How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day as a Single (and Love It!)

celebrate valentines day as a single

Valentine’s Day… ugh… as a single this may not be a holiday that you readily look forward to. Yes you can get into the chocolate (especially when it goes on sale the day after Valentine’s) but honestly a day full of romance and love might make you just want to gag.

Honestly though, Valentine’s Day is a day about love – all kinds of love. Yes romantic love seems to be very much in your face – thanks to all the marketing out there – but love comes in many forms. Love for friends, family, kids, pets and you. Yes YOU.

Self love is the most important thing because that is where love begins. When we love and take care of ourselves we are then able to give and receive love from others. This is not a narcissistic or selfish act, it is simply an act of self care and kindness. Loving ourselves first helps us remember where our power is and helps us to set healthy boundaries with others.

So as a single instead of getting bogged down about not being in a relationship, embrace this day of love and use it to celebrate, love and treat yourself. Create the day to make it all about celebrating and loving you!

13 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day as a Single

  1. celebrate valentines day as a singlego for a manicure or pedicure – manicures and pedicures are about more than just the polish. They provide skin care, exfoliation, relaxation, increased blood flow.
  2. go for coffee – head out to your favorite coffee spot and enjoy your favorite coffee. Around Valentine’s Day many coffee spots offer some kind of yummy decadent Valentine themed drink (like Starbucks has molten chocolate). Take your favorite book and enjoy a little me time.
  3. take a warm relaxing bath – I don’t know about you but this is truly a treat for me. I often think about having a nice warm bath but often find life gets in the way and it becomes last on my list. On Valentine’s make it a priority. Add in some epsom salts, a few drops of lavender essential oil and your favorite drink (perhaps a glass of wine or hot chocolate) and sink into it.
  4. go to a movie – you may have some hesitations about going to a movie by yourself, but I actually love it and it has a lot of advantages. How much talking do you do in the movie anyway? I also find it quite freeing when no one will go with me to Bridget Jones Baby and I don’t have to wait for or find anyone to go with me.
  5. celebrate valentines day as a singledo something you love (but don’t normally do) – what is that one thing that you absolutely love doing and don’t often get to? Today is the day to make it happen. So set it up and go for it.
  6. write a list of all your passions – often we get busy with life and forget what we’re really passionate about. Take some time today to write down all the things you’re passionate about. Then stick them on the mirror to remind you!
  7. buy yourself flowers – you don’t always need to wait for someone else to give them to you, (and can get depressing when you do). Go ahead and pick your favorite and bring them home. Sonia Choquette, renowned author and spiritual teacher, often says that buying flowers for yourself is good for the soul. I also find it quite empowering! and love how it brightens up and brings life and beauty into my home.
  8. make (or buy) yourself some chocolate – treat yourself to this yummy treat you can easily make at home and do it on Valentine’s Day – ( if you’re buying them – don’t do it the the day after when it goes on sale! (though you can do that too). If you’re not a chocolate fan make yourself another decadent Valentine’s treat and indulge a little.
  9. hang out with a friend or loved one – whether it be a neighbor, friend, co-worker, etc. invite them for lunch, go grab a coffee or a walk. Spending time together will benefit both of you.
  10. sugar free valentines treatsgive a valentine’s card to a non romantic friend – giving to others can make you feel good and bring a smile to someone else’s day. Give a valentine to a friend, neighbor, co-worker or maybe someone you don’t know, like the elderly lady you see everyday at the bus stop or the barista who makes your coffee.
  11. give yourself a Valentine – this may sound a little silly but actually has great benefits. Write yourself a note/ valentine not only saying Happy Valentine’s Day but list all things that you love and appreciate about yourself. Then put it in the middle of the kitchen table for you to open up first thing. This may sound a little silly but we often forget or don’t recognize the things in ourselves that are really great! This will not only make you feel good but is a great reminder of why you are fantastic.
  12. try something new – you know that thing you’ve always wanted to try but didn’t have the time or kept putting it off. Today’s the day to make it happen! Participate if you can today. If that’s not possible take action and sign up, register or inquire to get the ball rolling.
  13. buy yourself some sexy underwear – whether you are a man or a woman you deserve underwear that makes you feel good about yourself. Make it fun and get some Valentine panties or boxers and wear them on Valentine’s just for you.

When you’re single Valentine’s Day does not have to be a day of depression and drudgery. It is a great opportunity to take some time to celebrate and look after you! Treat and indulge in yourself and remember how great you are. It’ll give you a whole new outlook on the day!

These are only a few ideas that you could incorporate on Vday to celebrate you. What other ideas would you add?

Kids Healthy Cooking – Healthy Chocolate with Natural Sweeteners

healthy chocolate

Kids and chocolate. They go together well. All the memories of chocolate covered faces, whether from ice cream or pudding or just a good old fashioned chocolate bar. Yes they say too much chocolate is not good for you, but honestly there is such a thing as healthy chocolate.

A lot of the trouble with chocolate is the amount of sugar in it, but chocolate without sugar and natural sweeteners instead, is a different story. Chocolate itself is rich in antioxidants and is actually very good for us. It is the sugar that is the problem.

healthy chocolateWhen I learned to make my own healthy chocolate, I was surprised at how quick and easy it was. It was so easy that I came home and made it with my oldest son, who at the time was only 6. Four simple ingredients gave us our base chocolate, and then we could create whatever we wanted. He loved it! and wanted to make more. Now my twins who are also 6, love making it as well. It is so easy to make with kids.

So when it came to our last class of Mini Chefs, making healthy chocolate was really a no brainer. I wanted a nice sweet, fun, but healthy treat, so this was perfect. In class, we made the plain chocolate and kept it in liquid form for fondue, dipping a variety of fruit into it; such as apples, oranges and bananas. All of the kids loved it! And yes ended up with chocolate faces 🙂

Raw Organic Chocolate

Ingredients:

Cacao butterhealthy chocolate

Cacao powder

1 vanilla bean

pure maple syrup or honey

*amounts depend on how much chocolate you want to make

Boil water in kettle. Pour boiled water into a large metal bowl, place second smaller metal bowl on top of large bowl so that it sits on top. Place cacao butter into top bowl. Cacao butter will start to melt. While cacao butter is melting slice vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the inside seeds with a spoon. Put seeds into melted cacao, it is ok if cacao butter is not completely melted yet. Stir.

*Be very careful not to get any water into your chocolate as it will not work if you do. If your second bowl sits nicely on top, this should not be an issue as you do not need to lift the second bowl off the one with the water in it until you are done making your chocolate. 

Sift cacao powder into a separate bowl. Once cacao butter is completely melted add 2-4 tablespoons of cacao powder. Taste for desired level of chocolatey-ness. If you’d like it richer add more cacao powder. Once satisfied with amount of cacao powder add natural sweetener of choice. Start with 3 teaspoons and mix. Taste, if desired level of sweetness has not been reached, add 1-2 more tablespoons and taste again. Once level of desired sweetness has been reached you have your base chocolate. This can now be kept liquid and used as a fondue, or can be poured into chocolate molds to form chocolates.

Another option at this point is to add additional ingredients such as nuts, dried fruit, coconut, essential oils (ensure that the essential oils you are using are safe to ingest), etc and pour onto a cookie sheet to let set. Chocolate is best set in freezer but may also be set in fridge.healthy chocolate

I had also been promising the kids we would make ice cream for a number of classes and many of them kept asking when we were going to make it. Since it was the last class we did make peanut butter ice cream as well. Sugar free, dairy free and super easy to make with kids. Look for the peanut butter ice cream recipe in the next kids healthy cooking post.


Camping Desserts – Sugar Free Banana Boats

IMG_4190As camping season begins, I start to think about all the delicious camping meals and snacks that we enjoy. Planning carefully which ones to include, because we can’t go without the favorites, and which new ones to try.

Growing up we had many favorites, such as tin foil dinners, cinnamon apples, s’mores etc. But when we decided to modify our diets and go sugar free this made some of our favorite camping recipes a little more tricky to enjoy. Slowly but surely I have been figuring out how to adjust them to meet our needs, and not miss out on the delectable tastes!

One of the recipes I have been working on is banana boats. A delectable mix of banana, chocolate and marshmallows, warmed and melted over hot coals from the fire. Mmmm, that mix of melted chocolate marshmallow is to die for! I had figured out early on how to remedy the chocolate situation, having taken a raw organic chocolate making course a few years ago. But it was the marshmallows that stumped me – until last year – when I finally found a recipe to make marshmallows; completely healthy and sugar free!

Cinnamon Apple

Cinnamon Apple

Now that I had all my ingredients we were able to try it out. So one lovely and sunny fall afternoon we packed up what we needed and headed out to Bragg Creek Provincial Park to enjoy a short hike and a fire, where we would enjoy roasted hot dogs and try out the banana boats.

The kids were super excited to get things started! Luke and Chloe listening attentively to the directions on how to make their banana boat. First they needed to eat out a bit of the banana, then put in their chocolate pieces and marshmallows. Then wrapped it up in tin foil and place on the hot coals. Turning once, approximately 4 minutes a side.

Luke and Chloe watched in anticipation, asking if it was ready yet, hoping that by watching it it would cook faster. The trick with banana boats is you want them cooked long enough so that the chocolate and marshmallows melt but do not disintegrate and the banana is warm and soft. Depending on the heat of your coals the cooking time could vary slightly. Notice I said coals. You want those hot red embers, not flame and fire, in order to cook your banana boats. Flame will cause your dessert to burn and cook too fast, and who wants a charred banana? 🙁IMG_4191

Once they were ready we took them out of the fire, using tongs as they are very hot, and placed them on the table. Carefully we unwrapped them and Luke, Chloe and Matthew, spoons in hand, were ready to dig in! I warned them that it would be hot so to let it cool slightly and/or small bites blowing on it. They heeded my advice and tentatively took a bite.  Immediately their faces lit up with hugs smiles and exclamations of how yummy it was! Then quickly diving in for more. All done and faces covered in chocolate, they eagerly asked for another. Unfortunately I had only brought enough for one each, so said we’d have to make them again soon. But I was so pleased that they worked and were a hit! I cannot wait to get out there this camping season and have some more! And this time I will plan for 2 each!

What are your favorite camping desserts? Share in the comments below.

 

Banana Boats

*to make banana boats you will need one banana per person

Firm ripe bananas

sugar free chocolate pieces (either homemade or use unsweetened bakers chocolate)

sugar free marshmallows

heavy duty tinfoil

tongs

spoons

IMG_4188Cut peel of banana down the sides and across top of banana, creating a flap that you can open. Do not cut the bottom. With a spoon eat out part of the banana. Eat/ scoop out enough to create a space to put in chocolate and marshmallows, but do not eat down to the peel on the other side, you want to leave some banana there.

Place chocolate and marshmallow pieces inside banana. You can put in as much as you want but you do not want to overstuff it! The flap must be able to close over top, otherwise a lot of your fillings will leak out while cooking.

Place flap of banana overtop to close it. Take a medium size piece of heavy duty tinfoil (you want heavy duty as putting it in the fire is intense heat and regular foil will cause it to burn before actually cooking), wrap up your banana tightly.

IMG_4189Place tin foil wrapped banana on hot coals and cook for approximately 4 minutes (cooking times may vary depending on the heat of your coals). After first 4 minutes, flip over to the other side and cook for another 4 minutes.

Remove tin foil wrapped banana from fire using tongs. Open foil very carefully, foil will be very hot! Check banana, if chocolate and marshmallows are melted, then you are ready to eat! If it is not melted as much as  you would like, rewrap banana in foil and place back on coals for a few more minutes.

 

Valentine’s Day Martini

IMG_4677As some of you know, I am really into martinis these days. It started last fall when my love of pumpkin helped me to discover a recipe for a pumpkin martini. I wasn’t a huge fan of martinis at the time as I had found that most of them were kind of sour, or way too strong for my liking. But I had tried a few, my youngest sister being a fan of them, her favorite being the Cosmo.

The pumpkin martini was absolutely divine! It became my new favorite and as a result I decided to venture out and try some other martini combinations. I’ve enjoyed Lavender one, Gingerbread, and a Poison Apple to name a few.

And now every time we approach a holiday, I am on the hunt for a new one to try that fits with theme of that holiday. Valentine’s Day was no exception, so earlier this week I set out searching the internet for a fabulous ‘Valentine’s’ recipe to try. There were so many to choose from, many with a common theme of red and some kind of fruit, either raspberries or strawberries. Many I have earmarked and saved to my Pinterest board for taste testing at a later date.

The Raspberry Chocolate Kiss Martini was the one that caught my eye and won the privilege of being ‘tested’ for this Valentine’s. Originally created by chef Michael Schulson, I had a few adjustments to make but knew it could be done. First off I had to figure out how to make my own simple syrup, which is basically sugar and water. I had thought before that I could probably do this with agave nectar instead of sugar and create the same thing, but had yet to try it. Well now was the time and I am happy to say it worked very well.

One thing I puzzled over though in the original recipe was the chocolate part (or lack of in my opinion). The only thing that presented any chocolate at all was the cookie rim that went on the glass, not really what I would consider enough chocolate to merit chocolate in the title! So I experimented. I tried making the martini and sprinkling cacao nibs on top. Honestly that did not do much. Then I tried chocolate shavings sprinkled on top, that was better.

I experimented a little more, rimming the martini glass in chocolate icing, ahhhh…now we’re talking. I also tried dipping the rim in melted chocolate and then letting it cool and solidify before adding the martini mix. All, I found were very good solutions to the chocolate I felt was truly missing in this drink. Which is the best? That’s hard to say. I think you should perhaps try them out and then let me know which one you think is the best 🙂

This martini in general is fabulous, a very delicious fruity sweet drink. I do advise you to be careful though as the sweet easily masks the vodka in it and it goes down very smoothly!

So serve your sweet something a little different this Valentine’s, or baby just make one for yourself and enjoy!

Raspberry Chocolate Martini

*1/4 c. mint infused syrup

10 raspberries

2 oz. vodka

2 tbsp. cranberry juice

ice cubes

Chocolate options:

rim glass with chocolate icing or

dip rim of martini glass in melted chocolate, let cool or

sprinkle chocolate shavings on top of drink

Place raspberries in a martini shaker and shake till crushed. Add mint infused syrup, shake again. Now add vodka, cranberry juice and ice. Shake well until chilled. Pour into martini glass, sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Enjoy! If rimming glass with icing or melted chocolate do this step before pouring martini into glass

*Mint Infused Syrup

1/4 c. agave nectar

1 c. water

1 bunch mint

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan on stove over medium heat. Stir and heat until agave nectar has dissolved. Take off heat and let cool. Strain through a sieve, syrup is ready to use. May be kept in fridge in an air tight container up to 2 weeks.

Everything Chocolate

IMG_4653Rich dark chocolate melting in your mouth, delighting the palate as it brings your tastebuds to life and activates natural soothing in the brain, making us feel oh so good.

Chocolate dating back to the Aztecs and Romans, has long since been considered an aphrodisiac, a treat associated with love and romance. Women love it, men crave it. Not only is it a popular gift, but a popular treat as well.

It’s no wonder that during the week of Valentine’s Day, a holiday long associated with love and romance, 58 million pounds of chocolates are sold, being the third largest holiday in sales of this popular treat (Halloween being first with Easter as the second).

The good news is that chocolate is actually good for you, as it contains fat, produces natural opiates which soothe nerves and make us feel good, as well as natural chemicals that lower your risk of cancer and heart disease (sounding pretty good doesn’t it?) Chocolate provides even more health benefits when made with cacao instead of cocoa, both derived from the same bean but processed differently, creating a superfood (cacao) that is rich in vitamins and minerals (getting better and better all the time).

IMG_4647Chocolate is also one of those things that goes with and can be used in just about anything, creating a myriad of delights for the palate to enjoy, a sensation of pleasure and joy in our human experience.

Since I have discovered how to make my own chocolate at home, (ready in about 10 minutes this really is a quick simple and easy way to make chocolate), we have not only been able to enjoy more chocolate in our home, but also enjoy lots of great things around the holidays.

For instance, this Valentine’s Day, we will enjoy heart shaped chocolates, Chocolate Dream Pie, Chocolate Truffles and if the spirit moves me, I may even make Chocolate Cupcakes with chocolate icing of course (even better these recipes are sugar free and dairy free). I love doing it up around the holidays and seeing what kind of fun things I can create; and the kids look forward to it!

Making your own chocolate is very easy, all you need is cacao butter, cacao powder, vanilla and natural sweetener of your choice (such as honey, pure maple syrup, etc.) I have a detailed post on how to make chocolate, as well as one on possible additions or variations you could use to flavor or fill your yummy chocolates.

IMG_4655This chocolate mix is also great for making Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (simply dip fresh strawberries in warm melted chocolate before it sets) or using it for Chocolate Fondue.

Other chocolate delights I have discovered, whether it be for Valentine’s Day or other, are Chocolate Macaroons (could shape them into little hearts for Valentine’s), Chocolate Pudding (one with chia seeds, one simple chocolate), Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Waffles, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Smoothies and even Chocolate Marshmallows! And I love that they are all dairy free and naturally sweetened! On holidays, like Valentines, I often have a hard time picking only a few things to make 🙂

IMG_4658So now you know, you can live guilt free this Valentine’s Day and enjoy your chocolate; or you can venture out and make your own for yourself or to share with others (but you may not want to). Of course with anything, regardless of how good it is for you, everything in moderation (I know I just took all the fun out of it – but here’s the thing you can make MORE or try a new chocolate recipe, another version of chocolate).

So enjoy your chocolate with a great big smile this Valentine’s Day, and if no one gives you any, go get your own, it’s ok 🙂

*The majority of these recipes can be found on my blog or I have linked them to the appropriate site for you. Just click on the name and it will take you to the recipe. Enjoy!

Tips and Ideas for a Sugar Free Easter

IMG_2914It has been 3 years since we have eliminated refined sugars from our diet. This was for the benefit of my son who was not only experiencing extreme mood and behavior but was having trouble sleeping as well.

Though it was challenging to do in our everyday lives, the real challenge came around the holidays, as in our culture there is a lot of focus around food and feasts, especially sweets. As you can imagine Halloween is the biggest, with the entire focus of trick or treating being on collecting candy, with Easter being a close second.

P4240615Over the years we have found many different tips and tricks to enjoy these holidays without the focus being on all the candy and chocolates. I have to admit our first sugar free Easter was a bit of a challenge. My son, who was only 7 at the time, was old enough to remember the basket and eggs full of chocolates and jelly beans, so when Easter morning he discovered a basket full of socks and books, he was a little disappointed and understandably so.

I did my best to compensate by making our usual Easter Brunch, complete with eggs and sausages, waffles and fruit, which he enjoyed immensely. He then got treated with a new pair of sneakers from Grandpa and a cactus for his room. He soon forgot about all the things he was missing and was enjoying what he had.

The next year was better, as in the interim I had taken a class on how to make raw organic chocolates so was able to make chocolates we could enjoy, in addition to the new treats that the Easter Bunny brought for us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Easter Chick

For the twins, it has been a non issue as a sugar free Easter is the only kind of Easter they have known. I imagine as they get older they will learn what other children do for Easter and it may or may not matter to them, but I believe that because they will have known this way since birth that they will have a strong foundation and may feel very happy with our Easter regardless.

Now Easter is back to being another fun holiday that we all enjoy with our various traditions and ‘treats’. The kids baskets are full of non candy items, the eggs full of cash, sugar free (and good for you) chocolate and a wonderful mid morning feast of our favorite breakfast foods. Of course we add in other things from year to year, but those are the ‘basics’. No one feels denied or left out, nor focuses are what’s missing but appreciates and gets excited about what we have.

Ideas for a Sugar Free Easter (or sugar reduced)

If you are looking to reduce the sugar intake this Easter here are some tips on how to do so without the kids feeling disappointed:

  1. Fill Easter baskets with toys, socks, books, sunglasses, seeds, gardening gloves, bubbles, chalk, etc. I like to buy things that are inexpensive but not cheap, as well as things that they will enjoy and use. One year Matthew got a movie he wanted and a few smaller items. It can vary from year to year but I am not one to buy junkie trinkets just to fill the basket.
  2. Make your own chocolate with natural sweeteners. It is easy to make your own chocolates; you can get Easter molds (I have found some at the Dollar Store) and add anything you want to it. You could even get the kids to make them with you, ready for Easter morning.IMG_2904
  3. Plan an Easter Egg Hunt. We have lots of those plastic Easter eggs that I fill with coins or stickers. Usually I leave a little trail from their bedrooms down the stairs and hide them all over the main level. Sometimes they even get hidden outside. There are many ways you can set up the hunt and ideas for non candy items to put in the eggs.  They could just be clues that will lead the kids to a prize of some sort at the end.
  4. Make a yummy (sugar free) Easter brunch or breakfast. If the kids are looking forward to their favorite french toast or waffles, they will likely be distracted and awaiting that yummy feast.
  5. Do Easter crafts or activities. Most kids love crafts, even my 10 year old son will still sit down and do a craft, painting or art project.
  6. Decorate the house for Easter. If the kids get into decorating the house this takes the focus off the candies and onto other stuff. The twins have been ‘decorating’ for weeks, setting up army men around the Easter tree or hanging crafts they made at preschool in their room. Decorating also makes it more than just about the one day and makes it more of an event.
  7. Get others on board. Encourage other family members and friends to get non sugary treats for everyone; then the kids see that everyone is getting the same, so it must be ok.
  8. IMG_2903Color eggs. You can do this on Easter as an activity or prior to. Either way it is another way of removing the focus and putting it onto something else that is fun and enjoyable.
  9. Be grateful. Encourage the kids to be grateful for what they have. Create a gratitude jar or choose another gratitude activity to do do with them.
  10. No matter what you do have fun. Whether you are creating new traditions, foods, or making crafts enjoy the Easter holiday. Remember why we celebrate, and what is most important to you as a family this holiday.

Easter Activities and Ideas

easter-bunny-2Well I have to admit that Easter has snuck up on me again! You would think that with calendars and the kids talking about Easter for the past month or more that I would have been more on top of it. But here we are the week before, actually only a few days away, and I have ‘clued in’ that maybe I should get ready for Easter.

We did dye eggs last weekend, which Luke and Chloe have been asking to do since the beginning of March, but that has been it so far. I always find there are so many cute and fun things to do around Easter and I have such great ideas! Then it comes and goes and we have done very little. And honestly the kids don’t notice really, but it is me who knows that we could do so much more!

easter activitiesThe things we typically do for Easter are an Easter Brunch on the Sunday, an Egg Hunt and search for Easter baskets. Prior to the day we usually color eggs and make a craft or two. We used to participate in some of the community Easter events, which usually include an egg hunt, but the challenge is now, the treat at the end contains ingredients that we do not eat, so I think it’s unfair to take the kids out and not let them have the prize. So we find other things to do.

We also now have a sugar free Easter, which is a little more costly, but pretty easy to do. The Easter Bunny brings socks and toys, chalk, bubbles, play doh and the like. The twins love it and don’t know any different because that is what it has always been for them. Matthew still struggles with the lack of candy in his basket but overall does ok as they are all getting the same. It is challenging though as the kids get older and hear and see what other kids get for Easter, or any other holiday for that matter. I guess that’s one of our many challenges as parents, making a decision for your family and hope for the best, trusting that you have made that decision for a good and sound reason – though the children, nor others, may not always agree with you.

easter activitiesThe bottom line is my kids still get to enjoy Easter and the many things that are part of it. The Easter Bunny still comes to see them, he’s just changed what he puts in the baskets and eggs. I have an Easter mold so I make some chocolates, so still get chocolate to enjoy and it’s better for us. Yes it takes a little more prep and effort but it’s worth it in the end.

So if you’re looking for ideas for things to do this Easter here are some great crafts and activities I have found over the years. Our favorites are the Easter Chick and dying Easter Eggs.

easter activitiesThere’s also some great tips and ideas on how to reduce or eliminate the sugar fest in the Easter baskets, as well as ideas to plan your own Easter Egg Hunt. Also some fabulous recipes for Easter Brunch, my favorite is always the Impossible Quiche, quick easy and I have modified it to make it dairy free and no one knows the difference!

What are some of your favorite activities and crafts or Easter Brunch recipes?

 

The Art of Appreciation

IMG_2699Well Valentine’s Day is around the corner and even though it is one of my favorite holidays, it often tends to sneak up on me! Each year I find that February starts and then all of a sudden we are in the week before Valentine’s Day and I have not done much at all.

All of a sudden we have Valentine’s to buy for the kids classes, treats to make and some kind of plan to celebrate this fun loving day. See though I love the romance and having someone treat me royally on this special day, I also love to make it special for my kids. I believe that Valentine’s is not just for lovers but is a day to celebrate love in general and there are all kinds of love.

So I usually make a nicer dinner that night, I make heart shaped chocolates for treats that day. This year I made heart shaped cupcakes! as I found a heart shaped cupcake pan at Superstore. I also saw heart shaped ramekins but didn’t buy them when I saw them and missed out 🙁 They actually sold out within the week!

8095938392_66f01dc36d_bI also like to have the kids do a craft of some kind, yes it’s usually heart shaped, so today we did something really simple. We made heart shaped pockets. We cut out two hearts the same size decorated one and then glued the two together leaving the top open so we could put things in it. Then each day from now until Valentine’s we are going to put a nice note in everyone else’s heart. Something we like about them, enjoy doing with them, etc. I am also a believer in extending these holidays, why do they have to only be one day? Especially when there is such a nice message attached with Valentine’s in particular.

5973578-heart-shaped-chocolates-isolated-on-white-backgroundBesides we could all use a little pick up during the day. A reminder of the good in us and in the world. My intention is not only to do this this week but see if we can’t start something like this on a more regular basis, Valentine’s day or not. I think we often forget to tell people in our lives how much we appreciate them and mean to us. We shouldn’t just save it for birthdays, Valentine’s or other holidays. You never know how a kind comment or an act of love can make a difference in someone’s day.

So maybe after Valentine’s is over we’ll make new ‘pockets’ out of paper bags and continue the warm fuzzies, encouraging comments and notes of appreciation to each other. And I have a feeling it will not only make a big difference in our home but in our lives and the lives of others that we touch on a daily basis.

Valentine’s Pockets

Materials:

Red, pink, white and purple construction paperIMG_2696

pom poms (variety of colors)

Valentine stickers

sequence

markers

glitter glue

white glue

scissors

Method:

Select color of construction paper that you desire. Fold paper in half. Trace a heart on one half of construction paper. Cut out heart through both halves  – you will end up with 2 hearts the same size. Young children may need help tracing and cutting the hearts, while older children can do this on their own.

Decorate one of the hearts with stickers, markers, pom poms, glitter glue, etc. Allow the child to create whatever decor they would like. Once they are finished decorating glue the two hearts together leaving the top open so that it creates an opening to put things in.

Allow glue to dry. Once dry hang hearts in a prominent spot where everyone can access them to put in their notes to each other.

Homemade Marshmallows

Well it’s official! I can now make anything without sugar in it. When we went sugar free we really struggled at first, having to avoid things that we loved and enjoyed. But it was just going to take time to figure out how to make these things like cakes, cookies, chocolate, etc. without the sugar in it. What were the substitutes? How did you do it? It was a huge learning curve.

I assured Matthew, my oldest son that I would figure it out. Cause one of the things I did not want to happen in going sugar free was for him to feel denied. That he could still have the yummy treats that his friends did, with the difference being healthier, better for you.

Slowly I began to build my reperatoire, cookies, cakes, muffins those were easy. Bread, new sweet treat recipes, chocolate…we were getting there. Matthew was pretty happy too, except for one last thing, marshmallows. There was no substitute in the store to buy and I had no idea what to do to make them.

He reminded me of this when we went camping this summer, mentioning that it would be nice to roast marshmallows… “I know” I said and assured him that I was on a mission; as marshmallows were the only thing that I could not make sugar free but I knew there had to be a way.

A little while back I found this recipe for homemade marshmallows on Facebook and just about died! This was the ‘missing link’ that I was looking for. The recipe I needed, and it was totally healthy! Sweetened with honey and very easy to make.

So yesterday was the big day. I tried it out and Wow they were stupendeous! They look and taste like an original marshmallow and I don’t care how many my kids eat!

Unfortunately the marshmallows had to sit to set, but I let the kids lick the beaters. As you can see Luke and Chloe were thoroughly enjoying it! Attacking the beater with vigor. Matthew has attested that they taste just like regular marshmallows and just in time for our Halloween campfire tomorrow night.

We are also set for camping next summer! S’mores, rice krispie squares and other marshmallow treats here we come!

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A couple quick tips when making this marshmallow recipe:

When letting it sit to set don’t worry about covering it. I made this mistake and ended up losing some because it stuck to the cover. Oops! lesson learned.

When storing them make sure you line the bottom of your container with parchment paper, and layer it with paper in between. Again, they’ll stick and they’ll peel right off the parchment paper. Don’t forget to put one on the top before you put on the lid!

The mixture starts to set quite quickly so have your pan ready to go, and as soon as the soft peaks form, pour it right into the pan. Don’t worry about the beaters you can take care of those later 🙂

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids

I love Valentine’s Day! I have no idea why really, I have yet to have the real romantic Valentine’s that I have dreamed of, but it is one of my favorite holidays.

I find the energy in the air is charged with hope and positive vibes and whether you have a sweetie or not, it is a great day.

I love doing things with the kids as they get so excited about it. I usually make a treat of some kind, whether it be chocolates, brownies or chocolate dream pie (yes there is a chocolate theme here) and I give them a little something, usually a homemade valentine, which might be as simple as a construction paper heart with a note on it.

I usually set up a little scavenger hunt for them as well, something simple but gives them chance to roam the house and explore, looking for things. They love it!

I also love the crafts as there are so many fun and easy things to make around this holiday. One of my favorites is the Toilet Paper Roll Cupid. He is very cute and fun to make. He is a little involved with a few steps that may not be suitable for younger children but they could certainly do it with some adult help.

Cardboard Cupid

I have always loved to the Stained Glass Hearts, where you use tissue and construction paper and put them up on your window. Easy, fun and full of love.

Years ago I was writing for a site call Suite 101 and created an article there which includes cupid as well as some other great crafts such as a Valentine Wreath, photo frame and another of my favorites – the Valentine Person! (I think I love that one because of his ‘accordian’ legs and arms). Go here for details on all these great crafts.

The thing I like about Valentine’s Day crafts is that you can pretty much do anything with hearts – from pictures to people to wreaths and even crystal hearts, which Matthew was making in his class at school, there is no end to the creative ideas and fun that the kids can have this Valentine’s Day!