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Valentine's Walk: Grab Your Sweetheart A Gift Locally

This roughly three mile walk-and-shop adventure is a straight shot down Mission from Trader Joe's to Julienne and back again.

Still shopping for your valentine? You are cutting it a bit close, but then so am I. (We'll let that be our little secret.) 

Here's what we are going to do. We are going to walk, and we are going to shop until we are absolutely sure that all our assorted valentines will be happy.  Because here is a helpful public service announcement: A happy valentine means a happy you; an unhappy valentine means you are toast. You don't want to be toast. Not on Valentine's Day.

Start at , on the southern corner of Grand and Mission. Want to make this easy? Pick up flowers, ranging from $6 to $10 a bunch. There you go. You could be done that fast. But let me warn you. Flowers are an appetizer type gift. They lead up to the entrée. So sure, get your flowers. But don't you dare think you're done. You've just started. 

Head east on Mission. You'll be in a bit of a shopping netherworld for a few blocks, but once you hit Meridian you're gold. Is your sweetie a jewelry lover?   How about a shimmering dicoric glass bracelet (, $55)?

No? Then press on. There are lots of choices on the south side of the street, but if your loyal dog is the valentine who treats you best, then you'll want to make straight for Simply Fresh in San Marino. Head east again on Mission. Walk, walk, walk. Pass Garfield Park. Cross the bridge onto the gold-encrusted streets of San Marino. Cross Los Robles. Half way down the block, you'll find the always-cute , where you can buy Fido a heart-shaped rawhide treat for only $6.

Feeling hungry? Of course you are! You're right across the street from . Get yourself some lunch (I'm partial to the tuna sandwiches), and while you're waiting, head into the gourmet market. On a budget? Satisfy your valentine's sweet tooth with a bag of fresh chocolate chip cookies ($9.95).  Ready to splurge? Order a take-home dinner off Julienne's valentine menu (meals start at about $18 a person. Add more if you want wine and dessert, and don't be a fool. Get the wine and dessert!)

Maybe something sexier is in order, although I really don't know what could be sexier than someone feeding you while leaving your kitchen spotless. Still, some people are purists, and for them I recommend Cosa Bella lingerie (prices vary) at , where you can also pick up adorable cotton pajamas ($98).  Take time to find this wonderful store. It's hidden in a professional building just west of Julienne's.

We're heading back from whence we started now, so go west on MissionCross Los Robles and enter the Valentine's Day wonderland that is There are tons of decorative items here.  I'm partial to the Bethany Lowe and Esc Valentine's Day figurines, ($20-$50).

Had enough of exotic San Marino? Let's go home. Cross the bridge. Whew.  Doesn't it feel better back in good ol' South Pas? Of course it does! Our streets are much softer due to all the re-filled pot holes. 

Walk, walk, walk until you cross Fair Oaks and reach the Shopping for grandma? Get her a card! She'll love that you thought of her. Shopping for your wife? Don't you dare get a card! Have you learned nothing in all your years of marriage? The woman wants something good. I don't care what she told you. Trust me on this. 

Head a few shops west. has what women want: Expensive clothes and jewelry. Actually, they have some great deals. In a new relationship? Might I recommend local designer Jeanie Joe's coin purses ($35). 

In a long-standing relationship? Might I recommend you fill that purse with a pair of African-made fair trade earrings? You can find them right next door at for $25, where you can also find a fabulous reversible bracelet with a magnetic clip ($75). 

Go one shop west again and you are at , which has lots of great Valentine's Day gifts. Since chocolate is always a good choice, I say go for the Ch'up Cakes ($7.50). Brace yourself: It's solid chocolate shaped like a cupcake! Talk about brilliant! That's everything a person can want right there. 

If however, you are trying to model good behavior for the young set, you might prefer the red, pink and white sock dolls ($22). If your itty bitty Valentine is not the sock doll type, head west again to , where you can get a hardback version of the classic children's book Guess How Much I Love You ($12).   

Got a valentine you really want to impress? Nothing says I love you with more élan than art. is currently on display at . Prints and paintings range from $80 to $4000. 

More functional types of art can be found at just west of Fremont, where you'll find handmade pillows, tapestries, and furniture from India. How about putting those earrings you got at Rue de Mimo in a hand-painted wooden jewelry box ($10-$200)

Better yet, how about a handmade mosaic hanging lamp (Originally $365, but on sale for $165). Full disclosure: this was my very favorite find. Absolutely gorgeous and one-of-a-kind, like your valentine (You can even say that to your sweetheart. I'm giving you dialog, people! What more do you want?)

Sweet on a book lover? How about Leslie Meier's Chocolate Covered Murder, available at

Sweet on a wine lover? Go classy with a bottle of 2002 Moet and Chandon Dom Perignon ($150 at . Go classy on a budget with  Sekt Etra Tyocken Rose (which is a delightful German sparkling wine, $14.99 at Mission Wines). 

Of course, nothing says you really care like something homemade. You could make a Valentine "Book of Love" out of vintage material. Pick up the kit, $12.99 at , then head a few steps west to and rent a romantic movie ($4.25). Videotheque staffer Miles recommends Punch Drunk Love, but, I'm telling you, people, what really says romance is Colin Firth in a dripping wet shirt. (A&E's Pride and Predjudice. It's six hours, but if your partner loves you he or she will smile and rub your feet the entire time.)

Does that sound too passive? When you think love, do you think "move it, move it"? , just west of Meridian, has sports wear for guys and gals. How about getting your man a tee that says Beast Mode ($25)? Then how about you have him put it on while you hose him down and tell him to pretend he's Colin Firth? Is he resistant? 

How about you up the ante by plying him with a Strawberry Champagne cupcake (, $4.25 each). Buy the cupcake between 5:00 and 6:00 PM Monday through Thursday and you can get it for two bucks! 

Finally, your retro-loving Valentine will love a cute-as-can-be cardigan from Viva Dulce Marina (just west of My Sweet Cupcake). Add a baby blue Lux de Ville purse ($60-$100) if you are an overachiever. And, face it, you live in South Pasadena: You're an overachiever.

Oh my gosh!  Can you carry all that you've purchased? You'll have to. You still have to huff it up to Grand, where we started this madness. But while your arms may feel heavy and your pocketbook feels light, at least you've burned off your Julienne's lunch! And now that you are loaded down with presents, you are guaranteed a safe and sane Valentine's. And that, my friends, is a happy ending. 

Walking Directions

1. Start at the corner of Grand and Meridan.  Begin on the southern side of the street.  Head east.

2. Stay on Mission, stopping and shopping as you see fit, for about a mile and a half.

3. When you get to Mission and El Molino in San Marino, turn around. 

4. Head back, again, this time on the north side of the street.  Stop and shop as needed to ensure a delightful Valentine's Day for you and yours. 

Need another Valentine's fix? Download Margaret's free flash fiction story "Ten Things I Hate About Valentine's Day," which you can find at Smashwords HERE.


Pasadena Adjacent February 10, 2012 at 10:24 PM
For what it will cost to dine at Juliennes (wine and desert included) I'd rather have the mosaic lamp. And don't forget that little antique store (?) tucked away on the north side of Mission near the yogurt place. Weird hours but wow wow wow, a complete delight. Go there - you still have time
Margaret Finnegan February 10, 2012 at 10:55 PM
The lamps are fantastic. Really beautiful. I will check out the antique store!
Joanne Nuckols February 12, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I think the antique store Pasadena Adjacent is referring to is &, Etc. It is just west of Mission Wines and is definitely a hidden jewel. Yes, the hours are limited-Thursday through Saturday-but well worth the effort. Margaret, you've described most of my favorite places on Mission. I do take-out from Julienne all the time and it is well worth the price to have a fantastic dinner and clean kitchen as a bonus.
Margaret Finnegan February 12, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I'll definitely have to check out Etc. What I love about all these businesses is that they are not chains. They are unique and special, and by the time I finished my walk I felt really lucky to live so close to so many special shops.
Karin Bugge February 13, 2012 at 06:46 AM
I defy anyone to listen to that soundtrack and not smile.

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