valentine’s day in six parts

I. Seventh grade.

I stand in a circle with my friends at snack break, laughing about some silly joke that no one else but us would find funny. I’m wearing my favorite red sweater and my white pedal-pushers. I scan the grassy quad, looking for The Boy I Have a Crush On, but I don’t see him anywhere. I’m hoping maybe he will give me a Valentine today. Maybe he will send me a Candy Graham. Maybe… maybe… My wishes don’t go much farther than that. Candy Grahams and smiles across the quad. To my seventh-grade self, holding hands seems the epitome of romance.

The Candy Grahams are school-sponsored Valentines. All week long, you could go to the ASB room during lunch and pay a quarter for a small square of paper, where you could write a note that will be taped to a Caramel Apple Pop and delivered during fifth period on Valentine’s Day. I bought Candy Grahams for my best friends, but I did not buy one for The Boy I Have a Crush On.

During fifth period, my heart thrums as the Candy Grahams are passed out. I receive one. When I see Erica’s familiar handwriting, my heart sinks just a little.

I receive Valentines from my parents and my Gramps. But all I can think about is the Valentine I didn’t receive. I wonder if a boy will ever ever ever want me to be his Valentine. The future seems so far away.

II. Ninth grade.

I make a Valentine’s card for The Boy I Have a Crush On {who is different from The Boy I Had a Crush On in seventh grade… um, hello, that was a lifetime ago.} Unlike in middle school, my high-school self actually talks to this boy. We are… friends? Sort of. We walk together from fourth period to lunch every day. I am hopeful that he will give me a Valentine. I decide to make him a Valentine so I will have something to give him, if he gives me one first.

During our walk from the classroom to the lunch tables, my heart pounds in my chest. I finger the Valentine in my jeans pocket. I’m wearing my favorite red tank-top and white cardigan. It is Valentine’s Day, but the magic fizzles out the closer we get to the lunch tables. As each minute ticks by, it is morphing into just a regular day. Then he says, “Bye,” heading off to join his friends, and I realize he is not going to give me a Valentine.

Erica tries to talk me out of it, but later I slip the Valentine into his locker anyway. I mean, I already made it. Why let it go to waste?

I receive Valentines from my parents and my Gramps. There is even a bouquet of cheerful sunflowers from my dad. But all I can think about is The Boy I Have a Crush On, and the Valentine I didn’t receive from him.

III. Freshman year of college.

High school seems so long ago. I am a brand-new woman. I have held hands with a boy in a darkened room while we all watched a movie. I have gone out on a date and kissed a boy. I have told a boy, plainly and clearly, my feelings for him. For the first time in my life, The Boy I Have a Crush On just might like-like me back.

This year, I receive a Valentine. It is a very sweet homemade card, accompanied by flowers and the board game Scrabble. Only it is not from The Boy I Have a Crush On. It is from A Boy I Like as Just a Friend. I have told him many times that my romantic feelings just aren’t there, but he continues his unabashed pursuit, and I am beginning to feel unsettled in addition to the sadness and guilt I already feel for hurting his feelings.

I realize that it is not only about being wanted. It is about being wanted by the person you want, too.

I put the flowers in a vase on my dresser, hoping The Boy I Have a Crush On will see them. Hoping he still might come by my room, before Valentine’s Day is over, and ask me to be his.

But, as the streetlights blink on outside the window, as evening steadily shifts into night, he does not come by my room. He does not see my flowers. On my bulletin board, I have pinned up Valentine’s cards from my mom and my dad and my brother, from Erica and Holly and Celine. Yet all I can think about is the Valentine he didn’t give me.

IV. Junior year of college.

Norwich, England. I’m studying abroad for a semester and I am in love for the first time ever. All those other Boys I Had Crushes On seem so insignificant compared to this overwhelming feeling. This is my first Valentine’s Day with a real Boyfriend. I could not be more excited. I take the bus into town and buy a giant card at Pound Land {like the Dollar Store in the U.S.} and some new tights to go with the dress I had already picked out weeks ago. Instead of chocolates, I buy my Boyfriend a case of Red Bull because it is his favorite drink.

The morning of Valentine’s Day, while he is in class, I sneak into his room and leave the card and Red Bull on his desk. A few hours later, he calls me, his voice filled with surprise at my gift. He thanks me for it, even though he says his flatmates are giving him a hard time. He always seems slightly embarrassed, around his flatmates, to be with me.

“I’ll come by at 6,” he says. “I’m taking you out to dinner. It’s a surprise.”

I am a little kid on Christmas Eve. I feel like I’ve finally found the person who loves me back, who appreciates me for who I am. Who wants to be my Valentine and wants everyone to know it. That evening, Boyfriend comes over and gives me a daffodil he picked from the fields. We ride the bus into town together. He still won’t tell me where we’re going for dinner. Walking together down the cobblestone streets, he pauses in front of a Pizza Hut. I laugh, certain he is joking.

He holds the door open. “After you, my lady.”

Heart sinking, I realize he is not joking. In the next thought, I chastise myself for being judgmental. He is taking me out to dinner! On Valentine’s Day! I should be grateful. It doesn’t matter where we go for dinner; what matters is that we are together.

Over slices of pepperoni and cheese, he confesses that he waited until the last minute to make dinner reservations and all the other restaurants in town were booked up. We laugh about it, but all I can think about is The Girl He Had a Crush On back home, the girl he told me about last week, the girl with the pretty smile and contagious laughter who occasionally sends him letters. I feel certain that, if he was celebrating Valentine’s Day with her, he wouldn’t have waited until the last minute to make dinner reservations. He would have treated the occasion as something special. He would have felt so lucky just to be out on a date with her. I feel certain that the reason we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day at a Pizza Hut is because I’m somehow not good enough.

This is the first time I’ve had this feeling, with him. It will not be the last.

V. Four years ago.

Valentine’s Day is a Saturday, and I have dinner plans with My New Boyfriend. We have only been dating for two weeks–can I even call him my boyfriend yet?– but it feels like it has been longer than that. This thing between us is bright and shiny and new, full of sparkling possibility. Yet, my feelings for him are already growing serious. He feels familiar and yet also different than any other Boy who has come before.

My New Boyfriend asks if he can make me dinner for Valentine’s Day. I tell him that would be delightful. Never before has a man other than my father made me dinner.

I am living with my grandparents, who are apprehensive about My New Boyfriend {who they have not yet met} because he is In His Thirties! {I am twenty-six. In their eyes, I am still approximately sixteen.} So I ask My New Boyfriend if he would mind picking me up for our date, saying hello to Grandma and Grandpap. I know that, as soon as they meet him, they will love him. My New Boyfriend says of course, even though this means he will have to drive forty minutes each way four separate times: to pick me up and take me to his apartment for dinner, then to drive me home and go back to his apartment at the end of the evening.

I wear a lacy pink dress and bake red velvet crinkle cookies. I write him a Valentine’s card, where I try to hold back and keep myself from gushing too much. If I have learned one thing from the Valentine’s Days in my past, it is to keep my expectations low.

My New Boyfriend picks me up, right on time, looking so handsome in a collared shirt and sweater. He has a box of toffees for my grandma, who is immediately smitten. Grandpap claps him on the back and offers him a drink. We chit-chat in the living room for a few minutes before I’m able to extricate us away from the conversation and out the front door.

Instead of taking me to his apartment, where I’ve been a couple times before, My New Boyfriend drives me to his mother’s house, which is quite possibly the most gorgeous home I have ever seen. He explains that his mother is spending the night with his sister a few towns over, and she offered up her beautiful kitchen for him to use to cook tonight’s meal. He has made a salad and roasted asparagus and salmon. It smells amazing.

Walking into the dining room to light the candles, my breath catches. He has set the table with the fancy china and silverware. At my place setting waits a box of chocolates and a card. Inside the card, he has made a word search for me–all of the words are terms and inside-jokes from our two-week courtship: my favorite yin yoga class, my dog Murray’s name, the place of our first date: Lottie’s Ice Cream Parlor.

My eyes fill with tears. I feel like I’m in a movie or a novel. I realize that I don’t have to hold myself back with this man. I don’t have to be afraid of being disappointed. He is the Valentine my seventh-grade self dreamed of: choosing me, putting in effort for me, trying to make me feel special. When he looks at me, his eyes light up. When I look at him, my heart breaks wide open.

Until now, I always thought this kind of thing happened for Other Girls in Other Lives. But now, it is happening for me.

Later, when he kisses me goodnight, all I can think about is how I hope he always wants to be my Valentine.

VI. Today.

My Husband is not making me a candlelit dinner this Valentine’s Day. It is a Wednesday, and we both won’t get home from work till after 7. Sometimes fancy homemade candlelit dinners simply aren’t practical if you have to get up for work the next morning and you want to get to bed at a decent hour. Instead, we are planning to go out to a new Thai restaurant we’ve been meaning to try.

We will exchange cards and hugs and kisses. I will remind My Husband of the crossword puzzle he made for me, our first Valentine’s Day. “Can you believe, we’d only been together for two weeks!” we’ll marvel.

“Can you believe, you drove all the way there and back, there and back, to pick me up and take me home?”

“Yeeesh. I must have really liked you,” he’ll say with a wink.

When I was in seventh grade, and ninth grade, and college, and all the years in between, I was so focused on the romantic aspect of Valentine’s Day. I dove full-force into the hearts and flowers and chocolates, the parade and performance of the day. It was almost like Valentine’s Day was a milestone when I felt pressured to prove to others — to myself? — that I was loved. And again and again, the day fell flat. But it wasn’t because I didn’t have enough love in my life. It was because I was focused in the wrong tiny sliver of the pie.

Even before I met My Husband, even when I was poking an unwanted Valentine through the slit of a locker or forcing a smile as I chewed my way through a slice of lukewarm pizza, those Valentine’s Days were not wasted. I think of that girl I was, so fully ensconced in love. I think of her and I want to tell her,

Take a step back, baby girl. Look around you. Look at your family and your friends. These are the people you are going to have with you down the road. You don’t have to be so scared. You don’t have to try to force things. The kind of love you dream about is going to come into your life soon enough. Trust in it. Trust in yourself. And don’t forget to be so grateful for all the other love around you. Don’t take those Valentines for granted.

Maybe it’s easy for me to say all of this now that I’ve found My Husband. I remember those lonely wrung-out days vividly–days when I was still searching, hoping to meet him in every busy café or grocery store aisle I wandered down. I remember feeling so anxious and unmoored, worried that I might never find my person. Wondering if I would ever have the easy comfort of a sure-and-solid Valentine love, like a worn-in pair of jeans–the comfort I feel today.

Maybe it’s because of My Husband that I’m able, now, to slough off the fear that used to eclipse the love within this holiday for me. Now, I can fully appreciate Valentine’s Day–not for its pomp and circumstance, but for its richness and depth. I love seeing the shy smiles on my students’ faces when I give them cards and candy. I love the rainbow crayon homemade Valentines they give me in return. I love bringing cookies to our across-the-hall neighbor Joyce and bringing chocolates to our 97-year-old Great Aunt Flo, seeing the pure surprised delight on their faces. I love mailing cards to my friends scattered around the country. I love reading and rereading the Valentines from my mom and my dad and my brother, displaying them on our kitchen table where I can see them throughout the day. I love buying myself flowers, if I want to, not needing to prove anything to anyone but simply because they are pretty and would brighten up the apartment.

This Valentine’s Day, I have everything my past self used to long for. The irony is that now, looking back, I realize that I had it all along.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear reader. Please tell someone you love them. And please know that you are loved and you are enough, exactly as you are.


Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and use the following questions as inspiration for some “free-writing”:

  • What is your favorite Valentine’s memory?
  • Make a list of all the love in your life–people, animals, places, activities, it all counts!
  • Write a love letter to yourself, describing in detail all the things you love about your amazing self.

my valentine’s weekend

Hello, friends! I hope you are having a wonderful Presidents’ Day! In honor of our past presidents, here is a link I came across with some truly inspiring quotes: 50 Greatest Presidential Quotes of All Time.

I also hope you had a love-filled {all kinds of love, from friendship to pet-love to romantic love} Valentine’s Day! My minister gave an insightful sermon about the many forms of love in our lives that we should celebrate, rather than only focusing on romantic love. I could not agree more! She also touched upon The 5 Love Languages, a subject I find quite fascinating. You can watch her sermon on YouTube here.

My Valentine’s Day was not just limited to a day, but encompassed the whole weekend! Here are some snapshots:

My sweetie and I ordered Blue Apron for the first time, and received our first delivery on Friday night. We had heard many good things about this meal/cooking service and thought we would try it out for ourselves! We ended up making all three meals in three straight days, for dinner on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night. I was blown away by how easy it was, and how absolutely delicious all the meals turned out! Each night Allyn and I would look at each other across the dinner table in disbelief: We just made this?! Really?! I also feel like the recipes taught us some new cooking tips that we can use in lots of future recipes of our own! We are definitely Blue Apron converts now. 🙂

Friday night's dinner: Mexican spiced salmon with black rice

Friday night’s dinner: Mexican spiced salmon with black rice

Saturday morning, I woke up with the urge to bake. So I whipped up these easy + healthy apple oatmeal muffins, along with a note: MUFFINS FOR MY STUDMUFFIN. I came across this idea on Pinterest {the wedding-planning frenzy has begun!} and thought it was too cute, so I couldn’t resist doing it for my studmuffin. 😉

apple oatmeal muffins

After enjoying a couple muffins for breakfast warm from the oven, I headed out for a quick tutoring session, and when I returned home my sweetie surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers!

Valentine flowers

I spent most of the rest of the day obsessively reading THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN… have any of you guys read this book? Allyn’s sister loaned it to me and I started it on Friday night, and alllll weekend… I finished it on Sunday afternoon! Very suspenseful and full of twists and turns.

girl on train book

Saturday night we made another Blue Apron meal and I had to continue our Valentine’s tradition of red velvet crinkle cookies! YUM. These are so festive and super easy to make {besides the batter turning your hands bright red!} 😉

red velvet crinkle cookies

On Sunday, Allyn came with me to church to announce our engagement news during the “joys and sorrows” part of the service. It was so wonderful to share our happiness with the congregation! Everyone was so warm and joyful, and it warmed my heart.

We stopped by my grandparents’ after church to say hi, and I was delighted when my aunts and cousins surprised us and came by for lunch, too! We hadn’t seen them for a while and it was so fun to chat and share stories. Grandma busted out some of the wedding photo albums from when my aunts got married, and there was much laughter while looking through them. {’80s fashion out in full force!} My grandma then disappeared for a little while into her bedroom and emerged holding her own wedding dress from 60+ years ago! It was a goosebumps-inducing sight. The dress’s beautiful lace is still preserved quite well. It was quite a special moment!

My grandparents also surprised me with “engagement flowers”… our apartment is now bursting with flowers and I love it!


When we got home, Allyn and I got some work done for a little bit, and then he asked, “Do you want to go mini-golfing?” There is a very cute course less than a mile from our new apartment, where Allyn and his family have gone many times. It was a beautiful evening so we walked over to Golfland and played 18 holes. There were many families and couples out and the atmosphere reminded me of summertime. I played pretty well, but Allyn absolutely rocked it. He got THREE hole-in-ones! How is that even possible?! Needless to say, he beat me handily.


mini golf

When we got home our stomachs were growling, so we made our final Blue Apron meal of the batch: seared chicken with mashed potatoes and maple-glazed carrots. It was both of our favorite one from the bunch {and all of them were delicious!}


valentines dinner

It was the perfect ending to a truly lovely weekend!

Questions of the day:

  • What was the highlight of your weekend?
  • Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day? How?
  • What is your Love Language?

valentine’s day recap! + goals + recipes for the week of 2/15

Hello, everyone! Hope you are having a masterpiece day. It feels like springtime here in the Bay Area, sunny and warm. The trees are already bursting into bloom and daffodils are popping up everywhere. I love it!

You know what else I love? Valentine’s Day! I hope you had a great one! Mine was simply delightful. I did some morning baking {perhaps my best batch ever of red velvet crinkle cookies!} and then spent most of the day hanging out with adorable kiddos, teaching classes for Communication Academy. One of my kindergarten students made me a valentine and when her mom came to pick her up after class, she started crying because she didn’t want to leave! Nothing makes a girl feel loved quite like a 6-year-old throwing a temper-tantrum because she has to say goodbye to you. 🙂

After my last class ended at 5:45, I jumped into my car and drove to Oakland for a Valentine’s night date with my sweetheart. The drive was absolutely gorgeous — the sun was setting over the water, and the twinkling lights of the city made a stunning silhouette against the pink and red clouds. It felt like a valentine from Celine. ❤

me and Al Valentines

Allyn and I walked a couple blocks from his apartment to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. Have you guys had Ethiopian food before? Before Saturday, the last time I did was back in grad school. I think the food is delicious, and it’s a fun dining experience, eating “family style” with your hands. Another bonus was that, on a night that can get pretty crazy to eat out at a restaurant, this was a quieter, off-the-beaten path place. It was lovely!

Allyn Ethiopian food

Ethiopian food

Then we went back to Allyn’s place to exchange gifts and watch Jerry Maguire {which I had never seen!} Allyn got me a box of chocolates and a beautiful purse from his travels in Kenya. Not only is the purse gorgeous from a fashion sense, it also supports a great cause. The purse was made through an organization called Amani — which means “higher peace” in Swahili — and is a sewing and reconciliation program for marginalized women in Africa. Women gain experience in sewing, bookkeeping, procurement, quality control, management and design; products sold enable women a chance to earn a consistent income. You can learn more at

Valentines collage

All in all, it was a perfect Valentine’s Day! ❤

On Sunday morning, Allyn and I headed to church bright and early because I was serving as Worship Associate for the 9:30 service. The topic was Salvation and I spoke about Celine. I was really nervous beforehand, but it felt good to talk about her and I was able to get through it without breaking down into tears. Afterward, so many people in the congregation came up to give me hugs. I’m slowly learning to lean on people in my grief and I feel grateful to be part of such a caring community.

Today has been spent writing, editing, reading, looking through old photos with my grandma {she and my Grandpap are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in June and she’s already starting to prepare!} and baking. Lately I just can’t get enough of baking, so I’m embracing it and trying out new recipes! Right now I’m noshing on these zucchini muffins made with coconut flour, plus I added in some peanut butter, shredded coconut and chocolate chips.

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week:
– write 10 new pages {halfway there, wrote 5 new pages}
– compile tutoring worksheets
finish reading The Un-Americans
– schedule doctor’s appointment
– begin process to renew passport
connect with two friends

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– send out queries to agents
– compile tutoring worksheets through end of Feb.
– finish editing manuscript for a friend
– begin process to renew passport
– connect with two friends
– finish reading A Few Thousand Words about Love

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
thai pineapple fried rice via Cookie + Kate
5-ingredient spinach parmesan pasta via Two Peas and Their Pod
slow-cooker minestrone soup via Two Peas and Their Pod
vegetable beef barley soup via Swanson Vitamins website
falafel, tzatziki & greek lemon rice via The Pajama Chef
– my own cilantro-lime quinoa with chicken

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over this week?
  • How was your Valentine’s Day?

This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

fabulous friday #45

Happy Friday, everyone! I haven’t felt like doing one of these posts for the past few weeks… but I was thinking today about how Celine was an incredibly fabulous person, and I think she would like the idea of all of us recognizing and celebrating the fabulous things, large and small, that we are loving in our lives each week. So, I am happy to be back this week with a fabulous friday post for you. 🙂

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Care packages. Tania sent me three books that she thought I would like: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle; Painted Prayers by Jodi Uttal; and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Reading is such a comfort to me, and I am already working my way through these good books.

books from Tania

And my dad sent me a beautiful card:

typewriter card

2. Another book arrived in the mail this week — Every River On Earth, a book that I have a short story in! It’s been at least two years since my piece was accepted for this collection, and it was so exciting to finally hold it in my hands. It is a beautiful book and I am proud and grateful to be a part of it!

Every River on Earth

3. This inspiring post from Nicole at Life Less BS with some concrete tips for achieving any of your goals using a simple, little-by-little approach. I especially liked this quote:

“Change doesn’t have to be huge in order to be hugely impactful. If you’re sitting there waiting until you have ‘enough time’ or the ‘right circumstances’ to make a big change, you’re making it too hard on yourself. Who says big changes are the only way? Who says it has to be all or nothing?”

4. I baked some delicious sunflower butter cookies using this recipe, adding in both dark chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. They turned out great! Definitely a make-again. Plus, they are gluten-free!

sunflower butter cookies

5. Valentine’s Day! This has always been one of my favorite holidays, whether I’ve been single or in a relationship, because it is all about letting the people you love know that you love them. If you’re looking for some sweet, inexpensive Valentine’s gift ideas, here are some ideas! My favorite way to celebrate is with cards. I still have the cards my parents sent me last year up in my room:


This year, I’m teaching during most of the day, and then Allyn and I are going out to dinner and to a movie. You can bet I already have my outfit all picked out and am going to bake some red velvet crinkle cookies tonight! 🙂

red velvet cookies

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?
  • Are you doing anything to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

fabulous friday #12

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! I hope each and every one of you feels loved today. If you’re still looking for inexpensive + creative ideas to make those around you feel loved, here’s a post I did a couple weeks ago on the topic!

valentines week

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. Valentine’s Day cards & texts. My sweet parents both sent me cards, and I’ve received so many thoughtful messages from friends today. I feel very loved!

valentines cards

2. New Girl. My brother and I are both hooked on this show — it’s sort of become “our” show! Even when we’re apart, we watch it and laugh about it together. I’m a few episodes behind, but I just watched the “Birthday” episode last night and I was laughing so much, I nearly fell out of bed.

Greg sent me this photo of Schmidt and it made me bust out laughing. Even without context, I think it’s still funny! Why is he holding a giant bowl of grapes??

crying Schmidt

3. My church community. This is my first time really being involved with a spiritual community, and it is such a joyous and comforting feeling. One of my church friends had an operation yesterday, and I drove her to and from the doctor and stayed with her for the afternoon. I was blown away by how many people from church called or texted to check in on her, including our minister. And our young adult group has organized a whole schedule of people to drop by and check on her and bring her meals while she is recuperating. It warms my heart and makes me feel very grateful to have found such a supportive and genuinely caring community.

4. This moving blog post by Single Dad Laughing. I could not agree more. Every dad — every parent — should read this. And reading it made me realize, more than ever, how lucky I am to have won the Dad Lottery. {And the Mom Lottery, too!}

mom & dad anniversary

{And happy Valentine’s Day, lovebirds!}

5. The song “Pompeii” by Bastille. Whenever this song comes on the radio, I turn it waaaay up and start rocking out! I love it.

Now I’m off to bake a batch of red velvet crinkle cookies to deliver to the nursing home … Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Sending lots of love your way today and every day ❤

red velvet cookies

Questions of the day:

  • Are you doing anything to celebrate Valentine’s Day?
  • What are you loving right now?
  • Any fun plans for the weekend?

a year of Wooden: week 6

I can’t believe it’s late Tuesday afternoon — this week is flying by already! Yesterday I went out to lunch, caught up with my friend Chidelia via Skype, and started a new tutoring job that I’m really excited about. This morning has been busy with yoga, errands, and writing time. My apologies for being a day late with this post!

a year of wooden

This year I am doing “a year of Wooden” following the teachings of Coach John Wooden, and in particular his 7-Point Creed.

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.

Last week, the challenge was to call up a friend on the phone to say hello or schedule a catch-up coffee date or lunch.

I connected with quite a few friends this past week, old and new, in a variety of communication forms — phone, email, and in person. It was simply wonderful. I feel so rejuvenated and happy when I make time to connect with my friends. I love catching up, sharing stories from our lives, and laughing together. I always want my friends to know how grateful I am to have their love and support in my life.

For this week’s challenge, in honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s bring back those elementary-school days of passing out valentines and candy hearts! Send valentines to your friends — cards, candy, glitter hearts, whatever floats your boat. The important thing is to let your friends know that you love them.

I’ll leave you with a quote I came across this week that made me smile:

chocolate quote

Have a terrific rest of your Tuesday!

Questions of the evening:

  • Do you generally give your friends valentines?
  • What is your favorite elementary-school Valentine’s Day memory?

5 thoughtful gift ideas for valentine’s day {or any day}

Today I was browsing Target while waiting for Charley’s routine service appointment to be over, and one thing was very clear: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Yes, people — hard to believe, but it’s officially less than a month away.


I LOVE love and I love Valentine’s Day. I’m single this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be celebrating my little heart out. I don’t know about you, but I think the scope of V-day is often presented too narrowly. Why just focus on romantic love? To me, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that celebrates love in all its forms; an excuse to let all of those special people in your life know how very much they mean to you.

So today I’ve rounded up some thoughtful gift ideas for Valentine’s Day — or any day, really!

1. Personalized gifts. Anytime you can personalize something, I think it makes the gift that much more thoughtful. For my cousin Julie’s bridal shower, I ordered this beautiful blanket for her and her husband-to-be from Personal Creations. The company embroidered a corner of the blanket with their names and wedding date. It turned out beautifully and I could tell that the personalized touch made the gift even more special to Julie.

2. Homemade cards. As attested by my massive stash of stationary, it’s obvious that I love browsing stationary and greeting card stores. {I sometimes need to put myself on “probation” from buying anything, my habit gets so out of control!} But, for every adorable Taylor Swift greeting card I have saved up to send to Holly, there’s something to be said for homemade cards. Knowing that you put in extra effort to craft not just the personal message inside, but every aspect of the card, makes it extremely thoughtful.

valentines cards

3. Creative gifts or craft projects. Use your imagination and have fun with it! Pinterest and blogs are a wealth of ideas for homemade gifts and creative scavenger-hunt-type gifts. I discovered this clever poster idea last year on Peanut Butter Fingers and thought it was so cute, thoughtful {and easy to do, even if you don’t consider yourself very craft-savvy!}

valentine sign

4. An experience that you can share together. Try something new like a painting class, wine tasting, disco bowling night, a local concert — any fun new experience that you can share with the recipient is a sweet gift that builds awesome memories.

5. Homemade baked goods. Okay, maybe I just love baking! 🙂 But in my opinion, you can never go wrong with homemade treats. Last year I made red velvet crinkle cookies for the nursing home and they were a big hit. Here are some other recipes you might try:
peanut butter cup brownies
white chocolate pretzels
chocolate-covered popcorn
strawberry coconut cookies
carrot cake with coconut cream-cheese frosting
butterscotch pudding cookies
classic chocolate chip cookies

red velvet cookies

Questions for the evening:

  • What are some of your favorite thoughtful gifts? {That you’ve given or that you’ve received!}
  • Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

my valentine’s day plans

valentines week

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My lunch today is leftover tilapia, veggies, and — to make things a little special! — a couple of red velvet crinkle cookies. I made them yesterday to deliver to the nursing home along with valentines for my Week 6 Year of Kindness Challenge, and they are just the way I like cookies to be: dense, chewy, soft in the middle and crispy around the edges. YUM!

red velvet cookies

After I finish teaching, I have plans for dinner and then a late show of the new Nicholas Sparks movie Safe Haven. I’m so excited!

safe haven

I came across this Valentine’s poster idea from Julie at PB Fingers and I wanted to show you this morning in case anyone is looking for a last-minute gift idea for their sweetie! This one is inexpensive, easy, and pretty dang adorable.

Here’s what you do: leave a trail of Hershey’s kisses from the doorway through the house to the bedroom. Then have a sign waiting like this one, surrounded by more Hershey’s kisses:

valentine sign

Isn’t that such a cute idea?

I’m going to sign off now and get going on my day! I hope your Valentine’s Day is filled with a ton of love, laughter, and of course chocolate! 🙂 What are you doing to celebrate today?


other valentine’s posts you might enjoy:
– easy + inexpensive valentine’s day cards
– an adorable owl craft project
my favorite romantic movies
– 6 simple sweets to make your sweetie for valentine’s day
– hand-crafted valentine’s day decor

peanut butter cup brownies

Thanks to everyone who joined in Monday for this week’s #yearofkindness challenge {delivering valentines to a nursing home} and those who were with us last week for my fave romantic movies and easy, inexpensive homemade Valentines ideas. Today we’re continuing “Valentine’s Week” with a delicious recipe that you can make for your sweetie, friends, coworkers, or even yourself!

valentines week

Peanut butter and chocolate may be my all-time favorite dessert combo, so it’s no surprise I was inspired to combine peanut butter cups and dark chocolate brownie mix! I thought I was soooo clever for using my muffin tin to make these cute little brownie cups, but one of my friends told me she and her mom have been making these babies for years. Maybe I’m a little late to the party, or maybe it’s just true that great minds think alike! 🙂 Either way, these are de-li-cious and so easy to whip up. Enjoy!

peanut butter cup brownies

– 1 package brownie mix {i like the dark chocolate variety}
– 1 package mini peanut butter cups
– 1 egg
– 1/3 cup vegetable oil
– 1/3 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper cups or spray with vegetable spray and set aside.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine brownie mix, egg, vegetable oil, and water. Stir until ingredients are well-mixed and there are no lumps in the batter.

3. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way to the top with the batter.

4. In the center of each cup, gently press an unwrapped peanut butter cup.

reeses brownies

5. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean.

reeses brownies

YUM! These are dangerously good. You’ll want to eat the whole batch yourself!

What are some of your favorite Valentine’s Day memories? Are you planning to do any Valentine’s baking this year?

More tomorrow!
-Dallas ❤


Looking for more Valentine’s Day treats to make? You might enjoy these earlier posts:
red velvet cupcakes with coconut cream-cheese frosting
rice krispies treats with m&ms
chocolate strawberry coconut cookies

saturday upsides: my favorite romantic movies


Happy weekend, everyone! Time for another edition of Saturday Upsides — today, in honor of Valentine’s Week, I’m excited to share with you some of my all-time favorite romantic movies. I came across an article on yesterday about how the weather influences people’s preferences when it comes to movies: when people are warm they generally prefer action movies; when they are cold they generally prefer romantic movies. Makes sense to me!

valentines week

Valentine’s Day + cold winter weather = the perfect time to curl up under a blanket and watch a good romance!

Here are a few of my top picks:



This is probably my favorite “chick flick” of all time! It came out when I was in high school and I think I saw it three times in the movie theaters alone. My friend Micaela and I were obsessed! I love the idea of serendipity {a fortunate accident} and love that is “meant to be.” This movie twists and turns and keeps you guessing until the end. I love the characters, the music, the settings, the dialogue. There’s also a lot of humor in the movie — Eugene Levy’s character is hilarious!

When Harry Met Sally


This movie just makes me feel so happy and warm inside. You know those movies that make you feel like everything is right with the world? When Harry Met Sally is at the top of my list. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are fantastic together, and the dialogue and storyline are Nora Ephron at her best. One of my favorite things about this movie is the intersplicing of “real life” older couples sharing how they met. Best love quote of the movie: “At that moment, I knew. I knew the way you know about a good melon.”

You’ve Got Mail

you've got mail

Another Meg Ryan classic … I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched this movie with my friend Holly. It’s just so sweet and wonderful! Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are superb together. I love the music in this movie; I love the book/reading theme; I love the backdrop of NYC. This movie is actually a remake of a Jimmy Stewart class, The Shop Around The Corner, which I have watched many times with my Gramps and would also highly recommend! The ending of both movies always gives me a grateful, goofy, teary smile–one of the best kinds of smile, in my opinion.

Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!


This is such a fun movie! I remember it came out when I was in high school, and I had a bad day at school and my sweet dad and brother took me to see this movie in the the theaters. {My mom was at work.} How lucky am I, right? Best dad and brother ever! I loved every minute of this movie that first viewing, and I love it still. This is the perfect rainy-day movie, sleepover movie, lazy Sunday movie when you just want to watch something funny and sweet. Which guy should she choose: the famous celebrity or her small-town best friend? {Okay, you might already be able to guess who she chooses, but getting there is the good part!} 🙂

The Notebook

the notebook

There’s something about the love story in The Notebook that really sweeps me away. The kiss scene in the rain is amazing!!

And of course, the perfect movie to celebrate Valentine’s Day would have to be …

Valentine’s Day!


It doesn’t get much more love-packed than this! While I don’t think this movie is quite as good as its Christmas-themed inspiration Love Actually, I still really enjoy the multitude of interweaving storylines, star-studded cast, and of course the day all the action revolves around: Valentine’s Day! This movie explores many different types of love in many different relationships. Plus, my girl Taylor Swift is in it! Love her.

What are some of your favorite romantic movies? Please share in the comments section!

Hope your weekend is wonderful,


you might enjoy these other valentine-themed posts:
easy + inexpensive valentine’s day cards
an adorable owl craft project
6 simple sweets to make your sweetie for valentine’s day
budget-friendly valentine’s day ideas
hand-crafted valentine’s day decor