Friday, September 30, 2011

A Bum Day

I had taken a few days off last week to help out with any last minute errands for Bran and Dan's wedding. Or, really, it was an excuse to just hang out and let the anticipation of a good friend's wedding day build up inside of me just to make celebrating that day that much more exciting. It's great. With my friends anyway, especially if we're part of the wedding party, we all take a few days off and spend most of that time together.

So, in other words, I felt like I had a mini staycation. Friends dedicating time to spend with each other. Doing much of nothing other than eating, chatting, and laughin'. In a city we're familiar with and we all call home. There's nothing quite like a staycation with friends.

Now that the wedding is done, and my duties as wedding party have been completed, I'm back to my own humdrum life. I like humdrum. But when in transition from staycation with friends back to humdrum, I sometimes find myself a little lost and not knowing what to do with my time. Of course, there's laundry. Or, tidying up all those craft supplies and scrapbooking paper that I used earlier for Bran's shower. Reminding myself my bills are due soon. And that deadline for methadone maintenance training that I have to do for work is creeping up.

But, I decided I'm going to leave today's humdrum day off as what it really is. A humdrum day off. A day off from everything.

I woke up late. Slept in and stay in my warm, cozy bed a little longer. I slapped the "off" button on my alarm clock, flip around to the other side of my bed, and slept some more. When I finally decided to get out of bed, I took a loooooong, refreshing shower. My coworkers had talked about the Thomas Haas double baked almond croissant the day before (yes, the Thomas Haas double baked almond croissant), and if I were to give myself one thing I had to do today, it would be to drive all the way down W. Broadway to get one. I texted Bran to see if she wanted to accompany me.

I was ready to step out the door, but I told her I'd leave in an hour. Because, who's rushing? Caught up on the blogs that I follow, surfed a bit of youtube, and putted around the house before I pulled a comfy sweatshirt over my head and headed over to pick up Bran. Comfy bum clothes, a perfectly brewed cup of London Fog, and half of a ... yes, Thomas Haas double baked almond croissant. Craving satisfied and relaxed to the max. (Sorry that was lame, but just had to throw it in there).

Then, we went to one of my favorite places, Granville Island, and spent almost an hour at one spot... browsing through every single sauce, dip, and dressings at the Stock Market. I ended up buying a jar of cranberry and figs chutney that I think will go perfectly with some tasty turkey leg that I plan to make. Can't wait to try it.

I dropped off Bran before I went out for dinner with Ming. Zipang it was tonight. I was craving Japanese but wanted to go somewhere other than our usual, and also somewhere that wasn't too far and too busy. Good ol' familiar flavours and I was comfortably full and satisfied.

Of course, it only takes meeting up with Karen to tip me over being comfortably full... I knew it was dessert night at her place, but I thought I'd nibble a bit of this and that, and call it a night. Ming dropped me off at my girls' night. I had brought a few chocolate sparkle cookies from Thomas Haas (also to die for). Karen baked a homemade apple pie, while Jen brought over a fancy cheese platter from Benton Brothers. Whoa, full on party mode! But it really wasn't. We were all in our sweats and Lulu's, and parked ourselves at the dining table... but when it comes to girls' night, we always know how to eat!

From Benton Brothers

My Favorite Cheese
KDer's homemade apple pie - mmm!
You're not at KDer's place if there isn't vino.

Now, I'm stuffed. And can't go to sleep. But, it was an absolutely perfect bum day. Love it.

Neighbourly Love

I've had the same neighbours all my life. Living next to the same people for the past 29 years. One side, we have a sweet Italian couple, and on the other side, a lovely Hungarian couple. We've stuck together all these years. We've mowed each other's lawns and shoveled each other's snow-covered sidewalks. 

A couple of weeks ago, it was Mr. Manzi's 80th birthday. His wife shared stories of their big banquet dinner with the family. We didn't celebrate it with him, but we had given him a present. During our Mid-Autumn Festival, we gave them a mooncake. Something Chinese. A couple days ago, they baked a homemade pizza for us. Something Italian. Maybe next time, I'll ask them to teach me how to make an authentic tiramisu!

Mmm .... thank you. It was yummy!

Catching Up On Wedding Week

Five days before Bran and Dan's wedding, we were at Richard and Amy's wedding.

(click on photos for larger images).

This is us at the beginning of the night. Albert, me (middle), and Shum (right - in case you confuse her with the guy on the left, hehe).

...While some of our other friends had already hit the bar.

For me, I'm a wine or beer kinda gal. Over fruity cocktails and highballs any day. And have pretty much retired shots. For my friends, they run over a wide spectrum. From some who don't drink at all, to those who believes the measure of your tolerance level is based on whether you've hit the floor. As long as you're not on the floor, you're still tolerating.

We don't judge. Party animal, party pooper - we have fun all the same.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Photobooth Fun

Meet my friends.

A Wonderful Wedding

Time to sum it up. So I'll never forget.

When people are exhausted and still talking about the wedding two days later, you know it was a good wedding.

The wedding was perfect. Perfectly Dan and Bran, that is.

It had its "Dan and Bran" details. It was lighthearted, yet sweet and romantic. It was quirky. It had a lot of "Dan and Bran" humour. It was so them. Absolutely them.

The girls got up at 5:30am to get ready. The makeup artist was chatty and cheery. It helped us get out of our groggy moods and ready to party. Hair and makeup - check. Dress - check. The night before, the girls (bridesmaids and bride) spent the night at Kat's. It was a short and sweet girls gathering before the big day. We shared a box of chocolates from XOXOLAT, and toasted Brandee with a glass of Moscato D'Asti (Italian champagne). (If you've never had it before, you've got to try it. It's perfect for any type of celebration and it's like heaven to your palate). It was a splendid combination, and the best way to lull us all to sleep before the big day.

While we were enjoying our last few sips, Bran whipped out tiny boxes for all the girls. Each bridesmaid got a lovely necklace as a gift from the bride and each necklace had a different saying - mine said "Good friends see the world in the same way."

Back to wedding day...

The boys arrived around 9:30am. We had plenty of time to get ready and prepare their doorgames. Traditionally for the Chinese, the groom comes to pick up the bride at the bride's home, and the bridesmaids put the groom through a series of "tests" before he gets the bride. The groomsmen are his backup. We made them sing. We made them dance. We made them do silly things. Laughter rang through the house... And continued to ring through the day.

Bride's mommy made everyone breakfast. We are talking about a good 30+ people. Everyone had a bacon + egg english muffin. Mmm mmm, started off the day right with a hearty breakfast. Then, the wedding party loaded into an SUV limo supplied by the groom's brother.

We arrived at Hycroft and started off with the tea ceremony. Then, family had their time with group photos. There was no rushing for this wedding. We even had time to mix and mingle and greeted people coming for the ceremony. When the time came, we shoo'd the bride upstairs to get into her white wedding dress. At this moment, the wedding planner came in with a letter written by the groom. Before even reading it, the bride already started to tear up.

By the time we were about to walk down the aisle, Bran was full-on crying. The three of us did funny dances and told silly jokes in hopes to make her laugh and distract her from tearing up so she wouldn't ruin her makeup. And then, off we went...

The ceremony was lighthearted. The bride and grooms had their waterworks going on and off. The commissioner told the bride to stick her tissue down her dress, which made everyone laugh. And while we did our signing of the registry, the rest of the wedding party bopped up and down to the light, beaty music. It wasn't rehearsed. We just did... what we did. Having fun. Which made the couple laugh too.

After the ceremony, Bran surprised Dan with a groom's cake. Dan's favorite food is fried chicken. He also loves chocolate cake. So, this chocolate cake was moulded into looking like a fried chicken. Pretty funny. The groom loved it! The rest of the guests got to share a couple hundred mini cupcakes - flavoured chocolate with kahlua, pumpkin spice ,and almond with coconut. It was to die for. Everyone left the ceremony completely satisfied and on a sugar rush.

While Bran and Dan did their photoshoot, the rest of the wedding party decided to take a ride on the Vancouver trolley (that Bran and Dan had rented for mainly photo purposes). "Driver, take us to the nearest McD's!". So, we rode in this large, bright red trolley to pick up our Filet-O-Fish's and Big Mac's.

Group photos under the Burrard Bridge and near Vanier Park.

Then, to Brock House for the reception.

We made our entrance to the party dancing to the song "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO. We got the guests involved in a game of "suck the ping pong ball". The best man and I did a little surprise together for the bride and groom. We did our speeches too. And the night ended off with a bang when the groom serenaded the bride with "You're My Inspiration" by Chicago, and later busting out "I'll Make Love To You" by Boyz II Men with the groomsmen doing backup dancing and singing. It was sweet, romantic and hilarious. It was a hoot and  everyone loved it. We laughed all night long ...

To wrap it up, we drank till we were all happily buzzed, skipped our way to the photobooth for some picture-taking, and even fiddled around with bubbles and glowsticks at the kids station. We all wrote a little wish or marriage advice and hung it on their wedding tree. And last, but not least at all, we danced the night away...

So, on September 23, 2011, Bran and Dan got hitched. It was absolutely exhausting. But, definitely beautiful, memorable... and perfect.

Congratulations,  Brandee and Daniel!

(click on photo for larger image).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Almost There

Tomorrow. After tomorrow, I will get my life back. 

But from now till then, I'll be celebrating one of my best friend's wedding!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Moon Cakes

Yes, I've picked up my dslr again. Back to playing with my 50mm lens. Am still in love with it. In the midst, of my last laptop breaking down and trying to find a new one, I also got myself a new point-and-shoot. My last baby (the camera) was attached at my hip for the past 6 years. I was so sad to see it go... it was my first love (my very first camera that I bought as a new grad with my own hard earned money).

Even with getting my dslr, it was still the comfort I fell back on. I couldn't bring my dslr everywhere I went, so there was always a place for my tiny point-and-shoot. But, one day, during the hockey playoffs, it went ka-put on me. It still works but the screen flickers on and off. And with a camera that has no viewfinder, it's pretty much usless.

Anyway, I ended up getting a Lumix LX-5. I've always wanted it. (Well, used to be the LX-3). Much better performance in low light, and a whole lot more control with manual settings. I was torn to love it. It's bigger. It's more complicated. I just wanted my old one back. I would get irrationally angry that I had left the ISO setting on at 1600 in broad daylight and mindlessly started shooting. Why must I get all these settings for what is suppose to be a simpler camera in a point-and-shoot? But, I slowly grew to love it... That has now become my everyday camera.

We got along just fine all summer long. Now, I'm getting more used to the LX-5 and am happy with my buy. Wasn't until last week at the shower, I finally picked up my abandoned dslr again. And, I love... It was like meeting up with an old friend for coffee. The familiarity and comfort comes pouring back.

I couln't let go of it for the first hour of the shower. I was of little help with set up being so preoccupied with my camera. But from that, I took this photo of Kat's moon cakes. Aren't they amazing? Homemade moon cakes. Green tea, black sesame, and plain. Filled with either red bean or lotus paste. I think they're gorgeous.

Well, someone's gotta do the documenting... ;)

Cupcake Tasting

Written on September 16, 2011

Did not post this earlier because it may ruin a surprise...

I didn't know about cake tastings until I started watching some of the wedding shows on TV. It is pretty crazy what people can do, and more importantly, what people are willing to pay or do for it. Our friend, Bran, decided that she wanted to surprise her groom on her wedding day with a whole lot of cupcakes (one of his favorite things). So, she hired a girl who specializes in making cupcakes and cakes right out of her home.

Tonight, we had a cupcake tasting. It's not enough to just choose a few flavours from what seemed like a hundred choices off her website, but you have to taste it to really know if you like it. Especially if you're going to be spending some big bucks for a few hundred cupcakes. This is where cupcake tasting comes in.

After work, I made my way over to Karen's where the cupcake tasting was being held. Karen steeped a pot of black tea to help us wash our palates in between cupcakes. Cathy, from Sweet Tease, came in shortly after with her dozen of cupcakes. That's right. A dozen of full-sized cupcakes. For the three of us. We really should have thrown a cupcake party! After a bit of them all... we practically ate four cupcakes each (which may explain the slight nausea I've been feeling the past couple hours... from sugar overload, not from the cupcakes!).

The cupcakes were gorgeous. Different colours. Different decorations. They were too beautiful to cut up. Now, to the flavours. Dan, the groom, loves chocolate. So, there were quite a few variety of chocolates. Chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream icing. Chocolate cupcake with kahlua icing. Chocolate with peppermint icing. Chocolate cupcake with a peanut butter centre and a drizzle of caramel on top of the icing. To.... die.... for.... I would have to say her chocolate cupcakes were the best! Super strong in chocolate flavour and crazy moist... and not too sweet.

The others were not far from the best. There was a lemon cupcake with tangy lemon icing. Vanilla cupcake with green tea matcha icing. Pineapple cupcake with coconut icing (yes, a pina colada). Banana chocolate chip cupcake with salted caramel icing (oh! the salted caramel! mmmm). Red velvet with a cream cheese icing. Pumpkin spice cupcake with a pumpkin icing. Almond cupcake with coffee icing....

Oh.... so good. Total indulgence.

It was like a perfect girl's night after an awful break-up. Buy full-sized cupcakes of every different flavour possible and eat them ALL in one night. They were all a whole lot better than the chain store brands. The flavours were strong with a kick. Yum...

Cake tasting is definitely a whole lot of fun. We ranked our favorites and scratched out the ones that we didn't love as much. And well, the winners will make their appearance at the wedding! I cannot wait to see this party come together!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tea Cups

Just threw a wedding shower for Brandee. Wish I could say this is the reason that the posts have been lacking, being busy helping with wedding things, but... 

The shower landed on the hottest day of the year. It was over 30 degrees and we were all melting indoors. Despite the heat, everyone enjoyed themselves at afternoon tea munching on mini sandwiches and sweets prepared by her aunt and members of her wedding party. From today, her wedding is one week away... 

At the same time, fall has arrived. After the hottest day of the summer, temperature dropped drastically. Rain-couver is back to Rain-couver and the sky is gloomy. Getting up in the morning is going to get harder. Days are getting shorter and it's getting darker earlier. This means more time spent at home, infront of the computer, re-capping on my amazing summer that I've somewhat failed to document here. 

In due time...

Sunday, September 4, 2011


This is what we do at a friend's housewarming party. We pick up their furniture, and...well, what exactly were we doing? There's a lot of captions I could write with this photo.

Happy birthday and congratulations on your new home, Elliott!

Friday, September 2, 2011


If you intend to ever attend a chocolate tasting session at XOXOLAT, which I highly recommend, you may not want to read further. ** spoiler alert **

For Christmas last year, Kat bought a few of us a chocolate tasting session at XOXOLAT, a chocolate shop located on Burrard St.

I had no expectations of this class. In fact, I really didn't even know it was a chocolate tasting session until we got there. I had no idea how long it would last. I just wrote off the night to spend some time with the girls, and I knew chocolate was involved.

I have my moments with chocolate. I know, you're going to ask, what kinda girl wouldn't like chocolate?? I do. I do like chocolate. But I don't always love chocolate. I go through phases. Sometimes, I'd crave them. And when I do, I want them all the time. Everyday. Sometimes, I just don't. I guess it depends on what it is. I rarely order chocolate ice cream. I almost always prefer vanilla. I also rarely order chocolate desserts. I usually prefer the rest over say... chocolate cake. But it's not like I don't like them. I suppose I don't always prefer chocolate flavoured things. But, I love chocolate chocolate. This really isn't any useful background story to my experience at XOXOLAT, aside from the fact that I'm no chocolate snob and I went in with no expectations.

I've been to a few wine tasting classes to learn the basics of wine. If you have too, you would know that there are different notes that you could pick up from a simple taste or even smell. Same goes for chocolate. I never really thought about this before. Of course they have notes. I always wondered why sometimes I like dark chocolate, and sometimes I don't. It may very possibly be where the cocoa beans are from and what different notes each different type of chocolate may have. Did you know there could be over 400 notes you can find in one chocolate? Pretty amazing.

"Who only likes to eat milk chocolate? Just be honest. I was one of them. I used to only eat Caramilks. Now, I love dark. So, let me bring you to the dark side...".

Hodie, the owner of XOXOLAT, gave us a fantastic overview of chocolate. She was informative and enthusiastic, and did her lecture with sprinkles of humour. In between, we got to taste nibs, which are 100% cocoa straight from the cocoa bean. We learned about how it is made into chocolate, and then we got to taste the 100% cocoa chocolate too. Then, a 85%. We got to take another 85% from a different region, and you could dinstinctly tell the difference between the woody, nutty notes of one and the citrusy, sour notes of the other. She got us to try a 70% before going back up to 75%, and it's funny how we all liked the 75% better. The shot of dark chocolate drink (which was essentially a chocolate bar melted down) was to die for.

After having it in its purest form (which is basically chocolate mass, chocolate butter, and sugar with none of the chemicals that are found in cheaper grocery-store chocolates), we got some fun ones that were infused with flavours. There was lavender, sour cherry chili, cardamom, taco chips and lime, and even bacon. None of which were subtle. My favorite had to be their sea salt one. It's that balance of sweet and salty that I love.

"I have customers coming into the shop telling me they eat only Belgium chocolate, and I say to them, oh you poor thing!." There are some really fine chocolate from Italy, France, and many other different places. In fact, I think the company that won the world's best chocolate bar this year is in Italy. Belgium and Swiss chocolate are great she says, but the finest of the finest... well, she'll teach you all about them in her class.

She'll also teach you that the separations (the white stuff on your chocolate that looks like mould) doesn't ruin the chocolate. Chocolate is chocolate. Dark chocolate can keep for 10 years, way past all its expiry dates. You can simply melt it and temper it back to its original. Just as long as water doesn't touch chocolate. If you've ever tried melting chocolate with the double boiler method and got a bit of water into your chocolate, you'll know that it wrecks it. (I've personally done that and have seen it). She says there's no better way to say it but it looks like, well... poo. It does. Hence, she recommends never to use a double boiler to melt chocolate, but simply on the stove at the lowest heat possible.

And even if you do get water into melted chocolate, don't throw it away. You can melt it, add water, and turn it into a drink. Add cream and make it a ganache. Stick it in a fridge and turn it into fudge. It just won't ever be a bar again. She even offered for you to bring in any ruined chocolate and she'll help you save it one way or another.

Chocolate should be made only with cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and sugar. Sometimes maybe vanilla to enhance its flavour. Things like carnuba wax (which is also the same stuff you find in your car wax) is a pure replacement for the cocoa butter component. Same with soy lecithin, also used simply as an emulsifier. Milk powder to make milk chocolate is another replacement ingredient. The truth is, cocoa butter is expensive. That component in cocoa beans is of more value. Hence, all these other ingredients are used in place of cocoa butter. Unfortunately, everything comes down to money. 70-80% of cocoa tree crops are grown in Africa now. But soon, if we don't continue our support for cocoa, these trees will be chopped down for say... beef farms for McD's burgers. All. About. Money. It's not about boycotting all Hershey's and Caramilk's or throwing all your money into expensive chocolates, but with this knowledge, now you have the choice.

I could go on. Clearly, I enjoyed my hour at XOXOLAT very much. At the end of it all, everyone got a box of 16 chocolates in a fancy bamboo box. To be honest, I would have been just as satisfied walking out empty-handed. I would totally recommend the chocolate tasting sessions at XOXOLAT to anyone. Simply because Hodie was a pleasure to listen to. Even though I may have shared most of what I learned today, I'm sure there is a million and one other things she could educate you on should you choose to sign up for her sessions.

(photos to come).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bella Notte

It's 3:26pm and I'm writing about "Bella Notte" (meaning : beautiful night).

I finally got around to finishing the second season of Glee yesterday, and this song was part of the finale. I don't particularly like the show anymore, (the plot has gone haywire and I don't care for the characters anymore), but the show is still a good source for song exposure. I may or may not have heard this song before... but I instinctly fell in love with it.

Yah yah, I've been diving a lot into the topic of romance and falling in love, and it has nothing to do with any events of my life at all - I swear. This song would make for a beautiful serenade in the background of a wedding proposal - I think so anyway. I am full of cheese like that. So cheesy that I can feel cheese oozing out of my ears.

Perhaps, it's all the weddings that are coming up. Or wedding talks all around me. But mostly, I think it has something to do with this staycation. This is exactly what I wanted for my two weeks off. To give myself time to celebrate life. Reminding myself of all things beautiful around me. Of what matters. To me.

Spending time with Friends. Family. Myself. Creating memories. (And yes, as much as weddings have lost the fan in me through seeing the planning process of other people's wedding, weddings are still good and happy times that I enjoy not for any other purpose than to be in the same room with people I love and sharing their happiness). This blog has only been about a very tiny snippet of my life. But as it is for everyone, I've had my share of big ups and downs. It's all about balance and perspective. I don't frown (as much) over the disappointments in life anymore, because without them, there won't be the contrast to intensify the happy's.

Love fills my heart.

Mostly in the last few days, it has been vastly due to this blog that I've found to add to my list. Check out It is one of the most beautiful and inspiring (and well-written) blogs that I've read.

On a different note, you may be happy to know that posts are going to be more frequent and photos are coming back. :)

But bye for now. I'm going to whip up a batch of cheesecake!