November 30, 2013

Our 2013 Advent Calendar

Tomorrow starts one of my year-round favorite traditions: the advent calendar! You may remember last year I bought a reusable advent calendar from Etsy, with pockets to put messages or candy in them. Last year we put both things, but this year we decided to go with messages exclusively, since it's what we enjoyed the most a year ago. This year I bought some color  A4 papers and made stars, rectangles, circles and hearts out of it. Then J and I filled each of them with a message for one another. I wrote all of them in Catalan this year, since J is learning and I figured this would help. We'll see! All I know is I'm looking forward to read my message tomorrow morning. Good night now!!! :)

November 27, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Our wedding ceremony

Our wedding ceremony was one of a kind. In the US it may be very common to have outdoor wedding ceremonies, but in Spain most ceremonies take place inside a church. This and the fact that I had bridesmaids were something you don't see everyday. I'm happy to say my wedding ceremony is the best one I've ever been to. A lot of guests told me it had been the first time for them to attend a wedding where the bride and the groom sit facing the guests. Indeed, in the church, couples sit facing the priest, so guests can't see the expression on their faces, which I think is a pity. I loved facing my friends and family during the entire ceremony, filled with conspirational looks and seeing how all of them got touched by our ceremony.

Details! A huge gypsophila flowerpot, my wedding bouquet, and the decoration of the chairs

My dad and I waited on the suite of the hotel, which has the secret window I told you about to overlook the venue of the ceremony, until the flower girls and boy and my bridesmaids walked down the aisle. Then we got ready and... that was it, one of the most emotion-filled moments of the wedding: the moment I walked down the aisle with my dad. I felt everyone looking at me, some trying to capture the moment with their phones, others just spellbound enjoying the moment. I was very calm the whole time, even when I looked further beyond the guests and saw not only my bridesmaids but J, the love of my life, waiting for me. I didn't realize at that moment, but later on J told me that he was not as calm as I was. The moment he saw me was a real shock for him, and he had trouble holding back the tears. It actually started as soon as he saw the flower girls holding the blackboard with the message Jeff, here comes your bride..

I will never forget that father-daughter walk down the aisle. It was perfect. My dad and I hadn't even rehearsed the walk, but we really didn't have to. Everything went real smooth, I kept smiling and at one point we were even talking to each other, although I forgot what we said.  The moment when my dad gave me away to J is also something I never want to forget. Poor J probably didn't understand a thing, because for one reason or another my dad decided to speak in Catalan to him @@ He said: Jeff, here you have my daughter. Take good care of her. And with a kiss on my cheek from my dad, off I went to J's arms.

We all sat and the mayor started our wedding ceremony by introducing us, himself, and the wedding venue: La Garriga de Castelladral

Directly overlooking the stunning Montserrat mountains...

There were three unforgettable speeches during our wedding. One from my BFF Marta, one from J's best friend Herman, and one from my dad. I'm so thankful to these three amazing people for having made of my wedding such a touching one. I think every guest wanted to cry at some point by listening to the speeches they prepared for us. Even the speakers themselves got emotional while delivering the speeches, specially Marta and my dad, who couldn't help but crying. 

I think I never mentioned how amazing I found the fact that our wedding had exactly 100 guests {plus 2 babies! A 2-weeks-old girl and a 3-months-old boy}. I mean, even if you planned for it, it would never be possible to nail it down to exactly 100! I took it for a good omen ^.^

J reading his vows...

Putting on a ring I'll never take off

I couldn't ask for a better wedding. This one was all I ever wished for! At the perfect place, with the perfect weather, in the perfect dress, with the perfect person.

On the way to sign the legal papers after the ceremony. I was obviously in a hurry to sign them. What if J changed his mind in the last minute?! Just joking :p

We signed the papers with our witnesses, my mom and J's dad. On our way out afterwards, white and pink flower petals came flying at us, it was awesome! :) I think I'm gonna have to make a post about the music we chose for our big day, because all these special moments came with their special songs, and it really made the whole thing magical.  Then all the guests hold a white balloon, J and I hold 4 red heart-shaped ones, and we all let them go at the same time. This was one of my favorite things! It was really beautiful. Again, with a special song ;)

I hope you enjoyed this post! As usual, I only chose a handful of pictures... There's so many beautiful ones I couldn't share with you, so just make sure to follow me on instagram where I keep uploading new ones :)

I love this pic with Marta! It's definitely the best one we have in 20 years of friendship :D

Next Wednesday, another HUGE post: our wedding photography session in the woods!!!

November 23, 2013

The Green Juice frenzy

Green juices are the new trend in the eat healthy, detox your body frenzy. Raw juices made mostly from kale are in high demand to the point where in cities like Hong Kong, imported kale is at a shortage, with organic food shops keeping long waiting lists for when the product hits the store. One of the most influential avocates of the green juice diet is Gwyneth Paltrow, who describes her strict diet consisting in lots of raw juices in her book It's all good, published early last year. Gwyneth follows a vegetarian diet that excludes anything from animal origin, except for fish. But don't think this vegan diet implies all veggies and fruits are ok, she claims tomatoes and strawberries produce allergies. I personally can't imagine giving up afternoon tea, cupcakes, burgers, pizza or pa amb tomàquet! Er... yeap, not happening for me. That doesn't mean I won't be drinking some green juices every now and then, which apparently have the same energizing effect as a cup of coffee without all its nocive effects.

Curious about this new trend and excited about all the potential benefits, I decided to go ahead and make myself Gwyneth Paltrow's Best Green Juice. The recipe is as follows:

5 large leaves of kale, ribs discarded, leaves roughly chopped
1 lemon, zest and pith removed
1 large apple, roughly chopped
A 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger
1 sprig of fresh mint

Push all the ingredients through your juicer. Alternatively, you can chop all the ingredients and pop them into a powerful blender with 120ml of water, then pass the mixture through a strainer.

Gwyneth recommends drinking this in the morning for breakfast. I personally can't imagine pouring this on my empty stomach. The resulting drink was like a super strong minty lemonade, a.k.a. one lemon with a hint of mint squeezed down my throat. But this didn't stop me from wanting to get myself initiated in the green juice trend. The recipe calls for 5 leaves of kale. Since it's really difficult to get the kale imported from the US here in Hong Kong, and I'm using Chinese kale (Gai Lan) instead, 5 leaves of that was NOTHING. Also, one whole lemon was way too much. So I decided to slightly modify the recipe to cope with these problems. Instead of 5 leaves of kale I went all cray cray and stuffed like 15-20 leaves in my drink. And instead of a whole lemon I just put half. I also increased the water a bit, instead of 120ml I put 180ml. This recipe turned out waaayyy better! I could taste the kale, and the lemon taste was not as crazily sour, perfect to drink in the morning! I made it for J too and he said it would be much better with some raw honey in it, so we tried with a teaspoon of honey and it does indeed taste great! This is how my modified recipe looks like:

15-20 large leaves of Chinese kale, ribs discarded, leaves roughly chopped
Half a lemon, zest and pith removed
1 large apple, roughly chopped
A 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger
1 sprig of fresh mint

Push all the ingredients through your juicer. Alternatively, you can chop all the ingredients and pop them into a powerful blender with 180ml of water, then pass the mixture through a strainer. Add one teaspoon of raw honey and drink immediately.

This being said, I still feel like this juice produces a lot of waste.  The only part of the kale you actually use are its leaves, since the recipe calls for the ribs to be discarded. It breaks my heart to throw all those kale ribs into the bin, knowing that they too have a lot of nutrients. Not only this, once you finish straining your juice, you're left with the pomace of the juice, which goes to the trash as well. I guess this  is nothing new and happens with all juices, but still. I can't help but wonder if eating the whole kale steamed isn't a better option. I mean, there's no waste whatsoever eating steamed or boiled kale as a vegetable! I was wondering why the world had gone crazy with green juices when simply eating vegetables seemed even better. Then I realized the whole point about the green juice is the fact that its ingredients are raw. According to several health coaches, food looses some of its enzymes, a.k.a. vital energy, when exposed to high temperatures, hence the benefits of eating it raw. If you're interested in this topic, you may find the documentaries Raw and Rawer inspiring. They are the controversial documentaries of a Dutch teenager who, under his mother's supervision, eats nothing but raw vegetables and fruits. What's your opinion on green juices and raw food? I'd love to hear from you!

November 20, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: My Wedding: The boys!

Our wedding would not have been the same without these four amazing guys, J's best friends since childhood, and J's groomsmen on our big day. They came all the way from the other side of the world to share J's happiness and support him on the most important day of our lives. Both J and I will be forever grateful to them for joining us in our wedding.

These are the pictures of the five of them getting dressed for the special occasion, also in the hotel from our wedding venue, La Garriga de Castelladral

Details! The groom's shoes and bow tie, and the groomsmen bow ties :)

Next Wednesday I'll be sharing the most important part of our wedding, our marvelous outdoor ceremony, the beautiful celebration in which we became husband and wife!

November 18, 2013

Afternoon tea at the Four Seasons Hong Kong

The Lounge at the Four Seasons Hong Kong is one of my favorite venues, atmosphere-wise, for afternoon tea. I love how bright it is, with its huge windows all over its right hand side facing the harbor. I've been here for lunch, tea and dinner, and I like it best during the day, when the whole place is bursting with sunlight. 

By the looks of it one would think this is the conference center with so many guys in suits! Yet I assure you this was afternoon tea time! Business over afternoon tea, oh how perfect!

I love how they always decorate this table so perfectly! Look at these floral arrangements, it's the first time I've seen roses in a vase set up like this! I'm still not 100% sure how they are holding up! Gorgeous!

You may remember I blogged about the Four Seasons Festive afternoon tea buffet, but I still hadn't had the regular afternoon tea set, so last Thursday my friend Aurora and I went to check it out!I had the chocolate tea and unfortunately it was not as good as I had expected. It had another flavor besides chocolate which I'm unable to describe but which I'm not really fond of. 

The tea set itself was gorgeous, specially the top, with those two lovely daisies! The bottom layer had savories that were good yet not outstanding.The scones on the middle layer were PERFECT. I think they are the best in town together with the ones at the Mandarin Oriental. They came with delicious clotted cream, too. This tea set is worth the visit even if it's only to eat scones! The top tier had very good sweets, I was actually surprised by their good quality.

Visited on: November 14, 2013
Overall rating: 4.5 / 5
Price: HK$470 + 10% service charge for a tea set for two. HK$250 + 10% for one. 
Value for Money: 4.5 / 5
Would I recommend it? Definitely! This is a great high tea experience!