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.
Autumn is our favorite time of year, and New England is one of the best places to take in the colors of the foliage. We just returned from a Thanksgiving trip to my home state of Rhode Island, and we had a wonderful time admiring the sights of the season. Here are some photos from the autumn trips that we have taken over the past few years.
Downtown Providence, as well as the campus of my alma mater, Brown University, are great places to take a leisurely stroll along tree-lined streets.
Of course, the best way to experience the foliage is to go for a walk in the woods. Hearing the distinctive crunching sound of the dead leaves under your feet is always a delight.
The color green isn’t entirely absent. The mossy texture on some of the fallen trees compliments the browns and reds around it.
My parents have a house with a large wooded area on the property, and some of these logs fueled the wood oven for our Thanksgiving meats.
The Newport Mansions are a sight to behold at any time of year.
When I think of the Rhode Island of my youth, I will always picture it with the colors of autumn leaves, and the feeling of the light chilly wind blowing in my hair. That window of time after the humid summers, and before the brutal winters, is New England at its best.
Our master bathroom is currently a very tight space that fits just the essentials. There is a closet right next to it that we plan to demolish someday to expand the bathroom to fit a double vanity and a bit more space. However, with a baby coming (not to mention the mental fatigue of home remodeling after the past year of large projects), we decided to hold off on making any big structural changes in this room. Instead, we have been making some relatively simple changes to improve upon the unsightliness from the previous owners. Overall, it’s functional and pleasant enough to hold us over for the next few years.
Previously, the floor tile was a hideous speckled blue, so we knew that was one of the first things that needed to change. We were not going through the massive undertaking of replacing the floor tile, so the only option was to paint it. We used colors that we had already been using elsewhere in the house, and placed a stencil on every other tile.
We painted the cabinet doors a color that would compliment the moulding and floor, and changed the lighting fixture and switch plates. On the mirror, we glued four little metal rosettes to the corners to give it some presence.
After the major work, we decorated with items such as new curtains, bath mats, and some small frames that would fit the space. Introducing a bamboo shelf and wicker baskets gave us more space for storage and easy access to every day toiletries. Though these changes have been small, it has made a world of a difference.
We are thrilled to announce that a new Baby Dastoli will be arriving in March!
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.
There were some extra bricks lying around behind the garage, so we were able to use those to set up separate beds.
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.
It’s fascinating to watch them grow from tiny buds into colorful delicious produce.
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.
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.