Happy Valentine's Day, another holiday designed to rip you off if you participate, or feel guilty if you don't.
   The National Retail Federation projects that Americans will shell out an average of $136 today on flowers, jewelry, candy, apparel and more, down from last year's high of nearly $147. Total spending will reach $18.2 billion. The breakdown: 
   --Nearly four outta 10 celebrating the holiday (37 percent) plan to treat their dates to a night out at a restaurant, tickets to a show or another experience. That'll run $3.8 billion dollars.
   --Another $4.3 billion will be spent on necklaces, earrings and other jewelry items, with nearly one in five (19 percent) planning to treat their significant other or family member to jewelry; $1.4 billion will be spent on gift cards or gift certificates.
   --Nearly half (47 percent) of people will spend $1 billion on greeting cards; another $2 billion will be spent on flowers.
   --PS: Americans will also spend $681 million to treat their favorite pets to some sort of Valentine’s Day gift.
   But survey data finds that only about 60 percent of Americans will celebrate Valentine's Day, making just about every other holiday except St Patrick's Day more popular.

   That's true among both married couples and single people who aren't forlornly lonely, they're just not interested. It's for a combination of reasons: Some aren't looking to spend three times the price for a dozen roses, others think it's too commercialized, others are fine with just a simple card.

It's a toss-up whether men or women receive the most Valentine's Day cards, but women definitely buy more of them.
   A survey by card maker American Greetings finds 85 percent of the Valentine's Day cards purchased every year are purchased by women. By comparison, most men consider buying Valentine's Day cards an "ordeal."
   And while women said they preferred sending and receiving the more traditional, hearts-and-flowers verse-type Valentine's Day cards, both men and women said they liked humorous cards.

You often hear that Valentine's Day is a completely bogus holiday cooked up by Hallmark to drum up greeting card business. It's gone far beyond that with department stores, candy, flowers, but ya know who makes a fortune off this holiday? Newspapers. They sell pages and pages of those cutesy cupid ads, like, "To Boomer from Button Nose."

Here's my question, how does anyone know to look in those ads? If somebody sends you one, how do you know to look in there? Who wakes up first thing in the morning and says, "Hey, I better check the paper to see if there are any messages today."

 few Valentine's Day kissing facts from Marie Claire magazine:
   --Your body burns 24 calories for every 15 minutes you kiss.

   --Kissing is meditative-- it can bring your focus to the present and help you release tension.

   --Various forms of touching (including kissing) can release oxytocin, a hormone that promotes calm and pair bonding.

   --Kissing someone within 20 minutes of their eating dessert can give the kisser a dose of bacteria and sugars that cause cavities.

   --Kissing can spread herpes simplex 1, the virus responsible for cold sores, and the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis. A cold is more easily passed from hands than kissing.

   --Traces of foods someone else may be allergic to can remain on the lips for up to eight hours.

What *not* to do tonight: 
February 14th can be one of the most depressing days of the year for singletons, but there are ways to survive the day of flower deliveries and candy conversation hearts. Want to avoid those feelings of desperation and bitterness? JESSICA MASSA of The Gaggle has five suggestions of what not to do!

   1. DON'T "celebrate" with other women. This is a great idea in theory, but gals often wind up lonelier than ever. If you wouldn't tell your male co-worker how you spent the holiday, don't do it!

   2. DON'T force yourself to attend a singles' mixer, speed-dating event or random blind date. Your poor psyche needs no added pressure, so do something fun --hit up a concert, volunteer at a local charity or throw a co-ed, low-pressure dinner party.

   3. DON'T expect this to be day when "that guy you've been sort of hanging out with" declares his love. If he avoids you, don't take it personally! He's probably smart enough to know that any gesture become ten-times more serious on Valentine's Day and may want to lay low.

   4. DON'T assume that everyone who has a date is having a better time than you are. Take heart --lots of couples are miserable, too! Don't psyche yourself out by comparing your plans to someone else's --you may be the only one having a genuinely good time.

   5. DON'T get hung up on being "single" --you're not! Okay, you may not have a true life partner, but Cupid strikes every day and everywhere. Stop thinking of yourself as "alone" --the opportunity to love may be closer than you think! 

Valentine's Day Trivia:
   --We spent over $1 billion on Valentine's Day candy last year, making it the fourth most popular holiday for candy sales behind Halloween, Easter and Christmas. By the way, those stupid little candy hearts with printed messages like "Hug Me" or "True Blue" first appeared in the 1860's and were called "Conversational Lozenges."

   This year, NECCO --the New England Confectionery Company-- will make eight billion of those hearts. The original list of sayings on the hearts included "Be Mine," "Be Good," "Be True," "Kiss Me," and "Sweet Talk." But back in the 1990s, NECCO VP WALTER MARSHALL decided it was time to try and update the conversation by adding "Fax Me" to the group. And since then, they've added "E-mail Me" and "Tweet Me." We've even seen "Bite Me" (a nod to Twilight mania) on the tiny hearts. In 2014, in the spirit of nostalgia, Necco brought back five retro phrases --"Sweet Pea," "Be Happy," "Best Day," "Let's Read," and "Love Bug."

   A couple of years ago, they also added “BFF,” “Te Amo,” and “Je T’aime,” along with the smiley face emoticon and the oh-so-trendy mustache symbols.
   NECCO also makes Spanish Conversation Hearts. They're just like the English version-- only they're way cooler because they say stuff like "Te Amo."
   Various companies also make X-rated candy hearts.

   --Feb 14 is the second-largest greeting card holiday after Christmas. About 163 million cards are exchanged (not counting those packaged valentines exchanged by schoolkids).
   --You want gifts? About a third of us buy jewelry. Most popular gift --six in 10 buy chocolate.

Factoid: Nielsen reports that sales of pregnancy tests spike six weeks after Valentine's Day, with the third week in March ranking #1 for both pregnancy and fertility test kits.

Top-10 Most Romantic Movies: 
Hey! How about renting a movie and, well, snuggling up under the covers with some champagne for the big evening on Valentine's Day? Redbook magazine's list:
   --"Pretty Woman" (1990)
   --"Ghost" (1990)
   --"Say Anything" (1989)
   --"When Harry Met Sally" (1989)
   --"The Way We Were" (1973)

   --"Love Story" (1970)
   --"Doctor Zhivago" (1965)
   --"Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961)
   --"Casablanca" (1942)
   --"Gone With The Wind" (1939) 

Top-10 most romantic love songs: 
The NY Daily News compiled a list of the "100 Most Romantic Love Songs Of All Time." The criteria was each song had to have been in the Top 20 during the year it was released, and be at least 10 years old. Here's the Top 10: 

10. "I Can't Stop Loving You" --RAY CHARLES
9. "Michelle" --THE BEATLES
8. "Are You Lonesome Tonight" --ELVIS PRESLEY
7. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" --ROBERTA FLACK
6. "In My Life" --THE BEATLES

5. "You Are So Beautiful" --JOE COCKER
4. "I Just Called To Say I Love You" --STEVIE WONDER
3. "Wonderful Tonight" --ERIC CLAPTON
2. "I'll Be There" --JACKSON 5

 There you have it...enjoy!

- MM