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Indoor Camping

A few years ago, while we were visiting Amanda’s family, we all went to the drive in to watch The Great Outdoors. As part of the festivities, a local car dealership sponsored a raffle for a tent, to go along with the theme of the movie. Everyone who came to the drive in that night got an entry, but as luck would have it, our ticket was called. We went up to claim our prize and the guy announcing the raffle asked where we were from. When we told him West Virginia, he was pretty sure we were pulling his leg, but Amanda’s dad, who helps run the drive in, vouched for us.

So, we won a two-person tent. It has been sitting in our basement collecting dust ever since. Every time Amanda walks by it, she reminds me that we need to go camping. We’ve tried to go a couple different times, but have had schedule conflicts each time. Tonight, we decided to make use of our tent and go camping, but since it is still really cold outside, we set it up in our basement. Indoor camping!

Setting up the tent was pretty easy, even being indoors. The main support poles were long, but we didn’t have a problem maneuvering them even with the ceiling. Being pretty small, it only took us about 20 minutes to get set up. The tent shell is one whole piece, sealed and reinforced at the bottom to prevent water getting in (not that it will indoors). To be more comfortable, we decided to put our queen size air mattress in the tent. We blew it up, then realized that because the tent is so small and the mattress is so large, it completely filled the tent. We barely had room to crawl in, but couldn’t sleep with half our bodies touching the top of the tent. I crawled back out of the tent and opened the air valve and Amanda rode the air mattress until it deflated. She wanted to go again as soon as it was done. Since that didn’t work out, we ran upstairs and grabbed a ton of blankets and comforters, then spread them on the floor of the tent.

Indoor Camping Air Mattress. Nope.
Nope. Nope. Nope-ity Nope.

We had two options for our camping excursion. First, we could trick out the tent with all of the technology we own. Put a TV in one corner, maybe bring the Wii U down, open the laptops, play on our phones, the whole nine yards. Light the tent up like a Christmas tree with glowing rectangles. The second option was completely unplugging from technology for the night. Since the TV was too heavy, we decided on unplugging.

We grabbed the lantern we got for power outages and set it on low to have some light, but turned off all of our other electronics. We were pretty comfortable, so we laid down and chatted for a while. We did a bit of time math (definitely not my strong suit) and realized that we have passed 50 dates. We spent some time talking about all of our favorites so far. That led to us talking about different random memories and telling stories, which led to talking about future plans, and eventually, we drifted off to sleep.

Camping Lantern

Spoilers: we were still lying on concrete. I woke up sometime in the middle of the night, sore from being on the hard ground with very little padding under me. I tried to wake Amanda up , but she was really tired, so I gave up and wandered upstairs to bed. Luckily, I wasn’t too sore when I woke up, but Amanda didn’t fare as well. I would have tried harder to get her to come upstairs, but Tired Adam doesn’t think straight.

We’ve spent a lot of time dating so far this year, but this was definitely the longest and best conversation we’ve had since we started. The break from technology was exactly what we needed to relax and just be together.

February Reading Date

After our reading date last month, we realized how much our reading lists were piling up while we were busy dating, so we decided to set aside a night each month for spending time with each other and good books. Last month, we read in bed, but that made us tired quickly, so this month, we curled up on the couch in front of our fireplace.

Amanda dug in to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. If you need me to tell you about Harry Potter, I’m not sure we can be friends any more. Just kidding, but seriously, where have you been for the past 15 years? We bought the box set of all the books a few years ago and reread it from time to time.

You’re a wizard, Gizmo!

I have been reading a series called Magic 2.0 by Scott Meyer. A friend recommended the first book, Off to Be the Wizard, to me a few weeks ago and I’ve devoured the series. The basic premise is that a hacker finds a file that defines reality, then starts altering it. He is quickly discovered because he gives himself unlimited money, which causes the feds to hunt him down. Because he can alter reality, he decides to go where the feds can’t find him: medieval England. And what’s the best profession for a modern-day hacker in medieval England? Wizard. Duh. The main character is a bit awkward, which causes all sorts of funny issues in the past. The series hits all of my geek buttons: time travel, magic, medieval setting, shell scripting, and general geeky humor. I’m actually on the third (and latest) book in the series, An Unwelcome Quest, which is what I read tonight. In writing up this post, I actually learned that the author is working on book four, which I’m now super excited about.

We love reading date nights. They are a great way to just relax and unwind for the evening. I’m already looking forward to the one in March.

Buy Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on Amazon
Buy Off to Be the Wizard on Amazon

Breakfast in Bed

Happy Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air and breakfast is in the bed. I wanted to do something special for Amanda, and since we’re already doing all of these dates, taking her out somewhere didn’t seem that special this year. Amanda loves pancakes and scrambled eggs, so I thought I’d start her day off with her favorite breakfast foods.

I started with dairy free pancakes using Silk Almond Milk. But since it’s Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t make just any pancakes. They had to be heart shaped. For love. We have a bunch of metal cookie cutters that Amanda has collected over the years, so I thought I’d be clever and use the cookie cutter as a mold. I am not nearly as clever as I thought I was. The batter stuck to the edges of the mold and just made a mess. As it cooked, the batter rose up, burning the bottom and then spilling over the top of the mold. Thinking that I must have just used too much batter, I cleaned off my mess and tried again, using a little bit of oil on the inside of the cookie cutter. Guess who still wasn’t as clever as he thought he was. This time actually created a happy accident though. I used about half as much batter this time, and the mold did slide off, but when I tried to remove it, all of the liquid batter just ran into the pan instead of holding its shape. I let the batter cook for a few seconds to firm up, then flipped it over, where I discovered a darker heart cooked onto the pancake. It wasn’t burned, just darker.

After that, I gave up on using it as a mold and just made some tiny pancakes that I could then cut the heart shapes out of. A couple years ago, Amanda was making pancakes pretty frequently when we were on a big breakfast kick, but we’d always get batter everywhere as we tried to pour the batter into the pan. She looked around online and found one of our favorite kitchen gadgets: a pancake batter dispenser. You pour the batter into the dispenser, then squeeze a handle and a small area opens on the bottom to let the pancake batter out. It lets you easily pour just enough batter into the pan without spilling batter everywhere. After making about 10 tiny pancakes, I was out of batter. I cut out the heart shapes and moved on to the rest of breakfast, which was way less eventful.

Heart Pancake

I quickly whipped up some scrambled eggs with fresh spinach, and sliced an apple. Once everything was cooked and ready, I placed a rose (which I stole out of the dozen I bought her. Shhh.) on a serving tray and brought it in to Amanda. She woke up to the delicious smell of breakfast and was extremely happy.

Breakfast in Bed

We spent the rest of the day together, hanging out, watching season 1 of Better Call Saul, and playing Hyrule Warriors. It was a great way to spend Valentine’s Day together.

Silk Almond Milk Pancakes
Buy a pancake batter dispenser on Amazon

Chocolate Feast

Since Valentine’s Day is the premier dating holiday, and since we are currently doing date night every night, we wanted to make the whole weekend dating themed. We’ve had a lot of fantastic dates this year so far, but we’ve not done a lot of the stereotypical “date night” dates yet. Going dancing was supposed to be our first big Valentine’s date, but since that didn’t work out, our first Valentine’s activity, was a Valentine’s Day Chocolate Lover’s Feast at The Museum of American Glass in West Virginia. This isn’t exactly a standard date, but it’s full of chocolate, a Valentine’s staple.

This year is the second year the museum has put on the Chocolate Feast, but it is our first time attending. After we walked in and got our tickets, we grabbed a plate and wandered down the rows of chocolate delights made by local bakers.

chocolate buffet

They had chocolate cookies and chocolate brownies and chocolate pastries and chocolate fudge. There were nuts dipped in chocolate, pretzels dipped in chocolate, marshmallows dipped in chocolate, and a chocolate fountain to dip anything else you wanted in chocolate. They had chocolate on fruits and, my personal favorite, chocolate on bacon. The craziest thing was a Lance toasted cheese/peanut butter cracker covered in chocolate. We did not know what to expect from that, but it was surprisingly good. To drink, there was Mexican hot chocolate and chocolate wine. We picked up an assortment of different chocolates to share, because we couldn’t have possibly eaten all of the things we wanted to try by ourselves. While we ate, we enjoyed some live keyboard music that was very soothing. Amanda was sure that she heard the theme from The Hobbit, but I’m not convinced. We did hear Endless Love, plus a lot of other classic 80s love songs.

Plate full of delicious chocolate treats

All of the chocolates were delicious. The ones with fruit were really refreshing after so much other chocolate. After we enjoyed our sweets, we took a look around the museum. They had glassware from all around America, but a lot of pieces were made here in West Virginia. There were a lot of glass factories around the state, each making unique and interesting pieces. Our two favorite collections were the perfume bottles and a set of glassware with a fire-like gradient.

Collection of glass perfume bottles

Glassware with a fire-like gradient

It was a very sweet couple hours. We saw some really interesting historical pieces, ate some delectable chocolate treats, and enjoyed some live music. Overall, it was a great date. If you happen to be near Weston, WV, the Museum of American Glass in West Virginia is worth the trip, even without the chocolate buffet.

Museum of American Glass in West Virginia

Deadpool Premier

Tonight would normally be Video Game Thursday, but instead, we’re going out to a movie premier with friends. We love going to the movies. Our first date was a movie. We also love seeing movies as soon as we can, which used to mean midnight on release day. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but midnight premiers somehow became 10-PM-the-previous-day premiers, and 10 PM premiers have somehow become 7 PM premiers. Teenager Adam would be disappointed by not staying up most of the night to watch a movie. Adult Adam is thankful he can go to bed before work. Teenager Adam is disappointed by Adult Adam.

A lot of our friends wanted to see the movie as well, so we claimed most of a row at the theater for a 7 PM show. We grabbed popcorn at the concession stand, because what’s date night at the movies without popcorn? We had originally thought that with the R rating of the movie, we wouldn’t have to be there too early to get good seats, but when we got there about 20 minutes early, the theater was already starting to fill up.

At the theater for Deadpool

Tonight was the early premier of Deadpool. Deadpool is from the Marvel universe, but he is not what you’d call a hero, and certainly not what you’d expect if you’ve seen any of the other Marvel movies. In fact, he’ll correct you that he’s not a hero, followed by a long string of expletives impugning your character. And probably the way you look. And definitely the way you smell. He’s a sarcastic, wise-cracking, quick-witted mutated human with extreme regeneration powers. He takes a lot of damage, sometimes on purpose because he’s crazy, but he always regenerates. That also frequently makes him reckless.

A lot of movies now will release trailers that show a few random funny parts, but that ends up being almost all of the comedy in the entire movie. Deadpool was not like that. I honestly don’t remember the last time laughed so hard at a movie and heard so much laughter in a theater. Deadpool’s irreverent treatment of everything, including the movie itself, was hilarious. The entire opening scene, which would normally have credits for the actors, producers, writers, etc, just had a long list of things like “Directed by an Overpaid Tool.” The character frequently breaks the fourth wall, talking directly to the audience. Other characters call him on it, asking him who he is talking to. He just ignores them and continues talking to the audience. Deadpool will keep you laughing from start to finish.

This movie is not for the easily offended. The movie, like the character, goes out of its way to be offensive. Here is just a short list of all the people that Deadpool purposely tries to offend, in no particular order;

  • old women
  • teenagers
  • the blind
  • the bald
  • basically everyone

That list is nowhere near complete, but it’s a start. He also curses pretty much every chance he gets. So, if you’re not easily offended, go see this movie. We’re already considering pre-ordering the Blu-Ray because it was so good. At the time of writing, it has an 8.8/10 on IMDB and a 84% fresh rating with Rotten Tomatoes, both of which I feel are undervaluing this film.

As an aside, it’s incredibly hard to write about a brand new movie without spoiling anything. Deadpool, however, has no problem spoiling movies. Stay till after the credits. Spoilers.

Pre-order Deadpool on Blu-Ray on Amazon
Deadpool on IMDB
Deadpool on Rotten Tomatoes

Swing Dancing Lesson

Besides dancing in the kitchen while cooking, we have only danced together twice: once at our wedding and once in Cozumel after a few Margaritas. At friends’ weddings, we usually don’t dance and other than weddings, occasions rarely arise for us to don our dancing shoes.

Having date night every night for us means trying new things. One of the dates that we have planned for this weekend is going to a Valentine’s Day dance. Also, Amanda’s best friend is getting married soon. (Hi Katie.)
We’re eventually going to have to dance in public, but with our lack of skills, we figured that starting at home would probably be best to learn the basics.

There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube about how to dance in just about every style imaginable, and after browsing for a bit, we found one that would teach us how to swing dance, claiming that it would teach us the basics in less than 30 minutes. It didn’t require any background knowledge, which suited our experience level perfectly.

After clearing some space in our living room, we were ready to go. We started with some simple steps. After we got a decent rhythm, we moved on to combinations and turns. In between learning moves, we’d pause the video, play some Glenn Miller Orchestra (Hi Lori.), and practice the moves. Amanda’s favorite move was the “Dishrag Out,” a twirling transition from a different twirl back to a bridge step. My favorite was the windmill turn, which has both people spinning together. Both look really impressive.

It took longer than 30 minutes, but we learned a lot. We had fun, even though a lot of feet were stepped on. We’re not sure if our dancing in public will be coordinated, but at least our kitchen dancing will improve.

The 100 Marathon

Snow dayyyyy! Ok, now that that is out of my system. Because we had all day, in lieu of our typical Tabletop Tuesday festivities, we decided to do a whole day event since we haven’t had a free day in the middle of the week in a while. Since it is cold outside, the best way to spend the day is curled up together on the couch, so we got a bunch of blankets, piled them high on the couch, and had a marathon of The 100.

The 100 is a show set 97 years after a catastrophic nuclear war wipes out life on Earth. There were space stations from twelve nations in orbit at the time, which later joined together to form the Ark, the last bastion of humanity. The series starts out with 100 incarcerated teenagers being loaded into a giant drop ship and sent to Earth. Since all crimes on the Ark are capital crimes, they are being sent to Earth as guinea pigs to test conditions on the ground. They find out that the Earth is livable, but are unable to clearly communicate that back to the Ark.

The story quickly unfolds as the back stories and motivations for the characters become more clear, both on the ground and on the Ark. At first, the ground crew behaves pretty much as you’d expect a bunch of teenagers to after they’ve been locked up and set free: they throw a wild party because, well, who is going to stop them? They quickly start having problems with basic survival needs, such as shelter, food, and water, and have to figure out how to just live together outside the confines of a space ship. The main characters on the Ark are the Chancellor and Councilors leading the ship. The Chancellor and one of the council members are the parents (not with each other) of two of the kids who are sent to Earth. There is a lot of scheming and power plays at first, then as things go wrong on the ship, they have to learn to put aside their differences for the good of everyone.

The story involves a lot of questions of morality as the fate of the entire human race lies with these few survivors. There is drama as relationships, both platonic and romantic, start and dissolve. There is intrigue as the teenagers form a society and politics change on the Ark. The pacing is great, with periods of tension steadily building up to a climax, followed by a big reveal that satisfies the tension, but leaves obvious open questions. The writing is awesome, the acting is spot-on, and the set design is fantastic.

The first season is 13 episodes, and the second season has 16. The third season just premiered on January 21st, so we’re going to try to catch up and watch as it airs, which is currently Thursdays at 9 PM on the CW. We made it most of the way through the first season thanks to our good friend, Netflix. This year, we’ve been tying to avoid just sitting at home, doing nothing but watch Netflix, but some days are just made for that.

Chat Pack: Favorites

We had a long day. After spending the day getting ready for our yearly super bowl party that we’re hosting tomorrow, date night was a little hard to squeeze in tonight.
Amanda found some conversation starter cards online made by Chat Pack that ask about different favorite things. The rules are simple, you pick any card from the deck and ask a question. You should try to avoid one-word answers and try to make each topic a conversation. There are a total of 156 questions on the cards in this pack. Some of the question examples are:
Favorite modern convenience?
Favorite way to travel?
Favorite song from your high school years?

We had fun picking out questions and answering them. Some of these we didn’t know about each other. Part way through the deck, we switched up the game. We’d both think of our answers, then the other person would try to guess how we would answer about our favorites. Some of the guesses we got wrong, and some we were just being silly about.

Chat Pack: Favorites

We’ve been married for over 3 years, but this was still a great way to get to know more about each other. Almost every card that we answered had a story that accompanied it. We went through a few dozen questions, which was more than we thought we would get through after the long day that we had. Our final question was a fitting end to the date: What’s your favorite 30 minutes of a typical day? That’s easy: Date night every night.

Buy Chat Pack Favorites on Amazon. There are many variations of the game, but Favorites seemed like an interesting topic to start.

Zombie Fortress Planning

Every month, we look forward to receiving our Loot Crate. A friend from EverQuest told us all of the things she got from one of the crates, so we checked it out and have been hooked ever since. For those not familiar, Loot Crate is a monthly subscription service that sends a box of themed, geeky goodies to your house. They announce the theme each month, but the contents are always a surprise.

We have gotten some really fun things from them. They frequently send geeky T-shirts, Funko Pop! figures, and other geek paraphernalia. A few of my favorites have been: a Doc Brown from Back to the Future Pop! figure; a T-shirt of Optimus Prime in the style of Tron; a Galaxy Quest National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA) patch; and a White/Green Ranger from Power Rangers T-shirt. Amanda really liked the Star Wars: The Force Awakens socks; the Doctor Who sonic spork; and a knit Pikachu hat with Pokeballs on tassels.

They also have a very active community. Each month as part of the crate and on their site, they feature fan-sumbitted pictures of people with random previous Loot Crate merchandise. They also run contests for various prizes, which is what piqued our interest this month. This month’s theme is DEAD! It’s almost Valentine’s Day and nothing says “love” quite like the undead. Or something like that. Anyway, the contest they are running this month is to submit a design for your ultimate zombie hideout. That sounded like a fun date night to us.

For this thought experiment, we decided that we had unlimited funds. Go big or go home. The first thing we needed was location, location, location. If you’re going to be stuck in one place, hiding from zombies, unable to leave because the undead want to eat your brains, what’s the best place you could think of to be stuck? We debated living in the mountains for an easily defensible position with a good view. We debated the plains for ease of travel in case we were going to get overrun. But, we decided that our location would be on our own private tropical island with a tall hill/mountain in the center with a fresh-water lake somewhere on the hillside. Does it exist? Maybe, maybe not. But with unlimited funds, we could make it exist.

Next up, we need a really strong home base. Our home base will sit near the top of the mountain. Since we’re on a tropical island, we assume we’re going to be getting the occasional tropical storm. The house needs to withstand the winds, not flood from the rains, and keep us safe in the process. If it can withstand a tropical storm, it should be able to withstand the undead. Since we’re going big, our walls will be two parts. For the inner layer, we will use thick reinforced concrete, treated to be water resistant. For the outer layer, we will use thick granite blocks, both to improve the look of the exterior as well as to improve our defense. Let’s see a zombie claw his way through a slab of granite. We are going to have a slightly trapezoidal house, with the top slightly out further than the base to resist climbing. That should be a really good foundation for our house.

Near the house will be our main garden. Our growing season should be fairly long, so keeping ourselves in food shouldn’t be too much of an issue. We will also raise chickens to have eggs. We will keep a seed bank stocked up with multiple years of replant seeds, plus save seeds from the harvest year to year.

On to external security. Since we have the tropical island, we want to be able to use the beaches, so we’ll build our external security wall a little ways inland from the edge of the beach. This will extend 5-10 feet into the ground and at least 15 feet above it. This will be designed like a castle wall with a parapet to give us a walkway across the top to survey the perimeter, as well as defend it. Just below the parapet, we will run razor wire along the entire outer perimeter. There will be a few gates to allow us to get in and out of the outer wall at set distances, and these will all be heavily reinforced. We will then build a few sets of thick chain-link fences all the way around the island to give us a few fallback points, with the fence nearest the house being electrified.

Electricity. Power. We need that. Being in the tropics means lots of sun, so solar power is an obvious solution. We will have a main and a backup battery bank to store the energy we don’t immediately use. We will also have a few small wind turbines to borrow some energy from the breeze. As a last resort, as part of the house, we will put a couple of exercise bike generators to give us exercise and charge the batteries. Yeah, it’s not much power, but some is better than none. We’ll use the highest efficiency appliances, electronics, and lighting that are available to reduce our power needs. We will also need that for the communications gear that we will have.

What good zombie plan doesn’t include a massively fortified bunker? We know ours does. Underground, built into the mountain, but connected to the house through a nicely concealed trap door will be our last-resort bunker. This is where we will keep our backup food and water stores, our backup battery bank, two backup copies of all necessary equipment, and a spare comfortable living area, just in case. With all of the other fortifications, we should never need this, but better safe than sorry.

Finally, since we’ll be stuck indoors sometimes, we need an amazing entertainment room. We’ll stock it with every movie, TV show, and book every made. We’ll have a giant projector to watch movies on a big screen, and have comfy chairs to watch from. We’ll also stock it with a huge selection of tabletop games and puzzles to keep ourselves entertained.

Wow, that’s a pretty solid start. Oh, to only have unlimited funds. This date night was a lot of fun because it kept us talking and bouncing ideas off each other for as long as we decided to continue.

Get Loot Crate

A month of dating…

Wow. We have completed an entire month of date nights. We’re now 1/12 of the way to our goal of a whole year of dates. We’ve had a lot of fun along the way and we hope you’ve had fun reading along, and have gotten a few ideas for date nights of your own. It’s been a fairly cold month, so we had lots of indoor activities. We’re already looking forward to Spring so we can get outside more often, but we have plenty of interesting indoor activities left to do.

As a preview for February, we have a couple small crafting projects, one or two construction projects, Taste of China on Chinese New Year for our second cultural experience, a concert, and many more activities lined up. Stay tuned. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!