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Events : Challahbear

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Good Things Coming Soon!

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of looking back when it comes to writing blog entries. I fall behind in posting, and then a million great things happen and I try to pick through the highlights, which leaves me writing about meals I had 2 months ago (see last post). Obviously it would be ideal to write about things right after they happen when they’re still fresh in my mind. [Live tweeting a meal will never be my thing; I still don’t have a twitter account.] But realistically, most of my posts will end up being at least a little behind when things occur.

Good memories are a great part of life and should be shared. Just this past week, I attended a small alumni happy hour for my elementary/middle school. I spent the night reminiscing with two of my best friends from those days in Pittsburgh along with one of their mothers who is the current head of school. We told so many stories and I was reminded of so many wonderful experiences, and we could have kept going all night. (We almost did, I didn’t get home until 11, which is pretty late for me on a Monday night.)

Before memories are ever made, there’s frequently an equally wonderful period of anticipation. It may be winter, work might be stressful or frustrating, but you know something awesome is going to happen soon. It might be something small – a coffee date with a friend or a new movie opening up. It could be seeing your favorite band in concert, a trip, or even the start to a whole new stage of life: going off to college, changing cities, getting married or having a child.

Sometimes things in life don’t live up to our expectations and it’s disappointing. It can be downright depressing. Nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan, but I’ve been lucky enough to have things work out often enough that I can generally stay positive. There’s something great about that excitement. It can put a smile on your face, motivate you to keep going or push harder, it can even keeps you up at night. I usually fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow, but the night before my bat mitzvah trying to fall asleep was torture.

In the spirit of celebrating that it’s the weekend, here’s a list of the top things coming my way which make me excited, big and small:

· I’m planning to spend a relaxing long weekend with my parents in my hometown

· Kirios made dinner reservations to celebrate my birthday at Rasika, the upscale Indian restaurant I always mention and am dying to try!

· After struggling to learn grammar from books and Rosetta Stone, I finally got into a beginners Greek class in DC which starts this week.

· Kirios and I are planning a springtime adventure in Spain, my first trip to Europe since studying abroad in Rome during 2007. (ilanainitaly.blogspot.com)

What are you looking forward to?


Every month, the large Conservative synagogue in Washington DC hosts a Friday evening happy hour followed by Shabbat services for young professionals. I’ve attended fairly regularly for the past three plus years since graduating from college and seeking a Hillel alternative. The first time I went, I dragged my roommate who was still at student at University of Maryland to come out with me. We made some friends there, and convinced other friends to join us for future events. It usually draws somewhere around 200 people each month. An anonymous donor enabled to program to include free Shabbat dinner for a year, and now there’s a small fee if you stay for dinner.  Originally, I went each month to meet people. I wasn’t in college anymore, it was time to meet new friends. But after the first year, I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I go as often as I can to see my friends. It’s not that I’m opposed to meeting new people, but let’s be honest, a noisy crowded room with 200 people isn’t the best place to meet people, and it’s hard enough to get the friends that I do have together on a regular basis. Especially now that so many of my friends have moved to the Virginia suburbs while I remain the Maryland ones.

It’s not surprising that after a few years of attending we decided that we could do better than hanging out and celebrating Shabbat together once a month. So we formed a Shabbat club. It started with an email thread and a google spreadsheet. We have a core group of about 10 people and let the host or hostess decide if he or she would like to invite a few more. We meet the second Friday night of the month, and everything is potluck. Naturally, I made a plug for theme Shabbats, because who DOESN’T want a theme dinner party each month?!?

Our first Shabbat Club dinner was dairy “make your own burrito” night. Kirios and I made a fresh pico de gallo. Everyone made something yummy and we filled our plates to capacity. It was a resounding success. And then we had our second Shabbat club dinner, which Kirios and I hosted – Kosher (Meat) Indian theme. It exceeded my expectations by far. We made challah, garlic naan, and a delicious yet simple Chicken Korma recipe which uses coconut milk to create the thick, creamy sauce characteristic of Indian food. The recipe, found here –http://parttimecruisers.blogspot.com/2008/09/chicken-coconut-kurma.html was a great choice. And thanks to our friends, we had a full thali platter. Everyone else tried out new recipes – we had a cold cucumber peanut chili salad, spicy eggplant, a chickpea dish, and a spinach dish, plus fruit for dessert.

Indian Shabbat was followed by Shabbat club’s Channukah dinner last month. My friend made her spinach lasagna recipe I used to devour when we were roommates. There was kugel and salads, latkes, etc. Kirios and I made spinach latkes with a Greek yogurt and feta sauce – Jewish and Greek 😉 We all brought our menorahs and lit candles together. After dinner, we made cookies with dreidel and menorah cookie cutters and decorated them with sprinkles and icing. We also had a never-ending bracket-style dreidel match. I was beat badly in the championship round.

This Friday will be our fourth Shabbat club extravaganza – a football playoff tailgate themed feast with chili, challah-wrapped “pigs in a blanket,” corn bread, cole-slaw, and more. Plans are in the works for February’s make your own sushi dinner, and I’m confident that there are many more awesome meals together in the future.

Just when I was finally getting used to my new routine with Kirios as a roommate, I switched jobs. I left the Postal Service at the end of November and transferred to work as a contract specialist at another federal agency. It was exciting and sad. It’s a great opportunity for me, but I really did love my last job and many of the people with whom I worked. My first month on the new job has been a bit slow… you know how things play out around the holidays. It’s been a difficult transition to go from chatting with my coworker/friends in our cubicles to new faces of people working in offices with their doors closed. Additionally, I started a new compressed work schedule where I’ll be working 9 hour days most of the time in exchange for a Friday off every other week. I’m still trying to get used to coming home later and going to bed at a reasonable hour. I think it’ll be easier when the days are longer.

Anyhow, despite all of the transitioning, Kirios and I have continued to keep up with our busy social calendar and our foodie appetites, I just haven’t had much energy to reflect on our adventures and share them through the blog. But maybe I’ll make time to write up some of the highlights from the past two months. Here’s one to start things off…

Kirios and I ventured out to the DC Convention Center to attend the Metropolitan DC Cooking and Entertaining Show the first weekend in November. I’ve wanted to attend in the past, but the event is a bit pricey around $25 for general admission. And speaking of prices, if you want to see any of the presentations by celebrity chefs, it’ll cost you even more. Cookbook signings are more than that, and there are even VIP celebrity events if you’re willing to shell out around $500 per person. When I saw a living social deal for admission and entrance to a presentation by Tom Collichio and Gail Simmons and a second one by Giada de Laurentis for $30, I felt it was the right year to check it out. I also may have bribed Kirios to go with me – not because it wasn’t the type of event he would enjoy, but because it was the type of event which he would expect to be free.

We arrived at the cooking show about fifteen minutes before Tom and Gail’s presentation, and we found seats near a friend of ours who was also attending. It was a big theater area with most of the front rows reserved for people who paid extra, but compared to watching Top Chef episodes through the television I felt closer to them. Tom cooked a rabbit, which made me a little sad because bunnies should be hugged, not butchered. He actually stole the rabbit from two-time Top Chef contestant (and former executive chef of Kirios’ favorite Zaytinya) Mike Isabella’s kitchen at Graffiato, because the show was right after Superstorm Sandy hit and he couldn’t bring food with him from New York. Tom pan cooked the rabbit with basil, dates, and pistachios, with some earthy mushrooms and carrots. He told everyone they could replace the rabbit with a chicken or duck, but encouraged people to try rabbit. Gail made a cocktail basil ginger cocktail and a no-bake basil ice cream pie. Her crust was made from crushed ginger snaps mixed with candied ginger and dried pineapple. And she swirled the basil simple syrup from her cocktail into a container of ice cream before pouring it into the crust and refreezing. Tom and Gail weren’t allowed to provide any hints about the 10th season of Top Chef which started the following week, but they cheerfully answered questions about their favorite dishes from the show, shared family cooking memories, and provided advice to amateur chefs looking for meal suggestions.

After Tom and Gail, we sampled vendors’ products – mostly small companies making salsas, hot sauces, and baked goods. We tried sweet potato butter which tasted so good it would be problematic to own. We also saw our favorite local Greek olive oil salesman. Kirios and I had spent a long time talking with him at a Greek festival over the summer and purchased a bottle of blood orange olive oil for ourselves and lime olive oil for my parents at the festival. He appreciated hearing how much we love it, and that we use it on everything. (We’ve since ran out and refilled our bottle with the rosemary flavor.)

Giada’s presentation didn’t actually include her cooking. She had volunteers follow her instructions and prepare a shrimp bruschetta, lamb chops in barbecue sauce, and more. This freed up more of her time to answer questions. Regardless, the food sounded pretty good. She told the audience how her young daughter will eat anything that’s cooked in a muffin tin these days, and she frequently makes mac’n’cheese with veggies and chicken in muffin tins for dinner. She also gave advice on preparing large Thanksgiving dinners.

After Giada’s presentation ended, Kirios and I frantically went from booth to booth to visit the rest of the vendors before the show closed. We were moderately successful at that. But I was disappointed we didn’t have time to check out the recipe book store. Of course there are always other places to buy cookbooks. Overall, it was a fun day and I’m glad we attended. I’d go back again, but I’d probably wait a few more years before doing so.

Where Did August Go?

I bet I’m not the only one out there who’s still scratching their head wondering what happened to August, or the whole summer for that matter! School is back in session, football has started, and although I haven’t had either yet, discussions of pumpkin lattes and pumpkin beer are frequent. Hello autumn! Honestly, the fall is my favorite season and now that I’m not in school anymore, I’m not ashamed to admit it. This summer in particular was too hot to enjoy most outdoorsy seasonal celebrations. (Did I mention how sweaty those outdoor weddings were?!?) I’m hoping for a fabulous fall to make up for that. But I won’t complain about the summer too much, there were still a lot of great times.

If you’re curious what happened to Challahbear during August, the answer is a lot! I’ve been visited by my Mom and my Dad (separately – they had business trips on different weeks), and Kirios and I went away for three long weekends! Work has been busy too, and the weeknights have been a struggle to keep up with all the packing and unpacking, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. It’s been a fun month, but it wouldn’t hurt to stay in one place for a little longer! I’ll be packing up again in just over a week to head home for Rosh HaShana, so I can’t say things will be calming down too much just yet. Oh well!

Here’s a recap of the first trip Kirios and I took to Wintergreen Mountain, VA. (True fact, I’ve been reading A Song of Ice and Fire, the first Game of Thrones Book, and wrote Winterfell the first time around. Oops.)

Kirios and I spent two nights at Wintergreen Mountain Resort in early August.  It was a little over three hours from where we live, and the temperature was much cooler up the mountain, thankfully!  We arrived Friday evening and visited Wild Wolf Brewery for live music and beer sampling. I was a big fan of their beer, even their hoppier brews went down smoothly with nice flavor.

The next morning we had breakfast outside on the porch before heading over to the Nelson County Farmers’ Market. We sampled cheese and fruit and jams. We decided to buy some jams, mostly because we found blackberry and hot pepper to be such a fun flavor. We also got crabapple jam and “bluebarb.” Kirios negotiated with the nice old man who sold it to us and was satisfied he was getting a good deal. Following the farmer’s market, we prepared large turkey sandwiches with lots of veggies for lunch, but not before trying more of our new jam. Then we went to the resort’s lake at the bottom of the mountain. We rented bikes by the lake and I had a bit of a meltdown…  I never really rode a bike as a kid and Kirios made it his mission to get me riding again over the past few summers. Because it was so hot this summer, we hadn’t had a chance to take our bikes out this year and I was quite nervous. To make matters worse, this bike had one hand break, but really stopped by pedaling backwards. I was only used to hand-breaks. Anyway, I screamed a lot going downhill, and struggled for the hour we had the bikes, but I did keep riding. It wasn’t my favorite part of the trip, but I’m glad I got back on the bike. At the very least, it made my other trips a bit easier! I rewarded myself by jumping into the lake for a swim. Kirios and I jumped on a huge lake trampoline which was fun, but super disorienting. He also climbed up an inflatable rock wall and then slid down it. It looked hard to pull yourself up and I was tired from the bike ride, so I cheered him on from below.

After the lake we attended a lovely wedding for Kirios’ friend and former coworker, the reason for our excursion in the first place. The ceremony on top of the mountain was beautiful and intimate. The reception was in a big tent by another brewery at the bottom of the mountain. There was a colorful sunset above the mountain during the cocktail hour. There were sentimental speeches, silly photo ops, and fun dancing. The evening ended with the bride and groom exiting through a line of guests holding sparklers.

When Sunday morning came around, we weren’t ready to end our trip just yet. We packed up the car and checked out of our room, but then we stopped at the resort’s mini golf course! After mini golf, we headed to Delfosse Vineyards for their French Crepe Day. Kirios and I love crepes, and I was especially excited to have found out about this event. I’d like to say doing research in advance pays off when planning a getaway, but this was a big disappointment. The vineyard was beautiful, I had high expectations. But the dining room/tasting area was madness. Our waitress ignored us most of the time, and gave Kirios mean looks from time to time. We ordered a cheese platter, two savory crepes, and one sweet crêpe for dessert. She was unable to accommodate our request to have the cheese first. While we enjoyed the cheese platter and it was quite large, it only featured cheeses available at Trader Joe’s. We had tried most of them before. It also looked like the fruit wasn’t washed.  Since we still needed to drive home, we shared one glass of wine. We prefer red and ordered the Cuvee Laurent. Neither of us liked it. Mom always complained about the Virginia wines. I guess we’ll have to try white next time. Although I wouldn’t mind skipping the VA wineries and heading straight for Napa Valley…  Anyway, the whole thing was a fiasco. But we were full when we left and satisfied that we had made the most of our weekend.

Besides, we had another trip waiting the following weekend!

Olympic Bum No More

In case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Olympic coverage.  It started July 27th with opening ceremonies. I hosted a Shabbat dinner for some friends. I served freshly baked raisin challah; roasted red pepper hummus; and Asian cabbage salad with ramen noodles, oranges, and almonds. For the main course we had St. Tropez Chicken (marinated with honey, wine, and herbs de Provence), egg noodles, and broccoli with garlic and breadcrumbs. As we finished eating, we moved closer to the television and watched the activities in London unfold. Then I served this peach pie.

Go Team USA!

By the end of the night I was feeling patriotic, well fed, and sleepy. That’s pretty much how I’ve felt most nights since. I’ve gone out to tasty restaurants, I’ve cooked good food, and I’ve woken up at midnight, once after 1am, to find myself on my futon with the TV still showing NBC.  The Olympics suck me in every time they come around. I admit, I prefer the winter games. My mother figure skated when she was young, and there was nothing I enjoyed more than watching Kristi Yamaguchi and friends compete for the gold. (Side note: Her commercial endorsing Romney makes me pretty sad.) But who can ignore the talents of the US swim team. Rooting for Michael Phelps has become a national pastime. The youngest US Olympian this year, 15-year-old Katie Ledecky, is from my neighborhood. She took gold. And then there’s the women’s gymnastics. The National Zoo has committed to naming its baby cheetah twins – one male and one female – after the winners of the 100 meter dash. I’ve seen synchronized diving, volleyball, heptathlon, cycling. The sport doesn’t matter – the spirit is infectious.

As I’ve watched the athletes accomplish great feats and find myself spending more and more time planted on my futon, I can’t help but feel like a bum. I spent 10 months training for and running two half marathons. It was grueling on my body, but I lost about 30 pounds and felt great. Since then, my knee has hurt whenever I run for more than 10 minutes and I haven’t exercised regularly. I walk fifteen minutes to and from the metro every day when I go to work and I walk up some extremely tall escalators, but it’s not exactly endurance training. Last summer Kirios and I made a big effort to go bike riding. We’d go out two or three times per week when our schedules allowed. I’m embarrassed to admit we haven’t even gone biking once this summer. Kirios has had additional evening commitments and quite frankly the extreme heat has kept us both indoors as much as possible. It’s been over 90 degrees almost every evening.

Fear not, I finally decided to do something about the situation. Last week I ordered an exercise bike online. It’s semi-recumbent and folds up to take up less space. It arrived on Thursday and I spent an hour assembling it on Friday afternoon. Full disclosure, I assembled the whole thing except for the handlebars. I couldn’t figure out how to get them to attach. Kirios put them on this morning and told me the screws went through the bottom, not the top. Oops. So for the past two days I’ve spent 30 minutes cycling while watching the Olympics. I may not deserve a medal for it, but it certainly makes me feel like less of a bum!

My New Bike

People, Parties, and Power: Wedding #2

In the epic conclusion of the people, parties, and power blogs, my cousin Stephanie gets married! Most people thought Tuesday (July 3rd) was an odd day of the week for a wedding, despite the holiday following it. However I was happy Stephanie and her now-husband Larry got married on the 3rd, because it meant I could make both weddings I was invited to that week.

I took off from work on Monday, exhausted from Sunday’s wedding festivities, and planning to leave for Wedding #2 in New York that afternoon. Since Kirios wasn’t at the Sunday evening wedding, he planned to work for half the day before we hit the road. Since it was 3+ days since Kirios’ family’s house lost power, he was still staying at my apartment. I was woken up by his alarm at 7am when he had to pay for his parking. Again at 7:30 when he got up to shower, and finally he pushed me out of bed at 8am to help make breakfast while he was getting ready for work. So much for sleeping in on my day off… (Although I normally wake up at 5:50am for work, so I still benefited.)

While Kirios was in the office, I showered, packed, and prepared lunch and snacks for us. Very slowly. Because I was still pretty exhausted. But by the time Kirios made it back to the apartment, I was doing better and ready to go. We had an uneventful drive up, making our way to my cousins’ building in Manhattan around 6pm. My parents had spent the day touring with my brother, sister-in-law, and Cousin Rebecca, and everyone was hanging out and waiting for us when we arrived. My parents left shortly after to get to their hotel in Long Island, and the rest of us went out for Kosher Chinese food. It was a real treat for me to have meat Chinese food and be able to share with everyone for a change! Kirios was happy to indulge in his favorite sesame chicken as usual. We all hung out at Rebecca’s apartment and called it a night relatively early.

Unfortunately, Tuesday morning was street cleaning for half of my cousins’ neighborhood. I got up with Kirios a little before 8am and made sure he had breakfast before he went to move my car. (I’m scared to drive in New York. And Kirios is the bestest boyfriend everrrr.) Rebecca also went out to move the car she and her sister borrowed from their parents to get to wedding on Long Island. Neither of them had any luck finding a spot, and they spent the next hour and a half circling and double parked around the neighborhood. I got a couple of quick phone calls from Kirios, “How far do you need to be from a hydrant in New York City?” and “where does Harlem start?” And while I waited for them to return, my sister-in-law woke up and kept me company. After a while, my brother joined us too.

Following the parking fiasco (Kirios ended up parking in almost the same spot he started in) Cousin Rebecca and my Sister-in-Law left to get manicures. I stayed behind with the boys since I had gotten my nails done on Saturday before the fancy party, although I cried to myself a little that my polish was already chipping. No one noticed except when I pointed it out. When the ladies returned, they brought back a New York pizza. It was a wonderful lunch. They certainly don’t make them quite like that anywhere else.

Following lunch, we left for Long Island and arrived at the hotel with less than an hour to get ready for the wedding. We arrived at the venue, the Woodbury Country Club, at 5:30 for pictures. The wedding didn’t officially start until 7, so there was a lot of time waiting around. But it ended up being very worthwhile because we able to get some really beautiful photos – pictures of my parents, my cousins, Kirios and I, and with my brother and sister-in-law, etc. The pictures also formally document my momentous decision to spend the summer as a blonde – something I anticipate my future children will laugh about. Although I think I pull it off rather well!

Kirios and I with my brother and sis-in-law!

Cousins 🙂

At seven, the bar and the smorgasbord opened. Kirios ordered me a tequila sunrise, a cocktail I always associate with my semester in Rome, and then we made a B-line for the food. You see, New York weddings take the cocktail hour way more seriously than any other city I’ve seen… There were stations with sushi, Mediterranean food, a carving table, vegetable crepes, veal Marsala, lemon chicken, and more. Wait staff was also walking around with other treats including sliders, cocktail wieners, and lamb chops with mint jelly. My mother is especially fond of lamb chops and when she heard they were making their way around, she harassed a waitress for about half an hour until another batch came out and were brought directly to her. My father, Kirios and I stayed in close proximity so we could enjoy them too! I should mention that in addition to gorging myself on this delectable kosher buffet, I caught up with some second cousins and the like, introducing them to Kirios, and I said hi to the girls I met at the bachelorette party the month before. But yes, it was mostly gorging.

Mom destroys a lamb chop

The sun set and my stomach filled, so it was time to for some marrying to happen. My family secured second-row seats and we were happy to witness Stephanie and Larry’s happy moment. At the conclusion of the ceremony, we made our way inside (air conditioning at last!) for the reception – dancing, speeches, and a 3+ course meal. (Because we were all starving… NOT). Stephanie and Larry danced to a romantic Israeli love song, and then everyone danced the hora. We had a salad and poached pear, followed by more dancing and a sorbet intermezzo served in miniature ice cream cones. I had a large steak with mashed potatoes and asparagus for dinner. Kirios ordered the salmon, brother ordered the chicken. We all danced some more. Finally the cake was cut, and in addition to large pieces of wedding cake, and dessert sampler was served with a chocolate cigar, a chocolate cake with a chocolate lava filling, a chocolate covered strawberry, and rainbow cake. The rainbow cake brought back memories; I loved eating it on my trips to New York as a little girl. But I can honestly say I was stuffed by the time we left the wedding. I wasn’t even disappointed that we stayed so long there was no more popcorn and candy left on our way out!

Despite our attempts to sleep in on Wednesday morning after the wedding, Kirios and I got up to attend brunch with the newlyweds and say our goodbyes to the relatives. We made a quick stop with Mom and Dad to stock up on New York bagels, and then we headed back home to Maryland. As we left, Kirios learned from his parents that their power was finally restored, five jam-packed days later. And thus concluded my whirlwind of seeing great people, celebrating at great parties, and appreciating power. I can’t say I was particularly delighted to be back at work Thursday morning, though.

Stephanie & Larry’s first dance!

Fancy party was a very fun and very late night. As mentioned in my last post, I slept until noon on Sunday, July 1st. My alarm was actually sent for 12:15, but my friend Jeff called at noon to coordinate carpool plans – our wonderful friends from college, Jackie and Andrew, were getting married!

I woke up at 12 and left to meet Jeff at 2:45, so my “morning” consisted of an epic bowl of cereal made by Kirios (would you like some cereal with your fruit?), showering, and debating whether to wear white shoes or silver. I wore a slinky pink dress which fell to my calves and I had a silver purse. I really love my white evening shoes that I bought for a wedding last summer, and they look nice with the pink dress. But I borrowed some shawls from my mother for the occasion and her new silver shawl is much prettier than the white one she’s had forever. In the end, Kirios promised to create an opportunity for me to wear my fancy white shoes later this summer, and I wore the silver ones. It turned out to be a good move… the white shoes would have stained from sinking into the dirt and grass at the venue!

The wedding took place at Stone Manor Country Club, north of Frederick, MD. It was only about an hour from my apartment, but I was concerned about driving around rural roads one the way home when it was dark and I was tired, so I made plans to carpool with Jeff. In light of the recent storms, I also didn’t know what to expect as far as road conditions (many homes were still without power, lights were still out, and there was debris on the side of the road everywhere). And then of course there’s the environment; +1 for carpooling. I met Jeff at his parents’ house and immediately felt like I was picking him up for prom. His parents, who I hadn’t seen in a while, were both waiting with him, and his mom insisted on taking our picture before we left. Disappointed that I didn’t get a corsage, I said goodbye to Jeff’s parents and we headed out in Jeff’s car.


With Jeff before the Wedding

We arrived at Stone Manor at four. It was a beautiful old mansion on a huge plot of land in the middle of nowhere. I could understand why Jackie and Andrew picked the site to get married. Unfortunately, it was also 100+ degrees and peak sun. We grabbed water and hors d’oeuvres, and headed into the (unairconditioned) mansion where Andrew was partaking in a groom’s tisch, when the groom is greeted and guests, shares a little Torah, and indulges in a few celebratory L’Chaim shots. Andrew signed the Ketuba, Jewish marriage contract, and then saw his bride. The building was pretty crowded with guests, so I spent most of the time hugging and posing for pictures with the rest of our college friends. Everyone looked so pretty!

By the time we made our way to the sit down for the reception, everyone was sweating. I felt bad for the gentlemen who were wearing three piece suits. We played and posed for more pictures with the paper fans placed on each chair. And then Andrew walked down the aisle escorted by his parents, who have invited us all into their homes many times for Shabbat dinners and their annual Sukkot  party. Jackie was a beautiful bride, and the ceremony was lovely. After the Sheva Brachot, seven blessings said during a Jewish wedding, Jackie’s aunt translated them into Spanish for her side of the family from Puerto Rico, which was really special.

The reception was in a large tent next to mansion. At first it was a relief to be covered from the sun, but as soon as the band – an energetic 12(?) person Latin band – began playing, and we started dancing the hora we knew that things were only getting hotter. I spent the rest of night poorly attempting the many different Latin dances with all of my college friends. Each dance partner was sweatier than the next. It was a fantastic celebration for a fantastic couple. Congrats!

The bride and groom!

This past week has been a whirlwind of people, parties, and (for some, a lack of) power. In anticipation of a busy busy week, Kirios and I decided to relax at my apartment and watch a movie late Friday night. I noticed heat lightning outside my window, a common occurrence during summer heat waves. Then Kirios noticed that the flickering switched to inside – the power was going on and off. Within seconds of him pointing this out, a horrible storm ripped through my neighborhood and the rest of the DC metropolitan area. Kirios and I watched trees and dust blowing down the block from my window. The power went out and we grabbed our flashlights. I was lucky – it was restored moments later. Half of my block and almost everyone in the surrounding area did not get their power restored. Kirios’ family had no power from Friday night until Wednesday afternoon. During my two years in Silver Spring, multiple day power outages were quite commonplace, and I had a lot of sympathy for the powerless people sweating through our 100 degree heat wave.

Around half an hour after the storm passed, Kirios decided to drive home to pick up his glasses and some other things, since he hadn’t originally intended to stay at my apartment that night. His home is less than 2 miles from mine – none of the traffic lights were working. Entire trees and large branches riddled the road, frequently forcing people to drive in the lane of opposing traffic. A tree fell onto the roof of one house – the roof had completely caved in. Kirios’ close neighbors had a large tree fall in their yard, taking a mangled bundle of cables down with it. Miraculously, the tree did not harm their house. But they’re still without power and will have to pay a couple thousand dollars to remove it and repair their lines before the power company will help them.

Kirios’ Neighbor’s Home

Saturday morning was a strange one. While I had power, my cable and internet were down. We had a full day of plans, and tried to maintain some normalcy to our lives, but the whole area was disrupted. In the afternoon, Kirios and his dad brought over many of the perishable items in their refrigerator/freezer to store in mine. I went out to get a manicure. Until Saturday, I’ve only had 3 manicures in my life, but I figured with a cocktail party and two weddings, now was the time to splurge. I walked several powerless blocks where all of the businesses were closed, passing two nail salons. There were branches and debris everywhere, and multiple dead birds. That’s always an ominous sign. I knew my quest for a manicure wasn’t hopeless when I started to see people holding Starbucks cups. I reached a block with power – and a nail salon! An hour later I had partaken in conversations about open restaurants, waiting lists for generators, and where to donate spoiling food. I also had pretty nails.

When I returned to my apartment, I saw the full fridge, but Kirios was gone. I called to check in and see how he and his parents were doing, but he didn’t answer. Twice. I thought about driving over to his house to check on him, but then I realized if I did, I probably wouldn’t have phone reception either, which would make it hard for him or anyone else to check on me. So I stayed put. He knew where I was. Eventually he called me, but we kept getting cut off after a few seconds. He came back over shortly after anyway, I suspect he was using me for my air conditioning at that point!

I also checked in with my cousin who lives about 20 minutes from me. Her parents were visiting from Florida and we were all planning to get together for an early dinner. She lost power and her parents made reservations at a nearby Hilton. (Later Saturday I heard on the radio that every Marriott in the greater DC area was sold out.) My relatives were having a hard time finding restaurants that would answer the phone.

Kirios and I left to meet up with my relatives around 4:30, but before going to dinner we made a stop in Rockville to check on our friend’s house. He and his parents had spent the past week at the beach, and were returning home a day early having heard about the storm. As we approached his neighborhood, we saw the same signs of destruction. Downed trees, powerless traffic lights, and basketball hoops on the ground… I was nervous, not wanting to have to call back with bad news. Luckily his home seemed fine, at least from the outside. They didn’t have power, but they also didn’t have any damage.

We met my aunt, uncle, and cousin at California Pizza Kitchen in the mall. The mall was filled with people charging their phones, iPads, and computers at any and every outlet. Some people were just there cooling off. But if you didn’t know better, you’d have thought it was the week before Christmas. Kirios guessed that the mall was running on a back up generator – although it was air conditioned, it didn’t have the typical freezing temperature of the mall. Despite the craziness, we were able to have a nice meal with my family.

Next update to include parties and more people!

Summer Days

It’s been a fairly busy two weeks since my last post and Kirios’ homecoming!

We had a new employee join my team at the Postal Service. It’s nice to have someone else on the team to take on some of the work, and it’s especially nice to have another young woman around the office. Before the new girl, the person closest in age to me was 40. And she’s been on military leave for the past year…

My mom was in town on business for a few nights. We cooked dinner together one of the nights she was in town – salmon on a bed of spinach and feta and grape tomatoes, approved by Kirios, our own expert on Greek cooking.

Kirios and I metro-ed into Washington DC the other weekend to join our friends Marnina and Seth of ibeafoodie.wordpress.com for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s annual Take Steps fundraiser walk. My parents actually attended their Pittsburgh walk the weekend before. It was a beautiful day and the walk route went around the Tidal Basin, passing by many monuments. It was actually the first time I saw the new Martin Luther King Jr. monument close up too!

Kirios and I stop for a photo during CCFA’s Take Steps

The next day, partially inspired by Marnina and Seth and their friends at the walk who participated in the most recent Team Challenge season together, I decided to go for a morning run. It’s been almost a year and a half since I last went running. I stopped running shortly after completing my second half marathon. Since then Kirios has and I have gone running once or twice, but the last time we did, my knee started hurting pretty soon after we started. Unfortunately, even though so much time has passed, that’s what happened last weekend too.  I ran for a little over 15 minutes before my knee began hurting, and I didn’t make it very far after that. My knee hurt for the rest of the day and it was painful to walk up and down the steps at Kirios’ house that night. I think it’s time to try cycling again, because I think my running days are behind me! 🙁

Friday night I got together with a friend for a night of Thai food and television. He convinced me to try watching Firefly, the cult classic Western in space. I hang out with a lot of geeky guys, and have been encouraged to watch it many times. I have to say, it wasn’t bad. I’m not drinking the cool-aid yet, but I could definitely watch some more on another rainy night.

This past Saturday I woke up early and went to the supermarket to buy blueberries. I made my dad’s famous blueberry tart recipe. Kirios met up with me and we packed sandwiches before heading out to Virginia to meet up with friends at the Del Ray Music Festival in Alexandria. It was a little out of our way and random, but a very cute little festival. We got there around 6pm and ate our sandwiches. We also shared snacks – veggies, chips, dip, and the blueberry tart. It was a lovely picnic. We sat on bales of hay and laid out on blankets while local bands played. The sun went down and the temperature improved a lot. At 8:30 Pat McGee came on stage.  I hadn’t heard of him, but one of our friends is a big fan and got us all together for the event. The music was relaxing and the company couldn’t have been better. As the festival winded down, Kirios and I grabbed forks and fought over the rest of the crust in the tart pan.  We went home happy and sleepy. Days like that are what summer is all about!


Seven Countries in One Day

Not everyone has the vacation time to enjoy 3+ week vacations on the other side of the world. I like to travel and explore. But I’m a business major, so when I plan a trip, I like to get the most bang for my buck. And that’s exactly what I did earlier this month when I played tourist in seven countries in one day: South Africa, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Ghana, Pakistan, Brunei, and Egypt– in that order. 

Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. The rest of you are skeptical. I’m not lying. But there is a catch. I visited the embassies (technically not U.S.soil) of all of these exciting places as part of Passport DC’s World Embassy Day. Every year the embassies in Washington DC open their doors for a Saturday in May to hold an open house showcasing their nation’s culture through art, performances, food, and drink. Even the buildings are beautiful. In addition to World Embassy Day, Passport DC also sponsors EU Embassy Day the Saturday closest to EU day, exclusive to the European embassies.

I was introduced to EU Embassy Day back in college when I decided to tag-along with my roommate who was attending with her older brother and his friends. We started with a tour of the Belgium embassy which featured samples of chocolates, cookies, fruit nectars, and beers. We finished in Romania, which had a full lunch buffet complete with wine. My mind was blown; it was the best event ever. And it was FREE (although some embassies sell food and goods).

EU Embassy Day was so amazing that I told everyone about it. This had mixed results. Once, I started telling a stranger about it at a party. Before I left, he asked if he could email me to get more information about the event. We ended up meeting again to go to Embassy Day together a few weeks later. I now call him Kirios. True story. Happy anniversary, agapi mou <3

Unfortunately, in addition to complete strangers, I also told a bunch of coworkers and friends about how great EU embassy is. Word spread and the lines to get into the embassies got longer. Kirios and I noticed it last year; we were hungrier and waited longer to get into our favorite embassies. This year it was so bad we only visited Portugal and Greece. I’m not giving up on EU Embassy Day just yet, but I definitely screwed up letting the cat out of the bag on that one!

Now where was I… oh yes, World Embassy Day. Last year my parents visited in May and asked that Kirios and I take them around the city to partake in normal weekend activities for us. Because we’re super cool and always do fun things. (Is it possible that used to be true?!?) They actually chose a great weekend to visit and we were able to take them to World Embassy Day, among other events like the city’s largest Greek festival. We visited Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Croatia, Argentina, Rwanda, and so on. There was dancing and food and we ran into lots of friends – including childhood friends from Pittsburgh who had relocated to the area, which was exciting for my parents too. Kirios even wrapped a snake around himself and ate a Rwandan delicacy with worms. Possibly. Whether he actually ate it or not remains a secret. The parental units and I of course declined since worms are not kosher. World Embassy Day has more embassies open, which means shorter lines.

So this year I was looking forward to my almost free trip around the world. The day of the event, Kirios had an unexpected obligation and was unable to go. So I called up a few friends who I had already blabbed to about how amazing Embassy Day is, and by 1pm we assembled a motley crew to sightsee together. A childhood friend, and post-college friend, and new friends they brought along. We took turns caffeinating at Starbucks (i.e. every time someone got off the metro and met up with us, he or she wanted to stop and pick something up) and we embarked on an epic journey. Or at least an exciting walk around a few blocks.

The South African Embassy is currently undergoing renovations, but they temporarily took over the lobby level of a fancy schmancy office building. They transformed it with music and costumes, vendors, and a full lunch buffet with white corn grits, a wonderful salmon dish, super spicy vegetables, and at least four desserts to try. They did run out of utensils, but someone managed to find a spoon for me. They also gave out samples of liquor which tasted like Baileys, so after sipping it, we all dumped the rest of our cups into the Starbucks drinks we were still carrying around.

Next we visited Ethiopia, so I immediately texted my one Ethiopian friend. Then we sampled Ethiopian coffee, which we expected to be very strong. But it was actually quite smooth and delicious. I don’t drink coffee anymore since it upsets my stomach and the whole Crohns’ thing can be a bummer, but when I did, I always drank it with milk. I only took a sip of this coffee, but I had it straight, and I would drink it black. Also at the Ethiopian embassy, we enjoyed traditional music playing and most of us splurged and spent $2 for a cup of Tej, honey wine. It tasted like iced tea with a lot of honey it. An Ethiopian woman came over to us multiple times warning us to sip it slowly so it wouldn’t go to our heads. I followed her advice. At least one member of our group didn’t, and admitted to feeling fairly tipsy by the time we entered Indonesia.

Indonesia had a pretty building and lots of colors. I was feeling full and the food was for sale so I skipped it. We ran into another friend who bought a purse there. She looked inside and it said “Made in Thailand.” Fail.

Ghana gave us a chocolate candy when we walked in. Plus one. They also had a couple people playing drums, dancing, and chanting. The main performer had a wonderful smile that made me want to be his friend. Or at least allow him to entertain me. By then it was also raining a little bit, so we were happy to sit and enjoy for a while.

Next we went to Pakistan, and that was a PARTY. A Pakistani dance troupe from Georgetown Universitywas performing under a big tent. They had bright costumes. Their dances combined Pakistani songs with top 40 ones, so everyone could get into it. And they had some interesting props they used in their dances too.

We went to Brunei at the suggestion of the friend we ran into at Indonesia. She told us there was lots of chocolate there. When we arrived, we were disappointed to see it was the Three Musketeers, Twix, and Milky Way sampler. We were more interested in Brunese chocolate. Microsoft Word tells me that Brunese isn’t a real word, but I think you understand. Their building is absolutely gorgeous, and even has a waterfall wall out back. Before we left, they did bring out Brunei foods – shrimp chips, which I didn’t eat because they’re not kosher, and a sesame covered dessert ball thing. The dessert was warm and airy. There was a filling inside which we thought was fig. Later in Egyptwe learned that the filling was actually red bean paste. Who knew!

Our finally stop was in Egypt. (Although we stared curiously at the outside of the UAE embassy which wasn’t participating in the open houses. We imagined opulence at its finest.) In Egypt, we promptly started taking pictures with the mummy artwork. We watched a short movie that was probably created by their national tourism department. Then we checked out the goods they were selling in their marketplace. I tried on a fez, but decided my head is a bit too small to successfully pull it off. Aladdin looked better. Some of the folks in our group bought picture frames with interesting designs. Then we discovered their patio, around which they hung a bunch of colorful cloths creating a bright tent. There were pillows and things which looked like bean bag chairs but featured hieroglyphic style designs. If we were actually in Egypt, there would probably be a bunch of middle age men smoking hookah in the tent.  It was sunny and breezy and pleasant, so a bunch of us sat down and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying this Egyptian tent. Embassy Day ended at 4pm, and we slowly shuffled out of the tent, reentering U.S. soil. The vacation was over, we were home.

Now please, forget everything you just read about how awesome the DC Embassy Open House days are and stay home come next May. Long lines are no fun!