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U Star Novels In the Media

My frugal valentine

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hopeless romantics with hefty wallets may spend Valentine's Day in bliss, proffering sparkling jewelry to demonstrate the brilliance of their affection, dining in a cozy restaurant or snuggled up at a weekend hideaway.

Hopeless cads will give gifts bad enough to break someone's heart. (Do they really need to be told? OK, here goes: Household appliances do not generate the right kind of electricity.)

Then there are the rest of us, somewhere in between. We're sentimental, but feeling the economic pinch. And let's face it: It doesn't take a lot of imagination or personality to throw money at a jeweler. So herewith, some quirky ideas on how to be sparing, but sentimental, this lovers' holiday.


Exotic-flavored macaroons: To stir the taste buds and stimulate the heart: violet-cassis, Caribbean chocolate, coconut and caramel macaroons (raspberry-rose coming for V-Day) from Paulette Macarons, a new Hayes Valley shop that shines in specialty flavors and gets its confections sent up daily from its mother ship in Beverly Hills. A box of 12 is $19, tax included. 437-A Hayes St. at Gough Street. Around the corner, try the macaroons ($1.50 each) at Miette Confiserie, 449 Octavia St., at Gough Street, or La Boulange de Hayes ($1.50 each), 500 Hayes St., at Octavia Street.

Personalized romance novels: From U Star Novels, bodice-rippers for straight and gay couples. The British company provides a fill-in-the-blanks quiz about you and your partner, from hair and eye color to food preferences and the first names of your best friends. The sex appeal ranges from mild to medium to hot (you choose) with titles like "Fever in France," "Secrets of Sydney" and "Amsterdam Lessons." Cost: 26.95 British pounds, or about $38, plus shipping (seven to 10 days for delivery.)

Tats and hearts: To show your book lover affection, try the Illustrated Librarian, a set of 12 temporary tattoos (roses, hearts, skulls, books and sayings like "Alas, Poor Yorick" and "Librarians Rule") by Accoutrements of Seattle, $8. Or to satisfy your Latin lover's sweet tooth, Corazones Dulces, the Necco brand's pastel-colored heart candies with words and phrases in Spanish ("Beso," "Te amo"), 75 cents per box. Both available at Heartfelt gifts, 436 Cortland Ave., between Andover and Wool streets, in Bernal Heights.

Whole Trade Roses: Go traditional, with a twist. Whole Foods is selling a dozen roses from Ecuador for $19.99, guaranteeing that the producers have offered fair wages and safe conditions for workers while gathering the product. (No mention of the carbon footprint in shipping them from South America, though.)

Online valentines: CafePress, an online customized-gifts retailer, offers anti-Cupid sentiments and lovey-dovey messages on clothing, mugs, stickers and other gifts. Most popular in the current climate of hope? Sweet and gushy, of course. "My Valentine Is in Iraq" T-shirts for $25.99; "Be My Vampire" T-shirts for $19.99 and "I Love (fill in the name)" mugs for $15.99. If you must, there are also "Cupid Rhymes With Stupid" T's for $18.49 and up.

Love in miniature: Leafcutter Design of Berkeley offers a curiosity - what artist and company founder Lea Redmond bills as the "World's Smallest Postal Service." Create a card on her Web site, and she will reproduce it on a wee card, smaller than a postage stamp. It's mailed in a box to the recipient through the U.S. Postal Service, and comes with a magnifying glass for ease in reading. She occasionally works at gift shops, taking orders and writing out cards by hand with a tiny pen (see her online calendar for details). Verse is limited to 120 words, so get to the heart of the matter. $8 each.

Scent-ually appealing: Gwen Stefani, who's obsessed with many things Asian, has a new line of perfume called Harajuku Lovers, influenced by the funky/fashionable Harajuku section of Tokyo. Bottles are shaped like Asian dolls: Lil' Angel, Music, Baby, G and, naturally, one called "Love." Eau du toilette spray, 0.3 ounce, $25, at Nordstrom.

Singing Valentines: Say "Aloha au ia 'Oe" ("I Love You") with the help of an Aloha-Gram by Jim Romano and Paula Rudman of Pulama, a noted Bay Area duo. They'll perform two songs in Hawaiian costume for $75; fresh flower leis are extra and must be ordered by Tuesday. Delivery area limited to a 15-mile radius from Albany; outside that zone, a surcharge applies. For information, call (510) 526-8099 or The San Francisco Cable Car Chorus has a barbershop quartet whose members will visit the workplace, home or a restaurant to perform two songs for your loved one and give her or him a teddy bear. They're available Friday and Saturday. Cost is $50, and delivery area extends from Daly City through San Francisco to Sausalito, Berkeley and Oakland. Call (415) 564-2875 or go

- Carolyne Zinko,

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