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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dehydrating Bananas with the Nesco Snackmaster Pro

Farmerboy wanted a dehydrator for Christmas.  I researched all the different kinds on Amazon.  The Nesco Snackmaster Pro seemed to be the best fit for his current dehydrating needs.  On Christmas morning, the new appliance was brought into our kitchen; and as soon as he could gather his seasonings, Farmerboy put the machine through a workout by mixing up some deer jerky and dehydrating it (which was extremely good).  But after the jerky craze was over,  the dehydrator sat.  Meanwhile during a family trip, I purchased some dehydrated bananas for a snack.  They tasted awful and were coated in a heavy sugar.  When we got home, we gave a couple to Davey (the pet rat), and he seemed to like them.  Unfortunately, the unhealthy amount of sugar did not make them a suitable snack  him or us.  Then I got to thinking, why not try to dehydrate my own bananas.  How hard could it be?

Now, I can answer that question.  It is not hard at all!  Dehydrating bananas is so simple.  Farmerboy's Snackmaster came with five tiers.  I purchased two extra, bringing the total to seven which seemed like a nice size.  It takes 29 bananas (fully ripe with maybe a few brown flecks) cut into 1/4 inch slices (minus the ends) to fill all of the trays.   The slices should be arranged on each tier without touching. Once arranged, a spray head screwed onto a lemon juice bottle can be used to spritz the slices from the top and bottom.  (I purchased a $1 spray bottle from the Dollar Store.  The spray nozzle fit the lemon juice bottle perfectly!)  When all the trays are filled and stacked, the lid with the motor and fan enclosed can be placed on top.  The setting should be set for Fruits and Vegetables 135 degrees.  Then, the dehydrator can be left to work its magic for 12 to 13 hours.  How uncomplicated is that? 

After allowing the slices to cool in the dehydrator, this is how they looked. They have a consistency of fruit leather, and the lemon gives them a slightly tangy yet sweet taste.  Delicious! 

Here is my jar.  Davey's sits next to his cage.  Well actually, he got a quart and a half, but the half a quart is long gone. ;)   Yep, 29 bananas yield 2 and a half quarts dehydrated.  They make such a great snack.  And the best part...  they never get brown and mushy! :)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Microwave Potato Bag ~ Gift for Under $10 & Pattern Links

For a quick lunch or a last minute side dish, the microwave potato bag makes the most moist delicious potatoes in 9 minutes or less...
Back in August, I happened upon a crafter at the Baraboo Steam and Engine show that was selling handcrafted sewn items. An assortment of bags in varying fabrics on her table caught my eye.  The vender and fellow customers told me that these bags were the best for making microwave potatoes. Right then, I new that I would have to buy one (or in my case 2!).   The table was filled with all kinds of farm themed fabrics, but the potato design was my favorite and would be the most easily recognizable in my kitchen cupboard.  ;)
How do you use one of these bags?  It is so easy.  Just wash and dry 1-4 medium potatoes.  Do not prick them!  Wrap them in a paper towel and place them in the bag.   While using a microwave with a turntable to prevent scorching or hot spots, microwave potatoes approximately 6 to 8 minutes.  If this is your first attempt, check the potatoes periodically by pressing on the bag for firmness.   (The instructions caution to never leave the potatoes unattended and do not keep reusing the same hot bag for additional batches.)  After cooking is complete, let the potatoes sit in the bag for 5 minutes. 

Viola, the perfect baked potato

They were so moist...  the skins, too.  Mr. Hollow even commented on how great they were.  THAT was a monumental moment since he is not big on spuds.  I LOVE them.  Back in my College days, I had baked potatoes with butter and a little cheddar cheese about every day for lunch.  Unfortunately, there were  many days then and since that the potato turned out dry.  This will NOT be the case anymore!  :)

Can you believe that I purchased my two bags in Baraboo for $6.00 a piece.  I mean really?  Why would I even think about going through the crafting trouble to create these for that much.  Plus, this is one sure way to buy a true quality made product and support my fellow artisans at the same time.  Talk about a great gift idea for under 10 bucks! 

Since most of my blogging friends will not be at Baraboo this August, I suggest checking your local craft shows.  If you don't get out much, pop over to the Etsy website and type in potato bag to search.  You can get your own bag for $5.95 and up, plus shipping.  Or if you have some left over fabric, create some bags of your own.  (Remember to use all cotton fabric and thread!  Polyester will cause a meltdown!)  Lyn Brown has a free pattern in her Craftsy store here.   (Her bag has an open top that folds over for easy loading.)  Or if you want to create a bag similar to mine, pop over to the Stitchin' Tree  for a free PDF here.   Whatever you choose to do, this bag will not disappoint.  I am even thinking about creating some gifts of my own... Or maybe, I will just wait and pick some up in August!! ;) 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day! :)

We have had some high winds and cold temps to usher in Valentine's Day!  Brrrrrrrrrrrr...  I managed to shuffle into work, do a little shopping afterwards and get back home in time to have a late lunch with Mr. Hollow.  It is the perfect weekend to hibernate and be glad that there isn't  a reason to venture outdoors. ;)   As long as everyone is safe, let old man winter get in a few more fits of winter. 
 I hope everyone is having a Wonderful Day! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Friday the 13th!

Life has been very exciting in The Hollow over the past few months.  I have been revamping my studio space and sewing areas. After saving up some "mad money", I have made some purchases that will widen the horizons of my designing desires.  It will be a blast to share them with everyone.  The notebooks that I have carried for years have been dusted off, and I have been busy creating patterns.:)
My Word for the Year of 2015 is CREATE.  Hopefully, I can accomplish all the work that I would like to share on my blog in the short span of a year but...  I doubt it.  That is okay though, it just means that a moment will never go by with finding myself bored.  :)    Time flies by so fast!   I look forward to keeping a more organized and consistent blogging schedule.  It will be fun sharing with my friends again and not just be lurking around on their blogs with an occasional shout out. 
So, what better day to kick off getting back into the swing of blogging than Friday the 13th?  Crazy as it may seem, I love this day.  My black cat Mew has crossed my path several times for the past 15 years  and made me immune to all of the unlucky Karma. LOL  The nostalgic date gives me the same spooky vibes of Halloween.  Such a medieval feel... Love it!!   Makes me feel like I should light a jack-o-lantern or something.  ;) 
To All the other NON Fraidy Cats out There...
Happy Friday the 13th!!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Hallow's Eve

Can you believe that another Halloween has come and gone?   It seems like it was last week (really it was the third week of September) that I purchased our pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn.  The pumpkins went fast in Northern Illinois.  Many were spoilt from our unusually wet spring.  :(
Mew had to be out on the porch as I set up the decorations.  Mr. Hollow and I always tell her that she is worth a premium this time of year.  She would not stay by the big pumpkin to have her photo taken.  There were to many outside smells to investigate! ;)

My pumpkins survived the month and a half sit to Halloween.  Whew!  The kids scoured the internet to find some new patterns for their faces.  The pumpkins were soooo thick that I didn't think the faces could have much detail, but they really turned out nice! :)  Since we did not have the appropriate carving knives,  Farmerboy rigged up tiny vise grips with small hacksaw blades... They worked perfectly! 

Meet Jack Skellyton and Cheshire Cat or as I call him, Chesh for short.  :)

Getting ready for the big night... We are in a small town but can get descent numbers of kids from the surrounding towns.  Unfortunately Halloween was on a Friday, all the towns overlapped.  We only had 28 kids, but they were the most polite and absolutely darling little Trick or Treators.  It was fun catching up with our old neighbors and seeing all of the familiar faces.

Remember the Giggleswick Blog Hop that I had on the side bar of my blog?  Well, 21 talented Halloween artists created prizes for giveaways on each of their blogs in celebration of All Hallow's Eve.  ( I am telling you from a critical eye that these are some SERIOUSLY talented artists.)   Well, my name was chosen from the blog HoHo Halloween.  The prize was a secret until the day my name was chosen.  I could not believe my eyes when I saw the post of this amazingly detailed piece of Halloween art... An Absolute Original One of a Kind!  Yahoooooo!!  The talent that created my new Halloween heirloom is artist Jorge De Rojas, and I can tell you now that the photo does not do this guy justice.  He is simply spooktacular.  EVEN Mr. Hollow was impressed.  Doesn't he look so incredibly vintage??  There is not a ghost around that could get past this little guy! :)

I can not express in words how impressive this piece is.  Please check out Jorge's blog at HoHo Halloween , and while you are on that post take note of the other fine artists listed.   It will be well worth your time to check their blogs as well. :)  If you are lucky to live in their area, some of these fine artists do local shows or sell on the fabulous site -- Etsy.   No storage box will get my little man either.  He is heading for the curio cabinet as a remarkable example of Halloween art.  Now, the only thing left to do is to think of a fitting name for him... :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Allow Me to Introduce You All to Davey

This year is flying by so fast!  Getting use to a full time work schedule has been more of a challenge than I thought.  With the onset of cold weather to keep me indoors, I look forward to working on some art projects and blogging a whole lot more. :)  
So much has happened over the past months.  Our pet Snoopy, the adopted humane society rat, passed away. :(    It brought about a void in our lives.   (His story can be read here.)    But that was soon filled by the arrival of Davey.  He is a white and champagne colored rat that was purchased as a wee baby from Petco.  The salesman was relieved to know that he was not going to be snake bait.   Farmerboy was a little nervous about handling him too much, since his first rat was a biter.  So, I spent many hours taming this little guy.  He has the sweetest temperament.                 

Unfortunately, raising a pet can sometimes have its challenges.  After almost two weeks of cohabitation, he broke out in scabs... All Over.   After reading volumes on the subject, I stopped feeding him his beloved yogurt drops (which were Snoopy's favorite treats as well), since rats have been known to have dairy allergies.   After a matter of days, his skin cleared up... Amazing!   I have him on healthy snack foods now.  He loves baby carrots and dehydrated bananas.   No cheese for this little guy! :)  

Welcome to the family Davey!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Vintage Bucilla Alphabet Quilt

I have began working on my vintage Bucilla stamped cross stitch alphabet quilt from the 1960's - early 70's.  It boggles my mind a little to think that the crisp new quilt, that was manufactured that long ago, is finally taking its first venture out of the protective plastic packaging.  Even more weird, is the fact that I can still remember my Mom embroidering one of these for my younger sister 41 years ago.  Yikes! 
Ever since I listed one of these quilts partially finished on my selling blog, there have been several inquiries emailed to me about this particular kit.  I've decided to show each block on completion to help those inquiring about a color chart.  There are some pretty wild colors used in this quilt, due to the era that it was manufactured in.  The thread was also included in the original kit.  It would be interesting to see one of these quilts with more modern and tamer colors, but I love it just the crazy way it is. :) 
So with no further delay, here is the apple for letter A.  This was taken on a sunny day without a flash and portrays the border's blue and red the most accurately.

The bright little Blue Bird for letter B.  Due to today being a dark and rainy day, the flash has given a touch more intensity to the colors on the rest of the photos.  (I will take a progress to date picture on future posts to give a truer representation of the floss to use.)

The cat representing the letter C.

And to bring up the rear for now, the sky blue dog sporting his bright pink hat.  How is that for some 1960's colors?  ;)

The one thing that I really like about this quilt is that it incorporates more embroidery techniques than its modern day counterparts.  It really challenges me to broaden my skills into different stitches.  I also made a choice to bury my stitching in the quilt.  It hasn't been to difficult so far and is a nice change from always pulling the needle through the back.  Plus, there will not be a backing to attach later. :)   Well... I am off to do a little work on my Hummingbird quilt...

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!