Ben & Taylor’s Rehearsal Dinner

Or, that time my family went all MEGA CHINESE on everyone, and also we ate an entire pig.

I kinda like that second title better, don’t you?

So a LOT OF STUFF WENT DOWN this past weekend! And though I wish I could jump straight into recapping my brother’s (and new sister-in-law’s) wedding, alas, I have only a handful of meager Instagram photos from the actual event. And since I want to do the entire thing justice (since, seriously, it was SO amazing you guys. And you know how seriously I take weddings, so don’t think I say that lightly, haha), I think I’ll wait ’til I at least get some teaser shots back from the wedding photographer. (I was a bridesmaid, which is why I didn’t take any actual photos of my own.)

However, I *did* get to play photographer (or, more specifically, was commanded–very nicely!–by my mother) at the rehearsal dinner, which was an affair all its own.

For my sister’s wedding back in 2008, and now Ben’s wedding, my family has participated in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony as part of the rehearsal dinner festivities. This is a Chinese custom where the couple to be married offer tea to all their elders, who then give the couple hong bao (red packets) with money, as well as their well-wishes/advice for their impending marriage.

I do actually think it’s a really cool and special tradition, and hope that I get to participate in one when my day comes too (though I don’t think that’s really in jeopardy — my mom would never allow me NOT to, I’m pretty sure). So my dad helped explain what was a-goin’ on to the guests who were less well-versed in Chinese customs, and then they got to it! First my parents…

Then Taylor’s mom and pops…

And her grandparents…

My (last remaining) grandmother isn’t able to travel, so in July, the newlyweds, my parents, and I will be heading down to Houston to perform the tea ceremony for her there.

But that isn’t to say that the Ho Family wasn’t well-represented at the blessed event! In fact, almost all of my aunts and uncles, as well as all of Taylor’s extended family, were present at the rehearsal dinner. So Ben and Tay did the tea ceremony with them as well. I’m sure you guys don’t particularly care to see those pics though (they’re really just a lot more of the same), so I’ll skip right ahead to this one:

See? I told you we ate a whole pig. They served it Peking-style, with the pork replacing what would traditionally be duck (and we would’ve had to have A LOT of ducks to feed that many people, so in the end I think it was a good choice. Sandwiched into a pancake with some hoisin sauce and spring onion, you could barely even tell the difference! Even the more squeamish of guests really seemed to enjoy the “pork tacos” (as they referred to them, haha) once they got over the whole, y’know, head thing.

And in case you were wondering, there was a ton of other food, too, of course! Noodles and shrimp fried rice and spring rolls… It was a real Chinese banquet! Other than the random lasagna that they had as a vegetarian option, that is. That dish was not so much, hahahaha.

But just in case the other pictures of food weren’t enough to help transition away from the fact that there was an ENTIRE PIG SERVED AT THE REHEARSAL DINNER (clearly I’m not really even over it yet), I have something else for you:

Yes, my perfect little niece Mia was there too, looking cute as all get out in her ladybug outfit. I almost hate that I’m so obsessed with my niece now. I swore I wouldn’t be that guy! Oh wel, whatcha gonna do? It’s not MY fault she’s so cute — blame my sister and her hubster for that (though a lot of my aunts do say that she looks a lot like me! Heeeeee!)

Mia was actually on pretty amazing behavior for a not-quite-8-weeks-old baby, both during the rehearsal dinner AND during the wedding! Except when I started taking pictures with the flash. That she did not like so much.


Can you believe *I’m* the baby of the family? From smallest to tallest…

So yes! The entire event was really nice, and very special for both families, I think. I loved that Tay’s family seemed to really embrace it all–just like my sister’s husband’s family did when they all experienced it!

Taylor’s mom even wore a cheongsam–the traditional Chinese dress that she and Taylor are wearing. Fun fact: the red dress Taylor is wearing is actually my mother’s wedding dress!

Well, one of her wedding dresses, at any rate. (During a Chinese wedding, the bride actually changes outfits like four times, hahaha.)

It was a really special way to kick Ben and Taylor’s final day of non-wedded life. Their final, super duper Asian day, hahahaha. 🙂

Gan bei!

DC Food & Wine Festival 2012

Okay, before I say anything else, let’s pay special attention to the most exciting part of my weekend:

My brother proposed to Taylor, and she said yes! SQUEEEEE!! He whammied her with a proposal on her birthday — and she was COMPLETELY surprised. Though I had a hunch it was coming soon (I have a sixth sense about these things, hehe), I was blown away by Ben’s sweet and thoughtful proposal. Knowing how much she loves hidden object games (where you click around a screen to uncover items), he created one especially for her! He also videotaped the entire thing, so watch the video below if you want to know how it all went down. Fair warning: I totally started crying.

(Click through to the blog to see the video if you’re reading this via email!)

Okay, as I try to get my composure back, let’s recap another one of the weekend’s events, shall we? We’ll skip over the fact that I did not end up running the Love the Run You’re With 5K on Sunday (and with no good excuse as to why not), and instead flash back to Saturday, pre-proposal, where Ben and Taylor accompanied Sean and me to the DC Food & Wine Festival!

The face of someone who has no idea that she will be engaged in less than 24 hours…

It was my first time attending this huge wine-tasting event, and it was awesome! There were tons of people there, as you can see from the photo above, but as long as you were willing to finagle your way between folks and stand in the occasional line, well, there was plenty of wine to go around. I even ran into a familiar face there (Hi Amanda!) between sips of wine and bites of food. Not going to lie, I was definitely a little sloshed by the end, haha.


As you know, I’m not the biggest wine connoisseur (yet!) so this was yet another opportunity for me to suss out my likes and dislikes.


While I’m still definitely a white wine gal right now (especially a SPARKLING white wine gal, keke!), I think I’m coming around to some reds. I really like pinot noir, and even the occasional shiraz. Also, I now can say with absolute certainty that I dislike chardonnay. Hooray! I’m learning!


The food situation was fun for me too (obviously, haha). There wasn’t a TON of food, but the pickings were pretty good. There were general stations with bread, cheese, and hummus set up all around, and then there were vendor-specific booths offering samples as well. My favorite was the slices of filet with blue cheese sauce from the Old Hickory Steakhouse. I was VERY tempted to go back for seconds fourths. Heh.


Overall, a pretty fantastic weekend! Excitement on the family front and wine in mah bellah — not bad, not bad at all. Of course, this is still a mere prelude to the MAGICAL TIME that awaits me this coming weekend. I am now mere DAYS away from going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a Christmas present from the ‘rents!) so hold onto your hats when it comes time for next week’s weekend recap! *high pitched squeal*

Oh, and for those of who you (accurately) think I’m neglecting my race training: the passing of my Harry Potter World visit will also mark the end of my half-assery. (Confession: I haven’t run more than 2.5 miles since, er, December? Eep.) This means I really will have to literally hit the bricks if I want to survive the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April and the Reach the Beach Relay in May. So that’s coming, worry ye not. Just let me just enjoy this final ring of freedom while I can, mmkay? 😉

What’s your proposal story? Or, if you aren’t engaged/married, your dream proposal scenario?

A Very Benny Birthday

Happy birthday, big brother!

Some things never change.

Yes, even though my family went out to celebrate Ben‘s birthday over the weekend, today is his actual birthday! Unlike last year, I will refrain from dedicating this entire post to my bro turning the big 2-8. I will, however, catch you on the rest of Saturday’s celebration.


Most of which took place in the kitchen as I baked a cake of epic proportions (the dogs acted as crumb-catchers, natch.)


I made a double-layer cake, with one layer of pumpkin cake and one layer of vanilla. Go big or go home, right?


Now, the cakes may have been boxed, but they were smothered in 100% made-from-scratch cream cheese frosting.


Plus frosting in-between the layers too, of course. I was super excited about icing the cake because it let me put to use my new frosting skillz that I picked up from that culinary school class I audited!


My sister Jenny served as the official decorator, and we covered the cake in blue sugar (because it definitely needed MORE sugar) and tiny candy letters that we randomly found in a drawer at my parents’. We’re nothing if not classy.



It turned out awesome! I didn’t do such a great job with leveling the cakes exactly, plus they were made from different mixes so they baked up in slightly different ways. So the layers weren’t exactly seamless, but considering the distinct lack of swiveling cake stands and offset spatulas, I’d say it’s not too shabby.


The one thing I kind of forgot, though, is that when your cake is double-layered, you get double the cake in every slice. Which isn’t a BAD thing, it’s just something to be mindful of when cutting.


My cream cheese icing recipe, just in case you are interested, was:

2 sticks butter, softened
1 8 oz. package of low-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Cream together the butter and cream cheese in a standing mixer (or with a hand mixer, but just be careful of the potential flyaway face-sugaring that might follow.) Then add in the confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 a cup at a time. Add in the vanilla extract at the end. Ta-da!

Just remember, this makes more than enough icing to frost TWO whole cakes, so adjust accordingly if you’re making a normal cake like a normal person.

If you got to pick any dessert, not just cake, to have for your birthday, what would it be? I actually would really like one year to get to have a birthday flan. It’s. Just. So. Good. (Also, can’t help but think of that episode of The Office where Creed asks for birthday cobbler, ahahahaha.)