Sunday, May 8, 2011

Week 17: Home, Home on the Range

My turn.  The original plan was to spend the afternoon at the Wildlife Safari Park then have dinner at the Lodge Steakhouse at Mahoney State Park.  Our plans changed a little, as they sometimes do, but it was a great day! 

Corbin is quickly outgrowing everything, and it was time to upgrade him from an infant carseat to a convertible one, and since I had a 20% off coupon we decided to stop at Babies R Us on the way to the park to pick up a new carseat for him.  After a quick stop for that and a couple other things for him, we headed to the park. 

The Wildlife Safari Park is a drive through park divided into several sections for various animals.  There is also a place to park where hiking trails take you into the woods to bear and wolf exhibits.  We saw elk, pelicans, cranes, turtles, bison, deer, owls, a bear and several other varieties of wildlife. Although we hiked back to their enclosure, we weren't able to spot any wolves.  The park was much bigger than we'd expected, and we enjoyed the beautiful spring afternoon watching the animals and hiking in the woods.  We did, however, finish much earlier than I'd expected.  Cost for 2 with our Zoo membership was $11 - Corbin's admission was free.

It was only a little after 3 and the Lodge Steakhouse didn't open for dinner until 5.  We had realized there were a couple more things we needed to shop for - Mother's day cards and a sun shade for Corbin's window in the car - so we decided to head back into Omaha for an early dinner and the rest of our shopping.  I had recently read that Jazz had added new menu items and I was craving fried okra, so we headed there, although the sweet potato fries were the only new menu item we ended up trying.  John had scallops Lafayette and I had a shrimp poboy with sweet potato fries.  We shared an order of the okra and Corbin had some cheesy grits that he shared with his dad.  Total was $42 with tax and tip, but I had a $20 for $10 groupon so our cost was $32.   

Current balance of the date night fund is $110.

Week 16: Happy Birthday to Me!

It was John's turn to plan and it was the night before my birthday.  A new restaurant had recently opened in the local outdoor mall, so he took me to give Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers a try and then to pick up my birthday present that he'd ordered online.

Freddy's is a casual, fast-food type place complete with a drive thru.  The menu was pretty simple: burgers, hot dogs and chicken fingers pretty much covered it, and of course, the frozen custard.  We each had a burger combo.  The burgers were good, and a bit unusual in that the edges were very thin and crispy.  The fries were very thin cut and tasted like they were real cut potatoes.  Nothing stood out as spectacular, but it was all good and I'm sure we'll go back sometime.  Cost was about $13 for 2 combo meals.

Once we were finished eating we headed over to Best Buy to pick up my birthday/mother's day present that John had ordered.  I am the proud new owner of a new ipod touch. It was a great present and I'm enjoying it very much.  We then wandered the mall a little and after debating the available dessert options decided to head to Wheatfields where John had his favorite bread pudding and I celebrated my birthday with a big slice of strawberry wedding cake (half of which had to come home with me).  It was scrumptious as usual.  Cost was about $10.  When we were done we headed home to get the little one to bed. 

Strawberry Wedding Cake

Week 15: Quiet time

This week was my turn to plan.  I am, amongst other things, a wedding officiant and had a ceremony to perform this weekend.  Since it was at 4 I decided there was plenty of time for date night afterwards, but since things had been rather hectic for us for awhile and we were going to have a big and busy day on Sunday what I really wanted was a quiet night at home. 

Once my wedding ceremony was taken care of, I stopped at Panera Bread for take-out.  I was having a real hankering for their divine mac and cheese, so I got that and half a sandwich and soup and half a sandwich for John.  We ate together as a family then put the little guy to bed.  Once he was out we started the rest of our date:  2 hours with no technology.  No smart phones, laptops, TVs, iPods, etc. We turned everything off and spent the next 2 1/2 hours giving each other back rubs and talking.  It  was absolutely wonderful and we have decided to implement mandatory tech-free time several times a week.  Total cost was about $25 for dinner.

Week 14: The Annual Birthday Bash

It was John's turn to plan, but we both had a pretty good idea of what we would be doing.  Several of our friends have birthdays in April and every year for several years now they have thrown a joint birthday party. 

In keeping with his decision to try places we've never been before, we started the evening at Lansky's for dinner.  Although we had both heard good things about them, neither of us had ever eaten there.  For those of you who aren't familiar, it is a casual place that serves mostly phillies, pizza and pasta.  John and I each had a philly and we split an order of breaded portabella mushrooms, an order of fries and a trip to the salad bar.  Everything was delicious.  I especially enjoyed my philly after the addition of horseradish sauce and we both agreed that the mushrooms were the best side.  The portions were generous and the prices were very reasonable.  Cost was around $25.

After dinner we headed to the Country Bar where had a beer while visiting with friends and wished the birthday boys and girls the best.  Cost was less than $10.

Week 13 - Just "Wing" it.

It was my week to plan.  John would be spending the day Saturday helping the fire department burn down a house, and since this usually is a pretty physically exhausting day I decided to just wait until he was done and see what he felt up to doing.  It was a beautiful spring day and the little guy and I actually went out and spent the day watching the house burn down. 

Once we got home, got cleaned up and rested a little we started discussing what we wanted to do.  After a very short discussion we agreed to head to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner and a beer.  We sat and relaxed over wings, onion rings, and a beer. It really hit the spot after a long day in the sun.   By the time we were done we were pretty well wiped out, so we called it an early night and headed home.  Cost was around $40 with tax and tip.

Training Burn

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Week 12 - Spontaneous and Free!

This week I had family coming into town unexpectedly - I found out on Wednesday that they would be in late Friday night.  We usually do our date nights on Saturdays - it's just easier that way, so we were thinking we'd probably just skip this week.  But then on Thursday night some friends of ours invited us to join them for dinner on Friday.  We decided to accept their invitation and count it as this week's date night. 

We met our friends Brad and Tabitha and their son Wyatt at Nettie's, a local Mexican restaurant. Neither John or I had been there in years.  I used to think of it as authentic Mexican food, but having since been to Mexico, I'm not sure anyone there would eat the cheddar cheese-covered Nettie's fare, but my American palate still finds it pretty delicious.  We tried the guacamole, which was yummy and had an unexpected kick, but I realized as soon as our entrees arrived why I'd never ordered it before.  The portions are ginormous, I took at least 3/4 of mine home after eating chips with salsa and guacamole beforehand.  John managed to take out most of his, but I think he and Brad were having some sort of contest to see who could eat the most. 

It was a great night catching up with friends, eating yummy food, and discussing our upcoming trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  And since they ended up picking up the check in return for some computer issues John had helped them with, it ended up being free!  (We did dip into the date night fund the next night to take my nephew out for Chinese though.)

Week 11 - Not-so Fine Dining

It was John's turn to plan our date, and he decided he wanted to have dinner somewhere we've never tried before.  After hearing good things from friends, we decided to check out Cedar Creek Steakhouse.  I was very excited when he told me where we were going, I'd been wanting to try it out for some time, but unfortunately we were both in for a pretty big disappointment. If the restaurant was trying to achieve fine dining as the cloth napkins, ambiance and pricy-ish menu suggested, they missed the mark.  They also managed to violate several of my restaurant pet peeves, no matter what kind of establishment. 

First, the server-and several others I observed that night, had long hair that wasn't tied back.  I'm not sure why this is such an issue for me, but it's a biggy.  I think it looks unprofessional and I worry about them running their hair through food without even knowing it.  Other than that, I thought the service was fine.  Not good, not bad, just fine. 

We ordered a garlic cheese bread appetizer ($4.25), John ordered the king cut prime rib (12 oz, $22.50) with a loaded baked potato, and I ordered the chicken fried steak ($11.75) from the "specialties" menu.  Both entrees came with salad and bread. 

I had assumed that our appetizer would come out first, but my second pet peeve of the night was violated and the salads came out.  They were a very uninspiring iceberg mix from a bag, topped with a single cucumber slice, a small chunk of tomato, a quarter slice of green pepper and a few croutons topped with at least twice as much dressing as needed.  There was still a large puddle of dressing in the bottom of my dish when I was finished.

The appetizer came out when we were about half way through with our salads.  It was over-buttered bread topped with melted cheese.  The garlic flavor was subtle, but good, however the texture of the soggy bread was a little off-putting. 

After the salad plates were cleared our dinner was brought out.  John said his prime rib was "OK", but nothing special.  The portion was rather small compared to other restaurants with similar prices.  His loaded baked potato was a plain potato wrapped in foil (yet another pet peeve of mine) with sides of butter and sour cream - again, very unremarkable.  My chicken fried steak on the other had, was the highlight of the meal.  The batter was much lighter than most chicken fried steaks I've had and seasoned deliciously.  The meat was tender and seemed to be of a better quality than the typical pounded round steak.  The portion was generous but not overly huge.  The mashed potatoes and gravy were good, but nothing special. 

Basically, when it came down to it, if the prices had been about 25% less and they were going for a diner feel we would have been satisfied, but we have had much better meals other places for this price range. I don't see us going back any time soon.

We had Corbin with us, and we have finally decided that it's time to find a sitter if we want to have a nice meal together.  He's past the stage where he sits quietly or snoozes in his car seat and just requires too much attention.  He'll still be included in some things, but not the nicer restaurants.

After dinner we went through the Dairy Queen drive through to get a sweet treat to take home with us.  John got a turtle waffle bowl sundae and I got a hot chocolate smoothie.  These were a welcome bit of deliciousness after the somewhat disappointing dinner.  We went home, put the little one to bed and snuggled on the couch watching TV with our ice cream, a great way to end the night!

Total price for dinner and ice cream was about $65 with tax and tip.
The highlight of our evening!