Naturally, James and I could not pass up the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris on our honeymoon to France. Anyone who knows us knows we are absolute Disney theme park fans, and we were very excited to visit a Disney park in a foreign country. We spent two days there exploring the curious yet enchanting parks, filled with their own mysteries to discover. Being this was on our honeymoon we brought with us bride and groom Mickey ears featuring ‘Mr. Dastoli’ and ‘Mrs. Dastoli’ embroidery on the backs to celebrate our recent nuptials.
The Disneyland Hotel is a breathtaking structure that creates a very different feel when entering the park compared to the other Magic Kingdoms. The rooftops of the hotel contribute to what we consider to be the most beautiful version of Main Street, USA.
This stained glass ceiling inside of the Emporium is an example of the ornate details found throughout Main Street.
There are two arcades that run parallel to Main Street. This one is the Discovery Arcade, which has artwork depicting futuristic projections of American cities from the late nineteenth century.
Discoveryland is the Tomorrowland that Jules Verne would have envisioned. For me, all of the lands contained elements that were familiar, but with new subtleties and twists. It felt similar to when I visited Walt Disney World for the first time after having only gone to Disneyland.
Here I am in front of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the Columbiad cannon featured in From the Earth to the Moon as part of Space Mountain. Seeing the Nautilus was particularly nostalgic for James, since the Florida version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage was closed in 1994.
Walking through the Nautilus was one of our favorite experiences in the park. The intricate details found throughout the submarine truly transports the guests imagination into the novel.
Another nostalgic experience for James (but new to me) was riding the original version of Star Tours. Here he is in front of the attraction’s entrance wearing a Star Tours – The Adventures Continue shirt. It was very strange for him hearing Captain Rex’s voice in French, but fun and exciting nonetheless. I was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to ride the original version and meet Rex for the first time.
Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant is an interesting take on other Magic Kingdom castles. The landscaping around the castle draws direct inspiration from the film Sleeping Beauty and the interior features a giant dragon animatronic.
The story of Sleeping Beauty is told through stained glass windows inside the castle.
From the balcony of the castle you can see the rooftops of Fantasyland. Similar to Main Street, Fantasyland in Disneyland Paris is a grander, more beautiful version than in other Magic Kingdoms. Meandering landscaped pathways take you from one attraction to another in a less linear fashion.
One specific example that involves quite a bit of meandering is Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. Here the Cheshire Cat is overlooking the maze.
We were able to experience seeing a dark ride with the lights on after it temporarily broke down. This was not the first time we have seen a ride with the lights on, but regardless it is always bizarre. This is the forest scene in Blanche Neige et les Sept Nains.
Rather than housing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, there is a restaurant inside of Toad Hall. It certainly cannot fully replace the allure of the ride, but it’s an interesting and charming way to feature the story of The Wind in the Willows.
Much of Adventureland is dedicated to Adventure Isle, a giant walkthrough area taking the spot that is usually occupied by Tom Sawyer Island in other Magic Kingdoms. There is another instance of going back in time through Disney history with Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship and Skull Rock, which have not existed at Disneyland for over 30 years.
Frontierland has an elaborate backstory based around the town of Thunder Mesa that ties all of the attractions together.
The story of Thunder Mesa culminates in Phantom Manor, which is our favorite ride in the entire park. The atmosphere is much more macabre than the American Haunted Mansions.
We had a table service meal inside the opulent Silver Spur Steakhouse in Frontierland.
We didn’t spend very much time at the Walt Disney Studios Park, but we did go on the recently opened Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy, and we also enjoyed our lunch at Le Bistrot Chez Rémy, a themed restaurant that scales everything so you feel the size of a rat.
We weren’t sure what to expect out of Disneyland Paris, but we can say that we were very pleasantly surprised by its charm and amused by its differences. I will always have an emotional and nostalgic connection to Disneyland USA, but look forward to visiting more of the international Disney resorts. After the wedding and honeymoon we likely will not be traveling internationally anytime soon, but hope to visit Tokyo and its Disney parks next.
A year ago, James and his brother were finishing up post production on our feature film, “El Quetzal de Jade.” The film is a noir inspired thriller that centers around a private detective in search of a Mayan artifact stolen by a dangerous woman. We worked on “El Quetzal de Jade” over the course of a year and a half, using weekends and weeknights to do the bulk of the shooting. Most of the scenes are in Spanish, but it also features English, French, and Mandarin Chinese.
Here is a trailer for the film:
The film was designed to use all of the resources that we already had at our disposal and fill in the rest using visual effects. During trips to Rhode Island, Guatemala, and Quebec, we shot exteriors and plenty of material to use as background plates for green screen scenes. Luckily, we live in a neighborhood with many Spanish colonial and French eclectic buildings which easily double for Guatemala and Quebec, so we were able to shoot some scenes with our actors in the area. Much of the film was shot in the interior and exterior of our own home. Here, Atlas is overseeing production of a scene in our kitchen.
This behind the scenes video gives some insight on the process of building up the film using visual effects:
For our future film projects we plan to work primarily with animation rather than live action, such as in our Lego brickfilm, “Escape from Sabre Island.” We have a few concepts in mind for the upcoming year, and now that our wedding is complete we can return our focus to those.
James and I knew well before our engagement that we would be going to France for our honeymoon. To the point that Paris was a very important piece of James’ marriage proposal. We spent most of our twelve day honeymoon outside of Paris itself, but made sure to devote four days entirely to exploring the gorgeous city. Being individuals who greatly value design and architecture, Paris offered an endless amount of opportunity for us to explore to our hearts’ fill. It seemed that every corner we turned presented a whole new set of buildings, bridges, and gardens to fall in love with.
We spent many hours each day walking on both sides of the Seine. All of the bridges that cross the river are beautiful, but the most ornate is Pont Alexandre III.
When we weren’t walking, we were making use of the city’s extensive metro. There are a few different styles of Metro signs from different eras that mark the station entrances. Our favorite is the red one on the far right.
Our first views of Paris came when we emerged from the train station under the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. Our first night was spent in a lovely hotel nearby that offered gorgeous views and easy access to the Champs-Elysées.
On the top of everyone’s list of sights to see in France is the Eiffel Tower. Although we like the structure, and value its iconic significance, it is not on our list of favorites in the city. There are so many other buildings that have more merit artistically.
The top of the tower was closed, so this picture was taken from the second level. Here you can see the beautiful roof of the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées. We were very excited to see the interior of the building, but it was not open to the public during the three days that we attempted to enter.
Right next to the Grand Palais is the Petit Palais. We took advantage of its free entrance a couple of times and ate lunch in a charming courtyard inside. Although impossible to choose a favorite, these two monuments sitting right next to each other on La Rive Droite may be our top spot in the city.
Another one of our favorites is the Hôtel de Ville. All around the building are statues depicting figures from the city’s history.
Notre Dame de Paris sits on Île de la Cité across the Seine from Hôtel de Ville.
Another beautiful cathedral is the Église Saint-Augustin de Paris. We happened across this dome while wandering through the city on our first day, and were able to take a quick peak inside to admire its opulent interior. There are so many monuments in Paris that you can’t help running into one every couple of blocks.
Of all the cathedrals that we visited, Sainte-Chapelle was certainly the most unique. Its high ceilings and stained glass windows were truly awe inspiring. The colors are striking, and its use of alternating fleurs-de-lis and arms of Castile are a wonderful motif.
Right next to Sainte-Chapelle, on the facade of the Palais du Justice lies the oldest clock in Paris, which went through a restoration just recently.
We walked through more than half of the twenty arrondissements of Paris. Here I am on the steps of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in the Montmartre district of the XVIIIe arrondissement.
Both of the hotels that we stayed in had amazing views of the rooftops of Paris. Within the city limits, there are virtually no skyscrapers, allowing views like this everywhere.
Here is another gorgeous rooftop from Musée d’Orsay. We were unable to go inside the museum on our trip. There are so many museums in Paris, but we knew that we wouldn’t have much time to explore them.
We did go inside of the Musée du Louvre to see a tiny fraction of the artwork on display there.
Here is a courtyard that we saw from out the window of the Denon wing.
L’Hôtel national des Invalides as seen from across the Seine.
One of the highlights of the trip was a cruise down the Seine at sunset, which we did for my 26th birthday. It was an absolute treat, and a lovely way to spend my birthday evening.
We took hundreds of pictures on our honeymoon, and these cover only some of our favorites from Paris. Over the next few weeks we will be posting more photographs from the other cities we visited on our twelve day adventure in France.
I tend to equate Guatemalan foods with home and comfort, which I always crave even more so as the weather starts to cool, and I’m feeling nostalgic for childhood Autumn. We try to visit Rhode Island at least a few times a year, and I get my fix for my mom’s comfort food. When I’m here in Los Angeles, however, I prefer to cook those comfort foods at home rather than buy them, so that I can get closer to my mother’s flavors. One of the common ones I crave, is chiles rellenos, which translates quite simply to stuffed peppers. I altered my mom’s recipe just a tad to make these healthier by incorporating more vegetables in the stuffing, and using whole wheat flour in the egg mixture instead of white flour.
1 lb ground beef
3 large bell peppers (I like using orange or red)
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 finely chopped yellow onion
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup peas
2 cups chopped spinach
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons paprika
Steamed rice (optional)
In a medium sized pan heat about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Finely chop onion and garlic and add to hot oil, saute until translucent. Add ground beef to pan and break apart using a wooden spatula. Once the meat has begun to turn brown, add carrots, peas, spinach, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper. Continue to saute ingredients until meat is thoroughly cooked and vegetables are soft. Set aside to cool.
Cut up bell peppers into large pieces, about four pieces from each pepper. Grill peppers on a griddle until peppers have begun to soften and bottoms are roasted. You can roast in oven for about 15 minutes if you do not have a griddle.
In a large bowl, add just the whites of both eggs. Beat eggs until white and soft peaks begin to form, then add egg yolks and whole wheat flour. Continue to beat until fully incorporated. Separately, place remaining oil into a pan and heat on stove-top.
Stuff the pepper pieces with meat mixture, being careful not to have them overflow. Dip each piece into the egg mixture, use a spoon to fully cover the pepper with egg. Place each piece into pan with hot oil, and lightly fry on each side until the egg mixture is firm and turns brown.
Remove and place on paper towel. Serve with rice if desired.
After more than a year of being engaged and many months of planning, anticipation, and excitement, our big day finally came. We were nervous, naturally, and anxious for the days events to begin. However, once the wedding actually began we were much calmer, and were thrilled to have so many of our loved ones around us showing their support.
The wedding was held at my parent’s home in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, and we could not be more grateful for all of the amazing help that they provided in making it all come together.
The weather report showed thunder storms for that day, so we rented a last minute tent as we had initially planned to have the reception completely outdoors under the night sky. It thankfully did not rain, but it was best to be safe and our reception turned out lovely. We decided to keep the strung garden lights above the tables at the reception to maintain the effect we were going for. Additionally, we did not have a very solid contingency plan for the ceremony if it did rain, so we sighed a deep sigh of relief when the skies looked clear and we were able to have the ceremony by the woods just as we had envisioned.
We kept with a simple ceremony, using traditional wedding vows and the wedding march/wedding exit music played by our live band. Keeping with tradition, James had never seen my wedding gown until he saw me walking down the aisle with my father. This was also when he was finally able to see what the sash he saw me working on looked like with my gown.
As expected, James looked stoic and calm standing down the aisle, while I was nervous and smiling. Once I reached the ceremony table I felt so much excitement to be standing there with him, and his smile and gaze told me he felt the same.
We rented the linens along with the chairs, silverware, glassware, and china. We were able to pick our linens from a very wide variety and went with a champagne colored tablecloth covered by ivory lace. For the napkins we selected a damask pattern. We chose ivory china with a gold rim, and went with champagne saucers instead of flutes. James and I found our gold rimmed champagne saucers for the wedding toasts at an antiques market, and they looked wonderful with our table settings.
Our centerpieces had a few different elements to them, most of which were hand crafted. We found these lanterns that matched our aesthetic and put a little candle inside each one. Underneath the lantern were doilies handmade by my mother. Sitting around the lantern were the paper flowers James and I made a couple of months before the wedding. Then we had little frames painted an ivory color to hold the table numbers which we printed onto the same paper used for our invitations.
The food was catered by my very own parents’ restaurant, and it was fantastic. We received several compliments on the food by many people who did not even know that my family had made it. My mother handled most of the seasoning and had a small crew assisting her with the execution. We decided to serve the food buffet style in order to allow guests to have their choice and their fill, and placed menus on each plate to display the options. For the entrees James and I choose rib-eye steak, chicken marsala with mushrooms, and meatloaf, which are some of our favorite foods that also maintain a classic wedding theme.
We rented a beautiful bar that was actually built by the owner of the rental company, and we hired two bartenders to serve cocktails, beer, and wine. Guests had a very wide variety of drinks to choose from at the open bar that went on all night, including our two specialty cocktails. We also ordered customized cocktail napkins with the same monogram James created for our invitations.
We implemented small decorative details throughout the wedding that emoted a romantic outdoor wedding theme, such as a wooden cabinet for escort cards and a birdcage to hold gifts.
Since we had a buffet style dinner, we decided to have cupcakes instead of a full wedding cake. It enabled guests to take their own and choose their preferred flavor. We had our cupcakes made by The Cupcakerie in strawberry, lavender, and mocha espresso.
There were also a couple of glass containers holding my all time favorite dessert: raspberry French macaroons. The wonderful owner of the bakery also made a small wedding cake for James and I to cut, and it was absolutely perfect. We sent her a few images of cake designs we liked and she was able to use those as inspiration to create our ideal little wedding cake. The details and design of the cake, cupcakes, and sweets display were exactly what we wanted.
For our first dance we went with “Fly Me to the Moon.” We selected that song years ago, before we even got engaged, as it represents several things to us. It is a swing/jazz song and we had a swing/jazz band play at our wedding, it is romantic, its references to the moon and planets speaks to our mutual love of space exploration, and of course we love the song melody itself.
When it got much darker we lit sparklers and had fun playing and creating images.
We have very fond memories of our wedding day and are so relieved that all went wonderfully. We had a great time seeing our loved ones and are so very grateful to all who contributed in any way to make our night successful. From the delicate details to the romantic live swing band our night was incredibly memorable. All of our hard work certainly paid off, and now we look forward to many long years of happy matrimony.
At the beginning of this month, James and I had the opportunity to spend a lovely weekend with good friends in La Quinta, a small city near Palm Springs. This has been a rather stressful summer, so this little getaway came at the perfect time.
We stayed Friday and Saturday night, as well as most of Sunday at our friends’ timeshare. The house had three bedrooms, one for each couple who went, and access to everything you could want for a relaxing weekend.
We had our own private hot-tub with a fire pit that we lit our first night there while we sipped on frozen margaritas and chatted with friends. Just a short walk away was a swimming pool and a putting green to use at our leisure.
The inside of the house was astounding. A large living room, kitchen, and dinning area greets guests as soon as they enter. All of the furniture and decor, with primarily wood, leather, and pretty fabric finishes, was comfortable and elegant.
After two days of relaxing, swimming, and enjoying good company, it was time to head back home. It was cloudy for most of the weekend, but on Sunday the rain finally came. Despite the deluge, we decided to make a few stops on our way back, starting with Palm Springs City Hall.
We stopped by the Palm Springs visitor center, and then made our way to Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway, the house once owned by the king himself.
After that, we couldn’t resist the temptation to stop and visit the roadside attraction to end all roadside attractions: the giant Cabazon Dinosaurs.
The one seen here has a small gift shop inside that exclusively sells dinosaur paraphernalia.
Our last stop on our trip through riverside county was in downtown Riverside to see the spectacular Mission Inn.
This gorgeous hotel features courtyards, arches, balconies, stained glass windows, fountains, and just about everything you can think of that can make a Southern California hotel beautiful.
It was the perfect relaxing weekend we needed. We look forward to visiting this desert resort area again someday.
James and I have been busily preparing for both our wedding and our honeymoon. Planning for an international trip can get a bit daunting, what with having to figure out even the smallest of details such as where will there be public restrooms, how much are toll roads, and how many pairs of socks we will need. The last couple of international trips we took together were a bit calmer. Our trip to Québec last September only lasted a weekend, and our trip to Guatemala in summer 2012 was easy considering that we were staying with family, I had been several times before, and I speak Spanish fluently. For the two week trip, all we had to worry about was relaxing, and having fun. Even though I had been many times when I was younger, visiting my native country as an adult and with James was absolutely wonderful.
One of our first stops was Puerto San José, where my parents own a house by the beach. We spent two days enjoying the weather, pool, and the coconuts freshly cut off the trees on the property.
On our first day, we discovered that this little crab had found it’s way into the house from the beach, and took a dip in the pool. Luckily he was quickly caught and taken back to the beach.
This is the view as you leave the house property and exit the back gate towards the beach.
We then visited Antigua, a beautiful city that was once the capital of the country, until an earthquake destroyed many of the Spanish baroque structures and the capital had to move elsewhere.
It was great to see that many of the churches and buildings around the city are still around, albeit crumbling.
We did most of our traveling by car, which enabled us to view so much of the natural beauty of the country.
Perhaps James’ favorite place was Río Dulce. We took a boat down the river, surrounded by tree covered hills, and stopped for lunch at a charming restaurant by the water.
Another stop off Río Dulce were these stalagmite caves. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a short tour through the caves. In this photo I turned on the flash so that we could at least see something, but our only source of light inside the caves were small flashlights that we each held.
Next we went to Tikal, my personal favorite place in Guatemala. Of course we had to take the above picture not only for its picturesque qualities, but because this was also the exterior location of the Rebel Base on Yavin IV in Star Wars: A New Hope.
The actual climbing on the temples was exhausting, but well worth it.
At one point we reached a clearing, and suddenly saw a large gathering of these little creatures run by. One of them stayed behind the rest of his pack, so we were able to get a bit closer for a picture before he scurried off.
Aside from the natural beauty of the country, we also saw many lovely towns and cities on our travels from destination to destination. We later visited a cemetery that looked very similar to this one with very brightly colored stone tombs.
On one day we went to Panajachel, a small town on Lago de Atitlán with spectacular views.
One of the main attractions were the volcanoes on the lake. Here you can see as more begin to reveal themselves behind the first volcano on our river boat trip.
On one of the last days of our trip we went to the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, and walked around the colonial district to look at the pretty government buildings and museums in the area. I am so glad that I was able to take James to visit my family’s country, and that my parents came with us for the lovely trip. We hope to do a lot of travelling together in our lives, and know that we will definitely return to Guatemala someday.
As I had posted previously, I had made a floral sash to wear around my wedding gown that featured fabric flowers and lace. In April, I had a chance to see it with my dress, and it didn’t work quite as well as it had stand alone. The band felt thick, and the ribbon juxtaposed with the lace on my dress looked too shiny (I felt a bit like gift wrap). Before my latest trip to Rhode Island, I tried out a few different alterations to make it feel more cohesive with the dress, but ultimately I decided that the best course of action was to keep only the flowers, and make a new sash with all new materials.
This one was made with a much thinner champagne colored ribbon and a delicate lace ribbon with tiny pearls on top.
Having seen this new sash with my dress, I am very happy with the way they compliment one another. Not being able to see the dress for comparison while I was making the original sash is just one example of the difficulties involved in designing for an event that is taking place thousands of miles away. It has been frustrating, but with the amount of prep that we have done (and re-done again and again as construction of the venue progresses), I’m certain that all of the colors, textures, and geography will work out. We continuously stop to remind ourselves that even with all of the frustrations, we’re so glad to be marrying each other.