Saturday, February 14, 2015

Be My Valentine

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Did you know that Americans exchange more cards on Valentine's Day than on any occasion other than Christmas? Or that the first commercial valentines were sold in 1850 by an American artist and printer named Esther Howland?

What an enterprising woman! (She looked a bit like Queen Victoria, don't you think? Maybe she needed a valentine...) Howland sold her business and retired in 1881, quite well off. And thanks at least in part to her, in the U.S. we send valentines to everyone, starting with making them for all our first grade class mates. (Remember those cutout hearts and doilies? And, of course, the candy hearts!) We send  valentines to our kids, to parents, to friends. We got this darling one from our daughter and son-in-law.

Not so in other parts of the world, however. In the UK, apparently, valentines are only meant for a sweetie--or someone you hope will be a sweetie--and are often given anonymously, even between established couples. More romantic... but maybe less fun.

, do you send valentines, and to whom? Store-bought, homemade, or, gulp, e-cards?

LUCY BURDETTE: Mostly I remember the packages of store-bought valentines for school pals--"You're a great catch", "You send me into orbit"--like that. Up until the moment my dad's Alzheimer's overwhelmed him, he sent all of us kids little cards with 4-1-4 written inside. (Get it? D-a-d.) Now we send out a few, but not many, having just recovered from Christmas.

However, I am partial to Valentine's Day, as that's when John proposed some years ago with doggerel in hand. I won't make you sit through all of it, but the last line was "Honey-bunny, don't leave me in the lurch, let's go do it in the church!"

HALLIE EPHRON: What a romantic! My husband draws me a card on Valentine's Day. I've saved every one of them. I cook for him. This time it'll be a pineapple upside down cake because it's what I've got the ingredients for... and I'm not going out unless I have to. Even for him.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Lucy, your John puts the "dog" into doggerel.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  You had me at Honey-bunny.  xoox  Well, we are pitiful. We do nothing.   And yikes, it was SO traumatic in grade school!   Have you read about the glitter-bombs?  It's apparently the latest revenge thing---there's a website that will anonymously send someone you are annoyed with a packet of glitter. They open it--and poof. And you know how difficult it is to clean up glitter. Diabolical.

RHYS BOWEN: I grew up in UK, went to a girl's school and only read about valentines when I was in college and had a real boyfriend and he sent me one. I had always longed for a secret admirer and wondered who he might be, but that never happened, alas. John and I exchange cards (I used to draw mine in the first flush of married love, Hallie) and we usually stay in and cook a really nice meal. I'm thinking lobster tail and creme brulee. These days of equality and not hurting anyone's feelings I think it's silly that the kids have to send one to the whole class.

JULIA: I'm glad to see I'm in with a bunch of non-romantics. Or at least, non-commercially-mandated romantics. Poor Ross spent years trying to do up Valentine's Day for me, chocolates, flowers, etc., and I with my frugal Scots background was always saying, "Don't give me flowers when they're expensive! Buy the chocolate the day after, when it's fifty per cent off!" It's not that I don't enjoy the sweet gestures that say "I'm thinking of you," I just don't believe they should go by the calendar. The last time Ross surprised me with an oil and fluids change it made my heart go pitty-pat. Taking the car to the garage - that's my valentine.

Oh, and yes to the kiddie valentines, which, you all realize, are mostly organized by the mothers. I have spent years writing them myself (when the kids were small), checking off the list (when they were bigger) licking and stamping envelopes closed and even  - a recent development - stuffing them with candy. Glad to say that aspect of motherhood is behind me now.

 DEBS: Lucy, how could you not say yes to a guy who called you "honey-bunny?" Really. So cute. Hank, we don't do anything, either. (And I think you could call glitter bombs the anti-Valentine...) I did get Rick a card a couple of weeks ago when I was at the carwash (best place to buy greeting cards) and when I paid my bill I thought they'd made a mistake. It was $5!!! For a card. It doesn't sing or dance or do anything fancy, it's just a plain old card. I was horrified. Julia, maybe I have Scots ancestors, too.

I do usually cook, hopefully something easy, and I might manage to get a Valentine's Cheesecake for Two from La Madeleine. I'm definitely not making it! Oh, and I might buy myself some tulips of they haven't run out at Trader Joe's! What an unromantic bunch we are...

READERS, tell us if you send valentines. And in the meantime, here's a big RED smoochie one from all of us here at JRW!

And a last note--Edith Maxwell is the winner of a copy of PAST CRIMES! Drop me a note with your mailing info, Edith, and I'll pass it along!


  1. Happy Valentine's Day!
    I always send cards to the grandbabies who love getting them . . . and, of course, one for John.
    Dessert today will be something chocolate.

  2. Ooh, ooh! I'm so excited to be a winner! Thank you.

    Hugh and I had our first date eleven years ago today, taking a long walk to see bluebirds - yes, in a much milder winter - so the day serves double duty. He gives me flowers, I give him really really nice chocolates. Tonight during the blizzard I'm going to make scallops, green beans, and creamy cauliflower soup, with some homemade dark chocolate mousse for dessert. And a handmade card!

  3. valentines care packages for the college students! I scored socks and scarves at the dollar store, supplemented with brownies, trail mix, and a tiny bag of chocolates. And valentines with a bunch of Xmas photos.

  4. Margaret--they will be glad to receive those packages!

    Edith, what a nice meal you have planned! All except for the blizzard:(

    Hallie, love love love Jerry's cards.

  5. Rhys, I'm 63, and even in the 50's we gave cards to the whole class, so it's not a "today" thing. If there were not a number of Valentines in one's box that corresponded to the number of kids in the class you knew someone was purposely leaving you out, and it hurt.

    My husband left town the other day for a photo trip, so we went out on Wednesday for a tasting dinner at the local fish store. We sat in a communal dining situation, took our own special bottle of wine, and had a ball. The chef at the fish store made tiny crab cakes with a spicy remoulade, crab and lobster bisque, carrot julienne, day scallops that were cooked in front of us as a cooking lesson over local homemade spinach pasta, and tiramisu for dessert. It was fun, and the food was fabulous. Best of all, no Valentine's Day insanity. And the fish guy and his girlfriend are good friends.

    No cards around here, although a gay friend who collects old books and things sent me a charming antique Valentine, since he knows I'd love it. I'll have to put a picture of it on Facebook.

  6. Happy Valentine's Day, Reds!

    Loved reading all these stories. I am wild about Jerry's cards, Hallie!

    I love Valentines' Day and since it's the day after Donald's birthday we celebrate the two occasions jointly. Yesterday Donald turned 60 and tonight we're going out to dinner with friends.

  7. Best thing about Valentine's Day is that all that chocolate goes on sale the day after!

  8. Ellen, I'm with you!

    The hubby and I had a quite romantic Friday the 13th, though.

  9. I always give my husband a funny valentine and he does the same for me. We don't like mushy. This year he included a stuffed animal skunk that waves its tail (with a heart on it)and sings Love Stinks when you press its paw. Typical for us!

  10. Edith, I want YOUR Valentine's dinner!

  11. Rhys, I think we went to the same school - that was exactly my experience!

  12. I sent valentines to both kids (in their 20's).
    Had a bit of time between errands (not enough to go home), so I got a valentine balloon and put it on the gate into my son and his girlfriend's townhouse. Wonder where they think it came from?

    Some years ago my husband and I got into the habit of giving 5 cards for all occasions. (Heavens! I think it may have started with our 5th anniversary and we have now been married 43 years this May!)
    When we lived in NYC we got fabulous chocolates at Lilac candies. The shipping to Florida is outrageous, so that doesn't happen any more.
    BUT Hoffman chocolates are really good. We each buy the other a pound of personally selected dark chocolates. That means we have 2 pounds to enjoy! We each get two of each flavor we choose so no one misses out!
    We are very restrained and have two at a time only. They last well that way.
    And my husband wrote some doggerel for me this year!
    Cooking dinner tonight after going to an orchid show and sale. Beef tenderloin, asparagus, caramelized onions and mushrooms with port, and roasted potatoes. Then a lemon tart I made yesterday. And good red wine if we don't drink the champagne I have.
    We like any excuse to celebrate.

  13. Happy Valentine's Day!
    Hubby says he enjoys getting the granddaughter and I surprise goodies each Valentine's Day so we let him do it, since it makes him so happy! Each year is different and somewhat practical so it's fun.
    As for dinner, everyone who we know who is young (under age fifty) is amazed that we don't want to go out. Crowds, mediocre food, too much $$. He asks every year and I give a firm nope.
    We have started again with the boxes of Valentines, now for the great-grandkids. Surprised to see now you get erasers, pencils, all kinds of odd things to put in the envelope. They love getting their own mail so it's fun again. Always include lots and lots of stickers since they can never seem to get enough.

  14. Happy Velentine's Day to my treasured Reds and all the wonderful people who comment here! You all are so very special to me.

    I remember the Valentine's parties at grade school as exciting occasions. I'm 60 (soon, very soon to be 61) and we gave all the kids in the class valentines. I still have some of those which were saved in the original paper sack used to collect them at school. I think the ones I have are from the 2nd grade. I recently found a card that a friend gave my mother who was our kindergarten teacher. That friend is one of the gals that I met up with in Key West last September. I can't wait to show it to her my next trip to my hometown.

    Like Joan, I send cards to the grandkids, who love getting mail. I visited them on Thursday and took their Valentine gift bags. My older granddaughter turns 14 today, 14 on the 14th, and is having a skating party with friends. I'm going to see her tomorrow to take her to lunch and for a manicure (weather permitting, as they live an hour away and the weather is a bit dicey here today and tomorro).

    I also sent Valentine cards to my son, including a couple of gift cards for him and his girlfriend. I took my daughter a Valentine's gift bag the other day, too. I always give my mother-in-law a heart-shaped box of candy. My father-in-law, who is deceased, used to give her a box of chocolates, and I just want her to keep receiving her box of candy. I send my husband a card, since he is away with his work. This year, I surprised a friend of mine with a serious Valentine's Day card telling her how much she means to me. She and I are highly sarcastic with one another (though we love each other dearly), so I really got the surprise factor out of it.

    My youngest granddaughter, age 5, made me two valentines, drawing our pictures on both. Guess how much I love those?

    Hallie, I think your husband gives the best valentines, and if I were you, I would frame them and put them on the wall. Debs, that is such a great card from your daughter and her husband. They are just so cute! Lucy, your dad wins the prize for clever in his cards to you, and John, well, I guess his prize is for adorable dorky. Haha. Julia, you and my daughter are of a like mind, practical and frugal. Hank, glitter bombs? Yikes! Rhys, your Valentine's Day meal sounds scrumptious. Oh, and Debs, I have bought some fine cards at the car wash.

    I have to comment on Edith's planned meal/celebration, too. Those of you who are friends with Edith on Facebook may have been reading with drooling mouths about her cooking during the snow storms. As I said on that forum, I pick Edith to be snowbound with anytime.

    Grandma Cootie, I have long since desired to go out on Valentine's Day to eat, too, because of the crowds and the rushed food orders and just general pandemonium. Susan, I like the Friday the 13th dinner or the earlier in the week dinner like Karen. One of my friends and I had a Friday the 13th lunch yesterday, which counted as our Valentine's celebration.

  15. Happy Valentine's Day to all Reds and readers! Reading this blog is one of the best points of my day. I did send emails with vintage Valentine's Day cards to my sister, nieces, and best friends!

  16. thanks for sharing all the Valentine stories red readers--you are all our valentines! The food sounds amazing...especially the tasting menu at the fish store. I am such a sucker for crab cakes!!!

  17. Happy Valentines Day!! LOVE you all...xoxo

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