Every fall I begin to think about the kids birthdays. I contemplate the things I may want to make for them as gifts, and try to come up with a few party ideas so that when I ask them what kind of party they were hoping to have it isn’t so open ended. I prefer to throw out a few options and let them choose. Its less overwhelming that way. In the past this technique has worked great, but like most aspects of parenting as soon as you think you’ve got it down, everything changes.
When I approached Isaac with the idea of a ‘dance party’ with a DJ and a bunch of friends he looked at me like I was crazy. The response was, ‘Mom, I just want a small party with a few friends.’ And so back and forth we went until we settled on the idea of the Magic Castle.
Isaac chose three friends from class and a few others of all ages to join him to celebrate his birthday. We came up with the idea of this invitation together. He wanted to send a magic wand, and then drew the invitation that I would then layer the information on top of.
It was easily one of the most fun and most simple parties we have hosted. I loved having such an intimate group, and the Magic castle was entertaining for the kids as well as the adults – a rare find.
And so we provided the wands, some cards, magic top hats, mustaches, a nice brunch and a really fun morning. Next year I am going to let Isaac give me his options first. He clearly has a very good sense of who he is and what he wants at this point. As a mother, what could be better.
Oh December… how you push me every year. I usually start in August in preparation for all of the birthdays and holidays that collide each December. Every year I try to simplify even more, and although it has been helping diminish a lot of the unneeded pressure, it still always seems like a whole lot of work. Come January I am ready for a big long exhale.
The kids knew early on what they wanted as their birthday gifts this year. Isaac asks me all year long to knit him things, and I often don’t have time until it is birthday season, so he had been talking to be about this green Robot for a long time. He was having a hard time deciding between the Robot and the bird, so of course I couldn’t resist making both as a surprise.
For Coco it was the horse. She rides horses each week, and loved this guy when she came across it in a book I have. The horse in the book was brown, and more traditional in color. I thought she may like pony sparkle feet. I haven’t yet figured out how to secure the mane on this horse tightly enough that the yarn doesn’t continue to come out. She may need a trip to my grandmothers house for a tune up. In the meantime Coco is too afraid to play with her because she feels like she will break her.
And although this is unrelated, a few fun photos of the small fisher price wooden people I found from places all over the country to use as wrapping for this years holiday gifts. David’s parents had these as toys when he was a boy and his father used to make up stories with them. One of the main characters was ‘Percy Grab Grab’, something David has never forgotten. David’s father has shared Percy with my children, and I loved the idea of adding to their collection.
Each night of Hanukkah they received a different book, and attached was a wooden figurine.
We now have 18 new characters for our stories. Ive seen the kids use them in the buildings they make, legos they build with, and stories they tell. I adore them.
Somehow Coco is four. I can’t remember life before her, but it seems like she was just born. Once you have children time passes in a very different way, and it is something that I haven’t yet gotten a handle on. I did know that Coco talked about her birthday party ideas from the time she was three and a half. They were plentiful and specific.
The two main factors were the cake, and Rapunzel. On the way home from school one day Coco told me that she wanted a strawberry cake with strawberry icing but without decoration, and that she wanted everyone to be able to decorate their own piece with candies that we picked out from the store. It was such a specific idea, and a good one at that, that it made my job much easier.
A few weeks before her party we headed down to the Dylan’s Candy Bar, and she picked out a few different types of candy to offer her friends as toppings. I then found out that my Beach House Project was nominated in a couple categories at the Interior Design Best of Year Awards, which meant a trip to New York returning the day before Coco’s Birthday. Eek.
I baked the cakes before I left and froze them. The minute I got back I made the frosting and put the cake together. I was worried about it the entire time I was away but it turned out to be easy peasy.
So Rapunzel. I had an internal struggle about whether or not to hire a princess. I don’t like the message, and the idea of it made me itchy. After a long chat with the Rapunzel’s company I felt confident that she would reign in the princess talk, and stick to story telling and singing. Having a ‘real adult size rapunzel’ was the only thing Coco wanted for her birthday so I felt it better just do it – or have my mom do it because I couldn’t actually stomach doing it myself.
The main attraction at the party was a woman I hired to play music with the girls. She was amazing, and the kids had a great time. The invitations pictured here were sent to her very small group of girly friends. They were so costly to make and mail that I didn’t send to family or extended friends this year. I considered them the party favors in advance, and skipped out on those at the actual party.
And a few photos of the party, and the birthday girl…
These towels were an undertaking. When I saw an image online that inspired the idea I thought this could be a simple and really beautiful idea for a birthday present for my mom who just moved into a new Beach House. They could used as dish towels or napkins, and I thought the lines and grids would play nicely against the architecture and color of the house.
What I didn’t realize was that these towels would take longer than any other project I have ever sewed. 7 spools of thread later, and many many many hours at the sewing machine, they were finished. Before sewing I marked each piece of cotton with a water soluble marker. Just marking the towels took days, and that was after cutting the fabric for each one, which for whatever reason, also took way longer than it should have. And then there is the fact that no two are alike, so each one required a different set of measurements.
Mom of course is worth it, so it seemed an appropriate amount of energy to spend on the woman who really has everything. It is always a struggle to come up with something to someway to honor her on her birthday, and so I tend to make something hoping it is a special tribute to all that she does and all that she is.
September and October always seem to take me by surprise. No matter how much time I spend in August trying to mentally prepare for what is to come, the sudden jump into a more rigid schedule, and onslaught of events leave me with very little time for myself. Right around this time of year things let up for a half a minute so I can catch my breath, and then the holiday/birthday parade begins. I have some fun creative projects up my sleeve this season that I am excited to share, but they are all labor intensive, and taking up more time that I of course planned for. As for today, instant gratification seemed important. How better to achieve that than with donuts.
Isaac had a field trip to a farm this week at school. His class is studying vegetables right now, and with fall there are so many examples all around him. Last week after his root veg study we spend an afternoon peeling and roasting beets, turnips, and carrots. When he brought home a pumpkin, the kind that is ‘delicious to eat’, he was motivated to make something with it. He first suggested pumpkin pie, but because of my strong aversion I tried to sway him in other directions.
The first thing I heard Saturday morning – waking me from my deep sleep – was – what if we made pumkin cookies, and then rolled them in sugar, and then sprinkled chocolate chips on them, and then melted that in the oven with marshmallows… kinda like the powdered sugar cookeis we made last week mixed with the smores from two weeks ago.
Once I finally came to, went on a good run to sweat out the vodka consumption from his schools fundraiser the night before, and got my game face on, he finally said – what about pumpkin donuts? OK I thought, not were talking.
As previously mentioned, I don’t usually do pumpkin. Savory mixed with sweets, fruit mixed with sweets, dried fruit mixed with sweet (raisins being the most offensive of all),… NOT my thing. Once in a purple moon I try something in one of those categories that takes me by surprise (NEVER RAISIN), but its never peanut butter and chocolate. Its just that simple. For this reason I have never roasted my own pumpkin for pumpkin pie, or pumpkin bread. Canned pumpkin reminds me of cat foot, so I haven’t gone there either. After I knew we were going the direction of pumpkin donuts I wrote my baking partner in crime and asked him… can I sub fresh pumpkin for canned… and I got a big! fat! YES!
So Isaac and I scooped seeds, cut the pumpkin, roasted it, pureed it, and then made these donuts. They are the healthiest donuts you will ever make, or eat. There is very little oil, the banana and pumpkin do most of the work for you. The sugary glaze is just that… sugary. The whole donut is maple kissed. Feel free to add any topping you like. Im a smitten kitten when it comes to pistachios so that was our topping of choice.
A pumpkin can make donuts! Isaac is still in awe. The transformation is more magical that the magic class he is taking after school. These pictures are heading to school with him tomorrow so he can share with his classmates and teachers. The donuts themselves, I’m afraid, are already gone.
Vegan Pumpkin Donuts with Maple Spice Glaze
Makes 1 dozen donuts
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup canola oil
6 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 banana, well-mashed
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons almond milk
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
4 Tablespoons almond milk (or whatever milk you like)
Any topping you like.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine the two and stir just until thoroughly combined. Do not over mix. Oil the donut pan wells, then fill them with batter almost to the top. Bake until fluffy and golden about 14 minutes, and move the tray to a cooling rack. Cool in the pan for about ten minutes, then ease each donut out of the pan. Let the donuts cool completely on the rack.
For the frosting: Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Then add the syrup and almond milk. I thinned mine out too much so it was more like a glaze. Add milk slowly and continue to test.
Lay the donuts out on a cooling rack over a baking tray lined with foil. Use a spoon to drip icing over each donut. Let dry and drip on the rack.
If desired, apply toppings while icing is wet.
Inspiration for recipe found here.
August was all about the beach. We came and went to our new home away from home for weeks at a time. In fact, I think we spent more time there than we did in our own home, which given the blazing heat of August was a welcome and wonderful change. We had long lazy days filled with simple activities and lots of time as a family. Once September hit it was time to return to our reality of school and work.
My son’s school contractually requires participation in many different ways. It is a place I care deeply about, and would choose to participate even if not obliged, but the truth there are obligations that have kept me pretty busy these past few weeks. I am on a committee who’s responsibility it is to cook and set up for specific events. It is a kind of ‘welcoming committee’ filled with women who much like myself enjoy hosting and cooking. I thought it would also be a great opportunity to try new recipes, and post about them here, but the first week was so saturated with getting the kids settled into their new classrooms that I didn’t want to take time away to photograph and write about the food I prepared. All of the women in the committee love food, and while we were waiting to clean up one of the events someone asked me how long I had been vegan. It led to a conversation about great vegan restaurants and recipes, and someone mentioned the carrot dip from the Real Food Daily cookbook. I love this recipe. It lives somewhere between a dip, a soup, and a butter. The cashews give it a rich creaminess, the carrots are sweet, the onions savory, and the 5 spice complex.
Now that we are entering our second week of school the kids are more settled. Monday morning I dropped them both at their respective schools and on the drive home thought, I have a moment to myself… I’m making that dip! I became overly ambitious and decided to make a few jars. The more the merrier, and I knew a couple people that I thought would really appreciate it.
This recipe cooks up very quickly and uses very few ingredients. It is one of the few times I had everything I needed on hand. That unique flavor that is hard to place is Chinese 5 spice which contains star anise, cloves, cinnamon, sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds. We are headed out of town again this weekend, and this is going to be the perfect snack for the plane, and a wonderful addition to our picnic basket (for our sons school picnic) when we return.
Yes. I’ve been MIA for a long while now. The past few months have been so unordinary, so amazing, so rich and full with work and travel that I just haven’t had the mind space to record many of the things I have been up to. My husbands movie was finally released from the nest last weekend. TURBO has been a part of our home for many years. A baby that has grown up along side our babies. We have spent the past few months deeply invested in promoting the movie. This movie is magic. Yes I love the director. Yes I love the writer. Yes I love the creator… But even if those three things were not my reality I would still love this movie. It is filled with heart and love and crafted with care. I have never seen a more beautiful representation of the Los Angeles Valley in which we live. The landscape is dead on, never trying to be something it isn’t. Now having traveled to Indianapolis I can say that that city too is represented authentically, and that the experience of the race is beautifully recreated. If you haven’t seen TURBO yet, I say go. This isn’t a ‘cute’ movie, or a ‘kids’ movie. Its a movie that is about the human condition. I am so proud of my husband for all he has accomplished.
Oh, and in all that madness I was finishing construction on the beach house that has also been a love child for many years. It is finally being occupied and adored, and we had a photographer there last week (the same day that TURBO opened) capturing all of the spaces for potential publications and award submissions. Both my project, and Davids wrapped up on the exact same day after many many years in the making.
Needless to say with the release of a movie and the completion of the house, we have had our hands full. Last week I finally had time to do something new. I wanted a small project that I could complete while Coco napped. A two hour attempt at instant gratification. This heart print Jersey had been sitting in my garage for a while, and I thought it would be the perfect fabric for a summer dress. I downloaded a pattern of the internet, and went to work. A couple hours later I was done.
When Coco woke up from her nap I tried the dress on her. Perfect fit, with the exception of the arm holes. The pattern seems strange when I was sewing it, and against my better judgement I just followed it. I had her take the dress off, and then I just took my scissors to the underarms and cut them open. The joy of jersey. I liked the way the sleeve looked after I opened up the arm, and she felt more comfortable in it. The most fun was spent while the dress was pulled over her head to get it off. Seeing her enjoy her new ‘hat’ was the best. There is something to be said for small projects. Getting stuff under your belt, making things, and thinking about them. The scale of the work really doesn’t matter much. Its all about the process, and about those who are around you to support you and remind you what really matters.
I met David a few months before he turned thirty. That’s right, he was in his twenties. This was the eleventh time David and I celebrated his birthday together.
The first year I met David I wanted to throw him a big birthday surprise. He was turning 30 after all! I didn’t realize at the time that David didn’t like big celebrations and attention on his birthday. We had just met, and I was determined to plan something that showed him how much I loved him. I flew his brother in from Toronto, and his best friend from San Francisco. I then gathered the rest of his LA friends for a surprise birthday party at a local music venue that was David’s favorite at the time to see one of his favorite musicians. I thought having all of his favorite things in one place would make for a favorite night, but what I didn’t realize was the following:
1. David doesn’t like surprises
2. The group of people I assembled were all amazing individuals that didn’t make for the best cohesive group.
3. The musician that was supposed to play was sick and was filled in for by some suicidal uber depressing alternative that sang so quietly that any background chatter chatter was forbidden.
4. I could keep listing, but I think you get the point.
In all of the years following I have done a much more successful job of celebrating David. We do something quiet- travel, go out for a meal, spend time as a family. I try to make him a meal he likes, and a special desert. We keep it low key.
When I saw this recipe for chocolate cake, I thought it would be something David would like. Since my transition to becoming Vegan there have been a lot of things that I used to make for David that I no longer cook. I know many of these things he misses. He has been amazingly understanding in not asking me to make them, and only on occasion, subtly hinting that he misses them. I have in turn done my best to create alternatives to those recipes and bring a whole lot of new ideas to the table. It has been a transition for both of us, and one that I think we continue to adjust to.
I didn’t want his birthday cake to feel like a compromise, but I wanted us all to be able to eat it together and a family. As it turns out you would never know this cake is vegan. They yellow cake (colored with turmeric) is moist and delicious. The chocolate icing is creamy and rich. Isaac even helped me make a flag for the top!
This was an important birthday. David and I spent the day together at a nearby hotel just enjoying each others company. With the craziness of both of our schedules we have been like ships in the night, and the reconnecting felt good. This birthday marked not only another year and another decade, but also the culmination of a HUGE PROJECT David has been working on. It feels fitting that he is entering the next decade of his life on the cusp of its release.
When we got home from our day at the hotel the kids were dressed and ready to go for dinner. Isaac had dressed himself in a button down shirt and tie. Coco in a ‘fancy’ dress and sparkly shoes. It was clearly an important occasion to them too, meaningful and special to celebrate the main man in their (our) lives.
Those who know me know I take my friendships very seriously. I have always longed to be a more lighthearted, happy-go-lucky, socially adept person but my reality is, that just isn’t me. I don’t have a plethora of friendships that I weave in and out of and I’m not someone who circulates a room well at a party. I would like to say that I am a steadfast friend, a good listener, someone who constantly attempts to be as supportive as possible, and someone who will go to the mat for my friends time and time again. I have a handful of these ‘friends’ each from different stages and parts of my life. I get so very much from them and from our relationships. I am bound to them by their magnetic qualities, love, trust and unconditional faith in the core of what makes ‘us’ … us.
Spring is birthday season for some of these friends. Every year I spend a lot of time and energy trying to come up with meaningful gifts that say to each of them, ‘I love you’, ‘I understand you’, ‘I listen to you’, and ‘I like who you are- more than you will every know’.
These gifts often come in the form of books. Something I read that reminds me of a friend, or our relationship. This past month I felt like making some gifts, and felt inspired to go back to the friendship bracelets I used to make at camp when I was a wee one. There is something in the knot tying that gives you time to think about the person you are making it for. Over the couple hours it takes to make one of these bracelets, I can marinade in memories from our past, and think about hopes for our future.
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
This truly is a revelation. I know so many people, my husband included, who can not tolerate cream cheese. It leaves him feeling bloated and sick for most of the day. One of his favorite special treats is a bagel with cream cheese and lox, but every time he goes for it he takes a ‘hit’ and vows not to go back. At my recent vegan cheese making class one of the items she made was lox cream cheese, and of course my honey came to mind.
To start, you have to make plain cream cheese, which on its own is delicious. It is made the same way you would make goat cheese, but instead of culturing with rejuvalac, you culture with plain soy yogurt. After blending the nuts and yogurt you have to exercise patience and wait a couple days.
Once the cream cheese is ready you can get creative and add anything you would to regular cream cheese to make a flavored variety. The ones that I have tried that are both wonderful are Lox, and Sun Dried Tomato.
The lox cream cheese – says David- had a very similar flavor profile to the lox and cream cheese he loves. Instead of smoked salmon, I used crumbled nori and a little liquid smoke. To give it the pink color, some roasted red bell pepper. I was never a fan of lox even when I ate salmon, but this cream cheese won me over.
I added a lot of raw garlic to the sun dried tomato which yielded a really punchy cream cheese. David and I both loved it but tough it would be better suited as a appetizer spread later in the day. It didn’t stop us from having some in the morning, but I saved it to bring a long to a special mothers night I was having with a wonderful group of women from Isaac’s elementary school.
This half and half bagel was a really wonderful breakfast last week. Both David and I couldn’t decide which was better. I think in the end he liked the lox more for breakfast, and the sun dried tomato as a spread.
I took the sun dried tomato and some crostini to my mothers gathering and came home empty handed. A note on the mothers of the kids in Isaac’s kindergarten class… these women rock. They are kind, and warm, and interesting. I have never felt judged for my choice to eat a plant based diet, and have had some interesting and engaging discussions about food choices with many of them. Stephanie who hosted the event prepared a vegan option for almost everything served – including pie!- which made me feel cared for and loved. The feedback on this cream cheese was really positive so I promised I would share the recipe. For all of the group one mamas… here you go! xo
From the book Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner. Excerpted by arrangement with the Book Publishing Company. Copyright (c) 2012. www.bookpub.com
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 8 hours and drained
- 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened nondairy yogurt
- pinch of salt
- Process the ingredients: Put the cashews, water, nondairy yogurt, and salt in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy, occasionally stopping to scrape down the blender jar and move the mixture toward the blades.
- Culture the cheese: Transfer to a clean glass bowl or container, cover, and let rest at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, depending on how sharp a flavor you want and the ambient temperature (culturing will proceed more quickly at warmer temperatures). For use in cheesecakes that will be sweetened, allowing it to culture for a full 48 hours will create a tanginess that will nicely complement the sweetener. Cover and refrigerate. The cheese will get firmer as it chills.
Lox Cream Cheese
In a food processor, combine 8 oz. cream cheese with 1 finely torn sheet of nori, 1/2 roughly chopped roasted red bell pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few drops of liquid smoke. Process until combined.
Sun Dried Tomato Cream Cheese
In a food processor, combine 8 oz. cream cheese with 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (either reconsituted or oil packed drained and dried), 1.2 teaspoon of salt, and 2-4 cloves of garlic. Process until pink. You can leave chunky or creamy.