Paint samples, playing cards, sponges, sugar packets, matches are all taking up space in your kitchen and desk drawers. Think of them as an inexhaustible stock of Valentine-card-making props. Dead AAA batteries ("I get a charge out of you"), old lollipops ("I'm a sucker for you"), stray keys ("the key to my heart").
Sit yourself down and grab a pile of craft supplies―construction paper, scissors, markers, tape, X-Acto blade, large-eyed needle and strong thread (or dental floss), doilies, ribbon saved from the last party. Don't worry about making it look perfect. It's the message that counts.
2 of 10Mark Weiss
Candy Cane Valentine's Day Cupcakes
With some minor melting, candy canes can decorate cupcakes and gift boxes, or cards that will be hand delivered.
How to do it: Remove the cellophane wrapping from the canes and form hearts by placing them hook to hook and tail to tail on a nonstick baking sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the canes' size) or until they stick together when you pinch the ends lightly. Cool thoroughly and remove with a spatula. If you want to make flat hearts with psychedelic stripes, bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
3 of 10Burcu Avsar
Make Your Own Candy Hearts
Contrary to the grumblings of all those heart-day humbugs out there, Valentine’s is not some capitalist conspiracy created by purveyors of greeting cards, flowers, and candy. In fact, as far back as Roman times, love matches were made during a mid- February fertility festival. And in the fifth century Pope Gelasius officially declared February 14 Saint Valentine’s Day.
Sure, it has become a tad commercialized since then, but you can still personalize your love notes. Try creating custom candy: Use a fine grater to sand the messages off Conversation Hearts, then write your own thoughts with a food-coloring marker (such as Ateco, available at amazon.com, $21.50). Or make virtual hearts with your message at acme.com/heartmaker and e-mail them to your main squeeze.
4 of 10David Prince
Make Gift Tags From Greeting Cards
Last year's holiday and birthday cards may be too pretty to throw away, but they're probably not meaningful enough to keep. Cut out hearts, flowers, or any other whimsical illustration from the card's cover, avoiding handwritten notes on the opposite side, and stash them with your ribbons and wrapping paper.
3 Down: What you hate to take out. Answer: Garbage.
6 of 10Tina Rupp
Quick Valentine’s Day Treat
In between dropping the kids off, picking up the dry cleaning, and making your to-do list for the week, you’re supposed to fit in romance? Try this easy trick: Melt a Hershey’s bar in a saucepan over low heat and dip some fresh strawberries in it to make a treat for your sweetheart. Let them cool on wax paper. Candles and canoodling optional.
7 of 10Frances Janisch
DVDs for Valentine's Day
Struck by a mad urge to play Cupid, you’re throwing a Valentine’s party. For instant ambiance, pick up an appropriately themed DVD―preferably a romantic favorite like When Harry Met Sally, Casablanca, or An Affair to Remember. Come party time, pop it in the machine, press Play, then mute the sound so the film can serve as a quiet but not-too-subtle backdrop for the evening. Bonus: If a partygoer gets tired of small talk, he can zone out and tune in to the on-screen romance until he makes his own love connection with bachelorette number three.
8 of 10Minh & Wass
Create the Perfect Setting
For a romantic and fragrant centerpiece, float a few small orchids and some tea lights in a glass bowl.
9 of 10Rick Lew
Ketchup Bottle as Dessert Decorator
Run an empty plastic ketchup bottle through the dishwasher, then fill it with your favorite sauce or condiment. Drizzle some rosemary-scented olive oil across a bowl of white bean soup, a squiggle of fudge or raspberry sauce around the rim of a dessert plate. (If calligraphy is not your strong suit, practice on a paper plate or stick to abstract designs.) You'll have a five-star-chef presentation in less than five minutes.
10 of 10James Merrell
The History of Valentine's Day (and Kissing)
Instead of whispering sweet nothings, impress your sweetheart with these Valentine’s Day facts.
No one knows the real story behind Saint Valentine (at least three different saints named Valentine are recognized by the Roman Catholic church), but one legend claims that he secretly married young couples against the orders of an emperor who had banned marriage because he believed single men made better soldiers.
Today’s tradition of trading love notes on February 14 became popular in England in the 17th century.
The first box of chocolates was introduced by Richard Cadbury in 1868.
The oldest known valentine card dates back to the 1400s. Charles, duke of Orleans, sent it to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
So-called vinegar valentines, which carried insults like “Ugly, Fat, and Forty,” were popular in the 19th century. They were sent anonymously on the 14th.
“Be Mine,” one of the original messages on Necco’s Sweethearts candies when they debuted, still appears every year. Recent additions? “IM Me” and “Go Girl.”
But there’s plenty you may still not know about philematology, or the science of snogging (seriously, it has a name). So wrap your orbicularis oris muscles (lips) around these tidbits of trivia, and next time you greet your valentine, you can kiss and tell.
Some anthropologists believe that kissing originated with early Homo sapiens passing food to their babies mouth to mouth. As humans developed, the mouth-to-mouth feeding stopped, but the learned behavior of kissing remained.
The first on-screen kiss was between John C. Rice and May Irwin in the 1896 movie appropriately titled The Kiss.
Birds and bees may not be able to kiss, but bonobo apes do. The oft-studied primates, who are closely connected to humans, love to lay one on each other after a fight, to form social bonds, or―arguably the best reason―just because.
As a prelude to KISS, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley were known as Wicked Lester. In 1973 Stanley had the idea to change the band’s name to KISS, while Frehley came up with the iconic design for the KISS logo.
They may not have been sitting in a tree, but British couple James Belshaw and Sophia Severin achieved a record for k-i-s-s-i-n-g back in 2005, when they smooched for 31 hours, 30 minutes, and 30 seconds. No word on whether it led to love, marriage, or a baby in a carriage.