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Romancing the Home : At the Heart of the Matter Are Soft Touches for Lovers of Comfort


Ah, my Beloved, fill the cup that clears

Today of past Regrets and future Fears

--The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Valentine's Day is a great excuse to fill the house with hearts and flowers, but it's also a good time to think of ways to make the home more romantic year-round.

Romantic touches such as . . . a cozy nook with soft pillows and indirect lighting . . . a love seat covered with a floral chintz fabric . . . vintage family wedding photographs in beautiful frames arranged on a table with an embroidered linen cloth.

Even if just for the holiday, adding some bright reds and pinks to the house helps liven things up--especially after all the dreary winter weather and rains.

A quick way to brighten a home is to buy pots of red tulips and place them at the front door, on the fireplace hearth or on the kitchen counter.

While you're in the kitchen, bake some heart-shaped sugar cookies and dust them with red sugar or decorate with red or pink icing. Angel and lovebird shapes are other options.

In the living room, put out silver bowls and fill them with red carnations and white baby's breath; even shiny red apples would look good in a glass bowl.

If your budget is healthy, fill a cut-glass bowl with decadent, heart-shaped European chocolates. If you're on a budget, try ceramic bowls of red-hot cinnamon candies or commercial sugar hearts. Memories of grade-school Valentine's Day parties are sure to come flooding back.

Surround yourself with romantic scents too. Potpourri heated in a ceramic container is good, or fill a crystal bowl with floral-scented potpourri. Put potpourris in small bowls throughout the house. To make them especially festive, add large, red, dried petals.

Potpourri can also be put in linen or cotton bags and placed with clothing in dresser drawers or between sheets and towels in the linen cupboard, where the scent will perfume the fabrics.

Buy soaps in the shape of hearts, cupids and angels and leave them in the bathrooms, along with some inexpensive red or pink fingertip towels.

A visual and fragrant touch of romance can be added with a heart-shaped wreath of dried flowers or herbs on the front door or in the kitchen.

In fact, certain herbs and spices have enjoyed a place in lore and legend as symbols of love, passion, jealousy, desire or fidelity. Putting them in a wreath is a way to celebrate both the coming spring and love.

Marjoram and oregano (wild marjoram) are fabled to have been liked by Venus, the goddess of love, so she raised the herb marjoram from the depths of the ocean and grew it on Mt. Olympus, close to the sun, naming it Joy of the Mountain.

Basil and rosemary are both immortalized in romantic poetry. Keats wrote the tragic love poem "Isabella, or the Pot of Basil" and, in Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Ophelia cries, "There's rosemary, for remembrance, / Pray you, love, remember . . . " To mark his loss, Nero is said to have burned a year's supply of cinnamon at his wife's funeral. Cumin reputedly keeps lovers from becoming fickle, while it is said thyme can bring an end to melancholy. Saffron, the edible gold, has been steeped in romance since Nefertiti's time.

For a romantic meal, try setting up dinner for two in the bedroom. Use a small round table or card table covered with a white lace cloth or a pretty piece of chintz. Place votive candles strategically around the room and play your favorite music on the stereo.

Lacy and heart-shaped pillows on the bed can be very inviting, and, if you like a frilly bedroom, a diaphanous swag over the bed adds a romantic touch. That can be created from a relatively inexpensive fabric, even sheets.

For a year-round romantic bedroom, use fabrics that are soft and puffy in a warm, subdued color palette. Fluffy rugs and bed throws are both warm and sensual.

Because Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year, breakfast in bed is a nice way to indulge and celebrate. It doesn't have to be fancy--even corn flakes with orange juice and a single flower will do the trick.

Another possibility: tea in the middle of the afternoon. With colorful roses, white doilies and scones with strawberry jam, the setting can be the height of Victorian romance.

Or in the evening, serve pizza and champagne on a cocktail table in front of the sofa or fireplace. Cover the cocktail table with lipstick red place mats and red or white napkins.

Rent a romantic video and turn the lights down low.

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