Summer Grilling

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To me, summertime has always been about sitting outdoors and grilling. For the past few summers, we have not had a functional grill since we were waiting to get a full sized one that would fit nicely into our outdoor space. Recently, as an addition to our backyard patio, we had Martin Cabinet Designs build us an outdoor kitchen. It includes a perfect charcoal grill, as well as ample room for food preparation, and even some extra storage.

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We’ve only had the grill a short time, but I’ve been using it quite often for meats, fish, and vegetables. Enjoying our meal outdoors as the sun goes down is the perfect way to end these hot summer days.

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Tales from Batuu

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For as long as we have known each other, the artistry of Walt Disney Imagineering has been very important to us. Now, Disney Parks has collaborated with Lucasfilm to bring to life another one of our great loves, Star Wars. Walking through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge takes James back to the fan art and fan films that he created as a youth. The experiences on the planet Batuu integrate elements from the films, television shows, games, and print, giving infinite potential for play in the Star Wars Universe. Here are some of the memories that we’ve made in our first few trips to a galaxy far, far away. . . .

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Merchant Row offers an intriguing array of market stalls. Here, local artisans display their wares, and creatures from all over the galaxy can be bought as pets.

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We spent a few credits at the toy shop owned by Zabaka the Toydarian, where Eva got a tooka doll.

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A dazzling array of lanterns light up over the stalls after the suns set.

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Strono “Cookie” Tuggs was unloading supplies from his Sienar-Chall Utilipede-Transport when we came to eat at Docking Bay 7.

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We didn’t see the butcher working, but the ronto meat tasted fresh enough. You can’t really expect gourmet food this far from Coruscant.

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Here’s something to cool off with under the bright suns.

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Near the refreshers, these droids were taking an oil bath.  We spotted some busted up Clone Wars relics behind them.

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We saw a lot of off-duty droids around the outpost. They didn’t seem to mind Eva going up to them.

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Inside of the Droid Depot, we built our own small R-series unit. We named him R3-G1, aka ‘Reggie.’

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I once took a StarSpeeder 3000 flight with this droid at the helm. He was a terrible pilot. Let’s hope he makes a better DJ.

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We were careful not to attract the attention of the local garrison while hacking into some control panels.

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Eva tried to hijack this speeder, but couldn’t figure out how to get it moving.

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This Resistance spy is being rather conspicuous.

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This Kalikori of the Syndulla clan was once in the possession of Grand Admiral Thrawn. I wonder how Dok-Ondar got his hands on it.

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They probably play sabacc with different rules out here than in the casinos of Vorzyd V.

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This may just look like pieces of scrap metal, but Savi & Son Salvage is more than what is seems.

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James better put that thing away before the stormtrooper patrols see it.

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We’ve already had unforgettable experiences on Batuu, and we look forward to many more adventures at Black Spire Outpost.

May the spires keep you!


Broccoli & Spinach Pesto Toddler Food

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Overall we’ve been fairly lucky that Eva is an adventurous and enthusiastic eater. We’ve tried to introduce her to as much variety of flavor and texture as we can safely give her – typically to good response. Now that she’s a little bigger, however, she has certainly made it clear which foods she does and does not like. As happens with most if not all toddlers, stand alone green vegetables have in particular received negative feedback. To make sure that she still gets at least some greens in her diet, I’ve been coming up with ways to sneak the vegetables in without having them served on their own. This broccoli & spinach pesto combines some greens with a few other flavors that she is quite fond of and comes together in mere minutes.

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Ingredients: 1 cup broccoli florets, 1 cup packed spinach, juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 1/8 cup pine nuts, 1/8 cup sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 table spoons water

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth

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Once prepared, you can store it in a container in the refrigerator and add it to a variety of toddler approved foods like pasta, toast, or drizzled over meatballs.

 


Latin American Inspired Cocktails

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Patio and Backyard

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Butter Lettuce Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.


Eva’s 1st Birthday

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On February 2nd, our baby girl turned one year old. To celebrate, we had a birthday party for her in our home.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Amtrak to Philadelphia

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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.

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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.

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Taking the train is certainly the most comfortable way to travel, and there is so much to see along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

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There is an abundance of Georgian Colonial and Federal architecture, giving a similar feel to that of Boston.

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We were not able to tour the interior of Independence Hall, but Eva was able to get up close to the Liberty Bell.

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William Penn’s statue, standing high atop city hall, guided our way through the rain.

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Our favorite of the historic sites was Elfreth’s Alley, our nation’s oldest residential street. It was very tastefully decorated for the season.

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We walked through several blocks of the Old City, admiring the weathered brick and cast-iron

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Its not all Georgian colonial, though. We found some beautiful deco towers around Center City.

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Just off the busy streets are quaint little alleys of row houses, like these in Washington Square West.

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It’s always a pleasure to visit new places, and these trips are made extra sweet bringing Eva to explore with us.


2018 Holiday Cards

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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.

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Happy Holidays from the Dastolis!