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 have recently been working on a set of flowered napkins, 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. In the future, I plan to make more elaborate pieces to showcase what I have learned.


Arroz Borracho

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For a recent dinner party I decided to make one of my mom’s staple dishes. She typically makes arroz borracho (drunk rice) for the holidays since it incorporates festive ingredients such as olives, prunes, and wine. Its intricate flavors and vibrant colors make it a perfect dish to serve not only for the holidays, but for any small gathering.

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Ingredients: 2 cups rice, 1/2 sliced red onion, 1/2 sliced sweet onion, 3 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme,  2 cups beer (something flavorful but not dark), 2 cups white table wine, 1 packet ground achiote (for color), 1/2 cup prunes, 3/4 cup green olives, 1/2 red bell pepper, 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: Cut a chicken into separate pieces after rinsing and patting dry. Place chicken pieces, onions, bay leaf, thyme, garlic cloves, beer, and wine in a large pot. Add 1 cup of water, or just enough to cover the chicken with liquid. Add a dash of salt and pepper, about 2 teaspoons of each. Cook chicken thoroughly, then remove chicken from pot, saving the stock. Let chicken cool, then shred apart into small strips.

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In a large pot heat the olive oil and add the raw rice. Mix until rice is a little toasted. Remove all of the onions, garlic, and herbs from the stock and bring back to a simmer. Add the chicken, prunes, and olives to the rice, then add enough stock to slightly cover all ingredients. Cover rice, set heat to low, and cook for about 30 minutes. Once it is cooked through turn off heat. Slice up the red pepper and add to pot. Cover again and let the steam cook the peppers for just a couple of minutes so that they’re still crunchy.

 


Maps and Atlases

Throughout our home any visitor will easily notice that maps hold a very strong presence in both our decor, and our book collection. Enjoyable not only for their aesthetic attributes, but also for their historical significance maps and atlases have always been very appealing to James and myself.

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We have one globe that is only a few years old. It can be dated by looking at Kosovo, the Netherlands Antilles, and Sudan. One day we hope to find an antique globe from the 1950s when we have more rooms to put them in.

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When James’ father and uncle were children, his grandmother got a few prints of antique maps to decorate their rooms. We have since inherited these maps and have them displayed around our apartment.

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In James’ old apartment, he used these scans from a mid-twentieth century history book to fill up some empty space on his walls. We have them stored in a drawer now waiting until we have a house to hang them in.

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Also in storage is this map of Rome from the early 1970s that James’ grandparents got while visiting Italy.

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James’ favorite type of map projection is the Mercator projection because of how it stretches to infinity at the Arctic Archipelago. We picked up a print of a Mercator world map from the eve of the Second World War. It strangely labels the “British Isles” with no reference to the United Kingdom or Ireland.

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Among our antique books, we have Hammond’s Standard World Atlas from 1957 and the 1969 World Book Atlas.

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The 1957 book features a fractured Germany and an Africa that is still dominated by Europe.

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The 1969 atlas has a selection of historical maps, as well as a Southeast Asian map that reflects the Vietnam War.

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James was absolutely fascinated by the changing geographic situation in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall (the political aspect was a bit too complex for a kindergartener), and the 1992 World Book Atlas was his main reference for the former Soviet Republics. This page still shows a united Czechoslovakia.

Even though we have a decent variety, we certainly plan to continue expanding our collection of globes, maps, and atlases.


An Intimate Gathering

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My affinity for hosting dinner parties is a true sign that I am my mother’s daughter. I love every piece, from creating a menu for our guests to setting a pleasant table, and of course the conversations of good company.

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Even though we are hosting in the comforts of our own home, we take dinner parties as an opportunity to create a lovely presentation by setting a complete table. Low placed flower arrangements add pretty details while being unobtrusive to the table and conversation.

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Placing water and wine glasses ensures our guests don’t need to stand up and search for glasses, and of course coordinated plates and napkins to pull everything together.

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When throwing a dinner party we want our guests to feel at ease. Having some aperitif cocktails and hors d’oeuvres ready for them as soon as they walk in sets a relaxed and welcoming mood.

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I also like to place unscented candles at the table to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. The unscented candles don’t interfere with the smells of the food, which is essential for guests to fully enjoy their curated meals.

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The intimacy of hosting a dinner with a small group of close friends is the highlight of any dinner party. Welcoming our friends to our home and having everyone enjoy a good meal and great conversation makes all of the cooking and prep work worth every step.


Manhattan

While traveling to the northeast to see my family for Christmas, James and I decided to take a day to visit New York City. We had each traveled to the big apple with our families when we were younger, but this was our first opportunity to go off on our own and discover places we had never visited.

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We decided to spend the night in the city and stayed at the historic New Yorker Hotel, recently acquired by Wyndham. The hotel was just a few blocks away from Penn Station, and a perfect location for our day in Manhattan.

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The interior of the hotel was stunning. A beautiful chandelier welcomes you in the lobby, and interesting details are found throughout the entire building.

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This photo was taken from our room which had an amazing view of Midtown and the Empire State Building.

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This was the first time that James had ever taken Amtrak into Penn Station. In the past, he has always taken Metro-North into Grand Central Terminal, but had never had a chance to fully explore it.

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This was my first time going inside Grand Central Terminal at all, and I was instantly enamored with the astronomical ceiling. After this trip I can confidently say that my favorite spot in the city is the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal.

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We walked inside the Empire State Building and admired the beautiful Deco lobby.

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Of all the skyscrapers that he has seen, the Chrysler Building is James’ favorite because of the boldness of the ornamentation and terraced crown.

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Neither one of us had ever seen the inside of the building until this trip, and the ceiling murals and marble in the lobby certainly did not disappoint.

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We went inside of the New York Public Library Main Branch, and although the Main Reading Room was closed, we found plenty of other beautiful rooms.

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This trip also marked my first time actually in Central Park, which is such a peaceful enclave amidst the hustle and bustle of the borough.

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Here I am with a statue of Balto, the famous sled dog. I was eager to find this statue in the park, having seen it so much in the animated feature in my childhood.

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I was amazed at all of the gems that fill the park, such as the Minton Tile ceiling of the Bethesda Terrace Arcade.

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Who would have though that you could find a castle right in the middle of Manhattan? Here is James enjoying the view from atop Belvedere Castle.

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We took the subway (my first New York subway trip) downtown to City Hall Park. The city was even colder than we expected, luckily I wore many layers on the trip to keep us going.

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Right next to the Civic Center is the Woolworth Building, another striking skyscraper.

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We walked over to see the new Freedom Tower, which extended into the clouds on this overcast day.

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At night we walked through the East Village, admiring the rows of tenements with iron fire escapes before meeting some friends for dinner.

On this trip we were thrilled to visit sites we had never seen, try new things iconic to the city such as my first taste of roasted chestnuts, and catch up with good friends. New York City is only a short train ride away from Providence, so we plan to make many more trips in the future to explore its five boroughs.


Wedding Day Attire

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James and I spent the holidays in Rhode Island visiting my family this year. This being our first time back in the state since our wedding, we were finally able to bring my gown and his suit back to Los Angeles. On the actual big day we ran short on time to photograph what we wore, so we took the opportunity to do so at home before getting my dress cleaned and boxed for safekeeping. Here is a closer look at the individual pieces that we chose for our wedding attire.

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Instead of going the tuxedo route, James decided on buying a black suit that we had tailored to fit him perfectly. He wore an ivory shirt to match my dress and kept his look sleek and simple.

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James opted for an nontraditional champagne colored bow-tie, instead of a typical black one. It complimented our wedding theme and added a fun element to his ensemble.

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When searching for the perfect gown, I knew I wanted something classic and lightweight for our outdoor summer wedding. When I tried on this dress I quickly knew it was the right one. I instantly fell in love with the delicate lace details, sweetheart neckline, and buttons going down the back. I was unsure if I would use a veil, but once I tried on this one with a lace trim similar to the lace on the dress, I knew it would complete the bridal look.

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For my jewelry I went with pearl and gold pieces. Naturally the pearls go well with an ivory gown, and the gold compliments both James’ bow-tie and the champagne theme in our wedding colors.

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