Published: February 6, 2002

Creating a day to remember
Tips on celebrating a Valentine's Day like no other

by Kelly Griego

According to Palo Alto resident Bill Rayburn, the ideal Valentine's Day would unfold like this: "Take the day off, load loved one and provisions in car, take top down, dress warm, head down Highway 1 to Monterey, find area with view, unload provisions, dine on crab and shrimp and cheese and grapes and a crisp chardonnay, toast the view and each other, eye contact is almost constant, talk is unnecessary, smiles are abundant, kisses are brief but intense."

It is looming. Whether you're ready or not, whether you're coupled or not, Valentine's Day is just heartbeats away. So why not have a little fun and be a little creative this year?

Brad Foreman of Stanford says Valentine's Day is not the day for last-minute spontaneity: "Definitely have an advanced plan, and don't hide the fact that you've got the day organized. It shows you care." He suggests making the day suspenseful and exciting by giving your special someone a series of gifts throughout the day.

To add a little adventure to all-day gift-giving, send your loved one on a romantic scavenger hunt -- throughout the house, the neighborhood or the Bay Area -- with a special gift or message at each spot, and a clue for the ensuing location. End someplace exciting, like a romantic restaurant, Golden Gate Park for a picnic, or maybe the bedroom.

If time -- or weather -- do not permit a romantic excursion along the coast or to remote destinations, local sites and resources boast exciting and creative alternatives.

If you and your date like to spice things up in the kitchen, spend the day together preparing an unforgettable meal. For a sweet twist, try cooking a four-course meal in which each item on the menu uses chocolate as an ingredient. Begin with an appetizer of chocolate-covered nuts or chocolate-covered strawberries. Follow with a salad of mandarin oranges, raspberries, mangoes, kiwi, pears, slices of red onion drenched in a chilled vinaigrette made with olive oil, black pepper, salt, sugar, Tabasco sauce, raspberry vinegar and cinnamon. And, of course, adorn the salad with chocolate shavings. For the main course, serve chicken with chocolate-based mole sauce. Finally, indulge in some sort of decadent chocolate cake, swimming in a warm chocolate sauce.

And in a nod to that Johnny Depp movie, add a pinch of chili powder to le chocolat in any or all of the above recipes for a kick that claims to create an effect of aphrodisiac proportions.

Tired of clichéd gifts of teddy bears and boxed chocolates? Surprise your Valentine by planting him or her a garden. String red and pink twinkle lights through the nearby trees or bushes. Want to get away? Try surprising your loved one with a hot-air balloon ride. Open a bottle of champagne and toast to each other from skyscraping heights and drink in the lush view. In the mood to stay in? Try His and Hers massages -- given by a hired masseuse or by one another -- in the comfort of your candle-lit house.

Order take-out from your favorite restaurant and enjoy dinner in an intimate and private setting.
For a really original gift, and an investment in your health, treat each other to a full body scan, with an extra scan of the heart. Although pricey, these four minute scans from local scanning companies can detect early stages of heart disease or tumors and can be life-saving.

Expanding one's circle of sweethearts, fete your children and the grandparents, too. Remind your children of how much you love them by spending time with them. Sit down with your kids before Valentine's Day and help them make handcrafted Valentines for their friends and classmates. End the fun with some ice cream over brownies.

It is common for elderly people in retirement homes to line-up for the mail delivery hours in advance. Make their Valentine's Day extra special and not at all disappointing by showing up with your children and a plateful (or more) of sweets to share. You can teach your children valuable lessons in love and giving by making Valentines for the seniors and preparing the snacks together at home. Visit the retirement home after -- or, as a special surprise for the kids, during -- school.

For those of you who do not have a particular "special someone" on Valentine's Day, tweak the above recipes for Valentine's success by replacing the "date" ingredient with one, two or however many friends you wish. Valentine's activities can still make for a wonderful day filled with loved ones and fun memories.

Rayburn's perfect Valentine's ends as so: "Drive back as sun is setting, holding hands the whole way. End the evening like all people in love should end the evening." Well, maybe those details are best left to you.

E-mail Kelly Griego at


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