With that day full of hearts, chocolates and all things romantic just a few days away- love is in the air this week. And this year, those romantic celebrations are looking more like a romantic dinner for two in the backyard rather than a fancy restaurant.
Truth be told- I am not a huge Valentine’s Day ‘proper’ kind of a girl. I have shared posts over the years about- Why I tell my husband NOT to buy me roses and What kind of a dessert I am baking for Sweethearts Day.
Valentine’s Day has always been a family kind of a day with foil wrapped chocolate hearts and sweet treats for the kids as well as each other- and Making homemade valentines was something we did with the kids -and while little boxes of jewelry or a getaway has happened on occasion- the simple things like the valentine my husband made for me one year are the ones that have stayed as the best Valentine’s memories.
And this year, we are planning a simple date night at home. We get dressed up and I put on heels or my boots with my dress – but- I have also arrived to date night wearing cozy slippers with my dress- it is all about balance over here. haha
So today, I thought I would share one of my favorite little romantic moments from Inspired Gatherings- along with the story behind it and a few tips for creating an inspired date night at home.
Behind the shoot
When I was working on Inspired Gatherings- I knew that I would be planning a trip to a beautiful vineyard for one the shoots. I found the most amazing spot (and folks!) at Hammersky Vineyards which was several hours away from us on the central coast. And so we loaded up the car with this and that photo props, grabbed buckets of fresh flowers on the way and even stopped in downtown San Francisco to pick up a set of 4 vintage cane back chairs and a settee for the table. What I didn’t know was that when we arrived at Hammersky- we would have SO many inspired locations to shoot photos. I had just 2 days to get everything styled and photographed- and that means just 2 nights for those all important sunset views. So, when we arrived that evening- and saw so many more opportunities for an inspired gathering- we got right to work. While I photographed one setting and finished it– my husband might have loaded everything in his truck and driven it across to the next one to make sure we could capture that sunset light as much as possible.
I mean, how could I NOT decide to set up under a towering 300 year old oak tree?
#1. Recreate that first or a favorite date
Of course, easier said than done in many cases. I am not meaning the entire first date from location to every last detail- I mean, I would LOVE to recreate some of our favorite date moments in Europe right now but you know. I am meaning the basic feeling and details. Maybe make Italian food and set the table with a checkered cloth, serve delicious focaccia, etc. and play sounds of Italy music to recreate that Italian restaurant date night for example.
Tip: The first tip when looking for a spot for date night- look around your home and yard and see what inspires you and recreate a special memory.
Under a tree, a little clearing near the fountain, the veggie garden, that little spot by the fireplace or in your bedroom where you could tuck a small table and chairs, Near the French doors – even out on your front porch. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box or see what inspires you in the moment.
#2.Talk about a favorite date memory
One of our first dates, my husband took me horseback riding. He grew up in Montana and had horses and I being a typical girl- was in love with horses and loved riding whenever I could. Side note: I took horse back riding lessons from the family that made Jelly Belly beans. Random I know. lol.
So of course I wanted to go riding when he asked. Though, I think he was trying to be romantic- but his horses kept nipping at each other while we were riding- so I spent most of the ride laughing and trying to stay away from him.
#3. Served on a silver platter
I didn’t anticipate setting up under this tree- so the platters and dishes I had packed up to bring along were already spoken for with the main tables. So I got creative. I found a silver platter in the vineyard farmhouse dining room that was being used to hold candles. A quick wash and it was ready to be used for serving a most beautiful cheese platter for two- and it instantly made simple cheese & fruit feel special.
Tip: Vintage silver trays and platters, log slice boards and even everyday use bread boards are perfect for setting up a delicious charcuterie or cheese board for two.
A simple recipe for cheeseboard success
This cheeseboard has just a few delicious elements on it- so easy to create inexpensively and it creates a beautiful display as well.
1 Brie Wheel
1 Wedge Tuscan Cheese
Fresh Red Grapes
1 Grapefruit or orange sliced in half- a bit of citrus for decor for most people but also for nibbling if you love them (I do!)
Blackberries &/or Chocolate bits for sweetness
3 kinds of crackers
But you can go as elaborate or simple as you would like. And if it more of a meal rather than just a simple bit of nibbles- try this board with nuts, chocolates, figs and more. Or This board piled high with sweet treats for dessert.
#4. Day date ideas
Not all Valentine’s dates are dinners. Work schedules oftentimes interfere- and something we learned with my husbands work was that just because it was a weekend or a holiday- didn’t mean it was free. My husband worked at a hospital for several years on a mental health floor before going into law enforcement. And both of those jobs are 24/7 shift work jobs. We often celebrated Christmas or Thanksgiving on a completely different day. And sometimes those night shifts meant it was a late breakfast or brunch instead of candlelit dinner for our anniversary.
Tip: Not all ‘dates’ have to look like dinner and candles to be special.
Breakfast: Plan a breakfast date with coffee by a cozy fire. Set up a grazing board on the island for your sweetheart & family. Pack a picnic breakfast of croissants with fruit and a thermos of coffee or tea for breakfast on a dock or even just in the car. Or for lunch: Meet for lunch at a local park, or a cup of coffee and conversation on break.
#5. Sunset & dinner
Have I ever told you about one of the first dates I went on with my husband? It was in Montana- I had just moved to the area about a month earlier and I was basically living off of Herbalife shakes. Anyone remember those? So, you might say I was starving but at the same time- whenever I would go out with that sweet guy- I didn’t want to ‘eat’ in front of him and so I would just nibble at a few things. (Why? I have no idea.) After we had been dating for about a month and a half, he ordered food and drove me up to an area with an overlook on the side of a mountain.
The view looked out across the hay fields and to the mountains in the distance and was beautiful. He parked the car on the side of dirt road, and we sat there and chatted and watched the sun as it set. It was nothing short of magic- those vibrant colors dancing in the sky, tall golden grasses waving in the wind and blue mountains in the distance- with a cute country boy. I soaked that magic up and I have always said that night when we watched the sunset over the prairie – we fell in love. (It probably didn’t hurt that he also noticed I never ate much and kept feeding me- & for the first time in a few months, I was full haha.) It was such a simple date night- and I remember it today just like it was yesterday and has kind of inspired keeping it simple for date nights since.
Tip: Pack a simple dinner- make sandwiches or pasta and place it in containers, or pick up something you both love as a treat and drive to a spot that is special for you- or an overlook or quiet road and have a dinner date by sunset.
#6. Use what you have on hand
See this charming low table? It is a 1/3rd size wine barrel that we found stacked by the barn at the vineyard. It was perfect for a low table- think blankets and pillows on the ground for a picnic.
Tip: Look around at what you could use to create a table for an impromptu picnic. If you don’t have any of those half barrels on hand (they have them at garden centers all the time) look at those little wood footstools or crates, pallets and other things you might have and put them to use.
#7. Write a Love Note
Something completely underrated I think- a simple love note.
It takes just a few minutes to sit down and write down 10 things you love about someone. Think back to when you first met and what you first fell in love with and how your love has evolved over the years. There was one year that my husband gave me 3 roses in different colors and told me what each one represented. Friendship, love, beauty, etc. I loved that he put that much thought into choosing flowers for me and I still have the very first ‘love note’ that he wrote to me.
Even if someone makes you a tad crazy on a daily basis (I know nothing about that) I think writing down a few things that you love or appreciate about someone is a very sweet and romantic thing to do anytime of the year.
I hope this gives you some ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day at home with your sweetheart this year. You can find more in my book Inspired Gatherings– Happy Monday everyone.