Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Go Vertical Chicago

The first few years I was in grad school, my lab was on the 12th floor. One day, we somehow ended up in a discussion about how long it would take to get to the 12th floor using the stairs. One of my labmates, Roby, claimed that it could be done in a minute. As most of us were expressing our skepticism, Roby disappeared and returned about a minute later slightly out of breath. Sure enough, he had just climbed the stairs and proved his point.

I was thinking about that recently as I was training for Go Vertical Chicago, a fundraiser for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (which supports my postdoc fellowship). The premise of Go Vertical is pretty simple: climb the stairs to the observation deck of the Sears Tower. 103 floors, 2109 steps. Luckily, we live in a high-rise building (55 floors), so it was very easy to prepare for the race.

My main goal for the race was not to embarrass myself. I was also hoping to finish in around 25 minutes, so I was happy with my final time of 25:38. That was good enough for 522nd out of 1952 finishers. Among the people that beat me were the top male (13:55), top female (15:45), a ten-year-old girl (21:05), and a 71-year-old man (20:51).

It was great to see all the participants and supporters at the Sears Tower. There were a number of teams with homemade t-shirts and a few firefighters that climbed the stairs in full gear. I think next year Michelle may even climb as well!

There was an "official" photographer at the event. I can't put the actual photos here, but here are some links:
Before the race. (Michelle wanted me to kiss my bicep, but it looks like I'm eating my shirt.)
Beginning of the race.
Floor 101 or 102.

Also, if you're interested, there was a story about the event in a local magazine. Click here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Six of one, a half-dozen of the other

Any way you slice it*, here's to a very Happy 6 monthaversary!

*How many other idioms can I use here?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

NO on Prop 8

May 17 was the happiest day of our lives. We had planned to have the wedding in Banff for a while, but we easily could have gotten married anywhere in Canada or in any of the 50 states. Moreover, it was trivial to have our marriage recognized when we came back to Chicago. (When I registered Michelle for my Northwestern staff benefits, I didn't even need to show a marriage certificate.) Of course, things are only this easy for some of us.

If you live in California, you know that your vote in the presidential election is essentially meaningless. But please don't let this stop you from exercising the privilege to vote on Tuesday (if you haven't already). This should be the easiest choice you'll ever have to make on a ballot, unless they put a proposition to revoke women's right to vote on the 2010 ballot. It's really that basic: maintain equality or take away rights for a segment of the population. There's simply no logical reason to ban same-sex marriage.

I know I'm preaching to the choir. The two or three readers of this blog have probably already voted. But the latest polls suggest that the race will come down to the wire. Tell your friends and coworkers. Vote NO on Prop 8.

Friday, October 17, 2008


A few years ago, Michelle did an interview for a Discovery Channel series called "Most Evil" where she talked about some of her research from grad school. Yesterday, I discovered that they now have a bunch of clips from the series on their website, including part of Michelle's interview. So, if you're interested, you can check it out here.

During her brush with stardom, Michelle learned about "B-roll", the extra footage they sprinkle in with the main interview. (The clips of Michelle walking down the hall, opening the door, etc. are B-roll.) We thought it was interesting that they give it a name.

Anyway, if the clip interests you, you can also read Michelle's paper on the topic here

Five but no fighting

Happy fifth Monthaversary hubs!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Weekend in San Francisco

Last week Brian had a retreat for his fellowship in Marshall, CA (yeah, I didn't know where it was either! But I did learn that there are some oyster farms are on the way...). So we went up to SF the weekend before to visit with friends and eat some yummy meals. Nathan and Angi were kind enough to put us up for the weekend (thank you to others for offering, too!) and drive us around - we really appreciated it.

We arrived Friday afternoon, and stopped in at the Lim lab to say hello. Brian had a chance to talk with Wendell, and we spent a few minutes at a poorly planned Beer Hour. From Mission Bay, we headed to San Tung for dinner. The tally of dishes for dinner was pretty impressive, we came down on 6 orders of wings and many other plates. Many napkins were sacrificed in the completion of this meal (yeah, I know, gross):

Fifteen people at a table for 10? Bring it on:

Saturday morning we slept in and headed back to the Sunset for a nice dim sum meal (we haven't even tried to have dim sum again in Chicago since our first disastrous experience). It was here that we had our first baby sighting of the weekend's baby trifecta - 2-month old Susannah, daughter of Alex and Charlotte. Adorable! Not a great picture, but she's the little bundle on Alex's chest:

After dim sum we went over to Ben and Erin's house to hang out with Baby #2, Esme. Last seen at our wedding, she is now about 14 months old and full of energy and curiosity. So incredibly sweet:

In the evening we drove out to Half Moon Bay for some really nice sushi. We haven't eaten much sushi out in Chicago aside from rolls, because we just figure we'll be disappointed (unless we're prepared to pay big $$!) It was great, though the lure of In 'N Out was *almost* strong enough to pull the boys in on the way home... but no, they resisted. You'd better believe that Brian regrets it now!

Sunday morning Brian and I BARTed over to the East Bay to round out the baby trifecta, and visit John, Erin and Natalie in Oakland. Anjuli joined us as well, and we had brunch at a cute diner. Natalie is also only about 2 months old. It was neat to see old friends as new parents, it always brings out a side of people you haven't seen before. Once again, not a great picture of the baby - when they were out of their coccoon-like carriers, I was too distracted to take photos!

After that lovely visit, we BARTed back across the bridge. Brian went off to meet his ride to the retreat and I went to Lara's cute new apartment right next to Parnassus. It was fun being back in that neighborhood, though I really do not miss having to park and find parking on those hills! We set out to meet up with Nathan, Angi and others at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park.
It was incredibly crowded (that's what beautiful sunshine and a ton of free music will do) and it took us a while to cross the park, but we finally found them, along with Ben/Erin/Esme and Alex/Charlotte/Susannah. The babies left, and we went over to watch (well, listen to) Gogol Bordello before leaving the park. As expected, the crowd was diverse and enthusiastic. Nathan and Angi went home to catch up on work for the weekend, and Lara and I had dinner at Fresca before I went to the airport. Great food and conversation - a perfect way to end a perfect weekend!

We had such a great time, it was so nice to catch up with good friends that we haven't seen since the wedding (and before!) Going back to SF was a joyful experience, reminding me of what a great city it is, how many awesome people we met there, and how lucky Brian and I were to have lived right in the fog-belt. Looking forward to the next trip already!

Friday, September 26, 2008

OFT No. 16 - Architecture River Cruise with Donald

Since Donald's birthday was last Friday, we took him on a cruise on the Chicago river last weekend. These architecture cruises are quite well-known and one of the 'touristy' things that are actually worthwhile. We weren't able to go last year, because we didn't look into it until pretty late; they sell out in advance and only run into the fall. Several different companies run these tours, but I have a membership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation and have heard that theirs are the best, so we went with them.

The tour is 90 minutes, which is quite a long time but I felt like it only touched upon the plethora of amazing buildings that shoot up along the river. Downtown Chicago has probably the most amazing architecture in the country, much of it built after the 1871 fire. Many of the buildings were designed by a few architects/firms, so there is some thematic continuity among them. (I was pretty proud of myself for guessing that the Amoco building was designed by the same architect who did Waite Philips Hall on USC campus.) Our guide, a volunteer docent, worked in water management so we got to hear quite a bit about the development of the river and its effect on the growth of the city.

I only took a few photos, because if I snapped every cool shot, there would have been way too many. Here are a few:

Here we are, ready to embark!

One of my favorites, 333 Wacker Drive. I like it even more
knowing that it was used in the movie Ferris Bueller's
Day Off (as Ferris' Dad's office building)!

The view from some of the condos downtown, which
will soon be blocked by yet more condos.

Another nice skyline view

Another of my favorites, the United building. I didn't
take this picture myself, it's from here

One advantage of the cruise is that you get to see buildings that would be hard to reach otherwise. I'm really glad we got to do it (finally!) and I even think it would be fun to go again - I'm sure the tour is pretty variable from docent to docent, and the downtown cityscape is always changing with buildings going up and coming down.

OFT No. 15 - Chicago White Sox vs. Detroit Tigers

The chair of my department has seasons tickets to everything in Chicago - baseball, basketball, hockey, football, opera, you name it. He generously gives many of these tickets away to faculty throughout the year. Before the wedding, he offered to treat Brian and I to a couple of games but both times we had to decline because we were busy (I always felt bad - who wants to repeatedly deny their department chair?!?!). Finally he offered us tickets on a day that we were free, so a couple of weeks ago after some uncertainty due to rain issues, we found ourselves sitting in left field at US Cellular Field. He has 4 seats, so he and my boss were there too.

We're not the hugest baseball fans, especially on TV, but almost any sport is fun to watch live. This game was not too interesting at first - the White Sox were up 7-0 through I think 7 innings, but the Tigers scored a few runs and got a grand slam to tie it at 7-7. Tense, right?! Well, in the next half-inning, the Sox fought right back with their own grand slam, and that was that. Pretty exciting!

We live so close to Wrigley Field (we can see into it from the living room) but game days are more of an annoyance than anything, given the amount of blue-clad fans that clog the roads around the stadium. We *may* even root against them making it into the playoffs... (sorry! But game nights make my drive home twice as long!) Like I said, watching sports live is pretty fun because you get caught up in the action (even if you have never cheered for the team a day in your life). I'm thinking we just might have to go to a Cubs game or two while we're here. Brian probably disagrees... definitely a Blackhawks game, though!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

OFT No. 14 - LTH Forum picnic

Ok, I have a few OFTs to rattle off for you. Yes, we've been having fun, just not posting about it!

Here in Chicago, there is a very active online community called LTHForum, which is all about (what else?) food. It's similar to Chowhound, which I used to be a part of (kind of) when we were in California. Basically, if you have any kind of question (or opinion) about a restaurant, you will find information about it on here. There are also boards about recipes and cooking, and lots of other, food-related topics. Brian prefers to lurk and not post, but I like to post once in a while when I feel like I can contribute. We found out about LTH pretty soon after moving here, and have started using it quite a bit in our culinary adventures.

The people who frequent the boards are a pretty large but tight group, and seem quite friendly - in cyberspace, at least. There are always in-person events happening, and we decided we should begin to take part. Usually, it's just someone inviting others to join them at a restaurant, so maybe 10 or so people would go. But we decided to jump into the deep end, and make our first event the "Annual Picnic," a potluck affair held at a park picnic site. The signup for the event had almost 100 people on it!

There were dozens of dishes: homemade sausages, 'dragon turds' (incredibly spicy grilled chorizo-stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon), cucumber melon salad, homemade charcuterie, dreamy orange dessert squares, yak, deviled ostrich eggs, incredibly good kefta, braised raccoon, cherry pie, and so on and so on. You can see in the picture, that several long tables were heaving from all the food. Everytime we got up to walk around, new dishes appeared! Someone even brought a durian, but the smell was so offensive (to some) that they had to cut it open at a picnic table far away from the rest of the crowd. We brought cheese rolls (if the academia thing ever doesn't work out, Brian could be a bread baker) and Butter tart bars.

Here are a few photos of the day:

The spread... appears to go on forever, doesn't it?

People brought their smokers and grills for on-site preparations.

There was even a pinata for the kids! A chile pepper, no less...

It was a great foray into a new world, and we are excited to attend more events soon.

Random photo of the day - on our way home from the picnic, we spotted this auto insurance company beauty.
I wonder if their premiums are as retro as their sign?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Two Bacons of the Month - Aug/Sept 2008

Our last two bacon selections each offered something unique:

Swiss Sugar Cottage Bacon - August 2008

Apparently, "Cottage Bacon" is bacon made from the pig's shoulder, so the shape is very different from bacon made from pork belly. Not surprisingly, the Swiss Cottage Bacon was considerably leaner than any of our other bacons, but this particular variety did not have a lot of flavor, so it ended up being much more similar to a ham or back bacon ("Canadian-style" bacon). In fact, I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever added salt to bacon.

Edwards Cinnamon Apple Smoked Bacon - September 2008

You read the title correctly, our last bacon was cinnamon apple flavored. There was definitely a cinnamon aroma to the uncooked bacon, but the cinnamon flavor was quite subtle in the cooked product. Nevertheless, this was an outstanding variety of bacon, and made really good BLT's, especially with the heirloom tomatoes we received in our CSA box. This is an example of bacon that's best eaten as whole strips (rather than being chopped up as an ingredient in a larger recipe).

To compare, here's a picture of the uncooked bacons (Cottage Bacon on the top and Cinnamon Bacon on the bottom):

Before we get to the final bacon ranking, I just want to say that it's been really fun trying a different type of bacon every month. Thank you very much to all of the people who contributed to this gift. It's going to be difficult going back to Oscar Meyer and Farmer John's.

Final Bacon Ranking:
1. J. Samuel Whiting Hickory Bacon (Apr 2008)
2. North Country Cob Smoked Bacon (Oct 2007)
2. (tie) Edwards Cinnamon Apple Smoked Bacon (Sept 2008)
4. Vande Rose Farms Applewood Smoked Bacon (Dec 2007)
5. (tie) Hudson Valley Smokehouse Smoked Country Style Bacon (Feb 2008)
5. (tie) Burgers' Pepper Bacon (Mar 2008)
5. (tie) New Braunfels Smokehouse Comal County Smoked Bacon (June 2008)
8. Swiss Sugar Cottage Bacon (Aug 2008)
9. Jim Oliver's Hickory Smoked Bacon (Jan 2008)
10. Tripp Country Bacon (Nov 2007)
11. Loveless Cafe Country Smoked Bacon (May 2008)
12. Scott's Country Bacon (July 2008)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Four more months! Four more months!

Happy fourth monthaversary, hubs!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Score one for Thomas Hobbes

On my drive in to work on Friday, I was following a car that suddenly swerved to the right for no apparent reason. As they drove on, however, I realized what the driver had done - they had intentionally swerved into a flock of pigeons that was picking at some trash on the ground. In the car's wake, I saw that at least two of the pigeons were dead. I could not believe it. For a moment I thought about chasing after them, but quickly realized that was not a good idea. It was so upsetting that I started crying on the freeway. I am no fan of swarms of pigeons (visiting the piazza San Marco was like a living nightmare!) but I would never try to hit one on purpose. How can anyone be so cruel?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I've wanted to go to L2O since I heard about the chef's blog, where they talked about the process of setting up the restaurant, the products they were using, and had pictures of potential dishes. So when Michelle chose it for her birthday dinner, there weren't any complaints from me.

We decided to go "all-out" and opted for the twelve course (+ extras) tasting menu. (The other option is a four course prix fixe where the categories are raw, warm, main, and cheese/dessert.) Overall, the dishes were all technically impressive with really attractive presentations and some innovative touches.

(We chose not to take pictures during the meal, but I have linked to pictures on flickr or on the L2O blog.)

Amuses: a clam (I don't remember the name, but it was similar to geoduck in texture) with cucumber and jalapeno, and a kampachi tartare in bonito gelee with lime foam

M: The jalapenos in the clam amuse were minced into the smallest cubes - maybe a square millimeter! All of the ingredients were treated with care, cut into perfect cubes or formed into perfect rounds.

1. Fluke. Sashimi with grapefruit, shiso and ossetra caviar. Really nice, but too bad it was only a single bite!

2. Tuna. The cubes of tuna were arranged like a checkerboard (similar to this) with some "squares" replaced by olive and olive oil emulsions.

3. Tofu. Housemade with red miso, bonito flake, and tomato.

M: I really enjoyed this, it was light but flavorful.

4. Shimaaji. Rubbed with red miso, with tiny radishes, and "soy salt". This was definitely an innovative variation on a raw dish. One of many gadgets they have in the kitchen is a freeze-dryer, which they use to freeze dry soy sauce to make the soy salt. (Similar to this)

5. Halibut. This was by far the standout dish of the meal. According to the server, the halibut was steamed, but I suspect that it was cooked sous vide because the texture was incredible. It was served on a jamon clam chowder, with a tiny frisee salad, and a ginger-parsley "cracker". Apparently, the cracker is made from a meringue which is piped into a circle and freeze-dried. The final texture is really light (almost like cotton candy). Altogether, this was an amazing and memorable dish.

M: The cracker was immensely cool. It tasted quite like lobster tomalley to me (in a good way), so much so that I was surprised to hear that it contained no such thing. The frisee salad included the tiniest chopped micro chives (seriously, I was won over by all the lilliputian ingredients in the meal. You could say it was all very cute, but that would undermine the detail and care that went into all the preparation).

6. King Salmon. With corn and jalapeno purees. Definitely well-cooked, but a bit of a letdown after the halibut. At the outset of the meal, Michelle wasn't too jazzed about salmon, so she asked for the substitute. They gave her skate wing with bordelaise sauce and asparagus (including these ridiculously tiny spears of white asparagus).

M: Again, with the tiny. We thought they might be strands of enoki mushroom at first, but upon closer examination and taste, they were definitely tiny asparagus. I was glad I got the skate wing, as it had an interesting, not unpleasantly stringy texture and a nice caramelization.

7. Lobster-Chanterelle. Lobster quenelles (like a dense mousse with very intense lobster flavor) in a lobster foie-gras broth with chanterelles.

M: I was disappointed that this dish was not "real" lobster but it was very interesting, rich, and very lobster-y indeed.

8. Cod Fish. With green olive, meyer lemon, white grits. Unfortunately, the first plates they sent us were overcooked, but they promptly sent us another plate that was much better.

M: It just goes to show that you should not be intimidated about sending something back if you know it's not right. The second rendition was SO much better than the first, I was glad we got the dish the way it should be made. I was just sad that I didn't eat all of the super-yummy grits from the first plate before we complained!

9. Pork Belly. Black truffle sauce, and caramelized potato (see here). Really rich with a very crispy skin.

M: The potato cylinder was piped with a potato cream that was really delicious. And the roasted pork belly, well... it was like a deluxe bacon and Chinese roast pork all in one...

10. Medai. A butterfish served shabu-shabu style with a very intense chicken-kombu bouillon. A very elaborate production.

M: This was really nice, as the fish was good both raw and lightly cooked. The best bite involved wrapping a piece of fish in a shiso leaf and dunking it in the broth for a few seconds. I was sad that the broth was taken away and not returned to us, and confused when the server explained that it only comes back when it is part of the 4-course meal, not the tasting menu. What a strange waste!

Pre-desserts. A chocolate truffle with soy salt (a really nice combo actually), and a canteloupe shaved ice with agave syrup.

M: I. Love. Fruity. Ices.

11. Mango. Sorbet (more like a frozen pudding) above chopped mango with a tropical fruit soup and soft "marshmallows". This was really refreshing and tasty.

M: I. Love. Icy. Fruits.

12. Praline. A ridiculously tall souffle (like this).

M: Swooooon, this was so incredibly good. Light and eggy, nutty and caramelly.

Post-desserts. An amazing pistachio macaroon (the green one in this image) and a chocolate ganache.

I also have to mention their standout bread and butter. Both the bread and butter are made in house, and they offered us 6 different kinds of breads (including tiny little baguettes and a bacon pain d'epi), all of which we ended up trying.

M: I loved all the extras. The breads really were just amazing, both because they were adorable replicas of larger artisanal loaves (my love of all things mini strikes again) and also because they were just plain tasty (there was also an anchovy brioche). And the pre- and post desserts and migniardises were all really good, not just thrown in as filler.

Overall, it was a great experience, but also the most expensive meal we've ever had. The most obvious comparison is to our engagement dinner at Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA, which I've previously described as our best meal ever, but it's a difficult comparison, especially if you consider that Cyrus was close to half the price. The service at Cyrus was much more polished and the individual dishes were stellar, but L2O was certainly more original. Luckily, there's a place for both!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Michelle's Doppelgangers?

We've been watching a lot of the Olympics the last two weeks. (As an aside, we really wish we could watch CBC coverage, but we have to live with NBC refusing to show many events until many hours after they've happened. Usain Bolt's world records would have been much more exciting had I not already known about them.)

Anyway, during the gymnastics coverage, Michelle thought that one of the chinese gymnasts looked like a "little Michelle". To be honest, I don't really see it, but you can decide for yourself. (Just in case you're wondering, Cheng Fei is the only gymnast whose age is not being questioned.)

Of course, she's not really serious, but since then, she's also found "big Michelle" on the Chinese volleyball team.

Who knew Michelle was so self-centered?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Scott's Country Bacon - July 2008

I have to apologize for taking so long to write about the July bacon. The last month or so have been quite busy with trips to Toronto (conference), Ithaca (Scott and Sonya's wedding), and Tucson (Michelle and Jesse's wedding). In the middle, I also attended a 4-day workshop that included a couple 12 hour days. All that being said, I probably would have posted sooner had we been more excited about the Scott's Country Bacon.

This was another example of overly salty bacon. Unfortunately, Michelle also detected a relatively prominent metallic taste. I didn't notice it at first, but after she pointed it out, it started to dominate the flavor. Needless to say, this quickly became a bit unpleasant.

We've also received the August bacon, but the packaging was broken, so they are sending us another package with the September selection. Stay tuned.

Bacon ranking:
1. J. Samuel Whiting Hickory Bacon (Apr 2008)
2. North Country Cob Smoked Bacon (Oct 2007)
3. Vande Rose Farms Applewood Smoked Bacon (Dec 2007)
4. (tie) Hudson Valley Smokehouse Smoked Country Style Bacon (Feb 2008)
4. (tie) Burgers' Pepper Bacon (Mar 2008)
4. (tie) New Braunfels Smokehouse Comal County Smoked Bacon (June 2008)
7. Jim Oliver's Hickory Smoked Bacon (Jan 2008)
8. Tripp Country Bacon (Nov 2007)
9. Loveless Cafe Country Smoked Bacon (May 2008)
10. Scott's Country Bacon (July 2008)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Good Things Come in Threes

... or is it, good things come to those who wait? Eh, either way, it works.

Happy three monthaversary, hubby!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

OFT No. 13 - Two Weddings and a Little Waterfall

The first two weekends in August meant two weddings at opposite ends of the country. The first was Scott and Sonya's, in Ithaca, NY. Sonya was my labmate at USC, and we've kind of led parallel lives over the last little while. We defended our dissertations within about a month of each other, got engaged around the same time, and were planning our weddings at the same time too. Neither Brian nor I had ever been to Ithaca, so it was neat to be able to go out there and see Cornell and the area. It was a beautiful wedding, despite the threat of thundershowers all weekend. The rains did come down, but not until we were safely in the tent at the reception (and then they made for some fun moments, like seeing Sonya and Scott running through the grass under a big umbrella). Here are a few pics from the weekend:

The new husband and wife!

Us with Mr. and Dr. Lundy/Negriff at their Sunday picnic.

The suspension bridge connecting the north and south parts
of Cornell campus.

The view from the suspension bridge, one of many gorges around Ithaca
(whence comes the saying, "Ithaca is Gorges" on all those T-shirts).

Congrats Sonya and Scott! Welcome back from Belize!

On the way to the Buffalo airport on Sunday, we stopped at Niagara Falls to check out the natural wonder and gaze longingly at Canada just across the way.

The view looking East (Canada is just across the bridge!)

And now we've moved West. All that white behind Brian is mist
coming up from the falls.

So then we were home for a short 4 days before heading to the airport again, this time on our way to Tucson, where the temperature in August is usually a pretty unforgiving 105 or so. It ended up being a bit cooler than that - but it was really humid as it was 'monsoon season,' apparently. This time, the happy couple was (Brian's cousin) Michelle and Jesse, and it was fun to see some of his (my!) family. Their ceremony was in a new-ageish Catholic church which had a neat set up that had the guests facing toward the center rather than the front. I don't have a really good picture from it because I tend to be too shaky when I'm excited or emotional, but here are a few from that weekend.

The beautiful bride!

The hubs doing the honors of ordering at Sonic between the ceremony
and reception. I love Sonic! Word on the street is that the first Chicagoland
outpost opens next week, near the outlet stores, no less... sweeeeeeeet!

The couple and the bride's parents on the grounds of the Tucson
Country Club, where the reception was held.

The fam! Aunt Wendy, Donald, Peggy, Yeye and us.

A pretty desert sunset.

And after that, we ate cake, lost a jacket, and danced till dawn. Ok, more like midnight or so, but it was a really fun night. Congratulations Michelle and Jesse! Hope you are having a wonderful time on your honeymoon in Italy!

That's it for Wedding Season 2008, the BEST wedding year ever (I say with only the slightest of biases). No more trips planned till October, when we return to old stomping grounds and head to San Francisco. Frankly, all the travel we've been doing lately was getting a little tiring! But one of the things I took away from planning our own wedding was how meaningful it was that people made the effort to come, so it is was definitely our pleasure to be able to attend these two lovely events.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Missing something?

Brian just told me that I never posted the third installment of the wedding recaps, skipping straight from the ceremony to the dinner (whaaaa?) So I've just published the post, but it got inserted way back among the June entries - if you want to go back and fill in the gaps, you can check it out HERE.

Sorry it's been a bit quiet on the bjourn front lately, but never fear, things will pick up again. In the last few weeks, we've attended two wonderful weddings, so look for an OFT post about those soon. And yes, more bacon is on the way (only 2 shipments left) ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wedding Recap Part IV

After a small bjourning hiatus, we have collected almost all photographic records of the wedding (yes, including the much-awaited professional shots!) so I am ready to finish up the recaps.

I'll post a bunch of photos in this entry, but if you want to skip the narrative and go straight to the photos, you can find them by clicking here. We posted our favorites from both the professional batch and the ones collected from friends and family. There are many pro pics (287, to be exact), which, trust us, is just a subset of what we got. It was hard enough paring down to what you see - we still have to pick our favorite 80 for our album! Any suggestions?

Now on to the conclusion of my wedding thoughts and memories. All photos in this post are from Lee Simmons, our photographer. I believe we were last seen heading into dinner...

11. It's really difficult to eat when you're constantly grinning ear to ear. Despite swearing up and down before the wedding that I was going to eat my fill at the reception, and being ecstatic that we were able to do the "Night at the Castle" food stations (we weren't sure we'd have enough space at one point), I barely touched anything the whole night. There were too many people to hug, too many happy tears to shed, and too many songs to dance to. All accounts of dinner were highly positive - there were a lot of compliments for the cheese, the lambchops (I did have some of those, they were excellent), the risotto, the shrimp, the sushi (which got snapped up faster than tickets to a New Kids on the Block concert in 1990) and the desserts. It's no secret that food is important to us (if you don't know that, you should get the idea by reading through this bjourn), and hotel banquet food is always a bit of a gamble, so we were really glad that everyone enjoyed it. (That may be my largest regret of the whole wedding, not enjoying the food more! I can live with that.)

12. It's nice to get toasted. No, I don't mean *that* kind of toasted. I mean, it was so amazing to have people who know us so well and love us so much get up and say all sorts of nice sweet things about us. (Once again, my trepidation at being the center of attention went right out the window on the actual day.) All of the toasts were full of memories and good wishes, and they just may have brought a tear or two to my eye (who are we kidding). I think the pictures capture a lot of how we felt while we were listening to them.

Jon's toast contained some slightly scandalous but fully hilarious stories
(that's right, we were spanked for being bad as children):

and a heartfelt acceptance of Brian as his own brother:
Donald's told of contrasts between our two sibling relationships ("not so much play fighting [as Jon and I did], as Brian chasing me angrily up and down the stairs"), and how Brian had changed and opened up with his family over the course of our relationship. I was just laughing at how hard Brian was laughing the whole time:
Heather's toast was a funny reminiscence of our elementary and junior high school days together, including her brilliant turn as campaign manager in my successful run at the student council presidency (what did I do in office that year, anyway?!):

Mike talked about his friendship with Brian throughout grad school and how important it was to both of them. Hoo boy, I am getting a lump in my throat just thinking about the toasts again:
13. We successfully avoided kissing to clinking glasses. Brian and I may have disagreed on many things about the wedding, but one thing that we absolutely were in sync about was that we did not want to give in to this wedding tradition. I was worried people would be disappointed when we announced at the outset that we would not succumb, and there were a couple of respectable attempts to make us do so, but somehow we avoided it all night. It likely had a little something to do with the mad skills that Jon displayed as emcee of the evening. He creatively made everyone work for our kisses. Among other things, he had people suck on super sour candies he made magically appear, and he had one couple from each table show us how it's done.

As long as it wasn't at the clinking of glasses, we were happy to oblige:

14. All the time and effort that went into the details was worth it. At some points, planning this wedding felt like it would be my early demise. If I didn't bleed to death from a thousand x-acto knife pricks or papercuts, I thought I would surely go blind from all the time I spent on my laptop researching flower wholesalers, cardstock suppliers and labware supply stores. It might be a bit surprising to some, but I really had very few concrete ideas about the wedding itself before we got engaged (ok, yeah, except for the favors. Yes, it's true, I decided to make candles for the favors many many years ago, and as Heather said in her toast, I began stockpiling supplies as early as 2005.) So a lot of what ended up in the wedding was the result of much consideration, and even more trial and error. As the wedding neared, I also started to worry about how it would all come together - so much was done piecemeal and at a distance, I didn't know if it would truly work. And I wouldn't know, until the wedding. Yikes! But looking back on pictures like these, I would do it all over again. The scariest thing? I would probably do even more. (But only if I once again had the help of my amazing friends).

15. People dig a dancefloor. Though we don't go out dancing very often (ok, like never these days), we used to be pretty good at shaking our groove thangs at our college formals and the odd club outing. More recently, weddings seem to be the only place we really get down, and it's always so much fun because pretty much everyone can be convinced to get up and dance. In case you're trying to deny that you were there, here's some photographic evidence:

And, finally...

16. The night ended too soon, but the rest of our lives had to begin sometime... Yes, we were exhausted from a week of sleepless nights leading up to the wedding. Yes, we had been not only on our feet but also on our best behavior for 15 hours. Yes, our faces were sore from smiling, our eyes were tired from tearing, and our lips were dry from kissing(!) But if I could have, I would have willed the night to go on forever. Getting married in the midst of our friends and family was the happy culmination of not just 15 months of planning, but the last 12 years of our lives. 12 years of living apart but learning and growing together, filled with some downs but so many more ups. We had been looking forward to the celebration for so long that I wanted it to last forever, though I also knew that the wedding was just the start of things, or really, the continuation of what we had already started. May 17th, 2008 was the best day of our lives so far. But in the end, what we did on that day - marrying each other - was just setting us up for bigger and better things. The wedding may be over, but we have so much to look forward to. For the rest of our lives, we will have "best days," days that break personal records and days that compete with our memories of one amazing weekend in Banff. The very best part of it all, though, is that we will have them together...

So, dear friends and family, that ends my public recap of the wedding (because you can bet that I will relive it over and over again in my head for eternity!) Thank you for being there, whether in the flesh or through these posts. Be sure to flip through the new photos (linked again here so that you don't strain your wrist scrolling all the way to the beginning of this novel :) ) and let us know what you think. Here are a few more teasers for your viewing pleasure:

We will now return to our regularly scheduled bjourning about more normative events in our lives. OFTs, bacon, not-so-deep-thoughts and general silliness in the Windy City and beyond.