Romance means different things to different people. And love certainly can be expressed in many ways. For some, coming home to all the laundry being washed, folded and put away is pretty darn romantic. Others need a surprise weekend trip to Paris to be impressed. One truth we found: The longer you are together, the harder it is to find something original, special, or unique. Here are some ideas for Valentine's gifts -- and some general gift-giving tips -- for long-married couples:
1. Major appliances really aren't gifts.
While buying a new eight-burner stove with all the bells and whistles may be a great surprise for the mate who loves to cook, there are absolutely no circumstances under which a hot water heater -- even a tankless one that "will pay for itself in five years" -- should be considered a gift.
Small appliances, on the other hand, could be. The rule of thumb is that the appliance should be frivolous, unnecessary and not something that will make someone's "job" easier. Ix-nay to vacuum cleaners but we would never protest if someone wanted to give us this Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine, ranked #1 by Comparing Guru. As any barista worth his beans knows, the trick to perfect espresso is limiting the time between grinding and extraction to mere seconds, not minutes. This machine has a built-in grinder and a patented dosing tool to trim the puck for consistent extraction. While at $600 it's not inexpensive, it's cheaper than those machines that really belong in a restaurant instead of clogging up your kitchen counter.
2. Give gifts for the person your mate is, not who you wish he/she was.
Can we just stop with the giving of Fitbits to couch potatoes? Appreciate your loved one without the passive aggressive ways in which you would like them to change. That's why we love these Zoinx sunglasses so much. We still get to be passive aggressive but can be much more subtle about wishing he'd keep better track of his car keys. They are stylish, sturdy, and have this nifty zippered pouch that can be worn around the wrist (or we suppose on the back of your head). Stick the keys in there before you take a run or hike. Oh wait. There we go again being judgey of our couch potato.
Seriously, Zoinx glasses provide sun protection and with their patented clip, they are harder to lose. (Yes, still judgey.) Each pair comes with a sport strap, zipper pouch, flotation insert, and waterproof emergency info card.
3. Gadgets are great gifts, if ...
Everyone has a little bit of a gadget guy or gal in their life. The trick of successful gadget-gifting is this: It must be clever.
Hammacher-Schlemmer's video-recording baseball cap is a prime example of a cool gadget. It's a baseball cap with an inconspicuous camera embedded in the front that records high definition video. The pin-hole sized lens captures 720p high-definition video at 30 frames-per-second. The camera also takes still photos in JPEG format and stores everything on an SD card (supports up to 32 GB cards, not included). The camera is controlled by three buttons on the brim. Q could not have designed a better camera for 007. Plus, one size fits all with adjustable band. $100.
4. You know that sometimes when your mate says she doesn't want something, she really does, right?.
A case in point: As any honest woman over 55 will tell you, the feet are the first to go. By the time she is 65, the last pair of high heels have been re-homed to Goodwill. Bunions, plantar fasciitis and other foot afflictions are the bane of an older woman's existence. How is it that the free world cannot produce a pair of stylish shoes that are comfortable yet sexy, we ask beseechingly.
Well, Ilene Berg Shoes hopes to answer our pathetic cries. The shoe line is German-engineered technologically to provide patent-pending, comfort stretch panels, ultra-cushioned footbed, reduced slope and a reinforced heel for a safer walking experience. They are heels -- high heels -- not unlike the ones of our youth except you can actually wear these without killing your feet. Sometimes when we say we never want to wear heels ever again, what we mean is we think we can never do it comfortably. Our #1 footwear rule remains: If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it. Prices vary according to style.
5. Because our pets are family too, and besides, sometimes we just love them more.
Sometimes, life's frustrations come in small packages -- like the little metal ring that attaches your pet's ID tag to her collar. Who has that kind of vision and dexterity to fasten the little bugger? Plus, over time, metal identification tags wear away and you can't read them. The good news is that someone has built a better mousetrap -- we mean dog tag. Pawdentify tags are made from polymer, and come with a LINKS-IT Pet Tag Connector to eliminate the frustrating process of trying to attach tags to a collar with a metal ring or s-hook. The connector is diamond-shaped with a lock in the middle that secures tags in place. No fingernails broken, fingers pinched, or blood pressures raised in the process. $22.
Also on HuffPost: