Three months back my quiet, selfless, fiercely independent husband made a request. And let me just begin by saying this guy never makes requests. His is a soul that lives to serve and lift up others. But on this particular day, kindly and gently, he asked if perhaps we could reinstate our routine of weekly date nights.
Back when we were first starting the farm and simultaneously planning our wedding (and grand month-long honeymoon), we had understood the importance of date nights. Obviously we were young and in love, but we were also stressed and overwhelmed. We loved everything we were building– our dream business, our dream wedding, our dream life– but that didn’t mean we didn’t deserve a break. Those dates were the deliberate and intentional off switch in our hard-working partnership. We started a fun habit of heading away from our home together at least twice a month. Our dates were nothing extravagant or expensive, but they were essential.
We married in October of 2014 and for some reason or another those date nights disappeared. We had a bigger farm to build, a home to create, careers to tend to, friendships to nurture, and somewhere in the race towards our dreams, we started to neglect each other in subtle ways barely even perceptible to ourselves let alone anyone else.
We communicated effortlessly (and frequently). We worked together better than ever. We shared hopes, dreams, fears, plans. We supported each other in ways I never realized individuals could support each other. It certainly didn’t feel like we had any problem. And yet, there was definitely something missing.
I think we both noticed it. I forced my way forward with excessive communication and over-analysis. My Carrot let me, all the while quietly evaluating internally until that day he made such a small and gracious ask. He said, “I think we need one night a week that’s just for us, that’s just for fun.”
Oh right. Fun. That was the thing missing as we blazed forward determined to continuously build a bigger and better future for ourselves. I wish I could say he asked and I responded, effortlessly sliding into weekly dates that were fun. But as usual, I resisted. I grumbled. I tried to define it in my own terms instead of just showing up and following his lead.
We are three months into our weekly date nights now and they have absolutely become the highlight of my week. They go on my calendar before anything else. They aren’t an after thought. They’re the priority.
We go out sometimes. We went to Hamilton in Chicago, out to the movies, for a long hike at one of our favorite parks, and to a tiny concert in our tiny town, but more often than not date night just means doing something intentional at home. Sharing a bottle of red wine while we cook a batch of totally sexy Spaghetti & Meatballs. Renting a movie we’re both dying to watch and actually closing our computers when it comes time to watch it. Taking our dogs for a walk through the park then binging on a Perfect Pizza Pie (recipe below) we made before heading out.
We know we won’t be able to keep our date nights up this often during the farming season. We know we’ll have to balance fun in different ways. Luckily, the work we do together all summer is incredibly fun. As are so many tiny moments that take less than an hour of our time that we can easily slide into busy farming weeks. Things like champagne on Wednesdays, cuddling in our hammock, playing dominos, or laying out under the stars in our backyard.
This life of ours is a dance and not always a particularly elegant one, but I love the back and forth of working together to get it right.
And now I must apologize. I really meant to write about all this before Valentine’s Day to get you thinking about love and partnerships and the ways you show up (or forget to show up) for the people you love the most, but I must admit I was too busy spending time with my husband.
With all my sappy, happy love,
PERFECT PIZZA PIE
My mom finds it hilarious that I consider a pizza with this much garlic sexy or appropriate for date night. Feel free to enjoy on a less sexy evening should bad breath be a turn off for either you or your special someone. Oh and also, if you prefer to use store-bought pizza dough, go for it! Then you can skip steps 1-2.
Takes 1 hours, not including the time to make the dough which should be 2-5 days in advance if possible
1-1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
10 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced + 1 bulb garlic, whole, divided
1 tablespoon tomato paste
28-ounce can crushed (high quality) tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 cups low-moisture shredded mozzarella
6 ounces pepperoni (preferably this stuff if you can find it!), sliced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
- First things first, make your pizza dough. Combine warm water with yeast and sugar and stir to combine. Let that mixture sit and bubble for 5 minutes until it smells yeasty.
- Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with a dough cook combine flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir until combined then add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir on low speed for 30 seconds and then add yeast water mixture. Stir just until dough comes together then cover with plastic wrap. Place dough in the fridge for 2-5 days. It will rise slowly in the fridge over those days. If not making it in advance, forgo the fridge step and just let it rise in a warm place for an hour before continuing to the next steps.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and cook until just beginning to brown. Stir in canned tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 30-45 minutes until sauce has thickened.
- Cut top off the full garlic bulb, drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and warp in foil. Roast until lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from foil, allowing to cool just enough so that you can handle and then remove cloves from papery skin.
- When your sauce and garlic are done, preheat the oven to 525 degrees. Drizzle remaining 3 tablespoon of olive oil on a large baking sheet. Press dough into pan so it reaches the edges. Top with sauce followed by cheese and then pepperoni. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon salt, roasted garlic cloves and basil. Add red pepper flakes if using.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is golden brown and cheese is nicely browned. Serve warm.