I asked my Facebook friends to tell me what they'd like to give or get for Valentine's Day. Ideas were varied and included everything from power tools to exotic trips. What was clear with all of the suggestions is that folks want gifts that are truly personalized and not generic. Of all the suggestions submitted, this list of eight represents a summary of many of the ideas.
This suggestion was tied to the idea the some folks may want something a bit more practical than a plush toy rabbit, bear or cupid doll. If your partner has a special hobby, maybe there's an ideal gift you can give to help support it.
Kid Free Candle Light Dinner
A few folks thought it would be great to have "date night" candle light dinner at home without the kids. Consider having the kids stay with your grandparents for an evening and have a romantic night at home. Suggestions in this area also included hiring a cleaning service to clean the whole house and then have you dinner prepared by your favorite restaurant and either delivered or picked up.
Well, there are some folks who will be single this Valentine's Day and would rather be in a relationship. Since more and more people are meeting online, consider trying one of the new social dating apps available for smart phones. Perhaps if you meet someone interesting in the coming year you'll be back to share dating ideas for 2014.
Tickets to Bulls or Blackhawks Game
For the sports enthusiast, this is an easy idea. If your significant other is into the Bulls or Blackhawks, make it a "sports date night".
Winning Lottery Ticket
I think anyone would welcome this, but the best we can do is buy a few tickets as a gift and see if luck prevails. The fun thing about lottery tickets is that they are inexpensive yet potentially very valuable.
Day Spa Gift Certificate
Getting a massage is always welcome for both men and women. Many day spas cater to both sexes. Plus, if you are so inclined, you can make it a full day of relaxing pleasure by adding a facial, manicure, facial and more.
Weather if's food or a craft item, a homemade gift is always special. If you're interested in making simple hand dipped chocolate strawberries, the recipe is below.
Just Surprise Me
May of my Facebook friends expressed a desire to just be surprised with a special evening that is fully planned and just unfolds as the night progresses. That evening could include a limousine ride, champagne, flowers, chocolates, a fancy dinner, a fancy dessert; or something casual, like ice skating in Millennium park. Be creative, but make sure you focus on the unique things that you partner really enjoys or has expressed an interest in exploring.
Combine Any And All Of These
Pick and choose from this list to create a special night for your significant other. Overall, the best advice is to not be generic. Focus on your partner's wants and needs and you probably won't go wrong.
Making Chocolate Covered Strawberries
12 oz Good Quality Bittersweet Dark Chocolate, I used 8oz 70% Cacao and 4oz 60% Cacao, chopped
4 oz Good Quality White Chocolate
1 lb Fresh Strawberries, washed and air dried, keeping the hull and stem
Mix together 4oz of the 70% and 4oz of the 60% cacao chocolate in a microwave oven save bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook for 1 minute. Stir mixture thoroughly and microwave for an additional 1 minute. Stir again and check the temperature. Your goal is for the chocolate to reach an even temperature of 122 degrees F. After the first two 1 minute intervals, reduce the microwave time to only 10 seconds. Cook for 10 seconds, stir thoroughly and then check the temperature. When the mixture reaches 122 degrees F, place the bowl on a work surface and add about 1/2 of the remaining chocolate. Stir constantly until mixture reaches 89 degrees F. If the added chocolate has fully melted before the mixture reaches 89 degrees, add small amounts of the remaining chocolate and stir with each addition until all the chocolate has melted. You may have leftover chocolate.
If the chocolate has been tempered properly, you should be able to make a small "smear" of chocolate on a piece of wax or parchment paper and have it harden within 3-5 minutes. If the chocolate has not hardened, then it has not been tempered properly.
Dip each strawberry into the chocolate, let some of the extra drain off, and then place the coated strawberry on a sheet of wax paper. As the chocolate hardens, melt the white chocolate in 10 second intervals in the microwave until just melted. Transfer the melted chocolate to a pastry bag or a disposable bag and clip a hole in one of the corners. Using a back and forth sweeping motion, put multiple lines of white chocolate on the hardened shell of the dark chocolate.
One suggestion was to also infuse the strawberries with either Grand Marnier or Bailey's Irish Cream. To do that, get an oral syringe from the drug store and insert about 1/4 tsp of liqueur into the top of the strawberry before dipping them in chocolate. Typically, a strawberry will reseal and keep the liqueur inside.
Thanks again to all my Facebook friends for their suggestions. Great ideas.