Are you prepared for Valentine's Day? (If not, read this!)


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Someone's seeing red, and we're not talking roses or heart-shaped candy boxes.

You delayed and delayed and forgot all about it, and boom! It's Valentine's Day morning and you have just realized that you have nothing -- NOTHING -- to offer your loved one except a hug, a kiss and a lame excuse.

Don't go there. Act like you have it all taken care of. So what if the restaurants are booked solid? With Valentine's Day falling conveniently on a Thursday this year, there's still time to stroll into your local Trader Joe's and get a bunch of red roses or to a local spa for a gift certificate -- possibly even for a massage the same day!

Read on:

FLOWERS

A lot of online florists claim they'll do last minute deliveries of flowers, although selections may be limited.

• Go online at www.flowers.com or call 1-800-FLOWERS, and if you order between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. today, it will deliver flowers to anyone living in the Pittsburgh region, although it might be a tad late in the day.

• Same with http://blog.fromyouflowers.com, which promises same-day Valentine's Day delivery if you order by 3 p.m. today.

• You can always go to the Strip, where flowers are sold on the street corners near Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., at 2010-2012 Penn Ave., or head to one of Pittsburgh's two Trader Joe's stores in East Liberty or Upper St. Clair, which offer a dozen sustainably grown red roses -- "a message of unrelenting passion," says the store's blurb -- for the low, low price of $9.99, "a message of unrelenting value."

GIFTS

• If you'd only thought ahead, you could have ordered this romantic rose-scented candle online, but luckily, it's for sale at Toadflax in Shadyside -- RoseDuet, a special edition Valentine's Day candle by the fabled Paris fragrance house Diptyque. It's a combination of the company's rose candle and its popular Baies candle, a fruity scent of roses and blackcurrent leaves in a lovely pink frosted glass. $68 at Toadflax, 5443 Walnut St.

• If you're willing to drive to Canonsburg today, you can buy a 7-pound box of Sarris chocolate assortment in a heart-shaped box for $175 at its company headquarters. If you have neither the time nor the money for that kind of gift, check out your local Giant Eagle or Walgreens, which are among 200 stores in the Pittsburgh region that carry a $5 heart-shaped box of "Have a Heart" chocolates to benefit the Heart Institute at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Sarris Candies Inc., 511 Adams Ave., Canonsburg or 1-800-255-7771.

• Now THIS is a Valentine's Day present: a side-by-side "couples massage" in a private suite with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries for $200. Spa Jema, Downtown, is offering this special through Sunday, although you can walk in today and purchase a gift certificate and, depending on demand, there might even be a spot available. For $225, you get the couples massage, the chocolate, the champagne AND time spent in a private sauna beforehand. Spa Jema is open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. except Mondays, and is at 117 First Ave., Downtown. spajema.com, info@spajema.com or call 412-281-3336.


PLACES TO EAT

• What's romantic about a jammed restaurant? Put together a luscious takeout dinner instead. Assemble a charcuterie plate with meats from Parma Sausage Co. as well as cheese and olives from Pennsylvania Macaroni, both in the Strip District. For dessert, pick up some dark chocolate bars from Mon Aimee Chocolat, an assortment of biscotti from Enrico Biscotti, both in the Strip, or delectable pastries and truffles from La Gourmandine Bakery, 4605 Butler St., in Lawrenceville or Jean-Marc Chatellier's French Bakery, 213 North Ave., Millvale.

• Ethnic eats also are a good bet for takeout, such as Noodlehead in Shadyside for spicy Sukothai noodles with pork loin or Street Noodle No. 2 with tempura shrimp, bok choy and cilantro. There's no phone (and cash only), so customers must visit the shop at 242 S. Highland Ave. to pick up items to go.

• If you're determined to eat out tonight, consider ethnic dining for less-crowded dining rooms. Nicky's Thai Kitchen on the North Side may be packed, while the new Downtown location at 903 Penn Ave. is relatively undiscovered. Branch out for Korean fare at Korea Garden on the hard-to-find Semple Street in Oakland. It offers options for sharing such as bibimbap and bo ssam. Also Downtown, but out of the sightline is La Cucina Flegrea on the second floor in Market Square (with a full bar) for a bowl of mussels, assorted bruschetta or a giant antipasto salad. Consider a bit of a drive, too. You likely will not wait long at CC's Cafe, 2218 Main St., in Sharpsburg, particularly if you visit after 7 p.m., restaurant staff confirmed. At this charming Italian restaurant from Anita Schaming and Cyndy Charmo, you'll find a tucked-away dining room and a solid menu of Italian-American classics.

• Strategize timing for a no-reservations spot. The bar stools at Dish Osteria on the South Side may be ambitious, but consider early or late off-peak times at Point Brugge, 401 Hastings St., Point Breeze, or Dinette, 5996 Penn Circle South, East Liberty, both of which have walk-in policies. Other intriguing late-night dining: Fukuda, 4770 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; Bar Marco, 2216 Penn Ave., Strip District; and Up Modern Kitchen, 5500 Walnut St., Shadyside. Valentine's Day falls late enough in the week that dining at 10 p.m. (hopefully) isn't as taxing for the week.

THINGS TO DO

• With restaurants jammed, what's a bloody alternative? How about "Guts and Gore Meet and Eat" at the Double Wide Grill on the South Side, where you can meet your future zombie mate from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. You can also dine with your tasty loved one from 5 to 10 p.m., with special dishes added to the regular menu.

Costumes, of course, are encouraged, with prizes for best outfit announced at 11 p.m. Bring your own scary videos, laptop input or DVD and Double Wide folks will play them on the big screen. 2339 E. Carson St.; reservations: 412-390-1111.

• Lace up your skates and take a glide under the stars with your Valentine. Citiparks and 100.7 Star will present "Valentines on Ice" at Schenley Park ice rink (adults only) from 7 to 10 tonight. No reservations required. Entry is $4 per couple; skate rentals are $2.50 per person. The first 175 couples will receive a rose and assorted chocolates, courtesy of Alex's Flowers of Oakland and Betsy Ann Chocolates, respectively. There also will be mini-massages offered by Massage Envy of Squirrel Hill and salsa dance lessons by Jeff and Colleen Shirey of Salsa Pittsburgh. Lucci's Pizza of Squirrel Hill will provide pizza. The event is sponsored by UPMC Health Plan. Information: 412-422-6523 or www.Citiparks.net.

• The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre tonight premieres "Moulin Rouge," a passionate story of love, ambition and heartbreak in turn-of-the-century Paris. This is the first time the Pittsburgh ballet troupe has performed this story. There are still tickets left for tonight's 7:30 performance at the Benedum Center, Downtown; it runs through Sunday. Your Valentine will think you bought them weeks in advance. Tickets: pbt.culturaldistrict.org or 412-456-6666.

• There's lots to love about "You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up!," the 75-minute CLO Cabaret show that takes a humorous look at a relationship that seemed doomed by opposing personalities from the start. The couple learn to navigate conflicts that come with romance, money and children by embracing each other's differences, taking on parenting as a competitive sport and dropping out of couples therapy. Their delightfully crazy lifestyle upends every idea you ever had about living "happily ever after." The show begins at 7:30 tonight. Tickets: $34.75-$44.75 at CLOCabaret.com or 412-456-6666. If you can't catch it tonight, the show runs through May 5.


MUSIC

We asked a few Pittsburgh musicians to clue us in on their most romantic album. Three of them did just that, while one offered a playlist for your romantic listening.

Chris Fafalios, Punchline:

Everyone knows that I'm obviously THE most romantic punk rock bassist of all time, so it was really hard for me to pick just one romantic album. However, I searched my heart and narrowly edging out Janet Jackson's "The Velvet Rope," Jimmy Eat World's "Clarity" and the entire Motown catalog was Bjork's "Vespertine." Although every song on the album isn't necessarily a love song, the lush electronic soundscapes and haunting harp come together with Earth's most beautiful voice to create a perfect soundtrack for an enchanting evening. Lyrically, the album could very well have been written by a strange and pale Icelandic version of Cupid. If you are looking to make a long-lasting musical impression on the human that you adore this V-day, put on "Vespertine" and take a long drive through some snowy back roads. You may later find your object of desire quoting "An Echo a Stain" when whispering in your ear, "I can't say no to you."


Joy Ike, singer-songwriter:

I absolutely love Josh Garrel's "Love & War & The Sea in Between." The album is one beautiful painting of love songs. Sometimes I feel comforted by the songs, sometimes shipwrecked, but always satisfied by the imagery he paints. It's an album I recommend for listeners who like to discover new and unique music and writing.


Brad Yoder, singer-songwriter:

I remember hearing Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey" for the first time in college. I think I bought it as part of one of those record club initial offers, where you got 12 CDs for $3 and then had to buy a few more at regular price. Van is so smooth on this record, down to the album art photos where he's sitting on a fence next to a horse, and a woman in a long dress with her hand on his leg. My recollection is of thinking, "Wow, this guy clearly knows how to woo the ladies." I wasn't sure I could ever be that guy, but it was a kind of revelation.


Kellee Maize, singer-rapper:

A playlist:

Erykah Badu featuring Stephan Marley, "I'm in Love With You": Two of my favorites in a pure and sweet song that still gives me chills. Their voices sound like the god and goddess of the universe came together.

Blackmill feat. Veela, "Let It Be": This is one of my favorite songs right now, and although I wouldn't say it is a blatant love song, I feel in the poetry that this could be applied to an important inter-dimensional kind of soul love connection.

Fabolous feat. Neyo, "Make Me Better": There is no question that my relationship with my beloved takes me to another level. "I'm a movement by myself, but I'm a force when we're together/I'm good all by myself, but baby you make me better."

Mary J Blige and Method Man, "All I Need": Such a classic. It's like you just want to be them and take over the world together.

Dead Prez, "Mind Sex": I used to play this song on every single radio show I did at Pitt's radio station when I was in school. I just love that its not just about sex ONLY, but about what you have to say, how you think, etc.

Madonna, "Express Yourself": Always loved that she has something other than "material girl" sort of feelings about love and in this song talks about how your significant other doesn't need to buy you things or have money, that you need a loving, expressive person that treats you right ... or move on.

Michael Franti, "Sweet Little Lies": This is such a great song that points to your loved one telling you the world is gonna be OK -- when you know it's not, but with this kind of resolve that you will work together to make it better ... to make the sweet little lies true.

Michael Jackson, "Remember the Time": Michael has tons of romantic songs, but this one is so great because it can take you back to first falling in love or special memories.

Lauryn Hill, "Just Like the Water": This is such a sweet and poetic song. I recently wrote a ceremonial song about water, and it reminded me of the magic of this song.

"Danny's Song": My fave version is by Anne Murray. My dad introduced me to this song when I first started dating, and I sang it at his funeral, so it always holds a place with me. It is raw and real: "even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you, honey."

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