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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Today is a Special Day

My husband, Mike.
Pic taken on our wedding day.
Today is an extra special day. Today marks 5 years from the event that changed my life in so many ways.
5 years ago to this day, Michael (aka Mike) and I became husband and wife. I can't say things were smooth sailing right from the start; like every couple, we had our ups and downs, mostly in the financial sphere, as well as when we were learning the ins and outs of living as a married couple. What Mike and I have been through together only served to draw us closer, and I can say with confidence that 5 years ago, September 14th, I married my soul mate, the guy who is absolutely perfect for me, everything I needed and wanted.
That isn't to say that Mike and I are alike in every way. In fact, when my father first met my husband, right before we got engaged, he expressed to me that he didn't see how Mike and I could work out as a couple, as we're just so different from each other, night and day, in fact.
My dad was right. In so many aspects, Mike and I are/were polar opposites. He's a gentle, soft spoken, laid back, well mannered guy, and I'm a more pushy, loud mouthed outspoken woman. I'm the type of person who is constantly on the move, never sitting still, a go getter, and always seeking an adventure; Mike, on the other hand, likes nothing more than to just chill out and relax at home; traveling stresses him out. I'm outgoing; Mike is an introvert. My husband is very proper, refined, and a bit of a neat freak; I did not get the same type of upbringing and I'm just a tad less “proper” and much more messy. Even in the looks department we're very different, as I'm big boned, broad, and on the heavier side; Mike weighs a good 50 pounds less than me (when I'm not pregnant!) and is a string bean.
Me on our wedding day.
Wow, I look so young! I was only 18 then!
Of course, all this was before we were married. Over the last 5 years together, we've rubbed off a lot on each other and our personalities are actually a lot less different than they once were. I really feel that marriage has brought out the best in us, softening our rougher edges, and making us a little less extreme in our personality traits.

One thing though, that Mike and I always had in common, which really has been the basis and backbone of our marriage, is that we are on the same page when it comes to how we view the world. We both value the same things, and have similar perspectives on nearly everything. The coolest thing about Mike is that he is almost a mind reader- when I try to explain to him how I feel about a certain issue, I don't need to do much explaining at all- Mike totally “gets me”, and usually feels very similarly! Its so nice to have someone who understands how I think and is on the same page and doesn't think I'm a nutter, even when I feel and do certain things very differently from the norm.


The Bible says that a wife is a “help meet” for her husband, but really, I have to say that Mike is my biggest helper, especially when it comes to living a frugal life.

So many people I speak to say that they know and wish they could be more frugal, but their husband has certain expectations. He wants fancy food, fancy car, large house, fancy gadgets, expensive entertainment, and if the wife wants to save money, he has a freak out because she can't deny him what he feels he deserves.
The biggest reason I am able to be as frugal as I am, live the extreme frugal lifestyle that I do, is because my husband is a great guy, and realizes that there are more important things in life than having the latest and greatest foods and toys all the time. Mike is satisfied with simple things, and takes pleasure in things that don't necessarily cost money, such as time spent with family and enjoying nature. This aspect of Mike gives me the freedom to do what I need to do in the frugal sphere to keep our family living within our budget.

But really, more than just “allowing me to be frugal”, Mike actually is my frugal inspiration, constantly coming up with ideas to save money. In fact, Mike was the one who suggested to me to cloth diaper our kids, and he actually meant it enough that he was the one who scrubbed off all the dirty diapers and washed them. Mike is a huge dumpster diver and do-it-yourself-nik, and he will find such creative money saving solutions to problems. He also was the one who talked me into the idea of homeschooling, got me so revved up about it. Best of all, Mike is totally excited together with me when I figure out a new frugal idea. Its nice to get excited over things like that together. We bounce ideas off each other, and are on the same page- doing whatever it takes to have a terrific life, even with very minimal means.

Mike helps me with my frugal ventures, helped me make wine and grape juice this summer, and patiently cleans up after the huge messes I make when doing my frugal, from scratch cooking. (Often he'll stay up till 2 am washing the dishes and floor that I got dirty during the day's homesteading.) By cleaning up after me, I can get these money saving tasks done without needing to do the part I least like- washing up after. I also am able to avoid hiring cleaning help- my husband turns this place spotless, even after hurricane Penny blew through it.

My husband is my best friend, my confidant, and my partner in crime. He's got amazing insight in so many different subjects, and he really is able to understand human nature very well.He's artistic, handy, has a heart of gold, and always has a kind word for everyone. Mike is just an all around mature, intellectual, absolutely likable guy; I'm really glad to call him my husband.
Thanks Mike for these 5 amazing years. Looking forward to celebrating many, many, many more special occasions with you.

So in case you were wondering, how did Mike and I celebrate our anniversary?

Well, you probably know by know that I'm a big foodie, that I really enjoy delicious food. Because I don't talk about Mike much in general (in fact, I think this is the first time I've ever put a pic of him up on my blog) on my blog, you probably wouldn't know that he is an absolute carnivore that doesn't mind eating vegan meals to save money, but absolutely loves animal flesh of all kinds and could gladly devour a whole cow in one sitting. :-D
You also probably know that I never like paying full price for something if there is any way around it, but that I also think it is important to live life to its fullest and make special memories together, even if that occasionally means spending money on things that aren't necessities.

With that preamble...
I posted on Facebook that I was looking for suggestions of places to go out to eat with my husband for our anniversary. (I had made a nice romantic dinner at home for our shared birthday in February; this time I really wanted to go out to eat. We hadn't been to a restaurant- aside for to pizza one time- in more than a year.) The catch- it couldn't be dairy, and it couldn't be gluten based, as both of those are foods I currently can't eat. I also wanted to make it as inexpensive as possible, but ideally romantic.
Too much to ask? Perhaps. The cheap places around here are all pizza and other gluten based fast food restaurants, or slightly more expensive but still reasonable Italian restaurants with lots of pasta and dairy based dishes. (Fettuccine alfredo, while absolutely delicious, would make me feel terrible if I ate it. Restaurants that specialize in foods like that were non options.)
I was thinking that a steakhouse probably would be my best bet to find gluten free, dairy free food, but steakhouses are mad expensive here. You end up paying exorbitant amounts to get a tiny sliver of meat that doesn't even leave you satiated.

What to do, what to do... Were there even any decent options?
Imagine my surprise when a few people chimed in immediately that this Brazilian steakhouse, known to be one of the best restaurants in my region, if not the country, and also known to be super expensive, was featured on our local groupon type daily deal site that day only. For not a lot of money, Mike and I were able to buy a coupon that we could redeem for an all you can eat meal at this restaurant. All you can eat meat? For not a lot of money? In a restaurant that I'd heard people rave about but could never afford to dine there?
Count me in! Mike was just as enthusiastic!

A few weeks ago we had done a babysitting swap with my sister in law. Only we never cashed in on our side of the deal- she owed us a few hours of babysitting. Today she watched the kids for us while on our date, and we saved ourselves from needing to pay a sitter. (Babysitting swapping is totally worthwhile!)

We headed to the restaurant and were in for the time of our lives. We chose the perfect time to go- not too busy at all, so it was very private and romantic.
First, I told them about my gluten issues so they knew to warn me before bringing each foods which contained gluten. Fortunately out of the whole menu, only 3 things were problematic.
The way the restaurant works is they bring you salads and side dishes. Then they bring you one meat dish for you to eat, then another, then another, then another... Once you taste all the meats, you can decide if you want more of any of them, and they keep on refilling and refilling for you until you don't want any more.

The salads and sides they brought us were salsa, tahini, soy cabbage salad, baby greens salad with a mustard vinagrette, sweet potato salad, eggplant salad, french fries, and black beans with rice. I purposely ate very little of the sides because I could make those cheaply at home myself; I wanted to save room for the treat- the terrifically cooked meat this restaurant was known for.

They brought us chicken livers. Oh my gosh, absolutely the best livers I've ever eaten in my life. Soft, succulent, juicy, in a sweet sauce with caramelized onions and scallions. Out of this world!
Next were sweet, sticky chicken wings. Yummy, but chicken wings are cheap locally, so I just tasted these and waited patiently for the next course. Mike, on the other hand, gobbled them down. Yes, they were delicious, but I kept telling Mike to save room for the good stuff that was coming.
We also got chirozos, spicy sausages. I'd heard about these before but never tasted them. They were pretty good, but not as spectacular as the other food.

Now came the good part. Beef cubes marinated in dark beer. I was warned that these could contain gluten, but I didn't care. I wanted to taste some. I took a little piece to taste- it was terrific! But I held off on eating any more so that I wouldn't get sick from it.
Then we got cornish hens. I don't think I've tasted chicken that delicious in my life! They made my mouth water, they were that good. The meat was perfect, soft, moist, flavorful, and crispy, all at the same time.
Next were the kebabs made from ground meat. I'd tasted ground meat kebabs in the past, but these put the other ones all to shame. They were flavorful, succulent, moist, and perfectly done.
Chicken thighs and drumsticks were next. By this point, I was getting somewhat fuller and wanted to save room for what I knew was coming next, so we just had a small drumstick each. They were perfectly done, soft and juicy and flavorful and terrific.

At this point, they came to the table to ask us how we liked our steaks. Medium rare was our answer. They then came to the table with this hugest chunk of meat I've ever seen in my life. Mike said my eyes looked like they were popping out of my sockets, I was so wide eyed.
They shaved off pieces of the steak for us. Absolutely divine. Soft, flavorful, juicy, succulent.
I felt like I was in Heaven. Seriously.

They then came around asking if we wanted seconds of anything. I said "Yes, please" and Mike thought I was out of my mind. "How do you still have room for any more food?" he wanted to know. "I, unlike you, paced myself and didn't fill up on the things that were only moderately special. I wanted to save room for the absolutely amazing food." I asked for more livers and more entrecote steak.

We ate that, and seriously... it was the best meal I ever had in my life. Every bit of food was made absolutely to perfection. The quality of the meats was amazing, the seasonings excellent.
Mike had the time of his life as well. We both really appreciate good food. Especially good meat.
An all you can eat steak house was the perfect option to celebrate 5 wonderful years together. I doubt I could have purchased the amount of meat we ate for the price that we paid.
No, in case you were wondering, I didn't stuff myself like a glutton. I ate slowly, savoring every bite, and stopped when I felt full.

I let the chef know just how much we appreciated the food he made; he was such a friendly guy (also American). He beamed at the compliment, and wished us happy anniversary.

Mike and I- we ate terrific food. But we also talked about such interesting subjects on the way to and from the restaurant, and bonded tremendously at the restaurant as well. This date wasn't just about the food. It was about building memories. And it absolutely was a terrific way to celebrate; this terrific memory will be sticking around for a long, long time.
Building memories is worth the money we paid, especially since it was on sale.

Part of the reason this date was extra special was because my husband and I don't go out to eat much, don't go out without the kids much, making this evening extra, extra special. A really special thing once in a long while is, in my opinion, much better than a somewhat nice thing very frequently. I honestly wouldn't want to go out more often than we do- if we did, I wouldn't appreciate dates like this as much as I did.
Wow. I seriously had a great time.
What a wonderful way to celebrate 5 wonderful years!
Happy Anniversary Mike!

So, does Mike sound (and look) like what you'd expected, or did you expect him to be different than I'd described?
What is your husband like? Are you two alike or different? How do you celebrate your anniversary? How long have you been married?
Do you enjoy going out to restaurants? How often do you go out to eat? Would you prefer a fancy restaurant rarely or a decent restaurant frequently?

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