Whimsical and Homespun Art Creations with a Little Rural Living Thrown In

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Home Spun Yarn

I cannot say enough about the classes on Craftsy.  I am learning so much!  It has been a blast, and I am hopelessly and happily hooked on spinning wool... Which is a good thing, since there are fleeces stored in bins all over my house. LOL
It doesn't look that pretty, but below is a photo of my first plied yarn from Farmerboy's ram, Brick.  This was an unbelievable learning experience.  It also inspired me to sign up for two more classes on drafting and plying on Craftsy. ;)  My technique is getting there, but it could use a whole lotta help.  Isn't it amazing to think from sheep to yarn... all with my own hands?   Major accomplishment! 

After a good wash, the two brown twists are my very first yarn.  It looks like yarn too!  Albeit not perfect but yarn just the same. ;)  The third cream twist is from some comb top Corriedale that I received with my wheel.  It is a longer staple and was spun after my completed class with Amy.  This skein was so much more uniform than my initial go with the wheel.  I think Amy would be very proud of my progress.   This spinner sure is!

So now, I signed up for Jacey's drafting class and Jillian's plying class.  Plus, two more classes are sitting in my cart for hand embroidery and colored pencil techniques. :)  They are running some crazy sales on the Craftsy site, and it is unbelievable how exceptional these classes are for such little money.  Isn't it an amazing age we live in?  Such wonderful teachers are available at my own pace right at my fingertips.  I feel blessed. 

Farmerboy has been busy making some barn board creations for a spot he rented in Elizabeth.  You can see a small glimpse of his beautiful pieces in the last photo.  I will be sharing them in the next post.  Maybe I should switch gears and work on some stitching this weekend.  A few primitive candle mats might look nice with his furniture! ;) 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review of a Fancy Kitty Mini Bench Picker for Wool

The sub zero temps in northern Illinois are finding me held up in the house, and I couldn't think of anything warmer to do than pick some wool. :)  For those new comers to my blog, below is a shearing from our ram Brick.  He is a busy guy that taught Farmer Boy to never turn his back on him, even when there was a fence between them.  YIKES!  (You can read about Brick here.)  As you can see by the vegetation, our sheep do not wear jackets.  They live their lives without the hassle of keeping their wool clean... That job is left to me!

There are a few in our flock (in my opinion)  that apparently must love to roll profusely in their bedding.  Those little beasties' fleeces are always hard to pull apart after being cleaned.  A few have been left unprocessed in their holding tubs.  I honestly cringed at the thought of trying to get them fluffy enough to run through the drum carder. (Please check out the Baby Brother Drum Carder here.)   After much research, I decided to break down and buy a wool picker.  After checking out several reviews, I opted for a Fancy Kitty. 

All I simply have to do is push the wool up through the left, make a few passes over it with the sharp projectiles ( located under the handle and on the base) and viola fluffy fleece gathers up at the right.   This piece of fleece went through a few passes, and it was amazing the amount of vegetable matter (VM)  that fell out.   For my high vegetation beasties, the Fancy Kitty will save me hours of picking and pulling by hand.  Makes me wonder how I lived without it!  :)

A matted looking section of Brick fleece before picking...

A fluffy picked cloud of Brick fleece, after the Fancy Kitty Picker got done with it!

A few passes through the Brother Manual Drum Carder, and I have some spinning material!

I was very impressed with the construction of the wool picker from Fancy Kitty.  It really did perform like a dream and will be getting a work out over next few weeks...   I signed up for Amy King's  "Foundations of Spinning" class on Craftsy and am in desperate need of some fiber to spin. ;)

***Note*** If you have the winter humdrums, check out the classes on Craftsy.  They have Quilting & Embroidery, Drawing & Painting, Wool Processing & Knitting/Crocheting, along with Cooking/Baking & Decorating...  Supplies/ Patterns and so much more!   Their classes do not disappoint, and the new ones are currently 50% off.  What better than to learn and ask questions at your own pace?  And your classes become yours to view... even after completion!!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Kitchen Aid Pasta Roller & Drying Rack Review

I have to do a review of the Kitchen Aid pasta roller with spaghetti and fettuccine attachments that arrived just in time for Christmas.  Santa did not have a very big list from me this year.  Not sure if I am really content with my life or am just a boringly lazy individual... I am going with option one! ;)     Anyways, these attachments have interested me for years.  They made the perfect "What the heck" gift.  I needed to channel my inner Julia Child who was a huge believer in embracing new devices for the kitchen.  Well, this is about as new and crazy as I get. LOL
My first batch of egg noodles went very smooth.  It makes me nervous to have such a weighty attachment hanging off my beloved Kitchen Aid.  I was sure her motor would blow to pieces, but she rolled out the dough like a pro.  The motor was placed on the #2 setting (which was fast enough for me), and only bogged slightly when the folded over dough was put in for a second pass.   The pasta roller was positioned at #2 for the first three passes.  A necessary flour dusting was given between each pass.  (My dough was a tad sticky!)   Then, the roller was set at #4 for the final run through.  The whole process went smooth and relatively quickly; even though, I was working through an obvious learning curve.  The final pass yielded some flawless dough-- very thin and even.
On to the fettuccine attachment...  Once all of the strips of dough were dusted and lined up on my kitchen island, the fettuccine attachment was locked onto my Kitchen Aid.  A simple lining up of the dough, a pass through the slotted rollers and I was catching sheets of egg noodles.  Not all of the noodles were cut free in strips, but they fell apart easily upon drying.  Okay, I am impressed with these attachments!    They not only get the job done but are durable, weighty and built to last.  Just as solid as my beloved hand crank machine.

To dry my egg noodles,  I invested in the Kitchen Aid drying rack.  The legs pull down and out like a tripod, and a twist of the top knob sends a flourish of acrylic arms to transfer the pasta onto.  The unit is space friendly and could hold up to two batches of my noodles.  I draped the noodles over the arms by hand, but inside the center of the rack hides a pasta wand that can be pulled out from the top.  The pasta dryer is exactly what this pasta maker has wished for.  Makes me wonder how I got along without it!

The Kitchen Aid pasta roller and attachments are going to be a great addition to my kitchen.  They will be seeing a lot of action during the soup making season and beyond.  While turning some of our left over prime rib into beef and noodles tonight, I noticed how thin the noodles were. The cooked up quickly and were just the right thickness after boiling.  Even Mr. Hollow was impressed.  I would say this gift was a huge success!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Holiday Fairy Garden

 I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!  We had warm weather here in Northern Illinois.  It certainly made the travelling less stressful.  Not the "White Christmas" that we sing about, but a few evening snow showers on the way home brought some smiles.  All the relatives are healthy and happy... What more can one ask for?   I absolutely LOVE this time of year!  :)

The Christmas holiday for me has always centered on the reason for my nativity being displayed and  spending time with loved ones... not so much the gift giving.  In fact, my only shopping  was for Farmer boy and his fiancé... Okay, a few for Mr. Hollow too!   It is funny, since I absolutely loved working in retail and enjoy finding gifts that hopefully will make the recipient smile.  While finding their presents, it is well known that I shop for my "gifts" as well for under the tree.  Trust me, this is NOT a bad thing.  They don't even require wrapping! LOL  Although my want list is really short, I usually have a few dream items I fulfill for the holiday.  Yes... I could buy them during the year, but Christmas has always been a time for me to do some self reflection.  The season is a time of looking forward to the coming year and realizing what frivolous or useful items will help realize some of my new resolutions.  I am very excited about a few of my items and will share them over the next month, but this post is about an unexpected gift from the newest member of our family... my soon to be in 2016 daughter-in-law... The gift of a charming fairy garden. 

Instead of buying a premade garden, she made this little scene for me.  I pride myself on being hard to buy for, but this little forest is absolutely perfect for me. :)  It is green, rustic and contains a rendition of two little critters that make me laugh to watch in nature through out the year... Squirrels!  Look at the little squirrel on the front of the log whistling as he prances across.  It makes me smile every time I glance his way.  Very symbolic of the carefree nature of the animal in the wild. LOL  And of course there are two of them!  Trouble will always run in pairs. ;)

I had to show this overhead shot.  There is a moss base in the front and back.  Hopefully, I can find a way to keep the moss healthy... Yikes!  In between the moss is a little path of tiny pebbles.

To the back of the garden, there is a wee trellis.  A tiny little vine is climbing it.

Look at the pot... orange, my favorite color!  It is such a lovely and inspiring little garden -- right out of the pages of Beatrix Potter.    Makes me wish that I had a large well lit studio area to keep it in.  *sigh*  But for or right now, I believe that the best spot is in my work area to the front of the house.  That particular work area is where I do most of my writing and idea formulating.  It will be a little magical garden of ideas... Especially, when the days DO decide to become wintry!  :)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Gift from ImagiMeri's Studio

Where did November go?  The time is flying by so fast, and I have so much to share.  I wanted to begin with this spectacular gift that I received from Meri of ImagiMeri's Studio.  (Click on her site name to visit her blog!)   She is a wonderful contributing artist of the Creative Paperclay site.  (You can enjoy one of her tutorials on their site by clicking here.)    Meri took part in a blog hop promoting Gina Designs laser cut outs.  She made three enchanting Halloween scenes and gave them away to three lucky Creative Paperclay followers!

As if I wasn't excited enough to be gifted one of her detailed creations, Meri also surprised me with a goodie bag! 

Meri generously gave me enough supplies to inspire a Halloween creation of my own.  I cannot express to her enough how happy I was to receive both gifts.  She is such a generous artist, not only with her giveaways but with the immense amount of time she spends making tutorials.  As a fellow blogger, I know how long it can take to create a regular post.  I cannot imagine how long she must spend in preparation to share her knowledge on the use of paper clay creations in step by step fashion.

Meri's gift has given me the push to get me off the couch and back to rummaging through my potential Paperclay projects.  Following the arrival of my Spooky Graveyard with that darling little bat bouncing around, I spent a glorious day organizing gourds and accessories in my storage room.    All of them have been waiting patiently for me to get by rear end in gear and get them turned into the little characters they were destined to be.  I am thinking with all of these spooky doo dads, a Halloween creation is in my future!  :)

I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason.  I was so blessed to receive one of Meri's creations.  It will be displayed proudly in my curio cabinet, and I will think of her as I begin shaping a few new creations out of gourds and paper clay.  Please check out the Paperclay website above.  These artists have a wealth of info on the subject that they generously share.  Also, check out ImagiMeri's website and take a trip over to her Etsy store here.  Meri's creations capture the holidays in such a nostalgic fashion.  They are absolutely delightful. 

Thanks again Meri!  :)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween! :)

The jack-o-lanterns are glowing bright...  keeping the evil spirits at bay.  The little ghosts and goblins have come and gone.  All is quiet...
Happy Halloween!!


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Apple Pie with a Caramel Streusel Topping ~ Recipe

The fall weather in Northern Illinois has been absolutely beautiful.  The colors are a little late in the trees, but the temps have been comfortably cool.  My hubby left for a trip back in September and returned with a bushel of McIntosh apples.  He was passing through Gayes Mills and picked them up as seconds for $20.00. 
Since then, our family has definitely eaten our fill of caramel apples!  :)  So this weekend was perfect cool weather for canning some applesauce and making some pies.  I started with the sauce and worked my way through 25 jars.  Then, I decided to make 14 half circle hand sized pies.  With the apples left over, I decided to try a new pie recipe.  It was an apple pie with a streusel topping.  The pie was a big hit here which is great since I froze two for later. ;)
The recipe calls for a one crust pie shell... bought or homemade is your preference.  I made my pie in a 8 inch tin and the apples cooked down fine.  McIntosh cook down a little more than other varieties.  I made some alterations to some recipes that I found on line.  So here is my version:


Apple Pie with a Caramel Streusel Topping

7                      medium sized McIntosh apples (any tart apple would do)
2 T                  flour
1/2 rounded t  cinnamon
1/4 rounded t  nutmeg
1/4 c               white sugar (could use 1/3 c if the apples are really tart)

When the pie crust is ready in the plate, peel and slice the apples into a bowl.    Mix the apple slices, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and white sugar together.  Add them to the pie crust arranging them into a mound. 

Streusel Topping

3/4 c                 brown sugar
1/2 c                 flour
1/2 rounded t    cinnamon
1/3 c                 butter softened

Mix all the ingredients with a fork to combine.  Break up the topping and evenly cover the apples.

Put the pie in a 350 degree preheated oven.  I had the pie tin sitting in a glass 13x9 cake dish situated half way down in the oven,  and it baked for 60 minutes.  Since all ovens differ and my dish had sides that hindered the distribution of heat, check your pie at 40 minutes and decide from there.   I kept checking by pushing on the crust to make sure it was firmed up.

We didn't eat our pie until later in the day.  Mr. Hollow likes his warmed up a little, and mine was straight from the pan.  The one thing we agreed on was a caramel drizzle topping. For that, I unwrapped 6 Brachs caramels  and placed them in a small bowl with a couple of teaspoons of water.  The caramels were microwaved in 15 second intervals until bubbling.  Then, it is simply stir and drizzle.  The pie was absolutely delicious!  Packed with the best flavors of fall.  :)