The “Bruno’s birthday”

My husband turned a handsome and much loved 39 last week. When I asked him what scones he wanted for his birthday breakfast, he didn’t hesitate: he wanted matcha chocolate chip scones, and only matcha chocolate chip scones.

I had no idea when I baked matcha scones for the first time that they’d turn out to be his all-time favourite flavour. After all, he’s never been much of a matcha ninja like me — at least not self-confessed. But was I ever pleasantly surprised and happy that my BFF was just as excited as I was.

Since I bake matcha scones regularly, for my husband’s birthday I added sprinkles to the scones to give them a joyful touch. I even named them the “Bruno’s birthday” scone — a signature look and flavour in honour of my love’s birthday. They turned out so delicious and super cute and fun. He ate three in one go right after they popped out of the oven!

Scones weren’t the only nom noms that my husband had requested for his birthday. He’d also requested a red velvet cheesecake. I’ve baked cheesecakes before, but never have I baked anything red velvet, so I felt quite intimidated.

“Gods of gluttony, please guide my poor soul!” I prayed.

Clueless as I was about how to deliver this cake — I’m very well-versed in eating it, though — since my love requested it, I knew I had to deliver his birthday wish and put a smile on his face.

The sprinkles bled a little when I put the cake in the fridge overnight, but the swirls they created reminded me of the galaxy.

There were so many variations of red velvet cheesecake scattering the internet that I didn’t know which one to choose. I ended up going with a recipe that was tailored for mini cheesecakes, and had many burning questions tickling my tired brain in the midst of baking.

“Do I bake it in the oven for twice as long since I’m baking a whole cake? Is the red velvet portion supposed to be soft and cake-y, or dense and fudgy?” I had no idea; I was just going to wing it.

In the end, the cake turned out a wee over-baked but successful overall. I’d never baked with cocoa or used food colouring, or even thought about attempting anything red velvet, so I was quite happy.

Here’s the recipe I used for the red velvet cheesecake: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/mini-red-velvet-cheesecakes/

Note to my husband: I’m sorry, my love, the day turned out less than ideal. But for what it’s worth, I hope you enjoyed the sweet treats, our son’s delighted joy, and know that you are so loved and appreciated. Happy birthday many times over.

Fruit x plosion choco chip scones

Last night was mama’s night. Little One fell asleep early — go figure, he hadn’t napped much at all throughout the day — and I had the chance to relax to my heart’s content. It was a warm and summery starry night and I had wine on the balcony, kissed by fairy lights all around me. Then came my test of commitment when my eyelids began to tremble at 10PM — to bake scones or not to bake! And bake I did, while watching Paul Hollywood’s “City Bakes.”

The scones were one big fruit explosion. They were a heavenly mix of strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and pomegranate — and chocolate chips! The only caveat was that I added too much fruit. Because the fruits were frozen and I added plenty, a lot of moisture escaped into the dough, thereby deforming the shape of the scones and making them more soft than usual.

Taste wise, I don’t know what it was this time around, but the dough tasted better than ever. I also appreciated taking mouthfuls of fruit at every bite. It was light and summery, and tangy and sweet at the same time, especially with the chocolate chips to balance the flavour. Scrumptious.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I added less salt because I used salted butter)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (I only had salted on hand, and a few chunks were missing)*
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Too much frozen fruit
  • All the chocolate chips in the world

*A little rabbit had stolen some butter for toast one morning. She’ll be forever unnamed.

Please see the original ingredients and recipe here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/scones-recipe/

PB choco chip scones

Baking scones is my new drug and all-time high. I’ve been on a baking spree ever since I baked them for the first time just last week. These PB chocolate chip scones are my 5th bake! Baking scones is such a joyous experience for me that it would be madness not to bake them, especially now that Keaton is one and I’m beginning to have some snippets of time in the night.

This special request was by my husband. He’d specifically sniffed out PB and milk chocolate chips on our trip to Bulk Barn, to concoct his signature scone — and he’s proud of it, too. We both are. These scones are scrumptious — calling all PB lovers! While it was tempting to keep devouring them, we had to put a break on our bellies. Tomorrow and the following mornings are young; we’re in good company for breakfast.

My energy was zapped tonight, and I had a choice between relaxing on the couch and watching a movie with my husband — and, as always, praying to the Little Lord that he gives us a break for the night — or baking. While the former felt like the more fitting choice for my mood and energy level, I decided to bake scones instead; and in doing so is where I happily found my energy and zest. Hubs hasn’t seen me this excited in a long while, and neither have I. And it feels darn good.

I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in doing something as simple as baking recently. Finding something to do and creating time to accomplish it — be it baking, writing, or reading — in the midst of motherhood and a pandemic is crucial for me, as it gives me a sense of achievement and purpose. I’m starting to feel more in alignment again with who I am, and that’s when I know I’m headed in the right direction. I’m doing right by myself, aren’t I? I’m happy with that.

Matcha scones

I love, love matcha desserts. Matcha and scones — it’s a seductive combination that’s almost unearthly. This sexy culture that’s glorified in today’s society — forget it, nothing tempts me. I’m only foaming at the mouth if I see matcha scones. They just do this thing, argh. How does one even write about it? Help, I’m clogged for words.

I’ve only had a few matcha scones in my life thus far, but I do have my reserved all-time favourite. Funnily, while I’m not vegan, my favourite matcha scones are actually from Little Jo Berry’s in Ottawa, an all-vegan bakery that’s very much loved by locals. When I lived there, I’d often order half a dozen scones for my parents and I. All her scones are witty and clever, but it was the matcha that tickled my taste buds into pure bliss.

When I moved to Montreal in 2017, I stopped at a matcha teahouse on the first day. I’d scoured the internet for the best matcha scones in the city and braved the cold March weather to find solace for my tired soul. But when I saw their matcha scones in the display case, they looked sad — like they’d had a bad day. And I knew. After the first bite, I felt disappointed, but more so, saddened. Their matcha scone was sadly stale and lacking in flavour, which was unfortunate, because reviews were raving.

Today, and years later, I baked matcha scones myself. It was my first time baking them, and if it’s not too much to say, they were the best matcha scones I’ve ever eaten. They were actually the best scones I’ve had the pleasure of devouring. I’m partial because I’m weak in the knees for matcha; nevertheless, how these scones turned out on all levels was pure heaven.

I wasn’t shy when it came to adding matcha powder. I wanted my scones to be green, green; I wanted to smell the matcha and to taste it at first bite. Heck, I wanted to eat matcha! There was no other way. I added spoonfuls of matcha like my life depended on it.

I needn’t say more. I’m just in a coma of disbelief. I cracked the code. I baked my ideal scone. I’ve accomplished my life’s purpose. I’m at peace.

Maple cinnamon scones

As soon as my petit chou fell asleep, off to the kitchen I went for some much needed ‘me-time’ and moment of creativity. Cheers, mamas, to late night bakings when our little ones are nestled in a slumber.

I’ve been on a scone-baking kick lately, and last night I baked maple cinnamon scone goodies! I love, love maple scones; they’re absolutely magical. Yet even if they were definitely on my list of upcoming flavours to bake, I did feel a bit skeptical and worried about how they’d turn out. I knew that baking with maple is tricky and that there was a possibility of the scones tasting rather maple-less and more cinnamon-y.

I was proven wrong by these scones. To my surprise, they turned out divine. I could taste and feel the ethereal yet grounded relationship between the maple and cinnamon — their relationship was believable and heartfelt. And tasty! The maple was light and unassuming, yet passionate and mighty in its presence; meanwhile, the cinnamon played the role of the wise old sage.

Texture wise, on the inside it looked and felt more like a quick bread than a scone itself. Since it was my third time baking scones — I don’t have much experience and am a newbie at this — I’d attribute its quick bread-like identity to the eggs.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used almost double that amount!)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs

For the glaze, I used icing sugar, vanilla extract, heavy cream, and maple syrup.

I tweaked the original recipe a wee bit. To see the original recipe and instructions, please refer to the following website: https://www.food.com/recipe/cinnamon-maple-scones-372962

‘Nana chocolate chip scones

A little mouse started picking at a certain scone… we shall not name who.

My husband adored my first batch of scones so much — I myself wasn’t that big of a fan — that he requested an ingredient for the next batch: chocolate chips. For him, it wasn’t just the excitement of delicious scones baked with his chosen ingredient, but it was more so the excitement that I was baking them for him. Thus he scurried to the grocery store and grabbed his pack of chocolate chips without further ado; and when he arrived home, my heart melted. It just warmed my heart how he never ceases to find joy in the little details.

Every time I opened the pantry, I’d lock eyes with his pack of chocolate chips that were sweetly awaiting me, so I knew: I couldn’t wait long. Just a few days later, I ended up baking banana chocolate chip scones. They were so, so scrumptious. I must say I’m quite proud of myself, especially since I wasn’t too crazy about my lemon blueberry ones — the first scones I’d ever baked. I was surprised because I thought the chocolate chips would make for too sweet of a scone, but they were pretty subtle — they actually added a bit of a salty touch, too. The royal affair between the delicate but sweet banana notes and the sweet yet salty chocolate chips was pure heaven.

Since bananas are wet and runny, I was also a bit worried about them defeating the inherent shape of the scones — the bananas did amend the shape a little — but overall, the scones held quite well after being baked. Something simple I could’ve done while moulding the dough, though, was add some flour to subdue the stickiness. Yet after all is said and done, it was a lovely success.

There are two scones left for tomorrow morning’s breakfast, and writing about them is making my mouth water already. Oh, I can’t wait for morning to arrive. Scones with a wee bit of butter and a hot cuppa coffee in the morning — and hopefully a cooperative 1-year-old — that’s living life on the sexy lane.

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I accidentally put 1 tsp and slyly scooped some out, oopsie)
  • 1/2 cup butter (I used unsalted)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or the whole bag!)

The recipe and instructions are from the following website: https://www.melskitchencafe.com/chocolate-chip-banana-bread-scones/

Please refer to that website for detailed instructions.

If I can remember with vivid detail, the only tweak I made was that after grating the refrigerated butter, I popped it in the freezer for 15 minutes before mixing it in. After adding the butter, I also chilled the mixture while I worked on the wet ingredients. Lastly, there’s something else that I did differently: I didn’t let the scones cool down. The mouse was me. I popped right in and stole a hot scone and nibbled away!

Lemon blueberry scones

Scones are my favourite breakfast-brunch-tea-time treats. A spring morning with a divine scone in hand and some clotted cream or Devonshire cream and jam on the side, and a nice cuppa coffee — that’s my happy place.

When I think of scones, I think of my youth — I think of Ottawa and my university days, and my best friends and the fond memories we shared. And it makes me both happy and sad. Happy, because I smile thinking back on when my friends and I would meet for scones on weekends, or sometimes between lectures, at our favourite local shops, and just chat about nothings and everythings. Those were the promising days of youth and sweet liberties. Equally, I feel just as sad thinking back on those moments because I really miss my youth and my friends from the past.

I may be partial, but now that I live in Montreal — and am a cranky window meerkat as a result — my soul lives in deprivation, because frankly, scones here are meh. “I don’t know what people are raving about,” I tell my husband. “It’s nothing like The Scone Witch in Ottawa.” Yet even if my husband would often reassure me that we’ll be going to Ottawa soon, and that scones are on the next horizon, I give him full reign to give me his quirky eye roll, because I’ve hammered it in way too often, and I’m sure he’s going deaf by the minute.

Nevertheless, I found my interim solace in a neighbourhood cheese shop that also sells pastries and scones. It’s a cute-as-a-button shop and a neighbourhood gem, and their scones tend to sell out fast. But shhh, we shan’t say more of it — we shall keep it secret. Even if their scones are unlike the ones I grew up with in Ottawa, they still fill my heart with joy because they’re quite scrumptious. Moreover, in a quarantine where visiting family and friends is prohibited — when life is depressing and hard enough — there’s something uplifting about the simple act of grabbing a treat at a local shop.

I must admit, what was at first a treat, became a real addiction. There was a time in the past when my husband would walk to the shop to grab us some scones as soon as it opened at 9 AM, or times when we’d pass by and drop in to see if they had any left for the day. Those days were long gone. Now, it’s become religion for us to call ahead of time so that they can put some aside for us. How’s life in quarantine and lockdown, you might ask? Just scones. My body, mind, and soul is one big scone.

Since I started making scones part of my almost-daily sexy breakfast regime, and it was getting increasingly costly to buy them, I decided to try baking them myself. I’d intended to bake them ages ago since I was a little shrimp, yet somehow, the occasion kept escaping me; or, rather, I kept making excuses as to why they’d be complicated, when in reality, they’re ever so simple to bake. Now that I finally baked them, I can proudly say that I’ve had my closure in life.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries, plus some!

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

Put flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl and whisk. Grate the cold butter and put it in the flour mixture, and mix with your fingers until the mixture becomes a bread crumb texture. Put it in the fridge while you prepare the wet mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk the cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Pour the mix into the dry mix. Add the blueberries. Knead the dough into a ball and then spread it over the counter into a flat circle. Cut into 8 pieces. Place them on a lined baking sheet and in the fridge for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, put the scones in the oven for about 22-25 minutes, until the edges are a golden brown.

This was the recipe I used: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/glazed-lemon-blueberry-scones/

I’m so happy I finally baked scones after all the years I intended to try baking them myself. It’s even more of a success story since aesthetically they turned out pretty cute, especially for a first-timer. The texture was also agreeable, like the ones we’d buy in store. Yet while my husband thought they tasted fine — the lemon zest giving them some sass — for me there was a slight floral note that I wasn’t a big fan of. From the frozen blueberries? The lemon zest itself? Or the intermingling of the baking powder? It was all unclear to me.

Nevertheless, I was quite fond of the colour — the soft rippling hues of blue coming from the blueberries. I actually learned after the fact that I could’ve coated the frozen blueberries with some flour, to lessen the bleeding. While it was neat to learn, I found them pleasing just as they were. As for the shapes, I promise, it’s not what it seems: I’m not that clumsy at cutting equal pieces. I swear, I was just in a rush between baking the scones, cooking salmon for my family, and vacuuming the sofa — all in one shot!

There’s much for me to learn and practice when it comes to baking scones. They might look and be simple to bake, but there’s much precision and passion involved in birthing their very essence. This is only the beginning, and I’m already excited to learn the map to their soul. There’s something satisfying about being your own boss baker, and baking scones at your heart’s whims rather than buying them in store. It’s quite romantic. I look forward to baking more, and to trying different flavours and combinations. My husband and I’m sure my 1-year-old son, will be some happy taste-testers.

Petit bout de chou is twelve

Keaton turned a tiger-esque One!

“If people ask how old he is, we’ll just say he’s twelve,” we both laughed.

There’s a joke my husband and I share about our son: he’s not a baby, he’s a pre-teen. Not only does he sport the physique, but he’s already sassy enough to be one. Oh, how he asserts his individuality and independence. As for us, R.I.P. We’re exhausted — just picture old dishevelled alley raccoons with missing hair on their tails from a street brawl. We’ve got dark under eye circles and we’re pitifully half-baked, but are we ever happy and appreciative.

Parenthood is a comical and mercurial thing. How being miserably depleted of any remaining mental faculty can co-exist proudly with butter-like feelings of immense joy and satisfaction, is a mystery to me. It’s like being slapped upside the head repeatedly yet still finding yourself smiling and wildly whispering, “Yes… yes…give me more.” It damn hurts, who wants that? Let’s be real: parents are nuts. We’re nuts. And I love it.

It’s surreal to think that one year has passed since our son’s birth. Between motherhood, debilitating fatigue, and my suspected depression — and, an unpitying pandemic — there’s a feeling of having lost my awareness of time. There’s a sense of amnesia I experience where every day feels strangely yet familiarly the same — when each day rolls out into the next unscathed. Life has been far from normal — our identities, core values, characters, relationships tested through it all — but when I look at our son and see how happy and vibrant he is, I know that everything is worth it and as it should be.

Keaton is now a tiger-esque One, and it’s been a real treat to watch him grow and thrive. I adore how obsessively analytical and perceptive he is; how stealthily and quickly he prances like a tiger; and how his soul emanates compassion and sensitivity. When I look at him, I know that he’s truly ours. There’s much I’d like to write about him here — I wish the world knew and witnessed just how wondrous he is — but at the same time, I wish to reserve him for the private recesses of my heart. There’s a certain injustice in attempting to paint a portrait of him — I feel as though I’m doing him a disservice. My goal as his mother isn’t to try to convey to the world who he is; rather, it’s to provide him with the necessary tools and guidance that will enable him to reveal himself to the world, on his own terms, in due time.

Yet that’s our catch-22, and the most emotionally-charged part of our current experience. It wasn’t the isolation and lack of support throughout the pandemic, nor the crippling fatigue of caring for a baby. It wasn’t the mastitis that felt like razors to my breasts, and that provoked cries of agony. It wasn’t even the emotional trauma of motherhood — the other side of the coin that’s rarely discussed. If you harbour wounds, and are aware of it, you know that something unexpected happens when you have your first baby: unresolved and repressed pains surface. The journey to motherhood is all-encompassing: sweet and joyful, and also dark and traumatic. Yet there’s no healing time between diapers, meals, and laundry.

Nevertheless, none of that could’ve weakened my knees in the grand scheme of things. I was the child of parents who’d survived a genocide and forced labour, and who’d lost children in the process. I was also the child who was fearful of the sound of roaring thunder, but when my father told me that bombs were twenty times louder and scarier during the war, grew to understand that fear was a state of mind. And thus was my mantra from a young and ripe age: if my parents had survived the worst of life, there was nothing in this world that I wouldn’t be able to overcome. My silhouette was my own to meet and greet over many times, under different circumstances, no matter how menacing it may appear.

As a mother now, however, I realized the following: I may be unyielding and resilient as an individual, but as a mother I was vulnerable. I had something to lose that was beyond myself, just as I had something to love that was beyond myself. Keaton was that whom I loved beyond myself, and therein lies my deepest heartache: we were never able to share him — our greatest pride and joy — with our families and the rest of the world since he was born. He was our first baby, our first love. Yet no one was able to see and experience him as we had. The pleasure of sharing our first bundle of joy would’ve been just as paramount as acquiring support from loved ones in times of distress, and through it all, I felt robbed of my most natural need.

Many of us had been struggling in some way, shape, or form. Throughout my transition to motherhood, I realized just how much I needed my family and support network — to feel their reassuring touch and warmth. And I knew that throughout this pandemic, they needed us just as much. When I look at our parents who’d lived difficult lives and are old and vulnerable, I come to feel ever more that time is indeed of the essence and that every moment counts. Life doesn’t wait for anyone, especially not when you’ve reached old age — and more so when you’re a real victim of COVID-19. In one year of our lives — the young and healthy — life has remained relatively stable. In one year of our elderly parents’ lives, whether they’ll ever see their grandson is a gamble in a spec of time.

Yet I could no longer wish for a world that wasn’t — that was unbearable, and insanity to say the least. The only way out was through. And that was to make amends with the current situation of our lives and to accept without reservation that being happy and grateful was a matter of adapting to the present moment, and to the ever-evolving whims of life. All of life was, after all, but perception, attunement, and a comedic and lighthearted dance with the cosmic forces of nature and humanity’s collective psyche — if one so chooses. There’s immense power and healing in yielding. Keaton’s birthday became one of the happiest memories of my life, because I willed it to be. And so it was.

His chalkboard of milestones

Keaton’s first birthday was the climatic point of my pride and joy, and this post, so heavily charged, pays honour to it. His birthday, and the elated happiness I felt, wouldn’t have been what it was without the past and current context of our lives. It was at once a celebration of him and a testament of our resilience and strength as a cohesive unit and family. One year later, I was still breastfeeding my son — a point of pride because I’ve lived through much pain without help or support at a time when the world fell into a state of chaos. My husband and I also became all the wiser and stronger, and our son grew beautifully into our beloved kindred spirit. As my husband would say, “We’ve struggled, but we’re doing something right.”

Thank you to my dearest husband for all of his love and support. For loving me gently and kindly at a time when I didn’t have the strength. For his utmost patience and dedication as a father and a family gentleman. For the smiles and laughter he’s brought to Keaton and me.

I’ll always remember Keaton’s first birthday, even if he most likely won’t remember it himself, much less babyhood in a pandemic. The day was ever so sweet. He immediately noticed the “Happy Birthday” banner on the wall of his play space as soon as we walked into the room in the wee hours of the morning — the curtains still hiding the morning light outside. I could tell that he was observing the banner intently, and the cutest part was that he kept smiling while looking at it. It’s as if he knew that a surprise was awaiting him later that day. I couldn’t wait for him to see the kitchen — the real birthday setting. Yet when we walked in, rather than react with surprise and excitement, he quietly analyzed and assessed his surroundings.

The afternoon was young, and Keaton was in a good mood throughout the day. (Phew, such sweet relief for an anxious event planner like mommy.) Auntie Mel Mel arrived at the scene like Santa Claus at a birthday party — bags and boxes of gifts weighing her down as she walked up the stairs to our apartment. I was just as surprised as Keaton when we witnessed fun orange and green helium balloons slowly emerging from the bag that sheltered them — the colours paying homage to our jungle theme, and orange to his spirited personality. In fact, I joined my son in sheer excitement and clapped like a happy seal. (I’m a big kid, I must admit. And I have no shame.)

Peek-a-boo flavour: red velvet with cream cheese

My favourite token of his jungle-themed birthday was his custom cake. Since we often refer to him as a baby tiger, due to his fearless and determined nature mixed with a sassy tint of stubbornness and charm, I asked the cake decorator to create a baby tiger fondant as the centerpiece to symbolize him. It looked so stinkin’ cute. We even kept the tiger fondant in the freezer, with the intention of showing it to him in the years to come. Funnily, his grandparents really had a kick watching him eat his birthday cake slowly but surely on video. As with everything he does, even eating his cake was done with careful tact and calculation.

The heartwarming part of it all, was that in spite of the pandemic and lockdown measures, our loved ones and those that mattered most to us got to be present — we celebrated Keaton’s birthday virtually. When it came time to singing “Happy Birthday” and cutting the cake, we video-called our parents and siblings, and while I comically thought we’d lose one or two along the way — imagine old parents using technology — the event was much more smooth-sailing than I’d anticipated. I couldn’t be happier than seeing Keaton studying the screens, curious of his grandparents’ many facial expressions, even if he didn’t really understand who they were or what they were communicating, only that they were cheering for him. There was something honest and beautiful in that moment: his grandparents felt his presence, just as he felt theirs.

That was his first birthday in quarantine: fun, thematic, and fit for a little guy with a big personality. Even if the world was imperfect and his grandparents and relatives couldn’t be there in person, we were blessed because we still had technology. Our parents had the opportunity to see him smile and laugh, which was enough to equip them with courage and strength. As for us, we were surrounded by love and support. Keaton is so deeply loved, and seeing him burst with laugher on his birthday while delighting in the sight of all the decor and treats, was all I needed.

Happy Belated Halloween 2020!

It was a beautiful sunny Halloween day here in Montreal. We started our morning watching “Beetlejuice” (1988) and going for a lovely autumn walk with our son, which was followed by baking a pumpkin cream cheese bundt cake together later in the afternoon and then having sushi. The night ended with us watching our movie tradition: “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993).

Our pumpkin cream cheese bundt cake

When my husband and I started dating, baking a pumpkin cream cheese bundt cake was one of the first activities we did together. I even popped the mixture in the oven without the flour! “How embarrassing,” I thought to myself. Three years later, this cake would pay homage to one of our earliest memories, and cakes, together. It was very scrumptious, although I wish I’d added more sugar to the cream cheese layer. As always, though, it was even better the next day.

Here’s the recipe we used: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/pumpkin-cream-cheese-bundt-cake/

It wasn’t so much a spooky Halloween as much as a heartwarming one. Spending time together as a family — it was Keaton’s first Halloween, too — was the cherry on top of it all. We even tried dressing our little one in his first Halloween costume: a cookie monster spin-off that his auntie had bought him. But it lasted only a few minutes while we took a few comical photos, because he hated it. “Why am I all furry and poofy? Why the suffering?” He must’ve thought.

It was also endearing to see little kiddos on our street dressed up in costumes and trick-or-treating, and to see households concocting innovative ideas to give out candies to kids while still respecting the social distancing protocol. Candy tube slides? Wow! We were amazed at how creative and motivated our neighbourhood was. Pandemic aside, a sense of community prevailed.

My husband and I were bummed to not have participated. But with a baby on board in our home, it was important to us that we remained as safe and vigilant as possible. Hopefully next year we’ll give out candies — even have Keaton dressed up in a costume and going trick-or-treating!

The ‘mommy and daddy secret candy stash’

Our son was so good, he even let us enjoy our Halloween day in sweet tranquility. He allowed us to relax, cuddle, and watch movies and binge on candies and chocolates while he happily entertained himself with his toys. It must’ve been one of the first official ‘couple times’ for us in, what, 8 months? We live in fear. We live to serve the Little Lord.

Mr & Mrs

Our Mr & Mrs mugs ft. Jack Skellington and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)!

Dear Readers,

Bruno and I are officially married and husband and wife! October 9th marked our special day. The day was simple and practical: we made a hearty brunch together, we shared fun giggles with our baby boy, we video-called our parents to share our excitement, and later we got dressed while my sister entertained Little One. Then we were on our way to the notary’s to be wed at 3PM.

When we arrived at the ceremony room at the notary’s office, we felt an immediate sense of relief, safety, and joy. It was finally happening. We were finally getting married after our wedding in May had been cancelled due to COVID-19 — and in the midst of a second lockdown that had coincidentally begun right before our second set date. The thought that we’d be obliged to cancel our wedding a second time due to another lockdown was an emotional rollercoaster. Nothing was going right in the world — and in many people’s lives — but all we wanted to do in the midst of this chaos was to get married. And finally, the moment was ours to keep.

The ceremony room at the notary’s was intimate yet simple and elegant. Fit for a bride and groom and their celebration of love and unity — fit for us that day. There were six of us in the ceremony room: myself, my husband-to-be, our baby, my sister (our witness), and the notary and her assistant (our second witness). Due to COVID-19, we were all required to wear masks and social distance during the event, all of which was smooth sailing. (We’re thankful for the notary and her team for taking necessary precautions while still providing marital, and personable, services.)

Never in my life had I envisioned getting married this way, with just us and our witnesses for company. I had always envisioned a wedding celebration — albeit a very small and intimate one — with our parents and loved ones present to celebrate with us. But we were sans our loved ones on our wedding day. Yet paradoxically, despite a relatively empty room, the moment felt so good and right. Like all was as it should be. We were grateful for the moment to finally happen, for my sister’s presence and her relentless help in our lives, for our baby boy being present on our wedding day, and for the notary and her assistant who orchestrated our ceremony.

The ceremony was short and sweet — a mere thirty minutes with all the logistics taken into account — but it was very emotionally charged. Bruno and I cried the whole time we held hands and exchanged vows, from beginning to end. Life hasn’t been easy on us; the pandemic has brought about a series of challenges to our lives, alongside being new parents. But we had been raised by wolves who equipped us with resilience, determination, and spirit. And our wedding ceremony was both a testimony and a celebration of our perseverance and conviction.

“We did it, we’re finally married!” We exclaimed with pride as we walked back to the car. During this period of uncertainty and hardship, getting married felt like a major accomplishment for us, and we were adamant to celebrate it. The night was young; we returned home with my sister, video-called our parents again to share our news, ordered sushi takeout, toasted to our wedding with champagne, and had cake from Rockaberry. I had my usual divine pumpkin pie!

My first ever pumpkin pie from Rockaberry. It became my all-time seasonal favourite. So divine!
Cakes to celebrate! ^__^

Our wedding day was imperfect — we got married in the midst of a pandemic, our families and friends were absent, I didn’t walk down the aisle with my white gown and bouquet of flowers — but it was the most beautiful, raw, and genuine moment we could’ve ever dreamed of. And for what it’s worth, it was the perfect experience and memory for us.

A special thank you to Melody, my big sister and confidante, for always being there for us and for making our special day happen. We couldn’t have done it without her. I love you so much and am so honoured to have you walk by our side every step of the way.

Before we got married, Bruno and I chose the Jack Skellington and Sally mugs from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) to serve as our Mr & Mrs mugs. We had coffee in them the next morning, and it was so much fun and Halloween-y! These mugs are meaningful to us because they symbolize the early fruits of our relationship. The Nightmare Before Christmas was one of the first movies we had seen together, sometime after Halloween and before Christmas, when we started dating in 2017.

Besides being the perfect Mr & Mrs mugs for us, these Jack & Sally mugs are also ideal for the month of October, with Halloween sneaking up around the corner. In fact, on Halloween night we’ll be watching The Nightmare Before Christmas while sipping an autumn-friendly drink in our mugs. We’ll also be indulging in our candy bags and treats. I’m super excited for us to be kids again! (Hopefully, our son will let us enjoy some ‘us’ and movie time.)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) film was such a warm memory for us, that, on our wedding night, my husband gifted me The Nightmare Before Christmas Pandora charm, along with the Baby Yoda charm from The Mandalorian. These two charms are very endearing because they highlight some of the sweet memories we shared together over the years. While The Nightmare Before Christmas was one of the first movies we had watched together, The Mandalorian was also a TV series we had enjoyed together when I was pregnant a few years later. It’s a little detail in my day, but wearing my charm bracelets makes me so merry and giddy.

Surprise bouquet from my husband (my then fiancé) for our 3 year anniversary!

October has always been, and will always be, a special month for us. These days, when I walk around our little abode and see autumn and Halloween decorations that adorn the nooks and crevices, I’m reminded of the charm of the season and the playfulness of life. Moreover, I’m reminded of my husband and I, and the celebration of our love and devotion.