In The Mood – House Proud, The Toronto Sun

Call Valentine’s Day a Hallmark holiday and dismiss its importance if you want, but as the old song says, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. A day dedicated to the giving and receiving of affection seems pretty harmless and positive considering what goes on elsewhere on the planet. 

Valentine’s Day decor is all about scene setting and creating a mood. The point is to make your loved one feel special. It can be a challenge when the sink is full of dishes, the children are fussing and the bathroom faucet is emitting a steady, loud drip. But if you can ignore the realities of your usual busy life for a few hours, maybe send the kids to Grandma’s, your home can become an oasis in which to celebrate your partnership.

Think of it as creating a Valentine’s “kit” with four ‘A’s: Atmosphere, Aroma, Appetite and Amore.


Harsh lighting is to romance what garlic is to vampires. If you have a fireplace, a crackling blaze in the hearth is a good start to a warm glow. If you don’t, check with your cable or satellite provider for whether they carry the Fireplace Channel — it’s all the ambience of a real fire without the ashes or smoke.

A couple of heart-shaped satin throw pillows and red roses never go out of style for making a statement about love. Or fill a large glass vessel with red cinnamon hearts and insert a smaller bud vase with a single red rose. It’s a pretty, festive decor item you can snack on later.


Pillar candles create a beautiful mood and come in so many scents that there has to be one that appeals to you. If you’re allergic or not partial to a perfumed candle, Ikea offers unscented neutral-coloured versions that complement any decorating scheme and are so reasonably priced you could afford to use dozens if you wanted to. Place them at a variety of heights, and don’t leave them unattended even if they seem to be in a safe location. A truck full of firefighters dousing your burning home is a definite mood killer.


Even though the way to a man’s (and woman’s) heart is through the stomach, I am a firm believer in the cook of the household taking the day off from making too much effort or mess. Personally, I think the best cooking utensil for special occasions is the telephone, but to each his own.

Some people prefer to demonstrate their love through their wizardry in the kitchen. If you feel you must make a dinner or treat from scratch, do as much as you can ahead of time so that you’re not exhausted from whisking when it’s time to cuddle up.


The personal bits and pieces of your plans for the evening are up to you and your loved one, but if you hope to have an expectation met, make the desire for it totally obvious. Last time I checked, the ability to read minds was still in the theoretical stage, so you have to make your wishes known. If you want to dance, make sure you have the music ready to play. If you hope to linger next to the fire, pop a clean, fuzzy rug in front of it.

Put away the BlackBerry and iPhone and shut the ringer off the house phone. Turn off the porch light. Remember that the effort to transform your home into a love nest is more important than the specific details. Have fun. Stay in the moment. And save a few cinnamon hearts for me.