A Pajama Baker Wedding!

It’s been a busy couple of months leading up to the wedding, so I had to disappear for a few weeks to make sure that everything got done before Ben and I flew over to the US for our big day.  On October 10th, Ben and I had the most fabulous day and we couldn’t be happier with how everything went.  I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous about how everything was going to come together and if I would have enough time to get everything done in time, but it all did!!

The theme for our wedding reception was what I guess what we could describe as a “London Bakery” – we had a lot of details throughout the day that represented both the US and the UK, but we had to include baking as (let’s face it) there’s a lot of it going on in our house!  I wanted to share with you all some of the more Pajama Baker details and behind the scenes.

Making wedding favlours | pajamabaker.com

I made all of the favors the week before: 600 meringues in 5 different flavours. We had chocolate, hazelnut, peppermint, lemon, and raspberry.

Wedding Favours | pajamabaker.com

The favors also served as placecards for our guests.
(photo by Leigh Skaggs Photography)

Wedding Sprinkle Toss | pajamabaker.com

After the ceremony, we had bags of purple and white sprinkles for people to toss instead of confetti or flower petals.
(photo by Leigh Skaggs Photography)

Wedding SprinkleToss | pajamabaker.com

The sprinkles made for some fantastic photos! We had fun and couldn’t stop laughing as people threw them at us.
(photo by Leigh Skaggs Photography)

Wedding Flowers | pajamabaker.com

We had some really cool floral arrangements that our florist had a ton of fun with. Each table arrangement was in a bundt pan, and we had a big centerpiece as you walked into the reception in a KitchenAid mixer!

Wedding Cakes | pajamabaker.com

Being a baker, I couldn’t settle on one cake, so we had a buffet of TEN plus our 3-tiered wedding cake, making a total of 13 different types of cake!

Wedding Cakes | pajamabaker.com

The cakes were a mix of US and UK cakes made by two local bakeries, but two of them were homemade using Pajama Baker recipes.

The two homemade cakes were my Mom’s Pecan Pie and the Cherry Bakewell Tart. They were two of the first cakes to completely disappear! 🙂

Wedding Ashley and Ben | pajamabaker.com

photo by Leigh Skaggs Photography

Like I said, Ben and I had the most amazing day and we had a lot of fun planning it, even from across the Atlantic.  Now we’re back in the UK and settling back into our normal life. It’s kind of nice not having to spend all our free time designing tableplans or planning timelines.  We’re looking forward to this new chapter in our lives together (and a whole new chapter for the Pajama Baker!).

Now it’s time to get back to baking, and catching up on some posting from a ton of bakes before the wedding, so keep checking back!

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(Special thanks in this post goes to Leigh Skaggs Photography for her amazing talent at capturing our day down to the last details.)

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Poppy Planting at the Tower of London

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of when Britain entered into WWI. As a part of the remembrance activities, the Tower of London is installing over 880,000 ceramic poppies around the moat. The poppies were designed by a British Artist named Paul Cummins.  Each day, about 8,000 poppies are “planted” by volunteers so that the sea of red grows up until Remembrance Sunday in November.

The project has gotten a ton of press, and the sight is truly something to behold. They come spilling out of some of the Tower’s windows in what is actually a quite emotional installation. In order to plant all of the poppies, the Tower is looking for volunteers, so Ben and I took the opportunity to give back some of our time while spending a (luckily) sunny afternoon in one of our favorite parts of the city.

During our four hour shift, the team delicately planted 4,000 poppies!

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We had to assemble the stems that the poppies rest on, which are at different heights to give the poppies their cascading effect en mass. The stems were then hammered into the ground, with the poppies nestled gently between two washers.

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poppies02We also got to spend some time wandering around the moat to see all of the poppies and take some up close shots….

poppies05…as well as meeting some of the Tower’s local residents! (Yes the Beefeaters really live there!)

poppies03All in all, a great afternoon spent for a great cause. To read more about the Tower of London poppies, or if you’d like to volunteer, check out the Historic Royal Palaces website!

Life lately

 

 

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It’s hard to believe so many months have gone by without a single post to Pajama Baker.  At first, I had legitimate reasons – but then as time when by I had a hard time trying to find the words to explain myself and actually talk about what’s been happening.

As some of you will know, I went home to the States in the beginning of November for a visit home and to our Chicago office for work.  Shortly (literally only a couple of days) after my return to London, I received a call from my mother with the worst possible news: my grandmother was terminally ill and was approaching her final days.  About 3 days later, I found myself back on a plane across the Atlantic to attend her funeral. After seeing my family and saying our goodbyes, I’d thought I was alright, but really my grieving had just begun. Granny’s death, combined with a lot of stress at work and a few other figures, opened up a whole emotional Pandora’s box.

I tried baking a bit when I got back to London, but I found my heart wasn’t in it. Something felt like it was missing. And the few times I tried, I found myself focusing more on holding back tears rather than what I was actually making. It all boiled down to the fact that I missed my grandmother.

I had seen her about 2 weeks before she passed away and she was telling me how she was planning to visit me in London next year (2014), and how much she wanted me to make her chocolate chip cookies. Despite the fact she wasn’t feeling well, we laughed and joked around and promised to see each other soon.

In a lot of ways, Granny was my inspiration. She was one of my biggest supporters in both baking and my move overseas. I can remember to this day when I mentioned moving to London, she told me to go. She said that home wasn’t big enough for me anymore, that my opportunities would be greater and more exciting if I moved away. The fact that she was one of the biggest Anglophiles I know also probably played a role – all her stories of British kings and queens and traveling throughout Europe.

And when it came to baking, Granny was the only person whose dessert table would rival mine. Brownies, cookies, cakes – you name it, she made it. And she loved that I baked too – sending me random baking gear as a surprise treat or for my birthday. She shared this blog with her friends, and always asked what I was making next whenever we spoke on the phone.

Granny

 

Suddenly, baking hurt; my heart hurt. I was amazed at how a bit of butter, flour, and sugar could raise such an emotional response about someone I loved so dearly. So, in an attempt to make myself feel better, I boxed up my baking along with everything else I was feeling, hoping that everything would just go away.  But (as I should have known) it didn’t.

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Shortly after my return, on Ben’s birthday, we went out for dinner as a birthday tradition. Little did I know, I was about to receive another shock, only this time for the better. After dinner, Ben and I were walking by the Thames, when he dropped to one knee and proposed. Of course I said yes! I was ecstatic. I was excited. But mostly, I was happy to be spending the rest of my life with the man I love.  After the proposal, things were a whirlwind: calling my parents, telling my friends, then Christmas! We went home for Christmas together and the whirlwind only grew greater – planning, visiting venues, meetings, holidays. There was no time for grief, and I was glad. I thought it had all gone away. Something else had come to take its place and fill that empty space in my heart.

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After a few weeks of emotional newly-engaged bliss, Ben and I returned to London (yeah, three trips home and back in 2 months for me…), but the euphoria faded and I still felt like something was missing. Someone was missing.

I couldn’t just box up my emotions and move on. With them, I had boxed up a part of me because I was afraid of how I’d feel. So I didn’t bake. I just tried to get back to normal and move on. Afterall, I had a wedding to plan!

But like I said, instead of grieving, I had boxed things up. And for awhile, I was okay with that. I kept telling myself that I’d bake again next week, only to find myself making excuses and catching up on that one tv show I missed during the week.

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Fast forward a few months and I found myself starting to dabble again. I dusted off my apron and every now and then I found myself starting to bake. While the spark and excitement hasn’t returned, it’s started to hurt a lot less. That bit of me that I boxed up with the grieving of my grandmother soon became my therapy. Instead of hiding from the emotions of it – I let myself think about them, think about her. I used the time in my kitchen as a way to connect with her and the memories of her, and enjoy those memories. I just needed some time to sort myself out.

So now, slowly but surely, I’m getting back into it.  It just takes time. I’m still waiting on my inspiration and drive to come back; but for now I’ve been resulting to the old classics, namely the chocolate chip cookies that Granny loved so much.

Leigh Skaggs Photography

(photo by Leigh Skaggs Photography)

So, nearly 8 months later, things are just starting to feel normal again. While I definitely still miss Granny, things are feeling much better. Thankfully, I’ve had someone as loving and caring as Ben with me to help me through. He and I are in the midst of international wedding planning, and will be tying the knot in Virginia this October. I’m hoping to start baking somewhat regularly again, despite my wedding diet and I’m looking forward to sharing it, as well as Ben’s and my new life together, with everyone who just happens to find my little corner of the internet.

Thanks for sticking with me,
Ashley (AKA, The Pajama Baker)

Packing up

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Exciting things are happening in the Pajama Baker flat! Ben and I are moving!! So I’m taking this opportunity to give the ol’ KitchenAid a deep clean before he gets packed away for the move.

Needless to say, I may be MIA for a bit while we get ourselves packed up and subsequently unpacked. But I can tell great things are happening, so stay tuned bakers!

 

Jubilee Tea

Last weekend, the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, meaning she’s had 60 years on the throne.  The entire weekend was filled with festivities – including a pageant on the Thames that had over 1,000 boats parading down the river, and a concert in front of Buckingham Palace. To also mark the occasion, everyone in the UK received two days off, giving us a four-day weekend to celebrate – or in my case, bake.

A bunch of the girls from where I work are running the the Race for Life 5K – it’s an event that occurs in different places throughout the country to raise money for Cancer Research UK. To help with the fundraising, I take my baking into work each week and people donate their spare change in exchange for a treat. But for the Jubilee, we decided to to an Afternoon Tea as a more direct fundraiser.

I made my Iced Sugar Cookies, decorated like Union flags and postage stamps, as well as some meringues with whipped cream and strawberries (an homage to a popular British dessert, Eton mess).  Lindsay made some wonderful scones served with fresh jam and clotted cream, which just melted on your tongue. Claire made a classic Victoria sponge (or Elizabeth sponge for this occasion) – which is a type of yellow cake with jam and buttercream frosting between the two layers. And of course, we had a fresh pot of tea and lemonade to go with all of the sweets.

Everything was absolutely delicious and everyone at work enjoyed the break to pay our own little tribute to the Queen, and talk about the Jubilee events. We also raised quite a bit towards our £1,000 goal for Race for Life. If you’d like to donate as well, please sponsor our team at our Race for Life page.