Sunday, July 31, 2016

20 Date Nights on a Budget

With two under two and a crazy calendar, Joel and I are doing our best to soak up all of the time that we have just the two of us. We're doing our best to keep things interesting and somewhat spontaneous by getting out of the dinner-at-the-coffee-table-with-the-TV rut and spicing it up with some out-of-the-box budget dates... because that's how we roll.

WARNING: Some of the following events are dangerously lame. Please use these as suggestions and cater them to match your own needs!

1. Go geocaching - I have never felt more like Indiana Jones in my life. Bring a phone or GPS (something to track your coordinates), a couple of small trinkets, and a pencil... and let the treasure hunt begin ;)

2. Home Hotel - As much as we'd love the chance to run away on vacation , the budget and work schedules don't always allow it. But that doesn't mean we can't make it feel like we're away! Hang pictures of far off places in your room, print out a "do not disturb" door hanger, order some room service (a.k.a. delivery served on a fancy tray with an upside down bowl or cover over it), and if you want to get real crazy you can turn on the Travel channel, burn a candle with a coordinating scent, or play some background sounds of waves crashing on the beach (or whatever). If you want to make it feel legit, don't forget fresh towels and pillow mints.

3. Picnic (Indoor or out) - You have to eat dinner anyways, so might as well do it on a blanket in the yard or on the floor. It automatically makes it more of an occasion, so you could even get away with PB&J's ;)

4. Treat your town like a tourist - We live in a pretty small town in the middle of not much, but every town has at least SOMETHING somewhat historical or noteworthy about it. I'm all about costuming to help get in the mood, so I am totally one to wear the island print shirt and carry around a camera and map of the town. Who knows, you might learn something or find a cool spot you didn't know was there before!

5. Hold a fancy wine and cheese party - You can google/Pinterest search pairing guides or just pick your favorites. Depending on how much wine you have, you might have to keep this one at home. Unless there's more wine and it's a group date or something... you get it. You're an adult. You can figure it out ;)

6. Be a kid again (playground, sidewalk chalk) - Nothing brings out your inner silliness like racing down the slide or outlining your date in chalk on the ground.

7. Take a walk in the park - Simple, cheap, and good for you. Win, win, win. (Bonus: the fall we met, Joel and I bought a couple coffees and went on a walk through a beautiful historical cemetery in my town. It was so peaceful and serene. I highly recommend it!)

8. Have a candlelit dinner - You have to eat anyways, right? Might as well dim the lights and have a little ambiance. Spotify/Pandora "dinner" playlists also work well here. Almost any dinner can become romantic with the right music and lighting (there are probably exceptions, but I'm choosing not to spend time thinking about them. For now let's stick to spaghetti and meatballs or something).

9. Hold a game night - This is probably easier as a group date than a one on one, just because there are a lot more game options with more than two players. However, there are always classics like Sorry, Life, Monopoly, Trouble, Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Hive, Scrabble, lost of card games... need I go on?

10. Go camping (indoor or outdoor) - You can either make your own tent (see #14, although I don't recommend this for outside), use a real one, or sleep under the stars (super romantic in the movies, but most movies don't include mosquitos. You might want to take that into account if you live somewhere like, oh, I don't know, Iowa).

11. Create a movie theater at home - Movie you both agree on? Check (unless you're taking turns, which can make for a series of movie theater date nights!). Copious amounts of popcorn? Check. Candy? Check. Huge drinks that are probably terrible for you? Check. Perks here: no one blocking your view, texting during the show, and you can pause for bathroom breaks. And blankets!

12. Take on a Supermarket Challege - dinner for $5/$10/$20 - We have talked about this one, but haven't actually done it yet. We still need to iron out the details. In theory, we each have a small budget, shop separately (at the same time), and prep food for each other. However, we still need to figure out if one person does the entree, the other does the side and dessert? Two dinners back to back? We each make a meal for the other person at the same time? Point is, keep the budget small and the food delicious. How would you do this date??

13. Dance party (Club 1019) - Supplies needed: something to play music at a decent volume. If none are available, singing acapella always works too ;)

14. Build a blanket fort! - This was actually the activity of choice the weekend that Joel and I met in person. He flew out to meet me, and we used whatever we could find in my apartment to build our fort (including but not limited to a broom, hula hoop, duct tape, couch cushions, and plywood). We tried watching a movie in our fort on one of our computers (the other displayed a fake fireplace), but unfortunately we did not account for ventilation and after about 3 1/2 minutes, we overheated and broke it down. We had a blast building it though!

15. Play video games - Ok, this sounds lame, but if you play light (children's) games and you're free to be silly with it, this can actually be a lot of fun. I'm terrible and very competitive, so we kinda of stick to kids' games, but whatever works.

16. Go stargazing (or sunrise or sunset watching) - Nature is beautiful, and so is love. Nuff said. Just make sure to be prepared with a blanket and some bug spray! (or a mosquito candle... those are romantic too, right??)

17. Find a drive-in movie - You can bring your own food and drinks AND you don't have to leave your own car. Personal temperature and volume control, plus semi-privacy with your date? Yes please!

Technically this is from a Halloween party, but it's theme-y, so I'm counting it.
18. Have a theme night - This one is super easy. Eat dinner, enjoy a couple of drinks, watch a movie or show, or even go all out with costumes... as long as they revolve around the theme of choice. Here are some suggestions:
  • Old West (steak, potatoes, baked beans; John Wayne movie; black coffee or whiskey/beer)
  • Southern Charm (fried chicken, pie; Gone With the Wind; lemonade or mint juleps)
  • Sock Hop (burgers, fries, milkshakes; and classic movie; pop or beer)
  • The 1% (some food that's super fancy or unpronounceable, White Collar/Pretty Woman/Downton Abbey, wine)
  • Sports Fan (hot dogs, nachos, ice cream cones; any sports movie, Gatorade or beer)
  • Any fantasy/Sci-Fi/period movie
19. Attend free events in town - Our town is small but full of pride. There are local street fairs, movie nights hosted by the library, parades during the summer, and so on. Most towns have at least a little something if you know where to look!

20. Make a YouTube video - Make up a dance routine (still working on Joel to agree to this one) or a short film (like when you were pre-teens and given free reign of the new family camera with the flip screen... we were all directions/actors/producers back then!). The whisper challenge is a thing right now, and if its that hilarious to watch other couples trying it, I can't wait to experience it myself.

How do you date on a budget? Is there anything I should have included? Let me know!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Monica Jane: 10 Months

My dearest Monbon,

You are a squishy, giggly, adorable goon. It is getting easier and easier to make you smile, and since your top FOUR (!!!) teeth have broken through this past month, your smile gets prettier and prettier.

Your giggle is my favorite thing ever. And your rolls. And your soft hair. And when you put your head on my shoulder (which is hardly ever). Basically you're the cutest. We all dote on you, and I love love love calling you my baby. I know you're not going to be a baby forever (t-minus 2 months until you're officially a toddler!) but I'm soaking it up while it lasts.

Speaking of toddling, you're now cruising around the furniture like a pro. You don't seem to be afraid of very much, you love to test (taste) new things, and push boundaries when you're exploring. You're inquisitive, sneaky, and quite frankly I'm surprised at how observant you are... you manage to find and eat crumbs immediately after I swept. I can never keep the floors clean enough for you, but whatever. It builds your immune system, right? We'll all laugh about this together when you're in high school.

As of the last few days you've started to dance, which is really you just shaking your butt around and bouncing to whatever music is playing. It's wonderful. You definitely inherited your dad's dance skills: goofy, natural, and lovable.

You love to eat and we can't keep you full enough long enough, but you get some kind of a rash when you're on certain baby foods and we haven't figured it out yet, so please be patient with us. Your diet will return to normal soon. Hopefully. In the meantime I'm not worried because I know you'll be snacking on floor crumbs all day anyways.

Celine and you are still trying to figure out how to play peacefully together. You love to be where the action is, but she is very particular about things, so you tend to clash. Not all of the time though... once in a while I'll catch you being adorable and playing nicely together. And then my heart explodes.

You are usually moving in one way or another. When we're tucking you in you're shaking your blanket, when we change your diaper you try to escape (like we're trying to diaper a greased cat), and most of all at mass you seem to pull out all the stops. It's a workout for sure, so thanks for that. Let's work together to find some way to channel that energy (like a hamster wheel for babies or something. Is that bad? Just a thought. We'll figure something out).

We love you so much, little monkey. You bring so much light into our lives.

I love love love you,

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A pearls state of mind

Pearls have been a staple in my wardrobe since high school. They're classy, beautiful, and according to one high school classmate, made me look like a politician's wife (whatever that means). They must have some significance to be, being as they made it into my blog title and everything.

I usually have pearl stud earrings in, or at least most days that I leave the house. I don't have a necklace for every neckline or anything, and with grabby children (MONICA!), it's hard to get away with wearing them anymore. However, I'm not changing my blog title... and here's why.

For me, pearls are bigger than whether or not they're around your neck at any given moment. When I think of women wearing them, I think of Jackie O, Grace Kelly, and Princess Diana. I think of Sunday best, southern belles, and fancy parties.They remind me of timeless style, effortless grace, and above all, class.

Things that do not come to mind when I think of pearls: Girls Gone Wild, tequila shots, or catfights. Unless someone is trying to be ironic. And being really bad at it.

I think of pearls as more of a mindset (just as I think of tiny living as more of a mindset). They signify keeping your head, heels, and standards high. Tackling the tough stuff when you know it needs to be done, but you'd much rather do anything else (yes, when I need to get motivated, sometimes I put a necklace on to vacuum. I am that housewife). 

Yes, June Cleaver is my spirit animal. I'm not ashamed of that!
I'd love to be able to pull off wearing pearls at the gym (but I'd hate them bouncing around my neck as I ran on the treadmill) or have a long knotted strand with a sundress (my children would choke me with it). Sometimes, I just have to make a judgement call and leave them at home. But that doesn't mean I can't keep a pearls state of mind. I can walk tall, speak kindly, and drink coffee with my pinky up. Because that's what makes me Justine In Pearls.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Binge-wirthy and cringe-worthy

We watch quite a bit of TV around here. I'm not ashamed of it; I try to keep a healthy balance. We watch very little when the kids are up, but when I get into a show, I really get into a show. It's a big way that I unwind, especially because it's hard to me to find the patience to read books all of the time, and even then, sometimes it's easier to follow along in the book when I can put a face to the characters (because I've already seen the movie).

Point being, I like to consider myself somewhat of a Netflix expert (doesn't everyone, though?). I have my own tastes, but I'm usually pretty good about helping other people pick out new shows based on what they already are watching.

Ok this definitely sounds like a humblebrag... I don't mean it that way... I just watch a lot of TV in my spare time!

Here on my thoughts on what's been on our "Recently watched" list...

Poldark: Binge-worthy
I'd describe this show as a cross between Downton Abbey and Jane Austen movies, with a hint of The Count of Monte Cristo. I don't want to talk it up too much, but I honestly believe there's a little something in it for everyone. Also, technically this is on Amazon Prime, not Netflix, so there's that to consider.
You might like it if you also liked: Downton Abbey, Jane Austen, The Count of Monte Cristo

Person of Interest: Binge-worthy
Unpredictable stories, great chemistry between the leads, little gory violence and no sex, still great character development. We've been on the edge of our seats. Every plot twist I have guessed has been wrong so far, which is saying something. I like to be surprised!
You might like it if you also liked: Sherlock, House, Blacklist

Fuller House: Cringe-worthy
...unless you're a die hard fan of the original show. It's a pretty typical family sitcom, but the acting is more exaggerated, the characters and storylines are more outrageous, and the jokes are pretty flat. I'd say it's still a good family show if you can look past all of that, but the constant cleavage and not-so-veiled sexual innuendos kept me from getting past two episodes.
You might like it if you also liked: Full House... I don't know what else, these aren't usually my cup of tea.

House of Cards: Binge-worthy
...if you're not afraid of some pretty dark series-of-unfortunate-events style stories and you're not too proud to fast forward some sketchy scenes. The storylines are complicated, the characters are intense, and you can't help but feel something watching it, even if it's wanting a certain character to get what's coming to him SO BAD. I mean, COME ON! Just don't watch it before you go to bed... if makes for some weird dreams. Also, you will probably never trust politicians again. It's just a show.
You might like it if you also liked: Bloodline, Breaking Bad

Grey's Anatomy: Cringe-worthy
...unless you're into soap operas that shove a liberal agenda down your throat. I hoped it would be more along the lines of Scrubs when I started it, but 13 seasons later, it's a full blown soap. This show is way more tolerable as a drinking game and/or when you make charts to keep track of all of the traumatic events and who has slept with who. Also, 90% of the best characters die or leave (but who wouldn't after that long on a show??). Yet, when I'm folding laundry, I still keep coming back to it. Why? I have no idea.
You might like it if you also liked: General Hospital, Private Practice, Scrubs, Pretty Little Liars

Fed Up: Binge-worthy
Technically you can't really binge watch one documentary, but still. Normally I'm not big on food documentaries, mostly because they remind me of that book we read in high school about the meat industry back in the day (I don't really want to know how the sausage is made, I'd just like it on my plate with plenty of peppers and onions... or in marinara sauce over pasta... or alongside eggs and toast... I really shouldn't blog before dinner). This one was different for me though. It was very eye opening about the sugar industry in America and since watching it, Joel and I have made a much bigger effort to remove extra sugar from our diet (and it is totally making a difference!
You might like it if you also liked: Fat Sick & Nearly Dead, Hungry for Change, Supersize Me

If you like where these came from, you might also enjoy some thoughts on Man of Steel or the best list of chick flicks I could come up with.

Happy watching! 


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Vacation recap - July 2016

Eight days, 3ish hours in the car, and many miles later, the Rauch fam has finally returned from our vacation.

I have not been out to visit my New York (upstate, not the city) side of the family since the weekend after Joel and I met.... that would be September, 2012. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then and it was high time I finally made it back and showed Joel and the girls what it's all about.

We split our road trip into two days there and back, guessing pretty accurately that the girls would not be able to handle much longer than a day in the car at a time. We stopped every few hours and rotated drivers, as true road-trip veterans should. It was a long haul, but we finally rolled in Saturday night, about half an hour before the town fireworks display. We didn't go (for pretty obvious reasons... if it's not that obvious, take a two day road trip with a toddler and a baby, then take them out to a new place past their bedtime with bright lights and loud noises. Let me know how it goes).

We kicked off the week with mass on Sunday, followed by the traditional Italian Sunday dinner around 1:00 PM. We hosted the local priest (who is BFF's with my dad and a super cool guy), a couple of old friends, and a couple of new.

Monday was of course the fourth, and the whole slew of LaBruzzo's came to celebrate with copious amounts of food. I think we counted at least 25 different dishes that were prepared, most of them in a quantity large enough to feed half the party with that dish alone. It was all delicious and we spent the whole day pigging out, passing around the kiddos, playing games, and of course, the family fireworks grand finale.

During the week we toured Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, gave the girls authentic New York pizza, and watched movies almost every night. 

I had to immortalize the girls' first trip to swim at the lake... Celine is NOT a fan of new situations, and the sand and waves were no exception. Monica, on the other hand, is typically more open-minded and loved every part of being out, including the taste of the wet sand (gross).

Like it or not, the experience wiped them out. This pretty much sums up our recovery from the trip:

Most of the rest of the trip was spent with quality time and catching up with loved ones we don't see near enough. I didn't take near as many pictures as I intended, but I loved soaking up every minute with those very special people. <3

After lots of goodbyes and two more days in the car, we rolled back into town yesterday afternoon. We're taking the day to get back into some semblance of a routine and hopefully regroup enough to be somewhat back on track for the rest of the week.

I hope you enjoyed your holiday week! I'll be back with more after the girls and I crash for yet another nap ;)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Books that make adulting easier

Life would be so much easier if there were one, comprehensive how-to guide spelling out survival for each one of us. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Fortunately, that means we get to figure out this adventure as we go, which is so much more exciting, isn't it?

*I was thinking about this again after this video popped up on my Facebook feed and I was all like, um, yes!!

Well, if you're not thrilled about feeling like you're venturing out on your own, here are some great books that have helped me figure out what in the world I'm supposed to be doing. These are mostly books I have received as gifts, a couple I came across on my own, and all staples in my library.

I've divided them into a couple of categories, but rest assured, they are all great books for everyone.... mostly women, but still. So here goes!

For the College Grad

On Relationships

Wins for Everyone

I don't think I've included any of these books in my #12in12bookchallenge (it's easier for me to get through novels than how-to's, although I still love self-help books!), these are more books I have slowly chipped away at over the years, not necessarily cover-to-cover type things. But then again, it is the summer, so anything goes!

Ok and technically a couple of these books are geared toward one gender or another, but isn't it always good to learn about our counterparts to help us all get along? ;) I'd be happy to share more details about each of these books but I'm afraid it would make this post painfully long and I have a mountain of chores to get to this morning. However, feel free to comment with any questions and I'll fill you in!

What are you reading this summer? Do you have any guides that have helped you figure things out as you go?

Have a great day!