Hilltown Families Handmade Valentine Swap, 2022

The annual Hilltown Families Handmade Valentine Swap is a tradition I’ve participated in several times now, in which children, adults, and families living in the “Hidden Hills” of the Berkshires make and receive homemade Valentines.

I first joined the fold in the “adult” category, before Juli was born; but it’s become a favorite art project for us to work on together.

Last year, we made magic wands and flowers with heart-shaped petals using Avery labels, foam hearts, wooden craft sticks, and ribbon.

We took a cue from Avery (the company’s blog and weekly inspo eblast is a great one) again this year: As it happens, 3/4″ diameter round labels (dots) are the same size as the bottom of a Hershey’s Kiss, and Avery offers a printable template to turn your Kisses into home-made conversation hearts.

We had some perfectly sized Valentine stamps in-house, though, and chose to manually stamp our labels instead of using the template. The stamps were a gift, but similar to these, and I found a red ink-pad via 2000 Plus office supplies.

Three Kisses in a baggie looks a little bit like a heart, and a festive enough with some Valentine-ribbon. I found both the Kisses and the ribbon in bulk on Amazon.

Then, we paired them with Juli’s handmade Valentine cards to mail to her list of recipients (10 other kids of varying ages, living in towns across western Massachusetts). She chose to make a different card for every person this year, as opposed to assembly-line style (which also has its merits).

Juli started receiving her handmade Valentines the first week in February, but I hoarded them until our traditional heart-shaped pizza feast on Valentines Day to see the spoils. As usual, it’s a great haul, including some newspaper art, an original pen-and-ink illustration, a clay coaster I’m using right now, and a sassy flamingo.

A Bitingly Weird V-Day Gift Round-up

When searching for any Valentine gift, weird or otherwise, it’s hard to avoid the culinary component. We’ve already established that there’s a chocolate representation to be found out there for just about anything, and a Valentine representation for all sorts of foods: pickles, jerky, and ketchup among them.

But the annual Weird Valentines Gifts post has never been fully food-themed, so here we are — with two items inspired by snacking, one designed to help get the nosh on, and a fourth that spotlights a new entree to the global dining table.

I Love Cheesy Poofs, You Love Cheesy Poofs

Who wouldn’t love this multi-purpose plushy? It’s a pillow. It’s a toy. It’s a village of adorable Cheesy Poof People. You can’t go wrong, and could pair the puffs with an equally cute plushy boba tea for double the awwww.

Spotted at: Angleliu

Loafing Around

These bread slippers come in baguette, butter, and “bread b,” which looks like challah to me, so missed bread-branding opportunity there.

The perfect gift to keep toes toasty on a February night, loaf pillows and tortilla blankets are also options for the carb-obsessed couch potato in your life.

Spotted at: The October Elf

A Whirlwind of Emotion…

A clear mug with hot chocolate in it and a black and white cow spotted sleeve is over half of it - a black lid is next to it

This self-mixing, portable mug swirls your chocolate milk for you, which is adorable and unnecessary—just like any self-respecting Valentine gift should be.

Perfectly paired with a hand-made Nesquick tumbler.

Spotted at: The Science Toy Store

…and Edible Manchurian Scorpions.

Since the world is slowly ending and we’re moving toward eating bugs anyway, why not make it fancy? The Entomarket — just one leg of Entosense LLC in Lewiston, Maine — is a clearinghouse of culinary-grade creepy crawlies that extends far beyond your standard chocolate-covered grasshopper.

In addition to the Manchurian morsels, which incidentally glow naturally under a black-light, the Entomarket also offers Cotton Candy Crickets, Pizza-flavored Superworms from Thailand, and the very impressive-sounding Chapulines Sazonados from Mexico (grasshoppers with lemon, salt, garlic, and chile flavors).

Spotted at: Edible Insects

2021 Weird V-Day Round-up

2020

2019

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2017

2016

2014

Hilltown Families Hand-made Valentine Swap, part 2: The Spoils!

We crafted, packaged, and mailed our own creations, and in turn received the greetings below! Thanks again Hilltown Families!

Currently catching light in the picture window…
She loved that it was a “real letter!”
Props to Bodhi for bugs and kisses and for great name-writing!
Pretty stained-glass effect on this one…
Love the waterfall of hearts ♥️
Strong pipe cleaner crafting!!
Happy Heart Day!
Unconventional color use FTW!

Hilltown Families Hand-made Valentine Swap 2021!

Once again, we’ve thrown our crafty hats into the ring of the Hilltown Families Hand-made Valentine Swap!

This annual tradition charges local families in the hidden hamlets of western Massachusetts (the Hilltowns) with creating original Valentines and sending them to other families and individuals.

I’ve actually participated in the HFHVS several times, including before I had children, and each year we receive a wide array of greetings from people of all ages in exchange for our own offerings.

This year, our Valentines took on two forms: magic wands and heart flowers, which followed the same basic pattern. First, I bought sheets of heart-shaped labels from Avery (I used template 94603, but there were a few available sizes) and craft sticks, ribbon, foam hearts, and heart stickers from Amazon. We rounded-out the supply list with our own stash of sequins, beads, markers, glue, and paints.

From there, two labels stuck together over a craft stick created the base for any creation, and we were off to the races — making not just enough for each Hilltown family on our list, but also for family members, friends, and holiday decor around the homestead.

Heart-flower Valentines, the Tiktok tutorial!
Julia’s preferred design was magic wands with long strands of ribbon. Amazon tip: I bought 20 rolls of themed ribbon for $11 – brand name Vatin. I think I’m set on Valentine ribbon until 2025.
I made more flowers than wands, largely because layering the foam hearts as petals is very mentally soothing. We kept going with flowers and wands until all of the foam hearts were gone; a bag of 300 from Amazon was $8.
My favorite wand of Julia’s was her two-sided “Frankenstein Heart,” which had green stitches on one side and brains on the other. I’ll be sure to repost this next Blogtoberfest. 🧠
The stickers were $9 for 500; also all set on multi-design heart stickers until at least mid-decade.
I had fun with the sequins, too…🦩
Heart wands, the TikTok tutorial!

Many thanks to Hilltown Families founder, publisher, and editor Sienna Wildfield for spearheading one of my favorite activities of the year — one that creates connections that felt a little more important this year than they already had. ❤️

Local Love: V-Day Gift Options from the Berkshires

Earlier this week I found myself on medical leave in the middle of a snow storm in the middle of a pandemic, and feeling a threefold-level of boredom.

To quell the ennui, I decided to share a few cool Valentine gift ideas local to where I live on my Insta-stories, and the result is a great mix of products at various price points:

They had me at blush cheese… but this shippable gift box also includes products from other local companies.
I particularly love the names this company comes up with for their candles.
Awesome hand-made soaps, lip balms, and bath products suggested by a follower.
Vintage cuteness paired with the necessary caffeine at Dottie’s.
Shirts, hoodies, masks and more from 413shirts.com!
v1 vodka will also give you countless cocktail recipes for indoor-date-night
One of many young new companies in the Berkshires putting out cool local art and commerce!
Freebie bonus! Download these puntastic Valentines from Berkshire Museum for printing or digital sharing! I collected ’em all.