Rockin’ Valentines


Gratitude to all of you who venture here to read about our trials and jubilations as we journey toward a lower impact life. These little rocks were gathered down at our nearby beach and turned into missives of love and positive affirmation by my daughter for her classmates and friends.


A few stones and some scrap yarn brought smiles to 26 fourth grade students, proof that the simple things in life can still be perceived as beautiful and grounding. We wish you a happy Valentines Day, a day of love and kindness, and a break from it all.


Love and gratitude,

Liesl, Pete, Finn & Cleo

Valentines: The Original Folk Art Scrap Hack

Handmade Paper Valentines, An Original Folk Art. Photo © Liesl Clark

I remember having to make valentines cards in elementary school for each of my classmates. The handmade cards tended to come from whatever scrap paper, lace, and paper doilies we had around our home. Each valentine was different, a scrapper’s attempt at making beauty from what was available.

Scraps of Paper. All You Need to Make an Original Valentine. Photo © Liesl Clark

And then things changed, and there was a new ethic afoot: Skip the handmade valentine and buy a mass-produced version for your friends, complete with a stash of sweets. All you had to do was fill in your name, the recipient’s name, and add a packet of hearts. It certainly was a time-saver, but these so-called valentines felt like a cop-out and an opportunity for some not-so-creative folks to make money off of us. I’m still a big fan of the hand-crafted valentine. You might say the valentine is an original form of folk art, and some still practice it today.

Our kids, over the past few years, have been assigned, at school, to make valentines for their classmates from materials found in their home. Alas! We could bring back the tradition. Here are a few examples I’ve pulled from our photos over the years:

1) The Traditional Scrap Paper Valentine:  We first gathered our scrap paper and cut out traditional hearts on card stock we had rescued from the landfill. We also save pretty scrap paper from magazines and junkmail so we have plenty of colors and textures to choose from for projects like this.

Cutting, folding, and gluing paper is all it takes to make a valentine. Photo © Liesl Clark

2) A Scrap Fabric Valentine:  Then we found some pretty scrap fabric and cut out hearts to glue to the reclaimed card stock. Those felt a little more 3D and folksy.

Add a fabric scrap to your valentine for a more 3D effect. Photo © Liesl Clark

3) Bookmark Valentines:  Cut long strips of paper about 2 inches wide by 6 inches long.

Paper strips from handmade paper. Photo © Liesl Clark

Punch a hole (we punched a star, really) into one end of each strip.

Punching a hole in the end of your strip. Photo © Liesl Clark

Tie a little ribbon or scrap fabric through the star, and you’ll have bookmarks ready to decorate as useful valentines.

Bookmark Valentines are Useful. Photo © Liesl Clark

4) Valentine Heart Wands: In our pantry, we found some pie tins and colorful plastic straws we had found on the beach, saved, and washed. These would become our raw ingredients for heart wands we made for several of the students:

Heart wands are easy. All you need are pie tins, straws, and a glue gun. Photo © Liesl Clark

Cut a heart out of your pie tin and glue it to the end of a straw. They work with pretty sticks, too. And if you want to embellish your silvery pie tin heart, you can glue a smaller heart to your tin heart.

Hearts of Paper and Hearts of Tin. Photo © Liesl Clark

The Tin Man would be proud.

Heart Wands From Pie Tins and Straws. Photo © Liesl Clark

We've been making these for years. Photo © Liesl Clark

5) Wire and Yarn Hearts:  We often craft wire hearts from scavenged wire and then wrap them in yarn. The children love hanging them around the garden. The little heart below was made by my daughter when the deer ate her bleeding hearts. She was so saddened by the loss of her hearts, she placed a fence around them and crafted this wire heart on the outside for the deer to eat, still leaving them something to enjoy. The sweetness of a 6-year-old is undying.

A wire and yarn heart to help protect the bleeding hearts from the deer. Photo © Liesl Clark

6) Classic Hand-Stitched Valentine: My daughter love to sew by hand. These hand-stitched valentines took her a month to make, but she poured her love and talent into each one. She left a little pocket in each to be filled with organic jelly beans, her favorite treat we buy in bulk at our local store. These are pretty easy to make so long as you have felt. We asked for felt on our local Buy Nothing group, and neighbors had plenty to share! She cut out hearts in varying sizes with my pinking shears and then layered them and sewed them together, leaving a pocket at the top.


7) Produce Sticker Heart:  This one might be a bit of a stretch, but for those health-conscious sweethearts in your life, why not craft a produce sticker heart valentine? It was a cathartic exercise, for me, because those plastic stickers to announce that we’ve bought organic produce bother me greatly. No tutorial necessary, right?

Produce Stickers are Pink and Perfect for this Healthy-Heart Valentine. Photo © Liesl Clark


Send in a picture of your own homemade valentines. We’d love to share them with all our sweethearts.

DIY Dryer Lint Fire Starters

By Finn Clark

Finn's DIY Fire Starters

We live in the Northwest where the winters are long and wet. Like most 9-year-olds, I’m interested in (and learning about) fire and what my parents call “combustibles.”

I like to forage for wood with my wood-cutting tools.

Our home is heated almost entirely by wood and since we forage for our own wood in our forest, it’s often pretty wet. I decided it was time to make some fire starters for cold wet nights when nothing wants to burn. These things will definitely help start your wet wood burning, especially if you use 2-3 of them. Here’s how:

The things you'll need: Lint, egg cartons, wax scraps, string, shredded paper, matches.

Gather together:


Egg Cartons

Wax Scraps (we melt ours into pie tins for easy re-melting)

Wick String or Just Plain String,

Shredded Paper, Paper Scraps, and/or Sawdust


Melt your wax and dip the wick string in it to make a true wick.

Next, you’ll need to melt down your wax scraps. I place our previously-melted wax scraps in a pie tin with another pie tin underneath and place the double-layer pie tins over our pilot light on the stove. That’s enough to melt the wax in the tins and it’s safe for little hands like mine that could get burned by the wax. Dip your string in the melting wax to make a true candle wick. They burn more slowly and readily with the wax infusion.

Mix your lint and shredded paper (and saw dust if you have it) together in a big bowl.

While your wick is drying, mix all your lint with shredded paper and you can add sawdust and small wood chips if you have them.

Really really mix it well.

I think I like the mixing part the best.

Cut your wicking into little wicks.

Now that your wick is dry, you can cut it into small 2-3 inch wicks for each fire starter.

Stuff your dry ingredients (wick in the middle) into each egg carton cup.

Now you can stuff your lint mixture into the egg carton cups. We take a small handful, wrap it around a wick, and then jam it (with the wick standing up in the middle like a candle wick) into each cup.

Pour your melted wax over the whole mess. Lots of it.

We then pour our melted wax over the top of the paper/lint/wick-filled egg carton. I let my mom do it because even though we have 2 pie tins under the wax, it could spill and hurt me.

Another angle of Mom doing the pouring. It was cold in our house so she's wearing a down vest. That's why we needed fire starters -- to get the fire started.

Do you see little matches standing up in the back row there? That’s my secret ingredient. I like to use matches dipped in wax as my wicks. They’re actually home-made water-proof matches but that’s another post for a later time. They work really really well as wicks, too.

These are my fire starters.

When your wax has solidified and cooled, the fire starters are ready to be used. Simply rip off a single cup at a time and light your wick when you’ve placed your fire starter where you want it in your well-laid fire.

Lighting our fire starter is the best best part.

Now we get to enjoy a warm winter wet wood fire.

Our warm winter fire by home-made fire starters brings smiles.

Doll Ornaments

Most of our ornaments are handmade or free finds we’ve rescued from the landfill. That’s not to say our tree looks like it’s decorated with junk. Quite the contrary. Each little piece has a story to it: where was it ‘recovered’ or who created it.

We love to find small dolls the children are finished playing with and turn them into ornaments. This one’s so easy it takes all of 30 seconds to make…er…once your glue gun is heated up.

Doll Ornaments, Photo © Liesl Clark

Doll Ornaments Look Like Angels, Photo © Liesl Clark

All you’ll need is:

An assortment of dolls

A glue gun



All you need to make your dolly-ments, Photo © Liesl Clark

All you need to make your dolly-ments, Photo © Liesl Clark

Glue the ribbon together into a loop. Then glue the loop to the back of your doll. Ours have hats which make the gluing really easy. Now hang your dolly-ments onto the tree! Other toys lend themselves to ornamentdom if you’re so inclined. We’ve made lego ornaments, matchbox carnaments — you get the picture.