Seattle

Last night it rained for the first time in months in Los Angeles. While most of the country suffers with cold and snow, we have been lucky to enjoy a relatively sunny winter. I was personally very happy with the rain, even though it only lasted a couple of hours, it was a pleasant reminder of what other weather feels like. It also reminded me of the last time I felt truly cold to the bone, which happened to be just about a year ago on our trip to Seattle. I go back to New England every winter and it has been cold, but Seattle last year felt icier than New England had the previous month. Nevertheless, we bundled up and had a lovely weekend there.

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We went with my soon to be brother-in-law and his now fiancée, as we were in town for the Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival where our short ‘Cats in Space,’ was screening. Aside from the festival, the main attraction for us was visiting the Space Needle and the remnants of the Century 21 Exposition from 1962.

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The festival was associated with the EMP Museum, which we received a VIP tour of. This recently built museum has a much different look from the Mid-Century Modern of the fair, but nevertheless, it sits well along side the other pavilions.

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Aside from the Space Needle, we were most excited about the Seattle Center Monorail. We were able to take the Monorail near our hotel room making the lack of vehicle that much easier during our stay.

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Our second morning there we headed toward Pike Place (home of the first Starbucks location) to fuel up for our day of sightseeing. The Public Market had a wonderful variety of produce/fish stands and novelty stores – one at which we found a great print of the Seattle World’s Fair poster that we will eventually find a place to hang up in our home.

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We walked through Pioneer Square, past Smith Tower and the original ‘Skid Road.’

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Here is James at the gate of the Chinatown-International District.

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King Street Station was closed to the public, so we could not go inside.

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I could not have been more impressed by the Central Library. It’s a wonderful post modern structure that offers great views and a pleasant atmosphere.

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The waterfront has some great views of the city as well.

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We ended our last night in Seattle by going back to the Space Needle and celebrating the end of the trip and the positive reaction to our short film at the festival. We had a lovely dinner at the Space Needle that night, but unfortunately it was far too foggy to have any view whatsoever. Which brings us back to Los Angeles, and some of the reasons I’m glad to make my home in a sunny city. Rainy cold places are nice to visit occasionally, but I can’t imagine having to live there.

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Handmade Wedding Gifts

This past year we went to two weddings for close friends and were in a situation where we had to figure out the perfect gift for each couple. One of the couples did not have a registry at all and the other couple had a limited amount of items left by the time we got to the registry list. We also wanted their gifts to be more personal, so we decided to make them. My skills with crafting lie primarily with textiles so I knew I would be taking that approach.

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The first couple cooks a lot, so we thought it would make for a nice gift to make them aprons in their favorite colors and hand embroider their last name onto the front.

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For her apron, I used two kinds of fabric, a print and a solid, along with a patterned purple ribbon to line some of the edges. I modeled it after an apron I have (seen hanging in the back in need of a wash). I did not use a pre-cut pattern for either apron. Instead, I took measurements roughly based on my existing apron for hers and used James as my model for his.

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For the second wedding gift we fabricated this past year, we made hand embroidered kitchen towels featuring some of the couples’ favorite logos. They had a very unique film and comic book themed wedding in October, so it felt like a fitting and personal gift. We included several images representing their favorite films, comics, places and hobbies.

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James took on the challenge of hand drawing all of the images and then I embroidered them all as carefully as I could.

Admittedly these project take a lot more time and devotion than purchasing a gift, but every once in a while it’s worth the effort to provide that special handmade touch.


Play Time with Legos

James and I both absolutely love playing with Legos. We have a few bins full of Lego sets in our closet, including some from James’ childhood. We even have a few models on display throughout our apartment, such as The Millennium Falcon, the Back to the Future DeLorean, and several minifigs. A couple of months ago, we decided to splurge on the Lego Architecture Studio set to add to our ever growing collection. We knew that this was something we could have a lot of fun with, and that it would continuously challenge our creativity. Here are some of the models we have created so far:

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The scale of this one was determined by the steps. In theory this is only the front of the building as creating the entire structure would have taken a lot more pieces. This is perhaps the largest one that we have made so far.

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In contrast, this model is one of the smaller ones we have created. The idea here is to show three skyscrapers in microscale.

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This model can represent a hotel or apartment building. If you look closely there are about four stories with a little balcony for each unit.

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These three were some of the very first structures we made. They were mostly arbitrary as we had fun learning how all the different types of pieces worked together.

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This piece is directly modeled after a tile from the Ennis House. James used an intricate series of small plates to create the shapes inside the square. We did not have enough pieces to make a larger fully detailed version, but it came out very well nonetheless.


Anniversary Trips

This weekend, James and I purchased our honeymoon flights, and words cannot convey our excitement. We chose our wedding date based on our anniversary. We feel that as important as our wedding anniversary will be, the anniversary of our first date will always hold a heavier significance as the true beginning of our relationship, so we wanted both dates to be relatively close. The past three anniversary’s we have decided to celebrate by taking weekend trips. Our honeymoon, which begins the day after the wedding, will also celebrate our four year anniversary. After purchasing our flights, I started to look back at previous anniversary trips, the most recent which was our trip to Quebec. Here are some photos from our first and second year anniversary trips. We look forward to adding many more wonderful trips in the happy years to come.

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For our first year anniversary, James got us tickets for a ride on the Fillmore and Western Railway steam train. The only trains that I had ever been on were subways or theme park attractions, so it was a wonderful treat.

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The train ride took us through the farmland of Ventura County, stopping in the sleepy downtown Santa Paula, and an emporium where we were able to shop from local farmers.

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We sat in a booth all to ourselves and enjoyed refreshments from the concession counter in the train.

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One of my favorite details of the day were the tickets, complete with stamps and hole punches marking the date (which helped inspire our save the dates). It was a great detail to round out the experience.

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For our second anniversary celebration, we took a trip to Santa Barbara for the weekend. That year, our anniversary fell right on Labor Day weekend so we were able to spend a few days exploring the romantic city.

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James (who loves all things related to flags) was very excited to find a replica of the very first bear flag of California at the pier.

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There was a lovely view from the top of the courthouse.

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Here is the doorway of the Spanish Colonial Revival courthouse showing the great fonts that are used all around the government buildings.

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After a full day and night in Santa Barbara, we decided to head to Solvang for a few hours before making our way back to Los Angeles. The charming Danish architecture proved to be quite the surprise, as we were not expecting to find anything like it in Southern California. We have decided that Solvang will need a whole weekend to itself for our exploration someday.


Lady Finger Cake

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My best friend’s mother makes some wonderful desserts, and this cake was an instant winner in my books. I decided to take a shot at making it myself, and altered some of the ingredients while I was at it to make them a tad healthier. The original cake had strawberries on the top layer but I used pineapple and blueberries. I personally am not the biggest fan of sweets, particularly cake, but this is not too too sweet, light in texture, and feels like an ideal summer dessert.

INGREDIENTS (for one 9 inch round dish):

2 packets of soft lady fingers (about 24 fingers/packet)

1 package of light cream cheese

1 pint heavy whipping cream

3/4 cup raw sugar

1 1/2 cups blueberries

2 cups diced fresh pineapple

INSTRUCTIONS:

Beat the heavy cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form (this part was a lot of fun).

Cover and refrigerate.

In a separate bowl beat the cream cheese until soft. Add the sugar and beat until fully mixed.

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Add the cream cheese mixture to the whipped cream and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Line the dish with lady fingers all around the edge and add lady fingers to bottom of dish for bottom layer. Add a couple scoops of cream mixture, as much fruit/layer as desired, and then another layer of lady fingers. Repeat layering until you reach the top of the cake. For the last layer spread the cream mixture and decorate with fruit pieces as desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Wedding Dress Shopping

Last week I went wedding dress shopping. I happen to be very lucky to have a fiancé who is very actively involved in every detail of the wedding planning, but we decided that he would not be involved with the dress. We are not superstitious, but we do like the idea of maintaining this particular tradition. I went with my mother, my sister/maid of honor, my two nieces (each representing their mothers/my sisters), and my best friend. They all gave great feedback and support. I knew what type of dress I wanted going in, and was worried that I would not find anything close to my ideal, at least not in our budget. Luckily, after just a few attempts at two stores, I found the dress for me. I had ‘the moment’ that I always imagined I would have when I found the one, and it was right within our budget. Here are some of the dresses which did NOT make the cut before I tried on the one for me. I will not share the winning dress until the wedding photos are posted.

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This dress on the left was actually chosen by the bride trying on dresses in the next room over, and I admit it is lovely. My personal issue with it was the tulle showing through on the side, which is not for me.

The one on the right was well liked by most of my family. I loved the strap detail, but I was not at all a fan of the peplum. It felt trendy, and like something I would regret in a few years.

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I liked the lace detail on the top of the left dress, but overall it felt a bit matronly for me. The bottom detail felt sparse and that was a deal breaker.

This dress on the right was quickly a no. The tulle on the bottom clashed too much with the embroidered flowers on the upper portion.

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This one was the one that made my mommy cry. It came very close to being the right one – it had the lace, a beautiful back, and an elegant feel. My concerns were the sash, which was much too bright and covered with gem stones, and the tail of the dress, which was definitely too long and heavy for an outdoor wedding in early September.

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This dress was another close one. It had a lot of what I was looking for – the only exception being that it had a bit too much ‘poof’ for my taste, as I was ideally in search of a sheath style dress. This very likely would have been the one, had I not found the perfect dress shortly after.

Now that I have found my dress, the whole wedding seems to be coming even more into focus. We still have several details to sort out, and we’re having fun with it every step of the way.


Christmas Dinner for Two

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This holiday season, James and I celebrated our fourth Christmas together. This was also the last year that we split up for Christmas, since we usually travel to visit our respective families for the holiday. We will of course start spending all future Christmases together after we are married. Since we did not spend Christmas day together, we celebrated a few days before departing as we have done the previous three years. We kept it simple and romantic – a home cooked meal, a decadent dessert, holiday cocktails, and pretty candles made this meal better than any restaurant could have.

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For the main course, I made whole wheat penne pasta with bacon, lobster, and sun-dried tomatoes. This year, decided to pick up a little cheesecake at a bakery instead of making a dessert at home.

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For the cocktails (per serving): muddled cranberries, 1 oz bourbon, 1/2 oz ginger syrup, dash of angostura bitters, splash of 100% cranberry juice, dash of cinnamon.

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After dinner, we opened our gifts and continued to watch some of our favorite holiday movies.

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We ended our night by taking out all of the Legos in our Lego City Advent Calendar since we would be gone for the remaining days. This years calendar included a lot of great fun pieces that we will be able to take out and display every holiday season.