birthday blues and summer days

Our poor kiddo has been under the weather this week. The worst of it perfectly corresponded with his birthday, and as an added bonus he shared it with me.  Plenty of rest, vitamins and elderberry syrup and we are already on the road to recovery.

To put some sunshine back into our healing bodies, I began looking through photos from the summer and came across this Making-of a Hashtache Breakfast. Sometime last year we began project of creating food faces with hash mustaches and presenting them to Rivers for his Monday breakfast.  Just a once a week creative game. To see more, search #hashtachemonday on Instagram.

The best part of the hashtache breakfast is listening to this guy talk to me about what’s on his plate and then watching him destroy and/or eat it. 


{30 before 30} build a terrarium


Alright! Another 30 Before 30 challenge off my list. Build a terrarium. Check.

Why was this on the list? The simple answer is, because terrariums are cooooool.

Also, I don’t have a yard. In our tiny lot, the landlord carefully landscaped about six shrubs and one hasta in a mound of mulch. In the spring he scatters a few annual florals to add color. It’s lovely and simple and perfectly manicured. Our next door neighbors are covered in the garden department as well, with their patch of indoor/outdoor carpet and vibrant rows of fake flowers.

Before moving to New York I used to garden quite a bit. I volunteered as an elementary school gardener, caring for the vegetable and ornamental beds as well as container plants in their greenhouse. Jonathan and I were active members of a community garden and we built a bed in our landlord’s backyard for the building to use. Needless to say, I’ve missed it. Desperately. Building a terrarium seemed like the perfect remedy. It doesn’t require outdoor space, or even direct sunlight (depending on the type of plants), and best of all, the cats won’t mess with it.

The real question I should be asking myself is, Why didn’t I make one a long time ago?! Granted about seventy percent of the work is keeping the environment alive, but the whole project took about fifteen minutes, including clean-up. Um, seriously why didn’t I do this a million times already?


There are dozens of tutorials online, but I built mine based on my experience with orchids and the materials I could easily access in small portions– sheet moss, pearl stone gravel, orchid potting mix (basically lava rock, charcoal and a little bark) and a handful of potting soil (not pictured). Pretty basic.

This video  was one of my favorite tutorials and lead me to a landscape and terrarium shop in Brooklyn called Dig. Walking into the tiny shop is like visiting a fairy cave, or what I imagine a fairy cave would be. The lighting is dim and glass jars of various shapes and sizes, some empty, just reflecting light, and others overflowing with wild moss or spidery air plants dangle from the ceiling or the underside of shelves. Every surface is mobbed with plants and articles to maximize space. Like most NYC shops, the walkway is so narrow and the place is so beautifully packed that the easiest way to enjoy yourself without breaking anything is to get into a comfortable stance, hug yourself and then carefully look around, only moving your head and neck.

The shop keepers were beyond friendly, bestowing all sorts of advice from what plants to avoid and the general care of succulent terrariums verses orchid or moss. Unfortunately I’d already collected all the materials I needed. I guess I basically just visited for inspiration on the next one. I will make purchases then. They have miniature dinosaur figurines and the most outlandish collection of succulents!

I HAVE to build another system because I have so much leftover material despite the fact that I purchased the smallest bags available. I even have a whole plant that didn’t fit at all into this little jar with the orchid. Clearly I should cart my chosen container around the shops or at least properly measure it beforehand, because I kept enlarging this one in my mind.


Here’s a little rundown of what I did. This is no tutorial, just my experience. I’ll check back in about six months to let you know if I did this properly and the plant is thriving or not.

I properly washed the container and stones with warm water and soap, left them to dry, then wiped down the container with vinegar to kill any lingering germs that would compromise the ecosystem. I think that’s a pretty general rule for cleaning any plant containers before repotting a plant.

After everything was clean and dry, I added about an inch of pebble to the bottom, then about two or three inches of orchid mix.

terrarium4 terrarium5

I carefully untangled some of my baby orchid’s roots and stretched her out a little in her new home.  I fashioned a skewer with a clean wine cork on one end and used it to mat down the moss without disrupting the orchid too much. (Sorry not to picture it. The photos were terrible.) Then, I got really fancy and employed a paper funnel to direct a bit of potting soil in two patches where I planted  sharp-tipped miniature ivy. I would type the actual name of the plant, but my son thought it would be fun to steal the tag as soon as the plants arrived home. Now it’s long gone into the abyss of his hiding nooks, never to be seen again.

Speaking of things my son does, I’m pretty sure “Baby Hulk Hands” also cracked my only watering canister, so for now I’m using a regular funnel to direct water away from the orchid’s roots and over the ivy. A little bit goes a long way, so I shouldn’t have to water it for another month.

This was so fun and so much simpler and less expensive than I ever thought, especially when reusing an old container. Definitely glad I had the project on the list!

terrarium6 terrarium7terrarium10 terrarium11


feast fit for kings & khaleesi


It’s almost Sunday and for the millions of us who watch Game of Thrones, that means game night is almost here! I could go off on a tangent talking and hyperventilating about the show. I’m not obsessed, I promise. But I am, Jonathan and I both are intrigued by George R. R. Martin’s imagination. It’s unleashed for sure.

Uninhibited violence, complicated family trees wreaths, breath taking scenery and scary, mysterious ice beast. There is so much transpiring in that world, the fact that dragons exist in this world is kind of an after thought.

I mentioned in my previous post about how we’re learning to have grown-up parties, sans baby. Last week we hosted a GOT watch party. I whipped up a couple GOT themed dishes and our guests brought a banquet of fresh fruits and cheeses and wine, oh my! It was a feast!

Some great recipes resulted from this fine event. I didn’t mean to make up two of them on the spot, but I’m not sure I can follow a recipe to save my life. Or even crack a cookbook for that matter anymore. I plan to adjust (Sansa’s) lemon tart a little bit, but below is the pigeon pie from Joffery’s most famous episode. The direwolf was formed from a quarter of the Tassajara Whole Wheat bread recipe. I guess I do follow some recipes. More about that to come!

The pigeon pie is vegan, made with small pieces of wheat protein (gluten) instead of poultry. I didn’t want to saturate the recipe with ‘add salt,’ but I cannot emphasize enough that anyone remaking this should season according to taste as they go. That’s probably good advice for any recipe though.

If you make this, please comment. Let me know what you think.


I cut my pieces quite small for the broth and had to recut for the baking section because they glued themselves back together as they boiled and enlarged. Follow the recipe and it’ll save time. GOT_DypeGOT-pie

“Pigeon” Pie
Makes 9-inch pie

2 cups unbleached all-purose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled coconut oil
ice water

Add flour, salt and oil to a large chilled bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the oil slightly smaller than pea-sized pieces. Add 2-3 Tablespoons of water into the bowl, then work quickly to form the ingredients into a dough. Add water as needed, 1 Tablespoon at a time if the dough is too dry. Form into a ball, wrap and chill for 10 minutes.

Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Use the pie pan as a stencil and cut a circle about an inch beyond the edge of the pan. Repeat again for the second dough circle.

Gently press one of the circles into the pan and transfer the other to a sheet tray or a large plate. Keep chilled until use.

• If making the night before, be sure the wrap the crusts around their dishes and freeze. Place in the refrigerator right before making the filling. •

2 cups green or brown lentils
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon sumac
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 cups salt-free vegetable or mushroom broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound portobell0 mushrooms
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
6-8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large white or red potato, chopped

Rinse lentils, then place them in a small bowl. Fill the bowl with just enough water to cover the lentils then set aside.

Pour 5 cups of broth and soy sauce into a 3 quart pot, cover and bring to boil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together wheat gluten, garlic salt, sumac and cinnamon. Add remaining 2 cups of broth to the mixture, then mix by hand until a spongy dough is formed. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky, but has a very elastic texture. Use kitchen shears to cut 2-inch pieces of the seitan dough. Add the pieces to the boiling broth. Drop the temperature and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet or sauté pan on medium-high. Sauté leeks with a pinch of salt until they begin to soften. Add garlic and continue for 3-4 minutes or until it becomes fragrant. Toss in mushrooms with another pinch of salt. Stirring occasionally, cook mushrooms until they soften and all the liquid has evaporated, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare a sheet tray with parchment, a light touch of oil or a siltpat.

Use a slotted spoon to remove seitan from the broth. Allow time to cool until they can be handled. Cut the seitan into bite-sized chunks, about 1/2 inch. Spread on the baking sheet 1 to 2 inches apart and bake for 30 minutes. Seitan should be slightly crispy on the outside when finished.

By this time the lentils should have soaked most or all of the water in the small bowl. Place them in a small pot and add just enough of the remaining broth (from the seitan) until they are just covered. Pour the rest of the broth into another small pot.  Cook lentils uncovered on medium for about 15 minutes. They should be soft, but still retain their shape.

Add the potato to the small pot of broth. Bring to boil, then simmer until the potato is soft. Remove from heat and carefully blend until smooth. Season gravy to taste.

Increase oven temperature to 425ºF.

Mix all ingredients together.  Pour into the pie crust and cover with the additional circular-shaped dough. Press the edges together. Pierce a dime-sized hole into the center, then lightly brush the crust with olive oil. (Sprinkle with salt, optional) Bake for 30 minutes, until the crust is golden.






a homemade wedding present

wedding-1Our beautiful friends tied the knot last week. The wedding was delicious, both in a visual and edible way. I could go on for an hour just talking about the food, and I didn’t even get to taste the second half of the multi-course dinner. Instead, my date and I learned a very valuable and hard lesson–

kids do not belong at weddings.

Okay, maybe some kids, but certainly not our ambitious toddler. Not now.

Another couple, also new parents, albeit newer than us, arrived without their bubbly seven month old. Intially we thought it was a bummer that they would leave her at home, but by the end of the night we figured they deserved an award them for being wiser parents.

There is a time and a place for adults only. A wedding with long white tablecloths, glass wear, a  crowded room with guests in short skirts and killer heels is definitely adult only atmosphere. Needless to say we did have a wonderful time and took home some priceless, dark, blurry photos of Rivers chowing down on a loaf of challah the size of his head.

As much as I love dressing up our little dude and treating him like a mini adult, I need to realize that sometimes it may be best to let go, put the kid in comfy pajamas and invite a friend to watch Caillou with him instead of lugging him around like an accessory. Jonathan and I are grown ups. We’ve earned adult-only get togethers. We don’t have to take our kid everywhere just because we’re parents now.

Now onto the wedding present…


Our newlywed friends are moving from NYC to LA, and are celebrating their honeymoon along the way. This is so genius…

They shipped all of their belongings, including their adorable dachshunds with their families in California. For the next few weeks they will live on the road as they drive along the country to their final destination.

Knowing they will experience more than they’ll be able to remember, we designed this postcard/journal travel kit so that they can document their trip and send each other some love notes along the way. Postcards are tough to find these days, so we included some old (unused) ones to get them started and tools to make their own, including postage stamps.

The project turned out so cute that I’m determined to make one for us before our next adventure. I’ll have to get their feedback on how well it worked.


Jonathan totally sewed the travel bag. I’m giving credit where it’s due. Do not get confused with me! I still can’t sew and definitely need a lesson in zippers before I tackle something nice enough to gift. Anyway, I was quite busy enough with my own simple sewing project for the wedding. Check out this little bow tie. Does the fabric look familiar? It’s extra from his quiltbowtie

{30 Before 30} full-size quilt


When I was seven years old my grandma Jean sat me down and asked me to list my favorite colors. This was my pre tomboy phase, when pink, purple and yellow still reigned supreme. The crocheted chevrons of rose, sunshine-yellow and violet form the single existing token that reflects the fact that, at one point of my life, I  actually was a little princess. …cuz let’s just be honest, the tomboy phase wasn’t a phase.

Years later another handmade bedspread brightened up my bedroom- a retro quilt with carpenter’s wheels made of bright solids and paisleys. I inherited the quilt from my late great-grandmother. I didn’t know her well, and I never learned if she made it, but it gave my a sense of tradition and connection with my ancestry to use it.  The quilt followed me to college, through three dorm rooms, four apartments, across state lines, into marriage and through the the labor of my child.

Rivers isn’t old enough to tell me his favorite colors, but he will be old enough for his own bed soon, and I want the first full-size blanket to be made with love by his mama, just as my grandmother did for me. I can crochet, but just barely. It would probably take a decade and a bucket of tears before I finish a full size afghan, so a quilt seems much more realistic. I’ve always wanted to sew a quilt. Rivers is my perfect excuse…errr recipient.

It just so happened that my mom gifted me Lucie Summer’s Quilt Improv for my birthday. Summer’s technique for creating unique patterns is about finding inspiration from the environment, so I explored the neighborhood and the apartment.  I wanted something simple, but river-like. A chevron pattern with a repeating color pattern seemed perfect; caught my eye as a wave. I sketched my own version and used a Charley Harper print for the color palette.

I was absolutely nervous stepping into my first quilting store last week, the City Quilter. Unlike the other fabric stores I’ve perused, this place was run by experienced quilters. Their ornate works line the walls above the extensive fabric collection. Despite their smiles and cheerful demeanor, I felt completely intimidated. There was even a conjoining art gallery with funky abstract quilts pinned to the wall under perfectly directed track lighting and tended by a curator. The pieces were part of a traveling show, completely impressive and inspiring but did nothing for my confidence at the moment. I felt completely in over my head. A complete amateur. Duh, I am. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Armed with my pattern and a screen shot of my palette I spent two hours carefully selecting my fabrics. The store manager locked the doors to signal closing, so for some time I was alone with a quilting class that  had just let out. The students were shopping for their background fabrics. So many students and so few store clerks meant that I had time to float around the store and listen to all the tips, tricks, direction and notes the clerks and the instructor were giving to the students. The woman who helped me was a true delight I wish she had slapped some sense into me though and asked what the hell I intend to do with all of this fabric.

Note to self; trust your measurements! I definitely have enough fabric to make Rivers matching pillow cases and maybe even a jumpsuit to go with his quilt!





the purple apron


“Somehow I know we’ll meet again. Not sure quite where and I don’t know just when. You’re in my heart, so until then it’s time for saying goodbye.”
– Muppets Take Manhattan

We said goodbye this week, somewhat reluctantly, to good friends who are moving out of the concrete jungle, in pursuit of a green yard and closer proximity to family. I’ll admit I’m a bit envious

Ok, completely.

It’s tough raising a kid in a one bedroom with no yard and a 30 to 40 minute commute to the nearest patch of grass. I wish them the best and will miss them terribly. There is no other person on the planet with whom I can say our kids shared their first lunch date en utero. Silly, I know. But that mama would agree. My one-year-old, on the other hand, may have no clue that his friend is even gone. Coincidently they moved closer to my in-laws, so play dates will ensue, albeit rarely. It may take Rivers years to figure it out.

His best buddy left just a few weeks short of her birthday, so I scrambled to make an early gift. Coming down with stomach flu didn’t help, but Jonathan came to the rescue and gave me a sewing lesson as we created this little purple apron. (Glad one of us knows how to sew!) It’s incredible how tiny kids really are at this age. A couple feet of scrap fabric, a good guide and an evening was all I needed. It’s probably the nicest thing I’ve ever completed with a sewing machine, which has greatly inspired me. I started a list of projects. Perhaps I can create something other than faulty baby hats this year.

I asked Jonathan to snap a couple photos for my records, to keep myself motivated. I expected a few flat images, maybe some details. Nope. I got my own little chef modeling the apron. Kid approved.

©fourwoodthinkingapron2 Such seriousness. Already has a top chef attitude.

Cocoa-Orange Zebra Cake


A thin orange frame protects a diptych of my youngest brother on his first birthday. To the right he curiously eyes a blue cupcake, arms outstretched. In the left photograph the cupcake has disappeared, leaving its sugary evidence smeared entirely across my brother’s face. Eyes closed and grinning from ear to ear, his neck is stretched to the camera’s face. The victor’s pose.

The first smash is priceless, which is why I urged myself to make Rivers’ first cake worthwhile. My son’s first birthday cake took six months to make, give or take a couple weeks. That sounds gross right? Okay, the brainstorming began six months ago, then there was the long testing phase in conjunction with note-taking and mathematics. I believe I did more math homework than actual baking.

I could have made life easier by simply making my tried-and-true chocolate cake recipe, only adding a dash of orange zest for “seasonal” flair. (Florida’s seasonal flair. Had I stuck to local and seasonal we would have ended up with snow cones.) Pastry is my passion, thus my gift, my labor of love to my son in celebration of his first year with us.

{A quick note about the cake}
It is definitely vegan and sugar-free, but not sweetener-free. There is plenty of maple syrup. I’ve experimented with cutting the sweetener further than this recipe, but found the results lacking richness. Fruit puree made the texture a little gummy. Like Goldie Locks, I think this one is just right. The texture is soft and light with a flavor reminiscent of Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Enjoy!

Cocoa-Orange Zebra Cake
{Vegan & Sugar-free}
Yields 2, 6-inch cakes

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup canola oil or melted coconut oil
1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 Tablespoon nut milk
2 Tablespoons orange zest (about two large navel oranges)

Oil and flour cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking powder and salt. Divide the flour evenly into two bowls. Sift cocoa powder into one.

In a medium bowl, whisk together syrup, oil, vanilla and 1 cup nut milk. Combine the syrup mixture with the dry ingredients, half in one, half in the other. Mix the remaining 2 Tablespoons nut milk into the cocoa batter. Stir zest into the other. Batter should be smooth and very runny.

Spoon about 3-4 Tablespoons of orange batter into the center of each cake pan. Repeat with the cocoa batter, making a bull’s eye over the orange. Alternate the batters and repeat this step until no batter remains. The smaller each spoonful, the more stripes in the cake. (I got antsy and used large spoonfuls for the photo below)

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Cool completely before removing from the pan.

Cake should be delicate, soft and moist. Best chilled before cutting and assembling layers.

Fudgy Cocoa Frosting
{Vegan & Sugar-Free}
Yields about 3 cups
2 cups unsweetened and unsalted almond butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1/3-1/2 cup nut milk
1 1/2-2 teaspoons orange zest (optional)

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. If the mixture is too dry, add additional nut milk, 1 Tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Frosting will thicken somewhat when refrigerated, so additional nut milk may be needed before use.



©fourwoodthinkingWhat to do when your best friend has a fever and playdate is cancelled? Stay home and bake cookies with mama, that’s what.

©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking

Jonathan has been out of the house this week on a much-needed trip to visit his parents. Most of his time will be spent in a hospital, which is no place for an antsy baby who considers a floor an all-you-can-eat buffet. Until next Thursday I am a single stay-at-home parent. I would be lying if I said it’s been all sunshine and rainbows thus far. The kid knows senses something is different. Any time I use the word “no” Rivers crawls around the house calling for daddy. The cat is no better, the way he scrambles up and down the stairs and moans uncontrollably at the front door. These two are almost like two peas in a pod.

Instead of a smile, I received a questionable stare the first morning I greeted Rivers. Usually his papa does a morning routine with the potty and diaper change before Rivers is handed off to nurse. On day one he pointed to the empty space in my bed, “Dada?” Since dada hasn’t returned yet Rivers is understandably more protective over me.  Having a bodyguard is wearing me out though. On day two I went to the bedroom for a pair of socks and woke up twenty minutes later to the little guy slapping my face with baby wipes. It troubles me that I have no memory of laying down. I just crashed like a fallen tree.

By day three we were in a rhythm. When he went down for an afternoon nap I decided to forget the chores and do something for myself. Write part of a blog post or start making cookies? I’m nowhere near finished with my Tassajara Bread Book challenge, but this seemed like a good day for familiar comfort sweets.

Hamantuschen are easy to find in NYC. Their triangular shape is basically everywhere, but nothing beats an old family recipe. This is my mom’s recipe, passed down from grandmothers.  Generally hamantaschen (Haman’s Hat) is made for the Jewish holiday of Purim, but we made them for almost every holiday when I was a kid. These require a bit more work than a scoop cookie dough, but I promise the slightly sweet dough is fail-proof. The rest is just fun. The trick to a perfect triangular hat is not to overfill the center and the firmly pinch the corners until they stick.

These are going to be so much fun to make in the future with Mr. Little Hands. Until then he can watch from the sideline and tell me all about the dreams he had while napping.


Makes about 35, 3-inch cookies

2 eggs
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. fruit preserve, poppy seed paste or nut filling

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly oil baking sheets or prepare with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.

In another large bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Stir wet ingredients into the dry, until a stiff dough forms.  Gently knead dough, if needed, to fully incorporate ingredients. If dough is too sticky to roll out, refrigerate 10-15 minutes.

On a clean and lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut dough into 3-inch rounds.

Drop 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Shape into a triangle by folding one side at a time or by pinching the three corners.  Bake 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown.


If these last two photos look vaguely familiar to some of you, good. My camera battery unexpectedly expired, so I pulled these from my old food blog.

and one to grow on


Everyone warned us  how children “grow up so quickly.” Jonathan swears they were right, that it feels like yesterday when I was laboring our son into the world. For me that is not at all the case, or it hadn’t been until this week. The in-between birthday parties week. The week that started on his actual birthday, back when he was still a baby, before he learned to toddle to our outstretched arms, or throw up his hands and say “ahhhh-done” at the end of a meal.

Uh, what?

What happened to my baby and who is this new kid?

I’m pleased we decided to throw a party the weekend after his birthday.  We went back and forth for the longest time, but in the end we realize our son is a social butterfly. He vies for the attention wherever he can get it, from our friends to strangers on the subway. If only I carried a cup, I’m sure his college would be paid already.  The extra week between celebrations gave him a grace period to learn a few steps to impress his guests. A crowded room full of adults cheering him along as he walked and no camera out to catch the moment. I don’t know which part of that is more impressive. First steps certainly, but twelve smartphones all tucked away is also surprising. Talk about living in the present moment! I was so engaged in conversations, catching up with friends, that I didn’t even think to photograph the cake with the birthday boy before it disappeared! Not that it would have mattered. I think he took one bite from someone’s plate before he darted off to play with (another baby) his buddy.

I’d been looking forward to the first cake smash since day one. Luckily I had a couple test cakes stored in the freezer. I cut the size slightly and frosted it for a photo op the following day. Unlike the snowstorm that dumped all over us during the party, the sun beamed through the kitchen and granted a pleasant glow to the morning. Like it was meant to be.

It’s almost impossible to take photos of this guy nowadays. Everything is a blur unless he’s eating. The one activity where he sits and focuses. Funny though how perplexed and grumpy he appears when he’s focused. ©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking ©fourwoodthinking

©fourwoodthinkingRecipe coming soon!