By RACHEL SUTHERLAND
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Mama always said it's the thought that counts. When it comes to Valentine's Day, the more thought, the better. The from-the-heart holiday is tomorrow, and you've been putting off today what you could do tomorrow. Do you still have time to impress? You betcha. If you get crackin' now, you'll stay out of trouble with your sweetie. Here, are some ideas that will earn you hugs and kisses, and can be pulled off with a minimum of fuss.
There's nothing more special for your sweetie than a one-of-a-kind gift you made with your own hands.
UFlowers are an evergreen Valentine gift, but thinking outside the box will score you points for creativity (not to mention saving you some bucks). Think volume and space: A single carnation is just cheesy (they're the generic of the flower world), but a tightly-packed, wide-mouthed bowl of red carnations is stunning. Buy at least two dozen carnations of a single color, find a suitable vessel, trim the stems uniformly, and pack 'em in. A lush bow would be a nice finishing touch (right).
UExpress your inner creativity with stamps, velvet and lace: Make your own one-of-a-kind Valentine.
UYou don't have to spend a bundle to show your beloved that your heart is true. Just Born, the creator of Marshmallow Peeps, has launched a new Valentine's Day Decorating Kit complete with four pink, sugared marshmallow hearts and a tube of decorating gel and tips on how to personalize your Peeps. $1.99. Multiple retailers.
UValentine's Day doesn't have to be all hearts and cupid. Defy convention and go for colorful gifts. Just about anything red or pink will do, but choose wisely. A sassy, hot-pink wallet or suave red argyle socks will remind your sweetie of your love all year long. Banana Republic rocks the lace on killer pumps (below), $128. Banana Republic stores at various locations and online at www.bananarepublic.com.
BOOK IT NOW
UIf you just can't beat the clock, arrange a weekend getaway for later to someplace warm, and make your sweetheart think it was all part of the plan. In that handmade Valentine (see DIY section, left), include a coupon good for a weekend of high-end restaurants, posh accommodations and decadent food. You may want to try Charleston, S.C., or Savannah, Ga. For help with planning, check out www.charlestoncvb.com or www.savannah-visit.com.
SET THE TABLE
It might be a cliche, but it couldn't be more true: The quickest way to the heart is through the stomach.
UConfident in the kitchen? You can't go wrong with surf and turf. Pick up lobster tails and filets and wow your date.
UWant someone else to cook for you? Make a reservation. Today. Many restaurants are offering dinner specials on Feb. 14.
UThink of it as a mix tape for the new millennium: Make your honeypie a CD chock-full of love songs. They can be silly, syrupy sweet or sexy. Don't know where to start? How about the year you met -- what was playing on the radio? How about a collection of songs that made you swoon back in the day ("If You Were Here" by the Thompson Twins or "Let's Chill" by Guy). If you're at a loss, check out the "My Groove" section of www.itunes.com. There, you can download a prescreened selection of tunes (including Sam Cooke, Willie Nelson and Stevie Wonder) for about $25. If you're feeling lucky, try www.tinymixtapes.com. Send in a topic and a song list is generated for you.
Amber Grice, a senior at Vance High School in Charlotte, reports these gift are hot among high school sweethearts:
UInitial necklaces. The idea is to wear your loved one's initial around your neck, while he/she wears your initial, to show everyone that you are a couple.
UA single long-stemmed rose. Sweet, nice and straight to the point. Give it to your sweetie when he/she least expects it (hint: after a small conversation or a really hard math test).
UCouples key chains. Everyone is all about pictures this year. What better way to show your Valentine you care than a picture of the two of you to take everywhere?