#KillingIt this Christmas: 7 of Fort Wayne’s most outstanding dates (& all under $16)

Guys, listen up. The holidays are rough. Your girl is super cute in that white fur hat, talking about Christmas magic and all of her #goals…until it sets in. That moment when you realize that it’s you – yes YOU, sir – that has to make those #goals happen. And it seems daunting and expensive AND…

…CALM YOURSELF. I get it. I’ve been that girl. (Okay, okay – sometimes I still AM that girl.)

But TODAY, I’m here to help. How can you make magic happen for #bae while still being able to afford gifts for your mom, brother, and Great Aunt Louise?  Here’s 5 of Fort Wayne’s most memorable dates that will keep you #killingit in the romance department while still being kind to your wallet. (&, if you do as I say below, they’ll all be under $16 for two people!)

(PS. These also include stellar things to do with friends!)


Photo credit: INFortWayne

See Bruce Willis at the Cinema Center.

Fort Wayne’s downtown movie theater, the Cinema Center, has special showings of Die Hard and Batman Returns on December 16th and 17th. Matinee ticket prices for two people will set you back about $14. (All other times, tickets are $9 each.) If you’re looking for something a bit more in tune with the season, take your girl to go see Cinema Center’s showings of It’s a Wonderful Life – running from December 22nd – 24th.

Total cost: $14.


Photo credit: SaltToday.org

Get cultured with Picasso at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

SECRET: The FWMoA was just given a rare collection of Picasso and Leger masterpieces – something you’d usually travel to Chicago or NYC to see. For $8 / person, impress your date with works by some of history’s most revered artists. WHAT. #dying. Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about art – even looking at the pieces sparks fun conversations.

Total cost: $16.


Photo credit: WANE.com

Get classy at Wine Down.

It’s like taking a trip to Tuscany without the jet lag. Sink into a leather couch in one of Wine Down’s private alcoves, or grab a seat at the bar. Whatever your style, Executive Chef Chuck Blevins and his team whip up a menu of mouthwatering tapas that are absolute crowd pleasers (and many plates are under $10). My recommendation? Start by splitting the Sweet Potato Fries (served with espresso ketchup, $4) and follow it up with the Chocolate Moose ($5) or Chef’s Cheesecake for dessert ($5-7).

Total cost: $9-11.


Photo credit: The Journal Gazette

Roast s’mores at the Hoppy Gnome.

This is a sure-fire stunner and an absolute crowd-pleaser. The Hoppy Gnome is a fantastic spot located right in the heart of downtown Fort Wayne, and it’s always buzzing around the holidays. Stop in here & order their S’Mores – $5 will get you a personal roasting fire delivered to your table, with s’more sticks and 5 homemade Tahitian vanilla marshmallows (with chocolate and graham crackers of course)!

Total cost: $10 (because, clearly, 5 s’mores won’t be enough for two 😉

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Stroll down Main Street for dinner + dessert + Santa.

I’ve lived in New York, visited Chicago, and spent time in California and I’ve got to say, there’s no classic like a Coney Island hot dog. Start things out right with “Fort Wayne’s Famous” dogs (~$4 for two coney dogs), then head over to the City’s latest, hottest dessert spot, the Yummi Bunni, for dessert! This place just opened last weekend and LET ME TELL YOU WHAT. Owner McKenna Click has a hit on her hands. The Yummi Bunni specializes in well, Yummi Buns. (Essentially, doughnut ice cream sandwiches that are to DIE for.) Grab your buns, walk outside, and turn to your right to end the night with Fort Wayne’s legendary display of lights – Santa and his reindeer. (&, this is also the perfect spot to lean in for that sweet kiss. #KI.)

Total cost: $14.


Photo credit: Catablu Grille

Go out for Mac & Cheese at Catablu.

Chilly outside means comfort food inside, and the Mac & Cheese at Catablu can’t be beat. Catablu calls itself an “everyday escape” – and it’s roaring fireplace and friendly staff make it a great retreat around the holidays. You can order the lobster mac & cheese ($19), or stick with their plain mac & cheese ($6, and which I personally like more). (Tip: Their plain mac & cheese is actually listed under “Sides”, but can be ordered a la carte and is big enough to feed a hungry soccer player – speaking from experience.)

Total cost: $12.


Brunch at Fortezza Coffee.

Maybe you’re not at the dinner date stage yet. Never fear – Fortezza is here! It’s a big city spot nestled in the heart of the Fort, and has expanded its coffee shop menu to include brunch. (#letsbruch #brunchsquad #brunchgoals #ilovebrunch) I’d recommend the quiche – it’s artfully presented with a small yogurt parfait & raspberry salad included as sides. Or, if that’s not your thing, Fortezza also offers a variety of alternatives – from french toast to delicious breads & pastries.

Total cost: $13ish.


What my heartbeat means.

What a weekend. It feels like, overall, these last couple days flew by in a heartbeat – yet, there were a few moments where it felt like time stopped. Those moments when you feel like you’re almost able to step back out of the present and appreciate all that’s past, while realizing that there’s so many possibilities to come.

I’m starting to see and more fully appreciate how God is working in my life, how absolutely everything over the past few years – actually, my lifetime – have led up to this moment.  If you’ve ever played sports or an instrument – preparing for a big game or show – you understand the feeling: that sentiment as you step out onto the field, the crowd roars, and you realize that all of your preparation will pay off in that single moment.


Except, today, it’s a little different. I don’t mean “this moment” figuratively or in a monumental sense, per se. I mean right here, right now – sitting here in bed, holding steaming tea with one hand and typing this with the other. I’m realizing how every nuance of my life has been orchestrated. Tomorrow, I’ll take a breath and my heart will beat. The interaction of these two steps will cause a reaction in my muscles, which will in turn enable me to propel myself out of bed, extend my fingers to grab my steaming mug of coffee, receive the jolt of caffeine needed to start my day…and the cycle continues. But you know the humbling thing: I don’t have control over whether or not my heart will take its next beat, or my body will breathe its next breath.


I don’t say that to be morbid, but to make the point that there is One who loves me so desperately that He’s already measured my life in the number of heartbeats I’ll have or breaths I’ll take. He makes my heart beat for me, He reminds my body to breathe in the fresh air. This means He’s already with me, working within and around me, moment to moment. He’s already accounted for all the decisions I’ll make of my own accord, and of the times I’ll let Him lead. In merely existing, my heart is innately intertwined in a divine, sacred romance with the Creator of the Universe.


It’s beautiful. As I consider decisions, as I sit here now contemplating how what I’ll do today will affect what options I’ll have tomorrow – I know that He actually wants to free me from that worry. If He has orchestrated my very existence and keeps me alive from second to second, He can surely be trusted to lead me towards the most Epic life he has waiting.



“I lift my hands to Heaven, hear my heart surrender.

I tell my soul again, You are Lord of all.

Though the seas are raging, You will speak and tame them.

In You I find my rest, You are in control.”

~ In Control, Hillsong Worship

The Secret to Happiness Is…. (cue drumroll)

Surprise + delight = the secret to moments of happiness.

Intentionality = the secret to a lifetime of happiness.

To borrow the phrase overused by rappers everywhere, “Let’s break it down now.”

Surprise + Delight

When I was growing up, my parents never told me that my life couldn’t turn out just like the movies. They never said I was incapable of accomplishing anything, never scoffed at my dreams or told me to “be more realistic.”

In fact, my childhood was a dream. My parents were the BEST at surprises. They taught my brother and I early on that “just because” gifts, spontaneous train trips to Chicago, or a new puppy were wonderful things and that surprises were a part of life – not just something meant for the movies. I’d come home to find a favorite type of ice cream in the freezer, or jump in the car after school with my mom and she would say, “Close your eyes and hold out your hands. I got something for you today!” I learned to bask in the joy of receiving surprises, and loved these unexpected acts of fun and kindness.


I remember one Christmas, when my dad gave me one of the most amazing surprises I’ve ever received. He handed my mom and I beautifully embroidered clutch bags, and stayed quiet as we looked them over assuming that was our (only) gift from him that year. Only when we opened the bags did we find the Broadway tickets inside – I had two tickets to Wicked, and my mom had two to The Phantom of the Opera. We noticed that the dates on the tickets were only one day apart…at which point my dad brought out this fabulous book that he had created that outlined an entire, week-long trip to NYC. Our plane tickets were in the front, followed by hotel reservations, MORE Broadway tickets (to five shows!), restaurant reviews, subway maps – everything! My 16 year-old heart was bursting!

Sometime around that point, I decided I wanted to be like my dad. I’d been the recipient of joy, but I wanted to give the joy, too! So I started to buy my mom earrings or flowers just because, or look into sending our family to a hotel in Warsaw for the night (because at the time, that was all I could afford and Warsaw, IN sounded exotic and exciting. lolz.).

Fast-forward for a few years, and I started dating. (I’m sure you’re knowingly nodding now if you’ve dated more than one person in your lifetime. You’re like, “Here it is. Here’s the reality.”) I’ve dated a couple people that approached things very intentionally, and things just didn’t work out because they weren’t meant to. But, I’ve also had the dating horror stories where he would “ghost” (e.g., not respond) for week(s), then show up on my doorstep with a box of chocolates. Those one-off moments may have made me happy momentarily but wouldn’t indicate to me that he really valued or appreciated me. I’d still be left in the following days or weeks, questioning what he really felt about me – and, questioning is the FASTEST way to suck the happiness out of anything.

And, to be honest, I’d rather have cupcakes than chocolate. Clearly guys like that didn’t understand my heart. 😉



Happiness comes with intentionality. One of the most certain ways to tell how someone feels about you is to pay attention to how intentional their actions are towards you.


That’s why I’ve never questioned how my parents, or even my closest friends, feel about me. We’re intentional in how we give gifts to and surprise each other. We all also ensure that the sentiment behind the gifts we give to each other lives on / continues to be proven through our daily actions – affirming the other person and showing he / she that they are cherished, loved, and valued. That their heart is understood. That they are unquestionably worth the time and sacrifice it took to make something happen. That’s a wonderful feeling.


My best friends might stop by my house announced spontaneously just to say “hi!” (the gift of presence), or drive 30 minutes to bring me Starbucks first thing before a big event. I might drop off a $5 gift card with a note at their house to surprise them when they get home, or ship my mom roses hand-picked from volcanoes in South America just to say, “I love you.” (Check out Bouqs.com. This is a real & amazing thing. Your mom / friend / girlfriend will love you forever.)


Intentionality doesn’t have to mean big, expensive, extravagant surprises. It isn’t measured by how much money you spend – just by how consistently you take time to say / do something that shows, “Hey, I value you.”

Maybe it’s doing the dishes, writing a quick note, or stopping by someone’s office on your lunch hour. Maybe it IS buying flowers or driving an hour to say “Hi!” or giving a year-long sock subscription. (Cai, my brother, you’re welcome.)

Whatever it is, happiness – in life, in relationships, in anything – comes from being intentional.

Let me know your thoughts below 🙂

Living the Epic.

“We live in a world of magic and mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen—and wonderful things, too. It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle…Yet for all of its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily every after. That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy takes, which is the claim that it is true. That it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still.” ~ Frederick Buechner


“Christianity tells us that He has set our hearts’ longings within us, for he has made us to live in an Epic.” ~ John Eldredge



I fully intend to live an epic life.


I grew up taking amazing adventure roadtrips with my family. We’d all jump in the car, pick a direction on the map (e.g., “North!”) and take off for weeks without a definitive destination—just on a search for adventure. So, I grew up learning about the pirates on the North Carolina coast, exploring outlaw hideouts in the Badlands, or following the trail of Louis and Clark. I’d ride horses through the mountains of Wyoming and daydream that I was riding with cowboys, or fly biplanes and feel like I was the pilot of a fighter jet.


I realized at a young age that adventure is what makes a great story. Not just a great story—an EPIC story.


So, at the age of 16, wandering through Durango, CO, I turned to my mom and said, “I fully intend to live an epic life.”


It’s been my life mantra ever since.


Epic stories are woven into my heritage—my very being. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth about my Scottish relatives. My great, great, great, great, great grandfather was a pirate who sailed with Blackbeard. My great, great, great grandmother was a Cherokee princess. My grandmother left her hometown at age 16, went to Washington D.C. with only a suitcase, and started working with the FBI. To this day, she still has a letter written personally to her signed by J. Edgar Hoover.


But I think my deep desire to “Live Epic” goes deeper than that.


Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has set eternity in their heart.” There’s something more we were created for—we feel a longing, a desire for something more. It’s like that twilight between night and day—in our most intimate moments, we feel like we’re on the precipice of something monumental, we sense that something epic is happening, and we’re supposed to—no, we long to—have a role in it.


That’s because there is an epic story going on right now. A battle between light and darkness, with a Villain who will stop at nothing and a victorious Hero who romances our hearts. In this very moment—right here, right now—a war is being waged for that which is most sacred to us, our hearts.


God has placed this desire within my heart, this intimate longing for something more because it exists—it’s out there, and He has it waiting. He wants you to embrace the call to Live Epic.


So, here’s the challenge. We live in a world that strongly encourages us to think differently about this. To go for what’s comfortable and familiar.


Have you ever met a little girl that dreamed, “When I grow up, I just want to find someone I’m comfortable with and settle down.” Or a little boy that said, “When I’m older, I just want to find a job that pays the bills.”


Oh goodness, I sincerely hope not.


But, I was recently talking with a friend of mine the night before her wedding. “Have you found your Prince?” I asked. She paused (which I didn’t expect). “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know if I could say I’m in love with him, but he’s comfortable.”


Friends, when did we reach a point in life where we sacrificed our calling for what’s comfortable?


It’s so easy to slip into the mindset of “settling”—and so easy, in fact, we might not even realize we’re doing it.


When did we lose sight of the story?


I’m speaking from experience here. And, a moment of honesty—I’ve always desired for my epic life to include an epic romance.


But, when you find yourself at home on a Friday night while one friend is out with her husband, another is wedding-planning with a fiancé, and even your parents are out to dinner, it’s easy to slip into a mentality of, “Okay, so I said ‘epic’, but maybe ‘epic’ really means that guy from across the hall that’s mostly okay?” And soon, you don’t even realize that you’re settling because you’ve totally lost your place in the story. You even strive to settle. And, oh, dear, that never works out well.


Everything has its place in the story.


My mom is a musical theater director, so when I was little, we used to have a closet full of costumes. I’d spend DAYS dressing up like Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia or Robin Hood or Piratica—turning my couch into a pirate ship or blankets into a fort deep within Sherwood Forest.


What if Aslan had given his life for Edmund at the beginning of the story? Would it have had the same meaning? Would it even make sense?


What if Belle had met the Beast, well, before he was the Beast? The Prince would never have been transformed, and the Kingdom would have never been saved. She might have even decided that he was a mostly selfish jerk with no manners and never have gone on a second date.


When you lose sight of the Epic story, you compromise your Epic life.


I’m working on trusting God. It’s something I always think I have under control, then an event will happen and I’ll be like, “Mmmmm okay maybe not.” I’ve even fallen into the trap of, “Maybe after I learn this lesson, this will happen!” or “Maybe I haven’t prayed hard enough.”


But really, maybe it’s just not the right time in the Story. My Kingdom focus—winning the war—has been compromised over a single battle.


To be honest, I have no idea. But I do know that Living the Epic Life I’ve always desired means allowing the Author to write the story. Surrendering to His timeline, because He who set and fuels the desires of my heart will be faithful to fulfill them.


Live Epic. Always.