DIY Paper Heart Animal Valentines

FullSizeRenderIf you’ve been following my posts lately, then you know I was SO over January. When February 1 rolled around last weekend, I seized the opportunity to start something new. I “took down January” (recycled all of the paper snowflakes we had hanging around the house) and decided it was time to “put up February” (cover my house in hearts). Plus, since Jon was off for the day starring in his first major Hollywood blockbuster (OK, he was just an extra in a new Steve Jobs movie, but I’m sure he rocked it!) I took advantage of the quiet morning at home with the kids to do a little Valentine project.

We had gone to the library earlier in the week and checked out this cute little book, My Heart Is Like a Zoo:

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It’s a rhyming book with timely similes about the many ways our heart can love. What makes the book really unique, though are the illustrations–every picture is an animal constructed entirely of hearts. There are silly seals and a rugged moose:

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Eager beavers and a steady yak:Hall-2

And even happy hippos sipping their juice:

Hall-4Each page features a different heart animal, and my boys couldn’t get enough of them. After reading the book for about the 5,000th time that week, David suggested that we make some heart animals of our own. And, since I’m never one to shy away from a cheesy craft, I obliged. We (and by we, I mean I) set to work making our little love zoo.

Here’s a brief how-to if you want to join in the heart-animal fun:

What you need
~Paper–any paper will work, but I used a combination of construction paper and scrapbook paper. If you want more sturdy animals, use colored cardstock.
~Scissors
~Glue–glue sticks work best for this project
~Black marker
~(if you’re the perfectionist-type) Heart-shaped stencils, paper punches or die cuts

What you do
~Decide what animal you want to make. After making about a dozen of these critters, I’m convinced that you can make any animal imaginable out of hearts. If you need some inspiration, see my creations below or search Google or Pinterest for “paper heart animals” and you’ll find more animals than were on Noah’s Ark.

For instance, did you know that you could make a penguin, a blue jay, or a bear out of hearts?
IMG_1859Or a beaver and a fox?IMG_1858 What about a caterpillar and a butterfly?IMG_1857You see, the possibilities are endless…
~Next, choose what papers you want to use for each part of the animal, and just go to town cutting out hearts! I did the good ‘ol fold-your-paper-in-half freehand method for my hearts, but you could certainly use some other more-precise technique if you have the patience for that sort of thing. Cut out hearts in many sizes and colors to use for the different parts of your animal.
~Start puzzling together your animal. Cut hearts in half to make oval shapes, turn the hearts in different directions, or cut the points off the bottom of the hearts to make triangles–it’s amazing the different shapes you can form from simple hearts! If there’s a part of your animal that doesn’t lend itself to a heart-shape, I also give you permission to just cut out whatever random shape of paper you need. You’re welcome.
~After you’ve laid out your design, glue it all together. Use a black marker to add details like a nose, mouth, or whiskers.

And that’s it! Each animal only took me a few minutes to make, so I had a whole Valentine menagerie by the time my boys had finished watching Veggie Tales (yes, I also give you permission to enchant your children with television while you get lost in kids’ crafts that they should be helping you with).

Happy Heart Day, friend!

 

Valentine’s Day in Ireland

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This weekend was our second Valentine’s Day in Ireland. Last year we were here over Valentine’s Day while Jon attended a local conference and we did some brief house-hunting for our then-upcoming move. Although last year’s Valentine’s Day with all of Jon’s co-workers at a company dinner was a unique experience, this year’s V-day was much more up my alley–the former-Kindergarten teacher in me came out in full force and we had a full day of crafts, scavenger hunts and baking. And I got a special date alone with my valentine, no third-wheel co-workers there to share the evening. But before I get into the details of our festivities, I have to share a bit about the weather this week.

You see, this week has been the most manic week of weather I’ve ever experienced. Ever. And, since the favorite topic of conversation among Irish people is the weather, I thought it would be appropriate to diverge for a moment here. We’ve had a bit of everything this week. One day, it snowed. Big, huge, beautiful flakes blowing in from every direction all at once. It was magical. Then, two minutes later (literally, two minutes) the snow was gone, the sun burst out and the sky turned blue:
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Another day this week brought ridiculous flooding to the Cork city center. Storm surges converged with high tide and the River Lee overflowed its banks right into the middle of the city. The flooding was so bad that people were kayaking down the main street. And inside the shops. It was madness, really.

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And, yet another day, the wind was so strong that trees were being uprooted and trucks were being blown over on the highway:

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We were at an indoor play area on Wind Day and the front door to the building actually blew right off. It was like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz.

Alrighty, then. Enough of the weather, and on to Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is not nearly the holiday here that it is in America. There are no conversation hearts and no Valentine exchanges at school (in fact, they don’t even sell boxed sets of Valentines at the stores here. Or heart-shaped candies. Really, the only thing Valenine-y I could find was red roses and fur-rimmed handcuffs….hmmm…). The holiday is reserved for lovebirds, but I really prefer the American all-inclusive nature of the holiday. I love celebrating Valentine’s Day with friends and, especially, with my kids.

I decided that I was going to just go ahead and do Valentine’s Day my way, even if I was the only one in the whole country making heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast:

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And, by the way, the heart-shaped pancakes were a roaring success! Perhaps the fact that I smothered the ‘cakes with berries and whipped cream had something to do with the rate at which they were ravenously consumed. But, hey, it’s a holiday, gotta go all-out.

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After breakfast it was on to the scavenger hunt. Before the boys woke up I hid clues all around the house so they would have to find their Valentine treats. David thought this was a brilliant game, and he loved “reading” the clues to his attentive little brother:

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At the end of the scavenger hunt each boy found a little treat bag. And, since I couldn’t find conversation hearts or cupid-shaped chocolates, they got plastic army men and soccer ball lollipops.

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We also opened our Valentines that arrived from overseas. Thanks for all of the cute cards, grandparents and cousins!

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Our next activity on the agenda was a bake-a-thon. I didn’t really mean for it to be a bake-a-thon, it just turns out that having a 3 year old “helping” you in the kitchen turns into an all day affair. No bother, though, we didn’t have anywhere else to be (as evidenced by my son still wearing his pajamas in these photos…at 1 in the afternoon.).

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We made a big batch of chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies–heart-shaped, of course! David was my sous chef extraordinaire and, I have to say, the cookies turned out quite delectable.

While the cookies were baking in the oven I made lunch: soup and heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches (are we starting to see a theme yet?).

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By the time lunch and our bake-a-thon were over I was ready to get OUT of the kitchen. We decided to take a little walk to deliver Valentines to our neighbors and get some wiggles out. These are the Valentines we made for David’s friends in the neighborhood–I think they turned out pretty cute:

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David loved playing post man and putting the cards inside his friends’ mail slots.

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After we delivered our Valentines it was time to go back home and make dinner (back to the kitchen again…). We had a nice steak dinner–the boys, however, decided to go vegan and just eat their broccoli. Oh well, more steak for ME!

And, speaking of dinner, we had one more special treat planned for our Valentine’s weekend. For Christmas Jon and I received a gift certificate to a restaurant in a castle near our house. Valentine’s Day seemed as good an excuse as any to dress up and go out on a special date–in a castle. Oh, how I love the castles…

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So, the day after Valentine’s Day we got a babysitter and went out, just me and my valentine.

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We had a romantic dinner at Blackrock Castle–there was candlelight, red wine, and not a single screaming child. It was sublime.

After dinner we headed over to Carroll’s Bar, a pub that is owned by our friend Olivia and her family. Every weekend they have trad  (traditional Irish music) at the pub and I’ve been wanting to check it out for months now. We were not disappointed. The music was lively and they even had a nice, cold IPA for Jon to try (he’s been missing all non-stout beer since we’ve moved here). It was the perfect ending to a magical (Irish) Valentine’s Day.

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To all of our friends and family, near and far: Happy Valentine’s Day! XxX

DIY “Long Distance Hug” Valentines

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It’s February, which means Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I’ve always enjoyed Valentine’s Day–a whole day to shower our loved ones with affection (and chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate).

Every year for Valentine’s Day we make cards for our family members. Usually this involves coloring hearts or painting a picture. Since we recently moved thousands of miles away from all of our family, though, I wanted to do something extra-special for them this Valentine’s Day. Something to show them that we were still thinking of them even though we are far away. And that’s when I remembered the “long distance hug”.

Inspired by this idea, I came up with this unique valentine to send to our far-away loves. Here’s the how-to if you’d like to send your own virtual hugs!

DIY Long Distance Hugs

I was making a large batch of these valentines, so the first thing I did was trace each boy’s hand onto cardstock to make a tracing template for the handprint cutouts.

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Then I used my handprint templates to trace several hands on colored paper. I used cardstock, but construction paper or scrapbook paper would also work well. I folded each piece of cardstock in half so that every time I cut out a handprint I got 2 cutouts. For each valentine I used one “David handprint” and one “Jacob handprint”. I used red paper for the David handprints and Orange paper for the Jacob handprints. You could just as easily make a separate valentine from each child and use two of the same handprint for each “hug”.

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Here’s our collection of handprint cutouts:
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Next, I folded each handprint into the ASL sign for “I love you” (just fold down the two fingers between the pinky and pointer finger). I glued the fingers in this position so they would stay in place.

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To make the “arms” for the hug I decided to do an accordion fold using two colors of scrapbook paper. I cut out 1-inch strips of the paper and then taped three strips end-to-end so I would have pieces long enough to fold (the taped-together strips ended up being about 30 inches long).

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Then I taped together two of the long strips of paper at right angles and began folding the strips together like an accordion.

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When the folding was done, it looked like this:

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*Note* If you are planning on mailing your “hugs” you may have to pay for extra postage if you make the accordion “arms” as they make for a bulky envelope. If you want something that will stay flat in an envelope you can use ribbon or string instead of the accordion arms.

The finished product was just as cute as the boys who made them!

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For one final touch I also wrote each boy’s name and the year on the back of their handprint. Here’s what the valentines look like all stretched out:

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Finally, I came up with a little poem to include with the hugs and glued the poems to some little note cards that I already had. The poem reads:

I send to you this special day
My hugs from very far away.
Wrap these hands around you tight
And feel my love for you, day and night.
My hands are folded just to show
How much I LOVE YOU as I grow.
Even though we are far apart
I carry you close to me in my heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Happy crafting, and happy Valentine’s Day!

If you like this project, you may also enjoy the apple stamp valentines that we made last year.

DIY Apple Stamp Valentines

Today is February 1st and, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to make some cards for our loved ones. I much prefer home-made cards to store-bought because they’re more meaningful, they’re fun to make, and they cost less than the off-the-shelf variety. I got my idea for this year’s apple stamp Valentines out of a magazine. For the life of me, I can’t remember which magazine it was and, since I just purged and recycled all of my back-issues a few weeks ago, the world may never know. So, to whichever magazine I borrowed this idea from, thank you!

Apple Stamp Valentines

First, cut an apple in half and trim the bottom to a point so that it looks like a heart. Put some red paint on a plate (we used finger paint because I already had it and it doesn’t stain clothes).

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Dip your apple into the paint and stamp it onto paper (I had pre-folded cardstock into small cards for our project). You don’t need a lot of paint on your apple in order for it to stamp properly. Pull the apple stamp straight up off the paper so you don’t smudge your heart shape.

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Let your stamped paper dry completely.

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After the paint is dry, you can use makers to add a stem, leaves and seeds to your apple hearts. I also added some little sayings to my cards. The sentiments I used were: “You’re the apple of my eye!”, “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.  -Mother Teresa”, and “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  -Galatians 5:22-23″.

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I have several blank envelopes from a stationery set that I’ll use to mail out our cards. Happy Valentine’s Day!