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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I wish everyone safe travels and a Very Merry Christmas! :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hammond's Candies Candy Canes ~ Made In America!

After watching Hammond's Candies in Denver, Colorado handcraft their fine hard candies on the Food Network, it has been a dream of mine to have some of their creations in our stockings for the holidays.  The way they start with a HUGE piece of striped sugar and work it down to a hand sized or bite sized candy is such a wondrous marvel, matching the skills of even Mr. Willy Wonka!  ;)  I am happy to say, that after  bullying Mr. Hollow into doing a little frivolous shopping on Sunday, I found these... Hammond's Candies very own Candy Canes!!

The candy canes are sooo much more beautiful in person.  It was the eye catching colors of the canes in the display at the Monroe, Shopko store caught my eye.  I have NEVER seen such wonderful striping, and the canes are longer than my hand and as big around as my thumb.  I wish that there had been a sign with Hammond's name above them, but there wasn't. :(  The craftsmanship of the candy was what drew me in.  I had already decided on first site that they were going into our stockings.  Imagine my surprise, as I drew the first cane out of one of the various pails and saw the Hammond's Candies tag.  They are truly a work of art, and I look forward to tasting them.  Next year, I will definitely order some of their other candies at their online store here.   And to make things even sweeter, their tag reads...  Handmade in the USA!  :) 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Large Hershey Bar Snowman (4.4 oz.) ~ A Quick Christmas Gifting How To

If you find yourself in a pinch, artist Laurie Furnell has offered a FREE Christmas print out (made possible by Aimee Asher Boutique) to create a festive holiday snowman from a large or regular sized Hershey bar.  I had read about this darling snowman a few months ago, and he has taken center stage in my house with the Christmas holiday right around the corner.  They will come in handy at work where we do a small gift exchange.  I love the idea of a little holiday stitching, some quick-time crafting, and being able to give the gift of CHOCOLATE.  Who wouldn't appreciate that!   PLUS... It gives me an excuse to use some of that 1.00 a yard fleece that I purchased from the JoAnn Fabrics'  Black Friday Sale a few years back. ;)

I started by going to Laurie Furnell's free snowman download here.  (You will have to register but will not be charged at check out.)  There is a print out for her rules, the finished product, print out for a regular size Hershey bar, and a print out for an 8 oz. bar.  I choose the 8 oz bar design and printed it to fit on a regular sheet of paper, which was perfect for a 4.7 oz. large Hershey bar.  Then, I began to sift through my stash of fleece and construct a pattern for my festive goodies.  :)

I know it is a little hard to see in the picture, but you will need to cut down the paper to the right of the design and on the bottom line.  Then, tape the seal flap on the bottom of the Hershey bar wrapper to the front of the candy.  This will keep it hidden from view.

I find that Hershey was pretty accurate with my batch of bars.  Once I flipped the print to the back side, the Hershey bar could be placed front side down on the paper.  The right side of the paper could be placed over the back of the bar and lined up on the brown line above the final vitamin line, and the snowman's face would be nicely centered on the reverse side.  After using three pieces of tape to secure the right side, the left side was placed over it... three more pieces of tape and onward to the stitching part of the project.  Yeah!! 

If you are like me and would like a snugger fit to your stocking hat, cut a piece of fleece approximately 7 3/4 inches square.   On my paper pattern, there is a dotted line 1 1/4 inches down from the top of the pattern to aid me in marking the fringe for the pom pom top. 


On the reverse side of the folded fleece, make the line for the fringe. (A Sharpie marker works great for this.)  While the fleece is still out, a strip can be cut 1 1/4 inches wide and approximately 17 1/2 inches long for a matching scarf. (This will leave you a little excess for adjustments after placement.)
Working on the reverse side of the fleece, a simple overcast stitch can be used from the bottom up to the tassel line.  Tie off the thread and the bottom of the hat is finished.  With scissors in hand, cut the fleece in approximately 1/4 inch increments from the top of the fleece to the tassel line, creating the fringe for the pom pom.  Now turn the hat right side out.  Starting at the center seam, use a gathering stitch under the fringe and pull tight.  I like to wrap the thread one more time around the fringe line, pull tight, and tie off.  This will create a darling little pom pom.  Folding from the bottom of the hat, there will be enough fleece to fold twice.  Now it is time to dress the snowman!!  

Aren't they darling??  I cannot wait to dive into the others!  All together, there will be 10 snowmen here at The Hollow.   And who knows... Maybe some more to follow. ;)    I even have some really funky tie dyed fleece that will fit my Manager's personality perfectly.  This project has peaked my creative senses and has immersed me in the holiday spirit.  It is such a blast!

As you can see by the photo, one of my co workers is a marksman (He is also the only rooster in our hen house!), so the camo fleece came in handy.  The candy cane stripe is perfect for a wonderfully Christmasy decoration.   And for my fellow co-worker that makes me laugh with stories of her mischeivious pooch, a red hat and scarf adorned with doggy prints. :)

It makes me laugh to think that I almost got rid of some of my fleece last summer!   I cannot wait to do some more of these little snowmen... I am sooo hooked.   Think of the possibilities.  Hmmm... Mismatched hat and scarves... Felted wool hat and scarves... Even different kinds of candy bars.  The options are limitless.

A HUGE Thank-you to Laurie Furnell for such a charming printable design.  And for those that decide to take advantage of this freebie, the design will be available to you for 7 days or 5 clicks.   This would be such an inexpensive gift for kids to create for friends and teachers, too!    If you have a little time on your hands, check out Aimee Asher's website.  It really is an inspiring place to visit.  Happy Holidays to All!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How to Bake a Whole Sugar Pumpkin to Process and Freeze

While Farmerboy was shopping for his Halloween pumpkins to carve, he brought home three sugar (or commonly tagged "pumpkin pie") pumpkins.  Why?  Who knows... Apparently, he felt that his mother would like to take on the challenge of making her own pumpkin puree from scratch.  UGH!!  My mind was filled with the idea of cutting the tough rinds, scraping out the seeds, cubing and cooking the remaining pumpkin.  The end result would probably be me with a soupy mess!  :(   

I was telling my Mom about my troubles one afternoon, when she mentioned having seen a program on TV that processed the pumpkins by baking them whole.  What?  I am not going to lie here... My mind was filled with exploding pumpkins and seedy guts hanging all over my oven.  I could tell later that evening that Mr. Hollow's thinking wasn't much different.  But, after a little research that surprisingly brought few results, my mind was made up to take a stab at this short cut.   Armed with very little knowledge (and after waiting for Mr. Hollow to leave for work), the little pumpkins went into the oven.  This is how I prepared and baked them:

All three pumpkins were washed and dried.  They were rubbed all over with a paper towel-- moistened in olive oil.  I took a pointed steak knife and pierced the rind all over (was hoping this would deter any explosions!).  They were then set directly on the oven rack with a cookie sheet on the rack immediately below them to catch any run off.  Next, I turned the oven on 400 degrees and let them bake for about an hour.  They were checked by pushing a knife through the pumpkin and into the flesh.  The rind and flesh were soft, so I knew that they were finished baking. The picture below is how they looked after removal from the oven.

 As you can see from the skin of the pumpkins in the photo below, I let them sit and cool for an hour.  They started to deflate and the rinds began to buckle.  Each pumpkin cut easily into quarters as if slicing through butter!  I used a wooden spoon to gently remove the seeds and loose stringy flesh.  Then, the same spoon slid the golden flesh effortlessly from the rind.  Due to the long cooling off period, some of the rinds could even be peeled by hand from the flesh.  How easy is that?

My Braun hand held processor turned the pumpkin flesh into a smooth puree.  Three pumpkins yielded 5 containers of pumpkin puree at 2 cups each.  Four of the containers are now in the deep freeze.  Not a bad haul for an afternoon of experimenting! :)

The next test was to make a pie.  I noticed that the pumpkin did seem a little runnier in the mixing stage... And the pie did bake a little longer than my pies made with canned pumpkin... But I am happy to say that it tasted absolutely perfect!

Did I ever tell you that my all time favorite dessert is Pumpkin Pie?    I don't even need Cool Whip to enjoy it! :)

I do not know if planting, harvesting and processing pumpkins on a larger scale is in my future, but the idea is certainly more tempting with this method! :)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thrifty Find ~ Singer 99k Sewing Machine

Monday was a great day to take off for the local thrift store to drop off a few boxes and bags of goods that needed to find a new home.  It always makes me feel better to lighten the load! :)  I browsed around the store to check out the wool sweaters and was thrilled to find one with some gorgeous pastel stripes.  Then, I happened upon some dress slacks for work... Double Score!!  How much more could a girl ask for?  So, my next stop was the check out counter.  One of the ladies standing in the vicinity suggested that I lay down my items and take a look up front.  My eye spied some farm toys in the distance, so I made a beeline to them and noticed that they were not vintage... :(   Feeling as though my luck filled hunt was over, I headed back down the isle to the counter.  One parting glance to the front ledge of the store stopped me in my tracks ... a Singer 99k with its original carrier sat gleaming in the light of the window.  SWEET!

Now I will be candidly honest and admit that I have repeatedly told Mr. Hollow during our travels that collecting sewing machines was not for me due to size and space.  (As if that ever stopped me with my other collections! ;) )  We have seen a few heavily used Singer models here and there, and they never really spoke to me. ( Restoration on mechanical items isn't a big desire of mine or more importantly to Mr. Hollow.)  But I can honestly say, this nearly mint machine took my breath away. *sigh*

My camera does not do it justice.  Although this model isn't as desired as the freestanding featherweight predecessors, the 99k is still an example of fine craftsmanship that has the ability to last through the test of time.  Don't you just love the work light mounted on the back?  Whoever had owned this 99k obviously cherished it, since its gleaming black paint and ornate design have only a few minor blemishes.  Truly an amazing fact... Since after checking out the serial number,  I found out this machine was shipped new from Kilbowie, Scotland on September 11, 1954.   

These Singers are such a stark contrast to the plastic that has taken over many of the modern day counterparts.  Not that there aren't great machines out there... Don't get me wrong... But as with my Kenmores, I do tend to favor the metal bodied machines.  Maybe, it is my fear of breaking things! ;) 

The Singer 99k tilts on metal posts that fit into round slots at the back of the base.  When I got home, I looked under the machine and found some extra Singer needles, a pile of bobbins, the original tube of oil, original manual, and a slew of feet that offer more options than I could ever dream of!

Now seriously... How can you go wrong buying any working sewing machine for $18.00?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!!

The bewitching hour is growing near!!  Farmerboy and his Farmer girl (No kidding here folks... Although she dabbles more in raising cattle than tilling the soil!) are busy carving pumpkins to ward off the evil spirits.

Here is Farmerboy making sure that no seeds were missed.  Personally, I would have told him to mind his own pumpkin! LOL  But his girlfriend isn't to fond of the cleaning process anyways. ;)

This is why he was so interested in the seeds.  Just his way of giving Mom a job to bake later! ;)

I think they both did a fantastic job.  They will be perfect on the front room table tonight!

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Black Cats, Fall Mix and Etsy

Halloween is getting a little more festive at the Hollow thanks to the great Etsy Stores of Harvest Moon Prims and Olde Annie Primitives.  I have made a vow to not only sell through this great site but take advantage of the opportunity to buy wonderful handcrafted items from my fellow Artisans.  Here are a few of my most recent purchases: 

The first spooky bag contains three black cats with backs arched, tails up, and all grunged with the scent of the season.  They are from Annie at Olde Annie Primitives .  Her enchanting store has a wide variety of primitive bowl fillers, candle mats, tree skirts, centerpieces and sooo much more.  (Check out her tiger striped and multi colored kitties... too cute!)  My new scaredy cats are a great addition to my fall decor and fit in perfectly with my plan to collect black cats (in honor of my cat Mew). ;)    The quality of these handcrafted bowl fillers are nothing short of perfection.  Annie definitely strives to have return customers!  I can only guess that some of her inspiration for these darling kittys came from her own black cat Harley.  So if you have the time, check out Harley's page and Annie's primitive creations at her wonderful blog here.  If you love prims like me, you will not be disappointed! :)

My second purchase was from Marilyn at  Harvest Moon Prims.   As you can see, those cats will be displayed proudly with some of Marilyn's scented pudka pods, hips and acorn melts.  (I wish this blog had smellavision... Mmmmm...)   The mix has such a wonderful depth of color that complements my new cats purrfectly! ;)  Oh... and Marilyn does not only sell some fantastic fall mix filler, she also has sewn prim creations, soap, melts, grubby candles... too much to list here! ;)  I will definitely be going back for some more items in the future.  If your interested in visiting Marilyn at her blog,  she can be found here.  :)

Now my wooden bowl is filled and in its place of honor.  The smells of fall are drifting throughout my front room.  As you can see, I added some cinnamon sticks to match the spicy brown rub on my cats.  It is such a wonderful display.   My next addition to this area will be a fall inspired wool mat... Creating it will give me something to stitch on during these chilly October nights! :)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Wonderful Month of October! :)

I LOVE the month of October and the gorgeous hues of fall.  It is amazing how the green leaves transform into beautiful crimsons, rusts, and golds.  I anxiously look out the window each morning to see if the dark shades have brightened to a fiery blaze overnight .  If only it could last a few months longer... *sigh*  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hay Days and Apple Processing Time!

Apple harvest time is here again... Thanks to Mr. Hollow! :)

Hubby's yearly travels takes him to Hay Days in North Branch, Minnesota.  (It is a Huge snowmobile swap meet.)  He goes with his brother every September and always arrives home with new treasures.  Past purchases have involved sled tracks and parts, truck rims and tires, chainsaw parts... You name it and they have it there for the guys.  Well this year on his way home, he decided to stop by the town of Gayes Mills and bring a few things back for yours truly...  2 Bushels of Apples! :)

Aren't they lovely?

As if the apples were not enough, he purchased some fresh cider donuts, and a gallon of apple cider to be heated and spiced up!  Mmmmm...

This past week has been busy with peeling and slicing, which has been a breeze thanks to my handy dandy apple peeler/slicer from the Pampered Chef.  What a time saver!

For a huge money saving versus grocery store prices, I decided to flash freeze and pack 21 quarts of apple slices this year, along with 3 quarts of halved apples, 12 quarts of applesauce, 3 large pies, a caramel apple pie  and 2 dozen pies in a jar.  (Pies in a jar can be read about in an earlier post here. )  That still left plenty of apples for slicing and pouring caramel over... Yum!

Mr. Hollow and I might still do some travelling near the orchards before the season is over and will definitely pop in to enjoy the smells and sites of the season, but I am relieved to have the processing of the apples is over for the year. :) 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The 127 Yard Sale Finds of 2012 ~ Vintage Feedsack Cloth

Here is part one of my haul on this year's 127 Yard Sale.  It is now over 600 miles of great buys.  The weather was beautiful and not as balmy as years past.  Unfortunately, some of our southern bargain hunters were met by rain showers.  We were lucky and missed the rain by the hour and were blessed with lower temps, due to the cloud cover!  :)

This post is dedicated to one of my Tennessee finds... Vintage feedsack cloth.  I stumbled across this on the beginning of our 3rd day of the sales.  Vendors were set up in storage sheds along the highway that were safe from the previous days showers.  Since they had lost a day to rain, everyone was making deals!

It was in one of these sheds that I found a clear zippered bag full of feedsack cloth remnants.  Yay!!  I love the idea of leftovers and the vast variety of patterns.  Aren't they just lovely?  *sigh*

I can spend hours researching the history to these pieces of cloth from days gone by... 

Here is a close up of the "Alice in Wonderland" print.  It is one of the "hard to find" designs.  I have only seen it once with a lavender background.  The flowers are just as whimsical on the green cloth.  :) 

Next to the bag of remnants, there were whole feedsacks.  Score!  As I was opening up sacks, the vendors started making deals.  They were keeping an eye on the dark rain clouds looming in the distance and were determined not  to lose another day of business.  So, we bundled all the material together, they threw out the price of $16.00, and I left thrilled with my finds! 

***A little note of gained knowledge... As I was finishing up my purchase, the woman was kind enough to point out that I had left behind two feedsacks.  Not wanting to insult her, I remained silent about those left behind, but it was running through my head that those remaining were old pillowcases.  Having a general knowledge of feedsack patterns, I felt confident leaving them behind.  Once we arrived home, I began researching the basic designs on these "pillowcases".  The vendor was correct about them being a vintage sack.

The remaining bags were Gold Medal Flour sacks.  They were designed to have a simple pattern around the opening, making them perfect for pillowcases. ;)   Even though they will not be gracing my growing collection, I am always excited to expand my knowledge of this fascinating phenomenon of our American agricultural history.  :) 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Halloween Chicken??

As you all may have guessed by the title of my blog and the colors of my layout, Fall is my favorite time of year.  During the season, I feel so at peace with the world and my artistic mojo is at an all time high.  (Twenty-two years ago, I was even lucky enough to be blessed with the arrival of Farmerboy in October... double bonus! :)  ) It is no surprise with the impending arrival of September, that the old familiar smell and feel of Fall is making itself known in Northern Illinois.  Of course, it has limited itself to only a few days here and there, but the trees have taken notice and patches of crimson are showing up in town.   Soon, we will be making our annual trek to our favorite apple orchard in Wisconsin.  Yay!!  

So to celebrate the arrival of my favorite season, I had to share a few pictures of one of our chicks that is quickly becoming my favorite hen to marvel over... Believe it or not this is Coal... My jet black little chick that is growing up to be the most handsome bird that I have ever seen.  She was being raised for another farm, but I am not sure that I will be able to let her go.  She is the most amazing shade of black and orange!    Her plumage just hinting at the colors until the last few weeks. 

Here she is without the camera flash.  Her feathers are such a wonderful deep shade of burnt orange with black tips.  *Sigh*

She fits into my life and my blog perfectly!  ;)


Sunday, August 19, 2012

2012 Badger Steam and Gas Engine Show Baraboo, WI

Time is flying by so fast.  Where has the summer gone?  My family has enjoyed another year on the 127 Yard Sale and its 500 miles of fun (Promise to post my finds soon!), and we spent this Saturday enjoying the sights at the Steam and Gas Engine Show in Baraboo, WI.  As always, it offered a HUGE flea market, an antique chainsaw exhibition, loads of vintage engines, a tractor show, great food, and several buildings housing wares and occupations from days gone by.  A person could spend the whole weekend enjoying the sites! :)

Here is a view into the large building that houses the Blacksmith Shop.  It is open from each side, so that spectators can watch the Smithies at work. (If you enter from the front of the building, there are chairs set up for the visitors.)  They have a table next to their work space with newly crafted items for sale.  It was amazing to see these skilled Artisans at their trade.  :)

Onward to another building housing the Print Shop.  There was beautiful old printing presses and loads of gorgeous type on display.  Here is one of the machines in progress.  The gentlemen were busy working and full of information about the beginnings of the printing press.  I was told that there are some of these machines still in use today in specialty shops that deal with ornate printing.  This press in motion makes such a rhythmic sound.  The printer can print a copy every 1 1/2 seconds, when he gets his timing down.  And remember... he is placing the paper by hand!   I thoroughly enjoyed this machine and would love to have one of my own... *sigh*  Could you just imagine the gorgeous cards one could create?? ;)

A little memento from the guys in the print shop.  :) 

The women's center is another one of my favorite haunts. (That is where I learned the process of doing beeswax candles last year.)  This wool spinner caught my attention.  Here he is applying his trade.  The table displays all the various tools involved in processing various forms of wool.  Isn't the yarn lovely?  Like the rhythmic hum that draws me to the printing press, the pedals moving to the spinning wheel gives me the same sense of peace to my soul.  And unlike the expense that will never see me owning a press, this little wooden dandy is more likely to be in my budget! ;)

Here is a close up of some of the tools of the trade.  I have not decided how to process our sheep's wool yet.  Farmerboy has decided to do his shearing in early Spring, so I have a while longer to decide.  I had thought of getting a set of carders like the one in the upper left corner of the picture. 

**NOTE** While walking the flea market, I was able to watch Larraine Bertrang from Long Lane Farm carding some of her Alpaca wool.  She was using the hand carders (resting one on her leg and brushing with the other hand).   The results from her work were for sale in bags on her table, along with some raw wool in need of carding.  It was a fascinating process to witness, and I am so glad that she shared her wares and talent at the show.

Here is a closeup of wool yarn that was available for purchase.  Behind the yarn, you can see a drum carder.  I cannot remember if this one was electric.  An electric drum carder would be ideal to own.  It would be a lot pricier but would save a lot of wear on my arms!

Have you ever felt roving that was a mix of baby Camel hair and sheep wool.  It is BABY SOFT!  What an amazing combo... :)

It is hard to believe that this event has passed for another year.  There are so many other buildings that did not make it into this post... *sigh*  It will be something to look forward to sharing next year!  :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chore Time

Farmerboy and I did chores together.  With a little help from my camera, we decided to introduce you to a few members of our family...

Below is one of the first pigs that Farmerboy purchased on his own.  He is enormous and LOVES to be scratched on his head and back.  The sweltering temps have been wearing on all of us, but this guy has his own way of relief.   He quickly turned over his water trough and laid in the cool wet spot on the floor.  What can I say??  Such a small thing to make him happy! :)

My son has been raising cast off runt pigs for the last year.  These are the last two that he has remaining.  They are a lively twosome.  When the sheep's hay falls through into their stall, these guys scramble over and gobble it up.  How funny is that?  Especially since their whole stall is bedded with hay! ;)

Farmerboy purchased 5 turkeys as babies.  Only these two made it to maturity.  Big plans were made for Thanksgiving.  Of course, that was three years ago. ;)  It can safely be said that these guys will be looking at death from 'old age'.  LOL

Now for the newest addition to our small farm family... The Sheep.  This shy girl is named Ariel.  She is a might skiddish and ever aware of the activities surrounding her in the farmyard.  I like to think that she is an interested observer and overall 'deep' thinker! ;)

This handsome dude is Brick.  He is by far the smallest of the sheep and is absolutely adorable!  Brick is full of energy and rushes inside the building when chore time begins to ensure being the first in line for feed. LOL  

Lego is the most gentlest ewe of the small herd.   Truth be told, I think that she is Farmerboy's favorite.   As you can see by the photo, this matriarch thrives on attention.  

There is nothing more relaxing then spending time with the animals.  I will be adding some shepherding blogs to my blog roll as my research into raising and processing wool expands.  My son and I spent quite a bit of time at the county fairs admiring the breeds in the show pens.  Who knows... Maybe there is a shepherd in my pioneer's soul!  :)