Journal entry – 4 August 2015, Tues

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

We’ve really been enjoying the R Campground and town, so we decided to see if we can get the Passport America rate extended on through Friday. After a “discussion” of who should call, I end up with the task, which I do while exploring town. We walked to the riverfront park and decide to explore separately.


I go find the Redbox inside the HyVee, peruse the hardware store and check out the Mooney Collection in the library. It is a really nice collection of prints from the early 1900s by a son of the city. Includes work from Picasso, Rembrandt, Albrecht Durer and more. Well presented and displayed – even has an iPad friendly website to help guide you through it (and iPads available from the library). Before leaving the library I look through a painting magazine and find some inspirations for an artist statement.


On the way back to the RV I read about the 1/4 mile of white water that the city had built into the river, about the rain garden installation in the park, and check out some of the sculptures scattered throughout the city.


Charles City seems to be a great mix – small size yet big enough to have the features that interest us. Lots of local culture, art projects, a coffee shop, local restaurants, and even some whitewater and tubing right in the middle of town.


Ashley returns to the RV and proposes date night, since everything is walkable. That sounds great and we are more than overdue, so we begin getting ready for the evening. She really enjoyed checking out town, exploring boutiques and more.

My beautiful date!

Ready, we walk down through the park and over to Three C Bistro. We have been curious about duck so Ashley orders that, with a raspberry glaze over mushroom risoto. It was delicious! As was my stuffed porkchop and mashed potatoes. If their lunch is as good as their supper, we would really love this place!


(And, since we don’t have a work schedule to plan around, we need to remember to have lunch dates. They were by no means unreasonable, but their lunch prices were much more palatable.)

After eating we stroll over to the downtown movie theater. Only one show a night, only $2 a ticket, and held in what appears to also be a theater stage. Tonight it’s packed! The Central Park next door has some sort of festivity going on and the theater is packed full of children and their parents – and us, dressed up. 🙂


Movie of the week is “Inside Out” by Pixar and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Very cute. I particularly appreciated the scene during the credits that explains why cats act how they do.

After the movie we walked through the dusk back home and head to bed.

Fallacy of the Expensive Date

I was recently talking with a friend about going on dates. She stated that she couldn’t go out, because she didn’t have the money. To which I replied, “Hogwash! Of course you can, you’re just going about it wrong. Dates don’t have to be expensive.”

When I say “date”, what do you picture?

Is it some image of getting dressed up in special clothes, guys picking up the ladies, then heading out for an expensive dinner followed by a movie or a trip to a favorite bar? If so, then you’re stuck with the formal, old-fashioned definition of a date.

In reality, a date is simply spending time with someone that you may have a romantic interest in, for the purpose of getting to know them better. Whether you are finding out if you like more than their appearance on a first date or strengthening a decades-long relationship, the time spent together is the important part. Knowing the true purpose of the date frees us from any formal definition.

With the focus simply being to spend time together to get to know someone better, there are limitless possibilities of things to do and places to go. You are no longer restricted to a restaurant-then-movie format. In fact, you don’t have to eat at all. There is no law stating that a date must involve food.

Cheap Dates

It is nice to share a meal while on a date, but there are many variations that you can try.

  • Go during a different time of the day. Many restaurants have lunch specials that are cheaper than the same meal later in the day.
  • Go out to eat, but only have dessert. Why not?
  • Prepare food at home. A common bit of money-saving advice is to prepare your own food. Cooking together can be great fun, so enjoy it as a date!
  • Go on a picnic. Don’t want your date to see where you live just yet? You can still cook, or just pick something up, but who says that you have to eat inside?

Because you are focusing on the other person’s company, there is no requirement to “have fun” as almost any shared activity will be exciting for you.

  • Peruse a book or music store together. You will discover each others’ tastes while finding numerous subjects to talk about.
  • Talk a walk. If the weather is nice, head out for a stroll. Visit a park or explore your city on foot. Stop and get coffees or snacks, but get them to go.
  • Play a game. Inside, outside, as a couple or with friends, old-fashioned board (or card) games can provide hours of entertainment, and are far more interactive than a video game is.

(You can find even more date ideas here and here.)

Have fun, don’t break the bank

Dating is supposed to be fun. It’s easy to become too serious about the results, or about what you’re “supposed to do”. Relax, focus on the person you’re with, and have a good time. Be open to opportunities that may not be traditional. Expend your more of your creativity and less of your money. Most importantly, enjoy yourself.

Redefining Romance

Holding hands silhouetted in front of sun set over water

Everything is better when you share it

What comes to mind when you think of romance? Do you picture a fancy restaurant with roses and candles on the table? Maybe some live music in the background? While that certainly would be romantic, it’s not the only way to go.

Contrary to popular opinion, romance is not a one time event, reserved for special occasions. It is not something that you have, but is something that you do, and do on a recurring basis. According to the dictionary, romance can be either a type of story or an action. Unless you live in a book or a movie, we’re not concerned with the story, but with what we can do:

[v. roh-mans]
1. to seek the affections of romantically; woo
2. treat with feelings of great intensity and warmth
3. be considerate and courteous to women

As you can see, the definition is fairly simple. Why, then, do we tend to make it so complicated? While I lay much of the blame on popular culture (movies tend to portray romance as whirl-wind love affairs or one time events), much of the confusion occurs because we don’t have a good understanding of how to be romantic.

What is romance?

Sterile dictionary definition aside, what exactly is romance? Nothing more than a daily series of small actions that serve to express our love. People show love in different ways, and so the exact combination will be different for everyone. Perhaps your wife feels loved through physical contact; then you would romance her by holding her hand, giving her back rubs, touching her arm, and otherwise physically touching her. Maybe she responds best when you do things for her; in which case you would make it a point to do things like washing the dishes, making the bed, or vacuuming.

You will notice that none of these cost any money, nor are they taxing, time-consuming tasks. A combination of such simple, small actions are all that you need to show your spouse just how much they are loved.

Romance is a choice

We have to choose to be romantic. The small actions mentioned above are not always things we would choose to do (after all, vacuuming is not a common item on “top 10 favorite things to do” lists). However, by consciously deciding to do these things we are showing our love. When such actions don’t come naturally to you, they are even greater expressions of our love. (ie: Extra brownie points!)

Choosing romance daily

Not only do you have to choose to take your romantic action but it is a choice that you have to re-make each day. It might be an easy decision when you’re in a good mood and have some free time. However, even if you’re mad at your wife and rushed for time you can still choose to do something to show that you love her.

Sacrificing some time that would otherwise be spent watching television, surfing the web, or hanging out with friends in order to focus on your spouse is time well spent. It’s not time lost, but instead time well invested in your relationship. That time will reap dividends in the form of a wife who feels well-loved and thus will be willing to return the favor.

How are you going to romance your spouse today?

You don’t have to buy some expensive gift or plan an extravagant dinner. Here are some simple actions you can do today to show your wife how much you love her.

Pick whichever you think your wife would like the most and go do it! There’s no time like the present to start being romantic!

10 Amazing Free Dates

Lego couple sitting on block holding hands

Love knows no bounds

The cost of a date has nothing do with how enjoyable it is. A free date can be more amazing than one that significantly thins your wallet. The point of a date is to spend time together, sharing experiences, conversations, and making memories. No money is required to do any of those. (And if your love language is Quality Time, these are important!) Without further ado, here are 10 free dates that anyone can go on.


  1. Go to the park – It seems that all cities (or counties, if you live in a rural area) have a public park. They offer lots of options, from walking trails, playgrounds to play on, ducks to feed, and games to watch.
  2. Tour a Bookstore – There are so many opportunities to learn about your date in a bookstore. Explore the store together, sharing books that catch your attention, laughing over funny titles, or just seeing what interests your date has. Maybe you could go to the travel section and pick a destination to visit together, or the cooking section and find a meal to cook that night. Perhaps something in the craft section will pique your interest together you will discover a new hobby. Take a look, it’s in a book.
  3. People Watching – This can be a highly entertaining activity, especially when you have someone to share the experience with. Pick a park bench, a spot in the mall, or just walk around the local college campus. There’s no telling what, or who, you’ll see.
  4. Free Samples – This is what warehouse stores are really good for. Free food! Hit up your local Sam’s, Costco, or anywhere else that provides samples and see what they have to offer. Be sure to dare each other to try the weird-looking thing. Who knows, you might find something delicious that you both enjoy!
  5. Art Critics – You don’t have to pay to see art. Do some searching to find a free museum nearby, or check out an art gallery. Don’t forget to check out the local library, as they often have art on display. Even if there’s not a gallery or free museum where you live, there is still art to be seen. Check out the next date.
  6. Tour the Town – No matter how small it may be, all towns and cities have something interesting to check out. Maybe it’s a statue or sculptural fountain, a historical site (have you ever stopped to read those signs?), a unique store or restaurant. You can either walk around or take public transportation if it’s free.
  7. Crossword Puzzle – With only a little bit of searching you can find a previously read newspaper. It’s a great opportunity to sit close to each other and work through the crossword puzzle together. If the crossword puzzle stumps you, take turns reading the comics to each other.
  8. Window Shopping – Leave your wallets at home (well, you might want to take your drivers’ license) and go shopping. Live the glamorous life, at least for an afternoon. Try on clothes you would never spend the money for, go look at your favorite sports car, or see what she looks like when wearing a ring that could be seen from space.
  9. Play a Game – What kind of games do you have laying around the house? A favorite board game, a deck of cards, maybe even a puzzle or two? As long as the two of you can play it together, it doesn’t matter what it is. Make it even more exciting by playing somewhere new. You don’t have to sit at home. Take it to a park, sit on the beach, visit a school.
  10. Cook Together – Just like the free gift of a candle-lit meal, cooking together doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun. You can boil the water while she gets the strainer ready for the pasta. She can set the table while you pour the drinks. Together, you can make a meal to remember!

No matter what you decide to do on your date, the important thing is to go with an open mind and a focus on your date.

Check out Ready-to-go Dates for even more ideas.

11 Free Gifts She Will Love

Hands holding out gift box

The heart cannot be contained in a gift box.

Meaningful gifts don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they don’t have to cost anything at all. Here are 11 examples. (Especially helpful if their love language is Receiving Gifts.)

  1. Love Note – You don’t have to write a novel, just a quick sentence or two that lets her know how much she means to you. If you need some tips, check out the Sticky-Note Love ebook.
  2. Back Rub – As long as you’re willing to put in some time and focused attention, you can’t really give a bad back rub. Pay attention to her and she’ll tell you what and where it feels best.
  3. Foot Massage – Even if she’s not on her feet all day, a foot massage will feel wonderful. Just like the back rub, pay attention and she’ll tell you how to make her feel good.
  4. Help with Chores – There’s nothing like getting some non-complaining help when you’re doing chores. Maybe you heard the drier ding, then go fold the clothes without being asked. Notice the trash can is full? Empty it. Anything she doesn’t have to do will be greatly appreciated.
  5. IOU – A simple IOU can do wonders, it’s the gift that gives twice. Write a quick note saying that you will give a back rub, foot massage, candle-lit dinner, or anything else and watch her eyes light up. In the case of the dinner, you can go ahead and set a date, but for the others you might want to just let her know that she can redeem the IOU whenever she wants.
  6. Origami Flowers – Grab some paper, check out some paper-folding instructions and have fun! Give her a bouquet that will never wilt.
  7. Love Letter – Love letters don’t have to be hard to write. You’re simply telling her how much you love her and why. Writing it by hand will make it worth so much more! If you need it, here’s more advice on how to write a love letter.
  8. Hand-drawn Picture – It doesn’t have to be “good.” With such a project as this, it’s the thought that counts. Put some time and effort in to your project, even if it’s just stick figures holding hands and some word balloons. Remember, drawing a picture is easy: children do it all the time. So what’s stopping you?
  9. Candle-Lit Meal – Guys, you don’t have to be a chef to make a meal special. It’s all about the setting. Fortunately for us, that doesn’t mean that we have to go somewhere fancy, hire a musician, or even provide a fancy meal. Pizza or mac-n-cheese can be spruced up by simply making sure the table is clean, folding some napkins, using real plates and silverware, dimming the lights and burning some candles.
  10. Photo Slide Show – Have photos of you and your gal? Compile them in a slideshow. This could be a Powerpoint presentation, a free photobucket slideshow, or even just a new album in facebook. Whatever you choose, be sure to take the time to put them in an order that makes sense and add some captions to them!
  11. Mix Playlist – The important part of this gift is the playlist that you make, something just for her. How you deliver can add some spice to the gift, however. If you happen to have a blank lying around you could burn a CD for her to listen to in the car. You could copy the songs to a thumb drive and she can copy them to her computer. You could load the playlist on her mp3 player as a surprise. Perhaps you could email her a new song each day, with a comment on why you chose it.

While I wouldn’t recommend trying all of these at once, I would suggest working your way through the list. There are plenty of other free gifts that you could give if you just give it some thought.

How to Write a Love Letter

fountain pen on paper

Let your words flow

Have you ever written a letter to express your love? It’s not nearly as hard as you might think. In fact, it’s quite easy. All you have to do is tell them “I love you” and then give some reasons why.

And if “Words of Affirmation” is your spouse’s love language, they’ll appreciate it all the more!

Why write a letter

The written word has a few advantages over the spoken: it lasts longer, it allows you to say exactly what you mean the first time, and it can be reviewed whenever the recipient wishes. Unlike an email they can be physically held, and there’s something more “real” about a tangible object.

Even though you may share the exact same sentiments that you will be writing down, they will last longer in written form. Memories will grow fuzzy, expressions will be forgotten. A letter can be held on to through the years, a tangible item that can be touched and held, and even passed on. Love letters will be saved and over time will create a record of your relationship.

The ability to edit what you say gives the written word a great advantage over the spoken. You have the opportunity to plan what you will say, try it out, and then edit until it sounds exactly the way you want it to. It’s much less stressful when you know that you can erase and re-write your words.

A hand-written letter will have much more meaning than an email ever will. There’s just something about being able to hold the paper that someone took the time to write their personal thoughts down on. Especially when those thoughts focus on the reader in such a positive light.

What you need

Ok, enough about advantages of letter writing. Let’s go ahead and get to it!

It doesn’t take much to write a letter: something to write with and to write on. The possibilities are endless! However, the most common materials are pen and paper (though you can carve your letter into a stone slab if you really want to.)

A pen works better than a pencil because your writing will last longer. Over time pencil fades more than ink does and will be harder to read. You can use any kind of pen, from the ballpoint you forgot to leave at the bank desk to a nice fountain pen.

While any kind of paper would work, the back of a receipt just won’t have the same effect as a nice sheet of paper. Everyday typing paper will do just fine, though there’s just something nice about holding a sheet of good quality paper. It has more weight, feels better against your fingers, and shows that you took the effort to get something nicer just for the letter.You can buy parchment or a “resume paper” in most store’s stationary section.

Don’t worry if you choose to use something that it doesn’t have lines. Simply place a piece of darkly lined paper underneath your blank sheet as you write. Unless your paper is terribly thick you will be able to see the lines rather clearly.

What to write about?

While the idea behind a love letter is simple and straight forward, some of us find them hard to write. It can be challenging to express one’s feelings. If you’re one of those people who can easily express yourself in writing, have fun. For the rest of us, here is a basic outline that we can follow:

Express your love

Jump right in and say why you’re writing. Perhaps something along the lines of:

I was thinking about you and just wanted to let you know how much I love you! I don’t tell you often enough and thought that I should. I wanted to write it down so that you can read it whenever you wish.

Recall when you first felt that way

When did you first realize you were in love? Recount that moment, sharing what you were doing, what made you realize you were in love, how that made you feel, etc. Maybe this wasn’t a moment, but something that gradually crept up on you. Then you could talk about the time you first met each other, how you felt when you first asked them out, or about when you proposed.

I remember first seeing you at the 4th of July Bar-B-Que. I was completely entranced and am pretty sure that I ignored my friends, distracted by you. You were obviously having a great time and I couldn’t get enough of your smile. I made sure to find an excuse to talk to you.

Tell why you’re still in love

Over time, your love has only grown. Now it’s time to say why. On a separate piece of paper make a list of things you love about them: personality, character, physical, and all that they do for you. Then write at least a sentence about each of those things in your letter.

I’m still distracted by you, with your beautiful smile, fabulous hair, and sexy body. I love your sense of humor and how you can make me laugh so easily. Your way with people is amazing to watch, as you put those around you at ease and help to brighten their day. I know how lucky I am that I get to hold you close and be part of your life.

Talk about your future

Talk about how your love will continue to grow as time passes.

I know that I will find you even more amazing as time grows on. Our friendship will grow stronger and our love will deepen. My life will continue to be better than it ever could be without you at my side.

Restate your love

End strong with another statement of your love. Sum up the letter in these last few sentences.

I will always love you, and can’t wait to grow old with you.

Actually writing

Don’t worry too much about how it sounds to you. As long as your saying what you truly feel, it will come across, even if you think it sounds cheesy.

Here are a few tips for the actual writing process:

Plan it out

Most of us will require some thought to figure out exactly what we want to say and what order we want to say it in. Even if you use the above outline, you might find it easiest to jot down the memories you wish to write about, the reasons for your love, and what you think your future holds. Scribble some notes to yourself so that you have an outline before you get started.


Writing something more than once is a great way to get it to sound how you want. Editing is a letter-writer’s friend. Using your outline, sit down and write your letter (this is a great time to use a computer, with its speed and editing capabilities). Write down whatever comes to mind as you work. Once finished, print it out and carefully read over it, pen in hand, and correct any errors. Perhaps you only have some spelling to change, or maybe it would sound better after changing the order of the paragraphs. You might find that you have become repetitious and need to do some deleting. Whatever they are, make the changes that you need.

Pick up your pen

Once you have everything edited, it’s time to actually write. Pen in hand and paper ready to go, you can copy the letter word-for-word. Since you already know what you’re going to write and how you’re going to say it, the writing process is now much easier. Don’t worry about making mistakes, they will be completely overlooked and only go to show that you really did this yourself.

Don’t wait!

While a love letter goes over quite well on a holiday, there’s no reason to wait to give a loved one such a gift. Such an unexpected surprise will be received quite gladly. Tell that special someone just how much you love them, today.

Even if you don’t have the time to write your letter right now, you can at least start brainstorming what you will say. Begin your list of things that you love about them so that you can write your letter later. You could write a short love note right now and write the longer letter later. No matter what you do, it’s time to start writing!