valentine's day
the sweetest things

Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.       --Robert Louis Stevenson

There was a time, long ago, that a younger, and more foolish girl might have had her head turned by the gaudy, and much-too-expensive grand gesture.  But as I've grown wiser, and, yes, older, if you must, I'm much less demanding of the flash and bling, and more demanding of the sincere and heartfelt.

It isn't the grandest gestures, after all that get tucked away in hope chests, adorn the walls of Mom's office, take their places of honor at grandmother's senior center apartment, plaster the refrigerators of aunts and uncles. The precious tokens from young loves, exchanged during the lean years when money was sparse, but affection, rich. 

Those gifts are the rarest of all.

Gifts  from the heart, the soul, the hands—those really are the sweetest things.

Dainty and delicate, these pretty little confections are easy and quick to whip out at that last minute—the minute you remember that homebound neighbor, your friend, freshly-single, that gruff and ornery man at the feed store that needs a little hug by way of an unexpected treat, the little girl who drops by for tea, tea with extra sugar cubes, and a visit with your funny goat (or dog, or cat, or a ride on your tractor) some afternoons. Or, perhaps, your hard working, sweet-toothed sweetheart, with affection, and wish them just an extra nudge of homemade love this Valentine's Day.

Pull out a roll of sugar cookie dough,(or make your own, you overachiever, you!) a little confectioners sugar, and some sweet embellishments, and while away the afternoon immersed in the art of creating a beautiful life for yourself, and those you meet along the path…

I stopped by the bakery supply store a week ago to pick up some glassine bags.  I intended to simply make a cookie, pop them in a bag, tie it with ribbon, and send it in my sweet fella's lunch.  Not surprisingly, like a kid in a candy shop, or my guy in a hardware store, I was enchanted by all of the pretties to be had, especially in shades of pink and red, this time of year.  But it was in the very back room, by the wedding cake supplies, in a brightly-lit glass case that I spied the prettiest little pastillage--gum paste and sugar flowers, sold individually, for cake decoration. They were tiny miniatures, like a fairy garden tucked back in that corner, and I was lost for quite some time, hunched over the display case.  My imagination was set adrift.

Ten cents, fifty cents, four for a quarter—I couldn't resist. I had budgeted a five dollar bill for this stop,  I was absolutely giddy that my glassine bags would be only eight cents apiece, affording me a little wiggle room, several tiny flower buds, a few violets (beautiful!), and the real splurge—a two-dollar breathtakingly delicate  forget me not, complete with the loveliest pale green sugar leaves.  Visions of tea parties, and fairy gardens, and pastel candies….I was seven years old again, before that awkward tomboy stage, and quietly absorbed with my prettiest doll, and that pale yellow porcelain tea set with the pink flowers and a funny little elephant that graced each dish.

This particular bake shop is the formerly known All in One Bake Shop, now Make It Sweet, located in Austin, Do a little digging in your directory, if you're outside of this area, found in the yellow pages under cake decorating supplies, or bakery supply, perhaps.  Try inquiring at the closest kitchen shop in your area, or even taking your search online. I found this website where these little pretties are available to purchase retail, and though it's too late for Valentine's Day, shop early for Easter, or anytime you'd like to put a sweet  touch on your sweet treats.

To make this quick and simple, I used packaged (!!horrors!!) sugar cookie dough, and royal icing mix, however you can make both quite easily from scratch, and I encourage you to do so, if you're not buried in 'things to do' like I find myself at this garden –planting time of the year.  I simply made 8- 1in balls of dough, baked 4 to a half sheet in order to have room to spread, for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, as directed on package, and then, working quickly, I cut small rounds from each cookie ( got 2-3 from each).  I left the second baking sheet of 4 whole, for cookies just the right size for their own glassine bag.

I prepared loads of royal icing, the consistency for flow, in three batches.  I left the first batch white and colored the remaining with the tiniest bit of blue and pink food colors.  Please be creative and use your favorite colors. I was a little over RED-WHITE-AND-PINK'ED, so I went with some favorite pastel hues. On a cookie rack set inside a baking sheet, spoon icing over, and working quickly, decorate:

For small cookies, I used white icing, flavored with lemon zest, then sprinkled yellow sanding sugar, and finally 'painted' the back of sugar flowers with a spot more of icing and placed atop cookie.  Allow to cool without disturbing and all will affix nicely.

For large cookies, I iced one leaving a border, iced one with just a corner, like it had been 'dipped' (for those of us who like things just a little less sugary-sweet), and poured icing over another until it dripped over the cookie's edge.  Working quickly, I carefully adorned each with my little treasures, and then set aside to harden, and be admired. (A quick note:  the forget me not in these pictures had wires holding all the little buds together and shaping the leaves. Be sure not to eat those wires if you have a more intricate piece, and let your gift-ee know to avoid them, too. All the others were fully edible.)

There are all manner of ways to do these little cookies, and for those of you who are more experienced with cookie and cake decorating than I, I'm sure you'll adopt techniques such as outlining, fill, piping, etc. to make stunning and intricate masterpieces.  I'd love to see your handiwork!  In fact, send a link in the comments section, below, and I'll post them all to the blog for others to admire.  I'm planning a springtime post of tiny shortbreads with candied violets and pearl dragees for the near future, designed to be another easy gift from the hands and the heart,  and I'd love to include your creations.

Yesterday, we put a personal touch on packaging for your valentine friends and loves, appropriate for those with little fingers or big, lacking big budgets or big demands , but with no less charm,  and these would be perfect in a pretty little bag of their own.

Is there any gift sweeter than one made by hand and heart?

Shelley, at Slightly Off Kilter, was kind enough to share this post on her Valentine's Day round up post.  Stop by and see the fun things she has to share, both sweet and funny, and check out her charming blog while you're there.  And join us later today as we celebrate Thirsty Thursday, Valentine's style, with a delicious, and deliciously messy, Raspberry Belgian Lambic Float, on Notes From Maggie's Farm.


  1. They are beautiful. The icing is the perfect color to offset that beautiful forget me not. What a treat for those who receive them.

  2. Oh thank you! I'm not much of a baker, so I was kinda happy with how they came out...and how it makes me look as if, perhaps, I am. lol

  3. Oh I know one Farmer that will surly swoon over his farmstress when he bites in to that sweet love note. Those were so dainty and makes me want to make them for my next tea party. I love All in one in fact I need to make a run very soon as my "bakers list" is getting long. Happy Love-day to you and Tom. xxoooo

  4. That's a tea party I want to be a part of! A happy, sweet, romantic VDay to you and your sweethearts, too.

  5. Maggie, those are the cutest cookies! I love Make It Sweet, it's like Disneyland for bakers (and wannabe bakers like me). I found a neat recipe for cake truffles that the kids and might give a try tonight!

    1. That sounds like a fun way to celebrate the day, Heather! Thanks so much for dropping by. BTW, I saw your challah the other day, and I'd say you're much more than a wannabe baker!


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