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Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Bi-Annual Date, For Our Anniversary- Cheapskate Style

An unfocused picture of Mike on our date night.
I think it only fitting that this post be the next post after my post on the show, "Extreme Cheapskates", because I think it's a prime example of how my life is not that of an extreme cheapskate, yet at the same time, is very frugal. 
You see, the reason I am frugal, in addition to not rolling in cash, is because I want to be able to have money for things that matter to me, for the important things in life, and to not spend money that I will regret.
No sirree. I want all the money that I spend to be money well spent, money that I will not miss because it was used for things that mattered not, but rather, money I will have been happy to have spent, because that money was spent to make my life as great as it is.
I have a rich life, on a minimum wage budget. And I think that that is the ideal balance. Not to never spend money, but so that when you spend money, you make it count.
No regrets. That's my motto.

So, on to the topic of today's post.

Happy anniversary to Mike and me. My husband and I have been married 6 years. Well, six years, one month, 3 weeks, and 4 days. (Yes, I did just open up a calendar to check that now.)
I know, I know, why happy anniversary to us now, so belated?
Because we finally got around to celebrating our anniversary.


You see, to celebrate my anniversary, I need to have a date with my husband, without my kids. I love my kids to pieces, seriously, but since I work from home and homeschool my kids, I pretty much am with my kids nearly at every hour of my life. No breaks from them really. And while that's ok with me most of the time, I do think that it's important to build my marriage, without the kids around. Twice a year. In honor of mine and my husband's shared birthday, and in honor of our anniversary. A date. With no kids around. (Unless that happens to be a nursing baby, that is.)

So to have a date with no kids means finding something to do with the kids.
Only I'll admit, I'm pretty particular about who I'll use as a babysitter. I have a neighbor and friend that I use as a babysitter, though she can only watch my kids in the morning, and Mike works in the morning. I have a sister in law who can watch my kids, but getting to her house with the kids is really annoying- two buses each way- despite her being only a 10 minute drive away... And I have my mom.
I love living near my mom, because it means that when I want to have a date with Mike, I ask Mom if the kids can sleep overnight; she drives them there and back, the kids have a great time, we have a great time, and I don't have to pay for a babysitter.
The thing about the Grandma-sitter is that we have to work around my Mom's schedule. And since she can only have them over when she is coming to my area one day, and coming back the next, it's hard to find a time that works for her. But fortunately, we're going to my Mom's this weekend, so my mom was able to take the boys tonight for a sleepover, and we'll join them there tomorrow.
So that's why our anniversary celebration is one month, 3 weeks, and 4 days late. Because we're working around my Mom's schedule. Hey, I don't mind- fun times together are always appreciated, even if it isn't on the exact date you're celebrating.

So, what did we do for our "anniversary date"? What restaurant did we go to, or what other fun event did we do?
Well, let me backtrack for a second.
When we celebrated our birthdays (actually in May, if I'm not mistaken, even though our birthdays are in February), I found a Groupon deal for an Indian non vegetarian all you can eat buffet restaurant for only 15 dollars for the both of us. Ok, you're probably thinking that's not so cheap, but restaurants here usually cost at least 25 dollars per person for a small meal, so a date out for $7.50 a person sounded good. And Indian food is usually gluten free friendly, and I like Indian food, so we went out.
When we got there, I'll admit that the ambiance was nothing special. In fact, it felt like I was in a school cafeteria, not on a special, twice a year date with my husband.
And the food?
Well, Mike's comment was "Penny, this food tastes exactly like the stuff you cook at home." He hit the nail on the head.
It tasted like my run of the mill meal at home, especially since I cook lots of Indian food.
And on top of that, there was some slight gluten contamination there, and I reacted to it.

So, basically, I spent $15 dollars on a date that didn't feel much like a date, wasn't particularly romantic, wasn't particularly good food, and made me feel sick afterward.
Totally not worth it.
Did I mention that Mike is totally the stay at home type of guy, and would rather stay home than schlep around town, even to a date?

So, after our last less than something special date, I decided that for this date, we wouldn't be going out. We'd have a stay at home date. I'd take the same money I'd be willing to spend on a restaurant, and instead of making a mediocre meal with small inadequate portions of food that there was a good chance of it making me sick, I'd make a really nice, fancy meal with all our favorite foods, enough for us to have as much as we want without needing to worry about the extra costs for ordering another portion, with a nice ambiance, to have at home.

It was a really, really nice date.
Either the best date we ever had as a couple, or perhaps tied with our birthday celebration last year- at an all you can eat meat restaurant.

So, what did we do? 

Well, first off, we sent our kids off to my mom, as mentioned, because it's really hard to have a romantic date with little kiddos around.

I decided that because we were staying at home, and it's easy to not get in the "date mode" when you're in the house, I decided that we're going to pretend that we are going out, getting all dressed up in nice clothes, putting on makeup, etc... and then we left the house and took a nice, long walk.

This had the added benefit of putting Anneliese to sleep, so we had some purely adult time when we got home.

Mike set the table with formal dinnerware and even candles. (Those candles were an anniversary present from my mother in law, believe it or not; I think we put them to great use.) We put on some relaxing, romantic, instrumental music to play in the background.


I then plated the food.

Sweet potatoes with fried onions, enoki mushrooms, and shitake mushrooms, broccoli with soy sauce, steamed asparagus with a lemon mustard type dressing, entrecote steak marinated in char siu (Chinese style) barbecue sauce made with chinese five spice powder, and some smoked beef shoulder pastrami.


I especially like that when I plated Mike's plate, the sweet potato ended up taking the shape of a heart.


Even though I rarely buy them, today was the occasion for store bought drinks- peach iced tea and pineapple lychee juice. Though bouquet is lavender flowers that my boys picked me.
(P.S. Yes, I know it would be more romantic if I actually painted over that dirty wall. Oh well. Maybe at some point in the future.)


Mike then opened the champagne...


A toast to 6 wonderful years.


The final view. Well, not completely. I dimmed the lights after I took this picture.


We then dug in. 
The food, absolutely, absolutely hit the spot. I love sweet potatoes, especially baked. So does Mike. Broccoli and asparagus are a rare treat here, as they're expensive locally, and the sauce was terrific on the asparagus. The fancy mushrooms were delicious- I actually had bought 2 more types of mushrooms to add to the medley, only to discover that they were moldy when I went to cook them up. (Mom already took them to the store and exchanged them for me, bless her.) The steak I bought on sale a bit ago, and it was waiting for this occasion already for a while, and it was great. I actually made 2 for each of us. And the pastrami was delicious.

Unanimous agreement- it was definitely one of the best meals in a long, long time. If not ever.
And then the next part.
You know how when you go to a restaurant you always eye the desserts, but after spending so much on the meal, have a hard time justifying spending that much extra on such a tiny little dessert portion, so you skip it?
Well, I decided that for our stay at home meal, we won't just have dessert, but we'd have 5 desserts.


There was chocolate- mint chocolate squares, and cherry flavored chocolate leaves. All non dairy. And not artificially flavored or colored. Yay! Mint chocolate is my absolute favorite type of chocolate.
Also candied pecans.


I served cherimoya, also known as a custard apple, which Mark Twain called "The most delicious fruit known to men". It was delicious. It has a creamy texture, with a slight grittiness reminiscent of pears. The flavor was somewhere between that of a pineapple, banana, kiwi, and lychee. We really enjoyed it.


And some Terra Chips- chips made out of blue potatoes and beets. They're delicious.


After the meal (fortunately Anneliese slept through the entire thing), we played a fun game of Set with my homemade Set game.


After less than one round, we realized that playing a game that required too much thinking wasn't a good idea on a full stomach and after having drunk an alcoholic beverage...

So we watched a movie.

And then our date was officially over.

It was really, really nice.

Best evening in a long, long time. So romantic. So fun. So special.

So, was this date, as the title of this post claims, "Cheapskate Style"? I spent 60 dollars on everything for our date. That's no small sum of money.

But you know what?

First off, that's 75 dollars total for the year on dates. Averaging out on $1.44 a week. But even that is besides the point.

The point of life isn't to hoard money and to never spend it on anything.

The point of saving money is so that you can spend it on people you love and on things you love, on things that will enhance your life long term.
And this was exactly that.
A good date with my husband really helps set the tone for our marriage. Great times together help make our marriage the way it is, fortunately a great marriage.

Absolutely no regrets.

A wonderful date night.

So, was it frugal? Was it cheapskate?

The way to answer that question is to ask another- did I get the most I could for my money?

Absolutely.

Every cent spent was well spent. And I think we really got a lot for our money.

Happy Belated Anniversary, Mike, and thanks for a wonderful 6 years! I love you!

(P.S. I have to thank Mike for being such a good sport and not minding that I stopped every 10 seconds to take pictures of the things...)

What do you do to celebrate anniversaries and other special occasions? How much do you usually spend on dates? How frequently are your dates? What is your favorite type of date?
Would you call this a cheapskate style date, or not at all?
Ever chosen a venue for a date that you regretted? What do you do to make sure your dates are as special as can be?
If you were making a stay at home date meal for you and your spouse, what would you serve and why?

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