My Funny Valentine

In Family, Pursuit of Happiness on February 14, 2010 at 12:10 pm

As I grow older, and my life continues to change, so does the way that I celebrate Valentine’s Day.  When my wife and I were dating, it was all about doing something special and making it as romantic as possible.  Through the years, we always celebrated in some way, but at some point, we stopped going out on the actual day because we got tired of dining in overcrowded restaurants with overpriced Valentine’s Day “specials.”

Now that we have kids, our celebration is more of a family celebration.  It’s fun because our kids are young and want to be around us.  But I know that the time will come when they will want to spend Valentine’s Day with their respective boyfriends or girlfriends, so I try to make the most of things while I can.

Cooking and cleaning have never been my strong suits, but I thought that it would be a nice gift to my wife, so I gave it my best shot.  I had her go out with the kids yesterday so that I could clean the house while I prepared a special Valentine’s treat for the family.  I only wish that there was video of me struggling to do the things that are second-nature to my wife.  It would have made for entertaining reality TV.

It started with my cleaning.  I folded the laundry, but not nearly as neatly as my wife does it.  I put things away as best I can, but it still didn’t compare to how my wife does it.  I’ve always done a fairly decent job of vacuuming, but I did have some problems with the new vacuum that we have.  I couldn’t get the hose with the attachments to work, but I finally figured it out.  While I was doing my best to clean the house, I was baking brownies (to the best of my limited ability).

I assumed that we had all of the necessary ingredients to bake the brownies when I bought the mix.  I was wrong (or so I thought), so I ran back to the store to buy eggs.  It turns out that there were eggs in the refrigerator all along, just not in the usual place.  I swear, sometimes it seems that I am a visitor in my own home.

Once I had all of the ingredients (2 eggs, ¼ cup of oil, ¼ cup of water and the brownie mix), I was ready to go.  You would think that following these directions would be simple for anyone of at least average intelligence, but I felt myself feeling a little flustered, hoping that I wasn’t going to screw things up.  I put all of the ingredients into the bowl and started to mix it with a whisk.  Mistake #1! Not only was the batter not mixing well, but it was all getting stuck inside the whisk.  I switched to a fork and got the job done (albeit with a much higher degree of difficulty than necessary).

Then came the easy part (or so I thought).  It says to spread the batter out on a pan after applying cooking spray.  I had seen my wife do this with non-stick aluminum foil, so I decided to go that route, although I was a little panic-stricken making sure that I was actually using the non-stick side.  With my aging eyes, I stared closely at the writing on the foil, and managed to get it right.  However, I used the foil in a pan that happened to be out, not the pan that my wife usually uses.  Mistake #2! So that’s why the batter didn’t reach the edges of the pan!

When the timer went off, I did as the box instructed and tested the brownie’s consistency with a toothpick.  Success!  Well, somewhat of a success.  I had hoped that the batter would expand to the size of the pan, but it didn’t.  I knew when I pulled out the amoeba-shaped brownie that I did something wrong.  The edges (where the batter was thin) had the consistency of a cookie, and the middle (where the batter was thick) had the consistency of cake.  But most of it was “brownie-like.”

I used a trick that I learned by watching my wife – put the brownie in the freezer for a few minutes to cool it off so that it is easier to cut.  I put the whole pan into the freezer but it wouldn’t close.  So I abandoned the pan and decided to put the brownie in the freezer with just the foil.  As I picked up the foil by the edges, the amoeba-shaped brownie spilt right down the middle.  Mistake #3! Apparently brownies are a bit more fragile than I anticipated.

Although my brownie was starting to look very unappetizing, I wasn’t worried because I had planned to cut them into heart shapes anyway as a special Valentine’s treat for the family.  When I took the brownie out of the freezer, I was unable to penetrate it with the heart-shaped cookie cutter.  Mistake #4! I guess my version of a “few minutes” is different than my wife’s, as the brownie was pretty solid by the time that I took it out.  Thankfully, the microwave was there to fix this mistake, and I ended up with some decent looking heart-shaped brownies.

This morning, I woke up before everyone to decorate the brownies with red sugar crystals to give them more of a “Valentine’s” look.  The only challenge was figuring out how to make them stick directly to the brownies.  Thinking like MacGyver, I put a drop of chocolate syrup on each heart-shaped brownie and spread it out across the surface.  All things considered, the end result was pretty good (although it was a bumpy road along the way).  I covered the plates with foil and left them out on the table.

My little one was the first one to wake up this morning.  She came out, saw the covered plates on the table and asked if the treats were for her.  She also asked if they were brownies.  I was thinking…how does she even know that there are treats under the foil, and why would she immediately assume brownies?  Was she secretly watching me fumble my way through this process?  I told her that they were a surprise for the whole family, and that we couldn’t open them until everyone was awake.

A few minutes later, my son walked out. My daughter (without missing a beat) proclaimed “now we are just waiting for one more customer so that we can open our treats!” I laughed out loud at the concept of my wife being a “customer.” Thankfully, my wife didn’t sleep too late because the temptation of the treats was making my daughter crazy.

When my wife walked into the living room, my daughter ran up to her, gave her a big hug and screamed “Happy Valentine’s Day!…Now can we open the treats?”

It has been a fun morning.  The family loved the special surprise, the candy and the little gifts that were exchanged.  Valentine’s Day is much different when it is celebrated “family-style,” but I wouldn’t have it any other way!  I’m sure that my wife would agree.

  1. what a sweet story, and btw I think you did excellent job on brownies, they pretty and delicious:)

  2. What a sweet family memory you made! Happy Valentines Day to you and your family.

  3. You should have been a writer and also taken Home Economics in High School.

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