"I'm fine with just stuffed shells" she said with a wave of her hand as if it doesn't matter. That is what Mal has traditionally had every October 15th for her birthday dinner. And for the 2nd year in a row she has wanted nothing but stuffed shells and nothing more...presents included. For anyone who knows what goes down on my usual birthday knows it typically involves a family and friends get together for a Louisville Bats baseball game with drinks and good times that follow at Browning's located less than a block from the ballpark. So when Mal tells me all she wants for her birthday is stuffed shells I always get an awful feeling in my stomach because in no way do I think that is fair to her. So, seeing as how I had already gotten her a pink laptop over the summer as her early surprise birthday gift, I didn't let her go empty handed last year on HER day and I was not about to let it happen this time.
My gifts to her this year included a scrapbook organizer and stock card paper. I purchased these the day before her birthday right before I picked her up from work to go to our doctor's appointment for a checkup on Kylar. When she hopped in the car I showed her more than a half dozen books I picked up for Ky at Half Priced Books and told her she wasn't allowed to look in the back of the car (it's hard to believe Kylar will be her in less than 3 weeks!). I'm sure Mal knew I was going to pick her up something scrapbook-related from Michael's for her birthday, seeing as how I already had two 40% off coupons in my wallet coupled with the fact she had told me these were things she wanted just days before. BUT...what she was not expecting was me to pick up cards for her later that night. AND I took a long break at work on her birthday and scurried to the store to pick her up a vase of 3 roses and a slice of Hershey's chocolate pie. When I showed up at her office with both of those in my hands, the expression on her face was simply amazing! If that is the only look I saw on her face for the rest of our days together it would not bother me one bit. It was definitely one of the biggest surprises of the day for her and I know for certain she had no clue that I was going to show up with flowers and a treat for her on her special day.
Later that night, I left her to her own devices as I concocted pumpkin bread, which was another request, before getting to the famous stuffed shells. I must say I was never a huge fan of flavored breads like banana nut and things of that nature, but once I licked the batter mix off of the spatula my taste buds were jumping with excitement and my tongue was left watering for more! Oh...yeah...Mal liked it too :)
While the bread was baking for nearly an hour it was time to move on to the traditional stuffed shells for "Mal Mal". Now, last year I followed a recipe from FoodNetwork.com that was called turkey and artichoke stuffed shells. But this year was a little different as Mal specifically said she wanted the same stuffed shells she had had so many years of her 27-year-old life. This recipe called for your ordinary everyday ground beef and Italian sausage browned and mixed with pasta sauce that was poured over shells stuffed with ricotta cheese in a Pyrex dish. Sounds pretty basic right? Believe me, once you add that extra baked top layer of mozzarella cheese you'll be saying "Mmmmmmm" over and over again. Right Mal? Hehe
But before we dug into this nose rattling birthday dinner, I let Mal open her birthday gifts and cards from our family and friends. I let her open mine last because I knew I would get a particular reaction. What reaction do you ask? She got teary eyed over the mushy card because I'm cheesy like that.
Everyone's thoughts and gifts, not to mention that her birthday wishes were posted all over Facebook and her phone would not stop ringing the entire day, meant that she had a wonderful birthday. And that's what matters most. All of a sudden I don't feel so selfish anymore.
Happy Birthday Mal! Love you!