Thursday, January 22, 2009


Let's face it. At this point, I have a lot of Valentines Days under my belt. I've been trying to think whether I had a favorite one or not, and really not coming up with much.

My first Valentines Day with DH does stand out--I'd managed to live through one marriage and years beyond, without ever having anyone give me chocolates for the occasion. For whatever reason, that was the one thing I craved--a heart-shaped box of candy. When it finally happened, I felt simply suffused with a sort of quiet joy, and I still have the box, all these years later, and the velvet ribbon rose that held the lid in place, too.

But I really think my favorite Valentines Day was one I shared with my children.

When I was a little girl, Valentines Day at school was always a big thing. We decorated the boxes our Valentines from the other children would go in, red and white, paper lace, people made out of hearts--oh, the bliss and the excitement. Every child would get a Valentine from every other child in the class. No stressing out about whether you'd be popular and get a lot, or suffer the embarrassment of having fewer than the other kids. It was that way when my girls were little, too. I wonder if the etiquette remains. I do hope so.

The downside to all that romantic excess was that afterwards you had this pile of Valentines! Heartless (so to speak) to simply throw them away, but what to do with them?

One year, the (I think) perfect answer came to me: Placemats!

I put the materials out on the dining table, doing the necessary prep before I called the girls in. Here's what we needed:

Self-adhesive vinyl (aka Contac paper)
Valentines and other pretty pictures

The first thing I did was cut sheets of plain paper the size of place mats, to use as a template. Or maybe I used actual place mats; it was a long time ago!

I gave each of us a place mat template, and each girl her stack of Valentines. My youngest wasn't in school yet, so her sisters gave her their extras and duplicates. A decorated napkin filled the last empty space for her.

Then we lay the Valentines out, trying to fill the whole rectangle while creating an attractive arrangement. I remember it required a lot of rearranging, but we had fun, and thinking about that afternoon has put a smile on my face.

When the girls had figured out their layouts, I helped them with the next step:

Cut a sheet of the self-adhesive vinyl about 2" (5cm) bigger than the place mat. You want a border that will seal itself all the way around.

Lay the piece of vinyl on the table, sticky side up. This piece is the back of your place mat, so it doesn't have to be the clear kind, but if you do use clear, you'll be able to see the signatures, if they're on the backs of the cards.

Carefully place the Valentines on the vinyl, smoothing them down, in the arrangement you created on your template. If you have cards that overlap, it's helpful to glue the overlapped edges before you do this, but not strictly necessary.

Now comes the tricky part: When you've got all the cards stuck down, cut another piece of self-stick vinyl, and, being careful not to let it wrinkle, smooth it over the whole thing. Trim the edges, leaving about 1/4" (6.35mm) all around, to seal it.

And one last one I made for my (now) ex-husband:



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