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Henslee Farm Adventures

An Early Christmas Present From The Past

Holli HensleeI have been sewing since I was a little girl. I learned on my mother’s machine and when I was a senior in high school, I received a sewing machine for a gift. It served me well sewing pillows, curtains, skirts, dresses, and many other things. However after 20 years, I had more trouble with it than not. I wanted to sew, but it just wouldn’t work for me. My parents let me borrow one of their portable sewing machines, but still it wasn’t what I wanted.

My dear husband was ready and willing to buy the perfect sewing machine for me. I started looking for a sewing machine by doing research on different models. I even tried a couple of my cousin’s machines, one which I really liked. I knew I didn’t need a lot of features and I wasn’t crazy about the computerized ones, I knew I just wanted a good serviceable sewing machine.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, my mother told me that she had a present for me, but didn’t know if I would like it or not. I could tell she was excited and nervous about it. Finally she spilled the beans. They had bought an antique sewing machine for me. After purchasing it, they took it to a shop and got it repaired, oiled and cleaned. She said that it was mid-century but not sure of the year. I was so excited about the thought of an antique sewing machine, but also wary of what kind of features it may or may not have.

Singer Slant-O-Matic

I went to my parents' the next day and they showed me the machine. I immediately fell in love. I spent an hour poring through the book and couldn’t believe all that it does. Plus it came with a lot of attachments. It did everything that I wanted it to!

Singer Slant-O-Matic Top Open

I immediately looked online to find out about my sewing machine. The book it came with called it a Singer Slant-O-Matic 500. I found out it is a 1961 sewing machine and it was nicknamed the “Rocketeer” because of its sleek design.

I love that it is in its own cabinet and when opened, it has a small work space/table. If I bought a new sewing machine I would have had to buy a table for it to sit on.


What is great about this machine is that it sews like a dream! One of my favorite features is the knee action. My mother’s machine had a knee action and that is what I learned on. However if I don’t want to use the knee action, it does have a foot pedal that I can use instead.

Foot Pedal

I am so glad that I received this gift early. I am using it to make Christmas gifts. One thing that I have made is a key ring and lip balm holder.

Key Ring and Chapstick Holder

I can’t wait to try out all the features and sew many other projects with this machine. I couldn’t imagine a new machine being any better!

Baking Homemade Rolls for the Holidays

Holli HensleeI love this time of year, with the holidays coming up and the cooler, OK colder, weather starting. This is the time of year when I love to bake. The wonderful smells that fill my house and the warmth from the stove evokes memories of my childhood. I have fond memories of making candy, pies and other goodies with my mom and grandma. I was so fortunate that they both saw the importance of passing on cooking skills as well as family recipes to me and my sisters. This is a tradition that I am continuing with my children.

As long as I can remember, my mom has always made homemade rolls for our family gatherings. This wasn’t just for holidays, but anytime the family got together for one of our big meals. I love her homemade rolls, and as soon as I was old enough, I wanted her to teach me how to make them. At first all she would let me do was roll the dough into balls. As I got older, she let me mix the ingredients, and then finally she entrusted me with the full recipe. Now, I am the maker of the homemade rolls for our family gatherings, and I want to share our recipe with you.

I used to be intimidated by baking yeast bread. I was so scared that I would kill the yeast, or maybe it wouldn’t activate at all. There is a science to the process, but once I relaxed and stopped worrying about it, it became easy. Now I can say that yeast bread is my favorite thing to make. I make white bread, wheat bread, hamburger buns, cinnamon rolls, etc. But the easiest of these are the dinner rolls. I think it is because I make the dough the night before and put it in the fridge for the first rising. It makes the rest of the process go by quickly. The full recipe is repeated below.

To begin dissolve 2 packages yeast, or 1  1/2 tablespoons yeast, in 2 cups warm water (105-115 F). After the yeast has dissolved, add 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons salt. Mix well.

Add 3 cups flour, 1 egg, and 1/4 cup melted shortening. (Note: My mother always used butter-flavored shortening when she makes them. I have done this, but I have also tried using butter, lard and coconut oil. My favorite is the butter.)

Beat well then add 3 more cups flour, mix well and let stand at least 2 hours, or overnight in the fridge. 

Dough night before
What the dough looks like before first rising in the fridge.

Remove dough from fridge. You can see how much the dough has risen.

Dough next morning
Here is the dough after leaving it in the fridge overnight.

From here, you can divide the dough up into same size balls, or you can just pinch off the amount of dough you need. If I am making them myself, I just pinch off the amount of dough I need and make a roll. If the children are helping, which they usually do, I divide the dough up between them. My children love rolling the dough into balls. I make my rolls about the size of a golf ball.

Dough size
This is the size of the rolls that I make.

As I am making them into rolls, I dip them in melted butter. My mother always did this, and I love the golden brown that they become and the buttery taste because of it. Or you could just wait until right before you put them in the oven and brush the tops with butter. However, I love tradition, so I stick to what my mom did.

Put the rolls into a greased pan and let rise. With this recipe it makes around two 9-by-13-inch pans.

First rolls in pan
You can see the size of the rolls in relation to the pan before the second rising.

Now you need to let the rolls rise again. My favorite trick is to put my oven on warm just until it is preheated. Then I turn it off. I set the pans of rolls in the warm oven and let them rise that way. My kitchen tends to be a bit drafty so this is a perfect way to let them rise in a warm place. Once they have doubled in size, about 1 hour or a little longer, take them out of the warm oven.

After last rising
This is the size of the rolls after they have risen a second time.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown. After taking them out of oven, try and let them cool, but not too long. They taste the best when nice and warm.

Rolls hot out of oven
Golden brown and ready to eat.

And there you have it. My mom’s homemade roll recipe. The photos you see above are from the rolls I made for Thanksgiving. They were devoured in no time.

Mom’s Homemade Roll Recipe

2 packages yeast (or 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast)
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups flour, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup melted shortening (or butter or coconut oil)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. After the yeast has dissolved, add sugar and salt. Mix well.

Add 3 cups flour, egg, and shortening. Beat well, then add remaining flour, mix well and let stand at least 2 hours (or overnight) in fridge.

Make into rolls. Let rise in a greased, 9-by-12-inch pan.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

After they have risen, bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

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