I do … again

July 4th weekend involved more than a national holiday around here — it was Penno’s wedding!! I gave a little overview of the lead-up activities in my last post, and now it is time for the recap of the actual wedding … my favorite type of post 😀

At 10:30 on the morning of the wedding, all of us bridesmaids had to meet in the bridal suite for a day of primping. We got our hair done in twos …

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… while Penno tried valiantly to make herself eat breakfast …

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… while we all downed as much champagne as possible with the help of Mrs. Penno …

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… which led to silly-faced self-portraits:

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Once all of us common folk were fully haired …

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… it was time for the bride to get her primp on!

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We managed to finish the beauty day around 3:00, just in time to catch our party bus to the wedding site in Sharon.

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As you can see, we were quite heavily made up! I don’t think I’ve worn that much make-up in my whole life combined. The process was fun, however, and I will take the make-up artist’s word that it will all work out for the best in the professional photos.

The spot Kerri and Seth chose for their wedding was beautiful! It’s only located about 45 minutes from where I grew up, but I’d never been to or even heard of Saphire Estate until the wedding planning began.

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A very in-charge lady met us at the bus and herded us inside and up the stairs so the bride could complete her final preparations:

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We were not necessarily the easiest bunch to keep on task:

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Everything looked so pretty, and we I couldn’t stop taking photos:

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We had a special room upstairs designated for dressing Kerri in her gown and for killing the hour + until the ceremony. We worked on de-stressing. We may have done that with water …

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… but we may also have done that with champagne:

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When we were sufficiently loosened up, we worked on inserting Kerri into her gown:

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We invited our photographer buddies to partake as well:

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Lindsay did an admirable job of strapping Kerri in:

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And then there was some mother-daughter time:

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And snack time:

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And funny faces time:

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Ting really led the charge on the champagne front like the trouper she is:

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Meanwhile, we had to install Kerri in front of the air conditioner to keep her nerves on ice!

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The ceremony progressed without a hitch (since I was in it, obviously) and was quite perfect and touching. Ting and I did some photography of our own while waiting for the bride and groom to finish their first formal husband-and-wife shots.

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I found my date and admired his stunningly perfect color-coordinated tie:

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And then I was herded away again so we bridesmaids could officially enter the party. I had the distinct honor of being the only bridesmaid with two escorts 😛

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… though I’m not sure how intact my honor was after our entrance dance:

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After our totally classy entrances, we all stood back …

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… so that the royal couple could steal the show for their first dance!

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Course #1 was an aesthetically pleasing salad structure:

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Alongside delicious warm bread with a side of flower-shaped butter:

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I was glad to see the royal couple partaking in salad as well. Too often, they don’t have time to eat a bite!

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After the salad, I went exploring and came across this:

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Only the most elegant wedding cake I have seen in my life! (And I have seen many wedding cakes, if that is not already clear.)

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Stunning!

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Shortly after my discovery, Kerri and Seth approached the magic table …

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… and fed each other some elegant cake, elegantly of course:

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I was jealous that they were eating cake already! But the rest of us had many other steps to take before we were unleashed on the cake 😀

Some of these steps included watching Kerri and her daddy dance:

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Others included demolishing my dinner, which consisted of chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and spinach, topped with a sun-dried tomato cream sauce (but that is just a guess!):

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Enjoying the bride’s dazzling beauty:

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Discovering the chocolate-covered brownie on a stick present at every place setting:

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Eating the chocolate-covered brownie on a stick:

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Stocking up at the chocolate fountain:

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With pineapples, strawberries, bananas, Oreos, and Nutter Butters:

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Finally, the cake slices were presented! I had a slice of each flavor: strawberries & champagne and pineapple-coconut:

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After hours and hours of crazy dancing …

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(photo courtesy of Lindsay!)

… we allowed the Kerri and Seth to escape through a maze of sparklers!

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Congratulations to the happy couple! I’m so honored to have been included as a bridesmaid, and I feel incredibly lucky to count Kerri as one of my oldest friends 😀    

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Speaking of events …

Over the past monthish, I have had the lucky opportunity to devour three (actually, probably more that I did not document) very delicious meals that cost me absolutely no money and no prep time.

The first meal took place at my agency’s annual mission retreat. We spent a whole day reflecting on the mission of our work and, of course, eating. Here’s the line for lunch:

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And the buffet:

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I loaded up with a big salad and a veggie burrito:

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That only looks like only half a burrito, but don’t worry — I went back for the second half. And more salad. And more salad. And more salad.

Near the end of the day, dessert made its appearance. Tres leches cake and fruit salad:

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Munchy munchy munchy:

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I had lots of fruit and two small plates of milk-drenched cake crumbs like so:

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Any work event that ends in cake passes the test in my book 😀

Event #2 took place July 4th weekend up in Massachusetts, where I was for Penno’s (ok, she is not Penno anymore, but that is what I will keep calling her!) wedding.

Rehearsal dinner involved a set 3-course menu at Skipjack’s in the new Patriot Place (a fake world constructed around Foxboro/Gilette/Patriot Stadium full of endless ways to spend money):

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All fakeness aside, though, I loved my strawberry daiquiri!

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And my arugula salad with goat cheese and grapefruit:

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I ordered the salad instead of the lobster bisque (because, hi, I was planning to fit into my bridesmaid dress!) but I had a spoon of the bisque, and it was delish:

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Erik ordered the Gingered Sea Bass for his entree …

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Some others at the table ordered the Fresh Maine Crab Cakes:

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But I ordered the obvious winner (not evident in this photo, unfortunately, grrrrrrrrr blurriness): Wasabi-Crusted Salmon!

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Dessert was a very refreshing Mango Sorbet with Raspberry Coulis:

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Along with many many bites of Ting’s Warm Chocolate Bundt Cake:

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There was, of course, even more food involved in Penno’s actual wedding, but we will discuss that at a later date!

In the final event of this post, Erik and I went over to my dad’s house the morning after the rehearsal dinner for a lovely outdoor brunch:

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My dad and Rae Ann had put together a beautiful feast!

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Turkey sausages, freshly charred on the grill:

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Fruit salad dressed with key lime yogurt:

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Quiche Lorraine (?? I cannot keep track of all these silly quiche names):

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… plus a banana walnut muffin and herby tomatoes:

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It was the perfect rehearsal dinner recovery brunch … and the perfect brunch in general. Erik and I had a lovely time relaxing and eating and listening to music and chatting with my dad and RA for the rest of the morning until it was time to dive back into some more wedding action 🙂 Stay tuned for the report …

Appearances may be deceiving

I know it seems like all I do is hop from one event to another, but the truth is that my kitchen has been out of control. It has been so out of control, in fact, that the thought of trying to blog it all gives me a headache. I pick up the CSA every Saturday morning and then literally spend hours trying to get the food in order and make sure it is all washed so that I don’t overlook some little bug that will eat my lettuce before I do!

A few Saturdays ago, however, I got inspired to document some of the madness …

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I had prepared a breakfast cookie the night before with who knows what (but probably banana, peanut butter, unsweetened chocolate chunks, etc). I also let the frosting sit overnight — I think it was a combination of coconut milk, Bob’s Red Mill chia seeds (soooo excited to have chia seeds in my life again), vanilla, and lavender (from the CSA!). After frosting the cookie, I drizzled some honey over the top and threw down a few CSA raspberries.

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Mmmmmm!

Next up was a mountain of CSA swiss chard with no home. I did some googling and found this recipe for Baked Cheese Polenta with Swiss Chard. With a few modifications — nonfat plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, goat cheese instead of mozzarella, extra CSA greens mixed in with the chard — this delicacy was born:

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The photo doesn’t quite do it justice, but take my word that it was an enjoyable lunch for the following week!

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I took a breather from the cooking for a plate of CSA cucumber (with a beautiful bouquet of CSA flowers in the background):

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After the cucumber, I had to deal with the escarole. Have you ever had a bite of escarole plain? It’s bitter and VERY unappealing. For that reason, this Braised Escarole with Garlic and Lemon recipe seemed ideal. I figured that braising something with garlic and lemon would have to knock all the fight out of it!

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Honestly, the sauce was amazing, but I ended up braising for probably 30 minutes longer than the recipe recommended because the darn leaves were still SO bitter. I mixed a bowl with leftover brown rice and gave it to my taste tester:

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He ate every bite but also agreed about the lingering bitterness. I thinned it out further with two of these CSA zucchinis:

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Muchhhhhhh better!

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With the other two zucchinis, I embarked on my own recipe for dark chocolate zucchini cake which I created a couple years ago from about 10 different recipes and my own opinions.

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Now, this cake is very healthy — in fact, I ate a big slice of it every morning for breakfast — and it also tastes quite healthy. So, if you’re wanting a cake that tastes like cake, you should probably add a lot of extra sugar. If you want something yummy and hearty and satisfying, you can leave it as is 😀

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Frosted Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients

Dry:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour   
1 1/2 tsp baking soda   
1 1/2 tsp baking powder   
1 tsp table salt   
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
   
Wet:
1 egg   
1 medium banana
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar in the raw (or less if you have some dates on hand)

1 1/2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
2-3 medium zucchini, shredded   
1 tsp vanilla extract   
1 tsp McCormick Almond extract   
1/4 cup(s) plain fat-free yogurt   

Healthy cream cheese icing in desired amount

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Instructions

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat egg and add in honey, mashed banana, melted chocolate, extracts, zucchinis, and yogurt.
Bake 45-75 mins in a bundt pan depending on your doneness preference.
Frost accordingly.

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Eat.

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Finally, I miraculously found myself in possession of a waffle maker! Kate had been helping out at her grandma’s tag sale, and the Sunbeam managed to hide from all potential buyers quite effectively. Generous Kate donated it to my kitchen 😀

I sort of used one of the recipes that came in the instruction booklet but ended up modifying nearly all of it, as usual — whole wheat pastry flower instead of all-purpose, yogurt/ricotta instead of sour cream, etc etc.

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After all of the folding in of beaten egg whites, I “poured” (this was the thickest batter ever!) the waffles-to-be into the waffle maker in half cup increments:

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The batter was so thick that I had to flatten it across the waffle maker with the back of the measuring cup:

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Thick batter aside, these waffles turned out beautifully!

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Three for the growing boy; one for me!

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The waffles obviously needed some accessorizing …

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(Notice the admirable salad in the background not getting eaten.)

Barkeater ice cream!

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And CSA blueberries:

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Ahhhhhh I’ve been dreaming of making my own waffles for ages, and now I finally can. Thanks, Kate!

Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I still have more to say. That same day, on the way back from picking up some supplemental groceries, I found a Magic Bullet on someone’s stoop with all the accessories … and the sign: “Juicer/Blender works. FREE!”

I scooped it up of course. (Well, what really happened was that I tried to scoop it up, but my hands were full and parts started rolling everywhere, including underneath a nearby car. I stopped myself from crawling under the car to retrieve, put my treasure down on the sidewalk, and moped all the way back to my apartment over the missed opportunity for a lifetime of smoothies. When I got home, I told Erik my sad story, and he accompanied me back to the scene of the incident with a broom handle and fetched the missing part for me. I then scooped up the rest of the pieces, and now I have smoothies all the time :-D)

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While we’re on the topic of appliances I have accumulated as of late, I got this food processor with credit card points and decided that CSA basil-dill-parsley pesto would be an excellent way to inaugurate it:

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OK, phew!! You’ve survived this marathon post. I was probably cooking for something like eight hours straight that day. Not to knock local and organic eating, but it sometimes seems like a full-time job, ahhhhhhhhh. So, when you start to see over-the-top eating at event after event after event, remember that all of this is what is going on behind the scenes in real life!

West side story

As I mentioned, the big event took place exactly two Fridays ago: Diana and Ben’s wedding!

The wedding was held after work on Friday at Studio 450, a gorgeous sunny, white-washed space …

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… on the 12th floor of a building overlooking the Hudson River, practically on the West Side Highway:

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I noticed one of the best touches almost immediately upon entry. The seating chart was written on a giant mirror:

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Here we are!

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A handsome man with a tray came by to offer lemonade, and I accepted:

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Quite refreshing!

Gradually, the whole crew started to arrive. The boys posed:

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(Chris, Erik, and Ted)

The girls posed:

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(me, Wife, Gina, and Kate)

And we all mingled in our gender-specific (weird how that happens) groups:

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Throughout this whole mingling time, a lovely string quartet was providing the background music with all sorts of excellently selected contemporary songs set to classical arrangement:

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We got the cue to sit, and the important people made their entrance 😀

Groom:

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Bride:

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Diana’s wedding march was “Kissing You” from the Romeo + Juliet movie, played by the string quartet. I loooove that song, and I haven’t heard it since I was 13. I was so excited to hear it again … and in this context!

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Post-ceremony, we encountered the Feld, who had arrived mid-ceremony and had to seat herself on the complete other side of the room. She was very excited to have arrived at all!

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We left the ceremony room and were gently herded up the stairs …

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… and to the ROOF!!!

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In addition to stunning views, the roof also held hors d’oeuvres:

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Tuna with wasabi cream on a rice cracker:

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Steak nachos:

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(Definitely in the top two bites of the night!)

Mushroom puff:

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Chilled cantaloupe soup:

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View:

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Unlimited red wine:

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More view:

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Sliders!

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I chose crab cake:

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Spicy black bean:

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and pulled pork:

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More drinks please:

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Some ate, while others posed:

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Fig and goat cheese crostini:

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(the partner to steak nachos in the top two bites of the night)

Shrimp:

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Chicken satay:

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Sunset!

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I like to call this our sitcom series promotional photo shoot. I told everyone to act natural:

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And then, we went downstairs for dinner. DINNER???!!! Yes, dinner. All of that food pictured above was just the beginning!

The ceremony room had been transformed for the evening dining and dancing:

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The first thing I noticed (obviously):

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A cupcake tower! Flavors included salted chocolate (yayyyyyy!), red velvet, carrot cake, and lemon drop. Along with the city skyline and an adorable fondant couple!

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We studied our Zagat-inspired menu cards …

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… and sampled the cornbread muffins with their topping trio — something spicy, something buttery, and something jammy:

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The dance floor lit up, and it seemed something was about to happen …

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And it was! The bride and groom danced their first dance to Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man” … with a fully choreographed, attitude-rich routine:

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After the dance, the first course arrived: arugula, jicama, and watermelon salad! OMGGGGGGG:

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I ordered the light BBQ snapper with apple salsa for my main meal:

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This was AMAZING as well. The light fish with the apple salsa was soooo refreshing! My only sadness was that it came with regular potatoes instead of the promised sweet potatoes 😦 Just as well though — it’s not like I was way overstuffed at this point anyway. Ummmm …

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We knew the dessert buffet was coming, and we all hit the dance floor to make room!

NYU Communications Girls (aka wine & cheese club!):

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The official royal couple eating of the cupcakes signified the start of the dessert buffet!

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Chocolate mousse:

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Key lime pie:

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Salted chocolate cupcake (the winner!):

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Warm cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream:

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Lemon drop cupcake:

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Yes, I ate them all!!! (With a bit of help, thank goodness.)

Photobooth!

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The party finished up around 12:30 am, and this sight upon departure almost made me wish I’d been the one to get married:

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I love weddings! Speaking of which, I’ll be attending one tomorrow …

This wedding made me so happy. Congratulations to Diana & Ben!