Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sweets for our sweeties on Valentine's Day

HALLIE EPHRON: Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. It's a tricky holiday. Not one to be ignored, but in our house more sweet than significant. I always hope for candy and get flowers. Or maybe it's the other way around. My favorite thing is always the valentine card that my husband draws for me.

The best valentine I've ever given was inspired by my husband's ratty old bedroom slippers. I bought him a pair of bright red LL Bean fleece slipper socks. He always leaves his slippers by the bed when he goes to sleep and when he woke up that Valentine's day, the new ones were right there for him to slip them on.

His best gift to me? Letting me throw away the old slippers. He gets very attached to his things.

So what are your best Valentine's gifts, given or received?

LUCY BURDETTE: that's such a cute story Hallie! and we envy your adorable cards. I may have told you all this a hundred times, but John proposed on Valentine's Day, back in 1992. He did it with a hand-crafted poem that started out something like:

"On the court,
A girl named Bert,
Played across the net
In a bright red skirt."

And it ended with a flourish: "Honey-bunny don't leave me in the lurch, let's go do it in the church."

Now how could he ever top that? He doesn't have to--he's good for the duration of the marriage. LOL Which we hope is a long, long time....

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Lucy, that's adorable! And Hallie, I love the slipper story! Noel and I try to be romantic all year long, so we don't really do a big thing on Valentine's Day, specifically. I must say the idea of going to an overcrowded/overpriced restaurant on that particular day doesn't appeal. I'd rather go somewhere on a whim on a random Tuesday. Because we both freelance and Kiddo is in school, we tend to do lunch dates!

What I do like about Valentine's day is helping Kiddo buy Valentines for kids in his class (usually Snoopy) and then doing something special for the three of us (usually involving heart-shaped cookies with red icing.)

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Susan, I think your Valentine's Day sounds great. We don't usually do much. I don't eat a lot of chocolate, flowers are twice the price of normal, and restaurants are over-crowded. Trying to remember if we've ever gone out on Valentine's Day... I usually try to cook something nice, and this year will be celebrating our little sweetheart Wren, new addition to the family.

Favorite Valentine's prezzy? Heart-shaped, raspberry-filled Linzer torte cookies from La Madeleine French Cafe and Bakery!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My celebration is on the day after, when all the candy goes on sale for half-price! No, Ross and I are more like Susan and Noel; we'll skip the hard-to-get reservations on Feb 14 and have a more relaxing meal another day.

I don't know about BEST Valentine's Day gift, but I can share the (inadvertently) funniest: I had been grumbling about losing weight and getting in shape, and Ross gave me a pretty heart-shaped box of sugar-free chocolates. I didn't even open them until one of my besties came calling a few days later. She and I sat by the woodstove, talking and eating chocolates, eating chocolates and talking... we were two-thirds of the way through the box before we turned it over and saw the warning on the bottom label: RECOMMENDED SERVING SIZE - 3 CANDIES. SUGAR FREE CANDIES MAY HAVE A LAXATIVE EFFECT.

So that was the year Ross gave me sweets AND a colon cleanse.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Oh, Julia. Yes, indeed, memorable.

Valentines Day. I got nuthin. Jonathan and I pretty much ignore it...we are very cozy all the time (you know, all the Reds relationships are like that, it's pretty interesting), and we just never latched on to it.

My best Valentine story was for TV. I did a big experiment
about two things: First, whether putting roses in plain water, aspirin water, sugar water, or floral stuff water made a difference in their staying power. I put one rose from the same bouquet of 12 into a separate vial, in the same place with the same light and temp, and changed the water and food every day, and took video every day over two weeks. It was a great experiment.

I also checked the price of a dozen roses a month before and then compared the price of the SAME bouquets on Valentine's Day. HIGHWAY ROBBERY. (Buying champagne on New Year's Eve, too. Ripoff.)

RHYS BOWEN: As we are always in Arizona for Valentine's Day we have an ongoing joke. Our first year here,2007" John bought me a balloon and fake roses at the dollar store. They have lasted to this day so every year he dusts them off and presents them to me again! The balloon refuses to collapse!

We never go out to eat as the service is terrible but I think we will console ourselves with lobster tail and lamb chops and maybe chocolate. And the night before we are going to Bruno's Desert Light exhibit at the Botanical Garden. So no complaints.  

HALLIE: AND AND AND?? Hank, which rose lasted the longest? Deb, linzer cookes are my all-time favorites. I make them with hazelnuts and raspberry jam.

So we're dying to hear what do you hope the Valentine bunny is bringing you this year? And what are your fondest memories of Valentine's Days past?


  1. We're not big on just-for-Valentine's-Day-presents and we definitely don't join the overcrowded restaurant folks [besides, we've usually just done the whole dinner out thing for our anniversary four days earlier] . . . so our Valentine's Day tends to be low-key. I'll cook something a bit special, John will open a bottle of wine, we'll hunt up some chocolate, and it will all be good.

    Valentine days were unpredictable and fun when the children were small and anxious to pick out cards. We took our turn at making the Valentine Cards box for their classrooms and we'd make cookies for them to share with classmates [something that is no longer permitted in the grandchildren's schools]. It's hard to beat the fun of doing cards with kids . . . .

  2. Valentine and I have a long relationship. I was born on Valentine's day. He is the patron saint of those with epilepsy. It's my birthday. I have epilepsy. We were made for each other... Valentine and I. He hasn't effected a cure yet, though. So I don't know.

    Nevertheless I get lots of hearts and things. Dinner most years, except the first year I was married and was in the hospital having surgery. My mother decorated a beautiful cake and brought it, and a ton of people to my room. We had a party. I have pictures somewhere.

    Oh wait a minute. Maybe that was the year my parents drove me to the bakery to pick up Steve's birthday cake, which was also our first year of marriage. On the way home with the cake we saw Steve riding home from the lab on his bicycle--just as a car drove out of the grocery store parking lot and hit him. That was probably the year we gave up on birthdays.

    We decided to celebrate everything, all holidays, on our anniversary with a T-bone steak dinner at Walker Pass Lodge. We always had a large group of friends join us. Why? I don't know. Could be because there was nothing to do in China Lake. It was a party and word got around I guess. Hey! Party at Walker Pass! They came, and we ate their huge T-bone steaks, baked potato with sour cream and chives (real chives), garlic bread, and a tossed salad. Same thing. We all had the same thing. Why? That's what they served. That was the only thing on the menu.

    One day the lodge (not really a lodge) burned down, and we were relieved. Whew. No more steak dinners half-way down Walker Pass with a ton of people who had nothing else to do, but hey it was a steak dinner party. One of the crowd found a restaurant up on Highway 14 called Indian Wells Lodge. They had steak and lobster (from South Africa?) dinners. No claws. No kidding. It didn't even taste like lobster. It was not New England. The salad was good. Really the best.

    That restaurant burned down too. I told Steve we better move, or someone at China Lake would find another steak restaurant. So we moved over Walker Pass to a place with the following address. Drive down to Weldon. Turn left by the school. Go 18 miles. Turn right after the third cattle guard. Cross the creek and keep going until you're through the woods. Up the hill. You'll see the house. If there's water in the creek, park back up on the ridge and walk.

    No. No telephones. If you get lost, drive back down to Weldon. Don't stop at the neighbor's house. No, don't. Turn right and go back to to the Onyx Store. There's a pay phone by the porch. Call the post office. They'll tell you how to get here. No. Don't stop at the neighbor's house. No. Oh? You're going to be busy after all? Shame. Yes, we'll have a great anniversary Valentine's Day birthday steak barbecue. Yes. Thank you. That was the best Valentine's Day, ever.

  3. Twelve years ago Valentine's Day brought me my first date with Hugh. Counter to all advice from, we went for a long walk alone in a deserted town farm, stumbling over snow piles in our boots and warm jackets. We saw bluebirds, he made me laugh, and we're still together. Best present ever.

  4. Oh my, Reine, comedy an tragedy really are first cousins.

    Joan, I love the cards - remembering the elaborate kits that came with doilies and gorgeous victorian graphics that you glued together in layers. Also valentines made with glue and glitter. Or just punching out Minnie and Mickey valentines for everyone in the class. Hoping everyone gave you one back. Like I said, it's a complicate holiday.

  5. Love the stories, thanks for sharing ladies! I forgot to mention that my father always gave us kids a little cheap Valentine, but it was signed 4-1-4. (D-a-d)

    I'll miss getting those forever!

  6. That reminds me, Lucy, I used to tuck valentines into my kids' lunches on Valentine's Day along with candy. I had kids who never NEVER wanted to buy their lunches at the school cafeteria.

  7. Omigod, Julia, that is so funny.

    Reine, one of my favorite Valentine's Days was the year I helped you and Steve celebrate your birthday at the Mexican restaurant in Tucson! That was grand fun.

    The first year my husband Steve and I were dating, we'd been seeing each other for a few months, and he was on a three-month lecture tour. I got a card from him, really an Easter card with a bunny on it, and inside it said "Happy V-D"!

    It took me awhile to calm down and realize he was saying Happy Valentine's Day, and not announcing my exposure to a venereal disease.

    Shh, don't tell Steve, but the best Valentine's gift ever was long before I met him. It was the year I received a heart-shaped box of chocolates. When I opened the box, my then-boyfriend had cut out a heart-shaped hole in the paper covering, and printed "Will you marry me?" on it. Inside the hole, instead of the candy that should have been in that spot was a diamond ring propped up on a wad of tissue paper. So romantic. I said yes, but we didn't end up getting married.

  8. That is the sweetest story, Karen... except for the ending. I hope the poor guy found someone because he sounds like a sweetheart.

  9. Things work out the way they're supposed to. He's been married to his wife as long as we've been married, and they're very happy. Much happier than he and I would have been.

  10. Hank -- we need to know about the roses!!

    Not that I have a dozen, but . . .

    I helped my five year old granddaughter make her class valentines -- she is very artistic, but it turned out that she doesn't have the attention span. We ended up creating something on the computer with clip art and little ditties (three versions of Roses are red . . . sugar/candy/chocolate is sweet).

  11. You Reds have the best Valentine stories! Julia, how funny about the sugar free chocolates. Hallie, I love those hand-drawn cards from your husband. Lucy, I agree with you that John has earned life-time Valentine kudos. Susan, I always had such fun helping with my kids' valentines. I miss that. Debs, Wren is going to make every Valentine's Day from now on special. Hank, I'm also curious about the rose test results. Rhys, I love the sentimentality of the old balloon and fake roses.

    Reine, you made me laugh out loud with your steak dinner story, and both restaurants burned down! And, you were born on Valentine's Day. That piece of information takes me to the greatest Valentine's Day gift for me. My older granddaughter, who turns 15 tomorrow, was born on Valentine's Day, and so the day has become a celebration of her birth. I didn't have this precious girl the first 5 years of her life. She came into our world when she was six, my son-in-law's niece whom my daughter told son-in-law that she wanted to bring Olivia into their home to raise, after her addicted mother and father were just unable to continue their lame efforts at child rearing. Olivia had a rough start, but she is a beautiful, wonderful girl who has enriched our lives immeasurably. So, Valentine's Day is indeed special for us.

  12. Reine, all those steak joints successively burning down! I was laughing even before I got to the part where you and Steve fled to the hinterlands to avoid any more dinner parties. I'm sure the restaurateurs in your area are grateful.

    Re: children's Valentines: for many years that was the signal event of the day for me. Let's see, the Smithie was in kindergarten February '98 and Youngest's fifth grade Valentines day was February '11 so...twelve years of picking out JUST the right card set to reflect the giver's interests. I think one year my son actually gave away Star Wars prequel cards that had Jar Jar Binks saying "Meesa likes yousa!" I shudder. Then the list, with a few extras just in case and the special teacher's card. In the early years I wrote the names, followed by spelling them out slowly, followed by overseeing the job. We usually taped a non-peanut-contaminated candy to each card. (Thinking back, I should had taped a restaurant gift certificate to the teacher's card!)

    The schools do a good job: in all those years none of my three ever said, "Why do I have to give HIM a Valentine! I don't like him!" Valentines were for everyone, a good life lesson. And then they cut the practice off before Middle school, when all the sweet elementary kids become rabid hormonal voles.

  13. Kathy, that is the best story! so happy to hear the good news with your granddaughter.

    Karen, love your valentine story too! Boy that guy really went out of his way to earn a yes. Glad you're both happily married:)

  14. What great stories! Thanks for all the laughs today. Reine, you should publish that. Julia, laxative candy! How romantic! And can I steal the phrase "rabid hormonal voles?" I'm sure my daughter and son-in-law will appreciate that in about twelve years...

    Kathy, what a lovely story about your granddaughter. A valentine indeed!

  15. I'll admit it - we usually do go out to dinner on Valentine's Day. My parents always went out because it was their anniversary, so perhaps that is why it feels right.

    Last year it was snowing and well below zero, but out we went, to a new-to-us restaurant (restaurants are so plentiful in Portland you cannot keep up) that featured small plates. The romantic aspect was the sharing of a bunch of wonderful, creative dishes. The best was a sweet pea hummus that tasted like spring.

    We've decided to go there again tonight, and I'm sure we will order the hummus again. Because Diane is my sweet pea . . .

  16. Loving all the valentine stories. So funny. Reine, happy birthday! Kathy, happy birthday to your granddaughter--what a wonderous gift. Karen, impressive. Talk about a guy who goes the extra mile--tell us, he had sisters right? No guy gets the proposal that right without woman input. Too good to be true. Edith, how totally romantic. My husband and I met on too, but your story is extra, extra special.Laxative chocolates, now that is an idea whose time will never come. Hank, come on, give. Which roses?

  17. Karen, yes! That was great! And you do recall that we did not have steak! xox R

  18. Come on, Hank! Take care of our extreme curiosity about the roses!

  19. Stephen King wrote about the place where we lived. He just didn't mention all the steak restaurants. He mentioned China Lake, though, and the road to Death Valley. He got the feel of the place down right. It was THE STAND. I'll never forget the feeling when I read that part of the book. It is also the place where the Manson Family went to shop while hiding out in the Panamint Valley. A kind local attorney invited some of the girls who were not arrested to stay with her during the trial. I think she didn't believe that they could possibly have been involved. I think she might have changed her mind when they carved swastikas into their foreheads.

  20. These are great stories! I have a belated love for Valentine's Day. As of the last couple of years ... Since I'm not married, and since I love retro valentines and I'm obsessed with reviving snail mail, I concocted an annual Valentine's snail mail revival. It's such fun! A gang of us (most of them don't know each other either--it's all through Facebook) send each other cards in mail. I've been having such fun this week looking forward to what's in my mailbox. And everyone is creative and fun and funny.

    It's just nice. So that my single person fun way to celebrate the holiday. :-)

  21. I meant to mention something else concerning valentines. Around 2003 or 2004, I was in D.C. and took a side trip to the Mary Surratt house in Clinton, MD. You might be familiar with Mary Surratt's part in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy and her subsequent hanging. At the time of the visit, they were having a vintage Valentines exhibit, including sailors' valentines. I thought that these sailors' valentines were fascinating, and I bought a replica of one, which I now have displayed for Valentine's Day. Anyway, these valentines are made from seashells and were popular between 1830-1890. The sailors would buy them to take home to their sweethearts or loved ones. I love my replica because it has a heart at the middle of it, made, of course, out of seashells. Here's some more history on these unique valentines:'s_valentine Also, some images

  22. Lisa, what a lovely thing to do!

    And Reine, no I did not know that about Stephen King... or the Manson family. Yikes. We should talk about this again on Halloween.

    Kathy - fascinating! Going to look at those sailors' valentines now.

  23. SO late today! But lave reading these wonderful stories. Edith, that is adorable. And I love 414. Aw.

    As for the roses. Plain water, changed every day, and floral stuff. Weird, huh? Not what I would have predicted. I forgot to say there was also a rose in plan water that we did not change..that was the loser. SO--change the water. And snip the stems.

    And love to you all!

  24. Reine, those restaurants could become part of your book. Some nefarious force hates steak houses . . .
    A friend wanted to be married on Valentine's Day, but after finding out that all venues were booked or had jacked-up prices, and that florists wouldn't even promise to have flowers available, and a few other problems, including the realization that they would face those conditions every anniversary, she changed her plans.
    Hank, thanks for the rose info, just in case.
    Happy Valentine's Day and Half-Price Chocolate Day <3

  25. Halloween it is, then, Hallie. It was just one scene in THE STAND. Memorable to tho those of us who lived there, however!

    Yet another coincidence of the day was the La Biancas lived near my parents when they lived in Las Flores. When I married and moved up to the Ridgecrest/China Lake area the Manson family was living nearby in the shack in Panamint. The China Lake Police spotted them, or the evidence they were there, and were instrumental in their capture. I recall the day they were captured. I was in a history class in a local community college extension. The professor announced it and said, "You'll never guess where they'd been hiding."

  26. Thank you for all the comments on my post that was, I see now, way too long! My apologies to the Reds.

  27. Kathy Reel... I like the story about your granddaughter. Happy birthday to her.

  28. Thanks, Reine. Your posts are never too long. Your real life stories are fascinating!