Friday, February 10, 2012

World Traveler

As I flew up and down the aisles of our local market searching for exotic spices, I overheard a couple arguing about Valentine's Day gifts.  Lingering between a hot Indian curry and spicy Italian olive oil, I heard the woman squeal, "taking me to a casino in Connecticut isn't my idea of romance!"  The thrust of the argument stemmed from the husbands inability to get creative in the Valentine's Day gift department and the only solution, according to his wife, was to head to an island in the Bahamas or climb the Eiffel Tower, ski the slopes of Northern Utah or watch the falls of Niagara.  Just as my urge to plunge through the curry powder and coconut milk started to crescendo, the husband exclaimed, "but honey, I can't afford any of that.  Someday, maybe, but not today.  Today you will have to settle for sitting next to a warm fire in Poughkeepsie!"  I finally got a glimpse of them walking towards the checkout counter, both silent, with a cart full of potato chips, frozen vegetables, beer and a whole lot of baggage! They both missed the boat here, actually, because you don't have to spend a fortune to make someone feel like a million bucks!  A few weeks ago a friend called me asking for advice on how to celebrate her forthcoming anniversary.  Funds were low after the holidays and as she saves for a summer vacation, cash flow has dried up.  I suggested she take her boyfriend on a trip around the world, right in her own apartment!  If you don't cook, order in from your favorite restaurant and set a romantic mood by lighting candles...that's the Romance 101 part, but here are a few more simple, inexpensive ways to jazz up a boring night; I've fallen in love with a series of CD's Joe found on Amazon called "Putamayo Presents," compilations of African, French, Italian and Spanish songs, with each CD consisting of about an hour of out of this world tunes.  Because I'm a nerd, I like to arrange the music around whatever we are cooking.  For example, last weekend we had friends for dinner and Joe cooked an amazing Boeuf Bourguignon so, channeling Julia Child, I played "French Cafe" throughout the evening.  Not quite Paris (it was 17 degrees that night), but a mood was set and our guests enjoyed escaping reality for a few hours.  Back to my friend and her anniversary, I also suggested popping down to Urban Outfitters (or online at where I found this totally cool 8'x12' canvas of the world for $39.99!  Hang it on a blank wall for a splash of color, place it behind your bed as a headboard or use it as a tablecloth (it has the thickness of a painting tarp).  The point is, you don't have to travel far to make a world of difference!
QUICK TIP: planning an exotic Valentine's Meal for your other half, but don't know what to do?  Stay home and create a romantic mood with lighting, music, wine or cocktails and delicious food.  It's easier and cheaper than you think!