Favorite Books from The Hollow - 2020

Favorite Books from The Hollow - 2020

Welcome, FINALLY, to the end of 2020!!! Our mother always told us not to wish our lives away, but 2020 is the exception to the rule.  Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

The end of the year brings about the review of books we've read over the year (thank you Good Reads!).  There are always surprises as we go through the list, books we forgot we read and loved.  This year we each made a list of our favorites from the year and surprisingly, we each had seven books on the list and there were five that made both our lists.

So the five that made both our lists are:

The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Midnight at The Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber
Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow ~ Helen's Favorite

The others from our lists:

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
The Giver of the Stars by JoJo Moyes
A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg ~ Mary Beth's Favorite

While making the above lists we also made a list of some of our favorite authors and favorite audible reads of all time, not just 2020.

Go to authors that we will read anything they write:

Ann Patchett
Lisa Wingate
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Christina Henry
Kristin Hannah

Favorite audible reads:

7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Daisy Jones and the Six
Before We Were Yours
As You Wish
The Raven Boys
The Rules of Magic
Something in the Water
Harry Potter
The Night Circus
Gone Girl
Evie Drake Starts Over
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The links above are all affiliate links, so if you click through and buy we do get a few pennies from Amazon.

So, what was your favorite read from 2020? Favorite audible reads?

December 31, 2020 — Helen H Graham
Sleep and the Crafter

Sleep and the Crafter

Yesterday, we had such plans. We were going to get tons of cross stitching done before today’s podcast so we would have progress to show. I sat down, got comfortable, and immediately fell asleep. When I woke up, I picked up the fabric, got one stitch in, and fell asleep again.

This happens periodically. No matter how grand my plans are, there are times when my body lets me know, in no uncertain times, that I need to just rest. It usually cones at the end of a long and stressful stretch of work or life and I need to not get frustrated at the loss of crafting time. I will get so much more work done in a much shorter frame of time if I let my body get caught up on its rest. 

Does this ever happen to you, where your body hijacks your creative mind and just shuts it down? You are not alone!

December 29, 2020 — Helen H Graham
Making Christmas Cards

Making Christmas Cards

Yesterday, December 27th, we decided it was time to make some Christmas Cards.  We work on a totally different time frame than the rest of the world.  Trust me you’ll love getting your Christmas Card in March! 

Since we are, what some might call, late to the party we wanted a simple, quick and easy card to make.  Graphic45 is our paper guru so we went to their YouTube channel and found their Simple Christmas Card Tutorial.

Helen used a Stamperia Christmas 8x8 pad.

Mary Beth used Authentique Magical Christmas paper collection.

It was a fun way to spend the afternoon and we were so excited to actually be using our paper stash.

Do you make your own cards?  Who is your go to for inspiration?

December 28, 2020 — Helen H Graham
Soup & Cookies Kind of Day

Soup & Cookies Kind of Day

Yesterday was a cooking kind of day.  Helen made some delicious Hearty Vegetable & Tomato Rotini Soup and it was divine! Our idea of a great recipe, easy to make and delicious!!

We also made some roll out sugar cookies and iced them with varying results 😂😂.  However, the star of the day were these Tangerine Butter Cookies!  So light, airy and delicious.

Tangerine Butter Cookies
Prep: 45 minutes Chill: 30 minutes Oven: 350 F  Bake: 9 minutes per batch

3/4 Cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons tangerine or orange zest (we used closer to 3 for extra orange flavor).
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white cornmeal
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar

1. In a very large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the 1 1/2 cups sugar, the baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Beat until light and fluffy, scraping bowl occasionally.  Beat in eggs, tangerine peel, vanilla and orange extract until combined.  Gradually beat in oil until smooth.  Beat in cornmeal.  Beat in flour.  If necessary cover and chill for 30-60 minutes or until dough is easy to handle.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Place the 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl.  Shape dough into 1” balls; roll balls in sugary to coat.  Place balls 2” apart on an untreated cookie sheet.  Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, press an X into each ball of dough.

3. bake in preheated oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.  While warm, lightly press again with wooden skewer to make deeper X indentations.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.  Makes about 84 cookies.

Did you find a new favorite cookie this season?

December 23, 2020 — Helen H Graham
State of the Knitting 12/18/20

State of the Knitting 12/18/20

It’s time for this week’s State of the Knitting.  No sweaters this week but we do have an elusive FO! Aren’t hats the best?!?

A couple weeks ago Helen put out the call for hat patterns and you guys came through in spades!! At some point the list will become a blog post with links to patterns.  But the first pattern we chose was the Shirestones Hat by Mina Phillip.  We each took one of the December Fairy Tale yarns (Helen - Kyri and the Trolls and Mary Beth - The Night Sky) and cast on the Shirestones.  We were intrigued by the double brim and the warmth it will bring.

Mary Beth has made it to Day 2 of this year’s advent minis in her Secret Garden blanket. She has taken the cowl pattern and is knitting it flat with 250 stitches.  It’s going to be such a pretty blanket.

When we dyed up Moody Moon and Spooky Hallway this Fall, Helen wanted to pick a pattern that would really showcase the beautiful variegated colors of Moody Moon and the Nixe Shawl by Melanie Berg is perfect and BONUS! It looks like mermaid scales!

So there you have it, the State of the Knitting for this week.  Go forth and create, All!


December 18, 2020 — Helen H Graham
December's Toad's Tale - The End of the Journey

December's Toad's Tale - The End of the Journey

The loud voice startled Sam so much he jumped behind Digger's lynx. Peeking out between the big cat's legs, he saw a little girl sitting astride an enormous polar bear who seemed to be the one speaking (the polar bear, not the little girl.) There were also a group of penguins pulling presents on a sled and a fox in a bright red scarf. 

"Where are we?" asked Digger, although he had a pretty good idea already. 

"The North Pole" said the little girl. "We are the guardians of the tunnel but no one has used it for many many years." 

"That's because a giant tree grew over the entrance" piped in Henry. Then he added "If we're at the North Pole, does that mean that Santa is here too?" He was quickly trying to remember how many times he had gotten in trouble in the past month and whether Santa would know about them.

"Yes" said the little girl. "He's very busy at the workshop since it's December and his big day is coming up. But we can take you to see him. He's going to be very interested that you used that particular tunnel."

"Why?" asked Sam.

"Oh, he'll fill you in" she answered. "Come on, it's not far."

And she and the polar bear started walking away. The group from The Hollow hurried to follow her because they didn't want to get lost in the snow.

They stopped at a big brown building that had a wreath made out of candy canes on the door. "He's a sucker for peppermint" whispered the polar bear but his voice was so big, it came out almost as a shout. Suddenly the door popped open and there stood Santa Claus in his red work coat that was embroidered with all different colored flowers.

"Did someone say peppermint?" he laughed as he grabbed a candy cane. "Now you've made me hungry!"

"See?!" said the polar bear in his whisper/shout.

"Oh, Drufus! You really need to work on your indoor voice" chuckled Santa. "Off you go - I think Torton is looking for you."

"Now where did this group come from?" he asked the little girl. 

"The Hollow tunnel" she said. 

"Oh," he answered. "We haven't had anyone from that tunnel in a very long time. You better come in - I bet you have lots of questions". 

So everyone trooped in and found someplace to sit. Santa settled into his comfortable chair and started talking. "Long ago, I had friends and helpers all over the world that would visit me every now and again. But slowly, the visits have died off and no one knows to come anymore."

"A great big tree grew over the door to the tunnel" said Henry. "Nobody even knew the tunnel was there." 

At the same time, Sam asked "What did your helpers do?"

Santa said "Well, that would explain it. And, young Sam, my helpers spread Christmas Cheer for me."

Everyone wanted to know what Christmas Cheer was so Santa continued. "Spreading Christmas Cheer is spreading kindness. It's wanting your friend to be happy more than wanting it for yourself. It's laughing and having a good time with your friends where everyone goes home with a warm feeling inside. Then you know you've spread Christmas Cheer."

"We do that all the time" said Sam. "We just didn't know it had a name. When Mrs. Wight has a party and everyone laughs and dances, that leaves you with a warm feeling."

"And when the gnomes come to help us out" said Henry. "That makes us feel the same way."

"I'm glad the old ways haven't been forgotten" said Santa. "And now, you youngsters know to keep them growing and spreading. And maybe you'll be able to come back and fill me in on the outside world. But we need to get you back home and I'm afraid you can't use the tunnel. That only works one way. You'll have to find my brother, the North Wind, to get you back home.

Then he gave Sam a lantern (“so you don’t get lost” he said with a wink) and gave the gnomes explicit directions on how to find the North Wind. Along the way, the friends picked winter flowers and holly boughs to share with their families back home. 

After a short walk, they noticed the breezes picking up and then, there was a man standing before them surrounded by beautiful arctic animals. Sam was just in awe - he couldn’t find anything to say.

“I recognize that lantern” said the North Wind. “You’ve been to see my brother. Is it time to go home?”

Henry just nodded and suddenly there was a brief, heavy wind, and then they were back in the middle of The Hollow, as if they had never left. Only Sam had remembered to hold onto the lantern which he hoped would help him find his way back to the North Pole again soon.


All our inspiration pictures were found on Pinterest - we are not the artists of any of them (sadly.)

The End of the Journey mini skein set can be found here

December 17, 2020 — Helen H Graham
The 16 Days of Presents

The 16 Days of Presents

Helen’s birthday is December 16th and this year, I thought I’d hop on board the TikTok trend of giving multiple presents over a period of time. I first got introduced to it by a man giving his wife 30 presents for her 30th birthday and thought giving Helen 16 presents, one for each day leading up to her day, would be fun. I managed to keep it a secret from her (which was SO DIFFICULT for me) for two months!

I had originally planned to get her 4 presents for each of the crafts we’re currently enamored with - paper crafting, quilting, cross stitching, and knitting. I made the mistake of hitting the paper sites first and they kind of took over.  I tried to schedule in (manipulate her picking) three free days which would be filled with fun activities and most importantly, NO WORK. The manipulation occurred when I took a few numbers out of the picking can so she wouldn’t pick more than one in a particular week. 

Free Days:

  1. 24 hour craft day
  2. Road Trip Day
  3. Cookie Day


  1. Jolly box from Fat Quarter Shop (sold out - sorry, no link available)
  2. Tula Pink ruler pack

Stamping/Paper Crafts:

  1. Tim Holtz’s latest Distress Ink Stamp Pads in Crackling Campfire and Rustic Wilderness
  2. Tim Holtz Christmas Vellum Scenes
  3. Tim Holtz Christmas Ephemera
  4. Tim Holtz Stencils
  5. Graphic 45 Ephemera Queen pad & accessories
  6. Graphic 45 Fairie Wings Solids pack
  7. Graphic 45 Woodland Friends pad
  8. Photo Play Monterey Bay 6x6 pad
  9. Photo Play Winter Memories Pack
  10. Craft Storage Boxes
  11. Paper Storage Envelopes

I had such a fun time putting this together and watching her open each days present. We hope you enjoyed it too. Now, I have to start planning for next year because I don’t think I can top this one🤣


Mary Beth

December 16, 2020 — Helen H Graham
Terrible Cookies, Some Q&A and a Future Road Trip

Terrible Cookies, Some Q&A and a Future Road Trip

On today’s podcast we are talking terrible chocolate cookies, some Q&A and a future road trip.

Elin asked about styling the Merry Mix Up Shawl and Mary Beth tried to show some options but she was wearing a lot of clothes (very cold in the castle today) and so it was a little bulky.  Irocknits has some great photos showing what Mary Beth was talking about on the Ravelry Page.

Helen made some pretty terrible chocolate drop cookies last night and we wished they were these cookies by Paula Deen that we’ve made before.

Sharon asked about a fourth color for her Stephen West Slipstravaganza shawl.  Her three colors are When There Are Nine, Ram Dass, and Mirror Mirror and we suggest one of the following as her fourth.

Hawthorne Fairy


Lime Green Bobble


Privet Fairy

Ali finished her Dissent Cowl and it is gorgeous! She knit it with When There Are Nine and Ram Dass (links above).


Helen is wearing her Anemone Shawl.  It’s such a fun knit to learn new stitches.

Day 15 of Helen’s 16 days of birthday presents is a Road Trip!  Just in time for Snowmageddon here on the East Coast.  However, after the holidays we are headed to Princeton, NJ to do a scavenger hunt put on by Let’s Roam.

We are off to the dye pots for our last scheduled dye day of 2020.  Go forth and create, everyone and we will see you tomorrow.

December 15, 2020 — Helen H Graham
Geminid Meteor Shower & Mary Beth Calls 9-1-1

Geminid Meteor Shower & Mary Beth Calls 9-1-1

On today’s podcast, we recap a stressful weekend.  Getting our Mom to accept Christmas in the time of Covid has not been fun.  However, we did have some levity when Mary Beth accidentally called 9-1-1 and a moment or two of complete serenity watching the Geminid Meteor Shower from our back deck.

In this episode Helen is wearing the Dunas Shawl by Gretha Mensen.  She used two skeins of Bippidi Boppidi and one skein of Cinderelly in 100% Toad fingering weight.

Mary Beth is wearing the Merry Mix Up Shawl by Irocknits.

How was your weekend?

December 14, 2020 — Helen H Graham
Cookie Season Has Begun

Cookie Season Has Begun

Helen picked Cookie Day as one of her presents this week and we actually got two of them completed yesterday. Which worked and which didn't?
December 11, 2020 — Helen H Graham
English Paper Pieced Wreaths

English Paper Pieced Wreaths

We're making EPP Wreaths
Yarn Pairings from Episode 224

Yarn Pairings from Episode 224

Recently on the podcast, we've been taking your questions about pairing yarns for different patterns.  Today, on Episode 224 we discussed the following:

Mary Ann would like some suggestions for the Ora Shawl by Joanna Ignatius. She wants to knit it for her MIL who likes soft pinks, nothing too bright or burgundies.

Of course, we had a lot of suggestions:

Where the Crawdads Sing and Some Pig 

Then Karyn asked us to show some combinations for Casapinka's upcoming MKAL, The Sharon Show. Again, we didn't shy away from choices.

Thanks so much for the suggestions, we have so much fun putting the colors together.  If you have a pattern you would like to submit, just email us at toadhollownj@gmail.com.

July 22, 2020 — Helen H Graham