What Not To Buy Your Girlfriend On Valentine’s Day

Valentines Barney Cam filming.
Barney watches as Miss Beazley gives a “kiss” to Kitty, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007, as the White House pets pose for a Valentine’s Day portrait at the White House, from Wikipedia, photo by Paul Morse

Origin Of Valentine’s Day

Today, Valentine’s Day is a popular commercial holiday, but you might not know that February 14th is also an official feast day in the Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox churches. The actual celebration can be dated back to the early Christian days in Rome, when several Christian men by the very same name were put to death by the Roman authorities. The two most common references to Saint Valentine include Valentine of Rome, a priest, who was executed in 269 AD and Saint Valentine of Terni, who was martyred in 197 AD. Take your pick.

Antique Valentine’s Day from 1909, from Wikipedia

My Research

The inspiration for this post comes from another blogger, Lynn Viehl, alias Paperback Writer, who recently put up a post entitled, Ten Things We Ladies Don’t Want for Valentine’s Day . Among some of her most intriguing items on the list were a Tattoo Shop Gift Certificate and a Vajazzling Kit. After reading the entertaining blog it was only a short step until I was cruising the web to see what other people had to say on this matter.


Books did not rate very high on Valentine’s Day, with cookbooks being subject to special scorn. Nonetheless, even ordinary reading books made some lists, a suggestion that contrasts with a blog I posted on Valentine’s Day 2010, entitled Buy Your Sweetheart A Book For Valentine’s Day. Looking back, I guess this was not a very good suggestion, especially considering that at the time I was  trying to plug my own self-published titles.

English Lingerie Shop, from Wikipedia, photo by Lucarelli


High on the list of things not to buy was lingerie. Most common complaint was  purchase of improper fitting items and the ultimate comparison with perfectly-shaped professional models, such as one might see in a Victoria Secret catalog. Along similar lines, memberships at health clubs or purchases of exercising equipment were also highly discouraged.

Valentine’s day red roses photo by Vimukthi, from Wikipedia


Another item that was almost universally discouraged was flowers, especially plastic ones. The one possible exception here, might be flowers that were actually delivered by a florist.

Heart-shaped box of chocolates, from Wikipedia, photo by Dwight Burdette


Chocolates received a more mixed-bag of positive and negative reviews, indicating that there might be a sizable number of chocoholics among the female population.

Other Items

From my research other discouraged items included household appliances (especially vacuum cleaners), flannel nightgowns, stuffed animals, gift cards, sex toys and music CDs. So now that the field has been narrowed down a bit, happy shopping guys, for Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.


Salute To The Chocolate Tree

Cocoa pods from cocoa tree,
Cocoa pods from cocoa tree, image taken at botanical gardens on Big Island of Hawaii.

Valentine’s Day is upon us and as a former restaurant worker, I am very grateful that I will not be spending the popular holiday in another busy restaurant, making certain that scores of couples receive a culinary treat. Instead, I would like to recognize a tropical plant that makes this day a little bit sweeter for countless numbers of  conoisseurs. For what would this day be without the tasty little treat, we call chocolate.

Chocolate is a forest product that is processed from the large pod of the cacoa tree, Theobroma cacoa. Today, these trees are grown in plantations throughout the tropical regions of the world, but originally the tree grew only in the forests of Central America. At first a bitter drink was made from the fermented by-product of the seeds. The beverage was prized by many of the Native peoples and then when the Spanish arrived in the New World the drink was taken back to Spain. Here in the Old World, sugar was added, but chocolate continued to be consumed as a liquid.

Development of a chocolate as an edible solid did not occur into the 18th century when large mechanical devices were built that could process the natural solids of the seeds of the cacao tree. From that point on, chocolate grew as a specialty item, which could chewed and consumed as a candy or baked good. From those early years of chocolate manufacture, the tasty morsel has  seen its popularity spread world wide. As a result today there are  large plantations and chocolate factories located throughout the world, so chocolate can be enjoyed by everyone.

Buy Your Sweetheart A Book For Valentine’s Day

European Autochrome before 1900
Milksellers with Dogcart, Brussels, Belgium an Autochrome from 1890-1900, Library of Congress via Detroit Publishing Company

Here’s an old turn of the century(1900) autochrome from Belgium that features a dog-drawn cart and some milksellers. Dog-drawn carts are now against the law in most places, as is selling milk in this manner. The picture is  called an autochrome and it is a forerunner of the modern color photograph. The soft out-of-focus background makes the image appear like a painting, as does the dress of the three persons in the picture. All in all it is a remarkable glimpse of a bygone era and oh what a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift this picture would make.

This remarkable image also underscores why the printed page is not likely to disappear any time soon. And in my opinion the reason lies not in the printed word but with the printed images. A picture book with carefully chosen and displayed images, accompanied by good text, is not about to become a thing of the past. Like the intrinsic beauty and simplicity conveyed by this amazingly well-preserved photographic image, books with images have a lasting value. Even the high-tech visual wizardly that comes are way due to software programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Fireworks will not undue the paper-based image, in fact the new technology may enhance it.

ueen of Hearts
The Queen of Hearts from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose, source Library of Congress, picture William Wallace Denslow

This is no easily seen that with the growing acceptance of fine art prints made from designs and images created in pixels and then printed on archival paper with non-fading ink. It seems to me very ironic that some of the best compilations of computer-generated art can be found in the bookstore.

Still, images made from the past have a marvelous staying power, as seen in this wonderful rendition of the Queen of Hearts by William Wallace Denslow. It looks great on the internet, but make a calendar from a computer screen and hang it on your wall. (Well actually you can, but like the e-book, I don’t think the digital picture frames are going to replace the paper print anytime soon.)