 90 degrees … it was January and over 90 degrees.  That was something I just could not abide.

I was sweltering in my little room, taking walks when I could on Hansen Dam, sometimes along a little trickle (barely discernible) of water known as “The LA River” that crawled along a through a little ravine near the place where I was living.  Weekends I lugged my painting supplies, easel, and a canvas from storage to a nearby park so I could paint … in the heat.

Now it is 2011 and here I am … married, living on a 50-acre farm in upstate New York with a 3,000 square foot farm house, a barn, a garage, woods, a wonderfully flowing river full of real water, and thick white snow as far as the eye can see.

It is January, and today we started our day at about -5 degrees with a fresh blanket of snow.

Fluffy, white, beautiful snow.  And I have a wonderful, loving husband who I love so very much.

Finally I am home.

Five years ago today I woke up not knowing this man or this place existed. Actually, that is not entirely true.

The truth is, a powerful spiritual event occurred in 1987 foretelling this entire scene. That spiritual event involved snow, in Los Angeles, on a day of miracles. From that point forward I knew that my husband did exist and that if I just lived my life and kept the faith the time would come when our paths would converge and we would know instinctively who we are to each other and we would join our lives together.

I knew he existed, but I didn’t have his exact coordinates and could not have described his face or told you his name.

It was five years ago today when I first received an email from him, introducing himself. I have told that part of the story here on my blog before.

He told me he was looking for his best friend, someone who complements him and vice versa … that the two would be greater together than they could have possibly been individually.

Though our story is one of great love and happiness, you might be surprised if you knew some of the trials and jarring realities we have been tested by in our few short years together. This has been, and is, quite a large experience.

We came into this marriage relying completely on a deep and abiding faith that we knew what we were doing and that what we were doing was blessed by God.

We met online somewhat by chance at the social networking site, FarmersOnly.com. He introduced himself by email on January 29, 2006. By late February we were seriously exploring all of the “what if’s” of a possible marriage. My early March we openly acknowledged the fact that were were, indeed, going to be married before the end of spring. On March 29 he flew me out to New York and we met face to face for the first time, already knowing we were going to marry. That evening he proposed to me and broke my rib in a big bear hug. A couple of nights later we had our first date.

On April 29, 2006 he was in Los Angeles, we got in my Ford Explorer, drove to Las Vegas and got married for $25 at a drive through window. Nine days later we arrived home at our beautiful farm.

Now, five years later, we are living a life we love. We have pulled through whatever has come our way, each time with a stronger bond than we had before, reassured that our faith in 2006 was not misguided. My daughter and our grand-daughter live with us, as do three dogs — a Weimaraner, an English Mastiff, and an English Bull Dog plus five barn cats. My son has a room here and visits when he can.

Much about our life has not turned out as we thought it would, but isn’t that the stuff of life anyway?

What we have done with it, now that is where our marriage really glistens. We are best friends, and we are much greater together than we ever would have been individually. What we have found and what we have made of what we were given, I wish on many others. I would love to know that many, many others have found and will find something of what we have.

The cool thing is, we’re just getting started …

~ firefly

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