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Entertaining With A Heart

Valentine's Day doesn't always have to be expressed with the standard long-stemmed red roses, Hallmark cards and boxed chocolates. With very little expense, you can create a clever yet simple meal and an atmosphere of romantic bliss.

Author Carolyne Roehm shared some ways to entertain for Valentine's Day, culled from her Winter Notebook, on The Early Show.

When it comes to meal preparation, Roehm is not afraid to go simple. "We're not having caviar or champagne or chocolates," she says about her demonstration meal. "We are having heart-shaped cheeseburgers and french fries." Their special shape comes courtesy of a cookie cutter.

"You can use just regular cookie cutters. That's for the french fries and burgers and for our yummy brownies," Roehm says.

She recommends using special Valentine cards to mark everyone's place at the table. "Obviously, you can gear it toward children or a girls' lunch, or a romantic dinner for two," she says of the decorations.

Roehm creates a topiary centerpiece for the table, which she calls a Valentine wish tree because of the wishes eventually attached. The cluster is fashioned out of many cut flowers. "There's something beyond the dozen roses because at this time of year they're an absolute fortune," says Roehm.

"What I opted for was taking carnations, and I think can be done in a charming way," she says.

The topiary is created by using a glue gun to attach a real stem from the yard to a ball of spongey Oasis material (where individual flowers can be inserted in a crown) and securing the other end in a pot. Roehm twists ribbons in barbershop style around the stem.

Roehm suggests using three colors of carnations. "The whole point is we don't want it to read Christmas," she notes.

She then ties individual wishes on a ribbon onto the topiary. For example, one of her wishes read: "The heart is redeemable for one breakfast in bed." Guests can pluck the ones they desire.

To make a heart-shape wreath, purchase a mold at a craft store, Roehm suggests. Fill in the heart outline with carnations or any other type of flowers. "I've done this with daisies with the principle being 'he loves me, he loves me not,'" she says.

This time of year "I really try and stay away from the roses because they cost five and six times the amount they normally do," she says. The adornment can be hung on doors or displayed as a centerpiece.

After being recognized as one of the fashion world's reigning designers and one of the world's best-dressed women, Roehm turned her attention to teaching others about lifestyles, flowers and entertaining.

For 10 years she worked for Oscar de la Renta as a designer, house model and muse, and in 1984 she started her own fashion house, Carolyne Roehm Inc. She eventually went to Paris to study with famed florist Moulie Savart. She shared the lessons an secrets she learned in A Passion for Flowers.

She followed up that best-selling book with a series of seasonal journals covering floral design, tabletops, food and gardening: Summer Notebook, Fall Notebook, Spring Notebook and Winter Notebook.

As she writes in her latest Notebook, "Winter is the most encouraging season for the gardener. It is the only time of the year when the creative juices of the plantsman are given free reign. The frozen ground may not give way to a shovel, but it does yield to the fertile imagination."

Excerpt: Copyright 2000, HarperCollins


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