In my marriage, some of the most memorable evenings have also been the least expensive. Sure, I have enjoyed the bouquets and the boxes of chocolate, but it is the folk music in the ski lodge, the sips of Chardonnay on our summer porch swing, and the nights spent reading in bed, side by side, that really stand out.Anyone can splurge on a formal dinner or a pricey bottle of perfume, but it takes creativity, forethought, and time to be truly romantic.The key lies in personalizing your celebration. Here are 10 ideas to fuel your own creativity:1. Empty a box of chocolate (either into your mouth or onto a plate). Then cut out 50 to 100 hearts from lace doilies, construction paper, or fabric. On each cutout, record something about him that you love. Be specific, "The way you smell when you come to bed at night," "The way you take care of me when I'm sick," or simply "Your recipe for pancakes."Another variation would be to write down 100 cherished memories of your life together. Fold the cutouts, place them in the chocolate box, and top with a red satin bow. The time you spend coming up with these ideas will contribute to your own romantic mood, and what he thinks is a plain box of chocolates will be a gift he'll keep close to his heart forever. And you can add to the box each year.2. Build a romantic fire. Before the kids go to bed, have fun roasting marshmallows. After their lights are out, host your own indoor picnic, complete with a bottle of wine and chocolate-covered strawberries.3. Recreate your first date together. What were you wearing? Where did you go? Do you remember what you talked about? Spend the evening reminiscing and reflecting on how far you've come as a couple. 4. Spoon all night.5. Choose a book in which you are both interested -- fiction or nonfiction. Read a new chapter each night before bed. This cozy tradition will allow you to spend some quality time together and often makes for thought-provoking breakfast conversations.6. Make a tape of the songs special to your relationship. Include "your song," songs from your wedding, songs from favorite movies. Add a personal voice dedication and leave it in his briefcase, Walkman, or car stereo.
7. Turn off the TV.8. Kidnap your partner. Arrange for a babysitter for a few hours or a few days. A friend of mine had a lot of success with this one. She knew her husband had always wanted to get married in Vegas, but he had agreed to a large, formal ceremony hosted by her family. So, after they had been married 10 years, she surprised him at work with a packed suitcase. They caught an evening flight and renewed their vows before an Elvis impersonator in a Vegas chapel. Years later, they're still talking about it.9. Don't be yourself. This one requires a babysitter, too. Next time you're visiting your parents or in-laws, leave the kids with their grandparents and travel to another town, where no one will recognize you. Check into a hotel or B&B. Dress like another woman. Act like another woman. It's fun to slip into another persona from time to time. 10. Have a scavenger hunt. Write a few poems, wrap candy kisses inside, and hide them around the house. Each poem should be a clue to finding the next one. Make sure the final clue lands your man someplace you want to end up for the entire evening. A romance package, including a bottle of champagne and new lingerie, is a nice touch.Create a special memories not with your credit card, but with your imagination.