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Take your Fish on a Date

Whenever HWSNBN attend social events — company parties, dinner clubs, drinks with friends — people always have the same fascination. The same desire to know, to pick our brains.

“So…tell us about those date nights!”

We chuckle and look at each other. He sips his drink, and I start talking.

The three questions we get asked most:

  1. How does it work?
  2. How often do you do it?
  3. Where do you get the ideas?

So how do the date nights work?

Our date nights stemmed from a  conversation HWSNBN and I had in late August 2018. Singer Girl had just left for college, and the nest was empty. My husband of just weeks shy of 25 years looked at me and said: we are in a rut. He said he didn’t want us spending the rest of our days just going out to dinner and binge-watching Netflix shows. I agreed,. But I said I didn’t want this to be a one-sided thing, where I have to plan everything and then feel (whether rightly or wrongly) like the pressure is on me for us to have fun.

So we came up with a plan: we would take turns planning date nights. If it was my turn, I’d have it all planned out, with no input on the planning front from him — which meant he couldn’t veto what we were doing. The same goes for when it is his turn. That veto thing is the most important part of making these date nights work. How many of us come up with an idea for something to do on a Saturday night, but when we ask our significant other, they say “I don’t know, Nah. I’m not feeling it”?

If the other person doesn’t know what you are doing, they can’t kill the idea.

This also means that we get to do things we want to do — even if we know it wouldn’t be the other person’s first choice.

Our first planned date night was my choice, and we went mini-golfing at the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis. that night, we also tried our first selfie. We are really bad at those and have pledged (well, one of us did) to do them every date night. We try to send them tt he kids, partly to let them know we still exist, partly to let them know we are doing ok (and partly to brag. Singer Girl has wistfully proclaimed she can’t wait to be 21 so she can hang out with us, as we seem to know where all the cool places are!).

How in the world do you find things to do?

We have done a lot:

Trapeze classes.

Plays.

Museums and galleries and art festivals

Countless amazing restaurants, bars, and breweries.

Scavenger hunts.

Pottery classes.

Inflatables courses. Pumpkin carving extravaganzas.

Lantern festivals.

And so much more!

It is super easy to find things to do. I have always been a list maker and a collector of information, so I have folders of ideas. I have a paper one, filled with articles I have cut out of papers and magazines. I also have a computer folder with things I have seen online. The internet is amazeballs for this sort of thing: once you start clicking on things, you get suggestions thrown at you left and right. I mean, all you have to do is think about something and you get targeted ads, right? Well, imagine what happens when you start actively looking for things to do.

If I can’t think of something new and timely, I search local calendars. My absolute fave Twin Cities one for kooky ideas is City Pages. I have signed up for their suggestions, as well as tons of others. Here are a few interesting ones:

Only in Your State

MSP Magazine

Eater Twin Cities

Thrillist

Sometimes you have to plan far in advance. I planned this Friday’s date about 3 months ago because I needed to buy tickets for something. I know he would’ve said no if I asked him, but afterward, he will say “I am glad we did this.”

How often do we manage to do date night?

Do we do it every weekend? No, but we try to. I have it on the calendar: Donni plans date night, HWSNBN plans date night, alternating weekends, so we know in advance who’s up to bat (yes, we’ve been to baseball games — and football, and soccer!).

Sometimes life gets in the way and conflicts inevitably arise. It is a lot harder to do when the kids are here, and, full disclosure, we are kind of glad when they go back from whence they came so we can get back to our adventures. We are also pretty busy socially in other ways, so sometimes we have to squeeze stuff in. The holidays are tough. His work travel can make it challenging.

But we can feel when it has been too long.

We start to go back to the boring, with not as much to talk about. Let’s face it: marriage is hard! We have been married 26 years this fall, and actually have known each other for 34 years. When you start out with someone, often the moments are somewhat stolen, and you fit the person into your life. They don’t know you, and you don’t know the, so every little factoid is fascinating (“you use toothpaste? I do too!”). Relationships are like fish: if you don’t keep swimming, they die.

HWSNBN sometimes says he feels like the date nights are a competition. I do not. I feel like they are a great way to learn more about ourselves and to do things that make each of us happy. Maybe I feel this way because I have always felt that pressure to make sure we had a good time, and now I feel it is shared equally.

One side benefit that we didn’t expect: all those people who ask us about date nights. I have people (often life-long Minnesotans who are younger than us) asking for suggestions. I think it’s so cool that we inspired folks to get off the couch and try new things.

Yes, it’s my turn this weekend. We will hit the road around 3pm and drive to an unknown destination (that’s another fun part: keeping it a secret as long as you can!). We have to be back by 930 the next morning, as we are booked solid: the Chilly Open for him in the morning, our Gourmet club Sat night, the Klondike Dog Derby Saturday and Sunday, and cramming as many movies in before we take the couch for the Oscars Sunday night.

And the couch will be okay then because we know that our next adventure is just a few days away! Happy dating to you all!

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

 

Argentina by way of Italy is a Delicious Trek

We visit a lot of new restaurants, so I thought I’d throw in a review here and there for ones we love. We visited Martina in December as part of a double date with folks I’d never met. HWSNBN works with him, and he thought we’d have fun together. So forts we trekked over to the Minnesota Landscape arboretum to ooh and ahh at the holiday light show. This was on my date night list already, so I was happy they chose that as a fun thing to do. Afterward, we went to dinner. It was awesome!

I expected a tiny, overcrowded restaurant and was pleasantly surprised! While the bar was jam-packed, the restaurant itself was open and light.  I also appreciate the combination of trendy and classic decor. Martina is like the love child a California fern bar and a millennial industrial hot spot. Green plants soften stark white walls, and weathered wood tempers exposed metal (I am obsessed with the copper water pitchers and want one NOW). Service was relaxed and friendly, starting with the lovely hostess (n a red blazer I also coveted). Bartenders weren’t as chatty, but let’s face it it was three people deep and no one could hear anyway. But their smiles were loud enough! Our server was great and didn’t look down his nose at his 50-plus customers, even if none of us have tattoos and the men were clean-shaven. That is not always the case in “hip” restaurants, lemme tell ya.

Martina is known for its cocktails, so we ventured in that direction first. I was worried that mine (can’t remember the name) was gonna be nasty (my husband picked it for me) as the only liquor listed was vermouth, which I hate. But it was herbaceous and light and refreshing. He had the Mare, which actually was good for a giggle. He didn’t read what the asterisk signified on the menu (denotes a warning for those with shellfish warnings), so he was worried about what would be in it. We still don’t know what maritime essence is (don’t ask don’t tell), but he liked the drink a lot and the floating mini lilypads were frickin’ darling.

Dinner! First, we had an amazing wine from Cicada that went down super fast and easy and we would’ve ordered another bottle but two of the 3 drinkers were driving and the 3rd felt a solo bottle would be overkill. Settled for a delicious wine by the glass. Our server was able to steer us right which is always appreciated.

Apps: our table had the leek and gorgonzola empanadas (I could’ve made a meal on those) and grilled beef tongue bruschetta. I didn’t get to try that, mainly because it was gone before I could even say “may I try…”

Entrees were plate cleaners as well. Martina’s culinary focus is Italian influenced Argentinian, which is fascinating and oddly a lovely marriage. I had the chef’s take on cacio e pepe, created ravioli style versus with the traditional spaghetti. Each bite was a burst of silky cheesy peppery happiness. My husband had the prosciutto-wrapped cod, because he was fascinated to see how that flavor combo worked (he loved it). The others at the table had the special which was Argentinian-style beef tenderloin, and the grilled octopus which was a visual stunner, and, it’s consumer said, the best he’d ever had.

I left that night excited to come back and took the hostess’s card. I was hoping to arrange a night there for our dinner club but they don’t like to do large parties unless we reserve a whole room. Instead, this will be on our date night list for the future!

Martina: https://www.martinarestaurant.com/

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