Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week 3 - Surf n Turf

I've started a spreadsheet of date ideas.  Unfortunately many of the things I've come up with require much warmer weather than what we are experiencing in Nebraska right now.  So after pouring over my list and several online suggestions, I decided to do a date night in.  Although it was incredibly enjoyable and relaxing, it didn't end up being nearly as cheap as I had hoped.  Definitely cheaper than dinner and a movie out though.

I arranged for a babysitter (Thanks Christy! I hope you let me return the favor one night), planned a dinner I knew we'd both enjoy, and loaded up the "watch instantly" netflix queue with plenty of movies.  I wanted to keep dinner pretty simple so I wouldn't spend the whole night cooking, but I also wanted it to be nice enough that it didn't feel like "the same ol' same old".  I settled on spinach and strawberry salad with feta, walnuts and strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, maple glazed salmon, a broiled New York strip for John, roasted potatoes, garlic bread and brownies for dessert.  I made the salad, vinaigrette and brownies ahead of time and the bread was store-bought, so once the peanut was at the sitter's it took me about 45 minutes.  The salmon baked while the potatoes roasted and the steak broiled while I got the table and plates ready.  

After dinner we snuggled in on the couch to watch "Ghostbusters 2" and had nice, quiet romantic cuddle time.  Although we enjoyed every minute of it, we did miss the little guy - it was VERY weird to be home and not have him with us - and we are so used to going to bed early these days that we called an end to our "date" at about 9:00 and I went to pick him up. 

Cost-wise, I spent about $27.00 at the grocery store for things I didn't have on hand.  The balance was $58, I added this week's $50 for a total of $108, minus the $27 for groceries and the current balance of the date fund is $81.00

Next weekend we are traveling out of town to visit some family and friends, so I'm not sure if we will be able to squeeze in a date or not.  I'll keep ya'll posted.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

Broiled NY Strip, Maple Glazed Salmon and Roasted Potatoes

Dinner for 2

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dates 1 & 2

Although neither of our first attempts were award-winning, we were able to break our normal pattern, at least a little. . . .

When I gave my husband the option of either going first or second, he of course chose second.  It left me with only a couple days to come up with something, so I decided to start small.  Instead of our typical dinner out at one of our regular restaurants followed by a trip to the home improvement store I decided to go for an afternoon of window shopping for furniture followed by an early dinner somewhere we don't normally go.  This allowed for a little shift from the norm and I wouldn't need to find a sitter, we could just take the munchkin along with us.

After a run to the bank to put some stuff in a safe deposit box we started the date at Nebraska Furniture Mart.  I don't know if it's like that every Saturday or not, but it was INSANE busy there.  We checked out some laptops, desks, sofas and beds.  By that time we were getting tired of the crowds, so we headed down the road to Furniture Row Outlet.  This was much more pleasant.  We checked out some living room furniture and found a sofa and chairs we really like - now we just have to save up the money.  Next it was to the Select Comfort store to check out sleep number beds.  We're still on the fence about those. 

For dinner I chose Granite City.  I was playing it a little safe.  We'd been there before so I knew we'd like the food and it would be ok to take junior in with us.  I ordered way more food than I could eat, but it was all delicious, and as usual the baby was on his best behavior (other than a rather messy trip to the restroom, but that's what babies do).  I honestly don't remember what John ate, I hadn't thought up this blog idea yet, so I didn't pay much attention. I had a portabella mushroom sandwich, a side of mac and cheese that was on a specials menu, a salad and an iced tea.

Total cost:  $40 for dinner - 1 salad, 2 meals, 1 extra side, 1 iced tea, tax and tip.

Next up was hubby's turn.  He decided to switch things up a bit and arranged for a baby sitter on Thursday night.  He then took me to Jazz-A Louisiana Kitchen for dinner.  Another safe choice, we love Jazz, but we really don't go there very often so it was very enjoyable and delicious.  There was live music, which made it even better.  By the time we were done eating we realized why we don't go out on weeknights - at least not now, with a small baby at home.  We were both stifling yawns, but we were determined to enjoy our kid-free time.  We decided to spend a little more time at Jazz and splurge on dessert, then went to the bookstore to browse - one of my favorite things to do. We also stopped and picked up some things at the pet store.  By then we were pretty much beat so we headed to the sitter's to pick up the little one and called it a night. 

We had an order of fried okra for an appetizer.  I had the shrimp po'boy.  It usually comes with either Cajun coleslaw or sweet potato salad and a couple hush puppies. I'm not a fan of the sweet potato salad and my nursing baby isn't a fan of coleslaw, so the I asked for a few extra hush puppies instead.  For dessert I ordered a gourmet turtle chocolate cake, but they were out so I "settled" for strawberry cheesecake.  John had scallops Lafayette - scallops in a cheesy cream sauce served with a scoop of dirty rice in the middle and bread pudding for dessert.  Everything was delicious!

Total cost:  $50 for dinner - 1 appetizer, 2 meals, 2 desserts, 1 iced tea, tax and tip. Minus $10 in groupon savings = actual cost of $40

Shrimp po'boy and hush puppies at Jazz
On a side note, each date came in $10 under budget but we used some of that extra for drinks at a function we attended, so the current date night fund is $58.  My plans for this weekend should come in well under that, but you'll have to come back next week to see for sure.


What a typical weekend evening sounded like in our house a few weeks ago:

Spouse 1:  What do you want to do tonight?
Spouse 2:  I don't know, what do you want to do?
Spouse 1:  I don't care.  Are you hungry? 
Spouse 2:  I could eat.  What are you hungry for?
Spouse 1:  I don't care.  What do you want?
Spouse 2:  How bout Chinese?
Spouse 1:  No, Chinese doesn't sound good.
Spouse 2:  Ok, what does sound good?
Spouse 1:  I don't care, anything but Chinese.

Add nauseum.....

Long before we were married my husband and I decided we would commit ourselves to a weekly date night.  We would go to dinner, movies, concerts, occasionally theater.  But as time went by and as our family expanded to include our son, our date nights became incredibly predictable.  We'd go to dinner - usually at China Road, Red Robin or Outback - and head to one of the local home improvement stores to shop for items on the never ending list you have when you own a 111 year old home.  It had become so routine that we often didn't even discuss what we'd do beyond which restaurant we would eat at.  That changed (at least a little so far) a couple of weeks ago.  I read an article about the importance of date nights in a relationship. It emphasized not falling into a dinner/movie routine (or in our case a dinner/Lowe's routine) and trying to keep things new and exciting.  It suggested taking turns planning the dates and making a sort of contest out of it.  I thought it was just what our date nights needed and approached Mr. M about it.

Much to my surprise he was very enthusiastic about it.  He even upped the ante, so to speak.  Our family budget includes $50 a week for date night - what doesn't get used one week stays in the fund, so if we go cheap one week we can splurge another.  Mr. M suggested that the contest not only be for the best date, but the cheapest.  I have accepted his challenge, which brings us here. 

The rules are simple.  Each week we take turns planning a date.  Whoever's turn it is is responsible for all details, including securing a babysitter if needed.  At the end of the year we will pick a winner.  I created this blog to keep a chronicle of our dates, so we can go back and review.  And in case we can't pick a winner amongst ourselves, I wanted ya'll to be able to vote on your favorites too (assuming anyone reads this).

Please bear with me.  I am new to this blogging thing and just figuring it out.  As I get a little better at it (and find time - a hot commodity when you have a 4 month old) I will pretty it up a little.  I'll do my best to post our weekly dates a day or two after they happen, again, time permitting.  Check out my next post to see a short recap of our first 2 dates.  Now that I know I'll be blogging about them, I'll make sure to get better details to share.