Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hitting the Hill Country

I know we promised to be better about blogging after we got married, but life happens, and the beginning of 2015 was absolutely crazy! Which brings me to the topic of this blog post-- these two newlyweds needed to get away. So, to the Hill Country we went!

I bought a Groupon for a two night stay at Camp Comfort, this adorable little B&B that was once a bowling alley in Comfort, Texas. We loved the idea of Comfort, because it was a quaint town about 25 minutes from Fredericksburg.

If you know us at all, you know we are both sufferers of hanger. So, when we arrived in Comfort, our first stop was at Comfort Pizza. Wood fired pizza for our first lunch on vacation was the perfect choice. We sat outside, enjoying the weather and the slow-paced life of Comfort.

After a stroll around the town, we decided to go check-in at Camp Comfort. We had seen pictures and thought it was going to be a nice retreat, but it was even better than we imagined. The owners don't want you to feel like they are overbearing, so they provide you with a code to get into your room and everything you need for your stay is in there. Don't get me wrong, they are there if you need them and are very hospitable. Alley #4 was our home for the weekend, complete with a little note from the owners congratulating us on our recent nuptials, a comfy king sized bed, a jet tub, little kitchenette, and a guide to the Hill Country.

After a quick nap, we went to dinner and a movie in Kerrville, a town down the road from Comfort. There wasn't anything special about our dinner or our movie, we were just excited to be on vacation with each other.

The next day we woke up at 9:30 am. This is late for the Shanks duo. The bed was so comfy that we woke up shocked we had slept that late. We went down to the Social Hall for breakfast, where they had an assortment of muffins, oatmeal, toast, granola, yogurt and granola bars. They also have a giant Keurig with a bin full of K cups. After fueling up, we told the owner, Lisa, our plans for the day in Fredericksburg. She recommended one of our favorite meals we had all trip, the Alamo Springs Cafe burger.

This burger was voted as one of the top three burgers in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine. And from the burgers I've had in Texas, I would agree. The staff is also some of the nicest people you will meet. One tip, as you are driving down the road to the restaurant, and you feel there is no way an establishment could be out there, you are in the right place.

After eating our fill of burgers, we had a little drive into town. Before we came on this trip, I had one goal- to go to the Fredericksburg Pie Company. I had read online that they can sell out fast, and since this was Pi Day, I knew we had to go there next. So please forgive our gluttonous behavior, but I mean, we are talking about pie here. Sterling had the blueberry peach pie with ice cream (because pie without ice cream is like pizza without cheese, and we can't have that). I had the cherry pie with ice cream. Both met our high expectations.

This trip we had no hard plans, but we did want to hike Enchanted Rock. As we got closer to the park, you would think Beyonce was in there, because of the line of cars there were to get in. We made the executive decision that Beyonce Enchanted Rock would have to wait for another trip.

We made the trek back to Fredericksburg and walked around the town. Honestly, I think I needed more time to go into the shops and really get to see all there was to see. When it was getting close to dinner time, we stood in line at a restaurant close to where we were. While waiting, we looked up some recommended restaurants in Fredericksburg. As we listed them out loud, the woman in front of us turned around and said, "Go there. The only reason I'm here is because I have a big group."

Off to the Hill Top Cafe we went (after we called frantically, hoping they would have room for us). We scored a reservation at 5:30 and got there right on time. We had crab cakes, steaks, risotto and chocolate cake for dessert. To be frank, we wish we would have just ordered some appetizers to share. We weren't that impressed with our steaks, but our risotto and crab cakes were out of this world. The cake was okay, but nothing compared to the pie from earlier. But, nothing could really compare to the pie from earlier.

We went back to Camp Comfort for our last night and made s'mores by the fire pits outside. Thank you to our good God above that they had fire starters, because I think we would still be there trying to make the fire. Note to self: Would not survive on Survivor. After s'mores, we went to the Social Hall for board games and coffee. If you know my husband, he has a board game radar, and sure enough, they were equipped with board games. After two rounds of Yahtzee, I accepted the fact he won, again.

Since Comfort doesn't have a whole lot going on at night (does it have anything?), we loved the nice touch of a Roku and a paid for Netflix account so we could watch movies or TV shows before going to bed.

We packed up and headed out the next morning, but on our way out of town, we stopped at Das Peach Haus and tried preserves, salsa and sauces and soaked up our last moments of vacation.

The Shanks duo love a good weekend getaway. What are some of your recommendations?

Monday, November 17, 2014

12 Dates of Christmas

We are so sorry we have been off the grid for the past couple of weeks. With Sterling finishing up seminary for the semester and getting ready for the holidays, posting has been a little difficult.

But we are back, with a post I think you will really enjoy. Why? Because it’s about the most wonderful time of the year—Christmas. We will be taking a little twist on the song, “12 Days of Christmas,” and feature:

Dallas for Two's 12 Dates of Christmas

So we may be really excited about this, possibly because we have been discussing this post for a while. Now we get to share our fun, holiday date ideas with you! 

  1. Lone Star Christmas at the Gaylord Texan- This might be Sterling and my favorite part about Christmas. We love going to the Gaylord and looking at the fun decorations and visiting ICE! We have been going since we were a young couple in college. This year the theme is Frosty, so we will be there. {Bonus tip: if you go before peak season, before November 26, excluding November 22, you can get 50% off your tickets. That is where you will find these newlyweds! Just use GAYLORD as the promo code.} Pictures below are from our previous trips to ICE!

  2. Ice skating- So what is more seasonal than ice skating?! How many times have you dreamed of skating on the ice at Rockefeller Center? Well DFW may not be NYC, but you can enjoy a night skating with your special someone at either the Galleria in Dallas or at an outdoor rink at the Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth. 
  3. Holiday Cookie Exchange at Sur La Table- One of our other favorite things about the holidays is the food! Oh my goodness, my sweet tooth can’t control itself. This class is sure to make your dentist cringe but provide some fun for you and your date. During the class you will make a variety of cookies and then swap them amongst the group, so you leave with a bunch of Christmas cookies! Sounds like our kind of class. 
  4. 12 Days of Christmas at the Dallas Arboretum- When we went to the Dallas Arboretum to look at the pumpkins, we saw them setting up for the 12 Days of Christmas. Of course, I started jumping up and down and telling Sterling we had to go back. As you walk through the Arboretum, you will get to take a journey through the 12 Days of Christmas. You will have to look at the website to fully understand my excitement.
  5. Christmas Night In- After going on all these Christmas dates, you just need a night in. We suggest cozying up by the fire, eating s’mores, ordering your favorite food, and watching your favorite Christmas movie. These are some of Sterling and my favorite nights together, especially during the busy holidays. 
  6. Christmas Shows and Concerts- During this time of year, you can see a different show or concert almost every night. Some of our favorites are coming to the area this year. Trans-Siberian Orchestra will be hitting the American Airlines Center {Carol of the Bells, anyone?!} on December 21st. You can also go see A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker
  7. Gift of Lights at Texas Motor Speedway – We love looking at lights from the comfort of our car, and this is a great place to do it. Get some cider or hot chocolate to sip on as you look at the beautiful lights. 
  8. Fort Worth Parade of Lights- Downtown Fort Worth is so much fun and beautiful at this time of year. On November 28, it will be lit up for its 32nd Parade of Lights. You will find us cozied up and drinking cider or hot chocolate {this is a main food group for us at this time of year}. 
  9. Christmas Movie at The Palace Arts Center- Have you ever wanted to watch a classic Christmas movie at a movie theater? Check out some Christmas movie classics playing at The Palace Arts Center in Grapevine throughout December. 
  10. Gift of Christmas at Prestonwood Baptist Church- Jesus is the reason for the season, and Sterling and I love watching this show. Not only does it wow you with the amazing nativity, but it is the perfect way to bring in the holiday season. 
  11. Chocolate Making Class at Dr. Sue's Chocolate- Sterling and I were walking in downtown Grapevine one Saturday and found ourselves in this adorable shop. Dr. Sue's Chocolate has delicious chocolate, and I think we tried every sample. Imagine our faces when we found out there were chocolate making classes. All I could think was how this would be a perfect date night, and how you could serve your holiday guests your yummy homemade chocolate. 
  12. Holiday in the Park at Six Flags over Texas- Many of us DFWers go to Six Flags during the summer months, when we feel like we might fall over from heat stroke. But, with Holiday in the Park, guests can enjoy the park all lit up for Christmas and without the crazy summer heat of Texas. 
Christmas is a such a special time of year to Sterling and I {we got engaged on December 22}. We love celebrating our Savior's birth and creating memories. What special dates do you have planned for this wonderful season? 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Six First Date Don'ts

I've had friends who've gone through some major first date blunders. Now, I am not saying I am the master of dating; it is a craft I continue to hone. I, like most men in the world, have had my share of first dates gone bad. First dates will already be filled with nervousness and butterflies, but I would like to give a few tips to help a guy out. Instead of learning by trial and error, apply the following six dating don’ts as part of your date night.   

  1. Dont say she looks pretty – Yes, pretty is a good compliment, but its date night. She just spent hours in the bathroom getting ready. Let her know she is beautiful, gorgeous, amazing etc.  
  2. Dont be on your phone – Dates are a time to be unplugged. The social media world, Fantasy Football scores, and all the texts can wait. This is a personal battle for me, so sometimes I just turn the phone off. Unless its an emergency, the rest of the world can wait a few hours.
  3. Dont dress down - I dont mean dress to the nines if youre going to Olive Garden and a movie but dont go in your shorts and graphic tee either. She will take time to look special for your date, so take time to look nice too. It shows this quality time with her was special enough to you to dress up a little.
  4. Dont eat anything youll regret – Garlic, Onion, beans etc. No explanation needed.
  5. Dont talk about past relationships- Past dating history will come eventually in the relationship. Your first date is not the time to rehash it though.
  6. Dont be late – A gentleman is always on time.

Now as a married man, I dont do the first date gig anymore, but I still avoid these don’ts on my own date nights with Meredith. By making sure you DONT do these dating fails, you DO have a chance at the second date. What are some of your dating don’ts?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Staycation in Southlake

Birthdays are the perfect time to have an extra special date. My birthday was last weekend, and my husband had been planning for this special occasion for quite a while. {If you read our last blog, you will notice that he incorporated some of his tips in this date}

On Friday, I had walked away from my desk at work, and I came back to find Sterling sitting in my chair with a rose and said, "It's time for your birthday weekend! I've already talked to your boss and you can leave a little early today." As I open up the door to his car, he had a packing list waiting for me, so I could know what to pack without knowing the mystery location.

On our way to our weekend getaway, Sterling told me he had booked a night at the Hilton in Southlake Town Square, which is a fun retail area with restaurants, shops and a movie theater. We checked in at the Hilton and went to Brio Tuscan Grille, a few steps from our hotel. If we could recommend one item on the entire menu, it would be the bruschetta quatro, a sampling of all the bruschetta items on the menu. Delish!

Sterling had told me to bring some of my birthday money on our staycation, and we spent some time after dinner shopping in the shops. We of course had to stop for dessert at Milwaukee Joe's, an ice cream shop, before heading to our movie, The Best of Me. Ice cream=great. Movie=not so much.

First of all, you need to give Sterling credit for going to a chick flick for me. Second, don't see the movie. I mean unless you enjoy broken hearts and sadness, then by all means, see it! We just felt very empty inside after.

To cheer ourselves up, we went to Barnes and Noble and enjoyed looking at some books to lift our spirits. {sidenote: don't you just love the smell of that place. It just makes you want to read, even if you aren't a reader.}

The top 3 reasons this date was a great one:
1) It was a surprise. The whole time I thought Saturday was going to be my birthday celebration, not a staycation on Friday night.
2) We never had to get in our car once we got there. Our hotel, shopping, food and a movie were all in walking distance. It really felt like a getaway.
3) We got to just be ourselves. You may think this date sounds like nothing fancy or out of the ordinary, but it was the "no schedule, let's just do what we want" kind of date that is a perfect end to your week.

What are some of your favorite staycations? We would love to do another...we are kind of addicted now.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Six Dating Tips for Guys

Lauren Guy Photography

A lot of times my friends ask me what they should do to make a date special. I've learned over time in my relationship with Meredith that dating is an outlet for intentional and quality time. My motivation behind making a great date is not to score points or to look like some great guy...if this happens thats just an added bonus. The point behind making a great date, to me, to let Meredith know she matters to me, and that she is loved. No matter what your date is, you need to have shown you have put thought into it. This shows her that the time you are going to spend together mattered enough to you to spend time preparing for it.

Bottom Line: thoughtfulness is key.  Here are six tips to enhance your date and make your girl know you care.

  1. Write a Note – It doesnt matter what youre doing or where you are going, write her a note. A hand-written note shows her you are intentional. It will mean more to her than you can understand.
  2. Greet with a flower – Before heading to go on your date, buy a single flower. It's not as much money as a whole bouquet but still shows her that the night with her is special to you.
  3. Surprise date – Sometimes a surprise is just what the doctor ordered. If you can feel that she is just in need of some good quality time, plan out a surprise. There are times when Ill make Meredith think we are having just a normal night in, but I have other things planned. Just last week she thought we were eating leftovers at home, but I had laid out clothes for her to go on a date with a note and plan ready for action.
  4. Open Doors – Gentlemen Code 101. Unless its an automatic or revolving door you better be the one opening and holding the door.
  5. Give Options – Sometimes Ill plan a date, but I'm not exactly sure what Meredith is in the mood for so Ill give her options. Let her choose between a few places to eat you know she likes and then suggest a few date activities for afterwards. It shows youve taken initiative
  6. Affirm – Like I said with a note, words are important, and your girl deserves them in abundance. Even before the date begins you can already be affirming her. If you have a date planned, text her and let her know how excited you are for your date that evening. It shows her that she is on your mind. Let her know how good she looks, how you feel about her and how you are enjoying your time that night. Words go a long way.
These are just some ways to show your girl you know her and love her. Don't let it stop at these six tips. Continue to seek new ways to put thought into your date nights. Do you have any tips to make your date more special? 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A "Fair"ly Good Weekend

I love this time of year! Cold weather, pumpkins, colored leaves...and the Texas State Fair! Sterling and I can't get enough of Big Tex, fried food, fun rides and so much more!

This year, we kicked off our state fair weekend with a concert at the Gexa Energy Pavilion to see Zac Brown Band. We had a great time sitting on the lawn with our blanket under the stars listening to great music. This was the perfect time of year to go, because it wasn't that sweltering Texas heat. When the sun went down the weather was if you can have nice weather in Texas.

We also had a wonderful time because we were joined by Sterling's brother and his girlfriend. A concert at the Gexa Energy Pavilion is perfect for a double date. You don't have to worry about getting seats together, just remember to lay down your blankets in the same area! It was the perfect beginning to our weekend spent at Fair Park.

The next morning we drove ourselves to the DART station to be at Fair Park at 10 am when the fair opened. Sterling and I aren't ones for crowds, so we loved getting to the fair early (AKA no waiting in line for our Fletcher's corn dogs)! The DART is inexpensive and efficient. Pay $5 a person for a day pass, and the DART train will drop you off at the entrance for the state fair. Yes, you heard me right: no waiting in traffic, no paying for parking, no walking to the fair, and no losing where you parked.

When we arrived at the fair, we had to get the Fletcher's corn dogs, because we think about those all year long. We are also huge fans of the food at the fair. Let's be honest, it's the real reason we go to the fair.

Last year we went at night so we had a hard time finding the finalists in the fried food competition, but this year it was our goal to taste some! Right by the main Fletcher's corn dog station, we found the Texas Bluebonnet. This is a blueberry muffin, stuffed with cream cheese, blueberries and white chocolate. It is of course deep fried. Then to top it off, it's served with whipped cream, white chocolate chips and a blueberry sauce. It was Sterling's favorite.

After we had all the food we could handle for the moment, we went to one of my favorite parts of the state fair: the dog show. Ya'll these dogs are the cutest! This is also a free event {and on our newlywed budget, we are loving free}

The dog show led us to the area with all of the animals, so of course we had to visit with the cows, pigs and llamas. When you are in the barn, you almost forget you are smack dab in the middle of the a huge city!

We started to get hungry again, and I was determined to eat the Fried Sweet Texas. This is a pie filled with buttermilk pie, peach cobbler, and pecan pie. It's deep fried and served with a true Texas staple, Blue Bell ice cream. Ya'll I could have easily eaten two. {There is no judgement at Dallas for Two}

Sterling and I walked around and enjoyed two other fried treats--fried Reese's cup and fried cookie dough. Both perfect.

On this trip to the fair, we didn't ride any rides or play any games, but that's the fun part of the state fair--you can make it your own memorable experience. You may not care about the food, but that's alright, because there is something for everyone, which makes it the perfect date spot. But, hurry there, the last day is October 19! Do you have any fun Texas State fair traditions?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Giving Back

Date nights don't always just have to be about you as a couple. Sometimes, by focusing on someone else, you grow closer together as a couple. Sterling and I are extremely passionate about giving back to others. We love using our time and talents to support causes we find important. By volunteering together, we spend time together and have the opportunity to make a difference. 

One volunteer opportunity near and dear to my heart is Operation Christmas Child. I had the blessing of working there as a Media Relations Associate in 2012, and I loved every second. What does Operation Christmas Child do? In a nutshell, Operation Christmas Child sends gift-filled shoe boxes to children overseas to tell them about the love of Jesus.

When I found out that there would be a processing center in the DFW area, I knew Sterling and I would have to volunteer. At the processing center, we looked through boxes for liquids, breakables, and other items that aren’t allowed to be shipped. We also taped up the boxes and crated them for shipment. They took time periodically throughout the process to pray over the boxes and tell us where these boxes were going. I loved knowing a child in South America was going to be getting a box filled with school supplies, soap, a teddy bear, and a toothbrush. 

It was an incredible day for a cause we have such a heart for. We also love that we can get involved with Operation Christmas Child outside of the processing center. You can pack shoe box gifts for the children. To learn more about packing shoe boxes, go to their website. You can also sign up to volunteer at a processing center, here.

Find a cause that you and your significant other feel strongly about and spend time volunteering. You will grow closer in a way that dinner and a movie won't give to you. How do you and your significant other give back together? Let us know in the comments section below!