A Little Romance on Valentine’s Day

I have been a cheesy, hopeless romantic for as long as I can remember. This began when I was young and was fostered by the books I read, classic movies I watched, and creative writing in journals long gone. I adored the writings of the Bronte sisters, and the often tragic love stories of Shakespeare. I soaked up Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables wishing for my own Gilbert Blythe, and dreamed of being Christy traveling to the Appalachian Mountains to teach school. Twenty-fours years with Audley and I’m still that same romantic.

Tulips from Mr. Jones … just because

It’s easy to keep romance in our relationship as I am married to a man who, while not as hopeless as I, romances me in his own sweet ways. During the years we’ve been together he has planned special dinners, brought home little gifts or flowers when I least expected it, and refused to take gift ideas from me or the kids because he wants to pick out that perfect birthday or Christmas present himself. Whatever it is, it’s always special because Audley thought of me. To be truthful though, it’s the little things that mean so much. He loves the cheesy dates I pull together, including the ones where we just stay in.

These are some of my favorite moments. There is nothing more cozy that being in your own space without the world and its crazy distractions closing in around you.

With Valentine’s Day just a couple of days away (and on a week day), we took the time over the weekend while Audley was off from work, for a little relaxation, quiet time, and “cheesy” romance. With a fire in the fireplace and a nontraditional snack, it was the perfect time for conversation and reconnecting. Being romantic is a way to savor each and every moment you and your spouse have together; enjoying the unique journey you are taking together. Romance is such a simple way to show affection, and is not as difficult as people would like for you to think it is.

For our romantic evening in, Audley built a cozy fire in the fireplace, we found a fabulous country station on Spotify playing a little George Strait, Alan Jackson, Shenandoah, Reba, and Randy Travis, and I put together a wine and fruit board that we could snack on while talking.

While simple, this is such a wonderful way to spend time together. In a time where we are always on the move, disconnecting from the world is very needed for every marriage. You never realize how much the world infringes on your time, space and mind until you unplug!

Baker’s Dark chocolate and white chocolate melts; I just used sprinkles, pecans & mini chocolate chips on hand for decorating.  

Evenings in like this are also wonderful when finding a babysitter is difficult. Find something to occupy your kiddos or send them to bed, then enjoy each other’s company. Schedule simple couple time regularly, just as if you were scheduling a meeting at work. Be mindful in keeping romance in your relationships, and unplug from the world!

Aldi’s special cheese collection for Valentine’s Day.  BTW, Aldi has a great assortment of flavorful cheeses on a regular basis.  Its worth checking out!

My favorite part about this simple night in is that it didn’t cost much at all! Since it is close to Valentine’s Day, Aldi had these fantastic heart shaped cheeses along with some unique flavors (Wensleydale cheese with raspberries and white chocolate, aged cheddar, & cranberries with Wensleydale) in the store. I just paired them with crackers and made my own chocolate dipped strawberries for 1/8 of the cost of Godiva. Paired with non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice (Aldi had a Rosé grape juice cocktail) and crackers, this was the perfect platter to relax with and enjoy.

By the way, the cost of our evening in was around $23. That’s it.

When you look back over your years together, these are the simple moments you will remember and treasure. Take some time and plan your own “cheesy,” romantic evening in. You won’t regret it!

Valentine’s Date Night In

It’s the beginning of that week in February that everyone loves to hate: Valentine’s Day.

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If you ask most people, It seems they would rather skip Valentine’s Day, and feel it’s an overrated, commercial event.

I’m just the opposite, being a hopeless romantic I absolutely adore Valentine’s Day! It’s such a fun holiday whether you celebrate it with a sweetie, your kids, or gal pals! And despite what so many like to think, you don’t even have to spend a fortune to make it special!

Money doesn’t equate love, but thought, time and effort definitely show how much you care.

This week I’m sharing several ways to celebrate this holiday of love with your significant other, girl friends. & even yourself. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to find a whole new side of Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is on a Thursday this year, and you know as well as I do all the “good” restaurants were booked weeks ago. If you hit the local steak house, you’re going to be waiting for hours and looking over the movie guide there isn’t a thing worth seeing at the local theater!

So who ever said you have to go out for Valentine’s?

How about a movie night in?

If you don’t have grandparents nearby to entertain the kids for a little bit, after supper send those kiddos toddling off to bed early, (they’ll get over it), dim the lights, light a few candles, grab a box of donuts, a couple of mugs of hot chocolate and your favorite cheesy rom-coms for a cozy night for two!

This is the ultimate evening in; pajamas and donuts (oh my!), a patchwork quilt, and laughter as you just unwind together.

Need ideas for cute romance movies?

Try these:

You’ve Got Mail

Sleepless in Seattle

The Princess Bride

Kate and Leopold

Sabrina

Never Been Kissed

and Audley’s favorite, the Little Rascals (He’s such an Alfalfa fan)

The cost of this date? If you make your hot chocolate from scratch and add whipped cream, around $25.00 (a dozen conversation heart donuts from Krispy Kreme is $10.99).

By the way, you can’t even go to the movies for $25.

You don’t have to fight crowds. You’re able to spend time with your kids before sending them off to bed. Donuts taste way better than stale popcorn at the theater. And if you fall asleep snuggled in a patchwork quilt with you spouse on the sofa, it’s even more romantic.

Want to make the evening a little more romantic? Plan it ahead of time with your spouse, and send each other messages throughout the day to keep the excitement up for those few simple hours together. Use quotes from the movie you’ve picked out, conversation heart messages, or just a text saying how much you’re looking forward to sharing a little time with them that evening. You can make your messages a little spicy if you choose…. and I’ll just leave that here for you to ponder.

Love it or hate it, like anything else in life, Valentine’s Day is what you make of it. Try something new this year and see what happens!

Be sure to stop back by tomorrow for another easy, inexpensive date for Valentine’s Day!

What’s your opinion of Valentine’s Day? Let’s hear your thoughts!

Old-Fashioned Apple Jelly

My favorite orchard in North Alabama announced last call on apples over the weekend.

The trees are no longer producing quality fruits, and apple season is ending as the first frosts are threaten the South. This doesn’t mean you have to wait another year for that tasty autumn flavor! Nothing is as delightful (nor as cozy) as homemade jelly topping hot, flaky biscuits on a cold weekend for breakfast, brunch or even supper with the family!

Fresh Picked Orchard Apples

Apple jelly, while a little time-consuming, is really quite worth the small amount of work as you savor each bite throughout the year. I stepped out of my comfort zone this year and made our apple jelly without commercial pectin.

Did you know commercial pectin is actually a derivative of apples? This delicious fruit is loaded with natural sugars which make it an ideal experiment for old-fashioned jelly making.

Old Fashioned Apple Jelly

Taking about 6 pounds of Granny Smith and Rome Beauty apples, I chopped them up (core and all) and placed in a large stock pot with six cups of water. When choosing apples for your jelly keep in mind that tart apples (Granny Smith, Fuji, Honey Crisp) have more pectin. Also, the more an apple ripens, the less pectin it will have, so choose slightly underripe apples. This is where picking your own at an orchard comes in handy!

Apple Jelly Prep

I allowed my apple mixture to simmer about 25 minutes until the apples were nice and soft. Lining a colander with cheese cloth over a large bowl, I carefully and slowly poured the entire pot of apples and juice into it, allowing the juices to start draining so I didn’t overfill. I had about 7 cups of juice, which is slightly more than you need for this recipe.

Pulp for Apple Jelly

{Save what’s left, chill and drink it. The taste is unforgettably delicious !}

Fresh Apple Juice

Next, I added the juice to a large stockpot along with sugar and lemon juice, then brought it all to a boil. Even though your juice mixture might hit the 220° mark fairly quick, working without commercial pectin can be tricky. Test the jelly several times to see if it’s going to gel. Keep stirring it, so that it does not boil over while you’re waiting! To test for gel I took a cold spoon and dipped it into the boiling jelly, then dropped it over a cold plate. If the jelly forms a gel or began dripping very slowly, it’s probably ready. This was my first time making jelly without pectin, so there was a lot of uncertainty in my judgement!

Apple Jelly in Weck jars

Once the jelly was ready, I ladled it into sterilized jars, sealed with bands and lids, then processed in a water bath to seal them up for future use.

homemade apple jelly

Click Old Fashion Apple Jelly for the full, printable recipe.

Audley opened a jar the next day to top a Bojangles biscuit and deemed it absolutely perfect ! His seal of approval is all I need.

How do you preserve your favorite harvest flavors for later use? I would love to hear what your favorite ways to extend the season!

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Pumpkin Spice French Toast

Halloween (& a MUCH need vacation to the Caribbean last week) is over and we are snowballing into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays! I don’t know what the weather is where you are, but here in Georgia we have cooled off, the leaves are finally turning colors, and it’s been a wee bit rainy the last two days as we head into Saturday.

Before the rush of the holidays set in, it’s looking like a great weekend for breakfast or brunch in bed and I have a yummy recipe to fit the season and my mood… Pumpkin Spice French Toast!

Pumpkin Spice French Toast/Fiddle Dee Dee

With a little French bread, fresh pumpkin purée, eggs, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice you can whip this up in no time and savor a cozy weekend in.

Pumpkin SPice French Toast

Down time is so important for our health, well-being, and our marriages; we need to slow down and enjoy every moment we find together . I wish I had been better at this when my children were young, but honestly it’s always a good time to take better care of yourself and your relationships at home.

Pumpkin Spice French Toast Breakfast in Bed

There is absolutely nothing wrong with preparing a quick breakfast while in your pj’s and hopping right back into bed to share it with your spouse. A slow, flavorful breakfast in bed with your mate is just the perfect way to relax and enjoy time with one another before y’all become caught up in the busyness of the season! Tell the kids to watch cartoons, turn the phones off (unless you are waiting on a call from your Marine who has been in the field) and y’all laugh and talk together. It’s a cheap date worth taking. When you’re finished eating, toss the tray in the floor, allow the dog to lick the syrup of the plate and y’all take a nap!! Cherish a lazy Saturday morning. I know you need it!

Pumpkin Spice French Toast Breakfast in Bed

Click Pumpkin Spice French Toast to get the full printable recipe!

If you want to elevate this simple recipe, add whipped cream and pecans…. Oh yeah, it’s really delicious, and plan your late morning in bed!

Happy weekend y’all!

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