Valentine’s Day and Alex’s Birthday are only days apart, so he’s lucky I’m such a gift-giver — he got separate presents.

The Russians I asked about Valentine’s Day agreed that it was an imported holiday, so they don’t celebrate it in a big way. Nonetheless, they echoed the common American complaint that giving flowers and cards has gotten old. Guess romantic cliches have outlived their life here, too.

Valentine's Day risottoFor V-Day in Novgorod we un-veganized one of my favorite recipes, the Post-Punk Kitchen’s pumpkin cranberry risotto. (Not that Russia’s made us completely anti-veg; it’s just that a can of coconut milk costs $5-$7 here, and I’ve only spotted it in Moscow.)

A Russian couple was supposed to join us for dinner, but the girl forgot her documents (dorm visitors have to leave their passports with the front door guards), so we shared our dinner with one of my German floormates.

The hedgehog and the rug I bought from the silver-tongued Turk, Hobama

The hedgehog and the rug I bought from the silver-tongued Turk, Hobama

I gave Alex a slew of little gifts – a pomander, a chocolate egg with a Roman centurion figurine inside, a heart-shaped pressed towel, and M & M’s. (Alex claims M & M’s are not to be found in Moscow, though every street kiosk in Novgorod has them!). And Alex gave me a stuffed hedgehog.  If you don’t get the appeal of hedgehogs, watch this.

Alex’s b-day we spent in Moscow. Since he worked until 8 p.m., he missed out on seeing a production of Gogol’s “The Nose,” which a friend and I saw at the Moscow Theater of Young Spectators. We had some lower-brow fun with him–a basement blini joint where a plate of three thin, greasy blini costs 25 roubles and a cat wandered freely between the patron’s tables to the kitchen. Mmm.

I gave Alex a t-shirt from Novodel, a design botique in Moscow, and a set of plastic Russian soldiers to quell his War Hammer withdrawl.

Now, back to work…until St. Patrick’s Day.

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