Foodie Fridays – At Home Dinner Date with a Flare

Vintage Post – originally posted in March of 2013

I don’t know how we hadn’t heard of Downton Abbey until recently, but we hadn’t. However we’ve managed to catch up on all three seasons in three short months. 🙂

When our Date Night challenge was to pick a country as an at-home theme, we couldn’t resist the chance to have an authentic Downton Abbey dinner set in the beautiful country of England.

I took on the role of Mrs. Patmore for the dinner preparations, and Tom became Mr. Carsen as he picked the wine, set the table perfectly and lit the candles. After dinner was ready we changed into our proper dinner attire, although it was a bit on the casual side since Tom only had a black tie. Very frowned upon in Downton Abbey for the evening meal, as Matthew Crawley soon discovered.

In researching authentic recipes from the period, I was surprised to discover just how much went in to each course. The Huffington Post provides some excellent information on the subject:

There is a lot to love about the show. The characters are all compelling in their own way, and it is fascinating to watch a household that functions as a tiny town. But what we particularly love is how much cooking and eating takes place during each episode. Meals were a big part of life during the Edwardian period. The noble class used it as a way to, quite literally, taste their social status. They ate four times a day — breakfast, lunch, teatime and dinner. And the dinners were particularly elaborate, ranging from six to 22 courses! (emphasis mine)

We cut our dinner down to only four courses, and we were stuffed by the dessert. 🙂

Our first course consisted of a delicious Creamy Watercress Soup garnished with blue cheese crumbles and breadcrumbs.

Our second course was a palette cleanser of Meringue Nests with Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberry Sauce.

Our Third course was by far our favorite–Lamb Stew with Lemon and Dill served over a bed of Orzo.

Our Fourth course was Apple Confit with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

We played the Downton Abbey Sound Track on Pandora to make the evening feel special.

It was a perfectly wonderful night together and got better when Mr. Carsen showed up after dinner to do the dishes. Mrs. Patmore was quite relieved.

We ended the night be watching the next episode in our quest to finish Season 3.

What we love about this time period as depicted in this series is the respect people showed to one another. Of course, there are the inconsiderate and those who fake their respect, but for the most part the etiquette is sincere. I believe we have lost something very precious in our modern culture. Maybe this is why Downton Abbey has become so popular in the United States. Maybe we do long for a bit more tradition and manners.

This date was one we will always remember. And we may just do it again next year. After all, we only hit on 4 courses of the potential 22 course dinner menu. That leaves three more dates to try without repeating a recipe.

We hope this will inspire you to try such a date yourself. You will be ever-so pleased.

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Foodie Fridays – Family Traditions

This past week our daughter had a birthday.

We celebrate in our family in two ways—you get to pick the meal and you get to pick the pie. We have always had birthday pies in lieu of cake because I’m better baking pies than cakes. 😉

That is until our daughter-in-love joined the family; she is an amazing cake creator. I say creator instead of baker because she creates masterpieces. Click here to see.

Back to this week’s BD celebration…

Heather wanted a crab and shrimp boil. I was so excited to make this because nothing welcomes summer like a good ol’ seafood feast.

Click here for recipe

Her pie choice was key lime. I didn’t bake it though, because Publix makes a delicious one. In addition, her husband can’t have dairy so I baked an apple pie for him.

All in all it was a great celebration. I just wish the rest of the family could gather together as we did in years past. Elias misses his cousins…

Happy Birthday Heather. You make 37 look great.

How does your family celebrate birthdays?

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Foodie Fridays – Tuscan Shrimp

There was a season when I had to be strict with my diet for health reasons. I had taken the ALCAT test for food sensitivity the results were overwhelming. My list of what I shouldn’t eat was much larger than what I could.

I cried.

As much as Tom loves to eat, he surprised me. His response? “Let’s go to the grocery store and buy what’s on your good list. We’ll figure this out together.”

That helped me so much. He encouraged me to focus on what I could eat and not at what I couldn’t. I felt like I had his full support to do what seemed impossible.

Next, I started researching recipes using my ingredients. To my surprise I found many new favorites.

Today I’m sharing one recipe with you. It represents more than a good meal to me. It reminds me of the importance of walking with your spouse through their disappointments and challenges. It wasn’t a ME problem; Tom made it a WE problem, and I wasn’t alone.

I hope you enjoy Tuscan Shrimp as much as we do.


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Like A Fine Wine—Marriage Needs Time to Deepen

Time. Time ticks away the days. Some days can’t pass fast enough. Others you wish you could make them last forever.

Our time spent away together was the latter—It was restful, beautiful and full of good food and God’s blessing.. All the things we needed to enjoy our time.

Vacations are good for the soul and even better for a healthy marriage. Like a fine wine, marriage needs time and rest in order to deepen its quality. This was a long-awaited time to invest in us.

I’ve shared with you many of the foods we enjoyed in our last post. But today I want to share more…

One of my favorite hobbies is framing special moments with the lens of my camera. This past week provided lots of opportunities, and I want to share them with you.

Our cruise was on Celebrity’s Equinox to Grand Cayman, Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire. The last three we had never visited before now. Although it was quite hot, the breezes kept it bearable.

We learned the surprising history of Bonaire’s salt industry. An island with no other natural resources, harvesting salt was highly valuable in the 1500’s to the 1800’s—before refrigeration was available. We learned that sea salt in its natural state with no herbs or spices will last indefinitely. The ones with added herbs for five years.

We met many new friends including a couple from Northern Canada celebrating their 20th anniversary. They have 6 children and were really enjoying their time alone. You could see the joy on their faces.

Another couple we met from The Villages who have been on many, many cruises. They were a wealth of information and even showed us how to get off the ship sooner this morning. That was a blessing given the crowds on board. They are the only people we’ve met who have cruised to the Galápagos Islands. They shared all their experiences with great detail. Although I’ve never desired to go, their stories made it quite inviting.

One day Tom and I were having lunch. I happened to notice an abundance of brown algae floating by our window. We were wondering aloud how this algae is increasing around the Caribbean and Florida. We remembered when vacationing in Mexico, the staff having to rake it off the beach every morning to make room for tourists to enjoy the sand and sea. And did it smell! A man seated close to us commented, “You know, that’s why I’m here.”

We discovered he was the featured speaker for the Beyond The Podium lectures on the ship about the algae in our world. We had seen it on the itinerary but hadn’t made it a priority to go.

Dr. Levine happened upon this opportunity to work on the cruise line when he was taking a personal cruise with his wife of 44 years. He was sharing with a group about what he does as Professor Emeritus and CEO of the Algae Foundation. He drew quite the crowd by his knowledge and ability to explain the science of the sea. The Cruise Director noticed and he was told, “You know we hire people like you to share on our cruises.” The rest is history.

We went to his final lecture the next day and found his discoveries fascinating. The most notable when he was invited to descend into the depths of the sea to 950’. It is pitch dark that far below the surface, until their submarine turned on the lights. To his astonishment he found bright colored algae growing in this darkness that was thought to require light to grow. Amazing! All we could do was praise God for such a creation.

We saw on the schedule a string duo from Kyiv. Having such a close connection to Ukraine as well as having visited there before the war destroyed much of this city, we made it a point to listen. They were talented and so very personable.

Roman is the violinist and Michael, the cellist. Their talent is impressive. We enjoyed their music throughout the week. We introduced ourselves and shared our love for their country and how our prayers have been continually for their victory over their enemy.

It was touching when they playing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” realizing the longing for their country to find their way back home-like the song chimes, “if happy little bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow—why, oh why can’t I?” I may have cried.

So many moments to celebrate together God’s goodness in science, food and entertainment. He is the giver of good gifts, many of which we enjoyed all week long. These are more moments captured with my camera…

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Foodie Friday – As You Wish

One of my favorite lines from The Princess Bride is when Wesley comments to Buttercup repeatedly, “As you wish.” Her every wish is his command.

This is how we have both felt this week.

On Thursday last week we departed on our first extended vacation in a long time. Tom booked us a cruise to Grand Cayman and the ABC islands, Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire for 9 days.

We were so in need of time to do nothing—not even think about what to eat or where to go. We simply had to be. This cruise delivered.

I asked Tom what has been his favorite part so far? Not surprisingly he said, “Having any food I want when I want it.” I love his love for good food. It is what inspired this series.

We will post more about our trip later. But for now, enjoy these photos. Bon appetite!

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Longing and Desire

Longing for something makes it precious. The longer you wait for it the sweeter the reward.

We have been longing for time away. Time to re-connect. Time to be us. And today it begins…

We are leaving on a long-awaited cruise. I told Tom it doesn’t matter where we go or even if we get off the boat. To be with him without distraction is my heart’s desire.

Desire is another word that depicts a healthy aspect of marriage. To desire something rightly is to want it for the good of the one you love. I desire to see Tom fully relaxed and without care on this trip as he does for me.

Another aspect of desire in marriage is to desire to glorify God in how we love each other. This brings Him pleasure for we are to be a reflection of how Christ loves the church and sacrificially gave Himself for her.

My husband is a good example of one who represents Christ. I am the grateful recipient of both his love for me and God’s love expressed through him to me. What a gift I don’t take lightly.

Friday night will be a full moon. We will be at sea and like on our honeymoon cruise we will marvel at the beauty God created. On that first cruise we were young a looking forward to what God would do in our lives together.

This cruise we are looking back over 44 years with gratefulness and humility as we see His hand guiding us every step. He is faithful to His people and His creation. The sun and moon are daily examples. Our lives are examples as well.

His desire to redeem us and His longing to know us, makes it possible for us to give our longings and desires to Him. We can entrust it all to his care because He promises to keep all that concerns us.

So it’s time to embark on this long-awaited trip. Many plans in the last 5 years have been canceled for various reasons. It was disappointing then, but makes this trip all the more meaningful.


“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Proverbs‬ ‭13‬:‭12‬ ‭ESV‬‬
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Foodie Fridays – Farmer’s Market Inspiration

Winter Garden Farmer’s Market

During the quarantine Tom and I got creative at using all the leftovers of a meal for another meal. For instance, leftover potatoes would be chopped and thrown into a chowder or fried up and served with morning eggs.

A few weeks ago we went to our local Farmer’s Market (Winter Garden for our local readers). We bought some still on the stalk, Brussel Sprouts. I’ve always wanted to roast these and discovered how much fresher they are this way.

But I had these huge stalk leaves I had never seen. I wasn’t sure if they were edible, so I set out to do some research. I learned that they are not only edible but very high in fiber and nutrients.

I had planned to use leftover cod filets for fish tacos, but knew I’d have to add lots of crunch to mask the tendency of reheated fish to be mushy. Oh my goodness. These Brussel Sprout leaves turned into the most delicious slaw for the tacos.

Not only did we use our leftover fish, which is hard to do, but we learned of a good substitute for cabbage, since I can’t have it.

There is great satisfaction in using all the food purchased each week at the market. With the prices of groceries now, it’s more important than ever.

I love surprising Tom with another meal made from previous meals that he would never know if I didn’t tell him. It’s kind of a challenge each week.

How do you use leftovers for inspiration?

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Foodie Friday – Cooking Shows

Tom and I love to watch cooking shows. Master Chef, Beat Bobby Flay and Guy’s Grocery Games are a few we watch regularly. But two have really been the top of our viewing favorites lately: Next Level Chef and Andrew Zimmer’s Family Dinner.

Next Level Chef is Gordon Ramsey’s latest cooking show, and it’s really good. We look forward each week to see what the next challenge will be. This week it was Happy Hour and each chef had to prepare an appetizer, pairing it with a cocktail. It’s always fun to see what they think of under pressure. Some prove their creative genius, others get so ruffled they forget to include their cocktail for the judges. I think the reason we like these shows is the simplicity of it all. Cook well and move forward. Make a mistake and you may be eliminated. Kind of like an Olympics in the Culinary World.

Andrew Zimmer’s Family Dinner hits us on a completely different level. He meets with a different family in America and visits them for their weekly family gathering. It’s diverse and so is the food prepared. Some are quite simple, others are intricate and involved. What they all have in common is a story of family and how food has connected them through generations.

We love our family and we all enjoy cooking together. Even though weekly family dinners are impossible given that we live in different states, we still love to share what we’re cooking. We have a text thread that keeps us up-to-date on all things, including “What’s for Dinner?”

Our family provides lots of cooking challenges with Gluten Free requirements, dairy restrictions and food sensitivities including soy and pork. It’s like a cooking show gathering of our own; asking “How can we make the foods we love eliminating the ingredients we can’t eat?” I must say we’ve gotten quite good at improvising.

Every family has a story that starts in the kitchen. If Andrew Zimmer were to come to our house we would share recipes from Italy and the South. Tom’s Mom cooked traditional Italian which we referred to last week. My family is from Oklahoma and the South. All which influences my love for anything smothered and fried. Together this tells the story of us.

Do you and your spouse enjoy watching TV shows? Have you ever considered this is part of what makes you unique? This alone tells a story of ways you connect together around common interests.

Photo from

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Foodie Fridays – Comfort Foods

When I used to ask my Mom what was for dinner, my favorite answer was meatloaf. It is a food that takes me back to the comfort of growing up with my family.

That’s what comfort food usually is. Although, when I asked Tom what his comfort food was, I expected him to say one of the meals I make for him that he loves; but he didn’t. His favorite is his Mom’s Italian sauce over any pasta. Gratefully, she taught me how to make her sauce before she was gone. I should have known his favorite would also be one that reminded him of growing up as a child.

Comfort foods are the dishes you want when you’ve had a rough day.

It’s the perfect way to bless your spouse when you know they’re struggling. Food has a way of comforting us before we take the first bite. It’s the aroma that fills the air that hints of what’s to come.

I’m grateful for the way God made us–our five senses add such a joy to every experience in life. When I had Covid I lost my sense of taste and smell. It was the worst for me. I’m thankful it only lasted a week.

I want to share with you my meat loaf recipe. It may not make it to the level of comfort food for you, but hopefully it will become a favorite. And we’d love to hear what you and your spouse’s comfort foods are. Won’t you share with us in the comments?



  • 2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1.5 lbs. ground chuck
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sage

Piquant Sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard


Soak bread crumbs in milk for a minute. Stir into meat adding eggs, onion and seasonings. Mix well. Form into a loaf and place in a greased 13 x 9 pan. Spread piquant sauce over top of meatloaf and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees or until done.

NOTE: This recipe is from the 1947 edition of Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. This is the year my parent’s were married and was most likely a wedding gift, which makes this recipe even more special to me. It was food they enjoyed as newlyweds. When my Dad passed away in 2004 they had been married for almost 57 years. What a legacy to us their children. Makes me want meatloaf tonight.

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

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Foodie Fridays – An Introduction noun INFORMAL; plural noun: foodies – a person with a particular interest in food; a gourmet.

Tom and I are certainly foodies.

We share a love for cooking, eating different cuisines and trying new restaurants. I joined Yelp years ago and have been Yelp Elite for the last 6 years. It is a fun way to document where we’ve been and what we have enjoyed.

Sadly I can no longer have soy. The only Thai, Chinese or any Asian food I can enjoy is if I make it myself using Coconut Aminos as a substitute. I’m happy to say it tastes just like Soy Sauce with less sodium, and it’s Gluten Free. Why restaurants don’t offer food cooked this way is a mystery to me. I’m sure there are lots of folks who can’t have soy. I have found a favorite recipe for Kung Pao Chicken that I substitute CA for the Soy. If you try it I hope you’ll comment and share your experience with us. The photo above is from a blog who’s recipes are always delicious, “damn delicious”.

I’ve decided to make each Friday a foodie post. I will either highlight a recipe we’ve tried that has become a new favorite. Or I may feature a dish we had a restaurant and how I go about discovering how to make it at home.

If you love to cook I hope you’ll follow us as we share. If you want to cook more but aren’t sure how, I hope our posts will inspire you to step outside your comfort zone. Feel free to ask us questions too. We aren’t experts, but we are experienced. We would love to help take your At-Home date nights to a new level.

If you just love to eat out, our posts will point the way to good restaurants we’ve tried in Central Florida as well as places we’ve discovered when traveling.

Our Friday Foodie posts will be fun for us to share and hopefully you’ll look forward to what we’ve enjoyed in the kitchen or on the road. Follow us on Instagram with this hashtag: #foodiefridayswithTheRomanticVineyard

Buon Appetito!

Photo Credit:

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A Different But Memorable Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day was different than any other year for us. Normally I post ideas for how to make your time together romantic and memorable, all while planning a special at-home date for us. But I didn’t this year. I didn’t even buy Tom a card. My mind was distracted with other pressing needs. This has never happened and it made me sad.

But one thing did happen that I want to share.

Tom bought me a card and flowers. Before I opened it he explained that he wanted to buy a card that celebrated how he sees me, yet most every card expressed how the wife made the husband feel. While there is nothing wrong with this focus, Tom wanted the card to highlight my strengths that he loves.

Hearing the story of him doing this small thing for me was actually a very big thing that meant more than the card itself.

Paul Tripp, one of favorite authors and teachers, has said that many couples love how their spouse makes them feel, but fail to love their spouse for who they are.

This is a much needed examination to make in our relationship.

If we only love how our spouse makes us feel this can be a form of selfishness we should confess to God. Only God knows our heart, but many times He won’t reveal what’s needed unless we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Even the disciples struggled to understand what Jesus was saying. We must ask God and be humble to hear the truth. This is how change happens—asking, seeing, confessing, changing, repeating.

Tom demonstrated his unselfish love for me by expressing how he sees me through a not-so-cheap Valentine card. And I will forever cherish him for his thoughtfulness and care.

For Further Study, we highly recommend Paul Tripp’s book, What Did You Expect?

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How to build a FIT Marriage in 3 Easy Steps

It’s January and everyone is focused on losing weight, being active, embracing abandoned disciplines. Due to parties and family gatherings we may have neglected our normal routines. It’s time to pull in the reins and begin anew.

Maybe your marriage is feeling neglected as well. Maybe it needs a FITness routine to help jump start a new normal.

We have come up with a simple plan if followed will set your marriage on a good course for 2023.

  1. F – Friendship. Yes. Friendship is the foundation of a great marriage. If this has been neglected or replaced with other friends over the years, it’s time to make adjustments. Maybe you feel the distance created by a lack of common interests. Consider taking up a new hobby together. Tom and I have never been big football fans, but this year we decided to learn more about the game. We have enjoyed time together rooting on our favorite teams–Go Gators! Go Bills! Maybe its movies, or Pickle Ball? Hiking or Biking? Bowling or doing puzzles? There are lots of choices, active or sedate that can help rebuild your friendship. There is a caution though–If this has been neglected for years in your relationship, it may take more than just a change of schedule. It may require counseling to help you both come to a place of complete understanding and trust. Be patient. Remember to grow a friendship you must be a friend first.
  2. I – Intimacy. Intimacy won’t deepen if friendship, understanding and trust aren’t present. This is why it is not first on the list. If you are doing well as friends, then intimacy needs intentionality and time to grow. Talk about regular date nights and whether or not this is something important to your spouse, for every couple is different. Just because “so and so” have regular dates doesn’t mean your marriage is less if you don’t. It’s what intimacy means to you and your spouse. Talk about what growing in spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual intimacy would look like for you. Then make changes to accommodate time and space for it to happen. Study your spouse and discover what would bless them. This is a good habit to continue to build intimacy through all seasons of marriage.
  3. T – Talk. If you aren’t talking about important issues you aren’t growing closer together. To push conflict or struggles aside is to cause drift in your marriage. Misunderstanding and hurt feelings won’t go away by ignoring them. It will certainly fester and become a bigger problem in the years to come. Talking can be hard, especially when there are hurt feelings involved. Any healthy marriage has learned how to do this. But how? By doing it and learning what is helpful and what isn’t. No one has a perfect marriage. Ask any couple who is succeeding and they will tell you of difficult seasons they had to grow through. Like a physical trainer has to break down bad habits in order to build muscle and strength. A strong marriage didn’t start out that way. It took years of choosing to be FIT.

After reading these 3 steps, what areas are in need of attention in your relationship? May 2023 be the year your marriage grows FIT for a lifetime.

Footnote: I delayed this post after watching the Buffalo Bills player, Damar Hamlin, collapse on the field during the first quarter of their playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals. It has been determined he suffered cardiac arrest. It was horrific to see. Our prayers are with this young man (age 24) and his family.

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Vintage Post: Assumptions and Disregard

This is a series originally posted in November 2016. We share it as a Vintage post because it’s worth remembering.

The last two practices you may or may not realize you’re doing. This is why we want to shine the light on these two together. It happens when we listen to our spouse either with our mind made up based on our view (assumption), or when we hear what you’re saying but have no intention to consider it (disregard). The discussion at this point is closed.

Assuming is never good because we cannot read our spouse’s mind.

Even if the evidence points strongly in our direction–we must give them the benefit of the doubt until solidly proven otherwise. What makes assumptions so harmful is you rob your spouse of their voice. We have seen it happen countless times in counseling when one spouse shuts the other down not allowing them to share their perspective. Assumptions press charges with no regard for mercy. It isn’t from a loving heart that assumptions flow, but from a proud, condescending heart.

When we stood at the alter pledging our love and commitment we had no idea that those vows would come at such a cost.

What is your limit? What is the one place where if your spouse took you there, it would be over? It’s supposed to be until death parts us, but sometimes the cost is more than we can bear in our own strength. And maybe that’s the point, we’re doing this marriage thing in our own strength! Maybe God wants to get us to the place where our dependence is on Him alone, not on our spouse’s ability to do things the way we want them done? Maybe it’s not about our happiness, but our holiness.

Ouch! I know that hurts. Doing real life with another sinner will hurt! But we must breathe grace, not make assumptions.

The other detrimental practice is disregard.

To disregard another is to put them on the sidelines, to take their opinions, their thoughts, their wellbeing out of the game. It’s telling them they no longer matter to you.

It breaks our heart to see couples treat each other with disregard because marriage is supposed to model Christ and His love for the church. And He never disregards us, even when we deserve it. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has promised to hear every cry we whisper to Him in secret. He has even promised to keep all our tears in a bottle and count our tossing. Even when He knows He’s not going to fix things the way we want them to be fixed. He loves us enough to listen, love and work His plan in and through us. And by His grace we can learn to regard our spouse well.

Assumption and disregard are born from miscommunication that takes place for a long time, or worse–no communication at all. 

How do we avoid this practice? By having friends who are willing to point it out to you. Have a long talk with your closest friends about these practices, and ask them to hold you accountable when they hear you say anything that sounds like it. And don’t expect them to bring it up! Being accountable, as Tom often shares, isn’t having people who will ask often to see if you’re being faithful. Being accountable is self-disclosing your struggles, your temptations and your failures. It’s not waiting for them to ask you, but volunteering your struggle to them. After spending an evening together pause and ask your friends if they have observations that would be helpful for you to hear. And then listen to what they share.

In review, we’ve looked at five practices detrimental to marriage. Of course this list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start. Do you see any of these in your marriage? We’d be surprised if you didn’t. Let’s talk about it and cut the temptation off at the start before it does permanent damage.

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Vintage Post: Critical Judgments

Originally posted in November 2016

You begin to share with your spouse about something that is really bothering you. Right as you are pouring your heart out to them, they ask a question about something else, revealing that they haven’t heard a word you’ve said. This affirms your suspicion (see previous post) that your spouse doesn’t care about you.

This is a situation where we can be tempted to form critical judgments of our spouse. A critical judgment is not thinking the best of someone. When they do something we don’t expect, rather than give them grace we judge their motive.

“Critical judgments can do great damage to relationships and to the kingdom of God. If you assume the worst about others, you will often misjudge them and jump to conclusions. This can cause deep hurt, bring you great embarrassment, and eventually destroy relationships. A critical attitude also leads us to exaggerate others’ wrongs and overlook their virtues, which distorts reality. This perspective will increasingly rob you of objectivity and often lead to decisions you later regret.”  Ken Sande, Peacemakers

In the Grace-Filled Marriage, Dr. Tim Kimmel says,

“We need to create an atmosphere within our marriage where our spouse doesn’t feel they have to wear a mask around us to keep from revealing where they are emotionally. They need to know that the deeper hurt or confusion within their heart can come out without fear of being attacked. You know the way God treats us.”

Think about how God in Christ has treated us. He saw the worst in us, and loved us still. And marriage is to be a reflection of God’s love for His bride, the Church.

It helps even further to define our terms.

Critical: 1. inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily. 2. occupied with or skilled in criticism.

Judgment: the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion.

If you are quickly inclined to conclude that your spouse is at fault, you can be sure you will hurt your marriage. Critical judgments left unchecked will eventually kill a marriage.

Advice for the Critically Judged Spouse:

One who is judged by their spouse most likely has no voice to bring the needed correction. Our encouragement to someone in this place is to PRAY; pour out your heart to the Lord in desperate prayer. Only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction, and the best news is He desires to do so.

Advice for the Spouse who Critically Judges:

It is imperative that you police yourself in this regard. If you notice you are quick to make judgments that are negative towards your spouse and their motives, you most likely have work to do, but it isn’t work that is difficult once you see the pattern. Repentance is offered to you, and grace is available for those who seek to change through the power God supplies.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” Titus 2:11-12

Following is a prayer to help you ask God’s help to change:

Lord, help me to judge others
as I want them to judge me:
Charitably, not critically,
Privately, not publicly,
Gently, not harshly,
In humility, not pride.

Help me to believe the best about others,
until facts prove otherwise—
To assume nothing,
to seek all sides of the story,
And to judge no one until I’ve removed
the log from my own eye.

May I never bring only the Law,
to find fault and condemn.
Help me always to bring the Gospel,
to give hope and deliverance,
As you, my Judge and Friend,
have so graciously done for me.

The goal in all of this is to change detrimental behaviors in marriage in order to insure our marriage will last for the long haul. And not just last, but thrive!

In what areas have you allowed critical judgments about your spouse? Do they know? Or worse have you made your judgments known? Then, we encourage you to set aside some time to talk heart to heart. Humility is key for needed change, and God gives much grace to the humble.

For more help in this area we recommend this outstanding article by Peacemakers Ministry,

Charitable Judgments: An Antidote To Judging Others

Photo Credit: Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

Posted in Biblical Encouragement, Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict, Growing Strong Marriages, Vintage Posts | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Vintage Post: Critical Judgments

Vintage Post – Suspicion in Marriage

This is part two of our five part series on uncovering the practices or habits that are detrimental to marriage. Today we’ll expose another practice you may or may not be aware of in your own marriage.


Seventy-five years ago on November 14, 1941, Alfred Hitchcock released his well-known movie, Suspicion. It portrays a married couple’s journey through a web of distrust and suspicion. I won’t spoil the movie for you in case you’d like to watch it, but it’s safe to say that many of the suspicions don’t prove true. We are often driven to suspicion because of the fears we battle.

  • A wife who knows her husband has been tempted to be unfaithful in the past, may struggle with suspicions even if he isn’t being tempted at the moment.
  • A husband will often struggle being suspicious of every dollar his wife spends.
  • A wife who has a charming husband may suspect he is being unfaithful, just because other women notice and comment on his kindness.
  • A husband with an attractive wife may be overprotective because he’s suspicious she wants the attention of other men.

Suspicions grow when trust in the marriage has been broken. I get that, and most of us would succumb given the same circumstances. I would even go so far as to say that suspicion can be a deserved consequence of broken trust. However, many of us give in to suspicion because we’re listening to the wrong thoughts about our spouse. In Genesis we’re told of how Eve encountered temptation. It came through the crafty serpent who whispered suspicions to her of God’s goodness. Satan, the enemy of God, wants to do all he can to thwart God’s plans for His people. It was true then, and it is true today. Suspicion is born when we listen to his sinister questions:

“Why didn’t your husband tell you he’d be late? Maybe there’s someone else he’d rather be with?’ “Does your wife really care about your financial goals? She is always looking for ways to spend it faster than you both can make it.” “Do you think other women don’t notice how nice your husband is? You know he enjoys it too.” “Your wife is so beautiful. How can you be sure other men aren’t trying to woo her away from you?”

There is an easy way to thwart his methods though–don’t listen to him! When suspicion knocks on the door of your mind, be quick to recognize the tone of voice. If it’s accusing and cunning, you can be sure it isn’t the Lord. God leads us with a voice that reassures us and brings us together. The enemy’s voice is divisive and suspicious. (For further insight check out these synonyms and antonyms of suspicion) Let’s not give him an ear to hear. Instead let’s be alert and ready to resist this temptation for the sake of our marriage.

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV (emphasis added)

In what ways has suspicion affected your relationship?

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Vintage Post – The Question Behind The Question

Vintage Posts were previously posted but after time in the barrel, so to speak, they are worth revisiting today. Originally posted in October 2016.

Stop signs are there for our protection and the safety of those around us. They help us know when to stop, think, observe, then proceed with caution.

Can you imagine a world without STOP signs? Where everyone can proceed full-speed-ahead with no regard for those approaching the same intersection? It would be disastrous, not to mention dangerous. Yet many of us live this way. We don’t know when to stop, so we keep doing the same things over and over even if they’re not safe for our marriage.

We want to begin a series on uncovering the 5 practices or habits that are detrimental to marriage. Today we’ll expose…

#1 – The Question Behind The Question

There is a popular book out by the same name, but what I’m talking about doesn’t relate to his focus at all. Following is a hypothetical marriage modeling this practice.

Malcolm and Jenny have been married for ten years. They have three children who keep them busy and exhausted most of the time. Their communication used to be regular, positive even, but the demands of careers, parenting and church life have left them without time to think, much less talk.

Jenny has noticed her husband isn’t taking the time with the children like he used to at bedtime. He is always on his phone leaving her to tuck the kids in alone. She wonders who/what it is that is getting his attention. She hasn’t mentioned this to him, but she’s been taking mental notes of the times he hasn’t been present. She hopes it’s work, fears it’s someone else, and suspects he has lost interest in her.

It’s 10p.m. The children are finally asleep. Jenny decides it’s time to find out what’s going on. Instead of asking him the question on her mind she begins…

“Honey, how is work going? Has it been busy?”

When he answers that everything is fine at work, she becomes even more fearful. Which leads to the next question:

“You must have lots of e-mails needing your attention then?”

When he responds that he hasn’t been looking at his emails, her fear turns toward anger.

If only Jenny had asked Malcolm the question behind her question.

“Malcolm, can I ask why you’re spending time on your phone rather than helping me put the kids to bed?”

Do you do this? It may not be the same situation, but it may occur more than you realize.

More examples of questions (Q) and the question behind the question (QBQ)

  • Q – Not feeling well?
  • QBQ – Why did you go to bed without telling me?
  • Q – Was traffic bad coming home?
  • QBQ – Why didn’t you call saying you were running late?
  • Q – Are you not hungry?
  • QBQ – Don’t you like this new recipe?
  • Q – Are you mad at me?
  • QBQ – Why did you ignore me when I got home?

You see with these examples we often use a question to discover the answer to our real question. Why do we do this? It could be…

  • Fear of the answer
  • Fear of being so direct in our communication.
  • Playing the game of suspicion, which is always detrimental to marriage.
  • We’ve already determined their guilt and want them to admit it.

Let’s purpose to STOP this practice. We can do so by asking the Lord to help us see the ways this happens in our relationship.

Change requires that we slow down when we see an approaching conflict  to ask the right question. Ask yourself, what is it I’m wanting to know? And then ask that question.

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Ask any woman who has experienced natural childbirth what transition was like and you’ll most likely get a grimace.

Transitions are hard and there is usually no way around them but through.

When our son was born my labor progressed fast, not to mention he came 10 days early. We weren’t ready; I wasn’t ready.

When my labor nurse said, “You have to breathe through the urge to push until the doctor arrives!” I panicked. Transition is when you are fully dilated and ready to push hard in order for new life to be born.

Transitions don’t only happen in childbirth. We experience transitions going from one stage of life to another; e.g. life changes like job loss, new baby, retirement, and change from one normal to a new normal. A hard time is followed by new and better life. Sadly many couples give up in the transition stage thinking this is all there is.

After 42 years of marriage we have experienced every type of transition—from childbirth to the death of parents; from buying a business to selling the same business bringing unexpected changes; from having our family all in one city to having them scattered over 3 states. Every transition required a new level of leaning in and choosing to try to understand each other.

What transitions have you faced in your marriage? Knowing they’re coming will help you prepare for the urge to push and keep going. It is worth the effort.

Posted in Christian Marriage, communication, Conflict, Diapers, Toddlers & Romance, Oh My, Parenting, Retirement, Seasons of Life | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Happy Place

New Smyrna Beach – 27th Avenue ramp at sunrise

Tom and I had a discussion tonight about where our happy place is. It was an interesting conversation.

He initially thought of places where we had made memories together. Happy times we’ve shared are special to me as well. However, since a friend had asked me this question in light of my relationship with God, I thought of places where God had met me in personal ways.

This is a great indication of a healthy marriage and something we work at regularly; having a growing intimate relationship with God and each other.

I bring this up because, as most of you know, our life is pretty consumed with helping our daughter and our son-in-love care for their only child, Elias.

This same friend recommended me taking time for myself to allow God to meet me in my “happy place”. She said it was to be a place where a I can relax in my mind and heart to make room for God to help me in my time of need. Not to physically go there, although I would LOVE that, but to quiet my mind to meditate on being there with the Lord.

I loved this idea, which led to the conversation Tom and I had tonight.

We are always given opportunities in our marriage to go deeper in our understanding of each other. But we may not recognize it when it comes. Don’t ignore questions your spouse asks you. It may be an invitation to go deeper in your understanding of the person you married.

Who knows? It may lead you both to a new happy place worth remembering.

Posted in Cherish, Christian Marriage, communication, Encouraging Your Spouse, Intimacy, Perspective in Marriage | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Today Is A Special Day

One of the best parts of marriage is when we reached the stage of grand parenting. We are blessed with 9 precious kiddos ranging from ages 14 down to age 2. It’s our two year old, Elias Angel, who is celebrating a birthday today. Many of you have followed his story since he was born. We invite you to click over to my personal blog to read today’s post. Have a blessed weekend!

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Two-Thousand and Counting

What began in 2008 as a way to corral all our date-night ideas into one place, has turned into this blog with 2,000 blog posts written, published and filed. If you are new to our site, we have lots of information hiding in the archives. This is why we have provided the category drop-down menu for you to easily browse the many topics. See right side bar if you are on your computer. If not, the categories menu is not easily accessed.

We thought it would be fun to highlight some of the interesting stats as a way to say thank you for following The Romantic Vineyard. And also as a way to encourage us to continue doing this even in difficult seasons. Marriage doesn’t take a vacation when life gets hard. It requires diligence in all seasons or we will drift apart. This is what keeps us doing this year after year.

In 2,000 Posts We Have:

  • Written a total of 801,742 words. Goodness this scares me. That’s an average of 401 words a post. I love words, but this surprises even me!
  • Year with the most posts was 2011
  • Year with the most views 2012
  • Most views on a single day – July 4, 2012, totaled: 9,748. We have no idea what happened on this day because we had no comments. I think someone linked to us accidentally, but it’s still a fun fact. 🙂
  • Total comments since the beginning is 6,665. I bring this up because I need at least two comments on THIS post to keep us from parking on four sixes. Thank you.
  • Most popular day is Tuesday at noon. This is most likely because I’m only posting once a week now if that often, and it’s usually on Tuesday.
  • Greatest achievement was being a part of establishing the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association (CMBA). We began this to help marriage blogs that are based on Biblical principles regarding marriage to connect. The friends we have made across the country are evidence that this has worked. Very grateful.
  • Most popular page is Fireproof Your Marriage, where we offer the 40 day challenge to help your marriage if it’s struggling.
  • Most popular post Clue Date Night with a Sexy Twist. Look it up for yourself. It’s a fun at-home date you’ll not soon forget.
  • Most popular series is Alphabet Date Night Ideas – a great way to start dating your spouse again if it’s been a long time.

Next month will mark 14 years of blogging. Thank you for being a part of our blog family. We read and reply to every comment. And we are grateful to have an input into the success of your marriage whether you’re just beginning or you’ve been doing this for decades.

Marriage matters because it is the only relationship on earth to mirror Christ’s love for the Church.

One day He will return, but until then let our marriage stand as a testimony to a watching world. Even if they don’t recognize it’s significance now, one day they will. Praying for you as you pursue a healthy marriage for God’s glory.

Thank you for reading and for commenting (see point 5 above) 🙂 to let us know you’re still here.

Posted in Blog Love, Celebrations, Christian Marriage | Tagged , , | 3 Comments