February is an indulgent month in our family, my sister’s birthday is the day before mine (Ha! work that one out : ) and preceding both of those is Valentine’s day which makes it one potentially frantic period of forward planning in the weeks before for the ‘boys’ in our life (that would be our respective husbands) but I can’t lie, they excel at it!
To make it a little more balanced I like to make sure I put a little effort into doing something special for Valentine’s and some of the best have been when we have a stay at home ‘date’. A scrummy breakfast in bed, taking the day to prepare a special slow cooked dinner (if it falls at the weekend), setting the dining table up like a candlelit restaurant setting for two and putting together a playlist of favourite music for the evening. We bring out the champagne or cocktails before dinner and the single malts afterwards to sip away the last of the evening. It’s such a treat and a bit of a tradition and best of all it has such a transporting effect we actually feel like we’ve been on a luxurious night out.
Change Things Up
If you normally don’t do anything for Valentine’s then make this the year for just shaking things up no matter what your romantic situation – if you normally get treated then treat your other half, if you have kids, involve them in the plans. My sister’s husband gets the ‘small people’ to lay a trail of scented flowers or rose petals all through the house leading to a candlelit bathroom spa scene -its romantic in the traditional sense but they love it and are happy to leave mum alone for a wee while to enjoy a moment of tranquility.
On that note, roses sometimes get bad press these days as a bit predictable and slightly cheesy but I protest! One giant beautiful deep blood red rose or the palest ivory pink (as opposed to those brash orangey red shrivelled things that are often the sad offerings at the local petrol station) is worth more than a giant bouquet of mediocrity. Think Italian vintage, Sophia Loren or Carmen the opera – there is so much drama in a beautiful rose and its utterly timeless so choose well. Alternatively a little hand tied bunch of snowdrops or single variety bouquet like tulips and less expensive flowers can look fantastic. Just whatever you do don’t put red and white together – it can kill good taste at twenty paces!
Spread the Love
Life is fast and taking time out with people you care about is so important – why should Valentines be just for couples! If you’re single why not invite other single friends for a themed dinner in a bring-a-dish arrangement, friends recharge your batteries. Or, invite family for a photo reminiscing evening of food and cringing – just have a lovely get together! If you do want to have a romantic rendez-vous for two, the best evenings can be created right at home with just a bit of thought and creativity. Here are 7 tips for you that won’t break the bank but will help you create an amazingly romantic setting for a Valentine’s date night:
1. Declutter: it’s difficult to have a romantic evening if you are surrounded by household bills unwashed plates and general everyday detritus so take some time plan to the space, declutter and plan the music – these are the last minute things that eat up time. If you’re can’t have a full clearout, shove all the paperwork and stray receipts into a box or basket (stash somewhere you won’t forget about it forever) for the time being it’ll help clear you’re head and set the scene. Put together a playlist when you’re relaxed its much more fun and you can really put thought into it.
2. Create a Theatrical Entrance: flowers and foliage tied with wire and wrapped round a door way with fairy lights always creates that just-stepped-into-another-world kind of feel. You could create a cinematic photo curtain with lengths of fishing line or even a ‘red carpet’ of cut out printed words from a favourite song scattered on the floor with a trail of tealight votives leading the way to the table. It’s for one night only and the dining room is a place for Theatre and ambience so let your imagination run free!
3. Add a Focal Point: this can be the table decoration itself or it if there isn’t much room on the table it could be the mantle piece, shelf or even a mirror on the wall, something that draws the eyes and sets the scene. Even if you don’t have a dining table you can create an intimate little space that makes for a wildly romantic evening – how about a floor picnic by candle light! Lay out some artisan bread, tapas style food and nibble the evening away with a glass or two of what you fancy.
4. Candles, Candles, Candles: the rule is you can never have too many and go for natural unscented you don’t want them to overpower the senses when you’re trying to savour the delights you’ve just cooked. Two little lonely candlesticks stuck at either end of the table won’t cut it, you need to create a flickering ‘sea’ ideally different heights. Think irregular linear arrangement for rectangular tables and for round or square tables you could go more circular in layout.
5. Flowers & Fruit & Foliage: you can create a romantic rustic banquet feel by combining these elements randomly down the centre and its great to nibble on the fruit between courses! Think warm coloured fruits with firm skins like plums, figs, pomegranates, lychees and grapes. Buy a few of each depending on the size of your table. You don’t need to spend a fortune, make flowers go further by adding a few gorgeous flowerheads and lots of leafy greenery to pad it out . Its makes a spectacular display (and you can freeze the uneaten fruit for puddings later, win-win!)
6. Create a Mini Drinks Bar : this is such an easy thing to create and really adds fun to drinks making. Style a recess, console table, side shelf or drinks trolley with your favourite tipples, beautiful bottles, a few stylish bar accessories and some freshly sliced garnish. You could go for a touch of Mad Men mid century modern, Gatsby glamour or sixties pop, whatever you like. My friends will tell you that my top tip for a sophisticated Valentine’s cocktail is to float pomegranate seeds in a tall glass of champagne, they look like little jewels and gracefully float up and down with the bubbles like those old fashion glass temperature balls, add a few drops of Chambord and you’re set- magical!
7 . Cook From the Heart: whether it’s a slow cooked prime cut of beef from your local butcher with all the trimmings, an aromatic spiced dish from afar or a hearty vegetarian delight, set aside time to prepare and cook it with love – you can taste the difference. If you really feel you can’t cook or are especially short of time then I can highly recommend Gousto – they deliver delicious recipes and high quality, often organic ingredients with simple step by step instructions and no commitment to ordering every week, so convenient.
So there you have it a few little tips for a special night in. Got alternative and inspirational ideas? Please divulge! – I’m always interested (read nosey) in what unusual ideas people have for Valentine’s day so drop in and let me know how you plan to spend it – I’m off to declutter!