Friday, March 28, 2008

Easter Wrap-up

I need a vacation. Having lamented about this for the past few weeks Trevor and I are going to Vegas!

I love Vegas. It's tacky, loud, expensive, smoky, crowded, hot...but fun. The whole town is like a big tourist trap; there are slot machines in the airport for goodness sake. But in spite of all the less than desirable things about it, it's a lot of fun. You certainly can't be a big prude and go to Vegas; you'll be uncomfortable and unhappy the whole time. But I think it's really interesting and fun to be in an environment that's so totally different than the one I live in on a daily basis. Or, at least it was a lot of fun when I was 21, single, a little crazy and very willing to stay up late. I'm sure that it'll be a different experience now that I've mellowed out and I'm going with my fiance in lieu of girlfriends but I still ultimately look forward to being around different foods, a big pool, sunshine and seeing the sights.

I do not look forward to flying on Northwest since they really suck and their customer service is atrocious but I don't think that anyone can complain about getting a practically free trip, even if they did everything in their power to make it difficult for us to redeem the darned vouchers from our trouble plagued trip to Japan last May.

Anyway, there's no point in complaining about something I can't control.

I am scheduled to finish off some registering for gifts this weekend, so if you'd like to shower me with a Dyson vacuum or something that'd be pretty cool. I do this mostly for my future mother in law. I love her. I don't really like registering for gifts. It kind of makes me feel dirty, like I'm begging my friends to buy me things, which I would obviously not ever do for other gift giving occasions like my birthday or Christmas. So I am registering to make her happy and make it ever so slightly easier to shop for me.

I admit; I'm one picky gal. I have a very specific sense of style. I won't venture to say I'm always the trendiest person, but I know what I like and I'm pretty hardheaded about it. Since we live in an apartment at present we can't help but look a bit cluttered; our stuff runneth over...but hopefully when we have our own home and a better storage system (right now it's a matter of finding any closet, pantry or cabinet space available that's not already stuffed full) we can fill it in a more sophisticated way. At present our living room=our dining room=Trevor's office.

I'll be doing the registering with Kim because like many husbands to be Trevor could care less about spatulas, pots, pans or dishes. He doesn't like to shop in general so I usually do the vast majority of the shopping. To be fair, Trevor does a lot for me that I hate doing, so I think it all balances itself out.

Easter was really good. We were frustratingly stuck in traffic, but to be honest we're always stuck in traffic during every holiday in MA. The highway is always clogged up; we should really know better by now but we always leave right after dinner or right after breakfast...when everyone else is leaving too. My pound cake seemingly went over well; no one died or anything. I was particularly fond of coconut mousse. I could have eaten cups and cups of mousse until I was sick...but I didn't. The ham was really good, and it was nice to see everyone. If it weren't for holidays I don't know if we'd ever see Trevor's aunt or mom.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Almond Pound Cake

Happy Almost Easter!

We are spending tomorrow in Massachusetts with Trevor's family. I have been preemptively volunteered to bring dessert by Trevor. So yesterday I went to the store, picked up a few supplies and got to work because it's always good to be prepared. Usually I wait until the night before to start baking, but I had an unusual craving for Almond Cake and the best recipe I could dig up was for an Almond Pound Cake. Having never made this rich in flavor, yet light in texture cake before I read like 80 thousand reviews and almost all of them said that the cake tastes better 1-2 days after baking when all the flavors meld and develop. Who am I to argue with that? And the fact is I haven't posted a recipe in ages so here goes...

Almond Pound Cake
2 Sticks of butter (at room temperature)
2 3/4 cups Sugar
1 cup Sour Cream
6 Eggs
2 tbs Almond Extract
1 tbs Vanilla Extract

3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda

Preheat oven to 325 F. Cream together butter and sugar. I then mixed in the sour cream. Mix in eggs one at a time until well blended. I'd say I kept my hand mixer running for at least 8 minutes so everything was a creamy and fluffy consistency. This is what determines the texture of your cake so it's really important to mix it well and not rush it. Then I mixed in the extracts. Sift the flour and baking soda together in a separate bowl. I did it 3 times because you want the flour to be light and unclumpy. And then gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined and you don't see white flour anymore. Do not over mix because you'll deflate all your hard work. You can pour into one gigantic bundt pan but for me it filled two 8" rounds. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until brown on top and the cake bounces back when you touch it. If it jiggles it's not done.

So I worked on it yesterday evening and since I made two cakes I cut into one immediately and it was heavenly. I also pricked my cake with a fork a number of times and drizzled a few tablespoons of diluted Amaretto and sugar on top. Oh, and I sprang for the authentic almond extract and it really shows. The aroma is rich and full of depth. Unlike most cakes, pound cake is so rich in flavor you don't need to mask it with tons of frosting or sticky sweet glazes. It's fantastic just on its own, dusted with powdered sugar or served with some fresh fruit on the side and some whipped cream.

It's definitely a keeper. I almost never make cake from scratch but for family I almost feel obliged to because for special occasions you should always share with them your very best. In real life I'm more apt to make a cake from the box and substitute out the oil with apple sauce in an attempt at being slightly more healthy.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Trading chefs

I spent yesterday with my parents. Mom wanted to cook so I joined her. Mostly we cooked her food but I brought my handy biscotti recipe because she's crazy about it and wanted to have me show her how to do it.

In spite of my mother's cooking prowess, she's not a sweets fan so she's not an avid baker. I picked up baking because the only way to get a cookie in our house was to make it yourself; my mother never really indulges in what I'd consider junk food so you had your choice of a second helping of dinner or whatever you could dig out of the freezer. lol

She teaches me how to cook savory foods of Asian origination. I teach her how to make desserts. I consider it a pretty symbiotic relationship. She and I made har gow, steamed shrimp dumplings that you'd normally find at dim sum. They were a tad salty but very tasty. And mom made duck noodle soup that I'm wild about. I'm pretty much a duck fanatic; I love it but I love it even more when my mom makes it because she'll skim off all the extra fat "floaters." When I was in Vietnam and we ate out they'd never skim any of the fat off the top of soups so it was extra heavy; tasty but very guilt inducing.

Since I spent my day with my parents we chit chatted about invitations and wedding gifts. So I already know what I'm getting come August, but suffice it to say that it's no less special that I know now mother is not the kind of person who thinks long and hard about what you said you liked once; she'll just outright ask you want you want for every holiday and special occasion and get it for you so she knows you'll like it. I don't think I've ever gotten a gift when I'm supposed to nor has it ever been a big surprise. Typically I get my gift way too early. So I'm equally bad about gifting people things in a timely manner but I'm either way early or way late. lol In any case, if you never really get any surprises from your mother you have two choices 1.) you can harbor some useless resentment because your mom isn't like other peoples' moms or 2.) you can realize that she doesn't mean any harm, she doesn't love you any less and that she's doing the best she can to do well by you.

Obviously you can choose to feel however you want, but it's better to not fret over things you can't change. I think that's a good general philosophy to have, wedding planning or otherwise.

So wedding things are going pretty well. Trevor & I have finally agreed on a centerpiece idea and we made a little test run and assembled one to see how it looks. The vision I have isn't entirely accomplished yet, but I think that it looks a little unusual and I'm totally into that. Everyone has candles and/or flowers as centerpieces and I think it's interesting to throw nontraditional ideas out there. I love citrus centerpieces too but I'm not really sure what I'd do with like 20 lbs of limes after the reception is done....make a bunch of key lime pies? Mojitos for all? Sometimes I think I should have been a wedding planner because it'd be fun to play around with these kinds of ideas, but then I think I'd run into some monstrously crazy demanding bride and magic of it all would eventually wear thin.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kim's belated 26th Birthday

I'm backlogged in events apparently.

Kim's birthday was ultimately celebrated for the past two weekends (not this one). The first celebration was the rescheduled casino trip. It was snowing that day too, but somehow we all made it down just fine. It was as smokey and crowded as I remember but Kim and the others seemed to have fun and Trevor was there to assist the girls when he felt that the guys they were dancing with were being too pushy and aggressive. I had fun, but most of my fun was getting ready, doing my hair and prettying up. Walking outside in the snow with dress shoes...not quite as fun as you'd think. The weekend after, since there was pretty low turnout for the limo; there were about 10 of us all together, the other party friends also wanted to celebrate Kim's birthday so they had a more local celebration at two bars around here. I originally wanted to tag along but apparently Kim's birthday always brings precipitation because it was pouring rain that day and evening and Trevor and I mutually decided it was not a good party night. On the bright side, Kim, Viki and Dianna's crew seemed to have tons of fun.

My dad's back from Vietnam and so is my ao dai, which I'm hoping I don't sweat to death in since it's long sleeved. Otherwise it fits fine (thankfully) though it's a little long so I might ask my mother to hem them for me so I don't trip on myself. She says it's supposed to be long, but I don't think I'm supposed to step on it.

My friend Nini in Cali is also getting married. We've been friends since high school and throughout college so I'm really happy for her that she's been able to find a guy she not only wants to date, but to actually marry and spend her life with. I wish I could do more to help her with her wedding planning but since she's so far away it's a tad difficult. So far I've sent her a few pictures of things I liked that I couldn't use for my own wedding. I could have ten weddings and still not use all the ideas I ran into that just didn't work with my color scheme, budget, theme...etc. So I'm more than happy to share some of my inspiration because it does no one any good if it's not utilized.

So it's a huge marriage fest among my friends, with the first to dive in being my friend Jenny J. from college. She's totally on top of her wedding planning though. She's getting married in June and she's already sent out her shower invites (well her mom did). I'm getting married two months after her and I don't even have a concrete guest list. lol I know who of my friends I'm inviting. I know the family members Trevor wants to invite and his friends, but the question mark is my own family and how many of them we'll be inviting because...let's just be blunt, I feel like I'm related to half of the Vietnamese people in the world. My dad's the 9th born in his family and my mother is the 8th born. I've left it to my parents to prioritize who needs to be invited because I honestly have no idea about any protocol.

If it were up to me we'd just have a tiny wedding of like 50 guests, but for the sake of appeasing our families we're bumping it up so I don't accidentally alienate any of my family members. I don't really think too much about alienating friends, as weird as that may sound because if they're roughly my age and of marrying age they usually understand how expensive it is to throw a wedding and a lot of people don't even like being a guest at a wedding because...let's face it, they're not always fun, they don't always serve good food or play good music, you immediately don't know half (or more) of the people there, and you have to buy people a present. If you're female you have to get two presents if you're also invited to a bridal shower and it can be a very stressful and expensive undertaking.

In short, being a wedding guest sort of sucks. I've been a date to a wedding which I knew almost no one and it's kind of weird and awkward, like I didn't really belong there and there was that awkward moment in the receiving line where they had to introduce me to the bride and groom because they hadn't met me ever before. lol Even if it's kinda cold, I'd really like to avoid having those "I have no idea who you are" moments at my own wedding.

So I have no qualms about cutting down my wedding guest list to a very minuscule number of friends. I only have 3 college friends I intend to invite and 2 of them are part of my wedding party. On the bright side, I know each of the people I'm inviting really want to be there to support me as opposed to snoop on what's been going on with me since graduation and then talk about me behind my back.

No drama, my drama.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Yawn...daylight savings

"...easy like Sunday morning"

I just finished making & cleaning up breakfast (eggs, toast, homefries). Yesterday was pretty much a bust since it was pouring just about all day long. I had originally wanted to go wedding band shopping but couldn't quite get it together. Friday Kim was re-celebrating her birthday for the...3rd time? with Dianna and pals. Trevor and I only made it as far as the local bar; the weather was not cooperating enough with us, but Kim seemed to have fun with her complimentary blow-job shot. There are pictures...everywhere on her friends' myspace pages so if you're thusly curious you won't have any issues finding them.

Today I'm supposed to have dinner with parents and I'm going to hang out with Kim in the evening. Since today is the Daylight savings "spring forward" day I feel a little behind in everything I've been doing.

My dad is back from Vietnam so I really wanted to treat him to pizza since he always ends up craving some kind of American food in his time away from home. He also brought home my ao dai, Vietnamese wedding gown. It's nice; I wouldn't say that it's my first choice in wedding apparel but it's not as uncomfortable as I thought it'd be...except for that hat, which is ridiculously heavy but I'll probably take it off shortly after pictures are done.


Dinner with my parents was good. I felt a little rushed though since we had to run after dinner back home for Trevor to make it on time for his gaming group that meets every Sunday at 7 and with the lost hour we were still pretty late and I ran to Kim's so I could still see her. Since her job old people-sitting fell through (kind of like baby sitting but without the butt wiping) she was surprisingly free for a bit so we hung out and talked for a few hours. No movies or tv...just chit chat. I forget sometimes how little I get to talk to her in comparison to how we used to always see one another.

She's Cathy's maid of honor so she's starting to worry about the progress, or lackthereof of her wedding. Cathy says her mom will take care of it. Cathy's mom says that she's going out to MT next month to shake some decisions out of Cathy so until then I guess we're just waiting. I'm happy to help them of course but helpfulness only goes so far; I don't really want to be up all night the evening before Cathy's wedding tying ribbons on favors. I threw out a few ideas to Kim since she'll be throwing C&C a Jack & Jill. I've never been to a J&J; just showers but a party's a party.

Even though money is admittedly tight, I don't feel comfortable having a J&J. I guess since I'm not as familiar with the inner workings of it; who pays for it and how much work goes into it I'm wary of it. Not like I want anyone to feel obliged to spend a ton of money on a shower for me either. Let's say right off the bat that I have no expectations at all. lol My parents had an engagement party for me last summer and that's all Vietnamese people do; bridal showers are more of a Western phenomenon and I've only ever been to like 3 showers ever in my life so I'm not even that familiar with them beyond being a guest at one. There's an awful lot of protocol that goes along with having a Western wedding. It's a bit baffling.