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.
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.
Ginger Molasses Spice Cookies
By Irvin Lin
This is my sister’s recipe for her wedding favor. You can make them anytime, but they do make the house smell like fall and winter in a wonderful cozy way. She baked them in double batches (the recipe doubles up really easily) and then froze them for the big day. They are super easy to make, but just keep in mind to roll them in the size that she states. Any bigger and they become rather fragile and break. Otherwise the cookie and dough is super forgiving.
For a gluten free version of this cookie, check out my post for my gluten free maple sweet potato cheesecake with gingerbread bottom and sour cream marshmallow topping. The gingersnap bottom doubles as dough for a ginger molasses cookie. The instructions for making it into a cookie (and a picture of the results) are included in that recipe.
2 1/2 cups (350 g) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup (170 g or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup (200 g) white granulated sugar plus more for rolling the cookies
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat liners. In large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves). Stir vigorously with a whisk to blend together.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Add the molasses and blend well. Add the dry ingredients to dough and slowly beat until just combined; do not overmix.
3. Form the dough into 3/4 inch balls and then roll in the extra sugar. Bake 8-10 minutes, until slightly browned and cracked; the cookie will still be soft. Cool on baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, to firm up, then move to wire racks to cool completely. Enjoy! These cookies can be stored for up to three days at room temperature.
Makes about 48 cookies.