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SHOP TALK : Gift Choices That Give Romance a Ribbing : Offbeat items abound for Valentine's--from a teddy bear with ball and chain to a troll in heart-decorated boxer shorts.

February 02, 1995|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Valentine's Day is one of the most celebrated, most gift-oriented holidays of the year. It's also one of those days when the adage, "It's the thought that counts," really doesn't cut it.

As we see it, when buying a Valentine's gift for that special someone, it's almost got to be perfect. A can opener probably won't do, but a cappuccino machine might. A can of air freshener will likely get you a reserved seat in the dog house, but an attractive potpourri canister might be just the thing that says, "I love you."

Through our limited experience with this romance-shopping dilemma, we've come to a conclusion: There are two ways of going about it. You either go for the serious, sensitive candlelight-dinner-with-with-violin-serenade-and-long-stem-rose approach, or you go for the funny, cute, goofy, yet loving approach. (There's probably a third option, the risque gift route--but that's another column, probably another publication altogether.)

Next week, we'll get serious and sentimental. But for this week's column we went shopping for those offbeat items. If your recipient has a sense of humor, these gifts tend to go over well. But if not, you might find yourself shopping for someone else this time next year.

Because there is so much goofy stuff to choose from, we decided to offer our Top 10 list, a rundown of the best of what we found at a variety of stores. You can go out and purchase these exact items, or just use them as inspiration in your search for something wackier:

* A white stuffed teddy bear in striped jail cap and shirt. On the shirt is the declaration "Prisoner of Love." The doll comes complete with ball and chain attached to its left leg. (Price: $13 at the Alice in Wonderland balloon and party supply store in Oxnard, $19.99 at The Gift Emporium in Ventura.)

* A music box penguin in full tuxedo. When you bop it on its head it plays the theme to "A Love Story." (Price: $22.99 at The Gift Emporium.)

* A frog with a crown. It comes with a lipstick-imprinted card, suggesting that this frog may or may not be a prince, but that a kiss would be most welcome regardless. (Price: $4.95 at Lautzenhiser's Stationery store in Oxnard).

* A large ceramic mug in the shape of boxer shorts, with the sentimental phrase, "Bottoms Up, Lover Boy." (Price: $10.50 at Alice in Wonderland.)

* A "Somebody in Simi Valley Loves Me" T-shirt. It's white with red and black lettering and red hearts. It comes in medium, large and extra large. The matching sweat shirt comes in large and extra large only. (Prices: $3.50 for the T-shirt, $12.99 for the sweat shirt at the T-Shirt Mart in Simi Valley.)

* A stuffed doll that looks like comic strip character Cathy, dressed in black dress and pearls. On her dress is written, "I love you wildly, madly, passionately . . . usually." (Price: $11.95 at the Moorpark Flower & Gift Emporium.)

* An attractive red and black box. On the outside is the pink-lettered sentiment, "I'm Attached To You . . . In So Many Little Ways." Open the box and find a heart-shaped container of red paper clips. This Hallmark product also comes with a stapler, a screwdriver and a putty knife, all with different set-up lines. (Prices: $2.95 paper clips, $4.95 putty knife, $7.95 stapler, at Ken's Stationers Office and Computer Supplies in Simi Valley.)

* A troll wearing the ever-popular heart-decorated boxer shorts. (Price $6.75 at Party For Less in Simi Valley).

* A red lips candle. (Price: $5 at Salzer's Records in Ventura. Salzer's has a nice selection of G-rated, PG-rated, and other more "adults only" gifts.)

* A simple red card with black lettering. On the outside it proclaims "I hate Valentine's Day," then offers an explanation. "I hate wondering whether or not I should give a gift, and if I do give a gift, how extravagant it should be. I hate thinking about all the flowers that give their lives just so someone at the office can look real popular. I hate it when I don't get any Valentines. I hate Valentine's Day. I mean it. I hate it, hate it, hate it." Open up the card and it says, "But you I love." (Price: $1.95 at Ken's Stationers.)

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