Valentines Day gifts

I just loved this story from Vanessa, an expecting mom, and knew you would too.


Leslie Patricelli is my favorite children’s author and illustrator. For last Valentine’s day, Paul contacted Leslie and asked to purchase an original painting from one of her books. The 2 kids in the painting look like my kids and the Teddy Bear in the painting is supposed to be baby #3 on the way! He had it framed and Leslie wrote ‘to Abbi, Jack & baby’ on the mat.”

Paul, you totally rock. This is for you.


If you’re new here, don’t miss the other swoon-worthy stories in this series. I have more great stories on the way, but am looking for more. Here, in particular, are a few I’d love to hear.

1. Mother’s Day stories: Anything special your man or dad did to make the day special? After we all ooh and awe over your story, we might happen to forward it on to our own men, you know, just to get them thinking. A subtle hint never hurt.
2. Stories of something special from your dad. Any special gift or thoughtful thing your dad has done for you or someone else.
3. Wedding proposal stories. I love a good engagement story. I’m hoping to feature one or two, if it involves a gift, all the better.


How was your weekend? I hope it was a good one. We had a nice, 3-day weekend. It was ideal, minus one incident.

Do you ever have one of those moments when you are sure you don’t deserve the people around you? I had one. My baby drifted off to sleep in the car on Friday, and I decided to let him stay there while I loaded the trunk for our weekend trip. We were in the garage, and I hadn’t thought about how we’d already started seeing mosquitoes this year. Oh, it was terrible. Three hours later I found myself holding my cooing baby, smiling adoringly up at me, from his face full of spots. I hate to even think of it. It didn’t help that the moment I discovered it was when we pulled up to my S-I-L’s house after we had been listening to Little Women in the car, the part about scarlet fever. Ahh. I was already considering my fragile place in the universe.

The advice nurse was on the phone with me for some time, answering an arsenal of questions about mosquito-carried diseases—I made her read me everything she had—and helping me devise the best method of treatment. I felt horrible. Plus, all weekend while we were watching the Olympics, when a proactive commercial came on I had to endure the jokes. Lesson relearned: I’m glad my family loves me despite myself. And I’m glad for patient advice nurses.

I did find some reading time, which was so nice. I dove into Tender at the Bone, a lend from a good friend. It’s the bio of Ruth Reichl, NY Times food critic and Editor in Chief at Gourmet (before it put out its final issues). All kinds of lessons learned here: I want to make a lemon soufflé for someone on their birthday. I want to earn the respect of my butcher so he saves all the best cuts for me. And I promise you I am making fried oysters this week (I made mussels for the first time two weeks ago and am feeling fearless).

The rest of the weekend was great too. We watched my little sister dance beautifully (any SYTYCD fans? She was taking class from Jaymz).  We enjoyed Grandma’s home cooking. And Brent and the kids got to spend a day in the snow, which I realize isn’t a rare treat for some of you right now, but for us here in Cali it’s good fun.

And to top off all that, my honey got me the perfect thing. Instead of a box full of chocolates he gave me a Le Creuset full of chocolates. Oh he is good. Plus my amazing aunt sent a few more hotpads she crocheted. They look so pretty in my kitchen.


Just incase you’re still searching, I wanted to throw these out.
I’m your wingman.
er, wingwoman.

Last Minute Valentines Gifts for Her
1. Serenade her. If you can’t manage that, at least watch a movie that involves a serenade.
2. Make her a mix CD, stick on a pretty, free printable cover (found via here).
3. Go to a salon, pick out a super nice and yummy smelling shampoo. While you’re there, pick up some tips on giving a good hair wash.

Last Minute Valentines Gifts for Him
1. Three words: bacon-wrapped steak. (Or if he’s vegetarian, try something with three cheeses).
2. Take your man to the grocery store. I know, it sounds a little crazy, but I can totally see this idea working (thanks, Shannon!).
3. Serve him breakfast. Ask him about something you usually don’t have absolutely any interest in listenting to (for me this would have to be family finances, isn’t that terrible?) Act fascinated.

Hmmm. I think I might do one of these for myself.

For more last-minute gift inspiration, visit here in the archives, or here in the index. Hope your Valentines is great.

{ 1 comment }

I heard about this and had to post immediately. Did you see what Hil’s husband made?

It’s the story of how they first met. His version. And with illustrations. Wow.

If you want to hear her version, you’re in luck. Hil has shared it this week in honor of Valentines Day. It’s so fun. I love her adorable note about him not liking her cookies.

{ 1 comment }

I make Brent solemnly swear to stay away from this blog during certain times of the year, namely Valentines and Fathers Day. Which is why it’s okay to share this.

I saw this idea on Stephmodo and had to try. But I had a bit of a mishap. The fading effect on the heart was not intentional (i’m not sure if you can tell, but it bleeds). It came from holding a 6-month-old and peeling off the freezer paper while my acrylic heart was still wet and vulnerable. (btw, I first got hooked on freezer paper from this tutorial). Then in my frenzy to fix it, look what happened to the back.

The heart came through, quite cleanly, and on the left side too. I stopped my frenzied washing and found I was pleased with the whole thing. Here’s the final product.

Do you like my new do? It’s a little different than last time and I am still learning how to do a bob.

I’m looking for one or two more Valentine surprises. Ideas? What are you doing? Let’s workshop.

Here are a few all-time favorites.

Am thinking of a romantic gesture from my blog archives. Maybe dessert in bed?

I was also revisiting this post and remembering this great idea for a floating valentine.

And this idea for commemorating every year of your love. Though I’m not sure I could pull it off by Sunday.

Also liked these 14 ideas. Especially the one about the slurpees. And also her idea of photos of places from your romantic history.

Or a book of printed romantic emails. Might do this one. We don’t have so many lovey dovey emails, but a good many about what makes us happy and where our life is going. Come to think of it, maybe this idea could work for friends, not just lovers.

Or another kind of book. A friend showed me a book she made of reasons she loves her valentine. She’s doing 101 reasons in a scrapbook and it turned out so much cuter than I could ever do. But I think I could pull off this version of 52 found via here. I really like the look.

Don’t forget, one more day to stop by here and enter my giveaway.

Deb picked the Ashby Inn in Paris, VA, where she and her husband would spend their days rock climbing.


I’d like to take one post to applaud my own man.

Since he is currently kicked off this blog (for the purposes of being able to be surprised on Valentines day) he will have to accept our congratulations next week. But I really wanted to share something he did.

A few years back he gave me this. It is a love letter book. His dream was that we’d compose lengthy epistles of affection to each other often. We’d write a love letter then leave the book on the pillow for other person to discover. I have to admit, it’s pages aren’t full yet, even after a couple years. But it does have a good twenty or thirty good pages of solid love letter material. And all in one place.

Don’t forget to go here and enter my $100 Bed & Breakfast giveaway by tomorrow.

Celia thought La Zarzuela looked like a good place to stay.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Sometimes I wish I had all day just to share ideas with you. There’s just so much brilliance going around and never enough time to share all I want to. Maybe if I stop folding laundry. Oh wait. I already did that this week.

This is a great idea Rikelle mentioned on the pre-Christmas post about giving a salad kit. Rikelle makes festive-shaped croutons to give friends during the holidays. Don’t you love that idea? I’m finally getting a chance to put this to work, for Valentines.

Alongside my bag of loving croutons will be a bag of candied pecans (just toasted in a hot pan with a spoonful of sugar) and a favorite dressing to make what may be the teacher’s most wholesome valentine this year. Below are Rikelle’s directions for making yummy crunchy croutons.

“I really do love making the croutons. I make them with a mixture of equal parts butter and olive oil, with garlic and parsley to taste. I cut out the shapes and then dip them in the oil mixture and toast them until crisp.”  (NOTE: I toasted mine at 350 for 20 min).

Thanks, Rikelle. The butter and oil combo is delish.

And since we’re on the topic, I have to tell you that my favorite croutons are those made from black bread. And I’m wondering, does anyone have a good recipe for black bread like you find in Germany? I’ve been relying on this bread mix but would really like to find a recipe of my own. I enjoyed Smitten Kitchen’s black bread recipe, but am looking for something firmer and without any rye flavor. I thought it was worth an ask.

If you’re looking for more teacher gift inspiration, I have a couple in previous posts here, or inspiration in my gift guides here.

I hope you’ll visit me at the SEI blog today, where you can meet this guy.

And one last thing. I hope you’ll stop by here and enter my giveaway. Select Registry is offering $100 to use at any of their almost 400 bed and breakfasts. Just stop by this post and
1. Mention an inn you like, or
2. Mention a favorite item from my gift or wrapping guides, or
3. Twitter about it, or
4. Post about it on your blog along with a favorite local shop or restaurant of yours.
Winner chosen on Friday.

Deb picked The Govorner’s House Inn as a B&B that she thought looked dreamy. I’d love to be there for afternoon tea.


We will be sharing this Sunday with some very special Valentines, great grandma and grandpa. I can’t think of anything sweeter. So yesterday we got to work making my hot chocolate on a stick recipe in an appropriate form to enjoy on Valentines day. I was very pleased with how they turned out. Do you like them? And I thought they were a perfect treat for my kids too, a few other people who melt my heart.

And I wanted to share this with you, a garland I saw on PurlBee and whipped up on my sewing machine this morning to share with the readers over at SEI. It took me about 25 minutes, and that includes cleanup time. That’s my kind of sewing project.


Select Registry


My favorite vacations are the ones where I have a local show me around. I just love being shown a little fish place they know or supporting the independent book shop or ice cream parlor. And I love getting to see a place more like the locals do.

Which I why I am in love this association. Brent and I learned about it a couple years ago while staying at one of their B&Bs. The company is called Select Registry, and it is a list of nearly 400 premier B&Bs spread across the United States and Canada, all of them crazy-beautiful and all of them independently owned. (You can browse all their inns here.) And making the registry is kind of a big deal.

Select Registry sends independent inspectors to visit the inns on their list. Inspectors do everything undercover, they’re like Select Registry’s minion of spies. They arrive as any other guest, spend the night, enjoy the inn and the breakfast, and only then do they reveal their secret identity. The inn needs to pass the detailed questionnaire to remain on the registry.

Do you realize what this means for you and me? It means we can pick any inn on the list, show up and be treated like royalty, then saunter down to breakfast the next morning and get personalized recommendations of the most delightful way to spend the day. (These are B&B owners, they know how to live.)


happy inn browsing!

Geneva on the Lake


I put this Valentine together for my daughter to give with pencils (12 pencils in a pack at the dollar store, why don’t I go there more often?) and thought I’d post it here in case you’d like to use it too.

Download from DropBox by clicking here: Printable Butterfly Valentine

or download here: Printable Butterfly Valentine (3880)

If you get a chance, stop by a little later this morning. I’ll be posting my big giveaway, and I know you’ll want to see it.


I put together this tag for you to add to your Valentine sweets and tokens of love. I hope you find something lovey-dovey to attach it to.

Download from DropBox by clicking here: Printable Valentine Tag
or download here: Printable Valentine Tag (9637)

--classroom valentine--homemade valentine--airplane valentineDo you like the airplane valentines? We put these together with a roll of smarties, a rubber band, and a pair of lifesavers (you can leave them in their individual packaging and just poke a hole through the center if you are making them to hand out to friends.)


Are you starting to notice I have cake on my mind?

I thought you might like a little extra fun for your Valentine cupcakes this year, so we did some experimenting over here.

Here’s what you’ll need to create your very own, fully edible, cupcake stands, and impress all your Valentines this year.
1. White candy melts
(I chose candy melts over real white chocolate because they’re so much easier to melt and work with, and they don’t have to be tempered when they’re melted)

2. One Recipe Royal Icing, mix together
3 tbsp. meringue powder
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
6 Tbsp. warm water
(Just beat on low until it forms peaks and looks like icing).

3. Cookie cutters or other impromptu molds you find around your kitchen.

Here’s how we went about it. First we opened every drawer in the kitchen and pulled out anything that looked like it could be a mold.

Then we made some royal icing and scooped it into a pastry bag.

We set out all our molds over a piece of parchment paper. If you have trouble making the molds stay in place, add a little icing to the bottom. But we didn’t find this to be necessary. We just plopped a few cookie cutters down.

We melted the candy wafers in the microwave (one minute at a time at half power, stirring between) and poured them in our molds.

We tried a nesting effect. Next time I’ll decorate with colored icing rather than melting in more colored candy.

After they cooled in the fridge, we leveled a few.

Then glued them together with our royal icing. Here are the ones that turned out to be our favorites. We liked the ones that used surprisingly small cookie cutters. But really the possibilities are limited only by what you can turn into a mold. Just make sure you try out one model cupcake stand, to make sure it can hold up a cupcake, before you make dozens of them.

There, won’t your Valentine be impressed?

For those of you who want to expand your cupcake repertoire, here are a few recipes I’ve been dying to try. Do you have a favorite cupcake?

Lucious Lime Cupcakes (My friend made these for a baby shower last night. They were amazing. I wish I had a picture because they were beautiful, piled high with airy whipped lime mousse. Biting into cake and lime mousse all at once is a pretty great thing).
Fluffernutter cupcakes by the awesome Michelle of One Ordinary Day
Chocolate, banana, and teff cupcakes (gluten free and amazing looking)
Salted caramel chocolate cupcakes
Cotton candy cupcakes
Vanilla cupcakes with blackberry buttercream
Blue velvet cupcakes
White chocolate cupcakes
Dark chocolate cupcakes with milk chocolate buttercream


Yesterday we decided to combine two of our favorite things about Valentines: paper + cake (singing along to sappy love songs is also on that list).

We stopped by a local bakery and asked if they had any wafer paper. They did. We’d never tasted it plain before so we all snipped of a slice. It tasted like, um, paper.

When we got home we poured out a little food coloring. I dug out my calligraphy pen…

and the kids ran for their paintbrushes.

We made and frosted some cakes (we baked them in ramekinsand used this trick for keeping the frosting smooth), snipped our designs
a bit, and found ourselves with

three edible Valentines.

I think my 4-year-old’s turned out to be my favorite.

Stop by tomorrow to see what we came up with to display them on.

UPDATE: Since this was our first time every playing with rice paper, I thought I’d add a few extra words of advice from here: “In order to make the rice paper stick to the cake…, you need to use some clear gel.” (Note, I didn’t use anything! I just stuck the paper right on the frosting.) “Carefully cover the bottom (the rough side) of the paper evenly with a layer of clear, edible gel. Then, turn the rice paper over and position it on top of the iced cake. …The rice paper should disintegrate after a short time of being on top of the cake, but even if it doesn’t completely disappear, don’t worry! It is completely tasteless and odorless, so it won’t be detected.”


If you want to proclaim your love and you’re a little bit country you can always climb the water tower and paint your message there. But here are a few other, more legal (and every bit as poetic) options.

in the shower

in the snow

on your sandwich

on a banana

on your arm (via here, get custom  temporary tats here)

in your hair

in the sky (get a price quote here)

in the night sky (via here, get instructions here)

on dessert (image from here)
(UPDATE: for those of you who are pie people, cupcakes for clara
just dropped by and shared where she proclaimed her love on a pie)

in dessert