Have you ever made anniversary or Valentine’s Day plans and had them fail SO miserably you’ve never really recovered?

Well, I have.

Two years ago, I planned a surprise getaway trip to Cancun for our first wedding anniversary (which happens to fall on Cinco de Mayo). It failed so miserably, I haven’t planned an anniversary, birthday party, or not so much as a pool party since.

Here’s what happened. A while back, we had an AirTran flight from Maine to LAX get severely delayed. They ended up giving us two free tickets to anywhere AirTran flew. A month before our anniversary, I had the idea of using them to fly us somewhere for our first anniversary. The best options were Florida, Puerto Rico, or Cancun. I called them up and tried to book flights.

That’s when I found out AirTran was getting bought out and our vouchers were only valid until the week after our anniversary. Wow. I’m so glad I called! I might as well get tickets now right? Well, it turns out, I was calling pretty last minute and only a few flights were available. Puerto Rico was sold out, Florida sounded boring, and two seats “became available” on a flight to Cancun after a LOT of pleading.

So I booked a surprise trip to Cancun.

Chocolate Raspberry Tart Plated

I spend the next month secretly planning out the trip. I reserved a condo on the beach. I bought tickets for a tour of the Mayan ruins. I bought snorkel gear and underwater cameras, smuggled them home, and hide them in the closet. I figured out exactly how many mini bottles I could take in my carry on (the answer is 9). I packed a bikini, flip flips, a bottle of champagne, and a handle of Captain Morgan. I was excited.

The night before our flight, I told my husband we were going away for a few days and to pack some clothes.

Then I went to grab our passports.

His passport was set to expire on Sunday. We were supposed to return on Monday.

To say I was in total disbelief is an understatement. To say I broke down into a hot mess is probably accurate.

After a few minutes of panicking outside, I came back inside and spilled the beans. It was all ruined.

Somehow, him saying “You should have told me! I knew it was expired.” didn’t help.

Fast forward a couple hours later. We learned there’s no real way to get an emergency passport renewal unless you’re really in a dire situation. Apparently, our first anniversary is not a dire situation, much to my dismay. But there was good news. We could fly to Cancun for one day and return the day the passport expires.

Fly to Cancun for one day? Are you mad?

Absolutely. Let’s do it.

So we drove down to our friend’s house by the airport where we left our car and got a ride to the airport. We did what all anniversary-celebrating-crazy-people do. We started popping (mini) bottles first thing in the morning. When we got to Atlanta for our layover, I realized I forgot the battery for our camera. What an idiot. My husband went off to find an airport shop that sells them.

Shortly after he left, my husband’s name got called on the intercom by the check-in desk.

Oh, no.

A half hour later, I’m a hot mess (again) sitting on the floor of the Atlanta airport, watching the last people board for the flight to Cancun. Without us. The flight agents told us we were misinformed. We had to return before the passport’s expiration date, or risk being detained in Mexico. (Now if that doesn’t sound like a party, I don’t know what does!)

I don’t really know how to explain to you how devastated I felt. I spent a whole month planning a surprise trip to celebrate our first anniversary. I wanted our anniversary to be just as special as the day we got married. In fact, I wanted every anniversary to feel just as special.

Begrudgingly, we got booked for the next flight back to LA, which was about 7 hours later. During that time, we decided to catch a train to downtown Atlanta for the day. We milled around and ultimately ended up at a restaurant where we downed an appropriate number of sangrias and recanted our story to our waiters. I jokingly said my “actual” surprise was this all along and I really just wanted to take him to lunch in Atlanta. (You know, as you do…)

We ended up spending our anniversary on Cinco de Mayo at a Mexican restaurant with a couple of friends. I was devastated inside but I tried not to show it. We drank, laughed, and made the best of it.

I learned a valuable lesson that year. I learned you can spend so much time, money, and effort on something that you lose sight of what’s important. I was so lost in trying to feel just as special as I felt on our wedding day that I botched the plan entirely.

My husband doesn’t really care for elaborate anniversary, birthday, or Valentine’s Day plans. He thinks it feels forced and fake. Now I understand. We can’t recreate our wedding day with lavish dinners and trips. Nor should we try.

What’s important is we come together and celebrate our love and friendship just as we did on our wedding day.

Even if that means spending it drinking cheap margaritas at a Mexican restaurant with a couple of friends.

Chocolate Raspberry Tart Spread

Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 pt heavy cream
  • 1 lb semisweet chocolate
  • 10 oz raspberry jam, good quality
  • (Optional) 1 small container of fresh raspberries, for garnish
  • (Optional) Extra semisweet chocolate for chocolate shaving garnish

Sugar Dough (Pate Sucree)

  • 1 lb butter, unsalted
  • 8 oz sugar, granulated
  • 3 ea egg yolks, large
  • 1 ea egg, large
  • 1 and 1/2 lb cake flour, sifted

Yield: 1 sheet pan (or plenty for 1-10″ tart or ~60 3″ tarts)


  1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Combine the egg and yolks and add one at a time to the butter and sugar, scraping down between.
  3. Slowly add the sifted cake and paddle until the dough forms into large chunks but not yet combined into one ball of dough.
  4. Gently pat into two separate discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. At this point, the dough needs to rest and hydrate.
  5. After 30 minutes, roll the dough out to 1/4″ thick.
  6. Using circle cutters, cut into circles large enough to fit your tart mold(s). If you’re making individual tarts, gently press a second tart mold on top to weigh down the dough. If you’re making a single large tart, weigh down the dough with baking weights or a cheesecloth bundle of dry beans.
  7. Bake at 350 F until light golden brown.
  8. Immediately remove the top mold and let the tarts cool to room temperature.
  9. Unmold the tart shells. Keep at room temperature until use. If you’re going to finish the tarts later, I recommend storing them on a sheet pan and wrapping the whole sheet pan in plastic wrap.
  10. Chop the chocolate into small chunks, roughly pea sized or slightly bigger. The smaller the chunk, the less work you’ll have to do to mix the ganache, so take a few extra seconds on this step to save you time later.
  11. Place the chocolate chunks in a large mixing bowl big enough to hold the chocolate and all of the cream with enough room to stir.
  12. Heat the cream over medium heat in a sauce pot until steaming, but not boiling.
  13. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds.
  14. Using a scraper, start gently stirring in small circles in the middle of the mixing bowl. After about 30 seconds, the ganache should start to darken and come together.
  15. Continue mixing until all chocolate has melted and the ganache is smooth. If necessary, hold over a steaming pot of hot water for 10-20 seconds at a time to melt the remaining chocolate. You don’t want to heat too much or the ganache may break.
  16. Set aside in a warm place. (We want to keep it warm and liquidy.)
  17. Fill a piping bag with raspberry jam and cut a small opening.
  18. Pipe a 1/4″ thick layer onto the bottom of the cooled tart shells.
  19. Fill a piping bag with ganache and cut a dime to nickel-sized opening. Holding the bag in one hand, hold the tip of the piping bag close with your thumb and forefinger of your other hand.
  20. Hold the piping bag over the tart, fill the tart up with ganache, and quickly close the piping bag with the tips of your fingers. Repeat for all of the tarts.
  21. If your ganache is warm at this point, it should fill out the tart shell and flatten on its own. If the ganache is still mounded in the middle, gently shake the tart shell back and forth to distribute the ganache.
  22. Let cool at room temperature until firm to the touch.
  23. Top with cooled piped ganache, chocolate shavings, and raspberry as desired.

Chocolate Raspberry Tart
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