For our Valentine’s Day gift guide this year, we decided not to trust our own instincts and offer you a selection of jaded staff picks (you didn’t really want to read our suggestions of gifts like nail guns or certificates to couples counseling, did you?). Instead, we decided to seek out local creative up-and-comers and see what makes their Valentine hearts flutter. So we rounded up e-mail addresses of 18 Capital Region “emerging celebrities” in fields like radio, TV, music, art, food and drink, and retail, and sent them our five-question survey; exactly half of them got back to us, and here are their answers.
1. What is your favorite Valentine’s Day gift you have ever received and why was it your favorite?
Freshman year of college I went on a Valentine’s dinner date with this guy who ended up being my husband. That worked out well. –Jen O’Connor, Altamont, member of the band The Parlor, owner of The Little Ragamuffin
The best thing I ever received on Valentine’s Day was a card from my mother. It sang Bob McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” I was away at college, slightly homesick, incredibly busy, and single with no one to mingle. I still have the card in case I ever need a little laugh J –Katie Gorham a.k.a. KTG, Albany, deejay for EXIT 97.7 WEXT/radio operations and production assistant for WMHT Educational Telecommunications
My girlfriend gave me a bunch of flannels, which is all I wear so it was a great gift. I’m all about functionality. –Carl Anderson, Albany, drummer for Eastbound Jesus
Last year, my wife and business partner, Heather LaVine, surprised me with a Vespa tour of the wineries in Napa and Sonoma. As we are scooter enthusiasts, this was the perfect way to help us pick the California selections of our wine menu for the Confectionery, which was in development at the time. –Vic Christopher, Troy, assistant general manager, Charles. F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar
I actually like relatively inexpensive, simple, cliché Valentine’s Day gifts the best. I’m sure my husband wishes I’d told him that the first year we dated—when he got me jewelry! Oh well, now he knows. –Jessica Layton, East Greenbush, anchor/reporter at WNYT NewsChannel 13
I really don’t remember a favorite one other than flowers. I really love getting flowers. –Julia Zave, Albany, photographer
My friend Eva made me a really intricate and beautiful card on year. When I opened it, there was a death threat that had been crossed out. In its place she wrote “Happy Valentine’s Day.” It was handmade and hilarious! –MaryLeigh Roohan, Saratoga Springs, musician
I’d say 4th grade. It was a handmade card with a poem. I like crafty as gifts. –Tony Iadicicco, Albany, artist and executive director at Albany Center Gallery
My Dad once gave me a pair of antique engraved sterling-silver heart pendants on a long chain. I think of him whenever I wear them. It was a thoughtful gift that was unique and special—not something you could find in a mall. I think I speak for many women out there when I say that no one wants the “Hearts on Fire” or “Love’s Embrace” mass-produced, totally unoriginal offerings you see advertised every other minute on TV this time of year. Put some thought in it (or make us think you did!) and shop small! –Elizabeth Young, Troy, executive director, Downtown Troy Business Improvement District
2. What would you like to receive this year for Valentine’s Day?
A Vespa tour of Napa and Sonoma. –Vic Christopher
I hear that Flower Scout is selling responsibly harvested bouquets. That would be lovely. flowerscout.blogspot.com. –Jen O’Connor
A lot of times I find myself working seven days a week, so weekend getaways are really rare and incredibly valuable. I would love to be taken to a ski resort for a weekend to put my new snowboard to use. I could also use a day at the spa. –Katie Gorham a.k.a. KTG
Pink peonies, if they’re in season. Or a full-expenses-paid trip to WPPI in March (it’s a weeklong photography trade show in Vegas). –Julia Zave
I’m up for a surprise. A journey somewhere would be nice. Bueller . . . ? –Tony Iadicicco
I LOVE getting flowers at work (hint, hint). I know some may think it cliché to send flowers for Valentine’s Day, but I think it’s classic. Either go all the way 100-percent Valentine’s with dozens of red roses, or choose something cool and edgy, like a monotone arrangement in an interesting container. Do not go for the $9.99 special near the register at the grocery store! –Elizabeth Young
I’m really in the mood for chocolate-covered fruit this year. But just chocolate will do. –Jessica Layton
A tasty, home-cooked meal, or something thoughtful and unique. Also, flowers are always great. –MaryLeigh Roohan
I would like for my girlfriend to feel better. She’s been having health issues and has been sick and down in the dumps for several months, so a smile on her face is all I want. --Carl Anderson
3. What is the best (or most well-received) gift you’ve given someone else?
I worked really hard to create the perfect Valentine’s mixed CD in which the titles of the songs spelled out “Happy V-Day Love” in the forever-classy acrostic poem style. The mix was awesome and I included a card and candy. He thought it was great. –MaryLeigh Roohan
Senior year of college I made Eric dinner and then we went to the local independent cinema to see Amélie. It was tres romantique. –Jen O’Connor
My girlfriend wanted a sweater but talked about her friend getting a gift certificate to the spa so I bought her a certificate for a massage which she didn’t expect and was very happy about. –Carl Anderson
A big box of Russell Stover chocolate for my 8th grade boyfriend. After middle school, guys pretty much stopped caring about Valentine’s Day! –Jessica Layton
A sweet card with a personal letter. –Julia Zave
Something I’ve created. Its always special when something is one of a kind. –Tony Iadicicco
I love to cook. –Elizabeth Young
Heather is the first girl that I really gave any nice gifts to. We’ve been married for around two years. Prior to that, I was kinda just playing around. –Vic Christopher
4. What is the naughtiest or most unusual Valentine’s Day gift you’ve ever received?
When I was in high school I received a bouquet of black roses from a stalker. Everyone loves black roses from stalkers, that’s not creepy at all. –Jen O’Connor
How about the worst gift I ever got—a $25 gift certificate to a tanning salon. I am the biggest believer in “It’s the thought that counts.” But let’s be clear—that guy was only thinking “I’d like her better with a tan!” –Jessica Layton
There’s no need to reflect back on those old girls anymore. Their gifts were ineffective. –Vic Christopher
Nothin’ really. Pretty straightforward. Damn. –Carl Anderson
Once I received a really ugly coffee mug. –MaryLeigh Roohan
I wish I had a great answer for this! –Katie Gorham a.k.a. KTG
5. Is there any popular Valentine’s Day gift you could do without?
See No. 4 above. –Julia Zave
Nope! I like them all. –Jessica Layton
Mylar balloons and stuffed animals clutching hearts. –Jen O’Connor
Candy. Or anything plush. It is no longer 1995, and I am no longer in middle school. But always remember to include a card. A personal handwritten note in a card is usually my favorite part of a gift. So skip the teddy bear, but don’t skip the Hallmark card. Just remember to include your own sentiments along with the pre-printed one. –Elizabeth Young
I could probably do without roses. There are many other beautiful flowers that aren’t marked up for the holiday. I’m also a sucker for house plants. Those last longer . . . usually. –Katie Gorham a.k.a. KTG
Well as a guy I don’t get the chocolate/flowers treatment, but I think doing something is better than a typical material object. A concert together or something like that. But if I get a gift it’s hopefully something functional. Like a chainsaw. –Carl Anderson
Stuffed animals. Seriously? No, thank you. –MaryLeigh Roohan
I could do without the holiday entirely. People need to show their love every day. Do stuff. Get out of the house, take a walk together. Drink some wine, take a bath. For me, I drink wine in the bath with Heather all the time. You don’t need me or a holiday to tell you how to treat your people. You know what to do. –Vic Christopher
Ninety-three percent of them. Every day should be a day to be thankful for the person/people in your life. –Tony Iadicicco