Check the calendar, guys: Valentine's Day is fast approaching. If you've learned anything from past failures, then this year your dinner reservations already are made and plans are in place. Still not sure what to get her? We once knew a girl who got a life-size duct tape model of her Valentine as a present. Needless to say, the relationship was over shortly thereafter. Avoid self-portrait art at all costs and save the engagement ring for a truly special occasion. Trust us. We're here to help.
The hallmark holiday falls on Friday, February 14, which gives you a few days to get the lady in your life something she'll love. While we don't pretend to know your lover the way you do, here are five suggestions for a nearly foolproof holiday hit.
The Standbys: chocolates, flowers You call them can't-fail gifts. We consider them unoriginal and unimaginative. While it's true that the week preceding V-Day (or D-Day, depending) doubles as an unofficial who-got-the-bigger-bouquet contest between the ladies of the office, the act of buying a dozen red roses or a box of milk chocolates alone is the easiest get-out-of-jail-free card in the relationship guide book.
Sure, we get it. Maybe time isn't on your side or the relationship is new. Instead of relying on potted plants to get the message across, why not kick it up a notch?
Yes, in case you were curious, Phoenix Flower Shops is running a Valentine's Day promotion, with everything from cookie baskets to cuddly bears, ranging from epic five-inch roses ($44.99 each) to collections that'll run you a couple hundred in the red. But if your gal's a gardener, it's time to get creative. Perhaps a day date to the weekly Garden Day, 10 a.m. Sundays at Roosevelt Growhouse, is in order, where you'll plant, harvest, and ho with other foliage-friendly volunteers. Or check out artist Dale Chihuly's return to the Valley at "Chihuly in the Garden" at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Tickets are $22, and it's a far more romantic walk at dusk, so make your purchase accordingly.
Personalized perfume Our memories are tied closely to our senses, particularly our noses, which is why the smell of cookies might remind you of your mother's baking in December or how your wife's lingering scent on the pillow might remind you of home. Since smell is that important, skip the Chanel No. 5 and traditional perfume counters at department stores and create the perfect unique fragrance for her at Citrine Natural Beauty Bar in Union at the Biltmore.
The shop's two-ounce custom blends ($110, $125, and $180) highlight scents like juniper berries, vanilla, black pepper,or Egyptian jasmine for a unique "flavor" profile combination that lasts from day to night. If you're apprehensive about creating a scent for her, Citrine also sells fragrances from Apothia LA and Kai, that are so nasally appealing you won't mind smelling like her the next day.
Custom-made designs from Cleo & Clementine It's no secret that buying a woman clothing for any occasion (birthday, holiday, or just for the hell of it) is a gamble. Your sizing might be off. The style won't be right. It could seriously offend her, and, frankly, you run the risk of ruining the relationship. How can you avoid this while still buying her something that will make her look and feel as beautiful as she is? Simple. Made-to-order designs from Cleo & Clementine.
Okay, yes, designer Monique Sandoval is known creating gowns that eventually walk down the aisle, but her Melrose District boutique will create a stylish custom piece for any style and event -- from skirts ($120) to silk ($520). If the pressure's too much, the store also sells stationary and gifts from Rifle Paper Co. as well as in-house created headpieces and accessories.
If your girl's less frills and more old school, but just as one-of-a-kind, look no further than vintage finds from Vintage by Misty in Scottsdale or Meat Market Vintage in Tempe. Each caters to a different kind of style, with the former a little more upscale (think vintage Chanel), and the latter a little more rock 'n roll (Ozzy and Rolling Stones concert Ts aplenty), but you'll find a unique piece for her at either, ranging from $38 to $450.
Local lingerie Technically this is a gift for her, though let's be honest -- it really is a gift for you. We're assuming this isn't your first foray into the world of négligée, but if her closet looks suspiciously like a Victoria's Secret catalog, it may be time to try something new. Or, in this case, old.
Thumb through Glendale-based V Vintage's etsy shop for old school set like Olga bras ($7.99) or browse through finds at Annie Boomer Vintage and other Roosevelt Row area shops for undergarments that will give your girlfriend less pointed Madonna cups and more subtle curves.
If the idea of your best girl wearing age-old undies sends an un-sexy shiver up your spine, click through designer Kelly Calabrese's newest collection of bralettes and body suits. The Phoenician-turned-LA lady creates items from the tame (like ombre high-waisted panties, $47) to the seductive (like custom harnesses, $50). Think American Apparel, but without all the scandal. We're sure the missus will love skipping the traditional bra-and-panties routine once the clothes come off, and we're equally sure you'll be rewarded handsomely.
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Collections of love letters from Changing Hands Bookstore Arguably the only decent takeaway from Sex & the City's first shot at the big screen was the theme of love letters (or lack thereof) between Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big. If you were lucky enough to miss the film -- and we envy you for that -- your ladyfriend probably went out on a girl's night to see it, aww-ing with the rest of the theater. The point is, maybe you're not the world's best wordsmith when it comes to telling her how you feel, but lucky for you, you don't have to be.
Put down the pen and head to Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe for copies of the literary world's best mushy prose and lovesick laments. Look for collections of e.e. cummings' best love poems or titles like Love Letters from Great Men: Like Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll and Many More collected by Stacie Vander Pol ($19.95). Or borrow a tip from the film with C.H. Charles' Love Letters of Great Men and Women from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day ($10.95, though prices vary). Better yet take your time and browse the indie bookseller's extensive collection for something that works best for your relationship. Let's face it, love certainly isn't one-size-fits all.