While Mr Blackwell and I enjoy another long hot summer in one of the United States' most beautiful small towns a small - OK, a very small - part of me is missing the New Zealand winter. Specifically, the special qualities that the winter months bring to dates with my husband.
While up here in the northern hemisphere we can continue to ride our Pashleys to date night, I occasionally find myself longing for a chilly evening out; wrapped up in a smart wool coat, a fine hand-knitted scarf, a pair of ankle boots and precisely applied makeup that I know won't immediately be ruined by summer perspiration.
If you're looking for winter appropriate date ideas for you and your sweetheart, here are five of my favourites:
1. The Breakfast Date
It's so dark so early in winter that it can feel like a major deterrent to date night. Once you're home and you've got the fire on it can feel difficult to tear yourself away and go out for the evening. But mornings are a whole different story.
Everyone knows a cafe that has a cosy atmosphere and a breakfast date - especially during the week days - can be an ideal way to fit in a little extra time with your love.
2. The Drive Home Date
It doesn't get any easier to prepare for than this date and it's perfect for anyone who shares an after-work commute with their flame.
Step 1: During your lunch break, pick up a couple of bottles of your favourite sparkling water and a fancy bag of salted nuts. (Not the chocolate coated ones! Tut tut!)
Step 2: Leave off your audiobooks, radio stations or regular commute entertainment and turn on some background music instead (this is one of our favourites) and enjoy the pre-dinner time with the love of your life. Make a point to set aside topics like the kids, work or other everyday distractions and focus on big picture themes.
If you need a prompt after all these years, you poor things, try one of these:
- Where shall we go on our next holiday? Mr Blackwell and I make it a rule to always have our next holiday planned in advance and have something special to look forward to and that often feels most needed during the winter months. Whether it's a weekend getaway or a month on the other side of the world, discuss where you'd like to go, sights you'd like to see, food and wine you want to drink.
- Create a planting plan for your summer veggie garden. Six months from now on a sunny weeknight, what would you like to pull from the garden and serve for dinner?
- Review your life together through your photo albums. Obviously the reviewing part is a job for the person who doesn't have their hands on the steering wheel. Just grab your phones, open up the photo albums and reminisce about some of your favourite times together.
- Make plans for your next date night! I know, so meta.
If you think this date doesn't sound very romantic, feel free to exercise one of our standing rules for car travel. We call it the Red Light Rule: anytime you're stopped at the red lights, lean over and give your honey a wee peck.
3. The Double Date
Some of our closest friendships have started with this date and we try to do this at least four times a year.
Decide on a couple that you know, but that don't really know you: friends of friends, someone you work with but you don't know their spouse or partner, someone you just admire and think you might get along with - and invite them over to your place for a dinner.
This is the highest effort date on the list but if you like to cook and entertain this one is a great chance to impress some potential new friends. As well, you and your squeeze can plan the menu, the drink matches and the playlist.
On the night of the double date, we've found that it works best when one of us takes responsibility for getting the food and snacks on the table, and the other looks after drinks - including water - making sure nobody has an empty glass.
4. The Winter Dress-Up Date
Do you ever stroll out the door on a Saturday in the same clothes you've had on all day? Well, it's time to up the personal presentation for this particular date.
Give yourself a good hour before you're scheduled to leave:
- Put on some of your fancy threads - even if you're just headed for the local pub, you can never really be over dressed. Think about the last time you were at a wedding or a special occasion and how your significant other looked at you in all your finery. Recreate those lusty heart eyes by putting a little extra effort into your appearance.
- Ladies: This transformation includes your hair, makeup and fingernails.
- Gentlemen: shave or groom that face-fuzz, put on a splash of cologne and iron a shirt with a collar.
- When you get to your destination, enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail before you even order any food. This gives the two of you a good 20-30 minutes of focused time before you are distracted by the meal. If you need conversation starters, see the suggestions above for The Drive Home Date.
5. The Sunday Afternoon Book Date
Even after all of these years, Mr Blackwell and I rarely find ourselves struggling for conversation and often surprise ourselves by how many hours can go by at dinner without a pause in the conversation.
But one thing we've found that consistently enriches our dinner patter is when we each have a few hours to indulge in a good non-fiction book and can - literally - bring brand new ideas to the table to share. Set yourselves up by a cosy fire, or the best corner of the couch for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon and then share what you learned over dinner, whether that's at home or out in the village.
If you have any winter date suggestions that you think should be added to the list, please be sure to send them in for inclusion on the next list.