Pound of Flesh Paperweight by Walteria Living, found at Kuhl-Linscomb.
Get this: nobody knows which of three martyred St. Valentines we revere on February 14th – the priest from Rome, the Bishop of Terni, or the man of unknown rank martyred in Tunisia. But the darkest secret behind this celebration honoring the unique spirits of the ones you love? The Church can’t even recall the gifts of supreme sacrifice these poor Valentines offered up to achieve their holy statures.
But you, my dear sirs and madams, are expected to forge on ahead. To out Valentine the saints and deliver up gifts that are thoughtful and romantic. The kind memorable enough to remain rippling in the recesses of their recipients’ memories forever. Or at least until next year.
Oh, don’t worry: we’ll help you avoid the obscurity of being yet another person unable to deliver something with pizzazz on this special day with a few traditionally inspired, yet 21st century gift ideas designed to keep the love alive year round…
Morsels.Even the most diehard sweet-tooths we know would actually trade several pounds of waxy lumps of “chocolate” in the quintessential, heart-shaped boxes for just five or six artesian sweets – and Houston is the city to buy them in. The love handles and the taste buds will remember you fondly if you make the effort to seek out a luscious, locally-made delicacy.
If you’re looking for something with a little “ooh la la”… think Parisian macaroons from Maison Burdisso (www.maisonburdisso.com). These French pastries consist of two delicately crunchy cookies brought together with either a light cream or fruit compote filling. They come in an incredible array of flavors, raspberry, green tea, orange, Espellete chili pepper, Armagnac, just to name a few. Jackie Burdisso, the creator of these inspired pastries, will be taking special orders for heart-shaped macaroons until February 7th. Don’t forget to ask about her hand dipped, exquisite truffles while you’re on the phone.
Traditionalists know the value of a good idea: and if you or your loved one is one of those folks who can’t make it through Valentines’ Day without a bonafide chocolate, head over to La Villette. Their divine dulce de leche chocolate bon bons will make you proud. (www.lavillettecatering.com, 1716 Bissonnet, 713-521-7550)
Jewelry. Nothing to dampen the mood like an expensive gemstone or gold bracelet procured via slave labor. Memorable, sure. Just not in the right way.
If shiny and sparkly are for your valentine, however, don’t fret. Houston has many alternatives to the large jewelers that don’t pay attention to where their goods come from. From simply stunning lockets to lavish diamond necklaces, there are plenty of antique jewelry gems at Past Era (www.pastera.com, 2311 Westheimer, 713-524-7110) for any budget. This bow-topped Victorian flower basket locket seemed like the perfect bit of history to give to your special someone… maybe with a photograph?
More of a modern look to your girl? Melissa Borrell (www.melissaborrell.com) is a local jewelry designer whose work can be found from the MoMA Design Store to Houston’s very own MFAH Gift Shop. Her work ranges from one of a kind silver pieces to pop-out, flat pack jewelry. We particularly liked the large red garden pop-out earrings.
If you’re in the market for something more unusual, recycled, and a great conversation starter, maybe an asymmetrical necklace made from Coca-Cola bottles would be up her alley. Smart Glass Jewelry (www.smartglassjewelry.com) has many lines made from different types of recycled glass.
Clothing. And so, allow us to suggest the belt buckle. Every time your loved one undresses they’ll be thinking of you – how can you do much better than that? And you can find fantastic, locally made designs at Hello Lucky (www.hello-lucky.com, 1025 Studewood Street, 713-864-3556).
Ah-hem, you say. Where’s the cheap lingerie? We’re talking subtle this year, remember. So as not to make you look desperate. And if the lover in your life has breasts (small or large), we suggest a gift certificate to Oprah’s favorite My Intimacy (www.myintimacy.com, the Galleria). Your love will receive a proper bra fitting and a well-made, beautiful European bra that fits. She’ll leave the pack of 80% of American women who wear the wrong size of flimsy droopiness and begin running with the pack of women who look as sexy with their sweaters on as they do with them off. Sexy. Subtle. And she’ll love you for it.
Flowers. When googling Valentine’s Day flowers we stumbled across infinite references from women noting the dozen wilted roses their lovers picked up on the way from the office had led to some serious feelings of dampened ardor. But we’ve got a few solutions we think you’re going to like.
A tin flower bouquet from Uncommon Goods (www.uncommongoods.com). It’s pretty, made of recycled goods, and will last a lifetime.
Love that has both a sense of humor and an undying love of humanity? You could also try the environmentally sensitive, veritably hip and trendy gift of the moment: elephant poop roses, also from Uncommon Goods (www.uncommongoods.com). Really. They don’t stink, they’re unusual, and they help save the elephants.
Sexy Lighting. You just ask Blanche from a Streetcar Named Desire about the importance of romantic lighting. Most people make due with a couple of candles, but those waxen standbys leave you in the dark before the evenings out. Which is sometimes the point, but then, what about the next day? And the next?
The venerable St. Valentines might roll over in their respective graves before admitting it, but church can be an awfully sensual lighting experience and there’s the stained glass to thank for that. Of course, you don’t need to buy your own small European chapel like the Menil Museum; you can just flex your antique shopping skills for a couple weeks before the holiday, and come up with a small panel that will let the love light shine year round.
You’re itching to spend a little more on something more creative and mysterious? Kuhl-Linscomb (www.kuhl-linscomb.com, 2424 West Alabama, 713-526-6000) has your back. Their hanging Zettel’z lamp by Ingo Maurer filters light through sheer, vellum-like Japanese paper with notes already written on them.
You’ll want to use some of the 49 blank squares provided to scrawl your own love notes, and let them emblazoned for years to come.
Straying slightly off the subject – if you’d be hanged before dangling your poetic love proclamations from the ceiling, you might consider the subtler but still sexy choice of a Pound of Flesh. No need to file a court order, Portia: this is a beautiful, bronze paperweight shaped like an actual human heart designed by Walteria. The staff at Kuhl Lindscomb tell us it’s so popular they can barely keep it on the shelves.
Imagination. All this talk of love notes has left you trembling because of your infamous two-left-tongues? That’s why they make poets.
Is your lover well-versed in love poetry? Our literati pals suggest you try: Pharaoh’s Daughter or The Astrakhan Cloak by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. The Wild Iris by Louise Glück. Captain’s Verses by Pablo Neruda. Bright Existence by Brenda Hillman (for the broken hearted). Assembling the Shepherd by Tessa Rumsey. And Her Soul Out of Nothing by Olena Kalytiak Davis. M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A by A. Van Jordan. Please by Jericho Brown. The Heat Bird by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge.
And our one and forever true love, go-to classic is something we’re too attached to not to mention: Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair. If you don’t have it, start there. A gaggle of teen boys once accosted one of us at a bookstore in Brooklyn, claiming they’d been trying but couldn’t find “any love poems anywhere.” The relief in their postures and on their faces when they perused the first pages of the book is among her fondest memories of living in the city. And for the even more traditionalist: Shakespeare’s Sonnets are not such a bad choice.
Any of the above books can be found at or ordered from Brazos Bookstore (www.brazos.booksense.com, 2421 Bissonnet, 713-523-0701).
So much sincerity not your style? You can try buying the tongue in cheek, Porn for Women at Sig’s Lagoon (www.sigslagoon.com, 3710 Main Street, 713-533-9525).
Music. Tell her how much you love her with a song. Or maybe someone else’s song if you’re not up for composing your self. Take a classic approach with “Ella (Fitzgerald) and Louis (Armstrong) Sing Gershwin.” Even the least coordinated can find a slow dance or two on this album. And the chemistry between the two soulful artists is extremely catching.
For more of an avant-garde, rock and roll love song, check out The Velvet Underground and Nico, produced by Andy Warhol. A perfect song to wake up to after Valentines day, “Sunday Morning” starts this classic. Nico’s voice is always harmonic and soul stirring, but “I’ll be Your Mirror” is the most love filled of her songs. (Just a warning: a third of the album is filled with pretty out-there stuff, so if you are new to The Velvet Underground, you might want to start with “Sunday Morning” and “I’ll be Your Mirror”… both are available on iTunes.)
If neither classic nor avant-garde is his or her (or your) thing, maybe you both could fall in love all over again with some classic pop love songs by the Cure, re-done by great Indie musicians. Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to the Cure features new artists like The Submarines performing “Boys Don’t Cry,” Dean & Britta singing a thrilling version of “Friday I’m in Love,” and Grand Duchy putting their spin on “A Strange Day.”
Some other amazing love songs:
* Sufjan Stevens is best known for his sad, slow songs, but he does have two beautiful love songs, both off the album Seven Swans, “The Dress Looks Nice On You” and “To Be Alone with You.”
* One of the sweetest folk love songs, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot will make you cry it’s so beautiful.
* Tom Waits scratchy voice soulfully sings “I Want You,” off The Early Years Vol. 2.
If you’re more of a true rocker, the Black Keys have a couple songs that tell a story of love, “You’re the One” is off their album, Magic Potion; and “The Lengths” can be found on Rubber Factory.