{food face photography} green goop

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I’m really enjoying this little series of Food Face Photography with Rivers. He is a bit pickier during mealtime, showing me exactly what he doesn’t want by swatting it to the floor in the most serene, carefree manner. I can’t even get upset, because he looks up at me in such a matter-of-fact way, as if to say, “I’m sorry, was that wrong?”

This is when I cook his absolute favorite, sweet potato, and any additions that usually hit the hardwood. I blend them so that they can’t be separated.

He takes a bite.

From his expression I can tell that he recognizes the flavor of the sweet potato, his reliable friend. But wait, there is something more to it. I haven’t tricked him. I tell him the truth. Though in his eyes, my matter-of-fact blah blah blah must sound something like, “I’m sorry, was that wrong?”

{30 before 30} build a terrarium

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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the little space captain

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He’s totally outgrown his spaceman phase, so finding these on my computer this evening made my heart melt. No one ever showed him how to do this, just one day he started marching around the house with blurry bag vision. We called it his ‘space helmet.’ No worries, it’s not plastic, but a stiff vinyl, and he was never unsupervised. And now it’s back to holding toys.
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feast fit for kings & khaleesi

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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.

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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
{Vegan}
Makes 9-inch pie

PIE CRUST
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. •

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
salt

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…

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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.

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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

food face photography: first pb & j

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“Hey go.”

He’s so good at sharing food. Should you decline he’ll gobble up the entire piece as quickly as possible to show you what you’re missing, or fling it to the floor without batting an eye. Ah, life with a toddler. There is nothing else like it, except maybe life with a puppy. Because, let’s be real, if I don’t clean up the floor before he gets down, he will. Nom nom.

 

austin texas t’s {family portrait}

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Remember that trip to Austin we took back in October? Remember that awesome friend who wrote this heartfelt poem about our visit? She is reason enough to move to the great city and now we look the part with Austin t-shirts.

What better motive for a family portrait than gift like this? Not that we need an excuse, but taking a family photo requires some planning.  …cuz one of us doesn’t always like to look directly at the camera.

So thank you, Meredith for this challenge.

austinfamily3Hi Dog.austinfamily4See the camera?austinfamily5It’s right there.austinfamily6See?austinfamily7Dog’s back.austinfamily2Oh hey.

{30 Before 30} enjoy a spa day

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I did it!  Time to pull out my 30 before 30 list and scratch off the first item!

Enjoy a spa day, check.

I hesitate to call it a spa day though. I should have listed “enjoy a spa treatment,” because that’s what I did. As a mother, that’s probably the most I’ll get; one hour of bliss followed by hours of hair-pulling and solo baby-wrangling. No complaints here though. I almost proposed to the masseuse once she started on my feet.

I didn’t think I had body issues, but as the time ticked closer to my appointment I realized I was becoming more and more anxious about whether or not I would need to be naked. It’s not really the idea of being nude in front of a stranger that bothers me, but silly things, like …where do I put my clothes? Will my feet stink if I don’t wear socks with my shoes? Do I need to cover specific places or will the masseuse take care of that? Jonathan assured me I wouldn’t need to be naked. I gifted him a professional massage last year right after Rivers was born, so I assumed he would know. Wrong.

I did need to get undressed, but everything turned out just fine. I wore socks, so I don’t think my feet were smelly. I threw my clothes on the floor in one folded heap, closed my eyes and enjoyed the dim, aromatic atmosphere and the far off sounds of running waters and throaty hums emanating from a tiny boom box in the corner. The only awkwardness came early on when I was checking in. I guess there must have been a little misunderstanding when I first arrived. A male stylist approached me.

“Are you ready for your wax?”

“Ah. No. I’m here for the spa treatment.”

“Oh. You’re not here for an eyebrow wax?” (Nods at my eyebrows with a slight concerned expression.)

Oh boy. I thought thick brows were in this season?

No matter. I wear my rogue German-Italian-Etc hairiness with pride.

 

I didn’t imagine I would check this one off so soon. Thank you Anna for being an incredible friend and pampering me!

food face photography

foodface-huhfoodface-fork foodface-seriousfoodface-hurrayfoodface-angryfoodface-duckfacefoodface-smile1 foodface-smile3 foodface-smile4Eat and socializing. The dinner table is about the only place I can photograph my little one without being barraged for the camera. I can’t sneak a picture of him doing anything else without distracting him and inciting a fight. All the photos turn out fuzzy anyway, as if I were trying to capture Bigfoot on film. Unlike the mysterious Bigfoot, I can entice this little fuzzy creature with food. He’s like his mama.

Check out the “artwork” in the back.

 

 

{30 Before 30} full-size quilt

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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!