Family * Travel * Food

8 Romantic At-Home Date Night Ideas

Scheduling a regular date night with your significant other is a great way to mix up your routine and deepen your connection. It can also supercharge the romance and intimacy of your relationship.

It's not always possible to go out every week, especially if you have kids or work long hours. But you don't always have to leave your house to enjoy a special date. With a little creativity, an at-home date night can be a romantic and fun way to spend time together. 

Here are a few ideas for your next perfect date night, right from the comfort of your own home. 

1. Spa Night

Why pay for an expensive spa package for couples when you can create your own romantic spa night at home for a fraction of the cost? Set the scene with scented candles, dimmed lights, and soft music.

Start with a sensual bubble bath, get out the face masks and top it off by taking turns giving each other a full body massage.

What to wear? You might be more comfortable in sweats or a terry cloth robe, but if you want to spice things up try fancy lingerie or add a fun twist with matching underwear for couples

2. Wine Tasting 

Create your own custom tasting night with different wines, beers, or your beverage of choice. Buy a few varieties that are new to both of you and arrange them into sample sizes that you can sip and discover together.

Don't forget snacks! If you want to go all out, add an assortment of gourmet cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate.

3. Music Listening Party

Enjoy a living room concert by curating a mix of your favorite albums or playlists, or watch a live-streamed concert of one of your favorite artists. Sip on cocktails or a glass of wine while you immerse yourselves in your favorite tunes from the cozy comfort of your couch.

One of the perks of an at-home concert is that you don't have to get all dressed up, drive in busy traffic, or find a parking spot. Just sit back and relax! 

4. Backyard Picnic

Turn your backyard into a romantic picnic setting by laying out a blanket, setting up a lantern, and adding a bouquet of fresh flowers to set the scene.

Turn on some soft tunes from your phone or portable speaker, and you'll be ready to enjoy a perfect picnic "getaway" together. 

5. Games for Two

Whether you're into cards, board games, or video games, a little friendly competition can be a great aphrodisiac! Pop open a bottle of wine and let the games begin.

If you want to make things even more interesting, make it a rule that the loser of each game or round must remove a piece of clothing.

6. Candlelight Take-Out Dinner

Take-out dinner might be something you do on hectic, busy days, but why not transform it with a little planning and change in atmosphere. Add candles, a nice tablecloth, and turn on some romantic dinner music.

Be sure to turn off the tv and put your phones on "do not disturb." You might be surprised by how refreshing it can be when you take the time to be together with no distractions. 

8. Cooking 

If you plan things ahead and make sure you have enough time blocked off, cooking a meal together can be a fun and relaxing way to spend time together. Make sure you have all ingredients ahead of time and account for the time it takes to prep, like chopping veggies.

The best part? There's something magical about the moment you get to sit down and enjoy a meal you created together from scratch.

No matter what you choose to do, the most important thing is that you both set aside the time to connect without distractions. Put away the phones and simply make space to enjoy each other's company.


Understanding Alimony and the Different Types

When a marriage comes to a halt, it does not end the obligations of one spouse to another. Spousal support involves monetary aid offered by one spouse to the other upon separation under a court order. People are eligible for alimony if they were married, lived together, or have a child together. The support could be short-term or long-term. The court considers the situation of both partners to determine the amount and period for which they will give support.

Different types of alimony are. 

Temporary Support

It is the support paid when separation takes place, but the divorce process is not complete. The temporary agreement is not necessarily filed in court, and it indicates the amount and when you will make it. If the court is involved, the judge has to determine fairness and whether the party was forced to officiate the agreement.

Temporary alimony can be adjusted, especially if the matter was not filed in court. However, if the agreement was made in court, the judge must order the new payment plan.

Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent support is granted after long periods of marriage, and the legality varies depending on the state. In some laws, the support may continue until the receiver dies or remarries. In other states, the support stops if the receiver moves in with another person. You may even be able to use a tool like this Maryland alimony calculator to work out how much you may be entitled to, or how much it is you may be paying.

Rehabilitative Support

It is short-term assistance given to a spouse to help them acquire the necessary skills and enable them to work. It is granted until the receiver can support themselves financially. People who qualify for this kind of support include stay-at-home parents that take care of the children.

A court order may specify the duration of the payments, which is renewable. The agreement should contain a review provision that allows the parties to make changes. The receiver is responsible for completing the study and searching for employment. If the contributor suspects that the receiver is not making efforts to financial dependence, they can write to the court to be granted termination.

Reimbursement Support

Reimbursement alimony is a way of compensating a spouse for the sacrifices made during the spouse's education. The support is not based on the need for financial support. It is expected that once the schooling partner completes education and earns a better income, the party that sacrificed will be a beneficiary of the higher standards of living. If the marriage ends before getting these benefits, the partner who sacrificed is eligible for reimbursement support.

In some cases, the court may give the recipient part of marital property as compensation and payback for the support. Reimbursement support can be paid in a lump sum or can be spread over a duration of time. 

Spousal support is considered as income to the receiver and therefore taxable. It is commendable to consult a tax professional to help you make the right decision regarding lump-sum payments. It would help if you also paid attention to the grounds on which alimony is terminated. The laws vary in states, and in some, the contributor can reduce the amount or terminate the agreement if the receiver moves in with another person.

If there are circumstances that the receiver would like to amend, it is advisable to request an alteration to the agreement before termination. Support laws vary with different states, and it is important to understand your region's law with the help of a lawyer before getting into the contract. They will guide you on the best decisions to make depending on individual circumstances.


Getting Engaged with Moissanite Gems

It is no news that sparkling jewelry has been the choice adornment of most women for many years. But changing times result in changes in taste as well as changes in trends. Diamonds over time have become increasingly expensive to where most people cannot afford to buy them. The changing times has caused customers, who would consider nothing short of a diamond some years back, to purchase moissanites. Moissanites are unique in themselves and are not fake diamonds or diamond replicas. Moissanites are increasingly being considered due to its characteristic brilliance and reduced overall cost.

Unlike diamonds, moissanites do not raise ethical concerns largely because they are synthetic. In order to resolve the ethical concerns about diamonds, synthetic diamonds are reasonable alternatives to original mined diamonds. Moissanites are more astonishing to behold due to its bright array of colors. What's more? They come at affordable prices as moissanite engagement rings have eased their way onto ring fingers when diamonds simply have not been affordable.

Does That Make Them Fake Diamonds?

While it is easy to say false things about a competitive product, there is no theoretical evidence to back the suggestion posed by some diamond purists that moissanite is a diamond replica. In fact, moissanite is made up of laboratory produced silicon carbide which differs from diamond, which is composed of densely packed carbon atoms. The obvious different in their composition suggests differences in their properties.

Although moissanites 'diamond' engagement rings can be obtained at a reduced cost in comparison to diamond, it would be inappropriate to consider them an inferior class of jewelry. Moissanites have a hardness of 9.5 while diamonds have a hardness of 10 on a scale that measures the hardness of different gemstones. The refractive properties of moissanite gives off a light spectrum which is twice that produced by diamond. 

Understand Moissanite Discovery

Silicon carbides were discovered in 1906 by Henri Moissan. This carbide was erroneously said to come from space due to its closeness to a meteorite crash site around the time of its discovery. But the silicon carbide has been noted to exist naturally on Earth. Silicon carbide cannot be used as jewelry in its raw form. Subjecting the compound to laboratory procedures yields the jewel known as moissanites. Unfortunately, fraud is prevalent in the jewelry industry. In order to make sure the moissanite purchased is not a fake or stolen product, there is a form of hallmark or paperwork which is linked back to the only company permitted by law to produce moissanites; a company owned by Charles and Calvard.

Should I Spend My Money on Moissanite?

Moissanites is worth the cost. Making a choice between diamond and moissanite seems to be an already made choice. Based on your budget and your concerns with ethical processes, you can choose which gemstone works for you. The violence and environmental hazards involved with diamond mining have long been in existence. Moissanite poses no such threat. Not to mention the excellent brightness, sparkle, and rainbow glow. Undoubtedly, moissanite is a gemstone worth your money.

Want to Avoid Paying Alimony? Follow This Advice

After a divorce, you lose your spouse's income if your spouse was working during your marriage, so your total income will decrease at the same time that you have increased expenses. The last thing that you want to do is pay your spouse alimony, but there may be a way that you can prevent it. 

Draw Up a Postnuptial Agreement

If you didn't draw up a prenuptial agreement with your spouse, you may be able to create a postnuptial agreement. The postnuptial agreement can address the issue of alimony. In this case, you will be able to say that you don't wish to pay your spouse alimony if the marriage ends in divorce. 

You may be in the middle of your divorce right now, so a postnuptial agreement isn't going to help you. Instead, you can offer your spouse a greater portion of the marital assets in lieu of alimony payments. Maybe, you can present your spouse with a larger portion of your retirement accounts or even the family home. 

This will depend on what your spouse wants, so you will need to pay attention to what those wants and needs are. Then, you may be able to avoid paying alimony. 

Prove Your Spouse Was Unfaithful

In most states, if a spouse has been unfaithful, they are not entitled to receive alimony. For this strategy to work, you must be able to present proof. It may mean that you will have to present pictures or even video of your spouse's adulterous affair. If you need help to catch a cheater, you can try going online to catch them out in a lie. Alternatively you could hire a private investigator since they will have more expertise in this area. If you go though with this, you will need to make sure that you are hiring a reputable private investigator company like this Bristol private investigators team.

Asking people with knowledge of your spouse's infidelity to be witnesses is also a good idea. The judge will consider all of this proof and decide whether or not your spouse deserves alimony. 

Notice Your Spouse’s Relationships

Alimony has an expiration date and conditions for early termination of payment. Depending on your state, one of those conditions may be when your spouse begins cohabitating with a significant other. You will be able to have this language written into your divorce decree. 

Alimony payments also end after your spouse remarries. You may be tempted to follow your spouse’s activities on social media. Though you want to know right away when alimony payments can end, do not venture into the territory of cyberstalking.

Prove Your Spouse Doesn't Need Alimony

Your spouse may only ask for alimony to punish you, and not because they really need it. Your spouse may have stocks or even a large trust fund. Maybe, your spouse inherited a large sum of money, so they don't need alimony to pay the bills even if unemployed.

You will need to perform an investigation to ensure that your spouse doesn't have assets that would make alimony unnecessary. This is a job for a forensic accountant. The accountant will find hidden assets your spouse may not have disclosed. 

If the forensic accountant finds significant assets, you will not be required to pay alimony, so it will be worth the price. 

Retain Custody of Your Children

If you have custody of the children, the court may determine that your spouse doesn't need alimony. If the children are in your care a majority of the time, your cost of living will be higher than your spouse's cost of living, and your spouse will be able to maintain their standard of living without alimony. 

If you are struggling with issues concerning divorce, separation, and alimony, you could have one of the family cases that Farmer and Morris can handle. They can also settle matters of property distribution, custody, and child support.

4 Things Everyone Should Know About Being Married

Are you considering walking down the aisle with the love of your life? Do you think that you have found the one? If yes, then let me tell you that while everything might seem perfect from the outside, there is something that you must know before you get married. I agree that there is no better feeling than getting to spend the rest of your life with the person of your dreams. However, you need to be objective about it and make sure that you go all in without any regrets.

For many women, marriage is something that they have been looking forward to. All the excitement leads to this one life-changing moment. But, to help you prepare mentally and emotionally, you should keep the following things in mind. 

Don’t Expect Your Partner to Change for You

The very first thing that you should be doing is not to expect your partner to change for you. The idea of love is that you have to agree to be with the other person for who he is. If you don’t like something about your partner, the only sensible thing you should do is to point it out. If you make it your life’s goal to change your partner, it will end up being pretty toxic. If he changes for you, he will feel like he is no longer in control, and if he doesn’t change for you, you will feel like he doesn’t love you. 

Communicate About Everything 

Where I said that you should never expect your partner to change something about him for you, it doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore it. The institution of marriage is built upon trust, and if you can’t trust your partner to tell him something that’s bothering you about hi, you have other issues at hand which need solving. Most couples say that the fire in marriage only lasts for a few years, but I believe that if both partners keep communicating and stay true to their feelings, marriage can last as long as you want it to. 

Learn About Family Law

I never suggest for anyone to jump in the well of marriage without learning how deep it is. Before you get yourself entangled in something that you don’t understand, you should talk to someone who can help you figure out the basics. I have seen a lot of couples fall out during the first few years and go through an ugly divorce. Instead of forcing yourself into another person’s life, if you think that you are not compatible with your partner, the smarter choice is to take a divorce. You can get in touch with a professional like Matrimonial Home so that everything goes smoothly. 

Be Financially Independent 

Last but not least, being financially independent is a very important part of being married. While I agree that marriage should be built in a way that both partners should act as stepping stones for each other’s career, you should never abandon your career for marriage. The dreams of spending the rest of your life with your loved ones sound good on paper, but when it comes down to real life, being independent matters. It doesn’t matter how much you think your partner loves you; you should never rely on him financially. Being financially independent means that you are not getting married because you need to. If you are able to cover your own costs, it will maintain your worth, and life would not be as much devastated after a divorce as you will be able to stand on your own two feet. 

6 Life-Altering Health Effects of Divorce on Women

Divorces can be messy and chaotic, and seldom does it happen that spouses come out of a divorce without any pain. Unfortunately, there has been an unprecedented increase in divorces, and it is reported that women suffer from the after-effects of divorce more severely than men.

The common understanding is that women suffer both physically and mentally only if they are involved in an abusive relationship and get a divorce later. But, this understates the mental chaos that the whole process of divorce itself creates in the minds of women.

We have compiled a comprehensive list of the various health effects of divorce on women:

1. Anxiety Spikes:
The occurrence of significant life changes brings about anxiety, and no event is more significant than a divorce in the world of married people. Therefore, it is bound to bring anxiety, because the idea of living alone, the insecurity of being rejected, and conflicting feelings about your partner can be highly disturbing, especially for women.

2. Plunging into depression:
Anxiety should decrease once you get on with your life after being divorced, but you should consult a counselor if it persists for longer. Persistent anxiety turns to depression, which can significantly affect the quality of your life.

Moreover, engage a decent attorney like the ones available at the Divorce Matters law firm, because they will save you from the anxiety of dealing with the legal aspects of divorce.
Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash
3. Getting socially isolated:
Divorced women start judging themselves because they feel that they are somehow inadequate and do not deserve love. This could result in isolating themselves from other women and end up being even more depressed.

4. Becoming an insomniac:
Depressed people often forget about taking care of themselves and find it hard to sleep without prescribed drugs. Under-sleeping leads to several health issues, and statistically, the most common one is hypertension.

5. Aging quicker:
Many women religiously look for ways to keep their skin fresh and smooth for as long as they can, but divorce can take that away from them. It is reported that divorced women age quicker as compared to other women because of divorce-induced depression and insomnia.

Aging does not only mean wrinkly skin, but it also indicates that they are highly likely to face issues while engaging in everyday mobility activities like walking and climbing stairs.

6. Higher likelihood of experiencing cardiac incidents and diabetes:
According to a study conducted by researchers at Duke University, divorced women are more likely to experience cardiac events as compared to married or single women. On the other hand, this study states that divorced men do not see any such increase in the risk of experiencing cardiac incidents.

Moreover, it is stated by another study that divorced women are at least 20 percent more likely to experience diabetes at some point in their lives.

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Losing Health Insurance
A significant portion of women depend on their husbands for health benefits. Therefore, a lot of women lose health insurance as a result of divorce, and that can lead up to looming medical conditions.

In a nutshell, divorces obviously must not be taken lightly, especially if you are a woman. It might not be a bad idea to start making plans or having things in place if you suspect you may end up divorcing your spouse.

It's Our Anniversary!

Another year has gone by, and today we celebrate 24 years of marriage. It really is so hard to believe that it has been that long since the day we said I do. Marriage isn't the easiest thing, but I feel like it gets sweeter with time. This last year was a bit a test. I lost both of my parents, and felt like I wasn't fully present most of the time. My sweet husband has been so supportive and definitely put me first. I guess in reality, that's how marriage is supposed to work. You have to be strong when the other is weak.

I am thankful to have someone to catch me when I fall, and that I can do the same right back. You don't question anything, you are just there. I tell younger or newer couples to never give up on each other. I'm sure that's easier said than done, but I believe in putting in the work. So many of the arguments that couples have can be worked out. I wish for everyone to have the kind of marriage that I have. It's a wonderful feeling knowing that I don't have to face anything alone.
Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband and best friend of 24 years. Cheers!
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Date Night: The Romance of NYC

It can be hard to keep the spark alive in a long-term relationship or marriage, but sometimes all you need to do is go away for a bit. Even more difficult is finding a proper date to start. Being romantic is no easy task, but whether you are taking time away from the family you’ve made or you’re on a first date, New York City makes the ideal date easy to plan.

Relaxed Romance
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If you want a slow-paced date with your husband or want to get to know someone quietly overtime, choose one of New York City’s lush, beautiful gardens. Brooklyn Botanical Garden, for example, is a paradise of flora and fauna. With acres of romantic cherry blossoms and an on-site conservatory, this natural beauty is sure to set your hearts aflutter.

A bit of Childhood Whimsy

Sometimes, it can be hard to be yourself on a date – especially on a first date. Head over to Brooklyn Heights and take a ride on the gorgeous Jane’s Carousel. This hundred-year-old children’s attraction will bring you back to a simpler time and put your mind and heart at ease around that special someone. Top off this idyllic afternoon at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, which is just nearby. You can take a more cultured route and take in a show at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

A Night Out

The Slipper Room on the Lower East Side is a seductive experience for a date that needs close contact. With performance art, comedy, dancers and singers, you and your date will find something exciting going on here on any night of the week. Take in the swanky atmosphere of this throwback lounge and create the ideal first date.

In Brooklyn, you’ll find the aptly named Brooklyn Night Bazaar. There is too much to do in just one night, but if you can manage it, you can play mini golf, belt it out at karaoke, and experience the fun of being a kid with arcade games. Dinner, drinks, and vintage knick-knacks give this artisanal-scented marketplace the best date night vibe out there.

Traditional is Fine, Too

If you crave that classic dinner and movie vibe, Greenpoint is famous for its rustic pizza house and you can take in the awe-inspiring skyline of Manhattan. Over in Williamsburg, the Nitehawk Cinema is a lux movie theatre that serves a full menu (tacos, anyone?), large and comfortable lounge chairs, and showings of retro and independent films alike. You can even get a drink with your movie.

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Find a tour of the city at if you cannot exactly decide what to do on a romantic getaway. An informed tour guide can give you a plethora of ideas and you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of them yourself.

While New York City hasn’t been nicknamed the city of love, it is certainly overflowing with art galleries, high-end and unique restaurants, and a botanic paradise in all that steel and chrome. For your next big date, New York City has something for every couple.

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How Being Middle-Aged Has Changed My Life

I have been going through so many changes this year. It has been an unfortunate year filled with loss in a lot of different ways. I have really learned who is truly in my corner, through good and bad. It turns out that number has tremendously dwindled, and I struggled with it. I have been taking time out for myself to rest, refresh, and reset almost daily. If I'm not close to 100% emotionally and physically, well then I'm simply no good to anyone.

I have experienced some really great things this year. When I chose to stop focusing so hard on what I have lost, it opened my heart and mind to clearly see how much I have gained.
  • Worrying- I had to put a stop to this. I became so immersed in worry/anxiety/panic that it started to affect my well-being. I had to pound into my head that I can't change or control everything. Obsessing over things that might go the wrong way, or maybe go the right way isn't living. I had to come to a point where I say to myself, "Whatever the outcome may be, I will deal with it". As small as that might seem, it has helped me a lot. Things are going to happen the way they are intended. I can't do a thing about anything that has happened in the past. I can only focus on what's to come. 
  • Putting myself first- Most women don't know what this even means or how you even do it. I have made my health and happiness a priority. That is not negotiable. I no longer feel guilty doing nice things for myself or even indulging in what I want. As long as I don't go above my means, I allow myself the pleasures of life. I don't skimp on things for myself any more. 
  • Eating and sleeping- It's so hard sometimes to eat properly when all you want is cheese fries and sushi. I still fight hard to maintain balance, but don't deny myself of what I really want on occasion. I do drink plenty of water daily, and know if I haven't had enough by the way I feel. I find myself taking naps as I need. I don't worry about the dishes in the sink because they will still be there when I get up. Some nights I go to bed before 10:00. A well-rested Shelly is a happy Shelly. 
  • Protecting my spirit- I have been staying away from watching the news. The negativity really gets to me, especially when it deals with sexual abuse. It has come to the point where I have to deactivate some of my social media accounts for short periods of time. If it's not positively feeding my spirit, I steer clear of it. 
  • Saying no- For most of my life, I have felt a deep obligation to doing things for people. I would feel so guilty to not help. It has come to a point that if my gut tells me to say no, I say just that. The best part is I offer little to no explanation. Now that's some real growth right there! 
  • Ditching the planner- I have spent way too many years planning every single moment of my life down to the minute. I dumped my planner somewhere in my office and life has gone smoothly since then. Sometimes my husband will ask me if I want to take a ride to the beach or up north on a whim. This normally would have freaked me out because it wasn't planned, but now I don't care. I grab my shoes and bag and GO! 
  • Getting in pictures- I learned some time last year that my husband has been sneaking photos of me every time we travel. He would take pictures while I was applying make-up or cooking. I saw some of the photos and was like, you better not let anyone see these awful pictures of me! He didn't see it that way at all. He explained that my true essence shined through as I did the things I would normally do. I was being ME. He simply wants our children to have photos to look back on of me doing things either for myself, with them, or with him. Memories is what it's about. I've stopped being so hard on myself and started hopping in front of the lens instead of behind it. All of my 'imperfections', belly pooch and all are perfectly me, and I have grown to accept them.

Although I have experienced significant growth over the last year, I know I still have more to go. I'm open to it and not letting fear get in my way. So what's next? I don't know, and I don't intend on planning for it. I will let things be. Thanks for stopping by today.
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Tips On How To Become A Morning Person

Do you have issues falling asleep or staying asleep? Lucky for me, I'm the type of person who passes out the minute my head hits the pillow. My husband is so jealous of this special power I have. He has to go through a series of drinking bedtime tea, meditation, or listens to soothing music to get him relaxed enough to fall asleep. 

Below are some simple tips to help you get a better night's sleep, from Leesa, an online mattress provider. You might even become a morning person in the process.

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Plan Your Wedding With Stationery from Minted #ad

I remember over 20 years ago when I was planning for my wedding, before the convenience of the Internet. I had to do a ton of running around for everything I needed. One of the first things on my long list of things to purchase was the wedding invitations. In those days we had to thumb through enormous catalogs with card samples. It took us probably 3 hours to get it all done between picking a layout, figuring out what we wanted printed, the ink color and font. Fast forward to 2015, we can now do all of those same things without leaving our house in a fraction of the time. offers a wide variety of styles and themes to choose from.
Look at these gorgeous "Save the date" cards. 
You can really customize your order in any way to suit your needs. The website makes it so easy to break down the colors, themes, card style, paper type and more. I played around on the site to make my dream invitations and guess what? It took me all of 20 minutes and I never got off the couch!
I absolutely love this design and shape. I also like that Minted automatically shows the matching RSVP cards, envelopes, thank you cards, labels and more. Minted also auto-saves your recent product views in the event you want to go back for another look.

I think the hardest thing is having to settle on one design! If you are looking for beautiful wedding stationery, I highly suggest Minted. You can even get free samples to get to see stationery items up close.

A couple years ago, I had a billing issue (a mistake I made) and spoke with someone in their customer service department. I was so impressed by the level of customer care and my issue was resolved right away. They even sent me a personalized follow-up email to make sure everything was correct. Now that's what I call great service! Consider Minted for your wedding stationery needs. Be sure to connect with Minted on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for product promotions and updates.

I received a gift code to share my honest opinions about All opinions are 100% mine as always. 

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

I remember many years ago when we first moved into our home, the front and back yard was littered with various trees, shrubs and bushes. The previous residents were renters and let's just say that yard maintenance was not a priority to them. My husband and I spent countless hours, weekend after weekend chopping, trimming, pruning and removing anything that was manageable for us to do ourselves. We were pretty certain that the yard trash collection guys hated us because there was always a pile of branches, bags of leaves or some time of yard debris for months on end. I think it took us a good 2 years to really get the yard under control. We did have some plum trees, one Bradford pear and a couple other big trees that up to this day, we really never knew what kind they were.

Of course when you have large trees so close to your house, there comes a lot of risk. Every storm that blew through, we would panic that a large branch would crash through our bedroom window or it would break and fall onto the roof. It finally came the point of letting it all go. In late December, we had our trees removed with the exception of the Bradford pear since it was not causing any problems. It was really hard watching the trees that our daughters used to climb and swing from the branches get cut down. They were just too overgrown and the roots were getting way out of control. We just couldn't risk keeping them anymore. When all of the trees were removed it looked and felt so strange outside. We no longer had shade and our back yard became overly plain and sad looking. I have hinted around to my husband for probably more than 7 years that I really wanted a willow tree in the back yard. Now that all of our trees were gone, it made him a bit more open to getting one planted for me. Of course, he complained that I wanted so badly to hire The Local Tree Experts to get rid of the other trees only to turn around to get more trees.

We were looking around our local Lowe's recently and noticed that all of their trees were on clearance. Although we were just browsing, we came across a willow tree. Even better, the clearance price was only $5.00! My husband did not hesitate to buy it for me. I'm pretty sure he was side-eyeing me just a pinch :)

So here she is, my lovely corkscrew willow! The branches are supposed to have a curvy shape as the tree grows and it is supposed to be pretty for all 4 seasons. I'm so happy to watch her grow and add some much needed beauty and shade (eventually) to my big, empty yard. My hubby even threw in a few evergreens on the fence line. We are planning to plant a poplar tree on the other side since we need a fast-growing tree to give some extra shade. I guess good things come to those who wait. Even better, on clearance!

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend xoxo

From the Marriage Files: Dating your spouse

Life gets hectic almost all of the time. We have to juggle children, work, activities, bills and other life obligations. It can weigh heavily on a marriage. Although I don't make any resolutions for the new year, I did make a vow to have more dates with my husband in 2013. We both realize how important it is for us to have time together, away from the kids. Ever since January, we have taken time to go out alone whether it is for lunch, browsing the stores or just for cocktails. Having that alone time has brought us closer together and it is nice to engage in intimate conversation and a little laughter. So far we have managed to stick with our dating arrangements. The key to making it happen is to not plan it. We just randomly decide, "hey, do you want to go have dinner or catch a movie?"

Of course there are those times that my hubby looks up Columbia SC Flowers and surprises me with a gorgeous arrangement. After 19 years of marriage, he still buys me flowers. Having them delivered is a romantic touch as well. Just this past weekend, Dwayne asked me out on a date in a formal way. It was so sweet! It's also fun to get all dolled up and even wear heels to have some fun time away from the kids. Even if you don't have a lot of extra money, it is so worth squeezing out a few dollars to go out on a date with your honey.

Do you date your spouse? What do you usually do?


Homemaking tip | Cook dinner early

I have been a homemaker for over 19 years now and I LOVE my job! I have met a lot of new wives and even new homemakers over the years and they ask me for advice on how I keep everything together. Aside from having my planning book, I do a lot of things at unusual times. I cook dinner (yes dinner) before 11:00 AM during the week. I know you are wondering why I do that. I find that when my husband is at work and the kids are at school, I get so much more done. By the time school lets out and my husband gets home, I am not trying to rush and exhaust myself by having to figure what to make for dinner at 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening.
By cooking my meal in the morning, I save myself the drama and can enjoy my family at dinnertime, stress-free. What I do is cook my meal and pack everything up in containers. I let it cool down for about 20 minutes and I place it all in the refrigerator until later. This also allows all of those good flavors to set in and the food tastes even better than it would if it came straight off the stove. I also don't have to worry about washing dishes, pots and pans at night. It really helps out a lot and I pack any leftovers up for my husband to take for lunch the next day.

Homemaking really comes down to time management. I like to get most of my "work" out of the way before my crew gets home. It gives me more time to focus on things they may need me to help with or just to have a more relaxed evening. A more relaxed mother and wife makes for a happier household!

If you have any homemaking tips you would like to share, I would love to hear them!
Shelly, Mom Files

Married to Jonas on E! and my tips for the newlyweds {Giveaway}

Contest ended- Winner is Cheryl Free

Have you guys heard about the new show on E! called Married to Jonas? I can't believe Kevin Jonas is all grown up and married! Kevin and his young wife Dani make the most adorable couple. Their show will chronicle their new life together as a married couple and also give a peek into their new families... with the in-laws! Oh, they have some very interestingly fun times ahead! Married to Jonas airs on Sunday's 10/9c.

It got me to thinking, being so young and married is not easy. You think things will be as perfect as the day you met, but man oh man do things change! It is important to get some good advice from seasoned couples to make sure you do all you can to make things work. Since I have been married for over 18 years, I feel like I know a thing or two. Here is my top ten list of marriage tips to Kevin and Dani and to all the newlyweds out there. 
  1. Always try to impress each other. If the woman wore make-up and heels while dating, still do it. If the man dressed well and wore nice cologne, keep it up. Don't fall into the trap that your significant other loves you and there is no need to impress them anymore. Don't let yourselves go!  
  2. Ladies, if you and your man are lost in the woods somewhere and he tells you to wait in a specific spot, stay your butt right there. I confess that as a woman, I tend to want to show my man that I can hang and end up getting both of us in more trouble! 
  3. Gentleman, always tell your woman how beautiful she is. Don't tell her that because the world is always saying how beautiful she is that she knows you feel the same. She wants to hear it from YOU! 
  4. Always appreciate each other. Never forget to thank your mate for all the little things. 
  5. Ladies, let your man be a man. They need time to blow off steam and do "boy things". Perhaps not the same things they did when they were single, but you get the idea. 
  6. Be honest each and every day. If you don't like something about your mate, tell them! Holding back never helps things. 
  7. Give each other space. There will be times that you both drive each other crazy. Take some time away from each other. You don't have to be joined at the hip 24/7.
  8. Have a sense of humor. You can't take every single thing so seriously. Laughter is so important to balance out all the serious stuff. 
  9. Ladies, this is important. Be a lady in the street and a freak in the sheets. Seriously, just keeping it real! 
  10. My last tip is very important and it is for the men. Gentleman, just know that the woman is always right. It will make for a lasting and happy marriage. It's as easy as that! 
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I will receive the same prize package as the giveaway winner for posting. No other compensation was received and all thoughts/opinions are 100% my own.
Shelly, Mom Files

How chicken got me a husband (True story)

I can remember in late Summer of '91, Dwayne and I went to Miami Beach to take a dip in the ocean and have a little cook-out . We took along food, drinks and a small charcoal grill. I had pre-seasoned some chicken wings to cook on the grill. Dwayne and I were very young, so he really had not really tasted a lot of my dishes. This was the first time he would get to try my barbecued chicken wings. He took his first bite and closed his eyes. He yelled out how good it was and he was amazed at my cooking skills. He then goes on to tell me how me could totally marry me because I knew how to cook chicken. Can it get any more romantic than that? Turns out he was dead serious. The man loves his chicken cooked just right! 

Speaking of chicken, I wanted to share the latest product I tried courtesy of Lawry's and BzzAgent. It is the Lawry's Santa Fe Chili Marinade. I poured the marinade on some chicken wings and added a few dashes of garlic powder, Lawry's Seasoned Salt and some cracked black pepper. I let it sit in the refrigerator for about an hour and then I cooked them in the oven using the broil/bake method. 35 minutes later we ended up with some of the best tasting chicken wings my family had ever had. I regret not cooking more of it because they were just that delicious! I highly recommend you try it out for yourself.

Stay connected to Lawry's on Facebook .

I received a product samples and coupons because I'm a BzzAgent. All opinions are 100% my own.

Shelly, Mom Files

18 years!

This weekend Dwayne and I will be celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary. We have big plans and are both excited to share this time together. It still amazes us both how long we have been together, 22 years in all. Regardless of whatever life has thrown our way, we hung in there. We have seen each other through the darkest of times and have celebrated the the greatest moments of our lives-- together.
I appreciate and cherish our relationship and can't wait to see what the future holds for us *ahem* I am thinking luxury cruise?! ;-)
Shelly, Mom Files

Spouse guilt and the stay-at-home mom

I have been a stay-at-home mom for 17 years. I admit that I take my mothering gig overboard at times. I do a lot for my children..after all I am a stay-at-home MOM. Last night Dwayne took me out for dinner and drinks. It had been a few months since we went out on a date night so we were very much overdue for one. It was a great evening except for the couple times that I was looked at with a tad bit disgust because I was having discussions about the kids. I was not trying to talk about them that just sort of happens. I am with 1 or more of my children for almost 24 hours of every day. Isn't it only natural for me to mention them to their dad? Well after last night I realized that I need to watch that when it comes time to having that alone time with the husband. I feel so badly for not making our evening enough about him...about us. I really have to work on that. We do plan on making date night a regular event so we stay connected.

If you are a stay-at-home parent, have you encountered the same issue we have? Do you go out on dates regularly?

Shelly, Mom Files

Anniversary weekend | 17 years

I am so excited about celebrating my 17th Wedding Anniversary with my favorite husband in all of the land ♥

Shelly, Mom Files

Re-post | Things that have kept us in love

*Sorry, long post*

I often have people ask what has kept Dwayne and I together for so long and how can we still love each other? 20 years is not long for some of you veterans, but it is for those that could not fathom even 5 years. There are no secrets that will work for every marriage but I will share some things that have worked for us.

  • Respect each other. Hateful words or actions are not allowed in our relationship.
  • Communication is key. Dwayne and I have an agreement that we discuss things and if an agreement can't be met then is it a "No". Chances are we either agree or I get my way so it works out :)
  • Sense of humor is very important especially when your husband is part Bernie Mac meets Jay Leno (funny and lame at the same time). There is NEVER a shortage of laughter in the Ismail house. I also think it is important to know how to laugh at yourself. Everything does not have to be that serious!

  • Understanding and Forgiveness. This has to be one of the hardest things of all. Nobody is perfect and things happen. Almost anything can be worked out or worked on.

  • Appreciation is very important. Taking time to say "thank you" between a man and wife is something that should never be overlooked. I thank Dwayne all the time for providing for our family and never making me feel guilty about my choice to stay at home to raise our children. Dwayne thanks me for even the tiniest things that I don't even think matters. Everything from ironing a shirt, sweetening his coffee or telling him not to worry that everything will work out.

  • Encouragement is HUGE. We encourage each other to become even better. I love Dwayne so much because he never allows me to doubt myself or not give myself enough credit. It's a great boost for both sides!

  • Unconditional Love I even have to explain this one? I love Dwayne for the good, bad, sneaky, naughty, sincere, strong, arrogant, hardcore, sweet, smart and 'Dwayne' things that makes him who he is...The man I married and will eternally love.

Dwayne and I are from 2 totally backgrounds, worlds, planets, and everything in between, but there is this magic that can't be explained. We just mesh together well. If he is out and I am expecting him home I will stand by the window like a school girl and wait. Of course as soon as he drives up, I race to couch and when the door opens I will say "Oh, I didn't even hear you drive up". I think the fact that we have stayed the same people we have always been but have matured together it really keeps the bond going strong. We always have each other's back. If you have a 50/50 relationship, then you have a great chance at a lasting and loving relationship.

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