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Affordable last-minute Valentine's Day date ideas

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and with Feb. 14 landing on a Saturday, reservations at your favorite restaurant may be near impossible to score at this late date.

Have no fear; there is still time to salvage this special day with your loved one. Some may argue that Valentine's Day is a "Hallmark holiday" and that it is all about businesses making money, but to me, this special day just means a day to spend quality time — not money — with each other.

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Here are some affordable, last-minute date ideas that could be just what you need to rekindle some sparks or celebrate a new relationship.

With the cold temperatures outside, an indoor movie night may be just the ticket. To make this a date night, you could add some movies you used to watch when you started dating to your Netflix queue, make some buttery popcorn, set out some bowls of candy and indulge.

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Because you are in the comforts of your own home, you can put on some cozy pajamas, turn down the lights, get under a warm blanket and veg out. Some of my favorites are "Love Actually," "Sleepless in Seattle," "Titanic," "Fifty First Dates" and, of course, "The Notebook."

Valentine's Day dinner out can be expensive and stuffy, so why not spend the night cooking a fun meal together? Local grocery stores have great specials on steaks and seafood this week, and making the food at home can save you a lot of money, and can be a lot more fun. You might want to pull out the fondue pot sitting in your closet and have a fondue night. There are so many fun recipes online to try and you can get really creative. You could start with a cheese fondue for dipping breads and vegetables. Then, for the main course, you could use some of the steak or shrimp you found on sale and dip it into a savory broth.

For dessert, there is no better way than to celebrate Valentine's Day than with chocolate. You could try a dark chocolate fondue and dip strawberries and pound cake in the rich, melted goodness, and maybe even feed each other some sweet treats.

If you are looking to venture out for the holiday, it may be fun to act like kids again and take a trip to the local ice rink. You could get out your mittens and fill a thermos with some rich hot chocolate and head to the Reisterstown Sportsplex. On Saturdays, they have an evening skating session from 8 until 10:30. You and your valentine can skate side by side, hold hands and show off your skating skills.

After you have spent some time on the ice, you can head to the concession stand for ice cream or a hot pretzel.

This date night will be sure to take you back to your carefree days of youth.

If you are a nature lover like me, you may want to spend some time outside this Valentine's Weekend.

You could go on a hike at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area in Owings Mills, then stop on the way home and pick up some sandwiches, cheese and wine, and have a picnic in your living room. You could set out a blanket on the floor with some wineglasses and paper plates and enjoy each other's company and peace and quiet. If you are looking to spot some local wildlife, you could go on the Couples' Owl Prowl from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Friends of Carrie Murray Nature Center at 1901 Ridgetop Road in Baltimore. The cost is only $10 per couple and includes a walk, during which you will learn how to find owls at night, as well as a campfire where you can roast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate. You could also bring along a bottle of wine to share with your special someone while learning about local wildlife. To register, go to http://www.carriemurraynaturecenter.org.

With all of these affordable, local options, your last-minute plans could turn out to be your best Valentine's Day yet. Whether you are prowling for owls, sharing chocolate-covered treats, skating the night away or cuddling on the couch, spending time with the one you love is what really counts.

Kelly Scible is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached at kellyscible@gmail.com.

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