Favorite LA Spots: Greystone Mansion

 

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The final installment of our ‘Favorite LA Spots’ series features Greystone Mansion, a gorgeous park located in Beverly Hills.

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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.

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Surrounding the mansion are various gardens, fountains, and stone pathways, making it a lovely place for an afternoon stroll.

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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.

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Perhaps our favorite building on the property besides the mansion itself is the greenhouse.

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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.

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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.

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Behind the greenhouse are a couple of buildings that we believed may have served as stables and servants’ quarters when initially constructed.

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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.

 

 

 

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Our Engagement Story

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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?”

 


Apartment Evolution

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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 walkable 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 doorways, 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.

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The first pieces of furniture that I bought out of necessity when I moved in were couches and a coffee table. I had to buy the cheapest (and ugliest) ones that I could find at IKEA, but I covered the couches in red bed sheets to at least give them some 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.

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Shortly after James moved in (about a year of us sitting on the uncomfortable white sofas), we were finally able to afford some real furniture, so we got our current couches and coffee table. We also found an end table at a tag sale to use as our bar. 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.

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Of course, there are the necessary evils of 21st century appliances. I would rather not have a large television using up the space on the mantel, but for practical purposes, this is the only place that it can go. I envision one day having built in bookshelves that have a neat space for the TV. Tagging along with the TV are the cable box, modem, and a huge jumble of cables that go with it. The computer is something else that I would not want in this room if we had the choice. We have not addressed our black computer table either, which we intend to paint at one point, or the out of place chair, which will some day be replaced by a proper leather office chair. There will always be improvements and projects to do in the future.

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I had a large IKEA bookshelf from my old studio apartment that used to serve as the “wall” between my bed and the kitchen. We eventually got rid of that in favor of a smaller bookcase that someone who was moving out of the building was going to throw away. At least that gave us the opportunity to start filling in the wall space with some frames.

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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.

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The kitchen table area, although small, has had the most colorful amount of change. Initially the area had to start with another 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.

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Over time we replaced the microwave cart with this antique wooden hutch, and the black particle board table with a wooden tile top table. These colorful pieces have become some of my favorite in the entire apartment.

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I really had nothing to work with in the bedroom when I moved in, so unfortunately it had to look like a college dorm for a while.

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Now, the bedroom has this tall queen sized bed (which I admit took some time to adjust to), James’ dresser, and end tables. It’s a bit of a tight fit, as there is no other room to put the coat rack or shoe rack, but we’re making it work.

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.

 


Favorite LA Spots: Travel Town Museum

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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).

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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.

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Walking among these iron giants gives any visitor a sense of childlike wonder, and a glimpse of nostalgic history.

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One of my favorite things to do is climb up the side ladders and go inside the trains.

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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.

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Wedding Invitations

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This past weekend James and I finally finished and mailed out our wedding invitations. Over the past several months we have been working on designing and creating the invitation packages. Designing your own invitations is the only way to ensure stylistic consistency with the rest of the wedding, as well as being entirely unique. Plus, designing and creating them ourselves was a lot more fun than just picking out a cookie cutter design. As with our Save the Dates, I admit that it was stressful and laborious along the way, but as with all things that we value, well worth it.

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Aside from the invitation piece itself, we also had to design every element other than the envelopes (though we did spend quite some time at Paper Source picking out the right color and size). Using a wide variety of source material from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we designed the invitations, RSVP cards, map, hotel/registry information card (on the back of the map), and two stamps: one with our return address used on the envelopes, and one with a monogram stamp with our initials to go on the back flap of the envelopes. After completing the designs, we had the paper pieces printed and cut at a local print shop using ivory card stock.

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We had our stamp designs created into rubber stamps, and used them to hand emboss each envelope. We used our return address on the RSVP envelopes first, and embossed using gold ink with clear powder.

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After stamping down with ink and applying embossing powder, we used an embossing tool to heat up the stamp design in large batches of envelopes. Here you can see the monogram stamps on the back of the envelopes, which are the same monogram initials on the invitations.

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In this photograph you can see how the stamp changes as the powder heats up and melts to create a textured print on the surface.

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After all of the embossing was done, we lined the envelopes. We had a blush damask pattern printed on ivory colored liner paper, and used a glue stick to press them firmly in.

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We then printed all of our guests’ names and addresses onto oval stickers, before embossing a gold dotted line around the rim. These were carefully stuck to the center of each envelope.

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The final step to our DIY wedding invitations was assembling all of the pieces inside of the envelopes. Each one included a map/registry card, a blush colored RSVP envelope with RSVP card, and of course the invitation itself.

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We spent a lot of time designing all of the elements, researching Victorian and Baroque printed material to fuel our inspiration. We wanted to have a product that was intricate and elegant, with the use of delicate colors and scrollwork, but was also completely different and unique from any wedding invitation that we had ever come across. We are thrilled with the results, and are so glad to have this big step complete in our wedding planning.

 


Citrus Strawberry Shortcake

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Strawberry shortcake is one of those classic summer time desserts that’s liked by most and super simple to make. A couple of weeks ago we had some friends over for our first outdoor grilling of the summer season, and I decided to make a nontraditional version of this fun treat, by incorporating a burst of citrus flavor.

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I was short on time, so I stuck with a simple biscuit recipe, and used pre-made whipped cream. I prepared the biscuits ahead of time so that they could be cool and ready for the toppings later on. The key component to this version of strawberry shortcake is in the strawberries marinade.

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I chopped up a big bowl of ripe strawberries, removing the cores, and mixed in a few ingredients that I had at home: brown sugar, vanilla-orange liqueur, juice from 1/2 an orange, about two teaspoons of orange zest, and a dash of orange bitters.

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I covered the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator until it was time for desert. Then all I had to do was put a couple scoops of strawberries on the small biscuits I had baked earlier and a swirl of whipped cream. Our guests loved the boozy orange flavors bursting through the sweet strawberries. This recipe will definitely keep coming back this summer.