Sunday, December 29, 2013

#CookieFactory #MerryXmas

Hashtag! (Cousins are on a hashtag frenzie... welcome to five years ago, right??).

The cookie factory was working full force this holiday, pumping out delicious cookies for the Christmas Eve party. There were gingerbread men and women, ginger crystal cookies, shortbreads, thumbprints (bird's nest) and sugar cookies. There were at least dozens of dozens of cookies. 

The cousins met up at my aunt's place, and we trashed her kitchen with some serious cookie baking business. Bryan, Yvonne's bf, somehow got roped into decorating cookies with us. "I was only dropping Yvonne off! She told me that I better come in to say hi... who knew I'd be decorating gingerbread cookies for three hours".

How could it take three hours to glue on buttons and dot the eyes? Well, this is what our gingerbread cookies look like...

We have your hoola girls! 

No party is the same without Minions.

The cute angel.


The medical team : a surgeon, doctor, and nurse. 

Even Luongo made it out to the party! HOCKEY GOALIES!!

The entire football team too.

Donatello and Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made an appearance.

The Sailormoon clan. 

And of course, 'tis the season for ugly sweaters. (Yvonne added the white hair lady on the end at the very last minute. "Don't forget the little old lady!").

And there was Ray, the perfectionist. Decorating all his cookies with such intricacies in his designs. Hence all those paper towels next to him to erase and wipe off icing just to start all over again.

While we were all decorating gingerbread cookies, KDer was finishing up on the sugar cookies. (The rest of the cookies were not pictured due to the workers of the cookie factory being too busy at work).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday Sugar High

I am a true sucker for all things holiday. I was only at 49th Parallel coffee shop to grab a few gift cards for Christmas presents, but then I saw this peppermint donut in the showcase window and I just had to have one. The truth is, again, I didn't want to eat it. I just wanted it for something holiday. I'm strange like that. I did end up enjoying it with a cup of green tea... and let's just say it looks better than it tastes. This is how I get myself into a sugar addiction during the holidays. Wait until you see my next post...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Annual Christmas High Tea at The Shangri-La Hotel

I love traditions. And I love that we're creating new ones. (Have I already mentioned that in my blog?). Anyway, this is the third or fourth year that we've gathered together at the Shangri-La Hotel for a wonderful afternoon of high tea. Why do we always go back to the same place? We especially like their high tea for two reasons : 1) the pianist that provides magical Christmas background music, and 2) their high tea menu changes every season... and of course, with it being Christmas, the desserts on the third tier are all Christmas-themed. That's the way to get into the spirit! 

We didn't end up in a private room with our own personal pianist like we did last year (re: last year's post), but we enjoyed it just as much. It doesn't hurt too that we have a bit of a connection, so although it was a completely blinged out kind of high tea, it was very reasonably priced. 

Look at the gorgeous purple and gold sequins. The hotel was currently running their Arabian themed nights, and so we got a bit of their festive decor. 

Some of us got the small pots, and some got the big ones.

There is absolutely nothing better in this world than gathering together with your close ones and sharing a few laughs. This is what it's all about. This is what Christmas is about. I love every bit of it.

But of course, let's look at the spread of amazing, not-so-tea-sized food.

The mini sandwiches were amazing. There was the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel, the curry chicken sandwich, a jelly sandwich, and a roasted vegetable and hummus pinwheel.

For dessert, there was a spiced eggnog cream, a turkish delight, a pistachio cake, and something that's similiar to a baclava. (Horrible descriptions... I'll rewrite them once I look for my photo of the menu).

I really did leave out a third reason why we always choose the Shangri-La for high tea. They make the best scones. Flakey and crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. With the right amount of currants, which goes so well with their in-house marmalade and berry jam. They gave us bowls of clotted cream, which I initially thought was a waste... but surprisingly enough, we somehow manage to dig through most of it.

And that wraps up yet another memorable and fun Christmas high tea at the Shangri-La.

For the third year in a row, we coupled high tea with a night of Christmas caroling with the Vancouver Symphony and Orchestra at the St. Andrew's Church in downtown. I couldn't decide whether to go or not, because of the list of things I wanted to do back at home... but in the end, I'm glad I decided to go for the concert. Dan was so sweet to sneak away while the rest of us were shopping to go line-up at the door to make sure I got a ticket. 

Even though some of the songs are repeated every year (how many Christmas songs are there anyway?), I enjoyed it just the same. Sitting inside that gorgeous church, and listening to the choir sing and the symphony and orchestra play out the songs, it all somehow gives you a piece of tranquility. It's perfect for doing some reflecting on the past year. No matter what the year played out to be, every end of the year when I sit inside that church at the Christmas concert, I could only feel one thing - and that is, being thankful.

Sarah @ 18 Months

She is only one of the cutest babies I know. I still wanna smoosh her with hugs and kisses. She is at such a fun age. She knows a lot of words, but hasn't yet strung them together into sentences. She understands a lot, sometimes perhaps too much, and is soo much fun to play with. 

Whenever you ask her if she wants "mum mum", (meaning food), she always says "Yah". She loves food. So much so that sometimes, we have to spell the word, "F-O-O-D" so she doesn't understand what we're talking about. She comes up behind you and taps you on the back, or if you're sitting on the floor, she'll lean on you hinting that she wants a ride on your back. When you ask her if she's happy, she'll give you a pretend smile and laugh, and likewise if you ask her if she's sad, she'll give you a sad face. What a little actress! 

She loves calling herself "Rah Rah", and also loves taking pictures. She must check herself out after each shot taken, and demands you turn on your playback screen so she can see herself. She'll point to the camera and yell "RAH RAH!". That's one way to get her to obediently sit down for a minute. Point a camera at her, and she'll plop her butt on the floor. It's so cute. 

She loves playing the piano, and pretty much anything else that makes noise. If there's no noisemakers around, she'll make her own. She loves to "hoo hoo hee hee" like a monkey, and "roar" like a lion. She's also very good with other kids. If you tell her to share, she will. She doesn't quite get the concept of "playing together" just yet, but she likes and remembers people her size.

Oh, how I love her! I just love watching her grow.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Apple+Pear Galette

A random bake day. The festivities of the holidays are coming to an end, and with some time on my hands (which is rare), and some fruits I found getting a little over ripe in the fruit basket, I decided to bake another galette. It's kinda funny. It's always these no-plan bake days where my baking turns out best. I worked with the same dough recipe that I use all the time to make a galette, and I've baked this enough now that it's almost second nature.

I cut up the apples and pears, and started lining them however I felt like. Usually, I arrange them in a spiral or just toss them in there with no order, but today, I just let my fingers do the work. It was almost like art. Just let it go and see where it takes ya. Then I took out my bag of cranberries and decided to decorate the center.

My brother comes into the kitchen and looks at my masterpiece, "Why did you arrange it like that?".

Dunno. I really dunno. But I think it turned out the prettiest out of all the galettes I've made so far. And, the most delicious. The sweetness of the pear and the tartness of the apples go well together. Didn't think a part of baking would become second nature... I'm not normally a baker. Well, having received a few cookbooks for Christmas, I think I may be experimenting more in the kitchen in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Enjoying all the festivities of the best time of the year. Hope you guys are too!

I'm just sitting back and relaxing with this colourful sugar cookie (rainbows make me happy) and a cup of chocolate tea, after a pretty busy morning of making breakfast and opening presents with the family.

This time of the year while bringing lots of joy and cheer, it also brings upon reflection.

Meanwhile, soaking in the last of the holidays and Christmas songs playing on the radio... and soon, counting down to the New Year.

Hope everyone is having a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Time

I feel like I'm cheating this blog when "Christmas" is in its name, and December is practically coming to an end, and I haven't blogged anything about Christmas. At the beginning of the month, I thought, how am I going to get into the spirit? It felt like summer just ended, and I'm only beginning to switch into sweaters. They started playing Christmas songs at work mid November, and I thought, "blasphemy!". Ok, not exactly. But it was way too early. 

Now that Christmas is only 5 days away... (wow, 5 days!), it feels like, where has the time gone? Already? I was able to squeeze in some Christmas cheers in between then and now, but just haven't found the time to post. (How dare I!). 

Well, I'm sittin' in my living room right now, enjoying a cup of hot cocoa (with the marshmallows), and wrapping presents by the tree. Christmas songs are playing on Songza through my phone. My computer sits infront of the pointsettia given to us by my cousins, putting me more in the spirit while I simultaneously flip through YouTube videos, Facebook, and Lightroom. Yes, all while wrapping presents and writing Christmas cards. Multi-tasking at its best. This is my favorite kind of "me" time. 

Let's see if I can squeeze in any more between now and the end of the year, but if not, just know it was a good sacrifice in trade for some wondrous festive time spent with family and friends. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I was trying to think of a word to sum up this post for its title. About the past few weeks. Some I've told would know that the past few weeks has been a tough few for me. I'll leave the irrelevant details out, but the only thing that's helped salvage my spirit is keeping up with the Christmas festivities. This time of the year is obviously my favorite time of the year. And it has again proven, this year, why.

At a time of lows, and my holding my breath and walking like I am on eggshells, I really wasn't in the spirit to do much at all until "this time too shall pass". But concentrating not on the lows, but rather, trying to find gifts for those I love, has brought me such joy... as it always has every year. The mall madness didn't seem to bother me. Nor did the line-ups or the seventh time I've been to Metrotown this month. Nothing, especially so small, could have bothered me. Nothing compared to my real worries. Instead, it helped fill my heart, as I patiently sift through stores and racks for the best gifts. It was unexpectedly rather therapeutic. I am now done my shopping list, and feeling pretty proud of myself for being prepared.

I've already crossed off four Christmas parties off my 2013 party list, and they've all been greatly successful. I had an amazing time with my friends, and seriously am thankful everyday for having them in my life. They've been super supportive, and well... who can resist all the laughs we have every time we get together? It was just what I needed. And also the very reason why I love Christmas. More on the parties later.

While at work, flu shots and the shingle vaccine have continued to fly off the shelf. I had the privilege to meet an amazing elderly couple while I gave them their Zostavax (shingles vaccine). Mr. H is 90, and Mrs. is 86. Both on a couple of high blood pressure medications, and Mrs. walks with a walker, but other than that, they are pretty darn healthy. They drove in to their appointment that day, and had plans to get some photos developed after their vaccinations, they told me. The conversation led me to ask Mr. H, "I have to ask... you're doing so well at 90. How do you do it?".

Mr. H replied, "Well, I can't take all the credit. I have a wonderful family, a loving wife, and I have a lot of faith. In fact, faith carried me through life."

Ahh, faith. A part of me at that moment felt like, ahh... I get it. When things happen that are out of my control, I turn to faith too. When there is nothing I could do to make it better, I just gotta believe that I'm in good hands. As I've believed in the past few weeks.

Please don't get me wrong as I keep this post so cryptic. It's been tough, but I didn't say it's been bad. Sure it's been stressful, but it doesn't mean I haven't been happy. When it rains, it pours sometimes... but doesn't mean that there aren't sunny days to follow. I never get angry or upset when there's a storm. Just waiting it out.

Someone said to me recently, "You know... you're pretty amazing. You know that?".

I laughed and replied, "Yah, of course. I know I am. Hahah. I'm kidding."

They then said while walking away, "Well, I'm not kidding. I'm actually glad to hear that. Sometimes I really wish you could see that in yourself."

Those words struck a chord in me. I believe I'm a good person. But amazing? Hmm... perhaps I gotta have a little more faith in me.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Spicy Corn and Chicken Chili

I write about the snippets of life that are good. This is about the Christmases in a cup after all. But, both you and I know we all have trying days. This week has been filled with many of those for very personal family reasons. But instead of letting it all get to me, I channel my emotions and energy elsewhere. One of a few ways I do that is through cooking. 

So, it is almost midnight. Everyone in the house has pretty much retired to their own rooms, and  that's when I'll whip out a soup pot. And I'll begin to chop. There is something therapeutic about cooking.  Following a recipe or not. Mindlessly measuring out spices and chopping vegetables. Whatever it may be. I always find myself in a comforting hum-drum. It's my "me" time at its best. Tonight, I decided to whip up a good pot of chili to fit the cold weather we've been having. 

After it is all done, I'll play around with the food. Propping white cardboard around it to "bounce light". Then, I'll climb onto a chair so I can get on top of my creation with my camera. If you walk into my kitchen at this very moment, you'll probably find the whole set-up a little strange. I wasn't cooking to eat.

When I was done with the photos, I took the bowl of chili and dumped it back in the pot.  Then comes the pattern of washing the dishes, turning off the lights, washing up and then going to bed. It actually a pretty common thing for me to do at midnight. It is then the peacefulness inside me is restored.

This chili recipe was very easy to make, and it tastes fantastic. If you want an easy and quick chili recipe, give this one a try.

I adapted this recipe from Whole Foods Mobile App. 

Spicy Corn and Chicken Chili 

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp gr. cumin
1 tsp gr. coriander
cayenne pepper to taste
1 lb gr. chicken breast
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup mild or medium salsa
1 cup frozen corn
1 can kidney beans
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1. In large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat, and add onions and garlic. cook for 5 mins until onions are translucent. 
2. Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, coriander, and cayenne and cook for 1 min.
3. Add chicken and cook for 3 mins. 
4. Add tomato sauce, 1 cup water, salsa, kidney beans and corn. Season with salt and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 mins. 
6. Then stir in cilantro and serve.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Roasted Vegetables

Roasting vegetables is my winter version of a salad.  My current favorite vegetable to roast is brussle sprouts and broccoli. Can't explain why. Just love the taste. Perhaps they both have a little bit of crisp to them too. I added a sprinkle of seasoning salt, olive oil and italian seasoning to intensify the flavours of the veggies. After roasting for 45 mins at 400C, the aroma fills the air when I pull open that oven door, and the colourful veggies come out golden brown and toasty.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Look what this lucky gal got for her birthday! Flown all the way from NYC. When I went to Paris back in 2007, I wasn't big on macarons at all. In fact, I'm not sure I've even tried them before that trip. But we did walk into a Laduree store when in Paris because the store itself is gorgeous, but we didn't actually buy any macarons. It wasn't until my trip to Toronto and Montreal in 2009 with KDer that I started to find an interest in these colourful sweets. We mapped out a "bakery walk" (I've forgotten in which district of Toronto), and a group of us had spent a day walking from bakery to bakery in this little area, sampling macarons and other mini desserts. We made our way to Montreal and came home with a huge box of macarons from La Maison Du Macaron. Since then, I've been hooked.

Now, I'm not super crazy about macarons.  I don't personally think they're a must-have to-die-for kind of sweets. But I do appreciate them. After helping out my friend, Kat, make many batches of macarons and learning about the secrets to making them, (one being time), I've come to admire their delicateness  and beauty. Besides trying to achieve that perfect soft almond-flavoured shell with a chewy inside,and making sure there's "feet" to the shells (meaning height), being able to come up with an intense, enjoyable flavour also requires skill. And to be honest, I've tried a lot of macaron shops locally, and nothing really stands out. (I still think Kat makes some of the best macarons when it comes to local choices).

And then of course, there's Laduree and Pierre Herme from Paris.

I'm a sucker for packaging. I appreciate quality and beauty, and the thought that goes into presentation. How elegant is this box? It's gorgeous.

What was inside was even better. The flavours of each macaron, even so simple as lemon, pistacchio, chocolate, and raspberry, are all super intense. And I love that about them... simple flavours. The texture of not just the shell but the filling is amazing. From jelly, to cream, to marshmallow fluff. I now know why Laduree is so popular when it comes to macarons. I think I can say they are the best macarons I've had so far.

The best part isn't the fact that I got not only one, but two, boxes of Laduree macarons. Of course, what was better than finally being able to try out these macarons, is knowing unexpectedly that someone thought of you while they were away. Gah, I'm special. I know it 'cause family and friends always make me feel that way. I'm one lucky gal. Thanks, KDer!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chau Veggie Express

I've been to Chau once in the summer, and since then, I've been thinking of going back. I remember the loads of veggies (well, it is a vegetarian place after all), and the fragrant asian flavours. I love that there's a little trendy coffee shop that it is partnered with right next door. Anyway, as mentioned, I wasn't really up for celebrating anything birthday related, but I was up for a casual dinner with friends. So, since I've been wanting to go back to Chau, I suggested we all meet there.

I think we were all hungry by the time we met up at 8pm, so the five of us ordered practically everything on their menu. We sat on the Satori side of the restaurant (the coffee shop), just because there was more room there.

We had pho-like noodles, a dry coconut noodle dish, green papaya salad, a veggie rice roll, curry, and probably a few other things that I cannot remember. I ordered a tamarind citrus soda which I found sour - just to my liking. To be honest, the food wasn't as exciting and great as I remember it to be. Don't get me wrong. It was all still pretty delicious, but I guess the trouble came with ordering everything. When some dishes were comparatively more flavourful than others, it made some dishes seem rather bland. In other words, the dishes don't compliment each other, and they aren't suppose to. I think, it would be best to just order what you feel like and not mix - whether it be a light noodle soup or a heavier curry noodle.

Eating all those veggie dishes (with friends who don't particularly like veggies in general... whoops! oh well), made it seem less guilty to go for a dessert run afterwards. All of us ended up at the Keg near Willingdon, because I was craving their mud pie. And now that, if you haven't tried, is certainly something worth splurging your calories on. Mmm...

The signs of aging are definitely showing through our conversations. We've now come to chat about our own aches and pains, and deteriorating vision. We certainly shared a lot of laughs... and silly stories... and I love that. I miss that. It was a relaxing and chill kinda night. Absolutely fitting for our aging bodies. Ok, I'm kidding. We're not that old.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Red Wagon Cafe

Since Guy Fieri's visit to The Red Wagon Cafe for a segment on Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives, this brunch spot has been super busy. On my birthday, a couple of my coworkers decided to hang out with me for lunch, and we were all craving pancakes. Well, for me... craving pancakes is rare. But, this pulled pork pancake is well known at Red Wagon, and there's a good reason for that.

It was raining cats and dogs, and I was all giddy about having the chance to wear my new rainboots. Of course, I was only prepared from knee down, and got royally soaked everywhere else. I could feel the cold through my pants. But still, I was happy. To be brunching with my coworkers. Not to mention the jack daniel syrup soaking my pancakes.

Luckily, Andrew got there first and waited in line for a table, so by the time Dee and I arrived, we were all ready to eat. I had to order eggs on top of my pancakes just because for me, there is no brunching without eggs... but of course, that meant finishing only one pancake out of the three. But boy, it was good. Their pancakes are done perfectly in my opinion. The perfect amount of chew and fluffiness. I also tried a bite of their banana pancake and that is also very good. Chunks of banana giving a balanced banana-to-batter ratio.

Anyway, it's not one of my go-to's because the line-ups can get crazy, and I have only tried the one item on their menu. But whenever I crave that pulled pork pancake drizzled with jack daniels syrup... nothing will stop me from going back.