This year, Valentine’s day falls on a Friday, which makes it especially perfect for a romantic weekend getaway. There’s nothing like a few days of uninterrupted quality time together to remind you both just why you fell in love in the first place. Here are a few tips for planning an enchanted weekend away together this holiday.
Embrace the element of surprise
The grand romantic fantasy is to spirit your loved one away to a weekend of delights, without them ever knowing what’s up. Okay, it’s easier said than done, but there’s nothing like watching their eyes light up when you unveil the plan. The logistics are up to you. We all lead busy lives, and it might not be possible to put together a totally secret trip. If not, there are still plenty of tricks to keep up your sleeve. Tell them you’re going away, but don’t tell them where. Play travel agent, arrange everything, and tell them to relax and trust you. Knowing that your partner took the time to organize a whole trip just for you is deeply heart-warming.
Destination, destination, destination
The best part about escaping daily life with your beloved (aside from unlimited time alone together) is sharing a new experience. Scientists have found that novelty is one of the strongest drivers in lasting romantic happiness: it’s tied to all kinds of feel-good hormones and chemicals which light up brains in love. So choose your destination with freshness in mind. You don’t necessarily have to go far. Large cities are a great choice: even if you’ve been there a hundred times before, there’s always a new side to explore. Research is key here. If you’re more of a sweet B&B type of couple, seek out accommodation with especially beautiful surroundings and, even more importantly, privacy! You’ve only got the weekend, so you don’t want to spend too much time in transit. Pick somewhere within a few hours’ journey. Spending too much time in airports can be a mood killer, (definitely avoid connecting flights) but if you’re both avid travelers, the thrill of jetting off together is hard to beat. Check out cheap last-minute flights on Hipmunk. For something completely different, don’t forget the train! Traveling by rail has its own special kind of romance, with lots of time to relax and watch the world go by.
Pick one or two unforgettable experiences
Don’t overplan your weekend. Lingering over one more glass of wine before you chase each other upstairs, lolling about in bed together enjoying room service, and being free to follow a whim at a moment’s notice are all priceless parts of a weekend away. Still, to make it a getaway you’ll never forget, choose one or two “anchor” experiences to lift you both out of the ordinary. Book dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant, a sunset cruise, or a snorkeling expedition: you know your partner best, so choose a surprise they’ll love, and organize your itinerary around it. It’s that novelty magic at work again. Couples who share adventures see each other in a new light, which perks up the excitement and strengthens their bond, with long-lasting effects. You’ll make life-long memories and have lots to talk and laugh about as you unwind after your day.
Don’t fear the cheese
This is not the time for sophisticated cynicism. Embrace the silliness inherent in Valentine’s day and plan ahead for a little mushy romance. If you’re taking a roadtrip, make a swoony mix to play on the way. Call the hotel and arrange for champagne, chocolates, and strawberries to greet you in your room. Hold hands, whisper sweet nothings, write something saucy on the mirror with lipstick. Seek out photobooths, paddleboats, hot air balloons, heart-shaped jacuzzis, over-the-top lingerie, and rose petals on the bed. You can get away with it because it’s just the two of you. We might sneer at these tropes in public, but they bring up strong sweet associations for just about everyone. At the very least, they’ll bring out the giggles. Call us crazy, but laughter lies at the heart of most great love stories. And a little bit of sentimental nonsense goes a long way.
Above all, relax and remember to enjoy each other. Valentine’s Day only comes once a year, but the time you spend together this weekend will keep the spark burning bright far into the future.
The shamrock is likely one of the most common symbols we associate with St. Patrick’s Day. But just what makes the little green plant so special? It turns out, there are several reasons. The shamrock began as a simple symbol of good luck (an association it still holds today). Over time, it became more and more popular until it reached the point of representing an entire nation.
According to popular legend, the shamrock was a sacred plant in Ireland, especially to the Druids. The plant was so special because because it has three leaves, and three is a magical or mystical number in the Celtic religion. Celts also used the shamrock to supposedly help with their crops. The belief was that burning shamrock leaves and spreading the ashes over their fields would ensure a good growing season. The shamrock also served as a sign of the coming spring, as it was one of the first plants to sprout after winter. When farmers saw the shamrocks start poking out of the ground, they knew growing season wasn’t far behind.
The shamrock became even more popular in the fifth century when St. Patrick used it to illustrate the principle of the Holy Trinity as he introduced Ireland to Christianity. It has three leaves, but it is still one plant – much like the Christian concept of one god in three parts. Stories surrounding St. Patrick say that he would often pluck a shamrock from the ground as he was speaking, and relate to his listeners in a “common” way.
By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had transitioned from being associated with St. Patrick to becoming synonymous with the entire Irish nation. During this time, the English were seizing Irish land and forbidding the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism. As a result, many Irish began to wear a shamrock as a symbol of ride in their heritage – an action that was actually punishable by hanging.
Through the nineteenth century, the shamrock was depicted in virtually every aspect of culture – from illustrations in books and postcards to popular songs and ballads of the time. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the shamrock became a popular architectural feature in Ireland, featured on the facade of many buildings, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It also became a popular decoration on light fixtures and monuments. From there, it made its way into numerous items in Irish homes, like glass, china, jewelry and fabrics. Today, you’ll still see the shamrock used in the logos of many national organizations, especially those dedicated to heritage and history.
You come home at the end of a long, productive workweek and walk through the front door to a neat and cozy place. You head to your well-stocked bar, make yourself your favorite drink easily because everything you need is within arm’s reach. You kick off your shoes, switch on some music and sip your drink as you send your friends messages to set up some great weekend plans.
That sure beats coming home to find that the one beer you had left is not even in the fridge and there’s nothing else to drink. And then you waste five minutes debating whether you should go to the store to get something or just wait a few hours till your friends agree on the bar for tonight’s outing.
Setting up and decorating a home bar is easy – it doesn’t need a large space or a big budget, and it can be a great way to make entertaining at home stress-free. With just a few choice items, you can have it all ready in one go. Custom glassware is also a perfect way to help Dad add to or start his own homebar collection, we even have Dad specific designs for Father's Day.
Here’s what you need to do…
Pick A Spot
Survey your place for a good spot. A home bar doesn’t actually have to be a bar with stools, though if you have the space and you like that idea, go right ahead. There are some bars with high stools that don’t actually take up a large area.
But the other way to go about this is to designate part of a cupboard or table that you already have.
One of most popular spots is the dining room. This makes “dinner and drinks” easy to pull off and you don’t have to keep getting up from the table to top up. Another popular spot is the kitchen so you can have quick access to the fridge for ice, white wine, beer and mixers.
But don’t worry if the spot you really like is not close to the fridge. One piece of equipment you can use to fix this issue is an ice bucket. Otherwise, if everything is already set up at the bar and all you have to do is walk to the fridge to get the rest of what you need, then it’s not going to be a hassle.
Another great place to set up a home bar is in the area where you entertain most frequently. For example: if you have a game room in the basement, or if you do movie nights in your living room, or if you like to sip cocktails on the patio, those are all options to consider.
Any area of the house is fine as long as the bottles are not exposed to direct sunlight, and can be kept in a cool and dry environment.
Another smart idea is to set up a bar cart so you can just move it around depending on where you want to hang out.
With just a few pieces of barware equipment, you can have everything you need to create a large selection of drinks. Here are the basics:
- Bar spoon – this is for stirring, measuring ingredients, layering different spirits in one drink, and garnishing
- Muddler – this tool is used for mashing ingredients like fruits or herbs that are used in cocktails (think: mojito, old fashioned), as well as for crushing ice
- Jigger – this is the bar “measuring cup”, it has two sides, one that measures one ounce and the other two ounces
- Shaker – made up of two metal pieces that fit together, this is what you use to mix cocktails of the “shaken, not stirred” variety
- Strainer – this is like a sieve that fits on the shaker so that when you pour out the cocktail, ice and other bits don’t go into the glass
- Decanter - the always on hand glassware set with your favorite beverage and glasses.
You’ll also need ice bags, ice cube trays, an ice bucket and ice tongs, as well as a box of toothpicks for cocktail onions and olives, a couple of small bowls for nuts and other nibbles, napkins, and coasters.
Depending on how many people you plan to entertain on the regular, you’ll need to get sets of different types of glassware. Those include:
- Beer mugs or pint glasses
- Red wine glasses
- White wine glasses
- Champagne flutes
- Martini glasses
- Highball/tall glasses
- Rocks/short glasses
Four to eight of each should be enough. On average, most people have three drinks, with three or four ice cubes each, and a napkin for each round. Some will use the same glass and some might want to try different drinks, so plan to have minimal extras of everything just in case.
The star of the show, of course, will be the selection of alcohol you have on hand. But even so, you should start with a small collection of your favorite and most often used alcohols. You can build from there later on.
Some of the most popular are:
- Gin – for gin tonics, gin martinis, tom collins
- Vodka – for vodka tonics, screwdrivers, white russians/black russians, bloody marys, cosmopolitans
- Rum – for mojitos, daiquiris, mai tais, cuba libres, piña coladas
- Bourbon – for old fashioneds, manhattans, whiskey sours, mint juleps
- Scotch – for rob roys, rusty nails, godfathers
- Tequila – for margaritas, sunrises, palomas
Each of these spirits has different brands and types. For example: light and dark rums; vodkas distilled from potatoes or sugar cane or grains; there are gold and silver tequilas.
In general, you want to use the more expensive brands for drinking straight or on the rocks, while the less expensive brands for mixing. But you never want to go really cheap either way. And one thing to remember is that although alcohol stores well for long periods of time, the emptier a bottle gets, the more quickly the alcohol in it will spoil due to the air inside.
Next up you want to have some wine. You don’t need a wine cellar; a few good bottles of red and white wine, with maybe one or two Rosés should be enough. As you probably already know, red wine is served at room temperature and white wine should be chilled.
And of course, you should have a pack or two of beers stocked.
Mixers and Garnishes
Again, you don’t want to go overboard with mixers because you might end up spending a lot of money and using only a little.
So just stick to a few basics:
- Red vermouth for manhattans
- White vermouth for martinis
- Bitters to make the different ingredients in the cocktail blend well
- Juices (orange, pineapple, cranberry and tomato)
- Ginger ale
Garnishes can include:
- Hot sauce
- Worchester sauce
- Cocktail onions
Now that you have everything ready, you might want to try your hand at a few cocktails first before you have a cocktail party. You can find lots of recipes online, on YouTube, or you can buy a cocktail recipe book.
You should even make a night of it. Invite a few friends over and experiment with different recipes. Pick your favorite five or six and master them. That is always better than mixing a dozen not-so-great cocktails.
You’ll also need to master some of the basics, such as how to shake, how to strain, how to use a bar spoon, how to use a muddler, how to crush fruit and herbs, etc. The different layers of your cocktail should be composed of the base spirit, like the vodka or gin, plus something bitter and something sweet to give a nice balance of flavors.
If you really want to go all the way, check out some mixology classes in town or online.
And that means two things…
One – get to know your regular guests and what they like.
Two– personalize your own personalized glassware
We have some really cool stuff you can check out, like:
Shop our entire personalized home bar collection.
Some friends of yours may not be drinking alcohol – for whatever reason – and you want to make sure that you don’t leave them out. Just handing them a can of cola or a box of juice is not good hosting, so why not learn a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails and impress them?
Some easy favorites include:
- Flavored sparkling iced-tea
- Lemonade or limeade
- Non-alcoholic punch
- Orange spritzer
- Watermelon cooler
- Asian pear sparkler
- Pink grapefruit soda
There are many recipes online for different virgin cocktails, or “mocktails”, that taste just as delicious as the alcoholic ones. A spicy, savory virgin bloody mary is one example. You will also find non-alcoholic wines you can make virgin sangrias and mimosas with. And there are even pretty good non-alcoholic beers on the market nowadays.
So as you can see, with just a little bit of planning and creativity, you can set up and decorate a home bar that can everyone can enjoy and, more importantly, one that you can enjoy.
DIY weddings are all the rage these days, but planning and preparing every aspect of your wedding yourself can be both daunting and time consuming. After all, it’s not easy to create individual handcrafted party favors for a hundred guests. The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can add meaningful, personal touches to your wedding without going to extreme lengths or spending a small fortune.
Here are ten things you can do to make your day extra special, even if you aren’t particularly ‘crafty’!
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