Saturday, January 23, 2016

Looking Back: 30 Years

Happy New Year (23 days into 2016, so it still counts)! How was your 2015? How were your holidays? I hope everyone had a wonderful end of year. I love how everything feels so festive in December, twinkly lights and decorations everywhere. The atmosphere is fun and light, especially at work when everyone is looking forward to some time off.

I actually made this pie on Christmas Eve because I was hosting a family dinner with my dad and brother. I figured Howard likes citrus flavours and my brother loves meringue that this pie would be the perfect dessert to serve. It was . . . but it tasted better the day after when I brought it to my in-law's for Christmas day dinner. Letting it set and chill in the fridge actually tasted better than fresh!

Speaking of chill, do you have Netflix? We watched a lot of shows during the holidays that had us doing all-nighters. My whole sleeping schedule got flipped thanks to the addicting series. We managed to finish Luther, Narcos, and started Making a Murderer. Have you seen these shows? What did you think? What would you recommend we watch next?
I'm deciding to make this a combination post too. Not only are we celebrating national pie day, I also want to chat birthday. I've also hit a new milestone, I'm officially in my thirties!!! Way to make myself feel old there. My favourite cousin recently turned 13 - gasp, a teenager - and I remember babysitting him as toddler. He's still not taller than me yet, I hope that takes a bit more time (we have a height bet). It's amazing how fast time flies. There has been so many neat changes in the past year alone that I'm excited for this year.
Looking back, here are thirty highlights:
  1. WE GOT MARRIED! Finally!
  2. Had an amazing and memorable honeymoon in Jamaica. Which reminds me, I want to share that in a post soon.
  3. In Jamaica, we visited the Luminous Lagoon. Very cool experience, we'd recommend going if you get a chance.
  4. Tried scuba diving for the first time. 
  5. Met new relatives that flew in from Taiwan and South Africa.
  6. Felt the love at my bridal showers. Good friends and colleagues are hard to come by, so when you do find them, make them bake and cook for you.
  7. We were fortunate enough to squeeze in some travel. We visited Chicago and flew Porter for the first time!
  8. Work perks: Met Judy Blume and had my book signed. Had my photo taken with Chef Curtis Stone. Ate dinner with Alan Doyle. Shook hands with Al Gore. Saw Chef Michael Smith. Shook hands and had my booked signed by Chris Hadfield. Felt the excitement when Ethan Hawke and Rainn Wilson were in the office. Seen Margaret Atwood roam the floors.
  9. Helped plan Anne Michaels' book launch for The Adventures of Miss Petitfour. She's a fantastic reader and there were sea shanties.
  10. Gained a godson because we're awesome godparents. Still watching in awe as our goddaughter becomes more vocal.
  11. Survived an office move. Boxes of books are incredibly heavy.
  12. Made new friends with new colleagues thanks to the merge.
  13. Switched from the editorial department to the marketing and publicity department. Every day is a learning experience, but we do such cool things.
  14. Working with the coolest children's marketing and publicity team ever, I love my pod.
  15. Finished watching Veronica Mars as numerous interns vouched for it. It lived up to the hype.
  16. Lost at Pongapalooza. In the first round.
  17. Made lots and lots of bunting. Then more and more. I've been given the title Baroness of Bunting.
  18. Also been given the title Countess of Cake.
  19. Featured in the Globe and Mail as an office model.
  20. Had an amazing dinner at Grand Electric's Champagne Room.
  21. Discovered my new favourite chocolate chip cookies recipe!
  22. Had my hair coloured and my nails done for the first time.
  23. Got a waffle maker. Just you wait for all the waffle posts.
  24. Saw the Pan Am excitement around the city of Toronto.
  25. Gave pop pilates a try and was surprised I enjoyed it.
  26. My orchid bloomed!
  27. Not getting cable and just having Netflix was the best decision ever.
  28. Discovering canelés. Ugh, craving one now.
  29. Howard surprised me with a spa date. His first one ever!
  30. Booked an ambitious trip to Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Taiwan for 2016.
And if you were just here for the pie. The recipe is from the New York Times, which they adapted from Alice Water of Chez Panisse. If you read the comments, you'll see that lots of people doubled the lemon recipe. I ended up doing so as well and it gave the pie a nice inch of lemon filling. I also found that the lemon filling set better in the fridge, despite the recipe's instruction saying not to place it in the fridge after letting it cool for one to two hours.
Recipes: Flaky pie crust | Chez Panisse Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Wedding Cakes

Okay, finally! I'm sharing my favourite wedding project - the cakes! You might not believe this, but there was a time where I didn't think we needed a wedding cake, I figured there was a dessert course in the menu and that would be the sweet ending for the meal. But Howard pointed out that it would be weird for us to not have cake - especially with me being known as being a baker and all. So I thought about it and decided it would kind of be odd and I did like the idea of baking for our guests.
Then came the hard part, what type of cake would I make? What flavours? How would I decorate them? I looked in many cookbooks and my past blog posts. What did we like to eat? What would cause me the less amount of stress?
What I did know was that we wouldn't use fondant. Even though we started this blog showcasing fondant decorations and even though fondant looks really good, we personally don't enjoy eating it. I wanted the cakes to look natural to match the venue. This wasn't a sleek and polished event, it was small, intimate, and homey. I wanted the application of the frosting to look homemade. I wanted one to be naked with no frosting covering it. Then I wanted a cake that didn't look like much, but upon closer inspection, was something special.
So my next project was to figure out what types of cake toppers I wanted to make. Pinterest was extremely helpful in providing ideas and I eventually picked three: a "Mr and Mrs" bunting, a "LOVE" sign, and a "JUST MARRIED" banner. I used cardboard, paper, thread, and wooden skewers to make them. What I liked about these was the extra height it gave my six-inch cakes.
No one else would know this, but it bugs me that I made the mistake in pairing up the cakes with the cake stands. In my original plan and sketches, I had the naked cake on the white cake stand and the white cake on the glass cake stand. In my own nervousness, I accidentally set them up wrong on the day of. I could have also pushed down the skewers a bit more - like maybe an inch. This is just me over-thinking it and being critical. Since I was the one who set up the cakes, I have no one else to blame but myself! The staff did an outstanding job decorating the rest of the table with greenery and candles - seriously, best team ever!
Here we are, our first task as a married couple! Don't we look happy getting ready to cut the cake? (Another reason why I love my wedding dress, it almost looks like another dress when you don't see the bottom part of the gown. This could have been a knee-length cocktail dress since you can't tell with the table covering the bottom.)
We picked the easier cake to cut into. The restaurant provided the knife and cake lifter.
I'm over the moon here. If Howard fed me cake everyday, I'd be the plumpest and happiest wife on the planet.
I'm sure he doesn't feel the same.
When we were finished our photos, the staff took all three cakes back into the kitchen so they could divide them up and plate them. Then they were carried back out and placed on the table as a self-serve station. To my surprise - because a lot of my family members don't have a big sweet tooth - everyone went up for cake. At one point, I thought we didn't have enough (we did, there was like three slices left at the end of the night).
I made a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting - a classic and one of my favourite go-to cakes.
The next cake I made is one that is a bit more unique. Not a lot of people have tried a mille crêpes cake before and I feel that it's that something extra for special occasions. Plus, it's a favourite of ours ever since we tried it in New York where we got engaged.
The third cake I made was mainly for Howard. Even though the mille crêpes cake is his all-time favourite, he also loves citrus flavours. This was a lemon cake with lime buttercream.

Wedding Photography: Ikonica | Venue: Auberge du Pommier | Cake Knife: Auberge du Pommier | Cake Lifter: Auberge du Pommier | Cakes: A Baked Creation | Cake Toppers: A Baked Creation | Cake Label Signs: A Baked Creation | Glass Cake Stand: Crate and Barrel | White Cake Stand: Crate and Barrel | Wooden Cake Stand: Chapters Indigo | Six-inch cake boards: PME Sugarcraft | Wedding Dress: Mori Lee Blu 5108

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Wedding Menu

Finally, we're getting to the FOOD portion of our wedding! One of the main reasons we picked Auberge du Pommier as our venue was for the food. Yes, you can call me a baker, a foodie, or someone who takes photos of her food, and this meant that I wanted our guests to be given various choices and to be well fed at our wedding. We decided on a French restaurant because most of our fond dining experiences happened in French restaurants.

The restaurant doesn't offer a complimentary tasting, but you are able to schedule one for an additional cost. We felt pretty confident that the food would be good, so we skipped the option and picked the dishes based on the menu descriptions.

Of course, the first edible treat they received was part of the program. After the ceremony, the drinks were generously circulated to our guests. Lots of wine and cocktails to start the party with.
We also ordered three types of canapés to be circulated at this time. A vegetarian pick - savoury scallion madeleines with lemon crème fraîche - as you may know, I love madeleines! Next up, a seafood option - grilled octopus brochettes with strawberry gastrique. Then, because most people love meatballs, grilled Moroccan lamb on a stick.
Auberge du Pommier printed the menus for every guest, but the children's menu wasn't included in it. But our flower girl and ring bearer had some great choices for dinner as well! Caesar salad, crudités and dips, or greens with house vinaigrette for an appetizer. Fish goujonettes with chips and tartar sauce, petit filet of beef with vegetables and potatoes, or roasted chicken with vegetables and potatoes for their entrée choice. Then for dessert, they could pick a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, a banana split, or fruit salad with cookies. The children's portion were actually really large so the parents happily helped finish all the food.
For the adult guests, they could order the soup of the day which was fennel and leek vichyssoise with fennel front mascarpone and mint pesto or the chou frisé consisting of kale, radish, pickled granny apple, and horseradish kefir vinaigrette.
One of the popular mains that guests ordered was the canard: roasted duck breast with apricot, coriander tabbouleh, fennel salad, pickled red onion, and grilled lemon jus.
Next, the boeuf: a beef tenderloin with braised broccolini, pommes purée, shallot confit, a scallion compte, and bordelaise sauce.
And since no one RSVPed with food restrictions, we offered a saumon choice instead of a vegetarian one: B.C. salmon with charred romaine, braised radish, spicy pea purée, and goat cheese cream.
Even though there would be cake, we still wanted a dessert course (who doesn't want more dessert?) The mousse au chocolat was served with a mixed berry compote, nut clusters, and salted caramel.
And the rhubarbe consisted of chilled rhubarb coulis, yoghurt gâteau, toasted almonds, and crème fraîche ice cream. Howard's and my plate were personalized from the chef with a note of congratulations (the only photo I took that day).
Cheers! More about those cakes next time . . .

Wedding Photography: Ikonica | Venue: Auberge du Pommier | Food and Drink: Auberge du Pommier | Printed Menus: Auberge du Pommier

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Wedding Game

One of our highlights of the evening was the game our maid of honour and best man co-hosted for us. You've probably seen it at other weddings or parties, where the couple sits back-to-back and answers questions without knowing each other's answers. Normally this "shoe game" is played with the shoes the groom and bride are wearing, but we swapped that out with homemade paddles instead.

We want to applaud and thank Laura and Kurt for doing such a fabulous job. They bounced off each other with great energy, had amazing pacing and entertaining questions. How did we do? Well, not that it was a competition of anything, but I'm pretty sure I won the game.
Kurt and Laura started us off with some easy questions at first.

Who owns the most pairs of shoes?
H: Howard
S: Howard
(It's really unfair how many shoes he has over me, but I'm slowly catching up.)

Who spends more time in front of the mirror?
H: Sylvia
S: Howard

Who has better taste in music?
H: Howard
S: Howard
(Sad, but true. Howard picked out all of the ceremony music for our wedding.)

Who is the better dresser?
H: Howard
S: Howard
(Sigh, I know I should try harder, but I really do prefer comfort over fashion.)
Now the questions progressed to be a little trickier.

Who starts the arguments?
Howard: Howard
Sylvia: Sylvia
(We're being politically correct here, aren't we?)

Who is more stubborn?
(Oops, didn't catch what our answers were, but I'm pretty sure I picked myself.)

Who says sorry first after an argument?
H: Howard
S: Sylvia
(Lies! I always go first!)

Who is more likely to be running late?
H: Howard, then switches his answer to Sylvia
S: Howard
(The fact that he took so long to answer should indicate that he's always late.)
We were warned that these questions were more difficult to answer.

Who passes gas more?
H: Howard
S: Howard

Who is the bigger baby when they're sick?
H: Sylvia
S: Sylvia
Who wears the pants in the relationship?
H: Sylvia
S: Sylvia
(I just love the above picture, because I am 100% certain of the answer.)
Who has the craziest family?
We both refused to answer this, in which Kurt told us that technically, we're all family now!

Who said I love you first?
H: Howard
S: Howard

Who says I love you more often?
H: Sylvia
S: Sylvia

Who talked about marriage first?
H: Howard
S: Howard
Who is more romantic?
H: Sylvia
S: Sylvia

Who loves the other more?
H: Sylvia
S: Sylvia

Who is the better kisser?
H: Howard
S: Howard
(I pointed out that you can't tell if you're the better kisser unless you kiss yourself and Howard then chooses to demonstrate...)

We ended it there as we were informed that the questions get a lot more risque after this! Again, thank you to Laura and Kurt for doing such a fabulous job. The photographers caught the best photos from this game. Lots of laughing faces and candid shots of our family and guests. It felt so nice to look back at these pictures and see everyone having a good time.

Most of all, thank you to my bridesmaid Diana who made us the paddles for the game! She's incredibly talented and crafty and made us two grooms and two brides that matched our tux and dress. I love the sweetheart neckline, corset detail on the back, and the poof of my dress. Not to mention that stunning tuxedo lapel!
Wedding Photography: Ikonica | Venue: Auberge du Pommier | Game Paddles: Diana Brown | Wooden Cake Dowels: Michaels

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Wedding Programs

We took the wedding programs into our own hands as another do-it-yourself project. This was required some timing and planning as we wanted our programs to be as fresh as possible. Odd? Yes, but our program included a sweet treat with it.

Do you remember our centerpieces from the previous post? Well, I couldn't make those until the programs were finished because I had to use the cookie cutters first.
Two days before, I made the batter for brownie roll-out cookies, chilled them overnight, and baked them the next day.
It would have been pretty difficult to do with the dowels on them!
I needed eight of each number to go with our seating chart. We found these clear 4 x 6 treat bags for the cookies to go in and stapled them to the program I printed.
I designed these double-sided programs and printed them on card stock so that the shape would hold while the treat bags were attached. The back of the programs informed each guest which table they would be seated at for dinner.
I know these programs don't match the save-the-dates or the invitations, but I wanted it to be simple and match the venue. So I stuck with a craft paper background, black, and white, and the cookies would be dark enough to stand out.
We piled it all into a wooden pine crate and put the groomsmen in charge of handing these out to guests when the ushers dropped them off at the terrace.
Of course, Howard and I didn't need one, we knew where we were sitting!
And there's the front of the program where we listed the key people participating in our wedding party, the officiant, and schedule of the evening.

A few guests commented on the fact that they saw the connection between the table numbers and the program cookies. =) And those brownie roll-out cookies are so good, I love how they stay soft and chewy. I think most people would have chosen to go with a sugar cookie, but I find those dry and hard to the point that they'll be too crumbly.

Wedding Photography: Ikonica | Venue: Auberge du Pommier | Table Numbers: Sylvia Chan |  Wedding Programs: Sylvia Chan | Cookies: Sylvia Chan | Cookie Cutters: Fox Run Craftsmen | Wooden Cake Dowels: Michaels | Clear Treat Bags: Michaels | Wooden Crate: KNAGGLIG from IKEA
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