Let's cut to the chase, sweetheart: Valentine's Day begins at home. True, Feb. 14 falls on a Thursday this year, which may present a challenge — or not! Here are a few ideas we have to address the age-old question (paraphrased, of course): How do I love me? Let me count the ways!
Write a love letter to yourself: When is the last time you considered your finest qualities, and put them on paper? As writer Sandra Guzman ("The New Latina's Bible") so aptly puts it on her blog: "Love, I find, flows out more easily than in." She also has advice for writing one: sandraguzman.com (type "love letter to yourself" in the search field). — Renee Enna
Schedule microvacations: These days, quiet relaxation time may seem an extravagance you simply can't afford. And that's exactly why it makes such a great Valentine's Day gift. Depending on your time and budget, consider taking off half a day for a soak, steam and sauna at a local Korean spa or steam room where there's nothing to do but hydrate and chill out. Have less time and money? Instead of running out of the cafe with a paper cup of joe, opt for an espresso and milk creation in a real ceramic cup and saucer, complete with latte art (just ask your barista). Give yourself 15 minutes to sit and appreciate the design, smell and feel of the drink before downing it and running back to work. And if time and money are super-scarce, at least treat your cuticles and nose to the mood-boosting and moisturizing citrus oils in Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream (about $6, burtsbees.com). Opening the little tin can unleash a little lemony moisturizing mini-vacation in the middle of housework, desk work and getting-ready-for-bed routines. — Monica Eng
Find some trees: And walk among them. No ear buds, no train schedule, no bowed-head, shoulder-hunched texting. A head-up, lungs-open walk in silence, or the closest approximation you can find. "Adopt the pace of nature," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. "Her secret is patience." What a treat. — Heidi Stevens
Invest in a better bedtime for a solid night's sleep: Don't cut corners here. Immerse yourself in a bedroom that's totally dark — even when the sun comes blasting through your east-facing window at 5:45 a.m. Head to your local big-box store and buy a honey-combed blackout shade for your bedroom. The best I've tried is the Levolor cordless cellular room darkening shade. Depending on size, prices start around $70. An associate will cut the blinds to your exact width for free on the spot. Installation is just like any other set of blinds. This is the next best thing you can do to improve your sleep quality (aside from buying yourself a pricey Tempur-Pedic mattress). — Jen Mystkowski
Blow it out: If sleep is the new sex, then adding two exhibitionist touches to an afternoon nap just might triple the pleasure. Step 1: Schedule an appointment or walk in to one of the new blow-dry salons across the Chicago area. (A few options are below.) Step 2: Allow yourself to nod off while the stylist grooms your locks. Step 3: Go forth and glow. —Wendy Donahue
— Blowtique, featured in Vogue, charges $35 for a shampoo/blow-dry/style, which seems to be the going rate (not including tip). It also does updos ($70). 1 E. Huron St., 312-280-2400, blowtique.com.
— BloOuts, which former Harpo Studios hairstylist Vivian Arpino is opening the week after Valentine's Day, offers 15 percent off the first blow-dry (normally $35) during grand opening week Feb. 17-24. Mark your calendar now to enjoy later. 1872 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park, bloouts.com, 847-681-9180.
— Blow by Blow, a movie-themed blow-dry salon, shows chick flicks and serves complimentary Champagne and snacks during services. From Feb. 11-17, get hair and makeup done for $60 (instead of $35 each). 67 E. Oak St., 312-867-0332, blow-by-blow.com.
Upgrade! On Valentine's Day, it's all about giving yourself an extra dose of special, whatever that means to you. Maybe a full-fat cappuccino instead of nonfat latte. A restaurant instead of a brown bag. A cab, not a bus. An expensive bottle of wine for your weeknight dinner (or at least an IOU for Friday). And with all due respect to the $1 candy aisle (until next week, anyhow), please spring for a few pieces of the decadently fancy stuff. — R.E.
Do not (I repeat) do not: Touch your computer. TV. Portable music/message/whatever device. Strip down to your comfiest clothes (bathrobes allowed). Select a glass of your favorite beverage (hot/cold/potent/bubbly/herbal). Position a comfy chair in front of a window with a view or a fireplace. And sit quietly. Then sit a little longer. Let your mind wander. Savor the peace. — Judy Hevrdejs
Swap skills: I've always felt that hiring a personal trainer seemed like an indulgence. I'd wander through the gym trying to copy other people who knew their way around the equipment, but always seemed to come up short. This year, I decided to splurge on myself and really work with someone who knows what they're doing. I sent a note to several friends asking if they had any recommendations, and to my surprise, one of them happens to be a part-time personal trainer. Then I learned that she is looking for someone to help her with media coaching. Now we are going to do a trade for our services. We both are getting something we need without any loss to our wallets. So if there's something you've been meaning to do, see if there's a trade out there. You never know until you ask. — Jenniffer Weigel
Say it with ... : Buy a single favorite flower, a tiny flowering plant or a big bouquet of lovely blossoms. Now place it where you'll be able to inhale its fragrance, enjoy its colors, bring a smile to your face. For me, it's yellow tulips. Lots of them. — J.H.
Special supper: Caviar is too costly, crab too complicated and cake too caloric. But a chop, a lamb chop, is an affordable luxury whether you choose rib or loin — and quite doable on a Thursday night. Loin chops are neat little packets, two nuggets of meat per chop. Rib chops can be frenched, meaning the fat and gristle is scraped from the bone to provide an easy-to-lift "handle" to get at the meat. Roll the chops in a little grainy French mustard spiked with minced fresh rosemary, then grill or broil until the meat is a rosy medium-rare; it will take minutes. I enjoy lamb chops with creamy mashed potatoes and garlic- and soy-spiked spinach. — Bill Daley
Never miss a date: You are working late. Again. Always. If it's Valentine's Day or a Friday night it can be especially frustrating, so be kind to yourself by making work a "date night" of sorts. Use a break in the action to call your sweetie or your best friend and flirt or laugh for a few minutes. Instead of holding out until you get home and "dining" on what's in reach, order Thai or be adventurous with the carryout menus. Find a window to check the weather and the stars (if you can see them). Take time for a late and steamy decaf. You can even indulge in a chocolate Kiss. You may have to work, but you don't have to suffer. — Cristi Kempf
Lose yourself: In the just-released "Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them" by Betsy Prioleau (W. W. Norton & Co.), the book has wicked fun answering that age-old query: What do women want? As author Gail Sheehy puts it in her book-jacket blurb: "men who pulse with vitality, who enjoy female company, who give great conversation, whose sheer ardor compels our surrender." For dessert, set fire to your copy of "Fifty Shades of Grey." — H.S.