I slowly cracked open the oven to peek at my creation. I thought to myself, “Oh, just look at those gloriously golden tops.” But I froze the instant the blueberry-infused scent waves filled my nostrils. And then time slowed down in the way it does during an action film when the hero is racing against time. I glanced over my left shoulder toward the stairwell to the basement. I grabbed a dishtowel from the countertop with my right hand, slammed shut the oven with my left, did a 180 and lunged at the stairwell. Would I make it in time?
Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.
I whipped the dishtowel at our hypersensitive smoke detector placed most inconveniently along the wall in the stairwell just a few feet away from our oven. The beeping ceased. I glared at the smoke detector. And smacked it one more time with the dishtowel for good measure.
Oh, did I mention this was at 6:30 a.m.? On Patrick’s birthday?
Happy Birthday babe.
The man wanted nothing for his birthday. Literally, he wanted to do “nothing.”
(two weeks ago)
Me: What should we do for your birthday?
Patrick: Nothing. I want a weekend of no plans.
Me: What? But how are we going to celebrate your birthday?
Patrick: We will celebrate by having a weekend of no plans.
Me: That’s not celebrating. That’s doing nothing.
“Nothing” is a difficult concept for me to grasp. I love celebrating birthdays. I don’t need to plan a big party, or go on a trip, or have some extravagant gift. But I like to do something special for birthdays. And not just for my birthday. I really do enjoy celebrating others. It’s the only day out of the year dedicated just to you. It’s YOUR day. I feel like that should be celebrated. Something about the day should be a little special. So, after incessant badgering over the next week, he gave me a “plan” for his birthday the following Friday evening.
The Plan: Pad Thai from Thai Place in Westport and a movie night at home.
Let’s not get too crazy, folks. Wouldn’t want to break a hip. Or be out past 8:00 p.m.
Me: You are turning 28, not 82. Stop being an old man.
Patrick: What’s wrong with wanting to spend some quality time with my wife to celebrate my birthday?
That shut me up.
Patrick: Plus, I’m just keeping you young.
Me: Excuse me? How so?
Patrick: If I act like an old man, it will make you want to act younger. And therefore, keep you feeling young.
Me: That makes no sense.
Patrick: Sure it does. It’s sound logic.
There is no arguing with a Moss man over what they deem “sound logic.”
Well, I refused to let his birthday pass as if it was any other regular day. Even if he was being a curmudgeon, he was my curmudgeon. And, darn it, I was going to make him feel special.
On the way home from work on Thursday night, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up the secret goods. P isn’t much of a breakfast man, but if there is one thing he likes it’s blueberry muffins. And since he already had our evening “planned,” breakfast was my only window of time for a surprise. What would be more surprising than me cooking something? You probably saw that one coming from a mile away.
Usually, P doesn’t like to take me to the grocery store with him. And he doesn’t particularly enjoy the idea of me going alone. I tend to come home with items like a bundle of 5 boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese (a bonus box was included!) and a Chiefs sweater vest for Quinton. But we’ve been over this before.
However, since he didn’t know he had no say in the matter, and, miraculously, I came out of the store with only the items on my list: Blueberry muffin mix, orange juice, coffee creamer (not birthday related), and two cards (one from me and one from Quinton). I left the items in my car when I pulled into the garage at home so P wouldn’t see what I purchased. I planned to grab them later when I knew he wouldn’t be looking.
I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. Friday morning and slyly rolled out of bed at 6:09. The snooze button gets me every morning. I made certain not to turn on any lights and tiptoed across our bedroom to the door. I glanced back to make sure I didn’t wake Sleeping Beauty. He hadn’t even moved. Not sure if that is comforting.
However, I did wake Sleeping Beauty’s sidekick. Quinton met me at the bottom of the stairs with his head cocked to his side and his bleary eyes trying to adjust to the light.
He’s not a morning dog. He padded his way into the kitchen right behind me and plopped back down as soon as he reached the cool kitchen floor.
This was the moment I realized I had left my bag of supplies in my car last night. I hoped the cold air had kept the orange juice and coffee creamer chilled. I opened the garage door and immediately our alarm chimed to alert everyone that a door had been opened. Such a lovely sound at 6:11 a.m. I shut the door quickly and went over to the alarm base in the corner of the kitchen to unplug the sensor making the chime. After unplugging, I went back to the door to the garage. Ding! Turns out I unplugged the Kerig instead of the alarm.
Not wanting to risk another loud noise, I left the door from the house to the garage open and grabbed the supplies out of my car. And then slammed my car door shut. What is wrong with me?
I put the orange juice and the coffee creamer in the fridge and prayed they would chill quickly.
The next few steps were easy.
Preheat oven. Check.
Spray PAM on the muffin tin. Check.
Set out mixing bowl and whisk. Check.
Pour muffin mix into the bowl. Check.
Pour ¼ cup water into the bowl. Check.
Add two eggs to the bowl. Check.
Add ¼ cup vegetable oil. Not checked.
This would usually be the point where I would ask P where we kept the vegetable oil. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I did find a carton labeled Canola oil, but the oil in the container had floating black bits. I’m fairly certain P used this container to store used fryer oil. Why? I have no idea. But I knew I shouldn’t mix it in with the muffins.
I had recently overhead on one of Patrick’s cooking shows that you can substitute olive oil for vegetable oil if needed. Bingo! I found the olive oil and poured it in with the rest of the ingredients. I grabbed my whisk and started mixing. The instructions said to stir until all ingredients were mixed and some lumps were ok. Well, my batter just formed one large lump and stuck to the whisk. I’m guessing the olive oil is to blame? Regardless I had to forgo the whisk and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing.
The final step required opening the can of real blueberries, rinsing the blueberries and then gently folding them into the batter. Long story short, I broke our can opener. I couldn’t get it to crank. The handle kept spinning but I couldn’t get the blade to roll. I had to use the sharp edge of the blade to punch individual holes along the entire edge of the lid. Punch, move it a centimeter, punch, move it a centimeter, punch. You get the picture.
Once I punched about 90% of the lid’s edge, I used a knife to pry open the can. I also couldn’t locate our strainer. So I filled up the can with water and then stuck my hand over it and drained out the water while keeping the blueberries in the can. I did this about 6 times before the water ran clear. And Patrick thinks I wouldn’t be good at camping…
I folded the precious blueberries into the batter and went to pour the batter into the muffin tin. Yeah, the batter wouldn’t pour. I had to spoon it out and then remix each individual serving once in the muffin tin because the olive oil had started to separate. I don’t think that was actually supposed to happen.
The muffins made their way into the oven around 6:30 and I set the timer for 16 minutes. The box said 16 – 21 minutes.
It was about 13 minutes in when the smoke detector started screeching.
And now we’ve come full circle.
In the craziness of trying to silence the smoke detector, the muffins started to actually burn. I find it ironic they burned after the smoke detector went off, but it seems about par for the course.
I pulled the no longer soft and golden brown but now hard and crispy muffins out of the oven and wrapped them in a dishtowel to keep them warm while I poured P’s orange juice. The orange juice looked a little funky and was still warm, so I swirled it around in the glass and threw an ice cube in hoping it would be drinkable.
It was 6:59. P’s alarm was set for 7:00. I’m good.
I carefully carried the tray upstairs to our room. As I reached the top step I could hear P walking around.
Me: GET BACK IN BED!
Me: GET BACK IN BED!
He got back in bed. I belted out a Grammy-worthy rendition of “Happy Birthday.” P opened his cards from Quinton and me. I think I peaked this year with my selection of his birthday card. It was like the creator of the card said, “Libby needs a card for Patrick. I will make this one just for her.”
And then he opened up the dishtowel to find the crispy muffins.
He cut one open, buttered both sides and took a big bite.
P: The inside is really good!
Yes, beauty on the inside is what really counts. He then took a big swig of orange juice.
P: Did you add something to this?
P: It tastes….different.
Me: Probably because I left it in my car last night. It’s got a little extra tang for your birthday.
P: Oh. Yum…
Maybe this is why P didn’t want any surprises. I think it’s the thought that counts.
We later came to find out I had purchased the “low acid” orange juice. Like I said, I shouldn’t go to the grocery store alone.
With how well this morning went, I decided to happily go with his plan for his birthday evening.
So, here I am sitting next to the birthday boy on the couch. Remembering it’s his day. Not mine. Now, if only he would choose a movie. We may end up just watching trailers on U-Verse OnDemand all evening.
It’s his day. Not mine. Trailers are fine.