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