Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sophie

I pretty much landed in London, unpacked, and hopped on a train to Essex to pick up a very important package. The newest member of our family, Sophie!


She had fun riding on the train to her new home but was very anxious to check out the scene, and I started to get more than a little nervous about how Casper would react to the new situation. He spends a lot of his time sleeping and eating and not doing much else, so I thought it'd be a good idea to get another cat to keep him company. He just seemed so damn bored all the time, so I thought I would liven things up.

Yup, definitely livened things up! At first, Casper didn't even realise there was anything hiding out in his carrier, but he figured it out pretty quick.



Then he got PISSED OFF. I probably went about it the wrong way, but it became pretty clear that Casper was pretty happy being an only child.



I couldn't help second-guessing my decision to bring Sophie home for the first week or so. We had to keep them separated whenever we weren't there to closely supervise, but Sophie didn't like that one bit since she likes staying close to the humans.


Casper would constantly be on the attack, but nothing fazed Sophie and she just kept on doing her thing even though she was being stalked by a cat that is more than three times her size. The girl has got some moxie!


Things finally started to click between the two of them when Sophie allowed Casper to groom her just a little bit. I think Casper was really frustrated that she wouldn't let him groom her, and he'd try to put her in a kitty headlock to force clean her.


Now that she's clean, they're definitely friends and hang out together!



They've also joined forces to beg for food together. I'm sorry to admit that I fold like paper under their combined cuteness.


Once Casper got comfortable with Sophie, we finally got a chance to see her personality, and she is infinitely more awesome than we could've hoped. First, she's a major cuddlebug and likes to start each morning and end each night with a cuddle while she sucks her thumb. Yup, you read that right. And I wake up most mornings to find her perched on top of my stomach, snoozing away.


She likes playing in dirty laundry and trying on my clothes.


She also gets very anxious about getting to her food fast enough, which means she gets it everywhere!


She's still teeny but growing apace and is really long right now, kind of like a ferret.


She's scrappy, independent, and loves going outside.



Basically, we love her.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Last Family Wedding

It took a while (too long, in my mother's opinion), but all three of us kids are now happily married! My older brother married his beautiful bride at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, and I was lucky enough to be part of it all as a bridesmaid.

I had started with the cake days before, so I was pretty near finished when it was time to head to the venue for rehearsal on Friday. It was my first time seeing the venue in person, and the place was absolutely gorgeous! We spent an hour or so going through our paces in the blazing hot sun, so we were pretty excited to head into some glorious air conditioning for lunch afterward at Dukes.



The food was pretty good, and our server was a total bro, but the view was absolutely bonkers.


I headed back to my parents' house afterward, with plans to meet up with the other girls early the next day for hair and makeup. I'm not such a fan of getting pampered and stuff since I really dislike people touching me. I know it's strange, but it's the reason why I haven't had a massage or manicure ever. But I meekly submitted to the ministerings of the middle aged Korean lady and left the salon with a full face of makeup and false eyelashes. Luckily, I'm still rocking the pixie, so they couldn't really do much with my hair.

I got to escape the salon early since I had to pack up the cake and transport it to the venue, along with a pile of important stuff such as all the outfits for the bridal party, including the groom and the bride. We rented the largest SUV possible, which was a Chevy Tahoe, and it smelled suspiciously of weed. My younger brother and I loaded up the car and kept the air conditioning blasting to keep the cake as cool as possible. I just prayed that the wedding dress and cake wouldn't smell like marijuana by the time we arrived at the venue!

We got to the venue in one piece and on time, and I set up the cake and then we waited around until the rest of the bridal party showed up. The boys showed up with Big Macs for everyone (our heroes!), and then the girls finally arrived. Everyone got dressed, and the photographer was pretty stoked to get things started.


I couldn't help spying on the first look.


I wasn't the only spy... That's my dad, looking gangsta.


There wasn't much for me to do at that point since we had already posed for squillions of photos, so I cruised around while the venue put on the final decorating touches. It went from this...


To this, startlingly quickly!


It wasn't long before the guests started trickling in, and my sister in law pitched in to help with the reception table.


Then it was show time! I don't have many pictures after this point since I was pretty busy with my bridesmaid duties, but it was a beautiful wedding! I got a to snap a few moments during the reception.

My parents being introduced to the guests.


The happy newlyweds!


The cake cutting! Thank god it survived, and it didn't end up killing anyone. Go, me!


The bouquet toss. I wish I could've participated - there was a $100 in it for the winner! But being happily married is pretty good, too. 


Getting the garter. I didn't know my brother even had those kinds of dance skills!


All in all, it was a pretty bitching wedding, and I was way too pooped to make it to the after party.

But I was recovered enough for a small family brunch at dim sum the next day to hear all about it.


Then lunch with my other brother and his wife.


Then dinner with the whole family!


It was basically a day of eating with people I'm related to. Did I mention how awesome it is to have two sisters now?







Monday, August 4, 2014

First (and Probably Last) Wedding Cake

One of the reasons I took summer off from school is because my older brother was getting married in mid July, and I wanted to take the week off to help them out. J had originally planned on going with me, but work obligations made it impossible. It turned out to be just as well, as we found out that plane tickets, which aren't cheap to begin with, are more than double the usual price during July!

I volunteered to make the wedding cake, and IT WAS HELL. I ordered the groceries to arrive the night I got home with my suitcase full of cake pans, and I got started first thing in the morning. I kept at it for three days, and I couldn't help fearing that something would go awry no matter how much I had practiced and planned. And of course it did.

First, my mom failed to tell me that the oven was broken. I knew nothing about it, and I managed to bake most of the layers before the oven just crapped out on me. I freaked, and my dad called the repairman who basically told us that it was a no go and that a brand new oven would be necessary. My dad asked if I could just use the still-functioning stove. Um, no.

Luckily, my aunt, who doesn't live too far from my parents, let me pop over with the tins of cake batter in hand to finish the job. Whew, crisis averted. 

I was pretty upset on the ride back home with the baked cakes safely stowed in the backseat. I told my mom I had rotten luck, and this confirmed it added to the fact that I had seen a funeral that morning while walking the dog. My mom blithely informed me that seeing a funeral was actually good luck! Explanation, please. That's when she told me that the oven has actually been broken for months, and she was surprised to see it fire up at all that morning. See, funeral =  good luck!

I think that's probably the moment my head exploded. How did she think I was going to make the wedding cake?! She shrugged, and said what does she know about wedding cakes. More mental explosions ensued, accompanied by hysterical laughter. I guess I could've just bbq'd the cake, if necessary. OMG.

Second, my mom had cleared out the main fridge so I could store the cake in there, but my dad kept sneaking smelly things in there. I didn't want the chocolate cake to have a hint of fresh jalapeƱo, so I kept having to check to see if he hid anything else he shouldn't have in the fridge. I got to play "Wheres Waldo?" in the refrigerator for a week.

Third, my mom kept opening the fridge to stare at the cake. So much so that I was scared that the buttercream would melt and the cake would come apart in the intense LA heat. I kept having to holler at her to shut the damn door. As if she would listen. Then she would wander over to my workspace and tell me how I could improve the cake. This, coming from the woman who didn't know I'd need the oven to make the wedding cake. I finally ended up banishing her from the kitchen while I was working just so I wouldn't be tempted to cover her in fondant.

Despite that oven meltdown and my parents' best attempts at driving me batshit insane, the cake actually turned out okay!

I nearly crapped myself driving the unassembled cake to Malibu, and putting it together at the venue near about did my head in. Especially when my brother mentioned that he thought it was teetering. Luckily, he was wrong, but I was stressed the whole time, wondering if it was going to survive until the cake cutting.


Home free! My relief was palpable when they cut the cake, and the servers began to cut slices for the crowd without incident.

Thank goodness my other brother is already married, as I won't have to do this ever again!




Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Can See Clearly Now the Contacts are Gone

I got told off by my mom for not blogging, so I'm back!

It's been a very hectic few weeks, with lots of big events all squeezed in one after the other, which is a  little unusual for me. 

First, I got laser eye surgery! I was under the impression that my vision was so bad that it wasn't possible to correct it with LASIK but luckily, technology has come a long way, and there are two different clinics in London that are capable of taking me and my wonky eyes on. 

I went with the London Vision Clinic since it was recommended by both my GP and optometrist, and it's really close to our flat. In fact, it's just below our old flat, which is just a few streets away! I'm really glad I did, as everything turned out better than I could have hoped. I have 20/20 vision now, and it's wonderfully weird being able to see without glasses or contacts since I've been a slave to both since the fifth grade. I bow down to the surgeon since I had -10 prescription with astigmatism, retinal tears, abnormally large pupils and dry eye. You name it, I had it. 

The healing process was really quick, especially as I had keyhole surgery, which is a bit less traumatic than regular LASIK. I had some minor bruising in my right eye, but it wasn't really visible and my vision has been improving almost daily. (Yes, I have a lot of freckles.) Everything was a bit foggy at first, but it's all clear now, and my eyes are dry first thing in the morning, but I put some drops in, and they're good to go for the rest of the day.


It feels stabilised now after a month, and my light sensitivity feels the same as before. The worst part of the whole process was the day of surgery as I had to put eye drops in every 15 minutes and I couldn't do anything that would strain my eyes such as reading, using the computer or watching TV, and I couldn't exert myself. Which meant just sitting quietly, which I'm absolutely horrible at! At least I'm good at putting things in my eye. I also couldn't wear contacts for 2 weeks leading up to the surgery, but it was all worth it in the end!


Another monumental event is that we sold our condo in Marina del Rey. Our tenant informed us that he was moving to San Francisco, and we decided to put the place on the market rather than looking for another tenant. It was on the market for only two days before we accepted an offer.

It all happened so quickly that I didn't really have a chance to process the fact that I no longer have a home in the US. I got a bit sad about the fact, and J tried to pep me up by reminding me that we'll use the money to buy a nicer place in London. I feel better about it now, but I loved that condo, and I got to live in it for only 6 months before we left for London! The paperwork and due diligence of the selling process wasn't fun at all, since we had a tricksy and demanding buyer on our hands, but we closed a week ago, and it's a done deal, thank goodness.

Now, time to move on!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Cat's Life

The face of a killer.


There are no screens on any of the windows here, which means that all sorts of winged insects fly into our flat whenever we so much as crack our windows during th summer. Ew. Fear no more, killer cat is here! Casper loves nothing more than chasing a fly around our flat, and he's getting disgustingly good at actually catching them. I've had to pry flies out of his mouth (gross,gross,gross!), and I found a fly the other day with its legs pried off and resting a few inches away. So it turns out Casper's a sadistic killer. Seems about right.

I'm actually pretty happy about the fly chasing since that's about all the exercise he gets.


Don't be fooled. He just sits there. And he obviously looks extremely bewildered by this whole exercise notion. Cause most of the time, he's doing this...


That's right, he's managed to gnaw a hole through his bag of food to make himself a little snack hole. The diet is not going well. Sigh.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ten Days of Bread

Intermediate term may be over, but I'm still going to school every day as I volunteered to assist with the ten day course on Boulangerie.


The days are pretty long, around 8 hours or so, and my body is getting used to just spending all that time on my feet. I'm pretty wiped by the end of the day, and J's been taking care of dinner by bringing home Chipotle every night. Thank goodness, as I don't think I can look at another loaf of bread! The students make so much bread each day, there's usually a mountain of leftovers at the end of the day. I was gleefully stuffing my face with croissants in the first few days, but now I can't bear to eat another crumb of the stuff. I'm so glad the course is over, I don't think my waistline could've taken much more bread!


Today is my last official day at Le Cordon Bleu, and then I'm taking some time off to travel and attend some family weddings before returning to finish my degree. It'll be nice to be able to wear nail varnish and jewelry again, and staying out of the hot kitchen during summer is pretty much a no brainer. I am definitely not going to miss the uniforms and the awful hat that seems to shrink with every wash. Either that, or my head is growing bigger.


However, I'm going to miss my classmates. I think there's a special bond that forms when you all start on the same journey together, and I'm kind of sad that we won't be finishing it together. But I still live nearby, and I'm already planning on lots of informal visits to see what they're up to throughout the term. I guess it's just as well, as our original group finally got split up into two separate groups, so I guess it wouldn't have been the same anyway. But it's still a bit saddening to watch them continue on their journey without me, but I've been promised invites to their big afternoon tea that they throw as part of their class and to the graduation ceremony.


I'm also going to miss the chefs a ton. I can complain that the administration of the school isn't great, but the chefs are absolutely amazing. Not only are they extremely talented at what they do, but their love of teaching also shines through. They all have their own distinct personality, and each of them are hilarious in their own way and make learning pastry much more fun and less stressful than it could be.


I'm hoping they invite me back to assist for them, even if I'm not a student at the moment, and it'll also give me a chance to hang with my favourite porters. The porters work incredibly hard for ridiculously long hours, and I don't think the students understand how hard these guys work for us to make our kitchen a more comfortable place for us to work in. So a big, heartfelt thank you to them, and to everyone else at school who made it so much more fun than I ever thought it could be!

I'm not feeling too sorry for myself, since we're adding a new member to our family! She's joining us in July when I get back from LA, and I can't wait!


Many more cat adventures to come!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Intermediate Term Is Over!

It's been a crazy week, but I've managed to make it through somehow. It's been busy what with exams, selling our condo, and getting tested for my laser eye surgery.

The practical part of my exam went pretty okay. I thanked my lucky stars that we got the opera, woohoo! It's supposed to be the fastest cake, but also the most technically difficult. I've done better operas at home, but I think the one I did for the exam was enough for me to pass. I didn't start studying for the theory exam until the day before, and it turned out that none of the things I studied were actually on the exam. Doh! But I filled more blanks than left empty, so I'm not kicking myself too hard over it.

After the exams were finished, we got a taste of what to expect from the superior term. One of the chefs demonstrated the making of a chocolate box with tempered chocolate, and the end result was beautiful.



I'm almost tempted to give it a go, but maybe after I've recovered from exams.

We had the last few classes to decorate the fruit cakes that we had made earlier in the term. The chefs have been feeding them rum on a regular basis, and I tasted a bit of it. It tasted better than I thought it would and reminded me a lot of Christmas spices with the dried fruit and rum. It is, however, hard as a rock and quite dense.

In any case, we got to work on decorating. We had two technicals demonstrating how to decorate using flowers, but I just could not get the hang of it. I squeezed and rolled the same piece of paste for two hours before producing a few pitiful looking petals and giving up. I think it's become a mental block dealing with those fiddly little things, and I'll get to practicing again when I no longer feel like putting my head through a wall.

It was just as well that my cake didn't call for flowers, and I chose to do a stained glass inspired cake instead. I ended up taking the cake home to do a bit more work on it, and Casper decided to help by tasting my food colouring dust. I think I laughed for twenty minutes straight before I finally got back to decorating my cake.


I finished my cake just in the nick of time at the last practical, although there were some finishing touches that I would've liked to added. I was piping like a madman for the last thirty minutes or so, but I was actually pretty pleased with how it turned out! The chefs were also really complimentary, and it made my stone cold heart all fuzzy and warm inside.


It's hard to believe that intermediate term is officially over. Especially since the current plan is to take a break during summer and return for the autumn term. I'm maybe reconsidering that plan since the chefs told me autumn is going to be manic busy and super crowded. Ugh. I can't imagine the locker room fuller than it already is. That's one thing I'm definitely not going to miss. But I will miss my group and hanging out with the chefs. But it's not goodbye, just see you later, especially since I live so close to school, and I'm planning on volunteering regularly for the short courses. In fact, I'm volunteering for the boulangerie course that's scheduled to begin on Wednesday! 

Some of the other girls are leaving as well, but are actually leaving the country, and everyone got together for a dinner at the Savoy to say farewell. It's the sad part of being one of the few that actually lives in London. Pretty much everyone else is from far away, and it feels odd to feel like you're being left behind when school comes to an end.



Some of the girls got me flowers since I won't be returning for Summer term, and I'm going to miss going to classes with them. I really can't imagine being part of a funner group.



But I've promised to visit them lots over summer, with the cats and champagne in tow!