February 14: Annual day of paper crafts and cookies*

*Also known by most as Valentine’s Day.

So here’s the thing. I’m obsessed with Valentine’s Day for all the wrong reasons. I don’t like the phoney (sounding like Holden Caulfield here) romance of it – the rush of people to buy flowers and cakes and fine dinners for their loved ones, because it’s the one time during the year they feel as though they need to make an effort. Is that cynical? I think it is. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Maybe the real reason for my not liking Valentine’s Day is because I once had to use a teddy bear-shaped paddle to spank a man dressed up as Cupid for a television story in j-school. Folks, that footage still exists somewhere. Ten thousand buckets of tears to whomever can uncover it.

What do like about Valentine’s Day is the excuse to make crafts and cookies, treats that I hope are so carefully and lovingly created that they can make up for the fact that I can sometimes be a cynical bum.

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Like Christmas, to me the mid-February affair is more about the lead-up than the actual day – the time before the event when, every night for a week, I’m yanking my craft drawer off its night-table tracks and plopping it down on our gaudy lime green craft table cloth. Valentine’s Day is an invitation to make something – and not just any something, but paper somethings. A time to put my rainbow hued collection of bits and bobs to good use. And unlike birthdays, I don’t get to make just one card, but rather a whole collection for a whole lot of wonderful people. As you can see, I have selfish, DIY motives behind this day, too.

As with all card-making, I very much try and match my creation to its intended receiver. Example: My friend Yoshi who owns Café Petit Gâteau in downtown Sudbury got a little cupcake card, complete with a muffin liner flower on the inside. Ella, my former classmate and fellow Ottawa food-lover, got a card embellished with a whole pile of doughnuts, a throwback to the Capital city’s fairly recent revelation that it is (and rightfully so) in love with the deep-fried dessert. And so on and so forth.

card collage

The cards were mailed off in homemade envelopes (I always get really into making these bizarrely-shaped cards, before realizing that, damnit, they do not fit in any standard postage packages). Out of five cards for out-of-town friends, I managed to create one envelope. Just one. Jen made the rest. While an experienced cutter, gluer, and marker-user, paper folding is an area in which I lack all skill. As a 10-year-old, the only thing I could ever make in my Origami kit was the paper crane, and even then, that was only because I was so determined after reading one of my favourite childhood books, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Anyways, digressing like crazy here, but point is: Jen is far more proficient at envelopes, and made a lovely set of them. Some were two shades of pink, some had zigzag-ed edges. All (except mine) were great.

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And, of course, what would DIY Valentine’s Day be without baking. Actually, what would any night with me be without baking?

Jen, Ian and I had a team effort cookie-making session into the late hours of Valentine’s eve. Here’s how that developed:

1. Hilary decides to bake cookies for work. Because, if nothing else, Valentine’s Day is about showing your appreciation for the friends and co-workers you admire.

2. Jen suggests making a cookie cutter out of a tin can. Hilary hesitates, Jen persists. She proceedds to make an impressive mould out of an old chick pea tin.

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“CRUSHED IT” – Jenifer Norwell

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3. Sugar cookies are made.

From here, the decorating was improvised step-by-step. I originally planned to cut another mini heart inside the heart cookie, and melt Jolly Rancher candies inside, through which creating a stained-glass effect. However, liking the unusual chick pea can heart shape so much, I decided against it, and turned these into little mouse (or some other animal of your choice) cookies. The discovery of decorations was swift.

“Hmm, what can I use for the nose?” A: Why, those “pretty bubble” pink dragées that I bought two years ago at the fancy kitchen store near my Ottawa house.

dragee-image

“Uhh, what about the eyes?” A: Easy, chocolate chips. Bake the cookies without them and put them on immediately after, so they melt to the top.

chocochip

“Okay, but it needs ears.” A: OH, I just happen to have this tube of red icing sitting in my closet. I was going to use to make the laces on a baseball cake in the summer. (note: it was too late to make homemade icing. I only have so much energy on Thursday nights)

icing-collage

It all worked out. I think, anyways.

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Oh right. Here! Have a Valentine’s Day kitty. I love you, Norbert.

vday kitty

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