Recent Lego Creations

In the past we’ve shown off some of our Lego creations, and since then we have built a few more.

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Here is a city block that is done on a micro scale. It’s very interesting to see what can be created with such a small amount of area.

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Keeping things small, this home interior is equipped with tables, chairs, a tv, and a stove. Maybe the bathroom and bedroom are on the unseen second floor.

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This church is pretty much done to minifig scale.

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Here’s another one in scale with minifigs. This is based on the city gates that we saw in Vieux-Québec.

Every once in a while, we will look to inspiration from the photos we took on a trip to Legoland California a few years ago. We never really have enough pieces to think on a grand scale, and we always have to work in white because our color options are extremely limited, but I’m sure our collection will continue to grow. Perhaps one day we can create something like the masterpieces below.

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Personalized Stationery

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Although the times of having pen pals and hand written letters are long gone, I still like keeping stationery at home for whatever occasion may present itself. I have found many instances where I will hand write a card for a birthday or hostess gift, as a sweet thank you, or a ‘just because’ note to make a friend smile. Recently, I ran out of stationery cards and decided to design my own instead buying more.

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I wanted the stationery to have a hand made feel, so I used colored pencils to give the design a gentle texture. For inspiration I looked at several examples of Art Nouveau, and created a digital image as my master reference with a flowered border and monogram at the bottom.

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I then printed out the design and drew it onto a sketchbook, gently filling the shapes with colored pencils. The hand drawn paper was then scanned and cleaned up to create the final version for printing.

I had a lot of fun with this project, love the outcome, and can see myself designing more personalized stationery in the future.

 


My Famous Deviled Eggs

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My deviled eggs are not actually famous, but they sure are popular among my friends and family! This is one of my staple recipes for casual hosting, or bringing to a social gathering. I follow a pretty traditional recipe, with just some minor tweaks.

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Ingredients: 1 dozen large eggs, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika.

Instructions: bring a large pot of about 2 quarts of water with 1 tablespoon of salt to a roaring boil, add eggs and cook for about 20 minutes. Drain eggs and rinse under cold water. Peel eggs and cut in half length wise. Remove the yolks with a small spoon, place in a fine mesh colander, and push through with a spoon to get rid of lumps. Place yolks and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, mix to combine. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and pipe into eggs. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

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The Seafarer and the Moonlight – A Paper Cutout Animation

After months of work, we have completed our newest short film ‘The Seafarer and the Moonlight.’ The film is stop-motion animation done entirely with thousands of paper cutouts.

James first conceived of the idea about a year ago, and initially thought that it might be done with lighting gels and diffusion to create a stained glass look. Eventually we decided upon parchment paper, and he created one digital concept image to get the process started. Here it is on the left next to the final shot in the film:

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All of the elements began with either digital paintings, or 3D animatics. Each color layer was isolated and printed out so that we had a guide of exactly where to cut.

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This is a comparison of one of the digital images and the final shot. In many instances, they are almost exact.

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Although originally a Viking story, we changed it to Norman after visiting Normandie on our honeymoon.

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When we first started cutting, we were using the same knives that we used for our Christmas cards, but it was very strenuous on our hands, and we switched to very fine nail scissors.

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These sheets of paper waiting to be cut are for the tentacles of the Kraken rising out of the water. That shot required over 1,000 individual pieces of paper.

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All of the coloring was done digitally. Some of the backgrounds were glued together as one image like this one, but most of the shots had each piece shot separately on green.

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Here are layers of shipwrecks and underwater rock formations.

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The skeletons had two layers, one for the highlights, and one for the shadows.

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Some animated elements were tiny enough to be shot in the same image. This is a bird flying loop, then a smaller bird doing that same loop, and then a flag flapping in the wind.

This was a completely new filmmaking experience for us. We have done stop-motion animation in the past, but the amount of manual labor involved with this project vastly exceeded that. It was a tremendous amount of work, but we’re very pleased with the end result.

You can watch the film below:


Cornish Hen with Morel Sauce and Potatoes au Gratin

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I have always loved French food, and on our recent honeymoon we were able to taste a fantastic variety of many of the nation’s dishes. For one of my favorite dinners we had cornish hen in a morel sauce and the best potatoes au gratin I had ever had. I knew I had to try to replicate the meal at home and am pleased with the results.

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For the cornish hen:

Ingredients: 1 whole cornish hen, 2 cups mushrooms (I decided to use a variety of mushrooms instead of just morels, but you can stick to morels if you would like),  1/4 cup flour, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/3 cup diced shallots, 2 garlic cloves, 1 cup dry white wine, 1 cup chicken stock, 1 cup heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions: cut the hen into eight separate pieces, sprinkle salt and pepper over hen. Lightly dredge the hen pieces with flour. In a non-stick pot (I use a dutch oven) heat the two tablespoons of olive oil. Add hen one piece at a time and cook about two minutes per side. Remove the chicken from pot and place on a paper lined plate. Add the butter to pot and let melt, add the shallots and garlic and cook until tender, about two minutes. Add the mushrooms, wine, chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for two minutes before adding the chicken pieces. Cover and let cook for about 20 minutes. Add the heavy cream and simmer for an additional five minutes.


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For the potatoes:

Ingredients: 4 large thinly sliced russet potatoes, 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons flour, 2 cups whole milk, 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper.

Instructions: heat oven to 350F. In a saucepan melt the butter and then add the flour. Whisk flour and butter for a few seconds and slowly pour in milk, add salt and pepper and bring to a gentle boil, until thickened. Add in the cheese, and whisk until cheese is fully melted and incorporated. Layer bottom of an oven safe dish with potato slices, add a bit of the cheese sauce, top with a layer of potatoes, repeat process until you reach top of baking dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, until potatoes are tender and lightly crisp on the top layer.

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Enjoy with a glass of wine! Bon appétit!


Our Neighborhood

We are very fortunate to live in the beautiful Miracle Mile neighborhood in Los Angeles, and we frequently take the opportunity to walk along Wilshire Boulevard and admire the architecture. Here are a few of our favorite spots that we encounter as we stroll down nearby streets.

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Although it has been dwarfed by less interesting, taller structures, the tower and entrance to the former Desmond’s Department Store still impresses.

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There are a lot of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne buildings that are still standing from when the area was developed in the 1920s and 1930s.

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This is sort of a miniature version of the demolished Richfield Oil Building, and was known to James while he was living in Florida as one of the buildings that was replicated at the Disney-MGM Studios.

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This was once a camera shop called The Darkroom, and luckily the camera has not been destroyed as other businesses have moved in and out. We have seen replicas of this building not only at the former Disney-MGM Studios, but also at Universal Studios Florida, and the Walt Disney Studios in Paris.

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The El Rey Theater is no longer a cinema, but the original neon sign still lights up the night.

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While some businesses in the neighborhood have undermined the historic architecture in which they reside, others in the area feel right at home.

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Moving just north of Wilshire, the apartment houses in the surrounding blocks have such wonderful charm.

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The majority of the apartments are done in Spanish Colonial Revival style, which is perfectly suited to the palm trees and sun of Los Angeles.

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There are also a number of French Eclectic buildings with interesting dormers and soft colors that juxtapose well with the Spanish Colonial designs.

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These Chateauesque roofs are more like what we saw on our vacations to France and Québec than what people would expect to see in a Los Angeles neighborhood.

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There are even a few Tudor Style houses and brick apartment buildings clad with fire escapes.

We may not live in this neighborhood forever, but it makes the perfect setting for our first home together. I only hope that the area that we have a house in some day will be just as lovely.


Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

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As I continue to try out new recipes to improve on my baking skills, I still find myself going back to my tried and true recipes. Sometimes I just crave the comfort of a familiar dish that I have made many times over the years, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Banana bread is not only a stable recipe in our home, it is also a perfect treat when you want something just a tad sweet.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

2 eggs, beaten

2-3 overripe bananas

1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

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INSTRUCTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a large bowl mix the flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda together. In a separate bowl mash the bananas and add brown sugar, honey, eggs, and butter. Mix thoroughly and then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips and walnuts then mix with a spoon until fully incorporated.

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Pour mixture into a greased bread pan and bake for 60 – 65 minutes. Stick a butter knife into bread loaf to ensure it comes out clean for thorough baking.

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Let cool for a few minutes before removing loaf from pan. Enjoy with hot coffee or a glass of milk.


Raspberry Cheesecake

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Homemade dessert adds the extra special finishing touch to a homemade meal. This cheesecake is fairly lightweight and has a bit of lemon zest to make it perfectly tangy. Topped with a sweet raspberry syrup and fresh fruit give it an added touch of sweetness without being overwhelming.

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For the crust: 2 cups finely ground graham crackers & 1 stick of butter. Melt the butter and mix together with the ground graham crackers in a bowl. Then, lightly grease an 8 inch spring form pan and press crust mixture into bottom and up the sides of the pan. Put the pan in the refrigerator to allow the crust to set for 10 minutes.

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For the filling: 2 blocks of cream-cheese, 2 cups sour cream, 1 cup sugar,  zest of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Beat cream cheese on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer. Then add the remaining ingredients in the following order, allowing each to mix thoroughly before adding the next ingredient: eggs, sugar, sour cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest. Continue beating for another minute until everything is mixed well but not overdone.

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Add your mixture to the chilled baking pan, and even out the top using a wooden spoon. Bake at 325F for 60 minutes. Allow cheesecake to sit for an extra 30 minutes before placing in refrigerator for at least 5 hours to set.

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If you would like to make your own raspberry topping: combine 1/4 cup water, 2 cups of raspberries, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract in a small saucepan. Simmer until fruit breaks down, and mash using the back of a spoon. Let cool and chill before using on cheesecake.

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Embroidery

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Like with crochet, embroidery has interested me since I was very young. It’s fascinating what you can do with a piece of fabric, a needle, and some thread. I find that I often use embroidery when crafting handmade gifts for friends and family, allowing me to make each gift personal for the recipients.

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I recently finished a set of flowered napkins for my mother-in-law, and a tea towel for my brother and sister-in-law inspired by their honeymoon on the Disney Cruise Line.

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There are many stitches that I am still practicing, and hope to perfect as I continue to craft. As my skills continue to grow, I plan to make more elaborate pieces to showcase what I have learned.


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