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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

And here, I confess

July 20, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Posted in art, country life, faith, family, flowers, food, gardening, gifts, health, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, marriage, photography, recipes, relationships, shopping, socks, summer, travel, weight loss, yarn | 14 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I had determined not to talk about this, but I changed my mind because telling you what I am about to tell you might help someone who reads my blog.  So, here goes.

I am doing Weight Watchers, the online program.  I am not particularly into diets, and favor instead lifestyle changes as being the only really viable means of addressing weight and health related issues.   I was nice and trim when we got married five years ago, but each year since I have put on an average of five pounds which usually happens over the winter months (big surprise).  Don’t want to talk about it, but I’m doing so out of consideration for any of my readers who may be experiencing something similar and who, like me, might want to turn that boat around.

In the spring of 2010, dissatisfied with my new weight at that time,  I somewhat confronted the issue and started eating better and I cut off about six pounds by the beginning of summer.  It wasn’t great weight loss, but it felt good.  Unfortunately, I was a little to happy with the results and did not lose anything else.  This winter the six pounds I lost in the spring returned and brought a few of their friends with them.  About a month ago I knew I needed to return to something that had, in the past, yielded better and long lasting results so, I typed in “www.weightwatchers.com” into my browser address bar.

I am very happy I did so, because their latest version of their program is very easy to follow and easy to live with.  It is also structured in a way to promotes workable lifestyle changes rather than anything drastically different.  The only issue I have with their program is that I disagree with limiting people to two servings of protein per day.  From my own personal experience, two servings of protein a day does not promote healthy metabolism.  The cool thing, however, is that with the way their program works now if you want to eat more protein you can do so and still stay within their point system — you just have to figure things out correctly and try to use less “expensive” carbohydrates in your meal and snack planning to make room for the points that protein selections will take up.

Back in 2003, while still living in Los Angeles, I did Weight Watchers online and it worked pretty well.  I lost about two pounds per week steadily until I had lost twenty pounds total.  Then I stalled, and I had trouble feeling motivated to go further.  A month or two after my stall, my daugther asked me to do the Zone diet with her.  She needed to do it for her metabolism, not to lose weight.  I decided to do it to be supportive of her and I was really happy I did.  That’s when I found out how much better I felt if I had protein with each and every meal and snack, and I learned to have three medium sized meals and two snack sized meals per day to help keep my metabolism on an even keel.   Doing the Zone diet and going on walks with my mother in the evenings, I lost another 24.5 pounds and I also felt wonderful.  I stopped eating dairy products and all refined grains and sugars and I increased my protein intake (which had always been a challenge before, as I am vegetarian) by using some of the great new (at the time) soy-based products that had become available.

Until I moved to Upstate New York, to the farm, I kept that weight off.  However, being in a colder climate, writing a blog that includes sharing recipes and photos of baked goods (I love to bake), and attending a church where people do love their pot-luck dinners and coffee hours all added up to my weight going back up again.

I’m not having it anymore, I’ll tell you that right now.  Enough is enough, and 25 pounds is too much.

I am enjoying doing Weight Watcher’s online, and have lost eight pounds so far.  My husband and I have started taking walks together, which is a wonderful bonus.  I am already feeling much, much better physically and emotionally.  My spirits are lifted, and I believe I can get this new lifestyle on a farm in upstate New York under control to where I no longer have those winters of gaining a few pounds in cuddly comfort.

And, I will share my weight loss wins with you here in case anyone out there wants to do something similar and would like the moral support.  We are, all of us, beautiful and divine creatures and our physical form can be reflective of that fact.  I will also continue to share recipes and photos of pretty foods but they are likely to be more on the healthy side and designed to inspire others to celebrate good health more than they celebrate beautiful foods.

Something delicious I discovered a few days ago was that I could cover my Cuisinart Griddler with sliced mushrooms, close the cover, and in a few minutes have grilled mushrooms that are very flavorful and beautiful to behold — but lack the olive oil (and calories) I would have used to saute them previously.  I toss them on a salad along with chunks of grilled extra-firm tofu I marinated in soy sauce and rubbed lightly with olive oil.  The mushrooms and tofu add a delicious layer of flavor as well as protein to make a filling, healthy meal that sets me up for a nice energetic walk a little later.

I hope my honesty and willingness to share on this subject is helpful to you, my friends.

As for knitting, I completed one of the slouchy toddler socks I designed for Sweet Pea, and am on my way knitting the second one.  I will be writing up the pattern for publishing within the next week or so.  These look so cute on her, because the legs are made a little wide so that they are chunky and do a little bit of slouching.  They’ll be great for the fall and winter, keeping her feet and legs warm when cold drafts are in the air.  I am making these from yarn left over from her Christmas stocking, which I made … wow, almost two years ago.  This is FootNotes sock yarn from my favorite yarn artist, Kimber Baldwin of Fiber Optic Yarns.  She does these low-contrast colorways in hues that I just tend to love, love, love.  The sock pattern will be available soon as its done in my knitting-related Etsy store or directly from my website.

By the way, in the sock photo, there is a little bear I needle felted some time ago.  Some years ago while sketching I created some pretty little characters — teddy bears with little costumes, wings, and then a little beaded headband that was supposed to serve as a halo of sorts.  I called them Wish Bears at the time, and later called them Moon Bears so as not to intrude on the Care Bear trademark (there is a Wish Bear in the Care Bear series of characters).  Recently my grand daughter saw some little cards I had made with a variety of my characters printed on them and she fell in love with the little bears.  She dubbed them “Princess Fairy Bears”, and it revitalized my interest in doing something with them some time.

It will be fun, when she is older, to create a cast of the characters as needle felted sculptures, much like the one photographed here.  She is too young for them now, because at two and half years old, she handles them a little too roughly and they can’t hold up to that kind of play.  What fun it will be though to create some more drawings and paintings of the little sweet characters, write more stories featuring them, and do the needle felted sculptures for her as well.  I don’t have any of the images of the drawings and paintings on my current computer, but at some point I will find some of those images and share them so you all can see how much the needle felted sculpture favors the actual drawing of one of the bears.

Such fun.

News of what is happening with my son’s Etsy store, Flying Junction He is featured for the next few weeks in the very cool, very stylish online curated handmade market, Poppy Talk Handmade.  The theme of this exhibit is “On The Road”; his vintage-inspired NYC (and other cities) subway roll signs and bus scroll prints were chosen because they represent the places people travel to and through while on the road.  His custom signs are also a beautiful and classy way to commemorate life’s markers — places where special events took place, landmarks that create a particular feeling of nostalgia, and neighborhoods you  grew up in, worked in, visited or dreamed of visiting.  The custom signs are made using his unique, careful reproductions of hand lettering from original NYC subway roll signs and include the wonderful distressed-look finishing touch that is a trademark of his beautiful work.

And now on to my “garden”.  Two or three years ago a friend of my husband’s from work gave him three unknown plants she bought at a plant sale.  He brought them home and planted them out along the west wall of our old garage foundation, which seems to be the chosen spot for orphaned and adopted random plants and trees people give us.  The following year, one of the mystery plants turned out to be a lily of some kind and gave us one or two pretty blossoms.  The next year, we got a few more blossoms.  Well, this year we have two four-foot tall lily plants that were loaded with buds.  They finally blossomed recently and the blossoms were so healthy and beautiful it caught my breath when my husband cut one to bring in the house for little Sweet Pea.  She danced with joy, and I gasped in delight.  A day or so later I got out there with my camera on a somewhat overcast day and did some photography that I was very pleased with.  I have posted prints of one of the best photos for sale in my fine art Etsy store, and will add a couple more shortly.

I suppose this will conclude today’s blog post.  If you didn’t read the post from earlier this week, it is brief and you will find it directly under this post.

Hostas, my vista baby

June 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Posted in art, country life, faith, family, flowers, gardening, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, shopping, summer, travel | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do you remember when I wrote about planting hostas back in June of 2008? Well, take a look at how those hostas have grown.

There are plenty more around the house in various locations, but those we planted by this old, quaint but out-of-use back porch came in with gusto this year. Since planting them, I have often seen other folks’ hostas, some quite huge and lush and longed for ours to attain such grandeur. Imagine my delight when I looked outside one morning after many days of rain and saw how wonderful abundant our hosta display had become.

This year I have also planted a bunch of annuals in various old, rusty containers I bought at a nearby junk — er, I mean collectibles — shop last year. We are getting ready for the second annual Artists of The Oak Art Trail event (Saturday, August 27th this year) and I wanted to have plenty of charming flower containers to use dress the farm the day of the event. For now, they live on the old porch, keeping good company with our lovely hostas.

We are excited about the Art Trail event, because last year’s event was such a beautiful day and this year is bound to be even better. Artists of The Oak is a group of artists from our county (Orleans County New York) that started forming up a couple of years back. My main primary contribution to the group, other than being an artist member, is to be the point person for the Art Trail event and try to do every thing I can to make it more and more successful. Last year I took up a collection for prints costs and designed a rack card to advertise the group and the 2010 Art Trail. This year everybody chipped in again and I was able to design and have printed an oversized postcard as well as a 2-fold brochure with a map on one side. My husband created the map, which was a wonderful contribution on his part.

A problem our artists have run into with attempts at the art trail in our county in the past is that the county is so large and everything is so spread out because of all the farm land and sparse population that only a handful of people, if that, would travel the art trail. That was very discouraging to any participants. Last year my husband and I volunteered to have several artists set up tents at our place so that visitors could see more artists with less driving time. Other members of the group followed suit and we ended up with four locations where visitors could see multiple artists.

We do this trail as a part of the larger event in our county, sponsored by GoArt!, called The Artist Road Show, which includes not only members of our group but other artists in the county who are not members. By creating our own trail (I will call our portion the “Artists of The Oak Loop” within the larger trail, we are able to create our own promo materials in whatever quantity we desire and get them out much earlier than the GoArt! materials get out. This gives us a greater chance of attracting as many visitors as possible through our own resources and efforts while also allowing us to benefit from the larger reach and budget of GoArt!’s promotional actions.

It must have worked last year, because attendance was about ten times what it had been in previous years (keep in mind that in previous years it had been literally three people who traveled the trail and last year we had about forty people who came through). This year, we plan to have even more and to keep increasing the numbers every year by getting better at promoting it.

If you live in the area, set the date aside and travel our trail. It will be a beautiful day, a wonderful opportunity to meet some very talented and interesting artists, and there will be opportunities to begin or add to your own art collection. We will all be making an effort to have some smaller, more affordable pieces available for anywhere from $20 to $100 along with more expensive pieces as well.

For those of you who do not live in the area, our county is a wonderful place to come to the country for a drive. We have an abundant supply of farm stands with ripe, tasty local produce at amazing prices, Lake Ontario is simply beautiful to drive along, the Oak Orchard River has world-class fishing opportunities (we are right on that river), and there is our wonderful art trail. If you enjoy my art in particular, Zambistro restaurant opens at 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays with a delicious comforting menu of affordable gourmet food plus their walls are adorned with plenty of my paintings.

You can download a map for Artists of The Oak Loop here.

Meanwhile, back to what is happening today on the farm.

Among the many annuals I planted in all of those old, rusty containers there is this lovely beauty … my new favorite begonia. Begonias have been my very favorite potted garden flowers since I was very young, in fact, my first potted flower I ever owned was a begonia. There is something deliciously old-fashioned about a begonia and this one is particularly lovely in my eyes. I love the bright yellow, over-sized flowers and the big rustic looking leaves. They grow and grow, and bloom and bloom all summer long and I just love them to pieces. This one looks especially wonderful set against the deep rusty color of the old container I planted it in. I met this variety of begonia for the first time last summer, and we became fast friends.

This is another completely lovely discovery from this year’s trip to buy flowers from my good friend, Lora Partyka. It is a Dragon Wing Begonia — is she not gorgeous! I love meeting new varieties of flowers and becoming good friends, and this one is a definite keeper. (Hopefully, she thinks the same about me.)

Last year we planted two peach trees, one Honey Crisp apple tree, and a cherry tree. While the cherry and apple trees did not bear fruit yet, the peach trees have lovely little peaches that are coming along quite beautifully. There are about two dozen peaches between the two trees and we really look forward to sinking our teeth into them by the end of the summer … a long wait, but well worth the patience that will be required.

There is something very profound (to me) in looking at a something we planted that has grown and is bearing food of some kind. When we grew pumpkins a couple of years back we all loved going out every day and watching the progress of the orange orbs as they multiplied and grew. Our “Sincere Pumpkin Patch” sign is still standing guard over that hallowed ground, and we will be putting in a few pumpkin plants shortly. Our little project to start 36 pumpkin plant in six different varieties indoors this year was a disaster, so I had to ask my Lora P. to start a few for me in hopes they would have a better chance of survival under her care — she is a real farmer, I just live on a farm and fantasize unrealistically about growing all manner of flowers and produce.

That having been said, we did have an opportunity this past weekend to feel like real farmers for a few hours. The farmer who works out fields was out plowing and planting all weekend, and while he was doing that we had to rake the three acres of lawn around the house and barn. This year we had so much rain, so constantly, during the spring that the yard stayed too wet for my husband to be able to get out on it with his tractor and keep it mowed. As a result, the grass grew too long between mowing, and that left a problem of far too much long, dead grass laying about on the lawn. We had to rake it up in order to keep our “grass” green (it is actually a mixture of some grass and many very green weeds of various varieties).

We raked Saturday and Sunday, making large piles of dry grass all over the place. Looking at them, though they were not formed into “stacks”, they looked like mini versions of hay stacks to us and that was enough for my imagination to get going for a time. On Sunday, my husband rigged up a large shovel type contraption that he hooked to the front of his tractor for loading the dead grass piles into so he could drive them over to a different area of the property. This shovel thing he made was about eight feet wide, and maybe three or four feet high — it was pretty cool, and I love it that he is clever and resourceful.

We made our way from grass pile to grass pile raking big piles of grass into his huge shovel and packing it down. Doing this while the farmer was working the fields, I told my husband that it almost felt as if we were real farmers. Silly really, because real farmers work very long hard hours day after day after day, whereas we worked for a few hours two days in a row and all we were doing in reality was getting rid of grass.

Still, it was fun to pretend …

No pun intended, but we have covered a lot of ground today. There is one more item I would like to share in parting though … I wrote a press release this week for my son’s Etsy store and we are getting it out to various media contacts and bloggers. If you are a blogger and would like access to the press release, you can find it here. Here also is a graphic he just started using in the store to help give people ideas about custom signs he could do for them–click on the graphic to see the full size image (so you can read the wording).

I plan on having him create a custom sign for I Live on a Farm, to track our journey and commemorate the fifth anniversary of our marriage and the blog. It seems appropriate right now, because we are on the verge of some very exciting new developments. I can sense, just as I did six years ago, that some important, positive changes are in the air and heading our way.

Well, I have much to do. Strawberries are in season, and I need to go buy a bunch of them so I can make my annual huge batch of strawberry rhubarb preserves. And that is just the very, very tip of the iceberg for summer activities around here.

Talk to you soon,
~firefly

« Previous PageNext Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: