Our wedding day is fast approaching, and there are still some elements that need to be completed. Over the past few weeks, we have been making paper flowers out of crepe paper as part of our centerpieces. It’s a very tedious process, but this way we are able to design the flowers ourselves, pick the perfect colors, and save thousands of dollars by not using real ones.
The first step is to cut out the shapes of the petals from crepe paper. There are three different sizes of petals in each flower.
We chose a delicate pink and ivory for the petal colors, complimented with a red paper center.
Each petal consists of a piece of of each color twisted together.
We didn’t have any pips to put in the center, so we unrolled the handles of a paper bag and cut slits all across it.
The most difficult part is attaching everything with floral tape. It doesn’t seem to stick well to anything except itself and my fingers.
There are still quite a few to make, but we know that all the work will be worth it when they are placed around the lanterns on the centerpiece of each table.
Over the past few years, we have worked on a number of film projects that required us to create our own props and costumes. We’re always looking for cheap, fun ways to make them, and sometimes we keep them for display pieces around our home. Here are just a few examples of some work we have done so far.
This Mayan statue of a quetzal was made entirely out of clay. It was a very easy clay to use that dried overnight without having to bake. We painted it with green spray paint, then applied black paint with a sponge, and covered that with clear coat. The back is never seen in the film, so it is unpainted cardboard.
Here we purchased a skull prop and then melted a candle over it so that the wax would drip down. It was only seen in black and white, so we bought the cheapest candles, which happened to be orange.
I made these prisoner costumes using black and white striped fabric, but because the white would have been too bright, we bought a dye that would soften it. Coincidentally, the cheapest option here was also orange, which worked out fine for the black and white project.
There are a few simple elements going into this native costume, most of which were purchased at Party City. James put together the spear by cutting out and painting a piece of cardboard and attaching it to a stick with feathers.
These military medals and ribbons were made for a sci-fi project that never ended up happening. The metal parts were cut out of copper and soldered together. The ribbons were all sewn together from individual colors and hot glued to the metal. The bars were just photo paper printouts on top of name tags. Although these have never been put to use, we kept them in case they get used for a project in the future.
Here is a map that James put together in Photoshop. We printed the map on plain paper, and then crumpled up and singed with a lighter.
This patriotic dancer costume was for another black and white scene (hence the purple ribbon). The main element here is the skirt, which I made by sewing strips of red and off-white fabric together. Unseen in this picture is a star that I put on the back of the cape. For the hat we purchased all of the pieces separately, and then assembled using hot glue and thread.
Here is another black and white costume that threw together a bunch of different colored elements. Rather than spending a lot of money on a leather aviator hat, I made a simple one out of cheap fabric.
For this scene, we had to make a stack of antique books with specific titles. We bought used books for a dollar each, and aged them by filing and tearing. To screen print the ink, we tried to burn a screen ourselves, but we could not get it to work. We ended up going to a shop to use their screen printing table. James has repeatedly said that he deeply regrets using real antique books for this. Most of the books were recent releases, but there were a few that were about fifty years old or more. Rather than defacing antiques (which we had never done before and will never do again), we could have purchased journals that have covers that look like textured leather, which we have seen in numerous shops lately.
Currently we are not working on any film projects, but we do have some lined up to happen after the wedding. We are already thinking of how we will execute the props and costumes for those films, and will continue posting more details about past and future projects here.
Last weekend James and I went to Rhode Island for the 4th of July. We had some wedding planning details to sort out, and also had a lot of fun spending time with my family, enjoying delicious seafood, and taking time to relax. One of the highlights of our trip was my bridal shower, which came out just as I imagined and hoped. My sister, who is my maid of honor, and my mother worked hard to make my shower a great success.
Even before guests arrived, the tone was set with these beautiful invitations made by my sister. She used delicate flowers made out of crepe paper to line the outside flap, and another on the inside. I wore a white flowered lace dress with an open back, and painted my toe and fingernails coral and pink respectively to stick with the theme.
For the decor, my sisters created arrangements and banners using burlap, ribbon, and gerbera daisies (they know they are my favorite flowers).
Large jars held flower bouquets, while the smaller jars held little candles inside that were lit as it was getting darker. There were also tiny string lights placed around the garden that lit up as soon as the sun set, giving a lovely feel to the evening.
Drinks were served in champagne flutes with cute pink stirrers that perfectly fit the corals and pinks theme. Two specialty cocktails were created, one using tropical fruits, pineapple juice, and rum. The other drink was an ode to sangria using champagne, gin and berries.
The food was primarily finger foods that could be easy to eat, and included many of my favorite things such as seafood, crab cakes, mini cheese-steaks, and bacon wrapped scallops to name a few. Everything was absolutely delicious.
Favor boxes were made by attaching little daisies to boxes, and filled with personalized chocolates reading “Emily’s Bridal Shower.”
For dessert we had wine poached pears served with vanilla ice cream, and these beautiful chocolate dipped strawberries made by one of my cousins.
From the decorations, to food, and of course the company, I can say I had a fantastic time. I am so grateful to my sister who put this party together, and made it such a memorable night. My bridal shower made me realize just how close our big day is, and I’m getting more nervous and excited by the day.
Most fourth of July celebrations include a BBQ, summer drinks, and of course snacks. When I’m hosting I like to have a good variety of dishes that are easy to snack on, but when I’m only bringing one dish to a group gathering my go to is often spinach and artichoke dip. It’s a dip generally loved by all, and a quick and easy dish to make when pressed for time.
I like to add a few extra ingredients from the traditional spinach and artichoke dip to give it more flavor. It has always been a crowd-pleaser to any event I have taken it to, and makes for easy cleaning when it gets completely eaten up.
4 cups chopped spinach
2 cups roughly chopped artichoke hearts
1 cup chopped basil leaves
1 1/2 packages of cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup shredded cheese blend (I buy the pre-blended packages which usually have parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, romano and asiago)
2 tablespoons mustard
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Let the cream cheese sit at room temperature for a few minutes to get it softened. Mix cream cheese and sour cream in a pyrex/oven safe dish and mush together using a rubber spatula. Add the chopped spinach, basil leaves, artichokes and mix. Add mustard and parmesan cheese, then cream contents together until fully mixed.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until dip has just started to bubble. Let cool and serve with tortilla chips or chopped vegetables.
James birthday is this Sunday, and to celebrate his golden birthday I’m taking today off and having a three day weekend for us to do some of his favorite things. We decided to have a leisurely birthday weekend this year instead of throwing a party. Although we have had a lot of fun throwing parties for some of our past birthdays, we felt that with all the wedding planning craziness, a relaxing weekend would be much more suitable. To give some examples of how exhausting it has been for us to throw a party, here are a few pictures from two of our previous themed birthday parties.
For James’ 26th birthday three years ago, we decided to throw a Nautical themed party (his twin brother had a separate future themed party the following day). I had just moved into my new apartment, and couldn’t afford to spend much on decor, so we focused most of the theming on the food.
We had shell pasta and spinach spaghetti to represent shells and seaweed, and fried calamari as the savory themed foods. For the treats, we made “edible aquarium” jello cups where we filled clear cups with blue jello, green gummy straws for seaweed, rock candy for the base, shark bites fruit snacks, and a gummy lifesaver sitting on the top.
We set out a fruit platter for our guests to nibble on and James sculpted these little ships out of pears. Clockwise from top: carrack, cutter, caravel, galleon.
For the cake we decided to buy an ice-cream cake and just decorate the top. We made a little lighthouse out of cookie dough, embellished it with candy shaped like rocks, and then covered the cake with blue frosting for water, and a few shark bites.
I absolutely love dinosaurs (who doesn’t?), so for my 23rd birthday a few years ago, I decided it was high time to have a dinosaur themed birthday party. We had friends dress up in dinosaur themed costumes (most dressed up as characters from Jurassic Park), played dinosaur themed movies, and enjoyed themed food. Of course, toy dinosaurs were used everywhere to add decor and fun.
One of the foods were simple deviled eggs that I cracked and dipped into food coloring before peeling off the shells to give off the impression of a cracking dinosaur egg. Sadly we don’t have any great photos of the eggs, so this one will have to do.
The other treats were fairly basic, but we thought of creative names for each food to make it fit with the theme, such as pterodactyl nests for stuffed mushrooms, and primeval ooze for spinach and artichoke dip. For the drinks we splashed a little bit of Midori into the cocktails to give off that bright green color.
A lot of the theming for this party also went into decorating the apartment. We cut dinosaur tracks out of brown construction paper and taped them all over the floor of the apartment. Then we took green streamers and hung them from the ceiling to represent a jungle (sadly, no pictures were taken of those either).
We’ve had a few other themed parties, and continue to think of new theme ideas here and there, but for this year we’re happy to spend James’ birthday relaxing, and my upcoming birthday on our honeymoon. Perhaps next year for his 30th we’ll come up with some fun new ideas.
The final installment of our ‘Favorite LA Spots’ series features Greystone Mansion, a gorgeous park located in Beverly Hills.
The park’s most prominent attraction is a huge mansion, outfitted with beautiful chimneys and Tudor style rooftops. The mansion itself is generally closed to the public, except for special events, but visitors are allowed to park and enter for free to explore the property at their own leisure.
Surrounding the mansion are various gardens, fountains, and stone pathways, making it a lovely place for an afternoon stroll.
The area pictured above can be used for private events, and would be a beautiful wedding venue. When James and I first discovered Greystone, we discussed the idea of having our wedding there, but ultimately decided to get married in Rhode Island.
Perhaps our favorite building on the property besides the mansion itself is the greenhouse.
With its distressed, overgrown feel, and the fact that it’s a bit secluded from the rest of the property, the greenhouse makes a great place for exploring.
We have visited the greenhouse during it’s summer months where it’s filled with plants, and during fall when it’s a bit more abandoned, and we have found it charming in all seasons.
Behind the greenhouse are a couple of buildings that we believed may have served as stables and servants’ quarters when initially constructed.
We hope to attend an event inside the mansion someday to get a closer look at its intricacies. I would highly recommend a visit to Greystone Mansion for anyone living in the Los Angeles area, or simply in town for travel. This completes the Favorite LA Spots series, for now, as who knows what new wonderful places we’ll discover next.
One year ago today, James and I got engaged. Like many romantic engagement stories, it was quite the happy surprise for me. We had spoken about getting married many times before, so the idea of marrying him was not a question. We had been living together for about a year and a half, and approaching our three year anniversary, so we both knew it was only a matter of time. Regardless of the assumption that he would propose someday, the fact that it was a regular Monday night, about a week before his birthday, and two months shy of our three year anniversary, meant that it came as a complete shock.
The proposal itself was perfect, reinforcing the fact that he is perfect to me in every way. Earlier that day, James had texted me “I have a surprise for you,” and for most people that would have been a giveaway, but not with us. Him having a surprise for me is commonplace, and it can range from “I got you cupcakes,” to “I found this great vintage book that you’ll love.”
I walked up to our door, put my key in the keyhole, and before I could proceed, I heard him on the other side fumbling around with the locks. I took my key out and let him finish opening the door. The first thing I wanted to say was, “why was the door locked?” since this is not typical if one of us is home and the other will be arriving soon. But before I had a chance to say anything, he opened the door just a tiny bit and said “close your eyes,” before I could even take a single step inside. A bit alarmed, but excited for whatever this fun surprise would be, I complied and closed my eyes. He opened the door, and slowly led me in. With my eyes still closed he had me put my purse down, and then before I could walk any further, he walked behind me and covered my eyes with his hands.
At this point my curiosity was piqued, and I began to run through my head what it could possibly be, never once during these few seconds thinking it would be a proposal. He walked me through our small foyer, through our living room, and then stopped right in front of the kitchen table dining area. As he removed his hands from my eyes, he took a step to stand next me and asked me to open my eyes now. I can only imagine the look of surprise and thrill on my face at that moment. I opened my eyes to see what you see in this photograph, a book titled ‘This is Paris,’ a bottle of champagne, our special champagne glasses, and the essential piece: an engagement ring. The book was a reprint of a children’s book from the 1950s, and he knew this would be perfect; I love books, and we had always talked about going to France for our honeymoon someday. The champagne glasses were a gift James gave me a couple of Christmases ago, crystal with a fine etching, and of course champagne to signify celebration.
As I recall I stood there in shock for a few seconds, feeling my heart fill with a thrilling excitement. I turned to him as he grabbed my hands in his, and with a smile asked “will you marry me?”
I recently reached three years of living in our apartment. I had been living in Los Angeles for less than a year, was drastically overpaying for a tiny studio apartment, and was ready to move to a bigger space. I started to search in various neighborhoods with a loose idea of what I was looking for. I knew that I wanted a one bedroom, since I was sick of feeling like I was living in a kitchen, hardwood floors (I hate carpeting), and a walk-able neighborhood. After just a few weeks of searching, I came across our current home and fell in love with it. It was in a great area, high ceilings, tiled bathroom, arched entryways, wooden ceiling beams, and even a patio! It was also a huge plus that it was actually only $100 more than the studio I was paying for. I moved in with what little furniture I owned, primarily the cheapest pieces I could find at IKEA from when I first started out in Los Angeles, and worked with what little I had. A year later, James moved in with me, and together we have progressively made it more and more into a home.
This photo does not show how our apartment looked in the beginning, since I didn’t have sofas or a table when I first moved in, these pieces came a few weeks later from bargains found at IKEA. I was not a huge fan of white couches, but I had to get what I could afford, so I decided to cover them with red sheets to give it at least a bit of color.
A few months later, I found this red and gold patterned fabric in the fashion district, for an incredibly low price. I got a few yards, hemmed the edges, and replaced the sheets with the fabric pieces, giving the living room a bit more design and presence.
Shortly after James moved in (about a year of us sitting on the uncomfortable white sofas), we decided it was time for some real furniture, so we got our current couches and coffee table. We now tend to keep at least four coffee table books on the table, have added new frames to our walls, and a small carpet imported from India to tie the room together.
The mantel has also experienced change over time, initially having only the small TV I brought with me from college. it now features a larger television, a globe at its base, and a couple of plants to add greenery to our home.
The wall opposite the windows in our living room once hosted a very large, cheap looking bookcase I initially purchased to serve as the ‘wall’ between my bed and the kitchen in my old studio apartment. As the large bookcase began to fall apart, it was time to replace it with something else that could hold some of my books. I was given this small black bookcase by an old neighbor who was moving out of the building and had no use for it. It was not my ideal either, but it would have to do.
Finally, after a lot of searching for the ideal bookcase, we came across this lovely one at an antiques flea market. James and I were living together at that point, and this not only suited our need for more shelf space, but also our aesthetic tastes.
The kitchen table area, although small, has had the most colorful amount of change. Initially the area started with a plain black table, three chairs (the sale meant only three were left when I found them), and a small microwave table next to the refrigerator to organize some appliances.
Over time we replaced the microwave cart with this antique wooden hutch, and the black particle board table with a wooden table featuring red tiles on the top. These colorful pieces have become some of my favorite in the entire apartment.
The bedroom is another room that has changed drastically over the past three years. I built this full sized bed on my own when I first moved into my studio apartment. Naturally, it came with me when I moved into my new apartment, along with a dresser and some storage boxes to organize a few belongings.
Now, the bedroom has a much larger bed (which I admit took some time to adjust to), James’ dresser, and more decorative items to make the room more complete.
We are constantly looking for ways to continue improving our home, visiting flea markets, adding new artwork to our walls, or simply switching out decor based on the season. We’re not sure how long we’ll be in this apartment, but until we have a house someday, we are perfectly content calling this our home.
Fifth in the Favorite LA Spots series is Travel Town Museum, a small lovely park featuring retired steam engine trains in the heart of Griffith Park (also home of The Griffith Observatory).
James and I typically pack a picnic before heading over to this Los Angeles treasure to enjoy a sunny day, and then walk around the park admiring the trains.
Walking among these iron giants gives any visitor a sense of childlike adventure and a glimpse of nostalgic history.
One of my favorite things to do is climb up the side ladders and go inside the trains.
Each and every train is unique, and the variety allows you to have a glimpse into the different types of steam trains that were once functional. Considering James and I are both quite fond of trains, and the fact that Travel Town has convenient free parking and no admission fee, it’s pretty obvious why this park makes the list of our favorite LA spots.