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Katy England Katy England
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A new kind of Valentine

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A new kind of Valentine A new kind of Valentine

Love it, hate it it's coming

Valentine's Day is a hotly contested holiday. For the lonely, it can seem like a stinging slap in the face. And for those who have someone to see that day, it can seem like a contest to spend yourself into your significant other's affection.

And though Valentine's Day has never been high on my priority list for holidays, I think that the hate that gets leveled at the day of love is a bit over the top. Rethinking the day is in order.

The gifts

The notion of exchanging gifts for someone you love isn't new and probably isn't going away. That doesn't mean you have to break the bank. And there are some lovely tweaks you can make to traditional gifts that can help personalize them for you and your loved ones.

Candy: I'm drawn to candy. It's pretty, and if it isn't filled with something too weird, you really can't go wrong. But seeing hundreds of identical boxes lining the shelves can perhaps make one feel less than special.

You can spruce up your candy selection in a couple of ways. Get your lover's favorite candy. I don't care if it's a Snickers bar or if you get a box of salted caramels from a local confectioner. A favorite is pretty personal, so do some research and go after that. Specialty Sweets can help you put together a box. If you want something simple and elegant, check out Black Dinah Chocolatiers, where you can get a quality chocolate truffles or bark for your special someone. Or for your special self.

Local chocolate artists can usually put together a box just for you so if your boyfriend doesn't care for fruity cream-filled chocolate, you can sub them out for something he does like.

Flowers: I can't knock flowers, not this time of year. A splash of color during this frigid season can do a person good. And once again, personal touches are key favorite colors, an accent reminiscent of a favorite memory or favorite blooms are good ideas.

If you are having a hard time thinking of something clever, it never hurts to ask. Local florists are artists in their own right and are busting with good ideas for arrangements. Pick their brains for something special and together you can help brighten your partner's day.

Gems. The airwaves are alive with the sound of jewelry ads. There's a lot of pressure from many different areas to get jewelry for your gal. Jewelry is a beautiful way to make a statement, and if you've got the capital, go nuts. But since it is such a commitment, you want to make sure she likes it.

Many jewelry stores have a registry where your loved one can select several items that she likes and put it on a list. That way, you've removed a bit of the mystery from the shopping. 

The date. If you have reservations to your favorite restaurant, awesome. If you don't, it may be a little late, but that doesn't mean you don't have options. 

Make your own dinner. If you are reading this article, then you can follow a recipe. Make something simple that you both enjoy. If you truly feel like the kitchen isn't the best place to express yourself, then order out and light some candles on the home front.

You can also enjoy the outdoors. Yes, it's cold, but imagine a cold-weather hike followed up by hot chocolate or wine while snuggling up on the couch.

Love isn't just about presents

There are many ways to express love that go beyond just the exchange of flashy gifts on Valentines Days. And if you are looking for a way to spread some love that go beyond the material, here are some suggestions.

Volunteer. Find a cause that speaks to you and use this day to start helping out. If you want a theme fitting with Valentine's Day, consider giving blood, volunteering at the Red Cross or American Heart Association. The list of agencies who need willing and able volunteers are endless.

You could use day of love as a way to reach out to the lonely. Check with nursing homes and homeless shelters. Many of them could use caring people.

You can make a donation to a local food bank, or bundle up some gently used clothes and donate them to a charity shop. Check in with your local or community center and see if there is anyone who could use a friendly face, a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates.

If talking to strangers is too much of a leap, pay attention to your own friends and family. Try to be sensitive to someone who may be alone and hurting on a day when everyone is focused on being part of a pair. Reach out to them, even if it's just with a card to tell them how you feel.

Get the kids involved. Making your own valentines is a great way to teach your kids to express love and gratitude in writing. Construction paper hearts, scribbly names and declarations of adorable love can go a long way to brighten someone's day.

You can work together to make valentine cookies (we bought heart-shaped cookie cutters on sale for this very purpose last year). Getting out red sprinkles and frosting cookies can help put you in the cuddly move.

Do something fun for the whole family. Bowling, a cute movie, a pizza party.

Moms and dads who do have young children: check out the sidebar for kid-friendly (and outdated) movies with a romantic twist.

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