Favorite LA Spots: Barnsdall Park

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As part of a series, I am creating posts about mine and James’ favorite (and free) places in Los Angeles. I started the series with The Griffith Observatory, and am following up with Barnsdall Park. Located atop a small hill, Barnsdall is a lovely park in Hollywood, that provides a relaxing escape from the city right at its feet.

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This quaint park holds a special meaning to us, as it was where we had our third date together. On that beautiful late summer day we also shared our first picnic together, and we’ve been big fans of picnic dates ever since.

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The main attraction of the park is the Hollyhock House, which sits atop the hill. The house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, features a unique pattern inspired by the hollyhock flower which adorns the entire exterior.

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The entrance of the house was designed to serve as a sort of illusion. The entryway is big in front and gradually gets smaller as you approach the door. I highly recommend a tour of the inside of the house, where visitors can see more of the unique design elements Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated into this structure.

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The structure in the photograph above was built as an additional residence of Barnsdall Park, just a short walk away from the Hollyhock House itself. Unfortunately that building has yet to be restored, so guests cannot enter.

 

 


Beach Days

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Living in Southern California has many benefits, the best known one being the beach. Now, it is possible to go to the beach all year round, but James and I prefer to wait for hot summer days when the water doesn’t feel as cold, and the evenings are breezy and warm. It’s still Spring here in Los Angeles, but we anticipate a very warm summer, and many beach days to enjoy it. We love to pack a picnic, take some beach towels for lounging, and most importantly: build sand castles.

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This sand castle was from our last beach trip of the Summer in 2013. After making a large hill of hard packed sand, we used a few buckets, cups, and plastic utensils to shape it into walls and towers

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A row of stairs leads to the main gate.

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Typically James comes up with the concept for the castles,. He has so much fun focusing on the many details that make up the structures, even though they usually end up being half the size he envisioned.

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Here are two smaller castles that we made on an earlier trip. The tide was coming in quickly, and ate away at the walls before we could finish.

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Here’s one that we made on top of a rock, before we realized that we needed a high foundation of wet sand.

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At least this one wasn’t affected by the tide.

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The water is usually freezing, but we try to be brave and go in for at least a bit every time.

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After we’ve had some fun we like to lounge under the sun to warm up from the cold water and enjoy a lunch. Making a fruit galette is one of my favorite treats for picnics, they’re quick to make and easy to eat!

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No trip to the beach is complete without climbing on rocks and exploring caves before heading back home. I’m very excited to take out my bathing suit and begin enjoying the beach again this summer.

 

 

 

 


Apple Pie

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With Spring upon us and Summer just around the corner, it’s finally time for more pic-nics! To me that means a few things, namely that it’s time for apple pies. There are hundreds of recipes for apple pie online, so the main purpose of this post is not so much to provide a recipe for apple pie, but to encourage spontaneity and creativity when making pie. Apple pie is definitely one of those foods that I have fun making, and I’ll sometimes use frozen pie crust so I don’t have to worry so much about tedious measurements that could destroy the whole thing, and instead focus more on making the filling as delicious as possible. Here is what I like to put in my apple pies, but I encourage you to take liberty and come up with other fun ingredients to make the filling.

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Ingredients:

1 box pie crust – thawed (has two pie crust circles)

3 large apples – I use 3 different types of apples to add a variety of tart and sweet

1 cup refined white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie seasoning

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 egg – beaten

1 tablespoon raw sugar

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Instructions:

Peel apples and cut into cubes. In a large bowl, combine the apple chunks with all of the dry ingredients (except for raw sugar), and let sit for about 15 minutes. Take one of the pie crusts and press into a 9″ round pie tray. Cut off any extra around the rim with a knife. Fill the tray with the apple mixture.

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Take the second pie crust, and cut into long pieces, about one ince in width. Weave the pie crust pieces to create a lattice pattern for the top of the pie.

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Take whatever pie crust slivers remain to seal the edges together, and press around rim with a fork. Lightly coat the pie crust top with the egg and top with raw sugar. Follow the baking instructions on the pie crust box, let cool, and go have a picnic! Or simply enjoy at home.

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Favorite LA Spots: The Griffith Observatory

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When James and I started dating, neither one of us was in an ideal financial situation, so we became pros at finding the best places in Los Angeles that we could go to for free. Thankfully, we are now both doing much better in our careers and can afford to take occasional trips and pay for more things. Nevertheless, we constantly find ourselves revisiting the free spots,  not to save money, but because they truly are our favorite places in the city. In the next few weeks I will be sharing photos from each of our favorite free LA spots, starting with The Griffith Observatory.

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The Griffith Observatory is one of our favorite places for a multitude of reasons. For one, it is the site of our second date which occurred just two days after our first date. On our first date, James and I quickly discovered our mutual love for space exploration, science-fiction, and sight seeing, so it was all too fitting to go to the observatory together shortly after.

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The observatory represents all things related to exploring our solar system and beyond, which is incredibly important to both James and myself. We are advocates for continued scientific development, and will take any opportunity to show our support and expand our knowledge.

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The telescope that calls the observatory home is fascinating, and presents a great learning opportunity to all of its visitors.

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Aside from its wealth of knowledge, The Griffith Observatory is a beautiful sight to visit. Its astounding architecture, with art-deco inspired detailing, can only truly be appreciated in person.

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Whether you’re admiring it from up close, or from farther away, The Griffith Observatory is truly a treasure to the city of Los Angeles. We are so glad to have this lovely place to visit so close to home.

 

 


Artichoke, Swiss Chard, and Sundried Tomato Stuffed Chicken

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I find that more often than I would like to admit, dinner at home is a random concoction of whatever I have around. My weekday routine involves me taking out a package of frozen meat to thaw in the morning for that evenings meal, and most of the time I just thaw whatever freezer bag my hands reach for first. Therefore, by the time I get home after work, I don’t always have a set meal in mind. I do however, always want to cook something healthy, using whole foods whenever possible. To make the stuffing for this chicken, I used a few different ingredients I had in my refrigerator, and you can really use any combination of vegetables you may have in yours. This recipe is low carb, and really simple to make, especially after a long work day.

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Ingredients:

2 Chicken breasts (slightly pounded)

1 Cup sliced mushrooms

1/4 Cup sundried tomatoes

1/2 Cup artichoke hearts (quartered)

2 Cups Swiss chard (roughly chopped)

1 Garlic clove (minced)

1/2 Cup red table wine

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

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Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Add mushrooms to a food processor and roughly grind. In a skillet, heat up the olive oil and add minced garlic. Saute garlic until lightly browned, and add Swiss chard. Let the chard cook for about a minute, then add artichokes and tomatoes. Add mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Let the vegetables cook for about 5 minutes, then add wine. Simmer vegetables for a few more minutes, until all vegetables are soft and the wine has been absorbed.

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Add a couple of big dollops of the vegetable mix to the center of each chicken breast. Roll the chicken breasts, and secure with toothpicks. Bake chicken in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool, and remove toothpicks before serving. Top chicken breasts with leftover vegetables.

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Road-trip to Texas

About two years ago we took our first long distance road trip together, with James’ brother and his now fiancée. The four of us headed towards Austin, Texas to watch James and his brother Robert’s short film, ‘Machines of the Working Class,’ play at the SXSW Film Festival.

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It was a relatively short trip, but we embraced the opportunity to do some sightseeing around the state capitol.

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It poured pretty much the entire time we were in Austin, nevertheless we made the trek to the Capitol building and were also able to visit the University of Texas campus.

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Luckily, the capitol building was open that day, despite it being a weekend. The inside of the building was stunning, and it was a pleasant get away from the hustle and bustle of the film festival.

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We were completely drenched, but I remember us laughing a lot the entire time. Sadly, that yellow umbrella in the photo above broke shortly after this was taken.

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After the festival in Austin, James proposed we take a detour and visit San Antonio, and I am so glad he thought of it! Thankfully, the weather was much more forgiving in San Antonio, and we absolutely loved walking around this pleasant city. Here we are in front of the Tower of the Americas at HemisFair Park.

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We strolled along the lovely River Walk, had a nice lunch, and even saw a couple get engaged.

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Here James is standing in front of the Bexar County Courthouse.

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My personal favorite part of the trip was going to The Alamo! We were able to go inside and take in the history, but unfortunately were unable to take any photos inside.

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Had it not been for the film festival, and James’ wonderful sense of adventure and curiosity, we would not have had this great opportunity. There were many hours of driving through the desert, but having good company along the way, and the memories of the places we got to visit made it all worth it.

 


Escape from Sabre Island – A Lego Brickfilm

As all our friends know, James and I love legos. We have a few sets, and thoroughly enjoy spending our free time playing with legos. A couple of months ago, James started thinking of making our own stop-motion lego brickfilm, and decided that it would be based off the classic Lego Pirates theme from 1989-1993. Luckily, we already had a lot of the pieces we needed and found the other pieces on ebay to bring the project to fruition.

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The entire ‘set’ was created on our coffee table, and we shot the whole project right in our living room. The base of the island was created using an array of random pieces we already had, and covered with gray and tan pieces we purchased on the lego website. Working primarily weeknights, after work, and weekends when time allowed, we were able to complete the shooting process over the course of three weeks.

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We used most of the official ‘Sabre Island’ set for the soldier’s watch tower, and created another structure that was based on sets that James and his brother used to own when they were children.

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This second structure was a prison that also provided lodging for the Governor.

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Once we had our base for the entire set, we had fun covering it with rocky terrain for the one main angle it was to be seen from.

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Here you can see the completed model, including the pieces we used to create the effect of distant land masses, and moving water. The digital cloning and morphing of this one water piece would prove to be the most difficult part of the entire process.

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The actual shooting was much more tedious than the construction. In most cases, the different moving elements were shot separately. Those passes were then composited, and in some cases frames were re-ordered to alter the animation.

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We used tweezers to place several pieces. Here, the tweezers would be digitally painted out to make the sword spin in mid-air.

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Sheets of blue and green poster-board served as our green/blue screens and sky backdrops.

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For some elements, we shot realtime video and then adjusted the speed, or chose certain frames to use.

The construction and shooting only comprised a small percentage of the production. Most of the time was spent with James using every trick in the book to digitally stabilize the footage during the compositing process. Nudging the pieces so much as one millimeter led to many hours of tracking and rotoscoping, not to mention painting out the occasional kitty cat hair.

Even after dealing with difficult pieces and pained fingers, the results made it all well worth it. Watch our short film ‘Escape from Sabre Island,’ below:


Middle Earth Madness VII

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A couple of our close friends started a fun tradition six years ago called ‘Middle Earth Madness.’ Every year they invite friends over to their home and watch the extended versions of all three Lord of the Rings films. It’s not just a sit and watch movies type of event, the whole day also is sprinkled with themed food and treats such as Second Breakfast, Baked Bree, and You Shall Not Pizza, to name just a few. This year was the seventh time they have hosted this event, but only my fourth time attending as I met them in 2011. Shortly after James introduced me to his college friends this fun duo invited me to their then fourth annual ‘Middle Earth Madness,’ and I haven’t missed one since.  To add to the fun of the day a few guests bring their own themed treats, so of course James and I have eagerly taken up that opportunity to have fun creating our contributions. Unfortunately, in 2012 I had oral surgery the day before the event so we were unable to bring a treat (but I still went, puffy faced and all). Here are the three treats we have created in the past. We’re already brewing up new ideas for the upcoming years.

2014

Shelob’s Web Cake

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2013

Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole Cake

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2011

Map of Middle Earth Cookie

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IMG_0710(This was actually at my old apartment – oh nostalgia)

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As a fan of the LotR trilogy, and all things ‘nerd,’ I quickly embraced the tradition and look forward to it each year. Can’t wait to see what we come up with each year.


Three Years of Disneyland

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Disneyland, and all things Disney related, play a big part in our lives. On our third date, which was a lovely picnic in Barnsdall Park, I asked James if he liked theme parks. His response was, ‘I consider theme parks to be a serious art-form.’ I don’t know what our lives would be like if it were any other way. As annual pass-holders we get to enjoy unlimited trips to the parks, enabling us to cultivate endless memories. Motivated by our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World to visit James’ parents, we decided to create a collection of photos representing the past three years of our adventures at Disneyland Resort here in California.

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This photo is one of James’ favorites. He notes that he loves the juxtaposition of all the rides you can see in the background (Matterhorn, Monorail, Mad Tea Party) complimented by a happy me having a great day at Disneyland Park.

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We decided to take this photo somewhat recently, as rumors have circulated that the Tomorrowland entrance will look vastly different in the near future.

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This is James’ favorite model (in the whole world). Here I am pointing at Peter Pan’s Flight which is my favorite ride in the park.

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This photo was taken on the one occasion so far that we have ridden in the nose cone of the Monorail. The view going into Disneyland was spectacular.

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We don’t often take pictures of our food when visiting the theme parks, but we couldn’t resist when it came to this Mickey Mouse waffle served at Carnation Cafe.

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Even though it only opened a couple of years ago, Jolly Holiday Bakery has quickly become one of my favorite eateries at Disneyland Resort. The penguin stained glass always makes me happy.

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At some point we hope to have photos with all of the major characters in the parks, our biggest deterrent are the long lines of parents with their impatient little ones. On  this occasion however, we were sitting by a bench when we saw Woody walking by and were able to quickly sneak a photo before all of his admirers showed up.

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This photo was taken by James the very first time that I went on Dumbo the Flying Elephant, as you can see I was beyond thrilled. I love that only the ride is in focus in this picture and that we were able to catch a shot of the Matterhorn from our high flying view.

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We do not have very many photos of both us together from our adventures in the parks, so sometimes we must take them ourselves. Here we are wearing our 3D glasses as we wait for It’s Tough to be a Bug.

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The Fantasyland Skyway Station has been an abandoned building hidden in the outskirts of Fantasyland for many years. On occasion James and I will go admire it and try to get as close as possible. Sadly, this structure will soon be no more according to some recent news.

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We place a great deal of importance on all of the small details throughout the park. After all, the entire thing is a serious art form. Here you can see a small Red Car Trolley emblem found on the streets of Disney California Adventure.

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Here we were riding Casey Jr. Circus Train overlooking the Storybook Land Canal Boats.

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This photo was taken purely by chance, as I am sure that if we ever tried to re-create this moment we would not succeed. One evening we decided to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad when the fireworks on Main Street started going off just as we were getting on the ride. It felt very magical indeed.

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Over the holidays Jungle Cruise was re-dubbed Jingle Cruise, which meant that the lines were even longer than expected. The queue looped around through so much of the building that for the first time ever we had the opportunity to go on this little terrace at the top level and admire Adventureland from above.

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I admit, I get popcorn almost every time we go to Disneyland (it is hands down my favorite snack of all time). All of the carts feature a character spinning the glass tube, this little yeti found in Fantasyland is both fun and adorable.

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We don’t fancy fried chicken very much, but we do love the interiors of Plaza Inn. I quickly took this picture outside of the building while James was walking through admiring the architecture and artwork of the restaurant.

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It always surprises me that King Arthur’s Carousel never has a long line. Although it may not be the most thrilling ride, it is in my opinion the ride with the most significance. As many may not know, Walt Disney came up with the idea of Disneyland while taking his daughters to the carousel at Griffith Park.

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Shortly after James proposed in June 2013 we celebrated our engagement at Disneyland. We took that as an opportunity to have fun photographing my ring in the park.

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As you can see, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck were both VERY impressed.

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This is not the greatest picture, but has an exciting story behind it. We were riding Space Mountain and coming to the end of the ride when suddenly the vehicle came to a stop and the lights came on! We have heard of others having this experience, but were still surprised and excited. After sitting there with the lights on for a few minutes I can say that riding with the lights off is definitely preferred.

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Here we were able to take a photo while on one ride and capture two other rides in the background. Casey Jr. Circus Train was passing through just in time.

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Us being us, we always make it a point to fully appreciate the exhibits happening inside The Disney Gallery. Last summer, the gallery had a few items commemorating The Tiki Room’s 50th anniversary. This was a menu that was used on United Airline flights for children to promote the attraction in its opening days.

Of course there are so many more places in the parks that we love and will continue to take photographs of. We are glad to live so close to the Disneyland Resort and plan to continue making many more years of happy memories.


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