Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day!

I admit, I'm of two minds about Valentine's Day. On the one hand, it started as a marketing ploy by the greeting card industry that's exploded into a cash bonanza for restaurants, florists, candy shops, and, naturally, Hallmark. So on the one hand, playing into that bugs me a little.

On the other hand, why shouldn't we have a special day to recognize love and romance and those we share them with? Even if the motivations that created the holiday were purely capitalist, I admit that I enjoy celebrating it. This year went especially well.

My wife and I have for most of our relationship tried to avoid spending a fortune on this holiday. Many years ago we initiated a ritual of having Chicken Parmigiana for dinner on Valentine's Day. It's mostly for me, really. I don't much want flowers and candy's not good for me, so we settled on a really nice meal. I'd still generally get something for my wife - a card and some chocolate wouldn't be uncommon. This year, I bumped up the intensity a little. So did the kids, as it turned out.

For my part, I made some cards for my wife and kids. Yeah, okay, they were zombie-themed valentine's cards. It turns out, there's a LOT of Valentines zombie art on the Internet, with expressions like "I brain you" with the brain shaped like a heart. I thought it was cute - the kids were pleasantly grossed out.

Next, I took a box of Brach's candy hearts and unboxed them. Then I licked the sayings off about half of them, and wrote my own with a red pen. Then I put them back in the box and glued it closed.

Lastly, I wanted to get my wife some candy, but I wanted to stick with candies that were nut-safe. This pretty much ruled out any of the Valentine's Heart-boxes you can get anywhere. There's always "Vermont Nut-safe Chocolates," but like a lot of chocolatiers, their boxes ended up costing more than a dollar-per-candy. That's an outrage and I won't pay it. Instead, I decided to go the hand-crafted route and see how inexpensively I could put together something really nice.

I went to the craft store and picked up an inexpensive heart-shaped tin box, some Valentine's ribbon, and some Valentine's napkins. I also bought some heart-shaped Post-it notes at Staples and a couple boxes of nut-free Junior Mints at the grocery store. I glued the ribbon onto the box, lined it with the napkin (after cleaning it thoroughly with spray-cleaner and soapy water to make sure it was food-safe), and poured in two big movie-size boxes of candy.

Next, I waited until my wife was asleep, and hid the box behind the Wii console on our TV. Then I took the Post-It notes and created a scavenger hunt all over the house, with each note giving a clue to where the next note could be found. I hid them all over - under kettlebells, on the gerbil cage, in the spice rack and in the china cabinet. There was one hidden among the potatoes and another under the can of cat food in the fridge. I even hid one inside my son's library book, "The Devil's Arithmetic." The clue for that one was, "to find your next step, you must do Lucifer's Math." I was pretty pleased with that.

The two older kids were actually the first ones up on Valentine's Day. They'd spent much of the day Saturday making a plethora of undersea creatures out of paper and hot glue. They'd made them kissing each other or decorated with hearts, colored them, and attached string. First thing in the morning, they raced downstairs to decorate the kitchen, turning it into an "Enchantment Under the Sea" Valentine's fest of a sort not seen since Back to the Future. There were balloons and aquatic life everywhere. My wife added some little baskets of treats for everyone, and then it was off to the scavenger hunt!

For some reason my wife got me Flash underwear (you know, the DC Comics hero who runs really fast?). They're basically underoos, which I haven't had since I was a little kid. Too bad she's the only one who'll ever see them.

My whole family took the chance to show our love for each other and to make each other happy, which is really what the day is all about for us. We didn't spend a lot of money to do it, either. Add in some absolutely delicious Chicken Parmigiana for dinner (with enough leftovers to last me two days!) and I'm calling Valentine's Day 2011 a huge success!

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