First trips to Disney Parks

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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.

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Of course on her very first trip, we made sure to introduce her to her new friend, Mickey Mouse.

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Another important first was her first photo in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

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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.

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Looking back at these memories, it’s crazy to see how tiny she was on that first trip.

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Eva has been inside a number of attractions, including It’s a Small World.

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Here she is by the Mad Tea Party, dressed for the occasion.

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Another attraction that she has boarded is the Disneyland Railroad.

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On our trip to Florida, we stayed at the Ranchos at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

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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.

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James was so excited to bring her on a trek through the Morocco Pavilion.

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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.

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We explored some of our favorite spots in Animal Kingdom together.

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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.

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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.

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San Diego

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For Eva’s first road trip, we decided to drive down to San Diego for a slightly different Southern California experience than she is accustomed to. We had visited a number of times over the past few years, and we were eager to see some old favorites, as well as have some new adventures.

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Our first stop was Balboa Park, where we were very excited to bring Eva to the California Tower, a definitive example of one of our favorite styles: Spanish Colonial Revival.

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Throughout the park you can find a gorgeous array of structures that were built for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. Many are original, but some are more recent reconstructions.

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As we strolled around, we encountered several courtyards and gardens to keep cool in the summer sun.

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Another famous Balboa Park attraction is the San Diego Zoo. This was Eva’s first experience seeing animals other than kitties and puppies.

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My most exciting find at the zoo was this fluffy red panda, which I personally find infinitely cuter than giant pandas.

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We stayed at the Gaslamp Plaza Suites in the preserved Watts-Robinson Building. This was actually our second time staying that the hotel, the rooftop view having lured us back.

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Originally called Horton’s Addition, the district now called the Gaslamp Quarter lets you walk back in time through the San Diego of the late 19th century.

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On our second day in San Diego, we took Eva to her first baseball game, with the Padres hosting the Mariners. The Padres were wearing their pinstriped 1990s throwback uniforms, and Eva was dressed in a jersey and baseball cap fitting for the occasion.

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Perhaps some day we’ll take the train from Los Angeles into this elegant station rather than driving. We love how the tile at the Santa Fe Depot harmonizes with the architecture of Balboa Park.

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Ships from the United States Pacific Fleet are visible all throughout San Diego Bay.

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Though it was a fairly short vacation, we still managed to get a lot done and were plenty exhausted by the time we returned home. It’s exciting to see how well Eva managed on this trip, and we’re looking forward to discovering new cities with baby in the future.

 


Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce

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With a small baby occupying most of our free time, we’ve been relying on simple dishes that don’t require much time in the kitchen, and are good to eat at any temperature. It’s easy to make a whole meal out of a few vegetable based side dishes, and one of my favorites has become this roasted cauliflower dish with tahini sauce. Adding pistachios for crunch, and dry figs for sweetness make this side dish more interesting without having to do much prep work.

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Ingredients: 2 heads of cauliflower, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/4 cup pistachios, 3 whole dry figs, 1/4 cup tahini, juice of 1 lemon, 2 minced garlic cloves, large sprig of dill ripped up into smaller pieces, 1/2 tsp sumac, salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 375F. Cut up the cauliflower heads into small florets and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes, the cauliflower should start to brown on the edges, but not so much that it gets mushy.

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While the cauliflower is roasting, make the sauce by mixing tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl. Season with salt and add a little bit of water to thin it out.

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Place the cauliflower on a serving dish, and drizzle with sauce. Chop the dry figs into small pieces and scatter on top, along with pistachios. Finish by topping with a few small sprigs of dill and sumac. Enjoy as a side to a main course, or on its own for a light meal.


Handmade Baby Bibs

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Over the past few months I’ve been working on a few bibs for Eva. Now that she has started to eat solid foods and teethe, she can really start to make good use of them. Though we have a few store bought bibs that we use to feed her daily, I liked the idea of designing and sewing a few of my own to coordinate with outfits, and when we’re on a family outing.

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I decided to make two with embroidery, and two without. The first embroidered one I made was this simple flowers design. I love that the green and dusty rose colors go with a few dresses she owns, and the flowers are simple enough to easily combine with other patterns.

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For the second embroidered bib, I did a larger and more involved design with this stegosaurus surrounded by plants.  James drew the pattern onto the fabric first, and then I embroidered using three floss colors to give it some dimension.

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With the next two, I selected fabrics that would compliment each other, and make it easy to flip over, essentially creating two-in-one designs. I embellished them with ribbon and trim to give them some complexity.

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Though the bib wearing phase is relatively short, I’m so glad I put in the time to make this little collection.

 


Oven Roasted Branzino with Chimichurri Sauce

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James and I are both very fond of seafood, and growing up in New England meant that we were lucky enough to have easy access to a great variety of fish and shellfish. I have many memories of going fishing with my family and then taking the fish home and promptly eating them whole, simply seasoned and succulent. Every so often we love to seek out whole fresh fish to bring home, and thoroughly enjoy the process of picking out all the delicate bones. This recipe is one that can be used on just about any fish, and is especially great to put together on hot summer days when all you need is a light meal.

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Ingredients (for fish): Two whole branzino with insides cleaned and scales removed, 2 large rosemary sprigs, 1 lemon (sliced in rounds), 4 large sprigs thyme, 2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil.

Instructions: Heat oven to 400F. Season each fish inside and out with salt. Fill each fish cavity with 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 sprigs of thyme and half of the lemon slices. Heat olive oil on a large skillet, and cook each fish on hot oil for 2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to a baking dish and roast in oven for 12 minutes.

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Ingredients (for chimichurri): 1/2 cup basil leaves, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, 1/4 cup fresh oregano, 1/4 cup fresh mint, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.

Instructions: Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Drizzle sauce over cooked fish.

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Paired with simple sides like salad and roasted potatoes, this meal feels plentiful and decadent, and makes for an excellent date night at home.

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Cobblestone Pavers

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Ever since we first moved into our house, we knew that we wanted to transform parts of the exterior in some ways. Initially, we did only minor adjustments, but recently, we were able to make changes to the front walk and driveway that we envisioned from the beginning.

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We had the concrete steps and path removed and replaced with cobblestone. The color variation of the stones fits right in with the texture palette of the house, and creates a very rough natural look.

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We also replaced the concrete of our entire driveway, which was really in need of attention. The timing of this project came right after our neighbors had just completed a large addition to their property. We had to figure out how to create a privacy screen of some sort to replace the wall that they had knocked down.

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We ended up going with a wooden fence, and put a row of trees in front of it. In order to provide a warm ambiance, we hung solar powered lanterns from the posts. The new additions to our property further enhance the space for entertaining, or just relaxing outside on the patio as the sun goes down.


Baby Crochet

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Having a baby has been an immediate excuse to crochet to our hearts content for both my mother (who taught me the craft), and myself. I focused on making a couple of blankets and some hats similar to those I’ve made in the past, while my mother created some lovely blankets, clothes, and toys.

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As soon as I found out we were expecting a baby girl, I started planning this granny square flowers blanket for her nursery. This was my first time making a granny squares blanket involving four colors per square, and to this scale. It took more hours than I care to count up, but the finished product is perfect for her room.

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Even before finding out the sex of the baby, my mom got busy making blankets and clothes for our little one. I absolutely love the variety in patterns and colors, and have already made great use out of them for taking her outside and wrapping her up for daytime naps.

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Here are just some of the beautiful clothing pieces my mom crafted. Each blanket she made also has an entire matching outfit to go with it – including pants, bloomers, hats, and shoes.

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Another project my mom tackled was making crochet toys for Eva’s baby gym. I sent her an image of crochet fruit that I found online, and asked her if she thought she could make something like it. Sure enough, she had these all done by the end of that same day, and her versions are undoubtably more detailed and better constructed.

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I’m so happy to have these lovely pieces for Eva, and something tells me that this baby girl has more handmade crochet items coming her way from her mom and grandmother. Having the pieces made with so much love makes them even more beautiful, and we will treasure each of them for years to come.


Fresh Oranges from our Backyard

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We’ve tried to grow a few vegetables and herbs in our backyard, and we’ve had a bit of success, but one thing that we have that is well established is our orange tree. Now that they have started to ripen, we will have fresh produce at our fingertips for a few months. They aren’t very sweet just yet, but in the meantime, we can enjoy some orangeade by juicing them and adding water and a bit of sugar.

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It’s fascinating to watch the transition unfold from the blossom to the ripened fruit, and the aroma of the flowers is delightful to take in. We have no idea how long this tree has been here, but we are very lucky to have it, and we look forward to eating its fruit each year.

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Introducing Eva Dastoli

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On February 2, 2018 we welcomed the newest addition to our family – Eva Paiz Dastoli. We were not expecting her arrival until late February or early March, so it was all quite a surprise when I went into labor on the night of January 31. My water broke just as I was finishing up organizing her nursery closet, and 34 long hours later, she made her appearance at 5:02 a.m. weighing 5 lbs. At 4 weeks premature, she is very small, but we are so grateful that she arrived healthily and we were able to bring her home the very next day.

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We were all set to have my baby shower in our backyard that very weekend, but Eva decided she had other plans for us. A couple of my closest friends had it all planned out, and James put together these invitations that were fitting for the orange tree in the yard. That, and several other things we had planned for my maternity leave before her arrival quickly went out the window, giving us our first lessons in adaptability as new parents.

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Each day has brought with it a new challenge, but also a new milestone.  She is the sweetest little girl, and we can’t wait to watch her grow into a wonderful person. Welcome to the world Eva, we love you so much.