A Paris Valentine

Well, this is unexpected. After years of (mostly) turning a blind eye to Valentine’s Day, we’re changing it up a bit. Not only do we have plans for tonight—a cocktail workshop at Amsterdam’s historic House of Bols—but in a serendipitous twist, we’ll also be celebrating Valentine’s weekend in the most romantic city on earth.

Oui, Paris!

Paris is always a good idea

A work trip to Paris fell into Marlon’s lap came along at just the right time. After agonizing over budgets and schedules and other boring, adult, parent-like things, Marlon threw caution to the wind and offered me the weekend in Paris as a Valentine present. How could I turn down such a present? Besides, as Audrey Hepburn famously said, “Paris is always a good idea!”

I’ll be back next week to report on Valentine cocktails and Parisian pleasures. In the meantime, happy Valentine’s Day and have a love-ly weekend!

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Marlon and I sprung our Valentine surprises one night early (since it’s all about not riding with the herd). Here’s a partial peek at mine.

Whatever your romantic status is, I hope today brings you something surprising and delightful. It’s the simple things that make us truly happy, and I wish those simple joys for you. Happy Valentines’ Day!

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MangoJuiced: A stay-at-home Valentine

This week on MangoJuiced, I make a case for the stay-at-home Valentine date. If I was living in Manila, I could wrap up the argument for a Valentine’s night in with just one word: traffic.

However, staying in makes sense even here in the land of bicycles; February nights are freezing and it’s expensive to eat out. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should do it because it’s practical and it makes sense. This is Valentine’s Day we’re talking about!

What I love about staying home on Valentine’s Day is the romance. Nobody can have what you have at home. And that is truly special and romantic.

To inspire you to break away from the herd, I’ve rounded up a few sweet ideas for stay-at-home Valentine dates in this week’s post on MangoJuiced. You’ve got the weekend to plan… stay in and make some homemade memories!
MangoJuiced is a webzine for anything and everything that interests women—from fashion and family, to pop culture and beauty, to travel and lifestyle. Follow MangoJuiced on Twitter and Facebook… and don’t forget to check back in for a new post from me every week!
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Love & a bunch of nylon string

Marlon and I just don’t do Valentine’s Day. When we were still dating long-distance, it was rare for us to be in the same country on the 14th of February. Then when we were married, we celebrated our first day of hearts as husband and wife by waltzing into the Singapore Valentine trap: an overpriced set dinner. All the nice-ish restaurants do this, so you have very little choice in the matter.
Singapore seems to have only one major flower supplier, so everyone and her mother carries the exact same bouquet of roses wrapped in pastel tissue. Marlon ingeniously found something that wasn’t a cloned bouquet and got me a single gerbera. Carrying it around and seeing all the identically dressed girls with their identical dates and identical bouquets, I felt both horrified and extremely lucky.
Because of the mind-numbing sameness that surrounded us that first Valentine’s, Marlon and I gave up on the whole idea entirely. I don’t remember what we did last year, or the year before.
But since this year, everything has changed, we decided to give Valentine’s Day the old college try. We toyed briefly with the idea of a canal cruise, but opted to stay in. Marlon volunteered to be our chef for the evening and plan a special menu.
As for me, I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, dilly-dallied until 2pm then got my butt racing. Inspired by the heart garlands from this awesome Valentine fort on Design*Sponge, I dug into the moving boxes still scattered around the house and turned up some red art paper, magazine pages, double-sided tape and A4 typing paper. I found nylon string in my sewing kit, selected 75 photos of Marlon and me, and set up the printer in the bedroom.
Four hours, five paper jams and countless snarls of nylon string (the.worst.idea.ever!) later, I managed to transform our kitchen into a romantic restaurant for two.
I mixed paper hearts with photos of us. I had to cut the photos really oddly to make sure I got our faces in. Every single one of them has a congenital heart defect, lol.
At 6.30pm Marlon called me from the supermarket to ask if we had red wine vinegar at home. Thank goodness for the transport union strike today that kept him from coming home early! I even had time to paint him a 5-minute Valentine, which I blow-dried and stuck on the kitchen door.
 Pardon the cheese!
At 7pm Marlon came home with the ingredients for dinner and flowers for me! 
When I finally brought him into the kitchen, to see his joy and wonder made the four hours of desperate nylon-untangling and frenzied paper-cutting so worth it. Then I left the happy chef to get started on our Valentine’s Day dinner. 
We started with a surf and turf salad of prawns, spiced sausage, parsley and rocket…
Mediterranean-inspired cod and couscous for our mains…
And for dessert, a sinful, oven-warmed apple and almond tart from Le Fournil, the excellent French bakery on the corner.
By the end of the meal, both my stomach and heart were full to bursting with contentment. 
And the best thing was, I knew my Valentine felt the exact same way.
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