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October 18, 2011

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in cake-baking,life


[Northstar at rest, October 2011.]

After all that, after brushing off the crumbs and packing away the dress and wistfully wishing the flowers adieu and trying not to get toooo weepy saying good-bye to beloved family and friends who live far (too far, darn it!), we went north to the mountains for a few days. It’s amazing how exhausted I felt after a week of (almost non-stop) talking, a few intense days of baking and making a cake, organizing dinners, driving to and fro, trying to remember to bring everything I wanted to bring, surviving on little sleep and not enough coffee (I just couldn’t sleep well for days; could you? But it didn’t much matter after all.), and attempting to wrap my mind around a life-changing event. It was so much fun, YES, but it was also kind of a Big Deal.

It was so quiet in Tahoe — or rather, more accurately, Truckee, which is on the north shore — that I sunk down deep into it and am still there a bit if only in memory. And it was so marvelous. One day it rained, so we borrowed umbrellas from the front desk and hiked up the mountain anyway to find a little lake, carrying bottles of water in our pockets and thinking about lunch (or maybe it was just me that was thinking about lunch). We ate delicious veggie burgers and fries and big salads and lots and lots of cheese and swam and drank champagne in front of a (fake) fire at two o’clock in the afternoon. I slept and slept and would still be sleeping if the sun hadn’t come out and it was time to go for more veggie burgers and lemonade and then the long trip back to the city …

And so here I am, back to ‘normal’ life again with the sun shining in San Francisco, an enormous pot of roasted tomato and garlic soup in the fridge at home, a soy latte nearly digested, and a bowl of quinoa and chard and tofu waiting for me for lunch. Has it really been over a week since being in that quiet, that sweet, clean air? Has it really been two weeks since I baked that behemoth of a wedding cake and squeezed too many lemons to count to stir into eggs and sugar to make lemon curd? Has it really been over a month since I canned all that blackberry(/huckleberry) jam?

Oh time, you fickle friend …


[Just before, October 2011.]

I thought about doing a Wordless Wednesday post with photos from October 8, 2011 (a.k.a. My Wedding Day ™), but in truth I didn’t take that many. Alas! I told my photographer — the fabulous Andi Hatch; Bay Areans, please look her up for any wedding or portrait needs as she is charming, cheerful, sweet, and incredibly professional and talented — that I’d considered walking down the wee ‘aisle’ with my camera as the only necklace I’d need or want (she laughed), but I thought that it might be too distracting if I was taking photos of the sun, the light on the white building, the shimmer of the grass at the same time I was saying some vows and, y’know, getting married and all …

(Anyway, there are many more talented photographers out there than I could ever hope to be, and I was lucky enough to have a few of them shooting in both a professional and friend capacity — bless the photographers in my life who I know and love and who decided, after all, to not leave their cameras in the car. (And bless me for inviting them, no?))

But I did manage to grab a few, one of which is that one above, taken just after Kate brought up glasses of sparkling wine for us to drink during the few minutes we had in between putting on our dresses and waiting to go downstairs. We sat on the window seat and sipped a little and me at least felt remarkably calm. I feel that cool breeze still: It was a glorious day, the windows were flung open to let in Indian Summer — tinged with a bit of fall, for it is October after all –, the sun kept shining despite our proximity to the coast and I could see people arriving below. I wanted to hold on to that moment forever, the just before. I took a deep breath and felt the breeze and sun and friends and what was coming next and I do believe that time stopped its rushing, just for a second. And so I am grateful.


[The cake! Photo by my dear Randy Wentzel, October 2011.]

I don’t really want to go back and do it again because the day was perfect as it stands from start to finish, sun all the day-long and good cheer and happiness all ’round. But … I might like to see my cake once more, for despite a slight Tower of Pisa-like quality it stood firm until the time came to cut it up (quickly, and the tiers were whisked apart in a flash, probably so as to avoid any catastrophe. Note to self: better shoring up of the layers next time.), another thing for which I’m mightily grateful. It gave me a slight thrill every time I passed it by (I made that!), though if only we’d spent just a few more hours together in our finery … It was perhaps not my prettiest cake, but it was certainly my largest: five tiers, four of which were yellow filled with alternating ribbons of lemon curd and blackberry jam, and one of which was a chocolate cake filled with a simple chocolate ganache. If the buttercream looked a bit rough it tasted darned good. In my book that’s the main thing.

And lest I forget to mention the additional masses of cake, there was also Emily’s beautiful flourless chocolate cake, of which I tasted not one bite (!!), as well as an English fruit cake heavily saturated with brandy made by my mum-in-law; I didn’t taste that one, either. (Truth: I hardly tasted my own other than a small mouthful; luckily there were leftovers.)

So I guess if I did get to do it all over again I might 1. eat more cake and 2. … Well, I can’t really think of anything else I’d do differently.


[The morning after, October 2011.]

Though I proclaimed all along that I’m not really a ‘wedding person’, I must be honest and admit I did care about certain things, and I did want to have a hand in as many of the details as possible. No, I couldn’t cook the dinner myself — believe me, I sort of wanted to — but it could be made up of things that reflect what I like to think is my ‘food aesthetic': simple, fresh, as local as possible. To that end, there was lots of salmon, simply roasted, as well as chicken, a delectable vegan vegetable curry, perfectly steamed and salted cauliflower (of course), salad with greens from the farm down the road, roasted fingerling potatoes, and good bread and butter. If I obsessed mildly over some of the paper goods they were so pretty and somehow I wrangled lavender into the picture, too. We hand-made the place cards, the table markers, the cakes, the jam, the playlist … it was a simple affair at its heart, but I think the sun, the candle-lit dinner, and the presence of all of our nearest and dearests elevated the evening into something special.

And while I am rather hopeless with flowers — well, I can cram a bunch of sweet peas from the farmers market into my largest vase and place it just so — there’s no doubt they are a major component that helps to prettify and make special. Luckily for me, one afternoon back in March or so, my mom and I were in Petaluma perusing some of those aforementioned pesky paper goods (it must be done, though I fought it along the way — my free time!). We happened upon the card for Fallon Anderson, who is based in that farm-centric stretch between Sebastopol and Petaluma — sort of in the wilds of Sonoma County a bit — and from first meeting until the end of the wedding night she came up with absolutely beautiful work that brought everything together. Blackberries in the arrangements! Heirloom roses! Gorgeous bouquets! Lovely flowers for my non flower girl flower girl! Silver vases and containers to present them all! Plus she is so passionate and committed to what she does and just plain nice. Please, call her. I am so serious.

What else to say? The day was wonderful due in no small part to the people we had helping us — who gets to have her florist floof out her dress just before going to say ‘I will’, and then hangs out afterward for a beer? Or whose photographer piles new husband and best lady into a car with the heat turned up high to go to Muir Beach for a photo shoot? And they both run small local businesses, which was incredibly important to me — and the reality that, by my firm dictate, we kept it (truly) as simple as we possibly could. Major events have so many moving parts, and I tried to streamline and organize everything beforehand as much as possible. Sure, not everything went as ‘planned’ but what does? It didn’t really matter.

Once I finished the cake I was able to sail through the rest of the time, enjoying the party at my parents’ house on Friday night and lingering over coffee at breakfast the morning-of. I always knew all would be well thanks to my support system (family and friends, you were invaluable), but also because I always kept in my mind the main purpose of it all: you and me. (OK, and maybe some champagne, too.)

Over a week later that is still the purpose of it all, and always will be.

Today I wish a little bit to be in the mountains still, to have all that cake-baking ahead of me still (yes … because I am crazy and like enormous baking projects), to be in that moment of just before. Yet I know if I’m fortunate there will be many more moments of just before.

I wonder what will come next.

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