Category Archives: Holiday

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies and Post-Guatemala

chocolate gingerbread cookies

I still haven’t blogged about the last couple of days in Guatemala, but since I already started posting recipes, it’s too choppy to go back and finish it off. So, I’ll end that journey off by sharing my thoughts and feelings post-Guatemala.

My first day back in Vancouver

Woke up in bed today with a sinking realization. It finally hit me that I’m not in Guatemala anymore. I’m back in Vancouver and surrounded by inches of snow. No more palm trees. No more rolling hills. No more rooster morning wake up calls. No more Sheily. And worst part of all: no more SOS peeps.

I’m a bit late to this awakening, since most people already cried and spiritually said their goodbyes on our last night in Guatemala City. 

The whole day, I felt like I was just a shell. Empty and hollow. The essence of me was left behind somewhere on the winding paths in Bueno Vista. 

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1 week later

After coming home from Guatemala, my perspective on the world and how I want to live my life has changed. Though I was only there for a little more than a week, the people and culture of that country have left have a huge impact on me that I don’t think will ever fade. 

I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is having gratitude and carrying that with you through everyday life. 

A couple years ago, I started my happiness journey. What triggered it? A really unhappy year as a freshman in university. Before that, I never gave much thought to my own happiness. I think I just ran on automode all the time. My goal was to just study 24/7, get the grades, then get that dream job and start rolling in 6 figures. My definition of life and “happiness” was really narrow. Sure, I guess I could go through life living like that, but will I satisfied? Will I ever reach the self-actualization phase that Abraham Maslow was talking about?

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When I embarked on my search,  I started a gratitude journal for me to write one liners and reminders about what I’m grateful for. 

“Today I’m grateful for… emotional learning experiences.”

“Today I’m grateful for… feeling needed and loved by my family.”

“Today I’m grateful for… the sis and bro”

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On shitty days, it’s really hard to find something good to write about. Since I’m a pessimist by nature, I have a tendency to revert to negativity, deconstructing myself in the most harmful way as I critique myself for pages and pages on end.

On good days though, I feel a lot more up lifted after I write. 

These observations tell me two things:

1. The gratitude journal is working.

2. I let external circumstances affect me too much. Bad days I’m sad, angry, regretful, and embarrassed. Good days, I’m motivated, inspired and energized.

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This is where I feel kind of ashamed. One of the things that I noticed about Guatemalans is that they are much happier people than we are. They have less than what we would deem as “the bare essentials”, yet they are some of the most cheerful people I have ever met. Despite having so little, they were more than welcome to share and give, asking for nothing in return. Those three actions, according to writer Gretchen Rubin, cultivate happiness and contentment.

On our last day in Bueno Vista, we visited a small church that was located just uphill of the school we were volunteering at. The pastor said something so beautiful that my friend, Yuki, and I silently held each other as we cried. In his best English, the pastor said: 

Life is about spiritual living conditions, not physical living conditions.

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It’s been 4 years since I began my happiness journey and I felt deeply resonated with that quote. I sat there in the front pew, surrounded by a bunch of new friends who are really more like family at this point, and felt this serene energy grow from within me.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I shouldn’t only try to find happiness in one event per day. I should be happy with what I have and find the good in everyday life, not just when I feel like it or when circumstances make it easy for me to do so.

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Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnmon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground nutmeg)
1 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa (any type will do here, it’s just a cookie!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 tbsp freshly grated peeled ginger
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used Roger’s best brown)
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp boiling water
7 ounces semi sweet chocolate chunks (I used 8 ounces, just for good measure 😉 )
1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling

Sift flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves nutmeg and cocoa in a bowl. 

Beat butter and ginger on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add brown sugar, beat until combined. Add molasses, beat until combined.

Dissolve baking soda in hot water in a small bowl.

Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. 

Beat in all of the dissolved baking soda. Then add in the last half of the flour.

Gently fold chocolate into the dough.

Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 

Remove dough from fridge and roll into balls and cover with granulated sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes and let it cool on the baking sheet before moving. 

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies

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Christmas in a blur

Christmas morning as narrated by me.

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This better be a pair of jeans.
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omg a helmettttt
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im gonna wear it right now in case one of you don’t like my present and decide to chuck it at me.
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omg thanks for the dri-fit shirt, youre my favourite cousin!
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what is this supposed to be? (mom doesn’t understand the concept of open cardigans)
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an xs small?! aww you think im thin?
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(smile!)
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a jacket! sweet youre the best sister ever!
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how sexy do i look?
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wait, i gotta hide my greasy hair cuz i haven’t showered in a couple of days (truth.)
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alright, what did the bosses get me
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me vs wrapping paper
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awww, you got a me hair straightener? … but my hair is naturally straight
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wait, what’s on the back. A GIFT CARD TO CRATE AND BARREL?! OH. MY. GOSH.
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GASP. and martha’s cookie book. *tear*
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it’s so beautiful.
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IS THIS WHAT I THINK IT IS?!
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OH MY GOSH, IT ISSSS
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EEEEEEE! IT’S THE PEGGY PORSCHEN BOUTIQUE BAKING BOOK!!!!
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WHOOTWHOOT
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yay CDs *derp face*
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get that camera out of my face
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is this how you wear it? how does it look on me guys?
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please, can’t you see that im busy opening presents?
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buzz!
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.. ages 3 and up, that means me!

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Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes

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Growing up, my family was never big on celebrating Christmas, or any North American holiday for that matter. In fact, I didn’t know who or what Santa was until I started kindergarten. The day I learnt about Santa and his elves in the North Pole was life-changing. Of course, the excitement didn’t last long:

“MOM! DAD!”

“Hey, how was school?”

“There’s an old fat man named Santa who flies around the world in his sleigh giving presents on Christmas eve!!!!”

“Oh honey, Santa’s not real.” 

Then they proceeded by laughing at me for a solid 5 minutes. (Jerks!)

Weird thing is, I’ve always loved anything and everything Christmas related. Probably because I was deprived of it in my early years 😛 

Now that I’m older, I try to make up for it! I listen to Christmas music (Michael Buble to be exact) from October to January, eat EXTRA chocolate, organize a gift exchange with my cousins, and watch A Charlie brown Christmas at least 3 times. 

I’m going to add these peppermint chocolate cupcakes to my growing list of traditions as well. I made my go-to chocolate cake, filled it with ganache then topped it with a hint-of-mint peppermint buttercream. My sister had one and actually liked it – that says A LOT! 

What are some of your favourite Christmas traditions?

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Oh and if you’ve ever wondered how I take my photos… here’s a picture of my setup. I’m very minimalistic when it comes to photo set-up 😛

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Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk* (I used 1 cup skim milk with 1 tbsp white vinegar)
  • 1 cup strong black coffee 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

How To 

1. Heat oven to 350°F. 

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.

3. Bake 15-20  minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. Frost as desired. Yields 35 ccupcakes.

Peppermint Buttercream

Ingredients

2.5 cups unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp vanilla extract 
mint extract (add to taste) 

1. Beat butter and icing sugar together until light in colour. My trick to getting super fluffy buttercream is to whip the heck out of the butter for 15 minutes.

2. Mix in vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract.

3. Add mint extract little by little (a little goes a long way!!!) until you like it. 

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