Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I have decided to carry on the tradition my mom started with me of making special heart shaped cookies every February.

Growing up, we always made classic sugar cookies with pink and white icing, and topped them with cinnamon red hots. Always.

As much as I loved our tradition, I am the sort of person who is always itching to try something new! I doubt I will make the same cookies every year - I like to mix it up!

I have been scouring the internet for ideas, and have come across so many adorable cookies and techniques!

I love these stained glass looking ones

These peanut butter cookies with chocolate hearts would be easy for little helpers 

Or maybe classic sugar cookies with a rainbow of icing colors(although we'd skip the black)

These are unique and oh so adorable!

And these neopolitan cookies are so pretty!

Royal icing is always impressive

Image source

I doubt I will attempt anything this complicated with a three year old helper, but, oh...swoon!

Even something as simple as cereal treats look impressive when tinted pink (maybe some sprinkles thrown in for good measure)

So many beautiful cookies . . . the options are endless! I am trying to decide which ones we will tackle this year. Hopefully this weekend is full of sprinkles and the sound of my mixer!

It Is What You Make Of It

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays. So many people see it as a holiday manufactured by card companies, but I say it is what you make of it.

As a girl, my parents always made me feel special on Valentine's Day. I  remember every year, coming home from school and KNOWING there was a special surprise waiting for me. That was more exciting to me than trading valentines at school . . . knowing all day long that when I got home, there would be something special waiting on my bed from my mom and dad.

I remember my Valentine presents more vividly than most of my Christmas presents. I think it's because Christmas presents were expected, everyone got them. And a lot of my friends got bigger and better Christmas presents than we did - my parents had four kids to buy for!

 But not all of my friends got valentine presents.

 And valentine presents play right to a little girls' heart - pink, frilly, extravagant, and oh so grown-up and romantic! To receive a heart shaped box of chocolates, all tucked into shiny foil wrappers underneath a lace doily at the age of 6 . . . swoon! It made me feel loved, special, and spoiled. I remember pulling into the driveway after school, looking up to my bedroom window and seeing a giant foil balloon bobbing away . . . waiting for me! Some years it was handfuls of heart shaped candy sprinkled and hidden all over my room. One year it was the foil balloon. Other years it was the classic box of chocolates. Every year, on my bed when I got home from school; some special token left to surprise me.

My most special Valentine memory is the year my dad came home with flowers, not just for my mom but also for my sister and I. I don't remember what sort of bouquet my mom received, but I do remember being given a glass bowl with a floating rose inside, and how it made me feel. Thinking about it now is actually bringing tears to my eyes! My dad is my hero, and he always made the effort to treat his girls with the same care and affection that he treats our mom. . My dad treated me like a princess - he complimented me every Sunday morning when I got dressed up. Opened doors for not just my mom, but also for me. Held my arm when we walked across slippery parking lots. And he bought me flowers on Valentine's Day. He gave me those experiences of knowing what it felt like to be cherished, to be loved and truly cared for so that when it was time for me to enter the dating world I wouldn't settle for anything less. And I didn't :)

Every year, my mom would spend an afternoon making heart shaped sugar cookies with me and my sister. We always decorated them the same way every year. Pink and white icing, and cinnamon red hots. It was our special tradition and I was always so proud to have those cookies in my lunch bag at school in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day.

When I got older, my mom would often make a special Valentine dinner with everything prepared in heart shapes, the table set with a lace tablecloth and candles. The first year after I got married, I invited my parents over for a candlelit dinner and served a heart shaped cake for dessert - our first married Valentine's Day and the idea of going out for a romantic dinner just the two of us never even crossed my mind. I wanted to surprise my parents and do for them what they had done for me every year.

When I think about Valentine's Day, those are the things that I remember. Those are the things that make me get excited to celebrate with my own family. Not an expectation for a fancy dinner out, an overpriced bouquet or a new piece of jewelry. Just the little things. The small gestures of love, the time taken to surprise a loved one just because you want to make them smile.

This year I am bringing back the tradition of making heart shaped cookies with my own daughter. And on February 14th when she walks into her room at the end of the day, there will be heart shaped candies sprinkled across her bed.

And we will sit down to a dinner of something heart shaped, with candles flickering and wine glasses full of juice in front of our plates. Some romantic music will be playing, and after dinner I will relax with my hands on my ever-expanding belly while I watch my husband twirl our daughter around the living room for a special Valentine's dance.

And it will be a million times better than any pair of earrings or fancy restaurant dinner could ever be.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kitchens Past - Our First Home

When we got married, we purchased the worst house we could find just so we could have a mortgage we could afford. We paid $300 a month, and this disaster of a kitchen became home.

It's hard to tell from the photo, but the cabinets were oddly sized, homemade ones with rusting hardware. When you opened a door, the scent of curry punched you in the nostrils. The walls were painted alternating ; lime green with yellow trim, and yellow walls with lime green trim. There were white lace curtains hung from a brass rod, and brass light fixtures filled with bugs. The countertops were chipped formica, and the tap was almost stuck shut with calcium deposits. The floor was covered with burns and black marks, and the stove was harvest gold and burnt everything we tried to cook.

When we first moved in, we painted the cabinets white, got new hardware, and painted the walls blue. We covered the countertops with some cheap black plastic "refresh your countertop" gimmicky stuff. The backsplash was covered in metal flashing to make it look like stainless steel, and we bought a floor model dented stove from Home Depot with leftover wedding money.

This is the only photo I can find of that can see the painted cabinets with new hardware, and the nasty floor...but not much else.

Then we purchased new laminate countertops and installed a subway tile backsplash.

And later we added some inexpensive moulding to all of the door fronts, and bought a new sink and faucet from Ikea. I can't believe that this fresh little country kitchen used to look like this!

We put the house up for sale shortly after finishing the kitchen renovations - and it sold in 2 days, for double what we had paid for it 3 years earlier! We walked away from that home feeling very proud of what we had accomplished, and itching to do it all over again.

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