Los Feliz

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James’ first apartment in Los Angeles was in the neighborhood of Los Feliz, at the foot of Griffith Park. When we first started dating, he spent a lot of time showing me the area and exploring some of his favorite spots. We love going back to visit some of the restaurants there, or to stroll around nearby Barnsdall Park.

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When James first moved here, he was awe struck by the views of the Griffith Observatory.

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Many local businesses contribute to the area’s charm.

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There are quite a few delightful dingbats with names such as “Los Feliz Capri.”

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Here is James on the street where he first lived in Los Angeles.

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Some of the homes in the neighborhood are quite spectacular, such as this one designed by Lloyd Wright.

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At the foot of the hills is the beautiful Art Deco Los Feliz Manor.

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As you approach Hollywood, you can see another unexpected apartment building, the Trianon.

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John Marshall High School would look right at home on any Ivy League college campus.

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Hidden amongst winding roads, you can walk along the narrow Shakespeare Bridge.

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Even though James hasn’t lived there for years, walking through the hills of Los Feliz and admiring the views will always bring back fond memories and have a special place in our hearts.


Our Little Patio

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I have always loved spending time outdoors, and James and I are lucky to have our own little patio to lounge in when the weather is warmer. It’s a pleasant little escape for relaxing, dining, or gardening. It isn’t a very large patio, but has just enough space for a little table, wicker chairs, a grill, and a few plants.

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For decor we like to use rustic pieces that incorporate a good amount of detail and design. These clay pitchers were a gift from family that instantly felt at home in the little outdoor space.

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Because the patio is squeezed in between two buildings, it doesn’t get a tremendous amount of sunshine, but just enough to keep some small fresh herbs planted. The herbs give the space some extra greenery and are incredibly helpful for cooking fresh meals at home.

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We’ve allowed some of the natural vines in the area to spread around, trimming away the dead leaves when needed.

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During the spring and summer months we sometimes take our dinner outside and enjoy it under the soft lights. Even when I cook indoors, having the patio is a refreshing way to be outside in the cool air and talk away our evenings.  We couldn’t imagine not having this little outdoor private spot as part of our home.

 


A Day at the Beach

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Because one of us is always behind the camera, we rarely get a chance to take photos together. When we heard of the opportunity to have photos taken of us on film through a colleague, we jumped at the chance. We had the photographer shoot us at our favorite beach in Malibu (El Matador) while the sun was setting.

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This was our first time ever being photographed on film together, and we’re happy to finally have a set of photos at one of our favorite places showing us both having fun on the beach.

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Mad Tea Sandwiches

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For a recent book club meeting with some friends, I decided to make tea sandwiches while we discussed Alice in Wonderland. I made two vegetarian friendly versions and two with meat to give everyone options. For the bread I purchased a couple loaves of pain de mie from our local bakery, which was the perfect density and softness (plus, slicing the bread yourself gives you control over how thick you want the slices).

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Steak Au Poivre: 4 oz steak, 2 tablespoons crushed peppercorns, 1 stick butter, fresh herbs of your choice. I made a simple herb butter by adding minced parsley, dill, and chives to softened butter (about 1 tablespoon of each herb). Season steak with salt then press the steak into the peppercorns to lightly coat each side. In a small pan heat 1 teaspoon olive oil with 2 teaspoons butter until lightly browned. Add steak and cook (about 4 minutes each side for a medium-rare). Slice steak into thin strips once it has cooled and add to sandwiches with herb butter spread.

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Fig and prosciutto: This was the easiest of the four sandwich types to make. Spread fig jam (I was lucky enough to have a whole jar of homemade fig jam from a friend) and add a few slices of sliced prosciutto.

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Egg salad with toasted almonds: 5 hard boiled eggs (cut into cubes), two medium sized red spring onions finely minced, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/3 cup sliced almonds, salt and pepper to taste. To toast the almonds add to a pan and toast stovetop over medium high heat. Once almonds are slightly browned, grind in food processor. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

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Cucumber: I kept this one pretty traditional and used only three simple ingredients: 4 sliced persian cucumbers (they’re really crunchy and you don’t have to peel off skin), 4 oz softened cream cheese, 1 tablespoon minced dill. Mix the dill and cream cheese and spread on sliced bread, then add a few slices of cucumber to each sandwich.

 


Three Years of Central Florida

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We just got back to California from a trip to Central Florida to visit James’ parents. We spent most of our time visiting the theme parks in the area, being something that we thoroughly enjoy (as can be further evidenced by our trip to Disneyland Paris, and our love for Disneyland). Here are some photos from our trips to Florida over the past few years.

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For me, the differences between the Florida parks and those in Southern California were a bit strange but wonderful at the same time. When I first stepped into the Magic Kingdom, I was blown away by the view looking down Main Street, U.S.A. toward Cinderella Castle. The small differences in the Magic Kingdoms in particular are so interesting to compare.

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Casey’s Corner is an example of a slight twist of what I am used to at Disneyland here at home.

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There are so many restaurants on property that I have not yet eaten at, but plan to try all of them. The one that I am most excited to go into on a future trip is the Crystal Palace.

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On our first trip to Florida, we attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Here we are riding Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin while dressed up as Constance the bride and one of her decapitated husbands from the Haunted Mansion.

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These Tangled themed bathrooms now stand where the Fantasyland Skyway Station once stood. It was one of James’ favorite parts of Fantasyland, but we do both love this rest area despite what was demolished to build it.

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There is constant construction at Disney parks, and in my few trips I have already seen massive changes. Who could have guessed when I peeked through this window last year that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train would turn out to be my favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom!

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All of New Fantasyland was under construction on my first visit. Of course, I had no conception of what things were like before that construction started so it has all felt seamless, but James is still getting used to the new layout after years of visiting.

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The moat around the hub was drained to start a large renovation. One of the casualties of this renovation was the Plaza Swan Boat landing dock. James never rode the Swan Boats, as they have been gone for decades, but this forgotten structure was another one of his favorite quiet spots around the park.

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It’s so exciting to see the finished result of all the construction when we come back on later trips. I absolutely fell in love with the Be Our Guest Restaurant’s elegance and immaculate details from Beauty and the Beast.

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We can ride The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure whenever we want at Disney California Adventure, but we have to come to Florida to walk through this amazing queue with Prince Eric’s castle.

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James did his best to explain to me how great Epcot would be, but I did not fully grasp how wonderful it is until I was there myself. My first visit coincided with the 30th anniversary and we were able to see a presentation by people who worked on the park including Disney Legend Marty Sklar.

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The Morocco Pavilion is perhaps the most expansive pavilion in World Showcase, and one of our favorites. You can really lose yourself in the alleyways and courtyards.

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This map was a main feature of the queue for Maelstrom in the Norway pavilion before it was very sadly closed to build a Frozen attraction.

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We have visited Epcot during both the International Flower and Garden Festival and the International Food and Wine Festival.

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The first time we went to Florida together, we stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort French Quarter. James was so excited to show me all of the hotels on Disney property. I couldn’t believe that there were so many worlds to explore!

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We like to stay at different hotels each time to fully enjoy each one. Here I am outside of our room at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.

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Universal Orlando doesn’t quite have the ‘Disney Difference’ but The Wizarding World of Harry Potter comes very close. As a fan of the books, I was all too eager to explore both Hogsmead and the new Diagon Alley.

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Here is an amazing forced perspective view of Hogwarts.

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This network of alleys at Universal Studios Florida is a holdout from its days as a functioning backlot. It’s a nice place to relax while waiting for a parade.

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On our most recent trip, we stayed at Universal’s newly constructed Cabana Bay Beach Resort. It is the perfect mid-century modern Florida experience.

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There are still plenty of attractions in Central Florida that I have not seen, not to mention revisiting my favorites. I know that we will be taking many trips in the coming years, and I look forward to enjoying new adventures at the Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando.


Escabeche (Spicy Pickled Vegetables)

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This recipe for pickled spicy vegetables is a staple in my parents’ restaurant as well as their home. They are a fantastic addition to just about any savory meal, and they’re also great on their own.

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Ingredients: 3 sliced jalapeños, 2  sliced large carrots, 1 sliced green bell pepper, 1 can hearts of palm, 1 1/4 cup peeled pearl onions, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 cup white vinegar, 2 cups cold water. Note: you can use any variety of vegetables you want, the key ingredients being the jalapeno, thyme, onions, and garlic.

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Instructions: place each ingredient into separate bowls, you’ll want to sauté each vegetable individually as each requires different cooking times. In a pan heat the olive oil, thyme, bay leaf, cumin, and jalapeños and sauté for a couple of minutes, enough for the jalapeños to be only gently cooked but still crunchy. Remove jalapeños from pan and repeat the process with each vegetable. Once all of the vegetables are ready add to a jar along with the herbs, salt, water, and vinegar. Let the ingredients cool before placing in refrigerator. Allow the vegetables to pickle for at least 24 hours before eating, they will taste better with time.

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This recipe is very easy to make and it will keep in your refrigerator for weeks. Add it to any meat dish, sandwiches, even scrambled eggs to give your meals an extra kick.


Hand Painted Egg Cups

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I’ve been on the lookout for egg cups for quite some time now, but have been unable to find a complete set that isn’t either plain white, or does not suit our kitchen’s color scheme. Instead of continuing the search, I decided to buy some simple white ones and paint them myself at home with some acrylic paint and clear glaze.

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I picked colors that matched our kitchen table and hutch, and alternated them to create three different patterns. The design on the middle part was done using a small handmade stencil.

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Once all of the cups were painted and glazed, I let them dry for about 12 hours and then placed them in a cool oven set to 350F for 40 minutes (the cups have to heat with the oven or the harsh temperature difference can crack the paint).

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I’m very excited to have this little set and can’t wait to enjoy many warm egg breakfasts with them.

 

 


Middle Earth Madness VIII

As noted in a previous post, a couple of good friends of ours host a fun Lord of the Rings themed party every year right around the end of winter called Middle Earth Madness. Each year we look forward to a full day of enjoying the extended films with great company, eating fun themed foods, and creating our own contribution. This year we decided to make a little model of Minas Tirith using white cake, sugar cookies, icing, and powdered sugar.

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We broke down the basic shape into cylinders and triangular prisms that were roughed out in cardboard. We used a cake mix and cookie dough out of a box so that we could focus on cutting out the shapes that we needed.

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The shape of the city is very conducive to a layer cake, which made it simpler to construct. The only tricky part was the wedge shaped section of rock.

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Once we had our basic structure made from the cake, we cut out quite a few buildings and towers from a cookie sheet and attached them with icing.

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To finish the cake we sprinkled some powdered sugar over the top to give a whiter look.

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This is James’ favorite of the treats we’ve created for Middle Earth Madness so far. I’m torn between this and the hobbit hole we made two years ago. We’re not sure just yet what we’ll be constructing next year, but we look forward to thinking up of of new ideas for Middle Earth treats.


Roasted Garlic Knots

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I have finally mastered making delicious garlic knots that are crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. For these decadent knots I used a favorite pizza dough recipe, and instead of chopping up fresh garlic as many garlic knot recipes do, I decided to roast an entire garlic bulb and make a thick paste that thoroughly infused the knots with flavor.

For the dough:

Ingredients: 1 packet active dry yeast, 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting), 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more to grease a large bowl), 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 teaspoons salt.

Instructions: Add yeast and warm water to a small bowl, gently stir and let sit for five minutes, then add honey and stir.  Add the flour, salt, and oil to a large bowl. Slowly add the water to the flour bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. You should be able to make a slightly sticky large dough ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about three minutes. Place dough on a well oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel; let sit for 1 1/2 hours, until the dough doubles in size. Remove dough from bowl and cut into three equal sized pieces. Gently roll the pieces out into balls, cover and let sit for an additional 15 minutes. Roll each dough ball out to flat long shapes, then cut into strips with a knife.

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For the garlic paste:

Ingredients: 1 whole garlic bulb, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dry parsley.

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Instructions: chop off top of the garlic bulb and roast in 350F pre-heated oven for 30 minutes (the cloves will gently start to pop out when ready). Let cool and squeeze out garlic cloves. Mash with a fork in a small bowl, add olive oil, salt, and parsley.

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Brush the garlic paste on each strip to cover one side entirely.

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Tie each strip into a knot, and place on a lightly floured cookie sheet. Brush remaining olive oil onto tops of knots and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Make sure to eat them when they’re fresh!

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