It was only a few days until Christmas and I still hadn't come up with this year's "special" gift for G.
Oh, I'd found him some things that he'd wanted or needed (& pretty much used gift cards or cashback money for all of them, so they were free!), but I was still wanting something fun for us - like this calendar of dates gift from a couple years ago or last year's amazing Year of Fun box...
Desperate for the perfect solution, I headed over to one of my favorite blogs (specifically this one) for some inspiration...
That's when I landed on this idea. It sounded just perfect for us, and I loved all the great printables that went along with the set.
|Front of gift envelope|
|Card and passport within|
Of course, I had to tweak things a bit and add my own spin to it all, but I did use everything but the tickets to help create his special present.
First, I filled out the destination list in a general way, because I knew G would rather have things be a surprise every month. By only listing the locations, he got to see some of the places we'd be "traveling" at the moment he opened his present, but then I knew he'd forget all about where we were heading when it came time for our first date.
My plan was to set his passport out (with the new stamp added) the night before our "departure," so that he'd be greeted by it first thing when he got up for work the next morning.
|First passport stamp: Canada|
By not writing down the specific dates of travel, I could be more flexible with things (like if he told me his tutoring would be canceled one night later in the week) and also give him a surprise to anticipate coming home to throughout his long day at work.
Also, I came up with so many ideas for places to go, this fun gift will keep on giving for at least two years, not just the one that the original idea suggested.
Finally, even though this gift was created for couples to use for a romantic date night, I knew that we'd enjoy the idea even more if it was family-friendly and we could include Gv in all the adventures, as well.
It takes a bit of preparation (most of which I'll be doing for you!), but this gift really is a lot of fun for everyone (I just love gifts for others that turn out to be a bonus gift for me, too!)
I'll be sharing all the details of each month's trip with you - starting with the first month:
What to Decorate WithYou can easily go crazy with this (just Google "Canada Day decorations" if you want a ton of ideas), but I decided to keep things simple most months - and also to try and create a decoration that Gv could make, to involve her more with the whole process.
We decided to make a flag for the wall next to our front door, which would greet him as soon as he got home:
|This was super-easy to do: just add strips of red construction paper and a red handprint to a sheet of white paper!|
Gv still loves anything that involves tracing her hand, so I knew this would be the perfect craft for us to do this month.
What to Dress LikeI'm not sure we'll be dressing up for every trip, but I figured it would add to the fun atmosphere if we happen have just the right clothes hanging around the house to piece together an appropriate outfit. (Bonus: Frugal Halloween costume ideas!)
Although I'd briefly considered such get-ups as a Mountie or hockey player, after looking through our closets, I came up with something else.
For him, a lumberjack ensemble, complete with red & black-checked flannel shirt, a warm hat, and hiking boots.
I donned a "Canadian Tux" - jeans, denim shirt, and jeans jacket along with a pair of hiking boots and my warm "Canada" hat.
Gv just wore red.
We took fun photos under our flag, to commemorate the event:
What to Listen toI'm a huge fan of Natalie MacMaster, so of course the iPod playlist I'd created included plenty of her tunes, as well as loads of Bare Naked Ladies and Celine Dion songs (most of which were in French). Of course, I had to include this singable tune from Epcot (#5 on disc 2), as well as the Canadian anthem (take your pick of versions here), too!
What to Eat
Ah, food. I have to confess, this is pretty much the main reason I got excited about this gift idea in the first place - one of our favorite aspects of travel is eating all sorts of amazing food around the world, so it only makes sense that our monthly "trips" would focus on food, as well.
I knew I wanted to fix my delicious recipe for Le Cellier's (Epcot restaurant) beer cheese soup, so that's a big reason I chose Canada for the month of January - a time when we're slurping up soup just about every other night!
I also knew I had to include poutine and something that featured bacon, and a maple syrup-based dessert made sense, so that pretty much comprised our menu.
If you don't want to go to a lot of trouble, you could always just fix Kraft dinner, but if you want to get a bit more adventurous, try out some of these dishes:
Beer Cheese Soup
What You Need
1/4-1/3 pound of chopped bacon
1 finely chopped onion
3 Tablespoons flour
3 cups milk (I used almond)
2 cups chicken stock
12 ounces shredded cheddar
3 dashes of hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup warm beer
salt & pepper to taste
What You Do
1. Cook the bacon over medium heat until wilted, but not browned.
2. Add onion and cook until translucent and the bacon is crisped.
3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Stir in the milk and stock - a little at a time - blending it all well to make sure there aren't any lumps.
4. Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
For this, I chunked up bits of potato, threw them all into a bag along with 2 Tablespoons of hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic, then shook everything up really well to get the tater chunks all nice and coated.
I cut my bacon slices (2/3rds of a package) in half or thirds (depending on the size of the potato chunks), wrapped a slice around each tater, then placed them on a baking sheet so that the weight of the potatoes would hold the bacon wraps closed (I just wasn't in the mood to mess with toothpicks!)
I slid it all into the oven and baked it for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.
Maple-Glazed Apple Blondies
I wanted to make something new, so I found this recipe and just made my usual substitutions of whole wheat flour, homemade baking powder, and honey (for all the sugar except the maple syrup). They were a different type of treat, which we enjoyed.
This is just a mess of french fries (I ran potatoes through my food processor with the "french fry" blade, then baked them until they were done) covered with brown gravy and cheese curds. I was actually planning to make some cheese and add the fresh curds to this dish, but then just got lazy and sprinkled on some shredded mozzarella after adding the gravy.
For the gravy, I just went the super-lazy route and threw everything into the pot at once. I was actually dubious that it would turn out, but it worked just fine and I know I'll be taking this same shortcut in the future. Dump 1 1/2 cups beef stock, 1/4 cup flour, 1 finely chopped onion and 1/4 cup butter into your pan and then cook it all down at a medium-to-low temperature until it's nice and thick. You'll want to stir it as often as possible to keep it from getting lumpy, but I honestly didn't do this very often and it was still great.
|Ah, potato-and-grease overload...just what I remember from my meals traveling through Canada...|
What to DoI created this free printable so that you can play the game, "Who's More Canadian?" Just fill in each player's name and then give tally points throughout the evening for every "Eh?" or "Aboot" that each player says!
We also played a crazy game of sock hockey.
We ditched our shoes for stocking feet, set up goals (plastic step-stools) on either end of our kitchen, grabbed our brooms and a rolled-up sock "puck" and laughed until our sides hurt as we batted the puck back and forth to score (G won).
The bonus was that it cleaned up our floor at the same time!
I'd gathered quite a collection of shows for G to choose from that night: Strange Brew, Canadian Bacon, SCTV episodes and Dudley Do-Right and Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons. You could even just watch a hockey movie, if you're so inclined.
What to Watch
And that wrapped up our first "trip" together for the year. It was a great success and we're already looking forward to next month!
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Want more? Check out some of our other trips:
Italy - India - France - Africa - Ireland - Switzerland - Greece - England - Germany - Thailand - Russia - China - Jamaica - Egypt
Love this idea, but want the easy, made-for-you-and-all-you-do-is-print-it version? Click here to get your own pack and see what inspired me to create this series!
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