That’s Italian!

While Clark was out of town this past weekend, I set to work preparing for our Great Cheap Date Challenge #6:

That’s Italian!

“Make cozy homemade spaghetti or pizza dinner. To help set the mood, have Italian opera playing in the background (if you don’t own any, public libraries often have audio collections). Relax later with a movie directed by Fellini or starring Sophia Loren.”

There are two things I love about this Cheap Date Challenge. Ok… three. I look forward to our dates all week. Not only am I excited to spend quality, kid-free time with Clark, but, secondly, the preparation is so much fun. I stumbled upon two Charlotte gems this week– one of which was this adorable little Italian market called Pasta & Provisions. It wasn’t easy trying to wheel a stroller through aisles of Italian wine, but we did make it out with a bottle of Quattro Mani (at 20% off– YES!), a pizza kit, and some canoli shells. The other was our neighborhood Visart video store, which let’s face it, is sandwiched between a comic book shop and a Dollar General, so I didn’t have high hopes of it having much more to offer than a few Westerns and a stranded copy of Glitter. Boy was I wrong! They had every new, old and foreign film imaginable– an entire Fellini section for heaven’s sake! I asked the girl behind the counter if they carried Marriage- Italian Style. She directed me to Divorce- Italian Style to which I informed her that I was making a selection for a date night with my husband whom I love and vowed to keep ’til death to us part. I made it out of there with Bread and Tulips, the least racy Fellini film I could find (Frederico was a bit ahead of his time). Nevertheless, their Hitchcock section alone left me with every intention of frequenting Visart Video in the upcoming winter months. Thirdly, I got an email from a reader this week informing me that her and her husband were doing the 52 Great Cheap Dates along with us. This made my heart smile. All joking aside, these weekly rendezvous have enriched our marriage so much. It really does feel like we’re dating again… which I guess is the whole point, but we are discovering each other in new ways and making some hilarious memories in the process. To all of you who have accepted the challenge along with us, welcome to the journey.

I may have felt a bit more prepared if our date night hadn’t been preceded by the church potluck dinner. I mean, nothing says romance quite like sausage balls, but still… we were racing out the door at 6 o’clock when I realized that I had been so focussed on our date, I didn’t have a dish to bring to the potluck. So, as we were leaving, I threw a bottle of Tums in my purse. We eat them like candy after one of these gatherings so I thought, why not share the relief with the rest of the party? We barely made it to the Shell station for a quick fill-up when I happened to stumble on the greatest post-Halloween Obama mask lying next to the fuel pump. Yes, that is incredibly gross, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to plant it somewhere unexpected at the party– you know… for kicks and giggles. You’re washing your hands in the bathroom and suddenly look up to find an eyeless, toothy grinned, plastic Obama face staring back at you. So, with my Tums, Obama, and my two children, we made it to the feast, but I didn’t realize that in all the frenzy, I had forgotten to put shoes on Salem’s feet! So, there he is running around the party in his blue zebra socks, when I suddenly became so overwhelmed! Twenty minutes and a sausage ball later, we were back in the car headed home to get the kids to bed….. and I’m supposed to follow that excitement with a date night?!

We ate our pizza by tapered candlelight with Mia still attached to me for her bedtime feeding… not exactly the scene I had pictured. But we put her to bed just in time for Fellini and canolis (recipe to come!). Our bellies were full of Italian goodness, and the Quattro Mani was starting to work its magic. Bread & Tulips delivered a few laughs in a random, European film sort of way. And then I did the unthinkable– I fell asleep! Potluck and Zebra socks had left me completely wasted before our date had even started.

I demand a do-over!

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