Monday, August 13, 2012

Pirate Day!!!

 Ahoy landlubbers!!  Yesterday we had ourselves a piratey day!  (well it wasn't yesterday anymore)

 A local pool was having a Shipwreck Lagoon day, with anyone in pirate costume getting free admission.  We had been wanting to visit this pool, as this pool has extras like waterslides and such, but it's hard to pay $6/person when we already have two pools in our apartment complex and a family pool pass to two other community pools.  So when I found out they were having a pirate day (and I was already planning a pirate themed date that would have required a pool anyway) I couldn't pass it up.

Above is Peter going down one of the smaller slides.  They had several slides of varying sizes so that everyone from a baby who could barely walk to adults could have fun.  Our boys liked going down different slides and practicing their new swimming skills.  

Below is Rachel trying to cross the Lily Pad Walk.

 Here's me in my pirate get up.

Here's the boys nicely sharing their snowcones (though they balked when we wanted more than our initial momma tax and dadda tax)

For dinner we had steak shiskabobs called Tsire (marinated with peanut butter, red pepper and ginger based on a recipe pirates might have picked up from Africa), grilled onions (to ward off scurvy), hard tack, some pirate themed cheese puffs, and root beer.  The hard tack was mostly cooked in the car while we were at the pool, because I didn't want to have the oven on for hours with triple digit temperatures.   They still had to be cooked a bit in the oven and wound up more tough than stale.  But they weren't intended to be that great tasting and made a starchy contrast to the savory meat.

After dinner, we were going to watch the old Disney classic "Blackbeard's Ghost"  Unfortunately we couldn't find the rent button on the Amazon page.  Instead the boys watched a pirate themed episode of Inspector Gadget on Hulu.  They also built a pirate ship from a book I picked up for a dollar at the half-price bookstore.

The movie/shipbuilding kept them busy while I made some final preparations.  Inside an old book on pirates (also from Half Price Books) they found a treasure map.
The treasure map was made on translucent drafting paper (I think that's what it was--I got it years ago and hoped it would be useful for something).  The translucent maps the treasure hunt to cover multiple locations without having the location marked on the original map.  Each piece could be aligned with the compass and overlayed on the original map to find the location of the next clue.

 Buried in a corner of the volleyball court was a treasure chest!!

Jon carries the loot home to be divided up.

The treasure consisted of jewelry (some which already belonged to Rachel and some which were new surprises), plastic beads, coins, and a big diamond looking thing.  There were some Hersheys chocolates that looked like gold bars (if gold bars oozed brown stuff when squeezed).  I originally got them for Rachel and me since chocolate coins aren't usually that great.  But I had used up my stash of chocolate coins for a church primary lesson a few weeks ago and couldn't find any more at the three or four stores I checked.  Rachel and the boys were all excited about the treasure they had found.

The best-laid dates of mice and men often go awry

So the Friday before last my wife and I were going to go out dancing.  My wife had looked forward to it for a while, but we had recently moved to the area and didn't have a babysitter.  But then we got to the building, no one was there.  We haven't figured out if it had changed times or locations or what happened.  But it wasn't happening then and there.

Often I get frustrated when dates don't go right.  I'm a meticulous planner sometimes and don't like the time I invested to go to waste.  Unfortunately I'm not as patient since being married.  When people shared stories about bad dates, I never had one.  Something bad might have happened, like when I locked the keys in the car late at night while on a stargazing date out at a state park.  But I had never been on a date that I considered bad.  While dating you might not mind waiting, anticipating while your date is still getting ready.  But when you're always waiting on the same person it gets old after a while. You wonder whether movies still show previews before the main show.  You have to skip parts of the date because there isn't enough time anymore.

But this time I didn't mind so much.  Maybe I was just in a better mood that day.  But there are also other factors too that might have contributed.  My wife had planned the date, so I was not pressured to make everything happen right.  Also, we had recently met a new family who moved to the area and had arranged to switch off babysitting with them on a weekly/bi-weekly basis. Babysitting exchanges are great!  So even if this date didn't go perfectly, we already knew there would be others. And we weren't paying by the hour while waiting to see if the dance class was going to happen.  Previously, we didn't use babysitters as much, so there was more pressure for every one of those dates to go smoothly.

So what did we do?  Well earlier in the evening I had said or just thought that it was strange to have the monthly dance class the same night as the monthly First Friday activities in the neighboring city.  So when we gave up on the dancing, we went over there and strolled around a bit.  We spent a lot of time in an eclectic shop with clothes and curios from around the world -- one of those places you can't look around in when you've got some wild and grabby boys with you.  It was pretty cool.  Then we strolled over to an old fashioned-like soda joint and shared a milk shake.  And we had plenty of time to talk.

It wound up being a pretty fun date, even if it didn't go exactly as planned.

Olympic Date

So the 2012 Summer Olympics just wrapped up.  I had wanted to do an olympic themed date, but we had other things going on, didn't have good olympic reception in our house, excuses, excuses, excuses.  But here are some ideas I had to bring an olympic theme to a date or a party.

Opening Ceremonies -- Since this is a celebration of all nations, you can make your dinner and date truly global.  Pick each dinner course from a different country.  Display random nicknacks you've picked up from your travels and wonder what you'll ever use them for.  Reuse decorations from previous dates to exotic places.  Get out pictures from countries you've visited or even just want to visit.  Invite friends over and have them bring a dish and something to share and tell from where they are from or a country they have visited.  One thing about the opening ceremonies is that no one is competing yet, so you'll have less trash talking than if your favorite country is competing against someone else's favorite country.

If you want to focus on just one or two countries, pick a longer team event with a country you can get excited about.  Plan dinner and other activities around that country, and then cheer them on.  Or you and your date can pick different countries with a friendly wager about who will win.

Where ever you are traveling to, don't forget your passport.  The Dating Divas had a recent creative craft contest won by the Passport to Love.  Along with the passport come many creative date ideas with an international twist.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Captain America Date

While the rest of the country has already seen the movie Avengers a couple of times, my wife had not yet seen Captain America (imdb link).  I wanted to  keep the movie part of this date a secret, so I just advertised it as a red-white-and-blue night and had the family dress accordingly.

 I used some comic books from the half-price bookstore for a centerpiece, with another Superhero Squad comic for my boys to read.  I had the boys decorate some white plates with colored electric tape to make Captain America shields for table decorations or to use as their actual plate.  For dinner I made good ole American hamburgers. Dessert was plain white and blue colored whipped cream with strawberries.  Simple but yummy.

We let the boys start a different movie in another room so we could start watching Captain America a little earlier.  I really liked the movie (I had seen it previously in the movie theater).  I like how it's the little guy with the right attitude and determination who gets the power to do what he knows is right.  I like it when an action movie has a good moral.  Great movie!

Love - Love on the Tennis Court

When keeping score in tennis, a zero score is called "love".  You could make use of this in a clever invitation for this date.  But if your date isn't familiar with the usage, they might just be confused.

Since moving into our new apartment complex with it own tennis court, I had been wanting to play tennis.  Not finding any rackets at the thrift stores, I was happy to find my old tennis racket (and my brother let me have his) at my parents' house when we were visiting.  With our level of play (and that of our boys) having old, beaten-up rackets was just fine.

As I tried to figure out what to make for dinner, google told me that bananas and pretzels are associated with tennis.  We didn't have bananas, nor yeast.  So I found a yeastless pretzel recipe and made pretzels and pretzel dogs (wrapping the dough around hot dogs and cooking them like pretzels).  They turned out a little too pretzel tasting.  Dropping them in boiling water-baking soda mixture gives them the characteristic soft pretzel taste, but I think I used the amount of baking soda for the quick dip recipe but then let them boil for a minute like I had seen in another recipe.  So the flavor was a little strong, but still edible.

We went out to the tennis court and hit the ball around a little.  My wife had requested an athletic date, but her wrist was hurting, so tennis wasn't quite the right game.  But we had a little fun out there, and it was nice to finally use our tennis court.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tin - Tin Foil Dinners and a Movie

My wife had been wanting to see Tin-Tin, and after a long, busy week at work I was too tired for much more than a movie (and too tired for even a movie it turns out).  I was in charge of dinner that night and quickly thought of tin foil dinners as a nice complement.

Tin foil dinners are often cooked in a campfire (or even under a car hood), but an oven works fine.  Here are some recipes, courtesy of The Art of Manliness.  I planned on doing some Mexican style chicken, with some leftover diced green chiles and pepper jack cheese.  But we were out of chicken breasts.  So I set out what we did have and let each person fill their own foil packet.  They are pretty simple, and you can't really go wrong with throwing some meat and veggies (potatoes would have been nice) on a piece of tin foil, wrapping it up, and cooking it in the oven.  Our boys probably made some of the most original tin foil dinners -- chicken nuggets and hot dogs anyone?  My wife and I made more traditional ones with hamburger, onions, and zuccini.  The hamburger was already cooked, actually, so we didn't have to worry about undercooking them.  So we threw them in the oven until everything was hot and steamy and then ate.  I think they turned out pretty well.

After we put the boys to bed, we settled down to watch Tin-Tin.  The title character was a little older than I expected, and there was enough action and danger that it would have been too intense for our 5 year old.  It might have been interesting enough to me, but I was so tired from the long week I kept dozing off.  We only made it through an hour before deciding we should just go to bed and finish the rest the next day.