Better Late

I’d expected a card first thing in the morning, as we got ready for church. I’d waited  through the service and through our late, diner breakfast.

I was impatient, but decided not to spoil the fun. I’d over-eagerly done that, before. Most notably, by ruining Jeff’s engagement plan and proposal.

I figured there would be a surprise when we got home. Only, there wasn’t one.

Halfway through Sunday, July 23rd, 2006, I finally said it. “It’s my birthday, you know.”

“I know,” he replied casually. “I didn’t have time to get you a present.”

“You didn’t have time?” I asked.

“Besides,” he tacked on, “I could never surprise you, anyway, ‘cause you see all the bills.”

“That’s true,” I laughed. “Did you get me a card?” I was still hopeful.

Jeff’s flat answer was, “No.” Then, a half-hearted, “I never made it out.”

“Well, why didn’t you make me a card?” I wanted to know. “You used to always make me cards.”

Jeff sighed, “I was gonna bake a cake later.”

“Oh, ok.” I understood. Going out and getting around was getting more difficult, so that made sense to me. “You could have wished me a happy birthday, though.” I stressed.

“Yep.” he acknowledged, with a nod. “I probably should have.”

Just about dinner time, Jeff got up, and said he was going to go make my cake. I told him he didn’t have to, and that I’d be just as happy ordering Chinese food.

So, that’s what we did, complete with my favorite almond cookies and ritual fortune cookies. As usual, Jeff wanted to know what my fortune said. I read it to him, to which he responded the same way he had every time since we’d first met. “Mine,” he’d wiggle his substantial eyebrows and the tiny little paper slip, “Says – ‘Lucky Number –  69!’”

Three days later, I came home to a colorful Happy Birthday sign in our home-office window. Strategically hung facing the driveway, so I’d immediately see it when I pulled in.

Waiting for me inside, was a stellar dinner. Jeff made a special meatloaf concoction of ground beef, sausage and salsa baked under a cloak of ketchup and garlic. Accoutrements: hand-smashed, garlic red-potatoes with butter, Brussels sprouts drenched in butter and dinner croissants… with butter.

The butter-use was a nod to the occasion. Our frugal budget and our smidgen of health-consciousness meant margarine, in tubs. When planning special dinners, or upon getting good celebratory news, Jeff would roar, “This calls for Butter!”

After dinner, Jeff told me to close my eyes.  I opened them to a cake and a card. The double-chocolate cake was covered in neon yellow frosting and featured a black-piped beak plus google eyes to which he’d added eye-lashes using more black piping.

The card was a comic one. Amusing and strange, with an extra bit of Jeff’s handwritten humor. “Better late, than never.”

We went to bed full of cake topped with canned cherries and vanilla ice cream, holding hands, and giggling. I loved that chicken cake, and my husband, completely.

Jeff had managed to surprise me on a day I wasn’t expecting anything. I like to compare this birthday to the way I consistently and erroneously surprised him the day before his birthday; every year.

That card, though.

It was the last one.

Jeff had, unwittingly, been philosophically correct. I would gladly take always late, instead of never again.

Quote for the Week: 2019 03 05 late is always better than never again jakorte

2019 03 05 better late than never card jakorte

Snow Food

It hasn’t really snowed yet. At least not according to my adaptive measuring Michigan-ness. That would have to be at least 5 inches. We’ve had a few flaky days; an early artistic dusting of trees. Trust me, I’m fine with this. Never cared for snow.

Jeff loved it. “Oh, good!” He’d exclaim. “Cook and cuddle!”

Jeff did the cooking. I was occasionally asked to participate in pre-preparation. I did the most cuddling. Either with a cat or a dog, but always with a book.

Winter Food. Recipes that only warranted their worth in work in weather cold enough. A not-really-needed excuse to fill the house with warm scents and the extra added nostalgic heated residue of a warm open oven.

Chicken Noodle Soup without the noodles, but with finely diced onion, carrot and celery. Jeff was absolutely tickled when he discovered there was a name for that. Mirepoix became a staple shout in our house.

“I’mma making zee mere pawx,” he’d call-out, purposefully mispronouncing in a horribly ridiculous, entirely undefinable accent. He made his own egg noodles, once or twice. Decided it wasn’t worth it. Dumplings and kniffles worked just as well.

Meatloaf and mashed. That’s where I learned that adding cream cheese or sour cream and/or whole cream to the mash made them silky smooth, creamy. There were no lumps in Jeff’s potatoes, unless he wanted them to be there. If he wanted them to be there, it was because he’d decided to make smashed potatoes. “Not the same thing.”

Adding a healthy handful or two of ground sausage to the ground beef made meatloaf heavenly. Oh, there was goulash and paprikash. Chili and scratch biscuits, too.

Jeff made bread by hand. When I say ‘by-hand’ I mean by hand – hand kneaded, no bread maker. Glass Corning Ware mixing bowls of proofing dough were common on Friday night. The very first he tried was rye bread, chosen for my tastes. It was deliciously denser than any I’d ever had; heavy and filling. Thickly-sliced slabs, steaming warm from the oven, slathered in butter – mmmm.

Maybe, snow’s not so bad after all.

Quote for the Week: 2018 12 11 Recurrently inherited cooking basics often arrive jakorte