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Our New Approach to Valentine’s Day

2 Feb

Brian and Wendy Engagement - Series 1-27

It might surprise some readers to learn that Valentine’s Day isn’t high on my list of favorite gift-giving occasions. Maybe it’s just where we are in our lives as parents (utter chaos with two little ones!) but the idea of giving some trinket of affection when all we want is 8-consecutive hours of sleep seems silly. And over the years, the ritual of hunting down the requisite chocolates/flowers often feels forced, commercialized, and impersonal.

Therefore this year, I suggested a new approach. Now I should remind you that “gifting” is one of my love languages. I will never NOT find immense pleasure in gift-giving, because for me, the thought and care I put into selecting what I give someone is the highest expression of my love.  Now I know some couples don’t gift at all, choosing instead to put effort (and funds) towards travel or other large purchases, but I personally, wouldn’t find much satisfaction in that. I’d rather prioritize the effort and care of gift selection and keep travel or saving for large purchases a separate aspect of our lives.

Still, in an effort to take some pressure off, I suggested that Brian and I take turns “gifting” and planning out how we will celebrate various anniversaries and occasions throughout the year. He is planning and gifting for me this Valentine’s Day, and I’ll plan and gift to him for our wedding anniversary. Squee!! I’m already giddy!!

I can’t take credit for this brilliant idea though — I learned this awesome tip from Jordan Page of Fun, Cheap or Free. In one of my YouTube walkabouts last month, I watched the above video where she and her husband explained how they plan out their entire year in advance using Google Calendar, (including date nights) and how they alternate planning and gifting each other for Valentine’s Day and their Anniversary. The idea absolutely thrilled me. (Here is a link to the post detailing how they do it.)

Immediately, I set up a standing Saturday night date night for Brian and I which we alternate planning. Brian is in charge of planning our next one and it’s almost silly how excited I am to see what he is planning. When we first started dating, he planned the most fun, interesting, and different dates. We went to museums, lectures, wine tastings. It was a constant flow of new and different activities and adventures which “fits” both of our personalities really well.

Brilliant, right? After so many years with a partner, who doesn’t long for those exciting “dating” days. Well, this is exactly how to re-inject some of that back into your life. Another tip I remember reading sometime in the summer of 2018 was to just book out a bunch of dinner reservations, put them all on your calendar and then when you see the reservation — boom: you have plans for the night without having to agonize over what to do and when. Possibly another idea by Emily Ley, who I’ve blogged about before.

Anyways, I strongly encourage you to consider this approach if you’re feeling a little weary of the traditional “roses, chocolates & dinner-out” type of Valentine’s Day. Spice it up! And alternate planning and spoiling your partner.

Health Goals and the U.S Food Industry

9 Jan

 MediterraneanEating habits

I was lucky to grow up with surprisingly health-conscious parents when it came to quality food (more on that here) which laid the foundation for my awareness of and interest in nutrition, gardening, and health science.  But over the past few years I’ve dropped the ball. Sure, after watching the documentary Food, Inc and reading In Defense of Food (among others) in 2009, I made some small, swift efforts to improve what and how Brian and I eat, but that list should have evolved over time.

For example, I still try to:

– Buy organic for all dairy
– Buy organic for the “dirty dozen” (fruits and veggies that rate highest for pesticides, like apples)*
– Buy organic greens, like lettuce and arugula
– Buy only organic chicken, pork, and grass-fed beef and ground meats
– Limit consumption of animal products to 2-3/week
– Buy seafood using the guidelines
– Serve at least one vegetarian dinner/week
– Swap ground beef for lean, ground turkey or chicken
– Drink a lot of black, Oolong and Matcha green teas (among others)
– Avoid processed foods by not buying foods that come in a box, bag, or package (think: Ore0s, potato chips, granola bars)
– Avoid soda


I’m hardly a strict adherent to any of these and when I’m having a Cape Cod Potato Chip Salt ‘n Vinegar craving or am dying to taste the unique vanilla-raisin flavor specific to a Coke, you bet I treat myself to the occasional bag or chips or crack open a can of cola. Not often, but I’m human. The more alarming truth is that I haven’t added to this list of “rules” for YEARS.

My wake-up call occurred recently, when I tossed all my tea. Let me explain.

Months ago Brian told me he’d read about the shocking prevalence of pesticides in a LOT of the tea brands I drink (including some organic ones), but I just didn’t want to deal with it at that moment. (I had a LOT of nice teas I didn’t want to toss!) Then last week I happened to see a chart on Facebook that finally made me pay attention. This passivity, this “wait until later” attitude is what I want to CHANGE this year. I’ve just felt so discouraged by the uphill battle we have to fight here in the U.S to make the best food choices that any ongoing effort feels futile. It shouldn’t have to be so much work just to make dinner! But it’s one of my New Year’s resolutions is to take better charge of this area of my life.

I also want to make a better effort to keep up with current health news and really think about things like watching my cholesterol and how to protect my knees and hips so I’m sprightly into my 90’s (haha).  Since this is a topic that interests me and (I think) interests others too, I’m going to share what I learn each week here on the blog.

Here’s to a healthier, tastier 2014!

*FYI, the “Clean Fifteen” is the Environmental Working Group’s list with the least amount of pesticides and includes: corn, onions, pineapples, avocados, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and mushrooms. Please note that this list changes every year!