By IVY HERRON
The perfect opportunity to step outside of the usual routine and ignite the fire of romance in a couple's relationship is Valentine's Day. But for many, exploring their passionate side remains a mystery.
Forced to choose between thousands of cute stuffed animals, countless flower choices that will only be thrown out in a couple of days, fattening candy, humorous cards versus romantic cards and anything the color red, many Valentine shoppers grab the first thing in sight and make a mad dash to the cash register.
"I never know what she wants," said Thomas, a young father of two looking for the perfect Valentine's Day card for his wife. "I'll grab something I think she wants, and its never right."
But giving a romantic gift doesn't have to be so maddening.
What ever you plan to do for your sweetheart, the best-kept secret of romance is planning. Unique and romantic gift options are available throughout the county to help bring out the Casanova in everyone.
Creating the right romantic atmosphere for couples could be as simple as taking the children to spend the night with a relative or finding a baby-sitter.
"We always schedule our Pajama Party the Friday before Valentine's Day," Tumble Express owner Sara Stallcop said. "Children can enjoy games, pizza, tumbling exercises and all kinds of fun throughout the night while their parents enjoy a little private time."
For flowers, expect to call in advance for Valentine's Day deliveries.
"People wait till the last minute, when things are crazy, to order," Heavenly Flowers owner Lisa Kelly said, explaining that her Clay City shop, like all area florists, have many last minute shoppers. "We create "Grab and Go" flower arrangements and have them by the door for people on their way home."
A new trend for the romantic holiday is gift certificate purchases for romantic mini-getaways after the holiday. The idea is to not only say "I love you" on Valentine's Day, but to let your sweetheart know they matter past the moment.
If your sweetheart loves ice cream and old-fashioned soda shops, then a gift certificate for two from Lynn's Soda Shop in Brazil would be perfect.
"Its a special and unique visit for couples, and families," owner Lynn Hostetler said, explaining that visitors experience the nostalgia of the 1920's through the 1950's. "Many proposals of marriage during those simpler times were at soda shops and candy stores."
For a unique and relaxing evening out, a visit to Crossroads Studio would be perfect for a couple with a hectic lifestyle.
"My male clientele know their wives lead stressful lives. They suggested the idea as a way to spend time relaxing with their wives," owner Judy Berry said, explaining a special romantic service provided throughout the year. "Couples can enjoy a dual hour-long massage and afterwards a private dinner served from a menu of their choice with a flower arrangement to take home. Men can be very romantic if they just let themselves think about how to make a moment special for their wives."
Other romantic dinner options are also possible at restaurants around the county.
"We have a small intimate lunch and dinner special for couples the Saturday before Valentine's Day called "A Touch of Romance," Company's Coming owner Susan Shaffer said, explaining that reservations are recommended to ensure seating is available at special events.
Many local retailers are happy to help you create the best romantic holiday possible for you and your sweetheart.