Show love with help from Web

February 07, 2000|By Mike Himowitz

Gentlemen, we'll start this column by stating our major premise: Valentine's Day is important. Not to you, maybe. But to your spouse, girlfriend, significant other or some person who's not in one of those categories yet but could be someday if you're smart and lucky enough, Valentine's Day is a National Holiday, big time.

To half the human species, it's the day that the other half has to prove that it's sensitive, caring and affectionate enough to be considered worthy of the first half's notice during the other 364 days of the year.

Now I realize that this is a sexist, one-sided and politically suspect approach to the subject. It is true that guys like valentines, too. We just don't get all that exercised about it.

So, gentlemen, if you haven't started thinking about flowers, candy, perfume, jewelry or a Valentine's Day card to prove your devotion -- or at least letting someone know you're interested -- it's about time. And if you've waited until the last moment to read this (Valentine's Day is Feb. 14, guys), it may be too late for anything but the most extreme electronic measures.

Now understand that there's no substitute for the real thing-- showing up at the door with a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and a limousine waiting to whisk the two of you off to the airport for a flight to a romantic restaurant in Bonaire.

But you can do your best, and there are hundreds of Web sites that can help you celebrate the holiday of love with an astounding variety of gifts and cards (paper and electronic). For starters, surf over to Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) and enter "Valentine's Day" in the search box. You'll see what I mean. You'll also find dozens of Valentine links, traditional and otherwise, at The HeartBeat on SunSpot, The Sun's Web site (www.sunspot.net).

You'll soon discover that if you're willing to pony up for FedEx, almost any trinket can be on your beloved's doorstep in time for the big day. And for nothing more than a few minutes of your time, an electronic Valentine can be in her e-mail box a few seconds after your parting mouse click.

First things first: Candy is dandy. If she has designer tastes and you have a designer pocketbook, start at Godiva (www.godiva.com), where you can order her a 1-1/4-pound assortment in a decadent red velvet box for a mere $79, plus shipping. Or surf over to www.deananddeluca.com, where the famous purveyor of food for the terminally trendy offers a heart-shaped box of Austrian miniatures for $55.

If she's more interested in great, old-fashioned chocolate than a famous name, point your Web browser to my wife's personal favorite, Glauber's Fine Candies (www.glaubers.com). The Towson-based confectioner claims to be the oldest family-run candy retailer in the country, but it has a new, state-of-the-art Web site. It's the only one I've seen that allows you to custom-fill a box online by picking the contents from a long list of butter-creams, truffles, nuts, chewies, cherries and clusters. It's great fun, and at $13 a pound plus shipping, quite affordable.

While candy is always a sure bet, flower shopping takes more care because flowers are so fragile and the demand is so high around Valentine's Day that the price of roses almost doubles. Expect to pay $75 to $80 a dozen, plus shipping, and get your order in early.

A good starting point is "A Guy's Guide to Flowers" on the Gerald Stevens Web site (www.geraldstevens.com). This site also has a wonderful reference section with information about various types of blooms and the messages they convey. For even more variety, check out www.1800flowers.com, www.proflowers.com or that old standby, the FTD network at www.ftd.com.

For an unusual gift that will last far longer than candy or flowers, why not give your sweetheart a custom CD of love songs? At www.musicmaker.com you can mix tracks from hundreds of artists ranging from Nat King Cole to the Poison Girls. You'll also get a customized album cover with your valentine message. For a dollar a track, it's hard to beat, and putting it together is half the fun.

If you haven't bought a Valentine's Day card yet, there are plenty of options on the Web (just remember that e-mail doesn't replace the real thing). Dozens of sites offer free electronic greetings, many with animation and music. Typically, you pick a general card design, customize it with your message and music and send it to your recipient.

What she gets is an e-mail message directing her to a custom Web page that displays your creation. Just be aware that the fancier animated cards may require a browser plug-in such as Macromedia's Flash. If she doesn't have it and can't figure out how to download it, she may not be able to view the card -- a real bummer.

By far the best e-card source is Blue Mountain Arts (www.bluemountainarts.com), which ranks year-round among the most visited sites on the Web, for good reason. You'll find a delightful assortment of animated cards for all occasions in English and five other languages.

For more than the usual platitudes, check out the site's poetry cards (Blue Mountain Arts began life as a small publisher of poetry and art posters). By the way, if you have any doubts about e-cards being popular, Blue Mountain Arts was recently acquired by the Excite Web portal in a deal worth $780 million.

You'll also find clever animations at 123cards.com, 123greetings.com and awesomegreetings.com. For cutting-edge 3-D animations, try 3dgreetings.com, which automatically downloads the plug-in you'll need to view your cards.

Elsewhere, egreetings.com adds a wrinkle by letting you personalize your Valentine with a digital picture of yourself (or anyone else). It's not as good as a gold locket, but not bad.

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