10 Creative Winter Date Ideas

I have a confession to make.  I LOVE going on dates with my husband.  When we have one planned, I literally look forward to it all week.  I think about what I’m going to wear and what we might do, but mostly I’m just excited to spend that quality time with my best friend.

Anyone else’s love language quality time?  Getting to spend time together just the two of us is worth so much more to me than any other display of affection.  

Will is really great at planning dates.  He usually doesn’t even tell me what we’re doing.  He gives me as little information as possible and then surprises me as we go along.  It’s fantastic.  

You would think that because we love hiking and exploring that winter might be a little bit of a downer for us.  But really, we just get to enjoy a whole different realm of the dating world.  So without further ado, here are our top 10 winter date ideas.

Take a cooking class together

Or if you don’t want to go to a class, you could find a recipe you want to try and then make it together in your kitchen.  But if you cook all the time in your own kitchen and you want to be inspired by someone else’s genius, Google the most recommended cooking classes in your area and sign up!  

This is such a unique date idea that you will definitely make some memories.  Instead of all the dinner and a movie dates that begin to blend together, this one will stand out among the rest.  So take a chance and get cooking!

Have a game night with a prize for the winner

You could even turn this into a double date, winner take all!  Will and I registered for some games when we were getting married, and I also got a really good one for Christmas.  Our favorite game lately has been a Harry Potter deck building card game that has consumed our most recent date nights.  You don’t have to know much of anything about Harry Potter to enjoy the strategy of the game, but if you do it will make it that much more fun.  

Other favorites for game nights include Catan, Sequence, and Nertz.

Go to a hockey game

We have a local hockey team here in Fayetteville.  I also went to university in Canada and went to the rec hockey games almost every week.  It was a blast.  

Get bundled up for the ice rink for your hockey date and prepare to eat classic sporting event cuisine like nachos and hot-dogs.  Try to snap a photo with the mascot and catch a free t-shirt that you know they will be launching into the stands.   

Go on a winter hike

Why should a little cold weather stop you from exploring the great outdoors?  Put on your good hiking boots and find a trail you’ve been dying to try.  Ask around with locals to find the perfect wintery spot and set out in your adventuremobile for some great exploring together.  Winter doesn’t have to be enjoyed solely from your very cozy couch.  

Go to a local museum neither of you have been to before

I’ll be honest, this one is high on my list.  Is there a mansion-turned-museum where you live?  Those are my favorite.  What about a cool transportation museum that really tells the story of where you live?  Or how about an art museum with a cool new exhibit?  Try something new—maybe an interest you haven’t explored together yet—and get to know each other a little more as you spend some time with culture.

Go to a trivia night

This is super fun, whether you know the answers or not!  Will and I recently went to a Christmas movie trivia night with my sister and brother-in-law and had a blast!  I only knew like two of the answers and my family carried us all the way to second or third place, but we still had so much fun.  We ate tasty appetizers and tried different drinks, and all just had a really good time together.  

Take a look on Facebook events or ask some local restaurants if they know of any trivia nights around you.  The host at our trivia night knew a slew of others around town we could try out in the future.

Catch a play

I grew up going to a lot of plays with my mom and sister.  I think it is something that I look a little for granted, to be honest.  Now that I am an adult I hardly ever get to go to plays and shows.  I took my sister on a sister date once to see Avenue Q when it was in town and it was every bit as hilarious and inappropriate as I thought it would be.

Even if plays aren’t necessarily your thing, give it a try to do something a little different.  It will definitely create a more lasting memory for you two!

Try indoor rock climbing

I’ll be honest, this one intimidates me because I often feel out of shape, and I also have bad wrists.  However, if you are fit and adventurous and down for trying something new and different, this is a fantastic winter option!  First of all, it’s indoors.  Secondly, it is active.  Thirdly, it is DIFFERENT!  And if you can’t tell by now, I’m a sucker for different date ideas because I’m all about lasting memories and trying creative things that are out of the norm.

See a movie at the fanciest theatre in town

Okay, so I know this may sound normal and routine to you, but trust me.  Especially if you can somehow pull off the surprise date.  Does your significant other really want to see a specific movie that’s out?  Do they know that a small theatre downtown recently renovated and upgraded to heated reclining seats in all of the auditoriums?  Do they enjoy a little wine with their movie?  Pull out all the stops—don’t make this just any other dinner and a movie date.  Make this a reclining seat and wine movie date with Jason Momoa in Aquaman.

(Disclaimer: Will, I don’t actually want to see Aquaman so don’t take me to that one.  Haha.)

All right, friend, my job of inspiring you is over!  Now it’s your turn to plan and execute!  Good luck and happy dating!

Until next time,
Jamie out.

my Instagram Top 9 2018

This is my official “top nine.”  The one the app pulls up for you and says, “Here!  This was your year!”  And these were my most liked posts on mrsjamieshugart from 2018.

While I actually think this Top 9 did a pretty dang good job, I still stare at it and think, “How on earth can my 2018 ever fit into nine little photographs?”  

According to this photo, 2018 was our Golden Retriever Blue (who is quite important, don’t get me wrong), our new furniture, our NEW HOUSE (first time home buyers—holla!), us, and adventures.  Not a bad representation, but probably not exactly what I would choose.

2018 in a nutshell:

  • Will and I spent the first three months apart.  We took our engagement photos and then he was whisked away.  
  • Just as soon as he got back, we got married, honeymooned in Maine, lived a few more weeks in North Carolina, and then packed all of our possessions into a storage unit for safe keeping.  
  • We drove over two thousand miles away to Arizona to spend four months with each other, with work, and with the desert.  
  • I launched my blog, we road tripped to Utah, explored several national parks (including the Grand Canyon), spent a weekend in San Diego, and ate all of the tacos we could stand.
  • After four months of desert living, we began our trek back to North Carolina and I got rear ended on the first day of our drive.  My trusty little car was a total loss.
  • Just a few days later we arrived in North Carolina and closed on our house.  
  • The next day we emptied our storage unit (that had flooded in our absence) and discovered that basically all of our furniture was toast.
  • Within 5 days, we bought a house, lost all of our furniture, picked out our puppy, and bought a new (to us) Toyota.  
  • Just two weeks later we brought our Golden girl Blue home.  The first month was extremely overwhelming and all of the emotions of the car accident and storage flood caught up with us during our lack of sleep during puppy and potty training.
  • Will started his new job with a much busier schedule that will demand a lot from us in 2019.
  • I started working almost full time as a photographer, being self employed and working a lot from home.

WHAT.  A.  CRAZY.  YEAR.  WE.  HAD.  If I could choose my own top nine for this crazy year, these photos would be it.

#1

My baby nephew was born and adopted in February.  This is what I had to say at the time:

For this child I have prayed.

Little baby Harkni, how we have prayed. And we know now, why it all happened the way it did. Because you were absolutely always His plan, and without the years of waiting and praying and sadness, we wouldn’t get to love you the way we get to love you. We wouldn’t have YOU, and what a beautiful and miraculous thing that there is now this precious new person in the world. And that precious new person is ours to love.

We are so blessed. We are so happy. We are so in love. Our family is growing this year, and 2018 is The Best Year Ever.

With all of our hearts, baby Harkni.

#2

My bridal shower!

This was a crazy season for me.  I was stressed beyond measure (planning is NOT my thing) with the wedding, Will was far far away from me, and I was working all hours of the night and day with my full time job, photography on the side, and worship team shenanigans.  My amazing work family threw me a surprise bridal shower that was extremely generous and made me feel so loved.  My bridesmaid/bestie and her mama also threw me this shower on the day I got my hair done for the wedding (conveniently) at this adorable and delicious restaurant downtown with some of my very favorite ladies.

May you all feel loved the way I was blessed to feel so loved.

#3

#4

#wamieswedding

In April, we got married in my parents’ backyard under sunny blue skies.  I wore lace and tule and we didn’t have a first look.  I watched all the guests arrive through a slit in the blinds of my parents’ master bedroom and ogled my fiancé in his tux from afar.  Will cried when he saw me and we said sweet simple vows.  We snapped a couple pictures and then spent the reception with our loved ones before we jumped in a very decorated car that told passersby to honk, JUST MARRIED! and drove to Raleigh to stay the night in a fancy hotel before setting off the next morning for our honeymoon.

#5

On our honeymoon, we went to the beach, but in coats.  We didn’t get tan, or drink cocktails, or go snorkeling.  We flew to Maine—my dream vacation—and stayed in a little cottage outside Bar Harbor on an island called Mount Desert.  We drank wine and ate blueberry preserves.  Our first little breakfast, I got crepes with Maine blueberries and we drank our way through the island’s coffee supply that week.  We wore activewear and fleece and hiked up mountains to see the views.  We looked off into the distance of the Atlantic on a very clear day and had lobster multiple times at fancy restaurants on the bay.  Will tried a glass of twenty dollar scotch and we did a Marvel marathon to prepare for the release of Infinity War.

We even went to see a lighthouse that I had been ogling pictures of for years.  I had saved a photo of the very lighthouse to my phone exactly two years prior.  To the day.

#6

Our Arizona adventures!

After packing up and moving, discovering hotel and desert life, and launching our blog, we began to realize our dream of visiting as many National Parks as possible, beginning with the Coronado National Memorial.  We love hiking, camping, and exploring.  We were stoked when we found out that Coronado has a cave that you can explore without a guide!  We hiked the half mile trail up the mountainside and then spent a long time exploring the depths of the cave with one headlamp and one sort of okay flashlight.

We then drove up a windy, dirt road to a view point.  If you turn around, you can see well into Mexico.  It was beautiful and green because of monsoon season, and we were so blessed to experience it.

#7

The Grand Canyon

Another dream of mine!  And a culmination of all of my goals and aspirations in Arizona.  I did a work out program called 80 Day Obsession specifically to be able to keep up with my super fit husband on all of our adventuring in the desert.  At the Grand Canyon, we got up around 3am to make it to the rim in time to watch the sun rise.  We then hiked the rim trail for over twelve miles and spent over 13 hours in the presence of the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.

#8

A Cacti Goodbye to Arizona

This photo is a great representation of our Arizona adventure.  On our last weekend, we drove up to Saguaro National Park to catch the sunset among some of the biggest cacti I have ever laid eyes on.  We had a mini photo shoot with my camera on a tripod and the remote in my hand.  It gave us a moment to slow down and cherish every adventure we had been on, the four months we had gone through just the two of us, and this incredible way to start our marriage.  It was a bitter sweet last adventure in the desert, but it was probably one of the best ideas we have had to date.

#9

All of our last two months of 2018 wrapped into one photo, with our new house and our new furniture and our new pup.  What a whirlwind the last 70 days of 2018 were!  I’ll be honest, I hope we don’t go through any more of those, but WHEN we do I will be grateful to do it with Will by my side.

Last year was a blast!  (Most of it!)  I was a little sad to see it go, to be honest.  2018 was very very good for my soul.  For our marriage.  For our future as the Shugarts.  We are so blessed to have had 2018.  

Now here we head into the unknown of a new year.  Our bags are unpacked.  We are setting down roots.  We have plans and adventures and explorations to do.  The world is a big place, so let’s hop to it, shall we?

Until next time,
Jamie out.

I am thankful for…

At my job, every day we start the morning by sharing our good news.  Sometimes it is a struggle to think of something, but I can appreciate it all the more because it forces me to chase the good and positive.  

Even if I have been dog sitting another puppy all weekend and I feel like I cleaned up more messes than when we were in the thick of potty training our pup Blue.  Even if I am struggling to adjust back to North Carolina busy life.  I know that my good news this morning is that I got to spend some much needed quality time with my husband this weekend and that we actually weren’t that busy the past two days.

So here is my challenge to you—life is hard, and busy.  There is always something responsible to get done, like laundry and the dishes.  There is always something that will throw off your routine, or be frustrating.  The good news is that you are in control of yourself and how you react to things.  My challenge for you is to chase the good.  Do it with me—every morning think of what your good news is.  

Did you just get a cute new pair of shoes?  Did you successfully try a new recipe?  Did your kid accomplish something awesome, like good grades?  Did you have a great date night?  

Be thankful.  Have an attitude of gratitude.  If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.  

It isn’t going to do your life much good if you are only thankful on Thanksgiving.  It is time to create a habit of gratitude.


our Thankful family our Thankful family our Thankful family

Until next time,
Jamie out

our top 10 tips for surviving a road trip with your spouse

Will and I have been on five road trips since we got married almost seven months ago. I’m not talking two hour drives for a day trip, either. I’m talking two cross country moves and three road-freaking-trips.

When we moved out to Arizona in June we had been married for two months. We were blessed enough to have already had a honeymoon, but this four month journey in the desert kind of felt like a second go around. We were about to experience a whole lot of just each other. Not a whole lot of family, friends, or busy lives to distract us. 

We definitely took advantage of our distraction free time. Our first weekend in Arizona, we drove to Utah to visit Will’s family and celebrate his mom’s birthday. We spent almost every weekend in Tucson or at a National Park. Over Labor Day we road tripped to the Grand Canyon. Over Columbus Day we trekked out to San Diego. And by Halloween we moved back home to North Carolina. 

We’ve made some good and bad discoveries about road trips over the past few months and want to share our top ten tips for surviving road trips with your spouse.

Plan the trip together 

Maybe one of you is accustomed to leaving at five am, while the other person thinks nine o’clock is reasonable.  Maybe one of you wants to push and drive fourteen, eighteen, twenty-four hours in a day, while the other person considers six to eight hours a solid day of driving.  

These are all completely normal things, but if you don’t talk about expectations ahead of time, you WILL be shocked when your spouse thinks that driving straight through the night is 100% happening.  

Talk about the foreseeable things during the road trip planning process.  If you can’t plan the entire trip together (because of work, or whatever other reason), at least take some time to sit down and talk it out.  Make sure you understand each other’s expectations up front.  

How many days do you expect to be on the road?  Will you be staying in hotels, with friends and relatives, or camping?  Is stopping for sight seeing an option, or is time more pressing?  

Sit down and talk about these, and other foreseeable things before you leave.

Manage the snack and beverage situation

When I get bored, I like to eat.  Having snacks at my fingertips while on the road is crucial, but also dangerous.  The good news is that you’re in control of yourself, and that you have influence over your partnership.  You and your spouse are literally the people purchasing your snacks for the road.  You can absolutely be prepared.

Will and I go to the grocery store together.  We decide together what we want.  I know I’ll want chocolate.  We’ll both want something salty.  Throwing in healthy options is a positive thing.  We bring some Gatorade in addition to water to make sure we will stay hydrated.  

I consider having snacks for a road trip to be non-negotiable, but I do understand the difference between needing a pick-me-up and needing a meal.  Make sure you have discussed with one another whether or not you’ll be packing your own meals to bring, or if you’ll be stopping along the route.  Will and I like to stop at Subway for healthy, inexpensive options.  I also love throwing a side salad onto fast food meals to get some veggies while on the road. 

Eat the Hostess Donuts

Speaking of eating healthy while on the road, my personal cheat are those tiny little chocolate Hostess donuts you can get at every gas station.  Every morning, I treat myself at the first gas station we stop at with a package of donuts to reward myself for being a good sport about sitting still all day.  

I know I just spouted all this stuff at you about you being the one in control and that you can bring the healthy snack options.  But fo real, these Hostess donuts are an absolute necessity and Will agrees with me completely.  

Create your own custom playlist

If you’re anything like me, you have been creating your own playlists on iTunes and/or Spotify for years.  You hear a song, you think, “That’s my jam!” and you add that piece of gold to your playlist.  

At the start of every road trip I have taken since college, we begin every day with “Circle Of Life” from the Lion King, followed by upbeat songs and Disney princess classics.  Belting it out whether or not you know all the words is a given.

In the weeks leading up to your road trip, throw some songs in a playlist.  Think of songs your spouse loves and put them on there.  The song you danced to at your wedding?  Definitely.  That song from high school you remember all the lyrics to?  Add it!  This is not the time to be sophisticated.  This is absolutely the time for sing alongs, road trip dance parties, and keeping your eyelids propped open by the mere sound of high school’s nostalgic rhythms coming out of your sound system.  

Use Walkie-Talkies

Are you and your spouse going to be driving in different cars?  Walkie-talkies are absolutely, 100% necessary.  Let’s think about it—the likelihood of you being more than a mile apart from one another is slim to none while you’re on the road, talking on your hand held phone is illegal in most states, and in the event that your car is not equipped with blu-tooth (like mine), communicating while driving can get tricky.

Not with walkie-talkies!  Head down to Walmart and pick up a pair.  Bring some extra batteries on the road and viola!  You can talk about a rad podcast you just listened to, exclaim over some huge bird you just saw, or share navigation tips with just the push of a button.

Will and I have code names.  He’s Captain American and I’m Raptor One.  

Listen to podcasts

Speaking of podcasts, remember when you were a kid and you would be driving somewhere and all your parents wanted to listen to was some boring radio show or news broadcast?  I would be sitting in the back being like, “Why can’t we just listen to music instead of this boring stuff?”

When Will and I moved across the country, we both took separate cars, so we could listen to whatever we wanted to.  I could sing as loud and as long as I wanted and he could listen to as many political podcasts as his heart desired.  Once we started road tripping together in the same car, it changed things.

The good news is that we are a team and a partnership.  We’re also BFFs so we occasionally share interests.  We attempt to be considerate of each other and listen to things that interest both of us.  

On the move out to Arizona we both fell in love with podcasts, and the great news is that podcasts are completely free for you to listen to.  You can listen to what you want, when you want, and there are thousands of shows to pick from.  You can even download them when you’re connected to wifi and listen to them later, so you don’t use your data.  See?  Free.

My favorite podcasts lately are the SHE podcast, ONE Extraordinary Marriage, and Elevation with Steven Furtick.  I saved up several shows for our move back to North Carolina and had a blast.

Listen to each other’s needs while on the road

We all have bladders and stomachs.  We all get dehydrated or car sick.  We all have expectations for how our day is going to go.  

My point is, you’re both different and come from different driving experiences from before your relationship.  Don’t allow your need to get where you’re going steamroll your relationship.  When you’re on the road, listen to each other’s needs and allow your partner to be human.  Chances are, arriving later than planned will not endanger or hurt someone.  They may just… alter your plans.  That’s it.  

I can easily go for four or five hours without stopping while on the road, unless the car needs gas.  Will, on the other hand, needs to get out of the car every couple hours to simply stretch his legs.  When we moved to Arizona two months after getting married, this actually really annoyed me.  I didn’t understand why we could never drive for longer than three hours without stopping.  It wasn’t until months later that Will shared how restless his legs and body would get, and that’s something I can completely understand!

The reality is, stopping for ten to fifteen minutes at a gas station will not ruin the trip.  In fact, it might enhance and benefit the experience for your spouse.  Accept the humanity of your spouse and if it’s something that annoys you, realize that they can’t control it either.  It’s just a need that they have, and that is 100% okay.  Show them some love and grace.

Be willing to drive

I grew up in a family where my dad drives basically everywhere.  It is very rare that my mom will hop behind the wheel when both of my parents are in the same car, even while on a road trip.  (Side note—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, OR if your family was completely different.  I’m just saying, this is my family.)

Will and I are very similar, but this is still an expectation I revisit occasionally in our relationship.  I try to thank him often for when he drives for us, especially if he drove a long way or at the end of a tiring day.  I’ll ask if he’s okay to drive, not as a sign of disrespect, but because if he needs me to drive instead, I would love to serve him in that way.

If in your relationship, one of you tends to drive more than the other, maybe discuss that expectation before you leave for your road trip.  Ask if your spouse wants to drive the most, or if they would like to split it more equally.  Even if you don’t talk about it ahead of time and your spouse asks you to drive while you’re in the middle of your trip, be okay and willing to step up and help.  

On the flip side, if you normally do all the driving, but expect to want to share that responsibility on the road trip, lovingly bring the idea up ahead of time.  Make sure your spouse knows how they can serve you.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask!  If you’re too tired to drive, it is absolutely okay to ask your partner to step up!

Pray over your journey

I actually think that this is the most important thing.  Just like praying in everyday life, over tough situations and illnesses, or over a newly purchased home, praying over your trip should be something you do every time.  Set the intention now, whether it’s before you leave the house or as soon as you sit in the car.  

I try to pray over everything.  Over our own personal and bodily safety, over our own alertness and health, over the safety of our vehicles and their mechanics, and that we will be surrounded by alert and competent drivers.  In everything, God’s plan is highest and His will be done.

Don’t total your car

We did this, when we were driving from Arizona to North Carolina.  On our first day of driving I got rear ended in a tiny town in New Mexico.  

We had been planning on taking a more northern route home, to see friends and family and to frolic in the fall foliage of the mountains.  Instead we ended up staying in New Mexico for about twenty-four more hours while we sorted everything out with insurance on a Friday before the weekend.  The car being a total loss was in our favor because did not have to figure out how to repair it and transport it back home.

Obviously, not being at fault in this situation, there was nothing I could have done to prevent it.  It just happened.  I can replay the scenario countless times, realizing had we not tried to stop for dinner, had we not pulled into that parking lot, had we not done A, B, C, D then this would not have happened and our lives would be very different.  Luckily I trust in someone bigger and greater than myself and I know that God’s Got This.  

I will blog more about the accident later.  This blog post is not about that.  It is about this: always keep proof of insurance in your car.  Always have good insurance that will take care of you in the case of an accident because I don’t care who you are, it WILL happen to you one of these days.  Be on your spouse’s team.  Even if they are at fault, they probably weren’t planning on getting in a car accident, especially when you are 2,000 miles from home.  Recognize that you only have control over certain things.  Explain your situation to the insurance people.  Get people on your team.  They will move mountains for you if you treat them with respect and understanding.  You have been through something tough and if you treat them right, they will do what they can to make this situation a little easier.

But if at all possible, avoid this situation.  It is way too complicated when you are far away from home.

To all of you, I wish you safe and fun road trips with your spouse!  They can absolutely be great experiences, especially if you make the most of them.  

Have more tips for your fellow travelers?  Leave it in the comments below!  If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out.