Sunday, November 28, 2010

And So Goes Life....

I was reminded the other day that life is very busy and it seems to be passing by at the speed of light. And then I checked this blog and realized I have not posted since AUGUST!!!! Yikes. I won't even make excuses or promises to be better. Instead I will tell you what has been happening at Casa Crazylife in the passing months..

School: I am back in school taking art related courses right now. At this point I am going back to what I had hoped to do before my oldest was born. The semester is winding down, but it has been a mad dash to get everything done. I am taking a 2D design class, a life drawing class and a second jewelry class. I've loved them all but it seems the 2D class has swallowed a huge portion of my time this semester. It has been VERY labor intensive, but I think it has made me take a look at several design principles that will help me in the fine art area. My life drawing class has been fantastic too. I am going to do a project class next semester in the life drawing mode, so I am looking forward to seeing where this takes me. The jewelry class has been interesting in that I have been learning some basic lapidary skills that I have REALLY enjoyed in addition to the silversmithing.

On the home front, the twins have been REALLY busy this semester with football, which just ended. From there we go straight into wrestling season. Only one of the boys is wrestling this year. School and other stuff keeps both of them really busy, and us too!

My oldest and his girlfriend are living with us temporarily while they look for jobs and a place of their own. It has been a big adjustment for all of us, but it really is nice to have him closer to home. That said, I do miss going up to Iowa. I really loved it in Iowa City. I might have to road trip there next year if I can find time in between my other planned trips to Washington, Texas and New Mexico.

I had hoped to accomplish so much more over the summer in regards to getting the house in order and finally decorated, but that lagged a lot. After the rush of the holidays are over, I am going to regroup and get some projects lined out to start the process. Painting was #1 on the list, but that is going to have to go to the end of the line. So instead I will focus on cosmetic stuff and organizing. We've been in this house for 2 years and still have a garage full of STUFF. Time to unload and lighten up a bit!

So there you have it--in a nutshell! I will make an effort to keep updated over the next couple months and not be such a bad blogger! LOL.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cuban Bread...BIG YUM!

While my son and I were in Kansas City for a handmade pasta class at the Culinary Center of Kansas City, I went to Whole Foods Market and picked up an August copy of Tastebud magazine. It is a free magazine distributed in Kansas City and it is always packed with interesting recipes and shopping ideas that revolve around food. This month, there is a recipe for "Cuban bread"  that caught my attention (since you know what a bona fide carb and baking freak I am) and haunted me. So last night I had to just give in to the temptation and bake that bread!

OMG!! It was fabulous!
Here is the recipe-it was a reprint from a Jan/Feb 1996 issue of a Cook's magazine column by Jane and Michael Stern. Darn it--now I am going to have to hunt down a back issue of that magazine! However, here is the recipe. Try it, I promise it's slightly sourdough tang will hook you on the first bite that you take . As for me, I'm making more this weekend, I want to teach the kids how to bake a good loaf of bread and this one fits the bill. Do remember to mist the oven--it does make a difference in the crust. This crust is simply divine!!

Cuban Bread

1 pkg yeast ( I used 1Tblsp. bulk yeast)
2 Tblsp. sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water (110-112 degrees)
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour (I used bread flour)
2 tsp salt (I used sea salt)
1/3 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and the sugar in 2/3 cup warm water. when foamy, whisk in 1 cup of the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 4 hours in a warm place. (I let mine sit for about 6 since I had errands to run)

Stir in the remaining 2/3 cup water. Combine 3 cups of the flour with the salt and beat into the yeast mixture. Add veggie oil and beat until dough just holds together. (I let the dough hook on my KitchenAide mixer do the job for about 5 minutes). Turn the dough onto a floured surface and let rest while you clean and oil the bowl.

Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic, 5-6 minutes, adding only enough flour to make the dough workable and soft. (again, I let my dough hook do that job..I love my KitchenAide!), Return the dough to the oiled bowl and turn the dough once to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours. (I started this whole process late at night, so I covered the dough and sat it in the fridge overnight to slow rise. In the morning I set the covered bowl on the counter to come to room temp and rise more--it does add a lot to the flavor)

Lightly oil a french bread pan (I used a cookie sheet since I don't have a french bread pan) and punch down dough. Divide into 2 parts and roll each part into a 16-18 inch rope. Put in the prepared pan and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Slash each loaf with a very sharp knife 2-3 times along the top and mist the loaves with water (I also misted the heck out of the oven. My hair is permanently frizzed) .

Bake in a preheated oven until the loaves are light and golden--20 to 25 minutes, misting them again when they have been in the oven for 7 minutes (again, I can't follow instructions, so I misted mine a couple more times, just to buck the system.  I know-I'm such a rebel...)

Spread with butter, gorge yourself until you can't move and grin like the cat that ate the canary. THIS IS SERIOUSLY GOOD STUFF!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Where Did the Summer Go..Again...

I can't believe school starts for both the boys and I in the next couple weeks. Where did summer go? It seems like time flew by so quickly that I really didn't have time to do a lot of anything, but the reality is that is didn't really "fly", I just didn't get a whole heck of a lot done this summer. I guess I need to step up and review my list before the cold weather sets in. Some things MUST get done, like pulling the old wallpaper off the family room, sanding the walls smooth, then priming and painting...along with some of the furniture refinishing projects I have laying around the I am hoping to get a measure of redecorating done.

I have three art classes this semester and I'm really looking forward to all of them. My life drawing is the one class that is making me nervous since I tend to be a perfectionist and want to draw things "right"..having a model to draw from is going to be exciting, but I get caught up in the little things like wanting to get it all correct the first time around. I am going to work on not getting frustrated and being OK with imperfection while I get the process down....I guess that is going to be a challenge, but I think I'm going to really enjoy the opportunity to practice this. I also have another jewelry class and a 2 dimensional design class, which will be fun. I feel fortunate that all the instructors are people that I am really comfortable with. I really wish this was a 4 yr college, I would definitely stay, even with the 50 minute daily commute! I have to work on putting together a portfolio of work in the coming semesters so that I can transfer over to Wichita State University's art department. I want to transfer over to either the printmaking or the painting department. Printmaking (relief or intaglio) is my love, but lately I am finding that I like oil painting too. I'm nowhere near mastering it or even being proficient in it yet, but I really enjoy it. We'll just have to see where the path leads, I guess. I would love to have studio space where I could just spread my stuff out and not have to worry about getting paint and charcoal on my light carpeting..hopefully that comes into fruition this semester.

On my reading shelf this month is "The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken..." I bought this book several months back when I got interested in making my own ravioli and pastas. In a week, my oldest and I are going to Kansas City to learn how to make homemade pasta at the Culinary Center of Kansas City--the same place I went earlier this summer with one of the twins to learn how to make sushi (which we have become sushi making fools around here!)...There are SO many classes that they are offering this Fall that I'd love to take, but alas, the drive in combination with school and home schedules make it impossible to take the really cool classes they offer during the week. A lot of their classes are taught by KC professional chefs, so they are the least busy during the week since Friday-Sat is the big time for restaurants..KCCC does have a couple classes on the weekends that I might take though. I guess I'll have to wait until summers for now. What I like about this book so far is it details not only her quest for the techniques and the recipes that she is craving, it also highlights the fundamental hunger of connections to family. In her case, as in many families, those connections are strained. So far I am only halfway through the book, but am finding that I completely understand where she came from, is coming from and hoping to get back to. I should be finishing the book this week and will give a more in depth review. So far, it's a keeper.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Inspiration and Perspiration

It hit 107*F today.

I knew it was coming, it always does this time of year, but for some reason I was clinging to the denial part pretty heavy. The chickens have NOT been happy about the heat and have been pretty verbal about letting me know they are going on strike until the coop has air conditioning. Yep. It's getting pretty ugly here at Casa Crazylife.

 I am just hanging out in the house waiting for the heat to pass and looking forward to school starting in less than a month. I have 3 classes this semester and they are all art classes, so this is going to be a great semester for creativity.

A series of paintings I am working on of my morning coffee cup. I read of an artist that took the same object and painted it 100 times in different colors and settings. Not sure if I can stay with it for 100 paintings, but I'm having fun with it right now.
I did get to learn a few new things while I've been off for summer break--I took an oil painting class at Wichita Center for the Arts and got to play with oils. I have worked with acrylics and watercolors before, but never oils. I love it!! I have amassed a ton of oil paints and canvas/gessoed boards to paint on and have been trying to do a little painting every day to get myself more familiar with the medium. I have also started collecting a few books to help me along on the subject, which I will introduce over the coming posts. One book that I absolutely adore, but is out of print is "60 Minutes to Better Painting" by Craig Nelson. He has a DVD out which looks to be a really good version of the book also. I bought the book on secondary market and then was shocked to see it skyrocket in price. Hopefully the publisher will reprint the book since it is a great reference. I like the idea of doing LOTS of 60 minute paintings to get proficient and learn what to edit and what to keep.  

At the beginning of the summer Cute Man and the boys got 2 really great raised bed built for me and we discovered that they eat of a huge amount of soil. I think each one took close to 30 bags of peat hummus and top soil to get filled! Finally after we filled them, I went wild planting seeds.

That is where I ran into trouble.

In all the excitement of getting my seeds in the ground, ONE OF US (that'd be ME) didn't mark what was planted there. Did you know that there are a lot of plants that appear to be weeds? Yep. After pulling what turned out to be stuff I planted, I have decided that next year the planting beds will be clearly marked and I won't put so much in them. Cucumbers and melons become monstrosities in no time at all. Plus--when you plant Brandywine or Cherokee Purple tomatoes--PUT CAGES AROUND THEM EARLY!! They grow to be huge and flop over if not supported.

Lessons learned.

The hard way.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Plans for the Summer

Hope everyone's July 4th celebrations went off with a bang!

It was quite noisy around our little town last night with all the fireworks exploding around us. Cute man and the twins got in on the action by stocking up on some of the good stuff too. The dogs and chickens did not seem to share the excitement of the celebration though. The dogs were firmly planted in the house and the chickens took to the coop as soon as the first bang!
Summer has been slowly moving along this year. So far, the biggest highlight has been the sushi making class one of my son's and I took in Kansas City at the Culinary Center of Kansas City. It was a 3 hour drive, but it was worth EVERY mile. Their classes always are! In August, my oldest son and I have signed up for a handmade pasta class. One of the things we always do when we are up there is hit the Asian grocery stores and the Whole Foods Market. If we had one of these in Wichita, I would be in absolute heaven!! I always stock up on their 365 brand stuff and their bulk foods when I hit Kansas City. Last time I was in town, I noticed they had ground bison. YUM! Thinking a couple pounds (or 10) will have to come back with us when I go in August! I did see an article in the Wichita newspaper recently that mention Whole Foods might consider coming to Wichita--that would make this city HEAVEN! We have a nice city, not as big as Kansas City, but definitely a very easy place to live, and having a Whole Foods where I could get to would make it complete. I would probably do the bulk of my shopping there and at Dillon's since I tend to try to stay away from Wal-Mart most of the time.

In addition to the pasta class, I am teaching a canning class in El Dorado this September. I love to can and was approached by a lady about teaching a class to beginners. Since I love sharing the "gospel of the canning jar" to everyone, of course I said yes! LOL. We'll be doing jams and probably some salsa. Hopefully my garden gets it together and starts spitting out tomatoes in time! If not, I'll figure out a plan B and hit the Farmer's market.

Friday, June 04, 2010


This is going to be a busy summer! My 4 year old grand nephew is going to spend a large portion of the summer with us. The twins are now 16 years old, so it has been a while since we've had a little one in the house.

Things that have fallen by the wayside:
1. Sleeping in : little man wakes up no later than 6:30 a.m.....and there is no going back to bed after that.

2. the ability to go into the restroom and have a moment of peace and guys with kids remember this, I'm sure!

3. Housecleaning....I had hoped to catch up with this during the summer. Might have to be creative with this one. The house needs to have a really good Spring cleaning!

We are having to work with little man on amusing himself and not getting into stuff he knows he is not supposed to get into. We've also had to work quite a bit on not talking back to adults, spitting and other things he gets away with at his house. He is here because niece says she can't handle him, but once he gets a strict and firm routine, he settles down. At some point this summer I am going to go to my niece's house to teach her how to be a Mom. She didn't have a role model since her Mom was (and still is) pretty non functional in that area. It does make me realize the importance of role models for our kids. If kids do not have a good role model, it is often hard for them to succeed in public and at home. When you are raising your kids, you are also shaping the world your grand kids will live in. It is not a task to be taken lightly!

On the flip side, I did get our blackberry bushes and grapes planted, along with 2 raised beds. One of those beds has rhubarb, asparagus, and a variety of lettuce and tomatoes. I had put in strawberries, but the dogs dug them up. So we finally got smart and surrounded the raised beds with chicken wire to keep both the dogs and cats out. The other beds have tomatoes, cucumbers, Thai melons and marigolds. After the seeds sprout, I will thin them and transplant to a couple other raised beds so that we have more. I am looking forward to canning our own salsa and tomato sauces this summer. I need to put some bell peppers in the ground this week, but after that I am pretty much done for the planting season. One of the things that surprised me is the amount of soil it took to fill the raised beds! The next ones will not be as deep or as wide!

Another activity this season is an oil painting class at the Wichita Center for the Arts. I have been wanting to take an oil class for a while and decided that this is the right time...This was before we found out we were getting my grand nephew for the summer, but I decided that we will work around that and I stayed in the class. However, finding the place to paint without having little man's hands on the canvas might be a challenge.

The one thing I have NOT been able to do is get any knitting done. I have a pair of socks that have been on the needles FOREVER! I want to get them done soon. I also miss my two favorite yarn shops: Twist in Wichita and The Newton Beadery in Newton. Have to figure out how to make time to knit!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


My beautiful, smart husband graduated with his Master's degree in aerospace engineering this past week. I'm so proud of him! He has worked really hard. The day before my cute man's graduation, our friend Cindy graduated with her Ph.D in Human Factors engineering. GREAT JOB ERIC AND CINDY!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A little time away?

Yep--it has been quite a while since I have actually sat down and blogged. Bad blogger, I know. I had good intentions and high aspirations, but you can see how that turned out. So, here is an update on everything at Casa CrazyLife:

1: I went back to school to work on an art degree. This is the degree I had originally wanted to complete before I had my oldest son. At 45 years old, I am going back and working on this. Right now I am enrolled in a drawing 1 class and a Jewelry 1 class and loving it. That is part time--6 hours, but it fits well with the fact I am still a full time taxi for 2 teenagers who are very involved in sports and other school activities. Since they have their licenses and will be sharing a car next semester, it will free my schedule up a bit. I plan to take a life drawing, a 2d design class and jewelry 2....My school is a junior college and I am completely in love with it, but after I finish up some other classes I will have to transfer to the four year university here. The studio classes will probably not transfer, but they have been really beneficial to me. I have learned so much this semester that has helped my drawing! And I have conquered my fear of acetylene torches in my jewelry has been a learning semester for me. When I transfer to the university, I will go in under the printmaking department. I love printmaking--relief printing and drypoint in particular, along with etching, but I will be glad to learn it all.

2: Hubby graduates with his master's degree (in engineering) this May. It will be nice to have him home on Tuesday and Thursday nights..LOL. I'm sure he is really ready to graduate also, but for different reason. Thinking the Tuesday and Thursday nights were quiet times for him.

3. Oldest son moved from Tipton, Iowa. He is only 3 hours away right now. However, we haven't had time to visit him yet. After the school season ends, we will hopefully have more time.

That is a brief rundown -- there has been a lot more going on to keep me busy and away from blogging...time to get back and start blogging regularly again.