“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”
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The absolutely best part about writing this blog is getting to know so many wonderful people from all around the U.S., Canada, and all over the world---Finland, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Singapore, South Africa, Mexico, Ireland, England, and France--to name a few.
Exactly two years ago I got an email from Gael in Vermont, a speech pathologist, turned reading teacher, who is also a master baker. She somehow stumbled upon my blog and before too long she changed her diet, her way of cooking, her exercise routine---and her health. Her clothes got too big for her.
For two years now we've traveled on this journey together--and along the way she's recommended fabulous recipes, brilliant books, thought-provoking movies, eye-opening articles, inspiring ideas, and websites that were new to me. We've shared stories about our families, our friends, our work. And now we're good friends--although we've never met. But, I'm sure we will.
Today's post isn't about healthy diets or exercise or medical research.
It's about the main reason we want to stay healthy--to enjoy our lives, our families, our friends, and make each other happier along the way. It's about an-out-of-the-ordinary way to get together with friends--new and old--to be creative, eat yummy food, gossip, concentrate, and share our love.
I'm Going to Have a Valentine-Making Party
In late January Gael wrote to tell me about this absolutely great-idea-for-a-grown-up-girlfriend-party she was hosting. Getting a bunch of friends together--from different circles in her life--to do something that no one has done since, well,maybe age 10--making homemade Valentines. Plus gossip, laugh, listen to music, & eat fantastic plant-strong food.
But, this is Gael's story, not mine. So, I'm going to let her tell it.
Take it away, Gael.
I hadn’t created a handmade Valentine since 3rd grade…that’s where I learned to cut out a symmetrical heart along the fold of colorful paper and glue it to a doily.
Well, jump ahead 50 years, then add all the beautiful and eye catching scrap booking materials, a few friends and a lovely plant-strong meal…and you’ve got yourself a party! That’s what I envisioned in my head…now I had to make it happen.
This was the simple invitation sent via email:
Dear Lovely Friends,
You are invited to a Valentine-Making Party at my home!
When: Saturday January 28th
Time: 11:00 AM gathering and chat, then lunch, then cards
I have collected tons of gorgeous, dazzling paper and blank cards, glue of all sorts, fabulous art supplies and fancy cutting scissors, letters, stencils, stamps and stamping pads of all colors...and wonderful ideas for us to use or expand upon.
We can make things pop-out! We can make things glitter!
I'll make some lunch to energize us and some sweets to keep the creativity bubbling!
Come and create a wonderful, hand-made Valentine for your sweetie or your best friend or your kids or grandkids or a special person in your life.
What could be better than receiving a handmade gift made from the heart?!
The Guest List
I invited some school friends, some Saturday job friends, my art friends, and my sister-friends…all my “worlds would be colliding” (as George Costanza mentioned to Jerry Seinfeld long ago).
I asked them to bring their own scissors, some fabric and ribbons, and any photos of their darlings they’d like to incorporate into a card. And they all RSVP’ed with great enthusiasm and anticipation.
What's on the Menu?
Now for the menu. Let’s see…cold winter day in Vermont. Hmmm, nothing better than a hot bowl of Isa’s Tempeh Chili served over brown rice alongside her Cool Slaw with baskets of corn chips.
Friends were bringing drinks and dessert and chocolates, of course!
In my pre-vegan life, I was a “foodie”…always hunting down the best of the best dishes, traveling to the hippest restaurants, and buying only the finest ingredients.
I catered for 10 years and now work on Saturdays at one of country’s premier baking companies as a demonstration baker. So when I made my radical shift to a vegan lifestyle, my friends didn’t know what to expect when they arrived at my home for lunch or dinner. So far, though, I think everyone has been happy with my plant-strong meals…and this Valentine’s Day Party luncheon was no exception.
The Afternoon Festivities
We ate lunch first...for stamina, and talked about our inspirations (who we're making our cards for), then we cleared the decks and began cutting, pasting, stamping, lettering, and folding!
We looked at photos of the cards I made last year for my niece Jillian and nephew Graham, and my son Jeremy in California. Being properly inspired, the heads went down and the hands got busy.
At first, the ladies were overwhelmed with all the decorative papers and supply choices that they didn’t know where to start. Luckily, Theresa brought along a template she downloaded from Better Homes and Gardens for a card that had heart shaped doors that opened. That was a huge success…we made copies of that template and the party buzzed into focus.
It was such a girly-girl time...picking out patterned papers for our cards, cutting hearts, authoring the messages (we mostly used Beatles love song lyrics) and consulting one another for color choices and sizes.
And then the fascinating “perfect moment” happened…when everyone was so focused and deep in thought and making all those tiny decisions about how their card wants to look that the room’s clamor quieted down and no one really felt the need to engage.
I love when that happens. Just the quiet clinking, tapping, snipping, clicking of work being done.
At the end of the day, we had “display time” to look at everyone’s cards and needless to say, we were astonished at the ingenuity and creativity.
I took glamour shots of all the cards. The family photos were worked seamlessly into delicate designs; the fabrics were used as scenery; ribbons were used as lovely borders, and the decorative papers were layered with doilies with love messages that would make Hallmark green with envy.
For the final moments of our day, the ladies remarked that they couldn’t wait until next year or even the next holiday to do this again! And I couldn’t agree more…but wait, there’s more!
When You Throw a Good Party Everyone Wants to Be Invited
The very next day, I related the story of the party to my neighbor-friend Christie and I noticed her face light up at the thought of joining such a fun venture, so....
Gael's Valentine Party Number Two!
The following Friday evening, our other neighbor friends joined Christie and me at my arts and crafts table. I re-organized the papers, straightened out the supplies and made a fruit salad for dessert.
I was even more inspired as I shared my photos of the cards that were made the week previous. They couldn’t wait to get started.
They invented cards I'd never imagined and now they’d like to make cards for all occasions! This must be magical. Everyone left walking on air. As they walked home, I thought about how wonderful it was for me to connect with them on this level.
I’m new to their established circle, and this gave us a chance to have fun together in a creative atmosphere.
The After-Party Reviews
Here’s what Lin wrote to me in the morning:
Such a great night last night. Wonderful idea to make valentines.
Felt a bit like a kid again in all the good ways.
Everyone had such a good time. You are such a great hostess, planner, great energy person, my Friend.
So glad you are one of the homie girls.
I can't wait to hear the reaction from my kids when they get their homemade valentines from me.
Bless you for giving all of us the opportunity to play last night!
I haven't had so much fun in ages - like being back in grade school.
I love doing stuff like the cards and I hope we can do it again for Easter or maybe just make a supply of birthday cards!
Thank you for opening your home to us all :)
What Does a Valentine Party Have to Do with the "Rock and Siegel Healthy Mind Platter"?
Back in July, Debby wrote a blog posting about research that came from Drs. Rock and Siegel concerning the Healthy Mind Platter…the seven daily activities that make up the full set of ‘mental nutrients' that your brain needs to function at its best.
Well, I couldn’t provide the physical activity or the sleep nutrients, but what we engaged in at the arts table provided us with:
*creative play time
*social connection to friends time
*a little down time where our minds could wander
*time “in” to focus on images, thoughts and feelings and
*focus time on the task at hand
I’d say that homemade, handmade Valentine’s cards provided us with more than the cards…there is no doubt that we’ll do this again.
Last week when our loved ones opened up their lovely and loving cards. I only wish we could have been there to see their faces!
That's Gael in the Middle, Surrounded by Her Gal Pals
The After Valentine's Day Card Reviews Came Pouring In--Sharing the Love
As a postscript... the combined message is always one of LOVE.
All our grown kids loved the cards and couldn't believe that the Mom's made them.
Relatives and friends gushed.
Parent were thrilled that we took the time and energy to make something symbolic of Valentine's Day and sent it to them.
"Gael, I made a Valentine for my brother & sister-in-law (he has Parkinson's with progressing dementia)..and I put a photo of the two of them from 15 years ago inside the open-up heart.---They gave the card a place of honor in their home. They were so surprised, touched, & grateful for their Valentine."
One friend said, "I just had a phone call from an elderly uncle who was so touched by his Valentine with a photo of his deceased wife inside the heart!
My son and his lady in California are used to my handmade cards and package of treats so they look forward to receiving something specials for most holidays.
This year's cards, however, resonated strongly with them both. I made Julia's open-up heart card (like the one I received from Gael) with a cooking theme, complete with mini-sized wooden plate and fork glued inside! She's a true "foodie". And for son Jeremy...just massive amounts of hearts and loads of love inside.
Seriously, what could be better? All of our recipients have phoned in to let us know that the cards are either on display in their homes or tucked inside pocketbooks ready to be proudly shown to friends.
The Bottom Line: It was wonderful for us to give of ourselves and it was doubly wonderful to hear the responses. Love all around!!
Next party...Oscar Night! Everyone has to bring a dish reflecting one of the nominated films! Let's see if I can rent a red carpet leading to my house! Everyone needs a make-a-party-happen friend like Gael, right?
And I Can't Thank Gael Enough for the Beautiful Homemade Card & Message She Sent Me
The last time I got a homemade Valentine was, let's see, when my youngest son was 10 years old--eighteen years ago!
It's not everyday that you can be fortunate enough to receive such a lovely homemade card with a heart-felt special message inside like the one I received! Thank you, Gael. You definitely made my day, girlfriend!!
Next Valentine's Day I Want to Be Invited the the Best Card-Making Party in Vermont!