Vintage Illustrated Map of DC

From the book, "Best in Children's Books"; map by Palacios; details on my Flickr stream

I heard May is the best time to visit DC. We may have to make the trip south, if only to check out Sticky Fingers Bakery again. Best chocolate chip cookies in the world! And how nice of them to contribute recipes to this CNN article about vegan baking.

Spice in the Kitchen: Vegetarian Moussaka

I'm not going to lie to you, this is a time consuming recipe. Or maybe it just felt time consuming because I had a two-year-old at my feet the whole time and an ill daughter needing my attention and my kitchen was hot and humid from the freakish heat wave we are having. So, I guess what I am saying is, make moussaka on a leisurely Sunday for dinner, or with the help of your friends, in a kitchen with AC.

Vegetarian Moussaka Recipe (with vegan option)
serves 6

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices 
  • 1 lb of zucchini (about 5 small, or 3 big), cut on the diagonal into 1/4" slices
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and left whole
  • (Alternatively, you could cube the veggies, just all in equal size.)
  • 1/2 cup of feta (I use the fat free kind from Trader Joe's--made with non-animal rennet.)
tomato sauce:
  • 1 tsp hing (or 1 clove of garlic and 1 small onion chopped)
  • 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of chickpeas or lentils, cooked or canned (I used French lentils.)

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Lightly salt sliced eggplant and zucchini, set aside in a dish for about 20-30 minutes to remove water.
  3. Drain excess water, rinse and pat dry. Set zukes aside.
  4. On a parchment lined baking sheet lightly sprayed with oil, place dried eggplant slices in a single layer, spray tops with oil. Bake for about 20 minutes. Shut off oven and set aside.
  5. Parboil your potatoes (make fork tender). And then slice into 1/4 in slices. Set aside.
  6. While the eggplant is cooking, sauté hing and other spices in 1 TB of olive oil (or if using garlic and onions, sauté them in the olive oil until translucent and then add spices). Add tomato sauce and paste. Simmer for 15 minutes and then add lentils and salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Preheat oven to 350.
  8. In a 9x13" (roughly) casserole dish sprayed with oil, layer potatoes, then zukes, feta, and then eggplant and repeat pattern. Pour tomato sauce on top. Bake for 30 minutes.
  9. In the meantime, make the bechamel of your choice.
  10. Take the moussaka out of the oven, and pour the bechamel on top. Bake for another 30 minutes or until the bechamel is golden and bubbly. Let cool a bit before serving.

Scissors Craft: Paper Collage Art

It's very appropriate that the first name of my blog is scissors because I have always enjoyed doing collages. Probably since before I was in grade school. My initial inspiration came from my then high-school-aged sisters cutting out pictures from magazines and arranging them artfully on a pieces of paper to decorate their walls. In junior high, I was quite fond of making collaged mix tape covers from pictures torn out from Hare Krishna books that were given to me in Harvard Square. In high school and college, I would decorate letters to friends (way before the age of email and eons before texting) and then store the returned letters from said friends in shoe boxes that I also decorated with collage. (The collaged letters were often lettered as well. In my senior yearbook, my friend Will called me "The Queen of Lettering." See, it was destined that I marry the king of lettering! :) ) After college, I did not do much with collaging, but right before my son was born, I did a huge framed piece for him that now hangs above his crib.

These latest 5x7 collages were directly influenced by the work of Rex Ray and the impetus to do so was inspired by a collaboration with my friend Kara. I have been creating more and am quite in my zone while working on them. My 5-year-old daughter has been witnessing me create, and has been quite inspired to work on her own and decorate her walls with her work.

Design Inspiration: Tree Bark

Maple tree bark detail. Nice texture.

Spice in the Garden: Mesclun Sprouts

I have been planting lettuces, herbs and flower seeds with the kids the past couple of weeks. I am growing these mesclun greens in a container. Hopefully we'll get the raised bed going in the next week or so. I have lots of seeds for greens like chard, collards and spinach that will go in the bed. I figure we've got so many home gardens here begging us take away tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers and cucumbers that I would probably not focus on those summer veggies. We'll see how this batch goes and go from there. I'm new to gardening and every time I see a sprout from a seed I have planted, it gives me faith in the universe. The kids are enjoying it too! I can't wait for the arugula to be ready!

What's in Your Easter Basket?

Here's what's waiting for my daughter after she finishes breakfast. Pretty good for only putting it together this morning! My kids have plenty of toys and don't need candy, so I aimed for practical.

Shop the Props!
Hello Kitty Beach Towel: Target
Hello Kitty Toothbrush: Target
Chalk: Target
Owl lunch bag: Skip Hop, through Amazon
Art clip board: Target
Meiji Pandas: Target
Cheburaska Matryoshka: From Russia. Brought back by my husband from one of his many rock star mancations.

Restaurant Review: Devi Vegetarian, Exton, PA

The outside of Devi (located in a strip mall across from the Exton Mall)
Hot buffet including idlis and briyanni. Those noodles were sooo good!

Cold buffet with chutneys, dahi vada, curd rice, fruit and salad.
Creamy sabji--most likely not vegan.

A masala dosa, included with the price of the buffet.

Pistachio kulfi.
Interior. Casual dining.
Like I have mentioned before, my husband and I are lacto-vegetarians, which means we don't eat eggs, but still consume dairy. We're mostly vegan at home. (To be quite honest with you, the more I hear about the treatment of commercially owned dairy cows, the more I lean towards veganism.) We tend to favor purely vegan eateries because we can rest assured knowing that there will be no eggs in any of the preparations (we also typically prefer not eat at places that serve meat, but will do if we are in a bind). There are a few "pure veg" places that are actually lacto-veg and they are 99% of the time Indian, because, well, I would guess that 90% of lacto-vegs are usually Hindu. One such place is relatively close to where we live, Devi in Exton, PA.

We have been coming to Devi (just outside of Philadelphia) for a few years now, after a Google search to find the closest vegetarian restaurants to us pointed us in their direction. Devi is mainly a buffet--which we love with the kids--but you can also order off the menu. The buffet is $12.95/person and this also includes a made-to-order dosa! You can't beat that price, plus little kids eat for free (and they always in indulge them with a lolipop at the end of the meal). Devi is one of my daughter's favorite places to eat. There are plenty of mild dishes for kids, like idli and dosa, plus they have fresh fruit and desserts, also included in the buffet. I think it is BYOB, for I am pretty sure I have seen people drinking wine with their meals, but call to make sure.

The buffet varies from day-to-day, but you can always count on various sabjis (curries), sambar, idli, rice, pakoras, briyani, and pongal. I've been when everything is awesome, nothing is overly spicy and I leave with a very plump belly. Other times, it's not been as fulfilling. But, that's just my opinion. My husband is always very happy and satisfied and my daughter is always well fed. My biggest gripe with Devi, which may be a bonus to you, is their overuse of onions. I'm not a big fan of them. But, again, that is my personal preference.

I'm sure there are many preps in the buffet that are vegan. They usually will have a cream sabji and possibly one with curd and a dahi vada, but everything else could potentially be vegan. Call ahead to see what dishes they have planned for the night if you are vegan. Dinner doesn't start until 6 and the restaurant quickly fills up by 7. And if you are not vegan, order a mango lassi as soon as you sit down, because if you are not a desi, you may need to cool down your mouth when you accidentally bite into a red chili.

Devi Vegetarian
151 West Lincoln Highway
Exton, PA 19341-2615
(610) 594-9250

Mon-Thu 11:30am-1:30pm, 5:30pm-8pm
Fri 11:30am-1:30pm, 5:30pm-9pm
Sat 5:30pm-8:30pm; Sun 4pm-8pm

Philly Vegan Fun Day! Nick's Vegan and Smith Memorial

Chocolate chip coconut bar
BLT wrap
Grilled tofu "egg" wrap
The new small kid friendly section at Smith Memorial Playground

*NOTE: Nick's has since closed as a café, but is available for catering! :(

Being that it is Good Friday, we all had the day off from work and school and being the good Mommy and Daddy that my husband and I are, we decided to have a kid-centered day. We toyed around with taking the kids to the Please Touch Museum or the Franklin Institute, but honestly, their prices are outrageous ($60 for a family of four??? Yikes!). We finally concluded that going to the Smith Memorial Playground was our best bet. It's free (admission is on a donation basis) and fun and they have the most killer two story wooden slide. My husband and kids must have gone down it about a dozen times. If you have kids under 10, you should go!

Now, the best part about Smith, in my opinion, is that a new vegan restaurant just opened up around the corner! Nick's Vegan has been in business for a few months. When we stopped in, they were on a limited menu because they were renovating their space, but the owner told me they would be open with a full menu next week. It's a casual place in a very odd location, but hey, if it works their for them, that's great. The East Fairmount Park area of Philly really needs some revitalization, for sure.

We bought two wraps that sounded very boringly basic, but I forgave because of the limited menu situation. The owner was very friendly and even gave my kids a piece of yummy carrot raisin bread to keep them occupied while we waited for our order. It was cutting it close to nap time, so we ate in the car on the way home. Wow! These wraps were surprisingly tasty. Refreshingly so. One of my biggest beefs with vegan cooking is that they tend to rely heavily on onions and garlic for flavor (O&G as it is called in our house). The sandwiches had really nice combinations of flavors without leaving your mouth feeling like you just smoked a cigarette of onions. The dessert bar was very caramelly and not overly sweet. I can't wait to go back when they are fully up ad running to see what they have to offer. I have this feeling between Smith and Nick's, we'll be in Fairmount Park a lot this spring and summer.

Spice in the Kitchen: Spicy Sriracha Baked French Fries

Making French fries (maybe these are technically home fries?) at home is so ridiculously easy that you'll never buy bagged ones again! Ok, maybe you will, but seriously, these are super simple to make!

(Spicy Sriracha) Baked French Fries Recipe (vegan)
serves 2-?

  • 1 potato/person (Use yukon gold or white, the kind with the thin skin.)
  • spray oil or olive or peanut oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Sriracha hot sauce (optional--if you want just regular fries, leave this step out)

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Wash and scrub potatoes (I use organic, specially since you most likely will be eating a touch of dirt when you leave the skins on. Who wants to eat dirt sprayed with fertilizer and pesticides?)
  3. Cut potatoes in wedges. You can do this long or short; just make sure all potatoes are about the same thickness so they cook easily; about 3/4".
  4. In a large bowl, spray potatoes with oil so they are throughly coated. If using oil, you'll need approximately 1/2 TB/potato.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. Don't go crazy with the salt--if there is not enough, you can always salt again when the fries are done.
  6. Now, if you want spicy fries, squirt about 1/4 tsp/potato of the Sriracha over the potatoes. Mix really well.
  7. Lay the potato wedges in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly spray the tops of the wedges with oil.
  8. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are golden with brown spots and a fork easily pierces them.

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Bird Plate: Urban Outfitters (Who uses the creepiest looking male models!)

Etsy Find: Strawberry Luna Silkscreened Prints

"Going to See My Yellow Baby"

"He Likes to Read Books Written for Girls" 
These Strawberry Luna prints would be very sweet in a little girl's room.

Spice in the Kitchen: Vegan (Easter) Banana Bread

Nothing says Easter like banana bread, right? No? You're right.
My son is having an Easter party at his school tomorrow and I volunteered to bring in the sweet. I was going to make sugar cookies that looked like flowers, but I had some brown bananas and decided to bring in something (somewhat) healthy instead. The kids are two. Are they going to protest that their dessert is not Easter themed? I think not! Plus, on these "party days," he comes home with no appetite, so I might as well try to get some whole wheat and bananas in him. The recipe is from Post Punk Kitchen. A perfect and easy vegan banana bread! I used whole wheat pastry flour and vegan sugar and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Comes out awesome no matter how many little changes I make to the recipe.

Moomin tea towel, courtesy of my favorite Finn, Kaisa Leka.

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Moomin tea towel:

Spice in the Kitchen: Crispy Baked Sweet and Sour Tofu

Looks professional, right? I am very proud of myself. Super yum too with no added refined sugar!

(Spicy) Crispy Baked Sweet and Sour Tofu with Vegetables Recipe (vegan)
serves 2-4

  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed, cut into small blocks or triangles (about 1/2 inch thick)
  • approx 1/4 cup of rice flour or cornstarch
  • spray oil
  • 1/3 cup tamari
  • 1 TB mirin
  • 2 TB agave nectar
  • 1 TB maple syrup
  • 4 TB rice wine vinegar
  • 3 TB ketchup
  • squeeze of Sriracha
  • 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional, if you want it spicy)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 TB cornstarch (dissolved into 2 TB hot water)
  • 4-5 cups of various veggies of your choice (broccoli, peppers, zucchini, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and cabbage work well)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of chopped, fresh pineapple

Crispy tofu, baked, not fried. The smell in your house will thank you for baking.

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. In a bowl, toss tofu with enough rice flour or cornstarch to lightly coat each piece (if doing triangles, do this in batches as to not break the triangles). Place each piece on a parchment lined cookie sheet and then spray tops lightly with spray oil.
  3. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until they are crispy and lightly golden.
  4. While your tofu is baking, combine tamari through water on the ingredients list. Whisk together.
  5. In a pan sprayed with cooking oil (or just use 1-2 TB of peanut oil if you are not trying to cut back on fat/calories), lightly stir-fry your veggies and pineapples. This works really well in a cast iron pan. I do not use non-stick pans for various reasons.
  6. Add your sauce to the pan and simmer veggies.
  7. When your sauce is warm, whisk in the cornstarch (that has been dissolved in hot water). The sauce will quickly thicken. Turn it off as soon as you notice this the sauce will burn and get goopy.
  8. Toss in the tofu to coat. Serve with hot rice or soba noodles.
Veggies  grilled in cast iron with very little oil. Cast iron pans rule and they don't cause cancer!

Vintage Children's Books: "I'm a Jet!" Endpapers

Not such a great book, but super cute endpapers. Illustration by Graham Bull.

Spotted: Vintage Store Signs, S. Broad St., Philadelphia

With the Walmartian destruction of mom and pop shops on proverbial Main St., it's important to capture Americana on film before it disappears. My husband could talk your ear off about how unusual the Philadelphia Gasworks sign is because it uses a brush script, but I just think they're cool pieces and full of history. I often travel down Broad Street (thanks to Gourmet to Go!),  but I am usually in a rush and/or have forgotten my camera, so I was happy that stars finally aligned and I was finally able to capture these beauties in such beautiful daylight.

Workin' on It: Vegan Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Blondies

I was working on a recipe this weekend for vegan peanut butter blondies. The recipe is almost there but not quite perfect. I have to make a few adjustments before I publish it. In the interim, here are some pics of the results from the first round.

And... looky looky at the tray, Little My, from the Finnish Moomin cartoon series; a gift from my friend Kaisa! Kiitos!

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Moomin Tray: Get one like it here!

Photo Essay: Montessori Still Life

Upon a first inspection, a Montessori classroom may seem quite spartan, devoid of the usual brightly colored non-sense bulletin boards created from pre-cut borders from the dollar store and neatly lined up uncomfortably stiff desks. Instead of screaming for your attention, the "work" in a Montessori classroom is patient and waits for the child to interact with it, letting them decide what they would like to do on their work mats. The objects all have an undercurrent of purpose with a coating of fun. The beauty is in their stillness. A busy classroom of mixed aged friends, free of raucous sounds and full of excited learning.