5 Fabulous Ways to Love Yourself More This Year

I just finished the last of my Valentine's Day candy and Girl Scout cookies, and now I am looking in the mirror wondering what is wrong with me.

I notice that sometimes the words in my head are full of negativity and self doubt. And when those negative thoughts become habit, they manifest into body shaming and self-hate. Have you ever had those thoughts and feelings?

Well if you have, I wanted to give us all a few ideas to help us love ourselves and our beautiful bodies even more during this "month of love".

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Here are my 5 ways to love myself more this year:

1. Take time to step away from the noise

My phone and computer are filled with too many ways to get distracted: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Gmail, blah, blah, blah... 

And most days, I can manage my time without being overwhelmed. But lately, the noise has been negative and trivial. Those are the times where unplugging from the technology is key.

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2. Work my goals at my own pace

Along with the general overwhelm of social media, there is also this urge to compare myself with what other people (especially bloggers and small business owners) are doing. 

It's easy to feel like I am not achieving my goals as fast or as frequently as others on my timeline. Or I over-analyse my work after viewing an amazing post or brilliant photo on someone else's feed. I have started consciously reminding myself that I am working at my own pace, and my success will look different from everyone else's.

And for you, if that means unfollowing some people on social media, or limiting your conversations about your goals with your acquaintances or coworkers, do it. Take time to map out your own milestones, and stick to it! 

3. Learn how to say "NO"

We all want to be involved and helpful when someone asks us a favor, or requests our presence at an event. But I found myself burned out and stressed in 2017 because I tried to DO EVERYTHING and BE EVERYWHERE, even when I really didn't want to be there. Why was I doing things that don't make me happy? 

This year, I am learning the art of saying "no" without being rude. I am actively using my planner to balance my work and family. And if there is a conflict when someone asks for a favor, I politely decline so I can put my life, business, and family first. By setting these boundaries, I am not stressed and spread too thin; I can focus on my goals without distractions.

4. Consume personal development material

With all the crazy information we get bombarded with everyday, we have to remember to consume information the same way we consume good foods- we are what we consume.

So I have been getting back into reading personal development books and listening to motivational podcasts. Not only do I get a fresh, uplifting perspective, but I am also strengthening my skills and knowledge in content development. 

I usually combine this with my moments of relaxation-- listening to podcasts while I walk or reading a book while I relax in the tub.

5. Start and end the day with positive words

My new favorite part of my morning routine is sitting at my vanity, staring in the mirror, and repeating my morning affirmations. These words fill me with the power and motivation to glide through the day. I find that  on the days I say my affirmations out loud in the mirror, I have more confidence, I make better decisions, and I feel great about how I look.

Similarly, before I go to bed, I spend a few minutes writing down everything that went well during the day. I give myself credit for my daily accomplishments, which enforces that I am making progress toward my goals.

I find that I am much more loving and accepting of myself after I have done any one of these five things. 

What do you Do to love yourself more?
 

 

I bought a Groupon for the Bethesda Salt Cave- Here's How it Went

Last weekend I had tickets to attend a formal charity ball at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda, and I decided to make it a whole self-care getaway, so booked a room at the hotel for the night. And as I was searching other attractions in the area, I found the Bethesda Salt Cave. Google maps said it was literally a one minute walk from the hotel. Score!

To my surprise, they happened to have a current Groupon promotion going on. I chose a 45 minute salt cave session, which is normally $45, but with Groupon, it was only $28. Plus Groupon had an additional 20% off code, so I actually only paid $22.40!

Posing in front of the salt lamps for sale in the lobby.

Posing in front of the salt lamps for sale in the lobby.

I read both some skeptical news articles and some awesome reviews about the benefits of breathing salt, most of which included clearing up nasal passages and reducing asthma. I didn't really have any of those issues; I just wanted to try something relaxing. And a little positive energy never hurt anyone, right?

I bought the Groupon on a Wednesday, and called the Bethesda Salt Cave the next day to schedule my appointment. After ten minutes on the phone with a pleasant lady named Ann, I was booked for that Sunday at noon. 

I received my confirmation email that Saturday, with a reminder to arrive 15 minutes early, wear clean socks, and park my car at the metered parking garage on Montgomery Ave. Since the location was so close to the hotel, I decided to keep my car parked where it was and walk instead.

himalayan salt lamps for sale at the Bethesda Salt Cave

So what did I think?

I enjoyed every minute of the experience. From the check in process with Ann (the same pleasant lady who booked my appointment), to the energized, cozy feeling of the cave, I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxed I was through the entire session.

I especially liked the zero gravity chairs, though it took me a few tries to figure out how to work it. Once it was locked in position, I felt like I was floating.

When the session starts, the staff turns on the air to move the salt throughout the room. And even though the salt was everywhere, I never got a salty taste in my mouth, like I sometimes do at the beach. 

Here are my tips for the best experience: 

  • The temperature in the room is kept at 68 degrees, so if you tend to be cold, dress warmly.  
  • Leave any valuables in your car, or ask the helpful staff to lock them up for you behind the counter. There is a coat rack at the entrance, and you can leave your shoes in the waiting area.  
  • If you love dogs, you will be greeted by Flex, the friendly golden retriever mascot for the spa. He is a great dog, and I had a lot of fun petting him. But if you have pet allergies, be aware that he will be your greeter at the front door. 
This is Flex, the sweetest golden lab and the Salt Cave mascot! Image via The Bethesda Salt Cave Instagram

This is Flex, the sweetest golden lab and the Salt Cave mascot! Image via The Bethesda Salt Cave Instagram

Have you ever thought about trying a salt cave? Would you give this one a try if you had the Groupon?


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What is National Wear Red Day, and Why Do We Observe It?

Today is the first Friday in February- National Wear Red Day, and my entire office is decked in red dresses, shirts, and ties. But why do we observe this day, other than to kick off the Valentine's Day season?

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February is National Heart Month

In addition to February being the month of lovers, this month is also special because the American Heart Association brings awareness to heart disease and stroke all month long. Since 2004, the first Friday of February is noted as National Wear Red Day as a way to kickoff the Heart Month awareness campaign.

The Go Red for Women campaign indicates that heart disease and stroke kill one in three women in the United States. 

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women - killing more than all forms of cancer combined. For more than a decade, the red dress has been the symbol of  women joining together to end heart disease. When you wear the red dress, you are raising your voice to save the lives of women.

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Why am I so personally involved?

When I was a young girl, my grandfather was rushed to the hospital, and we found out later he had a heart attack. He had to have a quadruple by-pass surgery, and the recovery forced him into retirement after 49 years of working at his job.

Since then, I have heard story after story of my family members and friends being affected by heart disease and stroke. At the end of my own pregnancy I had a few complications due to high blood pressure and my family medical history of heart disease. So I no longer take the signs and symptoms lightly when I hear about them.

How Can You Support?

  • It's easy: wear red today! Show your support, and help spread awareness for the cause. Hashtag your outfit on social media #RockYourRed and #GoRedWearRed
  • You can also visit the Go Red for Women website to learn more or make a donation to research and education.
  • If you shop at Macy's, consider picking up a Go Red for Women button, and you will receive 25% off your purchases, from now to Monday, February 5.
  • AND! If you are in the DC Metro Area, consider attending this awesome Rock Your Red Affair to benefit the Go Red for Women Campaign while also having a great time at 1942DC Bar and Lounge.
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How are you planning to #RockYourRed this month?

 

6 Travel Beauty Must-Haves for less than $6

Do you love getting new travel beauty goodies as much as I do when you are planning for your vacation?

I find myself scouring the travel sized section at Target and Ulta right before a trip, looking for something amazing for my cosmetics bag. This year, I found some even better treasures online, and they were all less than $6. Thank you, Amazon Prime!

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This little razor is adorable! It comes in an easy-to-carry clam shell case that protects the razors from everything else in your cosmetic bag. Plus, it is short, so you don't have to worry about trying to force the handle down into your bag.

I am used to using the Venus razor system at home, so I love that this incorporates seamlessly with my normal routine. My Venus refills fit this portable system, so I can just grab an extra head from my medicine cabinet and I am out the door!

 

Hotel rooms and cruise cabins are small spaces, and the bathroom is usually a window-less closet positioned too close to the bed. With Poo-pourri, you can eliminate the embarrassing scents that may come from sharing the bathroom in such close quarters. Simply spray this travel size tonic in the toilet before you go, and the elixir will trap any unsavory smells below the water. 

I have the full size version of the original citrus scent in every bathroom in the house. But this lavender vanilla scent is so refreshing! I decided on this scent so I could associate it with travel and vacation. Plus I find the lavender vanilla is more universally appealing, regardless of who I may be sharing a hotel room with.

 

I love makeup brushes! So much so, that I get new brushes delivered to me by Morphe every month. I can easily fill my entire makeup bag with just brushes, especially my extensive collection of eyeshadow tools.

This mini brush set is perfect for travelling when I don't want to lug (or clean) my full size collection. These seven brushes are enough for a full face on-the-go. And they don't shed like some other cheap brushes I have used. The set includes a powder brush, concealer brush, two types of eyeshadow brushes, eyeliner brush, lip brush, and eyelash/brow brush.

 

If you are ever looking for the perfect lotion to carry around in your purse or take with you on a trip, this little beauty is it! Plus it comes from the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value collection, which is a perfect blend of quality ingredients and affordable prices.

I use this lotion everywhere and a little goes a long way. I'm pretty sure I am still working on the same 1.75oz bottle from the last three months.

 

In my quest to leave a slightly smaller carbon footprint, I wanted to find a way to remove my makeup without using disposable cloths. But I never felt right just using my hands and some facial cleanser.

That's when I found these microfiber cloth reusable wipes. They are soft and gentle, much easier on my face than trying to use the rough washcloths provided in hotel rooms. And I can use them with either just a little bit of water or water and face wash. Then when I return home from my trip, I just drop them in the washer with the rest of my laundry.

 

Something about travel always makes my eyes puffy- whether it's the early morning wake-up or the long day of planes, trains, and automobiles. I like to freeze this mask the night before I depart for my travel, then pull it out right before leaving, and pop it on my eyes when I get settled into whatever mode of transportation I am using. Unless I am driving, obviously.

This cold mask does the trick to keep my eyes refreshed throughout the day, and I can pop it back in the freezer to reuse as many times as I want. This also works well on the back of your neck when you are overheated in the summer.

 

This one is a bonus because it exceeds the $6 limit, but for less than $10 these two bags are well worth it. 

I get tired of crushing my 3oz liquids in an ugly ziplock bag every time I go through airport security. Plus, it doesn't fit with my chic travel appearance to be seen with a basic ziplock baggie, right? So I invested in this toiletry bag that is TSA approved to fit the 1 quart rule, but durable enough to last multiple trips.

I use the larger bag for makeup and the smaller bag for liquids.

What is your favorite beauty product to take with you on travel? Show me your must-haves in the comments!

 

My Top 3 Self-Care Sunday Tips for a Productive Week Ahead

I used to have a standard self care Sunday routine that I would adhere to faithfully. But life can get busy, and weeks went by before I got back on track.

I feel less stressed when I follow a consistent routine of preparing for the work week on Sunday nights. I can focus on individual tasks without having to worry about missing important events.

We all need that time right before a new work week begins to connect with ourselves and prepare for greatness.

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My Self Care Sunday Routine

I break my self care Sunday routine into three categories: relaxation, organization, and planning. Most people think self care is all about laying out on the beach with a steamy romance novel and tuning out the world. And that can certainly be one part of a person's self care strategy. But I also include tasks that may sound like a lot of work, but they are necessary to my peace of mind and sanity during the week.

Relaxation

Relaxation seems to be people's first thought when I mention self care, and it ranks pretty high on the list. Relaxation self care includes, meditating, journaling, listening to music, reading a book for pleasure, taking a walk, or laying in the sun to enjoy the breeze. Each of these tasks helps relax your mind and reduce your stress. It's necessary to find the best relaxation technique for yourself, and practice it regularly.

On Sundays, I love giving myself a face mask. I have oily skin, so I use LimeLight by Alcone's clay mask called Masque of Zen. This helps regulate my skin, clear out my pores, and keep my skin balanced.

I also have a coconut candle in my room for meditation and journaling time. And I started to associate this scent with a sense of calm. So now whenever I smell the scent of coconut, I instantly start to fell less stressed.

Organization

I found some great challenges to help me organize my house and increase my productivity through Tonya Dalton, the creator of inkWELL Press planners. I started organizing my closet by work outfits so it's easier to grab my outfit and get dressed with no fuss.

I also arrange my fridge to make lunch packing quick and easy. On Sunday, I wrap a few sandwiches, pieces of fruit (he LOVES grapes) and some other easy to handle item. I place them on the lower shelves of the fridge, and my son can grab them and pack his own lunchbox. This gives him some responsibility, while freeing up my time in the morning to get ready.

Planning

I plan my upcoming week in my Erin Condren Hardbound planner, and I transfer the weekly to-do's and events onto the inkWELL Press Weekly Kickstart posted on the fridge. This keeps me up-to-date in two places to make sure the entire family is in the loop for the week.

I am still working on meal planning for dinner, so stay tuned for tips and tricks as I delve into that next week!

And that's it! I have gotten back into the swing of self care Sunday because my sanity required it.

What do you do to get ready for the work week?

 

I Challenge You NOT to Set a Weight Loss Resolution This Year!

Yes, you heard me correctly! I am challenging you NOT to set a weight loss goal this new year. At least not in the traditional sense. 

I know this time of year is inundated with New Year weight loss ideas and programs. It can be overwhelming to see the gym promotions and healthy food ads everywhere you turn.

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But this year I am challenging myself to focus on something other than the numbers on the scale. I have three questions I will ask myself everyday. They are not difficult questions, but they will cause me to evaluate my actions and retrain my brain towards wellness.

1. Is this meal going to make my body work better?

We have all read enough nutrition information to know that lean meats, healthy fats, green leafy veggies, whole grains, and water are the basis of a healthy, well-balanced diet. We know these are the foods that will keep our body in top performance. So I am not going to count every calorie or weigh each portion of food.

Instead, my plan is to evaluate the food on my plate and choose those foods I know will be in line with my wellness goals. I want to have clearer skin, so I will avoid sugary drinks and greasy foods. I want to work out longer and harder, so I will avoid processed carbs and heavy food that will weigh me down. 

2. Have I gotten enough activity to keep my body moving?

For my job, sit down a lot during the day. It can be difficult to be away from my desk, so I rarely get 10,000 steps a day unless I exercise at some point during the day. So, my goal for the new year is to incorporate light to moderate exercise into my morning routine. I'm not jumping back into heavy weightlifting for awhile; I just want to ease my body gently back into movement, so that I don't get discouraged by fatigue or soreness.

3. Am I getting enough sleep?

This question will probably be the hardest to answer truthfully. I know for a fact, I do not get enough sleep, and it shows when I am tired throughout the day. I am sure the change in my eating habits and exercise routine will help, but at the end of the day, I need to remind myself to get in the bed and SLEEP.

To help me with that, I am establishing an evening routine that gets me to bed by at least 11pm every evening, no matter what I have going on during the day. Every time I think about staying up later than that, I remind myself how tough the next day will be without the proper sleep.

And that's it! 

Hopefully, these questions will steer me in the direction of better health overall; weight loss will simply be a by-product of better health.

So this is my challenge to you this new year: let's throw away the scale! Instead, focus with me on answering these questions everyday. Will you accept the challenge?

 

3 Easy Ways to Get Ready For the Work Week

I used to really struggle with how to get ready for the work week. I have a Monday to Friday 9-5 job, and Sunday afternoons feel like the last bit of freedom before the busy work week begins. I would spend my Sunday afternoons counting down the hours until my weekend was over.

"It's 2pm: I have 10 hours before bedtime... I can take a nap for a few hours, then eat dinner, then watch my favorite TV show, then check Facebook..."

But lately, instead of wasting my Sunday afternoons dreading the idea of Monday, I have started using the time to set my week up for success. Check out the three actions I have started taking to get ready for the work week ahead.

3 ways to get ready for the work week

1. Write Down My Daily Schedule

I always like to check the calendar for the week to get a feel for my family's upcoming events. Since my husband and I have slightly different work schedules, we usually have different commute options based on what events we have going on in the evening. It is nice to get a visual of everything going on, so you can get ready for the week as a whole.

2. Make a Master Task List

Once I know the schedule for the week, I write out ALL the tasks we need to get done that week. I spend 10 minutes dedicated to writing everything down in a list, no matter how big or small. Then I go through the list and prioritize them high, medium, or low. From that list of tasks and events, I identify the "top 5" things that MUST get done that week. I feel accomplished knowing that, at the very least, those five items will be completed by the end of the week.

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To write all this down in one place, I love using my inkWELL Press Weekly Kickstart notepad. I can post the complete sheet on the refrigerator and, voila! We now have an easy event/task reference for week. My son loves helping out by checking tasks off the list as we complete them. Since he is only six, his chores are small, but he takes them very seriously.

3. Set Out My Office and Workout Wardrobe

Finally, I find that I am much more efficient in the mornings when I do not have to think about what to wear that day. Plus I feel more put together and professional in my work clothes because I know it isn't something I just slapped together on my way out the door. I start a load of laundry on Sunday morning, and then I take them straight out of the dryer and hang my outfits up with all the accessories. I also set out my athletic clothes so I can just jump right into them in the morning. I have no excuse to avoid working out, because everything is laid out for me.

What routines do you incorporate into your weekend so you are ready for the work week? How do you organize your schedule and tasks to maximize your efficiency?

For all PinUpGirl Beauties, get $10 off your purchase of $50 or more for all your inkWELL Press organizational products!

 

5 Black Friday Tips to Conquer the Biggest Shopping Day

My family and friends will tell you, I LOVE this time of year. And "gift giving" is my number one love language. I remember being a little girl and making gift lists for my friends, family, and teachers early in the holiday season. I was prepped and ready for the Thanksgiving Day paper to be delivered, so I can pull out the store circulars with all the Black Friday ads. And as soon as Thanksgiving dinner was over, I will have the papers spread out, strategizing for Black Friday shopping.

Now, with the advantage of internet and smartphones, I don't have to worry about the physical circular papers on Thanksgiving Day. But despite the new technology (and in some cases, BECAUSE of it), I have compiled my best Black Friday Tips to get you ready for THE BIG DAY.

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My Favorite Black Friday Tips

Here are my top five favorite Black Friday tips for conquering the big day and staying on track with your Christmas budget!

Research Before You Shop

Many retailers have started releasing their Black Friday deals online long before Thanksgiving Day. This gives us plenty of time to comparison shop before we make a decision on where the best deals will be found. And don't forget that it's not all about the lowest price, but also about the most convenient deals. If you end up missing Thanksgiving dinner because you have to be in line all night at Wal-Mart, then maybe the saving isn't worth it.

Consider Shopping Online

Many retailers are embracing the online market this season. They understand that the hustle and bustle of their brick and mortar stores is becoming too stressful for most shoppers, and they are matching most in-store deals online.

Plus, when you shop online, you can use Ebates to get cash back. If you haven't tried it yet, it's super easy! Sign up for free, then choose the retailer you plan to shop with, and click the link through the Ebates site. You will be credited with the designated percentage within a few days. Plus, I have an exclusive link to get you a bonus $10 on your first shopping trip through Ebates!

Don't Sleep on the Sales the Weekend Before

The weekend before Thanksgiving has become a great opportunity for stores to preview their sales prior to THE BIG DAY. Sometimes you may even find a better deal that has not been advertised as heavily. Check the sales papers on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to compare to the leaked Black Friday ads, just to make sure you're getting the best deals.

Also, check out the prices on Wednesday to see if they have loaded the deals a day early!

Have Your Shopping List Game Plan Ready

The stores are trying to get you caught up in the frenzy, right? Stay focused on the goal by writing out the deals you want and keeping the list with you while you shop. To make it easy, I made a quick printable to keep all your store lists in one place.

And the most important tip: Have Fun!

Don't let this time of year stress you out. What is the point of the holidays if we get so caught up in the deals and miss the fun! Keep the end goal in mind and enjoy yourself through every step of the shopping promise. Happy Thanksgiving!

How are you planning to tackle Black Friday?

 

How Positive Morning Affirmations Set Intention to My Day

I have been incorporating morning affirmations as a way to encourage positive energy into my thoughts. I find that on the days I begin with positive thoughts and positive words, I am more productive.

But I didn't always feel this way. In fact, I had pretty much discounted the entire idea, calling it a silly, ineffective, new age hippie trend. It didn't taste good to eat my words later, when I finally gave it an honest try.

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What are Affirmations?

Affirmations are declarative statements made in the present tense that, when repeated daily, change your way of thinking. The idea is to retrain your mind to accept the words you are saying, and then these statements would manifest as truths in your life.

The beauty of this is that you can personalize these statements to improve any aspect of your life.

Not the best at committing to a decision? Tailor your positive affirmations to say things like, "I trust my instincts to make a decision," or "I am committed to the choices I make today."

How Do I Use Morning Affirmations?

I have my affirmation statements taped to my mirror in the bathroom. As I put on my makeup, I say each statement out loud, slowly and clearly. I have gotten so used to saying them, I already have them memorized, but I still take the time to read each word to ensure I see it, hear it, and feel it everyday.

I am WISE.

I am grateful for my blessings.

I nourish my mind, body, and spirit with positive energy.

I have FAITH in myself.

I am capable of anything I set my mind to achieve.

I choose the right path by trusting my inner compass.

I am a BLESSING.

I love myself and cherish my life.

I use my talents as an asset to all humanity.

What statements are you using to infuse positive thought into your life? Leave a comment below with your favorite morning affirmation!

 

Top 5 Date Night Ideas to Upgrade From the Same Old "Dinner and a Movie"

In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, I know how easy it can be to fall into a comfortable routine. And with that, my husband and I have noticed our opportunities for romance have taken a back burner to work meetings, daycare updates, and episodes of Peppa Pig. So we started planning date nights to spice up our romance and reconnect with each other.

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Why Date Night?

Sure, I talk to my husband every evening after we put our son to bed. We make sure to ask each other about our day, and we have made a habit of sharing one thing from the day that made us smile. But sometimes we have to remember to capture the magic that made us fall in love in the first place.

When my husband and I first started dating, we went to some of the most off-the-beaten-path locations in our city, and it was amazing! We had an adventure every weekend, and the memories from those dates still make us smile, laugh, and get steamy. Just because we are now married with a little one does not mean we have to lose the spark that makes us adventurous.

When you're planning, don't forget that dates do not have to be elaborate productions that cost a lot of money. A simple lunch in the park or stroll through the gardens can be pretty effective in focusing your time on each other without breaking the bank. The purpose of the date is to relax and reconnect with your partner, not stress about spending, right?

Five Date Night Ideas

Recreate a "First Date" or "First Meeting"

I like to to meet my husband at a local bar or restaurant after work. I wear something a little out of character (different hairstyle, new lip color, different dress style), and my husband buys me a drink as if he is just meeting me. It is fun to ask the "getting to know you" questions, and I have even found some things I didn't know about my husband that way.

Photo Scavenger Hunt in the Park

My husband is a self-proclaimed smartphone photographer. He likes to think he can capture more real life moments with his phone than with all the equipment of a pro. And I love to test him in this theory by heading to one of the many scenic parks in our area on a photo scavenger hunt. We pick a category (birds, colors, insects) and we spend the afternoon trying to capture as many unique and stylized photos of the objects in that category. Then we sit down to a packed lunch and compare our results.

Support a Charity Event

My husband and I are both busy in fraternal organizations, so we kill two birds with one stone by making a few charity events into our date nights. It is a great chance to not only get dressed up and go dancing together, but also support great charity causes, such as literacy funds or college scholarships.

Play Each Other in Adult Game Night

I love playing Connect Four and my husband has a thing for UNO, so on weekends where we can't get a babysitter, we put our son to bed, then whip out the card games and board games on the living room floor. I have never laughed as hard as I do when I get to sink my husband's battleship *wink*.

Road Trip Roulette

For this date, we fill the car up with gas and create a road trip playlist full of our favorite song choices. Then we get in the car and GO! We let the music playlist play and we enjoy the ride, with no particular direction in mind. We just make turns when we feel like it. Then, when the playlist ends, we stop the car wherever we are. And we make a date out of whatever is around us in that location. I can't tell you how many hole-in-the-wall spots we found this way.

How do you spice up your date night to avoid falling into a romance rut?