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how sweet it is: westchester living magazine

THE SWANLUND FAMILY MAKES WESTCHESTER HOME SWEET HOME

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With most families, dinner starts with an appetizer. Perhaps a breaking of bread, a glass of wine or going straight for the veggie lasagna. The Swanlund family does things a little different, which has always been their way. This group finds the humor in everything they do, highlighted by a special sweet treat.

"We start each family dinner with “Cupcakes and Brussels Sprouts”, where we share the best and worst parts of our day. The only parameters are that we can only share one Brussels Sprout, but unlimited Cupcakes. It’s our way of celebrating the beauty of every day, and moving on from any challenges that came with it."

This seems to have been a running theme throughout their story. A perfect blend of laughter and delightful delicacies, all of which started on day one. In April of 2000, Matthew was attending a law school mixer at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Over a silver tray of brie-filled puff pastries, his eyes met with Amanda’s. That fateful night turned into dancing at a Funky Meters concert at the House of Blues, cake and milkshakes at Jerry's Deli and a sweet serenade from the waiter. They have been together ever since.

The Swanlund family has grown a bit since then, each with their respective roles and personalities that creates an incredible dynamic. Matthew is the Viking King, ruling the household with a velvet glove. Amanda is the exacting perfectionist that demands excellence in most loving of manner. Stellan is their model son, a middle schooler with a 4.0 GPA and a well accomplished pianist. Gable is the gem of the family, a professional actress with the most indomitable of personalities. This band of characters is rounded out with two cats, aged 17 and 18. McKenzie was most evidently named after a New Orleans bakery, while Bailey was named after George Bailey, the character from the film It’s A Wonderful World.

In 2006, Amanda was working as a real estate agent and her clients were interested in the Westchester area. Since they were also close friends, Amanda and Matthew decided to come along for an open house tour of the community. After visiting the first property, they put in an offer and have been living here ever since. They were amazed by the neighborhood, which Matthew describes in many ways as “having been frozen in the 1950’s, creating this undeniable charm”. Their own home reflects this, but with a mid-century modern approach. It’s a contemporary canvas covered with intentionally colorful and creative elements of decor that reflect a memory or inspiration.

The Westchester community means a lot to this family. They live here, raise their kids in the community schools, volunteer in community organizations, and Matthew started his law firm here as well. He is an attorney that specializes in intellectual property and business law, representing start-up businesses, artists, entertainers, designers and other creative companies. He believes that creativity has the potential to improve the world. That is why he fights so passionately to protect creators and artists. He is also teaches Art Law as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law. He currently serves as the President of the LAX Coastal Education Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to improving all of the local schools. Matthew is also on the Board of Directors for the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce, as well as several other community organizations. Amanda is a loving homemaker and a talented baker. She is very involved in WISH Charter schools, embarking on her 9th straight year as a Room Parent. She organizes school dances, the festivities for Teacher Appreciation Week and even created the Annual Fill The Fridge event to celebrate the WISH teachers and staff.

Their affection for Westchester is evident, both in heart and soul. As an attorney, Matthew truly believes that it is his obligation to contribute to the community. The Swanlunds are always involved in some kind of creative experience together, exposing their children to the world, its people and cultural traditions. That is part of the reason why they are so proud to be living in a progressive community and have their children attend an inclusive school. One of their fondest memories was from 2012, when the retired Space Shuttle Endeavor was flown into LAX and parked for a few days in the lot directly across from the WISH Elementary School. Stellan’s classroom had a picture perfect front-row view. Matthew even dressed up as the WISH Owl mascot and took pictures in front of the shuttle. A shot of this ended up on the cover of the yearbook that year. As fans of space exploration, this experience was a unique opportunity to inspire the children with the possibilities of scientific advancements.

Westchester has become their home, a place where they are growing and creating traditions every day. For the past five years, the Swanlunds and three neighbors hold a dinner with one another on New Year’s Day. Each house serves one food and drink item, and then they walk to the next house and continue. The kids and adult love it alike. Food and fun seem to be a running theme for them, as this family clearly has a hunger for life. When asked what piece of advice they would give to maintaining a healthy and happy household, Matthew’s response was heartening, inspiring and left us hungry for more.

“We try to find the humor in everything. Maintaining a sense of humor in the face of challenges is critical to the optimism necessary to live a healthy and happy life, even if that humor sometimes encroaches upon the inappropriate. Everyone in our household has an equal voice and no one hesitates to use that voice.”

No better truth has been spoken. Now, tell us more about Amanda’s baking.