Monday, February 6, 2012

Heart-Pumping Valentine's Day Gifts that Won't Flatline


You can't change the past or block out all those less-than-appropriate Valentine's Day gifts that you might have received or gifted.  You know, those that died on arrival--The bathbeads that you'll never use and that less-than-aromatic fragrance that was Aunt Bessie's favorite in 1975.  How many single roses have been gifted in the name of frugality only to realize afterwards that your "I like you" was construed to mean "I love you?" 

So, the question is, why is it so hard to find the perfect Valentine?  The answer is that people, in general, expect gifts that are bigger and better these days.  Remember your childhood when getting a paper Valentine was all you wanted? Times have certainly changed.  You can avoid the common pitfalls of Valentine's Day gift giving by listening and putting a lot of thought into the process.

While giving the gift of high-tech is all the rage, I am all about promoting the arts, locally-made, one-of-a-kind gifts that go beyond the tried and true.  Anyone can buy a box of chocolates or flowers, but it takes creative courage to be original when it comes to Valentine's gift giving. Here are some heart-pumping Valentine's Day gift ideas that won't flatline.  I hope you find something that your Valentine would be thrilled to receive this year!


For 82 years, the Albuquerque Little Theatre has been featuring high-quality live entertainment.  From its children's series to its main stage productions, ALT inspires both adults and children.  Nothing instills a lifelong love of the theatre than by introducing children to the magic of live theatre at an early age.   If you're a parent looking for just the right Valentine's Day gift for your child, rather than giving them candy, give them the healthy option of tickets to live theatre, including family-friendly productions from Albuquerque Little Theatre such as the classic story "Anne of Green Gables," which opens February 24 and runs through March 11. 

Another great theatrical experience will be the new hit Broadway musical 'Xanadu," based on the early 1980s musical with Olivia Newton John.  "Xanadu," which will run April 6-29, is also family-friendly fun spoof of the film.  If you love classic musicals and want to share them with your children for Valentine's Day pick up tickets to "Singin' in the Rain," which runs from May 25 to June 17.  ALT tickets are $22 (nonmusicals) and $24 (musicals) for adults and $10 (nonmusicals) and $12 (musicals) for children.  For more information go to


Whether you are familiar with Native American popular music or not, Northern Cheyenne recording artist Shelley Morningsong's "Full Circle" album is a wonderful gift idea for your Valentine.  It won the 2011 NAMA (Native American Music Award) for "Album of the Year" and is a healing love letter to world.  "Full Circle" is an album of growth and echoes the idea that we, all people, are related. With a mixture of pop/rock, rhythm and blues as well as tribal sounds, you can't help but be inspired. The album, which is $20, is availble at or Painted Sky Gallery in Albuquerque's Old Town.


While expectations for Valentine's Day gifts are high, times are tough, and many young artists are making art affordable.  The Octopus and the Fox is a women owned and operated artist cooperative in Albququerque's up-and-coming EDO (East of Downtown) district.  The shop features fabulous finds made by 70 local artists, including paintings, jewlery, accessories, and handmade household decor items.  You can also find hip vintage clothing and jewelry there.  In an effort to give back to the community, they also offer classes on sewing and printmaking.  Belita Orner, both a co-owner and artist herself, creates adorable handmade silkscreened pillows printed with eco-friendly ink.   My favorite is the "Dino in LOVE" pillow, which sports two dinosaurs and a heart on purple fabric. Orner also prints ostriches, radishes and other designs. The Dino pillow is $16, but others range in price from $16 to $23.

Orner also sews cat dolls and various accessories out of recycled sweaters.  My pick for cool Valentines  are these heart-themed mittens also made from recycled wool sweaters.  It has been a colder winter this year. Doesn't your love deserve to stay warm. These mittens are a bargain at $16!  For more information visit


In most cultures, FOOD = LOVE! For those who are completely unsure of what to get a colleague or friend for Valentine's Day, a gift basket is a nice touch.  You can fill it with a variety of items that are sure to please, and should your recipient wish to regift an item it makes it easier.  Cost Plus World Market (Nationwide locations available at; 2 locations in Albuquerque--East Side Menaul at Carlisle and West Side on Old Airport Road off of Alameda just West of Coors) is a wonderful place to create your own gift. While it's a chain, it's like a neighborhood business where they treat you just like family.   World Market also a variety of New Mexican food items that you can include in your gift basket to please the homesick New Mexican abroad or out-of-state, or the college student away from home for the semester.  The gift basket pictured costs $100, but there are a variety of price points available to you depending on the items you select.  No matter the size, it's the thought and the love that counts!

Also available exclusively at Cost Plus World Market is the Hatch Green Chile and Chimayo Red Chile 2-pack.  The mild green chile wine is sweet and smooth and would make a wonderful pairing with green chicken enchildadas.  The red chile wine is rich and finishes with a peppery taste.  It's a great pairing with chocolate--perfect for Valentine's Day!  The 2-pack is just $19.99.


For the person who really does have it all and is expecting to be dazzled this Valentine's Day, here is a handful of gifts that reach the heights of fabulosity.  For someone with a discriminating palette, original art and jewelry really fit  the bill!

No one loves jewelry more than I do, and Native Americans create pieces with some of the most interesting designs and utilize some of the best techniques for handmade jewelry.  Mary Irene is an up-and-coming designer in the Native American jewelry scene. While she hails from the Muscogee Creek Tribe in Oklahoma, she lives and works in Santa Fe. 
With a background in pottery-making and fashion design studies, Mary brings that background to her work.  Her textured silver pieces like this inverted heart-themed pendant ($225) and heart earrings ($195) as well as this ring with Morenci Turquoise ($600) show her understanding of the fashion-forward.  The zipper effect on the pendant and earring set  is particularly cool.  You can contact Mary Irene via her Facebook page or via email at maryirene505 (at) gmail (dot) com.

Jody Naranjo is a darling of the Native American pottery world.  She is a multi-generational potter from Santa Clara Pueblo.  Her work, while traditional in the sense that it is hand-coiled, stoned polished and pit fired, has a distinct style that is easily recognizable.  It has a very whimsical quality, though her designs are directly inspired from animal and humanoid figures found in ancient petroglyphs.  This pot entitled "Love" and made especially for this gift guide, features deer and geese kissing.  As the bodies of the figures approach one another, they form hearts.  This heart motif is repeated all the way around the pot.  Naranjo, with a technique known as sgrafitto, incises the designs into the pot with an Exacto knife.  It is a piece in which the contemporary and traditional truly meet.  This pot is $1400 and available at

Wright's Indian Art has been around since the early 1900s.  It started out as a trading post on the Navajo reservation before they relocated it to Albuquerque.  Now located at San Mateo and Lomas, Wright's Indian Art carries the finest in traditional and contemporary Native American paintings, pottery and jewelry.  The owner, Mr. "B." as he is known to everyone in the industry, has relationships with some of the best Native jewelry designers in the country and is able to secure some of the best prices anywhere from the artists. He passes that on to his loyal customers.  Silver and gold prices have risen sharply, but Wright's prices have not followed suit making many pieces still very affordable. 

While he offers jewelry in a variety of price points, for Valentine's Day, Mr. "B." is offering this stunning stone and shell mosaic inlay choker by Charlene Reano of Kewa and San Felipe Pueblos.  Charlene is a master at it since she learned from a family that has created this kind of work for years.  Charlene is associated with the highest quality inlay of this style.  This reversible necklace incorporates a variety of stones, including turquoise, serpentine, as well as coral and other shell over a shell backing.  As you can imagine, this kind of jewelry is so labor intensive that it commands a hefty price.  For the woman looking to own a statement piece, this can be hers for only $3950! 

Even more beautiful and extravagant is this turquoise, coral, lapis and shell bracelet also by Charlene Reano. It is made from one piece of shell. It will only set you back $4200 to make your Valentine's dream come true!  For more information visit

So no matter what your Valentine's tastes are or your budget, shop locally and be original.  Nothing says I love you more than something thoughtful, so take the won't regret it!

(*Paul Niemi is a compensated spokesperson for all the products, businesses and services contained within this gift guide)

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