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!


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.


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.


Pregnancy Announcement

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We are thrilled to announce that a new Baby Dastoli will be arriving in March!


Our Little Garden

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At the beginning of this summer, I wanted to find some room to plant some vegetables in our yard. Eventually we plan on having large wooden planters built, but for now, we are using a small strip of dirt on the side of the house.

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There were some extra bricks lying around behind the garage, so we were able to use those to set up separate beds.

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When deciding on what to plant, I went with vegetables I tend to use the most in my day to day cooking, such as peppers, tomatoes, squash, shallots, and a variety of herbs.

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It’s fascinating to watch them grow from tiny buds into colorful delicious produce.

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It can be very difficult to grow plants in the perpetual drought of southern California. Some of our vegetables started to cook when temperatures reached 110F. Others, like this cucumber, never grew larger than an inch. However, new cucumbers have started to grow, and we’re hopeful this batch will do better.

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We haven’t had any squash fully grow yet, but we have several squash blossoms that we hope will yield fruit in the autumn. Though we’ve only harvested a small amount, it has been very exciting to cook with produce from my very own garden, and I’m certainly looking forward to expanding it in the future.


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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The Wedding of Emily Paiz and James Dastoli

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After more than a year of being engaged and many months of planning, anticipation, and excitement, our big day finally came. We were nervous, naturally, and anxious for the days events to begin. However, once the wedding actually began we were much calmer, and were thrilled to have so many of our loved ones around us showing their support.

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The wedding was held at my parent’s home in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, and we could not be more grateful for all of the amazing help that they provided in making it all come together.

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The weather report showed thunder storms for that day, so we rented a last minute tent as we had initially planned to have the reception completely outdoors under the night sky. It thankfully did not rain, but it was best to be safe and our reception turned out lovely. We decided to keep the strung garden lights above the tables at the reception to maintain the effect we were going for. Additionally, we did not have a very solid contingency plan for the ceremony if it did rain, so we sighed a deep sigh of relief when the skies looked clear and we were able to have the ceremony by the woods just as we had envisioned.

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We kept with a simple ceremony, using traditional wedding vows and the wedding march/wedding exit music played by our live band. Keeping with tradition, James had never seen my wedding gown until he saw me walking down the aisle with my father. This was also when he was finally able to see what the sash he saw me working on looked like with my gown.

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As expected, James looked stoic and calm standing down the aisle, while I was nervous and smiling. Once I reached the ceremony table I felt so much excitement to be standing there with him, and his smile and gaze told me he felt the same.

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We rented the linens along with the chairs, silverware, glassware, and china. We were able to pick our linens from a very wide variety and went with a champagne colored tablecloth covered by ivory lace. For the napkins we selected a damask pattern. We chose ivory china with a gold rim, and went with champagne saucers instead of flutes. James and I found our gold rimmed champagne saucers for the wedding toasts at an antiques market, and they looked wonderful with our table settings.

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Our centerpieces had a few different elements to them, most of which were hand crafted. We found these lanterns that matched our aesthetic and put a little candle inside each one. Underneath the lantern were doilies handmade by my mother. Sitting around the lantern were the paper flowers James and I made a couple of months before the wedding. Then we had little frames painted an ivory color to hold the table numbers which we printed onto the same paper used for our invitations.

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The food was catered by my very own parents’ restaurant, and it was fantastic. We received several compliments on the food by many people who did not even know that my family had made it. My mother handled most of the seasoning and had a small crew assisting her with the execution. We decided to serve the food buffet style in order to allow guests to have their choice and their fill, and placed menus on each plate to display the options. For the entrees James and I choose rib-eye steak, chicken marsala with mushrooms, and meatloaf, which are some of our favorite foods that also maintain a classic wedding theme.

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We rented a beautiful bar that was actually built by the owner of the rental company, and we hired two bartenders to serve cocktails, beer, and wine. Guests had a very wide variety of drinks to choose from at the open bar that went on all night, including our two specialty cocktails. We also ordered customized cocktail napkins with the same monogram James created for our invitations.

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We implemented small decorative details throughout the wedding that emoted a romantic outdoor wedding theme, such as a wooden cabinet for escort cards and a birdcage to hold gifts.

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Since we had a buffet style dinner, we decided to have cupcakes instead of a full wedding cake. It enabled guests to take their own and choose their preferred flavor. We had our cupcakes made by The Cupcakerie in strawberry, lavender, and mocha espresso.

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There were also a couple of glass containers holding my all time favorite dessert: raspberry French macaroons. The wonderful owner of the bakery also made a small wedding cake for James and I to cut, and it was absolutely perfect. We sent her a few images of cake designs we liked and she was able to use those as inspiration to create our ideal little wedding cake. The details and design of the cake, cupcakes, and sweets display were exactly what we wanted.

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For our first dance we went with “Fly Me to the Moon.” We selected that song years ago, before we even got engaged, as it represents several things to us. It is a swing/jazz song and we had a swing/jazz band play at our wedding, it is romantic, its references to the moon and planets speaks to our mutual love of space exploration, and of course we love the song melody itself.

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When it got much darker we lit sparklers and had fun playing and creating images.

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We have very fond memories of our wedding day and are so relieved that all went wonderfully. We had a great time seeing our loved ones and are so very grateful to all who contributed in any way to make our night successful. From the delicate details to the romantic live swing band our night was incredibly memorable. All of our hard work certainly paid off, and now we look forward to many long years of happy matrimony.

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