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Ways to Ask, Will You Be My Valentine?

February, the last full month of winter, finds most of us bundled up against frigid temperatures, biting winds, sleet and snow, spending as little time as possible outdoors. What better month for Valentine’s Day? While we’re “cooped up” indoors, likely feeling tired of winter and “bored, with nothing to do,” a common condition among children and adolescents or overwhelmed by busyness, more common to parents, along comes Valentine’s Day with opportunities for diversion. Let’s not miss this chance to celebrate love in all its forms. Valentine’s is not just about romantic love. It’s also about reaching out and letting favorite people know they’re special to us.

Of course, we could buy a package of cards, address the envelopes, and send them off. That’s one way to say, “will you be my Valentine?” Another is to create our own cards. This takes more time, but has its advantages. We get to express our creativity, and our one-of-a-kind creations convey the depth of our feelings.

Cards aren’t the only way to express affection. We can decorate a box or create a mini collage using snapshots or pictures and words cut from magazines. Those liking to bake can make cookies, heart-shaped, frosted with royal icing, and bearing handwritten messages, or a year round favorite, such as chocolate chip – with pecans, please. Placed in cellophane bags and tied up with ribbon, these are sure to delight. Who can say, “no” when faced with a fresh from the oven cookie and the question, “will you be my Valentine?”

The point is everyone benefits from time spent doing something fun and creative and from showing our appreciation to the special people in our lives. Valentine’s Day provides us opportunities to do both. Let’s accept the invitation, enjoy our creative pursuits, and celebrate love and friendship.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Baking Our Holiday Gifts

If you’re making gift jars, carefully follow the recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies we shared last week. If not, here’s the deal, this recipe invites “playing around” with the ingredients. You can use your imagination and create your own version of the recipe. I always double the nuts. That’s a given. A cookie is not a cookie to me without nuts, and the more, the better. Although I most often use pecans, I’ve also used almonds, black walnuts, English walnuts, macadamia nuts,  and hickory nuts. A fact about hickory nuts.They’re not commercially available. You’ll have to find someone with a tree.  Delicate and delicious, they’re maddeningly difficult to crack open and remove from their shells. Unless you’re a squirrel.

Instead of semi-sweet, substitute milk chocolate or dark chocolate. White chocolate goes well with macadamia nuts. I’ve used butterscotch and peanut butter chips at different times, but what I do most often is omit the chips altogether and use dried fruit.

Favorites have been raisins, cranberries, cherries, and diced apricots.The key to success is to rehydrate the dried fruit before adding to the other ingredients. To do this, put the fruit in a heat resistant bowl and cover with boiling water. After 15 minutes or so, drain off the liquid and stir the fruit into the dough. Skipping this step results in too little liquid in the dough and dry cookies. Dried fruit draws moisture from the other ingredients. You definitely do not want to go there.

When I visit my mother, I use her old big green Tupperware mixing bowl and make two or more batches at one time. These cookies freeze beautifully, and absolutely everyone looks forward to raiding her freezer. When unexpected guests arrive, we take a bag of cookies from the freezer, arrange them on a plate, and by the time, the coffee brews or the tea steeps, the cookies are ready to eat. That’s about as simple and delightful a way to spend time with family and friends as I can imagine.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Cookie Cutter Ginger Crisps

When summer gives way to fall, fewer hours of sunlight and dropping temperatures naturally lead us to pursue indoor pastimes. What’s more satisfying than baking cookies and savoring the flavor of our culinary adventure?

This recipe, originally from Susan Branch, was shared by Peg Ackerman, for whom autumn wouldn’t be autumn without these versatile and delicious Ginger Crisps. Read her guest blog for Insider Tips on Making Cookie Cutter Ginger Crisp Cookies.


PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play