Like everyone else, we’ve been pivoting on the date night thing. Changes in weather, and rising COVID rates, meant options were becoming harder to find. So, rather than a monthly recap, I’m moving to bi-monthly, because, well, there just isn’t as much story to tell.
Our first October date night was his choice. We headed over to the movely Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to wander and enjoy the scenery.
If you’re a Minnesotan, and have never been, go. If you are like us and go maybe once a year, change that and go seasonally (that’s on my to do list next year). If you live in another area, find one near you. Ours is run by the University of Minnesota, and, as they say on the website,
“Founded in 1958, we are a member-driven non-profit with more than 1,200 acres of professionally-maintained gardens, rare plant collections and accessible trails…the Arboretum is engaged in cold-hardy plant research and has developed 27 commercial apples, including Honeycrisp, Haralson and First Kiss®. In 2019, USA Today readers named the Arboretum the best botanical garden in North America.”
Learn more about it here.
Every time we go we are inspired on ways to further enhance our yard (and usually HWSNBN comes home with pocket fulls of seeds. Sometimes he even writes down what they are for.
The Arb often has seasonal displays and exhibits. You may remember our date night there last winter to see the lights. This time the featured exhibit was a scarecrow competition.
After dinner, we headed to dinner in a new-for-us location 30 Bales in Hopkins. Would totally go again. It looks like a typical diner (a little fancified), but the food is anything but ordinary.
Next it was a nightcap, aka a nice glass of wine, at the Vine Room, also in Hopkins.
The next week we got busy –socially speaking. We double dated on Friday evening with friends Christi and Jim (the Sun 50 folks) at a new Excelsior Restaurant, the Bull and Finch.
Saturday it was my turn to plan. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, so we headed east to St Paul. We pretty much only go to St Paul when I plan dates, because HWSNBN is sure we will fall off the edge of the earth of we drive that far (it’s like a 30 minute drive, max). First up was a late lunch/early dinner at the The Gnome Craft Pub. Formerly the Happy Gnome, this place was revamped by celebrity chef Justin Sutherland and partners, complete with a to die for patio (swinging chairs under the trees and fairy lights? yes, please!).
Food is drippy and delicious, and this will be my go to for pre-gaming for Xcel Energy Center events post-COVID. We started with Shaved Raclette (molten hot cheese, potatoes and shaved ham — was there any question I would be into this?). He had the Carved Barbacoa sandwich, and I had the Carved Wet Pork (great band name, BTW). Defintely a three napkin sandwich.
Traditionally we only see the changing leaves on Cathedral Hill during the last miles of the Twin Cities Marathon, and neither of us looks up — he’s eyeing the finish line and I’m searching for him.
The mansions are gorgeous, however, and I’ve always wanted to explore them. All the hosted tours were closed, but I found a cool self-guided one online, courtesy of Big Boy Travel. For a few hours we wandered, learning all about the neighborhoods and who had built and lived in the various homes.
(the tour starts at the St Paul cathedral and finished at the James J Hill House. Both were closed to the public (thanks, COVID) so we will have to go back. We had a ball. At one point, a woman who lived in the area watched us as we read off the info about some homes on her block. She interrupted ato ask what we were doing, and was fascinated by the website. She learned something new, and was excited to try the tour for herself, even though she’d lived amidst all that gorgeous history for years!
The next weekend was his turn. With dog Stevie Nicks in tow, HWSBN took us to a very cool pumpkin patch in Watertown called the LuceLine Orchard. It was funny watching Stevie’s reactions to all the people, dogs and other animals. At one point she was just following her nose, then lifted her head and was within bleating distance of a goat and a chicken. Girlfriend jumped and did a double take. A little later she met a very large, very furry, cow.
Stevie wanted nothing to do with her, and backed away quickly. She is such a suburban dog. She looked at us like, “Is this what you guys do when you leave me???”
Decided to drop her back at home to recover (what must those doggie dreams have been like, I wonder?), and went to dinner to one of our faves, Coalition in Excelsior.
We kicked off November with a double date with friends Matt and Patti. Just a nice, easy night at a delicious place I’ve mentioned before: P.S.Steak. My only complaint is that they didn’t have their French Onion soup on the menu. They need to bring that back! But let’s face it — the steaks are to die for, and ya gotta love a Baked Alaska! So retro, so delish!
We took kind of a break from date nights after that, and instead took a trip which I will talk about in another blog. Then Singer Girl came home, and Thanksgiving happened, so we have been focused in those directions. We did manage a nice date night in, with takeout from the aforementioned Bull and Finch, and me beating the pants off him playing Racko.
The date nights have definitely mellowed, but they are just as necessary. Man, are we gonna date night HARD when this pandemic is over! We are so lucky to live here, and I intend to take full advantage of everything we can!
When Singer Girl went back to school in August, we realized it was time to kick date nights back into gear. It’s harder now, in some ways, to find wild, new, interesting things to do. I mean, the world is kinda shut down, so options are fewer. That just means we have to dig a little deeper. But hey: every little outing feels like a gala ball when you are starved for social interaction!
In September we tried several new places, while still finding time to visit a few treasured faves. The first weekend of the month we were in Madeline, and I covered that last post. The next week we had two date nights, one picked by me, the other by him.
First up: my turn! On Thursday night we did a double appointment with my acupuncturist, Kate at Peak Life Clinic. Ironically, HWSNBN is the one who got me started with the needle life, but he’d never been himself. So our date nights worked well to get him there (remember the rules: one person plans, and the other has no say!). Afterwards we visited Cast and Cru restaurant, where we haven’t been in far too long. It’s weird seeing the Old Log Theater quiet. We also realized that this winter Cast and Cru probably won’t open up the little cabin bar we enjoyed squeezing into last year. But a well-poured cocktail from the C & C bartenders does help dull that pain!
For our anniversary, HWSNBN took the lead. He has always liked basing gifts and celebrations on the “traditional” gift guides for anniversaries. The gift for 26 years is evidently photography, so we wandered around some lovely galleries in Minneapolis looking for a lovely piece of art to put on our sadly barren walls. Some of the places we enjoyed included the Groveland Gallery and Galeria do Beija Flor.
One of the best parts about exploring the world on foot is getting lost and finding treasures. One such place was the amazing Brickmania.
We caught sight of the amazing Lego reconstructions of the USS Missouri. Cannot wait to bring Sailor Boy here some day. He will geek out, just like we did.
One of our favorite crazy places to shop is Architectural Antiques. I mean, from door knobs to church pews, bowling alleys to antique crystal chandeliers, they’ve got it. We have bought many special things here over the years — like our copper front door, and the stained glass double doors on HWSNBN’s office. We didn’t buy anything today, but oh, man, did I want to!
We also enjoyed a jaunt around the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
The next weekend I had a puppy party for work so we borrowed a couple of puppies to be our arm candy at Excelsior Brewing Company, our fave neighborhood beer joint.
The next day we double dated with our friends Matt and Kristy, and hit a few breweries and wineries out west.
The next weekend, the last in September, our weekend was a little busy so we couldn’t do much just the two of us. But we managed to squeeze in a PHENOMENAL meal at Vann Restaurant, a place we’d never yet tried.
That food was simply elegant and delightful!
As I write this we’ve already done a few fun October date nights, but TBH it’s gonna get harder with the double whammy of COVID-19 and a Minnesota winter. But we’ll prevail!
Oh: and stay tuned for a super exciting post in a day or so!!!
So what did we do on date nights in February?
We did things on our own, as well as with groups. I do enjoy having “date nights” with other couples, as we find we are inspiring others to branch out and do new things. Any time we can encourage others to step outside of their box, it doubles the fun!
The first weekend we went to Vegas, so no one-on-one date nights, but lots of fun with two of our fave couples! We do Vegas every year with these guys and always have a blast.
Highlights included seeing Santana at the House of Blues — I love a concert, and especially when I have room to dance!
We visited Lisa Van derPump’s new place at Caesar’s for lunch beforehand, As expected: drinks were delish, ambiance was OTT, and the food yummy (of course we had the goat cheese balls!).
We happened to be in town for Super Bowl (never again), and we rented a cabana where our group got to enjoy drinks, food, and sun while watching the wrong team win.
That night was a great dinner at a new-for-us restaurant, Catch at Aria.
The next weekend was my turn to plan, and HWSNBN was left in the dark as long as possible That was a long time indeed, as we had to pack a suitcase and drive more than 2 hours into the frozen tundra. He could not figure out where we were going, which was really fun for me.
Can I just give you a suggestion?
If you ever get a chance to attend a concert by the guy who wrote the soundtrack to your early love life as a couple, do it!
Richard Marx was playing at a casino and we hoofed it up north to see. he was so fantastic! I knew he had a huge catalog of songs and had written and collaborated with many, many famous performers. Hearing him tell the stories and sing the songs was so cool! He is a very funny guy. After the show, we hit the casino floor. ‘Twas a mite bit different than the Vegas casinos of the previous weekend, but it was fun feeling like a high roller, lol! Chicken strips and fries for dinner were also a far cry from the Haute cuisine of seven days prior, but that’s ok. This was our date, and it even reminded me of when we would run away for a night in college to Lake Tahoe, stay up all night then drive back.
This was one of those dates that never would’ve happened if we had planned it together. HWSNBN hates car trips — 30 minutes to St Paul makes him lose his mind. And he would’ve rolled his eyes at the idea of this concert. But he was wowed, and we really had a blast.
We had another sort of date that weekend. I mean, not really, but it was such a fun thing to do I wanted to share it. That Sunday, there was a huge dog-sled race called the Klondike Dog Derby on frozen Lake Minnetonka. we didn’t make all the pre-game festivities, of the days before, but we grabbed our dog, piled on the clothing layers, and trudged through the snow out onto the lake. I am excited to see that they will be doing this race again next year, because it was a very fun experience. I hope it is as sunny and gorgeous as it was this year. I would love to make it a “block party” event!
The following weekend was a double-date night with our friends’ Beth and Cory. Beth had reached out to me a couple of months prior, having found a Groupon she wanted to try. The outing had been on my date-night list already, so I agreed, and we surprised the guys with an evening of glass blowing at Foci! We each made colorful paperweights, and the whole process was super interesting. I’d love to try it again!
Afterward, we went out to dinner, and I have to say it was an epic fail. I was in charge of the dinner reservations, and I picked a place I would NEVER go to again. That stinks. Beth and Cory were polite, but it was embarrassing on my end.
The next week we had a double date and a single date planned. I have learned that when you miss someone and want to hang out, you should do so. So often we run into people places and say “we should get together!” Then, you never do? So now I try to reach out the next day and schedule something. Like, hey, what are you guys free on these dates?” I never regret it — there is a reason you say that whole “let’s get together sometime” thing. You like those people!
So earlier in the week, I had reached out a couple we enjoy, Matt and Kristy, whom we hadn’t hung out with in a while. We were miraculously both free, so Friday night we met for dinner and an activity. First up was a fantastic meal at Borough (we had tried to go to Parlour, but it was a madhouse. Another time!). Dinner was great and inventive, and the cocktails were the same.
We hung out a really long time chatting, then hopped into the car and went to the next locale: Modist brewery. they were having an indoor golf event, which sounded like something new and fun to try. But I read it wrong: it wasn’t the whole putting green deal. It was frisbee golf from TC Putts and Pints!
We had a ball — even if we did suck. I mean, I definitely sucked more than the others. But none of us was gonna be in the Masters.
Our last date night of February was planned by HWSNBN. It was on the calendar as “awesome date night,” and he was very excited to share it with me. This was a Tuesday night, date, showing that fun can be had on even the most basic of days!
Off we went to Badger Hill Brewing Company in Shakopee, where we participated in a Paint Your Pet Night by Gray Duck Art. HWSNBN had sent pics of our dog Stevie Nicks and our foster pup, Weeble, and we had a fancy paint by numbers kit waiting for us! Throw in a great beer and a Heggie’s frozen pizza and we had a ball!
The March date report will be abbreviated, I fear — and April’s will likely be so as well. Social distancing is tough on our adventures, but we get it. It just gives me time to map out new things in a healthier future!
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:
- How does it work?
- How often do you do it?
- 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:
Museums and galleries and art festivals
Countless amazing restaurants, bars, and breweries.
Inflatables courses. Pumpkin carving extravaganzas.
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:
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…
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!