What’s your take on Valentine’s Day? A cherished occasion for expressions of love and friendship? Or, totally unnecessary and just a way for greeting card companies, florists, and the like to make serious bank in the doldrums of February?
In the past, I’ve leaned toward the latter sentiment. But hey, if it gives us all an excuse to inject some fun into the dead of winter, why not embrace it, in our own way!
So, let’s bring pizzaz to Valentine’s Day, take the saccharine levels down a notch or two, and celebrate with seriously yummy treats, great movies, and cute projects – just cause we feel like it. For a little inspiration, try one of the fun, easy themes below. Pick and choose whatever bits you fancy, and turn that gray winter day into a cheerful red and pink bonanza.
Which theme fits YOU best?
QUEEN OF HEARTS:
Bold. Punchy. Psychedelic.
Forget “Be Mine” and “Hug Me.” Does “Off with their Heads” fit on a candy heart? Despite her prickly demeanor, the Queen of Hearts is a popular Valentine’s motif for obvious reasons. While the imagery throughout Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (and its many print/film adaptations) is remarkable, the Queen of Hearts’ domain has always been my favorite. Just like Alice, can I please frolic around that exquisitely manicured garden, with its bright red (formerly white) rose bushes and perfect heart topiaries? Pretty please?
Bake: Don’t those little “eat me” cakes always look so delectable? These chocolate chip cookie dough hearts should fill in nicely.
Watch: Hmm, let me think. . . how about Alice in Wonderland? Pick your favorite film adaptation. I’m partial to this 1985 musical production since I watched it 516 times as a kid on VHS. Natalie Gregory’s take on Alice can be a tad grating, but the pre-CGI set design is absolutely to-die-for. Plus, it incorporates Carroll’s sequel, Through the Looking Glass, complete with giant chessboard and that scary-ass Jabberwocky.
This 1972 British version also features a lovely, whimsical set, while the British accents add some authenticity.
Finally, as a moderate Disneyphile I’d be remiss to exclude the 1951 animated film from Walt Disney Studios, which probably features the most enduring rendering of Alice to date.
Romantic. Poised. Frilly.
While its roots allegedly trace back to Roman times, Valentine’s Day really took off as a widely-celebrated holiday during the Victorian era in Great Britain. Not a big surprise, given the Victorian penchant for romanticism (the standardization of postal rates in 1840 also seems to have played a role). Dripping with lace, cupids, hearts and floral motifs, these lovely Victorian valentines showcase all the major Valentine’s Day symbols we still equate with the holiday today.
Make: Ornate Victorian-style valentines. You can buy kits online, or stock-up on paper doilies, ribbons, and Victorian-themed stickers.
Bake: Victoria sponge cake. Classic and delicious, plus the raspberry jam adds a nice splash of Valentine’s Day red.
Buy: Lots and lots of flowers to place in opulent arrangements. Lace doilies for tables and sofas. Assorted tag sale knickknacks to lend that endearingly cluttered, cozy, Victorian feel to your living room.
Watch: The Young Victoria. What can I say? She’s the lady who put the Victoria in Victorian. Here’s a fascinating peek into the courtship and early marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, with über-talented Emily Blunt in the title role.
The Age of Innocence. Okay, even just the opening credits here – designed by the legendary Saul Bass – will totally transport you to the Gilded Age (America’s equivalent of the mid-Victorian era). Then there’s the breathtakingly sumptuous costumes, interior sets, gardens, even meticulously plated food (!) that follow in the film.
North & South. This BBC mini-series based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 novel offers social commentary on the hardships of life in the industrial North of England, in contrast to more genteel southern England. But, the tender, slowly-realized romance between sweet Margaret Hale and the honest but misunderstood mill-owner, John Thornton, is why you should check it out this Valentine’s Day.
Do: Dust off your grandma’s good china and host a Valentine’s Day tea party.
Feminine. Smart. Sassy.
The 1980s has a pink patina to me. Maybe it was those flamingo graphics everywhere. Maybe because it witnessed my childhood I-will-wear-absolutely-nothing-but-pink phase. Or maybe it was the 80s film heroines who rocked pink while exerting their independence and intelligence.
In any case, Valentine’s Day = Pink = 1980s, so go on and revel it.
Make: A romantic mix-tape. Okay, maybe an itunes playlist is more practical. The list of cheesy 80s love songs is endless. Play it while cruising to the mall for an Orange Julius (wait, do they come in pink flavors?). Or knock out some Friendship bracelets.
Bake: Keep it simple. Chocolate chip cookies with Valentine’s M & M’s, or cupcakes topped with pink frosting and candy hearts. If you don’t feel like baking and/or crave serious junk, I’m partial to Entenmann’s holiday golden cupcakes. Wash it all down with pink lemonade.
Buy: Aforementioned pink flamingos (hey, they can double as Queen of Hearts croquet mallets!). Pink or red lip balloons, in homage to the red lips telephone, an 80’s bedroom staple. Or pink carnations, so long as they don’t trigger repressed high school trauma because you never got one during the National Honor Society carnation sale.
Watch: Pretty in Pink. Andy remains one of my favorite film protagonists ever – she was industrious, clever, and caring. Blane was a schmuck, but he came through eventually.
Desperately Seeking Susan. I’m sure Susan’s itch to escape suburban repression (or really, her jackass husband) resonates with many, but it’s Aidan Quinn as the sensitive and unpretentiously artistic hunk that keeps me watching.
She-Devil. You can’t help but love romance writer/husband stealer Mary Fisher (played to perfection by Meryl Streep) and her penchant for pink EVERYTHING- clothing, house paint, drapes, laptops.
Do: Skip dinner with the significant other (if there is one) this Valentine’s Day and just hang out with your pals. Gossip and read trashy celebrity magazines. If you’re of age, definitely go ahead and spike that pink lemonade.