Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day Countdown

Posted by on Jan 28, 2013

Who can believe that January is nearly over, and our next holiday is just two weeks away? Never fear … with just one task or two a day beginning February 1, you’ll sail through Valentine’s Day on Cupid’s wings.

Here’s your day-by-day countdown to keep on track over the next two weeks. Be sure to add the tasks to your planner.

1 – Add a few touches of Valentine’s Day around the house: a wreath on front door, a collection of red and pink and white candles on a sideboard, or a heart-shaped dish full of fragrant potpourri on your night stand are just a few ideas. The “LOVE” votives shown above are surprisingly easy and oh-so-affordable.

2 – Make a list of the Valentines you wish to send. Purchase greeting cards and children’s Valentines to hand out at school, or use an online service like or Plaxo to send your cards for you.

3 – Not sending greeting cards this year? Schedule e-cards today for delivery on the 14th.

4 – Read Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, each a perfectly crafted romance. No time to read? Download an audiobook on sites like iTunes and and listen during your commute or on the treadmill.

5 – Make heart-smart snack mix. Combine 1/3 c. each of three kinds of dried fruits (dried cranberries, diced dried apricots, raisins, or dried cherries, etc.) and 2/3 c. each of roasted nuts and seeds (try a mix of almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds). Package 1/3 c. portions in snack-sized zipper bags and stash in your desk, your tote and the kids’ backpacks.

6 – Plan your Valentine’s Day menu and make your shopping list. Purchase non-perishable items today, and the perishables on the 13th. Dining out on the big day? Finalize plans and make reservations.

7 – Plan the table decorations for your Valentine’s Day dinner. Layer red table runners or placemats with silver charger plates, your favorite china, red roses grouped in a small silver bowl and plenty of candles. (Tip: Tie clear votive cups with pink or red organza ribbons and use unscented candles so the scent of your delicious dinner won’t be overpowered.)

8 – Mail Valentine cards. (Remember that first class postage went up a penny on January 28, 2013.)

9 – Purchase chocolates to surprise your co-workers or friends. Indulge in a piece or two of dark chocolate yourself!

10 – Enjoy a bubble bath surrounded by candlelight, perhaps with a glass of wine or Champagne (pink of course!). Or, add an ounce of Chambord® raspberry liqueur to a flute before topping off with bubbly.

11 – Have kids sign their Valentines for distribution at school.

12 – Make heart-shaped mini cakes or Valentine’s Day cookies. Or, try these crisped rice heart treats!

13 – Shop for perishable food items for tomorrow’s meal.

14 – Spend time with your Valentine or host a chocolate tasting party with your girlfriends. A viewing of Pride and Prejudice is likewise in order!

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Send a Valentine to Our Troops

Posted by on Jan 6, 2013

National Handwriting Day is coming up on January 23, but get out those pens now to write a note of thanks or send a Valentine’s Day wish to U.S. troops. The non-profit group forwards cards, notes, letters and even emails to military personnel serving at home and abroad, or who may be injured in hospitals.

© Matthew Benoit – Fotolia

The deadline for Valentine messages is January 15.

Founded in 2004 by a high school freshman, A Million Thanks quickly reached its goal of sending a million cards to military service members, and to date has sent more than 5 million messages.

Anyone can write a message of thanks and appreciation for the troops’ military service. There are a few rules, though, such as no confetti or glitter, and no negative messages. A complete list of guidelines, as well as sample messages, may be found on the organization’s website.

Take your completed notes to a local drop-off center (click here for locations), or bundle your cards and notes in stacks of 50 and mail them to:

A Million Thanks
17853 Santiago Blvd. #107-355
Villa Park, CA 92861

The group accepts cards, notes and letters all year, but there are deadlines for holidays. Here’s a complete list:

  • Valentines cards and letters: postmarked no later than January 15. 
  • Memorial Day themed cards: postmarked no later than April 15.
  • Fourth of July themed cards: postmarked no later than June 1. 
  • Thanksgiving cards and letters: postmarked no later than November 1.
  • Christmas/holiday cards and letters: postmarked no later than December 1.

This is a wonderful opportunity to show appreciation for our military personnel, and is a good activity for schools, church groups, families and individuals alike. If you know a service member who would like to receive mail, submit his or her address to

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Hey Big Spender! Valentine Spending on the Rise

Posted by on Feb 5, 2012

Love may not cost a thing, but consumers this year are set to spoil their friends, family and loved ones this Valentine’s Day in a very big way. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2012 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGinsight, the average person celebrating the holiday will shell out $126.03, up 8.5 percent over last year’s $116.21 and the highest in the survey’s 10-year history. Total spending is expected to reach $17.6 billion.

(c) Heather Almeida -

Ladies, get ready to open your gifts! And we’re not just talking candy. The survey found the average male is expected to spend $168.74 on clothing, jewelry, greeting cards and more this year – nearly twice as much as women who are expected to spend an average of $85.76.

Additionally, consumers will spend an average of $25.25 on their children, parents or other family members and $6.92 on friends. Valentine’s Day is a great day for pet owners to show their furry friends just how much they mean: the average person will spend about $4.52 on their pets.

Total spending on jewelry is expected to reach $4.1 billion, up from $3.5 billion last year. Second to jewelry, those with a case of the love bug will spend more than $3.5 billion on a special evening out. Consumers will also spend $1.8 billion on flowers, $1.5 billion on candy, $1.4 billion on clothing and $1.1 billion on gift cards.

And just where are people shopping this year? Discount stores (37.0%) and department stores (33.6%) top the list, so be sure to plan your shopping trip early for the best selections. (Remember, Valentine’s Day is on a Tuesday, so the weekend before – February 11 and 12 – will like be peak shopping times.) Others will shop at specialty stores (20.2%), floral shop (17.8%), jewelry stores (10.6%) and specialty clothing stores (6.6%).

Online retailers will see a slight boost this year, as 19.3% of gift givers will shop online. (Hint: Do it now to allow for shipping time!) And, after honing their mobile and tablet shopping skills this past holiday season, Valentine’s Day celebrants are looking to hit their smartphones and tablets once again to research and purchase gifts. According to the survey, more than half of all tablet owners (53.8%) will use their device to research products, compare prices, redeem coupons, look up retailer information or purchase products. Four in 10 (40.4%) smartphone owners will use their mobile device to do the same.

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Sweets for Your Sweet

Posted by on Feb 3, 2012

Decadent chocolate truffles are so easy to make, I really had no idea! This recipe is very simple and can be adapted with a variety of flavors, such as extracts stirred into the chocolate or different spices or toppings coating the chocolate. When I make these, I divide the chocolate and cream into two batches and flavor them separately. In the photo, I rolled plain chocolate truffles in either cocoa or cinnamon (for a little bite) and then I made a half batch with almond extract, rolling them in either crushed toasted almonds or toasted coconut.

Easy Chocolate Truffles

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate

8 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 T. prepared strong coffee
½ t. vanilla extract
(Optional flavorings: 2 T. liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Frangelico, or 2 t. almond extract)
Cocoa powder
¼ c. almonds, toasted and crushed finely
¼ c. shredded coconut, toasted and chopped

Chop the chocolates and place in a medium mixing bowl. Heat the cream just until boiling; pour over the chocolate. Slowing stir the mixture with a wire whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir in the coffee, vanilla and an optional flavoring, if using. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature for 1 hour.

Using 2 teaspoons, form small balls of chocolate, about 1 inch in diameter. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Roll each mound of chocolate lightly between your hands to form a somewhat smooth ball. Roll in coating(s) of your choice. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, but allow the truffles to come to room temperature before serving. Makes about 50 truffles.

To present your sweets to your sweet here are a few ideas:- Place each truffle in a mini cupcake liner and place them in a heart-shaped box (available at craft stores).- Line a confection box (the kind with the clear cellophane window in the lid) with red tissue paper, place your truffles inside, close the lid and wrap with a red organza ribbon.- For a mini treat, place two truffles in a clear cello treat bag and tie with red, white and pink curling ribbon.Enjoy these rich and delicious treats!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Light Up Your Love

Posted by on Feb 1, 2012

This year I looked at the craft supplies I have on hand and came up with 3 unique ways to add some Valentine flair to everyday items. With ribbon, lace, paper and some felt stickers, I’m very happy with the results.

Love Letters

The LOVE letter votives are inspired by a high end look — $39 for a set of four! — that I saw at one of my favorite stores, but knew I could create a similar look for less. All you need is computer and printer, parchment paper and straight-sided votive cups.

Use a word processing program and a font of your choice (100-point size) to spell out L-O-V-E, one letter per line. Add a piece of clipart behind the letters, like this swirly, romantic graphic. Print on parchment paper using the color setting. Measure the height of the votive holders and cut the letters into horizontal strips to fit, using a paper cutter for a straight edge. Wrap one letter band around each cup, trimming the ends if necessary and secure with double-sided tape. Download the template to get the look shown by clicking here: LOVE candles (Tip: Use this technique to create custom candlelight for any occasion or holiday!)

Lace Lights

Lace is one of the iconic symbols of Valentine’s Day, dating back to Victorian times when ladies’ handkerchiefs trimmed in handmade lace inspired candy boxes and greeting cards.

For this look, I looked through my sewing supplies and found some pretty bits of lace that happened to be the same width as my clear votive cups. Wrapped in lace, secured with a bit of double-sided tape and tied with thin satin ribbon, these candles evoke a romantic spirit — perfect for a Valentine’s table. (And talk about a fast craft project!) If you don’t have (or can’t find) lace in the perfect width, simply stack the lace in bands around the votive glass. This technique would also dress up a simple glass vase, making it rose-ready!

Embellished Jar

Jar candles are a great way to bring a lot of fragrance to your home, with the added bonus of a long burn time. But, they’re plain and the labels aren’t so decorative.

Peel off the label (remove any residue with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol) and wrap the jar with a variety of ribbons in Valentine’s Day hues. Trim to about a ¼ inch overlap and secure with double-sided tape. In the look shown, the ribbon choices were inspired by the felt heart stickers (Michael’s craft store, $4). Because jar candles tend to be relatively small in circumference, you don’t need a lot of ribbon. In fact, the black ribbon used in this project was saved from a gift box and the others are leftovers from other projects, making this a very inexpensive project!

Why not take a rummage through your craft supplies, paper box, sewing basket, ribbon stash — even buttons and stickers? Look at what you already have with a fresh eye towards embellishing something plain into something sweet for your home.

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Cocktail of the Month: Pink Velvet

Posted by on Feb 12, 2011

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I created a bevvie reminiscent of red velvet cake. It’s “Pink Velvet” and it’s smooth, creamy and decadent. As a bonus, it’s so delicious, it can double as a dessert!

Pink Velvet

1 shot white chocolate liqueur

1 shot vanilla vodka

Splash of grenadine (or 2-3 drops of red food coloring)

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Pour in all ingredients, cover and shake until cold and well-blended. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Serves 1.

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