Valentine's Day, outside the box

Buy your sweetie an unconventional gift
By: Cheri March, The News Messenger
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This Valentine's Day, maybe it's time to think outside the box of chocolates. Not that there's anything wrong with candy, red roses or dinner for two in a low-lit restaurant. It's just that the classic Valentine's gifts are kind of conventional. Available since practically Christmas in most shops, they've become the easy way out. So how about taking a break from the expected this year and putting a little extra effort into surprising your sweetie? From the uber-relaxing to literally heart-thumping to gifts that last a lifetime (and no, I'm not talking about diamonds), some local businesses are offering an updated take on romance. Sweet escape If you're like most people, you've probably given or received chocolate or roses at some point. But I bet you've never had the traditional romantic fare painted right onto your face. Walk into My Wellness Resort on McBean Parkway this month, and you might be captivated by the sweet scent of cocoa facials and rose petal massages, debuting on the all-organic spa's first-ever Valentine's Day menu. There is a science behind the decadent ingredients, said esthetician Susan Ferreira. "The sweet red rose is very moisturizing and regenerating for skin," Ferreira said. "And chocolate is an enzyme and an antioxidant." On a recent afternoon, Lincoln resident Jacki Sutherland soaked her feet amid floating petals while she enjoyed a chocolate-raspberry hand massage. "That smells yummy," Sutherland said. "Just like a truffle." "I think of this as an appreciation type of gift," said Mona Dunham, a massage therapist. "It's something special, maybe for a mother home with kids or a working wife. It can be for guys, too." Though the seasonal packages are available individually, Dunham occasionally teams up with fellow therapist Vicki Sullivan to treat couples. "We can push two tables side-by-side so they can look at each other (during the massage)," Dunham said. "It's very romantic." Soothing music and muted lighting complete the relaxing escape. "We like to pamper our clients," said spa owner Patty Pluim. "We create a little oasis." High-flying romance Looking for an actual escape? Lincoln-based charter company Atkin Air can take you on a romantic jaunt beyond the foothills - without the hassle of crowded airports. Aktin flyers enjoy the luxury of private cabins and of a company that coordinates rental cars, lodging, and - if requested - even an occasional romantic surprise. A client once proposed en route to Monterey, said owner Niki Atkin. "We arranged, per his request, a dozen long-stemmed red roses and champagne on board," she said. "We even had a limo arranged to meet them at the airport." If you'd rather stay close to Lincoln, professional aerobatics pilot Tim Decker can give you an aerial tour of the town - upside-down. Though Decker's primary occupation is wowing crowds at air shows, he also gives private tours out of Lincoln Regional Airport in his shiny red Pitts S-2B plane. "It's a chance to share the ultimate flying experience with a loved one," Decker said. And the gift works for novices and pilots alike. "Sometimes an experienced pilot just wants to go to the next level," Decker said. "But I've also taken people who have never been flying. It's a way to experience the full spectrum the first time." Bonsai are forever Okay, so maybe your significant other's idea of romance doesn't involve so much adrenaline or money. How about something a bit more grounded - and long-lasting? Consider one of the delicate, miniature trees known as bonsai. "Chocolate is gone overnight. Flowers, within a week. But a bonsai is lifelong," said Hiro Matsuda, owner of Matsuda Landscaping and Nursery off Virginiatown Road. To bestow a bonsai is to give an evolving work of live art. "If a bonsai dies, it's your fault. But with care, they have the capacity to live for generations," he said. "Maybe not quite as good as a diamond, but a bonsai can also be forever." You don't have to be an expert - Matsuda mostly caters to novices, offering thousands of starter plants at his Newcastle nursery. Though bonsai do require some specialized care - particularly daily watering during hot, dry foothill summers - Matsuda provides instructional DVDs covering the basics. At the nursery, you can build your own bonsai, choosing the plant, the pot and finishing touches such as ornamentation. Though not your typical Valentine's present, it's the effort that makes the gesture romantic. "It's something you made yourself," Matsuda said. "Something you put your heart into." As with any gift, it's the thought that counts. Cheri March can be reached at or comment on this story at Business info: My Wellness Resort 645-8949 110 McBean Park Drive, Lincoln Atkin Air (800) 924-2471 Tim Decker Air Shows Aerobatic Rides and Training 300-42590 Matsuda Landscape & Bonsai Nursery 645-1820 4880 Virginiatown Road, Newcastle