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Easy & Affordable Valentine's Day Projects (Flashback Friday)

In the spirit of my other posts this week, I thought for this week's Flashback Friday, I would feature past Valentine's Day Projects from years past.  The original posts can be found by clicking on each project title.

First up, are the school Valentines we have used in preschool, kindergarten and first grade:

Flower Growing Kit Valentines
The tag says: "I love watching our friendship grow" The mini-pot, seeds and soil kits were from the Target dollar spot.  A perfect candy-free Valentine.
 

 Flower Seed Valentines:
This is a variation on the flower growing kits.  In a classroom with lots of children, you may not want to spend $1 on each card.  By using the seed packet (which I got at the discount store for 10 cents each) you can make dozens of valentines for under $5. 

Since Swedish Fish are one of my daughter's favorite candies, I knew we had to make a version of this "I'm so happy we are in the same school" valentine.   You could also use goldfish crackers if you want to avoid sugary treats.

These were our first homemade school Valentine. "Have a happy Valentine's day for crayon out loud!"  (Look at that watermark! Not only was it featured on my old URL, but I still had BLOGSPOT in the title! HA!)  My favorite part of this project was that it got rid of all those little broken crayons that I couldn't bring myself to throw away. 

And of course, my Valentine's day wouldn't be complete without a decorated mantle:

2012:
This was the year that I lived on $20 a week for the entire month of January. Because of that my mantle featured only things I had lying around the house or could get for free.   Branches, paper pom poms and of course..

my beloved  Paint chip garland that I have used every year (including 2014)  
 

Finally, that brings us to last year's mantle, in which I reused the paint chip garland (this time cut up) along with a new dollar store felt garland (which I used again this year on my quick and easy wreath.) and my silver tray chalkboard.


 It is always a riot to look back and old projects: the good, the bad and the ugly! 

Valentine's Day Mantle 2014

 
Well.. it is that time again.  MANTLE TIME!  I have had a couple people ask me on Facebook if I go crazy and change the decorations in my whole house every time I change my mantle.

The answer is a resounding NO!

For bigger holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Easter) I do more decorating, but for the smaller holidays (Valentine's Day, St. Patty's Day, Fourth of July) I only do a mantle and maybe a front door wreath.

This year, for Valentine's Day, I was inspired by Cristina's wonderful 2013 mantle (although this year's mantle is pretty kick butt too!) 
(This image isn't Pinnable.. please Pin from original source linked above)
I loved the simple bright red and bright white.  So I came up with my own red and white version:
 

My favorite part of the whole thing are these little 'milk bottles':
 
If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know I spend at least a few minutes of every day at my local Starbucks.  I am a coffee junkie.  And to supplement my love of all things mocha, I drink these bottled frappucinos that I get from Costco. 
  

They are so cute that I decided to fix them up by adding foam letters to them:
 
  

And spray painting them ballet slipper pink (by Krylon.)  Here they are when they were still drying (which is why they are sitting on post it notes): 

The other project I incorporated was some paint chip art (re-using my paint chip heart garland) in some thrift store frames.

I picked up these two of these (admittedly) FUGLY frames at Savers, and I snapped them up because:
1. They were brand new.
2. They were a matched set.
3. They were only $2.  I figured I could just use the glass for something even if the frames themselves were useless. However, for this project I only used the frames and saved the glass for something else.


In order to make them more appropriate for the mantle, I painted them cherry red:

The garlands are just taped on with scotch tape:

Here you can see how I used them in the vignette:  
 

I normally try to make my mantles symmetric, but this time I mixed it up a little.  And of course I used my new vellum garland (which I love more and more!)
 
 
  

Do you decorate for all the holidays too or just the big ones?

Sharing at homestoriesatoz and at these parties.

DIY Valentine's Wreath in Under 60 Seconds



I think I have assembled the fastest, easiest wreath known to man.   You may remember that back in October I put together a Halloween wreath out of a $2 scavenged wreath form.  

Well, I still had that wreath from lying around and so I decided that once again I would start with it as a blank canvas.

I don't have any "Valentines-y" floral picks, and so I had to figure out what I could use that was lying around the house.  Because I made a new Valentine's garland recently, I had this dollar store one leftover from last year's mantle.   


I considered cutting it up and wiring the hearts to the wreath, but then my lazy gene kicked in and I so I decided just to wrap the garland around the wreath form. 

I added a silver bow that I forgot to put away with all the Christmas decorations..(I told you my lazy gene was in gear!)
  

I hung it on the front door.. and VOILA.  A free, easy and quick little wreath for Valentine's day.  The kind of project I can really stand behind.
 

Sharing at these parties.

How to Frost Cupcakes with Melted Marshmallows




Today I thought I would share this quick little tutorial for an alternative to traditional cupcake frosting.  I love to bake cupcakes, but I rarely frost them because making my own buttercream is a pain in the neck, and the store bought frosting in a tub isn't very good. 

I have seen the tip from Real Simple tip of melting a marshmallow over the top of a cupcake in lieu of frosting, and I have also seen the many failed attempts floating around pinterest:
Image Source: Craft Fail
The problem with it is that Real Simple doesn't give you decent tutorial on exactly HOW to do it, so today I thought I would share the nitty gritty details.  It CAN be done, if you know the secrets:

You really do only need 3 things:

1. Cupcakes.. still in the oven

2. Marshmallows
I use mini marshmallows since they melt faster and more evenly.  In this case I am using vanilla flavored cupcakes shaped like snowmen. I have heard that the flavored marshmallows  (chocolate/mint/pumpkin etc) also make wonderful 'frosting.' 

3. A bowl of water
This is one of those tips that isn't shared very often.  If you dampen one side of the marshmallow, they will stick to the cupcake and not slide off when they begin to melt. 

When you have 3-5 minutes left of baking time on your cupcakes, stick the dampened marshmallows to the top of them (I pull the oven rack out, put the marshmallows on and push it back in.. instead of taking the cupcakes all the way out)

At first they will puff up a little:

Then you will see them slowly start to melt. 

At the stage where they are just beginning to melt, but aren't running all over (usually about 4 minutes depending on baking temperature), remove them from the oven, and use the back of a spoon or a spatula to squish the marshmallow so the top of the marshmallow is spread evenly over the top of the cupcake:

The frosting is pretty sticky (like the melted marshmallow that you find in the center of a s'more) but still spreadable.  You DON'T want to see any browning.  That will give you a crusty, unspreadable marshmallow.

You want to take them out of the muffin tin as soon as you have the marshmallow spread where you want it.  If you leave it in the pan, the residual heat will cause it to continue to melt and run down the side of your cupcake.  

You can use the broiler or a torch to brown up the spread marshmallow (the same way you would treat a meringue) but I prefer mine un-toasted.

Cupcakes are definitely better with frosting, and frosting is best when it is easy!

Sharing at these parties.

"I'd fall to PIECES without you!" Puzzle Valentine

For Valentine's Day this year I needed to come up with a candy-free card idea.  The preschool we attend wants to encourage healthy eating and discourage excessive sweets at the holidays, and so the quest was on for a kid-friendly, cute idea that didn't cost much.

I have seen personalized valentine's puzzles before and thought they were the perfect thing for little kids, but at $15 each I knew I needed my own DIY version.

I was able to score these bagged 24 piece puzzles at the discount store for $1.99 each. 
 

I needed 15 cards (plus 2 for the teachers) so I figured if I broke each puzzle into 6 'mini-puzzles' I would need to buy 3:

Next, I needed to personalize them.  So, with the help of my assistant, and using a leftover wall paint sample (which also included a primer) we first covered the old image from the puzzle:

You can't paint the puzzle directly with craft paint because the picture on the puzzle will show through, plus the paint doesn't stick to the glossy side of the cardboard very well:

It was easiest for my 4 year old to paint the puzzle while it was assembled, but make sure you separate the pieces when you let them dry, or else they will be fused together by the paint:
 

Once the white-ish paint dried, I added 2 more coats of red craft paint (remember, you want to keep track of which pieces go together, since once the picture is gone, it is no small feat figuring out how to reassemble the puzzle.  I just made sure I kept my groups of four together.

Once the pieces were dry, I reassembled the mini-puzzles and used rubber stamps to personalize them:

I had both some generic valentine's stamps:
  

and an alphabet set and block (similar to this and this) which I used to personalize the message (Although you could decorate them a multitude of ways, with more paint, with permanent marker, with stencils etc.) :

Once the ink was dry I dissembled the puzzles and put them in some translucent vellum envelopes I received from Jam Paper.

On the outside of the envelope I used a "Happy Valentine's Day" rubber stamp and added the message in black marker:
 "I'd fall to PIECES without you!"

At the top of the envelope I punched two holes and added a baker's twine bow:
 

Three puzzles ended up yielding 18 Valentine's.

Some alternate wording suggestions for the envelopes:
"We are a perfect fit"
"I love you to pieces"
"You complete me"
"You are my missing piece" 
"It's no puzzle why I love/like you" 

They turned out adorable. Especially since you can see through the envelope to the individual pieces.  The kids should have fun putting them together to decipher the message, and my total investment was only $7: $6 for the puzzles, and $1 for the twine. (If I had to purchase the envelopes it would have been about $7 more.) That is still less than the cost of a single personalized puzzle.

Not a puzzle fan? 
 Check out my 10 most popular school Valentines! 
Top 10 School Valentine Ideas

100 FREE Printable School Valentines

 
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