This post is from staff writer April Dykman.

Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday, but I say, “So what!”

Sure, you don’t need a holiday to show appreciation for your significant other, but why miss out on the extra chance to do it? Besides, you don’t have to celebrate the way the commercials tell you to, with boxes of cream-filled chocolate, stuffed animals, jewelry, or an overpriced prix fixe menu.

A cold and miserable V-Day
I remember the last Valentine’s Day before my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I decided to opt out of the traditional chocolates and dinner reservations celebration. He picked me up and we went to a great little restaurant across town. We had dinner reservations, but we still had to wait an hour-and-a-half past our reservation for a seat. Outside. In the cold. When I say it was a little restaurant, I mean there was an indoor waiting area that seated maybe four people.

By the time we were seated, we were cold, tired, and hungry. Normally, we love that restaurant. But on Valentine’s Day, it was a completely different experience. We decided that next year we’d go all-out on a Valentine’s Day dinner — at home. And that’s what we’ve done every year since.

DIY Romance
Valentine’s Day, like any other day, is what you make of it. It’s only commercialized if that’s how you choose to celebrate it. It can be hard, however, to come up with creative alternatives, especially since commercials for chocolate, flowers, and such are blaring over the TV and radio waves. If unique and low-key is more your style, here are five Valentine’s Day ideas for your loved ones:

  • Instead of dinner reservations, make a simple dinner for two. If you like the idea of cooking a meal at home, but want someone else to do the planning, magazine Bon Appétit is happy to oblige with its Seductively Simple Valentine’s Day Menu for Two. Recipes include Radicchio and Arugula Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing and Burrata Crostini, Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Red-Wine Pan Sauce and Pink-Peppercorn Butter, and Lemon Shortbread Heart Cookies. (I might be using this menu myself!) Bonus points: Create a play list of love songs to provide the soundtrack for your evening.
  • Instead of a Hallmark card, make handmade Valentines. Handmade cards are charming, but it can be hard to get started. You probably don’t want the end result to look like something you made in elementary school. Avie Designs offers a good tutorial on Papel Picado Valentines that uses paper-cut tissue paper to create card designs.
  • Instead of a heart-shaped box of chocolates, make homemade fudge with an even sweeter surprise. Sometimes I can’t stand how crafty Martha Stewart is, but I can’t help but to like her. For Valentine’s Day, make her Creamy Fudge Hearts and package each one in a cupcake paper with a message underneath.
  • Instead of a dozen roses from the flower shop, turn supermarket flowers into a beautiful bouquet. Think it’s not possible to make carnations or baby’s breath into something stunning? Think again! Real Simple offers up an easy tutorial on how to use less expensive flowers to make elegant bouquets. I’ve officially changed my anti-carnation stance (announcing it on GRS makes it official).

  • Instead of a stuffed teddy bear, make embroidered portraits, featured in the latest issue of Country Living. Each portrait can be hand-sewn in less than an hour. Make a copy of a photo, affix the copy to watercolor paper, and outline the image by using a pin to punch holes. Next, remove the photo and use embroidery thread to sew a running stitch along the holes to create the portrait.

My favorite DIY projects save money and don’t take too much time to complete, and each of these relatively simple projects fit the bill. I say instead of boycotting Valentine’s Day, reclaim it. Here’s to a heartfelt celebration of love this February 14th!

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Do you take a DIY approach, and if so, what are some of your favorite project ideas?