Though it is still a time of great loss for my family, today is also a day of great love. Or at least that’s what Hallmark has led me to believe; and if I can’t trust Hallmark, what can I trust?
Valentine’s Day doesn’t top my list of favorite holidays (after all, Purim is coming up), but any day when it becomes appropriate to wear large amounts of red and pink and glitter in the same outfit is a day that’s all right by me. (I think I made up that part about glitter.) Despite the holiday’s inherent cheesiness, I appreciate the spirit of Valentine’s Day because it’s a time to recognize all the love we have in our lives—be it from a significant other, family, friends, your cat, the front desk guy at my gym who calls me “sweetie” and compliments my scarves, jewelry stores that want to sell you things, or a combination of any of the above.
My dominant source of love happens to be halfway around the world right now, loving his country more than he loves me, which you’d think would make me particularly bitter about the holiday this year. But the truth is that Jonathan and I have yet to celebrate a Valentine’s Day from the same time zone; the most romantic February 14th date we’ve had was the year he wore a button-down shirt to Skype with me. Who says chivalry is dead?
Keeping love alive through a deployment is difficult, to state plainly something that means different things (and different struggles) for every person going through it. I think that’s even true if you’re not completely neurotic and in need of constant validation like I am. There have been many weeks during this deployment for Jonathan and me when having a ten-minute conversation about apartment searching, or budget concerns, or reenlistment planning has trumped using our coveted computer time together to just talk—to remember that the searching and concerning and planning, though stressful, is because we are in love. The love doesn’t disappear; it is sometimes just buried under obligations, because it needs to be. Although we should never need an excuse to sift it back to the top, I’m also not going to pass one up. And what better way to take advantage of the excuse than with a care package!
I got lucky with my care package timing, as Jonathan received his Valentine’s Day treats only a few days before the actual holiday. I’d like to thank the Academy. Especially because I’d forgotten the holiday was coming up, and by the time I remembered I had only three days to plan and bake everything if I wanted to mail it on time. To which I owe a special thank-you to EVERY STORE for putting holiday displays up alarmingly early. I love you, America.
First up for Valentine’s Day: chocolate Tootsie Roll cookies (recipe from Fun with the Fullwoods). When I first found out that Jonathan is a big fan of Tootsie Rolls, I was sort-of taken aback. Tootsie Rolls aren’t even really chocolate; they’re just tiny chocolate-flavored nothings that get stuck to your teeth and make you want a Snickers bar. That’s what I thought, that is, until I baked these cookies and suddenly found myself with half a bag of unused Tootsie Rolls which became literally impossible for me to not eat at every opportunity. I DON’T KNOW WHY I LIKE THEM, BUT I DO.
I liked this recipe from the get-go because it looked relatively simple, and the majority of the ingredients were things I already had in my cabinet. Until I realized that the recipe calls for more than two sticks of butter. That should have been an easy sign that these cookies were going to be heart-attack delicious.
I tend to over-think my care package recipes (can caring too much be my tragic flaw?), so I was really pleased with this one: just a small twist on a simple chocolate cookie that I would 100% make again. And that I would 100% get out of my house as soon as possible, because by the time I’d gotten these packaged, I’d already eaten three. That’s enough butter to keep me warm through the winter.
In the future, I’d admittedly skip the Tootsie Roll pieces in this recipe. The chocolate cookie itself is easily my favorite chocolate cookie to-date, and when the Tootsie pieces ended up on the bottom of the cookie, it took all my strength and two metal spatulas to pry them forcibly from the cookie sheet. That’s too much angst and necessary upper-body strength for Valentine’s Day. Not to mention that my chief complaint with the Tootsie Roll candy (that they stick unmercilessly to my molars) was exacerbated when the candy got all melty and spread throughout the cookie. I don’t know why I’m being so hyperbolic and humbug-y about Tootsie Rolls. There’s probably a traumatic childhood experience I’m repressing.
Next up: cherry pie cookies.
This recipe (from Laur’s Sweet Tooth) may be my favorite care package recipe yet, and maybe even my favorite cookie recipe yet. Which isn’t really fair, because this pastry is more like a pie that’s disguising itself as a cookie, and would therefore probably be disqualified from the Westminster Cookie Show if that existed which it should.
Because I did my planning and baking in the span of three days, I carelessly failed to notice ahead of time that the homemade dough (which at first glance looked quite simple) requires at least two full hours to chill before it can be used. And it also requires you to beat the shit out of your roommate’s new hand mixer, because yours broke a few months ago when everybody was really into making biscotti.
Though the pie cookies didn’t turn out quite as beautiful as the original creator’s did, what they lacked in appearance they made up for in delicious. This is definitely another repeat recipe.
Despite my timing mishap with the dough (which turned out for the best, as I completed most of the other care package tasks while the dough was chilling), this was one of my least stressful care package experiences. I think this was the universe’s way of telling me I was about to lose power in my bedroom and kitchen for a full week, so I might as well enjoy my carefree baking while it lasted. But the stress-free attitude may also have been on account of the great Valentine’s Day cards I found in January.
If you can’t tell from the sloppy handiwork, I found these valentines online, printed them out, and then glue-sticked cut-up Post-It notes to the back of them. Just because I wasn’t apocalyptic about this care package does not mean I had time to dwell on my scissors precision.
The cards joined some gifts, and the package was complete.
The next morning, after dropping my package off at the post office and patting myself on the back for having used packing materials I found in the back of my closet, I realized I completely forgot to include the store-bought conversation hearts and chocolates I picked up for the care package during the week. OF COURSE. Hallmark would be so disappointed. I didn’t have time to run home and create a second package, so I sucked it up and waited until the next weekend. Naturally, this second package, sent a week later, arrived to Jonathan in Afghanistan at exactly the same time as the first one.
When I asked him what he thought of both packages, Jonathan only mentioned loving the cherry-chocolate M&Ms I picked up at Target when the heat in my apartment went out and I needed to buy a space heater at 11:00pm on a Friday.
If thinking of your fiancé’s taste for cherry-chocolates when your heat goes out on a 10-degree night isn’t love, what is?
What are you doing for Valentine’s Day this year? If your loved ones are close by, how are you celebrating? If you’re separated from your loved ones (or generally hate this holiday) (or if your cat is sort-of being a douche to you today too), what are some of your favorite anti-Valentine’s Day activities?
Either way, here’s a funny anti-Valentine’s/anti-anti-Valentine’s article (which I hope is read by that couple who makes out on the metro during my morning commute: STOP IT. THIS IS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. NOBODY IS ALLOWED TO BE HAPPY HERE.): “Five Reasons I HATE Valentine’s Day” by Kate Dolack.
P.S. I recently added a whole dedicated page on this site for care package posts and recipes! Thank you, 28-Day Blog Challenge. You’re welcome, everybody else.