Communication Styles – Little Desire to Use the Telephone, Dislike Using the Phone, or Prefer E-mail Instead

When it comes to using the telephone, some people love it and some people hate it. Truth be told, both scenarios are fairly common. Some people actually dislike using the phone so much that it may impact their relationships in one way or another. (photo courtesy of morgueFile.com)Thanks to technology these days, using the phone can often be replaced by text messaging, sending emails, and getting together in person instead.

A number of our readers recently shared their feelings on using the phone, and a number of them didn’t feel particularly fond of the telephone. Here are some thoughts and some alternatives to talking on the phone, when possible.

“I hate talking on the phone! So basically, I only call someone when I need to.  I’m not one of those girls who can sit and talk for hours nonstop on the phone.  That’s a complete waste of time to me. I’m in a serious committed relationship for years now.  I would have no idea how the calling strategies are these days in new relationships.

“I used to work as a collection agent for an engineering firm for 8 years.  I was on the phone Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. with an hour break for lunch.  I would call people to try to collect on the debts they owed.  I was hung up on, yelled at, cursed at, you name it.  I finally quit the job and decided I would never do it again.  I HATE talking on the phone.  Especially if it has to be more than a few minutes. I tend to do most of my communicating through personal contact, or text messaging, and sometimes e-mail.  So my answer to your question about my phone conversation style is, I only call when I need something or it is an emergency.”
– Tammy Marshall, CA

“I don’t really like to talk the phone.  I’m not a chatter. It seems like a waste of time. Caller ID is a must.  Unless it’s a family member I usually let the message machine get the call and return them at my leisure.
You have a much better chance getting my attention with an email as I’m at the computer most of the day.”
– Amy Stripling, AK

“I really dislike phone conversations because my voice often conveys a totally different thought than what I actually think. When I’m in a relationship, I try to stay off the phone.”
–  Kayce Crews, TN

“I’ve been married for almost fifteen years so I have no idea. I am not a phone person, I use it only when email is not an option.”
– Heather Slater, WA

“Usually when I make a new friend, our first ‘call’ is not on the phone – it’s an e-mail! This typically covers any information the other person had requested from me, like a website link. When a phone call becomes warranted, perhaps because some clarification of their request is needed, I will call within a few days of when we met. Unless my schedule is so tight that I can only take return calls at certain times, I will leave a message.

Some people actually dislike using the phone so much that it may impact their relationships in one way or another. (photo courtesy of morgueFile.com)“My phone conversation style varies depending on the circumstances. Sometimes a great deal of information needs to be exchanged, so the call will last 30 minutes or so. Other times it’s a quick ‘hi, how are you?’ and the call will be five minutes or less.”
– Jean Feingold, FL

“I will send a text then call after a few texts back and forth. I don’t leave voice mails unless I really need them to call me back for something.”
– Jennifer Tanner, GA

“I make them chase me or call me. It’s the thrill of the chase that turns men on. I will only call to return a message they left on my answering machine. I prefer quick calls. I do not like to talk on the phone. However, my friend likes to call me late at night and they go on and on! Urghhhhhhhh!”
– Marcy Lynn Strahan, TX

“I talk on the phone all day at work so when I am home I rarely talk on the phone for longer than a couple of minutes, I use the caller ID frequently.”
– Theresa Clift, OH

“My Phone Conversation Style:  I HATE talking on the phone.  It would definitely be the ONLY talk when needing something – I’d much rather just do email.”
– Shelley Krush, NV

“I am on the phone all day at work so I prefer not to talk on the phone at night unless it is my parents or a friend I have not spoken to in a while. I have to wait until it is free and clear to talk (kids are in bed) and I can have a leisurely conversation.  Otherwise I keep the conversations brief and to the point.”
– Mary Beth Isaac, NC

“Calling style: I have a phone phobia. I won’t call anybody and if I must call someone, my palms get sweaty, my hands start shaking, and my voice cracks when I try to talk. I will try to e-mail if possible. If someone calls me, I will only answer if I recognize the number. I figure, if it’s important enough, they will leave a message and call back later.”
– Alecia Gibson, MN

“In any relationship, new or not, I very rarely would be the one to initiate contact. But if I were to, the conversation would be short and to the point. I consider phone calls a necessary evil. Just the facts. The phone is just a means to set up a real meeting, in person. Or in some cases to cancel. I much prefer to see people in person because it’s easier to read them when you can see their physical reaction to what you are saying or to what they are saying. On the phone, it’s like being blind, a whole, very important sense is missing.”
– Erin Walsh

Astrology and Horoscopes in Love and Relationships – What’s Your Sign?

Explore the Zodiac’s Influence on You and Your Life

Could today be your lucky day, or would you be better off staying under your covers? Can you expect to meet the man of your dreams this month, or are you about to have a falling out with a friend or loved one? Whether you are a firm believer, a playful play-along, or a complete skeptic, astrological readings – horoscopes – have long been held as a favorite in print media and now in Web media.

Astrology focuses on the belief that stars and planets, particularly the twelve signs of the zodiac, can and do influence human lives. In astrological belief, the alignment of the planets, stars, sun, and moon at a person’s birth are said to impact his or her personality and potential for romance and wealth. Sun-sign astrology, requiring only a person’s birth date, is the form of astrology commonly used in print media.

The zodiac is divided into four elements: fire, water, earth, and air. Each sign is believed to hold its own traits, but the four different elements also share various characteristics. Fire signs are considered intuitive and inspirational, as well as positive and interested in the future. Water signs are also thought to be intuitive, but also emotional and sensitive. Earth signs are practical and stable, not to mention good with handling money. Air signs are believed to be intellectual, but also great at communication and social relationships.

FIRE – Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

WATER – Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

EARTH – Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

AIR – Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

There are plenty of arguments to support or refute the validity of astrology and the zodiac. Some people feel that astrology is just plain silly, or merely for entertainment purposes. After all, who doesn’t love reading a horoscope now and then?

Others may swear by their horoscopes on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The argument of how the moon affects the tides suggests that truth in astrology may not be that farfetched after all. Could life as we know it and the position of the stars and other cosmic bodies truly intertwine?

Still others may look down upon the zodiac. Their rational, practical sides may have them convinced that there is absolutely no truth to the words astrologers pen for the many newspapers and magazines that choose to print horoscopes.

The study of astrology and horoscopes is fascinating to say the least. Whether you believe in astrology and the zodiac or not, remember that you are responsible for your own actions. The coincidences that link your life to your horoscope may be significant. Live your life as you wish, but don’t play out every move according to the zodiac. Read your zodiac for fun or for a gentle guide now and again, but remember to be wise in your actions as you strive for your dreams and goals.

Unique, Alternative, and Outrageous Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day or Any Romantic Date Occasion

So, you’re tired of the same old dinner and a movie date for Valentine’s Day? So are we. Enjoy a special treat on Valentine's Day with your sweetheart. So we’ve scoured the Web and called upon a number of dating and lifestyles experts to help make your Valentine’s Day date planning even easier this year. Instead of a run-of-the-mill dinner and a movie date, consider these unique alternatives for the Valentine holiday or any romantic date occasion.

One thing to keep in mind as you plan your alternative Valentine’s Day date: make your significant other the focus. Plan something that you know the two of you will enjoy, or something that you’ve both never done that you can experience together. Planning a Valentine’s Day date can be a time-consuming task if you plan to go all out, but it can also be a snap if you plan to keep things simple this February 14.

“Do something original,” says Paul A. Falzone, CEO of The Right One and Together, a well-established personal introduction service. “Be yourself; cater to the unique desires of your loved one. Anything you can do to be creative and personalize the day should be attempted. Think of some of the things you discovered you both liked when you first began dating each other. Maybe you both have a passion for jazz music or crave warm brownies with ice cream at midnight. Whatever it may be, somehow work it in to the day or night. Creating a wonderful Valentine’s Day is not rocket science. By concentrating on the little things, you’ll ensure romantic fireworks.”

And just a reminder, while we’ve crafted this article with Valentine’s Day in mind, these romantic date ideas can work for just about anyone anytime. If you want to surprise your sweetheart with a romantic date for any reason or for no reason at all, consider these romantic date ideas on Valentine’s Day or all year long.

Creative, Unique, and Unusual Valentine’s Day Date Ideas
Attend a craft class or couples activity like Sips n Strokes, a bring-your-own-beverage paint class where couples can take home their masterpieces. Classes are two hours long and cost between $25 and $40. Available Sips n Strokes locations currently include Alabama, Georgia, and soon will include Tennessee. For more information, visit www.sipsnstrokes.com.

Go on a wine tasting excursion. Plan a chauffeured winery tour with some pals or fly solo with your sweetheart. Just be sure you either (a) drink in moderation for safe travels, or (b) set up transportation or a designated driver.
– Life Love Beauty

•    Buy a bird-watching guide that has local species and maps, and plan a birding expedition to a local park or bird sanctuary.
•    Pick a new sports activity — such as rock climbing, sailing, or trapeze–and take a lesson together.
•    Buy a shiatsu or Swedish massage DVD and be each other’s test subject.
•    Cook dinner together — but try a cuisine, such as Thai or Ethopian, that neither of you knows how to cook.
•    Volunteer at the local animal shelter or food pantry as a couple.
– Nicholas Aretakis, author of Ditching Mr. Wrong: How to End a Bad Relationship and Find Mr. Right (Next Stage Press, www.DitchingMr.Wrong.com)

•    Enjoy ice skating under the stars and hot chocolate.
•    Find a musical concert.
•    Hire a personal chef to make a special dinner at home.
•    Go out dancing! (I live in Washington, DC that has every dancing imaginable.
•    Take a drive to the beach and walk along the boardwalk.
– Amy Schoen, MBA, CPCC, Heartmind Connection Coaching, Life Coach and Dating/Relationship Expert, www.heartmindconnection.com

“Frankly, in the great running history of romance we all have in our heads, another action flick with a side of spaghetti doesn’t even register a blip,” says author Lisa Daily. “So whether you’re on your first date or your forty-first, pass on the popcorn, the bouquet of a dozen long stems, and the usual dinner out. Below you’ll find six dates that will get your heart pounding in more ways than one.”

•    Roller-Skating at a Roller-Skating Rink Date – Take your date back to the fifth grade—to a world where glittering disco balls, neon shoelaces, and doing the Y.M.C.A are still cool. Sure, neither one of you will be able to skate backwards, and first-graders hopped up on birthday cake will probably leave you in the dust, but at least you’ll know you’re hooked up when they turn down the lights for the “couples skate.” So geek, it’s chic.

•    Habitat for Humanity Date – You’re not just a great date; you’re a great human being! Nothing brings people close together like doing something for others. You’ll be tired; you’ll be proud; you’ll be an ace with a circular saw. For a project near you, check out www.habitat.org. The atmosphere is great; you can pack your own picnic; and you’ll both have the chance to show off your better side. Whether you help out for a single Saturday or dedicate yourself for a lifetime, it will be a date neither one of you will ever forget.

•    Ballroom Dancing Date – With the popularity of crooners on the rise, it only makes sense that ballroom dancing would be making a comeback in a huge way. It’s romantic; it’s fun; and most girls adore a guy who can really twirl them on the dance floor. Not only that, it’s a great way to get close (and get your heart pounding) in a nonthreatening way. There’s nothing that makes a woman swoon like a guy who can cut a rug. Lots of studios have beginner nights and one-time lessons; for a dance studio near you, check out DanceNet (www.havetodance.com), which offers links and info on studios in the United States and Canada.

•    The Flying Wallinskis Date – There are a bunch of new “experience” sites cropping up online, offering everything from flying-trapeze lessons, where you learn to “fly” like circus performers, to Nascar driving, where you can actually do a couple laps in a real Nascar race car, to cave exploring, where you, well, explore caves. What’s surprising is that many of the options are quite affordable (as in, under $50). Check out Wallbounce (www.wallbounce.com), Great American Days (www.greatamericandays.com), and Total Experience (www.totalexperience.ca) for an adventure near you. Offerings vary by region and season, so you never know what thrills may lie in your own backyard.

•    Horseback Riding – Pack a picnic lunch, and take advantage of a chance to slow down and enjoy the ride. Most riding stables will let you rent for an hour or a half day. We ladies love cowboys. Even if it’s temporary.

•    Book Signing Date – It’s different. It’s interesting. And it’s going on at a bookstore near you. And as long as you don’t pick a title like Twenty-Five Years of Cute Cats or Encyclopedia of Mold and Spores, your date will think you’re smart, and you’ll have something to talk about when you get coffee afterward. Most authors do book signings, but even the famous ones hardly ever draw more than
a few people (except that damned dog Mr. Winkle—his book signings usually have crowd-control personnel worthy of visiting royalty and a line of screaming fans around the block). Get your books signed (as long as you’re there, you might as well get a couple—personalized books make great holiday gifts); enjoy the discussion and the free coffee; and spend some time chatting with the author. You’ll have a souvenir from your date, and you might just start your own book club for two.
– Lisa Daily, excerpts from her new book, How to Date Like a Grown-Up, www.stopgettingdumped.com

Romantic, Sweet, and Sentimental Valentine’s Day Dates


Valentine’s Day Alternatives – Fun, Social, or Solo Activities for Singles on February 14

Regardless of your relationship status, Valentine’s Day is a great day to spend with friends and loved ones. Even if you are single on Valentine’s Day, there are a number of social and solo activities you can enjoy. As you make your plans, be sure to consider these exciting Valentine’s Day alternatives.

Experts in the fields of love and relationships have shared their favorite Valentine’s Day alternatives for singles on the feted day of love.

Valentine’s Day Alternatives for Singles Who Want to Be Social
Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, psychologist and author of ‘Dating from the Inside Out: How to Use the Law of Attraction in Matters of the Heart’ by Atria Books, suggests the following tips for things singles can do on Valentine’s Day:

1.    Go Out & Be With People: Do not sit home alone just because you’re not coupled off.  Be with the people you love like friends and family and celebrate the great support you do have that day.

2.    Give Back: Valentine’s Day is a time to be loving and generous with others.  So, it’s a terrific day to volunteer and visit the elderly who are alone or shut-ins who are homebound or chronically ill or homeless people who don’t have family around.  Love does not just have to be romantic.  Open your heart today.

3.    Go to a Single’s Event: Instead of being depressed that you don’t have a mate, do something about it. Valentine’s Day is a great day to go out because other singles might be looking too.  How romantic would it be to meet your mate on Valentine’s Day?  And even if you don’t, your actions are showing the world you are ready to attract your mate and it is just a matter of time till you do.

Solo or Social Valentine’s Day Ideas – Make Valentine’s Day a Spa Day
Sometimes some time alone to relax and rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit can be the perfect fix for Valentine’s Day as a single female. From manicures and pedicures to facials, bubble baths, and everything in between, you can pamper yourself from head to toe on Valentine’s Day. Make this Valentine’s Day all about YOU!

Of course, if you and your best girlies find yourselves single on Valentine’s Day, you can always throw a girls night in, complete with chick flicks, pints of ice cream, and at-home spa treatments. Enjoy indulging in snacks and treating yourselves to pedicures, manicures, and exotic facials.

For a perfect pampering treat that’s easy to use, check out Spa Sisters gift sets. Gather together with your single girlfriends and treat yourselves to a pampered evening. Spa Sisters gift sets contain all kinds of bath and body goodies for pampering and relaxation. For example, the Foot Folly Relaxation Set includes embroidered Chenille slippers, exfoliating foot sponge, soy foot butter, and a nail file, all in a convenient carrying case.

The Absolute Night Luxury gift set for the rejuvenated and relaxed woman contains embroidered hearts spa slippers, moisturizing lavender foot butter, dual-sided pumice stick, Vitamin E foot caviars (tiny soothing foot soak beads in lavender and chamomile), a nail file, and hydrated lip gloss, all tucked inside a handy zippered carrying case.

Spa Sister gift sets of all kinds are available, like the Sweet Body Bath Set, boasting groovy pampering products such as bubble bath potions, bath sugar cubes, moisturizing sugar body cream, foot brush with pumice stone, and more. You can select your favorite gift set for a night of personal pampering or pick out a Spa Sisters gift set for each of your gal pals and have a singles spa party.

For another luxurious spa option, consider planning a day trip to your favorite spa or an overnight trip to a hotel spa resort. Countless resorts and hotel properties have an onsite spa for the ultimate luxury and convenience. As one example, Hotel Gansevoort in New York City offers a Girls Escape Package for single girls. Women who could use a nice relaxing escape with their friends can enjoy complimentary drinks, passes to a local nightclub, and discounts at neighborhood shops and boutiques.

More Suggestions on How Singles Can Celebrate Valentine’s Day…


How to Seduce Your Man for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is almost here and many of us have yet to pick out the perfect present. Men seem to have the easy way out…buy us some chocolates, jewelry, flowers or perfume and a sappy card and we’ll be more than satisfied.

Seduce your man with these romantic tips!In my dating years, I’ve found that shopping for the man can be quite a chore… they like gadgets and gizmos, electronics and what-cha-ma-call-its for their cars, but somehow those items don’t really embody the true sentiment of Valentine’s Day. Instead, why not focus on your relationship and sexy ways you can seduce your man for Valentine’s Day?!

Whether your man enjoys or objects to the lovey-dovey holiday of St. Valentine, give him a gift he’ll remember for all time. Having a hard time thinking of something? Read on for a few interesting, creative and seductive suggestions!

Write little love notes proposing intimate things you’d like to do together. Sneak them in his coat pocket, in his gloves, in his lunch bag or somewhere in his car or anywhere he’ll be sure to find them. Once he gets home from work, he’ll be sure to take you up on your hints!

Craft a cute and clever coupon book with your sweetie in mind. Include traditional favorites like “free back massage” or “free full body massage,” relaxing options like a “hot bubble bath for two,” racy suggestions like “dessert…on you” and more risqué proposals that you come up with on your own. Remember, anything goes!

Take some naughty photos for your honey. Place a bunch of them in an unmarked envelope or craft them into a sexy calendar so he can enjoy them throughout the year.

Pick out some sexy bedroom attire in the intimates department, with him in mind. Wrap it in beautiful paper and enjoy the look of surprise and desire that lights up in his eyes when he opens your gift. Whether you select a silky chemise, sheer nightgown or another hot little number, he’s sure to be all yours tonight!

Bake him some “naughty cookies” and send them with him to work. Whatever you do, advise him that these cookies aren’t for sharing! Using a delightful sugar cookie recipe, heart-shaped cookie cutter and your own decorating skills, you’ll be able to create a tasty yet memorable gift for your special valentine. With delicious icing, be sure to write some sexy sayings on your life-size conversation hearts!

What Guys Really Want for Valentine’s Day

What do guys really want for Valentine's Day?

Whether they’ll admit it or not, most guys are pleased to receive gifts and sweet sentiments from their other half. With the holiday of love fast approaching, many women are wondering what guys really want for Valentine’s Day. A love note, a greeting card, a batch of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies – the small things often are the ones that matter most. But there are many other types of gifts guys tend to like receiving from their sweethearts.

Handmade greeting cards, Valentine’s, and love notes are among top requests from guys when it comes to Valentine’s Day gifts. For a number of guys, spending time with their significant other is the top priority.

Sergeant Neil Gussman of the National Guard wants to be home with his family for Valentine's Day 2010. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. Neil Gussman)“In addition to my day job, I am a sergeant in the Army National Guard and going to Iraq at the end of January,” says Neil Gussman of Chemical Heritage Foundation. “What I really want for Valentine’s Day is to be home with my wife for Valentine’s Day 2010.”

Editor’s Note: Neil, we wish you the safe travels and tour in Iraq and hope you come home to your family soon and definitely in time for next Valentine’s Day!

From all the guys who responded to our inquiries, we received the following tips and trends on what guys really want for Valentine’s Day:

–    Handmade greeting cards
–    Beer
–    Money / Gift Cards
–    Sex
–    Cuddling in the buff
–    Naughty pictures
–    Handwritten love notes
–    CD of songs
–    Dinner and a movie
–    A day trip somewhere you’d both enjoy

Despite the above ideas of what guys really want for Valentine’s Day, some men still hold out that they don’t want or need any gifts at all. In this case, we’d recommend making a point to spend some extra time together or do something together that you both enjoy.

Your Valentine’s Day gift needn’t cost money or take a lot of time to plan. You can do something as simple as cooking a meal together or snuggling up on your sofa to watch a movie. If you can get out of the house and experience something together like a trip to the park or a museum or any other date activity that also makes a nice gift without the wrapping. Spending time together is a precious gift that doesn’t have a price tag.

No Playing Games in Relationships – Call as Often as You Want and Let the Person Know How You Feel

While everyone has his or her own different perspective and attitude going into a new relationships, many people find that honesty and being himself or herself are the best policies. Call as often as you like in relationships and show yourself for who you are. (Photo courtesy of morgueFile)Playing games in a relationship could include having a strategy, employing dating tactics, or playing hard to get when getting to know someone.

For someone to get to know you for who you really are, avoiding these games and tactics may be the best way to proceed in a new relationship. Of course, personality characteristics such as being shy or being especially flirtatious or outgoing may aid in your interactions with a love interest in a new relationship.

Consider these tips from our readers as you prepare to move into a new relationship. Communication in a new relationship is vital to establishing a good foundation and getting to know each other. So be brave, be yourself, and get to know your new significant other and let him or her get to know you, too!

“I call, leave messages, and text whenever I want to: I want my partner to know exactly how I feel about them. What is your phone conversation style: I prefer not to talk when in public, so it’s only when I need something. However, if I have privacy, I can talk forever!”
– James Edward Anderson, NY

“I’m married but I’m not into calling I wait till they call, if I do call I leave a message because I hate when people call me and hang up.  I guess I’m not into games.  If I like them I let them know, its always worked for me.  If I need to call them for some reason I do. I like quick calls, don’t want to bother anyone.  Except for friends and family who all live far away.”
– Amy Lutz, NM

“In a new relationship, I arrange a day and time to call, and I call then. If the person I’m calling doesn’t answer, I leave a brief message. I don’t call again because the other person knew when I’d be calling, so barring something really important, he should have been there to take my call if he wanted to talk to me. If he calls me back, I don’t ask him 20 questions about why he wasn’t there to take my call, because I’m an adult and assume he is, too.

“Generally, my phone style is brief and to the point; I really don’t like “visiting” on the phone. I know that others like it, though, so I’m fine with staying on the phone for a while.”
– Deb Rosen, WV

“I have no strategy.”
– Brian Grasso, CA

“We’ve all heard about the man or woman who just came on too strong…  and we’re each a little afraid of ever receiving that “desperate” stamp on foreheads because of seeming too clingy.  Right?  Well it shouldn’t be that way, it’s really a silly fear to have.  The greatest pleasure that being in love can bring to our lives is that we don’t have to be ruled by our inhibitions and timeframes, we can just be ourselves and be happy.

“I simply do what my heart tells me to do, it’s really as simple as that.  I have *NO* “calling stategy” in a relationship and I really don’t think anyone else should have one either…  the mere phrase – calling strategy – implies “PLAYER!” and that’s something we’d all like to avoid.  Would you like to call your new significant other?  Call them!  If after hanging up you’d like to call them right back because it thrills you just to talk to them…  do it!  If you’d like to send a text every few hours just to be sure you’re on their mind, do it!  Want to send five texts in a row?  Go for it!  Be yourself and keep it real, and if the other person isn’t keeping it just as real as you are then perhaps they’d be better off with another player just like they are because YOU are no player…  you’re real…  right?  RIGHT??

“The only rule anyone should ever follow is this:
If you aren’t so crazy about the person that you can’t resist maintaining frequent contact with them, then find someone you ARE that crazy about because everyone deserves to feel passionate about the person in their life…  if you don’t, something isn’t right!  And needless to say, if your passion for someone isn’t reciprocated… keep moving until it is!

“There are more than enough players out there in the sea of singles, so please people…  don’t add to their numbers by using a “calling strategy”.  Be real or be nothing.”  =)
– Stephen Saunders, VA

Host a Single and Loving It Valentine’s Day Party with Recipes for Party Food

In case you haven’t noticed lately, Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovers. Valentine’s Day is a wonderful excuse to pamper yourself or to celebrate with friends, indulging in things you might otherwise save for a special occasion. If you are single, celebrate yourself on Valentine's Day! (Photo courtesy of morgueFile.com)Celebrating a singles Valentine’s Day is a great way to have fun and join in the excitement of the feted February 14.

If you are single this Valentine’s Day, why not throw a Singles Party to celebrate and socialize with your pals? You can keep your Singles Party for just the girls, just the guys, or coed, depending on your preference. You can cook a gourmet meal, complete with appetizers, and then finish it off with dessert, music, dancing, cocktails, the works. Your imagination is your only limitation here, friends!

Your best bet would be to plan a little bit ahead of time and ask each of your guests to pick up a few ingredients at the store so that you can all cook together and then enjoy the fruits of your efforts. To follow are a number of special recipes from Celebrity Chef Todd English

How to Throw a Singles Party
If you and your pals want to celebrate being single on Valentine’s Day, why not?! It is the perfect occasion to recognize your status and availability, but more importantly your choice and your freedom. You can gather with your friends to throw a “Single and Loving It Party”, as recommended by Lavalife, a top Web site for online dating. Lavalife recommends gathering with friends and co-singles to throw a “Single and Lovin’ it” Valentine’s Day bash.

To make the most of your singles Valentine’s Day activity, consider creating some of Celebrity Chef Todd English’s delicious recipes, including: Artichoke Guacamole, Fried Oysters, Shrimp Tacos, and the famous Olives Crab Cakes.

“I normally like to give my party guests a wide selection of small bites to enjoy while they socialize,” says Chef Todd English.  “I like to put a twist on traditional favorites- such as my artichoke guacamole- to get the crowd buzzing.  I make it a point to ensure that all the food is bite-size and not too messy.”

Consider these fabulous recipes from Celebrity Chef Todd English:

Artichoke Guacamole Recipe

Artichoke guacamole is best served as a condiment, scooped onto crostini or grilled chicken, steak, or salmon.

MAKES ABOUT 1 and 1/2 CUPS

6 large fresh, frozen, or canned artichoke bottoms, including stem except for ½ inch
1/2  small red onion, finely chopped
1 large beefsteak tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup chopped scallions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2  teaspoon black pepper

Place the artichoke bottoms in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the artichokes are very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain.   When they are cool enough to handle, finely chop the artichokes and place in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the onion, tomato, lemon juice, olive oil, sesame oil, scallions, cilantro, salt and pepper and gently mash with a fork.

Fried Oysters Recipe

1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs or 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour and
1 tablespoon stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2  cup olive oil
24 oysters, freshly shucked (see above)

Beat the buttermilk, eggs, and mint together in a small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in another bowl.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and when it is hot, add the oil. When the oil is very hot, dip the oysters, a few at a time, in the egg mixture and then in the bread crumbs and gently place in the oil. Fry the oysters in batches, making sure the oil is hot prior to each addition, until they are golden brown, about 1 and 1/2 minutes per side. Drain well on paper towels. Serve immediately.

12 Shrimp Tacos Recipe

36 6/8 size shrimp (large)
12 cloves garlic peeled
3 cups olive oil
1/4 cup fresh oregano
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
3 whole jalepenos
Puree all ingredients into a marinade.  Pour over shrimp and refrigerate for 2 hours

2 heads iceberg lettuce
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Finely shred the lettuce and toss with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

12 flour tortillas
extra virgin olive oil to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkle tortillas with oil, salt and pepper.  Grill 1 minute on each side.

2 large heirloom tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Finely dice the tomatoes and toss with oil, salt and pepper

Cook shrimp 3 minutes per side.  Assemble tortillas with 3 shrimp each, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, guacamole.

Crab Cakes and Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipes…


Dinner and a Movie Date Alternative – Cooking a Meal Together for Valentine’s Day

Sometimes the same old thing can be a comfortable and relaxing thing. But sometimes it just gets even older. In truth, the dinner and a movie date is a classic, and it really never could go completely out of style – even for Valentine’s Day. It’s a great standby and a wonderful evening out – but sometimes you and your sweetheart may feel the urge to do something besides dinner and a movie. And Valentine’s Day is an excellent time to take that plunge.

Instead of heading to the cinema and a nearby restaurant for Valentine’s Day this year, why not go for a spinoff celebration of love? We’re talking about a romantic evening cooking dinner together. What’s more fun than getting a little messy in the kitchen with your loved one?

To start, the two of you could take a trip to the market and select fresh ingredients – main course, vegetables, cheese, seasonings, etc. Then, when you get home, don aprons and let the fun really begin!

Celebrity Chef Todd English has partnered with Lavalife, a leader in the singles industry, to create Valentine’s Day recipes for couples who are seeking more than just dinner and a movie this Valentine’s Day. Chef English recommends “creating some steam at home by making Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread, Spaghetti with Truffle Mascarpone, and who could forget the ultimate aphrodisiac, Oysters!”

A Romantic Dinner For Two at Home

Chef English and Lavalife recommend making delicious dishes for two, including: Baked Oysters, Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread, Spaghetti with Truffle Mascarpone, and Fallen Chocolate Cake.

“Oysters are an aphrodisiac and this dish is a great way to start the evening,” Chef English says. “I think that the Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread is a fun dish to make together. Pizza is very interactive and this recipe puts an upscale twist on a traditional favorite. The best way to end an evening is with chocolate.  The falling chocolate cake with raspberry sauce is a sexy dessert that can be shared with one spoon.”

Chef English recommends the following recipes that you and your sweetheart can cook together at home for Valentine’s Day:

Baked Oysters Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:
10 Each Wellfleet oysters
Kosher salt as needed
4 oz. Mascarpone
2 TBS. Shredded Radicchio
1 TBS. Balsamic vinegar
1 Tsp. Chopped scallions
1 oz. Heavy cream

Directions:
First shuck the oysters opening each one, discard the top half of the shell and keep the oysters on the half shell.  Layer the bottom of a baking pan heavily with kosher salt.  Place the oysters on the salt pressing them down so they are sturdy.  Put aside and start the stuffing.  Place the mascarpone, Radicchio, balsamic, scallions, and cream in a mixing bowl.  Mix ingredients together well.  Evenly place all of the filling on the oysters.  Bake in a 425-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the top is brown.  Remove from the baking pan and serve immediately.

Copyright: Todd English

Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread Recipe

Flatbread dough
Makes four 8- to 10-inch flatbreads

**You can pick up fresh pizza dough at your local bakery or grocery store as an alternative to making the flatbread from scratch.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
2 teaspoons (¼ ounce) fresh yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 & 2/3 cups lukewarm water

Directions:
Place the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a mixer fitted with a dough hook.  While the mixer is running, gradually add the oil and water.  Kneed on low speed until the dough is firm and smooth, about 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into four balls, about 7 & 1/2 ounces each.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Place two balls on a sheet and cover with a damp towel.  Let them rise in a warm spot until they have doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

To roll out the dough:  Dab your fingers in flour and then place 1 ball on a generously floured work surface and press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand.  When the dough ha s doubled in width, use a floured rolling pin and roll out until it is very thin, like flatbread.  The outer border should be a little thicker than the inner circle.  Pick the dough up with a spatula or the back of a knife, allowing it to fold up almost like an umbrella and transfer it to a paddle.  Do not worry that the dough is not round; you are looking for an 8- to 10-inch shape, a cross between an oval and a rectangle.  If you get a hole, simply pinch the edges back together.  Repeat with the remaining balls and proceed with the following recipe.

Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread  
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:
2 flatbreads (see above recipe)
Cornmeal for sprinkling
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 pinches kosher salt
2 pinches black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup Fig Jam
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled into pea-sized pieces
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 scallion, thinly sliced lengthwise, for garnish

Directions:
One hour prior to cooking, place a baking stone in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees.

Roll out 1 flatbread dough as thinly as possible.  Place it on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal.  Cover the surface with 1 teaspoon oil, ¼ teaspoon minced garlic, 1 pinch each salt and pepper, and ½ teaspoon chopped rosemary.  Be sure to leave an outer lip of 1 inch all the way around.
Evenly dot ¼ cup Fig Jam and 2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese on the flatbread.  Top with half the prosciutto.  Shake the paddle lightly and slide the flatbread onto the baking stone.  Bake until browned, about 6 to 7 minutes.  Transfer to a firm surface and cut into slices.
Serve immediately, garnished with half the sliced scallion.
Repeat with the remaining dough.

*A pizza or baking pan may be used instead of a baking stone.

Spaghetti with Truffle Mascarpone Recipe or Fresh Margherita Pizza Recipe

Express Your Love on Valentine’s Day and All Year Long

February 14th – a day of love, lust, or loneliness – characterized by some as a “Hallmark Holiday,” by others as the most romantic day of the year – is surely a love it or hate it holiday. Show your love how you feel all throughout the year! (Photo courtesy of Jane M. Sawyer.)But the truth of the matter is that the feelings many share on St. Valentine’s Day can and should be expressed all throughout the year.

Here you can learn about Valentine’s Day and a few tips on expressing your feelings now and all throughout the year. Whether you love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is here to stay, so you might as well make the best of it!

Show your love how you feel all throughout the year! (Photo courtesy of Jane M. Sawyer.)As its origin is veiled by mystery, Valentine’s Day is not as easily defined as Christmas, Easter, or most other holidays. Several legends contend for the actual namesake of this passionate holiday, yet Valentine’s Day itself has been a recognized celebration of love and adoration for as long as any can remember.

Today, billions of wallets become thinner as countless greeting cards, flowers and chocolates are purchased for loved ones in honor of the nationally proclaimed day of love. Day of love… why compress all of our sentiment into one single day and not 365 days, or 366 in leap year’s case?

 

Couples who share that special connection hopefully express their love for each other every day of the year. One year I felt as if I were betraying womankind, when I wrote in my sweetheart’s Valentine card: “I don’t need a special holiday to tell you how much you mean to me or how much I love you.” The funny thing was that he said he had been thinking about expressing the same to me, but felt bad doing so on Valentine’s Day.

Whether you have a special someone or not, Valentine’s Day is not and should not be your only chance at expressing how you feel about someone. Unattached but intrigued by someone? Slipping a secret admirer note never goes out of style. It plays up the mysterious thrill while also giving you control of the situation—and you don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day to let this person know someone is thinking of them!

For those of you with blissful romance already in bloom, you likely know that even the smallest amorous gestures keep the passion alive all year long. I love to slip little love notes in places where my sweetheart will find them when he least expects it. Putting a smile on someone’s face is an invaluable expression of your feelings for them.

Show your romantic side! (Photo courtesy of Andrea Church.)You may already be engaging in romantic behaviors without realizing it. Pet names for each other- honey, baby, sweetheart, darling-express an intimacy that you share with your partner alone. Do you ever see something in the store that you know they would absolutely love, and pick it up as a surprise? Bake special goodies or meals, keep a picture in your wallet or at work, or call just to say they were on your mind?

We often share our affection with our mates subconsciously. In other words, we are so in tune with our emotions that we don’t even think about how we act. It eventually comes as second nature when we do those meaningful little things to let our partners know how we feel time and time again.

Most likely, you have your own way of expressing your feelings in your relationship, thus keeping the spirit of Valentine’s Day alive all year. And to be honest, that will only help your relationship to flourish and grow!

Things you can do to keep your love alive all year long:

• Call at random, just to say they were on your mind or you miss them.

• Surprise them with love notes or send a love letter through the mail if you do not live together.

• Do things together that are not customary. Find new places to go together… a playground, a pumpkin patch, the zoo, the park…

• Be supportive of each other—be a good listener and know that you have a shoulder to cry on, too.

• Don’t just think about how much you care about your partner—tell him or her. Sharing your emotions verbally can strengthen your relationship.

Romantic Things to Do for Your Sweetheart on Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day being the feted day of love, it’s the perfect time to do sweet, romantic, and wonderful things for the one you love. Valentine's Day = romantic time with your sweetheart (photo courtesy of morgueFile.com)You can plan an exciting or romantic date for your sweetheart, set up a special night alone together at your home, or simply do sweet things throughout the day.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day – or any special day with your sweetheart, for that matter – place some extra time and thought into your plans. Keep your sweetheart and his or her favorite things in the forefront of your mind as you craft a special and memorable Valentine’s Day together. Valentine’s Day offers couples an automatic date night, so why not make the most of it?

Paul A. Falzone, CEO of The Right One and Together, a well-established personal introduction service, suggests doing something original for Valentine’s Day that your sweetheart will be sure to remember. “Creating a wonderful Valentine’s Day is not rocket science,” he says. “By concentrating on the little things, you’ll ensure romantic fireworks.”

Sweet and Romantic Things to Do for Your Sweetheart on Valentine’s Day or Any Day
Falzone suggests these sweet and romantic things that you can do for your sweetheart or with your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day or for any romantic reason:

•    Wake your partner with fresh brewed coffee and breakfast, at the table or in bed.

•    Burn a CD of his/her favorite songs.

•    Start your sweetie’s car on a cold morning or, better yet, clean it for him or her.

•    Open doors for your love and help him/her carry briefcase or other belongings.

•    Write a poem or love letter to your significant other.

•    Arouse your lover’s attention by sending a gift basket of lotions and potions to her/him at work.

•    Leave your sweetheart a romantic voice or text message on his/her cell phone.

•    Bring home a movie, whether romance, comedy or something more feisty, that you know you will both enjoy.

•    Serve your sweetie their favorite home cooked meal complete with candlelight and his/her favorite, scrumptious dessert.

•    Turn the lights down, light some candles, put on some mood music and slow dance.

•    Find “your song” on the Internet and e-mail the MP3 file to your special someone.

•    Craft a romantic note (dab with your cologne) and slip into his/her jacket pocket.

•    Run a bath for your love, complete with scented oils and candlelight.

•    Give him/her a massage.

•    Do your partner’s daily chores (i.e., walk the dog, empty the dishwasher, pick up the dry-cleaning, etc.).

•    If you have children, take them out for an hour or so to give your partner some quiet time.

•    Open a bottle of champagne or offer delectable chocolates (a known aphrodisiac).

•    Do you sing or play an instrument?  Serenade your love.

•    Place a single red rose on his/her pillow.

•    Hug and kiss your Valentine.

About the Expert:
Paul A. Falzone has helped hundreds of singles find a sweetheart. The Right One and Together Dating and Singles Station affiliate comprise more than 300,000 members at over 50 locations throughout North America, as the largest brick and mortar dating services in the industry. For more information about Together Dating and The Right One, please visit online at www.togetherdating.com and www.therightone.com.

Valentine’s Day Date Ideas on a Shoestring Budget

With the unsteady economy and many people switching over to “save” mode, planning holidays like Valentine’s Day on a shoestring budget is probably a wise decision for many people. A romantic picnic is a great idea for a low budget Valentine's Day date. (photo courtesy of morgueFile.com)But just because you cut your spending back for Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you can’t still have a special and romantic date together.

With a little creativity, you can discover countless romantic, exciting, and memorable ways to spend your Valentine’s Day with your significant other, even on a shoestring budget. Open your mind to the possibilities and you’ll probably be surprised with the great Valentine’s Day date ideas you find or create.

Whether you have a little bit of money to spend or nothing at all, don’t give up. You can still have a fabulous Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart. Consider these low budget date ideas – and free date ideas – for Valentine’s Day dates on a shoestring budget.

Stacy Francis, president of Francis Financial, Inc. and founder of Savvy Ladies® (a nonprofit group dedicated to empowering women through financial education) is well versed in money smarts and financial issues, and she doesn’t hesitate to share her tips with consumers.

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday of love – Valentine’s Day – Stacy Francis shares her favorite romantic date ideas on a shoestring budget below. These Valentine’s Day date ideas originally appeared in her article, “Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day without Breaking the Bank.”

Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day without Breaking the Bank
Stacy Francis shares these tips below for a low budget or a free Valentine’s Day date. Keep in mind, some of these Valentine’s Day Date ideas may depend on the weather and the climate where you live. If you live up north and it is cold outside, for example, you may not want to be outside for an extended period of time. Check out these budget friendly Valentine’s Day date ideas or come up with your own!

Free Valentine’s Day Date Ideas:
•    Pick wildflowers together.

•    Go for a bike ride, hike, or run together.

•    Browse in a bookstore together.

•    Read aloud to each other from a favorite novel, poem or short story.

•    Go to a playground and play on the swings.

Low Budget Valentine’s Day Date Ideas:
•    Eat a simple, nutritious dinner at home, and then go out for a truly decadent dessert.

A romantic picnic is a great idea for a low budget Valentine's Day date. (photo courtesy of morgueFile.com)•    Pack a picnic lunch and go to the park or the zoo.

•    Take a class together in something fun and creative: glass blowing, pottery, drawing, creative writing, or photography.

•    Attend a local high school or college sports game.

•    Take a road trip to a nearby town, or even another neighborhood in your own city. Stroll around, talk with locals, have a drink at a local café.

•    Attend a theater performance put on by your local college or community group.

•    Go to a flea market or garage sale.

•    Attend a local lecture on a subject of interest to both of you.

•    Send the kids out to someone else’s house and stay in and cook together.

•    Have a water balloon fight in the park.
About the Expert:
Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA is an expert in the financial field. She offers tips on money smarts and financial issues as a speaker and an expert resource. Learn more about Stacy Francis online at www.francisfinancial.com and www.savvyladies.org.