From Muggle to Mrs

Hiiiiiiii!

Another month has passed which means I’m still pretty much the worst blogger ever. But! I have lots to update you on, so let’s just breeze right on past all the standard contrition and jump right into the good stuff.

My November kicked off with an epic bridal shower which was, much to my delight, Harry Potter-themed!

I had no idea it was Harry Potter-themed, but was obviously VERY happy when I walked in the door. My awesome bridesmaids also pulled off a second surprise when my bridesmaid Holly surprised me by coming for the bridal shower… from Canada! It was all kinds of perfect.

 

The bridal shower was wonderful — having a whole bunch of my friends all together in one place, sharing memories and, of course, getting to open presents (bahaha). They really went all out with the decorations and special touches — there was a “pensieve” where folks could write down their favorite Gretchen memory, and they made a batch of Felix Felicis as a (super delicious) specialty drink.

We also played a game where I had to answer a bunch of questions that my sister had previously asked Sean. You know, stuff like “What’s Gretchen’s favorite color?” (He got it right) and “What’s the theme of your wedding?” (He got it wrong, hahahahaha.) Then, if I guessed what he answered correctly, I got a doller, and if I got it wrong, I had to stick a piece of Bubble Yum in my mouth.

It was hilarious and terrible. My sister was a ruthless game host — Sean misread one of the questions (the question was “What was your first date?” but he answered it as if it was “When was your first date?”), Jenny still asked me the question, which of course I got wrong because he didn’t even answer it correctly!

So by the end I had 14 pieces of gum in my mouth and 15 dollers. So I still came out ahead!

The only problem I had with my bridal shower was how short it felt! The two-hours literally FLEW by. My friends said that it’ll seem even faster on the actual wedding day, so I guess it was good preparation, but still! It was just that much fun. I’m a really lucky gal to have such wonderful friends and family. 🙂

And speaking of family, the wedding festivities didn’t end there! One week after the bridal shower, my entire family headed down to Houston to see my grandmother.

As most of you know, I am half-Chinese, and for both of my siblings’ weddings, we’ve performed a traditional Chinese tea ceremony at the rehearsal dinner. We’ll be doing the same thing at my own rehearsal dinner, but since my grandmother’s health isn’t too great and she can’t travel, we went down to Houston to do the tea ceremony with her early.

It was really special, and some of Sean’s family who live in Texas were also able to come out and join in!

Everything else that’s been going on over the past month has been just one giant mix of wedding planning and work stuff. I’ve actually got an Elite Event tonight — our annual Yelp Northern Virginia holiday party! So tonight should be full of fun and festiveness — two of my favorite things!

I also finally checked off two of the remaining big ticket items on my wedding to-do list. I finished all of the centerpiece bottles I’ve been working on (my nightmares are nothing but glitter and Mod Podge), and I finally placed my floral order!

Dude, I know that a lot of you think I am certifiably insane for wanting to do my own wedding flowers, but this is what I have to say about that: I’m spending less than $500 on my wedding flowers. And after several multi-thousand dollar quotes from florists, I am perfectly happy to put in the legwork (with the help of a couple of my crafty bridesmaids!) and put this stuff together at home.

At Potomac Floral Wholesale, that amount got me 125 Milky Way roses, 50 Emely roses, 20 White Akito roses, 40 hydrangeas, 6 bunches of stock, 2 bunches of dusty miller, 1 bunch of silver brunia, 1 bunch of wax flowers, 4 bunches of glittered birch branches, and some additional floral supplies. Flowers everywhere!

Also, there are WAY TOO MANY different kinds of roses. Part of the reason it took me so long to place the order was just because I was overwhelmed with how many different kinds of roses there are! I know most brides would never risk doing their flowers on their own in the first place, and even for brides that are into that, they probably don’t have time to research all the different varieties (or they probably just don’t care as much as I apparently do!) But, that being said, if you are one in that small percentage of extra-crazy brides like moi and want to learn more, there are rose comparison studies on the website Flirty Fleurs that I found ridiculously helpful.

Okay, I’ll wrap it up for now, but we’re really getting into the home stretch here! Now that it’s officially Decemeber, I can actually say that my wedding is NEXT MONTH and not be lying.

Unghhhhghghh wait that’s too real I’m not ready ahhhhhhhhhhhh

Year of the Ram

Happy Chinese New Year, friends!

Yesterday marked the first day of the Year of the Ram (or Sheep or Goat, depending on who you ask!), so allow me to wish you all a year of prosperity, good health, and great times! As most of you know, I am half-Chinese, so Chinese New Year is usually a big deal in my household, but this year my parents are out of the country so I had to make due with my own mini-celebration.

 
And by mini-celebration, I mean that ate some hand-pulled noodles at Lotus Garden with friends. Heeeeee.

Speaking of celebrations, I have another exciting thing to celebrate this week:

I got my BRACES OFF!!!!!!!

 
I’ve had lingual braces for the past year-and-change, which means I had braces behind my top set of teeth. So while you couldn’t actually see them, I DEFINITELY knew they were there. And now they’re gone! Well, replaced with a permanent retainer, so there is still a little something behind my chompers, but nothing nearly as intrusive as those big metal brackets. So here’s to a new year of not getting food stuck in my braces anymore!

In other news, Yelp’s Fit Club is still chugging along, and this week has so far given me the chance to try out an Ayengar yoga class. And tomorrow I toy with fate by attending my very first [solidcore] class, which I hear is supposed to be the most difficult workout of your life. No big deal. And then, as if that weren’t enough, I have another fitness event on Sunday — a bootcamp-style workout at The Worx by Maia. WHEW.

Good thing I’ve been doing P90 for the past six weeks, otherwise I wouldn’t even be in good enough shape to make it through my own fitness classes, hahahaha.

So I guess you can look forward to hearing about all those various different workouts next week… if I survive, that is! And have a great weekend in the meantime, folks!

Tea Ceremony, Part II

Hey strangers,

So as some of you might remember, I’ve spent the past 30 days on the road and back again, literally. After my legendary trip to Ireland, I was back in town for a mere 4 days before flying down to Houston for my grandmother’s 83rd birthday. (This was a precursor to the giant family reunion for my Dad’s side that we attended in Oregon afterwards.)

Since my grandmother is not able to travel, my brother and his wife also did another traditional tea ceremony, just like the one that was performed at their rehearsal dinner back in May.


My aunt and uncle weren’t able to attend the wedding either, so they were also tea-ceremonied. And since I guess it’s Chinese tradition to serve tea to ALL your elders — even if you’ve already done it for them — my parents got a second turn! 🙂


It’s tradition for the bride and groom to be given a gift from their elders, and I guess in particular it’s very common for the bride to be given jewelry. Which, all I can say is, I can’t WAIT for my own wedding tea ceremony if it means I get bangin’ jewelry like Tay did!

I played the role of photographer for the day, of course, so I’m actually only in one of the pictures. And, in true fashion, it’s the photo with food, hahaha.

A dim sum feast!

So there you go: Just one half of my SUPERDUPER family-filled week! Hopefully by next time, the photos from Oregon will be edited and you guys can see the white side of my fam, hahahaha.

Tally-ho!

Homemade Bubble Milk Tea

So, I throw the word “Whasian” around here a lot. And yes, I know it’s partly because I have a bit of a complex about people not knowing that I’m half-Chinese… since I don’t look particularly Asian (except for maybe a handful of times of year, which usually coincide with things like Chinese New Year or my brother’s Chinese Banquet-style rehearsal dinner). Though, to be fair, I went on a cruise with my family the summer after my Freshman year in college, and the ship’s photographer thought that I was Ben’s girlfriend (gross) rather than an actual part of my family. So I think said complex is at least somewhat understandable.

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ANYWAY. For as much as I mention my ethnicity on this blog, I don’t really highlight too many Chinese recipes. Mostly, this is because my mom is such an amazing cook that I don’t dare try to copy her recipes for fear of ruining the dishes for myself. But that’s not to say I don’t prepare my fair share of Chinese cuisine. I love whipping up a batch of frozen xiao long bao at home (steamed soup dumplings), I adore going out to dim sum, and I am absolutely OBSESSED with bubble milk tea.

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Bubble milk tea, boba, pearl milk tea, zhen zhu nai cha — whatever you call it, I love it. I was first introduced to this most magic of beverages during the three years I spent living in Taiwan, and to this day it is one of the surest ways to make me a happy, happy girl. Unfortunately, all the most authentic bubble milk tea places around here seem to be up in Rockville, and I don’t enjoy braving Seven Corners traffic enough to frequent the Eden Center on a regular basis. So, I’ve had to figure out ways to satisfy my total obsession occasional craving on my own.

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Now, admittedly, I cheat and use a milk tea powder more often than not. But! For you folks, who have probably come here to read at least a somewhat healthy-ish recipe, I decided to brew up a batch from scratch. You’re very welcome. 😉

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Introducing my very own taste-tested and Whasian-approved recipe for bubble milk tea. And because I love you guys so much, I even made it dairy-free, don’tcha know! I used regular ol’ black tea bags, but if you really want to go authentic, head for your nearest Asian grocery store and pick up a can of looseleaf Hong Kong-style black tea. Also, since I imagine most of you don’t keep the pearls in your pantry, you can zip right over to Amazon.com and pick up a pack of tapioca pearls, along with some of those nifty fat bubble tea straws.

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Bubble Milk Tea
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

4 black tea bags, or equivalent looseleaf black tea
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup uncooked tapioca pearls
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 cup unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze almond milk
Ice (optional)

Instructions:

1. Steep tea in boiling water. You are aiming for a very strong brew, so let steep for a good 8 – 10 minutes. It is also best to allow the tea to cool somewhat before mixing your milk tea.
2. While tea is steeping, heat water on stove in a small or medium sauce pot until boiling. Add tapioca pearls and cook until all pearls float to the top, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add sugar to pot and stir just until dissolved. Cover and let sit for an additional 5 minutes. Reserve about half of the tapioca pearls and sugar water for each serving of bubble tea.
3A. For frozen bubble milk tea, add tea, milk, sugar water from the pearls, and ice cubes to a blender, and blend until ice is fully incorporated. Add tapioca pearls and enjoy!
3B. For regular bubble milk tea, simply combine tea, milk, and sugar water in a pitcher or glass, then add pearls. If the mixture is not cool enough, you may add ice cubes or refrigerate* the tea first. Enjoy!

*Do not refrigerate the pearls in the tea — store them in the sugar water separately. The pearls become hard when cold, and will need to be reheated in the microwave to become soft again.

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So there you have it. You can add as much or as little additional sweetener as necessary to achieve the desired taste of your milk tea, but I tried to keep it fairly light. As mentioned, you can store any leftover pearls in the sugar water mixture (a mixture of water and honey is also a great preserver, and gives good flavor to the pearls). Just reheat the pearls for about 30 seconds in the microwave if you decide to use them later! Easy peasy.

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

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.

Hahahahahaaaaaahaha.


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!