The wind is howling around the corners of the house, snow is flying and it’s just plain cold–but I’m thinking a warm thought–Valentines Day is just around the corner!

Does anyone make their own Valentines anymore I wonder–and if not, then why not?

As a child in grade school in a small town, I remember that we made our own Valentines every year. We usually made a few in art class, and they were hung as decorations around the room for the month of February. At home, we all made our own Valentines for friends and relatives. We used pieces of colored paper, scraps of lace and rick-rack, and sometimes we were lucky and could afford a package of those white paper lace doilies to really dress things up. Color pictures cut from old magazines and a bottle of glue and a pair of dull scissors were the ‘makings’ for our classmates’ Valentines. With a houseful of children, all working on different projects at once, the kitchen table usually looked like a paper bomb had gone off before we were done with bits of paper and scraps of ribbon everywhere!

My parents always insisted that we make a valentine for every single child in the classroom–it didn’t matter if you didn’t get along with him or her–absolutely no one was left out–everyone got a Valentine. The names of the recipient and the name of the giver were printed on the back of the Valentines.

Every schoolroom had a grocery box covered with colored paper either taped or glued to cover the cardboard. Big heart shapes were cut out and glued on to the base paper. This sat on its own little table at the front of the room close to the teacher’s desk. All of the children brought their Valentines from home and put them in the big box. On the appointed day during the last period, a few of the kids were chosen by the teacher to open the box and pass out the valentines to the individuals seated in their desks.

Sometimes, a few of the mothers would furnish special treats for the afternoon–usually cookies cut in heart shapes and decorated with red icing. Occasionally, there were cupcakes with white icing and red sprinkles. These were considered special, since desserts were only an occasional treat in most homes at that time.

In later years, I think my younger brothers and sisters just bought packages of Valentines at the grocery store, wrote the names on the back and put them in the box. That’s just not the same as the homemade Valentines.

I know many flower shops specialize in arrangements for Valentine’s Day, and red roses are at the top of the list. A friend of mine got a bouquet a couple of years ago from her husband¬–which was a total surprise. He’s not one for ‘such nonsense’ as a rule.

I also see lots of heart shaped boxes of candy and helium balloons being carried out of the shops¬–and surprisingly, books. It seems that giving books for Valentine’s Day is common in some areas, and that’s a good thing. I like books to read on cold, blustery days such as this.

In fact, I’m going to curl up on the sofa under my quilt and read a book this afternoon. But first, I’m going to make a batch of homemade bread and some ham and bean soup. It’s just ‘that kind of a day’.

I soaked a bag of beans last night, drained them this morning, added three chopped onions and some water and set them to simmer on low for several hours. I defrosted some cooked ham I had in the freezer–it will be cut into bite sized pieces and put in with the beans. I also had some cooked bacon from another project and this too will be added. The whole works will be slow simmered all day. I’ll get the bread baked this afternoon and while the oven is still hot, mix up a batch of cast-iron cornbread and bake that too. There will be enough for several meals, and most of it will be put in containers in the freezer for future use–or shared with friends who don’t often cook for themselves.

While the bread is rising, I’m going to tackle a shelf or two in the pantry. It’s the smallest room in the house and holds all the baking and cooking items that won’t fit in the kitchen cupboard. There are things in there that I use just occasionally, like the spaghetti/noodle roller and the little KRUMKAKE iron used to make rolled up Norwegian cookies at Christmas time, and the two big plastic bins that hold a 50-plus year collection of cookie cutters.

I finally got most of the cookbooks put on shelving in the living room so I can look through them on those frigid winter days when I stay close to the stove, trying to figure out what to try next.

I’ll pour myself a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and curl up under the quilt with some of the old ‘self-published’ cookbooks from local churches and organizations. They are the ‘time-tested’ recipes for sure.

I’ll be dreaming of spring while the snow blows in under the door.

Till next time

by Paula Vogelgesang | Paula Vogelgesang is the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", and is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory. Email her at [email protected].  Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond.