Bittersweet

May 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Posted in art, faith, family, flowers, gifts, knitting, Life, love, women | 54 Comments
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Bittersweet.

I look outside my studio window as I write, viewing a great bounty of lush green growth.  

Trees, green grasses, flowers, an abundance of life that is breathtaking in its simplicity and rustic charm.  Several Amish families in open, black buggies pulled by elegant dark chestnut colored horses have passed by on the road, their children wearing straw hats in the bright morning sun.

I am blessed.

I look over at the watercolor painting I am working on with two swans I photographed on our river last year on a perfectly gorgeous June day.  It is amazing to me, that I have access to a river, to swans, to green fields, the canopy of trees, toads, our grand willow … too much to catalog even if I had a lifetime to do so.  The visual stimulation to me the artist is sometimes overwhelming in scope.  And yet, somehow I push through the abundance of subject matter and find something simple to create.

Yes, I am blessed.

Our hostas are amazing, yet again.  I don’t think I will ever cease to be amazed at the overflowing abundant green beauty of the hosta plant and the ease with which it is grown, managing itself with perfect timing and expanding affluence year after year.  My husband and I planted the hostas all around the house four or five years ago and by now they come back each spring huge and just so lovely I can hardly stand to contemplate it.  I am eternally grateful for the the hosta.

Our antique tree peony had a bit of a misfire this year.  March was unusually warm, then winter temperatures came again and many plants became confused as to what they were supposed to do.  The tree peony sprouted three buds very early on, but then the very cold weather in April gave her reason to take some more time off.  By the time things warmed up all she had to show for the year was the three buds.  They opened a few days ago, some two weeks early … very noticeable for a plant the opens her blossoms exactly like clockwork year after year on Memorial Day weekend.

I am not complaining about the three blossoms — they are as extraordinary as any tree peony blossoms ever are.  Last year we had, I believe, something like two dozen blossoms so I am merely noting a rather drastic difference.

For quite some time my freedom to create, whether it be knitting, needle felting, writing, or painting, was restricted by happenings in family and in life.  Life changes much as a river ebbs and flows and I am finding much time these days to do all of the creative things I love so much to do.  I am an artist, and when I cannot carve out the time and peace to create it takes a toll on me spiritually.  

However, I am also an eternal and almost annoying optimist so even when I get down about now being able to create I know things will change I will be able to create again, so I remained hopeful even if a bit sad.  And now, here I am with plenty of time and peace for my creativity.  My studio is like a chapel or temple, my place of religious retreat where I find comfort, meditation, spiritual room to fly, peace to contemplate and pray.

So many blessings brush my cheek as their misty truths cross through my mind: 50 acres; four seasons, Canada geese enjoying remnants of last year’s corn in the field, this year’s Sincere Pumpkin patch, the most wonderful and dear husband, two children to love dearly, a precious granddaughter, three crazy happy dogs, wind, rain, snow, sunshine, water, autumn, rivers and streams, a home, a cottage, more friends than I can count, you my reader, biscuits, laughter, the promise of fresh fruits and vegetables affordable and within easy reach at farm markets all over the place in our area, swans, ducks, song birds, wild flowers, paint, fiber, memories … you get the idea.

I am blessed.

My title today is bittersweet, because with all that I have to be thankful for (and I have only mentioned the tip of the iceberg in terms of the many blessings in our lives) is all so very bittersweet because my father, my dear sweet friend, has prostate cancer.  He was diagnosed with it many years ago and has done a great job with help from my mother in keeping it at bay.

Together they have done a great job with that.

But today, my father needs your prayers.  And my mother too.

Please.

They are truly two of the dearest, most loving people you can imagine and they have done much in their lives in service and kindness to others. They have earned the universe opening up today and enveloping them in a great big, comforting and loving embrace.

Your prayers will help.

Love you Dad and Mom.

~firefly

Chocolate. Coffee. Whiskey.

March 28, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Posted in art, country life, country living, faith, family, gifts, inspiration, knitting, Life, love, recipes, shopping, women | 7 Comments
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Remember seeing photos of the cookies I make with chocolate, coffee, and whiskey (among other things) in the ingredients? I love making those cookies at the holidays and sending a dozen each to various family members and some friends. I love photographing them also, because they look so scrumptious and photograph so beautifully. Sometimes I make a second round of them at Valentine’s Day, adding a drop or two of red food coloring to make the icing pink and again, send them out a dozen apiece to family who I sorely miss.

What makes me sad, however, is that I had to promise my friend not to share the recipe. I can use the recipe, which I acquired while filling in for her baking talent in fund raising event for our church. She entrusted me with the “secret” recipe, and I had to promise not to pass it around because she likes to keep it reserved for fund raising efforts.

Before my son came back to the farm for the holidays, I was searching for some things online and I came across a cake recipe that also featured chocolate, coffee, and whiskey and thought it would be awesome to give that a try while my son was out. I tweaked the recipe a bit to suit my particular tastes and baking preferences, and … oh, my goodness!

The cake baked up beautifully, oh so beautifully. It was so dark it was almost black inside. I made it with super strong coffee and dark cocoa powder and lots of love. I think the “love” factor gave the cake an incredible crust, and we are big time crust lovers on this farm.

The good news is, this is a recipe I can share … go get out your grocery list and start writing down ingredients. Well, ah, that is after I say a thing or two about some business matters.

Both my son and I are having sales this week in our Etsy stores. He is offering free shipping on his wonderful authentic-looking, vintage inspired subway signs and bus scrolls. And remember, he can personalize them or make them totally custom from scratch to help commemorate a special time, place, or event in your life or the life of someone you want to give a completely awesome gift to. If you ever treat yourself (or someone else) to one of his custom signs you will be delighted, I can promise it.

There is something very touching about walking through a room and glancing at one of these signs hanging on the wall with the names of places you’ve been or lived in, happy places and times. It is like having a sign post there that tells you each time you glance at it, “Hi there, you were there, and there, and there, and there. And you were happy and it was great. Remember?” Pleasure moments get stirred up and continue walking, with a little bit of an extra smile playing on your lips and good feelings stirred up inside you.

I know this because he made one for me for my birthday last year that lists my favorite streets and neighborhoods where I lived, where he and his sister were born, where we lived together last in California, and now where we have landed in New York on this heavenly farm. That sign tells a certain story, very briefly just by calling out the street names or other identifying words.

So, treat yourself or someone you love to a set of signs from a city you love, or to a custom sign to commemorate a special time in their lives … and do it now so you get free shipping as well as a high quality product, thoughtful and artistic packaging, and a great customer service experience. He is, after all, my son. 🙂

If you want to take him up on this offer, use the word “POSTAGE” at checkout in his Etsy store here –> Flying Junction at Etsy.

By the way, my Knitter’s Eye Charts and Crocheter’s Eye Chart caught the attention of yet another magazine editor, this time it was Molly Makes, a UK based fiber crafter’s magazine that published thirteen times per year. If you haven’t ever seen their magazines, you really should treat yourself. You can subscribe, even if you are in the U.S. and I recommend doing so if you want a wonderful new source of inspiration on a regular basis.

Speaking of my various Eye Charts, now through this Friday at midnight I am offering BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE on my Knitter’s Eye Charts (or Crocheter’s Eye Charts) in my Etsy store. This applies to the 11×17 size (printed on 12″ x 18″ sheets), the 8″ x 10″ size (printed on 9″ x 12″ sheets), and even the sets of three. You can also apply this offer to the prints that read “If You Can Read This You Are Standing Too Close to My Stash”. Mix and match, it is all okay.

To take advantage of my BOGO, order your first prints or set of three then in the “Comments” section of the order form at Etsy, type the letters “BOGO” and tell what you want as your free print. The free print must be of equal or greater value to the one you pay for, of course. If you miss getting this into the Comments section of the order form, just send me a Convo through Etsy and take care of it there instead.

Remember, this offer is good from now until midnight (Easter Standard Time) this Friday, March 30, 2012. This is a private sale, so only people who read my blog or who are on my email list will find out about it.

Okay, now are you ready for that wonderful recipe? Here goes …

Dark. Chocolate. Coffee. Whiskey. Cake.

1 cup unsweetened, dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup whiskey
1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup mini dark chocolate or semi dark chocolate chips
2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 large eggs plus one egg white
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform pan, dust with 2 Tbsp cocoa powder.

Whisk coffee, whiskey, butter, and 3/4 cup cocoa powder together in a saucepan over low heat.  Whisk in sugars, then set aside to let cool.

In small bowl, toss chocolate chips with 1 Tbsp cocoa powder.

Mix together flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, and cloves in a mixing bowl.  Whisk eggs, egg white, and vanilla into cooled coffee-chocolate mixture, then whisk in flour mixture. Fold cocoa dusted chocolate chips into batter.

(This cake batter is not thick like other cake batters, so don’t become alarmed about that.  It will cook up just fine.)

Pour batter into springform pan. Bake until toothpick comes out just slightly moist, about one hour.

Let cool, then dust with remaining 1 Tbsp cocoa powder before serving.  (You might want to dust some extra cocoa powder on top, that’s what I did — just suit your own taste.)

The cake has a wonderful crust the first day it is baked.  Sad to say, that crust goes away after it is covered and stored overnight.  But, not to worry … it tastes wonderful with or without the crust.  I think it would be devine to serve this cake in spring or summer with fresh strawberries on the side.

Well, my friend … I hope you have a great day.

~firefly

Our world of many faiths

December 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Posted in Christmas, faith, family, Holidays, inspiration, knitting, Life, love, women | 7 Comments
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There is a tradition of faith and religion, the seeking of an understanding of the nature of God and our relationship to whoever or whatever God is going back at least 10,000 years on our planet. During those 10,000 years many faiths have emerged helping people find their way to a connection with God from many different viewpoints. Each has validity, each has value.

With so many different faiths the world over, the concept of any one being the one and only true faith is peculiar to me. It doesn’t make any sense if you think about it. However, it does make sense that one faith is the one true faith for one particular person … at a time. Each individual person who wishes to understand the nature of God and what his or her relationship is to God needs a path to follow to get there. For George, it is religion A and that is the one true faith for George. For Natalie, it is religion C and that is the one true faith for Natalie. Michael, on the other hand, finds that religion H works for him, so that is the one true faith for Michael. George, Natalie, and Michael are all on the right path … each has found the one true path of faith that works for him or her.

They should all wave to each other and say, “Hey, way to go! Isn’t this amazing!”

Wouldn’t it make sense that if God exists and has anything to do with the affairs of mankind, that there would be some wisdom coming from that source to provide mankind with many different paths to follow in reaching the God connection.

I believe it would have to be so. We are so different, one to another. We have different cultures, different life experiences, differences in our spiritual nature, and so forth. There would have to be many different paths leading to God. The most fundamentally important thing is seeking God and gaining a closer connection to whoever or whatever God is for you, not which path you use to do so.

If God is love, it could not possibly make any sense at all that conflict, hatred, or war would lead any one of us, some of us, or all of us to a closer relationship with God. That part of the equation must come from somewhere else, and leads to erroneous illogical conclusions that don’t add up.

I’m right, you’re wrong, my God is the one true God, my faith is the one true faith. No — we are each right, our Gods are God, our faiths are faith, our love is love. We are all united in love and faith, regardless of the tradition of knowledge or ritual that gets us there.

I have a dream of a community church of all faiths where people from all over a community from any faith within that community could gather together for the purpose of sharing faith and love, learning more about what unites us in our religions, and celebrating together our gaining of a closer connection to God. You know, if we brought our faiths closer together in friendship and trust we would inevitably grow closer to God all of us together.

That makes sense to me.

One of my favorite Christmas memories is from quite a few years back in Los Angeles when my children were still fairly young. It was a particularly challenging Christmas for me as a single mother. My car was broken, I was out of work, and out of money for the most part. Determined to create Christmas magic, my children and I made Christmas gifts for family members using materials we had on hand for the most part.

I had some red velvet fabric I used to sew Santa outfits and Santa “bags” for a couple of little teddy bears. My son made two cube shaped boxes with lids out of a decorative paper and lined them with some gold-leaf we had on hand in our art supplies. The boxes looked very magical, and we put them inside the red velvet Santa bags that went with the teddy bears. We gave one of the Santa bears and bag with the magic box inside to my parents and the other to one of my older brothers and his family.

I painted watercolor portraits of several nieces and nephews for others in the family, and was up painting the last one on Christmas Eve. While I was painting I watched a televised Midnight Mass. I had never attended a Mass of any kind, and didn’t know what to expect. It was beautiful. Ministers from a wide variety of religions spoke for several minutes each. They all gave a holiday message based on their respective theologies but all had a common theme: love.

Sometimes I think the real reason behind all of the hardship I was experiencing at that time was so that I would be up late painting on Christmas Eve and therefore watching television to help myself stay awake and thereby see that particular show…it was an important part of my own spiritual path.

This holiday season I am thinking of you, whoever you may be and whatever your faith may be. I am sending to you my thoughts of love, my prayers of hope and peace. I am longing to feel a deeper connection with God by reaching out and touching your hand (in spirit) and expressing my gratitude to you for your part in the worldwide search for God along many different paths shining many, many different lights toward truth.

Love,
firefly

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