Cookout

A couple from our church, who are beautiful examples of God’s grace and love, approached me with an idea.  They wanted to host a cookout at their home for all of the new guests at our church, and invited us to join them in hosting the event.

God blessed the idea, and we were given a sunny 70 degree day in October!  Although invites were given and thought of for a variety of individuals, a common thread was weaved between the one’s able to attend. Those who responded, were all young families with children.  It seemed to be more than a coincidence, so we let the invitations stand as they were with a hope to create another cookout for the other pool of guests.

When the day came several children, fairly close in age, were able to run around and play together as their parents met, roasted hotdogs, and ate.

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I couldn’t help but think, “This is the real Church.”  People coming together to laugh, share, and eat.  Sounds of joy from children chasing one another outside among God’s beautiful creation.  Shadows cast on the grass, a roaring fire to warm our food & hearts, and the freedom to be completely yourself.  It is refreshing to see everyone dropping their inhibitions, leaving their crisp white Sunday morning dress to the wayside, coming in jeans and boots and muddy hands on children.

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We aren’t singing in perfect unison, eating perfectly round wafers, with pristinely pressed pants. We are not sitting up straight, avoiding the people at the end of our pew-looking forward as if they are not there. We were coming together to love one another, talk, and reach out our hands to the other.  We experienced another side of church, in the backyard, having a cookout.

A Weeknight Date

Who says you have to wait for the weekend to go on a date?  Although there is a bit less time, and another work day looming around the corner, it’s nice to get a break from the daily grind.

Last week, my husband asked me out for a Wednesday date.  After work, he drove down to Dayton and met me at one of our favorite restaurants- Thai 9.  I sipped on a Thai Tea, and we shared a Red Curry over delicious sticky rice.  We skipped appetizers and sushi so that we would have room to try dessert for once!  The homemade coconut icecream with fried bananas came, and we slowly dug in.  It was a treat!

Following dinner, we walked around the quaint shops in the Oregon District until it was time for the next stop.  He had done his research, and found a live jazz band performance for only a $7 entrance fee. It was the Liz & Rex Review at “The Connections.”  Although the band did not play any upbeat East Coast Swing, we still enjoyed the accompaniment while snacking on pretzels and having some heart-to-heart, face-to-face time.

We stumbled along trying to pick up the footwork of unfamiliar dances, and laughed at one another, enjoying being close while the band played on.  I am thankful for this break, and my husband rescuing me during my work week.  He did a little digging, and found a great way to connect with me. He was intentional all night!  Neither of us looked at our phones, and we just sat back and listened.  He slowed down, and brought me with him.  Forgetting work and the to-do-lists, we invested our night in each other.

Thank you, My Love.

Trunk or Treat!

Last Friday night, our church had their annual Trunk or Treat.  Have you ever been to one? It is a lot of fun! And a lot easier than the real trick or treating thing.

Cars line up in a parking lot with all of their trunks facing in.  Each car is decorated and ready to pass out candy to all of the kids.  It’s a great way for kids to dress up, get candy, and play with their friends in a safe and worry-free environment.

Last year, Tap and I were the Mad Hatter and Alice.  We try to have our trunk match our characters, so we had the Cheshire Cat smiling through our back window, and had the candy sprawled out on a table set for an Unbirthday Tea Party.  It was freezing cold, though, and most of the kids were too young to know who we were.

This year, we wanted to be characters all of the kids would recognize.  I took a basic one-day sewing class at a local Jo-Anne’s and have been sewing up a costume slowly since.  Tap rigged his together from pinterest and here we are!

FrozenTrunkOlaf and Elsa! From Frozen!

All the kids knew exactly who we were! And we had a lot of fun passing out icey-looking rock candy from our snowy little trunk.

My sweet husband put a lot of time into making our snowflakes. It was so sweet to see the little one’s eyes get big when they recognized who we were.  Later on, my “sister,” Anna, joined us with her man Christoph.  haha. In other words, unbeknownst to us, another couple came dressed with their family and just so happened to complete the set! FrozenGroupIt was a lot of fun.  Candy, Hot Cider, Pumpkin Decorating, and a Costume Contest.  What a great and wholesome way to celebrate!

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Chicago at Christmas

When I was younger, my family would make a weekend trip up to Chicago to see the Marshall Field’s Christmas window displays.  I remember always getting Garrett’s popcorn, waiting outside the giant Nike store, and pleading to go, instead, to the American Girl Store.  It was always so much fun to be in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Christmas, with beautiful decorations all around you;  As well as a vast array of stores to do your Christmas shopping in!

Since it had been years since I’d gone to Chicago at Christmastime, my husband and I made a double date with my parents to go the second weekend of December.  We did all of the standard traditions!  I took my husband to see the Walnut Room with it’s large and gorgeous Christmas tree, got him two bags of Garrett’s popcorn, and walked the snowy streets of Chicago with the twinkling Christmas lights on every city block.  It was so much fun!

Chicago Dec '13

The cherry on top, was seeing a Chicago Broadway show – Wicked!  Although Tappy had the soundtrack memorized, and I had grown up reading plenty of the OZ books, neither of us had seen the play.  It was so exciting to usher into the beautiful Oriental Theatre, built in 1926 during the Roar! Every facet of the building was laden with artwork, glimmering in gold and marble tones with intricate attention to detail.  It was magnificent to be a part of such a treat!  Then, the show itself, was beyond our expectations!  It was funny! I had no idea, but I laughed heartily several times and enjoyed the escape.  Glinda reminded me a lot of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde– innocently self-indulgent, hopelessly materialistic, and genuinely unaware with a giant heart at full capacity.  You should definitely treat yourself to a viewing!

Wicked

The finale of our weekend ended up being our favorite part- and the funny thing is, it was completely unplanned and happened merely on a whim.  Saturday morning we decided that we wanted to go out for breakfast.  After yelping a few places within walking distance I found a spot I wanted to hit up.  We bundled up and went outside to be met with a beautiful snow flurry.  It was the warmest day of the weekend and the snow was large and whimsical as it fell.  We walked through this beautiful weather and found adorable Christmas clad stoops, snow covered gates, and beautiful naked trees.  Then we turned the corner and found our stop.  A cute little three story building outlined in lights, calling us in with it’s yummy smells and warmth.  The Sunnyside Up Cafe & Coffee Shop was an absolute hit.  With a seasonal cranberry almond waffle, breakfast sandwiches, hot chocolate, and our first helping of the infamous croinut.  We had a blast in our hole in the wall!

Sunnyside Up Cafe

Caramel Walks

Towards the end of the month we seem to run our dates envelope pretty thin, but have several nights left where we could really use some quality time out of the apartment routine.  And when you’re living on a budget, you learn to get creative!

That’s when we started having “Caramel Walks.”  There is a local coffee shop down the street from our house that has 45 cent caramels.  When we are out on a walk, we stop inside to warm up, or for a cheap treat.  We each get a caramel and turn back onto our journey.  We would treasure that small caramel our whole trek back.  I would stick it to the roof of my mouth, sliding my tongue over it’s candied sweetness.  It would take everything in me not to swallow it too soon!

This small simple treat reminded me of a story.  I can’t remember it, so if you can please help me out!  But there was a child who never got candy or butter for their bread.  It was such a lavish waste in that time period.  People did not have the money, nor the products to use on something so … simply unnecessary. Then at Christmas, the child was given a caramel.  One small caramel, and they treasured it and ate it so slowly as to not miss a single taste. One caramel was a treat!

So as I slowly turned mine in my mouth, I thought about how privileged we are.  God not only cares for our needs, but lavishes on us more than enough wants.  And although our budget can’t keep up with the Jones’, it is more than enough!  Our budget is stock full of blessings.

Catching Fire and Lighting Trees

It has become quite rare for my husband and I to go to the movie theatre.  Between the quality plummeting, and theatre prices skyrocketing, it simply doesn’t make the cut for date night.  However, there are still those shows we highly anticipate, and simply must see on the silverscreen.  Catching Fire was one of them.

Hunger Games Date Saturday 23 Nov

While we were dating we had both read the series.  The suspense kept us flipping the pages, the characters made the stories real and full of emotion, and the plot was worthy to fight for.  After seeing the first come to life, we just simply had to see that new arena and how the characters from the book would come to life through this second installment.  Even though the movie was two in a half hours long, we thoroughly enjoyed it and did not find a single scene to drag (quite an accomplishment!)  The only problem was that it left little room for quality bathroom break opportunities.  However, I made it through full bladder and all!

If you are wondering how we could afford such a treat, I’ll let you in on a little tip.  One we put our marriage before our budget.  We realize budgeting and stewardship is important, but money does not last forever.  Our marriage, if properly invested into, will.  So we have budgeted for such romance, fun, and adventures- to keep our marriage alive, healthy, and growing.  BUT! on top of that, we’ve found that – even the nicest theaters – have deal days or times.  We go to the RAVE at a beautiful shopping center called the Greene.  Their normal evening tickets cost anywhere from $12 – $18.  Their matinee is still steep at $8.25.  However, we go to their first showing of the day on Saturday with the grand Early Bird price of $5.25 a ticket!  So we get the small town rundown theatre price at the grand RAVE where arm rests come up for the honeymoon cuddlers, and the seats lay back a few inches, and your butt doesn’t fall asleep from the worn down cushions!  Definitely something to look into.

Ahi Tuna Tempora Roll Cheesecake Factory

Ontop of this luxurious treat, we had a giftcard for the Cheesecake Factory where we split our favorite Ahi Tuna Tempora Roll appetizer.  Then browsed the shops and enjoyed the Christmas decorations. While we were window shopping we had several shopkeepers ask if we were staying for the lighting of the tree.  We didn’t even know what it was! So we had them fill us in on the details and decided to go… It was the perfect romantic snowy night.  The wind was harsh and cold, but the snow was beautiful against the dark night sky.  We sipped on Teavana samples as the parade rolled through, and then we went out to countdown Santa’s lighting of the tree.  It was so fun, and the best part is we simply happened upon it!

Cold Winter DateThe above picture was my favorite from the whole day.  It was so beautiful to see the white snow collect ontop of everyone’s heads and on everyone’s coat.  My husband couldn’t stop telling me how much he loved this date.  He even mentioned today how he loved to hold me in the cold while the snow swirled around us.  My favorite part of snowy dates like this, is feeling his warm lips on my ice chilled face in the midst of such a cold dark night.  He’s my favorite.

Lighting of the Tree

The Small Town Date

Tap and I have been living in Ohio for almost nine months now.  Our town is surrounded by several smaller towns, and has a few metropoli within two hours reach in all four directions.  We have yet to scrape the surface of each of these venues, so we decided to dive into a new one.

This last Saturday, my husband and I went to Tipp City.  They’ve been trying to birth newly paved streets and sidewalks since we moved in, and had finally delivered!  It was the first time we could really go without detours from the construction, and the first time we wanted to stay and mosey.  The strip was cute and quaint.  It was full of mom & pop shops, hole-in-the-walls, and vintage storefronts (like Sam & Ethel’s).

We spent a good amount of time in the toy store, Cairns. It is rare to find a quality toy store anymore, with the onslaught of the digital age, but Cairns stood out.  It was stuffed full of books, board games, several tables of playmobile, action figures, and more.  It was fun to see toys of our past, things we would have begged mom and dad for, and things we thought our nieces and nephews would enjoy.

Continuing on, we decided to stop in an off-the-strip coffee shop.  It was old, and nostalgic.  It felt like a place your grandparents would own, and the owner was the sweetest lady!  We sipped on a nutty-irish latte, discussing the last sermon we watched, while the “Norm”s of the town flowed in and out – some greeted with a hug!  It’s fun to observe small town life, in a small town that is not your own…

With coffee for him, there had to be a cupcake for me!  We found a tiny cupcake shop that had the most unusual assortment of cupcakes.  From Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcake to Very Cherry Cordial, Boston Cream to my choice- The Bella Nutella. It was very tasty, rich, but a good choice!  In case you want to snag one, the name was SWEET by Kristy.  Although I am biased for “my” bakery in Troy, I do want to go back to try the Cuckoo for Coconut!

Overall it was a fun, relaxing, play-it-by-ear kind of a date. Tap loves to get out, and it was a nice brisk day to walk around a downtown strip to keep us entertained!  There are always new sights to be seen, treasures to be found, and adventures to be discovered.  So if you’re looking for a new scene for a date, try the town next door!

The Closing of October

My husband loves EVERYTHING Fall!  He tells me that it is because Fall is laced with the exciting memories of us first dating, but I know that it’s more than that.  Tap has always loved fall : the smells, the weather, the layered clothing, the food, the costumes, the bonfires, the haunted houses, and the memories (of his childhood and our relationship).

His mom would always make him the best costumes.  I know, because I’ve heard each one described in detail – every year Halloween comes around! haha.  It was a time where he and his brothers would get together and do their boyish thing, it’s a memory he ties to family time and a lot of momma love!

For us, it was the defining moments of our relationship.  Our first date was making homemade apple cider on a farm!  Then we spent our nights running around in the dark through an old abandoned house, walking in the brisk night air, and watching the stars on clear nights.  We did haunted houses, and creative costumes, and sipped our coffee in our hipster flannel shirts.  This season set our relationship with high expectations of adventure and fun – Unlike our past relationships where the expectations were low, too low, and centered around hormones and being couch potatoes- We spent our dating time square dancing, pumpkin carving, and thrill seeking.

I am happy to have these fun and exciting memories!  Memories are the glue to all relationships, and it’s the nostalgia that blows back every year that whispers why we fell in love.  We have been so blessed to have gotten our relationship on the right foot.  Fall, I can say I love fall, for all it’s done for us and all the adventures it continues to offer!

 

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So! Happy Halloween!

From Alice and the Mad Hatter!

Car Wash Date

When you’re young newly-weds… or when you’re old & married forever, there are times when you just have to live on love.  Life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.  When debt has you down, you count your pennies and make them count!

One thing we have not put our pennies toward was a carwash.  Tappy and I have not gone to a carwash for… hmm, we can’t remember the last time, so I’d say over a year!  When I lived in my hometown my mom would borrow my car.  Unbeknownst to me, she would borrow it with the sole purpose of taking it for a wash! I’m not sure if it was driving her crazy, or if it was her love language seeping out 🙂  But it was always greatly appreciated!  There were days she would even take it and fill it’s belly with gas; Now that was a well-spring of fortune to us!

In Ohio, we have not had this pleasure… and after a whole summer and a few trips back to Illinois, we decided it had collected enough bugs for a nine dollar premium wash. So, during my lunch break at work, we picked up some dessert and went through the local WishyWashy.  Tap’s new mandolin was in the back seat, so he started playing a tune as we ate our Brittney’s dessert and let the water, soap, and coating wash over our car.

 

carwashdateIt was so fun to spend this little piece of quiet time with the one I love.  The random, spur of the moment, splurge of the pennies and extra calories were just worth it.  I think it’s the small crazy simple things we do that just stick.

Birthday #24

Have I mentioned lately, how stinking awesome my husband is?!  Well, in case you forgot, he is absolutely wonderful!!  This year Tappy blew me away with his thoughtfulness.  In fear of missing my expectations, he did ask for a little input, but I thought the man did a fantastic job! So let’s start at the beginning.

Breakfast : Served in bed.

Birthday Breakfast IN BEDKnowing that it was a very special treat to get crepes, my hubby learned how to make them!  He was extra careful to make them as thin as possible, like I like.  Then he gathered all the fixings, so that I had a little buffet in bed.  We had creamy strawberry-banana-blueberry crepes, and Nutella fruit crepes.  mmmm, I was stuffed just in our first meal!  These crepes are addicting! He used this simple recipe here, and had the batter ready overnight for a quick fix in the morning.

Once I was full to the brim, he gave me a small present. I unwrapped it to find bubble bath! He filled up the tub and told me to enjoy, while he ran some errands.  When I got out, and came downstairs I found a single red rose sitting next to a buttercream birthday cake from our favorite local bakery, Brittney’s.  He had asked me to choose the cake beforehand, but made the arrangements himself on how it was to be decorated.

Come What May 24

“Come What May… I will love you until my dying day” are lyrics from a Moulin Rouge song that played at our wedding.  Then he chose the rose, to match the rose he planned on getting me.  In the pink bag was sidewalk chalk, which we played with next!

Sidewalk Chalk

We each drew our favorite memories of our relationship.  Our pictures varied from the proposal, waterskiing, snowskiing, kayaking, and our honeymoon!

Lunch Time : We made a new recipe together and ate it. NOM.

Then Tap hid my present, and I had to hunt for it.  Not my favorite thing to do, but he said it was payback for all the times I’ve done it to him.  After finding it very cutely wrapped, I opened to see that he had gotten me two new fine art prints for our bedroom (which is the only room in our house with bare walls!).  We then took a nap to get ready for our long evening out.

Evening : Dinner at Seasons 52 and Live Piano music in downtown Cincinnati.

Tap dressed up in a dashing suit, and I put on my little black dress for a romantic evening in the city.  We ate at a loved restaraunt called Seasons 52.  They make every plate balanced and within reasonable calories, and are the originators of the shot glass dessert.  We shared delicious blue cheese and steak flatbread, Kona-Crusted Porkchops, and then each our own shot dessert.  Afterwards, he swept me downtown to listen to live piano music.  Once the sun settled, and the moon was high, we went for a walk towards a lovely park full of water features.  We watched the city lights reflect off the river, and walked around the spraying fountains.

Cinci 24

It was the perfect evening, with the perfect man for me.  Hello 24!