Yes, there were brownies, and burgers, and Red Sox, and candles on Colin's birthday. It was a great evening. And as I took this photo on this particular plate, it reminded me of the plate's history, which I think is worth sharing.
Way back in, I don't know, I'm guessing 2001 but it could have been 2002 or even 2003 (it's immaterial), I had toddlers. And my friends had toddlers. We pretty much all toddled after our toddlers for a few years there, and some of our toddlers did things like wack other toddlers over the heads with sticks or steal their bouncy balls or grab their hot wheels, heaven forbid, and chuck them across the room. Lamps were felled, feelings hurt, diapers soiled, and messes made. Everywhere. Honestly, now that my kids unload the dishwasher and put away their own laundry it feels like a parallel universe when they were entertaining their little friends with sippy cups and sharing pacifier germs, but it was really only 5 or 6 years ago.
Anyway, I was hosting our weekly playgroup at my house in Massachusetts, and one very cute little girl named Hannah reached for a cookie, or a muffin, or, I don't remember (this, too, is immaterial), something, from one of my nondescript serving plates and managed to topple the plate to the wooden floor, where it splintered into several pieces. No big deal; into the trash, sweep, vacuum, done. Who cares, right? When you've got toddlers toddling, things pretty much break at 4-minute intervals.
The next day my doorbell rang and there was a beautifully wrapped box on my front stoop. In it, I discovered the lovely plate you see above with a note of apology from Hannah's mom. Now, this replacement plate was so much nicer, prettier, and sturdier than the crappy plate Hannah had broken that I was quite in awe of the gesture. It showed a level of good breeding and fine manners that still impresses me to this day.
Plus, I still really love the plate.
p.s. I was tempted to invite Hannah over the next day and to leave all my junky dishware, old jewelry, and cheap knick-knacks perched precariously on table ledges throughout the house. The more she broke, I figured, the better off I'd be.
Recipe for Birthday Brownies
This is my go-to brownie recipe, adapted from the one-pot wonder in Nigella Lawson's cookbook, How to Be a Domestic Goddess. The texture is very moist, as the chocolate chips melt right in during baking.
Makes 16 good-sized brownies, or 20 smaller ones
13 tablespoons butter
6.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, rough-chopped
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a large, heavy saucepan, stirring gently with a heatproof spatula. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
In a 4-cup glass measure or small bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and two extracts. Add this mixture to the chocolate, and beat well with your spatula or a wooden spoon in the pot. Dump in the two flours and the salt, and continue stirring/beating. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Scrape the batter into your prepared baking pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until puffed, the top loses its sheen, and a skewer inserted in the center emerges with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pan (on a wire rack) before cutting into squares.