Saturday, January 12, 2013

Learning to Laugh

     As most of you know through Facebook, my husband came home from deployment a little over a week ago.  That, plus the start of another school semester are my excuses for being absent from the blogging universe lately.  I knew it wouldn't be long, what with having my darling J back in the house, before I had a blog-worthy story to tell.  He didn't disappoint.
     Last night was our first official date night since he's been back.  We created a "Date Jar" about a day or two after his return.  It's an idea I found on Pinterest, although I didn't actually pin it, so I can't credit the original source.  (Sorry if you're the original source.)  Any-whoo, a Date Jar is a prettily decorated jar that you and your significant other fill with slips of paper.  On each piece of paper there is a short description of a date you'd like to go on.  For example, one of the slips I added says "Take a cooking class" and one of J's additions says, "Go to a shooting range".  We'll take turns pulling from the jar, and the goal is to do at least one "just us" date a month, but we threw in a few family dates as well so we can include Monkey.  I pulled first, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I read "Dinner (you pick) and a movie (I pick)".  No pressure!  Dinner and a movie is a cinch, especially since I've been dying to see The Hobbit since it came out.  I picked my part quite quickly, but J himmed and hawed for a few days.  I asked him Wednesday if he knew where we were going to eat yet.  He got this cute, mysterious grin on his face, and said, "Yeah, but I'm not telling."  Intrigued, I just said "Okay."  His face got a little brighter as he asked me if I wanted a hint.  Of course I did!  I love surprises, and I'm an expert and figuring them out before I get them, which is the fun part for me.  His hint was, "It's your favorite restaurant, but you don't get to eat there very often because it's a bit more expensive."  OMG!  He's taking me to Koi Sushi! I squealed on the inside.  Out loud I merely shrugged and said, "Oh, well then I know where we're going."  He just grinned, and we changed the subject.

      Yesterday we got home after looking at cars at about 3 pm.  I immediately locked myself in the bathroom and began the long, arduous task of curling my hair into those adorable 50s ringlets.  At 5:00, I was finally fully dressed and ready to go in my cute dress, high heels, curls and makeup.  I came downstairs and got that "Wow" moment from my husband every girl aims for when getting dolled up.  We loaded Monkey into the car to bring her to my friend's house for the evening.  As J backed the car out the driveway I asked in a knowing voice, "So baby, where are we going to eat?"  Without missing a beat, he turned and grinned at me and said, "Five Guys!" in a very self-satisfied voice.

     Over the years, being married to J has taught me a lot of things, but I think the biggest lesson I've learned from dealing with him is how to laugh.  I'm not perfect at it, but I've come to know that when moments like that happen I can either be angry and hurt and disappointed, or I can laugh it off, put on some blue jeans and enjoy a sloppy hamburger with my husband, the man who may not have a clue half the time, but sincerely tries to make me happy.  He's not perfect, but neither am I.  Together we make a mess out of thin air, but it's our mess, and it's a beautiful one.  He may not be some Casanova or Romeo, but the fact that he remembered me saying a few days before that I was craving a sloppy burger shows that he does think of me, and he is trying.  I love my husband, and more than anything, I'm thankful that he's home with me again so that I can learn to laugh again.

     Another thing I love having him around for is the food I get to cook!  Monkey is a great taste-tester, but she's got a tiny tummy, so I don't cook as much when it's just the two of us, but now I have no reason not to try out all the new recipes in my two new cookbooks.  The first one I tried was the Beef Casserole from the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, and it was excellent.

Beef Casserole
Makes 4 servings

3 TBS vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
3 TBS all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 TBS tomato paste
10 oz mushrooms, sliced
Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven 350*F.  Heat 1 TBS of oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over the stovetop.  Add half the meat in a single layer and cook over high heat until crusty brown, about 5 minutes.  Turn the meat over an brown the other side.  Transfer the meat to large plate.  Wipe out skillet and add the other TBS of oil.  Repeat with the remaining meat.  Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining TBS of oil.  Heat the oil and add the onion and celery.  Cook over medium heat until the onion turns light brown, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, 10-15 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the onion and celery and stir until it is dissolved.  Add the broth while stirring.  Add the tomato paste, mushrooms, salt, and pepper.  Mix thoroughly and bring casserole to a boil.  Turn off the heat.  Mix in reserved ground beef and any accumulated juices.  Cover the skillet and transfer it to the oven.  Bake the Casserole for 2 hours.  Stir the casserole every 30 minutes to make sure the bottom doesn't burn, and add water as necessary.  Serve over mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta.

     It was really good, but definitely not a weekday meal if you're a working mom.  It kinda reminded me of Beef Stroganoff without the sour cream.  J loved it, because as he put it, "It's manly food".  Goofball!

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