By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — Five days and counting and you still haven't decided how to celebrate that most romantic of holidays?
If whisking your valentine off to Paris or showering her with diamonds is a bit, well, over the top, consider these more reasonable alternatives.
Say it with flowers
Roses are red, but to really make an impression, give her — or him — a bouquet that's out of the ordinary, like orchids, hydrangeas or tulips, or tropicals like birds of paradise or protea.
"A lot of people just want a nice mix of flowers. Roses, they're not necessarily stuck on," said Cindy Hardy, owner of Lilies of the Alley, in the Front Street alley behind Votruba's Leather Goods in Traverse City. "Some men are, because they think it's what they're supposed to do. But sometimes if we have stuff made up, like orchids in a vase, they love it."
Tulips are a safe bet because you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a nice bouquet, whether wrapped or vased, Hardy said. And their colors — and promise of springtime — are a pick-me-up this time of year. But if your heart is set on giving roses, get creative. Choose an unusual color like the palest pink, mix complementary colors like peach and yellow, or consider unusual greens or vases to set them off.
"You don't have to get red roses. I think women like the different colors," Hardy said.
Cost: $5 and up.
Get dirty together
It's not what you think, say organizers of Dirty Date Night at Blackbird Arts in Traverse City. Instead, grab your sweetheart and prepare to get dirty ... on the pottery wheel.
You'll work side-by-side with potter Phil Wilson to explore how to throw clay on the wheel and form a special (heart-shaped?) piece, while enjoying wine and cheese appetizers. Billed as a fun, creative and interactive way to spend time with that special someone, the class fee covers everything you need — except that music from "Ghost."
Class time: 6-8 p.m. Cost: $30. Registration: 421-8085 or blackbirdartstc.com.
Make a movie date
Bring your beloved — and a box of Kleenex — to "Safe Haven." The movie, that is.
Originally scheduled for release on Feb. 7, the Josh Duhamel-Julianne Hough romance was pushed back a week to coincide with Valentine's Day. And it's no wonder. The Nicholas Sparks adaptation about a young woman's struggles to love again while escaping dark secrets from her past is suspenseful but soppy, making for the perfect romantic bill.
Cost: $5.50-$10.25. Playing: Grand Traverse Cinema 9.
Serenade your sweetheart
Woo that special someone with a singing valentine from the Traverse City Central High Choral-Aires, the Cherry Capital Men's Chorus or the Grand Traverse Show Chorus. Quartets from the groups deliver love songs in four-part harmony, along with romantic gifts like long-stem or vased roses, chocolates, personalized cards and digital photos of the occasion.
"It's really fun. It is just the best day," said Marsha Minervini, who has sung valentines with the Grand Traverse Show Chorus for 18 years. "We go to restaurants, businesses, people's homes, we go to schools. We sing to everyone from preschoolers to the quite elderly, men and women. Some people are embarrassed, but very few.
"They blush, but mostly they love it."
Cost: $40-$50. Reservations: 590-6169 or firstname.lastname@example.org, 590-4722 or www.cherrycapitalchorus.org, or 943-8937 or grandtraverseshowchorus.org.
Reserve a table for two
Cozy up at Amical for a romantic champagne dinner. Choose from pan-seared walleye with hazelnut brown butter and haricot vert served with quinoa pilaf, pan-seared sea scallops with poblano pepper citrus vinaigrette accompanied by lentil salad, or spice rubbed lamb shortloin with port wine jus, fingerling potatoes and vegetables.
Sous chef Ben Hoxie said the European-style bistro's intimate dining room will boast extra ambience, with tables for two and a blazing fire.
"We don't add a lot of frills," he said. "Our dining room is pretty conducive to romantic evenings as it is."
Cost: $30-$32, plus champagne. Reservations: 941-8888.
Jazz it up
Join The Inn at Black Star Farms for an intimate Jazz Cafe concert. Warm up by the fireplace while enjoying popular local musicians including Mike Davis, Jack Dryden, Steve Stargardt and Janice Keegan.
Bistro-style small plates are available, along with wine, brandy, draught cider and specialty cocktails.
Concert: 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15. Reservations: 944-1251 or blackstarfarms.com (tickets also available at the door).
Feast your senses
Plan a romantic evening by your own fire, complete with wine, dessert and, gulp, poetry. Choose a port-style dessert wine from a local winery like Chateau Grand Traverse or Black Star Farms and pair it perfectly with a special dessert (think cherry dessert wine with chocolate from Kilwins or Chocolate Exotica, or pear dessert wine with sea salt-caramel shortbread bars from Poppycock's). Then visit a local bookstore or library for a volume of some of the most romantic words ever put together. Pablo Neruda's "100 Love Sonnets"? Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Sonnets from the Portuguese"?
And if you still manage to put off Valentine's Day till the last minute, you can always redeem yourself by giving the mother of handmade valentine cards or a coupon good for a special kiss, both from Brilliant Books. "Kiss Me Coupons: 22 Smooches for Any Occasion" offer promises for nearly two dozen memorable kisses, like the very first one you shared with your sweetheart (you not only recreate the scene of the kiss but also try to replicate the kiss itself). The valentine cards — one-of-a-kind mixed media works by a California artist — feature puffy fabric hearts decorated with sparkling "gems" or lace and "pearls," and sell for a precious $100 and $50 each.
"They are quite beautiful. They're gigantic and covered in crystals," said Brilliant Books owner Peter Makin. "You'd have to have done something really naughty to get that for your sweetheart. Like 'Honey, I forgot.'"