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Heartfelt Sentiments

Martha Stewart Living, February 2008

From the poetry of Shakespeare to the love songs of crooning pop stars, displays of affection are often wrapped up in words. One familiar symbol, however, requires little explanation: the heart. Simple in its design, it sends a message loud and clear, no matter the intended sentiment -- pulse-racing romance, family togetherness, or the tender bond between friends. 

Because the heart conveys emotion with such immediacy, the best and most meaningful modes of delivery can also be the least elaborate, with a welcome element of surprise. On Valentine's Day, with this ubiquitous icon as inspiration, there's a token, treat, or greeting suited to just about everyone. 

Make an intricately folded card for the beloved family matriarch or decorate cookies with amorous text-message phrases. Handmade cuff links will last for years, whereas a mouthwatering pie for the entire clan will be devoured, happily, in mere minutes. Even the household feline will have reason to purr. Best of all, each offering will speak volumes, leaving the subtext to you.

Heartwarming Pies for the Whole Family
Raspberry-and-pear filling -- delicious and deliciously pink -- is only part of these pies' allure. The sugary crusts also lend a bit of holiday fancy. Heart-shaped cookie cutters are used to make windows in the top of a double crust and to fashion an overlapping shingled one.
Get the Recipe for the Pear-Raspberry Heart Pies 

Scattered Petals for Your Love
A scattering of pink and red petals and a few wispy buds, positioned just so, summons a fleeting I-love-you moment. Choose a spot sure to meet your beau's or belle's gaze: in the entryway of your home, atop a table as an intimate prelude to dinner, or on a pillow. The silhouette is bound to elicit an endearing response.

Fingerprint Cards for Classmates
Hearts formed with two pats of an ink-stained finger are truly one of a kind. Made with blank tags and a nontoxic stamp pad, they're perfect atop treats for classroom pals. 

A Lush Candy Box for a Teacher
Thank a favorite teacher with more than a humble apple. A craft box (or a prefilled candy box) is adorned with silk blossoms glued in a sweeping, asymmetrical arrangement; mixed truffles are stashed within. 

Catnip Delights for Your Kitty
There isn't a kitten that wouldn't purr over a knitted, catnip-filled pillow. The toys are also packed with wool stuffing and a jingle bell. 
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Antique-Style Valentines for Traditional Romantics
As early as the 1790s, traditional romantics sweethearts exchanged "puzzle purses." A poem runs along the edges, starting outside the folded square. The text, embellished with designs, is revealed as the card is opened. 
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Conversation Hearts for the Tech-Savvy
The royal-icing-topped sugar cookies bear love notes in text-message lingo. Use an interchangeable- letter stamp and a paper towel damp with food coloring. Slip the sweets into glassine bags, and sew along the tops. 
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A Photo Montage for Your Child
Family photos stack up as playful wall art. Arrange same-size vertical snapshots in a grid using removable double-sided tape. 

The Perfect Cappuccino for Your Morning Mate
Customize your significant other's morning eye-opener with a valentine traced in frothed milk. All it takes is a toothpick swirled through a dotted heart of foam. 
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Handmade Cuff Links for Your Favorite Gent
Let him wear your heart on his sleeve with symbolic cuff links, fashioned from mother-of-pearl buttons and silk beading cord. 
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Hearts in Play for Your Friends
The cards are already dressed for the occasion. Write greetings on glassine envelopes with a no-smudge marker, or use an ink-jet printer. 
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Playing-Card Wrapper
Send your bridge club or your poker buddies a token that's apropos of the holiday. Pick up a few decks of red-backed playing cards, available at many drugstores, or search around for more unusual vintage cards. Then wrap each set in decorative paper printed with rules for the game of hearts. 
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Valentine Posies
Celebrate the special bond between sisters (biological and otherwise) by presenting yours with a miniature carnation-and-rose bouquet. The crimson and hot-pink posies, wrapped in equally bright floral tissue, bear lacy, personalized cards trimmed from the center of heart-shaped doilies.
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