The closest to Normal (Illinois) that I've ever been.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Birthday surprise!

I have been keeping a secret these past few weeks. (And boy am I bad at that!) I have been sneaking around and planning a surprise for Danny's 40th birthday. I arranged to have my friend MaryJane babysit overnight so that I could whisk Danny away for an evening in Chicago.

I made reservations at the 4-star Amalfi Hotel in Chicago a few weeks ago. I was sure that the gig was up when Danny noticed the charge from Orbitz, but he assumed that it was an academic conference-related charge and didn't question it. Also, I told (warned) the kids about the trip the day before, but they totally forgot and didn't rat me out. So, when MaryJane showed up on Saturday afternoon, Danny was pricing gutter pipes on line and was completely and totally surprised.

The Hotel was gorgeous! And it is in the middle of everything! We were able to do a little window shopping, admire the architecture and walk around Millennium Park.

Also, there was another surprise: I had arranged to have Danny's friend Matt (and my friend Beth) meet us for dinner. Cafe Iberico seems to be in a Google black hole. I had noticed that the street address of the restaurant didn't match the hundreds on Google maps, so I called the restaurant and asked them if they were on the corner of LaSalle and Kinsey, and they said yes. However, they are actually on the corner of LaSalle and Superior, many blocks away. I told Danny that we had 6:00 reservations (they actually don't take reservations) so we had to hop a cab (I love Chicago!) to get there "on time." We got to the restaurant before Matt and Beth, so I had to secretly call them on the phone and sneakily get the hostess to give the two of us a table for 4. But Danny was completely surprised when Matt and Beth showed up!

Here's Danny's description of the event:

"I had no idea we were leaving for a night in Chicago. When MaryJane showed up I thought maybe she and Susan had plans. I was so surprised I felt my brain working about two steps behind what was happening. It was especially surprising that the kids had kept the secret. They were quite casual about it all. Susan produced a packed suitcase out of nowhere and we left in 15 minutes!

The drive to Chicago was easy and the hotel was beautiful. We got to walk around with the holiday shoppers and spend a little time in some very snazzy stores, including an entire store devoted to olives (one of my favorite foods) and a Lego store with a life-size Darth Vader - the picture is sure to give me some street cred with the kids.

Then we went to a fabulous tapas restaurant. I was a little suspicious when they set the table for four but couldn't for the life of me think who would be joining us. Believe me that I was stunned and delighted to see Matt and Beth. The food was fantastic and the company was even better. I enjoyed a wide variety of drinks and was glad not to be driving back to the hotel.

The following morning (when I finally woke up) we walked around admiring the Chicago architecture in freezing sunshine and ended up in Millennium Park. It was a wonderful end to an unbelievable trip.

Did I mention I have the best wife in the world?"


Beth said...

We had so much fun with you both and loved being part of Danny's big birthday surprise! We have to do it again soon (maybe not the surprise part, secrets are hard).

matthew said...

ditto to all the posted and above-stated exuberance over dinner.

also, i'm glad that danny and i wore our purple-shirted "dinner out" uniforms. otherwise, how would people know we're all friends?

perhaps the most quoted line of the night around here: "no, he's just allergic to dinoflagellates."

we miss our fellow-nerd friends!!