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Gifts from the heart

This Tuesday marks the first big holiday of 2006 after New Year's: Valentine's Day. While some critics scorn the holiday as being too commercialized, that doesn't mean you can't still make the day special for someone you care about. Still stuck on what to buy your boyfriend or girlfriend? NeXt is here to help with a creative gift guide based on how long you have been dating. Also included are fun ideas for friends and family.

>FOR COUPLES:

*Dating for less than 2 months:

Since you haven't been dating for very long, it's best to not make too big of a deal out of Valentine's Day. You wouldn't want to scare the other person off by showing too much affection too soon! If you decide to do anything, it's best to stick with traditional gifts. Buy or make each other cards, give flowers or a little stuffed animal to your girlfriend or heart-shaped cookies or chocolate to your boyfriend.

*Dating 2 to 6 months:

For Her: Guys, you've probably overheard your girlfriend talking with friends about something cute she saw in a store or you may have even gone shopping with her at the mall and seen her point something out she liked. Why not give her that shirt, purse, or necklace she's been eyeing? It will show her that you've been paying attention. Are you broke? Spray one of your worn-in hooded sweatshirts with some of your cologne and give that to your girlfriend. Not only will she absolutely love it, she won't have to keep asking you for it whenever she gets cold. Best of all, she'll be reminded of you every time she wears it.

For Him: Girls, buy your guy the new CD he's been wanting or the DVD collection of his favorite TV show and get together for a "movie night" and watch all the episodes with him so you can get caught up on it, too. If he's an athlete, head to any sporting good's store and get him a jersey, T-shirt, or baseball hat of his favorite sports team. Even better, promise to watch an entire game with him. He'll be thrilled to see that you're making the effort to at least try and understand the sport!

*Dating 6 to 12 months

For Her: You two probably have some favorite places where you spend time together. Fill a basket with gift cards to your hangout spots, like restaurants, coffee houses, and movie theaters. She'll really appreciate the thoughtful idea and it's something that both of you will be able to use.

For Him: Has he been dying to go to his favorite band's concert or see his favorite team play live? Check out tickets.com to purchase tickets for music and sporting events. He'll love the gift, but make sure he promises to take you along as his guest!

*Dating for more than a year

Since you two have already had at least one Valentine's Day together and you know each other well by now, the best gifts are homemade ones that you put some time and energy into creating.

For Her: Instead of taking your girlfriend out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, why not make her a meal yourself? Prepare her favorite food (ask your mother for help with the cooking!) and set the table for two. Make the setting romantic with dimmed lights, candles and roses. Create a mix of favorite songs and play that in the background for a truly perfect evening that she will always remember.

For Him: Make a scrapbook collage of memories you've shared. Include pictures of the two of you, "inside jokes", and quotes or song lyrics that mean a lot to both of you.

>FOR FRIENDS:

*While Valentine's Day may not matter much to guys who don't have girlfriends, it can sometimes be a depressing day for single teenage girls. Why not make the holiday fun for your girlfriends by showing them how much their friendship means to you? Bake sugar cookies in the shape of cutout hearts and decorate them with red and pink frosting and Valentine-themed sprinkles. Or, make red cupcakes by mixing red food coloring into vanilla cake mix and decorating them with white frosting. Hand them out to your friends at school with little hand-made goodie bags or notes with a cute message on them.

>FOR YOUR FAMILY:

*Last but certainly not least, don't forget that Valentine's Day can also be used to show your family how much you care. Get up early to cook breakfast, and make coffee for your parents. Send cards to out-of-town relatives to let them know you're thinking of them. And finally, give your mom and dad a big hug, tell them you love them, and most importantly, say thank you for they do for you every day.

Paige Hazzan is a sophomore at Nardin.

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