Posted in Ta-Da! Tuesdays

Ta-Da! Tuesday: Saint Valentin a Paris

For those who have been following, I gave my hubby a “Passport to Love” for Christmas.  The short version of what this means is that every month, I let my creativity run wild, recreating vacation spots at home.  Last month it was Hawaii.  This month, I did Paris for Valentine’s Day.  A little cheesy?  Yes.  Cliche?  You betcha.  Ordinary?  Oh, no.  Anything but!

I really liked my previous structure of listing what I tried to recreate, then a followup with what it actually was, so I think I’ll borrow that formula for the rest of my vacation spots.  🙂

We arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport in the late afternoon, got our passport stamped and changed out some American currency for Euros.

Immediately afterward, I, being a bibliophile, had to had to HAD TO visit Shakespeare & Co.  We loved it so much that we picked up three books (France-related, of course.  Because it just seemed to fit.)


Afterwards, we took a stroll down Rue Cler and put together a picnic basket from things we picked up along the markets.

(not pictured but also eaten:  French onion soup, a baguette of French bread, and fresh strawberries to dip in the fondue)

Then we went to the Parc du Champ de Mars, plopped on our little slice of green grass, and enjoyed our “pique-nique” (picnic).

With our bellies full, we strolled on the Ponts des Arts bridge and followed tradition by attaching our own padlock.  It was fun to see the hubs get into something symbolic.


What the hubs wrote on our lock.  I was surprisingly more generic and just wrote our names and the date on the backside.

Next was a quick stop at Deyrolle, the strange little taxidermy/curiosity shop.  We had fun taking pictures with the animals.

(need to get the photos we took off of my hubby’s phone later, so right now this will be a placeholder)

After walking a little while, we decided the picnic of bread and cheese wasn’t quite enough, so we tried our hand at making some chicken cordon bleu in the kitchen of our hotel room.

(we ate it all before getting the chance to take a picture)

By that time, it was getting late and we were tired from the flight, so we decided to call it a night and extend activities to the next day (I had a lot planned, and we weren’t quite able to fit it into one day like I originally thought.)

The next day we started out with a trip to a patisserie to get some energy for the rest of the day.  We had some freshly-baked croissants with Nutella and French vanilla lattes. We weren’t able to do the fondue the night before, so we thought some of the strawberries would be a good complement to the chocolate and croissants.  It was the first time I had ever had croissants dipped in coffee, and lemme tell ya, if you’ve never done it before, do it.  Like, right now.  It’s that good.

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I convinced my other half that a trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a peek at some high fashion, so we took a detour and browsed the avenue Montaigne and got the special treat of seeing how some of the Chanel 2013 collection dresses were made.  Then we found a photo booth (with a couture backdrop!) to take some photos in.


(obviously, we weren’t *quite* ready for the first picture.  Haha.)

We were pretty tired after that, but we couldn’t let another day go by without some fondue.  So we found some energy and made some marzipan hearts to dip into it, added it to the strawberries and crunchy breadsticks spread, melted the chocolate we got at the market (with some liquor and cream added, of course), then enjoyed our creation with some wine.


Then (warning:  maybe TMI) we perfected our French kissing.  Mostly because nothing says “kiss me” like strawberries, chocolate, wine, and marzipan.  🙂


I let my little brother in on our plans and gave him a quick training on how to be a ticket-taker (I gave him the “stamp” to put on hubby’s “passport”), so the airport was really my parents’ house.  We also really did switch out American currency for Euros.  I dug up some from when we went to Germany a few years back.

Shakespeare & Co. was a local used bookstore in my town that I absolutely LOVE.  I only just recently discovered it, but apparently it’s been around for 23 years.  I hope it continues to be successful.  I always come out with a new treasure.  Anyhow, I sent a message to one of the owners on Facebook about the Parisian Valentine’s Day plans, and she was so incredibly sweet in saying that it was such a cute idea.  She got into it and set up a little French display for us to see when we came in.  Needless to say, I think I’ll be frequenting that store much, much more in the future.  They really went out of their way for their customers.

Rue Cler was a local fresh foods/gourmet foods market.  It prides itself on having both local produce or quality imported foods, so it just so happened to have some fabulous French cheese, wine, and chocolate.  Here again, I became puppet master and arranged for them to have a basket ready to pick up.  So I bought the goodies for the basket ahead of time, decorated it myself (I’m very particular about my wrapping), and dropped it off with the manager.  When we got there, we bought some things to dip in the fondue.  Imagine hubby’s surprise, though, when I picked up the basket at check out!  I tried to give the cashier the Euros we had, but I think the manager might not have relayed the message to her, because she looked a bit confused.  That’s okay, though.  It was still fun.  🙂

The Parc du Champ de Mars was a nearby outdoor plaza.  It had plenty of outdoor tables and chairs set up, and I had carefully picked out which table we were going to dine at in advance.  It had globe lights above and was situated near the complex’s outdoor fireplace.  Some Parisian Cafe music from my phone, and the ambience was set!  There was a nice little grassy hill with animal statues close to where we had our picnic, so we pretended that it was the grass under the Eiffel Tower.

Conveniently, the back part of our backyard has a chain link fence.  So I got some outdoor lights to outline a bridge, printed out a picture of the padlocks on the Ponts de Arts, then taped it to the chainlink fence with a hole cut out for us to put our own padlock on.  Originally I was going to have a bucket filled with water to be the “river” to throw the key in, but I ran out of time, so we just threw the key into the yard.

Deyrolle was me setting up my stuffed animals in silly poses and situations.  I had one in an armchair reading a book, one having tea, another playing the piano.  It was hilarious, because when we were coming back from the “Ponts de Arts” and I told hubby that the next stop was the taxidermy shop, he saw some of the animals and even remarked, “I see it!  I can see the shop!”  He did a wonderful job of really getting into the spirit of things and the illusion I created (rather than being grumpy that he wasn’t getting the “real thing”), and for that I’m so very thankful.

As you might’ve guessed, our “hotel room” was our own bedroom.  I made a 3D Eiffel Tower to have as our “view”, and topped it off with some adorable string lights.  I even put a light inside the tower that changes colors so we could watch the “light show”.


For breakfast, it was obviously at home.  I made my own croissants and got Nutella out of the jar and put it in little bowls in a pretty pattern to make it look cuter.  I did cheat a little and got some French vanilla lattes from our favorite coffee shop (conveniently open 24 hours!), then poured them into coffee cups so it looked more homey.  What you don’t see, though (because I forgot to take a picture) was that I set up a morning picnic outside in our huge backyard’s wooden table and chairs set, with candles and the “lights from the bridge” on.  I also brought my Parisian Cafe music again, and set out the books we bought at “Shakespeare & Co.” to browse through while having breakfast.  I set it up right before the sun came up so we could enjoy the sunrise.  It was wonderful.

In reality, Gruffy (nickname for the hubs…haven’t used it in awhile) had to go to work in the morning right after breakfast, so we had to put a pause on Paris until he got home at night.  We had some French onion soup for dinner when got home,


So. Freakin’.  Good.  The Swedish meatballs I made from the leftovers were equally good.  I’ll post that recipe next Tuesday.  🙂

For the couture houses, we watched a “making of” video of Chanel’s 2013 collection.

Afterwards, we decided to make something “couture” of our own:  a couture fabric background for our photo booth!  I had made a pretty neutral background beforehand: some burlap that I stenciled with “Saint Valentin a Paris” and a freehand drawing of the Eiffel Tower.  Then I laid out my fabric and ribbon scraps, stickers, and needle and thread so we could hand sew some stuff onto the burlap.  It was a great time and we both really got into it!  We spent much more time putting together the background than I originally thought, but it was SO worth it.

Then, ya know.  French kissing is pretty straightforward.  😉

Since your eyes may or may not be glazing over by the length of this post, I will do a part 2 of this next Tuesday, with a “behind-the-scenes”/”making-of” post.

More for my own accountability/organization than anything else, here’s what I’ll be going into:

*berets I sewed
*3D Eiffel Tower
*burlap background
*props for the photo booth
*fondue recipe
*making of couture background
*French onion soup recipe
*Swedish meatball (from leftover French onion soup) recipe

…and perhaps more.  That’s all I can remember for today.  So sounds like I’ll have my work cut out for me for next Tuesday!  Can’t wait!

Au Revoir! (at least until next time)

Posted in Ta-Da! Tuesdays

Ta-Da! Tuesday: The Spirit of Aloha

…without having to leave home!

A few months ago, I saw this link on Pinterest, and I was immediately inspired.  I’m a little reluctant to reveal that, because sometimes I want to feel like I came up with awesome ideas on my own.  But if you haven’t seen that link on Pinterest yet, feel free to check it out and use the idea.  That’s what it’s there for, or at least that’s what the Dating Divas say.  🙂

So I took the idea and ran with it.  It was one of the presents I gave my hubby for Christmas, and I love how it’s a present that lasts all year long.  I’m going to give him one travel date a month.

In January, we travelled to Hawaii, which actually wasn’t technically one of the places listed on the Dating Divas page (the closest was the Caribbean).  So at least there’s a little bit of individuality there.  Anyway, I thought it was fun to think about going somewhere tropical to give a break from the cold winter weather, and I have to say that I had the hubby fooled for a bit that we might actually be going there!  I do have family in Hawaii that we have an open invitation to visit, so it wouldn’t have been too far off.  So I kept him guessing and kept coy until the actual day.

I was a bit nervous that he might be disappointed that we didn’t actually go, but I really had nothing to worry about!  He had a great, relaxing, fun time, and I think I did a great job of bringing Hawaii to us.  I don’t think I have a better recap than what I posted in my journal, so I’ll just cheat a little and copy and paste, then follow up with pictures of the adventure.

So we arrived home safe and sound from the beautiful island of Oahu.  We started the day taking our “preferred” seats on Hawaiian Airlines.  Shortly after arriving, we had a typical Hawaiian plate lunch:  I had kalua pork with cabbage, he had BBQ chicken, both of our meals of course had rice & macaroni salad for sides.  Finished it off with drinks with umbrellas in it:  I had a Lilikoi fruit Hawaiian Sun, him just plain ol’ H20. When we arrived, we of course both got lei’d (ha).  Afterwards, we went for a dip in Waikiki Beach, then a stroll on the shore, loving the feeling of sand beneath our toes, the smell of sand and ocean and tropical fruit, and picking up pretty shells that we saw along the way.  Made a quick stop at Ala Moana for some cheesy souvenirs:  straw hat for him, grass skirt for me. Then we hopped on a bus to do the Circle Island Tour.  We had stops at Diamond Head where we climbed the 99 steps to the crater, Kahala, the Hanauma Bay Lookout, Halona Blow Hole, a short hike at Makapuu where we saw the not-so-super-secret old hang glider landing strip, and saw a fantastic view of an island through one of the pukas (holes) in the rocks.  Next stop was the super-windy Pali Lookout where we saw nature coincide with traffic; it was crazy to see cars driving through the tunnel, surrounded by so many green trees!  Freaked me out a bit to see a “Caution:  Bees!” sign as the first thing that greeted me. After that, we made a stop at the Dole Plantation.  We rode the Pineapple Express, took some pictures by the “distance to…” sign in the fields, then went through the pineapple maze.  Holy cow, that thing is HUGE!  And, I’m happy to say, we found all the hidden secrets.    We totally have evidence.  We stopped by for a little while and watched some surfers on the North Shore before the tour ended. We got dropped off at the Polynesian Cultural Center to watch some of the presentations.  I have to say my favorite one was the Tonga drummers.  That dude has ENERGY and puts on a great show.  We had lots of great belly laughs from it.  But watching the Maori stick game was a lot of fun, too.  Oooh, and the Samoan coconut husking and tree climbing! We took a quick dip in a waterfall then headed back for the evening shows at the Center.  There were so many great dances I don’t know which one I liked the best.  They were all so talented!  Then we watched some fire knife dancers.  WOW. Then we headed home and was able to watch a gorgeous view of Waikiki Beach & Diamond Head through the window.  All in all, a great vacation!
Okay, fine, not really.  So this is how I did it: I printed out the “preferred” seating sign and put it on our car seats.
*Picture to come (need to get it off hubby’s phone)*
Went to a local Hawaiian Grill,
*Another picture to come
then to a local indoor (heated!) pool to serve as Waikiki.
When we got back to our house, we had leis from the store.
I did recreate the beach with real sand and seashells on the floor.
Smells came from specifically-scented candles that I picked up.  (Turquoise Sky, Waikiki Melon, Black Coconut, Pineapple Cilantro)
Made a makeshift Ala Moana sign and hung up our souvenirs (they really were a straw hat and grass skirt).
Then we hung out on the couch as we watched a YouTube playlist that I queued up of all the real stops on the Circle Island Tour.
When there was a place we had to walk, we took steps in place in time with the video.  The Makapuu Trail was us climbing our staircase, with me doling out pictures of the real views along the way.  I was able to simulate actually looking through a boulder hole with some clever rearranging of furniture.
I made a makeshift “distance to” sign with a floor lamp and arrows made out of scrapbook paper.  It turned out really good!
And I printed out a picture of the pineapple maze, where he and I sat down with a pen and actually found our way through.  I hid the secrets around the house and we really did find them all! Then the Polynesian Cultural Center, I queued up some more videos, and they were spectacular!  The waterfall was our shower, scented with coconut (and colored turquoise!  Was going to originally dye the water with food coloring, but no need because the shower gel had enough color in it).  And more night shows with candlelight. It was still a great time, and in both of our minds, we got a great taste of Hawaii.
Hope You’re Creating Your Own Sense of Fun Accomplishment!  🙂