Marching Orders

Ah February, my calendrical nemesis, we meet yet again. Once more you stand between me and the first Spring month of the year, and you just had to be a leap year this time. Like that extra day makes you so special. We all know who you got it from…June is far too nice to tell tales, but rumor has it that she started with 31 days and a holiday devoted to love, and ended up with 30 and Flag Day. Poor thing, if there was ever a month you’d want to hang around for another day, it would be June. 
And, Bingo!, that’s why I have a problem with Valentine’s Day, thanks for asking. Who intentionally drops a love holiday smack in the middle of the shortest winter month? I’m guessing it started with Sir Valentine Loins a lot poetically pining away for Lady Bleach Bottom with some ode or sonnet or limerick about a nonsexual body part that drove him crazy, but his pursuits drove her to a convent. The townsfolk felt awkwardly sympathetic for Valentine’s situation and declared that February 14th should be his day, because, who cares, it’s February and life expectancy is 12 years. Unfortunately, the new holiday starts trending on Ding Dong, the Middle Ages precursor to TikTok, and before you know it, someone stamped words on heart-shaped chalk, and here we are. 
Regardless of how it started, we’re now expected to roll up our thermal underwear and get down to the tricky business of expressing our true love for the people we care about. While your love should never be commercialized, everyone does like a little treat now and again, so here are a few suggestions for those on your I-like-you-do-you-like-me-too list. 
For the gift that keeps on giving, how about an on-demand baking class from King Arthur Baking Company? Specifically Homemade Pizza: from Pan to Neapolitan, which includes eight video lessons and a full-color recipe workbook. With a few simple tools, you can turn out pizza like a pro, and it’s only $40. 
To go with the class, or for someone who already makes pizza at home, up their game with a steel pizza stone. Steel conducts heat 20 times faster than a ceramic baking stone, so it creates a better crust, the pizza cooks faster, and you can blister the crust like it was cooked in a commercial oven. They come in a variety of sizes, prices, and thicknesses. Here’s the one that I like, it has a large working area, a good thickness for retaining heat, and a built-in backstop to help keep your pizza in place.
Other tools that an aspiring pizza chef might enjoy include high-grade ingredients like quality mozzarella, Italian canned tomatoes, pizza seasoning, and specialty tools like a professional-grade wheel (pizza cutter) and a Detroit-style pizza pan. Speaking of Detroit style, if you don’t have time to make your own and you live in Richmond, Frank’s Pizzeria makes great Detroit style every Thursday night. Eat in, pick it up, or have it delivered. 
One of the best gifts is quality time, and a great way to spend time together is over a Liberty Puzzle. Based in Colorado, this company laser cuts their puzzles out of quarter-inch wood creating intricate, whimsical, and fiendishly difficult puzzle pieces. The finished puzzles are works of art, and many of the pieces themselves are cut to reflect the puzzle theme. While you are working on a puzzle featuring dogs, you will find the piece you are looking for is shaped like…a dog. The puzzles are designed to take a while to finish, so settle in, and grab some snacks, you are going to be there a while.  Like to start with finding the corners first? Good luck with that. 
I am constantly writing things down in notepads, and one thing I’ve learned over the years is that notepads are pretty darn boring. But they don’t have to be. WTF/Notebooks makes customizable notebooks with eye-catching titles like List of People Who Underestimated Me and How That Worked Out for Them, List of Things My Wife Was Right About, and my personal favorite, Brilliant Ideas I Had While Pooping. Why be boring when you can crack up a nosey stranger? 
Finally, curating a plant for your sweetheart is always a good move, provided that like you, there is a good match. Do they smother you with attention? Orchid or some humidity-loving prima donna. Are they distant, aloof, and a little prickly when this is brought to their attention? Cactus. Is it always about them? Ponytail Palm. Do they thrive on your emotional neglect? Succulent. Might I suggest, if your little slice of heaven likes plants at all, the String of Hearts? It’s unique and attractive (just like you) with trailing vines and leaves that look like little hearts. They like to be root-bound (not touching that one), so even a four-inch pot can have four feet of vines. 

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