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Valentine’s Day

Brian Walling and Cari Endres enjoy their wedding ceremony. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

For 22 years Cupid has visited Huntington Town Hall for Valentine’s Day and spread his love throughout the building — with the help of Town Clerk and Marriage Officer Jo-Ann Raia.

Raia has been serving as marriage officer for the town since 1989, and in 1995 she started a tradition of a “marriage marathon.”

Alexander Acosta Herrera and Esmeria Martinson tie the knot. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

“I normally perform marriage ceremonies year round,” she said. “However in 1995 I thought it would be romantic to begin a Valentine’s Day marriage ceremony marathon. The couples I united over these past years received this idea enthusiastically. It is a privilege and a pleasure for me to unite these couples and to share in their happiness as they embark on their new lives together.”

The free event consists of couples partaking in a small marriage ceremony with Raia presiding, and then the new bride and groom cut a cake and enjoy drinks and snacks with their guests, donated by local vendors, as well as gifts for the couple and the maid of honor and best man. This year 11 couples were wed in town hall.

Local merchants have donated flowers, baked goods, decorations and other gifts throughout the years, and this year Raia said 34 businesses have donated to the event, including Copenhagen Bakery, The Flower Petaler, Rise Above Bakery, Fashion in Flowers and more.

Huntington residents Brian Walling, 42, and Cari Endres, 40, took advantage of this romantic event after finding out about it while paying off a parking ticket.

“It was the last day before I got another $100 charge and I saw the flyers when I was at town hall,” the bride said. “I asked him if he was working Valentine’s Day, and he said no, so I told him ‘we’re getting married on Valentine’s Day.’”

The couple met at a bar while skiing in Vermont two years ago.

“We were basically both watching TV rooting against the Patriots, because we’re both Giants fans and then I don’t think we’ve ever been apart since that night,” Endres said.

Brian Walling and Cari Endres enjoy their wedding ceremony. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Walling said the hug the first night ensured him that Endres was the one for him.

“The conversation was fun and we definitely had a lot in common and we were just having a good time, but what sealed the deal was the hug,” he said. “It was the best hug ever.”

Walling proposed last July while the pair were spending July 4th weekend with family at Endres’ family lake house.

“My father passed away three years ago and he knew how special the lake house was to me,” Endres said. “We were up there with family after a lobster dinner sitting under tiki torches in bathing suits still and that was it.”

The Dalys smile looking back on 60 years of marriage

Bill and Angie Daly with their wedding photo. Photo by Donna Newman

Angie and Bill Daly are months away from celebrating 60 years of married bliss. Well, maybe it wasn’t all bliss, Angie said, but they must know how marriage survives, because they are still happily together.

The two met at a church dance in Brooklyn in 1956. Angie’s brother Vin knew Bill from their days together at the Vincentian seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. So when they encountered each other at the coat check, Bill noticed Vin’s armful of coats.

“Where’re you going with all those coats?” Bill asked. To which Vin explained he brought seven girls to the dance. “I said, you’re just the guy I want to talk to.”

Angie was the first girl he asked to dance.

“I was attracted to guys who were fair with blue eyes,” Angie said. “It was those blue eyes. And I thought he was suave.”

At the end of the evening, Bill asked Angie if he could drive her home.

“I thought everything about her was terrific,” Bill said. “She was so bright and cheerful and outgoing — and cute.”

She said yes, but only if some of the other girls could come along. So they piled into his yellow Olds 98 convertible and on the way home, the car broke down.

“It just died,” Angie said. They were alongside a big cemetery. It was around midnight; no houses or stores were nearby. It started to snow. Angie and Bill left the others in the car and went to find help.

They finally reached some stores, but only the bar and grill was open. They went in and called Vin, who had been home for some time, got dressed, picked them up, drove all the girls home and dropped Bill off at the train station.

“So the first night we met, we had problems,” Angie said.

They got engaged in 1957, married in 1958, and the babies started coming in 1959. By 1969, the couple had four sons and two daughters. Bill taught algebra and business at John Adams High School in Queens. The family lived in Brentwood. He moved into sales with State Farm insurance company and operated his own agency for 28 years. The pair moved to Smithtown, where they resided for 25 years before moving to Jefferson’s Ferry in South Setauket a little more than four years ago.

They still enjoy spending time together.

“We have a lot in common: walking, dancing, visiting friends. We’re on the same page,” Angie said, as she turned to Bill to says “Is that a good answer?”

“Yes,” he replied, adding, “listening to a little music … we try to outdo each other in kindness.”

Asked what she thought were the main factors in a good marriage, Angie said she thought that having animals helped a lot.

“Our loving, therapeutic animals kept us together,” she said, adding that she believes they had a calming influence and can reset your feelings when emotions occasionally get out of hand.

And, of course, there is their faith.

“I remember in elementary school the nuns saying ‘marriage is not just a man and a woman. It’s God, man and woman,’” she said. “And I think we both felt that. We always forgave.”

By Barbara Beltrami

Nothing says “I love you” more than a home-cooked dinner on Valentine’s Day. Well, of course, there are certain tokens of love that come in tiny boxes, I suppose. Let’s not underestimate them! There are also dinners out in fancy restaurants with champagne, candlelight and bills the size of your mortgage payment, gargantuan heart-shaped boxes of chocolate that blow away your New Year’s diet resolutions, and sexy lingerie that may be anything but after you’ve eviscerated the box of chocolates.

Except for those tiny-boxed things, forget the other stuff. Get out the vacuum, throw all the usual clutter under the bed or in the hall closet, make yourself a shopping list, tie on an apron and whip up your own elegant candlelight dinner.

Chill the champagne and whip up an elegant and delicious dinner that won’t break the bank or your back. Leave time for a nice long bubble bath or shower and squeeze into that dress or suit you bought for that occasion last year and haven’t worn since.

Start with a dozen oysters (you know what they say about oysters!) and some champagne. Move on to citrus-flavored chicken with a nice dry white or red wine, and finish up with a chocolate-raspberry cake. And don’t forget to light the candles.

Oysters Rockefeller

They say these oysters are so named because they’re “as rich as Rockefeller.” Time to update the name maybe?

YIELD: Makes 2 servings


2 tablespoons butter

One garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 rounded tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

One shallot, peeled and minced

½ cup frozen chopped spinach, cooked

1 tablespoon anise liqueur

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Dash hot pepper sauce

One dozen fresh oysters, opened on the half shell

2 cups kosher salt

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Melt one tablespoon butter in small skillet. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and mix with bread crumbs, oil and Parmesan cheese. Melt remaining tablespoon butter in same skillet. Add shallot and spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until shallot becomes translucent, one to two minutes. Remove shallot and spinach.

Add liqueur to pan and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Stir in salt and pepper and hot pepper sauce, stirring constantly over low heat for 30 seconds. Add to bread crumb mixture. (There will probably be only a little bit); mix thoroughly.

Generously spread kosher salt around bottom of small shallow baking pan. Set oysters in salt and surround each one with enough salt to keep it from tilting. Distribute the spinach mixture evenly over oysters, then top with bread crumb mixture. Bake until tops are golden, about 10 minutes, but check often. Serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

Citrus Roasted Chicken

I wrote about this chicken almost two decades ago and when I run into people from way back then, they still mention how much they love this recipe. It’s also great re-heated the next day.

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


One 2-3 pound chicken, cut up

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

½ cup sugar 1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

One egg, beaten

¾ cup orange juice

¾ cup grapefruit juice

¼ cup dry white wine

½ cup toasted sliced almonds

One orange, sliced

Fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow baking pan.

In a small or medium saucepan mix sugar and flower. Add egg, orange juice, grapefruit juice and wine. Stir thoroughly. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened. Pour over chicken. Bake, uncovered for one hour or under tender and done.

Sprinkle with almonds. Garnish with fresh orange slices and parsley. Serve with rice, and a crisp green salad or cooked green vegetable such as broccoli or green beans.

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Strawberries

Chocolate and strawberries are so Valentine-y. If there are any leftovers, you can cut the cake into squares and pass it off to the kids as brownies.

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


3 squares unsweetened baking chocolate

One stick unsalted butter

2 eggs

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup chocolate chips

One pint fresh strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and halved top to bottom

¼ cup currant jelly, melted

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease an 8-inch springform pan. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate squares and butter over low heat. Cool. In mixer bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sugar, then the melted chocolate and butter; continue beating till blended. Stir in the flour and the vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth with spatula.

On outer rim of batter, sprinkle a one-inch-wide circle of the chocolate chips; then make a small circle of them in the middle. Bake 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Arrange halved strawberries, cut side down, around remaining surface of cake, overlapping if necessary. Brush tops of strawberries with melted currant jelly.

Serve with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and a nice cup of espresso.

On Valentine’s Day, as Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia officiated the annual Marriage Marathon, Shantell Bennett Williams and Andre Shakeem Williams have their first kiss as man and wife. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Love was in the air at Huntington Town Hall this past weekend as couples filed in all day for a marriage marathon.

For the past 21 years, Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia has been hosting this event on Valentine’s Day, where she performs marriage ceremonies and vow renewals for couples who are also treated to a small celebration with gifts, desserts and flowers donated from local vendors.

“In 1995, I thought it would be romantic to begin a Valentine’s Day marriage ceremony marathon,” Raia said in a statement. “It is a privilege and a pleasure for me to unite these couples and to share in their happiness as they embark on their new lives together.”

The ceremony has gained popularity over the years, and this year one couple came all the way from Brooklyn and Westbury to say, “I do.”

Andre Shakeem Williams, from Westbury, said he came to Town Hall to do some paperwork when he saw the flyer for this event.

“He came home with the flyer and said, ‘Would you be interested in this?’ and I said ‘Sure, let’s do it,’ and here we are,” Shantell Bennett Williams, of Brooklyn, said after the ceremony. “We said ‘We’ll do something small now, and then something big later.’”

Local couple Lisa Locker Marshall and John Paul Marshall came from East Northport, where they met more than 20 years ago in junior high.

“We didn’t want to wait,” Marshall said. “We’re not big flashy kind of people, so this was right up our alley.”

Thirty-one vendors from throughout the Huntington area contributed to the event.

Abraham Van Wycke’s letter spoke of the love he and Mary shared, contrary to what she said. Photo from The Huntington Town Clerk’s Archives

Huntington was once the setting of a stone-cold rejection.

Abraham Van Wycke, now long buried in his family plot in the cemetery behind the Huntington Town historian’s office, once had his then-beating heart broken when he received a brutal note reminiscent of a Dear John letter in 1819 from a woman named Mary.

Van Wycke, age 21 at the time, was taken with Mary, last name unknown, describing her “electric kisses” and “nectarious lips.” But she wrote him out of her future in one short, blunt letter and he, in response, drafted a letter he never sent back.

Huntington Town Archivist Antonia S. Mattheou discovered the letters — which are now in Huntington Town Hall’s historical archives — years ago, but she was unable to discover any more information about the elusive Mary or her relatives who disapproved of Van Wycke.

“I have for a long time suspected that my mother, from the coldness of her manner toward you, would not be pleased with you as her son-in-law,” Mary wrote. “This suspicion is now confirmed. Your visits at our house have been frequent this winter; they have been remarked by mother and uncle … that they would not sanction any such attachment. This is a good reason and the best I have to offer to justify the resolution which I have seriously and solemnly taken never to look upon you as my future husband.”

Van Wycke found this hard to believe, and said she once told him she would no longer care about what her mother and friends thought, that she would let them “think what they pleased of it.” He used her own words against her, after she described her previous declaration of love for him as an “unthinking confession.”

“Did you not immediately, after your unthinking confession, present me with your hand and an electric kiss from your nectarious lips, as a pledge of your engagement and constancy? Yes, and what did you say? That you [were] satisfied and happy and would have made the confession before, but fearing the displeasure of your mother had acted the reverse of your inclinations, but had decidedly come to the conclusion to make the confession? … Does this prove that the confession was unthinking or inconsiderate?”

Mary listed other reasons she thought Van Wycke was not suitable for marriage, including his health and financial stature.

The tombstone in Huntington where Abraham Van Wycke is buried. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
The tombstone in Huntington where Abraham Van Wycke is buried. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“You are not in a situation to marry and support me in the style of ease and comfort in which I am at present living under the roof,” she said. “You are not in good health, your constitution has been impaired by that most dreadful of all maladies, the consumption, from which I fear you are not entirely recovered.”

Mary pleaded to “be forgotten” or only seen as a friend and accused him of assuming too much of their relationship. She said her utterances of attachment did not equal “a promise to be your wife.”

Van Wycke found flaws in that reasoning, asking when he would have reasonably inferred that she was not interested.

“Sure it was not when you were caressing me with repeated anticipations of future felicity! Which inspired me with enthusiasm,” he said. “Nor was it at those times when you were placing electric kisses on my lips and face which are … never to be wiped away by a female! Was this unthinking? Was it not voluntarily granted? The unthinking confession, how was it?”

Van Wycke talked of conversations in which Mary had supposedly given full acknowledgement of desiring a life with him.

“We were talking of domestic happiness, to which I remarked that I never expected to know domestic happiness, to which you readily replied that it was and had been your wish to make me happy. Was this unthinking or involuntary on your part? Ask your conscience!”

Mary begged Van Wycke not to respond to her letter, as she felt there was no point: “Let me desire you also never to renew the subject of this letter you have before you now, the candid and full expression of my sentiments and feelings which makes it wholly unnecessary to discuss in private conversation,” she said.

Mary signed the letter “With due respect, your well-wisher,” and thus ended the last contact she ever had with Van Wycke.

Although Van Wycke ultimately did not send his response, he had originally intended to ignore her request for silence.

“Willingly would I comply with your requests in not answering your epistle, but my feelings prompt me to this act, and moreover … to present (together with your conscience) a memorial of your conduct to me,” he wrote.

Van Wycke died an unmarried man at age 51, on June 24, 1849. He foreshadowed his fate in his letter when he said, “This disappointment leads me to form a new system for my future life.”

Jon Cryer and Molly Ringwald in a scene from ‘Pretty in Pink.’ Photo from Fathom Events

The 1980s teen classic “Pretty in Pink” turns 30 this year and Fathom Events and Paramount Pictures invite you to celebrate the cult film’s 30th anniversary when it returns to 575 select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day event on Sunday, Feb. 14 and Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

John Hughes’ romantic comedy-drama film about love and social cliques in 1980s American high schools first arrived in theaters on Feb. 28, 1986, and secured the No. 22 spot on that year’s list of highest box-office earners by grossing $40.5 million over its 14-week run.

“It is exciting to celebrate 30 years of Pretty in Pink by showing it back in movie theaters for Valentine’s Day,” John Rubey, the CEO of Fathom Events, said in a statement. “Many from this generation have never seen it on the big screen and now they have two very special chances.”

Featuring outstanding performances by Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Jon Cryer, James Spader, Harry Dean Stanton and Annie Potts plus a phenomenal rock soundtrack, “Pretty in Pink” is a funny and bittersweet love story that stands the test of time.

In our neck of the woods, screenings will be held at Island 16, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville; AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook; and Farmingdale Multiplex 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale.

Tickets are available online at www.FathomEvents.com and at participating theater box offices.

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Valentine postcard sent in 1909 from Canada to East Setauket and rerouted to Brooklyn. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The tradition of sending messages, gifts and expressions of love on Valentine’s Day goes back to at least the 15th century.

In 1477, in Britain, John Paston wrote to his future wife, “Unto my ryght wele belovyd Voluntyn – John Paston Squyer.”

The celebration of Feb. 14 began as an ancient Roman ceremony called the Feast of the Lupercalia, held each year on the eve of Feb. 15. It was on the eve of the Feast of the Lupercalia in the year 270 that Valentinus, a Roman priest, was executed.

According to a 1493 article in the Nuremberg Chronicle, “Valentinus was said to have performed valiant service in assisting Christian Martyrs during their persecution under Emperor Claudius II.”

Giving aid and comfort to Christians at that time was considered a crime, and for his actions, Valentinus was clubbed, stoned and beheaded. The Roman pagan festivals were spread all over the world as the Romans conquered various lands.

It is thought that when the early Christian church reorganized the calendar of festival, they substituted the names of Christian Saints for the pagan names and allocated Feb. 14 to St. Valentine. By the 17th century, Valentine’s Day was well established as an occasion for sending cards, notes or drawings to loved ones.

An early British Valentine dated 1684 was signed by Edward Sangon, Tower Hill, London.

“Good morrow Vallentine, God send you ever to keep your promise and bee constant ever.”

In America, the earliest known valentines date to the middle of the 18th century. These handmade greetings were often very artistically done and included a heart or a lover’s knot. Like letters of the period they were folded, sealed and addressed without the use of an envelope. Until the 1840s, the postal rate was determined by the distance to be traveled and the number of sheets included, so an envelope would have doubled the cost.

In 1840, Nichols Smith Hawkins of Stony Brook sent a valentine to his cousin Mary Cordelia Bayles. The original does not exist, but her reply, written two days after Valentine’s Day, says a great deal.

“I now take this opportunity to write a few lines to you to let you know that I received your letter last evening. I was very happy to hear from you and to hear that you hadent forgot me and thought enough of me to send me a Valentine. I havent got anything now to present to you but I will not forget you as quick as I can make it conveinant I will get something for you to remember me by. You wrote that you wanted me to make you happy by becoming yourn. I should like to comfort you but I must say that I cannot for particular reasons. It isn’t because I don’t respect you nor do I think that I ever shall find anyone that will do any better by me. I sincerely think that you will do as well by me as anyone. I am very sorry to hear that it would make you the most miserable wretch on earth if I refused you for I cannot give you any encouragement. I beg to be excused for keeping you in suspense so long and then deny you. Believe me my friend I wouldn’t if I thought of denying you of my heart and hand. I think just as much of you now as ever I did. I cannot forget a one that I do so highly respect. You will think it very strange then why I do refuse you. I will tell you although I am very sorry to say so it is on the account of the family. They do oppose me very much. They say so much that I half to refuse you. It is all on their account that I do refuse so good an offer.”

Four days later, Mary again replied to a letter from Nichols.

“Dear Cousin – I received your letter yesterday morning. I was very sorry to hear that you was so troubled in mind. I don’t doubt but what you do feel very bad for I think that I can judge you by my own feelings but we must get reconciled to our fate … Keep your mind from it as much as you can and be cheerful for I must tell you as I have told you before that I cannot relieve you by becoming your bride, therefore I beg and entreat on you not to think of me anymore as a companion through life for if you make yourself unhappy by it, you will make me the most miserable creature in the world to think that I made you so unhappy.“

At least two other letters, written the following year, were sent to Nichols from Mary. The letters continued to express the friendship that existed between them. The story does not end at this point. Mary’s father died in 1836 and her mother in 1838, and it is possible that she lived for a time with her aunt Elizabeth and uncle William Hawkins — Nichols’ parents.

Whatever the circumstances that brought them together, their love for each other continued to bloom.

On Feb. 11, 1849, Nichols Smith Hawkins, age 34 married Mary Cordelia Bayles, age 27. Nichols and Mary raised three children who lived beyond childhood — two others died in 1865 within a month.

Nichols was a farmer and the family lived in Stony Brook. Mary died in 1888 at the age of 66 and Nichols died in 1903, at the age of 88. They are buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Stony Brook.

Valentines became fancier and more elaborate through the second half of the 19th century. After 1850 the valentine slowly became a more general greeting rather than a message sent to just one special person.

The advent of the picture postal card in 1907, which allowed messages to be written on one half of the side reserved for the address, started a national craze that saw every holiday become a reason for sending a postcard and Valentine’s Day the occasion for a flood of one cent expressions of love.

Beverly Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

Jo-Ann Raia holds a map from the 1880s in the archives. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

There has been a steady hand at the helm of Huntington Town Hall for the past 30 plus years.

Jo-Ann Raia, Huntington Town clerk, was elected for the first time in 1981, and ever since then, she has not stopped bringing positive improvements to the town.

Raia has been a Huntington resident since 1958, but spent summers on the Island as child. She has worked under five supervisors and has served as secretary to the town board and board of trustees, among many other duties.

She has devoted much of her time in office to creating a state of the art facility for Huntington’s archives, and a successful records management program.

Raia said when town government moved into what is now Town Hall, in 1979, the archives were being stored in the old gymnasium, as the building used to be a high school.

“I was told that these were my records, as I am the legal custodian for Huntington,” she said in a phone interview. “I went to as many seminars as I could [on record keeping], I lobbied the state for funding and received state grants.”

She said the road was not easy to get a proper archive system in place, as she had to convince many people to give her the funds and resources required.

 Jo-Ann Raia displays one of the many old town records inside the town archive room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.
Jo-Ann Raia displays one of the many old town records inside the town archive room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

“When the town spends money on a baseball field, everyone can see it, but to put money into an area that’s restricted and no one will see it is a different story,” she said. “That’s why I had to convince and beg.”

The archives officially opened in October 1991 and ever since then, researchers and students from throughout Long Island have visited.

Through learning so much for the Huntington archives, Raia herself became well-versed in the topic, and has since spoke at conferences and panels on records management.

“We were the pioneers, and now [Huntington archives] runs like clockwork,” she said.

Some of the items in the archives that stand out to Raia are the Revolutionary War claims, the manumission of slaves and the Duke’s Laws.

Raia said she refers to the Revolutionary War claims as an I.O.U. book, with records of all of the things British soldiers borrowed from colonials living in Huntington in the mid 1770s, like oxen and wagons.

The manumission of slaves is a record of all the slaves freed from a former town supervisor who lived on Park Avenue in Huntington, and according to Raia, used to have African Americans enter through his back door as slaves, and leave through his front door as free citizens.

The Duke’s Laws, published in 1665, covered all the laws of colonial life, like no traveling on Sunday. Raia said Huntington is one of the few local governments to still have an original copy of them.

Aside from her many other duties as town clerk, Raia particularly enjoys the marriage marathon she performs every Valentine’s Day, where she marries multiple couples in a row throughout a day’s time.

In 1989, Raia was appointed marriage officer, and starting in 1995, decided to create a special event as marriage officer.

“I wanted to make it something special, so I researched other ceremonies, and found a special poem that I now recite that has sort of become my trademark,” she said.

The event has blossomed over the years, with merchants from all over town donating baked goods, flowers and gifts for the event. Raia personally donates all the paper goods and decorations.

Raia has presided over large and small ceremonies, and has even seen a ceremonial pick and axe procession performed by a local fire department.

“I never know what I’m going to see,” she said.

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Heart-shaped pancakes straight from the skillet.

​If you’ve ventured into the Valentine’s Day section of Target lately, you probably had to squeeze past other shoppers trying to acknowledge the holiday with sanity. A few heart-shaped cookies here, maybe some chocolates and, of course, cards for the kids to hand out at school. Though the aisle was probably full, there was not yet a sign of mania.

Nevertheless, there are some — and I used to be one of them — who still crumble under the pressure of having to produce an appropriately deep and meaningful display of affection for their sweeties. And in desperation, end up buying — forgettable, or not so forgettable — tchotchkes like heart-bedecked dress socks. But why all the pressure? We could blame the Victorians, who made the practice of sending a card to that special someone de rigeur. But really, there’s nothing wrong with a simple card.

The thing is, little is actually simple these says. And retailers like it that way.

If Valentine’s Day becomes another chance to have a little fun and celebrate our friends, or families, or sweethearts, there’s no reason for people to lose their minds. So, there’s no need to order that Vermont Teddy Bear Christian Grey, equipped with mask and handcuffs. (I kid you not — that bear, in all his three-piece-suit glory, exists. That’s just fifty shades of wrong!)

Instead, think of February 14 as an excuse to have pink-and-red and heart-shaped fun! Like heart-shaped pancakes for dinner. That’s fun, and you don’t even need a mold to make them — unless you want them to be absolutely unquestionable in their heart status, in which case, a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond may be in order. But really, it’s very easy to shape the batter into a heart once it starts to bubble and get a little bit of form on the bottom. And the result really does look more like a heart than not.

Pizza dough is also pretty easy to shape into a heart, and I’ve even seen some with the pepperoni cut into little hearts. Use a heart cookie cutter for sandwiches, and if you go online, you’ll see that people can turn just about any food into hearts. Cookies and Rice Krispy treats look downright pedestrian compared to heart-shaped cinnamon rolls, strawberries and cherry tomatoes.

You name it, there’s a how-to for it. There’s even heart-shaped salad — to offset the chocolates, of course. Or, since we’re all about being low-key, low-stress and fun, buy heart-shaped ravioli, and boom! — you’ve met your heart-shaped quota for the meal.

Homemade Valentines can be fun with stencils, doilies, glitter glue, stickers and construction paper. I admit we went the way of Frozen and Spider Man, but the grandparents, at least, will get something original. In fact, for something a little fancier, you can cut flowers out of tissue paper and stick a Dum Dum lollipop through the center to make an edible flower valentine. But you only have to do it, if you want to.

Are you overdue for a new mix of love songs? (I know it’s a playlist, but mix tapes bring back such good memories.) Besides, what’s more full of emotion than music? (Not a word from you, Kanye). You don’t have to be a fan of Lionel Richie, George Michael or Chicago to have a romantic list, though who can resist their deliciously cheesy ballads? There are so many ways to mix your music — with standards, Broadway duets, or all 60s or 80s or 90s fare. And who says it has to be romantic? With some C and C music factory, Paula Abdul, and Michael Jackson, you can make it a dance party!

There’s a certain sweetness to the way kids celebrate with corny candy heart expressions and cartoon characters cards. It’s the idea that love of every kind is worth celebrating, especially friendship and appreciation for those who make a difference in our lives.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do on the day marked with a huge heart on the calendar. All that matters is that you don’t wait for that day to arrive to show those around you that you care.

Happy Valentine’s Day!