Date Night

Valentine's Day Date Nights

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I haven't blogged a date night series for a while, but Valentine's Day seemed like the best time to pick that back up again. I love going out to eat. Not having to cook for a night is definitely my idea of a great date night, but Valentine's Day is definitely not the day I want to do that. Especially when it falls on a Saturday.

So here are 10 fun Valentine's Day date ideas:

1. Make an ombre layer cake. I've been wanting to do this for a while and planned to for our housewarming party, but I had the cakes in the oven before I remembered to dye the individual layers. Oops!

2. Get takeout. It's the only win-win here. You don't have to cook, but you also don't have to wait for a table. (This is a great time to hit up that new local restaurant. They probably won't be packed out like bigger chains.)

3. Have a double feature night. One movie for you, one movie for him. Popcorn, soda, and candy is required. Bonus points if you push your couches together to make a bed. Trust me, it's super comfy!

4. Buy the $20 box of chocolates to share. It's way better than several cheaper boxes, because the bigger the box, the better the variety. And those orange chocolates are no good, so you want as few of them as possible!

5. Decorate the house. Two ideas I love are these conversation hearts and a heart garland.

6. Make heart shaped food. Brownies, eggs, cheese, hamburgers... just about anything can be made into a heart shape with a cookie cutter or a little creativity. Let Pinterest help you out with this one.

7. Hit up a photo booth. Whether you pop in a mall photo booth or set up a self-timer, dress in your Valentine's best and have fun with some props! 

8. Shop for cheesy valentines. Whether you buy a box of kiddie valentines and leave them in fun places for each other to find or find corny mushy sayings for every food item from chips to fruit, embrace all things corny and see if it doesn't make you smile. 

9. Have a fight. Never got to smash cake in each other's faces but always wanted to? Always wanted to play with nerf guns in the house? Why not?

10. Go on a coffee date. These Valentine's coffee cup wrappers will even make it festive.

I hope these Valentine's Day ideas make next weekend a little more special for you! Ryan and I are actually going to do at least 3 of these! Any guesses which ones?

Date Night ~ Make Your Own Sushi

I've mentioned before that Ryan and I started making our own sushi. It's so delicious and yummy and really not that hard! Now granted, our knife skills need some serious work and we can't make the wide variety that you can order at a sushi restaurant, so we'll still be going out for sushi a couple times a year. But making our own means we can afford to have sushi a little more often than if we were going out for it every time.

I think we spent around $30 on all the basic supplies - siracha, wasabi, nori sheets, sushi rice, bamboo mats. And then we just pick up the filling ingredients that we need: crab, cucumber, avacado, fish, etc. And about every 2-3 times we make it, we'll have to buy a new bag of rice.

There are plenty of tutorials on the internet that show you how to actually make the sushi, so I'll just give you my tips for beginners.

- We follow the basic directions they give you on the sushi rice bag (not the complicated process that I found all over Youtube). Just make sure you get actual SUSHI rice and not a different kind. And then we add a few teaspoons of rice vinegar at the end.

- Do all your filling prep while the rice is cooking and cooling.

- Keep the filling simple, especially the first time you make it. We usually do crab and 1 kind of fish and a roll with just veggies. We don't bother with the fish roe, sesame seeds, and other things they use for the outsides of the rolls. And we usually use dipping sauces instead of topping the rolls with spicy mayo. Simplicity is key for the first couple times.

- Making sushi isn't a quick process. We usually start the rice about 90 minutes before we intend to use it so that it has enough time to cool down. And making the rolls usually takes about 30 minutes or so. But making the rolls is part of the fun.

- Keep the rolls tight and the filling small. They'll probably be a bit bigger than at a restaurant, so you'll probably want to make about 2 rolls (12 pieces) per person. Don't go crazy, because it's just not as good the next day. The rice gets kinda crunchy. (Not to mention you have to be careful with the raw fish and you shouldn't eat it the next day.)

- If you're going to eat any raw fish, it HAS to be sashimi grade. Just go up to the seafood counter (at a nicer grocery store) and ask them what they have that's sashimi grade and take that. It's usually tuna. If they don't know what you're talking about, just walk away. it's not worth it. We use a quarter pound for 3-4 rolls. 

- Have a bowl with water and a little rice vinegar l in it. You'll want this to rinse off your hands and the knife, because the rice is really sticky!

- Branch out little by little. Add one new technique every time you make it. Inside out rolls, rolls topped with raw fish, tempera fry a roll, etc. Just don't try to do it all at once!

Yum! Is it time for another sushi date night yet?

4 Dates for $40 ~ Christmas Edition

Christmas is the perfect time of year for date nights. And unfortunately, there's so much going on that it can be easy to just put yourself on "survival mode" until the big day arrives and life can slow down again. But there are so many wonderful things to enjoy throughout the month. Here are some little date ideas to squeeze in between all the shopping and parties.

Date idea #1 - Make presents together

Cost: $5+

Bake boxes of cookies for your neighbors or make some ornaments for a family member. Pinterest is overflowing with great ideas for this time of year. Take an evening or two to enjoy one together.

Date idea #2 - Choose a new ornament

Cost: $10+

Ryan and I have started collecting at least one ornament that symbolizes each year of our lives together. We collected 3 or 4 our first Christmas since we wanted our wedding and our honeymoon to be represented and last year's ornament is from our vacation in Jamaica. This year I'm pretty sure we're picking out a house ornament. I'd love to get one of the custom ones from Etsy, but I'm pretty sure we waited too long for that.

Date idea #3 - Deliver a secret gift to someone in need

Cost: $10+

Whether you choose an Angel Tree present or drop off some groceries at a food bank, do something good for someone this month. It's so easy to focus on ourselves and the things we want and just say "we're on a tight budget", but there are so many who have less than we do.

Date idea #4 - Pick out a real Christmas tree

Cost: $30+

Ok, so this one breaks the $40 total budget, but you could always pick up some fresh garland or a wreath instead. We're hoping to find a tabletop tree since we have a full size artificial tree up already.

4 Dates for $40 ~ Fall Edition

Fall is my favorite season and I think it's the best time of year for date nights too (although summer is a pretty close second.) Today's costs are estimates, because it really depends on the recipes you choose, and the amount of apples and pumpkins you buy. But I'm very excited to do all of these things with Ryan over the next few weeks!

Date idea #1 - Have a bonfire and make smores and banana boats.

Cost: $10ish

I have a feeling that banana boats + smores are going to make the most over-the-top delicious bonfire!

Date idea #2 - Make a breakfasty pumpkin dish and climb back in bed to eat it.

Cost: $5ish

There are dozens (if not hundreds) of amazing fall recipes floating around on the internet. Here are a few I'm dying to try from Pinterest: Pumpkin PancakesPumpkin PoppersPumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins, and Pumpkin Spice Churros.

Date idea #3 - Take a day trip and go apple picking

Cost: $10+

There aren't really any apple orchards in Hampton Roads, so this calls for a day trip to Carter Mountain Orchard. Oh yes!

Date idea #4 - The Ultimate Fall Date

Cost: $15ish

Going to a pumpkin patch, running through a corn maze, and finishing the day off with apple cider or another equally yummy fall drink.

4 Dates for $40 ~ Part Three

Date idea #1 - Window shopping & pretzel
Cost: $5
Ryan and I started dating in high school, so a lot of our date nights that first year involved the mall. So it's kind of fun to go back and wander around. And of course, we have to stop and get a soft pretzel. There's nothing like it.

Date idea #2 - Mini golf
Cost: $15

Mini golf is always a fun date night. Sometimes I play well and sometimes I'm terrible and I start cheating. Ryan always wins, but we always have fun.

Date idea #3 - Froyo
Cost: About $8 for both of us
We're kind of obsessed with froyo. Our favorite place to go is Sweet Frog, because they have a big selection of flavors. Ryan always wants something fruity and tart, but I waffle back and forth between fruity and chocolately. They have it all, so we're both happy.

Date idea #4 - Create an art piece together that expresses your relationship
Cost: $0-12
There are so many ideas on Pinterest for this sort of thing. Framed wedding vows or first dance lyrics are probably top of the list, handwritten, used as a mat for a wedding photo, or designed in a cool pattern. Some ideas also use initials or other words as an overlay, which is a cool idea. A page from a meaningful book would also be a fun backdrop for these ideas. If you're good with photoshop you could create your love story, but even if you're not, there are a lot of cute graphics available as free printables. Or you could create an art piece based on the dates that have been meaningful to you.You could also create some map art or start charting all the places you've been together. (I gave Ryan a corkboard map for his birthday one year.) So for the cost of a print and a frame, you could have a beautiful new piece for your home. 

 

4 Dates for $40 ~ Part Deux

I'm back with four more date nights! Two are definitely spring/summer oriented, but two of these can be done anytime! Maybe after a few more date night posts I should make a master list of anytime date nights for that winter slump time. Anyway, here are the date ideas.

Date idea #1: Blackberry picking

Cost: About $12 for 6 pounds of berries

Ryan and I like blackberry picking better than strawberry picking, because there's no bending over involved. Just wander down the rows of bushes and pick anything that is dark black, looks really puffy, and pops right of when you pick it. Yum!

Date idea #2: Go halfsies on Chinese food.

Cost: $9

The servings are always way too much for me and 2nd day Chinese food isn't anywhere near as tasty, so Ryan and I have been splitting one dish of General Tso's. With chopsticks of course.

Date idea #3: Plant an herb garden

Cost: $12 for 3 plants and some topsoil

We gave our herb garden attempt a round two this year. And it certainly turned out better than last year, although something is nibbling at my basil. And next year I'll want several more basil plants. My parsley is growing like a little weed, but I will never have enough basil for pesto with the rate that one plant is growing.

Date idea #4: Macarons at Terebinth

Cost: $6.75 for 4 macarons

Every time we go to Greenbrier I want to run into Terebinth for a few macarons. They're amazingly delicious! (And if it's your first time there, you get a free one!) Ryan loves them too and refers to them as hamburgers. (Said with the Pink Panther accent of course!) Give them a try. You definitely won't regret it. And you'll probably have a hard time narrowing it down to just four flavors.