From Chocolate Truffles to Chocolate Martini - Chocolate Rules !

Ever have a "I want chocolate now" moment? Yup almost all of us have had one. And as the Holidays approach you will start having more and more of those moments, cause chocolate is everywhere. Advertisers and manufacturers have gone crazy naming and associating their products with chocolate - the Honda CRAVE, LG Chocolate phone etc

One of the more decadent of chocolates are the soft Chocolate Truffles - chocolate truffles are made with a chocolate ganache center coated in chocolate or cocoa powder, and are usually spherical.

Put "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you'll get one thing done.

But my recent indulgence.... THE CHOCOLATE MARTINI

A great indulgence after a long week of healthy eating and a sweat dripping exercise schedule !

Here is one recipe that rocks !

CHOCOLATE MARTINI

1 1/2 shots chocolate liqueur
1 1/2 shots creme de cacao
1/2 shot vodka
2 1/2 shots half-and-half

Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and pour into a chilled martini glass. Enjoy.....slowly !

You've Been Booed !!! Start the tradition in your neighborhood



Have you ever been BOOED? Welcome to the wonderful world of BOO-ing. What is is you ask?

Well it is secretly leaving small gift baskets, a BOO poem, BOO instructions and a BOO sign at a neighbor's door. Once you have been booed then its your turn to BOO 2 more people. In some parts of the US it is also called "ghosting"

Get everyone in the fun spirit and get booing ! Well, BOO someone this year...A friend, neighbor or even an online buddy !

Fill a basket or even a colorful paper bag with Halloween knick-knacks and Halloween candy. Then print out this free printable Halloween BOO poem below, you'll be ready to BOO ! someone in your neighborhood !

Did you know that October 16th, Boss's Day was officially proclaimed in Illinois?

Patricia Bays Haroski of Deerfield, Illinois registered National Boss's Day with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1958. She was working as a secretary for State Farm Insurance Company at the time and chose October 16th, because it was the birthday of her boss, who happened to be her father. Just four short years later, in 1962, Illinois Governor Otto Kerner backed Patricia’s registration and officially proclaimed the day.

So how many of you have thanked your boss today? :)

National Boss's Day is usually celebrated by presenting one's boss with a small gift or greeting card. It is also customary to treat one's boss with extreme kindness, very similar to a birthday.
But how many of you feel the need to do so ? Come on really !

Here is a great book for your boss to make life fun at work for you !

''Fun Works -- Creating Places Where People Love to Work'' by Leslie Yerkes.
Help your boss make work fun for both of you. This new book dives deep into the work ethic mindsets that trap us into thinking fun is at best an add-on to the work day. The author offers lots of fun examples of real companies that make fun work. She also explains the how and why of integrating fun into your workplace. Order from Amazon.com for just $13.27.

Halloween....What is it and How to celebrate?

Halloween originated under the name of Samhain as a Pagan festival among the Celts of Ireland and Great Britain.




Halloween, or Hallowe'en, is a holiday celebrated on the night of October 31st. Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, costume parties, viewing horror films, visiting "haunted houses", and participating in traditional autumn activities such as hayrides (which may have "haunted" themes).






Halloween has become a major folk holiday in the US and Canada. "Trick or Treaters" go from door to door and collect candies, apples and other goodies. Hallmark Cards reports that 65% of Americans will decorate their homes and offices for Halloween. This percentage is exceeded only by Christmas.






Here are the top few things to do on Halloween according to the Michigan Journal article from 2006...modified





  • Be 'old school' and go trick-or-treating! Wear a mask to disguise your age or take a kid along so that no one refuses to give you candy. !


  • Party at one of the many nightclubs....theyb have Halloween specials


  • Be a good mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or neighbor and take your kids out trick-or-treating - and let them have first dibs on the candy for once.


  • Invite your friends over for a scary movie marathon - "Friday the 13th," "Jason," "Leprechaun in Space" - you know, the classics.


  • Carve pumpkins.


  • Hit a haunted house or corn maze! It tends to be a frightful, yet fun, experience for all.


  • Put on the scariest thing you can find, preferably something kids are familiar with (Freddy), and go around your neighborhood jumping out at them from behind bushes and cars.

Order a Halloween Gift Basket for your kids, grandkids or friends !



THE 3 MOST POPULAR WEDDING FAVORS

With the wedding season in full swing it is time to check on what is hot in "Wedding Favors" this season. Wedding favors are a great way to thank your guests for attending while giving them something to remember the day by. Many young couples are also opting to go a step further and choosing favors that reflect their personality.



But the 3 hottest Wedding favors this season are :

WEDDING FAVORS

1. Personalized Wedding Favor Ribbons are still the hottest item ! they can be used to personalize any gift item that the bride and groom want to give their guests. Personalized ribbons are fun as they can be personalized with the bride and groom's names and wedding date. Wedding favor ribbons can match the colors of the wedding and can be made with any width of ribbon. The most popular still being the 3/8th inch satin ribbon.

2. Personalized Favor Boxes filled with none other than - yes - you guessed it right - Jordan almonds. Guests also have come to expect the colorful pastel Jordan almonds.



These favor boxes made to look like a cake can be personalized with the ribbon and you can add any candy you desire. A great buy ! Also a fabulous presentation !

3. Tie between Mint Tins and Chocolates These 2 wedding favors are still very popular and do not break the bank. "Heart-shaped chocolates are the most popular," says Godiva's Grace Yu, who recommends two or four hearts in boxes tied with ribbons printed with the couple's name.

The key to making a simple favor elegant and memorable lies in the presentation, so be creative. Homemade is the new craze. Yes, we at Elegantly Expressed do a lot of Wedding Favors throughout the season and year round. But keep it simple.

Graduation Gift Ideas !


Graduates are ready to tackle the world...the REAL WORLD !
It is very important to set the stage for their continued success.
Graduation gifts can range from practical ones like gift cards to lavish ones like iPods, Zunes, cars etc.

Many young graduates look forward to receiving just money as graduation gifts. When I asked a few high school graduates - my daughter's friends - they all said that they would prefer gift cards from their favorite stores or money.

But they also said that if the person giving the gifts knows them well then it would be great to receive a gift - like maybe a gift basket filled with things that love. Graduates can be easily disappointed and therefore it is imperative that you know the person well enough to indulge in a gift basket.

Here are some great words that you can put on the gift card with your Congratulations Gift Basket !

Congratulations graduate, for making it this far!
You make us very proud, of the person you are !

There's a bright future ahead, you can look forward to !
Trust you'll take the right road, whatever you plan to do !

Good wishes for a future, with lots of success !
Want to wish you the best, for a future of happiness !

Congratulations on one of your best moments!
Stunning performance!
Sheer perfection!
This calls for a celebration!
Let's celebrate!
Congratulations - you did it!
Hip, Hip, Hooray!
Congratulations and best wishes!
A standing ovation for you!

Elegantly Expressed Gift Baskets
Memorable Gifts . . . Lasting Impressions !

A Gift Of Thanks To Our Soldiers !

If you go to the website LetsSayThanks.com you can pick out a thank you card that Xerox will print and send to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq.

You can't choose who gets it, but it will go to a member of the U.S. armed services.
How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!

History of the UK Mother's Day


Picture 010
Originally uploaded by ShellieJ.
Mothering Sunday has been celebrated in the UK on the fourth Sunday in Lent since at least the 16th century. For a long time, it has been a day for giving thanks for all the things our mothers do for us. Mothering Sunday is always the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Why is Mothering Sunday on different days each year?

Mothering Sunday is not a fixed day because it is always the middle Sunday in Lent (which lasts from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter Sunday).

The History behind Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday was also known as 'Refreshment Sunday' or 'Mid-Lent Sunday'. It was often called Refreshment Sunday because the fasting rules for Lent were relaxed, in honour of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, a story in the Christian Bible.

Chiddingstone Church

No one is absolutely certain exactly how the idea of Mothering Sunday began, but it's known that on this day, about four hundred years ago, people who lived in little villages made a point of going not to their local church but to the nearest big church. To what was called the Mother Church. And some would go to the nearest city to worship in the cathedral.

People who visited their mother church would say they had gone "a mothering." Young English girls and boys 'in service' were only allowed one day to visit their family each year. This was usually Mothering Sunday. Often the housekeeper or cook would allow the maids to bake a cake to take home for their mother. Sometimes a gift of eggs; or flowers from the garden (or hothouse) was allowed. Flowers were traditional, as the young girls and boys would have to walk home to their village, and could gather them on their way home.

In recent times Mothering Sunday has in Britain taken on the name and character of the US Mothers' Day. The original meaning of Mothering Sunday in England has been largely lost. Mothers Day in America is a fixed date and does not change from year to year like Mothering Sunday does in England.

Simnel cake

The food item specially associated with Mothering Sunday is the Simnel cake. A Simnel cake is a fruit cake with two layers of almond paste, one on top and one in the middle. The cake is made with 11 balls of marzipan icing on top representing the 11 disciples. (Judas is not included.) Traditionally, sugar violets would also be added.

Why Simnel?

The name Simnel probably comes from the Latin word simila which means a fine wheat flour usually used for baking a cake. There's a legend that a man called Simon and his wife Nell argued over whether the cake for Mothering Sunday should be baked or boiled. In the end they did both, so the cake was named after both of them: SIM-NELL.

Mother's Day 2007 is Sunday, May 13th - Get Fit Gifts For Her !


This special day provides the perfect opportunity to lavish special attention on the woman who brought you into this world.

Mother's Day also gives husbands a chance to show their appreciation to their hard-working wives. Why not honor the occasion with a thoughtful and unique Mother's Day gift? A traditional item like a fragrant bouquet is lovely, but she'll be surprised and delighted if you present her with something unexpected and unique for Mother's Day 2007.

Instead of giving a pyramid of chocolate, a gift basket of tempting treats (Call us 847-277-1483 if you want to order one anyway !) or a bottle of bubbly this year, why not be different? Give your mom a health kit to get ready for the summer.

With so many inexpensive or low-cost fitness products available, it’s easy to combine several items into a customized Get-Fit Gift Basket.

Here are 2 ideas that will get you excited about Mother's Day !

For a mom who loves to work out....Why not give a ‘home gym in a bag’?


  1. free weights
  2. a jump rope
  3. resistance bands
  4. a yoga mat
  5. a heart rate monitor
  6. sport drinks
  7. protein bars
  8. a few ice packs for achy and strained muscles

A Mom who likes to run, hike or bike....Why not give a "get going to fun places back pack" ?

  1. a pedometer
  2. a mix cd
  3. socks
  4. hats
  5. compass or hand held GPS
  6. first aid kits
  7. travel books on the best hiking spots

Quote : The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. --Henry Ward Beecher

What kinds of closing gifts do realtors give?

Many real estate agents, realtors and real estate companies give closing gifts to their clients when a property has been sold to them. This is a way to show thanks and also show ongoing support for the future. You never know when a past client will have need of your services again, after all. It’s a good idea to let your clients know that you value their business and don’t hesitate to show that in the form of respect and service as well as hospitality. The real estate closing gift is a version of this type of hospitality that will make your clients feel right at home.



The simplest real estate closing gifts are gift baskets that include items for a new home or office. These may include household items and/or certificates for services that new homeowners may need. You can find all types of home warming gift baskets that make great real estate closing gifts.

Other items that make nice real estate closing gifts are a bottle of champagne presented in a nice basket or gift container of some sort. Paperweights and ceramic or crystal vases make appropriate office real estate closing gifts. As does any type of large decorative bowl.

Some real estate agents may even give a nice basket with an informational packet about the local schools, hospitals and clinics as well as information about the local shopping stores. This type of gift basket could also include coupons and gift certificates to various stores in the area.

According to the survey conducted in 2003 by Realtor Magazine, 49% gave flowers, 43% gave gift baskets, 39% gave personalized home accessories, 32% gave distilled liquor, champagne, wine, cordials or liqueurs and 26% gave food or sweets. On an average realtors spend an average of $54.20 per business or closing gift.

Missing your College Student?...Send him/her a CARE PACKAGE !


Sending your student a care package is by far one of the most touching things you can do. We all like money, but a real care package, with items that you've handpicked for us, is extra special! Send a message that college isn't always just about grades but is also about having fun and enjoying yourself !!!

Just the sight of another student lugging a box from the mailroom makes everyone else jealous. Some schools offer a care package service, where they pack and deliver treats to your student, but it means so much more when you take the time to pick out something you know your kid loves.

Or we can always do it for you.... :)

So what do you put in that care package? Home-baked treats top the list, but be sure to send them overnight or 2nd day air. After all, most grandmas don't include preservatives in their brownie recipe. Packaged snacks hold up much better (Have you ever seen a moldy Twinkie?), but to make the package really special, try to include a favorite snack that's not available where he or she goes to school.

If there's a holiday your child won't be coming home for, why not send some gift cards for Target or Walmart or so that they can pick out some holiday goodies from the stores? College kids still like to celebrate Halloween and St. Patty's Day, and a lot can't even make it home for the bigger celebrations like Thanksgiving or Easter.

Another thing that's great to send in a care package is clips from the local paper. Look for names of your child's friends in the social pages, college news, etc. If he or she played in high school or followed local sports, send clips about their teams. Send news about his or her old school.

Besides the obvious edible goodies, other great things to include in a care package are useful supplies like pens, pencils, post-it notes, stamps and the much-revered roll of quarters for the laundry or snack machines. Fun stuff like markers, stickers, silly notepads and rubber stamps are also appreciated, since most students don't have a lot of disposable income to blow on fun stuff.

Just remember parents, with a little time and postage, you can really make your student's day!

Artful Giving !!!

You don’t have to buy cookie-cutter presents nor gift baskets... :)
There’s a world of collectibles waiting to be discovered at online museum shops.

If you are looking for something unusual for those folks who have everything? Instead of jumping in the car and heading for the mall, power up your laptop and let your fingers do the shopping at the online stores of American museums.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
www.metmuseum.org/store

As tastefully appointed and brimming with treasures as the patrician New York museum itself, featuring educational product descriptions that let you learn while you shop. Browse by category (such as Books, Scarves and Shawls, or For the Table) or by museum exhibition or collection (such as Photographs, The Costume Institute, Asian Art). Merchandise ranges from a Unicorn tapestry-inspired pillow cover ($80) to a reproduction bronze of a Degas dancer ($295). Jewelry offerings are extensive, from a Tiffany snowflake pin ($35) to a mother-of-pearl pendant based on ancient Indian jewelry. Feeling flush? Click on Luxury Fine Jewelry for high-end items like the hand-hammered Greek-inspired gold cuff bracelet ($5,750). Don't miss MetKids, with unique items like the Knight Night Light ($12) and a Terracotta Warriors Excavation Kit.


Art Institute of Chicago
www.artinstituteshop.org

Famed artists and Chicago architects take center stage here, with tons of framed reproductions, distinctive apparel (such as a Kandinsky necktie), and decorative housewares (such as a lamp made of criss-crossing chopsticks or a throw blanket with a Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass window design). The extensive home furnishings section breaks down into 20 sub-sections, from Clocks and Decorative Glass to Throws and Wind Chimes, including unique objects like ancient Egyptian-style alabaster vases and colorful Indonesian baskets. Stained-glass lamp fan? You'll find a wide selection here, from Mackintosh to Mission to Tiffany. You can also browse by style or artist, choosing from more than fifty names. A helpful shopping tote icon in the top corner tallies how many items you've placed in your cart and the total cost. Use the gift selector to find objects in your desired price range and category. A search for jewelry between $50 and $100 yielded 82 results, from an amber reversible cross to a necklace and earring set based on Monet's waterlilies.

Field Museum
store.fieldmuseum.org

Whether it's a life-sized plush lion ($472), an ancient Egyptian "I Love You" cartouche necklace ($48) or a toddler's dino-painted footstool ($60), this venerable Chicago museum offers a wide array of products related to natural history and world cultures. Browse by category or exhibit. You'll find particularly deep offerings in "Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption." (Check out the Vesuvianite jewelry, named after a gemstone discovered near the infamous volcano.) And then of course, there's Sue, the museum's renowned T-Rex skeleton, who has spawned her own merchandising explosion, from mugs and mouse pads to umbrellas and playing cards. The Kids section features the widest inventory, including Japanese pagoda building blocks ($49), a plush Buddha doll ($15.95) and a radio-controlled pteranodon ($46). There's even a separate section devoted to baby products.

Museum of Modern Art, New York
momastore.org

Sleek, tasteful design rules at MoMA's online shop, where items range in price from under $10 to over $6,000. Browse by category (such as Kitchen and Tabletop, Furniture and Lighting or Posters and Prints). Or choose from an array of big-name 20th-century designers, from Alvar Aalto to Frank Lloyd Wright. The Home Accessories click alone offers more than 100 items, including a futuristic, capsule-shaped FM radio ($24), a classic George Nelson "Eye" clock ($295) and much more. Looking for distinctive jewelry? Try the beaded "DNA" bracelet, necklace and earrings or browse the wide selection of bold and colorful watches. Still not sure what you want? Let Gift Ideas and What's New links help. Crisp, zoomable product pictures throughout.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
store.philamuseumstore.org/index.html

Click here for wide range of creative gifts--from a Salvador Dali "eye of time" watch pin to a thermal Mona Lisa mug that magically loses its moustache and goatee when filled with a hot drink. In Featured Artist, you'll find work related to three of the museum's most renowned and beloved artists: Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, Philly painter Thomas Eakins and sculptor Auguste Rodin, whose "Thinker" sculpture is represented by everything from a keyring to an ornament to a bronze reproduction. Click on Paper for prints, posters and original limited-edition framed works like Robert Zakanitch's Nina ($1,210). Kids stuff ranges from fine art tattoo packs to a baseball with Vincent van Gogh's signature. The Gift Ideas click helps you browse by price, but not by recipient or occasion.

100 Gift Basket Theme Ideas


What is a Gift Basket Theme?
Gift Baskets are a multi-million dollar industry. They are gifts with a personal touch that people are willing to pay a little extra for. Gift baskets bring the best elements of gift giving together: color, variety, surprise and a common theme ! Sometimes I get weird requests but all of them are fun to pursue.

Here is a Kids DORA themed gift basket

Here are 100 themes for gift baskets.

100 Gift Basket Theme Ideas


  1. New baby
  2. Baskets for Pets
  3. New Mom
  4. Christmas
  5. Easter
  6. Valentine's Day
  7. Corporate
  8. Wine Lovers
  9. Fundraising
  10. Sympathy
  11. Get Well
  12. Cookie Lovers
  13. New Dad
  14. Cheese
  15. Travelers
  16. Nut Lovers
  17. Engagement
  18. Mexican
  19. New Years Eve
  20. Hanukkah
  21. Boss's Day
  22. Tea Lovers
  23. Relaxation
  24. Gardener's
  25. Beach
  26. Bachelor(ette) Party
  27. Basketball Players
  28. Football Players
  29. Aromatherapy
  30. Ice Cream Lovers
  31. Teacher
  32. New Job
  33. Lottery
  34. Baptism
  35. Golfers
  36. Graduation
  37. Mother's Day
  38. Father's Day
  39. Birthday
  40. Wedding
  41. Fruit
  42. Gourmet Food
  43. Patriotic
  44. Coffee Lovers
  45. Italian
  46. Flower
  47. Anniversary
  48. Food
  49. Thank You
  50. Apology
  51. Movie
  52. Music
  53. Spices
  54. Bon Voyage
  55. Secretary's Day
  56. Grandparent's Day
  57. St. Patrick's Day
  58. Baker
  59. Crafter
  60. Fudge Lovers
  61. Bridge Players
  62. Handyman
  63. Organic Foods
  64. Skiers
  65. Soup Lovers
  66. Snack
  67. Divorce
  68. Get Well
  69. New Home
  70. Romance
  71. Chocolate Lovers
  72. Pasta Lovers
  73. Fondue
  74. Sugar Free/ Diabetic
  75. Spa
  76. Popcorn
  77. Kids
  78. Bath
  79. Candle
  80. Book
  81. Beer Lover's
  82. Retirement
  83. Dog
  84. Cat
  85. Champagne
  86. Picnic
  87. Herbs
  88. Barbecue Lovers
  89. Bowlers
  90. Over the Hill
  91. Car Lovers
  92. Bagel Lovers
  93. Hangover
  94. Balloons
  95. Congratulations
  96. Spicy Foods
  97. Toy
  98. Coin Collectors
  99. Coach
  100. Thanksgiving
How many more can you think of? 
Go to my store for lovely Indian Gift ideas

Unique Party Favors by Gail Leino

my remarks are in red.....in between the article !

A party favor is given by a host to their guest to thank them for attending their event. When a hosts gives their guests unique party favors, the guests know how truly appreciated their presence was at the party. Guests attending a party will usually bring a hostess gift or something the host can use or serve at their party. The party hostess usually gives the guests a party favor, thus making it a unique party favor is a reminder of how the event was special.

This cute tower for cupcakes is a great way to display and serve individual servings for a non messy party ! One of my favs !

There are several options available when choosing unique party favors. One of the best ways to make your party favors unique is to make them personalized. A personalized party favor shows your guests that you really wanted them to have a gift that you put a lot of thought into so that they would always remember the event. Another way to give very unique party favors, is to give gift baskets. Gift baskets can be a personalized gift to receive because they can be filled with a combination of any thing to suit your guest's personality.

Awesome Book ! Dozens of clever, classy favor projects to help make any special event unique and memorable. The projects use craft supplies, wedding-craft materials, papers, scrap booking supplies, and small gift items like candles and small frames. 75 projects!

If you are having a costume party, fun favors that can be worn are a great way to give your guests fun they can take home. Costumes themselves as favors are a unique way for guests to bring the fun of your party home with them. Even mix and match costume parts like feather boas, hats or masks are all fun gifts to give to your guests as party favors. For an evening party, a great unique party favor can be glow sticks. Glow sticks and LED light ups are fun as party favors. These are fun for your guests to play with at your party and they create a festive atmosphere. Nothing is more exciting than a dark room full of neon glow sticks and blinking lights. Excellent pool party favors can be inflatables. These are great because your guests can use their favors during the party in the pool and at home.

Cool Glow Bracelets : 5 tubes of 100 LumiStick luminescent light bracelets. Each tube contains a even mix of 5 colors -- Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Pink. I had ordered these for a pool party last summer and it was a big hit !

Whatever favors you choose for your guests will be appreciated as long as you put some thought into them. The point of a party is to have fun. So have fun when looking for the perfect unique party favors for your party. Picking the perfect unique party favor will not only bring joy to your guests but also to yourself. Everyone wants the party favors they choose to be a success.

Mrs. Party... Gail Leino is the internet's leading authority on giving the best possible party, using proper etiquette and manners while also teaching organizational skills and fun facts.

Article Source: http://www.bigarticles.com

3 New Things to Promote Using Promotional Products

Promotion products are every day items that are printed with your company logo. Besides your logo, there are many other things you can promote - for example you can
  1. Promote Your Company's Website - One of the best ways to promote a website is by using it on a "grocery list pad", or a "things to do" pad
  2. Promote A New Product Line - can be promoted using a T-shirt with a funny slogan to grab attention
  3. Promote An Upcoming Contest or Drawing - One of the best ways to do this is by giving away pens or small stress balls for each entry.

There are hundreds of products that you can put your logo/message on… find one that compliments your products. Promotional items remind your clients that the relationship you share with them is important to you. When someone receives a promotional item from you they are more likely to remember you over your competition.



Websites
Cuisine Cuisine.com, LLC
Food is Culture . . . Culture is Food !
Elegantly Expressed Gift Baskets
Memorable Gifts . . . Lasting Impressions !

Blogs
Musings About People, Places & Things Intriguing
CuisineCuisine.com's BlogoRama
Life In Digital Pixels
Career Tips N Tricks
The Gift Gazette

Shops
Bazaar! Bazaar! Indian Gift Shop
Indian Gift Baskets, Indian Cookbooks & Indian Spices

Nothing shows how thoughtful you are like a good gag gift

Whether it is for a birthday, a graduation party, April fool’s day, any holiday or just another regular day – gag gifts can bring in a little extra cheer. Do they not say that ‘laughter is the best medicine’? Comedy is always appreciated and can make dull parties and dull days brighter! April fools is the official day for the practical jokes, hoaxes and pranks , the one holiday of the year we should be expecting shenanigans.

A gag gift can be something personalized; something you make with a little private joke. Or if you are blank on ideas, you will be shocked to see the variety of gag gifts available in the market. From money to food, the kitchen to bathroom, the backyard to your front door – the variety of gag gifts that can be accommodated in day-to-day life is amazing. In the most unpredictable fashion, you can surprise someone with a gag gift.

Nothing shows how thoughtful you are like a good gag gift. This year, show your friends how well you know them by getting them the perfect present.

Food Stamps: For your friend whose parents couldn't’t afford to get him a laptop. You can say something like, “You’re really poor, that’s why I got you food stamps as a gag gift…”

Have a friend in the hospital? Huge fuzzy bunny slippers will not only make them laugh but they'll think of you every time they shuffle down the hall or into the bathroom — plus they sure beat the paper hospital slippers and they last longer than flowers!

All Dogs Go To Heaven: For your friend whose cat just died.
For the friend who's always bragging about his or her golf game, gag golf balls will do just about anything but what's expected. Pull a switcharoo for laughs!

Websites
Cuisine Cuisine.com, LLC
Food is Culture . . . Culture is Food !
Elegantly Expressed Gift Baskets
Memorable Gifts . . . Lasting Impressions !

Blogs
Musings About People, Places & Things Intriguing
CuisineCuisine.com's BlogoRama
Life In Digital Pixels
Career Tips N Tricks
The Gift Gazette

Shops
Bazaar! Bazaar! Indian Gift Shop
Indian Gift Baskets, Indian Cookbooks & Indian Spices

HOUSEWARMING GIFTS & MESSAGES

Housewarming gifts are given by Realtors, Friends and Neighbors when someone buys a new home or moves into a new apartment or condo. Many times realtors want to thank their clients as well as welcome them to their new home by sending them one of our Welcome Home Gift Baskets.

How about sending a caring and thoughtful gift basket to your colleague or neighbor on their new place. People move everyday for new jobs and relocate all over the country. It is always special when the person moving into a new place feels welcome and cared for.

Here are a few great messages to place in your gift card when you send out one of our New Home, New Apartment, Welcome Home Gift Baskets !


Welcome to your new home..hope you love your new neighborhood !
May you and your family grow strong in your new home.
Hope your new house becomes a home.
Congratulations - the move is over!
Congratulations on your achievement ! You made it!
Relax and enjoy your wonderful new home!
May happiness & love move in with you. There's no place like home!
May you and your family enjoy years of happy times in your new home.
May you create countless memories in your new home
.

CORPORATE GIFT BASKETS

"Gifts are Relationship Builders" Corporate gift snack baskets can include collections of cheese, wine, chocolates, candies, poultry, lamb, pork, veal, smoked meats and appetizers, traditional and exotic seasonal fruits, or seafood. These gifts not only celebrate special occasions but also express a company's care and concern for all its employees, stockholders and clients.


Buyers like you are looking for appropriate ways to say thank-you to employees, associates, and suppliers. Corporate snack baskets promote goodwill and gratitude among the recipients. Traditionally, the goodies in the basket are shared amongst the colleagues and staff of the office, irrespective of who the recipient is.

According to www.ppa.org, the Promotional Products Association International, a survey they conducted revealed businesses that had a corporate gift program were twice as likely to increase their chances of being contacted by customers than those who did not gift.

You can use our gourmet gift baskets for :

Welcome New Employee
Customer Appreciation
New Contract
New Office Space
Service Appreciation - 10yr, 25 yr
Top Producers
Farewell Party
Celebration Dinners
Off-Site Meetings
Team Building Events
Sorry / Apology To A Client
Special Occasions for your Employee/Client like Weddings or Birthdays
Thank Your Admins
Thank Your Boss

They do not have to cost a lot - a decent gift basket that can be shared by around 5 employees will start around $50. Many a times we can personalize gift baskets to include the items from your company like company key chains, stress balls etc.

Towel Origami sweeping the nation !


Swan
Originally uploaded by B&B II.

How about the new towel origami craze that seems to be sweeping the hospitality world and now our Gift Basket world too ! Fancy Honeymoon hotels are folding towels into animal shapes, heartsm and the Swan you see here to welcome their guests.

Debra Paulk from Festivities Publication has some great designs for gift baskets. I think it is wonderful to add fun visual effects in gift baskets. Many people who have ordered our baskets always say that they are so beautiful that they display them at least for a week or two before opening the basket.

Here is a video for Towel Origami


You'll never fold a towel the same old way again. Make a guest bath special with towel origami-the art of folding fabrics into cool shapes and creatures. Crease and crinkle ordinary towels to create an elephant, monkey, ladybug, palm tree, lotus flower, spinning windmill, skyscraper, and more.


Probably the most popular book out on Towel Origami. Nice photos and nice towel origami creations. Was able to make some of the creations without any problem. Worth buying if you want to learn towel origami.

The Mostest For The Hostess !


the dinner party (before)
Originally uploaded by JKonig.

Hosts go through a lot to arrange a formal / informal dinner party. This photograph taken by Jennifer König is a perfect example of the time it takes to set up something like this.

Whether you've been invited to a dinner party or you are visiting friends or family, the rule is to not come empty-handed, especially if it's someone you don't know well.

You can always bring one of the old standbys -- flowers, a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine -- but there are plenty of more interesting alternatives.

Coffee Table Books are one of the most popular hostess gifts, and the big hit with hostesses. A Hostess Diary, leather-bound, is a great idea, especially for someone who entertains a lot, because she / he can put down what she / he served, what everyone wore, the dishes you used and so on and so forth.

If you're staying with friends for the holidays, bring them an Elegant Digital Picture Frame (which is a real hot seller right now) and your friends will love your thoughtful gesture.

If you've baked a cake, present it with an elegant cake server. These simple ideas will make any host or hostess understand that you have appreciated the effort they have taken in putting together the dinner party !

And it never hurts to bring a little charm to dinner -- by putting together a Gift Basket with things that will please the host. Lets say your host loves Starbucks, make or give a Starbucks Gift Basket.

Cafe Cup Basket & The Ettiquette Of Thank You Notes


Cafe Cup Basket
Originally uploaded by Medini Pradhan.
Everyone knows it's proper to say thank you after receiving a gift or good deed. However, many don't realize there's a proper way to thank people.

The Do's of Thank You Notes

Send your thank you notes as quickly as possible. Notes may be sent on informal stationery, except for wedding thank you notes which are generally sent on formal stationery. Always make specific reference to the gift that is the subject of the note, such as "Thank you so much for the blue sweater. Make it personal. The recipient will appreciate your taking the time to express yourself.


The Don'ts of Thank You Notes

Don't delay in sending most notes. Generally notes should be sent within a week of receipt of the gift or gesture. The only exception to this timing is as follows: 1. Thank you notes for hospital gifts should be sent as soon as the patient is well enough to send them, whenever that is. 2. The current guidelines for wedding gift thank you notes are that the notes should be sent within three months of receipt of gifts.

There is really no excuse for not writing a thank-you note. Make it a habit to write a note as soon as possible after the event or receiving the gift. And, please, teach your children to do the same.

Dora Happy Birthday Gift Basket

Dora the Explorer has become very popular amongst the young girls.
We have kept up with the times and themed many gift baskets with many fun charecters like Dora, Peter Rabbit, Winnie The Pooh and others.

Dora the Explorer: A Fun Companion for Kids By Jared Winston

Dora the Explorer is a cartoon show that airs on the Nickelodeon channel, featuring stories about Dora Marquez, a young Hispanic girl who ventures forth on adventurous quests. The Dora the Explorer show is aimed for a younger audience, from six to ten years old, although children that are four or five years old also seem to enjoy the show. Dora speaks both English and Spanish, and helps viewers learn the use of simple words in Spanish, so it's not uncommon to see young viewers of the Dora the Explorer show who are able to understand basic Spanish words… and some of them are even able to use full simple sentences correctly!

Of course Dora is not alone during her adventures. The show features many other characters, the most important of them being a talking monkey named Boots. His name comes from the red boots he likes to wear, and being Dora's best friend he joins her on every single adventure she gets into.

In every episode of Dora the Explorer, a sneaky masked fox named Swiper tries to steal an item from Dora or her friend Boots, usually jeopardizing the successful completion of the day's quest, so Dora and her friends end up having to recover the stolen item in order to finish the quest. Sometimes, the recovery of the stolen item is the quest in itself.

The only way Dora and Boots can prevent Swiper from stealing something is repeating the phrase "Swiper, No Swipping!!!" three times. If they don't repeat this phrase three times, then the evil fox will steal the item and say "you were late" to Dora and her best friend, throwing the item far away.

Other characters of the Dora the Explorer Show are Dora's parents, "Papi" (Spanish for "daddy?) and "Mami" (Spanish for "mommy"), and also her "abuela" ("grandma"). They speak both Spanish and English, of course. Another cool character is Diego, who is Dora's cousin. Diego is a boy who rescues animals that are in danger and often accompanies Dora on her adventures. The Diego character became so popular that he even got his own show, called "Go, Diego. Go."

A bunch of bilingual animals, like "Señor Tucán" and "Isa, the Iguana"; and some talking items, like Dora's Backpack, complete the character list.

Dora the Explorer is a show that encourages viewer participation: Dora often asks the audience if they have seen Swiper, or asks them to count the numbers along with her. This is perhaps what makes Dora the Explorer such a great educational show, enabling small children to learn the basic concepts of mathematics (mostly counting), to recognize different kinds of music, and to use simple but useful Spanish words at a very low age.

The Dora the Explorer Show became a regular series on Nickelodeon in the year 2000, and is still being produced. The show is not only aired for the US, but also for a lot of countries around the world. So far, Dora the Explorer has been translated to Spanish, Japanese, French, German, Dutch and many other languages.

Follow-Up on Gift Card Fraud

Here are some great tips on how to avoid Gift Card Fraud.

"Gift card fraud is a growing concern among retailers nationwide," said Joseph LaRocca, vice president of loss prevention for the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group.

Watch this video by Businessweek Online.

Here are some great tips from SCAMBUSTERS.ORG

8 Tips for Protecting Yourself From Any Gift Card Scam:

There are plenty of things that you can do to protect yourself from gift card scams. And the best part is that none of these things will take more than a few minutes.

Just follow these eight simple tips to make shopping for gift cards safer:

Don't buy gift cards from online auction sites. Since this is a large source of gift card fraud, these cheap gift cards may well be worthless to you. Sure, some of these cards are real, but many are stolen, counterfeit or used. It's not worth the risk.

Only buy gift cards directly from the store issuing the gift card or from a secure retailer's website -- no matter how much cheaper they may be somewhere else. If you do buy a gift card online, make sure you buy it from the place that you plan to use it.

Don't buy gift cards off of publicly displayed racks in retail stores. In addition, don't assume that because gift cards are inaccessible to the public, they are safe. After all, store employees can participate in gift card scams too.

Always carefully examine both the front and back of a gift card before you buy it. If you can see a PIN number, put the card back and get a different one. If a gift card looks like it could have been tampered with, don't buy that gift card.

Always ask the store cashier to scan the gift card in front of you. This will guarantee that your card is valid when you buy it and that it reflects the balance you just charged it with. This will also protect you from crooks who exchange worthless cards for the cards you think you are buying.

Always keep your receipt as a proof of purchase as long as there is money stored on the gift card. Since many retailers can track where the gift card was purchased, activated and used, if the card is stolen, some retailers will replace the card for you if you have your receipt.

If possible, register your gift card at the store's website. Although not all stores offer this option, you can uncover any misuse of your gift card sooner and report it more quickly.

Finally, never, ever give your Social Security number, date of birth or any other unneeded private information when you purchase a gift card. No reputable company will ask for this info.

Gift cards are convenient and make great gifts. Following these easy tips will help you ensure the person you buy the gift card for is the one who benefits from it!

Sweet Wishes For You Chocolate & Candy Gift Basket

Send your sweetest wishes on any gift occasion with this generous - yet affordable - gift basket filled with luscious Lindt chocolate truffles, fine Swiss chocolates, Sweet Cherub caramel cookies, gourmet cocoa mix, strawberry bon bon candies, brie cheese spread, stone wheat crackers and MORE!


It's the perfect gift for someone sweet in your life and makes a wonderful thank you gift for important business associates and clients. Each gift basket is carefully hand packed with attention to detail, adorned with ivy, tied with ribbons and includes a personalized gift card message from you to convey your best wishes.

A new survey says this is the # 1 thing that women want for Valentine's Day

According to a new survey this is the number one thing that women want on Valentine's Day !

Clues : "Old School" and "High School"

Answer - A hand-written Love Note !

3 Intangible Valentine's Day Gifts for Married Couples

For long term relationships and marriages, here are 5 gifts intangible gifts that will make an impact long after Valentine's Day is over.

Traditional gifts such as chocolate, flowers or cards will only go so far, but gifts of caring, love, respect and genuine affection will last for a long time! .

1. Give 5 extra minutes to your spouse each day, starting today...just gazing into his/her eyes, holding hands, rubbing his/her back...this is a priceless gift that will enrich your relationship and contribute to better intimacy.


2. Compliment him/her with 3 wonderful things each and every day. I heard this one on the John Tesh radio show. He said that this was a proven study and that it will make you appreciate your spouse better.


3. Exchange a list containing each other's likes and dislikes this week and do something from that list on Valentines day. You will be surprised to read the answers from your spouse. Categorize the answers - at home, outside and with family.


Sometimes the true gifts are the ones that make each and everyday feel like Valentine's Day !

Top 10 Valentine Gifts For Her !


This article by AskMen.com written by Peter Richmond gives some really unique gift ideas for her including the REASON behind the gift.
First of all I think Men really need to learn how to communicate better.....but here are some ideas to rescue them form their faults ! Peter is on the money about the roses and chocolates...right ladies? We need those once in a while.....And I have to say that the suggestions are right on !

..................................

Don't fall behind in the game of love. St. Valentine's Day is right around the corner, so start thinking about buying some gifts before it's too late. Stuck for ideas? That's not a problem, let AskMen.com help you.This year, show your sweetheart how much she means to you by giving her a gift from the heart.

Remember that the Valentine's theme is all about love, romance and appreciation, and you can bet that your lady will be expecting all of that and then some.That's right, roses and chocolate are no longer enough. They're the obvious necessity -- something like breathing -- women don't really appreciate them when offered as gifts, but they would definitely notice if you forgot to get them. So aside from flowers and chocolate, what else can you give your little princess?

The answer is simple; just think about anything she has mentioned over the past few weeks, or get her something that relates to her hobbies and interests. The key is to show that you put some thought into the gift.Still stuck?

Well here is a list of the top 10 gifts that will steer you in the right direction.

TV Cuddle Blanket

While a blanket might not seem like the most elaborate gift, its the perfect choice for those of you whose girlfriends look forward to lounging on the living room couch after a long day. The blanket has a built-in pocket to store the TV remote or a book, and is even designed with a pouch for her feet.

Picture Frame

Why? You've been with her long enough to know that you take the relationship seriously. A picture frame with the two of you in it will illustrate that you see a possible future together. You can get it . Bonus Points: A picture of the happy couple can win some big-time points, but if the frame includes a picture of only yourself, you're going to have some splainin' to do.

Romantic Toys For the Bedroom

Sex toys are used to enhance a couple's experience or for thrilling bedroom experiments. This Valentine's day, bring some excitement to the bedroom by showing her your inner bad boy. Warning: Bedroom toys are considered a "side dish" to the main gift. Do not show up with a bedroom aid without bringing along a more personal gift. Remember, your gift reflects your thoughts.

Charm Bracelet

The charming thing about a charm bracelet is that it allows you to add charms to the bracelet. Hence, it makes for a great training tool. Every time your princess does something spectacular or out of the ordinary -- that you benefit from -- you can reward her by adding another charm to her bracelet. Get the perfect one .

Lingerie

Most of the time, men will buy sexy lingerie for the woman in their lives. Purchasing lingerie is a little cliche, but it is generally well received by women. In order to stand out, you should consider purchasing something that is sexy, but with a little comfort for the lady in mind.

Perfume

There's a reason a woman's fragrance is so important to both you and her. She wants to make sure her scent suits her personality, and you want to ensure the fragrance makes you want to cuddle up to her all day and night.

Jewelery Box

Make sure your woman has a unique, beautiful box to keep her precious jewelry in. This Valentine's Day, give her one worthy of her beauty. Warning: The bigger the box, the more space you'll be obligated to fill up.

Spa Massage Gift Certificate

Treat her to a special day in which she gets treated like a princess. This all-day pampering will make her feel like a vibrant teenager again. After her princess treatment comes to an end, bring her home and treat her like a queen.

Dance Lessons Together

Women are deeply attracted to men who know how to dance without stepping all over their feet. This is the perfect time to sharpen your salsa skills, while spending a little more time closer to your love. This year, take dance lessons together and two-step your way to her heart.

Gold Necklace

Every woman dreams of holding her hair up while her man stands behind her and ties a golden necklace around her neck. Don't deprive your woman of such an experience; show her that you too can be a hopeless romantic. Why? As long as jewelry makes a woman feel special, beautiful and like she's worth a million bucks, it will be her best friend. All women love to be spoiled with jewelry and your woman is no exception. You can get it .

What To Consider when Buying a Gift for Valentine's Day?

Valentine's Day is a very special occasion and gives couples a chance to celebrate romance. When buying a gift for Valentine's Day, it is a good idea to consider the level of relationship before selecting something. Think about the message you want the gift to convey. The type of gift you choose can say a lot of things from “I’m having fun getting to know you,” to “I love you with all my heart.”


CASUAL RELATIONSHIPS


For those who have a casual relationship, a Valentine's Day gift should mirror the relaxed and informal nature of the relationship. Giving something too elaborate, expensive, or intimate may give the other person the wrong idea. Fun cards are a better option than those with loving sentiments. Cute gifts such as stuffed animals may also be good choices as opposed to something like jewelry, lingerie, perfume, or aftershave. If you’re thinking flowers, a single rose is a nice gesture for Valentine's Day, while a full dozen roses tends to imply more.

Send flowers this Valentine's Day - starting at $19.99! at 1-800-FLOWERS


TO THE ONE I LOVE


The same is true at the other end of the spectrum. Giving a Valentine's Day gift that is too casual when involved in a serious relationship may give the other person pause. It is the thought that counts when it comes to gifts, but gifts often express more or less than what we intend them to do. One’s feelings about a relationship may be inaccurately judged by the type of gift given, especially on a romantic day like Valentine's Day, so be sure to put some thought into it.


Call Us To Order A Special CUSTOM Valentine's Day Gift Basket For Your Sweetie !

Call 1-847-277-1483 !


ITS THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS

This is not to say that a Valentine's Day gift must be expensive. Sometimes the smallest gestures really are the most touching. One example is to select a Valentine's Day gift that represents that special person’s hobbies or interests. Personal or intimate gifts will also be well received when people are deeply involved. If you do want to give something substantial, it’s hard to go wrong with jewelry.




Aside from romantic relationships, many people also like to give Valentine's Day gifts to other people in their lives. For those you want to make feel special, without including the romance aspect, consider candy. You don’t have to choose a heart shaped box of chocolates, but candy is universally accepted as a gift choice. You might also want to put together or pick up a Valentine’s Day gift basket. Many are designed with particular themes in mind. You can choose a gift basket for the coffee lover or a similar option instead of selecting one with a romantic theme.

Gift Cards and Gift Certificates - When to give them and when not to !

Gift Certificates and Gift Cards are popping up everywhere. Well, yes we have them on our site too. What used to be the ultimate in lazy gift-giving has become this year's consumer's top choice, according to a recent survey.

According to a Discover Card survey of just over a thousand US adults, 58% stated they would be very happy to receive a gift card. Another 26% said they would “touched” by the thought behind the gift. Only 9% stated that they would be disappointed.
Other key findings:

- 76% would consider giving a gift card so that the receiver can get what they like
- 65% would purchase a gift coupon for the sake of convenience
- Giving a gift card is a far more popular option than sending cash

Retailers do not count a gift card as a sale when it is purchased-instead, they wait until the gift card is redeemed and merchandise is exchanged. As a result, some of the $24.81 billion spent on gift cards this holiday may not show up in "holiday" sales, but instead as sales in January or February, when the gift card is redeemed.

Read more of the DiscoverCard gift voucher survey results.

The cards appear to create a win-win situation for both consumers and businesses. Consumers are drawn to the versatility and ease of use of gift cards, and businesses benefit from the low labor involved in such transactions.

Reasons To Give Gift Cards or Gift Certificates

Gift certificates are a safe choice when you don't know the person very well. At the same time, gift certificates don't have to be impersonal. Since there are so many gift certificates available, you can find the perfect one for anyone's interests.

Gift certificates are also great for people you know are picky or for the person who seems to have everything. If you're going to include a gift receipt with the item anyway because you know they're going to return it, why not save everyone the hassle and just give a gift certificate?

Gift certificates are especially useful when you have to give a large number of gifts at once, like during the holidays. Save valuable time by choosing gift certificates for everyone on your list. Similarly, they are great options when you are buying gifts for many members of a group; if you want to thank your coworkers for helping on a particularly arduous project, you can give each of them a gift certificate.

Also, remember that the person receiving the gift card can buy stuff when they are ready and when the things they want go on sale !

But gift cards like Starbucks, Target, iTunes are very popular amongst teenagers. Great also for spouses who are stuck on ideas for a wedding anniversary, birthday or any special occasion.

When giving gift cards is NOT a good idea !

But I would not advice the gift card or gift certificate for people who love the whole aspect of opening a present. It is the experience of opening the gift and seeing what's inside that's a pleasure for both the giver and the receiver that will be missed.

The downside to gift certificates is that if you are actually close to the recipient, they might feel hurt that you didn't buy them a more personalized gift.

So its up to you and the recipient. Choose what is best for
  • the occasion
  • the person
  • time on your hands
  • and the experience you want the person to have !

For Posterity's Sake...this Valentine's Day !

Ever heard of Body Casting ? How about a gift to your loved one of a part of your body...you choose. What a unique gift idea....weird but cute. ....and very HOLLYWOOD !

Lifecasting or bodycasting is the art of taking molds directly from the human body. It is an ancient art form dating back to the time of the Egyptians where body casts were made as a means of transport to the next world.

Once cast this Body Casting is a unique piece of fine art that can be displayed wall mounted, standing, or even suspended! The people who do this also say that the casts do not always have to be taken on a naked body - they look equally sensual with sexy underwear (even denim shorts!) or strategically draped fabric.

This website has moulds for the face, hands etc.

THE GIFT OF TIME !

One of the best - and most memorable - gifts that I have ever received was on my most recent vacation. A friend, whose life seems to be filled to the brim with family and work and activities, gave me the gift of time. She took me out for a leisurely Sunday brunch, during which we talked about those things that are most important to us.

The keys to this being a memorable and loving gift were: we were completely relaxed, unhurried, and I felt like we could spend as much time as we liked; and we talked about things that are more signifcant to us than the superficial aspects of our lives. This brings home the idea that taking the time to spend with a friend is truly a valued gift, one with soul value.

It’s time to expect more from your phone !

With travel becoming easier one would want a phone that works everywhere in the world. The Cingular 8525 PDA Phone does just that and more. Its a mini computer, MP3 and Video player and more....


I saw it for myself. My husband bought it because of its many features and the fact that it can do all the things listed below.

The Cingular 8525 lets you do things you'd typically need a PC to do, like email, text messaging, instant messaging and Web browsing--all from one integrated device. What's more, the phone's software is designed to sync seamlessly with email, contacts, and calendar information on your PC. The 8525 also offers great mobile music and video options, thanks to Windows Media Player. Other design features include a unique slide-out QWERTY keyboard that makes messaging, note-taking, and other writing tasks a breeze.

The award-winning Cingular 8525 3G Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0-based Pocket PC phone, with its compact size and ultimate connectivity, is truly the complete mobile office solution. Roam anywhere in the world and use the phone's high speed Internet access, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi capabilities. The 8525 gives you more control than ever over the way you work.
5 Stars from me ! Anyway, just thought I would let you guys know.

The History Of Valentine's Day !

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailer's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today.

Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.

The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goat hide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn.

The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day. In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum.

In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap". The heavy sentimentality of yester year has been replaced with a much lighter touch. More often, a valentine card accompanies a gift as well. Today, valentine cards are manufactured on an enormous scale that covers all types of feelings about love: sentimental, sophisticated, humorous, ridiculous and sublime, just to mention a few. Even dogs and cats can receive valentines, (although to date, they are still unable to stamp them and put them in the mail). In terms of the number of cards sent annually, Valentine’s day ranks second only to Christmas.

So, don’t hesitate, my friends, to demonstrate your love and affection with the nicest card you can find on this holiday designed for lovers everywhere.
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