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February 11, 2005

Get a Life 2-11-05

Hallmark possesses an amazing power of manipulation. Through a rack of greeting cards, it can transform the average Monday into a day worthy of candy, celebration, and—most importantly—cards. A prime example of this "Hallmark effect" is the installment of October's newest holiday, Sweetest Day—a holiday seemingly no different from the flowers-and-chocolate February celebration that is upon us.

But who can blame Hallmark for using its vast power to increase profits during the greeting card lull of mid-October-, especially when the company is also promoting love and affection in one fell swoop? Living in a world of Hallmark holidays where you are expected to choose your emotions from a shelf full of jokes from Shoebox and wit from Fresh Ink can be somewhat depressing. Can your feelings about your boyfriend really be summed up by that same one-liner that the woman in front of you at the checkout has chosen?

In the case of Valentine's Day, the idea of impersonal emotion does not stop there. Boys order bouquets of red roses sprinkled with baby's breath to bestow upon beloved girlfriends. This is undoubtedly a thoughtful gesture, but there is also the inescapable fact that Mr. Romantic-and-Obliging is attempting to make his girlfriend feel special by giving her exactly what every other girl on the block is getting as well.

Despite my criticism, it is not my intention to shun the holiday of Valentine's Day. In fact, I love it. I adore it in all its pink-and-red glory, but commemorating the day (and those close to your heart) does not mean that you have to settle for being generic. Personal touches are what make one February 14th stand out from the next and move your romantic gesture away from "cliché."

What can you do to add a personal touch? Make a card complete with glitter and doilies that would cause your friends to simultaneously vomit and make whipping motions. Attempt to concoct a chocolate-and-raspberry delicacy that will inevitably turn out a little less decadent and a lot more lopsided. Of course, these options require more than a little artistic and culinary know-how, which can make you want to uncork the red wine before the object of your affection even arrives.

The minds behind Melting Point on Clark understand this, and they encourage you to employ a little alcohol to get your creative juices flowing. This make-your-own candle shop in Lincoln Park is BYOB and BYOF(ood), making it a perfect spot to create a homemade Valentine's Day gift or host a memorable date.

The process is simple, even for the artistically challenged. Basically, you choose a color of wax from two-dozen options (from shocking pink to taupe) and you use the tools provided to cut the wax into pieces that you then arrange in a canister in the shape of your candle. From here, you pick one the dozen subtle scents, like the crisp "Fresh Cut Grass," velvety "Sex on the Beach," or a more classic lily-of-the-valley. A Melting Point staff member then fills your candle canister with scented neutral-colored wax, and—voila! —you have a mosaic masterpiece created by you.

Candle prices are based on the shape of the mold, with a basic pillar at $15 or interlocking hearts at $30 (there is also a $10 studio charge). You can even pair your finished creation with a lovey-dovey card from the store's stock. To make the holiday last longer, opt for a $50 gift certificate that covers the studio fee and candles for two.

A candle that comes with "I made this for you!" is a sure-fire way to make your Valentine melt. With this little V-day project there are still molds, and, yes, you still fill them. But you do it in your own special way, one that hasn't been co-opted by Hallmark. Yet.