Oh Sweet Day!

To Ethan and Maya – The very first kids party

October 29, 2014 by Fanny | 6 Comments

Dear Ethan and Maya,

A week ago we threw a kids Halloween birthday party for you. All along we called it a kids party because one, it’s A KIDS PARTY, your very first KIDS BIRTHDAY PARTY! Two, we have another 400 parties to celebrate your birthday. Each one deserves a name for easy recognition.

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We invited your buddies from school, the usual cast of kids who are in and out of our house, and also our neighbours’ kids. Speaking of our neighbours, I will have to say that we wouldn’t get to know them if not for you guys, especially for those who live 20 houses away. So thank you! Sometimes we wonder how amazing it is that you know all our neighbours who have kids, but they don’t know each other. Like the whole neighbourhood is fully aware of our two kids who bike and scooter to their houses asking for a playdate, and they love it! But they still have a hard time remembering the names of the kids living next to them! If kids had to carry around a resume, yours would mostly include “have successfully befriended the 400 families living miles away that no one even cares to do.”

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October in Vancouver is notoriously cold and wet. This year we were lucky to have a warm Sunday afternoon that we could move the party to our backyard. We set out finger food, sweet treats, games, props, decoration, cake and of course PIÑATA – our main event.

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Like last time, I made one from scratch. And in order to have it in good shape for keepsake, I refrained from the idea of whacking the piñata, but worked out a mechanism to pull the opening underneath it so the candies would fall out. To make sure it would work as planned, we had it tested by your father. He spent one whole afternoon tying and taping the piñata, filling it up with candies in different weights and pulling it at different heights. And of course yelling in different decibel levels. Couldn’t he just have me hold it while he pulls? Let’s just say that this is your father’s interpretation of a minor computer-cleaning. I asked him to make sure the piñata would work and HE WAS GOING TO MAKE SURE IT WOULD WORK. Just like a normal geeky MBA holder would do!

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Now if you wonder how we made these group pictures possible, we dangled the piñata and threatened to kill it and bury all the candies.

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Now tell me how many Elsas do you see? Hundreds! Each one you see here contains at least 100 in their heart.

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I let you all indulge in a few pieces of candy, but not too many because the main course was up next.

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First time you saw the cake, your eyeballs plopped out of your skulls. In fact you had seen everything before the party, you know, the approval! So when you saw all the cake pops and cupcakes that I made for the party, you were like, “IMAGINE NOT HAVING TO EAT DINNER! IMAGINE NOT HAVING TO EAT DINNER!” Yep! That’s right. Dessert that does not require eating anything containing nutritional value beforehand. I didn’t have the heart to tell you that when you are old enough to be in charge of your own meals, you will have the opportunity to do this EVERY SINGLE DAY.

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I know I know you are extremely proud of your mother at this point. What’s more? You know I normally dress up as “that woman who blogs” for Halloween. This year I decided to change a little bit.

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Same as your father who decided to dress up as an auto worker named Mike who loves to chase kids around with a knight mask…

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Turned out you thought this was the best three hours of your lives. And even though we threw this party not as a prize for hard work or as a celebration of some breakthrough, it was just as meaningful to witness your reaction, to watch childhood play out in front of us, to hold your innocence in our hands for a couple of hours and relish in how it made us all feel a little less jaded and preoccupied with useless noise.

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Love,
Mommy

Halloween Monster Cake Pop

October 29, 2014 by Fanny | 7 Comments

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Kids love cake pops. Like crazy! My son doesn’t like to eat cakes in general. You convert them into a form of cake pops, he will easily finish a dozen in a heart beat. I’ve made cake pops for his school events all the time. His friends are always amazed, and that makes him happy. And I would say there is nothing to make myself prouder than this.

Last year I did these cake pops for Halloween. And I realized I’m not a big fan of edible decorating pen. The major reason is that the “ink” seems to be fading very soon after you use it for a while. I would suspect that maybe the candy on the cake pop starts to coat the tip of the pen, and it kind of blocks the “ink” from coming out. Also the tip is not thin/sharp enough to create finer graphics on the cake pop. I’ve started to go with piping melted candy with a very tiny round tip.

These monster cake pops are relatively easy to make. Pick one or two bright colors. Put on the dramatic eyeballs. Add a little hair. You are done. I know it might be easy said than done. But if you’ve been making cake pops like myself, you know what I mean when I said EASY!

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Ingredients (about 45 pops): 

Chocolate Cake
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
Chocolate Buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
Others
1 bag candy melts of your preferred color (for body)
half bag candy melts of your preferred color (for hair)
candy eyeballs
 

Directions:

To prepare the cake, preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line an 8-inch square cake pan.

In a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Crack in the egg, spoon in the sour cream, and pour in the oil and the vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Pour in the boiling water, and slowly mix until smooth and liquidy.

Pour batter in the prepared pan, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes. Then invert it onto a greased rack. Let cool completely.

To prepare buttercream, beat butter for a few minutes in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add powdered sugar and turn the mixer on low, beat until the sugar incorporates with the butter. Add vanilla, heavy cream and cocoa powder, beat on medium speed for another 3 minutes, or until buttercream becomes light and fluffy.

To assemble cake pops, prepare two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Break the cooled cake into a few big trunks by hand, place them into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until the big pieces turn into crumbs.

Add frosting gradually into the cake crumbs and blend until the mixture becomes a dough, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of frosting.

Use a small cookie scoop, roll dough into evenly sized balls and place them on the prepared cookie sheets. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Melt small amount of candy melts (body color) in the microwave gradually, 10 second intervals and stirring in-between. Dip one end of a lollipop stick in the melted candy and insert into the cake ball. Repeat until you are done. Refrigerate again for 15 minutes.

Remove the cake pops from the refrigerator. Melt all the candy melts (body color) in the microwave. Dip each cake pop in the candy melt and gently tap off excess. Carefully place one or two candy eyeballs on the cake pop. Place cake pop onto a piece of wax paper. Let it dry completely. Repeat with the remaining cake pops.

Place the other batch of candy melts (hair color) in a microwavable Ziploc bag. Microwave on high for 20 to 30 seconds to completely melt the candy melts. Push the melted candy toward one corner of the bag. With a pair of scissors, snip off a very small opening, and start piping the candy on the top part as hair.

To Ethan and Maya – Your Greatest Pumpkin Carver

October 28, 2014 by Fanny | 6 Comments

Dear Ethan and Maya,

Here comes the great pumpkin carver, aka your father. Every year he faces the same challenge – avoid you guys’ help! I’ve said it here many times before that when you want to help you do the opposite. Your father’s biggest complication is to carve the pumpkin according to your sketches, at the same time making sure you are not gouging your eyeballs out.

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Love,
Mommy

Pikachu Cake

October 27, 2014 by Fanny | 4 Comments

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Around this time every year, it’s like a kids cakes showcase here, thanks for my kids birthday! And I know I’ve said it before, but it’s true. It’s true that once you become a mother, you lose your mind. You will do all kinds of crazy things for your kids. I still remember how obsessive I used to be about my kids poop. It’s like I wake up starting to think about it, and I can’t go to sleep also because of it!

Making your kids happy is also one of the ultimate goals. And birthdays seem to be the top non-screwable item beyond everything else. This year, we threw our kids the very first birthday party with their friends. I made a monster cake to go with the Halloween theme. Fun!

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For our own family celebration, I made this Pikachu cake. My kids have become big fans of Pokemon. Well, maybe more for my older son. But my younger girl can definitely do a better impression of Pikachu.

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Ingredients:

Vanilla Cake

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, soften
1 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole cream
2 to 3 drops of yellow food coloring paste
Others
10 discs of yellow candy melts
10 discs of black candy melts
5 discs of red candy melts
 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 5-inch cake pans and two 4-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a bowl of standing mixer with a paddle attachment, mix buttermilk, egg, oil, vanilla and vinegar on medium speed until well combined.

Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

Pour about 1 1/2 cups batter each into the two 5-inch cake pans, and one cup batter into the two 4-inch cake pans.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes before inverting on rack. Let cool completely.

Use a small pairing knife to trim the top and bottom (if cake is too high) of each cake into a semi-sphere shape. (It will be easier if the cakes come up with round tops)

To prepare the frosting, beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.  Add powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar has incorporated with the butter.  Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract and cream. Then beat for another 3 minutes. Add color, one drop at a time, and continue mixing and adding color until it reaches the preferred color.

To assemble the cake, put a layer of buttercream on top of the flat side of each cake. Put two 5-inch cakes together with the bottom touching. Same as the two 4-inch cakes. Now you have two balls in different sizes.

Place the small cake ball (Pikachu head) on top of the big one (Pikachu body). Insert a wooden skewer or cake pop stick through the center to keep the layers secured.

Smear a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to seal the crumbs. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag with a small star tip. Pipe yellow little stars all over the cake.

Place two discs of red candy melts and two discs of black candy melts on Pikachu face for its eyes and cheeks.

Outline Pikachu ears, nose, mouth and arms on a parchment paper.

Place black and red candy melts in different microwaveable Ziploc bags. Microwave on high for 20 to 30 seconds to completely melt the candy melts. Push the melted candy toward one corner of the bag. With a pair of scissors, snip off a very small opening.

Start piping the candy over the template, starting with the outline before filling inside.

Let dry completely before peeling off the parchment paper. Carefully place each part on the cake.

12 Halloween Treats for Kids and Adults

October 23, 2014 by Fanny | 5 Comments

Check out 12 Halloween Treats

by Oh Sweet Day! at Foodie.com

I don’t normally dress up for Halloween, except I dress up as “that woman who blogs”. This year I decided to have a little change, thanks to my kids’ Halloween birthday party, and I got some accessories from a thrift store, and dressed up as a black cat. I know, nothing big, but trust me, it’s huge for myself.

Well, the party itself was huge considered we had like 6,000 kids in our backyard all crazy playing, yelling and screaming. Basically all being sugar-high. What a blast! And I came up with some treats that would totally shut the mouths of those parents who are very concern about their children’s sugar intake. Come on! It’s a kids party! Plus, everything was home-made. Doesn’t it sound all better?

What I have here are not just treats for kids, but also for adults. Like when your kids are too busy out there trick-or-treating, why don’t you get yourself a scoop of dark chocolate bourbon cherry ice cream or a slice of peanut butter cheesecake? Cause you will need energy to scream at your kids, like HAVEN’T YOU HAD ENOUGH CANDIES? NOW WHAT’S THAT YOU ARE HIDING UNDER YOUR PANTIES? TAKE IT OUT! YOU ARE NOT TAKING THESE CANDIES TO BED!

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First Row

Halloween Cupcakes

Halloween Monster Cake

Halloween Spider Whoopie Pies

Second Row

Halloween Cakepops

Cookie Monster Cake

Dark Chocolate Bourbon Cherry Ice Cream

Third Row

Owl Cake

Mini Baked Donuts

Oreo Stuffed Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

Fourth Row

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Muffins with Walnut Streusel

Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Oreo Crust

Halloween Owl Cupcakes

This post is brought to you by Foodie.com.

To Ethan – Six years old

October 22, 2014 by Fanny | 8 Comments

Dear Ethan,

Today you turn six years old.

So let’s start there. School. AND SO IT BEGINS. Grade one! I remember the last exam I took in college and the feeling afterward – like I’d just been let out of a prison I had been in since I was five years old. So welcome to that prison. Except it’s worse! You have to take tests and earn good grades. At least in prison you can write on the walls and hit people!

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You know, when your father and I thought about having kids, I never really considered that I was going to have to live through school all over again. But here I am getting up early with you, making sure you’re there on time, worried about whether or not you’re meeting your goals, and preemptively throwing up at the thought of the physics exam you are going to take in eleventh grade.

Maybe because you are a lot like me, you like to perform things well. I remember when you were still learning to write letters, if you accidentally wrote an S backwards you would tear up the piece of paper, pull out a fistful of hair, and declare that you’d never write S again, because S IS BAD! Now if you answer 12 x 5 = 50 instead of 60 because you miss the tenth by mistake, you will break that pencil in half and declare that you’ll never be able to do math ever in the rest of your life. I SO UNDERSTAND. Because I know exactly how you are feeling. It’s called the We Are All Going To Die Homeless And Alone. I am pretty familiar about how it feels.

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So you are doing 12 x 5, 365 + 499, 1/5 + 2/5… It’s true. Your math skills are at a level that no one is quite prepared to deal with. You are thriving at math. Sometimes you can’t wait to get up in the morning and start doing your workbooks. You are so focused that when you are thinking how to solve that formula, you will subconsciously scratch your head and touch your nose and eyes until you get the answer. Such a geek! Our little geek loves math! And I say that with all the love and pride a geek mother can muster. Just this week you have been begging, pleading, dropping to the floor and wrapping your arms around your father’s leg, “PLEASE! PLEASE WRITE ME SOME MATH ON THIS PAPER!” There is so much math to solve and those 400 workbooks are not even challenging enough!

Last week at school I came across another mom who was bragging about how good his son was at math. For a moment I thought, “Right, so all the boys are geeks!” Until you came up and announced, “But I can do division and multiplication!”

“Really?” that mom feeling suspicious.

“YES! I know 3 times 2 is…is…….6! And 12 divided by 6 is……2!”

“What about 10 times 4?”

“40! Because 10 times 5 is 50. 10 times 6 is 60. 10 times 7 is 70. EASY!”

“His teacher said maybe he should go to Grade 3.” I said causally yet matter-of-factly, maybe a bit proudly.

I didn’t really care about how that mom had reacted. But it was definitely one of those moments when I sit back and high five the decision to become a parent.

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When sometimes you look too smart, your innocence is magical. You are still unweathered by all the crap that life will eventually dump on your head, and that is another thing I never factored in when deciding to have kids. That I would get to see the world through that innocence again, because I don’t really remember what it was like. It’s something I have to remind myself to bask in at times when I am frustrated and seriously, CAN YOU PLEASE JUST GET IN THE DAMN CAR. Because you are not thinking about the crazy traffic behind you or why the gas prices never go down or how come Ebola is killing people. You are thinking, I can’t wait to get to school and show my friends these new Pokemom cards!

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Sometimes you don’t stop screaming because I don’t let you have that third piece of candy. Sometimes you are angry that you can’t figure out which Pokemon cards to take to school. And you yell IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT! Well, maybe it is because I gave you life, and now you have no choice but to live it. But you know what, Ethan. Turns out you are the one who can do math at a third grade level when you are only five. I guess that’s what they call a trade-off.

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Ethan, you’ve grown up so much this last year. Your arms are longer, your feet are bigger, there is no baby fat left in your face. You are no longer an infant or a toddler or a preschooler. And even the label First Grader doesn’t quite do you justice. You are a full on kid. A kid who have too many principles in his head. A kid who is never easy.

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I realized that whenever I am in an inconsolable state, all I want your father to do is shut up and listen to me. He needs to let me enumerate on every other issues that my frustration is bringing to the surface.

Sometimes my instinct with you is to plug my ears, but I am learning to take your frustrations much more seriously. Your fear of Maya eating your popsicle when you are at school is significant in that it represents something larger, or perhaps the perception that we don’t take care about your popsicle, or maybe you think we pay more attention to Maya than you. Whatever the case, I stopped banging my head against the wall and really listened to what you were saying. As family we owe each other that. I let you wail about how you’d never be able to sleep again because Maya eating your popsicle was making you too tired to sleep (YOU ACTUALLY SAID THAT), and then let you work through your emotions like I try to do, like your father always waits for me to do. And when we got home, you ran over to the freezer to check your popsicle. The blue one that was still sitting there. And you slowly swallowed all the tears that you had loaded up on the way home.

I am right there with you, Ethan. Sometimes the path to victory is paved with a lot of crying. I will be there offering tissues.

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Love,
Mommy

Halloween Monster Cake

October 21, 2014 by Fanny | 11 Comments

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This year was my kids’ first time having their birthday party with their friends. We used to celebrate their birthday with our family. We fully understand how tiring it is to throw a kids birthday party. And we didn’t do it until this year was because one, we are lazy parents. Two, I don’t seem to remember anything before I was six, and I concluded that six is a good age to start remember things, like birthday parties, starting grade one….all the good stuff. Yes, only good stuff, because my six-year-old son still seems to have a hard time remember what I say although it’s said two seconds ago, like FINISH YOUR DINNER NOW! or GET IN THE DAMN CAR!

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I’ve always wanted to throw a backyard pool party for my kids. Except they weren’t born in summer. They are October kids. October in Vancouver is notoriously known as cold and rainy. This year we were lucky to have an abnormally warm October, and we were able to move the party to our backyard. No pool. No water. But we had costumes and monsters thanks to the Halloween theme.

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Ingredients (8-inch 3-layer cake):

Vanilla Cake

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
4 sticks unsalted butter, soften
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons whole cream
4 to 6 drops of orange food coloring paste
Others
1/2 cup white candy melts
1/2 black candy melts
5 orange cake pops
 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease three 8-inch cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a bowl of standing mixer with a paddle attachment, mix buttermilk, egg, oil, vanilla and vinegar on medium speed until well combined.

Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared cake pans and spread evenly.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes before inverting on rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

To prepare the frosting, beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.  Add powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar has incorporated with the butter.  Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract and cream. Then beat for another 3 minutes. Add color, one drop at a time, and continue mixing and adding color until it reaches the preferred color.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on your serving plate and spread with 1/3 cup frosting. Place another cake layer on top, and gently press down a little bit. Spread with another 1/3 cup frosting. Place the last layer of cake on top, smear a thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake.

Use an open star tip, close star tip or hair tip to pipe the rest frosting on cake. Starting from the bottom, and move up to the top of the cake.

To prepare the monster face, melt white and black candy melts in two separate microwavable piping bags.

Use the white candy melts to pipe small triangles on a parchment paper for teeths.

Use the black candy melts to pipe a long and thick line on a parchment paper for mouth.

For the cake pops, pipe a solid white circle on each of them. Let it dry, then pipe a black dot on.

Cover and refrigerate the cake. Remove from refrigerator an hour before serving. Place cake pop eyes, mouth and teeth on top of the cake.

To Maya – Four Years Old

October 18, 2014 by Fanny | 4 Comments

Dear Maya,

Today you turn four years old. You had been asking me if you were going to be four the next morning you woke up. So the first thing out of your mouth as I walked into your room this morning was a jarring “AM I FOUR YET?”  I whispered yes, and before I could even reach your bed you screamed, “YAY! I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE FOUR!” Dude, look at you tearing through your bucket list.

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You are much more into dressing up now. You don’t want to wear anything unless it’s a dress. Every morning you will refuse to change if I take out a pair of pants. You will moan and tear up about the fact that I don’t let you wear your summer dress because it’s not summer anymore. And you don’t care. You will request to have that strapless floral dress paired with your pink flip flops. But it’s cold outside, Maya! Then you beg, “I will put on my jacket. The one for snowing, maybe? Please! Pretty Please!”

The moment you see some new clothes we bought you, you will strip off what you are wearing at the time and jump right into them and start posing in front of the mirror. I don’t have any idea where you learned how to do this. Maybe because you are pretty well trained with the plastic high-heels and pink lacey pajamas that your aunt Karin has been lavishing you with, and you are very capable to show off the beauty of it. But what I can only imagine is that the 50-year-old of you won’t walk to the mailbox without wearing five-inch heels and at least two clashing animals prints in blinding colors.

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You gave up baby swing at the park long time ago, and you’ve started to go on a regular swing. You’d watched your brother do it and demanded to have a go. This didn’t surprise me given your personality, but I thought that once you got really high and experienced the weightlessness of it you’d be all STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!

Now I will note right here that I don’t think it will ever happen in your life.

The first time I pushed you on a swing, I took it very cautiously. But then you saw Ethan flying next to you, and you started to scream, “HIGHER!” So I pushed harder. As you started to feel that you were flying in the air, up to the top of the tree you just giggled and squealed. I got a little dizzy just watching you.

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Ethan is flying, you want to fly with him. He is going through a ring of fire, you are ready to join him. You go along for all his rides. That’s how I would explain your personality to people. You are up for anything, except you hope those rides are bumpy, turn upside down, shoot across the valley, and are being chased by cannibals.

Your personality is, “Who’s up for committing a felony?”

Yet your personality is also running around the house with a doll in your hand, stopping in front of me and shout-whispering, “Hold Hello Kitty. If you drop her, I won’t talk to you.”

You are the child people envision when they think about what it might be like to have a family. You are the kid sitting on my shoulders, your head thrown back in laughter, an expression of eternal joy. You cuddle with your whole body, your arms and legs wrapped around my torso, your head burrowed deep under my arm, an unspoken love filtered down into a fleeting embrace. You can clap and squeal when confronted with good news. You make funny faces, you attempt to make crude noises, you run and hug every human being you see whether or not they want to be hugged. You tell everyone to be quiet so that you can tell a funny joke. It’s funny, yes, but the best part is that no one finds it funnier than you do.

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Some people are puzzled about the size of your eyes when compared with your brother’s. They go, “Such a handsome boy, Ethan! Look at your big eyes!” Then go, “Oh Maya, so cute! But where are yours?!” And they are entitled to be confused because I can’t explain it neither. They can have their outrage if they are only into sizes. But they don’t live with you and do not understand how mesmerizing your eyes can be. You smile with your eyes. Your eyes are as much a part of who you are as how you giggle with your body thrown way back into joy, and your eyes giggle along with your whole body. And it is fundamental to your spirit – your cheerful, hilarious and carefree spirit that brightens everyone around you.

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Maya, you are one of those kids that would even make the most cynical, most snooty “it’s no way I will have kids” kind of person stop and go, “Oh my god I wish I had a daughter like yours.” When they are around you and witness the delight you get from being alive, they seriously want to own you. I know it’s just a matter of time before you know how to fly on your own. And I really cherish the moment now when I still own you.  You make me feel like I’ve been locked inside a dark tunnel and you are the light bursting inside to reach in and lift me out. I want to follow you around and soak in your joy.

What a gift, Maya. Thank you.

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Love,
Mommy

Apple Shortbread Pie

October 13, 2014 by Fanny | 14 Comments

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Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

I am thankful that I have the best family in the whole universe.  My best family consists of my family in Hong Kong, my husband’s family, and the family that we both created. Yes, 400 members of them! And I’d never appreciated how fun it was to have a huge family until I have one now. And oh my god, I just wish I could have the energy it requires to reproduce and raise more kids of  my own!

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I am also thankful that I have the patience and skills to cook and bake. It’s become a life skill for me now, weights way more than the ability to drive or swim! I think I would properly just sit there and scratch my butt if I couldn’t do anything in my kitchen. And it would be aimlessly sad.

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Ingredients (9-inch pie):

Shortbread Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Apple Filling
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cubed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
 

Directions:

To prepare crust, sift the flour and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and powdered sugar in a bowl of a standing mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla.

Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

Gather dough and form a dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to chill.

To prepare apple filling, put apples, butter, sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon in a skillet. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very soft and almost fall apart into a puree. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a pie pan with a removable bottom.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Line the prepared pan with the rolled dough. Leave a tiny overhand of dough. Use a small kitchen knife to trim the excess and to score the tops of the tart.

Reroll the rest of the dough. Cut star-shaped doughs using a cookie cutter.

Pour the cooled apple filling in the prepared pie dough. Cover with the stars.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the crust is slightly brown on the edges.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Donut Macaron

October 6, 2014 by Fanny | 14 Comments

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How my life has changed after my kids went back to school! If you are thinking because of the amount of Game of Thrones that I’ve watched or the number of times that I’ve read 50 Shades of Grey, I am telling you NO! It’s nothing about my sex life!

It’s about the larger chunk of time that I have for myself now. And that absolutely allows me to finish a lot of things that I wasn’t able to, like pooping. Sorry! I am being gross, but I am also being factual. You just have no idea!

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So to celebrate my new life, I came up with these adorable macarons. My approach to making macarons now are either with spectacular flavour or with special design. Either way, it requires time. And here we have these cuties!

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They are bigger than regular sized macarons, yet almost the same size as mini donuts. The reason why they have to be bigger is because when you pipe the batter in O shapes so they have little holes in the middle, the batter will spread out and the holes will disappear if the O is not big enough. A little trick!

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Ingredients (around 12 sandwich cookies):

Macaron
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup filling of your choice
Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
food coloring paste of your choice
sprinkles of your choice
 

Directions:

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Process powdered sugar and almond flour in a food processor until finely ground. Sift the mixture through a sieve. If there are more than 2 tablespoons of large chunks left in the sieve, grind them and sift again. Set the mixture aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium speed until frothy. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high and beat until very stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.

Sift the almond flour mixture over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the almond flour mixture into the egg whites until the mixture loosens and falls in a ribbon from the spatula.

Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round tip and fill the bag with the batter. Pipe Os to create donut shapes onto the parchment papers, leaving at least one inch apart.

Tap the bottom of each sheet on the work surface to release trapped air bubbles. Let the cookies stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to develop their crusts.

Preheat oven to 320F. Bake the macarons for 10 to 12 minutes, until set but not browned.

Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the macarons to cool completely on the pans. Once cooled, gently lift half of the cookies from the parchment paper and turn them upside down.

Pipe a teaspoon of filling onto each of the upside-down cookies.

To prepare the glaze, whisk sugar, milk and vanilla slowly until slightly thickened. Add more milk or sugar to get the right consistency. Add coloring paste, one drop at a time, and mix until color is evenly distributed.

Dip the top of each of the remaining cookies in the glaze and set on a rack placed over a baking sheet. Decorate with sprinkles immediately. Let dry completely, about 10 minutes. Place it on top of the filled cookie.

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