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Monday, February 14, 2011

"Love, Your Valentine"...slush in my ear, and Chinese water torture

The history of Valentine's day is not entirely clear.  Some express that this day is named after a priest who served in the Roman Empire during the reign of Claudius II (around 270 AD).  Claudius believed that single men made better soldiers, and had banned marriage for young men in the hopes of building a stronger army.  This law did not prevent people from falling in love, however.  As such, Valentine took pity on the young men and married them secretly.  When Claudius found out, Valentine was sentenced to death.

Another version of the story (or perhaps more likely a continuation of the story) is that Valentine, while imprisoned, fell in love with the jailer's daughter.  Before being executed, he signed his last love letter to her, "Your Valentine". 

So why February 14th?  After Valentine's death, word of his story spread and people began referring to him as St. Valentine (I'm sure the story now is much more romantic a notion than what actually occurred, after all- nothing spreads faster than the story of someone else's tragedy).  By the Middle Ages, the Romans held a tradition where by on  a special day, young men could give notes of affection to the women they wished to formally see.  The month of February was already associated with love, and by this time Valentine (referred to as a 'Patron Saint'),was believed to over see (spiritually) the festival of love which was held every February 14th.  There have been valentine's found dating back to the early 1400's!
*heavy sigh* I love a good tragedy/love story.  The basis of the tradition of Valentine's Day is so pure and lovely, I do find myself a bit annoyed by the commercialism of it all.  That is why I help my children make their valentine cards.  In keeping with my 'going green' motto for the year, we baked cookies and decorated them to go with the handmade valentines. For my daughter's class, we made little paper envelopes to hold the cookies.  Foolish me, forgot that two children times two classes equals 50 valentines!!  We did it though- our very own little valentine sweat-shop.

Let me be clear.  The valentine process in this house took a few days.  It's been emotional to say the least, and by the time I washed the last of the icing off the wall last night (don't ask), I was exhausted...

Which reminds me of a brief tutorial for Valentine's Day.

I first saw these cubes with Victorian images, and thought to myself, "self, why not put images from your own family".  So I scanned and printed off wedding pictures and images from my ancestors.  I mean, why not celebrate the relationships that made ME possible?!

~two milk cartons per cube (same size, I used 1 litre cartons).
~white glue, a dish, water & old paint brush
~acrylic paint (I used red and burnt umber)
~gel medium (optional)
~spray varnish
~crackle medium (optional)
~masking tape or packing tape

  1. Measure across the bottom of the carton.
  2. Starting at the base of the carton, measure up the side the same width as the bottom and mark.
  3. Cut the carton all the way around.
  4. Repeat for the second carton.  You should have two pieces that are as high as they are wide.
  5. Set one carton into the other so that you create the cube (you may wish to put rice or dried beans in the cube to weigh it down).
  6. Tape the edges closed.
  7. Mix equal parts white glue and water in an old dish and apply strips of newsprint (paper mache) over the entire cube to add strength.
  8. Allow to dry, then paint desired base colour.  Set aside.
  9. OPTIONAL: you may wish to use crackle medium at this point (as per product instructions) and apply a second colour of paint to your block.
  10. Trim the images to the desired size (I printed my images on to photo paper to make them water resistant).
  11. Using either glue or gel medium, attach images to the cubes.  Let dry.
  12. Spray with clear varnish.  Let dry.
  13. OPTIONAL: you may also apply crackle medium at this stage.  Once dry, use a brown colour to rub over the surface to give an aged appearance. You may also wish to apply another coat of varnish over this antique finish.
That's it! 

...So this morning, with their school bags bulging with cookies and valentines, my children set off to celebrate the day with their schoolmates, but not before first taking pity on their poor ol' Mum and agreeing to be MY valentines.  After an emotional roller coaster of a week, I was glad to see them off smiling and happy.

It's a wet snowy/rainy day here.  I gleefully waved goodbye to my daughter as her bus drove off (my son walks) and started off to get the mail and to buy milk.  With a smile on my face, a lightly walked up the street, through the slush with wet snow sticking to my face.  It is warm and my heart was full of love, so it didn't bother me one bit.

As I was approaching a teenage boy walking toward me, I saw his face fill with alarm.  He tensed up.  He turned his body and lifted his one leg.  It was all happening so fast...I suddenly heard the sound of a bus coming from behind me and felt the cold 'splat' of slush hit the entire left side of my body (and then saw it hit the entire right side of the boy).  There was no where to go.  Our options were wet snow bank, or slush in the ear. Thankfully, I was wearing a long, waterproof coat and despite the warm weather had put on a toque (honestly, I was just too lazy to do my hair).  My thought while this is happening- "crap".  We each froze in our tracks, looked at each other, and then laughed.  After the valentine fiasco, if I didn't laugh I'd cry.

It was one of those moments where a person has a choice.  I could get angry about something that has already passed, I have no control over, and cannot be 'fixed', OR delight in the fact that it is warm enough to have puddles and slush, I'm alive and well enough to be walking in it, and for that brief moment, shared laughter with a stranger.  Not really a difficult choice at all, really.

I continued on my walk, chuckling at myself and the situation.  I got to the store, where my previous puddle experience made the store owner laugh (as she observed the 'splat' marks up my jacket).  In that moment I was so glad I chose to see the humour in the situation, in doing so had brought laughter to someone else.  I was, none-the-less, much  more cautious on the way home of on coming traffic.  Having dodged a few more potential slushy disasters, I confidently walked under the branches of a large tree which somehow managed to drip large fat drops of water exactly in the same hole of my knitted cap, in the centre of my forehead, 5 times in a row as I walked.  How is that even possible?  It was like Chinese water torture.

I eventually made it home. My paints wet up past the ankles, my coat dripping (at least on one side), my smile slightly fading. Then I opened my mail...

I received two lovely valentines, from artsy ladies I've never met.  What an absolute delight.  People, in another country, spent the time lovingly creating mini works of art, and then mailed them to a stranger, for the sole purpose of spreading a little love.  Wow.  Isn't that what the day is about? Just as I had shared a story to bring a smile to someone else, people had shared their efforts with me.

I suppose the moral of my story is this: even if your day sucks, even if you're feeling exhausted, drained, tired, and fed up, even if you have slush in your ear or have been a victim of water torture, see the joy and share it.

Your Valentine.

1 comment:

  1. I love this photo cube idea and I may have to try it.We do not have milk cartons so i will retrieve the Tropicana carton from the recycling bin.