By Bobbie Ames | Contributor
As Valentine’s Day approaches does your cynical side let out a small internal groan?
Are you tired of:
• Sad looking and overpriced grocery store bouquets wrapped in cellophane?
• The box of chocolates that almost always ends up on your bedside table and lures you away from your New Year’s resolution to get fit?
• Expensive and underwhelming Valentine’s Day meals at restaurants that usually have great service?
• Not knowing what to do for the Tweens, Teens and College students in your life?
Just thinking about the obligatory, commercialized Valentine’s Day gifts and celebrations leaves me feeling joyless and disconnected from my loved ones. Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love — love for your family, love for your friends and of course, love for that special someone in your life. So, this year why not put a little bit of your heart and soul into your Valentine’s Day gifts and celebrations? Your loved ones will be touched that you took the time and made the effort to envision and create a token of your affection that is unique to each of them.
For Tweens and Younger Teens
-These people absolutely love pictures of themselves; just look at the number of “selfies” on their social media accounts! Don’t fight this craze, but embrace it by creating a series of framed photos featuring your young Valentine – and of course his or her BFFs.
-Does your little sweetheart have a special talent? Highlight his or her athletic/musical/theatrical side with a collage of candid action photos.
-Favorite candies and sweets are always welcome with these youngsters. Bins, buckets or baskets tailor-made with select treats are sure to delight. Add fuzzy socks for girls and red athletic socks for boys. You can even use a Nike rucksack or dance duffel to hold all the goodies.
Here are step-by-step instructions to create a festive collection of goodies:
1) Purchase your child’s favorite bags of candies and select a container to cover in candy wrappers. The container can be a basket, bucket, canister or anything that will hold candy.
2) Using a glue gun, cover the inside, outside and bottom of the container with colorful sections from the candy bags.
3) If your container includes a handle, cover that with a ribbon.
4) Fill up the container with a personalized assortment of favorite candies.
For Teenage Drivers
The Teenage Driver is a strange and perplexing being. What is no mystery, however is how these new motorists feel about their cars – they are a great source of pride! Their vehicles are literally their first home away from home. So honor their incubation tendencies by brightening up their cocoon on wheels. Just DO NOT make the mistake of writing on the outside of their cars in colorful paint with sweet sayings or hearts.
• Surprise them by getting their car detailed inside and out. Then fill up the tank and leave a homemade Valentine’s card on their dashboard filled with fast food gift cards.
• Fill the car up with red and pink balloons and tie gift cards to the end of each balloon.
College Aged Students
Now that they are out of your house your College Student actually misses home and your family from time to time! Sure they are doing great and are so busy that they don’t have time to call, but they DO think about you. Just keep repeating this to yourself when you begin to doubt! And of course they are hungry, always hungry.
• They are missing a taste of home. Prepare a care package with all of their favorite homemade treats. Include Valentine decorations for their dorm room or apartment. You cannot go wrong with heart boxers to boys or girls
• I saw a sweet idea on Pinterest that could be converted to your college-aged child. They are called “Open When Letters”. A romantic version of these letters can be found at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/563020390888003258/. These types of letters could easily be customized for your child away at school. Opening up an inspirational little note from your family would surely warm your student’s heart. Think about occasions when they might need some extra encouragement; when they are homesick, when they have final exams, when they are weary from studying, when they are struggling with a friend, when they do not feel well or when they just need a little love from home.
• A framed picture of your family – just be sure to use plenty of candy and treats to protect the photo during shipping!
Grown Up Couples
If you and that special someone have a great thing going for Valentine’s Day then read no further. But, if you want to change things up a little, perhaps make the whole experience just a little more creative then read on my friend, read on.
• Skip the pre-arranged plastic wrapped grocery store flowers. Instead, create your own bundle of floral artistry.
You will need: A clear glass vase with a 2 ½”– 3” opening, 3’ of wide satin ribbon, approximately 8-12 stems each of 3 different flowers (stay away from mums and carnations – not romantic!) and 1 bundle of greens (try to find something other than ferns — ask for lemon leaf or rosemary).
1) Cut all stems to about the same length of your vase plus 3”
2) Create your bundle in your hand by starting with one each of the three different flowers. Now add flowers one by one of each of the types, rotating your bundle as you go.
3) Place the bundle of flowers in your vase.
4) If the flowers are falling over then it is likely that they are too tall. Just cut a little more off the bottom and continue. Or you may not have enough flowers for the width of your vase. If that is the case, you will want to use a lot of greenery to support the flowers.
5) Now take your greenery and cut half of it to be a little longer than your flowers and the other half to be a little shorter.
6) Insert the greenery into your flower arrangement using the taller pieces towards the middle and the shorter pieces around the edges.
7) Finally, take your wide satin ribbon and cross it around the circumference of the vase about ¾ of the way towards the top. Tie it with a bow and attach a cut out heart with a personal message.
• Does anything really say love to a man more then dried meats? Make your own Beef Jerky with easy tips from this fabulous source http://thehealthyfoodie.com/home-made-beef-jerky-in-with-the-yummy-out-with-the-nasty/
• How about making some infused vodka (or other spirit) for your loved one? These are much easier to concoct than you would imagine and think of all of the fun you will have together emptying the bottle! This web posting describes the process perfectly http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-fruit-flavored-vodkas-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-194066
• Is Olive Oil romantic? It may depend on who you are giving it to…I’d be giddy. I recently had a great time testing some very high quality oils that I can enthusiastically recommend.
• Plan a night in, just the two of you. Make some small plates/appetizers together, open up a couple of bottles of really good wine and leisurely enjoy each other. I guarantee with a little planning and work you will end up with better food, better drinks, better service (even if you are supplying it yourself) and a more personal experience.