Dinner at Rose’s Luxury

Happy Valentine’s Day! I wanted to share how Ben and I celebrated early a few days ago, but please remember to love yourself, however you are able to best do that.

This is my 400th post on this blog, and I have officially been posting twice a week consistently for an entire calendar year. I’m really proud to have reached this point and may be taking a small hiatus in posting regularly while I pull myself together and refocus. (Might not, we’ll see how I feel!) Thank you so much for being with me this past year and these past 400 posts.


I have a lot of thoughts about the DC food scene, but I will admit that it is improving. (I’ll put up all my gripes about the DC food scene and places that have shown this improvement in the near future!) Last year, Washington DC was recognized as Bon Appetit magazine’s Restaurant City of the Year and also received its first-ever Michelin stars, and that is thanks to many great new restaurants and chefs that have made enough of a name for themselves to do fresh, bold things.

But we aren’t here to talk about the hot new places. Rose’s Luxury has been one of the most-hyped restaurants in the District since I started working in the area. It earned a Michelin star last year and can be reliably found on Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list year after year. I’ve only ever heard good things from friends who’ve visited the restaurant, citing that yes, it is worth the hype!

Where does most of the hype come from? 2 things:

  1. Their most famous dish, a pork & lychee salad
  2. The fact that they do not take reservations, so people have to start waiting in line at 3pm in order to get a table for dinner… 2.5 hours later.

They do take reservations for large parties (6 or more), but I couldn’t find that many friends so I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to eat at Rose’s.

BUT THEN! Towards the end of last year, Rose’s Luxury announced that they would be accepting reservations! For parties of 2! With the purchase of a gift card that could be used towards that meal!

TL;DR Rose’s Luxury does an impressive job of combining a lot of different flavors in a balanced and unexpectedly delicious way, all while injecting a bit of sassy personality along the way.


Despite the name, Rose’s Luxury is not a luxurious, pretentious, fancy restaurant. In fact, you might walk past it if you’re not paying attention.

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Photo: Travel & Leisure

Inside, the ambiance is similarly not-stuffy and, in fact, more on the hipster-trendy side. Rose’s has a lot of personality, and it shows in their decor. We were seated upstairs near the bar, and walked past my friends’ favorite seating area that is lit overhead by globe string lights.

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“All unattended or misbehaving children will be given a shot of espresso & a free puppy.” Better keep your kids in line!

Behind me was a shelf with books and fun knick-knacks. A certificate in dining from Hooter’s did not escape me among the otherwise very Pinterest-worthy collection. The servers were dressed casually and otherwise indistinguishable from guests, who were not dressed to the nines for their 9pm dinners. In the bathroom, behind a small mirror was a window that overlooked the dining area below and still had elements of the personality that was subtly embedded in the entire restaurant experience.

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“All employees must wash their hands before returning to work. Fortunately, we hire smart enough employees that we don’t have to remind them to do so.”

We had a gift certificate to blow on our 5th Valentine’s Day together, so let’s get into the food!

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The meal kicked off with a soft potato brioche w/ bacon butter. This wasn’t particularly outstanding as far as breads go, but I liked the soft texture and the warmed, soft bacon butter a lot. I only wished it didn’t crumble so much because I want bread to go in my belly, not on the board.

LITTLE BITES

We enjoyed these little bites, and they were a great way to prep us for what is, I believe, the core of the Rose’s Luxury experience: pulling off interesting, unexpected, and bold flavor combinations.

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Stuffed dates w/ cultured butter & walnuts // Ben took a bit to warm up to these, but I really liked the sweet and soft dates, the savoriness and warmth of the butter, and the slight crunch and bitterness of the walnuts.

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Foie gras tart w/ hazelnut, white chocolate, & Asian pear // This was the strangest of the little bites because of the white chocolate chips embedded in the not-sweet foie gras filling of the tart. But it still came together because of its creaminess and it complemented the sweet flavors of the chocolate and the pear. Kind of hated it when I first bit into it, but found myself liking it a lot by the time the bite was gone.

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Sake & wasabi-marinated oysters w/ apple granita // I don’t usually like wasabi very much (sorry wasabi pea lovers!), but these oysters were great because of how the very different flavors and textures came together. It was a bit much for one slurp, but I liked how the frozen apple granita helped mollify the burn I would’ve felt from the wasabi and even from the sake, while still allowing some of flavor of the oyster to come through.

SMALL PLATES

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Pork sausage, habanero, peanuts, & lychee // Here we are. The most famous dish at Rose’s Luxury, cited in over 250 reviews on Yelp. At the bottom were herbs and on top was a dollop of coconut cream that, as you stirred the whole thing, would melt over the salad and act as the dressing. There were a lot of flavors happening in this small plate and I do think this is a good example of how Rose’s Luxury really pushes the envelope with combining flavors. Ben and I found this salad a bit too salty and not really worth the hype, to be honest. It was tasty and honestly, I do admire what Aaron Silverman did with this flavor combination, but it didn’t change my life and I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it again.

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Fried brussels sprouts w/ benne tahini, eel sauce, & bonito // The prominent flavors in this one were brussels sprouts and tahini, both of which are very strong flavors. I felt this was maybe the least successful in terms of balancing the flavors of all the components, but it was still tasty because the sprouts and tahini were an interesting combination. I just didn’t think the other flavors had much of an effect in the quantity that they were used.

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Crispy squid w/ Yemeni hot sauce, romaine, & sweet lemon puree // By the time this came out, Ben and I were starting to feel the effect of the food. We hadn’t really eaten that much, but I think we felt very satiated by the sheer quantity of flavors that we were consuming. The flavors were pretty well-balanced in this one, although I didn’t detect much heat from the hot sauce and I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. The squid itself was… prepared okay? Not that crispy, but it’s hard for me to find a calamari I don’t like.

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Thai-marinated pork blade steak w/ nahm prik slaw // Again, by the time this came out, Ben and I weren’t as eager about the food anymore. I was also really sleepy by this point in the evening, as we were seated for dinner at close to 9:30pm and I have been getting sleepy very early because I’ve been attempting exercise in the mornings. As a result, I don’t really have any thoughts about this pork dish, it didn’t stand out as particularly good or bad.

PASTA

If you’re thinking that maybe we were regretting ordering a pasta… you’d be right. I was nodding off at this point in the meal and my belly was trying to come to terms with how many flavors and ingredients it had met over the past hour. We ordered the farro reginetti w/ garlic, kale, & mustard greens and… it was okay.

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The two of us, personally, do not like our pasta cooked very al dente, so the bite-y pasta was a bit of a struggle when 10:30, 11 was rolling around. The taste was fine but… pretty ordinary, to be really honest. A touch of sauce didn’t really help how overwhelmingly al dente this pasta was, and I wasn’t super excited about the leftovers I brought to lunch the next day.

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However, our server, Janine, sent a “gift” of a little bit of their Martelli spaghetti w/ tomato, chili, basil, & Parmesan and that was coated in maybe the best pasta sauce I have ever tasted in my entire life? I like my tomato sauces to be a bit sweet, and this was the perfect amount of sweetness that I could tell wasn’t the result of the sloppy addition of sugar. We only were able to take some of this home because we were so done with the meal already, and having those two bites to enjoy over the weekend was nothing short of glorious. I really want the recipe for this tomato sauce, it was the highlight of the entire meal for me and we didn’t even order it! Thank you so much, Janine!

DESSERT

Listen, I know I said that I was basically passed out and unable to eat but I didn’t come all this way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and not eat dessert. You just gotta open up that dessert compartment in your stomach and you’re good to go. Based on Janine’s recommendation, we got the coconut ice cream with burnt caramel coconut and kiwi.

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I didn’t love this, unfortunately. The ice cream was tasty, but I think it felt weird to have more coconut after the coconut cream from the pork & lychee salad during a meal where my mouth was constantly being surprised by different flavors and how they were combined. A repeat performance by coconut was like, “Hey… what are you doing back here?” Also, I did not like the burnt caramel coconut. It was sticky in that unpleasant way that lent it a kind of poor mouthfeel and I found the bitterness to just not really work at this point in the evening. And kiwi was a fun choice but I’m not sure I loved the tartness of the kiwi with the sweet and creamy ice cream. I know that people really love this dessert, but I think I just wasn’t in the mood for more coconut or for a flavor to come from burnt-ness.

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At the end of the meal, our receipt was brought out to us with a sesame brittle and little touches that made us smile.

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1 Hooray! 2 Side of Winning, 1 Helluva Time, 1 Side of Awesome, all free of charge

I enjoyed my time at Rose’s Luxury but I’m glad I never had to wait hours to eat here. I don’t think it’s worth that kind of wait, and as a result I don’t think it’s worth the level of hype it has achieved. That being said, Aaron Silverman and his team are doing some incredible things with food and flavor that I think DC needs more of.  Even the small plates format – which I normally loathe here in DC – works for this because you are getting small punches of these crazy flavors.

Rose’s Luxury
717 8th Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 580-8889
www.rosesluxury.com

Reservations for the tasting menu can be made for groups of 6-8. Private parties for 8-12 on the rooftop garden can be reserved and include a different tasting menu.


What are some of the most famous and/or hyped restaurants where you live?
What makes a restaurant worth the hype for you?

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5 Ways to Be a Good Valentine – To Yourself

February is primarily known for one big commercial holiday and that is, of course, Valentine’s Day. People’s attitudes towards Valentine’s Day changes as time goes on, from anticipating getting all those little cards featuring your favorite TV cartoon holding lollipops from everyone in your class to the promotions you get in your email inbox featuring all things pink and flowers and chocolate.

At this point, I think many of us don’t think too much of Valentine’s Day, regardless of relationship status. February 15 discounts on heart-shaped candy aside, some people don’t think there’s much to get excited about. And maybe there isn’t.

But I think that a month and a half after the start of the new year — another arbitrary marker of the passing of time, yes I know, go with it — it’s nice to reflect on the goals we made for 2017 but also to take some time to be consciously kind to ourselves.

Whether you love this day or hate it, have someone to share romantic feelings with or not, Valentine’s Day is a good time to check in with yourself and make sure you feel some love. Why not take the day (or the weekend before the day) to treat yo self?

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Here are 5 suggestions for how to be your own Valentine this year:

Take a bath / Soak your feet

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Taking a bath is one of those things that has become cliché in its association with self-care and self-indulgence but for good reason! It just feels so nice, even if you don’t add in all the little extras like bubbles and rose petals and bath bombs etc. etc. etc. Submerging your body in warm/hot water is just a physically relaxing sensation for your muscles and nerves.

HOWEVER. Maybe you don’t have a bit ol’ bathtub. Maybe you do but the prospect of making it clean enough for a bath is giving you a headache? (Guilty here!) In that case, just do a nice little foot soak. I do this in one of those wide, shallow plastic bowls (they always have a stack of these colorful things in Asian groceries) but sometimes I’ll also just do it in my bathroom sink if I have room to sit my butt on the counter beside it.

There’s no need to buy anything extra for a bath or foot soak. You can literally just soak in warm-to-hot water, or add in some soap/body wash to add some soapy cleaning power to the water. If you’d like to buy yourself a little somethin’, look into:

  • Bath salts
  • Bubble bath
  • Bath oils
  • Bath bombs

And make sure to use a lotion you love afterwards! It locks in the good feeling you got in the bath for a little longer, and it’s like a little massage for yourself.

(And fellas, you treat yourselves to a bath, too, or at least a foot soak.)

Have a dance party (for one)

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If you have a space to yourself, either put on some earbuds/headphones or turn up your speakers, and rock out to your favorite groove-able music for a bit! If you don’t but you don’t mind sharing your dance party with others, then invite your roommates, family members, whoever to join you in the dancing!

You got your favorite music. You got dancing, which feels good because something something exercise and also music! And you’re dancing for the sake of dancing. You’re not going out, buying drinks, paying cover, getting jostled by sweaty people, losing your friends, finding a ride, etc. etc. etc.

It’s just dancing. Wear whatever you want. Dance however you want. To whatever music you want. Enjoy it!

Eat a nice meal (for one)

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You can do this by either a) cooking a beautiful meal for yourself or b) taking yourself on a solo date but you deserve to have some lovely food for yourself.

If you enjoy cooking, then why not make yourself a spectacular meal at home? Make your favorite meal, or make something a little special that maybe you normally wouldn’t spend the time on for just yourself. You deserve it, you really do. (Apologize to future self for the dishes.)

If you enjoy eating out a lot more, take yourself out to eat. This is a little scary, but it’s not as weird as it seems. Bring a book, sit at the bar if one is available, and finally eat at the spot you want to without working so hard to find someone who is free and wants to eat the same thing.

The solo date feels a bit weird, even if you do it at home, but I think it’s important to treat yourself like the important person in your life that you are. And to be able to enjoy your own company and treat that time like the, well, treat that it is. (Yes, even us extroverts!)

PLUS you get to eat whatever you want! Breakfast for dinner? Food combinations that your loved ones judge you for liking? That restaurant that your friends don’t like because the food is too “weird” but you love so much? Go. Eat. Be merry.

I understand that this can be limited by budget, so feel free to also scale this idea back and just indulge in some of your favorite snacks or junk food — in moderation. Junk food will make you feel pretty crummy inside if you eat too much of it, so feel free to indulge in chocolate or chips or fries or pizza… just not too much! And do it mindfully. Don’t just demolish a bag of popcorn while binge-watching. Just sit with a small bowl of your food, and enjoy it and nothing else.

Go to a museum / art gallery / aquarium / zoo

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If you have free admission to any of these institutions in your area (thank you, Smithsonian, for existing), I definitely recommend trying this out one of these days. If not, I would still suggest trying to visit one near you and to visit alone. These outings can be really fun with friends as a social activity, but I get the most out of the museum/gallery itself when I visit alone.

This is because I am able to go at my own pace, read every single placard, visit every nook and cranny. I can also just sit in one spot for a while, people-watching, painting-watching, fish-watching, monkey-watching… it’s nice to just slow down and take it all in.

I do feel like I get more of an educational value from museums and galleries and aquariums and zoos when I go alone, even if I go on a “free day” that the place is hosting and there are a lot of people swarming the joint.

Really make your bed and sleep in / take a nap

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Wash your sheets, with your favorite scented laundry products if you can. (Sorry. Just do it, you’ll thank yourself later.) While you wait for your bed linens to wash and dry, get yourself ready. Brush your teeth, wash your face, go through a full skincare routine if you’d like (another great way to treat yourself on its own!). Take a shower (or a bath!) if you typically shower before you sleep. Put on your coziest pajamas, or your softest T-shirt, or get ready to sleep in your birthday suit — whatever you sleep in to maximize feeling good in your bed.

Make your bed with your favorite sheets, make it real nice. Smooth it out, fluff up your pillows, actually tuck your comforter into the cover. Maybe spritz it with a nice calming scent. (Apparently they make sprays just for the bed!) Go ahead and invite your cuddliest stuffed animal to your bed if you don’t want to sleep completely alone.

Climb into your warm, fresh-smelling bed. Put on a little eye mask if you are sleeping during the day or just need to shut out any distracting lights. (I use one of those free ones that I get on planes or from hotels.) Maybe play some white noise or some quiet, calm instrumental music or some nature sounds like ocean waves, rain falling, rivers flowing.

If you’re taking a nap, set an alarm so that you’re waking up at the end of a sleep cycle and so that you don’t accidentally take a 4-hour nap in the middle of the day. (Oops, I can’t be the only one?)

If you are sleeping in and are able to, turn off all your alarms and turn off your phone notifications. Maybe set your phone to silent. Maybe put your phone far from your bed.

Definitely do not look at your phone before you fall asleep. Don’t check social media. Don’t check the news. Don’t watch a video. The most you should be doing it setting alarms, if necessary, and maybe playing any sleep sounds.

Enjoy your sleep the best you can.


These suggestions are meant to make you feel better afterwards. Indulging in a lot of alcohol and junk food and “bad television” might feel good when you’re doing it, but you usually don’t feel good after. I want the good feelings leftover from treating yourself to linger on afterwards.

I also tried to think of things you could do without spending a ton of money on yourself, or spending none at all if possible. Sure, it’d be great if we could all just take ourselves on a fly vacation, but that’s not an option for most of us. You don’t need to spend money to treat yourself well. (Sarah over at YesAndYes.org has a great list of things you can do for yourself that don’t involve eating or buying.)

What are your favorite ways to treat yourself? I like to go through my maximum skincare routine, masks and serums and all, and then enjoy a nice cup of decaf Earl Grey with some vanilla milk-alternative and some kind of little cookie or pastry. (Got some frozen mini eclairs in the freezer that can thaw while I do my face!)
Do you have any fun Valentine’s Day plans?
I know that there are a lot of activities going on in the DC area and I have a fairly packed Saturday so I will try to take Sunday as a day to treat myself.

Surviving Valentine’s Day

I am so lucky to be alive right now. But let’s dial back the drama and start at the beginning.

Ben and I went to a Valentine’s Day party at our friend Tim’s on Saturday. Because of this, I decided I would make Ben a fancy home-cooked meal Friday night instead. Here’s the menu:

Soup Egg drop w/ tofu & shiitake mushroom  Salad Mixed baby arugula and baby kale, avocado, bell peppers, pomegranate  Bread Red Lobster cheddar bay biscuits  Entree Surf 'n' Turf: Steak and Maryland-style crab cake  Sides Garlic mashed red potatoes Roasted brussel sprouts w/ bacon  Dessert French-toasted PB&J w/ French vanilla ice cream & berry reduction
The finished menu I served! I had to drop the appetizer because I wasn’t able to get ahold of scallops in time. Also, I forgot to include that I served my steak with onions & mushrooms

Even though I still have kinks to work out with timing, I think dinner went really well. I got way too ambitious with the amount of food I made and we had most of what I cooked for dinner the next day for leftovers.

The spread… complete with sparkling apple cider because nothing says fancy like sparkling apple cider
Clockwise from top left: Steak w/ onions & mushrooms, Garlic mashed potatoes, Brussel sprouts w/ bacon, Crab cake

I got so caught up with trying to make Ben a fancy meal that I realized I had lost sight of why I was doing it: to make him a meal that he loves. He was getting stressed by my constant grilling of “What is your ideal meal?” “What do you wish I would cook for you I’LL MAKE IT” “Name a fancy meal you wish you had more often!”. What he loves is PB&J, plain and simple.

So I jazzed it up by making it a stuffed French toast, drizzling a berry reduction over top, and serving with vanilla ice cream. Plain and simple.

Started with heart-shaped sandwiches, French-toasted, the berry reduction, and then ICE CREAM YES

On Valentine’s Day, we kicked off with brunch at La Malinche for all-you-can-eat tapas and bottomless drinks. (You have to get the drinks on the weekends; we usually like coming on weekdays for AYCE lunch because we don’t really drink.) Ben and I were committed to eating as much as we could for as long as we could. We held out for 2½ hours before throwing in the towel. When we walked out, it had barely started flurrying. We knew there was snow in the forecast and figured we could take a food coma nap before heading out to Tim’s party.

WHAT A MISTAKE.

By the time we finished the leftovers from the night before and were ready to leave, Tim was already urging people to park on top of the hill and not at the bottom of it. Many folks had already cancelled because of the weather.

Red flag #1: The garages in Ben’s community are all below-ground, and we saw a car struggling to get up the incline away from the garage. I reminded Ben to drive slowly and we mozied towards the beltway when Google Maps told us that it would take nearly 3 hours to drive the 20 miles to Tim’s house on the beltway and only 45 minutes to go through DC. It almost always takes longer to get anywhere by going through the District, so we figured there must have been a pretty bad accident on the beltway. (How bad the accident was… probably red flag #2.)

Red flag #3: As we were driving, Ben was weirded out by several blank road signs. I realized that they were not blank, but that the snow had been blown horizontally and immediately frozen over, resulting in whited-out road signs. Speed limits? Who knows. Exit numbers? Iono. Street names? No clue. The roads were nearly empty and the signs were blank. It felt like we were in some post-apocalyptic horror video game. I joked that every gust of wind that brought about powdery snow was actually a ghost. In hindsight, I think this just made me more tense.

Red flag #4: Cars were skidding EVERYWHERE. We were about a mile away from Tim’s house when Ben started skidding himself. It was pretty scary.

Then it happened.

We were already driving really slow (“10 miles an hour? What is this, Fast and Furious slow down, Tokyo Drift!” – my shrill voice) when we were trying to make one of the last turns to reach Tim’s. The car lost traction and we started skidding, unable to stop.

We hit a bus. Luckily, since we were going at about 3 mph at this point (less than 5 kph for my international friends). Ben was so freaked out that he just went into “what kind of damage was there we have to file an insurance report???” mode. I was like “WHAT IF THERE WERE PEOPLE ON THE BUS?!” Since we were going so slowly, we just got a tiny scratch and there was no damage to the bus or the people on it. (No damage to the people in our car either.) We walked away with no reports filed because it really wasn’t worth the trouble. But oh man, were we shaken.

We arrived at the party to find that all 100+ people who were slated to arrive weren’t there. Because of the insane road conditions. I mean, people usually flake anyway but Tim was stressing about fire codes and the police showing up. The Facebook event was full of “Tried to come over but there was standstill traffic, had to turn around” and “Couldn’t make it out of my driveway sorry!” so the party didn’t end up being as packed as anticipated.

Tim goes ALL OUT. There was a free raffle, 10 gallons of homemade sangria, so much alcohol I didn’t even bother to tally it up, karaoke with 5 microphones, bumpin’ dance floor in the garage, a live serenade, and so much more. It was easily one of THE best parties I have ever attended in my life.

RAFFLE TIME. (Do you see the giant chocolate heart in the back?)
Friends Tommy and Jeff nailin’ it at karaoke
Bumpin’ dance floor that was really cold (it was in the garage) but once you worked up a sweat, it was nice to just press your face against the literally-freezing garage door.

Even though it was about 11°F (~-11/12°C), my friend wanted s’mores so we headed out to the firepit on the patio. It was SOOOOOOOOOO COLD even after I put on fuzzy penguin slippers and threw blankets over myself. It was really nice in front of the fire but the wind was cuh-razy. We were on wind advisory and apparently winds reached about 50 mph Saturday night. I was very wary of this because a) the wind was blowing the flames dangerously close to everyone sitting around it and b) the wind was blowing the trees kind of all over the place. It was very cool in an eerie way, watching the trees sway violently against a clear night sky. As I was trying to point out how cool the trees looked, we heard it.

Toasty and warm! Even though all the s’mores ingredients were frozen solid.

SNAP! CRASH! A tree behind Tim’s house was just blown down. We watched a tree fall. TIME TO PACK UP we did not want to be under the next tree that fell. How many brushes with death were we going to experience on Valentine’s Day?

Instead of driving back to Ben’s when we left, we drove to my place because the highways weren’t treated yet and we didn’t want to be on the roads any longer than we had to. Plus, with the steep incline leading to the garage, we couldn’t risk it. Still, I live in a hilly area, so it was risky either way. We were relieved to reach my apartment alive, even though we had no phone chargers and dead phones.

But we were alive and we were together.

How was your weekend? (Hopefully way fewer near-death experiences. Hopefully zero of them.)

And I hope you take the chance to stop and smell the… just kidding, I won’t. 😛