Archive for the ‘ Parties ’ Category

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 – 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.

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!

When I last left off, it was Saturday June 30th. Kirios’ house had no power, my apartment did. And we had a lovely dinner with my cousin who lives in Gaithersburg and her parents who were visiting from Florida… If you’ve been following along, you’ll note that there haven’t been any parties yet. But now it’s Saturday night, so time to start!

Saturday night marked the much anticipated return of “Fancy Party,” an epic college tradition created and hosted by my friend Joel. I met Joel in the beginning of my time at the University of Maryland while at an event for freshmen in the business school – we were the only freshmen who attended. Lucky for us, there were other eager freshmen out there, and it didn’t take long before we had a good group of folks getting involved in activities at the Smith School, collaborating on group projects for class, and just hanging out. Sophomore year Joel and his roommates decided to throw a college party unlike any other – one with exclusively high quality liquor and beer. Ladies were encouraged to dress in cocktail attire; gentlemen were expected to wear jackets. Tuxedos and prom dresses weren’t discouraged. Fancy Party was born.

Over the past 3 ½ years since graduating, I’ve tried to keep in touch with my friends from B-school… I along with everyone else who is still in the DC metro area make an effort to attend young alumni events which generally lets us get together a couple of times a year. For everyone else, well, there’s Facebook stalking. When Joel decided it was time to resurrect the Fancy Party tradition, my college nostalgia kicked into full gear and I told Kirios to get excited. Actually, I told him so many times he problem doubted the affair could live up to the hype.

I picked out a black cocktail dress – the last from my dress shopping spree which I had yet to wear – and matched it with patent leather heels and my fresh manicure. Kirios was planning to wear his grey suit. He got a little freaked out about the 100 degree weather and went back and forth for a while. He ended up arriving in the suit, but never had the jacket on. His desire for a seersucker suit grew, to my dismay (although one party goer was rocking a seersucker bow tie and cumberbund). Looking spiffy, we brought along some crackers and two of my favorite cheeses I’ve tried with Kirios so far; creamy toscano with cracked pepper – we had it with espresso when we tried it in December – and a tasty cheese soaked in syrah. We had to keep it classy!

The party lived up to my expectations, and it was a real treat to see everyone, particularly a few friends who were visiting from out of town. Kirios had a great time too. At 11pm, shortly after we arrived, he downed his first five-hour energy drink. Those things scare me. A lot. I protested, and told him that I really didn’t want him to be awake five hours from now. I retracted my statement at 3:15am when I requested that he, my designated driver, embark on the 30 minute drive home. We went to sleep exactly five hours later at 4am. It still scares me though… Kirios also learned never to offer anyone a ride home without first asking where they lived. Thankfully, my friend from Philadelphia declined his offer.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that I slept until noon Sunday morning. I definitely needed to, because there were still more parties to come and people to see!

Thanks, Joel!

Playing in New York

This year I spent Memorial Day weekend in New York City with my cousins.  Weekend getaways are always fun, and New York is typically an exciting destination with lots to do. That weekend was no exception. I haven’t traveled to New York on my own in a couple of years, but in the past I usually took the Amtrak. This time I jumped on the discount bus bandwagon, finding it extremely convenient that the Vamoose Bus departs for Penn Station within walking distance of my apartment. I boarded a 7am bus on Saturday morning and was in the city before 11. Not bad for a holiday weekend! Plus I was even able to read without getting car sick for a good portion of the trip!

I packed light, only bringing my purse and a backpack. My cousins met and we went out for lunch before heading to a matinee on Broadway. In all of my 25 years that I’ve been traveling to New York to visit relatives, I’ve actually only seen two shows on Broadway. Both were during my 8th grade class trip. So when my mom was in town a few weeks earlier and saw a show with some family, I knew I wanted to do the same. We saw Sister Act. Raven Symone played the lead, she wasn’t Whoopi Goldberg, but she was great. She’s come along way since the Cosby Show and ABC Family Channel movies… I guess we all grow up. After the show we met up with more family for dinner and spent the rest of the night hanging out and catching up.

Sunday was quite the to-do. I joined a group of 10 ladies to celebrate with one of my cousins in bachelorette party fashion. We met for brunch at The Smith. After donning my hot pink “Team Bride” pin, I ordered an omelet with wild mushrooms and fontina. It came with a side of home fries. I’m always a sucker for potatoes at brunch. The omelet was quite tasty – better than most, but the large pool of oil on my plate made it slightly less appetizing. The brunch special came with a choice of drinks. I ordered the freshly squeezed blood orange mimosa, which was bitterer than I had hoped. One of my cousins ordered the passion punch – it was heavy on the rum but a more refreshing choice.

After brunch we took the bus to the East End to complete our bachelorette scavenger hunt. Although we were all one team, so it was more like a bucket list. We visited candy stores, clothing stores, vintage boutiques and so forth, forcing the bride to pose with cute and sometimes crazy things. I think the best pictures were of her in neon pink leggings, a neon yellow tank top, a neon green fanny pack, and of course a side pony tail. Equally entertaining was the flamboyant thrift store owner eager to teach us all the trick to wearing any hat. (According to him, even the most ridiculous shower cap looking thing is high fashion when tilted to the side of your head). This scavenger hunt of course included a caffeine/bathroom break at Starbucks, and ended with frozen yogurt. It was super hot that weekend, so both were needed.

Following the scavenger hunt, we took the Subway to Williamsburg and surprised the bride with a jewelry making class at Brooklyn Charm. Their patient staff taught us how to make wire wrap bracelets with the beads of our choice. Half of the group took a basic assembly course instead, making necklaces with dangling charms. Although learning to wire-wrap was a bit of a challenge for me, I usually have a hard time finding bracelets small enough that they won’t fall off my teeny tiny wrists. My do-it-yourself project fits snuggly. We finished our jewelry class by popping open two bottles of champagne and toasting the bride.

Since it was so hot out and already 8pm, most of us started to feel the champagne and were eager to head to dinner. We went to baci & abbraci (Italian for hugs and kisses… appropriate, I suppose) and shared a variety of vegetarian pizzas as an appetizer. Their vegetariana with eggplant, zucchini, and peppers was my favorite, but their focaccia tartufata is also worth mentioning; a thin layer of dough with creamy robiola cheese, topped with another layer of crust and truffle oil on top. My main course was exceptional gnocchi violette, made with red beets and goat cheese in a cream sauce with wild arugula. It actually deserves to be said again – it was exceptional. I even found a restaurant review with the recipe for it here. I don’t generally make cream sauces at home, but if I ever feel ambitious and like making an exception… The dish was even better when paired with a nice malbec. I cleaned my plate, and didn’t even leave room for the enormous tiramisu cake the restaurant prepared for us. I did enjoy the waiters singing “Happy Birthday” to the bride. Somehow the theme of the party had escaped them, despite all of our fanfare. I don’t think the point of a bachelorette party has ever been to blend!

Despite our bridesmaid planners’ best efforts to pick out a bar for post-dinner cocktails; no one had the energy for another stop after a full day of festivities. We left the restaurant after 11pm and my cousins and I splurged for a cab to return to their apartment building in Washington Heights. I was glad to sleep in a bit the next morning!

Monday morning I packed up and hung out with my cousin a little. I used some of the super fun glitter nail polish she had on all weekend. Then I met up with a good friend of mine who previously lived in DC for a year for sushi and catch up time. Only my friend had trouble deciding if he wanted sushi or pizza. I chose sushi, since I had several Italian style pizzas over the weekend already. But I was sad not to have real New York pizza. Luckily for me, my friend decided to grab a slice before having sushi, and he was eating it when I met him. I had one delicious bite and felt more satisfied with my trip. After lunch, we stopped at a small bakery and I bought a cookie that looked as much like the colorful sprinkle cookies my Zaydie used to buy at Lord’s Bakery, and I saved it for later. As a kid, we used to take a whole box of them back home with us following a trip to Brooklyn. I headed back to Penn Station to catch my bus in the afternoon. It was my first solo trip on the subway, which seems silly to acknowledge as someone who’s been riding the DC metro everywhere for 7 years now, but let’s be honest; the subway is WAY more confusing. I picked up a New York bagel to eat for dinner on the bus, and in just a few more hours I was home.

Back to School

After months away, I recently had the opportunity to go back to my alma mater, the University of Maryland not once, not twice, but three times in a one week period. It was more driving around the beltway than I’ve done in a while, but it was well worth the gas money. (Besides, I filled my tank with cheap gas in College Park!)

A week and a half ago, I attended the 20th anniversary celebration for the QUEST (Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams) Program. QUEST is a multidisciplinary program focused on forming cross-functional teams of business, engineering, and computer science students (now open to a few additional majors) with an emphasis on quality management techniques. We liked to call it pre-consulting, and most of my former classmates from the program now work for consulting companies. QUEST was undoubtedly the most fulfilling academic aspect of my college experience. The only students who didn’t do well in QUEST classes were those who were more concerned with their grade than their project.  I turned to my QUEST classmates to join my group project teams in my other classes as well – the students were smart and reliable.

That’s why when I get an invite for a QUEST event, I usually try to attend. The anniversary celebration was no exception. It brought 20 years of students, professors, and staff together, and featured a lot of memories, motivation, and excitement for the future.  It also featured a tasty tree-course dinner. (How I miss the luxuries of being a business student…) About fifteen classmates from my cohort of seventy attended, and it was a treat to catch up with them and hear about how they’re all doing. It was equally pleasurable to meet the newest class of QUEST students, recently selected and anxious to begin the program in the spring. I’ve also been paired with one of the new students as part of a new buddy program, and exchanging emails with her has also brought back fond memories and helped me stay involved.

A few days after the celebration, Kirios and I went to campus together for Maryland Day, which I already wrote about. We took advantage of the beautiful campus and frolicked on the mall. We rubbed Testudo’s nose for good luck, visited the campus store and coffee shop in the student union.

The following week I returned to campus again for yet another celebration, this time honoring Patricia Cleveland, who is stepping down as the Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the Smith School of Business at the end of the semester and transitioning into a teaching role. I remembered seeing Dean Cleveland in passing during my tour of the business school on admitted students’ day. Within my first week at Smith, she knew my name. And I thought that was pretty cool. So I took her advice and became involved in the Smith Undergraduate Student Organization (SUSA) which she oversaw. I became friends with other business majors and we assumed leadership roles, working together with Dean Cleveland. Most of us were able to make it to the event, and we spent the evening munching on hors d’oeuvres, sipping champagne, and recalling our favorite Dean Cleveland, SUSA, and Smith stories. I smiled the whole night, and when I turned the ringer back on my phone before getting in my car to drive I home, I realized it was 11:30! I don’t usually stay out (or up) that late on work nights, but I couldn’t think of a better reason to do it.

It may be a while before I make it back to campus again. But this proud Terp knows they won’t be able to keep her away for too long!

Kitchen Gadgets and a Bride

The highlight of my weekend was attending a bridal shower for a good college friend of mine in Waldorf, Maryland. I’m usually wary of showers – the hokey games are a bit too reminiscent of elementary school birthday parties for my taste, and I leave feeling like I’m supposed to be some modern day housewife who cooks, cleans, and bakes, all while wearing heels and a poofy dress. But I have to say, the love and effort put into planning such an affair is usually enough to waive off my reservations, at least for the afternoon, and to enjoy a little female bonding.

Waldorf is a little over an hour away from my apartment, and Kirios saw the event as an opportunity to bum a ride and visit an old friend of his who lives out there, so I was lucky to have some company for my journey into a strange place for a beltway broad like me, a city with land still waiting to be developed. Kirios’ friend only lives 2 miles from the bride’s parents’ house, and luckily my GPS decided to cooperate. Upon arriving at the shower, I was pleasantly surprised to see many familiar faces, including friends from college and the groom’s mother and sister. (He’s also a college friend, and his family lived nearby.) I was also pleasantly surprised to be handed a glass, with the couple’s name and wedding date printed on it, full of sangria within minutes of sitting down.

After the typical introductions and chatting, I helped myself to the food, which featured some ethnic treats from the Puerto Rican family, like savory green bananas, as well as a full variety of cheese, crackers, hummus, and the ever popular chocolate fountain. Our hostess, the bride’s sister, then announced our first game – she passed around a collection of around 20 kitchen gadgets, some more obscure than others, then removed the basket and made us write down all of the gadgets which we could remember if we knew their function. I did alright, tying for third place with 10 gadgets. I was the only one to correctly identify the function of the silicone ring used to prevent the edges of the pie crust from burning in the oven. (I usually do a poor job covering them with aluminum foil.) The only gadget I could identify but forgot was the cheese wire/board. But I must admit, until yesterday I was completely unfamiliar with an avocado slicer, pineapple corer, mango slicer, and cherry pitter – I was unaware that knives are only the primitive tool for such activities. The shrimp devein-er was also a mystery to me. Sigh.

Following the kitchen gadgets, we donned puffy-paint decorated aprons and gathered outside for cupcake decorating – another activity that left me a bit stumped. I can’t say my cupcakes were the prettiest of the bunch, but it was fun to mix food coloring to create frosting colors and to try out the different tip shapes for the icing bags. All the while, our bride was tested with answering Newly Wed Game-esque questions about her fiancé, and was forced to stick another piece of gum in her mouth for every response which didn’t match his. Thankfully, she did pretty well.

After turning my mouth blue with highly concentrated doses of food coloring, we returned inside for the obligatory present opening ceremony. I’m definitely not a fan of public present openings. As a child at birthday parties, it was always sad when your friend opened a bag with three Beanie Babies in it, knowing later on they would open your gift and only find one. Maybe my parents were stingy, maybe they had less, regardless, don’t judge me. Of course, you wouldn’t expect a shower without present opening, and all of the presents, including mine were much lovelier than a Beanie Babie or two. It was special to be there when the soon-to-be Mother-in-Law passed down a set of pearls that had been in the family for generations, along with a family tree showing who had had them before her.

Finally, as we said our goodbye we were treated to one last favor, in addition to the aprons, customized glasses, and special prizes for the game winners – we were all given a set of heart shaped measuring spoons. Kirios has shown me them online multiple times and said he wanted to buy them for me, so he was a tad disappointed. But I reminded him that I still don’t have the red silicone heart shaped spatula or the heart shaped tea infuser he’s been eyeing also!

All in all, it was a lovely day, and I’m sure the wedding will be even lovelier!

I hit my first quarter-century mark the other week. I think it was my first birthday when I wasn’t thrilled to be a year older. But I celebrated nonetheless. Kirios and I went out for a trendy yet romantic dinner at Founding Farmers, and of course I couldn’t resist the temptation to throw yet another theme party. So in approximately 6 months when Kirios catches up uploading photos from his dSLR, you all can see what an awesome Pebbles and BamBam we make.

Last weekend Kirios and I opened the cheese he brought me on Valentines Day (well I had already broken into the smokedgouda, I admit) and I realized he sneakily broke our Vday no chocolate pact AGAIN. He purchased Trader Joe’s cheese of the month, which mixed milk chocolate with sharp white cheddar. It was… interesting. I think I actually like it more than Kirios, who was hoping for dark chocolate.  I didn’t think it was too bad upon first taste, but it actually was worse when I ate it on top of a Ritz cracker. And unlike most cheeses I’m apprehensive to try, it didn’t grow on me with consecutive bites. It definitely tasted like it should be marketed as a snack to put in your kids school lunches. It was definitely edible, but I suppose it makes me appreciate even more what Mr. Reese has known for so so long, nothing goes together quite like chocolate and peanut butter.

Other than tasting cheese, Kirios and I set out to cook some healthy meals for ourselves this weekend, so we cooked salmon, couscous, and broccoli on Saturday, and gemistas, Greek stuffed peppers on Sunday. And now that it’s Wednesday already, I’m wishing I had the time/motivation to continue the trend, but I think I may have to last on leftovers for a few more days.

Sunday afternoon my cousin Jessica visited from New York, and with Kirios we made a ton of delicious hamentaschen to get excited for Purim. We filled the triangular treats with strawberry jam, peach-mango preserves, nutella, and chocolate-peanut butter spread, and baked them on a cookie sheet that used to be our Grandma Ruth’s. And as it turns out, last Sunday was Grandma Ruth’s 12th yartzeit, the anniversary of her passing on the Hebrew calendar. I can’t think of a better way to have honored her memory on that day.

With all of the long weekends over the holidays, I found myself spending a lot of time relaxing in front of the TV, reading a book, even painting my nails. But when this past weekend rolled around, I wanted to make the most of my two days off – so I filled it with lots of plans.

On Friday, my friends Marnina and Seth joined Kirios and I for Shabbat dinner. Marnina and Seth have a wonderful cooking blog,, dedicated to making IBD friendly food for people with Crohn’s and Colitis, and all of their recipes are kosher too! Although most of the times I don’t need to restrict my diet, thanks to my wonder-medicine Remicade, Marnina and many other IBD patients do. It can be a struggle to find tasty and healthy recipes when foods that most people consider to be healthy options, like vegetables and whole grains, can cause the most harm.

Anyway, since we’ve been reading about each others’ love for cooking, it seemed like a no-brainer to join forces for an excellent meal. When Marnina showed up with a chocolate chip challah, I nearly died. Kirios has been asking me to make one since just about our first date, and I had yet to oblige. (As you can tell from my blog name, I’m a big challah fan…)  Challah was followed with a Thai sweet potato soup that I made with red curry paste and coconut milk. It was a new recipe for me, and it was so easy and delicious that my parents already made the recipe back inPittsburghfor dinner the other night! For our main course, we had chicken in white wine (chenin blanc) sauce with yellow peppers and mushrooms, a carrot and sweet potato dish prepared with maple syrup, and egg noodles. It was a chore saving room for dessert, but well worth it, since Marnina made carrot-cake with a dairy-free honey cinnamon cream cheese glaze. Mmm.

Saturday morning I put up some dough in my bread machine after breakfast, and stored it in the fridge for when I returned from the theater. I met up with a couple of folks to support our friend Ben in “Parfumerie” at 1st Stage in Tyson’s Corner. As the Washington Examinor stated, “One of the liveliest characters is Arpad, a delivery boy, portrayed with exuberance by Ben Lurye.” ( I know the showed finished its run this weekend, but I can’t help plugging my friend! The show was very cute and entertaining.

After the play, I rushed home to prepare cinnamon bread with the dough I made in the morning, cream cheese, cinnamon, and sugar. Kirios came over just in time to help me… put it in the oven. 😛 (Just kidding, he’s very helpful around the apartment!) The bread barely had time to cool before we headed into DC to attend a birthday dinner for his high school buddy at Dukem,, a popular Ethiopian restaurant on U Street. Kirios ordered Gored Gored, a dish of raw diced beef, while I enjoy a vegetarian sampler with yellow peas, collard greens, cabbage, and a tomato salad. We also split an Ethiopian beer.

Following dinner, we headed over to Silver Spring for a belated holiday party hosted by a good friend, where my cinnamon bread was enjoyed by many of my old college friends. I was too full from dinner to have any myself, but luckily I stashed some in my freezer before embarking on our evening plans!

Sunday afternoon was of course the Steelers/Broncos playoff game. I of course took advantage of the opportunity to invite some friends over for food, drinks, and football. Kirios and I were joined by three friends for the game. Since we were winding down from a busy weekend, I kept the menu simple. Our guests brought veggies and hummus, and we took the opportunity to serve some leftovers from Kirios’ birthday party (back in October, and there’s still so much!), tortilla chips and guacamole, mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce, and oreos and brownies. Plus I prepared a simple baked ziti for our entrée. Everything was easy to serve and stress-free. Unfortunately, our victorious viewing party didn’t translate to an on-field victory for my men in black and gold. (Although Kirios looked very handsome in his new Troy Polamalu jersey.) With a season-ending loss, the weekend closed out on a lower note, but it was ok, because I was full with good food and friends.

Ringing in 2012

Traditionally, I’ve always been home in Pittsburgh with my family for New Years. My parents and their friends always take turns hosting a New Year’s Eve potluck, and in the past, all of the children would join as well. We’d spend the evening watching moving, playing board games, and casually working on puzzles. We’d turn on the television at least ten minutes before the ball dropped (and earlier once Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper began co-hosting for CNN) At the midnight hour, us “children” (let’s be honest… we haven’t been real youngsters for a while) would clang together pots and pans in the front yard. Everyone would enjoy aDixiecup full of champagne – except in 2007, when we each had one sip, enough to determine that the bottle was rancid – and we’d be making our way home by 12:15am. On ambitious years, some of us girls would rent extra movies and turn the evening into a sleepover. But these days we typically prefer to sleep in our own beds rather than pile sleeping bags into the basement. Growing up, I think we all knew that these New Years gatherings were “lame,” but we still enjoyed them anyway. And even though the kid’s generation has dispersed, we all still love those parties. No hype or drama, just good family, friends, and food.

My first foray into the world outside of our usual New Years microcosm was when I was a freshman in college. I traveled to Israel for a ten-day trip sponsored by Hillel for college students from across the country. Sylvester, as the Israelis call the secular New Year, fell on a Sunday. So 500 college students gathered to spend Shabbat together on an isolated kibbutz, and when the sunset, it was suddenly New Years Eve. There was no where to go except the party on the kibbutz, and there was plenty of alcohol. I knew students from my university, and students from my high school youth group, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a few years, and there were new friends from my trip. We danced, we drank, and we laughed. At midnight we counted down and toasted with champagne. It was definitely a fun night. But I’d be lying if I said a big part of me didn’t miss being at home in Pittsburgh for our usual festivities.

Since my trip abroad, I attended the rest of my New Year holidays inPittsburgh, until 2011. Last year I decided to celebrate with Kirios. We didn’t do a lot of planning for the evening. In fact, just about every night leading up to New Years was booked – we had a lot of friends visiting over their breaks and we were anxious to catch up with everyone and introduce each other to our friends from out of town. In the end, we decided that working and socializing that much was expensive and exhausting, so we made a fairly late decision to stay in for New Year’s Eve itself. We didn’t do anything too special; we just had some snacks and drinks and watched all of the hoopla on TV. At midnight I had my first “New Year’s kiss,” and then we both spent the next half hour on the phone with our friends and family wishing everyone a happy New Year.

Much like last year, Kirios and I didn’t feel like dropping a lot of money for cover at a bar or a fancy dinner or reception downtown, so we had decided to attend a big house party one of Kirios’ fraternity brothers was throwing in DC. I even purchased a new dress to wear. (Yes, it was my first New Year’s Eve wearing a dress…) It was a big crowd, a loud party, and a lot of new faces for me. Similar to the party on the Kibbutz, we danced, we drank, and we laughed. At midnight we counted down and toasted with champagne. And like last year, I welcomed in the New Year with a kiss!

I know there are a lot of fun nights and New Years celebrations still to come for me. And I imagine it will be less and less often that I spend the holiday with the same family and friends in Pittsburgh, as I plant roots for myself elsewhere and get closer to eventually starting a family of my own. But I know a part of me will always miss being at home in Pittsburgh for our usual festivities.