Lately, I’ve been looking into more Latin American spirits to make cocktails with. Whether to make a classic cocktail like a Paloma, or create my own concoction, I’ve tried to take inspiration from those regions to build the flavors in each drink.
Using Ron Zacapa was an immediate must when thinking of Latin American spirits. As a Guatemalan who also grew up in a family owned Guatemalan restaurant, I’ve seen bottles of Ron Zacapa my entire life. Now as an adult, I have come to appreciate just how special this rum is. Sweet and spicy, this rum felt like a great match for homemade horchata with vanilla and cinnamon. A splash of cold brew gives it a bolder taste and prevents this drink from getting too sweet.
Cold Brew Ron-chata: 2oz Ron Zacapa, 3oz horchata, 1.5oz cold brew
Combine all ingredients and mix. Garnish with cinnamon stick. Can be served with hot coffee as well for a satisfying hot drink.
The Paloma has been a popular drink for quite some time, and for good reason. Grapefruit in cocktails has long been a favorite of mine, and this one has rapidly gone up on my list. This version combines the smokiness of mezcal with the spice of Tajín, creating something that is both potent in flavor and smooth to drink.
Paloma: 2 oz mezcal, 3 oz grapefruit juice, ¾ oz lime juice, ½ tsp sugar, 1oz seltzer, dash of Tajín plus more for rim
Combine the citrus juices, Tajín, and sugar in a glass and stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the mezcal. Pour into a glass with ice and Tajín on the rim, top with seltzer.
Previously, I had only had pisco in a standard pisco sour, and though that is a good use of this Peruvian brandy, I decided to bring in a bit more variety when putting together this drink. The mild tartness of hibiscus plus the biting flavor of ginger combine well with pisco for a very refreshing and flavorful cocktail.
Hibiscus and Ginger Pisco Iced Tea: ¾ cup brewed hibiscus tea (cooled), ¾oz ginger syrup, 2oz pisco, 1oz seltzer
Combine all ingredients except for seltzer in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass, top with seltzer.
After a very wet winter I’m looking forward to enjoying these cool drinks all summer.
In our old apartment, we had a small patio that we occasionally used for entertaining. When we bought our house, we knew that having a yard and larger patio area meant a great opportunity to make even more use of our exterior space.
Initially we set up our small table from the apartment, which was great for an intimate dinner outside, but we really wanted to be able to host larger gatherings, so we replaced it with a larger table.
We had also started planting herbs on the side of the driveway, and decided to add a few little planter boxes to grow more. Southern California has had a bought of recent rains, so our plants and grass are looking very green and everything in our garden has been thriving.
We’ve been gradually improving this space over the last few years, adding small pots with succulents throughout, a wooden fence to cover a gray cinderblock wall, as well as three large planter boxes for growing larger produce.
Some of my favorite details are the little decor pieces, such as this little birdhouse. It feels great to have this outdoor space for hosting dinner parties in the summer, or to play in with Eva. We look forward to many lazy evenings enjoying the space with friends and our little family.
This combination is my go to for a quick simple salad on weeknights, or for hosting dinner parties when I want something light yet satisfying to accompany the meal. Although the base is simple, the addition of the flavorful fennel and the nuttiness of the toasted pumpkin seeds make it stand out from the average garden salad.
Ingredients: 1 bag mixed butter lettuce and radicchio (or 1 head of each), 3 purple carrots, 1 large fennel bulb, 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, 1 avocado, 2 large garlic cloves, 1 small shallot, 6 Tbsp lemon juice, 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar, 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper
Instructions: First toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. You will start to hear a crackle when they have started to toast. Turn flame off about a minute after the crackling starts. The seeds will continue to toast on the hot skillet. Then prepare the vegetables by thinly slicing the fennel (it helps to use a mandolin slicer), cut the avocado into long strips, and thinly shave the carrots with a peeler.
Next, make the dressing by finely mincing the garlic and shallots. Add both to a container with a lid along with lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover the container and shake well.
Place the lettuce, prepared vegetables, and toasted pumpkin seeds in a large bowl. Right before serving, pour as much of the dressing as you’d like on top and mix well. Serve as a side to a meal, or add a protein to make it a meal of its own.
On February 2nd, our baby girl turned one year old. To celebrate, we had a birthday party for her in our home.
When planning, we started with picking some animal shapes for sugar cookies, and that informed the rest of the design. The fawn was used in our invitations, and the finished cookies were used for favors (as we did for another party) and cake decoration.
We made this tree stump shaped Brown Derby cake, which is filled with grapefruit and has cream cheese frosting. When I saw the recipe, I knew it would be perfect since grapefruits are in season, and we had served Brown Derby cocktails at our wedding. We painted the outside of the cake to look like a birch tree, and frosted the top in concentric circles for tree rings.
We had initially planned for an outdoor party, but unfortunately there was a rain storm on the day of the event, so we had to quickly adapt and host it indoors. We still wanted to maintain a welcoming and intimate atmosphere, so we placed tea lights and lanterns throughout the house to light the space.
This past year went by incredibly fast, yet it’s hard to remember what life was like before we had her. We’re so grateful for our supportive community of friends and family who helped us celebrate her first year – both in person and in spirit. We look forward to many more birthdays with our perfect girl.
Whenever we visit the Northeast, we try to explore someplace new. We’ve taken the train to New York before, but this time we decided to go a bit farther to Philadelphia.
Eva is already a seasoned traveler, having been on cross-country flights and road trips. Now she can add inter-city rail to her list of adventures.
Taking the train is certainly the most comfortable way to travel, and there is so much to see along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
There is an abundance of Georgian Colonial and Federal architecture, giving a similar feel to that of Boston.
We were not able to tour the interior of Independence Hall, but Eva was able to get up close to the Liberty Bell.
William Penn’s statue, standing high atop city hall, guided our way through the rain.
Our favorite of the historic sites was Elfreth’s Alley, our nation’s oldest residential street. It was very tastefully decorated for the season.
We walked through several blocks of the Old City, admiring the weathered brick and cast-iron
Its not all Georgian colonial, though. We found some beautiful deco towers around Center City.
Just off the busy streets are quaint little alleys of row houses, like these in Washington Square West.
It’s always a pleasure to visit new places, and these trips are made extra sweet bringing Eva to explore with us.
For Eva’s first Christmas, we knew we wanted our holiday cards to include her in some way. After brainstorming a few ideas, we decided to make illustrated cards featuring all three of us. Each of the elements were sketched separately with colored pencil, and then combined digitally to be printed. The overall design is simple, but was very fun to put together.
Happy Holidays from the Dastolis!
The final room in our home to be completed during our long process of remodeling was our master bedroom. Like our living room, this was a space that we kept working on gradually since we bought our home, and we just recently put the finishing touches on it. This is a fairly large room that was probably extended at some point in the past, so it felt right to split it into two sections: the bedroom, and a space to serve as a study.
Dividing the two spaces is a remaining ceiling beam from the structural work that was done long ago, which serves as a visual transition between the two sides. We painted the beam and stenciled it in a similar way to our hallway alcove, which gave it more purpose than the plain white paint it had before.
The biggest element that needed to be built for this room was a wardrobe that stretched across the entire wall. For this, we went to Martin Cabinet Designs, who had done work in many of the other rooms in the house. Previously, that entire wall was just completely blank, and the room only had a very small closet for storage. The team at Martin Cabinet Designs also added diamond window grilles to the large windows flanking the fireplace, which are present both inside and outside of the house.
Years ago, we had set up our bed and his and hers end tables. The sconces over each of them were also installed early on, but we found new shades and embellished them with some ribbon and lace to fit in with the bedspread.
We’ve always talked about getting a steamer trunk, and here we found the opportunity to place one at the foot of our bed.
The existing wooden mantel over the fireplace didn’t work well with our furniture, so we replaced it with a ready built piece that we stained to fit the color palette.
Around the room are some odds and ends that we picked up at stores or flea markets over the years, but we also have some pieces that come from James’ grandparents’ old house, such as these foreign language dictionaries.
James loves having maps and atlases around the house, and he has specifically been wanting a globe from the 1950s for a while. We were able to find a place to put this one on the desk. From the best that he can tell, it is dated between 1958-1960.
It has been a long journey getting the interior of the house to feel just right for us. Over the course of the next few years, there will undoubtedly be more changes, but at this point, we can finally say that we live in the space that we envisioned three years ago when we first walked in to our new home.
I recently hosted a little baby shower for one of my closest friends, and made some succulent cupcakes to go with the overall succulent theme. I’ve seen some gorgeous versions online, and mine are far from their level of artistry, but I had a lot of fun playing around with the different piping tips and am pleased with the final results.
I started off by mixing a few colors, two shades of green for the main bodies of the plant shapes, and two shades of pink for smaller accents.
I then striped one of the bags with the darker fuchsia, and filled the rest of the bag with the darker green color to create a two toned pattern when piping. I used this color combination, as well as plain green to pipe a few different plant shapes, playing around with the technique as I went.
For the lighter green frosting, I piped a basic cactus shape, then used white for the prickly parts, and the lighter pink to make tiny flowers on top. Once I had made a decent amount of plants I placed them all on a baking sheet and froze them for a couple of hours to allow for easier transportation onto the cupcakes.
With the leftover frosting, I then decided to mix in a bit more color to the fuchsia and to the green to create two more tones to be used for smaller accents. With those and the light pink I piped some basic leaves and flowers straight onto the cupcakes to fill in some empty spaces.
Disney Parks are so important to our family, so of course we have been very excited to take Eva to enjoy them with us. Though she is still small, she has done wonderfully in the parks, and they truly make it easy for parents to bring babies along. Her first trip to Disneyland was when she was just shy of three months old, and we have already returned a few times. Last week, we took her to her first trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, and naturally we are already planning the next one. Here are some photos from Eva’s first experiences with the magic of Disney.
Of course on her very first trip, we made sure to introduce her to her new friend, Mickey Mouse.
Another important first was her first photo in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle.
James can park his pram at his favorite structure in all of Disneyland. This former food and merchandise location has now been transformed into stroller parking.
Looking back at these memories, it’s crazy to see how tiny she was on that first trip.
Eva has been inside a number of attractions, including It’s a Small World.
Here she is by the Mad Tea Party, dressed for the occasion.
Another attraction that she has boarded is the Disneyland Railroad.
On our trip to Florida, we stayed at the Ranchos at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
I remember when I first saw Spaceship Earth, and instantly fell in love with it. Being there with her for her first time was truly memorable.
James was so excited to bring her on a trek through the Morocco Pavilion.
Eva has now dined in a number of counter and table service restaurants on Disney property, such as the Columbia Harbour House which is one of our favorites at the Magic Kingdom.
We explored some of our favorite spots in Animal Kingdom together.
Some of the best moments in Disney parks are the spontaneous ones. We found ourselves alone in a section of Liberty Square with Mary Poppins, and Eva had a close up look at one of Mary’s famous accessories.
I can’t remember the first time that we thought about bringing a theoretical future child to Disney Parks with us, but it was definitely very early on in our relationship. Now that she is here, all of our trips are extra special.