Project 52: Date Nights

PROJECT 52 DATE NIGHTS: We kinda suck at this

So, we kinda suck at date nights since summer hit. We've been too busy making smores around campfires, swimming late into the evening, playing cards and Monopoly, and drinking patio beers with friends far from home to really arrange date nights. It seems okay, though, because we both really feel we are spending quality time together anyhow. This summer is warm and lovely and so busy that it's just flown by. Did you hear that, July? Please slow your shit down.

We have fit in a few great nights out, though. We hit the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest Grand Championship night again in Weiser. This time we double dated with my Grandma and my Aunt Terri after a long day of parades and fair food and yard sales. As always, it's held in the Weiser High School gymnasium and was hot and rocking. We loved it.

(image courtesy of The Sandpiper, Idaho Falls)
We have been on vacation more than we've been home this summer and at the tail end of our Wyoming National Parks camping adventure, Eric and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We just happened to be in Idaho Falls around that date, staying with the inlaws, so we got them to watch the girls so we could have an adult night out on the town. We went with the locals' recommendation and tried The Sandpiper seafood and steakhouse, which has recently been awarded Best Restaurant by Idaho Falls Magazine readers for several years running now. And it was delicious. I ordered the Mahi Mahi special, which looked much like the above image I stole from their website, except my wine was red and I ordered a whole bottle of it. I did get that baked potato with all the fixins' and it was incredible. Afterwards we walked around downtown Idaho Falls and along the greenbelt before we caught a late show of Robin Hood at the cheap theatre (which, by the way, I really liked. And not only because Russell Crowe is dreamy.)
So, after a brief discussion about how we weren't really 'dating' like we were supposed to this summer, we decided to take a hiatus. We're having too much fun to focus on forcing the issue this summer, but have enjoyed the Project 52 challenge and quirky dates together in the beginning and plan to pick them up again in the fall. And it's not just date night we're slackers on this summer, y'all. It's everything. My Pioneer Woman Cookbook Challenge? It's too damn hot to cook much. Lucy's chore chart? Out the window. My weekly Jazzercise schedule? Shot to hell. Cleaning up the house? You should see the jungle of weeds we pulled yesterday and the size of the dust bunnies under our couch. What we are doing, however, is enjoying life without a schedule and allowing ourselves to be ruled by nothing more than the sun and the moon.

PROJECT 52 DATE NIGHTS: Ice Cream and Eye Candy

For this date night I took an idea from Simply Modern Mom's suggestion list. In theory it sounds fun and is something we all do all the time alone - rifle through magazines and pick out things we like: vacation spots, furniture, haircuts, clothing. The date part of it is sitting together and picking out items you think the other person would like or look good in or would hate. I served up some ice cream sundaes and set up the patio. We had a variety of magazines to choose from, like O, Sunset, Southern Living, InStyle, and Martha Stewart Living. Eric and I clearly know each other very well. He picked out the correct diamond ring from a wedding ring round-up in one advertisement. I knew he'd love to kayak and he knew I'd never do it in a million years. I'll admit, it got a little messy when we decided to pick the cutest celebrity or model on some pages and I got his girls wrong. Wha?! That ONE?! Really. Hmm. With the collagen and bleach job? It was there that the initially cute idea turned a little sour. It wasn't our favorite date so far. But I'm upping the ante this weekend.

PROJECT 52 DATE NIGHTS: Rummy with Nachos / Dominoes with the In-Laws

I'm a little behind posting our dates, I know, so this post includes our dates from the past two weeks. Life really gets in the way of blogging during the summer months. Which also is making it a little trickier to actually fit our alone time in between camping expeditions and leisurely evenings in the yard with family and friends. Not that we're complaining, though. Anyhow, Eric planned this nice little night a few weeks back. We hadn't eaten dinner until the girls went to bed, so he conjured up my favorite - nachos. And surprised me by setting up the table with candles and getting out the cards for a game of rummy. I grew up playing various sorts of card games, including rummy, with my Grandma Shoda. She is a serious card player, so I learned the rules early in my life. I taught Eric this game and he loves playing it as well, coming from a family of hardcore pinochle players. We've missed playing games together, as most of the game playing we've done lately includes hide-and-seek or Candyland. It's something that we hope to continue, as it seems card playing is becoming a lost art these days, especially with people of our generation. Eric and I have fond memories of going to the neighbors' houses as kids in our pajamas and falling asleep on the couch with our little friends as our parents downed beers and played hand after hand of cards.

This past weekend we had Eric's family in town visiting, and since it was the first week of June, it was once again my month to plan the dates. Sunday night we got out the dominoes for a game of Mexican Train with my inlaws. We've played lots of games with our inlaws over the years and love doing so. This date lasted for several hours, as we shared snacks and laughs. Both of us come from families who have long traditions of playing games together and we hope to pass that on to our kids. And if its Disney Yahtzee for now, that'll do.


For our date night this past week, Eric took me to the bathroom with promises of a hand and foot massage. It didn't take much for me to make a beeline for it, especially since my feet have been killing me lately (I think my Jazzercise sneakers may be wearing thin). Anyhow, we lit the candles and busted out my favorite Mary Kay item ever, Satin Hands Pampering Kit. For those of you with a friend or family member who's a rep, get you some now. It consists of four really easy steps, including a rich emollient cream, a rough scrub, a cleanser and a thick lotion. Eric massaged my feet and I exfoliated his hands. We have done Satin Hands for years in this house; it's a favorite Saturday night ritual of mine, one I've recently introduced Lucy to. However, it's been done less and less over the past six years since the girls were born. It was so lovely to have a few quiet moments together in the bathroom (which has also become almost nonexistent since the girls were born) and just talk and enjoy each other's touch. He really did a great job with this date. (p.s. I would've had photos but I just deleted them all from the camera on accident. Major fail. Sorry.)


Image courtesy of
So, this past week was the first week of May and therefore Eric's turn to plan the date nights for a month. The poor guy got a really busy and tiring first weekend to try for, so we ended up taking the easy way out late on a Sunday night and watching a movie with popcorn on the couch in our PJs. He picked W., the Oliver Stone film on the life and presidency of George W. Bush. We are both fans of Stone's films, and I was expecting a more controversial tone than what was delivered. We both thought, however, Josh Brolin was BRILLIANT as W. I would have never guessed it, but the acting was fantastic. The story, well, unfortunately we all know it too well. We're living it.

PROJECT 52 DATE NIGHTS: Foreign Food & Film

I know this may be cheating a little, as we already did a movie and dinner night out for our very first Project 52 date. But when the opportunity comes up that you have a babysitter and a whole night to yourselves, YOU DON'T HESITATE. I've been missing The Flicks, Boise's local indie movie theater, like crazy, so I did a little research and came up with a unique twist on the standard date we had already attempted about five weeks ago. But this time it came out much better.

Image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Last Friday my mom took the girls for the night, and I surprised Eric with dinner at Boise's newest sushi restaurant, Yoi Tomo. We both had bento boxes and split a spicy crab roll and it was all fresh and delicious. (I'd completely recommend the place to the locals, except the service was terrible.) We took a leisurely twilight walk from there to The Flicks a few blocks away. We were about an hour early, but ordered some glasses of wine and tried out their popcorn sprinkled with brewers yeast and tamari (interesting, but not something I'd order again). It was so decadent, reading the local paper, sipping our wine by candlelight, and chatting about life. We watched The Eclipse (no, not that Twilight thing by the same title coming out soon), a sweet little Irish film about ghosts and love. It was such an adult night - the kind of dates we used to have more often than not in our 20s pre-kids. And being surrounded by other adult couples at the 9pm showing, sipping their wine and beer, I remembered how much I've missed it.

PROJECT 52 DATE NIGHTS: Chocolate Tasting

Again this week we put off our date night until Monday, as we were busy having fun with our friend Michele who was in town from Oregon. I also spent much of the weekend judging the hip annual event, The Chair Affair, hosted by the Interior Designers of Idaho. It was a lot of fun, and they gave me a really fabulous bag full of local goodies as a thank you. It included a half-pound box of handmade chocolates from a downtown candy shoppe, The Chocolat Bar. Now I know our date last week consisted of sweets and I mentioned that we were starting an 8-week challenge that included no sweets. Well, we (read: I) fell off the wagon in this catagory this past week. HARD. So, what the hell. Might as well go down with the best tasting delicacies of the local chocolatier in our mouths, right?

I set up a plate with the chocolates on us and hid the labeling sheet that came in the box. We had to try to guess what the secret ingredients in each were. Eric couldn't quite figure out what herb was in the Lavender Lemon White Chocolate Bark with Almonds, but I knew immediately. We both had trouble figuring out the special spice in the Dark Chocolate Nutmeg Drop. Pairing the chocolate with a nice red wine was perfect. All the goodness transported our mindset to a more leisurely place, and we ended the date making a few more summer trip plans. It was so nice.

PROJECT 52 DATE NIGHTS: Sweets & Scrabble

Our date night this week had to be postponed until Sunday evening, as the girls' big birthday bash took all weekend to prepare, host, and recover from. By Sunday night, Eric and I were exhausted and I wanted to plan something mellow and easy and take advantage of the warm spring night. I lit some candles on the patio and pulled out two vintage games I picked up about a year ago at a thrift store but we had yet to open. One was a 1968 Scrabble Crosswords Cubes game and the other a 1966 Parker Bros. game called Spill and Spell. It turned out the two are almost identical games - each person takes a turn spilling the letter cubes and gets a minute to put together as many words as possible.

I busted out all the sweets we had in the house, which included some Girl Scout cookies, jellybeans and M&Ms. We gorged a little, as on Monday we started an "8 Weeks to a Healthier You" type competition with some friends, and one gawd awful rule is NO SWEETS.
It was a fun, low-key night and we even had to bust out our 1977 Merriam Webster to assist with judging on the game. It turns out Eric had never played Scrabble before that night, something I never knew about him. He was a little nervous, as I was a spelling bee champ in the 3rd grade and currently hold the self-appointed queen bee title in our family, but he held his own quite well, I'd say.

PROJECT 52 DATE NIGHTS: Would You Rather...

This was our second week participating in Simply Modern Mom's Project 52 and I have to say that this night was so much easier, cheaper and more successful than our first one. Taking an idea from Tiffany's list of 16 suggestions to get you started, I set up a game of "Would You Rather." Basically, you write down a bunch of different phrases on slips of paper (Tiffany gets you started with a great printable sheet) and put them in a bowl. (You could also print them instead of write them out longhand if you were more technologically hip than we are and actually have a printer that works.) Each of you takes turns picking out two and asking the other, for example, "Would you rather live with snakes or eat the same meal for the next 10 years?" The concept is simple and the answers always spark a little interesting conversation. It was fun to find out that we answered much the same on them.

I dimmed the lights and lit some candles. I poured each of us a frosty mug of beer (obviously I've never been a waitress, as my beer pouring skills have much to be desired) and popped some popcorn. Our poor 1960s transistor radio in the kitchen is on the fritz, so the only station I could get was some some light rock/Muzack type sounds. It felt a little like we were sitting alone in a really bad hotel bar, having a drink. Which, actually, suits us perfectly.

PROJECT 52 DATE NIGHTS: Dating My Husband, One Week At A Time (week 1)

Two weeks ago I stumbled across the incredible mommyblog by Tiffany Bird at Simply Modern Mom. Like me and my AMY & REE project for 2010, where I make a new recipe from The Pioneer Woman's cookbook each week inspired by the movie and blog Julie & Julia, Tiffany wanted to do something unique and commit to a project for the new year. She came up with this really creative idea called Project 52, dating her husband one week at a time for an entire year. As parents of two tiny girls, just like me, Tiffany and her husband, Nathan, suffer from very little time alone, very few babysitters, and a very minuscule budget. Her brilliant idea was simple and included a few "rules" and she and Nathan even signed a "contract" to keep themselves in check.
I talked to Eric about joining in the project three months late, and he was as enthusiastic as I am to jump on board. I have been lamenting about us not taking enough time to nurture our relationship - to remember how we used to enjoy each other's company before there were bouts of pink eye, mountains of laundry, swimming lessons, and bathtimes. We really miss each other. This seems like the perfect way to fit it all in, especially with Tiffany's guidelines, adapted a little to fit our needs:

1) Every Friday night from 9-10pm is our date night. We usually have both girls in bed by 8:30pm. One hour is easy to commit to.

2) The majority of the time the dates will be at home so we don't need a babysitter.

3) We rotate being in charge of date nights on a monthly basis.

4) We can't do the same thing twice in one month.

5) Dates need to be free most of the time. If not free, then a budget of $20 or less. Cheaper than if we went out.

6) Need to create a date-like atmosphere. No pajamas. Mind the details and create a special event. But keep it simple.

Like all rules, a few will always be broken, adapted, etc. but we are going to try our best to stick to them. Tiffany blogs about her dates each week, and I plan to do the same. Since April was just beginning, we started our Project 52 this past week. I decided to take the month of April as mine to plan, and the first date was to be extraordinary and easy. We already had a weekend away together scheduled. Months ago I was lamenting our lack of time together alone, and how we had only gone for one night without our kids twice in the past six years. SIX LONG YEARS. So, over Eric's spring break from BSU, we planned a really cheap getaway to Baker City, Oregon. Not the most exciting of places, but neither of us have ever been there, we wanted to stay in this cool newly remodeled historic (and haunted) hotel, and, honestly, we didn't really care if we just ordered room service and never left the room.

The plan was to take the girls to my dad's place in Ontario, Oregon, on Friday night and leave them there for our Saturday night of freedom. Friday also happened to be Alice's second birthday, in which she proceeded to get crabbier and crabbier as the day progressed and ended out her special day by projectile vomiting not once, but twice. And then developed a really high fever. Disappointed, I called the Geiser Grand and explained that I was going to have to cancel our trip and reservations. The receptionist could read the sadness and desperation in my voice and let me reschedule our room at a later date for no charge. It'll now be June before I get a night away with my hubby, but sometimes life and motherhood take precedence.

So we ended up tending to a really sick baby at my dad's place all weekend, but had a great time watching movies, playing Wii, hiding Easter eggs, and taking long naps. Eric and I did manage to get away for a few hours on a date on Saturday - we spent an hour or two browsing thrift shops and a flea market in Ontario. Later that night we spent more than $20, which totally contradicts the idea of Project 52, going to the movie theater to see Hot Tub Time Machine. The movie was horrible, but come on, our other options were Clash of the Titans, The Bounty Hunter, and that new Miley Cyrus thing. The date redeemed itself with a delicious Mexican dinner at Tacos el Zarape, a little gem of a place hidden behind the Pilot gas station near the freeway. While this was totally not within the guidelines of Project 52 or our normal nights, it is always fun, every once in a while, to have an old school, traditional date. It kind of felt like we were in high school again, holding hands during a really bad 80s movie. And we actually had time during our meal to enjoy it leisurely, order a beer, and have a conversation. And we sat IN THE BAR.

I'm really excited to post about our dates each week, and hope you'll follow along, as we have some fun ideas planned. Actually, YOU should think about joining in, too, with your significant other. It is a realistic project with a focus on nurturing our most personal relationships, so what could be bad about that? And we're bound to have a good time and learn a few new things about each other along the way.