Saturday, July 6, 2013

the family wedding

Apologies for the lengthy radio silence. Something called Organic Chemistry happened. Yeah. Yeah. I feel lucky to be alive and sane, let alone to’ve pulled off a B. Anyway, recaps of the past several weeks of my life are forthcoming.

Beginning with a lovely trip to Chicago for a wedding! The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer-  it is a family wedding, but Steve’s family! Some of whom feel like family now, actually :)

For instance, my beloved Midnight, my honorary cat.


He’s missing a leg, some of his tail, and the tips of his ears (poor little guy- it’s the result of a dramatic saga involving getting lost in a blizzard) but he’s super duper mega sweet!

Along with Midnight, Steve’s parents are also great. Their first display of generosity was paying for a room for us to stop in Ohio so we’d be able to leave on a Thursday night (after yours truly got out of Biochemistry), drive the first part of the trip, then proceed the rest of the way to Chicago at a leisurely pace on Friday, well rested. This, rather than what Steve initially suggested, leaving at the crack of dawn on Friday to somehow make it on time to the rehearsal (!) because Steve was a member of the wedding party (!!) hoping that we wouldn’t run into any traffic or accident delays, or, yknow, STOP TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. This plan was much, much nicer.

I didn’t photograph the rehearsal dinner cause it just seemed too awk, but it was at Maggiano’s Little Italy and was very nice indeed.

I got a wonderful night’s sleep in the comfy guest room at Steve’s parents’ house, and then his mother made us the most FANTASTIC quiche for breakfast. I don’t know all of the details, but I know it involved zucchini and a plethora of the most wonderful, flavorful fresh herbs. She said mostly parsley and WOW- I really need to recreate it. It was a fantastic twist on quiche.


Plus grapes ‘n tea. Quite well balanced!


Then we were off to the wedding itself. Steve was up at the front doing the groomsman thing, so I hung out with his cousin Melissa and her wife, also Melissa. Their adorable and precocious just-shy-of-two-years-old daughter was the flower girl, and we were all awed and delighted when she pulled it off. Then she was charmingly well behaved during the ceremony, with only a tiny incident in which she whacked one of her moms in the head with her shiny pinwheel and it started flashing like a strobe light. Like, during the vows :) Our whole section of the church was giggling under our breath. She is SUCH a CUTIE!


Steve’s cousin Mandy, the bride, had the most bee-yoo-tiful dress, which I tried to capture with only some success.

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Mandy has been a MACHINE at wedding planning! We are Facebook friends and I’ve been enthralled reading her near-daily updates on the status of purchases for the candy buffet, re-mailings of save the dates, custom dance mixes for the reception, personalized bottles of liquor for the winners of the bouquet and garter tosses, etc.

Then, lucky me, I got to get a sneak peek at the reception beforehand. Truthfully, I had been a little nervous about the wedding proceedings because Steve was going to be occupied taking pictures and so on with the rest of the wedding party and what was I gonna do during the hours between the wedding ceremony and reception, huh?! I went so far as to bring my organic chem book to study (ha.) What ended up happening was that I first went around with Steve’s mom and aunt and got a sneak peek at the reception where everything was being set up…


And then, when I proved myself to be thoroughly useless in the decorating department (seriously), I went and hung out with Steve’s relatives in their hotel room and everyone had a fair amount of drinks and junk food. It was lovely and relaxing and everyone reminded me so much of my own family. An example of this is that Steve’s cousin’s husband Tom was playing with his new machine that makes fart noises… which is identical to the one owned by my uncle. Happy families are all alike, eh?

Steve’s cousins Micky (who was until recently living in DC and whom I just adore) and Melissa (mother of the adorable flower girl who lives in Chicago and it was so great to see again) who are sisters, posed with their matching beer purses as we climbed into the shuttle to the reception. (They also have matching babies, but since their babies were with their respective grandparents, they got to let loose!)


At the door, we were greeted with a harbinger of the Pinterest-osity to come with our customized champagne bottles that also served as place cards.


The centerpieces involved branches, lemons, and tea lights and were absolutely beautiful! The color scheme was perfect and unique. (In the reception room next door to Mandy’s wedding’s, I took a peek at the decor, and wow some people really love bright purple! I think Mandy did a nice job embracing subtle elegance)


Place settings were beautiful. Below is my mini beef Wellington appetizer which was kee-razy good.


The cake was lovely and had the same nice, simple, clean colors of the rest of the scheme.

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After the cutting of the cake (smearing on noses occured), Mandy wheeled out her surprise for Kenny: cheesecake from his favorite bakery! The picture is a little blurry, but I thought it was too sweet (in both senses of the word) not to share.


Now, the wedding was at a country club, and with my current nonexistent income I don’t generally hang out at country clubs, as y’all may have guessed. So I didn’t really know anything about how the food would be, and I in general tend to be skeptical about institutional foods.

Well. That was FOOLISH OF ME, let me tell you.

Look at the gourmet-ness of this menu, just as a preview of the majesty to come.


Numero uno, we have this salad. I’m sure Steve was up there at the head table rejoicing, because HEAVENS, there was a generous quantity of bacon. The nuts were phenomenal, the dressing was delicious and judiciously applied rather than glopped, as is so often the case. And I am notorious for eating garnishes, and this was no exception, as I adore Belgian endive and hardy ever get to eat it.


Then arrived the palate-cleansing sorbet, ooh la la. Beautiful starfruit garnish.


Eating my words for a second time regarding my entree. Steve had mailed back the invitation reply in auto mode, feeling rushed for some odd reason, so consulted me for neither the song request (uncool)  nor the food request. So he got me the sea bass when I would’ve preferred to order the ravioli.

Well, Steve, you were right. Yeah, I said it.

The most MELTINGLY tender, PERFECTLY cooked, subtly crisp on the outside, cream and butter and lemon drenched awesomeness. It was absolutely delicious and go figure I was really glad Steve picked it for me. After all my bitching justified objections to having something ordered without my consultation.


Speaking of Steve, he was sweet enough to come visit me at this point in the meal… and then proceeded to be bequested everyone’s leftover food. The portions were large, and everyone knows how Steve eats :) Everything looked absolutely delicious- there were choices of chicken and steak in addition to the bass. The vegetarian option was ravioli… which was also served with mashed potatoes ;) I love my carbs, but I think even for me that may’ve been overkill.

In addition to cake (and more, to be discussed later) there was a plated dessert. I only like white chocolate in small quantities, so I simply hollowed this specimen out and inhaaaaaaled the perfectly tart, wonderfully creamy key lime mousse within, which was perfectly matched by the raspberry sauce. Mmmmm.


As for the rest of the wedding, well, I’m sure the photographer’s pictures will be epic.

There were dancing props:


And picture posing props (including the seemingly ubiquitous moustache, one of which I wore to the chagrin of my boyfriend).

And there was a great DJ who played Backstreet’s Back and I awed everyone with my complete memorization of the lyrics to that and every other BSB song!

And there was a candy buffet!

And there was late night food! A few hours into the frenzied dancing (oh, and it was frenzied), hot dishes of chicken strips and mini burgers (!!!) were put out. As I put it to Steve as I inhaled a slider (or, erm, more), “This is the best thing I have ever tasted”. Guys, when I dance, I DANCE. I require refueling for that kind of physical commitment.

Mandy and Kenny were just so thoughtful of their guests. They’d left a welcome bag with snacks in our hotel rooms, they had floss and hairspray and any other necessity you could think of in the bathroom for touchups mid-reception, they personally greeted every table and were clearly just so happy to have all of us there with them. And they’re also a great couple! I wish them the absolute best in their marriage- they bought a house together and have spent the past gazillion months (or so I’m sure it seems to them) making it beautiful, and now I hope it’ll be wonderful for them to come home from the well-deserved rest of their honeymoon and enjoy it!

Like most wedding receptions, there was a lot of alcohol to be had, though I behaved with restraint mostly because alcohol just isn’t really interesting me much these days. The alarmingly tan bartender decided he was going to make me a “How you Doin’” (…) which was suspiciously pink and cavity-inducingly sweet. I took a few sips and knew I’d be on the train to drunk and nauseous town if I had any more of that, so I didn’t and hid it in a corner since I didn’t know where to put it. And I had a few sips of various things throughout the night but the only thing of which I actually consumed a full serving was the glass (well, mug, as the hotel room was low on stemware) of wine I had in Steve’s aunt and uncle’s room prior to the reception.

So I felt fully in control of my mental faculties, unlike some people…

(Seriously, the shuttle ride back to the hotel was wild. Glad some of the groomsmen had a designated driver.)

And then there was even MORE eating and drinking at the hotel, and amusing family stories including Steve’s great aunt’s tale of asking her friends whether they liked Menage a Trois to their stunned silence. (FYI, she meant the wine, teehee!).

Anyway, the combination of the late night chips and queso… and the mini burgers.. and the cake pops (!!!!!!!!! GOD those things are good)… and the candy buffet… and the full dinner… and the dancing… and the too-many-different types of alcohol. Well. Suffice it to say that my stomach was just a little too overwhelmed.

It all worked out fine. I woke up bright and bushy tailed the next morning, and thoroughly enjoyed the hotel’s breakfast buffet.

And thennnnnn it was off to downtown Chicago! Traffic on Lakeshore Drive is no problem to me as I use it as an opportunity for a photoshoot. What a wonderful thing to have an artery to get you around the city with absolutely lovely lake views.

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We met up with Steve’s bestest buddy Hector and headed out to explore.

Street art!


Our destination was the as-yet-unfinished Bloomingdale Trail, an old rail line being turned into a public walkway, a la the High Line in New York City. It felt a bit trespassing-y making our way up to it, but once we did there were a fair number of people around.

It was a really cool way to see the city. Chicago definitely has a neighborhoody feeling all its own. I like the abundance of balconies!

And it’s just fun looking at things from a higher view. It gives you a cool perspective. (Cool being an inaccurate word to use since it was roughly ten thousand degrees that day).


The path was… not yet entirely pedestrian friendly, as there was a substantial amount of broken glass about.


The boys had fun doing acrobatics on the remaining rail.


Then we got to spy on Rick Bayless’s backyard! This woman told us to keep our eye out, and it was pretty epic. There’s an enormous vegetable garden. I imagine he gets some of the ingredients for his show from it (I know he films there).


Can you spot the beehive?! Hint: it is wooden.


Hector is a GENIUS, because he suggested getting these Mexican ice pops. Good life decision.


The boys both got lime. I got pineapple. Mine was better. Smirk.


Despite its somewhat suspect garish color, there was definitely real fruit in it because it got satisfyingly pulpy towards the end.

We made our way to the “beach” (it’s on a lake, Midwesterners. Get real) which was also quite a hot trip. The beach was absurdly crowded and we were also in a rush to eat and then get back to Steve’s family in the evening so we stayed there for… about thirty seconds. Silly. But it’s pretty! I think crack of dawn is the way to go in the future. Cooler and less packed.

So my best friend recommended Native Foods for dinner. Her boyf is also from the Chicago area, so she’s spent a fair amount of time there, and she’d been to this place and loved it. It’s a chain, but I take food recommendations from Lydia seriously. It was also geographically convenient. And Steve went on and on about how much he wanted to eat healthy food after all of our weekend indulging. SO. I thought it was super adorable.


And loved their signs.


And loved my lavender lemonade (it was quite sweet, but I was PARCHED, and the lavender flavor was fab).


And I loved loved loved my entree!

Sesame Kale Macro Bowl
Grilled Native Tempeh atop steamed kale, brown rice, creamy ginger sesame sauce, tangy sauerkraut, gomasio and toasted sesame seeds. Green onion garnish and crunchy cucumber seaweed salad on the side.

Along with being SO virtuous, it was SO flavorful. Everything was perfectly cooked. It’s totally the kind of food I (and my best friend) love to eat.


Here’s the thing about my best friend and I: we are both girls. We eat little meat (well, I eat little, she eats none). We don’t go out to eat a lot or eat a lot of junky, high-fat food. You know what’s another way of saying junky, high-fat food? Boy food.

So… Steve and his friend Hector hated it :) I think some of it was ordering (Steve got a sandwich which ended up basically being a piece of fried tofu on a bun which was neither healthy nor particularly flavorful) and some of it was just that it was chick food :) Anyway, I loved it. Did I mention that? Steve’s in Chicago again now (for a long time, without me, *sob*) and he ate deep dish last night, so he’s fine.

Anyway, our trip was another speedy one so it was time, early the next morning, to turn around and make our way home again. After a false start (yknow, cause someone named me left her phone and all of her medications on the bedside table, arrrgh) we actually made really really good time.

A final confession: EVERY SINGLE BILLBOARD IN THE MIDWEST (well okay that’s not true, a lot of them were for Jesus and also strip clubs) but A LOT OF THEM boasted this deal at McDonalds for soft serve for 49 cents. Being a child of the modern era, I am absurdly susceptible to advertising tactics and became obsessed with getting some to enjoy on the hot summer day. I restrained myself, we wanted to make good time, yada yada. But when a gas and bathroom break became necessary, Steve, great guy that he is, pulled up and this happened:


But here’s the thing: IT WASN’T 49 CENTS!

It also wasn’t that good.

Duh, Lele, it’s McDonalds.

The last time I went to McDonalds (I think) was in college, when my friend Katie hosted a birthday dinner there. It was genuinely fun, pretending McDonalds was a nice restaurant (“I don’t understand… where is my waiter?”) but that was about… 2007? 2008? So now I won’t have to go to McDonalds again for another 5-6 years. Sounds about right.

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