Soon, the holiday that strikes fear and intimidation into millions of hearts will be here. That’s right: Valentine’s Day is around the corner, with all of the stress it brings. If you have been in a long-term relationship, you’ve probably already mastered the many stages of “what is the appropriate – and anticipated – way in which to show your special someone you care?” Who knew this holiday would be so complicated?

Well, here’s the deal: a simple concept has blossomed into an EVENT not to be ignored! Did you know that a record number of newly dating couples break up during the month of January, in large part because the pressure of expectations for Valentine’s Day becomes overwhelming? Lots of these couples get back with one another in the early spring, so it’s not difficult to identify the cause for the pause.

Here’s a thought: take the burden off of yourself and your sweetheart by agreeing to keep it simple and very personal this Valentine’s Day. There really is no need for spending lots of money for flowers, jewelry, golf clubs and the like, so long as you are ready for the challenge of creating a gift that will be memorable and will demonstrate the love behind it.

Gifts for Him or Her

Let’s start with the easy ones, that also taste great. How about some red velvet pancakes for breakfast? Perhaps served with bacon rosebuds? Yes, these recipes and techniques are available online. You can make quite an impression without an enormous amount of effort, and at little cost. Or, you can bake up some red velvet cupcakes or brownies for your Valentine, or your kids.

If you get a head start now, you can make delicious flavored vodkas or liqueurs to sip on Valentine’s evening. What could be more romantic than something you made – and thought about so far in advance – to share with your sweetie?

If your Valentine loves flowers, consider making origami flowers, that last and last. Don’t you think you’d score some major points teaching yourself how to make a bouquet? The internet takes you step by step, and even if the result is less than perfect, the thought and effort make up for it. Or, if your Valentine likes perfume or cologne, consider visiting a shop where you can create your own custom scent; every time it’s used, it will be a reminder of your love.

Sure Winners

Make a photo memory book featuring your favorite photos of times you’ve spent together. What a wonderful reminder of special times!

Have your Valentine’s favorite album or CD cover reproduced as a poster or a framed photo for the wall.

Write a love letter or poem by hand on some lovely stationery; it will become an instant keepsake.

Make your Valentine the recipient of the Love Letter of the Month Club, and be sure to deliver a new love letter on the 14th of every month for a year.

Don’t forget Love Coupons -promises to be delivered. They can be for almost anything you know your Valentine would like: a foot massage, a neck rub, folding laundry, giving the kids their baths.

Go over the top, and present a Love Coupon for that major task you’ve been putting off, but that you know he or she really wants: “By March 14th, I will reorganize the garage!” Or, perhaps: “By Feb. 28th, I’ll get an offsite storage unit for all of my crafting supplies, so we have our guest room back!” Then, make sure you make good on the promise!

Fun for the Kids

If you are trying to limit the amount of candy you want your kiddos to have, popcorn is great! Pop up a big bagful, put it in a cellophane or plastic bag, toss in a handful of red and pink candies, tie it up with a red bow and you’ve got a great treat. If candy IS an option, buy some Hershey bars and remove the outer paper wrappers. Then use your color printer to make custom wrappers, with your little one’s photo or images of a favorite toy and lots of hearts on it, and rewrap the customized candy bars.

A really easy gift for the kids is to go to your local paint or hardware store and get some red or pink paint chips – the strips of heavy paper that show multiple paint shades. Get a heart shaped hole punch at your local craft store, and punch a heart in each color block, then tie a thin ribbon to the top of the strip and you have an instant bookmark.

It’s the Thought That Counts!

If indeed this is true, why not decide that this year, you’re going to show it. And you’re going to make it personal and meaningful for your Valentine. I think you’ll be surprised at how well your efforts will be received. Because, let’s face it – anyone can BUY a gift!