Ginger Molasses Spice Cookies and My Sister’s Wedding

by Irvin on December 16, 2010 · 23 comments

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Ginger Molasses Cookies by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

My sister Natatia got married a couple of months ago. It’s still hard for me to think of her as married, but there it was on her Facebook page with a different last name staring at me when I logged in the week afterwards. My sister is four years younger than me (and my brother is six years older than me) and though that’s not an insignificant age gap between us (we haven’t been in the same school since grade school) we are pretty similar. Sure she’s a little more neurotic and is kinda OC about germs (one Christmas she handed out, as stocking stuffers, CleanWell sanitizing spray) our sense of humor is fairly in sync, our taste in music is pretty much the same (though in truth, I take credit for that) and we both have an obsession with food. In fact, for part of her wedding present, I had Dorie Greenspan autograph her latest book Around My French Table for them and shlepped it all the way out there for their wedding. And, for her wedding favors, she baked 1200 ginger molasses cookies to give out, pretty much something I would do. (Jump directly to the recipe.)

Natatia’s four years younger than me and for the longest time she was perpetually 14 years old in my mind, as that was the age she was at when I moved away to college. For years, I would be startled when she would offer to drive us places (wait, you’re not old enough to drive!) and then I finally adjusted. Harder to adjust was when she hit 21 and all of sudden was drinking (wait, you’re not old enough to drink wine!) but that soon fell away as well. Now, of course, I’m going to have to adjust to her being someone else’s wife, with a different last name to boot!

The wedding was in DC, in late October, right after the whirlwind of my crazy insane freelance projects and right after the insanity of BlogHer Food. I had every intention of resting a lot between the blogging conference, finishing up two crazy design project and then jetting off to the east coast, but I just didn’t have a chance. And that meant I ended up getting sick RIGHT before the flight.

Like feverish exhaustion sick. Which was not pretty. But there was no way a little exhaustion and fever was going to have me miss out on my sister’s wedding! Nothing was going to stop me!

My brother and his wife, who live up in Sacramento, had coordinated with us to fly out of San Francisco on the same flight. They recently had a baby (the cutest baby EVER. Sorry if you have kids, but my niece Sydney is cuter – seriously) and they thought flying cross country would be better if there were four of us to handle the one year old infant.

Yeah, so I got to spend some quality time with my niece too. Sort of. Being sick and all, I figure it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to hold her a lot, so AJ ended up holding and hanging out with her more. Which is just as well. I wasn’t feeling so great. (I’m pretty sure I wasn’t contagious, but if I was, I apologize to anyone who got sick on Virgin Flight 78 nonstop from SFO to IAD).

The flight was pretty mellow, despite my feeling under the weather. Virgin American is my new favorite budget airline. From the purple disco lighting in the cabin (I LOVE purple!), to the direct TV, to the fact that you could text other seats with your seat and order beverages, to the wifi, it was probably the best flying experience I’ve had in a long while.

My niece was a rockstar. She got fussy exactly ONE time during the flight, right in the beginning when we took off, when my sister-in-law had to stop her feeding and strap her in. Which would probably make me fussy too, if I was being fed, and then had my food taken away from me randomly.

Landing in the late afternoon in DC, we immediately were picked up by my sister and her fiancé Peter and met up with my mom and my aunt for a huge Taiwanese dinner at Bob’s Noodle 66 over in Rockville, Maryland. A feast for the eyes and the mouth, THIS was the food of my people! Taiwanese style sticky rice steamed in bamboo, oyster pancake, Taiwanese “hamburger” which was a slab of pork belly in a steamed bun, fried fish, and a number of other dishes that I can’t even remember. I felt like I was back in Taiwan, feasting away. I had no appetite because I was sick, but I worked past the pain to eat that food!

We checked into the hotel and settled in and woke up early the following day. For some reason our room did not have wifi, but the hotel lobby did, so I ended up spending a lot of time in the lobby checking email, Twitter and Facebook, while waiting for the whole family to gather up. My sister’s wedding site was at a winery out in Virginia about an hour away and so we all buckled into the van we had borrowed from our cousin and drove out to it.

The wedding site was at a Jeffersonian style winery, Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery with an estate house on a hill, and a gorgeous clearing where the wedding was going to be. With it being fall, the trees surrounding the clearing were tall, majestic and amazing. One of the few things I miss from St. Louis, where I grew up, is the deciduous trees and the changing leaf colors but luckily the trees were just starting to turn right about that time and I just basked in the autumnal scenery.

The wedding rehearsal went off without a hitch with the family hanging out and just admiring the amazing winery. My sister and Peter were able to sneak in barbecue for the rehearsal dinner food (the winery had a fairly strict catering policy, but pretty sneaky sis collaborated with the caterer to have them pick up the ribs and pulled pork from the barbecue place and then carry it in with some of their food).

AJ bonded with my cousin’s kids (which, I think, makes them my second cousins once removed, or maybe it makes them my first cousins once removed, I can never figure out those things). Either way, the gaggle of whatever you call them cousins, were all adorable!

Things got a little more dramatic when we got back to the hotel. AJ and I went up to our room and for some strange reason neither of our keycard were working. *sigh* So I made the trek back down to lobby and had them make a new one for us. Riding the darkened elevator (Oh, did I mention that elevator lights were mysteriously not working? They had hung glowsticks in the recessed lighting of the elevator as a temporary solution to this, thus making the elevator ride feel like a 1990’s rave) was disconcerting enough as it is. Even worse, was leaving the elevator, rounding the corner to be attacked by a dog.

The lobby of our hotel.
It seems so safe during the day

Oh yes, the Sheraton in Rockville Maryland apparently lets dogs stay in the hotel. Which I have no problem with, but if you are going to have a dog that will normally attack for no reason at all (which, the owner later admitted that is was not unusual for her dog) you better keep it on a leash it can’t escape from or at the very least muzzle the dog. What if it was my niece that had been walking down the hall and it had attacked?

I love dogs, but having a hunting dog (it was a Jack Russell terrier), a breed that is known for their sharp teeth and for clamping down hard with their teeth and not letting go, attack you when you are just rounding a corner in a hotel room is rather startling. Worse was getting back to the room, slightly shaken up, and then finding out that the dog had bit through your pants and you were bleeding all over the place.

AJ had fit, or course, and immediately went to get my brother (who technically DID go to medical school, maybe 15 years ago – but he’s a forensic psychologist now, and it’s not like I needed post-traumatic stress therapy immediately from the attack) who took a look at the bites. While they pondered what to do, I hopped in the shower, hoping to wash away any potential infection and they went and pounded on the door of the dog’s owners to find out if the dog had it’s recent rabies shots.

The dog owners apologized profusely, though they pissed off AJ even more when they turned to my brother and asked him where the dog bit him (“This is his brother!” proclaimed AJ in a huff) and then the dog got off it’s leash again and I think it took AJ all his self control to not throttle the dog and his owner.

Luckily the dog had all it’s shots and my brother and AJ came back and decided to consult with my cousin Eric, (who ALSO went to medical school, but is currently a plastic surgeon, and I don’t think the wounds were deep enough to permanently scar me, requiring reconstructive surgery). My cousin, in turn, consulted with his wife (who was pediatric doctor) and finally they all just decided I needed to go to an urgent care facility as they were all doctors but not really the right type of doctor to know how to properly care for a dog bite wound.

So yeah, our mellow evening plans for AJ and me to make my sister’s slide show that night were pretty much scrapped.

AJ seemed even more annoyed that while we were waiting for the doctor, we were forced to watch the Lady and the Tramp but I told him that watching cartoon dogs eat spaghetti wasn’t any more traumatizing to me after the attack. That said, I was amused and pleased that I had an option to choose “Life Partner” when signing in reference to AJ. The doctor at urgent care gave me a shot for tetanus and I went home with sore arm.

The following day, we woke up early and quickly put together the slide show for my sister’s wedding. It was a bit of haphazard compilation of images with no particular order, but in the end the crowd seem to love it (I’m not a 100% sure my sister loved it though, as we included a few incriminating adorable ones from her awkward youth – totally unintentionally).

We arrived at the winery and all I can say is that my little sister looked gorgeous. Almost unrecognizably gorgeous (hey, whaddya do with my sister? Whose that woman over there in the wedding dress?). My niece was one of the flower girls (my sister decided to include ALL the children cousins in the wedding as flower girls and ring bearers which meant there were ten children in total that needed to be guided down to where Natatia and Peter were to be married) and that was even more adorable to see her dressed up in her flower girl outfit.

The ceremony was utterly beautiful. And I’ll admit it, I totally did shed a tear. I had every intention of staying dry eyed, but as I walked down that long path with my mom in the middle of my brother and I, it hit me that my sister was getting married. What with the sickness, with the insanity of October, with the dog bite, it just never really truly hit me. But this was her day.

My sister was getting married.

I held it together on the trip down to the meadow. I sat down next to my mom. I turned to watch the gaggle of adorable cousins walk down nearly tumbling over each other behind us. I watched the bridesmaids walk down hand in hand with the groomsmen. And then I saw my sister walking down with my dad.

She looked stunning.

And I held it together still. Sure I got a little teary eyed, but I kept it all together. The ceremony hadn’t even started yet. I wasn’t about to start crying….

The ceremony was beautiful. And near the end, after they exchanged vows, after they exchanged rings, before they kissed, the wedding officiant, a friend of Natatia and Peter’s announced that they were not going to do a candle lighting ceremony. Instead, they were going to do a flower ceremony. And with that, Natatia and Peter went up to the altar, took a bouquet of flowers, walked down from the altar and walked over to my mom and handed them to her. And I looked at my sister as she handed them to my mom, I looked as her eyes teared up, and that’s when I lost it. That’s when I cried.

My family has been through a lot. I won’t go into the details, but seeing my sister getting married, with my mom there, next to me, accepting the flowers, I just starting crying.

The rest of the wedding was beautiful. How could it not be? The weather was stunning, the multi-colored leaves gorgeous, the reception (both outdoor on the patio and then indoor) was fantastic spread of Lebanese food (a favorite of Natatia and Peter’s) for the dinner.

I got to hang out with my cousins and their kids and got to see some of Natatia’s childhood friends all grown up (and some of them pregnant!). And of course, their wedding cake was just magnificent with adorable asian people wedding toppers. I asked if Natatia had made it (as she’s done wedding cakes before) but she looked at me and replied back “Oh heck no!” which made me chuckle.

And I got to see my parents dance to the Beastie Boys. Which kinda made the dog bite and sore arm worth it. Kinda.

The next day we did brunch at a cute diner with the cousins and their kids, the, um, other cousins. I can’t believe how gorgeous all my cousins kids are. Damn, we all have good genes. 😉

After the brunch, we took a tour of my sister’s workplace, MOM’s Organic Market which is a small local organic grocery store. There I noticed a wall of gluten free stuff, which I know all my gluten free friends would appreciate (you know who you are).

We flew back to San Francisco and despite the airplane delay we were all happy to have spent time with the family (immediate and extended). My awesome superstar niece was equally mellow on the flight back, even with another fussy baby seated in front of her. My poor brother and sister-in-law had to drive another two hours once the landed to get back home. AJ and I, we just cabbed it home and collapsed.

And two months, 1800+ of photos sorted and one jarring Facebook update about my sister’s marital status changing later, I’m still adjusting to her being married. But maybe this one epic blog post will finally have me accepting that my sister is all grown up and married. Maybe.

Congratulations Natatia and Peter. I love you guys.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Tea December 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm

What a lovely family you have! (though clearly the baking insanity gene goes along with all those good looks—1,200 cookies? Wow). Your sister looks gorgeous. Definitely worth the dog bite (ouch!).


Merri December 16, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Ive flown virgin just once, and only to san diego, but I loved it too. Except for that you have to pay for your check in bags. What a mean dog. Your sister's wedding looks just beautiful. I wish my sister had included our family in her wedding. I would have loved to see her walk down an aisle. Those are beautiful flowers your sister had. Congrats to her and your new brother in law! 🙂


Rachelino December 18, 2010 at 1:28 am

>I still cannot believe you got sick AND bit by a dog during this wedding weekend. Irvin you are a TROOPER. 🙂
Hearing stories from bakers who get married and and make their own cake or favors always make me a little wistful. Where I got married in 2008 was a GORGEOUS location on the banks of the Sacramento River (my aunt and uncle's place) but their house (on STILTS, for real, so cool)was under construction at the time and had no working kitchen, or place to hold studd I transported. Yes, I COULD have figured out the logistics and probably would have been pretty proud of myself for finishing..but my guess is I woulda had dark circles under my eyes and been frazzled. Still I always wonder what could have been.
Your family is gorgeous!


Mr. Jackhonky December 18, 2010 at 6:46 am

@Tea. LOL. Yep. We both are insane bakers. Though my brother doesn't have that gene. Go figure.

@Merri. Most airlines are making you pay for checked bags which kinda sucks. I can't believe your sister didn't include you guys for your wedding! Though AJ's brother didn't include his family for his wedding… *sigh* Thanks for the congrats!

@Rachelino. Yeah. People keep on asking AJ and I if we have a ceremony would I make the cake? Not sure about that. Talk about stress! Though I've had several people ask me to make THEIR wedding cake!

I might have to make wedding favors or other desserts. But having helped out on a few weddings, I know that making your own cake is kind of insane. So much to do, so little time to do it!

And thank you! I liked to think I came from good genes. 😉


Ms. WhitePlates December 18, 2010 at 10:14 pm

You just made me cry. Such a beautiful dedication to your sister, your love for her is just so beautifully evident.

So, you (and your sister) made some yummy cookies!


Sabrina Modelle December 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm

This is the sweetest thing ever. The wedding looks like it was a blast and those cookies look divine.
Funny that this is your most recent post. I just did a wedding post about my darling friends who got married. I threw a tiny after party. Le Sigh… weddings.


feiwenfoodie December 21, 2010 at 7:03 am

Yes, you are the bestest big brother ever!!! :p Thanks so much for the awesome post, you know Peter and I loved it!! And just in time for the holidays…it seems I can't stop making these cookies. I considered trying out the ones you made mixed with the lemon swirl but was too lazy to make a separate dough (not too lazy to make 1200 of them, just too lazy to make a separate dough for one batch of them). I AM a Lin, right? =D Love you gege!


Mr. Jackhonky December 21, 2010 at 6:49 pm

@Mrs WhitePlates. That's one of the best compliments I've ever had! Thank you! And yes, I try not to say it too much in public, but I do love my sister. She's the best!

@Sabrina. I do love a good wedding! It's funny, I went to a HUGE amount of them about five to seven years ago (I believe 2006 was the year I went to eight) but I hadn't been to one in awhile. But in the past couple of months we went to two of them!

I'm glad you tracked me down! Had a great time hanging out with you at FoodBuzz!

@FeiwenFoodie. Ha! Well you know I love you guys! It was an awesome wedding. And those cookies are great. I LOVE them! Yeah, you should try making the lemon swirl though. It's really really good. If you don't want to swirl them together, just make the lemon cookie on it's own, and then eat them together. SO good!


Miranda December 23, 2010 at 1:57 am

What a wonderful post to read and right before the holidays. Such a joyous occasion! Congrats to your sister and the groom!
Your sister looked beautiful in her wedding dress and the newlyweds looked so happy together! Congrats!


petoke December 23, 2010 at 9:38 am

Many many congratulations to Natatia & Peter! Natatia, you look gorgeous, as always. This post made me cry. : )


Felisa January 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm

I loved this post! Natatia looked gorgeous–I love her style! And your first cousins' kids are your first cousins once removed. You're welcome. 🙂


Rita January 5, 2011 at 12:53 am

I love you how "totally unintentially" put awkward photos of your sister into her slideshow and then also put them in this post. Natatia loves that, too. 😀 And I'm not even being tongue-in-cheek.

They had the right effect: now we got to watch her grow up, too, and then see her on her wedding day. AWWW! Congratulations, Natatia and Peter!!

(Also: It's been said before, but I'll say it again: 1200 cookies! I see the family resemblance!!)

(Also, also: The idea of being surrounded by doctors and none of them being the right type is hilarious family comedy. You should be on TV.)


Mr. Jackhonky January 5, 2011 at 1:04 am

@Miranda. Yay! I hope you had a good holiday season! It TOTALLY was a joyous occasion!

@Petoke. Awww. It seems like I am always making you cry. Whether it's buying you ramen or writing posts about my sister's wedding….

@Felisa. First cousin's once removed. I'll never remember that. But thank you.

@Rita. Of course it was TOTALLY unintentional. And 1200 cookies! Right?!?! Crazy girl. Also the doctor thing WAS pretty amusing in retrospect. At the time it was more annoying because everyone SORT of knew what they were talking about. But not really…


Belinda @zomppa January 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

So gorgeous!! Your sister’s old photos are AWESOME! She is a beautiful woman and I wish her all the best. What a fun wedding…Lady and the Tramp…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie…..


Kim February 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Aww this post had ME teary eyed!


Cheri September 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I just ‘happened’ upon this blog because I was intrigued by the recipe without words [for magic shell]. That was the first recipe my husband ever followed with complete success! 🙂 So I decided to look further to get a feel for who you are . . .
This blog is such a heart-warming piece!!! The love you have for your family is palpable even over the internet. Your family is very fortunate. I understand that this represents a small fragment of your family experience – and frequently we look for the best things to remember and write about. But the genuine warmth and high opinions you express toward your family members – especially your sister – honestly made me cry.
I grew up without a father and no brothers – so I have ALWAYS longed for the love of a brother. Thank you for sharing your love so transparently for virtual strangers to read.
You are very fortunate to have such a strong family – one where folks come together from across the country to celebrate life’s major milestones. And with you as yer brother, your sister has a very rare gift. I urge you to take a moment right now and offer gratitude . . . a loving family isn’t something a person can easily create if you aren’t born into one.
I am someone who does NOT have anything resembling the family you portray in this blog – and it warms my heart to know that folks like you are out there living the life that I can only dream about.
I’ve printed your sisters cookie recipe and as soon as the weather cools down, I plan on making these in quantity and bag them up for Christmas treats for friends and neighbors.
Thanks again for sharing!


Irvin September 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Cheri. I meant to respond to you comment earlier but I just wanted to say thank you for commenting. It made my day, just reading it.

And yes, I am very lucky to have my family and friends in my life. Without them, I don’t think I would be the person that I am.

Let me know if you make my sister’s cookies and what you think of them. I think my sister would be thrilled to know that you will be making them for the holidays!


Megan November 17, 2011 at 8:41 am

This totally made me tear up too! I can see why she left that comment, and just how special your family is to you. Your sister was a beautiful bride, and the pictures are splendid! Also, I am totally printing out the recipe to make soon! Thanks Irvin!


Sun January 27, 2012 at 1:36 am

Great post! Loved reading about your sister’s wedding, and the photos are gorgeous.

I’m so sorry that you had a dog bite you at the hotel. Did you report that dog owner to the hotel? Every hotel that I know of that allows dogs on the premises also has strict rules that dogs have to be on leash while in the common areas. I’m a dog owner and I love and very much appreciate that more and more hotels (especially nice hotels) are allowing dogs, but I’m also hyperaware that my dogs don’t ruin another traveler’s stay and make the hotel reconsider its pet policy.

Thanks again for sharing your sister’s special day.


Irvin January 27, 2012 at 2:42 am

I’m actually a huge dog lover too. Though I don’t own a dog now (I used to in St. Louis with my ex-boyfriend) I completely understand that accidents happen. That said, this particular dog was CLEARLY poorly behaved. The owners even said so, when they warned me “Not to move. She bites!”

We actually did report the dog to the hotel, but the manager was not on duty and told us that they would call us back. They never did. *sigh*

Thankfully I was not traumatized by the event. I still love dogs and enjoy them when I visit my friends with them…


Evie March 8, 2012 at 10:40 am

What a beautiful family you have! I loved reading your story you are all adorable!


Nancy December 9, 2016 at 10:10 pm

Hi. I’m not sure if you’re even checking this blog post anymore for responses but…Last year I stumbled onto your site while looking for holiday cookies to bake. And these were a total hit. They are my wife’s favorite now. Her birthday is tomorrow and she requested these. I tried other recipes just for comparison in the last year and none of them made the cut.

So thanks for sharing your recipe. They are now a family tradition for us!!!


Irvin December 10, 2016 at 8:29 am

Hi Nancy,

I actually read all my comments (even the old ones) and I totally appreciate you coming back and letting me know! These cookies are so great and I’m thrilled that they’ve become part of your holiday tradition AND so incredibly honored that they are your wife’s birthday request!

Happy holidays and happy birthday to your wife!


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