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Creativity counts for gifts
By JILL ELLIS, Special to QMI Agency
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(Shutterstock)

    Remember the episode of Friends when Joey needed to buy a gift for his new, fantastic girlfriend and Chandler wouldn't let him give her his usual: a coupon for an hour of 'Joey Love'? Joey was at a complete loss for an original, reasonably-priced gift.

    Well, that's the dilemma faced by many folks when the calendar rolls around to Valentine's Day. Christmas has just passed and maybe you broke the bank for your loved one's gift. Or maybe you just don't buy into the flowers and candy approach; what to do about this troublesome holiday? Get creative, do something, but do something unexpected.

    Shannon Thompson, of London, Ontario, purchased a dozen fortune cookies for her husband Phil McLeod. She carefully removed the fortunes inside and replaced them with better versions bearing messages that "I knew he would appreciate," says Thompson. She carefully resealed the cellophane packages using an iron so that Phil was truly surprised by the racy nature of his fortunes.

    Men can be equally creative. Brent Zuskan burned a CD of all his wife's favourite songs. He secretly had arranged to have it played at their favourite restaurant during a romantic Valentine's dinner.

    "The first song - the one he calls 'our song' - came on just as the first glass of wine was being poured. I commented on the coincidence. One song after another I kept saying, 'I love this song' but I never caught on," Deborah Zuskan says with a laugh.


    When the waiter brought the bill at the end of the evening, it was accompanied by the CD tied with a purple ribbon, alongside a red rose. Zuskan had created a special CD cover featuring a picture of the couple dancing on one of their first dates, a photo that Deborah hadn't previously seen.

    Creating a lovely evening for each other (or for the whole family) together is a great idea, according to TV chef Kary Osmond of CBC's Best Recipes Ever. "My husband and I did that last Valentine's Day," she shares. They created a wonderful Japanese Hot Pot meal.

    She thinks the Hot Pot concept is a great one for Valentine's because it's a fun, flavourful meal that's on the lighter side - you may not want something heavy meal when romance is on the menu.

    Osmond shares a couple of tips for creating great Hot Pot. "You can buy beef cut super thin at Asian grocery stores," saving yourself some of the prep work. She adds that older kids can help cut up the veggies, making it a family fun time.

    If you want heighten the ambiance, have the kids set out candles on the table (tea lights are safer with little ones around as they don't tip over as easily) and pick out some nice music to listen to during the meal.

    "Do nice things that will separate it from your usual weeknight dinner," she says.

    'Theme-ing' the evening can provide family fun as well, adds Osmond. "Put a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs in the centre of the table, like on Lady and the Tramp and then watch that video together afterwards."

    We should share good feelings with our loved ones every day, but don't miss a chance on Valentine's Day just because it seems cheesy. Creating low-cost gifts, or taking extra time to do something special, will wow them every time.

    This story was posted on Wed, February 9, 2011

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