How to Look Mature as a Young Teacher

Teaching teenagers is an extremely rewarding experience, and I’m thankful to have been working steadily as a high school teacher for the past three years. One of the obstacles that I face as a high school teacher, however, is the fact that I look like I could be a high school student! I am short! I am Asian! And I am immature, which definitely doesn’t help my case.

If you’re a young, 20-something year old teacher of adolescents, then this post is for you! I present to you, 5 Fail-Safe Ways to Exert Authority in the Classroom and Trick Your Students Into Thinking You’re Way Older Than Them!

1. Wear your keys around your neck.

You can’t stick your keys in your back pocket like a hip teenager; you need to hang them around your neck in an uncool fashion! The jingling of the keys against your belly also warns students that someone of authority is approaching!

2. Wear a blazer.

Most students don’t wear blazers, so you automatically look older when you put on one of these bad boys! I also just feel more adult, professional, and put together when I wear a blazer.

3. Don’t use a backpack.

This is actually a really important tip! For the first year or two of my career, I wore a backpack to work, and I blended in effortlessly with the Grade 12 students. The day I realized something needed to change was in the middle of my second year of teaching. I was going to be absent the next day, so I had stayed late at school to make plans for my supply teacher. When I was done working, I gathered up all of my things into my backpack, slung it over my shoulder, grabbed my plans, and snuck into the portapack where my classroom was situated. As I entered my classroom and moved towards the desk, I heard the door open and a gruff voice growl, “Hey! You can’t be in here!” I whipped around and there was an angry-looking caretaker staring at me as he disposed of the trash. “I’m a teacher!” I whimpered. “I’m just here to drop off my supply plans!” And I feebly held up my folders and worksheets. He half-apologized and I cursed my backpack all the way home, sad and embarrassed.

I don’t bring too much physical work home since most of my work is done on the computer, so a huge backpack really isn’t necessary anymore. Now, I use a fancy tote bag from Chapters! My right shoulder hates me, but at least I’ll never be mistaken for a student again!!!

Tote bag and cloth laptop pouch on white chair

Here is a photo of my trusty bag! To keep things somewhat organized, I use a laptop sleeve which I purchased on Etsy from a shop called Made by Julie. It’s got cute little cacti on it!

4. Make obnoxious comments about what life was like when you were your students’ age (even if you’re not that much older).

I try to widen the age gap between me and my students by trying to refer to a lack of certain technologies or social media apps in my youth, or by beginning my stories by saying, “Back when I was your age …” In some ways, I do feel quite a bit older than them. The world has changed a lot in the last decade since I was in high school, and kids these days seem a lot different from what I was like when I was their age. Or maybe I was just really nerdy and my high school experience doesn’t represent the norm. (Sad!)

5. Be confident!

Don’t forget – you are a teacher! Tell off that kid for swearing in the halls! Remind your students to remove their hats and pull up their pants! You are in that school to be a role model and a mentor and a caring adult for these students, no matter what you look like. So be glad for your job, and remember that you have been placed in that important position of authority, despite how young you look.

In many ways, I am thankful that I’m close in age to my students. My students are generally pretty relaxed around me, which makes our classroom environment feel safer and more welcoming. Earlier in my career, I wanted to be more strict and have a firm hand on student behaviour, but I think what works for me is simply being myself – chill with the responsible and well-behaved students, and a little bit more naggy and annoying when I need students to pay attention or hand stuff in. I approach student-teacher interactions from a more gentle standpoint rather than an offensive one, and I think this youthful kindness helps students to see that I am truly there to help them. I don’t know how my relationship with my students will change as I age, but for now, I am super happy with my job and I really enjoy working with my crazy kids!

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My Favourite Slow Cooker Recipes

Dangerous Dan and I were gifted a slow cooker as a wedding present, and for the last year, I’ve been testing out different recipes on it! (Some have succeeded, some have not.)

Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker
The star of the show!!!

Here are three recipes that have worked for me. Hopefully they work for you too!

Lasagna by Gimme Some Oven

The first recipe I ever tried in my slow cooker! I pretty much followed it step by step, without any changes. I’ve made this a few times – I added zucchini once and it was a great addition! This lasagna is such a hit, I brought it once to a family potluck and my grumpy teenage cousin who only eats white-coloured foods completely devoured it! (P.S. The sprinkling of basil over top of the lasagna is absolutely essential! It adds a nice zing to the whole dish! The only downside is that I didn’t know what to do with the rest of the fresh basil that was left over …)

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Thai Curry Chicken Soup by The Endless Meal

This was the most beautiful thing I have ever made!

Thai Chicken Curry with thick vermicelli noodles and carrots

I took a few liberties with this recipe because I am lazy and didn’t want to go out of my way to buy fish sauce or palm sugar just for one meal. (These fancy condiments probably would’ve made the soup more flavourful, though.) I did, however, decide to add some mushrooms in to the mix! We followed what the recipe said and decided to eat the curry with vermicelli noodles, but I’d love to try it on rice in the future.

Cooking with curry paste and coconut milk is surprisingly easy, and I can’t believe I’d never even attempted making curry ever before in my life! I’m definitely not going to shy away from making curry anymore. In fact, after making this meal, I made a weird curry noodle soup thing using a yellow curry cube that I had lying around! It tasted okay. Not as delicious as this red soup, though.

Creamy Tortellini Soup by Cafe Delites

I have discovered my dish for all upcoming holiday potlucks!

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This soup takes a little bit longer to get ready because there is an additional step after the original 4 hours of cooking, during which the pre-made, store-bought cheese tortellini is cooking and softening up! Also, I forgot to put in the spinach (which is an additional 5-10 minutes after cooking the tortellini). I’d actually poured out the soup for dinner, remembered the spinach, poured the soup back in the slow cooker, and then added the spinach! (I’m an animal!) Despite all of my obvious issues in the kitchen, this is nevertheless an extremely easy dish to make!

In the future, I’d like to add more veggies and maybe also more broth. (This just sounds like I’m trying to make more servings …) I worried that I’d added too much cream, but Dangerous Dan liked it. However, when I make this for my family Christmas party, I think I’ll put in a touch less cream since I’ll be cooking for a bunch of old Chinese people who don’t eat much dairy.

 

I hope this post has given you some fun ideas if you’re stuck in a cooking rut! Let me know how your slow cooker adventures go. Don’t burn down your house!!!! 

Stories in My Stories

I recently made a semi-conscious decision to scroll through BuzzFeed less, and to read real, physical books more. I had a few reasons for this – I often came away from my scrolling sessions feeling slightly disappointed at how much of a millennial I am, and I also knew that there was so much I could learn from books that the internet could never teach me!

On my Instagram page, I share quick little reviews of the books I’ve read. I have a Goodreads page but I don’t really know how to use it. I keep track of the books I’ve read and I give them a rating, but oftentimes I find that I’ve completely forgotten what the books were about. I don’t want that to happen anymore, so I’ve started writing these brief reviews on the social media app that I use the most: Instagram! (So that I can reread and reread and reread again!)

I like Instagram stories because I can customize the look and make it pretty! It’s also an opportunity to share some love with the author (if they have an Instagram account) and let them know what I thought of the book! Finally, I love that it’s a way for me to share my latest reading adventures with peers who also enjoy reading. We don’t have time for book clubs but throwing book recommendations around is something that we enjoy doing!

It takes me a while to finish a book because teaching is hard and takes up a lot of time BuzzFeed still has a significant hold on me I’m just a busy person. In any case, here are some of the latest books I’ve read and my accompanying thoughts:

I’m excited to add to this collection! Follow along to keep reading about what I’m reading!

What do you do to keep track of the books you’ve read?

My Bullet Journal Blunders

I recently finished my very first bullet journal and I wanted to share my experience with all of you in case bullet journaling is something you might be interested in! I really enjoy bullet journaling for a number of reasons: it helps me organize my many (many!) to-do lists, it’s a place where I can reflect on what God has been teaching me, and it’s fun to try my hand at something creative!

I like to jot down my thoughts in my bullet journal … It’s not just for planning my days!

How I set up my bullet journal:

Everyone has their own way of setting up their bullet journal, and that’s what makes it so fun! A bullet journal is truly unique to the person who creates it. My bullet journal was simple and practical – I actually needed it to function through the week!

I started off with what most bullet journal peeps call a future log, a year at-a-glance, where you can jot down any events or important dates for the next few months. I used this quite frequently, but also got a bit grumpy if an event came up and there wasn’t room to write it down in chronological order. I also had to remember to note the dates on my Google Calendar anyway, so that Dangerous Dan would be able to keep track of my appointments too! For now, I don’t mind doing the double duty of tracking dates in my journal and on my phone.

Next, I had my monthly spread. Some people draw beautiful accompaniments to their monthly calendar; a few months in, and I decided it would be easier to simply write the days of the month down the side of the page and then write in any events beside the appropriate date. I also used the monthly spread to keep track of habits (such as spending time with God, drinking water, and my spending), month-long to-do items, or prayer requests.

A nice, calendar-looking monthly spread!
A lazy monthly spread.

The weekly spread was where I was a little bit more creative. I worked on my weekly spread every Sunday night to ensure that I’d have my head on straight for the coming week. I flipped and flopped between using one or two pages for this, depending on the busyness of the week. The flexibility worked for me and made the agenda seem less boring!

Some examples of weekly spreads:

At the back of the book, I had a couple of fun pages to keep track of books I’d read – including my reading challenge, which is still in progress and going pretty horribly!

What I learned about my style of bullet journaling:

Habit trackers are not for me.

A lot of people with bullet journals really like habit trackers to make sure they stick to a certain habit, like drinking water or exercising. This did not work for me at all – I would get really angry all the time because I was so obsessed with checking off that little box. At restaurants, I would forbid servers from refilling my water because then I’d lose count. I would refuse to buy things for Dangerous Dan because then I wouldn’t be able to check off my “no spend” box for that day. I’ve decided that in the future, I’m going to just keep track of the things that are important for me, like reading the bible.

As you can see, I just stopped tracking things halfway through the month. That “Goals” section was also left empty.

I like to have a mix of themes – or no theme at all.

There are fancy people who have themes for each month. They draw flowers, or stars, or other cute things that I can’t! My bullet journal is really there for me to organize my life, so I just do whatever I want each week – without cute little pictures!

Things I’m going to try in my next bullet journal:

Colour code the major sections of my journal.

All of my planning, etc. is done in a simple black pen from Muji. For everything else, I thought I would use other colours to be more organized. There are three things that always crop up in my bullet journal: professional notes, thoughts on my faith, and bible verses. Each topic will be assigned a specific colour! I wanted the verses to stand out, which is what prompted the colour coding. Now, every time I see purple, I’ll know it’s wisdom from God!

Try to make things a little prettier!

The amount of times I’ve used white out already is innumerable. If something is ugly, I’m going to fix it! I don’t really have any reason for this, other than I want my book to be pretty. (Although I am sometimes more motivated when things are pretty!)

I hope this was a helpful post for those who are thinking of starting a bullet journal! It works well for me and I love taking the time on Sundays to figure out the rest of my week. The great thing about bullet journals is that you’re not stuck in the same format or routine – you can keep changing things around until you find what works best for you.

Happy planning, friends!

Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge!

Part 3 of my San Francisco: FUN posts!

The ultimate touristy thing to do in San Francisco is bike across the Golden Gate Bridge! Dangerous Dan and I decided to make a whole day out of it, although the actual bike ride across the bridge doesn’t take too long.

We wanted to check out the Presidio, a former military base and beautiful park in the northwest part of the city. We took the bus to the Presidio and headed to Sports Basement to rent our bikes (around $35 per person – the bikes came with a lock and a helmet!). The Presidio has lots to explore – such as LucasFilm studios, where a little Yoda fountain greeted us! (Just a note, we went inside and started taking pictures of the fun Star Wars statues but apparently that’s not allowed!)

The bike ride within the Presidio was a bit difficult for me on account of the cars and hills. Once we’d explored enough of the grounds, we headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge, taking a path along Crissy Field Beach. This path was nice and flat and wide, and there were great views of the bridge!

We had to head up a steep hill in order to get to the bridge, and this was where, amidst my screams of fear and frustration and confusion, Dangerous Dan taught me about the different gears of a bike! Once I switched to a lower gear, biking uphill became much more manageable. Our ride across the Golden Gate Bridge took around half an hour because we stopped to take pictures, biked very slowly to avoid hitting pedestrians, and we also walked parts of the bridge when it got too crowded.

We didn’t just cross the bridge for the sake of crossing it, though! We decided to bike all the way to the cute little seaside town of Sausalito. We originally wanted to follow this helpful guide and take a safer route to the town, but we weren’t able to find the path so we just took the main route. I was pretty nervous because I had never biked alongside cars before this point. (Suburbia allows me to bike on the sidewalk because everyone just drives and so there are zero pedestrians!) However, the roads are fairly wide, so we were able to have a care-free ride, even with cars zipping past us! The ride was pretty easy as well because it was mostly downhill.

That helpful guide we used also recommended a restaurant called Fish (such a cute name!). I really should’ve googled directions first, because we zoomed past the busy commercial area by the ferry terminal and biked and biked and biked all the way to the other end of the town! It took around 10-15 minutes after arriving in Sausalito to reach the restaurant, which is in a small parking lot-heavy complex by the marina.

The food at Fish was delicious and seafoody! We ordered poke with deep fried wonton chips, homemade rippled chips with a clam dip, and a tuna melt! Dangerous Dan went to wash his hands and I happily brought the food out to the outdoor picnic tables, when suddenly a flock of seagulls came and attacked me and stole some of my chips!!!! So I hurried back inside and Dangerous Dan and I enjoyed our meal far away from those aggressive creatures!

fish-restaurant-sausalito

The ride back through Sausalito felt much quicker. A wonderful service is available for those who don’t prefer biking uphill back to San Francisco. We left our bikes at Sausalito Bike Return, which helps visitors return their bikes for a small fee of $12 per bike. Then we took the ferry back to San Francisco and our tired legs were thankful for the break.

Well, that’s that for my San Francisco posts! It took me like 3 months to write all of them … what a wonderfully long-winded way to live vicariously through my own travels!

P.S. Here is my San Francisco at-a-glance post, if you’d like to relive the entire adventure once again!

Sailing Around San Francisco!

Part 2 of my San Francisco: FUN posts!

Walking around town isn’t the only way to see the sights of San Francisco! There’s also lots to do by the water. Dangerous Dan and I went on a cruise tour and also visited two islands!

The Bridge 2 Bridge cruise tour was one of the options provided as part of our San Francisco SmartDestinations card. It took us around the bay and literally travelled from one bridge to the other. The Golden Gate Bridge is the iconic bridge of the Bay Area, but there’s lots to admire as well when it comes to the Bay Bridge! Our tour started off with Karl the Fog very much in attendance, but the sun came out to warm us up a little on such a chilly day. And although I dozed off a tiny bit, I’d still recommend some sort of cruise tour though – Dangerous Dan got plenty of beautiful shots of the city skyline while on the water!

San Francisco Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise

We also went on a day-long cruise tour of two islands in the Bay Area: the extremely famous Alcatraz, and the less well-known Angel Island. (We went with Alcatraz Cruises – the link to our specific tour is here. I would recommend going on the tour which visits Angel Island first, and then Alcatraz. There are more boats that leave from Alcatraz, so you can spend a little bit more time exploring that island if you finish your tour there!)

We started our day off on Angel Island, which is like the West Coast version of Ellis Island except instead of happily welcoming immigrants to the United States, it detained them. Upon arrival at the island, we embarked on a (very cold) tram tour, during which our guide explained to us fun facts about the island. Angel Island has played many roles, from military base to quarantine station to immigration centre.

Angel Island San Francisco

I would have liked a bit more detailed information about the history of the island, and I really wish I could’ve visited the immigration station! (I didn’t do my research well enough – it’s only open on Wednesdays to Sundays in the afternoon!) We did get a chance to meander around the immigration station, and I appreciated reading the names of Asian immigrants who unfortunately weren’t given the same opportunity as other immigrants to move to the United States.

 

After a quick lunch on the one cafe at Angel Island (I had soup and it really warmed me up because it was such a cold day!), we hopped back on our boat to travel to Alcatraz. Alcatraz is a must-see when visiting San Francisco, and for good reason! The first thing we did was go on the cellhouse audio tour, which was informative but also a bit scary. We walked through the jail, listening to the stories of former inmates and correctional officers. (I was amazed to hear an inmate say that he had never seen the officers’ quarters until he visited Alcatraz as a tourist. Who knows how many former inmates were among us on the tour?!?!)

Alcatraz

After the audio tour, we went on an additional walking tour. Our guide, Justin, told us about the military history of the island, as well as some really fun escape stories! (One prisoner did in fact make it to the mainland of San Francisco, only to be so tired out that he collapsed right on shore. Unfortunately, he’d swum all the way to the Presidio, a military base – the police simply picked him up while still unconscious and when he woke up, he was back in his cell!) We also learned about the very brief Native American occupation of Alcatraz in the 1960s, something I hadn’t heard of before. I love learning new things! It’s why I travel.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! I have one more post left to write about San Francisco, and then I will have nothing else to write about.

P.S. Check out my blog post on the other guided tours that I went on during this trip!

Putting the Tour in Tourist

Part 1 of my SAN FRANCISCO: FUN posts!

Dangerous Dan and I were such eager beaver tourists that we embarked on not one, not two, but THREE guided tours during our time in San Francisco! We did other fun things too which I will also mention in this post.

*Just a quick note! We got a nice little discount on a lot of these attractions thanks to the SmartDestinations Go Card. We used the San Francisco Explorer Pass to gain access to four different attractions at a discounted price. The tickets were delivered to me via email, and there’s even an app you can download if you don’t want to print the tickets out! It was all very easy!

The first thing I do in order to get a feel for a city is go on the Hop On Hop Off Bus, which I affectionately like to refer to as the HOHO. Dangerous Dan and I used this beautiful big bus to get around and get a glimpse of some of the sights. We had a one-day pass so we didn’t want to dilly-dally, and we chose quick photo op spots to get off at, like The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square.

Big Bus San Francisco

It ended up being a good idea to get off the bus less frequently; we discovered it was difficult to get back on once you got off! So we stayed on the bus as we passed the government buildings, drove through Haight-Ashbury, and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice!

We did get off the bus to visit Crookedest Street. Nothing too special here, just a bunch of tourists and a winding road. We also visited Coit Tower, which gave us a nice view of the city! (One of my favourite parts of the trip was just looking up and seeing Coit Tower sticking out on the skyline. It’s like the CN Tower; you can see it from almost anywhere in the city! It’s comforting.)

Coit Tower and Crookedest Street-min

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Included in our Big Bus HOHO pass were free guided walking tours! We took advantage of the Chinatown one because we are Chinese. Our Chinatown tour was led by a man named Peter who knew so much about Chinese immigrant history in SF! He explained why Chinese people came to the city in the first place (not for the gold mining, but for the opportunities and economies that developed because of the gold mining!). We also learned that the 1906 earthquake is like the epitome of historical significance. (Yay for historical thinking concepts! I’m a history teacher; don’t judge me.) This earthquake was SF’s opportunity to rebrand itself as a less sketchy city, and it was also an opportunity for the Chinese to really stake a claim on their property in Chinatown. Buildings fell down because of the earthquake and then white people tried to take over Chinatown, but the people of Chinatown stood their ground and rebuilt their buildings to look obnoxiously Chinese to show that this was their turf! Man, I learned so much on this tour! I highly recommend!! To top it all off, the tour ended at the very famous Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, which makes very interesting kinds of fortune cookies along with the classic type. We saw some giant ones (the size of your face!) and decided to be adventurous and buy some chocolate fortune cookies! (A little weird, but still fairly enjoyable!)

Chinatown San Francisco

Dangerous Dan loves baseball, so we went on a tour of AT&T Park. Our guide was a grumpy old man who shared with us the history of the San Francisco Giants and their lovely stadium. (It is quite a pretty stadium!) The only thing I really took away was that the food options here are way better than what’s at the Skydome/Rogers Centre in Toronto. If you are a sports fan, you should definitely check this out!

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The last guided tour which I’ll speak about was a little more unique: a haunted ghost tour! This was pretty interesting and allowed us to visit a part of San Francisco which we hadn’t seen very much of yet (the Tenderloin district – what a name!). The first stop on the tour was also our hotel, so that was mildly discomforting. If you’re into spooky stories with a splash of history, I’d recommend this tour! (We also had a couple of free nights left unplanned; we actually booked this tour when we were already in San Francisco! It was pretty spontaneous by my standards.)

We also decided to “get out of the city” a little bit – not really; this place is just at the very far west end of SF – by going on a nature walk at Lands End. We took the bus from our hotel all the way across town to some random hospital, then awkwardly walked through the hospital grounds until we arrived at the start of the exciting Coastal Trail! We got some foggy views of the Golden Gate Bridge, but we weren’t able to see the shipwrecks which had been advertised on this very useful website! (If you ever decide to visit Lands End, definitely visit this website first to get an idea of what to do and where to go!) We walked up and down stairs, saw a labyrinth, climbed a rock, and slipped on sand.

The Coastal Trail also lets out in a fancy neighbourhood so we ogled some of the swanky mansions as well. Tucked away among the mansions is China Beach, which is just a very calm beach, also with a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge (weather permitting)!

The last thing I will write about in this already very long post is the California Academy of Sciences! We spent a good part of an afternoon here, exploring the exhibits, making faces at rainforest animals, and (unfortunately) falling asleep in an IMAX movie. (We were tired from our long hike at Lands End!) I will say that I am very impressed by the talent that the science centre was able to procure – the first movie we watched was narrated by Lea Salonga, and the second one, which was about outer space and meteors (aptly named “Incoming!”) was, naturally, narrated by George Takei. (We did not fall asleep at all during the second movie!)

Well, that’s that for this blog post! It took me like two weeks to write, and there’s still so much I have to tell you all! (There’s just so much you can do in one week in San Francisco!)

Wedding Planning with Dangerous Dan

The memories of our wedding and the planning that came before it are no longer fresh in our minds, but I decided to chat with my lovely husband anyway to reflect on the wedding, the wedding planning process, and how married life is going! I originally wanted to post this as a sort of silly how-to guide for our newly engaged friends, but I take so long to write blog posts that all of my engaged friends are now married.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the interview!

a post-wedding interview

THE ENGAGEMENT PERIOD 

(We were engaged for around 10 months!)

Describe wedding planning in five words.

Planning a really great party!

Describe your level of participation in the wedding planning process.

I was involved at the beginning, and then involved at the end. There was a lot of in-between stuff that you did, like the DIY and the decorations. The big stuff that you usually get out of the way at the beginning – like the venue and the food – I was involved there.

Where can you cheap out and where should you spend?

*Thinks for a while.* Where can you cheap out? … Depends on your priorities, I guess. The catering’s always the most expensive. If your venue allows, you can elect to not have an open bar and just do consumption. [Editor’s note: We knew we wouldn’t have that much drinking of alcohol at our wedding on account of the aging aunties and uncles in attendance. We had a consumption bar, which meant that  we paid a flat fee for non-alcoholic drinks (times the number of guests), and then we paid for whatever alcoholic drinks were consumed throughout the night. We paid the cost ahead of time, based on an estimate. Our guests didn’t drink as much as the event manager had estimated, so we got money back after the wedding! It was fantastic!] I feel like you can cheap out on decorations but I don’t think that really saves that much money.

What was the most challenging part of wedding planning? The most exciting part?

Just all the DIY. It seemed like the most challenging thing for the two of us, but not really for me. [Editor’s Note: This is because I did most of it since I was off on my summer break!] Invitations were challenging too, but as long as you have a very clear understanding of who you’re going to bring, then it shouldn’t be too difficult.

The tasting was the most exciting part.

THE WEDDING DAY

How would you describe our wedding in five words?

A really big Christian party.

What was the most exciting part of the day?

The ceremony, I guess. That was the only part where I didn’t feel like it was a big show.

What words of wisdom do you have for people who are about to be married?

If you don’t have the time, don’t DIY. Just buy a fake plant from Ikea or something as a centrepiece.

MARRIED LIFE

Do you like being married to me? If so, what do you like about it?

I like being married. *pause* To you. I like doing everything together.

 

And with that, he put his NHL PlayStation 4 whatever game away and started playing Mario Party with me! And that is how married life is going.

P.S. Here are some other Dangerous Dan interviews: Germany and New York!

A Cardboard-Themed Wedding

Pinterest-inspired, do-it-yourself weddings have been all the rage for the past few years, and I hate to say it, but I am such a basic millennial that I too fell into the trap of trying to make my wedding more *~unique~*.

If I had to give my wedding a theme, any of the following names would be fitting:

  • Brown Office Supplies
  • Yarn and Card Stock
  • Arts and Crafts (For the Elementary School-Age Child)
  • Made by Michael’s

As you can tell from these “wedding themes”, the decorations were pretty basic and I made most of them myself, even with my limited arts and crafts skills. In any case, here is a quick DIY instruction guide for anyone out there who wants to make similar crafts!

A Fancy Window for a Fancy Ceremony

This was very easy! My friend had just replaced the windows in her house and so I had an almost limitless supply of old windows that I could write on!

I used two windows: one for the order of ceremony, and the other to introduce all the important people in the wedding! I used gold and silver markers to write directly on the windows, although upon reflection, sticking to one colour might have been better. We ended up having to lay an awkward brown tarp thing behind the window in order to make the words more visible.

Daniel-Claire-257
As you can see (or maybe as you can’t), it’s very hard to read the writing on the windows. A darker marker would have been much more effective!

I used Craft Smart oil-based paint pens from Michael’s. They did a pretty good job; they just need a good shake before you start writing. Nail polish remover easily removed my several mistakes, but writing on the window after having applied the nail polish remover was a bit of a struggle (the marker wouldn’t stay on as nicely). So basically I couldn’t make any mistakes!

Place Cards: Where the Card Stock Shines (Figuratively Speaking)

This was the simplest decoration of all; even Dangerous Dan was able to help! Instead of having a seating chart, we laid out place cards in alphabetical order. Guests simply found their name, and then checked the back of the card to see which table they were at.

I used four different colours of card stock: brown, white, pink, and grey. (You can tell I love colour!) Each colour represented the meal that the guest had chosen, so servers were able to quickly tell who had ordered what.

Place Cards Wedding Decor-min

To make the cards a little bit more interesting, I used washi tape (also from Michael’s) and simply taped the bottom edge. Dangerous Dan and I figured out a whole system – he would measure out an 8.5 x 11 sheet of card stock in 6 equal rectangles, then tape the washi tape down along the lines that he’d drawn. Then I would fold the card and do the writing! Teammates for life! (Yikes, that was cheesy.)

Centrepieces: A Wooden Slab Can Elevate Anything

There were a few elements to our centrepieces: a bottle wrapped in twine with our table numbers (complete with fun facts!) simply plopped into the bottle, a jar with a candle to provide a little bit more light, and a pot full of flowers! All of this came together nicely on a circular slab of wood. (These wooden slabs were very popular around the time we got married; I think people have moved on now. After our wedding, I had like 3 different couples ask me for slabs of wood though!)

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The fun fact at this table says, “The number of weddings we’ve attended together.” Jeepers that’s a lot of money.

I bought a bunch of “soda” bottles from Michael’s, buying one or two at a time to make use of the daily sales they have at that crazy store! (Seriously, I went to Michael’s almost every day during this decoration-making process.) Wrapping the bottles was fairly easy. I slathered the bottom edge of the jar in liquid white glue, then slowly and carefully wrapped some brown twine around the edge. I held it there until it dried, then made my way up the bottle, gluing and wrapping as I went along. The important thing here is to keep things tight! I kept pushing down on the twine so that there would be no random holes. At the top, I simply wrapped the twine until I couldn’t any longer, then cut off the remaining piece to make it nice and neat!

Inside the bottle was the table number and a fun fact! I took barbecue skewers from my parents’ kitchen and made them a little bit longer by taping about a third of another skewer to the existing skewer. (Did that make sense?!) I wrote and cut out the numbers on the same brown card stock that I’d used for some of the place cards. I taped the skewer to the number, then added a fun fact for good measure! It was hard to come up with fun facts for us – we had 20 tables! Some things I made up, like “number of visits to Ikea”. I (obviously) don’t have a firm number on that, so I let myself use that as a filler for numbers I was stuck on. I did the same thing with “number of times Claire went to Michael’s to get decorations for this wedding”.

Finally, we placed fake candles inside jars, and covered them with translucent gems, so that the jars emitted a bit of a yellowish glow. A little bow was tied around the jar as well. We had a friend design a little logo for us, so we put it on everything – the jars, our favours (tea leaves in tiny cork bottles!), the envelopes for our invitations … I had a stamp made, so we can stamp our faces on things for as long as we both shall live, but I also printed the logo out on sticker paper, which is what I placed on the jar lids and on our wedding favours. It was all very simple!

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Well, I hope this was somewhat helpful for anyone out there who is hoping to make fun and easy decorations for whatever parties that are happening in their lives. It was quite a bit of work; I spent an entire summer (yay teacher life!) creating these silly decorations, but it was still really fun! My house was like a factory and making these decorations was pretty mindless, so I made my way through a bunch of TV shows while still feeling pretty productive!

Our anniversary is coming up real soon and we are celebrating with a sizzling plate steak from my favourite Hong Kong-style cafe! I’m so excited!

We Got Married!

(We’re going to take a quick break from our San Francisco posts to do something a little bit different!)

Dangerous Dan and I are coming up on our one year anniversary, so I thought I’d write a few posts in celebration! I’ll share some nice pictures in this post, and in future posts I’ll share the not-too-exciting DIY crafts that I made for the big day as well as a reflection on the whole planning process.

We got married on a fairly warm mid-October day. The rain held off for most of the day, and we didn’t mind the threat of precipitation too much since grey skies are supposed to be easier to work with for photographers! (Look at how pretty those grey skies are in the photos below!)

 

I had forgotten to set my alarm the night before because I had stayed up late (you’ll see why in the following paragraph!) … and at 7:00 AM (only 4 hours before the ceremony start time!), my mom knocked on my door and announced that my hair person had arrived already! Other than the excitement of waking up late, the morning was pretty chill and I was even able to have some yummy breakfast from my favourite Hong Kong style cafe.

 

We had our ceremony at the church where I grew up, which really felt like home for me! I’ve since moved churches and I love the community that I’m a part of now, but I’m still so thankful for the guidance and love that I received from the friends, aunties and uncles there. The ceremony was nice and I sobbed throughout worship. Dangerous Dan and I had both written our vows at 3:00 am the night before, but I remember feeling so touched by the thought behind his words and also being impressed by his eloquence! (He really does have a way with words!) I’m thinking we should reread our vows on our anniversary and be reminded of the promises we’ve made to each other because I really have forgotten what I said!

After the ceremony, we took pictures at Trillium Park, the new public park right by Ontario Place. The park had opened the summer before we got married and I couldn’t find any sort of photo-taking policy (probably since it was so new). I really liked how simple but still beautiful the park was, and the photos turned out so lovely!

 

We held our reception at 99 Sudbury, a glass factory-turned-event space in the Liberty Village area. We loved the white walls and clean space. We didn’t add too many decorations, just some vines twisting up the pillars, round white balloons, and string lights to brighten up the room a bit. The event manager at 99 Sudbury, Sarah, was kind, helpful, and detailed without being a micromanager. She responded to my several emails promptly and without complaint!

Event space at 99 Sudbury in Toronto with lights and round balloons on ceilingTable Settings at 99 Sudbury in Toronto for Fall Wedding

During cocktail hour, we held a tea ceremony for family members. We collected the gold and the money (woohoo!) and smiled for about 45 minutes straight. My face was frozen by the end. I also put on a fancy Chinese dress that’s been passed down a few generations – my sister, a couple of aunts, and a great-aunt all wore this same dress at their weddings! I’m excited to see who else will give it a spin in the future! (Wearing the Chinese dress was also a nice break from my wedding dress – it was loose and unfitted, so I was able to breathe for at least part of the day!) It was nice to see family members (especially those who had travelled from out of town) individually and have a chance to thank them face-to-face.

 

Our food was catered by the Food Dudes, one of 99 Sudbury’s preferred caterers. The hors d’oeuvres were such a hit and it’s unfortunate that I only got one platter to share with the rest of the bridal party. If I had been a guest, I’d be attacking the servers, hanging around the kitchen door, and stuffing those little appetizers into my mouth! Seriously, the food was so good. (It’s unfortunate that my dress was so tight that it sort of ruined my appetite! I only ate our appetizer and a bit of the main dish. I did not touch our dessert at all. At least I’ll always have the original food tasting to look back on …)

Butter Chicken Balls from Food Dudes at 99 Sudbury Toronto Wedding
Butter Chicken Balls! (I also loved those wooden slabs that the food was served on.)
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Roasted Beet Salmon.
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Sous Vide Short Rib – SO delicious!

The night was pretty relaxed and it was great catching up with friends and family and having them be with us on such an exciting and important day of our lives.

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since our wedding! It’s been a pretty good year so far; nothing crazy has happened and Dangerous Dan and I are still getting along, all by the grace of God. Back when we were still in the engagement period, we told ourselves that through our marriage, we would learn to love God, each other, and others more. We’ve forgotten about this promise a couple of times, but hopefully our anniversary will give us a renewed energy and desire to see this promise through.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

All photos by Michael Chang, who is an awesome person!