CREATE A HOUSE OF HEARTS

     

The last of the December holiday decor has finally been tucked away in bins in the attic. Well, almost. In frigid snow-covered Minnesota, I’ll keep the white twinkle lights up that frame our outdoor windows and wind around the pine treetops in flowerboxes. The lights seem to brighten our spirits, and add warmth with their sparkle in the evening snow during sub-zero temps and blistery snowstorms — at least through February … OK, March.

This time of year I think about the happy color pink, the taste of chocolate and lovely heart shapes everywhere. Even outside. That’s why I’m inspired to freeze water with a sprinkling of birdseed in heart-shaped cake pans to unmold and hang with twine from tree branches in the front yard. It’s a suncatcher attraction for feathered friends and passersby (search Heart-Shaped Ice Sculptures at www.donnaerickson.com).

What’s next? More heartfelt ideas to create a house of hearts. Enjoy them with your kids no matter where you live:

  1. Heart-shaped cookies

Use your favorite rolled-out sugar cookie recipe and cookie cutters in heart shapes to fill your cookie jar with cookies made by you and the kids.

For a creative twist, when making medium or large cookies, use a knife to cut out a 1 inch deep and 1/4 inch wide wedge off the side of the heart-shaped dough before baking. Once cool and decorated, hang the cookie on a glass of milk or a mug of hot chocolate.

Or, poke a hole through the top of several cookies before baking. When cool, string them with twine individually, and hang from a table centerpiece of bare branches. When friends visit, they can take home a cookie heart.

Make mini cookies with your smallest heart cookie cutter. Pack in a cardboard jewelry gift box lined with waxed paper. Give to someone special with a Valentine message attached.

                             

  1. Say “I Love You” on Valentine’s Day

Put a love twist on breakfast. Use strawberry jam from a squeeze container to draw a heart on your child’s toast. When you prepare pancakes, spoon the batter onto the pan in various sizes of heart shapes. Top them with fresh strawberries cut lengthwise to make hearts.

  1. Family love

Share your wedding photos with your children. Tell them how you and your spouse met, and include any funny or romantic stories they would enjoy. Look for formal wedding pictures of grandparents and great-grandparents, too. Learn their names and share family love stories and lore.

 

DECORATIVE PAPER STRIP HEARTS

 

 

 

The heart shape is a traditional and enduring symbol of love when celebrating Valentine’s Day. Why not display a beautiful heart with creativity in your home starting this week with this easy to make eye-catching version using easy to cut paper strips and a stapler? That’s all you need to make memories, while you craft lots of fun with your family.

Grab some pink, red and white construction paper or other colorful paper with or without designs that fits your vision for hearts, and enjoy this messless paper craft activity with your school-age kids. Your preschooler can also lend a hand, when you make it together.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need:

–3 sheets of construction paper in three different colors (I chose white, dark pink and a light shade of pink for these directions.)

–ruler

–pencil

–scissors

–paper cutter (optional)

–stapler

–glue (optional)

–thread or fishing line for hanging (optional)

 

Here’s the fun:

  1. For each heart with the colors I used, measure, mark with a pencil and cut with scissors or a paper cutter:

2 strips of white construction paper, 1 inch by 3 inches

2 strips of dark pink construction paper, 1 inch by 5 inches

2 strips of light pink construction paper, 1 inch by 7 inches

 

  1. Pile the 6 strips, starting with one white short strip, one dark-pink strip, two light pink strips, the second dark pink strip and end with the one short white strip on top. They should be evenly stacked up at one end. Carefully staple this 1-inch-wide stack about 1/4 inch from the even end.

  1. Bring the loose ends of the white strips away from the pile (and over the staple) to form a heart shape. Hold with one hand as you pull back the light pink strips and then the dark pink strips in the same manner.

Staple the six strips together near the pointed end of the heart.

Bend paper near the staple to spread out the sides.

If you make more, string several in different sizes vertically with fishing line and hang from a hook attached to the ceiling or by a window and watch it move freely with the air.

HEART-SHAPED ICE SCULPTURES

Make beautiful heart-shaped suncatchers out of ice to hang from a tree branch on a cold day. If you live in a warm climate, place an edible version in a punch bowl for a Valentine’s Day party with friends.
Here’s what you’ll need:
–A heart-shaped cake or small cupcake pan with a rim, or the base of a heart-shaped candy box lined with aluminum foil so water can’t seep through
–Dried flowers, leaves and rose petals for suncatcher
–Decorative edible items such as thinly sliced oranges, limes and strawberries
–Strong string or wire for a hanger
–Water
Here’s the fun:
Set some decorative items into the pan or lined box. (For punch-bowl ice, add edible items only.)
Set a portion of a 20-inch length of twine or wire in the water, making sure it is submerged near the top center of the heart. Fill with water and set in the freezer.
When the temperature outside is freezing, remove the heart from the pan and hang from a branch where a glimmer of sunlight will shine through.

CHOCOLATE ROSES

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Make 10-12 edible chocolate rose garnishes like pastry chefs using this simple recipe.

To make edible chocolate clay:
Ingredients:
10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 ½ cups)
1/3 cup light corn syrup

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for about one and a half to two minutes in 30-second intervals, stirring each time. If you don’t have a microwave, use a double boiler.

Add the corn syrup to the melted chocolate. Stir. The lovely smooth mixture will turn into a clay consistency.

Put a sheet of waxed paper on a cutting board or kitchen counter and scoop the chocolate mixture onto it. Spread it out evenly with your fingers until it is about
½- inch thick.
Cover loosely with waxed paper and let it rest for at least 2 hours. The clay will become pliable.

To make a rose:
-Roll ten smooth balls of chocolate clay a bit smaller than the size of a marble and line them up an inch apart on waxed paper. Cover the little balls with a sheet of waxed paper. Press down hard on the paper with your thumb to spread out the clay. Aim for the size of a half-dollar.

-To create petals for a rose, remove one clay disk and curl it into a tepee shape, narrow at the top and wider at the bottom. Wrap the next disk around the opening of the tepee as if you were making it a little door. The third disk goes at the back of the tepee. The fourth along the side. Layer as many of these clay disks as you’d like. Bend back the edges of the disks ever so slightly. Don’t worry if little slits appear because they will make the petals look more natural.

-Set finished rose on a cupcake or other dessert.

Note: Use up the clay the same day while it is pliable. Candy melts (available at craft stores) and/or butterscotch chips may be substituted for the chocolate chips.

CREAM-PUFF HEARTS

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Cream puffs look so fancy, but they are easy to make from scratch with your kids. Really! Give them a try for a special occasion, such as Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. This heart-shaped version with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream between the layers is a delicious treat for celebrating with your family.
CREAM-PUFF HEARTS
Makes 12 hearts.
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Strawberries or raspberries, for serving (optional)
Chocolate sauce or confectioners’ sugar, for serving
To prepare oven, baking sheets: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Let your school-age child draw 12 (3-by-3-inch) heart shapes with a pencil on 2 sheets of parchment paper cut to fit 2 cookie sheets. Tell your child to press hard enough as she draws so you see the hearts on the reverse side. (If you need a pattern for drawing the hearts, cut out a heart from an index card or use a similar-size cookie cutter.) Turn parchment over and lay it on cookie sheets.

To prepare dough: An adult should place water, butter and salt in saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low. Stir in flour until mixture is smooth and forms a ball. Remove from heat. Let stand for 3 minutes. Place in a mixing bowl. Let your child crack eggs into small bowl. Pour eggs into flour mixture. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth and shiny. (Note: Initially, mixture will look like scrambled eggs.)

To form each heart: Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto center of each heart shape on cookie sheets. (Note: I use an ice-cream scoop.) Let your child spread dough with fingers to form each heart shape. (Note: I discovered top “V” of the heart should be extra-wide and low to compensate for expansion of dough. The bottom “V” shape of the heart should be narrow and pointed.)
To bake: Bake for 25 minutes or until slightly puffed and golden. Remove from oven. Cut small slit in sides to release steam. Set aside to cool completely.
To serve: Slice each cream-puff heart crosswise. Spoon whipped cream or small scoop of ice cream on bottom half. Set top half over filling. Top with raspberries or sliced strawberries (cut vertically to make thin heart shapes). Drizzle with chocolate sauce. Or let child use strainer to dust with confectioners’ sugar.