Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bacon of the Month - May/June 2008

The May bacon was scheduled to arrive the week we left for the wedding, so we asked them to delay the delivery. As a result, we received two packages in relatively close succession. Unfortunately neither one was really much to write home about.

Loveless Cafe Country Smoked Bacon - May 2008
When I opened the shipping box (not the package itself), there was already a strong smoky smell. Indeed, the cooked product was both smoky and salty...incredibly smoky and salty. Quite a disappointment after the strong April showing.

New Braunfels Smokehouse Comal County Smoked Bacon - June 2008

The best thing I can say about the New Braunfels bacon is that it wasn't at all objectionable. Other than that, however, there wasn't much to make it stand out. Solid, but certainly not exceptional.

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)

Au Pied de Cochon

As I said in our previous post, the only thing we planned in advance for our trip to Montreal was dinner at Au Pied de Cochon. It has received a fair bit of press (even in the US) for its meat-oriented dishes and its audacity to put foie gras on poutine. Looking over the menu (and numerous reports on food blogs), we were definitely excited and the restaurant did not disappoint. As you can tell from our previous post, Michelle decided to take pictures of almost everything we ate, so there will be more food porn below.

We started with "Foie Gras Cromesquis" and "Pickled Bison Tongue". The cromesquis (sorry, no pictures) were basically deep-fried croquettes with molten foie gras inside. Think shanghai soup dumpling, only deep-fried and enhanced by foie gras. Pretty outrageous start to the meal. The pickled bison tongue was very good, but we realized that it wasn't the dish we ordered, which was actually "Tarragon Bison Tongue". Luckily, we still got to try the tarragon bison tongue, which was even better:

Next, we shared the "Plogue a Champlain":

We had read about this dish on food blogs, and I have to admit I was a bit worried that it would be "too much": buckwheat pancakes, potatoes, bacon, and foie gras. But wait there's more! The whole thing was covered in a thick maple glaze. My worries were completely misplaced. This was definitely the best dish of the meal. You know when you have pancakes and bacon? Whether it happens accidentally or intentionally, the best part is the bacon-syrup combination. So take really good bacon, a maple glaze (i.e, real maple not "Log Cabin"), and then add foie gras, and how can you possibly go wrong?

Entree: "Stuffed Pied de Cochon with Foie Gras":

So they take the bone out of the leg of a pig, stuff it with more pig. Then they deep fry the whole thing and top it with mushrooms and fiddleheads and a seared chunk of foie gras. The whole thing is served on garlic-cheese mashed potatoes. And it really was as big as it looks in the picture. This is definitely an entree for two people, and we still only ate about 2/3 of it (and you all know that we're not shy about putting the food away). Maybe part of that was to save room for dessert, "Pudding Chomeur" (basically a biscuit-cake on top of maple soup:

The service was great, but we noticed an interesting quirk about their staffing. The server who took our order did only that, and deliver the bill. There seemed to be about three people of this position in the restaurant. Meanwhile, there were two guys that ran all the food to the tables (these guys were working really hard), and two or three people to refill water, bring bread, etc. I'd be interested to know how they split the tips here.

So that was definitely a pretty spectacular meal, and the prices were quite reasonable. Next time, we'll have to try one of their enormous seafood platters...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Minimooning in Montreal

We're going to take a break from wedding recaps so that we can wait for more photos to arrive and tell you a little bit about the weekend we spent in Montreal after the wedding.

We're going to try something a little different here - a collaborative post! We'll see how it goes...

M: Even though I love traveling, for some reason I gave very little thought to the honeymoon. I think there was just so much to do with the wedding itself, I didn't have the extra time or energy to plan a whole other thing. Planning travel, especially, takes a lot of research - flights, hotels, activities, food, the very thought made me feel stressed! At the same time though, we didn't want to just come back to Chicago after the wedding. It would have felt very anticlimactic to come back, and do our regular weekend chores - laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning up and then go back to work on Monday.

B: Since plane tickets were (and still are) ridiculously expensive, we cashed in some frequent flyer miles to get our tickets from Air Canada. They give you a free stopover, so this allowed us to stop in Montreal on the way back to Chicago after the wedding. As most of you know, I was actually born in Montreal (although we moved soon after I was born), and worked in Montreal the summer after my first year at UBC. We didn't really have much time to plan any sightseeing, but we knew we wanted to eat three things for which Montreal is known: poutine, smoked meat, and bagels. Also, I made a reservation at Au Pied de Cochon, a restaurant that has been receiving a far bit of buzz, largely because they make a poutine with foie gras.

M: So, the minimoon was really about two things: sleeping and eating. The weeks leading up to the wedding were crazy full and busy, and adrenaline carried us through the Sunday brunch. But afterward, all I wanted to do was lay in bed and think about the wedding! So it was actually really good that we were going to Montreal, a place we had both been, that we were excited about but didn't feel like we needed to "do" all in a few days. Ok ok, I know you're all thinking, show us the poutine! After a redeye flight, we got into Montreal early in the morning, checked into our hotel (which was pretty swank, actually - thanks Priceline) and took a nap. Then, we headed out in search of the good stuff. And we found it (get ready to hear angels singing):

B: For those of you who don't know, poutine is a Quebec specialty. On his show TV Nation (before Fahrenheit 9/11, etc.), Michael Moore travelled to Canada in search of our "national food". Apparently, he decided that poutine fulfilled the requirements. It's not really widely available outside Quebec, however, so we knew we needed to eat it at least a couple of times. The basic poutine has three ingredients: french fries, cheese curds, and hot gravy. Our first meal in Montreal was poutine and a sandwich (good, but not bjourn-worthy) at Frite Alors. This definitely hit the spot, and was a great start to the trip.

M: Good gravy, that's a-makin' me hungry!

B: We were pretty full, but only a few blocks away from Frite Alors is Schwartz' Deli, which is widely regarded as the place to go for Montreal Smoked Meat.

M: Yes, that's right, not long after we gorged ourselves on poutine, we schwaltzed into Schwartz's, where we were faced with this beauty:

M: The first time I had smoked meat was at a brunch the day after our friend Andrea's wedding. Though I'm not much of a beef fan, I actually really enjoyed it. (I stopped eating beef altogether in high school, but after a few years I picked it up again and have since re-joined the red meat ranks. But, I still don't eat any cuts that are best eaten red, like steak or prime rib - I know, it's so blasphemous!) Even though there was precious little real estate in my stomach (move over, cheese curds), this sandwich was excellent, all unctuous and salty and tender.

M: There would be no more eating Thursday, we were done for the day (don't worry, there is plenty of gluttony to come). We walked back to our hotel via St. Catherine's, a major thoroughfare that borders McGill University. It was much as I remembered from my trip out to visit Brian in 1997, in particular I noted several joints of the strip variety, advertising their "danses contactes" in bright orange neon.

Friday, we started with dim sum breakfast (yup, that's right, we did it Hong Kong style), then headed towards Le Marche Jean-Talon, a huge public market. On the way, we stopped for lunch at La Montee de Lait, where we had a pretty light meal of asparagus (with an asparagus soup shooter) and salmon cooked sous vide (thanks to Iron Chef America, I actually know what that means!) in a really intense lobster bisque. We ended the meal with a cheese plate, which included a lovely local soft cheese whose name I can't remember. I forgot to take pictures for the most part, but for posterity, here is the aftermath of the salmon/lobster dish:

Some pictures from Le Marche Jean-Talon...
M: There were flowers a-plenty!

B: A "light" mid-afternoon snack of two pies, one with maple and the other with duck:

M: Pie, two ways - it doesn't get any better than that!

B: After some more walking around (and some shoe-shopping for one of us), it was time for dinner at Resto La Banquise. We tried just two of the 25 varieties of poutine available: one with chicken and peas and the other with hot dogs, bacon, and mushrooms.

Surprisingly, they didn't have a "breakfast" version with fried eggs, which we both agreed would be a great idea.

M: Can you imagine? Fries, cheese, overeasy eggs, and gravy (maybe white gravy, to 'lighten' things up a bit)... you'd just have to ignore that pesky little tingle running up and down your left arm...

Saturday morning we did a self-guided iPod tour around Vieux (Old) Montreal. We hit about 22 of 24 stops, one of which was the Banque de Montreal, a showy building with green marble columns. The security guard on duty seemed very proud, enthusiastically suggesting that we check out the little banking museum just inside. This picture is just from the entrance; beyond the columns is the main part of the bank - what a cool place to work!

After Vieux Montreal got vieux, we moved onto newer environs. We hopped on the metro and headed East. When we got off, we found ourselves at the Stade Olympique, which was built for the 1976 Summer Games, but was plagued with financial and structural problems from the get-go. It wasn't actually completed till 1987, and payment wasn't completed on it until December 2006!

Up the street, is the Jardin Botanique de Montreal, which houses over 22000 plant species over 180 acres. It has several different specific greenhouses and theme gardens. I particularly liked the "dangerous plant" garden. Who knew rhubarb leaves are toxic? Here is a lovely field of tulips for your viewing pleasure:

After that, we went back to the hotel to rest for a bit before the highlight meal of the weekend - our dinner at Au Pied de Cochon. You'll notice that we aren't talking much about the food on this day, because we were trying to make sure our appetites were at their highest for the evening's feast - we were saving ourselves, you might say! The meal deserves its own post, which will follow shortly.

We flew out on Sunday, but first took advantage of Montreal Museums Day, running through the Museum of Fine Arts for free. The most notable piece was this painting by French Canadian artist Paul-Emile Borduas:

I recognized it immediately upon entering the room, not because it's a necessarily well known or striking piece, but because I have been looking at it for the last 12 years, both in T-shirt form and as a hard-mounted print.

B: The summer I lived in Montreal, I volunteered to help with the International Chemistry Olympiad, which was hosted at McGilll, and they happened to choose this painting to display on the official poster and t-shirt. It was just a funny coincidence to see it hanging in a gallery.

M: So that's about it for our trip to Montreal! We left feeling rested, relaxed, and FULL. During our meals and walks around the city, we had plenty of time to talk about the wedding, and revel in our new status as a married couple, which, while not a full-fledged, adventure-filled honeymoon, was just what the Dr.'s (that's us) ordered.

A couple of more random photos:

We stumbled into this beautiful space to avoid a sudden rainshower. It's just a covered walkway between two buildings. I loved the high airy canopy and the meeting of all the angles.

Brian noted this display in the window of a restaurant. Someone ought to tell the owners that they have a dimsum and sushi landslide on their hands:

And finally, Montrealers know how to party, but they also know how to keep it under control. Check out this coin-operated breathalyzer! No, we never needed to use it...

A la prochaine!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The first of many

Happy one-month anniversary, hubs! (Or 145th 17th, as we like to count it.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Musings on a stormy day

Growing up in Calgary, I loved great big, billowy clouds that spread across the open sky, and especially the sheet-like chinook variety that heralded warmer temperatures (I know, you're thinking, what's a chinook?) In LA I always noted the lack of clouds - it was either sunny, blue and cloudless, or overcast and wholly hazy. I am excited to report that our move to Chicago has brought clouds back into my life (not to mention very distinct seasons).

Now summer is upon us here after an all-too-short spring, marked so far by really humid, warm days and long stretches of thunderstorms. I took this picture from our apartment during a break in the rains. Not sure if it quite comes across, but there was a clarity in the air that only appears after the rain, and the city seemed to be aglow underneath the threatening clouds. There's something exciting about it, isn't there?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wedding Recap Part III

Oooooops, I forgot to post this before I moved on to the conclusion! Better late than never...

Previously, on Wedding Recaps... Let's see, I got through the ceremony, so it's on to the cocktail reception!

9. Cocktails were a very "happy hour." We were originally going to have the cocktail hour in the side hallway of Mount Stephen Hall (where we dined and danced), which I was happy about at the time, as it is a cute area with character and a lot of cool benches for seating. However, when we decided to change from a plated dinner to the Night at the Castle food stations, we had to change venues because a couple of food stations would be taking up that area. At one point it looked like our only option was in a totally separate part of the hotel, far away from the Petrak (ceremony) room and Mount Stephen. We hated that idea, and for a while it looked like that was going to make the plated meal vs. food station decision, which was sad (we were all rooting for the Night at the Castle). We also didn't like sending people too far away from Mt Stephen, thinking we might lose a guest or two before dinner! But then when I was talking to the coordinator at the hotel one day, she told us that she had noticed that the Riverview Lounge had freed up, and that she had booked it in our names. We were really excited, because not only was it right next to the Petrak room, but it is an absolutely lovely room with huge windows that look out into the tree-scattered mountains. As I said before, we took bridal party photos before the ceremony so we could enjoy this time with guests, which was one of the best decisions we could have made. Cue photos!

The view out of one of the windows of the
Riverview Lounge
(Amy F)

Here are some of the big armchairs that keep the castle
theme alive in the hotel. L to R, that's Andrea, Jen,
Sindy, Alisha and Lara (?)

Danny and me. He was so adorable, trying
not to come to close because his mom told
him to be very careful of my dress! (Amy A)

10. It was a blessing to have extended family at the wedding. Weddings are about friends and family, and before ours, people told me what a great excuse they were to have bring everyone together in one place. When we were creating the guest list, it was exciting that our families would be coming together not only symbolically but literally, too. As I mentioned before, we know each others' more immediate families pretty well. Over the years, we've also been able to meet other family members when they were in town to visit in Calgary, Vancouver, LA and San Francisco. The wedding was a great opportunity to truly join our two families, and it was lovely to see aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents again, or meet new faces. Our photographer did a great job of taking larger family photos, but we haven't gotten them yet, so I'll just post some smaller group pictures here. I'm sorry I don't have photos of everyone, but hopefully more are on the way! My family's covered (a pretty small contingent), but I'm missing Ruby, Andrew, Brian and Miguel, as well as Brian's Dad's side of the family - they contributed photos but aren't in many of them!)

My cousins Di Yi, Cheung Dat, Li and Kam (Li F's camera)

My cousin Allan, Uncle Steve, Uncle and Aunt Ho Fai (Li F)

Brian's mom's side: Ah Ma and Ye Ye in front, then
2nd row L-R is Peggy, Aunt Wendy, Ah Ma's sister and her
sister in law, Aunt Winnie, cousin Michelle (who's getting
married to Jesse, standing behind her, in August!)
3rd row L-R is Ginny, cousins George and Sean (hiding behind),
Uncle David and cousin Nolan (Wendy S's camera)

Up next, we move from the Riverview Lounge into Mount Stephen Hall for a dinner full of laughter, tears and grooves...

Friday, June 6, 2008

OFT No. 12 - Pastamaking

***We interrupt the regularly scheduled Wedding Recap Posts to bring you this breaking story...***

That's right, OFTs have returned! We are back to normal life, having wrested our nights and weekends from the hungry jaws of the wedding planning monster. Don't get me wrong, I had a LOT of fun planning and creating for the wedding, but it was always a little hard knowing that I was spending months upon months getting things ready for an event that would last just a day or two. In hindsight, I am so glad that we put all the effort that we did into the details, and honestly, if we were to do it again, I wouldn't do anything less. Sadly, I'd probably do more :)

But, with that said, it's superawesome to be able to relax in the evenings, to just watch TV without exacto knife in hand, and to make plans for other things with other people.

This Fun Thing came courtesy of one of our wedding gifts, the pasta roller attachments for our new Kitchenaid stand mixer. Ever since these babies arrived on our doorstep last month, Brian has been thinking about it, and anxiously awaiting the day we could put them to use. (I don't want to single people out for gift-giving, but thank you, you know who you are!)

We made regular old egg pasta, in the shapes of a handcut papardelle and a machine-cut fettucine. The pasta was great - nice and toothy. Brian preferred the fettucine, but I love me a wide noodle. We did a really simple alfredo sauce so the pasta could be the star of the show, and it was a great first batch! Without further ado, some photos of this adventure in noodleland:

Incorporating eggs and flour - wotta mess!

Rolling out the dough

Running it through the rollers - voila! Fettucine!

Handcut papardelle

Finished product, a lovely mess o' noodles alfredo

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wedding Recap Part II

A continuation of my thoughts and memories of the wedding...

6. I didn't stuff enough tissues down the front of my dress. Anyone who knows me (or has watched TV with me, more accurately) knows that I cry. I cry involuntarily, sometimes the tears just fall and I hardly even realize it. always at cheesy sitcoms (the "very special" episodes get me everytime, like when Carlton took Will's speed pills and ended up in the hospital, or when Stephanie's friend tells her his Dad hits him, and she tells Uncle Jesse, or when that doctor/nurse/patient almost died on ER... oh wait, that's every episode...). Sporting events are fair game (even if my team wins, I cry because the other team lost and they look sad) and occasionally, I cry at the passing of an ambulance, because I know that it's on its way to someone who's hurt. So, it was just an accepted fact that I would cry through the whole ceremony, if not the whole weekend. What I didn't count on, however, was how emotional other people were. During the ceremony, all the guys were teary, not just Brian! It was really hard to find a place to focus my gaze, because if I looked at any of them it would set me off. I only had 2 tissues in my dress, and boy, was that a miscalculation. I was drippy and teary the whole time (luckily none of the pictures we've seen so far catch any inappropriate fluid trails, which believe me there were, and our photographer assured me he got photos without me covering my face with tissue).
Some evidence of fluids, from both of us! (Alan Y)

7. Writing the ceremony ourselves was a really good decision. At first we were going to do a really quick ceremony. In fact, it was going to be very small, only for close family, and a few minutes long. We saw it as just a legal necessity, and were even slightly resentful that we needed to pay a stranger to tell us that we were married. But as wedding planning went on, and I reflected on weddings we've been to in the past, I started to think that the ceremony was something I wanted to share with people, and that it could be a very personal, beautiful thing if we wanted it to be. Brian took a little convincing but I *think* he's glad we did it the way we did, in hindsight!

Writing the ceremony was really intimidating. Our officiant gave us a 3-page template, 90% of which could be changed. We had free reign, and I wanted to make sure it was meaningful, reflective of our personalities and respectful of the depth of our relationship, but fun and interactive at the same time. In the end, we were really happy with how it went, and I think all the parts and pieces spoke to different aspects of us and our relationship in a wonderful way. My favorite parts were: Sharon reading an excerpt from a supreme court ruling on gay marriage; the ripples of laughter from the guests when the Mayor asked if we would create a home filled with good food; us reading from "I Like You"; everyone blessing their buttons; Ashley and Donald fighting tears while performing "Annie's Song"; Mike and Misha's heartfelt blessing; and of course, kissing my new husband.

Wait, that's pretty much the whole thing... yes, a really good decision. Here are some pics from the ceremony:

The handsome boys walking in (Li F)

Here come the girls! (Li F)

Now everyone's waiting for me... (Alan Y)

I'm here! Let's get this party started... (Natalie M)

Donald and Ashley performing (Alan Y)

You may now seal your commitment with a kiss!
I love this picture
(Li F)

Another gratuitous kissy picture (Alan Y)

Walking out as husband and wife, with our
happy Dads on either side
(Li F)

8. Music matters. People always say how smells bring back memories really easily, but for me I've always found music to be a really strong touchstone. If a song speaks to me, I have a habit of playing it incessantly, so it gets inextricably tied to a certain event, time or mood in my life. Brian already posted about our dinner and slideshow playlists, but we also put a fair amount of time into choosing the ceremony music too. Like everything else with the wedding, we wanted the music to reflect us and to be meaningful and fun. A big highlight for me was of course hearing Ashley's cherubic voice singing "Annie's Song" (which already has a sort of ethereal feel when John Denver sings it) while she was playing the piano and being accompanied by Donald on the viola. The day before the wedding, Ashley and Donald were practicing in the Ceremony room (they hadn't played together yet!) and when I walked in, it was so lovely that tears just started to fall (I'm telling you, darn my overactive tearducts). Brian later told me that even before he saw me crying, he had gotten emotional at that same moment. Speaking of Brian, a big kudos to him for choosing our recessional music - walking out to the theme from the Calgary '88 winter olympics was a nice nod to our separate but parallel childhoods, and just a really fun, upbeat way to end the ceremony (even if only a handful of guests recognized it!)

That's it for this installment, I'll leave you with some pictures from the Friday night rehearsal...

At the rehearsal, practicing walking down the aisle with
my parents, complete with practice bouquet
(Jen D)

Fumbling our way through the ceremony (Jen D)

I'm getting married tomorrow! (Jen D)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Wedding Recap Part I

I started to write a narrative recap of the wedding, but most of you who read this bjourn (all 3 of you) were there! So I thought instead, I would just make a list of favorite moments and realizations, enhanced with pictures, of course. It looks like it'll get long so here's the first installment... names in parenthesis at the end of a photo caption indicate the photographer. We're still expecting more photos but these are some of the ones we've gotten so far. I love looking at photos of the wedding - it's wonderful to get other perspectives from the day.

1. We had an amazing bridal party. Since almost every element of the wedding, from all of the flowers to the table centerpieces, the stationery and signage, the guest welcome bags, and the bathroom amenity baskets were done by us, the days leading up to the wedding were really busy. Everyone came early to Banff and stayed together in a condo where we put them to work, cutting and arranging flowers (under the wise tutelage of Sharon), scooping gummy bears, tying ribbons, etc. I even made Jen wash the buttons for the ceremony! Also, since things looked to be pretty hectic on the actual wedding day, Brian and I put together duotangs with very detailed schedules and diagrams for everyone (what's a duotang? click here to find out). When we went over them in painstaking detail and took everyone on a tour of the Banff Springs hotel, nary a complaint was uttered. Sharon, Ashley, Jen, Heather, Ben, Jon, Natalie, Donald, Mike, Misha and Val were the best team we could have had supporting us during the whole weekend. We got a lot of compliments about them and their work from other guests and even the coordinator at the Springs. The best part of it all was that everyone got along really well - I think we kind of 'tricked' them all into working so hard, by masking it all in laughter and fun. There are even talks of a bridal party reunion sometime in the not-too-distant future... at some undisclosed cabin somewhere or maybe on a cruise ship :)

Unfortunately, I don't have a good picture of everyone
all together. But here are Jon, Sharon, Heather, Ben, Donald,
Ashley and Mike, watching the photographer do his thing
with Brian and I out at Bow Falls.
(Jen D) And here are Misha and Natalie at the girls' dinner at the
Spaghetti Factory
(Jen D). Jen and Val were a
little harder to capture, so pics of them will come later.

2. We have amazing friends, in general. Before the wedding, I was pretty nervous about spending the whole weekend at the center of everyone's attention. I mean, 90 people were coming to Banff for us, to watch us get married. It felt odd, rather self-serving, and, frankly, a little scary. (Anyone who knows me knows I'm not that good at being 'proper' for long stretches of time...!) But in the moment, it was incredible. When the doors opened and I joined my parents to walk down the aisle, that all melted away. Seeing everyone's smiling faces, feeling all the warmth and love in that room, it became less about people being there because of us, and all about them being there with us, sharing in this incredibly important event in our lives. We have been together for so long that it was really meaningful to bring together people from all different parts of our lives, who know us as individuals and/or as a couple. This was one of the most overwhelming parts of the weekend for me.

A gaggle of girls at dinner during the boys' bachelor party.
From front to back on the left to right: Angi, Sharon (hidden
behind Angi), me, Jen, Ashley, Lara, and from back to front
on the right: Alisha, Sindy, Natalie, Misha, Tina, Esme
(the baby) and Erin (JenD)

Some California crew at the cocktail reception: Lara,
Alisha, Sindy, me, Brian, Amori, Dana and Robin
(Robin T) Farid, John and Roby at the ceremony (Angi C)

3. We have amazing families. It's been so many years that I *almost* forget what it was like when we first started dating, but we both know that our respective families made us feel welcome from very early on. The very first time my parents met Brian, he was delivering the valedictory speech at our high school graduation. What parents wouldn't want that for their daughter?! They swooned, he got automatic approval, and here we are. During college, I became an annual fixture at Brian's family's holiday gatherings and got to know not only his parents and brother, but his aunts, cousins and grandmother who also live in Calgary. We are so grateful to our parents for their support during the wedding planning process (and always). We are also both blessed with one brother each, in my case Jon is older and in Brian's Donald is younger. Luckily, we have been able to live in the same city with each of them at different points in our lives (Jon was at UBC med when we were at UBC, and Donald is currently at Northwestern, like Brian). They provided so much of the emotion and laughter at the wedding, a lot of people told us specifically how much they enjoyed meeting them and how great they are. We wholeheartedly agree.
Brian's parents, looking very dapper as they walk
down the aisle
(Robin T)My parents and I (Robin T)
My brother Jon and his beautiful wife Natalie (Li F)
Brian's brother Donald (Misha C)

4. The weather gods smiled upon us. The week or so before our wedding (seriously, May 11) there was a knee-deep dump of snow in Banff. After we left Calgary (May 21), it rained for several days. But for the wedding weekend, the days when most of our guests were in town, it was gorgeous - sunny, warm and mild. Growing up in Calgary, we know that the weather in the spring is fickle as can be, so we gave only brief consideration to having the ceremony outside. But on this weekend, we totally could have. We are just so glad that people were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery without wearing parkas! This is what we got to enjoy:
(Robin T)(Jen D)

5. Our efforts to actually spend time with people paid off. Since traveling to Banff was no easy feat for most people, we wanted to make sure that we maximized the time that we spent with guests. With plenty of extra-curricular activities (the boys' bachelor party/girls dinner, drinks at Earls, Sunday brunch), we felt like we got more "quality time" with more guests. Also, we made 2 good decisions that helped with this: 1) We opted to take bridal party and family photos before the ceremony - this freed us up to actually attend the cocktail hour afterward, rather than running off for a couple of hours; and 2) We stuck around Banff for a couple of days after the wedding, which gave us the opportunity to hang out with those who were still in town in a more relaxed state. Of course, we didn't get to spend enough time with everybody, after all it was just one weekend. But we have our lifetimes to build and strengthen our friendships. And now that there's no more wedding planning, we'll actually have time to!

More wedding-specific details and pictures to come in the 2nd installment...