Now that spring has arrived, I spend almost every waking moment outside. At least once a day, I find myself at one of the many parks around Evanston. I am lucky to live in a town where there are 59 parks with playgrounds. In a city of 75,000, that is a lot of playgrounds.
With 59 playgrounds, it is not surprising that there are several within walking distance of my house. However, I find myself returning time and again to the same two parks. These two parks could not be more different.
First, there is Independence Park. Independence Park is one of the busiest parks in the city and there are always tons of kids there. It has a lot of equipment, a sandbox, and swings. It is directly across the street from the Central Street Shopping District, which is nice if you have any errands to run. If I feel like being social, Independence Park is the place to go.
On the other hand, if I'm feeling less social, I head to McCulloch Park. McCulloch Park is wonderful and has a large open field as well as having great playground equipment. It is also usually deserted. Sometimes there are older kids playing basketball or playing soccer in the field, but we can generally have the playground equipment to ourselves.
What are your favorite parks and playgrounds like? Do you have different parks to suit different aspects of your personality?
For our 7th date night as a part of Project 52: Date Nights, my husband and I went out to dinner at a local tapas restaurant.
I love going out for tapas. Ordering all the small plates makes dinner more interactive as we decide what to order and share the food. We have a few dishes we always order like the goat cheese in tomato sauce and grilled calamari. We ventured out and tried the marinated artichokes and a chicken dish with an amazing sauce. All the back and forth really spurred our conversation and we had a fabulous time.
I have tried to schedule one date out a month, and I think that has really made an improvement in our relationship. There is such a rush of freedom in being out just the two of us. It is wonderful to be able to talk for a period of time where we can get beyond the regular "How was your day?" conversation and just talk feels so luxurious. I hope we do it so often that the luxury becomes commonplace.
For our sixth date date as a part of Project 52: Date Nights, I decided to plan a chocolate taste-testing. I have always wanted to try those fancy chocolate bars, but could never find a reason to spend $5 on a chocolate bar. Now I had my chance!
I picked up four chocolate bars: Cherries & Almonds in Dark Chocolate; Hazelnut & Currant Dark Chocolate; Milk Chocolate with Hickory Smoked Almonds and Sea Salt; and Dark Chocolate with Appelwood Smoked Bacon and Alderwood smoked salt. After doing some research, I chose a Merlot to accompany the chocolate.
We started with the Cherries and & Almonds. It was delicious and had just the right taste of cherries and almond texture while allowing the chocolate to come through. It would also turn out to be the highlight of the taste-testing.
Next, we tried the Hazelnut & Currant. I was really looking forward to this one because Nutella (chocolate and hazelnuts) is one of my favorite foods. However, neither the taste of hazelnuts or almonds came through. Still, the chocolate was good.
Then we tried the Almonds & Sea Salt. Whoa, this was extremely salty. It was overpowering for me, but I'm not a big salt fan. My husband liked it.
Finally, we tried the Bacon & Salt. It was disgusting. Actually, it was beyond disgusting. I haven't been able to eat chocolate since. Bacon does not make everything better. Please, allow my suffering to not be in vain - never, ever eat a bacon chocolate bar.
Although the main focus of our date turned out to be a dud, we ended up playing Trivial Pursuit, which was fun. I'm so glad that our next date night will be a dinner out. Hopefully I can't mess that up too much!
This idea sounded perfect to me. First, one of the activities on my life list is to learn to make a mixed drink. I am not a big drinker and the only mixed drink I have ever made is a margarita, and that always included some sort of pre-made mix, so I decided that didn't count. After looking in the liquor cabinet (we don't really have a liquor cabinet, but I like the sound of it), we had gin and tonic water, so I settled on a gin and tonic.
Next, I had to choose some appetizers. I remember Ina Garten saying in an episode of the Barefoot Contessa that olives are a perfect addition to an appetizer table, so I headed for the olive stand at the grocery store. Even though olives are sold by the pound, I bought the kalamata olives with the pits because it seemed more appropriate than pitted olives. Next, I choose some aged gouda cheese and some sesame rice crackers, and I was finished. You really don't need too many appetizers for two people, especially when those people are going to be enjoying the appetizers at 8 in the evening after they have had dinner.
So I was all ready for Saturday evening, until Saturday evening hit me over the head. For reasons that are not relevant, my husband and I were not too happy with each other by 8 o'clock Saturday night. I was ready to call the whole thing off. Sitting in front of the television and not talking to each other seemed preferable.
The main problem with the TV plan was that we hadn't eaten dinner. (Part of the evening's unpleasantness was our hour-long drive around town trying to decide on a place to go to dinner, with my proposing places and my husband saying no.) My husband convinced me that we should eat the crackers and cheese, if for no other reason that we were hungry and it didn't include cooking. Since I was getting out the crackers and cheese, I decided to put out the olives as well. And since I figured a drink would taste pretty good, I made the gin and tonics.
We sat down at the dining room table and started to eat our appetizers and drink our gin and tonics. Slowly, as we talked, we let go of our anger and ended up having a really nice conversation. This date wasn't exactly what I had planned, but we ended up having a good time. We have so little time to talk and spend time together, I'm glad we didn't waste our Saturday night.