Valentine’s Day 2014

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Hooray, it’s Valentine’s Day! We are going to celebrate by staying home. And I love it.

It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, the venue we used for our rehearsal dinner was also the site of our 2010 Valentine’s Day dinner. And we had some memorable V-Day dinners in St. Louis.  But since, oh, 2011? I think? We haven’t really gone out for Valentine’s Day, and there’s a really good reason for that: the service almost universally sucks.

No, it’s not the staff’s fault. They are busting their asses to cook, plate, and bring forth the feast.  But they are also overwhelmed and overbooked; at max capacity and struggling to stay above water and out of the weeds.  I can see it in their eyes, and in the plating. Valentine’s Day is all about profit to the restaurant biz; putting asses in seats and then getting them to order off the prix fixe menu. And even when the service doesn’t suck, you eat your meal feeling like at any moment the manager is going to show up and give you a Meaningful Look while tapping on her watch.

I don’t blame them.  This is America.  This is what we do.  This is what we did, until the year we didn’t.

The year we decided to stay in and enjoy an easy but luxurious meal was the year I started really enjoying my Valentine’s Day dinner. I always pick foodstuffs that are simple, but a bit of a splurge. Scallops one year, steak another, and tonight — cheese. We’re doing a three-cheese plate with some meat and some bread, maybe some pickled onions, jam, honey, nuts, and sliced strawberries, and a simple frozen dessert.  All decadent, but nothing crazy, and nothing I have to cook.  There will also be wine.  Perhaps even Prosecco.  And a baby.  Who will probably eat all the strawberries.

Because the trick, we found, is not to go out on Valentine’s Day: it’s to go out a day or two after.

And on Sunday, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll have dinner with friends, then retire to a nice upscale bar we like in the Gaslamp District, at a hotel we stayed at for a weekend.  We did a Valentine’s Weekend (well, a President’s Day Weekend) there in 2012, sort of a mini-babymoon (one of two), and had a hell of a good time drinking, loving, strolling the streets, and being a ridiculously happy couple.

We’ll gather up the memory of that wonderful weekend as we enjoy our cocktails and each other’s company, and as we tink a glass (or two), we’ll share a kiss, and a “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.” And that, my friends, is this boring ol’ sentimental couple for you.

Classy drinkin’ at the US Grant. (Photo quality thanks to my old iPhone.)

Of Love and Movies

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Depending on which of us you ask, Mike and I either started dating on New Year’s Eve 2007 or New Year’s Day 2008. But that is a story for another day.

The first movie we ever saw together was on New Year’s Day, and it was No Country for Old Men. Because I said to my future husband, “I like Coen Brothers movies.” And he said, “I do, too!” And that is how we wound up watching a movie about a guy who murders people with a bolt pistol.

A week or so later I invited him over to my place for the first dinner I would prepare for him. I made some forgettable dessert, a delicious rack of lamb, and we drank wine. I was intensely nervous, trying to make the best meal possible, and it would have been great and romantic and flawless…except I served Jerusalem artichokes, completely unaware of their alternate name: the fartichoke. As our intestines made it clear that I’d made a huge mistake, we sat on the couch and tried to snuggle but mostly failed because we were farting and laughing too hard about how much we were farting.

And that is how I ended up watching Blade Runner amidst a methane cloud that had the potential to blow up my home if either of us had bothered to light a match.

The next time we went to a movie, it was to see what I thought was going to be a noir comedy. The problem is I didn’t realize just how noir the comedy was going to be, though the fact that I could only find it playing at an artsy St. Louis theater should have been my first clue. In Bruges was quirky and dark and violent, and to my total surprise Mike loved it. It was the sort of movie he probably wouldn’t have seen without me, and the sort of movie I probably wouldn’t have gone and seen without him along for the ride.

Five years later, I have still never again served him sunchokes, and we have seen Coen Brothers movies since, but last night we watched In Bruges together again for the first time, and I’m still somewhat surprised that this is his kind of movie. I mean, it’s definitely my kind of movie…but a Mike movie?

Then again, he did refer to Ralph Fiennes’s character as “Voldemort”.

And he did marry me.

So I guess it is his kind of movie, after all.


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Actually, we didn’t intend to do a babymoon.  Or if we did, it would have probably involved camping.  But we wound up in Vegas for a long weekend, and decided — what the hell.  Let’s commit babymoon.

Now, Vegas without alcohol is a bit like playing contact football with both hands tied behind your back, but we managed to make it work.  We had several decent meals (Burger Bar, Hash House A Go Go, Rí Rá) and a couple great ones (Bouchon, Lotus of Siam, the frrrrozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3).  Along with a few friends, we took in a really good show (Absinthe) that was definitely not age-appropriate for Zoe.  We attended my company’s party at a swanky nightclub and danced a little.  And we walked.  A lot.  Because I need to walk to not feel guilty about all that dessert.

We stayed in a very nice hotel (Mandalay Bay) and we gambled within our means.  We more or less broke even, because Mike is a scientist at blackjack, while I am the reckless fringe whackjob who splits and doubles down on a whim.

We drank coffee.  We napped.  We ate bread.  I took numerous bubble baths.

But most of all, we hugged and held hands and were in love.  We are always in love.  If I told you of some of the endearments we fling around I’d probably make you puke or put you in a diabetic coma or both, so I won’t do that.  Instead I’ll just say: We had a great time, like we always have a great time.  Part of the secret to having a great time is to have great company.  You can get through just about any experience with the right people involved.

And that was our babymoon.  Walking the Strip, eating good food, seeing fun shows, hanging with friends, being in love.  Little darlin’, I hope someday you know how much your parents love each other, and intend to bestow that love unto you.  I hope you don’t need to read this post to know that.