April was pretty grey (gray?) in Minnesota, and May was marginally better, but we welcomed spring with as many outdoor dates as possible!
I like when we can involve animals with date nights. Our first April date night had us exploring an Alpaca farm in Prior Lake called Whispering Oaks. After chatting with the owner and watching several stunning long-lashed friends in their paddock, we got to take an Alpaca for a walk (unsupervised, no less, lol). Also on the farm are chickens and donkeys and all sorts of other furry friends.
HWSNBN knows I have a thing for history — especially in the form of cemeteries (don’t judge). He found an online self-guided tour of the old Oak Hill Cemetery in Excelsior. I have always wanted to visit it, but had just driven past on my way hither and yon for the past 20 years or so. Glad to have a solid reason too get out of the car!
The tour told us about many prominent citizens and founding families buried there. I was dismayed at the awful conditions of many of the graves (a fact that was further highlighted by the contrast with the well-kept historic cemetery we visited in Boston a few weeks later. More on that in another post). Nonetheless, it is worth a walk around, especially if you are into that sort of thing, like I am.
You may have seen the footage awhile back of a drone flying around a vintage bowling alley? Well, that was at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis, and that was the site of a particularly fun date night. Thanks to social distancing rules, we got a set of lanes and ball return all to ourselves, with a waiter bringing yummy drinks and food.
I worried about my tennis elbow flaring up, and I did have to keep switching ball weights, but I did pretty well. We absolutely sucked at score keeping — I haven’t had to manually add up bowling scores in decades. Math does NOT belong on a date night.
But cocktails definitely DO belong on date night! For one of his picks, HWSNBN signed us up for a virtual cocktail class. We joined two other couples from other parts of the country and made three different tequila drinks, thanks to the the website Cozymeal. The class was called Tequila Cocktails with a Twist, and our Mixologist, Anthony, was great (follow him on Instagram). We made a life-changing margarita, a Paloma (I don’t dig grapefruit juice, but everyone else raved), and a Mexican Old-Fashioned. I was surprised how much I liked that last one, given it’s brown-liquor roots. But I’ll try any drink once, lol. And often twice.
When we finally got a glorious day, we struck out with resident dog Stevie Nicks and foster Ebby the Westie and enjoyed some of Minneapolis’s beauty. Everyone was out and about, loving the weather. It was so wonderful to be in a crowd of happy people again! Weddings, street musicians, prom pictures, families and friends and other “daters.” Glorious!
Some of our “dates” aren’t always official one-on-ones. Since the pandemic hit, we regularly spend time together giving platelets. Not exactly fun and games, but it IS something that we both get great satisfaction out of doing, and it’s something that helps bond us together. We’ve also done a lot mope double dating. For example, we went with a couple to a Minnesota Twins game.
Luckily, it was a great one, and we enjoyed watching the Twins shellac the Kansas City Royals after meeting up with two other couples at Fulton Beer. Another double date night? Adults night at the Minnesota Zoo for zoo babies! The zoo is always more fun with a cocktail in hand, and when you don’t have to let little kids get in front of you. Sometimes it’s fun to be selfish!
Our last two date nights of May couldn’t have been more different. For one, we attended the Oddities and Curiosities expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I didn’t know what to expect, except for, well some odd and curious things. We were not disappointed, lol. We thought we might find something cool for our Halloween party (which is back on this year, BTW!), but the stuff was way too weird for my guests, lol.
I mean, the beautifully framed butterflies and beetles would’ve worked, but the taxidermy two headed calf, purse made out of skin, and the mass murdered memorabilia was a bit too far off for us. The people watching was fantastic, though! No regrets going (regrets are hard to come by in my world), but I wouldn’t go again.
Last weekend we got to experience live music again for the first time since I think February 2020. We got front row seats to the Lonesome Losers show at The Hook and Ladder Theater for a Yacht Rock tribute. Almost three hours of groovy soft rock — just what the doctor ordered! Oh and the burger from the Gentleman Forager food truck was delicious!
As always, food played a prominent role in our dates.
The setting at Charlie’s on Prior made for some picturesque apres-Alpaca noshing.
For our April 14 birthday (yes, we share the day), we checked out opening night at Josefina, the new Italian place in Wayzata. The cocktails weren’t my style (too dark liquor or Aperol-bitter), but the home made pasta was a thing of beauty.
Now that Singer Girl is home for the summer, we invited her to go on one of our date nights. I’d been wanting to try the St Paul restaurant Estelle since pre-Covid, and we finally made it. Granted, it was cold and rainy and we had to sit outside, but good food, drinks and companions can compensate for pretty much anything!
All this yumminess makes me hungry — which is good, because we have dinner plans soon and I need to get ready! Hope you are having fun dating. Please let me know if you have any awesome suggestions for us to try!
(Oh: and if you haven’t already, please support my Bark in Your Park Fundraiser for Secondhand hounds! This weekend I pledged to walk 10 miles for the cause, and hopefully earn $7500 in pledges to help save more animal lives. Please donate here: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/stevie-nickss-landslide/donnitorres
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!
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…