You could spend about $100 to treat your Valentine to dinner at Pasadena's Fleur de Vin. Or you could amble over to Jurgensen's and buy a bottle of Perrier Jouet Champagne.
But this year, budget Valentines seem somehow more appropriate. And the San Gabriel Valley offers lots of ways to celebrate Valentine's Day on the cheap.
For example, on Thursday, the Pasadena Ice Skating Center is hosting "Sweetheart's Night." You pay $6.50, the regular price for admission and skate rental, and your sweetheart can skate for free.
To add to the ambience, the center promises to play such melodies as "My Funny Valentine," "Strangers in the Night" and "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," while you and your Valentine skate arm-in-arm around the rink, which is at 300 E. Green St.
To top off the evening, head for the Pasadena Creamery, at 50 W. Colorado Blvd., where for $1.10 each you can indulge in a cookie and a cup of hot chocolate. The whole evening is yours for under $10.
To keep a little mystery in your loved one's life and some pocket change in yours, try buying your Valentine a paperback copy of Carolyn G. Hart's "Deadly Valentine," for $4.50. At BOOK'em Mysteries, underneath a display of a blood-red heart with a dagger through its center, are a slew of mystery books, including "Sweet Savage Death" for $3.50, "Seeing Red" and "To Love, Honor & Kill" for $4.95 each, and "Fallen Hearts" for $5.50. The staff at BOOK'em, 1012 Mission St. in South Pasadena, will wrap your true love's gift in black paper and a red bow.
Also on Mission Street in South Pasadena are Trader Joe's and Family Fair, where the options under $10 are abundant.
You can still buy that bottle of bubbly, build a fire and toast each other until the last drop is gone. At Trader Joe's, 613 Mission St., a bottle of Paul Lambert French brut Champagne is selling for $9.99--about half the regular price. Chateau De Villelongue is going for $5.99 and for $3.99 you can walk away with a bottle of Codorniu brut clasico, "an outstanding Spanish sparkling wine," according to the South Pasadena store's wine buyer, John Chavez.
If you're feeling industrious, you can put together a picnic basket for two. Start out with heart-shaped Valley Lahvosh crackers, which the store has on sale for $1.59. Include a half pound of Saint Benoit Brie for $1.70 and a half pound of Alpine salami for $1.75. For dessert you can buy a Belgian chocolate bar for 99 cents. And don't forget the wine. A bottle of La Belle's California white Zinfandel is selling for $1.99. Bring your own basket and blanket and this romantic lunch is under $10.
Family Fair, 1019 Mission St., is a shop reminiscent of an old-fashioned general store. For the romantic, it offers a slim volume of "Love Poems and Love Letters," for $7. In it there are declarations penned by, among others, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Oscar Wilde, Voltaire and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
For those who would rather share a laugh, pick up a copy of "What Is a Kiss?," a collection of riddles about love. There is also "On Love and Marriage," described by its authors as "a collection of witty sayings for and against the profane state of love and the holy state of matrimony." Both books cost $7.
Throughout the shop there are plenty of heart-shaped knickknacks. For $2 there are Christmas tree ornaments painted with cupids and tins decorated with hearts and flowers. There is a rubber stamp and pink ink pad for $3 and a pink-and-white ceramic box for $6. Pink- and champagne-colored bath pearls can be bought for as little as 25 cents each.
"There are lots of nice things you can do," said owner Clara Richards. "I've concentrated on keeping prices down and also on stocking items people can use after Valentine's Day is over."
The Chocolate Bar, 254 W. Bonita Ave. in Claremont, is a cozy shop filled with clear glass jars stuffed with candies. Although it has expensive Belgian chocolates and chocolate truffles, it also carries about 50 varieties of Valentine candy that sell for $3.50 a pound. There are red, white and pink jelly beans, hot lips, jumbo red-hot hearts, "sizzlin' lips," chocolate hearts wrapped in foil and the ever-popular conversation hearts with such messages as "Be Mine," "Be True," and "Forever."
"People come in and say they want to spend about $5 and ask, 'What can you do for me?' " says owner Carol McGoon. "We fill gift and cellophane bags or tins with candies and we try to accommodate special requests."
One such request came recently from a little girl who wanted to buy her boyfriend a present for Valentine's Day. She selected a Ricky Rattler, a 30-inch long gummy rattlesnake. "We coiled it up in a box for her and tied it with ribbons and hearts," McGoon said.