Great Cheap Date Challenge #17

Every Friday I post one of 52 Great Cheap Dates by Lynn Gordon. A friend of mine gave me this little deck of cards as a stocking stuffer so long ago, and one day while I was feeling adventurous, I pulled them out and enlisted my husband for a 52 week dating challenge. Every week, we pick a new adventure to do together. Some are out on the town and others take place right at home after the kids go to bed. Some of my favorite dates don’t even involve leaving the house! They simply require the two of us and a sense of humor. We are having a blast! And I welcome you to accept the challenge right along with us. This week’s challenge is rather perfect because Sunday is Clark’s 33rd birthday.

Bake a Cake

“Have yourselves a Betty Crocker date by poring through the best-sounding dessert recipes and choosing one that you might never tackle alone. Grocery shop for the ingredients, then make your outrageous creation from scratch as the evening’s entertainment. Be sure to have doilies and glasses of milk on hand.”

I’m pretty sure Spice Cake isn’t all that outrageous, but, I do have some pretty interesting cake molds. I wonder how Clark would feel about his birthday cake being in the shape of a giant bunny?

Yes. Let’s!

Let Them Eat Cake!

I just received a text from a woman asking me to design her daughters sweet 16 birthday cake. It was clearly from a wrong number since I this is the most creative cake I’ve ever done.

You can say it. It straight up looks like a Home Ec project. I used so much black dye in the frosting, it was practically inedible. But I was determined to make my son’s first birthday cake, so there you have it.

Although it was tempting to keep texting back and forth with the wrong number cake lady just for fun, I did come clean. Sadly, I am not a cake decorator though I do aspire to be. All of this cake talk got me thinking of a very special occasion that is just right around the corner. No, not Valentine’s Day (although I’m saving my plans for the Love Holiday for a later post). My sweetheart is turning 33 this Sunday! Such an occasion calls for his favorite Spice Cake (scroll down for a delicious recipe). Now, there are few things in this world that I love more than cake. Do you remember the scene at the end of the movie Patch Adams where the old woman gets to live her ultimate fantasy of wading in a swimming pool full of noodles? My version of that fantasy would involve buttercream frosting. But at the current moment, I am on a sweets fast. Yes, it is one of life’s cruelties. For several weeks now I have managed to banish refined carbohydrates from my presence, but given the special circumstances, I anticipate the temptation to lick the electric mixer paddle will be great, therefore, I’m enlisting the accountability now. A friend of mine once told me that when you’re tempted to eat something you shouldn’t, you should dump salt all over it and then it won’t be appetizing anymore. In this case, Clark may notice the excessive saltiness of his birthday cake. Does this means I’ll have to suck on the salt shaker while I’m baking?

Clark’s Favorite Spice Cake Recipe:


2 1/2 cups All Purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 cup milk

3 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup unsalted butter (softened)

2 cups dark brown sugar


Adjust oven rack to middle. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or foil) a metal 9″x13″ inch pan. Whisk dry ingredients and spices in a large bowl. Mix milk, eggs, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Beat soft butter into dry ingredients on low/medium speed. The mix will form pebble-sized pieces. Add 1/3 of the milk/egg/vanilla mixture and beat on low until smooth. Continue to add the milk mixture in thirds and beat at medium speed until the batter is just smooth. Add sugar and beat until it is just included (about 30 seconds). Pour batter into pan and bake an estimated 40 minutes (depending on your oven). Set pan on a wire rack to cool about 5 minutes. Run a knife along the perimeter of the pan and turn over onto a cake rack to let cool.

Bowling with Benefits


Big Balls. Little Balls. 

Have yourself a middle-American afternoon dressed in garb appropriate for a miniature golf game, or head to a putting green and whork out your whacks there. If you hate chasing those little white balls, head to the bowling alley (you do have your own shoes and bowling ball, yes?) for a cutthroat bowling tournament for two.”

Clark and I spent all day Friday looking forward to bowling a few frames at the Epicenter’s Strike City Lanes. We were placing bets, and I must say, the stakes were getting more provocative as the day went on. We showed up psyched because regardless of who won, we knew we would both make out okay. I should have been tipped off by the bouncers freezing outside the front door. Strike City soon struck out when we discovered it cost $45 an hour per lane. Excuse me? This is supposed to be a Great CHEAP Date Challenge. So, bowling for benefits turned into Shocktops and cheese sticks at the snack bar. I wasn’t too disappointed as we exchanged perhaps the first uninterrupted conversation of the entire week. It is a wonder how 2 people can share a name, a bed, and a checking account and in 5 days time only manage to squeeze in enough dialogue to ensure the garbage made it to the curb before trash day. I’m pretty sure we looked more like a newly dating couple than a married couple with 5 years and 2 kids under our belt, since the waitress did ask us if we wanted separate checks. I’ll take that as a good sign. Cheap Date Challenge #15… Good times without the embarrassing bowling score.

Just The Facts, Ma’am

“Both of you write down 20 personal questions on separate scraps of paper. Roll your questions up and drop them into separate bowls. Take turns pulling questions out of your date’s bowl and answering it. Each of you can exercise the right to not answer one question.”

Clark: “Buried or Cremated?”

Salina: “Buried.”

Salina: “What is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you?”

Clark: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” really works.

Clark: “Would you ever like to live on a farm”

Salina: “Absolutely.”

Salina: What would you say is my worst personality trait?

Clark: I’d like to waive this question please.

(Salina is thinking…. “smart man.”)

Clark: “What are 3 world cities you’d like to check out before you… check out.”

Salina: “Venice, Italy. Agra, India. Paris, France.”

Salina: “Who would you choose to star YOU in the movie of your life.”

Clark: “Johnny Depp or Glen Hansard.”

(Salina is thinking, “Glen Hansard?…. that’s random.”)

Clark: “What’s the greatest thing in your opinion about our marriage”.

Salina: “The confidence that comes with knowing we like being with each other more than with anyone else in the world.”

Salina: “Have you ever not told me the truth about something?”

Clark: “What kind of question is that?”

(Long pause)

Clark: “Can I go back and answer the ‘worst personality trait’ question instead?”

Salina: “No, you may not.”

Clark: “I like to think of it as loving… not lying.”

(Clark laughs awkwardly)


High-Tech Red Neck

The differences between men and women never cease to amaze me. I found this BoomCase Vintage Suitcase on Etsy last week, and I thought it would be a fun addition to Clark’s music studio (which by the way, we are putting the finishing touches on this week! Pictures soon to come.) This morning he caught me looking at it again online, and his face sort of contorted like it does when he’s changing one of Mia’s dirty diapers. He cocked his head to one side as if to say, “you can’t be serious”. The conversation went as follows:

Me: “What? don’t you think it would be a cool piece for your studio?

Clark: “It’s a piece all right.” (Translation: “It is a P.O.S. all right.”)

Me: “Look you can plug your ipod into it and it plays music.”

Clark: “Oh, so it’s like high-tech red neck?”

I laughed so hard and ultimately forfeited any hope for a rebuttal.

BoomCase closed!

Sunrise. Sunset. Giveaway!

Cheap Date Challenge #5

“Pick the best location to watch the sun come up or go down and, after consulting a time-table for either of these daily occurrences, rendezvous at the appointed time and spot with coffee and doughnuts or a thermos of soup and bread. Then settle into your front row seats for the big event.”

I envisioned us driving to the coast with our bagels and shmear to sit on a blanket in the white sand while gazing back and forth from the brilliance of each other’s eyes to the majestic display of the sun greeting another dawn. Our real life version of this fantasy went something like us parking down at the pond closest to my mother’s house and sitting in the back hatch of our mini van– me with a banjo case jammed up against the base of my spine and Clark in a hooded sleeve, only after paying dearly for trespassing onto mosquito territory. Oh the bliss. After an 11 hour drive in the car with our two children just 2 days earlier and the return trip home facing us for the coming day, the last thing Clark and I wanted to do was take another 2 hour round trip. So the pond it was. With some Einstein Brothers and some autumn roast, we claimed our muggy turf and gosh darnit, we watched the sunrise. As Clark was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes and swinging at hungry mosquitos, I had to laugh out loud when I realized that I had actually dragged my sweetheart from his bed to come join me, quite literally, in a van down by the river. (Chris Farley? Anyone?)

We had a blast although there was not much coherent thought or stimulating conversation happening at that early hour. We played “High Low”– a game where each person shares their high point and their low point of their day or week. We brushed up on our meteorology as we debated the difference between cirrus and cumulonimbus clouds. And, don’t ask me how we got on the topic of mimes, but somehow they snuck into our conversation as well. A bunch of seeming nothingness, but that is truly what I love about these times with Clark. We rarely retreat from the seriousness of life to just be and talk nonsense, and these random interactions once a week allow us to rediscover that we still enjoy each other’s presence more than we do anyone else’s. We concluded the morning with a guided meditation called the Sacred Space. It is something we like to do together each day to reconnect our awareness with God and each other.

So mosquitos, mimes, and meditation– Great Cheap Date challenge #5 complete and the alliteration queen is happy!

Oh, and guess what we got for the couple getting married this past weekend? Their very own set of 52 Great Cheap Dates by Lynn Gordon. As sentimental as the expandable cooling rack may be, perhaps you might consider giving this at your next wedding or bridal shower. In fact, that leads me to announce November’s give away. One lucky reader will win a set of 52 Great Cheap Dates by Lynn Gordon to enjoy with their sweetheart. You can enter to win by following the steps listed below.

Happy November everyone and good luck!

To Enter to Win:

1. Subscribe to my blog.

2. Leave a comment below.

3. For extra entries, twitter about this giveaway with a link back to my blog.

4. After you have posted on twitter, leave an additional comment below.

A winner will be chosen at random by the end of this month! Good luck!

Cheap Date Challenge #3

I told Clark that for this weekends’s Cheap Date Challenge, we were going to have to put on our creativity caps!

Cheap Date Challenge #3:

“Pick any page in the newspaper. Circle words in the stories or headlines that randomly catch your eye, and base your activities that evening on those words. For example, you might have circled “crowds”, “dogs”, “flying”, and “dairy products,” which clearly indicates a date to take the escalator up and down at the mall looking for friendly dogs and then sharing a milkshake.”

Please be fun. Please be fun. Please be fun!

Oh, well, there is always more Secret of Nimh

Music Mayhem

There are so many great things about having a husband that works from home. There is, however, a downside. My sweetheart is a musician, and a guitarist at that, so I have married into more wires, cables, pedals, and issues of Guitar Magazine than a girl could ever dream possible. Our first apartment was overrun with gear….. we didn’t have a coffee table, so I suggested we use one of Clark’s amps. It was at that moment we both realized that he needed his own music room. Otherwise, I was going to use his pedals as flower planters or something. We struck gold with our first home…. there was a sound treated music studio already in the basement when we found the place! It was beautiful….. Clark was swimming up to his neck in gear and it didn’t trickle into our other living spaces. No pedal planters. Above ground was a clean, organized, well-efficient use of space. Below ground was a growing web of electronics that looked like Radio Shack exploded in our basement. Two different worlds underneath the same roof. I didn’t venture into his space too often, other than for an impromptu song writing session, and we were both pretty o.k. with that. Shortly after moving to Charlotte, we began to miss our basement…. terribly. Our new place has a sun room that is visible through french doors so what was once tucked away from view is now the first thing people see when they walk through our front door. Hmmm…. if it is true that your home is your portfolio, then we look like we’re starting a chain of pawn shops. When Clark told me that Center City Sound Lab was expanding from guitar lessons to include song-writing coaching and consulting live performers, it was the motivation I needed to re-do the sun room studio. Right now, that space  looks about as inspiring as a storage closet.  There is NO way any top tens are comin’ out of there. Well, I may have bit off more than I can chew this time. I tore through the room over the weekend– painting walls and furniture and cleaning out boxes of… empty guitar string wrappers? Ugh…. sigh.It went from bad to worse as now Clark has set up shop to teach lessons from our living room! Amps and baby swings side by side…. my foyer looks like a yard sale that has been picked over. I am on a mission to finish the studio this week. I am using Clark’s *brand logo as my inspiration for the color scheme in the room.

I took his business card to Home Depot and the paint-“etician” matched the gray from the card in a much lighter shade for the wall color. Five cans of black spray paint later, I was high as a kite, but the furniture is no longer doo-doo brown. I’ve got a vision for some stenciling and interesting orange accessories. In the mean time, I may have had a little fun dressing up this clock.

It may not make the final cut, but hey, I was inspired. And that’s what this space is for, right?

*image by Nathan Longbrook at Creativity Mill

Into the “Woods”

Last week I asked Clark if there was a particular fairy tale he liked as a kid. He said “The Dark Crystal” was his favorite. I fell asleep during the movie so I had little hope for the book. Since I’m generally not one for fairy tales, I was more or less counting on him to choose one for our Cheap Date Night Challenge.

Cheap Date Night Challenge #2

“With a flashlight, blanket, and favorite fairy tale book in tow, find the most magical of forests or wooded areas in which to stage your nighttime story hour. And if you think fairy tales are for sissies, bring some Sherlock Holmes stories or, better yet, H.G. Wells instead. Don’t forget the thermos of hot chocolate and the box of animal crackers.”

Clark suggested we read The Secret of Nimh, which I found on Tuesday for a dollar at a used bookstore that smelled like kitty litter. I had my doubts once I learned that this story had something to do with rats and mice. I don’t care much for either. The mouse I found in my kitchen last month left me standing on top of my bed for the better part of the afternoon waiting for Clark to get home and rescue me. He didn’t think that was too cute. My friend Ashley came over an hour or so before our date on Saturday to bring me some fairy tale books that have a bit more adult humor. Just for clarification, this implies a story line that adults find humorous. This was NOT a clothing optional date night challenge. While Clark and I were checking out at the market with our frosted animal crackers (because the plain ones are disgusting) and a bottle of Barefoot pinot we ran into Martha who innocently asked us which fairy tale we chose for our date to which I responded, “Ashley gave us some adult fairy tales.” Clark, Martha, and the check out girl at Harris Teeter looked at me as if I had just gone streaking down the produce aisle. I turned 8 shades of red, promptly paid for my frosted animal crackers and left the store. So I feel the need to be as clear as possible on that point.

Duke offered to sit for Salem and Mia while we were out on our date. Duke (David Docusen) is my friend of 20 years who also happens to be my pastor. The thing about friends of 20 years who are also your pastor is that no matter how compelling the Sunday sermon may be, you can casually say things like, “Hey, remember when your nickname was Dookie?” A friendship like ours serves to pride-proof your life. I am totally comfortable leaving my kids with their “Uncle Duke”, however, I am not, nor will I ever be comfortable leaving him with 5oz of my breast milk. I know pastors are supposed to display a servant’s heart, and Duke does so more than any pastor I’ve ever known, but that is going above and beyond for any man. How does one respectfully say, “There are diapers in the top drawer and you can feed Mia at 8:30. There is a bottle of my breast milk on the counter. Oh and good luck with Leviticus.” I’m not sure if it was more awkward for him or for me, but needless to say, Pastor Dookie was a real trooper.

So Clark and I left our children and my breast milk with Duke and set out for our little dating adventure. We are city folk, so the only “magical forest” we could find was our community park. We toted our bag of tales with our flashlight and our basket of goodies to a patch of grass where we toasted to making it through the wilderness season. Over the course of the past year, we have had a baby, moved to a new city and started a business. Talk about topping the stress charts! The only thing that has come easy is taking each other for granted amidst so many other demands. As silly as it is to spend the night eating animal crackers and reading children’s books to each other, we learned that sometimes in order to simply enjoy one another again, we have to take the unconventional approach. Surprisingly, The Secret of Nimh was a hit! We were totally hooked until the cops came and asked us what we were doing in the park after dark. It was a most thrilling end to our magical experience.

Beasley vs. Norris

After Clark read my post from yesterday, he said that I didn’t exactly paint him in the most “manly” of lights. Perhaps it was when I said that he prefers girlie drinks or that he can quote Steel Magnolia’s. I think only a man truly confident in his manliness can admit to these qualities. However, I realized that I have not properly introduced him to this blogging community and therefore may leave much more than intended to the imagination.

Sooooo….. in my attempts to remedy any false impressions of my husband’s masculinity….

Introducing, Clark Beasley–  Guitar Shredder, Handy Man, Grilling Extraordinaire, Sci-Fi Lover and often times mistaken for Chuck Norris

There will be opportunities to get more acquainted with Clark in future posts, but for now let the record state that my husband is and always will be a male force to be reckoned with (Insert Tim Allen, Home Improvement grunt here).