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Last week I had a free cholesterol test taken at work as part of my employer’s a heart health initiative. My dad and Kirios both had their checked recently, and my mom pointed out that I’ve been eating a lot of cheese lately. They do not provide the results by phone, so when I went back to the clinic to get my results, the nurse and receptionist asked me if I was a vegetarian. “An itty bitty thing like you, you’ve got to put some meat on those bones.”

Something told me my results were atypical.  “No,” I said, “but I do have Crohn’s Disease.” The women both nodded before escorting me to a patient room for a consultation, where they showed me the test results indicating that my cholesterol levels were abnormally low. Most people would be glad to hear that they don’t have high cholesterol, but this was not news that I wanted to hear. I wanted, for once, to have a medical report telling me that I’m average.

My first thoughts were concerns about Crohn’s Disease – I’ve been feeling well, but is it possible that I’m suffering from malabsorption anyway? If my cholesterol is low, what else am I low on? Then of course I returned to my desk and googled – low cholesterol can be caused by Crohn’s Disease. It can cause anxiety and depression, and if pregnant, increases the change for a premature baby. Would I really worry less if I had higher cholesterol?

I called my mom to tell her, and I emailed my Dad. Then I told Kirios via gchat, and lightheartedly suggested he defrost steaks for dinner when he came home that evening. Next I emailed my doctors. None of them seemed concerned with the results. The PA who regularly administers my Crohn’s infusions agreed to do additional blood work during my next appointment to recheck my vitamin levels just in case.

Kirios surprised me by stopping at Koshermart on his way home from work. When I got home, he urged me to check the refrigerator to see what he bought. There was a package of beef short ribs and a package of kosher lamb bacon. There was also a new hunk of cheese from Trader Joe’s. He was serious about fattening me up! Or at the very least, he was serious about keeping me cheery, and distracting me from any anxious health thoughts.

“Are we having ribs instead of steak for dinner?” I asked with a smile on my face.

“That was the plan at first,” Kirios replied. “But then I stopped next door and picked these up.” He pulled two warm and massive laffa bread sandwiches out of the oven, one with falafel the other with schwarma. “We can have the short ribs tomorrow.”

Valentine’s Crepe Cake

When it came time to make plans for Valentine’s Day, we knew we wanted to skip a pricey prix-fixed evening out. Cooking something special together would be a nice treat. Before we moved in together, Kirios and I would frequently plan recipes to cook together on weekends. Now a days  cooking can sometimes feel like more of a chore that a treat – especially since I come home almost an hour and half later than I did with my last job. We still enjoy home cooked meals almost every night, but it’s hard not to be a tad tired and hungry in the evenings, or rushing around to do see friends on the weekends. Sometimes if Kirios has work to catch up on for a couple of hours during the weekend I will spend some time preparing fun dishes at a relaxing pace, or if I’m working from home I may throw something together and let is roast for a while.

 

A little over a year ago Kirios and I purchased a blue steel crêpe pan and a recipe book with pretty crêpe pictures. We like to make crepes together at home, but it’s a bit involved for a normal weeknight. We made crepes for Valentine’s Day last year which was a big hit. So this year we perused the recipe book and a recipe for a Savory Florentine Crepe caught my eye. Well – the picture did. The Florentine Crepe was actually more of a crêpe cake – crepes laid flat and piled on top of each other with savory filling in between each other. There were two different filling recipes – one with diced tomatoes, onions, and parmesan cheese; the other with spinach and heavy cream. We stacked nine herb crepes into a pie pan and alternated filling flavors for each layer. We cut “slices” of the creation like a cake. The result was a rich buttery dish with well-developed flavors. It was a tad difficult to slice when warm, but the refrigerated leftovers gave us no problems. Despite the challenge, the presentation of red and green layers was impressive and sophisticated. It looked just like the picture in the book, and tasted like a special occasion indulgence – mission accomplished.

 

The best part about our Valentine’s Day meal though, was not the food itself. It was the fact that Kirios was so proactive in preparing the food before I made it back from work. He has seen me struggle as I adjust to arriving home around 6:15 instead of before 5:00 in the past few months. He knows that I get stressed when there’s a lot to be done and it’s getting late. And he knows by the time I get home he’s already hungry. So Kirios prepared all the crepes before I arrived and was at work on the first filling by the time I arrived. He also washed some of the dishes while he was still preparing the food (something my Dad does obsessively). There was still plenty to do together, but we were able to eat at a reasonable hour and relax for a bit before cleaning up.  

 

Kirios has stepped up a lot since I switched jobs. He often starts on dinner while I’m still commuting, and he’s experimenting and learning to cook a greater variety of things on his own. He wasn’t slacking before, but I appreciate the help even more with my new routine. His thoughtfulness and initiative is something I’m thankful for year round.

Food Wine & Co Date Night

After going to Volt for his birthday, Kirios decided (and I didn’t protest) that he missed taking me out on the town for date nights. Especially since we started living together, we’ve spent a lot of time watching tv/movies together on the couch or hanging out with a group of friends, but neither of those activities count as dates! So we decided that a nice meal out – trying a new restaurant or repeating a GREAT one, was worth it about once a month or so.

In December, we went to Food Wine & Co, in Bethesda. Kirios had wanted to go for a while, especially since it’s so close by. When I first read the menu, I could tell why – it’s got all of his favorite things! I started things off with a wine. I ordered a flight board with 3 half glasses of red wine.  Kirios ordered a cocktail. For food, I had a hard time ordering, mostly because all the appetizers and sides sounded so good to me. We decided to start with the artisanal cheese plate, which included a yummy fig spread. My wines complimented the cheeses quite well.

For our main courses, I had the Bucatini Pasta with roasted butternut squash, sage, hazelnut, croutons, and brussel sprouts. It was creamy and hardy – perfect for a cold evening, and the hazelnuts gave it nice texture in addition to flavor. Kirios chose one of the specials – a duo of pork belly with a sweet potato purée and rockfish with sautéed kale. He ranted about the sweet potato purée, and I happily finished his well-prepared rockfish.

We did save room for dessert. Although it sounded like overkill, I took our attentive waiter’s suggestion and ordered the fried apple pie. It came with cinnamon spiced port, candied walnuts, and caramel ice cream. I’m a big apple pie fan, this was divine. Kirios was more dubious of the apple pie, so he hedged his bets by ordering a second dessert – molten chocolate cake with grand marnier, chocolate-covered almonds, cocoa streusel, and chocolate ice cream. It was tasty too, but I was pretty enamored with my fried pie.

After a meal like that, it’s safe to say that there will be many more date nights in our future!

Cohabitation Purchases

I’ve been busy lately. The end of the summer was filled with weeknight dinners with visiting parents and weekend getaways with Kirios. September went by in the blink of an eye – must have been the Jewish holidays, which I spent with family and old friends in Pittsburgh and in Baltimore. October was a crazy transition month – in addition to bringing cooler weather and pumpkin flavored treats of all sorts, Kirios moved into my (now our) apartment the last weekend in September. The move went smoothly – Kirios didn’t have much in the ways of furniture since he was living at home, and his extensive wardrobe of rainbow polos and plaid shorts miraculously fit in the closets.

Beyond the initial move, there were a few high priorities on our to-do list. Kirios’s two-monitor setup for his self-built computer is of paramount importance to him. We often joked that the day he’d officially be moved in was the day his desktop moved. (Joking aside, we both knew it was true.) When I moved into my last apartment three plus years ago I needed a lot of furniture. My father found a desk in relatively good condition next to the building’s dumpster and we decided to take it, first spraying it with half a bottle of Clorox. The desk wasn’t ideal – there was a bookshelf attached to it which was convenient for storage, but didn’t have a high enough clearance for computer monitors. Luckily I had a laptop. And my laptop was usually on the coffee table. Even when I began working from home on Friday, I never used my desk except to store office supplies and papers. I like to spread out on the kitchen table. (That’s even how I liked to do my homework in high school too.) Nonetheless, I got three good years out of that zero-dollar investment. A week before moving in, Kirios ordered an attractive corner desk with enough room for his heavy-duty computing equipment. The day he moved in, we broke the old desk into pieces with his father and fittingly sent it back to a dumpster.

Kirios' "Office"

Personally, there’s one major purchase I had wanted to make for a while, and Kirios’ arrival seemed like the perfect excuse to finally do it. I’ve wanted a new mattress set. My last mattress, which I bought three plus years ago (at the same time I found the desk) was not a high-end investment. Despite its 10-year warranty, its degree of comfort and quality decreased dramatically after the first two years. It’s really squeaky, and did I mention it’s only a full size?!? Considering I (ideally) spend 56 hours per week in bed sleeping, I figured it was definitely time to upgrade. So Kirios and I went mattress shopping and a funny thing happened. We laid down on a Stearns and Foster floor sample and we both fell in love with the same mattress. What are the odds! …Then we realized that the side he was lying on was plush and the side I was lying on was firm. Naturally, Challahbear knows best, so we “agreed” to get a firm mattress. I’m not heartless; I splurged for the pillowtop so Kirios would still be pretty comfy. I spent another week researching prices and mattress sales on the internet and finalizing my negotiation strategy during long calls with my dad. I do, after all, have a business degree and work in purchasing! So in mid-October Kirios and I implemented said negotiation strategy according to plan. The “Honey, the price is just too high. Let’s go,” approach worked like a charm. Of course the salesman insisted all Stearns and Foster mattresses are price fixed and there was nothing he could do to lower the cost right until my hand was on the door to leave the store. I’m now the proud owner of a big girl bed! And it only took a few days for Kirios to stop complaining about how hard it is.

Now that's a bed!

Finally, Kirios was super excited about creating a “home theater system.” He had talked about speakers for some time. I’ve never lived anywhere with external speakers for the television, and I’ve never really felt like I was missing out. I rarely go out to the movies these days, and when I do, it’s usually too loud. (Maybe I am getting old!) Kirios and I do enjoy cuddling on the futon and watching a movie when we can and we usually turn on subtitles so it’s easier to understand the dialogue. I encouraged him to create a modest budget for his stereo equipment and research his options. I told him I’d want to review anything before he purchased it, and I wasn’t likely to approve of enormous ugly black towers taking up half of our living room. For over a month, Kirios conducted internet research on speakers, subwoofers, receivers, even hi-tech remote controls. He told me about them excitedly after work, he sent me emails with pictures of his favorite models, and he developed a lengthy excel spreadsheet showing market prices for the different models he was considering and the other components with which they worked best.

After weeks of planning, we made a pilgrimage together to a large home theater store in Fairfax, VA. We went into a sound-proof listening room with our salesman James. James had an uncanny resemblance to Matthew Perry’s Chandler Bing years which distracted me for the first hour or so were there. Could you BE any more familiar? James played video clips for us on two different types of speakers had Kirios asked about. They both sounded great to me. A little different, but it was so hard to tell what was the side speakers vs. the center or the subwoofer, receiver, etc. This was totally out of my area of expertise. James discussed sound quality and pricing with Kirios, mentioning one of the items he wanted was on sale. He asked whether we had decided whether we wanted the black ones or the dark cherry. “Cherry,” I said, making my only contribution to the discussion. They match our wood floors and décor much better! At some point, the conversation transitioned from a typical sales pitch to a complete and utter geek-fest. Kirios had done his research and James no longer pretended some models were on sale and others weren’t, they united for the purpose of identifying the most effective sound system to highlight dialogue given his technical/price tradeoff preferences. I went back and forth from being entertained by nerdiness of it all and bored by how completely over my head everything was. We left with some reasonable price quotes, each product slightly lower than what was available online, and James’ business card.

Kirios returned to the store a few days later to negotiate a package deal for a center speaker, two side speakers, and a receiver. He still hasn’t settled on a subwoofer yet (for which I’m sure our neighbors are quite thankful), subs don’t need to match the other speakers. (I did pay some attention.) We also ordered cherry wood colored speaker stands separately since James said he couldn’t beat the online retailer’s price.  We ordered a nice TV stand with a swiveling TV mount from Walmart.com which got delayed by Superstorm Sandy, so we had to get creative finding a place for everything for a while. Thankfully, Kirios’ best friend offered a hand in putting together the stand once it did finally arrive. It was rather heavy and a bit beyond Ikea level in terms of assembly!

Home Theater System, Phase 1... because we all know it's only a matter of time until he expands/upgrades

A month and a half into living together, we’re not quite done buying all the things we want and need for our home, but we seem to be making things work. And it sure is nice to come home to a hug from Kirios every day after work!

Two Years and Counting

I’ve been running around for the past couple weeks without taking time to blog about my adventures. Kirios is currently on a 3+ week vacation with his parents, and I’m doing my best to stay busy in his absence. Despite that, I think it’s about time I attempt to catch up on some of the noteworthy activities in my life recently.

May 8th was my two-year anniversary with Kirios. It fell on a Tuesday night this year, so we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at a nice restaurant in the middle of the week to celebrate. Originally we had discussed trying to get reservations at Rasika, the fanciest/most difficult to get a reservation at Indian restaurant in the district. Kirios suggested Indique in Cleveland Park as a cheaper but still classy alternative. We had a wonderful time at its sister restaurant Indique Heights (in Friendship Heights) for our first semi-versary a year and half earlier. I told him I still preferred to try Rasika, but I caved when a $20 for $40 deal of the day showed up in my inbox for Indique a couple days later. Welcome to two years – we’re not ashamed to use daily deals and coupons on dates, even for special occasions! Of course, I insisted that we would have to go to Rasika for my birthday if we don’t find another occasion sooner.

I was delighted to have so many new dresses to choose from in time for our anniversary. I picked out fairly fancy form-fitting sleeveless dress that’s purple on top and black starting at its high waist. Unlike most of my new dresses, it’s too dressy for most events and it isn’t appropriate for work. Any excuse to wear it will do! Since Kirios offered to drive, I wore black high heels and a lace shawl. Kirios is always happy to take off his work clothes when he gets home, in favor for his infamous plaid shorts and brown flip flops. For this occasion, he wore khakis which I bought him as an anniversary present. (No joke, the guy didn’t own a single pair of khaki pants!) He wore a nice polo and a sports coat and a nice pair of shoes. You know he’s making an effort when he leaves the flip flops at home.

The atmosphere at Indique was pleasant. Tables were a bit close together, but there was plenty of room. We sat next to a window, and there was a cute balcony with Christmas lights, but it was a bit too chilly for outside seating. It didn’t have a fountain or a swing bench like Indique Heights though, sigh.

We ordered drinks; Kirios got a mango lassi and I was tempted by their specialty cocktails but decided to have a glass of shiraz. We split a salmon “slider” appetizer, a salmon burger with shallot, ginger, and cumin between oothapam, Indian pancakes. It was served was a fish sauce, but we thought it was more interesting paired with the standard Indian restaurant chutney trio. The dish was unexpected for an Indian restaurant, but tasty none-the-less. Kirios and I are suckers for crepe-like dishes.

For the main course, Kirios ordered lamb vindaloo, which has been his standard Indian dish for at least the past 6 months. A Greek boy has a hard time passing up a good lamb dish. He ordered it at a spicy level of 10, as usual. This of course drives me mad, but it definitely wasn’t as spicy as versions of the dish other restaurants have served him. Since they didn’t offer any vegetarian thali platters, which I enjoy splurging on from time to time, I decided to stick with a favorite too. I ordered baingan bhartha, roasted eggplant with tomatoes and spices. We also had an order of garlic naan, because half the fun of eating Indian food is the naan. The entrees were served with a side of lentils and some pretty vegetable garnishes, presentation was nice. Portion sizes were typical; we were both too full to order dessert. But overall, Indique’s renditions of our favorite Indian meals just seemed average to us. There were points in the meal where we both wished we were at our go-to Indian restaurant inBethesda, Tandoori Nights. (Truthfully, I’ve been dying to go back since I ordered a new eggplant dish during my last visit, Shahi Baingan, which was exceptional.)

At the end of the evening we had a dispute with the manager over the bill, since they insisted on taking the $40 voucher value off the after-tax total, despite the fine print on the voucher instructing otherwise. Not a great ending to a less than enchanting experience. But to be clear, it was a lovely evening despite the mediocrity of our meals, and truly special to go out and celebrate this milestone in our relationship.

A Night in Provence

Kirios and I have been cutting back on eating out lately in an effort to reduce our spending and focus on healthy cooking. But Kirios decided it was time to indulge ourselves a bit, and planned a surprise dinner out this past Tuesday. I was told to wear a pretty dress, and that we had a 7pm reservation somewhere close by. There are over 200 restaurants within a mile of my apartment, so I can’t say that narrowed the field too much…

In honor of the 80 degree weather we’ve been having in the DC area this week, I broke out a simple royal blue sleeveless dress and fancied things up a bit with bright pink peep toe/sling back heels and a matching hand bag. Kirios came over a little early and we had a glass of the Lebanese wine we opened last Sunday.

At a quarter to seven, Kirios hurried me out the door and we strolled around Bethesda. A few times he started walking me into a restaurant before pulling my arm back and doing an about face – “not this one!” And once or twice he actually got confused about which direction it was in, and he pulled up GoogleMaps on his phone. 😛 Finally, we arrived at Bistro Provence, a fancy French restaurant.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we went on a couple of walks around town to check out menus at the many hidden restaurants in Bethesda, and I remember when we stopped into Bistro Provence. It was adorable on the inside, and the food looked delicious, but pricey. It must have been back in November when Kirios first made a note to take me there sometime!

Upon our arrival, we were asked if we wanted to sit inside our outside. There was no way I’d pass up an opportunity to sit outside when it was in the low 80s/high 70s, plus the restaurant felt like a sauna with the heat from the kitchen and no air conditioning yet. The host/lead waiter was charming, first asking if we were over 21. When we said yes, he said, “really, both of you!?!” and Kirios thanked him for the compliment. He directed me to my seat, “Right this way, Mademoiselle – or is it Madame?” Kirios was quick to reply, “She’s not Madame yet!”

We passed on pre-dinner champagne and a 3-digit bottle of wine. We took our time picking from the menu and enjoying the courtyard setting. Perfect weather, stone walls, pretty candelabras and potted plants. I was smiling a lot and Kirios couldn’t help but sneak a few pictures of me, while his camera was sitting on the table. We must have asked the waiter for more time to decide at least before focusing and making up our minds. Finally we ordered a roasted red pepper salad to share with nicoise olives, goat cheese, and a balsamic reduction to share. For our entrees I had salmon with ratatouille and Kirios ordered thice e duck breast, which came with brussel sprouts and some kind of sweet potato soufflé. Our meals were quite tasty. Though I think there was a lot more duck on Kirios’ plate than salmon on mine! (After I told him this he felt a bit guilty for taking a forkful of mine, but it wasn’t a problem!)

After we finished our entrees, neither of us could resist peaking at the dessert menu, and there was quite a selection. Kirios narrowed the pool to about five options, and I chose the Chocolate Amaretto Parfait. It was light and smooth amaretto parfait with a hard chocolate bottom (arguably the best part), an amaretto soaked cookie type thing… it wasn’t really a cookie, but I don’t know how to describe it… and some cherries and sauce which provided some nice flavor contrast. It was delicious, and we also shared a cappuccino with it. I rarely ever have coffee drinks, since it’s particularly harsh on my Crohn’s inflicted GI tract – but sipping a cappuccino in this beautiful courtyard on a warm evening and pretending we were in Southern France was the most enjoyable part of my week. It reminded me of my semester abroad (before I gave up coffee, I had quite a few cappuccinos in Italy), and my dreams of traveling Europe with Kirios sometime in the future…

Happy date night, Kirios!

Having attended a Jewish day school for eight years while growing up, Valentine’s Day was never a big celebration. We were not encouraged to bring in cards or candy for our classmates, and my mother never failed to remind me that the holiday is actually SAINT Valentine’s Day. (I never trick-or-treated either, but I promise, I turned out just fine!) Looking back now, I never considered it a double standard when my father brought home chocolates (or even better, Godiva flavored coffee) for my mother on February 14th. I suppose he always bought extra candy on Halloween too, so I shouldn’t complain…

Last year, after having dated Kirios for several months already, it seemed appropriate for us to exchange gifts and spend time together on Valentine’s Day. We decided not to go out for a fancy dinner or anything, and we made a no-chocolate pact. (Trust me, we already had plenty between the two of us!) I ordered Kirios a set of cufflinks with his initials engraved on them (which meant I needed to buy him a French cuff shirt next so he could wear them!), and was feeling pretty good about my gift for him, and then a few days before Valentine’s Day I won a $25 Godiva gift card in an office raffle. There went my side of the pact!

Meanwhile, Kirios was laboriously working on the circuitry for ThinkGeek’s “LED Flashing Sweetheart Kit” and plotting the demise of our pact as well. (Yes, I love my Greek Geek.) While the flashing heart didn’t exactly pan out, (must have been a short somewhere) Kirios did surprise me with an entire case of Israeli popping chocolate. If you haven’t had popping chocolate, just imagine a chocolate bar with pop rocks inside it. When I traveled toIsrael in high school, I hoarded the stuff. My parents went toIsrael together in October 2010 and brought me back a bar, which I shared with Kirios. “They sell the cow brand chocolate in the States,” I told him, “but I’ve never seen the popping one here. It’s so unfair.” He may have broken our no-chocolate pact, but major props for thinking of popping chocolate and for actually finding it in theUnited States! (I know, he’s a keeper…)

Anyway, sure enough February rolled around again this year and Hallmark store on the way to my office started displaying humongous red hearts all over the place. With our trip toNew Mexicoin the beginning of the month and my birthday at the end, we decided again to skip the expensive price-fixed dinner, and while we were at it, we renewed our no chocolate pact. Instead, we decided to make our own crepe feast with savory crepes for dinner and sweet crepes for dessert using our fancy schmancy blue steel crepe pan.

I was in charge of getting ingredients for the savory crepes and Kirios was in charge of the dessert ones. I stopped at the supermarket on my way home from work, and picked up some fresh produce to ensure a delightful meal. Before Kirios came over, I prepared a platter of vegetables so we could quickly make the crepes together and then start eating our first course. We had steamed asparagus; sautéed portabella mushroom and garlic; fresh spinach, carrots, scallions, tomato, and avocado; as well as kosher imitation bacon bits, fresh oregano (to appeal to his Greek flavor profile) and hand-grated cheese.

I also gave Kirios a small gift – a mug designed to look like a camera lens. He was pleased with his present, and now uses it to drink coffee at work. 🙂  Kirios agreed not to get me a special Valentine’s Day gift, since he had just bought me a beautiful ring while we were in Santa Fe. But the man lacks restraint sometimes, especially when it comes to spoiling me. He arrived at my apartment with two overflowing grocery bags from Trader Joe’s and immediately said, “oh no, I forgot to buy a pineapple!” I mean, what sweet crepe is complete without a whole pineapple to stuff inside of it?!? Slowly he began unveiling the fruits he picked out for dessert – blueberries, blackberries, bananas. And then he continued to unveil fruits – mango, kiwis, a basket of plums, three different colors of grapes, an entire bag of oranges, a pomegranate, and a cantaloupe! Kirios became frustrated that I was putting the fruit away too slowly (it required a love of refrigerator maneuvering) but he didn’t stop pulling contents out of his grocery bags. In addition to the fruits, Kirios had also purchased two kinds of cheeses, a container of chai tea mix, mango ginger chutney (which provided much needed moisture for our savory crepes), a bottle of sparkling wine, and a single red rose.

It’s now more than a week after Valentine’s Day. I am still making my way through the produce, but I didn’t miss the pineapple!

Player or Planner?

The other day I emailed a coworker of mine who has been out of the office on military leave for the army to wish her a merry Christmas. I was delighted to hear that she was actually home for the holidays, and she was interested in getting together for lunch with me and our boss next week. We both told her that we’ll be around the office and would love to do lunch, so she emailed writing, “Where would you like to go, Mike’s? Ok. Excellent choice. : )” Mike’s is a restaurant we’ve gone to together as a team before, kind of a far drive out Virginia. But it is one of her very favorite restaurants, so she offered to pick us up and drive us there.

My coworker’s restaurant selection reminded me of a conversation we had together back when Kirios and I first started dating. We had just gone on our second date – a trip to the National Portrait Gallery followed by dinner at Matchbox, a regional gourmet pizza chain which is one of his favorite restaurants (as it’s much more affordable than Zaytinya, his very favorite we went to for his birthday). I had a great time – we were planning more dates and emailing each other throughout the day at work, you could definitely say that I was smitten. But like most of us sensible ladies, I was trying hard not to get ahead of myself – not to let my guard down just to find out he was a notorious playboy, a million dollars in debt and addicted to shopping, a borderline alcoholic, or already three girls’ baby daddy.

At some point in this process, I did the inevitable, and began Facebook stalking him. For those of you that know Kirios, you know he loves to take pictures and post them on Facebook, so there was a lot to see and learn. I tried to limit my peeking – I’d rather learn by getting to know him in person. Plus, who really likes to see pictures of their love interests with other women? Of course, it’s not his fault he was with the wrong women – he didn’t know me yet, so he didn’t know what he was missing out on!

Despite this, I looking at his pictures with past dates and girlfriends did upset me – I found pictures of him at the same museum and the same restaurant with at least two ladies. I thought about our impromptu photo-session in the museum courtyard. The cocktail he ordered at the restaurant, no longer featured on their menu. A trap, a sham! All of it, the skeezeball! Here I am, thinking we had a really special date, and now I see these pictures and feel really dumb. Just another girl falling for the same trick he’s used a million times.

Incredibly discouraged, I went over to my coworker’s cubicle to complain. I filled her in on everything, looking for sympathy. But she gave me a lot more than just that – she gave me a completely different perspective on the situation. “Remember that restaurant we went to, Mike’s? It’s one of my favorite restaurants, and I’ve taken a lot of different guys there. It doesn’t mean that I think the guys are all the same, it’s just that I know we’ll enjoy our meal there!” Maybe Kirios wasn’t a lazy date-recycling player, and instead, just a guy hoping to ensure that a second date would turn into a third with an itinerary with which he felt confident and comfortable. The only way to find out would be to continue to get to know him. So with a still cautious skeptical and skeptical attitude, but much more optimism and encouragement, courtesy of my coworker, I continued to see Kirios.

As it turned out, on date number three Kirios decided he was feeling comfortable enough with me to quit playing it safe (I had planned our first date) and take me to a restaurant with very good reviews and that he had never been to before – and it was a disaster! The restaurant was in a neighborhood of DC that I wouldn’t walk alone in at night, in the basement of a house. When we got there, we learned that they only accept patrons with advance reservations, because they have all of 3 tables. And there was a cat sitting on one of the tables. I was horribly sketched out. No doubt they have excellent food, we’ll have to try it for real one day, but that was NOT going to be the night! I’m sure Kirios was pretty embarrassed by the debacle, and he worked hard to act cool while thinking on his feet and find a perfectly lovely plan B restaurant. I was ecstatic – this was a unique experience we had shared together, one which we’ve been laughing about ever since.

Meat Pizza

One of the main principles of keeping kosher is not to “cook a calf in its mother’s milk.” Simply put – don’t eat meat and dairy in the same meal. This is a tenant of kashrut that my parents brought me up to follow, and is pretty much second nature to me. I don’t make chicken parmigiana, I eat hamburgers instead of cheese burgers, and I frequently substitute butter for parve margarine. So when I was planning to cook Shabbat dinner for Kirios a month or two after we started dating, and he requested a meat pizza, I was taken aback.  Let me be clear – Kirios understood that I don’t mix meat and dairy, he requested a meat pizza without any cheese. But I refused immediately. It seemed absurd.

For me, pizza is by nature a dairy meal – bread, sauce, and cheese, plus any veggie toppings if I so desired. For Kirios though, his ideal pizza was inherently meat. Pepperoni, sausage, chicken… you name it; he loves it on his pizza. Sure, his pizza usually includes cheese as well, but he was willing to live without it for the night, declaring meat paramount. His argument seemed perfectly rational and logical – kosher meat, sauce, bread, and any veggies we choose. Why not? Still, it seemed so foreign and unnatural to me. “We still can’t do it. All of my pizza pans are dairy, I won’t cook meat on them,” I declared. I thought I had won, but my stubborn boyfriend persisted – he bought me a brand new pizza pan to be used for meat, instead of dairy. “This won’t be the only time I want to eat a homemade meat pizza with you,” he said confidently.

For that first meat pizza, I didn’t have time to make a special trip to the Kosher store, so I purchased kosher beef salami and turkey slices from the regular supermarket to top our pizza. It was a big success – Kirios’ point was valid: meat, sauce and bread; what’s not to like? I thought of it like a veggie burger – not a replacement for a hamburger, but a valid entrée in its own right. I wasn’t exactly ready to abandon cheese pizzas, but mixing things up with a meat pizza every once in a while didn’t sound like a bad idea either.

Kirios and I have made several homemade pizzas since. I’ve made special trips to the kosher store and we’ve experimented with different meat toppings: hard salami, turkey fry strips, beef fry strips, and spicy sausages. We even made a cheese pizza with Morningstar fake bacon (which features ridiculous neon coloring). One day we bought kosher lamb bacon, which triumphantly declared the best kosher substitute for regular pig bacon – although we had that top a salad instead of a pizza.

My family was especially interested in hearing about our meat pizzas – for them, like me, the idea of pizza with meat seemed unnatural to them. But they were also fascinated by the idea – understanding that it was a different but delicious pizza formula. Kirios and I will be making another meat pizza for dinner tomorrow night, to share with my brother and sister-in-law who are coming to visit. Unfortunately there was no lamb bacon at the Kosher store this week, but we’ll be topping our pizza with fresh veggies and basil, beef fry strips, and chorizo sausage.

Personally, meat pizza is more than a good story and a good meal to me. It’s representative of how Kirios and I have shaped our relationship. He is respectful of my traditions and observances, and I understand that he has differing views and preferences. We weren’t raised the same way, and it can be challenging, but it also keeps things interesting. And when we include each other and share our favorite things, our culture, and our traditions, it makes them even better. Anyone else hungry for Greek food now?

I’m not going to gripe about being on hold with BestBuy for two hours or the fact that Starbucks charges an extra 60 cents for soy milk today. It’s time to talk about the things that really make me sick to my stomach, keep folks awake with worry, and bring out existentialist crises. Today, a long-time friend of mine lost her mother to a battle with non-smokers’ lung cancer. In itself, this is terrible and depressing. But to make matters worse, another friend of mine lost her mother to the same disease less than four months ago.

My mother called to tell me the news, and after a while our conversation drifted. My mom started talking about some other family friends who have been having a rough time. A little older than my parents, both husband and wife have been struggling with serious health problems. As my mother detailed medications, surgeries, and worrisome coughs, I suddenly told her to stop. “Enough for today.” My mother frequently brings up subjects I don’t care to discuss – Mothers never stop embarrassing you. I tell her to change the subject or I’ll get off the phone, and she gets upset, saying it’s unfair for me to control the conversation like that. But today, she didn’t object, she just obliged. She too knew the feeling – enough is enough.

I’m 24 years old, and I am not ready to lose my parents. I’m also not ready for my friends to lose their parents. I’m not sure if anyone is ever actually ready for that. I know it happens, I have friends who lost their parents when they were young. Maybe too young to really remember them. But my first memory of a parent’s friend dying is when I was in 12th grade. My friend was away from home for her first year of college, and her mother found her father – he had complained of a headache the night before, but no one knew he had a brain tumor until he was gone. It scared me. Since then, there have been more losses – some sudden, some with prolonged suffering. They don’t get easier. Each one is a painful reminder of how fragile life is.

I know that death is part of life. And until it’s our time, we must live on. But tonight, I’d like to publicly declare that non-smoker’s lung cancer, common in younger women, makes me frustrated. And when one of my friends loses a parent, it really makes me sad.