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Saturday, September 11, 2021

Gift a Staycation in a Box

The last year and a half has been weird and stressful and unpredictable, and I anticipate the next 3-6 months will probably be more of the same. People are tired of being at home, but also not ready to go anywhere, because there are so many variables, including anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, new variants, no way to social distance, and everything else, so for a friend's birthday, I decided she was getting a vacation.

No one is getting a real vacation yet, but staycations are easy, and giving one is just as simple.

No, no one is getting a real vacation yet, but staycations are easy, and with all the experience I now have putting one together, I figured I could do the same for her. I wanted it to be creative and fun, plus include a bunch of things that were either useful, unique, pretty, or all three. 

I started out with a great pottery bowl made by a local artist here in Portland that I picked up at an Asian market/festival earlier this year. It was specified as a succulent or bulb pot and had a metallic-y band around it that reminded me a lot of the Japanese art of fixing pottery with gold, thereby both fixing it and making it more beautiful while still having been broken (pretty much how when bad things happen, you try to find the good in it at some point). This process is called kintsukuroi, which translates to "to repair with gold". 

With this bowl, I decided to plan an entire staycation around this Japanese theme, finding a beautiful Japan landscape backdrop, and then going to my local Asian supermarket and loading up on all the things. Now, obviously, you don't have to go as extreme as I did, but travel makes me happy, and so does giving gifts, so I went a bit overboard, including finding a mini trunk suitcase to pack it all in. I mean, what's a trip without luggage?

The suitcase was a bit smaller than I anticipated, but that's okay, because I just put the overflow in a fun, matching bag I just happened to have on-hand. What else was in the package? I'll show you!

photo by Nancy Jennings

I picked up some ramen packets (like good ramen, not those square crunchy ones that cost 33 cents at Safeway) and a jar of ramen seasoning, which I didn't know was a thing, but apparently we make such things here in Portland at Jacobsen Salt Co. This means I had to get a ramen bowl and matching spoon. I had previously gifted her some sake cups and a few bottles of locally-made sake (from Sake One), so I skipped another sake and instead got a personal bottle of sparkling ume wine (plum blossom) to round out the actual meal. 

photo by Nancy Jennings

Dessert and snacks were easy, because I picked a little bit of everything that looked weird and/or delicious and used that all as packing material. When in doubt, candy that you don't mind if it breaks, will absolutely not break, and will pad everything in your box and add whimsy. So, there's shrimp chips, and Pocky, and gummy candies, and gum, and chocolate treats stuffed in there. 

Since I had included a background, I also wanted to include stuff for the table that wasn't food, but was also small and would travel well. I chose an awesome pop-up card with two geishas and a cherry blossom tree that sits flat and creates a lovely scene all by itself, but I also rounded it off with a mini pagoda, that I thought might hold a candle, but was a bit too small for that, because it's actually a metal aquarium prop. In fact, I found these to be really great in adding a bit of flair, but not being too expensive or too big, when your dinner is done and you don't really have space for another thing in your house. Or maybe you have a fish and he can enjoy it after you.

photo by Nancy Jennings

But wait! That's not all! No trip is complete without sightseeing! Yes, I know technically a backdrop counts as seeing sights, but also, a static picture goes only so far. To complement it, I made a playlist of walking tours and JPop on YouTube and printed out a QR code for it.

Once I Tetrised all my goodies inside the suitcase (or as much as would fit), I added real packing, like bubble wrap in a few open spots and on top, and stuck in the QR code before I closed it up. The few things that didn't fit when into my overflow bag: the background, the pagoda, and a few candies that didn't have a home). I adorned my suitcase with some travel "stamps" and then added a birthday greeting both in (probably very bad) Japanese that I used Google Translate for and then in English with a metallic paint pen. I boxed it up with my overflow bag and added the card on top, and then used sticky notes to number them, so they would be opened in the correct order (yes, I am a nerd, and I'm perfectly secure in that).

There you have it. With a little creativity, you can give your friends and family a lovely little trip that they can take in their own home. Happy Birthday again to my wonderful friend, Nancy!

If you could go anywhere now, where would you go and who would you take with you?


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