Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Simple Ideas to Love

I've got to admit that I get a little smitten this time of year. And why shouldn't I? I'm in love and feel blessed by amazing friends and family. While every day is an opportunity to let loved ones know how much you appreciate them, Valentine's Day is the ultimate excuse to let down your guard and admit your gushy feelings.

If you're anything like me, you enjoy the hunt for the loveliest Valentine's ideas and the search for that perfect little treasure for your sweetheart. But elaborate displays of pomp and circumstance on Valentine's Day can leave even the most romantic among us feeling a little spoiled by the sweetness of it all, so I always approach the holiday from a more subtle angle. I play it coy and keep it simple. (Love itself, despite its legendary status as the emotional cornerstone of human history, is simple at its core.)

There is no one who does Valentine's Day better than the editors at Martha Stewart Living. I've searched a multitude of publications over the years and have found a few delicious ideas elsewhere, but I always come back to my adored and lovingly-kept February issues of Living for the inspirational ideas I crave: classic, timeless and fittingly lovable.

Below I've gathered what I consider to be among Martha's simplest and most beautiful Valentine's Day ideas. I hope they make you all mushy inside!

How cute are these handmade doilies? They look even more alluring when grouped together in various sizes and overlapped on a table set for tea. Here's how to make them:

1. Position a prefolded square paper napkin so that the closed corner faces you.

2. Fold right corner toward left corner and flatten, forming a triangle.

3. Fold left corner toward triangle's longest side and flatten, forming a narrower triangle.

4. Using scissors, cut a convex arc from triangle to create top of half a heart.

5. Cut off bottom of triangle from left to right to create lower heart half, leaving at least 1/4 inch intact on right edge. (Left side of triangle will be center of a heart.) Unfold.

6. Repeat with napkins in several colors, varying position of cuts to create doilies in different sizes.

This practical valentine befits your favorite bookworm.

To make the diminutive page keeper: Create a template of a heart, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Cut out with a utility knife, and trace onto heavy card stock. Copy it at 80 percent, cut out, and trace onto decorative paper, such as wrapping or origami paper. Cut out both hearts, and use a glue stick to secure smaller patterned heart to center of the larger one; let dry. Finally, trace bottom half of inner heart with a utility knife, cutting through card stock beneath. Then your valentine can slip pages between the hearts.

Warm someone up by adding a handwritten note to a tea bag. Cut two hearts out of red construction paper using a heart-shaped crafter's hole punch (available at crafts stores). Use a metallic pen to write a short message on one of the hearts. Next, remove a tea-bag tag and, at the end of the string, affix two hearts, back-to-back, using double-sided tape or a stapler. Package bags to give as a present, or steep one in hot water and serve.

Offer loved ones homemade treats wrapped in paper that echoes your heartfelt sentiments. All you need to transform plain waxed paper into lovely gift wrap is some tissue paper, a heart-shaped craft punch, and an iron. Use the paper to wrap cakes, stacks of cookies, and other goods fresh from your oven. Then finish each package with some waxed twine and a colorful gift tag. Fold a piece of tissue paper in half three times, forming eight layers. Using a heart-shaped craft punch, cut out the hearts. Cover the surface of an ironing board with paper towels; place a sheet of waxed paper on top. Arrange hearts on waxed paper, and cover with another sheet of waxed paper. Cover with more paper towels. Run an iron, set to medium heat, lightly over the layers to set.

Propagating seeds is a little like nurturing relationships: The more attention and care they get, the more likely they are to flourish and thrive. Give the gardeners in your life flower seeds with little pots that they can take root in. Put seeds in plain white coin envelopes available at stationery stores, and label with an eraser stamp. Or use a rubber stamp, or make a heart with thumbprints. Put growing instructions on the back, noting when seedlings need to be transplanted to larger vessels or outdoors.

Flowers and candy are the touchstones of courtship and romance. But handing over a bouquet and a box of chocolates isn't the only way to show you're sweet on someone. The intense reds of tulips such as 'Red Nova' and 'Pallada' shown above will prove that your affection has not waned. And the profusion of spicy cinnamon candies lining the vase is an elegant display of your heartfelt emotion. Use two vases of similar height and different diameters. Set the smaller vessel inside the larger one. This creates a "mote" of space to fill with cinnamon hearts. Fill the smaller glass inside with water and some Flora Life and cut the stems of your tulips to the appropriate height. Set the flowers inside and leave your crimson creation on your sweetie's nightstand.This is another variation on the same project, above. Pastel candy hearts proclaiming "Class act" and "Be true" and tulips in complementary colors, such as creamy 'Cheers,' pale-pink 'New Design,' and 'Apricot Beauty,' can be used instead of cinnamon hearts to onvey your feelings with adorable words and phrases. Choose light-coloured tulips or roses to match the pastel candies.The iconic shape of the heart is given even more gravitas when it's designed with roses. Use glasses of the same height and fill them with water. Choose roses of varying sizes and colours and cut the stems to the appropriate length before setting them inside the water. Arrange the vessels as a centerpiece on the dining table in the shape of a heart for a memorable and dramatic effect.

Give petite flowers a larger presence by arranging them in the form of a heart. With this centerpiece there are enough blooms for every guest to take a cluster or two home. To ensure that the design stands out, use short, small vessels, such as eggcups, shown here. In this instance, a vibrant collection of ranunculuses with all-white details lends impact and contrast. Candles placed inside the heart shape will showcase the flowers into the evening.

Store-bought chocolate repackaged in a homemade wrapper -- the underside of which reveals a handwritten love note-tastes doubly delicious. Download the design, color-print, and cut out. To embellish the motif, dot with glue and sprinkle with glitter. Wrap around a foil-covered bar; affix with tape.The design of the template is a lovely Victorian heart motif.

When you've got beautiful paper to work with, any package can look elegant. Use strips of leftover paper in shades of crimson and white, or with pretty floral motifs, to carefully wrap the boxes and containers of your Valentine's Day gifts.
For more ideas, visit MarthaStewart.com. You'll find desserts, chocolate and more. It's also not too late to sign up for the Valentine's Day newsletter to get inspirational ideas mailed directly to you!~

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