Ah, love. Does it conjure visions of satin pajamas, black lingerie, white doily hearts, red construction paper, boxes of chocolates, chilled bottles of champagne or big bunches of roses? If so, you're probably thinking about Valentine's Day. Depending on your mood and your relationship status, you're either counting the days until it gets here or you're holding your breath until it's over. But, as Rihanna croons on her sexy new album "Talk That Talk," we all want love. In the hopes of finding evidence of it, I sent out an email to a dozen people, asking what their plans were for Valentine’s Day.
One friend’s husband called Valentine’s Day “the third rail in a relationship.” Another said her policy is to ignore it, though she does look forward to the excellent candy that goes on sale the day after. I’m at the point in life where most of the women I know buy their own birthday cakes, and if my husband shows up with flowers on Valentine’s Day, I'll know it’s because he bumped into someone at Penn Station who reminded him of the holiday. But I know there are a lot of people out there who are still giddy over the prospect of celebrating with hearts, flowers, candies and cards, and they don't all work with children. Hope springs eternal, and as Woody Allen said, the heart wants what it wants. But Valentine's Day isn't just for those who are deeply in love. It's for everyone who needs a little affection, especially in the dead of winter. And in the middle of February, what else do you have to celebrate?
Here are some ideas for what to give, get, and ask for on Valentine's Day:
At Millburn Florist, Julie Randazza is laying out the roses as well as bags of solid chocolate hearts. After Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day is her busiest day of the year. She’s ordered a couple thousand long-stemmed roses, and hired more drivers, salespeople and designers for the big day. A dozen long-stemmed roses cost $90. Randazza says they come in a range of colors in addition to red – burgundy, orange and ivory. She also has purple and white orchid plants and hundreds of cut flowers – gerbera daisies, tulips and calla lilies. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. and close, "when the drivers can't see the numbers on the houses anymore," says Randazza.
At unWined Boutique in Millburn, you can go big and go home. Dom Perignon champagne, usually $160 per bottle, is 10 percent off on Valentine's Day. Veuve Clicquot yellow label champagne, which usually runs $50, is also 10 percent off. Owner Jose Sotelo will also deliver wine or champagne, at no charge, to restaurants in Millburn. And if you want to share the bubbly with friends or significant others at home, buy a case of wine or champagne and Sotelo will do an in-home tasting or food pairing, though not on holidays.
If someone you love craves books, Words bookstore in Maplewood has a bunch that make great Valentine's Day gifts: Fifty Shades Shades of Grey by E.L. James is an erotic tale that is tough to put down; the bookstore just received a shipment of 50 copies. If you’re looking for a book of short stories (and it’s red!) for the thinking woman in your life, Elissa Schappelle’s Blue Prints for Building Better Girls is fantastic and unforgettable. Molly Shapiro's Point, Click, Love is a sexy, fun and poignant read about trying to make it as a divorced, dating mom. Jenna McCarthy's If It Was Easy, They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-so-Handy Man You Married is a funny and reassuring primer for anyone who is committed to staying married and laughing about it. Other great gifts include Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter, a wonderful memoir about Hamilton's love of food and family, and Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs. Love was not necessarily a dominant theme in Jobs' life; he wasn't a particularly good father or husband and was far from adept at maintaining friendships. Still, this book is riveting, and you know you love your iPhone.
If your sweetheart craves sugar instead, sweets abound this holiday. Supreme Bakery in West Orange sells Hot Sprinkle Cookies as well as little, heart-shaped butter cookies. They have cupcakes with buttercream frosting, with "Be Mine" and "Love You" spelled out on top.
The Able Baker in Maplewood is selling "Conversation Hearts" cookies and their special Julie-Os, which are home-made Oreos stuffed with pink filling. You can also get their Valentine's Day sampler, which comes with two dozen small cookies, including chocolate-dipped, espresso shortbread, chocolate thumb prints, Mexican wedding cookies, vanilla short breads with jam and Julie-Os.
The Cait & Abby’s Daily Bread bakeries in South Orange and Millburn are selling big, round cookies that say "My Love" and "Cutie Pie," as well as smaller, heart-shaped cookies. And Eden Gourmet in South Orange, has chocolate hearts and cakes with "Love" written on them.
At Cupcake Corral in Maplewood, owner Joe Ramaikas will be making heart-shaped Whoopie Pies with filling edged in red sugar and nonpareils. Ramaikas is also baking red velvet cupcakes, frosted in red and pink.
Joseph “Edo” O’Bannon, who will celebrate his first Valentine’s Day as the owner of Edo’s Quality Cakes this year, is gearing up for the holiday. “Business gets better every week,” he says. He’ll be making chocolate-dipped strawberries and selling them in packs of four or five, depending on the size of the strawberries. He is also baking heart-shaped chocolate and strawberry mousse pies, and he will have his regular assortment of fudge and buttercream cupcakes, covered with Valentine’s Day colored sprinkles.
If you’re in the mood to make your sweetheart something sweet instead of buying it, Kitchen a la Mode in South Orange is selling heart-shaped cookie cutters, $4.99 for three. But if you want these, hurry in; the store has already sold out of their larger packages of five.
It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day if we didn’t mention lingerie. At Bardot Lingerie in Millburn, "We've got the sexy stuff and the basics," says co-owner Gina Stempler. They've stocked up on loungewear and pajamas she describes as "something you can wear around the house in front of your teenage sons and not be embarrassed." They also have more romantic offerings: Black satin bedroom slippers with pompoms and heels, which Stempler describes as "retro Hollywood glamour."
And if you just want to go straight for the fun stuff, South Orange resident Rachel Braun Scherl, who runs Semprae Laboratories, the company that makes Zestra, a topical ointment that enhances and stimulates female libido and pleasure (think Viagara for women), says the Zestra Valentine Pleasure Pack is flying off the shelves and is available at Rite Aid, Wal Mart and Zestra online.
Finally, if all you need is a rush of caffeine, chocolate and sugar to get you through Valentine's Day, pick up a Caffe Mocha or Hot Chocolate at Starbucks in the morning, and they'll give you another one for free after 2 p.m.
Now that's love. Here's to it.