I am not a big Valentine's Day person. I definitely used to be, but as of late I really haven't been. The hype is so stressful to me that it takes all the fun out of love! Valentine's Day is meant to be a day to appreciate the human you picked out and show them how much you love them, but it's turned into a day full of lofty, unrealistic expectations and overbooked, crowded restaurants.
Geez I sound like the Valentine's Day Grinch!
I really love romance, but I love real romance. The romance that causes Patryk to put a blanket on me when I fall asleep on the couch, or that makes me write him little postits of sweet nothings in his lunch. My life is full of daily moments that remind me how loved and appreciated I am and how much I love and appreciate him. So Valentine's Day isn't that appealing to me.
A big reason for this is that V-day is just so. darn. expensive. We're big savers, so dropping $150 a head on tiny portions shoulder-to-shoulder with another couple does not sound as nice as a quiet night in.
(Patryk, if you're reading this and have booked us a reservation somewhere, sorry, but it's true! Oops!)
So, here are a few tips for a romantic and special Valentine's Day on a budget, without the cheesy chocolates and fancy dinner.
1. Go on a bundled hike! Sure, it's chilly out, but it's just heating up enough for the ice to melt and short hikes nearby to become a little more inviting. Spend the day outside!
2. Become a tourist in your own city. This can be such a fun way to experience new things together. Whether it's a free art museum or your city's landmark, you'll find yourselves talking all day log and reminiscing on memories in your city together while making new ones.
3. Have a cozy movie marathon. This is the most underrated thing a couple can do. There are few things I love more on a freezing, gray day than cozying up under a blanket with Patryk and watching movies all day. PJs required, onesies preferred.
4. Create a scavenger hunt of significant places in your relationship with clues at each place and take him on it!
1. COOK TOGETHER! There are few things I find more romantic (and sexy!) than cooking a meal together. Throw on some Al Green, dim the lights a touch in the kitchen, feed each other tasters, and make something delicious together. Need some food-spiration? Check out our Eat blog and try our Balsamic Brussels Sprouts or Mini Chicken Parmesans. Make something light, like a few tapas or fish, because we all know V-day is really all about....
2. DESSERT! Dessert is obviously key on Valetnine's Day. My go-to? Chocolate covered strawberries. They're my favorite dessert anyway, and can easily be whipped up in just a few minutes. Bonus? Make a delish homemade flavored whipped cream to go with them. My favorite combos are mint whipped cream, basil whipped cream, and vanilla whipped cream. If your guy loves spicy, cayenne spicy whipped cream is amaze too. (My homemade whipped cream recipe is simple: 1-2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp of sugar, 1-2 tsp of flavoring (minced mint or basil, vanilla bean paste, or cayenne pepper), whisk with an electric hand mixer and viola!)
Chocolate Covered Strawberries Recipe
(from The Kitchn!)
1 pint-basket (1 pound) fresh strawberries
2 cups (12 ounces) dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1/2 cup (3 ounces) white chocolate, optional for drizzling
Double-boiler or heatproof bowl and saucepan
Parchment, wax paper, or Silpat
Small plastic bag
- Wash and dry the strawberries: Rinse the strawberries under cool running water and gently pat dry. The strawberries need to be completely dry before dipping, so spread them out and let them air-dry if necessary.
- Melt the dark chocolate: Fill the bottom of the double-boiler or saucepan with an inch or two of water and bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Transfer all the chocolate into the top of the double-boiler or the heatproof bowl and set this over the simmering water. Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally, until no more lumps remain. Remove the bowl with the chocolate from heat. (See Recipe Notes.)
- Prepare your workspace: Set the bowl of melted chocolate in front of you on a towel. Place the dried strawberries to your left. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place this on your right. (Reverse if you are left-handed.)
- Dip the strawberries: Working with one strawberry at a time, grasp the strawberry by the top leaves and dip it into the chocolate. Turn or swirl the strawberry as needed to completely coat it in chocolate. Lift the strawberry out and shake gently to remove excess chocolate.
- Lay dipped strawberries on the baking sheet: Carefully lay the dipped strawberry on its side on the baking sheet. Repeat with dipping the remaining strawberries.
- Let the chocolate set: Let the strawberries sit until the chocolate coating is set and dry to the touch. You can put the baking sheet in the fridge to speed this along.
- Prepare the white chocolate drizzle: When the strawberries are ready, melt the white chocolate just as you did the dark chocolate. (Alternatively for this small amount of chocolate, melt it in 15-second bursts in microwave, stirring between each burst). Transfer the melted white chocolate to a small ziplock bag.
- Drizzle strawberries with white chocolate: Push the melted white chocolate to one corner of the bag, then snip a small corner off the bag. Squeezing the bag gently, quickly drizzle the white chocolate over the strawberries. Use big sweeps, moving back and forth over the whole baking sheet. (See Recipe Notes.)
- Let the white chocolate set: Let the white chocolate drizzle set (or place the baking sheet in the fridge again for few minutes), then serve. Dipped strawberries can be kept for a few hours at room temperature. They can also be refrigerated for a few days, though they don't look as pretty.
Drool, right? Moving on....
I am all about craft cocktails and specialty drinks. Every couple weeks we have some couples come over for dinner and we base the whole dinner off of a special drink we create. Our bar cart is getting crowded! For Valentine's Day this year, I went with a spin on two classics: limoncello (made at an incredible local distillery in Seattle!) and hot toddies. It has been so chilly lately that a hot toddy on rainy V-day seemed like a must. We also just recently toured Letterpress Distilling, a really cute local Seattle distillery that makes vodka, limoncello, and seasonal blood orange liqueur. (Uh hi amazing date night idea!), so using their delish locally crafted limoncello felt like a must.
Letterpress Limoncello Hot Toddy
2 oz limoncello
1 oz bourbon
1-2 oz fresh lemon juice
1-2 tbs raw honey
4 oz almost boiling water
Lemon or orange zest and cinnamon stick for garnish
1. Stir all ingredients and garnish with a lemon or orange zest and a cinnamon stick!
Romantic, cozy, and perfect for a V-day date night in.
Like I said, I like to do a mellow Valentine's Day, so I'm not big on candy hearts everywhere and streamers from the ceiling. In my opinion, a few candles (3 to a room tops!), some light music (something funky, sexy, maybe jazzy), and a clean home is all you need. Some mood lighting to match those candles would also be good in my book. Almost like you tried to dress it up, but didn't. ;)
I am all for homemade gifts. Especially if you've been together a while! I don't like spending too much money on material things unless I know for sure that Patryk really wants it and will use it a lot. This year, he's getting one material thing he has been really wanting (a nice Vince Camuto black turtleneck sweater), a sweet homemade gift (see #1 below), handwritten card (A MUST!), and one of my favorite books that I thought he'd like too.
1. Make a rainy day jar. I wish I had a picture of this for you all but I'm still making it so it's not ready for its close up! It is a big mason jar with a simple tag on it that says something witty ("in case of emergency!" or "elixir" or something else like that). In the jar are little squares of paper folded once into triangles (they're about 3x3in), and each one has something I love about him, a special memory of ours, or a sweet thing we say written on it. The jar is meant to be kept in our home and gone through gradually. So for instance, if it's an average Tuesday and I'm working late or come home cranky or we haven't spent a lot of time together or he is stressed out from work or something, he can open the jar and take a card. It'll instantly lift his mood and remind him of something lovely from a less stressed/cranky/busy time.
2. Write the book of your lives. This one is intense, and requires planning, but get a big blank notebook and fill up the first little bit of it with journal-style stories from significant moments in your relationship thus far, scattered with less significant but just as special ones. For instance, the first night you met, your first date, that time you guys went on that hike, that time you guys spent all day in bed, when he did something hilarious and embarrassing, when you met his parents, etc etc etc.... then infer that the book still has so many pages to be filled up! Bonus? Add little photo cutouts to the book pages.
3. A cute photo of you two in a frame. Bam. Simple. Classic. Awesome.
4. A bottle of his favorite alcohol. Bam. Simple. Classic. He will LOVE it.
Phew! Okay, I need to get back to making that big jar of love!
Coming soon: VALENTINE'S DAY GIRLS NIGHT!