Friday, January 20, 2012

Princess Dollhouse

This doll house is so special to me! A family member from both sides of my family have given me such a wonderful keepsake.
History: my cousin, Doug Costanzo, made it for his daughters back in 1975. It's huge. It's made of plywood and has wheels under it so you can move it around. The roof opens up to reveal an attic and both side walls open on big piano hinges so you can access the rooms.
His daughters and nieces had a lot of fun playing with it over the years. He never finished the exterior, because the kids were happy with it the way it was. Then his grandchildren played with it until they outgrew it.
 Fast forward to 2009. He gave it to me for my granddaughter who had just turned 3. I have a large dining room and can accomodate a doll house of this gargantuan size! He and his wife, Joan, also gave me the plastic furniture and people for my little one to play with. Waiting for the day she's big enough to play with them without breaking them are the wooden furniture pieces his kids had acquired over the years. My granddaughter, who will be referred to as "the princess" from here on, absolutely loves this doll house!
My cousin, Nancy, came to visit and seeing this beautiful doll house in it's unfinished condition said "I think my dad would be happy to finish it for you". Well, her dad, my uncle, is 94 years old! Even though he is a guitar maker and is in amazing shape, I didn't want to ask him. This is a job for superman!
Well, Uncle Lou called me after Thanksgiving and offered to do it. I told him I didn't care if it took a year. My husband and I delivered it and three weeks later he called to say it was finished!
I was blown away. He made every bit of the siding, shingles, railings, door and window frames, porch decking, gingerbread, lattice and shutters! Most people would order the supplies from a catalog, he created them from scrap pine. The windows and door openings inside are all trimmed out. He carefully painted each piece before installing. He made miniature nails from straight pins that belonged to his MOTHER! My uncle will be 95 in March. He is truly a one-of-a-kind. Go on You Tube and search "Lou Mancuso Guitar Maker". My son, Tom, did a short documentary about him.
I will treasure this doll house forever and I know the princess will, too.
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dutch Oven Bread

After reading the NY Times article about how to make artisan bread like they make in Europe in your own home, I decided I had to try it.
It's called No Knead Dutch Oven bread. I actually did knead it a little because I like to, but I believe the results would turn out just as good if you didn't. When I read the recipe, I couldn't believe that it only called for 1/4 tsp. of dried yeast! It has very few ingredients. The preparation couldn't be easier. However, you have to plan ahead.
 It rises for 18 hrs. In other words, you make the dough the first day and let it sit at 70 degrees for about 18 hrs before forming your boule and then allow it to raise another 2 hrs. before baking. You bake it in a dutch oven that can handle a temperature of 450 degrees! With the lid on, it mimics the humidity filled ovens that the pros use to get a nice thick and crisp crust with an airy crumb inside.

I've baked bread on a stone. I've put water filled pans inside or sprayed the oven to get the steam you need to make Italian bread crust. I have a bread machine. Forget all that! This method is so much better and the results are as good as any artisan bread companies around here and we have a well known one in our area! Stop paying $4. for a loaf of bread.  What's cheaper to make than this? Three cups of flour, a tiny bit of yeast and some salt.  Of course, you have to factor in the high heat of the oven for almost an hour, but it helps heat the house.  I can't wait to do it again.
 The dutch oven I used is a Lodge #10 which is only 4 quarts. You need a bigger one to bake a large loaf. Since mine was so small, I divided the dough in half and made two smaller boules. Here's the link to the method I used. You must try it this winter!

PS  I just baked two more loaves.  I covered them in sesame seeds this time. Wow!

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Maier Home

This is the second painting I did of the Maier home in West Shokan. I tried to show how it looks in autumn. I'll always remember Marcel sitting on that front porch watching people come and go. Sometimes there would be deer under the apple tree.
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Long Time

It's been too long since I posted anything on this blog! I had intended to awhile ago, but two of the paintings I finished were gifts for people and I didn't want to spoil any surprises!

A good friend asked me to do them for each of her children. The house belonged to their grandparents.  I didn't want to paint them the same, so I chose two different views and different seasons. Both are 8 x 10, stretched canvas and framed in black. The one above is the summer view.