Category Archives: anniversaries

There is Something Even More Frightening than Wedding Vows

About this time eleven years ago, I was having a conniption fit. It was the day before my wedding and I had no qualms about marrying the P-Dawg, but  the hem of my gown was crooked when I went for my final fitting and the traditional Lithuanian dances I had planned for the reception were keeping me up at night.

It’s not enough for a Baltic maiden to fret over her gown and her flowers and her vows and her seating arrangement. She must also coerce eight to twelve of her closest relatives and friends to dress up in their national costumes and perform a minimum of two carefully choreographed traditional wedding dances in front of the assembled guests.

Someone must be recruited to teach the dances, the dancers must track down and squeeze themselves into national outfits for which they were fitted when they were sixteen, and rehearsals must be held. It’s a fair amount of hassle, but the ten minutes of entertainment it translates to during the wedding reception is priceless, indeed.

The first dance – Sadut? –  is a formal farewell to the bride from her closest female friends. She wears a wreath made out of rue (national herb of Lithuania which symbolizes chastity and is poisonous to boot). The music is slow and solemn as the women weave patterns and dance in a circle around their friend. They end by kissing her on the cheek in turn and giving her a single flower as a gesture of goodbye.

The dance is kind of sad.

At the end of it, the bride’s mother is supposed to remove her wreath of rue and replace it with a matronly kerchief, which symbolizes the end of maidenhood. The good times are now officially over and the young married woman can look forward to weaving textiles and peeling potatoes until the end of her days.

My mother and I decided to forgo this tradition, choosing instead to launch directly into the happy wedding maypole dance – Rezgin?l?.

Both newlyweds and all of their friends, male and female, participate in this dance, which begins with the bride and groom dancing in circles apart from each other to a slowish beat. Then suddenly the music picks up in tempo, and the male and female groups join together with the bride and groom in their center holding traditional woven sashes aloft.

Next comes the part that can make or break the marriage: the friends must dance around the newlyweds with men and women moving quickly in opposite directions and weaving the sashes over and under, then reversing their steps to undo the knot. The pace is lightning quick, everyone’s been drinking krupnikas (home-made honey liqueur) since five o’clock, and no one can ever remember who is supposed to turn which way first. It never fails that during rehearsals, at least one hapless dancer pivots in the wrong direction and crashes into the person next to them, thereby messing up “the knot.”

There is great pressure when the dance is performed during the reception not to screw up. The dancers hiss commands at each other leading up to the maypole moment and the audience sits on pins and needles, holding their breath. The question on everyone’s mind is, “Will the sashes intertwine evenly, or will the marriage fall apart?”

If the maypole weaving is successful, happiness abounds and there is whooping and hollering from the dancers and audience alike.

If you think this sort of thing was stressful for me and my folk dancing friends, just think what must have been going through the mind of the Irish-American P-Dawg, who had learned the basic two-step the night before last.

But despite all of our botched practice runs (“Other way! OTHER WAY, PEOPLE! Okay, now girls go in and guys bow out. Reverse! REVERSE!”) no one ended up with a concussion and the P-Dawg’s and my knot turned out (more or less) right.

Later he told me it was the single most frightening experience of his entire life.

(Happy anniversary, P-Dawg! I love you from the bottom of my heart.)

M’ladies

P.S. The hem was fixed. I was late for my wedding rehearsal, but the gown was fixed.

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Let Them Eat Small Plates Festooned with Craft Beads and Flowers

The P-Dawg and I spent much of our anniversary week in Vegas eating. There are so many restaurants operated by world-renowned chefs there, that we only had the chance to sample a few. But among them was Joël Robuchon, one of the few Michelin three star rated restaurants in the U.S. It was a tad out of our comfort zone, but we had to try it.

A complementary limo picked us up for the five minute ride from Bellagio (our hotel) to Robuchon. We had just enough time to stuff our pockets with bottles of spring water and Tweet pictures of ourselves en route before arriving at the restaurant through a super secret gated entrance, where a woman in a floor length black gown greeted us like we were Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

She escorted us through a gorgeous courtyard and series of hallways into the restaurant, which was decorated in completely over the top sumptuous art deco. I am talking about shades of purple, gold, and blue, pictures in gilded mirrors, and enough velvet to upholster the Eiffel Tower. Our corner table provided an excellent view of the dining room, so I immediately took an inventory of our fellow gourmands to make sure I wasn’t under dressed. The handful of other couples there looked a lot like the P-Dawg and me, but there were two Russian mobsters wearing jeans and Prada t-shirts, which I thought was totalement inappropriate.

Le Yard de Court

The French maitre d’ looked exactly like the soulless commando character on Lost and our server, also French, looked like the short haired chick from the Matrix. Neither of them had a sense of humor, so in case you are planning a trip to Robuchon in the near future and want to crack bad jokes referencing Jacques Cousteau or Pepe le Pew in rusty French, be forewarned.

P-Dawg ordered the “tasting menu,” which consisted of thirteen courses of the chef’s choice.  I couldn’t bring myself to do this so I ordered from the prix fixe menu and I still got eight courses. (Each course is about the size of a small fist.)

If thirteen courses is not enough, there was also this bread cart they kept wheeling up to the table with probably one thousand varieties of bread on it. There was no end to the bread cart, not to mention the pillar o’hand churned butter which they also brought by on a regular basis.

La Carte de Bread

La Carte de Chocolate

I knew Emily Post would roll over in her grave (is she dead?) if I did it, but I took a secret iPhone photo of the bread cart anyway, for you. Later I noticed that other people were shamelessly photographing, Facebooking, and Tweeting their food, so I took out my real camera and started balls out documenting our meal. Klassy. Ten minutes after that, I finished my first glass of wine and forgot I had a camera. (Sorry.)

The food was to die for.  I have never in my life tasted flavors and textures so perfectly combined, although at times I could have done without the Michael’s Crafts inspired art deco presentation.  One of P-Dawg’s entrees was festooned with what appeared to be Mardi Gras beads and another had a quail egg in it, which he was not supposed to eat. I was going to bring it home in my purse, but I forgot.

Also of note is the fact that whenever I got up to use the ladies’ room (we were there for four hours), one of the waitstaff would

The Food is on Your Left

materialize like a ninja to pull the table away from my purple velvet upholstered bench. Almost as if they knew I was going to have to go before I did. After a while it got so that I’d try to sneak out as fast as I could just to thwart them, but I never did.

After the entrees, we were presented with a cheese cart very similar to the bread cart except without the ever-present stalks of wheat. Then we had dessert and after that they brought us an anniversary cake. Just when I was convinced there was no way I could eat another bite, out came the chocolate cart, from which we could select anything we wanted with no limit but our own willingness to look piggish. I picked four.

They sent us tottering home with a gift bag containing a vellum copy of the P-Dawg’s menu de degustation with his name printed on the top, a bound menu book, and a loaf of blueberry lemon pound bread. The lady in the black dress came back to escort us to a lounge off the courtyard where we waited like dilettantes for our limo to return.

I’m guessing I gained about ten pounds at Robuchon, but the plus side is that after eating there and at Thomas Keller’s Vegas restaurant, the P-Dawg has become a very inspired cook.  I bought him Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook for his recent birthday and he’s been concocting ad hoc delicacies all week.  In fact, I’m going to have to excuse myself now because my meal of pork roast with fruit and rum compote, roasted radishes and brussels sprouts, and peach cobbler a la mode awaits.

And I’m going to eat it with a glass of cheesecake, if you know what I mean.

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As a Bonus, We Also Made It Back

There was only one thing standing between me and our ten year anniversary trip to Vegas last week:

2,090 miles of airspace.

That’s a lot for a girl who once unbuckled her seat belt and stood up in the middle of the aisle to ask why the oxygen masks were not deploying when the flight she was on hit a pocket of turbulence.

Who had to breathe into a paper bag while a flight attendant rubbed her back and had her visualize Jesus holding her plane up by a string  over the the Bermuda Triangle that one time.

And who has on occasion demanded a look inside the cockpit to make sure the pilots aren’t drunk.

Thanks to cognitive-behavioral therapy and Xanax, the girl has made great strides flight-wise, so that where once she considered it a miracle if her flight made it to its destination in one piece, she now flies with “75% confidence” that it will. Which leaves the other 25% free to wander the anxious depths.

The Scene: Continental Airlines Flight 580 Nonstop Service Cleveland to Las Vegas.

“P-Dawg?”

“Yo.”

“I don’t have a good feeling about this flight.”

“Oh, really. Why is that?”

“I don’t know. I feel kind of guilty for going off without the kids and I’m pretty sure that automatically increases the chances of something happening.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“It’s not ridiculous.  Are you telling me you don’t care even one iota if we die and leave Jonas and V-meister orphans?”

“We are not going to die and leave Jonas and V-meister orphans.”

“On a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think the chances are that this flight will crash?’

“I’m not going to answer that.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Did you take your Xanax?”

“Not yet.”

“Go ahead and take it.”

“Okay. That wing looks like it’s about to snap right off.”

(later)

“OH MY GOD, DID YOU HEAR THAT SOUND?”

“What sound?”

“Something is wrong with one of the engines.”

“What are you talking about?”

“It sounds like one of them is about to cut out.”

“Do you know this from your experience as a tech writer?”

“You know what? You won’t be laughing during the emergency landing when I’m the first out the chute with a can of beer in each hand.”

“Yes I will.”

“Don’t talk to me, I’m praying.”

(Scene)

P.S. We made it! And as a bonus, we also made it back. I might write about it later, but then again maybe I won’t. That promise of Part Two in my Study Abroad “series” is still hanging like an albatross around my neck.

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A Few of My Favorite Things

The Sound of Music premiered on Broadway fifty years ago (November 16th, 1959), but I discovered it again for the first time last week.

My three-year old son was busy playing trucks when I popped in the DVD, but as soon as Julie Andrews came bounding over the horizon and opened her mouth to sing, his little head swiveled around like a periscope.

What is that exquisite sound?

Who is that beautiful lady . . . and why isn’t she my mother?

He planted himself directly in front of the TV and gazed on with rapt attention for a good half hour.

I was riveted by the fairytale plotline, the boundless optimism, the yodeling . . . and Captain Von Hawt, whose smokin’ good looks had somehow evaded me for these past thirty-six years.

So in honor of the Sound of Music’s fiftieth anniversary, here are A Few of My Favorite Things:

  1. Coffee (touch of cream, no sugar)
  2. Sushi
  3. The Daily Show
  4. Lithuanian folk songs
  5. My attached garage
  6. The iTunes Store
  7. Leonard Cohen lyrics
  8. Built-in bras
  9. The Star-Spangled Banner (straight up, no soul)
  10. Cosmic signs
  11. Musical harmony
  12. Reading in bed
  13. White linens
  14. Lost
  15. Chamomile tea
  16. Aveda Inner Light dual foundation
  17. The combination of buttered movie popcorn with Skittles
  18. Hot showers
  19. Good lip balm
  20. Lavender lotion from L’Occitaine
  21. Striped tights
  22. Black boots
  23. Cinnabon
  24. Cabernet Sauvignon
  25. Guinness beer
  26. Christmas Eve
  27. Tylenol PM
  28. Jello pretzel “salad”
  29. Order and symmetry
  30. Airplane Coke
  31. The sun on my back
  32. Abba
  33. Geico caveman commercials
  34. The smell of pipe tobacco
  35. Foot rubs
  36. Comments
  37. and The Sound of Music, of course.
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