There are two women I’d walk over hot coals for if asked. Sure, my Mom and my daughter mean a lot to me, but I’m not talking about them. At least not in this post. I am talking about Dolly Parton and Ina Garten. Nothing sounds better to me than spending time with both of these women drinking cocktails, eating high-fat, high-calorie snacks, and talking about our favorite things. Seriously. Then we’d stay up late talking, wake up in the morning and have coffee, make some biscuits, and I’d listen intently as they gave me the best advice on running businesses and life (in general).

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when my dear friend, Sara, sent me THIS article about Ina and her beloved Jeffery. The title? “Ina Garten’s 5 tips for a Better Date Night In.” Man, this article came right on time for me and my husband, Mike. Let’s review WHY it came right on time:

  1. It’s been (at least) 10 months since Mike and I have had a “Date Night In.” Who am I kidding? I only guessed 10 months because I CAN’T POSSIBLY REMEMBER THIS HAPPENING AT ALL SINCE HAVING MY FIRST CHILD FIVE YEARS AGO.
  2. Mike and I are approaching our 7th wedding anniversary on November 7th and this would be a perfect way to celebrate given the fact that we fell in love cooking our way through every single Barefoot Contessa (aka Ina Garten) cookbook. Ah, the memories. And oh…those pounds. Ina don’t play in the love and butter business.

And so, I decided to read the article out loud to Mike as a way to celebrate who we are in this new phase of our life: Full-time working parents of two children under the age of 5. Yes, a date night in is JUST what we need, but how do we do this successfully? Well, let’s just follow the advice in the article:

1.Treat dinners together as a gift.
“You don’t need to go out of your way to create the perfect evening — with busy schedules, finding the time to simply share a meal together is special in itself.”

Well that’s good to know because the way our dinners currently operate is whenever I’m finished with dishing up one person’s plate is when they get it and immediately find their way to their respective spots at the table and immediately begin eating. So, if we can possibly manage to be eating at the exact same time and eating the exact same thing, we are winning already. And if we are eating something where I didn’t have to cut another person’s portion up in teeny-tiny pieces or fill a sippy cup, then we are living it UP, people.

2.Don’t go crazy on fancy food.
“That’s when you really connect — over a really nice, simple dinner rather than a fancy dinner that’s meant to impress people,” Ina says. “The key is to make something so when you’re done with dinner, you can still be present for the people who are there — that’s what makes them feel special.”

This is EXACTLY why I tend to focus my efforts on HomeRun Thin Crust Pizza straight from the freezer section at the grocery store. Thank you, Ina, for affirming my choice 3x each week.

3.Dress up your table — a little bit.         
“Ina doesn’t go overboard when setting the dinner table, but she does rely on a few small touches to make things feel a bit more special, like fresh flowers, candles, and linen napkins.”

Uh, sounds like this is the perfect reminder to vacuum the random crumbs out of the table grooves, sweep up the bits of food Mae threw on the floor 4 days ago, shove the random rescue bot, puzzle piece, and sippy cup with sour milk to another part of the table, and wipe down (you know, because this is a special occasion) the plastic place mats. In other words, we are getting fancy.

4. Share the workload.
“When it comes to the cooking, Ina happily does it all — but that doesn’t mean Jeffrey doesn’t help in his own way. “He’s very good about clearing the dishes and stacking them, which makes it much easier for me to clean up afterwards,” says Ina. ”

Wait. We clean up after the date night in? Like, wash dishes? Scrape plates? What kind of a date is this, anyway???

5.Save your binge-watching for after dinner.
Ina and Jeffrey listen to a series of CDs released by Hôtel Costes in Paris; the eclectic mixes evoke fond memories of their time spent abroad.”

Ahem, for those of us experiencing life with a loved one alongside two children under the age of 5,  I think we’d ditch the CD from Paris and instead sit in absolute SILENCE. Just listening to each of our jaws lightly chomping food sounds like absolute heaven if you ask me. No questions. No noise. No humans talking. Not even the ones on the date. Just straight up mastication in beautiful silence.

So, obviously we have some work to do in order to achieve the Ina/Jeffery Date Night Nirvana. Heck, we can’t even find a way to escape for our anniversary and I think the closest getaway we have secured is HOOVER (this is a suburb 15 minutes away for those of you unfamiliar with Birmingham).

In the meantime, I’ll just be over here dreaming about Ina cooking for me.

And perhaps the four of us (Ina, Jeffrey, Mike, and myself) running all over East Hampton looking for dinner clues and finishing our evenings on the beach complete with bonfires while a CD is softly playing in the background as we reminisce on NEVER having been in Paris like, ever. Oh, and then Ina and I would scrape and stack the plates so Mike and Jeffrey didn’t have it so bad during clean up.