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Ashley Kelsch’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

The dating and relationship coach shares her recommendations for making the most of Feb. 14 — no matter your relationship status

From the moment the moon rolled into Aquarius, I have felt my inner Cupid kicking.

February boasts my favorite holiday, my birthday, which happens to fall on my second favorite day of the year — Valentine’s Day. Over the years, I have felt a sense of deep responsibility to reclaim this day for the many who have felt that being single this time of year is depressing, that it’s too much pressure for one day or that romance is being commercialized. I mean, what holiday isn’t based on consumerism? That’s beside the point.

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Ashley Kelsch

This is the time of year to grab your baes, your partner(s) or just hit it single because embracing love, be it with self or with others, is never a bad idea. Life’s hard enough. Let’s enjoy the romance, lingerie and sexy good times. With Valentine’s Day landing on a Monday, I’ve decided that we should make it a fun-filled three-day holiday weekend.

Here are some ideas that will get you out, feel good on the skin and make a great gift for yourself or someone else. I can tell you that I’ve personally purchased most of these things for myself and have been swooning over what a great date I am. Basically, Cupid approved.

Elle’s Boutique

I know you’re expecting me to suggest some sexy lingerie sets, but be surprised. Elle’s Boutique has partnered with Claire Schaper, an Austin-based photographer, to create an in-shop series titled “A Modern Take on Boudoir.” Schaper’s images capture a subtle and raw sexiness that is often absent in stylized boudoir. Utilizing images from her shoots with guests, she collages a work of art by integrating these sensual images into a larger backdrop.

Upon placing a $200 deposit, the client reserves a $1,500 ticket that includes a $500 boudoir photo shoot with Schaper and a $1,000 lingerie gift card. Each session includes the full privacy of the shop, complimentary rosé, the attention of a dedicated sales associate, a complimentary fitting and personalized styling for the shoot. Participants will receive three Polaroid pictures captured during the shoot, an album of boudoir images and a personalized collage within a week’s time. To find out more or to schedule a session for you or someone else, click here.

And sticking with our theme, if it’s a group event you want, it’s a group event you’ll get. You and your friends can each have a 15-minute intimate boudoir photoshoot in the boutique’s dressing room for a fee of $100, plus a $250 group editing fee. Participants may choose to borrow an outfit from the shop’s selection beforehand, for the shoot.

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If you’re more inclined to buy lingerie, I recommend their boxed gift sets that include the St. Vincent’s Silk Robe along, with a variety of pleasure accessories.

Miranda Bennett

Photo by Riley Banks

There is a subtle sensualness to Miranda Bennett’s collection, which includes silk dresses that drape delicately over your curves and wrap tops that bear your chest and wrap around your waist. There is an ease to each piece and yet, they stand out. You will find an array of colors and styles made in silk charmeuse, organic cottons and velvet. The fabrics are hand-dyed and feel absolutely decadent on the skin. I love the versatility of pieces that can be worn day or night, dressed up or down.

This indie brand is female-founded and ethically made with plant dyes here in Austin. You’ll catch me wearing the Knot Dress in Mexico this Valentine’s Day. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their robe. You know I love a good robe!


Photo by Nick Simonite

Watertrade, the intimate Japanese-style cocktail bar that holds a larger Japanese whisky selection than any other bar in the state of Texas, is a sure way to impress your date. The bar is dimly lit and tucked away upstairs at the South Congress Hotel. Grab a seat and let the bartenders take you on a journey while you enjoy the exclusivity and quiet space. Order off their seasonal cocktail menu with izakaya-style bar bites from Chef Yoshi Okai or ask the bartenders to make personalized cocktails based on your taste and spirit preferences. They also have tailored spirit flights, with Japanese whisky flights being the most sought after. Not into whiskey? They offer shochu, agave, gin and rum options, too. Watertrade is open from 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays for reservations and walk-ins.

Double or Nothing Two-Step

There are few activities I can think of that get me in my body, have me grinning from ear to ear and make me feel more joyful than two-stepping. It’s the essence of play in my world. I also appreciate that you can walk into Broken Spoke or The White Horse with your squad, with a lover or stag and have the night of your life. What I appreciate more is knowing what I’m doing, and the same goes for my date, so when I found out a man I was dating didn’t know how to two-step, I arranged for private lessons with the talented duo that is Double or Nothing. Spend an hour with them and you will be ready to hit the dance floor! They offer one-on-one, group and partner lessons, along with gift certificates and membership options. 

Salt and Time

Brunch it up. A few years ago, a friend of mine invited me over to grill ribeyes and drink wine. What sounded like a usual evening of eating and enjoying good company was elevated with every bite of the steaks. When I asked where he got the meat, his answer was Salt and Time. Imagine my surprise when I discovered their brunch. Admittedly, brunch is new to me. Shuffling my kids out on a Sunday mid-morning never appealed to me when they were younger.

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Now that my nest is half-full, I enjoy grabbing a seat at the bar or at a table outside, book in hand, with an order of Steak and Eggs with Chimichurri — which I never order anywhere, ever. I’ve also been known to request the French Toast for the table. Treat it like bread service. Why not? Cupid loves carbs. They offer a fun cocktail list and make a mean Arnold Palmer. What’s even better is that you can grab your groceries (which are all locally sourced) for your next meal after you are finished! Anyone else turned on by how efficient this brunch just got? Hours are limited to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekend. Go get you some.

Ashley Kelsch, former owner of Teddies for Bettys, a lingerie and well-being store, is a top-certified coach who works with parents and caregivers of teenagers and young adults who are struggling to understand their child’s gender identity and sexual preferences. She helps guide her clients from confusion and conflict to curiosity and connection by teaching them how to manage their thoughts and emotions. She also has a weekly podcast called House of Other: a modern update and sex-positive education about human sexuality, gender sexual diversity, intimate justice, trauma healing, consent and loving relationships. Ashley continues to explore “your brain on dating, love and relationships” through her writing and with her private clients. You can follow her on Instagram @house_of_other and read more of her Tribeza columns here.