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I love Valentine’s Day. It’s pink and red and filled with sugar. What’s not to love?

As a kid, the best part of Valentine’s Day was the cards. Remember making those “mailboxes” out of old shoe boxes for all the Valentines you would get from your classmates? Why don’t we do that as adults? I’ll tell you why: We’ve just come off of Christmas, and Christmas owns the card market.

Oh sure, you’ll go out and buy your sweetie a card, but there is no mass mailing of comfort and joy like there is at Christmas. But when you think about it, this is the time of year we NEED a little pick me up. By February, snow has lost its luster—literally, it’s now gray instead of white. Everyone is sick of the cold weather and it feels like a million years until summer.

Now, wouldn’t you like to open your mailbox and get a homemade Valentine about now? Fortunately for me, I have been the recipient of a hand-made card for many years. My friend Stacey, who inspired this idea, has taken photos of her kids and sent out Valentines to family and close friends every year for about a decade.

And now that I have a child of my own, I decided to steal her tradition and adapt it to my own Valentine-making style. This is just one example of a homemade Valentine. You can do whatever you want when creating yours!

Step 1: Figure out how many people you are sending this card to. Look at your Christmas list and eliminate about 90 percent. That brought me down to grandparents, aunts, uncles and Stacey (after all, I owe her about a dozen of these). So I was looking at making about eight Valentines—a reasonable number. If you have more people (say 12-15), consider how time consuming each hand-made Valentine will be and whether you are up to the challenge.

Step 2: Obtain an adorable child or baby (preferably your own) and set up a photo shoot. And by photo shoot I mean: Dress your kid in something cute and get her to smile for the camera against a backdrop of your choosing. Do not schedule a professional photographer for this. The whole point is homemade, remember? Grandmas live for this stuff. Before you set up the shoot, think about your final result. Is it a sweet Valentine? A funny one? A punk-rock one? Pick a general theme.

Step 3 (optional): If you have some Photoshopping skills (mine are minimal), have some fun with your photo. I took my original shot against a wrinkly sheet, so I changed the background to solid pink to make Isla look like she was floating. If you haven’t guessed, I chose to make my Valentine funny.

Step 4: Now we get crafty! You know what that means—it’s time for a trip to Michael’s (Joann Fabrics is fine, too)! Once you get to the craft mecca of your choice, go nuts. Seriously, just pick whatever appeals to you. You should have some sort of design in mind first though or it’s easy to just buy everything in site.

Materials used:

  • 1 pack of plain flat ivory cards
  • 1 pack of pastel paper
  • Heart stencils
  • Craft glitter
  • Scissors
  • Double-sided tape
  • markers
  • stickers
  • glitter paste

Step 5: Trace the heart stencil with a marker directly onto the photo. Cut it out.

Step 6: Draw a conversation bubble onto a piece of pastel paper. Cut it out. Trace it seven more times and cut those out. Write “Happy Valentine’s Day” on each one and tape them to your photo.

Step 7: Trace heart stencil onto the flat, cream-colored card. (Now is a good time to mention you should NOT attempt this project while your child is awake). Dip a small, cheap paintbrush into a little pot of glitter paste and trace just outside the line of the heart shape you just drew on the card. While glue is still wet, dump the glitter all over it. Shake off the excess glue and let dry.

Step 8: After glitter has dried, use double-sided tape to secure heart photo to card. Glitter should make a nice outline. If you are a perfectionist, this part may be a bit painful for you. Glitter is messy business. Chances are, your glitter may scatter a bit. Just go with it—remember, HOMEMADE.

Step 9: Add cute little heart stickers and sign the card.