Get this, Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday, just like Halloween and dare I say it, Christmas and Easter? But you don’t hear people yelling about how Halloween candy is only repackaged Easter candy with ghosts and ghouls added in to trick the stupid people into buying it. Or how pre-packaged Halloween costumes are so freaking expensive and ridiculous, and how everyone spends half their paycheck and winds up wearing the same types of costumes as everybody else anyway I love Halloween, I do. But I love Valentine’s Day and April Fools Day and St. Patrick’s Day too.
Valentine’s Day gets all the flack though. Every year, people revel in making ironic Facebook posts to show the world how enlightened they are and how they’re smarter/more secure/cooler/more cynical than the rest of those who enjoy celebrating such a frivolous day. I guess they didn’t get the memo that the rest of the world knows what they are doing, and yet some people choose to partake in it anyway.
Here’s another secret for you... You don’t have to spend loads of cash to enjoy a holiday. It also doesn’t mean you only show your love one day a year. To many it’s just a fun little holiday to brighten life a bit. Does that mean all the girls who get flowers are neglected by their significant others the rest of the year? Maybe. But that’s not always the case, and I would even bet that’s rarely the case.
A holiday is only as commercialized as you let it be. I don’t like the pressure that comes with Valentine’s Day or Christmas or even from birthdays. I like thoughtful gifts, sure... But thoughtful needn’t cost much. It doesn’t have to cost anything.
One of the sweetest things my boyfriend did for me recently was get excited at the grocery store when he saw they had tiny watermelons. Why? Because he knows I love watermelon. Simple concept really, but it meant the world to me to see him that excited to make me happy.
And to me, that’s what every day is about. Valentine’s Day just happens to have a theme to it which delights the inner child in me every time.
I love to bake, and I think I’m pretty decent at it too. I’m usually a bake-everything-from-scratch type of girl, even making my own homemade frosting. But I have lowered myself to cake mixes when my boyfriend told me he loves Funfetti cakes with specific packaged icing. So on his birthdays, I throw out my from-scratch baking ideas, hold my nose and bake the cake he wants most. Why? Because it holds special meaning for him and it makes him happy.
See a theme here? I like making him happy, and he likes making me happy. I assume most couples have that same mentality. If you don’t, well then I’m sorry. I personally think life is too short to spend it unhappy , but to each their own. What happiness entails for each person is obviously different, and discovering the little things that make a person's face light up with joy is part of the fun in a relationship.
Moving on, let's get back to what makes my sweetie happy. Besides Funfetti cake, there's one other food that makes his little heart explode from happiness without fail. Cherries. The boy absolutely loves anything cherry... Cherry soda, cherry candy, you name it and he loves it. He gets an adorable smile on his face whenever he talks about his love for cherries even, it's enough to make my own heart explode from the cuteness.
Last year, I bucked traditional gender roles because I know he’s a modern man who could handle it. I sent him chocolate covered cherries at work and he loved it. I patted myself on the back for that one, I still do.
I wasn't sure if I could top it this year because to put it bluntly, I’m unemployed and broke. I decided to avoid all traditional and overpriced Valentine’s Day gifts for something homemade and from the heart. I set out on a mission to find something cute, fun and delicious for his Valentine’s Day gift. I Googled recipes for sweet treats and then I had a very wise idea... Cherry pies. Who doesn’t love pie after all?
I went all out and decided to try and find heart shaped cherry pies and discovered a site that showed how to make small heart-shaped cherry pie lollipops. I knew that was perfect and needed to look no further. I didn’t even bother to entertain any other ideas. That was mistake number one, I’m sure.
I didn’t question my ability to make them at all.
That was mistake number two. I forgot one tiny little detail. I can bake, sure, but I have the artistic skills of a preschooler. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler and I have no hand-eye coordination. Any craft I manage to complete looks like something a toddler mashed together with a glue stick and construction paper while eating cheesy poofs and watching cartoons at the same time. In fact, they probably can create something nicer than I ever could with that method. Somehow, I never learned how to be crafty.
None of that crossed my mind. I was determined.. The directions looked so simple, that even I could do it, right? I briefly entertained the idea of creating a small business selling heart shaped pie lollipops because I just knew once I showed them off to the internet, people would ooh and ahhhh and everyone would want to buy my beautiful creations.
I went to the dollar store and picked up a vase and some Red Hots. In my head, I planned on creating a dazzling and beautiful pie lollipop bouquet that would probably make you sick to your stomach just looking at all that sweetness.
The reality? Uhh yeah. It’s the thought that counts, right?
I bought heart-shaped cookie cutters and used the smallest one since they needed to stay on the stick. I used pre-made pie crust because I haven’t made homemade pie crust before and figured I’d play it a bit safe by not making the crust from scratch. Thankfully I did it this way because I realized halfway through that I didn’t have a rolling pin. Could you imagine my annoyance if I had made all the crust and couldn’t roll it out?
As if the task at hand wasn’t hard enough as it was.
I cut out a bunch of tiny little hearts and that almost seemed too easy. I had leftover dough and scrunched it all together and tried to flatten it out. Uh yeah, remember the part about not having a rolling pin? I had several lumpy, really thick hearts. I figured it wouldn’t matter. I’d find out later just how wrong I was about that, but I realized that was the least of my concerns at the moment.
I opened up the can of cherry filling and almost beat my head into the counter top. Stupid me. One cherry would take up the whole center of the heart. One cherry. It wasn’t the preserve like stuff they were using in the example, these were real cherries and I never realized how large a cherry was until I was trying to center a couple in the middle of a tiny 2 inch heart without going over the edges. Have you tried it? I think it would be easier to fit a square peg in a small round hole.
But I put one cherry in the middle and sealed it up anyway. Making this blob that looked like a pregnant pie ready to deliver the cherry baby at any minute. Then i realized I forgot the stupid stick which made it a lollipop in the first place.
That didn’t look like the pictures on the website...
So I did the next best thing. I drained just the juice and left the cherries out entirely. That should work, right? Not exactly. I discovered that when you try to close the hearts, all the juice seeps out the sides of the heart.
And crap, I forgot the stick several times and clumsily shoved it in the bottom.
Eventually, for better or worse, I had them ready to go into the oven. I was hedging my bets and working on a backup plan just in case though. The other roll of crust would make larger heart shaped hand pies because this looked like it was going to go very badly.
Mistake number three? I forgot to grease the pan. So they all stuck. Many fell apart from that alone. I taste tested the failures and realized I was eating pie crust on a stick. There were no gooey cherry innards to any of the lollipops.
Switching gears on the fly, I decided the larger heart-shaped pies would be better anyway. The first couple were beautiful, though seepage was beginning to be a problem. I wanted enough filling to make them taste yummy, but that meant that cherry juice seeped out the sides of the heart.
Being the optimist I am, I realized this only added to appeal. After all, knowing us, what would be more special than bloody hearts on Valentine’s Day? We are both horror writers after all.
My bloody Valentine’s Day hearts were going so well, I wanted to bake more. After all, the second crust only made a couple and the fun was just beginning. This is when I made the executive decision to run out for more pie crusts. And a rolling pin because I saw how chunky and bloated the crusts were that I’d hand rolled.
This was also about the time my sweetheart had gotten home for work and was getting ready to head over to my place. Time crunch. Mega time crunch.
First, Target for the rolling pin and I assumed they would have pie crusts. Of course, it’s me we are talking about here and why would I get lucky like that and be able to go to only one store? But they had some peanut butter chocolate chunk cookie dough that could make for a great gift too, so why not? Normally I make cookies from scratch too, but with the clock ticking away and possible pie failure on my hands, I said to hell with it and grabbed the cookies just in case.
This particular Target is known for people shopping like they drive. Meaning the lines are long, people are slow and they just stop right directly in front of you and block your path because whatever they’re looking at is more important than letting you through so you can get the heck out of there as fast as possible. This just made me panic even more and consider some shopping cart road rage, but I resisted. Needed to get home to the pies.
After long, agonizing minutes in one of two very long lines (when over a dozen lanes sat empty), I was finally free! But now I had to run to the grocery store for pie crusts or I’d just bought a rolling pin for nothing. Argh!
I got home just as he texted me that he was on his way. California traffic sucks, and for once in my life I was thankful he’d be caught in rush hour traffic. I hoped that it would be worse than usual, because I needed all the time I could get right now. At the very least, I had 45 minutes. I might have had an hour if things were really bad... Yikes.
I was still in my pajamas and it was going on 5 pm. I’d spent several hours baking... Something I’d thought would be a simple afternoon activity.
I made several more larger heart pies, and this time added some chocolate in them. However, whenever you’re in a rush, everything goes wrong because the Universe is always so awesome like that.
The problems I encountered were all new to me and hadn’t happened on the first two go rounds! Crust sticking to the aluminum foil I was working on and having to dig foil out of the dough several times. Crusts sticking to each other and tearing, including the bottom of the heart that got ripped off. You name it, suddenly all hell broke loose in my kitchen and I thought I might throw in the towel. Or throw all my pies in the garbage disposal and watch the little hearts spew cherry blood all over while feeling a sense of revenge over the little annoying suckers.
But I knew that my five hours baking would have been wasted for nothing. So being the patient girl that I am, I stuck with it. All the while daydreaming of the demise of these little pies, the new bane of my existence! I ate a few of the ugly ones out of spite.
I came down to the last two... Well I had just a little too much pie filling and you know how that goes, you have to use up every last drop. I had just a few too many cherries and my pride wanted to use every last bit of the filling to make it an exact science. I stuffed the last of the pie filling inside them, added chocolate chips and voila! They now spewed both cherry blood and some chocolate colored liquid that could be any number of things if you used your imagination. All because I couldn’t throw a couple cherries away. OCD be damned.
Pies all filled and the last ones were finally in the oven. I decided I couldn’t let the cookies go to waste or save them for the weekend. No, my desire to bake all the things kicked in and I couldn’t fight the urge. Heart-shaped cookies had to be made now as time ticked away and I knew he could knock on the door at any moment and catch me mid-baking frenzy.
I tried cutting the cookies before baking them and when I checked on them, I realized I didn’t have hearts. I had one large blob of cookie cake. So I cut them again. This time throwing the cookie scraps in a plastic bag because dang it, I won’t waste sweets. That’s sacrilegious.
I had just finished with the last cookie and pulled out my outfit for the evening when I heard the knock on the door. I had to answer in my pajamas. I had meant to dress up all pretty for our Valentine’s Day dinner, but looking pretty took a back burner to finishing what I’d started earlier in the day.
But I was finished and the gifts were a success, regardless of how they looked.
The cute little vase with the Red Hots, how did that turn out? Well see for yourself.
Not what I had in mind. Not what I had in mind at all.
They say presentation is everything, but I think I will stick with, “It’s the thought that counts”.
He loved them. He loves me. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
Next year, I will have to one-up myself. Perhaps anatomically correct hearts with cherry blood seeping out. Now that would be fitting for the twisted little couple that we are. It gives me something to aspire for at least.
Kristen Duvall is a writer of tales both real and make-believe. A Midwestern girl at , she now resides in Southern California with her boyfriend, Great Dane, and a rescued calico kitty she lovingly calls the Kiki Monster. She's a full- time writer with one book out now titled Femmes du Chaos.